Indonesia convicts Christian governor of blasphemy

388px-Wakil_Gubernur_DKI_Basuki_TPA court in Indonesia has found the governor of Jakarta, a Christian, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison.

His crime?  He said in an election campaign that his opponents were deceiving people by saying that the Q’uran teaches that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims.

This apparent questioning of the Q’uran sparked riots and an indictment against him.  The court drew on the statements of an Islamist radical as an expert witness.

The conviction is evidence that radical Muslims are becoming more and more influential in Indonesia, which has a large Christian minority (including some six million Lutherans).


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Donald Trump, diplomat


The liberal Moon Jae-In was elected president of South Korea on a platform of improving relations with North Korea.  This at a time when President Trump wants to get tougher with North Korea.  Moon’s party defeated the conservative, pro-American incumbents.

President Trump reportedly played a role in bringing down our ally’s government and replacing it with one that may be harder to deal with.

Charles Krautthammer tells about how Moon’s opposition party gained big ground over his opponent because of Trump’s trademark off-the-cuff comments about South Korea.  While we were in the midst of talks over co-operation against North Korea, Trump opined that the U.S. should renegotiate its trade deal with South Korea.  He then called for South Korea to pay for the missiles that we want to place there.

This infuriated South Korean voters, who rallied around  Moon, who wants a more arms-length distance from the U.S., as well as a more conciliatory stance towards North Korea.

Read Krautthammer’s account after the jump.

Now Trump wasn’t the only factor in bringing down the government:  the current president had been impeached.  It would be natural for the country to vote out the party that had been so discredited.

But it would certainly help Trump’s presidency if he would learn to govern his tongue.  I know that supporters like it that he says what he thinks.  But now that he is president, his words carry a different weight than they did when he was just a candidate.  Especially in the field of diplomacy, every word must be carefully calculated and nuanced.  And that is not Trump’s style.

He will soon set off on his first set of international visits, meeting with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pope.  The theme will apparently be interacting with representatives of three major world religions, a fraught atmosphere if there ever was one!  Let’s hope the president has learned something about diplomacy from the South Korea fiasco.

Photo:  Moon Jae-in, the liberal beneficiary of President Trump’s spontaneous comments on South Korea, from the Korean Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons

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Challenges for conservative churches in Scandinavia

ScandinaviaIn Finland, I taped three programs for the Christian television network.  The host, Leif Nummela, is a well-known figure in confessional Lutheran circles and in Scandinavian Christian circles in general.  On his program, Bible Café, we had wonderful discussions of the Bible, Grace, and Vocation (Luther’s three major contributions to Christendom as a whole).  The network goes out not only to Finland but to Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.

Finland is more religiously diverse than I had realized.  There are quite a few Pentecostals–I talked to a campus pastor from that tradition who said that one of his church’s problems is combatting the Prosperity Gospel–and American style evangelicals (Reformed, Baptist, non-denominational, etc.), though that term is mostly used in the old sense to refer to “Lutherans.”  And Emil showed us congregations of Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and Orthodox.  There is even a Mormon Temple in Finland, as well as mosques.  Most of the programming on TV7 is from the Pentecostal and general evangelical perspective.

Leif told me about some of the challenges for conservative congregations and church bodies in Finland and in Scandinavia as a whole. [Read more…]

The French set-back for global Trumpism

2014.11.17_Emmanuel_Macron_Ministre_de_l_economie_de_lindustrie_et_du_numerique_at_Bercy_for_Global_Entrepreneurship_Week_(7eme_CAE_conference_annuelle_des_entrepreneurs)Many observers thought that the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union heralded a new movement in global politics, with nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment casting out establishment governments.

But in the French presidential election on Sunday, the anti-immigrant, pro-nationalistic Marine LePen was defeated in a landslide by centrist Emmanuel Macron, who won on a pro-immigrant, pro-European Union platform.

And yet there still may be something to the notion that Trump heralds a new anti-establishment political movement.  Macron won as an independent, without the support of any of the established political parties.  Both the leftwing and the rightwing parties that have dominated French politics for decades were shut out of the election.

Maybe the real contribution of the Trump phenomenon is the repudiation of conventional party politics.

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The 10 characteristics of Germans

German_mosaic_2The United States, as is often said, is a nation that rests of ideas rather than ethnic identity.  Immigrants wanting to become citizens must pass a test on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and civic participation.

But other countries are based on ethnic and cultural identity.  How can they integrate immigrants from other societies?  What, exactly, is the cultural identity these would-be citizens need to integrate into?  That can be hard to define.

The German interior minister Thomas de Maizière has taken a crack at it.  He has proposed 10 principles of Germany identity.

He is getting lots of criticism for this from rivals to his Christian Democratic party, headed by Angela Merkel.  The left is accusing him of being anti-Muslim, nationalistic, too-Christian, etc.

There have been news stories about this, but they don’t give the 10 principles!  I have found them in a very bad translation and offer them to you after the jump.

What do you think of these?  Do they confuse what “should be” with “what is”?   Do they present the dark side of German history as if it isn’t really German after all, or does it handle that part effectively?  Does this list give a basis for an “enlightened patriotism,” or is it a new version of the German nationalism that gave us World War II?  Do these describe “modern” German culture or do they apply also to the German culture of the past that has made positive contributions to Western civilization?  Do any of these apply also to German-Americans?  Is this kind of exercise helpful or futile?

Could there be a similar list defining the America identity or would that be an offense against American diversity?  If there could be such a list of American cultural principles, what might that look like? [Read more…]

And now, war with Turkey?

512px-Tag_des_Sieges_2Americans’ strongest and most effective allies in the fight against ISIS are the Kurdish militias in Syria.  U.S. forces have recently been embedded with the Kurdish militias as they move in on Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS.

Turkey has long been battling the rebellious Kurds within its border, which have ties with the Kurds in Syria.  Recently, Turkey has been launching airstrikes against those Kurdish militias.

Now the Turkish government is saying that Americans in Kurdish units will also be attacked.

How should President Trump handle this new potential powder keg?  Abandon our Kurdish allies and pull out of the fight against ISIS at perhaps its most crucial phase?  Wouldn’t that be a show of weakness that the president has promised will no longer happen?  If Turkey kills American advisors, should we retaliate against Turkey?  How?  And what would happen next? [Read more…]