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4 Astounding Archaeological Discoveries in the Holy Land

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

Editor’s Note: See the previous installments in P. David Hornik’s fascinating series on the Hebrew language: “4 Ways That the Hebrew Language Redeemed the Jewish People in Our Time,” “4 Ways the World Changed for Me When I Learned Hebrew,” “4 Biblical Sayings That Spice Up Today’s Hebrew,” “5 Ways Hebrew Is (Very) Different from English,” and “10 English Words That Are—at Heart—Hebrew Words.

Hebrew goes back very far in the Holy Land. The earliest inscription believed to be in Hebrew, discovered in 2008 at the Khirbet Qeiyafa archeological site, dates from the 10th century BCE.

Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa is convinced that it’s a Hebrew inscription and says it

indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.

Other scholars, though, believe the inscription is written, at least partly, in other ancient languages like Phoenician, Moabite, or Canaanite.

Other finds, however—including, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves—are indisputably in Hebrew. What follows are some of the more notable examples out of many.

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Atheists Can Be Moral, Too

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Catch up on this series’ previous installments: Part I: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem,” Part II: “Is Religion Illogical?” Part III: “Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?,” Part IV: Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?

Can There Be Objective Morality without God?

Believers commonly assert that, without God, there can be no “objective right and wrong.” Yet, such an assertion ignores what it means to be objective. When we identify something as objective rather than subjective, we’re saying it can be observed in the real world. We’re saying it can be perceived, or conceived through reason applied to our perception. Even the most fervent believer must confess that God transcends our human perception, and therefore cannot be cited as a source of objective morality.

The appeal to God as a source of morality proceeds from our recognition that some standard must be applied to our decision-making process. Otherwise, anything goes. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, author Craig Biddle addresses this problem:

The problem is not: “If there is no God, anything goes.” The problem is: If there is no objective standard of value, anything goes. If there is no rationally provable standard of value, there is no way to defend with moral certainty what is right or to condemn with moral certainty what is wrong. The alternative is not religion versus subjectivism, but reason versus subjectivism – and the secular subjectivists know it.

The secular subjectivists Biddle references are those within the culture who reject religion as a source of morality, but make no effort to replace it with anything concrete. They suffice to say that morality emerges from social convention or rests in the eye of the beholder. What is right, they claim, is what makes you feel good, or what results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or what serves the “common good.”

How Do We Respond to Secular Subjectivism and Moral Relativism?

Believers offer our appeal to God as the source of “objective morality” in answer to such blatant subjectivism or moral relativism. Right and wrong can’t be left to whim, we argue. But our appeal to God doesn’t solve the problem.

Subjectivism – whether personal, social, or “supernatural” – wreaks havoc on human life and happiness. Until we can answer it with (genuine) moral certainty – that is, until we can show that morality is based on facts – it will continue to do so. From muggings and rapes, to school shootings and truck bombings, to concentration camps and gulags, to religious “inquisitions” and divinely inspired acts of terrorism – all such mayhem is caused by subjectivism. And the is-ought dichotomy is what makes subjectivism seem plausible.

The “Is-Ought” Dichotomy

This “is-ought dichotomy” is the philosophical dead end in which believers spar with secular subjectivists. Our culture has given up on the task of discovering a truly objective morality, because we have largely bought into the notion that values cannot be derived from facts, that we cannot discern an “ought” from an “is.”

The Moral Abyss of David Hume’s Philosophy

Biddle points to the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume as the originator of the is-ought dichotomy. Hume taught that it is logically impossible to transition from observable facts about the natural world to a code of conduct or set of values. The problem with Hume’s conclusion is that it leaves us with nowhere to go, with no moral anchor nor any means to discover one.

The is-ought gap represents a moral abyss. If we care about human life and happiness, we need to bridge it. We need to ground morality in reality; we need to discover a rationally provable ultimate end – a standard of value derived from observation and logic.

Christian believers should not feel discouraged or threatened by this. Indeed, scripture exhorts us to look to creation for general revelation regarding the character and nature of God. Paul says in Romans 1:20:

For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The Natural World Provides Guideposts for Appropriate Human Action

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The primary such guidepost is a standard of value from which to judge the appropriateness of all other conceived values, an end unto itself which all other ends support.

An end is a goal toward which one acts; a means is the action one takes toward a goal. For instance, if a student studies in order to get an education, the education is an end toward which his studying is the means. Likewise, if a person works in order to earn a paycheck, the paycheck is an end toward which his work is the means. But notice that such goals are not ends in themselves. A student gets an education so that he can pursue a career – which he pursues in order to support himself and earn a paycheck – which he earns in order to buy things – which he buys in order to use for various other purposes – which he pursues in order to accomplish still other goals – and so on. Each end presupposes another. So where does it all end?

If we are to establish an objective, fact-based morality, we need to discover a final end – one toward which all of our other goals and values are properly aimed. Such an end is by that fact our standard of moral value – the standard against which we can objectively assess the value of all our choices and actions. So the question becomes: What is our ultimate goal?

When we identify this ultimate goal, the question of what we ought to do becomes objectively answerable. That, and only that, is how we discern an objective morality.

As this series continues, we will present and evaluate this objective standard of value. Biddle offers it as an alternative to religion. But one need not be an atheist to accept it. Indeed, the discovery of an objective standard for moral action should embolden the believer and deepen our appreciation of God.

As a father, I may answer any challenge from my son with the proverbial “because I told you so.” In doing so, I don’t offer an actual reason. I merely assert my authority. While that authority proves legitimate, my ultimate desire for my son is that he one day understand why my instruction and rules serve his interest.

Similarly, the appeal to God as a moral authority may prove correct, but says nothing of why his prescriptions are good for us. A consideration of objective morality works to bridge that gap.

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Contemporary Feminism’s War Against Women in the Name of Radical Islam

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Owen Jones opines in the UK Guardian that women are “taken less seriously than men” and, as a result, the “pandemic of violence against women will continue.” Coming on the heels of the famed Arquette faux pas at the Oscars, his essay easily reads as more of the same old “War on Women” schtick, and to a great extent it is. However, his opening argument is worth noting for what it does say and for what Jones does not. Somehow, like most contemporary feminists with a platform, he manages to acknowledge the grotesque abuses of women living in Islamic cultures while completely refusing to point out that radicalized Islam is the number one serious threat to women across the globe.

Jones begins by recounting the story of Özgecan Aslan a 20-year-old Turkish college student who was tortured, raped and murdered, her body then burned as evidence, by a bus driver.

Across Twitter, Turkish women have responded by sharing their experiences of harassment, objectification and abuse. But something else happened: men took to the streets wearing miniskirts, protesting at male violence against women and at those who excuse it or play it down. Before assessing how men can best speak out in support of women, it’s worth looking at the scale of gender oppression. The statistics reveal what looks like a campaign of terror. According to the World Health Organisation, over a third of women globally have suffered violence from a partner or sexual violence from another man. The UN estimates that about 133 million girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation, and believes that nearly all of the 4.5 million people “forced into sexual exploitation” are girls and women.

He stops there, short of pointing out that the WHO statistics cited clearly show that the greatest threat of violence against women exists in primarily Islamic countries. While he mentions female genital mutilation, he again neglects to tie in the fact that FGM is most commonly practiced in Muslim countries and among extremist Islamic cultures.

Jones bases his argument in a story of a Muslim girl tortured and murdered by a man in a Muslim country that is growing more religious by the day, only to devolve into the same demeaning politically correct tropes of contemporary gender feminism. He finds it ironic that men dare to call themselves feminists and decides “…men will only stop killing, raping, injuring and oppressing women if they change.” Change what? Their gender? For Jones, as it is for so many other feminist activists, it is easier to just throw a blanket of blame onto men than to confront the source of evil that exacts a real “campaign of terror” against women: radical Islam.

What’s worse, Jones doesn’t hesitate to make his case for women all about gay men. In yet another ironic twist, after accusing men of co-opting the feminist movement for their own egotistical needs, he uses gender feminist theory to defend a tangent on gay rights:

And while men are not oppressed by men’s oppression of women, some are certainly damaged by it. Gay men are a striking example: we are deemed to be too much like women. But some straight men suffer because of an aggressive form of masculinity too. The boundaries of how a man is supposed to behave are aggressively policed by both sexism and its cousin, homophobia. Men who do not conform to this stereotype – by talking about their feelings, failing to objectify women, not punching other men enough – risk being abused as unmanly. “Stop being such a woman,” or “Stop being such a poof.” Not only does that leave many men struggling with mental distress, unable to talk about their feelings; it also is one major reason that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

If gender stereotypes are a cause of male suicide, they only have gender feminists to blame. Wait – wasn’t this supposed to be an argument in favor of feminism and the female voice?

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Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

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Even if we conclude that God exists, that does not mean He is worthy of worship. Different presentations of God offer conflicting moral prescriptions, many of which defy our objective sense of right and wrong. It’s easy to understand why critics of religion, like author Craig Biddle, deem faith illogical and even evil. Examples like Islam’s Sharia law speak for themselves.

But Biddle argues that any religious prescription ultimately proves counter-productive to human happiness. From his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It:

To the extent a person is religious, he believes that he has a duty to self-sacrificially serve God. This duty requires him to abandon his own selfish dreams. If he sticks to his faithful convictions and abandons his dreams, he cannot be happy, because his dreams go forever unrealized. Conversely, if he hypocritically abandons his convictions and pursues his dreams, he still cannot be happy, for he is filled with moral guilt and dread of divine retribution.

Biddle offers the hypothetical example of a young girl who desires to be an accomplished ballerina, but feels compelled to serve God by becoming a nun or missionary. We might likewise consider the tithe. What could you do with the money contributed to your church? Aren’t you sacrificing whatever you could do – whatever debt you could pay, whatever provision you could acquire, whatever dream you could chase – by giving up a portion of your income to religion?

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3.5 Million People Seek Kosher Foods in the U.S. and Not All of Them Are Jewish

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi

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Being kosher is an important part of the Jewish religion.

The rules of kashrut (pertaining to kosher, being fit or proper) appear in the Old Testament in both Leviticus and Numbers. Jewish people were told they should eat only animals that chew their cud and have hooves — like cows — and fish with scales and fins. Thus pigs and crustaceans, among other creatures which don’t fit into these categories, were forbidden to the Jewish people as food. Bugs were also forbidden (with the exception of two species of kosher locusts, designated by name).

There are many ramifications aside from these basic prohibitions, including the method of slaughter of any of the above-listed animals, and there are a number of organizations with individuals who go into food-processing plants, slaughterhouses, and meat-packing plants to ensure that all kosher tenets are met.

The largest of these kosher-certifying organizations in the world is the Orthodox Union.

Many products carry the OU symbol, thus certifying the products as being kosher.

According to Rabbi Dovid Jenkins, the rabbinical coordinator of the Orthodox Union, there are 3.5 million residents of this country who choose to purchase kosher products and many, he said, aren’t Jewish. The OU kosher supervisors travel all over the world to certify products that will be imported and sold in the U.S. Jenkins said that the OU has even gotten a request from Pakistan to certify their products. However, it was deemed too dangerous to send a kosher supervisor to that country.

Next: 12 Fascinating facts about a kosher diet

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Pastor to Oprah: Christianity ‘Moments Away’ from Embracing Gay Marriage

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Immutability stands as a defining characteristic of divine nature. A god who changes cannot be God. At least that’s been a long-standing Christian doctrine.

But at least one best-selling author and pastor believes that Christianity itself must change. The Blaze reports:

Former megachurch pastor Rob Bell told TV host Oprah Winfrey that he believes Christian churches will become even more irrelevant if they fail to embrace gay relationships and that he sees the Christian umbrella becoming more favorable of homosexuality in the very near future.

When Winfrey asked when the church will come on board with same-sex relationships, Bell, the former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, said that he believes that the time is “close” and that “we’re just moments away from the church accepting it,” according to the Christian Post.

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone,” Bell said on OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday.”

Two things stand out from these comments. First, Bell proceeds on the unspoken premise that cultural relevance ought to be a Christian value. Of course, if Christians want to be relevant to the culture, they should just renounce Christianity. Scripture is replete with exhortations for the believer to stand apart from the culture, to be distinct in both attitude and conduct. You’d be hard pressed to find a passage in the Bible urging Christians to be “relevant” to the world around them.

Which leads to the second standout from Bell’s comments: his cavalier dismissal of scripture. Who needs 2,000 year old letters to guide their theology? That’s so yesterday. One wonders why anyone would bother to consider themselves Christian at all if they hold so little regard for biblical authority.

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Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We want to live forever. We seek immortality through a variety of means, living vicariously through our children, leaving a legacy in our community, and embracing the claims of religion.

But what if we could actually live indefinitely here on Earth? What if we could elect to live for centuries or even millennia? Would we want to?

Zoltan Istvan thinks so. Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviews the author of The Transhumanist Wager in the video above. They come to an interesting aside when Weissmueller inquires about cultural resistance to the idea of technological immortality. Aren’t some people actually revolted by the idea? Istvan answers:

America and many places around the world are quite religious, especially America…a poll said 83% are still declaring themselves Christian. That makes it hard to want to take death out of the equation, because a natural part of the Christian ideology is to die and to eventually reach an afterlife with God…

While Istvan may anticipate the reaction of some, the Christian faith doesn’t necessarily preclude an embrace of transhumanist technology. It depends on the particular nature of the tech. There’s nothing in mainstream Christian doctrine which would forbid something like artificial organs, for instance. And if replacing organs could extend life by decades or more, why not?

… it’s not as though wanting to live indefinitely is something that’s going to intrude and conflict with one’s religion. It’s just something that’s kind of the evolving nature of the species. And if you can get people to think like that, and not see it in conflict with their own ideologies, then I think they’re going to be more on board with saying, “Yeah, it’s good to live 150, 200 years.” And again, I’m not saying let’s live forever. I don’t think any transhumanists are saying that. I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years. That might only be 170 years.

The line might be drawn at technology which changes one’s nature to something non-human. When we look at something like uploading one’s consciousness to a computer, the question must be asked: would you still be “you?” Or would you be essentially committing suicide?

The notion of living indefinitely, unto itself, should actually appeal to the Christian. After all, everlasting life is the promise of Christian salvation, and lifespans greatly surpassing those common today are recorded throughout scripture. Adam lived to 930. Noah made it to 950. Enoch was “taken” before his time at the tender young age of 365. For the believer who takes scripture literally, the notion of living for centuries has precedence.

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Jews, Whiteness & the Idiocy of Racial Identity

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Finally, they’re Jew-ing up Downton Abbey. Rose, the troublesome teen who nearly ran away with a black American jazz singer last season, is now falling for Ephraim Atticus Aldridge whose family escaped Russian pogroms. What makes this love affair more acceptable to the Granthams, whose own matriarch comes from Jewish blood? Well, the money and the title help, but the reality is that Atticus is white. Tom the socialist chauffeur worked his way into the heart of the family sans money and title, but could a darker-skinned outcast have done the same? Not in an England where appearances were everything and eugenic theory was at an all-time high. Russian royalty ex-pats won’t accept Atticus as anything but a “Jew” and the jury is still out when it comes to the Crawley clan. Perhaps because, even in today’s England, just because Ashkenazim (European Jews) know how to play the game doesn’t mean they always win.

When I joined the Hillel as a grad student in Texas I was excited to finally not hear the one comment that had plagued me throughout many of my Jewish encounters growing up: “You don’t look Jewish.” Each time I heard the seemingly benign statement from some gorgeous, dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned individual with obvious Ashkenazi roots and a tinge of a New York accent I thought, “Weren’t you in history class when we talked about the Holocaust and the dangers of so-called racial identity?” Our problem with race extends beyond America’s borders. While Israel is the proof that being Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with how you look, Israelis still struggle with “whiteness” and race. The idol of race is a dangerous fence that has to be hacked down if we’re ever to survive as a people.

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5 Unexpected Lessons for Finding Love in 2015

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Lisa De Pasquale

Keep the Faith -- Lisa De Pasquale

Writing a book about dating is more exhibition than expertise. To be credible you have to show that you’ve been in the trenches. When I wrote my first book, Finding Mr. Righteous, I saw it as an exorcism of my past relationships so that I could move forward and find the true partnership with passion that I wanted.

Of course, when you write a book there is a ton of promotion and conversation that happen with those who (thankfully!) read it. Rather than a permanent exorcism it’s more like a museum you invite friends, family and strangers to visit. For the past year I’ve been a tour guide in this museum of relationships, the modern dating scene and my faith journey. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I’m always learning.

In addition to the important lessons of Finding Mr. Righteous, there are some others I’ve learned over the past year.

1. Throw Away Your ‘Must Haves’ List

You’ve heard the saying that women dress for other women, not for men. In dating, it’s true that some women make a list of who their partner must be based on what’s desired by other women. For some, it might be the kind of car he drives, his job, how much he makes, or even how tall he is.  Even if these are things you truly think are important to you, try dating outside your list.  Also, don’t confuse things like short-term items like salary with long-term items like ambition or potential. In an early episode of Sex and the City, Charlotte’s three must-haves are “looks, manners and money.” Her eventual second husband, Harry, didn’t necessarily have all three, yet many women consider him the best man in the series.

One of the most frequent “must haves” I see on friends’ lists is “he should be at least 6 feet tall.”  This has to be one of the dumbest because it has nothing to do with any characteristics that are important – values, ambition, goals in life, compatibility, etc. The most amazing guys I’ve ever met have been under 5’8”.

On second thought, keep looking for those six-footers. I’ll take the interesting short guys. As a friend recently told me, “A man is as tall as he acts.” 

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Does Science Provide Evidence For God’s Existence?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Does American Jewish Survival Rely on the Holocaust?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

For a while now, my editor David Swindle has been plaguing me to start a series on Jewish identity. Like any good family we disagree with each other about practically everything, cultural and religious identification included. I can’t think of one Jewish setting in which I wasn’t directly or indirectly accused by fellow Jews of being a “bad Jew” for some mundane reason or another. One incident involved the infamous “pepperoni pizza at a Hillel event, for or against” argument. (Truly the greatest Jewish American struggle of our time.) Joseph’s brothers beat him up, threw him in a ditch, and not much has changed since, attitude-wise. Need further proof? Check out the latest argument over how Jewish Americans relate to the Holocaust.

Apparently 73% of us rank the Holocaust as our top-rated “essential” to being Jewish. This disturbs renowned academic Jacob Neusner who’s made a career out of entwining himself into the vines of the Ivy League. Neusner’s argument boils down to the concept that American Jews have no real sense of or connection to their own identity. Therefore, they need to go outside the geographical box to find themselves, either through the Holocaust or Zionism.

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The Roman Catholic Church: History’s First Global Organization

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s ongoing series exploring the big ideas in Catholic life: 

The idea of all the countries on Earth gathering under a single roof to address issues of international concern had been a dream of mankind for who knows how long before Woodrow Wilson was finally able to convince the nations of Europe to finally do it as a League of Nations.

And though nations managed to come together in the past, it was usually borne of necessity to form military alliances or negotiate treaties for peace or trade among two or more of them and rarely for any other reason than that.

But well ahead of all such limited agreements, was the Roman Catholic Church which brought together representatives from at first, every corner of Europe, and then the world. Bound together by faith, tradition, and Canon Law, members of the Church also found unity in a common language. With Latin, Church members in Italy could communicate with those in China and Uganda and Paraguay.

And as communications, and travel, between nations improved, so were senior members of the Church, its bishops and Cardinals, able to convene on a regular basis, further tightening the collegial connections and fraternal relationships among its leaders.

The Church’s worldwide reach and global character was present from the very start when Jesus Himself instructed his apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Through His actions while in the world, Jesus set the example, dealing with those outside the Jewish tradition such as the Samaritan woman at the well.

Upon his conversion, St. Paul got the message and took the Gospel outside of Israel to the eastern Roman world. Following the Council of Jerusalem where Peter agreed that Gentiles did not have to strictly adhere to Mosaic law in order to be followers of Jesus, he and other apostles left for other lands, scattering over the entire Roman Empire and beyond. By 313, after a long struggle for acceptance by Rome, Christians were freed from the fear of persecution and began to send out missionaries beyond the fringes of the Empire taking the first steps in becoming a truly international organization.

Today, the Church is represented in virtually every nation on Earth, each with its own hierarchy which in turn, connects directly to the Vatican in Rome. That connection among Catholics all over the world, is further tightened by use of the internet, websites, and email.

By the 6th century, as the Church grew and was forced to organize, the College of Cardinals was created and by 1059, its role as selector of Popes firmly established. Over the centuries, the College has been occupied primarily by Western Europeans with a scattering of eastern and North African members; but as the Church’s presence in the Middle East diminished with the rise of Islam, the College assumed a definite European character.

So matters stood into the 20th century when things began to change.

Following World War II, the role of Europe in the rest of the world shrank and in its stead, new nations arose. After the Second Vatican Council, held between 1962-1965, it was decided that governance of the Church needed a more international cast to better reflect its worldwide presence. Since then, many new Cardinals have been created with members coming from every corner of the globe.

The international scope of the Church has again been confirmed with the recent announcement by Pope Francis that he would appoint 17 new Cardinals this year with most coming from South America, Asia, and Oceania.

Among those to join the College of Cardinals on Feb. 14 will be Archbishops Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia; John Atcherley Dew of New Zealand; Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Vietnam; Charles Maung Bo of Burma; and Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitchavanij of Thailand.

Also on the lists are Bishops Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Cape Verde and Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.

“The most evident criteria is that of universality,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirming that the object of Francis’ choices is that of collegiality and global representation in a Church that’s expanding most quickly in the developing parts of the world.

The duties of the College of Cardinals include advising the Pope in the governance of the Church, electing his successor, and often acting as papal envoys. Some may be officers of the Roman Curia while others serve as bishops of major diocese around the world. Eligible to vote for a new Pope until age 80, the number of cardinals has traditionally been held at 120.

Anyone looking at the red garbed Cardinals on television when they gather for a papal election or conference is instantly struck by the variety in its sea of faces. Sure, most are still of European descent, but many more obviously hail from Africa, South America, and the Far East. And unlike secular global institutions, they may disagree on some policy issues but they remain united in a single overriding belief in Christ and His Church which informs all of their actions.

And so, even as other international institutions are sundered by disagreements and threaten to break down over security, social policy, economics, even climate change, the Catholic Church, after twenty centuries, continues to remain viable as the only global entity still capable of speaking with a single voice.

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Is Religion Illogical?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Catch up on Part I of this series: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem”

As we continue though Craig Biddle’s critique of religion found in his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, we are introduced to the concept of objective morality:

“Objective” means “fact-based.” For morality to be objective, it has to be based on a standard of value derived not from feelings, but from facts.

The notion of objective morality stands in contrast to various forms of subjectvism which have dominated much of human history. Biddle lists “religious subjectivism” among “secular subjectivism” and “personal subjectivism” as three variations of the same phenomenon. In this way, he connects the rhetoric and methods of the church, the Nazis, and hedonistic criminals.

This is how an argument for God always ends. One believes because one believes – which means: because one wants to. Religion is a doctrine based not on facts, but on feelings. Thus, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, religion is a form of subjectivism.

In light of this fact, it should come as no surprise that while secular subjectivism denies some of religion’s unproved, evidence-free claims, it demands and employs the very same methods – faith, mysticism, and dogma.

For instance, according to the Nazis, Hitler’s will determined the truth…

Believers may scoff at the comparison. Yet consider the foundation upon which it is built.

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President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism

Friday, February 6th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

In President Me, Adam Carolla takes the pulse of the social contract, a pulse that is slackening. Narcissism is the sapping beast.

Carolla sees an insidious minority that has turned out to be “assholes.” Predictably, the trait has infiltrated what is now known anachronistically as “the fabric of society.”

The death of God, absent fathers, subversive pop culture, unassimilated immigration, and infantilizing, cradle/grave government all factor as threats to destroy from within America’s exceptionalist sovereignty.

Carolla’s admonition is about a stratum of quasi-pathological narcissism breeding within our culture.

The following formulization often comes up in discussions about Islamic extremism: even if only one percent of Muslims are radicalized, that means 16 million people are in solidarity on some level with jihad.

In Carolla’s equation, even if only one per cent of our nation’s population is at least borderline pathologically narcissistic, that’s approximately three million, one hundred and sixty thousand assholes.

Unfortunately, these figures are probably low.

PJ Lifestyle’s Kathy Shaidle previously laid out Carolla’s organizational outline for the book, a collection of indictments handed down for each department of the federal government, plus random, related take-downs of entities like the United Nations. Shaidle’s mention of the explicit language that peppers the narrative will serve here as well.

President Me serves as both grand thesis and field guide. The comedian and author, who started funny and grows ever more trenchant in his observations, brings to the phenomenon of narcissism on the march a noteworthy specificity; readers will find themselves adding personal worsts to his gallery of self-centered rogues and counterintuitively manifested government entities.

Narcissism is not the only target of Carolla’s brawling cultural assessment, but it’s the metastasizing thread that holds the book together. Often laugh out loud, the larger context of the work has humorless implications for Western societies under threat from virulent ideologies and belief systems, and the madness inherent in a refracted society disassociated from rigorous self-appraisal.

In his third book, Carolla—though scarcely the first to call out cultural narcissism—makes narcissism his bitch, pardon the vernacular, roughing-up by decree everything from big-boxes to the airline industry, bumper stickers to the Department of Homeland Security.

The question becomes, how best can conservative counterculture counter the galloping solipsism of our times?

One answer may be to join the rugged individualism of American conservatism with conservative valuation of the social contract. These components of an individual and/or group ethos must oppose on all fronts an electronics-generated, nanny-statist, broken home-enabled reanimation of the “Me Decade.”

Reading Carolla suggests that contemporary narcissism’s sweep makes the ’70s Me Decade look like the “Mother Teresa Decade.”

A culture beset by multitudes afflicted with narcissistic personality disorders is weakened by over-association with the “me” orientation, and a disassociation from the “we.”  Such a flaccid culture is threatened by cultures in which the “we” construct is established, and the guiding motivation is negative.

In Islamic extremism and its terror component, ideas of self esteem and individual rights are violently abrogated.

In the United States, untrammeled immigration breeds narcissism both from the standpoint of the trespassers who think the laws don’t apply to them and come expecting to share the benefits of a nation for which they hold no modern claim, and from the standpoint of progressive segments of we the people, who are so narcissistic as to think that we can absorb the globe’s unwashed masses, that we’ve got it under control enough to pick up a gigantic tab in perpetuity. We can’t.

Country clubbers and chambers of commerce who want to open the floodgates to cheap labor out of greed are among the most virulent progenitors of the narcissism plague.

It is a counterculture’s job to be vigilant.

Narcissism reflected reveals the triumph of equalitarianism over merit, entitlement over responsibility, immigration (both cultural and quantitative) over sovereignty, and raises the chillingly retrograde specter of globally administered social justice.

Our current administration propagates the idea that America is no better or worse than any other country, a position that would seem to be the opposite of nationalized narcissism. Dig deeper and the truth is that for those who loathe our capitalist republic and everything it stands for, dismantlement becomes the ultimate objective. For any person, administration, or movement to think they have the right to transform the country by any other means than the consensus of the governed represents narcissism gone over the edge.

If traditionalists and conservatives don’t adamantly conceptualize and defend who we are as a culture, our children and grandchildren will absorb the message that narcissistic obsession, and a corollary disregard for the principle of societal cohesion—a disregard clothed in shallow adherence to political correctness and empty homilies about inclusiveness and diversity—is the stuff of post-millennial life.

However micro his targets, or amusing his characterizations, Carolla’s prognosis might best be distilled by appropriating an infamous lyric which surfaced in 1999’s debut by the heavy rock band Disturbed.

Our culture may be “Down with the Sickness,” but conservatives must not be.

It is the job of the conservative counterculture’s rugged individualists to indentify rends in a social contract that upholds freedom, independence, and personal responsibility, and ride into the breach wherever and however they appear.

To join societal critics like Carolla in calling out the corrosive influence of individuals and entities which threaten our way of life with the whirlwind of self, and the vortex of decadence.

*****

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion (email DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com if you would like to respond):

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The Sad Truth About the Vaccine Debate’s Superstitious Roots

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

Things looked pretty darn good in the middle of the twentieth century. We split the atom, using its energy for power and to send the most dead-end, dead-enders of the Axis scurrying. The Green Revolution saved a billion people from starving to death. On the micro level, we developed vaccines for polio, mumps measles and rubella.

In other words, we had the future and it was so bright, the world had to wear shades.

Fast forward another half-century.

In January 2015, we have at least 91 people infected in an outbreak linked to Disney Land. School districts are quarantining some students. The disease has spread from the happiest place on earth to other states and beyond our borders.

To keep this in perspective, we had 644 cases of measles in the United States for the year of 2014. That was a record year.

But hey, these things happen. After all, President Obama made our border easier to crack than a high school kegger and invited an unprecedented surge of illegal alien kids to crash that party. So an uptick of children’s diseases makes sense, right?

One problem.

The disease is hitting the unvaccinated Americans and those unvaccinated aren’t born in East LA.

According to the National Institutes of Health,

“[u]nvaccinated children tended to be white, to have a mother who was married and had a college degree, to live in a household with an annual income exceeding 75,000 dollars, and to have parents who expressed concerns regarding the safety of vaccines and indicated that medical doctors have little influence over vaccination decisions for their children” (emphasis added).

So it’s not the poor and ignorant who avoid vaccines. It’s the Real Housewives of Orange County.

Why?

Well, in their defense, they have Jenny McCarthy on her side. And Jenny McCarthy went on both Oprah and Larry King.

The reality is that a significant subset of our population has bought hook, line and sinker that vaccines cause autism. They even had a study that showed the link between vaccines and autism.

Of course that study is discredited, not as an error but as an actual fraud by a man paid by the lawyers suing vaccine manufacturers. Its author lost his medical license. His coauthors removed their names from the study. Lancet, which carried the fraudulent data, pulled it.

Yet the non-vaccinated children still come from educated households.

Because autism.

Okay, that’s just one crazy superstition that can kind of make sense because a washed-up Playboy model glommed onto a fraudulent study.

That’s no reason to see a trend, right?

Well, look at the case of manmade global warming.

Well, wait. Here the elites have science. After all, didn’t President Obama point out that 2014 was the hottest year in human history?

If you can’t trust a president who just had his butt handed to him in the midterms, whom can you trust?

Except, well, science and its refutation of his claim.

In ancient days, when life was nasty, brutish and short, people looked for any sort of advantage to reach the ripe old age of 30. First, there was fire and with it came cool things like keeping the animals at bay and not having bleeding runs every time you ate your latest kill. Then came the wheel, an easier way to get that steaming carcass of meat from here to there.

But let’s face it. In the game of survival, there’s no better way to get an edge on the local saber-toothed tiger — or your annoying neighbor — than seeing the future.

Thus we have the casting of bones because everybody knows that if anything is linked to the future, it’s chicken bones.

I mean, that’s just logic.

Global warming alarmists have their own version of chicken bones, in the form of computer climate models:

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Chart via the Wall Street Journal 

Problem: When compared to what is actually observed in the real world, the climate models fail to make accurate predictions. And this is a consistent problem.

You have to think that if our chicken-bone-throwing ancestors noticed that none of their throws matched up to actual events, they’d realize something was wrong. Perhaps they might not give up on the enterprise of chicken-bone throwing altogether – after all, who can deny chicken bones? – but they might decide that they’d killed a defective chicken.

Today’s educated savages can’t even make that leap. An honest man would say since the models don’t figure in things like water vapor – just a small part of the atmosphere, after all – and don’t actually predict the future, let’s try something else.

Instead, the educated savages award the computer modelers the Nobel Prize.

Primitive superstition is also strong in Leftist economics.

In World War II, the tribes of Papua New Guinea saw vast amounts of wealth coming into the Pacific on both the Allied and Axis sides. They had no way to comprehend the power of industrialized economies fully mobilized and dedicated to the largest war the world had ever seen. The natives made the natural assumption that spirits sent cargo to the earth and the evil outsiders jacked the loot.

So they built fake airplanes. They erected structures in the jungle and filled them with fake cash, sometimes even making fake suitcases.

Hmmm. Make work projects paid for with worthless currency. Doesn’t that sound like Obama’s stimulus plan or Paul Krugman – another educated savage Nobel laureate –  looking for an alien threat in order to create demand to boost the economy?

Yes, Keynesian economic theory is a cargo cult, dressed up in suits and the flowery rhetoric of the university. Unfortunately, it shows the same effectiveness.

Welcome to the new Dark Ages, a time of policy based on superstitions easily recognized by savages sitting around the campfire. They might not understand the terms of the new cargo cults that have risen but they’d understand that old time religion.

******

image illustration via shutterstock /

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VIDEO: Can Freedom and Sharia Coexist?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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VIDEO: Klavan & Whittle Prove the Compatibility of Science & Religion

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Andrew Klavan

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture 

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Israelis—and Conservatives—Are Going Vegan

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

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It turns out that Israel—which is a frontrunner in many fields including hi-tech, medicine, agriculture, defense, and others—is actually leading the world in the field of veganism.

The nearly 5 percent of Israelis who are now vegans is the highest per capita total in the world. Another 8 percent are vegetarians. This is a very dramatic rise from just four years ago, when Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics found that only 2.6 percent of Israelis were either vegetarians or vegans.

And the trend is apparently growing. The Times of Israel quotes Israeli vegan activist Omri Paz:

The makeup of the community is the biggest change…. In the past, maybe they were more spiritual, or people society viewed as a little different, a little strange. A lot of the new vegans are mainstream—vegan lawyers, vegan teachers.

The Times goes on to note:

Israeli veganism took root in secular liberal circles, but religious Israelis are joining the movement, too. Many note that the biblical Adam and Eve were vegetarians in the Garden of Eden.

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And as another report notes:

Even the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], in which most Israeli young men and women have to serve, now offers soldiers leather-free boots and a small allowance to buy themselves alternatives to the food in mess halls.

To some extent Israelis’ vegan tendency could be rooted in the kosher laws, which take meat-eating seriously and set restrictions on it.

Meanwhile, an article by Mary Eberstadt last month on National Review Online reports:

Conservative circles in Washington and New York include a growing number of…animal softies, ranging from mindful carnivores to all-the-way vegans. As the respectful treatment accorded theologian Charles Camosy’s recent book For Love of Animals goes to show, Catholic/Christian hangouts harbor fellow travelers like that too.

Eberstadt goes on to note:

within American conservatism itself, a growing coalition of newly attentive carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans is steadily acquiring new momentum. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the freshest thinking on animal welfare these days is emanating not from the Left but rather from writers who are Christian or conservative—or both.

As both an Israeli and a conservative, I welcome both these trends. I’ve been a vegetarian for about twenty-five years, and in more recent years, a near-vegan.

The reason is simple. You’ve had dogs, or cats, or both? So you know how sensitive and emotional they are. Why would you think the cows, pigs, chickens and so on that people slaughter and eat are any different? Why put them through ordeals and death?

I used to think this didn’t apply to dairy products, since animals aren’t killed to obtain them. But modern dairy farming—like modern factory farming in general—is actually full of appalling cruelty to the animals involved.

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But even if there were a sweeping reform of factory farming, and farm animals were allowed to live more or less decent lives before being subjected to “humane slaughter,” I would remain a near-vegan (and I may make it to full veganism). Should we be killing animals so we can eat their dead flesh? Is it civilized? And is it much more civilized to have a cow’s milk on my table?

I would agree that it was justified if people, like cats, needed animal products for their health. But that, of course, is not the case; there are many millions of perfectly healthy vegetarians and vegans in the world. My quarter-century of increasingly stringent vegetarianism finds me at the peak of health. And I will never forget the light, pleasant feeling I had as soon as I stopped eating meat; by now, of course, I take it for granted.

So if health isn’t the justification for meat, that leaves two others: it tastes good, and it’s what people have been doing for a long time.

Yes, I recall that it tasted good—and so do all sorts of delightful non-meat dishes, including ersatz meat products if you miss meat. Is a good taste really a reason to kill a living being?

And as for the fact that people have been eating meat for a long time, that, of course, is not a strong argument. Other “traditional” human practices have included cannibalism, human sacrifice, and slavery. Longevity is hardly a justification.

What I’m saying is best summed up by the image of a vegan soldier with non-leather boots. There is, lamentably, still a world of belligerent, murderous humans out there whom one has no choice but to fight. But by going vegetarian-vegan you link yourself with the world of peace, harmony, and respect for life, and you expand it.

*****

image illustrations via  jorisvo /  /  / Shutterstock.com

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Here’s How One Small-Government Conservative Chose to Die

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Late in the previous century, when the Toronto Star spiked my column debunking Kwanzaa — the editor scolded me for wanting to “ruin other people’s fun” by telling the truth, which in hindsight would make for an apt if ungainly personal motto on my (non-existent) coat of arms — I sent the piece to Canada’s only conservative magazine, the (since defunct) Alberta Report.

Link Byfield, the magazine’s publisher and editor, snapped it up, and asked for more.

I’d been a professional writer for years, but now my career as a right-wing writer had begun.

Byfield died of cancer this week, at 63.

My fellow AB contributor Colby Cosh was and is a libertarian (some might say craggily contrarian) atheist who was nevertheless embraced right out of grad school by the unabashedly Christian so-con Byfields.

Cosh — today, like many former Report writers, a star columnist at a national publication — quickly composed an obituary of Byfield that is, not surprisingly, insightful, elegant and stringently unsentimental.

(The Byfields have a keen eye for talent, if I do say so myself…)

Another longtime colleague, Peter Stockland, attended a tribute to Byfield last September, an event arranged after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Stockland explained Link Byfield’s influence on recent Canadian history with this succinct formula, one that resembles the mnemonic verse British schoolchildren used to learn to keep their kings and queens straight.

Stockland wrote:

No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no [Progressive Conservative Party] collapse. No PC collapse, no [Conservative Party] Harper government.

Some perspective for American readers:

My husband and I attended a lecture about Israel by Melanie Phillips a few years back.

Phillips, while correct on so many issues, remained convinced that Europe’s “fringe” “right-wing” populist political leaders, while anti-sharia, were also racist, anti-Semitic losers and therefore unwelcome allies in the counter-jihad.

Afterwards, my husband took her aside and explained — to her visible surprise –  that Canada’s “fringe right wing” populist Reform Party had once been condemned as backward, bigoted and doomed, too; yet one of its founders, Stephen Harper, was now the staunchly pro-Israel prime minister of Canada, having just won a second federal election.

Non-Canadians are, presumably, more familiar with our “free” “healthcare” system, as I call it.

On that topic, Mark Steyn once quoted a fictional Canadian — OK, Quebecois — character’s decision to die a principled death:

Sébastien wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he’s the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he’s gonna stick with it even if it kills him.

“I voted for Medicare,” he declares. “I’ll accept the consequences.”

But Link Byfield was a real man, not an imaginary one.

That makes what follows all the more notable.

Stockland writes:

Yet what truly mattered to [Byfield] was having lived out, as far as possible in the midst of a train wreck, a principled reality.

I mentioned an e-mail he sent last summer explaining his choice to forgo chemotherapy because it would not save him, yet would cost taxpayers $100,000.

I said I could not imagine other Canadians who would factor such public policy considerations into their personal health care.

“But that would have been standard thinking among politically literate citizens 50 ago,” he said. “People wouldn’t even articulate it. It would just be something they would think.”

When I asked his source for thinking that way, he said: “Thou shalt not steal.”

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Is This The Most Potent Fictional Take-Down of Scientology?

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Roger L Simon

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The controversial Church of Scientology has been in the crosshairs of the media of late, notably with Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright’s excellent journalistic study Going Clear and Paul Thomas Anderson’s film The Master. Now comes Allen Barton’s play Disconnection, which opened Saturday at the Beverly Hills Playhouse venue of the Skylight Theatre Company in Los Angeles.

Like The Master, Disconnection does not mention the “S”-word but it is more than obvious the celebrity-driven religion famed for almost imprisoning its gullible and needy adherents is the subject here. The play, however, is considerably more potent and provocative than the Anderson movie, which is surprisingly ponderous given its dramatic subject.

Barton, who extricated himself from Scientology some years ago, tells the story of the apostasy of two members of the church, a father and a daughter, who have themselves been estranged from each other. The two are trying to disconnect from the religion and reconnect with each other — and it isn’t easy. The father (Jay Hugely), a lawyer, is struggling with his aging piano teacher (Dennis Nollette), himself a reluctant member of the church and onetime friend of its mercurial L. Ron Hubbard-like founder, Oldman. The daughter (Carter Scott), herself now a high ranking church official, is trapped in a nightmare with Oldman’s successor, a junior Gestapo-type named The Chairman.

Indeed Disconnection often puts you in mind of other totalitarianisms, including today’s radical Islamic versions where apostasy is, of course, penalized in even more draconian manners than in Scientology, although there are imputations, both in and out of Barton’s play, of brutal, even homicidal, behavior for the more modern religion.

The play is unconventional in its form, at times breaking the fourth wall, and includes, in one of its best moments, a soliloquy by Oldman (well played by Robert L. Hughes) justifying why he has created this bizarre monstrosity. It almost had me taking the plunge to get an e-meter reading. (I didn’t.)

The production was skillfully directed by Joel Polis and produced by Gary Grossman for Skylight. Barton’s previous work Years to the Day was highly acclaimed and was performed in Paris, New York, Kansas City and at the Edinburgh Festival. The superb Disconnection seems destined to follow in its footsteps. If you’re in the SoCal area, see it.

*****

Cross-posted from Roger L. Simon’s blog

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The Un-Popular Face of Black Activism in America

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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“Black” has become an idol. Oddly enough we learned that lesson through the making of Selma, a film focused on the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who boldly declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Director Ava DuVernay defended the rewriting of history into what amounts to a black power narrative (mythical kneeling blacks before white cops and all), stating, “This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.” The mainstream media jumped on the bait thrown out by the film’s star David Oyelowo, who declared that ”parallels between Selma and Ferguson are indisputable.” The fact that neither the Academy nor filmgoers fell march-step in line only acted as further proof of the conspiracy against “black and brown people” in Hollywood.

The race war fomented in the rise of the Black Power movement (the nasty “alternative” to King’s civil rights movement) continues unabated. In fact, it has opened on a new front, one that ties racial strife with national security and even international relations. Playing on strong ties to the Nation of Islam, Black Power now has its eye set on the Palestinian territories and places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the like are set to become the next battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making way for the planting of hotbeds of radical Islamic terror.

But, to tell the story of Ferguson and Florida’s black activists traveling on solidarity missions to the Palestinian territories is to exact the same kind of indecent omissions as DuVernay. There are blacks out there who support Israel and who, in fact, draw inspiration from the civil rights movement in doing so. The primary difference between these black Zionists and their Black Power counterparts: They are motivated by Jesus, not Islam.

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in 2006, Cornetta Lane an African American at Wayne State University, even went as far as expressing this support by singing Hatikvah in front of an anti-Israel protester who claimed that Israel was a racist state.When Jewish students asked at the time why she sang Hatikvah, Cornetta replied that her pastor, Glen Plummer, explained that Jews significantly helped out African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and that Jews contributed significantly to both the NAACP and the Urban League, and were advisers to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, when she saw that there was going to be an anti-Israel rally, Cornetta decided to take this step.

Much like Cornetta Lane, Chloe Valdary has drawn on her uniquely Biblical Christian upbringing and study of the civil rights movement to develop her own brand of Zionist activism. Dubbed “the Lioness of Zion,” Valdary started a pro-Israel student group on her college campus that garnered national attention, turning the college student into a speaker for a variety of Zionist organizations, including CAMERA and CUFI:

The parallels’ between the black struggle during the civil rights movement and the Jewish people today insofar as the legitimacy of Zionism is concerned is staggering. Martin Luther King Jr. [was] a Zionist but more importantly he realized that we must advance our duty when advancing the cause of human rights today. If he were alive today, he would surely be pro-Israel. This is one of the reasons why I am such a staunch Zionist.

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Valdary is not alone. Dumisani Washington, a pastor and music teacher in Northern California, has formed the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, an organization “dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people, and people of African descent through education and advocacy.” Raised a Christian, Washington had a strong interest in the Old Testament and Hebrew history at a young age. Growing up in the segregated south, he drew inspiration from the Exodus as well as Martin Luther King:

Dr. King was a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and a friend of the Jewish people. Many who know of his legacy know of his close relationship with Rabbi [Avraham] Joshua Heschel as well as the Jewish support for the Black civil rights struggle. Many are unaware, however, of the negative push back Dr. King got from some people. Particularly after the 1967 war in Israel, international criticism against the Jewish State began to rise.  Dr. King remained a loyal friend, and made his most powerful case for Israel almost 1 year after the Six Day War – and 10 days before his death.

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Both Valdary and Washington have raised the ire of pro-Palestinian organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that misappropriates black history and depicts black supporters of Israel as the Uncle Toms of the 21st century. Contrary to the Black Power impetus forging the Ferguson-Palestine relationship, Washington has outlined the differences between the Palestinian liberation and civil rights movements, and in an open letter to SJP, Valdary condemned the organization, writing:

You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.

Americans remain blind to these modern day civil rights/Zionist activists because, contrary to the preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have been made into a color-centric society by the Black Power movement and its contemporary descendants. Race has become an idol. Black Power has created the mythical “black and brown faces” to be honored through tokens of affirmative action while sacrificing living human beings on the altar of ghetto culture because of the color of their skin. To remain blind to the idolatry of race is to remain blind to the real struggle for civil rights in America, the struggle to be viewed as a human being instead of a race-based demographic or a color-based “minority.” This is the struggle that unites rather than divides us on issues of economy, quality of life, and yes, even national security and the threat of terrorism.

Now, more than ever, we must value each other on the content of our character, lest the idolatry that comes from the obsession with skin color blind us from the true threats unfolding in our midst.

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5 Ways Hebrew Is (Very) Different from English

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

When I started learning Hebrew at age 29, one year before moving to Israel, it seemed daunting. Until then, English was the only language I knew; now, at a relatively late age, I was setting out to learn another one that had a different alphabet, belonged to a different language family, and was overall distant and exotic from the standpoint of English.

Some of the ways in which Hebrew differs from English were indeed hard to get used to, others not so much. What was fascinating was to find how there are different modes of human speech. While the content of what gets expressed is basically the same, the mechanisms for doing so are not. It would be all the more intriguing to learn a third language; I wish I had the time.

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Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

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Does Christianity call for human sacrifice?

When you put the question like that, the instinctive response of any given Christian would tend toward a resounding “no.” After all, human sacrifice is a barbaric act which no rational person could condone. We believers like to regard ourselves as rational.

Yet, a cursory examination of popular Christian doctrine suggests that human sacrifice – to one degree or another – stands as a central tenet of the faith. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It, author Craig Biddle cites “religionists” – including many prominent Christian theologians – to demonstrate that religion calls upon man to sacrifice his own interests to “an alleged God.”

As a Christian, I find Biddle’s observations compelling. Having considered them within the broader context of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy for several years, I have come to question the manner in which Christian teachers present the topic of sacrifice. Increasingly, I have come under the conviction that Christendom has interpreted sacrifice incorrectly. In my view, it is because Christendom has misinterpreted sacrifice that critics like Biddle are able to present Christianity as force for evil rather than good.

With this introductory essay, I invite you to join me in an ongoing exploration of Christian doctrine and the challenges brought against it. My objective, as we proceed week after week, will be to correct what I have come to regard as a doctrinal error causing tremendous confusion within the church and posing a stumbling block for seekers and believers alike. To be clear, my claim is not that God’s Word is wrong, but that our reading of it has been. I hope to demonstrate that my altered view of sacrifice is the view actually taught within scripture.

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Here’s Your Map of the Catholic Church

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

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The Roman Catholic Church is almost 2,000 years old and has grown over the centuries to include people of every nationality, every culture, and every kind of social system. With such a long history and diverse membership, it can’t be any wonder that the Church has evolved into the complex structure it is today.

As such, the Church can sometimes appear to be an intimidating institution to some who are quick to throw up their hands in frustration and give up on trying to figure it all out. Impatient to learn the whys and wherefores, or to take into account common sense and human nature, the very size and scope of the Church has often given rise to discomfort regarding organized religion.

But the reality is that no group of more than a handful of people has ever come together without becoming organized. How else could its members accomplish anything? Or once accomplished, preserve its gains? The truth is that without organization, any group, be it a nation or a religion, will remain weak, in-cohesive, and eventually lose track of its founding principals.

For the Catholic Church however, a schematic of its structure can be easier to understand than outsiders might believe and having one, could make it easier to navigate the internal currents of ongoing trends and debates.

On paper, such a schematic can best be considered in two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.

Vertically, the Church presents a simple structure with the Pope at the top, the cardinals next, bishops afterward, the priesthood, and finally the laity at the bottom. But just because the Pope is at the top of the structure, it doesn’t mean he’s any more important than the laity at the bottom. One of the Pope’s descriptives after all is “the servant of the servants of God” as demonstrated each year when he washes the feet of selected faithful in imitation of Christ.

From different sections of the vertical dimension, the Church extends horizontally with various religious and intellectual pursuits; philosophical and theological thought; establishment of religious orders and institutions such as schools, hospitals, and charitable endeavors; and day-to-day religious practices and popular movements emanating from every level of a vibrant, dynamic community.

But as with any other group comprised of human beings, Catholics will have their disagreements and heated controversies. Whatever intellectual ferment there might be however, is always conducted within the clear boundaries defined by the Church’s Magisterium, or the unchanging deposit of faith made up of sacred scripture and Tradition.

With that in mind, what are some of the deep currents forming the undertow of Catholic life today? What issues are being discussed, what groups are being formed, that stand the best chance of influencing the culture of the Church in years to come?

Focolarini

Much of the vigor in the modern Catholic Church is emerging from the laity with new groups and movements cropping up everywhere and quickly gathering thousands of members scattered around the world. Take the Focolarini movement for example: made up of single men and women living in separate communities who pool their belongings in order live Jesus’ request “That all be one.” Over the years since the movement began, it has grown beyond its Catholic roots to include members of many other faiths.

Emmanuel Community

Like Focolarini, the Emmanuel Community sprang from the laity with thousands of members across the globe. Served by clergy but primarily made up of ordinary people, they answer God’s call to holiness while living in the world and holding evangelizing events around the globe.

Hermeneutics of Continuity

Far from the ground-level activities of such groups as Focolarini and the Emmanuel Community, scholars continue to wrestle with the effects of Vatican II by way of the Hermeneutics of Continuity which maintains that there was no disruption in basic Church teachings as a result of the council. The Hermeneutics of Rupture, championed by liberal reformers, claims the opposite but a recent letter written by Pope Francis clearly supports Continuity.

Theology of the Body

A major topic that will continue to resonate within the Church and beyond is the Theology of the Body, developed by John Paul II over 129 lectures. These teachings seek to counter the objectification of the human body by modern society and restore its place as a God-centered creation.

Preferential Option of the Poor

A key teaching of the Church that has resulted in its being drawn into the realm of secular politics is the preferential option for the poor, the basis for its stance on social justice issues. With its basis in the teachings by Jesus that emphasize the need to care for the poor, the Church is likely to continue its involvement with such non-spiritual issues as immigration, welfare, and income inequality.

The Seamless Garment

With the sanctity of life still threatened by modern society, the idea of a Seamless Garment that opposes any kind of killing of human beings be it by capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide, or abortion is likely to remain as a major theme in Catholic circles.

Communion and Liberation

A free association movement, the Communion and Liberation has no official enrollment for members. Those interested simply read and follow the weekly catechesis as spelled out in its School of Community for their formation. The group simply proclaims the idea that the Christian event is the foundation of authentic personal liberation with members urged to become active partners in the Church’s mission in every area of society.

Catholic Charismatic Movement

Around since the late 1960s following Vatican II’s call for a new Pentecost, the Catholic charismatic renewal is attractive to some believers who crave more avenues for expression of their faith outside of weekly Mass attendance.

Opus Dei

Perhaps the most well known (and successful) of the new movements arising from the laity, Opus Dei emerged from the Spanish Civil War and is comprised mostly of everyday Catholics who continue to live at home or with their families. Having since spread around the world, members believe that everyone is called to holiness and that simply living an ordinary life can be a path to sanctity.

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