Friday, 15 March 2019

Gigantic statue of Jesus to be erected in Vladivostok--on a site originally intended for a statue of Lenin

As idolatrous as a statue of Jesus is, it's amusing to think that Vladimir Lenin must be spinning in his tomb at the thought that Jesus is once again an object of veneration in Russia, while Mr. Lenin is passe. As reported by Marc Bennetts of Religion News Service, March 15, 2019 (link in original):

An artistic rendering of the statue of Christ planned for Vladivostok in eastern Russia.

Moscow • Authorities in Vladivostok, the largest city in far eastern Russia, plan to erect a gigantic statue of Jesus Christ on a site once designated for a monument of Vladimir Lenin.

The statue, which has not yet been approved by the Russian Orthodox Church, is to be 125 feet high — the same height as the Christ the Redeemer monument in Rio de Janeiro, according to blueprints made public by Vyatsky Posad, a Russian Orthodox Christian center. The statue will stand on top of a hill looking east over the Pacific Ocean.

Soviet authorities issued orders for the construction of a 98-foot-high bronze statue of Lenin at the site in 1972. Another statue, of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, was planned to be built on a neighboring hill. But construction hitches meant the plans repeatedly were postponed, before eventually being scrapped altogether in 1990.

Supporters of the Jesus statue are enthusiastic, despite the lack of details about the project. Descriptions of the statue as a “symbol of the unity of the Russian people” that would “bless” ships leaving and arriving in the port city were later deleted from the Vyatsky Posad’s website, for reasons that remain unclear. Attempts by Religion News Service to contact the Vyatsky Center for comment were unsuccessful.

Other Russian media outlets, however, have published blueprints for the project, and plans for the statue were discussed openly at a meeting at the proposed site in late February attended by Oleg Kozhemyako, the regional governor; Ali Uzdenov, a vice president of the Russian business conglomerate Sistema; and Gennady Tsurkov, the head of the Vyatsky Posad center, which is connected to Iliy, an influential monk who is spiritual adviser to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Tsurkov, in an interview with Russia’s Govorit Moskva radio station, said the statue project had been inspired by Iliy.

“He really wants to put up a statue of Jesus Christ as a protector of our Russia from the east,” Tsurkov said. “He says, ‘we need to make it higher [than the statue in Rio].’” Tsurkov clarified that while the statue itself would be the same height as the Christ the Redeemer monument, it would also stand atop a 98-foot-high pedestal. “Altogether, it will be 68 meters [223 feet].”

Tsurkov said that private investors would fund the construction of the statue but that total costs had yet to be finalized.

Kozhemyako said a small chapel that could hold up to 30 people would also be built close to the statue. “Delegations will just arrive, go in, and light a candle,” the regional governor said, according to online footage of the on-site discussion.

Online opinion has been almost entirely negative. “Is there nothing else for us to spend our money on?” wrote Svetlana, on a forum for residents of Vladivostok. “We’d be better off spending the money on hospitals, schools, roads … ”

Others on the same forum suggested the project could be part of “a money-laundering scheme.”

Roman Lunkin, a religion analyst at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, told RNS that it was not certain that the Russian Orthodox Church would approve the project, because the proposed design was more in keeping with Roman Catholic statues and monuments. “There is a tradition in Orthodoxy of putting up crosses,” he said, “but not statues.”

With the Russian Orthodox Church closely aligned with the Kremlin, Lunkin explained, the project contained a “political-patriotic” element that apparently underlines what President Vladimir Putin has described as the religious values that bind modern Russia.

“This huge statue of Christ is proposed to act as a kind of border post in Russia’s far east to guard our motherland,” Lunkin said. He also criticized comments attributed to Ilya, the patriarch’s spiritual adviser, about making the statue larger than its counterpart in Brazil as an ill-considered attempt to “demonstrate Russian greatness” to the entire world.

The construction of a massive statue of Christ in Vladivostok would also neatly symbolize Russia’s startling transformation from an officially atheist state in the Soviet era, which ended in 1991, to today’s Christian-majority country. Around 80 percent of Russians currently identify as Orthodox Christians, including Putin, a former KGB agent. Few, however, attend church services or observe religious fasts.

The Vladivostok statue wouldn’t be the first time that a Christian structure has been built on the site of a monument to Lenin. In 2000, Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral was consecrated at a location within sight of the Kremlin towers, replacing a previous cathedral building that was demolished on Stalin’s orders in 1931 to make way for a planned 1,000-foot-high Palace of Soviets.

The palace, which would have been the world’s tallest building at the time, was to have been topped by a colossal statue of Lenin. Construction was postponed and then later scrapped with the outbreak of World War II.

It’s not only in grandiose architecture that Lenin and Jesus compete in today’s Russia. Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the modern-day Communist Party, frequently compares Lenin to Jesus Christ and has claimed the Soviet Union was an attempt to establish “God’s kingdom on earth.”

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Jerusalem Bible Lands Museum exhibition highlights discoveries about 7th century B.C. Judah

As reported by David Brummer of Breaking Israel News, March 7, 2019:

A new Jerusalem Bible Lands Museum exhibition on the rescue excavation taking place at Tel Beit Shemesh will highlight the pivotal historical evidence being revealed. The finds uncovered will be on display for the first time and there will also be a discussion on the need to balance preservation and modernization.

The exhibition, entitled Highway through History, is the result of extensive excavations undertaken by Y. G. Archaeology under the auspices of Hebrew Union College. The goal of the excavation was to ensure that nothing of unique historical importance lay beneath the highway extension – Route 38 – being constructed abutting the town of Beit Shemesh. Workers were preparing to begin construction, when excavators uncovered remains of a Judean settlement from the end of the First Temple period.

Such a finding, helps to rewrite previously held assumptions about the ancient town of Beit Shemesh and the Kingdom of Judah under Assyrian rule in the 7th century BCE. Scholars had believed that the ancient city of Beit Shemesh was totally destroyed by King Sennacherib of Assyria, but these new discoveries reveal that the city was reestablished following its destruction and became an important economic hub in the kingdom of Judah.

Discoveries include a large industrial zone for olive oil production, hundreds of jar handles with stamp seal impressions characteristic of First Temple period administration in the Kingdom of Judah, and clay figurine fragments in the shape of women and animals.

One of the most fascinating finds was a stone statue of the Egyptian goddess, Bes – the only example found in Israel to-date. Many of the figurines were found smashed, which may point to the extensiveness of Kings Hezekiah and Josiah’s religious reforms – in which idolatry was outlawed – and described in the Book of Kings.

The importance of this site cannot be overstated; as it relates to the return of the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines to the Israelites. The Ark had been captured in the battle between the Israelites and Philistines, thought to have taken place between Eben-ezer and Aphek.

The discovery of an archaeological site of such import also raises questions about the balance between preservation and modernization. As Israel is replete with ancient historical artifacts, left by successive invading empires, it is common for excavations to be performed before any construction can begin. One well-known example is at the Givati Parking Lot – part of Jerusalem’s City of David, just south of the Old City walls.

“The Bible Lands Museum works tirelessly to preserve and protect the heritage of this region for visitors of all ages and faiths,” said the museum’s director Amanda Weiss. “ Your story – the story of each individual – is rooted in the events and cultures that ultimately shaped the development of human history in this region.”

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

U.S. political cult leader Lyndon LaRouche dies at 96

I missed this when it occurred a month ago: Lyndon LaRouche, economic theorist, conspiracy theorist, perennial U.S. presidential candidate, and cult leader, died on February 12, 2019 at the age of 96, as reported in a laudatory obituary published in his Executive Intelligence Review.

Mr. LaRouche's cult--the International Caucus of Labor Committees--revolved around himself rather than around fixed dogma, which enabled him, over a period of 40 years, to retain much of his following while migrating from Marxism to a position on the political spectrum that could be described, in the words of a former professor of mine, as "slightly to the right of Nero."

Mr. LaRouche achieved some success at infiltrating the Democratic Party in the 1980s, but his tentacles reached beyond the United States. This blogger has seen LaRouche cultists at the Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, while the Schiller Institute, which was founded by his second wife Helga Zepp-LaRouche, had, and perhaps still has, a base in Sherwood Park, Alberta. In the mid-1980s, an obscure critical article about Mr. LaRouche by Alberta cultwatcher Chris Milner in Alberta Report magazine prompted a handwritten rebuttal to Mr. Milner from a well-known American admirer of Mr. LaRouche.

For more on Lyndon LaRouche, see the following articles:

Lyndon LaRouche, Cult Figure Who Ran for President 8 Times, Dies at 96 by Richard Severo, The New York Times, February 13, 2019

Lyndon LaRouche Jr., conspiracy theorist and presidential candidate, dies at 96 by Timothy R. Smith, The Washington Post, February 13, 2019

Ideological Odyssey: From Old Left to Far Right by John Mintz, The Washington Post, January 14, 1985

Political Theater of the Absurd by Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed, February 19, 2019

Saturday, 9 March 2019

First meeting between a Roman Catholic Pope and a Mormon President takes place in Rome

Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a true Christian church, but antichrists of a feather flock together. As reported by Peggy Fletcher Stack and David Noyce of the Salt Lake Tribune, March 9, 2019 (bold, links in original):

For the first time, a Catholic pope and a Latter-day Saint prophet met — faith to faith and face to face.

Pope Francis and Russell M. Nelson, top leaders of separate global Christian religions, sat down together Saturday at the Vatican for a 33-minute exchange a day before the American-born faith dedicates its first temple in Rome, the cradle of Catholicism.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the meeting between the 82-year-old Francis and the 94-year-old Nelson, early Saturday morning. M. Russell Ballard, the 90-year-old acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, attended as well.

While the historic encounter may not be as significant for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics — popes frequently give audiences to foremost religious figures — the spiritual calculus adds up to watershed recognition for the globe’s 16 million Latter-day Saints.

After their private meeting with the pope, Nelson and Ballard emerged, arms linked, at the Vatican.

“We had a most cordial, unforgettable experience with His Holiness," Nelson said in a news release. "He was most gracious and warm and welcoming to President Ballard and me.

“What a sweet, wonderful man he is,” the Latter-day Saint president added, "and how fortunate the Catholic people are to have such a gracious, concerned, loving and capable leader.”

So what did the religious leaders discuss? Global relief, for starters, and the two religions’ mutual efforts to relieve human suffering.

“We explained to His Holiness that we work side by side, that we have projects with Catholic Relief Services all over the world, in over 43 countries," Ballard said in the release. "[We’ve] been shoulder to shoulder as partners in trying to relieve suffering. He was very interested in that.”

Nelson said they also talked about the "importance of religious liberty, the importance of the family, our mutual concern for the youth of the church, for the secularization of the world, and the need for people to come to God, and worship him, pray to him and have the stability that faith in Jesus Christ will bring in their lives.”

And they chatted about the new Rome Temple, with its role in connecting families eternally in Mormon theology.

The visiting Latter-day Saint delegation presented the pontiff with a Christus figurine and a framed copy of the faith’s family proclamation in Italian. In return, Francis gave his guests a copy of his apostolic exhortation on the family.

Francis and Nelson concluded their meeting with a hug.

The Vatican offered no details of Francis’ Saturday audience with the Latter-day Saint delegation, The Associated Press reported.

The importance of the weekend events for Mormonism is evident in the fact that, for the first time in Latter-day Saint history, all 15 top male Latter-day Saint leaders (though none of its high-ranking female officers) will be present in the same location on foreign soil. It represents another marker that the Utah-based faith is ready to take its place in a spot where many biblical events occurred.

“Rome is Rome,” said Latter-day Saint historian Matthew Bowman, “a symbol of political authority and religious authority, a city that symbolizes the heart of Christianity.”

The Francis-Nelson meeting “indicates the relatively ecumenical nature of modern Roman Catholicism (and particularly this pope’s instincts toward public magnanimity),” Bowman said. “It also signals something about the politics of modern temple building — that they are as much a sign of material legitimacy as they are intended for ritual use.”

The existence of temples in key locations “shows the church’s intentions to be a serious global religion,” said Bowman, author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith," “one whose presence on the landscape is to be noted.”

The church is “still growing up in a lot of ways,” the historian said. “It’s trying to assert that it is a global faith with global aspirations and global ambitions.”

Ugo A. Perego, director of the LDS Institute of Religion in Rome, was at the temple there when the meeting of the leaders took place.

He was thrilled by the high-powered conversation.

“It is an exciting and historical time for everyone,” Perego wrote in an email. “I was born Catholic, and I can see a lot of good from a meeting like this one. Private closed-door meetings with the pope are not very common and not just anyone can ask for one.”

The institute director speculated that Francis might be more familiar with the American church than most would think.

“Being from Argentina and with a large membership in that country [of more than 450,000 Latter-day Saints], he surely knows about us,” Perego said. “Now we are definitely on his radar..."

Theological gap

...Both churches — the largest on the planet and a much smaller one — claim to be the true church of Jesus Christ.

They have deep theological differences, so great that the Vatican does not recognize Mormonism as Christian, citing the Latter-day Saint rejection of the Trinity as one of the reasons. Neither recognizes the other church’s baptism, requiring converts to be rebaptized into their respective new faith.

The conflict between the two even extends beyond theology to the question of divine authority, Bowman noted. “Each side claims ‘we have priesthood authority that nobody else has.’ That makes them rivals on multiple levels.”

In the 19th century and much of the 20th, many Latter-day Saints viewed the Roman Catholic Church as “the great and abominable” church described in Mormon scripture.

Recently, though, the two have collaborated on social issues (opposing same-sex marriage and defending religious freedom) and on humanitarian efforts (feeding the hungry, offering disaster relief, and building up resources for a sustainable living).

In 2014, two Latter-day Saint officials — Henry B. Eyring of the governing First Presidency and the late apostle L. Tom Perry — joined religious leaders and scholars from 14 faiths and 23 countries in Rome for a three-day Vatican-sponsored "colloquium" titled "An International Interreligious Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman."

At that time, the pontiff shook Eyring’s hand, a gesture believed to be the first such exchange between a pope and a leading Latter-day Saint authority.

Other high-ranking Latter-day Saints previously have met or greeted a pope, but not in any official religious capacity.

Jon Huntsman Sr., who died last year, visited Pope John Paul II and counted the late pontiff and the late Latter-day Saint President Gordon B. Hinckley as two men he most admired.

Such connections might have seemed unthinkable when Joseph Smith Jr. launched his little church in upstate New York in 1830 — or to the Latter-day Saints who trekked across the continent to set up their own Beehive State.

Warming trend

At first, those hardy Mormon pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley and the Catholics who began joining them in the 1860s generally had a live-and-let-live relationship, Catholic historian Gary Topping told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2009 during the centennial celebration for the downtown landmark Cathedral of the Madeleine.

"Catholics and Mormons were operating on two separate tracks pretty much," Topping, archivist for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, explained.

Still, he added, “there was always a little sniping going on."

The state’s predominant church was building what they hoped would be Zion, while the Catholics planted parishes, schools and Holy Cross Hospital.

Salt Lake City’s first Catholic bishop, Lawrence Scanlan, had hoped the schools he started would lead to conversions among Latter-day Saint children, Topping said. "He was disabused of that pretty quickly."

There continued to be some cooperation but also barbs between the two churches in Utah.

The low point for relations came in 1958. when Latter-day Saint general authority Bruce R. McConkie wrote an encyclopedic volume, “Mormon Doctrine,” which identified the Catholic Church as the “church of the devil” and the “most abominable above all other churches.”

Then-Catholic Bishop Duane Hunt apparently took the matter to Latter-day Saint President David O. McKay, and McConkie's book was revised in the next edition.

"He never said it directly, but I think McKay was so upset by the negative impact of McConkie’s book that it jolted him into believing he had been part of the problem,” McKay biographer Gregory Prince said in a 2009 interview. "He quietly reversed field. After that, he never again was negative to Catholics, privately or publicly."

Building a partnership

In the past few decades, Utah’s Catholic bishops and Latter-day Saint leaders have formed strong bonds over common values and visions.

Catholics run homeless shelters; Latter-day Saints fund meals and volunteer to help.

In 2008, former Utah Catholic Bishop George H. Niederauer had moved to San Francisco as archbishop and asked his Latter-day Saint buddy, then-President Thomas S. Monson, to help drum up support for California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Monson enlisted his church members and statewide volunteers in the effort, ultimately taking the lead against same-sex marriage.

Latter-day Saint presidents and apostles grew to respect and value their association with Catholic bishops and priests. They worshipped together, sang together, dined together, golfed together, laughed together and wept together.

“Over the years we have collaborated with the Latter-day Saints for the common good,” Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald said. “We support common values, we share the common conviction that we are all children of God and deserve respect.”

From time to time, Utah Catholic bishops have aided LDS efforts “to obtain permits to build their temples, as in the case with Bishop [John] Wester and the LDS temple in Paris,” Fitzgerald said, just as Monson encouraged Latter-day Saints in Draper “to support our efforts to build the Skaggs Catholic Center.”

Two churches buttressing each other helps “build decency in the community. … [It’s] collaborating in the best way possible,” the monsignor said. “That is what is expected of Christians and others of good faith.”

A testament to these multifaith ties was on display in June 2015 at a reception honoring Wester before his departure to head up the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Ballard, the Latter-day Saint apostle, expressed his sadness at seeing Wester leave Utah.

"You are losing your wonderful bishop," he told the crowd gathered in a Salt Lake City hotel ballroom, "and I am losing one of my very dear friends."

Wester and Ballard, along with Ivory Homes founder Ellis Ivory, had become regular golfing buddies.

Besides sharing a few jokes and laughs, “we talked about community issues and concerns over values,” Ballard said. “It was a marvelous experience for me..."

...Utah’s current Catholic bishop, Oscar A. Solis, congratulated the Latter-day Saints on building a temple in Rome.

“We are pleased that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a religious facility convenient for their members in Rome,” Solis wrote in an email. “We all benefit when people of every faith have the ability to worship as they wish and can receive the support they need for meaningful lives...”

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Portland, Oregon bans discrimination against atheists and other non-believers

"Discrimination" doesn't seem very well-defined here; this blogger wonders how long it will be before its turned on its head, and discrimination against Christians in Portland is not only permitted, but mandated. As reported by Tracy Simmons of Religion News Service, March 4, 2019:

Nonbelievers in Portland, Ore., are feeling affirmed this week after the City Council amended the city’s civil rights code to extend protection from discrimination to atheists, agnostics and other people who claim no religion.

“What it is is validating because my city thinks I am of the same value as any other individual, and it isn’t OK for somebody to discriminate against me or anybody like me,” said Cheryl Kolbe, president of the Portland-area chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The Portland city code had already prohibited discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation on the basis of race, religion, gender and national origin. However, Kolbe said religion wasn’t clearly defined, so one year ago she began advocating for a revision.

The idea, she said, was prompted by the Madison, Wisc., City Council, which, in 2015, became the first city to vote to ban discrimination against atheism. Now Portland is the second city with such an ordinance.

“I always thought Portland would be a good place to try it, too,” Kolbe said, “because we’re one of the least religiously affiliated cities in the country.”

Portland’s protections against discrimination will now include “nonreligion, such as atheism, agnosticism, and nonbelief in God or gods as has been recognized by the courts,” according to published reports.

Thirty-one percent of Oregonians identify as religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Portland has a large percentage of residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated,” City Council Commissioner Amanda Fritz said in the Portland Tribune. “We need to make these changes to our civil rights code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the city.”

Kolbe said that although the policy is restricted to Portland city limits, it impacts people of nonfaith throughout Oregon because they feel acknowledged by government leaders. She hopes it will inspire other cities to extend their protections.

“Discrimination against atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers really does exist,” she said. “We’re not asking for special privileges, we just want to be validated and accepted in the city just like everybody else.”

The amendment passed unanimously and will take effect March 29.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Jeremiah 29:11 is becoming more popular on social media than John 3:16

As reported by Laura FitzPatrick of the London Daily Telegraph, February 25, 2019 (links in original):

In the beginning - and for centuries that followed - God’s sacrifice of Jesus to express his love on Earth was the most-adored Bible passage for many Christians.

But that is changing, thanks to messages of hope and prosperity being favoured on social media.

“Whereas once John 3:16 was the ‘poster-boy’ text of the 20th century, the latest star is Jeremiah 29:11”, said Rev Dr Peter Phillips, Director of CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology of St John's College at Durham University.

“In print culture, John 3:16 has been the most popular Bible verse ever, but it has been knocked of its pedestal by the social age. People don’t want to put a verse about Jesus’ death upon the cross on social media, it’s a bit heavy,” he added.

The Bible is made up of more than 30,000 verses and one has historically captured the popularity of Christians above all others, appearing on fast-food and clothes brand packaging.

John 3:16 is famous for being the Bible’s most popular verse, according to Rev Dr Phillips and the Bible Society, and it was famously the late prominent evangelical Christian Billy Graham’s favourite.

Gotta channel my inner Helen Keller, and one of my favourite bible verses. #positivity #jeremiah2911

— Ashley (@laviebella8) February 21, 2019

But the verse, which reads: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” has now been overtaken in popularity by an offer of hope and prosperity, in Jeremiah 29:11.

Instead, Jeremiah 29:11, is the UK’s favourite passage, according to digital Bible provider YouVersion, who’s platform has 350 million users.

It reads: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It also tops the charts in nine other countries, including Canada and Australia, where religious individuals pick verses concerning personal feelings, rather than the glory of God.

According to experts, the switch is a product of social media and young people’s social performance of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online.

With apps like Bible Lens - which allows users to create new images using their own photos overlayed with quotes from the Bible - and YouVersion’s search-by-emoji function soaring in popularity, millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings.

Rev Dr Phillips, who’s book titled Bible, Digital Culture and Social Media is published later this year, said: “We find that millennials tend to share therapeutic messages - it’s far more about their own identity and how faith can help them in their future.

“The result is a shift in public display of the Bible.”

He claims that it fits the general notion that digital-savvy people tend to cherry pick what they share online.

He added: “Users engage in social media to present something about themselves to the audience they themselves curate.

“Social media engagement with the Bible is itself part of the so-called photoshopped self - a form as front staging a person’s Bible engagement.”

But the popularity of Jeremiah 29:11 also comes down to the context of social media, according to the Bible Society, who claim the brevity of social media posts causes problems for passages like John 3:16.

“Passages like John 3:16 concern an eternal perspective and hope beyond death,” Rachel Rounds of the Bible Society told The Telegraph.

“These are not easy concepts to convey on social media which doesn’t really do context or nuance and that’s a challenge for politicians, scientists and the church alike.”

But YouVersion bosses pertain that John 3:16 is an important verse and “remains extremely popular”, as it usually falls in the top 20 verses globally each year, according to their data.
The above article illustrates why we always need to read scripture in context. Jeremiah 29:11 is not a message from God to humanity in general, and especially not to the unsaved, upon whom His wrath abides (John 3:36). This verse isn't even a message to the church, although I've often heard it used as such.

In Jeremiah 27, God is telling the people of Judah to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and go into exile in Babylon. However, the Jews are receiving mixed messages about what's to happen. In Jeremiah 28, Hananiah, claiming to be a prophet of God, tells the people of Judah that within two years, the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar will be broken, and they'll be brought back from exile. Jeremiah has a public dispute with Hananiah, and then the LORD, through Jeremiah, denounces Hananiah as a false prophet, and prophesies that he will die within the year. Hananiah dies two months later, providing evidence that Jeremiah was a true prophet of God--and Jeremiah has been prophesying that the people of Judah will be sent into exile in Babylon as punishment for disobeying God.

In Jeremiah 29, the LORD inspires Jeremiah to write a letter to the Jews in exile, which includes the following (verses 4-14):

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.
For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

The Jews, who've been told by false prophets that they will soon be delivered, are now being told by a true prophet that they're going to be in Babylon for 70 years. They're not the vanguard of a liberating army, but most of them are going to be there for the rest of their lives, so they may as well make the best of it.

Those who prefer Jeremiah 29:11 to John 3:16 seem to like the thought that God loves them, but are unwilling to accept His terms. God demonstrated His love for us in sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8); to have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2) is possible only through belief in the work done by Christ in shedding His blood for our sins on the cross. The cross is, however, an offense to the natural man (Romans 9:33, Galatians 5:11, I Peter 2:8), and that's just as true in the 21st century as it was in the 1st century.

Church of England abolishes law requiring churches to hold services every Sunday

More evidence of the decline of the once-mighty Church of England; as reported by Izzy Lyons of the London Daily Telegraph, February 23, 2019 (links in original):

Churches will no longer be legally required to conduct a service every Sunday after the General Synod has voted to end a law that has existed since the 17th century.

Canon laws, first passed in 1603 and updated most recently in 1964, stipulate that weekly Sunday services must take place in every church.

However vicars in rural parts of the country, who have been increasingly responsible for “up to 20 churches” in their area due to the decline in clergy, say they are unable to abide by the law and left with little choice but to break it.

In recent years growing numbers of parishes have held one combined Sunday worship where previously each church would have held separate services.

Whilst no vicar has been punished for breaking the canon, Thursday's changes mean that they can now conduct a single Sunday service for several congregations without having to seek written permission.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, who first suggested the changes three years ago, said it “clears the way for people to be honest.”

Admitting that weekly service “is a centuries old tradition”, Rev Broadbent said: “What we have been saying is that this canon does not work, it is out of date and we are operating differently in the countryside now.

“It cuts out the bureaucracy.

“This change merely reflects what has been practised for the past 20 years.”

The two laws that were amended include Canon B11, which requires morning and evening prayer to be “said or sung audibly in every parish church every Sunday”. This has now been amended to “in at least one church” in every group.

The second clause, known as Canon B14, previously required Holy Communion to be celebrated “in every parish church”. However, this has been substituted for “in at least one church in each benefice”.

The number of multi parish benefices - defined as a group of churches that are looked after by one priest - have grown significantly in the UK in the past 50 years.

According to figures from the Church of England’s Growth Research Programme, only 17 per cent of their parishes were in multi parish benefices in 1960.

By 2011 this figure had risen to 71 per cent - meaning 8,400 of the Church’s 12,500 parishes are now amalgamated.

"As the number of church attendees and stipendiary clergy has decreased over recent decades, parishes have been amalgamated to form multi-parish benefices,” the report stated in 2011.

In 2017, it was reported that the Church is increasingly turning to “self supporting priests” with weekday jobs such as doctors, writers, teachers, plumbers or farmers. Accounting for one in six clergy, the number of self-supporting priests increased from 2,091 in 2002 to 3,230 in 2016.

According to members of the Synod, the traditional canon law stipulating that weekly services must take place has been regularly broken by priests over the past several decades.

If a member of the clergy is believed to have deliberately broken the protocol, they would be made to face a disciplinary panel under the Clergy Discipline Measure that was passed in 2003. However, the Church is not aware of this ever happening.

Thursday's amendments were voted through almost unanimously by 20 Bishops, 92 Clergy and 118 Laity, with only two voting against the motion.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who governs a very rural patch, said: “Morning and Evening Prayer are the heartbeat of a church’s life.

“This change is a sensible step which matches resources to reality and gives encouragement to clergy and laity to hold services in one of the churches in a benefice each day.

“This will be much appreciated in rural areas where multi-parish benefices are a reality.”

A Church of England Spokesperson said: “Sunday worship continues to be central to the Church of England’s ministry. The recent adaptation is designed to make it easier for multi-church parishes who rotate services between a group of churches.

“This is often already the case in rural parishes where it is impractical to hold weekly services in every church. This reflects the movement over the past two hundred years of people from the country to cities.

“The Church of England now has a great variety of services throughout the week, with midweek services increasing in popularity.”

British pagans approve of Royal Mail stamp of Thor

People who had accomplished things of note used to be honoured on postage stamps; now postage stamps, like movies, are mainly about comic book characters rather than people. As reported by Patrick Sawer and Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, February 23, 2019 (links in original):

Thor superhero stamp

There cannot be that many things in national life to celebrate for those who still worship the Norse gods.

Pagan druids and their followers might gather at Stonehenge every solstice, but there is no special national holiday to celebrate either Odin and those who live with him in Asgard, the home of the gods.

But now, after years of being ignored, the Odinists and those who still look to Norse mythology for inspiration and guidance, have finally got something to smile about.

The Royal Mail is to issue a ‘pagan’ stamp next month, depicting the Norse god Thor, the hammer wielding god of thunder and protector of mankind.

Admittedly it forms part of a set of stamps commemorating Marvel Comics superheroes - of whom Thor is one, enjoying his own comic series and film spin offs - rather than the original figure of Germanic mythology.

But the Odinist Fellowship are pretty pleased all the same.

They are a registered charity that exists to "promote the original old religion of the English people and the native faith of the northern lands", so they naturally welcome any celebration of Norse mythology.

Ralph Harrison, the director of the Odinist Fellowship, said: "Considering how the Christian church tried so hard to eliminate the images of the Gods, it is with some satisfaction that we will be seeing people of all religions and none, who use this stamp, acknowledging, in a small way, the God Thor's continued presence in our nation's cultural life."

The Odinists - who worship at a Grade II listed former almshouse in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, dating back to the Tudor period - are so pleased they aren’t even complaining that the Thor shown in the stamps is the one created by an American comic publisher rather than the traditional depiction of him.

He’s still their man (or god), they say.

Mr Harrison said: "We recognise that the Marvel Comic depiction of Thor differs somewhat in its iconography from descriptions given in ancient sources, such as the Eddas; but Marvel seem to have based their image on that of Marten Eskil Winge's famous painting, ‘Thor Fights the Giants’, now on display in the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm.”

The fellowship points out that under the terms of the Postal Services Act 2011 the design of all British postage stamps must be approved by the Queen, and this is the first time that the Monarch has approved a design depicting one of the Gods of pre-Christian northern Europe on a stamp.

The Royal Mail has been previously criticised its choice of imagery for stamps.

It was attacked by Boris Johnson last year for not issuing a commemorative set of stamps to mark Brexit and in 2008 its decision to include the family planning pioneer Marie Stopes in a set commemorating women’s achievement was criticised by those who accuse of her being a eugenicist and Nazi sympathiser.

But on this occasion even the Church of England, of whom the Queen is the head and Supreme Governor, appears to have no complaint about the choice of a pagan god for a set of stamps carrying her mail.

Asked to comment the Church of England declined.

The Royal Mail said the series depicting Thor and other Marvel superheroes, including Spiderman and Black Panther, celebrated the impact of the comics in Britain and the contribution made to their distinctive look by British artists and designers.

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “The Marvel Comics stories have been enjoyed for decades by generations of UK fans, and in the 1970s Marvel launched a UK imprint of its comics.

“The 1980s, in particular, saw US comic publishers heavily recruiting British writers and illustrators, who increasingly worked on the American publications and began to inject darker storylines and widened the appeal of the characters. One such artist is Alan Davis, who designed the new Special Stamps, and has worked with Marvel since the early 1980s and first illustrated Captain Britain in 1985.”

Membership in Swiss churches continues to decline

Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8b

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; I Timothy 4:1

As reported by The Local (Switzerland), January 31, 2019 (links in original):

The Swiss Federal Statistics Office has just published new figures on the religion in the country. Here are seven key takeaways.

1) Catholics are the largest religious group in Switzerland

Members of the Catholic Church (35.9 percent) made up the largest religious community in Switzerland in 2017, followed by members of the Swiss Reformed Church (25 percent).

A total of 5.4 percent of people belonged to Islamic communities while members of Jewish communities comprised 0.3 percent of the population.

2) More and more people are leaving the big churches

The number of people who belong to the Catholic and Swiss Reformed churches is continuing to fall in Switzerland.

In 1990, 46.2 percent of people in Switzerland belonged to the Catholic Church but by 2017 that figure had dropped to 35.9 percent. For the Reformed Church the decline is even greater: 39.6 percent in 1990 against 23.8 percent in 2017.
3) The number of people who don't belong to a religious community has risen dramatically

With so many people leaving the large Catholic and Reformed churches, it makes sense that the number of ‘unaffiliated’ people has also risen – from just 3.4 percent in 1990 to 26 percent in 2017.

This figure is highest among people aged 25 to 44: 32.5 percent. The percentage of people aged 65 and over who don’t belong to a church is 16.1 percent.

4) People are (probably) not just leaving the church for financial reasons

Relations between church and state are a cantonal matter in Switzerland and in most cantons church members pay a direct ‘church tax’ on their income. The amount of tax varies from canton to canton and even from commune to commune and often runs to hundreds of francs a year.

But while the FSO statistics do not reveal why people are leaving the church, it appears money may not be not the main reason.

The authors of another newly published study on religion in Zurich found that older city residents often left the church because they no longer agreed with its position on issues while young people tended to leave because they had never believed.

In both cases, however, money was not one of the main reasons cited.

Meanwhile, religion researcher Stefan Huber from the University of Bern told the Der Bund newspaper that Switzerland was becoming increasingly secular.

“In contrast to how it used to be, it is no longer necessary to belong to a church to be a good Swiss,” he said.

5) Not everyone who leaves the church is a non-believer

According to the FSO figures, only a third of people who are unaffiliated with a church describe themselves as atheists. One quarter say they are agnostic, one in ten say they believe there is just one god, and around one in three express a belief in a higher power.

The new figures also reveal religion or spirituality plays a major role for 56 percent of people in difficult moments in their lives. In addition, nearly half of all people (47 percent of all people) said spiritual or religious considerations were important when it came to raising children, and 16 percent said these considerations influenced their political views.

6) Over half of all women believe in ‘guardian angels’

Women in Switzerland are more likely to belong to a church than men (just) and are more likely to pray on a daily basis (35 percent against 20 percent).

They are also far more likely to think there are “probably” or “definitely” guardian angels or supernatural beings that watch over them (58 percent for women versus 37 percent for men).

Finally, 46 percent of women believe there are people with healing or clairvoyant powers. For men, the figure is 42 percent.

7) There are huge regional differences in church membership

The percentage of people who are not members of a church varies wildly – from a high of 49.6 percent in the canton of Basel-Stadt to just 9.4 percent in the canton of Uri. In Zurich, the figure is 29.2 percent, in Geneva it’s 41.3 percent and in Bern it’s 20.5 percent.

In general, there are more church members in predominantly Catholic cantons than in predominantly Reformed cantons.

Again, the FSO figures don’t reveal why this is the case, but Huber gave Der Bund two possible reasons. Firstly, in the Catholic Church, the church itself is seen as an essential intermediary between God and the people whereas members of the Reformed Church do not need the church to have contact with God.

Secondly, Huber noted the Swiss Reformed Church is much more closely connected with Swiss culture, which means it struggles to attract immigrants.

The FSO statistics show one in four members of the Catholic Church in Switzerland has a foreign passport. For the Reformed Church, that number is just one in twenty.

Swiss government refuses to support efforts to abolish the country's blasphemy law

The arguments used by those supporting the legalization of blasphemy provide evidence for blogger Vox Day's contention that "freedom of speech" has its origins in an Enlightenment reaction against the blasphemy laws that were in place in almost all Western countries. As reported by George Mills of The Local (Switzerland), February 22, 2019 (links in original):

The Swiss government said this week it would not lend its support to plans to strike a 'blasphemy' clause from the country’s penal code despite similar moves in other countries in recent times.
The government’s statement came after Green Liberal MP Beat Flach said a clause in the penal code which makes blasphemy punished by a fine had no place in a ‘secular and liberal’ state and limited free speech.

Under the article in question, any person "who publicly and maliciously insults or mocks the religious convictions of others, and in particularly their belief in God" can be fined.

In addition, fines can also be imposed on any person "who maliciously prevents, disrupts or publicly mocks an act of worship" or "who maliciously desecrates a place or object that is intended for a religious ceremony or an act of worship".

But in a motion (here in German) put before the Swiss parliament, Flach said the article meant that religious belief could not be criticised to the same degree as other world views.

He also argued that people’s right to freely practice their religion was guaranteed by other Swiss legislation including provisions outlawing incitement to racial hatred or discrimination.

He went on to point out that countries including Ireland, Malta and France had already struck blasphemy clauses from their books.

But the Swiss government came out in defence of the fines for attacks on religion.

It noted that while the Swiss constitution guarantees freedom of expression, and this was of “central importance” in a free state, there were also limits to such expression and that it had to be exercised with responsibility.

The executive also argued that the clause in the penal code outlawed only the most serious attacks on religious freedom – which is also guaranteed by the Swiss constitution – and that this prohibition was necessary to guarantee the successful coexistence of people with different religious beliefs.

In fact, there were less than 30 criminal convictions under the blasphemy clause from 2011 to 2017, according to Swiss media, while the last high profile case was in 1960 when Swiss painter Kurt Fahrner was fined 100 Swiss francs and handed a suspended three-day jail term for his painting of a crucified naked woman.

Lastly, the Swiss executive also noted it was impossible to compare the situation in different countries as the blasphemy laws involved were different. In Ireland for example, a controversial section of the constitutional clause on freedom of speech made “blasphemous, seditious or indecent matter” a punishable offence.

The Irish overwhelmingly voted to scrap this ban on blasphemy in a referendum last year.
See also my post:

Ireland votes to remove blasphemy from the Constitution (October 28, 2018)

Archaeologists are still searching for the exact location of Ai

Archaeologists who reject the truth of the Bible are, of course, fools. You won't find what you're looking for if you're looking in the wrong place. As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Breaking Israel News, February 12, 2019 (links in original):

Dr. Scott Stripling is in the process of having his theory concerning the precise location of the Biblical city of Ai and if it is accepted, it may be a major step in proving the Bible is a valid source for archaeologists.

Dr. Stripling, provost at The Bible Seminary in Katy (Houston) Texas, is a man with a deep faith in the Bible as well as a passion for scientific truth. These seemingly conflicting forces have driven him to sift through the sands of Israel for over 20 years. Dr. Stripling serves as the archaeological director for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), a Christian organization that brings together Biblical research and archaeology to mutually advance both disciplines.

According to the Book of Joshua, the City of Ai was conquered by the Israelites on their second attempt. After an initial attempt failed due to a sin committed by an Israelite name Achan resulted in a demoralizing defeat, a God-directed ambush led to the Israelites conquering the city. The king is captured and hanged on a tree until the evening. His body is then placed at the city gates and stones are placed on top of his body. The Israelites then burn Ai completely.

Then Yehoshua burned down Ai, and turned it into a mound of ruins for all time, a desolation to this day. Joshua 8:28

As a site that plays a prominent role in the Exodus narrative, Biblical scholars and archeologists have always been intensely interested in locating Ai. Based on a surface survey he conducted in the region in 1924, W.F. Albright concluded that et-Tell, 10 miles north of Jerusalem, was the location of the Biblical city of Ai. After excavating the site from 1933-1935, Judith Marquet-Krause, she concluded that the village was built on top of the Early Bronze Age remains.

Marquet-Krause did not find evidence of occupation of the site during the Late Bronze Age (1400 BCE) which is when most archaeologists assume the Israelites entered the land of Israel. Joseph Callaway, professor of Old Testament and biblical archaeology, conducted digs at et-Tell from 1964-1972. Callaway concluded over the course of this research that the city of Ai described in the biblical account did not exist when Joshua encountered it. Albright proposed that the narrative in the Book of Joshua refers to the conquest of Bethel, a few miles from et-Tell.

As a result of the lack of archaeological evidence at et-Tell for the conquest of Ai in the days of Joshua, most archaeologists today reject the historical veracity of the account of the conquest of Ai as reported in the Bible.

In recent years, some archaeologists have begun to question the theory that et-Tell is the location of Ai. In 1994, Bryant G. Wood, a member of ABR, began digging at Khirbet el-Maqatir to investigate the possibility that it might be the elusive site of Ai. He was encouraged by the writings of Edward Robinson, an American Biblical scholar and Orientalist, who explored Palestine several times in the mid-19th century. According to Robinson’s accounts, when he visited Khirbet el-Maqatir in 1838, the local Arabs told him the site was the location of Ai.

In an article in 2008, Wood noted that neither the topography of et-Tell nor of Bethel conformed to the Biblical description. Wood suggested that Khirbet el-Maqatir as the location of Biblical Ai. Wood’s theory, based on an Exodus in the 15th century BCE, was criticized by many archaeologists who set the Exodus in the 13th century BCE.

ABR is attempting to confirm this. The remains must indicate a fortified city with a gate in the north. Remains of a gate were discovered in ABR’s first year of digging. The ABR team also discovered pottery from the late bronze era.

Dr. Stripling directed the excavation from 2013-2017.. Dr. Stripling explained that to make their case, the evidence needed to fit certain criteria. The Biblical account describes an ambush carried out by Israelite troops hiding to the west of the city, hiding nearby but out of sight.

He instructed them as follows: “Mind, you are to lie in ambush behind the city; don’t stay too far from the city, and all of you be on the alert” Joshua 8:4

Dr. Stripling believes the Israelite troops hid in Wadi Sheban, a dry wash to the west of the site. To verify the plausibility of this theory, three members of the ABR excavation team equipped with backpacks ran from the dry wash to the location, arriving in exactly five minutes. It should be noted that et-Tell does not have any such location to the west capable of concealing troops.

Such remarkable results do not come easily and conditions in what Stripling refers to as “the Wild West” were basic in the best of times.

“There were 14 years of difficult digging with an 8-year hiatus due to the Intifada,” Dr. Stripling said, describing a site with no running water or bathrooms. “We suffered from constant vandalism. But we persevered and did an excellent job of excavating.”

And hopefully, the hard work paid off. Dr. Stripling is currently preparing to present his findings for publication later this year, presenting what he describes as “compelling evidence” for his case.

ABR is also excavating Shilo where the tabernacle stood for 369 years.

“This gives us a regional perspective, an overview of what was happening in the highlands of Israel in antiquity,” Stripling explained. “We can see the transitions of the culture.”

Dr. Stripling is aware of those who dispute his claim and notes that the cause may be a trend towards secularism in the field of archaeology. The source of this trend, he claims, are in the roots of archaeology.

“Allbright was a genius and a believer. He had a religious background but he was not finding archaeological evidence to support an Exodus in the 15th century BCE,” Dr. Stripling explained. “But you have to understand, at the time, they had explored a tiny amount, less than one percent of what we have explored since.”

“Allbright then went on to train the next generation of archaeologists, giants in the field like Yigal Yadin. That next generation had already jettisoned the original 15th-century date for the Exodus and set it in the 13th century. The third generation already began to view it as pejorative to be described as a Biblical archaeologist.”

Dr. Stripling related how he once lectured a group of Ph.D. students at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus whom he described as “the future leaders of archaeology.” Dr. Stripling taught about his methods including his referring to the Biblical text.

“After the lecture, they lined up to talk to me, to shake my hand,” Stripling said. “They thanked me, saying that I was the first person who had taught them while using the Bible. Like me, they used texts from Egypt and Mesopotamia, but I was the only one who referred to the Bible.”

Dr. Stripling expressed great respect for the archaeologists he has worked with in Israel but believes there is an unjustified “anti-Bible” bias in the field.

“Even if you dispute the historical reliability of the Bible, which I would take issue with, you can’t deny the hundreds of synchronisms between the archaeological data and the Biblical text.”

Dr. Stripling remains optimistic.

“There are a handful of believers and we are hoping to raise up a new generation of Biblical archaeologists,” Dr. Stripling said.

“My work in archaeology in Israel has affected me profoundly as a believer,” I already believed in the Bible but as the years go by and I have seen hundreds of examples of synchronization between the material culture we are excavating and what I read in the text. This is a constant reminder that there is a God and that he left a record of his work in history. It is an incredible honor to lead this work.”

Dr. Stripling quoted as his inspiration a verse in Psalms.

Your servants take delight in its stones, and cherish its dust. Psalms 102:15

“Archaeology helps establish our Christian roots in Judaism, in the very soil of Israel,” Dr. Stripling concluded.

ABR encourages people who wish a hands-on experience searching for Biblical clues to volunteer at one of their digs in the summer. Additional information can be found on their website.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Mainstream media belatedly discovers sexual abuse within the Southern Masonic Baptist Convention

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6 (also Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2)

As is so often the case, mainstream media are late to come to a story, and then act as if they were the ones who discovered it. An example is 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco in the Houston Chronicle, February 10, 2019--the first of three articles on the subject, mentioning names and incidents.

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see mainstream newspapers exposing sexual abuse in the SBC; I just wonder why it took them so long to get around to it. All anyone had to do was do a Google search using the term "Baptist" and "predator" to find the website Stop Baptist Predators and blog Stop Baptist Predators, both by Christa Brown, who has been warning about this matter for more than a decade. I recommend her site and blog for research purposes, although I don't think she's doctrinally sound.

Another useful blog is let's stop pastor darrell gilyard together by Tiffany Croft, which is on my blogroll. The information provided in these sites isn't particularly current, but is still relevant. The fact that the sites go back a few years shows how long that sexual abuse within the SBC has been an issue that some have tried to draw attention to, before its belated discovery by mainstream media.

February 24, 2019 update: Click on the links for the rest of the Houston Chronicle series:

Part 2: Offend, then repeat: Southern Baptist churches hired ministers accused of past sex offenses (February 12, 2019)

Part 3: Preying on teens: All too often, Southern Baptist youth pastors take advantage of children (February 13, 2019)

March 19, 2019 update: The same thing has been taking place in Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, as reported in a series of articles by Sarah Smith in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 9, 2018:

Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S.

These ‘men of God’ sexually abused children. Then they found refuge at other churches

‘It’s ruined me.’ Former independent fundamental Baptists describe life in the church

‘My earliest memory of being molested was when I was 4 years old. It was Sunday school’

HT: Vox Popoli

Thursday, 31 January 2019

New York hospital withdraws man's life support after woman misidentifies him as her brother

Another exciting episode in 21st century medical ethics; as reported by Priscilla DeGregory and Georgett Roberts of the New York Post, January 27, 2019:

They were switched at death.

A horrific hospital mix-up left a Brooklyn woman grieving for nine days at the bedside of a brain-damaged man who doctors insisted was her brother — but who was actually a stranger with the same name, a new lawsuit charges.

But only after she gave consent to have her “brother” taken off life support at St. Barnabas Hospital did Shirell Powell learn the shocking truth: Her real sibling was in jail — and she had just sent a stranger to his death, her Bronx Supreme Court lawsuit says.

“I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn’t even know. I gave consent,” said Powell, 48, of Crown Heights.

“I was like, ‘Where is my brother? What is going on?’ I was devastated.”

The saga began July 15, when Freddy Clarence Williams, 40, was admitted to the Bronx hospital, unconscious from an apparent drug overdose, according to Powell’s lawsuit.

Williams had his Social Security card on him, and it identified him by that name, the court papers say.

But the hospital phoned Powell anyway, telling her that her brother, Frederick Williams, who also is 40 but has no middle name, had been admitted and was near death.

She rushed to the man’s bedside.

“He had tubes in his mouth, a neck brace,’’ Powell told The Post. “He was a little swollen . . . [But] he resembled my brother so much.

“He couldn’t speak from the time they brought him in the hospital. They just assumed it was my brother.”

After two days of tests, St. Barnabas doctors told her that her “brother” was brain-dead, she said.

“That is my baby brother, so it was really hurtful,” she said. “I was worried, hurt, crying, screaming, calling everybody. It was a horrible feeling.”

With no cause to hope for his recovery, she contacted relatives down South, telling them to come and say their goodbyes.

Powell acknowledged that the first time her sister saw the ailing man in the hospital, she questioned whether he was their sibling.

“She walked up into the room and said, ‘That is not my brother,’ ” Powell recalled. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ”

“The guy was much bigger,’’ Powell explained.

But he appeared swollen, and “the eyebrows, the nose, the structure — it looked like [our] brother,” Powell said. “My sister, she walked up closer, and you could see the resemblance, and she was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ ”

So on July 29, with her uncle and sister at her side, Powell “authorized [the hospital] to withdraw life support from Frederick Williams,” the lawsuit says.

“It was very devastating,” she recalled. “I was crying.”

Frederick Williams’ “death” was even harder on his two daughters — Brooklyn, 17, and Star, 18, their aunt said.

The teens live in Virginia, and Brooklyn came to the city to say goodbye to her father before he was taken off life support, Powell said.

“She was hysterical,” Powell recalled. “She was holding his hand, kissing him, crying.”

Only after an autopsy did the city Medical Examiner’s Office reveal the truth: The dead man was Freddy Clarence Williams.

Powell said they got a call from a worker at the agency as they were making funeral arrangements.

“She called us just in time,” Powell said. “We would have been burying someone else.”

Meanwhile, it turned out Powell’s actual brother was in jail on a July 1 assault arrest in lower Manhattan.

Powell went to Manhattan Supreme Court for her sibling’s next hearing a few weeks later — just to lay eyes on him.

“I saw my brother,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was very relieved.”

She also called him on the phone at Rikers Island. They had quite a conversation about her decision to pull his plug.

“He was saying, ‘You were going to kill me?’ I explained to him, once you’re brain-dead, there is nothing to do.”

Interviewed at Rikers, Powell’s brother said he had forgiven his sister for pulling the plug on the man she thought was him.

“The doctors told her they couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I’m not mad at her.”

Still, he raged, “How could the hospital do something like that? Look what they put my family through.”

Powell’s lawyer, Alexander M. Dudelson, told The Post that he tried to get information about Freddy Clarence Williams, the stranger who died surrounded by Powell’s sobbing family.

“The representatives [at St. Barnabas] basically spit in my face,” he said. “This is beyond reckless conduct. I requested an investigation. Nothing more. An apology would have been nice.”

Asked about the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, hospital spokesman Steven Clark responded, “We don’t feel there is any merit to this claim.”

Powell also asked the ME’s Office for the dead man’s family information so she could send condolences, but it denied the request, citing privacy concerns.

Now, Powell says, she remains haunted by questions: The man she had grieved for at the hospital — who was he? Does he have family?

“I barely sleep thinking about this all the time,’’ she said.

“To actually stand over him and watch this man take his last breath — sometimes I can’t even talk about it because I get upset and start crying.

“On the one hand, I’m thankful that it wasn’t [my brother]. On the other hand, I killed somebody that was a dad or a brother.”

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Belgian doctors face prosecutors for euthanizing autistic woman

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
Proverbs 8:35-36

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,...
...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Romans 1:22,28

It comes as no surprise to this blogger that the categories of people deemed eligible for euthanasia are becoming broader, and that countries which fought the Nazis during World War II are increasingly adopting the Nazis' policies. Even if the doctors in this case are convicted, it will just be a matter of time until killing of such people becomes legal. As reported by Lia Eustachewich of the New York Post, November 27, 2018:

A woman with autism may have been improperly euthanized by doctors in Belgium who had her parents hold the needle in place while the deadly injection was administered, according to prosecutors.

The trio of doctors will face trial in the 2010 death of Tine Nys, a 38-year-old woman who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome two months before her death at the hands of a doctor.

The East Flanders physicians are accused of poisoning Nys before she died, as well as botching parts of the procedure.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, it is legal for doctors to euthanize patients who have psychiatric problems that cause “unbearable and untreatable” suffering. Among Belgians put to death for mental health reasons, the most common conditions are depression, personality disorder and Asperger’s, a mild form of autism.

The legitimacy of the controversial practice, however, is hotly debated.

Nys’ family filed a criminal complaint last year alleging numerous “irregularities” in her death, as her doctors tried to thwart the investigation, the Associated Press reported.

“We must try to stop these people,” wrote Dr. Lieve Thienpont, the psychiatrist who approved Nys’ request to die and one of three doctors now facing charges. “It is a seriously dysfunctional, wounded, traumatized family with very little empathy and respect for others.”

One of the doctors asked Nys’ parents to hold the needle in place as he administered the fatal injection — and then asked the family to use a stethoscope to confirm her heart had stopped, one of the victim’s sisters, Sophie Nys, told the AP.

Concerns have been previously raised that Thienpont may have too readily approved euthanasia requests for mentally ill patients.

Thienpont and Dr. Wim Distelmans, head of Belgium’s euthanasia review commission, have come to blows before. Distelmans has said the doctor and colleagues may have failed to meet certain legal requirements before performing euthanasia. He also wrote that he’d no longer accept patients referred from Thienpont.

Since euthanasia was approved in Belgium in 2002, more than 10,000 people have been killed. Only one case has been referred to prosecutors but was later dropped.

The three doctors in Nys’ case have been referred to the Court of Assize in Ghent and will face trial “due to poisoning,” said prosecutor Francis Clarysse.
See also my posts:

Pope Francis orders Roman Catholic charity in Belgium to stop performing euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals (August 13, 2017)

Belgium now euthanizes children as young as 7 (August 11, 2018)

Monday, 28 January 2019

U.S. President Trump backs efforts by state legislators to allow teaching of Bible literacy in public schools

One can hardly imagine the Manchurian Pothead or anyone else in his antichrist government issuing a similar tweet in Trudeaupia Canada. Mr. Trump has been good in defending the rights of Christians in the United States, to the continued irritation of secularists. As reported by Caleb Parke of Fox News, January 28, 2019 (links in original):

A growing number of states are considering bringing the Bible back to the classroom.

At least six states -- Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia -- have introduced legislation this year pushing for public schools to offer Bible literacy classes.

Supporters say learning the basics of the Bible is an important part of American history -- and students should not be denied learning its tenets just because someone might be offended.

The laws being proposed do not make Bible classes mandatory, but they will be offered as electives.

"Yeah, there's a separation of church and state, but there's not a separation of books from education," North Dakota State Rep. Aaron McWilliams, who co-sponsored a Bible bill in his state, told Fox & Friends Monday morning. "If we don't have a good foundational understanding of this, we're not going to understand how the Founding Fathers of our country and other countries put it together to have the world we have today."

Even President Trump has weighed in on the issue. He celebrated the efforts in a tweet Monday morning.

"Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible," Trump wrote. "Starting to make a turn back? Great!"

But critics call the moves "unconstitutional."

"State legislators should not be fooled that these bills are anything more than part of a scheme to impose Christian beliefs on public schoolchildren," Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and States, said in a statement.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill that allowed public schools to add Bible literacy classes in 2017. But in 2018, all the state that proposed similar legislation -- Alabama, Iowa, and West Virginia -- came up short.

Legislators say they are not deterred.

"Without allowing a Bible into the schools, without allowing a Quran or any other religious text in the school, we look at establishing a religion of secularism in our schools without having anything else," McWilliams said.

The proposed bills are reportedly linked to an initiative called Project Blitz that is coordinated by a variety of conservative Christian groups, including the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation and the National Legal Foundation, USA Today reported. The bills also include several proposals to add "In God We Trust" posters in the classroom.

Opponents of the bills argue Trump and conservatives on the right are pandering to their base and not actually trying to pass legislation they expect to become law. They believe the state bill won't pass the legislation.

Friday, 25 January 2019

When futuristic technologies collide...

...the result can be amusing, as reported by Ben Hooper of United Press International, January 10, 2019:

A Russian robotics company said one of its autonomous Promobots was taken out by a self-driving Tesla on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Promobot shared a video recorded outside of the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino showing one of its namesake machines at the side of a driveway at the facility.

Multiple cars easily pass by the autonomous robot, but a self-driving Tesla Model S collides with the robot and drives away.

The Promobot, which is knocked off its wheels, was destroyed, the company said.

The collision took place about half a mile from CES, the technology trade show that began Tuesday.

Rare and very hard mineral discovered in Israel

As reported by Helen Flatley in The Vintage News, January 15, 2019:

A new discovery in the mountains of northern Israel has caused significant excitement for geologists around the world. While working in the Zevulun Valley, close to Mount Carmel, Israeli mining company Shefa Yamim found a new mineral never before discovered on earth.

The International Mineralogical Association regularly approves new minerals for its official list, with up to 100 new substances added to the register each year.

However, this latest discovery was hailed as a significant event, as it was previously believed that this type of mineral was only found on extraterrestrial material.

The new mineral loosely resembles allendeite, a mineral previously seen on the Allende meteorite that fell to earth in February of 1969. However, this is the first time that such a substance has been found to naturally occur in rock on Earth itself.

The CEO of Shefa Yamim, Abraham Taub, told Haaretz that the mineral had been named carmeltazite, after the place of its discovery and the minerals contained within its structure: titanium, aluminum and zirconium.

While the majority of the new minerals approved by the International Mineralogical Association are unspectacular in appearance, carmeltazite offers considerable commercial opportunities, as it resembles other gemstones used in the making of jewelry.

This strange new mineral was found embedded in cracks within sapphire, the second hardest mineral (after diamonds) found to occur naturally on earth.

Carmeltazite closely resembles sapphire and ruby in its chemical composition, and is found in black, blue-green, or orange-brown colors, with a metallic hue.

However, after density testing, scientists discovered that carmeltazite is even harder than diamond, and is significantly scarcer, making its value extremely high.

According to the BBC, the region close to the Savulun Valley is known for volcanic activity dating from the Cretaceous period. The Carmel range is home to at least 14 volcanic vents that created the geological conditions for the formation of carmeltazite, over extremely long periods of time.

According to Forbes, it is thought that carmeltazite formed 18 miles under the surface of the earth, close to the crust-mantle boundary. High pressure and temperatures produce partially molten rocks that release fluids and react to form new minerals.

As vents emerge in the surface of the earth, this volcanic matter is rapidly transported into the upper crust along with other materials, creating the type of deposits found in Mount Carmel.

The mining company has been working intensively in this region due to the possibilities offered by this rich geological legacy. Although they were principally looking for sapphire, the new mineral was discovered embedded in the gemstones they harvested from the rock, having formed in the cracks and fissures within the sapphire, a variety of corundum.

Although the mining company has recovered many samples, carmeltazite remains extremely rare. The largest stone discovered to date reached 33.3 carats.

Haaretz reports that the mineral has been trademarked by the mining company as “Carmel Sapphire” and it has recently been approved as a new mineral by the International Mineralogical Association’s Commission on New Minerals.

Although the Commission regularly approves new discoveries, it is unusual to find a substance so spectacular in appearance and quality, and a result, has attracted a significant amount of international attention.

To date, carmeltazite has only been discovered in the Zevulun Valley, which means it is one of the rarest minerals in the world, and is also likely to be one of the most expensive.

Daub stated that the company intends to market the mineral as a gemstone, and potentially use it in the production of high-end jewelry. One thing is sure: this extraterrestrial mineral is likely to command a monumental price tag when it eventually hits the market.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Israel renews diplomatic relations with Chad; Mali may be next

As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, January 20, 2019:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic visit to the central African nation of Chad on Sunday, where he announced the re-establishment of ties.

“Chad is a very important country and very important for Israel,” said Netanyahu during a joint appearance with Chadian President Idriss Déby at the presidential palace in N’Djamena. “There is a lot that we can do together. We discussed ways to deepen our cooperation in every field, beginning with security, but also agriculture, food, water, energy, health and many more.”

Déby, who spoke before Netanyahu, welcomed Israel’s investment in his country’s future.

“Chad will do everything it can to strengthen the ties between the two countries and the bilateral cooperation in various matters,” he said.

In November, Déby became his country’s first leader to make an official visit to Israel. During this visit, he announced that he would renew bilateral ties with Israel, which were severed in 1972.

Also during his visit, Déby said his country, an Arab League member, could assist in helping Israel renew diplomatic ties with Sudan.

A landlocked nation located in central Africa, the former French colony is around 55 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian with a long history of co-existence between its dominant faiths. Split both culturally and geographically between the Sahara to the north and a tropical savannah to the south, the country faces numerous challenges as one of the world’s poorest nations.

“We believe in the future of Chad and the future of Africa. This is my fourth visit to Africa in four years. I think it says something, and indeed, we are committed to making every effort to help alongside with the United States with the program Power Africa to help light up African countries,” said Netanyahu.

The renewal of ties with Chad are part of a larger effort by Netanyahu to forge closer relations with non-traditional allies in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Netanyahu sees this not only as an opportunity for Israel to assist these countries with humanitarian needs and economic development, but also for Israel to gain support in international bodies like the United Nations, which have traditionally been hostile to the Jewish state.

Before taking off for Chad, Netanyahu said the half-day visit was “another historic and important breakthrough” that is part of a “revolution that we are doing in the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

He also hinted that more Muslim countries in Africa were likely to follow suit.

“There will be more major news,” said the Israeli prime minister. “There will be more countries.”
As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, January 21, 2019 (link in original):

Prime Minister of Mali Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga is expected to visit Israel in the coming weeks, reported Israel’s Channel 13 on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last year with Malian President Ibrahim Keita on the sidelines of a summit with West African leaders in Liberia, where the two agreed to seek “warm relations,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

Mali cut ties with Israel following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Israel faced a surprise attack from neighboring Arab countries on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

This development comes after a major attack by an Islamic terror group killed 10 U.N. peacekeepers from Chad, wounding at least 25 others in Mali on Sunday in what the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said was a response to Chadian President Idriss Déby’s renewed diplomatic relations with Israel.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

World Council of Churches has trained, and UNICEF funded, almost 2,000 anti-Israel activists since 2002

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see that the more liberal the religious organization, the more anti-Jewish and anti-Israel it gets. As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, January 14, 2019:

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has sent nearly 2,000 participants to Israel, and Judea and Samaria, since 2002 to train them in anti-Israel narratives and assign them to communities worldwide, according to a report from NGO Monitor.

With no similar program in other conflict zones, the WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) consists of activists being sent to “witness life under occupation.”

“EAPPI misuse tourist visas to enter Israel, where the group has no legal status,” according to NGO Monitor. “They are hosted in Jerusalem by a WCC affiliate, the Jerusalem Interchurch Center (JIC). Notably, the head of JIC, Yusuf Dahar, is one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document, which legitimizes terror, embraces anti-Jewish theology and rejects Jewish history. Similar views have been expressed by a number of WCC officials.”

The NGO Monitor report also stated that EAPPI has been funded by UNICEF and countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Canada and Japan.

Norway contributed nearly $2 million between 2017 to 2019, while Sweden gave $500,000 between 2017 and 2018.

“We are sharing our research with the public and decision-makers as part of an informed discussion on EAPPI’s agenda and funding. The research highlights EAPPI’s radical agenda, which, rather than advancing or defending human rights, is a platform for conflict and antisemitism,” said NGO Monitor founder and president Gerald Steinberg. “We have received numerous inquiries from Christian and Jewish groups calling attention to the central role played by EAPPI alumni in leading BDS and other delegitimization campaigns.”

“By singling out Israel and using classical theological references, EAPPI is guilty of using the terms identified in the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition of anti-Semitism,” he added. “The WCC should instead adopt this definition, which has been adopted by a number of countries and parliaments.”

Sunday, 20 January 2019

British Columbia city is sued over violation of church's constitutional rights


Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:
Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms
Marginal note:
Rights and freedoms in Canada

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Fundamental Freedoms
Marginal note:
Fundamental freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

As reported by John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, January 8, 2019 (links, bold in original):

The Justice Centre has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on behalf of a local church, after the City of New Westminster cancelled the church’s booking to host a conference at the City-owned Anvil Centre.

Grace Chapel is a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located in downtown New Westminster. Part of Grace Chapel’s vision is to “build a multi-ethnic, diverse church where people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Grace Chapel does not have a church building of its own. Church events are held in rented spaces, including the municipally-owned and managed Anvil Centre.

As explained in a recently filed affidavit, on May 25, the City of New Westminster signed a contract with Grace Chapel to rent a portion of the Anvil Centre. The rental was for a youth conference to be held on July 21, 2018.

On June 21, 2018, a media article was published which included a picture of a poster for the conference.

That same day, Grace Chapel received an email from Anvil Centre Director of Sales & Marketing, Heidi Hughes. Ms. Hughes stated that the Anvil Centre was reneging on the contract and cancelling the rental, on the basis that “one of [Grace Chapel’s] event speakers / facilitators, Kari Simpson…vocally represents views and a perspective that run counter to City of New Westminster and Anvil Centre booking policy.”

Ms. Hughes did not explain how or why any of the speakers at the conference caused Grace Chapel to “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits”, or how it is possible that this speaker’s “views” or “perspective” could contravene the Anvil Centre Booking Policy.

Grace Chapel’s court petition seeks to quash the City’s decision, and seeks a Court declaration that the decision to cancel Grace Chapel’s contract was procedurally unfair, biased, unreasonable, and unjustifiably infringed the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association and right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion as protected by sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This court application further seeks a Court order prohibiting the City from denying the use of its facilities to this church on the basis of the ideas, views, opinions, perspectives, values or beliefs of Grace Chapel or of speakers selected by the Grace Chapel.

“As a government facility that is regularly used by diverse parties for expressive and associative activities, such as conferences, the Anvil Centre cannot deny use of its facilities in a manner that violates rights and freedoms protected by the Charter,” explained lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.

In a July 6, 2018, letter to the City of New Westminster, the Justice Centre explained that the Charter protects the right to receive expressive material as much as it does the right to speak. By cancelling the rental, the Anvil Centre unjustifiably infringed the constitutional right of those intending to listen and consider diverse opinions on topics of interest to them.

A hearing of this petition has not yet been scheduled.

For more information contact:

John Carpay, lawyer and Justice Centre president: or 403-619-8014
Mr. Carpay and the JCCF have done great work defending the freedoms of Christians in Trudeaupia Canada, but it's getting increasingly difficult, as, in the views of activist judges and "human rights" activists, the fundamental freedoms stated in the Orwellian-named Charter of Rights and Freedoms don't count versus non-existent rights of alphabet perversion. The fight is still worth it, and financial contributions to the JCCF aren't wasted, although they're not tax deductible at the moment.

HT: Rebel Media