Tag Archives: Byzantium

DAVOS, BYZANTIUM AND RUSSIA

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“Median income today is lower than it was a quarter century ago,” according to economist Joseph Stiglitz, interviewed by CNN’s Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.   The two men were discussing the charity Oxfam’s statement this week that said the top 1% now have as much wealth as all the rest of us put together. According to Mr. Stiglitz, this is due to government policies in the US and other western nations in the last 25 years.   His prediction for the coming year was quite gloomy.

John Defterios, CNN Emerging Markets Editor, reminded people that the global economy has 7-8 year “cycles.”  Whereas many are saying we just came out of a cycle following the 2008 collapse, we are in fact ending one cycle and moving into another.

The 7-year cycle will be a familiar concept to any Bible scholars who understand the Old Testament financial cycle, based around the seven-year land Sabbath.  Debt, both governmental and private, is now at an all time high and threatens the global economy, which is nothing more than a house of cards.   Increasingly needed is a biblical Jubilee Year, where all debts are cancelled and we start over.  God’s plan was for a Jubilee Year every fifty years, after seven land Sabbaths had been completed.

Leviticus, chapter 25, explains this financial plan.  The instruction was that all debts be cancelled and that people return to their ancestral land and start again.  We no longer live in an agricultural economy, but the principle can be applied.   The vast majority of people worldwide are now in debt to one degree or another, while the 1% gets richer and richer.  Eventually, there will be an explosion with revolutions everywhere, unless something is done to cancel the debt.

Don’t hold your breath — governments and banks are not likely to let that happen.   Until they have to, that is!

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Meanwhile, I found Leonardo DiCaprio’s statement that “oil should stay in the ground” rather intriguing.  If conservationists get their way, how will he fly his personal plane?  He may have money to burn but it’s not a good jet fuel!

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I’m finishing The End of Byzantium, the book by Jonathan Harris I mentioned in a previous post.   Constantinople, the capital of what had been the greatest power in Christendom, fell to the Muslim Turks in May, 1453.  The fall sent shock waves throughout Europe.  The next 250 years was to be dominated by the threat from the Ottoman Empire, which did not completely end until the collapse of the empire less than a century ago.   This was the last caliphate.

There are lessons to be learned from Byzantium.

There was great division at the top among the various leaders.   We have this today with the presidential candidates, each one looking for his or her own advantage, regardless of what damage may be done to the country.  That was the same in Byzantium amongst the ruling class.

Secondly, some of the wealthy elite did well from their connections with the Turks, mostly in trade, but also donations to co-operate with the Turks.  Reading this, I was mindful of the Clinton Foundation receiving donations from Middle Eastern leaders, a conflict of interest for sure.

Thirdly, Byzantium was weakened financially, losing its trading advantage to other nations.   The Republics of Venice and Genoa had become the banking centers by the time of the fall of Constaninople.

A fourth point of great interest was that once the capital fell, it wasn’t long before the rest followed.   Could this happen in the US?  Of course it could.  If terrorists could deliver crushing blows to both Washington DC (the political capital) and New York City (the financial capital), the rest of the country would follow.

I should add that although I would have preferred life under the Byzantine Emperor to life under the Ottoman Sultan, the former was hardly Christian and thoroughly deserved its fate.  That’s another lesson for us today – the West deserves its fate, which it has brought upon itself.

A further lesson from Byzantium is the truth of Daniel 2:21, that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.  “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.”  In this case, Constantine XI, the last Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, was overthrown by Mehmed II, the Sultan at the head of the Ottoman Empire.

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Talking of Washington DC, the news yesterday was dominated by the threat of a severe snow-storm bringing the city to its knees.  It still hasn’t started, at 10am Friday morning, but could come any time.  MSNBC stated that, every time there’s a severe snow-storm: “230,000 federal government workers sit idle.”

Since when did this have anything to do with snow???

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Back to Turkey and the Middle East.  Up to this point, Islamic terrorism has been perpetrated by Sunni Muslims.  With the end of sanctions on Iran and the release of hundreds of millions of dollars being held by western banks, Iran could also be in the terrorist business.  Shia Islam could be an even bigger threat than Sunni.

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Still in the Middle East, more German Jews are moving to Israel as a result of increased anti-semitism in Germany.   Headlines can be misleading.  The anti-semitism does not come from German Germans, but from Muslim immigrants.  But it still makes life in Germany worrying and unpleasant.

The influx of migrants has affected many European countries.  Sweden is now being called the “rape capital of the world.”  Swedish women have a 1 in 4 chance of being raped.   Reports say that gangs of young Middle Eastern men grope, sexually assault, and rape women.   Where are the women and children we were being shown on nightly television a few months ago?  It turns out that 80% of migrants were young men, who left their families behind in war-torn Syria and other countries.   The outcome is not surprising.

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An article by Boyd D. Cathey contains the following, in defense of President Putin:

In support of his goals, Putin has championed Russian laws that:  (1) have practically outlawed abortion in Russia (no abortions after the 12th week, and before that time in limited cases, and also the end of financial support for abortions, reversing a previous Soviet policy); (2) clamp down on homosexuality and homosexual propaganda –absolutely no homosexual propaganda in Russian schools, no public displays of homosexuality, with legal penalties imposed for violating these laws; (3) strongly support traditional marriage, especially religious marriage, with financial aid to married couples having more than two children; (4) have established compulsory religious instruction in all Russian schools (including instruction in different Christian confessions, in different regions of the country); (4) implement a policy instituting chaplaincy in Russian military regiments (and religious institutions now assist in helping military families); (5) have made religious holidays now official Russian state holidays; (6) have instituted a nationwide program of rebuilding churches that were destroyed by the Communists (the most notable being the historic Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow); and (7) officially support the Russian film industry in producing conservative religious and patriotic movies— interestingly, the most popular film in Russia in 2009 was the movie “Admiral,” a very favorable biopic of the leader of the White Russian counter-revolutionary, Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, who was executed by the Communists in 1920.  The film was supported by the Russian cultural ministry.”

Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Russia has built 26,000 new Christian churches.   As the writer points out, Russians are returning to (traditional) Christianity at the same time that Americans are turning progressively against it, embracing secular and anti-Christian values.

Thirty years after Ronald Reagan, we see a Christian Russia opposed to a post-Christian America (President Obama’s description of the country).   No wonder people are confused – the world has been turned upside down in our lifetimes!

Further evidence follows below:

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ISTANBUL SUICIDE BOMBING

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In my last post, I wrote about the fall of Constantinople.  In 1453 the city fell to the Muslim Turks and was soon renamed Istanbul.

This post begins with mention of Istanbul, one of the most interesting cities that I have ever visited.   Not only was it founded by Constantine the Great in 330, it was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, for a thousand years.

When you walk around the old part of the city, you are walking on 1700 years of history.

No wonder so many tourists visit Istanbul.  Ten of them were killed this morning, eight of them Germans, when an ISIS suicide bomber from Syria blew himself up.   In a statement, ISIS said there would be more and bigger bombs.  This was the fourth ISIS attack in Turkey in six months.

Whether or not ISIS was deliberately targeting Germans is not known.  The attack was deliberately perpetrated in the tourist area of the old city, close to the Blue Mosque and not far from the Hagia Sophia, a 1500-year-old church built by the Eastern Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.   The church has survived a number of earthquakes and the fall of Justinian’s Empire – whether it will survive ISIS remains to be seen. Turkey is likely to see many more terror attacks.

Germany is also likely to suffer at the hands of terrorists, made more probable by Chancellor Merkel’s “open door” policy to Syrian refugees.   One million refugees arrived last year.   Things are not going well.

On New Year’s Eve, about a thousand Middle Eastern and North African men descended on the area around Cologne Cathedral. During the course of the evening, dozens of German women were sexually assaulted and a few were raped.   It turns out that, contrary to claims that almost all the refugees were women and children, in fact 80% were young men!

This has naturally led to greater demands for the refugees to be deported.   A big demonstration in Leipzig yesterday got out of hand, adding to Chancellor Merkel’s woes.   With more refugees set to arrive, the problem is set to get worse.

Meanwhile, Germany is dealing with foreign policy challenges that threaten the coherence of the European Union, of which Germany was a founder member and is the biggest economy.

German Foreign Policy reports:  “High-ranking German politicians are calling for punitive measures against Poland.   The Polish government’s measures neutralizing the country’s constitutional court as well as its new media laws are “in violation of European values,” according to Volker Kauder, Chair of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group.    The EU member states must now “have the courage to impose sanctions.” “

With the above problems, there may be little time to give any attention to Britain’s campaign for changes to the EU Treaty that would alleviate some of the financial burdens on the UK from its EU membership.

A report in the Guardian newspaper yesterday claimed the EU would play “hardball” with London, as they have nothing to lose.   If the UK leaves the EU, it could face punitive measures that would make it harder for the country to trade with its European neighbors.

The same article also pointed out that the Scots are not as keen on leaving the EU as their southern neighbors in England.

A withdrawal from the EU may be a setback for the project of European unity, but it could also lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.

IS THIS TO BE THE FATE OF THE WESTERN WORLD?

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Michigan winters can be depressing, a real downer.   Add to that, the state of the world as 2016 begins and it’s amazing anyone can function.

A cartoon in yesterday’s paper showed half a dozen people nervously peeking into a dark room labeled “2016” – clearly, nobody wanted to go in.

Who knows what the year will bring?

Adding to my sense of foreboding has been a couple of books I’ve been reading.   Perhaps I should stop reading!   Then I could stop thinking and become like lots of other people.   It’s difficult, though, to watch hours of mindless drivel on television or at movie theaters when there are so many good books to read.

The books I’ve been reading are “The End of Byzantium” by Jonathan Harris  and “Isabella” by Kirstin Downey.   The latter is about the famous queen of Spain, but includes a long section on the fall of Byzantium and what followed.

Byzantium was the name of the Eastern Roman Empire, founded by Constantine the Great in the fourth century.   It survived the fall of the (western) Roman Empire by a thousand years.   Byzantium was the greatest power in Christendom during that period. Constantinople, its capital, was known as “the Queen of Cities.”

Yet it fell.

It fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453.   It’s fall was as dramatic and interesting as the fall of Babylon to Persia in 539 BC.   The consequences for both were dramatic.

Residents of both had considered their capitals impregnable.   Most Americans and Britons today would describe their own countries similarly.   After all, they have nuclear weapons.   The US has the greatest military on earth.

But, as the falls of Babylon and Constantinople show, it doesn’t mean a thing!  And, just as the “handwriting was on the wall” for Babylon (Daniel 5), so it is today for the West.

I went to see my primary doctor recently, shortly after San Bernardino.   He couldn’t understand why so many people brought up in the United States could become “radicalized.”   I know that Britons, Australians, Canadians and people in other western countries don’t understand this, either.

An article in yesterday’s Lansing State Journal called for more Muslim immigration into the US.   The reasoning was simple – the more people from the Middle East who come here, the better, because they either go back enthused about the American way of life, or they stay here committed to America.

This is naïve thinking at best.   At its worst, it’s downright dangerous.

Both my doctor and this writer represent 1960’s liberal thinking.   They believe that our western way of life is superior and that anybody who moves to the West will naturally see things that way given a short period of time to adjust.   And their children, naturally, will be just as committed to the American (or British) way of life as anybody else born here, embracing our liberal values.

This reasoning fails to understand that there is a major difference between Islam and the West – one means “submission” (or “surrender”), while the other believes in freedom.   These two cannot be reconciled.   Any child brought up in the former, while living in the latter, is inevitably going to be confused.

Why can’t people see that?

If they cannot grasp what is written above, then they can at least read some history and learn lessons from the past.

Note the following from “Isabella,” describing the fall of Christian Constantinople to the Muslim Turks.  Don’t think this can’t happen again – it’s happening right now in the Middle East as Christians are being driven out by Muslims.   After the fall of Byzantium, it happened to other European nations as the Muslims moved into the heart of Europe.   Again, hundreds of thousands have moved into central Europe in the last few months.

(When I was on a tour of Turkey a few years ago, I asked our tour guide three times what happened to all the Christians when Constantinople fell to the Muslims.   Three times, I failed to get an answer.)

“On the last day, a crowd of men, women, children, nuns and monks, “sought refuge” in Hagia Sophia . . . (the sixth century cathedral built by Justinian) . . . the Turks broke down the doors of the church with axes and dragged the congregants off to slavery.   The statues of the saints were smashed; church vessels were seized.   “Scenes of unimaginable horror ensued,” historian Franz Babinger writes.”

“The Turkish soldiers killed four thousand in the siege and enslaved almost the entire population of the city.   They plundered the churches, the imperial palace, and the homes of the rich, and they did considerable damage to much of the city’s fabled architecture . . . unique and rare classical manuscripts were torn apart for the value of their bindings and thrown into the garbage.” (“Isabella”, page 172, 2014)

“By the end of 1459, all of Serbia had fallen under their control.   About 200,000 Serbs were enslaved by the Turks…..Soon, he (Mehmed, the sultan) attacked the city of Gardiki, in Thessaly, killing all 6,000 inhabitants, including women and children.   He had accepted the surrender without struggle of the Genoese colony of Amasra, on the Black Sea coast, where he enslaved two-thirds of the population.” (p. 175)

ISIS continues to treat Christians the same way.   There was, and is, no respect for other religions.

In the fifth century, the Roman Empire was invaded by barbarians (non-Romans).   This is a reason they no longer exist.   Spain itself was overrun by Muslims in the eighth century, a reason why Isabella took the stand she did centuries later.   When the Holy Land fell to the Muslims, it was necessary for the West to intervene to enable pilgrims to travel there safely.   After Constantinople fell, the West was in shock, rather as it would be if the United States fell.

The historian Niall Ferguson wrote after Paris that the West has the feel of Rome about it, that we are in danger of falling the same way; conservative columnist Mark Steyn wrote that “the barbarians are at the gate, and there is no gate!” – a reference to the fact that Angela Merkel and others are welcoming the invaders.

There clearly are genuine and justified concerns about allowing more Muslims into western countries.  Just yesterday, the BBC has reported that Germany has been shocked by how many German women were sexually assaulted and even raped over New Years, a direct result of the recent surge in immigration from the Middle East and North Africa.

TV reporters and those who write for newspapers advocating more immigrants are clearly ignorant of history.   They endanger all of our lives.

Reporting right now is focused on the growing Saudi-Iranian conflict, a continuation of the 1400-year-old struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam.   Neither can respect the other.   They just want to kill those who believe differently from themselves.  We can see it clearly when looking at the two branches of Islam – why do the same reporters find it so difficult to see the threat Islam poses to Christians and secularists in the West?

Christians for centuries have prayed “Thy Kingdom Come” (Matt 6:10) as Jesus Christ taught us to do in His model prayer.   Never has the need for that kingdom been greater.  Only He can put an end to false religion and the religious confusion that threatens the end of our civilization.

WHAT IF THE PRESIDENT IS WRONG?

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US President Barack Obama says the US is “not at war with Islam – we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam.”   (BBC website, February 18th)

The President continued to explain that socio-economic factors are behind extremist terrorism.   If more could be done to help young people in the Mideast find jobs, it would lessen the terror threat.   However, this conveniently overlooks the fact that major terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by affluent jihadists.   The idea that it’s all due to poverty and unemployment is a throwback to sixties liberalism.   Unfortunately, millions of people still think that way, endangering the rest of us.

This comes at a time when ISIS is wiping out Christians across the Middle East, determined to establish “Christian free zones.”

For an alternative view, let’s do something few politicians ever seem to do – look at history.

Muhammed died in 632 AD.   At the time of his death, the new religion he started was confined to the Arabian Peninsula.   By the end of the seventh century it had conquered the whole of North Africa and a great deal of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Damascus and Antioch, pushing back the Byzantine and Persian empires.   Of course, it’s always possible that the young soldiers of Allah went far afield simply looking for jobs, but that’s not a conclusion you will find in the history books.

Once they had conquered North Africa, they crossed over into Europe, taking over the Iberian Peninsula and remaining there for a few hundred years, ruling what are now Spain and Portugal.   In 732 they reached the gates of Paris but were halted in their tracks by a military force led by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne.   If this decisive victory had not taken place, there would be no problem between the West and Islam today, as we would all be Muslims!

Move forward 350 years.   By the end of the eleventh century, the Turks were a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire.   In 1065, the Turks took control of Jerusalem and massacred 3,000 Christians. Prior to the Turkish invasion, the Saracens controlled the area.   They had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Land.   But the Turks made it impossible.   In 1095, Pope Urban II called on the countries of Catholic Europe to launch a Crusade against the Muslim Turks.   A series of crusades followed until 1291, when the Christians gave up on the idea of ruling the region.   It wasn’t until 1917 that a Christian power, Great Britain, would once again dominate the Middle East.

Islam continued its expansionist course, gradually taking more and more territory from what was left of the Eastern Roman Empire.   In 1453, its capital, Constantinople, fell to the Muslim Turks.   They have controlled it since.

Having conquered the Balkans, the Ottoman Turks twice reached the gates of Vienna at the very center of Europe.   Central European nations and the Catholic

Church defeated the Muslims, saving Europe from Islam.

This is not to say there has been peace between the West and Islam ever since.   During the period of global British domination, the British fought Islamic extremists in the Sudan in the 1880’s and 90’s, culminating in the battle of Omdurman in September, 1898.

For much of the twentieth century, Islam was kept at bay.  Until World War II, most Islamic territory was under European colonial rule.   By 1960 this had come to an end.   Iran, modern Persia, was the first country to see its government overthrown by radical Islam, in 1979.   From that date until the present, the West has been under constant threat from Islam, both Shia Islam (Iran) and Sunni Islam (al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram to name just three).

With such a long history of Islamic imperialism, how can the president claim that the religion has been perverted by violent extremists?   Islam has been a constant threat to the West since its birth in the early part of the seventh century.  If anything, the first part of the twentieth century was an aberration, a brief interlude during which Islam was not pushing against the West.

“The rise and expansion of Islam was one of the most significant and far-reaching events in modern history and its impact continues to reverberate in our own times.”  (“The spread of Islam from 632,” Collins Atlas of World History, 2003)

Echoing down the centuries, the following statement remains true today.  “This expansion owed much to the enthusiasm and religious conviction of the conquerors but it was also facilitated by the war-weariness of the empires of Persia and Byzantium.”  (“The Spread of Islam”)   Today’s zealots are equally motivated, while the nations of the West, after more than a decade of wars in Islamic lands, are war-weary and clearly in denial about the serious threat to western civilization.

When you look back at history, the threat is clear.   In fact, it’s a greater threat now than it’s ever been, simply because there are so many millions of Muslims in our midst already.   Which brings us back to our politicians.   President Obama is not the only western leader saying that Islam has been perverted by extremists. Following the attacks in Denmark last weekend, the Danish prime minister said much the same thing.   The British, German and French leaders have expressed similar sentiments.

Because there are so many Muslims living amongst us today, politicians dare not risk upsetting them.   They need their votes.   A significant number of constituencies in the United Kingdom, for example, have very large Muslim populations, which could determine the outcome of the election scheduled in May.

The threat should be clear to anyone.   Western nations are asleep. But sleep does not last forever.   Eventually, it will be time to wake up.

Islam has been pushing against the West for centuries.   In modern times, the push of radical Islam has been going on since the fall of the Shah in 1979, half a lifetime ago.   When will the “King of the North” arise to fight back?