According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Saturday, March 24, 2018

"Christian" America's Weakness in the Age of Trumpian Politics



Yesterday I completed a four week mini-course on Sparta and Athens, both rivals and friends when it suited them. Sparta was a militaristic state which evolved Hellas' (The Greek name for Greece before Rome later renamed; thus "Hellenistic" culture or the influence of "Hellenism" upon the ancient Jewish world) first rudimentary democracy amongst its own Spartan population (750 BC). Otherwise, it was a slave state from first to last, expanding its territory as it went along and taking slaves (helots) as it conquered. Athens, whose power came 250 years later (around 500 BC), expanded the Spartan idea of a limited democracy to include all citizens of all races, classes, stripes and colors. Most of Western civilization is based upon this latter Hellenic model. As such, Athen's mode of "conquering" was through economic and political alliances which, once made, was difficult for city-states to get out of without resorting to a war of some kind against Athen's expanding global outreach. This ancient idea of "leaguing" with one another is still in use today to greater or lesser effect.

Thucydides, a late Athenian general, leader, and later exiled historian who used his freedom to travel abroad in the ancient world including that of Sparta, witnessed the Spartan-Athenian alliance work together to conquer a common adversary, Persia. But later this alliance dissolved through what he called "mutual distrust." This meant that each city-state power "feared the other" and came to determine what it had to do to keep its "rule" against the other's waxing power and influence. Though each had its own kind of democracy, how each understood and utilized its democracy was starkly different. One limited it to its own "race of people" (those who were "Spartans") while the other (Athens) extended it to "all its people living within its borders" regardless of race, color, or distinction. Over time, these systems clashed so that what destroyed Spartan and Athenian democracies was their own internal warfares with one another which weakened each and eventually ceeded (yielded) to tyranncy, greed, adverice, and a mania for wealth and power by the lesser lights of their citizenry.



Moreover, Thucydides who chronicled Hellas' legacies is considered the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcomes of relations between states as ultimately mediated by, and constructed upon, the emotions of fear and self-interest:
Jonathan Haslam from the University of Cambridge characterizes realism as "a spectrum of ideas."[1] Regardless of which definition is used, the theories of realism revolve around four central propositions:[2]That states are the central actors in international politics rather than individuals or international organizations,
That the international political system is anarchic as there is no supranational authority that can enforce rules over the states,
That the actors in the international political system are rational as their actions maximize their own self-interest, and
That all states desire power so that they can ensure their own self-preservation.

Realism is often associated with Realpolitik as both are based on the management of the pursuit, possession, and application of power. Realpolitik, however, is an older prescriptive guideline limited to policy-making (like foreign policy), while realism is a particular paradigm, or wider theoretical and methodological framework, aimed at describing, explaining and, eventually, predicting events in the international relations domain. The theories of Realism are contrasted by the cooperative ideals of liberalism.
Furthermore, the "Thucydides Trap" is one where international relations is upended through the emotional attitudes of fear and distrust (see article below). This is now in evidence across America as its democracy is threatened within and without:
The "Thucydides Trap" refers to when a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war. Thucydides wrote: "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta."
"By within," is meant how America will, or will not, extend its democratic principles to those races, cultures, and religions within its borderlands in an equal and just legal system. When refusing to do so it evolves into a democratic tyranncy of majority over the minorities. "By without," is meant how America behaves both to its Allies as well as to those newer rising international powers which would threaten its commerce and trade. Of course the benefit to all involved nations is the opportunity to examine, understand and accept one another in times of high stress. Many times the strength of nations can be found in accepting and examining a foe or ally's cultures and religions. The trap for Sparta and Athens was the rise of the latter's power and influence over the other resulting in the fear that it instilled in Sparta which made war inevitable between both ancient city-states.

Similarly, when reviewing Western civilization's past 500 years of history (1,500-2,100 AD) it has evidenced 16 incidents in which a rising national power threatened to displace a ruling one. Twelve of those historical incidents ended in war. The bottom line is that war is usually inevitable once the "fear line" of tolerability has been crossed. This is the "Thucydian Trap". Should America continue its militaristic rhetoric of war against rising powers like China we will witness an accelerating and harrowing relationship between both powers. Powers which should rather work together to solve massive global crises of water, food, pandemics, poverty, and injustice, rather than rattle sabers at each other vying for supremacy. The objective is as inane as the populations which think there can be a winner in war. However, in all wars, all lose. And in the case of Sparta and Athens the new winner was the one on the sidelines waiting to come in, namely, Macedonia under Philip and his son Alexander (the Great).


As an evolving democracy on the precipice of internal collapse, America owes itself the opportunity to continue reforming itself under the Constitutional principles of equality and justice both "within and without." And as an international power to share its wealth, knowledge and power with the world in a kind of relationship which works towards peace, cooperation, and acceptance. If not, America will continue civilization's course of mutually assured destruction where neither side wins and all sides lose. As a nation which prides itself as a Christian nation (which, when looking at its history can be highly debatable) would certainly be the Christianly thing to do. It is certain the Jesus thing to do who served others ahead of Himself and strove for peace, love and just equibility between all men and women. If America is a Christian nation then it will do the same - working for justice to its minorities within - and justice to the world without. It rests in the unique position of servanthood - a spiritual strength which could bring peace and goodwill to all nations. But if refusing, provide an injustice and harm beyond measure to all innocents within and abroad.

R.E. Slater
March 24, 2018




* * * * * * * * * *



The Thucydides Trap
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/the-thucydides-trap/

When one great power threatens to displace another,
war is almost always the result --
but it doesn’t have to be.

June 9, 2017

In April, chocolate cake had just been served at the Mar-a-Lago summit when President Donald Trump leaned over to tell Chinese President Xi Jinping that American missiles had been launched at Syrian air bases, according to Trump’s account of the evening. What the attack on Syria signaled about Trump’s readiness to attack North Korea was left to Xi’s imagination.

Welcome to dinner with the leaders who are now attempting to
manage the world’s most dangerous geopolitical relationship.

The story is a small one. But as China challenges America’s predominance, misunderstandings about each other’s actions and intentions could lead them into a deadly trap first identified by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. As he explained, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling one. Twelve of these ended in war.

Of the cases in which war was averted — Spain outstripping Portugal in the late 15th century, the United States overtaking the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century, and Germany’s rise in Europe since 1990 — the ascent of the Soviet Union is uniquely instructive today. Despite moments when a violent clash seemed certain, a surge of strategic imagination helped both sides develop ways to compete without a catastrophic conflict. In the end, the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

Although China’s rise presents particular challenges, Washington policymakers should heed five Cold War lessons.

Lesson 1: War between nuclear superpowers is MADness.

The United States and the Soviet Union built nuclear arsenals so substantial that neither could be sure of disarming the other in a first strike. Nuclear strategists described this condition as “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD. Technology, in effect, made the United States and Soviet Union conjoined twins — neither able to kill the other.

Today, China has developed its own robust nuclear arsenal. From confrontations in the South and East China Sea, to the gathering storm over the Korean Peninsula, leaders must recognize that war would be suicidal.

Lesson 2: Leaders must be prepared to risk a war they cannot win.

Although neither nation can win a nuclear war, both, paradoxically, must demonstrate a willingness to risk losing one to compete.

Consider each clause of this nuclear paradox. On the one hand, if war occurs, both nations lose and millions die — an option no rational leader could choose. But, on the other hand, if a nation is unwilling to risk war, its opponent can win any objective by forcing the more responsible power to yield. To preserve vital interests, therefore, leaders must be willing to select paths that risk destruction. Washington must think the unthinkable to credibly deter potential adversaries such as China.

Washington must think the unthinkable to credibly deter potential adversaries such as China.

Lesson 3: Define the new “precarious rules of the status quo.”

The Cold War rivals wove an intricate web of mutual constraints around their competition that President John F. Kennedy called “precarious rules of the status quo.” These included arms-control treaties and precise rules of the road for air and sea. Such tacit guidelines for the United States and China today might involve limits on cyberattacks or surveillance operations.

By reaching agreements on contentious issues, the United States and China can create space to cooperate on challenges — such as global terrorism and climate change — in which the national interests the two powers share are much greater than those that divide them. Overall, leaders should understand that survival depends on caution, communication, constraints, compromise, and cooperation.

Lesson 4: Domestic performance is decisive.

What nations do inside their borders matters at least as much as what they do abroad. Had the Soviet economy overtaken that of the United States by the 1980s, as some economists predicted, Moscow could have consolidated a position of hegemony. Instead, free markets and free societies won out. The vital question for the U.S.-China rivalry today is whether Xi’s Leninist-Mandarin authoritarian government and economy proves superior to American capitalism and democracy.

Maintaining China’s extraordinary economic growth, which provides legitimacy for sweeping party rule, is a high-wire act that will only get harder. Meanwhile, in the United States, sluggish growth is the new normal. And American democracy is exhibiting worrisome symptoms: declining civic engagement, institutionalized corruption, and widespread lack of trust in politics. Leaders in both nations would do well to prioritize their domestic challenges.

Lesson 5: Hope is not a strategy.

Over a four-year period from George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram,” which identified the Soviet threat, to Paul Nitze’s NSC-68, which provided the road map for countering this threat, U.S. officials developed a winning Cold War strategy: contain Soviet expansion, deter the Soviets from acting against vital American interests, and undermine both the idea and the practice of communism. In contrast, America’s China policy today consists of grand, politically appealing aspirations that serious strategists know are unachievable. In attempting to maintain the post-World War II Pax Americana during a fundamental shift in the economic balance of power toward China, the United States’ real strategy, truth be told, is hope.

In today’s Washington, strategic thinking is often marginalized. Even Barack Obama, one of America’s smartest presidents, told the New Yorker that, given the pace of change today, “I don’t really even need George Kennan.” Coherent strategy does not guarantee success, but its absence is a reliable route to failure.

Thucydides’s Trap teaches us that on the historical record, war is more likely than not. From Trump’s campaign claims that China is “ripping us off” to recent announcements about his “great chemistry” with Xi, he has accelerated the harrowing roller coaster of U.S.-China relations. If the president and his national security team hope to avoid catastrophic war with China while protecting and advancing American national interests, they must closely study the lessons of the Cold War.

*This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of FP magazine.