Pundit Wire

The True Believer, Revisited

15916The New York Times ran a front page article on February 18, chronicling the lives of three Egyptian youths, one of whom turned jihadist and went to fight for ISIS in Syria.

The three young men were friends. All of them came from middle-class backgrounds. All of them were devout Muslims, and all of them struggled to square the strictures of puritanical Islam with the attractions of the secular world—in particular, the sexual impulses they shared as normal young men. All of them had difficulty finding work in Egypt’s uncertain economy, and all of them were disillusioned when Egypt’s army took power and suppressed the militant Islamic Brotherhood.

Photo: Harper & Brothers

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Guerrilla Warfare Against Gay Marriage

imagesThe chief justice of the state of Alabama, Roy S. Moore, has ordered the state’s probate judges to defy a federal district court ruling and refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The result is that some judges in Alabama are issuing licenses and some are not. The confusion may continue until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of gay marriage in June.

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God gave this land to them

Pat_Boone_by_Gage_SkidmorePat Boone wrote the words to “Exodus.”

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A Class Act from Bangui

President Catherine Samba-PanzaWith worthy competition, the Central African Republic may be the most miserable place on earth. Twelve per cent of its population is displaced, eight per cent are refugees in other countries, 54 per cent urgently need humanitarian assistance, 30 per cent of its schools and hospitals have been destroyed in recent conflicts, 7000 children kidnapped, and the per capita income has fallen from $461 in 2008 to $294 in 2014.

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The news summer from hell and the end of optimism

globe By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts.  Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse – that kind of feeling.

“What fresh hell is this?” – the question Dorothy Parker asked when her doorbell rang – now applies to the news.  If you’re staying informed, you’re licking the razor.  Unfortunately, not following what’s happening in the world isn’t really an option.  These horrors seize our lizard brains; we’re hard-wired to pay attention to danger.

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Brat — The protesting Protestant?

dave brat There’s an early Philip Roth story about a bunch of Jewish kids in Hebrew school trying to figure out whether Jesus lived or not.

“The Catholics,” Itzie Lieberman says, “they believe in Jesus Christ, that he’s God.”

Lieberman, Roth adds, “used ‘the Catholics’ in its broadest sense — to include the Protestants.”

I confess, when I was a kid in a largely Jewish town, I was similarly confused. I think I have it straight, now. But I was confused again this week, reading about Dave Brat’s surprising primary election win over Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)…

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Five doubting dudes and the holy relics of Mount Mortality

800px-Mount_Athos_(7698222302) The trip was Sandy’s idea. His 95-year-old father is Greek, and though Sandy was baptized in the Orthodox faith, he would be the first to call himself an atheist. Two of us – Tim, an Englishman, and Adam, half English and half Swedish – are Christian, but only nominally. Geza, whose parents were Hungarian Catholics, is also an unbeliever, and vocally appalled by the historic carnage committed in God’s name. I’m Jewish. Though Adam dubbed us five the Mount Atheists, I hesitate to call myself that because of my ineluctable awe at the ineffable, at what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls “the inconceivable surprise of living”

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The ironic ma nishtana

passover If you’ve been to a seder, you know that the Four Questions are about things like why do we eat matzah instead of bread, and what’s up with this biting into a horseradish; they also prompt the telling of the Exodus story, which is the purpose of the holiday: to pass the once-we-were-slaves-in-Egypt legacy to the next generation.

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