“I AM THAT I AM” Exodus 3:14
Reader, look down now from this astounding glory and fix your eye on Bethlehem’s manger. A lowly Babe lies in the lowly cradle of a lowly town, the offspring of a lowly mother. Look again. That child is the eternal “I AM.” He whose Deity never had birth, is born “the woman’s Seed.” He, whom no infinitudes can hold, is contained within infant’s age, and infant’s form. He, who never began to be, as God, here begins to be, as man. And can it be, that the great “I AM THAT I AM” shrinks into our flesh, and is little upon our earth, as one newborn of yesterday? It is so. The Lord promised it. Prophets foretold it. Types prefigured it. An angel announces it. Heaven rings with rapture at it. Faith sees it. The redeemed rejoice in it. But why is this wonder of wonders? Why is eternity’s Lord a child of time? He thus stoops, that He may save poor wretched sinners such as we are. Could He not by His will or by His word? Ah! No. He willed, and all things were. He speaks, and all obey. But He must die, as man, that a lost soul may live. To rescue from one stain of sin, the Eternal must take the sinner’s place, and bear sin’s curse and pay sin’s debt, and suffer sin’s penalty, and wash out sin’s filth, and atone for sin’s malignity. “I AM THAT I AM” alone could do this. “I AM THAT I AM” alone has done it. What self-denial, what self-abasement, what self-emptying is here! Surely, royalty in rags, angels in cells, is no descent compared to Deity in flesh! But mighty love moves Jesus to despise all shame, and to lie low in misery’s lowest mire. Through ages past His “delights were with the sons of men.” Prov. 8.31.
Many people might answer that question by pointing to Martin Luther and his 95 Theses.
But if you were to ask Luther himself, he would not point to himself or his own writings. Instead, he would give all the credit to God and His Word.
Near the end of his life, Luther declared: “All I have done is put forth, preach and write the Word of God, and apart from this I have done nothing. . . . It is the Word that has done great things. . . . I have done nothing; the Word has done and achieved everything.”
Elsewhere, he exclaimed: “By the Word the earth has been subdued; by the Word the Church has been saved; and by the Word also it shall be reestablished.”
Noting Scripture’s foundational place in his own heart, Luther wrote: “No matter what happens, you should say: There is God’s Word. This is my rock and anchor. On it I rely, and it remains. Where it remains, I, too, remain; where it goes, I, too, go.”
Luther understood what caused the Reformation. He recognized that it was the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God preached by men of God in a language that the common people of Europe could understand and when their ears were exposed to the truth of God’s Word it pierced their hearts and they were radically changed.
It was that very power that had transformed Luther’s own heart, a power that is summarized in the familiar words of Hebrews 4:12: “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
During the late middle ages, the Roman Catholic Church had imprisoned God’s Word in the Latin language, a language the common people of Europe did not speak. The Reformers unlocked the Scriptures by translating them. And once the people had the Word of God, the Reformation became inevitable.
We see this commitment to the Scriptures even in the centuries prior to Martin Luther, beginning with the Forerunners to the Reformation:
In the 12th century, the Waldensians translated the New Testament from the Latin Vulgate into their regional French dialects. According to tradition, they were so committed to the Scriptures that different Waldensian families would memorize large sections of the Bible. That way, if Roman Catholic authorities found them and confiscated their printed copies of Scripture, they would later be able to reproduce the entire Bible from memory.
In the 14th century, John Wycliffe and his associates at Oxford translated the Bible from Latin into English. Wycliffe’s followers, known as the Lollards, went throughout the countryside preaching and singing passages of Scripture in English.
In the 15th century, Jan Huss preached in the language of the people, and not in Latin, making him the most popular preacher in Prague at the time. Yet, because Huss insisted that Christ alone was the head of the church, not the pope, the Catholic Council of Constance condemned him for heresy and burned him at the stake (in 1415).
In the 16th century, as the study of Greek and Hebrew were recovered, Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, with the New Testament being completed in 1522.
In 1526, William Tyndale completed a translation of the Greek New Testament into English. A few years later he also translated the Pentateuch from Hebrew. Shortly thereafter he was arrested and executed as a heretic—being strangled and then burned at the stake. According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Tyndale’s last words were “Lord, Open the King of England’s Eyes.” And it was just a couple years after his death that King Henry VIII authorized the Great Bible in England—a Bible that was largely based on Tyndale’s translation work. The Great Bible laid the foundation for the later King James version (which was completed in 1611).
The common thread, from Reformer to Reformer, was an undying commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, such that they were willing to sacrifice everything, including their own lives, to get the Word of God into the hands of the people.
They did this because they understood that the power for spiritual reformation and revival was not in them, but in the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16–17). And they used the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) to emphasize the truth that God’s Word was the true power and ultimate authority behind all they said and did.
It was ignorance of Scripture that made the Reformation necessary. It was the recovery of the Scripture that made the Reformation possible. And it was the power of the Scripture that gave the Reformation its enduring impact, as the Holy Spirit brought the truth of His Word to bear on the hearts and minds of individual sinners, transforming them, regenerating them, and giving them eternal life.
October 29, 2014
“Blessed is the man who hears Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors” (Proverbs 8:34). In the Scriptures, no more than two classes of people are declared to be in the world. The one class is called “the blessed of the Lord,” and the other “the cursed of the Lord,” or “the people of God’s curse.”
This latter class contains all the “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”; all “the generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness”; all the “generation of vipers that cannot escape the damnation of hell”; in short, all “whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life,” who are not among those whom Jesus has “redeemed unto God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
The former class, to which the characters spoken of in the text belong, contains all who are “chosen by God the Father in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love”; all whom He “predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace wherein He has made them accepted in the Beloved; in whom they have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:3-7); all whom the Lord the Spirit “quickens into spiritual and eternal life” (Eph. 2:1); and all to whom Jehovah says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you” (Jer. 31:3).
Of both these classes, or of the characters which make up these two distinct families, the Holy Spirit has given in His Word plain and striking descriptions. He has drawn their likenesses with His Divine and unerring hand, and has clearly separated the sheep from the goats, “the chaff from the wheat,” and “the precious from the vile.” In the text we have exhibited to us the portrait of a blessed character, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. His features are drawn from the life by the Spirit of life with the pencil of Divine Truth, and happy are we if we can trace any of these features in the fleshy tables of our hearts, and discover any conformity to the image of Jesus in our souls. May it be our happiness to feel that we are of the “blessed of the Lord,” while attending to the description of the blessed man of whom Wisdom speaks. May “the light of life” shine upon the Word, and shine into our hearts, that although we may only see through a glass darkly, we may be enabled to hear the still small voice of the Lord saying to our souls, “Unto you is the word (and power) of this salvation sent.”
“Blessed is the man who hears Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors.”
John Gadsby, 1843 from GRACE GEMS
November 3, 2014
THE CREATION OF GRASS AND ITS LESSONS.
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass.”
THE reading of the first chapter of Genesis, on the present Sunday, can hardly fail to arrest the attention of a churchman. It tells him that another year is gone, and that another season of the church is again come round. It reminds him too, that the minister of his Church has turned back the leaves of the great Bible, and has begun it again, with the reading of its very first page. And then the solemn recital of the origin of our world, which no other book can tell us, is itself an interesting circumstance. What is more, it is impossible for a really thoughtful mind to hear that chapter annually read, without finding some new topic start up for contemplation.
But who, on hearing of the wonders of the creation-week, gives a thought about the production of so simple and so common a thing as grass ? And who thinks of making a sermon upon it ? Many a whispering heart is ready to reply, the grass we tread on is so common a thing, that nothing need be said about it ; or, if anything is said about it, it can amount to no more than what every child knows, and every rustic well understands.
But how unwise are such whisperings, and how prone are we to forget that the commonest things are often the most important, and the most instructive ! Were an angel to come down from heaven, and call around him a class of the cleverest natural philosophers in the world, how would they be astonished at the thousand things which he could tell them about a single blade of grass ! And, if he were to summon a conclave of the most learned theologians, and proceed to preach about that blade, what babes in divinity would they all appear !
Dear brethren, the mysteries of grace, and the practical truths which are represented by the grass which God made, are worthy of an angel’s teaching, and absolutely necessary for our learning. It is only our ignorance, or our iniquity, which makes us insensible to the instruction which God has attached to the commonest things around us. Our blessed Lord often took the text of his parables, or discourses, from those very things : he consequently preached about sparrows, ravens, lilies, grass. Let none then despise what such things, by the aid of the Bible, teach us. May the great Teacher help us, at this present, to understand and receive his own lessons upon grass. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass.”
Hence a series of observations.
I. Grass, as to its author, its variety, and its growth, is an emblem of divine grace.
1. Strange as it may sound, it is strictly true, the God of the grass is “the God of all grace.” He, who created the one, imparts the other. Both are utterly beyond the power of man to produce. Were all the philosophers and all the agriculturists in the world to meet together, they could not of themselves make one blade of grass. Neither could all the angels in heaven, or all the divines upon earth, bestow one particle of grace to a sinful soul. All is of God. He is jealous of his power, even with respect to the production of grass. Though men, under the name of science, talk arrogantly, or, through forgetfulness, speak flippantly, yet does God constantly assert his sovereignty with respect to the gift of grass. The creation of it is, in the chapter before us, as solemnly announced as the creation of light, or the formation of the sun and the moon, or of any of the grandest objects in our universe. In Deuteronomy 11:15, Jehovah says, “I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle.” In Psalm 104:14, David says, “He causeth the grass to grow for cattle.” The like in Psalm 147:8, “Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.” And our Lord, in his sermon on a mountain, reminded his hearers that it was God who clothed the grass. Equally, too, is God the sole author of all grace. It requires the same power to produce a blade of grass as to create a soul and save it. This is what the Bible everywhere asserts, and what every saint feels. “Thou renewest the face of the earth,” says David : and who but the same God can renew the heart of sinful man ? “By the grace of God I am what I am,” is the grateful and adoring acknowledgment of every saved sinner. Let thoughtless ones also be reminded that, as grace is covenant grace, so also is grass covenant grass. The very verdure of our meadows can come round to us, in coming months, only by virtue of that covenant which God made with Noah. “ While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22.) With what double, yea, more than double interest then, does the spiritual naturalist look upon the pleasant green of the springing grass, beyond anything that the mere natural naturalist can possibly feel !
2. As to the value of grass, who can estimate that ? Were God to destroy it, all the world over, what an upturn and overthrow would it make in all the essential departments of animal life. What then the earth would be without grass, the church must be without grace. Where grass has been withheld, there a desert has been formed ; and where grace has been stopped, there a moral wilderness has followed. What is a heathen land but a graceless country ? It is a desert in which grows no grass. Ah, and what are graceless hearts but dreary wastes of sin and evil imagination ? Grace is everything to us, much as we may slight it, and little as we may seek it. Grass is provender, and grace is our very life. If the cattle perish without grass, so do we die the second death, if destitute of saving grace.
3. Though grass is so common, and we speak of it as one and the same thing, yet are its varieties both numerous and wonderful. Botanists tell us of not merely scores of species, but hundreds of varieties ; and yet countless as are the blades of all those varieties, not two are alike. After the same manner, the grace of God is very diversified, both in itself and in its effects upon different persons.
When too all the sons and daughters of God shall be assembled in the last great day, and they shall be spread out like a beauteous field of grass which the Lord hath blessed and scented, not one will be found exactly like another. All indeed will resemble Christ, and be one with him, but each will bear a distinct and separate likeness : so wonderful will the wisdom and the power of our God be in the article of variety alone !
4. The growth of grass, like the growth of grace, is not only remarkable but mysterious. We often speak of seeing the grass grow. The process of its growth certainly is at times rapid ; still no human sight can perceive its actual gradations. Grass is remarkable as being a sort of universal vegetable. The earth everywhere produces it. It grows, more or less, in every clime and during every season. In like manner divine grace is subject to no restrictions of time or place. The Holy Spirit dispenses it “to every man severally as he will.” Hence the heathen wilderness and the christian city are alike capable of receiving its implantation and witnessing its growth. “ There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains ; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon ; and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.”—Psalm 72:16.
I. Far more mysteriously does divine grace advance its growth in the human heart. “It groweth up,” as our Lord said of the sower sowing grain, “he knoweth not how.” This however we all know, that Christians are to “ grow in grace ; ” that their growth in it will be perceptible, if not always to themselves, yet often to others ; and that some things hinder, and other things forward its growth.
Think for a moment of this last named fact ! The frost and the chilling wind check the growth of grass, while a rainless and scorching sky soon parch it up. On the other hand copious dews, warm rains, and genial suns promote its growth abundantly.
And does not sin and evil passion of every kind, from rampant lust to sordid covetousness, check, even to annihilation, the growth of grace in the soul ? Will not even pride and prejudice do much the same ? And, as to pleasure and prosperity, who has not beheld the seemingly fair and verdant professor gradually drained of all spiritual moisture by them, so as to become like scorched grass, useless for all the purposes for which it was destined ? If, dear brethren, we would grow as the grass, which rejoiceth the cattle and repayeth the husbandman, we must both pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our souls, and cherish it carefully, when it has been vouchsafed to us.
II. Grass, in the beauty of its freshness, and the luxuriance of its tender springing, is an emblem of the Lord Jesus, and of the rich and pleasant provision which God makes, in the gospel, for his people. It is remarkable that the margin for our text, as the literal Hebrew, is “tender grass.”
1. When David was departing this life, he uttered one of the most beautiful of all his prophecies. The inspiring Spirit nerved and brightened him for speaking thus of the Messiah :—“ And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds ; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” (2 Samuel 23:4.)
Rarely has the character of the Saviour for loveliness, gentleness, and tenderness, been so happily exhibited, as by this simile of “tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.” Who has not gazed upon the beauty of such grass, when such shining has freshened it up ? What an aspect of health does it put on ; and how is that health adorned with dewy gems of inimitable hue ; and how inviting to the pearly teeth of the suckling lamb, or promising in the thirsty scythe of the husbandman ! Who has not seen all this ? But, who has thought of him, who not only made it all, but has by it intended us to learn living lessons of himself ? Who thinks of that “tender grass” as an emblem of his tender frame and gentle nature, springing up from our vile earth, and presently to be trampled under foot of Jews and gentiles, or mown down with their rude and ruthless hands ? Who thinks of its sunny freshness, and spangled verdure, as types of his healthful grace and spiritual comeliness, which he sustains for his believing people ? Henceforth let us after this manner think of him, when returning spring presents David’s picture of him to our eyes.
2. In Psalm 23:2, the Psalmist shepherd-boy, comparing Jehovah to a shepherd, and himself to a sheep, says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ;” which literally, and as translated in the margin, is “in pastures of tender grass.”
When therefore you see a field or plot of young, juicy, healthy shooting grass, you see an exhibition of the sweet food, and pleasant blessings which God has provided for the sheep of his pasture, for all true believers, in his holy Word, his holy ordinances, and especially in his holy gospel. O how rich are they, how wholesome, how palatable, how nutritious, how joyously pleasant ! And never we may truthfully say, does sheep or lamb luxuriate in green pastures of tender grass, half so much as the lively believer delights himself amid the wholesome verdure of a faithfully preached gospel. Let us now turn to another class of topics, which the Holy Ghost teaches us from God’s creation of grass.
III. Grass, in its over luxuriant and rank state, is an emblem of wicked men in prosperity. This is revealed to us in Psalm 92:7 : “When the ungodly are green as the grass, and when all the workers of wickedness do flourish, then shall they be destroyed forever.”
How fearful are these words, and yet how easy to be understood ! Every observer of a field or meadow knows that grass, in certain spots, grows so coarsely, and so rankly, and harbours so many weeds, that it is cut down for the dunghill. Thus sinners, who grow wild in sin, or rank in iniquity, are no better than the offal grass of the swamp, or of the boggy spot of a meadow. They are not only useless, but injurious. Like the grass now described, they occupy the place of better vegetation, and only spread mischief, so long as they remain in it. But then their end, what is that ? It is that they shall be cut down, and “be destroyed forever.”
O that all therefore, who hear these things, would take heed respecting them ! Let no sinners mistake their character or position, by falsely comparing themselves with other sinners. They may not be so gross, or so daring, or so hardened, as many whom they
know : but they are in the way to become such. A patch of rank and worthless grass is not composed of tufts of only one size, nor of only one sort. Many a tuft may be coarser and more towering than another ; and many a younger shoot, or milder blade may be found among them. But they all are bad together : they partake of the same root, grow in the same soil, and perpetuate the same mischief.
Let all sinners then remember that the great Husbandman may send his workman, Death, with his inevitable scythe, and cut them off in all the horrid freshness of their guilt. Their only safety is in repentance towards God, and faith in his dear Son.
IV. Grass, in its withered state, is an emblem of two things :
1. Of the sorrow and faintness of an afflicted heart. This is most pathetically and touchingly set forth in Psalm 102. That psalm is called “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” After a lengthened description of his sorrowful state, and the use of many similes to illustrate it, among which is that of withered grass, the Psalmist closes the whole by repeating that one similitude, “My soul is withered like grass.” (Compare Psalm 102:1–12.) How many a sorrowful spirit realises all that is here described ! And how often have individuals, now present, had to say in secret, “ My heart is smitten, and withered like grass.” Their comforts seem dried up ; and that, which was once flourishing within them, appears sapless and parched. “Withered grass” is the very thing which represents the state in which they feel themselves to be. And no marvel, for it was the state of him who was the afflicted One, and whom Psalm 102 prophetically described. For us and for our consolation, was the tender heart of the Saviour “smitten and withered like grass.” The sharp blast of Almighty wrath fell upon him, and he was dried up like a potsherd, and withered like a tuft of tender grass which the lightning has scorched.
His spiritually minded people must expect similar tribulation. He often tries them as himself was tried, to constrain them to see that they have nothing in themselves, and that all grace, comfort, and help, must be sought from him. Other persons cannot understand these things. “They are foolishness unto them.” But they are truthful realities, and wise experiences with those who are destined to survive all witherings, and to flourish for ever in the field above.
2. Grass in its withered state is an emblem also of the frailty of human life, and the suddenness with which it is liable to be cut off. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry ? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” “ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth : but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:6, 8.) The picture here drawn is vivid and complete. Look on the pleasant meadow. See the health, strength, and beauty of its crop, as the wind gently waves its surface. But think how the next frost can nip it, or the next blast level it, or how certainly, if it reaches to ripeness, the mower will one day cut it down. And then bring away your eye from that scene, and let it gaze on the great company of mankind, on this city, this parish, this congregation, on yourselves. Like grass we perish, for “surely the people is grass.” Yes, let no one take refuge in generalities, but let each one say to himself or herself, “I am but as a blade of grass, and shall and must as certainly die, as all grass withereth, and every flower fadeth.” They and they alone, who have wisdom and faith to say this, and to act consistently therewith, will be prepared for the comfort of a closing thought or two.
1. Though the grass withereth, “the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” This was Isaiah’s consolation. St. Peter took it up, and by inspiration added to it, saying, “ And this is the word, which by the gospel is preached unto you.” Not one syllable of all that God stands pledged to perform shall fail or perish. His gospel is yours forever.
2. That which resembles grass, in the visible church, may be withered and cut down, but the living grass of the living church, “shall never perish.” “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth : and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” (Revelation 9:3, 4.)
In coming times, the Son of man will clear out of his field only that which offends. The false professor, as well as the profligate,—all who bear not the stamp of godliness, will be clean cut down. But, the godly, the green, the living grass of the true field, shall not be hurt : they shall abide forever.
3. The wonders of the world’s first week will never cease to be admired by those whom God creates anew in Christ Jesus. And, if grass be a wonder, how wonderful must that parent mind be, which saw, from the beginning, all that it was to teach us until the end ! Then let us say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11.)
A Sermon by William Henry Havergal
(We do not praise for what we do not recognize!)
The Sexual Revolution And Demographic Winter – A Speech By Don Feder To The International Forum: Large Family And The Future of Humanity
The greatest crisis humanity will face in the 21st century isn’t global warming, or declining resources, or regional conflicts or a super-virus ravaging the planet or any of the other disasters – real or imaginary – that national governments and international bodies agonize over.
If current trends continue, we won’t run out of energy or other resources in the foreseeable future. We will run out of people. This global catastrophe will be the result of rapidly declining fertility, designated Demographic Winter.
The fertility rate refers to the number of children the average woman has in her lifetime. A rate of 2.1 is needed just to replace current population.
In 1960, worldwide, the average woman had 5 children. Now, that number is 2.6 and falling. Today, 59 countries with 44% of the world’s population have below-replacement fertility – in some cases, well-below replacement. Many developed nations have fertility rates of 1.5 or lower.
How did we get here? The principal culprit is the Sexual Revolution – a phenomenon first manifested in the late 1960s, not coincidentally, about the time birth rates began to decline.
The dogma of the Sexual Revolution – which has become ingrained social wisdom in Western nations – might be summed up as follows: 1. Sex is the most important aspect of existence. 2. When sex is consensual, it’s always good. 3. The primary purpose of sex is pleasure, not procreation or spiritual connection. 4. The primary purpose of life is pleasure 5. Inhibitions lead to neuroses and must be overcome. 6. Sex has nothing to do with morality or values and 7. Sex should not only be guilt-free, but free of consequences – hence contraception, hence abortion, hence the abandonment of marriage.
My wife and I were in Montreal a few years ago. In a store window, we saw a T-shirt that said “Make Love, Not Babies.” That could be the motto of the Sexual Revolution – except, it’s not even making love anymore, but what’s called “having sex.”
The prophets of the Sexual Revolution include “researchers” (and I use the term advisedly) like Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson, pornographers like Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and feminists like Margaret Sanger, Betty Freidan and Simone de Beauvoir.
The effect of the Sexual Revolution on fertility has been profound, far-reaching and possibly irreversible.
For the first time in history, just under half the world’s population of child-bearing age uses some form of birth control. By 2015, the global contraceptives market will generate an estimated $17.2 billion annually.
Generally, this is financed by governments, businesses or international agencies. Many species have become extinct. Ours may be the first to finance its own extinction.
Worldwide, there are roughly 42 million abortions a year. That’s more than twice the number of military deaths in World War II – the bloodiest conflict in human history – except that, instead of a country’s soldiers killed in battle, these are casualties a nation inflicts on itself.
From a demographic perspective, we’re not just losing 42 million people annually, but also their children, grandchildren and other descendants down through the ages. We are, quite literally, aborting our future.
The decline of marriage has affected fertility far more profoundly than contraceptives.
In the United States, in 2009, 41% of all births were out-of-wedlock. As these children mature (most in single-parent homes), they’re likely to continue the family tradition of not forming families.
Childbearing does not thrive in a climate of uncertainty. In 2008, in the U.S., 40% of all marriages ended in divorce.
And fewer and fewer are marrying in the first place. In France, in 2010, more people began living together than married.
In 1960, 72% of all U.S. adults were married. By 2008 the figure had dropped to 51%. Among 18-to-29-year-olds – those in their prime childbearing years – 59% were married in 1960, compared to only 20% today.
Once a central reality of existence, marriage is now optional. We marry because we choose to, not because we ought to. Not surprisingly, fewer marriages result in fewer children.
Just as the declining birth rates are the result of the Sexual Revolution, the later is a product of something called Cultural Marxism – a movement associated with Antonio Gramsci (he of the “long march through the culture”) Georg Lukacs, the Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse. Cultural Marxism was their answer to the failure of worldwide revolution after the First World War. Gramsci theorized that the family and the church gave workers a “false class consciousness” that made them immune to the appeals of Marxism.
The solution, then, was to destroy family and religion – and what better way to do that than to foster licentious (“free love” in the vernacular of the era), and a society oriented toward mindless pleasure, rather than childbearing, family formation and the search for higher meaning.
While there’s no proof that dramatically declining fertility is what Cultural Marxists wanted, if you think about it logically that’s the natural consequence of undermining faith and family and a highly eroticized society where family is viewed as an obstacle to self-fulfillment and children as a burden.
We won’t find our way out of the forest of demographic winter until the Sexual Revolution is overthrown – its premises rejected, its prophets exposed and its dogma debunked.
Ultimately, the Sexual Revolution is about death – abortion, contraception (preventing life from happening), sexually-transmitted disease, pornography and promiscuity, in place of marriage, fidelity and childbearing.
To combat Demographic Winter, we must embrace a philosophy of life. As the Bible says: “I have set before you this day life and death, blessing and curses. Therefore choose life, so that you may live, you and your children.”
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.
The following story can be found on the GrassTopsUSA website at http://www.grasstopsusa.com/df093014.html. Permission to reprint or quote this commentary on the Internet is granted provided you include a byline to Don Feder, attribution to GrassTopsUSA and link back to the article at the URL above.
“I also . . . for thee.”
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days ;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and ‘ beautiful ’ for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold ;
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine ;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own ;
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love ; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
HAVE we said, humbly and heartily, “Yes, let Him take all”? Do we really mean all, down to the deepest depths of our hearts, and up to the farthest possibilities of our lives? Without any reserve? Is it really “all for Jesus,”—yes, ALL for Jesus?
Is there any misgiving lest the surrender which we honestly meant to make of “ourselves, our souls and bodies,” has not been actually and fully made? Are we “not quite sure” about it? Then pause now, yes, even now, and give up the very citadel of our being to the King. “ Ye sought, in times past, for David to be king over you, NOW, THEN, DO IT!” (2 Samuel 3:17,18.)
In full and glad surrender I give myself to Thee,
Thine utterly and only, and evermore to be!
O Son of God who lovest me, I will be Thine alone,
And all I have, and all I am, shall henceforth be Thine own.
Now, has your heart said it? And you do not want ever to take it back? “ Doubt ye not then, but earnestly believe that He hath favourably received ” you, and “embraced you with the arms of His mercy,” and that your offering is “accepted in the Beloved.”
And what then? First,—He will not let you take it back. He is able to keep that which you have committed unto Him. Knowing, better than you know it, “ how weak is thine heart,” He says, “Thou shalt abide for me.” Let us honour His faithful love by joyfully trusting His promise, the brightness of which is quite enough to dispel any rising cloud of fear, or haze of uncertainty.
But He says more,—“I also for thee ! ” It is a marvel of love how He meets every detail of our consecration with this wonderful word.
1. His Life “for thee ! ” “The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” Oh, wonderful gift ! not promised, but given ; not to friends, but to enemies. Given without condition, without reserve, without return. Himself unknown and unloved, His gift unsought and unasked, He gave His life for thee ; a more than royal bounty—the greatest gift that Deity could devise. Oh, grandeur of love ! “ I lay down My life for the sheep ! ” And we for whom He gave it have held back, and hesitated to give our lives, not even for Him (He has not asked us to do that), but to Him ! But that is past, and He has tenderly pardoned the unloving, ungrateful reserve, and has graciously accepted the poor little fleeting breath and speck of dust which was all we had to offer. And now His precious death and His glorious life are all “ for thee.”
2. His Eternity “for thee!” . . . All we can ask Him to take are days and moments—the little span given us as it is given, and of this only the present in deed and the future in will. As for the past, in so far as we did not give it to Him, it is too late ; we can never give it now ! But His past was given to us, though ours was not given to Him. Oh, what a tremendous debt does this show us !
Away back in the dim depths of past eternity, “ or ever the earth and the world were made,” His divine existence in the bosom of His Father was all “ for thee,” purposing and planning “ for thee,” receiving and holding the promise of eternal life “ for thee.”
Then the thirty-three years among sinners on this sinful earth : do we think enough of the slowly-wearing days and nights, the heavyfooted hours, the never-hastening minutes, that went to make up those thirty-three years of trial and humiliation ? We all know how slowly time passes when suffering and sorrow are near, and there is no reason to suppose that our Master was exempted from this part of our infirmities.
Then His present is “ for thee.” Even now He “ liveth to make intercession ” ; even now He “ thinketh upon me ” ; even now He “ knoweth,” He “ careth,” He “ loveth.”
Then, only to think that His whole eternity will be “ for thee ! ” Millions of ages of unfoldings of all His love, and of ever new declarings of His Father’s name to His brethren. Think of it ! and can we ever hesitate to give all our poor little hours to His service ?
3. His Hands “ for thee.” Literal hands ; literally pierced, when the whole weight of His quivering frame hung from their torn muscles and bared nerves ; literally uplifted in parting blessing. Consecrated, priestly hands ; “ filled ” hands (Exodus 28:41, 29:9, etc., margin)—filled once with His great offering, and now with gifts and blessings “ for thee.” Tender hands, touching and healing, lifting and leading with gentlest care. Strong hands, upholding and defending. Open hands, filling with good and satisfying desire (Psalm 104:28, and 145:16). Faithful hands, restraining and sustaining. “ His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace me.”
4. His Feet “ for thee.” They were weary very often, they were wounded and bleeding once. They made clear footprints as He went about doing good, as He went up to Jerusalem to suffer ; and these “ blessed steps of His most holy life,” both as substitution and example, were “ for thee.” Our place of waiting and learning, of resting and loving, is at His feet. And still those “ blessed feet ” are and shall be “ for thee,” until He comes again to receive us unto Himself, until and when the word is fulfilled, “ They shall walk with me in white.”
5. His Voice “ for thee.” The “ Voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love ” ; the Voice that His sheep “ hear ” and “ know,” and that calls out the fervent response, “ Master, say on ! ” This is not all. It was the literal voice of the Lord Jesus which uttered that one echoless cry of desolation on the Cross “ for thee,” and it will be His own literal voice which will say, “ Come, ye blessed ! ” to thee. And that same tender and “ glorious Voice ” has literally sung and will sing “ for thee.” I think He consecrated song for us, and made it a sweet and sacred thing for ever, when He Himself “ sang an hymn,” the very last thing before He went forth to consecrate suffering for us. That was not His last song. “ The Lord thy God … will joy over thee with singing.” And the time is coming when He will not only sing “ for thee ” or “ over thee,” but with thee. He says He will ! “ In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.” Now what a magnificent glimpse of joy this is ! “ Jesus Himself leading the praises of His brethren,” and we ourselves singing not merely in such a chorus, but with such a leader ! If “ singing for Jesus ” is such delight here, what will this “ singing with Jesus ” be ? Surely song may well be a holy thing to us henceforth.
6. His Lips “ for thee.” Perhaps there is no part of our consecration which it is so difficult practically to realize, and in which it is, therefore, so needful to recollect—“ I also for thee.” It is often helpful to read straight through one or more of the Gospels with a special thought on our mind, and see how much bears upon it. When we read one through with this thought,—“ His lips for me ! ”—wondering, verse by verse, at the grace which was poured into them, and the gracious words which fell from them, wondering more and more at the cumulative force and infinite wealth of tenderness and power and wisdom and love flowing from them, we cannot but desire that our lips and all the fruit of them should be wholly for Him. “ For thee ” they were opened in blessing ; “ for thee ” they were closed when He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And whether teaching, warning, counsel, comfort, or encouragement, commandments in whose keeping there is a great reward, or promises which exceed all we ask or think—all the precious fruit of His lips is “ for thee ” really and truly meant “ for thee.”
7. His Wealth “ for thee.” “ Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich.” Yes, “ through His poverty ” the unsearchable riches of Christ are “ for thee.” Sevenfold riches are mentioned ; and these are no untainted treasure or sealed reserve, but all ready coined for our use, and stamped with His own image and superscription, and poured freely into the hand of faith. The mere list is wonderful. “ Riches of goodness,” “ riches of forbearance and long-suffering,” “ riches both of wisdom and knowledge,” “ riches of mercy,” “ exceeding riches of grace,” and “ riches of glory.” And His own Word says, “ All are yours ! ” Glance on in faith, and think of eternity flowing on and on beyond the mightiest sweep of imagination, and realize that all “ His riches in glory ” and “ the riches of His glory ” are and shall be “ for thee ! ” In view of this, shall we care to reserve anything that rust doth corrupt for ourselves ?
8. His “treasures of wisdom and knowledge ” “ for thee.” First, used for our behalf and benefit. Why did He expend such immeasurable might of mind upon a world which is to be burnt up, but that He would fit it perfectly to be, not the home, but the school of His children ? The infinity of His skill is such that the most powerful intellects find a lifetime too short to penetrate a little way into a few secrets of some one small department of His working. If we turn to Providence, it is quite enough to take only one’s own life, and look at it microscopically and telescopically, and marvel at the treasures of wisdom lavished upon its details, ordering and shaping and fitting the tiny confused bits into the true mosaic which He means it to be. Many a little thing in our lives reveals the same Mind which, according to a well-known and very beautiful illustration, adjusted a perfect proportion in the delicate hinges of the snowdrop and the droop of its bell, with the mass of the globe and the force of gravitation. How kind we think it if a very talented friend spends a little of his thought and power of mind in teaching us or planning for us ! Have we been grateful for the infinite thought and wisdom which our Lord has expended upon us and our creation, preservation, and redemption ?
Secondly, to be shared with us. He says, “ All that I have is thine.” He holds nothing back, reserves nothing from His dear children, and what we cannot receive now He is keeping for us. He gives us “ hidden riches of secret places ” now, but by and by He will give us more, and the glorified intellect will be filled continually out of His treasures of wisdom and knowledge. But the sanctified intellect will be, must be, used for Him, and only for Him, now !
9. His Will “ for thee.” Think first of the infinite might of that will ; the first great law and the first great force of the universe, from which alone every other law and every other force has sprung, and to which all are subordinate. “ He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” “ He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Then think of the infinite mysteries of that will. For ages and generations the hosts of heaven have wonderingly watched its vouchsafed unveilings and its sublime developments, and still they are waiting, watching, and wondering.
Creation and Providence are but the whisper of its power, but Redemption is its music, and praise is the echo which shall yet fill His temple. The whisper and the music, yes, and “ the thunder of His power,” are all “ for thee.” For what is “ the good pleasure of His will ” ? (Ephesians 1:5). Oh, what a grand list of blessings purposed, provided, purchased, and possessed, all flowing to us out of it ! And nothing but blessings, nothing but privileges, which we never should have imagined, and which, even when revealed, we are “ slow of heart to believe ” ; nothing but what should even now fill us “ with joy unspeakable and full of glory ! ”
Think of this will as always and altogether on our side—always working for us, and in us, and with us, if we will only let it ; think of it as always and only synonymous with infinitely wise and almighty love ; think of it as undertaking all for us, from the great work of our eternal salvation down to the momentary details of guidance and supply, and do we not feel utter shame and self-abhorrence at ever having hesitated for an instant to give up our tiny, feeble, blind will, to be—not crushed, not even bent, but blent with His glorious and perfect Will ?
10. His Heart “ for thee.” “ Behold… He is mighty… in heart,” said Job (Job 36:5, margin). And this mighty and tender heart is “ for thee ! ” If He had only stretched forth His hand to save us from bare destruction, and said, “ My hand for thee ! ” how could we have praised Him enough ? But what shall we say of the unspeakably marvellous condescension which says, “ Thou hast ravished (margin, taken away) my heart, my sister, my spouse ! ” The very fountain of His divine life, and light, and love, the very centre of His being, is given to His beloved ones, who are not only “ set as a seal upon His heart,” but taken into His heart, so that our life is hid there, and we dwell there in the very centre of all safety, and power, and love, and glory. What will be the revelation of “ that day,” when the Lord Jesus promises, “ Ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me ” ? For He implies that we do not yet know it, and that our present knowledge of this dwelling in Him is not knowledge at all compared with what He is going to show us about it. Now shall we, can we, reserve any corner of our hearts from Him ?
11. His Love “ for thee.” Not a passive, possible love, but outflowing, yes,
outpouring of the real, glowing, personal love of His mighty and tender heart. Love not as an attribute, a quality, a latent force, but an acting, moving, reaching, touching, and grasping power. Love, not a cold, beautiful, far-off star, but a sunshine that comes and enfolds us, making us warm and glad, and strong and bright and fruitful. His love ! What manner of love is it ? What should be quoted to prove or describe it ? First the whole Bible with its mysteries and marvels of redemption, then the whole book of Providence and the whole volume of creation. Then add to these the unknown records of eternity past and the unknown glories of eternity to come, and then let the immeasurable quotation be sung by “ angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven,” with all the harps of God, and still that love will be untold, still it will be “ the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.” But it is “ for thee ! ”
12. Himself “ for thee.” “ Christ also hath loved us, and given Himself for us.” “ The Son of God… loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Yes, Himself ! What is the Bride’s true and central treasure ? What calls forth the deepest, brightest, sweetest thrill of love and praise? Not the Bridegroom’s priceless gifts, not the robe of His resplendent righteousness, not the dowry of unsearchable riches, not the magnificence of the palace home to which He is bringing her, not the glory which she shall share with Him, but Himself ! Jesus Christ, “ who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree ” ; “ this same Jesus ” “ whom having not seen, ye love ” ; the Son of God, and the Man of Sorrows ; my Saviour, my Friend, my Master, my King, my Priest, my Lord and my God—He says, “I also for thee ! ” What an “I ” ! What power and sweetness we feel in it, so different from any human “I,” for all His Godhead and all His manhood are concentrated in it, and all “ for thee ! ”
And not only “ all,” but “ever ” for thee. His unchangeableness is the seal upon every attribute ; He will be “ this same Jesus ” for ever. How can mortal mind estimate this enormous promise ? How can mortal heart conceive what is enfolded in these words, “ I also for thee ” ?
One glimpse of its fulness and glory, and we feel that henceforth it must be, shall be, and by His grace will be our true-hearted, whole-hearted cry—
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee
Frances Ridley Havergal from KEPT FOR THE MASTER’S USE
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name.” Malachi 3:16
Christians are called the light of the world and the salt of the earth — their influence is enlightening and preservation. Hence their influence is always valuable. It appears so especially in dark seasons — -when religion has declined, and when few enjoy it.
Christians are always dear to God, in every state and circumstance. If he sees his image in them; if they fear him and think upon his name, and love his cause — then “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” At the time the prophet wrote these words, there were few of this character. Even the priests were corrupt, and they had corrupted the law. They were enemies to true religion, and nearly all the people were like them. They said it was “vain to serve God.” The text contradicts such a statement.
I. The Character of God’s People.
1. They feared the Lord. While all around them were practical atheists — they felt the importance of true religion. This fear is not a slavish fear, but a filial one. The former is destroyed by faith in Jesus the Savior, who delivers the soul from guilt and condemnation, etc.; the latter is induced by adopting love, which gives confidence in God, assurance of his constant care and mercy and love, Romans 8:15.
True Christians are like . . .
Obadiah, who “feared the Lord greatly;”
Abraham, of whom the angel said, “I know that you fear God;”
the primitive church, “they walked in the fear of the Lord;”
Cornelius, who was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.”
This divine principle, far from being the produce of the barren soil of nature, is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, according to the promise of the new covenant, “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me!” Jeremiah 32:40
The saints fear and reverence the majesty of God — and the authority of God, Matthew 10:28. This authority is so extensive, that it reaches to our present existence, and to our eternal destinies. They are afraid of displeasing him. They “stand in awe, and sin not.”
2. They delighted in Christian conversation and fellowship. “They spoke often one to another.” They loved the sanctuary where their brethren worshiped; and all the means for social prayer and praise.
“They took sweet counsel together,” etc. No doubt they spoke of the best things. They spoke of Christ, and the glories of his kingdom — of his delivering power, and said, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul!” They spoke of his precious promises of everlasting glory.
The brother in adversity was cheered;
the sick and the languid were animated and resigned,
the tempted were succored and fortified,
those ready to halt were induced to persevere and to hold fast, etc. Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
3. They thought upon the name of the Lord. His name was sacred to them — a fruitful source of profound and edifying meditation. The name of the Lord, is God himself in the plenitude of his power, omniscience, justice, goodness, mercy, and truth.
The Lord’s name was dear to them; they were concerned for its glory, and grieved for its dishonor.
(1.) To think on the name of the Lord, also implies a deep solicitude for the prosperity of God’s cause in the world. The name of the Lord is intimately connected with this. When David thought of his name, his heart was fixed on the prosperity of the Messiah’s kingdom. Here God is glorified in the highest.
(2.) To think on the name of the Lord, also implies the employment of our individual instrumentality to promote the Divine glory. We may be zealous in holy duties, etc., in order to raise our own name. This is vanity. A true Christian consecrates his talents and powers to promote the glory of God, and he feels that, after having done all, he is but an unprofitable servant. “Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto your name be all the glory.”
II. The Divine Approbation of the Righteous. “The Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name!”
1. He graciously noticed them and their services. “He hearkened and heard.” They met together, perhaps privately, as the sorrowful disciples did for fear of the Jews; but there was one that hearkened heard and approved.
Christians may be poor and illiterate;
their services very imperfect;
they may be despised, and ridiculed by the world
— yet the Lord “hearkens and hears” all their ministrations, their breathings of prayer, and their lispings of praise. Miserable may be the place where they assemble, but the Lord loves the gates of Zion, etc. He takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants. Graciously he attends to the groanings of the prisoners, to the cries of the needy, and the conversation of pilgrims bound for Heaven.
God knows and approves the way of the righteous.
2. He granted them a share in his affectionate remembrance. “And a book of remembrance was written before him.” Here is an allusion to the records kept by kings of all that was done for their honor, Esther 6:1. And so God will “render to every man according to his works.”
What a glorious privilege for Christians to have their names and their deeds written in the book of remembrance — never to be forgotten!
They merit not such an honor, but grace gives it to them. To be remembered by one who is unable to do us any good, would answer but little purpose. Pharaoh’s butler could do but little for Joseph while he was in prison; but, said he, “When it is well with you, remember me.” To have a friend in the king’s presence would be of some advantage. Hence the prayer of the dying thief, “Lord, remember me when you come in your glory!”
God is all-sufficient, having at his command all the blessings of nature, by which he can amply repair every loss we may sustain for his sake; and all the blessings of grace, by which he can abundantly recompense and console us under all our sufferings. He has Heaven and glory at his disposal. Prophets, apostles, martyrs, all the servants of Christ, have been remembered.
At the great last day, he will produce the book that was written before him, and read it in the presence of an assembled world, Matthew 25:19-23, 34, etc.
The following verse declares that then he will own them as his most valued treasure; “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my jewels. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him!” Malachi 3:17. As base as they have thought themselves to be, they shall be mine — mine forever!
1. The nature of true religion. It consists not in pomp and splendor, nor in rites and ceremonies — but in filial reverence of God — fellowship with his people, and love to his name. All other religions are false.
2. Let your conduct, through Divine aid, be such as will bear the scrutiny of God, and such us he will remember.
3. Anticipate the day for “the manifestation of the sons of God.” Then all those who are accounted by the wicked as the offscouring of all things, and the filth of the world — will be owned by Jehovah as his jewels, a figure expressive of infinite and everlasting endearment!
William Nicholson, 1862
This is Ingrid Schlueter, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, former talk show host, columnist, and author. Although she no longer writes a personal blog, God has given her other ways to share her thoughts and insights. Ingrid lives in Wisconsin with her family and has been used of the LORD to stand up for the Truth of Jesus Christ in the battle of life. (Click on to the words in the upper left hand corner of the video box if her picture does not readily appear to see her piece here.)
For weeks, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America’s reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to “save our compatriots.”
The reaction of the Obama administration—as well as the new cold-war hawks in Congress and in the establishment media—has been twofold: silence interrupted only by occasional statements excusing and thus encouraging more atrocities by Kiev. Very few Americans (notably, the independent scholar Gordon Hahn) have protested this shameful complicity. We may honorably disagree about the causes and resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, the worst US-Russian confrontation in decades, but not about deeds that are rising to the level of war crimes, if they have not already done so.
* * *
In mid-April, the new Kiev government, predominantly western Ukrainian in composition and outlook, declared an “anti-terrorist operation” against a growing political rebellion in the Southeast. At that time, the rebels were mostly mimicking the initial Maidan protests in Kiev in 2013—demonstrating, issuing defiant proclamations, occupying public buildings and erecting defensive barricades—before Maidan turned ragingly violent and, in February, overthrew Ukraine’s corrupt but legitimately elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. (The entire Maidan episode, it will be recalled, had Washington’s enthusiastic political, and perhaps more tangible, support.) Indeed, the precedent for seizing official buildings and demanding the allegiance of local authorities had been set even earlier, in January, in western Ukraine—by pro-Maidan, anti-Yanukovych protesters, some declaring “independence” from his government.
Considering those preceding events, but above all the country’s profound historical divisions, particularly between its western and eastern regions—ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic and political—the rebellion in the southeast, centered in the industrial Donbass, was not surprising. Nor were its protests against the unconstitutional way (in effect, a coup) the new government had come to power, the southeast’s sudden loss of effective political representation in the capital and the real prospect of official discrimination. But by declaring an “anti-terrorist operation” against the new protesters, Kiev signaled its intention to “destroy” them, not negotiate with them.
On May 2, in this incendiary atmosphere, a horrific event occurred in the southern city of Odessa, awakening memories of Nazi German extermination squads in Ukraine and other Soviet republics during World War II. An organized pro-Kiev mob chased protesters into a building, set it on fire and tried to block the exits. Some forty people, perhaps many more, perished in the flames or were murdered as they fled the inferno. A still unknown number of other victims were seriously injured.
Members of the infamous Right Sector, a far-right paramilitary organization ideologically aligned with the ultranationalist Svoboda party, itself a constituent part of Kiev’s coalition government, led the mob. Both are frequently characterized by knowledgeable observers as “neo-fascist” movements. (Hateful ethnic chants by the mob were audible, and swastika-like symbols were found on the scorched building.) Kiev alleged that the victims had themselves accidentally started the fire, but eyewitnesses, television footage and social media videos told the true story, as they have about subsequent atrocities.
Instead of interpreting the Odessa massacre as an imperative for restraint, Kiev intensified its “anti-terrorist operation.” Since May, the regime has sent a growing number of armored personnel carriers, tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and warplanes to southeastern cities, among them, Slovyansk (Slavyansk in Russian), Mariupol, Krasnoarmeisk, Kramatorsk, Donetsk and Luhansk (Lugansk in Russian). When its regular military units and local police forces turned out to be less than effective, willing or loyal, Kiev hastily mobilized Right Sector and other radical nationalist militias responsible for much of the violence at Maidan into a National Guard to accompany regular detachments—partly to reinforce them, partly, it seems, to enforce Kiev’s commands. Zealous, barely trained and drawn mostly from central and western regions, Kiev’s new recruits have reportedly escalated the ethnic warfare and killing of innocent civilians. (Episodes described as “massacres” soon also occurred in Mariupol and Kramatorsk.)
Initially, the “anti-terrorist” campaign was limited primarily, though not only, to rebel checkpoints on the outskirts of cities. Since May, however, Kiev has repeatedly carried out artillery and air attacks on city centers that have struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, kindergartens and hospitals, particularly in Slovyansk and Luhansk. More and more urban areas, neighboring towns and even villages now look and sound like war zones, with telltale rubble, destroyed and pockmarked buildings, mangled vehicles, the dead and wounded in streets, wailing mourners and crying children. Conflicting information from Kiev, local resistance leaders and Moscow make it impossible to estimate the number of dead and wounded noncombatants—certainly hundreds. The number continues to grow due also to Kiev’s blockade of cities where essential medicines, food, water, fuel and electricity are scarce, and where wages and pensions are often no longer being paid. The result is an emerging humanitarian catastrophe.
Another effect is clear. Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” tactics have created a reign of terror in the targeted cities. Panicked by shells and mortars exploding on the ground, menacing helicopters and planes flying above and fear of what may come next, families are seeking sanctuary in basements and other darkened shelters. Even The New York Times, which like the mainstream American media generally has deleted the atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk “as if living in the Middle Ages.” Meanwhile, an ever-growing number of refugees, disproportionately women and traumatized children, have been fleeing across the border into Russia. In late June, the UN estimated that as many as 110,000 Ukrainians had already fled to Russia and about half that many to other Ukrainian sanctuaries.
It is true, of course, that anti-Kiev rebels in these regions are increasingly well-armed (though lacking the government’s arsenal of heavy and airborne weapons), organized and aggressive, no doubt with some Russian assistance, whether officially sanctioned or not. But calling themselves “self-defense” fighters is not wrong. They did not begin the combat; their land is being invaded and assaulted by a government whose political legitimacy is arguably no greater than their own, two of their large regions having voted overwhelmingly for autonomy referenda; and, unlike actual terrorists, they have not committed acts of war outside their own communities. The French adage suggested by an American observer seems applicable: “This animal is very dangerous. If attacked, it defends itself.”
* * *
Among the crucial questions rarely discussed in the US political-media establishment: What is the role of the “neo-fascist” factor in Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” ideology and military operations? Putin’s position, at least until recently—that the entire Ukrainian government is a “neo-fascist junta”—is incorrect. Many members of the ruling coalition and its parliamentary majority are aspiring European-style democrats or moderate nationalists. This may also be true of Ukraine’s newly elected president, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko. Equally untrue, however, are claims by Kiev’s American apologists, including even some academics and liberal intellectuals, that Ukraine’s neo-fascists—or perhaps quasi-fascists—are merely agitated nationalists, “garden-variety Euro-populists,” a “distraction” or lack enough popular support to be significant.
Independent Western scholars have documented the fascist origins, contemporary ideology and declarative symbols of Svoboda and its fellow-traveling Right Sector. Both movements glorify Ukraine’s murderous Nazi collaborators in World War II as inspirational ancestors. Both, to quote Svoboda’s leader Oleh Tyahnybok, call for an ethnically pure nation purged of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum,” including homosexuals, feminists and political leftists. And both hailed the Odessa massacre. According to the website of Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh, it was “another bright day in our national history.” A Svoboda parliamentary deputy added, “Bravo, Odessa…. Let the Devils burn in hell.” If more evidence is needed, in December 2012, the European Parliament decried Svoboda’s “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.” In 2013, the World Jewish Congress denounced Svoboda as “neo-Nazi.” Still worse, observers agree that Right Sector is even more extremist.
Nor do electoral results tell the story. Tyahnybok and Yarosh together received less than 2 percent of the June presidential vote, but historians know that in traumatic times, when, to recall Yeats, “the center cannot hold,” small, determined movements can seize the moment, as did Lenin’s Bolsheviks and Hitler’s Nazis. Indeed, Svoboda and Right Sector already command power and influence far exceeding their popular vote. “Moderates” in the US-backed Kiev government, obliged to both movements for their violence-driven ascent to power, and perhaps for their personal safety, rewarded Svoboda and Right Sector with some five to eight (depending on shifting affiliations) top ministry positions, including ones overseeing national security, military, prosecutorial and educational affairs. Still more, according to the research of Pietro Shakarian, a remarkable young graduate student at the University of Michigan, Svoboda was given five governorships, covering about 20 percent of the country. And this does not take into account the role of Right Sector in the “anti-terrorist operation.”
Nor does it consider the political mainstreaming of fascism’s dehumanizing ethos. In December 2012, a Svoboda parliamentary leader anathematized the Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis as “a dirty kike.” Since 2013, pro-Kiev mobs and militias have routinely denigrated ethnic Russians as insects (“Colorado beetles,” whose colors resemble a sacred Russia ornament). More recently, the US-picked prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, referred to resisters in the Southeast as “subhumans.” His defense minister proposed putting them in “filtration camps,” pending deportation, and raising fears of ethnic cleansing. Yulia Tymoshenko—a former prime minister, titular head of Yatsenyuk’s party and runner-up in the May presidential election—was overheard wishing she could “exterminate them all [Ukrainian Russians] with atomic weapons.” “Sterilization” is among the less apocalyptic official musings on the pursuit of a purified Ukraine.
Confronted with such facts, Kiev’s American apologists have conjured up another rationalization. Any neo-fascists in Ukraine, they assure us, are far less dangerous than Putinism’s “clear aspects of fascism.” The allegation is unworthy of serious analysis: however authoritarian Putin may be, there is nothing authentically fascist in his rulership, policies, state ideology or personal conduct.
Indeed, equating Putin with Hitler, as eminent Americans from Hillary Clinton and Zbigniew Brzezinski to George Will have done, is another example of how our new cold warriors are recklessly damaging US national security in vital areas where Putin’s cooperation is essential. Looking ahead, would-be presidents who make such remarks can hardly expect to be greeted by an open-minded Putin, whose brother died and father was wounded in the Soviet-Nazi war. Moreover, tens of millions of today’s Russians whose family members were killed by actual fascists in that war will regard this defamation of their popular president as sacrilege, as they do the atrocities committed by Kiev.
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And yet, the Obama administration reacts with silence, and worse. Historians will decide what the US government and the “democracy promotion” organizations it funds were doing in Ukraine during the preceding twenty years, but much of Washington’s role in the current crisis has been clear and direct. As the Maidan mass protest against President Yanukovych developed last November-December, Senator John McCain, the high-level State Department policymaker Victoria Nuland and a crew of other US politicians and officials arrived to stand with its leaders, Tyahnybok in the forefront, and declare, “America is with you!” Nuland was then caught on tape plotting with the American ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, to oust Yanukovych’s government and replace him with Yatsenyuk, who soon became, and remains, prime minister.
Meanwhile, President Obama personally warned Yanukovych “not to resort to violence,” as did, repeatedly, Secretary of State John Kerry. But when violent street riots deposed Yanukovych—only hours after a European-brokered, White House–backed compromise that would have left him as president of a reconciliation government until new elections this December, possibly averting the subsequent bloodshed—the administration made a fateful decision. It eagerly embraced the outcome. Obama personally legitimized the coup as a “constitutional process” and invited Yatsenyuk to the White House. The United States has been at least tacitly complicit in what followed, from Putin’s hesitant decision in March to annex Crimea and the rebellion in southeastern Ukraine to the ongoing civil war.
How intimately involved US officials have been in Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” is not known, but certainly the administration has not been discreet. Before and after the military campaign began in earnest, CIA director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden (twice) visited Kiev, followed, it is reported, by a continuing flow of “senior US defense officials,” military equipment and financial assistance to the bankrupt Kiev government. Despite this crucial support, the White House has not compelled Kiev to investigate either the Odessa massacre or the fateful sniper killings of scores of Maidan protesters and policemen on February 18–20, which precipitated Yanukovych’s ouster. (The snipers were initially said to be Yanukovych’s, but evidence later appeared pointing to opposition extremists, possibly Right Sector. Unlike Washington, the Council of Europe has been pressuring Kiev to investigate both events.)
As atrocities and humanitarian disaster grow in Ukraine, both Obama and Kerry have all but vanished as statesmen. Except for periodic banalities asserting the virtuous intentions of Washington and Kiev and alleging Putin’s responsibility for the violence, they have left specific responses to lesser US officials. Not surprisingly, all have told the same Manichean story, from the White House to Foggy Bottom. The State Department’s neocon missionary Nuland, who spent several days at Maidan, for example, assured a congressional committee that she had no evidence of fascist-like elements playing any role there. Ambassador Pyatt, who earlier voiced the same opinion about the Odessa massacre, was even more dismissive, telling obliging New Republic editors that the entire question was “laughable.”
Still more shameful, no American official at any level appears to have issued a meaningful statement of sympathy for civilian victims of the Kiev government, not even those in Odessa. Instead, the administration has been unswervingly indifferent. When asked if her superiors had “any concerns” about the casualties of Kiev’s military campaign, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has repeatedly answered “no.” Indeed, at the UN Security Council on May 2, US Ambassador Samantha Power, referring explicitly to the “counterterrorism initiative” and suspending her revered “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, gave Kiev’s leaders a US license to kill. Lauding their “remarkable, almost unimaginable, restraint,” as Obama himself did after Odessa, she continued, “Their response is reasonable, it is proportional, and frankly it is what any one of our countries would have done.” (Since then, the administration has blocked Moscow’s appeal for a UN humanitarian corridor between southeastern Ukraine and Russia.)
Contrary to the incessant administration and media demonizing of Putin and his “agents” in Ukraine, the “anti-terrorist operation” can be ended only where it began—in Washington and Kiev. Leaving aside how much power the new president actually has in Kiev (or over Right Sector militias in the field), Poroshenko’s “peace plan” and June 21 cease-fire may have seemed such an opportunity, except for its two core conditions: fighters in the southeast first had to “lay down their arms,” and he alone would decide with whom to negotiate peace. The terms seemed more akin to conditions of surrender, and the real reason Poroshenko unilaterally ended the cease-fire on July 1 and intensified Kiev’s assault on eastern cities.
The Obama administration continues to make the situation worse. Despite opposition by several NATO allies and even American corporate heads, the president and his secretary of state, who has spoken throughout this crisis more like a secretary of war than the nation’s top diplomat, have constantly threatened Russia with harsher economic sanctions unless Putin meets one condition or another, most of them improbable. On June 26, Kerry even demanded (“literally”) that the Russian president “in the next few hours…help disarm” resisters in the Southeast, as though they are not motivated by any of Ukraine’s indigenous conflicts but are merely Putin’s private militias.
In fact, from the onset of the crisis, the administration’s actual goal has been unclear, and not only to Moscow. Is it a negotiated compromise, which would have to include a Ukraine with a significantly federalized or decentralized state free to maintain longstanding economic relations with Russia and banned from NATO membership? Is it to bring the entire country exclusively into the West, including into NATO? Is it a vendetta against Putin for all the things he purportedly has and has not done over the years? (Some behavior of Obama and Kerry, seemingly intended to demean and humiliate Putin, suggest an element of this.) Or is it to provoke Russia into a war with the United States and NATO in Ukraine?
Inadvertent or not, the latter outcome remains all too possible. After Russia annexed—or “reunified” with—Crimea in March, Putin, not Kiev or Washington, has demonstrated “remarkable restraint.” But events are making it increasingly difficult for him to do so. Almost daily, Russian state media, particularly television, have featured vivid accounts of Kiev’s military assaults on Ukraine’s eastern cities. The result has been, both in elite and public opinion, widespread indignation and mounting perplexity, even anger, over Putin’s failure to intervene militarily.
We may discount the following indictment by an influential ideologist of Russia’s own ultra-nationalists, who have close ties with Ukraine’s “self-defense” commanders: “Putin betrays not just the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Lugansk but himself, Russia and all of us.” Do not, however, underestimate the significance of an article in the mainstream pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, which asks, while charging the leadership with “ignoring the cries for help,” “Is Russia abandoning the Donbass?” If so, the author warns, the result will be “Russia’s worst nightmare” and relegate it to “the position of a vanquished country.”
Just as significant are similar exhortations by Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia’s Communist Party, the second-largest in the country and in parliament. The party also has substantial influence in the military-security elite and even in the Kremlin. Thus, one of Putin’s own aides has publicly urged him to send fighter planes to impose a “no-fly zone”—an American-led UN action in Qaddafi’s Libya that has not been forgotten or forgiven by the Kremlin—and destroy Kiev’s approaching aircraft and land forces. If that happens, US and NATO forces, now being built up in Eastern Europe, might well also intervene, creating a Cuban missile crisis–like confrontation. As a former Russian foreign minister admired in the West reminds us, there are “hawks on both sides.”
Little of this is even noted in the United States. In a democratic political system, the establishment media are expected to pierce the official fog of war. In the Ukrainian crisis, however, mainstream American newspapers and television have been almost as slanted and elliptical as White House and State Department statements, obscuring the atrocities, if reporting them at all, and generally relying on information from Washington and Kiev. Most Americans are thereby unknowingly being shamed by the Obama administration’s role. Those who do know but remain silent—in government, think tanks, universities and media—share its complicity.