A Few Thought About Recent Events

 

Yet another terrorist attack in the west, and who knows how many more outside of western interests where these things are not as rare or infrequent as they are closer to home? (At least one in Indonesia reported today 25th May)

And not unexpectedly, the murderer was a deranged Muslim extremist expecting to get fast-tracked to paradise. Imagine the disappointment on arriving at his eternal destination.

the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Rev 21)

I can see at least two of those labels are clearly relevant to that deluded young man (cowardly and murderer) and possibly more.

 

At these times debates always arise about the nature of Islam. There are inevitable contradictory contrasts presented, with some declaring Islam a religion of peace, others that it’s a religion of violence and hatred.
While arguments fly, with people taking one side or the other, equally valid arguments could probably be made for both views.

 

Firstly, most Muslims are probably no less peace loving, peace desiring than the majority of non-Muslims. They just want to get on with their lives, taking care of their families in safety and security. They are Muslims because they were born into a Muslim family and follow the rituals and practices they’ve been taught. There would be little difference between them and their attitudes and those of most western “Christians”, except the Muslim often has a much more developed daily awareness of their god than the majority of westerners (even church goers) and are often far more devoted to their beliefs than a great number of professing Christians. And remember, it is only in recent decades that the Muslims among us have become targets of suspicion. Previously they lived  among us with little cause for concern, and Christians need to resist  demonising the people no matter how we view the religion they’ve been brought up to follow.

 

Moving to the other side of the argument, we only have to look at those nations where Islam dominates and see how it affects their laws, their governments and the lives of their people. Those nations include some of the most openly brutal and intolerant in the world, often responding to perceived lawbreakers with violent punishments, and dealing harshly with those alleged to have been insulting to Islam. All of that is justified by appeal to Islamic teaching.
Those who insist on portraying Islam as violent need only to point to those nations, and also highlight those parts of the Koran that justify the harshness in those nations – the parts that teach intolerance for and retribution against “the infidel” (or non-Muslim) and the lawbreaker. And parts of the Koran can make that an easy argument to prosecute. It is to this view of Islam that the terrorists belong, seeking to bring down those outside of their particular religious view of the world.

 

However is pointing out Koranic violence the wisest argument for Christians to make, when it is equally easy to turn the accusatory finger to point the other way?
The Bible itself isn’t free of violence commanded by God. God given Law also demands lethal and violent punishment (some punishments the same as in the Koran, which partially draws on the older scriptural writings that preceded it).
It can be non-productive and unhelpful, to make arguments against Islam citing violent instruction in the Koran, that can equally be levelled against Christianity and Judaism through citing the old and New Testaments.

 

So is there any difference? Are Judaism and Christianity any less condemnable that Islam for having violence at their heart (as provable from the evidence of their holy writings)?

I say there is a difference.
The unfolding message of the Bible is different. There is an ongoing purposeful development throughout. The Bible presents a history of God’s relationship to mankind, showing where we came from, through to God’s ultimate purpose for us.
The Bible starts with God’s creation of the universe and the planet where we live, and how he populated it with an incredible variety of living things, culminating in man and woman.
It tells of how His perfect creation was tainted by the introduction of sin (rebellion) and continues with an unfolding account of God’s means of restoring the relationship between God and man that was lost through that initial rebellion.

 

The violent events recorded in scripture fall within the context of that developing history of fallen mankind struggling with a Holy God of perfect justice. A history that continues to unfold, heading towards a complete renewing of creation. In fact a totally new creation where only righteousness can dwell, a creation free of the hatred and violence that became the inevitable result of man’s rebellion against God.
It will be a new creation, a new heavens and earth populated only by those who have chosen to be willing followers of God through the gift given via His Son Jesus.

 

And that is the difference I see – that there’s an end purpose; GOD’s purpose, where the continuing cycle of men’s violence and other corrupt actions are stamped out, and God’s ways become man’s ways.

 

There’s a reason why we are told that the enemies we face aren’t flesh and blood. That we don’t wage war as the world does. And yet Christians often go against that instruction and put hope and trust in, and support, man’s violent military solutions to the evils of groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, and their blind foolish followers. Support that can take on a misplaced patriotic fervour. Support for military action often conducted against relatively small groups who have established themselves in poor, vulnerable and insecure nations, or nations MADE insecure by earlier military action. Military action that exacerbates the problem and supercharges the recruitment drive of the enemy “we” are intended to defeat, to the extent that it’s “our” purpose that is defeated and not the enemy “we’ve” been fighting.

 

And while they turn their military might against the nations unwillingly harbouring terrorists – our governments continue to align themselves with gulf state sheikdoms, particularly Saudi Arabia, home and supporter of extremist Islam; who have thrown hundreds of billions of dollars into exporting the extremists Islamist ideologies that we allegedly want to destroy.

And why is that the case?
Indian researcher Professor Brah-ma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi says:

“Money is the main reason why the United States in particular is unwilling to break its longstanding alliance with the gulf sheikdoms.”
(http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/saudi-arabia-responsible-for-worlds-terrorist-ideology/8553832 )

 

As the title of this article says, this post expresses a FEW thoughts about recent events.
There’s probably a lot more that could be said to add to the topics I’ve touched upon. Some of the subject matter is far more complex than many people like to think, and therefore I’m not sure whether I’ve clearly expressed some of the things I wanted to say. I just hope I’ve made enough sense to take a glimpse beyond the glib political and religious rhetoric we tend to be bombarded with through various mass media, so we can avoid the same feelings and expressions of hatred that we accuse others of harbouring.

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The Last Trump: Financing and Arming Terrorism

Donald Trump makes $100+ billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and blames world terror on Iran.

Contrast with:

“Saudi Arabia responsible for world’s terrorist ideology”

From:
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/saudi-arabia-responsible-for-worlds-terrorist-ideology/8553832

US president Donald Trump has been courting the Saudis this week — sealing another arms deal, this time worth about 110 billion US dollars.

But leading Indian researcher Professor Brah-ma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi has warned the Saudis cannot be trusted.

Money is the main reason why the United States in particular is unwilling to break its longstanding alliance with the gulf sheikdoms.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6%3A24&version=NIV

 

(Complete interview can be found here:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/religionandethicsreport/intolerant-gulf-money/8554430 )

_________________________________

(see more “Last Trump” worthy news here:
https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/%d0%bf%d0%be%d1%81%d0%bb%d0%b5%d0%b4%d0%bd%d0%b8%d0%b9-%d0%ba%d0%be%d0%b7%d1%8b%d1%80%d1%8c-19-%d0%bc%d0%b0%d1%8f/#comment-9188

And here:
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/23/trump-budget-medicaid-food-stamps-obamacare

Donald Trump launched a budget proposal Tuesday and, as may not be a surprise, it’s a horror. The pompously titled A New Foundation for American Greatness is a rightwing wish list of tax cuts for the rich and beatings for the poor. Fortunately, as with most things Trump, it’s as likely to become reality as his “great big beautiful wall”.

(note to 80% of white evangelicals who supported this man: “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”)

Leaks, Heartbreak, and Demonic Delusion (The Manchester Murders)

Excerpts from a Guardian article, “US leak of Manchester attacker’s name strikes new blow to intelligence sharing” by David Smith in Washington and Ewen MacAskill in London

“Naming of Salman Abedi by ‘US officials’ hours before it was announced by UK authorities is latest in series of leaks that may damage credibility with allies.”

“American officials have been criticised for leaking the identity of the Manchester bomber before British police officially named him.

Salman Abedi was identified in media reports that attributed “US officials” as the source even as their British counterparts remained tight-lipped.”

“Although UK journalists had Abedi’s name, the UK government and Greater Manchester police declined to confirm it more than two hours after it appeared in the US press. Earlier in the day, the government indicated it might not release the name at all on Tuesday because the investigation was continuing.”

Full article here:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/23/trump-administration-manchester-bomber-name-leak

 

I first heard about the leak on the radio when I was driving to work, then I saw the guardian article confirming the radio story. (See more links regarding leaks in the comments section).

 

 

The guardian also has a heartbreaking accounts of what happened after the bombing:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/23/couple-helped-injured-girl-manchester-attack

 

 

The Daily Telegraph has a page with photos of those still missing. One of the “missing” was Saffie Rose Roussos, the eight year old girl who has now been confirmed dead. It seems likely that some of the others mentioned by the Telegraph will sooner or later join the list of those confirmed killed.

This is from another source: “Saffie was unable to be found after an explosion tore through Manchester Arena in the UK on Monday night, killing 22 and injuring a further 59 concertgoers.Family friends called the police crisis phone number, hotels and mustering points for the injured searching for Saffie.They also posted an appeal on Facebook in a desperate bid to find her.”
(from:http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/girl-8-among-dead-in-manchester-terror-attack/news-story/9c3facc7e59181ec2c8e0bbba70b5345

 

 

There are conflicting descriptions of the murderer Salman Ramadan Abedi.

“He was such a quiet boy, always very respectful towards me… He is such an unlikely person to have done this.”

Contrasted with:

Mohammed Saeed, a senior figure of Didsbury Mosque and Islamic Centre, said Salman Abedi had looked at him “with hate” after he gave a sermon criticising Isis and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya…
“Salman showed me a face of hate after that sermon,” he said. “He was showing me hatred.”

Above quotes from article here:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/23/manchester-arena-attacker-named-salman-abedi-suicide-attack-ariana-grande

 

 

Only severe demonic delusion could make someone think it was honourable – deserving of martyrdom and a fast-track to paradise – to murder children and teens in the name of their god. Only a severe demonic delusion could allow someone to think such a god was worthy of worship and such an act of “martyrdom”.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8)

…you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3)

…the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Rev 21)

Most dangerous?

Two disturbing articles, especially when considered TOGETHER keeping in mind the implication of the second one in which Bannon is portrayed as being a Judeo-Christian traditionalist. The articles show how increasingly Christians are being thrown into the Trump (Bannon?) camp whether we want to be or not.

_______
From article one “Steve Bannon is calling the shots in the White House. That’s terrifying“:

“Bannon is not the president’s servant. The president is his tool. For years, Bannon cast about for the proper vehicle to carry the fight forward. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry –they were considered possible material. Now in Donald Trump he has found adequate if imperfect stuff. Both are workaholics. Both share a protectionist mindset. Both are combative.

But Bannon, in contrast to the president, is not easily distracted. He is intelligent, articulate, focused in his ideology and dedicated to the struggle. And he has now been catapulted by an undisciplined president to the inner precincts of the National Security Council and its principals’ committee, assuming a position senior to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

Unvetted, unconfirmed but immensely powerful, Bannon may just be the most dangerous man in America.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/31/steve-bannon-most-dangerous-man-in-america

And article two “Why Steve Bannon wants to destroy secularism” :

“Just what does Steve Bannon believe? For some, his thinking can be boiled down to racism. For others, he is merely a sinister opportunist taking advantage of Trump and the “alt-right”, a far-right movement in the US, for economic gain and fame. But what if he is fundamentally driven by something else? Like: religion.”

And

“The most bothersome feature of Bannon’s talk is the fact that a Catholic group at the Vatican responded to it with enthusiasm. Their questions demonstrate that they knew Bannon’s desire to make his message receptive to rightwing populist parties. Excitement over his idea of a renewed Judeo-Christian Europe seemingly trumped such concerns. This is same political ideology that galvanized evangelicals to vote for Trump.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/07/why-steve-bannon-wants-to-destroy-secularism

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I find it disturbing that THIS is the way that Christians, Christianity and Christian interests are being portrayed to the wider world.

In an email exchange with a friend we discussed the current Trump (Bannon?) response to Syrian refugees.
My friend said:

Can you feel the whole world polarising? Mild-mannered Muslims are realising that they are the enemy after all. Trump also is allowing Syrians in if they are “Christians”. That is like having a gold-letter reference from Jack the Ripper. Now those mild-mannered Muslims know who the actual enemy really is. “Christians” like Trump.
In their eyes, you and me.

I replied:

Yes, when they started to speak of favouring Syrian Christians, I thought of the target being put on their back – making them even MORE prone to severe persecution; subjecting them to a darker equivalent of Trump’s “extreme vetting” (as if anything Trump does isn’t dark enough in its own right).

And as western society increases its protest against Trump’s dictatorial mania, his perceived favouring of Christians puts that target on our backs too.

The “target on the back” of western Christians that I mentioned to my friend firstly relates to an increased hostility towards followers of Jesus by wider western society when genuine believers become increasingly painted with the same brush as the “evangelicals” whose support helped Trump to the Presidency.

Secondly it will relate to an increased hostility from the Trump camp towards those Christians who saw through the Trump camp’s “alternative facts” and opposed him.

_______________________

A disturbing image linking Trump, money and the cross. The latter associating Trump wrongly (but understandably) to Christianity via traditional symbolism.

trump

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2017/jan/31/signs-of-the-times-the-best-anti-trump-placards-from-across-the-uk-in-pictures#img-15

In the Land of Blue Burqas (updated)

burqasIn the Land of the Blue Burqas by Kate McCord gives a fascinating insight into the people of Afghanistan, particularly the women, and how Islam affects their lives and relationships.

While Islam and Christianity embrace very different views of God, McCord makes use of a few common areas of belief to build a bridge to share the gospel.

McCord writes of how “Afghans almost universally believe in the concept of kismet, fate. Whatever happens happens because Allah wills it, no matter whose hand has accomplished the thing”.

She addresses this with a group of Afghan women while discussing a deadly car bombing in Kabul that destroyed a bus and killed many including a young mother:

“God told us not to kill. We cannot disobey God in the name of God. That is a lie. God told us to love Him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. Then He told us to love our neighbours. If a man kills his neighbour, he is disobeying God. This man who blew up the bus and killed that mother did not do the will of God. He did the work of Satan. God will judge him”

One woman in the room responded by sharing another story.

“Our town was at peace. We didn’t know war. We were happy. One day my cousins and aunts were gathered in the house preparing [food] for a wedding party. A bomb fell. We found pieces of dough, bundles of meat, hair ties, scarves, and scraps of bloody fabric. Even the part of the ceiling that didn’t fall was covered with blood and pieces of bodies”

… we all looked at the swirling red carpet . Each woman muttered “Tobah” repent.

After a long pause I restated what I absolutely believe to be the truth: “That was not the will of God, either”
“No,” the women agreed. “That is not the will of God.”

McCord gives the Christian reader a lot of food for thought.
She writes:

“For many Westerners, the question of who God is and what He wants for and from us is simply not relevant. We are, after all, wealthy and busy. For Afghans, it may be the most important question of all.”

And she confesses to something that I think affects most western Christians to one degree or another:

“Sometimes I forget to differentiate between what I believe as an American woman and what I believe the Bible teaches. America is my culture, and Jesus is my Saviour and Lord. Sometimes it’s hard to untangle the two. Afghans challenged me to try.

McCord compares various aspects of her Christians beliefs with those of her Afghan neighbours to show how the vastly different cultural beliefs affect Afghan views of God and as a result their society.

One example she describes is the Afghan view of temptation and sin.

I learned that in Afghanistan, the influences that cause or encourage a person to do what the society defines as wrong are the real sin, not the person who actually does the wrong. People are weak and must be protected. The society provides that protection. Any influence that tempts a member of the community must be eradicated, silenced, or walled out.

McCord also found that her time in Afghanistan gave her a new perspective on some very familiar parts of scripture.

Afghans helped me understand the teachings of Jesus more completely. The culture of Afghanistan today is much more similar to the first century Judea of Jesus’ day than my own Western culture is…

As an example of this, she writes:

I was often amazed when an Afghan heard a Jesus story for the first time and then told me what it means. Jesus spoke to a woman at a well, a woman who had had several husbands and was not married to her current partner. My Afghan women friends immediately saw the woman’s shame. No woman in Afghanistan can arrange her own marriage. The woman at the well had been used by five men, and the last didn’t even have the decency to marry her.

I found the book to be a an effective eye-opener, not only to an unbelievably foreign culture and religion, but also to the unbelievably naïve view that Western Christians have developed concerning the life and teachings of Jesus and how we’ve been taught to view them.

Extremist Secular Fundamentalism

Almost a month ago I started a post with the following statement:

While one cannot live by “likes” alone, the number of likes against an article or a comment – or their absence – can be a telling indicator of a readership’s attitude.

(https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/plebiscite-on-same-sex-marriage/)

After posting those thoughts I’ve seen something even more blatant than the situation that led me to write that article.

On the same newspaper website, I’ve seen comments ridiculing and belittling those who believe in (a) God have been getting “likes” in the hundreds. Previously it had seemed that 20 “likes” awarded to a comment was significant.

I’ve had varying degrees of involvement with Christianity and church during the past 40 years, and I’ve come across different kinds of hostile attitudes towards myself and other believers, but generally the hostility came from a small number.

This is the first time that I’ve seen such a popular opposition to those professing some kind of religious faith.
The cases I refer to above were actually responding to articles about Moslems, not Christians, but those replies were broadly aimed at a more general belief in God, not at any particular form of belief, or belief in any particular deity.

Examples:

Most people with any degree of individual thought have abandoned the idea of religion.just as nobody believes in fairies or the Loch Ness monster.
This goes for Christians and any other believers in mumbo jumbo. [161 likes]

And

Sorry, but I read the words bible and Koran and just switched off. I just can’t believe that in the 21st century people base their lives on, and excuse their actions because of, works of fiction which are centuries old [50 likes]

And

I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry anyone who is devoutly religious [108 likes ]

Most of the more extreme views some with “likes” in the multiple hundreds, were specifically targeted at Islam. While I have no agreement at all with Islamic beliefs, what I found disturbing about the comments and the fact that so many agreed with them, is that the degree of hostility directed towards people for having religious beliefs, and for actually living their lives according to those beliefs.

One example relates to a current news story about French resort towns banning the “Burkini” from their beaches. Commenters practically demand that Muslim women should conform to Western society’s standards and fit in with the world around them instead of making themselves separate from society by the way they dress.

People in Europe believe that muslims are not doing enough to assimilate properly, so why wear this religious garment? Why not try and adopt your new home`s customs and become progressive rather than regressive? [130 likes]

The point, m’lady, is not your decision to wear the all in one burkini. Knock yourself out.
It’s the ideology that claims you can’t wear a swimsuit that irritates us. [307 likes]

it’s, an ostentatious display of religious identity, and that isn’t something that should be welcome in secular liberal western countries.[50 likes]

The burkini is part of a ridiculous mindset that says that strongly held religious beliefs somehow have intellectual merit.[ 103 likes]

While most of these comments are addressed to an issue related to Muslims (women in particular) – I think they are no less hostile to anyone who takes their faith seriously enough to think their lifestyle should be shaped by something (Someone) other than society’s ever changing standards of morality.

It seems that secularity is becoming much more than an absence of religion, or a separation from religion; it is increasingly becoming anti-religion and is itself adopting the very worst traits of dogmatic extremism