Tag Archives: Cologne Cathedral

THE WEEK

Donald and Ted

There’s a lot of discussion about whether Senator Ted Cruz can run for president, due to the fact that he was born in Canada.   A few years ago, a similar concern was expressed about Barack Obama, with many convinced he was born in Kenya and therefore unqualified to run for president.

FWIW, when I went to the US Embassy in Ghana to register the births of our three children, all born outside of the United States between 1976 and 1981, I was informed that they had all the rights of any child born on American soil, “up to and including running for President of the United States.”

They were considered “natural born citizens” because their mother is an American citizen.

On this basis, President Obama, Senator Cruz and Senator John McCain all qualify even though they were born overseas, or maybe born overseas in the case of the current president.

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“In 2013 alone, 117,423 migrants from Muslim-majority countries were permanently resettled within the United States— having been given lawful permanent resident status.   Additionally in 2013, the United States voluntarily admitted an extra 122,921 temporary migrants from Muslim countries as foreign students and foreign workers as well as 39,932 refugees and asylees from Muslim countries.

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Thus, twelve years after the September 11th hijackers were invited into the country on temporary visas, the US decided to admit 280,276 migrants from Muslim countries within a single fiscal year.” – Breitbart, Julia Haha, September 15th, 2015.

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President Obama took pains in his State of the Union speech Tuesday to warn Americans not to exaggerate the threat from terrorists,” notes a Journal editorial.   But after a spate of attacks from Paris to San Bernardino to Jakarta, what “Americans want from their next President is someone who will give them fewer reasons to fear being murdered while getting coffee.”   (WSJ, Morning Editorial Report, James Freeman, “Hillary and Ted’s Big Problem”)

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In Europe, reaction to the massive influx of refugees is increasing as people experience the full significance.   One thousand young men from North Africa and the Middle East congregated in the main public area around Cologne Cathedral on New Years Eve where dozens of German women were groped and sexually assaulted. Chancellor Merkel has condemned what happened and promised those convicted would be sent to their country of origin.   The anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement has been holding rallies and now has a British branch, committed to ending the growing Islamization of the West.

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Meanwhile, the 70-year-old ban on Hitler’s Mein Kampf (My Struggle) has been lifted in Germany and a new annotated version of the book has become available.  Sales have been greater than expected.   The new publication contains the full text of the original, with scholarly notes commenting on what was written.   It is hoped that this will turn people against right-wing ideas, but the law of unintended consequences may lead to a different outcome.

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for a European Army, adding his voice in support of a development that is already taking place, with more European countries cooperating on defense.

The issue of Europe is uppermost on the minds of many in Britain at this time, with a referendum on future membership of the EU set for later this year.   Pro-EU politicians are trying to scare people by claiming that the EU has prevented conflict in Europe in recent decades. Fourteen leading British academics and historians have issued a statement saying that it is, in fact, NATO that has prevented major conflict in Europe since World War II.   This debate could intensify.   Many EU members are also members of NATO, which includes the US and Canada. But, if the EU successfully puts together its own powerful military force, the two organizations may go their separate ways.

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The British parliament is debating today, Monday, a petition signed by well over half a million people to ban Donald Trump from visiting the United Kingdom following his anti-Islamic comments.   A second pro-Trump petition has been signed by fewer people.   It seems like the Donald is dividing the UK as much as the US.   If the ban is approved by Members of the British Parliament, what will happen to the western alliance should he become president?

More immediately, what will happen to the $1 billion investment he promised Scotland?

Surprisingly, Piers Morgan came out in support of Mr. Trump on a popular British radio program.   The audience did not applaud.

The unanswered question here is why so many people on both sides of the Atlantic are determined to see a lot more Muslim immigrants arriving on their shores.   Their thinking is totally different from that of previous generations.

It’s going to be difficult to overcome political correctness on both sides of the Atlantic!

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Talking of the Atlantic, notably absent from the ocean right now are cargo ships – a sure sign the global economy is slowing.   For centuries, there have been ships crossing the ocean every single day. But right now there’s a lull.   Another sure sign of global inactivity is the fall in the oil price.   The price of oil is determined by supply and demand, as is everything else.   There’s more oil available now thanks to fracking and, from today, the lifting of sanctions on Iran. But there’s also less demand, with China’s economy weakening by the day and a deteriorating standard of living faced by most Americans, the world’s biggest consumers.

The head of the Royal Bank of Scotland warned all customers last week to get out of the Stock Market.   His warning sounded extreme, but what if he’s right?   We should know this week!

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Just remember, with all the uncertainty in global markets and in the Middle East, that Christians should not worry unduly about what’s going on. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  (Matthew 6:34)   The previous verse reminds us of where our primary focus should be at all times: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ISTANBUL SUICIDE BOMBING

Turkey bomb

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.

COLOGNE CATHEDRAL MEMORIAL

Koln cathedral

It’s Friday morning here in Michigan.   As I write, I’m watching the State Memorial service from Cologne (Koln) Cathedral, for the 150 people killed in the “Germanwings” flight in the French Alps on March 24th.    The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present, along with the German President Joachim Gauck.   Spanish leaders were also represented.   These were the two countries that lost the most people in the disaster.

The Cathedral is about a thirty-minute drive from Dusseldorf Airport where the plane was due to land after a short flight from Barcelona in Spain.

Koln Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings in Germany, an architectural marvel from the Middle Ages, a time of great faith in European history.   At such a time as this, faith is a great help to those who have lost loved ones.   The peace and serenity, together with inspiring music and the presence of 1,500 people, seemed to bring some comfort and closure to the relatives and friends of the victims, who still await burial.

The service is being relayed on BBC World, with occasional interruptions to bring the latest world news.  Religion is a common theme running through the morning’s news program.   Koln Cathedral is a reminder of the religious certainties of the past. Construction of the gothic cathedral began in 1248.   The church remains a Roman Catholic cathedral, in a country divided by Lutheran Protestantism five centuries ago.   The German Chancellor is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and grew up in the officially atheist German Democratic Republic (communist East Germany).  The German president is a former Lutheran pastor who came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights leader in the former communist state. The professed atheism of the eastern European countries did not bring the utopia that people had hoped for.   I first visited the cathedral as a 16-year-old exchange student.   The German student I stayed with was also an atheist.

Fifty years ago it seemed that religion was a thing of the past. Now, it dominates our news on a daily basis.   This is especially true of news involving the Middle East.

A frequently mentioned news item this morning is the arrest of fifteen Muslim immigrants arriving by boat from Libya.   The men originated from West African countries.   10,000 refugees have landed in Italy in the last seven days.   The fifteen were all on the same boat and had deliberately pushed twelve Christians overboard during a religious dispute, killing all twelve.

Another news item was of regular chlorine bomb attacks on Sunni Muslims by the Shi’ite Alawite government of Syria.   Victims included small children who died agonizing deaths, witnessed by survivors.

Switching for a few minutes to a US based channel, concern was being expressed over a US citizen who had spent two months in Syria training with ISIS, and was arrested on his return to the United States where he was planning terrorist attacks on Americans in uniform.   The concern is that he is the first of many more to come, people motivated by extremist religious views, intent on mass killing.

In such a time of religious confusion, comfort can certainly be drawn from the religious certainties of the past.   But those certainties hide a disturbing reality.   In 1248, when the foundations of the cathedral were laid, beliefs were based more on tradition, on ignorance and superstition than on revealed scripture.

The Bible was not the foundation of the medieval church.   It wasn’t until 1534 that the Bible was first published in German, having been translated by Martin Luther.   It was the revealed truths in the scriptures that divided the medieval church, still clinging to beliefs and traditions that could not be biblically substantiated.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the truth.   “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).   Jesus Christ is truth.   He is also “the Word.”   (John 1:1, 14)   God’s Word is truth.   (John 17:17)   The Apostle Paul adds: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (II Timothy 3:16)

The same Bible also tells us, in this age of great religious confusion, that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ.   (Acts 4:12)

The solid walls of Koln Cathedral may be a reminder of religious certainties but they also reflect certainties that were wrong.   Today, we should be thankful that we have access to the scriptures, thanks to men like Martin Luther and his contemporary William Tyndale, who died to bring us the Bible in English.

Five centuries later, it was revealed just a few days ago, the Bible has still not been translated into 57% of the world’s languages.

For those of us who are blessed with a translation in our own language, we should renew our commitment to daily Bible Study and remember the importance of working out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Martin Luther showed that it wasn’t the medieval church that could guarantee us salvation.   That remains true today.   Only Jesus Christ can guarantee us salvation.   Our eternal life depends on Him.   The Church can help guide us in the right direction, but salvation depends on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The sister of one of the German victims of the crash prayed a very moving, yet simple prayer before the congregation:  “Lord, please dry our tears.”

This simple request brought to mind a verse in the last book of the bible:   “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.   There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  (Rev. 21:4)

Understanding the real truth of God brings a peace of mind that truly sets us free.  (John 8:32)

LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ, 70 YEARS AGO TODAY

auschwitz

I had originally intended to return to the US and give a sermon on it, but I couldn’t.   I would not have been able to hold back the tears.

I’m referring to my visit to Auchwitz, one of the worst of the Nazi death camps where six million Jews died.   An estimated 1.1 million people died in Auschwitz, most of them Jews.   Men, women and children.

Most memorable in my mind was all the pony-tails cut off the heads of little girls.   They were stacked up high behind a see-through glass wall.   This was the hair of young female victims.   All I could think about was my four young grand daughters!   Auschwitz is set in a peaceful rural setting – what happened there could happen anywhere.   I had had the same thought when visiting Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, which reminded me of where my grandparents lived.

Auschwitz is the stuff of nightmares.   At the arrival point, where families had to get out of box-cars and were immediately sorted into those who would live and those who were assigned to immediate annihilation, I felt their hopelessness.   There would have been no opportunity to say good-bye to loved ones, none at all.   People were treated like animals.

The gas chamber was particularly horrific.   I stood under one of the vents through which came Zyklon B, the poisonous gas that quickly killed its victims.   In an adjacent room we saw where the corpses were first taken – to remove gold from teeth and cut off hair that could be made into rope or wigs for fashionable ladies.   The people who did all the work were inmates, forced to work on fellow inmates who had been selected to die.   Bones were boiled and made into soap.

The dormitories left an indelible impression on my mind.   Bunk beds were stacked to the ceiling.   There were three levels and, I believe, nine people slept to a bed.   Everybody would rush to get in the dormitory when bed-time came.   If you could get to the top level, there was fresh air coming through a gap between the wall and the roof.   Also, at the top, you would avoid human waste falling through the slats onto you during the night.   Because the diet was so poor, concentration camp victims had permanent diarrhea.   They could not use toilet facilities, such as they were, during the night and simply lay there relieving themselves onto those below.   How could one forget such an image?

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.   When they arrived they found 7,000 survivors, all ill or starving.   In the West, we tend only to remember what our nations did in World War II.   We fail to appreciate that it was the Russians who contributed the most to the defeat of Nazi Germany.   Russia (the USSR) lost twenty million people.   They were the first to get to Auschwitz and, a few weeks later, to Berlin, where Hitler had committed suicide rather than face a trial for war crimes that included the camps.

The cool and calculated way in which the Nazis selected Auschwitz as their biggest concentration camp is chilling.   Auschwitz is close to Krakow, Poland, at the very heart of Europe.   Trains from all over the continent could easily get there, bringing Jewish victims in their tens of thousands.

A tour of the Jewish quarter in Krakow is a suitable accompaniment to the day in Auschwitz.   At one time the quarter was thriving.   Now only thirty Jews congregate in the one remaining synagogue that is still used.    Jews started moving to Krakow when they were expelled en masse from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.   In the same year that Christopher Columbus was sent to discover the New World, the king and queen decided they wanted their country to be free of Jews. 450 years later, Hitler wanted the same thing for Europe.

I asked our tour guide in Krakow why people hated the Jews so much. His reply was that “the Jews are different.   They go to church on Saturday, we Poles go on Sunday.”   In other words, they were persecuted for keeping the seventh day Sabbath.   Poles, like other conquered Europeans, co-operated with the Nazis when it came to handing over Jews.   Some helped the Jews, but most people were too afraid.

James Carroll, a former priest in the Roman Catholic Church, traces anti-semitism back to the church, which always blamed the Jews for killing Christ.   His book (also a DVD) is called Constantine’s Sword:   The Church and the Jews – a History.   He did not set out to blame his own church for the holocaust but his book shows the historical connection.   When Hitler visited Cologne Cathedral prior to World War II, he told the Archbishop that all he was doing was finishing the work the Catholic Church had started.

Sadly, anti-semitism is once again on the rise. Last year, almost 7,000 Jews left France for Israel.   In Britain, a recent survey showed Jews are increasingly afraid to live there.   The biggest single factor in anti-semitism is Europe’s rising Muslim population.   France has 500,000 Jews, the biggest number in Europe; the Muslim population is ten times that, at five million.   There have been a number of attacks on Jewish targets in recent years, the latest being the terror attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris last month.   Anti-semitism did not begin with the Nazis and it didn’t end with the fall of the Third Reich, either.

Why did God allow it to happen?   This is the question most often asked.   To me, the answer is quite simple – man rejected God. Men do not want to obey the Laws of God.   So they reap the consequences of disobedience, including the Holocaust.   Auschwitz is a sobering reminder to pray fervently “Thy Kingdom Come” (Matt 6:10).

If you can ever go to Poland, be sure to visit Krakow and Auschwitz. One is a well-preserved medieval city, the other a constant reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.

Everybody should go to Auschwitz.   Everybody.   If they don’t, it could happen again.