Tag Archives: Middle East

2021: Hopeful Realism for the Year Ahead

It is my delight and honor to work for Made to Flourish, A Pastors Network for the Common Good (www.madetoflourish.org). Our mission is to help pastors and their churches integrate faith, work and economic wisdom for the flourishing of their communities. We have the honor of presenting ideas, fostering relationships, and sharing practices that will help local churches thrive. We do this with a set of values that guide our efforts. One of these values is “hopeful realism.” We believe that the Risen Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit and willing agency of God’s people, offers substantive hope that we can see redemptive progress in the world. This hope is tempered by the realism of a sinful, broken world.

In this spirit of hopeful realism, I offer the following observations about the coming year in proverbial form and look forward to many discussions with readers in the months ahead.

Hope: America voted toward the middle and the extremisms of white nationalism and woke socialism do not guide the values and visions of most people.

Realism: Even with a majority of Americans in the middle, it is the loudest voices of influence that often wield power and alertness is called for in this moment.

Hope: The Middle East is realigning as Israel and several Sunni Arab nations recognize that Iran is a threat to all, and economic and military alliances are in their best interests.

Realism: The enemies of the Jewish state are many. They include progressives within Israel and in the West. If a new Administration opens the door to unqualified Palestinian influences, the gains of the past four years could be lost.

Hope: Churches and charities has risen to the COVID moment and will continue to be a source of generosity and innovation in the year ahead.

Realism: Many organizations will need to change or find themselves closing their doors. This includes churches and charities that do not adapt to the economics and sociology of this moment.

Hope: The creativity and innovation afforded by the crises of our time are bringing new relationships, new opportunities, and humbling many who we enslaved by complacency and pride. People are reaching out across cultural, ecclesial and racial divides and finding common cause in helping all have access, equity, and opportunity.

Realism: Agitation propagandists and groups designed to “organize” do not want peaceable debate and principled compromise. They will continue to call for radical changes unwanted by most but demanded by shrill voices who make the exception the rule and continually create new victims.

I remain hopeful because I believe in the goodness and power of God and in the potential of every person who will submit their lives to Christ. I remain a realist because we are in a broken, sinful world and people operate out of their lower, sinful nature far too often. My final hope can be expressed this way: May God grant an awakening that revives the church and reforms society, overflowing to justice for all. As I express this, realism kicks in and I know that great good is often the product of much suffering. We have tumultuous days ahead, and we can be at peace if we will trust our Sovereign God.

Letters to Leaders, Part 1

Dear 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates,
I understand your frustrations with current political leaders. What I am awaiting are policies that are pro-life (from conception to coronation, caring for the vulnerable at all stages) consensus-building, doable and fiscally responsible. Rage against Trump will not balance a budget, confront our global adversaries, repair our broken cities and increase opportunity.

A candidate willing to meet in the middle and stop hating people of traditional faiths will have a shot. Imagine a courageous Democratic candidate stopped pandering to the Radical Left wing of the party and stated the following:

  • We balance our checkbooks at home; therefore, the federal budget should be balanced as well. A few government workers may lose a job, but the poor can be helped, infrastructure rebuilt, and solid military defense provided within our revenues.
  • There is a real person inside a mother’s womb. Allowing for exceptional circumstances, we should foster support structures that prevent most abortions and welcome children as gifts to our world.
  • Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and the United Nation’s continual condemnation is a travesty of historical knowledge and justice. It is time to broker a real peace agreement with the burden placed upon Palestinian leaders to acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy and security needs.
  • Immigration can be reformed to welcome the qualified, secure our borders, show compassion to true victims and offer millions a chance at citizenship.
  • Ecological stewardship is good for the world, our economies and future generations. We can care for our planet without global power structures forcibly transferring trillions in wealth.

I will cross parties and vote for this candidate.

Lights in the Darkness and Prospects for Peace: Special commentary on the Middle East: Part 2

Here are some thoughts connecting political, religious conviction and prospects for peace:

We must remember that our Christian faith arises from the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish history. Underneath our beautiful Nativity are the trials and triumphs of Chanukah, that moment of Jewish liberation from pagan powers and consecration of the Temple in 164 B.C.

Just over 2500 years ago, a remnant of Judah rebuilt a modest Temple and here the Lord promises to send the Desire of Nations (Haggai). This moment in 516 fully ended the 70 years of exile for a people that had built Jerusalem as their capital in 1000 B.C.

In 1917, one century ago, the Balfour Declaration supported a Jewish homeland in their ancient geography…and in 2017, the USA declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Peace will only ultimately come when our Lord returns. But as peacemakers, we are called to welcome the future reign of God into the present. Here are the keys to Middle East stability:

  • If they want a sovereign state, Palestinian leaders must affirm Israel as the home of the Jewish people and recognize her national integrity within defensible borders. This will require courage and good personal security!
  • Israel must protect all religious rights and be open to an East Jerusalem capital of a new Palestinian state.
  • A new Palestine must renounce terror and agree to diplomatic and economic exchange.
  • A handful of Arab nations must agree that a secure Israel and a new Palestine at peace will help resist the hegemony of Iran and her terrorist agencies.
  • The best brokers of this are Christians from both the Middle East and the West.

The Bible enjoins us to pray for the shalom of Jerusalem. May our leaders find courage and wisdom and may we never give in to hatred.

“Dear Mr. President” A Response to Terrorism in Paris November 2015

Dear Mr. President,
We are afraid and angry, wounded by Paris and trying to deal with evil.
We need non-partisan, statesman like reassurance rooted in moral and political strength, not contemptuous dismissal of political opponents or declarations that concerned citizens are without compassion.

Sir,
We need to see genuine empathy for suffering Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Yazidis and other non-Jihadi dissidents. Please open our doors to these populations and use your office to demand Iranian release of prisoners and an end to Islamist persecution.

When tragedy occurs we need responsive action, not annoyance and deflection. 
I want to believe that you mean well, but your actions in the past days are cause for grave concern. 
A few drone strikes, changing language from “contained” to “on the run” and vilifying opponents is unhelpful. Strong action in concert with allies is the order of the day. Reasonable security screening and a call for Muslim states to receive refugees are reasonable ideas, not xenophobia.

Finally, Mr. President, I have historical news for you: life does not conform to ideological narratives. You and your advisors are so enamored with your anti-West, post-colonial, globalist visions that you refuse to confront the evils of radical Islam. These terrorists are not victims of the West and “frustrated” by “economic injustice.” These are followers of demonic extremism that enjoy engendering fear and they will not stop until their totalitarian vision is realized or sufficient moral and military force brings defeat.

By the way, in your “evolution” on marriage, please note that there is only one Middle East location where LGBTQIA folks are safe: Tel Aviv. 
There are enough people of conscience of all faiths or none that will unite to secure the liberties we enjoy.

So what must be done?

First, you must declare that freedom of conscience and religion is the first freedom and the foundation for all others. Your must unequivocally repudiate any attempts to impose Islamicist rule in pluralistic societies with concomitantly challenging all Muslim nations top demonstrate compassion and greater liberty for minority populations. Ironically, Gadhafi and Assad were (and are) dictators, but they allowed greater religious liberty than many of our “allies.”

Second, you must partner with European and Middle Eastern allies and even Russia to seek and destroy all IS locations and those of their allies. Yes, concern for civilians must be paramount, but not paralyzing.

Third, you must use all your power to protect non-Islamic religious communities and help them defend themselves and if needed, come to the USA. It is criminal to deport Christians and welcome a flood of infiltrated Muslims.

Fourth, use your final year in office to build broad consensus instead of fighting more ideological/political battles in the name of your legacy. History will be much kinder to you join with all political factions and build coalitions for domestic and international compassion and justice.

I hope and pray you listen to the best voices of conscience and humbly receive these and similar words of wisdom. Millions pray for you, whether they agree with your policies of principles. Will you thank us by listening?

Time to lead.

Vision 2016 Part 4: Global Challenges

The 21st century is a world in transition. Millions of people are finding new work and being lifted out of poverty. Conversely, millions of others are exiled and suffering due to political and social instability fueled by war. Globalization of communications, economic systems and urbanization help us feel closer and learn from one another as never before. These same trends also create displacement, cultural confusion and vacuums that despots long to fill.

20th century empires and alliances are shifting as well. China is an economic and military power, with core weaknesses in civil rights and the economic subsidizing of its “capitalist” systems. Russia is once again expressing imperial ambitions. Emerging powers such as Brazil and India have growing educated classes no longer content to support the wealth of multinationals. The Middle East is as confusing as ever, with sharp increases in anti-Israel rhetoric (while the same nations ally with her against common foes) joined with competition for leadership of jihadi Islam.

The USA is at a crossroads, both domestically (as we have seen in Parts 1-3 of this series) and in her international standing. The following thoughts are proposals for improving our nation’s service to the global good while protecting humanitarian and national interests. All of these are doable, but they require moral and political courage – something lacking most of the time in all branches of our federal government. Here are the global facets of Vision 2016:

  • Active, non-violent peacemaking efforts are rigorously pursued, with military action a regrettable last resort. One taken, its aims are clear and actions decisive, with as little loss of innocent life as possible.
  • Our nation appreciates its blessings while humbly listening to others and learning from other nations aspiring for virtue-based liberty.
  • Our military is deployed judiciously as an effective force for good – and not an occupying power – in conjunction with other freedom-loving allies. Our soldiers and veterans have the support systems they need.
  • Best practices help us reign in the costs of foreign aid programs without hurting the most vulnerable.
  • Israel is valued ally and Arab nations that support her right to exist peaceably as a recognized Jewish nation are part of a coalition we help to prosper.
  • The Middle East will only know peace when Palestinian leaders recognize Israel as a Jewish nation, establish full diplomatic ties and crease terrorist activities.
  • The nuclear ambitions of terrorist states are thwarted and genuine democratic movements are supported.
  • Advocates of intolerance, subversion of freedom and violence are deported, prosecuted and unable to further their terrorist agendas.
  • The USA must unite with the EU and other democracies to resist Islamic radicalism that calls to either two systems of law or violent overthrow of pluralistic regimes. One rule of law respecting all religious traditions is essential for social and political peace.
  • Nations that claim religious tolerance are held accountable and groups that persecute people of other faiths are condemned and opposed.
  • The United Nations is held accountable for its stewardship and our generous funding includes audits of its humanitarian and peacekeeping programs. It must remain a place of robust debate even when its opinions differ from our national interests; however, America will not sanction either corruption or known supporters of terrorism issuing directives.
  • National sovereignty will never yield to any international political or military power. Cooperation is not coercion and no international court must ever trump an American one.
  • Foreign aid moves from charity and relief to development and entrepreneurship that keeps jobs and wealth local.
  • Free trade benefits economic well-being as well as fostering mutuality among diverse peoples. Governmentsubsidies hurt economic growth when they cease being a temporary catalyst and become long-term policy.
  • American Presidents and the Congress will work for consensus on military and political initiatives instead of unilateral Executive actions.
  • Climate change fears need to yield to stewardship of resources and expansion of wealth-creation. The global companies exploiting fear need to be put out of business.

Navigating our global future will require immense amounts of knowledge and wisdom, courage and humility, as well as clarity on priorities. Success in one part of the world does not half to come at the expense of another geography. Human flourishing is not a zero-sum game!When jobs move from America’s heartland to China, the response needs to be new wealth creation in the USA, remembering that someone across the ocean can now feed their family. At the same time, America must oppose all forms of sexual and work slavery, including suboptimal conditions in foreign factories.

America’s leadership is more than sheer force or economic power. It must arise from exemplary ethical, political and social principles that include freedom of conscience and religion, the rule of law, personal virtue, natural and property rights protected – not bestowed – by government and a virtuous citizenry that desires for all others the liberties they enjoy.