In 2014, the crimes committed by Daesh (also referred to as Islamic State or ISIS) shook the world. Daesh hascommitted mass atrocities, including “murder, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer of population, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, sexual violence and persecution.” These atrocities amount to crimes against humanity, and because they were perpetrated against the protected groups (here, religious group) with intent to annihilate them in whole or in part, the atrocities amount to genocide.
While the Daesh genocide perpetrated against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities is an extreme example of religious persecution, it sheds light on the perils religious minorities have been encountering more generally in the Middle East. Even before the emergence of Daesh, religious minorities faced significant difficulties. Many Iraqi Christians named 2003, when Saddam Hussein fell, as the event that changed their position in Iraqi society. Under Hussein’s dictatorship, despite some challenges, many religious minorities had a decent life, I was informed. After the fall, discrimination and persecution became part of their lives. During my interviews with Iraqi Christians, I was told about single occurrences of killings, kidnappings for ransom, assaults, threats, and individual cases of forced displacement. Such cases of discrimination and persecution were not unusual for the post-Hussein Iraq. However, they were not systematic or conducted on a mass scale.
With the emergence of Daesh, portraying itself as a legitimate state, with its own courts, flag, and currency, the jihadists wanted to ultimately establish a purely Islamic states across North Africa and West Asia. The rewritten world map that Daesh released in 2014 will remain a warning of what it could have been without the military efforts of so many states that managed to (more of less) restrain Daesh to two countries (with some smaller presence in Egypt, Libya etc., however, not to the same extent as in Syria and Iraq).
In 2014, Daesh began taking over parts of Iraq and Syria and established a self-proclaimed caliphate. Around this time news started circulating about what life under the Daesh “caliphate” would look like. Most notable were videos and photographs of beheadings or burning people in metal cages. During my trip to Iraq and Jordan, I spoke to many Iraqi Christians about their situation before and after Daesh. They all were very clear that after Daesh began to take over their villages and towns and established the self-proclaimed caliphate, their lives as Christians ceased to exist. Daesh fighters destroyed churches and places of worship, burnt all Bibles and religious books, and broke crosses. Daesh wanted to destroy all signs of Christians ever living in the area.
As the brutality of the Daesh atrocities against religious minorities was unprecedented in the 21st century, the world finally became concerned about the fate of religious minorities in the Middle East. Over the last roughly three years, 68 states have engaged in military actions against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. The Council of Europe, European Parliament, the US Congress and Secretary of State, the UK House of Commons, and the Parliaments of Lithuania, Australia, Canada, France, and Austria, formally recognized the Daesh atrocities as genocide. Some states offered to resettle the persecuted groups, most notably, the Canadian government pledged to relocate 1,200 Yazidis. Other actions to address the Daesh atrocities in Syria and Iraq in general and against religious minorities specifically are still at very early stages.
While Daesh is losing territories in Syria and Iraq, there is some fallacy in speaking of post-Daesh. The same applies to the debates of “before Daesh”. The militia that ultimately became known as Daesh has been in the region for years. The origin of Daesh reaches back to 1999, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi funded the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad that later become what we know as Daesh. The two major events that shaped the group were also the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 Arab spring. However, the act of Daesh establishing so-called “caliphate” in many parts of Syria and Iraq marked a new era in the history of the region. A terror group of unprecedented size and unprecedented international support of foreign fighters took the Syrian and Iraqi lands piece by piece, unabated.
Also, soon Daesh in its current form may be defeated, but this does not mean that its narrative will be defeated. Their mentality may survive the military action and re-manifest itself the next time circumstances in the region allows, for example, during a civil war, because of fragility and instability in the area.
To prevent such re-manifestation of the Daesh narrative, states must ensure that they enable and accommodate interfaith dialogue among all religious groups, strengthen the interfaith cooperation, and actively overcome the Daesh narrative of countering religious pluralism or the “us against them” narrative. This is not an easy task as the communities are torn. However, to ensure that the threat to the existence of religious minorities is overcome, all communities must work together towards a sustainable solution. The need for reconciliation and interfaith dialogue has never been greater, as right now the fate of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East is uncertain.
Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East. Ochab works on the persecution of minorities around the world, with main projects including Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram atrocities in West Africa, and the situation of religious minorities in South Asia. Ochab has written over 30 UN topical reports (including Universal Periodic Review reports) and has made oral and written submissions at the Human Rights Council sessions and the UN Forum on Minority Issues. Ochab is currently working on her Ph.D. in international law, human rights and medical ethics.
This essay, first published in the journal First Things in 1995, is a review of two books: Medicine Ethics, and the Third Reich and Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-De-Siecle Europe. Note that despite the criticism here of "the fatuous notion of using craniometry (measuring certain key diameters of the head) to differentiate racial types, there are indeed "race differences in brain size, when body size is fixed... with Asian brains larger on average than white brains, and white brains larger than black brains." Michael Levin, Why Race Matters, page 104.
Medicine Ethics, and the Third Reich: Historical and Contemporary Issues
Edited by John J. Michalczyk
Sheed & Ward 240 pages. $19.95
Arthur Cohen has characterized it as “beyond the deliberations of reason, beyond the discernments of moral judgments, beyond meaning itself,” and defined it as “the expression of ordinary secular corruption raised to immense powers of magnification and extremity.” As one who absorbed the hideous drama of the Holocaust from the hushed voices of my parents and the keening of relatives who had successfully fled, I am on this subject afflicted with an aporia bordering on rhetorical paralysis. Several years ago, I visited the Dachau camp in the suburbs of Munich, and the experience was so desolating as to be beyond tears, and yes, beyond meaning itself.
Nonetheless, the literature that attempts to understand the Holocaust is vast and growing, and has matured to the point of specialization. There is a body of work on the failures of the German clergy, another body of work on the origins of the Holocaust in race science, still another on the bankrupt Nazi judicial system-and now we add yet another work on the German medical profession. John Michalczyk has compiled and edited papers presented at a 1993 conference at the Jesuit Institute of Boston College, Medicine, Ethics and the Third Reich: Historical and Contemporary Issues. The participants hailed from markedly diverse disciplines, and included bioethicists Arthur Caplan, George Annas, and Lisa Sowle Cahill; theologians Donald Dietrich and Peter Haas; physician Michael Franzblau; historians Daniel Nadav and Robert Proctor; journalists Nat Hentoff and Peter Steinfels; and Holocaust victims Eva Kor and Vera Laska. There was even one surgeon, Robert L. Berger, who was himself a victim who survived the Holocaust. (Like Lawrence Langer, I abjure the term “survivor” in favor of the more honest word “victim” in describing those who lived through the horror; the word “survivor” strips the drama of its limitless evil and instead suggests a natural-not man-made-cataclysm: one Jewish physician liberated from Auschwitz observed, years later, “If you lick my heart, it will poison you.”)
Kierkegaard wrote that life is lived forward and understood backward. The papers presented at the conference pay the conventional attention to the historical roots of German National Socialism but regrettably do not explore adequately the race science that developed in Germany in the last half of the nineteenth century. John Efron has carried out that task, however, with remarkable thoroughness in his bookDefenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-De-Siecle Europe. Efron examines the “Jewish question” in Germany meticulously, beginning with the egregious tales (carried from the Middle Ages into nineteenth-century Germany) that Jewish males menstruated, that they were uniformly effeminate, that Jews were more subject to insanity than other races. He moves forward to describe the work of race scientists such as Georg Wachter, a Dutch anatomist who studied the skull of a thirty-year-old Jewish male and published his conclusions in 1812. Wachter remarked on the large nasal bones, the square chin, the typical bony impressions on the lateral sides of the orbits and concluded that “among Jews, the muscles primarily used for talking and laughing are of a kind entirely different from those of Christians.”
Efron recounts the work of other race scientists such as Andreas Retzius and Carl Vogt in the mid-nineteenth century who devised the fatuous notion of using craniometry (measuring certain key diameters of the head) to differentiate racial types, and by this mathematizing of racism triumphantly divided Jews into two taxonomic niches: the round brachycephalic and the long dolichocephalic. The Austrian physician (all race scientists in Europe in the nineteenth century were physicians) Augustin Weissbach published a paper in 1877 in a scientific journal confirming the stereotypes based on his study of nineteen Jewish males, and Bernhard Blechman in 1882 supported Weissbach’s conclusions with a study of his own.
Other race scientists built upon this scientifically grotesque edifice to divide Jews into the brachycephalic Ashkenazis (of Eastern European extraction) and dolichocephalic Sephardics (of Mediterranean extraction). Constantine Ikow in the 1880s reclassified Jews into three racial types on the basis of evidence derived from the craniometry method. Prominent German psychiatrists such as Emil Kraepelin and Richard Krafft-Ebbing stressed the emotional fragility and the putatively high rate of insanity among Jews; Krafft-Ebbing remarked that religious fervor in the Jewish community promoted deviant sexual practices such as consanguineous marriages.
By 1900, 16 percent of all physicians in Germany were Jewish (Jews comprised approximately 1 percent of the German population), and these physicians were subjected to intermittent but vicious attacks. In 1875 the world-famous surgeon Theodor Billroth unleashed a lengthy anti-Semitic harangue in the press, protesting the admission of Jewish students in what he termed disproportionately large numbers to the German medical schools. Only the great non-Jewish pathologist Rudolph Virchow battled the anti-Semites by ridiculing the entire racial typing project and defending the Jewish physicians fearlessly. Jewish physicians such as Joseph Jacobs in Great Britain and Samuel Weissenberg in Germany took on the race science question, conducting studies and publishing scientific papers confuting the virulent anti-Semitism of the German non-Jewish medical community-but by 1900 the damage was done. Jews had been thoroughly marginalized, and the ground had been prepared for Alfred Ploetz and Wilhelm Schallmeyer, the founders of the German racial hygiene movement in the first two decades of the twentieth century.
Daniel Nadav and other essayists inMedicine, Ethics, and the Third Reichdescribe with impressive force the progressive deterioration of medical ethics in the pre-Nazi and Nazi eras, as doctors stepped from forced sterilization of the physically and mentally imperfect through the various euthanasia programs devised first to care for the suffering and then to the more comprehensive programs designed to eliminate the “lives not worth living,” the lives that were a “drag” on the racial hygiene aspiration, and the lives of the “useless eaters.” In the introductory essay, Christian Pross observes that “a combination of pseudoscientific racism, socioeconomic crisis, and abandonment of the ideal of physician as healer produced doctors who sterilized or killed so-called inferiors and social deviants in the name of science.” Pross states that only 350 German physicians directly committed the medical crimes, but “many more were involved, directly or indirectly, among them the cream of German medicine, university professors, outstanding scientists and researchers.” In the Nazi era half of all physicians were members of the Nazi party, 26 percent of them were storm troopers, and 7 percent were in the SS-these were much higher rates than for any of the other professions. Regarding the fate of the German-Jewish physicians, Pross estimates that between 1932 and 1945 at least 5,000 Jewish physicians were expelled from Germany, several hundred committed suicide, and close to 2,000 perished in the death camps.
Lisa Sowle Cahill, in a moving valedictory to this dispiriting account of the systematic betrayal of normative medical ethics, does not tastefully avert her eyes; she calls the Holocaust exactly what it was-an unmitigated and unmitigatable evil. She marks the role of the Nazi physicians-the loyal traitors-as having caved in to “scientific bias, ideological banality, professional self-serving, and moral vacuity.” In bioethical terms, it was a pervasively squalid, unparalleled, and unimaginably destructive perversion of the utilitarian theory of medical ethics.
Unfortunately Cahill-like other participants in the conference-relies on that old saw of the “slippery slope,” as though it were a logical inevitability; she does however warn that “the ‘slippery slope’ argument is a valid one, but it calls for caution and precision in the application.” Mary Mahowald, in her consideration of the “slippery slope” argument, has acknowledged that the “slope” does exist but that one can control the rate of descent (and even arrest it) by driving what she terms “moral wedges” into the slope. This is not far from my own position on the subject: the slope is not a slope at all but a spiralling staircase descending into unfathomable depths of evil. At every step one has the opportunity to rest, to survey the moral landscape critically, to look back, to contemplate with great care the next step, and even to climb back up if the occasion warrants. Had German physicians (and for that matter, the German judiciary, philosophers, academicians, journalists, and even the military) taken this approach to National Socialism, it is a reasonable probability that that terrifying, dizzying descent into hell would not have occurred.
Medicine, Ethics, and the Third Reichis a powerful indictment of the abject collapse of the German biomedical ethical system during (and even preceding) the National Socialist regime. Others have written authoritatively on the subject, but none with the eloquence and force of the contributors to this volume.
Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., is author ofAborting AmericaandThe Abortion Papers.
James 2:23 New International Version (NIV)
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
John 15:12 New International Version (NIV)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Hymns: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and "In the Garden"
Who Is Your Best Friend?
A Homily preached by Daniel Love Glazer
At Bella Terra Nursing Home
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Do you have a best friend? Someone with whom you have a deep affinity? Someone with whom you can share your deepest thoughts and feelings, knowing that he will respond with understanding and affection? Or, perhaps, did you used to have such a friend, who has gone on to the life beyond our life here and whom you will greet with joy when you too have ascended on high?
I once heard a lecture a professor of psychology give a lecture on friendship. He said that he used to ask his students how many close friends they had—how many people they knew with whom they could share their deepest yearnings. Many students had no such friend; some had one dear friend; occasionally a student reported two close friends.
I don’t know whether you have been blessed with such a dear friend, but I am here to tell you this: every one of us has a phenomenally close friend who can appreciate all of our longings, fears, and hopes. This Friend is God!
Yes, God, the Father of all things and beings, longs to be in personal relationship with each and every one of us. And because this is so, we can know God as a constant partner and friend in our daily life.
As human beings, we are accustomed to experiencing friendship with other people on physical, emotional, and intellectual levels. But there is another, higher dimension to reality, namely the spiritual level. It is on the spiritual level that we can experience friendship with God himself.
To be God’s friend we must communicate with him. Communicating with God suggests prayer, of course. By prayer I do not mean anything formal or considered as a religious duty. I mean simply directing your thoughts and desires to the spiritual personality we know as God. Prayer can encompass a broad range. It can be an expression of spiritual attitude, a proclamation of soul loyalty, an expression of thanksgiving, a desire for meaning in life, deep consideration of the supreme values of truth, beauty, and goodness, a confession of ultimate devotion, a determined soul searching for self-discovery, an intense call for spiritual help, an earnest release of selfish desires, a visualization of God’s nectar pouring down on those in need, and, above all, a heartfelt chat with your dearest friend, the Creator and Controller of the universe.
Prayer is a two-way conversation with God. You tell God your concerns, your joys, your sorrows, and your needs. And he responds lovingly with comfort and guidance. You don’t pray to change God, but the act of sincere prayer certainly changes you. Of course, only rarely, if ever, will you receive God’s answer to your prayer as a crystal-clear response. More likely you will see indirect answers—increased understanding, enhanced ability to deal with the challenges of life, and , perhaps, apparent chance occurrences.
In prayer we must strike a balance between expecting too much and expecting too little. Prayer is not a form of magic, in which we can get anything we desire. But if we believe too little we sacrifice spiritual comfort, strength, and support, never to experience the joy of recognizing God’s answer to prayer.
In the material world, we perceive via our senses of sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell. But God is a spirit person and we communicate with him from the deepest recesses of our soul.
And doubt not—God can and will answer you!
Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is within us. Yes, there is a divine spirit within each of us, and this spirit is the source of our faith. The indwelling spirit inspires our faith, the faith that assures us that God is real and loves us with an infinite love. Every one of us is blessed with this gift of faith. In some of us this faith may be only a glimmer, but if we act on the faith we do have, however small, our faith will grow. Faith is a gift from God, and he yearns for us to cultivate it so that it increasingly dominates our thinking, our feeling, our prayers, and our interactions with each other.
The faith I am talking about is not the same as a mere belief. You may intellectually believe something, for example, the belief that God loves you, but to have faith implies that this truth securely holds you, that the truth has become so real to you that you accept it with every fiber of your being. When you experience faith in God, he becomes real to you and you become assured that your career in this life and eternity is wholly secure in the hands of the absolute spirit person who is the creator, controller and infinite upholder of the universe and who wants to be your friend.
But have not people had faith in things which are not real and can never be real? You may have faith that 2 plus 2 equals 5, but that does not make it so. Or you may have faith that you will win the lottery. Such faith, while not so impossible as adding two and two to get five, is not a desire that God will respond to. What can you reasonably have faith in? Here is a short list:
As we develop our friendship with God, we must remember, of course, to be sincere. This sincerity goes beyond the honesty we owe to our human friends. Though we are honest with them, we are also discreet and sensitive to them; we will not blurt out a truth that we know will hurt them. But with God, we need not be reserved. He knows our every thought; there is no reason not to be totally sincere with him; we can’t fool God! The better we know him, the more we realize we can trust him. Trust in God means letting go of our wishes and any desire to change him, and allowing God to change us.
To be good friend to God, we must trust him. We trust our human friends, but God is worthy of absolute trust. He will never betray us. He wants only the best for us. We can bring to him every concern, every difficulty, every desire, and he will always guide us toward our highest good.
Here’s an important point about praying to God: Our prayers must be unselfish. God will not welcome a prayer that asks for unfair advantage over someone else. In prayer, we ask to know God’s will, and God’s will must be the highest good for us. Also, we should pray for others, as Jesus often did. We can pray for our family, our friends, for strangers, and, yes, even for our enemies. All are children of God, created in his image and beloved by him.
Remember: God responds to your real needs. And he answers your prayers when you are ready. And you can increase your receptivity to God’s spiritual blessings. How? First, by asking for God’s help. Second, by confidently expecting him to answer. But realize that his answer comes from his infinite wisdom; he may not give you just what you ask for, but he will answer in terms of his superior knowledge. So we can abandon all petty desires and instead cultivate the supreme desire of knowing and doing God’s will. We can be confident that God will answer our prayers, but he will answer according to our highest needs; we must be patient and let God provide answers according to his timetable, not ours.
Let us rejoice that our God loves us so much that he is ever willing to respond lovingly to our faintest faith. Yes, God is our best friend!
From March 23-26 I participated in a Joint Education Seminar held at Urantia Foundation headquarters, 533 Diversey Parkway, Chicago IL 60014. The topic of the Seminar was "Giving of the Truth of Heaven: Using Our Talents." The papers from the Seminar have been posted on the Urantia Fellowship website. See
Bella Terra Nursing Center
January 22, 2017
[Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23]
Do you all remember the days before there was voice mail or answering machines? When I first moved to Chicago, 35 years ago, I worked for a company where a receptionist would write down telephone messages on a slip of paper.One day I picked up a message that I had been called by someone from the National Association of Reality. This surprised me, for I knew of no such organization, but thinking about it, I thought that The National Association of Reality was an organization I would like to join! How about you? When I returned the call, I learned that the caller was actually from the National Association of Realtors. Too bad! Still, the message got me to thinking, what is reality, anyhow?
We can think of various kinds of realities, at different levels. To us, living in the Chicago area in the wintertime, reality is bitter cold temperatures and snow. To a new-born child, reality is his mother’s loving care. In Chicago, one reality is that 700 people were murdered last year. Chicagoans also relished the reality that the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years.
How would Jesus characterize reality? After all, Jesus mission was to reveal the truth. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”  Moreover, he said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus would not deny the realities of bitter cold, of maternal nurturing, of an epidemic of murders, or the joy of a baseball team’s triumph, and he would have much to say about the evil realities we encounter in life, but he came to earth to testify to a more far-reaching truth, the truth of the reality of the kingdom of heaven.
In today’s scripture passage, we are told about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, when he started gathering disciples and first talked about the coming kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ mission was preceded by that of his cousin John, who became known as John the Baptist. John’s message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
After Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he “began to announce, ‘Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!’” And he started calling disciples. The first two named in the gospel of Matthew are fisherman brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew. “He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Then he calls two sons of Zebedee the boat builder, James and John.
I wonder whether Simon Peter, Andrew, and James and John Zebedee might have known Jesus before being called, as reported by Matthew. We know that Jesus’ father Joseph was a carpenter; It is likely that Jesus was also a carpenter; he may well have worked in Zebedee’s boat-building shop. If so, the Gospels don’t tell us. They simply relate Jesus’ calling these disciples, who immediately accept Jesus’ command, “Follow me.”
We Christians should ask ourselves, “What does it mean to follow Jesus?” The first disciples left their work and families, and accompanied Jesus on his various preaching tours in Palestine. And they were witnesses to his various sermons, to miracles of healing, and ultimately to his death and resurrection.
You and I do not have the blessing of being with Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh. But, as Christians, we are also called to follow Jesus. To do this, we must understand the meaning of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven. In today’s scripture passage, we are told that “Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom.”
What is the good news of the kingdom of heaven that was a central part of Jesus’ teaching? The Hebrew prophets presented the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God as both a present reality and a future hope—when the kingdom would be realized in fullness upon the appearance of the Messiah. This is the kingdom concept John the Baptist taught. And Jesus taught both these, as well. Most basically, he taught that the kingdom of heaven must begin with the dual concept of the fatherhood of God and the resulting fact of the brotherhood of man. Jesus said that “God is your heavenly Father.” Indeed, Jesus referred to God as “your Father” or “your heavenly Father 15 times in Matthew chapters 5 and 6 alone, as well as elsewhere. In chapter 20 of the gospel of John, the risen Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Moreover, he affirms, “You are all brothers.”Jesus also told us, “The Father himself loves you.”  and “Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Since Jesus portrayed God as a Father, one may ask why Jesus used the image of “kingdom of God” rather than “family of God.” At the time of Jesus’ life in the flesh, kingdoms, in which a king ruled, were the dominant form of political organization. Moreover, “Kingdom of God” was the phrase used by John the Baptist, the last in the line of Hebrew prophets and who aroused Israel to fervent expectation of Jesus’ coming. By using the phrase “kingdom of God,” Jesus tapped into the religious fervor that John had developed among the people. But the kingdom which Jesus proclaimed is not a life of servitude to a monarch. It is a life of familial love. His teaching was that one enters this kingdom simply by acceptance of the relationship of being a son or daughter to God: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Jesus also taught the profound truth that “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Jesus thereby exalted the individual. And realize that individuals who are so exalted will go on to engage in loving service to all God’s children.
By accepting Jesus’ teaching of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, we are endowed with a new life of spiritual liberty. We are emboldened with new courage and increased spiritual power. The gospel of the kingdom sets us free and inspires us to dare to hope for eternal life; it includes true consolation for all of us, even for the poor. Jesus taught that, by faith, the believer enters the kingdom now. He taught that two things are essential to entrance into the kingdom:
Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and also the Son of Man, that is, he was both divine and human. We sometimes forget that the human Jesus needed to have faith, just as you and I do. He enjoyed a sublime and wholehearted faith in God which totally dominated his thinking, his praying, and his life of dedicated service.
Jesus does not require his disciples to believe in him, but rather to believe with him, believe in the reality of the love of God and in full confidence accept the assurance that we are all his beloved children. The Master desires that all his followers should fully share his transcendent faith. To “follow Jesus” means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of the Master’s life of unselfish service for mankind. Jesus most touchingly challenged his followers, not only to believe what he believed, but also to believe as he believed. This is the full significance of his one supreme requirement, “Follow me.” If we follow him, we will know the reality of the kingdom, both in this life and the life to come.
A sermon preached by Daniel Love Glazer at Northbrook United Methodist Church
January 29, 2017
[Scripture: Mark 1:21-28]
No one who knows my mother would consider her to be religious. She is a Jew and proud of her Jewish identity, but her Judaism does not encompass a conscious devotion to the Holy One of Israel. Even so, she describes the experience of giving birth to me, her first-born child as a “miracle.” Perhaps you women who have given birth feel similarly. For my part, I can simply say that birth is a wonder.
Our scripture passage for today relates an incident early in Jesus’ public ministry in which he is said to drive out an evil spirit from a possessed man. Does this represent a miracle? Skeptics have suggested that, rather than being delivered of an evil spirit, the man had epilepsy and was mimicking the behavior he understood that demon possession would require. Remember that in Jesus’ day, no one knew of or understood the disease of epilepsy. So, while in this event Jesus evidently healed the man, he may not have cast out an evil spirit. Even so, curing him of epilepsy could plausibly be termed a miracle.
And speaking of miracles, the Gospels relate many incidents when Jesus healed someone of disease.
Here are just a few examples:
A Google search for “miracles of Jesus” yields a list of 35 miracles, including the casting out of demons, many healings, and, not to be forgotten, the spectacular miracles of feeding the 5000 with two fishes and five loaves, and the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead.
None of this should be surprising for us Christians who consider Jesus to be the Son of God. Jesus was a miraculous person. His incarnation as a babe, born of Mary can certainly be deemed a miracle—and I say this, quite apart from Mary’s alleged virginity.
When the Son of God was on earth, incarnated in the likeness of mortal flesh, and overflowing with compassion for the struggling mortals of the realm, it was inevitable that extraordinary things should happen. But we should not approach Jesus through miracles; rather we should approach the miracles through Jesus.
Jesus did not want to become known primarily as a miraculous healer. Such a reputation would attract unfavorable attention from the religious authorities and would detract from his true mission. Consider Mark 1:40:
A man with a skin disease [leprosy?] approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and begged, “if you want, you can make me clean. Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Instantly, the skin disease left him, and he was clean. Sternly, Jesus sent him away, saying “Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for your cleansing that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.” Instead, he went out and started talking freely and spreading the news so that Jesus wasn’t able to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, but people came to him from everywhere.
When I was in high school, I read Bertrand Russell’s book Why I Am Not a Christian. In this book Russell asks, “If Jesus was as powerful and as merciful as Christians believe him to be, why didn’t he banish illness from the face of the earth, instead of just healing a few random lepers?” When I read this, I thought, “That’s a knock-down argument.”
But Jesus’ mission on earth was not to perform miracles. It was to portray the Truth. He declared, ““For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”  Moreover, he said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What is the truth which Jesus came to portray? It was the truth of the Kingdom of God, which embodies the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Jesus taught that “God is your heavenly Father.”Indeed, Jesus referred to God as “your Father” or “your heavenly Father 15 times in Matthew chapters 5 and 6 alone, as well as elsewhere.
Toward the end of the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene cries at the tomb where Jesus was buried. And the resurrected Jesus appears to her. He says, “Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” Jesus here makes clear that God is not only the Father of Jesus’, but is also the Father of each one of us. He has also affirmed, “You are all brothers”  and “The Father himself loves you.” And also, “Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
We live in a disturbed world. Whether due to demonic influence or the faulty free-will decisions made in a finite, evolving world, we cannot open the newspaper or peruse the TV news without realizing that evil and tragedies abound. I’m sure you can all provide a list of horrors that are all too real. I will cite only one: in Chicago last year, 700 people were murdered. The victims included little children. My wife used to teach high school on the South Side of Chicago. She said that all of her students knew someone who had been shot.
For the most part, you and I live fairly comfortably here on the North Shore. It’s unlikely that we knew any of the 700 murder victims I just cited. But, in lesser ways, we are not immune from pain and suffering. We may struggle with one or more of a variety of problems: physical infirmity, broken relationships, a wayward child, dying parents, unemployment, not to mention internal demons such as addiction that may control our lives. Still, we can take heart in what Jesus taught us: that we are all the children of a Fatherly God, who loves each one of us with an infinite love, and who has provided for our welfare in this life and in eternity. If we realize this eternal truth, we will not only be comforted in our souls, but we will be inspired to bring comfort and hope to our fellow brothers and sisters.
In his book The Spiritual Life of Children, Robert Coles tells of a girl named Mary, not yet ten, from a region of the country often called backward. Mary told him, “I don’t want to waste my time here on earth. When you’re put here, it’s for a reason. The Lord wants you to do something. If you don’t know what, then you’ve got to try hard to find out what. It may take time. You may make mistakes. But if you pray, He’ll lead you to your direction. He won’t hand you a piece of paper with a map on it, no sir. He’ll whisper something, and at first you might not even hear, but if you have trust in Him and you keep turning to Him, it will be all right.”
Thanks be to God!
As a Lay Servant in the United Methodist Church, I submit a report each year to the UM Charge Conference. One part of the report is a list of "books read to help you develop your devotional life, improve your understanding of the Bible, improve your understanding of The United Methodist Church, and to improve your skills in caring leading, commnuicating, and speaking."
Here is the list I submitted for the past year:
Books I have read in the past year:
Friendship with God | Kaye and Bill Cooper
Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos | Philip A. Rolnick
Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Values and Virtues | Jeffrey Wattles
The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem | Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
Birdsong | Rumi
Sacrifice and Atonement: Psychological Motives and Biblical Patterns | Stephan Finlan
Bullying in the Churches | Stephan Finlan
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint | Nadia Bolz-Weber
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People | Nadia Bolz-Weber:
The Enduring Quest: A Search for a Philosophy of Life | Harry Overstreet
The Religion of Jesus | Walter E. Bundy
Our Recovery of Jesus | Walter E. Bundy
God in Idea and Experience | Rees Griffiths
God and Ourselves | Edwin Lewis
If the Oceans Were Ink | Carla Power
The Kotel Siddur: Prayer Book for Friday Night and Festivals | The Western Wall Heritage Foundation
Speaking of Faith | Krista Tippett
The two books by Bundy, as well as the books by Rees Griffiths, Edwin Lewis, and Harry Overstreet, are cited by Matthew Block as "source books" for paper 196, "The Faith of Jesus." See http://www.urantiabooksources.com/pdf/196.pdf
July 17, 2016
[Note: the hymn preceding the sermon was Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley]
I am retired from my career in the computer field. At one time I used to teach computer classes at corporate sites around the country. I would fly in to a city Sunday night, teach Monday through Friday, then fly back home. I liked the teaching, but did not like the travel, especially with a wife and two kids at home, so after a while I quit.
One week I taught a class to about 20 programmers, each one of whom had a computer for doing the class exercises. One of my students was in a motorized wheelchair. He wasn’t able to use his legs, which hung limply. He could hardly use his arms, except for the minimal effort required to move his wheelchair. And he couldn’t talk; he could only grunt. In order to use the keyboard to type in programming commands or to send me a message he had a prong attached to a headband. He would lean forward and use the prong to press the keys, one by one.
[I illustrated this story by putting on a headband, to which I attached a two-foot prong]
When I saw how this fellow, who was evidently a successful computer programmer, coped with his handicaps, I resolved that the next time I had a hangnail, I would not feel sorry for myself.
I know nothing of this student’s faith or his personal relationship with God, but it must have required great courage and a genuine faith of some sort for him to be a successful computer professional. Like Jesus, he had to walk that lonesome valley. Indeed, each one of us also has to walk the lonesome valley. We may not have the afflictions this programmer had or we may have even greater afflictions—of body, of mind, or mistreatment by the world. But whether we have been lucky or unlucky, every one of us, in the depths of our soul, has to walk the lonesome valley in which we find God for ourselves. Every one of us, rich or poor, strong or weak, healthy or unhealthy, must face the ultimate question: Is life, with all of its contradictions and cruelties, nothing more than a random combination of atoms, or does life conceal some higher purpose? Could it be true that this world, with all its horrors, was created by God who called it good, who created mankind in his own image and who sent us his divine Son, Jesus, to be the way, the truth, and the life and to guide us into a glorious destiny?
Some people have questioned whether Jesus really had to walk the lonesome valley. After all, wasn’t he the Son of God, who declared “I and the Father are one”? If the only record we had of Jesus was the Gospel of John, this would be a plausible view. In John’s Gospel, Jesus knows who he is, all that he has ever been and is to be from the very beginning. He is presented as a divine being, an object of veneration, but not as a human being needing faith or religion himself. But the other three Gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, present us with a different perspective on Jesus, one that emphasizes that he was not only the Son of God, but also the Son of Man.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see a very human Jesus, a man in need of faith, a man whose supreme religious aspiration is the discovery and performance of the divine will. And he achieves this goal by a terrific struggle and stress of soul
Yes, Jesus walked the lonesome valley, as each one of us must do. He was a religious man—the most religious man ever—who by his fervent and undaunted faith achieved the knowing and doing of the divine will.
The human Jesus had a faith in God that was absolute and exultant. Like every mortal creature, he experienced the highs and lows of daily existence, but he never for one moment doubted the certainty of God’s protection and loving care. Jesus’ faith was the result of the activity of the divine spirit working within the ground of his being. His faith was not just an adherence to tradition or acceptance of a dogmatic belief; nor was it simple an intellectual exercise. His faith was completely personal and wholly spiritual.
Jesus saw God as holy, just, and great, as well as being true, beautiful and good. For Jesus, all these divine qualities comprised the “will of the Father in heaven.”
Faith for Jesus was not a means of escape from a world of troubles and conflicts. It was not an illusory consolation for the trials and problems of life, an avoidance of the harsh realities of life. In the face of all life’s tribulations, he enjoyed the thrill of living, by faith, in the very presence of the Heavenly Father. This faith was a triumphant source of personal power and security. As the theologian Wilhelm Bousset has put it, “Never in the life of any one man was God such a living reality as in the life of Jesus.”
Jesus’ faith was rooted in his personal experience with God.Theologians may intellectualize and dogmatize faith, but in the human life of Jesus, faith was personal, original, and spontaneous, like the attitude of a child toward his parents. Jesus’ faith in God was not something he held, but rather something that held him. His experience of God was so real and so deep that it dissolved all doubts or contrary desires. No disappointment, frustration or distress could shake his all-consuming faith. His trust in God was absolute, totally loyal. Not even a cruel death could dent his faith.
For Jesus, the kingdom of God encompassed all spirit values. He said, “Seek First the kingdom of God.” The heart of the prayer he taught his disciples was, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” He devoted himself to the realization of the will of God with utter self-forgetfulness and total enthusiasm. Yet he never succumbed to the fury of the fanatic or extremist. This spiritual attitude dominated all of his praying, his preaching, his teaching, his thinking, and feeling.
Even so, when someone came to him with the question, “Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus immediately replied, “Why do you call me good? None is good save one, even God.” When we behold this incredible self-forgetfulness, it becomes easier to see how God the Father was able so fully to manifest himself to Jesus and reveal himself through him to others. As the theologian Heiler has written, “The greatest of all offerings that the religious man brings to God is the surrender of his own will in complete obedience.” This is just what Jesus did: the dedication and consecration of his own will to the majestic service of doing the divine will.
Walter E. Bundy, in The Religion of Jesus, has commented that “[Jesus] interpreted religious living wholly in terms of the divine will.”He points out that Jesus never prayed as a religious duty, but rather as “an expression of need, a release of soul, a relief of inner pressure, an elevation and enrichment of mind, a reinforcement and refreshment of spirt, a clarifying of vision. Bundy goes on to say that “Not in visions and voices, but in prayer and communion with God…Jesus learned the divine will and found the personal power to perform it.”
Jesus proclaimed, “Except you become as a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom.” Here Jesus is not recommending a childish immaturity, but rather the attitude of trust and confidence that a child has in his parental environment.The child has a sense of absolute security, free from skepticism and disturbing doubts. Like such a child, Jesus was assured of the watchcare and guidance of his heavenly Father. Bundy says, “His dependence of the divine yielded a sense of absolute security, a wholesome optimism.”
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He could not have so mercifully forgiven his executioners unless his entire life had been dominated by thoughts of love.
Jesus’ great demand is, “Follow me.” He urged his followers not so much to believe in him, but rather believe with him, to accept the reality of the love of God and confidently feel the assurance of sonship with the Father in heaven. He challenged his followers to believe not only what he believed, but as he believed.
Christians glorify the risen and divine Jesus, and it is right and proper that we do so. But he has ascended on high as a man, as well as God. He belongs to men; men belong to him. Let not the discussions of the humanity or divinity of the Christ obscure the saving truth that Jesus of Nazareth was a religious man who, by faith, achieved the knowing and the doing of the will of God.
If, in walking the lonesome valley, we come to realize, by faith, God’s loving acceptance of us, his children, we are assured of spiritual peace in this life and of salvation, continuing life in the world to come.
Thanks be to God!
On CNN and Fox News, one politician after another professed to be “shocked” by the massacre in Orlando. “Who would have expected such a thing?” people kept asking. Actually, I’ve been expecting just such a thing for years. The only shock was that it took this long for some jihadist to go after a gay establishment.
Islamic law, after all, is crystal clear on homosexuality, though the various schools of sharia prescribe a range of penalties: one calls for death by stoning; another demands that the transgressor be thrown from a high place; a third says to drop a building on him. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, as well as in parts of Nigeria, Somalia, Syria and Iraq, homosexuality is indeed punishable by death.
Nor do Muslims magically change their views on the subject when they move to the West. As long ago as 2005, the head of the Netherlands’ leading gay rights group said that, owing to the growth of Islam in Amsterdam, tolerance of gay people was “slipping away like sand through the fingers”; over the last 10 or 15 years, Dutch gays have fled the cities in droves to escape Muslim gay-bashing. In Norway, several high-profile Muslims have refused publicly to oppose executing gays, and when challenged on their views have gone on the offensive, demanding respect for orthodox Muslim beliefs. This past April, a poll established that 52 percent of British Muslims want homosexuality banned.
Many on the left (and some on the right, too) refuse to face these facts. In 2004, when gay activist Peter Tatchell urged London’s then-mayor Ken Livingstone to rescind an invitation to Koranic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi—who supports the death penalty for gays—Livingstone issued a report calling Qaradawi a liberal and Tatchell a racist.
Yes, there are self-identified Muslims who harbor no antigay prejudice; I suspect that more than a few of them are actually apostates who—aware that Islam considers apostasy, too, a capital crime—choose to keep quiet about their infidel status. Some gays who were born into Islam claim that they’ve worked out for themselves a version of their faith not inconsistent with their homosexuality; good luck to them, but they’re in a tiny minority. Whenever a Muslim commits some atrocity, we’re reminded that the world contains some 1.5 billion Muslims, the great majority of them tolerant, peace-loving, etc.; the fact is that the great majority of those 1.5 billion Muslims also belong to varieties of Islam that preach contempt for, and severe punishment of, homosexuals.
Incredibly, many gays still don’t get this—or refuse to get it. They cling—mindlessly, one wants to say—to leftist ideology, which tells them that Muslims, like gays, are an official victim group, and thus their natural allies. They see Christians as their enemies—though even the most aggressively antigay Christians in America, namely the “God hates fags” crowd at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, don’t go around killing anybody. Perversely, some gays support the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, which demonizes the only gay-friendly country in the Middle East. Some even buy into the concept of “pinkwashing”—the inane assertion, promoted by radical lesbian playwright Sarah Schulman, that Israel advertises its own gay-positive values as a means of covering up its supposed oppression of Palestinians. On this day of horror, let’s hope that the jihadist massacre of 50 people in a gay club in Orlando finally awakens gay Americans to the brutal reality of Islam’s hatred for them.
Bruce Bawer is the author of The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind.
Islamism is the great evil of our age, and the great question of our age is whether this foulness is the natural child of Islam itself or a cancer on its body. This is not a question that can be decided by comparing the number of “good” Muslims to the number of “bad” ones. A religion is a form of philosophy, and a philosophy shapes not just individuals but whole cultures and nations into its own image over time. Any individual may do right or wrong in the name of any given idea. You have to see a much bigger picture before you can judge the moral quality of the idea itself.
The West, over the centuries, has become increasingly tolerant and diversified. This did not happen in spite of our dominant religion but because of it. If you look at a map of the nations that accept the concept of gay rights, for example, you will find that they are almost without exception nations formed by Christianity. Indeed, when one Westerner argues for gay rights and another argues against them, they are both arguing on Christian principles—the Judge-Not versus the Shall-Not. Though it infuriates both sides to hear it, it is nonetheless true: this is an internecine quarrel, a family feud. Our very ability to disagree on such basic issues without murdering one another is what makes all of us, believers or not, helplessly Christian in the end.
When I look at the nations of Islam, I do not see the same sort of development toward tolerance and multiplicity. Almost everywhere Islam is dominant, there is oppression, ignorance, and violence at levels the West does not experience. Almost every act of terrorism worldwide is associated with Islam—so much so that those wishing to defend the creed have to seize on the occasional outlying act of non-Islamic terrorism, or descend into childish moral equivalencies or try to spin the issue as one of “guns” or “hate” or “religion” in order to distract us from the painfully obvious.
The fact is, when an Islamic man invades an Orlando gay bar and starts slaughtering the innocent on Koranic principles, it is not just right but necessary for us to ask: is he distorting the teaching of the Koran or living out its logic? Much depends on getting the answer right, possibly even our survival.
The best way to find the answer is, of course, to have well-informed people debate the question publicly without censorship and with at least a modicum of civility and goodwill. We seem to have decided against this. Instead, with the aid of our media and Internet, we greet each new act of Islamic murder with a show of lies and anger. The Left is in charge of the lies. They tell us, in Hillary Clinton’s absurd words, that “Muslims . . . have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” The Right takes care of the anger, spewing useless rhetoric about carpet-bombing Arabia until the sand glows in the dark.
A battle between lies and anger can never be resolved. Each feeds the other. The lies produce more frustrated anger; the anger seems to justify the pacifying lies. The best one can hope for is the brute victory of one form of stupidity over the other. That seems to be the idea behind the current ridiculous presidential election, in which the dishonest Left is about to nominate the avatar of its dishonesty, and the angry Right is about to nominate the avatar of its rage.
The Devil, says C.S. Lewis, “always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites . . . He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.”
The path between lies and anger is the fearless search for truth, that truth which not only sets us free but which, in this case, may be the only thing that can save us. If we are in a fight with the angry fragment of a moderate creed, let our warriors and lawmen hunt them down and kill them and be done with it. If we are in a clash of civilizations, we may all of us need to oppose the enemy without fear at every level of our national life.
Andrew Klavan is a City Journal contributing editor. His podcast is featured Monday through Thursday at the DailyWire.com.
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