Dear Spengler,
I have been an avid reader of your essays for some time. However, I am frankly getting tired with your obsession with the decline of non-immigrant birth rates in Europe. Is this a lament or a call to arms? Perhaps it is just Old Europe’s time to set sail for Valinor. I wouldn’t worry too much though – the largest mistake we continually make is the assumption that things will keep on going the way they are. If that offers little solace, why not open a fertility clinic in Madrid? Spengler’s Sperm Bank – has a nice ring to it.

Dear Robin
Your suggestion is gratefully appreciated. But where will we get the eggs?

Dear Spengler,
I’m the editor who has to put your column into Asia Times Online. I really need to know, are you a real person or not? Your picture is a bit suspect – you have the same hair-do as Ann Landers. I searched Google images for you, and found a variety of smiling people, and one stern old dude who had something to do with declining the West, but that can’t be you because he died long ago. I think you must be one of the smiling ones.
Harried in Hua Hin

Dear Harried,
People generally love to talk about themselves, but personal remarks about one’s hairdo can be off-putting. I suggest you limit your comments to such niceties as “how’s it hangin’, dude?”

Dear Spengler,
Regarding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ [Mel Gibson’s lethal religion, March 9]. Recently, I and legions of my evangelical Protestant friends went to see the movie, which some modern-day intellectuals have presented as a cultural debacle. I would like to reassure you that the consensus opinion is that Jesus continues on his throne and we are still content to meet him there. You seemed a bit concerned.
Rodney (Mar 16, ’04)
PS: I wonder if you might refer to the movie as The Christ, in order to complete the thousands of American news reports referring to The Passion. (Separation of Church and Information, you know.)

Dear Rodney,
In a column published the same day as my March 9 essay, the Catholic polemicist William F Buckley, Jr. expressed these grave reservations about Mel Gibson’s depiction of the Passion: “The suffering of Jesus isn’t intensified by inflicting the one-thousandth blow: that is the Gibson/Braveheart contribution to an agony which was overwhelmingly spiritual in character and perfectly and definitively caught by Johann Sebastian Bach in his aptly named Passion of Christ According to St. Matthew. There beauty and genius sublimate a passion which Gibson celebrates by raw bloodshed.” The fact that you and indeed most American Evangelicals experience the Passion through the prism of the Hollywood action-movie genre, rather than through the high art of the Christian past, is “cultural debacle” enough.

A much worse “cultural debacle” is the fact that Evangelicals no longer care or even know about the theological struggles that brought them to America in the first place. Only a few radical die-hards (e.g. Pastor Andrew J. Webb) still address the issue of whether it is proper to make an image of Jesus. Why not cast Danny DeVito as Jesus?, Webb wants to know. What is your theology, Rodney? What is your view of Wycliffe, Zwingli, Calvin, and other leading thinkers of the Protestant past?

Christian traditionalists of all denominations appear to have circled the wagons against the onslaught of secularism. The debate over Gibson’s film breaks down along these lines. Typical is Anne Coulter’s March 3 screed: “In the dozens and dozens of panic-stricken articles the New York Times has run on Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, the unavoidable conclusion is that liberals haven’t the vaguest idea what Christianity is. The Times may have loopy ideas about a lot of things, but at least when they write about gay bathhouses and abortion clinics, you get the sense they know what they’re talking about.”

Fair enough; but Coulter goes on to say, “Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of ‘kill everyone who doesn’t smell bad and doesn’t answer to the name Mohammed’).” That is simple-minded, repugnant bigotry. No more than any religion should Islam stand above scrutiny. In fact, I have drawn attention to the most provocative theological critiques of Islam (Oil on the flames of civilizational war, Dec 1, 2003). But these are subtle issues which cannot be addressed without a deep grasp of religious history and theology. Coulter has seen Braveheart too often and cannot but reduce everything to “us against them.” How can Americans come to grips with Islam if they forget their own history? Calvinists, Baptists, and other dissenters burned at the stake to oppose Mel Gibson’s crypto-pagan version of Christianity. Do you care? If this is civilizational war, what do you know about your own civilization?

The septic tide of popular culture threatens the integrity of family life, and an increasing number of Americans seek refuge in Evangelical religion – understandably so. Europeans who click their tongues at the growth of “fundamentalism” should look to their own house, from which children are frighteningly absent.

But huddling together for warmth simply is not good enough. The world demands more of the citizens of the world’s only superpower (Why America is losing the intelligence war, Nov 11, 2003). If the only choices available to Americans are the New York Times’ secularism or Anne Coulter’s bigotry, the “cultural debacle” soon will turn into a strategic debacle. If that happens, you may meet Jesus sooner than you expect.

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