No Man’s Holiday

The legendary “Christmas Truce” was 100 years ago, obviously, this morning.

The event was commemorated by an ad by a British supermarket chain last month:

It was an ad that received some criticism – and some articulate defense

It was also not nearly as rare as one might have thought.

As the war ground from its grisly summer – the Battle of the Frontier, Mons, the Marne and First Ypres – and the front lines stabilized, the war shifted from a war of mobility slowly ground down into the positional, stalemated war of attrition that we associate with the war today.   Troops started by digging foxholes for cover, when the war of movement stalled out.  Then troops connected their foxholes with their neighbors.  These trenches quickly connected squads, then platoons, companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, field armies, and finally the entire front, from the Belgian town of Niewport on the North Sea all the way to the Swiss border. 

And they were famously miserable places, especially in rain-sodden Flanders.  Stories emerged of trenches becoming completely flooded near Ypres in 1914, and the rival British and German troops reaching a tacit agreement not to shoot at each other as they climbed out of their holes and dried off and waited for the water to recede.

And as the war dried out but froze over in the winter of 1914, soldiers of both sides – homesick, exhausted, and tired of the war – started staging little mini-truces.

The first one was on December 11, 1914; two companies of the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment made tentative contact with German soldiers of the 181st Regiment of the 19th Saxon Corps.

A letter to the editor described the December 11 incident:

Amusing trench incident. “Tommy” [slang for any British soldier, much like the much-later "GI", only much more prevalent as slang] and “Fritz” exchange presents. One of the oddities of the war in the Western battlefields at all events (says the Daily Chronicle) is the close proximity of the opposing forces in the trenches, thus giving opportunities for conversation. But the record must surely be made by an incident described in a letter from Private H Scrutton, Essex Regiment, to relatives at Wood Green, Norwich. He writes:- As I told you before our trenches are only 30 or 40 yards away from the Germans. This led to an exciting incident the other day. Our fellows have been in the habit of shouting across to the enemy and we used to get answers from them. We were told to get into conversation with them and this is what happened:- From out trenches: “Good morning Fritz.” (No answer). “Good morning Fritz.” (Still no answer). “GOOD MORNING FRITZ.” From German trenches: “Good morning.” From our trench: “How are you?” “All right.” “Come over here, Fritz.” “No. If I come I get shot.” “No you won’t. Come on.” “No fear.” “Come and get some fags, Fritz.” “No. You come half way and I meet you.” “All right.” One of our fellows thereupon stuffed his pocket with fags and got over the trench. The German got over his trench, and right enough they met half way and shook hands, Fitz taking the fags and giving cheese in exchange. It was good to see the Germans standing on top of their trenches and the English also, with caps waving in the air, all cheering. About 18 of our men went half way and met about the same number of Germans. This lasted about half an hour when each side returned to their trenches to shoot at each other again. What I have written is the truth but don’t think we got chums as two of our fellows were killed the same night, and I don’t know how many (sic) of them.

As many as 100,000 troops may have participated in spontaneous truces between various opposing units on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Historians disagree on the details – some claim that while soccer games broke out, they were mostly among troops on the same side.  Others point to 3-4 Brit-vs.-German matches along the trench line, altogether. 

Fraternization was, of course, not part of the plan for those whose job it was to try to bring the war to an end by conquering the enemy.  Measures were taken to prevent further such truces; higher command rotated troops among different trench areas, to prevent units becoming too  familiar with one another.  They scheduled artillery bombardments for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, to make fraternizing dangerous.  And over the course of the war, the go-along-to-get-along attitude of the first winter was replaced by a lot of survivors’ emnnity. 

Ian Tuttle, writing in National Review, responded to criticism of the video above – and touches on a much deeper point:

“If only it were all so simple!” wrote the great Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

[Guardian columnist and ad critic Iain] Fogg wishes “to retain those [soldiers’] deaths with respect and a degree of reverence.” But to try to do that by denying to the Great War all beauty — especially the beauty of gratuitous, unjustifiable human compassion — would strip those honored dead of the very reason they deserve respect and reverence: because they were human, because the line dividing good and evil cut through their hearts, too. And while it occasioned much carnage and misery, it also spurred acts of compassion, generosity, and more, which generated beauty even in the midst of desolation. Why would one seek to bury that fact?

America today is divided by trenches much less violent than the ones that divided Europe 100 years ago.

And so whatever side you’re on, Merry Christmas.  Or Fröhliche Weinachten.

Make An Antique Noise

I joke that I never go to churches where the music was written in the past 100 years.

It’s a joke.

Sort of.

I’ve been to a church or two that feature “modern worship music” (which, as we’ve discussed, is not the same as popular music with a faith-based theme).  And almost without exception, the stuff leaves me cold – aesthetically and, sorry to say, spiritually.

So I was interested in this piece by a church worship leader who’s approaching the question from the other side – as a former ModWorMu fan who warmed back up to traditional hymnology, for theological more than aesthetic reasons.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

If the Church shuffling around bad priests is a public nuisance for purposes of making it easier to sue, can the same theory be applied to schools who shuffle around bad teachers, or police departments who shuffle around bad cops, or courts who shuffle around incompetent judges, or even the federal government who shuffles around bad employees (whatever happened to Jamie Gorelick)

Or is this simply a claim against a despised religious minority in a state known for its Know Nothing heritage?

Joe Doakes

Not to mention a makework program for lawyers?

Pondering The Imponderable

I was at a comedy club a few weeks back.

A very angry – and not especially funny, while we’re on the subject – woman who, I kid you not, identified herself as having been a political science major, told a joke (I’ll be generous) about “science”.  She ended with something like “That’s called ‘science’.  Take that, creationists!”

But it started me thinking about the contempt that the left feels for creationists. 

Now, I’m not one of them – if you read the biblical creation story as allegory, there is no conflict between the Bible and the record that is captured in the physical science of the world around us. 

And I wanted to stand up and ask the “comedian” something.

“So if we have to choose between…

Someone who believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, and lives their life accordingly – whatever that means?  A belief for which there may be little empirical basis, and even less empirical impact outside the faith community?  Or…

Someone who believes that:

  • raising taxes during a recession helps the economy,
  • banning firearms for the law-abiding lowers violent crime
  • jacking up regulation on market economies will stop the climate from changing like it’s been doing for between 6,000 and 20,000,000,000 years
  • Unionizing daycare providers will alleviate the scarcity of daycare
  • Raising the minimum wage will alleviate poverty
  • Pouring a bottomless bucket of money into Public Education will ever give us a better-educated populace
  • Mandating increased healthcare services without increasing the supply of caregivers won’t raise the price of healthcare
  • “Racism” is harming black Americans more than the Public Education system, a toxic “urban culture”, fatherless families and voting for Democrats who want to keep them that way are
  • Giving terrorists a “save the date” card for leaving one of their homelands isn’t going to result in an epic surge of bloodshed
  • “Anti-Poverty” programs have alleviated poverty over the past fifty years
  • Barack Obama deserved that Nobel Peace Prize,

…which does more actual harm to the world?”

It wouldn’t have made a great “heckle”, unfortunately.


Many of us in the faith community have observed that Big Atheism loves to attack Christianity (the “turn the other cheek” faith) with a demented fervor, while remaining fairly silent about occasionally, disturbingly violence-prone Islam.

“Why don’t you take a crack at excoriating Islam – or to one of the other secular faiths, like big feminism?” we ask.

We all assumed the answer was because they were hypocrites.
The real answer seems to be “because they’re hypocrites, and are justly afraid of their own, co-secular-religionists on the left”.

In recent years, Andrew Dawkins – one of Big Atheism’s major evangelists – finally crossed that invisible line, and started attacking not only Islam, but the left’s great secular faith, gender identity feminism.

It hasn’t worked out well – for him, or for Big Left’s intellectual honesty.
For the rest of us, though?

In the process, he’s exposed a rich vein of hypocrisy in the Left — and, more significantly, an intellectual rift between hard-line and multiculturalist atheists. That rift is growing fast: non-believers, having exhausted their anti-Christian rhetoric, are turning on each other with the ferocity of religious zealots. Enjoy.

The whole thing is worth a read.

The Peoples’ Liturgy!

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Headline reads: Pope says Communists are Christians.

Well, maybe. Hard to tell what he actually said, much less meant, from such a brief article. But if the article is accurate, I’d suggest the Holy Father is confused.

Christ lived in an era when there was no welfare so life was Root Hog, or Die. That system forced every man to focus on building and preserving wealth for himself and his loved ones (family, tribe). And that relentless focus on gathering wealth made some people selfish, miserly, stingy, greedy, covetous. Those are not endearing qualities.

Christ’s message of giving was not a call for government redistribution, but a call for individuals to voluntarily donate. Paying your taxes to Caesar requires no inner contemplation, no step back to look at your life, no reassessment of what’s important, no thankfulness for what you have, no gratitude for what God has blessed you with. Instead, paying taxes to be redistributed fosters resentment that the ants toil while the grasshoppers play – and the grasshoppers get rewarded for indolence while the ants get punished for thrift.

Communism is not Christian, they are polar opposites looking toward the same middle. We all want to eliminate poverty. The question is how. The answer is voluntarily. Nothing else works.

Joe Doakes.

People ask me why I don’t convert to Catholicism.

Liturgical matters aside, the presence of a leader and bureaucracy that can use religion to push hogwash like Francis and his inner circle have been pushing is a big part of it.

Go Forth And Be PC Badgerers Of Men

To:  The Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA)
From: Mitch Berg, Disgusted Congregant
Re:  Amen


I’ve been a Presbyterian my entire adult life, And as a practical matter, that’s meant “PCUSA”, by far the largest organization of this rather small denomination.

And I’ll stay Presbyterian, because on theological matters, I believe the Presbyterian liturgy puts the least BS between man and understanding God.  And as an American who believes in representative, constitutional democracy, I believe we owe a debt to the Knoxian revolutionaries who had a disproportionally large role in founding not only this nation, but our nation’s system of governnment in its purest form. 

But the PCUSA General Assembly’s canoodling with political correctness – endless pointless, mindless debates about fripperies like gay marriage and divestment from Israel - as the denomination erodes, fast, have eroded my faith, not in the core of the liturgy that descended from Knox, but the politically-correct bobbleheads that have hijacked the PCUSA’s temporal governance.  

These repeated diversions into temporal political correctness give onlookers the impression that the PCUSA – and Presbyterians in general – are spending their time trying to build a deeper relationship with the lords of temporal political correctness.  And although the General Assembly vote on the Israel divestment was close (310-303), reflecting the fact that many, many congregations don’t share the General Assembly’s passion for PC, at all too many PCUSA churches, especially in the major metro areas, it’s not an invalid impression. 

So I’ll be leaving the PCUSA behind, and moving to one of your less BS-clogged breakaways – the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – once and for all.

I hope you come around someday.  But I’m done hoping. 

That is all.



I’m a Protestant.  I’m a Protestant for a lot of really good theological reasons. 

I’ve got nothing against Catholicism; parts of my family are Catholic, as are a strong plurality of my friends.  Like a lot of Protestants, I admired John Paul 2, not leastly because he seemed to not only recognized that all Christians were on the Jesus Team, but  that Protestant beliefs were also a path to salvation.

But I’ve wondered sometimes; if the colonies had been majority-Catholic, would there have been an American Revolution?

I ask it when I read things like this; one of the Pope’s top advisors rips on “liberartarian” beliefs and the free market.

The pope, [Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez] Maradiaga said, grew up in Argentina and “has a profound knowledge of the life of the poor.” That is why, he said, Francis continues to insist that “the elimination of the structural causes for poverty is a matter of urgency that can no longer be postponed.”


“The hungry or sick child of the poor cannot wait,” the cardinal said.

So far, so good.

“Solidarity is more than a few sporadic acts of generosity,” he said.


Instead, he said, solidarity with the poor, as envisioned by Catholic social teaching, calls for “dealing with the structural causes of poverty and injustice.”

And when people talk “structure”, they’re talking “political solutions”.

And when you talk “political solutions” to economic “injustice”, you’re inevitably talking top-down, government solutions. 

Without exception. 

A charismatic churchman who speaks fluent English, Maradiaga was animated in his criticism of the effects of today’s free market capitalism and he peppered his remarks with digs at economic conservatives.


Trickle-down economics, he said, is “a deception,” and he declared that the “invisible hand” of the free market — the famous theory advanced by the 18th-century philosopher Adam Smith — was instead being used as a cruel trick to exploit the poor.

The world is full of cruel tricks, when you’re poor. 

But the free market has virtually eliminated widespread starvation (in parts of the world that have a free market), government, thetop-down solution to “infrastructure problems” inevitably makes things worse for the poor, while enriching the administrative class with the graft that always, always follows political solutions to social issues.

Although my Catholic friends my bristle when I say this, I am exceedingly unimpresssed with Pope Francis’ reign, at least in secular and political terms, so far.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Southern Baptist Church doing whatever it takes to get the heathens in the pews.

Joe Doakes

“Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built” (Nehemiah 4:17-18).

I guess that’s a form of constitutional carry…

Out Of Both Ends Of Babes

SCENE:  Mitch Berg is at the pharmacy, refilling a painkiller prescription.    He notices a tap on the shoulder.  It’s Mr. Victor VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE, professional fraternity organizer, and Vice Chair for Education at the 5th CD Libertarian Party.


BERG (holding an acheing jaw in dire need of a root canal):  Hey, V-Molt.

VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  What did we say about that?

BERG:  Oh, OK.  Hey, Viktor.  What’s up?

VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  You’re a Christian, right?

BERG:  Yep.

VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Kurt Tischer said “Everyone is born an atheist and an anarchist. People have to be taught religion and statism.”

BERG:  That’s an attack on faith, right?


BERG:  People are also born babbling unintelligibly, utterly self-centered, unable to live independently – without their family, which is the ultimate autocracy – and crapping and peeing all over the place.  Are these also desirable traits?


BERG:  Clearly.

(And SCENE).


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Brilliant quip from Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit:

“K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: Lauren Harrington-Cooper and Other Teachers Arrested for Sex Crimes. “Such crimes are far from unusual, as we have frequently observed, and here are just a few recent examples.” And here’s another. Obviously, we need to end mandatory celibacy and let high school teachers marry.”

Joe Doakes

Does that mean the superintendent is doctrinally infallible?

All About Them

Maybe it’s just me – but at around this point in the past few election cycles, it’s seemed that the media has undertaken a campaign to try to give liberal Christians a little boost of self-esteem.  Perhaps to help them feel like they matter in the big scheme of things.

In 2007, the media burned a slew of cycles trying to make the case that there was a burgeoning movement of liberal evangelicals.  Of course, it came up “meh” at the polls.

Now, I’m a Presbyterian.  I am because of the denomination’s theology – not because of its politics, which are (at a regional and national level) almost smug enough to be Episcopal.  Note to any conservative Presbyterian sects breaking off from the PCUSA:  have your people call my people.

Today’s liberal-Christian superstar is and media darling is Nadia Bolz-Weber.  She’s got enough tasteless ink to pass for a bartender at the Seventh Street Entry…

…and she swears in the pulpit, so as to not “be a hypocrite”

Walter Hudson breaks down the reasons Rev. Bolz-Weber is wrong.  You need to read the whole thing.  But here’s the money quote:

No one who knows God would want to associate Him with filth. That’s why Christian pastors shouldn’t swear from the pulpit, not to “pretend to be something they’re not,” but to glorify who God is.

And that’s the problem with so many of the examples of “liberal christianity” that I see in the media (and conservatives, in too many cases, as well); it’s not about glorifying who God is, but reassuring themselves about who they are.

Which, if you’re a Christian, really really really isn’t the point.

(Also – you want a tattoo, have a tattoo.  But that much ink just looks really really really stupid).

To Claim The Victory Jesus Won

Mention Irish rock megastars U2 to people, and the reactions you get will span the gamut.

To kids today, a generation after they first came out, it’s probably all about Bono – the peripatetic, bombastic lead singer who’s parlayed a magnificent singing voice and a global pop following into a second career as a global charity leader (and, it needs to be said, arch-capitalist).

To someone who came of age in the nineties?  I’d imagine U2 was to them what the Rolling Stones were to me growing up in the late seventies and early eighties; dissipated celebrities noodling with making sense of their megastardom, albeit with less drugs and model-banging, but with a lot more artistic pretension ladled on top.

To hipsters of all eras?  Once they left Dublin, they were trayf.

And U2 has been all of that to me, too (except maybe the hipster bit).

But mostly, U2 is the band that tied together two big strands in my own life.  And the main catalyst for this, their breakthrough album War, was released thirty years ago today.

And the strands it tied together for me, and with style, were faith and rock and roll.

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Open Letter To Pope Benedict

To: His Holiness, Pope Benedict
From: Mitch Berg, Protestant
Re: None Of Your Business

Your Holiness,

With all respect due to your eminence in your church on spiritual issues, and to your predecessor’s stances in defense of freedom, I must confess that when I see you and your various ecclesiastical bureaucrats saying things like this…:

In an editorial aired yesterday on Vatican Radio, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See, called “initiatives announced by the United States government in view of limiting and controlling the diffusion and use of arms … a step in the right direction.


“Forty-seven religious leaders of various confessions and religions have issued a call to American politicians to limit firearms, which ‘are making society pay an unacceptable price in terms of massacres and senseless deaths,’” Lombardi stated in his address. “I’m with them.”

…and especially twaddle like this (I’ll add emphasis)…:

While acknowledging “that arms, throughout the world, are also instruments for legitimate defense,” and even admitting “No one can be under the illusion that limiting their number and use would be enough to impede horrendous massacres in the future,” Lombardi nonetheless asserted “it is necessary to repeat tirelessly our calls for disarmament, to oppose the production, trade, and smuggling of arms of all types.

“If results are achieved, such as international conventions … all the better!” he proclaimed.

…it fills me with protestant pride.

Your line, it seems, is “sorry about all the dead innocents who won’t  be able to defend themselves, but let’s hear it for those great guardians of the sanctity of human life, the U F****ng N”.

Sorry, Fr. Lombardi.  We fought a war in this country at least in part to be free of the rule of monarchs, whether secular or ecclesiastical.  And when I read your church’s official word on self-defense (again, emphasis added)…:

“According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, individuals have a right and a duty to protect their own lives when in danger, and someone who ‘defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow,’” CNS concedes, but offers a significant caveat. “According to the catechism, the right to use firearms to ‘repel aggressors’ or render them harmless is specifically sanctioned for ‘those who legitimately hold authority’ and have been given the duty of protecting the community.

…it puts me in mind of the fact that functional representative democracy came much, much later to the Catholic than the Protestant world for a good reason.

In other words, Fr. Lombardi, your assistance is not needed here.  Thanks.

The More Things Change…

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade while attending an ecclesiastical conference in Clermont, France. His exact speech is disputed but history shows his words were sufficient to inspire all of Christendom to wage war upon the Muslims then occupying Jerusalem.

September 13, 2001, a different crusader preached the same message in fewer words: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity . . . This is war.”

It’s been a thousand years and we still haven’t solved the problem.

Joe Doakes

Como Park

One of those faiths went through a Renaissance, a Reformation, and a half a millennium of civil evolution. The other largely did not.

Remark Of The Evening

Chuck Woolery on Twitter last night:

I do have to confess; not since Ben Vereen’s prime, or maybe the heyday of Riverdance, have I seen tap-dancing like pro-”choice”, pro-gay-marriage Catholics rationalizing their politics with their faith (or at least the cafeteria version of it).

Damned Lies And Statistics

Earlier this week, I noted that the WaPo released a Presidential preference poll that…:

  • Bucks all current polling and shows President Obama firmly in the dirver’s seat, which…
  • releases no crosstabs or backup data for mere consumers to use to judge the poll’s context, parameters or validity.

As I predicted, only faster, the Strib is already on board.  Joe Doakes – making a rare two-fer today – wrote to ask about h this column by Sue Hogan at the Strib:

“Catholics” is a pretty broad label. Abortion advocate John Kerry claims to be Catholic and so do openly-gay parishioners at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis as well as traditionalists who attend St. Agnes in St. Paul.

Who did they poll?

How was the question worded?

Silly Doakes.  Raw data is for gatekeepers.

Let’s take a look at Hogan’s piece:

A majority of U.S. Catholics support President Obama’s decision to require religious institutions to include birth control in health insurance plans, according to two new polls.

A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C., found that support among Catholics (58 percent) is higher than that of the American public overall (55 percent).

And who exactly is the “Public Religion Research Institute?  They describe themselves as “non-partisan”, which pretty much inevitably means “left-leaning”.  You be the judge.  Their piece on the poll doesn’t go into a lot more detail than Hogan’s puff piece.

Likewise, a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood found that Obama’s position enjoys support from 56 percent of American voters. Of the Catholics polled, 53 percent agreed with the president.

Meanwhile, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to decry the president’s decision, saying that it violates religious freedom.

And as we’ve noted in the past, PPP voter polls trend left of reality.

Look – I’ve expressed my skepticism that the Catholic Street really cares that much about the issue, or that the “middle management” would choose Vatican doctrine over progressivism.  It could be that the polls are accurate.  Since they seem to confirm my hunch, that’s a point in their favor [1]

But who did they poll?  What questions did they ask?

And, more importantlly, why aren’t they teliling us who they polled and what they asked?

Remember – distrust but validate.  Then, usually, distrust some more.

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The Not-So-Paper Bull?

This morning, I wrote to agree with Chad the Elder that the Catholic grass roots didn’t look like they cared that much about religious freedom – in part because a Catholic (indeed, Christian) laity was pretty much desensitized. like the fabled “frog in boiling water”, to the effects of losing that freedom, and that their leadership hadn’t done much to change that in a few decades.

On the other hand?  Maybe there’s some hope:

Catholic leaders are furious and determined to harness the voting power of the nation’s 70 million Catholic voters to stop a provision of President Barack Obama’s new heath car reform bill that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to buy birth control pills, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization coverage for their employees.


“Never before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church,” said Catholic League head Bill Donohue.


Already Archbishop Timothy Dolan has spoken out against the law and priests around the country have mobilized, reading letters from the pulpit. Donohue said Catholic officials will stop at nothing to put a stop to it.

Hopefully it’s not too little too late.