Category: Politics

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
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DSC_0700This is a post about that time that President Obama quoted Luther (Martin, the reformer, not the anger translator). Okay, maybe the President didn’t quote the monk with a mallet, but suspend your disbelief for a few more paragraphs at least.

Remember the kerfuffle when President Obama uttered those infamous words, “You didn’t build that”? It was, granted, a long time ago (3 years, in fact). But as I argued at the time, there was some truth in the basic sentiment, even if there was some ambiguity about the President’s intended antecedent.

Lately I ran across this striking passage from one of Martin Luther’s sermons, where he raises the stakes, so to speak, regarding the necessity of civil government for social flourishing. In a 1528 sermon on the Lord’s Prayer, Luther has this to say about the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread”:

When you pray this petition turn your eyes to everything that can prevent our bread from coming and the crops from prospering. Therefore extend your thoughts to all the fields and do not see only the baker’s oven. You pray, therefore, against the devil and the world, who can hinder the grain by tempest and war. We pray also for temporal peace against war, because in times of war we cannot have bread. Likewise, you pray for government, for sustenance and peace, without which you cannot eat: Grant, Lord, that the grain may prosper, that the princes may keep the peace, that war may not break out, that we may give thanks to thee in peace. Therefore it would be proper to stamp the emperor’s or the princes’ coat-of-arms upon bread as well as upon money or coins. Few know that this is included in the Lord’s Prayer. Though the Lord gives bread in sufficient abundance even to the wicked and godless, it is nevertheless fitting that we Christians should know and acknowledge that it comes from God, that we realize that bread, hunger, and war are in God’s hands. If he opens his hand, we have bread and all things in abundance; if he closes it, then it is the opposite. Therefore, do not think that peace is an accidental thing; it is the gift of God. (LW 51:176-177)

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In this video, Richard Hovannisian, professor emeritus of Armenian and Near Eastern History at the University of California, Los Angeles, explains the Armenian Genocide.

Today is April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which is held annually to commemorate the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by Ottoman Turks. It is also the official remembrance of the centennial of the campaign of human and cultural destruction. Here are more reflections and news items:

Message of HH Karekin II at the Canonization of the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Church — Mother See of Etchmiadzin

The martyrs of the Genocide today, in the luminous chambers of the kingdom of heaven, bearing the crowns of martyrdom, are the patron saints of justice, philanthropy and peace; whose intercession from heaven opens the source of God’s mercy and graces wherever justice is weakened, the tranquility and security of peace is disturbed, where human rights and the rights of people are trampled, threats arise against the welfare of societies, and persecutions against faith and identity are fanaticized.


The courage to call genocide what it is: Recalling the Armenian slaughter, 100 years later

Robert Morganthau, New York Daily News

In 1939, when Hitler was explaining the rationale for wiping out the Polish people in order to take over their land, he asked, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” If there had been a greater outcry and condemnation from the international community, perhaps Hitler would not have been so encouraged to proceed with his plans.

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Raphael Lemkin

Raphael Lemkin

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide – a systematic, murderous campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population, killing 1.5 million and leaving millions more displaced.

Though these atrocities have been verified through survivor accounts and historical records, to this day, not all countries have recognized the atrocities as “genocide” – the foremost being Turkey, along with others, including the United States.

In a Huffington Post article, “The United States Should Remember Raphael Lemkin’s Words and Formally Recognize the Armenian Genocide,” H.A. Goodman draws particular focus to Turkey’s animosity toward the genocide label, even threatening other countries that recognize the tragedy as genocide.

Most recently, Turkey’s resistance was displayed when Pope Francis referred to the slaughter as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The Turkish government responded by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

But perhaps an even more shocking reality surrounding the Armenian Genocide is this: at the time the Ottoman Empire began exterminating the Armenians in 1915, its actions were not considered illegal. It would be another 33 years before genocide was named a crime under international law, through the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, after which the word “genocide” was created and used for the first time, only 4 years prior. For these two significant actions we have one man to thank, a largely unknown Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin.

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Hilarion

Hilarion

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, a high ranking bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, commented on a new poll that showed a growing number of Russians are viewing the rule of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in a positive light. Hilarion’s comments amount to a verbal cup of black coffee for those intoxicated with Stalin (1878-1953), one of the most murderous dictators in history. Stalin, who blew up Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 1931, was described by historian Robert Conquest as a man who combined ruthlessness, deception and terror in the extreme. The historian quoted a Russian scholar who said of Stalin’s dictatorship: “We wiped out the best and brightest in our country and, as a result, sapped ourselves of intelligence and energy.”

Metropolitan Hilarion:

“I think that to sober up, some need to go to the Butovo firing range on the outskirts of Moscow,” Ilarion said during a program aired by Channel One on Monday, according to media reports.

Butovo was the site of the largest number of political executions in the Moscow region under Stalin. “The firing range has a museum, photographs of people, it tells you what was happening there: Every day they brought in and shot 200, 300, 400 people,” Ilarion was quoted as saying. “There were 15-16-year-old children. Why were they shot?” (more…)

??????????????????????????Amidst the hubbub surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the owners of Memories Pizza, a local family-owned restaurant, have been the first to bear the wrath of the latest conformity mob.

We knew they’d come, of course. “They” being fresh off the sport of strong-arming boutique bakeries and shuttering the shop doors of grandmother florists (all in the name of “social justice,” mind you).

The outrage is rather predictable these days, and not just on issues as hot and contentious as this. A company does something we don’t like and we respond not through peaceful discourse or by taking our services elsewhere, but through direct abuse and assault on the party in question (self-righteous tweets included). When Patton Oswalt points out these instincts in defense of an anti-semitic comic, the mob may temper its tone for a season. But alas, there are small businesses to bully, and this is about sexuality, an idol well worth the blood. (more…)

Hilarion

Hilarion

In a March 29 discussion on Russian TV with a government official, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk decried the attacks against Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, describing these attacks as a genocidal campaign that until recently in international forums and mass media have been “hushed up as if non-existent; it was simply ignored.” The director of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church said in the interview that “now we have found ourselves in a situation when the whole Middle East is affected by this blight of terrorism, when the fire of civil war and inter-ethnic confrontation is blazing, when Christians are methodically eliminated, that is, when the genocide of Christians is raging. Let us call things by their proper names.” The Russian bishop said he was grateful that the West has at last paid attention to the plight of Christians but asked: ” .. is it not late?” More from the interview:

Only after the ISIS militants began terrible mass executions of Christians the world community began speaking about this problem out loud. It happened only after the number of Christians in Iraq decreased by times and almost no Christians remained in Lybia and after the Christian community in Egypt had a hard time. The world community has at last begun speaking out against the background of general instability and uncertainty, against the background of the Arab Spring developments, against the background of what is going on now in Syria, where militants in the occupied territories are systematically eliminating Christians and Christian shrines. (more…)

Abdel-Latif Derian

Abdel-Latif Derian

Joe Carter put up a very good clarifying post on Wednesday about Western politicians and religious leaders envisioning a moderate Islam that might follow the template of the Protestant Reformation. In “Let’s Stop Asking Islam to Be Christian,” Carter wrote that what Western elites really want is for Muslims “to be like liberal mainline Christianity: all the trappings of the faith without all that pesky doctrine that might stir up trouble.”

Indeed, Christians and Muslims hold radically different notions about the “true faith” and the nature of God. This would have been unquestionably obvious to St. John of Damascus (676-749) who authored the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith and served as a high counselor to Muslim rulers.

Now some of the same Christian communities that date to the era of the Damascene church father — or earlier — have been wiped out or targeted for extinction by Islamic terrorists. Read “Syrian Christian refugees feel fortunate to have fled Islamic State,” an L.A. Times report on the “several thousand Assyrian Christians who fled in late February as the militants advanced into dozens of largely Christian villages along the Khabur River in eastern Syria.” (more…)

In a meeting with young historians last fall, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the annexation of Crimea (RT described this delicately as “the newly returned” Crimea) and reminded them that “Prince Vladimir [Sviatoslavich the Great] was baptized, and then he converted Russia. The original baptismal font of Russia is there.” Matthew Dal Santo, a fellow at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, uses a public exhibition of art in Moscow (Orthodox Rus. My History: The Rurikids) to explain in The National Interest how Russia and Ukraine hold intertwined histories rooted in Orthodox Rus’.

“Faulty as history, Rurikids’ defiant expression of offended Russian exceptionalism is nonetheless more than a pose,” Dal Santo writes. “The West’s doggedly legalistic construction of the crisis has consistently underestimated how much Ukraine means to Putin—and a substantial proportion of the Russian public—as well as the high costs Russia is prepared to pay to keep it out of the West’s orbit.” More from his article: (more…)

robot 2When arguing about the merits of a free economy, its defenders often give way to a peculiar line of reasoning that goes something like this:

“Socialism would be wonderful if it actually worked, and it could actually work if only men were angels.”

Such claims are meant to frame socialists as foolish idealists obsessed with their silly utopias. But for those of us who believe there’s a certain idealism to the free society, it’s a rather appalling concession. Indeed, the fundamental problem with socialism isn’t so much that its aims are unrealistic — though they most certainly are — but rather that its basic assumptions rely on a view of humanity that is, in so many ways, unreal.

If we let the lofty levelers have their way, we shall inherit a world where humanity is robbed of its dignity and originality, discouraged from creativity and innovation, and restrained from the collaboration and relationship found in free exchange. Even if such a system were to be filled with morally superior know-it-alls and somehow achieve material prosperity, it would still be a society of serfs, submissive to their overlords’ enlightened plans for social “equity,” and thus, servile in all the areas where God intended ownership.

Is a land wherein humans are guided by mere robotic efficiency really something that’s all that wonderful, even if it actually “works”? In whose mind and through what sort of contorted imagination is this considered an “ideal” or “utopia”? (more…)

Authenticity1Last week former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani set off a firestorm of debate and criticism by openly questioning whether President Obama “loves America.”

I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.

It would be easy to completely dismiss Giuliani’s comments as dumb, uncharitable, and partisan because the comment was dumb, uncharitable, and partisan. But I believe the mayor has an intuitive sense about something that he can’t articulate, and probably doesn’t understand.

The reality is that Obama and Giuliani both love America. Obama and Giuliani are both patriots. Yet their idea of what love of country means and what patriotism requires of them are likely to be significantly different. To understand this difference let’s look back to a comment from 2007.

As candidate for president in 2007, Barack Obama was questioned about why he did not wear a flag pin on his lapel. His explanation was that he had done so once but he believed it had become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
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