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Faith, power, money: Conflicting agendas in Ukraine Church politics

One of the most contentious and significant controversies in the world today is also one of the least-well understood.

Jim Jatras

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In part, this is because it involves matters of faith and church governance, the importance of which many people, especially some of a secular mind who scorn mere “religion,” tend to underestimate.

That is a mistake, certainly with respect to the storm that seems on the verge of plunging Ukraine into a new cycle of violence. That may happen if, as seems quite possible, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople recognizes an “autocephalous” (completely self-ruling) Orthodox Church in Ukraine over the objections of the Russian Orthodox Church, of which the Ukrainian Church is an integral part.

This question is often misreported in the Western media as Constantinople’s response to a request from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for autocephaly. This is inaccurate. The only Ukrainian Orthodox body recognized as canonical by the rest of the Orthodox Christian world – even including Constantinople at this point – is the autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church under the authority of Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev, which is not asking for autocephaly.

So who is making such a request? People who have no authority to do so. This means first of all Ukrainian politicians, starting with President Petro Poroshenko (whose own Orthodox affiliation is subject to question), who evidently calculates that midwifing an independent Ukrainian national church completely divorced from Russia will enhance his re-election prospects next year. Not to be outdone, his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko also is in favor. These proponents of autocephaly are explicit that their goals are political. “Shortly, we will have an independent Ukrainian church as part of an independent Ukraine. This will create a spiritual independence from Russia,” Poroshenko told the Washington Post.

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Also asking for autocephaly is so-called “Patriarch Filaret” Denysenko and his supposed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the “Kiev Patriarchate,” which is recognized as canonical by exactly nobody. Denysenko, who was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997, hopes that will change soon. Patriarch Bartholomew has dispatched to Ukraine two envoys (“exarchs”), one each from the US and Canada, to meet with Denysenko, possibly even to consecrate his “bishops” to give them supposedly valid status.

Unfortunately, there is also involvement from another direction by people whose agenda is entirely political. Western governments see a geopolitical opportunity in exacerbating an ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine and pitting Constantinople against Moscow. Doing so, they believe, will undermine Russia’s geopolitical “soft power” through the Orthodox Church and further alienate Russians and Ukrainians from one another.

As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College, “The real goal of the quest for autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow. ”

The Western proponents are as crassly honest about the political aspects as the Ukrainian politicians. The German ambassador in Kiev, not known to have any particular theological acuity, opined in July, that autocephaly would strengthen Ukrainian statehood. The hyper-establishment Atlantic Council, which hosted Denysenko on a recent visit to Washington, notes“With the Russian Orthodox Church as the last source of Putin’s soft power now gone, Ukraine’s movement out of Russia’s orbit is irreversible.”

Likewise the US State Department, after a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal church matter,” last week reversed its position and issued a formal statement“The United States respects the ability of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.”

While avoiding a direct call for autocephaly, the statement gives the unmistakable impression of such endorsement, which is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example“US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” The State Department’s praise for the Ecumenical Patriarchate reinforces that clearly intended impression.

There may be more to the State Department’s position than meets the eye, however. According to an unconfirmed reportoriginating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox archdiocese (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government is aware of the theft of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from the budget for the construction of the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in New York (This is explained further below).

The warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

Again, it must be emphasized that this report is unconfirmed, though one doesn’t see mainstream American media falling over themselves trying to track down the facts. The official statement of the Greek archdiocese does not report a personal one-on-one meeting between Pompeo and Archbishop Demetrios, but the message could have been communicated between subordinate personnel on both sides.

What lends the report an air of believability, however, is the depth of the scandal to which it refers. As few outside the Orthodox Christian community may recall, only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed on September 11, 2001, and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed in the attack. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. The humble little church reportedly housed icons and relics donated to the parish by Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, none of which were recovered.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed to the effort. A major role was played by the archdiocesan women’s organization, the Ladies Philoptochos, who undertook it as a “sacred mission”“Together let us rebuild Saint Nicholas for all future generations, and for the many millions of people who will visit every year the new World Trade Center, the National September 11 Memorial Museum and our National Shrine, the only house of worship at Ground Zero.” By the end of 2017, almost $37 million had been raised and construction on this unique Orthodox Christian presence was proceeding apace.

Then – poof! – in December 2017 suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds. Resumption would require on-hand an estimated $2 million. Despite the archdiocese calling in an audit by a major accounting firm, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating. There have been calls for Archbishop Demetrios’s resignation.

This is where we get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Fener district. Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches), the financial lifeline is Greeks (including this writer) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to this writer’s sources. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine. It’s an open question how much the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s shaking down the Greeks in the US to pay for extravagant boondoggles like the 2016 “Council” contributed to the financial mess at the New York archdiocese, which in turn may have opened them up to pressure from the State Department to get moving on Ukraine.

Finally, while the Ukraine controversy does largely involve politicians’ agendas and a struggle for supremacy between Constantinople and Moscow, it is not entirely devoid of moral and spiritual significance. It should be noted that among the most ardent nominally Orthodox advocates of Ukrainian autocephaly are groups of American academics like the purveyors of moral and sexual LGBT and genderqueer ideology “Orthodoxy in Dialogue” and the hardly less revolutionary “Orthodox Christian Studies Center at New York’s Fordham University.

Orthodoxy in Dialogue recently issued a call – accompanied by a pairing of an Orthodox cross with LGBT rainbow symbolism – to bishops in all US Orthodox jurisdictions to curtail their anti-abortion witness and adopt the immoral sexual agendas that have wrought havoc in the Western confessions, a call that should receive a sharp condemnation from the hierarchs.

No one – and certainly not this writer – should accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the fake patriarch Denysenko of sympathizing with such anti-Orthodox values. But the converse is not true. These advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay”marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Kiev, Odessa, Podgorica, Sofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such “European values.”

Ukrainians especially need to ask themselves why Western governments are so happy to cheer on developments that could plunge the Orthodox Church into worldwide schism, and Ukraine into another round of fratricidal violence. The unedifying behind-the-scenes machinations, many details of which remain under wraps, should give them further pause.

Via RT

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MarthaWalter Dublanica Recent comment authors
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Filaret was expelled from Moscow for having fathered a child out of wedlock. Trying to make Ukrainian Orthodox different from Russian Orthodox is nonsense. Both liturgy’s are identical Church Slavonic. Time to stop the nonsense of trying to separate two people who are identical. The word Ukraine means borderland, nothing else.

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Divide and conquer.

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Defeat in Bavaria delivers knockout punch to Merkel’s tenure as Chancellor (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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The stunning CSU defeat in Bavaria means that the coalition partner in Angela Merkel’s government has lost an absolute majority in their worst election results in Bavaria since 1950.

In a preview analysis before the election, Deutsche Welle noted that a CSU collapse could lead to Seehofer’s resignation from Merkel’s government, and conceivably Söder’s exit from the Bavarian state premiership, which would remove two of the chancellor’s most outspoken critics from power, and give her room to govern in the calmer, crisis-free manner she is accustomed to.

On the other hand, a heavy loss and big resignations in the CSU might well push a desperate party in a more volatile, abrasive direction at the national level. That would further antagonize the SPD, the center-left junior partners in Merkel’s coalition, themselves desperate for a new direction and already impatient with Seehofer’s destabilizing antics, and precipitate a break-up of the age-old CDU/CSU alliance, and therefore a break-up of Merkel’s grand coalition. In short: Anything could happen after Sunday, up to and including Merkel’s fall.

The Financial Times reports that the campaign was dominated by the divisive issue of immigration, in a sign of how the shockwaves from Merkel’s disastrous decision to let in more than a million refugees in 2015-16 are continuing to reverberate through German politics and to reshape the party landscape.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning Bavarian election defeat of the CSU party, and the message voters sent to Angela Merkel, the last of the Obama ‘rat pack’ neo-liberal, globalist leaders whose tenure as German Chancellor appears to be coming to an end.

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Via Zerohedge

Voters in Germany’s economically dominant southern state of Bavaria delivered a stunning rebuke to the ruling Christian Social Union, in an election that delivered another crushing blow for the parties in Angela Merkel’s grand coalition in Berlin.

With all eyes on Sunday’s Bavaria election, moments ago the first exit polls showed a historic collapse for the ruling CSU party, which has ruled Bavaria continuously since 1957, and which saw its share of the vote collapse from 47.7% in the 2013 election to just 35.5%, losing its absolute majority and suffering its worst result since 1950, as voters defected in their droves to the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

German newspaper Welt called the election “the most painful election defeat of the past 50 years for the CSU”. As predicted in the polls, the CSU experienced a “historic debacle” in the Bavarian state elections, according to Welt. The CSU was followed by the Greens which soared in the election, more than doubling to 18.5% from 8.6% in 2013, the Free Voters also rose to 11% from 9.0%, in 2013.

Meanwhile, the nationalist AfD are expecting to enter Bavaria’s parliament for the first time ever with 11% of the vote, and as such are setting up for their post-election party. Party leader Alice Weidel already is having the first beer in the small community of Mamming in Lower Bavaria.

Establishment party, left-of-center SPD also saw its support collapse from 20.6% in 2013 to just 10% today.

The full initial results from an ARD exit poll are as follows (via Zerohedge):

  • CSU: 35.5 %
  • Grüne: 18.5 %
  • FW: 11.5 %
  • AfD: 11.0 %
  • SPD: 10.0 %
  • FDP: 5.0 %
  • Linke: 3.5 %
  • Sonstige: 5.0 %

The breakdown by gender did not show any marked variations when it comes to CSU support, although more women voted for the Greens, while far more men supported the AfD:

There was a greater variation by educational level, with highly educated voters tending more towards the green GRÜNE (G/EFA) and liberal FDP (ALDE) then the average, while low/middle educated voters tended more towards CSU (EPP) and AfD (EFDD).

This was the worst result for the CSU since 1950.

Zerohedge further reports that alarmed by the rise of the anti-immigration, populist AfD, the CSU tried to outflank them by talking tough on immigration and picking fights with Ms Merkel over asylum policy.

But the strategy appeared to have backfired spectacularly by alienating tens of thousands of moderate CSU voters and driving them into the arms of the Greens.

Meanwhile, as support the CSU and SPD collapsed, the result confirmed the Greens’ status as the rising force in German politics. Running on a platform of open borders, liberal social values and the fight against climate change the party saw its support surge to 18.5%, from 8.4% in 2013. Meanwhile the AfD won 11%, and for the first time entered the Bavarian regional assembly.

“This is an earthquake for Bavaria,” said Jürgen Falter, a political scientist at the University of Mainz.

The CSU had governed the state with an absolute majority for most of the last 60 years. “It was Bavaria and Bavaria was the CSU. That is now no longer the case.”

The latest collapse of Germany’s establishment parties highlights the shaky ground the grand coalition in Berlin is now resting on as all three parties in the alliance, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the CSU and the SPD, are haemorrhaging support. Some are now questioning whether the coalition, already frayed by personal rivalries and near constant bickering over policy, can survive a full term in office.

“This outcome throws ever more doubt on the future of the grand coalition,” said Heinrich Oberreuter, head of the Passau Journalism Institute and an expert on the CSU. “Based on current polls, if an election were held now, the CDU, CSU and SPD would not even command a majority in the Bundestag.”

The CSU will now be be forced to form a coalition government — a humiliating outcome for a party that has run Bavaria single-handedly for 49 of the last 54 years. Its preference is probably for a three-party coalition with the Free Voters, a small party that is mainly focused on local politics. It could also team up with the Greens, though it would be highly reluctant to do so: the two parties are deeply divided over immigration, transport and environmental policy.

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Elizabeth Warren’s DNA ploy backfires big time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 1.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Senator Elizabeth Warren’s ‘genius’ idea to accept POTUS Trump’s ‘Native American DNA’ challenge. Let’s just say that Warren will never recover from this self-inflicted wound.

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The Cherokee Nation issued a statement crushing Elizabeth Warren for her “continued claims of tribal heritage.”

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America. Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, who ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.

– Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr

Zerohedge reports that Elizabeth Warren just owned herself after releasing a DNA test confirming that she’s as little as 1/1024th Native American – about half the percentage of the average white person.

What’s more, the DNA expert she used, Stanford University professor Carlos Bustamente, “used samples from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia to stand in for Native American” as opposed to, say, DNA from a Cherokee Indian which Warren has claimed to be throughout her career.

Adding to the absurdity are two major corrections by the Boston Globe (which has become the media mouthpiece of Warren’s 2020 damage control efforts of late), letting readers know that “Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 10th generation relative. It should be 1/1,024,” and later updating it to “between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American.”

Adding to the absurdity are two major corrections by the Boston Globe (which has become the media mouthpiece of Warren’s 2020 damage control efforts of late), letting readers know that “Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 10th generation relative. It should be 1/1,024,” and later updating it to “between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American.”

Elizabeth Warren’s got trolled by Trump in the most epic fashion, pushing the Senator to make a blunder that will follow her for the rest of her career.

The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson exposed Elizabeth Warren’s history of lies in 10 simple tweets…

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Hillary Clinton: Democrats have been TOO CIVIL with GOP (VIDEO)

Civil war becomes more likely as Clinton calls for greater civil unrest after weeks of absolutely insane behavior from leftist activists.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Former presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton just called for an end to civil behavior towards Republicans and conservatives. In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN expanded on in a piece by USA Today, the failed candidate had this to say:

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about… That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and / or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

Clinton said that Senate Republicans under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “demeaned the confirmation process” and “insulted and attacked” Christine Blasey Ford – who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about a sexual assault she alleges Kavanaugh committed in 1982 – along with other “women who were speaking out.”

It should be pointed out here that Clinton told a lie. The Senate Republicans did everything possible to hear out Dr Ford’s testimony, and no one has gone on record with any sort of insults or demeaning comments about her. Every Republican Senator who stated anything agreed that something happened to her, but they also agreed that there was no corroboration showing that Judge Kavanaugh was actually involved in any misdoings. USA Today’s piece continues:

Clinton compared the handling of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to “Republican operatives shutting down the voting in 2000,” the “swift-boating of John Kerry,” attacks on former Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary and “what they did to me for 25 years.

“When you’re dealing with an ideological party that is driven by the lust for power, that is funded by corporate interests who want a government that does its bidding, you can be civil but you can’t overcome what they intend to do unless you win elections,” she told Amanpour.

Clinton compared Kavanaugh’s swearing-in ceremony at the White House on Monday to a “political rally” that “further undermined the image and integrity of the court.”

She told Amanpour the effect on the court “troubles” and “saddens” her “because our judicial system has been viewed as one of the main pillars of our constitutional government.”

“But the President’s been true to form,” Clinton added. “He has insulted, attacked, demeaned women throughout the campaign – really for many years leading up to the campaign. And he’s continued to do that inside the White House.”

Here, Clinton told at least two more incendiary whoppers.

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First, no one has been specifically after her, and second, President Donald Trump’s record with women including in the White House has been nothing short of stellar and gentlemanly. Nikki Haley, who supported Marco Rubio in the 2016 campaign and has at times been openly critical of Donald Trump, yesterday announced her full support of his 2020 campaign and her intent to campaign with and for him.

By all accounts, Mrs. Haley is a woman.

The first American Civil War had economic policy and states’ rights as its central focus. Slavery was a part of that issue, though slavery was practiced in the North as well in the South before this war began.

Now a new civil war is coming, but perhaps it should be called the American Social War. It is not about any real policy matter at all. It is hysteria, but it appears to be hysteria with a purpose.

The first American Social War has two apparent sides and allying forces and groups:

The Left:

  • pro-gay marriage
  • pro-death (in other words, pro-abortion)
  • anti-Christian, especially Christianity that says these first two issues are wrong
  • anti-GOP / Republican / Conservative
  • “victim class” – feminists, some millenials
  • supporters of legalized use of mind-altering / mood-altering drugs
  • appears to support overreaching socialist style government, featuring “fair” wages, such as a $15.oo minimum wage
  • anti-traditionalist
  • Mainstream media is strongly allied here
  • George Soros is a supporter
  • social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter are supporters through “scrubbing” of media content
  • anti-white, anti-male, and if you are white, male and Christian, look out. You are Enemy Number One
  • supports and executes violence against all these people they are against, including family members.
  • very zealous, and very monolithic in terms of alignment and energy

The Right:

  • Conservatives
  • people who generally want the government to leave them alone
  • generally favors life, considering abortion tragic and to be avoided, though some consider that it should be made illegal
  • marriage has always been between one man and one woman and it should not be redefined to fit the whims of a few
  • God is sovereign (though many conservatives would never make this connection)
  • No real animus against the left, but at the same time, fed up with being hectored by the left all the time, as we saw in Senator Lindsey Graham’s explosive confrontation against Senate Democrats
  • Generally Republican by party affiliation, though many libertarian and conservatives are also present as well as a number of conservative democrats.
  • seeks to avoid violence. While there do exist a very few neo-Nazi types, their numbers are infinitesimal, and their behavior is rejected by the Right
  •  generally against drug use, though many have unfortunately moderated on the matter of actual illegality

The main characteristic of this approaching war, as stated before, is little more than some sort of outrage over identity politics and perceived victimization. This is something both new and old, as there is always a party in any war that claims that they are fighting because they are in fact the aggrieved party, under the other side’s aggression and suppression.

That factor exists with this war too. However, the reality of that aggression or suppression is that it does not exist, and this makes it very difficult for the “perceived aggressors” to ramp up the zeal needed to carry out the fight.

This factor is often very maddening for conservative people. As a whole they do not wish to fight. They wish to be left alone. The left on the other hand insists that everything must be fought for because the right has somehow managed to take it away from them, or is keeping it away from them.

This is purely fiction but it is almost impossible to convince a leftist that this is so. Tucker Carlson expands on this matter in this report. He makes reference at 6:37 about how Hillary Rodham Clinton is now openly calling for civility to the GOP to end (as if it hasn’t already!), but the entirety of this report begs to be seen to give perspective to the look and feel of this crisis:

This is unfamiliar territory in many ways, and it is unclear how far this will go. But one this is clear: it is testing all available limits, and it may come to real fighting, and real killing, for no reason better than perceived victimization.

It should be understood that the advocates for violence are all people that reject God and traditional values openly. There is certainly a connection.

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