The human condition: infection of original sin – Luke 18:9-14

As people, we want to believe that humans are innately good and born pure. We prefer to imagine ourselves far away from the sins that only the worst of sinners commit. The more heinous the sin, the more we distance ourselves from these sins.

We do this all the time. Ever catch yourself outspokenly critical of bad people? You know, those ‘others’ who commit the big crimes. It’s almost like we intentionally and publicly display our hatred of sin in order to prove to others (and even to ourselves) that we are unlike those ‘bad sinners.’

Making contrast-comparisons doesn’t makes us any less of a sinner, nor any better of a Christian. Sometimes, we fall into a mode of being critical of others, and at other times, being judgmental. We hide our self-righteousness behind a veneer of righteousness.

Pharisee and the tax collector

Jesus told a story or parable about a pharisee and a publican:

Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: 10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, verses 9-14, Holy Bible (Common English Bible)

Each person, has been impacted by a sickness at birth. This sickness has impacted even our ability to make decisions. The only way out is to depend on God’s grace and mercy.

By placing ourselves in a lower position, we can see ourselves for who we really are–as both a saint and a sinner at the same time. As Christians we are simultaneously redeemed and yet still sinful. Until that final day when the Lord Jesus returns to earth, we will become fully redeemed. In the mean time, we are still bound by original sin.

The cure: God has provided us a cure from this infection of original sin through a spiritual rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit. This is made possible only through faith or believing in Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. By believing this (through faith alone) we are made holy (or sanctified) and righteous through the washing of God’s word as we repent each day. Though I am weak, it is God who strengthens me each day.

School-yard bully vs victim-kid

I’ve been blogging on Russian-Ukraine every day, too many days, this past week. This is my last post, I promise, I hope…okay no promises. Anyway, more to say here about Zelensky now.

Ukraine had been pushing for NATO membership. Shouldn’t Zelensky have known better? He knew. His mistake was that he expected the west to cover him, regardless. He thought wrong and miscalculated the west. He wanted NATO membership for Ukraine, and pushed for it, despite knowing Putin and Russia’s dislike for it. Hey, it was no secret that Russia loudly disapproved of NATO expansion. There was a verbal promise made to the USSR when it collapsed into Russia and the former soviet-block countries.

Regarding NATO expansion, Putin said, “Our mistake was that we trusted you too much; and your mistake was that you tried to take advantage of that.” He certainly knows who to blame.

Now, in the last several days, we hear about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky putting on the table an offer to refrain from seeking NATO membership. Well, it’s kind of late don’t you think?

Russia is bombing the heck out of Ukraine and now he’s thinking about not seeking NATO membership?! What was he thinking?! Zelensky must have known what he was doing.

I compare this to the school-yard bully who demanded the kid-victim to bring his lunch and to include his favorite drink. But the next day the kid decides to not bring his usually tasty lunch (corned beef sandwich) but instead brings the bully’s least favorite lunch (carrot sticks & broccolli) along with the most sour drink in the world. So the bully gets angry at the kid-victim, then beats the living daylights out of him. That’s Putin and Zelensky.

If NATO membership had not been sought in the first place, we might not have seen the year-long Russian military build-up around Ukraine that led up to this disaster. Putin is brutal, and poking the bear was the most foolish move. Zelensky under-estimated the bear.

I know. Sounds like I’m blaming Zelensky. I’m not. Trust me. When a kid is being bullied at school, the dumbest thing to do is to tick off the bully when you don’t have any friends to back you up.

A smart kid will first put his ducks in a row. Line up his friends to defend him; then let the bully have it, right where it counts. That’s what Zelensky should’ve done. Can’t blame a comedian-turned-politician. He’s not the most astute politician, but he is a good actor.

Too late now. So where do we go from here? Don’t have an answer; but I do know that no one wants a World War III.

Putin Doctrine – It’s about national security

President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow (Feb. 24 2022)

Great nations have risen and fallen. Some nations since ancient times were called Assyria, Babylon, and later, Rome. They had risen and fallen. Nations do not stay great forever. Russia was formerly a great nation under its Soviet Communist system. Political leaders can become nostalgic but when reality sets in, they will be reminded that history will remain history.

The Putin Doctrine: This is a theory that puts forth the idea that Putin wants to restore today’s Russia back to its old glory days to have its rightful place in the world (but without the communism and Bolshevik oppression). Since the downfall of Soviet Russia and its collapse, Russia’s aura has waned. Political hacks and journalists have written lots of articles, blog posts and books (e.g., here) about this Putin Doctrine. He is patriotic and loves his country, but I’m not so convinced he’s that nostalgic and focused on restoring glory. I believe it has more to do with national security.

Putin said in 2005: “The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union.” Angela Stent said this of the doctrine:

The core element of this doctrine is getting the West to treat Russia as if it were the Soviet Union, a power to be respected and feared, with special rights in its neighborhood and a voice in every serious international matter. The doctrine holds that only a few states should have this kind of authority, along with complete sovereignty, and that others must bow to their wishes. It entails defending incumbent authoritarian regimes and undermining democracies. And the doctrine is tied together by Putin’s overarching aim: reversing the consequences of the Soviet collapse, splitting the transatlantic alliance, and renegotiating the geographic settlement that ended the Cold War.

Angela Stent, Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2022-01-27/putin-doctrine

It’s about National Security: Despite what the west thinks of Russia, Russia sees itself as a target of the West. Putin has a case for protecting Russia from being attacked by the West and is based on real historical concerns. Stent continues stating: “Russia, after all, has been repeatedly invaded from the West. In the twentieth century, it was invaded by anti-Bolshevik allied forces, including some from the United States, during its civil war from 1917 to 1922. Germany invaded twice, leading to the loss of 26 million Soviet citizens in World War II.”

Putin is primarily concerned about Russia’s security–not about a land grab of Ukraine for his own glory. We should take Putin at his word because he did do what he said he was going to do, due to NATO’s eastward expansion. Putin is making his case clear. He will remind the west that it has reneged on its promises it made when the Soviet Union was dissolved to end the cold war.

Putin doesn’t care about what the west thinks about him. He sees through the fake news and propaganda from the west. Putin continues to move, walk and talk with a strong sense of self-confidence in his beliefs and in the actions he has taken thus far in order to protect Russia’s national security.

Pt. 2: Inside the head of Vladimir Putin: Recent speech

My commentary in this post is based on a very recent speech by President Putin on 16 March 2022. He spoke about biological weapons and threats including experimental coronavirus strains and nuclear weapons being created in Ukraine in close proximity to Russia. Diplomatic means to settle these problems were exhausted so they had no peaceful alternative. Putin said this forced Russia to start the special military operation.

This has not been confirmed. Western mainstream news is not saying much except several external news sources here and here.

From what Putin said in this speech, he seems very rational and has a calculated approach. He claims his goal is not to occupy Ukraine. He said the Nazis in Ukraine were cleansing the Donbass / Donetsk area killing over 14,000 innocent people including elderly and young people.

Yes, it is tragic that Putin’s military has also killed thousands of innocent civilians and displaced over three million people. But how many ethnic people have Ukrainian Nazi Azov Batallion killed? We don’t have numbers. Azov is an active group training even children to become Nazi youths here on Guardian and here on DW and here on BBC. This should not be tolerated, even if Ukraine is under attack. It was hypocritical of Facebook to allow them while censoring peaceful Canadian truckers protesters.

He said the U.S./European news media completely censored Ukraine’s attack upon its own people and called them hypocrites. He named this as “moral degradation and complete dehumanization.” He could no longer tolerate Ukraine’s outrageous attitude towards the people of Donbass and had to put a stop to this genocide. His attack was a response to republics’ request for aid.

If this is all true about the western media completely censoring the information we receive in the west, censorship is still censorship and should not have a place in free society. And if the Nazis are killing and displacing this many people in Ukraine, the media are just as guilty as the Nazi’s and the Ukrainians government’s support of the Nazi’s ethnic cleansing.

President Putin also addressed the west increased inflation is not the fault of Russia’s attack but have been caused by the ruling elites in the west. He blames the western welfare society and brings up the widening gap between rich and poor, and the racial/ethnic conflicts happening in the west. Putin warns about greedy elites who print money and convert them to real assets, which further destroys and weakens the market. He is right. Hyper-inflation in America is now here (PBS) and here and here and here and it’s scary what the elites are doing to manipulate the dollar.

Putin also addressed domestic economy, supply and demand, goods/products, infrastructure, transport, etc. He asked suppliers to increase production in order to meet demand and minimize price increase. I feel he has a good handle on the economy of Russia and understands the importance of domestic production.

If Putin is speaking the truth here, his speech has given me a more positive opinion toward him. Exclude his attack on Ukraine, he is a credible political leader. He has strong sense of what Russia needs, and is focused on how to move Russia forward. He can rally the people behind him and garner their trust. I can see why he is popular with the Russian people.

Putin’s speech: Socioeconomic Strategy, on 16 March 2022.

Putin’s concern: NATO expansion eastward

Map of gradual expansion of NATO into former Soviet countries

So what motivated Vladimir Putin to attack Ukraine in the first place? NATO expansion.

Why is our western media only telling us how evil Putin is, and saying nothing about why Putin might be attacking Ukraine? Is there an untold story behind Putin’s attack? The media is inept and only wants to tell the one-sided story.

Our immediate knee-jerk reaction to this crisis seems to be: “If Putin was the least bit ethical, he would not have attacked Ukraine.” Knowing he was the first to attack a sovereign nation, we are pinning all the blame and guilt on him. This is how we’ve been taught to react.

But don’t get me wrong. We’ve seen images of absolute chaos and destruction. Building have been bombed inside-out. Millions of innocent people have been driven out of the country. If Putin has any legitimate concerns, why should we be listening to any of his concerns now (considering the damage he wreaked on Ukraine).

We in the west are behaving like the jury and judge, and the jury and judge has already come to a decision before a fair trial has begun. If we can get past our heated emotions, there might be another side to this story that has not been discussed.

Was there already something brewing in the background that’s been covered up by news media outlets? Yes. NATO’s gradual and constant expansion eastward.

Country by country, NATO has been expanding into Russia’s former annexed states (despite NATO’s promise to USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev to not expand).

For decades, Russia was being backed into a corner. Russia has been seeing this expansion as a constant threat and Ukraine was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

As NATO kept expanding into the former soviet countries, the influence of the United States was gaining momentum. So does the United States also have any responsibility and blame leading up to this?

President Trump had talked about pulling the United States out of NATO. Given what has happened, he was right. Policy-makers have debated the usefulness of NATO in a post-Soviet world. Some have considered disbanding NATO altogether.

This explains the gradual change in Putin’s attitude toward the west.Putin does have real concerns but the west has been ignoring this for decades.

Perhaps it’s about time we consider Putin and Russia’s concern about NATO expansion. We don’t want this crisis escalated into a world war.

Why did Putin attack Ukraine anyway?

I want to reinforce that I do not support this war. The world cannot afford to be forced into another catastrophic world war. The world has been horrified by Putin’s attack on Ukraine and we all hope it comes to an end soon. I pray that God will look after the Ukrainian people who have been so very hurt by this war, and for the three million displaced refugees who have lost their homes and fled their country.

Despite all the wrong that’s been caused, I am feeling that we haven’t made a genuine effort to try to understand Putin better. It’s very convenient to label him as pure evil because he was the first offender who attacked a sovereign nation. What he did was wrong. The first offender is usually seen as the guilty one, and everyone hates the guilty offender. As a result, we want to bomb the bejesus out of Putin and the Russian army, and to let him off the hook would be a betrayal of democratic sensibilities.

However, what I have not heard much about in public conversation is a genuine inquiry into Putin’s reason for his attack on Ukraine. I mean: “What does Vladimir Putin really want?” and most importantly, “Why did he do this?”

The issues behind this war might be very complicated, perhaps more complex than it looks. I don’t think this is a simple black and white issue; nor is it a straight-forward good versus evil issue (as it has been portrayed by the media). Good is often mixed with evil with lots of gray areas.

What aren’t we investigating more in depth the reason for Putin’s attack on Ukraine? It might be a key to solving this crisis. From his perspective, did he actually have good reasons for his offensive? Security? Or was it simply a land-grab? Or might there have been other reasons? Are we missing something here?

Pt. 1 links: Inside the head of Vladimir Putin

Just as people read biographies on world leaders, I find value in trying to better understand this Russian leader outside of our own assumptions, prejudices and being driven by emotions. As a human being, Putin has strengths, weaknesses, values and fears. He has interesting opinions on life, NATO, accusations of Russian interference, etc. Perhaps a better understanding of Putin can provide insights into his intentions and motivations.

Christian journalists: seeking and reporting the Truth

Today and more than ever, people fear being censored for speaking the truth, especially when the truth does not agree with the narrative perpetuated by the majority stakeholders. Our academic environment is ever more intolerant to differences in opinions. Whether one has a liberal or conservative bent, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly are very precious rights and freedoms in a liberal democracy or democratic republic.

If we do not defend these freedoms, we will all lose out in the end. End result: no one will have the freedom to speak the truth. We need to stand together to defend these freedoms, even if we do not always agree with everything the other says. The common denominator must always be to speak the truth, and to abide by a professional code of ethics as journalists. Otherwise, a free and democratic society will be weakened. A strong democratic republic depends on ethical journalism.

As a Christian, I was taught in church and from my parents to tell the truth, even when it’s not convenient. I remember many opportunities to fudge a little, to bend the truth when it wasn’t convenient to provide the full truth. I know, as a young person, as a student, as a young adult, as a colleague in work places, the opportunity to shift the truth a little to the left or right was always there.

To tell the honest to God truth was not always easy. It even hurt me to tell the full truth. I lost respect when I told them the truth. I also lost some self-respect, and respect from others when I did fudge the truth a little. I might be too open here in my post. I admit it—-I am not perfect and will never be perfect. I am always prone to falling into temptation as long as I am a human being.

This corruption of innate/original sin exists in every person, even in those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Every person of every religion, persuasion, creed and color, has within him- or herself an inner dark side. We need redemption, or simply put, forgiveness of original sin and of sins we commit each day. That is why I am a believer in Jesus Christ who provides me confidence to start fresh each day.

As a young adult, I used to be an avid reader of news. In recent years, my faith in mass media and journalism has waned. Distrust in the mainstream media has seeped into my consciousness. In my university days, one of my professors used to work as a reporter and editor for the New York Times. He emphasized good journalism and seeking and speaking the truth. He was one of the most admired teachers at the school but is now deceased. He is a rare gem these days.

Truth is something we still need to strive for. As journalists and people who work in media, the temptation to fudge the truth is glaring. This temptation haunts every journalist who claims impartiality in the world of a free press. As I observe a daily dose of news in the media and free press, I see much misinformation and disinformation. Lies perpetuates more lies and other falsities in our world. When this happens, it also perpetuates anger, frustration and dissatisfaction. Sad.

As people who seek truth, we need to seek the truth. Journalism schools requires people who are seekers of truth. Several bible verses are a good reminder of the importance of speaking the truth.

Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth, so that you bring back truthful reports to those you serve?

Proverbs 22:20-21, NIV, Holy Bible

“Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.”

Psalm 45:3-4, NIV, Holy Bible

If you are a Christian journalist or a Christian looking at a career in journalism, one needs to stay in the light and continue in God’s grace and mercy because the temptation to bend the truth always exists.

Editors will force you to bend the truth to fit the narrative of what they want. News editors will be forced by the corporate heads and governments to remove important pieces of information and provide mis- and disinformation in order to sway public opinion. We need good ethics and morality. These are good but rare virtues these days where journalism sometimes seem more akin to state and corporate sponsored propaganda outlets.

If one wants to succeed in disseminating truth in journalism, then for God’s sake, remain in the vine and be in tune with God’s Holy Spirit. Allow truth to guide your writing, speaking and editing. May God’s Spirit of truth penetrate into the hearts and minds of every editor, journalist, media, news reporter and columnist. May God be with you always, and in your endeavors in seeking and speaking the truth.

Society of Professional Journalists, Code of Ethics: https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Sin and temptation of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is one of many temptations. It’s a trap that is easy for anyone to fall into. It becomes especially easy for one to commit hypocrisy when he or she holds a position of power. They greater the power, the greater the temptation. The more power one has, the more a person craves to appear just and righteous in front of others. It’s natural.

A powerful person has the responsibility of upholding righteousness and justice, and so, must also appear righteous and just. A person of power is entrusted to levy justice when he or she is required to do so. It is a leader’s moral obligation to better society and encourage order and good governance.

The sin of hypocrisy is suddenly committed when a person violates what they have already publicly endorsed as righteous and just. If a person has never endorsed an act as righteous and still violates that which he spoke against, then there is no sin of hypocrisy.

Jesus warned against hypocrisy:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Gospel of Matthew, ch. 6, verses 1-4

Hypocritical politicians will sound the trumpet as they publicly express their opinion about others’ freedom to protest in other countries. Case in point, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his opinion for India’s farmers’ right to protest. He spoke out against China’s human rights violations and violent crackdown the formerly liberal democratic Hong Kong. Recently, he also voiced his opinion in support of Russians who protested against the attack on Ukraine. He also endorsed the violent protests of Black Lives Matter and Antifa and publicly went down on his knee for them.

This sin of hypocrisy became apparent after he voiced his opinion in support of other people’s freedom to protest, and then turned around to limit Canadian trucker’s freedom to protest. These truckers protested peacefully for only three week, whereas, India’s farmers protested for over a year before it had ended.

Canadian truckers had their livelihood negatively impacted by vaccination mandates. They had every right to protest against their government’s heavy-handed policies. They have families to feed. They have bills, truck loans, and mortgages to pay. They were about to lose everything. They came to Ottawa not to occupy the city but to protest the mandates, have them dropped, then return home to resume their life and work. They did not want government to interfere with their legitimate means to earn a living.

What further angered Canadians was when Trudeau attempted to enact laws to illegalize donations made to the protesters cause. He intended to inflict pain by seizing the bank accounts of supporters who had already legally and legitimately donated to their cause. Furthermore, he labeled these donors as terrorists. Imagine the horror and the shock. To deem a legal donation as an act of terror was incomprehensibly undemocratic, uncharacteristic of a liberal free democratic society. Even our American friends were horrified by this undemocratic move. Acts like this are typical of communist and authoritarian regimes.

In Canada’s House of Commons, Trudeau got support from his Liberal caucus and the support of a minority party, the New Democratic Party. However, when it came to the Senate, Trudeau was disappointed he did not have the support from the Senate. He was forced to back-off from invoking the Emergencies Act. These Canadian Senators did the right thing. Years ago, people debated on the effectiveness of an appointed Senate. It was slightly reformed by not including political appointments along political affiliations.

A healthy liberal democracy must have enough checks and balances in its political system to counter governments when they become heavy-handed in their approach to governing. Canada no longer has this. It has been weakened and is in an unhealthy state. Perhaps this weakened liberal democracy will need an overhaul.

This move by Trudeau and his Deputy P.M. Krystia Freeland has set a dangerous precedent in Canadian history. In the future, it will present itself as a big temptation for any politician to take advantage of the Emergencies Act in order to quash and silence dissenting opinions.

Though the truckers have now left Ottawa, the protest remains strong in the people’s hearts. The protest has not only become a protest against vaccination mandates. It has also become a protest against Trudeau’s hypocrisy and tyranny. More importantly, it has also become a protest against the loss of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

As a result, some Canadians pulled their money out of Canadian banks. Some Canadians have already decided to leave this country and apply for U.S. residence and citizenship. No one can blame them. Truckers, doctors, nurses, and federal workers have lost their jobs due to a heavy-handed federal vaccination mandate. They will be leaving by the thousands and be bringing their families with them. Future generations of potential law-abiding and hardworking people will be lost.

Today, Trudeau has rightly earned his worldwide recognition as a tyrant and hypocrite, and these sins will have their consequences. It is to Canada’s best interest to reverse these harmful vaccination mandates as soon as possible. Canadians are waking up by the thousands each day, and will one day oust them from power in the next elections. In the mean time, hopefully, Trudeau does not damage Canadian democracy too much more in the next 3.5 years.

[ added a link to article: Rex Murphy: Claiming the Trucker Protest Was an Attempted Government Coup Is Beyond Ridiculous ]