Archive for March, 2014

180 -The Thumb

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

By Hetty Gray

# 180 – “The Thumb”

March 18, 2014

In lieu of giving a plethora of facts about Mother Russia, let me offer a few details about its government before 1917. As far back as the 16th century, tsars ruled Russia.

What about this term? What is its genesis? Like so many terms of the modern world, its derivation is from the Latin — specifically, Caesar. Caesar means emperor.

Glimpses into the five tsars that preceded the Bolshevik Revolution will give you more than a general sense of how the Russians have ruled their people.

Ivan the Terrible ruled from 1533-1584. He fought the Tatars and was the first to be named Tsar of all Russia. His legends paint a picture of a figure that was both authoritarian and fierce. Ivan commissioned St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square with its brightly colored Russo-Byzantine onion domes. St. Basil’s was built between 1554 and 1560 to honor Russia’s victory over the Tatars at Kazan. It is said that Ivan the Terrible had the architects blinded so that they could never again design a building so beautiful. Quite the colorful character, Ivan was barred from entering the Annunciation Cathedral after married his fourth wife, so he had builders add a special porch so he could get into the church.

Boris Godunov, not a nobleman, earned his reputation through his own ambition and ability to lead. He ruled as regent after Ivan’s death and later named Tsar after Ivan’s son died. He launched serfdom in Russia. This work arrangement virtually shaped Russia for hundreds of years. His architectural mark on the Kremlin’s Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Research affirms that he ordered its height increased and decreed that no other Moscow building was taller.

Peter the Great looked to the west for inspiration. He is known for his reforms and objectives and sought to emulate the” West”. He wanted to modernize Russia. He built St. Petersburg out of a swamp and created ranks for civil servants. He changed the Russian calendar, established the first Russian Navy and expanded the landmass of Russia. His legacy lives in the beautiful city he built and the Peterhof, one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. Impressive and luxurious, it attracts great numbers of visitors every summer.

Catherine the Great holds her position as one of the most famous Russian rulers. Not Russian, Catherine was a Prussian (for lack of more specifics, German). She married into Russian royalty and overthrew her husband to take control of Russia. She ruled from 1762-1796, expanding her empire’s lands. She wanted Russia to be modern and viewed as a major European power. Known for her dalliances, she went through many men in her private life and this reputation has outlived her. Much the opposite of a “sugar daddy”, Catherine compensated the men in her company. Many of these men gained stature and fame solely because of their association with her.

Catherine’s artistic legacy is the bronze statue of Peter the Great on horseback. Many literary buffs recognize the statue from Pushkin’s poem.

Nicholas II was Russia’s last tsar. He headed the Romanov family but was forced from the throne by the Bolsheviks who spearheaded the infamous revolution of 1917. He never wanted the throne and the Russian people did not like him. His wife Alexandra, a German princess, was granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria. The people did not trust her and thought she was a German spy. She sought help from the mystic Rasputin to help her son, Alexis, who suffered from hemophilia. His close relationship with the tsar’s family was not received well by the people.

The Bolsheviks took Nicholas, Alexandra, and all their children to Ekaterinburg in Siberia. Authors and filmmakers have taken license with the story of Anastasia, who was thought to have survived the carnage. But that is a whole other story!

The Russian monarchy ended when Tsar Nicholas II was murdered. The new leadership banished all Russian farmers to Siberia, took over businesses, closed all churches, and killed any incentive that might have existed. Millions died under Stalin. The glue of the nation that survived was language and culture. Only those elements survived the government.

The Crimean people vote to remain with Russia instead of embracing Ukraine and joining the European Union begs a bit of reflection. Please remember how these people have lived their lives for their entire lives.

Under the tsars, the Communists, and the Russian Mafia in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian people have never known real freedom. Oh, some yearn for it, pray for it, covet, it, but even they have no real control over their own lives. For three generations, they have been pawns. Their only link to the past is Russian, both in essence and in tradition.

Their world has been one where the individual had little or no value and independent thinking and entrepreneurship were virtually unknown. They are, and have been for many centuries, under the thumb their rulers. All that said, there is a bottom line here. It is hard to value something you have never had. The government of the Ukraine recognizes the value of private enterprise and freedom. Pray that Ukraine can keep it.

Pray that Ukraine joins the E.U. If Putin is determined to recreate the former Soviet Union, the successful takeover of Crimea is a bell-weather for what lies around the corner. Pray for Ukraine. Pray for all Eastern Europe. Its freedom may be the world’s last best hope for peace. The threat to reduce the United States to nuclear ashes is not laughable, as the current presidential press secretary believes. Russia has always been centered on military might, conquest and control. It’s a big thumb and one we don’t need exerted on us. Think about it.

179 – Dream

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

By Hetty Gray

# 179

March 3, 2014

“A Dream”

I become more and more weary today. Nearly every week, another news flash comes down from “on high” in Washington — yet another chip hacked from the trunk of the liberty tree. We still bask in its shade, but for how long? Our financial lives are at risk, our health records are in the hands of the government, our national security is in peril on our borders, our heritage is assailed daily, and our most deeply held beliefs and basic freedoms expressed through our letters and emails ignored.

Patriotism displayed is patriotism criticized. Time after time, one homeowners’ association or housing development after another bans resident display of the American flag. Today, it’s as if America at the highest levels denies its own people. I fear that respect for Old Glory and all for which it stands is in critical condition and at risk of disappearing altogether. America was founded on freedom, and it will fall when freedom falls. For, without freedom, America will find itself no better than any other nation on the planet. Sobering, isn’t it?

Sadly, at the heart of all this is the consistent, entrenched and protracted assault on the Judeo-Christian roots of this nation and — at is core — faith itself. Why? Faith in God anchors our behavior, our morals. Yes, faith anchors the very fiber of our lives.

Where are we in this? Where are we, the believers that see God attacked on all sides? Where are we, as pledged advocators of morals, when we see blaspheming lifestyles defended on “fairness grounds?” Where are our churches with their “bully” pulpit?

There are some churches that rail at the government, but those are ones with independent status and not nationally affiliated. Those with national organizations say little or nothing. I tire of the excuse offered that churches fear losing their tax-exempt status. And that’s a reason not to defend God and his teachings in the public square? So, it’s better to lose tax status than your country and your future? Oh, please, give me air. Just how far would the government get if they went after every church in America anyway? I judge not too far.

Remember, if you will, this pastor. I credit The Holocaust Encyclopedia.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for this quotation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
This man spoke out in the face of the Third Reich. This man’s courage speaks volumes.
Where are our voices when things around us continue to go downhill? One troubling question begs our attention. Just how much influence does the “politically correct” crowd touting its version of behavior really have on broadcast and print advertising today? These activists do have an agenda, folks.
More and more ads feature children bossing parents. One shows a babysitter raising her price because her employer has a nice car… one parent admonishing a child not to tell the other parent… an adult rewarding children “keeping quiet”. Even more disturbing are the images with clear sexual overtones. This genre goes on ad nauseum. Perhaps you have seen this example. A man makes a late-night insurance inquiry to a 24/7 call center and his wife’s first reaction is that he has called another woman. You recognize the theme of these ads. They pit husband against wife and child against parent as if these situations are normal. I pray they are not.

If you are like me, you hit the mute button, but not everyone does.
Such ads reach impressionable, young children and teenagers. Will it take a nationwide boycott of these advertisers’ products to reach the companies lacking the guts to rein in their own advertising departments? Or are the CEOs as warped as their “PR” people? As for me, I wonder how many parents would even bother to complain.

Where ARE we believers in this fight? Do we only discuss this disgusting moral disintegration within our own households… at our kitchen tables… in discussions during evenings alone… with those of like minds? Where ARE we, really?

Do we invite “un-churched” individuals or families to our worship services? We all try to live our faith in our daily lives, but maybe it’s time we did more. A lot of bad messages are out there. We need to counter them. We need to counter them quickly.

I take heart that Universal Studios offers us the new production “Son of God”. You will remember one member of the husband and wife team behind this film, Roma Downey of “Touched by an Angel.” Last week, she and her husband Mark Burnett brought this magnificent film to large format theaters nationwide. Others of similar, Biblical theme are either poised for release or in production. Thinking back on films such as “Ben Hur”, “The Robe”, and “The Ten Commandments” awakens wonderful memories. Those movies had real impact and attracted huge audiences. But those were the days when America set aside Sunday for Church.

Young people would be hard pressed to see a current action film that blends angst of oppression, rivalry among highly skilled athletes and sheer, terrifying drama than that of Charlton Heston in an incredible chariot race. Set against the backdrop of the underlying message highlighting integrity and courage, “Ben Hur” was a film that brought to life the work of Hoosier General Lew Wallace.

Daily, media bombards us with harsh statements about how we are intolerant. Really? Well, not everything merits tolerance. Tolerance should have ended when God was banished from our schools. Tolerance must end today when any other religion sans Judaism and Christianity is openly praised. Tolerance should end when our nation is faced with a consistent, blatant, “in your face” upending of the institution of marriage — the union likened to the relationship between Christ and His Church, the union between one man and one woman. Remember that one?

Have we forgotten what “The Good Book” says? First, reflect on The Ten Commandments. Then, take a moment and ponder these Bible verses.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). Jesus deemed marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

What will it take to see a sea change in Washington, D.C.? If only those in the halls of Congress would experience a spiritual awakening — a true, heart-rending moment that jumps beyond the next election. If only some of these men and women would step before the microphone to defend Christians and Jews… to defend the U. S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights… to defend liberty… to defend America’s role in the world… to defend that “shining city on a hill”….

It’s that old specter of common sense again. Oh, well, we can dream, can’t we? Yes, we can. But, it will take more than a dream. It will take prayer.

This week I close with two lines from a well-known hymn. With all due respect to our Jewish brothers and sisters, it centers on Jesus.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.” Our ground is not solid today. Why not?

Think about it.