Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why Not an Alms Race Instead?

Further to my blog yesterday, today when asked about his tweet, US President Elect Donald Trump had this response: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Glorious! Sounds like a game of Survivor: “outwit, outplay, outlast.” Have you noticed that the word Twit is found in the first of these terms? Just saying.

I won’t go over the ground I covered in my previous blog in which I suggested that while Donald is right to say that the world needs to come to its senses concerning nuclear weapons, as leader of the “free-world” and “the greatest country on earth,” and as a citizen of this world, he should lead the conversation toward global disarmament. I can hear Hillary’s words in July resounding in my head: "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” She had her flaws, but one of them wasn’t this kind of macho bravado crap.

Incidentally, Vladimir’s response is wonderfully reassuring: “Indeed, they have more missiles, more submarines and more aircraft carriers, we aren’t arguing with that, but we are simply stronger than any aggressor.”

Anyway, isn’t it great to see the leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world posturing for position? I suggest we have a celebrity boxing match and the winner takes all. Might work out a bit better than a nuclear holocaust. Would be very entertaining too.

A better suggestion is that instead of the escalation of an arms race the two great powers have an Alms race. The term “alms” is not used that much anymore. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “alms” are “(in historical contexts) money or food given to the poor.” So, instead of more arms, we need more alms. Why not an alms race to see which nation can be the most benevolent toward the suffering in the world?

According to one source, at the moment, 80% of the world lives on less than $10 per day. The poorest 40% of the world’s population account for 5% of the world’s income. The richest 20% have 75% of the world’s income. Just over a quarter of children in developing countries are underweight and malnourished. 72 million children in the developing world have no access to schools. A billion people cannot read. I could go on with endless statistics, but we get the point. At the same time, less than a percent the world spends on weapons each year would put every child into school. It costs $1.8million USD to build each nuke, perhaps that money could be put to much better use resolving the problem of poverty.

Jesus talked about the wealthy giving to the poor more than anything else. As Donald thinks the Bible is the greatest book in the world, he can check this out for himself in such passages as the Sermon on the Mount/Plain (Matt 5-7; Luke 6), the many parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), the Rich Fool (Luke 12), the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16), and other examples like the Rich Ruler (Luke 18), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), and the generous widow (Luke 21). In fact, just about everything Jesus said explicitly or implicitly calls for the wealthy to give alms to those in disadvantage and need. Alongside non-violence, it is one of the central aspects of Jesus’ teaching.

On the other hand, the Don (oh that’s Bradman, whoops) will struggle in vain to find a text which endorses the building of weapons of mass destruction. Despite claiming to have the full weaponry of the Lord of Armies at his disposal (the one who nuked Sodom and Gomorrah), Jesus simply wasn’t interested in that way of being human. The world was controlled by despots at the time of Jesus, the likes of the Caesars and Herod. Jesus came to the world to turn such nonsense upside down. He showed us another way. Don and Vlad don’t seem to have worked that out yet.

So, my challenge to the VP-elect is rather than building yet more than the 7.700 nukes he has at his disposal at the touch of a button (what a comforting thought), he should seek to up the US’s game concerning alms-giving. What we need is not an arms race, but an alms race, whereby the wealthy of the world put their extensive resources to work to alleviate the suffering of the millions in poverty. He can do this personally, with his enormous personal empire. Now he has at his disposal the wealth of the richest country in the world.

As we head into Christmas, this makes sense, for Old Saint Nick is famous for this very thing. So come on Don, give up behaving like a tough guy in the playground, acting staunch, making threats, warning wannabees that you will give them a good old fashioned hiding if they threaten you. Instead, let’s see you be the most radical and generous President in world history leading your nation in upping caring for those in need. After all, this too is a part of the “great” American tradition. You could become even more famous, Saint Donald! The guy who fixed the problems of poverty and income disparity. Not the guy who led the world into another arms race, cold wars, and who knows what else … God have mercy!

Then again, if he does build up his arsenal and nuclear war breaks out, the world’s poor will be incinerated. So, I suppose there are always other ways of solving problems. I would suggest that this is not the best one, unless you don’t mind a “bit” of collateral damage.

So seriously Don, Vlad, and anyone else who cares to have ears to hear, this Christmas let’s launch an alms race. I dare you, Don, I dare you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Why Trump is Right; This Christmas the World Does Need to Come to Its Senses Regarding Nukes (sort of)

So today, December 23, 2016, Donald J. Trump, US president elect, tweeted this: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

President Elect Trump is of course absolutely right in the final part of the Tweet—the world must come to its senses regarding nukes. Nukes are an abomination. This has been seen by the action of his beloved U.S.A., when they nuked Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Aug 6 and 9, 1945. In those bombings, supposedly justified to end WWII—the jury is out on that one—between 150,000 and 226,000 people were killed. It is sobering to thing that today’s nukes are around 3,000 times more powerful than WWII bombs.

According to one news report, if the Russians let off one of their ten nukes aimed at New York there would be no survivors within seven to ten km of its epicentre, not to mention the radioactive fallout. If they launched all ten, New York and its people would basically cease to exist. So, Trump is right. The world needs to come to its senses.

Yet, it is Trumps beloved U.S.A. (God bless America) which remains the only country to have let off nukes in active conflict. So, who is it that needs to come to their senses? The USA of course. And Russia. And the other nuclear-armed countries—Israel, France, China, UK, Pakistan, India, and North Korea.

Further, Donald speaks of the world coming to its senses. The world is this planet. Although there is mounting evidence which may indicate he is an alien, Donald is actually a person of the world that needs to come to its sense. He is a son of Adam, a human being, born on planet earth, a member of the human race. His sexual desires demonstrate this. As a member of the world, perhaps where sense concerning nukes is concerned, he could start the ball rolling, not by building more nukes, but dismantling them. He could follow Obama’s lead and try to de-escalate nuclear tension.

Not to mention that he is about to take leadership of, as he and many Americans would put it, “the greatest country in the world,” (snigger—kind of depends on your definition of greatness—Jesus sais humility was the path to greatness, so you can make up your own mind on this one). So, perhaps he, the leader of the greatest country in the world, might lead with some “sense.” He might pause and consider that rather than load up with yet more nuclear weapons. After all, the USA has 7,700 nuclear warheads. Isn’t more just greedy? Why more? Isn’t that enough. We have none in NZ, and we are doing ok. But we suck as a country in comparison to the greatest. Perhaps Bill English should arm us, or if not, at least get his brother Johnny English into our security networks.

Trump also claims to be a Christian. His favourite book is the Bible—check out the video that plays on the right side of this: As he is in love with the Bible even more than himself (tsk tsk), perhaps he might take some time to read a Gospel, say the Gospels of Matthew or Luke. He could note Jesus’ attitude to violence.

He might pause in Luke 2:14, “and on earth, peace!”—not the Augustus peace at the end of a sword (or nuke) peace, but deep Shalom where “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa 2:4).

He might stop and reflect on Matthew 5:38-44 where Jesus turns upside down “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (add a nuke for a nuke), suggesting “do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ Nothing explicit about nukes here, but perhaps he has a hermeneutic[1] that works them in.

He may then read Matthew 26:52-53 where Peter slices the ear off an opponent when Jesus is arrested only for Jesus to say to him, “Put your sword (read nuke here Don) back into its place. For all who take the sword (nuke) will perish by the sword (nuke). Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” In other words, who needs nukes when you have God? Put your nuke away Donald! I just had a rude thought, but won’t add that in.

Finally, the President Elect of the free (hehehe) world may ponder Jesus’ total refusal to use violent force even though everyone expected and wanted him too. This is seen on the cross where Jesus cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

As we come into Christmas in an unstable year, one good thing from this deplorable example of complete ignorance and stupidity, is we see again the marked contrast between the type of King Jesus is when compared with despots and megalomaniacs like Trump (he has excellent potential here as this tweet demonstrates). Jesus emerged into a world where Trumps ran the whole place. They were called Caesars and before them the likes of Alexanders and Pharaohs. We are being reminded of what Jesus came to save us from.

In light of this stark contrast, I say we again place our trust in Jesus. We heed his call to take up our crosses and follow him, renouncing the ways of nukes and other examples of human hubris. We admire him. Further, we worship and adore him. We look to the baby in a manger, who died on a cross committed to non-violence, for our hope.

As for Trump, God help the world in 2017. After all, he is one of many across the world, rising up, seeking to claim the world. Satan is giggling at the thought. Trumps’ Tweet shows we need Jesus more than ever. So, this might be a good thing. It might get us on our knees again. After all, what else have we got? Have a great Christmas.  

[1] A method of interpretation.