Month: November 2018

How The Green Party Failed Its Own Promise Of Participatory Democracy

The Meaning Of Participatory Democracy

One of the most obvious principles of liberal democracy is that those who are most affected by the decisions of elected governing authorities be the most consulted on the decisions in question.  The right to be consulted does not equate to a right to a veto, only to be heard or considered in an objective analysis as to which course of action will maximize the greatest good for the greatest number.  A democracy that maximizes this kind of consultation may be properly considered to be a Participatory Democracy.

Various Green Parties in Canada and elsewhere were founded with Participatory Democracy as one of their six stated values, alongside Sustainability, Non-Violence, Social Justice, Ecological Wisdom, and Respect for Diversity.  Unfortunately however, the value of Participatory Democracy has been one of the declared values that the Green Party of Ontario has most failed to abide itself by.  I know this from personal experience.

How the Green Party Spited Me For My Election Candidacy Attempt

In July 2017 I was present at the Green Party of Ontario Guelph Nomination Meeting for the Leader Mike Schreiner.  In casual conversation afterwards the Leader asked me at his own initiative, “Are you going to be a candidate?”  Schreiner was aware that I had been the 2015 federal Green candidate for my home riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

After careful consideration and inspiration from the GPO, the following October I applied to become the Green candidate for the same riding.  On November 23rd, the Provincial Nominations Committee approved me as a Nomination Contestant.  I waited patiently for updates as months went by, but kept being stalled with vague deadlines and non-information.

In the meantime I was made to feel supported with training opportunities provided by the party in Guelph, Ottawa, and in webinars.  Then on April 13th, after assurances that nominations were closing and without anyone else having yet applied to become the Candidate, the Nominations Committee and Executive Director abruptly slammed the door in my face on my candidacy prospect.  No supporting details were offered.

I needed an explanation that I could give to my hundreds of constituents who were expecting my Green candidacy, as all public hints prior to April 13th were that there was no outstanding objections or competition to my candidacy and so many citizens were confused.

I wanted to give an explanation that would not damage the party’s reputation or my own.  But that option was never allowed to me.  The motive was contemptuously kept a secret and dialogue was shunned, even after I protested the Committee’s tone with scathing criticism before party members.  There was no possible reason that I was not prepared to respectfully discuss or publicly debate.

I subsequently emailed Mike Schreiner repeatedly to request that he ask the Nominations Committee for the reason for my rejection, as was in his power to do.  He continuously ignored and then deflected my request.  The party approved a last-minute paper candidate whose profile was lower than my 2015 candidacy and who missed both all-candidates meetings.

Pattern Repeats With Shut-Down Of Deputy Leader Candidacy

After history-making election as an MPP, Schreiner hired the party’s Executive Director as his Chief of Staff.  Schreiner may be perceived to have rewarded the inexplicable abrasiveness of the Executive Director towards me.

Then in August, I was nominated by Green Party members to become a Deputy Leader Candidate for internal elections.  Days after membership voting began in a contest in which I was plausibly going to win, the Executive Director led party authorities into kicking me out of the party within a secretive closed-door process excluding my input.  While on Schreiner’s payroll, the Executive Director sealed the contest against my victory.

The stated reasons for membership termination were that I “harassed” party authorities by protesting the manipulations regarding my attempted candidacy, and that I attempted as a Deputy Leader Candidate to attend an event where the Leader was present.

It was demanded by GPO authorities that I not be present at this event, ostensibly to “protect” a complainant with a history of public negativity towards me during the course of a transparently-unprofessional and artificially-prolonged “investigation”.  I now believe that the truth is that this demand was made because Schreiner himself was newly anxious to keep space between himself and myself, even without actually asking me for such.

Motivations For The Persecution

Why would Mike Schreiner and his peers persecute me first without explanation and then with an inflammatory explanation?  In my years with the party Schreiner had been repeatedly encouraging to my face, such that I thought that he felt genuine respect for me.

I did not see a menace in his inability to admit self-error or continuously debate over any of our many high-profile policy disagreements, but merely perceived his disagreements as disappointments to be overcome with more patient lobbying of the party membership.  Certainly he never directly communicated with me any desire for my reduced participation in the party.  I still believe that he is a phenomenal MPP for the riding of Guelph.

But I now also believe that Schreiner was never prepared to come to terms with the potential of any victory on my part over our policy disagreements.  He was never prepared to accept my rising-star status within the party, but also lacked the courage to admit that there was a problem.  And his employee and peers, or “puppets” if you will, took silent cues and accordingly persecuted me with expectation of being rewarded with internal power and influence.

At every stage of this conflict the GPO leadership recklessly defied the party’s core value of Participatory Democracy.  At every step of the way the most consultation was not targeted at who was most affected, but instead at who already had the most power.  At no point did GPO authorities attempt to show the humility necessary for two-sided learning.

Lessons To Be Learned

The hard-learned lesson of this experience is that no political party consistently practices Participatory Democracy, because the flaws of human nature get in the way of doing so.  Humans sometimes desperately invest their self-esteem in given courses of action, and when confronted with criticism only become more desperate to dig in.  It takes an especially courageous politician to show the openness and patience for opposing views as to be consistently courteous where two-sided consideration is due.

When I had attempted to appeal to the GPO Ombuds Committee, an institution which later revealed itself to be controlled by the Executive Director, the Committee had made a telling claim that Participatory Democracy was a party value that could be compromised for the sake of “efficiency and expediency”.

But that is a false proposition: political parties that humiliate their own supporters with inconsiderate disregard in the decisions at hand are parties that reserve themselves for special spots in electoral hell.  Those are precisely the kinds of parties least likely to achieve growth.  Indeed even as the GPO elected an MPP for the first time, its vote share was down from its 2007 peak of 8% to roughly 4.6% in 2018.

I do not doubt in my mind that Mike Schreiner wishes for more Green MPPs to be elected alongside himself in the next election in 2022.  If he could wave a magic wand to make it happen, he would choose to do so.  And yet, he is sure to undermine that very goal with his perceived short-term need to retain control of the GPO at my expense and at the expense of others who disagree with him.  He may make his constituents proud as an MPP, but so long as other like-minded MPPs are not elected alongside him, he will keep losing battles just as he currently does under Premier Doug Ford’s government.

The point here is that to achieve true political success, one must be in keeping with the practice of both integrity and Participatory Democracy.  One may potentially earn a salary or achieve short-term fame in the example set by Green Party leadership, but the only legacy that one can be proud of will be accomplished after long-term perseverance in being courteous and respectful towards opposing views.

It will not be accomplished through spiting or alienating critics so that one may feel in more immediate control in the present.  Sadly, the Green Party of Ontario under current leadership is not on track towards true long-term political success, because it does not live up to its own core promises even when in its long-term interest to do so.

Stefan Klietsch was a dedicated Green Party of Ontario member from 2012 to 2018. He graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Political Science from the University of Ottawa, and currently studies Computer Programming at Algonquin College.
The photo shows a cartoon of political corruption by Thomas Nash, published ca. 1870s.

Music Of The Renaissance

The spirit of change that was transforming so much of art and culture in the Renaissance also touched the musical styles of the period, the most important of which was polyphony, or the blending of several individual melodies, which ultimately led to the development of harmony.

By about 1500, polyphony included vocal orchestration, or the grouping of contrasting voices. This gave not only depth to the music and the singing, but also a rich texture, since various melodies could enter, depart and re-enter in a piece of work.

As well, this interaction of melodies was given greater color by the use of different rhythms for each of these melodies. This combination of various individual melodies to form a single musical mode reflected the ideals of the Renaissance, which always sought perfection and unity.

During this time, choirs were relatively small and consisted of 26 singers, exclusively male, in which the soprano parts were sung by boys or men who could sing falsetto, or a higher pitched tenor. Also, instruments began to be introduced as accompaniments to the choir. Only the choir of the Sistine Chapel was strictly forbidden to use instruments in its choral singing.

The Renaissance also saw the separation of music into religious and secular forms. The most important religious styles were the Mass and the Motet.

The Mass referred to the musical setting of that part of the Church worship known as the Ordinary, which consisted of five sections for which music was needed. The words of the Ordinary provided the text that Renaissance composers could set to music.

The Motet was the musical setting of those parts of the Church service that were not part of the Ordinary. Usually, the words used for Motets were familiar to the worshippers and provided composers with the opportunity to reach a profound expression that would be both moving and meaningful.

In fact, the composer sought to interpret the truth of the words through music. It was the motet that brought about a unique change in music – the unity of words and melody. It is something that we take for granted today, but we have to keep in mind that before the Renaissance, music always took a secondary role to the words. In the sixteenth century and onwards, both words and music were equally important.

The secular version of the Motet was the Madrigal, which was an intimate form of music, performed by a small group of singers, both male and female, accompanied by a lute. The Madrigal was in a sense chamber music, since it was created to provide entertainment for members of the aristocracy. Some famous madrigalists are Carlo Gesualdo (ca. 1560-1613) and Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) in Italy; while in England we have William Byrd (1543-1623), Thomas Morley (1558-1603), and Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625).

Many important composers flourished in this era, such as Guillaume Dufay (ca. 1400-1477), who was a popular French composer, and was the first one to write large-scale Masses for four voices. These massive works, which often reworked a famous melody, began a style that was to remain popular throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

He is also famous for writing beautiful instrumental pieces, such as “Se la face ay pale” and “L’Homme armé. “When, in 1420, the dome of the cathedral of Florence, built by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), was dedicated, it was Dufay who was commissioned to compose a special a dedicatory motet, which he called “Nuper rosarum flores” (“The Flowers of Roses”).

Josquin des Prez (ca. 1440-1521) was born in what is now Belgium, but moved to Italy, where he became the court musician to the Dukes of Milan and Ferrara, and later served in the Papal Chapel at Rome. He was very famous in his own time, and was often called the “Michelangelo of music,” and Martin Luther referred to him as “the master of notes.” Josquin’s music was effortless, which made full use of the flexibility of polyphony, while creating beautiful melodies. His most famous work is the “Missa Pange Lingua.”

Palestrina (ca. 1525-1594) was another renowned composer whose name is often used to illustrate the music of the Renaissance, since he was regarded, in his own time, as creating the purest and the most perfect melodies and songs. A careful balance of ascending and descending phrases that gives a smooth flow to his music marks his work.

A famous contemporary of his was Lassus (1532-1594), a prolific composer,  who created some two thousand works, both religious and secular. He transformed the contrasting melodies of polyphony into expressive harmony. He was a master of matching the mood of the words with appropriate music, and he could write songs that were deeply moving as well as those that were humorous.

His fame was such that the Emperor Maximilian II made him a noble, and he was much favored by Pope Gregory XIII and King Charles IX of France. One his most famous works is the religious piece entitled, “Tristia est anima mea” (“Sorrowful is my soul”), which was published in 1565.

It is often said that the Renaissance was a time of immense musical variety and richness, and it was one of the few times in musical history that so many acknowledged masters flourished at the same time.

 

The photo shows, “The Concert” by Gerard van Honthorst, painted ca. 1623.

Harvest And Thanksgiving

Immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, God said to Adam; ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it, all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.’ God wasn’t joking when he said that; as many can testify (Genesis 1: 26 – 27, & 2: 4 – 9).

Fighting the weeds is a perennial problem. I was reading recently where a charity worker and his wife moved out of their one bed flat in London in search of more space. They dreamt of having a garden to explore, digging up worms and generally getting their hands dirty. No harm in that. This couple had found a terraced house in a nearby leafy suburb with a small garden. But there was a major problem.

It had a major Bindweed (Convolvulus) infestation. For the non-gardeners Bindweed is the Terminator of the weed world. It mercilessly smothers other plants twisting itself around their stems with a vice like grip. It has a pretty little trumpet shaped white flower but that is just to deceive you.

Its roots can penetrate up to 5 meters into the ground and if even a few centimetres of the root system is left in the soil it will thrive and grow. With the roots being so long it is practically impossible to dig all the root system out and practically impossible to destroy. Anyway, this couple decided to dig the whole garden up with the intention of removing the dreaded bindweed.

After a month of toil, the couple were eventually able to sow a lawn, plant fragrant flowers, roses, and apple trees. The garden was now like, what it should have been. After this major dig the guy said; that it was the first time in his life he had ever got his hands dirty with soil.

His experience is not a one off, for we live in the most sanitised civilization in history making sure we don’t get our hands dirty. However, we tend to forget that God was the first person to get his hands dirty by forming the first human being out of dirt. ‘The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’

We are all familiar I’m sure with how God created the heavens and the earth.

In Genesis we are told that on the first day God spoke, he said, let there be light, and there was light. On the second day God spoke, he said, ‘let there be sky above the earth’, and it was so.

On the third day God spoke, he said, let dry land appear and it happened, and so on; until the sixth day. On the sixth day God spoke, and said, ‘let the land produce living creatures and wild animals’. Also, on the sixth day God spoke, and said, ‘let us make man in our image, so God created man in his own image’. God simply spoke and everything appeared. But with human kind you and me, it was different. God Created man. He didn’t just speak and it happened as with the other days of creation. When he created man, God got his hands dirty.

Nothing else in all of creation required God to get his hands dirty, except man. Nothing else in all of creation called for that degree of fine tuning and attention to detail, that depth of involvement and artistry by God. Man was the only created being on earth that was formed by God. Man was the only created being made in the image of God. Animals, or plants or fish or birds or insects were not made in the image of God.

Evolutionists teach in our schools and colleges that there is no divine in man, just dirt. They tell us that man gradually evolved from some primeval form millions of years ago. And that we are a random collection of cells and flesh. What utter nonsense. There is no scientific evidence to support such a claim. Only giant leaps and bounds of scientific imaginations. How on earth can a blue whale come from a fish. Where is the biological evidence? Because you and I are made in the image of God, each person has intrinsic value, worth, and purpose.  Each person is Not a random evolved collection of cells and flesh. Each person has a living soul.

Have you ever wondered why we are made in the image of God and why did God bother in the first place, putting us on this planet? Sometimes we may feel like the man who said; ‘I’ve got a clock that tells me when to get up; but sometimes I need one to tell me, why I need to get up’.

If people think that all there is in this life, is the material world, they will give themselves over to it and in the end all you have is yourself. It was the author GK Chesterton who said; ‘when you abandon belief in the creator God, people do not begin to believe in nothing, they begin to believe in anything’.

The Bible says there is more to life than just you or us. In fact, we are the product of a very creative and loving God.

In short, we are to reflect God’s image. That is the why bit. Why am I here; I am created by God to reflect his image. Humanity alone is made in the image of God. We are made for intimacy with him. We are to be his mind, his attitude, his hands, his heart, his feet.

Amazingly we can communicate with the God of this universe and God can communicate with us. This is why God cares More about who you are, and what you are becoming, than you do. To be made in the image of God means that we possess some of the features and qualities of the God who made us. Like kindness, love, forgiveness, peace, joy and goodness.

Yet because we are all like pools of muddy water because of our sin; instead of naturally reflecting these qualities and relating to God and loving him for who he is, and loving others, we relate much better to possessions and the material world around us. We tend to love things and use people, instead of loving people and using things. We have a tendency to find meaning in every created thing; instead of the Creator. We become what we love. We reflect what we love and serve.

God in his wisdom has made us constantly restless, in order that we can find him and reflect him to the world; which is why we are here in the first place. We can know what it means to be made in the Image of God; the responsibility and privilege that it carries. There is no greater accolade than to be known by God and to serve him. Yet, of the many downsides in the world we see today concerns that of; Self Image. Self-Image is huge; whether its connected with advertising, or celebrities, reality TV programmes or social media; its ultimately all about self; the persona of ‘Me’.

Sin in its many forms has deformed the image of God in each person. Instead of being clean, pure, unpolluted water, we are more like a muddy pool where the sediment settles and then it’s kicked up once more. Sin has deformed the image of God in each person so that we either sinfully think too highly of ourselves, or, we think too lowly of ourselves, which is also a sin. The power is always in the balance. We are both depraved and possess dignity at the same time.

On the one hand if you think highly of yourself and value yourself above others in pride, you do not love your neighbour as you should, since you don’t think they are worth loving. On the other hand, if you have a low self-image, you also will not love your neighbour, since you feel like you have nothing to give. We can elevate our dignity in sinful pride, or elevate our depravity also in sinful pride. Both are in the end; forms of pride and sin which deforms the image of God in us. And All of this is connected to self-image; who we think we are.

Some of you may have seen a bird attack its own reflection against a window pane. Time and time again the bird throws itself against the glass as if it dosnt like the image it sees. And then discovers too late, that all it was seeing was itself.

These are some of the comments taken from a female website where women can anonymously share how they feel about their bodies.

‘I hate everything about my body’.

‘I constantly compare myself to other women’.

‘I eat when I’m depressed and then I get more depressed’.

‘Sometimes when I see a woman fatter than me, I’m glad, she’s making me feel better’.

‘I don’t know how to feel comfortable in my own skin’.

(incidentally, men say the same thing)

What do you see when you look in the mirror? The image of God in each person is marred. Thankfully it is marred but not destroyed. However, the gospel made known to us through Jesus Christ allows us to be humble and confident at the same time. On the one hand the gospel tells us we are sinful and the sins we know about ourselves are just the tip of the iceberg. This humbles us, which is good. At the same time, the gospel says, we are loved and the love we know of Christ is just the tip of the iceberg. Which is very good?

Not only did God hand make us from the dirt of the ground, but he paid the price to redeem us on the cross at Calvary when we decided to live for ourselves instead of him. To know we are accepted, loved, and his love is what makes us beautiful again, gives us hope and confidence in Christ and within ourselves. When that collision, between the recognition of My sin AND the understanding of how Jesus has dealt with my sin on the cross occurs.

A new beginning happens. We can begin to properly reflect and grow in practising the image of God which we were always designed to do.

Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks to God for his material blessings, for the harvest, the crops, the fruit, the vegetables and so much more and for the farmers and others who make the harvest possible. Despite modern agricultural advances and inventions, we are still wholly dependant on God to provide the weather and the conditions for the seed to germinate and grow and be fruitful.

We are also thankful to God for his spiritual blessings which at times we can easily forget about. There is no greater supernatural blessing than the way in which he can transform a lost life. To know God’s peace, his wisdom, and the hope of eternal life are blessings this world can never deliver. God in his mercy reached down from heaven and got his hands dirty with us.  He knew exactly what he was doing but he wanted more than anything else to talk to us, to invest in us, and have a relationship with us.

The Bindweed in the garden is a picture of the damage sin does in our lives, both on the surface, and with the roots that go deep inside. But God got his hands dirty by pulling that bindweed out of our lives and by replanting the goodness of his love and mercy in us. God is saying your self-image matters to me. You are of great worth, and you are highly valued.

An old lady was very poor. She had absolutely nothing. No shelter, no food, no nothing. She prayed to God and God gave her 10 apples. This was wonderful. Now I can get the things I need she said. She was so hungry of course that she ate the first three apples. The next three apples she traded to rent a small shelter so she could keep dry when it rained.

She exchanged the next three apples for some new clothes, so she was no longer cold at night. But then she discovered she had only one apple left over.

‘Why did you give me one apple more than I needed’, she asked God?  God replied; ‘so you can have something with which to thank me for’. All of us have a lot more than one apple left. We thank God for his provision.

Rev. Alan Wilson is a Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland, where he serves a large congregation, supported by his wife. Before he took up the call to serve Christ, he was in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 30-years. He has two children and two grandchildren and enjoys soccer, gardening, zoology, politics and reading. He voted for Brexit in the hope that the stranglehold of Brussels might finally be broken. He welcomes any that might wish to correspond with him through the Contact Page of The Postil.
The photo shows, “Afternoon Prayer During Harvest,” by Theodor Christoph Schüz, painted in 1861.

Lenin: The Giant Mushroom

In 1991, just months before the collapse of the USSR, Soviet audiences witnessed a shocking scene on television program, Pyatoe Koleso (The Fifth Wheel). Two serious-looking men – Sergey Sholokhov, the host and his guest, an underground musician and writer introduced as “politician and actor,” Sergey Kurekhin were sitting in a studio discussing the October revolution of 1917.

Suddenly, Kurekhin offered a very interesting hypothesis – that Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, was not a human being but a mushroom.

Kurekhin started with a rambling discourse on the nature of revolutions and his trip to Mexico where, in ancient temples, he had seen frescoes closely resembling the events of 1917. From there, he moved on to the author Carlos Castaneda who described the practices of Central American Indians of using psychotropic drinks prepared from certain types of cacti.

“Apart from cacti, Castaneda describes mushrooms as special products with a hallucinogenic effect,” Kurekhin continued and then quoted Lenin’s letter to leading Marxist Georgi Plekhanov: “Yesterday I ate many mushrooms and felt marvelously well”. Noting that Russia’s fly-agaric mushroom has hallucinogenic effects, Kurekhin assumed that Lenin was consuming these kinds of mushrooms and had some kind of psychedelic, mind-altering experience.

It was not only Lenin who dabbled in such fungi, but other Bolsheviks as well, Kurekhin claimed. “The October revolution was made by people who had been consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms for years,” he said with a poker face. “And Lenin’s personality was replaced with that of a mushroom because fly-agaric identity is far stronger than a human one.” Therefore, he concluded, Lenin became a mushroom himself.

After that sensational statement, the program went on for another 20 minutes, with Kurekhin and Sholokhov citing endless “evidence” of Lenin’s affinity for mushrooms, starting from his passion for collecting fungi and going so far as to compare a photo of an armored vehicle Lenin once posed on to fungal mycelium.

At some point, both couldn’t help but laugh after stating that the Soviet hammer and a sickle symbol was, in fact, combination of a mushroom and a mushroom picker’s knife. But even the laughter didn’t prevent thousands of people from taking the program seriously.

“Had Kurekhin been speaking of anyone else, his words would easily have been dismissed as a joke. But Lenin! How could one joke about Lenin? Especially on Soviet television,” Russian anthropologist Alexei Yurchak said to explain the gullibility of many Soviet viewers.. He emphasized that viewers didn’t necessarily believe that Lenin was a mushroom – but they treated Kurekhin as a serious researcher, calling the television and writing letters demanding that the station confirm or refute the idea of the Bolshevik leader being a fungus.

Sergei Sholokhov, who made the program together with Kurekhin, later said: “The day after the show aired, a delegation of old Bolsheviks went to our local Communist party boss who was in charge of ideology and demanded an answer – was Lenin a mushroom or not. She answered with a fierce ‘No!’ claiming that ‘a mammal cannot be a plant’.”

Both himself and Kurekhin were quite shocked by such an answer, Sholokhov notes. On the other hand, Sholokhov may have made the story up  – just like he and Kurekhin (who died in 1996) did with the TV show.

It was Kurekhin, a humorous hoaxer who came up with the idea. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the world of Soviet media was changing, and as journalists enjoyed more freedom, some of them were talking nonsense.

As Kurekhin’s widow Anastasia recalled, “Once we saw a TV show on the death of Sergey Yesenin (the Russian poet who committed suicide in 1925). The host built his “proof” that Yesenin had actually been killed on absolutely absurd arguments. They showed photos of the poet’s funeral and said: “Look, this man is looking this way and that man is looking the other way, so it means that Yesenin was killed.” Kurekhin saw it and said to Anastasia: “You know, you can prove anything using such “evidence”. And so he did.

Alexei Yurchak explains that the hoax and people’s reactions to it was a good illustration of how people, no matter where they live, tend to trust the media without checking facts. “If there’s something in the media, there must be something to it,” Yurchak wrote. Kurekhin’s provocation was a hilarious way to prove how easy it is to feed people with the most bizarre nonsense if you sound confident enough.

 

Oleg Yegerov writes for Russia Beyond, through whose courtesy this articles is provided.

Review: The Forest Passage By Ernst Jünger

Ernst Jünger was one of the more fascinating men of the twentieth century.  Remembered in the English-speaking world primarily for his World War I memoir, The Storm of Steel, he was famous in Europe for a range of right-leaning thought spanning nearly eighty years (he lived from 1896 to 1998).

His output was prodigious, more than fifty books along with voluminous correspondence, and not meant or useful as a seamless ideology, although certain themes apparently recur. This book, The Forest Passage, was published in 1951, and is a compelling examination of how life should be conducted under modern ideological tyranny.

Jünger’s answer is jarring, both in its originality, and in its flat rejection of any relevancy of those modern (though failing) totems, liberal democracy and egalitarianism. Jünger was no Nazi; he contemptuously rejected their efforts to profit off his reputation, and was tangentially involved in the Stauffenberg plot. But he had just as little use for modern democracy or liberalism; much of his thought seems to have revolved around a type of social and political elitism with a spiritual core. It appears that The Forest Passage was his first exploration of the specific topic of resistance to tyranny; he developed the thought in this book further with a novel published in 1977, Eumeswil, which I have not read.

This is quite a difficult book to read; it can be opaque, and it assumes the reader’s recognition of various oblique references (I had to look up that Champollion was a decrypter of Egyptian hieroglyphics, for example).

This 2013 edition, from Telos Press, is greatly helped by occasional notes (though more would have been better), and an outstanding introduction from Russell Berman. Most of Jünger’s books have not been translated, and Telos, a left-leaning entity, has usefully been translating and reprinting at least a few, all of which I have bought and am now working through as I explore alternatives to our own crumbling social and political system.

Jünger had lived through World War I (barely), receiving numerous awards for bravery, and become famous for The Storm of Steel. That book was and is often criticized for being the mirror image of anti-war writings, from the British war poets to All Quiet on the Western Front.

Jünger did not oppose the war, even after its disastrous end; he liked certain aspects of it, regarding them as spiritually valuable, even epic.  (In this he was much like Erwin Rommel, who also wrote a memoir that made him famous, though Rommel was practical about his like for war, not spiritual).

During the interwar period Jünger was a key figure in the so-called “Conservative Revolution,” the loose movement of intellectuals (including Oswald Spengler and Carl Schmitt), opposed to Weimar and democracy, and more broadly to modernism and individualism, as well as to the coming thing, Communism.

During the war, Jünger also opposed the Nazis, mostly passively, although he wrote a novel implicitly critical of Hitler (On The Marble Cliffs), something he could get away with because of his fame. After the war, for decades, he was a leading public intellectual, never forgiven by the dominant Left for his rightist views, but able to haughtily ignore their carping, and widely honored until the end of his life.

In 1951, of course, Germany stood between the immediate past of Nazism and the immediate threat of Soviet Communism. This is the backdrop of The Forest Passage, and the book cannot be understood without keeping it in mind. That said,  Jünger’s thought is directed at challenging any ideological tyranny, which includes, increasingly, our own Western “liberal democracy.”

What should a person oppressed by such a tyrannical state do?  The book is really an answer on two levels: What he should do in the external world, and what he should do in his internal world. More precisely, it is an exploration of how the latter should drive the former.  Jünger was not George Orwell, predicting the victory of global tyranny.

In fact, he was quite optimistic about the future, predicting elsewhere that ultimately technology would allow a global state, a “planetary order,” to emerge under which humans could flourish.  But in The Forest Passage he was interested in tyrannies present or future, whatever their origin, and how one should live under them.

Jünger begins by discussing how in an oppressive state the mere act of voting “no” where ninety-eight percent vote “yes,” as demanded and enforced by the state and by one’s fellow voters, is an act of rebellion.

It does not matter that the state actually wants fewer than one hundred percent to vote “yes,” because that way the vote seems more realistic, and, more importantly, the state can thereby justify further action against its opponents, whose existence is by the vote made visible to all, and also therefore the need for their suppression so that Utopia can finally be reached (although, as in Zeno’s Paradox, it can never actually be, for that would deprive the dictatorship of its reason for seeking more power).

“Dictatorships cannot survive on pure affirmation—they need hate, and with it terror, to provide a simultaneous counterbalance.” (This is true also of proto-dictatorships, such as today’s American Left. As Shelby Steele has recently pointed out, the Left existentially needs to see racism everywhere, so they can keep whipping up hate to augment their power through terror).

Rather, the point of, and the meaning of, the vote “no” is not to “shake the opponent, but [to] change the person who has decided to go through with it.”  He, by the choice of voting “no,” or by any equivalent choice, becomes a “forest rebel,” transformed into something new, who takes the “forest passage,” taking actions that are also something new.

Here, “something new” is not a throwaway line of mere contrast to the existing tyranny.  The newness of the forest rebel’s path is critical to Jünger’s analysis.  The man who votes “no,” the freshly minted forest rebel, is not trying to turn back to the old ways of democracy, or any other specific prior political system.  Those are dead and gone, along with his own past individual nature. He is on a new path.

“This is why the numerous attempts under the Caesars to return to the republic had to fail.  The republicans either fell in the civil war, or they came out of it transformed.” You cannot go back. The way is shut. While Jünger is focused on tyranny, this principle is more generally applicable, as Jünger’s reference to Rome shows.

In fact, I think that newness is a critical element in planning our own future. For Reaction, something I wish to implement after the inevitable rupture as our own system dies, is properly viewed not a turning back, as its caricaturists and opponents would have it, but the creation of a new thing informed, in part, by the wisdom of the past.

This is what Jünger calls “retrospection,” conducted by a small minority, made possible because “in the nature of things,” “when catastrophes announce themselves . . . the initiative will always pass into the hands of a select minority who prefer danger to servitude.” Failing to grasp that newness is essential, and must be accepted and made central, will lead to nostalgia, and thence to dissonance and failure of all political plans and action.

What most of all characterizes the forest rebel is his devotion to freedom. He is internally completely free, and he works for external freedom as well. These things set him apart from both the tyrannical state and the mass of men. But it essential to note that Jünger is not a libertarian. His idea of freedom has very little in common with Robert Nozick and less with Milton Friedman.

The freedom of the forest rebel is not the freedom to do as he pleases; it is not the unbridled autonomy and atomized individualism that were the poison at the heart of the Enlightenment and are the engine of its destruction. Those are “unworthy interpretations” of freedom;  Jünger specifically sneers at the French Revolution. Nor is it exactly the older conception of freedom, the ability to choose rightly, although it is much closer to that than to libertarianism.

Rather, it is a modernized version of that, consisting of two related threads.  First, and concretely, the refusal to obey or even acknowledge the commands of an oppressive and malevolent, state. Second, and abstractly, a spiritual core with which the forest rebel analyzes his decisions, informed by a rejection of degrading “automatism” and its consequence, “fatalism,” in favor of self-rule and of the virtues of “art, philosophy, and theology.”

Jünger’s analysis of voting under tyranny prefigures Václav Havel’s famous analysis of the grocer who refuses to put the sign, “Workers of the World, Unite!” in his shop window. For Havel, this is refusing to “live within a lie,” which allows the grocer to reclaim his identity and dignity, but for which he must pay, because even this minor act of defiance threatens the entire regime, even though it has no explicitly political intent or meaning.

The forest rebel’s attitude is much the same.  And even though Jünger focuses more on the rebel’s internal mental state than his specific external actions, he is quite clear that he expects the forest rebel, ultimately, to act, rather than merely ruminate.

Confusingly, at the same time Jünger sometimes seems to say that the forest rebel mostly lives and acts completely in isolation, in the forest, a type of garden, but a solitary one. True, the forest rebel battles “Leviathan,” but his is sometimes characterized as a holding action, to keep himself from the degradation of the masses who acquiesce, and, implicitly, to form the core of something to come.

This ambiguity as to the actual actions to be taken may be deliberate, for Jünger knows that context dictates action, and he has no Marxist-flavored belief in inevitable turns of history.  Ultimately, he says that “The armor of the new Leviathans has its own weak points, which must continually be felt out, and this assumes both caution and daring of a previously unknown quality.

We may imagine an elite opening this battle for a new freedom, a battle that will demand great sacrifices and which should leave no room for any interpretations that are unworthy of it.” Thus, Jünger always returns to the concept of battle, and it is a fair conclusion that is what he expects of the ideal forest rebel.  “The task of the forest rebel is to stake out vis-à-vis the Leviathan the measures of freedom that are to obtain in future ages. He will not get by this opponent with mere ideas.”

The forest rebel is therefore exemplified by William Tell, mentioned twice in this brief book.  Tell, of course, was the (probably mythical, but no matter) fifteenth-century Swiss crossbowman who shot an apple off his son’s head at the command of the malevolent state, represented by Albrecht Gessler, proxy for the Habsburg dukes who ruled Tell’s canton.

Gessler’s command was punishment for Tell refusing to salute Gessler’s hat, which he had placed on a pole and then required the people to salute, in order to humiliate them and bring low their spirit.  Most of us remember that Tell put two crossbow bolts in his belt, and when asked by Gessler, after successfully shooting the apple, why he had done that, replied that the second was for Gessler, had Tell hit his son.

Most of us probably do not remember the second act of the story—Tell escapes, to the forest, and then soon ambushes Gessler and assassinates him, starting a successful rebellion.  (By coincidence, I bought several books on Tell for my children a few weeks ago.

I am glad I did that; these are important lessons and guides to action, and I am willing to bet zero children are told Tell’s story in most schools today.)  Tell was no libertarian—he was a free man in a free society, but he was bound by, and loyal to, that society and its rules.  His was the freedom of Leonidas, not of Hugh Hefner.

Tell is, however, not the only rebel Jünger praises—one other, an anonymous man, gets his nod. Speaking of the breakdown of the rule of law in 1933 Berlin, and the acquiescence of the population in Nazi suppression of political opponents, he says, “A laudable exception deserves mention here, that of a young social democrat who shot down half a dozen so-called auxiliary policemen [i.e., NSDAP storm troopers] at the entrance of his apartment.

He still partook of the substance of the old Germanic freedom, which his enemies only celebrated in theory.”  It’s hard to miss Jünger’s message, and it’s not that the forest rebel should meditate silently on freedom while sitting at home.

Both by such examples, and by explicit statements, Jünger is clear that his contemplated rebellion is not one of raising an army, but of ad hoc or guerrilla warfare. When striking physically at the state, the forest rebel is not to worry unduly about the mechanics of rebellion. Instead, he must focus on tools and getting the party started. The details will take care of themselves.

“In regard to organizing maneuvers and exercises, setting up bases and systems adapted to the new form of resistance—in short, in regard to the whole practical side of things, people will always emerge who will occupy themselves with these aspects and give them form.” Therefore, “More important is to apply the old maxim that a free man be armed—and not with arms under lock and key in an armory or barracks, but arms kept in his apartment, under his own bed.”

Moreover, in matters of arms, a man “makes his own sovereign decisions.”  Jünger would not approve of today’s gun grabbers, any more than he did of the gun grabbing by the Nazis or the Bolsheviks, because he saw clearly what the seizure of arms always made possible and was, and is, intended to make possible, whether by Lenin or Dianne Feinstein—the triumph of the totalitarian state.

Even aside from open rebellion, though, the forest rebel has an outsized effect relative to his numbers.  He is a “chemical reagent,” because he is (physically) surrounded by others, he will influence them. Hence the growth in police in oppressive states, and “these wolves [the forest rebels] are not only strong in themselves; there is also the danger that one fine morning they will transmit their characteristics to the masses, so that the flock turns into a pack. This is a ruler’s nightmare.”

(Here Jünger departs from Havel, since Havel thinks that the “wolf” is actually representative of the majority of people, and Jünger thinks most people are intellectually complicit with the tyrannical state, which is perhaps why Havel rejected revolt, preferring the power of example.)

How are those characteristics transmitted? Through imagination, which “provides the basic force for the action.” Imagination is not itself enough, but it, poetry writ large, provides the spark. I would only add that the impact of imagination cannot be predicted.  Cometh the hour, cometh the man, but it is impossible to know anything more in advance, which makes it essential that the forest rebel keep the powder needed to set alight the conflagration dry and ready to hand.

Jünger, and the forest rebel, laugh at the idea of egalitarianism as a denial of basic reality. The forest rebel is an aristocrat, not of blood, but of virtue, which is real aristocracy. To Jünger and the forest rebel, it is blindingly obvious that all men are not equal—they may be equal before God, but the forest rebel is the superior of the masses, for his choice is hard and risk-filled, yet objectively better.

Not for Jünger the idea that each man’s choice is merely each man’s choice.  No, some choices are better, and therefore, the people who make them are superior.  They are a “heroic elite.” This aristocracy is open to all; Jünger says that the freedom he calls for “is prefigured in myth and in religions, and it always returns; so, too, the giants and the titans always manifest with the same apparent superiority.

The free man brings them down; and he need not always be a prince or a Hercules.  A stone from a shepherd’s sling, a flag raised by a virgin, and a crossbow have already proven sufficient.”  David the son of Jesse, Joan of Arc, and William Tell are the elite.

“This miracle has happened, even countless times, when a man stepped out of the lifeless numbers to extend a helping hand to others. . . . Whatever the situation, whoever the other, the individual can become this fellow human being—and thereby reveal his native nobility.

The origins of aristocracy lay in giving protection, protection from the threat of monsters and demons.  This is the hallmark of nobility, and it still shines today in the guard who secretly slips a piece of bread to a prisoner. This cannot be lost, and on this the world subsists.”

It is not only in his demand for private weapons and his disdain for egalitarianism that Jünger is wildly not politically correct, a bone in the throat of today’s Left.  Not for Jünger other modern ideas, such as false gender equality or the idea that the liberal democratic state is the real bulwark of our real freedoms.

“Long periods of peace foster certain optical illusions:  one is the conviction that the inviolability of the home is grounded in the constitution, which should guarantee it. In reality, it is grounded in the family father, who, sons at his side, fills the doorway with an axe in hand.” This is not a fashionable set of ideas, but I’m betting all of them are about to gain fresh traction.

Along the same lines, it is very clear, though mostly below the surface in this book, that Jünger thinks highly of vigorous religious belief, as opposed to modern godless ideologies, as a key part of a forest rebel’s thought. A transcendent belief is necessary for the forest rebel to succeed, or even to be a forest rebel.

Jünger praises “churches and sects” as a counterpoint to what drives the tyrannies he fears, “natural science raised to the level of philosophical perfection.”  (He also specifically exalts Helmuth James von Moltke, the deeply Christian founder of the Kreisau Circle, executed by the Nazis in 1945).

Faith means freedom; materialism reinforces tyranny. Religion (implicitly Christianity, for Jünger tells us Christ has shown the way to conquer the root of all fears, the fear of death) is good, it prepares man “for paths that lead into darkness and the unknown,” though not enough by itself, and in any case it will always be persecuted by the tyrannical state, which insists on absolute power.  Thus, we find “tyrannical regimes so rabidly persecuting such harmless creatures as the Jehovah’s Witnesses—the same tyrannies that reserve seats of honor for their nuclear physicists.”

All this is very interesting, and offers much material for reflection. We get a very good idea of the type of system Jünger does not want—modern ideological tyrannies, in short, the heirs of the French Revolution. We understand the mechanism for resistance and eventual overthrow. But what system does Jünger want?  On that he is less clear, but there are occasional glimpses.

It is most definitely not modern liberal democracy, although again there is little direct criticism of such modern systems, even if in the 1930s Jünger had vociferously criticized Weimar.

We can get a clue, though, when Jünger refers to the “virtuous way” as derived from “simple people . . . who were not overcome by the hate, the terror, the mechanicalness of platitudes. These people withstood the propaganda and its plainly demonic insinuations.

When such virtues also manifest in a leader of people, endless blessings can result, as with Augustus for example. This is the stuff of empires. The ruler reigns not by taking but by giving life. And therein lies one of the great hopes:  that one perfect human being will step forth among the millions.” That is, Jünger wants a Man of Destiny, to free us of ideological tyranny, and lead us to the sunlit uplands.

This resonates very strongly with me; as I have written elsewhere, we await that Man of Destiny, an Augustus for the new age, and he will not come borne on the wings of so-called liberal democracy.

My feeling is that as the cracks spread in the West, tyrannies and oppressions of one sort or another are increasingly likely to offer to oppress us, in a way that seemed inconceivable even fifteen years ago, and they will have to be resisted, with shot and shell.  Who could have predicted, so soon after the fall of Communism and the apparent end of ideological tyranny in the West, that a book like The Forest Passage would become relevant again? Not me. But that’s where we are, and perhaps some of Jünger’s thought will shorten the path through, and time spent in, the forest.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “Leipziger Street Berlin,” by Albert Birkle, painted in 1923.

November 11, 1918: The Poems of Bertram John William Andrews

[In commemoration of the end of the First World War, one hundred years ago, we present a series of poems only recovered in 2015. They are written by Bertram John William Andrews, who died of his wounds on July 31st, 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres. He was twenty-two years of age. The poems, unpublished, were left with Annie Knox, a girl that Bertram was courting. It was the niece of Annie who found the poems in 2015. There are many famous poets of World War I – but the few verses that Andrews left behind, presented here, also possess a delicacy and fineness of thought that is rare.]

 

Bertram John William Andrews (1895 – 1917)

 

Love and War

A while ago in London town,
I watched the crowds come trooping down
And mark’d the people passing by,
(Such hosts of people passing by)
All speeding on so pensively.
Oblivious of my stare.
Yet all the time I was aware
That one had gone who should be there,
Thus, searching in my memory,
I could not think who it should be
Till, happily,

I saw a soldier home from France
“’Tis he”, I thought, “That merry glance!
“’Tis Cupid who, his bow and dart
“For bomb and bayonet laid apart,
“No longer wars on human heart
“But wages warfare new.
“Yet that,” I ponder’d,” can’t be true.
“The land has lovers still a few.
“Who then can Cupid’s place supply,
“Since still his arrows seem to fly
“unerringly?”

Anon a maiden chanc’d to pass,
A bright and winsome, laughing lass;
Who, as she went, provokingly
Enslav’d mankind and dext’rously
Contrived, their hearts should captive be
To her whom next they view’d.
Now Cupid fights, his ancient feud
Is by his sister still pursued:
But deadlier her artillery
(His bow and quiver idle lie),
Her roguish eye.

Plumstead
August 1916

**********

At Eventide

The scented zephyr whispers down the hill.
The trees droop low to catch his message sweet.
Rippling, it flows from bough to bough until
It tells me, murmuring softly and discreet.
My love is nigh – and all my pulses fill
With longing: while the summer beauties fleet
Unseen, unmarked, before my eyes that strain
For that first glimpse of her whose magic
Stirs my brain.

The summer takes a fresher sweetness now
The flow’rets bloom in colours yet more fair
And those caressing breezes softer flow
And add more radiant perfume to the air.
Enchanted, Nature’s beauties brighter glow.
She dons a magic loveliness more rare.
My love is nigh – the earth becomes more bright,
And learns to show more lovely in my
loved one’s sight.

The brazen sun his boldness finds too gay,
Confronted with that beauty: and apace
Red and asham’d, he hastes to flee away:
And earth, relieved, still finds a newer grace
When he is gone. And in the twilight grey
Ethereal shines that perfect wistful face.
With benediction stars awake high above
And all my heart goes out in strong
Abiding love.

In passion’s colours, scarlet, purple, mauve.
The sun expires: and silver floods the land
All virginal and pure the moonbeams rove
And line with light the earth on ev’ry hand.
There, where the fierce descending Phoebus strove
With Dian’s onrush, now a stately band
White, fleecy clouds, float through the steel-blue sky
On earth is peace, and in my soul, for Love is nigh.

The nestling villages in silence sleep
The little rivers murmur quietly.
Athwart the moonlit hills the shadows creep
And all the night seems full of mystery.
It’s silences my inmost fibres steep
And lull my spirit to an ecstacy.
Cathedral-like the stillness broods, and rest
Sentient of Love, lies like a garment on Earth’s breast.

Gailes
July 1916

**********

Dreams

I dreamed I was a warrior whose cuirass
Shining in splendour paled Apollo’s light.
Massive my shield and fierce it’s polish’d brass
And terrible my helmet’s nodding height.
Within my sword dwelt Slaughter and pale Fright
Ran o’er the lands, submerged neath sable pall,
For with my reeking triumph fell bleak night
And death. Yet all this had I left, to fall
Vanquished before thy feet and own myself thy thrall

And yet again I dreamed: that Music’s pow’rs
Intoxicating, from my fingers flow,
While nations wondered and the woodland flow’d
Entranc’d , in still more perfect beauty glow’d.
At times my strains like shrieking tunes rode
Upon the tempest’s height: at times they fell
With sigh as soft as snow; yet ever strode
As victors o’er men’s natures. But their spell
To thee could not express what all my
Heart would tell.

At last the radiance of pure happiness
Poured on my soul. I dreamed a perfect dream
And Love fulfill’d my life with loveliness
And hid in glory that faint, pallid gleam
Of War’s long stress and Music’s pulsing stream.
“To be thy lover.” Such soft harmony
Lies in those words, which sweeter sounding seem
Than all the magic strains of Faëry.
Ah! loved one, grant it may no more be dream to me.

Gailes
July 1916

**********

Memories

Some mem’ries cling as the heart grows old
Of happy days in the long ago:
And thoughts drift back, sweet thoughts of gold
None else can know

The passionate scent of your windswept hair,
The charm of your slow-waking smile
Those fathomless eyes of mischief rare;
Still will beguile.

And it may be years will pass away,
And Life wan dim and Death draw nigh;
That glorious dream of a sweet June day
Will never die.

Turnberry
Midsummer 1916

**********

The Ship of Dreams

A vessel sails the midnight air
Merrily, merrily,
With merchandise of treasures rare
In purple majesty.
Bright dreams are all its costly freight
And to the port of souls it glides
To charm, where care was, and make glad.
Its choicest wares make strong the sad.
In stormy souls serene it rides
To give respite where sorrow rode.
Ah! Shining argosy!

That ship casts anchor oft, where I,
My soul in stark dismay
From days dark torment, restless lie:
And lulls that torment’s sway.
From foreign sea and distant land
Float dreams, surpassing Ophir’s waves,
The day’s chief beauties and delight,
The mystic wonders of the night,
The chiefest wealth that vessel bears,
More rich than gems of Samarkand
Or pearls from the Cathay.

Ash Rifle Range
5/9/16

**********

Explanations

That aged one, who still the fire
Of headstrong youth retains:
Who kindles ev’rywhere desire
And binds all men in chains:
Who sometimes hard and cruel would seem
Who makes and shatters many a dream:
For him, harsh master many a ream
I’ve spoil’d and lost my pains
Poor wight!

Each eve old Love comes sailing down
To wake my slumb’ring lyre.
And, for a while, without a frown
With verse he will inspire.
Then, when I think I’m going strong,
He hides his face and all goes wrong.
I’m stranded, so’s my lovely song.
Love smiles and I retire.
Good night!

Gailes
July 1916

**********

Epilogue

Thus has this little book an end:
But, friend,
If you should read its lines and them condemn:
Pray stay your judgment while I crave
Your patience. Though I sing a strain
Of Sentiment, remember once again
It is the best so dull a knave
As I can sing. And if I dare
Exhort you to refrain awhile:
Has one verse pleas’d you, made you smile?
A little then I pay to Ayr,
Which pleasant town I in my heart do bless
For pleasant folk and three month’s happiness

So I retire. I make my bow
Right now
If anyone to jeer still dares
Who cares?

15 August 1916

[Second Lieutenant Bertram J.W. Andrews, Royal Sussex Regiment, 13th Battalion (the South Downs), is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, in Belgium].

 

These poems are provided through the courtesy of Discover War Poets.
The photo shows, “Mud Road to Passchendaele,” by Douglas W. Culham, painted in 1917.

Russia: A History of World War II Not Often Heard In The West

Every May 9th the Russian Federation celebrates its most important national holiday, Victory Day, den’ pobedy. During the early hours of that day in 1945 Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, which had stormed Berlin, received the German unconditional surrender.

The Great Patriotic War had gone on for 1418 days of unimaginable violence, brutality and destruction. From Stalingrad and the northern Caucasus and from the northwestern outskirts of Moscow to the western frontiers of the Soviet Union to Sevastopol in the south and Leningrad and the borders with Finland, in the north, the country had been laid waste.

An estimated 17 million civilians, men, women and children, had perished, although no one will ever know the exact figure. Villages and towns were destroyed; families were wiped out without anyone to remember them or mourn their deaths.

Ten million or more Soviet soldiers died in the struggle to expel the monstrous Nazi invader and finally to occupy Berlin at the end of April 1945. Red Army dead were left unburied in a thousand places along the routes to the west or in unmarked mass graves, there having been no time for proper identification and burial. Most Soviet citizens lost family members during the war. No one was left unaffected.

The Great Patriotic War began at 3:30am on 22 June 1941, when the Nazi Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union along a front stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas with 3.2 million German soldiers, organised in 150 divisions, supported by 3,350 tanks, 7,184 artillery pieces, 600,000 trucks, 2,000 warplanes. Finnish, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian, Spanish, Slovakian forces, amongst others, eventually joined the attack.

The German high command reckoned that Operation Barbarossa would take only 4 to 6 weeks to finish off the Soviet Union. In the west, US and British military intelligence agreed. Besides, what force had ever beaten the Wehrmacht? Nazi Germany was the invincible colossus. Poland had been crushed in a few days.

The Anglo-French attempt to defend Norway was a fiasco. When the Wehrmacht attacked in the west, Belgium hurried to quit the fight. France collapsed in a few weeks. The British army was driven out of Dunkirk, naked, without guns or Lorries. In the spring of 1941, Yugoslavia and Greece disappeared in a matter of weeks at little cost to German invaders.

Wherever the Wehrmacht advanced in Europe, it was a walkover… until that day German soldiers stepped across Soviet frontiers. The Red Army was caught flatfooted, in halfway measures of mobilisation, because Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did not believe his own intelligence reports warning of danger, or want to provoke Hitlerite Germany.

The result was a catastrophe. But unlike Poland and unlike France, the USSR did not quit the fight after the expected 4 to 6 weeks. The Red Army’s losses were unimaginable, two million soldiers lost in the first three and a half months of the war. The Baltic provinces were lost. Smolensk fell and then Kiev, in the worst defeat of the war. Leningrad was encircled. An old man asked some soldiers, “Where are you retreating from?”

There were calamities everywhere too numerous to mention. But at places like the fortress of Brest and in hundreds of unnamed fields and woods, road junctions and villages and towns, Red Army units fought on often to the last soldier. They fought out of encirclements to rejoin their own lines or to disappear into the forests and swamps of Belorussia and the northwestern Ukraine to organise the first partisan units to attack the German rear.

By the end of 1941, three million Soviet soldiers were lost (the largest number being POWs who died at German hands); 177 divisions were struck from the Soviet order of battle. Still, the Red Army fought on, even forcing back the Germans at Yelnya, east southeast of Smolensk, at the end of August. The Wehrmacht felt the bite of the battered but not beaten Red Army. German forces were taking 7,000 casualties a day, a new experience for them.

As the Wehrmacht advanced, Einsatzgruppen, SS death squads, followed, killing Jews, Gypsies, communists, Soviet POWs, or anyone who got in their way. Baltic and Ukrainian Nazi collaborators assisted in the mass murders. Soviet women and children were stripped naked and forced to queue, waiting for execution. When winter came freezing German soldiers shot villagers or forced them out of their homes, dressed in rags like beggars, robbing them of hearth, winter clothing and food.

In the west those who predicted a speedy Soviet collapse, the usual western Sovietophobes, looked stupid and had to eat their forecasts. Public opinion understood that Hitlerite Germany had walked into a quagmire, not another campaign in France. While the British everyman cheered on Soviet resistance, the British government did relatively little to help. Some Cabinet ministers were even reluctant to call the Soviet Union an ally. Churchill refused to let BBC play the Soviet national anthem, “the Internationale,” on Sunday evenings along with those of other allies.

The Red Army still retreated, but kept fighting desperately. This was no ordinary war, but a struggle of unparalleled violence against a murderous invader for home, family, country, for life itself. In November the Red Army dropped a pamphlet on German lines, quoting Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist: “It’s impossible either to hold or conquer Russia”

That was real bravado in the circumstances, but also true. Finally, in front of Moscow, in December 1941, the Red Army, under Zhukov’s command, threw back the spent forces of the Wehrmacht, in the south by as much as three hundred kilometres. The image of Nazi invincibility was shattered. Barbarossa was too ambitious, the blitzkrieg had failed, and the Wehrmacht suffered its first strategic defeat. In London Churchill agreed, grudgingly, to let BBC play the Soviet national anthem.

 

In 1942 the Red Army continued to suffer defeats and heavy losses, as it fought on nearly alone. In November of that year at Stalingrad on the Volga, however, the Red Army launched a counteroffensive, which led to a remarkable victory and the retreat of the Wehrmacht back to its start lines in the spring of 1942… except for the German Sixth Army, caught in the Stalingrad kotel or cauldron.

There, 22 German divisions, some of Hitler’s best, were destroyed. Stalingrad was the Verdun of the Second World War. “It’s hell,” a soldier said. “No… this is ten times worse than hell,” someone else corrected. At the end of the winter fighting in 1943, Axis losses were staggering: 100 German, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian divisions were destroyed, or mauled. The president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, reckoned that the tide of battle had turned: Hitlerite Germany was doomed.

It was February 1943. In that month there was not a single British, American, or Canadian division fighting in Europe against the Wehrmacht. Not one. It was sixteen months before the Normandy landings. The British and Americans were then fighting two or three German divisions in North Africa, a sideshow compared to the Soviet front.

Western public opinion knew who was carrying the burden of the war against the Wehrmacht. In 1942, 80% of Axis divisions were arrayed against the Red Army. At the beginning of 1943 there were 207 German divisions on the Eastern Front. The Germans tried one last hurrah, one last offensive against the Kursk bulge in July 1943. That operation failed. The Red Army then launched a counteroffensive across the Ukraine which led to liberation of Kiev in November. Further north, Smolensk had been freed the month before.

The spirit of the Soviet people and their Red Army was formidable. War correspondent, Vasilii Semenovich Grossman, captured its essence in his personal journals. “Night, Snowstorm,” he wrote in early 1942, “Vehicles, Artillery. They are moving in silence. Suddenly a hoarse voice is heard. ‘Hey, which is the road to Berlin?’ A roar of laughter.”

Soldiers were not always brave. Sometimes they fled. “A battalion commissar armed with two revolvers began shouting, ‘Where are you running you sons of whores, where? Go forward, for our Motherland, for Jesus Christ, motherfuckers! For Stalin, you whores!’…”

They went back to their positions. Those fellows were lucky; the commissar could have shot them all. Sometimes he did. A soldier volunteered to execute a deserter. “Did you feel any pity for him?” Grossman asked. “How can one speak of pity,” the soldier replied. At Stalingrad seven Uzbeks were found guilty of self-inflicted wounds. They were all shot. Grossman read a letter found in the pocket of a dead Soviet soldier. “I miss you very much. Please come and visit… I am writing this, and tears are pouring. Daddy, please come home and visit.”

Women fought along side the men as snipers, gunners, tankists, pilots, nurses partisans. They also kept the home front going. “Villages have become the kingdom of women,” wrote Grossman, “They drive tractors, guard warehouses and stables… Women are carrying on their shoulders the great burden of work. They dominate… send bread, aircraft, weapons and ammunition to the front.” When the war was being fought on the Volga, they did not reproach their men for having given up so much ground. “Women look and say nothing,” wrote Grossman, “… not a bitter word.” But in the villages near the front, sometimes they did.

In the meantime, the western allies attacked Italy. Stalin had long demanded a second front in France, which Churchill resisted. He wanted to attack the Axis “soft underbelly”, not to help the Red Army, but to hinder its advance into the Balkans. The idea was to advance quickly north up the Italian boot, then wheel eastward into the Balkans to keep out the Red Army. The way to Berlin however was north northeast. Churchill’s plan was a failure; the western allies did not get to Rome until June 1944.

There were approximately 20 German divisions in Italy fighting against larger allied forces. In the East, there were still more than two hundred Axis divisions, or ten times those in Italy. On 6 June 1944 when Operation Overlord began in Normandy, the Red Army stood on Polish and Romanian frontiers. A fortnight after the Normandy landings, the Red Army launched Operation Bagration, a huge offensive which stove in the centre of the German eastern front and led to an advance of 500 kilometres to the west, while the western allies were still held up on the Normandy Cotentin peninsula. The Red Army had become an unstoppable juggernaut.

It was just a matter of time before the destruction of Nazi Germany. When the war was over in May 1945, the Red Army had accounted for 80% of the losses of the Wehrmacht, and that percentage would have been far higher before the Normandy invasion. “Those who never experienced all the bitterness of the summer of 1941,” wrote Vasily Grossman, “will never be able fully to appreciate the joy of our victory.” There were many war hymns sung by the troops and the people to keep up morale. Sviashchennaia voina, “Sacred War” was one of the most popular. Russians still stand when they hear it.

Historians often debate about when the decisive turn of battle came in the European theatre. Some propose 22 June 1941, the day that the Wehrmacht crossed Soviet frontiers. Others point to the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, or Kursk.

During the war western public opinion seemed more supportive of the Red Army than some western leaders, Winston Churchill, for example. Roosevelt was better, a more pragmatic political leader, who easily recognised the preponderant Soviet role in the war against Nazi Germany. The Red Army, he said to one doubtful general in 1942, was killing more German soldiers and smashing more German tanks than all the other allies put together.

Roosevelt knew that the Soviet Union was the linchpin of the great coalition against Nazi Germany. I call FDR the godfather of the “grand alliance”. Nevertheless, in the shadows lurked the usual haters of the Soviet Union, who were only biding their time before emerging again. The greater the certainty of victory over Nazi Germany, the more vocal and strident became the naysayers of the grand alliance.

Americans can be touchy about the memory of the Red Army playing the lead role in the destruction of the Wehrmacht. “What about Lend-Lease,” they say, “without our supplies, the Soviet Union could not have beaten the Germans.” In fact, most Lend-Lease supplies did not arrive in the USSR until after Stalingrad.

Red Army soldiers facetiously called the Lend-Lease food tins the “second front” since the real one was late in coming. In 1942 Soviet industry was already out-producing Nazi Germany in major categories of armaments. Was the T-34 an American, or a Soviet tank?

A polite Stalin always remembered to thank the US government for the jeeps and Studebaker trucks. They increased Red Army mobility. You contributed the aluminum, Russians famously replied, we contributed the blood… the rivers of blood.

No sooner was the war over than Britain and the United States started to think about another war, this time against the Soviet Union. In May 1945 the British high command produced Operation “Unthinkable”, a top secret plan for an offensive, reinforced by German POWs, against the Red Army. What bastards, what ingrates.

In September 1945, the Americans contemplated use of 204 atomic bombs to destroy the Soviet Union. The godfather, President Roosevelt, had died in April, and within weeks American Sovietophobes were reversing his policy. The grand alliance was only a truce in a Cold War which had begun after the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917, and which resumed in 1945.

In that year the US and British governments still had to contend with public opinion. The everyman in Europe and the United States knew very well who had carried the load against the Wehrmacht. You could not resume the old policy of hatred against the Soviet Union just like that without blotting out the memory of the Red Army’s role in the common victory over Hitlerite Germany.

So memories of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression in August 1939 were brought out of the closet, although the memories of prior Anglo-French opposition to Soviet proposals for collective security against Nazi Germany and especially of the betrayal of Czechoslovakia were omitted from the new western narrative. Like thieves in the night, Britain and the United States burgled the true account of the destruction of Nazi Germany.

Already in December 1939, the British planned to publish a white paper blaming Moscow for the failure of Anglo-Franco-Soviet alliance negotiations during the previous spring and summer. The French objected because the white paper was more likely to persuade public opinion that the Soviet side had been serious about resistance to Nazi Germany while the British and French were not.

The white paper was shelved. In 1948 the US State Department issued a collection of documents attributing the blame for World War II to Hitler and Stalin. Moscow fired back with its own publication demonstrating western affinities with Nazism. The fight was on in the west to remember the Soviet Union for the non-aggression pact and to forget the Red Army’s preponderant role in smashing the Wehrmacht.

How many of you have not seen some Hollywood film in which the Normandy landings are the great turning point of the war? “What if the landings had failed,” one often hears? “Oh…, nothing much,” is the appropriate reply. The war would have gone on longer, and the Red Army would have planted its flags on the Normandy beaches coming from the east.

Then there are the movies about the Allied bombing campaign against Germany, the “decisive” factor in winning the war. In Hollywood films about World War II, the Red Army is invisible. It is as if the Americans (and British) were claiming laurels they didn’t earn.

I like to ask students in my university course on the Second World War, who has heard of operation Overlord? Everyone raises a hand. Then I ask who has heard of Operation Bagration? Hardly anyone raises a hand. I ask facetiously who “won” the war against Nazi Germany and the answer is “America” of course. Only a few students—normally those who have had other courses with me—will answer the Soviet Union.

The truth is uphill work in a western world where “fake news” is the norm. The OSCE and European Parliament put the blame for World War II on the Soviet Union, read Russia and President Vladimir Putin, as the subliminal message. Hitler is almost forgotten in this tohu-bohu of evidence-free accusations.

Behind the bogus historical narrative are the Baltic states, Poland, and the Ukraine, spewing out hatred of Russia. The Baltics and the Ukraine now remember Nazi collaborators as national heroes and celebrate their deeds.

In Poland, for some people, this is hard to swallow; they remember the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators who murdered tens of thousands of Poles in Volhynia. Unfortunately, such memories have not stopped Polish hooligans from vandalising monuments to Red Army war dead or desecrating Soviet war cemeteries. Polish “nationalists” cannot bear the memory of the Red Army freeing Poland from the Nazi invader.

In Russia, however, the west’s mendacious propaganda has no effect. The Soviet Union produced its own films, and the Russian Federation also, about World War II, most recently about the defence of the Brest fortress and of Sevastopol, and the battle of Stalingrad.

On 9 May every year Russians remember the millions of soldiers who fought and died, and the millions of civilians who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi invader. The veterans, fewer each year, come out wearing uniforms that often do not fit quite right or threadbare jackets covered with war medals and orders. “Treat them with tact and respect,” Zhukov wrote in his memoirs: “It is a small price after what they did for you in 1941-1945.”

How did you manage, I wondered to myself observing them on Victory Day some years go, how did you cope, living constantly with death and so much sorrow and hardship?

Now, each year on Victory Day the “immortal regiment”, the bessmertnyi polk, marches; Russians in cities and towns across the country and abroad, march together carrying large photographs of family members, men and women, who fought in the war. “We remember,” they want to say: “and we will never forget you.”

Michael Jabara Carley is Professor of History at the Université de Montréal. He has published widely on Soviet relations with the West. This article comes to us trough the courtesy of The Strategic Culture Foundation.
The photo shows, “Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya Before Execution,” by Konstantin Nikitich Shchekotov, painted, 1947-1949.

Plato And Ayn Rand

The theory of moral obligation, as found in Plato’s Republic and Ayn Rand’s The Ethics of Emergencies, hinges on the idea of the self and its ethical and moral concerns within society. However, the approaches and conclusions are far from similar.

When we turn to Ayn Rand, we find a great deal of stress on the individual; in fact overly so. For her, a person’s life is the standard of moral value, and consequently, in a nutshell, happiness is each person’s moral obligation. Thus, Rand posits a cognitive/moral approach.

This means that in her philosophy, a strict moral accountability is consistently at the forefront. In effect, her philosophy is centered around man, rather than on a grander cosmology. This means that primacy is given to existence itself and the necessity for survival. However, this extreme objectivism that hinges entirely upon happiness as a moral force is ultimately self-negating.

The problem with Rand is that she consistently fails to ask what is good for society – it cannot be said that what is good for the individual is therefore good for society, since all people do not act rationally in order to eliminate inequality, for example.

In fact, each person’s happiness stems from different points of view and even different economies – and if one individual wins, another loses. This sort of disparity cannot lead to a just society (a concept that Rand is extremely hazy on), because for her people who cannot rationally determine what is good for them, can still be good people.

Secondly, Rand’s objectivism is false because she believes that a self-serving point of view will give us an undeniable and universal good. Thus, for example, slavery is perfectly rational, since it serves the needs of slave-owners, who need cheap labor in order to produce goods.

Rand would have us believe that all men act rationally (that is, in their own self-interest), and therefore every concept that is based on rationality will be universally accepted. There is extreme danger in promoting self-interest as a universal concept.

Rationality must depend on society, and the norms that it accepts. However, rationality cannot be transformed into a universal standard. It is perfectly rational to a murderer that he kills people; he may even enjoy it. But is it good? Morality cannot be relativistic.

Consequently, rationalism is based on the perception of reality; it is not the logical understanding of what reality actually is. Thus, Rand’s notion of morality does not rise above self-centeredness and therefore cannot be correct.

Plato, on the other, hand provides a far more cogent and useful definition of moral obligation. For Plato, such an obligation the description, study, and observation of morality in human action and human society.

Plato also gives centrality to the idea of happiness, as does Rand; and he calls it the highest good, which he identifies with God. Thus, moral obligation for Plato is for the individual to free himself, through his actions, and use virtue and wisdom to become like God.

However, Plato does not carried away with this mystical line of thought; he does recognize and encourage the use of logic, for in his philosophy there is no place for those opinions and pleasures that cannot be freed from passion. With a view to Rand, we find that her entire philosophy is based on pleasures that cannot be freed from passion.

It is the stress on virtue that greatly elevates Plato’s philosophy, which he considers to be essential to human happiness, since it is from virtue that important social concepts arise, namely, wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.

Further, Plato does not reduce the idea of virtue to its practical applications (something Rand is consistently guilty of). He abandons the utilitarian view and instead attaches to virtue an independent value, which lends virtue a greater worth.

Therefore, a person should strive to be virtuous, within the context of a society that likewise has virtue for its objective – because it is through this striving (both on the individual and societal levels) that morality can be established and maintained. Next, Plato defines the state as the larger man; he models it on the individual soul. This is the complete opposite of Rand’s notion of society being the place rational self-will is practiced.

Thus, Plato’s society is infinitely more moral and just than Rand’s, because there is no room for “selfishness” in it. In fact, Plato subordinates private interests to the good of the whole. In this way, he allows room for concepts such as justice and freedom, which are not merely adjuncts of someone else’s self-interest.

Therefore, we see that Rand’s philosophy is constructed entirely around the idea of rationality, and for her morality is only a choice (implying that there are other choices).

This equivalence of rationality with morality is false, since rationality is universal. Plato, far more cogently tells us that morality hinges upon justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation, which can only function within society. In short, Plato is correct because he goes beyond self-interest in order to define morality, which he tells us the good of the whole rather than the individual.

 

The photo shows, “Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia,” By Angelica Kauffmann, painted, ca. 1741-1807.

Nahum The Carpenter, The Eighth Epistle

I should explain how the request to build wagons with seats on them came about. It all happened after the purchase of Yohanan and Miriamme’s farm, about two miles outside of Jerusalem. Here is the story!

What was once Nahum’s grandfather’s little leather shop is now a multi-functional operation.

It all started with a visit by Isaac to Miriamme and Yohanan’s. The elderly couple asked Isaac to invite Nahum and Ezra to come to their home for dinner on Friday.

Nahum and Ezra left early with Samuel and Ethan managing the shop. They rode their horses to see Yonanan and Miriamme.

Miriamme had prepared a sumptuous dinner and while the couple was certainly showing their age, they were both able to chat and converse very well.

After dinner, the couple surprised Nahum and Ezra when they presented them with a proposal that neither of them expected.

They told the men that they were now too old to run their farm and would like to sell it to Nahum and his son. They had two conditions, and they believed only Ezra could fulfill these conditions.

So, what are the conditions? Well, number one they wanted to be promised that the course piece of property at the east end of the farm, near the side road, would be the home of a future Christian Church.

Number two, they would like Ezra and Elizabeth to live in the main home and Yohanan and Miriamme would live in the small apartment. They would live separately, but wanted the security of knowing that someone was close by if/when needed. The amount they wanted for the farm was significantly less than the market value, partly because they had no heirs, but mainly because they wanted a Church built on their property.

Nahum and Ezra left with a promise they would return within three days with their answer.

When the two men reached town, they decided to meet with their wives immediately as this was a significant offer and affected all of them. They met at Nahums late into the evening.

The wives were more awe struck than the men! They could not believe they could be blessed with such a kind offer. They all agreed that Nahum should visit the Banker tomorrow morning to secure necessary credit and paper work.

The meeting with the Banker went well, Nahum had saved over the years and Ezra had received large gifts of money at their wedding. Also, Nahum was a respected businessman and member of the community so a small loan was no problem.

Nahum, Ruth, Ezra and Elizabeth returned to the couples home on Monday. Nahum said he would like to accept their offer and he had made arrangements with the Banker Man to transfer the funds into their account. Elizabeth startled the group when she stood and said she had another condition on the offer. Miriamme was quick to reply that the offer they had presented to Nahum was not open for dispute. But Elizabeth stood firm and said she insisted. Ok, Miriamme said what is it??

Elizabeth replied that the deal depended on Miriamme agreeing to teach Elizabeth how to cook and bake. The old woman jumped up and threw her arms around Elizabeth and said you will be my daughter. The deal was completed that night.

Now came the need to sell the old shop which was difficult for Nahum, because it had been handed down for four generations.

One day a well dressed man riding in an elaborate carriage stopped at the shop, looking for Nahum. His name was Jonathon; he was a very wealthy land developer who was looking for property to build an inn. He said he was talking to Banker Man who told him about Nahums shop being for sale.

He thought the site of the old shop was ideal as it was just off the main roadway and stood alone, not too close to any other buildings. Of course Nahum was anxious to sell, even though his heart was still aching about giving up his family property.

The discussions were very short, both parties agreed on a price and a closing date and both parties were happy!

Over the next six months a new shop was built with a modern, clean bright Medical Centre for Elizabeth.

One day just after the new shop opened a carriage stopped out front and Jonathon got out. Nahum welcomed him warmly and invited him for a tour.

Jonathon then said to Nahum and Ezra, within an hour a large wagon would be arriving with something for the new shop. A short time later a four horse team with a huge wagon arrived. The driver parked and two riders proceeded to climb up and open the load. They then dropped down two large crates.  Inside was some furniture. Nahum and Ezra went over and shook Jonathon’s hand and gave him a warm hug. Jonathon explained that when he was ordering furniture for his new inn, he thought you might like to have some new furniture for your office and lunch room. He added that he appreciated the honest way they had conducted the sale, and for the wonderful job Ezra had done on his lawns. He was very grateful.

While they were dismantling the crates Jonathon asked who the elderly couple was. When Ezra explained he walked over and introduced himself. Yohanan was so in awe of the carriage that he could hardly speak. He finally said, Mister that is the most beautiful carriage I have ever seen!. Thank you Jonathon replied, would you like to see inside, oh please may we? With that the driver was instructed to show them.

Jonathon then went over and whispered in Ezra’s ear. With a huge smile Ezra replied FOR SURE!!!!

When the couple got down Jonathon approached them and said, I am driving to my new inn to oversee the unloading of the wagon, and then I am returning home, would you like to join me? I will drop you off back here in about six hours. We can stop and have dinner on the way back.

The couple looked at each, neither one knowing what to say! They were both in such awe now. Finally Ezra said, ok let’s go, I will join you, I can sit with the driver and you two can stay inside. Oh my, Miriamme replied, let us go home for a few minutes to put on nicer clothes. Both men smiled and said take your time!

A few minutes later they returned nicely attired in their best clothes and Miriamme brought along some fresh biscuits she had baked and some cold tea. They were both so excited to ride in such a luxurious carriage. It was a monumental day for the couple.

**************

Elizabeth woke Ezra one early morning and said she was going into labour. Ezra called Miriamme from her sleep and the two of them helped Elizabeth deliver a healthy little boy. They said they would name him Paul, after the disciple Zeke had been working with. The grandparents were delighted.

A few weeks later a baptismal was held and the usual discussion by the grandparents took place with each pair claiming Paul looked like their side of the family. Elizabeth, Ezra and Miriamme all smiled to themselves. It was truly a happy gathering.

*************

During the next year Nahum and Ezra had the good fortune to purchase a blacksmith shop from old friend Seth who wanted to retire and actually move not far from the new shop.

Nahum was always proud at how the ladies in his family could speak freely and be part of any and all discussions. When the discussion of the blacksmith shop came up Elizabeth and Ruth with support from Hannah, said the blacksmith shop should be a separate building away from the main shop and the clinic. Nahum and Ezra were surprised and proud of the ladies for speaking up and making a good point. It was agreed the blacksmith shop would be away from the clinic and downwind too.

The deal went smooth with Seth supervising the transition and relocation. While this was taking place another friend mentioned to Ezra that his cousin was a blacksmith in Rome but wanted to return home. When Nahum and Ezra were interviewing the young man, Bartholomew or Bart, he asked if they had considered building wagons now that they had a blacksmith shop. They were surprised but said why are you asking? He said that a friend of his who worked at the same large plant in Rome, building wagons, was also looking to move back to the Jerusalem area.

It was not long after that Bartholomew, or Bart and his friend Ethan were members of the Nahum the Carpenter shop and they were now making sandals, repairing harness, fixing implements and building wagons! Much different to the shop of twenty years ago!.

When Joshua heard of this he was so anxious to see Nahum and ask him if he could order a new wagon. He ordered one for himself and two for neighbours. The wagon business had started.

John Thomas Percival continues working with wood and pondering about the early history of Christianity.

The photo shows, “The Forge of Vulcan,” by Francesco Bassano the Younger, painted in the latter part of the 16th century.

What Is The Christian Family?

The picturesque “traditional nuclear family” is not synonymous to a “Christian family.” Family in the Christian mindset transcends the nuclear family.

Christianity doesn’t preach total acceptance and obedience to “traditional family values.” Furthermore, to the Christian, family is something that transcends immediate family and encompasses the world.

There are those among us who toss around the phrase “traditional family values,” and assume that people in the past thought of family as defined by blood and total obedience to family roles. Ironically, at least in the Christian tradition, this conception of family isn’t very traditional and has very little to do with the Christian conception of family.

For example, if Christianity were nothing more than the blind acceptance of traditional family values then why would Christ say something like this: “Do not imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-lawn against her mother-in-law. Your enemies be right in your own household!”

This is in striking contrast to guidance set forth by Confucius when he commanded sons to listen fathers. Unlike Confucius, Christ is not telling his followers to simply obey their parents. On the contrary, he claims that he is aware of the violence that he will create in encouragement of social upheaval.

But why would Christ tell his followers to speak out against their family? For the same reasons Christians have always been encouraged to speak out; for the sake justice, truth, love, and etc.

No family is perfect. Sometimes our families are unjust, dishonest, and downright hateful. When this happens, we must take a stand against them in the name of values we hold dear (although doing so does not mean we stop loving them).

To the Christian, to love Christ is to love justice, truth, and love itself. Christ warns his followers against prioritizing their families above these transcendent virtues. He continues to say that, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worth of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

The message is clear – Christ recognized that there are things (like love itself) that we must treasure beyond our immediate family.

Christian Theology Understands Family as Transcending the Nuclear Family. Who do Christian’s consider as part of their family? To the Christian, everyone who is follows Christ is part their family. “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

This is part of the reason why Christian’s call each other “brother” and “sister.” To the Christian all those who seek justice, truth, and love are part of your family (I.e. everyone is part of your family).

It is for this reason that Christians have stressed caring for widows and orphans. Such an act is totally illogical to someone who only valued “the traditional nuclear family.”

But to the Christian, orphans and widows are just deserving of being called family as one’s own children. After all “worship that is pure and not defiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The nuclear family looks like a husband, wife, and two kids – but the Christian family looks like a widow running an orphanage of children who aren’t her own supported by a Christian village.

 

The photo shows, “Harvest Rest,” by George Cole, painted in 1865.