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12 Steps For a Perfect Pop Culture Christmas

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.

12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.

Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?

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A National Call for Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the-box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.

So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles,” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us.”) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.

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Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.

But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?

Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:

Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:

Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”

BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”

Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.

Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.

According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”

He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.

The author outlined his book’s thesis to NPR:

“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”

That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.

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Glimpses of the Life Beyond Life

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Author and journalist Judy Bachrach started volunteering in a hospice in the late 1980s, and her real motive was to try to overcome her fear of death. About two decades later, when her mother came down with Alzheimer’s, Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences.

So she delved into the literature, and journeyed around the United States and the world to interview near-death experiencers (NDErs or, as she calls them, “death travelers”) and leading researchers in the field. The result is her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”

How many? Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.

But were these people really “dead”? Aren’t these experiences just hallucinations caused by oxygen deprivation? Having looked into the NDE subject myself for a few years, I believe one can only hold that view if one is ill-informed or determined.

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The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.

In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

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The South’s Church Culture and Its Dangerous Problems

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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One of my favorite things about being on staff at a church is that I get to engage in discussions about faith and spiritual life with other men and women who are passionate not just about their relationship with God but also about helping others to deepen their relationship with Him.

Last week, I was brainstorming with our creative arts director and the student pastor at one of our campuses about improving one particular element of our services, when the student pastor remarked about how he knew people who thought of our church as light on doctrine and substance, largely because we don’t engage in activities like “altar calls.” Near the end of that part of the conversation, I remarked that Christianity in the South is more of a culture than a relationship with God.

In a now-famous quote, Flannery O’Connor once said, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” She may have been more right that she realized, because the dominant Southern Christian culture concerns itself largely with seeing and being seen, with church attendance as an end to the spiritual journey rather than a beginning, and with safely sheltering families from an increasingly messy world.

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Louie Gohmert Blasts Obama for Cherry-Picking Bible Verses

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert joined Sean Hannity on Thursday to discuss President Obama’s speech announcing his executive action on immigration. Rep. Gohmert took issue with Obama’s use of a verse from Exodus to defend his actions:

“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too,” Obama read in his prime time speech, quoting Exodus 22:21.

Gohmert said that people here illegally are not legally allowed to work. He said the president is flaunting the law, which is an offense to the Constitution and to African Americans and Hispanic Americans who have an enormously high unemployment rate. Gohmert said Obama is “going to leave five million people out in the cold” when their jobs are taken by illegal aliens who now have the ability to work here.

Gohmert then pulled out his own well-worn Bible. “But I also want to point out he quoted Exodus 22:1 here. But if you just go over to the next column,” Gohmert pointed to a page heavily highlighted in in yellow, “maybe he hasn’t seen these verses, Sean.”

You must not spread a false report. Do not join the wicked to be a malicious witness. You must not follow a crowd in wrongdoing. Do not testify in a lawsuit or go along with the crowd to pervert justice. Do not show favoritism to a poor person in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)

“This man is showing favoritism and he is lying about Congress,” Gohmert said. “And I’ve seen this in another politician that I went up against who would call you everything in the book and would say, ‘Now we’re going to be gentlemen. We’re not going to talk bad about each other.’ Try to keep you from defending yourself. But we’re going to defend ourselves.”

Now, obviously Gohmert engaged in the same kind of cherry-picking that Obama did when he cited a verse that he liked from that same passage of Exodus. I suspect that Gohmert was trying to point out the absurdity of taking one verse out of context (though I wish he had taken a few seconds to explain that).

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Save ‘The Duggars’ from Transsexual Bullies

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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The invaluable LifeSiteNews has launched a petition drive to counter yet another example of transsexual activist bullying:

In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show.

Their reason? Michelle Duggar openly opposed an extreme ‘transgender’ bill in Fayetteville. The bill would have given biological males who say they are women the right to use women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other female-only facilities!

As of this writing, that petition has over 80,000 signatures, and is growing fast, with media like the Huffington Post leading the charge! We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values.

Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.

The real extremists are those who are demanding that a TV network penalize America’s beloved family because they support the truth about family, which they have always expressed in a loving, compassionate fashion.

I haven’t watched 19 Kids and Counting in years. It just fell out of my usual television viewing rotation. That doesn’t mean I want to see it become the next victim of toxic progressive pitchforking.

The next target may be your favorite show.

LifeSiteNews’ counter-petition has just under 20,000 signatures as I write this.

You can read it here and sign it if you agree.

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Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of Susan’s ongoing series analyzing the connections between ABC’s Scandal, current events, and Western values: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.

Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.

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5 Reasons You Should Leave Your Church

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Paul Cooper

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There are many really bad reasons to leave a church. Some common but silly excuses for leaving a church are the following: somebody hurt your feelings, the church is getting too big, and you aren’t getting your way on some issue. There are some reasons one should prayerfully consider leaving a church. But how does somebody know when he should definitely leave a church?

Church membership and attendance should not be taken lightly. We enter into a family relationship when we join a church. It is the body of Christ. We should take joining and leaving a church very seriously, but sometimes circumstances leave no doubt that it’s time to go.

As a regular church attendee my entire life, and as a pastor who has been in some form of ministry leadership for over 15 years, I have some experience with church-attendance issues. I offer 5 reasons that a church member most likely should exit his place of worship and find another one.

5. Members (especially leaders) in the church are in grave sin but no one is holding them accountable.

All of us sin; that includes leaders in the church. We all mess up. We all fall short. But the Bible makes it clear that the immediate response to sin is repentance.  And if we do not repent then we need discipline. So if church members are living in blatant sin, and especially if its leaders are involved (who are held to a higher standard), there needs to be quick repentance — or discipline if there isn’t.

Let me be clear: I’m not telling you to only attend perfect churches where no one sins. If you join that church then you will immediately mess it up. But the name of Jesus is destroyed by churches that refuse to deal with rampant sin. Simply read the news to hear about church after church that ignored or covered up sin and are now facing lawsuits. Church members and leaders should be quick to admit wrongdoing and quick to try to make things right.

The Bible is filled with teachings on holiness and repentance when we mess up.  And the Bible takes sin in the church seriously. It’s so serious that if people refuse to repent then the worst-case scenario is to remove them from the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-12). However, if your church is refusing to deal with sin in the camp, then you must leave the camp. You cannot associate with a church that refuses to repent and seek Christ.

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What Happened to East Germany’s Brutally Effective Secret Police After the Wall Fell?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas
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On November 9, 2006, as the free world celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise, an 83-year-old man died in a peaceful slumber at his home in the German capital city. The man was Markus Wolf, who during the Cold War led the foreign-intelligence section of East Germany’s secret-police apparatus: the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit), known colloquially as “the Stasi.” The Stasi’s most renowned spymaster, he controlled thousands of agents, whose purpose was to infiltrate important Western institutions and government positions. Often mistaken as the inspiration for John le Carre’s shadowy Karla character, Wolf for years remained a mystery to Western intelligence services, who didn’t even have a picture of him until the late 1970s—several decades into his career. Historians have marveled at his success in leading the Stasi’s foreign wing, known as the HVA, or Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung. Perhaps his most well known accomplishment is having one of his agents, Gunter Guillaume, become a trusted aide to Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor.

Seven years after Wolf’s death and twenty-five years after the Wall’s, the West still doesn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of the Stasi’s brutality. (The KGB still reigns in the popular imagination as the ultimate secret-police force.) Formed after the Second World War in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, the Stasi grew to become the most potently effective Eastern bloc intelligence organization. They possessed a more impressive informant network than even the KGB. When East Germany crumbled, the Stasi employed upwards of 190,000 unofficial informants. By 1989, approximately one out of every 90 East German citizens was a Stasi informant. Referred to as inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (“unofficial collaborators”), most were simply ordinary German citizens, tasked with reporting everything they could about possible (real or imagined) anti-regime activity, as well as details about family and friends. Even children were involved in spying on their parents.

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Under What Circumstances Should We Go to War?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

An excerpt from page 251 of an extraordinary new book illuminating one of the most important Jewish philosophers and why he positioned an explanation of the Noahide laws in the section of Mishneh Torah titled “Laws Concerning Kings”:

Page 251 of #Maimonides Life and Thought by Moshe Halbertal on when it's necessary to go to #war

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Who Is the World’s Most Persecuted Religious Minority?

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Why We Worship Celebrities

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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The lights went out on Mount Olympus a long time ago, but they’re burning bright on the red carpet. There’s a connection there – it’s not a coincidence that a world without Greek gods is a world that wants to know what Brad Pitt eats for breakfast.  We can’t worship the ancient pantheon anymore – it would be ridiculous, and, God be praised, we know better. But like it or not, there’s a space in the human heart shaped like the pagan deities. That’s the space we’ve filled with T-Swift and J-Biebz, with Miley Cyrus and Will Smith. Absurd but true: with the old temples empty, we’ve built new altars to matinée idols.

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What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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My editor, David Swindle, has a penchant for assigning me to review what I’d consider some pretty nasty stuff. It started with HBO, Girls in particular. He tried getting me into Game of Thrones, but after the whole Red Wedding thing I just couldn’t take it. Now, David has me watching Scandal. It’s more palatable in the network sense (nowhere near the gratuitous nudity and graphic sex levels of HBO), but it’s still as dark. Nothing beats watching a show about a team of lawyers who don’t care a whit about the law. In fact, they go to great lengths to break the law in order to serve the gods of public opinion.

Only four episodes in, I consulted with my PJ colleague April Bey, a big fan of the show, for her opinion. “Everyone is evil, but that’s okay because we’re all evil,” she explained. Her observation was ironic, disturbing, and thought-provoking. Despite an apparent thread of cynicism regarding religion and morality, the struggle between good and evil remains the stuff of blockbuster hits like Scandal. Because our stories reflect our cultural psyche, it should come as no surprise that the word “evil” is beginning to carry serious weight in intellectual circles. Ascribed with more power than a petty adjective (i.e. early 2000′s “evil” George W. Bush), evil is now being discussed as a theory and a reason for contemporary political, legal, military and indeed cultural failings.

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The Lesson of All Saints’ Day

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis
Stripped, sent to a brothel, and then burned

Stripped, sent to a brothel, and then burned

A Catholic friend attended her church’s All Saints’ service on Saturday. She came over afterward to visit and help me with some stuff and told me about the lovely service. She mentioned something she still finds odd. The saints are often depicted with the instruments of their torture. St. Lawrence of “Turn me over, I’m done on this side” fame carries a grill, St. Catherine carries a wheel. Here are 10 of the more brutal martyrdoms.

We found this disconcerting for two reasons: one, the memory of what happened to those people. These were not quick deaths. Two, such tortures are still happening to Christians today. (Warning for graphic links, although the Daily Mail has pixelated them.) Beheadings and crucifixions still plague us. As does sexual slavery. According to the videos there, the blue and green eyed girls fetch a higher price.

When I went to church the next day (I’m Anglican and we do All Saints on the Sunday closest to November 1st) this is exactly what one of our reverends gave his sermon on. Our tormenters don’t let up. That’s what we are supposed to remember on All Saints’ Day, perseverance in the face of anything.

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Blondie’s Chris Stein Shrugs Off Iran’s Violent Treatment of Women

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend and Blondie co-founder Chris Stein has just released a photography collection, featuring his lifelong muse.

And why not? No less an authority than rock photography guru Bob Gruen famously said, “You can’t take a bad picture of Debbie Harry.”

Unfortunately, Stein marrs the collection with a stunningly multi-level-stupid comment, regarding his famous picture, above.

Stein quips to who else but The Guardian:

UK tabloids don’t push the limits of credibility any more than their American counterparts, but in a way they got there first. Here, Debbie is reading about sexism under the ayatollah.

Get it? Decades of well-documented, sharia-inspired violence against women in Iran was probably exaggerated, according to Stein, because it was reported by a lower class “red top” English tabloid back in the 1970s.

Stein further ingratiates himself with his British host by slagging stupid, hysterical American “yellow journalists,” too, for no apparent reason.

Factor in the word “sexism” as his mealy-mouthed synonym for “rape, torture and murder,” and it’s quite breathtaking how much smug “enlightened” ignorance Stein managed to squeeze into two just sentences.

Especially the same week that Iranian authorities executed a woman for killing her rapist.

All this from a man I feel safe in presuming voted for Obama twice, and whose views on every subject are reliably, predictably “progressive.”

But of course!

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Should Psychological Identity Trump Physical Identity for Transgender Persons?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently addressed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the subject of transgender.

Saying that the gay marriage battle is all but over, Burk believes “sexual revolutionaries are turning their attention to the ‘T’ in LGBT” which will lead to significant cultural changes.

Burk, author of What Is the Meaning of Sex?, said,

At the heart of the transgender revolution is the notion that psychological identity trumps bodily identity. In this way of thinking, a person is whatever they think themselves to be. If a girl perceives herself to be a boy, then she is one even if her biology says otherwise. If a boy perceives himself to be a girl, then he is one even if his biology says otherwise. Gender is self-determined, not determined by the sexual differences that the Creator has embedded into every cell in our bodies.

He doubts that most Americans have thought through the implications of accepting without question that psychological identity should trump biological identity when there is a conflict.

Burk gave the example of a man named John who was featured on Fox News a few years ago. He felt like he was a one-legged man trapped in the body of a man with two legs. “When I see an amputee — when I imagine the amputee — there is this inner pull that says ‘why can’t I be like that?’” the man asked. It wasn’t until after 42 years of marriage that he revealed this “secret” to his wife. He suffers from what psychiatrists call “body integrity identity disorder.” The only known cure is amputation of the offending body part.

“The primary ethical question is whether a man in John’s position would be right to amputate an otherwise healthy limb,” Burk said. “Would it be right for a doctor to remove his leg so that John can feel whole? If John feels himself to be a one-legged man inside a two-legged man’s body, why not encourage him to have his leg amputated? At a gut level, most people recoil at the suggestion. Nevertheless, this is the implication of the view that psychological identity trumps bodily identity,” he said.

Typically, individuals who suffer from such a disorder cannot find physicians to accommodate their requests for amputations, and they are not encouraged to amputate otherwise healthy limbs. Most people would say the individual’s thinking needs to be altered rather than taking drastic steps to alter the body.

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Cat Stevens: Why He Still (Sort Of) Matters

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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In his 1970s prime, Cat Stevens looked like Russell Brand just thinks he does.

Neither fellow is quite forlorn or angular enough to be my type, but I can certainly understand the appeal of the former, if definitely not the latter. (Ugh.)

As Dennis Miller still likes to muse sometimes on his radio show:

Can you imagine how many women were throwing themselves at Stevens back in the day?

(Except not in those words.)

Stevens has been Miller’s bete noir for a while now.

Here’s Miller circa 1989, back when he anchored “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live:

And former folk singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, came out this week and said he advocated the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So much for that “Peace Train” crap, huh, Cat? … Yeah, I could see this comin’ years ago on his old album, Tea for the Killerman. You, uh, you remember the big hit:

I’m being followed by a big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim

Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim

How can I try to explain
When he do I turn away again
It’s hard
But it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right, I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me now
There’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

Yeah.

Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world!

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8 Reasons Why Jews & Christians Should Re-Think Celebrating Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.

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Halle Berry Says Women Should ‘Be Prepared’ with Fabulous Lingerie

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to Halle Berry, who is hawking a new lingerie line at Target, women need to be prepared “in that area” because you never know who’s going to see it.

Style.com reports that Berry told reporters at a preview of her new Scandale lingerie line,

I have some friends—who will remain nameless—that wear the same janky bras for, like, five years straight. As Americans, we can go there, but what I learned about the Frenchwomen is that they’re always updating their lingerie. … They’re not going to get caught in the emergency room not prepared. If they have to cut their clothes off, they’re going to be fabulous under there.

Lingerie marketing schemes aside, Halle (I can call her by her first name because we went to high school together and I put shaving cream in her hair during band camp hazing initiation) does have a really good point. While I wish that I could have the freedom that men enjoy — I guarantee you that my husband has spent zero time in the last decade thinking about how ER personnel might be judging him on his undergarment choices — the truth is that because of science (having something to do with the Y chromosome, I think) I am forced to think about what would happen if someone had to cut my clothes off in the emergency room. (In fact, that did happen to me when I broke my leg skiing in the 9th grade and it is every bit as mortifying as you might imagine.)

Last week I was telling a friend about my son’s wedding in September, sharing the events of the morning of The Big Day as we all got ready for the afternoon ceremony. I didn’t realize how early we were going to get our hair done in the morning and as a result, I didn’t end up getting a shower before we all headed out to the beauty shop. So I had to settle for schlepping together a sponge bath and shaving my legs in the bathroom sink before slipping into my formal gown, a memory which, as I’m sitting here more than a month later, still horrifies me.

And it’s no better when it’s not a formal occasion. Last night, my husband had a late meeting, so I decided to run out and grab some carry-out food. Before heading out, I changed my clothes, put on some eyeliner and put lipstick on –as if the fast food workers were going to notice!

Honestly, I wish I could be free from this vanity and narcissism. I have friends who don’t give a hoot about how they look when they leave the house and they own it. Beauty is on the inside, they say, daring people to reject them for the way they look. They seem happy.

The problem is, of course, that our culture screams at women constantly that we must look a certain way, dress a certain way, wear this makeup, weigh this much.

People judge us, we judge others, we judge ourselves. Are we doing it mostly for ourselves — because we’re narcissists — or to impress others? I wrestle with that sometimes.

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The Feminist Lesson in Mom’s Night Out

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Twenty-four percent of married couple families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mom. Ninety-nine percent of stay-at-home moms in the movies get a really bad rap. Search “Best Movie Moms” and you’ll get lists that include Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and more than a few mentions of Psycho. The majority of movie mothers are either widowed or divorced, careerists or working class, alcoholics or impregnated by UFOs. The closest you’ll get to a stay-at-home mom in post-1940s cinema is Kathleen Turner playing the psychotic Serial Mom or Michael Keaton taking on the role so his wife can pursue her career in Mr. Mom.

In fact, outside of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side there hasn’t been a truly admirable middle-class, white, stay-at-home mother on the silver screen in over 50 years. Which is probably why Mom’s Night Out received such a negative critical reception when it premiered last spring. We have been acculturated out of believing in the power and purpose of stay-at-home moms. Yet, the criticisms leveled at Mom’s Night Out for its “depressingly regressive” spirit and “archaic notions of gender roles” were not applied to a similar film about a stay-at-home mom released only two years prior. This Is 40 received mixed reviews, but praise for yielding “…some of [Judd] Apatow’s most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love.”

So, what made This Is 40 palatable in a way that Mom’s Night Out wasn’t? Is there, perhaps, a culturally acceptable way to be a stay-at-home mom?

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Like a Serial Killer, Mao Zedong Manipulated Everyone

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas
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Editor’s note: this is part 3 in an ongoing series exploring the history of dictators and their evil ideologies. See the previous installments: Part 1:”Why It’s OK to Be Intrigued by Evil Dictators“ and Part 2: “Does Everybody Want Freedom?” Have ideas for who you’d like to see Robert explore next? Get in touch on Twitter: @RobertWargas and @DaveSwindle

Celebrating its centennial, The New Republic recently mined its archive and republished an intriguing piece from its February 27, 1965, issue: an exclusive interview with Mao Zedong by the American journalist Edgar Snow. As TNR correctly notes, as far as interviews go this would be analogous to a Western journalist today being granted exclusive access to Kim Jong Un. The sit-down took place almost seven years before Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger arrived in Peking to re-establish relations with China.

Though the interview has value as a journalistic artifact, it isn’t the most satisfying piece of reportage when it comes to Mao the man. Snow, who was not exactly Red China’s greatest critic, wasn’t allowed to quote the Great Helmsman directly, and most of the discussion concerns issues of policy and military strategy. These are big subjects, and big subjects always make for big answers laden with propaganda.

Mao comes across as intensely theoretical; he seems genuinely infatuated with Marxist theory and its rigorous application to world affairs. When asked about the Vietnam War, for instance, Snow writes that Mao “repeatedly thanked foreign invaders for speeding up the Chinese revolution and for bestowing similar favors in Southeast Asia today.” He ”observed that the more American weapons and troops brought into Saigon, the faster the South Vietnamese liberation forces would become armed and educated to win victory.”

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4 Reasons Jews Shouldn’t Fear Moving to Israel

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

Israel is becoming a more and more popular place for Jews to live. When I made aliyah (a word that means “ascent” or “Jewish immigration to Israel”) from the U.S. in 1984, the Jewish population stood at around three million; today it has doubled to over six million and is the largest Jewish community in the world. The huge rise comes from both natural growth and immigration. Jews who are already here vote “yes” by having the Western world’s highest fertility rates; many Jews who were living elsewhere have been coming here.

And now it turns out that the rate of yerida (a word that means “descent” or “Jewish emigration from Israel”) is at an all-time low—yes, even in this era of globalization, and with some Israelis loudly complaining about high prices here. The Jerusalem Post reports:

In 2012…the number of émigrés—people who left Israel and stayed abroad for over a year—went down to 15,900, the lowest since the establishment of the state….

Nearly a quarter of them had returned to the country or reported a planned return date as of April 2014.

Most of those who left the country were not born in Israel, and 25 percent of them are not Jewish. Many had moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union since 1990.

 And the New York Times adds that

Sergio DellaPergola, a leading [Israeli] demographer, said emigration was actually lower now than at any time in Israel’s 66-year history, and also lower than in comparably developed countries. Far more people left Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, when inflation skyrocketed….

Even so, if you’re considering making aliyah, it’s natural to have fears about taking such a big plunge. I had some of them too; but by now they’re a thing of the distant past.

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