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Posts Tagged ‘John Robbins’

 

FP-Monroe Doctrine

1896 political cartoon depicting the Monroe Doctrine.

“In this administration, we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ This [Venezuela] is a country in our hemisphere; it’s been the objective of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.”

    – White House national security adviser John Bolton

In at appearance earlier this month on CNN, national security adviser John Bolton expressed to host Jake Tapper the policy justification behind the Trump administration’s open attempt to overthrow Nicholas Maduro, the elected president of Venezuela, whom Bolton had earlier referred to in a Tweet as a “dictator.” Bolton based the argument for his and the administration’s stance on Maduro on the Monroe Doctrine, a historic foreign policy tenet of the United States dating back to the 1820’s.

Many Americans have a vague sense of the Monroe Doctrine, that it has something to do with the US keeping overseas powers out of the Western Hemisphere. There’s truth to this, of course. But is that all the Monroe Doctrine is about? Many think so. Interestingly, Bolton did not assert this aspect of the Monroe Doctrine, instead arguing that the Monroe Doctrine was about US presidents, going back to Ronald Reagan, ensuring that all nations in the Western Hemisphere have democratic governments.

On Friday, Bolton issued a statement concerning Russian military personnel in Venezuela that sounded more like a traditional understanding of the Monroe Doctrine. As Reuters reports, Bolton warned Russia about its military presence in Venezuela, saying the US would consider as a “direct threat” any attempt by Russia to establish or expand its military activities in that country.

No doubt, Russia’s military presence in Venezuela ups the ante in an already tense situation. Further, a European power’s entry into oil-rich, and therefore strategic, Venezuela certainly seems to be a challenge to Washington’s ability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Monroe Doctrine to see if its current use by the Administration is in keeping with its actual terms.

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The End of the World

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

– R.E.M.

To see the headlines from the past week, one would suppose we’re on the verge of an end of world as we know it moment. Stocks are crashing, the military is retreating and, horror of horrors, the government is shutting down. As Christians, what are we to say to these things?

Certainly, the headlines are disturbing. Those who have read my work in this space may already be aware that I take a dim view of our current national condition. Our nation’s finances are a mess, with exploding deficits and debt and a dollar that purchases less every year by design.

Our militarist foreign policy is an ongoing train wreck which threatens to involve the US in open wars, all avoidable, in any number of theaters.

Our culture is an open sewer where people cannot make the simplest moral distinctions and find it impossible to even answer the question what is marriage. It’s a place where classic songs such as “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are considered unfit for human consumption, but the vilest rap lyrics raise not so much as an eyebrow.

We live in a time where those in power delight in calling evil good and good evil.

How did it come to this? How can it be that a nation largely founded by Puritans can come to such a state?

One could write a long treatise on that subject, but that’s not my intent here today. But the basic answer is that for well over a century Americans have been rejecting the doctrines of the Lord Jesus Christ for those of secular philosophy. It would seem that we’re determined to learn the hard way just how brutal the world without Christ can be.

As Christians, it can be very easy to look at all this and fall into despair. And lest anyone suppose he’s not immune to despair, consider the case of Elijah, who, upon securing a stunning victory over the priests of Baal, soon found himself on the run from wicked Queen Jezebel who was determined to have him executed.

This was not an easy time for Elijah. Had he not been faithful in all God called him to do? Of course he had. And yet, not for the first time, he found himself on the run from those who sought his life.

As Christians, it can be very easy to fall into the same mindset as Elijah. We pray for our unsaved family members, yet unsaved they remain. We pray for our nation, yet our countrymen go from vileness to vileness. And not only that, but they even boast about it. Deeply disturbed men such as Bruce Jenner are praised for their courage to embrace their true selves, while Christian bakers are dragged through the court system for their refusal to endorse same sex marriage. Justice, at times, can seem far from us.

But what did God say to Elijah in his despair? “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Though Elijah thought he was alone, he wasn’t. And though the destruction of the priests of Baal was the end of the world as they knew it, for God’s elect, it was a chance at a fresh start.

Let us consider another passage in Scripture, the account of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. At Christmas we’re treated to bright lights, the hustle and bustle of the season and songs of the baby in the manger. “How idyllic it all must have been,” some may think.

But life in the first century Roman Empire was not all sweetness and light as many people seem to suppose. In his book Christ and Civilization, John Robbins pointed out that life the world Christ entered was in many ways quite brutal. It was a world of cruelty and violence. It was a world of superstition and anti-intellectualism. It was a world of slavery and poverty and injustice.

Looking at the condition of the world, who would have supposed there was any reason to hope for any improvement to the wretched conditions enjoyed by most, let alone the birth of a Savior? And yet a Savior came indeed. For the corrupt religious leaders of Israel, Christ’s coming was the end of the world as they knew it. But for God’s people, it was life from the dead.

In the early 16th century, the Church of Rome reigned supreme throughout Europe. All resistance to Rome, it seemed, had been snuffed out. The popes were large and in charge. And in spite of widespread discontent with the state of things, what hope was there for ordinary people to break free from the Church’s straightjacket?

Yet God, in his providence, sent Martin Luther and other men to preach the Gospel of Justification by Belief Alone. And as sinners were made free in spirit, so too were they made free politically and economically. For the papal Antichrist and his henchmen, it was the end of the world as they knew it. But for the Lord’s elect, the Reformation was a light and life.

In our own day, beset with strife as it is, we may be tempted to ask where is our deliverance, and where is our hope? How an unbeliever may answer, I do not know. In truth, so long as a unbeliever remains and unbeliever, there is no deliverance and there is no hope.

But those of us in Christ, we know whence comes our help. Our help, as the psalmist wrote, comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

In this Christmas season, let us remember that the child whose birth the angels sang even now sits at the right hand of the Father and one day will return to judge the quick and the dead.

What will the new year bring? I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet and do not pretend to know the future. That said, it appears that we very well may face serious challenges in 2019. Will it be the end of the world as we know it, or a chance at a fresh start? If the past is a guide, the answer to that question will depend on whether we trust the evidence of our senses or the revelation of God in Scripture.

Come what may, my prayer is that the Lord’s people would face the future, not in fear in trembling at the end of the world as we know it, not in sorrow as those who have no hope, but in the confidence of what the angels spoke to the shepherds that night so long ago, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

 

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