Tag Archives: US Congress

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON RECENT EVENTS

24-storey apartment building in London on fire

I stayed up late a week ago to watch the British election results, broadcast live on BBC World’s television channel.   It soon became clear that Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives were not doing well. Mrs. May had called an early election to strengthen her position prior to the start of Brexit talks with the European Union.   Her gamble failed – she now finds herself leading a party that does not control over 50% of parliament.   To stay in office, she has had to enter a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the pro-British faction from Northern Ireland.

This is already being misinterpreted by Sinn Fein, the anti-British, pro-republican faction from Northern Ireland; it could easily lead to further violence in the province.

There’s another threat to the coalition. Mrs. May also relies on the Scottish Conservatives, who did extremely well in the election, increasing their parliamentary representation from one to thirteen seats.  Their leader, Ruth Davidson, who is married to her female partner, is a fervent supporter of same-sex marriage; while the Northern Irish conservatives are socially very traditional.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this all works out.

At the very least, it has weakened the government at a crucial time, as negotiations begin on Monday, with the most efficient and uncompromising bureaucracy on the face of the earth – the European Union.

An additional threat comes from the opposition Labour Party.   A prominent voice in the party is calling for one million people to take to the streets to bring down Mrs. May.   Sound familiar?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  (Mark 3:25.)

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EUROPEAN LEADERS CHILDLESS

Talking of Europe, note the following, sent by a friend in New Zealand:

• Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, has no             children.
•  German chancellor Angela Merkel has no children.
•  British prime minister Theresa May has no children.
•  Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has no children.
•  Holland’s Mark Rutte, has no children.
•  Sweden’s Stefan Löfven, has no children.
•  Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, has no children.
•  Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon has no children.
•  Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has        no children.

So a grossly disproportionate number of the people making decisions about Europe’s future have no direct personal stake in that future.

Additionally, in the last few days, the Irish Republic has a new prime minister.   He also has no children.  The press has been full of the fact that he is the youngest prime minister ever.   He is also half-Indian and gay, neither of which is an issue.   (Serbia’s new prime minister is also gay, as is Luxembourg’s PM.)

At the very least, all the above are thinking short-term, wanting to win the next election.   When Europe was dominated by kings, at the very least the leaders wanted to preserve their thrones for their descendants;  this also meant ensuring the continuation of the nation-state.   Both of these factors no longer apply.

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THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

Talking of kings, King Henry II got a mention in the US Congress a week ago.   Henry died long before the United States ever existed as a nation – even before America was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus.   He reigned from 1154-1189.

Note the following from Vanity Fair:

“The James Comey hearing has officially gone medieval.   A little less than two hours into the former FBI director’s highly watched testimony, Comey dropped a reference to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed at the casual request of King Henry II in the year 1170.   The reference popped up when Senator Angus King was questioning Comey, asking him about Donald Trump’s seemingly casual but firm request to have Comey drop the FBI’s Michael Flynn investigation.  Though Trump did not demand outright that Comey drop the investigation, even his slightest requests come with an air of seriousness, King suggested.

“Do you take that as a directive?” King asked Comey of Trump’s question.

“Yes, yes,” Comey replied.   “It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’”

Henry II was a very significant monarch.   James Comey learned a lesson from his reign.   Today’s British people, who have experienced three terrorist attacks in less than three months, could learn something else.   Note the following:

“Henry II, who is considered the father of the common law, promulgated the Assize of Arms in 1181. This required all (male) British citizens between 15 and 40 to purchase and keep arms.   The type of arms required varied with wealth; the wealthiest had to provide themselves with full armor, sword, dagger, and war horse, while even the poorest citizens, “the whole community of freemen,” must have leather armor, helmet and a lance.   Twice a year all citizens were to be inspected by the king’s officials to insure that they possessed the necessary arms.   Conversely, the English made it quite clear that the king was to be expected to depend exclusively upon his armed freemen.   When rebellious barons forced John I to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, they inserted in its prohibitions a requirement that he “expel from the kingdom all foreign knights, crossbowmen, sergeants, and mercenaries, who have come with horses and weapons to the harm of the realm.” (Historical Basis of the Right to keep and bear arms, by David P. Hardy, 1982)

During the recent terror attacks in England, on each occasion, one armed citizen could have made a significant difference and saved lives.  Medieval monarchs were very concerned that the people should be able to defend themselves against the French; today, the threat is Islamic extremists, but the principle remains the same.

Also note, in the quote above, that Henry’s second son, John, one of the worst monarchs in English history, was required by the people to “expel from the kingdom all foreign knights, crossbowmen, sergeants and mercenaries, who have come with horses and weapons to the harm of the realm.”

No prizes for guessing who should be expelled today!

It should be noted that King Henry did not introduce the right to bear arms; he simply restored an ancient right that went back to at least the reign of Alfred the Great, in the 9th century.  The Vikings were one of the problems at that time.  The threat changes, but a threat is always there.

With this in mind, I found the following interesting while studying this morning:   “The story of David and Goliath is helpful since “five smooth stones” and a “sling” are the closest equivalent to a handgun we can find in the Bible.   David seems to have been armed with his sling at all times.   There was no way he could run home to get his sling when a lion or a bear was about to attack his flock.   (1 Sam. 17:31-37, 41-54)

It’s possible that Jesus had the Old Testament case law in mind when He offered this injunction to His disciples:   “But be sure of this, if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”   (Matt 24:43) (“Jesus, Guns and Self-defence – what does the Bible say?”)

Christians should, of course, strive to live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)   Jesus Christ said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matt 5:9)   He also told us to “turn the other cheek.”  (vs. 38-39)

With terrorism, we are dealing with a totally different mind-set from Jesus Christ, a religious belief system that encourages and celebrates killing en masse.   People have to be able to defend themselves. King Henry understood this.   Today’s leaders in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada need to address the issue, enabling people to defend themselves from acts of barbarism.   In contrast, Australia has just announced an amnesty calling on citizens to hand over illegal weapons.

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THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON, 2017

The tragic apartment block fire in London dominated the news on Wednesday.   30 deaths have been confirmed, but scores of people are still missing.   There were also over sixty injured.   What started the fire is not known at this time, but a material used in construction appears to have helped the fire to quickly spread.   The Daily Express said Thursday that EU environmental directives could be the cause.

Most of the people in the apartment block seemed to have been from other countries in Africa and Asia.   Looking at the high-rise (24-storey) block of flats, as they are called in England, I wondered why people would leave their own countries to live in such an awful place.

My wife and I have spent many happy days in African villages.   I can truthfully say that I would rather live in one of those than in a high-rise apartment block in London, or any other major city.   Isaiah 5:8 warns against living too close to each other.   “Woe unto them that join house to house.”

What attracts people to move to the West varies for each individual. One of the established reasons in the UK is the generous welfare benefits.   Perhaps some of that money could be diverted to African villages to bring water and electricity to communities to improve their quality of life.   Together with the abolition of welfare for new arrivals, this would go some way to help solve the immigration crisis.

On BBC World this morning, interviews with survivors of the fire revealed a lot of understandable anger.   It’s also clear that many have an “entitlement mentality,” demanding that the government re-house them immediately, claiming that hotels are not good enough; they also dismissed Theresa May’s call for an independent inquiry – they want those responsible punished NOW.

Since writing the above, some residents and neighbors have stormed the local town hall, chanting their demands, blaming the fire on the Conservative government.   There was no logic – just a mob mentality. Scary and a sign of things to come. 


 

ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS

  • At the moment, the bar for taking extremists out of circulation is set ridiculously high.   People known for their own extremism that reaches pre-terrorist levels should not be walking the streets when they have expressed support for Islamic State (ISIS) or tried to head to Syria or called for the destruction of Britain and other democracies or allied themselves to people already in prison. Their demand for free speech or freedom of belief must never be elevated above the rights of citizens to live safely in their own towns and cities.   It is essential for parliament to lower the bar.
  • Is this to be the political landscape for the future, where groups of people demanding death and destruction are given the freedom of the streets whilst those wishing to hold a peaceful celebration are prevented from doing so?
  • To see extremist Islam as a “perversion” of Islam misses an important point.   The politically correct insistence that radical versions of Islam somehow pervert an essentially peaceful and tolerant faith forces policy-makers and legislators, church leaders, rabbis, interfaith workers and the public at large to leave to one side an important reality.   Flatly, Islam in its original and classic forms has everything to do with today’s radicals and the violence they commit.   The Qur’an is explicit in its hatred for pagans, Jews and Christians.   It calls for the fighting of holy war (jihad) to conquer the non-Muslim world, subdue it, and gradually bring it into the fold of Islam. Islam has been at war with Europe since the seventh century.

(“No tolerance for extremism, “ by Denis McMacEion, Gatestone Institute, 6/16).

 

PEACE IN OUR TIME

obama+chamberlain

President Obama’s peace deal with Iran brings to mind Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in 1938.   That was when he met with “Herr Hitler” and came back waving a piece of paper, proudly proclaiming “peace in our time.”   One year later he had to declare war on Hitler.   A broken man, he died a few months after that.

When hearing assurances of peace in our time, I am not only reminded of Neville Chamberlain.  I also remember the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:3.  “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.   And they shall not escape.”

Whether or not this verse is applicable specifically to the Iran peace treaty remains to be seen.  The Middle East is a very volatile region and the West seems unable to keep its collective nose out of it, so further conflicts are inevitable.

However, involvement by the West is not an essential component of any Mideast conflict.  Regional powers are quite capable of warring amongst themselves.

A root cause of conflict in the region is the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam.  Iran is the leader of the Shi’ite camp, fighting ISIS in Iraq, which is now ruled by Shia Muslims, thanks to western intervention in the country.   Syria’s Assad is another proxy of Iran. Tehran is also supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen against the Saudi backed Sunni Muslims.

The fear of Iran amongst the Sunnis is palpable.   Fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb is inevitably going to lead to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey trying to acquire the same.   Turning to al-Qaeda for help against ISIS is another.  Yes, that’s right – these three countries, allies of the US, are now backing al-Qaeda against the Islamic State! The British  Spectator  magazine has a really good article on this latest development in the current issue.   (“The enemy’s enemy:  how Arab states have turned to al-Qa’eda” by Ahmed Rashid, 18th July).

The other major conflict in the Middle East is the more familiar one between the Jews and the Palestinians.   In modern history this predates Israel’s independence in May, 1948.   The never-ending conflict saw its latest flare up last year when Hamas (supported by Iran) lobbed thousands of missiles at Israeli settlements.   When Israel retaliated to defend itself, world opinion inevitably turned against Israel.

The dispute is not over.  It will flare up again.   As will problems with Lebanese based Hizbollah (also Iranian backed) and the Palestinians on the West Bank.

This can also escalate into a religious dispute.   According to the Israeli Video Network, the Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, called on Friday for the construction of a Third Temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Temple Mount.

“The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the second Temple in 70 CE, and ever since the Jewish People have been mourning its loss.”

“‘He then went on to say “Al-Aqsa Mosque is currently in place of the temple, despite the temple being much holier than it.   Al-Aqsa Mosque is only the third most holy mosque in Islam.”   “Now that Israel has once again become a Jewish sovereign state, the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger”, he added.”

Excavations under the Al-Aqsa led to violent demonstrations by Palestinians a few years ago.  Any attempt to replace the Al-Aqsa with a new Temple building would likely provoke World War III!

This does not mean to say that nothing will happen.   As Mr. Ariel said, “the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger.”

Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city.   It’s not over yet.   ”When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that it’s desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).   Jesus said this in response to His disciples asking about future events that would precede His second coming.

These two disputes go back centuries.  Nothing we do today is going to resolve them.   Between them, they daily threaten Mideast peace. If both flare-up at the same time, the whole world could be engulfed in a never-ending conflagration.

A further potential conflict, made more likely by the peace deal with Iran, is a war between Israel and Iran.  Israel’s prime minister has reacted very negatively to the peace treaty.  He is now working on the US Congress to try to get that body to reject the peace treaty.  If that fails, his last option will be to bomb Iran.  An alternative to that is to wait until Iran actually has the bomb and can then attack Israel.

In addition to the three major conflicts that can quickly escalate, there are “minor” conflicts like the civil war in Syria, continuing anarchy in Libya and the possibility of war between Turks and Kurds.

World leaders should be careful proclaiming “peace and safety” (“peace in our time”), lest “sudden destruction “ should come upon them.

TWIN THREATS PROMPT CALLS FOR ACTION

Pope

One thousand years after the Crusades, the Pope is calling for force to be used to protect Christians in the Middle East.

The Catholic website “Crux” is currently leading with the headline:  “Vatican backs military force to stop ISIS ‘genocide’.”   The news story begins with the following two paragraphs:

“In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.

“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t do something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”

At the same time, the Fox News website’s top story is:  “Islamic State intensifies its efforts TO WIPE OUT CHRISTIANITY.”

Meanwhile, there has been another call for a European Army.

Presently, every single country in Europe has its own military.   However, many European nations are members of NATO and co-operate greatly on defense.  In spite of increasing threats to the peace and stability of Europe, some European countries have been cutting defense expenditure in order to balance their budgets in a time of austerity.   This has caused some resentment in the United States.  Many feel that Europeans are not pulling their weight.  A number of countries are spending less than the required 2% of their budgets on defense.

At the same time, Europeans are concerned that Americans seem intent on raising the stakes in Ukraine by sending more arms to Kiev.   This scares some European governments including Germany.  Additionally, the US is closing 15 military bases in Europe, as if to emphasize that the country’s priorities are changing.

Europeans see Russia as their greatest threat at this time.  So do many members of the US Congress.  However, differences remain on how best to handle Russia.

The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has called for an EU Army to make the Russians realize that Europe is serious about Russia’s threats (“Jean Claude Juncker calls for EU Army,” The Guardian, 8 March).

In the last twelve months, Russia has invaded and annexed Crimea, continues to occupy (supposedly through surrogates) eastern Ukraine and has increased intimidating military flights over the Baltic countries and the United Kingdom.

But Russia may not be the biggest military challenge Europeans face.   Islamic extremism could be an even bigger problem.

The Europeans have to contend with both ISIS and Al-Qaeda.  The latter was behind the attacks in Paris in January.  ISIS is now at Europe’s back door with a significant presence in Libya, Italy’s former colony, and not that far away from the Italian peninsula.   ISIS also now has an ally in Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State a few weeks ago.   Boko Haram is causing a great deal of turmoil in Nigeria and neighboring countries, all of which have commercial and historical ties with European countries and the EU.

The Bible highlights the fact that the Middle East is at the center of Bible prophecy.  Many of the prophecies in scripture could not have been fulfilled until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire less than a hundred years ago.  The subsequent peace treaty created a number of new countries, many of which remain in varying degrees of conflict and instability.  Deeper tensions came with the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948.   These events have made the final biblical scenario all the more credible.

Daniel 11:40-41 prophecies:  “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.  He shall also enter the Glorious Land (the Holy Land)….”

Earlier in chapter 11 we read a prophecy, written in the sixth century BC, of Alexander the Great.  His empire, a fulfilled prophecy, came about two centuries after the prophetic words of Daniel were written.  As predicted, his empire was eventually divided between his four generals.  Two of these generals founded biblically significant dynasties, one to the north of Jerusalem (the King of the North, or the Seleucid dynasty) and one to the south of Jerusalem (the King of the South, or the Ptolemaic dynasty).   These two dynasties were often in conflict.  As the Jews were in the middle, they suffered greatly because of them.

After the horrendous climactic events in the middle of the second century BC, the prophecy takes us down to the present time, where, once again, there’s a king of the North and a King of the South.   It should be noted that the prophecy has a gap of two thousand years because the Jews did not have a country of their own during that time.  Now, once again, they do.

The ancient King of the North was conquered by the Roman Empire in 60 A.D.   A new revived Roman Empire is going to emerge as the new King of the North, although it won’t be called by that name.  But it will fulfill the prophecy in Daniel 11.  It will send troops into the Middle East to deal with the growing threat of Islamic militancy, political turmoil and conflict.  A European Army is more likely to be used in this region than against Russia.

But, after intervening in the Middle East, that same army may have to deal with Russia.  “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him . . .” (v. 44).   It should be noted that Russia, Iran, Syria and a number of central Asian, former Soviet republics, co-operate militarily.  If Europe was embroiled in the Middle East, Russia would no doubt take advantage and annex other countries that were formerly in its empire.

This brings us back to the pope’s call for force to be used to save Christians in the Middle East.

In the latter part of the eleventh century, Muslim Turks massacred Christians and treated surviving Christians cruelly.  This led to Pope Urban II in 1095 calling for a Crusade against the Muslims, to free the Christians in the Holy Land.  The Crusades lasted two hundred years.

Today, it’s not the Turks who are persecuting Christians.  It’s ISIS and other extremis groups.   And, it’s not just Christians who need protecting.   Other minorities also need intervention on their behalf.   But, as with events a thousand years ago, it could be the pope who calls nations to arms.

Western civilization is once again seriously threatened.  Politicians, never able to see beyond the next election, seem blinded to this reality.   The papacy is, once again, more in tune with global reality.

The pope’s call, together with the call for an EU Army, show that the prophecies of your Bible are on track, leading ultimately to the second coming of Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom.

NETANYAHU’S ADDRESS HIGHLIGHTS DIVISIONS OVER ISLAMIC MILITANTS

Netanyahu

Prior to 9/11, most Americans were barely aware of the religion of Islam.

In the short time since that tragic day, Islam has established its presence in the country with mosques and schools in every sizeable community.   The president of the United States has even said that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian-Islamic principles.

One thing the religion has done is divide the country and other nations where there has been widespread immigration from Muslim lands, mostly in the Middle East.

At no time has that division been greater than now.

In France, it was the Charlie Hebdo killings that caused the division, between those on the right of the political spectrum who want an end to Islamization and the immigrants themselves, supported by those on the left who side with them.

In Germany, there is PEGIDA staging weekly demonstrations against the Islamization of Europe.   Critical of PEGIDA are the established political parties who bend over backwards to assure Muslims that there is a place for them in their societies.

Now division has come to the United States with the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Some would say the division is over Israel.   But the divide is also over how best to handle militant Islam.

The gulf between the two became clearer today when the Prime Minister addressed the US Congress in Washington.

The invitation to speak came from the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. The White House made it clear that it was opposed to Netanyahu speaking, claiming it was a breach of protocol so close to the Israel election.

Although most Democrats did listen to the speech, Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, was very critical almost immediately afterwards, claiming she was “near tears” throughout the speech and “saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States.” She was reportedly visibly agitated while Mr. Netanyahu was speaking.

The subject of the speech was Iran and the imminent deal between western allies with the Iranian regime over its nuclear program.   The deadline for this agreement is March 31st.   Mr. Netanyahu believes that the impending agreement will make it more likely that Iran will develop nuclear weapons – and soon.

The division is clear – and not just over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

The division is between those who see a serious threat from militant Islam and those who are in denial.   Iran is not the only threat but it was the focus of the prime minister’s address.   Iran with a nuclear weapon could annihilate Israel, a small country and near neighbor.   Indeed, Iran has threatened to annihilate “the world’s only Jewish state.”

The prime minister reminded his audience of the story of Esther, the Jewish queen married to a Persian king in the fifth century BC.   The Persian king at the time wanted to annihilate the Jews, just as today’s Iranian leadership does.   Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 4th) is the Feast of Purim, which commemorates the delivery of the Jews from total disaster.

More recently, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s chief terrorist proxy said:  “If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down all over the world.”

Although Iran is not an Arab country and has traditionally been isolated as the only major Shi’ite Islamic nation, today it dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a.   Mr. Netanyahu referenced Iran’s support against Sunni Islamic ISIS, claiming that their support against ISIS does not make them a friend of America.   It’s a case of “the enemy of your enemy is your enemy!”

“Both ISIS and Iran want to impose a militant Islamic empire,” he warned.

“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam and nuclear weapons.”   This clearly would change everything in the Middle East and the wider world beyond.

Mr. Netanyahu’s address was impassioned.   We have not heard such a powerful speech from a politician in many years.   It is particularly impressive when we consider that English is not his first language.   Mr. Netanyahu and former British statesman Sir Winston Churchill are the only two world leaders who have addressed Congress on three occasions.   Following the speech, Netanyahu was compared on at least two news channels to Churchill, who spent the 1930’s warning of the impending threat from the Nazis, as Netanyahu warns of the increasing threat from militant Islam.   If the world had heeded Churchill, the Holocaust would not have happened. If the world listens to Netanyahu, a future holocaust may be averted.

Students of the Bible know that Jerusalem, Israel’s “eternal capital” will be the focus of major conflict in the near future.

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah, writing about events leading up to the Second Coming of the Messiah, prophesied that Jerusalem and Judah (Israel) will be at the center of the final conflict to confront mankind.

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.   And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”  (Zech 12:2-3.)

Zechariah 14:2 adds:   “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.”

Centuries later, Jesus Christ, answering a question about the “signs of His Coming,” said:   “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”

Mr. Netanyahu was right when he pointed out that “we share a common destiny.”   What happens over there will affect us over here – and all countries in between.

The day before he addressed the US Congress, Mr. Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United States.   He said then that, whereas the President of the United States spends every day thinking about America’s security, as Israel’s prime minister, he spends every day thinking of Israel’s survival.

In that one sentence, he encapsulated the difference between the leaders of the two nations.   At the present time, militant Islam is a matter of national security to the United States.  If Mr. Netanyahu’s warning is not taken seriously, it could soon become a matter of national survival, as it is in Israel.