Saturday, October 28, 2023

Musings on Zionism, and What it Means to Netanyahu and Biden

          By Rudy Barnes,Jr., October 28, 2023

Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism shared by some American Christians--most notably President Biden.  Religious nationalism in any religion is problematic since it mixes loyalty to country with loyalty to God, and questions the supremacy of God with various forms of patriotism.  Biden’s admission that he’s a Zionist raises questions about his political priorities.

Christian nationalism in America has promoted America First policies as a form of exceptionalism that considers America’s political objectives as the will of God.  In Russia the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has sanctified Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as God’s will to restore the Russian empire of Peter the Great. 

Zionism sanctifies Israel as God’s homeland for his chosen people, and it has Christian adherents in both parties, with more Republicans than Democrats.  It includes the third temple movement to restore the Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where the Dome of the Rock Mosque is located.  Destruction of that mosque would likely produce a new Holy War.

Joshua’s battle at Jericho in 1400 BC (Jericho is now Tell es-Sultan on the West Bank) was a precedent for holy war and religious genocide in the Holy Land.  The ban of Hebrew law required exterminating all non-Hebrews in the Holy Land. (see the Biblical account in Joshua 6).  Only the prostitute Rahab and her family were spared from the slaughter as Joshua’s spies.  

In modern times, Netanyahu, as a Zionist, has advocated replacing Palestinians with Jews in Israel’s democracy; and following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, President Biden assured Netanyahu that he could rely on America’s support.  After returning to the U.S. Biden affirmed his support for a two-state policy in Israel, which Netanyahu will likely oppose.

Some forms of nationalism are consistent with our loyalty to God.  The obligation to support and defend the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag are compatible with our loyalty to God; but putting party loyalty ahead of providing for the common good is divisive and polarizing, and inconsistent with loyalty to both God and country.

Religious nationalism is compatible with loyalty to God when it doesn’t assert God’s preference for one nation over others and doesn’t violate the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  That commandment is a universal  common word of faith and politics for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

As a political priority Zionism means one thing for Netanyahu, and quite another for Biden.  If America were to support aggressive war by Israel against non-Jews in Israel, it would violate the Law of War and America would become an accomplice in war crimes.  Holy wars and ethnic cleansing have continued unabated throughout history, but God’s will is to prevent them..


The first Biblical precedent for Holy War was in 1400 BC with Josua’s Battle at Jericho.  Then and now holy war was a struggle between the forces of good and evil. The ancient Jewish law of war codified in the Book of Deuteronomy made no meaningful distinction between combatants and noncombatants; in holy war ethnic and religious background distinguished friend from foe.

The commitment of the early Jews to the rule of law was more a matter of religious faith than political philosophy. Unlike the founding fathers who wrote the U.S. Constitution and took special pains to separate the church from the state, ancient Jews saw God as the source of their law and inseparable from military and political events. War was God's way of delivering the Promised Land to His chosen people. For Old Testament Jews, God's wars were just wars,

and anyone between them and the Promised Land was an enemy that deserved no quarter. The holy end clearly justified any means. With God on their side, might made right.

Chapter 20 of the Book of Deuteronomy sets forth the Hebrew law of war regarding treatment of women and children in besieged towns. It makes a distinction between those in far distant towns and those nearby: the former might be taken as slaves as the booty of war,1 but in the latter the ban dictated that all men, women and children were to be slaughtered without mercy.2 Only fruit trees were to be spared the sword, simply because they were not human.3

The story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, reported in Chapter 6 of the Book of Joshua, is an application of the ancient Jewish law of war. After barricading and laying siege to Jericho, "Yahweh [God] said to Joshua, 'Now I am delivering Jericho and its King into your hands.'"4

After quietly marching around Jericho for six days, on the seventh day a blast of trumpets and a war cry brought down the walls and the victorious Jewish Army rushed into the town. "They enforced the ban on everything in the town: men and women, young and old, even the oxen and sheep and donkeys, massacring them all."5

The mixture of religion and law which characterized Old Testament warfare may seem brutally archaic, but the same Middle East where God first became a warrior over 3,000 years ago remains a hotbed of militant religious conflict. The spread of Islamic fundamentalism and the cry for Islamic holy war (Jihad) is based on the same premise as Zionism and Jewish holy war that has continued unabated from the time of Moses to the present day.

That premise is that aggressive war is God's way of rewarding His chosen people--a means of divine justice. But that premise is entirely at odds with Just War, the Law of War and human rights. The merciless dictates of Jewish and Islamic law illustrate the danger of a rule of law without human rights. Christianity provided, in theory at least, a moral alternative. The teachings of Christ, based on agape love, required respect for human dignity and compassion for the suffering, even one's enemy.

See Rudolph C. Barnes, Jr., Military Legitimacy: Might and  Right in the New Millennium, Frank Cass, 1966, at page 6.


On how the Law of War applies to the Israeli response to the Hamas attack, see Musings on War as the End of Ambiguity in Foreign Policy at

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a New World in the Morning

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., October 21, 2023

Jesus taught that loving our neighbor extended to loving our enemy (Matthew 5:43-47).  Christians believe that if they follow Jesus they can experience a new world in the morning; but hatred has become pervasive in America’s tribal partisan politics; and while Russia and Ukraine are Christian nations, they are enemies at war who have no love for each other.

A plaque on the Army War college in Carlisle, PA, quotes Elihu Root’s assertion in 1901 as the U. S. Secretary of War, that the purpose of America's military is “not to promote war, but to preserve peace.”  As a graduate of the Army War College and a retired Army officer, I share Root’s belief that America must be prepared to go to war in order to preserve peace.

A universal civil religion is needed to fill the moral vacuum left by a failed church after a majority of white Christians crucified Jesus on the altar of partisan politics in 2016 by electing a narcissist Donald Trump as President.  The altruistic teachings of Jesus provide the moral standards for a universal civil religion that can reconcile America’s corrupted moral culture.

Jesus was a maverick Jewish rabbi who never promoted any religion, not  even his own.  He was a universalist who never claimed to be divine; and America had a Universalist Christian Church until it merged with the Unitarian Universalists in 1961 and left Christianity with a church that subordinated the universal teachings of Jesus to exclusivist church doctrines on salvation.

Thomas Jefferson provided a precedent for Jesus to be the exemplar for a universal civil religion.  He considered the teachings of Jesus as “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man,” but he detested church doctrine.  The altruistic moral values taught by Jesus could be a reconciling force for a universal civil religion, but they won’t save an exclusivist church.

 The 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.  It’s a universal common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims that’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and has been accepted by Islamic scholars.  It should be adopted by Jews, Christians and Muslims as the moral foundation for a universal civil religion. 

Hatred is at the root of the war between Gaza and Israel, and reconciliation is the only antidote for that hatred.  Muhammad considered Jesus a great prophet who should be followed, but rejected his divinity.  As a prophet and moral exemplar of God’s Word, the moral teachings of Jesus can reconcile the Abrahamic religions without changing their unique mystical beliefs.

A new world in the morning in America requires a reconciliation of competing cultures.  That’s God’s will, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer.  Peace is the province of God’s spiritual domain, and hate is the province of Satan.  While the church has failed to promote reconciliation, Satan has done a convincing imitation of God promoting religious hatred and political divisions in the church and politics, and corrupted cultures around the world.   


Being 81 years old, I can relate to Roger Whittaker’s, “New World in the Morning”:

Everybody talks about a new world in the morning. A new world in the morning so they say.

I, myself don't talk about a new world in the morning. A new world in the morning, that’s today. 

And I can feel a new tomorrow comin' on.

And I don't know why I have to make a song. Everybody talks about a new world in the morning. 

New world in the morning takes so long.

I met a man who had a dream he’d had since he was twenty. I met that man when he was eighty-one. 

He said too many people just stand and wait until the mornin', 

Don't they know tomorrow never comes.

And he would feel a new tomorrow coming on. And when he'd smile his eyes would twinkle up in thought. Everybody talks about a new world in the morning. 

New world in the morning never comes.

And I can feel a new tomorrow coming on.

And I don't know why I have to make a song. Everybody talks about a new world in the morning. New world in the morning takes so long.

On Elihu Root, see Wikipedia at

Thomas Jefferson 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, posted 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 and is posted in the Resources at The Introduction (pp 10-15) provides an overview of the study guide, and reference to Jefferson’s 1804 letter to Henry Fry is at end note 2 at p 425.  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 at

On the Greatest Commandment as a Common Word of Faith, see

See also, Who Is My Neighbor? at, and Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy, at

On universalism, see Musings on Reconciling the Abrahamic Religions with a Common Word of Faith at; also, Musings on the Need for Universal Religious Standards of Morality at

Lex talionis is an ancient theological principle in Judaism and Islam that expresses the principle of retribution or reciprocal justice “measure for measure” in personal and national conflicts. See  Wikipedia at   Jesus took exception to the lex talionis standard of retributive justice in his emphasis on reconciliation rather than retribution. 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Musings on War as the End of Ambiguity in Foreign Policy

By Rudy Barnes; Jr., October, 14, 2023

The Prussian General Clausewitz once observed that war is an extension of politics by other means; and there’s a big difference between the politics of war and the politics of peace.  In war there is no ambiguity; the winner takes all by force.  In peacetime, political ambiguity prevails; but it invariably ends with war and affirms the depravity of human nature.

Demagogues like Putin promote war to limit their enemies and consolidate their power.  The Hamas attack on Israel was based on ancient religious hatred, and Israel is a crucible for religious violence.   While America promotes democracy and supports its allies, there are limits. With renewed violence in the Holy Land, American support for Ukraine is likely to diminish.

Aid to Israel is a priority for the U.S., and Iran and Russia likely supported the Hamas attack to discourage additional aid to Ukraine, knowing that Americans are reluctant to risk involvement in two wars.  There are hard foreign policy decisions ahead for America, and they are made more difficult with Congress shamefully shut down over partisan bickering.    

On Friday Israel warned those in Gaza to leave in 24 hours, while Hamas called for a global demonstration against Israel.  It’s ironic that Hamas can call a global protest against Israel after leading a terrorist attack against it.  It illustrates the crazy politics of a terrorist war that portends a humanitarian crisis that’s beyond reason and international law.

Religious extremism is at the heart of the crisis.  Zionism is a variation of Christian nationalism that has supported a third temple movement to destroy the Dome of the Rock Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  America should oppose the destruction of the Mosque since it would likely escalate a holy war throughout the Islamic world.


     Nationalism leads to war, and religion is its most volatile form.   Peace is America’s strategic objective; but to preserve peace America must be prepared to go to war.  After more than 2 years as an  Army officer in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and two trips to Moldova in the 1990s, I remain convinced that America must be prepared to go to war to preserve peace.


America and Russia claim to be Christian democracies, but WWI refuted the idea that Christian democracies would never go to war, and that losing a war guarantees a lasting peace.  With NATO expecting America to carry the burden of an extended war in Ukraine and a resurgence of the War on Terror in the Holy Land, America needs new strategic priorities.

        Ironically Putin has hypocritically criticized Netanyahu’s plan to invade Gaza, saying that ”civilian casualties would be completely unacceptable.”  America and its NATO allies should continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, but America’s national debt of over $33 Trillion and the need to support Israel will limit that support; and the painful lessons of military legitimacy should prevent the deployment of U.S. combat forces in either Ukraine or Israel.      


On Israel, Gaza and the Laws of War, see  The article correctly emphasizes proportionality in the use of force as the primary standard in the Law of War, and America ignored that standard in WWII bombings at Tokyo, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It illustrates why the Law of War is not a practical deterrent to wartime atrocities.  The Law of War may be a deterrent against war crimes, but egregious violations of  the Law of War by Russia by targeting civilians in Ukraine, and the terrorist attack in Israel by Hamas illustrate that it cannot be relied upon to prevent war crime atrocities.  Retaliation by Israel might seem to be the only effective means of deterring future terrorist attacks, but humanitarian concerns should limit this option.  When U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin echoed President Biden’s unwavering support of Israel in support of Netanyahu’s plans for a ground offensive in Gaza, both he and Biden should have conditioned U.S. support of any Israeli invasion on compliance with the Law of War.  See

The UN warned that “Israel’s announcement to some 1 million Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours” to the southern part of the besieged territory, while Hamas told people to “stay put,” would create total chaos.”   It was an unprecedented order applying to almost half the population ahead of an expected ground invasion against the ruling Hamas militant group.  Hamas, which staged a shocking and brutal attack on Israel nearly a week ago and has fired thousands of rockets since, dismissed the Israeli order as a ploy and called on people to stay in their homes. Hamas staged a shocking and brutal attack on Israel nearly a week ago and has fired thousands of rockets since then.  See    

On countering the Politics of Christian Zionism, see 

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism at

For an overview of lessons learned in military legitimacy prior to 1996 (before 9/11), see Rudolph C. Barnes, Jr., Military Legitimacy, Might and Right in the New Millennium, Frank Cass, 1996.  A  draft of the book is posted in the Resources of The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law, at

For a more current article on Special Operations training and advisory missions in 2013, see Back to the Future: Human Rights and Legitimacy in the Training and Advisory Mission, Special Warfare, 2013, posted in Resources at the above website.

On Might and Right When Going to War is a Moral or Legal Obligation, see

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Musings on the Demise of America's Dysfunctional Democracy and the Church

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., October 7, 2023

The ouster of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House has enormous implications for both politics and Christianity.  It brought the festering boil of partisan politics to a head, and underscored the failure of the church as a moral steward of democracy.  If our politics are a reflection of America, we are a poor example of democracy to the rest of the world.

John Locke asserted that the political legitimacy of a nation is conferred by the consent of the governed; and for a diverse democracy to survive it must be able to resolve critical issues.  Until America’s two political parties became polarized, they were able to compromise on critical issues.  The ouster of McCarthy as Speaker of the House forced a shutdown of Congress.

Kevin McCarthy’s cardinal partisan sin was to support a compromise on the critical issue of avoiding a government shutdown.  If he broke some partisan commitments, the compromise was necessary to promote the common good.  On the ouster, the partisan polarization was evident on both sides of the aisle; not a single Democrat voted to retain McCarthy as Speaker.

Religion is a major source of moral standards in politics, but mainstream churches have been unwilling to address morality in politics.  The Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” but there is no restriction on applying the moral standards of our faith to politics.

Churches tend to be divided by race and partisan politics, and pastors are unwilling to address moral issues in politics that might upset their congregations, since church growth is their first priority.  That’s a cop-out for pastors!  Jesus never hesitated to address controversial issues, and his teachings are the primary source of Christian morality.

Unfortunately, some pastors appeal to racial and partisan bias to grow their churches.  Since Christian nationalism is popular in the white church, and most churches remain racially segregated, pastors often pander to the partisan and racial preferences of their congregations.  As a result, churches often contribute to partisan and racial polarization than to reconciliation.

The ouster of Kevin McCarthy is only the tip of the iceberg, with deep cultural divisions that threaten the legitimacy of both American democracy and Christianity.  Unless churches or some other institution becomes the moral steward of America’s tribal partisan divisions of politics and religion, both American democracy and its churches are doomed to demise.

Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.  Until there is a widespread public commitment to reconcile America’s dysfunctional democracy and its church with moral standards of political legitimacy that provide for the common good, the fragile fabric of American democracy could come apart at its seams.



The House of Representatives is Paralyzed with No Speaker after McCarthy Ouster,


Former Speaker Newt Gingrich says House GOP should expel “anti-Republican” Gaetz, but Marjorie Taylor Greene disagrees with Gingrich. See

On political legitimacy in Wikipedia, see

On America’s Culture War, Racism and Christian Morality in Politics, see; see also, On Religion, Race and Identity Politics, at

On political legitimacy in Wikipedia, see,and%20mutual%20understandings%2C%20not%20coercion.

On Religion, Legitimacy and Politics, see