Xenophobia Repeats Itself

hqdefaultThe more I study history, the more I’m convinced that once you dig beneath the incidental details, very little changes in this world. One such thing that seems to be an unfortunate constant is xenophobia.

In one of my Baptist historical studies, I found this snippet in a publication from a Baptist periodical from 1890 (The Baptist Quarterly Review, Volume 12). What really struck me is that if you changed a few country names, this would closely match some of the current anti-immigrant rhetoric. It seems that every generation has some great, deep-seated fears about being swept away in the tide of the “other.”

The article says that “the immigration of the Chinese should be restricted. It is…fraught with moral peril to our civilization…it has been largely that of opium-smoking, unintelligent pariah-casts…They have vices peculiar to themselves…They learn little of our language. They do not assimilate with our civilization…the present European flood of driftwood is only less to be feared…the undesirable element is increasing. The percentage of…Italians and Hungarians [are] increasing…They live in a way simply appalling…Few of them naturalize…The best judges declare that such immigration is hurtful and degrading…There are are aspects indeed in which the worst of European inflow is worse than that of the Chinese…For the general good of our country, as well as from fear of the surging of the nations upon us.. immigration ought to be restricted.”

One the one hand, especially as the son of parents that have immigrated from Eastern Europe into North America, this paragraph is startling, especially since it takes place in a Christian publication.

On the other hand, it is not very surprising at all. Other than the specific countries being mentioned, it very much reads like something from today. I see very similar things being posted by Christians on Facebook nearly every day.

Lest anyone come to that the Baptists have been particularly bad on this issue, two things should be noted: (a) these xenophobic sentiments were quite standard issue among Protestants in North America, not by any means limited to the Baptists and (b) many nineteenth century Baptists stood very boldly against the xenophobia of their day. In San Francisco in the late 1800s, the public opinion against the Chinese immigrants had grown so harsh that mobs were storming Chinese properties to hurt people and damage property. During that time, many non-Chinese Baptists banded together with guns to make a circle around the Chinese immigrants, to protect them.

To get a good picture of the vast array of responses to immigration in 19th century Protestantism I recommend Immigrants, Baptists, and the Protestant Mind in America by Lawrence B. Davis.

Whatever our political views or policy preferences, I hope we can learn from this history!

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Wildlife Observations By Class

When I am able to, I love getting out into the field and observing wildlife. Here is a breakdown from iNaturalist of how many species I’ve identified in the wild in each class. species

Some of these classes probably contain thousands of species–so I have lots to go! :)


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A Set Of Brief Observations About Islam, Refugees, Terrorism, and Xenophobia

What terrorists want..

  1. Too often, when terrorism strikes we do not consider the question of “What do these terrorists want?” And, consequently, we give them exactly what they want (all the while thinking we are effectively battling terrorism).
  2. It seems glaringly obvious that ISIS and other terrorist groups know we can be easily manipulated via fear. When we walk by fear, our actions are very predictable and it is naive to assume that ISIS is not developing strategy based on that predictability.
  3. Quite simply, “If Muslim refugees…are welcomed, it deeply undercuts the Islamic State’s legitimacy”. See this article. If they are rejected or treated poorly, ISIS is potentially getting free recruiting.

“Muslim countries”

  1. When people complain about Muslim countries not taking refugees in, they usually conveniently ignore that Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have taken huge amounts of refugees (especially in comparison to their populations!)
  2. When people use the inaction of certain Muslim countries on the refugee situation (typically the Gulf States), they seem to be inadvertently holding these Gulf States as their ethical standard in some fashion, which of course they would be likely to repudiate in any other context. The underlining assumption is that what those countries do (or don’t do) is a good measuring stick for how our governments should act.

Muslim Stereotypes

  1. The claim that there are “no moderate Muslims” is patently false.
  2. The claim that no or very few Muslims are speaking out against ISIS is patently false.
  3. If we lump all Muslims in one group, we are doing ISIS’ work for them. ISIS wants a world that is “us-versus-them” and black and white with no distinctions or moderates or room for coexistence.
  4. If we lash out against Muslims or ridicule them or discriminate against them, we are doing exactly what ISIS wants you to do.

Dealing with Refugees

  1. It is not wise to have an immigration/refugee policy that is completely divorced from practical realities in the world around us. It is also equally (or more?) unwise to have a immigration/refugee policy that is easily swayed by emotions, prejuidices, and individual incidents.
  2. It is striking to see how quickly the descendants of refugees can (unintentionally) create a country in which their forefathers would not be welcome. The irony often is glaring and, sadly, unrecognized.
  3. Anti-refugee sentiment is not new. In 1939, most Americans didn’t believe that America should take in Jewish children who were refugees from Germany.
  4. Turning away refugees does not make them disappear. If your country has a stake or close involvement in geopolitical affairs, your country will still be affected by the refugees’ fate even if you deny them access to your country.
  5. Refugees are not any more likely to become terrorists than native born people or more ordinary immigrants.
  6. Very often countries that accept refugees do not do so out of any latent compassion, but rather as a pragmatic move–weighing the consequences of admitting the refugees vs. not admitting them. So, even if compassion isn’t sufficient reason to accept immigrants, there may be pressing geopolitical reasons to.

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Books Finished in October

(4 paper books, 1 ebook, 3 audio books)

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A Review of “Writers to Read”

Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf by Douglas Wilson

This book builds upon the supposition that if choosing flesh-and-blood friends wisely is important, then we should likewise think about who we befriend through reading.25445821

From that vantage point, Wilson comes up with a list of 9 people he wants to introduce to his readers, presented chronologically. They are: Chesterton, H. L. Mencken, Wodehouse, T. S. Eliot, Tolkien, Lewis, R. F. Capon, Marilyn Robinson, and his son, N. D. Wilson. In the introduction, Douglas suggests that, whether they use it directly or not, a good reader ought to be gradually learning about the craft of writing.

The reader who expects to find nine neat biographical chapters here will be disappointed, as will those who expect to find a set of conventional notes which outline each writer’s writing style and techniques. Wilson is not trying to add to the biographical literature on these figures nor is he trying to write a writing textbook. Rather, he is seeking to draw readers in—he’s a matchmaker of sorts. Often he does it by emulating the current author’s style. He is mostly successful.

Though the book is infused with thoughts about how faith and writing intersect, and Wilson’s views on a whole host of matters pour through–the selection of writers is broad enough to include an atheist, a Roman Catholic, Anglicans, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, and a Congregationalist.

Each chapter is broken into three sections: “A Writing Life,” “Digging Deeper,” and “If You Read Nothing Else.” My favorite section was usually “If You Read Nothing Else,” which bounces off the other sections and gives the reader good suggestions about where to start. Most of the weak points, which are not many I might add, are to be found within the “Digging Deeper” sections. The rambling and digressions I found generally fell both into the “strengths” and “weaknesses” side of the ledger. At times I would have liked to see the digressions reined in a bit, but I wouldn’t want to rein them in too much, either. One would have to be careful in tinkering with them, because it would be easy to lose some of the “personal encounter” feel to the book. If Wilson going to successfully point his readers to the writers in a convincing way, it IS important that he personalize his engagement! And so I can hardly fault Wilson for bleeding through the lines. I just think it would have been possible to keep a few of the areas a little more trim and not let the focus go a bit wonky.

The inclusion of Doug’s son N. D. Wilson in this book was rather odd. I was put off by it initially, but on reflection, it blends pretty well with the other chapters and does not feel out of place in a book which has a purposely personal and slightly autobiographical feel to it. So if this makes you roll your eyes, I encourage you to set aside your initial thoughts and at least give it some time. N. D. Wilson is a great writer and there were some important points and connections to be made in that section, and Wilson does it tactfully. (As an aside, I’ve wondered why the exact number of writers included is 9!)

Love him or hate him (or something in between), three things are exceedingly clear: Wilson writes with great skill himself, he has been deeply impressed and shaped by these authors, and he makes a laudable effort to point his readers to them. By and large, the book focuses on these things and hits it out of the park. Even though I was already quite familiar with most of these writers, I found this a very profitable read and it was quite far from boring (as though anything Wilson ever writes is boring!)

Even granting a few quirks and weaknesses, this book is valuable and should be a powerful matchmaking tool—matchmaking in the sense of initiating new friendships between these writers and new readers. Only a couple of these writers are still alive to appreciate such a friendship, but I believe that will not stop new readers from walking side by side with them for many more years. Now that you made it through this review, take up and read!

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Reading P.G. Wodehouse’s Fiction

Roughly three years ago, I posted a report on my progress on working my way through the P. G. Wodehouse canon. I figure it is about time for an update. I’m currently at 45 of 97 books (46%). Note: I have excluded posthumous works (for instance, I’ve read A Man Of Means, which was published after his death).

  1. 1902: The Pothunters
  2. 1903: A Prefect’s Uncle
  3. 1903: Tales of St Austin’s
  4. 1904: The Gold Bat
  5. 1904: William Tell Told Again
  6. 1905: The Head of Kay’s
  7. 1906: Love Among the Chickens
  8. 1907: The White Feather
  9. 1907: Not George Washington
  10. 1908: The Globe By the Way Book
  11. 1909: The Swoop!
  12. 1909: Mike
  13. 1910: A Gentleman of Leisure (aka The Intrusion of Jimmy)
  14. 1910: Psmith in the City
  15. 1912: The Prince and Betty
  16. 1913: The Little Nugget
  17. 1914: The Man Upstairs
  18. 1915: Psmith, Journalist (aka The Prince and Betty)
  19. 1915: Something Fresh (aka Something New)
  20. 1917: Uneasy Money
  21. 1917: The Man with Two Left Feet
  22. 1918: Piccadilly Jim
  23. 1919: My Man Jeeves
  24. 1919: A Damsel in Distress
  25. 1920: The Coming of Bill (aka Their Mutual Child)
  26. 1921: Jill the Reckless (aka The Little Warrior)
  27. 1921: Indiscretions of Archie
  28. 1922: The Clicking of Cuthbert (aka Golf Without Tears)
  29. 1922: The Girl on the Boat (aka Three Men and a Maid)
  30. 1922: The Adventures of Sally (aka Mostly Sally)
  31. 1923: The Inimitable Jeeves (aka Jeeves)
  32. 1923: Leave It to Psmith
  33. 1924: Ukridge (aka He Rather Enjoyed It)
  34. 1924: Bill the Conqueror
  35. 1925: Carry On, Jeeves
  36. 1925: Sam the Sudden (aka Sam in the Suburbs)
  37. 1926: The Heart of a Goof (aka Divots)
  38. 1927: The Small Bachelor
  39. 1927: Meet Mr Mulliner
  40. 1928: Money for Nothing
  41. 1929: Mr Mulliner Speaking
  42. 1929: Summer Lightning (aka Fish Preferred)
  43. 1930: Very Good, Jeeves
  44. 1931: Big Money
  45. 1931: If I Were You
  46. 1932: Louder and Funnier
  47. 1932: Doctor Sally
  48. 1932: Hot Water
  49. 1933: Mulliner Nights
  50. 1933: Heavy Weather
  51. 1934: Thank You, Jeeves
  52. 1934: Right Ho, Jeeves (aka Brinkley Manor)
  53. 1935: Blandings Castle (aka Blandings Castle and Elsewhere)
  54. 1935: The Luck of the Bodkins
  55. 1936: Young Men in Spats
  56. 1936: Laughing Gas
  57. 1937: Lord Emsworth and Others (aka Crime Wave at Blandings)
  58. 1938: Summer Moonshine
  59. 1938: The Code of the Woosters
  60. 1939: Uncle Fred in the Springtime
  61. 1940: Eggs, Beans and Crumpets
  62. 1940: Quick Service
  63. 1946: Money in the Bank
  64. 1947: Joy in the Morning (aka Jeeves in the Morning)
  65. 1947: Full Moon
  66. 1948: Spring Fever
  67. 1948: Uncle Dynamite
  68. 1949: The Mating Season
  69. 1950: Nothing Serious
  70. 1951: The Old Reliable
  71. 1952: Barmy in Wonderland (aka Angel Cake)
  72. 1952: Pigs Have Wings
  73. 1953: Ring for Jeeves (aka The Return of Jeeves)
  74. 1953: Performing Flea (aka Author! Author!)
  75. 1954: Bring on the Girls
  76. 1954: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (aka Bertie Wooster Sees It Through)
  77. 1956: French Leave
  78. 1957: Over Seventy (aka America, I Like You)
  79. 1957: Something Fishy (aka The Butler Did It)
  80. 1958: Cocktail Time
  81. 1959: A Few Quick Ones
  82. 1960: Jeeves in the Offing (aka How Right You Are, Jeeves)
  83. 1961: Ice in the Bedroom
  84. 1961: Service With a Smile
  85. 1963: Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
  86. 1964: Frozen Assets (aka Biffen’s Millions)
  87. 1965: Galahad at Blandings (aka The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood)
  88. 1966: Plum Pie
  89. 1967: Company for Henry (aka The Purloined Paperweight)
  90. 1968: Do Butlers Burgle Banks?
  91. 1969: A Pelican at Blandings (aka No Nudes Is Good Nudes)
  92. 1970: The Girl in Blue
  93. 1971: Much Obliged, Jeeves (aka Jeeves and the Tie That Binds)
  94. 1972: Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (aka The Plot That Thickened)
  95. 1973: Bachelors Anonymous
  96. 1974: Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (aka The Cat-nappers)
  97. 1977: Sunset at Blandings (unfinished)

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Back to the Garden

“We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden” – Joni Mitchell (later sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young)

“man thrust out is always trying to get back. He knows that in the garden there is a tree of life, and he wants it.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones in The Gospel in Genesis

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Books Finished in September

(4 paper books, 1 ebook, 3 audio books)

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