Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope apologizes to the country’s Muslims for one of his bishops questioning the authenticity of some verses in the Qur’an

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 3

I don’t live in a Muslim country (yet!), and I’m certainly in no position to pass judgment on those who do. However, when "Christian leaders" consider national unity and social peace to be so important that they refuse to even question the authority of the Qur’an, I question whether these people are actually Christians. As reported by Agence France Presse on September 27, 2010:

CAIRO — The head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church said on Sunday he regretted the fact that Muslims were offended by the comments of a senior bishop who cast doubt on the authenticity of some verses in the Koran.

"I'm very sorry that the feelings of our Muslim brethren have been hurt," a visibly moved Pope Shenuda III told Egyptian television in an interview.

He was referring to remarks by Bishop Bishoy, secretary of the Coptic Church's Holy Synod, who said that some verses of the Koran were inserted into the holy book after the death of the Prophet Mohammed...

..."Religious dialogue must be limited to common points... dialogue must be for the good of the country," Shenuda said.

"We should never discuss theological differences.

"The simple fact of bringing up the subject was inappropriate, and escalating the matter is inappropriate," he said...

...Egypt's constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but there is great sensitivity when it comes to religious matters. Simmering tensions occasionally flare up into violent incidents between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

Three Egyptian Muslims are currently on trial for allegedly gunning down six Copts after they emerged from Christmas services in Nagaa Hammadi in southern Egypt.

Coptic Christians make up around six to 10 percent of the 80 million population and complain of systematic marginalisation and discrimination.

In contrast to Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Shenouda III, the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to discuss "theological differences" with the Pharisees (see, for example, John 8:12-59). The apostle Paul was willing to discuss "theological differences" with the residents of Athens (Acts 17:16-34) and Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). When he was facing the Sanhedrin, he identified himself as a Pharisee in his belief in the resurrection of the dead, contrary to the Sadducees; the result was a violent division within the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-23:10).

From a related article:

Anba Bishawi, secretary of the Synod and bishop of Damietta and Kafr Al-Sheikh, clarified in a communiqué released yesterday that he honored the belief of all Egyptians, and rejected all harm to religions and religious symbols, particularly Islam and Muslims, who are "our partners in the homeland."

The clarification came in response to statements attributed to Bishawi by the media, that he allegedly stated that the Copts were the homeowners in Egypt and that the Muslims were their guests – sparking fears of religious conflagration in the country.

In an attempt to calm matters, Coptic Patriarch Shenouda said on Egyptian television yesterday that the media had distorted Bishawi's statements, and stressed that the Muslims and Christians were sons of a single homeland, and that he was even willing to say that the Christians were the guests of the Muslims, because the Muslims were the majority in the country.

I don't know if the quotes attributed to Bishop Bishawi were accurately reported, but if Pope Shenouda was quoted accurately it betrays a nauseating attitude of dhimmitude. It hardly needs pointing out that Jews and Christians inhabited Egypt long before Islam existed; Muslims in Egypt have no right to treat Egyptian Christians as "guests" instead of "equals," and Christians shouldn't be willing to put up with that kind of treatment (I could comment on the similarity between non-Muslims' attitude of dhimmitude in countries with a majority Muslim population and that of English-speaking residents of Quebec, but it wouldn't fit into the scope of this blog).

As for Egypt, the people of that nation will come to know the Lord, according to Isaiah:

And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.
And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
Isaiah 19:20-25

Voodoo in Canada attempts to go mainstream

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Deuteronomy 18:9-12

As reported by Ingrid Peritz in The Globe and Mail on September 27, 2010:

The stairs leading to Rolanda Delerme’s basement open onto a dazzling tableau: Pink and green feathers in jars, sequined bottles, a life-sized mannequin holding a knife, altars packed with Catholic saints.

"Welcome," the voodoo priestess says, dressed in a headdress and flowing white robes.

Voodoo temples such as this are said to have thrived for years in the homes of Haitian émigrés in Montreal, hidden from the judging eyes of outsiders. But now devotees have started a movement to bring voodoo and its rituals out of the shadows.

"I want to open my door. I want to tell people: We exist. We are not devil worshippers," said Ms. Delerme, a fourth-generation voodoo priestess, or mambo, who was born in Haiti but lived in the U.S. before settling in Montreal.

"We want to defend our culture and traditions," she said in her home on an ordinary suburban street in Montreal’s West Island. "Voodoo is still being stigmatized."

Ms. Delerme, 34, has taken on a daunting task – pulling back the veil to try to demystify one of the most secretive and misunderstood religions in the world. This month, she and a group of "voodooists" took the unusual step of holding a press conference in Montreal to announce a Canadian "national voodooist confederation."

The group has rented a tiny office in Montreal’s multiethnic Park Extension district, printed up business cards and let the news media into their once off-limit temples...

...Voodoo is a centuries-old belief that combines African religions with Western Catholicism; in Haiti, its public rehabilitation began after it was officially recognized as a religion in 2003. In Montreal, it’s impossible to know the number of followers because of voodoo’s covert nature. One expert said he’s heard estimates ranging from 30 to 80 per cent of Haitian Canadians, overwhelmingly concentrated in Quebec.

Despite the move to go mainstream, voodoo has long been taboo in the 100,000-strong Haitian diaspora. The religion was the focus of "anti-superstition" efforts by the Catholic church in Haiti that began in the late 19th century, which pushed voodoo underground even as some Haitians clung to its practises.

"Haitians are ambivalent about voodoo," said Emerson Douyon, a retired psychology professor from the University of Montreal who studied voodoo in Haiti for his PhD. "On the one hand, they’re very proud of their ancestors’ religion and their African roots. Voodoo is part of who they are."

"But Haitians know Canadians don’t necessarily approve of these kinds of practises. They worry about being considered primitive. That’s why it’s kept hidden."

That could change for good, when the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau puts on an exhibit on voodoo in 2012. It will combine artifacts collected from Haitian-Canadians along with a touring exhibit of Haitian voodoo that is currently being shown in Europe.

The fact that the Museum of Civilization will feature an exhibit on voodoo shows that the word "civilization" is apparently about as clearly defined now as the word "evangelical." The voodoo practitioners would be smart to hire Mormons to teach them how to promote their beliefs and practices as "mainstream."

40 years ago: Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, dies at 52

On September 28, 1970 Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt since 1954, died at the age of 52. Mr. Nasser was an officer and chief organizer in the military coup that toppled King Faisal from the Egyptian throne in 1952, but installed General Mohammed Naguib as a figurehead president. Mr. Nasser took power himself in 1954, and turned Egypt into a military dictatorship under his control. He embarked on economic reforms and public works projects such as the Aswan High Dam.

Egypt’s decisions to accept arms from the U.S.S.R. and to nationalize the Suez Canal alarmed the U.S.A. and U.K., precipitating the Suez crisis of 1956, in which an Anglo-French force swept into Egypt and achieved great success before being called back in the wake of disapproval from the United States. In February 1958, Egypt and Syria combined to form the United Arab Republic, which broke up just over 3½ years later when Syria abandoned the union because Egypt appeared to benefit from the UAR more than Syria. The Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt in June 1967 was another military disaster for Egypt, but Mr. Nasser retained his popularity. He was a charismatic figure who seemed to symbolize the aspirations of Arab peoples.

On September 27, 1970 Mr. Nasser achieved a diplomatic success when he convened in Cairo a meeting of Arab nations that produced an end to the Jordanian civil war between King Hussein's troops and Palestinian guerrillas (led by a man hitherto unknown to the west, Yasser Arafat) that had begun 10 days earlier. Mr. Nasser, a diabetic who had suffered a heart attack in late 1969 which had been kept secret, suffered another heart attack the day after the conference, this one fatal. He was succeeded as President by Anwar Sadat.

10 years ago: Pierre Trudeau, Canada's worst Prime Minister, dies at 80

On September 28, 2000 Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada from 1968-1979 and 1980-1984, died at age 80. A Canadian version of Barack Obama (even including a background with suspicious Communist connections), the hereditarily wealthy, charismatic "Kissing Flower Boy" legalized abortion and homosexual acts, effectively substituting secular humanism for the Bible as the basis of Canadian law; adopted the suicidal policies of official bilingualism and multiculturalism; emasculated Parliament while turning the Prime Minister's office into a one-man dictatorship; downgraded the nation’s military; poisoned relations with the United States while signing a "Friendship Protocol" with the Soviet Union; did what he could to destroy the Canadian economy; stole tens of billions of dollars from Alberta through the implementation of the unconstitutional National Energy Policy; intervened in the judicial system (with his henchmen Otto Lang and Jean Chretien) when he couldn't get his way and violated precedents in trying to remove my father from his position as a territorial court judge; and imposed upon the country a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that had the effects of destroying parliamentary supremacy in favour of the Supreme Court and of giving special "rights" to perverts, criminals, deadbeats, and malcontents. He took over a great country called Canada, and left behind him a multicultural monstrosity called, in Mark Steyn’s term, Trudeaupia.

Mr. Trudeau posed as a world leader, but the only world "leaders" who attended his funeral were failed former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The best analyses of Pierre Trudeau can be found in the columns of Lubor Zink in the Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun, some of which were collected in Mr. Zink’s books Trudeaucracy (1972) and Viva Chairman Pierre! (1977). It may be oddly appropriate that Pierre Trudeau took office as Prime Minister of Canada on April 20, 1968, which was not only the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler (whom Mr. Trudeau had declined to fight in World War II), but the day that British politician Enoch Powell delivered his "Rivers of Blood" speech, warning--prophetically--of the dangers of multiracial immigration; and that Mr. Trudeau died on the day that the United States Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of the marketing of RU-486, a pill that produces abortions.

Mr. Trudeau was saddened in his final years by the death of his youngest son, Michel, in a tragic accident, and Mr. Trudeau was reportedly expressing a belief in God and that he would see Michel on the other side. I don't know if Pierre Trudeau came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I'll be very glad if he did.

10 years ago: U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the abortion pill

On September 28, 2000 the United States Food and Drug Administration announced that it had approved marketing of a pill that would induce abortions. The drug mifepristone, or RU-486, which blocks progesterone--a hormone necessary for pregnancy--was already available in China and many European countries. The FDA required that it be taken within seven weeks after the user’s last menstrual period. In the event that it failed to produce an abortion, the user would be required to have a surgical abortion.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

120 years ago: Mormon church's 1890 Manifesto officially disavows the practice of plural marriage

On September 25, 1890 Wilford Woodruff, "Prophet, Seer and Revelator" (i.e., President) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., Mormons), announced through publication in the church-owned Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret Weekly that he had received a revelation from Jesus Christ on the night of September 23 that the church should cease the practice of plural marriage. The 1890 Manifesto, as it became known, was formally accepted by church membership on October 6, 1890, during the church’s 60th Semiannual General Conference.

The official text of the 1890 Manifesto reads:

To Whom It May Concern:
Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy—
I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.
One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.
Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.
There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.
Wilford Woodruff
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Lorenzo Snow offered the following:
"I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding."
The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous.
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 6, 1890.

The fact that this "revelation" came as Utah, whose population was mainly Mormon, was being denied statehood by the United States of America because of the practice of polygamy, was, of course, just a fantastic (and convenient) coincidence.

Interestingly, this "revelation" flatly contradicts a revelation given through Mormon founder and "prophet" Joseph Smith on July 12, 1843, which comprises Section 132 of Doctrine and Covenants and is still part of Mormon scripture today. Paragraphs 58-66 of Section 132 state:

58 Now, as touching the law of the priesthood, there are many things pertaining thereunto.
59 Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me, and I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him.
60 Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God.
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.
65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.
66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.

The fact that this "revelation" came to Joseph Smith shortly after he’d been discovered to be having affairs with the wives of his followers was also a fantastic (and convenient) coincidence.

September 26, 2010 update: The commenter named Alma says that it's misinformation to say that President Woodruff claimed to have received a revelation. I offer the following, which is from an LDS church source:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)
It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all. . . .
I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. . . .
The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.
The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?
The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for . . . any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.
. . . I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. . . .
I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. (Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891.)
Now I will tell you what was manifested to me and what the Son of God performed in this thing. . . . All these things would have come to pass, as God Almighty lives, had not that Manifesto been given. Therefore, the Son of God felt disposed to have that thing presented to the Church and to the world for purposes in his own mind. The Lord had decreed the establishment of Zion. He had decreed the finishing of this temple. He had decreed that the salvation of the living and the dead should be given in these valleys of the mountains. And Almighty God decreed that the Devil should not thwart it. If you can understand that, that is a key to it. (From a discourse at the sixth session of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, April 1893. Typescript of Dedicatory Services, Archives, Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Those who find it curious that a Mormon President should contradict the pronouncements of a previous Mormon President should keep in mind that the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a "Prophet, Seer and Revelator." Whoever happens to be the current President is considered to be a "living prophet," and his pronouncements take precedents over those of his predecessors, even if they contradict the pronouncements of previous church Presidents.

There was indeed another statement on the subject--commonly known as the Second Manifesto--presented by President Joseph F. Smith, Sr. at the Third Day-Afternoon Session of the Seventy-Fourth Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1904. It reads:

Now I am going to present a matter to you that is unusual and I do it because of a conviction which I feel that it is a proper thing for me to do. I have taken the liberty of having written down what I wish to present, in order that I may say to you the exact words which I would like to have conveyed to your ears, that I may not be misunderstood or misquoted. I present this to the conference for your action: OFFICIAL STATEMENT

"Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation that plural marriages have been entered into contrary to the official declaration of President Woodruff, of September 26, 1890, commonly called the Manifesto, which was issued by President Woodruff and adopted by the Church at its general conference, October 6, 1890, which forbade any marriages violative of the law of the land; I, Joseph F Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and "I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage he will be deemed in transgression against the Church and will be liable to be dealt with, according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom.


President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They charge us with being dishonest and untrue to our word. They charge the Church with having violated a "compact," and all this sort of nonsense. I want to see today whether the Latter-day Saints representing the Church in this solemn assembly will not seal these charges as false by their vote.

President Francis M. Lyman presented the following resolution and moved its adoption: RESOLUTION OF ENDORSEMENT

"Resolved that we, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in General Conference assembled, hereby approve and endorse the statement and declaration of President Joseph F Smith just made to this Conference concerning plural marriages, and will support the courts of the Church in the enforcement thereof."

The resolution was seconded by a number of Presidents of Stakes and prominent Elders. Elder B. H. Roberts, in seconding the resolution, spoke as follows:

"In seconding the resolution that has just been read-which I most heartily do-I desire to state at least one reason for doing it. As remarked by the president, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been accused of being covenant-breakers with this nation. Of course, there never was, and could not be, any compact between the Church and the general government of the United States. But there could be a compact between the State of Utah and the United States, and there was such a compact made in the Constitution of our state, by and through the Constitutional Convention. And now I am pleased with the opportunity of the Church saying in its official capacity that the Latter-day Saints not only now are, but have been, true to the compact between the State of Utah and the United States, and that they are true to the Constitution of the state, which, by express provision, forever prohibited plural or polygamous marriages, and made that irrevocable, without the consent of the United States. The adoption by the Church of this resolution should put to silence those who have accused us of being covenant-breakers."

The resolution was then adopted, by unanimous vote of the Conference.

The fact that the Second Manifesto was issued brings up the question of why such a statement would be necessary if the 1890 Manifesto had been telling the truth.

Friday, 24 September 2010

More social gospel, works-based righteousness from Campus Crusade for Christ Power to Change: shaming people into supporting humanitarian aid

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV)

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see the increasingly liberal direction of Power to Change--the name under which the organization traditionally known as Campus Crusade for Christ now operates in Canada--since I predicted this when they announced a "new paradigm" in May 2006. Their latest stunt is a contest called "Paid vs. Aid," in which post-secondary students fill out a survey in order to have their names entered in a draw for $1,000 in tuition or $1,000 to be given to their choice of one of three humanitarian works. Here’s how Power to Change puts the options, in their own words (the contest rules may be found here):

PAID vs. AID – Can A Choice Change A Life?

This fall on university campuses across Canada is a contest like no other. You could win a choice between: 1) WATER: help drill a water well in Benin 2) TUITION: $1000 towards your tuition 3) SHELTER: provide shelter for 2 families in Haiti or 4) ORPHANS: support 22 orphans in Tanzania.

Each and every day, we make choices. We make choices about our base needs: what to eat, what to wear, how many cups of coffee we want to drink. We make choices about relationships: Who we want to befriend, who we love, how we want to be loved.

Have you ever thought about how you make choices? The conscious or unconscious thoughts that drive you towards one decision or another?

Here’s a thought: maybe the decisions we make in life all stem from our cravings deep within. How much I experience a craving or hunger for food will dictate:
How much of it I consume
What kind of food I will consume

In the same way, what my soul craves the most will sway large decisions in life.

If you had a choice to choose from the following four options to bring change what would you choose?
Water in Benin. Can a choice change Abeiuwa’s life? Abeiuwa lives in a small village in Benin. Every day she must walk to get water that is brown and dirty. Sometimes it has dried up before she arrives. She knows that this water makes her sick when she drinks it, but she has no choice. With help, a nearby water well can be built that will be easy to get to and will always be clean, so Abeiuwa and a thousand others can be healthy again.
Homes in Haiti. Can a choice change Jacques’ life? Jacques lives in Cite Soleil, Haiti. After the earthquake, Jacques and his family made a makeshift shelter from things they found. With no bed, Jacques and his family sleep on the ground. When it rains at night, they cannot even stay inside of their shelter because it is not waterproof. It could be months before the government allows construction of permanent shelters. Before then, help Jacques get his life back by providing him and his family with a proper temporary shelter.
An Education for an African Orphan. Can a choice change Ayubu’s life? Ayubu is 8 years old. Both of his parents died from HIV Aids when he was very young, Ayubu is now living at the Upendo orphanage in Tanzania. Your choice can help change Ayubu’s life and the lives of 21 of his friends by providing them food, clothing and school supplies. As we all know education helps give the poor and marginalized children of Tanzania a brighter future.
$1000 Towards your Tuition. Can a choice change your life? Education is a valuable investment, and an expensive one at that. A thousand dollars seems small, but it could make a difference on whether you need to take that second summer job – or not. It also goes toward putting your degree to work so that you can be the change you want to see in the world. Invest in your education today so that you can make a change in the world tomorrow.

Paid vs. Aid is a contest running on campuses across Canada. Each winner will win a choice between WATER, SHELTER, ORPHANS or TUITION. Presented before you is a choice; it’s not a simple choice of what to eat or what to wear. It’s a choice that has ramifications for your future and for the future of others. The choice between money for tuition, or money to go towards those living in underdeveloped nations isn’t cut and dry; it isn’t meant to be a moral guilt-trip.

We know that the decision is hard. So why present a choice?

We want you to think about what drives you to make your decisions in life. What does your soul crave?

Do you crave success? Security? Meaning? Justice? These cravings all end up impacting decisions to pursue a certain type of career, choices to subscribe to a religion, or to enter a relationship.

Which craving ultimately wins out?

Which choice would ‘satiate’ these cravings?

When we’re presented with a choice, and brought to a place where both options have their merits and flaws, apathy is no longer possible. We’re forced to reevaluate life and those things that we crave.

Until we take note of our cravings, they may never be quenched.
To read this, you're not sinning by taking the money--but you really are (even the title "Paid vs. Aid" implies that you're opposed to helping the poor and are robbing them of much-needed aid if you opt to take the tuition money--the contest isn't titled "Paid or Aid"). If I were still a student, I'd have no qualms about taking the money--I'd know exactly who it's helping, and I'd know exactly where it's going. I don't know who's donating the prize money, but if they're so concerned about these aid projects, why don't they just donate the money directly to them or make a direct appeal on their behalf instead of holding this contest?

What strikes me most about "Paid vs. Aid" is the complete lack of any distinctively Christian content. The aid is described as "humanitarian aid," not "Christian aid." The appeal is to everybody, not just Christians. The name of Jesus Christ isn't mentioned even once. Any secular charity could devise a similar contest, and it would look exactly the same.

I don't often agree with opinions expressed in the columns of the University of Alberta student newspaper The Gateway, but I agree with Alexandria Eldridge:

The Campus for Christ "Paid vs. Aid" contest simply perpetrates a narrow-minded view of what makes a "good" choice, without doing any real good to those participating in the contest.

This scenario can only pan out in one of two ways; either the winning student chooses to help one of the three charities offered to them, and they’re viewed as a hero and an overall good person, or the student chooses to take the $1,000 in tuition, and they’re seen as selfish and greedy.

Even if Campus for Christ didn’t mean for the contest to end up that way, that will inevitably be the result. And while that may not be the view that Campus for Christ as an organization has of the winning individual, the public perception is going to be either the condemnation or the celebration of the contest winner based on their choice.

That’s the main problem with the contest — the judgment that accompanies choosing the tuition money...

...All this contest demonstrates is that it’s right to give money to charity and wrong to take money for yourself. But not everybody can afford that at this stage in their lives and there should be nothing shameful or wrong about that.

A self-styled Satanist is a candidate for Edmonton's city council

He's not getting my vote, and it's not just because I don't live in his ward--even though I agree with him about keeping the City Centre Airport open. As reported by Gordon Kent in the Edmonton Journal of September 23, 2010:

Scott Robb could have a devil of a time winning a seat in October's civic election.

The 31-year-old security officer is the founder of the Darkside Collective, which he believes is the first Canadian-based satanic church.

"I have been a practising Satanist since 1996. I briefly joined the Church of Satan in San Francisco in 1997 and quit there in February 2000 and started my own church."

Robb, one of five Ward 4 council candidates, compared his group's beliefs to psychological improvement or Buddhism rather than the occult activities of popular culture...

...While the few mentions of his Satanism he has seen in Twitter have been positive, Robb said he realizes the issue may spark discussion.

"I kind of equate it to the first (openly) gay politician and wondering if their sexuality was a key point in their campaign."

The original caption of this photograph reads: "Ward 4 council candidate Scott Robb, founder of a satanist church, holds a human skull, which is part of Satanic rituals." Human skulls are also used in Freemasonic rituals.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Excavation of Herod's winter palace finds private theatre box

As reported by Associated Press:

Israeli archaeologists have excavated a lavish, private theater box in a 400-seat facility at King Herod's winter palace in the Judean desert, the team's head said Tuesday.

Ehud Netzer of Jerusalem's Hebrew University said the room provides further evidence of King Herod's famed taste for extravagance.

Herod commissioned Roman artists to decorate the theater walls with elaborate paintings and plaster moldings around 15 B.C., Netzer said. Its upper portions feature paintings of windows overlooking a river and a seascape with a large sailboat.

This is the first time this painting style has been found in Israel, Netzer said...

...The team first excavated the site — sitting atop a man-made hill 2,230 feet high — in 2007. Netzer described the site as a kind of "country club," with a pool, baths and gardens fed by pools and aqueducts.

HT: Southwest Radio Ministries

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Female-led California "cult" members found safe in Los Angeles park after fears of mass suicide

Yet another one, as reported on September 19, 2010:

A frantic search for 13 members of a California 'cult' has ended today after all were found safe in a Los Angeles park.

It is still not clear what the group's intentions were. The five adults - all women - and eight children had sparked a desperate manhunt when they disappeared after leaving letters for loved ones saying they were going to meet Jesus - leading to fears of a mass suicide...

...The group appeared to have been led by a single mother-of-two, Reyna Chicas.

It included children as young as three - as well as her own two children.

The group had left behind cell phones, identifications, deeds to property and letters indicating they were awaiting the Rapture.

They also predicted an apocalyptic event.

'Essentially,the letters say they are all going to heaven to meet Jesus and theirdeceased relatives,' sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

'Some of the letters were saying goodbye.'

Sheriff's officials in Palmdale, California, described the group, made up of El Salvadorean immigrants, as 'cult-like'...

...Chicas apparently had formed her own religious group, a sheriff's spokesman said.

About 12 to 15 people would gather at her home in Palmdale, a high-desert city of 139,000, and one night about a week ago, they didn't leave until 2 a.m., said neighbor Cheri Kofahl...

...About six months ago, the group had planned to head to Vasquez Rocks, a wilderness area near Palmdale, to await a catastrophic earthquake or similar event.

But one member of the group revealed details of the trip to relatives, Parker said. The trip was called off and the member kicked out.

The group had broken off from a mainstream Christian church in Palmdale.

Parker did not know what church they had belonged to previously, and it does not appear that they had given their sect a name.

'We've got a group here that's practicing some orthodox and some unorthodox Christianity,' Parker said.

'Obviously this falls under the unorthodox.'

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Former high-ranking Scientologist claims that organized Scientology is dead

As reported by Tony Ortega of The Village Voice in his Runnin' Scared blog on September 3, 2010:

Adding to Scientology's woes, some of the people who have been making defections in recent years are turning around and writing damning tell-alls.

Regular publishers won't touch these books -- even though some of them are actually very well written -- so the authors have had to go the self-published route.

Last year's killer I-escaped-from-Scientology narrative was put out by Marc Headley. His Blown for Good made for a gripping read, about a low-level grunt who spent years at Scientology's secret HQ in the California desert until he finally made a mad dash for freedom.

This year, we can report that Headley's book has been equaled. In Counterfeit Dreams, ex-Scientologist Jefferson Hawkins not only provides his own dramatic tale of getting sucked into and ultimately escaping from Scientology, but Hawkins was no low-level scrub.

He, maybe more than any other single person, may be the reason Scientology ever became as popular as it did, with L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics setting sales records in the 1980s.

It was Hawkins and his ideas for television ads (the "volcano" TV spot, for example) that propelled Dianetics to meteoric heights, leading many to wonder if Scientologists themselves weren't just buying up the books by the truckload to make sure it topped the New York Times Bestsellers List...

...Hawkins' impressive book takes a reader through his introduction to Scientology in 1967 to his defection in 2003. Along the way, he became the marketing genius that helped Scientology grow to unprecedented heights -- only to watch it go into serious decline under David Miscavige, the Scientology leader who took over after Hubbard's death in 1986...

..."Scientology is supported, in fact, by a few thousand wealthy members. Some of these, like Tom Cruise, Nancy Cartwright, Craig Jensen (Diskeeper), Sky Dayton (Earthlink) and a few others are very wealthy and contribute millions.

"My own opinion is that organized Scientology is dead. I do not see them recovering from Miscavige's abusive rule - he has destroyed the entire management structure of the Church and has 'revised' the 'tech' of Scientology to the point where it is largely useless."

Like Headley, Hawkins says Scientology has shrunk to only small numbers of active members. Headley had put the number at about 10 to 15,000, but Hawkins says it's more -- closer to 50,000. But that's minuscule for an organization that claims to have millions of members worldwide.

Perhaps better than any other defection narrative that has come out, Counterfeit Dreams carefully and clearly spells out so much of the bewildering Hubbard jargon that characterizes Scientology. And Hawkins himself may be one of the best people to write a history of the organization -- his career mirrors so much of Scientology's arc, from its hippie era early growth to its 1980s apotheosis, to its decline and increasing paranoia under Miscavige.
May 16, 2018 update: As reported by Geoff McMaster of the University of Alberta publication Folio, January 11, 2018 (bold, links in original):

Stephen Kent knew he’d become a threat when the Church of Scientology sent no fewer than 16 letters to University of Alberta administrators demanding he stop disparaging the church.

“They wrote letter after letter to different levels of administration—from the president on down—to curtail my activities, to silence me, to get me somehow sanctioned,” said the sociologist and cult expert.

It’s not surprising when you consider Kent has been tracking the tactics of the church since the early 1980s. As a post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, he began collecting stories of confinement, sexual assault and coercion not widely known at the time.

Since then he’s amassed one of the world’s biggest collections of testimonials and documents on Scientology, and last year co-edited a book with former student Susan Raine, now a professor at MacEwan University, called Scientology in Popular Culture.

Kent has also become a top go-to expert for media commentary. Just last month he was quoted in the Irish Times when the newspaper discovered the church had sent thousands of pamphlets to Irish schools under the guise of a human rights organization—just one recent attempt in a concerted campaign to infiltrate Irish society and promote the doctrine of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

But in Kent’s view, the strategy may be just a desperate ploy to stay alive. There has been significant opposition to Scientology in Ireland, he said. The last census revealed its membership at just 87, reflecting a more global public relations crisis that has been plaguing the church for years.

"Historically, most new religions die, and it's fairly clear now that Scientology is on a downward path,” said Kent.

The seeds of Scientology

The Church of Scientology was created by Hubbard in 1954, developed from ideas he presented a few years earlier in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. A form of self-help psychology, the book was a populist challenge to questionable psychiatric practices of the time, such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy.

Although the principles of Hubbard’s therapeutic process have never been accepted by science, said Kent, they initially held considerable appeal as “the poor person's psychoanalysis.”

Hubbard claimed people could free themselves of the trauma and neurosis associated with painful events of the past—what he calls engrams—by answering a series of questions in “auditing” sessions, the content tested by a lie detector, or e-meter. After enough of these sessions, so the theory goes, the debilitating engrams are erased, and the person reaches a state of being “clear,” capable of fulfilling their full potential.

To avoid charges of practising medicine without a licence, Hubbard rebranded his pseudo-therapy as a religion—calling it Scientology—and proved adept at exploiting celebrity culture to promote it.

“Movie stars in Hollywood had significant status, and Hubbard realized these people influenced popular consumer trends,” said Kent. “He figured out early on that getting media endorsements from key celebrities would be beneficial for his organization."

By the ‘60s and ‘70s, Scientology’s membership exploded with the countercultural movement, emphasizing self-knowledge, spiritual fulfilment, a distrust of established medical science and aspirations towards world peace.

Celebrity backlash, secrets revealed

"Scientology had its heyday in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s,” said Kent, “but then the controversy started," as stories started to leak about abuse within the movement and the exorbitant donations required of its members to reach higher levels of spiritual purity.

Much of Scientology’s recent decline, however, can be attributed to a number of high-profile celebrity defections over the past decade, including by Canadian director Paul Haggis, singer Lisa Marie Presley and actors Leah Remini and Jason Beghe.

Remini especially has been a tenacious and vocal critic. First recruited at the age of nine, she left the church in 2013 and has since published a revealing memoir and hosted a documentary series called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, exposing many of the organizations failings.

But the main cause of Scientology’s downfall, said Kent, is the growing influence of the Internet. "Critics started posting material—including some of the church's own confidential documents—and former members started telling their stories.”

Some countries, such as Germany and France, have taken a firm stand against Scientology. The German government views it as an abusive sect masquerading as a religion, and France has classified it as a dangerous cult.

"With so much criticism of Scientology and so many of its secret documents available either in whole or in part, the impetus for continued membership is greatly diminished," said Kent.

The curious irony in all of this, he added, is that the trends Hubbard exploited so successfully when he created Scientology in the 1950s—emerging communications technology and the power of popular culture, especially celebrity recruitment—are the very forces conspiring against it now.

"Celebrities helped boost Scientology’s image in its early days, and now they're helping to diminish its appeal internationally.”

Mired in 1950s beliefs

But beyond its image problem—documented in the 2015 HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief—the most destructive seeds of Scientology’s demise were sown in its inception, said Kent. Based as it is on “fixed revelation,” or the unalterable word of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology is unable to change with the times and is therefore doomed.

One case in point is the inescapable homophobia that lies at the heart of the church, said Kent. Hubbard classified homosexuality as a sexual perversion, writing in Dianetics that “the sexual pervert is actually quite ill physically…. He is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society.”

Since then, Scientology has tried to “backpedal and respin its position on homosexuality,” said Kent, adding that nonetheless, “Hubbard's statements on it are fairly clear.

"Any group that has a fixed revelation has great difficulty adjusting to change,” Kent explained. “What you see with the books is greatly upgraded glamorization of the covers and the marketing. But the content is still rooted in Hubbard in the ‘50s.”

His doctrine is so fixed, in fact, that the Church of Scientology began transcribing his texts onto stainless steel plates in the 1980s, placing them in titanium capsules in underground vaults. Located in a remote desert location, the vaults are accessible only through a secured tunnel.

“Compare that with the Mormons, for example, who have a doctrine of ongoing revelation," said Kent. In 1890, for example, Latter-Day Saints president Wilford Woodruff received a revelation to ban polygamy, resulting in a policy change that partly made possible Utah’s acceptance as a state in 1896. And in the 1970s, the Mormons abandoned their position that black people are branded with the mark of Cain.

“It’s been able to adjust to the times," said Kent.

The Church of Scientology still has significant wealth, including lavish properties around the world, "but from what I can see, nobody is in them,” said Kent. “And there are some that have closed down because they just don't have the staff."

In the end, the U of A never did cave to legal pressure from the church, said Kent.

“In all instances, university officials responded professionally and appropriately, and in no way interfered with my activities,” he said.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Famous Chinese Taoist monk is exposed as a fraud

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. II Timothy 4:4

Concerning the claims of "Supreme Master" Li Yi: as they used to say in Get Smart whenever Maxwell Smart made an outlandish claim, "I find that very hard to believe." Even The Most Interesting Man in the World would have a tough time living up to the claims of the "Supreme Master." As reported by Malcolm Moore in the Daily Telegraph of September 3, 2010:

Chinese government officials said that "Supreme Master" Li Yi, a 41-year-old Taoist monk, had faked a long list of improbable super powers.

Mr Li had claimed that he could sit cross-legged under water for over two hours because of his unique Taoist abilities and that he could withstand 220 volts of electricity circulating through his body.

However, officials at the state religious authority in the central Chinese city of Chongqing suggested that the monk was in fact sitting inside a sealed glass box underwater, with enough air inside to last him for the duration of the performance.

The monk also said he had been a visiting professor at Cambridge University, a status which the university denies. His claims of being a speaker at China's most prestigious college, Peking University, were also refuted.

Mr Li used his fame to sell expensive health and philosophy programmes to his 30,000 followers at the Shaolong Taoist Temple near Chongqing which cost up to 9,000 yuan (Pounds900) a week.

Ma Yun, the founder of the Alibaba commerce website, Fan Xinman, the wife of the head of CCTV, China's state television, and the actress Faye Wong all tried Mr Li's courses. However, Mr Ma and Ms Wong have since denied being "disciples" of the monk.

As in the case of the "past-life regressionists" in the post below, the reader will notice the outrageous fees charged by these New Age practitioners, and the disproportionate ability of women to fall for such nonsense.

Promotion of belief in reincarnation masquerades as psychotherapy

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. Genesis 3:4

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

As reported by Lisa Miller in The New York Times of August 27, 2010:

IN one of his past lives, Dr. Paul DeBell believes, he was a caveman. The gray-haired Cornell-trained psychiatrist has a gentle, serious manner, and his appearance, together with the generic shrink décor of his office — leather couch, granite-topped coffee table — makes this pronouncement seem particularly jarring.

In that earlier incarnation, "I was going along, going along, going along, and I got eaten," said Dr. DeBell, who has a private practice on the Upper East Side where he specializes in hypnotizing those hoping to retrieve memories of past lives. Dr. DeBell likes to reflect on how previous lives can alter one’s sense of self. He, for example, is more than a psychiatrist in 21st-century Manhattan; he believes he is an eternal soul who also inhabited the body of a Tibetan monk and a conscientious German who refused to betray his Jewish neighbors in the Holocaust.

Belief in reincarnation, he said, "allows you to experience history as yours. It gives you a different sense of what it means to be human."

Peter Bostock, a retired language teacher from Winnipeg, Manitoba, says that in the early 1880s he managed a large estate — possibly Chatsworth — in Derbyshire, England.

In a twist that would make Jane Austen blush, he thinks he was in love with the soul of his current wife, Jo-Anne, then embodied as a cook in the estate’s kitchen. Married to someone else, Mr. Bostock could not act on his feelings.

He says he and his wife share the kind "of attraction and recognition that a soul makes when it encounters the familiar." In that spirit, the couple traveled last month to Rhinebeck, N.Y., where they and more than 200 others paid $355 each to attend a weekend seminar run by one of America’s pre-eminent proselytizers on the subject of reincarnation, Dr. Brian Weiss.

On this second, sweltering day of the seminar, Dr. Weiss, a 65-year-old Florida resident with a hawk-like visage and placid blue eyes, was wearing a polo shirt the color of robins’ eggs. He took a break from teaching and, over a healthy lunch, reflected on the rise of interest in the West in reincarnation. Like Dr. DeBell, he is a psychiatrist with an Ivy League pedigree (Columbia University and Yale Medical School).

Dr. Weiss was censured by the medical establishment in 1988 after he published "Many Lives, Many Masters." In it he details his work with a patient he calls Catherine, who, under hypnosis, the book says, remembered multiple past lives, relieving her of paralyzing phobias. It has sold more than a million copies.

Now, Dr. Weiss said: "Doctors are e-mailing me. They’re not so concerned with their reputations and careers. We can talk about this openly. And it’s not just psychiatrists, but surgeons and architects."

According to data released last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a quarter of Americans now believe in reincarnation. (Women are more likely to believe than men; Democrats more likely than Republicans.)...

...The popular purveyors of reincarnation belief these days are not monks or theologians, but therapists — intermediaries between science and religion who authenticate irrational belief.

Dr. Weiss stresses that he is a medical doctor who was not expecting to encounter past lives in a conventional therapeutic setting. (His favorite title, he says, is not "guru" but "professor.") Under hypnosis, Catherine, the patient in his book, had memories of times and places, and in such extraordinary and historically accurate detail, he said, that she could never have invented them. (In one life she is an Egyptian servant in charge of embalming corpses. "I see eyes," she told Dr. Weiss under hypnosis. "I see a woman, a goddess, with some type of a headpiece on ... Osiris ... Sirus ... something like that.")

Critics of hypnotic regression dismiss such visions as scientifically dubious. "The mind fills in the blanks, basically," said Dr. Jim Tucker, a child psychiatrist at the University of Virginia who studies accounts of past lives. "How are these visions different from dream material: that’s quite the question." Nonetheless, Dr. Weiss’s elite credentials, and his initial skepticism, open the door to belief for people who might otherwise stay away...

...In a post-Freudian world, past-lives therapy has its advantages. For one thing, it’s quick. A regression session usually takes several hours — and costs more than $100 an hour. Under hypnosis, the patient follows a guided visualization. In his workshop in Rhinebeck, Dr. Weiss talked more than 200 people into a meditative state and then encouraged them to imagine walking through one of five doors. One had on it the year 1850, another 1700, another 1500 and so on. (All this reporter could visualize were Vermeer paintings; peasants in homey kitchens and the bourgeoisie at play.) "Any good therapist can use these techniques and you can learn them in a week," Dr. Weiss said.

Whereas in classic psychoanalysis, patients used to have to see their doctors multiple times a week to talk about parents, childhood traumas and dreams, past-life therapists promise they can access the memories from which troubles stem in just one session. Catharsis and healing are nearly instantaneous results, Dr. Weiss said. "You don’t need six months of trust," he explained. "This is the fast form."

Among past-lives therapists, a debate rages about whether it’s possible to solve emotional problems by "changing" a past-life memory. To learn to swim instead of drowning, for example; or to strike a killing blow at a killer. Dr. Weiss said he opposes such memory manipulation. "I want the memory to come out unedited, unchanged," he said. Further, therapists have begun to broaden their definition of "memory," leaving aside the question of whether a scene uncovered during hypnosis is "real" or not.

The reader will note the outrageously high fees charged by the "therapists." You always hear about the greed of pseudo-Christian televangelists, but nobody bilks people the way these New Agers do. And of course, women are disproportionately found among the believers in such false doctrine.

The typical North American idea of reincarnation tends to be different from the historic Eastern idea:

But nearly a billion Hindus and a half-billion Buddhists — not to mention the ancient Greeks, certain Jews and a few Christians — have for thousands of years believed something entirely different. Theirs is, as the theologians say, a cyclical view. You are born. You live. You die. And because nobody’s perfect, your soul is born again — not in another location or sphere, and not in any metaphorical sense, but right here on earth.

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, Columbia University’s first Hindu chaplain, called it "a re-do," like a test you get to take over. After an unspecified number of tries, the eternal soul finally achieves perfection. Only then, in what Hindus call moksha (or release), does the soul go to live with God.

Which is to say, reincarnation in Hinduism is a form of punishment: you keep having to come back in another life again and again until you get it right. And this may take eons. One scholar offers a comment on the typical North American view of reincarnation:

Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University and author of "God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World," has made a study of Western interest in Eastern religious practice and suggests that our fascination with reincarnation is related to Americans’ relative prosperity. Modern Americans, in their optimism and material success, see reincarnation as a chance to postpone eternity for another day, he explained by e-mail. "Reincarnation means never having to say you’re dead," he wrote.

As Hebrews 9:27 indicates, belief in reincarnation is incompatible with the Christian belief in resurrection. A good book on the subject from a Christian point of view is The Reincarnation Sensation (1986) by Norman L. Geisler and J. Yutaka Amano. Early in the book, the authors cite pollster George Gallup's finding in 1982 that 23% of Americans claimed to believe in reincarnation. I remember seeing a poll from about 1986-1987 citing a figure of 29%, if I recall correctly. I find it interesting that the percentage of Americans who tell pollsters that they believe in reincarnation hasn't increased significantly since the 1980s, and may not have increased at all since then.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Ayahuasca: a Peruvian potion offers spiritual experiences

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

According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1940), the Greek word for sorcery is pharmakia or pharmakeia, which
...primarily signified the use of medicines, drugs, spells...

...In sorcery, the drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly 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.

As reported in The Washington Post of August 21, 2010:

IQUITOS, PERU -- Kevin Simmons, a 28-year-old Chicago native, said he "was stuck" -- depressed, locked away in his home and taking more than a year to even open his e-mail.

The road to recovery, he said, came deep in the Peruvian jungle, in the form of a sludgelike concoction the Indians call "the sacred vine of the soul."

The potion is ayahuasca, and increasingly, it is becoming an elixir for foreigners grappling with everything from depression to childhood trauma. Coming from the United States and as far away as Australia, they arrive in a jungle city of faded glory to participate in ayahuasca rituals offered by a range of healing centers.

Ayahuasca may taste like ground-up earth, but many leave here praising the brew in reverential terms for having purged them of demons and shown them a clarity about life that they never thought possible.

"It's provided a sense of okay-ness, this maternal reassurance that everything is all right," said Simmons, who now does environmental work in Panama. "It made me feel like trying again, reminding me of this beautiful internal world that we have."...

...Some also visit the Blue Morpho ayahuasca center, founded by Hamilton Souther.

Fresh out of college with an anthropology degree, Souther said, he was feeling lost in the world when he had a spontaneous mystical experience and interactions with spirits. The message he received: Go to Peru, he recounted. He left California in 2001 and trained for nearly two years in the jungle to be a master shaman...

...Though ayahuasca is technically a hallucinogen -- it contains a hallucinogenic alkaloid that is illegal in the United States -- the plant is not addictive. In fact, it has been shown to help overcome addictions, said Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UCLA medical school who oversaw a study in the 1990s of the members of a Brazilian church that uses ayahuasca in its sacrament.

Grob said there are no clinical studies to show that ayahuasca alleviates depression but the anecdotal evidence is tantalizing.

"I believe, and my colleagues believe, that it holds great potential for helping us further understand the mind, the realm of internal experience, psycho-spiritual experience," Grob said. "And it may have a very powerful potential on improving mental health."...

...The payoff can be profound, say those who have repeatedly used ayahuasca. Some say the potion provides an almost divine, transformative experience. Others describe new insights into their lives. The long, exhausting ceremonies where ayahuasca is consumed often end in intense joy.

Danny Vulic, 36, an Australian who has come to Peru twice for ayahuasca, said the brew has helped guide him as he makes decisions in life.

"You know, it is just really nurturing, caring, it is an amazing thing," he said. "I am always quite willing to surrender to the medicine completely. I want the work to be done. I have full trust in it."

Don't be surprised (you read it here first) if the use of ayahuasca or a similar hallucinogenic becomes popular within, and is recommended by, the emerging church.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Stephen Hawking says that God wasn't necessary for creation of the universe to take place

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Romans 1:19-22

As reported by Associated Press:

LONDON - Physicist Stephen Hawking says God wasn't necessary for the creation of the universe.

In his new book, "The Grand Design," the British scientist says unraveling a complex series of theories will explain the universe. The book, written with American physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow, will be published Sept. 9.

In an extract published Thursday in The Times, Hawking wrote that it was "not necessary to invoke God."

"The Universe can and will create itself from nothing," Hawking wrote. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist."

I don't care how high someone's IQ is or how many degrees he has after his name, that person is an idiot (or, to use a more biblical-sounding term, a Goliath who's really just an uncircumcised Philistine--see I Samuel 17:26) who believes (or rationalizes) that nothing can spontaneously produce something. I suspect that Dr. Hawking's refusal to acknowledge God as Creator is because if he did, that might imply that he might be accountable to this Creator for his life.

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: Ephesians 3:9

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Colossians 1:16-17

September 21, 2010 update: Dr. Hawking's co-author, Leonard Mlodenow, was a guest on the September 15 edition of the U.S. radio show Coast to Coast AM. The program's website has a poll titled How do you think the universe was created?.
As of 4:35 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time on September 21, here are the results:

It was brought into existence by God. 58.31% (6,770 votes)
The universe was created by a process like the Big Bang-- no deity necessary. 19.71% (2,288 votes)
Don't know/uncertain. 21.98% (2,552 votes)
Total Votes: 11,610

I cast my vote the night the program aired. I find the results surprising, given the show's frequent attention to topics that might be considered "New Age," and its appeal to that kind of audience. Maybe the overall listening audience is more mainstream than the portion that phones in.

Discovery Communications terrorist was a Malthusian, Darwinist, radical environmentalist misanthrope--and I say that with all due respect...

...but, of course, how can this be, since the politically correct political-media complex insists that it's Christians who pose a danger to society?

Nevertheless, according to The Washington Post:

James J. Lee divided the world into good and bad. According to his writings on a Web site he created, people were bad, especially "parasitic" babies.

Animals and bugs were good, Lee wrote. But war was bad, along with global warming, pollution and international trade.

As for civilization?

The environmental militant who was killed Wednesday at the end of a tense hostage standoff at Discovery Communications headquarters in downtown Silver Spring, termed it "filth."...

...Lee, who once listed a Silver Spring homeless center as his address but who had inherited property in Hawaii that he sold for $90,000, held extreme views about the environment. According to writings on the Internet, he believed that humanity had polluted the planet and that human reproduction was the worst pollutant.

"Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures around and are wrecking what's left of the planet with their false morals and breeding culture," he wrote in an 11-point Internet communique that authorities said was similar to demands he made Wednesday...

... Many of his notions seem to stem from his reading of author Daniel Quinn's novel "My Ishmael," about a telepathic ape who teams with a 12-year-old girl to save the planet.

On a Web site that federal law enforcement sources confirmed was created by Lee and contained his 11 points, he listed his demands of the Discovery Channel.

Among them: that the channel stop broadcasting "all programs promoting war" and help find ways to stop "ALL immigration pollution and the anchor baby filth that follows that," as well as find "solutions for Global Warming, Automotive pollution, International Trade, factory pollution, and the whole blasted human economy."

"Saving the Planet means . . . decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies!"

Lee argued that "nothing is more important" than saving animals: "The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels."

"The planet does not need humans."

He also demanded that the company broadcast daily shows based on Quinn's book.

On Lee's MySpace page, he lists his heroes as Quinn and James T. Kirk, a fictional protagonist in "Star Trek," the science-fiction television series.

Below are some of Mr. Lee's demands. My favourite is #7 (emphasis mine).

1. The Discovery Channel and it's affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots based on Daniel Quinn's "My Ishmael" pages 207-212 where solutions to save the planet would be done in the same way as the Industrial Revolution was done, by people building on each other's inventive ideas. Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order. Perhaps also forums of leading scientists who understand and agree with the Malthus-Darwin science and the problem of human overpopulation. Do both. Do all until something WORKS and the natural world starts improving and human civilization building STOPS and is reversed! MAKE IT INTERESTING SO PEOPLE WATCH AND APPLY SOLUTIONS!!!!

2. All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs' places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.

4. Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn't, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! It is the moral obligation of everyone living otherwise what good are they??

7. Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people's brains until they get it!!

8. Saving the Planet means saving what's left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies! You're the media, you can reach enough people. It's your resposibility because you reach so many minds!!!

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. Romans 1:25

Have you ever noticed that those who claim that human beings are so destructive to the planet and environment never act on their professed beliefs by voluntarily removing themselves from the human population? The only person I can think of who followed such beliefs to their logical conclusion was Tooker Gomberg, who grew up in a relatively wealthy family in Montreal and made his way west to Edmonton, where he spent many years as an environmental activist and managed to get elected to city council in 1992. I can’t recall anyone who was so imprisoned by what Paul Johnson, in his book Intellectuals (1988), called the "heartless tyranny of ideas." Mr. Gomberg was so captive to his environmentalist ideology that he allowed it to submerge his more natural human instincts. He lost a bid for re-election in 1995, failed in subsequent attempts to gain public office, and moved to Halifax, where, in 2004, he committed suicide at the age of 48 by jumping off a bridge. At that, the possibility exists that it may have been the use of the anti-depressant drug Remeron, and not the logical conclusion of environmentalist ideology, that inspired Mr. Gomberg to make his exit.

HT: Vox Popoli

Flagellation does not produce godliness

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:
"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:20-23 (NIV)

Some of the old mystics were really mistakes. They tried to be more saintly by hiding in caves. Living in a hole never made anybody holier. Vance Havner, Pepper 'n' Salt (1966), p. 24

Self-imposed worship and harsh treatment of the body didn’t produce godliness in the 1st Century, didn’t produce godliness in the flagellants of the Middle Ages, and won’t produce godliness in the 21st Century. As reported by Rebecca Hardy in the Daily Mail:

Sarah Cassidy is the sort of no-nonsense, capable woman you might expect to find as headmistress of a primary school. But Sarah doesn’t do children, and she doesn’t do husbands either.

No. Sarah is 43, single and celibate — and determined to remain so. Each night she fastens a wire chain, known as a cilice, around her upper thigh.

The device has sharp prongs that dig into the skin and flesh, though generally it does not draw blood. To most women, it sounds a peculiarly ­masochistic practice.

Yet Sarah says it serves a very different purpose: suppressing her desires and atoning for her sins.

Quite what those sins might be it is hard to imagine. For Sarah is not just good, but very, very good. She doesn’t drink, abhors drugs and has never had sex.

More than that, she is a senior female figure in Opus Dei, one of the most controversial forces in the Roman Catholic church. Portrayed as shadowy and sinister in Dan Brown’s international bestseller The Da Vinci Code, the group has been accused of obsessive secretiveness, elitism, misogyny and criticised for its methods of recruitment.

But it is the ‘mortification of the flesh’ — a ritualistic form of self-harming practised by many Opus Dei members — that has attracted most widespread condemnation...

...Mortification is part of their daily routine, including use of the cilice and periods of fasting.

So every evening, just before she does the washing up, Eileen, 51, straps her strand of barbed wire round her leg and leaves it there for two whole hours, scratching at her skin and digging into the flesh.

It sounds agony, but she insists it’s ‘less painful than a bikini wax’. And besides, pain is the whole point.

‘It’s an easy way of knowing you’re doing penance,’ says Eileen, who lives in an Opus Dei centre in Ealing, West London. ‘I wear mine above my thigh. If you go swimming, you don’t want to leave a mark from where it has been.

‘To be honest, it’s the fasting I find most difficult.’...

...‘Of course, it’s a huge sacrifice from day one to make the decision. But you’re doing it for the Kingdom of Heaven, which promises to reward you a hundredfold.’...

...I cannot get over the small matter of the cilice — surely it’s a seismic leap from eschewing promiscuity to self-harming in this way?
Sarah was 20 when she started wearing it. ‘The first time you do anything that’s not particularly pleasant, you don’t like it. But over time it’s just something that’s there. The result of doing it is that you should be a much nicer person afterwards.’

Eileen adds: ‘We live in such a materialistic, hedonistic society that people can’t understand you’d actually make yourself a little uncomfortable to help you be more mindful of God.’...

...I can’t help feeling that most women would consider it a strange God who requires them to do the washing up wearing a chain of barbed wire.

Let’s pray that these ladies will discover the true freedom that comes only from trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ’s work on the cross for salvation and sanctification.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: I Corinthians 1:30