Then they came for the Muslims…

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Martin_Niemöller_(1952)
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Pastor Martin Niemöller

You may have heard or read a different version of this poem, because it exists in a number of forms. It certainly was given in speeches by Niemöller (1892-1984), who was a German Lutheran Pastor, contemporary and colleague of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (see last post). The version above is the one found on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, but in various guises it can be discovered, with mention of Communists, the ‘incurable’, the Social Democrats, etc. The point being made is basically that by not standing up for those who are ‘not like us’ or ‘not of our race/ religion/ creed/ political allegiance’, we do ourselves a disservice and thus fail to serve all of humanity.

The problem that confronted Niemöller was that, unlike some contemporaries at the time of the rise of Nazism, he did not speak out against Hitler, at least not at first, and this poem that we read is testimony to the anguish he felt over his initial inaction. He was anti-Communist, so welcomed the new Chancellor who was going to deal with the problems caused by what he saw as the prevalent social evil of his time, and deal firmly with those who were stirring things up and were enemies of the church. It was only as time went on, and each successive group of scapegoats were ‘dealt with’ that he started to realise where things were going. The Jews would appear to have been the group that suffered the most under Hitler, but they shared the concentration camps with political dissidents like communists as well as gypsies, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What Niemöller intended with his words was to convey how it started with those that ‘everyone disliked’ i.e. the political troublemakers, then it moved to a group marked by nothing except their religion or race (the Jews). It is often debated how a modern European ‘civilised’ nation like 20th century Germany could so easily have allowed these things to happen, but it was at the end of a centuries-long process of the dehumanisation of the Jews. Anti-Semitism may have complex roots but to simplify it as best as one can; the first step was when many Jews in Europe became bankers by trade. This was a niche for them to fill since the church, pre-reformation, banned the practice of usury (charging interest on loans), since this is actually forbidden in the laws of the Old Testament. Actually it was forbidden for Israelites to charge interest to fellow countrymen (brothers in the faith), but not those of other races or faiths, and so since Christians could not lend to each other professionally, Jews were able to exploit that market. Various Kings and Emperors across Europe employed their services to bankroll their armies as they tried to take more territory and defeat neighbours; because many of them resented paying the money back, they would concoct stories against Jews, like saying that they ate Christian babies – horrible stuff like that – or blame them on devilry and casting bad omens and spells when disasters occurred, and then allow mobs to ‘take matters into their own hands’ or just proclaim a law that all Jews be deported, and thus their debts went away with the exiles! Where Jews found they could stay, they tended to remain together for their own safety and so their ‘ghettoisation’ began; they often did not integrate well with Christians.

By the time of Nazism, even ‘scientific’ studies were used to offer proof that Jews were genetically inferior, or ‘subhuman’ to the ‘better races’ like the White European tribes. On top of this, laissez-faire capitalism, in its first recent outing, had collapsed the world markets in the Wall Street Crash of 1929 (just like it did again in 2008). People then realised, as many are realising this time around, that it was the fault of the banks and the unhindered greed of the bankers who could not stop the ‘boom’ of the 20s and went too far. For the reasons listed above, many of these bankers were Jewish! In finding who to blame for the woes of the First Great Depression, much was apportioned to the Jews, and so the rounding up of these people was easier to achieve. Problem was that not all bankers were Jews, and not all Jews were bankers, but who would be concerned with such petty truths when people have a good old-fashioned lynch mob ready to take the trash out to the bins!

Anti-Semitism is on the rise again, and some are using the recent crash and New Depression in their finger-pointing efforts, but in the complexities of world politics, we have a situation where nobody really wants a return to persecuting the Jews like ’twas done a generation ago (fortunately), and Israel has become a powerful world nation with ties and links to major political powers. These days you only have to say that you’re not a fan of Woody Allen’s films to have the Anti-Defamation League accuse you of being anti-Semitic!

Enter the new scapegoats! The ‘Jews of the 21st century’! The Muslims!! Sure we all see the barbarity of those extremists who post their own videos online to boast to the world just how barbaric they can be as they do it all in the name of Allah, to cries of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ – sure we can see with our own eyes on our TV screens just how murderous and utterly detestable these people are! I’ll make no argument against that. I have already stated how the likes of ISIS are immoral human beings. However, just as not all Jews were or are bankers, and I believe we should apportion blame on those bankers who messed up (in 1929 and 2008) for our financial problems, so I also see that not all Muslims are extremists, and we should apportion the blame for the genocidal activities we are seeing on the extremists, and the extremists alone!

The dehumanising process has begun already. A large proportion of immigrants coming here are Muslims (actually escaping persecution by the extremists!); how often do we read in our media of ‘the death of an immigrant’ under a truck or of ‘a boatload of immigrants’ in the Mediterranean instead of the death of a boatload of people? They are fleeing the same groups that are our enemies, they are victims too. In the huge complexities that we need to wade through to find any sort of answer to this crisis (which I believe could be reduced from the megacrisis it is portrayed to be by parties interested in scapegoating again), we will have many questions difficult to answer. Let us relish the challenge instead of jerking our knees to the goose-step of hatred!

You don’t think they’re being dehumanised? Nobody is calling for their extermination, like the Nazis with the Jews? Think again! Almost a year ago, Charisma magazine online published an article from the website of the CADC (Christian Anti-Defamation Commission) that called for the extermination of all Muslims in the Western world! Actually it called for Muslims to ‘convert, leave, or die!’ – how and where does that sound familiar? While the CADC may be a fringe group, Charisma is a magazine of some note and a reasonable readership – its founder, Stephen Strang, was listed by TIME in 2005 in the ’25 most influential evangelicals in America’. I am very pleased to say that due to a flood of protests, Charisma removed the article and link, but never offered a reason for retraction nor an apology! To  think that they would even consider printing such an article is beyond my comprehension! I do not pass judgment on the salvation of other believers, but this attitude has zero to do with my faith, or my Jesus!!! The original article is still available here at defendchristians.org.

muslim-family-cropped-shutterstock_185552456-400x400Unlike Niemöller, who waited too long to be effective, I will start speaking out now, to halt the process that turns humans into cattle for slaughter, before we reach the day when we add a new line to that poem: “Then they came for the Muslims…”. I shall leave you with the very words of Pastor Niemöller [apologies for the imperfect translation], so you can sense his regret and angst:

When Pastor Niemöller was put in a concentration camp we wrote the year 1937; when the concentration camp was opened we wrote the year 1933, and the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers.
Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians – “should I be my brother’s keeper?”
Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. – I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? — Only then did the church as such take note. Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren’t guilty/responsible? The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers
I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out…. We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934 – there must have been a possibility – 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, it is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 Communists in the concentration camps, in order to let them die. I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine that we would have rescued 30-40,000 million [sic] people, because that is what it is costing us now.

Grace be with you.

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Slavery and ‘the Founding Fathers’

I was looking up some information on the founding fathers of the US, when I stumbled upon this speech, recorded from around 1687, that addressed the petition of a religious sect who were calling for the abolition of slavery. I found it fascinating:

“Have these people considered the consequences of granting their petition? If we cease our cruises, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who are to cultivate our lands? Who are to perform the common labours of our city, and in our families? Must we not then be our own slaves? And is there not more campassion and more favour due to us, than to these dogs? We have now above 50,000 slaves. This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If then we cease taking and making slaves of them, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half? and the revenues of government arising from its share of prizes must be totally destroyed. And for what? to gratify the whim of a whimsical sect! who would have us not only forbear making more slaves, but even to manumit those we have. But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss? Will the state do it? Is our treasury sufficient? Will this sect do it? Can they do it? Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners? And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them? Few of them will return to their countries, they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to: they will not embrace our holy religion: they will not adopt our manners: our people will not pollute themselves by intermarying with them: must we maintain them as beggars in our streets; or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage; for men accostomed to slavery, will not work for a livelihood when not compelled. And what is there so pitiable in their present condition? Were they not slaves in their own countries? Are they not all governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception? Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands? No, they have only exchanged one slavery for another: and I may say a better: for here they are brought into a land where the sun of our religion gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slaves home then, would be sending them out of light into darkness. I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labour without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild natives would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing; and they are treated with humanity. The labourers in their own countries, are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged and cloathed. The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no farther improvement. Here their lives are in safety. They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s pagan throats, as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots who now teaze us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burthen of a load of sins, and hope from the supposed merits of so good a work to be excused from damnation. How grosly are they mistaken in imagining slavery to be disallowed by the Holy Book! Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, Masters treat your slaves with kindness: Slaves serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity, clear proofs to the contrary? Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world and all that it contains to his faithful, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they can conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government, and producing general confusion. I have therefore no doubt, but this wise Council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers, to the whim of a few, and dismiss their petition.”

Such was the religious attitude at that time to the differences between the ‘civilised’ believers and the ‘heathen’ slaves. But I confess, I have doctored just a few words and omitted a couple of sentences that would have given away the truth; that this was written by an African Muslim from the Barbary coast (present day Morocco) where there had been pirating of European ships and enslaving of European Christians! It was included in an unpublished letter from Benjamin Franklin to the Federal Gazette on the topic of abolition. The full letter is here: http://franklinpapers.org.

The sect discussed here was a sect of Islam called the Erika or Purists, who opposed piracy and slavery. If you read the speech again, or maybe better, the unaltered version in the link above, there are surely many things that must spring to your mind… about us, our faith, our culture, our history…? I shall make no further comments myself.

Forgive me if this appears to be deceptive, but my device had a purpose, I hope!

Grace be with you.

Who can we blame for ebola?

I’m waiting for the conspiracy theories about how ebola has been manufactured by some sinister supra-government organisation at the behest of the Illuminati. Somebody is bound to offer ‘evidence’ for it. However, while we may all just see this as a new virus that has appeared in nature, we need to ask just why it is spreading right now with little action having been taken against it, especially considering it first appeared forty years ago!

I refuse to join in the media circus of fear that looks like keeping us housebound for the next year or so until this blows over in case we contract a disease that for now looks like it might take the lives of a few dozen people here who have been to West Africa. Unless it really does get worse – there have been many scares of this type over my lifetime.

No, the question remains: why have we not tackled the disease up until now? Why are we now instigating lockdowns and quarantines after ‘the horse has bolted’ from its African paddock? Forty years could well have seen the development of treatments and vaccines, surely. A BBC news report admitted the truth, rather softly, that “big pharmaceutical companies have not seen a market for such treatments!” In other words, they take the position that “those poor black Africans couldn’t afford the costs we would have to charge for our R&D and production.” Much rather pour billions into treatments for chlamydia and the development of viagra – that’s where the money lies. At what point do we actually take on board this 2000-year old axiom: “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1Tim. 6:10)?

For me, our current crisis is squarely at the foot of capitalism. These companies never think of a need for cures, nor do they have a passion for research or for saving lives; no, the market is their mantra, the god they serve!

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matt. 6:24)

Such development should be done by our governments, you say? Well then, let’s stop slashing budgets and stop listening, yet again, to these capitalists who detest paying their fair share of taxes. Many experts are stating that independent research has been severely underfunded for decades:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/nih-director-wed-have-an-ebola-vaccine-by-now-if-not-for-budget-cuts/

Grace be with you.

We need to unite with Muslims.

[14th August, 2014 – this blog was written before the most recent news came out of Iraq (in the Islamic State) of the fleeing Yazidis and Christians on Mount Sinjar. I still stand by my blog since there will still be victims of different religions in the IS, including innocent Muslims, and I am noticing a lot of Christian media seemingly ignoring the Yazidis and reporting this as ‘persecution of Christians’]…

 

I’ve noticed two things occurring a lot on the internet recently: First, different sites and sources stating that Christians are being persecuted, tortured and executed in places like the ISIS-controlled parts of Syria. Second, different sites and sources pinning blame on all Muslims, or just Islam, for all this trouble. Some even making claims like ‘99% of religious persecution is perpetrated by Muslims’. For me, it’s just ‘the new anti-Semitism’ and is almost ‘in vogue’ in some quarters.

At the outset, let me state where I stand; as a Christian, I see salvation only in one name; no other name has the power or is the medium by which we shall see God. Unlike deceivers like John Hagee, who could deceive ‘even the elect’ into a sort of syncretistic ‘super-religion’ of what I call Judaeo-Christianity, I stand by the very clear words of my own Lord:

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6)

NO EXCEPTIONS!

However, this does not mean that I can find no ground on which I can live with anyone of any other faith, or no faith. In fact, I am commanded to not only live peaceably with everyone (Romans 12:18), but to even love my enemies, and pray for my persecutors (Matthew 5:44). Jesus also gave us a caveat to warn us against stupidity:

‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’ (Matt. 10:16)

With this in mind, I must then seek to establish truth about any claims that I hear, to enable myself and others to discern just who are really perpetrators of wrong, and who are not, whom I can trust, and whom not, and to know how to deal with them. However, this in no way overthrows or supersedes his command to love.

I am also commanded to not let the world shape or infect my mind (Romans 12:2). In our modern world, we can fall into two opposing traps with politics and apply modern attitudes to Biblical truths: At one extreme, we must never let a blind devotion to any ideology to allow us to end up dismissing these truths if they don’t fit into that ideology. At the other end of the scale, indifference or cynicism with politics can lead us to treat anything we hear with a dismissive wave of the hand. Let us get this clear: Jesus did not say ‘love your enemies’ just for a quotable soundbite.

Now dealing with persecution of Christians; yes, there is a lot of it, and it is largely going unreported. For a very good explanation of possible reasons for this, here’s an excellent article. The problem I have with much of what is coming out of Iraq/Syria is that it is largely unverifiable, and much is subject to sensationalism and twisting for various political purposes. In one case I have discussed at length in many places, some have reported that Christians were crucified, yet all news sources that could be found reported that they were Muslims accused of apostasy i.e. they did not hold to the narrow interpretation of Islam that ISIS and their leader, Al Baghdadi, maintain is the only true Islam. More importantly, they were not crucified, but executed, then their bodies hung up on public display – WHY does this even need any misreporting to make it more brutally sensational than it already is?

Misreporting this does various things:

1. We set ourselves up to be knocked down. Once anyone can point out that we have misrepresented something, they become entitled to accuse us of doing it deliberately (whether their accusation is correct or not); deliberate misrepresentation is a fancy term for lying.

2. We distract attention from the real persecution of fellow believers that is going on, and possibly make others think we are crying ‘wolf’ when it needs to be highlighted.

3. We may be seen as partisan in that we only wish to highlight wrongs done ‘to us’ when we should really be defending all victims of persecution. We must learn that most politicians see politics as a game, and they play the ‘them and us’ card all the time. Those of us in Northern Ireland in particular should be wise to this! Let us rise above such pettiness. On the idea (or the prevalent trend) that it’s all coming from Islam, here’s just a few examples to bust that myth:

Atheistshttp://tinyurl.com/NorthKoreaPersecution

Jewshttp://tinyurl.com/JewsPersecuteChristians

Hindushttp://tinyurl.com/HindusPersecuteChristians

Christians – http://tinyurl.com/ChristiansPersecuteMuslims

Even ‘pacifist’ Buddhists!http://tinyurl.com/BuddhistsPersecutingMuslims

This was just a few short Googles worth! Now just think that right away, you could say “those so-called Christians don’t act or speak for me!” then surely you must allow Muslims the same chance to say that about ISIS, Hamas and Al-Qaeda!

Happily, though, it’s not all bad:

http://tinyurl.com/JewRescuesChristians

And even some Muslims are already standing up to ISIS:

http://tinyurl.com/BraveMuslims

These last examples serve to show the good people on all sides of religious and political divides, who will stand up for truth, peace and justice, for anyone. Shame on us if we do not do the same!

We need to defend those Muslims who are also suffering at the hands of extremists like ISIS, along with Christians and other religious groups, for ‘apostasy’ from the narrow ideology they adhere to. There are many other jihadists, like ISIS, who actually believe that their tiny group are the only true Muslims on Earth (sounds like some Christian denominations I know!), and even fight with other jihad groups within their own country! Adopting this way of acknowledgement and solidarity, we recruit many more to assist in the true fight against terrorism and jihadism, not the political ‘War on Terror’ that our leaders keep banging on about! And by following the command of our Lord Jesus to love them, we reach them with the true gospel in ways far beyond anything we could expect.

Grace be with you.

Why I do NOT ‘support Israel’!

I blogged on this before, almost two years ago, simply asking why I should show support for Israel, as so many of my fellow evangelicals claim I should:

https://thealternativeulsterman.com/2012/11/13/support-israel-why/

My reasons

I’ve taken a break from other blogs I’m drafting, and my book, to address this again. I do not ‘support Israel’. Note how I placed that in parenthesis; the reason is simple: I am being asked to show a support for the state of Israel, or rather the government of that nation. I fully support the people, who have a right to enjoy life and freedom without the attacks on their liberty by Hamas or any other terrorist organisation. I also support the rights of the Palestinian people to those very same rights without the attacks on them launched by the Israeli state. Do they support Hamas? Many of them did vote for Hamas, yes (yet many have never voted for Hamas). Does that make them culpable in crimes performed by Hamas? No! Politics are complex, and voting is done for many reasons. Palestinians are subjected to propaganda by Hamas and convinced that their interests are best served by a group that ‘stands up to the aggressors’ (for them, Israel) than by a more moderate group who would just ‘give in’ to the Israelis. Israeli voters are subjected to the very same things, and one of the downsides of democracy is that in conflict situations, the peacemakers (the ‘doves’) often find they lose votes as anger leads people to vote the other way. I live in Northern Ireland and I still see it going on i.e. the peace ‘process’ is perpetuated, not resolved, since this leads to more votes for the extremist parties; I see a DUP-Sinn Fein alliance, not forged in secret meetings, but via a strangely unilateral understanding on both sides that ongoing spats serve them well democratically. Such is the scourge of political analysts and ‘spin doctors’ who run political negotiations in the 21st century. The same exists in the Middle East; if Hamas truly are firing their weapons from, or hiding them in, civilian places like schools and hospitals (which I actually believe is perfectly possible since it serves their purposes), then Israel only need to provide this evidence and show that they cannot fire on these places. Why don’t they do that? Is it not possible that it serves their purposes too? Hamas do not have the interests of their people as their first priority, and I believe the Israeli government do not have the interests of their people top priority either! In terms of actual casualties, Israel have the Palestinians well outgunned. With their wealth from the support of the US, they have constructed their ‘dome of steel’ that is practically impenetrable. I hear about the ’60 missiles a day’ (or is it 90?) fired from Gaza – how many have actually landed? Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the civilian casualty rate is about one in Israel. What is it in Gaza? Please stop perpetuating the Israeli propaganda that they are suffering; the game has changed radically from the 70s and 80s. Yes, they have a right to defend themselves, of course, but sob stories are very sparse on that side.

Major problem is that if I highlight anything Israel are doing wrong, I get labelled as a ‘Hamas sympathiser’ or a ‘terrorist supporter’ – this is childish!

[Just as I was about to publish this, my BBC news app alerted that the death toll is now over 1,000 – 985 Palestinians, 29 Israelis]

Other people’s reasons

The main thing I hear among evangelicals is that Israelis are somehow our ‘brothers’ (or at least our cousins – I heard this many years ago at an event in Church House in Belfast that turned out to be ecumenical). Somehow we are to stop persecuting the Jews and being anti-Semitic because of this ‘closeness of faith’ reason. You see, we as Europeans are guilty of centuries of pogroms and the holocaust, so we need to repent of this. Fine, a collective purge of conscience is fine. Let’s also do it over the crusades against all the Muslims! “Ah, but that’s different!” Why?

I oppose anti-Semitism for a very simple reason: I will support and defend anyone who is persecuted for anything other than an actual crime against others, be it race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, mental capacity, mental health…. To do any other is wrong, unchristian and sinful! James exhorts us to action:

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17)

For this same reason, I am against hatred and condemnation of Muslims (like the Palestinians) for the actions of moronic extremists (like Hamas). Stop being partisan and one-sided! Such hatred is too easily stirred, believe me please (see my last blog!).

The idea that somehow Israel is included in the salvation of God has been perpetuated by unbiblical people like John Hagee (who even stated that Jesus never said he was the Messiah!!!). His dual covenant theology (which he denies in name but preaches in all but name) is pure heresy and utter nonsense. So Israel are our friends? Well, Western evangelicals have been their friends, but is this reciprocated? Here’s an article to read; fairly lengthy, but if you’re a Christian with an interest in Israel, you will find it fascinating:

http://davidduke.com/evangelicals-who-serve-the-anti-christ-2/

Did you read it? All of it? Or was it too unpalatable? Duke really does come across as a Jew-hater, I admit. His whole site is a rabid anti-Semitic rant, but his points deserve investigation and/or debate. I analysed his claims, being the mythbuster that I am. His ‘sources’ turn out to be only about 3 in total, and the Talmud is so complex and so altered over centuries (unlike our scripture!) that it is very difficult to validate these ‘translations’ or versions – any corroborating sources I found were not exactly non-partisan, some were downright “burn the Jews!” There’s a good wiki on ‘Jesus in the Talmud’, but I didn’t read it all (beyond my interest, if I’m honest):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_the_Talmud. Plenty there if you want to look into it, but not for me.

I’m interested in the present day, not what some Pharisaical scholars may have believed. On that point, the persecution of Christians in Israel is well corroborated (while not reported by our media; they’re all ‘anti-Israel’ you say? Huh?). The ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ website lists Israel as a ‘hostile nation’ – just try sharing your Christian faith there and you might well face problems. Many will say they have had no problem and felt welcomed when they visited Israel. Firstly, not all Israelis are hostile to you! Yet again, we cannot condemn all the Jews for the actions of a few. A pastor in Israel was sent a letter bomb which injured his son, but he called for no retaliation against Jews for the actions of extremists. Good for him! Secondly, many Christians visit Israel with the same attitude that pervades thinking from the likes of Hagee. He claims he has met with every Israeli Prime Minister in the last 30 years or so, and they all love him. Of course, since he brings plenty of cash with him, and he doesn’t preach to them! He accepts them as ‘brothers’ in the same ‘Judaeo-Christian’ faith (you’ve read about the ludicrousness of that tag in Duke’s article, so I’ll not elaborate). And the experience of residents is never the same as visitors, anywhere.

The theology

Just sit down and read through Paul’s epistles to the Romans and the Galatians (or even all of them), and the epistle to the Hebrews too (author unknown – I don’t believe it’s Pauline). Paul lays out clearly (as a former Pharisee himself, and a zealous one who actually persecuted Christians) how the new covenant is available to all who believe in Christ. He is the fulfilment of the law and the one foretold throughout the history of Israel. The true Israel of God were the ones who saw and heard him, and believed. The ones who crucified him weren’t “the Jews” but those in Israel who were unable to see his status as the Son of David, the Son of God, the Messiah. They were blind to the truth that he satisfies all the requirements of the law, yet the law was never the means of salvation – Abraham, who was before the law, was justified by faith! (Romans 4). Jesus stated that Abraham saw the day of his coming, and rejoiced (John 8:56). We who also believe in Christ achieve that justification. We are all sons of Abraham by adoption, by our faith. Stop believing this utter crap that the Jews have their own way to God! The ‘remnant’ foretold who in the end will turn back to God are in his hands, and they need to turn to Christ just like every other person on Earth. Interpretations of such end times prophecies can just tie you in knots, so don’t sweat it. We only need to remain true to the simple message of the gospel, and not allow any other issues to cloud it, in any way.

I shall unreservedly support any individuals suffering in the world (I am commanded to love even my own enemy!), but I will not unreservedly support their government, or any government, since they are all capable of being corrupted by power and of transgressing natural law and rights.

Grace be with you.

Clause 99, Catch 22 and Penning is telling lies.

Sorry to say that even I was unaware of these changes, and I count myself well-informed.

Politics and Insights

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The Government are claiming victory because of a fall in the number of benefit tribunal hearings. Today, the Express boasts:
A HUGE drop in the number of people appealing against benefit decisions at tribunal hearings was yesterday hailed as a victory for the Government’s reforms.”
Actually, it’s a victory for the Government’s tyranny.
There were 32,546 tribunal cases between January and March this year, compared to 155,000 in the same period of 2013.
“Official figures” reveal an 89 per cent fall in people contesting the decisions to cut, deny or restrict Employment Support Allowance (ESA), long-term sickness and disability benefits.
Tribunals contesting Jobseeker’s Allowance decisions also fell 70 per cent this year.
Disability minister Mike Penning said: “Fewer appeals going to tribunal is welcome. Getting more decisions right first time avoids the need for protracted tribunal appeals.”
Under the Department for Work and Pensions reforms officials look…

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Same-Sex Marriage /or/ Fence-Sitting (my most controversial blog so far!)

This is a blog that has been in my head for some time, and maybe in my heart for longer. It has taken time to weed out the irrelevant bits (just via my brain filter) and get it down to the point. This truly is going to be controversial, simply because I do not believe anyone else will concur with me; it is my thoughts and feelings alone. I am going to annoy everyone, in both camps, I am sure, friends and foes alike.

Sitting on a fence can be done, but only for short periods. I am getting very sore indeed by now, being just so unable to decide on which side of this fence I can dismount.

I am an evangelical Christian (formerly atheist) who decided to follow Jesus Christ as a teenager. I have a disdain for liberal churches that too easily water down the message of the gospel of Christ, but I cannot ally myself with the all-too-prevalent policies and political wranglings of conservatives, often labelled as the ‘religious right’. I am both conservative and liberal* on differing topics, and seldom find any political party or grouping to whom I wholly subscribe.

*[ I later tried to outline just how I differentiate conservative and liberal in another blog here.]

Today is the day my own local assembly votes on the issue of same-sex marriage, so maybe it is about time I addressed this: ‘Liberal’ churches have been seeking to re-draw the borders on their relationship with homosexuality and find a way to accommodate everyone into one big happy agreement so we can all get along so easily. ‘Conservative’ churches are seeking to voice their opinion that such a thing is sinful and wrong, and make their stance known to the world that they shall oppose it at every turn and at any cost.

However, my own holistic reading of the scriptures, which tries to take on board all that I read, and marry together the seeming ‘contradictions’ that exist there, leads me to believe that both camps have got it wrong.

To the liberals:

I must point out how I read my Bible: it is the mind of God! I do not and cannot decide to ignore any part of it (unless it happens to be a later addition to the manuscripts that has no original authenticity in it), nor do I choose to read some verses and pay no (or less) attention to other verses. It has often been said that one must read a Bible verse in its context; this is very true, and for me the context is the whole thing. Such is the mind of God that it is fantastically complex beyond our comprehension, but my Bible reveals to me what I believe he wants me to discover about him as I read it.

There are plenty of scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, that highlight that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes. I wish it weren’t, truly, for the friends I have had and still do have, who are homosexual; I know that they believe that they had no choice in the matter, and cannot help what they feel. To say it is purely a choice is far too glib and off-the-cuff for most homosexuals but there are clear cases of identical twins who become adults, with one clearly declaring their homosexuality, the other not, so it is also glib and off-the-cuff to say that homosexuals are just born that way: it is a complex thing, and needs to be addressed within churches in love, care and understanding, by true leaders with pastoral hearts. SO; to say that it is not sinful, and accept it as a lifestyle within a Christian church, flies in the face of our scriptural teachings. If you wish to do that, I would personally prefer you change your name to something else, not Christian, to be perfectly frank! [amendment: I have read some really good exegesis presented by these groups on the topic, and cannot fault their commitment to scripture, so my declaration was one of pride: I have always known I am not one to judge another’s salvation, so also I now realise I cannot demand they change any label they so wish – if they belong to my heavenly family, so be it].  I recognise I have to concede that so many various weird and wacky groups can claim that tag, I just have to live with it. I only try to live by the scriptures of his word. I struggle to negotiate between my soul and my spirit that is united with God’s Holy Spirit in this matter, but I accept his word. Though it is not a matter of salvation, in my humble opinion.

To the conservatives:

Yes, there are plenty of verses that highlight this sin, and that goes along with all other sin, as I have already tried to point out in previous blogs. Let’s take it in the context of the whole Bible again, as I stated earlier – I cannot help but read through it and recall to mind various admonitions and commands:

 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt. 5:38-44)

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ (Rom.12:20 – quoting Prov. 25:21,22)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking… (1 Cor. 13:4-5)

He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:51)

That last verse, from the words of our Lord concerning the wicked servant, makes it clear to me that hypocrites do not belong in the kingdom; Jesus often hurled this insult at the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for saying one thing and doing another, or condemning others for things that in reality they did too, or something similar.

Now I believe that I have a right; the right to practice my beliefs and my faith unhindered. Surely it is clear that I would be hypocritical were I to say to any other believer, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, whatever, that they should not have that same right. I will defend anyone of any belief to maintain their right to believe it and live by it. I can still speak and preach against it, and state that I believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life” as he claimed boldly himself (John 14:6) but not allow myself to fall into the trap of the hypocrite in denying my rights to others. I had a Muslim friend in school who debated hotly with me. We disagreed with each other, but remained harmonious friends throughout.

As for my rights, I am commanded to lay them down for others. I am to count them less. What? Seriously? Yes, indeed – Jesus even talks about the right to defend yourself and states ‘no! turn the other cheek!’ If someone wants to take what is mine (my shirt), I am to give them more (my coat as well). Stop and think about this, for just one minute; is our Lord Jesus serious about this? Too right he is! His way is radical and ground-breaking! To follow him is to go against all the ways of this world – we are to have a different mindset:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12:2)

This way is against not just the world, but our own natural nature, and this is what we are to wrestle against, as Paul related so eloquently in Romans 7 – we all struggle with sin, and if sin is going against his commands, then if we are being ‘self-seeking’ over our rights, or ‘dishonouring’ to others, or ‘boastful’ or ‘proud’ about our own stance on anything, are we not disengaging ourselves from what Jesus wants in us? He clearly and truly wants us to be subject to others, even our enemies; that is his way, and it is certainly not ours, but we must strive for this.

Again, my soul that wants to fight back when I’m kicked or offended argues with my spirit over this, but again, I must accept his word (even though I might not always attain it). If others have a belief in something and ask for a ‘right’, regardless of what it is, I must acquiesce to that request. I do not wish to do so, but, as my dear beautiful Lord prayed in Gethsemane before he went to his fate for me, “not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Were I to be asked myself to vote on same-sex marriage, I could not, in all conscience, vote yes: for me it is wrong, against God’s word but at the very same time, I cannot see myself actually voting no. I feel I must abstain. And in any democracy, we can, no, we must accept the democratic will of the majority. If we decide that we like democracy only when it suits us, then are we not just plain hypocrites all over again? If you wish to block democracy, then just state that you don’t believe in it! Is there any politician who would do that?

That fence is still painful, but this is a cushion to my seat. Maybe I should see it not as a fence but as simply a narrow and lonely path that I follow. I shall get down now and follow my path. Here I walk; I can do no other.

Grace be with you.