Tag Archives: The End of 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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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.