Saturday, 19 June 2021

60 years ago: U.S. Supreme Court sides with atheist in Maryland case

On June 19, 1961, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Torcaso v. Watkins, ruled 9-0 that states were prohibited from requiring a religious test to hold public office. The case involved Roy Torcaso, who had been appointed a notary public by Maryland Governor John Millard Tawes. The Constitution of Maryland required "a declaration of belief in the existence of God" in order for a person to hold "any office of profit or trust in this State." Mr. Torcaso was a professing atheist, refused to make such a declaration, and was denied the position.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Maryland requirement violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and had the effect of imposing a religious test for holding office. I doubt that those who wrote those amendments had that in mind when the amendments were approved. This decision has been forgotten in the light of the subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings Engel v. Vitale (1962), which prohibited an official school prayer, and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), but it should be included with them as part of a series of rulings, starting with Everson v. Board of Education (1947), that increasingly ordered God out of public life.

I'm not going to talk about how five of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices in 1961--Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Associate Justices Hugo Black, Tom Clark, William O. Douglas, and Tom Clark--were known to be Freemasons. Roman Catholic journalist Paul A. Fisher, in his book Behind the Lodge Door (1988, 1989), noted that the Supreme Court's anti-religious decisions came during a three-decade period from the 1940s to the 1970s when the Court was dominated by Freemasons.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

50 years ago: The death of J.I. Rodale

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver. J.I. Rodale

Missed it by that much! Maxwell Smart

Jerome Irving Rodale, born Jerome Irving Cohen on August 16, 1898, co-founded the electrical equipment firm Rodale Manufacturing with his brother Joseph in 1923, and founded Rodale Press in 1930. J.I. Rodale was concerned with his health and became a health and food faddist, establishing an organic food farm, and publishing magazines such as Organic Farming and Gardening and Prevention. He was also a playwright, operating a couple of theatres to stage his works.

On June 8, 1971, Mr. Rodale was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show; the show was taped early in the evening for broadcast several hours later. During his interview, Mr. Rodale said, "I'm in such good health that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way;" "I've decided to live to be a hundred;" and "I never felt better in my life!" After the interview, Mr. Cavett was interviewing journalist Pete Hamill, and Mr. Rodale, who was sitting further down the couch, slumped over dead; efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. The program was never broadcast.

Monday, 31 May 2021

United Church of Canada holds racially segregated mandatory workshops--for "racial justice"

The United Church of Canada continues to be completely beyond the possibility of satire. As reported by True North Wire, May 25, 2021 (link in original):

The United Church of Canada is holding courses on “racial justice” — with attendees being segregated by race.

According to the United Church’s distance learning website, the church is offering a four part “Racial Justice Workshop,” with two of the parts being segregated into white and non-white classes.

The training is mandatory for all active ministry personnel and open to the public.

“We will be meeting in separate groups according to our racial identities: one group are people who self-identify as Indigenous, Black and other Peoples of Colour (BIPOCs) and another group are people who self-identify as White,” the course description reads.

Ministry personnel in the United Church have been required to take racial justice training since 2006 and have appeared to make combatting racism a priority, going so far as to create a “Dismantling White Privilege Working Group.”

The course description goes into detail trying to justify segregating attendees by race, saying that white people and people of colour have different needs...
From the horse's mouth, i.e., the U.C.C.'s United in Learning page (bold, links in original):

Racial Justice Workshop

Course Description

The racial justice educational sessions take place over four sessions. For sessions 1 and 2, which form the mandatory components, we will be meeting in separate groups according to our racial identities: one group are people who self-identify as Indigenous, Black and other Peoples of Colour (BIPOCs)*** and another group are people who self-identify as White.

Sessions 3 and 4, which are optional sessions, will be in racially mixed groups. Select this link for more details on these sessions.

Why are we meeting in separate groups for these initial sessions? It is because the learning needs of BIPOCs are often different from the learning needs of White people. Because of their lived experiences, BIPOCs certainly have different day-to-day realities than those of White people. At times, in past educational sessions, BIPOCs were often called on to “educate” White people about racism but did not necessarily have opportunities to do their own learnings. And White people have sometimes felt that the need to self-censor because they did not want to say anything “wrong” in front of a BIPOC person, even if they had genuine questions about racial justice. As a result, not everyone was receiving the full educational experience.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Smith, previous Chairperson of the Dismantling White Privilege Working Group, also adds the following, “The White Privilege Working Group realizes that separating into groups along racial lines may be uncomfortable for some and may be seen as an act of segregation.” There is, however, a difference between historical segregation and creating settings by self-identified groups that are beneficial for people to have their own space and conversations. The method used in these racial justice sessions is by self-identified groups and is in response to requests made by people who are Indigenous, racialized, and bi-racial to have their own space for dialogue.

Our churches have a history of occasionally gathering people separately, based on their identities or their learnings needs—many churches, for example, will gather children and youth separately for Sunday school or youth programs (instead of being part of the worship service). Similarly, self-identified women might gather separately as part of the United Church Women. For this particular educational program on racial justice, having groups meet separately who self-identify differently racially can take into consideration the different lived experiences and different learning needs of people’s encounters with race. It offers a safer (or brave) space for people to explore questions with people who may have had similar experiences with as themselves.

*** We want to note that language is ever-changing and evolving, and language is always imperfect. Previously, this workshop has used the term “racialized” to denote a reference to all people of colours. At the moment, we are using the term BIPOC for racialized. We encourage the participants of these workshops to please be mindful not to get hang up on the terms as labels to one’s racial identity. The intent of the workshop is to help us work towards our commitment on dismantling systemic racism in our denomination and local communities of faith.

Mandatory Training

Racial justice training for all active ministry personnel was mandated at the 39th General Council 2006. The proposal came out of a long history of the United Church's engagement with issues of social justice. In 2000, the United Church adopted its Anti-Racism Policy statement; racial justice training is one effort to help the church continue to live out its principles.

As of 2017 we're also opening this program to all members of the church. The Program Committe on Programs, Mission and Ministry notes, "The current form of the racial justice training is receiving very good feedback, and it is therefore particularly commended to people serving in any leadership capacity within the church."

Currently, unlike the Boundaries credential, this credential does NOT need to be refreshed every five years. Those who have done racial justice training previously, either online with United-in-Learning or in a Conference-based course, need not take it again. Ministry Personnel, however, must complete Sessions 1 & 2 of this credential in order to register for Sessions 3 & 4.

Please note that records of online participants since 2011 have been uploaded to during the summer of 2019. Records of participants at Conference-based face-to-face programs are still in process. If you participated in one of these programs, and Church Hub does not yet indicate this, don't panic! The records will be completed soon. However, if you require a letter of good standing immediately, and you don't see your participation recorded at Church Hub, you can contact the Office of Vocation Minister at your Regional Council Office and show them a copy of your certificate of completion.

Cost: $49.99 -- $5 discount if you pay online

Dates and Times

Please note the course is divided into two sessions. They are each 2.5 hours long

In order to complete the course you must attend both Session 1 and Session 2; it's best, if possible, to do these both on the same day

the links in the "Session times" show the start times in each of Canada's time zones

Choose Your Dates

For sessions 1 and 2, which form the mandatory components, we will be meeting in separate groups according to our racial identities: one group are people who self-identify as Indigenous, racialized, and/or bi-racial, and another group are people who self-identify as White. Please indicate which category you fall into, to see the available dates

Which category fits you best?
...Select one
White person
Black, Indigenous or Person of Colour

Waiting List

If these dates aren't convenient for you, click HERE for our waiting list, and we'll email you when new dates are announced.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Oklahoma pastor's wife charged in his murder as evidence of their involvement in a love triangle is revealed

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

As reported by Nolan Clay of the Oklahoma City Oklahoman, March 26, 2021 (updated March 29, 2021):

ADA — Last Sunday morning, Harmony Church pastor Dave Evans preached about attacks from the devil and all he and his wife had overcome to be victorious in life.

Hours later, he was killed at his home in bed.

His wife, Kristie Evans, 47, called 911 at 1:11 a.m. Monday and reported an intruder had shot her husband.

Now, she has confessed to a role in the murder, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced Friday.

She was arrested Thursday at the Ada Police Department.

In her confession Thursday, she admitted she recruited a lover to kill her husband, provided him with a gun and bullets, and left the backdoor unlocked for him to enter the house, an OSBI agent reported in an arrest affidavit.

She said she had to urge him to "proceed with the plan" after finding him crouched down in the dining room and worrying about making too much noise, the agent reported.

She said she waited in the living room until she heard a "pop" from the bedroom, according to the affidavit. She said she then called for help from her side of the bed after her lover ran out the backdoor.

The second suspect, Kahlil Deamie Square, 26, was arrested at a residence in Newalla Thursday night, the OSBI said.

The investigation found that the pastor and his wife were leading a secret life as swingers.

The two had met Square at a Super 8 for sex "on more than one occasion" since their first encounter months ago, the OSBI agent reported in the arrest affidavit.

"On one of those occasions, Kristie secretly dropped her phone number on the floor for Kahlil," the agent reported. "Kristie continued to communicate by phone daily with Kahlil without David's knowledge."

She spoke to Ada police and the OSBI multiple times after the shooting. In one interview, she admitted Square stayed the night with her March 17, 18 and 19 while her husband was on a mission trip to Mexico, according to the affidavit.

She claimed in another interview that her husband was verbally abusive and called her names like "slut, fat, ugly and whore," according to the affidavit. She said she had told Square about the mistreatment and he had responded, "Damn." She also told him "it would be nice to have more freedom."

She told her daughter on Thursday before confessing to the OSBI that she had "begged" Square to kill her husband, according to the affidavit.

In his sermon Sunday morning, Dave Evans preached about being a witness for God.

"Who’s believing in Jesus because of us?" he asked. "And if we’re doing anything in that direction, expect for the enemy to come to destroy you. So don’t be shocked and start whining and crying. Expect it. Be prepared for it. If the devil is not attacking you, there is a reason. If the devil is attacking you, there is a reason.”

The pastor was pronounced dead at his home Monday from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 50.

The OSBI and Ada police used surveillance videos from a next-door neighbor's home, a bank and a marijuana dispensary to place Square's car in Ada on the night of the shooting, according to the affidavit.

“OSBI agents from across the state worked tirelessly on this investigation for days," OSBI Director Ricky Adams said Friday. "With the help of OSBI intelligence analysts and multiple law enforcement agencies, the suspects ... are in custody.
As reported by Jacklyn Chappell of Oklahoma City television station KFOR, March 26, 2021 (updated March 28, 2021) (links in original):

ADA, Okla. – Two arrests were made in the murder of Ada pastor David Evans. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation tells KFOR his wife, Kristie Evans, was arrested Wednesday after confessing to his murder and an accomplice, Kahlil Square, was also arrested for murder. All three of them were allegedly involved in a love triangle.

“A couple of months ago is when the three of them first met up,” said Capt. Beth Green, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

David’s wife, Kristie Evans, along with alleged accomplice Kahlil Square, were found responsible for David’s death.

“The three of them, Kristie, Kahlil and David, had a sexual relationship. Kristie and Kahlil also had a separate sexual relationship, just the two of them,” Green said.

David was the pastor of Harmony Freewill Baptist Church in Ada. OSBI was brought into investigate on Monday after Kristie called 9-1-1, reporting an intruder had come into their home and shot David.

“She came back on her own accord yesterday to the Ada Police Department and confessed. Prior to that, she had been interviewed several times,” Green said.

Court documents say the couple “first met Kahlil months ago at a Super 8 Motel.”

The documents also say “Kristie, David, and Kahlil had sex at a Super 8 Motel on more than one occasion.”

Kristie secretly gave Kahlil her phone number without David’s knowledge.

Then just last week, Kahlil stayed over at Kristie’s house, while David was away on a mission trip to Mexico. That’s when the murder was planned.

“The plan was for Kahlil to come into the house in the middle of the night and shoot David with the gun and ammunition that actually belonged to David that Kristie had given Kahlil,” Green said.

Neighbors gave investigators surveillance footage showing what was allegedly Kahlil’s white Ford Mustang at the house the night of David’s death.

Kristie shared a post to her Facebook page on the day before the murder, saying David had sent her specialty-made necklaces while he was in Mexico. The post saying in part, “So, every day, I opened a card and was reminded of how blessed, loved and lucky I am!!! I love you so much, David!!!!”

But she told OSBI a different story, saying David would call her names like “slut,” “fat” and “ugly.”

“What she told agents was that he was verbally abusive and controlling of her,” Green said.

David also shared a post to Facebook on the morning before his death saying, “Live your life so that people realize we are no longer dead, but are alive again.”

Harmony Freewill Baptist Church sent KFOR the following statement on Friday:

“Harmony Free Will Baptist Church has been grieving the death of our Pastor, David Evans, over the last few days. The circumstances that are now coming to light have taken us by surprise and we are greatly saddened. We serve a perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us. These revelations do not diminish that truth and we will continue to serve Him. We are aware that even pastors can succumb to human frailty and we ask that our privacy be respected at this time as we as a church family grieve and process all of these events.”

Both Kristie and Khalil are facing first-degree murder charges. Kahlil was found in Newalla on Thursday night and booked into the Cleveland County Detention Center while Kristie currently sits in the Pontotoc County Detention Center.
The Harmony Church website contains information on what to expect on your first visit, but no events are scheduled, and no information on the church's doctrine or leadership is provided.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Tyre coin from Second Temple period discovered in Jerusalem's Tower of David

As reported by All Israel News, March 31, 2021 (links in original):

Tyre coin uncovered during a conservation project (Tal Rogovski/Tower of David Museum)

During a comprehensive conservation project in the iconic Tower of David in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli archaeologists discovered a rare Tyre coin believed to be used by Jewish pilgrims to pay the Temple tax during Passover in the Second Temple period.

These shekel coins from Tyre were minted from around 125 BC until the outbreak of the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE.

Caroline Shapiro, director of International Public Relations & Strategic Communications for the Tower of David Museum, spoke to ALL ISRAEL NEWS about the remarkable discovery of the rare coin. Shapiro placed the Tyre coin in the wider context of understanding the ancient texts and the history of the land of Israel.

“Every time physical evidence is discovered from thousands of years ago, it sheds more light on the ancient texts. Amit Re'em, Jerusalem District archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority describes it as if the text and physical evidence meet to shake hands,” Shapiro told All Israel News.

Given the large interest in the history of ancient Israel, Shapiro told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that the public would eventually be able to see the Tyre coin and other discovered artifacts in a future exhibition in Jerusalem.

“They will be displayed in the new permanent exhibition of the history of Jerusalem when it opens in spring 2022,” said Shapiro.

These coins originate from the ancient town of Tyre in present-day Lebanon. While historical accounts from the Second Temple era mention Tyrian shekels, very few coins have so far been unearthed. The coins are believed to have been used by Jewish pilgrims who paid Temple tax while visiting the Temple in Jerusalem during Passover. As is often the case with important archaeological discoveries, the ancient coin was found by chance inside a box with artifacts that were originally excavated in the 1980s. Prior to the discovery, the box had been buried and forgotten for around four decades.

Yotam Carmel, the conservation manager at Ken HaTor, the company in charge of the project, stressed the importance of the Tower of David in the history of Israel and Jerusalem.

“The Tower of David is one of the most important structures in Israel, both in terms of its history and location,” Carmel said.

The Tower of David is located in an ancient citadel adjacent to the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City in Jerusalem. It includes King Herod’s ancient palace, the place where the trial of Jesus took place according to some historians and theologians. The name “Tower of David” derives from the fifth century AD and refers to the Phasael Tower, the tallest tower in the structure.

During the British Mandate in the 1920s and 1930s, the historical structure was also used for cultural events. The modern museum, which contains a permanent exhibition, is an ideal place to discover Jerusalem’s fascinating and diverse 3,000-year history. There are also temporary exhibitions housed in the ancient Crusader halls.

The Tower of David Museum was inaugurated in 1989 at the initiative of Jerusalem’s former celebrated mayor Teddy Kollek.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Parchments from books of Nahum and Zechariah added to Dead Sea Scrolls

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Israel365 News, March 19, 2021 (links in original):

For the first time in 60 years, archaeologists announced the recovery of ancient parchments adding to the Biblically significant trove of Dead Sea Scrolls.

The parchments were part of an effort to save artifacts from antiquity theft, a growing problem in the region. Among the finds were a cache of rare coins from the days of Bar-Kokhba, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child – likely female, wrapped in a cloth and mummified, and a large complete basket dating back 10,500 years, likely the oldest in the world.

But for the Biblically-minded, the parchments were of intense interest. Israel365News interviewed the researchers, Tanya Bitler, Dr. Oren Ableman and Beatriz Riestra of the Dead Sea Scrolls Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority, who focused on the parchments and asked several questions.

Though the artifacts came from many different sites, the parchments all came from a site called the Cave of Horror, officially cataloged as Cave 8, in the Judean Desert reserve’s Nahal Hever, so named because the skeletons of 40 men, women, and children were discovered inside when researcher first investigated the site in 1960. The skeletons were the remains of Jewish refugees from the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 CE. At the top of the cliff were the ruins of a Roman camp used for the siege of the Jews hiding in the cave. The cave poses unique difficulties for the researchers as it is located roughly 80 meters below the cliff top, is flanked by gorges, and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.

“More than 80 pieces of parchment were unearthed in the present excavation, of them, more than 40 are written or bear some ink remains, the researchers said. “The fragments are quite small, the biggest being nine centimeters square.”

The parchments were radiocarbon-dated back to the second century CE. A 1961 excavation of the cave found previous parchment fragments but none have been found since then. The recent find includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets written in Greek, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The verses were Greek translations of the Hebrew text. The name of God appears in ancient Hebrew script, known from the times of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The verse from Nahum:

The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein.Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, And rocks are shattered because of Him. Nahum 1:5–6

The verse from Zechariah:

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. Zechariah 8:16

The researchers concluded that the parchments were written by two different scribes.

“The new fragments are part of a manuscript already known which was discovered in the 1950’s by antiquities looters and which is kept today by the Israel Antiquities Authority,” the researchers said. “Both the previously known fragments and the new ones are written by two different hands which differ in the size and style of the letters. While hand 1 is smaller is more ornamented (meaning it carries hooks and half-serifs), hand 2 is bigger and less ornamented. However, the overall general dimensions of the column blocks are similar in both hands, as is the character of the translation. Thus, both hands are considered to be part of one single manuscript and not two different scrolls.”

They also concluded that both scribes copied the text towards the end of the 1st century BCE and the fragments were part of a larger scroll.

“​All of the newly discovered fragments belong to a manuscript known as ‘8HevXII gr’ or ‘the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll’,” they responded. “This is the largest Greek manuscript of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

All of the fragments can be viewed on the Dead Sea Scrolls website.

Despite being written 1,900 years ago, there are precious few discrepancies.

“​For the most part, the text is identical,” the researchers noted. “However, there are minor differences that can be found. Among the new fragments, the most notable textual difference is that at the end of Zechariah 8:16 there is the word ‘streets’ instead of the word ‘gates’ that appears in all other manuscripts.”

In an interview with Israel365, Rabbi Barnea Selavan noted that this small difference has much larger implications.

“The gates were where business was done,” Rabbi Selavan explained. “As a result, the courts were also at the gates in order to be on hand to adjudicate and disputes. Writing streets is very different.”

Rabbi Selavan suggested that the scribe may have mistranslated the original text.

“The prophet Zechariah lived around 520 BCE,” Rabbi Selavan noted. “This means the parchment was written about 400 years after the prophet lived. This means the text was written close to the subject matter. It is like someone today writing about Napoleon.”

“This seems to indicate that perhaps the text of the Bible was a bit more fluid than it is today. Minor textual variations between manuscripts were not necessarily perceived as a problem.”

The method of writing the name of God was significant.

“The name of God, what we cal the Tetragrammaton, was written in the ancient Hebrew script. This script was rarely used even in Hebrew manuscripts at the time. However, the use of the ancient Hebrew script specifically for writing the names of God is well documented in several different manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This phenomenon is also documented in some Greek fragments discovered in Egypt.”

They noted that it was not unusual for Jews to have Greek translations of the Biblical text.

“Greek was the international language of the time, much like English is today. As such, there were Jewish communities around the world that were primarily Greek-speaking. Most notable among these was the very large Jewish community of Egypt. In Judea, Jews tended to speak Hebrew and Aramaic, but many seem to have been familiar with Greek as well.”
Sections of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll discovered in the Judean Desert expedition as they were found (Ofer Sion, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Part of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll, written in Greek (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Latest discoveries in Judean Desert include 6,000-year-old mummified girl, fragments of scroll from minor prophets

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Israel365 News, March 16, 2021:

Dozens of fragments of a biblical scroll from the Bar Kokhba period, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child, and the oldest complete basket in the world were found by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve. This marks the first time in approximately 60 years that archaeological excavations uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll.

The scroll, which was written in Greek, includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The IAA operation was aimed at preventing the looting of antiquities in the Judean Desert.

Verses from Zechariah written in Greek were discovered on dozens of parchment fragments found in a cave where Jewish refugees hid almost 1900 years ago.

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate—declares Hashem Zechariah 8:16-17

In addition to the scroll fragments, the operation uncovered additional extraordinary finds from various periods: a cache of rare coins from the days of Bar-Kokhba, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child – likely female, wrapped in a cloth and mummified, and a large complete basket dating back 10,500 years, likely the oldest in the world.

The discoveries were retrieved from the “Cave of Horror” in the Judean Desert reserve’s Nahal Hever. The cave, roughly 80 meters below the cliff top, is flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.

Additional finds left behind by the Jewish rebels who fled to the caves at the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 136 CE include a cache of coins from the revolt bearing Jewish symbols such as a harp and a date palm, arrow- and spear-heads, woven fabric, sandals, and even lice combs.

Also identified, on another fragment, are verses from the Prophet Nahum.

The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein.Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, And rocks are shattered because of Him. Nahum 1:5–6

Another exciting aspect about this scroll is that despite most of the text being in Greek, the name of God appears in ancient Hebrew script, known from the times of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Another astounding discovery was found near the rock wall inside the Cave of Horror: A 6,000-year-old partially mummified skeleton of a child, wrapped in cloth. According to prehistorian Ronit Lupu of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “On moving two flat stones, we discovered a shallow pit intentionally dug beneath them, containing a skeleton of a child placed in a fetal position. It was covered with a cloth around its head and chest, like a small blanket, with its feet protruding from it. It was obvious that whoever buried the child had wrapped him up and pushed the edges of the cloth beneath him, just as a parent covers his child in a blanket. A small bundle of cloth was clutched in the child’s hands. The child’s skeleton and the cloth wrapping were remarkably well preserved and because of the climatic conditions in the cave, a process of natural mummification had taken place; the skin, tendons, and even the hair were partially preserved, despite the passage of time”. A preliminary study of a CT scan of the child, carried out by Dr. Hila May from Tel Aviv University, suggests that this child was 6-12 years old.

Another find, currently unparalleled worldwide, was discovered by youths from the Nofei Prat pre-military leadership academy in one of the Muraba‘at Caves in the Nahal Darga Reserve: a huge intact basket with a lid that was also exceptionally well preserved due to the high temperatures and extreme aridity of the region. The basket dates to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, approximately 10,500 years ago. As far as we know, this is the oldest basket in the world that has been found completely intact and its importance is therefore immense. The basket had a capacity of 90–100 liters and was apparently used for storage. The basket provides fascinating new data on the storage of products some 1,000 years before the invention of pottery. The basket is woven from plant material and its method of weaving is unusual. When it was found it was empty, and only future research of a small amount of soil remaining inside it will help us discover what it was used for and what was placed in it.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Small church in Las Vegas becomes a Covid-19 casualty

Online church services are better than nothing, but they're not an acceptable substitute for in-person services; as reported by John Przybys of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 15, 2021 (updated February 16, 2021) (links in original, inserted by blogger):

A church that opened last year with plans to conduct a live Easter service during the COVID pandemic is closing.

The Rev. Joseph Guy said Open Arms Community Church’s last service will be a virtual service on Feb. 28.

Guy last year announced plans to open the new church with a live Easter service attended by 35 to 50 members. At the time, state mandates prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people.

Guy, the church’s lead pastor, eventually canceled the live service. Instead, the Easter service was livestreamed, and Guy said the church never was able to recover from the live service’s cancellation.

While an established church may be able to more easily transition from live to virtual services, “when it’s a new church, you’ve got to make that personal connection with people,” he said, and not being able to do that “was just too much to overcome.”

Church members gathered for their first live service on Father’s Day, Guy said, but “we just couldn’t generate the crowd that we expected because it had been so long from Easter to June.”

Other services, mostly virtual, followed, but Guy said participation never exceeded 50.

The church’s final service will begin at 11 a.m. Feb. 28, and can be seen on Open Arms Community Church’s YouTube channel.
See also my post Covid-19 provides opportunities for police state persecution of Christians (May 7, 2020).

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Equatorial Guinea plans to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem

As reported by Ron Kampeas of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 21, 2021:

Equatorial Guinea is the latest country that plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The pledge came in a conversation Friday with the oil-rich African nation’s president, Teodoro Mbasogo, Netanyahu’s office said.

Netanyahu has throughout his 11 years in continuous leadership pressed for greater Israeli engagement with Africa. Netanyahu “noted that Israel is continuing to deepen its cooperation with African countries and said that Israel is returning to Africa and Africa is returning to Israel in a big way,” his office’s statement said.

The United States and Guatemala have moved their embassies to Jerusalem since 2018, and about half a dozen other countries have pledged to do so as part of a diplomatic initiative launched by former President Donald Trump.

A handful of nations had embassies in Jerusalem until the early 1980s; most keep embassies in Tel Aviv, not recognizing Israel’s claim to the city until its status is resolved in a peace deal with the Palestinians.
See also my posts:

El Salvador denies that it's moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Ramallah (January 28, 2016)

U.S. President Donald Trump declares Jerusalem to be Israel's capital (December 7, 2017)

Guatemala follows U.S.A.'s lead in announcing that it will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (December 25, 2017)

South Africa downgrades its embassy in Israel to a liaison office (January 2, 2018)

Czech Republic recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital (January 2, 2018)

Romania reportedly intends to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (January 2, 2018)

Philippines denies reports that it intends to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (January 2, 2018)

Conservative Party of Canada promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital--if they ever get back into power (March 1, 2018)

Paraguay and Honduras are reported to be ready "in principle" to move their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem (March 16, 2018)

Honduran Congress votes to move the country's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (April 18, 2018)

Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's capital (December 17, 2018)

Israel punishes Paraguay for moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, and then back to Tel Aviv (December 31, 2018)

Brazil to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2020 (December 17, 2019)

Israeli and Sudanese leaders agree to move toward normalization of relations, while Uganda studies moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (February 3, 2020)

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Jews not mentioned among religious groups invited to Pope Francis' inter-religious prayer service in Iraq

Pope Francis continues his efforts to unite the world's religions; as reported by Mohammed Aty of Reuters, February 22, 2021:

BAGHDAD - Pope Francis is due to hold an inter-religious prayer service at the ancient Mesopotamian site of Ur when he visits Iraq next week - an event local archeologists hope will draw renewed attention to the place revered as the birthplace of Abraham.

Popular with Western visitors in the 1970s and 1980s, Ur is scarcely visited today after decades of war and political instability shattered Iraq’s international tourism industry. The coronavirus crisis now also keeps local tourists away.

Located about 300 km (200 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, the site comprises a pyramid-style Ziggurat and an adjacent residential complex as well as temples and palaces.

It was excavated about 100 years ago by Leonard Woolley, a Briton who recovered treasures rivalling those found in Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt. But little work has since been doneon one of the world’s oldest cities, where urban dwelling, writing and central state power began.

According to the State Board for Antiquities and Heritage director for Ur, Ali Kadhim Ghanim, the complex next to the Ziggurat dates back to about 1900 BC...

...According to Ghanim, the housing settlement was restored in 1999, after Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope John Paul II, announced a trip to Iraq. But his visit was cancelled when negotiations with the government of then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down.

This time, Ghanim hopes that Pope Francis’ visit will attract international attention to the site, which he says is badly needed to fund restoration works on its palaces and temples.

“Not only tourism, but we believe that there will be a Christian pilgrimage season,” Ghanim said.

Un Ponte Per, an Italian-based organisation, is working with the United Nations Development Programme on infrastructure works such as paths, rest areas and signposts to help visitors.

Roads around the site are being renovated and powerlines extended ahead of the pope’s visit.

But without adequate funding, Ghanim says his administration has been limited to containing further damage to the site, such as digging trenches to divert rainwater from the ruins.

Basra’s Archbishop Habib al-Naufaly stressed the symbolic importance of the pope’s March 5-8 visit as Iraq is still recovering from the war against Islamic State that destroyed scores of Christian heritage sites.

The inter-religious prayer service will be attended by Christians, Muslims, Mandaean-Sabaean, Yazidi and other religious minorities present in Iraq.

The focus will be on harmony between religious groups in a service the Vatican has named “Prayer for the sons and daughters of Abraham”.
As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Israel365 News, February 24, 2021 (links in original):

...Iraq declared war on the newly established Jewish state in 1948 and since then the two countries have technically been in a state of war. Iraqi forces participated in wars against Israel in 1967 and 1973.

The plight of the Christians in the Muslim country is not much better. Twenty years ago, Pew Research Center reported there were 1.4 million professing Christians in Iraq, but today there are only about 270,000.

Despite the oppression of Christians and suppression of Christianity, Iraq seems to hold a fascination for the Vatican. Pope John Paul II, planned a trip to Iraq in 1999 but his visit was canceled when negotiations with the government of then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down...

...The pyramidic ziggurat, located about 200 miles south of the capital Baghdad, is a Neo-Sumerian structure located in what was the city of Ur near Nasiriyah, in present-day Dhi Qar Province. In ancient times, this ziggurat served as a religious center as it was part of a temple complex dedicated to idolatry. The recovery of about 2,000 burials by archaeologists indicates that the site, excavated about 100 years ago by Leonard Woolley, was used for the practice of human sacrifice on a large scale. The bodies were buried in elaborate graves nearby. The sacrificial murders were carried out by a sharp instrument being driven into their heads after which they were buried in elaborate funerals. Their bodies were usually arranged neatly, the women in an elaborate headdress, the men with weapons at their side.

The ziggurat also holds great significance to modern despots. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein restored the façade of the massive lower foundation of the ziggurat, insisting that his own name be stamped on all of the modern bricks used in the reconstruction. He also built his personal palace to mirror the ziggurat. In 1981, the site was where celebrations took place to commemorate the first anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran, with officials using the slogan, Nebuchadnasar al-ams Saddam Hussein al-yawm (yesterday Nebuchadnezzar, today Saddam Hussein). During the war led by American and coalition forces, Saddam Hussein parked his MiG fighter jets next to the Ziggurat.

The timing of the papal visit is auspicious and perhaps even prophetic. It will come right after the Jewish holiday of Purim commemorating the salvation of the Jews of Iraq from Haman, the descendent of Agag, King of Amalek and whose connection to the future war of Gog is hinted at by the Prophet Ezekiel.

As those who traverse the country make their rounds, any one of them who sees a human bone shall erect a marker beside it, until the buriers have interred them in the Valley of Gog’s Multitude. Ezekiel 39:15

The Hebrew word for ‘multitude’ is הֲמוֹן (Hamon, similar to the name Haman). Haman is known as an Agagite, also connecting him at least etymologically with Gog.

The visit also comes a few weeks before the “twenty-fourth day of the first month (Nisan)”, the day on which Daniel had his vision, described in chapter 10, that took place on the Mesopotamian River Tigris. In his enigmatic vision, Daniel saw, “a man dressed in linen, his loins girt in fine gold,” and the “sound of his speech was like the noise of a multitude.” The man in the vision gave Daniel a message:

“Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must go back to fight the prince of Persia. When I go off, the prince of Greece will come in. Daniel 10:20

Many modern interpretations of prophecy identify Persia as Iran and Greece, a country founded by the offspring of Esav, as Catholicism.

Since ascending to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis has been working openly to bring Esau and Ishmael together by enhancing Christian-Muslim relations. On the return flight from a recent visit to Morocco, where the official state religion is Islam, the Pope spoke with journalists about his vision for uniting the descendants of Esau and the descendants of Ishmael.

In 2016, Pope Francis hosted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican.

These efforts by Pope Francis culminated in 2019 when he signed the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azha, an agreement that was harshly criticized by Catholics and Muslims alike.

Jewish tradition contains a prophecy that the children of Esau (today’s Western nations) and the children of Ishmael (today’s Arab nations) will unite against the Jewish people at the End of Days.

This alliance was forged at the very beginning of the Bible when Esau married Ishmael’s daughter, Mahalath, whose name means ‘disease’.

So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:9)

This is explained by Rabbi Yechiel Weitzman explains in his book The Ishmaelite Exile “During the End of Days, Ishmael and Esau will join forces to seek the destruction of the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Weitzman concluded his introduction to the End of Days alliance with good news. “At the very outset of their history, Ishmael and Esau forged a bond through marriage. And so it shall be at the End of Days. This alliance between them will bring history to its culmination in the redemption.”
While Jewish tradition and eschatology may be interesting, the Bible itself is the only authoritative and reliable source of truth.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Royal purple fabric from the era of Kings David and Solomon discovered in southern Israel

As reported by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich of Israel365 News, January 28, 2021 (link inserted by blogger):

What did a fashionable King in Israel wear 3,000 years ago? The color purple as well as red and blue were prominent in their wardrobes.

Four years ago, archaeologists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) discovered reserved pieces of cloth from King David and King Solomon’s time at ancient copper mines in the Timna Valley in Israel’s southern Negev desert that had been colored blue and red with dye from various plants. Thanks to the very dry climate in the area, the colors have been preserved for three millennia.

Now, in a “breakthrough discovery,” the team have found ancient scraps of fabric dyed in true royal purple from shellfish. “The color immediately attracted our attention, but we found it hard to believe we had found true purple from such an ancient era,” said TAU’s Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef. According to the researchers, true purple [argaman in Hebrew] was produced from three species of mollusk native to the Mediterranean Sea – the banded dye-murex (Hexaplex trunculus), the spiny dye-murex (Bolinus brandaris) and the red-mouthed rock-shell (Stramonita haemastoma). The dye was produced from a gland located within the body of the mollusk by means of a complex chemical process that lasted several days.

According to the Song of Songs, King Solomon had a carriage made from wood brought from Lebanon whose seat was upholstered with purple cloth. Now, for the first time, rare evidence has been found confirming this.

While examining the colored textiles from Timna in a study that has lasted several years, the researchers were surprised to find remnants of woven fabric, a tassel and fibers of wool dyed with royal purple.

Direct radiocarbon dating confirms that the finds date from approximately 1,000 BCE, corresponding to the biblical monarchies of David and Solomon in Jerusalem. The dye, which is produced from species of mollusk (shelled animal) found in the Mediterranean, over 300 kilometers from Timna, is often mentioned in the Bible and appears in various Jewish and Christian contexts.

This is the first time that purple-dyed Iron Age textiles have been found in Israel, or indeed throughout the Southern Levant. The research was carried out by Dr. Naama Sukenik from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Yosef of TAU’s department of archaeology and ancient Near Eastern Cultures, in collaboration with Prof. Zohar Amar, Dr. David Iluz and Dr. Alexander Varvak from BIU and Dr. Orit Shamir from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The unexpected finds are being published today in the prestigious journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) One under the title “Early evidence of royal purple dyed textile from Timna Valley.”

“This is a very exciting and important discovery,” said Sukenik, the IAA’s curator of organic. “This is the first piece of textile ever found from the time of David and Solomon that is dyed with the prestigious purple dye. In antiquity, purple attire was associated with the nobility, with priests and of course with royalty. The gorgeous shade of the purple, the fact that it does not fade and the difficulty in producing the dye – which is found in minute quantities in the body of mollusks and often cost more than gold – all made it the most highly valued of the dyes. Until the current discovery, we had only encountered mollusk-shell waste and potsherds with patches of dye, which provided evidence of the purple industry in the Iron Age. Now, for the first time, we have direct evidence of the dyed fabrics themselves, preserved for some 3,000 years”...
Go here for more information on Tel Aviv University's Central Timna Valley Project (CTV).

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Trudeaupia's Canada's public health officer wants "faith leaders" to promote Covid-19 vaccine acceptance

"Dr." Theresa Tam, who has consistently represented the interests of the Chinese Communist regime during the Covid-19 "pandemic" rather than the interests of the Canadian people whom she's supposed to be serving, isn't content with offering Canadians ridiculous advice on their sex lives (see here and here); now she wants "faith leaders" to promote acceptance of the Covid-19 vaccine among their congregations. As reported by John Longhurst of the Winnipeg Free Press, January 22, 2021:

Canadian faith leaders have an important role to play in promoting COVID-19 vaccines, including helping their members overcome vaccine hesitancy.

That was the message Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, delivered to more than 1,300 participants of an online information event Wednesday.

The event was arranged by the Canadian Council of Churches, Canadian Interfaith Conversation and Canadian Multifaith Federation, at the request of the Privy Council and Public Health Agency of Canada.

In her remarks, Tam said combatting the novel coronavirus is a "whole of government, whole of society effort."

As "trusted voices" in their communities, faith leaders are "instrumental" in that effort, since they "know the hearts and minds of their members" and are often "called on for guidance."

Faith groups can help battle the virus by sharing credible information about vaccines with their members, she said, including dispelling fears about their safety.

They can also help by staying "vigilant" and encouraging congregations to maintain safe practices (social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing).

By doing this, it will not only help prevent the spread of virus, it will also give vaccines a "bit of a runway" to get going, she added.

Tam said faith groups also have an important role to play by supporting members who are struggling due to the pandemic, especially those who are elderly, vulnerable or dealing with mental health issues.

"Maintaining social, and emotional and spiritual closeness is more important than ever," she said. "Your leadership is vital for supporting and building resilience in your communities as we move through this pandemic and beyond."

Noting some communication materials about vaccines might need to be translated or adapted for different faith and cultural groups, Tam said the federal government is open to providing financial support in such efforts.

She also said Ottawa is open to working with faith groups to use their facilities as vaccination sites.

However, she added, it’s not practical now, since the "first two vaccines are tricky to handle... maybe in the future as more vaccines become available."

As to whether clergy might be put on a priority list for getting the vaccine, Tam said it might be possible, if they are involved in supporting people in long-term care homes, homeless shelters or other services to marginal and vulnerable people.

She also assured faith leaders no animal products or fetal cells were used in the production of the two current vaccines.

When asked when religious groups might see a return to in-person worship services, Tam noted the decision is up to provincial public health authorities.

Her own view is "right now is definitely not the time," with the pandemic surging in some parts of the country.

"It’s really important to follow local public health advice," Tam said, adding: "The best thing to do is to reduce the number of contacts."

All pandemics come to an end, she said, "and this one will as well."

In remarks at the conclusion of the event, Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council, noted faith groups can contribute to dealing with the pandemic by "inspiring people to action on behalf of others" while showing "none of us is self-sufficient."
The reader will note the liberalism of the "faith groups" named above. Those in "faith groups" that are ostensibly more conservative would still do well to notice if their own "faith leaders" promote acceptance of the vaccine, providing evidence of whether they're shepherds or hirelings.

This blogger would like to see the vaccine administered to politicians, police, and other beings in positions of authority who have shown so little human feeling and done so much to make people's lives miserable over the last year. With reports of people dying from the vaccine (RIP, Hank Aaron), the disappearance from the scene of these authority figures would be what baseball legend Branch Rickey referred to as "addition by subtraction."

Sunday, 24 January 2021

60 years ago: Sorcery on prime-time television

Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. Revelation 9:21

The word rendered "sorceries" in the end-time prophecy cited above is the Greek word "pharmakeia," which according to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

...primarily signified the use of medicine, drugs, spells...In sorcery, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with provision of various charms, amulets, etc., purportedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.

Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond was an anthology series televised by the American Broadcasting Company from 1959-1961, directed and hosted by John Newland, presenting stories related to the supernatural. The episode broadcast on January 24, 1961, The Sacred Mushroom, instead of being a dramatic story, was instead a documentary on the use of a particular mushroom found in Mexico and whether or not users were able to achieve powers of extrasensory perception.

The consultant for the episode, who was also featured in the program, was Dr. Andrija Puharich (1918-1995), a medical and parapsychological researcher who supported the claims of alleged psychics Peter Hurkos and Uri Geller. Dave Hunt, in his book Peace, Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust (1983), devoted some space to the work of Dr. Puharich. Nowhere in the program was it suggested or suspected that the use of a psychedelic drug such as the sacred mushroom was opening the users to contact with and deception by demons.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Charismaniac dominionist drivel in the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada

The kind of nonsense that is typical of charismaniacs and dominionists is now infecting mainstream evangelicalism. An example is provided by Lorilee Jespersen, who, according to her biographical entry, has been working with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada in the St. Lawrence District for 20 years. In both English and French (click on the link for both languages), Ms. Jespersen stated, on January 18, 2021:

As we were preparing for District Conference 2019, our St Lawrence District team felt the Lord’s prompting to engage in a time of corporate confession similar to that of the previous General Assembly, but particularly focused on Quebec and our realities here. A group of pastors and intercessors discerned a number of key issues that God seemed to be highlighting as common sins or struggles needing to be overcome for those of us working in this part of God’s Kingdom. We carefully went to work to prepare a time of guided prayer for all the delegates.

I was primarily responsible for the last category—discouragement and despair—feelings that sometimes come on us while working in the hard ground of Quebec. I was having difficulty knowing exactly how to finish the prayer and I had left it open, waiting for God’s direction. The morning of the district conference, God seemed to wake me up with a somewhat strange message to “taste the rainbow,” and a picture of a package of Skittles. As I shared this with the others involved we had a collective sense that God wanted us to push back the discouragement, and instead renew our sense of hope and belief in His promises for this place. As a prophetic act I bought Skittles for all the participants. We handed them out to everyone and claimed the rainbow as our God-given symbol of His promises, making some very clear and faith-filled declarations over Quebec.

Since the COVID-19 crisis, Quebec—Montreal in particular—has displayed rainbows as an act of hope. They are in windows, at the airport, in various boroughs across the city, and on billboards all around us. Even famous structures such as the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the Big O, and the downtown Marriott Hotel display rainbow-coloured lights every evening. Quebecois graphic designer, Karine Perreault, is the person behind the rainbow that is featured on profile pictures on Facebook.

When I began to see the rainbow appear around me, my mind went to that moment at the District Conference when we claimed the rainbow as a symbol of God’s promises, and declared with faith that God is moving, and is going to move, in mighty ways in this place. We continue to believe this is true, and many are pressing on in prayer for spiritual awakening through this crisis. Stories are beginning to emerge of prodigals coming home. My husband and I have recently had the privilege of helping people who were once associated with our youth ministry return to the Father.

With all my heart I believe that the rainbow we see in windows and on buildings is not a human effort to make us feel better, but it is an indication that God is mightily at work here and everywhere right now. We are tasting the rainbow even now. We will see the fulfillment of His promises for this place.
Those familiar with the excesses of charismania will be familiar with assertions such as "God seemed to wake me up with a somewhat strange message..." The phrase "taste the rainbow" is nowhere found in the Bible, which leads me to question whether the message Ms. Jespersen received came from God; it seems more likely that it may have been the result of something she ate. Since when is buying Skittles a "prophetic act?"

Claiming the rainbow "as our God-given symbol of His promises, making some very clear and faith-filled declarations over Quebec" is the language of dominionism. In fact, the rainbow represents just one promise from God--that He will never again cover the Earth with a flood to destroy all flesh:

And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
Genesis 9:12-17

It should be noted that God's promise not to destroy all flesh with a flood is represented my the appearance of actual rainbows in the sky, not pictorial depictions. While the rainbow is God's symbol of His covenant, it's been hijacked in recent decades by New Agers and alphabet perverts as a symbol of their agenda. The rainbows that Ms. Jespersen sees on display in Montreal may very well be intended to represent these anti-Christ agendas. While I sympathize with Ms. Jespersen's frustration at working in a spiritually barren place such as Quebec, she's claiming, on the basis of an alleged message from God that isn't found in the Bible, that God has promised something for Quebec that He hasn't necessarily promised; this is the attitude and language of dominionism. Her husband should correct her on her false doctrine, and so should the leaders in her church. The fact that the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada puts this on its website for public consumption is an indication of the lack of discernment in the C&MA, and doesn't bode well for the future of the denomination.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Ancient tombstone of woman who lived "immaculate life" discovered in Israel

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31: 10

As reported by Naama Barak of Israel 21C, January 11, 2021 (link in original):

A lady called Maria who lived some 1,400 years ago apparently led such an immaculate life that her loved ones thought it worth mentioning on her tombstone, which was recently discovered at the Nitzana National Park in southern Israel.

The flat round tombstone, measuring 10 inches in diameter, was unearthed by an Israel Nature and Parks Authority worker while clearing nature paths.

The Greek inscription on the stone, deciphered by Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, refers to a “Blessed Maria, who lived an immaculate life” and who died on February 9 of an unspecified year. The stone itself was dated to the late sixth to early seventh centuries CE.

“Nitzana is renowned as a key site in research into the transition between the Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods,” explains Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“During the fifth and sixth centuries CE, Nitzana acted as a center for the villages and settlements in the vicinity. Among other things, it had a military fortress as well as churches, a monastery and a road station that served Christian pilgrims traveling to Santa Katarina, which believers regarded as the site of Mount Sinai.”

The ancient town of Nitzana was founded as early as the third century BCE as a Nabatean station on a major trade route. It was inhabited intermittently for over 1,000 years until it was abandoned.

This latest archeological find joins numerous others from the area, such as a papyrus archive unearthed in the 1930s and other tombstones commemorating Christians buried in the churches and cemeteries around the town.
The ancient tombstone referring to a blessed Maria that was unearthed in Nitzana in southern Israel. Photo by Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority

Sunday, 3 January 2021

100 years ago: The beginning of religious broadcasting

As reported by Paul Guggenheimer of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 2, 2021 (bold, links in original):

Before Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Joel Osteen, Archbishop Fulton Sheen and famous radio evangelists such as Father Charles Coughlin and Aimee Semple McPherson, there was Edwin Van Etten.

It was the Rev. Edwin Van Etten, far from a household name, who helped popularize the live radio sermon. It began Jan. 2, 1921, at Pittsburgh’s Calvary Episcopal Church on fledgling KDKA radio and continued Sunday nights for decades. And as it happens, Van Etten, rector of the East Liberty church, initially shied away from the idea.

It was exactly two months after KDKA’s historic first broadcast of the 1920 Harding-Cox presidential election results that the station put together the first live remote broadcast from Calvary.

Broadcast pioneer Harry P. Davis — a vice president of Westinghouse Electric, which owned KDKA — was looking to sell “radio sets,” as they were called back then. In order to do that, he needed programming of all types to give people a reason to buy them.

“Davis wants to be successful. He wants this to be a major commercial enterprise for Westinghouse,” said Anne Madarasz, chief historian at the Senator John Heinz History Center. “And the more quality programming and the more variety they can offer, the better opportunity he has to sell radio sets.”

Plans were made to do all sorts of live, remote broadcasts, but the one from Calvary proved to be KDKA’s test case, according to Madarasz.

“Two weeks later, Herbert Hoover does an address at the Duquesne Club, and they do a remote (broadcast) from there,” Madarasz said. “By April, they’re doing boxing, by August they’re doing the Davis Cup and Pirates games, college football in October. So, they literally go right from the Calvary broadcast to this.”

How Calvary Episcopal was chosen

Calvary was chosen for that first church broadcast by an ancient tradition: Somebody knew somebody.

Davis wanted to do some type of religious broadcast on Sundays. A Westinghouse employee named Fletcher Hallock — a choir member at Calvary — suggested his own church.

Van Etten was open to the idea but expressed concern about how much of a distraction the broadcast would create. He and others also worried that people might be less inclined to attend church in person if they could just listen to it on the radio. However, he never suggested it shouldn’t be tried.

“Calvary has always been easygoing and welcoming when it comes to embracing new things,” said the Rev. Jonathon Jensen, the rector of Calvary since 2014.

Nevertheless, Van Etten decided radio was a passing fad and would just be “a fizzle.” So he sat that first broadcast out and delegated the duty of giving radio’s first sermon to his assistant, the Rev. Lewis Whittemore.

But a lot of planning and rehearsing had to be done at the church before Whittemore stepped up to that live microphone.

“The (engineers) practiced for two weeks moving the transmitters and microphones around to see how to get the best reception,” Madarasz said. “They used three microphones — one with the organ, one with the choir and one with the pastor — and it takes two engineers.

“They had a Jewish engineer and a Catholic engineer, and they wore choir robes the first week so they blended in and didn’t distract the congregants.”

The sound was transmitted over telephone lines back to the KDKA studios and broadcast from there.

You would think all of this would have been a cause for great excitement among the Calvary faithful. Not so, according to Jensen.

A ‘nonevent’ …

“The service 100 years ago was almost a nonevent,” Jensen said. “There’s two little paragraphs in the bulletin about it. The first radio broadcast received slightly less attention than the basketball league scores.” In the church calendar, Van Etten announced that “interesting arrangements have been made for tonight’s service. The International Radio Company (Westinghouse) has installed wireless telephone receiving apparatus in the chancel, and tonight’s music, sermon and service will be flashed for a radius of 1,000 miles through space.”

But at 7:45 that Sunday evening of Jan. 2, 1921, something magical happened. The sermon preached by Whittemore was titled “The Wood and the Sword.”

“My friends, one would not lose an opportunity to speak and be heard by the radio congregation,” Whittemore said. “He would want to say something that could be of use and of strength and of meaning to every one who might hear his word.

“He would want to point out with all earnestness that the real perils and dangers of life are never the outside ones. It is never the difficult tasks that prove fatal to life. The real dangers to life are always the inside uncertainty, the inside entanglements and the inside inability.”

Jensen noted that Whittemore’s address was long by today’s standards.

… becomes a sensation

But, more importantly, it was a huge hit with the radio audience.

“Apparently, that radio broadcast was reaching people a thousand miles away,” Jensen said. “People started sending in letters thanking them. They were excited about it. They started sending in dimes and nickels, and that’s eventually how we paid for the plaque on the front of the church” that commemorates the broadcast.

Van Etten was reported to have said radio should not be used to raise money for churches.

However, after seeing how well the broadcast was received, he decided to take on the lead role when the broadcasts became a weekly event on Sunday nights, thus becoming the first regularly heard radio evangelist. He gained a formidable following in the process.

Any concerns about radio keeping people away from church proved unfounded. To the contrary, people approached Van Etten to say they were coming to church because they had heard him on the radio.

Other churches wanted to be on the radio as well.

“Shortly after KDKA’s broadcast, other radio stations around the country start doing it,” Madarasz said. “They recognized there’s a market for this.”

‘The KDKA Chapel’

“By March, they’ve got the KDKA Chapel, as they called it, up and running. They’re bringing a revolving series of churches in, and they’re also doing other remote broadcasts.

“They’re dedicating three broadcasts on Sundays to church services.”

The following year, KDKA broadcast a guest sermon by William Jennings Bryan, the politician and popular orator, from Point Breeze Presbyterian Church. (The church building at Fifth and Penn avenues is now home to St. Paul Baptist.) It was Bryan’s first-ever radio broadcast.

The weekly KDKA broadcasts from Calvary would continue until 1962.

On Sunday, Calvary will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first broadcast. Some of the music from the 1921 service — “The Angels and the Shepherds,” “Carol of the Russian Children” and “Jesu Bambino” — will be performed, along with one of the hymns.

A reproduction of the 1921 service bulletin appears at the end of Calvary’s newsletter online.
HT: Puget Sound Radio

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople blasts Moscow Patriarchate

A recent backlog item; as reported by Russian Faith, August 13, 2020:

Patriarch Bartholomew is a citizen of Turkey. He leads all Greek Orthodox churches in the United States of America, as well as the handful of Christians remaining in Istanbul, Turkey.
As reported by Tatyana Chaika of the Union of Orthodox Journalists, February 6, 2020 (links in original):

The Patriarchate of Constantinople is revered by spiritual children across the world, still there are the ungrateful who do not value its gifts, said Pat. Bartholomew.

On February 5, 2020, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople met with a group of clergy, professors, and students from Armenia, Romfea reports.

In his speech, Patriarch Bartholomew noted, “Constantinople is the spiritual womb of our nation, the ark in which everything that is sacred to our nation is preserved.”

He emphasized, “We consider this a special blessing and privilege from God, because we were granted this spirituality, this blessing to continue the tradition of many centuries, according to which our patriarchy is founded and worshiped not only by our own spiritual children but also by others, by the entire Orthodoxy, by the Christian world, by the whole mankind.”

According to him, the Patriarchate of Constantinople "is of particular value to us, the Greek Orthodox, as well as to all Orthodox faithful", while "the new Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, which were born from here, found healing. Unfortunately, there are unborn children and there are ungrateful ones who do not appreciate what they received from Constantinople – their Baptism, culture, the Cyrillic alphabet or otherwise.”

“The Church of Constantinople sacrificed itself, gave itself to others and, as grateful people tell us, the Mother Church, because She is the mother and still loves them all,” added the Phanar leader.

As reported by the UOJ, earlier Metropolitan Maxim (Vgenopoulos) of Silivria assured the head of Phanar that the Holy Theotokos is on his side “in the struggle of the Ecumenical Throne with its opponents, including the ungrateful Moscow Church.”
As reported by Yekaterina Filatova of the Union of Orthodox Journalists, August 11, 2020 (links in original):

Pat. Bartholomew spoke explicitly of visible and invisible enemies of the Mother Church, stressing that "we have ungrateful children, but we embrace them all with love."

The Head of the Phanar, Patriarch Bartholomew, called the Moscow Patriarchate, which broke off Eucharistic communion with Constantinople after the latter had granted autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatics, enemies and "ungrateful children." It was reported by the Orthodox Times.

Thus, according to the resource, Patriarch Bartholomew made a direct reference to both the visible and invisible enemies of the Mother Church of Constantinople and about the ungrateful children who benefited from the Church of Constantinople and yet “lifted heels of contempt against their benefactor.”

“We have enemies, it is not that we do not have, and in fact many,” the publication cites the patriarch. The enemies are not only who are declared, whom we know to be our enemies, but they are also the beneficiaries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its descendants, its spiritual descendants. So, we also have ungrateful children, but we embrace them all with love.”

The Phanar head recalled that on the occasion of the granting of Autocephaly to Ukraine, the Church of Russia “interrupted the Eucharistic communion and ceased to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

“However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not interrupt communion with the Church of Russia. Even this morning, while officiating at St. Panteleimon in Galatas, we commemorated Patriarch Cyril of Moscow,” the Ecumenical Patriarch stressed.

“We continue to embrace everyone, enemies and friends, with our love and our prayer and our understanding,” Patriarch Bartholomew upheld.

He made special mention of the continuous interest of the Mother Church for her direct flock in Constantinople, and for her care for every believer, “regardless of his/her national origin, as she takes care of the worship needs and the spiritual support of the Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Moldavian, Gagauz and, more recently, of the Georgian Orthodox Christians, who came as immigrants and now live permanently in Constantinople, being a flock of the Mother Church.”

As reported by the UOJ, earlier Patriarch Bartholomew claimed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople "is of particular value to us, the Greek Orthodox, as well as to all Orthodox faithful", while "the new Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, which were born from here, found healing. Unfortunately, there are unborn children and there are ungrateful ones, who do not appreciate what they received from Constantinople – their Baptism, culture, the Cyrillic alphabet or otherwise.”
As reported by the Union of Orthodox Journalists, August 11, 2020:

The Ecumenical Patriarch made another direct reference to both the visible and invisible enemies of the Mother Church. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke about ungrateful children who benefited from the Church of Constantinople and yet, as he stressed, “lifted heels of contempt against their benefactor.”

“We have enemies, it is not that we do not have, and in fact many…. The enemies are not only who are declare, whom we know to be our enemies, but they are also the beneficiaries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its descendants, its spiritual descendants. “So, we also have ungrateful children, but we embrace them all with love.”

This direct shot, of course, was aimed at the Church of Russia, which on the occasion of the granting of Autocephaly to Ukraine, interrupted the Eucharistic communion and ceased to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

“You know that on the occasion of the Autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine the Moscow Patriarchate interrupted the communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, that is, with its Mother Church. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not interrupted communion with the Church of Russia. “Even this morning, while officiating at St. Panteleimon in Galatas, we commemorated Patriarch Cyril of Moscow,” the Ecumenical Patriarch stressed, adding that “We continue to embrace everyone, enemies and friends, with our love and our prayer and our understanding.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made special mention of the continuous interest of the Mother Church for her direct flock in Constantinople, and for her care for every believer, regardless of his/her national origin, as she takes care of the worship needs and the spiritual support of the Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Moldavian, Gagauz and, more recently, of the Georgian Orthodox Christians, who came as immigrants and now live permanently in Constantinople, being a flock of the Mother Church.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

U.S. federal court of appeals rules against New York restrictions on houses of worship

It's not guaranteed, but if you dare to stand up for your rights, there's a chance you might win; of course, you won't win if you cravenly bow the knee to Caesar, as many churches have done. As reported by Shira Hanau of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 28, 2020 (link in original):

A federal court of appeals ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s capacity limits on houses of worship in areas with rising COVID-19 cases constituted a violation of religious liberty.

The ruling on Monday comes after a Supreme Court injunction last month blocking Cuomo from enforcing the rules until the lower court could reevaluate an earlier ruling that upheld state guidelines limiting synagogue attendance to 10 or 25 people.

The case, brought by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an advocacy organization representing haredi Orthodox Jews, was one of the first religious liberty cases to be decided by the court’s new conservative majority. The appeals court ruling was celebrated by Agudath Israel as confirmation that it had achieved a victory for religious liberty.

“The courts have clearly recognized that the restrictions imposed by New York State violate the constitutional rights of those seeking to attend religious worship services,” Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said in a statement Monday.

The court of appeals did not rule on the constitutionality of percentage capacity limits, which would have impacted smaller houses of worship. Houses of worship in zones with the highest rates of COVID-19, so-called red zones, were subjected to capacity limits of ten people or 25% of building capacity, whichever is fewer. In orange zones, the limit was 25 people or 33% of capacity, whichever is fewer.

The court ordered the district court to reevaluate its ruling on the percentage capacity limits imposed by Cuomo to determine if they discriminated against houses of worship.

Crimes against church buildings in Saskatchewan are increasing

As reported by Canadian Press, December 23, 2020:

REGINA - RCMP say they are dealing with a new trend in Saskatchewan involving a significant increase in crimes affecting churches.

Mounties have issued a "Crime Pattern Alert" about a growing number of thefts, break-ins, attempted break-ins and mischief involving places of worship.

Police say that from January to November there were 64 such crimes involving 55 churches — a 60 per cent increase in break-ins from 2019.

In most cases, the doors of churches were opened by force at night and thieves took money, electronics, computers, guitars, safes, freezers and refrigerators.

Investigators says all denominations are being targeted and nothing indicates the crime trend is motivated by hate, racism or ideology.

RCMP crime analyst Monica Deters says people and communities are being urged to make their churches more secure.

"This increase in church break-ins is concerning enough that it creates a pattern," Deters said Wednesday in a release.

"This new criminal trend is noticeable because these break-ins happened all year and across Saskatchewan. It is imperative that we all get involved to better secure these buildings."

RCMP say most of the crimes that affected churches this year are in the central part of the province.
I suspect this is the result of the buildings not being used during the plandemic; one thing that might deter crime would be for the buildings to reopen.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Vatican's 2020 nativity scene displays occult symbols

To quote renowned cultural observer James Stolee out of context: "What utter blasphemy!" As reported by Vigilant Citizen, December 15, 2020 (bold, links in original):

On December 11th, the Vatican unveiled its 2020 Nativity scene in St-Peter’s Square. And, once the red drape covering the scene was removed, the crowd discovered a towering, brutalist, and totem-like Angel Gabriel staring back at them, along with an astronaut and a masked executioner (yes, those guys who kill people who are sentenced to death).

Let’s say that the applause following the unveiling was “polite”. Here are some pictures of the Nativity scene.

An ominous-looking angel looks down at the crowd while Jesus remains covered in red cloth for a while (not sure why). Behind the figures is a neon light that is probably meant to look like mountains on the horizon. However, at first glance, it looks like lightning striking the Nativity scene.

An astronaut and a masked executioner are also included in the Nativity scene.

In a press release, a Vatican City Governorate announced that the manger “aims to be a sign of hope and faith for the whole world especially in this difficult time due to the COVID-19 health emergency.”

But this thing did not bring “hope and faith” at all. In fact, nearly all observers absolutely hated it.

In no way does this horned creature bring me Christmas joy. And to think, in a few weeks, he's going to be standing over a Baby Jesus at the Vatican.

How did we get here?

--The Catholic Traveler

It is almost as if the Vatican created – on purpose – something that is so ugly that it causes devout Christians to hate piece depicting the birth of Jesus. Satanists wouldn’t have done better.

Weaponized Ugliness

Titled “Monumental Nativity”, this Nativity scene was originally created between 1965 and 1975 by students and teachers from the FA Grue Art School in Castelli, Italy. The original work contained over 50 pieces, but only a few were selected for the Vatican’s Nativity scene and they chose an executioner wearing a horned mask.

“Monumental Nativity” is said to be a tribute to the world-renowned ceramic works of the Abruzzo region while giving a post-modern twist to the classic Nativity scene.

Speaking with a local newspaper, Italian art historian Andrea Cionci asked if it was a “nightmare or a masterpiece”.

“Forget the sweet face of the Madonna, the tender, luminous incarnation of the Child Jesus, the paternal sweetness of St. Joseph and the devout wonder of the shepherds. For the first time in the middle of Bernini’s colonnade, the Vatican has erected a brutally postmodern work dating back to the sixties. In the choice of this crib, all the themes of Francis’ pontificate are recognized: Above all, heavy modernism and a drastic break with Tradition.

The figures resemble the masks of the ancient and ferocious Samnites, ancestors of the Abruzzese, who had a pantheistic, animist, fetishist, magical religion, a bit like the Andean fertility goddess Pachamama.

Castelli’s “Nativity scene” is an outdated work and the product of a strongly ideological art school. The work offers an image of Castelli’s ceramics that most certainly does not correspond to reality, given that this admirable art is famous for its formal elegance and exquisite, delicate decorative inspiration that are completely absent here.

The references to the Greek, Egyptian and Sumerian sculptures of the characters suggest the liberal historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture. Liberal biblical scholars have hypothesized various aspects of the Bible as adaptations of pagan cultures rather than the result of divine revelation.”

Although “ugliness” is subjective, this Nativity scene nearly goes out of its way to be as unpleasant to the eye as possible which, in turn, is unpleasant to the soul. The least one can say is that this scene is anti-devotional. I mean, who would actually pray to this thing? You just can’t. And that’s kind of the goal of the twisted minds behind this thing.

Furthermore, beyond its overall ugliness, the Nativity scene also contains many symbols and historical references that convey a rather blatant message: This is actually an anti-Nativity scene.


Usually, the center focus of Nativity scenes is baby Jesus. However, in this thing, Baby Jesus is basically a random toddler, just standing there, looking like a giant cork.


The center focus of this piece is not Jesus but rather the angel Gabriel. He is surrounded by a massive aureola while Jesus is still standing there looking like a giant cork. Furthermore, the angel towers over everything atop a rib ribbed pillar. The overall shape of this pillar is highly reminiscent of an important symbol in Ancient Egypt: The Djed pillar.

On the right: A djed pillar dedicated to the goddess Hathor.

The djed is a common symbol in Ancient Egypt and is believed to represent the god Osiris, more specifically his spine. While this symbol probably bears an esoteric meaning relating to the chakras (which are said to be based on the spine), the djed is also phallic in nature and associated with fertility rites. In fact, the “raising of the djed” was an important ceremony in Ancient Egypt.

Did the Vatican deceptively make its believers witness a “raising of the djed” ceremony? One thing is for sure, the Egyptian influence of this Nativity scene blends well with what’s immediately behind it.

Right behind the Nativity scene is St. Peter’s obelisk (which is originally from Egypt).

The general layout of the Vatican is Egyptian magic in plain sight. The phallic obelisk (representing Osiris and the male principle) faces the womb-like dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica (representing Isis and the female principle). The same exact layout can be found in various power centers of the world, including Washington DC.

In Washington DC, an obelisk (the Washington monument) faces the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

In Egyptian magic, the union of male and female principles (Osiris and Isis) produces a “star child” (Horus). In esoteric terms, that star child is potent magical energy...

...the Vatican’s Nativity scene also features an astronaut. Why? God knows.

The astronaut appears to be holding/giving birth to something. Also, there’s an eight-pointed star on the helmet.

Considering the fact that this figure was created between 1965 and 1975, it might be a reference to the moon landing of 1969. But why, in 2020, did the Vatican select this thing to stand next to Jesus?

Even more baffling, why is there an executioner wearing a horned mask standing next to Jesus?

Even he’s thinking to himself: “What am I doing here?”.

In ancient times, executioners carried out the death sentences of legally condemned persons by chopping their heads off. In some cases, they wore grotesque masks with macabre and menacing traits to further terrify the prisoners while depersonalizing them as an individual. In short, that’s a bizarre figure to place next to a newborn baby Jesus, especially considering the fact that Jesus himself was ultimately sentenced to death.

According to Religion News Service, the executioner is there to represent the Vatican’s opposition to the death penalty. That’s a pretty weak argument that barely makes any sense. I mean, I’m pretty sure that the Vatican is also against crystal meth. Should they also add a meth dealer to the Nativity scene as well?

In a scene that is literally called “Nativity”, this horned figure represents death. It is the antithesis of a “Nativity”. I don’t think that Satanists would have done a better job desecrating a scene representing the birth of Jesus.

In Conclusion

In a way, this year’s Nativity scene is a sad reflection of the year 2020. It is a collection of expressionless and socially-distanced figures who do not interact with each other while standing under the neon glow of phone and computer screens.

It also reflects how the occult elite reared its ugly head this year, poisoning every aspect of our lives with its toxic agenda. Through a display that is thoroughly anti-Christian, the elite sought to prove that its toxic ideology is also embedded in the Vatican.

While “Monumental Nativity” was created decades ago, it was selected for this year’s 2020 Nativity scene for a specific reason: It contains specific symbols while conveying a specific energy. Like everything else that happened this year, this scene is about showcasing the control of the elite and the demoralization of the masses.