Politics or God — Whom do we trust?

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A guest post by James Kushiner of Touchstone Magazine

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish
that which I please, and it shall prosper
in the thing whereto I sent it.

The future is the only thing in man’s field of vision that appears enticingly within his power to shape. So the present is dominated by plans for and promises about “the future.”

This is all grist for the rhetoric that will dominate media in another election year in the U.S. (where it officially began this past Monday) as well as in other countries. Candidates talk about what they will do in the future to change things for the better. The only problem is they can rarely deliver on their promises.

This does not stop the promises and predictions. Some of the predictions are also of what will happen if one’s political opponent is elected instead. Sometimes a candidate really believes he will be able to stop crime and lower taxes. At other times, a candidate will just say what he thinks he needs to say to get elected, and then, once in power, do what he wants, not keeping to his previous script.

In other words, “Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men in whom there is no salvation.” Even the best, honest, and wisest candidate cannot control the future. And any president or prime minister may find himself (and his country) in circumstances not previously envisioned or prepared for (e.g., George W. Bush on 9/11 or Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 7). We cannot announce the future—unless we are a prophet.

Our grasp of the future is illusory, unless we base it on the Word of God. By that I mean recognizing not only that God alone has the final say, but that he has also shown himself to be clear about what will happen in the future, unlike the sons of men and unlike their adversary, the devil, who lies about the future to deceive us.

The adversary told Eve “you will surely not die” if the forbidden fruit was eaten, and “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” A proposal was made with an assurance. Well, Man does, sort of, know good and evil in that he experiences them, but surely does not know what to make of evil or how to explain it to our satisfaction.

God, on the other hand, from Genesis on, clearly announced to man what he will do and what the consequences will be for man for the deeds man does. To Adam and Eve, he declared, “In the day the you eat of [the tree of knowledge] you shall surely die.”

Prior to the Fall, God needed to make no promise to mankind; only directives: “Be fruitful and multiply…I have given you every green plan for food.” It was all “very good.”

But after the disobedience, God began weaving a lifeline for man, who had severed himself from God like an astronaut drifting off into deep and deadly space. God began to speak of what he would do in the future; he made promises, in the form of covenants. “I will put enmity between you and the woman…her offspring…shall bruise your head.”

He made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; promised a scepter to Judah; promised deliverance from Egypt to Moses, and a ruler of the line of David to redeem and save us. In all cases, God is able to call the shot, make it happen, and retrieve mankind from the jaws of death.

We have a choice: to place full confidence in God or mammon; in the Lord or the rulers of the earth. God has announced that the end of men’s delusions will come and none of their schemes will abide, while the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of Christ.

Modern man denigrates all this as “pie-in-the-sky” religion. Perhaps he has it backwards: politics is pie-in-the-sky optimism. God delivers. He has not hidden his purposes. He warned Israel that they would suffer in the Land if they did not keep the commandments. That they would be exiled. The Lord said not one stone of the Temple would remain on another and all would be swept away. He said, and we confess, that he will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, that his kingdom shall have no end. That is our anchor.

Who are you going to believe? Trust? Jesus said he would build his church. He did that. It struggles when it is faithless and sins (as warned), and shines when faithful to the Word and commandments of God. No other ruler can claim such an influence on the world, and Christ is not done yet. He is coming to clean house and make a final end to the devil and his works.

That’s the only right side of history to be on.


James Kushiner is Director of Publications for Touchstone Magazine — A Journal of Mere Christianity.

This article was first published in First Things’ e-mail newsletter for subscribers, on Jan. 20, 2024.

Copyright C 2024 by James Kushiner and Fellowship of St. James. Used by permission.

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West Bank Settler Violence Discredits and Harms Israel

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Despite my support for Israel, and perhaps even because of it, I deplore the increase of Israeli settler violence against the local Palestinian population in the West Bank since the Hamas massacre.

While the desire to exact revenge for the atrocities committed against innocent men, women and children, even babies and old folks, on October 7 is humanly understandable, the folks in the West Bank were not the perpetrators, and vigilante-style violence unchecked by police and military is wrong and dangerous.

By tolerating it rather than cacking down on it Israel risks joining its enemies in the moral gutter, and also risks losing the support of its allies.

While Israel is currently a secular state, the settlers in the Westbank appeal to God’s promise of the Land to the people of Israel; they should not forget and ignore that the same God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”

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Proportionality

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British author and journalist Douglas Murray was asked on Talk TV whether Israel’s strikes in the Gaza Strip constitute a “reasonable, proportionate and moral response”.

Murray replied, “There is some deep perversion in Britain whenever Israel is involved in a conflict, and it is the word you just used: Proportion, proportionate, proportionality. Only Britain is really obsessed with this. I’ve heard in for the last few days incessantly.”

“Proportionality in conflict rarely exists,” he stated, and then explained that insisting on a proportionate response “would mean that, in retaliation for what Hamas did in Israel on October 7th Israel should try to locate a music festival in Gaza, for instance – and good luck with that – and rape precisely the number of women that Hamas raped on Saturday. Kill precisely the number of young people that Hamas killed on Saturday. They should find a town of exactly the same size as a town like Sderot, and make sure they go door-to-door and kill precisely the correct number of babies that Hamas killed in Sderot on Saturday, and shoot in the head precisely the same number of old age pensioners as were shot in Sderot on Saturday, just to choose one town.”

“Proportionality in conflict is a joke, and it’s a very strange British concept which we’ve had, that only the Israelis in the conflict, when they are attacked, are expected to have precisely the proportionate response,” added Murray.

And I (Wolf Paul) would add:

This is, unfortunately, not a specifically British problem; the entire West and of course the United Nations demand this, especially from Israel.

The civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip in the weeks since October 7 are largely attributable to Hamas, which places its terror facilities (which are legitimate targets under the laws of war) amid the civilian population, in and under schools and hospitals, in order to then present the world with the corpses of dead civilians, including children, as evidence of Israeli war crimes. And when the Israeli army, incidentally the only one in the world, warns civilians of impending attacks, they are sometimes prevented by Hamas from seeking safety.

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Final Solution Welcome?

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I notice a sharp increase of news reporting extremely critical of Israel and sympathetic to the Palestinians of Gaza and am trying to wrap my head around what that means.

I think what it comes down to is this:

The state of Israel has since its establishment by the UN in 1948 always faced violent opposition from the Arab and other Islamic states surrounding it, as well as from terrorist groups in Gaza and the Westbank for whom the destruction and elimination of Israel is the ultimate goal[1]. Nevertheless, Israel is not allowed to take any action in its own defence which might cause collateral damage in the form of civilian casualties.

In a normal war situation (if war is ever normal) an enemy’s military infrastructure is a legitimate target but here we have a situation, which most recently started when the terrorist group Hamas, which inexplicably, enjoys a high level of popular support in Gaza, snuck into Israel, killing and mutilating 1400 mostly civilians and kidnapping over 200 (men, women, even the elderly and babies).

The Hamas terrorists use Gaza’s civilians as human shields by embedding all of its “military” infrastructure in the civilian population, placing it near, in, and under hospitals, schools, and residential neighbourhoods, so that any military action to rescue these more than 200 hostages or to eliminate this terror group would cause a heavy toll of civilian casualties. Additionally, when Israel’s army warns the civilian population in the vicinity of a legitimate military target to evacuate[2], Hamas prevents civilians from leaving; after all, they’d be losing their human shields, not to mention the effective propaganda tool of photos of dead civilians.

Thus, if Israel does take military action and there are civilian casualties, the international community blames Israel for these civilian casualties rather than blaming the Hamas terrorists. 

The only inference I can draw from that is that, whether they openly admit it or not, eventually a majority of the international community will be quite o.k. with the elimination of the “Palestinian problem” via the destruction of Israel: this will be considered an acceptable “Endlösung“. We’re not quite there yet, but that’s the direction it’s going.

Let me make a prediction: This won’t solve the Palestinian problem.  If Hamas achieves its goal of eliminating Israel and then controls a “judenfrei”  territory “from the river to the sea“, Palestine will be anything but free; it will be a repressive Islamist state similar to Iran. And Hamas, whose entire raison d’etre is jihad, will find other targets for its violence, most likely in Europe and North America.

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  1. This goal is clearly spelled out in Hamas’ charta.[]
  2. The Israeli army, IDF, is the only army in the world to do this.[]
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The West: Lacking Convictions

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In this panel discussion at the ARC conference in London this month Greg Sheridan pointed out that all those on the world stage hostile to the democratic West (China, Russia, Iran, as well as their prixies) are led by people of deep religious or ideological convictions, and that we are taken by surprise by their actions because we don’t understand these convictions.

In reply, historian Niall Ferguson hit the nail on the head by saying, in part,

“Part of the difficulty we have in understanding conviction, ideological conviction, is that we have none. It’s very hard to understand that kind of motivation if your belief system has become so eroded that it becomes at best a cost-benefit analysis problem.”

I don’t agree with everything said at this conference, but the talks and panels are very interesting and well worth listening to:

https://www.youtube.com/@arc_forum

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Fact check: Biden says Hamas doesn’t represent Palestinians. Is that true?

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Guest Article by Ryan Jones.[1], Israel Today[2]

US President Joe Biden, in addition to providing strong support to Israel, has been at the forefront of a campaign by Western leaders and media to convince everyone that Hamas doesn’t represent the Palestinian public in general.

Biden and others try to paint a picture of Hamas as an isolated, fringe movement that stands in opposition to the more “peaceful” leanings of the majority of Palestinians. But is that true?

On what evidence do Biden and the others base this assessment? It surely isn’t based on surveys of the Palestinian public, or on what the Palestinian masses taking to the streets are chanting.

And if Biden concludes that the masses of Israelis taking to the streets of Tel Aviv every week prior to this war to oppose judicial reform represent the Israeli public in general, then we must also conclude the same of the Palestinians.

So what are the Palestinians telling us?

On Friday morning, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, who Biden tried to meet with this week, published an official government document urging mosques under its jurisdiction to offer sermons that effectively call for the destruction of the Jews.

The document stressed in relation to the Gaza war that “our Palestinian people cannot raise a white flag until the occupation [sic] is removed and an independent Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as its capital.”

When it spoke of the Palestinian people being unable to surrender, the PA did not make a distinction between Hamas and the rest of Palestinian society.

More to the point, Abbas’s government included in the official document the old antisemitic Islamic reference (from the Hadith):

“The hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, until the Jew hides behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree says, ‘O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

The Israeli organization Regavim called the document a clear declaration of war by the Palestinian Authority.

But if Abbas and his regime were hoping to score points by echoing Hamas, survey data shows they failed. The Palestinian public would still prefer to be ruled by Hamas.

Palestinian Media Watch reported on large Palestinian demonstrations in Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus on Wednesday during which the masses chanted: “We want Hamas!” and “The people want to take down [Abbas]!”

PMW also notes that recent student union elections held at Birzeit University in Ramallah and An-Najah University in Nablus were both won by Hamas.

And a July poll taken by the FIKRA forum of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that “57% of Gazans express at least a somewhat positive opinion of Hamas—along with similar percentages of Palestinians in the West Bank (52%) and East Jerusalem (64%).”

In other words, if elections were held today, Hamas would win. That’s why elections haven’t been held since 2006, and Abbas is now in the 18th year of a 4-year presidential term.

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday said that even if the international community prefers to close its eyes and plug its ears to the truth, Israelis need to be clear-headed.

Bennett tweeted:

“The truth must be told:

“Most of the residents of Gaza support Hamas, and many of them enthusiastically support the murder of innocent Jews.

“I have heard many times, and recently from various world leaders, the claim that the majority of the population of Gaza is held captive by Hamas and is generally peace-seeking.

“This is simply not true.

“The majority of the Gazan public supports Hamas and its mission to destroy Israel.

“Friends,

“Hamas relies on the broad support of the residents of Gaza.

“Without this support, Hamas could not exist.

“This is the bitter reality.

“One should not conclude from this that Israel will aim to harm civilians.

“This is not our way.

“But we must not lie to ourselves.

“You need to know the truth.”

It is true that Hamas does not represent every Palestinian. We personally know some Palestinian Arabs who are disgusted by Hamas, and who blame the terror group, not Israel, for all their troubles.

But the sad fact is that they are the minority.

Hamas is popular and powerful because the Palestinian public made it that way. The Islamist group could never have grown to what it is now without being planted in fertile soil.

Seventeen years ago, the Palestinian public even voted for Hamas, giving it a solid majority in the Palestinian Parliament. It’s true that half of all Palestinians today either weren’t alive or couldn’t vote back then. But as the survey data, university elections and mass demonstrations referenced above reveal, the next generation is more extreme than their parents.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that probably won’t be solved, even with the military defeat of Hamas in Gaza.

After World War II, the ideologies that fueled the Axis war campaign had to be rooted out at the educational level so that a new Germany and a new Japan could be established. That won’t happen here. Israel isn’t going to try to reeducate Palestinians and root out Islamist ideology from their schools and mosques. And if it tried, the world wouldn’t allow it.

And so we wait for the next ISIS to arise and the next war to come.

Note by Wolf Paul:

The same argument, expressed differently, goes as follows: The Palestinians in Gaza are not responsible for the crimes of Hamas; rather, they are victims. One could say this if there were significant resistance against Hamas in Gaza, if the citizens of Gaza were actively working to drive Hamas out of power. Certainly, there are some who are doing so, but one does not hear muc hfrom them. The silent (and partly cheering) majority in Gaza is just as responsible for the crimes of Hamas as the silent majority in Germany and Austria were complicit in the crimes of the Nazi era. Austria also indulged in playing the victim role for decades; it was only 45 years after the end of the war that the complicity of the Austrians was rightfully and long overdue acknowledged by Chancellor Franz Vranitzky.


This article was originally published by Israel Today.

Copyright ©2023 by Israel Today. Used by permission.

The cover picture by Wisam Hashlamoun shows Palestinians in Hebron/West Bank demonstrating in support of Hamas and its crimes.

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  1. Ryan Jones says about himself, “I am a Gentile Christian from the United States who has lived in Israel since 1996. That was the year that my local church suddenly became aware that Israel was still alive, and her biblical story and mission still ongoing.
    It was in Jerusalem that I later met my wife, an Israeli-born Christian of Dutch background whose parents had come to the Jewish state for the same reasons, only several decades earlier.
    My wife and I live in the Jerusalem-area town of Tzur Hadassah with our seven children, and we are active members in the local Messianic Jewish community.”
    Ryan has served since 2007 as a writer and editor for Israel Today. Before that, he wrote for and was published in a number of other online and print publications dealing with Middle East current events.[]
  2. Israel Today is a Jerusalem-based Zionist news agency founded in 1978 to serve you, as you read the Bible in one hand and the news in the other. We bring a biblical dimension to journalism on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world. Israel Today appears in English, German and Dutch. Israel Today maintains a diverse staff of local journalists who live in the Land and therefore report from firsthand experience, offering a mix of information, interviews, inspiration and daily life in Israel.
    ISRAEL TODAY’S MISSION is to be the definitive source for truthful, balanced, perspectives on Israel; and to provide timely news directly from Jerusalem – the focus of world attention. This is especially important in these times when we see prophetic events unfolding before our eyes.[]
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The Gospel of Peace in a Time of Terror

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A Guest Contribution by Heinrich Arnold [1] from the Bruderhof Community.

Note: This article by a leader of the Bruderhof Community [2], Heinrich Arnold, provides a valuable challenge and contribution to our considerations on the complex topics of enemy love/self-defense/state violence/just war (bellum iustum), which has become extremely relevant due to recent events in Israel.[3]

The Gospel of Peace in a Time of Terror

A Bruderhof pastor asks how Christians should respond in the aftermath of Hamas’s attack on Israel.

By Heinrich Arnold
October 12, 2023

Last Friday, October 6, 2023, was a day of festivity in Israel, as throngs of people attended synagogues to celebrate the end of Sukkot and the beginning of Simchat Torah, “rejoicing with the Torah.” As this joyful holiday dawned on Saturday, unimaginable evil was unleashed. Thousands of rockets struck nearby towns as well as cities as far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Masked gunmen breached one of the most heavily surveilled borders in the world, massacring whole families still sleeping in bed, raping women, and rounding up an estimated 150 hostages.

By now, everyone has heard of the shocking atrocities perpetrated by Hamas in Israel over the last week. In the face of this horror, how should Christians respond?

The New Testament calls on us to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:14). At a time like this, we should grieve with the people of Israel, especially the survivors of Hamas’s attack. And we should mourn too, with civilians in Gaza who are already suffering as collateral damage in the military response to it.

We must pray for peace. To say this may sound like a platitude. But if we believe in God’s power to intervene in history, prayer remains vital all the same.

Beyond grieving and praying, what else should we do?

From many corners, there are demands for stern action from world leaders. This is more than understandable because of the depth of fury, fear, and panic that Israelis feel at being violated in such terrible ways by an organization that has pledged to eradicate their country. The desire for a swift and severe reaction is at the core of our human response to evil. Like many, I have traveled to Israel and the West Bank on several occasions, most recently last year, and have made close friends on both sides of the long-standing conflict in the region. Many of them have spent years working for peace and dialogue in order to overcome the deep-seated hatred in their communities. When I’ve spoken with some of these in the last few days, they describe their incredible pain. They are living through a level of anger and dread of the future beyond anything I can imagine.

In my church community, the Bruderhof, one way that the terror has come close to home is the massacres that took place in kibbutz communities such as Kfar Aza and Be’eri, in which hundreds were killed, including toddlers and babies. The ties of friendship between the kibbutzim and the Bruderhof as two community movements go back ninety years. Though the Bruderhof is a Christian church and the kibbutzim are Jewish, we share a commitment to a communal way of life and have historical roots in common. Our hearts go out to these communities, and to all who are suffering the anguish of the past few days.

For my own part, as a pastor, I am not in a position to tell the governments involved what actions they should take. Nor do I have any say over how other world powers will respond. Government leaders will do what they do anyway. Let us pray that their decisions in the coming days and weeks are for the wellbeing and protection of all the people affected, especially the most vulnerable.

But though I don’t know what governments should do, I do know what followers of Jesus are called to do.

The only thing Christians can do with absolute certainty is to testify to Christ’s gospel of peace. Our calling is to pray for peace and for all the victims of violence, to refuse to support violence ourselves, and to be peacemakers. As members of his church on earth, we are to be an embassy in the present world of the future peaceable kingdom.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9). He taught: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:43–45).

We should deplore all war; we can never cheerlead for violence, however justified it may seem to be.

Christians should protest the barbarity of the attacks on Israel – the coldblooded targeting of civilians, the rapes, the massacre of children, women, and elders. We should speak up, too, against depriving civilians of water and electricity and the bombing of residential targets. We should deplore all war. That is our duty; to be silent is sinful. Especially in moments when the public mood grows bloody-minded and vindictive, we can never cheerlead for violence, however justified it may seem to be.

What force can overcome such evil? Again, Jesus teaches us the answer: Only love can truly win over enemies.

The apostle Paul echoed Jesus’ teaching on peacemaking, writing in his Letter to the Romans: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ On the contrary: ‘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.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

For Christians, it can be easy to lose sight of Jesus’ teachings about how to confront evil. It is tempting to reach instead for answers that seem more “realistic.” Yet hard-power responses to enmity are no guarantee of safety (witness the massive intelligence failure that left open the door to the Hamas attack); in fact, it’s easy to think of examples of how they can backfire. In any case, above and beyond considerations of effectiveness, Christians believe that Jesus’ way of peacemaking is the only truly realistic answer to evil.

We who profess Christ must testify confidently to his command to love rather than to trust in armed force. Christians must hold fast to his promise that his kingdom of peace will come, and that in it is the world’s hope. That is the future promised by the Psalmist:

Come and see what the Lord has done …
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.


This article was oiginally published in English on Plough.com as “The Gospel of Peace in a Time of Terror.” Copyright ©2023 by Plough Quarterly. Posted here by permission.

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  1. Heinrich Arnold is the Senior Pastor of the Bruderhof Communities in the USA and worldwide. Heinrich is a great-grandson of the Bruderhof founder and is a father and grandfather, a teacher in the Bruderhof schools, and a medical practitioner. He regularly writes for the Bruderhof’s magazine, Plough Quarterly, and delivers a Gospel message every Sunday on his YouTube channel . He lives with his wife and family at the Woodcrest Bruderhof. Twitter: @JHeinrichArnold[]
  2. The Bruderhof Community is a movement in the Anabaptist tradition that practices a communal sharing of goods, oriented towards the example of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. Its origins can be traced back to Eberhard and Emmy Arnold, who founded the first Bruderhof Community in Hesse in 1920. After being expelled by the National Socialists in 1937, they initially found refuge in the Principality of Liechtenstein and later in England. Today, there are Bruderhof settlements in Australia, the United Kingdom, Paraguay, the United States, Germany, and Austria (in Retz and Stein/Furth[]
  3. I have posted two articles here on the blog in the days since the terrible Hamas massacre on October 7, 2023, and many more on Facebook, in which I emphasized Israel’s right to self-defense. Due to Hamas’ inhumane strategy of placing terror facilities (which are a legitimate target of Israeli attacks) in residential areas, hospitals, schools, etc., many civilians become victims in this legitimate defense. And I maintain: this ultimately does not change Israel’s right to self-defense.
    I also know that there are quite a few people in the Israeli army (Israeli Defense Force, IDF) who believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. I know of such a family that has five children at the front, three of their own and two in-laws, and according to my understanding of the New Testament, this is legitimate.
    However, there has been a tradition of pacifism in the church from the very beginning, i.e., since the apostles and early church fathers, the conviction that disciples of Jesus should not resort to any form of violence under any circumstances, even as soldiers or as policemen. This tradition somewhat faded into obscurity in the Middle Ages and was then rediscovered and embraced by the Anabaptists during the Reformation period (often referred to as the “Radical Reformation” or as the third wing of the Reformation, alongside Lutherans and Reformed). Today, the Anabaptist movement continues in the form of the Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites. The Bruderhof Community, which emerged in Germany during the interwar period of the 20th century, is very much in this tradition and was also very closely connected with the Hutterites for a while.
    I consider this tradition to be very valuable, and especially today, as an important challenge and counterweight to currents in the church that are too uncritical of state violence.[]
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Thoughts on French Riots and What Caused Them

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France has been rocked the past few days by riots and unrest in the wake of the killing of 17-year-old Nahel Merbouz at a traffic stop.

I don’t condone the riots and violence of the protesters (and Nahel’s grandmother agrees), but I cannot deny a certain amount of sympathy for the mostly young Arab and Black people of cities like Paris who have long complained of police discrimination. Since their complaints are basically being ignored by the authorities (a charge confirmed by the UN) the politicians cannot escape responsibility for creating the circumstances which lead to these riots.

Now French politicians, including President Macron, accuse social media of stoking the current riots and unrest.

It seems that what they are referring to is the wide distribution, via TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and other platforms, of videos which document police discrimination and brutality towards non-white citizens, such as the video giving the lie to the claim by police officer Florian M. that he shot Nahel in self defence; it shows Nahel fleeing the scene rather than attacking the officers by driving towards them.

Nahel was not, of course, an innocent; but in our societies driving without a license  and not stopping for a traffic stop are not supposed to be crimes deserving capital punishment.

That Mr. Macron and others apparently perceive the riots and the wide distribution of such videos as more problematic than what these videos show speaks volumes.

Florian M. has been charged with voluntary homicide; look forward to more rioting if he should be acquitted or convicted of a lesser offence.

Undoubtedly France has a massive problem with “foreigners”, i.e. people from different cultures. as do other European countries including my own, Austria, and I am not letting any of them off the hook when it comes to dealing with them fairly and equitably. But France’s problem, unlike Austria’s, is home-grown; it is the result of France’s colonial past. It is, so to speak, the sins of the fathers being visited on the children. All efforts to deport, incarcerate, or otherwise dispose of all these people from North and Sub-Saharan Africa will fail: the “ethnically pure nation-state” is an unrealistic pipe dream, and if the French, from the top politicians to the ordinary citizens, do not learn to live peacefully with all ethnicities and cultures in their country, I fear that we will see even more of such scenes in the future.

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First Reaction to the Refugee Boat Tragedy off the Greek Coast

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Here is my reaction to the recent refugee boat disaster in the Mediterranean, with more than 500 dead:

I believe it is time that all of us here in the affluent West, both our governments and we as individuals, undergo serious soul-searching about how we deal with refugees.

1. We must stop using the lack of agreement within the EU as an excuse for doing nothing ourselves. To make our mercy and helpfulness dependant on that of others is a  declaration of moral bankruptcy.

2. We must abandon the distinction between those fleeing war and persecution (‘genuine refugees’) and those fleeing abject poverty in their countries of origin (‘economic refugees’). It is morally reprehensible to sit here in our still comfortable circumstances, despite inflation and rising prices, and shrug our shoulders at the desperate poverty of others.

3. To refuse assistance to those in need so as not to encourage traffickers is deeply immoral. In our countries we all have the criminal offense of Failure to Render Assistance; we are collectively guilty of this towards the refugees.

4. I disagree with those who want to pit defense spending against adequate aid to those in need: The past year has shown quite clearly that external military defense is necessary, just as  a functioning police force internally. And relying on the increasingly dysfunctional United States for our defense is recklessly dangerous.

5. In all of our countries there is enough savings potential in non-essential projects to be able to help much more effectively. We just have to want it and set the right priorities.

6. There are deeply indecent political parties in our countries that find it acceptable not to help strangers for some perverse ideological reason. If decent parties with a Christian or social-democratic value system pursue a “strict policy on foreigners” in order to steal votes from the indecent parties, then this is not only not very successful (because xenophobic people prefer to vote “the blacksmith than the blacksmith’s apprentice”), but also constitutes an immoral betrayal of one’s own values. Rather, what is needed are broad coalitions of the decent, even across ideological borders, in order to keep the indecent out of power.

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ChatGPT, or The “world” is not the “Kingdom”

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Recently a Christian leader I respect and follow on Facebook commented,

Chat GPT is the most biased tool used to  propagate anti-christian worldview. Be careful. It rarely gets stuff correct, always adding a slight tint meant to demean Christianity.

That hasn’t been my experience. Of course ChatGPT is not a Christian tool and thus won’t give Christian answers, and of course it gets a lot of things wrong (not just about Christianity or the Bible), and of course, being a product of 21st century secular society it prioritizes “equality, inclusiveness, and diversity” over the free exchange of ideas and appends politically correct disclaimers to any potentially (politically or ideologically) controversial answer (after all, it doesn’t want to be cancelled), but so does just about any tool or platform which today’s secular world offers, whether Google, Bing, Wikipedia, and even Facebook where this brother posted his comment.

However, even if those assertions about ChatGPT were true, this comment seems to reflect an expectation that the world should cease to be the world and become more like the Kingdom of God, or that the world, as well as it’s institutions, tools, and laws, should conform to Bible-based Christian or Judeo-Christian values.

While this has for a long time been the expectation of many Christians in the United States and among Christian communities elsewhere influenced by American missionaries, it is an expectation that is foreign to most Christians outside the “Christian West” and to many within it.

I know many American Christians believe that the “Founding Fathers” had exactly that expectation in mind, but whether this is true or not, given Jesus’ words in Mt. 7:13+14, if you set up a society based on democracy (i.e. majority rule, with freedom of religion), the largely secular and non-Christian societies we have today in the US and in the West in general are exactly what we should expect: over time a majority of people choosing the wide gate, and building secular society in conformity with that path, regardless of the founders’ convictions or intentions.

This expectation and the belief in a “Christian society” which we have to somehow recover or restore leads to much frustration, with Christans spending much energy on turning society around through legislation, with all the attendant political belligerence and partisanship, instead of spending their energy on building a counter-cultural community that witnesses to Christ’s saving power, and which will have our unbelieving neighbors saying, “Look how they love one another! Can I be a part of that?” (Jn 13:34+35)

Mind you, I am not advocating that we withdraw from the world (á la the “Benedict Option[1]), or abdicate our responsibility as citizens of a democracy to speak truth to power and influence the world through the political process; but we do so primarily as individual citizens rather than as the church, and we follow the rules of the “game” and accept results which don’t go our way.[2] Most of all we don’t pin our hope on our political efforts and get too emotionally invested in them[3] for if we do, not only will we be disappointed but the world will perceive us as bellicose and belligerent political combatants rather than as loving witnesses to the Kindom of God.[4]

This Kingdom of God will not be fully realized until Christ returns; and we cannot hasten its realization “by might and by power” (Zech. 4:6) or by electing the right politicians.[5]

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  1. or at least, as the Benedict Option is often construed and understood[]
  2. And we don’t argue for our positions primarily by pointing to the Bible but by arguments which appeal to those who don’t see the Bible as an authority[]
  3. for example, to eliminate discrimination against Christian positions, as if we could somehow work our way around Jesus’ assertion that “in the world you will have tribulation” Jn 16:33[]
  4. When we publicly rail against laws that contravene our values, in ways that paint our opponents as immoral wr are actually trying to “convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment” (Jn 16:8), and that is not our job but the Holy Spirit’s. He is much better at it than we can ever be.[]
  5. Psalm 146:3 says, “Put not your trust in princes (or presidents, or governors, or Supreme Court justices), in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs (or he loses his re-election bid), he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.[]
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