The Great Confusion: Part 2

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Christ crucified…a stumbling block?

In a previous post I touched on the subject of the human heart or soul as being the source of our actions, whether for good or evil. I also mentioned the theological concept that all of humanity has been separated from God through sin, i.e. we have all missed the mark of God’s highest standards for our lives, as individuals and as nations. Finally, I referred to the historical life and death of Jesus Christ as God’s way of reconciling Himself to all of humanity.

Continue reading “The Great Confusion: Part 2”

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Jews As the Enemies of the Enemies of Liberty

Disclaimer: I am republishing this article because it is very thought provoking. As a follower of Christ, I do support the Jewish people and their right to exist as a democratic nation in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the republishing of this article does not mean that I necessarily agree with everything that Horowitz publishes whether in print or electronically. Please allow the content of this particular article to speak for itself and you can draw your own conclusions and/or opinions. Thank you.

Anti-Semitism, it’s often said, is the oldest prejudice. The hatred of Jews has waxed and waned over the centuries, but appears to be back with something of a vengeance over the last few years, and especially the last few months.

For example, on Monday, February 27, over two dozen Jewish institutions across the country received bomb threats by anonymous phone calls. These included Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, retirement homes, day care centers, and Jewish educational institutions. These threats are part of a pattern of such threats, including multiple cemetery desecrations, that has been ongoing over the last few months. There have been 100 such threats to Jewish institutions just since the beginning of 2017.

Every time such a threat is called in, these institutions have to clear the building to determine if it is just a hoax. This means rounding up children, infants, the elderly, the infirm, and the developmentally disabled, getting them out of the building and, often, out in the cold, for the hour or two it takes to confirm all is clear. Although, thankfully, these have all turned out to be hoaxes, they still are taking a real toll on the Jewish community and the non-Jews who make use of these institutions. They are, I would argue, a form of terrorism.

The Why of Anti-Semitism

There has been much debate over why these threats have increased in recent months, and it seems plausible that the increased brazenness of the “politically incorrect,” including the rise of the alt-right, in the wake of the Trump campaign is probably one key factor. But anti-Semitism is not solely a problem on the Right. The political Left has had its own history of hatred for Jews, manifested in the present by the increased anti-Semitism of the radical Left in the context of criticism of Israel, especially through the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The enemies of liberalism have problems with everything Jews are associated with.

The sources of anti-Semitism on both Right and Left are complicated, but one element on both sides is that Jews have historically been associated with important liberal ideas such as capitalism, entrepreneurship, cosmopolitanism, and free migration. These institutions have enabled massive social, cultural, and economic change, empowering the previously powerless all over the world, and threatening the old order.

The enemies of liberalism have problems with all of these, though the Right and Left differ on which bothers them the most. But for both, Jews can be easily seen as the enemies of those who find deep flaws with the classical liberal social order. When Jews are being threatened, it is usually a good sign that the foundations of liberalism are as well.

Jewish Anti-Capitalism

One point to note up front is that Jews themselves have a history of opposition to classical liberalism. Jewish intellectuals have had a long-standing attraction to socialism, starting of course with Marx himself. In particular, a number of the architects of the Russian Revolution were Jews or of Jewish heritage.

I raise this because I am not arguing that Jews were somehow reliably classically liberal over the last few centuries. And the fact that a good number of Jews were socialist, or that a good number of socialists were Jews, certainly doesn’t justify anti-Semitism by critics of socialism.

I do think that part of the attraction of socialism to Jews was its universalist aspiration in the form of the trans-national cosmopolitan vision of classical socialism along with its desire to “heal the world” and its strong ethic of concern for the least well-off. Those aspirations were shared by 19th-century classical liberals and were also part of Jewish practice. This universalism made Jews the target of the critics of classical liberalism from the Right, as well as the right-wing critics of socialism.

Jewish Pro-Capitalism

The association of Jews with capitalism, trade, and entrepreneurship is well known. The negative stereotypes of acquisitiveness, materialism, and selfishness that have long been part of anti-Semitism grew out of the truth that Jews were more likely to be traders and financiers than were other groups. Part of this was that as a nomadic people, Jews invested in their human capital rather than the physical capital they would have had to schlep around while getting kicked out of country after country.

(This might also explain why Jews have also been disproportionately entertainers and intellectuals. The skills for telling jokes, writing stories, making music, or working in the realm of ideas are ones that don’t require much in the way of physical capital in order to be successful.)

The Nazis, and other fascist movements, saw the Jews as the sort of rootless cosmopolitans who were unable to grasp the importance of blood and country.

Jews were also often middlemen as a result of their nomadic existence and familiarity with so many parts of the world. Middlemen have always been suspect to the economically ignorant as far back as Aristotle, as they appear to profit by creating nothing tangible. This is particularly true when the middlemen are in financial markets, where they are not even trading something physical.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that hatred of capitalism has been accompanied by hatred of the Jews

Right-wing anti-Semitism, however, often draws upon these capitalist tropes as part of its hatred. But in this context, Jews are not so much seen as representative of capitalist exploitation that can be ended by socialism, but rather as an example of people who place love of money and their universalist aspirations above the love of their country and its citizens.

German anti-Semitism in the 20th century had roots in the argument that Jews had been “war profiteers” in World War I and had benefitted from the economic destruction that characterized the Weimar Republic period leading up to Hitler’s ascension to power. The Nazis, and other fascist movements, saw the Jews as the sort of rootless cosmopolitans who were unable to grasp the importance of blood and soil.

The modern version of this point, and one that is also found on the Left, is the “dual loyalty” charge laid upon pro-Israel Jews: they are beholden to Israel in ways that cause them to work against the interests of the United States.

The Why of Nationalism

One way to see the “national socialism” of various fascist movements is that they objected not to socialism per se, but to socialism’s attempt to put class ahead of race or ethnicity or nationality. To the fascists, German or Italian workers shared much more with German or Italian capitalists than they did with Russian or American workers. Marxian socialism drew the wrong battle lines.

And so it is today, as “economic nationalism” is on the rise globally and Jews have again become the most obvious target for an invigorated Right. Jews have always been the symbol of the cosmopolitan, the migrant, and the “rootless” trader. If you reject market-driven globalization, whether because you dislike markets or because you are a nationalist, you are going to have reasons to see Jews as symbols of what you reject. That opposition to immigration and global trade, and the market system that is at the root of both, would go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism is hardly surprising.

It remains easier to scapegoat than to remember.

The economic nationalism of Trump and a variety of European leaders is not inherently anti-Semitic, nor does it require that the leaders of such movements be anti-Semites, but the arguments of economic nationalism can easily empower the anti-Semitism of both the Right and Left. The leaders build in plausible deniability, knowing full well the nature of the forces they are unleashing but in ways that avoid direct responsibility.

How could they not know? We have centuries of experience to draw on, back to the ancient world through the Middle Ages all the way to the ghastly slaughter of the 20th century during which anti-Semitism nearly destroyed the whole of Europe itself. The costs have been unspeakable, and hence the vow to never forget. And yet, despite this history, the tendency to forget remains. To remember would require that we think more clearly about ideology and philosophy, human rights and dignity. Many people do not want to do that. It remains easier to scapegoat than to remember.

Admittedly, we liberals have a special grudge against anti-Semitism. It broke up the greatest intellectual society of the 20th century, shattering Viennese intellectual life, flinging even Ludwig von Mises out of his home and into the abyss. His books were banned, and those of many others too. He and so many fled for their lives but bravely rebuilt them in the new world that offered protection.

A Warning Sign

It has been said that Jews are the canaries in the coal mine of a liberal society: when they are under threat, it is a warning sign. The ongoing and increasing threats to Jewish communities here in the US, as well as similar trends across Europe, should have all of us worried. A world where Jews sing out in joy together and are unafraid to fly free is one far more safe from tyranny than one in which we Jews worry about dying in our own cages, as many of us are doing as the threats to our institutions have become more frequent and more brazen in recent months.

Watch how a society treats Jews and you’ll have an indicator of its degree of openness and respect for liberty. When Jews are being threatened, so are the deepest of our liberal values. The poisonous air from coal mining that killed canaries was invisible. The threats to Jews and to liberalism are not. Citizens of liberal societies dismiss or downplay those threats at our own peril.

Steven Horwitz


Steven Horwitz

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is spending the 2016-17 academic year as a Visiting Scholar at the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State University.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Walking Amongst Kings

GeorgeTown, Grand Cayman
Like a ship passing along the horizon of an almost infinite sea – so is life on this great blue marble. We are present here for a short time, only to disappear from sight.

There is an OLD TESTAMENT story of how God gave Daniel and his companions favour in the eyes of King Nebuchadnezzar. These four young men had an unusual ability to understand every aspect of literature and wisdom. Daniel possessed the unique gift(s) from God for interpreting the meanings of visions and dreams.

God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel 1:17-20 NLT

This is a story, not so much about Daniel and his friends, but about my own unique experiences of walking amongst kings. From the time I accepted Christ into my life in my early twenties, I have been so blessed (literally happy) by the gifts that God has placed into my life and the GREAT people he has surrounded me with. I have walked amongst kings from all walks in life – people who have the knowledge, authority, wealth, and power to change the very lives of ordinary people, for the better or worse. To befriend and influence those in authority in this life, is to seek to benefit all of humanity – one person at a time.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my life took a turn for the worse when my parents separated and divorced. The subsequent teenage years were ones of relative poverty, anger, disrespect for authority (including a few brushes with law enforcement), and general mayhem and rebellion. When I got alone in a quiet place, often surrounded with the beauty of nature, I felt a lot of guilt and remorse. Deep down I knew that I was not the person I was created to be – it was just so hard to see anything else.

I knew and understood the presence of God as a child and learned early on that I was a little different than my peers around me. Different is not better or worse than others, but a simple recognition that God had His hand upon me concerning the direction and purpose of my life. My times were in His hands, whether I recognized or even acknowledged that reality. In hindsight, I understand what it means to be sought after by God and to experience the Hounds of Heaven when my lifestyle was wayward and crooked, almost opposite to God’s best for my life. I also comprehend what it means to be God’s chosen people, the elect of Christ. This is not something we deserve, but rather because of the love, kindness, and mercy of God.

I think all of the aforementioned was what led me to study for many years and to pursue working in Christian ministry as a pastor, a chaplain, and a leader. I know today that was merely the beginning, and that, eventually, I had to step outside that closed world and enter into the marketplace of humanity. I have lived the greater part of my life only to finally recognize that my calling was to stand in the gap between the Church (of which I did not really fit in, and was often mistreated and persecuted), and greater society (of which I also did not fit in, and was often mistreated and persecuted).

To be called to be a MEDIATOR between two very different and opposing subcultures is NOT an easy existence. Even the wife of my youth, who instinctively knows and understands me, struggles with the cost of being associated with me and my particular walk with God. I know that I am not alone, for God is with me. I am also aware that there are others, even amongst my WordPress friends and followers, that have a similar calling and gifting(s). Whether you comprehend any of this right now – you eventually will. Even if just one person hears and understands what I am saying – it will be worth it.

The road has always been rocky and treacherous, but there have been many rewards, the best is yet to come – to spend an eternity in the presence of God Almighty. I look forward to that day with all my heart. I sense that time is short, whether that be for my own life, or  for the spectacular and cataclysmic events yet to occur on this planet.

For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. Mark 4: 22, 23 NLT

#LoveLife

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For I am not ashamed…

There is a story of a ten-year-old boy who came home from school one day. His mom had some good news for him – his dad was out of jail and would be coming to live with them soon. Now for many children, this was good news indeed. Children are very forgiving, all they really want is the love of a father and mother. Even when parents are dysfunctional, a child will cling to even one kind word or action from their father like it was manna from heaven. This particular boy was different. After listening to what his mom had to say, he simply smiled and said, “OK mom…”. Yet deep down all his fears, disappointment, and feelings of being ashamed began to well up inside him. What would his new friends at school think of his dad? Would his dad continue to act out in a drunken stupor and often violent manner once again? Would he commit another crime? Would his mom and him have to move again to another town or city to get a fresh start? After all, he had discovered at an early age what it was like to be ridiculed and ostracized because of the wrongful actions of his father. He knew how cruel people can be when you are associated with someone that the community shuns. The good news was not good news at all.

I think that living openly as a follower of Christ can feel like that sometimes. The gospel or good news and our identification with Jesus Christ often brings ridicule, ostracism, and pseudo feelings of shame. We are falsely accused by those people that do not understand or those that merely hate us for what we stand for. To be slandered or accused of wrong doing, when one is fully innocent, can bring all kinds of mixed emotions. We do what is right only for our words or our actions to be twisted and distorted by the EVIL ONE in such a way that we appear as the wrong doer. Sound familiar? This is simply part and parcel of what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. If they hated Him, they will surely hate us.

The Apostle Paul knew and understood what it was like to be hated and persecuted by evil men. That denial and hatred of the good news of Jesus Christ by Paul’s opposition would eventually lead to his death and martyrdom. Yet Paul, in the midst of  violent opposition and persecution proclaimed,

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – the Jew first and also the Gentile. Romans 1:16 NLT

Paul knew the personal cost of identifying with Jesus. He also knew the consequences of shrinking back and denying his master.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38 NLT

This is where the rubber meets the road for Christians. To be a fully devoted follower of Christ will cost us everything, perhaps even our very lives. So don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid – we are merely strangers passing through a foreign land. There is a better place for all those who trust in God’s saving grace.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 NIV

#NoFear

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