Carte Blanche or Held to Account? (What should a friend think?)

This isn’t an easy post to write. I know some will find it offensive because it will be critical of Israel, and as anyone who has seen the inside of US style Christian evangelicalism will know, Israel is beyond criticism. Anything critical said or written against Israel, or what Israel does, is seen as an attack against the apple of God’s eye.
The unfortunate thing about that view of Israel is its unconditional nature – that Israel must be supported no matter what, as if Israel can do no wrong.

In recent days, Israeli troops have been responsible for the deaths of dozens of barely armed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border.
There was a lot of rock throwing, and while that can sound relatively benign, (what boy hasn’t thrown a few rocks at some time in their lives, particularly in childhood or adolescence) but TV footage clearly shows something a lot more potentially lethal, with the rocks being thrown from slings as per David when he killed Goliath.

I have been to Australia’s War memorial in Canberra many times over the past few years. One of the displays is a series of marble sculptures, carved into the shape of folded flags. Depicting the national emblems presented to the families of soldiers killed in action. There are 41 of them, representing the 41 Australia servicemen who were killed during the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014.

Note the number: 41 and the period, around 13 years; and note these were servicemen, who signed up in the armed forces and they were combatants in a war zone.

Compare that number to the at least 58 dead (at time of writing) and thousands wounded (including 116 in serious or critical condition) IN A SINGLE DAY on the Israel Gaza border, where the dead were not trained military personnel and were not armed with sophisticated weaponry. And note that some were killed from a distance by IDF snipers and not in open, close conflict.
https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Unprecedented-violence-in-Gaza-leaves-55-Palestinians-dead-thousands-wounded-556424

I fully recognise that God chose the people of Israel as a special people of His own. I fully recognise that Israel has an ongoing place in God’s purposes, culminating in a permanent return to the land He promised to their ancestor Abraham.

But that does not mean that Israel, as God’s chosen nation has been given carte blanche, free from all consequences of their actions.
Scripture shows that Israel has always paid a price for any transgression of God’s standards. Their relationship to Him comes with conditions, with consequences: blessing or cursing dependant on their keeping of those conditions or not.
There is a standard of behaviour required of them.

Since 1948 when the nation of Israel was restored to the world’s maps, it has been interpreted by evangelicals as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy, the realisation of ancient promises made by God. But one significant part of prophecy about Israel’s return to the Promised Land is missing: the restoration of their relationship to God through recognition of their Messiah Jesus.

So Israel is not yet the nation that God intends them to be.
That doesn’t happen until after events that Jesus described as a time of:

“great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be”.

In other words after the most terrible period of human history that will exceed every other atrocity including the Holocaust.

Jeremiah calls this time “Jacob’s trouble” after which God promises the people of Israel:

I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet,
And no one shall make him afraid.

Amos describes that time in this way:

For surely I will command,
And will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
As grain is sifted in a sieve;
Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword,

It is worth reading the rest of Amos 9 to see what happens AFTER the sinners of God’s people have been killed.
It is after that deadly sifting that restoration to the land comes, culminating in the promise that:

I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

From this I find it clear that the current political state is not the culmination of God’s plan for His people Israel. While the political establishment of that nation has taken us a step towards that culmination, it is still NOT the Godly, Messiah serving people revealed in various Bible prophecies, so should we consider them and treat them as if they are?

The nation of Israel today is a secular and significantly Godless nation, just like the other nations of the earth; and as such they should not be excused for their unrighteousness any more than any other nation should be excused.

Godlessness is Godlessness whether it’s done in the name of Israel or any other national group. If we are representatives of God’s Kingdom we cannot legitimize injustice even if it’s Israel’s injustice. If anything we should expect of them a higher standard because of their historical (and future) relationship with God.

As a people they know better, and as followers of Jesus Christians should know better than to excuse un-Godly behaviour no matter whose behaviour it may be.
By excusing a person’s or a nation’s sin, we are not being a friend to that person or that nation.

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Who Steers Prophetic “History”?

It seems that US evangelicals in high places think they can bring about fulfilment of God’s prophetic word through their own manipulations.

Middle Eastern prophecy: Is Trump a reincarnated King Cyrus, destined to herald the end of days?

RIOTS. Killings. War. At the centre of this chaotic scene is Donald Trump. And his evangelical supporters are hoping he will bring on Armageddon.

(see full article at link below)

Maybe the irony will be that their manipulative acts might bring on that fulfilment, but I think they would be deluded to believe they will be on the right side of prophetic “history”.

God can (and does) use the evils of man to bring about good, but that doesn’t mean that He caused, ordained, or even wanted those evils to be done. He doesn’t allow the evils of man to prevail but He will steer the outcomes to serve His purposes.

I think about the understanding I gained from my reading about WWI.
The war and the way it was fought was evil through and through, and yet God used what man did, and He reshaped the religious and political landscape to strengthen the foundations of a future nation to be named “Israel”.

Likewise, man’s evils in WW2 helped to change the world’s “emotional” landscape, creating enough empathy (and maybe more than a little guilt) to lead the UN to agree to the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people within the land promised by God.

Move on to the present day, the same thing could happen. Man’s misguided (and sometimes evil) political ambitions, even the ambition to bring about fulfilment of biblical prophecy, can be redirected by God to further HIS agenda in HIS timing.

According to the article to those “evangelicals” in high places see:

…chaos in the Middle East is interpreted as a good thing. To them, it’s a sign that the Second Coming is at hand. Peace efforts are simply postponing God’s will.

http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-eastern-prophecy-is-trump-a-reincarnated-king-cyrus-destined-to-herald-the-end-of-days/news-story/8fce69eacebd929b482ee00c895f37dc

While the article is at times confused and ill-informed, my own observations lead me to think it makes an important and legitimate basic claim about “evangelical” desire to hurry the world to Armageddon.

I intend to look at related issues in my next posts (with a particular focus on Israel), and I know some of it won’t be easy to write as it will address some difficult things.

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Addendum (another excerpt from the article:

The Trump presidency makes a big thing of its weekly bible study group.

It’s run by Capitol Ministries.

Its focus is openly apocalyptic…

…Earlier this month, Capitol Ministries issued a sermon directly relevant to current administration issues, including Iran, Syria and Israel.

Titled The Bible on When War Is Justifiable, it argues violence is justifiable because the Apostle Peter ordered all men to submit “to every human institution”. It also emphasises that God himself “judges and wages war”.

In their perspective, every human institution is the US administration. And God’s agent is President Trump.

Therefore Trump has God’s authority to do whatever he wants.

Take the evolving climate change crisis.

One argument goes something like this: The Bible says Earth was created for man. Man should not be ashamed to exploit it. Therefore, Capitol Ministries insists in its Trump administration bible studies group, environmentalism must therefore be a heretical religion. There’s nothing to worry about, it argues: God will “continually renew the face of the earth until He forms a new heaven and a new earth in the end times.”

The Pastor and the Painter, by Cindy Wockner

Reading The Pastor and the Painter was a little like reading a book about the Titanic. The tragic conclusion has already been well publicised.

Andrew Chan (the pastor) and Myuran Sukumaran (the painter) were killed by an Indonesian firing squad, upon the order of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo.

Chan and Sukumaran had been sentenced to death by a Bali court for drug trafficking a decade before the sentence was finally carried out. Pleas for clemency were denied.

Not long before his death, Sukumaran painted a portrait of the man who would demand that the executions be carried out. On the back of the painting of the president, Sukumaran wrote “People Do Change”, stating the fact that everyone apart from the president seemed to recognise – that the two men whose lives were being taken from them were not the same men who committed the crime a decade before. They HAD changed.

The men sentenced were young, irresponsible, angry, unco-operative and undeniably guilty of the crime.
The men being executed 10 years later were repentant, responsible and highly respected by those with authority over them in jail. Unlike many in their position who buried their despair in drug use, Chan and Sukumaran turned their lives around and went to work developing and running training programs and various other activities for other prisoners within the jail.

Chan studied for Christian ministry and started a church within the prison.
Sukumaran developed his artistic skills and was mentored by Australian artist Ben Quilty; sharing what he learned through holding art classes for fellow prisoners. Paintings were sold and proceeds used for various causes, including raising money to pay for life saving surgery for a female prisoner.

While many in the past have had sentences reduced, sadly, for others Indonesian law would remain inflexible.

 

Laws are like spider webs: if a fly or mosquito gets near, it gets trapped, but if a wasp or bee goes near, it breaks it and leaves. The same applies to the law: if a poor man strays he gets caught, while the rich and powerful exempt themselves from the law and walk away.

(Andrew Chan – from The Pastor and the Painter)

The absurdity of executing fully rehabilitated young men, who had not only turned their own lives around but had made significant contributions to the rehabilitation of their fellow prisoners, became even more extreme when the time came for them to be transported to the place where they were to be held prior to facing a firing squad. It was a full-on military exercise with armoured vehicles, armed soldiers and fighter jets escorting them on their journey.

On 27th April, two days before he and Myuran were executed, Andrew Chan married Febyanti Herewila, a local church minister, in a ceremony within the prison.

All up, about 20 people gathered, After Muran led them in prayer, he started singing ‘Bless the Lord’, a song also known as ‘10,000 Reasons’, and one they all knew and loved.

There was still some time for jokes amid the sad pall that hung over the Besi prison visiting area. As Myuran got stuck into some more junk food, someone told him it wasn’t good for him.

He smiled. “There are worse ways to die”.

(From The Pastor and the Painter)

 

On 29th April 2105, at 12.25am, Andrew and Myuran and six others were brutally killed by Indonesian president Joko Widodo. The weapon used: firing squad.

They were strapped by the elbows to wooden crosses and sang until their voices were silenced by the fatal gunshots. The song in the video above is the last they sang.

 

 

The eight people who were executed in Indonesia on 29 April 2015. Top row from left (including two of the Bali Nine): Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Nigerian Okwuduli Oyatanze and Nigerian Martin Anderson. Bottom row from left: Nigerians Raheem Agbaje Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin. Two others (not pictured) who were scheduled to be executed were given a temporary reprieve. Photograph: The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/29/bali-nine-who-are-the-nine-people-being-executed-by-indonesia )

Something is rotten in the state of Maryland

I’ve been reading Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry. I found it after I’d discovered a true crime podcast SERIAL that looked at the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, Maryland.

The SERIAL podcast raised some interesting questions about the case, and while the presenter Sarah Koenig didn’t come to any conclusion about Syed’s guilt or innocence, she thought there was sufficient room for reasonable doubt that he should not have been found guilty based on the evidence presented in court.

After listening to SERIAL, I moved on to another podcast, one that takes a much more in depth look at the legalities of the case. Undisclosed is presented by Rabia Chaudry (author of Adnan’s Story) Susan Simpson and Colin Miller, attorneys who have studied Syed’s case in depth.

At the beginning of Undisclosed, Chaudry advises listeners to hear SERIAL before tackling her own podcast. Doing so gives the basic background to the case and introduces all of the main players, allowing the presenters of  Undisclosed to tackle the case in more depth without having to cover introductory material already handled in the older podcast.

SERIAL left the story with a state of ambiguity.  Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee or not? Maybe, maybe not!

Undisclosed has no time for ambiguity. It isn’t using the case as the basis for an entertaining listening experience.  It digs deeply into the evidence and presents it in a very accessible way. It wants to find the truth and present it to a wider audience. The bonus for the listener is that it still manages to ‘entertain”.

Rabia Chaudry is a friend of Syed and his family, so its not surprising that she should take up his cause and try to present a case for his innocence, so I started my listening and reading journey into this murder case with a degree of caution. However, the people she gathered around her didn’t have that personal connection and their help was sought after they had already been investigating the case for themselves.

The further I got into the podcasts and the book, it became clear that any bias held by Chaudry was not only due to her family connection to Syed. There is more than enough evidence available to indicate that several very untoward things had happened leading to Syed’s conviction and imprisonment. From very dodgy policing through to the equally questionable tactics of the prosecution.

Here are two examples relating to the prosecution case.

  1. They used phone records to “prove” Syed was at the site where the body was found, around the time her burial allegedly took place. Apart from the circular argument that set the burial time according to the phone record, and then used that phone record to say Syed was there at the time of the burial, the phone documents themselves specifically stated that they should not be used to determine a phone’s (and by extension it’s owner’s) location. (1)
  2. The primary evidence against Syed was the testimony of Jay Wilds who claimed that Syed had killed Hae Min Lee and then recruited Wilds to help him bury the body. Apart from the fact that Wilds’ story changed significantly every time he told it, the following information came out a few years ago from the defence attorney representing Wilds in the plea deal he made to escape prosecution for his own alleged part as an accessory after the fact of the murder:  “Urick [the prosecutor in Syed’s case] said that Jay had two choices: either accept a plea deal as accessory after the fact in exchange for testifying against Adnan, or Urick would charge him with the murder of Hae Min Lee and prosecute the case in Baltimore County, where a majority white jury would be much more likely to find a black man guilty, and he could end up facing the death penalty”.

Regarding the policing, evidence given suggests that witnesses were actually coached by police regarding the testimony they gave, and that witness evidence shifted and changed several times to make it fit a “flexible” timeline. That might seem like an extreme claim to make against hard working detectives, keen on seeing justice within their city (Baltimore, Maryland), however, the very same detectives have later had at least four of their cases overturned and the alleged perpetrators released due to questions raised about the cases they’d built against their suspects. Undisclosed provides information about the way the police used similar tactics to that attributed to Urick, the prosecutor, where vulnerable “witnesses” were scared into testifying on their behalf to avoid threatened charges against them, such as blaming them for the crime.

Susan Simpson, Chaudry’s fellow podcaster explains on her blog:

The murder of Hae Min Lee was investigated by Detectives William Ritz and Gregory MacGillivary. To date, three four* defendants who were convicted of murder pursuant to investigations by either Ritz or MacGillivary have been found to have been wrongfully convicted and released from prison. (see here)

This subject is discussed in depth in the Undisclosed podcast  – episode 9 – “Charm City”

 

This was all compounded by a defence attorney’s weak performance. She not only overlooked the above mentioned statement regarding the phone records, she also avoided contacting an eye witness who could account for Syed’s actions elsewhere at the very time he was allegedly committing the murder. The defence even lied to her client, telling him the alibi witness wasn’t valid because she realised she’d remembered a different day. That was not the case. Not long after Syed’s trial, his defence attorney was disbarred.

I could write more an more about this case, but I’d only be retelling details that can already be found in the podcasts and the books. The podcasts are easily and freely available to anyone willing to take the time. It’s probably not the kind of thing that most people are interested enough to follow up. They might not be interested in the plight of one young man who has spent almost 20 years of his life (starting age 17) at a crime he most likely didn’t commit. But one thing seems clear to me – how safe can anyone be if the legal system that is supposed to protect them actually targets them for its own convenience? When achieving results (any result) is more important than achieving justice.

A few days ago Adnan Syed was granted a new trial, giving him the opportunity to have the case reheard, hopefully resulting in a verdict fitting to the facts, not manipulated and distorted to suit any agenda, but a verdict that serves justice.

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(1)

 

Here are two YouTube videos addressing the science of the case.


Caution, some of the details spoken about in the following video can be disturbing.

Man’s Politics or God’s Kingdom

Winston Churchill is alleged to have said something like:  “Democracy is the worst kind of government… except for all of the rest”

In other word’s democracy isn’t what it’s cracked up to be – but its the best mankind has been able to come up with.

But God has something better.

Thank God that if we are part of HIS people, we are part of that something better.
We live within earthly nations as HIS ambassadors, ambassadors of HIS Kingdom and NOT reliant on the politics of this world for sustenance and protection.

We don’t look to the world’s ways and the world’s politics for answers. We don’t look to the world’s way and the word’s politics to improve the world.
Our part in this world is to encourage it’s citizens to migrate to GOD’s Kingdom, to change citizenship.

We are NOT going to bring God’s Kingdom to earth and we definitely aren’t going to bring the world closer to God’s Kingdom through earthly politics and allegiances to earthly nations.

We are not going to bring about “theocratic” rule.

That “theocratic rule” will only happen at its appointed time, when the Lord Himself returns.

 

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!

 

USA – the most psychopathically homicidal nation on earth?

The USA is clearly the most homicidally psychopathic nation in the “developed” world – if not the whole world.

At least that’s the case if the US President, a large number of Republican politicians, and the NRA are correct.

What other conclusion could be drawn if the never ending string of US gun massacres is the result of mental health issues and not guns?

Is mental health really the reason the USA has a regularity of mass shootings not experienced elsewhere in the developed world?

If we rule out the gun fetishism that makes American gun ownership and availability far exceed any other “developed” nation, and if we accept the frequent claim that mental health issues and not guns are the cause of these mass shootings – what does that say about the mental health of Americans in comparison to the mental health of those everywhere else

Maybe American political authorities should consider the clear implication of their claims before diagnosing their nation.
And maybe the general population should consider the mental health of their politicians – at least of those who continue to kowtow to the gun lobby while the gun massacres continue to kill and maim their sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

Again and again and again and….

No other developed nation comes close to the rate of US gun violence. Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every adult.

Data from the Gun Violence Archive reveals there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – every nine out of 10 days on average

From the article article here:
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/oct/02/america-mass-shootings-gun-violence