Radical Secularism Won’t See Us Through

 

“If we are so troubled and perplexed, if we search for the right words and bite our tongues, this is because these three elements are constitutive parts of our situation and the great fact of Islam that is at the center of our struggles, for Muslims and for non-Muslims, together or separately.” Pierre Manent, Beyond Radical Secularism

 

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Manent, in his book Beyond Radical Secularism, suggests that the Islamic phenomenon presents three distinct and yet interdependent elements which must be addressed by Europe and, I suggest, ultimately by the U.S.: Muslim immigration, Muslim settlement and mosques financed by Gulf States, and Islamic terrorism.

How do we as a nation begin to address the three elements? Do we call others “Islamaphobic” or “Xenophobic” and content ourselves with pointed fingers and huffing? Do we act like a Jesuit I know and parse out isolated Scripture from the Bible to push the Progressive notion that to be a good country one must have Open Borders and welcome all comers with no conditions placed on refugees/immigrants while hoping things will all work out, while not taking into account the unintended consequences for both parties and without accruing any personal cost? Or, do we as a people living within the Kingdom of God on earth address the complex issue at hand? Do we acknowledge who we are as a nation and our Christian heritage and also acknowledge Muslims?

 

I suggest Manent’s Beyond Radical Secularism is a good place to begin looking at the matter before us.

Several months have passed since I read though Pierre Manet’s twenty essays, essays encapsulated in his book Beyond Radical Secularism. Before too much more time passes I wanted to record what I learned from the essays along with my reflections.

This is not a book review. Rather, this post is me trying to understand the Islam situation facing the U.S. and doing so through the eyes of French academic and political scientist Pierre Manent whose own country of France is having to come to terms with the Muslims. My thoughts are interspersed with Manent’s words.

From the book’s Introduction by Daniel J. Mahoney:

“In this, his latest book (originally published in France as Situation de la France), Manent brings together his considerable theoretical and practical concerns with rare spiritual depth. He reveals the failure of Europe’s humanitarian civil religion and pleads for a restoration of prudent judgment, rooted in a searching exploration of the theological-political problem. He reveals just where the de-politicization and de-Christianization of Europe has led the continent and his native France. Refusing to despair, and not content with literary politics and facile criticism, Manent lays out a practical philosophy that shows Europe and the West that deliberation and action remain as available to us as they were to Pericles and St. Paul.” (Emphasis mine)

 

As noted above, Manent writes from a French perspective. Yet, his home turf insights can provide significant direction for U. S. immigration policies addressing the “three elements” noted above.

In Manent’s assessment of the current political situation, he sees both France and the West looking weak:

“As rich as we still are in material and intellectual resources, we are politically without strength. Doubtless this has not escaped the attention of those who now attack us.” (From the Preface)

France and the West, Manent points out, are capitulating to radical secularism–a stripping of the national landscape of political and Christian milestones, earmarks and boundaries. Both are refusing to either fight their enemies or to love their enemies. Both are handing out subjective rights which further divide the nation state into individuals against one another. In so doing, the political regime

“…makes every constraint appear to be useless and arbitrary, in a word vexing, whether civic or in private life. As each letting go justifies and calls forth the next, governments are motivated to tout themselves no longer by the guidance and the energy they give to common life, but by the “new rights” they grant to individuals and to groups.” (From the Preface)

 

Though not mentioned by Manent in his book, it seems to me that the French philosopher Foucalt’s deconstructionism has gone a long way in educational circles toward emptying words and historical narratives of the meaning they once held. This vacating of meaning has led to intellectual and moral paralysis. We no longer know what to do because we no longer know what to think, Manent posits.

At the end of his Preface, Manent elaborates:

“Our irritated and vacant souls are full of a jumble of historical references, positive or negative, which our experience no longer shifts or orders, and of which we make use in the most frivolous or self-interested manner.”

Later, in essay seven, he writes about France,

“The major fact of our situation, one that has important consequences in all domains that concern us, is the radical loss of authority by the main and decisive instrument of modern politics, that is, the State, or if you will, in the specifically French context, the Republic. One might say, in the language of political physics that the republican State no longer has the power either to reduce the constituent groups of France to citizen-individuals, those primordial elements of modern politics, nor to offer these individuals something to hold in common substantial enough to allow them to be true citizens, that is, members of a larger whole…we tend to return to the pre-modern situation… One of the distinctive features of the situation was the absence of any border between the interior and the exterior.”

 

Here in the U.S. Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of America was by many accounts a proclaimed and implied look-down-his-nose disdain for America’s history, its Constitution and its ways of life. Obama even apologized to other nations for America’s ‘faults’ as he saw them. As we are finding out, Obama’s administration didn’t just disparage America it also colluded against America and its ally Israel with a South American drug cartel to help Iran advance their nuclear program. Obama along with the likes of Noam Chomsky and a host of “intelligentsia” sought to shame and deconstruct America and to remake it in their own Progressive promise-of-the-future image. Enter a carnival mirror reflection.

Donald Trump comes along and promotes an uber-nationalist fundamental retransformation after his own ribald image. But neither administration has addressed the Muslim situation other than making polarizing comments.

 

Manent, as he views France, sees their common life dissipating from the loss of State authority due to the people’s lack of faith in government’s trustworthiness and also a loss in faith in Providence, a special concern for a nation with a Christian mark. Add to these weakening influences globalization–the absence of borders within and without, the purposeful loss of historical meaning and context, the placation of individuals and groups with subjective rights by the government, and the neutralizing of the mark of Christianity on a nation. All such effects of degeneration on the common life undermine “a stable and coherent disposition” toward Muslim immigration. You shouldn’t welcome someone into your common life if your common life is on life support. More degeneration occurs.

Our own common political life is being redefined as the ‘indeterminate and limitlessness of individual rights” and interests, just as Manent described France’s political life. Our nation, already fragile, is questioning its identity as it sees itself through the media lens of “fundamental transformation” pushed by Progressives. Our education systems, Progressivism’s training grounds, focus on identity politics and refuse to reinforce a national common life, seeing it as a formulation of power structures from the past that must be done away with.

We are weak and getting weaker and we are inviting in a people, some of whom are at war with us.

 

Manent talks about the effects of the transformative “equality”, values” and “secularism” criteria in his own country:

“I have emphasized repeatedly… — that our political regime has progressively brought about its own paralysis by the ever narrower and more unilateral way it has understood its principles. The rights of man have been separated radically from the rights of the citizen and, instead of freeing members of society in order to make them capable and desirous of participating in what is common, they are now supposed to suffice to themselves, and public institutions are nothing more than their docile instrument. We are probably the first, and we will surely remain the only people in history to give over all elements of social life and all contents of human life to the unlimited sovereignty of the individual.”

 

 

A solution and warning;

Manent writes that France has the tools to deal with the influx of Islam: a history of a neutral secular State coupled with a people with a “Christian mark.” Yet, France and the Europe Union are in depoliticizing mode with their eager acceptance of globalization and open borders. Even more debilitating, they are negating, via radical secularization, all religion from public life and particularly Christianity. Manent warns that these divesting actions will cripple and paralyze any proper response France must take in accepting Islam into the common life of France.

 

Manent talks of a “politics of the possible” between French Muslims and the civic body. Two principles would apply. First, Muslims are to be accepted “as they are” without seeking to modernizing them or conforming them to others in the society.

Second, preserve and defend the sanctuary of secular government and the characteristics of its regime which holds them as citizens first, Muslims second.

 

For a shared life Manent suggests that acceptance of Muslims into French society would need to be balanced by elements of France’s “ancient constitution” in order to prevent a Muslim transformation of France. And this acceptance must not advance as “secularism.”

There is a need to address who we are when speaking to those who a seeking to live with us. There is also a need to address Muslims as who they are and then to go forward together, each recognizing the other.

Beyond the foundation and bulwarks of an “ancient constitution” Manent suggests that France (rightfully) impose two restrictions on entering Muslims: no polygamy and no burqa. Such parameters, he posits, would protect the social fabric of the nation and the political freedoms in place.

For the U.S. I would impose the same restrictions along with not allowing sharia law to become law. Muslims immigrants must submit to the laws of our republic. They must not ‘rule’ themselves separately in opposition to a common life. They also must understand that we are a nation with a Christian mark and one which does not impose its Christian beliefs onto others via the government. Here, the individual is self-governing within the full extent of the law. Here the Christian influences government but is not authoritarian, despite Leftist characterizations to the contrary.

 

As I see it, we must define our relationships beyond individual rights. We must define who we are in common. A neutral secular State will support groups which support the common life of the State. It will respect each group and allow each group to function on its own without imposing laws specific to a particular group.

 

A Radicalized secular state, on the other hand, will, by its vacuous nature, delegitimize its people and their religion. But don’t expect Muslims to become secular and that tensions will float away. They won’t (though many Progressive Christians have) and the tensions won’t magically dissolve because you opened your borders. Radical secularism pretends that we are just citizen-individuals with nothing to offer but our individuated ‘diverse’ presence. The State only has authority and powers we give it. If we give it nothing but demand only rights we suck the life out of our common life.

An open border de-politicized nation will continue to splinter off. A de-Christianized nation will have no means to influence and support the neutral State. And, Christianity has for centuries fostered and supported secular authority. But Islam, as you know, is theocratic in its politics. To live in common, Islam must separate political and religious life in its citizen contract with the State.

And that State? I see the government’s primary responsibility as promoting the common good by maintaining the rule of law, and preserving basic duties and rights. A neutral secular government offers protection, security and the motivation for the common good. A radicalized secular nation has nothing but individual ‘rights’ to offer a people who then become increasingly alienated.

With more than just rights to offer, a shared life in the U.S. is possible–and desirable–if we remember and “they” learn who we are and why we are – a nation with a Christian mark seeking a common and secure life. It is within this context that the Islamic phenomenon’s three distinct and yet interdependent elements must be addressed.

 

I recommend Manent’s book, Beyond Radical Secualrism to you. 

Pierre Manent is a French political scientist. Or, as they say in France…

Pierre Manent est directeur d’ etudes a l’ Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales, membre fondateur de la revue Commentaire.

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English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton also has something to say about the above:

Islam, the “Lunatic Left” and Their Problem with Truth

 

“See here,” Jesus continued, “I’m sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves. So be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew’s Gospel 10: 16

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Clarion Words heard in Anne Marie Waters’ talk at “Dangerous Words 250” Free Speech conference, October 1, 2016

“…truth is now the enemy…”

“…but free speech matters so that we may tell the truth.”

“…Islam will not provide mutual respect…”

“…war on words, language neutralized, object reality is threatened…”

Sharia Watch U.K.

The “Jay Report” mentioned in the video: “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, 1997-2013 – Alexis Jay OBE”
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“The purpose of those who argue for cultural diversity is to impose ideological uniformity.” ― Theodore Dalrymple

 

“How can one respect people as members of the human race unless one holds them to a standard of conduct and truthfulness?”

― Theodore Dalrymple, Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics & Culture of Decline

 

[Theodore] Dalrymple on Decadence, Europe, America and Islam:

PB: How do you explain that when society has problems with Islam it is mainly with the young men and not with the young women?

RD: I think the young women are not strongly Islamist on the whole. In fact, many of them are very anti-Islamic, or would be if they had the opportunity. I also believe that the main interest of Islam for young men in Western countries is the predominance that it gives them over women. I will give you the reasons why I have come to that conclusion, and I accept that they are not scientifically foolproof. There could be arguments against them.

Obama, The Terrorist Mosque Mook

Christians should not be feeding on pablum, the processed food given to infants. And, Barack Obama is pablum incarnate.

The finger-pointing and shaming Obama has said that there are Americans who “bitterly cling to guns and Bibles.” But, from his high-sounding lectures we learn of Crusader Obama cleaving to Islam and the Koran and its terror filled ways. He (and his AG Loretta Lynch) berate anyone who would question the ways of Islam. How odd and how evil to promote what is in-your-face evil over what has a history of overwhelming good. But that is the way of Progressivism and the way of “fundamental transformation”. The anti-Bush is much more like the anti-Christ.

In his last (thank you God!) year as president, Obama is desperately trying to create a legacy out of processed political motives, hence the visit to a Baltimore Mosque and the hubristic lectures. Obama is campaigning to become president of the world – UN Secretary General. Don’t eat the pablum.

Listen:

Obama Snatched Ramadi Defeat from Bush Victory

So You Want to Give World Peace to Your Mother for Mother’s Day?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

World Peace. Now there’s something your mother would love-the kids not fighting! But it will take some doing. FTD is not showing this item on their webpage. Hallmark may have a singing “What a Wonderful World” gift card. Good luck finding that one right now.

In the meantime-between War and Peace, that is-I suggest that you at least call mom and thank her for her wisdom, her support and her prayers on your behalf.

 

World Peace. If you think about it world peace comes when the world is ordered in such a way that man, a free moral agent, doesn’t repeat the history of self-centered reason leading to violence and to exclusion. I’ll tell you what I mean a little bit later in the post.

To better understand man’s secular attempts at world order read former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s new book “World Order.”

As a foreign diplomacy expert and an experienced and well-read confidant of several presidents and policy institutes, Kissinger provides the reader of “World Order” years of insight into centuries of cultures, societies and homogenous people groups that have formed political entities. In the aggregate, these entities whether during strife or in peace, would become known as the “world order.”

World Order by Henry Kissinger

World Order by Henry Kissinger

Out of a political will based mainly on reasons of security through power, countries with formal boundaries and armies would form. But, this did not happen without the give and take of diplomacy and frequent battles over territorial claims. The flux of national wills would determine the world order at any given moment.

Today’s tenuous world order, as viewed from the U.S., includes aggressive-always seeking to expand Russia, passive-aggressive imperial China, the tinder-box known as the Middle East and the ever obtuse North Korea.

Today’s world order also includes the incendiary radical Islamists who are central to Iran’s deployed political will of “do or die” theocracy. There are non-state terrorist groups aligned with Iran. All this and sectarian strife: neighbor against neighbor.

As I see it, the stability of today’s world order borders on chaos. Cyber black-hat communities and international terrorists may hack, steal, deface and destroy information systems necessary for a nation’s financial and political security. There are no territorial borders in cyberspace, no rules of engagement, no easily determined policy of retaliation and only a faint hope in a firewall as means of deterrence. As technology rapidly advances, Kissinger warns, so do the implications of world order rapidly taking a turn for the worst.

In talking about the role of internet as it affects human consciousness by tailoring truth to the user Kissinger notes, “Western history and psychology have heretofore treated truth as independent of the personality and the prior experience of the observer. Yet, our age is on the verge of a changed conception of the nature of truth…

The concept of truth is being relativized and individualized-losing its universal character. Information is being presented as being free. In fact, the recipient pays for it by supplying data to be exploited by persons unknown to him, in ways that further shape the information being offered to him”

On the same page Kissinger asks, “Where, in a world of ubiquitous networks, does the individual find the space to develop the fortitude to make decisions that by definition, cannot be based on consensus?

AND thanks to nebulous foreign policy decision-making by the Obama White House, nuclear proliferation is increasing! Nuclear armament is now considered a necessity by countries such as Sunni Saudi Arabia. The Saudi are concerned about Shia Iran and nuclear asymmetry.

Currently, U.S. foreign policy appears to be a policy based primarily on President Barack Obama’s vision of himself and his desired legacy. Could it be that Obama wants to see himself as egalitarian with Iran to the point of doing to Israel what he does to America over and over?

The only sure thing we have learned about Barack Obama’s World Order policies which effect both domestic and foreign issues is that Obama’s allegiance is to his far left political ideologies and has never been with America and its lessons-learned traditional values. Oh sure, nice ‘flowery’ speeches are made in kabuki theater-like moments but his passive-aggressive actions and his evocative denigrating words are reminders of his early-60’s radicalized mindset. He is not for peace. Obama is a divider of classes, races and genders. World Peace is the last thing on Obama’s mind. He wants “transformational change”, whatever that is. It could mean that the U.S. becomes the People‘s Republic of Obama.

Remember, Obama was mentored by radical leftists, leftists who pledged their allegiance to the “Goddamn America!” flag. Barack Obama was taught to denigrate America within a vision of world order that does not embrace our historical roots. Those roots are of no value to him.

Obama mentions Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King and yet has no clue as to the depth of moral character or the extent of sacrifice each of these larger than life men had brought to America. These two men so endeavored with their prayers and decisions to bring about reconciliation and peace, not Obamic division for political gain.

Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” reveals to us that he is always looking over his shoulder, looking for Jim Crowism, for colonialism, for unabashedly proud Americans. He wants to shame America and Israel into submission to his political will, a will that only knows a radicalized world order. Little wonder he ‘empathizes’ with the Iranians, giving them the benefit of many realized doubts. But, that’s enough writing about our lame-blame President. He will be out of office in twenty months. Mothers, rejoice!

 

  1. Let’s start over.

So you want to give World Peace to your mother for Mother’s Day? It will take some effort on your part to make this happen.

First I recommend to you Miroslav Volf’s book, “Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation”. This book is mentioned in a video within my post “The Problem of Evil, A Good God and a Different Way to Be Human“. N.T. Wright brings up the book while discussing forgiveness.

Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf

Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf

Here is one passage from the chapter, “Violence and Pain”:

The Enlightenment has left us with an alternative: either reason or violence. Nietzsche and his postmodern followers have demonstrated aptly that reason itself is violent (Nietzsche 1990, 43), adding in their honest moments the horrifying thought that violent reason can be transcended only in the violence of un-reason (Foucault 1988, 285). The cross of Christ should teach us that the only alternative to violence is self-giving love, willingness to absorb violence in order to embrace the other in the knowledge that truth and justice have been, and will be, up held by God. Does the cross teach us to abandon reason along with violence? Is its message that the immediacy of self-donation is the only antidote to the immediacy of violence? Certainly not. We cannot dispense with reason and discourse as weapons against violence. But the cross does suggest that the ‘responsibility of reason” can replace neither the “consciousness of sin” (Apel 1988, 17f) nor the willingness to embrace the sinful other. Instead, reason and discourse themselves need to be redeemed to the extent that they are implicated in the agnostic and sinful relations of power. Only those who are willing to embrace the deceitful and unjust as Christ has done on the cross, will be able to employ reason and discourse as instruments of peace rather than violence.” (emphasis mine)

Second, in the same video mentioned above N.T. Wright discusses forgiveness in light of Volf’s book.

Is forgiveness weakness? Is forgiveness capitulation of power, a loss of reason? Or, is forgiveness true power, true freedom and true embrace of the other. Is forgiveness the means to true World Peace?

Forgiveness is part of a larger reconciliation package: where evil has happened, it needs to named for what it is and in a sense shamed and then dealt with. “Where real evil has happened it needs to be addressed.” Forgiveness and reconciliation addresses what has actually happened. Within this context of embracing the “other” people are brought together. New life, new order is restored. Amazingly powerful and new possibilities including healing of communities will occur. World Peace ensues.

As Wright describes in the video, shutting the door of your heart to God’s forgiveness leaves us on inside looking out. I would add that a root of bitterness begins growing down through the floor boards making you decision to move through the growth to open the door difficult and then, later, almost impossible.

These are heavy concepts but you love your mother so take on these truths and become a peacemaker for Mother’s day.

“Blessings on the peacemakers! You’ll be called God’s children”-this Mother’s Day.

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Added 8/12/2015: “Every politician who is involved in this (#IranDeal) will have blood on their hands.”

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman, Conclusion

Part One: A Feast for the Eyes

Part Two: Persia Meets Reality and Esther

Part Three: Haman and A Star is Worn

 

Mordecai sitting at the King's Gate-all ears and eyes

Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate-all ears and eyes

 

 

Haman is booked

Haman is booked

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part Four, Conclusion: Who Remains Silent in Times Like These?

 “The entire story of Israel, on one level at least, is the story of how Israel’s God is taking on the arrogant tyrants of the world, overthrowing their power, and rescuing his people from under its cruel weight.” N.T. Wright, “How God Became King”

 As we have learned so far, Persian King Xerxes and his right hand man Haman have issued decrees, edicts and proclamations. At the urging of Haman a death warrant for the Jews was sent throughout Xerxes’ vast kingdom.

 The edict, that genocide of the Jews was to occur on a certain day, is shouted from the citadel in the capital city of Susa. The targeted Jew’s days are numbered: on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar the Jews are to be annihilated, their property plundered.

 This horrifying declaration is soon answered by the Jewish population. The people mourn and fast. They put on sackcloth and ashes as signs of their distress. Xerxes and Haman, on the other hand, party on.

 But then banqueting tables are turned and the Jew’s great sadness is turned to rejoicing. Moving quickly though the events we’ll see how.

 Before we go on you should know this Resurrection Day that…The days of evil are numbered and the Day of Final Deliverance from Death is at hand. The empty tomb is the proclamation of our deliverance from both evil and death, on a certain future day. The Purim celebration would become a foretaste of deliverance. Resurrection day is the foretaste of the Day of Deliverance.

 From Chapter One of The Book of Esther: King Xerxes, in response to Queen Vashti’s no-show at the royal bacchanalia deposes Queen Vasti and sends out a decree to everyone in his kingdom, a decree proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household.

From Chapter Two: Esther is fast-tracked by the head eunuch to become Xerxes new queen. The king then gives a great banquet, “Esther’s Banquet” to show off his queen to all his nobles and officials. Xerxes proclaims a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with liberality. Mordecai’s salvation of Xerxes from an assignation attempt is recorded in the king’s record books.

 From Chapter Three: Xerxes honors Haman, making him his right-hand man. Haman is paraded about and is honored by all except a particular Jew-Mordecai. Haman’s ego is crushed. His anger turns to hate. Haman chooses to become anti-Semitic. Haman complains to Xerxes about a “certain people”.

 Xerxes to Haman regarding the Jews, “do with the people as you please.” A genocidal Death Warrant is issued after the king’s authority via his signet ring is handed over to Haman. A copy of the text of the edict is to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.  …couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued.”

Chapter 4: Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, hears about the edit. It is shouted from the citadel in the capital city of Susa. Mordecai is stunned. With sackcloth and ashes Mordecai let’s the world know, and more importantly, let’s God ‘know’ that he is mourning the loss of his family and his people the Jews. (Notice how Mordecai’s protest (like Job’s) is personal and self-effacing and not riotous, vulgar, angry and destructive like today’s demonstrations?)

Important to our understanding of The Book of Esther wherein there is no mention of God is the fact that God had promised Abraham in a covenant (see Genesis 15) that “a) Abraham’s seed would become as numerous as the stars of heaven, b) his family would be exiles in a foreign land and eventually be brought out, and c) his family would inherit the land of Canaan.” (N.T. Wright, “Justification”.)

Mordecai’s great distress is based, I believe, on his understanding of God’s promises to Abraham and his understanding of God righteousness–God keeping his promises-and the declared challenge to God’s faithfulness by an earthly tyrant. Sackcloth and ashes are man’s quiet submission to God: man is dust and will return to dust and that salvation alone comes from God. Let’s see what happens next.

Esther quickly learned about Mordecai’s distress. She sends him new clothes to put on, to comfort him. She did not know about the edict.

Mordecai responds to the eunuch sent by Esther. He hands him the edict to give to Esther. Mordecai tells the eunuch that Esther must approach the king and get him to rescind this edict. Esther receives the news with great dread. She replies to Mordecai that people who just show up at court uninvited are put to death. And, “…thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”(emphasis mine)

 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:  “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

So Mordecai went and carried out all of Esther’s instructions. The Jews in every corner of the kingdom fasted for three days.

Submission takes the high road.

Maybe you have noticed by now that submission plays a big role in this and other Biblical narratives. Putting on sackcloth and ashes and fasting are forms of submission. Replying, “If I perish, I perish” is another. Recall Mary’s submission to the angel regarding her being impregnated by the Holy Spirit? “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, May it be to me as you have said.” And, we must recall our Lord’s submission to the Father’s divine purpose: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

 The act of submission to a sovereign God even when God’s presence and His direct intervention are not evident is described for us in a ‘genealogy of faith found in Hebrews chapter 11. There we read of the “By faith…” accounts of individuals who submitted themselves to God. That submission is faith in the righteousness of God. It is saying God keeps His promises and that He does so no matter what men do to affect them, even up annihilation of those promises personified in God’s people the Jews.

 Submission to a scepter

After three days of fasting Esther puts on her royal robes and presents herself to the King. She appears in the hallway within direct view of the king. She anxiously awaits his invitation. Xerxes scepter is offered to her. Esther touches the tip of scepter showing respect and submission to his authority.

Civil disobedience and submission

Civil disobedience and submission

 Now imagine for a moment being Queen Esther. Xerxes, the King of his household had, had by proxy decree allowed for the annihilation of her people the Jews without giving it second thought. Queen Esther no doubt felt that her life hung in the balance, one side of the scale weighted against her. But then the finger God was upholding her.

 The king asked Esther “What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

Esther’s response is not direct. She invites Xerxes and Haman to a banquet that same day. The banquet happens, the wine is poured and again the king asks Esther what her petition is. And again, Esther, faltering in courage, suggests another banquet the next day and “Then I will answer the king’s question.” On to banquet number two and a swelling ego.

 With banquet number one under his belt and banquet number two written into his day planner Haman is pretty impressed with himself. He brags to his wife and friends that it was only the King and himself who were invitees to the Queens banquets. Haman boasts of his great connections and vast wealth. Yet, there was something sticking in his craw-that Mordecai who is mourning everyday at the gate in sack cloth and ashes.

 Haman’s wife, knowing that Mordecai was the decreed king of his household offered a solution to Haman’s hangdog demeanor.

“Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy.” In other words, “Don’t Worry. Be Happy!” Haman liked the idea and had the gallows built. Problem solved.

 Sleepless in Susa

That same night the king couldn’t sleep. This was due to too much wine at the banquet or perhaps God’s purpose was the pea under the mattress. Whatever the reason the king ordered his favorite book to be brought in-the king’s chronicles. These books were records all of the king’s doings, perfect for nights like these.

The king ordered his favorite book to brought in-the king’s chronicles. These books were records all of the king’s doings, perfect for nights like these.

 Lo and behold, what was long ago forgotten was still in black and white on the parchment- Mordecai had saved the king by exposing an assassination plot. The king then asked his attendants what had been done for Mordecai. Such an act of respect for the king’s life should be honored. His attendants answered, “nada” (I don’t know Persian for “nothing.”) The king wanted to settle up with Mordecai immediately so he asked his servants, “Who is in the court?”

 Lo and behold, Haman, the proud, is, at that very moment, standing in the outer court hoping to get permission from the king to have Mordecai hanged. Haman, too, wanted to settle up quickly as possible.

 Haman enters the king’s presence and immediately the king asks Haman “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”

 Haman, already full of Haman, thinks the king is, of course, talking about whom else but Haman. Haman, with great flare, then details a litany of delights that the king should lavish on such a man.

 The king commands Haman, “Go at once.” “Get the robe and horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” Oh, the irony.

 Haman did as the king commanded. He paraded Mordecai through the city streets proclaiming as he went, “This is what is to be done for the man the king delights to honor!”

Carpe the irony:  Haman is leading Mordecai through Susa

Carpe the irony: Haman is leading Mordecai through Susa

 Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate (nothing had changed; a curious ride through the city on horseback does not a decree rescind). Haman returned to his wife and friends and gave them the low down.

 Zeresh, Haman’s wife, taking the reins away from Haman decides, like many others had in recorded history, that it is time to stop messing with the Jewish people. In her mind the Jews’ God defends them. He is real. Enough already, Haman, your pride is plaguing us. Be done with this man and his people.

 While she is talking Haman is whisked away to banquet Number Two

 No Fear (well maybe some)

 King Xerxes and Haman, knees knocking I’m guessing, dine with Queen Esther a second time. And, a second time the king asks Esther, “What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

 “Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life-this is my petition. And spare my people-this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation.”

 Well, king Xerxes is greatly troubled by such a statement. He wonders out loud who would do such a thing “Who is he?” ”Where is the man who would dare do such a thing?”

 “Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.” 

Esther points out the evil.

Esther points out the evil.

In a rage, knowing that he had been used by Haman, Xerxes got up from the dinner and went into the palace garden. In the mean time, Haman knowing that his life is over throws himself at Esther’s feet and begs for his life. The king returns and finds Haman now clawing at Esther. His rage grows.

As it is written, one of the eunuchs attending the king, Harbona, pointed in the direction of Haman’s house. He told the king that Haman had erected a seventy-five foot high gallows on which to hang Mordecai, “the same Mordecai who helped my lord.”

 The king didn’t ponder this at all. “Hang Haman on that same gallows”. Then his fury subsided. Problem solved. Seventy-five feet: my how the mighty have fallen! 

Evil begs for mercy and finds none.

Evil begs for mercy and finds none.

The tables are turned

 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman. Esther told the King of her uncle and how he adopted her after her parents had died. The king took off his signet ring and put it on Mordecai’s finger. Mordecai was appointed the head of Haman’s vast estate by Esther. But, a decree was still out there and could not be rescinded. Something had to be done before the day of annihilation.

 Déjà vu all over again but this time Sovereignty steps in.

 Esther once again approached the king weeping and pleading for the life of her people. She asked for a counter decree to be issued. King Xerxes answered both Esther and Mordecai, “Write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you.”

 So, all the same secretaries who were summoned once before to write out the Jew’s death warrant were summoned again. Mordecai’s counter decree would allow the Jews to defend themselves from all enemies and to take their plunder. The edict was dispatched via multiple couriers to the 127 provinces of king Xerxes.

 “The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king’s command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa.” The response is celebration in each Jewish community.

 “In every province and in every city, where ever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.”(emphasis mine)

 Hate has its day in the People’s Court

Haman’s day of holocaust, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of Adar, finally arrived. But the Jews had prepared to defend themselves. Mordecai’s edict gave them the power to stand against their enemies and take their plunder. And so the attempt at genocide began throughout the kingdom.

 It is written about the Jews, “No one could stand against them, because the people of all other nationalities were afraid of them. And all nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews because fear of Mordecai had seized them….The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them…But they did not lay hands on the plunder.”

 In summary, the last two Chapters of The Book of Esther detail the extent of the Jews self-defense against hatred. Various numbers of deaths occur in different places within the 127 provinces. In one verse (16 of Chapter 9) it is written that seventy-five thousand enemies of the Jews were killed. That is seventy-five times one thousand deaths or one thousand deaths for each foot of height of the “Haman Gallows”

 Speaking of justice by extrapolation, Haman’s ten sons, the ten acorns that don’t fall far from the tree are hanged on their father’s gallows. The Jews understood that evil is passed down from generation to generation. The sins of the father, in this case anti-Semitism, would continue to manifest its ugly hatred if not nipped in the neck. 

Haman meets the end of his rope.

Haman meets the end of his rope.

After all of the fighting had stopped and the Jews enemies vanquished, Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in every province of King Xerxes. He declared these days of Adar to become an annual celebration, “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned to joy.” These days would become known as The Feast of Purim, “For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction.”

 The balance of The Book of Esther tells us that all of the prior events were recorded for posterity in the king’s books. Mordecai was held in high esteem by all who knew his name.

 

 Something to think about this Resurrection Day

You may cast your lot with those who hate the Jews but the outcome will be the same as those enemies of the Jews in the Kingdom of the Media and Persia. This historically proven pronouncement includes Hamas, the anti-Semitic Boycott-Divest & Sanction (BDS) groups, Iran-The Islamic Republic, ISIS, anti-Semitic Europeans and all those who hate the Jews. So all such, you are forewarned. And, nuclear bombs are no threat to the God who created the vast universe, the infinitesimal atom, a particle’s chirality and also allowed man to find quantum mechanics among the mysteries of life. God knows the number hairs on your head. Did you think that he doesn’t notice the hatred raging in your head?

If you cast your faith on God’s sovereignty you will find that God is faithful to his covenant promises. Make a stand with God and you find God standing with you (read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel). Esther’s life is an exemplary illustration of submission to God’s sovereignty.

 Esther, in an act of civil disobedience came before King Xerxes and spoke truth to power. It took Esther a couple of banquets to ramp up the courage but Esther made a stand for herself and for the people of God.

Esther is also an example of one life given as a ransom for many (see the Gospel of mark, chapter 10, vs. 45 regarding these words spoken about Jeshua, Jesus).

 It has been said that the degree of anti-Semitism in a society is an indicator of its health. Look at Europe to see where the U.S. is heading.

 Finally, Orthodox Christian theologian Charles Malik who was also a Lebanese diplomat, political theorist, philosopher and president (1958) of the U.N.’s General Assembly wrote a book titled “Christ and Crisis” (1962).

 Malik’s definition of crisis: “the crisis is simply the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lord and is judging.”

 Malik warned that “The greatest weakness of Western strategy is its relative neglect of the intellectual and spiritual dimension.”(emphasis mine)

 When facing a crisis at any level, in any context we must confront it with courage and the cross.

 In 1962 Malik wrote,

“There are three unpardonable sins today, to be flippant or superficial in the analysis of the world situation, to live and act as though halfhearted measures would avail; and to lack the moral courage to rise to the historic occasion.”

 Esther understood “crisis” and acted with sober courage to avert a holocaust that was decreed with hatred within the shadow of a gallows. (See also the life of Dietrich Bonheoffer.) 

Who Remains Silent in Times Like These? 

***

For current information regarding the increasing anti-Semitism in our world bookmark this website: LegalInsurrection

 Here is a sample post: Vienna, “Free, Free Palestine” chant becomes “Kill, Kill the Jews”

 

 

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman

Part One

A Feast for the Eyes

Esther

Esther

 

The account of a courageous woman named Esther as recorded in the Old Testament book by the same name, brings together the elements of anti-Semitism, ethnic ‘cleansing’, an assassination plot, of sexism, of civil disobedience, of speaking truth to power, of actions one woman takes to save her people, the Jews, from total annihilation. Most importantly, it is an account of a sovereign God keeping His covenant promise to Abraham-that His descendants would number as many as the stars.

 We see in this story that God would not nor will He ever let His people be wiped from the face of the earth. God keeping His promises is God’s righteousness. And, even though we are unfaithful, God is faithful. His righteousness is ours for the beholding…

 The Book of Esther never mentions God but God’s overarching sovereignty and His covenant promises for His chosen people inform, I believe, Mordecai’s motives and Esther’s actions. Esther does question her courage but God’s faithfulness is not questioned.

 The Book of Esther recalls the events which occurred during the reign of Xerxes I, known as Ahasuerus in Hebrew. It covers a ten year span, 483-473 B.C.

 Geography: The Book of Esther, Chapter One, verses 1 and 2 give us the details.

Xerxes “ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India and Pakistan to Cush (North Sudan). At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa (150 miles north of the Persian Gulf)…”

 

The Banquet of Ahasuerus' by  Jacopo del Sellaio (1442-1493)

The Banquet of Ahasuerus’ by Jacopo del Sellaio (1442-1493)

If you’ve got it flaunt it…

In the third year of his reign Xerxes decided to throw a whooper of a house party. His banquet was meant to show off his fine china and his collection of bling to the whole world. 180 days worth of his vast wealth was put on display. But that wasn’t all. Xerxes also wanted to display another ‘possession’-his Queen, Vashti.

 The account does not give the reason for Queen Vashti’s refusal to appear before Xerxes. Maybe she was having a bad hair day or maybe she didn’t like being put on display during the chattel call. Or, maybe, things between the king and queen went down just like they did on a certain Honeymooner’s episode. I’ll paraphrase:

 Ralph (Xerxes) to Alice: “Remember Alice. I am the King of this household and you are nuttin’.

Alice (Queen Vashti): “Well, if you are the king, then you are the king of nuttin’”

 In any case the Queen’s reply to the king’s emasculated seven (eunuchs that is) was, “No”. As you can imagine this answer did not go over well with Xerxes and did not bode well for the queen. Xerxes felt dissed before his previously wowed guests. 

The wise men and nobles of his Xerxes’ court were summoned to court and asked “What response should be given to a Queen who refuses her king? Their reply: if this spousal refusal was found out by Xerxes’ subjects then all women would openly disobey their husbands-all hell would break loose (a KV paraphrase):

 “This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.”

 The ‘wise’ men, those who were not physically eunuchs, decided that they would not be ‘emasculated’ by their own ‘disrespectful’ wives. So, using words that sounded like good political sense-keeping Xerxes kingdom under ‘proper’ social order and control-the wise men counseled Xerxes: Queen Vashti would be banished from his presence and then some.

 These wise men also advised the king that a royal decree must be sent out, one that puts a finger in the dam of rebellion control. The king liked this advice and issued the edict: “every man should be ruler of his own household.”

 Now, before all this falderal I would have recommended a little one on one communication with Queen Vashti before listening to the “yes”-men’ wise guys. I would also have recommended that king and queen read the original Love Language book, Solomon’s The Song of Songs. But that is not what happened. Protocol and paltry patriarchy gave way to punitive separation.

 As you know, one bad decision easily leads to another. The queen was banished from Xerxes presence forever-a new law written into the books for Persia and Media. Then,

Esther Chapter 2 tells us that the king’s personal attendants suggested a beauty pageant of virgins to ‘assuage’ the King’s rueful heart. You see, Xerxes later regretted his decision. Men!

 Here’s the good part: God’s sovereignty, regardless of bad men, bad advice and bad decisions does not affect God’s righteous purposes. They are rerouted through the king’s heart.

 “In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Proverbs 21:1. Wisdom always trumps folly.

 Once again, Esther Chapter Two: Under the king’s command the chief eunuch, Hegai, was told to assemble beautiful virgins from every province into a harem at the citadel of Susa. These women were given an exclusive salon and spa treatment. It was figured that one of these select beauties women would replace the banished Queen Vashti. It is at this juncture that we meet another main character, Mordecai, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin or, rather, wisdom and love personified.

 “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as (Hashtag) Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” (The Book of Esther Chapter 2, vs. 7)

 “I’m in heaven.” Esther quickly got Hegai’s attention She pleased him, winning his “favor”. Immediately she was put on a very short list of one contender. To channel things in the King’s direction, Hegai assigned to Esther seven select maids. He also gave her the royal salon treatment and put Esther and the seven maids into the best place in the harem.

 Now the story and the “stream of water” begin to flow down a unexpected course, a fast-tracked one of God’s veiled purpose, the ramifications of which lead to a crisis of conscious for everyone involved including Esther.

 Esther had not revealed to anyone her family background-she was Jewish. Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. In the days ahead Mordecai would keep close tabs on Esther, his beloved foster ‘daughter’. I believe Mordecai knew that Esther would fill a position in history that he as a man could not.

 Esther was now neck (and face) deep into it. Court protocol demanded that any ‘girl’ who would appear before the king must beforehand undergo twelve months of beauty treatments-six months with oil of myrrh and six months of with perfumes and cosmetics. Henna for Hadassah? Probably.

The Match dot-Harem protocol of separating the sheep from the goats:

“And this is how she was to go to the king. Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.” (The Book of Esther Chapter two, vs. 13-14)

 

Coming to a post near you….

 “Part Two

Part Two:  Persia Meets Reality and Esther

Apotheosis: “Laying Aside” Yourself for the Gospel – Saeed Abedini

Remember the Scripture’s account of the boy Samuel from 1 Samuel Chapter 3?

One night after young Samuel had gone to bed, he heard a voice calling his name. Quickly he ran to Eli’s side, saying, “Here am I; for you called me.”

“I called not,” Eli responded; “lie down again.”

Samuel obeyed Eli and returned to his bed. When he lay down again, he heard the same voice call his name.

Samuel hurried back to Eli’s side, but Eli again denied calling him. Puzzled, Samuel returned to his room. A third time he clearly heard his name called, and again he returned to Eli.

This time Eli realized that it must be the Lord who was calling Samuel. He said, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

Samuel returned to bed and waited. Once more the Lord came and called, “Samuel, Samuel.”

This time Samuel responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

The Lord then told Samuel that because Eli’s sons were disobedient and because Eli did not control them, they would be punished and Samuel would become the new prophet.

Because of his diligence and obedience, Samuel continued to learn and grow. The Lord was with him, and all Israel knew that Samuel had been called to be a prophet of the Lord. (emphasis mine)