Antisemitism, Ungodly!!!

BenGarissonOnFacebookTrollBullyingAndHateSpeechWhen was the last time you heard of 167 US congress members agreeing on one thing. Republicans, democrats and Jewish community leaders have combined to call for the White House to appoint an envoy on anti-Semitism. Attacks and threats on Jews have escalated in America and around the world and the congress members called for specific action. “We view US leadership on combating anti-Semitism and promoting human rights as pivotal components of American diplomacy and foreign policy,’ the bipartisan letter read. “The Office of Special Envoy enables the US to show the world its commitment to these ideals, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is dangerously on the rise,” they wrote.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have a clear definition of anti-Semitism: “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.”

Last March, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, held an emergency debate to discuss anti-Semitism in the U.S. “For many years there was a sense that the United States was the safest place for people of all religions and ethnic groups, a place with tolerance for any religion or race. Unfortunately, this has changed 180 degrees,” Knesset committee chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) said.

Europe

And in Europe? According to a report presented to the Israeli government earlier in January (2016), anti-Semitism in Europe has reached its highest levels in decades. More than half of French Jews are considering emigrating, while the number of incidents targeting Jews in London rose by 61% in 2015 (483 in the 12-month period to November 2015, up from 299 in the same period in 2014), according to the International Business Times (ibtimes.co.uk)

In the UK far right activist Jeremy Bedford-Turner has ignited debate for more than a year. In a July 2015 speech he said, “…all politicians are nothing but a bunch of puppets dancing to a Jewish tune, and the ruling regimes in the West for the last one hundred years have danced to the same tune.”

“ Evoking medieval libels which claimed that Jews drank the blood of non-Jewish children, Bedford-Turner told his followers, of whom one third were from the violent extreme-right National Rebirth of Poland group, that the French Revolution and both World Wars were massacres perpetrated by Jews. He concluded that England was “merry” during the period of the expulsion of Jews from England and demanded: “Let’s free England from Jewish control.” (March 8, 2017, jwire.com.au)

thADL traces anti-Semitism directly to Christian influence. On the ADL home page they say: “The rise of Christianity greatly increased hatred of Jews. They became seen not merely as outsiders but as a people who rejected Jesus and crucified him — despite the fact that the Roman authorities ordered and carried out the crucifixion. By the high middle ages (11th-14th centuries), Jews were widely persecuted as barely human “Christ-killers” and “Devils.” Forced to live in all-Jewish ghettos, they were accused of poisoning rivers and wells during times of disease. Some were tortured and executed for supposedly abducting and killing Christian children to drink their blood or to use it in baking matzoh — a charge known as the ‘blood libel.’” (adl.org) And there is much more.

To trace the death of Jesus to any human is a long stretch. Jesus chose to lay down His own life. Without His death and resurrection we would all be lost. His sacrifice for sin was His amazing plan. Thankfully millions of Christians hold Israel as a special place in their hearts. Jesus chose to be a Jewish man, so we respect and honour them as His physical family.

We should know the Bible says: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John chapter 3, verse 16)

Church

Bulgarian-Israeli lawyer Moshe Aloni is building a campaign to submit the Bulgarian Independent Orthodox Church for the Nobel Peace Prize. He proclaimed ‘brave acts of heroism’ by church clergy and community during the holocaust. Openly the church protested anti-Semitic laws in World War II. At every turn they resisted the deportation of 48,000 Bulgarian Jews to Nazi death camps. His petition makes specific mention of two clergymen – Metropolitan (Bishop) Stephan, the highest ranking Bulgarian church official during the holocaust, and Metropolitan Kiril, head of the Church in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.

These two men were named ‘Righteous among the Living’ at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem in 2001. According to Yad Vashem records Kiril sent a personal telegram to the King pleading mercy for the Jews. He threatened to end his loyalty to Bulgaria and to act independently if necessary. He said he was prepared to lay across the railway tracks in order to stop the deportation.

“Due to the heroic acts of these two prominent leaders and their willingness to speak up and take action, the deportation of the Jews of Bulgaria was postponed again and again until it was finally cancelled with the end of the war,” wrote Aloni in his letter to the Nobel Committee.

When I read about Rev Kiril, I went back to 1 John chapter 3, verse 16 and was challenged.

 

 

Freedom, What Happened?

imagesA recent Freedom House report declares Israel is the only free country in the Middle East. Israel scored 80 out of 100 points on the Freedom House chart. Partly free countries are Turkey (38), Jordan (37) and Kuwait (36.) Countries deemed not free were Iraq (27), Iran (17), Saudi Arabia (10) and Syria (-1). By world standards Israel scored lower than most. North American and European nations were listed between 89 and 100.

Freedom House used a complex scoring system assessing political rights and civil liberties. Principles applied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were observed.

According to the 2016 report 72 countries showed declining standards of freedom over a 10 year slide. Just 43 countries made gains. “The democracies of Europe and the United States struggled to cope with the Syrian civil war and other unresolved regional conflicts. In addition to compounding the misery and driving up the death toll of civilians in the affected territories, the fighting generated unprecedented numbers of refugees and incubated terrorist groups that inspired or organized attacks on targets abroad. In democratic countries, these stresses led to populist, often bigoted reactions as well as new security measures, both of which threaten the core values of an open society.” – the report observed.

Driving Force

The report concluded: “The number of countries designated as Free stands at 86, representing 44 percent of the world’s 195 polities and nearly 2.9 billion people – or 40 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries has decreased by three from the previous year.” (The three were Dominican Republic, Lesotho and Montenegro)

There are 2.6 billion people living in nations listed as Not Free. There are 1.8 billion people in Partly Free locations. Look at that…. 4. 4 billion people live in less than free societies! This is the driving force behind the refugee crisis causing pain and distress worldwide. The issue is critical and causing serious dilemma for world leaders and concerned Christians.

The Christian position is very clear. The Bible repeatedly lays out the appropriate divine direction – How would you like to be treated? That is how we should treat foreigners (Leviticus chapter 19, verses 33-34).

  • Give them practical aid -food and clothing (Leviticus 19 verses 9-19)
  • Love them. (Deuteronomy 10, verses 18-19)
  • Seek justice for them (Malachi 3 verse 5)
  • Invite them in (Matthew chapter 25, verses 25-36)
  • Show mercy (Luke 10 chapter 10, verses 29-37)

Relevant

unknownCBN last February ran an article ‘9 Thing the Bible says You should Do for Refugees.’ 7 Feb. 2017) A reader to Relevant magazine said: “Hate to see anyone have to go through this. I’d love to see the church rally together to do everything possible to help the refugees. That said, I absolutely do not think our government should. The guidelines in the Bible are for the church and individuals – not guidelines on how to run a country. The government is in place to defend and protect Americans, and I don’t think helping refugees accomplishes that in any way.”

Writer Sarah Quezada authored “The Church must stand up for Immigrants and Refugees” – published by Relevant February 6, 2017. She referred to the Good Samaritan.

There is no doubt what the mission of the church is called to be, but what is the role of government? Every government has an obligation to protect the national residents, the voters. Regarding immigration and open doors for refugees the attitude is intensifying. A recent survey by Chatham House highlights the public opinion. They note the mounting public anxiety over migrants from mainly Muslim regions.

“In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.” (www,chathamhouse.org – What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration – Feb 7, 2017)

In November last year Helena Legido-Quigley, from the Centre on Global Health Security wrote: “Doctors working in Greek refugee camps report asylum seekers experiencing mental anguish and anxiety symptoms related to border closures and not knowing whether they will be relocated or granted asylum. And in camps at Calais, Munich, and across Greece, doctors report widespread anxiety symptoms and distress among all groups. A physical representation of this anxiety reported frequently is sudden collapse due to mental exhaustion.

“Many refugees also report not wanting to use emergency medical services, even when they need the care, for fear of missing an opportunity to cross a border. But refugees’ need for health services extends beyond mental and emergency health care to cover the whole gamut of routine health care.” (Chatham House – Europe Must Find Humane and Dignified Response – 30 November, 2016)

The vast number of refugees have legitimate need for love and care. It is the minority who take the crisis and use it for violent opportunities. We must have wisdom in processing the desire to help.

I recall being frustrated often as I travelled in and out of Israel. The officials asked many questions and refused to concede until every one was answered appropriately. Israel is famous for effective vetting procedures.

I also remember the joy we knew after we entered and met with our Jewish friends in Jerusalem. They blessed us with abundant hospitality and we shared in their celebrations. Friendships were established that remain to this day. There is a balance, and we must find it quickly.

Millennials, More Friendship, Less Church!

imagesMillenials! Believe me they are different. Try these classic quotes, rewritten for millennials – “A picture is worth a thousand words” becomes ‘an emoji is worth a thousand words’; “Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” to “Better to have GIFed and lost than never to have GIFed at all” and “You are what you eat” now “You are what you download.” (’21 Classic quotes Reimagined for the Millennial Generation’- buzzfeed.com) By the way, GIF stands for Graphic Information Format, but you knew that, right? Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000. They are also called Generation Y, Generation Next and Net Generation.

Years ago my first music album (remember those?) was by The Four Lads. I loved it but my dad called it ‘noise’! “Turn that noise down,” he would demand. Generations come and go and they all seem to have different tastes but with a little effort we learn to communicate to some extent. It may take concerted effort and understanding but I have always found encouraging the youth in their likes and ambitions helps. In other words, be involved in their lives.

Recently I observed the response when a teenager shocked her world. She committed suicide. Where I could, I reached out with encouragement but I noticed the value to the grieving, of text messaging. The tight group of friends reached out to each other with sorrow and sensitivity by text. Some went to Facebook to pay tribute to the ‘fallen angel.’ This is the way of millennials, they text one another. Their network is very tight. They find encouragement, security and identity from each other and the other is just a quick click away.

 Multi-tasking

images-1I have learned millennials are very ‘with it.’ They are experts at multi-tasking. My millennials can be in conversation with me, texting on their ipads or ipods, and watching TV all at the same time. Theyre not ignoring me, they just have the ability to connect by multi-tasking. (Took a while to learn that!)

Forty years ago my wife Yvonne and I set up the Hamburger Hut as a Saturday night outreach centre for youth. The fellowship was all about music, movies and burgers but the attraction was the social getting together. We offered a bible study in our home to those interested and that was a great time for all of us. We were criticized for our live rock and roll music but it was the music of the day and we enjoyed it too.

Right now Christian communities must find ways to communicate effectively with millennials who need encouragement and support. Last February (2017) unemployment for youth in Australia was 13.3 per cent. I have spoken with many who feel their future is bleak. Less than 1 in 10 young Aussies think they will be more financially secure than their parents, look at house and apartment prices in Sydney! Millennials also have a strong fear of terrorism and crime. They are understandably concerned. The McCrindle Research reports by 2020 average work tenure will be 3 years. More than 1 in 3 workers will be casual. (mccrindle.com.au) They know more about robots and technology than we do and they are worried.

In America 65% of millennials rarely attend church; 70% say church is irrelevant according to The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation.

Millennials make up 20 percent of the Australian population but I read an Australian marketing expert Rosie Baker said, “Millennials are on the brink of becoming the most important market for Australian brands.” She was writing about luxury items and advising marketers to get with it to keep their market share. Their outreach to the millennials required targeted advertising and they must ‘go mobile’, she said. (Luxury brands ‘must skew advertising younger and go mobile’, Rosie Baker, Ad News)

Millennials in America recently told church leaders we don’t like preaching, we need mentoring. What an invitation?

It is very interesting to me Jesus when he was 12 years old was found in the synagogue with the teachers. Luke said he was ‘listening to them and asking them questions.’ (Luke chapter 2, verse 46b). That was a very millennial type thing to do! Most millennials I know, ask question after question. They are not satisfied with an answer from an authority figure. Instead they are certain to discuss the details with their own age-group.

One US millennial wrote: “Contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops or pastors who wear skinny jeans.” Sounds like a cry for reality to me!

Today if I were in church leadership, I would be encouraging my youth to text their friends and neighbours, start communicating, sharing, listening and learning. Mentoring may be the tool of the future and you only need faith and an ipod to do it. My wife and I kept goodies in the fridge and that guaranteed more personal contact,