Monday, December 24, 2012

Dead Sea Scrolls are now online

As reported in the London Daily Telegraph, December 18, 2012 (link in original):

One of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century is now available for all to see online after the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google digitised the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Anyone with an internet connection will now be able to take a new look into the Biblical past through an online archive of high-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls completed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Google.

The scrolls, most of them on parchment, are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible and include secular text dating from the third century BC to the first century AD.

IAA, the custodian of the scrolls that shed light on the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus, said it has collaborated with Google's research and development centre in Israel for the past two and a half years to upload digitised images of thousands of fragments from the collection.

Yossi Matias, the head of Google-Israel R&D centre, described the project launch as "exciting".

"What's exciting about this launch is that users from all over the world can access these ancient scrolls, through wherever they are, and they can experience them through any device, anywhere in the world. This project brings to life the ten commandments, Genesis book, known verses from the Psalms and some 5,000 images of fragments from the scrolls," Matias said.

Since its discovery, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been extensively researched by scholars across the world. Vast amounts of information are now available on each scroll and many of the fragments.

Approximately 4,000 fragments have been already uploaded to the website, with the aim to eventually upload all tens of thousands of them, the IAA said.

"It's a project that I believe that every human being around the globe is very excited (about). Again, because it's not only for the Jews, it's not only the story of the Jews. it is the story of Christianity, and Islam and all the others. This is the old Testament," said Shuka Dorfman, the IAA director.

For many years after Bedouin shepherds first came upon the scrolls in caves near the Dead Sea in 1947, only a small number of scholars were allowed to view the fragments.

But access has since been widened and they were published in their entirety nine years ago.

A few large pieces of scroll are on permanent display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

View the Dead Sea Scrolls at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/

Jews from "lost tribe" move from India to Israel

That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. Deuteronomy 30:3-5


As reported by Associated Press, December 23, 2012:

A group of 50 Jews said to descend from one of the 10 Lost Tribes immigrated to Israel Thursday from their village in northeastern India.

The members of the Bnei Menashe community prayed in their local synagogue and then hugged their crying relatives before heading off to the airport in the Manipur state capital of Imphal, 34 miles away.

The Bnei Menashe say they are descended from Jews banished from ancient Israel to India in the eighth century BC.

An Israeli chief rabbi recognized members of the Bnei Menashe community as a lost tribe in 2005 and about 1,700 moved to Israel before the Israeli government stopped giving them visas.

The government recently reversed that policy. About 7,200 of them remain in India.












30 years ago: The world premiere of The God Makers

On December 31, 1982, The God Makers, produced by Jeremiah Films, received its premiere screening at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. The film is a hard-hitting expose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons.

Ed Decker and Dick Baer, former members of the Mormon Melchizededk priesthood, attempted to persuade a Los Angeles law firm to launch a class-action suit against the LDS on behalf of people like themselves who had seen their marriages and families destroyed. The film is centred around a reenactment of Mr. Decker and Mr. Baer's presentation to the law firm, which paints a very different picture of the Mormon Church from that which the church presents to the public. Despite overwhelming evidence to support the complaints against the church, the law firm decided against pursuing the matter because they didn't believe that the complainants had enough money to offset the deep pockets of the Mormon Church.

According to Grace Community Church pastor John MacArthur, "This film is dynamite, the most powerful thing I've seen! Get your Mormon friends to view it!"

The film was followed in 1984 by a book of the same title authored by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, and by a subsequent documentary and book (written by Ed Decker and Caryl Matrisciana) titled The God Makers II in 1988. Both dcoumentaries and both books are recommended by this blogger.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

University of Windsor caves into whiny atheists and removes prayer from convocation ceremony

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psalms 14:1 (see also Psalms 53:1)

Just the thought of one public mention of God in four or more years of university is enough to prompt atheists to require smelling salts and grief counselling. The cowardice of university administrators in caving in to loud, politically-correct minorities is typical. As reported by Dalson Chen of the Windsor Star, October 5, 2012:

There’s going to be a conspicuous absence at the University of Windsor‘s fall convocation ceremony next week. Namely, a prayer.

For the first time in the university’s history, the graduation event won’t include an entreaty to God — nor any other religious reference.

In place of a prayer, the ceremony will have a non-religious request for a moment of reflection.

“I ask that you take a moment to reflect on those who guided you along your path of learning,” the chancellor will read.

“To appreciate our families, our teachers, our peers, the world we live in, and all that inspires us.”

According to the university’s Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility, the permanent change is meant to reflect a “more inclusive atmosphere” at the learning institution.

Kaye Johnson, the university’s director of human rights, described the new secular format as “widening the circle.”

“A moment of silent reflection will allow people to use this time as they need to, not as someone else decides,” Johnson said in a press release.

Johnson noted that many other universities have already adopted non-religious approaches to their ceremonies.

“In fact, many people are surprised to find that the convocation ceremony included a prayer,” she said in the press release.

On Friday, Johnson said she considers the change “timely.”

“If we only maintained tradition, we wouldn’t have a lot of the advances that our society has made,” she noted.

The decision pleases the Windsor-Essex County Atheist Society, a student-run club.

Shawna Scott, the atheist society’s president and founder, said she “feels reassured that the university actually does take student concerns seriously, and that they strive to respect diversity.”

A PhD student in the university’s clinical psychology program, Scott wrote letters to the human rights office about feeling “extremely excluded and uncomfortable” when she was asked to stand in prayer for her undergraduate convocation in 2010.

Scott wrote that she believes it is “totally unfair and disrespectful” to push prayer at a public university.

Asked on Friday how she feels about tradition and the University of Windsor’s roots as a Roman Catholic institution, Scott said: “You know what? Sometimes re-evaluating tradition is a thing to be done.”

Scott pointed out that the new convocation text still allows attendees to pray, if they count religion as something that inspires them. The major difference is that prayer “is no longer dictated to us.”

Asked how she feels about prayer in other facets of public life — such as city council meetings, remembrance ceremonies and community events — Scott said she disagrees with that as well.

“Religion should not be mixed into that,” Scott said.

Past University of Windsor convocation ceremonies have made direct references to “Eternal God.”

In the fall convocation of 2011, Rev. Mary Templer of the University Community Church led the audience in a prayer that described God as “the source of all goodness, discipline and knowledge.”

“We pray you to bless this assembly, gather to recognize achievement, and celebrate life. Bless this and all universities in their quest for excellence. Be with teachers and students everywhere,” Templer recited, finishing with the traditional “Amen.”

The Catholic Campus Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday before press time.

Johnson said she didn’t personally consult with the campus ministry about the change, but there were discussions about the issue at other levels in the university administration.
When "widening the circle" places atheism on the same level as the Roman Catholicism of the University of Windsor's founders, the "circle" no longer has any shape. Typically, it never occurs to the atheists that they're being "unfair and disrespectful" in demanding that prayer be removed from the convocation ceremony. As for "re-evaluating tradition," how come it's never the atheists who feel any need to re-evaluate their traditions?

As reported by Darryl Gallinger of the University of Windsor newspaper The Lance, October 9, 2012:

The prayers of atheists have been answered by the University of Windsor with the removal of Christian prayer from convocation ceremonies in favour of a personal moment of reflection.

Holly Ward, chief communications officer for the university, confirmed the change. “It’s definitely a tradition of the University of Windsor to use a prayer, as it has been a tradition to use prayers at most universities nationwide,” she said. “Having a moment of reflection is not unusual. It’s changed because we have a changing campus. We have a lot of diversity on our campus … we want to make sure you feel included.”

“The decision was made at the president [Alan Wildeman’s] level because concerns had come to his office,” Ward added.

Shawna Scott, student and president of the Windsor-Essex County Atheist Society, was in favour of removing the prayer and feels validated by recent decision. “I’m really proud of the university for making this change,” she said.

Scott challenged the line of the convocation prayer, which refers to an “eternal God” as “the source of all goodness, discipline and knowledge,” explaining that, “The end result of us graduating is a product of our hard work, support from our family and friends and everyone working really hard to build our own success. To us, it doesn’t come from a deity … it makes it really awkward to be there and feel excluded like that.”

Scott founded the atheist group in 2010. Its 170 members fundraise for charities and provide a network of non-believers with resources and support.

“The sentiment of a prayer is a beautiful one,” said Paul Anderson, a member of the atheist society. “However, it’s impossible to write it in such a way that can accommodate all faiths, including those who don’t believe in god.”

“Or even those who believe in more than one god,” Scott added.

Scott first expressed concerns about the prayer following her undergraduate graduation in 2010 and again in 2011 in formal letters to university. She never received a reply from administration. In preparation for the fall 2012 convocation ceremony, where Scott would be recognized for obtaining her master’s degree, she wrote the university once more, suggesting a moment of personal reflection as an alternative to the traditional prayer.

A month after the letter was sent, Ward confirmed the change to The Lance.

According to the new script, Reverend Mary Templer of the University Community Church will ask the graduates to, “Take a moment to reflect on those who guided you along your path of learning, to appreciate our families, our teachers, our peers, the world in which we live and all that inspires us.”

“There’s another piece that people miss,” pointed out Kaye Johnson, director of the university’s human rights office. “There is a lot of diversity within Christianity and the type of prayer is not reflective of all of Christianity. There was discomfort that’s not only within people who have a different faith, but also of Christian faith.”

“The thing with public prayer in a context like that, it also imposes words onto people,” Johnson said, explaining that even those who wish to pray at convocation cannot choose what is being prayed to and why.

Jordan Legg of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship is not troubled by the change. “I’m more concerned about people actually engaging with who Jesus is and loving him completely with their words and actions rather than giving him lip service at a convocation ceremony,” he said.

Legg explained that his group talks about Christianity with students on campus, and for him “teaching others to love Jesus” is more important than maintaining a campus tradition.
Please note the wimpy reaction of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship spokesman, speaking with all the courage and conviction of a typical evangelical pastor. The excerpts from the prayer by "Rev." Mary Templer, quoted above, are as bland and inoffensive as you could get and still legitimately call it a prayer. If their website (in addition to the presence of a female "pastor") is any indication, University Community Church, with its roots in a liberal Presbyterian congregation, isn't likely to be full of the fire-breathing fundamentalism that atheists so love to caricature.

Edmonton public schools will offer Yoga for credit

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

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

The definition of yoga from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1965):
1 cap: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation 2: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being

Of course, the exercises are based on the philosophy. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yunakti, meaning “he yokes.” The yoking is with Brahma, the ground of all being in Hinduism. Until it became “westernized,” Yoga was mainly about teaching old Hindus how to die. It’s no more about relaxation and relieving stress than Transcendental Meditation, which is also Hinduism. Neither one caught on in the west until they decided to change the marketing approach to appeal to westerners’ priorities, such as financial prosperity, physical health and emotional well-being. I'm waiting for the day when public schools will offer credits for courses in practicing Christianity.

As reported by Andrea Sands in the Edmonton Journal, December 11, 2012:

EDMONTON - Students enrolled in Kim Hertlein’s holistic health class at Ross Sheppard High School sample yoga in a wide-ranging course that focuses on healthy living and alternative healing.

As early as next semester, however, high school students in Edmonton could earn credit for taking a Yoga 15 or Yoga 25 course, after public school trustees voted last week to import a yoga curriculum developed in Calgary.

“I’m very excited. I would be thrilled to teach a yoga class,” said Hertlein, a certified hatha yoga instructor who teaches social studies at Ross Sheppard, as well as the holistic health option, nicknamed “H2O.”

“If this is made available to Edmonton Public, I know it will be wildly popular. A lot of my friends are phys-ed teachers and they all do yoga, so they’d be willing to offer it. It’s not just a physical exercise. It’s a balance of body, mind and spirit.”

Students are constantly stimulated by a barrage of information, so a yoga course is a valuable tool to promote healthy and balanced living, Hertlein said. It also appeals to students, particularly women, who don’t like competitive team sports, she said.
“I can honestly tell you, my holistic health class is the only class they don’t bring their cellphones to,” Hertlein said.

Students taking Hertlein’s holistic health class try out a variety of physical activities including yoga, kick boxing, spin class, circuit training, Pilates, Zumba and belly dancing. They also discuss alternative approaches to health, eating, sleep and exercise and explore meditation and relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

“I’ve had a lot of students come to me and say, ‘I don’t like the belly dancing. I just want to do yoga every day,’” Hertlein said.

They could have that option as early as next semester, which begins in February, said Stephen Wright, supervisor in projects and research with Edmonton Public Schools.

Wright looked into whether any Alberta schools had introduced yoga as an option after Ross Sheppard and Victoria School expressed interest in running the course.

With the public school trustee’s approval last week, the school district will take the yoga curriculum developed in Calgary and make it available to schools here. Alberta Education still has to approve the plan, which shouldn’t take long, Wright said.

Then schools can start offering the three-credit, halftime block as an option. It does not replace regular physical education, or any core courses that are part of the provincial curriculum.

“It is an option course,” Wright said. “So students could take French, art, woodworking, foods, anything like that — and students have to take some option courses to complete their diploma — but it doesn’t have to be yoga.”

The yoga courses, along with a Reading 25 class, are the first new “locally developed courses” Edmonton Public Schools has approved since a provincial moratorium on such courses ended in September.

Locally developed courses are developed by various school districts to teach subjects outside the provincial curriculum, which allows school districts to respond to local needs. Edmonton Public Schools runs dozens of locally developed courses such as American Sign Language and deaf culture, theatre performance, sports performance, marine biology, pre-engineering, painting and various language programs including Arabic, German and Mandarin...

...The Calgary Board of Education introduced Yoga 15 and Yoga 25 in 2009 for Grades 10 and 11 students, said CBE spokeswoman Karen Drummond.

“Last year, we had four high schools that offered it, with right around 200 students who were enrolled,” Drummond said.

Schools need to find a teacher who is trained in yoga instruction before introducing the course as an option, which has possibly limited student enrolment numbers, Drummond added.

Calgary’s Yoga 15 course introduces students to basic yoga postures, breathing techniques and relaxation methods, and teaches them about yoga’s historical roots, basic anatomy and physiology, and body acceptance, according to information posted on the Ernest Manning High School website.

“The program is designed to allow students to experience the benefits of increased flexibility, strength, focus and concentration,” the course description says. “Students will learn to be non-judgmental about their own and others’ yoga practice. Through continued practice, students will relieve stress, learn to relax and experience the health benefits of yoga practice.”

I can't leave without including the comments of Elvis, as quoted at the top of this post:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

75 years ago: Before the "holy laughter" of the "Toronto Blessing" there was the "holy howling" of the "Woodstock Revival"

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints...Let all things be done decently and in order. I Corinthians 14: 33, 40

From The Toronto Daily Star, November 22, 1937 (pp. 1-2):

JUDGE ASKS IF "HOWLING" IS A "RELIGIOUS SERVICE"
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Rev. Eno Kulbeck Appeals Against Conviction by Woodstock Magistrate
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APPEAL IS DISMISSED
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Rev. Eno Kulbeck appealed to the appellate court at Osgoode Hall today against his conviction at Woodstock.

The appeal was dismissed.

He was charged of having committed a common nuisance on Aug. 28 and numerous other occasions at Grace Tabernacle, Woodstock, "by conducting gatherings of persons in the said tabernacle in such a manner that the continued and repeated loud shouting and screaming and other noise, created until nearly midnight endangered and disturbed the peace and comfort of the public."

On the conviction Magistrate McCrimmon placed Mr. Kulbeck on suspended sentence and ordered him to pay the court costs or in the alternative to serve 30 days in jail.

W.R. Marshall, Ingersoll, and John A. Reid, Toronto, appeared for the appellant, and A.O. Klein for the crown.

"He was put on a bond to terminate his meeting, not later than 9:30 at night," said Mr. Marshall.

He contended that Kulbeck was convicted under Sections 222 and 223.

"He disturbed the whole neighborhood," said Mr. Justice Middleton. "I don't think that is correct," replied Mr. Marshall.

"Here was a minister of the Gospel who was conducting a religious service," said Mr. Marshall.

"Do you call that a religious service, howling and shouting?" asked Chief Justice Latchford.

Counsel, replying to the chief justice as to the evidence of shouting before the magistrate, said there was some.

"I have obtained four photographs of that section," continued counsel.

"Of the noise?" asked the chief justice.

"Why can't he conduct the services with decorum?" asked Mr. Justice Middleton.

The regular service was over at 9:30. After that persons had the privilege of approaching the altar and thank their Maker, explained counsel.

Revival Services

During the whole week they had revival and Sunday night was the final meeting, and having a special minister there it was a larger service.

Some of the residents heard the noise of a gang of boys outside the tabernacle, declared counsel.

"The charge against you," said the chief justice, "is what was going on inside, not what was going on outside the building."

"I would like to describe the type of religious service going on there," continued counsel.

"The type of service, according to the evidence, was a nuisance to people in the community," said Chief Justice Latchford.

"In the first instance, I contend that the holding of a religious service is not an unlawful act," said Mr. Marshall.

"No, it is the irreligious service, shouting, howling and screaming," returned the chief justice.

"We are faced with the fact that there was noise from boys outside," said counsel.

"I would not judge what was a religious service," said counsel, who added that the religion followed that of old time when people came close to their Maker. "They hear the old hymns and sing them," he said.

"Paul was force to preach in the open," counsel reminded the court.

Mr. Marshall contended that Kulbrick was illegally convicted under the sections referring to endangering the health and safety of the public.

"One woman says she could not get to sleep," remarked Mr. Justice Middleton.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

110 years ago: Lecturer denounces churches and the "1%"

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

From the The Toronto Daily Star, November 17, 1902, page 7:

RICH RULE THE CHURCHES
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AND THEY PREACH ALMS-GIVING INSTEAD OF JUSTICE.
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Hon. E.H. Crosby Explains the Attitude of the Laboring Man to Religious Bodies.

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"The Church and the Labor Problem" was the subject of the address yesterday afternoon at the Toronto Opera House by Hon. Ernest Howard Crosby, given under the auspices of the Single Tax Association. Speaking of the unequal distribution of wealth, the lecturer declared that while one laborer produced to-day as much as thirteen did 150 years ago, the results of the wonderful discoveries of the past century have gone into few hands, and have widened the chasm between the rich and the poor. In the United States one per cent. of the population owes more property than the other 99 per cent. The inventions of new machinery led to overproduction, and men in consequence were thrown out of employment and made incapable of buying. As production increased, the number of buyers decreased. This forced us to seek foreign markets, and when these are exhausted a crisis comes upon us. The speaker condemned the Socialistic remedy as impracticable and Utopian. The monopolies should be dealt with and rooted out before trying a complicated system of organized industries. The Church to-day too much represents the rich and their class interests. Instead of justice, it preaches an ineffectual kind of charity. It must take the side of labor.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Church of England rector hands out 10-pound notes to parishioners to invest

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. John 2:16

A clergyman whose name I don't recall has referred to the Church of England as "the natural spiritual home of the Queen and Mr. Bean." Submitted for your approval as evidence is this article by Tom Whitehead of the London Daily Telegraph on November 19, 2012, as published by the Canadian newspaper National Post:

A U.K. rector has handed out 10-pound notes to his parishioners in the hope that they can turn them into a fortune.

The Rev. Richard Steele has challenged his congregation to invest the cash wisely to help boost funds for repairs to Kirkheaton parish church in West Yorkshire.

The church needs 73,000 pounds, and the Rev. Steel hopes the 450 pounds he has handed out will return a profit.

He said he hoped his congregation would not use the money to gamble on horses or lottery tickets but hinted that he would accept any winnings.

“I rather think that it is not the kind of thing my people would do but I have not laid down any rules,” he said.

“It would be an interesting ethical debate that would have to be had if they did win.”

The Rev. Steel took the idea from the Parable of the Talents in the Bible, in which three servants are given the task of investing their master’s money.

He said: “Not everyone in the church has money to give so I thought I’d offer them some ‘seed capital’ to invest—maybe in baking cakes for sale, buying a car-washing kit, material to make cards or a woolly hat to keep warm when offering a dog-walking service. I’m not entirely sure what people will do but I’m looking
forward to hearing about all these great investments.”
For another article on the same subject, go here. The parable of the talents is found in Matthew 25:14-30.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mayas in Mexico aren't expecting the end of the world on December 21, 2012

My rough translation of an article in French by Judith Lachapelle that appeared in the Montreal newspaper La Presse on July 7, 2012:

CANCUN--"I don't believe it will be the end of the world. The Mayas likewise say that it will be the end of a cycle, or something like that. So, no, I don't think it will be the end of the world."

Mariana was there to extol the charms of Cancun, celebrated spa of the Mexican Riviera. She wasn't dodging the famous question on the imminence of the end of the world on account of December 21, 2012, it is believed in certain interpretations of the Maya calendar.

"You say "I believe." Aren't you sure?"

Mariana appeared disconcerted for several seconds. "It's true that many things happen since the beginning of the year, she candidly reflected in a high voice. I was in Mexico in March when there was an earthquake. I tell myself after all, maybe it's the end of the world, or "of one" world...No?"

Why not? Everything is sold, even the end of the world. The promise is based on a strongly doubtful interpretation of the Maya calendar, but business and tourism in Cancun leapt to the occasion. Talk about it for good, or talk about it for evil, but talk about it, as they say...

So, tour operators have found a "spiritual" message to transmit: end of the world or not, it's the ideal occasion "to make the point, to reflect on what we want to change in our life, and on the planet," recites Paula Gomez, representative of the tourist association who drew in May a group of journalists to extol the Maya Riviera, end of the world version.

The Yucatan peninsula evidently has all that's necessary to wash and purify the human spirit before the final Judgment. To start lots of of salt water and good temperature.

But it's not only on the sea that one surfs: spas now offer "Maya care," spectacles of grand unfolding and Maya ceremonies, and "Maya gastronomy" is repeated on the tablecloths.

And the Mayas inside there? They haven't disappeared--famines and diseases drove away their venerable cities before the arrival of the Spanish, but the Mayas, their language and their culture are still present in several regions of Mexico. But to find the authentic Maya in the carnival of the end of the world, it is necessary to go back to the sources.

A trip in the ancient cities of Tulum, Chichen Itza and especialy Coba, allows for better understanding of the roots of this advanced civilization which had--like many others of its contemporaries elsewhere--devised its own calendar. A calendar that has previewed, thus far, the end of a cycle of 5300 years in December 2012.

And after the end of the cycle? Herculano Kuyoccan, our May guide in Coba, lifts his eyes to the sky. And it's not to invoke Bolan Ok Te, the deity who is supposed to come at the end of the year. After December 2012? "Another cycle begins again. That's all."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

50 years ago: Second Vatican Council opens

On October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council at St. Peter's Basilica. Vatican II, the first ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican I in 1870, concluded on December 8, 1965 under Pope Paul VI, who succeeded John XXIII in 1963. The council addressed the church's relations with the modern world and other churches and religions, and is widely believed to have led to a liberalization in Roman Catholic doctrine.

It may come as a surprise--as it did to this blogger some years ago--to discover that Vatican II resulted in no major doctrinal changes in the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican II upheld the decrees of preceding ecumenical councils, including the Council of Trent, which contained many anathemas against Protestants. As promulgated by Pope Paul VI in Lumen Gentium on November 21, 1964:

51. This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea, the Council of Florence and the Council of Trent.
According to George Weigel in the Denver Catholic Register, October 10, 2012:

Vatican II was like no other ecumenical Council in history, in that it did not provide authoritative keys for its own interpretation: the Council Fathers wrote no creed, condemned no heresy, legislated no new canons, defined no dogmas...Vatican II did not displace the Church’s tradition. Vatican II did not create do-it-yourself-Catholicism.
For example, who think that the Roman Catholic Church had abandoned the practice of indulgences after the battle with Martin Luther in the 16th century may be surprised to read this excerpt from the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI titled Indulgentiarum Doctrina, proumulgated January 1, 1967:

In an indulgence in fact, the Church, making use of its power as minister of the Redemption of Christ, not only prays but by an authoritative intervention dispenses to the faithful suitably disposed the treasury of satisfaction which Christ and the saints won for the remission of temporal punishment.

The aim pursued by ecclesiastical authority in granting indulgences is not only that of helping the faithful to expiate the punishment due sin but also that of urging them to perform works of piety, penitence and charity—particularly those which lead to growth in faith and which favor the common good.

And if the faithful offer indulgences in suffrage for the dead, they cultivate charity in an excellent way and while raising their minds to heaven, they bring a wiser order into the things of this world.

The Magisterium of the Church has defended and illustrated this doctrine in various documents. Unfortunately, the practice of indulgences has at times been improperly used either through "untimely and superfluous indulgences" by which the power of the keys was humiliated and penitential satisfaction weakened, or through the collection of "illicit profits" by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed. But the Church, in deploring and correcting these improper uses "teaches and establishes that the use of indulgences must be preserved because it is supremely salutary for the Christian people and authoritatively approved by the sacred councils; and it condemns with anathema those who maintain the uselessness of indulgences or deny the power of the Church to grant them."

9. The Church also in our days then invites all its sons to ponder and meditate well on how the use of indulgences benefits their lives and indeed all Christian society.

To recall briefly the most important considerations, this salutary practice teaches us in the first place how it is "sad and bitter to have abandoned ... the Lord God." Indeed the faithful when they acquire indulgences understand that by their own powers they could not remedy the harm they have done to themselves and to the entire community by their sin, and they are therefore stirred to a salutary humility.

Furthermore, the use of indulgences shows us how closely we are united to each other in Christ, and how the supernatural life of each can benefit others so that these also may be more easily and more closely united with the Father. Therefore the use of indulgences effectively influences charity in us and demonstrates that charity in an outstanding manner when we offer indulgences as assistance to our brothers who rest in Christ.

10. Likewise, the religious practice of indulgences reawakens trust and hope in a full reconciliation with God the Father, but in such a way as will not justify any negligence nor in any way diminish the effort to acquire the dispositions required for full communion with God. Although indulgences are in fact free gifts, nevertheless they are granted for the living as well as for the dead only on determined conditions. To acquire them, it is indeed required on the one hand that prescribed works be performed, and on the other that the faithful have the necessary dispositions, that is to say, that they love God, detest sin, place their trust in the merits of Christ and believe firmly in the great assistance they derive from the Communion of Saints.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that by acquiring indulgences the faithful submit docilely to the legitimate pastors of the Church and above all to the successor of Blessed Peter, the keybearer of heaven, to whom the Savior himself entrusted the task of feeding his flock and governing his Church.

The salutary institution of indulgences therefore contributes in its own way to bringing it about that the Church appear before Christ without blemish or defect, but holy and immaculate, admirably united with Christ in the supernatural bond of charity. Since in fact by means of indulgences members of the Church who are undergoing purification are united more speedily to those of the Church in heaven, the kingdom of Christ is through these same indulgences established more extensively and more speedily "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the deep knowledge of the Son of God, to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ."
While Vatican II made no significant doctrinal changes, the council was significant in how it approached ecumenism and relations with non-Christian religions. For example, four decades before A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You'--in which the "Christian" signatories and endorsers acknowledge that their god is the same as that of the Muslims to whom they're responding--came along, there was this statement from Pope Paul VI's declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions titled Nostra Aetate, proclaimed October 28, 1965:

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, 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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

25 years ago: Jerry Falwell resigns as PTL chairman

On October 8, 1987, Rev. Jerry Falwell resigned as chairman of the PTL television “ministry” and the entire board of directors also resigned, more than six months after Rev. Falwell had taken the reins at the request of the “ministry’s” founder, Jim Bakker, when Mr. Bakker had become entangled in a sex scandal. The resignations of Rev. Falwell and the board came the day after a U.S. federal bankruptcy court rejected a reorganization plan submitted by Rev. Falwell, and ordered creditors of PTL to submit their own plan.

Sam Johnson, a member of the "ministry" team, took over from Mr. Falwell and incorporated a new entity called Heritage Ministries to run the PTL Club television program and other functions while the assets of the "ministry" and Heritage USA theme park were tied up in bankruptcy reorganization. Mr. Falwell, a Baptist, would have been wiser to led the "ministry" collapse under the "management" of Mr. Bakker, whose credentials were held by the Assemblies of God. When I think of Jerry Falwell's time as chairman of PTL, the main thing that comes to mind is the photo of him in his business suit going down the water slide at Heritage USA. A downhill slide was indeed an appropriate image for Heritage USA and televangelism in general.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Break Forth Canada 2013 lineup includes adulteress Amy Grant

May 10, 2013 update: I've been informed that the Gary Chapman who appeared at Break Forth 2013 was the author of The Five Love Languages, not the musician of the same name, who is Amy Grant's ex-husband. I was relying on information provided by the Break Forth website, which listed the names of those appearing at the conference. The link provided by the Break Forth website for Gary Chapman was to the musician, not the author, so I assumed that was the one who was at the conference. I apologize for the error, and the post has been corrected.

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Matthew 5:31-32

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
Matthew 19:3-9

And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Mark 10:10-12

Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. Luke 16:18

Anyone looking for evidence of declining standards of holiness in the professing evengelical church of Jesus Christ in the United States and Canada need look no further than the 2013 edition of the "Christian Youth" event known as Break Forth (I think "Break Wind" would be a better name) scheduled to take place in Edmonton, Alberta from January 25-27. The lineup includes contemplative spirituality proponent John Ortberg, psychologist Steve Arterburn (author of, among other books, Toxic Faith, one of the worst books of the 1990s). Most notably, Amy Grant, who has returned to "Christian" music now that her career as a mainstream popular artist has run its course (quite some years ago, actually) has been added to the lineup, which could make for some interesting dynamics, since her first husband, Gary Chapman, is also listed among the scheduled performing artists.

The item announcing Ms. Grant's appearance uses the following euphemistic language:

Like so many, Amy went through challenging times as her superstar status launched her to a level that no Christian artist has ever visited. Yet, these times forged her faith in the fires of trials and she came out stronger. When Amy speaks and sings she now brings a depth to her walk with Jesus that is known for its authenticity and humility.

To read the paragraph above, one would think that Ms. Grant passed whatever tests of faith she was subjected to. I can't judge her actual spiritual condition, but I'm entitled to an opinion based on behaviour, and when "challenging times" result in the collapse of a marriage and subsequent remarriage with no apparent remorse or repentance, I have my doubts about "authenticity and humility."I believe that it's possible for Christians to commit great sins; the church at Corinth in the 1st century was characterized by immorality (see I Corinthians 5:1 for a particularly grievous example), but even in this state Paul addressed them as Christians. He did, however, rebuke the believers at Corinth (see I Corinthians 5:2 ff.) for taking a boastful, rather than mournful, attitude. Fortunately, the Corinthians took Paul's attitude to heart (see II Corinthians 2) and repented. So far, I see no such repentant attitude toward immorality among celebrities in American and Canadian evangelicalism in the early 21st century. These celebrities should have the decency to shut up and refrain from proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ until they repent and give some evidence that He's actually the Lord of their lives, instead of exhibiting an attitude of "Let's just put this behind us and move on." As for Break Forth, I recommend that Christians call on those in charge to restrict the lineup of speakers and performers to those who are demonstrating faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the Bible not only in their doctrine, but in their lives as well.

Venus has always appealed to New Agers

According to Scott Van Wynsberghe in the Canadian newspaper National Post, September 4, 2012:

The existence of the planet has been known to humanity, in one way or another, for thousands of years. Yet much of its modern reputation rests on a dubious Russian-born mystic named Helena Blavatsky.

Celebrated as the co-founder (in 1875) of the occult movement Theosophy, but also denounced as a charlatan, Blavatsky issued a sort of planetary manifesto on behalf of Venus in 1887 that helped usher in decades of fascination with our closest planetary neighbour, Earth’s so-called “sister planet.”

Considering how its rival Mars has regularly hogged humanity’s attention, Venus needed the help, and it snagged a big fish with Blavatsky. Although she was already in her twilight years in the late 1880s (she died in 1891), Blavatsky had toured the world in search of arcane knowledge ranging from Western paganism to Eastern metaphysics. She also has exploited a number of men along the way, and otherwise misbehaved so badly that she was accused of both systematic plagiarism (by near-contemporary scholar William Emmette Coleman) and spiritualist fraud (by Britain’s Society for Psychical Research, in 1885).

Prior to 1887, Venus had received only sporadic interest. French novelist Achille Eyraud imagined a trip there in an 1865 book that apparently had little impact. More important was American occultist Thomas Lake Harris, who, around Eyraud’s time, wrote about such topics as his belief in a Venusian master-race that oversaw early human development. L. Sprague de Camp, a historian of such claptrap, regarded Harris as a forerunner to Blavatsky.

Blavatsky issued her Venusian manifesto in the form of a magazine and an essay. The magazine, which she founded, was ominously entitled Lucifer, and its first issue was dated September 1887. Inside, one found her article entitled The History of a Planet, which clarified the publication’s title. Venus, she announced, was an occult casualty of early Christian arrogance — “sacrificed to the ambition of our little globe to show the latter [as] the ‘chosen’ planet of the Lord.”

In ancient Greek times, Blavatsky continued, Venus had been known under a variety of names that came to be translated by the Romans into Latin as Lucifer (“Light-bringer”). Unfortunately, an ambiguous Old Testament passage (Isaiah, 14:12), once rendered into Latin, also used that name and gradually came to be regarded by early Christian theologians as a reference to Satan. So Venus became tainted, along with all pagan beliefs associated with the planet, making Blavatsky’s initiative an effort to reclaim that non-Satanic pre-Christian heritage. (For the record, Blavatsky was rather accurate about that problematic Isaiah passage, judging from Bible scholars Otto Kaiser and Jeffrey Burton Russell.)

Regardless of the state of what might be called Venusian popular culture before Blavatsky, that culture certainly flourished after her — but it was weird.

According to L. Sprague de Camp, one Frederick Spencer Oliver claimed in an 1894 tome that he had encountered a secret society of mystics that had taken him on an out-of-body visit to Venus. Likewise, around the turn of that century, British Theosophist W. Scott-Elliot began reiterating the notion of Venusian supervision for prehistoric humanity.

Not helping matters at this point was astronomer Percival Lowell, now infamous for claiming non-existent canals on Mars. Lowell insisted he saw spoke-like structures spreading from a central hub on the face of Venus, but nobody else did, and it is now thought that glaring light from the planet inadvertently illuminated the blood vessels of Lowell’s eye, as in an ocular examination.

Such novelists as Gustavus W. Pope (1895), John Munro (1897), George Griffith (1901), and Garrett P. Serviss (1911) all described trips to Venus. Going by Den Waldron, who has reviewed some of this material for the ERBzine website, the Serviss book may be particularly important, because it describes a Venus that is partly oceanic. This concept of a “wet” Venus received backing in 1918, when Sweden’s Nobel-laureate chemist (and part-time astronomer) Svante Arrhenius recklessly declared in a book that “everything on Venus is dripping wet.”

Sorry, Svante: As described by British astronomer Bernard Lovell in a 1967 article for the Times of London, a spectroscopic analysis of light from Venus in 1922 showed very little water or even oxygen. This study was repeated a decade later with even more disappointing results, with large amounts of carbon dioxide now turning up. However, the influence of Venusian popular culture was such that denial set in. In a 1932 adventure set on Venus, Edgar Rice Burroughs acknowledged discouraging data but went ahead with his tale anyway. Another science fiction writer, Stanley G. Weinbaum, did the same thing in a 1935 short story.

Occultists were even more oblivious. In 1934, the American couple Guy and Edna Ballard formed the “I AM” sect, which drew heavily on Theosophy, and featured Venusian elements. In 1943, Britain’s C.S. Lewis restaged the Garden of Eden fable on Venus in his Christian-mystical novel Perelandra. In 1945, John Whiteside Parsons ­— a ubiquitous figure who linked the worlds of rocketry, science fiction and the supernatural — reportedly had a vision in the Mojave Desert involving a Venusian. In turn, Parsons knew L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, who later claimed his own Venusian experience (although this would be downplayed by Scientology officials in the early 1970s). Other religious groups related to Venus included the Aetherius Society (founded in 1956) and Eckankar (1965). By the 1950s, Venus was so influential in popular culture that it sometimes outdid Mars — even, amazingly, in the UFO field.

Of course, Venus always has had the advantage of its brightness, which has caused countless mistaken reports of flying saucers. Although UFO researchers can be touchy about Venus, such prominent figures as J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee and Frank Salisbury all conceded that the planet caused a lot of false sightings. As well, many of the people who surfaced in the 1950s to report not just sightings but actual contact with alien beings were talking about Venusians. In a 1977 survey by J. Gordon Melton, a sampling of 35 of these early “contactees” featured 13 cases of Venusians and only 11 with Martians. Suspecting something other than spacemen, UFO writers Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman have commented: “The Venusian claims usually contain the strongest religious overtones..."

...And then it all came crashing down. In 1962, the U.S. unmanned space vehicle Mariner 2 flew close to Venus and became the first Earth probe to complete an interplanetary mission. A flurry of U.S. and Soviet spacecrafts followed, and the results were nasty. The atmosphere turned out to be mostly carbon dioxide (with a bit of sulfuric acid) and was so thick that surface pressure was 90 times that of Earth, while the surface temperature was not far off 500C...

...So the fun was gone, and Venus really did merit a Satanic image. Interest among authors and filmmakers dwindled, although environmental scientists now had a poster girl for the dangers of greenhouse gases. “Venus,” concluded space historian William Burroughs in 1998, “was a warning.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Britain's chief rabbi accuses Richard Dawkins of anti-Semitism in his view of the Bible

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

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 14, 2012:

Britain's chief rabbi has accused the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins of relying on an anti-Semitic view of the Bible in his recent book.

Speaking at a debate filmed by the BBC earlier this month in Salford, Sacks said that a remark in Dawkins’s best-selling book "The God Delusion" was based on “centuries of prejudice.”

"I read it as a profoundly anti-Semitic passage,” the chief rabbi said.

Sacks was referring to a passage in the book that said the God of the Old Testament was the “most unpleasant character in all fiction”.

Dawkins, a professor at Oxford University, dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous” and said he was not “anti-Jewish” just “anti-God”.

Dawkins said he was joking when he asserted that the stories of the Old Testament suggested God was “jealous,” “petty,” “pestilential,” a “megalomaniac” and a “bully."

“There are Christian atheists and Jewish atheists, you read the Bible in a Christian way," Sacks said in response. "Christianity has an adversarial way of reading what it calls the Old Testament -- it has to because it says 'We’ve gone one better, we have a New Testament.'"
Of course, Rabbi Sacks' comment that there are "Christian atheists" is just as silly as the drivel spewed by Richard Dawkins.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Scientology treatment to be used on Vietnamese Agent Orange victims

As reported by Chris Brummitt of The Associated Press, September 6, 2012:

HANOI, Vietnam - Alleged victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam are set to receive a controversial "detoxification" treatment developed by the Church of Scientology.

Scientologists use the "Hubbard Method", which involves saunas and vitamins, to try to cure drug addiction and alcoholism. The church set up a center in New York after the 9/11 attacks offering a similar service for first responders who may have been exposed to toxins.

Many researchers have criticized the method as pseudoscientific and useless.

A hospital official and state-controlled media said 24 people were at a Hanoi hospital on Thursday waiting for the program. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The U.S. military dumped some 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of Agent Orange and other herbicides on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971, decimating about 5 million acres (2 million hectares) of forest , roughly the size of Massachusetts.

Dioxins in it have since been linked to birth defects, though the United States maintains there is no evidence of any link between Agent Orange and health problems among Vietnamese.

"I hope my wife and I will fully recover completely and will not suffer after-effects to pass on to my descendants," prospective patient Nguyen Dai Sang was quoted as saying in the Viet Nam News daily.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Christopher Hodges said Washington was not funding the program and said "we are not aware of any safe, effective detoxification treatment for people with dioxin in body tissues."

Last month, the U.S. began a landmark project cleaning up toxins from the site of a former air base in Danang in central Vietnam. Part of the former base consists of a dry field where U.S. troops once stored and mixed the defoliant before it was loaded onto planes.

Washington has been quibbling for years over the need for more scientific research to show that the herbicide caused health problems among Vietnamese. It has given about $60 million for environmental restoration and social services in Vietnam since 2007, including to disabled people, but the Danang project is its first direct involvement in cleaning up dioxin, which has seeped into Vietnam's soil and watersheds for generations.

The "Hubbard Method" is named after Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Its adherents have tried unconventional approaches to health issues in Asia at least once before. In 2004, they travelled to Indonesia's Aceh province to offer massages to survivors of the Asian tsunami, claiming they could relieve trauma from the disaster.
Go here to see the article in Viet Nam News.

Jewish Democratic county chairman in Florida resigns after inflammatory remarks about Christians

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 9, 2012:

The chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party resigned after saying that pro-Israel Christians want to see Jews "slaughtered and converted."

Mark Alan Siegel resigned on Friday, a day after he apologized for the remarks he had made two days earlier during an interview on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention.

“My comments merely served as a distraction to the good work of Democrats in Palm Beach," Siegel said in a statement released Friday by the state party, according to the Palm Beach Post. "Again, I express my deepest apologies to anyone I may have offended.”

Siegel, an attorney, had apologized the day after making the comments but reportedly refused to resign, instead offering to take an extended leave of absence.

Siegel had told the conservative Patriot Update website that as a Jew, he was "not a fan of any religion other than Judaism." Asked if he is a fan of Christianity, Siegel responded, according to the Palm Beach Post, "No, I'm not. The Christians just want us to be there so we can be slaughtered and converted and bring on the second coming of Jesus Christ."

He continued, “They’re not our friends. They want Israel to pursue policies which are antithetical with its security and existence. The worst possible allies for the Jewish state are the fundamentalist Christians, who want Jews to die and convert so they can bring on the second coming of their Lord. It is a false friendship. They are seeking their own ends and not ours."

A group of Buddhist monks in Thailand claims that Steve Jobs has been reincarnated as a divine being

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

As reported by James Hookway in The Wall Street Journal Southeast Asia, August 31, 2012:

KHLONG LUANG, Thailand – When Apple Inc AAPL -2.60%. founder Steve Jobs died after a long fight with cancer last year, software engineer Tony Tseung sent an email to a Buddhist group in Thailand to find out what happened to his old boss now that he’s no longer of this world.

This month, Mr. Tseung received his answer. Mr. Jobs has been reincarnated as a celestial warrior-philosopher, the Dhammakaya group said in a special television broadcast, and he’s living in a mystical glass palace hovering above his old office at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters.

Mr. Jobs’s death unleashed a wave of grief across the world when he died last October. From Shanghai to Sydney to New York, admirers of his iconic devices laid flowers and lit candles to mourn his passing. Some commentators described the outpouring as an homage to a kind of secular prophet whose innovations changed the ways millions of people live their lives, strengthening the appeal of a brand which already was approaching cult-like status.

Some of Mr. Jobs’s admirers in Malaysia later gathered on a tropical island and in a religious ceremony each took a bite from an apple before flinging the fruit into the sea in a bid to speed up his reincarnation.

Now, Phra Chaibul Dhammajayo, abbot at the Dhammakaya Temple here just north of Bangkok, claims Mr. Jobs has already been reborn.

“After Steve Jobs passed away, he was reincarnated as a divine being with a special knowledge and appreciation for science and the arts,” the Dhammakaya leader said in the first of a series of sermons beamed to hundreds of thousands of the group’s followers around the world.

Phra Chaibul’s claims are impossible to corroborate, and his sermons have unleashed significant criticism, including from some skeptics who suspect he is just trying to get attention to help with fundraising. Among other things, he has said the reincarnated Mr. Jobs spends much of his time lounging in a glass palace resembling an Apple store. Phra Chaibul also has said the being formerly known as Steve Jobs is attended by 20 servants, who seem to resemble the Apple store ‘Geniuses’ who help customers set up their iPhones and other devices here on earth.

Senior monks at the Dhammakaya Temple declined requests for comment.

Either way, it’s not surprising that 68-year-old Phra Chaibul (the ‘Phra’ is a religious title) has latched onto the Jobs phenomenon. Many Thais are well aware of the interest Mr. Jobs had in Buddhism. Biographies of the former Apple chief were translated into the local language and took up entire shelves in local bookstores, while dozens of local magazines featured him on their covers.

Apple’s mantra of using technology to bring people closer together also dovetails neatly with the teachings of the orange-robed monks at the Dhammakaya Temple. They preach a worldly, tech-savvy form of Buddhism which instructs worshipers that it isn’t a sin to grow rich, as long as they contribute a chunk of their earnings to the Dhammakaya cause.

At the group’s headquarters here in Khlong Luang, a little north of Bangkok, tens of thousands of worshipers flock each weekend to a giant flying saucer-shaped structure surrounded by a vast network of airport-like corridors and meeting halls that’s comparable in size to the Pentagon. Anthropologists frequently liken the Dhammakaya group to Christian televangelists operating in countries such as the U.S., Brazil and the Philippines.

“The Dhammakaya Temple identifies itself as a ‘modern temple for a modern age,’” Rachelle Scott at the University of Tennessee wrote in a recent book on Thai religious movements. “It chooses to present itself as modern in select ways, whether by employing a contemporary aesthetic, using new technologies, or re-interpreting key doctrines and practices through a modern lens.”

But by adopting Mr. Jobs to help spread its theology, the Dhammakaya group has certainly raised eyebrows, including upsetting some Buddhists.

Other Buddhist leaders disapprove of Phra Chaibul’s sermons, which are titled “Where Is Steve Jobs?” They say they are a stunt designed to lure more followers to Dhammakaya’s vast sanctuary. “Even if it is true, it is just showing off and has nothing to do with Lord Buddha’s teachings,” said one prominent religious authority, Phra Payom Kallayano.

Another revered scholar and temple abbot, Phra Paisal Visalo, told local media here that he is worried that many more people will follow Mr. Tseung, the software engineer at Apple in California, by seeking Dhammakaya’s help in contacting deceased friends and relatives.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter...

...Sporting a shaved head and over-sized glasses, Phra Chaibul, a soft-spoken trained economist, advises students to closely analyze Mr. Jobs’s life so they can better understand their own role in this world, and beyond...

...The spiritual rewards also appear to be worth the effort, at least according to Phra Chaibul. He says that Mr. Jobs now enjoys sleeping on a floating hover-bed, and when he thinks of a piece of music he would like to hear, it automatically plays. If he is hungry, an aide quickly brings him a tasty treat...

...What’s more, Mr. Jobs was reborn in a younger, more handsome form. Phra Chaibul says he now appears to be around 35 to 40 years old, with a full head of hair. Artist renderings accompanying Phra Chaibul’s lectures show a rejuvenated Mr. Jobs living in a photo-shopped, air-brushed utopia where he hangs out with other sprites and revels in the achievements of friends and colleagues he left behind on earth.

30 years ago: Episcopal Church revises its hymnal

On September 9, 1982, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America adopted a revision of its hymnal, adding some hymns, dropping others, and revising lyrics to eliminate masculine language:

"The Hymnal 1982 retains the best of the past and sets forth many riches of our own time. [The Standing Commission on Church Music] looked for theological orthodoxy, poetic beauty, and integrity of meaning. At the same time, the Commission was especially concerned that the hymnody affirm 'the participation of all in the Body of Christ the Church, while recognizing our diverse natures of children of God.' … Texts and music which reflect the pluralistic nature of the Church have been included, affording the use of Native American, Afro-American, Hispanic, and Asian material" (Preface, The Hymnal 1982, Church Pension Fund, 1985).

According to an Associated Press article filed September 9, 1982 that appeared in The New York Times the following day:

The new collection, a result of a decade of work by scholars, poets, musicians and theologians, is the first hymn book revision in 42 years for the denomination's 7,578 congregations.

Among other changes, James Russell Lowell, the 19th-century American writer, is out and W.H. Auden, the Anglo-American poet who died in 1973, is in. About 40 per cent of the book involves new hymns.

Lowell's lyrics for "Once to Every Man and Nation" in the old hymnal were voted out of the new book as the delegates made several refinements late Wednesday. But Auden's poem "He Is the Way" was voted for inclusion among 262 new hymn texts for the revised hymnal, to retain 347 of 600 numbers in the old book.

In the three hours of debate and voting on the new hymnal, some old-time hymns that had enthusiastic advocates were deleted in the prolonged discussion.

Among those delted were "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "I Need Thee Every Hour," "Turn Back, O Man," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic..."

...In other convention actions, the bishops approved recognition and provisional intercommunion with three Lutheran denominations that have voted to merge. The House of Deputies has yet to act on the matter...

...In the debate on the hymnal, some songs that were recommended for deletion by a hymn revision commission headed by the Rev. Marion Hatchett of Sewanee, Tenn., were restored in floor action by the bishops or deputies.

These included "Now the Day is Over," "America," "I Sing a Song to the Saints of God," "Almighty Father, Strong to Save," and "Stand Up, Stand Up, for Jesus."

Lowell's poem was dropped because it seems to deny a Christian premise that God repeatedly forgives people and gives them many chances to mend their ways, Mr. Hatchett said. The opening verse reads:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some grerat cause, God's new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
'Twixt that darkness and that light.

A hymn text by Rudyard Kipling, England's first Nobel Prize winner in literature (1907), was deleted because it was "uncomfortably imperialistic," the commission said.

The hymn was Kipling's "Recessional," an 1897 poem also called "God of Our Fathers, Known of Old." The offending words were in the last two verses:

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law--
Lord god of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word--
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Syndicated columnist Andy Rooney, who was not a Christian, criticized the new hymnal in a column that appeared in the September 20, 1982 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is out of their new hymn book, for example. Can you believe that? There won't be any more singing: "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,/With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me..."

...Several years ago, after a bitter argument in church hierarchy, women were admitted to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Now, church leaders are going even further by eliminating references to sex in the hymns. Where a hymn uses the word "brother" or "son," they're changing it to a word with a neuter gender, like "disciple" or "child."

At the meeting where the changes were approved, the Episcopalians had an argument over whether or not to leave in the patriotic hymn "My Country, 'Tis of Thee." It was left in, but I imagine the people who didn't want it were sixth grade English teachers who sais that there was no such word as 'tis in the dictionary.

We'll close today by singing the first three stanzas of "Onward Christian Military Personnel."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

30 years ago: Three liberal U.S. Lutheran churches agree to merge

On September 8, 1982, the Lutheran Church in America, American Lutheran Church, and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches voted to merge to form a new church, which would become the third-largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The merger, which created the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, didn't come into effect until January 1, 1988. A more accurate name for the organization would be the Apostate Lutheran Poliical and Social Advocacy Organization in America.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Worship at the Water offers church in a bar in Florida

Unfortunately, the following news report offers little information on the content of the sermons, but given the United Methodist Church's liberalism, I have my suspicions. As reported by Melissa Nelson-Gabriel of Associated Press, August 25, 2012:

Perdido Key, Fla.

On a balmy Sunday morning at the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package and Oyster Bar, barkeeps set up their stations as churchgoers filtered in under a Jack Daniels banner.

The bar, which sits on the Florida and Alabama state line, is famous for its annual mullet-tossing contest — patrons gather on the beach and throw dead fish from Alabama into Florida.

Bikini contests, bar brawls and drink specials are the day-to-day business of the beach bar that calls itself "America's last roadhouse."

But for one hour every Sunday, the Flora-Bama is home to about 450 regular congregants of Worship at the Water, an outreach service of the Perdido Bay United Methodist Church. More than 1,100 filled the place on Easter Sunday.

Bible study is in the upstairs bar.

If Jesus returned to Earth, he'd probably kick back at the Flora-Bama, said Jack de Jarnette, a founding pastor of the church.

"It's the sort of place he often went and hung out with people," he said. "When you cannot get people to come to church, the alternative is to bring the church to them."

A band in tie-dyed T-shirts played Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," as parishioners gathered underneath an awning adorned with rows of Land Shark beer flags on a recent Sunday. Most wore flip-flops and shorts, but some wore swimsuits.

"If you look closely, you might see a few of the churchgoers having a Bloody Mary or a bushwhacker," longtime bar employee Blitz Poston said. "It's really a wonderful thing that brings together people from all walks of life."

Offerings are collected in neon tackle boxes placed throughout the bar.

Pastor Jeremy Mount wears Mardi Gras beads, shorts, sandals and T-shirt that is fringed around the sleeves.

"There are seven places to drink and no place to worship God on this key," he said. "We feel like God has called us here to be a ministry. Where would there ever be a better place than the world-renowned Flora-Bama?"

His sermon is one of redemption and hope, followed by a communion with bread and grape juice instead of wine.

Many members of his flock were regular churchgoers before they started attending the Flora-Bama service. Others have become regulars because they like the unique setting, Mount said.

"Some had never been to church, ever, but they felt so comfortable here in the Flora-Bama," he said.

Church member Paul Holland is a longtime fan of the Flora-Bama, which he says is a five-star honky-tonk filled with top-shelf rednecks. He has become an even bigger fan of the church service.

"I don't want to be judged because I don't have a three-piece-suit and I don't drive a brand-new car and this is that kind of church — they don't judge you. I feel like I'm more welcome in this church than any I've ever attended in my life," he said.

The service is just a year old, starting on July 4, 2011.

Church volunteer Joye Fletcher was baptized behind the Flora-Bama in the Gulf of Mexico during Worship at the Water's first anniversary. "It's just an awesome spirit-led service," she said.

The service is often a surprise for the tourists who flock to the strip of snow-white sand and turquoise water during the summer months, said Bruce Barrios, the bar's Sunday manager.

"We have so many people in from out of town. We have people come in and when they see we are having church they pick up a Bloody Mary, a bushwhacker or a soft drink, sit down and listen to the sermon. It's really cool, you know, it's unique."

San Francisco Roman Catholic Archbishop-elect apologizes for drunk driving arrest

As reported by Elliot Spagat and Lisa Leff of Associated Press, August 28, 2012:

San Diego — The Roman Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco has apologized for his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, behavior that he said brought "shame" and "disgrace" on himself and the church, though legal experts said was unlikely to derail his promotion.

The Rev. Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement issued Monday by his office that he was driving home from a dinner with friends in San Diego with his mother and a visiting priest friend early Saturday when he was pulled over at a DUI checkpoint near San Diego State University.

The statement said a sobriety test showed his blood-alcohol level to be above the legal limit, although Cordileone did not reveal by how much.

"I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself," he said. "I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this."

Cordileone, 56, serves as bishop of Oakland and is scheduled to be installed as San Francisco archbishop on Oct. 4, five days before his first court date.

Pope Benedict XVI selected him last month to replace Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring in October.

Cordileone was stopped around 12:30 a.m. on the outskirts of the campus, a residential area of modest houses, apartment buildings and restaurants where college students mix with the general population.

The archbishop-elect was booked into San Diego County jail two hours later then released at 11:59 a.m. Saturday on $2,500 bond, sheriff's records show. The San Diego city attorney's office, which prosecutes misdemeanor DUI offenses, said it had not received a report on the arrest.

Cordileone took a breath test that confirmed his blood-alcohol content exceeded California's legal limit of 0.08 percent, said Officer Mark McCullough, who declined to say by how much.

"He was a driver that was obviously impaired, but he was quite cordial and polite throughout," said McCullough, who was at the scene. "He was not a belligerent drunk at all. ... There were no problems with him throughout the night.

Cordileone, one of 11 people arrested at the checkpoint that night, identified himself as a priest, said McCullough. An officer did an Internet search and learned he was archbishop-elect.

Canon law experts said a criminal charge would not automatically prompt a delay in Cordileone's installation as archbishop, which is scheduled to take place at St. Mary's Cathedral on Oct. 4, the feast day of San Francisco's patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi.

Because Catholic bishops are answerable only to the pope, any potential discipline would have to come from the Vatican, said Michael Ritty, a canon lawyer in private practice in upstate New York.

"If there was anything, it would be handled in Rome, most likely by the Congregation for Bishops. Depending on the question or type of criminal charge, it might go directly to the pope or as directly as you can get," Ritty said.

Cordileone is a native of San Diego, where he was ordained as a priest in 1982. He has been bishop of Oakland for a little more than three years, and before that, he served as an auxiliary bishop in San Diego.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, predicted that Cordileone's arrest, while embarrassing, would only draw a response from Rome if it appeared he had a serious substance abuse problem that prevented him from carrying out the archbishop duties.

"The bottom line is there is no real requirement that he resign," Reese said. "If he is an out-of-control alcoholic who can't function, that would be an issue, but obviously he has been the bishop of Oakland all these years and he seems to be able to function. Nobody knows if he has a drinking problem or was one fraction over the (blood alcohol) limit."

Noting that forgiveness is an integral part of the Catholic faith, Reese recalled the 1985 DUI arrest of the late Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Roach, who pleaded guilty and served two days in jail but remained popular in the post for another decade.

Cordileone will have to "explain this to people, and depending on what he does and how it's perceived, we'll see how it goes," he said. "It could make him more human."

While serving in San Diego four years ago, Cordileone was instrumental in devising an initiative to strip same-sex couples of the right to wed in California. He was part of a statewide network of clergy that promoted the measure, known as Proposition 8. Campaign finance records show he personally gave at least $6,000 to back the voter-approved ban.

Since last year, Cordileone has been chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

Religion has a great influence on Americans' charitable donations

As reported by Ben Grose of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 19, 2012:

Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt...

...Perhaps nowhere is the role of religion clearer than in Utah, where the majority of residents are Mormon.

The Provo-Orem metropolitan area is especially generous, with its residents giving an average of 13.9 percent of their discretionary income to charity.

James T. Evans, chief operating officer at Xactware, a software company in Orem with 450 employees, says he saw the number of Xactware employees who donate to the United Way shoot up from a handful a few years ago to 70 last fall, after the company sent a record number of volunteers to a “Day of Caring” event organized by the United Way.

“The volunteering hooks people into the important needs in our community,” Mr. Evans says. “Then during the workplace campaign, they say 'Gosh, I’ve seen some of those needs—I should give a little more.’”

Mr. Evans and his wife, Tana, also give generously, on top of their support for the Mormon Church. While watching their daughter play high-school basketball, they noticed the boys teams always got more attention. That prompted the couple to endow a women’s basketball scholarship at Brigham Young University for $250,000.

The Evanses also give more than $10,000 a year to the United Way and make gifts to their school district to pay for small projects. “After taking care of our home and putting some aside for retirement, we just look for opportunities to give the other stuff away,” says Mr. Evans, who became mayor of Orem last October.

Giving 'Primes the Pump’

People like Mr. Evans are common across America, says Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Mr. Brooks wrote a book, Who Really Cares, that examined research on giving and found that religious people give more generously to secular charities—even environmental causes and the arts—than nonreligious people.

“They’re just in a giving culture,” Mr. Brooks says. “You give to one thing, and it primes the pump and you give more to everything.”

But some nonprofit experts question whether religious donations should even factor into generosity rankings. “Giving to a church is a different kind of giving than giving to other charities,” says Steve Rothschild, founder of a job-training program in Minneapolis. “Giving to a church is 'inward-centered’: You get a personal benefit from it. If you’re giving to an antipoverty program, it’s 'other-centered.’”

Nonprofit boosters in New Hampshire might be happier if religion were excluded. A study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found that the residents of New Hampshire—which ranked dead last in both surveys by The Chronicle—weren’t stingy; they were simply nonbelievers.

“New Hampshire gives next to nothing to religious organizations,” says Patrick Rooney, the center’s leader, “but their secular giving is identical to the rest of country.”

In The Chronicle’s study, New Hampshire rises from last to 38th—still in the bottom quartile—after the adjustment to remove religious giving.

Starting in 1999, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation tried to stimulate greater generosity through a public-awareness campaign about the state’s low giving rates, but it didn’t accomplish much, and it has since been largely disbanded.

“I don’t think data and finger-wagging inspire people,” says Deborah Schachter, who once directed the Giving New Hampshire drive and still works at the community foundation.

No matter how hopeless the situation seems to be, Israelis never quit and ask no mercy of their opponents...

...even in Little League baseball. As reported by Adam Soclof of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, August 26, 2012:

On July 24, 1989, Israel had a rough introduction to the Little League Baseball arena at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Reports on the severity of the shutout varied -- JTA said 30-0, Reuters 50-0, and self-proclaimed "King of Jewish Baseball" blogger Nate Fish claims the box score read 51-0. Whatever the final score, JTA's Hugh Orgel wrote at the time, "It was perhaps the worst defeat ever suffered by Israel at the hands of an Arab country. Luckily, the lopsided battle took place on a baseball diamond."

During the drubbing, Israel had the chance to forfeit under the league's mercy rule. But Reuters reported, According to Reuters, though, Israel's coach Larry Blecher made his players stick it out:

If a team is completely outclassed, the rules allow them to concede when they trail by 10 runs. But Israeli coach Larry Bleicher refused, even though the Saudis had already scored 13 runs in the first inning and 22 in the third on their way to victory, saying he wanted his team to have the practice.

One poll finds a decrease in the proportion of the world's people describing themselves as religious--while another poll finds Israelis going in the opposite direction

As reported by Yoav Friedman of Ynet News, August 28, 2012:

A poll conducted last February by the Guttman Center for Surveys of the Israel Democracy Institute shows a rise in the proportion of Israelis who define themselves as religious Jews, yet the world is heading in the other direction.

The latest Gallup poll the results of which were published on Monday show that 59% percent of the world's population labeled itself religious, a 9% drop from previous surveys.
The poll, titled “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism" included over 59,000 people from 57 nations, Israel not included. Each person was asked the following question "Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say that you are a religious person, not a religious person, or an atheist?"

Results show that alongside the 59% "religious",23% define themselves as "non religious"; 13% as "atheists" and 5% "without definition."

Despite the large scope of the poll, only 106 Jews were interviewed. They turned out to be the most secular group compared to other religions. Only 38% of the Jews defined themselves as religious; 54% defined themselves non religious and 2% - atheists. In comparison, 83% of Protestants and 81% of Catholics defined themselves as religious. Some 74% of Muslims claim they are religious.

The low proportion of religious Jews coincides with a 2009 Poll by the Guttman center which found that 7% of Israelis define themselves as "ultra-Orthodox"; 15% as "religious"; 32% as "traditional"; 43% as secular and 3% as anti religious seculars.

The Gallup poll also shows that the poorer you are the more religious you're likely to be. While the bottom 20% of the population (in terms of income) boasts 66% who define themselves as religious, the top 20% has only 49% religious.

Of the 57 countries who participated in the poll, the top 10 most religious countries were Ghana: (96%) Nigeria, Armenia, Fiji, Macedonia, Romania, Iraq, Kenya, Peru, Brazil (85%).

The top 10 atheist countries were China: (47% atheist), Japan, Czech Republic, France, South Korea, Germany, Netherlands and Austria, Iceland, Australia, Ireland (10% atheist each).

Vietnam displays the largest drop in self proclaimed people of faith - from 53% to 30% - in the past six years. France showed the biggest increase in "atheists" - from 14% in 2005 to 29% in 2011.

The poll didn't find a large gap between women and men who define themselves as religious (57% and 60% respectively) but there seems to be a link between education and religiousness. Of the interviewees who have only an elementary education 68% consider themselves religious compared to 61% and 52% of high school & university graduates respectively.

Assault on rabbi in Berlin prompts Jewish seminary to advise students not to wear skullcaps in public

As reported by Madeline Chambers of Reuters, August 30, 2012:

One of the first rabbis ordained in Germany since the Holocaust has been beaten up on a Berlin street, prompting a seminary to advise its students not to wear skullcaps in public.

Daniel Alter, 53, was attacked in front of his young daughter after collecting her from a piano lesson on Tuesday after a young man asked him "Are you a Jew?", said Berlin police.

A group of four young men hit him in the face repeatedly, shouted religious insults and threatened to kill his daughter. The rabbi needed hospital treatment to his face.

German media reported that the attackers "probably had an Arab background". The country's Central Council of Muslims condemned the attack.

Alter told Bild daily he was shocked at the shameless way his attackers had assaulted him in front of his daughter.

Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned the attack, saying it showed violent anti-Semitism had again become a serious social problem.

Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit said the incident was "an attack on the peaceful co-existence of all people in the capital".

Germany's official Jewish population has grown more than 10-fold in the last 20 years, largely thanks to an influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union, but anti-Semitic attacks are commonplace and policemen guard synagogues round the clock.

SECURITY

Alter was made a rabbi in Dresden in 2006. He and two others were the first to be ordained in Germany since 1942, when the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin was destroyed by the Nazi Gestapo secret police.

His father survived Auschwitz concentration camp.

In an interview with Reuters in 2007, Alter said he was worried about anti-Semitism and wore a baseball hat over his skullcap because he was worried about being identified as a Jew.

At the time of the attack, however, his skullcap was not concealed.

The Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, currently training 28 rabbis, said it had boosted security around the building as a result of the attack and was checking mail.

"We have also given guidelines to our students on how to behave so that they do not become victims of such attacks," the college's rector Walter Homolka told the Berliner Morgenpost.

"We have advised them not to wear their skullcaps on the street, but to choose something inconspicuous to cover their head with," he said.

He urged the police and intelligence services to deal with violent Muslims. "It would be fatal if we were to see a proxy Middle East war on German streets," he said.

The Central Council of Muslims said Muslims were shocked by such incidents.

"At this time, Jews and Muslims must stand together and make clear: violence of any color has no place with us," said the Council's chairman Aiman Mazyek in a statement.

The American Jewish Committee called on Germany's parliament to act on a report on anti-Semitism which included recommendations on ways to combat anti-Semitism.

The report also said that anti-Semitism was entrenched in German society, manifesting itself in hate crime as well as in abusive language used by ordinary people.

"German lawmakers should not delay any longer adopting a comprehensive plan to combat anti-Semitism," said Deidre Berger, the AJC's Berlin director.

Fourth Muslim-Jewish dialogue to take place in Toronto

As reported by The Algemeiner, September 2, 2012:

On the initiative of Weekly Press Pakistan news service, a fourth Muslim – Jewish dialogue meeting will take place in Toronto, Canada on September 9th.

The dialogue is comprised of sessions of group discussions between Jews and non-Arab Muslims, geared towards the boost of people-to-people dialogue. The meeting is for adults as well as for teenagers, who will meet in separate groups. The meetings are designed to provide an opportunity to meet new friends and remove stereotypes. The demand from potential registrants for the coming session is reportedly high, including six requests from Pakistan-based Muslim journalists who want to attend.

Forty Muslims and Jews participated in the last meeting which took place in April. The two hour meeting involved men and women convening in four small work groups. The Muslims, on their part, stressed the difference between Arbi (Arab) and Ajmi (non-Arab) Muslims, and the positive attitudes of the latter toward Israel. The participants from both sides talked about the importance of tolerance and mutual respect, as well as the importance of confronting stereotypes. They explored topics such as spirituality, what makes for a good person, and what is necessary for enlightened collaboration between the two religions.

Khaleel Siddiqui, a senior Pakistani-Canadian journalist, stated during the last meeting: “The frank discussions, I hope, will open a new chapter in Jewish – Muslim relations. I believe that the misunderstanding between the two communities will be ended. Real Muslims are not terrorists and enemies of the Jewish people. Judaism and Islam have the same source – the religion of Abraham. Our God is one; we have similar religious instructions regarding many issues.” Another participant commented: “I am glad to be part of another very successful session of Jewish-Muslim Toronto Dialogue. It was very friendly, and intellectuals from both sides exchanged their thoughts. We also talked about what one idea or thought each can bring to the table which can help resolve present problems in the world.”