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WHAT THE HISTORY OF ETHIOPIA TEACHES US ABOUT THE IDEA OF PROGRESS.

By Paul Merkley.

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Recent events, both in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and throughout the land, suggest that that ancient country – Africa’s second most populous nation at about 110,000,000, nearly four times the population of Canada — is headed for division, civil war, and even anarchy.

The most recent events in a very confused chronicle include a failed coup on June 26, conducted by what is described as a “rogue state militia”, followed a day or two later by “dozens” of large-scale protests (www.dw.com/en/dozens-killed-in-weekend-protests-across-ethiopia; www.voanews.com/africa/assassinations-arrests-test-ethiopias-fragile-push-toward-democracy; http://www.nationalpost.com/pmn/elections-pmn/ethiopia-faces-more-conflict-with-ethnic-groups-push-for-region.)

It will probably be several weeks before we know what these events amount to.

This is a depressing development. Political life in Ethiopia is now in total disarray — a step closer to almost inevitable anarchy.

It would take a steady hand and nerves of steel to write the history of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of two nations (the other being Israel) that appears in the earliest books of our Bible—at least in the King James Version — by the name (“Ethiopia,” which means “land of burnt faces”) that it has today.

In our Bible, the Kingdom of Sheba, corresponds to what we call Ethiopia, but extends beyond those present-day boundaries to include the Horn of Africa and the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula. In Biblical days, the kingdom was renowned for its material wealth: The “Queen of Sheba,” we read, came to Jerusalem “with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” ( IKings 10:2); “Never again came such an abundance of spices” (IKings 10:10; IIChron 9:1–9) as those she gave to Solomon.

Like every other assertion that the Bible makes, this one is, of course, disputed—in whole or in part. But there seems to be no good reason to doubt its main details.

Ethiopian historians follow this Biblical account, and add to it the detail that the child born to Solomon and Sheba was Emperor Menelik I who founded the Solomonid dynasty. This dynasty continued until Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974 by a Communist coup; the Communist regime which, in turn, was ousted a few years later.

Not even the experts can rhyme off the names of all the regimes that have governed this poor African nation. During the late Nineteenth Century, when the European nations were caught up in their “scramble” to re-organize African people into “colonies,” Ethiopia remained independent. But then, in 1936, Ethiopia’s last monarch, Haile Selassie, fled as Mussolini, dictator of Italy, sent in his armies and imposed his cruel regime – for no better reason than that the rest of Africa was already all parceled up into European-colonial blocks. But the Ethiopian people, with the assistance of the British, fought their way out of Italy’s clutches by 1945; Haile Selassie slouched back, but proved so incompetent and so venal that he had to slink away again in September, 1974. When the dust settled upon that chapter, a Communist government – of all unlikely things! – was standing in Haile Selassie’s place. This regime proved incredibly cruel, even by Communist standards. The nation lost about eight million people to famine. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did its clients – including Communist Ethiopia (by 1991.)

Since 1991, efforts to put the Ethiopian government on a sound basis through the holding of elections have all come crashing down, as in every case one or more of countless nationalist movements have withheld their support. Today, Ethiopia is governed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – a grand name, but just another African kleptocracy.

Today, all across Ethiopia, massive popular protests, aimed at securing basic human rights and a fairer distribution of wealth, are being dispersed by Ethiopian police forces and military. Chronic inter-tribal hostilities have caused so much internal dislocation that the government has been able to blanket the nation with one seamless declaration of national emergency after another. Millions of people are reckoned as internally displaced.

Ethiopia, then also known as the Kingdom of Aksum, was one of the first states to officially adopt the religion of Christianity—from the top down. Today, the vast majority of the population of Ethiopia adheres to Christianity – and the vast majority of these belong to the State Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Roughly a third of the populace follows Islam (primarily Sunni.) During the late 19th-century “Scramble for Africa”, Ethiopia was one of two nations to retain its sovereignty, standing exempt from long-term colonialism by a European colonial power. But then, in 1936, the country was occupied by Italy and became part of the Italian East Africa, until it was liberated during World War II. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by a communist-military government backed by the Soviet Union. This People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, in turn, was overthrown in 1991 by the non-Marxist Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.

Unfortunately, Ethiopia’s right to be called a “democratic nation” has been tarnished again and again, despite so many apparent new beginnings. According to the Democracy Index published by the United Kingdom-based Economist Intelligence Unit in late 2010, Ethiopia is an “authoritarian regime”, ranking as the 118th-most democratic out of 167 countries in the world. In fact, over the last decade alone, Ethiopia has dropped down a notch or two with each annual publication of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of the democratic qualifications of all of the world self-described “democratic nations.” The latest report attributes the sagging reputation of Ethiopia to that government’s crackdown on opposition activities as well as the low level of performance of its media and civil society. The current report of the Economist Intelligence Unit designates Ethiopia a de facto one-party state.

This is a depressing development. Political life in Ethiopia is now in total disarray—a step closer to almost inevitable anarchy.

What makes this this even more depressing is the recognition that the History of Ethiopia takes us back as far as documented History takes us anywhere. Actual historical material for the earliest centuries is, of course, sparse. Still, Ethiopia’s history takes the historians as far back as the History of the Ancient Hebrews — about two thousand years further back than the origins of any European nation.

This thought all by itself demolishes the notion of human progress. To all but the specialists, there is nothing about Ethiopia’s history to suggest that along the way Ethiopian common people were ever better governed, happier, materially better-off or more secure in their homes than they are today. Ethiopia’s thirty-five centuries or so of history – that is, about twenty-five centuries more history than that of any European nation — while colorful and very noisy, does not yield the hallmarks of “progress” that Nineteenth Century Liberals told us would stand out as the organizing theme of World History.

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A TALE OF TWO TRUDEAUS:

The Current Challenge to the Place of Christian Faith in Canada’s Public Life.

By Paul Merkley.

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From the beginning, Canada has allowed a place in her public life for expression of our indebtedness to the God of the Bible – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

The status of this concept in our present constitution is secured by reason of wording that appears in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which stands as the preamble to the Canada Act of 1982 – the principal source for our current constitution. Here we read, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.. (https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const)

Our experience of independent national life, now a matter of a century-and-a-half, has demonstrated that occasional public expression of this indebtedness is necessary for sustaining broadly-shared confidence in divine protection over our public life.

This acknowledgment is in every way compatible with individual, personal, and private acceptance of the great variety of other religious commitments –as well as well as the options of agnosticism and atheism.

A close study of the historical record bears out, in fact, that it is only under this practice – that is, in a context where nominal affirmation of the God of the Bible exists side by side with a reasonable agnosticism when national symbols are invoked – that “peace, order, and good government” in fact do exist as a matter of history.

In light of this historical reality, we should be taking very seriously the fact that at the very top of our political life there is taking hold today an attitude of contempt for Christianity, its legacy and its values. In preamble to an address to a convocation of scientists, Julie Payette, our twenty-ninth Governor-General, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on July 13, 2017, brazenly put to use the prestige of her office to launch a dogmatic assault upon the theological premise which, as just noted, is embedded in our Constitution. “So many people,” she opined, “still believe, want to believe that maybe taking a sugar pill will cure cancer if you will it good enough and that your future and every single one of the people here’s personalities [sic!!!] can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations!”

This excursion from the world of biblical faith into the world of daily newspaper horoscopy demeans the former while it insults the intelligence of just about every adult. The reporter who quotes this blast describes it as having been “met with the delight of many scientists and researchers in the room.” No doubt. And this could arguably be the most depressing aspect of the story. Such segue from the context of Biblically-based religion into the world of horoscopes is meant to level down the former to the philosophical and moral of paganism.

A more basic question might be: Are today’s scientists so lacking in self-respect that words as cluttered and confused as Payette’s seemed not to bother anybody in that roomful of post-graduate scientists? In fact, the reception, we are told, was rapturous.

Plainly, the purpose of Payette’s words was to establish in the public record an ex officio declaration of contempt for the religious belonging of most of the people whom she is supposed to represent. Would she dare express similar contempt, ex officio, for hockey?

Clearly, our Governor-General calculates that   Canadian people are indifferent to the reputation of the faith that has informed public life of Canada from its beginning…a calculation that the Canadian public is not bothered by such an expression of contempt for the principles that are plainly stated in the document which embodies our present Constitution – the Canada Act of 1982.

The least worrying part of the Governor-General’s observation here is not in the words, but in the spirit – a brazen and palpable contempt for the religious faith which (the best studies show) is shared by two-thirds of the Canadian public. In this light, it is amazing that this bombshell has gone virtually un-noticed:

A few alert critics were, however, disturbed by the mean-spirited character of Payette’s pronouncement. Conservative political strategist Alise Mills a senior associate with Sussex Strategy Group, said that Payette went way over the line with her speech, which Mills characterized as not only “political” but “mean-spirited.” “I definitely agree science is key,” she said, “but I think there is a better way to do that without making fun of other people.”

As I watched the chattering classes and prominent Liberal politicians storm to Payette’s defence, it occurred to me how indistinguishable the latter group is from the former. Many Liberal partisans would have seen the criticism as God-bothering nonsense from a bunch of conservative dinosaurs…. To the extent “middle class” means anything, in an electoral sense, it means a large group of people who aren’t rich, who don’t have three university degrees, who have never even visited France let alone failed to properly disclose a chateau they own there, and who are more likely than not to believe in God ….With her dig at religion, Julie Payette plays a dangerous game… The chattering classes might be just fine with an anti-religious Governor General. The folks who put Julie Payette in Rideau Hall certainly shouldn’t be…. [The intellect5ual elites think:] Why shouldn’t a scientist, appointed as the Queen’s representative in Ottawa, take the odd jab at the two-thirds of benighted Canadians who believe in God (per Angus Reid in 2015), and the 53 per cent who believe God is “active in this world.” (Julie Payette Speech Mocked People With Religious Beliefs, Critic Says https://nationalpost.com/opinion/chris-selley-with-her-dig-at-religion-julie-payette-plays-a-dangerous-game-for-liberals.)

Mills rightly noted that “Payette wasn’t just promoting science, she was mocking people with religious beliefs, and specifically, evangelical Christians who don’t believe evolutionary science.”

A political-science student of literalist bent would detect a discrepancy between this proclamation of Canada’s Governor-General and the founding document of the nation that she has hired on to serve.

In similar vein, Chris Selley, writing in the National Post, notes: “I definitely agree science is key but I think there is a better way to do that without making fun of other people.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t seem to have any issue with what Payette said, saying, “I applaud the firmness with which she stands in support of science and the truth.”

Interestingly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who possesses three-quarters of an undergraduate B.A., went to Twitter to congratulate the Governor General for “speaking up for science.”

In comparison and contrast with Justin Trudeau, his much-better-educated father, Pierre Trudeau, (Prime Minister, 1968-1979) did everything humanly possible to keep the matter of his active Catholic practise out of our view during his lifetime. In this, he was a zealous as was Prime Minister W.L.M. King to keep from public view his devotion to spiritual mediumship. Trudeau succeeded to the extent that it was only long after his death that the archival historians found the evidence of his daily attendance at morning Mass. No doubt, Trudeau calculated that such information – so hard to reconcile with his carefully-cultivated image as the “swinger” — would not be a political asset. And no doubt he was right.

Justin Trudeau has been, at least in one sense, more open about his Catholic belonging while at the same time having, at least on record, much less commitment to practice of that faith. Certainly, there has never been any suggestion of daily attendance at mass. Indeed, he has been reluctant to give a straight answer to the question of whether he attends mass at all these day.

Still, Justin Trudeau states, “My own personal faith is an extremely important part of who I am and the values that I try to lead with.”

The question occurs: Is it better for a public man’s reputation that he should be found, after his death, to have worked as furiously as Pierre Trudeau did to put his public off the scent of his religious practise—or (as Justin Trudeau does today) that he should so publicly declare his contempt for the role that religion does in fact have in the daily lives of most Canadians?

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CHRISTIAN LIFE IS UNDER ASSAULT THROUGHOUT THE EAST.

Paul Merkley

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On April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, a group of about seven young men belonging to the Muslim majority in the Sri Lankan capital-city of Colombo set out on a mission to murder as many local Christians as possible and thereby win the accolades (they imagined) of the entire Muslim world. https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1118884/isis-news-sri-lanka-bombings-attacks-donald-trump-pope-francis

Practically speaking, the most satisfactory way of accomplishing this task without being prevented was to make a suicide mission of it. So a volunteer, Jamal Mohammad, stepped forward; they packed his body with enough high-explosives to rock the city for miles in all directions and they sent him to walk through the doors of the building in which the congregation was meeting — to meet Allah in the sky.

This hero’s associates carried out eight other explosions across Sri Lanka that day.

On the day of its reporting, the death toll was calculated at two hundred and thirty five, but it has been re-calculated (when I last checked) at three hundred and fifty-nine, with five hundred wounded. A high proportion of the victims were children — almost surely specifically targeted.

(“The Sunday School Children: The Little-Known Tragedy of the Sri-Lankan Easter Attack, cnn.com/2019/05/04.)

More evidence (if any were needed) contradicting the notion persisting among our information elites that Islam, a source of humane thinking, somehow represents the cause of the downtrodden, is found in the apparent fact that all of the known participants were born into privileged families. One is believed to have studied aerospace engineering in the United Kingdom.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1117233/sri-lanka-easter…

One or two exceptionally alert commentators in our part of the world have noted the disparity between the minimal media attention given to this incident and the gigantic attention generated worldwide by the massacre carried out at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand a few days earlier. (See Giullio Meotti, “Annihilation of Christian life and people: Where is the outrage in the West? Meeting Catastrophe with Indifference, Gatestone Institute, April 28, 2019.) Instead of expressing proportionate outrage at this most recent act of Islamist terror, our own government is preoccupied with the task of protecting from vulgar criticism the reputation of Islam. Our media have chosen to look the other way while Ralph Goodale, our Minister of Public Safety, got busy and erased from his Department’s Report on the Threat from Terrorism in Canada all the original references to Islam and derivatives of that radioactive word. Instead, there appears limp-wristed language about generic “extremism.”( Stewart Bell and Abigail Bimman, “Government removes all mention of ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shia’ extremism from terrorism threat report, Global News, May 2, 2019.) Scott Bardsley, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s spokesperson, explains that, before the Minister got to it with his blue pencil, the threat report had “unintentionally maligned certain communities” and the government wanted a “bias-free approach” to terminology.

The elephant in this particular room is, of course, the fact that it is Islam that has inspired most deeds of violence against our public and our institutions. It is not, par example, the Salvation Army whose deeds require this admonition to shut down the naming of names.

 

For as long as most of us can remember, our elected leaders have engaged in a conspiracy (I choose this word with care) to protect the reputation of Islam from open criticism – a policy that stands in contrast to their equally forceful policy of denying even minimal courtesy to the legacy of Christianity.

 

But there is worse: Inspiration for this wilful denial, by our government, of Islam’s hateful side is drawn from the policy pursued at the highest levels by our church leaders. Giullio Meotti, a brave and dogged Italian journalist, has worked a out a calendar of the occasions on which the present Pope has spoken out about the sad plight of migrants from the Muslim world and elsewhere—and he finds that, so far, in 1919 alone, there have been about twenty-five such moments…. “and maybe I missed some.” “I don’t understand,” he says: “it seems to have become the Pope’s only mission. An obsession. Meanwhile, Islamists are winning their war against the persecuted Christians.”

By way of example, Meotti notes that the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, have felt compelled for three weeks now to cancel all masses throughout the land, so as to deny new targets to the deranged (but well-educated) champions of Allah, who imagine (no doubt correctly) that the Muslim majority in Sri Lanka as well as around the world supports such persecution of people who have come up with the wrong answer to the questions which religion asks.

Just as the assassins had hoped, the Christian people of Sri Lanka are now turning in large numbers to thoughts of exodus from the land where they were born. This state of affairs is reminiscent of Egypt, which once had a large Christian minority but has lost to emigration one-half of that population during the Twentieth Century.

Overall, the percentage of Christians in the Middle East is now five per cent of the total population (as of 2010) — down from 10% in 1900. Pollsters find that violence and ever-greater religious intolerance are the major  factors  behind this trend. Both in Syria and Iraq, which had a large Christian minorities in modern times, it has become almost impossible to celebrate mass anywhere in safety.

“I am sad to think that maybe the time will come in which Christianity will disappear from this land” – that is the upbeat last-quarter prophecy of Rev. Juan Solana,  the Vatican’s own envoy to this region (spoken to the Associated Press.) It is typical of the defeatist mindset of the church’s leaders there.

Accordingly, the current Pope, the man who wants us to think of him as the pre-eminent Pastor of the Christian people of the world, has chosen not to mention publicly the persecution of the Christian people in the Middle East.

Giullio Meotti brings this issue home to Christians in the West. He asks: “Should European civilization, attacked by the same butchers of Eastern Christians, not feel challenged by the persecution of these minorities which seem to be forgotten by everyone, even by their pastor in Rome?”

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CHINA STEPS UP ITS CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHRISTIANITY.

BY Paul Merkley.

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The democratic concept holds that . . . each man is a sovereign being. This is the illusion, dream, and postulate of Christianity.

  • Karl Marx.

 

There is nowhere on earth where the words of the founders of Communism are more nearly ubiquitous and apparently respected than in the People’s Republic of China. Equally, there is no place on earth where Marx’s screwball diagnosis of how society works is more at odds with life itself. I have in mind China’s aggressive capitalistic spirit, but also the persistent “spirituality” that is a feature of China’s past and present.

 

We are all in debt to the People’s Republic of China for its constant reminder to us of what Karl Marx really believed and stood for. Above all, the PRC teaches that Communism is utterly incompatible with the “illusion” of singular human meaning. Communism’s contempt for Christianity and its contempt for democracy are the two sides of the same coin: its founder’s judgment that singular human meaning is a contemptible illusion and the source of all historical failure.

 

The PRC hates Christianity like the plague. China is presently engaged in a record-shattering campaign to spread contempt for Christian faith while it proceeds energetically with its policy of removing the basic citizen rights of all of its citizens. Not coincidentally, China leads the world in the matter of incarceration of its own citizens. Likewise, it leads the world in application of all the newest techniques for invasion of privacy.

Conveniently, China also leads the world in manufacture and implementation of technology that makes possible greater and greater control of its population. (See my essay, “Let’s Not Invite China Into Our Lives, Bayview Review, March 10, 2019.)

The Chinese government officially announced in November 2013 that it would abolish the Re-education Through Labour (RTL) System, under which inmates were held and routinely subjected to forced labour for up to four years. However, a 2017 report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission alleges that China still maintains a network of state detention facilities that use forced labour. https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/2018/findings/country-studies/china.

As one part of its program for establishing totalitarian control over its citizens, China’s Communist party is intensifying religious persecution. The sufficient reason for this tactic is the simple and embarrassing fact that every few months the proportion of its citizens who declare for Christ grows. The Chinese government perceives, correctly, that declaring for Christ necessarily sets in place potential conflict between the purposes of the State and the obligations that the Christian understands are imposed upon him by his commitment to his Faith. The notion that the authority of the State could be limited in any way is intolerable to Marxist-Leninists and even more to Maoists — and now most of all to Xiists.

Here is a case-study in this matter:

In late October, Wang Yi, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground (that is, illegal – that is, unregistered) churches, the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, was arrested, along with his wife, Jian Rong, on the charge of leading an “unofficial” church. (https://www.chinaaid.org/2018/12.) Both are, so far as we know, still in detention. Their church building is now closed, while police stand nearby to make sure that no one attempts to use the premises for prayer – the exercise that the Communist state fears more than anything else. While Pastor Wang remains in detention, police have arrested more than 100 brave members of the Early Rain church; uncounted others have been sent out of Chengdu and are barred from returning. The hall in which Wang preached has been emptied of pulpit, seats, and of course its cross, while the space has been leased by the State to a construction company – a brutally obvious declaration of the mind of the powers that govern |China. Anyone found looking for the church – either because he has not heard the news or because he likes to gawk – is turned away by a plainclothes policeman.

A crucial feature of the State’s anti-Christian program is the closing down of bookstores that sell Bibles or Christian literature. An even more sinister development is the State’s promotion of a new state-authorized “translation” of the Bible which establishes a ‘correct understanding’ of the text. In plain words: Communist and Maoist principles have been insinuated into the received text so as to create the illusion that Biblical principles are identical with the teachings of Marx, Lenin, Mao and Xi Jinping.

Journalists in our part of the world have shown a depressing tendency to defame the role of Christianity in the history of modern China. High-School teachers who imagine that they have a grasp on history remember having learned along the way of life that the missionaries who founded the church in China were oppressors, associated in the crime of imperialism with bankers and such-like parasites. But serious historians know that the missionary church was overwhelmingly a force for good — that it worked to reduce the hold of hereditary elites over family life and public life and to advance individualism. Christian missions played an essential role in preparing leaders who steered China’s public life for several perilous decades, from the days when it was colonized by Japan—perhaps the most ruthless, the most inhumane of all the imperial regimes of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth century class – until 1950, when Communist armies cleared the path to power of one of the world’s most tyrannical, bloody and violent regimes – that of Chairman Mao, whose image broods down from giant posters in the dorms of so many university students in our part of the world.

When it snatched the reins of power from the fleeing leaders of the Kuomintang Party Government in 1950, China’s governing Communist Party was publicly committed to imposing a perfect totalitarianism under the guidance of Marxist-Leninism, as clarified by the monster Mao Dze-dong. The best qualified scholars on this theme tell us that this gang of totalitarian monsters which called itself the People’s Republic of China was responsible — either through deliberate and malicious policy —  for the deaths of 65 million of its own Chinese citizens. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Book_of_Communism

In the front rank of the public commitments of the Communist Party of China when it took power in 1950 was to extinguish all vestiges of Christianity (as well as of other religious movements, such as the Muslim Uighurs.) But the number of persons publicly declaring as Christians, despite the risks, has grown steadily ever since. Today, there are at least 60 million Christians in China – a figure roughly equal to twice the population of Canada. Each and every one understands that he could at any moment be declared an Enemy of the State and detained – possibly for life.

And so, today, China’s government is returning to Plan A –the eradication of Christianity through suppression of its ability to speak the truth publicly. Leaders of illegal “house churches” tell friends in our part of the world that hundreds of their unofficial congregations have been closed down in recent months; minors are forcibly barred from attending church services, crosses have been pulled down or covered by official Chinese flag or by giant posters of Mao Dze-dong or Xi Jin-ping. All of this amounts to the most severe suppression of Christianity since “Religious Freedom” was engraved in the Chinese constitution in 1982.

Another approach to the problem of Christianity’s continuing appeal is reflected in the government’s work plan for “promoting Chinese Christianity.” What is required here is “thought reform”. Part of the plan has been implemented already. This calls for removal of Bibles for purchase from bookstores or online. Simultaneously, “scholars” appointed by the government, are “retranslating and annotating” the Bible — by appointees of the State of course. These “scholars” have succeeded in finding a “correct understanding” of the text – one which gives the impression that Socialism is the real gospel, from Moses to Jesus.

Xi Jin-ping, the Lord High Everything Else of China for Life, has called for the country to guard against “infiltration” through religion and extremist ideology. But in face of the efforts of the regime to court churches and lure them into compromise, Chinese Christian leaders, we are told, take inspiration from the story of how Christian leaders in the Soviet bloc lived to see Christian resistance issue in the downfall of Communism.

So far, it does not appear that this happy day is in sight. But then, no one foresaw the downfall of all those European Communist nations in the late Summer 1989.

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LET’S NOT INVITE CHINA INTO OUR LIVES.

By Paul Merkley.

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Two closely-linked phenomena, virtually ignored by our media, ought to be being raised to the top of the list of themes needing urgent discussion by the public and by our governments.

The first is the fact that the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist government of China is now undertaking a massive, unprecedented “social credit” programme which amounts to taking official account of all of the activities of every Chinese person – even the most seemingly trivial activities – for the purpose of achieving complete, totalitarian control of  the behavior of the citizens of China.

And the second is that everyone doing business in China – including all those who belong to our world – is being required to submit himself to a version of this same Orwellian thought-and-activity control as the cost of doing business with the world’ most populous country.

But,  let’s first back up to take note of the awesome expansion of the internet – by far the most revolutionary development in human communication of the past century. In the year 2000 there were some 738 million  users of the Internet in the world—virtually all of them here, in our part of the world. By 2005 there were more that three billion. By 2015 there were 3.2 billion, a number which, obviously, includes many hundreds of millions beyond the perimeter of our world. (See, “3.2 Billion People Now Using Internet World,” time.com/money/3896219/internet-users-worldwide.)  These billions of new customers for the internet providers  are mostly subjects of governments in Africa and the Far East – that is to say, that  they depend upon their governments to do the diplomacy necessary to support their access to and their full enjoyment of internet services.

According to Michael Pisa, a policy fellow at the Washington-based think-tank, Center for Global Development, these “developing countries” are being drawn into Beijing’s orbit of influence on account of their imagined need for Beijing’s internet capabilities. Most concerning of all is the expectation that those countries could be attracted to China’s restrictive internet model rather than to any of the models that operate among us precisely because the Chinese model provide ways and means to support surveillance of the populations of these nations and likewise to stifle dissent – while always proclaiming loudly their intent to advance democracy and liberty among their people.

“Third World governments” (as we used to call them) have always been most keen on putting to use the newest ways to monitor their citizens’ activities and to suppress dissent. According to a recent Report from Freedom House, “Beijing [in 2019]. took steps to propagate its model abroad by conducting large-scale trainings of foreign officials [from at least 36 countries], providing technology to authoritarian governments, and demanding that international companies abide by its content regulations, even when operating outside of China.” s Hidden Camps

(“Spread of China’s State-Controlled Internet Model Raises Concerns,” The Epoch Times, February 6th, 2019.)

At the same time as it has  been  so aggressively campaigning to enlarge its share of the wealth of the world, the Communist Party of China his been conducting a massive internal purge within the ever-more exclusive gang of trusted buddies of Xi Jin-ping – the President-for-Life – as it proceeds towards establishment of the most thorough totalitarian experiment of all time.

China is extending and perfecting beyond limits that we once thought possible the capacity of its government to oversee the activities of its citizens. Already, surveillance systems in Tianjin identify jaywalkers and display their faces on street-side billboards as proof of the State’s capacity to know in every moment of time what the citizen is doing. Over 176 million video surveillance cameras now monitor China’s streets, buildings and public spaces. Using these omnipresent eyes-in-the-sky, China’s government is busily amassing  a “social-credit” system that seeks  to track everyone’s activity in every moment of time in all public space. The day is fast approaching when it will not be possible so much as to visit a pal for a friendly drink without having this deed noted, counted into one’s “Social Credit” record sheet, and evaluated for what it does  or does not contribute to the good of the Party.

The truly scary part of this story is that Governments in Africa and Latin America are welcoming and adapting to their own needs  China’s surveillance capabilities. With China’s hi-tech geniuses looking helpfully over their shoulders, these nations are becoming better-equipped for the work of surveillance of their own citizens. Likewise, Chinese surveillance equipment, once installed by Third World governments, remains of use to China in its ongoing task of gathering facts about the activities of its own citizens and those of third-party-governments.

Human Rights Watch has called out companies that are gathering and codifying the most basic facts about DNA sequences and (we are told) are now supplying these to Chinese police services.  Facial recognition technology is now just one of these new sciences generated by companies which are funded largely from government contracts.

US Vice President Mike Pence has noted all of this and spoke out in October about “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.”

At the same time, we note that Xi Jinping, China’s President for Life and the Communist Party’s Supreme leader is actively re-shaping the educational system in his Country so as to include larger and larger portions of propaganda about the glorious History of the Communist Party of China. Simultaneously, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” is taking over the schooling at all levels and occupying the  minds of all citizens.

 

But most worrying to us outsiders is the growing evidence that the Communist Party of China it aiming to establish a similar role for itself in the ongoing training of Europeans and Americans who come to China to serve their European  and America companies. In the Government of China is taking measures to ensure that within the curriculum  established by Western governments for the training of their own staffs there should be found place for a portion of propaganda on behalf of the Communist Party of China—including the study of its history and the study of Xi Jin Ping Thought. In November, the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce spoke out its concerns about the Chinese government’s pro-active efforts to “promote the development of the Communist Party of China within [Western] companies.”

 

For decades now, we have been hearing the mantra that  opening up China to trade with the world would have a liberalizing effect: that China’s government would soon learn about the benefits of laissez-faire and step away from its statist behavior;  above all that  China would get over its fascination with the project of   micro-managing the lives of its people.

But in fact the opposite is happening.  The government of China is becoming more repressive, not less so, with every day.

Of particular concern to Christians in Canada are well-attested reports of  a six-fold increase in government persecution of  Christians in Christian  in the last few years. (“China’s Christian persecution of highest level since Mao,” www.washingtontimes.com/news, June 6, /2018.)

President Xi has pronounced that all religion  must be guided by the Party. This will result in “the Sinicization” of Christianity – by “bending Christianity to the will of the Chinese Communist party.” Pictures have emerged showing contrite Christian  worshippers covering up the crosses in  their church assembly halls with giant posters of Mao Dze-dong and Xi jin-ping. (“Christians In China Must Replace Jesus With Pictures of Xi jinping,” Newsweek,  November 14, 2017.)

 

At the same time,  the Communist Party of China is improving its ability to monitor the lives of all of its citizens. By 2020, 600 million CCTV cameras – nearly one for every two Chinese citizens—will be in place. CCTV cameras now monitor 24/7 the entrances of ever church building in the land.

 

A particularly brazen aspect of this anti-religious campaign has been an effort to take possession on behalf of the State of the text that sustains our faith. Before long, online sales of the Bible will be prohibited in China. Chinese people will only be allowed to purchase the version of the Holy Bible commission and published and distributed by the Communist Part of China!

These are only some of the ways in which Christian faith is being forced to submit to the demands of the State. The cult of Xi-Jin-ping, now fully established within the Party, the schools, the military and other aspects of public life. is about to be imposed with full force over the already-circumscribed life of the Church.

Do our political leaders not recognize that by entering into scientific, commercial or political collaboration with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist regime of china we are hurrying the collapse of our own institutions?

Any serious student of the history of the Early church will know that a similar act of submission – this one to the cult of the Emperor Nero — was imposed upon all followers of Jesus Christ. This was the trap in which the authorities caught the Apostle Paul and beheaded him publicly in Rome in 64 or 65 AD.  And it is precisely the trap that is set for  Chinese Christians in this hour.

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BLASPHEMY AS MARKET STRATEGY.

By Paul Merkley.

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Most adult Canadians – but boys, more than girls – will recall with enthusiasm the comic books published by DC Comics and Marvel Comics. There was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and many others.

Think, therefore, for a moment, what we are being told about our popular culture when we see that the owners of D.C. Comics have thrown in their lot with the despisers of Christianity, in confidence that the commercial bottom-line will benefit.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s campaign to make allegiance to the God of the Christians impossible for intellectuals and self-respecting elitists is now being promoted among comic-book readers.

It is essential to note here that comic books are no longer being produced for nor promoted for children. Nor is there anything “comic” about them any more. Commercial advertisers understand that the juvenile audience is now gathered around the television set. This tectonic shift leaves the comic-book format available for the entertainment of adults—mainly males – whose intellectual and moral development atrophied at age 14.

Lots of consequential things follow from this revolution, but only one interests me here—and that is that the producers of today’s comic books are providing their audience with content deliberately designed to capture and advance the contempt that they imagine that this adult audience has for Christian faith.

We know that business men have armies of deep-thinkers at their service, ready to provide scientifically-validated market-strategies. These self-confident souls are now offering up to their employers proof that explicit, muscular contempt for God, and for Christian faith in particular, is today and forever into the future a secure, winning strategy for commercial success.

 

DC Comics is planning to release, starting March 6th, a six-episode comic-book series entitled “Second Coming.” In it, Jesus Christ stumbles mindlessly at the side of a heroic character – a character as brilliant as “Jesus” is clueless. He is “Sun-Man, the Last Son of Krispex.”

Indeed, celestial heroes of this sort were worshipped throughout the Roman Empire at the time that the Gospel came into the world, presenting a message totally incompatible with this popular “paganism” of the day.

Think what it tells us about the mindset of the business-men who own D.C. Comics. Assuming that any one of them ever had any loyalty to the content of Christian faith, these persons have been persuaded, for the sake of the bottom-line of the DC Comics company, to set this behind them so that they can participate in this aggressive, abusive campaign. It is clear that in this company the very notion of blasphemy does not occur.

In short: they believe that for themselves individually, there is more to gain, than to lose by turning their backs on Christ and standing in the chorus of His mockers.

For a look at the mindset that governs among these prosperous despisers of Christian faith I am led to the website of “Bleeding-Cool” https://www.facebook.com/bleedingcoolnews which describes itself as “an internet news site, owned by Avatar press, focusing on comics, TV, film, and games. On this site, Mark Russell.. the proud author of the comic-book under review here and ready for release in March, summarizes the story-line as follows: God was so upset with Jesus’ performance the first time he came to Earth (since he was arrested after barely beginning his task and crucified so shortly afterwards) “that God has kept him [Jesus] locked up since then.” Now Jesus comes back as the bumbling, clueless roommate and side-kick of “a powerful superhero, named Sun-Man.”

In case the subtler points of my complaint against D.C. Comics may elude my readers, I suggest that these readers   try to imagine the response to a comic-book hero— equally dense, similarity at-a-loss about getting around in the world of His Creator, but presented as identical to Prophet Muhammad. Put simply: DC comics, for all its wealth, could not afford the cost of protecting the lives and properties of its employees from the deadly wrath of our Muslim fellow-citizens, which would immediately rise to a level comparable to the wrath that swe[t away the Twin Tower. Apart from all other considerations, these knuckle-dragging artists know that the perpetrators of blasphemous material like this are kept safe by the apathy and the indulgence indifference of the generality of nominal Christians.

In an essay published here some months ago (https://thebayviewreview.com/2018/04/09/beyond-blasphemy

I wrote of the successful campaign of an ice-cream company in Toronto – Sweet Baby Jesus — to turn profit for its investors by promoting its ice cream under the banner of explicit contempt for Christian faith. So far as I can determine, the effort of some serious Christian people to persuade these deep-thinkers to give up their display of contempt for Christ has failed. (See “Sweet Baby Jesus ice cream parlour faces backlash over name,” Toronto Star, March 25, 2018.) The company still operates, although for some reason the ownership has changed. Its adverting still turns on winning masses of Torontonians to step up to the counter and say out loud that they would like a “Sweet Baby Jesus.” There is no way of addressing the teen-age clerk behind the counter that does not require this act of blatant blasphemy.

The inevitable conclusion here is that the people who have established themselves as experts in the work of merchandising upon which our general prosperity depends have proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that people generally welcome an opportunity to indulge in blasphemy against Christian faith. In short, ice cream tastes even better when you get to ask out loud for “Sweet Baby Jesus.”

Or perhaps (a consideration even more depressing), perhaps the generality ice-cream consumers like the generality of comic-book readers, are no longer aware of what blasphemy is.

Which must also mean that the notion of “God” and the significance of “Jesus Christ” likewise escapes them.

In which case, we are in the post-Christian age, with no way back.

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EMMANUEL MACRON: A Man For Various Seasons.

By Paul Merkley.

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Recent European National Politics.

Just recently, European national politics has come to be dominated by novices – men who had little political experience before being swept into top office by a bedazzled electorate.

(In fact, we could broaden that canvas to include Donald Trump, elected  President of the USA in 2016 while never having held public office  — but that’s a subject for another time.)

The most significant of the factors behind this phenomenon is, of course, the magic of national and international news-media and general entertainment media, working in tandem to produce instant fame  – thus short-circuiting processes which until recently normally required years and even decades.

In Western Europe, the sudden celebrity of national politicians is linked to another phenomenon — the abrupt appearance of brand-new political parties, led by new and untested political personalities. This story has played out within the last few years in Spain, in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Western Europe.  With little notice, these new parties have in just the last two or three years bounced out of government the long-established political parties (generally described as ‘centrist” by their supporters and “elitist” by their enemies) which have dominated governments of Western Europe since the end of the Second World War.

Typical of these recent political whirlwind romances  is the story of the movement called Us with Salvini, which  sprung up suddenly in Italy as a poplar response to the out-of-control immigration of Syrians and other Arab-Muslims, tolerated by an Italian government that was founded on older “centrist” parties. Supporters of Salvini’s party, like supporters of like-minded “populist” movements in the Netherlands, in Spain and elsewhere, have come to sudden notoriety on account of their hard-boiled stand against illegal immigration and against the attitudes towards this reality that have characterised national media and elitist opinion generally. Salvini’s party, in cooperation with a  sister party, Lega Nord, participated in the June, 2018 general election, gaining enough seats to qualify  the party for partnership in the  government and to qualify Matteo himself to take the job of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. 

 

Recent French National Politics: The Meteoric Career of Emmanuel Macron.

Definitely belonging to this broader European story has been the sudden rise to the Presidency of France of Emmanuel Macron. Significantly before Macron the youngest French head of state had been Napoleon—who virtually blasted his way to power. We live in a gentler age: the same numbing effect that Napoleon achieved over the French mind was accomplished almost overnight on behalf of Emmanuel Macron by means of quiet, well-organized journalistic propaganda campaign.

But today, as I write (January 9, 2018), President Macron is well into the third month of massive civilian protests against what the French public perceives as his indifference to their daily struggles, his attachment to the interests of the rich and powerful, as the economy sinks further each month The “yellow vest” (gilets jaunes) movement began at the end of November as a grassroots rebellion against taxes on diesel fuel and the high cost of living. It opened with the blocking of roads, occupying highway tollbooths and the rush of citizens from the countryside into Paris.

Understandably, given the duration of the protest, the numbers participating have declined. But those who remain to thrust themselves to the front ranks have begun orchestrating ever more violent provocations. At one point they brought a forklift truck to the doors of a government ministry compound, torched cars on and around the Champs Elysees, and managed at one location to kick riot police officers to the ground. Last Sunday, Macron wrote on Twitter: “Once again, the Republic was attacked with extreme violence – its guardians, its representatives, its symbols.”

The number of active demonstrators began tending downwards early in the New Year. But the police have begun responding with greater severity, and it is not clear which side has the public’s sympathy for now. Retail sales have been ravaged, as fear has kept the public away from some of the most prestigious centres of commerce. (See, Helene Fouquet, “The Miseducation of Emmanuel Macron: Stunned by December’s vehement protests, France’s president takes refuge in the past,” December‎ ‎20‎, ‎2018‎ )

These protests take their name from the yellow vests all French drivers are required to keep in their cars in the event of an emergency on the road. There’s a paradox!  The government, by mandating this item for inclusion in in everyman’s automobile, has been laying-by the uniform for the greatest mass-movement of the French people’s resistance against itself since end of world war Two!

Arguably, absolutely everything in France needs fixing. The national debt is close to 100 percent of gross domestic product, and interest payments cost €42 billion this year alone . (“Emmanuel Macron calls for order after ‘yellow vest’ attack on police,” December 23, 2018, Agence France-Presse.)

Beyond doubt, President Macron has been cut down several pegs, and is beginning to look more and more like President de Gaulle, the wartime hero of the “Resistance”—who posed successfully as an inflexible pillar of strength – until he abruptly turned away in disgust and resigned after losing a referendum in 1969

We know that Emmanuel Macron is not a man for all seasons—not a man of steady convictions. He has proved inconstant (to put it mildly) in matters of political loyalty—having started public life as a Socialist. Likewise, in the matter of  religion.  As a teenager, he  sought and received baptism as a Roman Catholic, against the protests of his parents — usually a decision that requires some steadfastness in this post-Christian age. But later he confessed that he was not so sure about that any more.. He explained much later that he was then “at “the start of a mystical period that lasted for a few years,” until he turned agnostic and left the Church.  Then, prior to meeting Pope Francis in June of 2018, Macron told the world that he was an agnostic.

Asked last year whether he believed in God, he would divulge only that “I believe in a form of transcendence, that’s why I thoroughly respect the role of religions in society” – which has the stamp of a declaration of faith composed by UNESCO.  (“Meeting with Pope puts Macron’s religious views in spotlight,”. The Local. 25 June 2018 (via Wikipedia.)

 It would be foolish to imagine that such a man has the steadfastness to lead France, let alone “the Free World,” through its the present global crisis of confidence

 

The Case for the cursus honorum

While it is clear that modern media have made possible instant fame, they have also contributed to the illusion that fame is the same thing as accomplishment.

The politics of the Western world stands in need of many things, but possibly what it needs most is resuscitation of the ancient Roman concept of  cursus honorum—the principle that people should not move on to the highest offices until they have proved themselves, and grown a few years older, in a sequence of lesser offices.

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