Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Big Picture (1) Geo-political

We are in the middle of a massive geopolitical shift that will affect the future of the entire world. We should not be distracted by Ukraine, as it is just a sideshow in a much greater and more significant transition.

The United States empire has overreached itself, and its weakness is now being exposed to the world.

  • The invasion of Iraq cost the lives of nearly a million civilians, but that outcome has been a disrupted economy and a government that is hostile to the interests of the United States. It has remained in the country against the will of the Iraqi government, so it can steal the Syrian oil, but this obstinancy makes it look weak.

  • An attempted regime change in Syria failed. United States efforts to topple the government created and released the forces of ISIS, which has done incredible harm in many places.

  • After a twenty-year invasion of Afghanistan, the United States has had to admit defeat and withdraw. The retreat was a shambles in which panicked troops fired at civilians trying to escape when a bomb exploded (serious empires don’t panic).

  • NATO bombing and missile attacks to bring regime change in Libya looked impressive in the first few weeks, but have released a civil war that is recking the country with the best education and health system in Africa. All the United States can do is pretend that they were not there and hope that the flood of refugees that have invaded Europe will go away.

  • The United States has been unable to stop the cruel Saudi invasion of Yemen, the poorest nation in the world, with weapons it has supplied.

  • The United States has flipflopped been support and rejection of the JCPOA with Iran, but has been unable to change the Iranian government or prevent it from developing an arsenal of missiles and refining uranium.

  • Recent attempts to effect colour revolutions in Kazakhstan and Belarus have failed because governments have worked out how to defeat them, no matter how much money the National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA throw in.

  • The Russian military operation in Ukraine is the latest example of the powerlessness of the US/NATO empire. It had trained and equipped the Ukrainian troops and encouraged them to assemble on the easter border, ready to invade the independent republics in the Donbas. When President Putin asked NATO for negotiations about new security agreements for Europe, the United States and the UK mocked him and challenged him to war if he was serious. They assumed that he was like them and too scared to take serious action, but he called their bluff and invaded. The United States has been powerless to prevent this from happening. This is just another example of the United States urging a nation to rely on it for security and then betraying it when the going gets tough.

    All the United States has been able to do is to impose sanctions that punish its partner nations in Europe and spread inflation around the world. The full consequences of these actions have not been seen yet.

  • Attempts to topple the socialist government in Venezuela have failed. Now the United States is pleading with the Venezuelan government to supply oil to the market where prices are shooting up.

  • China now has sufficient economic and military strength to ignore United States demands and is pushing ahead with its efforts to expand its economic influence through its Belt and Road Initiative. Unlike the United States, which tends to give military aid to its clients, the Chinese build economic infrastructure for the nations it works with.

  • The United States sails freedom of navigation voyages in the South China Sea, but it knows that China now has sufficient military strength to blow American aircraft carriers and destroyers out of the water if it chooses.

It is pointless having a massive military machine, if you cannot use it effectively because your nation is divided, your political system can only elect “corrupt old men” to be president, your people won’t tolerate war casualites, and your soldiers are unwilling to fight without overwhelming air support ensuring that they don’t have to engage directly with the enemy.

Wasted Opportunity for Peace
When the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO should have been shut down because its reason for existence had gone. It should have been replaced with a security agreement that covered all of Europe and entrenched the peace that had overtaken the continent. The United States should have gone back to America and focussed on blessing the nations of that continent.

Instead, the United States wasted a huge opportunity to release peace in the world by acting like a world hegemon, doing what it liked and expecting all other nations to submit to its dictates. It bullied weaker nations and stirred up troubles in others. Economic resources that were needed elsewhere have been wasted intervening in situations that could not be changed. Successive presidents tried to change governments that they did not like, but their intervention usually made the situation worse. The United States has invaded nations and fought wars in countries for no-ones benefit, except the weapons manufacturers.

The nations of Europe wasted the opportunity to establish peace by expanding their vain efforts to create a United States of Europe into numerous ethnically and religiously diverse nations that cannot be united. This will cause the entire project to fracture and fail (the UK has already gone).

Push Back
Unfortunately, the world has now woken up to United States weakness. Governments everywhere are tired of being pushed around and are thumbing their nose at the United States.

  • Saudi Arabia has ignored President Biden’s instruction to end the war in Yemen.

  • Saudi Arabia is doing deals for oil in Yuan.

  • Russia has decided to push back against the encroaching military force of NATO.

  • India has decided to continue importing Russian military equipment and oil.

  • The UAE is inviting Syria back into the Middle Eastern fold, despite United States opposition.

Character Exposed
The United States has always claimed that it is a good nation, and that it would only use its economic and military dominance to enhance democracy and free enterprise. Unfortunately, its actions in the international domain have exposed this as a lie.

  • In Afghanistan, the United States sided with the Northern Alliance warlords, who were proven murderers and rapists. The government they imposed on the ungrateful people was full of thieves who stole much of the economic aid being supplied.

  • In Syria, the United States trained and equipped rebels who were aligned with Al Qaeda.

  • The United States empire has revealed its true character by stealing $9 billion of central bank reserves from the Afghani people and shoving on sanctions that will cause many Afghanis to suffer from starvation and ill health. That looks like sour grapes, not liberality.

  • In Ukraine, the CIA has trained and equipped the neo-Nazi Azov battalions.

  • The Saudi government is an ugly autocracy, but it is a United States ally because it is a big buyer of weapons and supplier oil.

  • The US has used the Kurdish people to fight its wars, but then betrayed them by refusing to allow them to have their own independent state.

  • The United States cannot help itself. It demanded that China support the economic pressure it is putting on Russia but then slapped sanctions on it in support of the Uyghur people, although there are probably as many black people in United States prisons doing slave labour as there are Uyghurs in Chinese re-education centres. I am sure that the Chinese see the hypocrisy.

  • The needs of the United States Military Industrial Complex almost always trump any desire for peace.

  • When push comes to shove, the interests of United States business are put ahead of the efforts to advance liberal democracy. In various parts of the world, corrupt oligarchs and crooked businesspeople are usually the loudest voices in favour of United States involvement. The entreaties of ordinary people are usually ignored.

  • A recent estimate suggests that the Bush’s War on Terror has displaced 37 million people in various parts of the world. Yet the US has accepted very few of them, probably because they are Arabs and Africans. This is not the response of a compassionate nation.

  • The United States has funded and provided political protection for Israel to bomb, torment, maim and starve the people of Gaza (half of whom are children), and steal the land of Palestinians on the West Bank.

  • The United States has imprisoned people without trial at Guantanamo and tortured those who refused to comply.

  • Journalists like Julian Assange, who have exposed United States war crimes around the world, have been imprisoned without a fair trial.

  • Large numbers of blacks are imprisoned in the United States without fair trials. Too many innocent prisoners end up spending years on death row.

  • When nations do things that the United States opposes, it happily imposes economic sanctions that steal their wealth and destroys their trade. The belief in free trade and liberal democracy seems to only apply when the United States will benefit.

The world is seeing through the hypocrisy of the United States claimed support for liberal democracy and is now judging it on its actions, not its words.

Unfortunately, the American people still believe the lie.

At the same time as the United States weakness is being exposed in the international sphere, division is making it vulnerable at home.

  • Inequality has increased significantly as rich bankers have been bailed out and protected from prosecution by the federal government, while poor people have been left to survive on what they can scrounge.

  • The United States seems to be incapable of running a presidential election with universal acceptance of the result. This is the inevitable consequence of the election process being run by political appointees.

    When Hillary Clinton lost, she claimed that Russia had stolen the election, despite most of the evidence for Russian interference being manufactured by her supporters and paid for by her election campaign.

    Donald Trump claimed that he lost because the votes were incorrectly counted.

    We can assume that whoever loses the 2024 election will claim that the election was stolen. This is dangerous because it leaves the United States looking incompetent, and the person elected to be president appear impotent because they only have limited support.

  • The United States is incredibly divided between regions and across social classes.

  • Groups on both sides of the political, economic and social divide are now willing to use violence to advance their causes, or when their demands are not met.

  • Poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction are rife, making a mockery of claims that the United States is a kind and caring nation.

  • The strength of the United States church is being weakened as clergy scandals, political division, failed eschatologies, and a distorted gospel are undermining willingness to participate in church life.

  • A massive division exists between the people who see Donald Trump as a political saviour and those who hate him. That will not go away while he is around and will persist after he disappears from the political scene.

The divisions are so strong that there is a risk that the United States will blunder into civil war. Even if that does not happen, the intense division will make it much more difficult to exert military and economic power in the world.

In the short term, the United States will continue to be weaker. However, in the longer term, I expect the United States government to become more autocratic and reassert its position of dominance using military force to impose its will on the nations that stand in its way.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Spewing Land

Leviticus 18 lists a range of sexual relationships that are forbidden for the people of God. They were dangerous for the Israelites because they gave the spiritual powers of evil access to their community.

The thing that struck me reading this passage is the reason that God gives for forbidding these practices.

Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. The land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out the people living in it (Lev 18:24-25).
Sexual immorality harms families, but God reminds here that it also defiles the land. When the land is really defiled it will vomit the people out of it.

These days we have forgotten the link between morality and the productivity of the land, but it has not gone away. Immorality eventually affects the productivity of the land. If the people of a nation embrace evil, the land will eventually vomit them out. The land will be plagued with invasive weeds and destructive pests that will prevent grass and crops from growing.

More at Land and Spirit.

Friday, March 25, 2022

God's House

John 14:2-4 is an interesting passage. It is often read at the funerals of Christians.

My Father’s house has many dwellings; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going (John 14:2-4).
There are three important terms in this passage: “house”, “room”, and “place”. God has a house (oikos). In his house, there are many dwellings/abodes (monai). Jesus has gone to prepare a place (topos) for us.

When we read that Jesus said he was preparing a place for us, we assume that he was going to heaven to prepare a place for us to live when we die. That is one possible understanding, but it is really a distortion of what Jesus was saying. He was speaking much more about our present situation in this life on earth.

Jesus died and rose again and ascended to the right hand of God in the spiritual realms. He raised us up with himself to be seated with him in the spiritual realms far above all rule and authority. That is our position now, through faith. It is not something that we cannot enter until we die. Jesus prepared a place for us to be with him and share his victory in this life.

While he was on earth, God the Father lived in Jesus and worked with him.

I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?
It is the Father, dwelling in me, who is doing his work (John 14:10).
While Jesus was on earth doing the work of the Father, the Father was dwelling (meno) in him, enabling him to fulfil his ministry. Jesus was one of the dwellings in the Father’s house.

After talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus goes on to explain that God will dwell in those who trust in him, before they die.

If anyone loves me, he will follow my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him (John 14:23).
This is the same word “monai” that Jesus was used in verse 2. This means that the people who love Jesus and follow his word are dwellings in God’s house, on earth now before we die.

In Mathew 18:21, Jesus said something similar.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
He promised to be present wherever two or three of his followers gather together to serve him.

The implication of this is that every small body of believers who gather together to serve Jesus become a dwelling in the Father’s house. Thus, there are millions of dwellings in the Father’s house here on earth. He comes to dwell in each of them. Jesus expands on his promise in John 15.

If you keep my commands, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).
The word abide (meno) is the same word as Jesus used in John 14:10 for dwell. “Abide” is the verb connected to the noun “abode”. If we do Jesus commands we will dwell in his love. If a group of us love and obey him, we can become a dwelling in God’s house, now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Great Demographic Reversal

I have just read the introductory chapters to a book by Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan called The Great Demographic Reversal and listened to a couple of interviews with them that are available online.

They warn that the future will not be like the past. Instead, they claim that the period between 1990 and 2018 was unique and the favourable economic conditions during that time will not occur again.

Sweet Spot
The following factors made the last three decades a sweet spot for the advanced economies of the world.

  • Globalisation of the world economy due to improved communications and container shipping allowed industrial production to be moved from high wage countries to low wage countries.

  • The rise of China caused a massive increase in the workforce available for economic production. Working Age Population available increased by 600 million.

  • The reintegration of Eastern Europe also increased the workforce available. Additional Working Age Population of 200 million.

  • The effective labour supply effectively doubled over the 27 years between 1991 and 2018, putting downward pressure on wages.

  • Declining membership of trade unions also put downward pressure on wages.

  • Prices of consumer goods declined due to cheap imports from China, etc. This enabled people to cope with the decline in their real wages.

  • Low birth rates in the West and women returning to the workforce reduced dependency rates.

These changes had several important consequences.

  • Deflationary pressure allowed Central Banks to keep interest rates very low, which produced booms in assets like housing and shares.

  • Low interest rates made it easy for governments to borrow.

  • Declining real wages and increased asset prices have increased inequality.

Turning Sour
The conditions that created the economic sweet spot are disappearing.

  • Wages in China are increasing as the shift in population from rural to urban areas slows down. China is becoming a middle-class economy, so is no longer a low-wage producers.

  • Declining birth rates in many parts of the western world are reducing the Working Age Population in many countries. This will put upward pressure on wages.

  • Extended life expectancy means there are more retired people to support.

  • Dementia is increasing the costs of caring for the elderly. This will create fiscal problems for governments who cover most health care costs.

  • Globalisation is retreating due to economic sanctions and increased political nationalism. This will increase the costs of production.

  • Declining Working Age Population will result in declining output, unless productivity surges.

  • A shift to an inflationary bias as the bargaining power of workers increases.

  • Interest rates will rise because the elderly are dissaving and the corporate sector is investing in capital equipment to compensate for labour shortages.

Central banks will be unable to keep interest rates as low as they have in the past.
  • If Central Banks push up interest rates to control inflation, economic recessions will occur.

  • High debt ratios in the public and private sectors will constrain monetary policy, as rising interest rates will create unexpected financial pressure for debtors.

  • Quantitative Easing has shortened the duration/term of public debt, so rising interest rates will create fiscal problems for governments trying to pay the interest on their debt.

If these authors are correct, the world economy now faces head winds that it has not encountered during the last few decades. They show an interesting graph of the ratio of Federal Debt to GDP produced by the US Congressional Budget Office. The impacts of COVID and Aging Population are more permanent that the effects of war. This is just one of the challenges the authors highlight.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

God's Ecnomy

I grew up on a farm, so I left school early to work in farming. After a couple of years, I realised that I did not have the strength and stamina that farming needs, so I decided to go to university. While working with sheep and driving the tractor, I had plenty of time to think about the poverty and suffering that were rampant throughout the world. The problems seemed to be economic and political, so I enrolled to study economics and politics.

After four years of study, I realised that I was digging a dry well. The assumptions that economists have to make to ensure their models work are so unrealistic that their theories are irrelevant to the real world. It seemed that during the first three years of economics, they told you all the solutions, but in the fourth year, they explained why they would not work. (I noted that my fellow students who went into politics, often only did the three-year course, so they went out boldly assuming they had effective policies).

While growing up, our family had gone to church every Sunday, but for me, it was just a habit. When I reached university and encountered modern philosophy, I gave up my religious habit. However, just when I became disillusioned with economics, I heard the gospel of Jesus clearly for the first time. I surrendered to him and committed to living by his word and Spirit.

A few months later, I had an exam for a post-graduate course on comparative economics. The lecturer was a staunch Marxist. Full of my new-found faith, I wrote in my paper that Marx has no solution to human problems and that Jesus is the answer. I gave a similar response in a paper on macroeconomics.

Surprisingly, I passed the course with first class honours. However, at the beginning of the following year, one of my professors asked to meet with me. He disclosed that he was an atheist, but acknowledged that my faith seemed to be genuine. He told me that it was not enough to say that Jesus is the answer. I needed to explain how he could be a solution to the problems that concerned me. He concluded with a telling question: “What would the economy and society look like if everyone was a Christian”.

I could not answer his question, but I knew that I had to find the answer to it. I did not know enough about God, or his solutions to economic problems, but I made it my goal to find out.

I went to seminary for three years and studied theology and New Testament Greek. Later I studied Hebrew for two years to get a better understanding of the Old Testament. While employed as an economist, I read every book and article that I could find that is relevant to economics and the gospel.

Economics and Politics
About twelve years ago, I felt that I was ready to answer the question that my atheist teacher had asked, but one more obstacle lay in the way. I still had faith in political power. I believed that God’s people could use political power to establish his Kingdom on earth. I needed to grasp the failures and futility of politics.

Modern economics is mostly politics. The solutions dreamt up by economists can only be implemented by a government with coercive power, so economics becomes a servant of politics.

  • Fiscal policy explains why politicians should take money from some people and use it to benefit others.
  • Monetary policy explains how governments can control the creation of money and who should benefit.
  • Labour economics guides politicians who want to control employment practices and pay.

Modern economics and politics are hard to separate. Economic principles get caught up in political power.

Jesus refused to use political power to advance the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:25-26; John 18:36). Political spirits and government spirits have used political authority to leverage their power on earth. Evil cannot be used to accomplish good.

When I studied this issue seriously, I discovered that God had already given a system of government to Moses that does not rely on force and coercion. I described his system of local judges applying his law and voluntary military leaders protecting their community in a book called Government of God (2017). It explains how Kingdom Communities can function without political power. They can voluntarily provide all the services that human governments promise, but fail to deliver.

Once I understood the problems of political power, my understanding of the nature of economics changed dramatically. The policies of modern economists cannot enter the Kingdom of God because they need to be imposed from the top by human governments with the power to make people do the right thing. I began seeking a politics-free economics.

Gods Economy
I discovered the Instructions for Economic Life that God gave to Moses (Unfortunately most Christians cherry pick them and ignore the underlying economic system described). I also found that Jesus had validated these instructions in his teaching about economics. God’s instructions allow a community of people to develop an economy that can function effectively without the need for political power and coercion.

The advance of the gospel by the power of the Spirit should produce a radically different economy. The most significant change is that there will be no human government to enforce economic policies. Economic change will come as more and more people choose to follow Jesus and are prompted by the Holy Spirit to obey his commands.

God’s economy is not modern capitalism. Modern capitalism is a system in which all activities are commercialised. Big businesses collude with political power to gain wealth at the expense of ordinary people. Materialism and consumerism are advanced at the expense of relationships. The strong are rewarded, the weak suffer. God’s economy is radically different from modern capitalism.

My book called Gods Economy describes the changes to economic activity that will occur as the Government of God comes to fullness. It seeks to answer the following question: “What would an economy look like if most people chose to follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit was able to establish the Government of God?”. This book is the question my economics teacher asked me back in 1975.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Day of Protection

One of the important days in the life of Israel was the Day of Protectin or Covering, literally Yom Kippur.

“Yom” means “day”. The initial Hebrew meaning of the root KPR (which ‘Yom Kippur comes from) actually means ‘to cover’ and can be found in the original Hebrew name for the ‘mercy seat’ of the ‘ark of the covenant’ which is called in the Hebrew Bible ‘Kaporet’ (covering’). Covering provides protection. English translations tend to make KPR into a religious word by using religious words like “atonement”, “propitiation”, and “expiation” in order to make it seems like God needs to be appeased by humans.

According to Leviticus 23:26-38, the day is a holy day for the people to humble themselves. They are to avoid doing work because there is nothing that they can do to earn God’s favour. People who don’t humble themselves are to be cut off from their people and become vulnerable to attack by the spiritual powers of evil.

God placed a covering over his people to keep them safe from the spiritual powers of evil. Covering day was a day for celebrating that privilege.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Negotiations not War

Jesus did not say much about war, because he was not interested in it as a method for advancing his cause. He refused to start a war to protect his life or to advance his kingdom. Human kingdoms are worth less than the Kingdom of God, so it is not worth fighting a war for, then no other human government is worth it.

However, the one time that Jesus did talk about war, he gave some really good advice that Christians should heed.

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace (Luke 14:31-32).
The principle in Jesus parable is very restrictive. War is only justified if the benefits are greater than the total cost. Most wars fail to deliver the hoped-for benefits, so very few problems can justify the cost of war.

If all governments applied Jesus’ principle, then war would be rare. Enemies with weaker military forces would be unlikely to attack stronger nations. And if a stronger nation is threatening a weaker nation, its enemy would generally have overwhelmingly superior forces, so any attempt at defence would be pointless and produce unnecessary suffering.

There are generally very few winners in war. The cost for the families of those who die is enormous. For the soldiers who survive the cost is also be high because many will have physical and mental injuries that blight their lives. War never produces benefits that justify the cost, so I am surprised that so many Christians are enthusiastic about war.

Jesus' principle applies to the current war in Ukraine. Despite what the western news media are saying, the Ukrainians lost the war almost as soon as it started. Their air forces and navy were destroyed in the first few days. Most of the Ukrainian army is in the east of the country because the US had encouraged their political leaders to break the Minsk peace agreements and take back control of the rebel Donbas provinces by military force. These forces are now surrounded and cut off (possibly with some of their American trainers). They can keep firing artillery in the Donbas region for a while but when their ammunition runs out, they will have no choice but to surrender.

The only sensible thing that the Ukrainian president can do is follow Jesus’ advice and sue for peace. The sooner he does, the better conditions he will be able to negotiate. The longer he leaves it, the weaker his bargaining position will be. Saying that you will fight to the last man for your democracy is stupid. No democracy is worth thousands of lives. Paul lived the Christian life effectively under emperor Nero, so no political system is essential for the advance of the gospel.

The US and UK leaders are doing huge harm by preventing the Ukrainian from negotiating seriously. They learned to hate “the Russians” when they were growing up, and they still want to put them down (they have lost sight of the fact that our real enemy is the spiritual powers of evil and that Jesus loves Russians as much as he loves Anglo-saxons). Unfortunately, these western leaders don’t really care about the Ukrainian people and are quite happy to use them as pawns in their bigger power game.

And the Western news media are also doing serious harm with their messaging.

  • Training old women how to fire a rifle looks good on television but it will not change anything on the ground, except cause unnecessary suffering.

  • Training young women how to throw Molotov cocktails at tanks is a romantic idea, but it will just produce more unnecessary suffering.

  • Handing out guns to untrained civilians and telling them to defend their cities is foolish and will only lead to unnecessary loss of life.

  • Sending thousands of right-wing crazies from all over Europe to fight in Ukraine is as stupid as training and equipping the Sunni Sons of Iraq, who morphed into ISIS. Blowback into the countries that they came from is inevitable..

  • Allowing women and children to leave as refugees while making their husbands and father remain to fight will end in tragedy for many families.

  • Telling the Ukrainian people that they are winning a war that they have already lost is doing them a disservice. The American and British military experts who say that Ukraine is winning are the same ones that said that the war in Afghanistan was being on the verge of being won, so they have no credibility.

  • David's defeat of Goliath was a wonderful event, but it only applies when the Holy Spirit's annointing is on God's man. It does not apply to nations, no matter how plucky they are.

  • Sending massive numbers of rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine is foolish, because they won't all be used there. They will leak into the rest of Europe and getting into the wrong hands there.

  • Encouraging an insurgency in Ukrainian cities will only add to the pain and suffering, and for very little benefit.

The only way to end the suffering in Ukraine is to negotiate a peace settlement and stick to it.

The sad thing is that this is another unnecessary war. There were plenty of opportunities to negotiate a peace settlement in the months before it began. The Russian president described the issues that needed to be resolved and repeatedly asked for serious negotiations, but the US, UK and NATO leaders were too arrogant to engage seriously. Instead, they goaded the Russian president to invade because they thought he would be too scared, but that gambit failed. These leaders persuaded the Ukrainian leaders not to engage either. This was reckless because encouraging the Ukrainians to resist Russia and then refusing them to support them when it went wrong was an ugly betrayal.

The NZ foreign minister says that the window for a diplomatic solution is closing. That is not true. Diplomacy is always the only solution to war. Even when the guns go silent, a diplomatic solution to establish peace is needed. Jesus’ advice to negotiate for peace when you are likely to lose is as urgent as ever. President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov claim that they want a diplomatic solution. The best solution would be to seriously test that commitment.

Saturday, March 12, 2022


Reading through Leviticus, the instructions for the scapegoat are interesting.

From the Israelite community, Aaron (the high priest) is to take two male goats for a sin offering…Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat (Lev 16:6-8). The goat chosen for the Lord was to be presented as a sin offering (Lev 16:9).
The Hebrew word translated as “scapegoat” is Azazel, which literally means "goat of departure" or "goat that goes away". William Tyndale, one of the first English translators coined the word “scapegoat” as a contraction of the “goat of escape”. His new word has become common in English with the meaning “person blamed for something done by someone else” which is not the meaning in Leviticus. In a way, “goat of departure” or “escaping goat” is a better translation.

This second goat was presented at the tabernacle alive.

Aaron is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness (Lev 16:21-22).
This is interesting. The sins of the Israelites are not confessed over the goat that was offered to the Lord. They were confessed over the other goat as Aaron the high priest laid both his on its head. This goat carries the sins into a remote place that is unpopulated, literally, “cut off”. This is a lovely illustration of how God deals with human sin. He does not need to punish us but chooses to forgive us by sending them away to where they are lost and forgotten. They are sent away from him and away from us.

The wilderness is the place where the spiritual powers of evil dwell and have control. God sends our sins, which came from them in the first place, back to them.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Economic Sanctions (2) Ineffective

Economic sanctions are ineffective. They have rarely achieved the outcome they were introduced to achieve. The economic pressure often makes their target more belligerent.

Most Americans have forgotten that the Japanese (an ally in WW1) attacked Pearl Harbour after President Roosevelt imposed economic sanctions against them by cutting off their access to oil imports that were essential for the functioning of their economy. The Japanese believed that they had nothing to lose so they invaded SE Asia to gain access to oilfields there. The outcome was not what Roosevelt expected.

Academic studies show that economic sanctions rarely achieve the objective for which they were imposed. They cause a lot of pain for no real benefit.

In many cases, economic sanctions strengthen the hand of the hard-line leaders are they are intended to weaken. They often benefit the people they are trying to bring down.

War with military weapons often fails to achieve its aims and usually does more harm than good. Economic war with sanctions has an even worse record.

The main benefit of sanctions is that people in the country imposing them feel good because they are doing something about a problem that worries them. They forget that the sanctions usually hurt the wrong people. Harming people to feel good is perverse.

Perpetual Punishment

A big problem with economic sanctions is that they are very difficult to remove once they have been put in place. In a militaristic nation like the United States, it is much harder to win a vote in Congress to lift economic sanctions than it is to impose them in the first place. One of the best ways for a representative to ensure their re-election is to vote for economic sanctions against the nation that is currently out of favour.

Some of the economic sanctions imposed by the United States have been in place for more than fifty years. Most people have forgotten the purpose for which they were imposed and many of the people they were directed against are dead, but the sanctions are still enforced.

Economic sanctions imposed against Cuba have been in place for more than 60 years, but they have not changed the political situation, but have caused enormous pain and suffering for economic people. Despite this failure to achieve their goal, it would be impossible to get the Congress to vote against them.

United States

The United States uses economic sanctions more than any nation in history. It pressures other nations to join its sanctioning efforts. The US is currently the most powerful nation and strongest economy that the world has ever seen. It controls the financial and banking systems that are used by all the nations of the world. In addition to exercising military power in many nations, it uses its place at the centre of the world financial system to control other nations. Presidents have begun preventing people and nations from using the SWIFT system for interbank transactions, which prevents them from trading.

Sanctions are imposed on nations that will not submit to the dictates of the United States to prevent them from trading. Nothing like this has been done before. The irony is that the nation that claims to be the champion of free-market economics is blocking people from buying and selling.

Economic sanctions are directed at nations, but they are imposed on people and businesses. The list of people and businesses that are banned is thousands of pages long. Some of the bans have been in place for nearly fifty years. Businesses in other nations are also prevented from trading with them too.

The United States uses control of the financial system to prevent people and companies from other nations trading with the nations on the list of baddies. This change is spreading the net of sanctions much wider.

The Evangelical Church provided moral support for this behaviour by declaring that the sanctioned nations are evil. Many churches advocate the full use of economic power to implement American power in the world, but their selection of targets is highly selective and often xenophobic.

The following quote comes from a book by Richard Nephew, who was responsible for designing the economic sanctions against Iran.

Notice the dishonesty in his words. He talks about "vulnerabilities" and "interests" but does not mention that he is imposing as much pain and suffering as he can on people and children who have no control over what their nations leaders do. This is warped moral thinking.


The modern use of economic sanctions involves considerable hypocrisy.

In the last three decades, the United States has illegally invaded several nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen) and have bombed numerous cities (Raqqa and Mosul were almost totally destroyed) but it has never had economic sanctions imposed against it. Yet when other nations do these things, the US imposes sanctions on them.

Russia has not done anything in Ukraine that the United States has not done several times in the last few decades. Russia is accused of using cluster bombs in Ukraine (without much evidence) but the people of Vietnam are still be killed and maimed by the cluster bombs laid by US Troops, and the US has refused to sign the UN treaty banning cluster bombs. Russia is accused of using hyperbaric bombs in Ukraine (without much evidence) but the United States used them extensively in Iraq.

Beast of Revelation

The Beast of Revelation uses political and military power to prevent people from buying and selling (Rev 13:16-17). If John was recording his vision in English today, he would say that the beast imposes economic sanctions on peoples and nations that refuse to submit to his authority. It is odd that a Christian nation is the leading expert on the use of these terrible economic weapons. Economic sanctions are what the Beast from hell does, not what Christians should be doing (See Mark of the Beast).

Monday, March 07, 2022

Economic Sanctions (1)

Most Christians assume that imposing economic sanctions is a good thing that good governments should do. That is not true. God created people free. Any actions that prevent people in other nations from doing what they choose are morally wrong. The government of a nation does not have the moral authority to prevent people from other nations from trading. The US government has authority over US citizens, but it does not have authority over citizens of other nations.

These days most people believe that war is nasty and morally undesirable so they prefer that their government avoid it, but they want the results that war achieves. They want to make other nations do what they want them to do, and economic sanctions seem like a less evil way to make them do it.

Christians have jumped on board and now expect their government to impose sanctions on nations that they believe are evil or doing bad things. There is never any debate about whether economic sanctions are morally right are wrong. Most people assume that they are a weapon that should be used, but the fact that they are referred to as a weapon tells us something about them.

Stealing is always wrong. It is wrong when people do it. It is wrong when governments do it.

You must not seize (Lev 19:13).
Seizing financial reserves or assets that belong to the people of another nation is wrong.

Total War

In ancient times, war was mostly a struggle between kings and their armies. Ordinary people were not affected unless the battle took place where they lived. War became total when a city was besieged. A siege brought a terrible toll on civilian populations, as the soldiers always demanded the last of the food. In some cities, "useless mouths", such as the elderly and handicapped were pushed outside the cities walls, where they would be killed by the besieging armies. Those who remained were forced to eat dogs, rats and dead birds. Leather and paper were ground up and made into soup.

Thousands of people died of starvation and disease. People who lived outside the city were not much better off, as the land within fifty miles of the city would be cleared of all food to support the army enforcing the siege.

The allied powers imposed a siege on Germany during the First World War. This siege was continued on after the armistice had been agreed, doing huge harm to the civilian population, especially children.

Since the American civil war, the nature of war has changed. War between armies became a total war between two populations and no one could remain apart from the turmoil and destruction. Factories were targeted to weaken the war effort. Cities were burned to weaken the opposition.

During the second world war, civilian populations were bombed to weaken morale and to undermine support for the leaders. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were totally destroyed even though they had very little military significance. During the twentieth century, total war destroyed the lives of millions of citizens. Economic sanctions take these attacks on civilians a step further by using economic weapons to fight wars, rather than military ones.

Economic sanctions are the modern form of the siege is the sanctions imposed on many nations. These are used most actively by nations with a strong Christian influence, but they are not much better than a siege, because the worst effects are felt by the civilian population, and especially children.

Immoral Weapon

Economic sanctions are immoral. No person or nation has the right to prevent other people or nations from buying and selling. The person who owns something does not have to sell it if they choose not to, regardless of the price that is offered. But if they choose to sell to someone, they are free to sell. o political power has authority to prevent them from selling.

Economic sanctions are a from of blackmail. It is ironic that the nations, which claim to believe in free trade, are the most active in enforcing economic sanctions against others.

Economic sanctions are a nasty and ineffective way to bring political change. They inflict pain on ordinary people, while the political leaders they are directed against, usually find ways to get around them. Some even become rich through trading in the black market.

Some nations have developed what they call smart sanctions, but they are about as accurate as smart missiles and bombs. Their victims find that they are not nearly as accurate as the people who launch them claim. The powerful people in the nation that is attacked with sanctions can use their wealth to escape their consequences. The worst burden is always born by the poor and the vulnerable.

Christians in the nations that impose them most often like to pretend that economic sanctions are more humane than military weapons, but that is hypocritical. Military weapons theoretically strike military targets, whereas economic sanctions kill innocent people. By trying to weaken the economy they are imposing the sanctions on they deliberately take actions that will that will harm the poor and vulnerable.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Sanctions and Economic Instability

Last year, a reader asked me if I thought that we are on the “verge of a global economic collapse” and what to expect if this were to happen. I replied that I didn’t know the answer to this question.

I commented that the US economy has been distorted for many years. The Global Financial Crisis did not resolve the problems because the Fed and the Treasury rescued the financial sector and covered over its problems. These easy money solutions have now created a share market and housing boom that has further distorted the economy.

The US economy is weighed down by a massive overhang of debt. The United States has a huge number of political problems and a culture that is tearing itself apart. The whole thing should probably fall to pieces, but it probably won’t, because the Fed and the government will keep patching it up and covering over the problems. I have no idea of how long they will be able to keep doing that. I suspect they will go on propping the economy up for a very long time.

I have explained how to deal with an economic crisis at economic crisis and social collapse.

Now, although they are immoral, the United States is slamming economic sanctions on everything. Unfortunately, in the modern world, everything is interlinked, so all restrictions on trade harm the world economy. Europe has extensive trade with Russia. German industry, which is the economic powerhouse of Europe, depends heavily on Russian gas, oil and minerals. Even if they can buy these from elsewhere, they will be more expensive. Increases in the price of oil wish contribute to price inflation everywhere.

I am not sure, but massive economic sanctions against Russia could be the trigger that brings down the economic house cards that the US has created.

Friday, March 04, 2022


I have been reading through the first few chapters of Leviticus which describe the sacrifices that Moses taught the Israelites to offer. One of the common Hebrew words in these chapters is “kaphar”. Most English translations turn it into a religious word. Some translate it as “expiate” and others translate it as “propitiate”. These religious translations make it seem like the sacrifices were intended to appease God.

“Kaphar” is an ordinary word that means “covering” or “shelter”. It was used to describe Noah’s ark, because it was a place of protection for his family. Kaphar was used to describe the “bitumen covering” over the ark (Genesis 6:14).

To understand the sacrifices of Leviticus, we need to ask who the Israelites need shelter or covering from. They did not need protection from God. He had already rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and travelled through the wilderness, as a fire by night and a cloud by night. He was already a covering and a shelter for them when they reached Mt Sinai.

The children of Israel needed protection from the spiritual powers of evil. They hated what God was doing and wanted to destroy them. Their tactic was to manipulate the people into sinning against God so that they would have the right to attack them. The tabernacle sacrifices were designed to provide protection from the spiritual powers of evil for people who sinned.

Leviticus 4:26 is an example. It describes the peace offering (called shelem).

The priest will make a covering for him from his sin and he is forgiven to him.
The peace offering makes a covering for the person who has sinned to protect him from the attacks of the spiritual powers of evil. Moses also says that the person who sins is forgiven by God (the Hebrew word “calach” is forgive, not pardon). When the person goes to the priest to put things right with God, he is already forgiven. If God has forgiven him, he does not need to appease God. If he needs to propitiate God, he is not forgiven.

One of the meanest tricks of the enemy is to persuade people who have slipped and fallen that God is angry and wants to deal to them. This creates a shame that separates them from God. The truth is that it is our spiritual enemy that is dealing to people who have fallen and wants to harm and destroy them. Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd, the prodigal son and the lost coin show that God has compassion for those who have failed and wants to draw them into his love. It us the spiritual powers of evil who are angry with them and who want to destroy them.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022


I hate war. In my studies of history, I have never discovered one where the cause justified the cost in terms of suffering that war produces. The decision that a war was worth the price is made by the living who did not lose their lives. The people who died don’t get a voice. I think it is arrogant to say that my freedom is worth another person's life, and the lives of all their descendents.

Jesus’ death on the cross set me completely free. The death of no other person is needed to make me freer. If we believe that Jesus made us truly free, why do we want other people to die for our freedom.

The current war is no different. It is an unnecessary war that could have been avoided if leaders on all sides had not been intransigent.

What I find disconcerting is the number of Christian celebrities speaking out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, whom I have not heard speaking against war before. I am pleased to see their oppostion to this war, but I can’t help feeling that their angst is a bit selective.

  • These people were mostly silent when the US, France and the UK invaded Libya and wrecked the most prosperous nation in Africa.

  • They have been silent about the Saudi invasion of Yemen, one of the poorest nations in the world, with the logistical support of the United States. They call Putin a dictator, but they don’t throw the same barbs at the ruler of Saudi Arabia, because he is a US ally.

  • They have been silent about the illegal US invasion of Syria.

  • They cheered on the US invasion of Iraq, which caused nearly a million deaths, and spawned ISIS.

  • They remained silent during the twenty-year war of destruction and revenge for 9/11 against the people of Afghanistan who had nothing to do with it.

  • They are silent about the United States stealing $9 billion dollars from the Afghan central bank, money that belongs to the Afghan people, which is needed to keep them from starvation.

  • They did not care about the US bombing of Belgrade to split up Yugoslavia with no suggestion that the old borders were sacrosanct.

  • Evangelical Christians cheered on the invasion of Vietnam, and the bombing of Laos and Cambodia for no useful purpose.

  • Christians have remained silent about Israel’s continuous, brutal mistreatment of the Palestinian people with military equipment supplied by the United States.

  • They have ignored Israel’s illegal bombing of Syria and Lebanon.

  • They ignore the pain, suffering and death caused by economic sanctions, and pretend that economic war is good and military war is bad, while claiming to support freedom.

It seems that celebrity Christians don’t care about US and UK aggression nearly as much as they care about Russian aggression. Is it because the victims are white Europeans. I can’t help wondering if the virulence of their verbal attacks on Russian are driven more by racism and xenophobia than by Christian concern and compassion?

There are a few exceptions. Roger E Olson's article about Russia’s and America’s Invasions is pertinent, but it has been severly criticised.