Some More Thoughts About MH17

Dear Amy,

I write in response to your recent article in The New York Review of Books, Flight MH17: Will Russia Get Away With It? Thank you for engaging on this topic. I have just a few nagging questions off the back of what you have written. It would be good if you engage with some of these in your next piece for the benefit of your readers:

1. You have painted the Ukraine conflict as entirely the fault of Russia. Can you explain to your readers why you neglected to inform them of the well-documented part played by US and EU officials in instigating a coup d’etat  against the elected government of Ukraine in February this year?

2. You then turn your attention to the MH17 crash. You begin by mentioning that the investigation is not due to be completed next summer, and then complain that Western leaders have not properly confronted Russia over their part. Do you believe that there is any point in an investigation, since you have, in your mind, already established guilt?

3. Can you tell your readers how you have managed to reach your conclusions ahead of the investigators of the crash who appear to have come to no conclusions as yet?

4. You mention the “growing number of unofficial investigations” that have reached the conclusion that Russia was responsible. Do you think Western leaders should rely on these unofficial reports, which may well be biased and lacking all the evidence, or do you think it best to wait for the official investigation to run its course?

5. You claim that a BUK missile system was supplied by the Russian government, but that “neither the Kremlin nor the rebels anticipated that the target on July 17 would prove to be a civilian plane.” You go on to say that this may have been because the “BUK in question may have lacked the automatic disengagement system.” However, you then acknowledge, quite rightly, that “the BUK system is complicated and requires at least a year of training to operate, which suggests that the Russian military not only handed over the BUK to the separatists but helped them with the missile launch.” So am I correct in thinking that you are asking us to believe that the BUK is so complex that the separatists needed Russian military experts to help them operate it, but that those same military experts were so inept that they didn’t realise that the system lacked a feature that would allow it to tell the difference between a military or civilian aircraft?

6. You claimed that “international investigators have until now been unable to inspect the twenty-square-kilometer crash site because of continuing fighting between rebels and Ukrainian government troops.” Would it have been worth pointing out to your readers that the reason for this is because that the Ukrainian government troops were constantly shelling the area?

7. You mentioned the flight and cockpit recorder data from the plane. Can you inform your readers why this was taken to RAF Farnborough in Britain to be analysed, but the full recordings have never been released?

8. You mentioned air control records. Could you inform your readers why Kiev confiscated the Air Traffic Control recordings, why these have never been released, and why the Western governments and media have done nothing to insist that they be released? Perhaps you could take up the case?

9. You state that most experts have concluded that a Russian-made BUK missile, which functions by exploding near the target and showering it with shrapnel, had been fired at the plane. Can you explain why the preliminary report from the Dutch Safety Board did not mention a BUK missile in their report, but instead used the highly ambiguous term “a large number of high-energy objects.” Surely had they had the hard evidence of a BUK missile bringing down the plane, as you claim exists, they would have said so, wouldn’t they?.

10. You mention apparent sightings of a BUK missile system being transported from Russia, but offer only rehashed evidence that has appeared on social media and been thoroughly discredited. But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that a BUK missile system did manage to make it to rebel-held territory and let’s say the expert Russian military, neglecting to check the safety mechanism on the system, did aid the rebels in bringing down the “wrong plane”. The big question here is, “Why were there no eyewitnesses.” You have obviously done a fair amount of research into BUK missiles, and so you will no doubt be aware that they tend to make rather a lot of noise, and also leave rather a long trail of smoke in the air. In this case, given the trajectory involved, the column of smoke would have been approximately 15 kilometres and would have stayed in the air for at least 10 minutes. That’s a pretty long smoke trail, wouldn’t you say? You would think that someone, or even hundreds of people, would have seen a trail that long, and that maybe someone would have caught it on camera. But so far no eye witnesses, and no pictures. Can you explain to your readers why this might be?

11. On the other hand, there have been eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen military aircraft in the vicinity, for example in this BBC film which was subsequently taken down from the internet (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why that might have been). Do you have any comments on whether the official investigators ought to try and interview some of these people?

12. According to your report, the Russian government has embarked on an “intense propaganda campaign pointing the finger at Kiev and its Western allies”. Whether their campaign has been intense is questionable, but let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. Since you have levelled the accusations you have at the Russian government prior to the completion of the investigation, and after the preliminary report failed to even hint at the conclusion you have reached, could you comment on what constitutes propaganda? Is it propaganda when the Russian government makes unsubstantiated claims (which by the way they haven’t as they have never explicitly blamed anyone in particular for the tragedy), but straight journalism when those in the West, such as yourself, do the same?

13. You mention the alternative theory put forward by the Russian military, that a “Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet…fired a missile into the plane.” Firstly, let me correct you. In their presentation, the Russian military categorically did not claim that an SU-25 fired a missile into the plane. All they did was to present radar evidence that at least one military plane — possibly an SU-25 — was seen to be in the vicinity. Without apportioning blame, they simply asked the question, “What was it doing there?”

14. After this presentation, the Western media and governments went noticeably quiet. However, at no point did they rebut the claims made in the Russian military presentation, and at no time did they ask Kiev for an explanation. Instead they simply ignored it. Would you have any explanations as to why those governments, who have called for a proper investigation, have failed to investigate and respond to the claims?

15. You mention “Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine, — and its increasingly provocative and bellicose actions elsewhere in the world.” I notice that you have used the word incursion rather than invasion. Was this a deliberate choice of word, since the word invasion has been used perhaps one too many times by various outlets, or was it merely a slip of the keyboard?

16. Whilst castigating Russia’s for its apparent military incursions in its next door neighbour and “elsewhere in the world” (where exactly are you thinking of?), do you think it might have been timely to remind your readers of the military incursions carried out by the US government in multiple sovereign nations around the world over the last two decades? Or do you think condemnation should only be reserved for other countries behaving in this way?

17. You mention “President Putin’s aggressive policies abroad.” Can you cite any evidence whatsoever of Mr Putin having any designs on Ukraine or Crimea before February 22nd this year, which was the day when a violent coup, supported by the US and EU, and perpetrated with the help of the far-right, ousted the democratically elected government of Ukraine?

18. Furthermore, do you think that had you mentioned the role of the US, EU and Ukrainian far-right in ousting the elected President of Ukraine, your readers might have begun to get a rather different picture of where the responsibility for all this actually lays?

19. You cite Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk approvingly. Would it have been wise at this point to inform your readers that Mr Yatsenyuk was handpicked by the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, several weeks prior to the downfall of Viktor Yanukovych? Furthermore, do you think this information might have given them a completely different perspective on how this whole crisis came about?

20. In citing Mr Yatsenyuk approvingly, I assume that you see him as a sensible politician, worthy of listening to. Would it have been worth pointing out that this same Mr Yatsenyuk, in the midst of running a country on the brink of economic disaster, has commissioned the building of a wall between Ukraine and Russia? Had you done so, do you think it would have given your readers a more or less favourable opinion of Mr Yatsenyuk’s sanity?

Well that’s it from me Amy. I look forward to hearing your reply.

Best wishes,

Rob Slane

Petro Poroshenko: Peaceman or Psalm52man?

If you have believed the mainstream media that Putin is the new Hitler, and that we in the West are supporting the good guys in Ukraine, you may be surprised by this short excerpt from a speech made by Petro Poroshenko in Odessa, just prior to the parliamentary elections. Here he clearly sets out his diabolical intentions for the people of the South East of the country of which he is apparently President, and I have to say he does a far better impersonation of the moustachioed one than Vladimir Putin has ever managed to pull off.

As you watch it, remember this: This man is wholeheartedly supported by those righteous defenders of national sovereignty and international law, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Tony Abbott, Steven Harper, Francois Hollande, and of course Barack O’Bomber.

Once you have finished watching, I recommend a good dose of Psalm 52:

Did He Really Say That? Yessir, He Really Did

Okay so three guesses which world leader recently said this:

“We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles, and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

I can see what you’re thinking. It surely must have been someone who takes international principles very seriously, right? It must have been someone who takes the issue of national sovereignty so seriously that he or she would never ever countenance the idea of invading or taking military action against a nation that was not threatening them, right? And it must have been someone who would never ever finance proxies to work covertly to destabilise foreign governments or bring about regime change, right?

But what if I told you it was actually Barack Hussein O’Bomber? Well if you were sitting on a chair, you’d probably fall off; if you were drinking coffee, you’d probably cough and splutter hot liquid down your shirt; and if you had a particularly weighty jaw, it would probably go “thwack” on the floor.

But yes, it was indeed the bomber of Libya, the destabiliser of Syria, and the instigator of the Ukrainian coup d’état who said it. I’m sorry if you injured yourself. But there you go. He really did say it!

Can I Tolerate Your Intolerance?

“Tolerance” is the fastest growing religion in the West. It is the creed that we are all meant to sign up to and endorse wholeheartedly. It is the antidote to old-fashioned intolerance and bigotry. The sure and certain sign of how good and righteous you are is how willing you are to cast off your antiquated prejudices and join with the “Tolerance” crowd.

There is a problem though. Say I were to drop my old-fashioned and antiquated views on things like “the family” and “who are the proper subjects of marriage” and “whether Jesus Christ is the only way to come to God”. What would I then do with all those who continue to cling to their “bigoted” views?

I suppose I could evangelise them and persuade them to become “Tolerant”. But what if they refuse? What if they still cling stubbornly to their antiquated superstitions and reject all my overtures to embrace “Tolerance”? What then?

I suppose I’ve got two options. I could tolerate their intolerance. But then we’d never have a “Tolerant” society, would we? Or I could go for the other option: Refuse to tolerate their intolerance, to the point of persecuting them, prosecuting them, shutting their mouths, and humiliating them if need be. All in the name of “Tolerance,” I mean?

Two Children Dead. But Who Did It?

Here is an extract from a typical report on the BBC, reporting on a recent incident in Ukraine. You can read the whole report here:

“Two teenagers died and four were wounded when an artillery shell hit a school playing field as they played football in eastern Ukraine. The attack in Donetsk came as both sides in the Ukrainian conflict accused each other of tearing up a peace deal.

A fragile ceasefire has been in place since 5 September, although hundreds of people have been killed since then. Fighting erupted in April after pro-Russian separatists seized control in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 4,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began and the European OSCE monitoring mission has warned that the “bloodletting” is still going on, with numerous incidents of shelling.

The shell landed close to Donetsk airport at a school which was rebuilt by one of Ukraine’s richest men, steel billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, and reopened last year. The head of Mr Akhmetov’s humanitarian fund, Rimma Fil, told the BBC that the children had been playing football after lunch when the shell exploded on the pitch. The four wounded teenagers were being treated in intensive care, she said. Mr Akhmetov described the attack as a terrible tragedy and appealed for an end to the violence.

Shelling in Donetsk intensified on Tuesday night and there were reports earlier on Wednesday of one civilian killed and several others wounded in mortar attacks.”

Okay, so having read that, who killed the two teenagers? From the BBC report, you would be hard pressed to know. In such situations where the narrative fails to fit into their preconceived idea of what is happening, the BBC invariably resorts to the passive voice throughout:

“An artillery shell hit a school playing field… The attack in Donetsk came… The shell landed close… Shelling in Donetsk intensified on Tuesday night.”

So by this we know there has been much shelling in Donestk, that it has intensified, and that one of those shells landed close to some boys playing football, but apparently we don’t know who did it. Or rather we aren’t allowed to be told, unless it appears to destroy the narrative we have been fed that Kiev is run by a bunch of really nice, peace loving pro-Europeans, rather than by an extreme fascist cabal that has been literally trying to ethnically cleanse the East, and has had no qualms whatsoever about indiscriminately shelling cities in the East.

Funnily enough, the BBC do manage occasionally to find their active voice, when it suits them that is:

“Fighting erupted in April after pro-Russian separatists seized control in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk”

For consistencies sake, surely that should have read:

Fighting erupted in April after the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk were seized.”

But of course we’re not told why the “pro-Russian” separatists seized control of the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. And that’s because if we were, we might begin to see things from their point of view. How about seeing the democratically elected government chased out of Kiev by the neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor who seized control of government buildings in Kiev? Is that a good enough reason to reject Kiev’s rule? Or how about seeing the unconstitutional government that arose out of that mess ban Russian as an official language, despite it being the first language of most people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions? Or maybe seeing government departments being given to far right extremists from the Sveboda Party and the Pravy Sektor is a good reason?

The BBC needs to learn to regain its active voice; not just when it suits them, but in all circumstances. And it needs to put events into context if it wants its readers to understand what is really going on and why it has happened. But then of course that’s the last thing on their minds.

Does Nicky Morgan Really Welcome “Anybody” who Enters into a Commitment?

Nicky Morgan, the British Government’s Equalities minister, has apparently now changed her mind over same-sex marriage, and despite voting against the legislation in May last year, now says that if a vote were held now, she would probably vote in favour.

Well, people are allowed to change their minds of course, but what intrigued me in the report on her volte-face was her claim that she “welcomed anybody who enters into a commitment.”

Really Nicky? Anybody? So I take it from this that she would also vote in favour of a brother and sister wanting to “enter into a commitment”, or one man and two women who want to “enter into a commitment”, or even perhaps a 30-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl who want to “enter into a commitment.”

Yes, I know we are not supposed to use these examples as they are apparently offensive to same-sex couples who just want to “enter into a commitment.” But if they are offended, it only goes to rather neatly prove the point of those who were told they were “dinosaurs” and “bigots” for opposing the redefinition of marriage in the first place. If you are going to redefine marriage so that it becomes simply an institution that “welcomes anyone who enters into a commitment,” rather than the union of “one man and one woman for life,” it is for you to explain why you then refuse to extend that principle to others who want to “enter into a commitment,” and by your own definition, it is extremely bigoted of you to do so.

So which is it Nicky? Do you really “welcome anybody who enters into a commitment,” or do you still disapprove of some practices and so exclude some people who want to “enter into a commitment?” I’m guessing it’s the latter,  but if so, why? Remember, you have now joined the clan that decided to tear up the meaning of marriage. It is for you to explain your inconsistencies and — using the standards you have set — also your bigotry towards those you continue to exclude.

The Inevitable Death of Secularism

The news that a Christian school is being downgraded because of its “exclusivity” is a wonderful demonstration of the utter incomprehensible folly and totalitarianism inherent in the secular religion which now rules over Britain.

A year or so ago, Trinity Christian School in Reading was graded overall as “Good” by the British schools inspectorate, Ofsted, with its provision for children’s “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” singled out as being “excellent”. Then earlier this year, the so-called Trojan Horse scandal erupted, in which — it was alleged — certain groups of Muslims were attempting to effectively takeover schools in the Birmingham area and introduce explicitly Islamist teachings into those schools. The British Government responded to the affair by granting Ofsted the power to enter any school without warning, and stated that all schools would have to prove that they are promoting what they called “British values” of “Tolerance and Fairness.” (As an aside, I do apologise to any non-British readers of this blog. Tolerance and Fairness are not, as recent British Governments have constantly tried to remind the world, “British values”. I feel sure that they probably existed somewhere in the world before the island off the north coast of France acquired the name Britain.)

So the Government’s new rules were introduced as a response to Islamic extremism, and were meant to prevent radicalism. Yet a few months after these new rules were introduced, and a little more than a year after Ofsted paid their last visit to Trinity and called it “Good”, the inspectors returned and this time downgraded the school. Why? Because it is apparently too exclusive and fails to teach “British values.”

Of course this begs the question, how could they stop being exclusive and attain to these esteemed “British values”? The answer, according to Ofsted, includes “bringing in representatives of other faiths to lead assemblies and lessons in order to demonstrate compliance with the new standards,” and “providing evidence that the school actively promoted other faiths.”

So Trinity needs to promote other faiths, if it is to avoid being closed. Okay, so which ones? Well if I were the Headmistress of the school I would immediately issue a public invitation to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — otherwise known as the Caliph of the Islamic State — to come and take an assembly one morning. I doubt that he’d come, clearly being a busy man, what with trying to conquer the Middle East and all that, and to be honest I wouldn’t much care to have him around. But I would be interested to see the reaction of the British Government with their “British Values.” Something tells me that their commitment to “Tolerance and Fairness” wouldn’t be much in evidence, and that they would refuse him entry into the country. But then how is Trinity Christian School ever going to “actively promote” Islamic Jihadism — another faith after all — if they can’t get people like the Caliph to come and speak to their pupils on the subject?

A Christian school is, by its very nature, exclusive, and that is because the Christian faith is also exclusive. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6)” is about as exclusive a statement as has ever been made. It is impossible for such a school, acting consistently with its beliefs, to “actively promote other faiths”. It can talk about them. It can give the facts about them. But actively promoting them is something it cannot do, without becoming the very antithesis of a “Christian” school.

Secularists want us to believe that this is wrong, and that they are not like that at all. Unlike the exclusivity of Christianity, they are “inclusive”, “tolerant” and “fair.” Yet what has happened to Trinity Christian School, shows with abundant clarity that this is not the case at all. If they were committed to “tolerance” they would leave these schools alone. But what they are actually saying is this: “we tolerate you but only if you stop teaching your ‘exclusive’ brand of Christianity, and start teaching an ‘inclusive’ brand of Christianity instead — one that actively promotes other faiths and so denies the words of Jesus.” In other words, “we’ll let you teach Christianity, just so long as it is the ‘version’ decided and approved upon by us.” And of course that version has no place for the exclusive words of Jesus mentioned above, any more than it has a place for Islamist or Salafist teachings. In which case it’s not actually tolerant at all, but just as intolerant and exclusive as the Christianity and Islamism it rails against.

Secularism has only two distinct possibilities, both of which lead to its ultimate destruction. On the one hand, it could be consistent with its apparent commitment to tolerance, tolerating anything and everything. The problem with this is that it means ending up with Islamism being taught in schools, as well as that other terrifying prospect, the exclusive words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Needless to say, tolerance of exclusive religions being taught, whether it be the evil of Islamism, or the beauty of Christianity, must of necessity lead to the demise of secularism.

The only other possibility is to deny the right of the exclusive religions to teach exclusively, and instead to force them to “actively promote other faiths,” as was the case with Trinity Christian School, Reading. But of course in refusing the right to promote Christianity alone, the “tolerant” secular state just showed itself to be utterly intolerant — the very opposite of what it claims about itself.

Thus the death of secularism is inevitable: either it will come about through an unshakeable commitment to tolerance which leaves the field open for one of the “exclusive” faiths to grow and eventually topple it; or it will come about because it becomes an intolerant tyranny. From the Trinity case, it looks like they’re determined to avoid the first possibility.

That’s Really Funny Chuck

The US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, is apparently fed up with his current job and is looking to set himself up as a funnyman. Chuck Hagel is a good name for a comedian. In a particularly belligerent speech this Wednesday, Mr Hagel followed in the footsteps of his boss, Mr O’Bomber, who recently went to the UN to tell the world that the three biggest threats to the world are:

1) Ebola
2) Russia
3) ISIS

Mr Hagel also made it clear that Russian “aggression” is a threat to us all. At one point he appears to have played it for laughs, making the following extraordinary claim:

“The demands on the US Army will grow more diverse and complicated. Threats from terrorists and insurgents will remain with us for a long time, but we must also deal with a revisionist Russia – with its modern and capable army – on NATO’s doorstep.”

On NATO’s doorstep? Russia is on NATO’s doorstep? What a punchline. Was it followed by howls of laughter as his audience realised Mr Hagel had just attempted an extremely funny joke? Or were they, like the Western media, completely oblivious to the Orwellian reality inversion going on here?

For the claim that Russia is on the doorstep of NATO is so palpably the exact reverse of the facts, that it was either intended to get a laugh, or, if he meant it to be taken seriously, had obviously been manufactured somewhere deep within the bowels of the “Ministry of Truth.”

From Mr Hagel’s comment, one would think that Russia had, for the past few years, been slowly but inexorably expanding westwards, and that this obvious aggression had now become seen as an intolerable threat to all those nice, enlightened NATO countries to its west.

Well he was almost on to something (or perhaps just on something). It is true that something very similar to what Mr Hagel described did indeed take place, except for the inconvenient fact — at least as far as Mr Hagel is concerned — that it actually happened precisely the other way around. At the end of the Cold War, the US government gave assurances to the then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that it would not move NATO an inch further to the East. At that point NATO, having done the job for which it was originally set up, really ought to have been disbanded and attempts made to work with Russia as a partner. But what actually happened?

Well besides Western companies effectively pillaging the country and making a few Russians extremely rich in the debauched Yeltsin years, NATO began to creep ever eastwards. Technically, it didn’t move “an inch further to the East”. The problem, though, is that it instead moved several hundred miles further to the East, swallowing up various former Warsaw Pact countries with the clear and unmistakable aim of moving right up to Russia’s doorstep.

The following map shows the expansion of NATO throughout its history, and of particular concern here is the green — representing what happened from 1990 onwards:

800px-NATO_expansion
And this really is the key to understanding what has happened in Ukraine over the past year. Should Russia feel threatened by NATO moving up to its doorstep? Did it have the right to feel that NATO was a hostile aggressor when, back in 2008, NATO announced plans to bring both Georgia and Ukraine — two countries right on the doorstep of Russia — into NATO?

Well in the same way that America would have every right to feel threatened if Moscow started opening military bases in Argentina, and then over the next decade or so, despite assurances that they would “not move one inch further North,” started creeping further and further up the South American continent installing bases and weapons as they went, and proposing a missile shield. I’d say Washington might justifiably term this “aggression” and that by the time Moscow got around to engineering a violent coup d’état in Mexico City, pumping billions of dollars into regime change, and sending politicians to encourage the overthrow of the democratically elected government, Washington might just feel that enough is enough and begin to respond.

Quite right, but in such a scenario if the then Russian Defense Secretary came out and claimed that Russia needed to “deal with a revisionist America — with its modern and capable army — on our doorstep,” you might think that he was either high on drugs, having a laugh or being, shall we say, “economical with the actualité.” Yet this is precisely what the likes of President O’Bomber and Chuck Hagel are saying with reference to events in Ukraine and Russia’s response.

Serious scholars, along with the Russian Government, have warned for years against further NATO expansion eastwards. For a detailed look at this, I recommend this interview with Professor Stephen Cohen of Princeton University.

The current situation in the South East of Ukraine, where huge numbers of people have been the subject to what amounts to a deliberate attempt at ethnic cleansing, killing many and making over 1,000,000 refugees, will be seen by historians in the future as entirely the responsibility of the past three US administrations. They reneged in the promise not to expand NATO eastward, they ignored the warnings given to them not to expand NATO towards Russia’s borders, and in the case of the current administration, they deliberately engineered the coup d’état of the democratically elected government of Ukraine which led to the ensuing civil war. They have the blood and plight of multitudes of people on their hands.

Sometimes though, a picture can say in an instant what a thousand words just cannot seem to do. So I leave you with this:

Russia Wants War

 

What Happens When We Worship?

The strength of an army is seen not so much when things are going well, but rather when things are going badly. It is one thing for a battalion to look good when the numbers are in their favour and things are going well; quite another things to see how they cope with being pressed back.

The same kind of principle can be applied to the Church. At times, the Church has been in the ascendancy and things have looked pretty healthy. Needless to say we – at least Christians in North America and Europe – do not live in such times, but are very much being driven onto the back foot in a number of areas. The question is, how are we faring?

The answer appears to be, “not very well”. By and large, wherever you look in the West, the Church is in retreat, shrinking in numbers, and on the receiving end of an increasingly aggressive and confident secularism. On top of that, many of those who are rejecting secularism are turning not to the Church, but to Islam.

Why is this happening? Well, there are a host of reasons, but if you want to know the central reason for what is happening to the Church, then you need to look firstly at the thing that is central to all that the Church does. And that thing is worship. Let’s be honest here: how much do we think our corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is likely to shake the gates of Hell? How likely is it that our worship is going to be tearing down strongholds anytime soon (2 Corinthians 10:4)? Or to put it another way, if a rampant secularist were to come into our worship, would they be more likely to go away awed by the militancy and strength of what they have seen and heard, or to go away sniggering at the sheer feebleness and frivolity of it all?

To say that a lot of what goes on in a lot of Christian worship today is weak would be an understatement. For many Christians, going to church is intrinsically connected with personal feelings or perhaps about being entertained. Then of course there is the reaction to that sort of thing, where worship resembles being in a morgue and any kind of outward display of joy is frowned upon.

Worship is central to the life and health of the Church, and so it is essential that we take seriously what it actually is and what happens when we do it. Much of the weakness of the Church at the moment stems from weakness at the very centre of what we do, and so with that in mind here are seven brief points about worship, its purpose and its importance:

Worship primarily flows from God to us, not the other way around

This might seem utterly counter-intuitive. Surely when we go to church we are paying our dues and giving back to God? Yes we are, but there is something else going on behind that. Primarily, worship is about God doing something for us, not about us doing something for him. Just as salvation is initiated by God and not us, so the primary flow in worship is from God to man rather from man to God. It is God who calls on men to worship him, it he who initiates it, it is he who gives us faith to do it. We respond to all this, but we should remember that in the first instance, our worship services are God’s service to us, not our service to him.

The purpose of worship is for God to renew us

But if worship is primarily something God does for us, what exactly is it that he is doing? The answer to that is that he is renewing us. When we approach him as a congregation, we are, in a sense, corporately unclean. Don’t misunderstand me, all true believers are justified by faith alone and we can come into the presence of God assured that he sees us as righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice. But just as we still confess our sins individually before God on a daily basis, even though we are ultimately justified in his sight, when we come together as a congregation we still need to corporately confess that we are unclean. What then follows, is that God pardons us, accepts us into his presence to hear his Word, bids us to feast with him at his table, and then sends us out into the world to live for his glory and to be “more than conquerors”. Through this process, of being accepted, of hearing, of feasting, and of praising and petitioning him, God is not just receiving our praise, but is renewing us individually and corporately week by week.

When we worship God, we are spiritually in the throne room of God

Amongst the many hard-to-be-understood themes of the book of Revelation, one of them is that the people of God on Earth worship together with the people of God in Heaven. This comes out in several places, for example, in chapter 5, verses 11-14. The same theme is brought out in the book of Ephesians, where Paul tells us that we are seated in the “Heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6), and in Hebrews, where we are told that we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering (Hebrews 12:22).  In other words, when you go to church, you are not just setting foot in a building, or meeting with other believers. You are not even just “worshipping God from afar”. Spiritually, through Jesus – you enter into the Holy of Holies.

This being the case what ought our worship to look like? 

If we are spiritually in the presence of God, and Christ is spiritually in our midst (Hebrews 2:12), how should our worship look? The two things we should be aiming for above all else is reverence and joy. However, being fallible creatures and prone to fall into ditches, we often tend to major on the one to the exclusion of the other. So we go all out for the reverence, omit the joy and end up with something that looks more like a dry parched land than streams of living waters. Or we go all out for the joy, omit the reverence and end up with something that looks floppy and frivolous. It is hard to aim for joyful reverence, but if we are in the presence of a God who is Holy and who calls on us to “rejoice always,” this is what we should be aiming for.

Worship ought to be robust and in some way reflect the great battle against evil

There are many ways this could be addressed, but one obvious example is the praises we sing. I am by no means an advocate of exclusive psalmody, but the Scriptures do at the very least instruct us that at least part of our corporate worship ought to consist of Psalms (see Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; plus the numerous exhortations in the Book of Psalms to sing them). There are a couple of good reasons for this. Firstly, the Psalms are the Word of God and so singing them will inevitably shape us, according to God’s Word. Secondly, they contain sentiments which far more accurately reflect the world and the battle against evil than do many hymns. The book is filled with enemies, and David calling on God to come and deal with those enemies. Our world is full of enemies. So what is the first thing we should think about when we see ISIS doing unspeakable things in the Middle East? Dropping bombs? No, if our worship is shaped by the Psalms, our primary response will be to corporately cry out to God to judge these foes who are creating havoc for so many. Maybe this seems like a tame response to some, but whenever the Israelites stopped trying to fight battles themselves, and instead corporately cried out to God for deliverance from vicious enemies, that is when he delivered them. What might happen if churches throughout the world united against some of the greatest evil in the world by employing the kinds of strong petitions seen in some of the Psalms?

Worship is our primary weapon

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Chief amongst these weapons is our corporate worship. Sure, our individual faith can achieve much, but the Church is at its strongest when its corporate worship is robust and powerful – when it effectively hammers on the throne room of God demanding that he come and judge a situation: “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” Worship is a weapon, and we should use it.

So what happens when we worship?

If all this is true, what happens when we worship? Well if we miss its centrality and importance, and if our worship is filled with gimmicks, or frivolity, or joyless insipidness, the answer is “not much”. We can go to church, be entertained, feel sentimental, or even morose, and leave an hour or so much the same as when we went in. But if we grasp what is really going on in worship, and we use it as an opportunity to be renewed, to worship God at his footstall with robust, joyful reverence, seeing worship as our primary weapon, what then? Why God might just hear us and turn around the fortunes of the Church, just as he once promised to his people in Solomon’s day:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).

The Joe Biden Show: Truth, Deception and “Truthful Deception”

Did someone slip something funny into Joe Biden’s coffee before his speech at Harvard University yesterday? Whilst defending US Foreign Policy, the Vice President came out with a mixture of astonishing claims; a moment of truth, a moment of outright deception, and what I think can only be described as a moment of “truthful deception.”

First the moment of truth. In a rare moment of candour, Mr Biden let slip who had been behind the decision of the European Union to put round after round of sanctions on Russia. According to Mr Biden, US President Barack O’Bomber personally forced the EU to introduce sanctions:

“It is true – they did not want to do that but again it was America’s leadership and the President of the United States insisting, oftentimes almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose cost.”

Well who’d have thought it! The master called and the lapdog obeyed. No surprise to anyone who has been seriously following the crisis, but still it’s nice to have it confirmed from the horse’s mouth.

Perhaps if something stronger had been slipped into Mr Biden’s coffee, he might even have gotten around to telling his audience the whole truth about the Ukraine crisis, which is that it was planned by the US Government as a means to bring NATO up to the Russia’s borders — something the Russians warned as far back as 2007 would be unpalatable to them (in the same way that Russia putting military bases in Mexico or Cuba might just alarm Washington). He might even have explained why his son, Hunter, happened to become a director of the Ukrainian oil and gas company, Burisma, in May this year.

But unfortunately, Mr Biden never got around to explaining the origins of the Ukraine crisis to his audience, much less why his government supports a regime which has deliberately and indiscriminately targeted innocent civilians in the East of the country, and which employs neo-Nazi battalions to do its dirty work. No, if his moment of candour was due to the effects of something funny in his coffee, the effects soon wore off and in an apparently bad reaction to too much truth, he resorted to some outright whoppers:

“When Putin sent troops to Ukraine, Biden said, ‘We rallied the world to check his ambitions.’ Biden said the U.S. does not want Russia to collapse, but Putin’s advances on Ukraine “cannot be tolerated.”

Firstly, Putin never sent troops to Ukraine. Sure, the Russians provided covert help to those in the South East, which is understandable given the fact that the people of this area are mostly ethnically, linguistically and culturally Russian and they were effectively being targeted for ethnic cleansing by the Kiev junta. Would the UK stand by and let Argentina take the Falklands? But an invasion? Please! If he had wanted to invade, he would have done so and Kiev would now be controlled by Moscow. The fact that it isn’t shows that he is not interested.

And even more to the point, on September 17th, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Andrei Purgin, stated that despite their efforts to get President Putin to accept the territory as part of Russia, he has firmly rejected this idea, causing Mr Purgin to respond by saying, “We will build our own country”.

This one fact shows the utter fabrication of Mr Biden’s narrative, and the Western narrative in general. Vladimir Putin has no desire to swallow up Ukraine, not even a part of it. His whole policy has been, and still is, that he doesn’t want NATO — which is clearly hostile to Russia — on its border. Swallowing up Ukraine, in part or in whole, would be a pretty stupid way of going about this objective, since it would bring Russia right up to NATO’s borders. Still, Mr Biden and co must continue to spin that narrative, else people in the West might just catch on to the point that they have been lied to on a monumental scale and it is the US and EU — not Russia — that have been the cause and the aggressors in this whole sorry tale.

Having told the truth, and having followed it up with deception, Mr Biden decided to finish off by mixing things up a little. Let’s call it “Truthful Deception”:

“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria,” he said, explaining that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad,” that in a sense they started a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” by pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” towards anyone who would fight against Assad. “And we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.” “The outcome of such a policy now is more visible,” he said, as it turned out they supplied extremists from Al-Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda.

I must confessed I nearly choked when I read this. Is it an outright lie? Not at all. Some of it is absolutely true. The countries he mentioned have indeed been funding and supporting the Syrian rebels, many of whom are now part of ISIS. And yes they have an obsession with deposing Assad. All perfectly true.

The problem is, I know another government that has done that as well. Just in case you’re not sure who it is I’m talking about, I’ll give you a couple of clues. It’s not in the Middle East, and it’s not Russia. Still not sure? Well, it just so happens to be the country that Mr Biden has apparently been Vice President of for the past 6 years. The recent successful attempt by the O’Bomber administration to get Congress to agree on a $500million package to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels is nothing but a smokescreen. For the same administration has, as I wrote about here, been covertly funding and arming those “moderate” rebels since at least 2012, some of whom now appear to have renounced their “moderation” and joined with the “fanatical” ISIS party. And that same administration has also had somewhat of a Bash Bashar obsession, which is why they jumped to the erroneous conclusion last August that the Assad government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack, and would probably have attacked then had they been able to get away with it.

What Mr Biden is attempting to do is what is called “passing the buck.” He and his colleagues are directly responsible for the creation of ISIS, because they have funded and supported the Syrian rebels when they should have kept their noses out of it and looked after their own affairs. Biden’s comments are a risible attempt to shift blame, and pass the US government off as the ones who are coming in to clean up other people’s mess. After such a transparent attempt at responsibility-avoidance, I sit with baited breath awaiting news of a press conference being held by the Devil to announce how he is going to come along and clean up the mess that people have made of the world!

So there you have it. The Joe Biden Show. Not a hint of recognition that he and the administration he works for has unleashed hell on earth in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Not a hint of contrition. Not a hint of taking responsibility. Instead, just more attempts to shift blame, and more attempts to paint themselves as the knights in shining armour riding to the rescue with their drones and their missiles. Truth, Deception and Truthful Deception.