Israel and Christianity
Being an atheist, my church attendance these days is EXTREMELY spotty. Easter and Christmas is about it -- though Anne would be happy if we went more often. Anne is not particularly pious but, like me, she is a CULTURAL Protestant Christian. And culture accounts for a lot. A shared cultural background gives us an instinctive understanding of one-another and a similar response to many things. We are all happiest among our "ain folk", as the Scots put it. That is probably all gobbledegook to most Leftists but the loss is theirs.
I am at the moment in the grip of the joyous Christmas season -- and the hymns and carols that we sing at this time are so Israel-focused that I fail to see how any Christian can NOT be a great supporter of Israel. Pastor Hagee is sometimes berated for his extreme Israel-focus but if I lived in his town I think I might be inclined to attend any special services that he put on.
The Bible is an Israeli book. Even Luke the good physician -- who was not a Jew -- was apparently an Israeli.
So how can we not rejoice at this time over the return of descendants of its Biblical inhabitants to the "Promised Land"? We sing and read so much about that land and the personalities that emerged from it. I see Christians who are not strong supporters of Israel as fake Christians.
A Christian critique of Christmas
Weak protests about the "commercialization" of Christmas are routine and I think most of us know that most of the traditions associated with Christmas are of pagan origin but the writer below is offended by those pagan origins and sees them as sacrilegious. As with me however, her inherited culture leads her to accept most of the conventional celebrations
The very harsh words written by puritans in Boston 1679-1681 conveyed the message that the celebration of Christmas was basically a satanical practice.
In a nutshell, the puritans felt that since it was the Catholics that proclaimed Christ as being born on December 25th, it therefore was a sacrilege to follow Catholic dogma because they were heretics.
If the judge asked you if you honor Jesus Christ on the celebration of Saturnalia what would your answer be? Yes? Do you honor Christ on the same day as the pagan god? If you aren’t Catholic why would you call it Christmas, Christ-mass? And why would we want to honor our Lord and Savior on the day others are honoring Saturnalia anyway? Doesn’t God detest such practices? When Moses went up to meet God on Mount Sinai, he came back to find his brother Aaron had fashioned idols in order to honor GOD. Isn’t it obvious that God himself has already told us what honors him? Why do we believe that Christmas honors Christ? It doesn’t. It actually puts our Messiah in a boiling caldron with the rest of the false gods and there is nothing honoring in that.
I love Christmas time. I love the lights, music (sometimes), the food and traditions. I love when our families come together, and exchange gifts. But over the years my passion for the baby Jesus has suffered a massive hemorrhage, bled out, shriveled up and died. I killed the tradition of worshiping Christ during Christmas. I wouldn’t dare step foot in a church during the Christmas season now. You’ll be hard pressed to find me in a church at anytime these days. Am I now an atheist? Hardly!
Just because I refuse to mention Christ at Christmas time doesn’t make me an atheist, gnostic, or any other label you’d like to pin to my chest, I simply refuse to allow my Messiah to be grouped in with the fake sun god, Tammuz, Yule, and any other Babylonian or Viking god you can think of. There are some Messianic believers (and Christians too) who have gone so far as to never bring an evergreen tree in the house, or decorate, or make gingerbread men.
I’m not among those who refuse to celebrate the holidays. Some could say “ba humbug to you!” But really, as I said before I enjoy the tree, lights, food and traditions and sometimes the music. I don’t want that to end.
Am I satanical and pagan for having that tree? Some might say I am. I like having a Christmas tree with lights and ornaments. I like giving gifts to my children. It isn’t pagan to me, its a tradition I enjoy. So sue me. LOL I have never worshiped Yule or had his phallic symbol in our home, I’ve never put up images of Saturnalia, and I most certainly do not have any need to tell our children about Santa which is nothing more than a Norse god, and my evergreen tree all decked out with gifts below doesn’t appease any dark god of winter. If I did, then you could say I were pagan and proud. I’m not a secret pagan either. I have friends who are pagans…beautiful lovely people, but that’s not me. No, its just the traditions we’ve grown up with. Would I condemn others for doing it their way? Nope. Would I get mad if others weren’t observing the holidays the way I do? Hell no.
I find it funny how crazy Christians get over Christmas (I can safely say I was in that category for a long time, so I can speak about this from experience, not just observation). They go all out with special services, songs about Jesus’ birth, throw him a party on the 25th and condemn others who want to take Christ out of Christmas.
Why is this funny? Because they want to perpetuate the lie that he was born on the 25th of December and they get offended believing Satan (the FATHER OF LIES) is attacking the holiday. They believe there is a war on Christmas. Yeah there’s a war alright! God is waging war. He never said to honor him with lies. His Son was not born on the sun god’s birthday. Why would anyone who worships the living God choose to honor our Lord and Savior in such a manner? Aren’t we to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth? How does one reconcile themselves to the fact that the whole Christmas season is a lie? To say “Jesus is the reason for the season” is actually a profane statement. True profanity at its finest.
It took a long time for me to let go of the lie of Christmas. There isn’t anything Christ-like in Christmas, no matter how many images of the baby Jesus are on greeting cards, gifts or in television shows. No matter how angry Christians ironically become over Jesus being taken out of the season, its still a lie, and a big one at that.
I know this subject is a bit controversial, but I love talking about controversial things…Christmas being one of them. I’m not sure if I’ve offended anyone, and that is never my intention, but I’m just giving my take on what the Christmas season means to me.
This year none of my children are with me on Christmas. Two are in NJ visiting relatives, one is home with her dog that has an ear infection and one needed to work today. I set up another Christmas date for all of us which is on the 28th this year. I like the idea of not giving in to Christmas dogma. Its very liberating for my children and for us. It means that relatives can have our kids for the holidays and we can make our own very special time together. It wasn’t always like that for me, but as I’ve grown up I’ve mellowed out a bit. As I bring this blog entry to a close, I’m so excited that in a few days all my kids will be together under one roof, joking, eating, enjoy each other and opening gifts.
Have a Merry X-Mas and a Happy New Year!
Is the whole world now turning towards North Korean economic policies?
Economic historian Martin Hutchinson below is once again pointing to awkward lessons from history
The death of Kim Jong-il, dictator of North Korea since 1994, has been met with near universal condemnation both of his human rights record and his approach to economics. Yet juche, the philosophy of self-reliance underpinning the North Korean economy since his father Kim Il-sung devised it, is far from dead. Instead, as hapless populist leaders search in the current recession for alternatives to the apparently failed 1990s “Washington consensus” version of capitalism, they are in many cases turning to versions of juche, horrible as its record has been in North Korea. Maybe Kim Il-sung, like Karl Marx before him, is destined to inspire millions of deluded followers a generation or more after his death.
The North Korean philosophy of juche was first propounded by Kim Il-sung in a December 28, 1955 speech “On eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and establishing Juche in ideological work.” Kim urged party functionaries not to import ideas wholesale from the Soviet Union, but to establish North Korea as a revolutionary nation in its own right. The ideology was developed over the next decade, alongside the Kim family’s extreme personality cult, receiving an impetus from the Sino-Soviet split of 1960, and was elaborated in an April 1965 speech, in which it was held to entail political independence, economic self-sustenance and self-reliance in defense. Kim Jong-il elaborated the ideology further in his 1982 “On the juche idea” and added an “army first” policy to it in 1996.
Juche has been held responsible for many of North Korea’s follies, including its universally hostile and deceptive foreign policy and its wayward nuclear program, although many of the Kim regime’s most unpleasant features are common to totalitarian states throughout history. However juche’s economic side, the doctrine of extreme self-reliance, minimizing international trade, investment and contact at every level, is of most interest here.
Self-reliance showed its downside in North Korea in 1994-98, when the country’s GDP halved and its populace descended into famine. However its earlier record was better. As of 1968, fifteen years after the end of the Korean War, North Korea was considerably richer than South Korea. This was only peripherally a result of juche; North Korea had inherited the bulk of the pre-war Japanese industrial plant (little of which had been destroyed by the 1950-53 war) and received considerable help including subsidized energy imports as a member of the Sino-Soviet bloc. After 1970, the subsidies declined and the Japanese equipment wore out, so North Korea entered a period of stagnation.
However the great blow to the juche economy was the fall of the Soviet bloc and the exposure of North Korea to the full force of the international market. Whereas juche had worked reasonably well within a non-market-driven economic bloc containing a third of the world’s population and much of its natural resources, as an eccentric ideology in a world of blistering free trade it proved a disaster. Since 2000, the North Korean economy has subsisted on handouts from its now much richer neighbor to the south and by blackmailing the West through its nuclear program.
There are thus lessons to be drawn from the last fifty years of North Korean economic history. First, any attempt to be self-reliant requires an economic entity that is large enough to produce most of the goods it needs, even inefficiently. North Korea on its own, without the Soviet bloc as friendly neighbors, manifestly fails on this criterion.
Second, and less obviously, juche works better in a world in which it is not particularly outlandish, in which free flow of goods and services is blocked by relatively high tariffs, and in which many other countries are practicing similar policies. In the 1950s and 1960s Britain and much of Europe had exchange controls and high tariffs both internal and external, China was an inward-looking peasant economy and India and most of Latin America were practicing policies of crude import substitution that were to hobble their economies for decades thereafter. The Soviet bloc, above all, devoted much of its output to weaponry and disabled the price mechanism through central planning. Only the United States practiced something close to free trade and unrestricted international investment, while Japan initially and the remainder of east Asia later built their economies on their export prowess to U.S. and European markets, without any corresponding domestic opening.
In the 1990s, conversely, exchange controls were a thing of the past, as was the Soviet bloc. International trade was at record highs, and international investment was finally returning to its apogee of 1914. Even more disruptively, the advent of the Internet during the decade made international supply chains far easier to manage than they had ever been before, leading to a massive boom in emerging markets that is still with us. In such a world, North Korean economic methods that had worked adequately in a more restricted world fell apart completely. Juche was much more outrageously sub-optimal in 1998 than it had been in 1968; thus the collapse of the North Korean economy in the middle 1990s.
Juche is thus a completely discredited economic ideology – except that today you can see elements of juche creeping into economic policy all over the world. Mercosur, the trade bloc including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and soon Venezuela, has just agreed to choose 100 imports on which it will impose 35% tariffs. Brazil itself has imposed a 30% tariff surcharge on imported automobiles. All five Mercosur leaders are leftists, elected in a reaction to the previous policies of economic liberalization; their natural instinct is to protect their economies from what they see as destructive global competition. Then you have the “anti-dumping duties” imposed by the U.S. on Chinese tires and the countervailing duties imposed by China on imports of U.S. automobiles. In India, the impulse to free markets under Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998-2004) is long gone; the current government has hurriedly reversed a decision to open Indian retailing a fraction further to foreign investment.
Then you have the EU, not seen by most of its keenest supporters as a free trade zone – that’s a myth cooked up for the gullible British – but as a closed system strong enough at last to repel the hated influence of the United States and Asia. The attempt to battle against market forces which correctly flag the Greek economy as hopelessly uncompetitive at current exchange rates is a classic of juche thinking. So too is the German energy subsidy system, now copied by other EU countries, which allows multiple state-favored energy inputs at non-market prices, while a certification system is used to exclude Chinese wind turbine manufacturers. Even in stock exchanges, now the leading edge of globalization, the Deutsche Boerse-NYSE deal is being stymied by regulatory opposition at the European end, while having been let through by the U.S. authorities.
The current global flowering of juche is not surprising. In the Great Depression, not only did the United States raise its tariff barriers to inordinate levels by the Smoot Hawley absurdity, but even the normally free-trading Britain tried to produce a self-reliant Imperial market through the Ottawa Agreement of 1932. The result of the latter was a nice rebound of the British economy in the 1930s, but the gradual collapse of British manufacturing in sector after sector when it was exposed to the full rigors of international competition after World War II. It must not be forgotten that no Soviet era industrial behemoth fared so hopelessly in international competition as did the 1970s British Leyland. My father’s long standing ambition was to own a Jaguar; he achieved this ambition in 1973, poor man. British Leyland’s torture of an innocent customer by its abysmal quality control of that era will not be soon forgiven!
Thus you should not imagine for a second that Kim Il-sung’s juche ideology works in terms of providing long-term prosperity. Wherever it has been tried to any but the most minimal extent it has impoverished its people, as surely as it has in North Korea. In a world where the free market is working properly, like the global economy before 1914, or that of 1990-2008, only a lunatic would attempt it. However when the global economy suffers a prolonged setback, as in the 1930s or recently, a juche approach becomes increasingly attractive politically. What’s more, if the rest of the world is itself indulging in anti-competitive activities, or blocking the free movement of goods and capital, juche becomes less sub-optimal and can even work partially, for a time. Only when the system liberalizes once more does the extent of its failure become apparent.
Maybe we will soon lift out of the current global economic problems, and the world’s attempts to reproduce North Korean economic policies will be seen as a minor blip in a free market system. But there is an alternative possibility, in which the market-distorting policies themselves do enough economic damage that the global recession becomes indefinitely extended, and growth worldwide shudders to a halt or even reverses. Indeed the globalization process, producing as it does a shift in wealth from the West to emerging markets, could in a prolonged recession provide the seeds of its own downfall. Japan, the United States and western Europe, countries that still collectively retain much of the world’s economic clout but feel their economic welfare declining, could conceivably indulge in an orgy of juche-inspired policy self-destruction.
In that case Kim Il-sung, evil tyrant that he was, will have become the leading economic inspiration of the unhappy 21st century.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)