Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

December 10 is the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the UN General Assembly. The horror of WWII is credited for inspiring, if you will, this first ever global expression of inherent personal rights. It came in the wake of the declaration of a Jewish State seven months earlier.

In this light, reactions to the planet’s only Jewish entity’s efforts to defend itself from existential threats are shocking. Violent attacks have been carried out against it, relentlessly, since its birth on May 15, 1948.

Universal Declaration of Human RightsRather than support the citizens of Israel’s democracy, world opinion denies equal access to the Human Rights which their suffering helped inspire. The most tragic, and ironic aspect of this, in this writer’s opinion, is that even inside the UN Human Rights Council the planet’s sole Jewish State is singled out for persecution.

In selecting a Virtues card to frame this blog, Mercy came up.  How appropriate!  But since that card was just used for Syrian refugees I drew again – and was presented with a more challenging lens.  Contentment – “A trusting that life provides us what we need, when we need it.”

Here goes… Israel’s Jews can enjoy contentment given what they have, and have achieved.  Many, including this writer, believe events began in 1844 to fulfill the prophetic sequences which were initiated thousands of years ago.  This view holds that God is the force behind an in-gathering that began prior to and increased in momentum after WWII.  The selection of the Real Estate in Palestine for a modern Israel was predestined as were all the challenges inherent in that choice.

Though the entire planet be aligned against it, at this time, the Jews can be content with the messages in their Holy Writings – that God will infuse with eventual success all global efforts, including those of Israel, toward beating swords into plowshares and transforming deserts into rose-gardens.  However imperfect those efforts may be.

The verses below proclaim hope for the future. Our potential for contentment is great, when we trust in God to fulfill His promises.

Swords into PloughsharesIsaiah 2:1-4 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord‘s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Israeli desert blossomIsaiah 35:1-4 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.  Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.  Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

Great contentment comes from trusting in the promise of a better future, as foretold by the Jewish Prophet Isaiah.  Shalom to you all.

Lamb lies down with the lion and the little child leading them

Isaiah 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.


American Exceptionalism vs. Putin

American Exceptionalism vs. Putin

Does Vladimir Putin have a point about American Exceptionalism?

The idea that all men are created equal is a founding principle of the United States. Is the belief in American Exceptionalism inherently contradictory—or even dangerous?

Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks so. In his recent New York Times op-ed piece, he wrote that American Exceptionalism is “extremely dangerous” and that “we must not forget that God created us equal.”

American Exceptionalism is the view that the United States has a special role to play on the world’s stage because of its national ethos and provenance. Within this country, this view is prevalent. It is also balanced with the other principles upon which this nation was founded. Our Constitution has stood for a progressive stance on individual rights. We have become a world leader, in part, by embracing a sense of fairness for all.

So our national identity faces a fundamental dilemma today.

Why would I venture into discussing this topic? The People of the Sign is a kind of literary memoir recounting my life, much of which I spent within the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). The WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong was prosperous and growing, with a global reach and an astounding influence. And it was built on the idea that its members were divinely exceptional.

But the WCG was ripped apart by an identity crisis that crystallized under new leadership. Is this the fate of our nation?

That remains to be seen, but we can draw an important lesson from the WCG about American Exceptionalism.

One of the church’s fatal flaws was the hubris of Herbert W. Armstrong, his lieutenants, and many of the church’s members. While faith is good, and the book of Hebrews states that God rewards those who diligently seek him, we need to beware the mindset of divine superiority. Pride comes before the fall.

I am not a supporter of Putin. I find his comments both insulting and insincere. I was in Leningrad in 1991 during a coup by hard-line communists, which included the kidnapping of Mikhail Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin then came into power, signaling the end of the Soviet Union. At the time there was certainly no dearth of Russian Exceptionalism. Yet their hubris led to ignominy on the world stage, and ultimately to the implosion of their empire.

In the wake of that collapse, the U.S. has been largely unchecked on the global scene. Today, some of the problems that confronted the Soviet Union during its twilight are in evidence here. And Russia’s recent geopolitical coup on the subject of Syria, followed by Putin’s comments, indicate that Russia feels the time is right to challenge the U.S.

When it comes to geopolitics and political strategy, I share in a sentiment recently raised in the media about this issue: Russia plays chess and America plays monopoly. We’re playing two different games, and at least in this Syrian crisis, Putin’s chess is winning.

Historically, Russian leaders have been the masters of gray, whereas U.S. leaders continue to define things in black and white. But what’s black and what’s white is changing. A belief in American Exceptionalism can easily work against finesse and diplomacy, which are much needed in navigating this predicament and an increasingly integrated world.

I do not reject the idea that God has a special purpose for the United States. But what is important to realize, especially for those who believe as I do, is that God also has a special purpose for every person on the planet. That includes the aggregate political entities that they are a part of as well.

To hold the idea that we are exceptional can be healthy. I have a five- and a two-year old, and they respond well to verbal encouragement and high fives. Yet I’m aware that this type of motivation needs to be balanced out with the teaching of virtues and spiritual principles like love, kindness, humility, gentleness, and respect for others.

A balanced approach that includes spiritual qualities worthy of a nation that claims to reside “under God” will lead to an American Exceptionalism that can stand the test of time. And the jabs of our enemies, like Vladimir Putin.


American Exceptionalism - two boys salute their respective flags

The Russians love their exceptionalism too