Tuesday, January 25, 2011

30 years ago: Muslim nations call for the expulsion of Israel from "occupied territories"

File under "the more things change, the more they remain the same:"

On January 25, 1981 at Taif, Saudi Arabia, leaders of 37 Muslim nations and the Palestine Liberation Organization convened for the beginning of a five-day conference. Missing was the five-member Iranian delegation, which had been instructed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to boycott the meeting because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be there. Libya also boycotted the meeting to protest the presence of U.S. surveillance planes based in Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan was barred because its government was attempting to suppress Muslim rebels, and Egypt was barred because of its peace treaty with Israel.

In an opening speech read by Crown Prince Fahd, King Khalid of Saudi Arabia urged the group to drive Israel out of the Arab territories it had occupied since 1967, and to secure the rights of the Palestinians.

Monday, January 24, 2011

25 years ago: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard reportedly dies

On January 24, 1986 L. Ron Hubbard, a prolific writer of science fiction whose book Dianetics (1950) served as the foundational text for a criminal organization masquerading as a religious movement called the Church of Scientology, reportedly died at the age of 74 at his ranch in California. A number of books under his name were published in subsequent years, so it seems that Mr. Hubbard was not one to let such a trifle as his reported death interrupt his lucrative career. For useful information on this evil organization, check the Scientology file at the Ross Institute. See my previous post for an article on the purported decline of Scientology under the leadership of Mr. Hubbard’s successor.

The spiritual climate of Pasadena, California in the 1930s and ‘40s is a worthy subject for investigation, and George Pendle’s biography Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (2005) describes much of the occultism going on there at that time. Mr. Parsons was a brilliant scientist working at what later became the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He was also heavily into the occult, and was one of the most fervent American admirers of "the wickedest man in the world," English occultist Aleister Crowley. Mr. Hubbard lived in the same house as Mr. Parsons for a time, and Mr. Pendle’s book goes into detail about their relationship.

One new religious movement based in Pasadena in those days that isn’t mentioned in Mr. Pendle’s book is the Radio Church of God--eventually to be known as the Worldwide Church of God--led by Herbert W. Armstrong. The death of Mr. Armstrong took place just eight days before the reported death of Mr. Hubbard; oddly, Mr. Armstrong, on his radio broadcasts of The World Tomorrow, occasionally mentioned the long-forgotten American philosopher Elbert Hubbard, who perished in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. There’s no connection between the Hubbards that I know of, but one can’t help but notice the similarity between the names Elbert and L. Ron. Is this coincidence--or decadence?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Year’s Conclave 2011 of The Temple of the Presence offers instruction from the Ascended Masters

If the following is any indication, the New Age movement seems to be getting more up-front and "in your face" with its doctrines.
From Press Release Distribution, December 20, 2010:

Ascended Masters’ New Year’s Conference and Acropolis Sophia® Wisdom School Announced by The Temple of The Presence
Spiritual seekers and those interested in the Ancient Wisdom will want to attend The Temple of The Presence New Year’s Conclave 2011 to learn more about the Ascended Master Teachings.

Ascended Master Teachings
Many Sons – Many Daughters

Tucson, AZ (Vocus/PRWEB) December 20, 2010

From December 29 to January 2 gather with other Ascended Master students in Tucson, Arizona, to participate in planetary releases of Spiritual Light and to receive direct instruction from the Ascended Masters. Experiencing this Light and spiritual enlightenment in person at this 5-day Conference, entitled "I AM Thy Kingdom Come!" offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand how to make the Kingdom of God manifest on Earth as it is in Heaven. Live audio broadcasts of all Conference events are available free of charge through The Temple of The Presence website. A live, streaming video broadcast program is also available through The Temple’s e-commerce site. Seeing and hearing the live broadcasts is like sitting just feet away from the Ascended Masters as they deliver their Message of personal and planetary Freedom.

The Ascended Master School of Ancient Wisdom, Acropolis Sophia, follows the New Year’s Conclave from January 3 to 9. This Ascended Master retreat offers students spiritual Teachings and training on the Path of self-mastery and the realization of the God Self, the Mighty I AM Presence. During this 7-day session, receive live Dictations and Discourses from the Ascended Masters and engage in in-depth group discussions on the principles of Cosmic Law. This January’s Acropolis Sophia session, entitled "The Keys to the Kingdom," will teach students how to unlock the full force of the Christ Light by allowing the Mighty I AM Presence to act through them.

The Temple of The Presence makes the Teachings of the Ascended Masters available to all who desire to gain their eternal Freedom and serve God in Life. Learn who you really are, why you are here on this planet, and where you are destined to go. Find out how to use the Violet Flame, a gift to humanity from Saint Germain. Participate in live, scheduled broadcasts and view streaming video of Ascended Master Instruction on the great mysteries of life anytime through The Temple’s Helicon Broadcasting®. Watch our new, introductory video series to learn more about your own, indwelling Divine Self, the individualized I AM that I AM.

The Temple of The Presence is in the direct lineage of the ancient mystery schools that the great Ascended Masters of East and West have brought forth before the Western world over the past 150 years. These activities are organized by those Initiates on the Path for the great awakening of humanity. Please visit The Temple of The Presence (link) to learn more, to participate in scheduled live broadcasts, and to view top-quality streaming video of Ascended Master Instruction and spiritual awareness.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this press release is where I came across it--at a link on the home page of Synagogue 3000, a movement dedicated to reaching out to Jews who may have strayed from the religion in order to draw them back into the flock. Knowledgeable readers will recognize S3K as the organization whose leaders met with Rick Warren in 2005 "to specifically discuss the techniques and strategies pioneered by megachurches in building spiritual community." S3K leader Ron Wolfson's 2007 book God's To-Do List was endorsed by Rick Warren; see my post on that topic.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

25 years ago: Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, goes to the "wonderful World Tomorrow"

On January 16, 1986, Herbert W. Armstrong, founder and Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God (and "Ambassador for World Peace"), died at the age of 93 after several years of declining health. Mr. Armstrong, who began preaching in 1927, founded the WCG--originally known as the Radio Church of God--in 1933 and began broadcasting on January 7, 1934. Mr. Armstrong proclaimed a number of false doctrines, such as the idea that God is a family and that believers can become part of the "God family." Traditional Armstrongism taught a false, legalistic "gospel" that emphasized the importance of tithing (as much as 30% of one’s income) and keeping the seventh-day Sabbath and observing Old Testament holy days. I can understand how someone can be deceived by the doctrines of Armstrongism. In the late 1970s I was a young Christian, but I hadn’t yet begun reading the Bible with any seriousness. I began listening to Mr. Armstrong’s broadcasts, and what he said seemed to make sense. However, I followed his advice to "blow the dust off your Bible," and began reading it for myself, and exposing myself to better teachers, and I soon concluded that Mr. Armstrong was not teaching the "plain truth."

Mr. Armstrong was also a proponent of British Israelism--the idea that the British and American people are the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Mr. Armstrong wrote the book The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, which was first published in 1967 and underwent several revisions over the years after Mr. Armstrong’s predictions failed to come true.

The Worldwide Church of God was known for its school, Ambassador College, which at one time had campuses in Pasadena, California, Big Sandy, Texas, and Bricket Wood, England. The WCG published The Plain Truth magazine, which at its peak was said to reach as many as 8.4 million readers.

Mr. Armstrong had originally intended his oldest son, Dick, to eventually take over "the Work" from him, but Dick was killed in a car accident in 1958. Mr. Armstrong’s second son, Garner Ted, eventually took over the radio and television broadcasts, titled The World Tomorrow. Garner Ted was more telegenic and charismatic than his father, and GTA became a well-known personality. Garner Ted was also known for frequent fornication, and it was this, along with differences of opinion over the direction of the WCG that led to Herbert W. giving his son the boot in the summer of 1978. The elder Armstrong regained his role as the public face and voice of the WCG, but the broadcasts declined in popularity with the expulsion of Garner Ted.

After his forced exit from the WCG, Garner Ted Armstrong founded the Church of God, International, based in Tyler, Texas, but was forced to leave in January 1998 after numerous verified instances of being caught with his pants down. He remained in Tyler and founded the Intercontinental Church of God (also based in Tyler), which he was leading at the time of his death on September 15, 2003 at the age of 73.

It's not known if Herbert W. Armstrong's last words were "And so, this is Herbert W. Armstrong saying, 'Goodbye, friends'," but apparently the WCG wasn't expecting him to ever die. His successor, Joseph Tkach, began his "Personal From" column in the issue of The Plain Truth immediately following HWA's death by saying, "Herbert W. Armstrong's last illness ended in the manner least expected by any of us. He died peacefully at his home..."

Within a few years of Mr. Tkach's assumption of leadership, the church began repudiating the doctrines of Armstrongism, to the point that by the mid-1990s the Worldwide Church of God became largely accepted as part of mainstream evangelicalism. In April 2009 the WCG changed its name to Grace Communion International in the United States.

William C. Martin, a professor at Rice University, wrote an article titled Father, Son, and Mammon (Atlantic Monthly, March 1980, pp. 58-65), which he concluded by saying:

Those who continue to regard Mr. Armstrong as God’s Only Apostle for Our Time will accept his claim and follow him to the end. But when the end comes, as it must, the WCG is certain to experience devastating trauma.

Professor Martin’s prediction came true, although it took a few years for it to become apparent just how devastating the trauma would be. As might be expected, not everyone was willing to go along with the changes instituted by Mr. Tkach, and a number of groups split from the WCG. Partial lists of groups that have split from the WCG (including those that subsequently split from splinter groups) may be found here and here. Among the dizzying array of WCG splinter groups (and splinters of splinters) are the following, with the year of founding (where known) in parentheses:

Christian Biblical Church of God (1983)
Church of God (based in Chickamauga, Georgia)
Church of God, an International Community (1998)
Church of God Faithful Flock (2002)
Church of God Fellowship (1992)
Church of God of the Firstfruits (1991)
Church of God Philadelphia Era (1991)
Church of God, The Eternal (1975)
Church of God--21st Century (2004)
Church of God’s Faithful (2006)
Church of the Great God (1992)
Global Church of God (1992)
Church of God--A Christian Fellowship (with Global Church of God)
Church of the Eternal God (with Global Church of God)
Independent Church of God 7th Day (1999)
Living Church of God (1998)
Philadelphia Church of God (1989)
Restored Church of God (1998)
Sabbath Church of God (2006)
Twentieth Century Church of God (1990)
United Church of God (1995)

It should be mentioned that the Church of God denomination based in Anderson, Indiana was founded in 1881 and has nothing to do with Armstrongism.

The Painful Truth is a site expressing an anti-Armstrong, anti-WCG point of view. The site isn’t run by a Christian, but contains much useful information.
I particularly recommend the complete archive of Ambassador Report, the exposé by WCG alumni that was published from 1976-1999.

Additional information on the Armstrongs and WCG can be found at The Ross Institute. Use "Armstrong" as your search term, and you’ll find enough information to occupy you for a while. A short entry on Mr. Armstrong is at Battered Sheep.

Stephen Flurry of the Philadelphia Church of God has written a book titled Raising the Ruins: The Fight to Revive the Legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong (2006), written from a pro-Armstrong point of view and scathingly critical of the direction of the WCG under the leadership of Joseph Tkach, Sr. and Jr.

Pro-Armstrong blogs can be found at Worldwide Church of God and Herbert W. Armstrong. The World Tomorrow radio broadcasts by Mr. Armstrong are available here and here. Television broadcasts may be found here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Astrological signs won't be changing

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. Deuteronomy 4:19

Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.
Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.
Amos 5:25-27

Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Acts 7:42

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
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.
Romans 1:18-25

Some blondes and other airheads who believe in astrology almost had a collective nervous breakdown when a brief item by Bill Ward of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on January 9, 2011 that gave the impression that the astrological signs have gotten out of line down through the centuries went viral:

A recent Harris Poll found that 31 percent of Americans believe in astrology. They're wrong - although not necessarily in the way their detractors might cite.

The ancient Babylonians based zodiac signs on the constellation the sun was "in" on the day a person was born. During the ensuing millenniums, the moon's gravitational pull has made the Earth "wobble" around its axis, creating about a one-month bump in the stars' alignment.

The result?

"When (astrologers) say that the sun is in Pisces, it's really not in Pisces," said Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society.

The article provoked a strong reaction from some believers in astrology, especially when they read that a thirteenth sign may be required for the zodiac:

Sofia Whitcombe began her day with the startling realization that she might not be exactly who she thought she was.

"My whole life, I thought I was a Capricorn," the 25-year-old New York publicist said. "Now I’m a Sagittarius? I don’t feel like a Sagittarius!"

Countless people were astonished by the "news" in Monday’s Star Tribune in which Minneapolis astronomy instructor Parke Kunkle affirmed that the Earth’s "wobble" has shifted the zodiac signs. The buzz has raced across the Web like a shooting star.

Some people seemed angry. "I believe it’s a zodiac scam," said Jose Arce, 38, from Fort Lee, N.J., who runs a body shop. "I’ve known myself to be a Sagittarius, I believe, since I was born. So to come up now with some new sign? It’s unacceptable!"...

...Astrologers across the country reported a wave of calls, e-mails or website hits from concerned clients. "People are more attached and loyal to their signs than they thought," said Eric Francis, editor of PlanetWaves.net, who said he had had 25,000 hits on his site since midnight. "It’s interesting how many people are panicking their sign is wrong."

New news or old, most people had never heard it before. And one of the more fascinating elements was talk of a new sign altogether.

By the reckoning of Kunkle and other astronomers, astrologers are not only a month off in their zodiac signs, but they are neglecting a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus (Ooh-FEE-yew-kus) the Serpent Bearer, for those born from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17.

However, astrologers are reassuring their clients that there's nothing to be alarmed about:

Robin Armstrong, an astrologer and astrology teacher based in Toronto, said the issue comes up every few years.

The mixup stems from the fact that the zodiac signs have the same names as the constellations, he said.

"It's just semantics," Armstrong said Friday. "They (astronomers) are measuring a certain thing, and they...assume astrology must mean this because what they're measuring has the same names."


Linda Zlotnick, an astrologer for 32 years in St. Paul, said she and fellow astrologers have long known of the issue raised by Kunkle, but that the most commonly used zodiac — tropical — isn’t affected by it. Zlotnick, also known as "Moonrabbit," said the sidereal zodiac, which isn’t as widely used, IS based on the constellations.

It seems, then, that believers in astrology can relax and not have to concern themselves with adjusting their personalities to fit their signs.

Instead of looking to the stars for guidance, I suggest looking to the God who made the stars:

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Colossians 1:13-17

A useful book on the subject is Astrology: Do the Heavens Rule Our Destiny? by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (1989).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

30 years ago: 1,000 people killed by members of Islamic cult in Nigeria

On January 9, 1981 it was announced in Nigeria that at least 1,000 people had been killed in two weeks, as followers of renegade Islamic cult leader Alhaji Mohammadu Marwa had attacked local authorities with bows and arrows, daggers, and swords. Nigerian officials stated that the revolt was backed by Libya.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Matthew 24, the New Age "Master Jesus," and The Message

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Matthew 24:4-5 (KJV)

Lighthouse Trails Research Blog, one of the best resources available, has just published a fascinating post by Ray Yungen (taken from the 2007 edition of his book For Many Shall Come in My Name (Lighthouse Trails Publishing), pp. 151-156) on Matthew 24. This paragraph in particular (from page 152) got my attention:

A basic tenet of New Age thinking is that of the Master Jesus. Adherents to this idea believe during the unrecorded period of His life, Jesus traveled to various occult centers and mystery schools in such places as Tibet, India, Persia, and Egypt; at these places this same Jesus learned the metaphysical secrets of the ages. Therefore, they claim this Jesus spent seventeen years of travel on a pilgrimage of higher consciousness. According to this viewpoint, Jesus of Nazareth became the Master Jesus, one who allegedly gained mastery over the physical world by becoming one with his higher self.

I knew I’d seen the phrase "Master Jesus" before, and I remembered where I'd seen it: The Message. As I’ve previously posted, the phrases "Lord Jesus" and "Lord Jesus Christ" aren’t found in The Message even once, but a quick search at Bible Gateway finds that the phrase "Master Jesus" is used in The Message 73 times (!)--in each instance, a change from the word "Lord."

One such passage that struck me was Philippians 3:20. For purposes of comparison, here’s how that verse reads in the King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and New International Version (2010), followed by The Message’s rendition:

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: KJV

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; NASB

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, NIV (2010)

But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, The Message

The perceptive reader will notice that in The Message’s rendition of Philippians 3:20, there's no statement that we’re waiting for the "Master, Jesus Christ" to come from heaven. To read this version, the "Master" could well be someone who’s already on Earth when he’s revealed as the Saviour--a change in the text that I regard as very suspicious!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Superstitious man in Malaysia leaves his "demon" wife after consulting a medium

As reported by Shaun Ho in the Malaysia Star on January 6, 2011:

KUALA LUMPUR: A superstitious husband stopped having sex with his wife after a temple medium convinced him she was a danger to his life.

The wife, who only wanted to be known as Loh, said her husband has now abandoned her and their two teenage children and is refusing to meet them as he fears for his life.

Self-employed Loh, 44, said her husband first started consulting the medium to solve personal problems.

She claimed her husband’s personality changed after daily meetings with him.

"The medium told my husband I had been casting spells on him for the past 15 years and that I was a demon trying to kill him.

"He refused to eat or drink at home because he thought I poisoned the food," Loh told a press conference held at the MCA Public Services and Complaints Department yesterday.

Loh also said there were no prior family problems and that her husband was very loving although he was superstitious...

...She said her husband, a factory manager, moved out of the house on the medium’s advice in August and had been paying very little for living expenses and their children’s school fees.

He withdrew the children’s savings totalling RM37,000 before moving out and recently asked for a divorce.

Loh is worried the medium is taking advantage of her husband’s trust in him, claiming the medium is also heavily in debt.

Loh had also found a newspaper report published in 2002 about another man who had neglected his family after he was "helped" by the same medium.

Loh has lodged two police reports...

...Department head Datuk Michael Chong said he had received three complaints this month involving victims who were duped by mediums.

According to Reuters:

Malaysians often seek spiritual aid from an assortment of faith healers, mediums and witch doctors to solve personal problems and work issues.

But there has been a steady increase in complaints of cheating and sexual abuse, which has prompted the government to announce it will table a bill this year requiring faith healers to register with the Ministry of Health.

Hindu guru in India paid blackmailer £1.4 million over sex video

The U.S.A. has had its televangelist scandals, and India has a scandal with a Hindu guru. As reported by Dean Nelson of the Daily Telegraph on January 5, 2011:

The broadcast of a sex tape showing Swami Nithyananda and Tamil actress Ranjitha last year caused outrage among his followers who rioted near his ashram retreat near Bangalore, Karnataka.

Nithyananda, 32, has built an international following for his 'Life Bliss' programme of yoga and meditation with devotees in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Guadeloupe and Singapore.

The programme takes followers through a 'death experience' for rebirth into a 'new life.' His youthful good looks and charismatic style brought vast wealth to his organisation and personal fame and celebrity, with television appearances throughout India and the world.

But his supporters felt betrayed when the sex tape was broadcast on India's Sun Television channel, portraying him as 'impure'...

...A police investigation brought further allegations of sexual abuse within his ashram and claims of financial impropriety.

According to the Midday newspaper, Nithyananda told detectives he was approached by a journalist last year who told him he had video footage of him with the film actress and threatened to release it to the media if he did not pay him more than £3.5 million. He told detectives the demand was reduced to £1.4 million in negotiations and that the money was paid by one of his followers.

According to detectives, he told them he had had sex with up to 20 of his devotees and had won over many followers by hugging them. He said his success in attracting non-Hindus had caused some resentment.

Focus on the Family's newspaper columns are devoid of Christian content

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the use of the Bible in the Focus on the Family newspaper columns."
"There hasn’t been any use of the Bible in those columns."
"That was the curious incident."
--paraphrased from the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze by A. Conan Doyle

Focus on the Family claims to be a Christian ministry, but you wouldn’t know it to read its newspaper columns. I haven’t read the columns by James Dobson, but I have read those by Jim Daly and Juli Slattery, who took over after Dr. Dobson’s departure in 2010. There’s not one quote from the Bible in any of their columns so far, and no advice given that couldn’t as easily have been given by Ann Landers, who wasn’t a Christian (and whose columns were more entertaining). A particularly offensive example (offensive because the authors rely on human reasoning rather than on God's wisdom) was the column of September 23, 2010:

Make a commitment before making a move
By Jim Daly, Juli Slattery

Published September 23, 2010

Question: I’ve been dating the same guy for a year, and he’s wonderful. We’re not ready to get married yet, but we’re talking about moving in together. My very traditional parents don’t approve. What do you think?

Jim: Listen to your parents, and don’t move in together until after you’ve tied the knot. This isn’t about being "old fashioned." Social science research indicates that couples who live together prior to marriage are much more likely to get divorced than those who don’t. You and your boyfriend might think that moving in together will help you build a stronger foundation for marriage later. But you’ll actually be increasing your chances of ending up in divorce court.

This all has to do with the concept of commitment, which is essential to any marriage. The two of you may be very much in love, but the plain truth is that nothing is set in stone. There is no engagement, no ring, no public profession of your lifelong love. Without these things in place, your living together will mimic marriage in some respects, but it will lack that critical element of commitment.

Generally speaking, men tend to take relationships less seriously – and view them as temporary – when marriage vows are not involved. All too often, the woman in a cohabiting relationship ends up getting hurt when the man moves out and moves on. Professor George Akerlof at the University of California, Berkeley put it this way: "Men settle down when they get married. If they fail to get married, they fail to settle down."

Maybe this is true of your boyfriend, and maybe not. The point is that you both need to continue dating and decide whether you’ll ever be ready to get married to one another. If and when that happens, you’ll have the rest of your lives to spend together under the same roof.

Question: But we’re already committed to each other. Is living together really a "death sentence" for the relationship?

Juli: An increasingly common form of "family" in the United States today is a man and woman living together without a wedding ring. So, you are certainly not alone in your consideration of living with your boyfriend as a step toward or even around marriage. In fact, over 50 percent of marriages today are preceded by cohabitation.

But remember that just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s the best for you. An awful lot of people have cancer, too!

Jim hit the nail on the head here: When you really think about it, cohabitation is giving guys intimacy on their terms. Throughout history, women have naturally longed for the security of a consistent, committed relationship in which to make a home and raise children. Men have been more prone to seek companionship and sexual fulfillment without the responsibilities and limitations that come with marriage. By moving in with your boyfriend, you are taking away any incentive he may have to grow up and make a lifelong commitment to you.

Don’t buy the line that living together before marriage will be a good trial run. As Jim noted, cohabiting couples are much more likely to end up divorced. They’re also more likely to experience depression, poverty, infidelity, and domestic violence.

I know your parents sound old-fashioned and traditional to you, but some traditions persist because they actually work. Marriage is one of them. I’d encourage you not to compromise on this one. If this relationship has the potential to go the distance, don’t saddle it with the burdens that come with cohabitation. And if this guy is worthy of committing your life to, he’s worth the wait – and so are you!

Living together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage is included in what the Bible refers to as "fornication." God’s word has a fair amount to say on the subject--all of it negative, and all of it realistic. See, for instance, Acts 15:20 and 21:25; Romans 1:29; I Corinthians 5:1, 9-11; 6:9, 13; 7:2; 10:8; II Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; I Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 12:16; Jude 7; Revelation 9:21.

The Calgary Sun runs the Focus on the Family columns in its Sunday editions on a page that’s supposed to be expressing Christian perspectives. Apparently the editor of that page hasn’t noticed that those columns have no Christian content whatever. As Ingrid Schlueter has noted at The Crosstalk Blog and the now--unfortunately--departed Slice of Laodicea blog, evangelicalism has substituted "conservative family values" and a desire to get back to 1960s’ Mayberry for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For a particularly striking example of an ostensibly Christian ministry that has gone in a completely secular direction, one need look no further than eHarmony. Those who have become familiar with that name just from their television ads of recent years might be surprised to learn that eHarmony started in 2000 as a dating service for Christians. Its business grew tremendously after Dr. Dobson had eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren as a guest for two days on the Focus on the Family radio show in 2001. However, around 2005 Dr. Warren (what is it with men in evangelical circles with the surname "Warren"?) apparently got greedy decided that the Christian market wasn’t broad enough, bought back the rights to his books from Focus on the Family--which had published them--and to the reported ire disappointment of Dr. Dobson, who rightly regarded himself as being largely responsible for eHarmony’s success, broadened eHarmony’s base to the point that it now includes people of "all religions," as well as sodomites and lesbians among potential customers. Any Christian emphasis of eHarmony is long gone.

Keep an eye on Focus on the Family; if their newspaper columns are any indication, the rest of the ministry will be heading in the same direction.

Monday, January 3, 2011

25 years ago: Jerry Falwell announces the formation of the Liberty Federation

On January 3, 1986, Rev. Jerry Falwell, who had founded the advocacy organization Moral Majority in 1979, announced that he was forming a new organization, to be called the Liberty Federation, that would deal with a broader spectrum of political issues. The Moral Majority, which was believed to have about five million members, had concentrated on social issues such as abortion and pornography.

Rev. Fatwhale Falwell, who was associated with the Republican Party and was widely regarded as a spokesman for American conservative evangelicals, said that the Liberty Federation would absorb the Moral Majority and would confront such issues as Communist threats around the world, and would support a strong military defense for the United States.

The Moral Majority received a lot of publicity, and is widely remembered; it disbanded in 1989, which will come as a surprise to those who think it still exists. Does anyone remember the Liberty Federation? This blogger doesn't; it's so obscure that it doesn't have its own Wikipedia entry. I've been unsuccessful in determining when the Liberty Federation ceased to exist, but I assume that it's no longer with us. My guess is that the Liberty Federation was disbanded along with the Moral Majority in 1989.

Israel believes that Iran can attack her with 10-12 minutes' warning--WikiLeaks

As reported by Voice of America News, January 3, 2011 (with spelling mistake corrected):

U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that Israel believes it would have 10-12 minutes' warning should Iran launch a rocket attack against the country.

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten published a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Monday that discusses a November 15, 2009 meeting between an American congressional delegation and Israel's military chief.

According to the daily, Gabi Ashkenazi told the delegation that Iran has 300 Shihab missiles that could reach Israel. He added that Israel's biggest threats were the Iranian-backed Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has more than 40,000 rockets that can reach almost any point in Israel...

...The Israeli defense chief said Israel is not able to protect its entire population despite its anti-missile defense systems. He said 1 million Israelis could be exposed to missiles that cannot be fought from the air.