Marriage – 3

Ideally, a marriage should be a lifetime relationship, through ups and downs, working through problems.  It is also about getting priorities right – a marriage comes before a job.  This may mean living a very simple life, not worrying about what others think.

But, not all marriages are stable, and hence a divorce takes place.  Unfortunately, divorces are on the increase, most often because a couple do not listen to each other and realise it is hard work.  The pace of live is so fast, that we often do not take time to be still and develop our marital relationships.

In the Bible, there are only a few reasons why someone can divorce.

  • adultery – where one or both partners have a sexual relationship outside of the marriage.  Part of the reason for this to be used as a reason for divorce is the high status sex has been given by society and the media.  Sex is special and should only take place within a marriage and therefore having one night stands or even a short relationship based on sex, prior to a marriage, often means that one can easily get bored with having sex with one’s partner.  Sex outside marriage cheapens the intimacy one needs within a marriage between a man and a woman.
  • consummation of a marriage – if there is no sex within the marriage, one does not become one ‘entity’.  That does not mean one can demand sex, but it should be seen as a normal part of the relationship within the marriage.  Hence, the importance of also not having other sexual relationships before or during the marriage.  I would hope if this is a problem that counselling is sought.  Obviously, some people cannot have sex for physical reasons.
  • violence – although there is no direct mention of this being a reason for a divorce, other teachings infer that if the perpetrator does not stop, even after counselling, then for their safety, the ‘victim’ should divorce.  For the Bible says that we are to love one another, and within a marriage, we are to serve each other out of love also.  Unfortunately, domestic abuse is on the increase, partly because of such things as unemployment and/or alcoholism, or a bad upbringing in childhood.

Hence, the importance of marriage preparation and, where necessary, counselling to deal with issues that prevent a successful marriage.  In fact, I think it should be compulsory.  And that is where the Church comes in, as it can teach the wisdom of the Scriptures on the subject.  There are many good resources available these days, so even there is not anyone in a church suitable to lead couples in preparation for their marriage, it does not matter (http://themarriagecourses.org/; https://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/courses/marriage-preparation-prepare-for-marriage-engagement-couples-pre-marriage-day)

One issue that often starts the problems within the marriage is the cost and extravagance of the wedding.  It should be a simple celebration, thus preventing there being debts to start the marriage.  For, money is often the cause of strained relationships – maybe one should get counselling in managing your resources – there are organisations that specialise in this area (eg https://capuk.org/; http://themoneycharity.org.uk/).

And, finally, we need to find ways to ‘improve the image’ of marriage in the media and society in general.  What about people coming up with great ‘scripts’ for television and radio and writing letters to the press, with an attitude of love and gentleness? And Governments can help through tax incentives.

Any comments.

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War and Peace – 3

In my last blog, I talked about the issue of militarism being rampant in this world, thus leading to the concept of ‘kill first and ask questions later’.

To stop this being an issue, we need to control the arms that are used.  We already have agreements on chemical and biological weapons, along with ones on cluster bombs and landmines, though the last two are not proving very effective unfortunately.  There is also the recent Arms Trade Treaty (http://controlarms.org/en/), which is slowly being ratified around the world.  The problem is that it does not go far enough to reduce the amount of arms, especially small arms being sold around the world and fuelling much violence and murders.  In fact, the amount of arms sold last year went up (see https://www.sipri.org/media/2017/global-arms-industry-first-rise-arms-sales-2010-says-sipri ).  What we need is a framework which tightly controls all arms sales and makes it transparent which will lead to countries not wanting to show how aggressive they are.

A suggested framework could be as follows:

May we encourage the EU Commissioners, MEPs and the European Commission to create a Directive on the Arms Trade based on the following Principles:

   A publically-held list of countries with a reasonable record of human rights, to be determined by an independent group consisting of MEPs (who have no connection with

defence companies directly or in-directly) and NGOs representatives (eg Amnesty International), with whom possible trade in weapons could be undertaken.

   A publically-held framework of conditions that a sale to one of the above countries would be considered to take into account those countries’ actual defence needs and their effect on their economy, especially in terms of expenditure on education and health.

   An effective end-user monitoring system is put in place to prevent any weapons sold or given to the above countries being passed onto countries not on the approved list. A website set up with annual reports. The group monitoring should be independent of the EU.

   BAE Systems and other large arms companies are broken up into several smaller companies to reduce corruption, and cases of corruption are pursued through the courts.

   Sufficient funding is made available to communities affected by the reduction in orders as a result of the above changes to develop alternative industries to take on the skilled staff made redundant.

   All Pension Funds to have to withdraw from investments in defence companies. They are making money out of people’s misery.

   Government ministers and members of any of the Royal Families to refrain from encouraging or supporting defence exports.

   Arms Trade Fairs to be banned throughout the EU as they encourage a militaristic viewpoint instead of a defensive one.

   Each EU member country to set up a Commission to determine their own actual defence requirements, but also the processes to obtain such equipment and any training required to use it (which are based on the EU Directive – see below). It should also take into account of their responsibilities within the United Nations peacekeeping forces. This Commission to consist of the country’s Minister of Defence plus a few of that country’s MEPs (who are not connected with the Defence industry directly or indirectly). Ideally, the MEP’s should be cross-party.

   An EU Directive is created based on the above principles. This is to include the processes to obtain such equipment, which would cover from whom they are obtained (based on their human rights and environmental record – countries and companies), the areas of  application to which the equipment is to be used (and whether they fulfil the requirements of the various Treaties in place like the one for Cluster Bombs) and whether they are necessary (in terms of avoiding excess buying of military equipment and hardware). Also the Directive should stipulate the need to take into account value for money and effectiveness and not for political reasons.

Although, I believe that war usually does not achieve anything, there could be a case made for ‘defensive’ wars, whereby a United Nations peacekeeping team could be used to defend a people group from being attacked.  This may mean some ‘offensive’ actions to stop attacks, but only in a limited way.  In such situations, the goal should always be to disable the forces used to attack the people that are being defended.  This does not mean a ‘full scale’ war.   Such a scenario would mean the following:

  • National armed forces becoming fully trained Territorials (this includes the navies and air forces), thus reducing the ‘militarism’ of the country – this will also cut the costs of defence, but still making sure there are professionals available to defend the country
  • Some of those professionals to serve for three year stints with UN peacekeeping forces around the world
  • All UN peacekeeping forces to be professionally trained, particularly in the areas of discipline, ethics, character and mediation
  • All Governments to be willing to provide personnel for the full-time permanent UN peacekeeping forces, as well as paying for their upkeep and a contribution towards operating costs, based on a formula which takes into account the earnings of the country
  • The UN is allowed to make rapid decisions as to where it is necessary to deploy peacekeeping forces, and to make sure a mediation process is put in place to deal with the issues.

When it comes to actually fighting a war, the aim should always be to capture as many prisoners as possible, disable their weapons, and, if at all possible, not destroy any infrastructure, so that after the end of the war it does not become costly to re-build the economy and services of the communities affected.  This means being very careful about what weapons are being used and how they are used.   We need research into developing weapons which disable combatants without being open to being killed yourself.  All this means is making sure that the supply line allows for proper care of prisoners, especially in the area of the provision of appropriate food, clothing, shelter and medical care.  By focusing on the taking of prisoners, at the end of the war there will be personnel available to re-build the communities affected.  Most weapons today are based on killing as many combatants as possible with total disregard for life or the future.  Armed forces personnel also need better protection in terms of what they wear so as to prevent them being killed and to be able to operate in a number of different scenarios.

So, in conclusion we need to consider the following:

  • we are all made in the image of God
  • we are commanded by God to love our enemies
  • we should live a simple lifestyle, better share our resources and take care of our environment to reduce consumption
  • businesses should be turned to either social franchises or co-operatives
  • we should re-consider the world of jobs as to whether they are really necessary and whether they are ethical and sustainable
  • if war is necessary, it should be a defensive war, protecting peoples under threat, using UN peacekeeping forces
  • all countries to only have part-time professional trained armed forces
  • all countries to provide personnel for the permanent UN peacekeeping forces and as well as financial support
  • weapons are only used to disable combatants and take them as prisoners of war
  • a framework for arms control is used to reduce militarism

There is probably more to say on the subject, but I will leave there for now.  If you have any comments, do feel free to contact me on campaigns@cgfletcher.plus.com

War and Peace – 2

Following on from my last Blog, there are a number of other things we need to consider, especially in relation to preventing war and if it does get to war, conduct during and after war.  I will focus on the first in this Blog.

Apart from living a simple lifestyle, we need to tackle the issue of who owns the land and that which is on or extracted from it:

  1. The principle of ownership. 

The psalmist begins the 24th psalm with,

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

In the beginning of Genesis, God creates everything and puts Adam in the Garden to work it and to take care of it. It is clear that man was created to work and that work is the stewardship of all of the creation that God has given him.

This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything, we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf. Therefore, stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves.     Echoing Deuteronomy 8:17, we might say: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But Deuteronomy 8:18 counsels us to think otherwise:

Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth. 

  1. The principle of responsibility. 

In explaining responsibility, Peel writes,

Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities. We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes.

  1. The principle of accountability.

A steward is one who manages the possessions of another. We are all stewards of the resources, abilities and opportunities that God has entrusted to our care, and one day each one of us will be called to give an account for how we have managed what the Master has given us.

This is the maxim taught by the Parable of the Talents. God has entrusted authority over the creation to us and we are not allowed to rule over it as we see fit. We are called to exercise our dominion under the watchful eye of the Creator managing his creation in accord with the principles he has established. Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority. We will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to us.

  1. The principle of reward. 

In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul writes:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The Bible shows us in the parables of the Kingdom that faithful stewards who do the master’s will with the master’s resources can expect to be rewarded incompletely in this life, but fully in the next. We all should long to hear the master say what he exclaims in Matthew 25:21:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

As Christians in the 21st century, we need to embrace this larger biblical view of stewardship, which goes beyond church budgets or building projects, though important; it connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world. We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us within the opportunities presented through his providence to glorify him, serve the common good and further his Kingdom.

https://tifwe.org/four-principles-of-biblical-stewardship/

One way of making sure the resources we have is to convert all businesses into smaller units but linked through a concept called ‘social franchising’.

Social franchising is the application of the principles of commercial franchising to promote social benefit rather than private profit.

In the first sense, it refers to a contractual relationship wherein an independent coordinating organization (usually a non-governmental organization, but occasionally a governmental body or private company[2]) offers individual independent operators the ability to join into a franchise network for the provision of selected services over a specified area in accordance with an overall blueprint devised by the franchisor.[3] Once joining the network, operators are given the right to employ previously tested incentives including: professional training, use of brands or brand advertisements, subsidized or proprietary supplies and equipment, support services, and access to professional advice.[4] Members also gain beneficial spin-off effects such as increased consumer volume and improved reputation due to brand affiliation.[1] Franchisees must adhere to a range of requirements including: providing socially beneficial services, meeting quality and pricing standards, undergoing mandatory education on provision of services, subjecting outlets to quality assurance mechanisms, reporting service and sales statistics, and occasionally, paying fixed or profit-share fees.[1][5] Social franchises have been used for primary health services, pharmaceutical sales of essential drugs, HIV testing and counseling, and reproductive health services in the developing world.

A second application of social franchising is as a means of enabling social enterprises and the social economy to create more employment for disadvantaged people and achieve social aims. This is done principally by enabling joint working and knowledge sharing and transfer. The European Social Franchising Network has identified over 60 social franchises of this type in Europe, which employ over 13,000 people and more recently in 2012 The International Centre for Social Franchising identified 140.[6] The largest of these is De Kringwinkel in Flanders employing 5,000 people. Others, like the Le Mat hotel and tourism social franchise or the School for Social Entrepreneurs operate in more than one country. Social franchising provides an opportunity to rapidly grow the sector to the benefit of disadvantaged people and society more generally.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_franchising

Another way would be to turn them all into Co-operatives with social, environmental and ethical policies.

The next important issue is reducing the effect of what is called militarism and the Governments’ subtle support for it:

  1. The armed forces are an alternative to crime and poverty for many young people. Entering into the armed forces at a young age threatens long-term health, educational outcomes, career options, future relationships and quality of life. The armed forces should never be presented as the only option young people have; this undermines the concept of full consent, which requires valid alternatives to be available.
  2. The military needs to educate young people about what they do. The narrative painted by the military to young people about armed forces life is unbalanced and misleading. The image portrayed is one of fun, excitement, outdoors sports and opportunities to gain skills; violent conflict, ethical issues, the restraints of military contracts and the downsides of military day-to-day life are hardly touched upon. Other pressures, such as wanting to make family proud and lack of other job options, suggest the importance of young people being fully informed before enlisting.
  3. A ‘military ethos’ is good for children and young people. The Government’s policy of promoting a ‘military ethos’ in schools is based on a one-sided view which raises the military above other professions and provides a military framework for school activities which is inappropriate for an inclusive education environment. Targeting disadvantaged communities for these activities raises concerns about equal opportunities.
  4. We need to maintain a strong military capability to keep us safe. This belief leaves us blinkered to the biggest threats to human security, such as climate change and resource shortages. Militarism promotes an atmosphere of insecurity rather than asense of long term security. Investing heavily in the military prevents us from investing in nonviolent solutions to conflict. It also feeds into the international arms trade which increases global and national insecurity.

and there are many more ways Governments do it – see https://www.forceswatch.net/sites/default/files/difficult_questions_Feb17_web.pdf for more the rest of the article.

Then there is the close relationship between Governments and the military establishment (including the manufacturers):

‘Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned of the danger of the ‘military-industrial complex’. The huge budget and reach of America’s modern defence industry has proved him correct, says Rupert Cornwell

The true tragedy is not quite the one that Eisenhower imagined. The US by itself accounts for roughly half of military spending worldwide. How much better if some of that money would be used to improve the country’s education and infrastructure, or provide health care for all, or increase foreign aid, rather than on protecting America from threats that geography alone renders illusory.

In reality, the dangers of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” are not new; from the earliest days of the Republic, political leaders have warned of them. “Overgrown military establishments,” George Washington said in his own farewell address of 1796, “are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty.” Nor is the concept confined to America.

In the Soviet Union, the ultra-secret arms industry devoured a third or more of GDP (compared to around 4 per cent in the US currently) and was a cornerstone of Communist power. Or, closer to home, consider Krupp in Germany during two world wars, or later Dassault in France, or Vickers and British Aerospace in the UK. But nowhere has the synergy between government and defence manufacturers, most of them headquartered a lobbyist’s lunch drive from the Capitol, been as entrenched as in the US.

Ah yes, some say, but the tide is now starting to turn. After experiencing some contraction in the 1990s, the industry enjoyed a boom after 9/11. But the deep recession of 2008-2009 and the continuing colossal deficits will not spare even the hitherto sacrosanct Pentagon budget.

Once again, one might note, Eisenhower hit the mark in January 1961. Back then, budgets were more or less balanced, and the possibilities of the future seemingly boundless. Even so he urged his countrymen to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow”. That of course is what has happened with the “credit card” wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose costs will burden American taxpayers for years to come.

Nor is that reality lost on Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, who back in May was warning that Congress could not, and would not, write blank cheques for ever. The Pentagon had to make every dollar count, he said, rather than indulge in such projects as “$20m howitzers, $2bn bombers, and $6bn destroyers.” Alas, as Gates knows full well, the arms contract that comes on budget has yet to be invented.

Since then of course Republicans have taken back the House of Representatives, which controls the pursestrings of government, a victory driven by a Tea Party movement vowing to eradicate deficits. Last week, Gates announced $78bn of cuts over the next five years, to pre-empt demands from deficit hawks for even greater reductions. But the MIC has survived far worse, and will most certainly survive this modest downturn in its fortunes.

For one thing, even when the Pentagon wants to cut a programme, Congress – prodded by its defence contractor benefactors – sometimes won’t let it. Take the case of the back-up second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive procurement programme in even the Pentagon’s extravagant history, at a total of $382bn or a mere $112m per aircraft. The Pentagon doesn’t want the second engine, to be built by GE and Rolls-Royce, and nor does the White House. But it gets funded anyway.

And so the show goes on. The Republicans may vote through some shrinking of the military budget. But giant arms projects, however wasteful, provide jobs and exports at a time when the broader economy struggles to do either. Congress will not sacrifice them lightly.

At the same time, the infamous “revolving door” between the Defense Department, the top military contractors, their lobbyists and congressional staffers will continue to spin, strengthening a commonality of viewpoint between the separate components of the MIC, and tightening the bonds of the “Iron Triangle”.

Campaign contributions meanwhile will grow even more important. Defence companies give money to sitting Congressmen who have fought their corner. True, in the ferociously anti-incumbent mid-terms of last November, they could not save Ike Skelton, their ally and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, from defeat.

But financial support from Boeing workers was key in the re-election of Senator Patty Murray from Washington State, where she has fought hard to save Boeing jobs threatened if the company loses its bid for a $35bn tanker contract, for which the European-based EADS is also competing. That battle, incidentally, is also playing out in its own fierce ad war on WTOP, aimed at the same audience of government and Congress.

And even if budgetary pressures temporarily compress the market for top-of-the-line military hardware, fear not. The demand for national security and intelligence in the “war on terror” continues to surge – to the point that a Washington Post investigation last summer found that 33 facilities for intelligence work, equal to three new Pentagons, have gone up around Washington alone since 9/11.

Most fundamentally, there remains the popularity of all things military, at a time when civilian leaders with the stature and experience to challenge the Pentagon brass, and by extension the MIC, are few. George HW Bush was the last commander-in-chief to have tasted war and its horrors. His son famously had not, and – perhaps to make up for it – gave the military everything it wanted, and more. So maybe there is only one answer. America should elect a general as commander-in-chief. Like Dwight D. Eisenhower.’

Independent newspaper

Take the battle for Iraq which took place because of using false information as a reason to go to war.  As a result of the downfall of Saddam Hassein, more civilians have died since then that all that were killed during the dictator’s period of rule – the difference runs into many, many thousands.

Another point to make is throughout the last decade or so, military spending rose by 50%, but the number of armed conflicts fell. Much of that spend increase was on the ‘war on terror’, but more US citizens are killed by lightning strikes than by terrorists.  When we talk about ‘terrorists’ entering the USA, many thousands more of people have been killed by guns (including the police) than by any terrorist event.

A lot of conflicts could be sttled by very earlier mediation:

See http://www.mediate.com/articles/cloke5.cfm and http://www.accord.org.za/ajcr-issues/%EF%BF%BCconflict-and-conflict-resolution-in-africa/ for further thinking on the subject.

An example of a mediation/conflict resolution process:

A Twelve-Step Program

What follows is a multi-layered twelve-step plan for increasing the capacity of hostile communities to prevent, resolve, and recover from conflicts. I offer it in hopes that it can be modified to fit local conditions and used to break the cycle of violence that ultimately impacts us all:

  1. Convene a cross-cultural team of experienced trainers
  2. Meet with the leaders of hostile factions to secure agreement on a common plan, build trust, and encourage on-going support
  3. Interview leaders of opposing groups, sub-groups, and factions, listen empathetically, and clarify cultural mores, interests, goals, and concerns
  4. Elicit from each group or culture the methods currently used to resolve disputes and identify ways of supplementing and expanding them
  5. Identify a core of volunteers in each group who want to be trained as mediators, facilitators, and trainers
  6. Design a program to elect or select volunteer mediators and facilitators from neighborhoods and workplaces, and from key educational, social, religious, cultural, economic, and political organizations
  7. Form cross-cultural teams of mediators to design conflict resolution systems, conduct mediations, encourage forgiveness and reconciliation, and arbitrate disputes
  8. Train volunteer facilitators in techniques for processing grief and loss, reducing prejudice, facilitating public dialogue, and organizing truth and reconciliation commissions and similar interventions as needed
  9. Form cross-cultural teams of trainers to train others throughout civil society
  10. Build on-going support for conflict resolution programs
  11. Conduct periodic evaluations, audits, and course corrections to improve capacity and identify where future support may be needed
  12. Redesign conflict resolution systems in governments, organizations, and civil society to increase opportunities for early intervention, dialogue, mediation, and negotiation between adversaries

By implementing these steps and modifying them to fit each situation, we can substantially reduce the destructiveness of evil, war, and terrorism and create a platform on which deeper social and political changes might take place. By comparison with the long-term costs of war and terrorism, the most ambitious program imaginable would be inexpensive and well worth undertaking.

http://www.mediate.com/articles/cloke5.cfm

We need to exponentially increase mediation between the many people groups around the world to make sure that conflict does not arise.  It also needs to be taught in schools and workplaces.

More next time!

 

War and Peace – 1

We live in a world of much conflict due to power struggles, resources and pride.  They involve people from different countries, different people groups and different ideologies. Some are just within borders, others involve ‘players’ across nations or the world.

The following list shows how widespread conflict is:

Kashmir (India and Pakistan); Western China; Colombia; Mexico, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey); Southern Thailand; Southern Philippines; Chechnya (Russia); Ukraine; Kenya; Nicaragua;  Guatemala; El Salvador; Central African Republic; Nigeria; Northern Mali; Algeria; Egypt; Israel/Palestine; Lebanon; Turkey; Northern India; Bangladesh; Southern Pakistan; The Yemen; South Sudan; Sudan; Ethiopia; Eritrea; Eastern Tanzania; Somalia; Northern Ireland; the Mafia, Islamic State and similar groups: Brazil (mainly the cities and in the Amazon forest); Georgia (Ossetia); etc.

The issue of war is very difficult to deal with because of the many layers that are involved, including politics, economics, spiritual warfare and many others.  As far as Christians are concerned, there are a number of viewpoints from total non-resistance to total involvement, which is sad.  But, I believe that there are a number of themes in the Bible which we need to bear in mind in an attempt to form a biblical approach to the issues that not only cause war, but also in its conduct and post war reconstruction, justice and reconciliation.

The first point to make is that God made each one of us in His image, that is we are each a unique human being that exists to be relationship with each other and, most importantly with God Himself,  made possible through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, for we had become sinners in need of redemption because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  God does not see us as people from different races or backgrounds or status – we are all equal in His eyes.  Many conflicts are due to people seeing others as inferior to themselves (eg the Nazis or the Rwanda massacre or the Khmer Rouge genocide).

The second point to make is that God commands us to love our enemies, either individuals or countries:

Luke 6:27-29, 32-36 ‘I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other one also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic….If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. But love your enemies, do good to them, lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father (ie God) is merciful.’ (See also 2 Corinthians 5:16-20.)

So, it should be impossible to go to war as Christians because we are to love everybody, no matter what they have or have not done that is evil or simply wrong.  This is talking not only about physical wars, but also wars in the area of values like the right to life for the unborn.  Of course, God does not imply that those who do wrong should go unpunished for He is a God of justice as well as a God of love.  As it says in the passage above we are also to take action and not simply lie down and take the evil; instead we are to ‘do good’ to ‘shaming’ them.  The ‘doing good’ should be about being pro-active in our actions to prevent war.

To be able to start thinking how to take actions to prevent war, we have to make sure that we have a biblical worldview to understand what God says about a given situation without being tied to one’s cultural context.  A biblical worldview is based on the Scriptures and seeing the world through God’s eyes in the following areas:

Our view of God; Moral Absolutes; Relationships; Justice; Government, the Family and the Church; Rights and Responsibilities; The Supernatural; Man’s Depravity; God’s Redemption of Man through Jesus; The actions of the Holy Spirit; God’s redemption of His Creation through Man; Death  (in no particular order)

We also need to be reminded that we are involved in Spiritual Warfare: Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’

With regard to spiritual warfare and prevention of war, we need to teach people what the Bible says about the subject, and spend time in earnest prayer, claiming God’s promises and calling on Him to deal with the causes of a potential war and to change people’s heart.  More thinking needs to be done on this specific subject.

Now, we have to be careful that we do not see spiritual warfare as the total picture.  As we said above, we are called to take a number of different actions as a result of having a biblical worldview.  This include the following:

Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War

Part One: PEACEMAKING INITIATIVES

  1. Support nonviolent direct action

Nonviolent Direct Action is spreading widely, ending dictatorship in the Philippines, ending rule by the Shah in Iran, bringing about nonviolent revolutions in Poland, East Germany, and Central Europe, transforming injustice into democratic change in human rights movements in Guatemala, Argentina, and elsewhere in Latin America, in South Africa…. Governments and people have the obligation to make room for and to support nonviolent direct action.

  1. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat

Independent initiatives: 1) are independent of the slow process of negotiation; 2) decrease threat perception and distrust but do not leave the initiator weak; 3) are verifiable actions; 4) and carried out at the announced time regardless of the other side’s bluster; 5) have their purpose clearly announced–to shift toward de-escalation and to invite reciprocation; 6) come in a series; initiatives should continue in order to keep inviting reciprocation. This new practice has been crucial in several recent breakthroughs.

  1. Use cooperative conflict resolution

1) Active partnership in developing solutions, not merely passive cooperation. 2) Adversaries listen to each other and experience each others’ perspectives, including culture, spirituality, story, history and emotion. 3) Seek long-term solutions which help prevent future conflict. 4) Seek justice as a core component for sustainable peace.

  1. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness

Until recently, it was widely agreed that nations would not express regret, acknowledge responsibility, or give forgiveness. But Germany since World War II, Japan and Korea, Clinton in Africa, the U.S. finally toward Japanese-Americans during World War II, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and other actions described by Shriver, An Ethic for Enemies and Wink, When Powers Fall, show a crucial new practice is emerging that can heal longstanding bitterness.

Part Two: JUSTICE

  1. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty

Extensive empirical evidence shows that the spreading of democracy and respect for human rights, including religious liberty, is widening the zones of peace. Democracies fought no wars against one another during the entire twentieth century. They had fewer civil wars. And they generally devoted lower shares of their national products to military expenditures, which decreases threats to other countries.

Ties of economic interdependence by trade and investment also decrease the incidence of war. Engagement in international organizations like the UN and regional institutions is a clear predictive factor that they will be much less likely to engage in war.

  1. Foster just and sustainable economic development

Sustainable development occurs where the needs of today are met without threatening the needs of tomorrow–where those who lack adequate material and economic resources gain access, and those who have learn to control resource use and prevent future exhaustion.

A key to economic development in East Asian countries, especially Korea and Taiwan, has been land reform that made wealth more equitable and thus created a sizable local market for developing firms. By contrast, Latin America lacks real land reform and equality, and therefore local consumers cannot afford to buy products produced by local industries.

Part Three: LOVE AND COMMUNITY

  1. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system

Four trends have so altered the conditions and practices of international relations as to make it possible now, where it was not possible before, to form and sustain voluntary associations for peace and other valuable common purposes that are in fact working: the decline in the utility of war; the priority of trade and the economy over war; the strength of international exchanges, communications, transactions, and networks; and the gradual ascendancy of liberal representative democracy and a mixture of welfare-state and laissez-faire market economy. We should act so as to strengthen these trends and the international associations that they make possible.

  1. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights

Acting alone, states cannot solve problems of trade, debt, interest rates; of pollution, ozone depletion, acid rain, depletion of fish stocks, global warming; of migrations and refugees seeking asylum; of military security when weapons rapidly penetrate borders.

Therefore, collective action is increasingly necessary. U.S. citizens should press their government to pay its UN dues and to act in ways that strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations, of regional organizations, and of multilateral peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building. They resolve conflicts, monitor, nurture, and even enforce truces. They meet human needs for food, hygiene, medicine, education, and economic interaction. Most wars now happen within states, not between states; therefore, collective action needs to include UN-approved humanitarian intervention in cases like the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Somalia, and Rwanda “when a state’s condition or behaviour results in… grave and massive violations of human rights.”

  1. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade

A key factor in the decrease of war between nations is that weapons have become so destructive that war is not worth the price. Reducing offensive weapons and shifting toward defensive force structures strengthens that equation. Banning chemical and biological weapons, and reducing strategic (long-range) nuclear warheads from 3,500 to 1,000 each, are key steps.

Arms imports by developing nations in 1995 dropped to one-quarter of their peak in 1988. But the power of money invested by arms manufacturers in politicians’ campaigns is a major obstacle to reductions.

  1. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations

The existence of a growing worldwide people’s movement constitutes one more historical force that makes just peacemaking theory possible. They learn peacemaking practices and press governments to employ these practices; governments should protect such associations in law, and give them accurate information.

Each practice is recent in its widespread use, and is causing significant change. Together they exert strong influence, decreasing wars. Each is empirically happening and being effective in abolishing some wars. Each faces significant obstacles and blocking forces that are named in the chapters. We contend that just peacemaking practices are ethically obligatory for persons, groups, and governments to strengthen them and help overcome the blocking forces.

http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/unitedchurchofchrist/legacy_url/6534/Just-Peacemaking-practices.pdf?1418431403

A number of years ago, there was a Consultation on a Simpler Lifestyle – https://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-20 – calling Christians to live more simply so as to reduce the amount of the Earth’s resources used and to release them for the betterment of the world, so that things like economic injustice and poverty is overcome.  It would also release more money and time for people to use to make reproducing disciplemakers and thus change people’s worldview (providing of course they are taught a biblical worldview and how to lead a life based on biblical character traits).  This could be also applied to everyone else for tackling consumerism, for then we could make sure that resources are shared equitably.

As part of the above, we need to make sure most of what we produce can last longer and be recycled again, thus reducing the amount of raw materials we need for an ever growing world.  See https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy.  Alongside this is the importance of climate change.  Both these issues are extremely important, as they could lead to war as resources like water get more and more difficult to find.

One final issue that needs mentioning before we go onto other things, is the subject of tax havens.  These are basically places which hid the taxes that should be paid by wealthy people and corporations.  If they were abolished, it would be easier to make sure that these avoided taxes can be reclaimed and help countries get back on their feet, especially in infrastructure projects like hospitals, schools, transport systems, etc – people are then less likely to rise up against governments.

See my next instalment on whether we should go to war, if so, on what grounds, and how to conduct wars.

Corruption – 1

With the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’ and the ‘Paradise Papers showing how wide is tax avoidance and corruption.  The figures are mind-blowing! See the following website for further information – https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/

In this country, the tax authorities have been very active in clawing back many millions of pounds of unpaid tax, but they are limited not only by the number of specialist staff, but also by the continuing of tax havens, most of whom come under British jurisdiction (eg Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Jersey, etc).

It is about time that the UK Government took action and close them down, as well as persuading other governments to shut theirs down and prevent any new ones from opening up.  This will then release many millions which could be used to reduce, if not abolish, the debt of many countries, including the United Kingdom.

At the same time, international action needs to be taken to make sure more of the money earned by international corporations stays in the host country, and not in the bank accounts of dictators and others. Hence, the importance of getting Switzerland on board, as they have the most secretive banking system in the world, and where many corrupt leaders have syphoned off money from their country and deposited them in these Swiss banks.

For more information on tax avoidance, go to the following website – https://www.taxjustice.net/topics/inequality-democracy/corruption/

With many companies basing themselves in low tax countries or tax havens, Governments should levy a tax on anything sold on-line.  Not only will it raise money, but also it will help the ‘High Street’ stores to compete with the on-line giants.  Many states in the USA do a form of this already.

To take an example of the above, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is a vast country and has vast amounts of valuable minerals.  Unfortunately, most of the money made from these operations goes into the coffers of the ruling families (mainly the Kabilas) and the companies that extract it.  As a consequence, the workers who mine the products get paid a pittance and health and safety is usually non-existence.  And, also the country does not have any money to pay for the vitally needed schools, health centres, roads, airports, properly trained police forces, fire services and communication systems as well as many other things needed to successfully run a country for its people.  This is corruption and tax avoidance on a grand scale.  See the following for more information – http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/democratic-republic-of-the-congo

With the recent revelations, it is hoped governments will do something major to stop corruption and tax avoidance.  But, it also needs millions of people to demand that their governments take action.  So, are you up to write to your MP and government to demand immediate action?

See also the following websites for what action is currently being undertaken against corruption and tax avoidance – https://eiti.org/ and https://www.transparency.org/

Thanks.

Sex – 1

The issue of sexual harassment has been very much in the news recently.  It has created an opportunity for many people to air grievances and the media has lapped it up.

Whilst I am appalled by some of the revelations coming out in the press, I am concerned that the issue is getting out of hand.  By this I mean that the message that is being given is ‘do not touch me anywhere.’  Obviously, there are certain parts of one’s anatomy that it is not appropriate, but we are getting to the stage that physical closeness is being condemned.  We need to get a balance and not see everything as having a sexual reason for an action.  For example hugging one another can be seen to be either sexual or just being affectionate.  Why can we not see it just an affectionate form of caring for that person?  We can sometimes be too reserved to show care and affection in a demonstrative way.

I am worried this backlash against sexual harassment will cause unnecessary problems in relationships, whether serious or not.

Part of the reason we have this issue is society’s obsession with sex in one form or another.  I know the issue has been around for centuries, but it is a lot worse today because of the media, even though one would have thought things would be better with women having more rights than in past centuries.  Just look at most adult films for there is some sort of sex scene when it is not usually necessary to the plot.  And even if it is, do we need to see it?  Then there is the advertising.  For example, most perfume advertisements have a sexual theme which really does not have any relevance to reality.  We need to think of our responsibilities to other people and to see them not just as potential sexual partners but whole people who need nurturing.

Another reason for the problems we have is the lack of boundaries, about what should be allowed and what should not.  Because we do not have a framework for our lives, we are always trying to push and extend the boundaries, like a child does as he grows up.  At the same time, people need relationships which feature affection, conversation and empowerment of each other to be the person each one of us is meant to be; the sexual aspect should be left to the marital bedroom.  If this happened, then there would less breakup of relationships, especially those in marriage.  Relationships are hard work and we need to work on them for them to succeed.

Christians can play a part in this by modelling the framework of love that God gives us in His teaching, hence the importance of studying and applying the truths as found in the Bible.

Posted in Sex.