Current Events Write-Up: Middle East Interests, Gorsuch’s Non-Existent Fascist Club, Betsy DeVos, and Coal

Time for my weekly Current-Events Write-Up, in which I link to news and opinion pieces and comment on them.

The Middle East

Townhall: ‘Middle East Conflict’ Describes More Than Just Israeli-Palestinian Dispute, by Jonah Goldberg.

This part interested me: “Republican State Department veteran Elliott Abrams (recently denied a job as the No. 2 guy at the State Department because he had criticized Trump during the campaign) writes in the Weekly Standard that the Trump administration may be going for an ‘outside-in’ strategy rather than an ‘inside-out’ one: ‘Instead of using an Israeli-Palestinian deal to improve Israel’s relations with the Arab states, use Israel’s relations with the Arab states to advance an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal,’ Abrams writes.  One reason to follow this approach, Abrams notes, is that the Palestinians don’t have much to offer Israel. But good relations (which have been improving) with her Arab neighbors and a more united front against terrorism and Iran is perhaps the core of Israel’s national interest.”

Townhall: The Three-Headed Hydra of the Middle East, by Victor Davis Hanson.

Hanson is often associated with the neo-cons, whereas I lean more in the non-interventionist direction when it comes to foreign policy (not that I am Hanson’s intellectual peer, by a long shot).  That said, I thought this was an intelligent article.  Hanson explored various options that the U.S. could take concerning Russia, Syria, ISIS, and Iran, discussing positives and negatives.

Neil Gorsuch Neil Gorsuch Didn’t Start Fascism Club.

Just to get that out of the way!

Betsy DeVos

Yahoo News: What Betsy DeVos Will Mean for My Autistic Son, by Nish Weiseth.

Weiseth critiques DeVos’ commitment to vouchers and argues that she is ignorant about government law regarding disabled students in public schools.

Townhall: Interview of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, by Cal Thomas.

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas interviews Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  She talks about such issues as school choice, decentralization, and students with disabilities.  A lot of what she says is vague conservative cheerleading.  Some of her comments are substantive, though.


ThinkProgress: Energy experts give Trump the hard truth: You can’t bring coal back: Coal wasn’t killed by a political “war” — cheap renewables and fracked gas were the culprits, by Dr. Joe Romm.

The title says it all.  Coal is already on its way out, due to renewables and natural gas.


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Book Review: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

Reblogging for future reference.

Edge Induced Cohesion

The Real Lincoln:  A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Thomas DiLorenzo wouldn’t recognize the real Lincoln if he showed up in a top hat and an ill-fitting black suit and beat him upside the head with a cane.  And, if the real Lincoln ever did read this book, he’d have more than enough material for one of the biggest libel judgments of all time.  To give a full refutation of the many errors of this book would require a vastly larger note than this book deserves, but the book’s major and fundamental flaws as well as complete non sequitor arguments need to be mentioned so that any would-be reader of this book is given fair advance warning of its extremely flawed approach.

First, though, because enough bad things will be said about this book in the rest of the review…

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Review: The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education

Bob on Books


The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher EducationChristopher Gehrz, ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

Summary: The contributors to this volume consider the “usable past” in Pietist thought and practice that might serve in the “forming of whole and holy persons” in Christian colleges with a Pietist heritage.

Pietism often comes in for a bad rap in discussions of higher education from a Christian perspective. It is often viewed as anti-intellectual, more concerned with the affections of the heart than the life of the mind. The contributors to this volume, most with a connection to Bethel University, would propose both that this is a mere caricature of a truly robust Pietism, and that there are significant resources of theology and practice in historic pietism that may be drawn on as a “usable past” to form “whole and holy persons” from the students and faculty at Pietist institutions.

I found…

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Pillars in the History of Biblical Interpretation

Larry Hurtado's Blog

Pillars in the History of Biblical Interpretation, a two-volume work edited by Stanley Porter & Sean Adams, is a useful multi-author resource on major figures and developments in the history of biblical studies.  The publisher’s online information here and here.

Volume 1 is devoted to key figures and developments prior to 1980.  The fourteen contributions will be especially helpful to students wishing to enter the field and needing to obtain some historical perspective on how it has developed.  But the span covered is entirely modern, beginning with figures in the 19th century, including Griesbach and Lachmann, Schleiermacher, F. C. Baur, B. F. Westcott, F.J.A. Hort, J. B. Lightfoot, Zahn, Harnack, Schlatter, Wrede, Welhausen, and on into 20th-century figures, Schweitzer, Deissmann, Dibelius, Bultmann, Streeter (and the Synoptic problem), Ramsay, Haenchen, Bornkamm (and redaction criticism), Dodd and Eichrodt.

The prevalence of German scholars seems to me to reflect the fact…

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Lee-Barnewall–egalitarian usefulness


I am continuing to write about Michelle Lee- Barnewall’s Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian.

She talks about the women’s suffrage movement as one of the social reform movements that grew out of 19th century activism. However, she does not talk about how evangelical women related to that movement. I do not know. I may research it myself sometime.

What she does do is to say that at first suffrage was supported on the basis of women’s right to free expression as individuals. She says that argument failed to get political traction. What eventually succeeded was the argument that women had something to contribute to politics that men did not. The notion the women provided a voice that supported domesticity, the family, and even holiness counter to male worldliness was what prevailed.

Though I do not think she would agree with the idea that women are more holy than men, she does think…

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Trump, Big Government, the Export-Import Bank, and the Washington Swamp

International Liberty

I’ve written many times that Washington is both a corrupt city and a corrupting city. My point is that decent people go into government and all too often wind up losing their ethical values as they learn to “play the game.”

I often joke that these are people who start out thinking Washington is a cesspool but eventually decide it’s a hot tub.

During the presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp,” which is similar to my cesspool example. My concern is that El Presidente may not understand (or perhaps not even care) that shrinking the size and scope of government is the only effective way to reduce Washington corruption.

In any event, we’re soon going to get a very strong sign about whether Trump was serious. With Republicans on Capitol Hill divided on how to deal with this cronyist institution, Trump basically has…

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Book Write-Up: All She Ever Wanted, by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin.  All She Ever Wanted.  Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2005.  See here to buy the book.

Why this book didn’t win a Christy Award, I have no idea!  It is my favorite Lynn Austin book that I have read so far.  I like it better than the ones I read that won Christy Awards!

I’ll tell you what the book is about without giving away too many spoilers.

In 2004, Kathleen Seymour lives an affluent life with her husband Mike and her teenage daughter Joelle.  Joelle is caught shoplifting, and this baffles Kathleen: Why would Joelle need to shoplift, when she gets a weekly allowance and could have bought what she stole?  Kathleen and Joelle see a therapist, and Joelle is disillusioned because she does not really know Kathleen.  Joelle wonders about Kathleen’s family (i.e., Kathleen’s parents and siblings), whom Joelle has never met.  Meanwhile, Kathleen gets an invitation from her sister Annie to her father’s birthday party.  Kathleen hasn’t communicated with her family in decades, and she is bitter against them.  Kathleen and Joelle decide to take a trip to see Kathleen’s family.

On the road trip, Kathleen tells her story to Joelle.  We flash back to the early 1960’s, when Kathleen was a little girl.  Kathleen lived in dire poverty, in a dilapidated house.  Her mother Eleanor dressed like a bag lady, was continually depressed, and spent a lot of time in the outhouse, which she called her sanctuary.  Kathleen’s father Donald was away for long periods of time but was a cheerful, happy-go-lucky guy when he was at home.  He also liked to steal.  Her brothers Poke and JT were neighborhood terrors: JT was suspended from school when he was in kindergarten!  Her little sister Annie cried a lot and wet the mattress (no bed, just a mattress), on which Kathleen also slept.  Then there was Kathleen’s Uncle Leonard, who was Eleanor’s brother and lived with them.  Uncle Leonard was a Communist, who liked to argue with Walter Cronkite when watching the news.  Uncle Leonard has a girlfriend, Connie.  Connie is sweet but never finished high school, and she works in a grocery store.

Kathleen carried the stigma of poverty, but also the stigma of her uncle being a Communist.  Remember that this was the 1960’s, the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis!

An affluent woman, Cynthia Hayworth, donates toys and hand-me-down clothes to Kathleen’s family.  Kathleen becomes friends with Cynthia’s daughter, May Elizabeth, and Kathleen becomes a Christian at Cynthia’s church, after learning of Jesus’ compassion for the disadvantaged and marginalized.  Due to her aptitude in mathematics, Kathleen is able to go to college and escape her family and the town of Riverside.

We flash forward to 2004!  Joelle says that Kathleen’s family at least sounds interesting, which contrasts with Joelle’s own superficial, affluent upbringing.  Kathleen and Joelle arrive in Riverside, and Kathleen calls Cynthia.  The three of them meet, and Cynthia explains why she was helping Kathleen’s family when Kathleen was growing up.  Cynthia was not just being an affluent Christian do-gooder.  Actually, Cynthia had been friends with Kathleen’s mother Eleanor.

We flash back to the 1940’s, when Cynthia and Eleanor are applying to work in a defense plant.  Eleanor is not yet the depressed bag-lady whom Kathleen remembers.  Eleanor is confident, poised, well-spoken, and intelligent.  How did Eleanor become the dour woman whom Kathleen remembers?  Cynthia tells that story.  In the meantime, we learn that there was a scandal involving Eleanor’s mother Fiona.  Kathleen met Fiona once when she was a little girl, and Eleanor did not want anything to do with Fiona.

We flash forward to 2004.  Kathleen and Joelle visit Kathleen’s old house in Riverside, and Uncle Leonard is living there with Connie.  Uncle Leonard tells them the story of Fiona, who immigrated with her father to the United States from Ireland.  This story takes place in the 1920’s.  Later, Uncle Leonard explains why Eleanor left.  We also learn about how Uncle Leonard became so passionate about social justice issues.

There were scenes that I especially enjoyed: Joelle contrasting Kathleen’s family with her own superficial, affluent upbringing; Eleanor and Cynthia in the 1940’s reading the room at a bar, where servicemen were seeking female companionship; Connie getting to be the mother she wanted to be (and she a good mother!); and Uncle Leonard showing up on the podium at a mock debate at Kathleen’s school when Kathleen was little and representing the Communist Party.  I got a laugh out of that last one!

There were religious themes that I appreciated.  Cynthia talks about how tragedy pushed Eleanor away from God, whereas it pushed Cynthia towards God.  Fiona continually felt unworthy to approach God on account of her sins, yet she wanted her children to attend mass.  Donald learned a profound prayer: “Let what we suffer teach us to be merciful—-let our sins teach us to forgive.”  Donald also saw a divine purpose behind the ordeals that he experienced.

Page 390 had a thought-provoking statement: “[Kathleen] professed to be a Christian, yet she had cut herself off from [her family] so completely that she’d never even thought to pray for them.  She knew that she would have to ask God to forgive her for that.  It didn’t matter how many great things she’d done for God, how many charities she’d contributed to over the years.  If she couldn’t even show compassion and love—-and forgiveness—-to her own family, it meant nothing.”

I wouldn’t say that it meant nothing, since I’m sure that the poor appreciated Kathleen’s donations to charity!  Still, Kathleen was highlighting a legitimate point: that she felt an incongruity or lack of wholeness in her Christian life, since she had forsaken the people in her family.

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