Saturday, July 4, 2015

75 years ago: The Mahatma offers his advice to the United Kingdom on peace

On July 2, 1940, Indian independence activist Mohandas Gandhi appealed to all Britons to cease hostilities with Germany and settle their differences using non-violent methods. Apparently the "Great Soul" hadn't been paying attention in September 1938 when the British government, represented by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, had used non-violent negotiation to achieve "peace for our time" with German Fuehrer Adolf Hitler at the summit in Munich. Less than a year later, that peace was shattered when Mr. Hitler sent his forces into Poland.

By July 1940 the humiliated Mr. Chamberlain had been replaced as British Prime Minister by Winston Churchill, who had a low opinion of both Mr. Hitler and Mr. Gandhi. Eight days after the Mahatma offered his unsolicited advice to the United Kingdom, German planes began a systematic assault on ports in southern England and on British shipping in the English Channel. The bombing campaign inensified through the end of July and after, producing what became known as the Battle of Britain. Fortunately, Mr. Churchill ignored Mr. Gandhi's idiotic and suicidal advice, and instead used Royal Air Force planes to resist the German attacks. On August 20, Mr. Churchill told the House of Commons, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

When Mr. Hitler began increasing the persecution of Jews, the Mahatma advised Jews to use non-violent methods in dealing with the situation--and we know how well that turned out. The main lesson that Jews learned from the Holocaust is that when someone is threatening to destroy the Jews, it's prudent to take the threat seriously.

Friday, July 3, 2015

75 years ago: Germany proposes Madagascar as a Jewish homeland

Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.
Deuteronomy 1:7-8

Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be. Deuteronomy 11:24

Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
Joshua 1:3-4

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:12

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it...
... Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.
For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished...
Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.
Jeremiah 30:3, 10-11, 18

For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God.
For thus saith the Lord; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock...
...If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
Jeremiah 31:6-10, 36

On July 3, 1940, Franz Rademacher, head of the Jewish Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Nazi government of Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, proposed a plan to make Madagascar the "Jewish homeland." German military forces were days away from winning the Battle of France, and Mr. Rademacher's proposal called for Madagascar--then a French colony--to be handed over to Germany as part of the French surrender terms.

When German forces failed to defeat the Royal Air Force the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940, and the invasion of the British isles was postponed, the British merchant marine was unavailable to Germany for the purposes of transporting Jews, resulting in the postponement of the Madagascar plan. The Nazis then favoured a plan to deport Jews to Siberia via Poland, but when the German invasion of the Soviet Union bogged down at the end of 1941, Mr. Hitler chose to begin exterminating Jews immediately rather than merely deporting them.

The Nazis weren't the first to establishing a Jewish homeland. In the spring of 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte laid siege to the city of Acre (now Akko in present-day Israel) that was being defended by Ottoman and British forces, but after breaching the wall, found that a second wall had been constructed, and withdrew his French forces to Egypt. Napoleon reportedly intended to continue to Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon's Temple, but as Hal Lindsey pointed out, this would have upset the entire prophetic timetable if he's been able to pull it off.

The Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1903 voted in favour of sending an "investigatory commission" to examine Uganda as a temporary refuge for Russian Jews who were in danger.

Napoleon apparently had the idea to restore the Jews to the right place, but his timing was off. In the case of the proposals to settle Jews in Uganda and Madagascar, the lands in question weren't those prophesied in the Bible. God predicted that the Jews would be restored to their biblical homeland, and He arranged circumstances to make sure that this came to pass, and in accord with the entire prophetice timetable of Scripture.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Canadian Senator and Pentecostal pastor Don Meredith is dumped from the Conservative caucus

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
I Timothy 3:2-3 (NIV)

Those who are tired of hearing about financial scandals involving members of the Canadian Senate might find it refreshing to find that the body of "sober second thought" now has a sex scandal to deal with. Maybe they should call the Canadian Senator "Randy Don," as opposed to his more famous namesake, the late American football quarterback and broadcaster "Dandy Don" Meredith.

As reported by Kevin Donovan of the Toronto Star, June 17, 2015:

A Canadian senator who is under investigation for workplace sexual harassment is facing a new allegation that he had a sexual relationship with a teenager during the past two years.

Don Meredith, 50, has been a senator since 2010 and is also a Pentecostal pastor with the Praise Centre in Toronto.

Soon after the allegations against Meredith were published on the Star website, the Prime Minister’s Office took swift action to oust him from Conservative circles.

“Senator Meredith is no longer a member of the Caucus,” spokesman Stephen Lecce said in an email.

According to the young woman, who is now 18, the relationship began soon after she turned 16. She met Meredith at a church event in Ottawa.

She said it began with sexually explicit chats over Skype and Viber in which Meredith asked her to remove her top and underwear. She said he then masturbated on camera.

The relationship progressed to physical intimacy, kissing and touching before the girl turned 18. Soon after she turned 18, the woman said, they had intercourse twice.

When the senator broke it off earlier this year, he told her in a text message that he did so because “God has spoken to me and am (sic) not happy with me ... I should be leading you not making you.”

The Star has conducted detailed interviews with the woman in person and over the telephone. The Star has also viewed text and email messages the two exchanged.

Meredith, reached by the Star on Tuesday, said he was too busy to answer questions.

“I’m just in a meeting right now; I can’t speak to you,” Meredith said. The senator hung up when the Star began asking questions.

Following the call, the Star sent two sets of written questions to Meredith. The Star left requests for comment on the issue of an alleged inappropriate relationship on Meredith’s cellphone, at his Toronto area church, and his Senate office in Ottawa. Meredith has yet to respond.

In Canada, the age of consent for sexual relations is 16. However, the age of consent is 18 if there is a relationship of authority, trust or dependency.

Meredith was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2010. He had run unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the 2008 byelection in Toronto Centre. A landscaper by trade — his company is called Donscape Landscaping Services — Meredith had become prominent in Toronto for speaking out against youth violence.

Last week, CTV’s Robert Fife reported that Meredith is under investigation by the Senate for “allegations of workplace sexual harassment and bullying.” According to the CTV report, “four of Meredith’s former female employees and four other Senate staffers allege he made sexual advances, used sexual innuendo, and was often rude and vindictive.”

Senate Speaker Leo Housakos confirmed to media outlets that an investigation he called a “workplace assessment” is underway. The woman the Star interviewed did not work for the senator and has no connection to the workplace harassment allegations.

In an online biography at the Pentecostal Praise Centre in Vaughan, Meredith is described as having a strong commitment to religion and youth. He is also known for his comments on the importance of family values...

...Meredith met the young woman, who was then a girl, at a religious event. The woman is embarrassed and troubled by the relationship. Because of the nature of the allegations and her young age, the Star agreed to protect her anonymity...

...Why is the woman telling her story now?

Last week, CTV, followed by other media, including Canadian Press and CBC, revealed in a story that Meredith was under a Senate review due to a high turnover of staff at his office. CTV stated that the review began in February and that the senator was facing allegations of sexual harassment.

The woman the Star interviewed said she was concerned that the investigators would not believe what the former staff members were alleging and she wanted to add her voice to the story...

...The woman has provided text messages and emails that reveal a relationship dating back to March 2013...

...Following the reports on the sexual harassment investigation, Meredith, his wife and their daughter took to social media to counter any allegations that he has done anything wrong.

Their daughter, who is in her early 20s, tweeted on Tuesday night, “What kind of a person do you have to be to wake up in the morning and decide let me try and steal this person’s happiness?” She also tweeted, “There are way too many cruel individuals out there seeking to ruin people’s lives.”

Late last week, Meredith’s wife, Michelle, tweeted an image of the “Meredith Family crest,” and told her followers, “We stand united.” Another tweet said, “Let your haters be your motivators. Celebrating me.”

Meredith has sent two tweets to his followers, both on June 11, the day after the CTV report on the workplace sexual harassment allegations.

“A lion never loses sleep over the opinions of sheep,” says the first tweet, accompanied by a photo of a male lion.

The second is accompanied by a photo of a green-eyed eagle: “When a storm is coming, all other birds seek shelter. The Eagle alone avoids the storm by flying above it. So in the storms of life, may your heart soar like an eagle.”

Meredith has previously been criticized for improperly claiming he had a doctoral degree (he is no longer allowed to call himself “Dr. Meredith” on Senate correspondence), and for expensing to the Senate a Washington trip he and his wife took to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Meredith repaid the funds.
According to Senator Meredith's biography at the Parliament of Canada website:

Ontario Senator Don Meredith is the fourth person of African descent, and the first ever Jamaican to serve in the Senate of Canada.

A businessman and community advocate, he is an ordained minister and volunteer pastor of Pentecostal Praise Centre Ministries in Vaughan, Ontario.

A passionate champion of youth empowerment, in 2002, he co-founded the Greater Toronto Faith Alliance Centre where he continues to serve as volunteer Executive Director to engage, encourage and empower marginalized youth, adults and newcomers.

Senator Meredith introduced Bill S-213 that was passed to nationally recognize January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day.

His commitment to youth leadership, led him to create a National Youth Strategy, and in 2014 he organized the first-ever Parliament Hill-based live-streamed on-line youth summit.

His work in Ottawa also includes sitting on the Fisheries and Scrutiny Committees; co-chairing the Canada-CARICOM Parliamentary Friendship Group; spearheading efforts to erect a national monument in honour of the military contributions of Black Canadians; and urging the Government of Canada and the international community to better respond to crisis-laden global hotspots.

He holds a Master’s degree from California State Christian University and a Honourary doctorate in Divinity from the Canadian Christian Clinical Counsellors’ Association. Senator Meredith has commissioned an Ambassador of Peace for the Universal Peace Federation and is also a recipient of various awards including: The Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award, The Vaughn African Canadian Association Award of Excellence, The University of Toronto Advancement Achievement Award and The 2015 AroniAward for Youth Organization - GTA Faith Alliance.

He is married to Michelle, an educator and youth advocate who has a passion for those identified as special needs and at-risk. They have two young adult children.
The website of the Pentecostal Praise Centre in Vaughan, Ontario provides the following biographical information on "Dr." Don Meredith:

Rev. Dr. Don Meredith is the founder and volunteer pastor of Pentecostal Praise Centre Ministries Inc., providing visionary leadership for the organization, as well as spiritual guidance to the membership and visiting guests.

Rev. Meredith was born in Jamaica and came to Canada when he was 12. He has a heart for people and desires nothing more than to see all people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His glorious Kingdom. With a strong passion for Youth and their families, he wants empower them through education. He has dedicated his live to work with other Faith Leaders, Politicians, and Police to bring about change in how we Engage, Encourage and Empower our youth across Canada. He has earned the reputation of been an expert on these issues affecting Youth. His strong desire to empower the church to take their rightful place in society, allowing them to draw others to Christ. Rev. Meredith has gained the reputation of being one of Canada’s most dynamic servant-leaders, promoting spiritual change in Canada, by co-founding GTA Faith Alliance. His recognition as a prominent leader is the result of vision, focus, and the pursuit of Biblical excellence. He is a strong people person with a very positive attitude and compassion for people, has been noticed by world leaders including the Prime Minister of Canada, by appointing him as the fourth African Canadian to hold a seat in the Senate of Canada.

He is an alumnus of the prestigious California State Christian University, where he earned his Bachelor’s, and Masters Degree in Religious Studies. He was granted an Honorary Doctorate for his work with youth and been a voice of change.

Rev. Meredith, his wife Michelle, daughter Dominique, and son David currently reside in York Region.
If the About Us page at Pentecostal Praise Centre's site is any indication, the church's leadership consists of "Dr." Meredith, his wife Michelle, and his son David. Michelle Meredith is listed as "First Lady" and David Meredith as "Brother"--titles I haven't been able to find mentioned in the New Testament for positions of leadership in the church. In fact, this is the first time I've ever seen the title "First Lady" in connection with a church.

The perceptive reader will recognize terminology in "Dr." Meredith's biography such as "visionary leadership;" "bring about change;" "empower the church to take their rightful place in society;" "servant-leaders;" "vision, focus;" and "noticed by world leaders." He sounds like a good example of the cookie-cutter pastors who've imbibed the Kool-Aid of the Peter Drucker/Leadership Network/Willow Creek/Purpose Driven model of church growth and leadership, which increasingly goes in the direction of the "social gospel," a phrase usually used in connection with the mainline churches of the early 20th century--but increasingly characteristic of the "evangelical" churches of the early 21st century. Herescope is currently reposting some of the best and most important material on this topic--it really is must reading.

Whether the accusations against "Dr." Meredith are true or not, the tweets that he's posted, and that have been republished in the Toronto Star article, show that he's not now qualified for leadership in a church, according to the criteria laid down in I Timothy 3:2-3--he's no longer above reproach, and it's questionable how faithful he's been to his wife. I can't resist mentioning that "Dr." Meredith was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man widely believed, especially by pastors--and, in my opinion, erroneously--to be an evangelical Christian. When it comes to appointing Senators or recruiting candidates to run for seats in the House of Commons, Mr. Harper seems to have quite an affinity for crooks and thugs.

Another aspect of the case of "Dr." Meredith that's mentioned in the Toronto Star article touches on something in evangelicalism that's always annoyed me, and that's the use of the title "Doctor" to refer to someone on the basis of degrees that are only honourary. This is an area in which the standards of the world are generally higher than in the church. It's not often in the world that people who have only honourary degrees refer to themselves as "Doctor" in everyday use or accept others referring to them as such, but I've seen this in evangelical circles for decades with people such as "Dr." Jerry Falwell, "Dr." Bill Bright, and "Dr." Billy Graham (I'm not, to put it mildly, an admirer of Rick Warren, but I have no objection to his using the title "Doctor," because he earned his degree). Even if "Dr." Meredith's honourary degree is legitimate, for him to use that as a title in everyday use is inappropriate, especially for someone in a position of Christian leadership. As the saying goes, it's like dancing in the mortuary--it's not illegal, but it's just not done--except of course, in evangelical circles, where it's done all the time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Elisabeth Elliot goes to be with the Lord

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

Elisabeth Elliot Gren, whose example of a godly life and biblically-based writings were an inspiration to many, including this blogger, has went to be with the Lord on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88. She died after a long period of dementia, and the difficulties that resulted from that are now over. She can rejoice that she's now in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and can become reacquainted with Jim Elliot and Addison Leitch, her first two husbands, who predeceased her by several decades.

I was privileged to hear Elisabeth Elliot speak in person at the Campus Crusade for Christ KC '83 Christmas Conference in Kansas City, Missouri on December 30, 1983. Pre-release copies of her book Passion and Purity were available there, and she spoke on the subject of that book. The title of her address was The Path of Endurance, and you can hear it here. Elisabeth Elliot's advice is worth following because she lived what she was talking about. I've read a few of her books, and the ones I particularly recommend are Passion and Purity (1984) and The Mark of a Man (1981). They can be be ordered from her site, if you can't find them elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Part of ancient Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct is exposed during sewer construction

As reported by Israel Antiquities Authority, May 2015:

A section of Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct, which conveyed water to the city more than 2,000 years ago, was exposed in the Umm Tuba quarter (near Har Homa) during the construction of a sewer line in the neighborhood by the Gihon Company. This line is just part of an extensive project directed by Zohar Yinon, CEO of the Gihon Company Ltd, to install a modern sewer system for the benefit of the residents of Umm Tuba and Sur Bahar.

The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct. According to Ya’akov Billig, the excavation director, “The Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hasmonean kings constructed more than two thousand years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago. The aqueduct begins at the ‘En ‘Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers long. Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance. At first, the water was conveyed inside an open channel and about 500 years ago, during the Ottoman period, a terra cotta pipe was installed inside the channel in order to better protect the water”.

The aqueduct’s route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Jerusalem in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighborhoods: Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor. Since this is one of Jerusalem’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took care to preserve it for some two thousand years, until it was replaced about a century ago by a modern electrically operated system. Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority is taking steps to prevent any damage to the aqueduct, and is working to expose sections of its remains, study them and make them accessible to the general public.

The Umm Tuba section of the aqueduct was documented, studied, and covered up again for the sake of future generations. Other sections of the long aqueduct have been conserved for the public in the Armon Ha-Natziv tunnels, on the Sherover promenade, around the Sultan's Pool and additional projects are planned whose themes include the Lower Aqueduct.

The Israel Antiquities Authority noted favorably the professional attitude and thorough efforts on the part of the Gihon Company regarding the excavation and discovery of antiquities.

3,000-year-old inscription with the name of King Saul's son is found in Israel

And Ner begat Kish; and Kish begat Saul; and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchishua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal. I Chronicles 9:39

Ish-bosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. II Samuel 2:10

And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon.
And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.
For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night.
And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.
And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,
When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:
How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?
And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.
II Samuel 4:5-12

Eshbaal is referred to as Ish-bosheth in II Samuel. As reported by Israel Antiquities Authority, June 16, 2015:

A rare inscription from the time of King David was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafain the Valley of Elah. A ceramic jar c. 3,000 years old that was broken into numerous sherds was discovered in 2012 in excavations carried out there by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Letters written in ancient Canaanite script could be discerned on several of the sherds, sparking the curiosity of researchers.

Intensive restoration work conducted in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority Artifacts Treatment Department, during which hundreds of pottery sherds were glued together to form a whole jar, solved the riddle – the jar was incised with the inscription: Eshbaʽal Ben Badaʽ. Dr. Mitka Golub and Dr. Haggai Misgav were among the team of researchers involved in deciphering the text.

According to Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the IAA, "This is the first time that the name Eshbaʽal has appeared on an ancient inscription in the country. Eshbaʽal Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible. Eshbaʽal was murdered by assassins and decapitated and his head was brought to David in Hebron (II Samuel, Chaps. 3-4). It is interesting to note that the name Eshbaʽal appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE. This name was not used later in the First Temple period.The correlation between the biblical tradition and the archaeological finds indicates this was a common name only during that period. The name Bedaʽ is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition."

According to the researchers, the fact that the name Eshbaʽal was incised on a jar suggests that he was an important person. He was apparently the owner of a large agricultural estate and the produce collected there was packed and transported in jars that bore his name. This is clear evidence of social stratification and the creation of an established economic class that occurred at the time of the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.

Garfinkel and Ganor add, "In II Samuel there was apparently reluctance to use the name Eshbaʽal, which was reminiscent of the Canaanite storm god Baʽal, and the original name was therefore changed to Ish-Bashat, but the original name of Eshbaʽal was preserved in the Book of Chronicles. Thus, for example, the name of the warlord Gideon Ben Joash was also changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth."

Khirbet Qeiyafais identified with the biblical city Shaʽarayim. During several seasons of excavations directed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor, a fortified city, two gates, a palace and storerooms, dwellings and cultic rooms were exposed there. The city dates from the time of David, that is, the late eleventh and early tenth centuries BCE. Unique artifacts that were previously unknown were discovered at the site. For example, in 2008 the world’s earliest Hebrew inscription was uncovered there. Now, another inscription from the same period is being published from the site.

According to Garfinkel and Ganor,"Until about five years ago we knew of no inscriptions dating to the tenth century BCE from the Kingdom of Judah. In recent years four inscriptions have been published: two from Khirbet Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet Shemesh. This completely changes our understanding of the distribution of writing in the Kingdom of Judah and it is now clear that writing was far more widespread than previously thought. It seems that the organization of the kingdom required a cadre of clerks and writers and their activity is also manifested in the appearance of inscriptions."

Monday, June 15, 2015

International Day of Yoga event in Vancouver is cancelled after protests

You tell me just how I can take this Yoga serious
When all it ever gives to me is a pain in my posterious.

Yoga is as Yoga Does, as performed by Elvis Presley (with Elsa Lanchester) in the movie Easy Come, Easy Go (1967).

The definition of yoga--a Sanskrit word literally meaning yoking, from yunakti, he yokes--from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1965):
1 cap: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation 2: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being
I wasn't aware until a few hours ago that June 21 is International Day of Yoga; I find it interesting that this has been set by the United Nations for the first day of summer, which is also a day widely celebrated by pagans. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark invited yogis to participate in a celebration to be held in Vancouver, as reported by Brian Morton of the Vancouver Sun, June 5, 2015:

Premier Christy Clark on Friday invited yogis from around the province to roll out their mats and strike a pose on the Burrard Bridge for the International Day of Yoga on June 21.

Lululemon Athletica, YYoga and AltaGas are partnering with the province for the celebration, which organizers hope will be the largest International Day of Yoga event outside of India.

Yogis are invited to arrive at the bridge by 8 a.m. on June 21 for an 8:30 a.m. start. The bridge will be closed between 4 a.m. and 11 a.m. to vehicular traffic in both directions.

Instructors from the Vancouver yoga community will lead participants through an hour-long yoga session.

"India has given the world a great gift in yoga, with dedicated followers around the world," Clark said. "It's become part of the cultural fabric in B.C., and particularly so in the Lower Mainland. That's why we're inviting beginners and yogi masters alike from across the province to Vancouver — to come together to celebrate yoga in record numbers, and most importantly, have fun."

The official slogan of the event is "Om the Bridge," and people are encouraged to use the hashtag #Omthebridge leading up to the big day.

The cities of Vancouver and Surrey are also supporting the event.
And as reported by Mr. Morton in the Vancouver Sun, June 6, 2015:

Vancouver yogis take note: you’ll have two large yoga sessions to choose from for the inaugural International Day of Yoga June 21 — the Plaza of Nations and the Burrard Bridge.

Just don’t call it a competition.

“We believe at least 1,500 people (will be) at this event,” said Nirmala Raniga, organizer of the Plaza of Nations event, announced Tuesday.

“We want to set it up in such a way that people can register and show up and embrace the day because the schedule is a full day,” added Ramiga, whose session is presented by the International Day of Yoga, Vancouver Committee, and endorsed by the Consulate General of India.

On Friday, Premier Christy Clark also invited yogis to roll out their mats and strike a pose on the Burrard Bridge for the International Day of Yoga. Lululemon Athletica, YYoga and AltaGas are partnering with the province with the shared goal of hosting the largest celebration outside of India...

...Raniga said that she had originally booked her all-day session at Robson Square, but was subsequently told she could only have it for two hours, so she had to book the Plaza of Nations.

Asked if she believed the hours were cut back because of the province’s yoga session on Burrard Bridge, Raniga said she didn’t know.

“I was approached by the consul-general of India months ago asking if we could put an event together for yoga day. So we’ve been working very closely with the consulate on this,” she said.

She noted that, unlike the Burrard Bridge session, the Plaza of Nations event is booked for the whole day. “They’re doing it on a bridge. We picked a venue that allows people to come out and be in yoga and not just do the practice of yoga, but really embrace the whole aspect of yoga. Also, we’ll have some discussion on lifestyle.”

Raniga doesn’t like to think of the two events as a competition. “I don’t take it in that way. I think it’s for everyone. If they want to go to the Burrard Bridge and hang out, that’s great for them. We invite everybody who wants to come out to our venue.

“I have also set one up (a session) in Victoria and a second event in Squamish. It’s meant to bring everybody together.”
However, the announcement of the event prompted protests, and a response from Premier Clark, as reported by Tiffany Crawford in the Vancouver Sun, June 12, 2015:

Some of the critics opposed to the closure of a major Vancouver bridge for International Yoga Day are "haters" of the practice, B.C. Premier Christy Clark says.

The premier announced last week that the Burrard Street Bridge would close for several hours on June 21 for the international event.

Criticism quickly followed in local media and social media - her plan even drew the ire of children's entertainer Raffi Cavoukian.

Clark has posted a photo on Twitter of her standing outside a Taoist Tai Chi office accompanied by text that says: "Hey, Yoga Haters - bet you can't wait for international Tai Chi day."

She has also told reporters that similar events are taking place in New York's Times Square, at the Washington Monument and across India.

Clark is questioning whether her critics would be complaining if the bridge were shut down for a ballhockey tournament or marathon. "There are thousands of people, many of them women, who find peace in their day by doing yoga, and I think it's a little puzzling to see so many people criticizing something that people do, that thousands of British Columbians do every day to find a little bit of peace in their lives," she said.

"I think that's something in a province, where we care about good health and well-being, that we should be celebrating."

But First Nations groups are planning to crash the yoga party.

The Om The Bridge event coincides with National Aboriginal Day, and groups unhappy with that are asking people to protest the event.

Several pages have been set up on social media calling for a peaceful disruption of the mass yoga class with signs, singing and drumming.

"Be an ally on National Aboriginal Day. Hold space for indigenous people, who continue to be systematically ignored, by crashing (Premier) Christy Clark's yoga party," one organizer wrote on Facebook.

Responding to questions about her tweet in Victoria, Clark said it was a joke.

"That was a bit of self deprecating humour," she said. "We are celebrating National Aboriginal Day, absolutely we are. We're also celebrating Father's Day in my household and we're also celebrating the United Nations day that was designated for International Yoga Day," she said. "Yoga is a huge part of people's lives here."
The protests have been effective, because the event has been cancelled, as reported by Ms. Crawford in the Vancouver Sun, June 13, 2015:

VANCOUVER - Vancouver’s Om the Bridge yoga event has been cancelled following a week of controversy and organizers say they will look for another venue.

Sponsors Lululemon, YYoga and Altagas announced Friday they were pulling out after backlash ensued over costs and the bridge closure among other issues.

Christy Clark also announced Friday she would not participate in the event, scheduled for June 21.

“Unfortunately, the focus of the proposed Burrard Street Bridge event has drifted towards politics, getting in the way of the spirit of community and inner reflection,” Clark said in a statement. “It was for that reason I decided not to participate.”

Jill Batie, a spokeswoman for Lululemon, confirmed the yoga wear company had decided not to participate in the Om the Bridge event, scheduled for June 21 on Burrard Bridge.

“Downward dogs with a few thousand of our closest friends seemed like the perfect way to celebrate International Day of Yoga. Until it didn’t,” an emailed statement from Batie read.

“We’ve read your posts and the media reports, and heard the disappointment in the voices of our community frustrated by the location, cost and date. We had the best intentions. And so we’re taking a deep cleansing breath and over the next several days, we’ll be reimagining a celebration that honours the spirit and tradition of yoga and serves our communities in a more meaningful way. Because ultimately, yoga is about connecting us to ourselves, each other, our environment, and eventually, our truth. Look for more information on our social channels coming soon. Thanks for your understanding. Namaste.”

In a statement posted online, YYoga CEO Terry McBride said they have been listening to the community, and that they would be looking at other ways to celebrate International Day of Yoga.

“The importance of celebrating the tradition of yoga still rings true for us. We are working with our partners from the community to deliver something that serves them in a more meaningful way,” he said.

“Please stay tuned for something that will reflect the tradition of yoga, and the wishes of our community ... in a park.”

The move follows Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson saying he won’t take part in the event, option instead to celebrate National Aboriginal Day, and a tweet earlier Friday from Premier Clark saying she won’t participate.

Premier Clark’s office said it was always her plan to attend the yoga event, but she has since felt it has become too political to make a personal appearance. Clark’s office would not say what she intends to do instead, saying the premier’s schedule will be revealed closer to the actual day.

Since last Friday’s announcement there has been a significant backlash over the $150,000 cost to taxpayers, the bridge closure, the LNG sponsor and that it’s being held on the same day as National Aboriginal Day.

“On the face of it, I found Premier Clark’s idea to host an international yoga event on the Burrard Street Bridge to be completely flakey,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “But at the same time, I also felt it was a blatant political opportunism.”

Phillip said he was particularly concerned about Clark’s decision to promote International Yoga Day over national Aboriginal Day because of the recent release of a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which called on Canadians to change their relationship with First Nations.

Opposition NDP Leader John Horgan said that while Clark has said she didn’t want to mix yoga and politics, she did just that.

“Where this event went sideways was that it was an expense of public dollars that seemed wasteful,” Horgan said. “Millionaires get tax breaks and the premier shuts down a road so she can have a yoga class. I think that offended people.”
I side with the protesters, but for a reason in addition to those mentioned above. My objection is to the Premier using her position as the province's highest official to promote and spend public money on a Hindu religious event. Such behaviour would probably be considered unacceptable and would result in a court case if it were a Christian event being promoted. I have no doubt that Ms. Clark is correct when she says that Yoga is "part of the cultural fabric of B.C." and a "huge part of people's lives here;" I take that as more evidence that the increasingly unrecognizable country that still officially goes by the name of Canada is a whited sepulchre full of dead men's bones (Matthew 23:27).

You can count this blogger among the "Yoga Haters." My opinion of Yoga was well expressed by Elvis Presley in the words quoted at the top of this post. Submitted for your approval, the following item in recognition of International Day of Yoga:

Friday, June 12, 2015

75 years ago: Liberal clergy gather for Interfaith Conference on Unemployment

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
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 11:13-15

Ecumenism in the name of "social justice" is nothing new. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 11, 1940:


A national interfaith conference on unemployment will be convened in Washington June 4 to 6 under the direction of the industrial division of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference and the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, it was announced here today by the Rev. James Myers, Monsignor John A. Ryan and Rabbi Edward L. Israel, leaders of the religious groups planning the conference.

"Unemployment," the clergymen declared, "is the basic problem before the nation and vitally affects all other problems of national well being. It must be approached and solved in a determined spirit of cooperation and national unity. It must not be allowed to become a political football but must be the common concern of all political parties, of all economic groups, of employers, organized labor, farmers, consumers and government."

The purpose of the proposed conference, the clergymen pointed out, is to "define impartially the issue and to lay upon the conscience of the nation the paramount necessity of its solution."

"The first thing which is needed," they said, "is a united will to abolish unemployment. The three faiths are glad to join in a united appeal to abolish unemployment."

Whatever findings the forthcoming conference may adopt will be the responsibility of the conference itself rather than of the convening organizations, the three social action leaders stated. "Such findings," they added, will in turn become recommendations to the various religious bodies for further study and action."

An interfaith committee of 30 to be appointed by the convening organizations will assist in the organization and operation of the conference, it was announced.
And as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 5, 1940:


Dedicated to the solution of the unemployment problem as a basic factor in making democracy work, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders convened in Washington today in the Interfaith Conference on Unemployment and heard outstanding leaders in Government and religion call for a “united will” to put men back to work.

Jewish groups represented were the Social Justice Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly of America and the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbis Edward L. Israel, Baltimore, and Samuel H. Goldenson, New York, participated in the discussion.

American has nine million unemployed, it was estimated by Dr. Leonard Kuvin, of the National Industrial Conference Board. He estimated that business would have to be stepped up 45 per cent above present levels to absorb all the unemployed. He said it could be done under the present system, “which is the basis of tolerance, democracy, liberty and freedom.”

Arthur Dunn, president of the “Realists’ Group,” organized last September as a protest against the Neville Chamberlain type of “wishful thinking,” said of Hitler: “He is the world’s greatest industrialist–the premier manufacturer of death and the most successful butcher of all times.” He said that without “wishful thinkers” mass murder by Hitler could not have been.”

Dunn said: “The majority of those sponsoring the interfaith conference claim to be Christian. They call the United States a Christian country. And almost the last words of Christ were, ‘Go ye unto all nations.’ Christ was no isolationist and if we ever meet him face to face we will have a hard time explaining why, until our own hides were threatened, we fail to give any real help to our unfortunate brothers in other lands.”

Rabbi Goldenson called unemployment the supreme indictment of our intelligence and common sense and said unemployment was “not unrelated” to the tragedies in Europe. “For many the cause of war is certainly the circumstance that vast numbers of men during the last generation or so have been unable to find gainful occupation. The effect of unemployment has been to create in every country large armies of dissatisfied, troubled, discontented, disgruntled men and women. These unhappy persons have naturally become resentful of and rebellious against the status quo.”
The liberal clergy didn't have to wait long to get their way when it came to a "united will" to put men back to work, although perhaps it didn't happen in the way they were expecting. On June 10, 1940, Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano informed the French and British ambassadors that as of the next day Italy would consider herself at war with both nations. Speaking at the graduation ceremonies of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced Italy's entrance into the European war, declaring, "The hand that held the dagger has stuck it into the back of its neighbor." He called for "full speed ahead" in the U.S. defense effort.

On June 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate a $1.004-billion defense tax bill, which also authorized an increase in the national debt to $49 billion. The bill was approved by the Senate on June 19, and signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 25. On July 31, the House passed and sent to the Senate a $4,963,151,957 national defense appropriations bill for rearmament; the bill was approved by the Senate on August 29. The amount had increased to $5.251 billion by the time the Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriations Act was signed by President Roosevelt on September 9, 1940.

On June 13, Mr. Roosevelt signed a $1.308-billion Navy appropriations bill, providing for construction of 22 warships. Two days later, he signed a bill expanding the United States Navy air corps by 10,000 planes and 16,000 aviators; on June 17, he asked Congress to appropriate $1.2 billion more for naval construction. On July 1, Mr. Roosevelt signed a bill providing for construction of 45 Navy vessels costing $550 million; two days later, he prepared legislation requesting $5 billion more for national defense. On July 20, Mr. Roosevelt signed the "Two-Ocean Navy" Act, calling for a buildup in naval forces to 35 battleships, 20 carriers, and 88 cruisers. On September 9, 1940, the same day that President Roosevelt signed the Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriations Act, the United States Navy Department announced contracts for the building of 201 ships, including 7 battleships. On September 18, President Roosevelt signed a bill authorizing over $23 million for the construction of drydocks in New York, Boston, and the Caribbean.

On June 18, 1940, President Roosevelt said that a bill for universal government service for all young men and women would soon be introduced. The buildup in America's defense effort required manpower; "universal government service" came into play just a year and a half later when Japanese forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing the United States into World War II, and settling, at least for the duration of the war, the issue of unemployment in the U.S.A.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

30 years ago: The death of Karen Ann Quinlan

On June 11, 1985, Karen Ann Quinlan died of pneumonia at the age of 31. Miss Quinlan went into an irreversible coma and entered a persistent vegetative state shortly after consuming a combination of alcohol and Valium on April 15, 1975. She was taken to Newton Memorial Hospital in Morris Township, New Jersey, where she was fed through a tube and was aided in breathing by a ventilator, which were thought to be the only things keeping her alive.

Miss Quinlan's parents, who were devout Roman Catholics, wanted Karen returned to her "natural state," and petitioned to have the ventilator removed, objecting to what they saw as her life being prolonged by "extraordinary means." They thus petitioned the New Jersey Superior Court to have the ventilator removed; Newton Memorial Hospital joined the Quinlans in the action, fearing a charge of homicide if the ventilator were removed without legal justification. The Quinlans' petition was denied in November 1975, but an appeal was upheld in 1976 by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case of Karen Ann Quinlan was widely, and incorrectly, believed to be a "right-to-die" case. In fact, Miss Quinlan met none of the criteria for death; she wasn't dead, and wasn't dying. Her parents didn't want her to die, but opposed the use of "extraordinary means" to keep her alive.

The ventilator was removed, and much to everyone's surprise, Miss Quinlan continued breathing on her own, and was fed through a tube until her death. The legal uncertainties surrounding the situation of Karen Ann Quinlan have been credited with spurring the creation of formal ethics committees in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices.

Karen Quinlan quickly became forgotten by the public and media after the court battle was over, and her death received slight coverage, in contrast to the court case surrounding her condition, which was a major news item in 1975. You have to be of a certain age to remember the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, and those who weren't paying close attention may be surprised to find that her death occurred in 1985, not in 1975 or 1976.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

80 years ago: The founding of Alcoholics Anonymous

On June 10, 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio by "Bill W." (Bill Wilson) and Dr. Bob Smith. AA's 12-step approach to dealing with drinking has been widely adopted by churches in dealing with various problems, and is widely, but erroneously, viewed as being compatible with Christianity. Go to My Word Like Fire and search under "AA" or "Alcoholics Anonymous" for excellent posts on this organization.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chinese bureraucrats falsify data on forced abortions

The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is [its] inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty. U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy, Time, February 12, 1979

An odd aspect of China's abominable policy of restricting families to one child, as reported by Frank Fang and Matthew Robertson of The Epoch Times, June 2, 2015:

It’s a story as old as central planning itself: political leaders hand down quotas for underlings to meet, and those on the front lines inevitably end up faking data, committing fraud, and coming up with inventive ways of appearing to meet the demands.

Most recently in the Chinese county of Lanling, Shandong Province, this came in the form of abortion quotas: Officials involved in population control were told they needed to carry out a certain number of forced abortions—deeply tied up with China’s one-child policy—or else be fined. (Meeting the quota led to a reward of 1,500 yuan (nearly $250) and failure to meet it incurred a fine of 2,000 yuan.)

But what if there aren’t even enough women in the village with “illegal” pregnancies, required to carry out a coercive abortion?

This is where inventiveness comes in. The officials from Lanling County, and the villages in the county, figured out that they could simply outsource the work to brokers.

These middlemen would then purchase and bundle abortion certificates from other counties, and sell them to cadres in Lanling, who would hand them in to their superiors and be congratulated for an abortion well done.

The story was carried by Peng Pai, an online news website. Four village Party secretaries told the publication that they were each given an abortion quota of 0.4 percent—meaning that of 1,000 women in the area, 4 abortions needed to have been reported.

One party official had 1,500 in his village, making his quota 6. But there was only one woman in his village with an out-of-regulation pregnancy—her fetus was aborted, but he had to buy the other five abortion certificates from abortions that had already taken place at a community hospital elsewhere in the county.

“Originally, the abortion information from a single woman was about 2,000 yuan, but later it increased to 5,000 yuan, and finally over 10,000 yuan,” the Party official, given the pseudonym Mr. Xu, said. He decided the enterprise was absurd and attempted to resign, but was told he couldn’t do that until he met his quota.

The middleman obtained abortion certificates from women who actually got abortions willingly, and then prepared them by finding an unmarried man to sign a document certifying that he lived with the woman unmarried—prepared the papers, and gave it to the Party secretaries.

They were, of course, paid a commission from the bonus given the cadres.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Turkish Muslim televangelist criticizes space probe Philae's comet mission as "maniacal."

No, it's not the same televangelist mentioned in the post below (Turkey seems to have its share). As reported in the Istanbul newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, November 14, 2014:


A popular televangelist in Turkey has condemned the European Space Agency’s (ESA) successful landing of the Philae probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, describing the mission as “maniacal.”

Most Earthlings are watching the comet-conquering landing craft with awe, but Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, popularly known as “Cübbeli” (Robed) among his followers in Turkey, declared his skepticism of the mission in his latest televised sermon.

“It isn’t worth the expense. Is there water in Mars? Is there meat? ... These are maniacal issues,” Cübbeli said, expressing disdain for all forms of space exploration. He also voiced his belief that “the world will end” before a human steps on the Red Planet.

“They waste their money. Give me $100,000 and I will tell you about everything,” Cübbeli added.

Turkish Muslim televangelist says that male masturbation will result in pregnant hands in the afterlife

It's comforting (?) to find that weird doctrine from televangelists isn't restricted to English-speaking North America or "Christianity." I've been under the impression that the Islamic idea of the afterlife is a carnal paradise, but not if you're a man who masturbates, according to one Turkish Muslim televangelist (and if he's right, I want to cancel my afterlife). As reported by the Istanbul newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, May 25, 2015:


After claiming that a man would meet his masturbating hand “pregnant in the afterlife” and “asking for its rights,” a Muslim televangelist has set Turkish social media aflame.

Self-styled televangelist Mücahid Cihad Han dived into some delicate matters on May 24 when he answered his viewers’ questions on private television station 2000 TV, Turkish media has reported. Han initially looked puzzled when a viewer said he “kept masturbating, although he was married, and even during the Umrah,” a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims which can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj.

After repeating the question a few times, Han claimed that Islam strictly prohibits masturbation as a “haram” (forbidden) act. “Moreover, one hadith states that those who have sexual intercourse with their hands will find their hands pregnant in the afterlife, complaining against them to God over its rights,” he said, referring to what he claimed to be a saying of Prophet Muhammad.

“If our viewer was single, I could recommend he marry, but what can I say now?” the televangelist added, advising the viewer to “resist Satan’s temptations.”

Is masturbation forbidden in Islam?

“Istimna,” the Arabic term for masturbation that Han also referred to, is a controversial issue in Islam, as there have been varying opinions on its permissibility throughout history. The Quran has no clear reference to masturbation and the authenticity of many hadiths is questionable.

Despite Han’s assertive religious stance, only a limited number of Islamic interpretations categorize masturbation as “haram,” while most of others call it a “makruh” (disliked) act. Many of the mainstream Islamic interpretations even allow it in certain conditions, like if the act could be used to avoid the temptation of an extramarital affair.

Han, who has more than 12,000 followers on Twitter, was mocked on Turkish social media on May 25, after newspapers published his latest television “fatwa.”

“Are there any hand-gynaecologists in the afterlife? Is abortion allowed there?” one Twitter user asked, while mentioning Han’s Twitter user name.

“So you think that being pregnant is a God-given punishment?” another user asked.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

South Korean-born Canadian Presbyterian pastor has been detained in North Korea

Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, pastor of Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario, has made about 110 missionary visits to North Korea over the years, but has been detained in that country since early in 2015. His activities in North Korea included involvement in private business and have led to some controversy and possible diplomatic difficulties. It's not for me to say whether Rev. Lim's actions have been prudent or not, but let's pray for his release, and that the Lord will be glorified through whatever circumstances Rev. Lim is in.

See Unravelling the mystery behind the detention of reverend Lim by Nathan Vanderklippe in the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail, May 19, 2015.

The Roman Catholic Church's influence in Ireland may be waning

See Irish support for same-sex marriage a questioning of faith as referendum looms by Mark MacKinnon in the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail, May 17, 2015. The discerning reader will note that among those supporting same-sex "marriage" is Bono, leader of the rock music group U2 and religious syncretist.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

50 years ago: Israel and West Germany establish diplomatic relations

On May 12, 1965, Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany established diplomatic relations, 20 years after the end of Nazi Germany's genocide of Jews during World War II. West Germany had recently paid Israel $75 million as the final installment of war reparations to the Jews. In March 1965, the Israeli Knesset had voted its approval of formal diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany.

By May 16, 1965, all Arab states except Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia had responded to this development by cutting diplomatic ties with West Germany.

Monday, April 13, 2015

After 55 years, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has yet to receive any signals

The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. Psalms 115:16

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was begun on April 8, 1960 in Green Bank, West Virginia by a radio astronomer named Frank Drake, who according to Scott Van Wynsberghe, came from a fundamentalist Christian family. Click on the link to read Mr. Van Wynsberghe's article Will E.T. Ever Phone?, from the Canadian newspaper National Post, April 8, 2015.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

State legislators defend rights of Christian groups on U.S. campuses

As reported by Kate Hardiman in The College Fix, April 9, 2015:

Some conservative state lawmakers have begun to take a stand against public universities that derecognize Christian groups for refusing to allow non-Christians to lead their campus clubs.

Kansas State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth) recently sponsored SB-175, which passed the Senate handily 30-8. The legislation “prohibits state universities from taking action against student religious groups that require members to adhere to the group’s religious beliefs.”

In Missouri, state Rep. Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) has proposed similar legislation, which was approved by the house and is now awaiting a vote in the Missouri Senate.

If these measures pass, they will join a handful of others states that have passed laws to protect religious student groups’ association rights in the last few years.

States such as Oklahoma, which passed a law last year that declares:

A. No public institution of higher education may take any action or enforce any policy that would deny a religious student association any benefit available to any other student association, or discriminate against a religious student association with respect to such benefit, based on that association’s requirement that its leaders or members:

1. Adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs;

2. Comply with the association’s sincere religious observance requirements;

3. Comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct; or

4. Be committed to furthering the association’s religious missions, as such religious beliefs …

But not all attempts at passing such laws are successful. An effort in Colorado to pass a higher education Freedom of Association Act bill was shelved in February.

Supporters say these measures protect religious freedom on college campuses, while opponents argue they allow student groups to discriminate against those who hold beliefs contrary to the group but still seek membership.

Sen. Fitzgerald drafted the bill after universities in several states denied recognition and funding to student religious groups who did not comply with the school’s anti-discrimination policies.

“Animosity against religion, particularly Christianity and most especially Catholicism, is rising and becoming a new orthodoxy. This is caused mostly by a desire to be without rules. It is narcissism and self-indulgence with a vengeance,” Sen. Fitzgerald told The College Fix in an email.

Universities’ anti-discrimination policies, also called “all comers” policies, have wreaked havoc on many Christian clubs across the country.

All 23 California State University schools require that Christian groups allow non-Christians to lead their organizations, even individuals with beliefs antithetical to the clubs’ missions. Subsequently unrecognized, denied free access to university meeting space, and prohibited from advertising on campus and in dorms, among other hindrances, Cal State University Christian clubs have witnessed declining membership.

Rep. Haahr told The Associated Press these “all comers” policies are popping up around the country, adding “these policies are being used for one purpose. They are used to target religious groups.”

Meanwhile, clubs such as Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ, have declined to change their constitution to comply with California State Universities’ all-comers policies.

San Luis Obispo Missionary Leader Jamey Pappas previously told The College Fix that “we have no issue with anybody of any kind of race or religion coming to our weekly meetings and being a part of who we are. It’s a question of who’s going to be leading our students in a Bible Study, mentoring them individually, or deciding what kind of content goes into our weekly meeting, and we want people who agree with what we’re about.”

The controversy is reminiscent of the 2010 case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which the Supreme Court upheld University of California, Hastings College of the Law’s policy requiring student groups to accept all students regardless of their status or beliefs.

The Christian Legal Society required members to subscribe to a “Statement of Beliefs” in which students promised to refrain from certain behaviors, some of which were contrary to the lifestyle of LGBT students. Hastings denied the Christian Legal Society recognition when they declined some students’ club membership due to their unwillingness to sign the statement. The Christian Legal Society ultimately lost their legal battle, and were forced to comply with Hastings’ anti-discrimination policies or lose their recognition.

Sen. Fitzgerald said he believes a pressing need exists to protect student religious groups.

“In Kansas we had a case in which a club was challenged by student government because of exclusivity based on religious belief. The case ended well. But, there are increasing numbers of cases around the country that are resulting in religious clubs and associations being forced off campus. Regretfully, it appeared that something had to be done to protect student rights in Kansas,” Senator Fitzgerald told The Fix.

Friday, April 10, 2015

60 years ago: The death of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:1-5

On April 10, 1955, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and philosopher, died at the age of 73. Father Teilhard trained as a paleontologist and geologist and believed in evolution, rejecting the biblical account of creation; he now knows better.

Fr. Teilhard was involved in the discovery of Peking Man in the 1920s and '30s, and has been accused of involvement in the Piltdown Man hoax of 1912. He conceived what he called the Omega Point, a point where man would merge into godhood; such views have earned Fr. Teilhard the nickname "Father of the New Age."

Friday, April 3, 2015

10 years ago: The death of Pope John Paul II

On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84. Born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, he became a priest in 1946; a bishop in 1958; a cardinal in 1967; and was chosen in October 1978 to succeed John Paul I, who had died in September under suspicious circumstances (see the book In God's Name by David Yallop (1984)), after just over a month as pope.

John Paul II was the most-travelled pope in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He has been credited with providing leadership in the movement to bring down Communism behind the Iron Curtain and dictatorships elsewhere. John Paul II's pontificate was also marked by scandals involving finances and the revelation of sexual abuse of minors by priests. Readers who are interested in such things can conduct their own research--there's plenty of information available.

What I remember most about John Paul II is that while he affirmed traditional Roman Catholic doctrine, he pursued an agenda of uniting the world's religions--an agenda which is being aggressively continued by Pope Francis I. I particularly wish to remind the reader of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy in 1986, and Day of Prayer for Peace in the World, also in Assisi, in 2002. Go here to see my post on the 1986 event, and here for my post on Pope John Paul's address to the European Parliament in 1988, when Rev. Ian Paisley gave him the reception he deserved.

I find it interesting that Pope John Paul II died two days after the death of Terri Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged American woman who was ordered by a judge to be starved to death because her life was inconvenient to some people. Mrs. Schiavo and the family members who wanted to save her were Roman Catholics, and it's also interesting that this occurred several days after the 10th anniversary of the publication of Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae, condemning abortion and euthanasia as crimes that no human laws could legitimize.

When Pope John Paul II died, Life magazine published an issue in tribute to him. Go here to see a photo of the cover. The small print across the bottom reads "With a Foreword by the Reverend Billy Graham." The reader may come to his own conclusions on that.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 years ago: The execution of Terri Schiavo

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

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. Amendment V, Constitution of the United States (bold added by blogger)

Note: Although I quote from, and post links to Wikipedia entries in this post, I don't regard Wikipedia as authoritative, as its entries may be biased and inaccurate. The reader should exercise prudence in using it.

On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo, who had been severely brain-damaged since collapsing in her apartment building 15 years earlier, died in hospital in Pinellas Park, Florida, 13 days after Pinellas-Pasco County Circuit Court Judge George Greer ordered her feeding tube withdrawn, guaranteeing her death by gradual starvation.

The case was very much misreported in the media as a "right to die" case, when it would more accurately be termed a "right to kill" case. Mrs. Schiavo was not dead, and not dying; had not been charged with or convicted of any crime; and yet was ordered by a judge to be deliberately and gradually starved to death--a sentence that would likely have been ruled to be "cruel and unusual punishment" had it been imposed on a convicted murderer.

While Mrs. Schiavo was slowly starving to death, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his brother, U.S. President George W. Bush, played legal games, pretending to act on Mrs. Schiavo's behalf while actually not exercising all their prerogatives, finally caving in and refusing to challenge Judge Greer's final order. According to the Wikipedia entry on the case, "If [Governor] Bush (or the Florida Legislature) had ignored Greer's order by attempting to remove her from the hospice, a confrontation between the Pinellas Park Police Department and the FDLE agents could have ensued." A confrontation is exactly what should have taken place. If Jeb or George W. Bush had shown up at the hospital with the intention of seeing Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted--or had either Bush shown up with a glass of water for her--it's hard to imagine the police or National Guard refusing admittance to Governor or President Bush. As it is, we're asked to believe that a two-bit circuit court judge--who, in a corrupt practice unique to the United States, was elected to his position--could overrule the highest official in the state of Florida and the chief executive of the United States.

There were pro-life protesters outside the hospital in Florida (one prominent individual who was notable by his absence and silence was "America's Pastor," Rick Warren), and occasionally someone would attempt to go inside and take a glass of water to Mrs. Schiavo, only to be forcibly turned back by the authorities. For readers who have forgotten or are too young to remember, it might come as a shock to realize that attempting to ease the suffering of Terri Schiavo as she was being starved to death was actually against the law (Romans 13 extremists, please take note). As an aside, it's worth remembering that when Jesus' disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees accused them of breaking the law, and when the Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus and wondered if He would heal on the Sabbath, He asked them if it were lawful to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it--and then He healed a man with a withered hand (Matthew 12:1-14; Luke 6:1-11). Jesus faced similar accusations from the Pharisees when He healed the invalid man at Bethesda (John 5:2-16).

One of the things that disturbed me about the Schiavo case is that some who claimed to be conservatives opposed government--especially federal government--intervention to save Terri Schiavo, arguing that such action was an invasion of the state's jurisdiction--or similar legalistic mumbo-jumbo. Such arguments struck this blogger as the sort of reasoning that Pharisees would have used. Such "conservative" opponents of Mrs. Schiavo's rescue really seemed to want her dead.

Those interested in the details of the Terri Schiavo case may conduct their own searches for information. The best commentary that I've seen on the case has come from veteran columnist Nat Hentoff. Mr. Hentoff is an ethnic Jew who's a professing atheist, but he's a strong advocate against abortion and euthanasia, and has a great reverence for and knowledge of the United States Constitution. He points out that Mrs. Schiavo's Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of life and liberty without due process of law was denied, and that her death was in fact an execution ordered by a judge against someone who had not been charged with or convicted of any crime, but who was to be put to death because her life was inconvenient to certain people. I recommend the following columns by Mr. Hentoff:

November 5, 2003: Should Terri Schiavo stay alive? A legal answer

Novermber 11, 2003: New hope for Terri Schiavo

April 14, 2005: Polls distort Terri's life and death

July 7, 2005: The continuing case of Terri Schiavo

August 31, 2006: Michael Schiavo versus Joe Lieberman

March 26, 2008: Barack Obama vs. Terri Schiavo

April 3, 2008: Terri Schiavo's lifesaving legacy

Not Dead Yet is an organization advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and against euthanasia. A search of their site using the term "Terri Schiavo" will turn up useful information and commentary.

Mrs. Schiavo, like those of her family who wanted to save her life, was a Roman Catholic. I find it interesting that she died two days before Pope John Paul II died, and six days after the 10th anniversary of the publication of Pope John Paul's encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which condemned abortion and euthanasia as crimes that no human laws could legitimize.

We don't know if Terri Schiavo would be alive in 2015 had she not been executed, but Judge George Greer is still alive, and turns 73 in 2015. Judge Greer, a Republican--another possible shock, to those who think of Republicans as being the pro-life party--retired in 2010 when his term expired. According to his Wikipedia entry, he received at least five honours in 2005 from various legal associations, which speaks volumes about the "ethics" of the legal profession in the United States in the 21st century. As the son of an appeal court judge, I'm appalled and ashamed to see some of those who wear the robes of the judiciary now. When Judge Greer received the 2005 Special Justice Award from the Pasco Bar, the association's president, Joan Hook, was quoted as saying, "He is very meticulous in his decisions and he is a supporter of the law, doesn't let his emotions or personal feelings get in the way of his analysis of the law." Those "personal feelings" would presumably include anything resembling human decency or compassion. I imagine similar comments could have (and probably were) made about judges in Germany from 1933-1945 who didn't let their emotions or personal feelings get in the way of applying the laws of the Nazi regime. At the time of the Schiavo case, Judge Greer was reportedly affiliated with Calvary Baptist Church--associated with the Southern Baptist Convention--in Clearwater, Florida, but withdrew his membership after others in the church expressed opposition to his rulings--and to his presence in the church--and pastor William Rice asked him to clarify his position in the church.

Jeb Bush, who took office as Governor of Florida in 1999, finished his second term in 2007. He's being touted as a possible Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in 2016. Given the Republicans' recent history of pretending to oppose the Democrats while deliberately nominating bad presidential candidates, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Bush won the nomination.

George W. Bush finished his second term as President of the United States in 2009; the unprosecuted war criminal remains at large.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

70 years ago: Palestinian Arabs reject proposal for governing Jerusalem

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
Zechariah 12:2-3

File this under "some things never change":

On March 29, 1945, Palestinian Arab leaders rejected a proposal which would rotate the office of Mayor of Jersusalem among Muslim, Jewish, and Christian officials. The proposal, advocated by British High Commissioner Viscount John Gort, was accepted with reservations by Jewish leaders.

Viscount Gort subsequently appointed Sir William Fitzgerald, Chief Justice of Palestine, to investigate the issue and offer a solution. Chief Justice Fitzgerald issued his report on August 28, 1945; it called for dividing Jerusalem into Jewish and Arab boroughs, each with a mayor and council.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

25 years ago: The University of Alberta holds its first Blue Jeans Day in support of sodomy

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:24-32

On March 21, 1990, the University of Alberta held its first annual Blue Jeans Day, when people were supposed to wear blue jeans to express solidarity with sodomite rights activists. A recent similar event at the University of Saskatchewan had resulted in the burning of blue jeans by engineering students.

The day at the U of A probably set a record for the smallest percentage of people wearing blue jeans on campus in many years. I saw one girl, who today would be considered a hate criminal, wearing a t-shirt that read, "Homos don’t tell me what to wear." Many women were wearing skirts, which helped to make the occasion one of the most memorable and enjoyable days in the U of A’s history.

As an aside, this blogger was a participant in a pro-life rally on the University of Alberta campus eight days later as a counter to an appearance on campus by "Dr." Henry Morgentaler, Canada's most infamous abortionist. I noticed that people I'd seen wearing blue jeans in support of sodomite and lesbian rights on March 21 were publicly supporting abortion rights on March 29--and that connection is not a coincidence. Three days before "Dr." Morgentaler's appearance, American pro-life speaker Joseph Scheidler gave a talk at the University of Alberta. This blogger put up a number of posters on campus--in places where permission to put up posters wasn’t required--advertising Mr. Scheidler’s appearance, and within a day all but one of the posters had been torn down; such is the "tolerance" of pro-abortion activists.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Here they go again: Yet another "oldest known human" discovered

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22

As I said in a previous post, I can't think of any area of so-called "science" that's more characterized by fraud, cover-up, and wild extrapolation based on insufficient evidence than that of man's alleged ancestors (e.g., Nebraska Man; Java Man; Peking Man; Piltdown Man).

Submitted for your approval is the latest discovery, as reported by Malcolm Ritter of Associated Press, March 4, 2015:

NEW YORK — A fragment of jawbone found in Ethiopia is the oldest known fossil from an evolutionary tree branch that eventually led to modern humans, scientist reported Wednesday.

The fossil comes from very close to the time that our branch split away from more ape-like ancestors best known for the fossil skeleton Lucy. So it gives a rare glimpse of what very early members of our branch looked like.

At about 2.8 million years old, the partial jawbone pushes back the fossil record by at least 400,000 years for our branch, which scientists call Homo.

It was found two years ago at a site not far from where Lucy was unearthed. Africa is a hotbed for human ancestor fossils, and scientists from Arizona State University have worked for years at the site in northeast Ethiopia, trying to find fossils from the dimly understood period when the Homo genus, or group, arose.

Our species, called Homo sapiens, is the only surviving member of this group.

The jaw fragment, which includes five teeth, was discovered in pieces one morning by Chalachew Seyoum, an Ethiopian graduate student at Arizona State. He said he spotted a tooth poking out of the ground while looking for fossils.

The discovery is described in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Science.

Arizona State’s William Kimbel, an author of the paper, said it’s not clear whether the fossil came from a known early species of Homo or whether it reveals a new one. Field work is continuing to look for more fossils at the site, said another author, Brian Villmoare of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Analysis indicates the jaw fossil came from one of the earliest populations of Homo, and its age helps narrow the range of possibilities for when the first Homo species appeared, Kimbel said. The fossil dates to as little as 200,000 years after the last known fossil from Lucy’s species.

The fossil is from the left lower jaw of an adult. It combines ancestral features, like a primitive chin shape, with some traits found in later Homo fossils, like teeth that are slimmer than the bulbous molars of Lucy’s ilk.

Despite that mix, experts not involved in the paper said the researchers make a convincing case that the fossil belongs in the Homo category.

And they present good evidence that it came from a creature that was either at the origin of Homo or “within shouting distance,” said Bernard Wood of George Washington University.

The find also bolsters the argument that Homo arose from Lucy’s species rather than a related one, said Susan Anton of New York University.

The new paper’s analysis is first-rate, but the fossil could reveal only a limited amount of information about the creature, said Eric Delson of Lehman College in New York.

“There’s no head, there’s no tools, and no limb bones. So we don’t know if it was walking any differently from Australopithecus afarensis,” which was Lucy’s species, he said.

It’s the first time that anything other than isolated teeth have turned up as a possible trace of Homo from before 2.3 million years ago, he said.

“This fills a gap, but it hasn’t yet given us a complete skeleton. It’s not Lucy,” Delson said. “This is always the problem. We always want more.”

Also on Wednesday, another research team reported in a paper released by the journal Nature that the lower part of the face of Homo habilis, the earliest known member of the Homo branch, was surprisingly primitive. That came from reconstruction of a broken jaw that was found 50 years ago.

The finding means the evolutionary step from the Ethiopian jaw to the jaw of Homo habilis is “not so large,” said an author of the Nature study, Fred Spoor of University College London and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Click on the links for the full text of the Science article Deep roots for the genus Homo, and a preview of the Nature article Reconstructed Homo habilis type OH 7 suggests deep-rooted species diversity in early Homo.

Whenever I hear about yet another discovery of a fossil of man's alleged ancestors, I make a point of going beyond the headline, and reading the article to see just how meager the evidence is. The fossil evidence seldom consists of more than part of a jawbone, a few teeth, and maybe a few other bone fragments. I wasn't disappointed when I read the article by Mr. Ritter--the latest findings are just more of the same. When the discoveries turn out to be nothing special, don't expect much coverage of that.

Incomplete human skull found in Israel offers clues to ancient human migration

Evolutionists believe that human life began in Africa, but how about the possibility that life began in the Middle East and branched out from there? In any event, the upper part of an ancient human skull has been found in Israel. As reported by Malcolm Ritterof Associated Press, January 28, 2015:

NEW YORK – Long ago, humans left their evolutionary cradle in Africa and passed through the Middle East on their way to Europe. Now scientists have found the first fossil remains that appear to document that journey, a partial skull from an Israeli cave.

The skull dates from around 55,000 years ago, fitting into the period when scientists had thought the migrants inhabited the area. And details of its anatomy resemble ancient skulls from Europe, Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University in Israel wrote in an email.

He and others present the finding in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature. The skull, which lacks facial features and its base, was found in Manot Cave in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

The migrants are called modern humans because of their anatomy. The earliest remains of modern humans in Europe date to about 45,000 years ago.

Experts not connected with the work were impressed. “This is the first evidence we have of the humans who made this journey,” apart from some ancient tools, said Eric Delson of Lehman College and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Although finding a fossil that fits so well with what was believed about the ancient migration might be expected, “we didn’t have it before,” he said.

“We could predict theoretically what we would find. They’ve found it. … Up until now, that was a ghost.”

Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingin in Germany said the skull gives clues about the anatomy of the migrants. Since Neanderthals were already known to inhabit the area, the skull also documents that they and modern humans co-existed there, as suspected, Harvati said.

That supports the idea that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred there, experts said. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London wrote in an email that the skull is the first fossil of a modern human from western Asia that is well-dated to the estimated time of the interbreeding, some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.
Click on the link to see a preview of the Nature article Levantine cranium from Manot Cave (Israel) foreshadows the first European modern humans.