Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book review: Strange Glory, a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer is especially relevant to American Christianity, because US Christianity is so like the German churches of the 1930s in its adulation of the world, combined with its sense of entitlement to worldly privilege and its deference to nationalism. 

What I find encouraging in the story is that Bonhoeffer bore faithful witness to the gospel even though he was emotionally immature, a brilliant intellectual but in many ways with no sense.  He had earned a doctorate by age 21, but he was financially dependent on his parents and often lived at home until the Nazis locked him up.

Significantly, he learned a great deal of the gospel from his time in black churches in the United States.  Not that black churches are, or were, in very good shape.  Indeed, most black preachers opposed the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, or at least had serious reservations.  The imperative to suck up and be respectable was  by no means absent, which is what caused Malcolm X to reject the Christianity of the black church in disgust.  But Bonhoeffer found more reality and discipleship there than in the German churches or American white churches. 

Although Bonhoeffer was a prominent theologian, he could seldom endure to go to church on Sunday - which certainly reminds me of myself.  Even though I am far from being a prominent theologian, I am serious about the faith and more of a theologian than most that I know, and what I've learned in the Bible makes what generally happens in churches insufferable.  It feels good that Bonhoeffer had the same experience.

In the seminary at Finkenwalde from 1935 until 1937, when the Gestapo closed it, Bonhoeffer and his small community learned about Life Together, the book he wrote from it.  His preaching, in contrast to the histrionics of Hitler, aimed to be free of rhetorical manipulation.  I would like to encounter a church some day that even makes that its aim, never mind attains it.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1939, when he could have spent the war in the United States.  I wonder if I will stay in the United States, with my eyes open, if God has me do so, when I might be of service elsewhere, or even if I should.

Like Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, faithful Christians must desire the defeat of our own country in its violent aggression around the world, even though that will bring us considerable personal discomfort.  After all, American affluence rests on the domination and plunder of the rest of the world, indeed through the device of debt that will never be repaid, as it was with the Chaldeans in Habakkuk.  The price of justice will be to live with a lot less luxury.  Are we up for that?       

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Greece followup

As I thought likely, the Germans followed the path they took with Yugoslavia in 1941 and crushed them, and Tsipras caved.

However, his coalition is coming apart over this betrayal, and it remains that the debt cannot be repaid, and therefore won't be.  And the greater significance is this: the whole business has made it clear that the European Union and the single currency are not about the ideals of a united Europe for the benefit of its people; it's a wealth pump from the poorer south to the north, notably Germany, and a design to makes sure that the banks are cared for at the expense of people.

It turns out that through the Euro, Germany has largely established Hitler's dream of the New Order, Europe dominated by Germany and economically integrated with German industry - without war and without killing people, which does, incidentally, remind us that war is often not the smart way to get what you want.

However, Germany's victory in this matter, by exposing the nature of its regime, has undermined its legitimacy.  Once that happens to you, you don't last.  Mark Kurlansky, writing 35 years later in August 2003, persuasively traced the collapse of the Soviet empire to the revelation of its nature in its invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.   It deserves a careful rereading today:


Written in August 2003, five months after the US had invaded Iraq in the same manner, and with the same lying excuses with which Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the piece predicted that this disgraceful act would have a similar effect on the US empire.  And so it is proving to be, especially because, unlike the Soviet Union at the time, the US has doubled down on its folly, doing all it can since its Iraq adventure to make clear to the world that the US is indeed a rogue state.

The crushing of the Greek government's resistance, as Germany did to Yugoslavia in 1941, has already led to the beginning of the breakup of the Syriza coalition.  Whoever comes out on top will somehow have to follow through as Tsipras failed to do, because reality cannot be repealed.  The plunder of the Greek economy to pay the banks just isn't sustainable, because the resulting collapse of the economy precludes the economic activity and resulting tax revenue required to pay.  The debt, which is largely odious anyway, must be repudiated.  That's arithmetic, not a policy question. 

We've already seen here the fulfillment of the proverb, "The borrower is the lender's slave."  We'll soon be reminded that it is written again, "The cruel man troubles his own flesh."  It would be a very different world if rulers paid any attention to the counsel of the Bible!   

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Independence Day

No, not in the States, except that I did notice less bombast this year than last. Always good to see a little less iniquity and madness.

I'm thinking of the Greeks, who in the tradition of NO! to Mussolini's ultimatum on Oct 28, 1940 just said NO! to their European creditors - and to everyone's surprise, by 61-39, no small margin, especially when we consider that the 61 voted from conviction in the face of economic terror, and the 39 reluctantly, feeling the need to settle for a bad deal. 

There is joy indeed in the Hellenic Republic tonight, although it may not last.  They danced in the streets in Belgrade after the March 27, 1941 coup against the alliance with Germany, but there was no more dancing when the Germans bombed Belgrade and invaded Yugoslavia 10 days later.

History rhymes.  Again the Germans want to crush a small Balkan country, this time to shield the German banks from their losses and to make an example of Greece to the Italian, the Portuguese, and the Spanish people - especially to the Podemos Party in Spain. 

It's true that the Germans quickly occupied Yugoslavia in the spring of 1941, but their fun cost them a six week delay in their invasion of the Soviet Union.  In this way the German army met the mud of October and the Russian winter in their summer uniforms, so the resistance of Yugoslavia and the time that Germany took to make an example of it probably made Germany lose the war in Russia.

Will the Germans go through with crushing the Greeks for their defiance, or will they be reasonable this time?  Knowing the proverb, that the dog returns to his vomit and the sow, once washed, to wallowing in the mire, I will be surprised if they wise up, but it's something to pray for.

Stay tuned!  Before we're done, we'll be feeling the unwinding of this on our own hides.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The stupidity of cruelty - the special case of Greece

Mercy is essentially compassion, from the Latin "suffering with."  This is wisdom, because in this way we see through our own pains and needs into those of others, and so we are led to make it possible for others to work with us.  We don't force them to fight to the death by trying to make them do what they no can do, or to make them do without what they gotta have.

Cruelty is stupid that way.  Knowing and caring nothing for the pains and needs of others, commonly rationalizing such willful blindness by their wrongdoing, cruelty compels others to fight to the death - and because God hates such arrogance and cruelty, unpleasant and wholly unexpected results are pretty near a sure thing.  This is the real cause of such disgraceful US misadventures as Iraq and Vietnam, the Japanese stupidity of attacking the United States in 1941, and the short lives of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes.

So, then, today's special case - Greece.  Greece racked up its debts in the first place because European banksters and their governments made what they knew to be bad loans figuring - rightly - that they could use these to plunder the Greek nation when the Greeks couldn't pay - a game described by John Perkins in his     Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

For years, Greece was ruled by compliant puppets, Papandreou and Samaras, who obediently destroyed the Greek economy for the convenience of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank - and without reducing Greek debt at all, since inflicting all this misery reduced the tax receipts needed to pay.  So in January, the Greeks sensibly threw out these puppets and elected the Syriza party to push back.

Everyone knows that these debts can never be repaid - even European economists are not stupid enough to believe that they can be.  Here the wisdom of Moses on debt cancellation is especially pertinent - but who wants to listen to him? 

Even so, the new Syriza government negotiated with these fools and tried to accommodate them, but last week it became clear that this was useless.  Syriza couldn't betray the Greek people and knuckle under to the same futile stupidity that they had been elected to stop.  It was simply a no-can-do.  And having been elected by only 36% of the people, they couldn't take the responsibility for the train wreck that the default being forced upon them would cause, a weakness that the creditors were counting on to make Syriza cave.  And they did come close.

But since that was simply not possible, the Greek government did the only thing possible - they called a snap referendum on the creditors' ultimatum for July 5, thus giving the Greek people the chance to decide, and forcing the creditors either to back down or hit the wall on June 30, when a huge payment to the International Monetary Fund is due, which cannot be made and won't be. 

The recklessness of compelling the Greeks to default with a FU offer they could not accept reminds me of Austria-Hungary's ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, 1914 - designed to be a demand that Serbia could not accept, so that Austria could destroy Serbia before the Russians could get involved.  Well, the Russians did get involved - and then the Germans, the British and the French - and we all know how World War 1 turned out.

We don't know exactly how playing the same game almost exactly 101 years later will turn out, but one thing we can be sure of.  It won't turn out well for the perps, and probably not for anyone else.          

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"The cruel man troubles his own flesh"

I was reminded of the stupidity of cruelty as I was driving yesterday, when I thought of the massacre in Hue by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong while they held the city during the Tet Offensive in 1968.  The city itself became very much more anti-communist, and to a lesser degree, so did many others in South Vietnam.  Besides being probably the most cruel act of the Vietnamese Communists during the entire war, it was undoubtedly the most stupid.  Without it, the South Vietnamese regime would have collapsed far more quickly.

As it was, it made less of an impression than it otherwise would have only because of the far greater cruelty, and much more consistently, of the American occupiers.  They, too, were defeated by their own cruelty.

Then, too, every one of Israel's massacres in Gaza moves that state toward history's compost heap, as does its calculated and scientific cruelty in the West Bank.  Its massacres and systematic torture during its occupation of South Lebanon created Hizbollah from the formerly friendly Lebanese Shi'a population.

These principles work in the smallest conflicts in the same way - in our families, our workplaces, and schools.  Your own cruelty will defeat you in the end.  I know that you can bully and terrorize people by means of cruelty, which is why it is so popular, but it never ends well. 

The other half of the proverb also holds true, "the merciful man does good to his own life."  Let's try it, not to be nice, but to do good to our own flesh.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day: A High Holy Day of Militarism

Once more, the it is the season for sentimental clap-trap about how American soldiers have died for our freedoms,which we would not have if it were not for their "giving their lives" - which in truth they almost always never give but lose unwillingly, and in the course of killing many innocent people to reduce their own risk.

Whenever I hear this nonsense, I ask those proclaiming it just what American soldier's death since 1945 has defended anyone's freedom in this country or anywhere else.  I want to know whether if they hadn't gone and murdered 3 million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laos minding their own business in their own country, would the Vietnamese have come over here and stopped any American from exercising his own freedom to do or say anything at all?  Did any American lose any freedom whatever when the Vietnamese finally tossed the invaders out and did away with the American puppet dictatorship on April 30, 1975? 

And how did anyone benefit from the bombers and invaders killing a million people in Iraq and otherwise trashing that country?  Is it really better off now, a third of it under the control of the barbarians of ISIS, than it was under Saddam Hussein?

When I ask these questions, I never get actual answers - probably because there aren't any.  Instead, I get sentimental indignation against the sacrilege of mentioning such truths on their Holy Day.  Now here we come to a huge difference between the religion of Jesus and other kinds, including almost all American "Christianity" - alluded to particularly in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12: for Jesus, as he also said in John 8:31-32, the only issue is whether we receive the love of the truth.  Nothing else matters.  The Satanic nature of the worship of the American military, with its fatuous claims that American soldiers do a thing for anyone's freedom by getting killed in imperial wars of aggression, is evident not only in the audacious falsehood of these claims, but even more so at the rage against the truth if anyone states it, especially on the Holy Days of this religion.  It's the same rage of religious people documented in the gospels when Jesus would tell the truth, as in his own hometown (Luke 4:16-30).   
But I see no reason why their idea of Memorial Day deserves the slightest respect - mindless sentimental celeb
ration of wars and those who die in them, no matter how foolishly or wickedly, and no matter how ruinous in fact this all is to the American republic. Perhaps James Madison and the other founders were mistaken when they identified war and standing armies as the principal enemies of liberty, so that the blather of modern flag-wavers about the glories of the military are correct instead, but in view of the founders having been fairly smart men, I defend their view without embarrassment.

Certainly it's fitting on Memorial Day or any day to argue for their position, especially when opponents of their political thought have the effrontery to make themselves out to be shining patriots as they subvert the principles of the American republic as explained by the founders.

And as a biblical Christian, I find it right on any day to oppose a religion of human sacrifice descended in a straight line from the sacrifice of children to Molech - the notion that there is something holy and redemptive about burning young men in the fire in stupid wars, thereby supposedly gaining liberty.  This is an obvious counterfeit of the Christian doctrine that our liberty was purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and nothing else.

Finally, all such pagan religion has found virtue in burning children and other humans in the fire in devotion to their gods - the American state being just one more - so it is no worse than I expect in the world. 

But I have a problem with this religion being entertained in churches, mixing it with the gospel, as in past times these churches have mingled the gospel with white supremacy.  This mixture of incompatible religion, worshiping God and demons at the same, gets a great deal of notice in the Bible - and for good reason.  It is a big problem.  It blights the spirituality of all who engage in it, making us reliable instruments of Satan while we profess to know God.  It is no surprise that such religion simply profanes the name of God in the world, being useless for any purpose, and unfortunately, it's just about the only religion that we see these days in American churches.

There is good news in that.  American Chritianity is not useless because there is anything deficient in the gospel, or because the Bible that Jesus and the apostles relied on has failed.  It's useless for exactly the reason the Bible says it is, because it is apostate - utterly surrendered to the demonic doctrines of this world, like the religion of Jeroboam, Ahaz, and of Ahab and Jezebel, having a form of godliness while denying its power.   If that apostasy works out exactly as Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles tell me to expect, I don't have to enjoy it, but I know at least they are not wrong about anything.  Indeed, their testimony about all things is confirmed, and I can believe them with a good conscience.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cat Mercy

It really looked hopeless getting Squeak back.  But the 26th, 8 weeks after he slipped away, our former neighbor caught him for us, where he had been robbing her cat of his lunch.  He still had his collar and his tags.  He had made his way back there, two and a half miles, about a month ago.  The cat we thought was Squeak wasn't Squeak.

No more 2:30 AM trips to lay out food and service the cameras, and much else.  It would have been very difficult for Gayle to have trusted in God to care for her if we had lost Squeak for good.  This was a very big deal.

It turns out the baby is a he, not a she, whom we've named Squirt.  Gayle weaned him, finally, although we give him lots of water from the bottle.  The baby delighted us today by finally pooping, so no trip to the vet for another enema.  Sometimes he walks on me now without using his claws.