Tag Archives: The Atlantic

THE ECLIPSE OF THE CHURCH

I lost a good friend this week.

We worked together a long time ago.   For many years we’ve been hundreds of miles apart, but we were always able to see each other, with our wives, at our annual church conference.

That is, until the latest split took place.   He and his wife went one way and we went the other.   So, for the last few years of his life, we did not get together.

Church splits can be devastating on relationships.   Even marriages have fallen apart when partners don’t see eye to eye on church affiliation.   More than one church I know of teaches that its followers should have nothing to do with people in other church organizations, even when they are family.

It’s ironic when you consider that Jesus Christ said:  “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35).

Unfortunately, churches are not immune from selfish ambition, differences over administration or doctrinal disagreement, three of the primary causes of splits.

True Christians will always strive to fulfill the words of Jesus Christ; even as others in their midst will deliberately cause division, believing that God is on their side.

One of the root causes of division is that people have a tendency to follow men.   The Apostle Paul wrote about this in I Corinthians where some were following Apollos, some Peter and some Paul.   As Paul said elsewhere, we should only follow one man and that man is Jesus Christ.   That means we should all live in accordance with His words.   What a novel idea!!!

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ECLIPSE OF THE CHURCH

Church splits are one reason why churches are in decline.   This is true of all churches, including mainstream Catholic and Protestant churches.   The vacuum is often filled by other religions. Note the following headline from the Gatestone Institute:

Londonistan:   423 New Mosques; 500 Closed Churches          by Giulio Meotti  •  April 2, 2017

Londonistan is a term often used to describe contemporary London, Britain’s capital.   It is, like many cities in the UK, becoming increasingly Islamic.   But that’s not the only problem churches face, on both sides of the Atlantic.

“For most of the country’s history, white Christian America —the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national conversations and shaped American ideals.   But today, many white Christian Americans feel profoundly anxious as their numbers and influence are waning.    The two primary branches of their family tree, white mainline and white evangelical Protestants, offer competing narratives about their decline.   White mainline Protestants blame evangelical Protestants for turning off the younger generation with their anti-gay rhetoric and tendency to conflate Christianity with conservative, nationalist politics.   White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, blame mainline Protestants for undermining Christianity because of their willingness to sell out traditional beliefs to accommodate contemporary culture.”   (“The Eclipse of White Christian America,” Robert P. Jones, The Atlantic)

Many people still believe in God – they just don’t want to join a church.   Consequently, churches are becoming irrelevant, arguably the worst thing that can happen to a church.

One reason for irrelevancy is that churches have failed to understand the dramatic changes that have taken place in the western world in the last few decades.

The writer and former atheist Peter Hitchens, now a deeply religious man, wrote an interesting book in the late 1990’s, showing how much Britain had changed in one generation.   The book “The Abolition of Britain” compared the United Kingdom at the time of Churchill’s funeral (in 1965) with the country at the time of Princess Diana’s funeral, in 1997.

Whereas the people who witnessed Churchill’s funeral were little changed from those who stood in the crowds at Victoria’s funeral in 1901, by the time of Diana’s funeral the mourners were a nation of emotional basket-cases, rather like Diana herself.   In the interim, churches had been replaced by psychiatrists, prescription drugs, mental health workers, television, movies and celebrities.

At the same time, we have witnessed the collapse of the traditional family.   Many people today don’t even know what a family is – they call friends family and won’t even speak to people to whom they are related.

All of this shows a crying need for churches, for the restoration of basic Christianity and biblical teachings on marriage and the family.   (Forget the doctrinal differences that separate Christians from one another.)   Yet churches are not comfortable with the “un-churched.” That was not a problem with Jesus Christ.   Note the following from Matthew 9:10-13:

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.   And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

This passage of scripture could be speaking to us today.   Many of Christ’s followers were appalled that He was mixing with “publicans and sinners.”   But those publicans and sinners needed Christ and His healing.

Just like people today.   Only today, the problems are different.   It’s unlikely that anybody joining a church today will not have an addiction, whether it be an eating or mental disorder, a sexual or drinking problem.   Each of these requires professional help from outside of the church; but there’s also a need for spiritual healing, to remove the cause of the problem.   This can only come from the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.

The need for Christ has never been greater.   It’s churches that are at fault – many Christians will judge and condemn, when what’s needed most is love and compassion, two qualities sadly lacking today.

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CHURCH AND STATE

It’s not just churches that are divided.

Our countries are also seriously divided, perhaps more so than ever before.   This is especially true of the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British historian Paul Johnson, now 88, observed in his 1972 book, “The Offshore Islanders,” that “disunity has always been fatal for the island nation.”

The book was about Britain’s relationship with the European continent – ironically, that’s the issue dividing the country today.   Although the majority of voters want to leave the EU, there’s a solid hardcore that will stop at nothing to remain in the organization.

A different division exists in America.   There are those who are very loyal to Donald Trump, but others who will seemingly stop at nothing to get him removed from office.

The “antis” on both sides of the Atlantic do not care how much damage they cause – their hatred and anger knows no bounds.   Our countries are in danger of falling apart.   Once again, selfish ambition and greed are at the core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”

“METHINKS HE PROTESTS TOO MUCH!”

Islam peace

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After the gruesome murders of over thirty British tourists on a Tunisian beach Friday, the British Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to condemn the atrocity.  But he was also quick to remind those listening that Islam is a religion of peace and that terrorists have seized and perverted Islam.

He is now calling on the national media to stop referring to “Islamic State,” the name that ISIS calls itself.

“Methinks he protests too much!”

For years now, we’ve been hearing of terrorist acts committed by Muslims in many different countries.  Yes, occasionally, we hear of a terrorist act committed by Hindus and individual acts of violence by supposed Christians, like the one in Charleston two weeks ago.   But most terrorism is committed by Muslims, both Shia and Sunni.

Sometimes, it’s hard for politicians to come out and tell the truth, but one day somebody will have to, if we are to ever win “the Great War of our time,” as Michael Morell calls it.  Mr. Morell was the former deputy director of the CIA.

Mr. Cameron’s call to end the use of the term “Islamic State” led to a discussion on the BBC World Service (radio) this morning.   It amazes me with so much going on, with terrorist attacks threatening us all and with IS constantly expanding its territory, that we can indulge ourselves in discussions of semantics on worldwide radio.

At one point, the term “Islamic State” was being discussed.  One contributor said we should not use it as ISIS is not Islamic and not a State.  What is it then?

I googled a definition of “state.”   The following definition came back: “a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government.”   Based on this definition, IS is certainly a state, or country.   It’s not a “state” as in the US, which is a federation of 50 states.  But it is as much a state as Germany, Italy, France, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.

It has territory.  In fact, it has more of it every week.  It now controls most of Libya and has clearly expanded its influence into Tunisia, with two major terrorist attacks in three months.

It’s also an “organized political community under one government.” It’s certainly not organized like other countries, but in its own way it’s organized and has a central authority that lords it over the people, just like other governments.

So why can’t it call itself “Islamic State?”

The problem is that it gives Islam a bad name.

But, that’s nothing new.  Islam has had a bad name for 1400 years, ever since its founder, the prophet Muhammed, told his followers to go out and kill all infidels, to conquer the world.

Our ancestors knew that this was reality.   On a number of occasions during this long time period Europeans were in a state of armed conflict trying to stop Muslims from conquering Europe or the Middle East.   Yes, President Obama was correct when he reminded listeners that Christians did some terrible things, but now is now.  It’s not Christians that are threatening to shoot or behead us en masse, it’s Muslims in general, al-Qaeda, al-Shahaab and ISIS in particular.

And it doesn’t help when Messrs Cameron and Obama keep repeating that Islam is a religion of peace.

In fact, it shows them up as being ignorant of history.

It also shows that they haven’t read Graeme Wood’s groundbreaking article on ISIS in the March issue of The Atlantic, the most read article in the magazine’s long history.  Wood’s long article showed that ISIS represents true Islam, that the organization’s roots can be found in the seventh century and that they see themselves fulfilling eschatological prophecies before the advent of the Messiah.

Refusing to recognize this is irresponsible.  People cannot defend themselves if they cannot clearly identify the enemy.  ISIS is the real Islam and it has territory, so it has every right to call itself “Islamic State.”   In fact, it’s the perfect name for this political entity.

One of Mr. Cameron’s predecessors as prime minister, a fellow Conservative leader, Winston Churchill, did not come on the radio after every Nazi attack to remind the British people that it wasn’t the Germans who were doing this, it was only the Nazis who represented hardly anybody.   If he had, it’s doubtful that victory would have been achieved.

Mr. Cameron’s England is more reminiscent of a book written shortly after World War II.   In George Orwell’s “1984,” the Ministry of Truth told nothing but lies, even going so far as to rewrite history for the newspapers.  It was almost impossible to think for yourself. If you did, it wouldn’t be long until the Thought Police caught up with you.  Today’s “thought police”, employees of the Ministry of Truth, are the multiculturalists who keep telling us that Islam is a religion of peace and threaten us with prison if we say otherwise.

Meanwhile, the “proles,” the proletariat, the ordinary people of Orwell’s England, were fobbed off with endless entertainment, so they wouldn’t think too much.   It’s a good thing he died in 1950 – an evening with cable television would have finished him off, anyway.

Mr. Cameron should remember Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the story of a gullible king who was sold a miracle new fabric that only his loyal subjects could see.   Then, one day while riding in a parade, a little boy, who was not privy to the secret of the new fabric, shouted out before all, that the king had no clothes on.   As Danny Kaye sang it in song:  “Look at the king, the king, the king…..the king is in the all-together, the all-together, as naked as can be.”

One day, with increased acts of terrorism in our own countries, it will become impossible to keep repeating the mantra that Islam is a religion of peace.

But, by then, it may be too late!

ISIS IS THE TRUE FACE OF ISLAM

Job cartoonGraeme Wood graduated from Harvard University in 2001 and speaks fluent Russian and some Arabic.   He is a Canadian journalist.

Mr. Wood has written an in-depth, thought-provoking article in the March issue of The Atlantic, on “What ISIS really wants.”

It’s likely to be the most discussed article on the subject for some time.

The article stands in complete contrast to statements made by western leaders, who claim that ISIS does not represent Islam and that terrorism is not Islamic.

Mr. Wood delves deep into Islamic history and shows that, in fact, the opposite is the case, that ISIS is the real face of Islam and represents the true face of the religion.   He makes such a convincing case to support his argument that I doubt anybody will sit down and argue with him.   The facts fit.   The question is:   what are we going to do about it?

Today, the BBC World Service revealed that the number of Christians abducted by ISIS fighters on Monday from villages in North-East Syria is between 370 – 500, not the 70 originally thought to have been kidnapped.   To say that fears are growing for their safety is an understatement.   They may be used as hostages and traded for ISIS fighters taken as prisoners.   According to Mr. Wood:   “Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government.   Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation.   The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.”

It has also been confirmed that three teenage girls who left England last week for Turkey crossed the border into Syria to join ISIS.   The fact that they all went to an exclusive private school is further proof that joblessness and poverty do not cause terrorism, as the US Administration claims.

Earlier today, three Americans were charged with trying to leave the country to join ISIS.   One of them even promised to kill the President of the United States if asked to do so.

Others, in both countries, have already gone to Syria to join the organization.   ISIS is said to be attracting hundreds of new fighters each day.

“Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State.   Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places.   Many have come to fight, and many intend to die.”   (Wood, What ISIS Really Wants)

Meanwhile, as the threat from ISIS increases, the US and UK are continuing to reduce the size of their militaries, according to reports on today’s Fox News website and in last week’s Economist.   The report on Fox News was based on the Heritage Foundation’s “2015 Index of US Military Strength,” which concluded that, for the first time in decades, the US can no longer fight and win two wars at the same time.   During the last decade, the country and its allies fought two simultaneous wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguably losing both wars.   There is a very real possibility that wars against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram may have to be fought in three different regions while, at the same time, there is also a very real prospect of a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine or maybe even the Baltic states.

A few days ago, I posted an article to my blog, titled “What If The President Is Wrong?”   This was just after his claim that terrorism is caused by joblessness.

A few days later, I read Mr. Wood’s article in The Atlantic.   Joblessness is not the problem.   Rather, we have here a fundamentalist movement that is returning Islam to its 1400-year-old roots and copying Muhammed in the way he dealt with infidels and those in conquered lands.

Monday’s Chicago Tribune put it well:   “What motivates these people?   Why do so many of them, Westerners included, eagerly come to the desert to fight and die?

“The best examination we’ve seen appears in the current issue of the The Atlantic.   “What ISIS Really Wants,” by Graeme Wood, argues that Islamic State is not a death cult that distorts Islam in a bid to gain political power.   Rather, it is a fanatically rigid religious movement based on specific teachings and traditions of seventh century Islam, which it implements to a dangerously literal        degree . . .”

“In the view of Islamic State leaders, there is only one extremely narrow belief path to follow – its own puritanical Salafist branch of Sunni Islam.   The rest of us, even practicing Muslims, are infidels to be subjugated or killed . . . ”  (Knowing Islamic State and Its Vision)

What is particularly interesting in Graeme Wood’s article is the conviction that ISIS has, that they are to play a significant role in world history leading up to the apocalypse.   Christians will see in part a distortion of their own beliefs regarding end-time events.

“These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.”

This paragraph alone should tell us one thing – that ISIS is here to stay and will remain with us until the end-time events that Christians believe will see the return of Jesus Christ.

“What ISIS Really Wants” gives us a clear understanding of the beliefs and goals of ISIS.   The question now is how is the West going to react?