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When Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel, she tried to encourage American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to make Israel a top priority. Kissinger sent her a letter saying: “I would like to inform you that I am first an American citizen, second Secretary of State and third a Jew.” Golda Meir responded: “In Israel when we read, we start from the other direction!” That’s chutzpah!

Leo Rosten in his book The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as "incredible 'guts', presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to". Chutzpah, he says, is that quality in a man who, "having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan". The dictionary defines chutzpah as "unmitigated effrontery or impudence, gall, audacity, nerve".

The Bible is full of characters brimming with chutzpah.

  • Abraham has chutzpah. He bargains with God like an Arab in a souk over God’s plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Jacob has chutzpah. He wrestles all night with God’s angel as if he is competing in the World Wrestling Championship.
  • Moses has chutzpah. He marches up to Pharaoh and says to him, “Let my people go!”
  • Samson has chutzpah. When the Philistines arrest him, gouge out his eyes and force him to entertain them, he literally brings the house down. He pulls down the pillars to which he is chained and kills the Philistines and himself.
  • David has chutzpah. The shepherd boy takes five pebbles and a sling and goes to meet Goliath, the fully armored warrior giant, in battle.
  • Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have chutzpah. When King Nebuchadnezzar threatens to throw them into a furnace for not bowing down to his idol, they tell him: “We are not answerable to you. Our God is able to deliver us from the furnace. But even if our God does not deliver us, we will not worship your image.”
  • Jesus has chutzpah. He enters the Jerusalem temple with a whip and drives the tradesmen and moneychangers out of the temple. Jesus doesn’t give a hoot about the niceties of diplomatic trade talks.
  • Paul has chutzpah. When he is arrested and about to be flogged for preaching the gospel he flashes his Roman passport and appeals directly to the Roman emperor. When he is on trial before King Agrippa he cheekily asks him, “Do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa replies, “Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!”

President Donald Trump has demonstrated chutzpah like no other leader in contemporary US and world politics.

No other American president has had the chutzpah to pull out of the bogus Paris climate accord. Film director James Cameron called Trump’s decision "psychotic".[2] “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump cheekily retorted. So fraudulent is the climate change hoax that academics Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay managed to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal arguing that penises are responsible for climate change. The paper was a spoof.

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No other American president has had the chutzpah to break with seven decades of diplomacy and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pope Francis said he was "profoundly concerned" and Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland called Trump’s action "diplomatic arson". But Trump’s response was ballsy: "Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done."

No other American president has had the chutzpah to directly address a pro-life rally saying he "hates the concept of abortion". Ronald Reagan made supportive remarks to the march in 1987 on the telephone, while George W. Bush twice did the same. But neither of them, despite claiming to be evangelical Christians, even spoke at an anti-abortion rally.

No other American president has had the chutzpah to call out the sabre rattling of North Korea’s dictator and bring him to heel. “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire,” threatened Kim Jong-un claiming that "a frightened dog barks louder" than Donald Trump. It did not take long for Kim Jong-un to turn into a poodle and come to Trump with his tail wagging, begging for a biscuit.

No other American president has had the chutzpah to give Iran a well-deserved kick up its backside. Calling Obama’s Iran deal "decaying and rotten", Trump withdrew the US from Obama’s agreement of appeasement and said he would not allow “a regime that chants ‘death to America’” to get nuclear weapons. The Sharia-compliant, ass-kissing leaders of Britain, France and Germany, who are parties to the agreement, expressed their "regret and concern" that Trump had pulled out and emphasized their "continuing commitment" to the deal; but Trump stood firm.

No other American president has had the chutzpah to withdraw the US from the United Nations Human Rights Council, even though from June 2006 to June 2016, 68 out of those 135 resolutions were against Israel. The UNHRC rarely admonishes other countries about their human rights violations and has almost never condemned the genocide of Christians in Islamic countries.

No other American president has had the chutzpah to waltz into a NATO conference and name and shame European leaders calling them out as the scroungers and freeloaders they really are, as President Trump did this week. Trump lobbed a verbal grenade right under the nose of Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, asking why the US continued to pay money to NATO, while its members were purchasing energy from Russia. “We are stronger together,” Stoltenberg parroted. “But how can you be together when you’re getting energy from the group you want protection from?” persisted Trump.

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No other American president has had the chutzpah to give an incendiary interview to a tabloid, virtually debunking the entire ragbag of policies held sacred by the government of the host country he is visiting. Only Trump had the extraordinary nerve to give Theresa May a public tongue-lashing when any other political leader would have bitten his tongue. Trump accused Theresa May of wrecking Brexit.

“I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me,” he said. Worse, he called out Theresa May as the Chief Traitor of the Brexit deal. “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum. So a lot of people don’t like it,” said Trump, pouring nitroglycerin on the Tory Brexiteer revolt against the Prime Minister.

Trump went on to say that May’s nemesis Boris Johnson would “make a great Prime Minister” and launched a blistering attack on London’s mayor Sadiq Khan: “You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London.”

Trump has chutzpah galore. The problem with today’s Western world is that it’s leaders wouldn’t know chutzpah if it hit them in the face. Western politicians have evolved into a species of emasculated and effeminate wimps – Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a quintessential representative of this species.

Why? I can think of at least five reasons. First, we are soaked in moral relativism. If there is no absolute right and wrong how can you expect a leader take a stand for what is right, just or true against what is evil, corrupt and false.

Second, the individual is at the mercy of the collective. The individual’s authority can only come from his or her identity as a member of that oppressed collective. Hence, a black disabled Muslim lesbian has greater authority as a leader than a white Christian male, who is almost entirely discredited because of his white privilege.

Third, the media and the public are not prepared to name and shame "fakery" or "falsity". Anything goes in the name of diplomacy, niceness and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. "O you who love the Lord, hate evil!" says Psalm 97:10. This verse would make most Western Christians cringe. “Yes, I love the Lord, but I’m not sure I would actually be prepared to hate evil, because I don’t want be labeled a hate-monger,” they’d say.

Fourth, since the Second World War we seem to be breeding a generation of snowflakes who can’t say boo to a goose and only too willing to cower before power. Philosopher Lee Harris in his book Civilization and its Enemies names this as one of the greatest threats to the West in the face of militant Islam.

Fifth, we no longer have heroes to inspire us. Prof Allan Bloom writes about how he asks his students "who their heroes are". Their response is "usually silence, and most frequently nothing follows. Why should anyone have heroes?" Instead of being inspired by heroes, they are intoxicated with celebrities, he writes in his book The Closing of the American Mind. Heroes are bristling with chutzpah, celebrities are oozing with niceness.

The opposite of chutzpah is cowardice. It is a word that occurs at the end of book of Revelation. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death". Most of today’s Western leaders – in church and society – are cowards.

Britain’s commoners will heartily cheer Trump’s chutzpah. The working classes voted for Brexit. The leaders betrayed them. English radio talk show presenter Jon Gaunt has called Theresa May a traitor.

The leftwing establishment will scornfully jeer Trump’s chutzpah as "bad manners". “Where are your manners, Mr President?” tweeted Universities Minister Sam Gyimah. “She is his host. What did his mother teach him? This is not the way you behave,” Labour’s Emily Thornberry, told ITV.

“Where is your honor?” Mr Gyimah. “Where is your spine?” Ms Thornberry. “Where is your integrity?” Mrs May. I prefer an ill-mannered Jesus busting the temple moneychangers to a diplomatic Judas betraying his Master with a polite kiss for thirty pieces of silver.

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Jules Gomes

by Jules Gomes

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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