Wer sagt die Wahrheit?

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Eine Facebook-Freundin (anonymisiert) fragt:

Die Antwort lautet: Wahrscheinlich stimmen beide Aussagen.

Die israelischen Raketen waren wahrscheinlich die (traurige aber verständliche) Reaktion auf den Raketenbeschuß durch den Islamischen Dschihad.

Wie Thomas M. Eppinger auf MENA-Watch berichtet,

In der Nacht zum Samstag hat der Islamische Dschihad über 160 Raketen aus Gaza auf Israel abgefeuert. Jede einzelne von ihnen zielte auf Zivilisten, jede einzelne ist ein terroristischer Akt. Nur dem Iron Dome und den öffentlichen Sicherheitseinrichtungen ist es zu verdanken, dass solche Terrorakte nicht mehr Opfer fordern. 

Demgegenüber unternimmt Israel mehr als jede andere Armee der Welt, um die Zivilisten des Gegners in der Kampfzone zu schützen. Dennoch sind in jedem Krieg unbeteiligte Opfer unvermeidlich. Die palästinensische Taktik, sich hinter der eigenen Zivilbevölkerung zu verstecken, kann nicht zur Folge haben, die eigene Bevölkerung widerstandslos dem Terror auszuliefern

Das Infame an der CNN-Überschrift ist, daß sie die Ursache für den israelischen Raketenbeschuß, nämlich den vorausgegangenen Beschuß aus Gaza, verschweigt (auch wenn der Artikel dann beides erwähnt).

Diese Art der Überschrift entspringt der unter westlichen Medien und vor allem linken Politikern und Organisationen weit verbreiteten Leugnung, direkt oder indirekt, des israelischen Rechts auf Selbstverteidigung in diesem Krieg, der von palestinensischen Terror-Organisationen wie PLO (die im Westjordanland regiert), Hamas (die im Gazastreifen regiert) und Islamischer Dschihad (die für den aktuellen Raketenbeschuß verantwortlich ist) am Leben erhalten wird.

Diese Leugnung, die durchaus nicht auf englischsprachige Medien begrenzt ist, sondern unter Anderem auch in österreichischen und deutschen Medien gut vertreten ist, ist zu einem gesellschaftsfähigen Antisemitismus geworden, der sich als Sorge um die unterdrückte palästinensische Bevölkerung geriert, dabei aber die Rolle der palästinensischen Führung, insbesondere der Hamas, in dieser Situation verschweigt. Diese hält sich zwar derzeit mit direkten Angriffen auf Israel zurück, läßt aber andere Terrorgruppen wie den Islamischen Dschihad weitgehend unbehelligt im von ihr konrollierten Gazastreifen agieren.

Man muß nicht die gesamte israelische Politik im Westjordanland, im Gazastreifen, und in den besetzten Gebieten gutheißen, aber es muß schon ganz klar gesagt werden, daß der Staat Israel die ständigen Angriffe auf die eigene Zivilbevölkerung nicht einfach so hinnehmen kann. Dies auch dann, wenn aufgrund der Taktik der Terrororganisationen jeder Verteidigungsschlag Israels Opfer unter der palästinensischen Zivilbevölkerung fordert: Leider verstecken die Terrororganisationen ihre Raketenwerfer und Munitionslager ebenso wie die Eingänge zu ihren Terrortunneln in zivilen Siedlungen, um die resultierenden zivilen Opfer dann propagandistisch auszuschlachten. Dazu gehört auch, daß die Opfer der eigenen Raketen (wenn diese z.B. zu kurz fliegen und noch im Gazastreifen einschlagen), grundsätzlich immer Israel in die Schuhe geschoben werden.

Nun werden einige diesen ganzen Narrativ in Frage stellen, und trotzdem die Verantwortung für die Gewalt im Nahen Osten primär Israel in die Schuhe schieben. Darauf kann ich nur sagen:

Ich finde den demokratischen Staat Israel, der als einziger in der Region faire und geheime Wahlen sowie eine unabhängige Presse hat, in seiner Darstellung der Situation wesentlich glaubwürdiger als die autokratischen bis diktatorischen Regimes von PLO und Hamas, die in ihren Herrschaftsbereichen keine Opposition zulassen.

Und obwohl ich kein Freund von Krieg bin, und ihn als Mittel der Politik kategorisch ablehne, muß ich doch Staaten das Recht auf Selbstverteidigung zugestehen, dem Staat Israel ebenso wie der Ukraine.

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To the Making of Many Books there is No End

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Recently I came across this conversation on Facebook (I blanked out names and pictures):

This led me to ponder my own attitude towards and relationship with books. 

My father had a huge private library of more than 2500 books on all sorts of subjects: non-fiction from politics (such as Mein Kampf and Das Kapital) to philosophy, history, medicine, etc., as well as fiction (i.e. the German classics like GoetheSchiller, etc., as well as German novelists of the interwar period and immediately after WW2 like Kraus, Kästner, Tucholsky, Grass, etc.). As I grew up I followed in his footsteps and began to assemble my own collection of books.

After my father died and we his children had to sell the house we had grown up in to a contractor, none of us was either interested in or had enough space to take over this massive library. So with a few exceptions the books stayed in the house which within a few days was demolished to make way for terraced houses. The books became part of the demolition rubble.

As a bibliophile and avid reader I was saddened by this. In the course of my own life I relocated several times, both within Austria and to the US and back, and for reasons of logistics I had to get rid of many of my books. Then I discovered eBooks and for the most part stopped buying printed books. With very few exceptions I now buy only eBooks, in KindleePub, and PDF formats. I have even purchased eBook versions of some of the books I used to own in paper.

Now my entire library fits on a USB stick, and when my time comes to depart this life my kids won’t have to worry about where to find room for hundreds of yellowed books; and if they are not interested in my library they can just reformat the stick.

As much as I love books (and particularly also fine examples of the arts of typography, printing, and bookbinding, which I mostly cannot afford anyway) I realize that just like money, my computers, etc., ultimately I cannot take my books with me, and that they can all to easily become a burden, if not for me then for those who come after me.

By the way, the title for this post is taken from Ecclesiastes 14:12:

To the making of many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

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Des vielen Büchermachens ist kein Ende

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Kürzlich stieß ich auf folgende Konversation auf Facebook (Namen und Bilder anonymisiert):

Dies hat mich zum Nachdenken gebracht über meine eigene Einstellung zu Büchern. Mein Vater hatte eine riesige Bibliothek von mehr als 2500 Bänden: von allem etwas, von Politik und Philosophie (z.B Mein Kampf und Das Kapital), über Geschichte, Medizin, usw., zu Belletristik (vor allem deutschsprachige Klassiker sowie Autoren der Zwischenkriegs- und unmittelbaren Nachkriegszeit wie Kraus, Kästner, Tucholsky, Grass, usw), und ich fing sehr bald an, es ihm gleich zu tun und meine eigene Büchersammlung anzulegen.

Dann starb mein Vater; ein paar Jahre später mußten wir aus familiären Gründen unser Elternhaus an einen Bauunternehmer verkaufen, und keines von uns Kindern hatte das Interesse oder den Platz, die Büchersammlung unseres Vaters (bis auf ganz wenige Ausnahmen) zu übernehmen. Die Mehrzahl der Bücher blieb im Haus zurück und als es abgerissen wurde, um Platz für eine Reihenhaussiedlung zu machen, wurden sie Teil des Bauschutts.

Als Büchernarr und begeistertem Leser tat mir das sehr weh. Im Laufe meines Lebens mußte ich wegen mehrmaliger Übersiedlungen (sowohl innerhalb Österreichs, als auch nach USA und zurück) viele meiner Bücher aus praktischen Gründen weggeben. Dann bin ich schließlich auf eBooks gestoßen und habe größtenteils aufgehört, gedruckte Bücher zu kaufen. Bis auf ganz wenige Ausnahmen kaufe ich inzwischen nur mehr elektronische Bücher, in den Kindle-, ePub-, oder PDF-Formaten. Inzwischen habe ich habe auch einiges, was ich mal in Papier hatte, elektronisch nachgekauft.

Meine ganze Bibliothek paßt jetzt auf einen USB-Stick, und wenn meine Zeit gekommen ist, werden sich meine Erben nicht den Kopf zerbrechen müssen, wo sie hunderte vergilbter Bücher unterbringen sollen; und falls sie kein Interesse an meiner Büchersammlung haben, können sie den Stick einfach neu formatieren.

So sehr ich Bücher liebe (und gerade auch Kunstwerke der Typografie-, Buchdrucker- und Buchbinderkunst, die ich mir ohnehin nicht leisten kann), bin ich doch zur Erkenntnis gelangt, daß ich Bücher, ebenso wie Geld, all mein Computerzeugs, usw., letztlich nicht mitnehmen kann, und daß diese Dinge leicht zur Last werden können, wenn nicht für mich, dann für die, die nach mir kommen.

Den Titel dieses Beitrags stammt übrigens aus Kohelet (Prediger, Ecclesiastes) 14,12:

Des vielen Büchermachens ist kein Ende, und viel Studieren macht den Leib müde.

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It is possible to be a Values Conservative

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Because of the effective take-over of the Republican Party by the Trumpians, and similar developments in several other countries, I find it necessary to state clearly:

It is possible to be a values conservative without becoming a right wing crazy.

It is possible to be a values conservative without supporting attempts to overturn election results, violent attacks on the institutions of government, or the fomenting of civil unrest.

It is possible to be a values conservative and a Christian without being a “Christian nationalist” of the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Trumpians in the US, or Victor Orbán and Vladimir Putin in Europe.

It is possible to be a values conservative who does not turn a blind eye to the suffering of refugees from war zones or famine-stricken countries.

It is possible to be a values conservative who does not oppose government aid to the disadvantaged in our own countries.

It is possible to be a values conservative who rejects abortion as a birth control method but who recognizes that there are legitimate exceptions to a total ban and wants these enshrined in the relevant laws.

It is possible to be a values conservative who does not oppose, but indeed supports, comprehensive universal healthcare with needs-based public financing.

It is possible to be a values conservative who supports reasonable gun control – at the very least a ban on private ownership of military grade weapons beginning with assault rifles.

It is possible to be a values conservative who believes churches and religious believers should be able to follow their understanding of human nature, sexuality, and marriage while at the same time respecting democratic decisions concerning broader definitions of civil marriage.

There are probably other aspects I can think of right now; but my main point is that it is possible to be a values conservative without being a right-wing nutter.

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What is “the worst”??

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According to this article  in the Roys Report,

The 47-year old lead pastor of an evangelical church in Wiconsin was arrested after soliciting a sex act with an underage girl. …

“These arrests demonstrate that the market for juvenile commercial sex is not confined to limited segments of society,” said Washington County attorney Kevin Magnuson. “The buyers come from all walks of life and each are responsible for the tremendous harm to the victims, their families and the public that sex trafficking causes.” …

“It’s a sad thing,” said the church’s associate pastor. “This is a lose-lose scenario for the community and the people impacted by it. The worst thing is what this will do to his family — and the church family.”

Unfortunately this associate pastor’s perspective is all too common in churches across the denominational spectrum.

No sir, the worst is notwhat this will do to his family — and the church family”, but what this sort of thing does to the victims of sex trafficking and to the testimony of the Lord’s church, and that is where our focus should be, not on the perpetrator’s family and congregation (however painful and devastating this no doubt is for them), nor on the reputational and legal problems that may cause the local church and/or denomination.

 

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Quo Vadis, America?

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In a recent Facebook discussion on the subject of “Christian nationalism” a commenter said, 

“I sometimes feel we have an attitude that because we do it better than most, we don’t need to make changes. When you believe you are the best, why make changes??”

This was my response, slightly expanded here, which gave me no pleasure to write:


As an Austrian who grew up in a home built with Marshall Plan funds and and who was fully aware that without US involvement in WWII my country would likely be living under either Hitler’s or Stalin’s terror regime, and who therfore used to be an uncritical fan of the US in my youth; as one who was socialized and formed as an Evangelical Christian by American missionaries, spent almost five years living in the US working for a Christan ministry, and still has many dear friends in and from the US, but who now is thoroughly disillusioned with both American society/politics and the American church, I would say the attitude you describe is wrong on two counts:

  1. Of course you need to make changes. Even the best can always do and be better.
  2. But you don’t actually do it better than most. Let’s see:
    • You are almost the worst at controlling violent crime, largely due to a ludicrous misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment to your constitution;
    • You may have some of the best (and best-equipped) doctors and medical facilities but you are pretty worse than most industrialized nations at providing equal and equitable healthcare access and funding to all;
    • You are a leader in technological research who sends people into space and spends tons of money on your military, but your power grid and road network and telephone network are in deplorable condition;
    • Your education system leaves most of its graduates shackled by debt for many years;
    • Your society is hopelessly polarized and your politics controlled by the extremes of the left and the right:
      • The Democrats are dominated by a destructive “progressive” agenda which seeks to deconstruct human nature as essentially male and female and plays with identity politics which divides rather than unites the country;
      • The GOP is under the thumb of a serial adulterer and liar who has brought the country to the brink of political collapse and possibly civil war and whose followers know only law and order but not mercy and compassion;
    • Vast swathes of the American church, instead of being a prophetic witness speaking truth to power, have got into bed with either the political left or the political right, championing their respective agendas and favouring the separation of church and state only when it suits them while trying to push their own agenda on the state when that suits them.

I could go on, but this is enough to show why in a very real sense you do it worse than most in so many areas that the meaning of American exceptionalism has become inverted, and why there is definitely room (and a desparate need) for change.


It pains me especially that many churches and leaders in my own Evangelical tradition have, in an extreme and especially bizarre form of supersessionism, appropriated the Jewish people’s status as God’s uniquely chosen people not just for the church (bad enough in view of Romans 9–11) but for the United States, claiming the promises made to Israel but disregarding most of the responsibilities such as caring for the poor and welcoming strangers. At the same time they uncritically support the State of Israel as an actor in and venue of their favourite end time scenario but have little use and sympathy for Jews as a people.

So the question posed in the title of this post is a very real one: unless the American nation and the American church drastically change direction, and do so soon, I fear for their future.

 


The cover image appeared here. The editor of e-International Relations could not find any licensing information so I decided to use it. If anyone claims copyright I will of course remove it.

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Biblical? Christ-Like?

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(I borrowed this text from Craig Greenfield)

On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus stands with Moses and Elijah (representing the Prophets and the Law of the OT). (Mt 17:1-9)

God’s command is “This is my son, Listen to him!”

In this powerful moment,
with these powerful words,
Jesus is lifted above and beyond all other teachers
and all other parts of scripture.

This is why we must read the Bible though the lens of the life and teachings of Jesus.

This is why Jesus can dare to say, “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye (in Exodus 21:23), but I say to you, Love your enemies”

This is why we seek,
not to be Biblical,
but to be Christlike.

Note from Wolf: I am fully aware that this hermeneutical principle can be (and has been) distorted and abused. That doesn’t mean it’s not valid. And I know one can argue about the word “biblical” in the meme above, but I think readers of good will know what is meant.

And finally, a common temptation seems to be to read all Scripture not through the lens of Christ’s life and teachings, but rather through the lens of that image of Christ we have constructed in our own head.

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Biblisch? Christus-Ähnlich?

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Diesen Text habe ich von Craig Greenfield übernommen und übersetzt:

Auf dem Berg der Verklärung steht Jesus mit Moses und Elija (als Verteter von Gesetz und Propheten im AT) (Matt 17:1-9).

Gottes Gebot lautet, “Dieser ist mein Sohn, Ihn sollt ihr hören!”

In diesem mächtigen Augenblick,
mit diesen mächtigen Worten,
wird Jesus über alle anderen Lehrer gestellt, und auch über alle anderen Stellen in der Schrift.

Deshalb müssen wir die Bibel durch die Linse von Jesu Leben und Lehre lesen.

Deshalb kann Jesus sagen, “Ihr habt gehört, dass gesagt ist ( 2. Mose 21,24): Auge um Auge, Zahn um Zahn. Ich aber sage euch, Liebet eure Feinde.”

Deshalb streben wir
nicht so sehr danach, biblisch zu sein,
sondern vielmehr danach, Jesus-ähnlich zu sein.

Anmerkung von Wolf: Und ja, mir ist schon klar, daß dieses Auslegungsprinzip auch verdreht und mißbraucht werden kann und wird, was aber nichts an seiner Gültigkeit ändert. Und man kann darüber streiten, was in dem Bild hier oberhalb “biblisch” bedeutet, aber jeder Leser guten Willens versteht das schon.

Und schließlich besteht immer die Gefahr, daß wir die Schrift nicht durch die Linse von Jesu Leben und Lehre lesen, sondern durch die Linse des Bildes von Jesus, das wir uns zurechtgelegt haben.

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Nonsensical Facebook Chain Letters

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This is a public service message.

Some texts come back with great regularity every few months to circulate on Facebook, copied & pasted by mindless sheeple, probably the same folks who fifty years ago would have propagated nonsensical chain letters (sorry, folks, see the last paragraph).

Here is the most recent iteration of one of these:

This text claims that “tomorrow” Facebook (or now Meta) will become a “public entity” (whatever that means) and then purports to limit, with generous use of ALL-CAPS, what Facebook/Meta may do with the material a person has posted on the service.

First of all, in view of the fact that this text has re-surfaced and circulated every few months for a number of years, exactly which date does “tomorrow” refer to?

Secondly, I am sorry, but this is all nothing but legal mumbo-jumbo and gobbledigook.

Facebook/Meta may have changed their name but they are still a private company, not a “public entity” — their legal status has not changed. However, they effectively provide a sort of public forum, and it is just a bit ludicrous to claim privacy expectations for stuff you have yourself posted to a public forum.

In any case, what Facebook/Meta may or may not do with stuff you post is determined by their Terms & Conditions (T&C) which you explicitly agreed to when you created your FB acount, and implicitly agree to every time you use their service. A unilateral declaration on your part has absolutely no legal effect; the only thing you can do, if you no longer like their T&C, is to stop using the service.

Recent iterations of this text also claim that Facebook will only show your posts to about 25 people (or will only show you posts from about 25 people) determined by some algorithm, and that posting this text will somehow fool this algorithm. This, too, is nonsense. Posting some random text has absolutely no effect on the algorithm that determines which posts you see or who sees your posts.

Now, if you are offended by my reference to “mindless sheeple”, all I can recommend is that you think very carefully before you copy and paste something simply because some text tells you to. Mindlessly doing what you are told is the very definition of “sheeple”.

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Pressreader’s Pseudo-Flatrate

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Pressreader claims to offer 7000+ newspapers and magazines from around the world for one subscription—effectively a flatrate. About a week ago I signed up for a subscription.

Pressreader Ad in mobile browser

Since I had been subscribing to both an American and a British paper at a higher combined monthly cost than the Pressreader subscription, and I would be able to add a few more papers (i e. German, Austrian, Dutch, Israeli papers) at no extra cost, this seemed to be a no-brainer.

Now, the thing is, I rarely read a newspaper or magazine from cover to cover; rather, I will scroll through, glance at the headlines, and read only those articles which catch my interest or strike my fancy. Often I will only go to a particular paper or magazine wben I come across a link to an article on, say, Facebook, and the story is behind a paywall.

Imagine my surprise, then, when, less than a week after subscribing, every time I open a newspaper I get a pop-up complaining that I have been reading too much:

Pressreader Pop-Up

The pop-up suggests that I might be using Pressreader professionally (instead of in a personal capacity as my subscription allows) and that I should probably upgrade from my $30/mo Premium (personal use) subscription to a $100+/mo Corporate subscription:

Pressreader Subscription Rates

Now I realize that this is phrased as a question, “If you are using this account professionally …”, but since it persistently keeps popping up again and again, it feels very much like an accusation.

I am retired (i.e. I don’t do anything professionaly, anymore), an avid reader, and currently bedridden, so I have a lot of time on my hands; nevertheless I don’t feel I have spent nearly enough time with Pressreader to warrant questioning my personal use (after all, I also have €9.99 subscription to Readly for a couple of magazines not included in Pressreader, and I also spend a lot of time reading on my Kindle).

Perhaps the problem is that I follow (have marked as favourites) 27 newspapers and a handful of magazines, but of course I don’t actually read (or even download) all of them every day, and Pressreader nowhere states a limit on the number of publications one may follow — or read, for that matter. If there is indeed such a limit, or a hard limit on how many articles a day/week/month one is allowed to read with a personal subscription, then this should be clearly stated and potential subscribers warned about it before signing up. Otherwise this is false and misleading advertising.

So to put it bluntly: Apart from the fact that it is annoying to have to click away the stupid pop-up I feel insulted and harrassed by the insinuation that I am abusing my account, and I expect Pressreader to fix this. Because I suspect there really are no hard limits as mentioned above, and Pressreader‘s abuse detection algorithm is simply way too aggressive.

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