Category : Foreign Relations

(FA) Daniel W. Drezner–This Time Is Different: Why U.S. Foreign Policy Will Never Recover

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a foreign policy community in possession of great power must be in want of peace of mind. Climate change, the Middle East, terrorism, trade, nonproliferation—there is never a shortage of issues and areas for those who work in international relations to fret about. If you were to flip through the back issues of Foreign Affairs, you would find very few essays proclaiming that policymakers had permanently sorted out a problem. Even after the Cold War ended peacefully, these pages were full of heated debate about civilizations clashing.

It is therefore all too easy to dismiss the current angst over U.S. President Donald Trump as the latest hymn from the Church of Perpetual Worry. This is hardly the first time observers have questioned the viability of a U.S.-led global order. The peril to the West was never greater than when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik—until U.S. President Richard Nixon ended the Bretton Woods system. The oil shocks of the 1970s posed a grave threat to the liberal international order—but then came the explosion of the U.S. budget and trade deficits in the 1980s. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks seemed like an existential threat to the system—until the 2008 financial crisis. Now there is Trump. It is worth asking, then, whether the current fretting is anything new. For decades, the sky has refused to fall.

But this time really is different. Just when many of the sources of American power are ebbing, many of the guardrails that have kept U.S. foreign policy on track have been worn down. It is tempting to pin this degradation on Trump and his retrograde foreign policy views, but the erosion predated him by a good long while. Shifts in the way Americans debate and conduct foreign policy will make it much more difficult to right the ship in the near future. Foreign policy discourse was the last preserve of bipartisanship, but political polarization has irradiated that marketplace of ideas. Although future presidents will try to restore the classical version of U.S. foreign policy, in all likelihood, it cannot be revived.

The American foundations undergirding the liberal international order are in grave danger, and it is no longer possible to take the pillars of that order for granted. Think of the current moment as a game of Jenga in which multiple pieces have been removed but the tower still stands. As a result, some observers have concluded that the structure remains sturdy. But in fact, it is lacking many important parts and, on closer inspection, is teetering ever so slightly. Like a Jenga tower, the order will continue to stand upright—right until the moment it collapses. Every effort should be made to preserve the liberal international order, but it is also time to start thinking about what might come after its end.

The gravity of the problem is dawning on some members of the foreign policy community. Progressives are debating among themselves whether and how they should promote liberal values abroad if they should return to power. Conservatives are agonizing over whether the populist moment represents a permanent shift in the way they should think about U.S. foreign policy. Neither camp is really grappling with the end of equilibrium, however.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General

(PD) Lyman Stone–What Makes People Have Babies? The Link Between Cultural Values and Fertility Rates

Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, something remarkable happened: people started having fewer children. Way fewer. In country after country, fertility rates fell from four to eight children per woman to less than three, and in many cases less than two.

What caused this decline in fertility? Did changes in child mortality and life expectancy cause parents to desire fewer conceptions? Did increased return to human capital change the optimal child-rearing strategy? Was the decline caused by increasing exposure to the toxic chemical mix of industrialization?

The above explanations, and many others, have been proposed at various times by biologists, economists, and sociologists. But a growing body of economic research is offering a decidedly anthropological explanation for fertility: it’s about culture. People have the children they have not simply due to their individual pursuit of happiness, economic returns, or mere biology, but because of how cultural and values systems shape their behaviors.

It’s easy to spot culture-fertility linkages “in the wild.” For example, in ethnically Chinese populations around the world, birth rates spike in lucky Zodiac years, like the Dragon year. Births fall sharply around major holidays in virtually all countries. In America, they also fall sharply on unlucky days like April 1 or Friday the 13th. I’ve catalogued these and many more cultural-fertility interactions elsewhere.

But can cultural factors explain big changes in fertility? Sure, maybe a change in cultural values can nudge when a couple has a baby by a little bit here or there, or maybe we can change the pace of change in birth rates a bit. But could an arbitrary shock to social values really trigger an epochal shift in demographics like that observed during the so-called “demographic transition?” New research by Brian Beach and W. Walker Hanlon says yes.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Theology

(Christian Today) On what should have been Brexit weekend, churches and cathedrals open their doors for prayer and dialogue

The first weekend after the UK was supposed to leave the European Union, churches and cathedrals are offering spaces for conversation and prayer on Brexit.

Many churches across the country are holding prayer vigils this weekend on what should have marked the start of a new post-Brexit era for the UK.

But after another week of votes and debates failed to break the deadlock on Brexit, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting people to come together in dialogue and prayer as part of five days of prayer for the nation and its future relationship with the European Union.

Cathedrals across England have answered that call. On Friday, Leicester Cathedral hosted a prayer vigil led by the Bishop of Loughborough, Guli Francis-Dehqani, Chair of the European Council of Churches, while Wakefield Cathedral has been inviting members of the public to come and write down their prayers for peace and for each other on prayer cards.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Tablet) Jesuit Refugee Service has accused the Home Office of demonstrating a “shocking illiteracy of Christianity” in its recent Action

Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK said: “This is a particularly outrageous example of the reckless and facetious approach of the Home Office to determining life and death asylum cases – they appear willing to distort any aspect of reality in order to turn down a claim.

“This case demonstrates the shocking illiteracy of Christianity within the Home Office. But the distortion of logic and reckless approach to asylum seeker’s lives is a common feature. Here at JRS, we routinely encounter cases where asylum has been refused on spurious grounds. Some of these cases require more legal knowledge to recognise than this bizarre misquoting of the Bible.

“As this instance gains public attention, we need to remember it reflects a systematic problem and a deeper mindset of disbelief within the Home Office, and is not just an anomaly that can be explained away.”

Mr Stevens said that the Home Office subsequently agreed to withdraw their refusal and to reconsider the man’s asylum application. He later released details of a second case, in which a Christian woman who fled Iran fearing execution had her asylum claim rejected because the Home Office considered her belief in Jesus to be “half-hearted”.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams–Brexit shows Britain is no longer able to imagine a “common good”

Democracy rests on a presupposition that is not often made explicit. Popular consent implies that everyone’s view and interest, without restriction, is worth taking into account in the running of a society – which is why the principle on which democracy rests is the same principle that affirms the rights of minorities and the need to continue testing the strength of popular consent. Any search for a permanent resolution of social issues that is declared to be beyond argument or challenge is a move away from the fundamental principle.

In other words, two salient aspects of a consistent democracy are that we go on arguing, and that our freedom to do so is protected. The law defends us from coercion and forcible silencing. Without these, we have naked populism, a reversion to the situation where the powerful (in numbers, wealth or status) determine what is “right”. Genuine politics gives way to suppressed or threatened violence.

In genuine politics – if there is no overwhelming consensus, and if the people who disagree with us are not going to oblige us by simply going away, and if coercion is not an option because of our legal settlement – we are committed to argument and negotiation. And this entails a readiness to suspend belief in the unqualified rightness of our own interests and to try to imagine a state of affairs emerging that could be manageable both for us and for those who do not share our ideas or priorities.

So to find ourselves – as we now regularly do – in a situation where opposing groups each regard the other’s agenda as the worst outcome imaginable is a dire situation for democracy. Not because it is not nice to be so rude to each other, but because it indicates a disturbing loss of any sense that there might be common goals that we can only discover through a process of argument and scrutiny; a loss of any willingness to think around the corners of the definitions we started with.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology

(C of E) Response to Home Office letter regarding Iranian asylum seeker from Bp Paul Butler

“I am extremely concerned that a Government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities. To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding.

“It is good that the Home Office has recognised that this decision is inconsistent with its policies and that its staff need better training, but the fact that these comments were made at all suggests that the problem goes deeper than a lack of religious literacy among individual civil servants and indicates that the management structures and ethos of the Home Office, when dealing with cases with a religious dimension, need serious overhaul.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) Churches are playing a ‘key role’ in the fight against human trafficking

Churches and faith groups are making an important contribution to efforts to eliminate the global scourge of human trafficking, a UN human rights committee has heard.

Jack Palmer-White, the Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the UN, outlined the many anti-trafficking initiatives being led by churches in a submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) this week.

The CEDAW is considering submissions on the issue of human trafficking as it prepares to make a ‘general recommendation’ to UN member states.

In his report, Mr Palmer-White asked that the general recommendation ‘reflects the key role that churches and other faith actors can, and do, play in the fight against trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration’.

Examples of anti-trafficking work detailed in the report include a partnership between the US Embassy to Ghana and the Diocese of Accra which has led to the creation of a community shelter called Hope Village that rehabilitates rescued children, while holding the government of Ghana to account on its progress in eliminating trafficking.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Ghana, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(FA) Richard Haass–How a World Order Ends, And What Comes in Its Wake

A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain. As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

In the search for parallels to today’s world, scholars and practitioners have looked as far afield as ancient Greece

Read it all (registration necessary).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Theology

(The Conversation) Katie Gaddini+Linda Woodhead–Brexit shines light on Church of England rift between leadership and Anglican majority

In sharp contrast to the evangelicals, other Anglican voters in England cited immigration as a major issue persuading them to vote Leave, as they wanted to preserve England’s cultural-ethnic identity. Most important of all, however was their concern about excessive EU interference.

For now, the archbishops and and like-minded bishops are in power at the top of the Church of England, but without the support of most grassroots Anglicans. Their stance on Brexit makes this very plain. Traditionally the Church of England has been “the Tory party at prayer” and, in terms of votes cast, it still is.

But the “old guard” of mainline Anglicans is slowly dying out and the new breed of enthusiastic, charismatic-evangelical clergy are having more success in winning over some young people. Supporters of their approach – like the archbishops – say that speaking in tongues and other charismatic practices are the best way to revive the dying Church of England. Opponents say that they are likely to drive out the last remaining Anglicans and alienate their children. Either way, it will affect the political complexion of England as a whole.

Read it all.(Please however note that the authors sadly repeat the completely fallacious idea that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. For why this statistic is just wrong see here,there, and here among many places).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Europe, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

C of E General Synod to debate call for reconciliation for divided nation

The UK’s political leaders should draw on “Christian hope and reconciliation” to help steer the country through a time of seemingly “entrenched and intractable” divisions, according to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The call comes in the text of a special motion on the state of the nation, tabled by the two archbishops, to be debated by the Church of England’s General Synod, which meets in London next month.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Described as Defeated, Islamic State Punches Back With Guerrilla Tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled a huge stretch of territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state, collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes and using the proceeds to fix potholes, issue birth certificates, finance attacks and recruit followers from around the world.

All but 1 percent of that territory is now gone, which has prompted the White House to describe the Islamic State as “wiped out,” “absolutely obliterated” and “in its final throes.” But to suggest that ISIS was defeated, as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull out American troops from Syria, is to ignore the lessons of recent history.

The group has been declared vanquished before, only to prove politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

The attack last week by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, which killed at least 15 people including four Americans, is one example of how the group still remains a serious, violent threat.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

(Church Times) ‘Put aside differences’ to find a way through on Brexit, Bishop Lowson tells politicians

Politicians need to put aside their personal differences to find a way through on Brexit, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, Bishop Lowson said: “The need is for us as a nation, and especially in the Commons, is to listen to the people and to find a way forward that most can agree on.”

He went on: “We need to put aside our personal differences to find this way. Whether we have a general election or a second referendum is a question for the politicians.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of discovery process so the Commons can work out what they find acceptable — taking the temperature of what is possible. There has to be some give and take, though.

“As a nation, we have been through some fairly significant challenges over the centuries and we have found a way through them. As Christians, we believe that God will find a way forward.”

Bishop Lowson was one of four bishops to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal in the House of Lords, along with the Bishops of London, Durham, and Birmingham.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(AI) Damir Marusic reviews Robert Kagan’s New book ‘The Jungle Grows back’–The Illiberal Challenge: Making Up Monsters to Destroy

The Jungle Grows Back immediately distinguishes itself from the pack by taking direct aim at the key piety that ties the standard narrative together: the idea of progress. “Unlike other cultures, which view history as a continuous cycle of growth and decay, or as stasis,” Kagan writes, “we view history as having a direction and a purpose. . . . we have come to believe that, while there may be occasional bumps and detours on the road, progress is inevitable.”

This is all a myth, he unequivocally states. The world as we know it, the international system as it is currently constructed, is a mere contingency—an historical aberration.

We have witnessed amazing progress over the past seven decades, and not just technological progress but also human progress. Yet this progress was not the culmination of anything. It was not the product of evolution, of expanding knowledge, of technological advances, the spread of commerce, and least of all of any change in the basic nature of human beings. It has been the product of a unique set of circumstances contingent on a particular set of historical outcomes, including on the battlefield, that could have turned out differently.

In other words, the liberal world order is a happy accident, the result of the liberal side triumphing in the Great Power struggle of the nuclear age. It didn’t have to work out that way. And it is precisely because of this contingency that we must prize the achievement highly. Don’t be complacent, Kagan is arguing, for it could all disappear in a heartbeat. The United States must therefore return to an expansive leadership role, one perhaps even more ambitious than the one it undertook in 1945. The rest of the book is largely Kagan making that case, and suggesting how such a newly expansive role might be shaped.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History

(Christian Post) Fulani Militia “bigger threat than Boko Haram” – Archbishop Kwashi

The Bishop of Jos, Anglican Communion and in-coming General Secretary , Global Anglican Future Conference, GAFCON, the most Rev Benjamin Argak Kwashi, has described the Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen militias who have ravaged towns and villages, killing mostly women and children, in the predominantly Christians central region of Nigeria, as “a bigger threat” than Boko Haram Islamic terrorist Jihadi sect.

“Boko Haram operates in the northeast and scantily moves into other areas, but the Fulani herdsmen are widespread. They’re everywhere now. So the Fulani are a bigger threat,” Kwashi said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(PBS Newshour) The week in Washington DC–Mark Shields and Michael Gerson on [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis’ resignation, congressional stalemate

Mark Shields: And, you know, the week was — the trauma of the week was Secretary Mattis, and there’s no question about it. That was the monumental event.

And I would say that there was alarm after the president’s appearance at Helsinki with Mr. Putin. I think there was alarm after the firing of FBI Director Comey.

But there was panic, bipartisan, nonpartisan panic, in this city, and I think in the country and in the world, when Jim Mattis, General Jim Mattis, left as secretary of defense.

I mean, he was seen, and I think rightfully so, as the thoughtful, well-read, well-prepared, country-before-self leader who believed in reciprocal burdens and benefits to the United States with other countries, and was fighting that cause, and had some influence on Donald Trump, but left on his own terms….

Judy Woodruff: Sober note at the end of a week, I think, like no other.

Mark Shields: Like no other week.

Judy Woodruff: Like no other week that I remember in Washington, and I have been here for 40 years.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(WSJ) President Trump’s Foreign-Policy Upheaval Puts U.S. Allies on Edge

Abrupt plans for U.S. troop pullouts from Syria and Afghanistan and the departure of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are raising fresh concerns among U.S. allies and adversaries alike about a new phase of volatility in Washington’s military posture and foreign policy.

Mr. Mattis, a former four-star Marine general who has been one of President Trump’s most prominent cabinet members since his inauguration nearly two years ago, was regarded by many U.S. allies as a steadying influence, offering a sense of continuity even as Mr. Trump broke with longtime allies on issues as diverse as tariffs and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Governments across Asia offered muted response to the developments while Europeans were more outspoken regarding both Mr. Mattis and Mr. Trump’s troop plans. Senior French and German officials rejected Mr. Trump’s assertion earlier in the week that Islamic State had been defeated and Israeli officials expressed anxiety about regional stability.

Even Russia, which many observers see as benefiting from Mr. Trump’s moves, reacted cautiously.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(NYT Op-Ed) Can the U.S. Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Also this week in the White House, a round-table was held to debate topics like artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing, with top tech executive such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, Safra Catz of Oracle and Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm in attendance. It was called a “listening session,” and it was reported that President Trump “popped” in, at a time when these issues need far more sustained attention from the top than that.

Which is why it came as no surprise when The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was not briefed about the planned arrest of Ms. Meng, even though it took place at the same time he was having dinner with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in an attempt to find a truce in the trade war.

From where I sit, the sentiment in Silicon Valley seems to be: Good for the government for being tough on Chinese companies when they break the rules — that rule-breaking having been a longtime complaint of companies like Cisco and Apple. Vigilance is key, of course, but everyone would feel a lot more confident if the government was also focused on investing more in American innovation and if the crackdown looked less chaotic.

Which is why you can imagine a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. And our government should, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Science & Technology

(Economist) Chip wars: China, America and silicon supremacy

Although the chip battle may have pre-dated Mr Trump, his presidency has intensified it. He has made a national champion of Qualcomm, blocking a bid for it from a Singaporean firm for fear of Chinese competition. Earlier this year an export ban on selling American chips and software to zte, a Chinese telecoms firm in breach of sanctions, brought it to the brink of bankruptcy within days. Startled by the looming harm, and (he says) swayed by appeals from Mr Xi, Mr Trump swiftly backtracked.

Two things have changed. First, America has realised that its edge in technology gives it power over China. It has imposed export controls that affect on Fujian Jinhua, another Chinese firm accused of stealing secrets, and the White House is mulling broader bans on emerging technologies. Second, China’s incentives to become self-reliant in semiconductors have rocketed. After zte, Mr Xi talked up core technologies. Its tech giants are on board: Alibaba, Baidu and Huawei are ploughing money into making chips. And China has showed that it can hinder American firms. Earlier this year Qualcomm abandoned a bid for nxp, a Dutch firm, after foot-dragging by Chinese regulators.

Neither country’s interests are about to change. America has legitimate concerns about the national-security implications of being dependent on Chinese chips and vulnerable to Chinese hacking. China’s pretensions to being a superpower will look hollow as long as America can throttle its firms at will. China is destined to try to catch up; America is determined to stay ahead.

The hard question is over the lengths to which America should go.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Find a way for the UK and EU to coexist, Archbp Welby and Bishop Bedford-Strohm tell politicians

In a joint statement issued by Lambeth Palace on Friday morning, Archbishop Welby and Dr Bedford-Strohm said: “European relationships are changing, not least as a result of Brexit. We do not know what will happen and what the relationship between the UK and EU will look like after 29 March 2019. However, what we do know is that the relationship between the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland goes back over many centuries — long before the European Union.

“As churches, we urgently appeal to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU. United in Christ we are drawn together in hope, faith and love, and those things which divide us are of much lesser importance.”

Last week, during a Q&A at Great Yarmouth Minster, the Archbishop said that there was “no necessary defeatism, no necessary outcome either to staying in Europe or leaving. . . The big problems in our society of inequality, of unfairness, of the abandonment of an understanding of a moral and ethical framework which helps us choose how to treat people — that is the thing that will decide our future. . . Being in Europe or being out is obviously important, but there is as much hope out as in or in as out.’’

Read it all and the full joint statement may be found there.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(NYT) At Brexit Crunch Time, Theresa May Takes a Pummeling

Theresa May rose to her feet before the British House of Commons on Thursday to make the sales pitch of her life, promising that the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union would be “smooth and orderly.”

It was not supposed to be a laugh line.

But the members of Parliament laughed out loud at Mrs. May. They laughed uproariously, and for long enough that she had to pause, eyes flickering over her papers, and wait for them to stop, so she could continue.

Over the past two and a half years as prime minister, Mrs. May, 62, has plenty of experience being derided and conspired against. On Thursday, the day she publicly presented her long-awaited, 585-page deal to withdraw from the bloc, or Brexit, she took such a pummeling that her survival as prime minister was in question….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(NPR) Pakistan’s High Court Acquits Asia Bibi, Christian Woman On Death Row For Blasphemy

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has roiled the country.

In the courtroom, it took less a minute for the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, to upturn a series of legal rulings that had kept Bibi on death row for eight years.

In terse remarks to the hushed, packed courtroom, he said that Bibi’s conviction and sentence had been voided.

In a 56-page verdict issued after the ruling, the three-judge bench appeared to side with Bibi’s advocates. They have maintained that the case against the 51-year-old illiterate farmhand was built around a grievance by her fellow Muslim workers, who appeared angry that she might drink from the same vessel as them. She was ordered by a local landlord to bring water to the women on a day while they were picking berries.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Free at Last: Andrew Brunson Released by Turkey After Two Years

American pastor Andrew Brunson has been released after being detained for two years in Turkey.

At a hearing this morning, a Turkish court freed him from judicial control, which lifts his house arrest and travel ban.

Despite a guilty verdict sentencing him to 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days in prison, Brunson may return home to the United States as soon as today due to good behavior and time already served.

NBC News broke the news yesterday of the expected deal between Turkey and the United States over Brunson, a North Carolina pastor who had worked in Izmir for decades and was arrested on terrorism and espionage charges in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016.

US officials and religious freedom advocates considered the charges against Brunson to be erroneous, and multiple witnesses retracted their testimonies against him during today’s hearing.

Trump administration officials were optimistic but cautious that Turkey would follow through on the deal, reported The Washington Post. The deal would likely lift recent US sanctions in exchange for Brunson’s release by being sentenced today to time already served.

Officials expect Brunson to “be handed back his passport and put on a plane to the US,” reported The Wall Street Journal….

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Missions, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Turkey

(NYT) Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040

A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies

Leaders of many faiths — including JewsMainline ProtestantsMuslims and others — have spoken out consistently against the president’s immigration policies. What has changed is that now the objections are coming from faith groups that have been generally friendly to Mr. Trump.

A coalition of evangelical groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, sent a letter to President Trump on June 1 pleading with him to protect the unity of families and not to close off all avenues to asylum for immigrants and refugees fleeing danger.

The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative evangelical denomination that is the nation’s largest Protestant church, passed a resolution on Tuesday at its meeting in Dallas calling for immigration reform that maintains “the priority of family unity.” The measure called for both securing the nation’s borders, and providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the country. It passed on a near unanimous vote of the thousands of delegates in the room.

“We declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the resolution said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Washington Post) Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101

Bernard Lewis, a preeminent scholar of Middle Eastern history whose work profoundly shaped Western views of the region — including fears of a “clash of civilizations” — but also brought scorn from critics who considered his views elitist and favoring Western intervention, died May 19 at an assisted-living facility in Voorhees, N.J. He was 101.

The death was confirmed by his romantic partner and co-author, Buntzie Churchill, who did not cite a specific cause.

Dr. Lewis’s prolific scholarship — including more than 30 books, hundreds of articles and competence in at least a dozen languages — traced fault lines that define the modern Middle East, such as sectarian divisions, the rise of radical Islamists and entrenched dictatorships, some backed by the West.

Along the way, Dr. Lewis often gained a privileged vantage point for events in the region during a life that spanned the era of T.E. Lawrence, oil discoveries in Arabia and showdowns against the Islamic State.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Middle East, Religion & Culture

(CT Gleanings) Families Who Cross the Border Together Won’t Stay Together

amily unity is among the biggest factors for American evangelicals advocating for immigration reform; it comes up in almost every statement, prayer, and open letter rallying believers around the cause.

And it continues to prove a major concern, as the government’s recent crackdown on border-crossings requires authorities to split up parents and children who illegally enter the country together.

Despite the pleas from top evangelical leaders—including some of President Donald Trump’s advisers—to protect the family unit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that all adults caught by Border Patrol would be prosecuted as criminals while their children would be separated and treated as if they entered the US as unaccompanied minors.

“I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” he said on Monday in San Diego, where a caravan of migrants, many of them mothers and children, had arrived a week before.

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General

(CEN) The shameful treatment of the Windrush generation

Britain invited these West Indian citizens from the Caribbean after the economic devastation of WWII to join the labour force.

As has been pointed out, at that time the UK was not part of the EU but of the worldwide family of nations known as the Empire. The migrants who came were in fact British subjects: that was their constitutional identity in relation the UK.

They arrived here as to the mother country of the British Empire, not as strangers, and they were shocked that in many areas they were faced with racist abuse. They wanted to integrate into society, back then a Christian society in many ways.

They filled vacant jobs and proved vital in helping rebuild war-ravaged Britain. So now, when we hear that their children are suffering government pressure to ‘go home’, as if illegal immigrants, it is shocking news. Furthermore, papers certifying the status of these second-generation Windrush invitees have been destroyed by the Home Office.

As this horror story was coming out the heads of the Commonwealth were meeting – it could not have been a more sensitive moment: the family of nations continuing from the British Empire must have been truly upset by British behaviour towards their people who were nothing but loyal and hard-working citizens. Individual stories of people being denied health care or threatened with deportation brought home the real unpleasantness they have had to face.

From the Christian angle this kind of treatment is simply wrong and needs to be reversed and compensated for, whatever the origins of the victims. But in this case we are talking about a population of often deeply Christian people, fellow members of the Body of Christ.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Religion & Culture, West Indies

(Church Times) PM Theresa May apologises to Windrush British citizens

After pressure from campaigners, the Prime Minister was forced into a U-turn this week after she initially refused to meet Caribbean leaders to discuss the plight of the “Windrush generation” — a reference to the ship Empire Windrush, which, in 1948, brought workers from the West Indies to Britain — who face deportation despite living in Britain for decades…

Thousands of people from the Caribbean, including children who travelled under their parent’s passport, made their home in Britain between 1948 and 1971. Owing to a lack of paperwork, many children of the Windrush generation have struggled to prove that they are in the UK legally, and have faced the prospect of deportation and the suspension of benefits or access to health services.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Theresa May apologised to the 12 Caribbean heads of government for the treatment of the Windrush citizens, and promised that no one would be deported.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Caribbean, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Michael Doran–The Theology of Foreign Policy

Allow me to stand, like a tourist on the lip of the Grand Canyon, and marvel at the wondrous chasm that separates the Jacksonian and Progressive persuasions. They differ in their understandings of: human nature (as broken or perfectible, static or malleable); morality (as absolute or relative); the relationship between the individual and society (as requiring personal responsibility, or as requiring collective and systemic solutions); the proper role of government (to safeguard personal liberty, or to safeguard equality); the mission of the United States in the world (to be a beacon of freedom, or to lead the way toward a new era of peace and brotherhood); and the meaning of history (as maintaining a holding pattern until the end of days, or as leading inevitably to human betterment).

These began as religious disagreements. Yet even as God recedes from our public life, the disagreements persist. Perhaps it is because God has receded that they persist. In a secular world, there is no universal moral authority capable of adjudicating between the two sides. All we have now are experts.

For the better part of a century, the descendants of H. L. Mencken have dominated our cultural life. They have relentlessly presented the preferences of the Progressive persuasion as if they flowed directly from science, logic, and secular expertise. Our latter-day Menckens have painted the religious face of Jacksonianism as mumbo jumbo, while depicting secular Jacksonians as bigots, ignoramuses, or worse. But the Progressive persuasion is every bit as religious and irrational as the Jacksonian persuasion. Its vision of history and of America’s place in it is no more scientifically verifiable than dispensational premillennialism’s belief in the Rapture. Indeed, the Progressive persuasion’s belief in the perfectibility of man defies all experience—at least all of my experience. It is a conviction that can only be described as theological, yet our schools teach it as if it were science.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Theology