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.