Thursday, December 31, 2009

Canadian ecumenical organization KAIROS loses federal government funding because of its extreme anti-Israel views

A good news story (from the government of Canada, no less!) that deserves wider attention: KAIROS, an ecumenical church organization in Canada ostensibly dedicated to social justice* and composed of the usual suspects, has been defunded by the government of Canada after 35 years of receiving government (i.e., taxpayer) money because of its extreme anti-Israel views. You can read the details at my friend Ezra Levant’s blog here, here, and here. I found some of the financial details in their 2008 annual report "verrry interesting." As Mr. Levant comments (links in original):

KAIROS wanted $1.8 million a year from the government -- that's basically a fully-staffed political war room, dedicated to their radical point of view. If KAIROS really is, as its website boasts, the political voice of the Anglicans, Catholics, Mennonites, United Church, etc., that money should be a snap to replace -- not much more than a dime per member of its constituent churches, really. Because KAIROS really is speaking for its members, isn't it?

If you remain unpersuaded of the case to let KAIROS's members support it, rather than taxpayers, perhaps I can draw your attention to their last annual report. Here are some of the things they spend your money on:

Fundraising and overhead: $800K
"Energy justice": $500K
"Public engagement": $400K

That's all pure politics -- and it just happens to equal the amount of dough they're demanding from the government. By contrast, "anti-poverty grants" only account for $148K, or just 3.7% of their budget.

It's pretty grotesque when a so-called Christian organization is so busy beating up on Alberta, Israel and Colombia that it only has 3.7% of its money left over for Jesus-y things like helping the poor. But then again, according to KAIROS's honcho, Bill Phipps, Jesus wasn't God anyways.

If just 20% of a televangelist’s expenditures went toward administration and fundraising, he’d be accused of ripping people off, and there would be calls for an official investigation. Contrast KAIROS’ expenditures to those of HOPE International Development Agency, a Christian relief agency from Canada whose theology is less liberal. From HOPE International’s 2008 Financial Summary:

In and for overseas programs: 84.6%
Information and education in Canada: 2.3%
Administration and fundraising: 1.9%

By the way, the fact that KAIROS has been funded by the government of Canada for 35 years is more evidence that, contrary to the secular image of the country that's so popular now, strict separation of church and state is not (and never has been) a traditional Canadian value or practice.

*Whenever I hear the phrase "social justice" or equivalent words, I'm reminded of Malcolm Muggeridge's comment on John 12:3-7, when Jesus was anointed with expensive perfume, and Judas Iscariot protested that the perfume could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. Mr. Muggeridge observed that it was the disciple with the strongest commitment to social justice who ended up betraying Jesus.

January 4, 2010 update: Ezra Levant has new posts here and here regarding attempts by KAIROS to delete incriminating web pages.

June 6, 2010 update: From HOPE International's 2009 Financial Summary:

In & For Overseas Programs: 84.4%
Info & Education in Canada: 2.2%
Administration & Fundraising: 2.1%

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30 years ago: NBC broadcasts the anti-biblical movie Mary and Joseph

For those too young (or too old?) to remember, false depictions of biblical characters and narratives in popular culture have been going on for decades. The made-for-television movie Mary and Joseph has seldom been shown since its original broadcast in 1979, and like its blasphemous predecessor Jesus of Nazareth (which was broadcast on NBC in 1977 and again, in a longer version, in 1979), has been, fortunately, forgotten. Lee Winfrey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in his column On Television, commented on the press release sent out by NBC a month before the first broadcast of Mary and Joseph:

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 8, 1979
NBC rewrites the Bible in story of the Virgin Mary And Joseph
by Lee Winfrey
On television

The television industry, which has falsified the lives of so many famous people in the past, has now decided to make up new biographies for the Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph.
If you don’t recognize the parents of Jesus when you see them portrayed in "Mary and Joseph: A Story of Love," scheduled to air Dec. 9 on NBC (Channel 3), don’t blame yourself. The network made up most of this yarn without any Biblical basis.
Here is how NBC describes the plot in a press release:
"Mary, a youg woman of humble background, meets Joseph, a nobleman who rescues her from an assault by a Roman soldier. After the Romans murdered his family and burned their lands, Joseph began a new life as an apprentice to his Uncle Matthew, a carpenter, who was a follower of Judah, a rebel Zealot.
"As Mary grieves for her father, Joachim, who was hanged for treason, she hears the voice of Gabriel, who tells her she will bear the Messiah, the holy Son of God. When she somewhat tearfully bares her soul to the townspeople of Nazareth and they learn that she is indeed pregnant without a husband, Mary is judged an adulteress and is sentenced to death by stoning.
"Though Joseph does not believe that God is the creator of her unborn child, he again comes to her rescue by falsely admitting the paternity of her child. As a result of his admission, he endures flogging. The beginning of a closer relationship is established, a bond that culminates on the night when Mary goes into labor and the Christ child is born."
Nowhere in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John is there any mention that Joseph met Mary when he rescued her from rape, that the Romans murdered Joseph’s family, that Mary’s father was hanged for treason, that Mary was sentenced to death for adultery, or that Joseph was flogged. All of these embellishments are the creation of scriptwriter Carmen Culver.
Mary is played in this TV special by Blanche Baker, the daughter of actress Carroll Baker. Joseph is portrayed by Jeff East, who played the teen-aged Clark Kent in the recent movie "Superman." While admitting that most of the story is false, they still think it’s all right.
"I think most of it is fictional," said Miss Baker. "It’s not really a documentary about what the Bible really says."
Although the ages of Jesus’ parents are not mentioned in the gospels, it has been traditionally believed that Joseph was much older than Mary. In the "Mary and Joseph" special, however, they are both teenagers.
"What I think the producers and writers are trying to do is make this a more attractive story, put in a Romeo-and-Juliet element instead of having him an older man," East said.
Miss Baker argues that at least the background for this tale is correct, even though the special "is not even pretending to be the story in the Bible. They take things from the time and make those things accurate, like how they baked bread.
"As actors," Miss Baker enthused, "what you see is a great part. You think, oh-ho, a classic part and I’m so young."
Despite all the defenses of "Mary and Joseph" offered by the two principals and by NBC, I think this is appalling. Chances are good that millions of children, and probably several thousand adults as well, will assume that this fanciful special represents what the Bible really says.
What possible purpose is served by slapping together a pack of lies about the parents of Jesus and airing it during the Christmas season? What should we expect next? Old Moses rejuvenated into a young John Travolta, disco dancing down Mount Sinai with an armful of stone tablets?
Surely there must be a few historical characters whose stature is sufficient to place them above video misrepresentation. Until I heard about "Mary and Joseph," I thought the parents of Jesus were among them.

Mr. Winfrey was ahead of the curve in his mention of Moses. The 1993 movie ...And God Spoke (the making of...) was a humourous depiction of producers who want to make a movie based on the Bible, but who haven’t read the Book, and are too lazy to do so. They show Moses, played by Soupy Sales, walking down Mount Sinai carrying a six-pack of cans of a certain drink, using the unsubtle product placement to help finance their film.

Here is Mr. Winfrey’s review of Mary and Joseph when he finally got to see it:

Philadelphia Inquirer, December 6, 1979
‘Mary and Joseph’ on NBC: Poor by Any Artistic Standard
by Lee Winfrey

About halfway through a television special called "Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith," Joseph is wondering how his wife, the Virgin Mary, got pregnant.
"Who did this?" he asks her. "What am I supposed to believe? That God made you pregnant? Who was it, Mary? I suppose if was your gypsy, the one who can make you laugh."
Mary’s claim that the child she is carrying is the son of God gets her in trouble with the local authorities. She is sentenced to be stoned to death. Joseph asks mercy for her on the grounds that maybe she’s a little bit loony.
"She’s young and irresponsible," he tells the judge. "I’m sure when we’re married, these claims will stop."
Swayed by Joseph’s plea, the judge decides to be merciful. The stones remain uncast. Joseph is flogged.
This unique tableau, unmentioned in the Bible, is a brainstorm from the fertile imagination of Carmen Culver, the scriptwriter for "Mary and Joseph." Miss Culver’s free-wheeling adaptation of the courtship and marriage of Jesus’ parents will air this coming Sunday night on NBC (Channel 3).
It all turns out all right in the end. In line with the Biblical account, Joseph accepts that Mary’s child is divine after the angel Gabriel speaks to him while he is sleeping. It’s a little disconcerting to hear Gabriel speaking in a British accent, sounding a great deal like a BBC radio announcer, but at least here Miss Culver didn’t make up any dialogue.
"Mary and Joseph" reels and stumbles along like this for three hours, mixing the old narratives of Matthew and Luke with modern yarns the old apostles never mentioned. Mary’s father, Joachim, is crucified on this show, for example, as a plot device to set this extravaganza into motion. Hitherto, Joachim has escaped such painful fate, but here it’s just considered good show biz to nail him up.
About the only good thing to be said about this show, which I saw in preview here Tuesday, is that it has been toned down to try to meet some of the protests that have been made about it since the first announcement of it last month.
For example, in the original version, Mary was to have been convicted of adultery. Now, it has been left ambiguous as to whether she is sentenced to die for adultery or blasphemy. You can decide for yourself whether that’s an improvement.
Aside from the question of whether it is wise or necessary to hype up such an old and much-beloved story as that of Mary and Joseph, the result here is a poor television show by any aesthetic standard. As movie critic Judith Crist observes in the Dec. 8 issue of TV Guide, this show is "pedestrian and pretentious...it attempts to ‘humanize’ biblical characters and events and vulgarizes them instead."
Blanche baker portrays Mary with no particular distinction. But Jeff East as Joseph is far worse. He makes the father of Jesus look like a wimp. East is not shocking or obnoxious. He just makes you want to look away from him, and wish that Joseph had been portrayed with more character and strength.
Too often, NBC’s attempt to "humanize" Mary and Joseph just winds up making them look sophomoric. On their way to Bethlehem, Joseph frets, "I should never have taken you. I’m such an idiot." "I’ve known it all along," Mary giggles in reply.
To justify this farrago, three principal arguments have been advanced by defenders of this show.
NBC has developed a theory it calls "writing to silence." In general, this theory holds that if you are doing a show about historical figures, and you come to a place where history is mute, it’s all right to fill in the blanks with newly conceived action sequences like Mary’s trial and Joseph’s flogging.
I remain uncomfortable with this carefree conception. It leaves the door wide open to mischief, misunderstanding and misrepresentation. It is a hunting license with no limit on hipshooting.
Another theory, advanced recently in the Philadelphia Bulletin by TV critic Rex Polier, suggests that TV shows like "Mary and Joseph" are no worse than the old biblical movies produced by the late Cecil B. DeMille.
I think this is unfair to DeMille. His best-known religious movies, such as "The King of Kings," "The Ten Commandments," and "Samson and Delilah," stuck to stories where the Bible contained a great deal of narrative material. The first mistake made with "Mary and Joseph" was to try to make a three-hour show out of the few scarce sentences recorded about them. Inevitably, fresh fables must be forced into service to fill the time.
A third theory is that of Thomas M. Battista, vice president and general manager of KYW, commenting against the backdrop of 5,000 letters of protest his station has received about this show.
"It certainly is a fictionalized version of the biblical story," he conceded. "I wish it were a better show, quite frankly."
But Battista concluded: "It is not a documentary. I am not offended by it. I accept it as a movie, nothing more than that."
One of the problems with TV is that, too often, it plays fast and loose with material like this. One of the reasons this dubious tradition continues is the attitude of TV executives who believe that the show they put on is only "a movie, nothing more than that."

According to Carl McIntire ("A Filthy Christmas Film," Christian Beacon, December 13, 1979, pp. 1, 3), who equated Mary and Joseph with the earlier blasphemous made-for-television movie Jesus of Nazareth:
...Both of these films bear the same stamp of unbelief. In the demonstration [on December 10 in front of KYW-TV] in Philadelphia only about 100 persons came. Only three Roman Catholics held up their hands. The visit of the Pope has so mesmerized them that they did not have either the time or discernment, the inclination or the will to waste any time over Mary’s being presented to the nation as a sinful woman.
Where were the Fundamentalists?
These two films registered the spiritual temperature of the nation, which is very low. Christianity is dying in the hearts of the people...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rick Warren libels Christian author and activist Scott Lively

Pope Rick I (pbuh) claims to promote "civility," but he doesn't always live up to that. His LETTER TO THE PASTORS OF UGANDA, contains a section titled Key Facts Concerning Recent Media and Blog Reports on Rick Warren’s Position on Uganda, which includes the following:

8. Do you know Scott Lively?
No. I do not know Scott Lively and have had no contact with him regarding Uganda or any other issue. I would certainly not associate with anyone who denies the Holocaust, one of the greatest tragedies in human history.

Mr. Lively is president of Abiding Truth Ministries and co-author, with Kevin Abrams, of the book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which went through four print editions from 1995 to 2002, with a fifth edition now (2009) available on the Internet. When one thinks of the word "Holocaust," what comes to the minds of most people (including this blogger) is the Nazi genocide of Jews in World War II. Dr. Warren's statement in the paragraph cited above creates the impression in the mind of the reader that Mr. Lively is denying the genocide of the Jews. The frequent use of the term "holocaust revisionist" (even his homosexual activist critics don't call him a "holocaust denier") to describe Mr. Lively has nothing to do with Jews, but rather with a denial to homosexual activists of their treasured status as Holocaust victims. Mr. Lively doesn't deny that homosexuals were killed by the Nazis, but argues that those killed were a relatively small number and were effeminate homosexuals, especially those associated with the Communist Party, as opposed to the butch homosexuals associated with the Nazi movement and party. I call upon Rick Warren to repent of his smear against Scott Lively.

P.S. It seems that the situation regarding the bill in Uganda isn't being reported accurately or completely, according to Last Days Watchman.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A false Jesus on Youtube

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. I John 2:18

One such character calling himself "IAMJESUS" can be found at Youtube as well as his own site, Kingdom of God Cornerstone, where he claims New York as his base. All his "movie" says is, "Jesus Christ has returned. I AM.."

At the top of his Kingdom of God Cornerstone home page, the Star of David, cross, and crescent are depicted, above the words NEW JERUSALEM; JEW CHRISTIAN MUSLIM; UNITED AS ONE. I knew I'd seen something like that before, and I realized that it was similar to the "Coexist" message promoted by the music group U2 during their Vertigo Tour in 2005. For photos of U2's use of the Coexist logo, go here. Coexist now promotes itself as "A Lifestyle Movement."

Looking at the profile of "IAMJESUS," he gives his age as 47, and under "About Me" he says, "I AM JESUS CHRIST," and gives his occupation as "KING."

Interestingly, false prophetess Jeane Dixon claimed to have a revelation that the antichrist was born on February 5, 1962, which would make him the same age as "IAMJESUS." (Not that I believe in the accuracy of Jeane Dixon's "prophecies;" especially do I not believe that her "prophecies" came from God.)

HT: Dracul Van Helsing

September 5, 2011 update: Some symbols have been added to the "Coexist" logo to make it even more inclusive, according to Kurt Schlichter.

Good riddance to Oral Roberts

On the occasion of the death of Oral Roberts (or, as astute social critic James Stolee called him, "Anal Roberts"), I don’t want to take the time to go into detail about his false teachings, false prophecies, and various scandals. I recommend reading the posts at On Doctrine; Surph’s Side; Christian News and Views; and Let Us Reason. The reader may also want to look for the book Give Me That Prime Time Religion by Jerry Sholes, published in 1979.

Carl McIntire put it succinctly in the Christian Beacon:

Oral Roberts Cannot Raise the Dead

Evangelist Oral Roberts has told the world in his assembly of some 5,000 of his people that he has by his miraculous power brought the dead back to life. It was Jesus Christ who had this power and demonstrated it beyond all doubt when Lazarus had been dead for four days. When and where has Roberts performed any deed of this nature?

Roberts shocked many when he gave orders to God that he had to provide him with $8 million; and before he was finished, God had dutifully done so through a man who made his money gambling.

Roberts, if he has revealed anything, has given evidence that his tongues and his visions have come tom him from the prince of the power of the air, the old Devil himself. The one sure accomplishment is that he has further and convincingly discredited the whole charismatic activity, which is deceiving both the public and Christians today.

Roberts went as far as to announce that when he returns at the time of Christ’s return, he will rule alongside of Jesus Christ. He promoted himself to a position which only God can give, and he presumed to invade God’s domain again.

When the disciples asked some questions of Jesus concerning this realm, He did tell them that they would sit on 12 thrones, ruling the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28).

Oral Roberts presumes to tell God what seat He will give to him alongside Jesus Christ. The man is not senile; he is Satan’s minister. For the Scriptures do say that the spirit of antichrist is already here, and Oral Roberts belongs to that kingdom...

Christian Beacon, Vol. LII, Number 21, July 2, 1987, pp. 1-2

The perceptive reader will note that Mr. Roberts was unable to prevent himself from dying. As Walter Martin said, "There's one illness from which you will not recover, and that is: your last one."

As an aside, Robert Frank, a Swiss-born photographer who moved to the United States as a young man, published a book in 1959 titled The Americans. One of the photos in the book was Restaurant--U.S. 1, Leaving Columbia, South Carolina, taken in 1955. I’ve always found the image rather haunting and disturbing. What makes it more so is that the image on the television screen is Oral Roberts.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Israeli archaeological discovery on Hasmonean rule backs up Josephus

Just in time for Hanukkah (or Chanukah, if you prefer), this report from Israel:

Israeli archaeologists have made a stunning historical discovery: a Hasmonean king conquered Gaza and the Negev, and for decades prevented the Nabateans of 2,000 years ago from using the Incense Road. It was the Incense Road that the Nabataeans used to transport precious spices such as myrrh and frankincense to the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt.

HT: Southwest Radio Ministries

Joe Gray of Chosen People Ministries has a post on Hanukkah at Messianic Moments.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A telephone conversation between Richard Nixon and Billy Graham--February 21, 1973

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Roe v. Wade, which had the effect of legalizing abortion througout the United States."
"There was no discussion of abortion or the recent Supreme Court ruling."
"That was the curious incident."

Paraphrased from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story The Adventure of Silver Blaze

Bruce Wilson of Talk to Action is a blogger whose perspective I generally disagree with, but he does post interesting items sometimes. One of his recent posts was a transcript that he prepared of a telephone conversation between U.S. President Richard Nixon and evangelist Billy Graham that took place on February 21, 1973. I encourage the reader to examine the transcript, or better yet, download the recording and come to your own conclusions.

It was Mr. Nixon who made the call, and it was apparently the first conversation between him and Mr. Graham in some time. On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States, with its abominable Roe v. Wade decision, had legalized abortion on demand throughout the United States. One might think that America's best-known evangelist, while he has the ear of the president, might want to bring the topic up for discussion, but there isn't a word on the subject from Billy Graham--a "curious incident" indeed.

The conversation contains some references to events and people that current readers (including even this blogger) may not be familiar with, so I offer the following to fill in some blanks. My source for some of this is the 1974 World Almanac and Book of Facts.

--Watergate was starting to gain momemtum as a scandal, but so far only the men who had perpetrated the actual break-in at the Watergate building in 1972 had been tried. On February 7, 1973 the United States Senate voted to form a seven-member panel to further investigate the affair. The next day, Sam Ervin was named to head the panel. So far there were no links to President Nixon, so it's not surprising that the issue didn't come up in this conversation.

--On December 18, 1972 President Nixon ordered the so-called "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi for the purpose of bringing the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to the negotiating table. The bombing ended on December 30, and on January 27, 1973 the U.S.A., South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and Viet Cong signed an agreement ending the war in Vietnam. Operation Homecoming began on February 12 when 142 American prisoners of war were released; they began arriving in the United States on the 14th.

--"Mrs. Meier" was actually Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel.

--On February 21, Israeli planes shot down a Libyan civilian jetliner which had strayed over Israeli-occupied Egyptian territory in the Sinai Desert on a routine flight from Benghazi, Libya to Cairo. The final death toll was 108. Israeli officials claimed that they had intercepted the plane as a last resort after the French pilot had ignored instructions to land. Libyan Foreign Minister Mansur Kikhia called the downing a "criminal act." On February 22--the day after this telephone conversation--Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan called the event a "tragedy," but blamed the pilot. The same day, the Cairo airport produced a tape that indicated that the pilot, having lost his way due to instrument failure, had believed he was over Egyptian territory pursued by Egyptian MiGs and was unaware of instructions to land until he was being shot down. On February 24, Mr. Dayan conceded that Israel had made an "error of judgement" on the nature of the intrusion, but emphasized the shared responsibility of the pilot. On February 25 Mr. Dayan announced that Israel would pay compensation to the families of the victims.

--John Stennis was a 71-year-old Democratic U.S. Senator from Mississippi who was shot in front of his home in Washington on January 30 in an apparent robbery attempt. The Senator underwent more than 6 hours of intensive surgery at Walter Reed Hospital and was still resident there, although reportedly "much improved" when three men were arrested on March 12 in connection with the shooting. Harold Hughes was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Iowa.

--the names of Doug Coe and Mark Hatfield will be familiar to anyone who’s read Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family (2008), about which I have already posted.

--Marc Tanenbaum (correct spelling) was director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee and was known for building bridges of understanding and co-operation between Judaism and other religious bodies, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. For Billy Graham’s attitude toward evangelizing Jews with the gospel of Jesus Christ, see the article about him in the January 1978 issue of McCall’s magazine, which you may be able to find in a public library (the downtown branch of the Edmonton Public Library has a copy in the stacks). Mr. Graham seems to enjoy better relations with Jewish leaders than Jesus did, which I find very suspicious.

--the man with whom Mr. Graham was talking who was vacationing in the same place as he was, referred to in the transcript as "[?]", was Bunny Lasker, who was chairman of the New York Stock Exchange from 1969-1971. I’ll let the reader draw his own conclusions about the people in Billy Graham’s social circle.

--the man referred to as "Carson Beck" in the transcript was actually Eugene Carson Blake, an American Presbyterian minister who was president of the National Council of Churches in the 1950s and later the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. He was a world leader in the ecumenical movement, and was known for making public appearances with Soviet agents who posed as Christian clergymen.

--the man referred to as "Crowe [Kroll]" was John Krol, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia; Terence Cooke was Archbishop of New York. Both were members of the College of Cardinals.

-- "McCloughlin" was John McLaughlin, then a Jesuit priest and supporter of President Nixon. This is the same John McLaughlin who became the host and moderator of the long-running (and still-running) PBS talk show The McLaughlin Group.

--"Rosy" was, I assume, President Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods, who soon gained notoriety for accidentally erasing 18½ minutes from one of the Watergate tapes.

125 years ago: Completion of the Washington Monument--a Masonic structure

On December 6, 1884, workers placed the 3,300 pound marble capstone on the Washington Monument, and topped it with a nine-inch pyramid of cast aluminum, completing construction of the 555-foot Egyptian obelisk. An obelisk is a structure built in honour of Re, or Ra, the sun god of ancient Egyptian paganism. Freemasonry latched on to this when it became popular in the United States (Martin Short, Inside the Brotherhood, Dorset Press, New York, 1989, pp. 81-87). The Washington Monument was built in accordance with Pierre-Charles L’Enfant’s plan for the city. Mr. L’Enfant was hired by President George Washington to design the city of Washington; he was fired in 1792, and his plan underwent some changes, but his avenues and vistas remained, resulting in a city laid out according to Freemasonic symbolism (Nicholas Hagger, The Secret Founding of America, Watkins Publishing, London, 2007, pp. 164-166). The dedication of the monument on February 21, 1885 was a completely Masonic ceremony.