Tag Archives: Egypt

Sunday Sermon: God didn’t make you a coward

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Saint Paul in prison, writing one of the epistles

 

As most already know who follow this website, I am a Catholic. I also serve as a Lector many weeks during Mass services, which gives me the opportunity and honor of reading to our parishioners from the Word of God.

This ‘Sunday Sermon’ series dates all the way back to 2005, and is always based on a reading or sermon from the Mass on that particular Sunday.

This morning, my New Testament reading came from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. It is one of three known “epistles” written by Paul.

Before we get into the specific message for today, a quick vocabulary lesson.

An epistle is simply a letter or series of letters. In the New Testament, they come in the form of a book, made up of the letters from a particular apostle.

An apostle is someone who has been sent to specifically spread a message or teaching. Saint Paul, also known historically as Saul of Tarsus, was perhaps the most important apostle of the first century.

In the two decades immediately following the death of Jesus Christ, Paul underwent a personal conversion and then began to spread Jesus’ teachings throughout the Roman and Jewish world of the times.

The second letter to Timothy, a segment of which made up today’s New Testament reading, is considered by tradition to have been written just before Paul’s death, sometime in the mid-late 60’s during the first century A.D.

However, there are many scholars who now believe that it was actually the product of one of his students, writing in the decades after Paul’s death. In any event, it was certainly in keeping with his philosophy.

The letter was written to Timothy, who was one of the earliest Christian church leaders. Timothy served as the very first bishop of Ephesus, located in Egypt.

In the letter, Paul writes from prison, where the Romans are holding him for the teaching of the Gospel. He writes the following as encouragement to Timothy in the latter’s role as an early church leader:

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

The phrase which jumps out at me from this letter is this: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice…”

This letter is one of three ‘pastoral epistles’ written by Paul. They are considered as such because they were written to individuals with pastoral care and responsibility over a particular church, and cover issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership.

While these epistles are clearly written to church leadership with them in mind, they are just as relevant to all members of the church.

God does not want us to live as cowards. He did not imbue us with a “spirit of cowardice“, as Paul writes.

Paul calls on all of us to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer, the love preached by Jesus Christ himself during his life on Earth, and the self-discipline gained during our own lifetime of experiences and failures in order to help spread the Word of God.

Stop looking to others to carry a load that you have every ability to help carry yourself. You can teach your family. You can volunteer in some way at your church. You can personally set an example by regularly attending church services and participating in the sacraments.

Far too often, far too many of us point the finger at others shortfalls, be those church leaders, politicians, any of our fellow men. We are often unwilling to look in the mirror at our own sins and shortcomings.

Have the courage to not only take that hard look in the mirror at yourself, but also to actually take some positive action regarding your faith.

Even if you consider yourself a brave Christian, we all have moments or periods of life in which we falter. Whatever your present or future attitude and situation, remember, God didn’t make you a coward. Don’t act like one.

Syrian Cesspool

I put up this map of Syria as the primary graphic accompaniment to this story in order to show people just where the country is located in relation to the rest of the cesspool that is the Middle East.

Syria lies just to the northeast of Israel, our lone reliable ally in the region, and the single nation that we need to be concerned with helping there. It lies up against the western border of Iraq, still a dangerous place in itself, despite our efforts of the past decade.

Now, like every nation, Syria has a long, deep, rich history that cannot be perfectly encapsulated in any short blurb of a story. But perhaps most importantly, today it is the site of major internal conflict between the Islamic Sunni and Shia factions and their allies.

For nearly five decades, from 1963-2011, Syria was under Emergency Law, ostensibly due to the ongoing tensions and at times war with Israel over the Golan Heights. This effectively suspended most constitutional protections for its citizens.

Bashar al-Assad, currently accused by the Obama administration of using chemical weapons on his own citizens, has been President since 2000, when he took over the reigns from his father who had served for 30 years.

In December of 2010, what has become known as the ‘Arab Spring’ began, a series of both violent and non-violent uprisings, demonstrations, protests, riots, and civil wars across the Arab world.

The aims were to overthrow and end the rule of authoritarian regimes that were politically corrupt and that in many cases stood accused of committing human rights violations. The movement has resulted thus far in the overthrowing of regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.

In March 2011, the Arab Spring came to Syria in the beginning of the current civil war between Assad’s loyalists and members of the opposition group known as the ‘Syrian National Coalition’. In 2012, a new constitution was adopted that made Syria a semi-presidential republic.

However, for many reasons, including the history of the Assad regime, the SNC has been recognized by a number of nations, including the US, as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian peoples.

There is always an undercurrent of Islam in the Middle East, and this conflict is no different. The majority of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the government and its supporters are mostly ‘Alawites’, a branch of Islam closely related to the Shia school.

Explaining the differences of all these groups to non-followers is another article altogether. Look it up if you’re interested. But know this – they don’t like one another, and it goes back hundreds of years.

Despite the alleged new constitutional protections, most human rights groups rate Syria as “not free”, with torture, rape, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, censorship and other human rights violations considered the norm by the government. The government now stands accused of using chemical weapons last month against those sympathetic to the rebel cause.

Some 60% of the Syrian population identifies as Sunni, while just 13% are Shia, including President al-Assad’s family, which is of the Alawite faction of Shia Islam. Despite their national minority, Alawites dominate the government.

While the civil war has largely been between the Shia and Sunni factions, there has been a ‘shadow war’ against Christianity, with a number of Christian churches destroyed, and with the formerly 10% Christian population largely fleeing the country.

The bottom line in the civil war in Syria is power. The regime led by al-Assad is trying to retain it, and is apparently willing to use whatever means is necessary to do so. The SNC is trying to take it away, possibly to bring democratic freedom to the region, possibly to become dominated by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, who have tried and failed to take over in Syria previously.

Do you hear much talk about the radical Islamists who run rampant on the rebel side, including al Qaeda? Didn’t think so, but that is a major factor that needs more discussion and consideration.

Right now, President Obama is backing the SNC. He has his publicly announced human rights reasons, and my belief is that he likely has some personal and/or religious reasons as well. But in any event, the wisdom of getting involved in any way in Middle East conflicts has to be questioned. If there is one thing that the world should have learned over the last thousand years or more is that peace is not coming to that region. We cannot pick winners and losers – they’re all losers, except for Israel.

The only position the United States should be taking, the only “red line in the sand” that we should be drawing, should be involving attacks and provocations involving the Israelis (or ourselves being attacked directly, of course.)

We are too dependent on Arab oil, that much is well-established, and we need to immediately begin addressing that dependency and drawing on alternatives, including those right here in our own region, in our own nation.

Entering the Syrian cesspool is, frankly, stupid and comes with little to no positive effect. Obama’s claim that they need to know “that we mean what we say” is nothing more than a call to allow him to flex his muscles. It comes with no lasting change, will allow al-Assad to laugh at us once it’s over and resume his activities further strengthened, and may encourage a wider conflagration of hostilities that ultimately draws in the Israelis, increasing the odds that we go in with ground forces.

Mr. Obama is naive to think that he can simply lob a few missiles at strategic sites and get the leader of a Middle East regime to cower to his wishes. There is only one way to eliminate those types of folks – go in and get them, as we did with Saddam Hussein. No one in the Obama administration has the stomach to do that here.

The United States policy should be to remain internally strong, maintain and increase our technological and military superiority over every other nation, bring home the vast majority of our war-weary troops and give them a much deserved and needed break from combat/policing situations, and remain engaged through a diplomacy that leaves no doubt of the true ‘red line in the sand’ around the Israeli borders.

There are human rights atrocities committed constantly around the world, not only in Syria and other nations of the Middle East, but in Africa, South America, Asia, and other areas. You don’t see us running in there with our military, lobbing missiles at encampments in those areas, and drawing a ‘red line in the jungle’, or a ‘red line in the snow’, or whatever that environment.

America needs to stop drawing so many ‘red lines in the sand’, and stay out of the cesspool that is the Middle East, this time in Syria.

Birth Pains of the New Caliphate

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seriously broached this topic. The recent riotous uprising in Egypt, categorized by the usual American media suspects as attempts at “democracy”, bring the topic clearly back to relevancy.

In actuality, the topic has always been relevant, but it always takes something major to wake up the American public.

For the great unwashed, and for those media talking heads who nearly lost their own heads this past week at the hands of these alleged democracy-loving demonstrators, let’s do a quick refresher on just what exactly is the Islamic “caliphate”, and why we all should be concerned about it.

A very long story begins in the first half of the 7th century A.D. with the birth of Islam under it’s founder, Muhammad, a man believed by followers of that faith to be the greatest and final messenger of God. Muhammad first spread this new faith by peaceful preaching and teaching, but he and his followers eventually turned to violent and forcible means.

In the aftermath of Muhammad’s death in 632, physical and spiritual battles arose for control of Islam by two groups who we continue that struggle today, 1,500 years later –  the Sunni and the Shiites. The Sunni were larger and stronger, and overall Islamic power was centralized under a leader who was known as the ‘Caliph’, the successor to Muhammad. The lands and peoples over which the Caliph held control became known as the Islamic Caliphate.

For centuries this Caliphate spread by conquest known as ‘Jihad’ throughout the lands of the Middle East, across northern Africa, and into both Spain and eastern Europe. By the end of the 17th century, just before the emergence of America as a nation and culture, the Caliphate controlled an area as large as the old Roman Empire.

The end finally began to come for the Islamic Caliphate on the eve of the American birth when, in 1774, it surrendered large portions of control to the emerging Russian nation. Then the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the Caliphate over it’s final four centuries, went into World War I on the side of the Axis powers, the losing side.

In the aftermath of defeat in World War I, secular power took charge in Turkey, and the Caliphate was formally abolished. Ever since that time, various religious and military leaders have vowed to return the Caliphate to power, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. That has been and remains the goal of the worldwide movement known to many today as “radical Islam”, to take control first of the Middle East, and then begin to spread the Caliphate around the region, to neighboring nations, and eventually around the entire world.

The Muslim Brotherhood is at the very core of the troubles in the Middle East today. The Brotherhood has for decades been sparking, fomenting, and supporting uprisings through it’s creations such as al Qaeda and Hamas among dozens of others. Their stated goals are: the reestablishment of the Caliphate, the reunification of their nation (the Ummah), the institution of strict Islamic religious law (Shariah), and the spread of the Caliphate around the world.

They are behind the uprisings that have taken place recently or are currently taking place across the Arabic world from Egypt to Jordan, from Tunisia to Syria, from Libya to Lebanon. While these alleged “popular uprisings” for “democratic reforms” topple various types of secular institutional governments, make no mistake about what the new replacement governments will become. They will become Islamic theocracies, either outright or by proxy control.

As the Muslim Brotherhood exercises and expands it’s control by whipping up tens of thousands at the grass-roots level to violently demonstrate and forcibly coerce change, the results will not be anything like American or even European democracy. What we are seeing in Egypt and across the Middle East, and will continue to see there, in Africa, and will see at some point in every nation of the world during this century, are the birth pains of the new Caliphate.

Millions of Americans will be glued to their television sets for hours this weekend to watch a football game. They will gorge on tons of food and snack treats, scarf down alcoholic and carbonated beverages by the truck load, and gamble away hard-earned money on pools and bets. Meanwhile, a much bigger, deadlier, and far more important game will be playing out on the other side of the world.

Americans who continue to consider a few weeks, months, or even a couple years of largely quiet times in the struggle against radical Islam as anything other than a lull in the storm are kidding themselves. More than that, they are passively ignoring the struggle that will be one of the most vital across their world as they age. It is the struggle that will define the world in which their children and grandchildren live out this century. It is one that will be forced upon them by the Caliphate now in the struggles of it’s own rebirth.

Israel is Not the Problem

About a week or so ago we suddenly began hearing stories in the news about Israel bombing targets in Gaza, Israel attacking in the Gaza Strip, and so on.

The picture that was painted was one of the State of Israel suddenly waking up one morning and deciding to attack, attack, attack for no particular reason. This perception was foisted on the American people by what has become a decidedly anti-Israeli American media.

Think about it from any reasonable perspective. How would you feel if Mexico was lobbing bombs and missiles at targets in California or Nevada or Texas, destroying businesses and buildings, killing hundreds of Americans?

Then one day the U.S. decided enough was enough, and fought back by attacking strongholds in Mexico where those who were attacking us were operating. Suddenly the world press is all over their broadcast news and in their newspapers with stories that the U.S. was attacking Mexico. How would that make you feel?

Do you think that the Europeans and those in the Middle East, Asia, Africa who were reading these headlines and listening to the talking heads on the news broadcasts would get the full picture? Or would they simply be left with the impression that the Americans were being bullies with the poor, little Mexicans? That is exactly what is happening with Israel, and it is a dangerous game.

The ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’ as it has come to be known in modern times has no resolution.
Despite what peaceniks and politicians will say, there can be no resolution, and the reason is very clear once you understand the two sides to the dispute.

On one side you have Israel, which only wants to live in peace and would never do any aggressive harm to any of its neighbors. That is a fact and the utter truth. The only thing that Israel asks in return is not to be attacked, to be left alone and to allow itself to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, which is the land of Israel’s birthright since God Himself set aside the land for that purpose.

Whatever your belief in God and His promises, the fact is that the modern State of Israel was formed thanks to an agreement brokered by that group that most liberals love – the United Nations.

In 1947 the UN struck an agreement that partitioned what was known at that time as the land of Palestine into two sections, one Jewish and one Arab. A year later, the Jewish section declared itself independent as the State of Israel. The Arab nations surrounding Israel disagreed with the decision, and immediately attacked Israel.

The Israelis prevailed in this fight, as well as in numerous other wars and battles over the ensuing three decades. Despite usually being outnumbered and surrounded, Israel has managed to defend itself successfully against the attacks of its Arab neighbors time after time.

There remain disputes over sections of territory, notably what is known as the ‘West Bank’ and the ‘Gaza Strip’. Israel sees these as strategically necessary to its defense, because the Arabs have frequently used these areas as launching pads for attacks. The Arabs see them as simply being Arab lands, with Israel having no legitimate claim.

Israel has actually caused part of this problem in one way. They had control of these areas, but gave them up in previous ‘peace’ negotiations. They failed to remember their own lessons, that you cannot negotiate with groups that wish only to destroy you, and you certainly cannot give up land to them that only brings the territory they control even closer to your territory.

These Arab lands that surround Israel, from Iran to Egypt, from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, from Lebanon to Syria, do not recognize that Israel itself should even exist as a nation, and they ultimately want it erased from the map.

That is a fact that you need to understand. It precludes any longterm peace agreement, because the fact is that no matter what deal these Muslim nations agree to from time to time, they have always returned ultimately to attacking Israel.

There has been concern in recent years that Iran or some other radical Muslim group or nation will construct or obtain a nuclear weapon. Should that happen, there is no doubt in my mind that they will use that technology against Israel, it would just be a matter of time.

Despite the manner in which America’s former ‘mainstream media’ presents the situation, Israel is not attacking anyone, they are defending themselves.

Hamas is a radical Sunni Islamic political organization operating in the Palestinian region, and they are aggressively anti-Israeli. They had been lobbing bombs and missiles against Israel for some time before Israel finally responded last week.

But you had not heard of those attacks in our American news, had you? That is the fact, and that is the attitude that much of the media here in America has towards Israel. This was no suddenly aggressive Israeli action, despite the suddenness of the situations appearance in our media.

Israel is not the problem, the radical Islamists are the problem – again. Someday America may wake up to understand that we are truly in the middle of a World War. It is a war that will continue against us and other western and non-Muslim nations, even if we pull out of the Middle East and cease fighting from our side. They will not stop, not against us, not against Israel, not against Europe.

The radical Islamists are the problem, not Israel, and until we utterly destroy their ideology as we destroyed Nazi ideology, these problems will continue, this war will continue.

Islamism Series: Goodbye, America

Imagine a world without the U.S. or Israel, it can happen.”

That is a publicly pronounced statement by Iranian President and radical iIslamic ideologue Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured) that I read to the police students in my Radical Islam class every week.

But is anyone taking him seriously? How could the United States, the acknowledged “most powerful nation in the history of the planet earth” cease to exist? Could a relatively small nation like Iran make something like this happen?

I mean, the United States defeated the British against all odds, survived a devastating Civil War, and led the world in overcoming both the Fascism of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the Socialism of the Soviet Union, a pair of legitimate world military powers.

You would think that it might be pretty difficult for Iran, at least acting on it’s own, to make America completely disappear as a nation.

However, to think that we are invulnerable from a devastating attack from them would be to act with naivete, and that is something that we must not allow to happen. Because not only can Iran cause widespread devastation and seriously cripple, if not destroy, the United States as a superpower, but they are actively engaged in efforts to make that happen.

Throughout history, every mighty empire that has ever come along has fallen.

Does Egypt still exist? Sure. Does Rome still exist? Of course. Is Britain still a strong peopled nation? Most definitely.

But the fact of the matter is that not one of these is the major force in the world today, and at one time in history each one was the dominant power in the world. For the United States to fail to learn this lesson of history is for the United States to doom itself to repeat the process, and to one day either cease to exist or find itself a secondary nation.

America faces many dangers in this process, including losing it’s own unique national identity from within by continually sacrificing our traditions, laws, and language on the mantle of multi-culturalism.

But the specific threat the Iranians can and are planning is nuclear. Ahmadinejad is doing everything in his power to obtain nuclear power. Of course, that is purely for peaceful energy purposes if you ask him.

This is the same guy that has said publicly that “Israel must be wiped off the map”, “it will one day vanish”, and “it is a tree that will be eliminated by one storm.” What exactly do you think he is talking about here, and when he speaks of a world without the U.S.?

The plan that Iran hopes to enact involves what is known as an ‘EMP‘ attack on the United States. Iran would continue to develop their nuclear program to the point where they can construct a couple of nuclear bombs.

They are already testing missile technology that would allow them to reach the continental United States from a sea-going vessel. Their plan would be to fire one of those missiles with an attached nuke at our country.

Not at a city like New York, trying to blowup infrastructure. No, all that would do is make us angry and lead to their self-destruction. While some of these crazed islamists will give up their lives for the cause, the entire leadership is not suicidal.

What they will do instead is launch this nuke so that it explodes in the atmosphere above our country, instantly creating what is known as an ‘EMP‘ effect.

In a report released earlier this year by a commission appointed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks to study just such a scenario, the following results were released: “If even a crude nuclear weapon were detonated anywhere between 40 kilometers to 400 kilometers above the earth, in a split-second it would generate an electro-magnetic pulse [EMP] that would cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure.”

It wouldn’t cause many immediate deaths or damage many buildings, but it would cause electric, gas, lighting, and water systems to fail.

Committee spokesperson Dr. William Graham says that the result would be that the United States “would quickly revert to an early 19th century type of country, except that we would have 10 times as many people with ten times fewer resources. Most of the things we depend upon would be gone, and we would literally be depending on our own assets and those we could reach by walking to them.”

Basically with the launch of one strategically placed weapon, the Iranians would eliminate the United States as a superpower. They would then turn their remaining arsenal on Israel, eliminating this much smaller nation from existence.

Iran could do this openly as a nation, or they could farm the dirty work out to a terrorist organization and try to claim that they had no knowledge of the plot.

Make no mistake about the intentions of the current Iranian regime, or the intentions of radical islamists the world over. They want the world under Islamic rule and law, and they will do whatever it takes to overcome those standing in the way of making it happen.

The U.S. government and military, and all of us as citizens, need to be aware of and understand exactly what we are up against if we are going to preserve our great nation and it’s strength in world affairs.

If we refuse to meet this challenge, it will be goodbye America. At least to the America that we all know and love.