Thursday, February 4, 2016

Australian-made globe pulled from stores after omitting Israel, but including Palestine

I don't know if this resulted from evil intentions or incompetence (or both), but Typo seems an appropriate name for the chain of stores. As reported by Michael Safi of the British newspaper The Guardian, February 1, 2016:

The Australian stationery chain Typo has inadvertently waded into one of the world’s thorniest political conflicts, pulling a line of globes that named Palestine but omitted to label Israel.

The design choice, which saw Israel and 12 other countries represented by a number on the map, corresponding to a legend at the base of the globe, prompted threats of boycott and charges of anti-Semitism by supporters of the Jewish state.

The decision to halt production of the globes led to similar threats by Palestine advocates.

Issues with the original design were first pointed out on 21 January by a flurry of customers on the store’s Facebook page, including one who asked why Typo was selling a globe “that has wiped Israel from the face of the earth”.

Typo said in response the design – a Mercator projection from around 1860 – was “an official map from an international body that has been approved for export” and Israel’s label had been omitted “purely because there wasn’t enough space to include the name”.

Two hours later the chain said it had “decided to remove the globes from sale in-store and online and will halt all future production”.

This decision in turn drew complaints from supporters of Palestine, who have peppered the store’s social media accounts with complaints and threats of boycott.

The ensuing anger bled over into otherwise uncontroversial posts on the company’s Facebook page, including one advertising a travel bag with the tagline, “I just took the road less travelled ... And now I’m lost!”

Among the replies were: “Could you be lost because you don’t know how to use a map. Use the correct one with Palestine and it will help!”

“The road less travelled is one that DOESN’T bow down to Zionist sentiment,” another user said.

(The map also omitted the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia, prompting one user to ask: “What is your political agenda Typo?”)

The company, part of the Cotton On Group, tried to stem the damage on Monday, writing on its Facebook page that new globes would be manufactured labelling every country.

“Typo is not removing any country from the globe. We made the decision to recall the current globes from sale as we are sourcing new artwork from our supplier that has every country marked on it but with no need for a key. All countries will remain on the map, the key will not,” it said.

“We never intended to offend anyone with this product.”

Among other errors the map labelled the Caspian Sea twice and misspelled the name of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

10 years ago: The death of Betty Friedan, and a suspicious coincidence

On February 4, 2006, Betty Friedan died in New York City on her 85th birthday. Mrs. Friedan, born Betty Goldstein, was the author of The Feminine Mystique (1963); co-founded in 1966 and served as the first president of the National Orgnization for Women (NOW); and was responsible more than anyone else for creating the modern feminist movement and its associated evils. She provided ample evidence for Rush Limbaugh's statement that the feminist movement was created to give unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.

Mrs. Friedan's death came the day after news of the death in New York City of actor Al Lewis at the reported age of 82. Mr. Lewis, born Albert or Alexander Meister, was best known for playing Grandpa Munster in the television comedy series The Munsters (1964-1966). Mr. Lewis was also known for his support of liberal causes.

Is it just a coincidence that Betty Friedan and Grandpa Munster died in the same city on the same weekend? I find it very suspicious. ;)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

El Salvador denies that it's moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Ramallah

As reported by the Times of Israel, January 18, 2016:

El Salvador’s ambassador to Israel emphatically denied media reports on Sunday that his country was planning on moving its embassy to the West Bank in response to Foreign Ministry intentions to close the Israeli embassy in the Central American nation.

The country’s newly appointed ambassador, Werner Matias Romero, told The Times of Israel that El Salvador was “not even thinking” of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv.

However, Romero expressed his grave disappointment with the Israeli move to shut down its embassy in San Salvador, the capital, and said El Salvadoran authorities had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister.

“We were very surprised and concerned with that decision,” he said. “My minister has sent a letter to Netanyahu expressing that concern and surprise. We are hoping the government of Israel reconsiders its unfortunate decision due to the longstanding deep relationship between El Salvador and Israel.”

In addition to the embassy in El Salvador, Israel’s Foreign Ministry intends to close its consulates in Philadelphia, Marseilles, the Caribbean as well as its embassy in Belarus.

The decision to close the diplomatic outposts was reportedly made in order to free up funds needed to strengthen existing diplomatic offices.

“I just arrived in October and we were planning on deepening ties and holding a lot of joint events, programs and activities, so the decision took us by surprise,” Romero lamented.

He noted that funding for embassies is a problem for El Salvador, too, but Israel is worth the effort.

“We also struggle with trying to find enough resources so we can maintain all our embassies. El Salvador has been opening instead of closing embassies. The Israeli embassy is considered by us one of the most important. We struggle but are committed to maintaining our diplomatic network, and maintaining Israel is a priority.

“We were told by the Foreign Ministry that Israel was reaching out to Latin American countries,” he continued. “Central America, despite being small, is 55 million people, and is very economically important. El Salvador has been extremely supportive of allowing Israel to join the Central American Integration System (CETA) as an extraterritorial member. Israel has wanted to become an extraterritorial member, and the HQ is in San Salvador.

“We in El Salvador are also going through hard times in terms of security and see Israel as a key partner in this endeavor.”

“I want to reiterate that we are disappointed but we are hopeful. Even though Israel said they will shut the embassy down at the end of 2016, we will try to get the government to reconsider.”

Earlier Sunday, the Ynet news site quoted diplomatic sources saying that El Salvador had threatened to close its embassy in Israel and move it to the West Bank or Egypt because Salvadorian officials were upset to learn that Israel had decided to close its mission in San Salvador.

In the summer of 2014, El Salvador recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest over Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Foreign Ministry officials slammed the move, saying recalling ambassadors only encouraged Gaza’s radical Hamas leaders.
Click on the link for the article El Salvador threatens to move its embassy to Ramallah from Ynet News, January 17, 2016.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

75 years ago: a scientist offers his opinion on the physical characteristics of the "best minds"

On January 27, 1941, it was reported that Dr. Alex Hardlisha of the Smithsonian Institution claimed that larger and broader skulls, lower cheekbones, and dark hair were the physical characteristics that distinguished the nation's "best minds."

I've been unable to find out anything about Dr. Hardlisha, but I suspect that the physical characteristics that distinguished America's "best minds" were characteristics possessed by Dr. Hardlisha himself--a coincidence, no doubt.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Israel bars visits from Swedish officials following criticism from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom

It's easy for Sweden and other countries to criticize Israel for its handling of the Palestinian issue, when they haven't had to deal with similar situations. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 13, 2016:

Israel will not welcome visits by Swedish officials, the deputy foreign minister of Israel said a day after Sweden’s foreign minister called for an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinian attackers.

“Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden,” Tzipi Hotovely said at a meeting with members of the Foreign Ministry’s cadet course. The remarks were widely published in the Israeli media.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Associated Press that “given the incendiary and aggressive nature” of Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s comments, “we have made it clear that she is not welcome in Israel.”

But an official in the Prime Minister’s Office told Haaretz that Netanyahu had not made a decision to halt official visits from Swedish officials.

Also, Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus, was summoned for a reprimand in response to the Wallstrom remarks about possible “extrajudicial killings” by Israel. The summons came from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Wallstrom also said it is “vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.”

Israeli officials have said security forces are justified in killing suspected attackers because trying to neutralize them without killing them would pose unnecessary risk. However, some human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups have said Israeli police and soldiers are too quick to kill alleged perpetrators and should instead make more efforts to subdue and arrest them.

Over 130 Palestinians have been killed during the recent wave of violence that began in October, most while perpetrating or attempting attacks, and others in violent clashes with security forces. Twenty-one Israelis and an American studying in Israel at a yeshiva have been killed in the attacks.

“The Swedish foreign minister’s statement backs terrorism,” Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Tuesday night in a post on Facebook. “Every declaration like this takes the whole region back a step from reaching a two-state solution and helps the murderous terrorists who do everything possible to stop us from getting there.

“It’s interesting that Sweden did not have a similar response when police in Paris killed the terrorists, as they had to do, and it will be interesting to see how Sweden will react when terrorists carry out attacks within its territory. Will it also want to pat them on the head because they had rough childhoods?”

In November, Wallstrom linked the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130, which were blamed on the Islamic State, to perceived hopelessness among the Palestinians.
As reported by Ian Deitch of Associated Press, January 13, 2016:
Israel said Wednesday that Sweden's foreign minister is "not welcome" in Israel after she called for an investigation into the deaths of Palestinians involved in a four-months' spate of deadly attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that "given the incendiary and aggressive nature" of Margot Wallstrom's comments, "we have made it clear that she is not welcome in Israel." He did not elaborate.

Sweden's ambassador was summoned Wednesday and reprimanded in protest over Wallstrom's remarks, Nahshon added. The summons, he said, showed "the anger of the government and the people in Israel" over Wallstrom's "twisted" view of reality in Israel that is "biased and even hostile" against Israel.

"Wallstrom's remarks show that she doesn't understand what is taking place in our region and is apparently unaware of the harsh situation where Israelis are exposed to the perpetual dangers of murderous terror attacks," Nahshon said.

Near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers have killed 24 people and wounded dozens in stabbings, shootings and other assaults since mid-September. At least 141 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. About two-thirds of them are said by Israel to be attackers. The rest were killed in clashes with security personnel...

...Sweden's relations with Israel have been strained since the Social Democratic-led government in 2014 recognized Palestinian statehood, and Wallstrom's comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have elicited angry responses from Israeli officials.

Swedish opposition lawmaker Jan Bjorklund of the Liberal Party accused the government of shifting the country's Middle East policy so that it's perceived to be "siding much more unilaterally with the Palestinian party."

As foreign minister, Wallstrom has been outspoken on women's rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her statements have riled not just Israel but also Saudi Arabia, which temporarily recalled its ambassador from Sweden last year after Wallstrom criticized the kingdom's human rights record.

Affable in person, Wallstrom has been accused of being too blunt and undiplomatic in her public comments...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands by his choice as Ambassador to Brazil despite Brazilian objections

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 13, 2016 (link in original):

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said if Brazil won’t approve former settler leader Dani Dayan as its ambassador, Israel won’t offer another diplomat.

Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Netanyahu’s comments Wednesday.

According to i24news, Israel not having an ambassador in Brazil would represent a “de facto downgrade in relations” between the two countries.

Netanyahu’s apparent decision to stand by Dayan comes a week after various reports that Israel would withdraw Dayan’s name and instead give him the Israeli consulate general position in Los Angeles or New York.

Earlier this week, a group of 40 retired Brazilian diplomats signed a statement against the appointment of Dayan, complaining that Israel had bypassed protocol because there was no prior communication with the Brazilian Foreign Ministry or any presentation of his credentials for an agreement.

Netanyahu tapped the former head of the settlers’ Yesha Council four months ago to serve as envoy to Latin America’s largest nation, but the Brazilian government remained silent on the choice to signal an official rejection of Dayan’s credentials because of his settler past.

A native of Argentina, Dayan, 59, currently lives in the West Bank settlement of Maale Shomron.

British authorities shut down ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in London

It's taken only 40 years, but British authorities have decided that multiculturalism--at least in the case of ultra-Orthodox Judaism--has its limits. Let's see if they do more than just "consider" prosecuting unregistered Islamic schools--40 years is too long to wait.

As reported by David Connett of the London newspaper The Independent, January 15, 2016:

An orthodox Jewish school which operated illegally for 40 years and does not teach children English has been ordered to shut down.

The Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar school in Stamford Hill, north London has been ordered to close by the Deparment for Education next month after Ofsted inspectors warned that it was failing to meet the “minimum” standards required.

Inspectors who investigated the school, which has more than 200 pupils, said that its curriculum, taught in Hebrew, encouraged “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”.

The school was found to “severely restrict the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils” and prevent them from “developing a wider, deeper understanding of different faiths, communities, cultures and lifestyles, including those of England”.

The school’s failings are spelt out in a series of Ofsted reports into the school after it applied to be a private school. The reports between 2012-14 were disclosed under Freedom of Information requests.

According to the reports, the school states that “as a matter of religious principle” it does not allow pupils to learn English, nor provide for any secular education.

Despite the school failing to meet the minimum standards three times, no action has been taken to shut it down and it continues to operate.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, disclosed in December that Ofsted was considering prosecuting those involved in the running of unregistered Islamic religious schools.

A Government consultation on combating schools which “promote intolerance” will end later this month.

The British Humanist Association, which campaigns for a crackdown on all illegal “faith” schools, welcomed the decision but called on the Education Secretary to move against scores of other schools like it.

“We’re glad that the Government has now moved to shut this particular school down... However, there are clearly many more out there just like it. The situation revealed by these reports is simply outrageous and those in government who have failed to act in the past ought to be ashamed of themselves for standing idly by while thousands of children have their childhoods stolen.

“Every year, every month, every week that these places are allowed to stay open, a huge number of children remain isolated, indoctrinated, and very likely abused, so we will certainly be writing to the Government to ask that action is taken far more swiftly in the case of other schools than it has been here.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered independent school. This school’s application for registration has been rejected and on 30 December it was informed of this decision. It has been told to close by 12 February.”

The school was unavailable for comment.
In a related matter, there has been a complaint about similar schools in New York; as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 27, 2015:

Fifty-two people — former yeshiva students, parents of current yeshiva students and former teachers from schools — reportedly signed a letter sent to New York City education officials expressing “deep concern” about “the poor quality and scant amount of secular education” at the 39 schools with which they say they are affiliated.

The letter, sent to seven district superintendents in Queens and Brooklyn and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, allege that the yeshivas are failing to meet New York state law requiring all nonpublic schools to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what is offered in public schools. The letter urges the superintendents to “investigate the quality of secular education and, in particular English instruction, at the listed Yeshivas and to take steps to ensure that pupils at these Yeshivas receive the essential and substantially equivalent education to which they are entitled.”

The letter-writing campaign was organized by Yaffed, a 3-year-old advocacy group that seeks to improve the quality of secular education in haredi Orthodox schools in New York state. Haredi Orthodox schools devote far greater time and resources to religious instruction than to secular instruction, particularly in boys’ schools. As a result, some graduates complain that they are unprepared for careers and unable to support themselves financially.

Yaffed shared a copy of the letter in a news release, but is withholding the names of the signatories and is asking the letter’s recipients not to release them in order to protect the letter-writers’ “safety.” The group also did not release the names of the 39 schools it said were identified in the letter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Debate among Marseille's Jews over whether they should stop wearing yarmulkes in the interest of their own safety

As reported by Itamar Eichner and Rachel Cadars of Ynet News, January 12, 2016:

Jews across Europe are taking off their yarmulkes and prayer shawls and hiding their Star of David necklaces as the fear of anti-Semitic violence continues to grow across the continent, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

At the same time, Zvi Ammar, the head of Marseille's Jewish community, has called on the city's Jewish residents to stop wearing yarmulkes in the wake of an attack on a Jewish teacher on Monday morning.

Benjamin Amsalem, an ultra-Orthodox resident of the southern French city, was attacked with a machete by a 15-year-old Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, who was caught after a brief chase.

In his interrogation the stabber said that he had attacked Amsalem in the name of Islamic State and that he was also planning to attack police.

"The stream of events means that we need to take exceptional decision," Ammar said. "Life is more sacred than anything else. We need to hide a little."

The head of the Department for Combating Anti-Semism in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gideon Bachar, said: "There is a sense of growing fear and worry among Europe's Jews.

"Many Jews feel that their Jewish identity is a threat to them. We know that many have stopped going to synagogue on holy days for fear of terror attacks. To our regret, Jewish life is taking place more and more behind walls, armed guards, police and security cameras."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on European governments to increase the level of security for Jewish communities and institutions throughout the continent, including synagogues, community centers, schools and kindergartens.

The rise in aliyah from Europe to Israel is also testament to the growing impact of anti-Semitism on European Jews. Aliyah has also grown from countries such as Canada, the US and Australia. "We are seeing a lot of Jews leaving France making aliyah, or leaving France and Europe. The numbers are not huge but there is a clear phenomenon," Bachar said.

Meanwhile, police in France are investigating the murder of Jewish politician Alain Ghozlan, who was found dead in his home on the outskirts of Paris on Tuesday morning, was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Ghozlan, a prominent figure in the French Jewish community and a resident of Créteil – a predominantly Jewish suburb of the French capital – failed to show up to his synagogue on Monday evening or Tuesday morning, arousing his brother's suspicions.

Arriving at Ghozlan's apartment, his brother found the body, which showed signs of violence. The initial indication is that Ghozlan was beaten to death.

Ghozlan's credit cards and car had disappeared, but according to local media the French police have not rejected any line of enquiry and are investigating possibilities from robbery to anti-Semitism.

Ghozlan was a member of the Créteil local council as well as of the local Jewish community.

The police are also investigating the possibility of anti-Semitism due to the current rise in such incidents in France.
As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 12, 2016:

Representatives of the Jewish community of Marseille issued conflicting statements on whether Jews should hide their kippah in the southern French city following a spate of anti-Semitic stabbings there.

Tzvi Amar, president of the local office of the Consistoire, the French Jewish community’s organization responsible for religious services, was quoted Tuesday by Le Figaro as saying Jews should “remove the kippah during these troubled times” because “the preservation of life is sacrosanct.”

But Michele Teboul, president of the local branch of CRIF – an umbrella group that represents French Jewish communities politically as a lobby – told JTA that she “could not support a measure which dials back hundreds of years during which Jews were able to practice their faiths and live freely as citizens of the French Republic.”

Jewish individuals “should decide whether to wear a hat on top of their kippah, depending on the situation, but removing one’s kippah seems unwarranted,” Teboul said.

France’s chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, also rejected Amar’s call, saying, “We should not give an inch, we should continue wearing the kippah.”

Amar’s statement, which he said “turns his stomach” and is born of “grave circumstances that require extraordinary measures,” came after the stabbing of a Jewish man in Marseille on Tuesday, allegedly by a 15-year-old Muslim radical. He sustained minor injuries.

In November, a Jewish teacher was stabbed and seriously injured in Marseille by a man who hurled insults at him along with two other men, one of whom was wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the Islamic State terrorist group. The previous month, also in the city, a Frenchman of Algerian descent stabbed a Jewish man who was returning from synagogue and assaulted two others, including a rabbi.

Marseille has 80,000 Jews in a total population of approximately 850,000. About a third of its residents are Muslim, according to estimates.
Click the link to see the original article in Le Figaro, January 12, 2016.

January 30, 2016 update: A survey conducted in France shows that most French oppose the idea of Jews removing their yarmulkes. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 18, 2016:

PARIS (JTA) — Seventy percent of French citizens said it would be giving in to terrorists if Jews were forced to remove their yarmulkes for security reasons, according to a survey.

The survey commissioned by the Paris Match weekly news magazine and published Friday was conducted Jan. 14-15 following one community leader’s call to Jews in Marseille not to wear their kippahs. The statement came in the aftermath of the stabbing of a Jewish man there earlier in the week — the third stabbing of a kippah-clad Jew in the southern port city since October.

In the survey of 1,011 adults conducted by the Odoxa polling company, 36 percent of respondents said they “absolutely agreed” with the assertion by French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who called on French Jews to keep wearing yarmulkes “to not give in to the terrorists.” Another 34 percent indicated they “pretty much agree.”
Ten percent of respondents, who were pre-selected to represent French society’s voting pattern distribution, said they “totally disagree” and another 19 percent said they “rather disagree.”

Left-wing and right-wing respondents answered similarly in the poll, with 71 percent supporting the assertion on the right — including 66 percent within the far-right National Front party — and 76 percent approving on the left.

Tzvi Amar, the president of the Marseille office of the Consistoire — the communal organization responsible for providing religious services — had called on his city’s Jews to hide traditional head coverings following the Jan. 11 stabbing.

Other community representatives joined Korsia in rejecting the suggestion.
Click on the link to see the original Paris Match article Port de la kippa: 70% des Français approuvent in French.

Friday, January 8, 2016

First kosher medical marijuana to go on sale in New York

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Isaiah 29:13

As reported by Ynet News, December 31, 2015 (bold in original):

A US pharmaceutical company announced Wednesday that its medical marijuana has been certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).

Vireo Health, one of the five companies permitted to market their medical marijuana in the State of New York stated that this is the first time medical cannabis has been certified kosher and as such it is in fact the first producer of kosher marijuana.

US media reported that the rabbinical association gave its certification after inspecting facilities manufacturing company's facilities and found that the marijuana is grown and produced according to the laws of kashrut. For example it is entirely free of insects.

"Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis," said Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung in a statement delivered to the press.

He added that kosher marijuana will deliver an "important message" to those who mistakenly believe that use of the product for patients suffering from pain promotes recreational use of drugs.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of the Orthodox Union, said that "using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”

Vireo expressed hope that the approval will help the company serve its Jewish patients in New York, where the largest Jewish community in the US lives. The product will be on the shelves in about a month, available with a doctor's prescription.

No kosher certification in Israel yet

The United States has seen a veritable revolution in recent years regarding the use of soft drugs. About half of US states allow the use of medical marijuana, and in 2012, two states, Washington and Colorado, legalized the sale of marijuana to those 21 and older without a doctor's prescription.

From a religious standpoint there should not be a problem certifying marijuana as kosher as it's a plant, and like all plants grown overseas, the laws of shmita (every seven years the land in Israel must lie fallow – ed.) and tithes do not apply. When they reach their natural form they are kosher for eating or smoking.

In Israel there are several manufacturers who market medical cannabis, but so far the Chief Rabbinate has not certified the product.
Jews in Trudeaupia need not worry about certification, as reported by Laura Kane of Canadian Press, January 8, 2016:

VANCOUVER—Is marijuana kosher? If it’s medicine, it doesn’t matter.

That’s the message from Canada’s largest kosher certification agency after its board of rabbis held a debate on whether to certify cannabis oils as kosher.

The Kashruth Council of Canada met Thursday to discuss an application from MedReleaf, a licensed producer of medical pot. The meeting followed news in the U.S. that a New York company would soon offer certified kosher medical cannabis products.

But after “a lot of interplay and exchange,” the Kashruth council decided the Jewish faith doesn’t require sick people to consume kosher medicine, said managing director Richard Rabkin.

“Something that is medicine, that’s prescribed from your doctor, that you need to take for your health, that doesn’t need kosher certification,” he said by phone after the meeting.

“We don’t really want to get into the business of providing kosher certification for something that is doctor-prescribed. We’re not going to go down that path.”

Kosher foods are those that conform to Jewish law, with strict guidelines on the types of foods that can be consumed and how they are prepared.

Rabkin said there’s a principle in Judaism that the preservation of human life overrides other religious concerns. If one must consume something non-kosher to survive — or, in the case of medical marijuana, to relieve pain or seizures — one can and should do so.

He acknowledged that some medical cannabis users might prefer to consume kosher pot, but he said a conversation with a rabbi should alleviate their concerns.

Neil Closner, chief executive officer of MedReleaf, said he was proud his company pushed Kashruth to consider the issue.

“It was because of us that they even had this meeting,” he said. “We’re pleased with the outcome that from their perspective, (medical) cannabis is considered kosher for all consumers.”

Closner is Jewish and observes a kosher lifestyle. He said to his knowledge, no other companies in Canada currently offer kosher medical marijuana products and he had hoped MedReleaf would become the first. It has a licence to produce oils and expects to begin selling them in six to eight weeks.

He said he might consider seeking certification from another agency in the future, particularly if he expands into the recreational pot market.

In fact, not all kosher certification agencies agree with Kashruth on medical marijuana.

Kosher Check, a global kosher certification agency headquartered in British Columbia, debated the issue two years ago and decided in favour of certifying edible medical pot products.

Rabbi Mendy Feigelstock said while preservation of life does come before all else in Judaism, his organization decided it would be helpful to offer a kosher choice for those who want it.

He said dried marijuana that is smoked is automatically considered kosher since it is a plant. However, edible products including oils, capsules, brownies and cookies would need to be certified.

“There are people who are suffering and unfortunately sometimes the only medication left for them is marijuana, which could ease their symptoms, and to force a person to smoke it seems silly,” he said.

“If it’s easier to ingest it either in an oil or some other edible, then there’s no reason why that person should not be able to ingest it kosher, if that’s something that they’re careful about.”

Kosher Check’s business director Richard Wood said the organization had a few inquiries about kosher cannabis over the years but nothing had progressed to the certification stage.

He said when certifying an edible pot product, inspectors would look for issues including insect infestation in plants, equipment that is used for multiple purposes or capsules that use gelatin, which is produced from a non-kosher animal slaughter.

The issue of kosher pot is only coming to the forefront now in Canada because cannabis producers were banned from selling oils until last July, following a Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled medical cannabis patients have the right to consume edible pot.

Another licensed medical marijuana producer, Aurora, is also considering kosher certification. Chief brand officer Neil Belot said in an email that the company had been in touch with a prominent certification agency to discuss the possibility.
What if it's a sabbath year in Israel and the land is supposed to lie fallow? The rabbis have that covered, as reported by Akiva Novick of Ynet News, May 24, 2014:

An unusual halachic issue was place of the table of Israel's Chief Rabbinate recently: Is it permitted to consume marijuana on a shmita year – the seventh year in a seven-year cycle during which land in Israel must lie fallow.

The issue does not just apply to drug smokers, but mainly to patients in need of medical cannabis.

"I receive grass as a medication," explained M., a religious man who suffers from shell shock, in a letter to the Rabbinate. "The shmita year will begin in four months, and observant IDF disabled veterans have been asking themselves whether the grass should be grown differently like fruits and vegetables."

There are several methods to maintain the kashrut of fruits and vegetables which are halachically forbidden during the shmita year, but what about marijuana?

The question was referred to rabbis in the Religious Zionism movement, and most of them replied that because it is used as a medication and not as food, patients can continue consuming the plant.

And what about the consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes? The rabbis agreed unanimously that it is forbidden due to the halachic on smoking drugs.

"It’s like asking if one can drive 300 kilometers per hour on Shabbat," said Efraim Zalmanovich, the rabbi of the central Israeli town of Mazkeret Batya.

60 years ago: Five American missionaries are martyred by natives in Ecuador

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

On January 8, 1956, what was popularly labelled Operation Auca--an evangelistic effort among the with the isolated and hostile Huaorani people--also known as Auca--in Ecuador ended when missionaries Nate Saint, 32; Roger Youdarian, 31; Ed McCully, 28; Jim Elliot, 28; and Pete Fleming, 27 were speared to death by Huarani tribesmen. It seems hard to believe now, but the martyrdom of the missionaries was a major news item in the secular press at the time.

From a worldy perspective, the missionary effort was a failure--but not from God's perspective. The deaths of the martyrs in Operation Auca served to galvanize missionary efforts elsewhere. Jim Elliot's wife Elisabeth and Mr. Saint's sister Rachel later returned to the area, and many of the Huaorani people came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The story was told in Mrs. Elliot's book Through Gates of Splendor, which was originally published in 1957, and was published in several revised editions through 2005. Mrs. Elliot went to be with the Lord on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88.

Friday, January 1, 2016

70 years ago: Arab League economic boycott of Jewish goods in Palestine goes into effect

Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein:
For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord.
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.
And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
Zechariah 2:4b-12

From the "the more things change, the more they stay the same" department:

For those who think that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement)--the worldwide anti-Israel campaign on behalf of the Palestinian cause--is a recent phenomenon, it's worth noting that the idea goes back to 1945, before the state of Israel existed, when the Jewish community in Palestine was known as the Yishuv.

On December 2, 1945, the Arab League announced that, effective January 1, 1946, its seven member states--Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen--would boycott all Jewish-produced goods from Palestine in an effort to weaken Jewish industry in the region and to deter Jewish immigration to Palestine. The declaration urged both Arab states that were members of the then-new United Nations and Arab states which had not yet obtained UN membership to prohibit the products and usage of the products of Jewish industry in Palestine. The declaration, contained in Arab League Resolution 16, stated:

Products of Palestinian Jews are to be considered undesirable in Arab countries. They should be prohibited and refused as long as their production in Palestine might lead to the realization of Zionist political aims.

On December 30, 1945, the Egyptian cabinet of Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha approved the boycott. The Arab League boycott of Israel largely failed; Jewish immigration to Palestine continued, and Israel became a state, with a prosperous economy. Egypt and Jordan ended their participation in the boycott when they signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively. Most Arab nations don't enforce the economic boycott against Israel today; neither, apparently, does ISIS, as reported by the Israeli business news service Globes, November 30, 2015:

Kurdish and Turkish smugglers are transporting oil from ISIS controlled territory in Syria and Iraq and selling it to Israel, according to several reports in the Arab and Russian media. An estimated 20,000-40,000 barrels of oil are produced daily in ISIS controlled territory generating $1-1.5 million daily profit for the terrorist organization.

The oil is extracted from Dir A-Zur in Syria and two fields in Iraq and transported to the Kurdish city of Zakhu in a triangle of land near the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Israeli and Turkish mediators come to the city and when prices are agreed, the oil is smuggled to the Turkish city of Silop marked as originating from Kurdish regions of Iraq and sold for $15-18 per barrel (WTI and Brent Crude currently sell for $41 and $45 per barrel) to the Israeli mediator, a man in his 50s with dual Greek-Israeli citizenship known as Dr. Farid. He transports the oil via several Turkish ports and then onto other ports, with Israel among the main destinations.

In August, the "Financial Times" reported that Israel obtained 75% of its oil supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan. More than a third of such exports go through the port of Ceyhan, which the FT describe as a “potential gateway for ISIS-smuggled crude."

“Israel has in one way or another become the main marketer of ISIS oil. Without them, most ISIS-produced oil would have remained going between Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Even the three companies would not receive the oil if they did not have a buyer in Israel,” an industry official told the newspaper "al-Araby al-Jadeed."

"Israel has in one way or another become the main marketer of IS oil. Without them, most ISIS-produced oil would have remained going between Iraq, Syria and Turkey," the industry official added.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Qur'an fragments from Muhammad's time found at University of Birmingham

Another backlog item; as reported by the University of Birmingham, July 22, 2015:

A Qur’an manuscript held by the University of Birmingham has been placed among the oldest in the world thanks to modern scientific methods.

Radiocarbon analysis has dated the parchment on which the text is written to the period between AD 568 and 645 with 95.4% accuracy. The test was carried out in a laboratory at the University of Oxford. The result places the leaves close to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632.

Explaining the context and significance of the discovery, Professor David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam and Nadir Dinshaw Professor of Interreligious Relations at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘The radiocarbon dating of the Birmingham Qur’an folios has yielded a startling result and reveals one of the most surprising secrets of the University’s collections. They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam.

‘According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Qur’an, the scripture of Islam, between the years AD 610 and 632, the year of his death. At this time, the divine message was not compiled into the book form in which it appears today. Instead, the revelations were preserved in “the memories of men”. Parts of it had also been written down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels. Caliph Abu Bakr, the first leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad, ordered the collection of all Qur’anic material in the form of a book. The final, authoritative written form was completed and fixed under the direction of the third leader, Caliph Uthman, in about AD 650.

‘Muslims believe that the Qur’an they read today is the same text that was standardised under Uthman and regard it as the exact record of the revelations that were delivered to Muhammad.

‘The tests carried out on the parchment of the Birmingham folios yield the strong probability that the animal from which it was taken was alive during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad or shortly afterwards. This means that the parts of the Qur’an that are written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Muhammad’s death. These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Qur’an read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.’

Dr Muhammad Isa Waley, Lead Curator for Persian and Turkish Manuscripts at the British Library, said: ‘This is indeed an exciting discovery. We know now that these two folios, in a beautiful and surprisingly legible Hijazi hand, almost certainly date from the time of the first three Caliphs. According to the classic accounts, it was under the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, that the Qur’anic text was compiled and edited in the order of Suras familiar today, chiefly on the basis of the text as compiled by Zayd ibn Thabit under the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. Copies of the definitive edition were then distributed to the main cities under Muslim rule.

‘The Muslim community was not wealthy enough to stockpile animal skins for decades, and to produce a complete Mushaf, or copy, of the Holy Qur’an required a great many of them. The carbon dating evidence, then, indicates that Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library is home to some precious survivors that – in view of the Suras included – would once have been at the centre of a Mushaf from that period. And it seems to leave open the possibility that the Uthmanic redaction took place earlier than had been thought – or even, conceivably, that these folios predate that process. In any case, this – along with the sheer beauty of the content and the surprisingly clear Hijazi script – is news to rejoice Muslim hearts.’

The Qur’an manuscript will be on public display at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, from Friday 2 October until Sunday 25 October.
As reported by Sean Coughlan of the British Broadcasting Corporation, July 22, 2015 (bold in original):

What may be the world's oldest fragments of the Koran have been found by the University of Birmingham.

Radiocarbon dating found the manuscript to be at least 1,370 years old, making it among the earliest in existence.

The pages of the Muslim holy text had remained unrecognised in the university library for almost a century.

The British Library's expert on such manuscripts, Dr Muhammad Isa Waley, said this "exciting discovery" would make Muslims "rejoice".

The manuscript had been kept with a collection of other Middle Eastern books and documents, without being identified as one of the oldest fragments of the Koran in the world.

The fragments were written on sheep or goat skin

Oldest texts
When a PhD researcher, Alba Fedeli, looked more closely at these pages it was decided to carry out a radiocarbon dating test and the results were "startling".

The university's director of special collections, Susan Worrall, said researchers had not expected "in our wildest dreams" that it would be so old.

Prof Thomas says the writer of this manuscript could have heard the Prophet Muhammad preach

"Finding out we had one of the oldest fragments of the Koran in the whole world has been fantastically exciting."

The tests, carried out by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, showed that the fragments, written on sheep or goat skin, were among the very oldest surviving texts of the Koran.

These tests provide a range of dates, showing that, with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645.

"They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam," said David Thomas, the university's professor of Christianity and Islam.

"According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death."

Prof Thomas says the dating of the Birmingham folios would mean it was quite possible that the person who had written them would have been alive at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

"The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally - and that really is quite a thought to conjure with," he says.

First-hand witness
Prof Thomas says that some of the passages of the Koran were written down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels - and a final version, collected in book form, was completed in about 650.

He says that "the parts of the Koran that are written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Muhammad's death".

"These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed."

'Precious survivor'
Dr Waley, curator for such manuscripts at the British Library, said "these two folios, in a beautiful and surprisingly legible Hijazi hand, almost certainly date from the time of the first three caliphs".

The first three caliphs were leaders in the Muslim community between about 632 and 656.

Dr Waley says that under the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, copies of the "definitive edition" were distributed.

Muhammad Afzal of Birmingham Central Mosque said he was very moved to see the manuscript

"The Muslim community was not wealthy enough to stockpile animal skins for decades, and to produce a complete Mushaf, or copy, of the Holy Koran required a great many of them."

Dr Waley suggests that the manuscript found by Birmingham is a "precious survivor" of a copy from that era or could be even earlier.

"In any case, this - along with the sheer beauty of the content and the surprisingly clear Hijazi script - is news to rejoice Muslim hearts."

The manuscript is part of the Mingana Collection of more than 3,000 Middle Eastern documents gathered in the 1920s by Alphonse Mingana, a Chaldean priest born near Mosul in modern-day Iraq.

He was sponsored to take collecting trips to the Middle East by Edward Cadbury, who was part of the chocolate-making dynasty.

The Koran
. Muslims believe the words of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over 22 years from 610

. It was not until 1734 that a translation was made into English, but was littered with mistakes

. Copies of the holy text were issued to British Indian soldiers fighting in the First World War

. On 6 October 1930, words from the Koran were broadcast on British radio for the first time, in a BBC programme called The Sphinx

The local Muslim community has already expressed its delight at the discovery in their city and the university says the manuscript will be put on public display.

"When I saw these pages I was very moved. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes. And I'm sure people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse of these pages," said Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque.

The university says the Koran fragments will go on display in the Barber Institute in Birmingham in October.

Prof Thomas says it will show people in Birmingham that they have a "treasure that is second to none".
It hardly needs to be said that just because this document may be from the time of Muhammad and provides evidence that the Qur'an that's available today is essentially the same as the Qur'an that existed in the 7th century means that it comes from God. All this means is that it's an ancient Middle Eastern document. It's the Bible, not the Qur'an, that is the inspired and infallible word of God.

However, there has been skepticism expressed about the discovery, as reported by Ben Hurst of the Birmingham Post, August 1, 2015:

Middle Eastern historians have raised doubts about claims the University of Birmingham had discovered to oldest known copy of the Koran.

The announcement was made last week sparking a frenzy of interest around the world.

The Islamic manuscript which was found hidden inside the pages of another book in a university library has been dated using radiocarbon analysis to a period between AD 568 and 645 with 95.4 per cent accuracy.

According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Mohammed received the revelations that form the scripture of Islam between the years AD 610 and 632, the year of his death.

But now historians and manuscript experts have cast doubt on the findings, saying that just because the parchments were dated from that period, it did not necessarily mean the writing did too.

Abdul Sattar Al-Halouji, who was described as a manuscript expert in the Middle East, said: “It is not possible to ascertain that the parchments were written close to the time of the Prophet.

“The university should have examined the ink not the hide on which it was written.”

Halouji said the hide or the animal skin might be old but the verses may have been written later.

He said: “The manuscript might possibly be from the time of Othman Bin Affan who became Caliph many years after the death of the Prophet.

“During the time of the Prophet, the Koran was not organised or put in its present day form. Also there were no colours used.”

Adnan Al-Sharif, who is the dean of libraries at Umm Al-Qura University, told the Saudi Gazette there were many observations which cast doubt on the claims that the Birmingham manuscript was the oldest copy of the Koran.

He said: “One of these is the red-colour separation between the Bismillah and the two Surahs of Mariam and Taha.

“It was not customary during the Prophet’s time to separate between the Surahs.

“This copy seems to be organised and in order which was not so during the time of the Prophet,” he said.

Al-Sharif said radiocarbon examination of a manuscript can only point to the century not the year.

He said: “There are copies of the Koran in Turkey, Egypt and Yemen dating back to the first Hijra century.

“This means that they are concurrent to the Birmingham’s manuscript.”

Abbas Tashkandi, another manuscript expert, said it was clear that the university examined the hide not the writing: “The hide may be old but the writing may be new.”

Tahskandi said the manuscript might be from the time of Caliph Othman Bin Affan and not the Prophet. He also said the manuscript might have been written in Makkah which was famous for its tanneries.

Experts contend that during the time of the Prophet there was no separation between the Surahs (chapters) in red colors, no red ink was used in writing “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem” with which a Surah begins and that the holy book itself was not put in its today’s order.

Announcing the find, Professor David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham, in Edgbaston, said: “The radiocarbon dating of the Birmingham Koran folios has yielded a startling result and reveals one of the most surprising secrets of the university’s collections.

“They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam.”

Experts believe the pieces of parchment may have been taken from an animal which was alive during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammed or shortly afterwards.

Prof Thomas added: “This means that the parts of the Koran that are written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Mohammed’s death.

“These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.”

Birmingham’s Muslim community has already expressed its delight at the discovery in their city and the university says the manuscript will be put on public display.

England's Shugborough Code mystery solved?

As reported by Mike Lockley of the Birmingham Post, December 21, 2014:

A linguistics expert believes he has cracked The Shugborough Code – a random sequence of letters on a stately home monument that has baffled historians for over 200 years.

American scientist Keith Massey used his knowledge of Latin to decipher the code on the 18th century Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough Hall, Cannock Chase.

One theory is the curious sequence of letters – OUOSVAVV, framed at either end by DM – was left as a clue to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

According to legend, the code was created by the Knights Templar, fanatical and feared fighting unit of the Crusades.

Some of the nation's greatest minds have tried to break the code, including Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin but all have failed – until now – possibly.

Mr Massey, a former Arabic linguist recruited by America's top secret National Security Agency after 9/11, used his vast Latin knowledge to fill in the blanks.

He has no doubt the letters stand for "Oro Ut Omnes Sequantur Viam Ad Veram Vitam" - I pray that all may follow the Way to True Life.

Mr Massey, a public school Latin teacher, said: "I believe I've solved the mystery. I believe my proposal provides a sensible and credible interpretation to this long-standing mystery.

"My solution provides a straightforward and grammatical sentence, all parts of which are attested in tomb inscriptions and texts predating or contemporary with the creation of the Shugborough inscription."

The letters have long divided historians. AJ Morton, an expert in graves and monuments, dismissed the inscription as nothing more than 19th century graffiti, left by Shugborough residents George Adams and his wife, Mary Vernon-Venables.

Mr Morton explained the letters could be linked to the couple, relations of Thomas Anson who built the monument in the mid-1700s.

Mr Mr Massey, from Wisconsin, the D and M, below the main inscription, opened the door to cracking the code. The initials are likely to be the ancient Roman abbreviation of Dis Manibus: "for the Manes".

The Manes were ancestral spirits of the underworld and the initials are found on very early Christian tomb inscriptions. Mr Massey explained: "This is a clue to the correct interpretation of the longer series of letters. The inscription was intended to be understood as a tomb memorial composed in Latin."

Three Vs close together were also significant. "As someone trained in cryptography, I assume any time you have a letter that occurs more often than other letters, you are looking at an important clue."

Mr Massey believes they reference a Biblical passage - John 14:6, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Ego sum Via et Veritas et Vita).

The scores of experts drawn to the mystery have whittled down the many theories to a short-listed of three:

* The letters are a cryptic, ancient love note and the Holy Grail is, in fact, a cup of love.

* They are, indeed, a tantalising pointer to the whereabouts of the Grail, once allegedly safeguarded by the Knights Templar.

* The inscription is a folly without meaning. It was carved to simply tantalise future generations.

Staff at the National Trust-owned property, once home to Lord Lichfield, believe the riddle is far from solved and will continue to baffle visitors for years to come.

Following a previous investigation, a spokesman said: "We get five or six people a week who believe they have solved the code so we are a bit wary of them now."
This reminds me of an item I saw years ago in the newsletter of the Ontario Association of Archivists. I tried to track it down through a Google search, and came up with accounts that vary so much in the details that I now suspect it of being an urban legend. Whether or not the story is true, it's funny; here's one account, which mentions no names:

A sexton in England undertook a project to map all the graves in the churchyard and to create a complete record of the individuals buried there. After years of work and research he had identified all of the stones but one. The stone, flat on the ground and directly behind the old church, bore only the initials H.W.P. The sexton dug through every church record and could find no record of anyone with those initials.

One day the plumber was working on the old water pipes in the church and chatting with the sexton who proceeded to tell him with pride about his project and added that he was greatly troubled by the fact that one stone remained unidentified. The plumber asked which stone that might be and the sexton pointed out the flat stone.

The plumber smiled and replied that he could solve that mystery since he had placed the stone there himself -- H.W.P. marks the location of the Hot Water Pipe.
Another account I found mentions Rev. Phillip Randall of Eye near Petersborough, while the London Daily Telegraph of August 23, 1986 is credited in other places as the source for a report that has this incident taking place at Evercreech Church, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England.

More examples from Edmonton of community service centres masquerading as churches

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
I John 2:15-16

The following may be regarded as a companion piece to my post An example from Edmonton of a community service centre masquerading as an evangelical church (January 22, 2015).

As reported by Myrna Kostash in the Edmonton magazine The Yards, Summer 2015, pp. 14-15:

On a walkabout through my neighbourhood early this winter, I had taken note of the number of places of worship between Oliver and Downtown. I wondered, had these communities of religious citizens come to terms with the area’s drastic change in demographics and topography since they had first opened their doors a century ago? And how do the heads of these central Edmonton churches view their neighbourhood today?

For instance, according to the 90-year-old Grace Lutheran Church on 114 St., “the absence of focus on the unchurched and dechurched in the neighborhoods surrounding Grace” has resulted in a 10-year stagnation in membership, dwindling Sunday worship attendance and a Sunday school class one-third the size it was in 2000.

And then there’s the substantial, even hulking, brick presence of McDougall United Church that had seemed an incorruptible and timeless artifact of our history—social and artistic as well as spiritual— until last February. That’s when a report to City Hall estimated a repair and renovation bill of $18 to 25 million, citing a congregation reluctant to commit spending millions on urgent repairs for a building without provincial heritage status. Even more distressing was the conclusion of a separate consultant’s report that there existed no community or philanthropic “will” to save McDougall United.

Like all churches, Grace Lutheran and McDougall have their C & E (Christmas and Easter) adherents. Last year, 125,000 people went to Christmas Eve services in Edmonton who may never be seen until April, if not for another 12 months. But what counts to deans, bishops and pastors is who fills their pews the rest of the year.

All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral on 103 St. and Jasper Ave. is an imposing structure with a grand nave, but on Thursday mornings coffee and muffins are laid out in the Cathedral Common before a tax clinic opens for low-income Edmontonians. They arrive mainly from east of the Coliseum and Alberta Avenue and are then invited to Holy Eucharist and Soup and Sandwich Lunch in the lounge. It’s free and “everyone is welcome,” Dean Neil Gordon told me (a Dean is a Cathedral’s head while its Bishop leads the whole diocese). I arrived in his Cathedral office to find out what these modern ’hoods look like from the perspective of the parish office.

Downtown’s new condo dwellers come too, to bake muffins or drop by for an hour to chat with visitors who wait their turn for tax assessments. They’ve discovered the cathedral because of the concerts it hosts, such as Pro Coro, or for Choral Eucharist and the incomparable Jeremy Spurgeon on the massive organ. “We’re not just handing out food,” declared Dean Gordon. “We talk and learn stories.” The participation of young volunteers is key. They want to do more than just worship; they want face-to-face, hands-on service, whether it’s serving the Friday morning breakfasts or collecting clothes for the homeless. “They also join us in worship,” he noted, “but their primary religious energy is in outreach. I love millennials!”

All Saints’ is metres away from Bay/Enterprise Station—a “gold mine” when the arena opens up for business and downtown parking spaces disappear, he said. Many people come to All Saints’ from Cromdale and Southgate because of LRT access. The church even advertised its Christmas Eve services in the stations. But these commuting parishioners in fact represent a dispersed congregation and a new chapter in the cathedral’s history.

During Edmonton’s original “boom” before the First World War, All Saints’ was a “rich person’s church,” according to Dean Gordon, who invited me to think of the remnants of the grand old homes that lined the residential streets along 100 Ave. Then came the crash, the Great Depression, and the focus of the parish’s activities turned from “fund-raising for nice things for the church” (processional crosses and clerical vestments) to relief projects, especially at the outreach mission church in Rossdale Flats. In Dean Gordon’s vivid image, it was “literally the cathedral on the hill, with a commitment to the people living down below.”

Dean Gordon said by the 1940s wealthier Anglicans had moved out of downtown to Glenora, while others from further away began commuting to All Saints’ “for the choir, the organ, the bells and incense”—the liturgical flourishes on offer in a Cathedral setting. In the 1960s, the parish became more “activist” hosting a women’s shelter and, for a few months, the Middle Earth cafe. “Imagine a folk cafe, as in Inside Llewyn Davis. But not everybody was happy with just coffee.” (It was raided for drugs.)

And today, the evolution continues: Sunday afternoon worship services in the Dinka language for South Sudanese Anglicans and, every third Sunday, First Nations services tie the Gospel narrative with Aboriginal storytelling.

I came away exhilarated from my conversation with the very animated, emphatic Dean, with a vision that swoops all around central downtown, from the cathedral steps to the empty lot across from the once Greyhound bus station he hopes will be cleaned up and made safer for Aboriginal women. I also took note of other churches dotting central Edmonton that have found novel ways to fill their pews: MacDougall United’s “rainbow” inclusiveness, Robertson-Wesley’s free yoga classes and art therapy, Grace Lutheran’s open music stages. But these chapels have been around for a century. What about the rare places of worship that have emerged in the last decade? I wondered what spiritual void were they filling?

Around the corner from All Saints’ Cathedral on Jasper Ave. stands the now-doomed Paramount theatre building that until recently sported the emphatic lettering of City Centre Church. The church now meets Sundays three blocks away, at Landmark Cinemas in City Centre Mall, or at the Cineplex Odeon in South Edmonton Common. I chased down one of its staffers, Kevin Machado, who is also a pastor at the downtown “campus,” for an interview at the Milner Library Second Cup.

Despite its preference for large auditorium venues, City Centre Church (CCC) is not a megachurch such as those established by evangelical Christians in newly-minted suburbs. It has origins in a church-planting movement, which Machado told me “seeds through communities” like our own.

Machado emphasizes that they are neither counsellors nor psychiatrists, but simply people who have “spiritual awareness.” People who “burn for community.” “I’m passionate about people who come from dark places where your soul is brittle and cold,” he told me. People like he and his wife not so long ago.

It’s the hope of healing that the CCC offers those who join them, even temporarily, at prayer, Muffin Sundays for families, at Hope Mission or Mustard Seed volunteer commitments, or (when they were still in the Paramount) potluck meals in the theatre lobby—often the warmest place for the CCC community on a Sunday night. “People hear about us by word of mouth, or from a friend’ or they walk by our sign. They meet us and it’s okay not to have all the answers. We don’t yell at people while we’re feeding them. We have conversations. They are welcome to stay and pray.”

But there is also this important difference: the CCC is a young church and still “spontaneous,” building itself as it goes along, not proclaiming any special understanding but just coming together, “normal people who have a shared experience,” in Machado’s words. No pews or chandeliers, order of clergy or choirs, not a church “that says, ‘this is what you need to do’” with all the structures that go with it.

Yet, along with All Saints’ and the others, the City Centre Church could be part of a movement, bringing central churches to the ‘hood.

That’s what Jodine Chase hopes will happen for the 1910 McDougall United Church. The congregation member started campaigning to prove that there is a will to save it among the church’s most “feisty” members, plus supporters in the downtown arts’ community. “Right off the bat, we had a dozen ‘Friends of McDougall,’” Jodine Chase told me. Friends of McDougall’s efforts to save the building began with fundraising, accepting donations from $20 to $20,000, “to capture our support and translate it into meaningful dollars.”

This was not a heritage that could be “preserved” simply by renovating the facade and demolishing the interior for condos. For one, the interior, built to seat 2,000, is in good shape and still an ideal acoustic environment for musicians and performers. For another, the building has long been the site of historic developments, as the original home of the Edmonton Opera, site of suffragette rallies in the 1900s, University of Alberta convocation venue, and the auditorium before the Northern Jubilee opened in 1957. “It has been a ‘tool’ for the whole city,” Chase argued. “And all users needed to be at the table with their contributions.”

Then, on April 1, 2015, the provincial Culture Minister announced formal intent to seek provincial heritage status with a contribution of $750,000 towards restoration (the City may be good for another $500,000), enough to complete the most urgent repairs to the exterior. The interior will be preserved as a “vintage” performing arts space and community centre, subject, of course, to the affirmation of the congregation.

Ah, yes, the congregation. This is, after all, a place of worship. Its inclusive ministry—ordination of women, support for LGBTQ—is what attracted families like Jodine Chase’s. But, as with so many denominational churches in the 21st century, the congregation cannot sustain the building on its own and must force a “community partnership,” she said. “The congregation is an integral part of the vision but we cannot be the sole steward anymore … We’re ready to walk the talk.”
As was the case with the example mentioned in my previous post, one looks in vain for any mention in this article of the Lord Jesus Christ. The mainline churches such as the Anglican Church of Canada and United Church of Canada have abandoned belief in the Bible as God's infallible word, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7) These are the churches that are emptying and aging; Christ's true sheep have left, and these places have been left to the goats. The social gospel of "Let's make this world a better place," promoted by the mainline churches with their aging and dwindling congregations, as well as by the younger inhabitants of the Emerging church, is a false gospel, providing a false salvation.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Outhouse (aka The Shack) author William P. Young's heresy, blasphemy, and perversity is becoming more obvious with the passage of time

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Acts 20:29-30

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
II Corinthians 11:14-15

Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
I John 2:18-19

I've already commented on The Shack (which I prefer to call The Outhouse) by William P. Young (Paul, to his friends), and I don't want to go to the bother of repeating myself, so the reader is invited to see my previous posts:

"The Outhouse" (aka The Shack): One-Hour Blasphemizing (December 30, 2008)

Finding God in The Shack? (April 1, 2009)

The Outhouse (aka The Shack) in God's house (May 5, 2009)

Catherine Elsworth interviewed Mr. Young for the online book club Goodreads for its September 2015 newsletter (bold in original) (as an aside, the same newsletter contained an interview with notorious atheist idiot Richard Dawkins):

Interview with Wm. Paul Young
September, 2015

Bestselling Christian novelist William Paul Young likes to shake his readers, both in terms of subject matter and the questions he asks. He achieved this in spades with his 2007 debut, The Shack, which not only featured a father reeling from the brutal murder of his young daughter but challenged perceptions by portraying God as a large, black woman who listens to funk. Heresy, some cried. But many more found the book inspirational, and the novel, which was initially self-published, has now sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, been compared to The Pilgrim's Progress in terms of impact, and is being made into a movie starring Octavia Spencer as God.

Young's new novel, Eve, is likely to prove similarly provocative with its interpretation of the creation narrative that suggests Adam, not Eve, triggered the Fall, which means that Eve—and therefore womankind—has for centuries been unfairly maligned. The gripping sci-fi-flavored story has as its central character a savagely wounded 15-year-old girl, a former child prostitute who witnesses creation from an in-between world of teleporting, angels, and evil mirrors. Eve is a "tall, fine-boned, ebony-black woman," God breast-feeds, and Adam is seen with a pregnant belly.

Those who were upset by The Shack will no doubt be outraged again. But Young, who says his fiction is grounded in decades of Bible study, welcomes such visceral responses. The 60-year-old, who was raised by missionaries in New Guinea, suffered abuse as a child and went on to attend seminary in Oregon, tells Goodreads why he is driven to challenge what he sees as polarizing and sexist in traditional interpretations of Scripture and how he hopes Eve will fuel a new discussion about gender roles and what it means to be human.

Goodreads: You've said Eve was the hardest book you've written because you were consolidating 40 years of work on this issue. How did you get to the point where you were ready to write it?

Wm. Paul Young: I don't think I would have had the confidence to tackle this without having written The Shack and Cross Roads [Young's second novel, released in 2012, about a selfish businessman who reconnects with God after falling into a coma], because it is such a monumental task to address something so embedded, and especially to do it inside a story, in fiction. That was why it was so arduous and such a hard piece of work, because I wanted a teenager to be able to read it and not get lost inside it, yet I wanted it to be true and coherent with the scholarship and with the text itself.

GR: Why was it so important for you to challenge the creation narrative of Genesis? What did you most want to do with this book?

WPY: For many of us, and I grew up evangelical fundamental Christian, the narrative has been pretty engrained. And the more I worked on the passages themselves, primarily pushed in that direction because of some major losses of my own, sexual abuse [an issue in the book] and those kinds of losses which were perpetrated by men, the more I came to the opinion that the narrative we have adopted is wrong. I grew up in a hierarchical fundamentalist religious perspective that really subordinated women and even in the last couple of decades has found new language to subordinate women. So I wanted to challenge the existing narrative because the polarizing language we use with regards to gender or relationships, to masculine and feminine, has created a huge amount of division and confusion. I saw a narrative for the entire passage that would allow a conversation to emerge that might get away from this polarity language and begin to relate to the question in terms of being human, not in terms of gender or ethnicity or social position. And I thought if I can find a way to make that narrative accessible, maybe it could change the conversation. And I really believe it can. So I'm kind of thrilled about it.

GR: How would you describe the existing narrative?

WPY: Oh, you know, Adam is created and then Eve is created, and she is beguiled by the serpent, who is the bad guy, and she tempts and draws Adam into an existence of separation from God. But the narrative predominantly places the blame at the feet of women, and that hasn't answered the question why have men done so much damage in the world.

GR: Why do you think this interpretation has endured for so long?

WPY: Because it's dominated by men, and translation has been dominated by men, and men have been the ones in power who have told the story. It's true not just of gender issues; it's true with ethnicity issues, and those in power create the narrative for history, whether they do it on purpose or not. I know job security impacts interpretation of Scripture more than any single thing. Genesis says that when the turning takes place, at least the woman turns to a relationship, which is more like the character and nature of God, but the man turns to the ground and the works of his hands, and so it becomes about territory and property. So, surprise, surprise, the narrative emerges that allows some sense of justification for men to continue to dominate and suppress the voice of women, and this is so wrong. Look at all the destruction and damage that men have brought to the world and continue to do so. So we need a different conversation.

GR: By depicting Eve as a black woman or having the images of God breast-feeding or Adam pregnant, are you trying to get people to think and perceive differently?

WPY: Yes, and the text allows for all of that. The word "mercy" is from the same root in Hebrew as the word "womb," and so every time you read "mercy" you are dealing with the maternal nature of God. And you've got language in Isaiah of God nursing or El Shaddai, which means the breasted one. We need to have a conversation that deepens our understanding of, and appreciation for, what being human is all about and that everybody, in my view, every single human being is a unique expression of the spectrum of both the masculine and feminine, because God is neither male nor female.

GR: How did you come up with the story itself—Lilly Fields, a teenage victim of child trafficking, horribly injured and abused, becomes a witness to creation and the fall and thinks she can somehow change history.

WPY: With the kind of history that I have, with growing up in a culture where sexual abuse was a part of my world before I was five years old, and it took me decades to work through the damage with any sense of coherency or integration, I have for many years been inside the conversation with regard to the healing of the human soul. So when I was looking at the story line, I was thinking, Eve is the character who frames the story, but who is the central character? The first time I began working with the idea, I was literally thinking, I want a 15-year-old girl to be able to read this story and not get lost. And I was thinking about the fact that sadly we live in a world where girls are constantly being trafficked, and they are objectified. And I was looking at my daughters and my granddaughters and thinking, How do I speak to this in a way that might change things for them? And not just for my girls but for the daughters of us all. Lilly allowed me huge freedoms because she allowed me to explore the process of healing itself.

GR: Some of the subject matter in your books, the suffering of Lilly or the murder of Missy in The Shack, is pretty traumatic. Is that part of what you want to do—to shake people?

WPY: I do, and there's no question about that. But even in Eve it's not graphic, and you don't need to be. You've got to pull people across the threshold enough so they understand what it is you're talking about. But I want my kids to be able to read this, and I want teenagers to be able to read this. People who read horror had an easier time with that than they did with The Shack because it is so human and so tangible and so wrenching, but not because it is graphic. And the same is true for Eve. I want a pretty strong boundary yet at the same time I don't want to be some Pollyanna person who thinks everything in the world is wonderful, because it's not. We have huge devastating problems that it is way past time to address.

GR: The voice of your teenage heroine is modern: She's unimpressed and skeptical about religion.

WPY: Yes, and it's because this younger generation is exactly there. They've got really good crap detectors, they're not excited about agenda, things are moving and changing so fast, they want something that matters that actually makes a difference. And her voice was not difficult to access. I'm surrounded by young women who give me lots of feedback, who love me, but aren't impressed.

GR: You wrote Eve in about seven months. How do you work when you start a new project?

WPY: I'm not a wake-up-in-the-morning, do-your-2,000-words kind of guy. I'm just like, all right, it's time, jump in the river, see what happens. Sometimes it could be 14 hours in a day. It's one of those zones where you lose track of time, you don't remember going to the bathroom or the last time you ate, you just get swept away in it, and it's a constant companion until it's done. To me it's as close as a man will ever get to delivering a baby, very much like a pregnancy—you have your morning sickness, and you waddle around, and you want to pull the baby out now, but it's not quite time, and the labor process is excruciating—and long for me.

GR: I wanted to ask about the book's graphic and colorful depictions of conception and labor. At one point God "plunges His hands into the holy mess... The labor was nearly finished. Then, with a piercing wrenching scream, Adonai raised above His head a newborn baby."

WPY: I have a high view of humanity, which is contrary to the evangelical heritage I grew up with, which had a very low view of humanity, so I am constantly trying to find ways to celebrate our humanity. And the whole conception and the birthing process is to me one of the most amazing miracles that exist in creation, and to find ways to celebrate it, I loved some of the depictions that emerged in the story line around the birthing process and the exultation of that, and that by itself grants a dignity and honor to women that is incredibly well deserved, and I'm thrilled about that, too.

GR: There was a very strong reaction to The Shack, with people accusing you of heresy and theological inaccuracy. What's it like to have such a visceral response?

WPY: I love a visceral response way more than I appreciate ambivalence. Someone who doesn't care, there's no real conversation there. At least with an angry person you can have a conversation, because when people are upset, something in them is being challenged enough to raise their ire, and that's an engaged process and opens up the possibility of really great conversation. I love the questions, I love the conversation, and I think it's our way forward.

GR: And with your background, you feel you can support your fiction with your knowledge?

WPY: I went to seminary, I went to bible school, and I've read voraciously. I love the deep philosophers and theologians and the people who people quote who they don't actually read, I actually read them. But I find that part of what I am to the community of faith as well as to the community of humanity is that I'm an interpreter. I grasp some of the big-picture stuff, and I find a way to say it in a way that my kids can understand it. And that's a very narrow thing, but it's important, and I'm thrilled to be in that space. My books are recognized as human books. They're not sectarian with an agenda to divide, but they're addressing fundamental human questions, and as a result I think they speak a language that crosses all these barriers, and that gives me hope.

GR: Goodreads member Ellen asks, "What sort of criticism or backlash do you expect from conservative Christians with the release of Eve?"

WPY: The same people who didn't read The Shack and didn't like it are not going to read Eve and not like it. And the beauty is they are my people. They really are. They are the people I grew up with, I know really well, and I know where they are coming from. I know what they are afraid of. So yeah, I anticipate I will get the same sort of serious 12-page dissertations against all the evils of the book that I've had before. But even with The Shack, I'd say that might be 1 or 2 percent, maybe 3 percent, of all the responses that I get. And even when people have come to where I've been speaking and intended to take a stand against me, they are overwhelmed by the stories of how this conversation has penetrated people and changed their world.

GR: The back of the book says it's an "unprecedented exploration of the creation narrative." You've never seen anything in all your reading like this?

WPY: The closest that I've gotten to someone who really did a great job on the Genesis narrative was Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, which remains one of my favorite stories. It's the second in the Space Trilogy that he did, and he posits Venus as the new Eden in which the Eve character makes the right choice. And Lewis is brilliant in that book. But he doesn't tackle the existing narrative; he just posits an alternative universe. But no, like I said, 40 years of work on all the issues and the problem passages, and it constantly drove me back to Genesis, really pushed me to explore the Hebrew and the historical theological positions about it and get a great grasp of the story line, and then draw together what people have written over the centuries and say, All right, let's see if we can't find a narrative that is coherent with the text and with the scholarship and that allows for a different conversation.

GR: Could you talk us through how The Shack became a book. You originally wrote it for your kids while you were working three jobs?

WPY: Yes, and our youngest was 13 at the time, so they weren't little kids. It started with Kim, my wife of nearly 36 years, who said to me, "Some day, as a gift for our kids, would you just put in one place how you think because you think outside the box." It wasn't until I was 50 that I felt my head and heart were integrated enough to write something that puts in one place how I think. So I wrote this story on the train going between my three jobs and ended up making 15 copies at Office Depot. I gave six to the kids and Kim and the rest to my friends and family. And those 15 copies did everything I ever wanted that book to do. I was thrilled with that. It never crossed my mind to publish it. I didn't know anything about publishing, and so to be involved in something that became such a global phenomenon was absolutely wonderful, humbling. You have the sense that, you know what, this is God's sense of humor. It's one of those stories where you just shake your head and laugh a lot.

GR: What does it feel like now that the movie is being made?

WPY: I was invited up to the set, and it is a surreal thing to walk around where they have built an entire shack, and they're filming and there's 50 crew and cast and you think, I made 15 copies of a little thing that I wrote for Christmas for my kids, and all of these people are employed because of this and bringing to this their abilities and their skill sets and their stories, and it's all being woven together into something that gets to be presented in a different way to the world again. It is so surreal, and I am so grateful.

GR: Who are your favorite authors and the writers who inspire you?

WPY: I grew up in the highlands of New Guinea, where we didn't have any technology, so I grew up with books and I read all the classics plus Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, I love the science fiction genre. And then of course the Inklings with C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers and G.K. Chesterton. And Malcolm Muggeridge, even in Punch magazine I loved his ability to turn a phrase and bite someone in the butt. And Mark Twain.

Then I started getting into some philosophy, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Jacques Ellul, who's not easy to read, but he's conceptually brilliant as a sociologist and a theologian. And then the mystic strain on the other side, people like Richard Rohr and Jean Vanier. Then back to Athanasius's On the Incarnation of the Word of God and people who were writing in the first few centuries. And also I'm a bit of a physics person. I love quantum theory and astronomy. I love it, just enough to be dangerous. That's why you have quantum fire in Cross Roads and fractals in The Shack and movement between worlds or parallel universes. And it's why you have this mixture of fantasy and science fiction and deep human psychology and theology all kind of merged together inside a story line.

GR: Goodreads member Katie asks, "Do you find it hard to write as a faith-filled man in a society that is becoming so secular and looking to follow popular opinion rather than stand for truth and right?"

WPY: So my first response to that is that I am convinced that secularism is halfway to Jesus from religion. I find huge amounts of resonance within secularism that religion has created inhibitions to address. So I don't find antagonism in the secular dimension of the world nearly as much as I find it within religious fundamentalism of any sort whether it's atheistic fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, or Islamic fundamentalism. With someone who is about being right, and not about loving, or about codified propositions and laws, then you've got a lot more pushback, and I find some comfort in the fact that Jesus found it the same way in the first century. It was the religious people who had the most problems with who he was and what he was saying. So I really don't. In fact, the more human that I am in terms of the conversation, the easier it is to have that conversation within the secular world.

GR: Goodreads member Kristin asks, "How do you feel when you hear your books have changed people's relationships with God?"

WPY: Oh my gosh, I hear that a lot. That's one of the greatest blessings that's ever happened, because I've been allowed to participate in whatever this is. And it really is the holy ground. People's stories are the holy ground, that's where you get to watch the activity of God inside a person's world in a way that burns away everything that's not real. So the greatest gift that's come out of this is the invitation to be inside other people's stories, and those stories are miraculous, they are just mind-boggling, and I've got thousands of them.
A few things that struck me from this interview:

When it comes to Paul Young's claim of having been sexually abused as a child, we have only his word to go on, but I'm increasingly inclined to believe he's telling the truth, because it would explain a lot. For instance, no normal man writes with a 15-year-old female reader in mind. To put it bluntly, there's something seriously wrong with Paul Young; his writing style is feminine; his subject matter appeals mainly to women (click on the link for the interview and look at the comments); he writes with 15-year-old female readers in mind; and worst of all, he promotes a feminine god. Mr. Young doesn't come across as a real man.

Mr. Young's list of favourite authors and literary genres is most revealing, and is more in keeping with a New Ager than a Christian. The Castalia House publishing firm is currently running a series of posts on its blog concerning the disproportionate amount of pedophilia within the science fiction community--including such big names as Arthur C. Clarke.

My reaction to the author of The Shack is similar to my reaction to the first two movies from writer and director Neil LaBute. In the Company of Men (1997) had two unpleasant men as the main characters, but the main female character was someone I could root for. However, Mr. LaBute's next movie, Your Friends & Neighbors (1998) had nothing but unpleasant characters; I can't speak for all myneighbours, but the characters in that movie don't resemble any of my friends. After seeing those movies--and especially, after the second one--I concluded that there was something seriously wrong with Mr. LaBute, who converted to Mormonism at Brigham Young University and has since left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Others have also noticed that there's something wrong with Mr. LaBute, as a glance at his Wikipedia entry will show. Two Neil LaBute movies were enough for me, and I haven't been interested in seeing anything else he's had to offer.

Paul Young openly denies the account of creation, apparently blaming belief in the literal truth of the account in Genesis chapters 1-2 for his sexual abuse as a child. As is always the case with religious liberals--especially those who have wormed their way from within the professing Christian church--those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible are always the bad guys. It should be kept in mind that to deny the biblical account of creation is to deny the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as well as the words of the Apostles, who were men directly commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ and were writing under divine inspiration.

By my count, Paul Young used the word "conversation" 11 times in the interview. That's the way it is in the Emerging Church in which Mr. Young would seem to naturally fit; it's always a "conversation" with Emergents, it's never "Thus saith the LORD."

Mr. Young boasts about his "high view of humanity," but whenever that occurs, it's always a see-saw--when the view of humanity goes up, the view of God goes down. The "God" of Paul Young's invention isn't worth worshipping.

Paul Young is an example of what Vox Day, author of the recent book SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police (2015) refers to as the three laws of Social Justice Warriors (SJWs)--the first law is the law that should be most kept in mind:

1. They always lie.
2. They always double down.
3. They always project.

Mr. Young, like a typical SJW, uses a false analogy when he places Christian fundamentalism on an equal level with atheistic and Islamic fundamentalism. He's also dishonest when he compares his own battles with fundamentalists with the religious leaders whom Jesus faced. In fact, the Pharisees of whom the Lord Jesus Christ was so critical weren't fundamentalists, but religious liberals; they didn't know (Matthew 22:29) or believe (John 5:45-47) the scriptures, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7)

Paul Young makes a snide remark about the "people who didn't read The Shack and didn't like it." What a liar. I, for one, did read The Shack and didn't like it. Go to my first post mentioned above, and click the links to see reviews by Christian authors who also read the book and didn't like it--including Mr. Young's neighbour James De Young, who turned his review into the book Burning Down the Shack (2010). After the extremely unpleasant experience of reading The Shack, this blogger has no intention of reading Eve; I'll wait for reviews by discerning Christians who have stronger stomachs than mine (and of course, who have actually read the book).

I can't emphasize strongly enough that Paul Young isn't someone coming from outside the professing evangelical Christian church, but from within. He's an alumnus of Canadian Bible College from its days in Regina; it's now Ambrose University, based in Calgary (search this blog under "Ambrose" for information on this increasingly unbiblical institution). Mr. Young presumbably knows what the truth is, but he's chosen to reject it; like those mentioned by Paul in the Acts 20 passage cited above, Paul Young is speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after himself.