Mosaic

Are traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs responsible for Brexit and survival of ISIS?

Are traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs responsible for Brexit and survival of ISIS?

Here are two examples -- one Christian, the other Jewish -- of religion's staying power and influence over the entirety of Western culture. They're presented as reminders of why journalists need a working knowledge of religious history to fully connect the dots in today's bleeding world.

I came across the first example not long after the game-changing 9/11 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks. The second's an essay I read just recently.

Let's begin with journalist and author Robert D. Kaplan's "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos." I consider Kaplan one of the more interesting journalistic minds working today.

His book struck me as fascinating, prescient (in hindsight) and disturbing.

My fascination stemmed from its emphasis on the enormous influence that bedrock religious concepts still exert today over critical societal actions. They're there, taken for granted but subliminally directing us. This is so even if we fail to consider, as individuals or even -- tsk, tsk -- as journalists, the importance of these civilizational building blocks.

It was prescient because of what it said that relates to the quagmire we face as a nation today in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It was disturbing because it challenged my liberal American impulses about the limits of ethical warfare.

Oh. And, yes, I agree. "Ethical warfare" may just be the ultimate oxymoron.

Kaplan concluded that to defeat non-state terror organizations that play only by their own brutal rules required a radical change in the military tactics of Western nations, by which he meant those historically and culturally Christian.

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Palestinian Christians: Why so little coverage outside of Easter and Christmas?

Palestinian Christians: Why so little coverage outside of Easter and Christmas?

Mainstream news coverage of the persecution of Middle East Christians -- including the lack of such coverage -- receives lots of attention here at GetReligion. Here's a sample in the form of one of our "Crossroads" podcasts.

Elsewhere, the level of coverage tends to ebb and flow with the degree of brutality accompanying the persecution. When a large number of Christians are murdered -- say, by the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq -- the coverage spikes. When the discrimination is merely pervasive but not violent in a spectacular way -- such as that endured by Egypt's Copts -- the coverage recedes.

Here are two examples of journalistic attention to the issue.

One is an editorial from Britain's The Guardian. The other is a news piece from Fox News.

Note that the latter underscores the possibility of the eradication of the Middle East's ancient churches from the lands that birthed them. (More recently arrived Protestant churches also are under assault, of course.)

What you generally hear less about is the plight of the Christian minorities living under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza. And when you do see a story it's likely to be timed to Christmas or Easter, when Palestinian Christians are most visible to the international media and a Holy Land dateline is a beloved trade hallmark, even if that means ignoring the fact that many Christians in this region are using the older Julian calendar and, thus, celebrate Christmas and Pascha later than the churches of the West.

Here's one Christmas piece published a few years back on the Wall Street Journal website. And here's 2015 Christmas story in The New York Times.

Why do Palestinian Christians living under Palestinian rule get so much less attention?

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Ongoing Europe migrant crisis story: Sorry, but a public pork blitz alone won't fix it

Ongoing Europe migrant crisis story: Sorry, but a public pork blitz alone won't fix it

Ever hear of the subset known as gastronomical Jews? They're not religious, or at least not when it comes to mainstream Judaism. They don't connect to Jewish communal organizations. Israel's problems -- well maybe they're problems for the cousins, but not them. Why bother with all that craziness?

But boy, do they love to eat "Jewish." To which I say, what's not to like?

There's juicy hot pastrami on rye spiced with mustard (above), chicken matzoh ball soup and matzoh brei. There's also proper New York-style (always boiled first then baked) bagels, lox and cream cheese, and various kinds of pickled herring -- to name just a few of my favorites.

For end-stage gastronomical Jews, the taste of their favorite childhood foods is their last meaningful tie to their Jewish roots. For some, that fragile tie finally snaps when some cardiologist says it's time to cut back on the carbs, salt and artery-clogging fats packed into the traditional Ashkenazi Jewish diet.

In short, food is certainly a cultural and religious marker, which is why holiday food stories are a staple of feature section religion journalism.

But -- in a world where frozen, commercially pre-packaged (and comparatively tasteless, I might add) bagels can be had virtually anywhere there's a freezer -- food alone is no guarantee that a culture, any culture, will live on in its fullness.

Which brings me to Europe's ongoing attempts to manage its migrant crisis (click here for an exhaustive update) and a recent New York Times story about a Danish town's attempt to cope with it by eating pork.

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