Friday, November 13, 2015

Charismaniac cult church builds replica of Temple of Solomon in Brazil

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Matthew 21:12-13

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) is a charismaniac, prosperity gospel-proclaiming church based in Sao Paulo that has been accused of being a cult and a criminal organization. It hardly need to be said that reader shouldn't accept the Wikipedia entry as accurate or authoritative, but the references cited at the bottom are useful.

For information about the UCKG from the organization itself, check out their various sites:

United States

United Kingdom

South Africa

(in Portuguese)

The UCKG has built a replica of the Temple of Solomon in Sao Paulo that serves not only as a place of worship, but as the UCKG's headquarters. The building officially opened on July 31, 2014. As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in Breaking Israel News, October 18, 2015:

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, there is a remarkable sight: a full-size replica of Solomon’s Temple. Actually, the Templo de Salomão built by the Universal Church Kingdom of God is much larger – it is four times the size of the original, but precise in every other detail. It is impressive, giving a taste of the glory of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The structure is a magnet for attention, though, admittedly, not all of it is positive.

Bishop Edir Macedo of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) was inspired to begin this massive undertaking after he visited Israel, where he decided to bring a piece of the Holy Land to his congregation in Brazil. It took four years and a daunting $300 million, but he was finally successful in his vision of building a replica of Solomon’s Temple.

Architect and project designer Rogério Silva de Araújo explained that the measurements were taken directly from the Bible. “A cubit was the distance between the elbow and the fingertips—which corresponded to 18 inches or 52.4 centimeters,” he explained. “Based on this piece of information, it was possible to calculate that the house king Solomon built for the Lord was approximately 31.44 meters long, 10.48 meters wide and 15.72 meters high. Also in Haggai 2:9, it says, ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater.’ ”

The UCKG Temple is indeed larger, measuring 126 meters long, 104 meters wide and 55 meters high – the height of an 18 story building. The floor and the walls are covered in $8 million worth of Jerusalem stone brought from Israel and, as in the original Temple, the main doors are made of wood and lined with copper.

Stepping inside the main sanctuary, which has seating for 10,000 worshippers, is said to be a powerful experience, but the most impressive part of the temple is its large central altar. It features an exact replica of the Ark of the Covenant covered in gold leaf. Behind the Ark is the temple’s baptistery, creating a dramatic visual effect.

Miguel Peres, a representative of the church, explained to Breaking Israel News why the project was begun. “We wanted to help people turn to Israel, support its existence and give them an opportunity to touch Jerusalem stones, which for them is a big deal,” he said. “Many Brazilians will never get a chance to go to Jerusalem, so why not bring a piece of Jerusalem to Brazil?”

“We also wanted to rescue the value of the original faith which has been lost along the years. At the courtyard of the Temple we built a replica of the Mishkan (The Tabernacle), ” he continued “Men were taught through the Mishkan how to approach God Almighty through faith and not religion.”

The project has attracted much attention, but the Temple was not built as a tourist attraction. Success is measured in different terms and Peres seems to feel it has measured up to all expectations.

“More than twenty thousand people flock to the Temple every day in its daily services and the things that are happening here are unbelievable,” he told Breaking Israel News. “More than 5 million people have visited the Temple since its opening.”

Though it is clear that it is not a place of Jewish worship, Peres feels it has also helped the Jewish people. “Thanks to our efforts, many people worldwide are now aware that there was a Temple that once stood in Jerusalem and that it needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “We are helping by spreading the story of the Temple. The Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem; this is a prophecy and a fact.”

Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute, which is dedicated to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, feels differently. He came out strongly against the Templo de Salomão even before it was built.

“This is taking the promise of redemption for all mankind and using it for something altogether different,” he argued. “This is a total bastardization of the sanctity of the Holy Temple.”

He claimed it was expropriating another religion’s symbol or holy site, comparing it to replacing the famous statue of “The Redeemer” in Rio De Janeiro with a Muslim minaret. “Jews have always suffered from this,” he declared, noting that the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, has been expropriated by the Muslims, with ongoing dire consequences. In strong terms, he refers to the Temple of Solomon in Brazil as a “theological obscenity” and a “stain on the honor of the God of Israel”.

Peres, however, defended the construction of the church. “More than a Jewish symbol, it is a Biblical symbol. The Bible is the Light to all people on Earth,” Peres explained. “At no point did we try to steal the symbol of the Jewish people, but we brought to life a symbol of Faith that once moved a nation to seek God sincerely and wholeheartedly.”
This "Temple," of course, is a counterfeit. There will be a real Third Temple built; it will be in Jerusalem, and Jews will gather there to worship, not in Sao Paulo, as suggested by this anti-Zionist site. The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement has been preparing for many years to rebuild the Temple. Another organization, the Temple Institute, has been busy for many years making vessels and garments for worship when the Temple is rebuilt. Tommy Ice and Randall Price's book Ready to Rebuild (1992) and the companion video with Jimmy DeYoung aren't current, but are still relevant for those interested in a sound Christian perspective on this topic.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

1,500-year-old church mosaic discovered in Israel

As reported by Jonathan Benedek of Breaking Israel News, October 1, 2015:

Approximately two years ago, an extremely unique 1,500 year old mosaic that comprised part of the floor of an abandoned church during the Byzantine era, was discovered in archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the help of local schoolchildren and employees from the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park.

“There are very few mosaics with such architectural depictions on mosaic floors,” said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist, Dr. Rina Avner to Tazpit News Agency. “This is the first such example of depictions of main churches in various cities on the Nile.”

The mosaic depicted a number of churches and other buildings in the form of an ancient map. A Greek inscription on the mosaic indicates that the mosaic is a small map of the Egyptian settlement of Chortaso, which according to Christian tradition is the burial location of the Biblical prophet Habakkuk.

The mosaic will be on display for the public beginning October 1 in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park throughout the Sukkot holiday festival.

“What was discovered in Qiryat Gat is an earlier mosaic than ones discovered in Trans-Jordan with depictions of buildings that were probably basilica Churches, and inscriptions that identify them with cities along the Nile,” added Dr. Avner.
The discovery of the mosaic in Qiryat Gat apparently demonstrates that there was aesthetic influence from Israel to communities in Trans-Jordan. “The mosaic sits well with the family of the seventh century Trans-Jordanian mosaics,” Dr. Avner told Tazpit.

“But this mosaic (in Qiryat Gat) is dated earlier to the first quarter of the sixth century, (earlier than the ones in TransJordan) which indicates that there was probably an artistic influence in this pattern coming from Israel and crossing the Jordan River to later churches there.”

Dr. Avner suggested to Tazpit that there may have been some kind of relationship between the church’s congregation and the Christian communities in Egypt. “There was some kind of relationship, but I don’t know whether it’s identification, or whether it’s simply holding common beliefs or traditions,” Avner said. “I don’t know if there will ever be a clear answer.”

Sa’ar Ganor, another archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority who was working with Dr. Avner on the excavation, made a statement regarding the unique usage of a number of different colors in the mosaic. “The artist utilized tesserae of seventeen different colors in preparing the mosaic,” said Ganor. “The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel.”

Avner told Tazpit that she was not only amazed “at the number of colors, but the application of the colors in various technological methods that give the illusion of light and day in such a persuasive way.”

Avner also referred to the impressive attribution of shade and color to the many tinier details in the mosaic. “You see the usage of very tiny stones of various colors, as well as the usage of light and shades in the different shapes of the stones,” commented Avner. “The expressions of the different animals on the mosaic was also impressive.”

Dr. Avner also had time to reflect on the excavation process of the mosaic. “I think what’s unique about this project is that it was not only initiated by archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor but also the whole community of Qiryat Gat as the mosaic was excavated with the help of the workers from Intel and other hi-tech firms in Qiryat Gat,” said Avner.

“It was also special working with the third generation in the field,” added Avner. “It was a social project, rather than simply being a clear-cut scientific endeavor.”

New archaeological discoveries are still being reported under the Western Wall in Jerusalem

As reported by Noam Matas in Breaking Israel News, November 11, 2015 (bold in original):

The Kotel (Western Wall) is arguably the most important archaeological site in Israel. As the focal point of Israeli archaeology, there are new discoveries found periodically. However, the latest finds have been particularly exciting to archaeologists and tourists alike.

The Channel from the City of David to the Temple Mount

The most important archeological discovery in the Old City of Jerusalem is the ancient Second Temple Period water system, linking the City of David to the Western Wall. It is amazing to consider that this tunnel would have existed at the time of the second temple. This was the main water drainage tunnel that flowed through the Shiloah Pool and outside the city. Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron are the archaeologist leading this massive effort of unearthing these ancient structures and discovering the meaning and importance to the people of Israel during the Second Temple period.

Among the discoveries, Mr. Reich and Mr. Shukron uncovered many coins- including a shekel coin from the city of Tyre- and a miniature golden bell usually owned by people of importance, as described in Exodus 29:31, “They made pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material and twisted linen on the hem of the robe. They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates all around on the hem of the robe.” Another treasure found in the tunnels was a seal with the Aramaic words “Daka Le’Ya”, meaning “Pure for God”, possibly used to approve the purity of a sacrifice at the Second Temple.

The 14th Century Grand Hall

Another significant find has recently been uncovered under the Kotel. Archaeological excavations have revealed a 14th century grand hall in the tunnels under the Muslim Quarter. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has transformed the hall into an educational center focusing on the genealogy of the Jewish nation and the connection to Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authority worked closely alongside the excavation to oversee the project, which was funded entirely by Zvi Hirsch Bogolyubov, a Jewish billionaire from Ukraine.

Ancient Bronze Coins

For hundreds of years it was widely accepted that King Herod the Great was responsible for the construction of Jerusalem’s Western Wall. However, due to recent discoveries this notion is now being refuted. While excavations were carried out underneath the Western Wall’s foundation stones, ancient bronze coins were found. Archaeologists were thrown for a loop when they examined the coins and found the stamp of Valerius Gratus, a Roman governor who served 20 years after Herod’s death. This places construction of the wall around 17 A.D. and indicated that Herod was not responsible for its completion. This finding substantiates the writings of venerated Roman historian, Josephus Flavius, who stated that construction of the wall was completed by Herod’s great-grandson, King Agrippa II.

With so many years of important history behind it, it is not surprising that new discoveries are being made under the Kotel even to this day. As the excavations continue, there is no doubt new significant findings are yet to be uncovered.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

10 years ago: The death of Peter Drucker

On November 11, 2005, Austrian-born American management guru Peter Drucker died, eight days before his 96th birthday. Mr. Drucker, known as the "father of modern management," was known for the concept of "management by objectives," popularized in his book The Practice of Management (1954). Mr. Drucker promoted the idea of society as a three-legged stool, with the legs being the state, the private sector, and the non-profit sector--of which the most important is the state. Mr. Drucker, although not a Christian, has had a tremendous influence upon evangelical Christianity in the late 20th-early 21st century; Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, has publicly acknowledged his debt to Peter Drucker. Much of modern evangelicalism today is based not on the Bible, but on Peter Drucker's theory of Total Quality Management.

There are excellent articles regarding Peter Drucker'e influence on evangelicalism. For example, go to Kjos Ministries and search "Drucker." Roger Oakland's book Faith Undone (2009) also contains useful information on Mr. Drucker.

I particularly recommend the following:

Peter Drucker: Early Futurist

Peter Drucker & Confucianism

Peter Drucker's Influence

Bob Buford's tributes to Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker's Mega-Church Legacy

Peter Drucker's Existential Purpose

Peter Drucker's Theology of Works

PSEUDO-MISSION: Rick Warren's 3-legged Church

Global Health Leadership & Management

Dumping Mr. Edsel

What is Your LifeTime Value?

The Tyranny of 3-Legged Branding


Bob Buford, Peter Drucker, and the Emerging Church

The Three Legged Stool Plan

Seeker Friendly to Contemplative Spirituality

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

40 years ago: United Nations passes resolution equating Zionism with racism

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: Genesis 15:18

For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...
...And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24, 28

On November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly voted 72-35 with 32 abstentions in favour of Resolution 3379, to "determine that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." Go here to see the full text of the resolution and how each nation voted.

Resolution 3379 was repealed on December 16, 1991 by Resolution 46/86, which was passed by a vote of 111-25 with 13 abstentions.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

100 years ago: The death of Edith Cavell

On October 12, 1915, Edith Cavell, 49, a British nurse and devout Anglican, was shot by a German firing squad in Belgium. She worked in Belgium, which fell under German military occupation in November 1914, in the early months of World War I. She treated both Allied and German soldiers, but sheltered British and French soldiers and helped them and young Belgian men to escape to neutral Netherlands.

On August 3, 1915, Miss Cavell was arrested and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She admitted doing so, and was sentenced to death for treason under the German Military Code. Her last words reportedly included, "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone," and "...tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country."

It's obvious from the circumstances surrounding Edith Cavell's arrest and execution that she didn't subscribe to the namby-pamby, pansy-wansy extremist view of Romans 13:1-7 that so characterizes 21st century North American evangelicalism--especially the idea that the mere fact that certain people are in positions of authority means that God put them there, and Christians are automatically required to obey them. Miss Cavell refused to obey the German military authorities in Belgium; this was a "government" of an illegally occupying army and not a legitimate government, and she owed them no obedience. For the Germans to charge and convict her of treason was absurd, since she was a British subject who owed no loyalty whatever to Germany, and especially to a military "government" that had no right to be there.

Edith Cavell's name is still known today, in no small part because of a prominent mountain named in her honour in Jasper National Park. This blogger spent several summers in a cabin at Lake Edith many years ago, and used to look at that mountain every day, or at least on those rare days when it wasn't covered by clouds.

The God whom Edith Cavell worshipped has lost none of His power, nor has His word, which should be an encouragement to us. It was the strength provided by almighty God that enabled Edith Cavell to act as she did and to graciously accept the consequences. The compromising spirit of 21st century evangelicalism doesn't produce Christian heroism like that.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Muslims haven't always been hostile toward Jews in Jerusalem

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: Genesis 12:3a

Expressions of hostility and acts of discrimination by Muslims against Jews in Jerusalem aren't as traditional as it may appear to those of us in the 21st century. From the column Then and Now in Jerusalem by Geoffrey Clarfield and Salim Mansur in the Toronto newspaper National Post, October 27, 2015:

...The Palestinian leadership has incited publicly their people to “spill blood.” Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestinian Authority, declared on television, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.” Such chilling incitement to kill reaches back to the years immediately after the First World War, when the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed by the British, made a career out of calling for jihad against the Jews culminating in his embrace of Hitler.

When Abbas calls to “spill blood,” or Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset, declares, “I will personally expel every Jew who comes to the Temple Mount in a provocative manner,” they are following the odious footsteps of Haj Amin Al-Husseini. Their anti-Jew hatred not surprisingly is encouraged by King Abdullah II, the West’s favourite royal pretender whose family the British imported from Hejaz in Arabia and enthroned as unelected rulers over the largely Palestinian people and country of Jordan, illegally carved out of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in the early 1920s. Abdullah shamelessly announced recently that only Muslims should be allowed on the grounds of the Temple Mount.

There is, however, another history of Muslim rulers over Jerusalem. It is contrary to Al-Husseini’s jihad against the Jews that became embedded in the politics espoused by Palestinians over the past century. Though this history has been deliberately obscured by advocates of political Islam or Islamism in recent years, it is all the more necessary today to hold Palestinians accountable for shredding their own Muslim tradition that holds the promise of religious coexistence and mutual respect among Christians, Jews and Muslims.

When the first Arab armies conquered Palestine, or the land of Israel, in 637, Jews stood witness. Muslim and non-Muslim sources recount the surrender of Jerusalem by the Byzantine Patriarch Sophronious to Umar, the second of the righteous Caliph of Muslims and a close companion of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. There were Jews in the company of Umar when he visited the Temple Mount and ordered the removal of filth accumulated on the site.

Jews were granted permission by Umar to live in Jerusalem and pray on the Temple Mount. They were allowed to build a synagogue there. Even after the completion of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque by the Umayyad caliphs based in Damascus, the 10th century Jewish writer Solomon ben Jeroham (a Karaite) recorded that Jews prayed on the Temple Mount.

Umar’s conduct on taking control of Jerusalem from the Byzantines set the righteous precedent for Muslims to follow. When Muslim rulers behaved differently their conduct spoke ill of them, as happened with the Fatimid ruler Caliph Hakim in Cairo. Hakim turned malevolent against Christian and Jews, and destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009 (for which Jews were falsely blamed and victimized by a recurrent wave of anti-Semitism in Europe).

There were the Crusades, and Jews were massacred in Jerusalem by the Crusaders. But Christian rulers of the Crusader Kingdom during the 12th century became mindful of the local traditions and Jews were allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. After Saladin reconquered Jerusalem in 1187, he restored Jewish rights following Umar’s precedent.

When Ottoman Turks took control of Jerusalem in the 16th century they imposed a ban on Jews worshipping on the Temple Mount. However, they strictly enforced the right of Jews to pray at the Western Wall of the Temple, what is now known as the “Wailing Wall.” Access to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims (including Jews) was relaxed at the request of the British at the end of the Crimean war in 1856. Some six decades later General Allenby, at the head of the British army, triumphantly entered Jerusalem in November 1917, and Britain’s rule over Palestine under the League of Nation’s Mandate inaugurated a new era for Jews in their ancestral homeland after nearly 2,000 years.

For Muslims, Jerusalem is the third holiest city after Mecca and Medina. But for Jews, Jerusalem is the first and only holy city, since it was made the capital of ancient Israel by King David. Yet contrary to public opinion (in and outside of the Muslim world) Muslim authorities have generally tolerated Jews praying on the Temple Mount. The theological and historical evidence over time support this simple fact. The Muslim connection to Jerusalem rests upon the reference made in the Quran of the Prophet’s night journey “from the Sacred Mosque to the distant Mosque whose precincts We have blessed, that We may show him some of Our Signs” (17:11). Muhammad’s miraculous heavenly journey from King David’s city, referred in Arabic simply as al Quds (the Holiness), confirmed his lineage in the fraternity of prophets reaching back through Moses and Abraham to Adam.

Muhammad had prayed at first by turning his face in the direction (qiblah) of Jerusalem. After his flight to Medina from Mecca he received guidance, as the Quran states, to “turn towards the Holy Mosque” (2:144) in prayer. Since then Muslims have followed their prophet. From an Islamic point of view, it might be said, the revelation instructing the Prophet to pray in the direction of Mecca was a sign for him and his followers not to contest Jews with unlawful claims or deny their rights in Jerusalem.

Until 1967 no scholar in or outside of the Muslim world doubted that underneath the Temple Mount could be found the site and remains of the Jewish Temple of Solomon, Ezra and Nehemiah, and of Herod the Great within whose Temple Jesus of Nazareth prayed and preached. Even Haj Amin al-Husseini published in 1925 a brochure, titled “Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Jerusalem” (the Arabic expression for the Temple Mount), in which is stated, “The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute...”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"Urine trouble": accusation of peeing in public leads to more serious charges

...and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23b

As reported by Mary Ellen MacIntyre of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, October 26, 2015:

If there’s a lesson to learn, it’s this: peeing in public never ends well.

Three Quebec men now face numerous fraud-related charges all because one of them decided urinating in public was a wise choice.

Early Saturday morning, Halifax Regional Police received a call about an indecent act performed at the intersection of Robie Street and Quinpool Road. The caller said the man jumped back into the vehicle and was travelling outbound on Quinpool Road.

Officers found the vehicle at a Needs Convenience Store on Herring Cove Road.

All three men were subsequently arrested — two for breach of court orders and a third for obstructing a police officer. They were arrested and vehicle was seized.

Things get even more complicated when officers searched a Lier Ridge home the trio had rented two weeks before and found materials used to produce fraudulent credit cards.

The following charges have been laid against Kevin Clairsant-Letourneau, 20, of Montreal; Marvin Pierre Coriolan, 22, of Terrebonne and Karim Agba, 23, of Montreal: fraud over $5,000, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, possession of two stolen credit cards, instrument for use in forging a credit card and possession of property obtained by crime.

In addition, Clairsant-Letourneau faces a charge of obstructing a police officer and Coriolan is charged with three counts of breach of probation. Agba faces four counts of breach of probation.

They spent the rest of the weekend in jail and are scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court today to answer to the charges.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

50 years ago: Pope Paul VI promulgates Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate)

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

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

On October 28, 1965, the Second Vatican Council's Nostra Aetate--Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions--was promulgated by Pope Paul VI. It urged Roman Catholics to "enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions," expressed a high regard for Muslims, and absolved the Jews of responsibility for the death of Jesus, reversing the decree issued in 1199 by Pope Innocent III. The declaration helped to pave the way for the current drive for a one-world religion being promoted by Pope Francis I and others. Here are some of the more notable passages (bold inserted by blogger):

...2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.

Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.

3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

4. As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock.

Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's sons according to faith (6)-are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.(7) Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself.(8)

The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people.

As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation,(9) nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading.(10) Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.(11) In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Soph. 3:9).(12)

Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ...



4. Cf 2 Cor. 5:18-19

5. Cf St. Gregory VII, letter XXI to Anzir (Nacir), King of Mauritania (Pl. 148, col. 450f.)

6. Cf. Gal. 3:7

7. Cf. Rom. 11:17-24

8. Cf. Eph. 2:14-16

9. Cf. Lk. 19:44

10. Cf. Rom. 11:28

11. Cf. Rom. 11:28-29; cf. dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium (Light of nations) AAS, 57 (1965) pag. 20

12. Cf. Is. 66:23; Ps. 65:4; Rom. 11:11-32

13. Cf. John. 19:6

Those who think Chrislam is a recent invention might be surprised by the passages highlighted above concerning Islam. The idea that Christians and Muslims worship the same God can be proven false by a comparison of the Bible with the Qur'an; it should be obvious to anyone who's read both books that the God of the Bible and the god of the Qur'an are different gods. It must be emphasized that the views expressed in Nostra Aetate aren't the opinions of a rogue liberal priest, but are in fact the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, still in effect today--with the typical deadly mixture of truth and error, which is far more dangerous and deceptive than complete error.

It's now fashionable in Christian circles to play down or virtually deny Jewish culpability in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. In rebuttal, I offer the following account from the gospel according to Matthew--the gospel account that's most directed toward a Jewish audience--as well as comments by three Jewish leaders of the early Christian church who were either on the scene or in the area at the time:

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.
And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
Matthew 27:1-25

Peter: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Acts 2:14, 36

Stephen: Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Acts 7:51-52

Paul: For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
I Thessalonians 2:14-16

Nostra Aetate was followed by Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration "Nostra Aetate" (n. 4) , given on December 1, 1974.

An interesting postscript to Nostra Aetate is that in 2005, the United States Congress unanimously passed a resolution commending the decree on the 40th anniversary of its promulgation. The text reads as follows (bold in original):

H.Con.Res.260 - Concurrent resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's promulgation of Noestra Aetate, the declaration on the relation of the Roman Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, and the historic role of Nostra Aetate in fostering mutual interreligious respect and dialogue.

Text: H.Con.Res.260 — 109th Congress (2005-2006)

[Congressional Bills 109th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H. Con. Res. 260 Enrolled Bill (ENR)]

Agreed to November 10, 2005

One Hundred Ninth Congress of the United States of America


Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the fourth day of January, two thousand and five

Concurrent Resolution

Whereas 2005 marks the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, the declaration on the relation of the Roman Catholic Church to non-Christian religions;

Whereas on October 28, 1965, after the overwhelmingly affirmative vote of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI issued Nostra Aetate, which means ``in our time'';

Whereas Nostra Aetate affirmed the respect of the Roman Catholic Church for Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism, and exhorted Catholics to engage in ``dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions'';

Whereas Nostra Aetate made possible a new relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide and opened a chapter in Jewish-Christian relations that is unprecedented in its closeness and warmth;

Whereas Nostra Aetate states that the Roman Catholic Church ``decries hatred, persecution, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone''; and

Whereas Nostra Aetate clearly states that ``No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.'': Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--
(1) recognizes the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's promulgation of Nostra Aetate, the declaration on the relation of the Roman Catholic Church to non-Christian religions;
(2) appreciates the role of the Holy See in combating religious intolerance and religious discrimination;
(3) encourages the United States to continue to serve in a leading role in combating anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance and religious discrimination worldwide;
(4) acknowledges the role of Nostra Aetate in fostering interreligious dialogue and mutual respect, including, in particular, new relationships of collaboration and dialogue between Jews and Catholics since the issuance of Nostra Aetate; and
(5) requests the President to issue a proclamation recognizing the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate and the historic role of Nostra Aetate in fostering mutual interreligious respect and dialogue.

Clerk of the House of Representatives.


Secretary of the Senate.
The resolution, introduced on October 6, 2005, was sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (Democrat--New Jersey), and there were 65 co-sponsors. The actions were:

11/10/2005 Passed/agreed to in Senate: Resolution agreed to in Senate without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent.(consideration: CR S12710-12711)
11/07/2005 Passed/agreed to in House: On motion to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 349 - 0 (Roll no. 570).(text: CR H9701-9702)

I don't remember hearing anything about this at the time, and it makes me wonder where all the "separation of church and state" crowd were when the United States Congress was unanimously recognizing a decree from the Roman Catholic Church. Although the resolution emphasizes the importance of Nostra Aetate in fostering improved relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Jews, it should be kept in mind that Nostra Aetate also had many nice (and false) things to say about Islam, but the resolution omits any mention of that aspect of Nostra Aetate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Playboy announces a cover-up

For those who missed this item a couple of weeks reported by Vinay Menon of Torstar News Service, October 14, 2015:

...On Tuesday, in one of the most momentous shifts in magazine history, Playboy turned on the lights and said it was getting dressed. At the age of 62 — which, oddly, makes it a sexagenarian — it is ditching the centrefolds and pictorials and scandalous baggage that were once as pivotal to its brand as twerking is to Miley Cyrus.

The magazine that helped trigger the sexual revolution while becoming a salacious rite of passage for young men was conceding defeat in the carnal trenches.

It was planting a white flag where the sun don't shine.

Or as Scott Flanders, Playboy's chief executive, told the New York Times: "That battle has been fought and won. You're now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it's just passé at this juncture."

But the bigger question, as Flanders asks, is "if you take nudity out, what's left?"

On the face of it, if you will, covering up probably seems like good business. You can almost see a team of new media execs huddling around a boardroom table in a grotto, itemizing the benefits of this "major brand realignment" as founder Hugh Hefner listens half-heartedly in a velvet robe while daydreaming about a threesome he had in Chicago during the summer of love.

"Sir, we'll be able to conquer new markets. We'll face fewer hurdles getting on mobile and tablet. We'll be safe for work. Readers will find us on newsstands next to reputable men's magazines. We won't be stashed behind a plywood concealer on a shelf that requires a stepstool and shame. Circulation will explode. The marketing tie-ins are huge. The possibilities are endless."

Yes, either that or this is the beginning of the end.

The problem for Playboy is not free porn. It is the powerful brand built up over more than a half-century and the equally powerful associations that are unlikely to dissolve just because Miss July is lounging suggestively in a turtleneck.

Whatever is depicted on the inside pages will still be no match for the entrenched subtext conveyed by that seven-letter title on the cover. This is why you never see a dad reading Playboy while waiting for his kids at gymnastics class — and why you never will.

This leads to an inverse problem: alienating customers who do buy the magazine for the pictures. While domestic circulation has dropped to about 800,000 from 5.6 million over the past 40 years, Playboy still has loyalists. When people buy products emblazoned with those bunny ears — and merchandising is now the revenue driver — they are doing so for the opposite reason dad is not thumbing through the magazine in public.

They are proud to be associated with Playboy. They want the world to know.

But by trading skin for more sophisticated lifestyle coverage, as Maxim is also trying to do as a de-sexual revolution rumbles through the men's magazine sector, will Playboy find a new audience filled with coveted millennials? Or is it diluting a brand that is big business in some parts of the world, including China, where the magazine is not even available?

It's hard to see how a future long-form investigation into, say, Senate corruption is going to help move bottles of cologne in Beijing.

The company tested this PG-13 approach in the digital realm this August when it jettisoned nudity from the website. The result, as the Times reported, was that the average reader age dropped from 47 to 30 and traffic spiked to 16 million from about four million unique users.

What's not clear in the context of a nudity-free print edition: how many of those readers are willing to pay for content?

The only place I've ever seen Playboy over the past couple of decades is at my old-school barber. Here, past issues are fanned out on a coffee table like crab claws at a Mandarin. They seem as anachronistic as the pictures of '70s haircuts on the wall...
The Playboy Club chain, which began with the opening of the first such club in Chicago in 1960, went out of business in 1991, and occasional attempts to revive the clubs have been mostly unsuccessful. The latest move by the magazine gives further evidence that the sexual revolution that Hugh Hefner and his magazine helped to create has long since passed them by, leaving Mr. Hefner and his creation as aging and pathetic relics of a bygone, "innocent" era.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Canada's "Conservative" Party sacks Sikh candidate for opposing homosexuality

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

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

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

October 19, 2015 is the date of another federal election in the multicultural monstrosity that still officially goes by the name of Canada, and the thought of any of the major parties--Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic Party--forming a government is truly depressing, and is taken by this blogger as yet more evidence that the judgment of God upon the country is already well under way.

For non-Canadian readers, or those too young to remember, the "Conservative" government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been in office for almost 10 years, with a majority of seats in the House of Commons for the last 4½ years. I won't bother repeating my comments on the idea held by some that the Harper government has been trying to impose a Christian theocracy (see this post for just one example of evidence to the contrary). A more recent piece of evidence is the Conservative Party's sacking of their candidate in the Ontario riding of Mississauga-Malton, Jagdish Grewal, a Sikh and editor of the Punjabi-language Toronto newspaper Canadian Punjabi Post. As reported by Jennifer Ditchburn of Canadian Press, October 6, 2015:

OTTAWA — The Conservative party says a candidate in suburban Toronto who defended therapies that attempt to turn gays straight is no longer an official candidate for the party.

Jagdish Grewal, who is running in Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial entitled “Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?” that referred to homosexuality as “unnatural behaviour” and heterosexuals as “normal.”

A party spokeswoman said Tuesday night that Grewal’s comments “are not reflective of the views of the Conservative Party of Canada.”

“We believe that all Canadians — regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation — deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” Megan Murdoch said in an email.

In the Punjabi Post editorial earlier this year, Grewal describes an NDP private member’s bill passed in the Ontario legislature in June that removed public funding for services designed to “change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient.”

Grewal writes in the piece that some psychologists blame a “shock” during childhood for causing a person to become gay, but that the change “can be corrected.”

“The political competition of today raises the question of whether any person’s wish to become a normal person is wrong?” Grewal wrote in Punjabi.

“If it is a parent’s right to set guidelines for their children in terms of their education, career and health, then why is it illegal for them to strengthen their natural heterosexuality?”

Grewal said in an interview Tuesday that he was attempting to educate readers about an issue in the news and lay out the positions taken by the provincial parties and psychologists. He said he did not recall the names of the psychologists he mentioned.

In the editorial, he points to the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, an American group that offers therapies to people who have “unwanted homosexual attractions.”

“Yes, there’s children who have tendencies, who are attracted,” Grewal said in the interview. “If that child wants to come back or tell the parents that he wants to get out of this life, then parents should have the right to bring them back to their straight life.”

Grewal’s editorial does not address professional criticism of so-called reparative or conversion therapies. The Canadian Pediatric Society’s position on adolescent sexual orientation states that such treatments “should not be provided because they do not work and have the potential to heighten guilt and anxiety.”

High-profile Ontario Progressive Conservatives supported the private member’s bill when it came to a vote.

In Surrey, B.C., NDP Leader Tom Mulcair held a unscheduled media availability late Tuesday to call for Grewal’s removal as a candidate.

“That type of statement is so totally inadmissible there’s only one possible outcome: Mr. Harper has to fire that candidate,” said Mulcair, who had earlier taken to Twitter to denounce Grewal’s “homophobic” comments.

Grewal is just the latest in a series of unacceptable comments by Conservative candidates, Mulcair said, noting that Harper has signed the nomination papers of Tory incumbents John Williamson and Larry Miller. Williamson complained last March that “brown people” were taking white people’s jobs and Miller told a call-in radio show that Muslim women who don’t want to remove their face-covering veils during citizenship ceremonies should go back to where they came from.

“Mr. Harper’s got to start getting it right and it starts by firing this candidate who said those things that are totally unacceptable about gays,” Mulcair said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also called for Grewal’s removal.

“There is no place for offensive and homophobic statements. The Conservatives should apologize and Stephen Harper needs to remove this candidate,” Trudeau said in a statement issued by the party.

Grewal is running against Liberal Navdeep Bains, a former MP who is also an organizer for the party in the Toronto area. Dianne Douglas, a former municipal executive assistant, is running for the NDP.

A campaign pamphlet recently spotted in the riding, with the fine print, “Authorized by the official agent for Jagdish Grewal,” features a picture of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at the Toronto Pride parade. The slogan reads, “Are these the priorities of your family?”

In another picture, a piece of paper is superimposed onto Bains’ hand. The paper reads “Liberal priorities: Sex Education, Gay Marriage, Legalize Marijuana and Prostitution.”
Grewal says the flyer is not from his campaign.

There has been opposition to the Ontario government’s new sexual education curriculum from within some ethnic communities. The new content addresses sexual orientation and gender identity and homophobia. Children in Grade 1 will be taught the correct names of body parts.

Earlier this year, Wynne said she believed the federal Conservatives were using sex ed as a political wedge issue in the province in advance of the election.

Grewal says he’s been getting an earful from people in the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities upset by the curriculum.

“There are families who are keeping their kids at home, they’re not sending them to school they’re so frustrated with this,” said Grewal. “They don’t talk about any other issues. This is their biggest issue at the time at the door.”

Bains disagrees, saying people understand that a federal MP has no power to shape a provincial education plan.

“Unemployment is high, higher than the national average, youth unemployment is high and people are worried about the economy, worried about jobs,” Bains said of the riding. “Those are the issues that matter.”
Here's another small benchmark in the rapidly increasing slide of Canada into the abyss of Trudeaupia. The term "cuckservative" has become popular lately. I don't think there's a dictionary definition yet, but I'm inclined to define a cuckservative as someone who claims to be, or is identified as, conservative, but who considers it more important to be seen as not racist, sexist, "homophobic," or [insert politically correct pejorative here] by people who don't like him, rather than to take a principled conservative stand. It's worth noting that Christians aren't the only people who are opposed to sodomy; devout followers of non-Christian religions are, as well. It's worth noting that the "Cuckservative" Party of Canada would rather offend the views of non-Christian religious minorities, and even risk being accused of racism, than tolerate within its midst a candidate who expresses views on sodomy that are currently unfashionable.

The matter of "conversion" or "reparative" therapy is controversial (professing Christians such as Warren Throckmorton and Al Mohler have come out against it, claiming that it doesn't work), but the "Cuckservative" Party of Canada has made opposition to "conversion therapy" a litmus test for its candidates--refusing, in the name of "tolerance," to tolerate a candidate who supports the freedom of choice for those who want to leave the homosexual lifestyle. There is a form of "conversion therapy" that does work, and it comes from God Himself, as declared under divine inspiration by the Apostle Paul:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
I Corinthians 6:9-11

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Scholar claims to have found the earliest known draft of the King James Bible

As reported by Jennifer Schuessler of The New York Times, October 14, 2015:

The King James Bible is the most widely read work in English literature, a masterpiece of translation whose stately cadences and transcendent phrases have long been seen, even by secular readers, as having emerged from a kind of collective divine inspiration.

But now, in an unassuming notebook held in an archive at the University of Cambridge, an American scholar has found what he says is an important new clue to the earthly processes behind that masterpiece: the earliest known draft, and the only one definitively written in the hand of one of the roughly four dozen translators who worked on it.

The notebook, which dates from 1604 to 1608, was discovered by Jeffrey Alan Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who announced his research on Wednesday in an article in The Times Literary Supplement.

While the notebook has yet to be examined by other scholars, experts who have reviewed Professor Miller’s research called it perhaps the most significant archival find relating to the King James Bible in decades.

David Norton, an emeritus professor at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and the author of several books about the King James Bible, called it “a major discovery” — if not quite equal to finding a draft of one of Shakespeare’s plays, “getting on up there.”

Gordon Campbell, a fellow in Renaissance studies at the University of Leicester and a consultant for the planned Museum of the Bible in Washington, said the new manuscript shed fresh light on how the King James translators actually did their work, as opposed to how they had been told to do it.

Studying the creation of the King James Bible “is like working with a jigsaw puzzle where 90 percent of the pieces are missing,” Mr. Campbell said. “You can arrange the surviving pieces as you wish, but then you find something new and you realize you put it together the wrong way.”

The King James Bible, published in 1611, was produced by six teams of translators, known as “companies,” in London, Oxford and Cambridge, who were charged with creating an authorized version that would support the Church of England against the Puritan influence seen in some earlier translations. Along with Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623, it is one of the most influential books in the history of English and the wellspring of common phrases like “salt of the earth,” “drop in the bucket” and “fight the good fight,” to name only a few.

While some records of the committee that supervised the overall translation survive, only three manuscripts of the text itself have been known to exist until now. The Bodleian Library at Oxford owns nearly complete drafts of the Old Testament and the Gospels, in the form of corrected pages of the Bishops’ Bible, a 16th-century translation that the King James teams used as a base text. Lambeth Palace Library in London has a partial draft of the New Testament epistles.

Professor Miller discovered the manuscript last fall, when he was in the archives at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, researching an essay about Samuel Ward, one of the King James translators and, later, the college’s master. He was hoping to find an unknown letter, which he did.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

“I thought that would be my great discovery,” he recalled.

But he also came across an unassuming notebook about the size of a modern paperback, wrapped in a stained piece of waste vellum and filled with some 70 pages of Ward’s nearly indecipherable handwriting.

The notebook had been cataloged in the 1980s as a “verse-by-verse biblical commentary” with “Greek word studies, and some Hebrew notes.” But as Professor Miller tried to puzzle out which passages of the Bible it concerned, he realized what it was: a draft of parts of the King James Version of the Apocrypha, a disputed section of the Bible that is left out of many editions, particularly in the United States.

“There was a kind of thunderstruck, leap-out-of-bathtub moment,” Professor Miller said. “But then comes the more laborious process of making sure you are 100 percent correct.”

The draft, Professor Miller argues, dates from between 1604, when the King James Bible was commissioned, and 1608, when the six teams were asked to send their work to the general committee for review. Unlike the other surviving drafts, which scholars date to later parts of the process, it shows an individual translator’s initial puzzling over aspects of the Greek text of the Apocrypha, indicating the reasoning behind his translation choices, with reference to Hebrew and Latin as well.

“You can actually see the way Greek, Latin and Hebrew are all feeding into what will become the most widely read work of English literature of all time,” Professor Miller said. “It gets you so close to the thought process, it’s incredible.”

The draft, he argues, also complicates one long-cherished aspect of the “mythos,” as he put it, surrounding the King James: that it was a collaborative project through and through.

The companies were charged with doing their work as a group, rather than subdividing it by assigning individual books to individual translators, as was the case with the Bishops’ Bible. But the Ward notebook, Professor Miller said, suggests “beyond a reasonable doubt” that at least some of the companies ignored the instructions and divided up the work among individuals, at least initially.

Further, he said, the notebook contains a complete draft for the book of the Apocrypha known as 1 Esdras, but then, after a run of blank pages, only a partial manuscript for the book known as the Wisdom of Solomon, suggesting that Ward picked up the slack for another translator.

“Some of them, being typical academics, either fell down on the job or just decided not to do it,” Professor Miller said, with a laugh. “It really testifies to the human element of this kind of great undertaking.”

In recent years, scholars have chipped away at the idea of Shakespeare’s plays as the product of an isolated genius, emphasizing instead the intensely collaborative nature of Elizabethan theater. Professor Miller said that the origins of the other great monument of 17th-century English literature is due for a similar reconsideration.

“There’s a strong desire to see the King James Bible as a uniform object, and a belief that it’s great because of its collaborative nature,” Professor Miller said.

“It was incredibly collaborative,” he continued. “But it was done in a much more complicated, nuanced, and at times individualistic way than we’ve ever really had good evidence to believe.”
Click on the link to see Professor Miller's article, Fruit of Good Labours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spain and Portugal have begun granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews

As reported by Associated Press, October 14, 2015:

LISBON — Portugal has started granting citizenship rights to the descendants of Jews it persecuted five centuries ago.

The Justice Ministry said Tuesday that on Oct. 2 it approved the first three of more than 200 applications it has received so far. The other applications are still being processed following a law that began in March.

Seeking to make amends for past wrongdoing, both Portugal and Spain adopted laws this year allowing citizenship for descendants of Sephardic Jews — the term commonly used for those who once lived in the Iberian peninsula — persecuted during the Inquisition...

...The Jewish Community of Oporto in northern Portugal, which is one of the organizations vetting applications, ...said Tuesday it has issued certificates for Jews from 23 countries, with two-thirds of them for Sephardic Jews from Turkey.
Portugal's action is subsequent to that of Spain, which passed a similar law in June 2015. However, according to Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute in an article published on June 21, 2015, the Spanish law "does not right a wrong" (read the full article for the details:

The final version of the law introduces so many hurdles to obtaining Spanish citizenship that most prospective hopefuls are likely to be deterred from even initiating the application process. Indeed, the law in its current form ensures that very few of the estimated 3.5 million Sephardic Jews in the world today will ever become Spanish citizens.

Spanish authorities -- presumably fearful that the list of Sephardic surnames could provoke an avalanche of citizenship applications -- issued an urgent notice that the government has no intention of ever publishing an official list of Sephardic names.

"All these facts lead us to conclude that the government has the clear intention that the fewer the number of applicants, the better. And the economic filter ensures that only people with high purchasing power can apply. ... Considering all of these factors, we believe that this law does not right a wrong. This law is more of a symbol, a first step, but not a law that will serve to satisfy the majority of Sephardim who would like obtain Spanish nationality." — Jon Iñarritu García, a congressman from the Basque Country.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Major oil find reported on Golan Heights

As reported by The Times of Israel, October 7, 2015:

A company drilling for oil on the Golan Heights claims to have found “significant amounts” in the plateau.

“We’re talking about a layer 350 meters thick,” Yuval Bartov, chief geologist of Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the American company Genie Energy, told Channel 2.

The layer is ten times larger than the average oil find worldwide, Bartov said, “and that’s why we’re talking about significant amounts. What’s important is to know that there’s oil in the rock, and this we know.”

Three drilling sites on the Golan have uncovered what is potentially billions of barrels of oil, enough to fulfill the Israeli market’s 270,000-barrel-per-day consumption for a very long time, the report claimed.

Exploratory drilling began in December 2014. In recent weeks, Afek requested permission to drill an additional 10 wells.

While it says the oil find is confirmed, the firm says the quality, more precise measures of quantity and cost-effectiveness of extracting the oil won’t be known until the extraction is begun.

Afek has faced numerous challenges from environmental groups concerned about the impact of drilling, some of which reached the High Court of Justice.

Since Israel’s founding, companies searching for oil across Israel have drilled 530 exploratory wells, and none of them has turned up commercially viable oil, Genie CEO Geoff Rochwarger said in September.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

50 years ago: The death of Father Divine

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Matthew 24:5 (also Mark 13:6)

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:24 (also Mark 13:

On September 10, 1965, George Baker, better known as Father Divine, died; his age was uncertain, but he was believed to be in his late 80s. He founded the International Peace Mission Movement in the early 20th century.

A Negro, Father Divine promoted racial equality, and attracted many white, as well as black, followers. He was heavily influenced by the positive-thinking movement known as New Thought, and was thus an early figure in the New Age Movement. Father Divine's main doctrine was that he was God, and the only true expression of God's spirit. He wasn't. For further reading, see Robert Weisbrot's biography Father Divine (1983) (originally published as Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality).

Saturday, August 29, 2015

25 years ago: The death of occultist Manly P. Hall

On August 29, 1990, Manly P. Hall died at the age of 89. Mr. Hall, a native of Peterborough, Ontario, moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19, and quickly became immersed in mysiticism and esoteric philosophies. He began preaching at Church of the People in 1919, and became permanent pastor in 1923. Mr. Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society in 1934, which continues today.

Mr. Hall is perhaps best known as the author of books such as The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (1923) and The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Oddly, despite Mr. Hall's many years of interest in Freemasonry, he wasn't actually initiated into the order until 1954; he was awarded the 33rd degree--Scottish Rite Freemasonry's highest honour--in 1973. Anyone reading about the history of the New Age Movement is likely to come across the name Manly P. Hall; his dubious spiritual descendants include Marianne Williamson, the most prominent promoter of the demonic A Course in Miracles. Ms. Williamson's career as a lecturer began in 1983 when she went to work with the Philosophical Research Society.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

25 years ago: The death of B.F. Skinner

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalms 14:1a (also Psalms 53:1a)

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

On August 18, 1990, Dr. Skinner, one of the 20th century's most prominent psychologists, went to his own place. He became an atheist in the typical way--as the result of an emotional reaction in his youth, and not as a result of a rigorous intellectual pursuit of truth. In Dr. Skinner's case, he reportedly became an atheist after receiving conflicting views on hell. His atheistic views influenced Dr. Skinner to become a "radical behaviourist," believing that human will was an illusion and that people behaved on the basis of reinforcement, which he called operant conditioning. His best known books were the utopian novel Walden Two (1948) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971).

I won't go into detail about Dr. Skinner's theories; the reader may use his Wikipedia entry as a starting point, and his name can be found in almost any psychology textbook. Herbert Schlossberg, in his book Idols for Destruction (1983), makes mention of Dr. Skinner a few times, and offers an excellent critique:

B.F. Skinner advocates a science of human behavior as the means of solving social problems that otherwise remain intractable and says that it must adopt the strategies of physics and biology. This is consistent with his view, and that of many other psychologists, that psychology is a biological science. Human beings are simply a part of nature, in that conception, and a science of human behavior must study them in that light. Such a science produces the technology that will enable people to control human behavior and therefore permit humanity to survive...

...When Skinner says that the science of human behavior must follow the strategies of natural science, he means that it must be wholly materialist. He sees no hope of ever solving the old philosophical problem of how mind and matter interact and follows the common practice of assuming that one of them does not exist, the monist position. For behaviorists, everything is material, and therefore qualities we have been accustomed to attribute to mind or spirit are merely epiphenomena of material origin. They are successions of mental events that find coherence only in their identification with the nervous tissue of a particular organism...That is why Skinner insists that to speak of human behavior in terms of aims, purposes, intuitions, or goals is to betray an understanding of man which is "prescientific..."

...There can be no free choice in the world of behaviorism because there is no human faculty that may be said to "choose." The organism simply acts as the prior contingencies have programmed it (him) to act. Moral categories, therefore, are superfluous in understanding human behavior...The moral life, in short, is a delusion, and it often functions only as a hindrance to the survival of the human race...If man cannot be distinguished ontologically from other forms of matter, then materialist determinisms are logical inferences from the observed facts of nature. But empirical observations alone yield no information about ontology. Skinner tells us repeatedly that human beings may not survive if they do not accept behavioral engineering, but nowhere does he explain why that should bother us. Human survival--the sanctity of human life--is a value, and there is no way he or anyone else can derive value from material facts. Materialists almost invariably use language that is value-laden, even though their avowed epistemology does not allow for values. Mystification covers the logical gaps. The only ethical framework compatible with materialism is nihilism, defined as living without values. (Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, pp. 146-147, 149-150).
A 2002 survey revealed Dr. Skinner as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century, which speaks volumes about psychology (and the 20th century). Dr. Skinner is presumably no longer an atheist. The best comment on the death of an atheist--if one is to look at it from a purely materialistic point of view--that I've seen is from blogger Vox Day, on the death of "New Atheist" Christopher Hitchens on December 16, 2011:

The conglomeration of atoms that were, for a very brief moment in history, collectively known by the name Christopher Hitchens, have begun to disperse.

The universe continues as before, uncaring and unaware.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

10 years ago: The death of Islamic apologist Ahmed Deedat

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

On August 8, 2005, Indian-born South African Islamic missionary and apologist Ahmed Deedat died at the age of 87. Mr. Deedat began his missionary work in 1942 and co-founded the Islamic Propaganda Centre International (IPCI) in 1957. He became known for debating Christians in South Africa and throughout the world. A prominent example was his debate before 4,000 people at West Ridge Park Stadium in Durban, South Africa in August 1981 with Campus Crusade for Christ apologist Josh McDowell on the topic Was Christ Crucified? Click on the link for a free download of the book The Islam Debate (1983) by Mr. McDowell and John Gilchrist, which includes the entire text of the debate. Click on the link for a free download of the book Mr. Deedat wrote in response, Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction. It hardly needs to be said (but I'll say it, anyway) that the issue of whether or not Jesus Christ was crucified isn't a minor point of contention between Christianity and Islam, but a life-or-death difference:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; I Corinthians 1:23

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I Corinthians 2:2

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah"; - but they did not kill him, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they did not kill him: - The Qur'an, Surah 4:157

Mr. Deedat was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in 1986 for his 50 years of missionary work, but began to attract increasing criticism when he increased his own criticism of other religions. It was said that Christians in South Africa warned Mr. Deedat that if he didn't stop his attacks on Christianity, God would strike him down. I don't know if South African Christians issued such warnings--that may be an urban legend--but Mr. Deedat was indeed struck down by a severe stroke on May 3, 1996, leaving him with "locked-in" syndrome, bedridden and unable to communicate except through moving his eyes. This may very well have been the Lord's way of getting Mr. Deedat's attention in order to encourage him to repent; tragically, Mr. Deedat continued to promote the false gospel of Islam during the remaining nine years of his life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

75 years ago: The death of Ze'ev Jabotinsky

On August 4, 1940, Russian-born Zionist activist Ze'ev Jabotinsky died at the age of 59. Born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky, he co-founded the Zion Mule Corps in Egypt during World War I, and moved to England, where his efforts resulted in the creation of the Jewish Legion. In the 1920s, Mr. Jabotinsky became the key figure in a movement known as Revisionist Zionism and began advocating for a liberal, democratic Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan River. He supported moving Arab populations if necessary to accomodate the influx of Jews, but he didn't want Arabs ejected from Palestine, and supported the rights of minorities in the proposed Jewish state.

While visiting South Africa in 1930, the British Colonial Office informed Mr. Jabotinsky that he would not be allowed to return to Palestine. During the 1930s he warned of increasing violence against Jews in Europe. When the British government enacted the McDonald White Paper, restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine under the British Mandate for the next five years, Mr. Jabotinsky protested by supporting an armed Jewish revolt in Palestine, involving the Irgun terrorist organization. He died of a heart attack in New York City while attempting to raise financial support for a Jewish army.

Although he didn't live to see the establishment of the state of Israel, Mr. Jabotinsky played a key role in events that led to the nation's founding. The Likud party--the party of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu--can trace its history back to the activities of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Flashback--1934: Fortune teller who almost drowned didn't foresee the danger

And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: Luke 4:23a

As reported by Chris Zdeb of the Edmonton Journal, July 31, 2015:

EDMONTON - The fortune teller never saw it coming.

Price Brown, known professionally as Professor Cosmo the fortune teller, would have drowned in the North Saskatchewan River if not for two city boys who dragged him to safety.

Brown was making his way to Queen Elizabeth Pool on the south side when he noticed a group of boys swimming in the river near the Low Level Bridge. Deciding to save himself a walk to the pool, he joined the boys, who warned him of the presence of a deep hole in the river bottom near where they were swimming.

“Brown had not been in the water long when he encountered the hole and sank beneath the river surface,” the Journal reported. Two of the boys, James Thompson and Daniel Peden, “noticing the man was in trouble, went to his assistance and after a battle with the river current, dragged him to the bank.”

The youths, both 15, left the scene without telling Brown their names, but he tracked them down through the other boys.

“The boys were modest about it all, and shy,” the story said.

“It wasn’t much,” said Thompson. “We just saw him struggling in the water and we knew there was a hole there, so we went and got him,” he explained.

“Sure, we didn’t have very far to take him,” echoed Peden.

The fortune teller, the son of a British distiller “who objects to his son toying with spirits of the less tangible sort, has been in Canada nine years,” and performed on the stages of various Canadian cities, the story said.

He claimed to have the gift of clairvoyance, which he discovered when he was 12.

So how come he didn’t know he would almost drown if he went into the river?

Brown explained that the gift of clairvoyance does not permit its holders to peer into their own futures.

The next day, he presented Thompson, a technical school student, and Peden, who attended Bennett School, with engraved gold watches for saving his life.
"The gift of clairvoyance does not permit its holders to peer into their own futures." Yeah--right. I don't know how Professor Cosmo's rescuers kept from laughing when they saw him doing an excellent impression of Oliver Hardy finding a deep hole in a puddle.

30 years ago: The death of Eugene Carson Blake

On July 31, 1985, Dr. Eugene Carson Blake died at the age of 78. Dr. Blake was Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. from 1951-1958; President of the National Council of Churches from 1954-1957; and General Secretary of the World Council of Churches in 1966. He was known for his liberal theological, social, and political views and helped to organize Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963, but is perhaps best remembered for delivering a speech in 1960 that was credited with beginning the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) (see my previous post on the beginning of COCU).

Dr. Blake was typical of the liberal Protestant clergyman of the 1960s and '70s who got his name in the paper for participating in demonstrations regarding trendy causes such as opposition to the Vietnam War, and getting hauled off in a paddy wagon to the police station for violating prohibitions on unlawful assembly. Bible-believing Christians at the time rejected Dr. Blake and his activities.

Typical also of the results of the activities of Mr. Blake is an example cited by Dr. Carl McIntire, then President of the International Council of Christian Churches. Billy Graham had scheduled a visit to Poland from September 28-October 5, 1966, under the sponsorship of the Baptist, Lutheran, Reformed, and Evangelical churches of Poland, all of which were controlled by Poland's Communist government of that time (yes, even as far back as 1966, Billy Graham was quite willing to be used by government-controlled churches in Communist countries), but his application for a visa was, surprisingly, rejected by the Polish government. From Dr. McIntire's book Outside the Gate (1967), p. 154:

Dr. Graham is now beginning to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Eugene Carson Blake. He was the leader and president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. who went to Moscow in 1956, spoke in the Baptist Church, visited the theological seminaries, and was received by Metropolitan Nicolai. He returned with this pronouncement on behalf of peace and understanding, which the Communist spokesmen had also agreed to. It took the [United States] Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee to receive the testimony of Yuri Rastvorov and Petr Deriabian, which revealed that these men with whom Dr. Blake was dealing and whom he later brought to the United States as his guests were all spies and that Metropolitan Nicolai was an agent of the KGB, the secret police. But the pictures of Dr. Blake and his party in Moscow were used by the Communists in their slick publications all over the world; and in the propaganda for peace, which the Communist government is promoting. Dr. Blake became a very useful tool and propaganda piece.

Canada's "Conservative" government legalizes RU-486 abortion pill

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

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

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

As reported by Helen Branswell of Canadian Press, July 30, 2015:

TORONTO — A quarter century after women in France were first given access to it, the abortion drug known as RU-486 is finally going to be available in Canada.

Health Canada confirmed late Wednesday that it had approved the drug for use here, 2 1/2 years after the manufacturer’s application was submitted. Women will need to obtain a prescription from a doctor to purchase the drug.

“The application has been before Health Canada since December 2012, so it is long overdue that they approve this very safe and effective method of early abortion care that millions of women around the world have been able to access since 1988,” said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation and its Canadian offshoot, NAF Canada.

“No one can claim that they fast-tracked the approval process and didn’t very thoroughly and completely review the application.”

NAF Canada represents the health-care professionals who provide most of the abortion care in this country. The group spearheaded efforts to bring the drug to Canada.

The drug has been available since 1988 in France and nearly as long in Britain. The drug was approved for use in the United States in 2000. Saporta said women in 60 countries have access to the drug, which is used to safely terminate a pregnancy.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose had little to say Wednesday night about her department’s decision.

“Drug approval decisions are arms-length decisions made by Health Canada officials based on analysis by Health Canada scientists,” a spokesperson for Ambrose said in an email.

The drug will be sold under the brand name Mifegymiso in Canada. It is made by Linepharma International Limited.

It is often called mifepristone. But in fact Mifegymiso is two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The former blocks production of the hormone progesterone, needed to sustain a pregnancy. The latter prompts the uterus to contract and expel the placenta and the fetus.

Studies have shown the drug can be used safely as late as 70 days into a pregnancy, although it is thought Health Canada may have set an earlier limit on the use of the drug.

Reproductive medicine experts have called the drug the best known option for abortion and have been advocating for its approval in Canada.

While some countries allow the drug to be dispensed by pharmacists, Health Canada has opted not to go that route.

Saporta said initially the drug will probably only be available through health-care professionals who already provide abortion services. But she said it’s hoped that over time more doctors will agree to prescribe the drug — especially those serving remote communities or working in areas where women have to travel long distances to see a doctor who will perform an abortion.

“Mifepristone holds the promise of improving access to abortion care for women in more rural communities where there isn’t a current abortion provider,” she said.

Saporta said it is likely the drug will only become available in Canada in early 2016.
And as reported by John Cotter of Canadian Press, July 30, 2015:

Conservative cabinet ministers shied away Thursday from questions about Health Canada's decision to approve the abortion drug known as RU-486.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay declined to comment on the decision during a stop in Calgary to make an unrelated announcement.

"Oh gosh. I think that would best be directed to (Health) Minister (Rona) Ambrose," he said.

"It is an issue of course for women, families, Canadians everywhere, but I think your question would best be directed to Health Canada.

"Personal opinions are best kept personal."

Health Canada confirmed late Wednesday that it has approved the drug for use here, a decision that comes 2 1/2 years after the manufacturer's application was submitted.

Women will need to obtain a prescription from a doctor to purchase the pill.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney and Michelle Rempel, minister of state for western economic diversification, were also in Calgary on Thursday and declined to comment.

Ambrose told reporters in St. Albert, Alta., that the decision did not rest with her.

"It's out of my hands and the decision is final," she said.

"Any of those details you would have to speak to the officials at Health Canada and the scientists that actually manage the regulatory approval process. I'm not involved in it."

Ambrose cancelled two events scheduled for Thursday afternoon and Friday in Edmonton and area. No reason was given.

A Conservative MP from Saskatchewan strongly condemned the government for approving the drug.

"It is a dangerous combination of drugs that destroys a woman's tissues in the womb in order to kill her preborn child," David Anderson, the member for Cypress Hills-Grasslands, said in a release.

"I am extremely disappointed that Health Canada would see this as acceptable to Canadians."

Anderson declined an interview request.

The RU-486 drug has been available since 1988 in France and was approved for use in the United States in 2000.

Prof. Ashley Waddington, a family planning expert at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., praised Health Canada's decision to approve the abortion pill.

She called it a step in the right direction for the government and Canadian women.

Waddington noted the move comes 10 years after the World Health Organization endorsed the drug on its list of essential medicines that all countries should have available.

"To be clear, medical abortion has been available in Canada for decades. However, Canadian women have had to rely on less effective, less safe medications for this purpose," she said.

"This is a step in the right direction towards ensuring Canadian women have access to legal first trimester abortion care that is as safe and accessible as it is in other parts of the world."

Vicki Saporta, CEO of the National Abortion Federation and its Canadian offshoot, NAF Canada, has said the drug probably won't be available in Canada until early next year.

The federal election campaign is expected to begin as early as this weekend.
Ladies and gentlemen, your "Conservative" government under the dictatorship leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper! Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, fearmongers on the "left" of the political spectrum (for those who prefer to use the increasingly irrelevant terms such as "left" and "right") insist that Mr. Harper wants to impose a Christian theocracy upon the country that's still officially known as Canada (see, for example, this article from 2012).

The reader of the articles above will note the typical cowardice of the cabinet ministers. I'm especially impressed by the reaction of Rona "Big Hair" Ambrose in refusing to take responsibility for a decision made by her department. If the decision didn't rest with Ms. Ambrose, and she doesn't approve of the policy, then she should resign from the cabinet. If the decision wasn't made by Ms. Ambrose, then it must have been made at a higher level, such as the Prime Minister's Office. The implication that civil servants are initiating government policy on their own without government approval is absurd; it doesn't work that way. If Ms. Ambrose isn't directly lying, she's certainly creating a false impression; either is typical behaviour from Harperites.

I have news for you, Ms. Ambrose: what goes on in your department is your responsibility, and any cabinet minister who refuses to take responsibility for her department should be fired. Not that this is anything new--in the late 1980s, when I first heard of RU-486, I wrote the Health Minister at the time, Jake Epp--who's allegedly a Christian--to express my opposition to it ever being legalized in Canada, and I couldn't believe the wimpy response I got from him. Somewhere I still have the letter, and it said something to the effect that he operated under the constraints of the Canada Health Act and couldn't do anything about it. Apparently Mr. Epp didn't think it was his job as a cabinet minister (in a "Progressive Conservative" government) to influence policy, which made me wonder why he was in the cabinet. It's a matter of record that in 1991 Mr. Epp voted in favour of abortion--a vote that didn't escape the notice and criticism of his fellow Mennonites in Steinbach, Manitoba.

The reader will also note that the Member of Parliament who is quoted as expressing disapproval of the decision is a backbencher. That's not a coincidence; any member of Mr. Harper's caucus who dares to bring up the subject of abortion--especially to express disapproval--can expect to remain in the back benches (to quote a former political science instructor of mine, "so far back in the benches, his head is touching the curtain"). Spineless Stephen has made it clear that abortion is a subject that's not open to discussion (one of these days--or years--I may do a long-overdue post on this).