Saturday, January 27, 2024

Musings on Competing Global Networks That Support Ukraine and Israel

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., January 27, 2024

Thomas Friedman has described global networks in the Ukraine-Russian War and the Israel-Gaza War that reflect “a titanic geopolitical struggle between two opposing networks of nations and nonstate actors who have a lot of common interests and will dominate our post-Cold War following the Pax Americana/globalization era after the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

 “On one side is the Resistance Network, dedicated to preserving closed, autocratic systems where the past buries the future. On the other side is the Inclusion Network, trying to forge more open, connected, pluralizing systems where the future buries the past.”  The two networks are dynamic and shift members and alliances from time to time.

Friedman sees “the U.S. indirectly degrading Russia’s capabilities through its proxy Ukraine, while in the Middle East Iran is sitting back comfortably — indirectly at war with Israel and America, and sometimes Saudi Arabia, by fighting through Tehran’s proxies: Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria and Shiite militias in Iraq.”

News coverage of the Israeli-Gaza war has provided ample evidence of Netanyahu’s war crimes in Gaza.  Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists, but it’s a war crime for Israel to kill over 25,000 noncombatants and destroy essential public facilities.  In a similar fashion Russia has bombed civilian structures in its unprovoked aggression in Ukraine.  

Netanyahu has stated that he has no intention of ending Israel’s continuing illegal aggression that violates international humanitarian law and the Law of War.  Even so, America has continued to fund Israeli aggression and to supply Israel with arms.  In an election year with Biden running for President, it’s amazing that this is not a major political issue.

For America to avoid being an accomplice to Israeli war crimes it should immediately cease providing funds and war materials to Israel until it ceases its unlawful aggression.  In an election year Congress should be debating future funding for Israel, and President Biden should be challenged as the Democratic nominee for president.

Biden’s unwillingness to challenge Netanyahu’s aggression in Gaza is reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in 1938; and Putin’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine is also similar to Hitler’s strategy in Eastern Europe.  At least the British had a lively debate on the issue before acquiescing to Hitler’s aggression in the Munich Agreement, and what became World War II  .

Israel has been an occupying power in Gaza since the 1967 war, but it has failed to comply with its obligations to provide essential services for Gaza civilians.  After the Hamas attack of October 7, 2023, Israel’s IDF has reportedly killed over 25,000 Palestininans and destroyed their homes and essential public facilities.  That’s genocide, and Israel should be held accountable for its war crimes.


On Thomas Friedman’s, A Titanic Geopolitical Struggle Is Underway, see

On Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in 1938, see; on the Genocide Convention, see

On The Stakes of the Lawsuit Alleging Biden is Complicit in Palestinian Genocide, see; see also, Top UN court stops short of ordering cease-fire in Gaza and demands Israel contain deaths. Israel is set to hear whether the United Nations’ top court will order it to end its military offensive in Gaza in a provisional ruling while the panel hears a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide. Israel says South Africa distorting the truth in ICJ genocide case. Netanyahu slams genocide case as ‘outrageous’ and says Israel will continue to defend itself, at

On Israel building a buffer zone along Gaza border risking new rift with U.S., see

On Netanyahu turning against Biden, see

On British MP Shapp being “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s opposition to a Palestinian state, see

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Being a Christian

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., January 20, 2024

Christianity is a man-made religion that seeks popularity as a measure of its success; but don’t confuse Christianity with promoting the teachings of Jesus.  Jesus was a maverick Jewish rabbi whose altruistic and universalist teachings were never popular.  He never claimed to be divine and never advocated one religion over others.  

Thomas Jefferson considered the teachings of Jesus “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man”; but Jefferson was critical of church doctrines like Paul’s doctrine of atonement   It limited salvation to those who believe that Jesus Christ was God’s blood sacrifice to save believers from sin; but Jesus never taught that.

The teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It was taken from the Hebrew Bible, taught by Jesus and has been accepted by Muslim scholars as a common word of faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.   

John Wesley was an 18th century Anglican priest who founded Methodism and taught that the theological task of Christians on their journey of faith was to follow the teachings of Jesus, as illuminated by reason and experience.  Scripture, tradition, reason and experience are the four elements of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

Martin Thielen is a fellow retired United Methodist pastor who has asked, Do You Think I am Still a Christian?  Thielen is a maverick Methodist who has questioned Christian doctrine and encouraged others to do the same, as long as they remain committed to follow the teachings of Jesus as God’s altruistic and universal truth.

Jesus was a universalist who emphasized reconciliation with our adversaries as a moral imperative of faith that takes precedence over worship (see Mt 5:23-24); and he  advocated mercy over sacrifice as a means of repentance (see Mt 9:13).  That would make the crucifixion of Jesus an act of human depravity rather than God’s will. 

Many Biblical provisions remain to be reconciled with our reason and experience.  Jesus never addressed political issues since democracy was irrelevant to his time and place; but modern followers of Jesus need to promote the common good as a moral imperative of faith and the primary objective of political legitimacy in democracy.  

In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer.  So long as popularity is the measure of success in religion and  politics, Satan has an advantage as the master of lies by doing a convincing imitation of God in the church and politics.  God’s truth can prevail only if people of faith promote the common good as God’s will.    


On the greatest commandment as a common word of faith, see See also, Musings on God’s Simple, Universal and Timeless Truth


Thomas Jefferson was a deist and a child of the Enlightenment who considered himself a Christian as an imperfect follower of the teachings of Jesus.  See The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Beacon Press, Boston, 1989.  Jefferson’s Bible provides the universal teachings of Jesus on morality as taken from the Gospels.  While Jefferson had great admiration for the moral teachings of Jesus he had no use for the doctrines of the institutional church.  He wrote Henry Fry on June 17, 1804: "I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest morality that has ever been taught; but I hold in the utmost profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invested by priestcraft and kingcraft, constituting a conspiracy of church and state against the civil and religious liberties of man."  Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Bible, edited by O. I. A. Roche, Clarkson H. Potter, Inc., New York, 1964, at p 378; see also Jefferson’s letter to John Adams dated October 13, 1813, at pp 825, 826; Jefferson's commentaries are at pp 325-379.  See also, Introduction to The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, at page 10, note 2, at  They are compared with those of Muhammad in The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, an interfaith study guide based on Jefferson’s Jesus posted in the Resources at  The Introduction (pp 10-15) is an overview of the study guide and refers to Jefferson’s 1804 letter to Henry Fry at end note 2 at p 425.  Like many of the Founding Fathers, Jefferson was a deist, an agnostic or heterodox Christian.  In a world of increasingly pluralistic religions, non-orthodox truth seekers will likely determine the future of religion and the moral standards of political legitimacy that shape the American civil religion. On the views of Thomas Jefferson and Alexis deTocqueville on the moral values of religion in American politics, see Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy (July 1, 2017) at

A distinguished group of biblical scholars recognized Thomas Jefferson as a pioneer in The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus in The Five Gospels, by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar, at pages 2 and 3.   McMillan Publishing Company, NY, 1993.  “The book is dedicated to Galileo Galilei, who altered our view of the heavens forever, Thomas Jefferson,  who took scissors and paste to the gospels, and David Freiedrich Strauss, who pioneered the quest for the historical Jesus.”  See

See also, Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Conflicting Concepts of Jesus at

Thomas B. Edsall Posed Some Interesting Questions on the Deification of Donald Trump at  Edsall has illustrated why there is so much confusion over Christian religious doctrine and the teachings of Jesus as God’s word and will.  While a majority of white Christians seem to believe that God has ordained Trump as their messiah to establish America as God's promised land, just as Jews and some Christians believe that Joshua and Cyrus were anointed by God to liberate Jews in the Holy Land; but believing in them does not make them true.  The Bible is a flawed history of God’s word and will.  The mission of Jesus was to reveal God's universal word and will, but the church subordinated it to exclusivist Christian doctrines.  Edsall concluded, “In other words, conservative populism, with all its antidemocratic implications, has taken root in America. What we don’t know is for how long — or how much damage it will do."

Martin Thielen has related the story of an anonymous correspondent who has “deconstructed” his traditional faith and no longer believes in a theistic theology of “the man upstairs.” Nor does he believe in the divinity of Christ, including a virgin birth, the miracle stories, or a physical resurrection. Instead, like many others, including large numbers of religious scholars, he believes that the stories of Jesus evolved over time, leading to myths about his divinity, which was a common occurrence in the ancient world for revered figures (see Bart Ehrman’s book, How Jesus Became God).  And yet, in spite of rejecting a supernatural God and a divine Christ, Theilan, like his anonymous correspondent, remains committed to the human Jesus and attempts to follow his example and teachings.”  See Do You Think I Am Still A Christian? at

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Musings on Whether the Civil War Was About Greed or Slavery

By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Before the Civil War there was deep animosity between plantation owners and poor white farmers in the South, but rich slaveholders stoked racism and fear among white farmers promoting the belief that if slavery was ended, freed slaves would dominate politics in the South and deny whites their property rights.  That laid the foundation for secession and the Civil War. 


Paul Krugman has asserted that “American slavery wasn’t motivated by racism, but by greed.  Slaveholders were racists, but it was money and inhumane greed that drove the racist system.”  Slavery is gone, but greed remains at the heart of America’s materialistic culture, and it’s most evident in a stock market that’s normally the focus of Krugman’s commentaries.

In 1834, Britain outlawed slavery in its colonies.  If states in the antebellum South had  followed the example of Britain and abolished slavery before 1860, they would have avoided secession and the Civil War.  As it was, the greed of slaveholders cost us a war that killed 600,000 Americans, and unrestrained greed has remained to corrupt American culture.

The war ended slavery, but not the greed and racism that remains to corrupt American democracy.  Increasing economic disparities caused by the greed of crony capitalism are as much a threat to freedom and justice as was slavery.  While freedom was a remedy for slavery, the great irony is that political freedom and democracy invariably produce greed.

Communism is not the solution.  It has proven to be a greater evil than capitalism.  It will take government regulation and socialism in small doses to control the evils of greed and crony capitalism.  While slavery was the greatest threat to freedom and justice in 1860, today increasing disparities of wealth are the greatest threat to democracy and economic justice.  

In America’s pluralistic democracy economic justice is essential to political stability; and corrupt demagogues have exploited that issue with an unlikely constituency of the rich and poor.  The stock market thrives on greed and is the economy of the rich, but not for the rest.  Greed is at the heart of capitalism, and without government regulation greed prevents economic justice.

Profits are the objective of the megacorporations that produce and set prices on most consumer goods, and mega-mergers have eliminated much of the competition that once benefited consumers, who are now held hostage to unrestrained greed.  That isn’t slavery, but it’s a form of economic bondage that could have similar disastrous consequences.

The super-rich now control Congress with their contributions.  If the greed of crony capitalism and the increasing economic disparities they create are not addressed soon, they could undermine the stability of American democracy as did slavery.  It may take another depression or war to reset the American economy to avoid an economic and political disaster.


In the 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln justified the Civil War to preserve the Union, not to end slavery.  It wasn’t until January 1, 1863 that LIncoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring "that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."  That was a strategic move by Lincoln to prevent the intervention of Britain and France in the Civil War.  Lincoln was opposed to slavery, but as an astute politician he avoided it as a national issue until his second inaugural address in 1864.  See  

Nikki Haley’s evasive comments to what caused the Civil War reignited the issue of slavery.  See For Zachary B. Wolf‘s commentary, see

“Slavery was the primary issue that led to the Civil War, and the greed of slaveholders was the direct cause of  slavery, not racism.”  Paul Krugman cited M.I.T. economist Evsey Domar to explain the economics of slavery: “There’s little reason to enslave a worker if labor is abundant and land is scarce, so that the amount that worker could earn if he ran away barely exceeds the cost of subsistence. But if land becomes abundant and labor scarce, the ruling class will want to pin workers in place, so they can forcibly extract the difference between the value of what workers can produce — strictly speaking, their marginal product — and the cost of keeping them alive.  Hence the rise of slavery as Europe colonized the New World.  African slaves offered two advantages to their exploiters: Because they looked different from white settlers, they found it hard to escape, and they received less sympathy from poor whites who might otherwise have realized that they had many interests in common. Of course, white southerners also saw slaves as property, not people, and so the value of slaves factored into the balance sheet of this greed-driven system.  So, again, the dynamic was one in which greedy slaveholders used and perpetuated racism to sustain their reign of exploitation and terror. Because U.S. slavery was race-based, however, there was a limited supply of slaves, and it turned out that slaves made more for their masters in Southern agriculture than in other occupations or places. Black people in the North were sold down the river to Southern planters who were willing to pay more for them, so slavery became an institution peculiar to one part of the country. As such, slaves became a hugely important financial asset to their owners. Estimates of the market value of slaves before the Civil War vary widely, but they were clearly worth much more than the land they cultivated, and may well have accounted for the majority of Southern wealth. Inevitably, slaveholders became staunch defenders of the system underlying their wealth — ferocious and often violent defenders (remember bleeding Kansas), because nothing makes a man angrier than his own, probably unacknowledged suspicion that he’s actually in the wrong. Indeed, slaveholders and their defenders lashed out at anyone who even suggested that slavery was a bad thing. There were relatively few Americans pushing for national abolition, but Northern states, one by one, abolished slavery in their own territories. This wasn’t as noble an act as it might have been if they had been confiscating slaveholders’ property, rather than in effect waiting until the slaves had been sold. Still, it’s to voters’ credit that they did find slavery repugnant.

The war happened because the increasingly empowered people of the North, as Grant wrote, “were not willing to play the role of police for the South” in protecting slavery. So yes, the Civil War was about slavery — an institution that existed solely to enrich some men by depriving others of their freedom. And there’s no excuse for anyone who pretends that there was anything noble or even defensible about the South’s cause: The Civil War was fought to defend an utterly vile institution.” See

The following commentary on religion, legitimacy and politics relates to greed and economic justice: 

(3/8/15): Wealth, Politics, Religion and Economic Justice

(10/18/15): God, Money and Politics

(6/4/16): Christianity and Capitalism: Strange Bedfellows in Politics

(10/1/16): The Federal Reserve, Wall Street and Congress on Monetary Policy

(2/11/17): The Mega-Merger of Wall Street, Politics and Religion

(2/17/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Money, Wall Street, Greed and Politics

(6/15/18): The Prosperity Gospel: Where Culture Trumps Religion in Legitimacy and Politics

(4/27/19): Musings on the Legitimacy of Crony Capitalism and Progressive Capitalism

(8/24/19): Musings on How a Recession Could Transform Religion and Politics in 2020

(1/4/20): Musings on How a Depression (or a War) Could Make America Great Again

(2/8/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Love of Money and Lack of Virtue

(3/28/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Quick and Dirty Economic Revolution

(5/2/20): Politics, the Economy and Religion in a Brave New (Post-Pandemic) World

(5/9/20): Exposing the Corruption of Crony Capitalism

(6/27/20): Musings on a Zombie Economy Fostered by the Federal Reserve

(8/22/20): Musings on America’s Two Economies: One for the Rich and One for the Rest

(2/6/21): Musings on the danger of economic disparities and excessive debt in America

(3/6/21): Musings on Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy and Debt in Politics and Religion

(7/31/21): Musings on a Socialist Experiment in a Nation Burdened by Pandemic Debt

(9/25/21): Musings on an American Economic Apocalypse

(2/5/22): Musings on the Stock Market, Inflation and Providing for the Common Good

(5/14/22): Musings on Inflation, the Stock Market, and the Economy

(1/28/23): Musings on the Debt Ceiling, the National Debt, and Economic Uncertainty

(7/22/23): Musings on the Need for Altruism in Christianity and the American Civil Religion

(7/29/23): Musings on Why America Needs a Civil Religion Based on the Teachings of Jesus