no shame…but where are we really?

“the age of self-afflicted shame, is over…”
Mike Pompeo

Our (latest) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was in Cairo this past week.
And depending on your choice of news coverage, you may or may not have heard much about his trip
or of the speech he made.

And depending on that news outlet you tend to watch, read or listen to…you might have
gotten some mixed signals.

And to be honest, I’d like to be able to say huzzah to his speech…but does Pompeo’s speech mirror
the full policy of the US?

That, I’m not sure.

Our President tells us we’re pulling out of Syria.
His Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, has resigned.
Word is that they are at odds over such a decision.

I have really appreciated what I have read about General Mattis’ leadership—I even wrote
a post about the character behind General Mattis…the type of military leader you’d want
having charge over your own son or daughter.

Last evening I heard that Trump is the most popular Republican president, in well, ever.
And as I am a huge Reaganite, I had to go double check out that latest factoid and there does some
to be some validity to such a boast.

Not that I don’t support our President, I do…it’s just that I feel that we, as a Nation,
have entered a new era of something other than…other than who and what we use to be.
An era that I’m not fond of.

Socialistic Democrat is an oxymoron that I don’t think I care to wrap my brain around.

When the likes of Joe Lieberman is publically mocked and disrespected by a  new up and coming
young Democrat, we’ve got trouble worse than most millennials will sadly ever understand.

But one thing I can appreciate is the speech that Mike Pompeo offered in Cairo.

America is not a nation that apologizes for supporting various nations.
With Israel being one of those nations—the elephant in the room when it comes
to the United States and the Middle East.

Nor shall America excuse the Muslim world for its culpability for those
who, in the name of Islam, commit heinous crimes against humanity.

We did not excuse a fallen Nazi regime.
In fact, there was an allied trial holding those who remained, accountable for their actions…
despite the argument that they were merely the following orders of others.

Here is an excerpt of Secretary Pompeo’s speech.

I found it powerful and reminiscent of an America I once knew…
I suppose we’ll see what will follow…

“It was here, in this city, another American stood before you” and, “told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology.”

Pompeo’s view is unequivocal and crystal clear: “America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
He didn’t even add the usual qualifiers about our historic imperfections.
Expect our adversaries abroad and snowflakes at home to be mighty upset at this moral clarity and self-confidence
from the greatest, freest country on Earth. Our real allies will love it.

Pompeo’s speech had three watershed components:

First, Pompeo made it clear that the chief focus of U.S. policy in the Middle East is thwarting Iran’s
dangerous and tyrannical ambitions.
While violent jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda still exist and deserve our attention,
they are now a lesser threat.
Also, by condemning Obama’s decision to do nothing in 2009 and 2010 when Iranians took to the streets
to protest their oppressive regime, Pompeo opened the door to supporting Iran’s internal opposition.

Second, Pompeo specifically called out “radical Islamism” and condemned Obama for not doing so.
This is a refinement and extension of President Trump’s condemnation of “radical Islamic terrorism,”
which is the tactic that Islamists use when they go violent.

Far from semantics, this change from “Islamic terrorism” to “radical Islamism” means that finally,
40 years after Islamists took over Iran, 36 years after Islamists blew up our Marine barracks in Beirut,
and nearly 18 years after Islamists attacked us on 9/11,
we can clearly name the ideology that animates most of the problem actors in the Middle East.

In contrast to failed efforts to either spread American democracy or apologize for it,
this means we can rally all of those opposed to radical Islamism,
including monarchies and imperfect republics across the Middle East that oppose Islamist theocracy.
It means we can be clear about opposing not only terrorists like Al Qaeda,
but Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s rigorous efforts at diplomacy across the Middle East,
which have contributed to radical change and unprecedented cooperation.
Pompeo disclosed that “Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s
efforts to evade sanctions,” and lauded assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He added that “private companies in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere have calculated
that enriching themselves through work with the regime is bad for business” –
a gentle and much-deserved slap at the governments of those fading allies
that have actively opposed getting tough on Iran.

Pompeo reminded the audience that last year,
“the Israeli national anthem played as an Israeli judo champion was crowned the winner
of a tournament in the UAE.”
This story and scores like it have been missed by our mainstream media.
American strength and moral clarity and fear about the threat from Iran are dissolving
old animosities and creating new alliances. We may actually see new Arab embassies in Israel.

Finally but crucially, Pompeo included a cautionary principle regarding what the U.S.
is willing to do in the Middle East.
Remarking about U.S. support he said: “But ‘assist’ is the key word.
We ask every peace-loving nation of the Middle East to shoulder new responsibilities for
defeating Islamist extremism.”

This is the fundamental essence of “America First.”
We will not apologize for America, we will stand up for our interests,
and we will cooperate with our allies as long as they are willing to share the burden
of preserving freedom.

Adding an additional touch of pragmatism, Pompeo condemned the Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad,
but cracked open the door to aiding postwar reconstruction if Assad kicks the
Iranian military out of Syria.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pompeo-at-site-of-obamas-address-to-muslim-world-rebukes-his-legacy-age-of-self-inflicted-american-shame-is-over

This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem:
Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets,
and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic.

Zechariah 14: 12-13

Timely radicalism

“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”
― John R.W. Stott

“The ‘average sensual man’ who is sometimes unfaithful to his wife, sometimes tipsy, always a little selfish, now and then (within the law) a trifle sharp in his deals, is certainly, by ordinary standards, a ‘lower’ type than the man whose soul is filled with some great Cause, to which he will subordinate his appetites, his fortune, and even his safety. But it is out of the second man that something really fiendish can be made; an Inquisitor, a Member of the Committee of Public Safety. It is great men, potential saints, not little men, who become merciless fanatics. Those who are readiest to die for a cause may easily become those who are readiest to kill for it.”
― C.S. Lewis

CIMG0325
(the crucified Christ/ Fra Angelico / The Convent of San Marco, Florence, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2007)

When I was a sophomore in college I was required to take an upper level Lit class.
Now I’ll admit that I was never the best of students.
School was never terribly easy for me.
I was a slow reader, but yet I greatly enjoyed reading—especially if it was something I found to be relevant—particularly to my Christian spiritual development.

This particular Lit class was taught by a professor who was in his very early 30’s, not much older than his students. A free spirit who would come to class barefoot and sit indian style atop a desk as he lead conversation in whatever it is was we were currently reading.

He let it be known that he was a disenfranchised former Catholic turned atheist.

We read the works of men such as Kafka and Dostoyevsky.
Some of the material was bizarre and boring, others were not so bad.
He wasn’t one much for giving grades but up to the end of the course I was under the impression that I had made A’s, B’s and even a C on my written “critiques” of our readings.
That is until our last book, the book that the final exam would be based on. . .
The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I thought this would be a book right up my alley as I found it intriguing.

I think my mistake was to take issue when this barefoot professor began to expose the questions and role of the Inquisitor against the silent Christ who was on trial, again so it seemed, for his life.
I defended Jesus to the Inquisitor who just so happened to be my professor. We went back and forth.
I later wrote with the same thread of thought when taking the final exam.

This had been the spring quarter so that meant we were all to depart for home at the end of the term.
These were the pre-email, internet, computer days so I would never know what I made on my final as we were all long gone and would merely wait for our grades to be delivered home during the summer via Post.

A couple of weeks went past when my grades finally arrived.
Opening the card and perusing the posted grades, I was shocked when I saw that I had failed the Lit class.
I was not only shocked, I was furious.
This would cause havoc to my GPA.
I had not failed a single paper.
I was never given any indication that I was in any sort of “academic” trouble. . .
How in the world could I have failed the course?
I did all of my assignments.
What grades I did receive were all very satisfactory.
I participated in all class discussions. . .
And that’s when it hit me.

I immediately called the University.
I was told the professor had resigned, moved on to the University of Arizona, taking all of his papers and records with him.
In other words, I had been screwed and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it—
I couldn’t protest the grade as there was no professor nor “evidence” of paperwork in which to refer.
I get mad to this day just thinking about it all these near 40 years later.

I knew good and well, as I know to this day, that I failed that class because of my outspokenness of my faith and of my thoughts of Dostoyevsky’s Inquisitor verses Christ.

So when I read the Bonhoeffer reflection this morning. . .of his thoughts on radicalism (who else could so intimately understand the evils of radicalism than Bonhoeffer!!), and of his mention of Ivan Karamazov, I thought of a person who had, for whatever reason, grown at odds with God, who had left his faith for the emptiness of nothingness, taking his form of radicalism to the classroom, punishing anyone who stood on the opposite side of his internal angst.

Sadly today we see this same sort of issue of exploding radicalism across the country growing by leaps and bounds as there seems to be a growing intolerance against Christianity on any stage. . .be it on a college campus, in the news, laced throughout our entertainment industry and even in our political arena. We see it not as expected on the shores of foreign lands of the non-believers but we now see it growing on our own shores within our own culture

And yet our friend Bonhoeffer is actually writing into today’s lesson of his concern of that same sinister infiltration of radicalism seeping into the faithful—working to infest the faithful with a smug and pious self-righteous indignation. A radicalism which is witness to Christians using Christ more as a weapon and defense of their own agendas rather than embracing the pure message of selfless Love and of the Salvation found in the cross— and where that now in turn places the believer in the world. . .so now we see radicalism facing us, the Christian, on both our right and on our left. . .each from within and without. . .

The Rise of Radicalism
Radicalism always arises from a conscious or unconscious hatred of what exists. Christinan radicalism, whether it would flee the world or improve it, comes from the hatred of creation. The radical cannot forgive God for having created what is. It is Ivan Karamazov, the one totally at odds with the created world, who creates the figure of a radical Jesus in the legend of the Grand Inquisitor. When evil becomes powerful in the world, it simultaneously injects the Christian with the poison of radicalism. Reconciliation with the world as it is, which is given to the Christian by Christ, is then called betrayal and denial of Christ. In its place come bitterness, suspicion, and contempt for human beings and the world. Love that believes all things, bears all things, and hopes all things, love that loves the world in its dry wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), becomes—by limiting love to the closed circle of the pious—a pharisaical refusal of love for the wicked. The open churn of Jesus Christ, which serves the world to the end, becomes kind of supposed ur-Christian ideal church–community that in turn mistakenly infuse the realization of a Christian idea with the reality the living Jesus Christ. Thus a world that has become evil succeeds in making Christian evil also.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics 155-156

fall of the legends

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.
One Stab–Legends of the Fall

“History has its truth, and so has legend. Legendary truth is of another nature than historical truth. Legendary truth is invention whose result is reality. Furthermore, history and legend have the same goal; to depict eternal man beneath momentary man.”
― Victor Hugo

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( Schönbrunn Palace Gardens / Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook 2012)

Each day, another individual who lives in our limelight, bites the dust. . .

A well known major network news anchor embellishes his in-field reporting (aka tells lies).

Another older well known and long married nationally syndicated news story reporter has been carrying on a tawdry and torrid, and now very public, affair with a much younger married woman.

A revered married and highly decorated Army General is accused of disclosing highly classified information to his biographer who also happened to be his key love interest.

Another news anchor fails to disclose his political contributions to a high profile presidential candidate which now clouds his “non biased” honest reporting.

A beloved actor and comedian is suddenly accused of a litany of sexual assaults spanning the past 30 years.

The hottest new NFL quarterback hopeful, who was living the life of the fast and furious, has spent the past 6 months of the off season cleaning up in re-hab.

Many an up and coming national political figure has been discovered to be leading a dubious double life—

Plug in any name from any state or any county and it would all sadly fit. . .

It seems that each and every day we read, we hear, we watch as another national and / or local “famous” figure falls quickly from grace.

And it’s not always a famous individual. . .

Atlanta is coming off of an unprecedented, and very nationally embarrassing, public trial of a myriad of its city school system educators who cheated on their students National Standardized tests.
Teachers going to jail for cheating.
The very people who stress to their students the importance of honesty.

It’s pretty obvious that we are living in a world that is less than keen on taking the high road.
Perhaps we’ve become a low road kind of people.
As in low is easy, cheesy and sleazy.

Morality seems to have hit the road long ago. . .moving on without leaving a forwarding address.
The current mindset is simply one of no remorse— but rather remorse comes only with being caught at whatever it was one was simply caught doing.

Mea culpas have become so common place that we have come to expect contrition as opposed to valor.

It sure seems as if man is a flawed and fractured creature.

One would think that we are a most hopeless lot.
That we are in such sorry shape that God has washed His hands of us and simply moved on. . .
And that would pretty much sum up what we deserve.
We’ve made our beds and are now destined to lie them.
Dante painted the picture rather vividly in 1337 with his 9 rings of hell. . .
Hell in a hand basket with no looking back.

And yet. . .

Within the dark days of our fallen ways, there remains a single ray of hope. . .

Grace.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:1-10

Perspective

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Image of the Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
Helen Keller