Mourners of Elementary Massacre Search for Answers

Hungarian Anti-Semitism—Trendsetting for Europe?

Hungarian Anti-Semitism—Trendsetting for Europe?

Leigh Phillips/flickr

Is it the 1930s all over again?

Martin Gyongyosi, the leader of Hungary’s third-strongest political party, said on November 26 that the government should draw up a list of Jews who pose a national security risk. “It is high time to assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security risk to Hungary,” Gyongyosi said in front of parliament as he described how Jewish parliamentarians had influenced Hungary’s foreign policy concerning Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. The Anti-Defamation League has described Jobbik, the party Gyongyosi represents, as openly anti-Semitic in its policies. Jobbik is the third-strongest political party in the nation. The fact that such an openly anti-Jewish party is supported by nearly a tenth of the population should set off alarm bells.

Last Wednesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi condemned Gyongyosi’s remarks in the strongest terms, calling them “completely unacceptable.” Gyongyosi’s comments have galvanized usually-polarized Hungarian politicians. Representatives from the ruling Fidesz party, as well as the socialist and centrist parties, spoke at a rally on December 4 to show support and solidarity with Hungary’s strong Jewish minority. But the real story is in how long it took the government to say anything at all about the radical politician’s racist remarks. It took a week for Prime Minister Viktor Orban to personally speak out against Gyongyosi’s pre-World War ii-style invective, and that was the day after the December 4 rally in front of the parliament building. Nine days after the Gyongyosi’s comments, the foreign minister came out with his condemnation.

The Economist noted the government’s obvious reluctance to strongly condemn Gyongyosi: “As outrage grew over Mr. Gyongyosi’s speech, Fidesz’s political calculus seemed increasingly squalid. Even usually reliable allies turned on the government. A stinging article in Magyar Nemzet, a conservative daily, called on the country’s right wing to ‘wake up’ about the danger from the extremists.”

The Economist concluded that Gyongyosi’s comments have served to unite Hungary against anti-Semitism. But is that really the case?

Historically, Hungary has been an inhospitable place for Jews. They were persecuted going as far back as 1092, when the Roman Catholic Church decreed that Jews could not intermarry with Christians. In the late 17th century, the Habsburg dynasty forced Jews out of major cities. But in spite of the persecution, many Jews still migrated to Hungary from Poland and Moravia for its economic opportunities. When World War i began in 1914, over half of all Hungarian merchants were Jewish.

Anti-Semitism in Hungary continued into the 1920s, when numerous laws were passed that limited Jewish participation in society but weren’t openly anti-Semitic. The first so-called “Jewish law” was passed by the Hungarian Parliament in 1938 and placed quotas on how many Jews could be employed in certain sectors of business and industry. In 1939, new Hungarian legislation limited Jewish participation in commerce to 5 percent. The hatred grew on into World War ii. From 1941 until the time of German occupation, some 63,000 Hungarian Jews were killed. Another 400,000 were relocated to Jewish ghettos by Adolf Eichmann starting in 1944. An estimated one out of every three Jews killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp was Hungarian.

History shows that anti-Semitism has been a staple of Hungarian politics and sentiment. And in the lead-up to both world wars, anti-Semitism gained in both popularity and political standing. The Hungarian prime minister may have publicly denounced Martin Gyongyosi’s desire for a list of dangerous Jews, but his slow reaction time speaks volumes.

Anti-Semitism may not be the vogue that it was in Europe leading up to World War ii, but anti-Israel sentiment is high. The Anti-Defamation League released a report in March measuring the attitudes toward Jews in 10 European nations. The League asked people to respond with “probably true” or “probably false” to these statements: 1) Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country, 2) Jews have too much power in the business world, 3) Jews have too much power in international financial markets, and 4) Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.

According to the report, “The data indicate that large percentages of Europeans continue to question the loyalty of their Jewish citizens.” More than half of the Hungarians interviewed felt that violence toward Jews is a result of anti-Jewish sentiment, as opposed to anti-Israel sentiment. The report also indicated that anti-Jewish sentiment has increased dramatically since 2009, especially in the UK, Spain, and Hungary.

The overarching message of the March report and the recent bold statements from Hungary’s far right is that anti-Semitism is not just increasing in a few isolated places, but across the majority of the Continent—a trend that is eerily similar to the 1930s. History tells of what came after that. But the good news in the midst of the gathering storm is that the world is gearing up for its final war—a globe-encompassing war that will culminate in the return of Jesus Christ. (For more information on the hope contained in the increasing troubles of this world, read our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like by Herbert W. Armstrong.)

Another Unthinkable School Shooting Shocks the World

This time, the deranged gunman targeted first graders.

The world was left in a state of shock on Friday when a lone gunman broke into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed 20 children. Six women, including the principle and other school officials, were also gunned down. Why do these unimaginable tragedies keep happening? What motivates young people to commit such perverse acts of violence? And why are these shocking attacks becoming more frequent?

Is a Third Intifada Beginning in the West Bank?

Palestinians in the West Bank are taking note of what Gaza’s rulers have achieved by attacking Israel.

On December 10, the Associated Press reported that Israel is voicing concerns that a third intifada might soon erupt in the West Bank. Here is a review of a few recent developments that have happened in the region.

On the Road to Sharia Law

On the Road to Sharia Law

REUTERS/Handout

After the first round of a two-stage vote, it looks like a majority of Egyptians favor the new Islamist-backed constitution.

When President Mohamed Morsi virtually appointed himself pharaoh of Egypt on November 22, demonstrations broke out across the nation. Thousands of secularists and liberals stormed the neighborhood outside Morsi’s palace, protesting the audacious power grab. They were met by thousands of Islamists who fought back in support of Morsi’s absolute rule. Cries of “no to dictatorship” were met with chants from the Islamists: “Defending Morsi is defending Islam.”

Then, after two and a half weeks of political turmoil and riots on the streets, Morsi rescinded his controversial decree. Under heavy pressure from the Arab street, we were told, Morsi backed down.

But this was hardly an act of conciliation or compromise from Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood. As columnist Andrew McCarthy wrote, “Morsi grabbed the reins with a shrewd caveat: His dictatorship would end once the draft constitution was approved by Egyptians in a national referendum—which is to say, once the dictatorship had served its purpose” (National Review, December 1; emphasis added throughout).

As it turns out, Morsi rescinded his decree a few days before Egyptians voted in a referendum on the new constitution draft. Thanks to his 17-day dictatorship, that draft was a sharia-based constitution—exactly what he wanted, and without any interference from the Egyptian courts.

The dictatorship had served its purpose.

“In the end, Morsi got everything he wanted,” author and activist Bassem Sabry told the Times of Israel. “He protected the constituent assembly, the draft constitution and rammed into a referendum when people will have no time to study it against what he had promised before, which is that the document won’t be put into a referendum without sufficient national consensus.”

McCarthy wrote, “In effect, Morsi has used the West’s democracy fetish to put a gun to his population’s head: Either democratically approve anti-democratic sharia or accept the sharia-compliant rule of your democratically elected Islamist despot.”

The Strategy for Sharia

From the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy has always been to impose sharia law. That’s the real dictatorship here—not Mohamed Morsi. Instating Islamic law as the new constitution has always been the Brotherhood’s top prize. It knew that if it could just force a sharia-based draft through the assembly and past the courts and subject it to a vote, a majority of Egyptians would most likely approve it. It didn’t matter how many freedom-lovers took the streets in protest—what mattered was sidestepping the rest of the government and getting to the national vote.

This has been the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy from the beginning. As soon as Mubarak was run out of town, it was the Brotherhood—and the White House, by the way—that pushed for free elections sooner rather than later. That’s because the Brotherhood had the best-organized, most popular party in Egypt.

McCarthy wrote,

The Brothers are no fools. They realized that rapidly held elections would favor them, and if they won big, they’d have a hammerlock on the constituent assembly that would write the constitution. They also grasped the disdain in which the West, under progressive regimes, holds military governments. … The Brotherhood knew the U.S. and the EU would be similarly—and self-destructively—supportive of a call for quick elections that would pressure Egypt’s reigning military junta to cede authority to a “democratic” civilian government.Consequently, the Brothers insisted that parliamentary and presidential elections could proceed promptly if the public just approved a handful of amendments to the current constitution, with a new constitution to be drafted afterwards.

That’s exactly what happened. In the country’s historic first free elections, the Muslim Brotherhood’s amendments were adopted by a landslide. The amendments referendum in early 2011 perfectly foreshadowed what happened in parliamentary elections soon after—with supporters of the Brotherhood and its radical allies thumping secular democrats by almost a four-to-one margin.

The courts later declared the results of the parliamentary elections unlawful. But the Brotherhood would not be deterred from executing its Islamist agenda. After promising not to field an Islamist candidate for president, it reversed course and put Morsi on the ballot. And he won!

Prior to the presidential election in June, Egypt’s military court thrust the political process into chaos when it dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament. At the time, we said this power struggle between the Brotherhood and the military might continue for a few months, but that it was only a matter of time before Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood gained enough strength to transform Egypt into a radical Islamist state.

The power struggle with the military barely lasted two months. In August, Morsi fired his top military chiefs and replaced them with Brotherhood loyalists, a move that locked in Egypt’s transformation into an Islamist state.

The Brotherhood already controlled the assembly responsible for drafting the constitution. The only remaining roadblock to applying Islamic law in Egypt was the judicial branch. And so, with his November 22 decree, Morsi put himself above the law just long enough for the assembly to hurriedly finalize the constitution.

Morsi had no incentive to back down, McCarthy wrote, “because he is doing what he was put there to do, and he has little to fear. He has already faced down the remnants of Mubarak’s armed forces and replaced them with Brotherhood loyalists—a ragtag collection of Facebook malcontents does not faze him. He also knows the national referendum on the new constitution will go the same way as the original referendum on constitutional amendments: Sharia will win going away.”

Of course, the Western media will try to put a positive spin on these earthshaking developments. They’ve done that from the start. Since the revolution began in February 2011, reporters have tried to make it look like the Egyptian population is teeming with secular democrats. The reality, though, is that radical Islam is the predominant ideology in Egypt. Most Egyptians want strict Islamic rule.

And they’re about to get it. You can expect Western commentators to continue their defense of Morsi by saying things like the principles of sharia is not the same thing as sharia.

But that’s just willful blindness. It’s McCarthy who’s right: Sharia will win going away.

(Note: The rest of this article will appear in the February print edition of the Trumpet magazine. You can subscribe here.)

Why Do We Do the Things We Do?

Why Do We Do the Things We Do?

WillSelarep/iStockphoto

Have you ever wondered why we believe what we do, why we follow the traditions we do, or where those customs came from?

Have you ever noticed how young children often use the word “why”—usually in the form of a question directed at a person older than them? How often they tend to pester others with that question! And each answer, it seems, triggers another question—another why.

But as they become older, that inquisitiveness begins to wane. They stop asking why so frequently. What is the reason for this? Is it because they know it all at that point? No. For some reason they become comfortable with the status quo. Most of us are like this. Sooner or later we begin to accept things just the way they are—without question.

Perhaps our curiosity got squelched somewhere along the way by the expressions of frustration from those who didn’t have time to answer, or who didn’t know the answers, to our childish questions. Or maybe we got the impression that there are no answers to most whys. Whatever the cause, we eventually accept that it is a whole lot easier to accept most things as they are—unquestioned, without considering the reason. It is what it is, we think to ourselves.

What a shame it is to lose this curiosity! What problems and wasted hours we could avoid if we would only examine ourselves to see why we do the things we do—and if we ought to be doing them. It’s so effortless to follow the crowd, to cave in to peer pressure, to do what comes naturally—what we feel satisfies us, whether or not it really is beneficial.

Too few have ever wondered why they believe what they do, why they follow the customs they do, or where those customs came from.

One example is the celebration of various holidays and traditions. Take Christmas, for example. The traditions surrounding Christmas stir warm feelings in the hearts of many—young and old alike—all over the Earth. Families come together. Children eagerly anticipate the morning they will receive their presents. Loved ones give gifts, gather for Christmas dinners and recall previous Christmases spent together. There is no other time quite like it.

But why do people around the world celebrate December 25? Many assume it is in honor of Jesus Christ’s birthday. But if they would check any reliable encyclopedia or reference material, they’d find that the exact date of Jesus’s birth is unknown.

When Jesus Christ was born, the Gospel of Luke records that “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). December is in the midst of a cold, rainy season in Judea. The shepherds always brought their flocks in from the fields and mountains to be corralled by mid-October at the latest, for their protection. Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10:9 and 13 show that winter was a rainy season, thus confirming that the shepherds would not have been in open fields on December 25, during the dead of winter.

Regardless of when Jesus was born, the Bible nowhere instructs Christians to observe birthdays. Instead, they are told to observe the anniversary of Jesus’s death as a perpetual memorial (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

So where did we get all the various customs and traditions associated with Christmas from, if they didn’t originate in Christianity? The Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedate the Christian period—a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition” (15th Edition, article “Christmas”). This and other authoritative reference works plainly confirm that many decorations such as the holly wreath, mistletoe and the Yule log are relics of pre-Christian times.

Jeremiah 10:1-5 make reference to an evil practice occurring during Jeremiah’s time—hundreds of years before Jesus was born. People were cutting down evergreen trees and decorating them for their homes. The great Creator God was not impressed.

Some people, when faced with the fact that Christmas has evolved from pagan customs, will claim they are really “honoring” Christ instead. They think it does not matter to God how the Messiah is worshiped. However, Jesus Himself said that it is possible to attempt to worship Him and still do it all in vain—if we don’t do it His way. (Compare Matthew 15:9 and Deuteronomy 12:29-31.)

It’s time to stop assuming and check up! Why should we follow pagan traditions and superstitions such as Christmas—or New Year’s Eve, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Halloween, for that matter? Why should we blindly go along with what everyone else in society seems to be doing?

The late Herbert W. Armstrong, in his book The Missing Dimension in Sex, put it this way: “This world’s society and its customs are based on human nature—which is to say, on Satan’s ways—and are diametrically contrary to God’s ways! Go along with the crowd, and you are stumbling along with the other dumb sheep to the slaughter! Why be one of the crowd? Why not stand out from the crowd of ignoramuses and weaklings, as one who has knowledge, wisdom and character! Any old dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim against the current!”

Why be one of the crowd? Why not stand out from the crowd as one who has knowledge, wisdom and character! That’s quite a challenge!

Ask yourself why you do what you do. Analyze yourself. Check up. Ponder. If you find what you are doing is right, then that’s good. If it isn’t right, make it right. You will be happier for sure.

Request your free copy of The Truth About Christmas for more information about the origins of the December 25 holiday.