Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Paris, Brussels, and Twenty-first Century Europe
Some time ago, a former student emailed me a video clip that I now show my Major European Governments course. It's a five-minute news piece by Dale Hurd of CBN News, a conservative Christian outlet - the rare kind of place where you see reports like this. The piece was on radical Islam in Europe, specifically in Belgium, and it was based on Hurd's interview with a Muslim leader in Brussels, the very heart of modern Europe, of secular Europe, of the European Union, and of everything Islamic fundamentalists despise about Europe.
"Allah makes the laws and tells us what is allowed and what is forbidden," Abu Imran told Hurd.
Imran is leader of Shariah for Belgium, and insists there's no such thing as a "democratic Muslim." Such a notion, he maintains, is as absurd as a "Christian Jew" or "Jewish Muslim." "It's impossible."
Imran says that real Islam and Shariah law are "inseparable."
Imran's group wants what it calls "Belgistan," and foresees Brussels as an "Islamic capital" within mere decades. He cites numbers to back his optimism. Imran says that in some cities in Belgium, such as Antwerp, 40 percent of the children in schools are Muslim. And though Muslims compose only 25 percent of religious believers in the country, that is enough to make them the largest religious group, given that Belgium, like most of Europe, has rapidly de-Christianized. Imran's group expects Muslims to be the majority in Belgium within 20 years.
Notably, that rise is coming from nothing unusual among Muslims. They are simply reproducing, whereas natives of Belgium, like natives of Europe, are not. For many modern Europeans, sex is about recreation, about fully separating intercourse from reproduction, about having as much sex as possible without the undesired outcome of a child. For faithful Muslims, sex is still about babies.
Like many major European cities, from London to Oslo, the most popular baby name in Brussels last year was "Mohammed." In fact, reported Dale Hurd, "Mohammed" was the most common baby name in Brussels each of the last four years. I do not see that trend changing anytime soon.
Dale Hurd noted in his report that Shariah for Belgium is a "small group that a lot of people do not take seriously." I bet they are now.
Obviously, I'm sharing this with readers now because the ringleaders of the terrorist assaults in France last week - the worst attacks inside France since World War II - were reportedly based precisely in Brussels.
Unlike Mr. Imran and his group, the ISIS-affiliated Muslims who attacked last week are blatant jihadists. They aren't patient enough to wait for their babies to grow to adulthood. They're not awaiting a demographic time bomb to bring Islam to Europe. They want "victory" now. They are happily (yes, happily) willing to detonate themselves at this very moment. Their method is bombs rather than babies. They don't want victory via life by outgrowing native Europeans. They want victory via death by killing native Europeans.
Regardless of those violent methods, Islam is poised to triumph in Europe in the long run. Over time, a native population that fails to do the most rudimentary thing of any native population - that is, give birth to the next generation - will by sheer sex and math give way to the outsiders who have entered the country and are giving birth to the next generation. Muslims in Europe can make love, not war - love that brings babies rather than blocks babies.
The clashes we are witnessing between ex-Christian Europeans and current Muslim Europeans is just the start. The Europe of the 21st century is going to be extremely chaotic.
Cherry-Picking Pope Francis
While papal visits to the United States are increasingly common, what is uncommon is to see political-ideological battle lines drawn around a pope. The tendency this time is especially acute among liberals, who eagerly frame Francis as one of them - a categorization Francis has resisted. "I'm sure that I haven't said anything more than what's written in the social doctrine of the Church," he said as his plane approached U.S. soil.
To some degree, liberals are certainly justified in linking Pope Francis to many of their concerns - climate change, wealth redistribution, poverty. And even many conservatives seem to concede this pope to the political left. In truth, however, both sides lack a full picture. To illustrate the point, I'll focus on the subject area that [brought] Pope Francis here to America to begin with: a major international Catholic Church synod on family and marriage.
Though Francis is absolutely forgiving and charitable and merciful, including to homosexuals, when it comes to marriage and family, this pope has been unflinchingly orthodox in support of historic Church teaching. Some of his language has been even stronger than his predecessors. The extent to which that is true is at times shocking. Here are just a few examples:
Last January, as nations from Ireland to America looked to redefine marriage, Francis gravely warned of the "forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family" and "redefine the very institution of marriage." Echoing his predecessor, he warned of the forces of "relativism" that would alter family, marriage, and "threaten" society and humanity.
Shortly before that, in November, he insisted that all "children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother." This followed a vocal statement after the previous synod on the family in Rome, where Francis asserted: "What they are proposing is not marriage; it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!"
He has always been very clear in saying this. When he was a cardinal in Argentina, he declared same-sex marriage a diabolical effort of "the Father of Lies" (i.e., the devil). This was July 2010, and Cardinal Joseph Bergoglio blasted a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and gay adoption in Argentina. He said:
Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God's plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a "move" of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God. . . . At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.
Obviously, liberals will find this extremely troubling. And yet, that's nothing compared to Francis' condemnation of "so-called gender ideology," which would scandalize liberals. "Gender ideology is demonic!" Francis shouted at one interviewer. He has compared gender theory to "the educational policies of Hitler."
Here, too, Francis sees this as another threat to the family. In this, Francis has taken an activist role, serving as the spiritual inspiration for a gigantic June 20 demonstration at St. John Lateran, the official church of his Rome diocese. Its purpose was to halt the introduction of gender theory into Italian public schools. This massive "Family Day" rally was a reflection of Pope Francis' Year of the Family, and it came only four days after the pope's environmental encyclical, Laudato Si. They were marching not against global warming but gender ideology.
This is a mere snapshot of Francis' statements. He has done almost two-dozen general audiences on the family. Tellingly, right before leaving Rome for the synod on the family in Philadelphia, he again affirmed the "image of the family - as God wills it, made up of one man and one woman," which, he said, "is deformed through powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonizations."
Alas, what I've laid out here on Pope Francis and marriage likewise could be done for the cause of unborn children. His forceful denunciations of the "throwaway culture" of abortion are equally emphatic, as is his belief in forgiveness for those who repent of abortion.
What does this mean? It means you shouldn't cherry-pick this pope. You can't grab this or that statement that fits your personal political-ideological preferences and think you have the full picture.
This pope is neither liberal nor conservative. The Francis picture has many shades.
Pope Francis vs. the "Demon" of Gender Theory
Pope Francis has returned to Rome after a historic trip to the United States. It was a fascinating endeavor. There have been many papal visits to America in my lifetime - in fact, nearly all have been in my lifetime, the first occurring in 1965, the year before I was born. None of these, however, were so heavily marked by political-ideological battle lines among liberals and conservatives. Really, those lines have been drawn boldly on the left, with liberals eagerly claiming this pope as one of them, and many conservatives granting that concession.
Yet, neither side, in truth, watches this pope carefully enough. If they did, both sides would be surprised, shocked, and one side - liberals - would be horrified.
I'm referring specifically to this pope's remarkably staunch criticisms of the things he sees as threatening the family: What he calls the "throwaway culture" of abortion, the "ideological colonization" and "deforming" of marriage, the "Satanic" adoption of children by homosexual couples, and the "demonic" cult of gender theory.
Yes, those blistering descriptions all belong to Pope Francis.
I could detail any of these here at length and shock liberal sensibilities and claims that this "leftist pope" is one of them. After all, I've yet to meet a liberal who thinks that same-sex marriage is the work of "the Father of Lies."
But I'd like to expend a few words on this pope's ongoing war against gender theory specifically, and namely its attempted introduction in Francis' home diocese of Rome and throughout Italy. This has greatly upset Francis, the extent to which we Americans (Francis' critics and admirers alike) are completely unaware. Now that he is back in Rome, Francis' battle against gender theory will recommence with zeal.
Of course, gender theory, gender ideology, gender studies, even entire gender programs, have been all the rage in American academia for decades. Pope Francis, for one, despises the very concept. He has argued constantly, consistently, that men and women are not only vitally different, but that these differences - ordained by nature and God - constitute an essential complementarity that husbands and wives bring to marriage and family relationships and responsibilities. Under Francis' direction last year, the Vatican held an international-ecumenical conference solely on this complementarity. In a world and culture that argues - and, in fact, teaches - that men and women and husbands and wives and dads and moms are interchangeable, if not inconsequential, Francis insists just the opposite. To say he is adamant is an understatement.
"Gender ideology is demonic!" Pope Francis insists. He says that it militates against "the order of creation." He sees it as so toxic, so destructive, that he has compared gender ideology to "the educational policies of Hitler."
In Italy, Francis has become the spiritual inspiration for a nationwide movement to banish gender theory. This culminated in a huge demonstration in Rome this summer. As one article reported:
Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Italy responded to Pope Francis' repeated warnings about gender ideology, by taking part in an enormous demonstration in the square of St. John Lateran in Rome on Saturday. The "Family Day" was aimed at defending the traditional family and stopping the spread of gender ideology in schools.
Some estimates were higher, as organizers hoped to draw a million marchers. "It's fantastic," said one attendee, a father of six from northern Italy. "Finally, people have gathered to fight this terrible ideology." One organizer celebrated from the stage, "The Holy Father is with us," as indeed he was.
Surviving Hitler's "Hell-Hole" . . . Remembering Frank Kravetz
"Just existing became what was important."
So said Frank Kravetz, World War II veteran and former captive of Nuremberg Prison Camp, or what Frank called the Nazi "hell-hole."
"Yet even as I struggled with the day-to-day sadness and despair," said Frank, "I never once had any regrets that I signed up to serve."
An extended tour of Nazi camps as a wounded POW scratching for survival wasn't what Frank had in mind when he signed up to serve his country in World War II. The kid from the smoky steel-mills of East Pittsburgh enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He became a tail-gunner.
Frank's life took a dramatic turn on November 2, 1944, in a bomb-run over Germany. He crammed into the tail of a B-17, wedged inside a flak jacket. The target was Merseberg, a major industrial area. He flew amid an air armada of 500 heavy bombers - each carrying eighteen 250-pound "general purpose" bombs - escorted by 900 fighter planes.
While the Americans were ready for business, so was the Luftwaffe. Frank's plane came under hot pursuit by German fighters. Frank took them on with a twin .50 caliber machine gun. It was a dogfight, and Frank was badly wounded. His B-17 was filled with holes. The crew had to bail, quickly.
Frank was bleeding profusely and could barely move. His buddies tried to get a parachute on him, but it opened inside the plane. They wrapped it around him, taking care not to cross the chords, and tossed him out. To Frank's great relief, the chute opened. Instantly, the deafening chaos quieted, and Frank said he floated like he was on the wings of angels.
The tranquility halted with a rude thump as Frank hit the ground. German soldiers immediately seized him.
Thus began "Hell's journey," as Frank dubbed it. Destination: Stalag 13-D.
Liberation finally came April 29, 1945, by General Patton's Third Army. Frank described the jubilant scene:
After the flag was raised, General Patton rolled in, sitting high in a command car. His very presence was awe-inspiring. I stood there staring at General Patton, our liberator, appearing larger than life.
Thousands of emaciated, ecstatic POWs chanted, "Patton! Patton! Patton!" Some fell to their knees, overcome with emotion. Patton seized a bullhorn and spoke:
Gentlemen - you're now liberated and under Allied control.... We're going to get you out of here.
It finally hit Frank and his remaining 125 pounds: "I'm going home. I'm really going home!"
Frank eventually arrived in New York City and hitchhiked all the way to Pittsburgh. He unceremoniously arrived at his folks' front door - no trumpets, no dramatic music, no parade. He hugged his mom and dad and sat down. He found and married his sweetheart, Anne.
How did Frank survive this Nazi "hell-hole?"
"All I can say is that the good Lord was watching out for me," wrote Frank in a riveting memoir, Eleven Two: One WWII Airman's Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom. There, Frank provided the secret to his survival and success: "Pray. It helps."
It's a message that Frank shared with young people every chance he had: "I prayed throughout my ordeal, asking Him for help." He shared it with me, my sons, and a classroom of my students four years ago.
As Frank prayed, he promised God that he would never complain about anything again if he survived. That's a promise he kept. Our blessings are so bountiful that we need to be grateful, especially compared to the deprivations others have faced - like a Nazi prison camp. We need to be always grateful, said Frank, and always faithful.
That was Frank Kravetz, winner of the Purple Heart.
I've told Frank's story before. I tell it again now for two reasons: First, Veterans Day falls again this November (as does Thanksgiving), a time to remember men like Frank. And second, sadly, this will be a Veterans Day without Frank Kravetz.
Frank died in August, at age 91. He joined his beloved wife, Anne, who died just four months prior. They were married for 68 years.
A mutual friend attended Frank's funeral and the luncheon that followed at the local VFW in East Pittsburgh, of which Frank was a founder. He told me that of the 100 original founding members, only two remain.
Yes, only two.
This Veterans Day, let's take a few minutes from our insanely busy lives and from this insane culture and country - one that those vets would not recognize - to remember men like Frank Kravetz who served with no regrets. The freedoms we have today, many of which we merrily abuse today, are possible only because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of hellacious enemies 70 years ago. *