Saturday, May 25, 2024

Musings on the Threat of Demagoguery to Democracy

Musings on the Threat of Demagoguery to Democracy

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., May 25, 2024

Since the 17th century democracy has been a political preference of western nations over autocracy.  Today the trend seems back to the future in politics, with nationalist demagogues gaining popularity and promoting authoritarian regimes in America, Russia and Israel supported by nationalist religions that denigrate libertarian forms of democracy. 

Charismatic nationalists have redirected libertarian public preferences to more nationalist political objectives, portending more political conflict in the world’s democracies.  That has been accompanied by a shift in religions to accept more divisive tribal norms over the reconciliation of religious  and political differences with universal and altruistic politics. 

Political legitimacy in a democracy is based on legal and moral standards that reflect its national values; and religions are the primary source of standards of legitimacy.  Germany was a Christian democracy in 1933 when HItler assumed totalitarian power, and his Nazi brownshirts and secret police suppressed political opposition while Hitler built up his military forces.

When Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, he and his Republican Party had the support of most White Christians.  But by 2020 Trump’s narcissism, immorality and radical right politics had weakened his GOP.  Trump was defeated in 2020, but polls indicate his millions of dedicated followers will support him in November, making the outcome uncertain.

To protect American democracy from demagoguery, lessons learned in political legitimacy from Hitler and Trump require loyalty to the Constitution, the rule of law and altruistic moral standards in democracy.  Elected officials, the military and law enforcement must remain loyal to their oath to support and defend the Constitution and minimize the use of lethal force. 

Hitler used violence and political subterfuge to subvert Germany’s Christian values, its  constitution and its police and military forces to Nazi control in 1933.  America’s Constitution survived a Civil War and a recent assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters; but aside from the Civil War, American military and police agencies have remained loyal to the Constitution.

Most German Christians sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the Nazi Party, just as most Christians in America sacrificed Jesus on the altar of radical right Republican politics when they elected Trump in 2016.  Neither the Protestant or Catholic Church condemned Hitler’s immoral regime, just as most American churches have been indifferent to Trump’s immorality. 

Issues of sovereignty distinguish democracy from demagoguery.  Democracy gives people control of their political destiny under the moral sovereignty of God, and God’s will is the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It’s a common word of faith and a moral imperative for all Jews, Christians and Muslims; but exclusivist religious beliefs are divisive and promote political demagoguery.


Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism that Netanyahu and his ultra conservative supporters share, and it has led to atrocities by the IDF among Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  Yuval Noah Horan has asked, Will Zionism survive the war?  While Zionism has taken many forms in its 150 year history, President Biden assured Netanyahu that he shares his Zionist views, and has been steadfast in his support of Netanyahu.  Horan has opined a dismal future for Zionism: “In recent years Israel has been ruled by governments that turned their back on the moderate forms of Zionism. In particular, the coalition government established by Netanyahu in December 2022 has categorically rejected the two-state solution and the Palestinian right to self-determination, and instead embraced a bigoted one-state vision. Like the anti-Israel demonstrators around the world, the Netanyahu coalition believes in the slogan “from the river to the sea.” In its own words, the founding principle of the Netanyahu coalition is that “the Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of Eretz Yisrael” — Eretz Yisrael is a Hebrew term referring to the entire territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The Netanyahu coalition envisions a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which would grant full rights only to Jewish citizens, partial rights to a limited number of Palestinian citizens and neither citizenship nor any rights to millions of oppressed Palestinian subjects. This is not just a vision. To a large extent, this is already the reality on the ground. Nothing that has happened since Oct. 7 indicates that the Netanyahu coalition has changed its views. On the contrary, the carnage and devastation inflicted on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, the killing and dispossession of Palestinians in the West Bank, and the refusal to commit to any future peace plan all indicate that the current Israeli government has no respect either for the individual human rights of Palestinians or for their collective national aspirations.” See

Despite Biden’s support for Netanyahu, Haaretz has reported, Out of ideas, Netanyahu sees Biden and Defense Minister Gallant as a cabal plotting against him.  See


Netanyahu’s approach to “divide and conquer” his adversaries is typical of demagogues.  See

The International Criminal Court has called for indictments of Netanyahu and two members of his war cabinet, along with three Hamas leaders for war crimes.  In response to the  ICC warrant threat Netanyahu “called the ICC a ‘farce’ and likened the prosecutor to antisemites, while Biden called the ICC prosecutor’s decision ‘outrageous’. See

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has continued to condemn the arrest warrant being sought against him by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper. "It endangers all other democracies, and warning US Leaders, 'You're Next.See

Saturday, May 18, 2024

More Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics in Israel

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., May 18, 2024

Religion is the primary source of the moral standards of legitimacy in a nation, and in a democracy the standards of political legitimacy are based on national values.  Values vary in different cultures, and the altruistic values in America’s libertarian democracy contrast with more authoritarian values in other nations, like Israel and Russia.

Conflicts of legitimacy are obvious in Islamic cultures like Afghanistan and Iraq, and also in Israel with its nationalist Zionism.  President Biden assured Netanyahu that he’s a Zionist, and has continued to provide Israel with armaments that have killed Palestinians in Gaza.  As a violation of international humanitarian law that’s a problem of military legitimacy.

America needs to obey laws restraining the use of military force that have been ignored by Israel in its war with Hamas.  As a retired Army JAGC officer, I taught the Law of War and international humanitarian law during my military career, and have written extensively on military legitimacy, and I was awarded the Legion of Merit for my military service.

After retiring from the Army I became a Methodist pastor and opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  My church was small and conservative, and few challenged my opinion, even  though I was in the minority.  Israel is not a sacred nation; and as described by Thomas L. Friedman, Netanyahu is a right-wing demagogue who doesn’t deserve U.S. support.

Biden is the only alternative to Trump as America’s next President, and Trump’s record on issues of legitimacy is even worse than that of Biden.  But there is still hope that voters might have a legitimate choice in the November elections.  Party conventions this summer could change their nominees for President; or Biden could recant his support of Netanyahu.

Protecting non-combatant Palestinians from the ravages of war is based on the Christian doctrine of Just War.  The Lieber Code of 1863 was America’s first law protecting civilians in wartime.  General Sherman ignored the law and destroyed civilian property on his march through the South, while General Lee complied with its principles on his march to Gettysburg.

Netanyahu has ignored international law in the Israeli-Hamas war.  His policies resemble ancient Hebrew warfare similar to that of Joshua at Jericho and violate current international laws that prohibit ethnic cleansing and the killing of non-combatant civilians.  America must exemplify compliance with international humanitarian law to promote military legitimacy in modern warfare.

A Pentagon intelligence officer resigned from the Army last week to protest the unlawful U.S. policy of aiding and abetting Israeli violations of international law.  Military legitimacy is an extension of political legitimacy intended to ensure that U. S. might is right.  This commentary repeats last week’s topic to emphasize the interrelationship of religion, legitimacy and politics.


In August 2020 Democrats headed to their convention united against Trump, but they expected conflict once the election was over.  See  This year Democrats should take additional precautions at their convention, such as those recommended by Ezra Klein.  See Democrats Have a Better Option than Biden (from “The Ezra Klein Show”, NYTimes, February 16, 2024 ).

On Thomas Friedman’s criticism of Netanyahu, see how Netanyahu is making Israel radioactive at

Thomas Friedman has said “Israel today is in grave danger. With enemies like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Iran, Israel should be enjoying the sympathy of much of the world. But it is not. Because of the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition have been conducting the war in Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, Israel is becoming radioactive and diaspora Jewish communities everywhere increasingly insecure.”  And Friedman fears it’s about to get worse.  Netanyahu has broken Israel with his destructive policies but is not seeking to fix the problems he has caused.” Cited in

Musings on Whether Biden Will Allow Netanyahu to Doom His Reelection Bid at


On The Failure of the Law of War to Protect Civilians in Wartime, see

On Military Legitimacy, and Why Military Might Must be Right, see

On Preventing Crimes Against Humanity in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, see

A Pentagon intelligence officer has quit in protest of Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, see

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion, Legitimacy, and Violence in Israel

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., May 11, 2024

Religion is the primary source of the standards of political legitimacy, and Israel is the ancient crucible of global violence between the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity, but Satan’s will is to divide and conquer and it continues to dominate the unending religious and political violence in Israel.   

The altruistic standard for God’s will is the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus and has been accepted as a common word of faith by Islamic scholars; but there is little support in Israel for its moral imperative of reconciliation.

The law provides obligatory standards of political legitimacy, followed by the voluntary standards of morality and national values.  In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, human depravity has given demagogues who seek to divide and conquer their adversaries an advantage over God’s will to reconcile and redeem humanity. 

Democracy is not a panacea that provides legitimacy.  Winston Churchill once called democracy “The worst form of government, except for all the others.”  Democracy reflects a nation’s legal and moral standards of political legitimacy--for good or bad.  If the U.S. expects to be an example of libertarian democracy for the rest of the world, it needs to clean up its act. 

After the Hamas attack on October 7 2023 President Biden assured Netanyahu that he was a Zionist, and that America “had Israel’s back.” After Israel’s IDF had killed over 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, Biden paused sending more bombs to Israel unless it called off its planned attack on Rafah.  Netanyahu refuted Biden’s conditions and asserted that Israel will go it alone.

The indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians by Israel is a violation of international human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party, and President Biden is sworn to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and its treaties.  Biden is not alone in ignoring treaties.  Trump is even more indifferent to those fundamental standards of law and political legitimacy than Biden.

Biden and Netanyahu are in a standoff.  For American voters to have a legitimate choice for President in November, Biden will have to comply with his oath to support and defend the Constitution and treaties that are America’s law of the land.  Otherwise, Biden’s support of Netanyahu’s indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians could make Biden culpable for war crimes.

Opposition to Netanyahu’s oppressive policies toward Palestinians is not antisemitic.  Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism, but that does not justify the unlawful killing of Palestinian civilians.  America’s foreign policy has aided and abetted the unlawful killing of Palestinians by Netanyahu’s IDF.  To be legitimate, it should comply with international law.


A Democratic senator questioned whether the Biden administration properly assessed whether Israel was complying with international law, following a Reuters report that some senior U.S. officials did not find that country's assurances credible. "This reporting casts serious doubt on the integrity of the process in the Biden administration for reviewing whether the Netanyahu government is complying with international law in Gaza," Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. The Reuters report found that some senior State Department officials have advised Secretary of State Antony Blinken that they do not find "credible or reliable" Israel's assurances that it is using U.S.-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law. Van Hollen said the Reuters report had found that the recommendations of those bureaus "were swept aside for political convenience." "The determination regarding compliance with international law is one of fact and law. The facts and law should not be ignored to achieve a pre-determined policy outcome. Our credibility is on the line," he said. Van Hollen and some other Democratic lawmakers have pressed President Joe Biden to impose conditions on military assistance to pressure Israel to limit civilian deaths in the Gaza conflict. So far, the administration has not done so. The war, now in its seventh month, was triggered by an attack by Hamas militants that left approximately 1,200 people in Israel dead and where 253 hostages were taken. Israel has responded with a military operation that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health authorities. The war has displaced most of the 2.3 million people who called the area home and has laid waste to much of the densely populated enclave.”

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s deputy foreign minister, said that an Israeli military offensive on the city of Rafah would break international humanitarian law and not lead to the eradication of Hamas, but he held back from spelling out any planned British consequences if a full-scale invasion goes ahead. The UK said its aim was to secure a permanent and sustained ceasefire, and the removal of Hamas from the future governance of Gaza. The British statement that Israel has presented no credible plan for the invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza that complies with international humanitarian law follows a similar statement by the French foreign ministry on Monday. Mitchell went further saying such an invasion may end up strengthening, not weakening, Hamas. Elsewhere in Europe, the EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said: “The offensive on Rafah has resumed, despite all the demands of the international community, the United States, the member states of the European Union and all those who have asked Mr Netanyahu not to attack. “Despite warnings and requests, the attack began at night. I fear that this is going to cause many civilian deaths again … because there are no safe areas in Gaza.” Borrell added: “There are 600,000 children in Gaza.” America has asked its allies to hold off threatening Israel with any public consequences if it goes ahead with a full-scale attack on Rafah, arguing the priority for the next 48 hours was to coax Israel into accepting the ceasefire plan. Mitchell twice referred to others in the Israeli government apart from the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, suggesting western allies may still hope the crisis leads centrists, such as Benny Gantz, to break from Netanyahu. So far Gantz has called for the ceasefire talks to continue, but added that the proposal offered by Hamas “does not correspond to the dialogue that has taken place so far with the mediators and has significant gaps”. The UN and Mitchell were unequivocal in their calls for Israel to end its renewed block on humanitarian aid. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Tuesday called for crossings into Gaza to be reopened immediately to allow in essential aid, and urged Israel to “stop any escalation” after it sent tanks into Rafah. “Things are moving in the wrong direction. I am disturbed and distressed by the renewed military activity in Rafah by the Israel Defense Forces,” he said.

This past week The Washington Post reported “the Biden administration paused the shipment of thousands of weapons to Israel, including controversial 2,000-pound bombs, amid mounting concern about the country’s plan to expand a military operation in southern Gaza that could dramatically increase the conflict’s death toll, according to U.S. officials. “Israel should not launch a major ground operation in Rafah, where more than a million people are sheltering with nowhere else to go,” said a senior administration official, explaining the U.S. decision to pause the weapons shipments. “We are especially focused on the end-use of the 2,000-pound bombs and the impact they could have in dense urban settings as we have seen in other parts of Gaza.”  The disclosure marks the first known instance of a pause in U.S. arms transfers since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack into Israel that killed more than 1,200 people. Since then, the United States has surged tens of thousands of bombs and missiles to its ally even as huge swaths of Gaza have been turned to rubble and the death toll among Palestinians has ballooned to more than 34,000, many of them women and children, according to local health authorities. President Biden has described the bombing as “indiscriminate,” but he has been reluctant to leverage weapons transfers to try to force a change in Israel’s behavior. The Biden administration is reviewing other planned transfers that are not set to ship imminently, the first official said. That pertains to 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which convert free-fall “dumb bombs” into precision-guided weapons, people familiar with the matter said. Though delayed, those munitions as well as last week’s paused shipment could still be delivered depending on the White House’s discretion. “We have not made a final determination on how to proceed,” the U.S. official said. On Monday, Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his administration’s concern. “The president doesn’t want to see operations in Rafah that put at greater risk the more than a million people that are seeking refuge there,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. A day earlier, Netanyahu rejected calls to halt the war in Gaza, saying that “if Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum will stop Israel from defending itself,” he said. See

Biden has said the US won’t supply weapons for Israel to attack Rafah in warning to ally.  “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden told CNN. “I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, that deal with that problem.” “We’re not walking away from Israel’s security,” Biden continued. “We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier Wednesday confirmed the weapons delay, telling the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the U.S. paused “one shipment of high payload munitions.” “We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin said. “But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.” It also comes as the Biden administration is due to deliver a first-of-its-kind formal verdict this week on whether the airstrikes on Gaza and restrictions on delivery of aid have violated international and U.S. laws designed to spare civilians from the worst horrors of war.”  

See also,

On the relationship between U.S. foreign policy in Israel and Christian nationalism, see 

#494 (5/4/24): Musings on the Need for More Faith and Less Religion in a Violent World

Also, #473 (12/9/23): Protecting Civilians from the  Ravages of War in Israel and Ukraine

Also, #474 (12/16/23): Musings on Why Criticism of Netanyahu’s Militant Zionism is not Antisemitic,

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Musings on the Need for More Faith and Less Religion in a Violent World

By Rudy  Barnes, Jr., May  4, 2024

           Faith and religion are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings.  Faith is what we believe to be sacred, and has been described as “…being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)  Religion is a prepackaged and  man-made faith; and while religion requires faith; faith does not require religion.  

            Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all Abrahamic religions that accept Jesus as a 1st century Jewish prophet, who taught that sharing God’s transforming love was the standard of righteousness, not obedience to Mosaic Law.  That radical teaching made Jesus a pariah among most Jewish religious leaders, and ultimately led to his crucifixion.

Most Jews, Christians and Muslims begin their journey of faith in their traditional religions and later begin to question their religion with their personal knowledge, experience and reason.  In his Wesleyan Quadrilateral, John Wesley asserted that the theological task of all believers on their journey of faith should be based on scripture, tradition, experience and reason

Religious beliefs are defined by doctrines and dogmas based on scripture and religious tradition, but personal experience and reason can challenge those religious boundaries on our journey of faith.  That’s common in libertarian cultures with the freedoms of religion and speech, but it’s rare in more authoritarian cultures.

        Jesus was a maverick Jewish rabbi who never taught that he was divine or advocated the need for a new religion.  The altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.

The greatest commandment  was taken from the Hebrew Bible, taught by Jesus and accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith; but its universal moral imperative of religious reconciliation based on God’s altruistic love remains elusive.  That’s most evident in Gaza, where Israel has killed over 34,000 Palestinians during the Israeli-Hamas war.

The Jewish Passover should remind Netanyahu that it was God’s will to liberate Jews from Egyption oppression, and remind Christians that the last supper of Jesus and his disciples was a Passover meal.  Instead, President Bidern assured Netanyahu that he is a fellow Zionist who supports Israel’s war against Hamas and the oppression of Palestinians in Gaza.

The Abrahamic religions have become nationalistic and ignored the moral imperative of the greatest commandment in Ukraine and Israel.  Putin has justified his unprovoked aggression in Ukraine on restoring the ancient Russian empire of Peter the Great, while Netanyahu justifies Israeli violence in Gaza with Zionist nationalism.  Religions have failed to promote peace.  It will take people of altruistic and universalist faith, not nationalist religions, to bring peace on earth.


On The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith, see

(6/25/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Church and the Greatest Commandment, see

On Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy, see

On Christian nationalism, see ‘Demolishing democracy’: how much danger does Christian nationalism pose?  Documentary Bad Faith looks at the history of a group trying to affect and corrupt politics under the guise of religion, by Adrian Horton, The Guardian, 4/27/24, at  See also,

See also, Christian Nationalism, Again, By Carl Krieg, Progressive Christianity. 4 /29/24 at

On Christian nationalism, see 

(3/29/15): God and Country: Resolving Conflicting Concepts of Sovereignty

(5/6/17): Loyalty and Duty in Politics, the Military and Religion

(4/12/19): Musings on Religion, Nationalism and Libertarian Democracy

(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country  

(8/10/19): Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy

(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism

(3/26/22): Musings on Civil Religion, Christian Nationalism, and Cancel Culture

(4/30/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Obsolescence of Christianity in Politics

(11/5/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Jesus, the Church and Christian Nationalism

(11/12/22): Musings on the Need for a Civil Religion in America’s Dysfunctional Democracy

(3/11/23): Musings of a Maverick  Methodist on the Future of Christianity and Democracy

(4/15/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christian Nationalism and Democracy

(9/23/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christian Nationalism

On Zionism as Jewish nationalism,see  

(10/28/23): Musings on Zionism, and What It Means to Netanyahu and Biden

(1/6/24): Musings on Nationalism and Universalism in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

See #45 (10/4/15): Faith and Religion: The Same but Different, at