Our lesson today comes from the Gospel according to Luke. No, no, not the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, any of that stuff, but the other birth: “But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
That bit of the Christmas story doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it’s in there — Luke 1:13, part of what he’d have called the backstory, if he’d been a Hollywood screenwriter rather than a physician. Of the four gospels, only two bother with the tale of Christ’s birth, and only Luke begins with the tale of two pregnancies. Zacharias is surprised by his impending paternity — “for I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years.” Nonetheless, an aged, barren woman conceives and, in the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, the angel visits her cousin Mary and tells her that she, too, will conceive. If you read Luke, the virgin birth seems a logical extension of the earlier miracle — the pregnancy of an elderly lady. The physician-author had no difficulty accepting both. For Matthew, Jesus’s birth is the miracle; Luke leaves you with the impression that all birth — all life — is to a degree miraculous and God-given.
We now live in Elisabeth’s world — not just because technology has caught up with the Deity and enabled women in their 50s and 60s to become mothers, but in a more basic sense. The problem with the advanced West is not that it’s broke but that it’s old and barren. Which explains why it’s broke.
By JORDANA HORN, JERUSALEM POST:
After protests from the US Ambassador to UNESCO, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Committee to UNESCO’s director-general over a UNESCO-assisted Palestinian children’s magazine that published an essay extolling Adolf Hitler, UNESCO agreed to withdraw its support from the publication Thursday.
UNESCO had provided funds to an NGO, Zayzafouna, which published a magazine of the same name. The magazine Zayzafouna, as reported by Palestinian Media Watch, published an article in February 2011 by a 10- year-old Palestinian girl who recounted a dream in which Hitler told her: “Yes. I killed them [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.”
How very enlightened of them …
Walter Russell Mead:
As political and economic conditions in Egypt deteriorate, a new kind of refugee is beginning to appear, one that will test America’s character. Violence against Christians is growing; bad economic times, the inability or unwillingness of security forces and police to keep order, and the growing tide of Islamist political and religious mobilizations is making life increasingly insecure for Egypt’s eight million Christians.
An article in the Wall Street Journal offers a harrowing picture of a minority that is beginning to come under siege. Christians are being threatened with violence if they fail to convert; women who do not cover their hair are harassed, harangued and threatened on the street; churches are burned and the wall of isolation around this ancient community deepens every day.
Under US and international law, growing numbers of Egyptian Christians will qualify as refugees if these conditions continue to worsen.
For Americans, the persecution of religious believes in other countries is more than a foreign policy problem. Russian persecution of the Jews in the 19th century led millions of Jews to immigrate to the United States between 1880 and the start of World War One. Religious and ethnic minorities fled to the US from all over Europe and the Middle East in the old days. One reason that so few Christians remain in most of the Middle East is that the United States primarily, but other western countries as well, have allowed millions of Christian Arabs to escape — in some cases looking for security and an end to persecution, and in others for better economic opportunity and the absence of discrimination.
by Pejman Yousefzadeh:
One would think that the deaths of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il would prompt universal condemnation for the dictatorial communist regimes the former so bravely fought against, and the latter used for self-aggrandizement at the expense of his own citizens. One would be wrong; the condemnation of dictatorial communist regimes is blessedly widespread, but it is by no means universal.
Consider first Neil Clark, who informs us of the following regarding Havel’s struggle:
A former special adviser on Iran policy to the Obama Administration said that a US-perpetrated strike on the Islamic Republic on is the “least bad” option in dealing with its nuclear threat.
“The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States,” Matthew Kroenig, a nuclear security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who served as a strategist under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said in an article published by Foreign Affairs Magazine.
by Sam Blumenfeld:
If you’re wondering who’s funding the network of left-wing, non-government organizations in Israel, which aim to topple Netanyahu’s government and turn Israel into an Arab majority state, it turns out to be the same man who’s funding the Occupy Wall Street mobs: George Soros. Tel Aviv has had to contend with the same left-wing protests, tents and all, obviously all coordinated by one central global puppeteer.
That is why the Israeli Knesset passed the NGO Funding Transparency Bill by 40 to 34 in February. It was a hard-fought battle. But despite its neutered state, the bill survived and was enacted. It is a declaration of war by the conservative Likud Party against the shadow NGO empire being used by George Soros to shape the future of Israel. Its liberal opponents called it a “threat to democracy.”
Dan Greenfield writes in FrontPage Magazine, 9/22/2011:
By Mark Steyn:
On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world.
Not merely the media but Christian leaders in the west seem to be embarrassed by behavior that doesn’t conform to their dimwitted sappiness about “Facebook Revolutions”. It took a Jew to deliver this line:
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has warned Turkey to stop its warships shelling the strip of water dividing the Cypriot and Israeli gas exploration zones in the eastern Mediterranean.
debkafile’s military forces report that Wednesday, Dec. 21, Turkish warships began turning their guns on the strip dividing Israel’s Leviathan gas field from Block 12 of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone-EEZ, where a large gas field was recently discovered.
Neither Israel nor Cyprus reported the Turkish attacks which are staged in international waters, but both reinforced their naval units around the gas fields. It was the Cypriot president who broke the silence Friday, Dec. 23 with a warning: “If Turkey does not change its gunboat diplomacy and stop playing the part of regional police officer, there will be consequences which, for sure, will not be good – either for the whole region or the Turkish people and first and foremost for Turkish Cypriots,” he said.
On Dec. 22, Israel canceled the $90 million sale to the Turkish Air Force of Elbit’s hi-tech LOROP-Long Range Oblique Photography military surveillance system.Israeli defense sources said the transaction was cancelled lest SAR radar or LOROP technology find their way into the hands of Israel’s enemies, such as Iran.
According to our military sources, Israel timed the deal’s cancellation as a warning to Ankara to back off from its campaign of harassment in and around Israel’s gas fields.
By David Warren:
When Lord Sacks, chief rabbi in England, rose in the House of Lords to speak about the persecution of Christians, he quoted Martin Luther King. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
This in turn was quoted in an excellent article in the Daily Telegraph this week. Fraser Nelson asked all the pertinent questions about the indifference displayed by the British Foreign Office to the persecution of Christians (along with other minorities) in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria; indeed, throughout the Middle East. Why do our diplomats refuse even to raise the issue with their counterparts in these countries?
The same could be asked of most western foreign ministries. Germany is an exception, and apparently Angela Merkel has, to her credit, interceded discreetly but forcefully to get some restrictions lifted on Catholics in Turkey. If Canada is doing something, it is even more discreet.
But of course, formal restrictions on Christian life and worship in Muslim countries – which would be considered outrageous if they were applied to Muslims in any western country – are endemic. They vary not so much in content, as in enforcement, and as a rule, become heavier when any society is in convulsion, lighter when it is not. In other words, Christians, formerly Jews (before their general exodus, when Israel was founded), and other minorities such as Shia Muslims in Sunni lands, are accustomed to becoming scapegoats when things having nothing to do with them go wrong.
And this is the case now.
by Ron Radosh:
PJ Media readers know why we mourn the passing of Vaclav Havel. On this site, Michael Ledeen beautifully laid out the reasons why the world knows it has lost one of its greatest leaders. Ledeen put it in these words: “he was one of a handful of people who changed the world by fighting totalitarian Communism and then, having defeated it, inspired his people to rejoin the Western world, embrace capitalism, and support democratic dissidents everywhere.”
But now that a week or more have passed since Havel’s death, some on the Western Left have decided to let their true feelings about Havel out. Despite having to give some lip service to Havel’s integrity and what he accomplished, these men of the Left quickly get to what they really think: Havel helped destroy the great ideal of Communism as a worthy goal, and for that, he cannot be forgiven.
The most egregious is the article in the British paper The Guardian. The headline to Neil Clark’s article reads, “Another Side of the Story.” Clark immediately ties Havel up with another individual who has just passed way, Christopher Hitchens, whose “consecration” he strongly objects to. For Hitchens was, he writes, “ another ‘progressive’ opponent of the communist regimes of eastern Europe who found favour with Washington’s neocons.”
by The Right Scoop:
After Baghdad plunged back into violence a few days ago on the heels of an arrest order for Iraq’s Sunni vice president by Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister, with 65 dead and almost 200 wounded, Krauthammer placed the blame squarely on the Obama administration for ignoring what the generals on the ground were saying and pulling US troops out of Iraq: