Category Archives: culture

Obama, Merkel and Putin seen through a lens from 20 years ago

In a discussion of civilization 20* years ago, Samuel Huntington said the following:

… Russia,…, has been a torn country for several centuries…

Russia’s relations with Western civilization have evolved through four phases. In the first phase, which lasted down to the reign of Peter the great, Kievan Rus and Muscovy existed separately from the West and had little contact with Western European societies. Russian civilization developed as an offspring of Byzantine civilization and then for two hundred years, from the mid thirteenth to the mid-fifteenth centuries, Russia was under Mongol suzerainty. Russia had no or little exposure to the defining historical phenomena off of Western civilization: Roman Catholicism, feudalism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, overseas expansion and colonization, the enlightenment, and the emergence of the nation state. Seven of the eight previously identified distinctive features of Western civilization-religion, languages, separation of church and state, rule of law, social pluralism, representative bodies, individualism-were almost totally absent from the Russian experience. The only possible exception is the Classical legacy, which, however, came to Russia via Byzantium and hence was quite different from that which came to the west directly from Rome. Russian civilization was a product of its indigenous roots in Kievan Rus and Muscovy, substantial Byzantine impact, and prolonged Mongol rule. These influences shaped a society and a culture which had little resemblance to those developed in Western Europe under the influence of a very different forces. (p. 139-140)

As of 1995 the future of liberal democracy in Russia and other Orthodox republics was uncertain. In addition, as the Russians stop behaving like Marxists and began behaving like Russians, the gap between Russia and the West broadened. … A Western democrat could carry on an intellectual debate with a Soviet Marxist. It would be impossible for him to do that with a Russian orthodox nationalist. (p. 142)

Think on these when you hear Obama and Merkel talk about “negotiations” with Putin.

From: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington, 1996, Simon and Schuster.)

* When I first posted this I had indicated 30 years and then realized my math was off. I am operating on the assumption that Huntington did his writing in 1995 and published and 1996.

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, definitions, Eastern Europe, Ukraine

Looking back to Sarajevo

On this trip I was on my own a lot and was able to explore beautiful Sarajevo on my own terms.

Here are a series of pix I took in a neighborhood up the hill from Old Town. They are of a kind of neighborhood mosque with many graves from 1992-1995 and the main mosque in the Old Town.

IMG_2266

IMG_2268

IMG_2269

My assumption is that these died in the siege during the war when Serbs bombarded the city from the surrounding mountain tops.

IMG_2270

Down the hill, I went to the main mosque, it’s minaret was visible down this alley…

IMG_2311

And upon entering you are given the rules…

IMG_2303

On Fridays this mosque is filled with Muslims…

IMG_2302

Walking by the side I noted the extra prayer rugs stacked in the window…

IMG_2304

Martin Luther said that Muslims (among many others including Jews and many “Christians”) worship the same God, but they worship him incorrectly. As I study Islam (for my Cross Cultural Studies program) and read from many sides of this discussion, it seems Luther makes a sound argument. The enemy of God wishes to keep people away from him and the best way is a way that looks right while being wrong. A one degree error send KAL 007 into Soviet airspace and hundreds died when the Soviets shot it down. Worshipping the right God the wrong way, through works, may look good, but is not His way.

We depend on grace alone, trusting in the final and complete work of Jesus: death, burial and resurrection. In Christ alone.

Allow not a desire for pluralism to water down the way and the truth.

Leave a comment

Filed under being a disciple, culture, culture > disciple making, definitions, disciple making, Eastern Europe, experience, from the Balkans, photos along the way, seeking understanding, spiritual questions/musings/wonderings, travel notes

Where cultures meet: Sarajevo

In the old town of Sarajevo one finds endless little shops selling, primarily, Turkish coffee sets hammered out from brass that, presumably, comes from a seemingly endless supply of brass shells left over from the war. A testament to how many shells were fired at this city.

On the main walk to the old town from, what I call downtown, (it’s old too, but is more of what I call a downtown), kinda where the old town and downtown meet, is this…

IMG_2294-0

This really is a place of cultures meeting.

This city is, according to a reliable source, over 90% Muslim, I counted 13 minarets visible from my window…

IMG_2254

Which a friend told me includes this one, the main mosque…

IMG_2302

I was here to visit my friends who serve among these people and his focus is the study of Islam toward helping Muslim friends come to a true understanding of Jesus.

With my doctoral studies in mind and what I had learned from our conversations and the books I’d read in preparation, I struck up a brief conversation with a young economist. I asked him who Jesus is. He replied that it depends of what you believe and that he wasn’t religious.

He may not have been, but I made one observation that is not scientific. When I first came to Sarajevo in ’07, there were not many women wearing head coverings. 8 years later, head coverings are common. My count, based on video survey was that as much as a third of women are now covered.

While waiting…

IMG_2208

for my favorite Sarajevo food, burekški…

IMG_2219

we observed that all the women working in the eatery were covered. This is a sign, I concluded, of increasing emphasis on the Islamic culture becoming more defined in this city where cultures meet.

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, culture > disciple making, Eastern Europe, from the Balkans, photos along the way, seeking understanding

Last post from Sarajevo

In the early morning, a light snow falls as I wait for my ride to the bus.

IMG_2196

I leave this fascinating city where east meets west.

Next stop Kula, Serbia

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, Eastern Europe, photos along the way, seeking understanding

Thoughts on Christmas

Today there will be last minute trips to the store, the final wrapping of gifts, greeting family and friends, lots of cooking, for some there will be Christmas Eve services.

I remember my one Christmas in Budapest. Days before, signs were posted in the public transit informing the public that at about 3 pm on Christmas Eve the transit system would shift to night busses only until the morning of the 26th. Things really shut down. Christmas Eve night Sweet Anna and I walked a half hour or so through the cold snowy quiet from our daughter’s home to where we were staying. A silent night it truly was.
Then the next morning we went back for Christmas.

Upon our arrival something was needed from a store. The only thing open was a 24 hour shop the size of a closet. After I made my purchase I walked across the street to the local parish which was in the middle of one of many Christmas masses. It was packed with all ages. I hope they understood the real story.

In Cambridge, England today that story will be told. the annual Lessons and Carols event will originate from King’s College Chapel at 10 U.S. Eastern time… Click here for more it is a helpful reminder to me each year of what the whole Christmas is: from the Fall to the promise and then Redemption.

Here are Scriptures I’ve been meditating on:

For God so loved the world…

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior who is Christ the Lord…

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

How wonderful that the Prince of Peace has come to this world.

We live in a busy culture that rarely slows down.

Why not slow down today and consider the good news that the Incarnation happened so that you may live in a state of peace with God who sent His only begotten Son so that you and I can be His sons and daughters.

Merry Christmas!

Leave a comment

Filed under being a disciple, culture, disciple making, seeking understanding

Follow up to UVa saga

The university president spoke to the Washington Post, here is their report.

Leave a comment

Filed under culture