Monday, 31 December 2018

Campus Crusade for Christ Power to Change Canada uses its 2019 Canadian summer project to promote contemplative spirituality

Power to Change is the Canadian ministry of what used to be known as Campus Crusade for Christ. For several decades, they've been having national and international summer projects for students. In the 1980s, the national projects went from early May to mid-August; students found a job during the daytime, and evenings and weekends were spent on Bible study and evangelistic activities. The 2016 Canadian project lasted only five weeks from late May-early July--not enough time to work at a job in the community--and I don't think there was any Canadian project at all in 2017.

I look at Power to Change's site just a few times a year to see what they're up to; I noticed that they have a Canadian project scheduled for 2019, but it lasts only four weeks, and now goes by the name Praxis Summer (bold, links in original):

Cost: $3950 (only includes flight from Summer Missions Launch in Guelph, ON to Victoria, BC)
Location: Victoria, BC
Date: April 29, 2019 to May 27, 2019
Deadline: January 31, 2019

prax·is | \ ˈprak-səs: the practical application of theory. The exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill


We so often live fragmented lives, where our ‘being’ is disconnected from our ‘doing.’ It’s easy to view missions as something to “do” versus something to “be”. Can we be missional, living lives on mission wherever we are?

Jesus invites us to come to him and to learn from him (Matt. 11:28-29). In Jesus, we see the perfect union of being and doing; Jesus’ ministry activity always was an overflow of his rich and abundant connection with his Father.

PRAXIS is not just a “personal development” trip; rather, it is a unique missions opportunity that offers participants the space to apply the formational and developmental lessons they are learning in a missional context.

The rhythm of our day will integrate all that we’re learning. For example:

Mornings: focus on leadership development and spiritual growth

Afternoons: missional engagement on campus

Evenings: rest, community, and mentorship

What Will We Be Doing?

Through PRAXIS, we will experience and learn what it looks like to integrate both our exterior world (the “doing”) with our interior world (the “being”) — identifying and being attentive to how God is at work in our lives. We desire that this will result in the transformation of how we engage missionally with those around us.

Through exposure to formative spiritual practices, practical leadership training, and life-changing mentoring relationships, we will seek to transform our approach to how we engage missionally with our contemporary culture. We will also seek to partner with local and international partners as we participate in Missio Dei — the mission of God.

Missional Engagement

. Learn how to share your faith in a post-Christian context with other students
. Experience listening to the Holy Spirit as we seek to share our faith
. Cultivate a vision for lifelong ministry, as we partner with other organizations

Leadership Development

. Experience and learn principles of biblical leadership
. Practice time and people management skills
. Work on a team and learn how to effectively resolve conflict

Spiritual Growth

. Learn about how to develop daily spiritual rhythms
. Engage with God’s word through mind and heart
. Experience various approaches to prayer

Through PRAXIS, we hope that we will form foundational practices and perspectives to help us take steps toward a greater embodiment of what it looks like to love God and love others.

Let’s Trust God to Do Something Extraordinary

Do you long for more? Do you recognize that your life is compartmentalized, but desire to live more holistically? Do you want to mature in your faith and in how you participate in God’s mission?

Join us as we endeavour to create space in our lives for God to transform us, and those around us.

Questions? Email

Alarm bells went off in the head of this blogger at the sight of this announcement. There are a lot of buzzwords and phrases that never used to be used in evangelical circles. The word "praxis" is ones of those words that religious liberals use when communicating with one another, and is seldom heard outside those circles. When it comes to "practical application," the summer projects in the old days of the '80s had plenty of practical application.

"Missional" is a word I never heard until about 2003, when the Emerging Church came along ; it seems to have replaced the word "missionary." "Missional" seems to include a connotation of man building the Kingdom of God on Earth. "Holistically" is a word that's always been popular with New Agers.

"Formative spiritual practices," "daily spiritual rhythms," "various approaches to prayer," and "foundational practices," sound like contemplative spirituality, i.e., Eastern spiritual practices masquerading as Christian. For information on contemplative spirituality, I especially recommend Lighthouse Trails Research Project and Herescope.

When I wrote to the email address above, I received an admirably quick reply, but without the clarity I was hoping for. I was told, "Cultivating a posture of receptivity to God’s leading is found in disciplines that include but are not exclusive to: Bible study, memorization and contemplation of God's word, personal and corporate prayer, time with God in song, in nature, in fellowship of other Christian believers."

Bible study and memorization are certainly good things, as is contemplation of God's word--if the word "contemplation" refers to the use of one's conscious mind to ruminate over the objective truth of God's word. However, the use of the phrase "not exclusive to," combined with the terms mentioned above, still leaves me suspicious that Power to Change Canada is not completely forthcoming in what this project involves. I didn't receive an answer to my request for information on what organizations Power to Change is partnering with in this project. If I receive any further or clearer information, I'll revise this post accordingly. I suggest the reader email Power to Change Canada for information.

Israel punishes Paraguay for moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, and then back to Tel Aviv

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it...
...In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem...
... In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12:2-3, 6, 8-9

In 1979, when Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark was hedging on his promise to move Canada's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, someone jokingly suggested putting the embassy on wheels so that it could be moved if there was a change of mind. The following item, which I missed when it occurred earlier this year, shows that the location of a country's Israeli embassy is very much tied to whoever happens to be in power at the moment. First, as reported by David Rosenberg of Israel National News, May 21, 2018 (links in original):

Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes officially inaugurated his country’s new embassy in Jerusalem Monday, making Paraguay the third nation to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital city.

The move comes a week after the US unveiled its new embassy in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem. Two days later, Guatemala transferred its embassy to a temporary facility in an office building in the Malha neighborhood of southern Jerusalem.

“It is an honor for me to be here today,” President Cartes said at the opening ceremony Monday.

"This occasion is of special significance because it expresses the sincere friendship and brave solidarity between Paraguay and Israel." continued Cartes.

"From the depth of my heart, I appreciate this country that courageously defends its right to live in peace and it is building a praiseworthy economically prosperous state that ensures its future and that of its children."

Prime Minister Netanyahu also spoke at the opening ceremony, praising the move and expressing optimism regarding the relationship between Israel and Paraguay, saying there would be “greater” cooperation between the two countries in the years ahead.

"A great day for Israel, a great day for Paraguay, a great day for our friendship. You’ve done much for your country, much for your country, and now you you’re doing something for both our countries. And this follows the example and I would say the practice of Paraguay for many, many years."

"We have great cooperation and it’s going to get greater. We have delegations; I reviewed all the visitors, the parliamentarians, the experts, the ministers, the delegations that go back and forth. It’s time. It’s time to do a lot more. It’s time to let our cooperation, how should I say this, flow like water."

"We’re discussing water, we’re discussing agriculture, we’re discussing technology, we’re discussing security, but we’re doing and we want to do more, and we will do more. And because of this, you have not only the support of our government but the profound gratitude of the people of Israel. We remember our friends. We have no better friends than you. Thank you, Horacio. Thank you, Paraguay."

President Cartes arrived in Israel late Sunday evening ahead of the embassy unveiling, and met with Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).

“I thanked the president [Cartes] for his decision [to move the embassy], which highlights the deep ties between our two countries, and his brave leadership,” tweeted Erdan. “Another leader of a state which chose the truth and to strengthen our sovereignty over our capital. Thanks!”

Earlier this month, Paraguay formally announced its plans to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In April, President Cartes vowed to move his nation’s embassy to the Israeli capital before leaving office this August.
As reported by Tal Polon of Israel National News, September 5, 2018:

Three-and-a-half months after transferring its embassy to Jerusalem, the government of Paraguay has announced that it is moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv.

Speaking to reporters, Paraguayan Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Castiglioni said that "Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East."

It is unclear what the timetable will be for the return move.

In response to the announcement, Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed the foreign ministry to return the Israeli ambassador to Paraguay back to Israel for consultations, and to close the Israeli embassy in Paraguay.

“Israel views with great severity the unusual decision of Paraguay which will cloud relations between the countries,” the foreign ministry said.
Israel didn't take Paraguay's flip-flop lying down; as reported by Israel National News, September 12, 2018:

Israel’s Economics Ministry cancelled a planned visit to Paraguay by a delegation of Israeli economists, as part of the ongoing diplomatic dustup following Asunción’s decision to relocate Paraguay’s embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

In May, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes inaugurated his country’s new embassy in Jerusalem, following similar moves by the US and Guatemala.

Last week, however, Paraguayan Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Castiglioni announced that the embassy would be moving back to Tel Aviv, something he hoped would “contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts” towards a lasting peace agreement.

The decision to move the embassy back was reached by Paraguay’s new president, Mario Abdo Benitez, following pressure from Arab leaders and Turkey, who argued that the move would help spur peace talks in the region.

In response to the announcement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to return the Israeli ambassador to Paraguay back to Israel for consultations, and to close the Israeli embassy in Paraguay.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Economics Minister Eli Cohen (Kulanu), had cancelled a trip by a ministry delegation to Paraguay planned for this coming December.

The delegation was intended to work towards strengthening economic ties between the two countries, and aiding Paraguay’s economic development.

“The decision by the new president, President Benitez, has a heavy economic price – not just a political one,” Cohen said. “His attempt to strengthen economic ties with Israel and enjoy Israeli technology while at the same time violating an agreement made between the two countries is hypocrisy, which has a price.”
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)

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Iraq declares Christmas a national holiday

While "Christian" countries are increasingly anti-Christmas, Iraq is going in the opposite direction; as reported by Voice of America News, December 25, 2018 (links in original):

The Iraqi government has declared Christmas Day a national holiday across the country "on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ."

December 25 will now be a holiday for residents of the predominantly Muslim country, not just the Christians as it had been for decades.

The government said in a tweet Tuesday:

We extend our warmest wishes to Christians in Iraq and around the world for a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

— Government of Iraq - الحكومة العراقية (@IraqiGovt) December 25, 2018

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. The number has fallen to about 300,000, with many being killed or forced to flee after coming under attack by various armed groups, including Islamic State, over the years.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Genetic study reveals much evidence of Sephardic Jewish ancestry in Latin America

And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. Deuteronomy 28:64

As reported by Cnaan Liphschiz of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 27, 2018 (links in original):

In a genetic study of 6,589 people from five Latin American countries, about a quarter displayed traces of what may be Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Geneticist Juan-Camilo Chacón-Duque and his colleagues published their findings last week in Nature Communications magazine, in an article titled “Latin Americans show wide-spread Converso ancestry and imprint of local Native ancestry on physical appearance.”

Converso is the Spanish-language word for people who converted from Judaism to Christianity during the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. Many conversos, or anusim in Hebrew, fled to Latin America.

Overall, converso genes account for only a small part of the ancestries of the study populations from each country, ranging from 1 percent in Brazil to 4 percent in Chile. The researchers used a set of DNA variations, or haplotypes, observed to be common among Jews with roots in the Iberian Peninsula.

But converso genes “are widespread,” Chacón-Duque told JTA.

Some 23 percent of the 6,589 people sampled showed some genes — or more than 5 percent of their ancestry — associated with Sephardic, East Mediterranean or South Mediterranean ancestry, “probably stemming mostly from the clandestine colonial migration” of conversos, the researchers wrote.

“For every individual we characterized more than 600,000 genetic variants,” they added, “creating a dense genome-wide profile of genetic variation for each individual.”

The study is the most comprehensive of its kind in Latin America, but “it doesn’t represent the whole population” of the genetically diverse region and “has biases,” Chacón-Duque said.

While the study indicates that converso genes have spread far and wide in Latin America, he added, the research sample of fewer than 7,000 people “doesn’t necessarily mean that a quarter of Latin Americans have Sephardic genes.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced at a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony that she is descended from Sephardic Jews who fled to Puerto Rico during the Spanish Inquisition. During the ensuing debate, genealogists noted that any individual can count some 1 million ancestors between the present and the year 1500.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Supernatural oddities reportedly accompany interrogation of celebrity medium accused of sexually abusing 300 women

Whatever supernatural powers this man possesses don't come from God; as reported by Janet Tappin Coelho of the London Daily Mail, December 19, 2018:

Detectives questioning a celebrity medium in Brazil, accused of sexually abusing more than 300 women, have reported spooky goings-on during their two hour interrogation.

Unexplained incidents ranging from a 'bizarre' computer crash to wiring on electrical appliances suddenly 'short circuiting' appears to suggest supernatural forces were at play during the interview.

The mysterious problems unnerved cops but didn't deter them from collecting the testimony from faith healer, João Teixeira de Faria, who is known as João de Deus – John of God on Sunday night in Goiânia.

Joao Teixeira de Faria, better known as John of God, arrives at the Dom Inacio Loyola House in Abadiania, Brazil on Wednesday last week

Detective Karla Fernandes, responsible for coordinating the task force investigating the allegations, claimed that as the spiritual guru began to speak, strange things started to happen.

She said to Folha de Sao Paulo: 'Suddenly the computer that was being used to transcribe the suspect's answers to the allegations seemed to have a life of its own and the commands on the keyboard wouldn't work.

'When the clerk tried to enter the medium's statement, the keys locked on a specific letter and 'OOOOOOO' was recorded continuously on the screen for a few seconds.'

Although this has never happened before, bemused agents put the incident down to a faulty computer.

But when the printer in the room began to print without receiving a command and a fridge blew up, their thoughts turned to paranormal interference.

Det Fernandes said: 'It was hot in the interrogation room and I decided to turn on the air conditioning.

'I plugged the lead into an extension shared with a mini-fridge and the electrical wiring suddenly exploded, burning out the fridge. Everyone in the room screamed with fright.'

According to the officer, the 76-year-old spiritual healer, who is accused of sexually molesting women during private consultations at his clinic, stayed silent.

She said: 'Although these things happened and surprised us, they failed to interfere with our work. He (John of God) didn't say a word.'

Twelve women have accused Brazilian spiritual healer Joao Teixeira de Faria, 76, of sexually abusing them while he treated them at his clinic Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola in Abadiania

Court documents show that Teixeira tried to withdraw nearly $9 million before surrendering to police on Sunday. The documents seen by The Associated Press are part of a judge's ruling rejecting bail.

Fagner Pinho of the prosecutor's office also said Wednesday that investigators found firearms and large quantities of cash in a house used by Teixeira as a spiritual retreat.

Investigators also believe that two unexplained incidents which occurred prior to Teixeira giving himself up, could be linked to the occult.

A police clerk, who was meant to transcribe the faith healer's testimony at the police station in the rural town of Annapolis, was run over in a car accident and broke his arm.

Investigators originally intended to question the suspect at this small outpost. But the unexpected incident meant the interview had to be transferred to Goiânia, the capital of the state of Goiás.

And last Friday as the press staked out John of God's house in the city of Abadiânia, rumours began to circulate that 'spirits' had cursed the reporters, photographers and TV camera crew who had camped for nearly 24 hours waiting for the psychic healer to surrender after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Thousands gather at his clinic daily for the chance to be healed by Faria, who is said to have supernatural powers

Hardened professionals admitted they started praying when a news agency photographer in the press pack suddenly fell ill and lost consciousness for a few minutes.

Many who were reluctant to admit the 'episode' was associated with John of God's 'mystic powers', did concede that a paranormal association wasn't so 'far-fetched'.

Det Fernandes agreed the unexplained happenings cannot be 'flippantly' dismissed.

'I accept that we are dealing with a situation that involves beliefs and mystic energies,' she said adding she believes John of God has supernatural powers.

'I'm spiritualist and a believer in the spirit world and the paranormal. Although I'm not afraid, I do have a healthy respect for the unknown.'

Faria's followers wait for their turn to be attended, at his 'healing center' Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola, in Abadiania, 120 km southwest of Brasilia

Teixeira has denied allegations that he sexually violated hundreds of women, including his own daughter, under the pretence of administering mystical treatments.

His lawyer claimed his client is being 'persecuted' and the complaints made by hundreds of women, with the number now topping some 500, are coming from 'people who want to destroy him.'

Many people also say they were underage at the time of the abuse.

The mystic has been detained in custody and on Monday as agents started the search of the faith healer's premises, a court denied an appeal for bail.

The bombshell allegations have sent shock waves across the world.

John of God became famous for performing 'miracle surgeries' on hundreds of thousands of people from all over the globe. He has been practising since 1976 and is revered as a 'powerful' spiritual force. He has been interviewed by Oprah and has treated Bill Clinton.

Many followers have allegedly been cured of cancers, disabilities, psychological illnesses and numerous other ailments while attending his alternative treatment clinic in central west Brazil.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

40 years ago: A secular columnist attacks the hypocrisy of the World Council of Churches

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:15-16a

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

The best comment I've ever seen about the World Council of Churches came from Malcolm Muggeridge many years ago, when he said they were like a row of drunks holding one another up, lest alone they each fall into the gutter. By 1978 the WCC was already apostate, and that apostasy became clearer when they used their Program to Combat Racism to give financial support to black terrorists in Rhodesia--evidence from 40 years ago that "anti-racist" really means "anti-white." Gorde Hunter, a former sportswriter with the Calgary Herald, was a columnist with the Victoria Daily Colonist when he called the WCC on their hypocrisy on October 25, 1978:

It becomes a splitting of fine hairs when a prestigious body like the World Council of Churches can justify the giving of money to guerrilla fighters in Africa with the argument it cannot condone racism.

It is like offering money to the Mafia, because that organization has promised to get prostitution off the street and behind closed doors.

In a recent letter to a newspaper, the Rev. R.G. Attwell of the Victoria Presbytery, stated that the World Council of Churches allocated $85,000 to the guerrillas in Rhodesia and another $125,000 to the guerrillas in South Africa for "humanitarian purposes."

As a rather strong supporter of God, I have to feel that somewhere along the line either Attwell or myself has been getting the wrong message from the Good Book.

And one of us has been getting the wrong connotation from the "Thou shalt not kill" commandment.

Correct me if I am terribly wrong, but isn't the whole message of Christianity "Love thy neighbour"? and giving great gobs of money to a bunch of killers doesn't quite fall either into the love category or into the humanitarian category.

Now the church rationalization is that the money allocated will go for social, medical and educational services, or for food and shelter and clothing--not, heaven-help-us, for arms and ammunition.

The fly in this ointment is that the allocation merely frees other money to be spent on arms and ammunition which, you must surely understand, will be used for the killing of human beings.

The propaganda mills would have us believe that all whites in Rhodesia and South Africa are no-good racist thugs and that all blacks are good guys who kill to stop the injustices heaped upon them.

And so, it is perfectly Christian-like to send them money to continue the freedom fight.

Attwell stated that if the churches don't help them in their hour of need, the gospel of love and justice will be seen by them as irrelevant and impotent, leaving them to seek assistance from the Communist nations.

What a crock of sanctimonious bilge.

The commies are going to help at every turn anyway--not because of any deep-seated love of oppressed people, but for the foothold of power they seek in every section of the world.

The worst part is that the majority of those church folk who voted such funds did so without first-hand, personal knowledge of the situation.

I suggest to them and to you that if Canada found itself in the same position with,say, a majority of Indian and Eskimo populations, the whites of this land would use every method at their disposal to keep the status quo just as the whites of Rhodesia and South Africa are doing.

But these countries were brought to present-day status by the whites, albeit with the physical help of the blacks.

They cannot see turning over their land to the largely-uneducated blacks for governing. Unless I'm badly mistaken, the white population of Canada would react the same way if the Indians and Eskimos had the numerical strength to take over.

The rights or wrongs of the case are not really important in this church issue, however. The only bona fide issue must be the allocation of funds that will most certainly cause death to people, many of whom are of the same Christian faith.

The church people who back such killings are no better than those who eventually pull the triggers at the other end of the church offering.

I have talked to church ministers who have thought the same way--who feel their churches have completely abdicated their teachings and responsibilities.

They see it as an absolute opposite to what Christ tried to instill in all of us.

Many theologians can recite chapter and verse showing that Christ did condone wholesale murder, but I somehow doubt it.

It also seems strange that the WCC donation is given to a guerrilla group which seeks to change a situation through violent means but that nothing is given to the black group in Rhodesia which is attempting to change the situation through peaceful means.

Finally, the racism aspect.

How can the WCC, with any form of honesty, condone the killing of blacks by blacks, as is happening, without any argument whatsoever? And how can it condone the killing of its own missionaries by the blacks they support with hard cash that buys the wherewithal for the carnage?

The church loses respect for its action--and, I hope, will lose financial backing for its parishioners as a direct result.
Mr. Hunter was actually more charitable toward the World Council of Churches than they deserved, when he referred to those "of the same Christian faith." The reason the WCC didn't have a problem with financing terrorists who were killing Christians is because the WCC was, and remains, an organization of people who aren't actually Christians.

In the fall of 1978, this blogger was a first-year student at the University of Calgary, where the Student Union voted a donation--$1,000, I think--to Zimbabwe African National Union terrorists in Rhodesia. Jeff Proudfoot, the Student Union's Vice President--External, courageously refused to send the donation, arguing that ZANU was a Communist terrorist organization. Although Mr. Proudfoot was required by the terms of his office to comply with the vote of the executive, he held firm. If I recall correctly, he kept his job, and ZANU never got the money.

In the 40 years since this column appeared, Rhodesia has become a murderous and incompetently-governed abomination called Zimbabwe. South Africa, now under black rule, has recently passed a law allowing for wholesale theft of lands owned by whites--lands that were never settled by blacks. The situation will end in genocide of whites, to the applause of "anti-racist" churches.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Church of England bishops protest plans for transgender baptisms

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

As reported by Danny Wider of the London Daily Telegraph, December 23, 2018:

The Church of England's plans for transgender baptisms have been condemned by bishops who have described the practices as "theologically and pastorally questionable".

Ten bishops criticised the ceremony, which some priests are boycotting, as they believe baptism should be about affirming faith rather than gender identity.

The idea first drew attention when Reverend Chris Newlands was asked to debate the issue at the General Synod in 2015.

Three years later, the practice, which allows transgender Christians to recognise their chosen name as opposed to their birth name, received official endorsement from the church.

However, bishops have denounced the ritual as they believe gender is assigned by God.

Reverend Ian Paul, who is a member of the Archbishops' Council, urged the "bishops and other leaders ... [to] stop allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special interest groups", according to the Sunday Times.

Outrage also led Julian Mann, the vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension in Oughtibridge, Sheffield, to write to the Archbishop of York, claiming that he would oppose any disciplinary action that would result from his refusal to conduct a service.

It is thought that priests will be free to refuse the service, as the Church of England said: "There is no obligation on the clergy to offer the service ... to anybody in any context (whether in connection with a person identifying in a new gender or for any other reason).

"The only services that the clergy are under an obligation to provide to individuals are baptism, marriage and burial. This does not change the doctrine of the Church of England."

Yet, there have also been protests against the Church of England's attempts to safeguard against transphobia from a network of 50 evangelical leaders in Chester, as well as John Fenwick, the bishop of the Free Church of England.

Claims that the practice could lead to family break-up were made by Rod Thomas, bishop of Maidstone, who said the church needed to decide what action to take if someone who had transitioned subsequently sought a marriage service.

This is controversial, as same-sex marriages are not currently conducted by the Church of England.

Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: "The church should be compassionate and sensitive towards those who experience gender dysphoria, but its fundamental teaching must be based on a revealed truth and objective biology and its relation to social structure."
"There is no obligation..." is also a promise that was made to C of E churches concerning female clergy, and that promise turned out to be false; it will come as no surprise to this blogger when the current promise on transgender baptisms proves equally false.

Church of England bishops protest altered version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing to remove reference to the virgin birth of Jesus

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:26-35

The virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is a fundamental Christian doctrine, and one of the first that's always attacked by liberals. It's interesting to note that even a female pseudo-bishop is opposed to altering the words of a beloved Christmas carol; as reported by Abigail Frymann Rouch of the London Daily Telegraph, December 23, 2018:

It is sung at carol services across the country every Christmas, telling the story of the birth of Jesus to his mother Mary.

But one version of 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' is incurring the ire of bishops because it removes the reference to Mary's virginity, with the line "Offspring of a virgin's womb" replaced with "Offspring of the favoured one".

Senior Church of England clergy have warned against using the altered version of Charles Wesley’s Christmas hymn, which has found its way into an increasing number of services.

Revd Marcus Walker, rector of Great St Bartholomew in the City of London, said the text change was not heretical but it “plays down the Virgin Birth, plays down the reality of Christ's birth, and Mary's femininity – that he came out of a womb; this was a real birth from a real woman."

The bishop of Crediton, Bishop Jacqueline Searle, said sticking to the original text was vital “because it’s a part of our creed”.

“It’s important that we are not squeamish about singing 'of a virgin’s womb', which reflects nothing being impossible with God,” she said.

Bishop Searle added that there were different theological ways in which people understand the Virgin Birth today, but it was important that Christmas carols were not tampered with, because altered versions could mislead people less familiar with the Christian faith.

“Just because something sounds difficult or new doesn’t mean it needs to be changed.

“When we sing our doctrine, it is saying something about what we believe. Especially at this time of year, when lots of people are singing carols, we would like what we’re singing to reflect as accurately as we can the faith we inhabit.”

The Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, also criticised the change, arguing that Wesley’s original “is an essential part of the Christmas story”.

Donald Allister, the Bishop of Peterborough, added: “Wesley’s great Christmas carol conveys the true Christmas message joyfully and powerfully. It is a great shame to see any attempt to reduce that message.”

Many carol texts have been modernised, reordered, or retranslated from foreign languages over the centuries, but usually without changing their message. Wesley’s original opening line to his carol was “Hark, how all the Welkin Rings”, “welkin” meaning sky or heavens.

Recently the texts of some carols have been modified to use “inclusive language” rather than words such as “sons” or “men”.

Rev Dr Ian Paul, a theologian and member of the Archbishops' Council, which oversees Church of England strategy and funding, said the altered version of the carol “avoids the awkward challenge of the Virgin Birth and probably ought to be put in the bin”, and advised anyone putting together a carol service to consult a good-quality printed hymnbook for their texts rather than just search online.

A Google search links the changed version to American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who recorded 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' in the 1960s, though the exact provenance of the altered line is unclear.

Ian Kelly, chairman of the Royal Society of St George, said that the carol-singing after the society’s Christmas banquet at the Mansion House in London last Wednesday [19/12] unintentionally used the altered words. “I arranged for the words to be drawn down from the internet … We were under some pressure to get the words to the printers so we did a quick proof but didn’t go into the detail of that particular line.”

Rupert Gough, who was directing the choristers after the banquet said: “I see this all the time at weddings – you Google for texts and you think ‘That’s it,’ and it may have come from an American site or whatever, and you find that people tinker with the words.”

Andrew Reeves, head server and master of ceremonies at west London’s Holy Trinity church, Sloane Square, said he came across the altered words this week at a company carol service. Staff from the company had sourced the texts for the orders of service but when the congregation came to the unfamiliar line, “everybody was completely thrown,” he said.

Monday, 24 December 2018

50 years ago: "God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth "

On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8, with its crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, went into lunar orbit. Lunar Module Pilot Anders took one of the most famous photographs in history (an earthrise as seen from the moon), and held the camera for the on-board telecast. Mr. Anders, followed by Mr. Lovell and Mr. Borman, read Genesis 1:1-10 aloud:

Bill Anders

"We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you."

"'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
‘And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.'

Jim Lovell

"'And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
‘And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
‘And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
‘And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.’"

Frank Borman

"'And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
‘And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.'"
"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

25 years ago: Good riddance to Norman Vincent Peale

On December 24, 1993, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale died at the age of 95. Rev. Peale was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1922, but changed his affiliation to the Reformed Church in America in 1932, serving as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City from 1932-1984. He hosted the radio program The Art of Living from 1954-1989, and founded Guideposts magazine with his wife Ruth in 1945.

Rev. Peale attempted to combine religion with psychiatry, as he and psychiatrist Smiley Blanton operated a religio-psychiatric clinic, which became the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry in 1951. Rev. Peale's most popular book, The Power of Positive Thinking, was published in 1952, which led Dr. Blanton to distance himself from Rev. Peale and his views. Rev. Peale's advice was criticized by psychologists, psychiatrists, and theologians as promoting a form of self-hypnosis, while being advocated by prominent businessmen and politicians.

Dr. Peale spoke out on political issues in the 1950s, but he was widely criticized for opposing John F. Kennedy's U.S. presidential candidacy in 1960 on the grounds of Mr. Kennedy's Catholicism; Rev. Peale thereafter withdrew from partisan politics.

Rev. Peale was a 33rd degree Scottish Rite Freemason, and must therefore have taken the Christ-denying oaths that are part of the ceremony for the 33rd degree. Billy Graham, who often sang the praises of false teachers (see, for example, Roberts, Oral), sang the praises of Norman Vincent Peale. Despite whatever criticism he received, Rev. Peale was much honoured by the world; U.S. President Bill Clinton expressed sorrow at his passing, and current President Donald Trump, who attended Marble Collegiate Church with his parents, has positively cited Rev. Peale's influence upon him. Like the Pharisees, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale had his reward.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Canada's antichrist Liberal government plans to study reports on expanding euthanasia

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
Proverbs 8:35-36

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,...
...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Romans 1:22,28

Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; Jeremiah 22:13a

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see the rabidly antichrist Trudeaupian Canadian government of the Manchurian Pothead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilling my prediction that the slippery slope argument will prove correct in Trudeaupia Canada as it did in Germany from the 1920s through the 1940s, with the legalization of euthanasia eventually leading to widespread killing. Doctor-assisted death is rapidly morphing into doctor-initiated death. As reported by Deborah Gyapong of Catholic News Service, December 18, 2018 (links in original):

OTTAWA – The Liberal government has promised to study three new reports on the possible expansion of the euthanasia law to include minors and those who suffer from mental disorders, but advocacy groups warn the government will likely expand the law after the 2019 election.

“My position is the Liberals do plan to expand the euthanasia law and Dying with Dignity is pressuring hard on the issue of advanced requests,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “I also see them expanding it to children.”

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) submitted three separate reports in mid-December that studied whether to expand access to assisted suicide for “mature minors,” for those who had made advance requests for euthanasia should they become incompetent, and for those who suffer from mental disorders with no underlying physical condition that would make their death reasonably foreseeable.

“The results of these three independent reviews will help to inform dialogue on the issue of medical assistance in dying among Canadians and decision-makers,” said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who tabled the CCA reports in the House of Commons Dec. 12, in a joint statement with Health Minister Ginette Pettipas Taylor. “Given the complexity and sensitivity of these topics, it will be important to take the time necessary to consider the evidence presented in the CCA’s reports.”

“It seems like they are trying to walk the line, just sort of put out the information and not really take the position,” said Amy Hasbrouck, a disability rights expert who heads Toujours Vivant/Not Dead Yet, an advocacy group for the disabled community.

Hasbrouck noted Quebec’s new government has indicated it will expand the province’s law to include advanced directives. As well, there is ongoing litigation at the federal and provincial level that would “dispense with the idea you have to be at end of life for death to be reasonably foreseeable,” she said.

There is also pressure for euthanasia of children, “oddly enough coming from the parents of children with disabilities,” she said, referring to a study done by the Canadian Pediatrics Society that showed most requests for the euthanasia of children under 17 came from the parents not from the children themselves.

Hasbrouck expressed disappointment there was not more representation on the CCA panel from the disabled community. Toujours Vivant was the only one to come from the disabled community. First Nations perspectives were also missing.

Schadenberg said he is glad the CCA reports were not consensus reports, but reflected the wide divergence of opinion on the various questions.

The CCA report offered pro and con arguments for child euthanasia, with no clear direction, says Schadenberg.

The CCA report on euthanasia for those with mental disorders alone also featured pro and con arguments, acknowledging the contentious nature of the issue, but warned if Canada were to allow it, based on the current “subjective assessment” of intolerable suffering, “it could become the most permissive jurisdiction in the world with respect to how relief of suffering is evaluated.”

“On the issue of mental illness, I can see them hesitating on that one,” Schadenberg said, noting that in order to allow it, the law would have to remove the section of the law that says death must be “reasonably foreseeable.”

But like Hasbrouck, Schadenberg is concerned expansion of the law could come through the courts.

The safeguard of “reasonably foreseeable” is already under challenge in the courts, he said, though the Supreme Court of Canada recently declined to speed up the case of Julia Lamb, a B.C. woman with spinal muscular atrophy who is not terminally ill, yet wants the ability access assisted suicide.
It also comes as no surprise to this blogger that Trudeaupia's Canada's most secular province, which was less than enthusiastic about fighting the Nazis during World War II, is already doing its best to implement Nazi policies, as reported by LifeSite News, December 12, 2018 (links in original):

Sick patients in Quebec are sometimes “abruptly” killed by doctors through the province’s euthanasia program with little or no effort to mitigate or relieve the patient’s suffering through non-lethal medical means, a study in an international medical journal is claiming.

“Requests for and provision of MAiD [Medical Aid in Dying] as documented in the chart can occur abruptly and without a documented evolution of the goals of care which may imply that requests for MAiD are not treated as having particular moral considerations but merely administrative or legal ones,” the study titled “Situating requests for medical aid in dying within the broader context of end-of-life care: ethical considerations” states.

“If MAiD is not ethically distinct from other end-of-life practices, then the timing would not appear to add any additional ethical concerns to those already expressed in relation to late discussion of end-of-life care options in general. If, however, MAiD is ethically distinct and should be treated with special consideration, the tendency to avoid, delay or have inadequate conversations about end-of-life care may be especially troubling in the context of their unknown impact on requests for assisted death,” the study added.

The study was published last month in the Journal of Medical Ethics

A leading bioethicist says the study shows the speciousness of claims by euthanasia advocates that ending a sick person’s life would only be done when nothing else can relieve the suffering.

“Euthanasia advocates are so full of it, promising that snuff medicine will only be a last resort when nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering. It’s never been true,” Wesley J. Smith wrote in a Dec. 10 article in National Review.

Smith said that once euthanasia is “normalized,” the next logical step is for it to simply become a “banal bureaucratic” process.

“And what else should we expect?” he asked. “Harnessing the authority of doctors in support of homicide transforms the act into a perceived beneficence, which quickly erodes the perceived intrinsic value of human life.”

“Over time,” Smith added, “euthanasia practice becomes a banal bureaucratic matter of checking the right boxes or finding ways to maneuver around the ‘protective guidelines’ — now perceived as ‘obstacles,’” he added.

“Humans are a logical species. Once we adopt a principle — here, that killing is an acceptable way to defeat suffering — we take the road wherever it leads,” he concluded.

Canada legalized euthanasia in 2016, with a reported 2,000 deaths by assisted suicide in the first year, more than were expected. The numbers since have soared with an at least 30-percent increase.

The government has also since pushed euthanasia through advertisements in hospital waiting rooms.

Two Canadian doctors and a bioethicist argued in the September edition of the New England Journal of Medicine for taking of organs from people who have chosen to end their lives through euthanasia while they are still alive.

This past fall it was reported that the Canadian government is now considering euthanasia for citizens suffering with mental illness, those who wish to produce an advanced directive and euthanasia for children.
It doesn't take much imagination to envision belief in the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ being classified as a "mental disorder" requiring pre-emptive euthanasia. Many years ago, I thought that the Antichrist would have to do a fair amount to get people to follow him and do his will, but I was wrong; by the time his identity is revealed, he won't have much to do to achieve his goals, since so much work is being done in advance to prepare the world for him.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

30 years ago: A New Age Christmas service in Edmonton

On December 22, 1988, this blogger and fellow cultwatcher attended the annual Christmas service at Edmonton's Centre for Self-Awareness, led by Rev. Sue Rubin. The musical part of the service included the singing of such inspirational favourites as Frosty the Snowman and I'll Be Home for Christmas.

What passed for a sermon consisted of Rev. Sue reciting the wonderful characteristics we all supposedly possess, while lighting a candle to represent each characteristic as she went through the list. This was the sort of nonsense that New Agers--especially women--fall for, but which strike others, such as the two cultwatchers in the audience, as blasphemy.

Apparently we two weren't the only ones who took a skeptical view of Rev. Sue's message, because when she got to the point where she stated "I am infinity" and "I am enlightenment," the candles started falling over, to the surprise of the infinite and enlightened Rev. Sue Rubin (and to the amusement of the two skeptics).

Fortunately, the building didn't catch fire; however, those who believe in the nonsensical New Age teaching that each of us is God within ourselves will be in danger of eternal fire. The truth is that there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2:5).

Vatican and Vietnam report progress in upgrading diplomatic relations

Pope Francis, having already sold out his own bishops to the Communist government of China, is apparently preparing to do the same in Vietnam; as reported by Catholic News Service, December 20, 2018:

VATICAN – Delegations from the Vatican and from Vietnam reported continued progress in their discussions, including agreeing on "upgrading" relations with a permanent papal representative "in the near future," a Vatican press statement said.

"They shared the belief that this step will help relations between the two sides grow and develop further," said the statement, released Dec. 20.

The two official delegations met in Hanoi Dec. 19 for the seventh meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See joint working group, which is trying to pave the way for full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the communist government. The last working group meeting was at the Vatican in 2016.

"The two sides agreed that relations between Vietnam and the Holy See should continue to be maintained based on the mutually agreed principles and fruitful dialogue in order to build confidence and bolster relations in the interest of both sides and of the Catholic community in Vietnam," the Vatican statement said.

The two delegations also discussed "and reached an agreement on relevant matters toward upgrading relations in the near future between Vietnam and the Holy See from non-permanent pontifical representative to permanent pontifical representative," it said.

While the two countries do not have full diplomatic relations, Vietnam agreed to let the Vatican name a nonresident papal representative to the country in 2011, which was seen as a major step in an ongoing process to normalize relations.

That appointment came after landmark high-level meetings, such as Pope Benedict XVI's meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet in 2009 and his 2007 meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. That meeting marked the first time a prime minister from Vietnam's communist government met a pope and top officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Talks and relations between the Vatican and Vietnam were strengthened further when Pope Benedict met the head of Vietnam's communist party, Nguyen Phu Trong, and top party and government officials in January 2013. Pope Francis welcomed Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang to the Vatican in 2016.

After the bilateral discussions Dec. 19, the Vatican "expressed its appreciation and gratitude to the Vietnamese side for the attention that the Vietnamese authorities have accorded to the Catholic Church in Vietnam in recent years."

"The Vietnamese side reiterated that the Vietnamese (communist) party and state are consistently implementing and tirelessly improving the policy framework respecting and ensuring freedom of beliefs and religion of the people; encouraging and facilitating the Catholic community to operate in accordance with Vietnamese law, and to participate actively in national economic and social development and construction," the Vatican statement said.

"The two sides also discussed issues concerning the partition of dioceses and the appointment of bishops in Vietnam," it added.

According to the U.S. International Commission on Religious Freedom's 2018 annual report, Vietnam was one of 16 countries designated as Tier 1 -- the harshest level of repression of religious liberty.

A Tier 1 country, the report said, is "any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations, meaning those that are systematic, ongoing and egregious."
See also my post Pope Francis betrays legitimate Chinese Roman Catholic bishops in favour of those appointed by China's Communist government (February 4, 2018)

Friday, 21 December 2018

Museum in Jerusalem displays Near East artifacts rescued from robbers

As reported by Jewish News Service, December 19, 2018:

A collection of artifacts that were stolen but later rescued will be on display at the end of the month at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

The museum will open a new exhibit on Dec. 30 called “Finds Gone Astray,” featuring tens of thousands of antiquities such as, but not limited to, stone and pottery vessels, inscribed clay tablets, coins, figurines and other items of significance from the ancient Near East.

Some of the Mideast artifacts were illegally trafficked into the region, while others were unlawfully uncovered in ways that usually caused damage.

According to the museum, “Hours of intensive detective work including patient surveillance, carefully planned ambushes and nightly observations led to successfully intercepting the thieves and retrieving these priceless artifacts. The rescued objects have been carefully preserved and stored, and numerous looters operating in Judea and Samaria have been prosecuted.”

The exhibit will be the first of a new series of publications documenting the more than 40,000 stolen items.

“The primary goal of the museum is to present the vital history of our region, the crossroads of the ancient world, through innovative exhibitions and programming,” said Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem director Amanda Weiss in a statement. “‘Finds Gone Astray’ is a unique opportunity to shed light on the importance of preserving the history of our region and protecting our ancient sites.”

“Theft and destruction of antiquities is a widespread phenomenon that crosses borders for a range of reasons. In Judea and Samaria specifically, there is rampant destruction of ancient sites caused by preparations for cultivating or building on the land,” said Hananya Hezmi, head of the Central Command. “The methods used by the antiquities looters to uncover and expose the findings are brutal, causing irreversible damage to both sites and the findings and clearly harming academic research.”

He added that “we will continue to do everything in our power and invest the necessary resources in order to stop the damage to our shared culture and history.”

Wake Forest University Student Government passes pro-Israel resolution

This is a welcome change, amidst increasing anti-Israel sentiment at so many universities in both the United States and Canada; Wake Forest University is in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

As reported by Jewish News Service, December 18, 2018 (link in original):

The student government at Wake Forest University passed a pro-Israel resolution this month.

The main clauses state “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist,” and “the Student Government recognizes that some, but not all, criticisms of and attacks on the State of Israel can be anti-Semitic dog-whistles and condemns such criticisms and attacks.”

Philip Yurchenko, vice president of Wake Forest’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel, said in a statement: “We are extremely excited that all of our hard work has paid off. This resolution has made a powerful impact in the Wake Forest community. The passing of the legislation shows the strength of Wake’s community supporting the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.”

“We are proud to see Wake Forest simultaneously support free speech and draw a clear line against anti-Semitism when it comes to Israel,” he continued. “It is important to talk about anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry; education and dialogue [are] the only way to expose and correct it.”

“This is the proof that when people work together, change and justice will come. Anti-Semitism is timeless; it has no ideology or colors,” said Gabriel Frank of Wake Forest Hillel in the statement. “It is an irrational behavior which expresses itself in different ways. By passing this resolution, the Wake Forest community embraces its Pro Humanitate spirit.”

AMCHA Initiative director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS that the need for a resolution like the one passed in the student government.

“On campus, Jewish students are threatened by intolerant behavior from two different sources,” she explained. “The first is classical anti-Semitism—a hatred of and desire to harm Jews individually or collectively. The second is extreme Israel-bashing that all too frequently devolves into acts that harm Jewish and pro-Israel students.

“And our research indicates that Israel-related anti-Semitic incidents are the ones considerably more likely to contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students than incidents involving classic anti-Semitism,” she continued. “More and more anti-Israel campus activities are not just intent on harming Israel, but alarmingly, they are also intent on harming Jewish members of the campus community. Yet despite this reality, university administrators rarely recognize anti-Israel anti-Semitism as a form of unlawful discrimination because they excuse it as politically motivated.”

Rossman-Benjamin said “we commend the Wake Forest students for helping university leaders understand this frightening reality for Jewish students, and that they must address both the anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme right and the extreme left.”

StandWithUs also applauded the resolution’s passage.

“Student government resolutions like this one send an important message to the campus community and beyond,” Max Samarov, the organization’s executive director of research and campus strategy, told JNS. “We congratulate Jewish and pro-Israel students at Wake Forest for their success and will continue to encourage similar legislation at universities across North America.”

SSI has written similar resolutions and introduced them at the University of Minnesota, University of Georgia, Indiana University, Texas A&M University, Kent State University, Chapman University and Capital University. It has also been proposed at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

School board in Michigan refuses to cave in to whiny atheists

It's nice to know there's at least some place where someone will speak up for the rights of the majority against the intolerance of the extremely fragile minority known as atheists; a reported by the Grand Rapid television station WZZM, December 10, 2018:

The Newaygo School Board says they will "consider ways to refine" a religious display at one of the district's elementary schools.

After hearing from the public at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 10, the school board voted 6-0 in favor of a motion that "the board has no desire to remove the display."

School board president Vince Grodus said he, "would however like to authorize Dr. Mathis to consider ways to potentially refine the display so it better reflects our purpose as Newaygo Public School District."

Dr. Peggy Mathis is the superintendent of Newaygo Public Schools.

Late last month, the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists filed a complaint about the display featuring the three wise men and a star. They say the district is promoting one religion over others.

Since then, a few thousand people have signed a petition asking that the display be left alone, saying it is a 40-year tradition.

The school board did not clarify at the meeting "how" they will change the display to better reflect the school district's purpose.
Earlier, as reported by Jon Mills of WZZM, November 30, 2018:

NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich. - The Newaygo Public School district could face legal action if three wise men and a star aren't removed from one of the district's buildings.

A state association involved in separation of church and state cases put the district on notice this week.

The issue and possible removal of the display is becoming the talk of Newaygo as residents prepare for Friday night's Christmas walk. Residents say the display goes back more than 40 years.

"Here it's a tradition," said Stacie Johnson. "You can see it coming from White Cloud."

Johnson and more than 2,000 others have signed an online petition asking the school district to leave the wise men and star in place.

"Majority are saying leave it alone," said Johnson.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists believes the display violates the U.S. Constitution.

"It clearly conveys the message of the Christian nativity," said Mitch Kahle, with MACRA.

The association gets involved in separation of church and state issues around the state on behalf of local citizens.

"We were approached by a complainant from the area," said Kahle.

The school district's attorney is working with school leaders to formulate an appropriate response.

"And they have promised to get back to us by December 7th," said Kahle.

"You have a public school that's promoting the story of the Christian nativity and that's not permitted under the Constitution," he added.

If the display does come down, supporters are working to secure permission to place it on a tall hill on the north end of Newaygo. They selected a site that's private property and would likely withstand any legal challenges.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Two Christian brothers in Pakistan sentenced to death for blasphemy

What kind of religion sentences people to death for alleged offenses such as described in the article below? And how can anyone possibly say that the followers of Muhammad worship the same god as those who worship Jesus Christ? As reported by Ben Farmer and Waqar Gillani of the London Daily Telegraph, December 18, 2018 (links in original):

Two Christian brothers have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, weeks after Asia Bibi was acquitted of the same crime following international outcry.

Qaiser and Amoon Ayub from Lahore were sentenced to hang by a district judge after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in articles and portraits posted on their website.

The brothers fled the country after they were first accused of the crime in 2011, but eventually returned home quietly. Amoon, 38, was then arrested at the airport trying to leave the country a second time and Qaiser, 44, was also held. The pair have been in Jhelum prison since 2014.

Both men were convicted last week of the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”, under strict blasphemy punishments covered by Pakistan's penal code.

“The prosecution has proved its case against both the accused beyond shadow of reasonable doubt,” Judge Javed Iqbl Bosal concluded in a 28-page ruling.

He went on: “Hence, both the convicts are to be sentenced to death.”

The conviction must be confirmed by the high court and both men can appeal.

Tahir Bashir, counsel for the two men, said they were alleged to have uploaded blasphemous content on the United Christians Organisation of Pakistan in August 2010. A complaint was only registered a year later, by a Muslim cleric from another district. Mr Bashir said while the men had started the website, they were not operating it at the time of the offence.

The sentence was handed down only two days after America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist, and is expected to again draw attention to the country's harsh blasphemy laws.

The death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Catholic farmhand accused of insulting the prophet in a quarrel with co-workers, caused international outcry in 2010. She spent eight years on death row until she was acquitted by the supreme court in October. She remains in protective custody until the ruling has been reviewed and she can leave the country to claim asylum.

Muhammad Saeed, who made the complaint that led to the brothers' sentence told the Telegraph that “justice is done”.

Attempts to reform the country's blasphemy laws have met with fury from religious hardliners and two senior politicians who attempted to speak out for Mrs Bibi were assassinated.

Asia Bibi was the first woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, but the charge is not uncommon in Pakistan and most accused are Muslims. Since 2011 about 100 blasphemy cases have been registered. Around 40 people are awaiting the death sentence or serving life sentences.

Many cases never get to court though. Since 1990 at least 62 people have been murdered by vigilantes as a result of blasphemy allegations, before any trial could take place.

Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement charity supporting the brothers, said: “This is a very unfortunate situation as because of threats from hardliners lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent."

Egypt announces plans to renovate its Jewish heritage sites, as Cairo holds interfaith Hanukkah celebration

As reported by Smadar Perry of Ynet News, December 12, 2018:

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will allocate $71 million to renovate Jewish heritage sites and synagogues in Egypt, Minister of Archeology Khaled Al-Anani revealed, as the country marked the festival of Hanukkah with an interfaith gathering.

The Egyptian government has some 500 items collected from synagogues, which will be presented to the general public. Cairo has 13 synagogues, but only three of them are active: the Shaarei Shamayim Synagogue, the Ben Ezra Synagogue in the Abbassia neighborhood and the synagogue of the Karaite community. Al-Anani said that some of the synagogues would cease to serve as houses of worship and would instead become tourist sites open to the general public.

"There is significance in rehabilitating Jewish synagogues, similar to renovating pharaonic, Islamic and Coptic heritage sites," the minister said. But he added: "It should be remembered that the Jewish articles and the synagogues belong to the Egyptian government."

Sisi stressed that there would be no "foreign involvement" in the renovation process - an indirect reference to attempts by Jewish organizations abroad to intervene in and finance the renovation work. He said that all the work would be carried out by Egyptians only, using Egyptian government funds.

"Most of the synagogues are currently in very poor condition and must be renovated in order to turn them into visitors' centers," explained al-Anani, during a special presentation at the Egyptian parliament. He also said that an anti-smuggling authority operating in the UAE city of Sharjah located hundreds of items from Egyptian synagogues that were destined for Europe.

According to al-Anani, Jewish, Islamic and pharaonic artifacts were also smuggled into Italy, "and we are negotiating with the Italian government for their return."

Meanwhile, Cairo for the first time celebrated Hanukkah with a joint event for Jews, Muslims and Christians. The head of the Egyptian Jewish community, Magda Haroun, invited dozens of non-Jewish guests to the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue on the outskirts of Cairo for a ceremony at which she explained the meaning of the holiday.

Fewer than a dozen Jews, most of them elderly, remain of what was once a large Egyptian Jewish community.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it...
...In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem...
... In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12:2-3, 6, 8-9

As reported by Henry Benjamin of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 16, 2018:

SYDNEY — Australia said it recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is now starting a search for a suitable site for a trade office within the city.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to the Sydney Institute current affairs forum on Saturday where he announced the government’s decision.

“We look forward to moving our Embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after the final status determination,” he said. He reiterated Australia’s support for a two-state solution.

He added that the Australian government also recognizes “the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

In the same announcement Morrison said he plans to open a Trade and Defense office in West Jerusalem. Australia-Israel trade is over $1.3 billion a year.

Under Morrison’s leadership, Australia last month opposed six resolutions that attacked Israel in the United Nations General Assembly.

“Jerusalem – the home of the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Wailing Wall and the Via Dolorosa – deserves better than the rancid stalemate and better than the polarization that marks its peoples,” he also said in his announcement.

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten accused Morrison of putting his political interest ahead of the national interest. The opposition has charged that Morrison took on the issue of Jerusalem in order to pick up a seat in a by-election for Parliament for the Sydney electorate of Wentworth, home to a large proportion of the city’s 60,000 Jews. in order to shore up his razor-thin majority.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry in a statement praised the announcement as “a simple acknowledgement of a reality that has existed since 1950. The Prime Minister deserves credit for resisting pressure from many quarters against taking even this modest step.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry offered a lukewarm response to the announcement, focusing on the trade office and calling it “a step in the right direction.”

Saeb Erekat, a top advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the announcement irresponsible and noted in a statement that “ll of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations.”

Meanwwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on the Australian government “to correct its position and recognize the State of Palestine and its capital as East Jerusalem without delay. Thus, we will consider its position balanced.”
As reported by Agence France-Presse, December 15, 2018:

...The issue has put a halt on years-long negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

Canberra on Friday told its citizens travelling to Indonesia to “exercise a high degree of caution”, warning of protests in the capital Jakarta and popular holiday hotspots, including Bali.

Morrison pointed to Australia’s military history in the region, and the country’s interest in a “rules-based” order in the Middle East, to support the shift in foreign policy.

The prime minister vowed Australia would no longer abstain from UN resolutions he said “attacked” Israel, but would instead oppose them, including the “Jerusalem” resolution, which asks nations not to locate diplomatic missions to the holy city.

“The UN General Assembly is now the place where Israel is bullied and where anti-Semitism is cloaked in language about human rights,” Morrison said.

The Jerusalem decision could help the embattled Australian PM - who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year – with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.

The opposition Labor party slammed Morrison for putting “self-interest ahead of the national interest”.

“Recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while continuing to locate Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv, is nothing more than a face saving exercise,” shadow minister for foreign affairs Penny Wong said in a statement.

“This is a decision which is all risk and no gain,” she said, adding it puts Australia “out of step” with the international community.

Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously hailed Morrison’s initiative.

The Palestinian government will press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” over Canberra’s decision, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP Friday.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) on today said Morrison’s move “serves no Australian interest”.

“This sabotages any real possibility for a future just agreement and further emboldens Israel to continue with its daily human rights violations of Palestinians,” APAN president Bishop George Browning said in a statement.
See also my posts:

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)

Iran's Parliament passes bill recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Palestine (December 27, 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)

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Some Britons call for improvements in religious postage stamps for Christmas

As reported by Katie Morley and Phoebe Southworth of the London Daily Telegraph, December 15, 2018:


The Royal Mail is facing calls to modernise the design of its religious Christmas stamps as they are being overtaken by secular ones for first time.

Around six in ten festive stamps bought by members of the public are now secular ones, up from around four in ten five years ago, according to the National Federation of Subpostmasters which supplies them to post offices around the UK.

Experts said Royal Mail's religious stamps tended to be more serious and less glamorous in their design than secular stamps, potentially contributing to their decline in popularity among letter senders hoping to garner festive cheer.

Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern, said: "There's much in the Christmas story that could be visual.

You've got the kings, the shepherds, the manger, the appearances of the angels. "There is much to be creative with in the Christmas story.

"I don't know whether it is because the artists for secular stamps are better and more creative than those designing the religious ones.

"It is disappointing. Perhaps secular stamps portray the Christmas story in a more glamorous way. Sometimes I think religious artists are trying to make it more serious - portrayals of Father Christmas happy and smiling are Mary holding a baby is less attractive."

Every year the Royal Mail designs a new set of stamps, alternating between religious and secular. Post Offices aim to supply both types of stamps to give customers a choice between the two.

The religious stamps on offer this year were designed in 2017 and feature images of the Madonna and Child. The secular ones were designed this year and feature families posting letters through bright red postboxes in the snow.

Meanwhile a number of customers have complained of a shortage of religious stamps at their local post offices and shops, suggesting too few may have been made available.

One frustrated consumer, eager to get his Christmas cards sent out, resorted to buying them online from Royal Mail, resulting in him paying £1.45 postage on postage stamps.

Another customer who said they were unable to buy religious stamps said: "Clearly the Royal Mail is determined to take Christ out of Christmas."

The Royal Mail denied any issues with supply and said it was up to shops and Post Offices to request more religious stamps if they had run out...

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Russian Orthodox Church rebukes priest for flaunting designer goods on Instagram

Instagram seems to be facilitating an ecumenism of prosperity preaching, as in the item in the post below, and the following, as reported by Matthew Bodner of the London Daily Telegraph, December 10, 2018 (link in original):

The priest, Father Vyacheslav Baskakov, displayed Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci shoes in his Instagram posts

The Russian Orthodox Church is pursuing disciplinary action against a priest in the city of Tver for a series of immodest Instagram posts in which he flaunts Gucci shoes and Louis Vuitton handbags, a church spokesman has said.

The account, belonging to priest Vyacheslav Baskakov, drew social media heat on Friday when users noticed posts featuring his luxury swag. The account has since been deleted, but not before Instagram users took snapshots of high price Louis Vuitton slippers, among other things.

“I hope this will bring this shepherd to account,” said Alexander Volkov, a spokesman for Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, “and to find the words and actions to bring him to reason, so that these kinds of things will not happen again.”

This isn’t the first time Russian Orthodox Church officials have been caught with high end fashion accessories, though it is perhaps the first time one of these holy men have been so blatant about it.

In 2012, Patriarch Kirill himself was spotted wearing a $30,000 Breguet wrist watch in a photo posted on the church’s website. After a wave of outrage, a photo appeared with the wristwatch photoshopped out.

However, Patriarch Kirill’s hand was resting on a table that reflected an image of the watch -- a detail overlooked in the photoshopped image. The original photo, with watch in clear view, was later put back on the website.

All things considered, this was not Russia’s greatest luxury watch controversy. In 2015, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accidentally flashed a $620,000 Richard Mille RM 52-01 watch, of which only 30 were reportedly made, in a photo taken at his wedding in the resort town of Sochi.

While perhaps marginally more appropriate in the halls of power, Patriarch Kirill’s spokesman laid into Father Baskakov with some harsh words for his Instagram posts, saying that his “immodest and unrestrained way of life” has no place in the church. “The life of a priest cannot be divided between the personal and public and no clergyman can act like a priest in a church from the morning until lunch and then be whoever he wants from lunch until evening,” he said.

South Carolina megachurch pastor gives his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini as an anniversary present

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:1-4

The prosperity gospel seems to work for prosperity preachers, which no doubt enables them to do their alms "in the streets;" I believe the scholarly term is "doing well by doing good." As reported by Charles Duncan of the Charlotte Observer, December 12, 2018 (links in original):

A megachurch pastor from Greenville, South Carolina is catching heat for buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini as an anniversary present last week. John Gray, of Relentless Church, is the same pastor who drew praise from around the world for giving tithes directly from the collection plate to veterans, single parents and widows.

A video posted on Instagram, which has since been deleted, shows Gray dressed in black tie leading his wife through a crowd and surprising her with the car.

The gift drew criticism on Instagram, the Christian Post website reports, noting that some people “were angry that a preacher would indulge in such display of opulence.”

Defending the gift from her husband, Aventer Gray posted to her own Instagram account: “My hubby is a hard worker, he worked his whole life and he saved to bless his wife.”

She pointed to his income outside of the megachurch, including producing movies and writing songs.

Her husband, she writes, “Gives away cars, full houses of furniture, coats off his back.”

“I don’t see anyone screaming about how basketball players drive what they do while you paying $$$ to see them play in arenas and on fields,” she wrote on Instagram.

MY HUBBY IS A HARD-WORKER, HE WORKED HIS WHOLE LIFE AND HE SAVED TO BLESS HIS WIFE!!! REALJOHNGRAY AUTHOR X 2 SILENT ENDORSEMENTS (YOU KNOW BECAUSE EVERYONE DOESN’T HAVE TO BRAG ABOUT WHO THEY ARE SIGNED TO) 6 TV SHOWS MOVIE PRODUCER SONG WRITER TOURS Gives away cars, full houses of furniture, coats off his back... Checks before pastoring and tithes that in its entirety between 2 churches AND those he feels lead to at any given moment... BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS...GET OUTTA HERE WILLSTAY OFF MY HUSBAND... I don’t see anyone screaming about how basketball players drive what they do while you paying $$ to see them play in arenas and on fields... We don’t live for people! We live for God! Back to my regularly scheduled grocery store trip!!! Happy Sunday!

A post shared by grayceeme (@grayceeme) on DEC 9, 2018 AT 4:10PM PST

Gray was praised just two weeks ago for a video that went viral of him giving money to needy members of his congregation. “The role of the church is also to meet the needs of people in the house,” Gray said in the video.

“Any single mothers in here?” he asked. “Any widows? Are there any single fathers, any veterans that don’t have what they need to make ends meet? Come to the altar. There’s some money in these baskets.”
Just one question, Chief: If there's nothing wrong with Pastor Gray giving his wife an expensive car for an anniversary present, why was the video of the event deleted?