Turkey The Coming Flash Point For Militant Islam

Failed Coup Signals the End Turkish of Democracy

Paul Buchanan & Kate Nicholls
NZ Herald

As students of comparative civil-military relations, we were surprised to read the Herald’s editorial, “Coup’s failure hopeful sign for democracy.” We see no positives resulting from the aborted coup. Instead we foresee the death throes of a painstakingly crafted secular, albeit imperfect, democracy, that has been under siege since the election of Recep Erdogan as Prime Minister in 2003 and President in 2014.

The cornerstones of Turkish democracy were an apolitical professional military, an independent secular judiciary, and a multiparty electoral system characterised by a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.

Granted, Kemal Ataturk’s nationalism, which bound the country together in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, often worked to stifle free speech and repress ethnic minorities, notably the Kurds. Turkish democracy has also always been “guarded”, meaning that the military has on occasion acted as unelected veto-player. Yet since the rise of Erdogan to power 16 years ago, things have gotten incrementally but steadily worse.

Since he assumed office, Erdogan has undermined the judiciary by appointing ideological cronies and firing or arresting independent-minded jurists; sacked hundreds of senior military officers and replaced them with loyalists; introduced mandatory Islamic Studies into military curricula; censored, banned and/or arrested non-supplicant media outlets and reporters; rigged electoral rules in favour of his own party; and instituted constitutional amendments designed to perpetrate his rule and re-impose Sharia precepts on public institutions (something not seen since the days of the Ottomans).

He has enriched himself and his friends by using public construction projects as sources of political patronage and illicit gain. All in all, he has destroyed the promise of a moderate democratic Islamism that brought him to power in the first place. Using populist methods to reaffirm his electoral popularity with the rural and urban poor, Erdogan has been steadily eroding Turkish democracy from within.

Erdogan has also proven himself to be diplomatically incompetent. From a position of stability as the regional power in the Levant, under his guidance Turkey now finds itself at war with adversaries on two borders, estranged from the US, Russia and Israel as well as the Gulf Arab states, at odds with Europe over a host of political and economic issues, and confronted by a rising tide of domestic terrorism.

His tenure has been ruinous for Turkish aspirations for European Union membership and Turkey’s increasingly unfavourable international reputation was cemented by its loss to New Zealand and Spain in the 2014 elections for a UN Security Council temporary seat for the 2015-17 term.

Erdogan has blamed the coup attempt on the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose power base is to be found amongst the more educated and liberal sectors of Turkish society and whose brand of Islam appears more compatible with the older secular nationalist vision. Whether Gulen was really behind the coup attempt remains to be seen, but there are reasons to suspect the President’s version of the coup’s origins, not least that the plot was very poorly planned and doomed to failure from the outset.

For example, the plotters did not grab Erdogan or take over media outlets before announcing the takeover; did not move to censor social media in order to deny Erdogan and his loyalists an alternative communications platform; did not have more than a brigade’s worth of infantry troops trying to control the entire country; and did not have enough armour or aviation to impose emergency rule.

As with many failed coups it was led by junior rather than senior officers, although that is because the senior ranks are full of Erdogan loyalists.

When it comes to the future of Turkish democracy, whether the coup was instigated from Pennsylvania or just a bit closer to the President’s own office is in many ways irrelevant. Erdogan is already using the events of the past week to further purge the military of secularist factions with the arrest of at least 6000 military personnel (including 130 officers), has suspended 8000 police officers and 3000 members of the judiciary, and moved to reintroduce the death penalty-a move which both appeals to baser populist tendencies and will be yet another setback in Turkey’s 50-year long negotiation over accession to the European Union.

In spite of its apparent near-success, the nature of the coup suggested not so much a well-planned and militarily precise operation in defence of democracy as it did an opportunistic manipulation of discontent within military ranks in order to justify a purge of the discontented.

Whether the coup was a last ditch defence of the Kemalist democratic legacy or not, the outcome is now clear: Turkey has veered hard towards outright dictatorship with Erdogan as the primary beneficiary.

Paul G. Buchanan is Director of 36th Parallel Assessments, a New Zealand based political risk and strategic analysis consultancy.  Kate Nicholls is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences and Public at the AUT.
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Daily Devotional

Why We Don’t Lose Heart

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

John Piper

Paul can’t see the way he used to (and there were no glasses). He can’t hear the way he used to (and there were no hearing aids). He doesn’t recover from beatings the way he used to (and there were no antibiotics). His strength, walking from town to town, doesn’t hold up the way it used to. He sees the wrinkles in his face and neck. His memory is not as good. And he admits that this is a threat to his faith and joy and courage.

But he doesn’t lose heart. Why?

He doesn’t lose heart because his inner man is being renewed. How?

The renewing of his heart comes from something very strange: it comes from looking at what he can’t see.

We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

This is Paul’s way of not losing heart: looking at what you can’t see. What did he see?

A few verses later in 2 Corinthians 5:7, he says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” This doesn’t mean that he leaps into the dark without evidence of what’s there. It means that for now the most precious and important realities in the world are beyond our physical senses.

We “look” at these unseen things through the gospel. We strengthen our hearts — we renew our courage — by fixing our gaze on the invisible, objective truth that we see in the testimony of those who saw Christ face to face.
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Regrets–I’ve Had a Few

The Silent Grief
The book of Malachi tells us that God hates divorce.  So, it seems, do many who have been through the divorce washing machine.  It has become a case of “divorce in haste, repent in leisure”.  An article in the NZ Herald profiles the lingering post-divorce regret that many experience and suffer in New Zealand.  

For our overseas readers, New Zealand has a liberal divorce construct.  You can divorce with less discomfort than enduring a winter cold.  It is easier to break up a marriage than de-incorporate a company, or extract yourself from a business partnership.  In New Zealand, the bar is so low and such is the social and legal disrespect for marriage that the State has introduced a plethora of competing variants, so that everyone can slide down the snake to the bottom of the ladder with equal facility.

So, we have social relationships called “partnerships”, “de-facto’s”, people “living together”, homosexual marriage, serial monogamy, serial polygamy, and anything else that takes your fancy. Two lesbians living together with a budgie constitute a family in New Zealand.
 But more, the State will create a noun to name your preferred relationship variant, and a legal recognition of your preference faster than you can say “human right”.  Each of these have their legal warrant, protections, support, and endorsement from the law, officials, politicians, the Chatterers, the Commentariat–you name it.

The State tells itself that it is being liberal, open, fair, just, non-discriminatory, and so forth.  But the long, lingering anguish coupled with the human wreckage of a lifetime of regret, it has decided not to recognise, for that would cut far, far too close to the bone.  It would risk confronting them with the Maker.  As poet, Daniel Lanois put it:

Oh, oh, deep water
Black and cold like the night:
I stand with arms wide open
I’ve run a twisted line.
I’m a stranger in the eyes of the Maker.

Facing up to that reality must not, ever, be countenanced.  We, being the Masters of our own fate, are entitled to define, refine, change, and abuse marriage as we wish.  But the consequences, the long-term lingering effects, are real.  “Divorce regret” is real.

There is a tiny chapel perched in the meadow above Judge’s Bay, in Parnell. White and wooden, it’s the perfect setting for a romantic summer wedding.  A 10-minute drive from there, crouching low over the wind-tunnel of Albert St, is the Auckland District Court. Above the entrance, a large patch of mould is creeping down the facade to meet the New Zealand Coat of Arms.

Of the 10,000 or so couples who marry in New Zealand yearly, roughly a third will eventually end up filing the papers here, on level 6, to dissolve their marriage.  Divorce has never been easier and, for marriages where abuse or genuine incompatibility is at play, shooting the horse can be the best option. But for others it’s not so straightforward: according to several British studies, upwards of 33 per cent of those who divorce will regret their decision within five years.  Google “divorce regret” and you will find the internet is littered with those regretting their decision to end it. . . . [NZ Herald]

Whilst many who divorce endure a lifetime of “divorce regret”, the opposite is also true.  Those marriages where the husband and wife work through their problems and issues constructively testify–in later life–how glad they are that they stuck together.  They contemplate what life would have been like without their spouse and they find it difficult to conceive, let alone imagine.  They have experienced that state which Adam, our first parent described as “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”.  No regrets.  Not so, for many who have divorced:

Clinical psychologist Trish Purnell-Webb, founder of the Relationship Institute Australasia, says most of her divorced clients have to resolve their regret. Mostly regrets take the form of “Why didn’t I make more of an effort?” and “Why couldn’t I see how great they were?”

She estimates 90 per cent of the couples she sees could happily go on to have a successful relationship, providing they up-skill to overcome their individual and joint weaknesses. The other 10 per cent have genuinely made a mistake in their choice of partner.

Here is a description of what many experience after a “divorce in haste, repent in leisure” situation:

But even in marriages that are fundamentally sound, when things get tough, as they inevitably do, a proportion of people choose the quick death and perceived fresh start of divorce, rather than hanging in there for the hard slog of overcoming difficulties. . . .

One Hamilton woman, now in her 50s, says this was the case in her former marriage. They allowed, she says, the chaos of having a young family to swamp, and eventually capsize, their marriage. “That joy you have on seeing your partner come home is lost to desperately needing them to be home so they can share the load,” she says. “While there’s great happiness in having a family, it’s a lot of pressure on a relationship.”

Their marriage drifted, and in the end her husband made a stupid mistake – seeing another woman. It would be easy to blame him for their eventual divorce, but she is adamant that’s not the case. “Blame is completely out of line because you’re just as responsible,” she says. “You both got to that point. If you honestly look back at the previous time, you can see cracks.”  They tried marriage guidance, but she had already checked out, even before his adultery. “You leave it until everything’s about to break.”

Divorced more than a decade, she says, “I regret not hanging in. I have lain awake, years after, in the middle of the night, woken up thinking, ‘Oh my God.'”

Christians testify that, like the great Gothic flying arch, the buttresses of their marriage is their fear and love of God.  It holds their marriages together–through the toughest times.  They fear doing that which God declares He hates.  They also believe that God loves them, and that the Lord of heaven and earth, the Maker of all things, does not make mistakes.  Their spouse is ultimately God’s choice for them for their good.

Unbelief has no such buttresses to marriage.  When the world advises and whispers incessantly, “It’s better to be free” and when our social authorities long ago dismissed marriage as an institution not worthy of the least respect, many have swallowed the lies (doubtless willingly, for it was what they wanted to hear at the time).  But the consequences are often devastating:  “I regret not hanging in. I have lain awake, years after, in the middle of the night, woken up thinking, ‘Oh my God.'”

The poet should have the last word on that Hamilton woman’s cry of dereliction:

I could not see
For the fog in my eyes;
I could not feel
For the fear in my life.

And from across the great divide
In the distance I saw a light
Of John Baptist
Walking to me with the Maker.

My body, my body is bent
And broken by long and dangerous sleep.

I can’t work the fields of Abraham
And turn my head away;
I’m not a stranger in the hands of the Maker.

Brother John, have you seen
The homeless daughters,
Standing here with broken wings?

I have seen the flaming swords
There over East of Eden.
Burning in the eyes of the Maker
Burning in the eyes of the Maker
Burning in the eyes of the Maker.
Oh, river rise from your sleep.

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because today Yahveh will appear

marmsky devotions July 2016 (30)

Leviticus 9:1-5

Lev 9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel,
Lev 9:2 and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a mistake offering and a ram for an ascending offering both perfect, and offer them in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 9:3 And speak to the people of Israel, and this is what you should say, ‘Take a male goat for a mistake offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old, perfect, for an ascending offering
Lev 9:4 and an ox and a ram for offerings for healthy relationships, to sacrifice in Yahveh’s sight, and a tribute offering mixed with oil, because today Yahveh will appear among you.’”
Lev 9:5 And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the conference tent, and all the congregation drew near and stood in Yahveh’s sight.

because today Yahveh will appear

After all the sacrifices are completed, and reconciliation is provided, and healthy relationships are restored, God has a promise. He spoke that promise to us by having the Israelites gather on the eighth day of the ordination of the priests. He commanded that they prepare themselves, not to go somewhere else to meet God, but for God to come down and appear among them. That was the message of John the Baptist as well. He told his people not to get ready to go meet God, but to prepare themselves for him, because the kingdom is near, the king is coming.

The eighth day is upon us. Prepare to meet the king. Repent, and make things ready for him.

LORD, may all those who read these words be ready for you when you return to reign.


Letter from Israel (About Persecution of Christians in Egypt)

Violence Against Egypt’s Christians Escalates

Breitbart Jerusalem

(AFP) – Violence against Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christian minority, one of the largest and oldest groups of Christians in the Middle East, has escalated at an alarming rate in the last several weeks, with little official response.

Since late May, Christians in Egypt have been the victims of at least a dozen sectarian attacks, and activists and politicians say the government has done little to stop it, despite Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s early overtures to the Coptic community and their staunch support of him.  “It is escalating in a very short time,” said Mina Thabet, programme director for minorities and vulnerable groups with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms.

Among the assaults was one in late May on an elderly Coptic woman in Minya, who was stripped, beaten and paraded naked because of a rumour that her son was having a relationship with a Muslim woman. Seven homes in the town were set ablaze.  Victims said the police response was late and insufficient.

Sectarian tensions heated up even more on June 30, three years to the day after the beginning of the protests that led to the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, when a Coptic priest was gunned down in Al Arish, North Sinai in an attack claimed by the IS group. The group accused the priest of “waging a war against Islam”.  As gruesome as that attack was, the majority of the incidents have not taken place in the IS stronghold in northern Sinai, but in the Governorate of Minya, which is nestled along the Nile river about 250 kilometres south of Cairo.

Christian capital

Minya has the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt, with some estimates as high as 50 percent of the population there.
There are no reliable statistics about the Christian community in Egypt, but they are widely believed to make up about 10 percent of the country’s overall population.

Hours before the priest in Al Arish was shot, the under-construction house of a Coptic man in Minya was torched by a mob who thought he was building a church – despite his having signed an affidavit in the presence of police, the mayor and the local sheikh saying the structure would be a residence and would be used for no other purpose. The four adjacent homes, which belonged to his brothers, were also burned.

The building of churches is a flashpoint for sectarian tensions in Egypt. Per capita, there are far fewer churches serving the Christian community than there are mosques serving the Muslim community, and the building of new churches is strictly restricted under Egyptian law and requires special permissions. Christians for decades have had difficulty obtaining the necessary approvals and often face fierce opposition from Muslim neighbors.

While the recent violence has been concentrated in and around Minya, other Christian strongholds in the country have suffered as well. For example, an attack occurred on July 2 in the governorate of Sohag, which is about 500km south of Cairo and also has a large Christian population, when the teenage daughter of a priest was grabbed from behind by the hair and stabbed in the neck in what appeared to be a failed attempt to slit her throat. She was rescued by a bystander and survived the attack.

And on July 9 in Tanta, a town 90km north of Cairo that also has a sizable Coptic population, a pharmacist was stabbed to death and beheaded. His body was found in a house across the street from his own. According to Egyptian media reports, he was lured there by a request for a medicine delivery. The reports also said the house is owned by Salafists, members of an ultra-conservative sect of Islam.

The clashes flared up again in Minya later that week when homes of five Copts were looted and torched on July 15 after a rumour that a building that served as a kindergarten was being turned into a church. Security forces were notified as soon as the attacks began but didn’t arrive until an hour later. The fire engine that responded to the scene had no water.

Two days later, on July 17, the cousin of a priest in Minya was fatally stabbed in the heart and three others injured after a dispute that started outside the priest’s home.

While clashes occur throughout Egypt, Minya has been an area of particular concern, both historically and of late. It was the first spot where violence erupted after Sisi’s speech on July 3, 2013 in which he announced the overthrow of President Morsi, who hearkened from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood and whose followers blamed Christians, at least in part, for his ouster. Minya also has high, if not the highest, rates of ransom kidnappings of Christians, which occur sporadically throughout the country.

Many factors contribute to the recent escalation of violence in Minya, Thabet said. Radical Islamists have long had a strong, deeply rooted presence in the governance and control of schools and therefore the dissemination of ideology. That isn’t helped by an illiteracy rate that approaches 40 percent, nor the fact that about 30 percent of the poorest villages in Upper Egypt, the rural south of the country, are there.  “They are all factors,” Thabet said. “You can’t separate the economic and social factors from the equation. It’s a complicated equation.”

A slap on the wrist

But perhaps the biggest problem, according to activists, is the lack of prosecution. In none of the recent cases were the perpetrators given anything more than a slap on the wrist, points out Sherif Azer, Egyptian civil rights activist and PhD researcher at the University of York, UK.

Traditionally, instead of filing criminal charges, local authorities pressure Christians into “reconciliation” sessions, in which the opposing parties come together to negotiate a settlement outside of the criminal justice system. Copts are often pressured into surrendering their legal rights and sometimes even forced to leave their communities.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) issued a statement earlier this week in which it called the reconciliation process “an instrument that only serves to perpetuate tensions and create a climate in which any dispute between citizens is liable to escalate into sectarian violence and collective punishment”.

Instead, activists and politicians say they would like to see the law applied in cases of sectarian violence. Member of Parliament Haitham El-Hariri was cited in The Daily News Egypt newspaper saying that reconciliation session are unconstitutional and illegal. “The law should be applied on any violators, without arresting innocent people just for the sake of making balanced cases,” the article said he commented on Facebook.

The Coptic Bishop of Minya, Bishop Makarios, agrees. He urged the victims of the attacks to resist reconciliation because it often leads to perpetrators escaping without punishment. He instead is pushing for the incidents to be handled by the legal system.  But that rarely happens.

In the incident of the elderly woman in Minya, she was pushed into reconciliation. According to some news reports, the eight defendants were eventually fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds each (slightly more than 1,000 euros) and released.

In the case of the June 30 house burnings in Minya, several people were arrested, but no charges have been reported. The young man who tried to slit the neck of the teenage girl has been placed under psychiatric evaluation. Two men covered in blood were caught on surveillance video leaving the house where the pharmacist was beheaded, but according to most media reports no arrests have been made.

In the July 15 incident, about 15 people were arrested, a mix of Christians and Muslims. According to media reports, the Muslims were released in time for the Ramadan meal; the Christians were detained longer and charged with minor offences. Five suspects were detained in connection with the stabbing at the priest’s home; it is unclear if charges have yet been filed.

Even when Christians refuse reconciliation, few crimes against Copts go to trial and those that do are often dismissed because of a claimed lack of evidence, according to Ishak Ibrahim, researcher of religious freedoms at EIPR.  “This sends a message that there is no equality, and no matter what you do and how you break the law you will not be punished,” he told Egyptian newspaper Mada Masr.

The frustration was evident when Bishop Makarios sent a tweet “reminding” President Sisi that Copts are Egyptian citizens and the diocese of Minya “falls within the country’s jurisdiction”.  Sisi responded on July 21 during a speech at a military graduation ceremony saying: “We will not accept the differentiation between an Egyptian Muslim and an Egyptian Copt.”

A first step toward calming tensions would be to loosen restrictions on church building, activists say. But without the imposition of the rule of law, little will change.

“What happened in Minya is nothing but a natural result of not enforcing the law in previous sectarian attacks against the Copts, and forcing the Copts to go through reconciliation meetings and obey illegal solutions that are demeaning,” Ibrahim said.
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Daily Devotional

Screwtape on Marriage

C. S. Lewis

The Enemy’s [God’s] demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s [Satan’s] first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.

The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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One-Legged Solutions

The Maori Sole-Parent Problem

Allow us to use racial and ethnic categories for a new minutes.  It is generally known that Maori have substantial problems and issues.  But we forget, or overlook the size and scale of the problem.  Then, every so often, it shows forth once again in startling, appalling relief.

Here is a vignette which we came across the other day: a breakdown by ethnicity of Sole Parents receiving taxpayer (government) welfare in New Zealand.

The first, expected, characteristic is that the Sole Parent category in the table is overwhelmingly female.  No surprises there.

But when broken down by ethnicity, we find a startling bit of data: there are nearly 60 percent more  Maori women on the Sole Parent benefit, than NZ European women.  In June 2016, there were 31,040 Maori women receiving the Sole Parent benefit, compared to 19,753 NZ Europeans.  Yet Maori represent only 15 percent of the entire NZ population.  Of the 60,000 women on Sole Parent benefits, half of them are Maori.

Characteristics of working-age recipients of Sole Parent Support at the end of June 2011, 2015 and 2016
Annual change
8,452 5,760 5,322 −438 −7.6%
80,604 63,480 60,100 −3,380 −5.3%
Ethnic group
NZ European
32,259 22,828 19,753 −3,075 −13.5%
39,010 32,518 31,040 −1,478 −4.5%
Pacific peoples
8,930 6,694 7,020 326 4.9%
All other ethnicities See Note 1
7,324 6,247 6,538 291 4.7%
Unspecified ethnicity
1,533 953 1,071 118 12.4%
Age group
18-24 years
20,236 14,936 13,296 −1,640 −11.0%
25-39 years
47,270 38,260 37,183 −1,077 −2.8%
40-54 years
20,501 15,069 14,030 −1,039 −6.9%
55-64 years
1,049 975 913 −62 −6.4%
Continuous duration on any benefit
One year or less
17,424 14,967 14,899 −68 −0.5%
More than one year
71,632 54,273 50,523 −3,750 −6.9%
Caring for a dependent child
Under 5 years
49,000 39,527 36,625 −2,902 −7.3%
5-13 years
39,926 29,629 28,736 −893 −3.0%
Total number of recipients of Sole Parent Support 89,056 69,240 65,422 −3,818 −5.5%
Percentage of working-age main benefit population receiving Sole Parent Support
27.2% 24.3% 23.4%
Percentage of working-age population receiving Sole Parent Support
3.3% 2.5% 2.3%
Note 1: All other ethnicities includes Other Europeans, Asian people and Middle Eastern/Latin American/African peoples.

What this tells us is that Maori are in deep trouble in New Zealand, disproportionately so.  Why can’t so many Maori form stable monogamous families and homes?  Why can’t Maori raise children in such families?

There is one thing which needs to be said clearly and unambiguously: this problem is not an ethnic nor genetic problem.  Maori do not have an anti-family gene.  The problem is cultural.  Far too many Maori are conditioned, trained, and moulded into destructive social behaviour.  
Maori leaders and spokespeople have sought to find solutions in Maori ethnic and cultural identity–a sort of  “black pride” equivalent.  Maori leaders have consequently attempted “brown pride”, attempting to rebuild historical Maori cultural values, principles, beliefs, and ways of doing things.  The theory is that if Maori are taught the cultural values that historically have attended their ethnicity, they will become self-respecting and proud.  They will find their identity.  Once that is achieved, they will then be far more likely to respect others.  They will be in a position where they can form lasting, mutually respectful relationships upon which stable marriages and families can be built. 
We understand the argument.  It is a much, much better case than the grievance arguments (“Maori are suffering because they have been ripped off by whitey”) and Marxist arguments (“Maori will be able to build stable families as soon as (more) wealth is redistributed to them”.  
But despite the “brown pride” case being much stronger and closer to the mark, it is not working, not nearly enough, as the statistics on the disproportion numbers of Maori sole parents illustrate.  It’s time for Maori leaders to take stock and face up to the inadequacy of their solution.  
We would like to suggest an alternative: instead of attempting to ground Maori just in historical cultural values, we would offer, in addition, something far more profound–an ethic with a far grander, more noble lineage.  The Ten Commandments.  
When Christian missionaries first came to New Zealand they spoke of a cultural and religious lineage far, far more ancient than Maori culture, stretching right back to the beginning of the human race.  Eventually there was an enormous response to the Gospel amongst Maori leaders and tribes.  Often times, these Maori converts took the laws of the Creator far more seriously than the nominally Christian Victorians who were beginning to migrate to New Zealand in ever greater numbers.
Our experience is that there remains amongst many Maori leaders a deep respect for the Bible and for the Christian faith.  But here lies the problem: traditional Maori culture, while having many good ethical values embedded and expressed,  also had destructive and violent elements.  Separate out traditional Maori culture from the Scriptures, and you end up with some cultural institutions and practices which destroy and tear down: residual tribalism, utu, violence, hatred, and worldly-pride (mana)–to name but a few.  
The volume and rate of Maori sole-parents in New Zealand is deplorable.  All of the bad consequences and fruits of Maori family breakdown will roll down to the next generation, and the generations which follow.  Maori is not unique in these things, but it is disproportionately afflicted with them.  
Our call to Maori leaders is to face up to these realities with more than they have been doing.  Our call to them would be to follow the example of many of their people who, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ first came to this land, turned from their evil ways, and began to follow the Lord, living willingly under His law.  They were sick in heart at where Maori culture had led them–particularly grieved by internecine tribal warfare, the endless cycle of utu, and cannibalism.  
Within the context of striving to recover Maori cultural practices and traditions that are honourable, in the attempt to lift Maori out of the cycle of inter-generational degradation, the ancient Centre must also be recovered. Above all else, must needs come the eye to eye, God-to-Maori summons: “You must be born again.”  

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a week in the sanctuary

marmsky devotions July 2016 (29)

Leviticus 8:30-36

Lev 8:30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and of the blood that was on the altar and spritzed it on Aaron and his clothes, and also on his sons and his sons’ clothes. So he consecrated Aaron and his clothes, and his sons and his sons’ clothes with him.
Lev 8:31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the meat at the entrance of the conference tent, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, when I said, ‘Aaron and his sons will eat it.’
Lev 8:32 And what remains of the meat and the bread you will burn up with fire.
Lev 8:33 And you will not go outside the entrance of the conference tent for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, because it will take seven days to ordain you.
Lev 8:34 As has been done today, Yahveh has commanded to be done to provide reconciliation for you.
Lev 8:35 At the entrance of the conference tent you will stay day and night for seven days, performing what Yahveh has charged, so that you do not die, because so I have been commanded.”
Lev 8:36 And Aaron and his sons did all the things that Yahveh commanded by Moses.

a week in the sanctuary

Aaron and his sons had spent a long time reviewing the commands of God, and learning all the details of their ministry in the tabernacle. But they still had to spend a full week in the conference tent itself, as part of their ordination. They needed to become fully familiar not just with their job, but the place itself. This marvellous sanctuary was to be the instrument of their worship. It was to be the location that signified the grace and power of God.

Our saying goes: “familiarity breeds contempt.” We tend to disregard the places that we have grown accustomed to. And, I am sure the priests wrestled with that problem as well. But familiarity also helps us to establish a constant routine. When I travel for my missions work to new places, I often have to spend lots of time just getting used to my surroundings before I can function as well as when I am back “home.” For the priests in the temple, the routine had to be exact. So, they needed the time in the temple to familiarise themselves with it.

LORD, familiarise us with the place where we are to minister in your name, and the people we are to minister to.


Beyond the Bounds of Rational Behaviour

Familiarity Breeding Contempt
We suppose it’s time to moot the possibility that Donald Trump may be a sandwich short of a picnic.  Not all there, if you see where we are travelling.  If he is “all there” he may possibly rank as one of the most self-absorbed people on the planet.

One person “familiar with his thinking”, at the end of the Republican Convention, said Trump was ruminating about how he would get revenge on Ted Cruz and John Kasich.  His reported ramblings savoured of bitterness.  Kasich and Cruz had apparently committed the unforgivable sin: they had refused to kiss the ring.

Donald Trump plans to create and fund super-PACs specifically aimed at ending the political careers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich should either run for office again, after both snubbed the Republican nominee during his party’s convention this week, a person familiar with Trump’s thinking told Bloomberg Politics on Friday.

The plan would involve Trump investing millions of his own money –perhaps $20 million or more — in one or two outside groups about six months before their respective election days if Texas Senator Cruz or Ohio Governor Kasich stand for office again. The person said Trump is willing to set up two separate super-PACs – one for Cruz and one for Kasich – and put millions into each.

The person also said that Trump would be willing to invest tens of millions more if necessary to ensure his former competitors didn’t win another race. Of course, the ire that Trump has exhibited in the aftermath of the bitter nomination contest could fade over time, leading the sometimes mercurial billionaire to drop the plans.
The person said that despite former nomination rival Jeb Bush skipping the national convention and refusing to back the Republican nominee, Trump “does not care” about doing the same against Bush because the former Florida governor is already “destroyed.”

During an event in Cleveland on Friday, Trump hinted at the prospect of funding an outside group against Cruz in the future.  “Maybe I’ll set up a super-PAC if he decides to run,” Trump said of Cruz.  Turning to his running mate Mike Pence he asked rhetorically, “Are you allowed to set up a super-PAC…if you are the president, to fight someone?”

The person close to Trump’s thinking indicated that Trump would consider forming the super-PAC whether or not he wins the presidential election in November. According to Federal Election Commission rules, if Trump doesn’t win the presidency, he is clearly free to set up and fund a super-PAC. But if he occupies the Oval Office, the rules head into a legal gray area. Between elections, or if Trump declares himself a one-term president, he would be allowed to donate to a super-PAC, but is not allowed to solicit contributions of more than $5,000.

Kasich, 64, cannot run again for Ohio governor due to the state’s term limits. The 45-year-old Cruz is up for re-election in 2018. Both men have indicated an interest in running for president again in 2020, when they would either face Hillary Clinton or mount a primary challenge to a sitting Republican, Trump.  [Mark Halperin, Bloomberg News]

Maybe this is just the Trumpster being attacked by a sidewinder, a hostile anonymous source, rather than a genuine insider prompted by the boss to leak a story.  Even if true and it does reflect Trump’s thinking, it would all be just braggadocio in any event.

But, if it did genuinely originate with Trump, what would it show about his pettiness and his thirst for vengeance?  As one commentator said, it would show that Trump has all the maturity of a spoiled teenage brat.  It’s going to be entertaining if he is given the keys to the White House and the nuke codes.  If we thought that Hillary Clinton was an amoral plutocrat, we would have seen nothing yet.

If the above report is true, they are surely cut from the same soiled piece of cloth.
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Daily Devotional

Our Prayers are His Prayers

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On rejoicing over answered prayer; and on our prayers being God’s prayers.

C. S. Lewis

6 November 1953

Oh I am glad, I am glad. And here’s a thing worth recording. Of course I have been praying for you daily, as always, but latterly have found myself doing so with much more concern and especially about 2 nights ago, with such a strong feeling how very nice it would be, if God willed, to get a letter from you with good news. And then, as if by magic (indeed it is the whitest magic in the world) the letter comes to-day. Not (lest I should indulge in folly) that your relief had not in fact occurred before my prayer, but as if, in tenderness for my puny faith, God moved me to pray with especial earnestness just before He was going to give me the thing. How true that our prayers are really His prayers: He speaks to Himself through us.

I am also most moved at hearing how you were supported through the period of anxiety. For one is sometimes tempted to think that if He wanted us to be as un-anxious as the lilies of the field He really might have given us a constitution more like theirs! But then when the need comes He carries out in us His otherwise impossible instructions. In fact He always has to do all the things—all the prayers, all the virtues. No new doctrine, but newly come home to me.

The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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