These Times

Vol. 28 No. 2 | Jan-Feb 2018

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Volume 29 No. 1

IN DEFENSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS—THE REASON FOR HOPE

On Nov. 22, 2017, General Ratko Mladić, the Butcher of Bosnia, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for taking part in the worst atrocities Europe had witnessed since the Nazi era. It was a small, but important, victory for human rights defenders who had spent decades amassing documentation of his crimes against humanity.

In 1992, as the former Yugoslavia broke up, the Bosnian Serbs sought to establish a Serb-only territory through the brutal elimination of non-Serbs. Their ethnic cleansing campaign included unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery, and inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals, and professionals; the unlawful shelling, deportation, and transfer of civilians; the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property; the destruction of homes, businesses, and places of worship.

Mladić specifically oversaw three years of the Sarajevo siege and the sacking of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in July of 1995 as payback against “the Turks” for a 16th century massacre of Serbs under the Ottoman Empire. Pictures of a smiling Mladić reassuring panicked captive Muslim women that their loved ones would be safe besides the fact that his soldiers were rounding up and slaughtering 8,000 of their husbands and sons and dumping them into mass graves. After allowing his men to rape and terrorize the captives for days, he forcibly expelled 25,000–30,000 survivors.

While his conviction brought only a measure of relief to survivors, a strong message is intended for others currently perpetrating war crimes: you will be held accountable for your crimes against humanity. Three Reasons Human Rights Defenders Should Feel Optimistic Right Now,”  Time, www.time.com, Nov. 27, 2017.

Because we are made in the image of a just God, our human spirit longs for justice. Yet the wheels of human justice grind slowly and imperfectly and we will never realize total justice in this world.

Nonetheless, we may be comforted that God has promised to take responsibility for all injustice! “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy; now will I arise, saith the Lord…” Psalm 12:5. And, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. … For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Psalm 37:1, 2, 10, 11.

COMPETING WORLDVIEWS INFLUENCE CHRISTIANS

What is your worldview? Is there an objective code of morality, or is that left up to an individual and to circumstances? Will good conquer evil, or is there no such thing as evil? Who or what gives human beings their value?

These and a number of other considerations make up a worldview, or one’s beliefs about the way the world is and how it ought to be. According to Barna Research, five opposing worldviews compete for our allegiance.

Biblical: Absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is a real being or force, not merely symbolic; that a person cannot earn their way to Heaven through good works; that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the world Who still rules the universe today.

New Spirituality: All people pray to the same god or spirit no matter what name they use for that spiritual being; meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is; if you do good you will receive good and if you do bad you will receive bad, including the influence of past lives on your present life (karmic law).

Secular: A belief has to be proved by science before we know that it is true; a person’s life is valuable only if society sees it as valuable; meaning and purpose come from working hard to earn as much as possible so that you can make the most of this life.

Postmodern: No one can know for certain what meaning and purpose there is to life; what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes; if your belief offends someone or hurts their feelings, then it is wrong.

Marxist: Private property encourages greed and envy; the government, rather than individuals, should control as much resources as necessary to ensure that every one gets a fair share; significant government regulation is good for society.

Researchers were surprised to find that Christians are quite influenced by competing worldviews. Only 17 percent who believed that their Christian faith was important and who attended church regularly had a biblical worldview. Barna researchers believe this is because Bible study is superficial and many Christians do not know the Word of God enough to evaluate sentiments that are partially true and that bombard them through media, entertainment, and the misguided messages from Christian literature and pulpits. “Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians,” Barna, barna.com, May 9, 2017.

The Bible encourages us to “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, following the tradition of men according to the rudiments of the world, and not in accordance with Christ.” Colossians 2:8.

MR. TRUMP RESHAPES THE US FEDERAL JUDICIARY

Mr. Trump entered office with twice as many judicial vacancies as Obama. Combining those with older judges who could accept “senior status,” a kind of semi-retirement, Trump could appoint more federal judges than any president in the past four decades. While these appointments may not attract as much attention as a Supreme Court pick, they are arguably more important. Collectively, they hear tens of thousands of cases each year, while the Supreme Court hears less than a hundred. What is winning Trump plaudits on the right is their conservative credentials. Specifically, an adherence to originalism, defined by interpreting the US Constitution as the Framers would have intended.

For decades, conservative groups such as the Federalist Society have been building up a network of legal scholars and jurists committed to originalism. With a membership upward of 70,000 attorneys and law students, the organization gained a reputation as a “conservative pipeline” to federal courts.

The nominees so far “are all highly qualified, highly credentialed … committed conservatives,” says Elizabeth Slattery, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “It’s always hard to tell what a nominee’s going to be like once they’re confirmed,” she adds. “But I can tell you from the nominees President Trump has made so far that many of them are cut from the same cloth as Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia.” “As high court term begins, Trump reshapes federal judiciary from top to bottom,” Christian Science Monitor, www.csmonitor.com, October 2, 2017.

Many of these conservative nominees also hold the dominionist view of a “Christian America” and would favor a closer relationship between church and state, not the hostile relationship that has developed under a liberal judiciary.

Jesus prophesied that the last great persecution of God’s people would take place when misguided religionists would gain enough legal influence to promote the universal enforcement of worship laws at the pain of death. See Revelation 13:11–17; and John 16:2: “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” This would be difficult with a liberal judiciary. But as the pendulum of judicial interpretation has swung far left for some time, now it is correcting far right. As history reveals, from the French Revolution to the Spanish Inquisition, both extremes are to be feared; but only one will plunge the world into religious intolerance and persecution.

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