Tag Archives: jubilee

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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GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR – A WARNING OF FUTURE UPHEAVALS

Mind the Income Gap

It disturbs me when fellow conservatives make insensitive comments about the poor.   Many of them are too busy making money to read much history, but, if they did, they would know that Marie Antoinette did not live long after she dismissively said, “Let them eat cake!”, when told the peasants had no bread.   Whether or not she really did say that is irrelevant – people believed she said it and she soon had an appointment with Madame Guillotine!

128 years later the Russian Revolution began with a bread riot in the capital Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg).  Both the Bourbons and the Romanovs lost their thrones.

It’s the height of arrogance for us to think that, because we have supposedly matured to a better form of government, it cannot happen here.  When people are hungry, they won’t care about constitutional niceties.  If they are not fed, they will get violent and will then turn on those with the food.

Marie Antoinette might have survived if she had been familiar with the economic Rule of Inequality, an economic law by which you can accurately predict the likelihood of civil disturbance right up to and including revolution.  Simplified, what it says is that the greater the gap between rich and poor, the more likely revolution becomes.   And, if there’s a revolution, the wealthy will lose everything, so the wealthy do have a definite interest in the welfare of the poor.

A nineteenth century Conservative leader of Great Britain saw this clearly.  Benjamin Disraeli wrote the novel “Sybil; or the Two Nations” in 1845.  He was extremely concerned about the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots.   Disraeli showed that Conservatives can do a great deal to help the poor.

China has tried to address this problem.  Frightened at the prospect of revolution as the wealthy rather vulgarly display their wealth in front of peasants who barely eke out a living. The Chinese government is trying to rectify the imbalance.

The only industrialized nation in the world that has a wider gap between rich and poor is the United States.  Yet, in the last election, the issue of poverty was not even addressed.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, sounded rather like the late decapitated French queen when he talked of the “47%”, the voters who depend on government, saying they would never vote for him.   Even the Democratic leader, the current president, had nothing positive to say about the poor.  They are largely forgotten.

The United States and China are not the only countries with this problem.  It is a worldwide phenomenon that has already caused riots and revolutions in some countries.

Jesus Christ said: “the poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11).  That’s very true.  The Rule of Inequality refers, rather, to the widening gap between rich and poor, a gap we see widening with almost every announcement on the economy.

As a fiscal conservative, I do believe government should live within its means.  But if, as some suggest, government programs like food stamps, WIC (food for Women, Infants and Children), Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the really poor, are abolished or greatly reduced, this could trigger off the revolution Marie Antoinette did not see coming!

Put bluntly, abolishing food stamps will mean riots in the streets of our big cities.  Again, that’s how the world’s worst revolution started, in Russia in February 1917.

This does not mean, either, that government programs are the best way to alleviate poverty.   The New Republic magazine showed two decades ago that the Salvation Army is far more cost-effective in caring for the poor, than is the federal government.

But that’s a separate issue.  The reality is that the poor do need help – or we will all suffer the consequences.

Conservative churches in the United States never seem to address this issue.  They tend to focus on abortion and same-sex marriage, both of which are unbiblical.  But they should remember that a major reason for God’s condemnation of ancient Israel and a reason why He let their nations be brought down, was because they exploited and neglected the poor.  Maybe a reason why churches won’t address this issue is because too many of their members are involved in exploitation – people who appease their conscience by making generous donations to the church!

Note the following condemnation of supposedly dedicated people who fast, but oppress the poor while they fast.   “You seem eager for God to come near you.  Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Yet is not this the kind of fasting I, your Lord, have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them?” (Isaiah 58: 2-7).

Also note: Prov. 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

One way in which the poor are exploited is through usury.   Millions of people are heavily in debt.  It’s too easy to say that they brought it on themselves.  It would be better to look at what the Bible says.  What many Christians do not realize is that usury, the charging of interest, is condemned in the Bible.  “If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him…Take no usury or interest from him….”  (Leviticus 25:35-36).  In stark contrast to this biblical instruction, our cities are full of “Cash Advance” stores that charge exorbitant rates of interest.  The more interest people have to pay on loans, the less money they have to spend, hence the recession!

It wasn’t until 1694 that a Christian country, England, allowed interest to be charged, when the Bank of England was founded.  Before that, Christians were not involved in banking.  That was the preserve of Jews.  This practice often led to pogroms against the Jews.  In York, England, in 1190, all the Jews in the city were killed, when town officials stirred up the people in order to get out from under their own debt obligations.

Today, we see people’s debts constantly rising.  Student loan debt is at an all-time high.  Many students will never be able to pay off their debt and will never be able to buy a house, marry or start a family.  In spite of this, our society encourages people to get deeper into debt.

What’s needed is a biblical Year of Jubilee.  The peoples of ancient Israel were instructed to cancel all debts once every fifty years.  You can read about this in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 25.  The result of the Year of Jubilee was that nobody could become too wealthy or too poor.  Instead of the Year of Jubilee, we have a depression or a recession approximately once every fifty years.  The Great Recession of 2008 was brought on by too much debt.  We have not been able to get back to where we were before 2008 and we won’t be able to until we cancel all debts.

It’s an ancient idea but it remains the best way forward for western nations today!