Tag Archives: christianity

Christian Intellectual Death Squads

As a Catholic, I view the Protestant churches as essentially loyalty militias, forces that by-and-large assist the Christian correlation-of-forces but nonetheless escape any accountability from the earthly hierarchy. Thus, the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) is to the Holy See as the Badr Brigades are to the Republic of Iraq.

However, in this model there should be another category — death squads — of those who might be classified as loyalty militia except that the blowback from them is roughly as bad as the good they do. Death squads differ from other actors in that they are ideologically motivated and focus on the same concepts as the larger insurgency.


The Seen and the Unseen

The most visible Christian ideological death squad is Islam, for obvious reasons. However, evangelical secularism or Ultracavlisnism, may form a Christian intellectual death-squad as well. Unqualified Reservations has more, courtesy of gnxp:

The “ultracalvinist hypothesis” is the proposition that the present-day belief system commonly called “progressive,” “multiculturalist,” “universalist,” “liberal,” “politically correct,” etc, is actually best considered as a sect of Christianity.

Specifically, ultracalvinism (which I have also described here and here) is the primary surviving descendant of the American mainline Protestant tradition, which has been the dominant belief system of the United States since its founding. It should be no surprise that it continues in this role, or that since the US’s victory in the last planetary war it has spread worldwide.

In fact, they are so unusual that most people don’t see ultracalvinism as Christian at all. For example, on the theological side, ultracalvinism is best known as Unitarian Universalism. (It’s an interesting exercise to try to find any conflicts between UUism and “political correctness.”) Ultracalvinists are perfectly free to be atheists, or believe in any God or gods – as long as they don’t adhere to any revealed tradition, which would make them “fundamentalists.” In general, ultracalvinists oppose revelation and consider their beliefs to be pure products of reason. And perhaps they are right in this – but I feel the claim should at least be investigated.

And when we look at the real-world beliefs of ultracalvinists, we see that ultracalvinism is anything but content-free. By my count, the ultracalvinist creed has four main points:

First, ultracalvinists believe in the universal brotherhood of man. As an Ideal (an undefined universal) this might be called Equality. (“All men and women are born equal.”) If we wanted to attach an “ism” to this, we could call it fraternalism.

Second, ultracalvinists believe in the futility of violence. The corresponding ideal is of course Peace. (“Violence only causes more violence.”) This is well-known as pacifism.

Third, ultracalvinists believe in the fair distribution of goods. The ideal is Social Justice, which is a fine name as long as we remember that it has nothing to do with justice in the dictionary sense of the word, that is, the accurate application of the law. (“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) To avoid hot-button words, we will ride on a name and call this belief Rawlsianism.

Fourth, ultracalvinists believe in the managed society. The ideal is Community, and a community by definition is led by benevolent experts, or public servants. (“Public servants should be professional and socially responsible.”) After their counterparts east of the Himalaya, we can call this belief mandarism.

In fact, the four points are very common and easily recognizable tenets of Protestant Christianity, specifically in its Calvinist or Puritan strain. You can find them all over the place in the New Testament, and any subject of Oliver Cromwell’s saintly republic would have recognized them instantly. Rawlsianism is definitely the last of the four to develop, but even it is very common in the 17th century, when its adherents were known as Diggers – a name that, not surprisingly, was later reused. Ultracalvinism fits quite neatly in the English Dissenter and low church tradition. (Note the blatant POV of the latter page, with loaded words like “reform,” a good indication that Wikipedians incline to ultracalvinism.)

Ultracalvinism’s camouflage mechanism is easy to understand. If you are an ultracalvinist, you must dispute the claim that the four points are actually Christian, because you believe in them, and you believe they are justified by reason rather than faith. Therefore they are universal and no one can doubt them, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew.

What are the adaptive advantages of crypto-Christianity? Why did those Unitarians, or even “scientific socialists,” who downplayed their Christian roots, outcompete their peers?

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious, really. The combination of electoral democracy and “separation of church and state” is an almost perfect recipe for crypto-Christianity.

As I’ve said before, separation of church and state is a narrow-spectrum antibiotic. What you really need is separation of information and security. If you have a rule that says the state cannot be taken over by a church, a constant danger in any democracy for obvious reasons, the obvious mutation to circumvent this defense is for the church to find some plausible way of denying that it’s a church. Dropping theology is a no-brainer. Game over, you lose, and it serves you right for vaccinating against a nonfunctional surface protein.

Several intellegent and well spoken atheists, including Adam of The Metropolis Times, frequent this blog. I would love to hear their opinion

A Catholic Exchangeon the Death Penalty

I am a big fan of Mark Shea. I read his blog regularly, and yesterday I finished listening to every episode of his podcast, Rock Solid. I’m also proud to say that he reads tdaxp. A bit ago we talked about my analysis of early Christianity as a political movement, and we agreed that because grace perfects nature, the rise of Christianity is an appropriate subject for scientific study.

However, Mark is less enthusiastic about my recent post on Mike Nifong, the disbarred prosecutor who knowingly, falsely accused three youths of rape. He writes:

Blog Entries Like This Are Why I am *So* Glad We Do Not Live in a Pure Democracy

The blogosphere is a daily reminder of the sinister moody mercurial power of the bloodthirsty mob.

Specifically, Mark objects to my contention that, had the laws allowed, Mike Nifong should be executed by the State of North Carolina. Or more generally, what is the appropriate Catholic view of the death penalty?


The answer: Catholics should support the use of the death penalty to the extent that it reduces crime. Christians not only may, but must, advocate the use of lethal punishment by the State.

Many Christians are bothered by the State’s penal apparatus. We pray to Our Father in Heaven that He “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who tresspass against us.” And certainly we should forgive: not just those who ask for it, and not just those who deserve it, but especially forgive those who do not seek and do not deserve forgiveness.

This shouldn’t keep the State from killing them.

It is prideful to confuse yourself with the State, but many Christians do just that when they confuse individual forgiveness with State clemency. We cause no harm when we forgive, aside from the odd Jonah perturbed by grace. But the State causes great harm when it releases criminals: it sacrifices the health, safety, and lives of innocents to criminals.

A prideful Christian, who forces the State to release a criminal because he has confused himself and the State, is condemning an innocent and releasing a criminal out of a misplaced feeling of self-righteousness. The prideful Christian who sacrifices the innocent out of concern for the guilty answers Pilate’s question, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” the same way the question was answered two thousand years ago.

This is why the Bible (Romans 13:1-7) supports capital punishment.

Now that capital punishment is supported, the next question is: should Mike Nifong be executed, if the laws would allow such a thing? The answer is yes. Corrupt officials are a particularly odious form of criminal, because they use the machinery and offices of the State to do their evil. Nifong attempted to condemn innocent youths into decades of captivity, rape, and misery, bankrupt their family, and inflame divisions in the community, and while ordering the police to do his bidding.

If the laws would allow Mike Nifong to be executed, Christians must ask themselves: Do we prefer to condemn guilty men or innocent men? Are we as grand as the State?

Sin (Guilty, Yes) and virtue (Innocent, No) give different answers to this question.

Socially-constructed races and the SSSM

Races are large groups, the members of whom are more closely related to each other than to outsiders. Races can be thought of as large-scale families. While race mixing can and does occur, the historical norm appears to have been for in-breeding within races. (It is through this inbreeding that genetic drift can ultimately lead to trouble.) Where there has been race-mixing in the past, it tends to be the males of one race interbreeding with females of another. Thus the United States has a “black” population that tends to be maternally African but often with distantly British paternity, and Mexico has a “mestizo” population that tends to be maternally American Indian and Iberan.

Some doubt the factual reality of race. That is, some claim that racial differences are only skin deep, and that the mere fact that one person has darker or whiter skin (facial features, bone structure, enzyme collection, etc) says nothing about ultimate ancestry. These skeptics would say that only a very small number of traits very among human groups in the first place, and that if one’s ancestral home is nearer the equator, then it makes sense that one’s ancestors evolved darker skin to avoid the sun’s harmful rays.

A problem exists if we claim that race only effects skin: race as a variable explains variation. Fatality rates from a host of diseases, intelligence, and other factors are better predicted if we take race into account than if we don’t. If race is not real below the skin, that means something besides biology is causing this variation. The race-skeptics answer that race is “socially constructed,” that society has decided that people should be fit into this-or-that racial category based on skin color. In other words, if we would ignore race, it would go away.

However, there is another way that race can be “socially constructed”: perhaps culture can cause genetic evolution. Indeed, it appears this has happened. gnxp notes an article from the Proceeds of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) entitled “ Linguistic tone is related to the population frequency of the adaptive haplogroups of two brain size genes, ASPM and Microcephalin.” The article notes how the long-standing view that humans are language-neutral — an infant from any population can learn any language equally well — appears to be false. Children whose parents come from populations that historically have a tonal language (Latvian, Chinese, etc). have a different sort of gene than children whose parents come from a tone-neutral language (English, Spanish, etc)…

As Scientific American writes, the genes that very between tonal and non-tonal populations affect brain size during embryonic development. Unlike subject-verb order, use of passive tense, round vowels, etc, “tone seemed to be inextricably tied to the variations of [the genes].”

Therefore, language may be socially constructed in that society determines which language genes — which type of linguistic intelligence — thrives in a population because of the population’s culture. This implies that other traits — which provide some advantage in a culture — may be selected for in some cultures but not other. Personality, temperment, skin color, disease resistance, general and multiple intelligences, etc. — can all be selected by culture, not just by natural environment, solar radition, etc.

Why does this matter? And why is it even controversial?

Western civilization and American ideology reject the notion that biological differences can result in differences in worth. Paul teaches “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Whether one’s reality is biologically determined (as in sex), culturally determined (as in wealth), or the result of biological-cultural interaction (nationality), all are equal. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence‘ preambles beginning, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” is absurd if one reads to to say that equal rights are the result of equal inheritance.

However, starting in the 1940s, Academia was seized by the post-Christian, post-American Left. Without the arbitrary faith in equal moral worth that comes from the Christian and American traditions, the Left had to maintain that the facts showed that all humans were born equally capable in all ways. Otherwise, without faith in equal worth, the logical conclusion was Aristotle’s: some men are born to be kings, some are born to be slaves. The Left constructed the Standard Social Sciences Model to justify claims of equal worth by claiming that everyone had equal inheritance.

But the Standard Social Sciences Model is now falling apart. Every week brings new studies which show how genetics influece important traits, such as intelligence. And increasingly, we see papers like the langauge one which implies that cultures shape the biology of their host-nations. Contemporary genetics veto the possibility of equal inheritances, and increasingly the existence of races is seen to be more and more likely.

The SSSM is bankrupt. And with it, the logic of the left. Either a mechanism is found to uphold human equality in the absense of equal inheritances, or the doctrine of equal worth must be abandoned.


Razib over at Gene Expression pens an encyclopedic review of Philip Jenkins’ God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis. Razib is a scienceophile atheist and rightist — an admirer equally of Nicholas Wade and John Derbyshire. The review is in some ways a repudiation of his earlier, alarmist writings on the rise of Islam in Europe. After pointing out interesting facts, such as the cycle of reconversions in European history…

The Mizo peoples of northeast India were originally converted to Christianity by Welsh Protestant nonconformists, but with the decline of fidelity to organized Christianity in Britain they have now sent missionaries back to Wales (in some ways one might contend this is an expanded recapitulation of the evangelization of Anglo-Saxon Britain from Ireland during the late 6th and early 7th century, as the Irish themselves were converted to Christianity by the Romano-British).

He spends most of the post on two highly visible minorities: Europe’s secular elite and Europe’s Islamist underclass. Much has been written about the microstates before, so a word on the elite and their governments:

Though American elites are often accused of being “out of touch,” Jenkins argues that European elites exhibit a far greater distance from their “hinterlands” in terms of outlook and world-view (he suggests that the small size and low number of cultural capitals results in a far greater centralization in terms of elite socialization). Dutch elites in the immigrant filled cities no doubt find it easy to forget that their nation is host to a “Bible Belt” of Calvinist believers. Nations as disparate as Norway, France and Scotland have regions of elevated Christianity commitment. But these concentrations of organized Christianity highlight the second trend: the reemergence of the ancient classical pattern where Christianity is simply a major cult within a religiously diverse landscape.

A reminder of Europe’s anti-Christian past is also useful, for putting the most recent Dawkins atheist-tirade into perspective:

in 1798 the Pope was held captive as anti-Christian revolution swept Europe. Many savants of the age predicted the death of Christianity and the ancien regime. Despite the restoration after the fall of Napoleon, the ancien regime did fall and transform into the modern era of nation-states, but Christianity did not die. It is also important to remember the power of anti-clericalism throughout much of the 19th and early 20th century, and the allure and appeal of radical politics for the European working classes. In 1881 Italian nationalists attempted to seize the body of Pius IX and throw it into the Tiber river. In France the Catholicism and laicism have been at tension for two centuries.

Read the whole review.

Federalism, Counterinsurgency, Christianity, and the Klan

Barnett ponders Brave New War

One thing Robb’s book made me realize: Core states tend to be bottom-heavy (more government below and thinner on top–e.g., the U.S. police structure), whereas Gap states tend to be top-heavy (and capital-centric to boot). The former structure disincentives the insurgent (the locals have vibrant local government), the latter is far more vulnerable to their penetration and supplanting.

Federalism (states rights, whatever you call ti)is an example of political defense-in-depth. By making it possible for insurgencies to win local vicotires, it discourages them from attacking the entire system. Further, the fact that the insurgents might actually win forces the local political elite to actually care about defeating them. Otherwise, regional governors will think that “I will leave, then this place will be someone else’s problem.”

Two fate of variations of Christianity, early Christianity as preached by Jesus and Paul and the Ku Klux Klan as devised by Nathan Bedford Forrest, show this well. The Christians were attacked by a centralized system where no limited victory was possible. However, their local opponents were only lukewarm in their opposition. This attitude went back to the Crucifixion, with both Governor Pilate and King Herod generally unconcerned about Jesus’s fate. The centralized nature of the Roman state meant that Christians would be persecuted until they took over the whole country. So they were persecuted for a long time. And then they took over the whole country.


The United States government, however, abandoned its war against the Klan after about a decade. While militarily defeated, the political wing of the Ku Klux Klan (in the form of local Democratic Parties) soon gained power across the South and were able to implement their policies. Then the violence against the State stopped. This was unfortuante for the victims involved. However, while the centralized Roman persecution of Christians meant that time was on the side of the insurgents (just wait long enough and some mircale will happen), the decentralized American system meant that time was against the insurgents (the nothern states merely waited until they were politically powerful to reinvade with minimal bloodshed).

symbol of early christianity


Read the rest of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.


Phoicon has joined the team over at Amendment Nine, and his second post takes a shot at this humble blog:

Dan, the author of the blog TDAXP, was a favorite of Federalist X’s. I have no idea why. I’ve visited Dan’s blog often. The vast majority of what he has to say is completely incomprehensible, though there is a good deal of the Catholic guilt thrown in so it isn’t all incomprehensible to me I suppose.

and, more interestingly, at my Easter message

Not religiously correct?

Phoicon’s critique is direct, and well thought out:

The drawing is in fact a mockery of Christ. It is laughing in the face of the resurrection. The artist undoubtedly was amused, like most easterners so cynically are, at the notion that the dead were raised. The Buddha-like hand gestures again show disdain for Christianity and certainly for the Orthodox faith. The whole thing is an abomination. One must wonder whether Dan posted the picture as an insult to Christians intentionally or just naively?

Phicon seems to prefer a more Greek form of iconography:

Icon of The Risen Christ


Here is no faceless godhead, but a man. A strong man victoriously lifting the dead from their tombs. He has conqured death and is unblemished. Everyone is beneath him as he lefts the dead from their eternal slumber. This is Jesus, son of Man, winning the fight.

Again, Phoicon chose is thoughts well. He is correct in his condemnation of the Byzantine artwork. But, I think, wrong in his negative criticism…

The reason I chose to go with a work by He Qi was his stunningly beautiful painting of Saint Paul being called on the road to Damascus. The portrait is striking,

The Calling of Saint Paul

More unrealistic even that European renditions

The Conversion of Saint Paul

He Qi captures the moment in a foreign, stylized manner. He gives us not a photograph of what happened (in the manner that the Passion of the Christ gives a photographic account of the crucifixion) but something to remember it by.

And this, something to remember by, is what we mean by “icon.” The cross and crucifixes, the depictions of Mary and the Saints, that the iconoclasts smashed where not powers and principalities apart from God, but rather tools to help us remember the life and death of Our Lord, the Queen of the Angels, and all those who follow him. Likewise, the family is an icon of the Holy Trinity, as the love that connects each person in the family reminds us of the Perfect Love connecting the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as three persons, in one God.

Which brings us back to the icon that so enraged Phoicon

Faux Iconography?

Whether this art is an icon or not pivots on one point: does it help you remember the Resurrection of Our Lord. If yes, then it is an icon. If not, then it is not.

This is true whether or not it embraces & extends Buddhism to its logical completion (indeed, the logical completion of all things): Love.

Hear also: The episode Iconoclasm: What’s that?, from Rock Solid with Mark Shea, a podcast by Catholic Exchange.

Liberal Pharisees

Wright, R. 2007. An easter sermon. New York Times. April 7, 2007. Available online: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/07/opinion/07wright.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26pagewantedQ3Dprint&OP=62b582bfQ2FQ26Q24XnQ26)d.00)Q26Q23Q5EQ5EQ2BQ26Q5EYQ26Q5EQ2BQ2603jHj0HQ26Q5EQ2BQ24.jNQ7B)wQ7B)Q5Dt.

Eddie of Hidden Unities (who is currently cut off from the blogosphere because of naval censorship) kindly sent me an article by Robert Wright entitled “An Easter Sermon.” The article is a perfect example of the phony devotionalism that is currently in vogue on the left.


To begin:

Jesus knew viral marketing.

In the Gospel of Mark, the disciple John complains that nondisciples are selling bootlegged copies of Jesus’ miraculous powers. “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

Jesus tells John to quit obsessing about the intellectual property and to focus on getting the brand out. “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” Jesus adds, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Fast-forward two millennia. Weeks after 9/11, George Bush says roughly the opposite. His famous “You’re either with us or against us” means that those who don’t follow his lead will be considered enemies. The rest is history. Today, Jesus has more than a billion devoted followers. Mr. Bush has … well, fewer than that.

One gets the feeling that if Mr. Wright was an antisemite he would randomly open the Torah, by chance flip to Numbers, and proceed to criticize the Judaism as nothing more than a religion of accountancy.

The accusation of Bush saying “roughly the opposite” is Jesus is aggrevating because Bush said nearly the same thing as Jesus. For instance:

He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. *Matthew 12:30-322

Certainly, one may criticize Bush for using rhetoric intended to condemn “blasphemy against the spirit” to instead condemn states that sponsor terrorism. But to say that Bush uses antibiblical rhetoric is bizarre — it misses the entire point of Bush’s rhetorical style and displays a too-arrogant-to-even-google view of editorial journalism.

I mentioned to Eddie upon reading this that “saying ‘Robert Wright is a pharisee fraud’ would be too kind. The pharisees at least knew the text of the scriptures.” Certainly that’s true.

More is below the fold…

The religious left — yes, there is such a thing — complains that Mr. Bush ignores the Bible’s moral injunctions.

Of course there’s a religious left. It’s largely identical with so-called Mainline Protestantism. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) boycotts Israel. (Likewise the PCUSA amended its constitution in 1981 to make it harder to independent churches to leave. For centuries the Presbyterians remembered their roots in the reformation and emphasized the importance of spiritual freedom. Not under the religious left.)

Now, the fate of the religious left appears to be the same as the fate of Mainline Protestantism generally: decline and death. While the Episcopalians take pride in their declining numbers and approaching excommunication from the Anglican Communion, they are hardly a force anything like the size Rob Wright would want.

Consider a teaching of Jesus that seems on its surface devoid of strategic import. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Bob’s point is that love is a political weapon, and it’s true. Indeed, as I wrote in 2005:

“Jesus and Paul understood that the Roman Empire was a hyperpower. It was undefeatable in any meaningful sense. Even areas “liberated” of the Roman military (like Germania) quickly fell into the Roman economic and cultural orbit. Further, as Jesus lived a day’s walk from a town that had been butchered in a reprisal by Roman troops, and Paul had been a secret policeman for a State Church, both respected the Roman security system…

As long as Christianity could avoid becoming existing, supporting the state was a methodical route to Christian victory. The Empire. To see how this worked, imagine the Roman power structure as a table.”

Anway, back to the “Easter Sermon”:

Of course, Mr. Bush is more in the shoes of the Roman emperor than of Paul. America isn’t a small but growing religious movement. It’s a great power threatened by a small but growing religious movement — radical Islam. But the logic can work both ways. Great powers, by mindlessly indulging retributive impulses, can give fuel to small but growing religious movements. If you want to deprive jihadists of ammunition, make it hard for them to persuade others to hate us.

The discussion of Islam promises to be interesting. It’s a good contrast for the Christian way of victory (“It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise., &c). As I wrote before:

“Muhammed ibn-Abdullah was clearly aware of Christian victory over the Romans. Muhammed changed two basic strategies of Christianity, by transforming it into a strict monotheism and optimizing it for victory in chaotic conditions. Yet these are details compared to his grandest innovation. Muhammed focused his faith not on the Most High or on His Son, but on a Rule-Set. Islam is, at its core, is not Muahmmed and is not Allah. Islam is the Holy Koran.

Muslims were the first “People of the Book” in all history. The earliest Semites were tribalists who wished for their gods to protect their families, and Judaism falls into this category. Jews may be thought of as People of their Father and Mother. The land of the Jews is given to them because of descent from Abraham:

But Wright doesn’t pursue this line of reasoning. Instead he jumps back to the dawn of Christianity and makes a basic mistake:

Right after Paul espouses kindness to enemies, he adds: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Sounds like naïve moralizing until you look at those Abu Ghraib photos that have become Al Qaeda recruiting posters…

The ultimate in viral marketing was Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. Deemed a threat to the social order, he was crucified under Roman auspices. But the Romans forgot one thing: If you face a small but growing movement that threatens the imperial order, you shouldn’t attack the men in ways that help the memes.

Exactly wrong.*

Rome’s attempt to detatch Christians from civil society by provoking them to violence was an attempt to process Christianity like Rome processed those other rebellions: the Britains and the Zealots.

[* Note the asterick by “exactly wrong.” That’s because like all lazy writers, Wright qualifies his words to make them impossible to attack as such. He says “in ways that help the memes.” What does this mean? “In ways that are ultimately beneficial to one’s enemies”? If this is the intended meaning, it’s a truism that can’t possibly be argued. Instead, in the above paragraph I assumed that Wright was intellectually honest, and actually meant to write “who themselves spread the memes.” ]

Related: Razib points out the inanity of a different NYT article.

He is Risen

If it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8)

Happy Easter!

Microsoft Drinks from the Cup of Love

My final post in Jesusism-Paulism — “Embrace and Extend“” — is getting good press throughout the blogosphere. Castle Argghhh, Dreaming 5GW, and Spooky Action have already commented on my comparison between Microsoft and early Christianity. Now I will give a specific example of how “love” can be given too strongly and too early – in other words, inappropriately — if one’s OODA loops is too slow.

But love conquers all, and resilient love — love that, when rebuffed, merely loves stronger — unexpected love — is a powerful weapon.

In the words of Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so men are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them

The message of Christianity, and the means of Microsoft, is this: your enemy expects resistence. A fool fights fair.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Instead, give your enemy love.

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Conquer him.

The Observe-Orient-Decide-Act cognition cycle was devised by John Boyd. I have previously described the OODA loop in detail and re-drew it to ease understanding:

Note how “Decide” Is Optional

The secret to the OODA loop is that one can completely skip Decide — one can avoid conscious thought altogether. This allows one to transient quickly from one OODA state to another, allowing one to cut one’s enemy and change posture before the enemy can react in the first place. Chet Richards described samurai Miyamoto Musashi’s strategy similarly:

The focus, however, is never on defending, but on regaining and using the initiative so that you can lead your opponents where you want them to be.

Now, back to Microsoft:

Some years ago it became clear that there was energy in favor of moving to standard, XML methods for storing data. While XML-style standards are hardly a new idea (going back to the 1950s), the correlation of forces had finally swung in a strcutured, standard direction. Microsoftobligingly loved XML standards, creating OfficeOpenXML as the new standard file format for Microsoft Office.

OfficeOpenXML is a perfect example of the embrace & extend philosophy, which takes up the form of an enemy in order to destroy the enemy’s intent. It apperas similar to OpenDocument, originally just the native file format of OpenOffice, and has features such as:

  • A 6,000 page specification document
  • Internal contradictions, such as standard functions that behave differently in different applications
  • Purposefully incorrect statements, such as describing 1900 as a leap year
    Internally and externally incoherent methods of describing numbers and percentages

20 official responses were received by the International Standards Organization on OfficeOpenXML. One (Romania’s) was favorable,14 (Australia’s, Canada’s, Czechia’s, Denmark’s, France’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Kenya’s, Malaysia’s, New Zealand’s, Singapore’s, Sweden’s, and the United Kingdom’s) were negative, and five (Hungary’s, India’s, Italy’s, Netherland’s, and Norway’s) were ambivalent.

In the same way that Christians adopted Easter and December 25th as festivals, while stripping them of their original meaning and forcing those dates to serve the Church, Microsoft adapts a structured XML standard to defeat the purpose of standards. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s political muscle got OfficeOpenXML fast-tracked for approval. So far, a perfect victory.

However, since OfficeOpenXML was originally proposed OpenDocument has become an OASIS, ISO, and IEC Standard, and supported by Google’s online word processor. Microsoft now faces a market with three major file formats:

  • DOC/XLS/PPT — the old standards for Microsoft Office which are widely used
  • OpenDocument – Microsoft’s main file format competitor, ratified by numerous standards bodies
  • OfficeOpenXml – Microsoft’s new, preferred file format, neither widely used nor recognized as a standard

This bad situation could have been avoided if Microsoft had been more agile — if it had been able to cycle through the OODA loop faster or had been able to embrace OpenDocument once it emerged. In the frist case, it would have been able to pre-empt OpenDocument by getting OfficeOpenXML rapidly confirmed as a standard. In the second case, it could have merely “embraced and extended” OpenDocument by creating its own version.

Nowadays, the only valid options for Microsoft appear to be a conventional attack (trying as hard as possible to defeat OpenDocument with OfficeOpenXML) or a loving attack on OpenDocument specifically (abandoning OfficeOpenXML, and merely creating a slightly incompatible version of OpenDocument). Microsoft is resilient, so my money is on abandoning their failed effort and trying to love OpenDocument to death. Microsoft tried this before. In the early days of the browser wars, Microsoft Internet Explorer identified itself to web sites as “Internet Explorer” through the standard user agent string mechanism. When it became clear this would not work, because Netscape was conventionally more poewrful, Microsoft Internet Explorer attacked Netscape unconventionally by identifying IE as a Netscape browser.

To defeat Netscape, Microsoft embraced and extended Netscape. To defeat OpenDocument, Microsoft will abandon her efforts to defeat OpenDocument and instead embrace and extend.

Microsoft will not cut off the ear of her enemy’s slave, but she will drink from the cup given to her.

Jesusism-Paulism, Part VI: Embrace and Extend

“Nobody ever got fired for buying Big Blue.”

For years IBM’s strength rested on vendor-lock in and vendor-compatibility. A company that wished to buy electronic computer equipment had one choice, Big Blue, which offered complete systems that were entirely under the control of IBM. IBM keyboards communicated in IBM EBCDIC to IBM terminals, connected through IBM wires to IBM mainframes, IBM harddrives, IBM tape backups, and IBM power supplies. The complete solution set took the world by storm, offering One Ruleset (Buy IBM) which entailed numerous sub-products. The system worked.

The Islam of the 1970s

In the same way, the One Ruleset of the Koran swept aside the old Roman world, tearing up the Orthodox and Arian peoples it subjugated, rolling back much of the Christian 4GW revolution. Islam did this almost as an afterthought, as it also spread into formerly Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Animist countries. No one ever got fired for buying Big Blue, and no one ever got beheaded for embracing Islam.

The IBM of the Dark Ages

But IBM met Microsoft.

The Microsoft of the Dark Ages

And Islam met Catholocism.

A famous example of Microsoft’s embrace and extend philosophy is the Redmond corporation’s response to SUN’s Java Programming Language. Java was one of a line of programming languages, beginning with C, whose goal was to make it easy to write a program one time and run it on many different computers. Java went even farther than its predecessors, however, in that the computer would translate the written Java code into a java file that could be read the same way under all programming languages.

The Islamic / IBM solution would have been to fight this, and wipe Java off of the map. This is exactly what Islam did when the Sharia legal code completely displaced ancient Arab laws, completely displaced ancient Roman law, and completely displace dancient Persian laws, in the lands it was implemented. Sharia covered the transition from boyhood to manhood, the transiion from bachelorhood to single life, who may be drafted and who may be head-taxed. The One True Way had an answer for everything.

International Business Machines similarly displaced everything that came before with the Operating System/360. MFT, MVT, BOS/360, TOS/360, and DOS/360 were all specific prescriptions of the OS/320 system, mere details of the IBM way. The conscious goal of IBM was to turn a corporate customer “all blue,” where custom-built IBM hardware ran everything.

Micrososoft’s response to Java was smarter. Instead of condemending Java, calling it a stupid language, and ignoring it, Microsoft opted to embrace and extend. Microsoft devised Visual J++, an implementation for Java that actually provided the best interface for developing Java applications yet. Microsoft perfected the nature of Java from a good idea that was hard to work with to a good idea that was easy to work with.

Microsoft also extended J++ by adding features that were unique to Microsoft’s Windows operating system. These extensions fixed Java’s biggest weakness, lack of speed, by allowing J++ programs to operate the same as programs written in other popular languages (C, C++, etc.) and even faster than Microsoft’s own Visual Basic language.

When SUN complained that Microsoft embrace of Java, when Microsoft’s love and generosity to a potentially dangerous rival, was unfair, Microsoft refused to look away. Microsoft continues development on Java-like languages. Today, if you want to use a Microsoft Java-like language that taps in to all the power of the Microsoft .Net programming environment, you can, for free: Visual J# 2005 Express. Even more lovlingly, Microsoft’ primary programming language, C#, is famous for being frighteningly similar to java. And just as the Jesusist-Paulists adviesd one to repair evil with kindness, Microsoft responded to SUN’s increasing hostility with more love: giving C# away for free.

If “Embrace & Extend” sound like a way of penetrating a market and separating the customers from the old market-leader, it is. Embrace & Extend are the first two pages of the PISRR stages of victory.

Penetrate, Isolate : Embrace, Extend

As embrace & extend leads to a form of subversive victory, the paranoid accusation that Microsoft secretly wished to “embrace, extend, and exterminate” simply makes no sense. Microsoft wishes to embrace, extend, and own.

Down the PISRR Way

Though, more charitably, “extinguish” can be seen as being the very final step, to a world where every individual mattered. As Microsoft’s early vision went, “A PC on every desk and in every home.”

Reharmonize and Win

One can view this as a variation of the original OODA/PISRR loop of victory.


However, under the Embrace & Extend system, whether implemented by Microsoft or by the Jeusist-Paulists, the circle is broken. Once the system is embraced and extended into pre-existing systems, and rival organizing principles are abolished, there is nothing more to do. The war would have been won.

The Microsoft Way… The Christian Way

The Jesusist-Paulists of the Catholic Church behaved the same way. They embraced the old cultures of Europe, refusing to look away when revulsion would have been easier than love. And they extended the old orders, giving new life to the status quo ante sancata romana ecclesia. For instance, in southern France where the old Senatorial families still held sway, the family names of the early bishops were the same as the family names of the last Senators. In Ireland, where an indigenous Church had grown after the abduction of the slave boy Patricius, Romanization was handled primarily through institutional fusion. And in the Viking North, the Church refused to look away from the bloody tribes — instead embracing them.

It would have been easier to have, and ignore. But the Christians loved, and embraced.

And, of course extended. Even through the crippling Islamic blockade of western Europe, the practice of slavery faded away. The locus of Jesusism-Paulism, the Bishopric fo Rome, continued intellectual engagement with the Byzantine Empire to the east, continued doctrinal promulgation throughout Europe, and in general did all that a conquering power could do.

Yet even as the Church loved and embraced and extended the cultures of Western Europe to serve Jesusism-Paulism, the counterrevolutions had begun. The old Maoism of Greek civilization was not dead, and for a thousand years it rolled back the success of the 4GWarriors.

What followed next may have been Christianity, but it was not Jesusism-Paulism.

But those are stories for other times.

Jesusism-Paulism, a tdaxp series in six parts
1. Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
2. Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
3. Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
4. The Fall of Rome
5. The People of the Book
6. Embrace and Extend