By Charlie Johnston
Back in the day, when I was advising officials and candidates in a fluid situation that had many possible outcomes, I would give a lot of real-time focus to what we actually knew. From that, we would work on what was possible, what was likely and what was absurd. By keeping focused on first things, it kept us dealing with reality rather than partisan narratives or wishful thinking, even when we could not reach a conclusion yet. It is a form of cogitating, of spit-balling in an effort to figure out what is actually happening and what it means. That is what I will do in the major segment on Ukraine at the bottom of this piece.
Sometimes, when speaking of a friend, a person will ask you, “Is that a Facebook friend or a real friend?” It is a good question in these times – particularly when Facebook affiliates are trying to get you to sign up to get a “virtual” friend. One thing I am certain of is that Joe Biden is a Facebook president.
If you haven’t seen it yet, this week’s podcast focuses on our Communications committee at CORAC. We have set up a communications network through ham radio that crisscrosses the entire continental U.S. You’ll get a whole lot of information on radios, including the costs and legalities involved. No license is required to receive but one is currently required to broadcast, except in an emergency. We also discuss EMPs (electro-magnetic pulses) which can wipe out electronics – both the potential sources of them and how to protect from them.
I have been trying to think of an effective way for people to get together in the aftermath of a mass communications failure that would be simple to remember. An idea occurred to me last week. Just gather on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. local time at the front of your local house of worship, be it a church or synagogue. In order to facilitate that, I have asked our regional coordinators to work with local people within their regions to designate local churches that can be focal points known in advance for people in the region. We will have local people checking other churches in town if such an event were to occur. Church front at nine on Saturday mornings is easy to remember, though, and if we get this going, people will find each other if its needful.
I’m speaking this Sunday afternoon in Rochester, Minnesota. Y’all come, Y’hear? I have been having a lot of young people coming out for my talks this year. We have several big new initiatives and resources going up soon at CORAC, but one I think will be very fruitful is creation of a youth movement. Ha! I thought of calling it “New Wineskins,” but as always, the name should be determined by the young people in the group.
The Eternal Now
Eternity is a difficult concept, a truly great mystery beyond our capacity to fully grasp. Many think of it as endless time but that is not it at all. Eternity is the infinite now. This universe is a mere terrarium in God’s eyes – and time exists only in this terrarium where our individual auditions for heaven play out. In the infinite now of heaven, everything is present to God – NOW. The squalling infant I was at my birth is present to God now; The joyful but weary old man I will be at my dying breath is present to God now; the jolly and determined older man I am right now is present to God now. It is only in the terrarium of the universe that time progresses in its remorselessly linear parade.
This reality beggars the human capacity for imagination. The only way we can approach it is through mangled analogies like St. Patrick’s use of shamrocks to illustrate the Trinity. When you are walking a well-trodden wilderness trail in the mountains, you see what you approach in a linear fashion. You are, by analogy, in time. If from a perch high upon the mountain you can see the trail from beginning to end you are, by analogy, outside of time: it is all present to you.
How, then, can there be any order, structure or activity where everything is present now? Let’s go to another mangled analogy. Take a seat in your living room and family room. Look around at all the elements in the room: the pictures, the fireplace, the knick-knacks on the mantle, the furniture. They are all present to you as you sit in the room. Now imagine that all these elements are segregated into discrete packets and paraded before you on an invisible, mystical conveyor belt. Each picture, each picture frame, each item of furniture, each curio, each log from the fireplace, the fireplace itself, and even the fire pass before you in a linear sequence. That is the consequence and limitation of time. It does not appear as a coherent and pleasing whole, as a comfy room in your house would, but as a random and linear sequence of objects. The greatest mind on earth would have trouble assembling these random objects in his imagination into the coherent whole that is immediately obvious from your seat in the room, where all its components are present to you now.
The Book of Revelation makes me nervous. I also love it because, though St. John still imbues it with substantial interpretive commentary, he gives a large dose of the raw material that the mystic experiences. Some of it is from eternity; some of it is in time. This is an aspect that often leads those who seek to interpret such things astray. Take a small sample from the 12th Chapter of Revelation. At the start it says that, “a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman cloaked with the sun…” Since it appeared in the sky, it appeared in our universe and, thus, in time. Later it says that “war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon.” In this case, it is in the eternal realm that war broke out, so it is always now. War broke out in heaven before the universe began; war broke out in heaven right now; and war broke out in heaven at the end of time. Think of it: the demons and the satan, himself, are fallen angels who were cast out of heaven and became demons upon losing this war. How could the satan have appeared to tempt Eve at the dawn of time unless he had already lost the war? Confusing things even further, many translators loosely use the words, “the heavens” or the word, “heaven,” sometimes to describe the sky (which is in time) and at others to describe the eternal realm (which is not). So when St. John is describing an event in the sky he describes something in time and when he describes an event from the eternal realm, he is describing something that is eternal. Yet our poor, feeble intellects insist on forcing everything, both mortal and immortal into some sort of linear timeline – and we can’t even agree on what that timeline would be. We cannot begin to contemplate a reasonably coherent interpretation of Revelation until we recognize that only some elements of it are in time while most are from eternity. It is not a simple, linear story.
This may seem like a digression. I hope you will contemplate it, though, both as an illustration of how much more difficult interpretation of mystical things are than most people can begin to imagine and because contemplation on this will be important to some future pieces.
Most of all, understand that all we on earth can see now are the random items coming down that linear, mystic conveyor belt, but in eternity all those elements will come together and be so arranged as to form the most glorious room ever. That is a mystery, but surely a joyful one.
I just saw my new favorite bumper sticker ever near Annapolis, Maryland. It read: “Navy Wives – Changing the world – One diaper at a time.” Whoever it was who had that bumper sticker is now an honorary member of CORAC if she isn’t already a genuine one. That’s our mindset, exactly.
This is last call for any who wish to participate in the online Catechism classes that will be presented by Desmond Birch. If you want to give Beckita, the Prayer Teams Chairman at CORAC, your interest and what days are best for you, drop her a note at email@example.com.
Cogitating on Ukraine
Analysis, particularly of a fluid situation, must be ice cold if it has any chance of being accurate. If there is an actor or entity involved that you routinely like or dislike, get emotions involved and that animus or affection will quickly become a filter through which you see what you want to and are blinded to what you don’t want to see. You will be prone to unlikely leaps of logic because of what you want to see, while avoiding any contextual matters that might blunt your emotional assessment.
That is very hard with the Ukrainian crisis because, in addition to the usual fog of war, there is a LOT of intentional misinformation being spewed by the media in this country. On five occasions so far, I have seen pictures purportedly of the pathos in Ukraine, only to find they were actually pictures from prior conflicts that had nothing to do with Ukraine. This is a minefield for even the most competent analysts.
When I was a young man, the adage was that politics stops at the water’s edge, meaning simply that all parties would unite in a foreign crisis. That was the case even in the midst of Watergate when Richard Nixon had to deal with the foreign oil crisis. It frayed a bit under Jimmy Carter with his failed effort to rescue the American hostages held in Iran, largely because of what was perceived as the poor conception and execution of the rescue plan – and the excessive restraints Carter was purported to have put on the rules of engagement. Those hostages were voluntarily released by Iran while Ronald Reagan was being inaugurated. With characteristic grace, Reagan asked Carter to be his envoy to greet the newly released hostages, thus restoring bi-partisanship to foreign affairs. It continued through the first George Bush, though questions percolated when he routed Iraq in a few days, but failed to follow through and oust Saddam Hussein, who was left to gas his own Kurdish people – Kurds that we had promised to support but did not. The fraying got very serious under Bill Clinton, whose slap-dash approach to foreign affairs left many baffled, particularly when Clinton began giving classified warfare technology to the Chinese, including vital technology to target satellites. The second George Bush united Americans with his forceful response to the Taliban-backed attack on America on 9-11, but within weeks leftist Democrats were using it for partisan advantage. At the time it shocked me. Sadly, Bush pushed several initiatives in the heat of the moment, such as the creation of the Homeland Security Dept. and passing of the Patriot Act. Those initiatives were briefly used for foreign threats, but have since been used primarily against average Americans in raw partisan fashion. Barack Obama’s foreign policy was a slow-moving mush of failure. I cannot think of anything, other than the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden he did that made things better. His advocates point to such things as opening up Cuba and enabling Iran to work on developing nuclear weapons as successes – but most normal Americans think otherwise. Donald Trump was the best foreign policy president we have had since Reagan but he was hamstrung from the start from doing with Russia what he accomplished in the Middle East, North Korea and much of the rest of the world. The Democrats were too busy demonizing Russia to fuel the collusion hoax that Hillary Clinton and the DNC mounted to actually consider making the world safer. Joe Biden’s foreign policy is a fast-moving mush of disaster.
To recap, for nearly 35 years the American foreign policy establishment policies have been a bumblingly incompetent exercise in self-actualization by bureaucrats who know little about world history, less about geo-political currents, and are incapable of imagining that anyone might have a legitimately different position than they do that is worthy of even considering, much less taking seriously. They are not concerned about making the world a safer place, but in showing how smart they are in a smarmy, sophomoric fashion. If you get the idea that I hold our professional foreign policy establishment in utter contempt, you understand accurately where I am coming from. Add to that some 35 years (except for one term) of mediocre or worse presidents who just followed the incompetent foreign policy establishment’s lead. Ever since the second Bush, the Democrats have politicized foreign affairs to use as another political cudgel in their bag of cheap tricks, never mind American security.
For some 20 years Vladimir Putin has been complaining of NATO closing in on his borders and warning that he would not accept Ukraine joining NATO. The globalists just said, “No,” thinking they were the final word on the subject. They are shocked that he didn’t comply with their decision like people around the world did with their Covid shot mandates, lockdowns, masking, etc. This has terrified the supremacist left: what if other entities and people began saying no, en masse, to their decrees? Why didn’t they listen and work a diplomatic effort that took the Russian leader’s concerns seriously? Probably because they think they are the only deciders.
I’m shocked that so many otherwise solid commentators are dismissing Russia’s concerns about NATO encroachment as irrelevant. For as long as history has been recorded, the major powers of any era (and even many of the minor ones) have acted forcefully to keep from being encircled by hostile powers. That is why America proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine late in 1823. China’s primary foreign policy aim from antiquity has been to prevent encirclement. Their ancient game, “GO,” is based on that principle. The Cuban Missile Crisis was specifically because America would not abide overtly hostile power with nuclear capabilities on its doorstep. Avoiding effective encirclement is one of the prime goals of nations since…forever. Even Dennis Prager, a public intellectual I greatly admire, touts this trope. Why are we so shocked that what has been a low-level casus belli forever turns out to be one in this case, too? Prager dismissed it because Russia was not “in danger” of being invaded by NATO countries. Yeah, well America was not in danger of being invaded by Cuba, but we risked nuclear war to stop it from arming with nukes. For 31 years, this and other issues could have been dealt with diplomatically had we been serious, but we chose to treat Russia as a pathetic, defeated nation from the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. Perhaps Putin is just sick of being called corrupt by Joe Biden – and who could blame him? That is like being called an antisemite by a Jihadist Ayatollah.
Some people have noted that Ukrainians were German sympathizers in World War II, insinuating that they are secret Nazis. What nonsense! Yes, Ukraine (which was then a region of the Soviet Union) was largely sympathetic to Germany in WWII. But the Holodomor, the forced starvation death of as many as eight million Ukrainians by Josef Stalin had taken place less than a decade before the war broke out. If your national authorities had just murdered eight million of your fellows less than a decade ago, you think you might support anyone who gave hope that those national authorities might be defeated? If Ukraine is neo-Nazi how, pray tell, did they manage to elect a Jewish president? Please stop the stupid stuff. If you don’t want to study the fullness of the history, quit playing the expert.
I do not buy that Putin is the epitome of evil. Yes, he is a rough character. But when he invaded Georgia, after attacks on Russian soldiers in the separatist regions ceased, he withdrew. At home, he is murderously brutal with powerful opponents. Unlike truly evil regimes like China, North Korea, Iran, and the old Soviet Union, though, he is not murderously brutal with ordinary people. You could make a pretty good case that current American authorities are more brutally authoritarian with ordinary people than Russia is. Frankly, I think that with the collapse of Covid as a justification for authoritarian gamesmanship, our gamesters (who think themselves statesmen) need a new monster to justify their authoritarian games.
Yet I do not buy the idea of Putin as the champion of Christianity ready to re-evangelize the world, either. Yes, Russia is respectful of Christianity and protects Christians and their beliefs. It shamed me a few years back when Christians were under large and organized persecution in the Middle East, that Russia was the only country that came seriously to their defense. Having read several solid biographies of Putin from different vantage points, I believe he is a genuine and lifelong Christian but I also believe he often uses his Christianity to justify his temporal ambitions – for himself and what he wants Russia to be.
Why did neither America nor NATO intervene in the old Soviet Union’s brutal subjugation of Hungary and then Czechoslovakia? Because we did not have a vital interest there worth risking a nuclear war – and the memory of what global war actually is was still fresh? What has changed since then other than fading memory and the certitude of our experts without expertise that all must bow to their sovereign will?
If any news reports can be believed, I have noted the irony that, in the initial phases, Putin has made the same error invading Ukraine that Napoleon made in invading Moscow over 200 years ago: He did not establish an adequate supply train for the magnitude of the task. Apparently, he thought it would be over quickly. God bless the tough Ukrainians for their determined defense of their country. But unlike Napoleon, Putin’s error is not fatal. His supply train is not completely cut off.
When Putin says that Ukraine is and always has been part of Russia, it simply is not so. Yes, it had been subjugated by Russia for over 200 years before the fall of the Soviet Union. But Ukraine has a uniquely independent history, culture and language. If Russia wanted to argue that historical Ukraine is largely the territory west of the Dnieper River and that the territory east of the river is historically Russian, it would have a solid point. But nobody listened to that argument and now Russia is apparently going for it all.
Back when the Soviet Union fell, I was doing radio. I was infuriated by the first George Bush’s talk of a “peace dividend” and the chattering classes pronouncing that America was now the sole superpower. I insisted constantly on air that when the fundamental power structure in global affairs shifts in a dramatic and sudden way, that is not the beginning of great peace: it is the beginning of 40-200 years of tumult and upheaval as the world struggles to find a stable new balance of power. So, it is among the most dangerous of times, not the safest, and the prudent statesman would prepare for tumult and upheaval, not take a victory lap.
In next week’s CORAC podcast, we will not have a guest. Instead, I will talk at length about potential consequences of the current situation with Ukraine and the rapidly encroaching authoritarianism in formerly free western countries.
NATO and the Marshall Plan were two of the greatest foreign policy triumphs in history. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO’s mission was finished. Its continuance has, arguably, made things worse rather than better. Certainly, well before the fall of the Soviets, Western Europeans had ceased to regard NATO as collective security and started using it as a crutch: let America handle – and largely pay for – European security. It made Western Europe decadent, simultaneously denouncing American warmongering while cowering beneath our umbrella when danger threatened – and depending on America to pay for most of it long after European economies had recovered from WWII. I frankly hope that NATO collapses – so perhaps we can begin to build new collective security arrangements fitted to the threats of this age rather than those of our grandparents’ era.
Whatever order arises from the current confusion, it will not come from faculty lounges, foreign desk fantasies, or globalist dreams of supremacy. It will come from power, hopefully fronted by serious diplomacy formed by serious people – and will come from those nations which have the will to exercise it effectively. Our leaders are not serious people; we have not conducted serious diplomacy for over a generation, and our military might is an illusion that, even now, is being degraded by our “leaders.”
While we talk of sanctions against Russia, Biden will not use energy policy to stop or slow them down – as both Reagan and Trump did. We continue to buy oil from Russia while refusing to activate our overwhelming domestic energy resources. Russia needs oil to be at $61 per barrel to break even. It is at $100 per barrel. A great irony is that even as our “leaders” demonize Russia, we are financing her war through the profits we give her on oil – and will not take serious steps to stop that.
Now is the time to embrace God fully, to acknowledge Him, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope. With our commitment to do the little good we can right in front of us, God can deliver us. Our “leaders” cannot; they have become the pitiful, helpless giants that the late Richard Nixon warned of in 1989.
Find me on Gab at Charliej373 or at the CORAC group.
The Corps of Renewal and Charity (CORAC)
18208 Preston Rd., Ste. D9-552
Dallas, Texas 75252