Friday, February 20, 2015

Thoughts on the President's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast

A very sincere warning: Some will find this offensive and Islamophobic. Facts are not phobic. Facts fear nothing. They simply are. If you find this offensive, I implore you, refute it. If you think it untrue, research it. I would be happy to be wrong about these things.

I had a friend named Alex von Doernberg. I was twice a guest in his home. He enjoyed speaking English with American and British visitors to his castle, Burg Herzberg. He was the descendant of Junker Hans von Doernberg, the man who took charge of our town in Germany after a shooting war between two bishops in 1465. The 20th century Von Doernberg, my friend died in 1983. He had lived a long life as a Hessian nobleman, a hereditary baron under the Kaiser, then he had been part of the Weimar government after the first world war where he learned his craft as a German jurist, diplomat and, after joining the SS, as Head of Protocol Department of the Foreign Office from 1938 to 1945. His English was perfect and he put it to good use as Von Ribbentrop’s adjutant in London. He became a member of the SS in order to continue at his post in the German diplomatic corps. He testified at the Nuremberg trials for the prosecution and the war was a distant memory by the time I met him. I got to know him because he always liked to talk to Americans.

He had served at the German embassy in Washington DC in 1926. Von Doernberg with his splendid English helped make British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain more pliable during the negotiations over the Munich Agreement. In August 1939, he accompanied Ribbentrop to Moscow to sign the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Convincing Chamberlain that German intentions were good and reasonable was the work of my friend, Alexander von Doernberg. The refusal to see past the sweet words and urbanity of my friend convinced the world that Hitler had nothing but the best of intentions. People like that surly, difficult, unattractive Winston Churchill would have none of it. Regarding the Munich Agreement, Churchill told the English Parliament, “England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war.”

Chamberlain’s good intentions paved the way for the next big accomplishment of my friend the baron. In August 1939, he accompanied Ribbentrop to Moscow to sign the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact by which Stalin and Hitler carved up Europe and untold millions were consigned to violent deaths. Our world was devastated by the Nazi horror of the last century, followed by the tyranny of Marxism. The death toll of these two anti-Christian movements was somewhere around 300 million. 

My friend, the Baron von Doernberg was a delightful man; polished, polite and well educated. I was glad to be counted as his friend and to have been his guest I imagine that Neville Chamberlain was just as delightful. Churchill was a disagreeable, ugly, little man who wore as little clothing as possible and smoked a big stinking cigar. Definitely the Baron von Doernberg was the nicer fellow. Nonetheless he was one of the handful of men at the center of the storm that swept away Europe and the culture of the West. For the sake of niceness, Chamberlain, von Ribbentrop and von Doernberg had hands that dripped with the blood millions. The moral of the story is, as I have heard from a great American philosopher, “Better a Churchill than a Chamberlain.”

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

I have just read President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, the speech criticized by so many non-believing Christians. To my mind it is perhaps the most moving and meaningful speech since Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…”  It is a true call to what faith in God is about, no matter our religion or lack of it. It is a call to live up to the promise of our country. This speech has made me an Obama fan and, hopefully, a more humble believer in our loving God.

Hiram “Hi” Horst

Dear Hiram,

Yes it was quite a speech. The President reminded us that we have been just as violent as Muslims. Allow me to quote his text: 

“We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic…. Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Herein I think we see some assumptions. Unspeakable things have admittedly been done by Christians for revenge, for profit and for a host of ungodly reasons, but have any of these things ever been done at the behest of Jesus of Nazareth? 

The 4th crusade in which the Venetians got the Franks et al. to divert their expedition to the Holy Land in order to conquer the Byzantine-Roman capital, Constantinople in 1202 was certainly shameful and denounced by the pope in Rome as such. The attack was, in part, revenge for the Massacre of the Latins in which the citizens of Constantinople killed as many as 50,000 western Christians in 1182 (look it up.) 

Was this done in the name of Christ who said, “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)? If you listen to the Prince of Peace, Jesus of Nazareth, you don’t take revenge, though you may possibly defend the weak. 

On the other hand, regarding religiously inspired violence, Muhammad, the prophet of Islam said, or Allah said through him in the Quran, “…slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.” Quran 9:5

If you are listening to Jesus of Nazareth then aggression and violence are forbidden to you.  Perhaps you have read some verses that seem to favor non-Muslims in the Quran. To understand them in their context you need to know about “abrogation.” This Islamic doctrine holds that the later verses of the Quran, cancel out earlier verses that seem to contradict them. It is as if Allah broke the hard truths to us slowly. This particular verse, the verse of the sword, (Quran 9:5) abrogates around 120 verses of the Quran according to most Islamic theologians. Modern apologists for Islam claim that this verse calls only for internal, spiritual struggle. This is a very recent interpretation. Far more typical is the interpretation of Ismail Ibn Kathir (1300-1373) an influential Muslim theologian. “Do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam.”  

Didn’t the God of the Bible order such things when He put certain nations under the ban? When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy (Deut 7:1-3).
Add to this the Amalekites and in all 8 specific groups were put under the ban; that is slated for obliteration. Why these specific peoples? There are a number of sins of which they were guilty. The one that is most striking to is the worship of Moloch, (sometimes called “Chemosh” or addressed by the title “Baal”)

"'Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.”

Continued next week………..

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