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Leftists Are Making Global Culture War Alliances, And So Should The Right


Reported By Sumantra Maitra | DECEMBER 2, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/12/02/leftists-are-making-global-culture-war-alliances-and-so-should-the-right/

Entrenched leftists within the U.S. State Department are supporting the effort to demote Viktor Orban from prime minister of Hungary, if a report in Financial Times is correct. The Biden administration also left Hungary off its invitation list for a forthcoming international virtual Democracy Summit on Dec. 9 and 10 to which some 100 countries were invited.

“Trump and his enablers and those who invaded and attacked our Capitol, they don’t like the world we’re living in and they have that in common with autocratic leaders from Russia to Turkey, from Hungary to Brazil, and so many other places,” Hillary Clinton explained to MSNBC.

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó retorted that Clinton’s remarks about the Democracy Summit proved that “the event has a domestic political character, with invitations withheld from countries whose leaders had good ties with former President Donald Trump . . . We need nobody to judge the state of Hungarian democracy as if in a school exam.”

A superficial reading of this would conclude it’s the big bad Central Euro authoritarians complaining about another American-backed regime change, but there’s more to it and this is just the latest connection to a broader ideological war unfolding across the Euro-Atlantic.

The European Culture War

Hungary has been an important point of discussion among U.S. conservatives. Orban’s party, Fidesz, leads a family-friendly conservative government, where women are tax free if they have more than three kids. Orban’s government has also crushed gender studies and other disciplines, defunded universities, closed Hungarian borders to illegal mass migration, stopped LGBT programs targeted towards children as propaganda, and cut down on abortion.

Alongside Poland, Hungary has formed a semi-alliance of Christian conservative central European powers, and has been an example of sorts for Western conservatives. Hungary offers what Sweden does to leftists: an functioning example of what a social-conservative government might look like in practice.

This is drawing attention from liberals and conservatives alike. Rod Dreher of the American Conservative lived in Hungary on a fellowship often writing about it, and Tucker Carlson of Fox News shot a whole documentary for a week from Budapest.

It’s also invited transnational opposition. Germany’s new center-left coalition of red and green parties insisted they will start a full-on culture war with Poland and Hungary while making the European Union a stronger transnational government.

“Countries which do not live up to the EU’s standards should not expect to receive EU money—a clear message to Poland and Hungary. This general approach applies to the United Kingdom as well,”recent analysis stated, adding that the German coalition wants to make it legal for “trans people to self-identify.”

Meanwhile, Belgium and Netherlands are planning to fund abortion across Poland and Hungary, which limit the practice. “The Dutch parliament adopted a resolution approving the use of state funds to help Polish women obtain abortions, reports Deutsche Welle… The decision follows a similar move in September by Belgium, whose government agreed to provide funding for women in Poland to obtain terminations abroad, as a growing number have done since the near-total abortion ban was introduced,” according to a report.

Just to take one example, consider the implications of Germany allowing self-identification of transgenders, a process that fundamentally goes against biological reality. Given the Schengen borderless mandates within the EU, German transgender individuals could travel everywhere and use their EU special protections to undermine individual national policies about transgenderism, as well as the religious traditions of Hungary and Poland, which are stricter (and, one can say, more democratic) about such rules.

That likely sequence further indicates these countries are not “liberal democracies” (the key word here being liberal), opening them up for further charges of growing authoritarianism, and further clashes in EU courts, the rulings of which are increasingly considered superior to national democracies and lawmaking. In the past that has resulted in the EU clashing with Poland over fossil fuels and with Hungary over LGBT legal preferences and national courts.

Intellectual Compatibility Across Borders

The Polish conservative government, as well as Orban, bear similarities to the socially conservative section within the Republican Party, which consolidated under Donald Trump with increasing exchanges of intellectuals and conferences. The left’s reaction to that ascendence of social conservatives across the globe was therefore somewhat expected, given the new Biden administration staffed with Hillary-era culture warriors. The culture war is transnational, and the battle lines being drawn are naturally ideological as well. On one hand, there’s evangelical internationalist liberalism, which is imperial in nature and is therefore clashing with localist reactions from Virginia schools to villages in Hungary.

“Hungarian-American relations were at their peak during the Trump presidency,” Szijjarto of Hungary also noted when the FT reporter asked why Hungary was the only EU country left out of the planned Democracy summit by Joe Biden. “We have a great deal of respect for the former president, a respect that is mutual. We give the same respect to every elected U.S. president — regardless of what we get in return — but it is clear that those who were on friendly terms with Donald Trump were not invited.”

Hungary was the only country in the EU to be snubbed even when the U.S. State Department coyly added that that was not the case. “As an important part of our bilateral agenda, we continue to press our Hungarian counterparts when we have concerns about developments that erode space for independent media and civil society, curtailed LGBTQI+ rights, and undermined judicial independence,” the State dept said, according to FT. Within hours of its report, someone leaked an old speech of one of Orban’s closest allies that heightened political tensions in the nation.

Democracy Isn’t the Issue; Sexual Chaos Is

Ultimately, however, there are two emerging questions to ponder. One, the complete hypocrisy of the Biden administration is visible. New Zealand, which is growing rapidly authoritarian with vaccine passports, second-grade citizenships, and lockdowns, is invited, but not Hungary, where people can move freely. The undertone of this decision is not lost on conservatives across Europe and possibly the United States: it is not about democracy at all, but about liberalism and sexual rights.

Are Republicans astute enough to see through this, and understand the potential long-term damage the left’s culture war is causing to America’s reputation as the ruling Democratic Party turns increasingly woke, revolutionary, and ideological? Democrats are actively building ideological solidarity and fellowship with other leftist parties across the world, but there’s no such equivalent among conservatives. If it is coming down to a battle of ideas across national boundaries, perhaps cultivating that is something to think about.

The second, and far more crucial, question is: what next for Poland and Hungary and how long can they survive within an openly hostile EU? The combined GDP and manpower of the four conservative central V4-Euro powers led by Poland and Hungary can compete with Germany and France. But at translating that into power, hard and soft, there’s no visible effort of unity.

France and Greece, for example, recently made a bilateral treaty that consolidated their foreign policy into one. There’s no such treaty between Poland and Hungary, or one alongside the UK, for example. Nor is there any visible effort of promoting a socially conservative order across Europe even when the situation is ripe with right-wing voters opposed to a leftist social revolution feeling increasingly voiceless, especially across Northern Europe.

Glimpses of that ideological movement building were once seen in an Orban speech asking Christian refugees from Europe to head to Hungary: “Of course we can give shelter to the real refugees: Germans, Dutch, French, Italians; scared politicians and journalists; Christians who had to flee their own country; those people who want to find here the Europe that they lost at their home,” he said.

If Orban wins re-election this time, against the odds, will we see the consolidation of a conservative bloc right at the heart of Europe? Because the days of hedging might soon be over. When the world turns binary, fence-sitting is usually no longer an option.

Dr. Sumantra Maitra is a national-security fellow at The Center for the National Interest; a non-resident fellow at the James G Martin Center; and an elected early career historian member at the Royal Historical Society. He is a senior contributor to The Federalist, and can be reached on Twitter @MrMaitra.

In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith


Reported By Joy Pullmann | NOVEMBER 23, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/11/23/in-case-with-global-implications-finland-puts-christians-on-trial-for-their-faith/

In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith
Photo Image courtesy International Lutheran Council

Meet the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for publishing long-held Christian beliefs. Juhana Pohjola wouldn’t be cast to play his own part if Hollywood made a movie about a bishop put on trial for his faith. The Finnish pastor has inherited a place in the church of Martin Luther, but it appears none of Luther’s pugnacity or vitriol. In person, Pohjola, 49, is forthright but unassuming, and gentle. Stereotypically, the Finn is thin and tall. He often pauses while speaking to carefully consider his next words. He listens attentively to others with far less impressive resumes.

In more than two decades as a pastor, Pohjola has ministered to congregations as small as 30. He has spent his life building a network of faithful churches across Finland, many of which started with a few people gathered for prayer, Bible study, hymn-singing—and communion, if they can get a pastor. In an in-person interview with The Federalist, Pohjola urged fellow Christian leaders to be willing to seek out “one lost sheep” instead of crowds and acclaim.

This is the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for preaching the Christian message as it has been established for thousands of years. Also charged in the case that goes to trial on January 24 is Pohjola’s fellow Lutheran and a Finnish member of Parliament, Paivi Rasanen. Rasanen’s alleged crimes in a country that claims to guarantee freedom of speech and religion include tweeting a picture of a Bible verse. Potential penalties if they are convicted include fines and up to two years in prison.

Finnish Authorities: The Bible Is Hate Speech

Rasanen and Pohjola are being charged with “hate speech” for respectively writing and publishing a 24-page 2004 booklet that explains basic Christian theology about sex and marriage, which reserves sex exclusively for within marriage, which can only consist of one man and one woman, for life. The Finnish prosecutor claims centuries-old Christian teachings about sex “incite hatred” and violate legal preferences for government-privileged identity groups.

Writer Rod Dreher pointed out the witch hunt nature of this prosecution: “Räsänen wrote that pamphlet seven years before LGBT was added to the national hate-speech law as a protected class. She was investigated once before for the pamphlet, and cleared — but now she’s going to undergo another interrogation.”

Rasanen and Pohjola both have adamantly affirmed “the divinely given dignity, value, and human rights of all, including all who identify with the LGBTQ community.” Christian theology teaches that all human beings are precious, as all are made in God’s image and offered eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In advance of the trial, Rasanen and Pohjola have been interrogated by police for hours about their theology. Pohjola told me in the interrogation police treated Christian beliefs as thought crimes. In a statement, Rasanen noted that the police publicly admitted their interpretation of Finland’s law would make publishing the Bible a hate crime.

“It is impossible for me to think that the classical Christian views and the doctrine of the majority of denominations would become illegal. The question here is about the core of Christian faith; how a person gets saved into unity with God and into everlasting life though the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore, it is crucial to also talk about the nature of sin,” Rasanen told Dreher. “As we are living in a democratic country, we must be able to disagree and express our disagreement. We have to be able to cope with speech that we feel insults our feelings. Many questions are so debatable and contradictory that we have to have the possibility of discussing. Otherwise, the development is towards a totalitarian system, with only one correct view.”

Major International Implications

Humans rights lawyer Paul Coleman, who spoke to The Federalist from his Alliance Defending Freedom International office in Vienna, Austria, says Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases are a “canary in the coalmine” for freedom of speech across the West. ADF International is providing legal support for Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases.

“Although all European countries have these hate speech laws, and these hate speech laws are increasingly being used against citizens for things that they say, this is the first time we’ve really seen Christians face criminal prosecution for explaining their biblical views,” Coleman said. “…It’s unprecedented. We’ve not seen attacks on free speech on this level in Europe, and that’s why they are extremely important cases, not just for the people of Finland and Paivi Rasanen and the bishop themselves, but for all of Europe. If this is upheld in one jurisdiction, we will no doubt see it in other jurisdictions as well.”

Such “hate speech” laws exist in every European country and Western countries such as Canada and Australia, and descend from Soviet influence. Coleman called them “sleeper laws,” saying that in other countries “they could be used any time just like they are in Finland. People need to mobilize against these laws and overturn them.”

Legally privileging certain sexual behavior has thus broken western countries’ promises of equality before the law for all citizens, as well as enabling government discrimination against citizens who exercise their free speech and religious liberty, as in the Baronnelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips cases in the United States.

“Establishing standards of identity” also lets government meddle in theological controversies that are none of its business, said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, who directs church relations for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and has known Pohjola for decades. Pohjola’s church is an international partner of the LCMS.

From a natural law and historic Western perspective, “the government isn’t supposed to get into people’s brains and tell them what’s right and wrong to believe and say,” Shaw noted in a phone interview. “That’s not their realm. Their realm is in externals, things like protect people in their bodies, go to war when necessary, and punish criminals… This is really what’s at stake [in the Pohjola case]. Government has lost its moorings and doesn’t know its purpose.”

From Part-Time Pastor to Bishop

After theological study in Finland and the United States, Pohjola’s first congregation in Helsinki started with about 30 members, he says. It was only able to support him part-time at first. He remembered his wife accompanying the congregation’s hymn-singing on a piano while their firstborn daughter, a baby at the time, laid on a blanket on the floor nearby.

Finland’s state church began openly disobeying Christian theology concerning sex differences amid the global sexual revolution of the 1960s. So, Christians alienated by the state church’s embrace of anti-Christian cultural demands sought faithful pastors like Pohjola, who are known as “confessional” for adhering to historic Christian confessions. The resulting growth of his tiny congregation gradually led to establishing a seminary, then dozens of mission churches, which grew as the theologically unfaithful state church shrank. In 2013, 25 of these new confessional congregations formed the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland. Today, that diocese oversees 45 congregations and missions and is training 64 pastors.

That growth has been accompanied by suffering, including persecution first from Pohjola’s own church.

First Persecuted By His Own Church

In 2009, Pohjola was awarded the theological journal Gottesdienst’s Sabre of Boldness Award, which is granted “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ, while engaged in the confession of His Pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces, and at the greatest personal risk.” The award honored Pohjola, with other faithful Finnish pastors, for standing firm as Finland’s state church sought civil charges against them for refusing to disobey the Bible’s commands that only men be sent to lead spiritual warfare as pastors.

Like Luther before him, Pohjola was expelled by his own church body in 2014 for adhering to God’s word on this matter. The notice of his discharge declared Pohjola was “obviously unfit to be a pastor.” At the time, he responded with grief but also by saying that he must obey God rather than men, lamenting: “Instead of the Church being purged with God’s Word, she is being purged from God’s Word.”

In the interview last week, Pohjola said being defrocked from “his baptismal church” grieves him to this day. On his mother’s side, Pohjola said, his family includes Lutheran pastors in that church going back to the 17th century Reformation. But he could not disobey God’s commands to retain his social status or employment.

Division or Unity? Yes

Pohjola’s separation from Finland’s state church also had the consequence of uniting him and his flock with other confessional Christians across the globe. The International Lutheran Council is a global network of theologically unified churches, and like the confessional churches in Finland, that network is growing.

Mathew Block, the ILC’s communications manager, noted that the heightened contradictions between increasingly unnatural pagan practices and historic Christian teachings are causing a global “confessional realignment.” It’s forcing people to make a real decision about where they stand rather than allowing them to inhabit the increasingly nonexistent, indecisive middle. This is affecting churches all over the world. While it means divisions in some areas, it also is leading to unity in others. For example, despite other important theological differences, all the world’s largest Christian bodies agree with the doctrines for which the Finnish government is persecuting Pohjola. That allows them to speak in chorus to government leaders.

Already many dozens of top religious leaders across the world have formally raised their concerns with Rasanen and Pohjola’s prosecution to the Finnish government and the United Nations. Several U.S. members of Congress have also asked U.S. agencies to take action against Finland for these human rights abuses.

“I encourage Roman Catholic ecclesiastical leaders and all those who care for souls to speak up and join hands and lock arms with us as we talk about the absolute necessity of our historic Christian values of one man, one woman, marriage, and the freedom to be able to believe it, to say it, to publish books about it, and find practical ways through hospitality, education, and other social engagement to make society strong that way,” Shaw said. “All churches—one could even say all religions but in particular the Roman Catholic faith—this reflects their historic commitments as well.”

The Shepherd Faces Wolf Attacks for the Sheep

In August 2021, the international Lutheran church recognized Pohjola’s steadfast leadership amid persecution by supporting his election to bishop of Finland’s confessional diocese. The ILC hosted Pohjola’s November 2021 speaking tour in the United States, and is raising funds across the world to raise awareness of his case.

“Our mission has been that, if the shepherd sees that one sheep is missing, he knows,” Pohjola said of the churches he oversees. He noted that many people coming to faithful Finnish churches are seeking love and connection from a church family as the secular world becomes increasingly isolated and family-less, in no small part because of pagan sexual behavior and beliefs.

“People don’t go to church for social capital now. This is a serious life and they want to be serious with God. So, churches have to build communities that stand on solid Lutheran, biblical doctrine,” Pohjola says.

While he may not share Luther’s temperament, Pohjola’s response to his own persecution by church and civil authorities does mirror Luther’s simplicity four centuries ago: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” He adds a pastoral message to Christians watching governments turn on them today.

“We have to learn from the past, Christians who have suffered under persecution, and be prepared,” Pohjola said. “But it’s not something to be worried about, because Christ remains faithful to His church and wherever he is leading us, He will come with us. He will provide everything that is needed for the future of His Christians and His church.”

You can hear Pohjola talk about his case and its implications during his November visit to the United States here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=413205860293995

And watch a Federalist Radio Hour interview with Pohjola here:

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