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Holy Fire, California and Jerusalem

Monday, August 20th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — curiosity interest: high — actionable: negative ]
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California fires, wild and holy:

/a>

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As a California resident, I keep a weather eye open on the terrible fores that have been and are ravaging the state this season. Among them, the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest has caught my attention by its name, which piques my theological curiosity.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, first name Forrest [“rr”], stands accused of fire-starting the 22,986-acre Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

Clark was arrested a day after the fire began and investigators said there is evidence suggesting he was the one who started it.

His cabin in the Holy Jim area was the only one of 14 standing after the fire burned through the community, the Orange County Register reported the day after he was taken into custody.

After conferring with Clark’s counsel, the judge made the decision to suspend the criminal proceedings until they assess whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.

**

In Jerusalem, meanwhile:

Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed by some to be where Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre, which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which candles are lit, which are then used to light the candles of the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims and clergy claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them.

By Benoit Soubeyran from Montpellier, France – Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2018-04-07, CC BY 2.0:

**

But still, Holy Fire? Whence the “holy” in Orange County?

Apparently, there’s a Holy Jim Canyon Trail with a waterfall, but then, who is Holy Jim?

And it’s here that we meet one of those anthropological curiosities whereby the concept of the sacred unites the two ends of the spectrum. From Wallace Black Elk I learned that the Lakota word wakan, generally translated sacred, means something like the beware: high voltagee warnings you can see where high tension cables would be dangerous for the unaware, but powerfully useful for lighting whole cities..

Here’s the explanation for Holy JIm:

Nature was profaned here by the swear words flooding from the mouth of “Cussin’ Jim” Smith or “Holy Jim” as he was renamed by tightlaced government surveyors who mapped the canyon in the early 1900s.

Cussin’ Jim! Tightlaced Holy!

And Forrest Clark, too, was noted for his “outbursts” in court:

For the third time, the state of California tried to formally charge Forrest Gordon Clark with arson – Clark is suspected of setting the Holy Fire in Orange County – and for the third time, Clark’s erratic behavior caused a judge to stop the normal proceedings, ending with a suspension of the charges so Clark’s mental health and competency can be examined.

**

In its own way, the Holy Fire in Jim’s canyon has as much place in the spectrum of sacredness as the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does, sliding in, so to speak, by the back door..

And mightn’t that also be an example of enantiodromia?

Whiplash [NKorea Yes No] and Double Vision [Jerusalem Gaza]

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

{ by Charles Cameron — sudden reversal in Korea, synchronicity in Israel ]
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Whiplash alert

Whiplash alert is a sharp, neat way to announce a sudden and powerful instance of boustrophedon — taking hairpin bends at racing speeds. Anna Fyfield nails it.,

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The swuitchback whiplash is between a Triumphalist Trump suggesting that North Korea is both willing and implicitly eager to come to the table to discuss the total abandonment of its entire nuclear program, and an adamant, almost adamantine N Korean regime response that such total abandonment is not even on the table.

In terms of goal posts:

Various Trump aides, including Bolton and Pompeo, have repeatedly said that that what they want from the summit is “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.” Of course, Pyongyang would love it if they could move the goal posts before the meeting, making the U.S. back off on this demand.

then this:

North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting that the North “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.

The problem is:

Denuclearization’ may be the goal of U.S.-North Korean summit, but each side defines it differently

But the diplomatic buzzword can mean different things to different players on the world stage. The success of Trump’s gambit probably hangs on whether he and Kim can agree on what it means for them and whether it’s worthwhile to keep fudging the details of a term that U.S. and Asian diplomats have been fudging for years.

Different interpretations of a word, differing perceptions — what seems at one moment to be a problem in foreign affairs seems on another to be a linguistic or even a perceptual— at the very least, an internal, not an external, issue.

Internal maybe, but external in it’s implications:

If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement published by the North’s state-run media.

Subtlety:

King Jung-Un may be under the imprression that “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” involves, gasp, the withdrawal of the American nuclear air umbrella protecting the SOuth..

So: a sudden 180° change, the opposites here being presented as sequential.

And the Nobel Peace Prize which Republican governors had wishes for President Trumo, sadly recedes..

**

From my POV, the interesting difference here between the Korean situation and that in Israel is that the former is inherently sequential, while the latter is synchronic — the furious and grief-stricken rioting in Gaza happens as official Israel, with Trumpian support, joyously celebrates the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem; the Isreli Independence Day is naturally considered the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians — and hey, to add to the tensions, Ramadan is about to begin, with its intensification of fasting and spiritual intensity.

Synchrony, verbally presented:

The fact that riots in Gaza and rejoicing in Israel happen simultaneously is so stark that while Israel — and Trump — might prefer triumphalist headlines, news souces have played up the double-edged nature of the situiation:

and visually:

This title is accompaniedd by a verbal explanation:

The scenes were barely 40 miles apart: in Gaza, a chaotic panorama of smoke, fleeing figures and tear gas on the deadliest day since mass protests at the border fence with Israel began; in Jerusalem, Ivanka Trump and other American officials celebrating President Trump’s formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv.

and a visual double graphic (to see the images fully, click through to the original page):

Various TV stations offered similar double images — the effect is to undercut the apparent joyfulness of the Jerusalem celebrations with simultaneous disturbing images of the Gaza rioting.

If Trump, or Jared perhaps, or Ivanka, had made any slightest acknowledgement that the Palestinians, too, had hopes of an eventual capital of their own in the existing Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, the celebrations might have been more widely shared and less easiky discounted.

**

If you come to your front door to conduct a press conference, it’s always wise to know what’s happening at the same time at the back door.

Oh, oh, but I have to leave for a medical proceduerre, and there is so much more to be said..

Jessica Dawson on Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

Friday, April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — An important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree ]
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Let me repeat: Jessica Dawson‘s piece for Strategy Bridge is an important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree — a must-read.

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Prof Dawson writes:

There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.

Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:

  • Lapido, Venerating Putin: Is Russia’s President the second Prince Vlad?
  • Lapido, ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité
  • Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.

    **

    I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:

    Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted von Clausewitz on the topic:

    Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    **

    And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:

    Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    :

    This too is an area I am interested in, as evidenced by my borrowing one of my friend JM Berger‘s detailed maps in my post Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara’”:

    That’s from JM’s ICCT paper, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis

    Indeed, my HipBone Games are played on graphs as boards, with conceptual moves at their nodes and connections along their edges, see my series On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve &c.

    **

    My specific focus, games aside, has been on notions of apocalypse as expectation, excitation, and exultation — in my view, the ultimate in what Tillich would call “ultimate concerns”.

    As an Associate and sometime Principal Researcher with the late Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, I have enjoyed years of friendship and collaboration with Richard Landes, Stephen O’Leary and other scholars, and contribuuted to the 2015 Boston conference, #GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

    **

    I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.

    Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:

    This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam

    She also characterizes their actions thus:

    They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.

    Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.

    On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:

  • Julie Ingersoll, Why Trump’s evangelical supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem
  • Diana Butler Bass, For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics
  • As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.

    Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.

    Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!

    **

    All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.

    Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!

    Year’s End Musings

    Saturday, December 30th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — wry thoughts at the year’s turning ]
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    The best of prophetic moments of the past twelve months according to Propheccy News Watch, and a glimpse of the Atlantic’s this and that..

    **

    Prophecy News Watch:

    Obvs. the right place to go for a go-to report on the year in prophetic signage, Prophecy News Watch gives us a detailed breakdown of the past year, noting:

    Pieces of the eschatological puzzle continue to manifest daily. Even signs that are primarily Tribulation events are casting a shadow today. As I perused news stories of the year, I selected 15 items that tell us time is short. The King is coming soon. Don’t ever doubt that.

    Zechariah 12.3 isn’t the most commonly quoted of end times verses, and it’s a bit obscure at first sight:

    And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

    Still, that’s PNW’s first and foremost of 15 notable signs of the times for the past year, and PNW signals it in context:

    Jerusalem became a greater “burdensome stone” with Donald Trump’s acknowledgement that this is truly Israel’s capital and holy city. See Zechariah 12:3. Greater controversy will surround her in the year ahead.

    It looks like Zechariah (who?) had a point. And whether Zechariah (yes!) was thinking of Trump’s declaration “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” on December 6th as the “that day” which PMW’s Zechariah quotation implies, or maybe December 21st when, as the Guardian put it, the UN “delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” — well, that’s an open question — perhaps both..

    **

    Here’s a Christian point of view. According to al-Jazeera in a piece entitled Palestinian Christian leaders denounce Trump’s decision:

    The US move is offensive to “Christians and Muslims around the world who consider Jerusalem as an incubator of their most sacred, spiritual and national heritage”, Atallah Hanna, the archbishop of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox church, said in a statement on Saturday.

    “We, Palestinians, Christians and Muslims reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he added.

    “The US gave the occupation what it does not deserve.”

    Pastor Hagee sees it differently, attributing “biblical timing of absolute precision” not just to the President’s December 6th proclamation, but to the actual movement of the embassy, which should occur in the next couple of days, or miss the once-in-fifty-years nark:

    He [Hagee] also talked with the president about the significance of moving the embassy in this “Jubilee Year.”

    “…I told him that God measures everything in modules of 50 years,” Hagee explained to CBN News. “And I said this is a principle that’s carried out in Leviticus, the 25th chapter.”

    “I said, ‘If you look at 1917, it was a Jubilee Year, and the Balfour Amendment came, and then in 50 years, it was 1967, and Jerusalem was reconnected to Israel,'” he continued.

    “‘And you add 50 to 1967, and you’re in 2017.’ I said, ‘This is the year to move the embassy and make that declaration because it is a biblical timing of absolute precision,'” Hagee said. “Thank God, he’s going to do exactly that.”

    If 2017 is tthe Jubilee Year, we have two Jubilee Days remaining to us for moving the embassy, today included!

    **

    Ah, yes — the Atlantic!

    The Atlantic has also been recapping past events and articles at year’s end. It struck me as wryly amusing that they made The Case for Humility in 1918, just before the end of WW I — with some surprisingly prescient commentary:

    Before our educational system can furnish us the help that it should, the Humanist must learn … to abandon his faith in the mechanical and quantitative methods which belong to science, and to set about the task of reinstating the past in the present.

    And again:

    Examine the record of the nineteenth century, of the epoch which closed three years ago, and you will find that it is a record of increasing absent-mindedness on the part of men and nations who imagined that they were doing one thing but who were actually engaged in doing something else. They imagined that they were making the future secure by their feverish activity; they imagined that they had only to devote themselves to science and to industry in order to be happy. But, as a matter of fact, the whole tendency of their activity was to make the future insecure; and their blind faith in science and industry is being repaid by the unspeakable misery of war.

    The Atlantic then brought us up to speed in 2014 with The Case for Corruption: Why Washington needs more honest graft:

    Once upon a time, the budget process was reasonably regular. In fact, it was conducted under what was called regular order. The budget-committee chairmen would do some horse trading to build a consensus within each chamber, the House and Senate would then pass those budgets without too much ado, and the two chambers would work out their differences in a conference committee. Then the appropriations committees would do more or less the same thing, making sure to spread around enough pork-barrel goodies to get their friends paid off and the budget passed. The president and the congressional leaders would be involved throughout the process, every now and then calling a budget summit, but most of the real work would go on behind the scenes.

    In the past few years, by contrast, regular order has been replaced by regular chaos. Public ultimatums supplanted private negotiations, games of chicken replaced mutual back-scratching, and bumptious Republican House members took to dictating terms to their putative leadership. Last fall, after one tantrum too many, Congress seemed exhausted. As part of a deal to reopen the government, it returned the task of setting the next fiscal year’s budget to the budget and appropriations committees, sending them off to a smoke-free smoke-filled room to cut a deal.

    Sigh — one can’t help smiling at that phrase, “a smoke-free smoke-filled room” — beautifully, concisely, evocatively boustrophedonic!

    **

    Boustrophedon — to and fro, as the ox ploughs — oh joy!

    Happy New Year to all!

    The key to the Bastille, Peter’s keys of binding and loosing..

    Friday, July 14th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — and the two Muslim families who guard the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christianity ]
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    As President Trump visits France for Bastille Day, a Foreign Policy headline reads Bastille Day Is a Military Holiday Out of Donald Trump’s Fantasies — and the sub-head “France and America are seeking rapprochement at an annual pageant that’s always been less about liberty, equality, and solidarity than tanks, drones, and guns.”

    The key to an earthly hell:

    A fitting symbol of Franco-American amity on Bastille Day, July 14 (Quatorze Juillet) then, would be the key to the Bastille (upper panel above), presented by the Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington in 1790, and now at Mount Vernon.

    Think on it:

    The so-called civilized world today is horrified by scenes of heads lopped off by angry Muslims, forgetting the savagery of its own blood-soaked forbears. France’s messy and incomplete march toward Liberty, Equality and Fraternity also needed heads — that of King Louis XVI to start, and then of anonymous thousands collected in baskets like so many fallen apples, the fruit of modern, mechanized decapitation. The picture of France desecrating churches, massacring priests and monarchist sympathizers, producing civil war, terror, chaos and confusion were indelible events stamped for decades into Europe’s collective memory, incubated in a devil’s broth of war, fear, hunger, hatred, sabotage, fantastic hopes and wild idealism.

    John Kiser, Commander of the Faithful

    The Keys to the Kingdom:

    By way of contrast with the physical keys of the Bastille, I have set the spiritual “Keys of the Kingdom” (lower panel, above), which Christ passed to Peter and the Church:

    And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    Matthew 16.19

    These keys, commanding heaven — unlike the key to the Bastille — are nowadays being turned to peaceable ends. This is from Pope Francis‘ message for the 50th World Day of Peace, December 2016, titled Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace:

    At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”, and make active nonviolence our way of life.

    This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.

    On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

    I note here that the eminently public figure of Francis, successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome focuses first on the most private and intimate form of peace — the peace-making mind of the human individual:

    I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values.

    **

    The key to the Holy Sepulchre:

    In the spirit of peace, it is notable that two Muslim families have for centuries been the custodians of the keys to Christianity’s greatest shrine, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

    Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries

    Adeeb Joudeh holds the keys to Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    This task fell to Joudeh’s ancestors as a way of maintaining a neutral guardian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, since the church is split between multiple Christian denominations, including Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Franciscans, and more. He learned the obligations and responsibilities of guarding the key from his father, just as he will pass it on to his son.

    “What we pass to the next generations is not only the key, but also the way you respect other religions.”

    This agreement between Joudeh’s Muslim ancestors and the Christians has helped build cooperation between the religions, Joudeh says.

    “For me, the source of coexistence for Islamic and Christian religions is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and that was when Umar ibn Khattab took the keys of Jerusalem from Patriarch Sophronius and gave security and safety to Christians in the region. We coexist and pass peace and love, which is the real Islamic religion.” He references history from 1,400 years ago, when Umar ibn Khattab, a Muslim, made an agreement with Sophronius, a Christian, to grant the Christians right of free worship in Jerusalem. To Joudeh, this history is still alive today, and it is his obligation to carry it on.Joudeh does not carry this obligation alone. Although he is in charge of protecting and holding the key, another Muslim family is in charge of opening the door and allowing the faithful to enter the church. That responsibility now falls to Wajeeh Nuseibeh.

    When Nuseibeh arrives at the church early in the morning, he takes the key from Joudeh, and climbs a small wooden ladder to unlock the top lock. Then he steps off the ladder to unlock the lower lock. He swings the church doors ajar, and the church is open to visitors. The entire process is repeated each evening, when the church is locked.

    The two Muslim families have shared this responsibility for centuries, protecting the holy site and keeping it open to the Christian faithful. It is a model of coexistence in a city filled with tension, leading the way in interfaith cooperation, as it has been for hundreds of years.

    and:

    And How Muslims Hold the Key to Christ:

    If doors are emblems of ownership, keys are symbols of custodianship. “Since 1187 till today, we hold the keys,” Joudeh says. “My whole family stands with me at this door. This is home, my second home.” [ .. ]

    The two Muslim families got to keep the keys and the door because of quarrels within the Church. “Like brothers, we sometimes fight,” confesses the Very Reverend Father Samuel Aghoyan, Armenian Superior of the Holy Sepulchre. “The Churches wouldn’t go along with each other, so the key was taken away from the dominant Church and entrusted to a neutral monotheistic faith that embraces the Christ as a prophet – Islam.”

    This is Christianity’s most sacred site, where Jesus was believed to have been resurrected – for many pilgrims, their most important destination. The belief is that the Church was erected on the Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion, and on the grotto where he was interred.

    **

    Happy Bastille Day!

    Peace!


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