Thoughts for these days
Occasional comments on current events from a Christian perspective
Do Nations Reap What They Sow?
This comment was written in the days immediately after the Charlie Hebdo attack and subsequent events. Some may think it foolish to rush to express an opinion so quickly after such horrific incidents, but two contrasts have struck me and I share both here for your serious consideration.
Cause and Effect
These days many people are unaware of how various words and phrases have become part of the English language. One such saying is “you reap what you sow,” which is almost certainly amongst the many phrases which became embedded in English through William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible. It is a quotation from Paul’s first century letter to the Christians in the region of Galatia, located in modern Turkey. Towards the end of his letter Paul issued a warning to his readers, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Is it possible that this warning continues to be true today, not just with reference to individuals but also to nations?
I am sure that this will not be one of the questions preoccupying the minds of Western politicians as they tease through the debris of the recent attacks in Paris. However, I want to suggest that it should be. France considers itself to be the birthplace of modern secularism and its example has been eagerly followed by many nations which were once considered part of Christendom. Accompanying the march into national atheism, there has developed a very different view of how the world works. Christianity asserts that the Creator who brought the universe into existence remains in charge of events on Earth even though the majority of people are in open rebellion against Him. Consequently, as Paul highlighted above, life operates on a cause and effect basis, even if most of the time the consequences of our actions are not immediately apparent.
Secularism however, whilst committed to the cause and effect principle in scientific research, is not so confident that this applies in moral matters. Thinking that life is a cosmic accident rather than a purposeful creation, it is easy to mistakenly conclude that mankind is the sole and supreme arbiter of what is best for global society as well as individual people and nations. When this becomes the dominant mindset, the human race is left to swing from opinion to opinion with regard to discerning what is right and what is wrong. This is illustrated by the many areas where what was once seen as good is now considered evil, and these ‘new’ values are now being spread across many nations – often through offers of aid or, ironically, through threats to withhold it.
Living with Terrorists
One example of changing opinions is the international attitude towards Israel. Persecution of this people group did not begin with Hitler. Since their dispersal from Israel following the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome’s armies in the first century, Jews have spread around the globe. Their dispersion has been driven in part by their need to make a living and in part by the persecution they have suffered at the hands of most of those they tried to live alongside. Historically in Europe many of those who considered themselves to be Christians ignored Christ’s command to love their neighbours and His particularly deep concern for the people He was numbered amongst. A false doctrine that the Jews were solely responsible for Jesus’ death coupled with a strong dislike for their seemingly unreal ability to prosper wherever they end up living, has made the Jews probably the most persecuted people in history.
This is not the place to reiterate the details of the nineteenth century pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe which paved the way for the idea that this scattered people needed a homeland of their own in what was by then known as Palestine. Prophetic passages of the Old Testament were debated in the British Parliament as thoughts of Jewish restoration to the land they had lost became increasingly acceptable towards the end of that century. However it took the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps to really focus Gentile and Jewish minds on the benefits of establishing and populating a new state for this displaced race. In 1948 an outstanding Biblical question was finally answered, “Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?” (Isaiah 66:8)
Whilst support for Israel being given back its own land was never universal, most Western nations sanctioned the decision – miraculously so in fact. Since then attitudes have changed and Israel has now become one of the most criticised nations on earth. On the surface this seems to be the result of the tension between them and their Arab neighbours. But their position as The LORD’s historic chosen people and His now fulfilled promise to restore them to the land He has given to them is also anathema to the secularists who seek to deny that there is a Creator God who is still in charge of all things – including international affairs. The Jews’ designation as “God’s Chosen People” continues to disadvantage them as much as it ever has. Since 1948 politicians, particularly those on the left, have increasingly sided with Palestinian Muslims in their fight to eradicate the Jewish homeland from the map. After the two coordinated attacks by Arab states in 1967 & 1973 resulted in Israel’s expansion rather than its demise, the PLO and subsequent terrorist groups have used the loss of Palestinian territory to legitimise their hatred of Israel.
Today Palestinians are championed as victims in the struggle with Israel, whilst politicians and the media have turned a blind eye to five decades of continual terrorist attacks upon Israel. It is now no longer just those on the left who support the Palestinian cause. Most politicians now call for a change of attitude on the part of Israel, which in turn is portrayed as the aggressor. Despite the terrorist tactics of present-day Hamas and its predecessors, global institutions are pressurising Israel to make peace with them. In Nov. 2012 the United Nations voted to recognise Palestine as a state with non-member observer status. More recently, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Dec. 17, 2014 recognising the Palestinian state in principle by a vote of 498 to 88. In all this, World politicians are ignoring important facts about the nature of Islam and its traditions.
Peace or Struggle?
Though initially appearing peaceable, Mohamed became aggressive in his attitude towards those who disagreed with him after he had to leave Mecca and take refuge in Medina. It is the parts of the Qur’an which postdate this emigration that sanction armed struggle and the massacre of opponents. This has resulted in what some describe as the two faces of Islam – one portraying a religion of peace, the other a religion of struggle against whatever it determines to be unbelief in Allah. In recent history Western politicians have chosen to believe that peace rather than struggle is at the heart of Islam. This preference was significantly challenged by events on 11 September 2001.
In the fifteen years since the fall of the Twin Towers, Islamic terrorism has spread from Israel to many nations. Before then it had been focussed on Israel and on Jews in other locations (e.g the attack on the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Games), but with the “War on Terror” terror has now become commonplace in many Asian and African countries, with repeated attacks in several Western nations as well. (It is claimed that around 2000 people have been killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria in the first week of January this year, but their deaths did not interest the Western media as much as those in Paris.) Britain’s biggest death toll (52) happened on 7 July 2005, and now France has experienced three days of national and international trauma. As we all consider the outcome of these tragic events, I wonder how many will ask whether Western societies are reaping what they have sown by their response to the decades of terrorism aimed at Israel? Politicians have persistently turned a blind eye to the underlying theology of Islam, which aims to establish global rule in the name of Allah. Unlike Biblical Christianity, Islam does teach that its followers should seek to establish a kingdom on this earth. Many continue in stubborn denial about the fundamental territorial teachings of Islam. They therefore argue ever more strongly that Israel should accommodate the Islamic agenda of Hamas and other groups.
Is it possible that Western nations are beginning to reap on their own soil what they have sown towards Israel? The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel’s leaders of his day that they were in danger of trusting in an illusion to excuse their rebellion against their God. Twice he voiced another phrase now embedded in the English language, “Saying ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace.” Today’s international politicians are equally guilty of declaring ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace on Israel’s borders. Given the failure of their policies to bring Islamic terrorism to an end, should we now be asking whether their countries are reaping what they have sown?
Is the Pencil Mightier than the Gun?
The immediate emotional reaction to events in and around Paris suggests that there is one new feature which sets these attacks apart from the World Trade Centre, the London Underground bombings and numerous other Islamist terror attacks on Western soil. This is the view that the Charlie Hebdo attack was an assault on the freedom of speech. In France the cartoonists’ crayon has become one of the main symbols held up by the crowds to signal their resistance to censorship by terror. The French national motto, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, has possibly been quoted more often in the last few days than it has been since the Revolution itself. However I am left to wonder how many of the millions who rushed to identify themselves as “Charlie” realise that the magazine’s content is often vile and promotes unrighteousness? Despite this, world leaders travelled to Paris to stand with the French and demonstrate their determination to protect freedom of speech as a vital principle of democracy. Amongst them was British Prime Minister David Cameron, but given his government’s record in this matter, his real commitment to freedom of speech has to be seriously questioned.
Though the move to silence critics of modern secular values did not begin on his watch, Cameron’s administration has encouraged the dismantling of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience more than any other recent British government. This was demonstrated as same-sex marriage was driven through without a democratic mandate. More recently, a consultation on changing the guidelines for independent schools in regard to the revised “British Values” included these sentences, “Schools will be expected to focus on, and be able to show how their work with pupils is effective in embedding fundamental British values. ‘Actively promote’ also means challenging pupils, staff or parents expressing opinions contrary to fundamental British values.” (emphasis mine) I find it hard to equate such intentions with freedom of speech, especially when schools are being directed to thought-police the views of parents! The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, has also signalled her intention to introduce Extremist Disruption Orders should the Conservatives gain power after the next election. Critics are warning that proposed new powers could brand anyone who criticises same-sex marriage or Sharia law an “extremist”.
Politically Correct Censorship
Islamists are not the only threat to the freedom of speech in the Western nations. The homosexual lobby has become very vocal in recent years and now seeks to silence anyone who criticises their lifestyle. This oppressive attack on the freedom of others is not limited to a few countries. In Northern Ireland there is the ongoing case of a family bakers who are being prosecuted for refusing to produce a cake with a pro same-sex marriage slogan on it because it was against their Christian convictions. In April 2014 the recently appointed Mozilla Chief Executive, Brendan Eich, was forced to resign after the pro-homosexual dating website OkCupid started a campaign against him because he supported traditional marriage. These are just two examples amongst many where homosexual activists and their supporters are aggressively seeking to deny the freedom of speech to those who are not prepared to approve their lifestyle. In Britain, in the USA and almost certainly in other Western nations those involved in government at various levels are seeking to enforce censorship upon those who speak out against the modern acceptance of homosexual and lesbian lifestyles. The rhetoric of this promiscuous lobby is as much a danger to freedom of speech in the West as are the guns of Islamist terrorists.
Returning to the title of this piece whilst I leave you, the reader, to make up your own mind as to whether or not world politicians are reaping in their own countries what they have sown through the pressure they have put on Israel to accommodate terrorism, I am prepared to be much bolder in regard to the freedoms which democracy claims to value. If national politicians do not act to protect the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech for every one of their citizens, then they will forfeit them for all their citizens. In that respect their nations will reap what they sow.
© Randall Hardy - January 2015
Further reading: For those interested in understanding more about the clash between secularism and Islam, I recommend my article written in October 2001: 11th September 2001 - A Clash of Two Post-Christian Cultures?
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© Randall Hardy 2015
This page last edited January 2015