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Archaeologists May Have Found the Oldest Copy of One of the Gospels

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Chris Queen

New technology that allows scientists to remove the glue from the masks of mummies without damaging the ink on the paper used to make the mask has yielded an exciting discovery: a piece of papyrus that may contain the oldest known copy of one of the gospels.

The finding, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, which dates back to the year 90, is one of several fascinating texts that archaeologists are discovering in the masks of mummies.

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.

[...]

The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer.

Lest you worry that scientists are destroying valuable antiquities, the discoveries in the papyrus fragments yield more thrilling finds than these particular mummies are worth.

Evans emphasized that the masks that are being destroyed to reveal the new texts are not high-quality ones that would be displayed in a museum. Some are not masks at all but are simply pieces of cartonnage.

Evans told Live Science, “We’re not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece.”

The technique is bringing many new texts to light, Evans noted. “From a single mask, it’s not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more” new texts, he told Live Science. “We’re going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands.”

Naturally, Bart Ehrman, the leftist “Biblical scholar” that Kurt Eichenwald cited in his hit piece on the Bible in Newsweek, expressed his disdain for the find.

This complete disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities is, for many, many of us not just puzzling but flat-out distressing. It appears that the people behind and the people doing this destruction of antiquities are all conservative evangelical Christians, who care nothing about the preservation of the past – they care only about getting their paws on a small fragment of a manuscript. Can there be any question that with them we are not dealing with historians but Christian apologists?

Archaeologists are finding not just biblical texts, but fragments of writings by Homer and other Greek writers, as well as documents that capture slices of everyday life in that time period. The destruction of some masks that are less than museum quality is a small price to pay for such rich discoveries.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Patryk Kosmider

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Black Activists Make Solidarity Trip from Ferguson to Palestine

Monday, January 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Counter Current News reports:

Recently, a number of representatives from the Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter and various Ferguson anti-police brutality protesters made history through a solidarity trip to Palestine. The purpose of last week’s trip was to connect with activists living under Israeli occupation. The 10-day trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories, specifically in the West Bank, was organized to show a link between oppression emanating from the Israeli State as well as that which victims of police brutality are experiencing in America.

The trip was organized by the legal and policy director of the Dream Defenders, Ahmad Abuznaid, Florida attorney and Palestinian native.

Ebony adds:

Over the past week, the delegation has met with refugees, Afro-Palestinians, a family that was kicked out of their house by settlers in East Jerusalem, and organizations representing Palestinian political prisoners, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). …[tour member] Carruthers recalled their delegation crossing paths with a tour group led by Israeli authorities. “They were clearly receiving a completely different story about the occupation. It’s deeper than just spreading lies, the false narrative is violent.”

Tour participants did not bother noting that a politically motivated trip covering only Palestinian territories obviously carries the implication of a “false narrative.” They did, however, identify with the Palestinians, commenting that blacks are “displaced refugees” in the United States. This trip followed a visit to Ferguson paid by a Palestinian delegation this past November who sought to forge relationships with black activist groups.

Financial backing for Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, and a cohort of sister organizations has all been directly traced to George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, which reportedly spent $5.4 million last year funding the Ferguson protest movement. 

The plethora of organizations involved not only shared Mr. Soros‘ funding, but they also fed off each other, using content and buzzwords developed by one organization on another’s website, referencing each other’s news columns and by creating a social media echo chamber of Facebook “likes” and Twitter hashtags that dominated the mainstream media and personal online newsfeeds.

At least 8 out of the 14 trip participants were members of organizations funded by Soros.

Support for these radical groups goes deeper into D.C. than Soros’s pockets. In 2012, Breitbart reported that Eric Holder’s

Department of Justice was facilitating the agenda of a group [the Dream Defenders] that appears to have been led by an employee of the law firm representing the Martin family, a stunning amount of bias for the federal goverment to show in a local crime case.

Most recently, Eric Holder joined President Obama and Vice President Biden in meeting with representatives of the Dream Defenders and other race-based organizations to sooth tensions in the wake of Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson’s non-indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown. Phillip Agnew, co-founder of Dream Defenders, attended both this meeting and the subsequent trip to the Palestinian territories.

With a White House bent on depicting radical Islamic terrorist acts as a “War on Muslims” and a president encouraging his fellow Democrats not to “bow” to pressure from pro-Israel donors, one can only wonder where such high level political support for groups such as the Dream Defenders will lead.

 

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Will Resurgent Christianity Save Secular Europe from Islam?

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh
Perhaps Roland didn't die in vain

Perhaps Roland didn’t die in vain

Writing from Paris, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry reports:

It was only recently that I was struck by the fact that, imperceptibly, the majority of my college and grad school friends who were Christmas-and-Easter-Catholics when we met now report going to Church every Sunday and praying regularly. On social media, they used to post about parties; now they’re equally likely to post prayers for persecuted Middle East Christians or calls to help the homeless over the holidays.

My friends live all over town; some of them are young singles who move around a lot; all of them report looking for those mythical “empty churches” we hear so much about — and failing to find them. In fact, it’s closer to the other way around: If you don’t show up early, you might have to sit on the floor — and people are happy to do it…

Nowadays, the perceptive and troublemaking French writer Michel Houellebecq is making noises with his book Submission, which envisions France turning into an Islamic theocracy in the near future — not chiefly because of immigration from Muslim countries, but because of the conversion of the native-born population. The agnostic Houellebecq’s book is Christ-haunted, or perhaps more accurately, Christianity-haunted. The book’s protagonist, an allegory of France, and, perhaps, the author, is fascinated by the figure of Joris-Karl Huysmans, a 19th century French author who converted from a life of atheistic hedonism to devout Catholicism. The protagonist is exhausted by the spiritually dead consumerist secularism of his culture — so exhausted that even despite his best efforts, he finds himself unable to believe in the faith of his forefathers, and only turns to Islam, as it were, as the last available option.

The tragic Charlie Hebdo attack has thrown into relief what seems to some, like Michel Houellebecq, as the battle between irreligiosity and Islam for the future of France. Nobody seems to envision that France’s future instead just might be some of that old-time religion.

 

 

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Why the Firing of Atlanta’s Fire Chief Is Inspiring ‘Religious Liberty’ Bills

Friday, January 16th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In 2014, in the midst of a slew of lawsuits cropping up over whether businesses could refuse to bake cakes or provide flowers for same-sex weddings for religious reasons, a group of Georgia lawmakers proposed a religious freedom act in the state legislature. The measure failed, largely due to pressure from the business community.

This legislative session, the theme of religious freedom has reared its head again, this time for a different reason — the firing of Atlanta’s Fire Rescue Department Chief Kelvin Cochran over a book Cochran wrote in which he makes his views on homosexuality and adultery known.

Cochran has since become what one local columnist calls “the face of ‘religious liberty’ bills“:

Last month, Cochran was brought before the executive committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest denomination and a supporter of a religious liberty bill already on file in the House. Cochran was greeted as a hero, though his appearance, while a formal city investigation was underway, made him no new friends at City Hall.

The Georgia Baptist website has put audio excerpts of Cochran’s speech online, as well as a sales link to his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” at Amazon.com. A Georgia Baptist online petition in support of Cochran now has 4,452 signatures.

But supporters of the bill currently before the legislature argue that a religious freedom act is about more than one man — it’s about protecting the rights of people of faith in an era in which those rights are increasingly precious.

Opponents argue this legislation is unnecessary, that religious freedom is well protected by the First Amendment. But in 1990, the Supreme Court limited that protection, which was the very reason Congress passed the federal RFRA. That law restored the protection Americans had enjoyed for decades before the unfortunate Supreme Court decision. Many states have followed suit to ensure religious freedom is similarly guarded against state and local assaults.

Opponents also deny faith-based speech and activities are ever disfavored in Georgia. But students of faith at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and other universities would disagree. Christian student organizations at Georgia universities and public schools have been denied the recognition and funding routinely granted to non-religious student organizations. Tech prohibited students from engaging in “intolerant” faith-based speech. At Savannah State, a Christian student club was expelled from campus for “hazing.” The offense? Engaging in a foot-washing ceremony at a discipleship retreat.

Though many examples of discrimination against faith-based activity arise in the context of public schools and universities, the problem isn’t restricted to academia. In DeKalb County, a church that had been renting a recreation center for weekly services was suddenly told it was no longer welcome, pursuant to a new (unwritten) policy against renting the center to churches. A Christian in Pine Mountain was prohibited from placing free Bibles in a library that allowed distribution of other community materials. Rockdale County required churches — alone among all other organizations — to have at least three acres of land. In case after case, people of faith have been singled out for more burdensome treatment.

A group of pastors, rabbis, and other people of faith have stepped out to oppose the measure, as have the same corporate interests who helped defeat the bill last year.

Critics say its passage, regardless of Teasley’s intentions, would open the door for private business owners to discriminate against gays and other minorities — by citing religious beliefs — and make the Peach State a national laughingstock and economic pariah.

It’s early in the legislative session, and it remains to be seen whether the bill has enough support to pass this year. Stay tuned, and we’ll see what happens under the Gold Dome.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / f11photo

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Duke Backs Down on Muslim Prayer Call

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Fox News reports:

Duke University has abandoned its plan to transform the bell tower on the Methodist school’s neo-gothic cathedral into a minaret where the Muslim call to prayer was to be publicly broadcast.

“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

…“Members of the Muslim community will now gather on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a site of frequent interfaith programs and activities,” Schoenfeld said.

The university did not say whether the Muslim call to prayer would be “moderately amplified” at the new location.

The credit reportedly goes to Franklin Graham, who called for donors to pull their funding from the historically Methodist university if the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast from the Chapel bell tower.

Christian and Jewish groups hold respective services in private settings on campus. While Duke is one of the few universities to have a full-time Muslim cleric and dedicated Center for Muslim Life on campus, the location is apparently not considered an adequate space for prayer. Without a legitimate reason given, the Muslim students at Duke remain steadfast in their campaign to make Muslim prayer a public event on the Duke campus.

 

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Duke University Chapel to Broadcast Muslim Call to Prayer

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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HuffPo reports:

The chant, known as “adhan,” will resound from the Duke Chapel bell tower every Friday beginning Jan. 16, echoed by members of the Muslim Students Association, the university announced via Duke Today. The chant will sound for three minutes at a “moderately amplified” level to announce the Jummah prayer service, held Friday afternoons in the chapel basement.

The Adhan will be sung in Arabic, then followed by an English translation, according to a Facebook event announcing the call.

“This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission,” Christy Lohr Sapp, the chapel’s associate dean for religious life, told Duke Today. “It connects the university to national trends in religious accommodation.”

The announcement comes one day after the White House clarified that their anti-terror summit would not cover acts of radical Islamic terror, having determined that those acts are only part of a greater War on Muslims.

The chapel that will broadcast the Islamic call to prayer also hosts events for Christian and Catholic groups on campus. Duke’s Muslim students pray at the chapel despite having their own Muslim Life at Duke center on campus. Jewish students, who comprise more than ten percent of the undergraduate and graduate student populations, hold events at the privately funded Freeman Center for Jewish Life located on campus.

For the private university’s 700+ Muslims, the decision is being praised as a sign of their acceptance into the Duke community.

Roughly 6,500 undergraduates and 8,300 graduate and professional students are enrolled in the prestigious private university that maintains “a historic affiliation with the Methodist Church.” The Methodist Church has publicly supported divestment, pulling pension investments from companies tied to Israel as a method to pressure Israel to cease settlement expansion.

In 2004, Duke University granted $50,000 in funding to the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) to demonstrate on campus. The conference was so volatile that Commentary magazine announced in 2005 “The Intifada Comes to Duke.” Motivated by the PSM, award-winning student journalist Philip Kurian published an anti-Semitic op-ed in the student newspaper titled “The Jews.” Loaded with conspiracy theories, Kurian argued against what he termed Jewish “privilege,” writing,

What’s worst is that the ‘Holocaust Industry’ uses its influence to stifle, not enhance, the Israeli-Palestinian debate, simultaneously belittling the real struggles for socioeconomic and political equality faced, most notably, by black Americans.

Richard Brodhead, whose decision it was to fund the PSM on campus, is the current president of the University.

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Sky News Censors Charlie Hebdo Cover Live

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Want to know what cowardice looks like on live television? The Washington Post notes:

On Sky News, former Charlie Hebdo journalist Caroline Fourest was trying to explain how “crazy” it is that certain journalism mills in the United Kingdom won’t show the cover of the latest edition of the magazine. Well, Sky News provided a stronger explanation than Fourest ever could have. Watch some memorable seat-of-the-pants censorship, live.

Which is better, cutting away from the image or apologizing to viewers who may have been offended by seeing a partial caricature of Mohammed? The British accent on the newscaster made it all so prim and frothy, too. This was apparently for all those viewers who’ve ever wondered what it’d feel like to be dismissed by the Dowager at Downton over a political statement. Then again, I highly doubt even socialist Tom would invite one of the Sky News chickens to dinner.

At least we know what editorial board discussions look like at CNN and a series of U.S. news outlets that refused, er, made the “editorial decision” not to show the cover generated by the remnants of a massacred magazine staff. What, exactly, are they so afraid of?

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Israeli Embassy Puts Mona Lisa in Hijab, Warns: Paris, We Told You So

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Israeli Embassy in Ireland published a far more provocative piece of art than did Charlie Hebdo this week. Far too angry to even broach forgiveness, the JPost reports that the Embassy

…posted a photograph on its Twitter account on Wednesday featuring Mona Lisa decked out in Islamic garb while holding what appears to be a rocket.

The post seems to be a common sentiment among Israelis who are angry over what they perceive as the international community’s inability to empathize with its precarious security situation.

Sensitive to criticism over its response to Hamas rocket fire, Israel has often sought to conflate its struggle against Palestinian terrorism with the jihadist violence that reared its ugly head in France last week, claiming the lives of 20 people.

The artwork was released amid news that French President Hollande did not want Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend Sunday’s unity march in Paris. Hollande felt the Israeli prime minister’s presence would “…divert attention from the theme of national unity the million-person event was intended to symbolize,” according to Israeli media reports.

…The French official who conveyed Hollande’s wish to Jerusalem said that Netanyahu’s presence and that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, would “cause difficulties.” The French believed that Netanyahu’s presence among the foreign notables leading the march would inevitably introduce dissonant echoes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Jewish-Muslim relations that would jar the somber atmosphere.”

As France works to distance itself and its Jews politically from Israel, the Obama administration is hard at work crafting acts of radical Islamic terror into a War on Muslims. The White House refuses to employ France’s term “war against radical Islam,” instead choosing to refer “…to terrorists as ‘violent extremists who have sought to incite a religious war against Islam.’” The Orwellian doublespeak does not bode well for Jews abroad or in America. Despite the fact that anti-Semitism motivated many of the non-Muslim related terror attacks that will be discussed in February’s “summit on violent extremism,” Obama’s ultimate goal regarding radical Islamic terror is and always will be to defend Muslims. Even if it is at the risk of the Jewish population.

Perhaps the Israeli Embassy in Ireland is correct in saying that “Israel is the last frontier of the free world.” And perhaps that is the real reason their artwork is so disturbing.

 

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German D.C. Bureau Chief: U.S. News Outlets’ Refusal to Show Charlie Hebdo Images ‘Disgusting and Morally Appalling’

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

charliehebdocover

Today’s issue of the New York Times features a comprehensive story on the Muhammad cover of the new Charlie Hebdo issue, but doesn’t show a picture of the cover.

TIME magazine declared “Here’s What to Expect in the Next Issue of Charlie Hebdo” — without a picture of magazine cover. CNN headlined “Charlie Hebdo puts Mohammed on its new cover” without a picture.

NPR didn’t run the cover, with a lengthy statement explaining why: “Just because offensive images are part of a story does not mean a news organization must publish or post them with its news reports,” it says in part.

The Wall Street Journal did show the cover, as did the Los Angeles Times. So did USA Today, which last week ran an op-ed justify the terrorist attacks from radical cleric Anjem Choudary followed by a column from the editorial page editor explaining why they decided to be so edgy.

The Washington bureau chief for German newspaper Die Welt, which not only ran this cover but got banned by Egypt for running other Mohammed representations in a 2008 special Islam issue, lashed out at American outlets that refused to run the cover in a blog post.

“Today is the day that American journalism lost me,” wrote Clemens Wergin:

“I used to think that some of its newspapers and magazines represented the gold standard of international journalism. After the Islamist massacre at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and the reaction of American media to it I come to believe that maybe we should start talking about a new gold standard of  hypocrisy instead. Of course I am talking about most of the media’s refusal to print any of the cartoons of the satire magazine about the Islamic prophet Muhammad, even the less abrasive ones.

…And what did leading American media companies like NBC, CNN, the New York Times and others do? They again refused to show the cover. A disgrace to the surviving editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo  just as well as its dead members. It is a disgusting and morally appalling refusal to let Charlie Hebdo speak in its own distinctive voice.

It is not that I don’t understand where you, my American colleagues, come from. You are not a fan of the iconoclastic, anti-clerical tradition of Europe where fighting against the church during many centuries meant fighting against power or fighting against the legitimizing force allied to the absolute power of kings and emperors. You didn’t need to, because your many and diverse faiths never were accomplices to the abuse of power in the way the old faiths of Europe were. But still I find it somewhat hard to believe that you get at each other’s throats in most aggressive ways when it is about political ideas or party affiliation, but the realm of religion is largely exempt from the battle of ideas and therefor taboo for the art of ridicule. Most media companies in the US that didn’t show the cartoons said they didn’t want to offend people of faith. A fair argument. If it didn’t violate the most sacred duty of journalism, the duty to inform.

…It seems that in this case with thousands of media companies worldwide publishing the cartoons the risks for any one operation to be singled out by Islamist Fascists would have been pretty small. You didn’t want to take the chance anyhow? Fine. But would you please spare us in the future all this journalist bullshit about speaking truth to power? It is easy speaking truth to power if you criticize and ridicule you own democratic government which won’t kill you or put you in jail for speaking your mind or publishing unfriendly or over-the-top cartoons. But when you are ready to be intimidated by the new Fascist thugs in the world even in those little things and in such a crucial moment you’d better stop all that self-aggrandizing talk about the bravery of the free press.”

Read the whole post.

 

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Saudi Cleric Ruins Winter by Declaring Snowmen Anti-Islamic

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

There have been some very creative snowmen (and snow camels) photos coming out of Saudi Arabia as the region deals with a recent snow dump. So count on a cleric to come ruin their fun. From Al-Arabiya:

A prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has whipped up controversy by issuing a religious ruling forbidding the building of snowmen, described them as anti-Islamic.

Asked on a religious website if it was permissible for fathers to build snowmen for their children after a snowstorm in the country’s north, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid replied: “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun.”

Quoting from Muslim scholars, Sheikh Munajjid argued that to build a snowman was to create an image of a human being, an action considered sinful under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.

“God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on,” he wrote in his ruling.

That provoked swift responses from Twitter users writing in Arabic and identifying themselves with Arab names.

“They are afraid for their faith of everything … sick minds,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another posted a photo of a man in formal Arab garb holding the arm of a “snow bride” wearing a bra and lipstick. “The reason for the ban is fear of sedition,” he wrote.

A third said the country was plagued by two types of people: “A people looking for a fatwa (religious ruling) for everything in their lives, and a cleric who wants to interfere in everything in the lives of others through a fatwa,” the user wrote.

A few of the soulful snowmen and snowcamels being crafted by rebellious and creative Saudis:

 

 

 

 

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Jake Tapper Says He’s ‘Ashamed’ — So Are We All

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Join the club, buddy:

The United States, which considers itself to be the most important nation in the world, was not represented in this march — arguably one of the most important public demonstrations in Europe in the last generation — except by U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley, who may have been a few rows back. I didn’t see her. Even Russia sent Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

I say this as an American — not as a journalist, not as a representative of CNN — but as an American: I was ashamed.

I certainly understand the security concerns when it comes to sending President Barack Obama, though I can’t imagine they’re necessarily any greater than sending the lineup of other world leaders, especially in aggregate.

But I find it hard to believe that collectively President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Attorney General Eric Holder — who was actually in France that day for a conference on counterterrorism — just had no time in their schedules on Sunday. Holder had time to do the Sunday shows via satellite but not to show the world that he stood with the people of France?

This low point in American history was brought to us by Barack Hussein Obama. So now we know whose side he’s really on.

There was higher-level Obama administration representation on this season’s episodes of “The Good Wife” on CBS.

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Muslim Saves 15 Jewish Lives in Kosher Supermarket Terrorist Attack

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Lassana Bathily, a Muslim immigrant from Mali in West Africa, obviously has no problem with Jews. As an employee of the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, he not only worked for Jews on a daily basis, he also took the opportunity to save 15 Jewish lives when the store was attacked by radical Islamists this past Friday.

The Jewish Press reports:

Lassana Bathily, a Muslim employee at the HyperChacher supermarket in Paris, saved the lives of 15 Jewish shoppers, when he hid them in the supermarket’s basement freezer after the terrorist, Amedy Coulibaly, entered the store and opened fire.

Bathily also had the presence of mind to also turn the freezer off.

BuzzFeed carried a translation of the French television news interview with Bathily:

“When they ran down, I opened the door [to the freezer],” he told France’s BFMTV.

He quickly shut off the freezer and switched off its light. As he closed the door to shelter the customers inside, he told them, “Stay calm here. I’m going out.”

Eventually police raided the market, killing Coulibaly. As the hostages were freed from the freezer, they had a few words of thanks for Bathily. “They congratulated me,” he told BFMTV.

Describing the 24-year-old man as “shy,” the UK Daily Mail explains, “Using a goods lift he escaped and was able to give the police valuable information about what was happening inside and where the hostages were hiding.” Those huddled in the freezer were able to use cell phones to contact relatives and make them aware of the situation and that they were safe.

Multiculturalists may attempt to use Bathily as an example against stereotyping Muslims and avoiding the identification of radical Islamic terrorism. However, the exact opposite is the case. Bathily is yet another example of why saying “Je Suis” is the ultimate statement after a tumultuous week of terror in France. Whether we are Charlie Hebdo or Juif, the reality is that our existence as a free people who  believe in the Divine, inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of justice” alone is enough to offend radical Islamic terrorists.

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CNN Reporter Blames the Jews for Charlie Hebdo Massacre

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Hasbara

There’s a reason many Israeli satellite providers don’t waste their money on CNN. The infamously anti-Semitic cable news channel’s reporter Jim Clancy blamed Wednesday’s terrorist attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on — who else — the Jews.

To be completely accurate, he dubbed the radical Islamist “pro-Muhammed” mentality that led to the terror attacks “Hasbara.” Hasbara is the term used to describe pro-Israel international PR. What does hasbara have to do with fostering or endorsing radical Islamist terrorism? Nothing. Unless, of course, you’re taken to task for your inaccuracies by a Jew. Then, suddenly, your gross inaccuracies along with all the world’s problems are because of the Jews.

Kessler proceeds to present Clancy with facts (something CNN reporters avoid at all costs), and the most Clancy can generate in terms of a response is:

Yeah, that didn’t happen, because there’s something else CNN reporters lack: journalistic integrity. There’s another Jewish word for that, Jim. It’s called “schmuck.”

Hat tip: Mediaite

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Egyptian President Makes History by Attending Coptic Christmas Mass

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi made history yesterday, becoming the first Egyptian president to mark the Orthodox Christmas at a Coptic Christian Mass.

From Al-Ahram:

El-Sisi arrived at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbasiya district during the mass and gave a brief speech before leaving instantly.

He said that both of Egypt’s Muslims and Christians are celebrating this occasion, asserting that they are “one entity” in the world’s eyes.

He added that he had to come to congratulate the Coptic community and then apologised for interrupting the mass.

Video footage broadcast by State TV – covering the full mass – showed crowds cheering as El-Sisi entered the Cathedral with churchmen and saluted Pope Tawadros II.

Former Egyptian heads of state have visited the Cathedral including Gamal Abd El-Nasser and interim President Adly Mansour, but this is the first time for a president to attend the mass.

 

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‘A Rising Tide of Islamophobia’

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

That’s the headline of the dumbest story in recent memory, courtesy of the Telegraph:

French politicians rushed to offer their commiserations in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, but they have been battling fears about terrorism for years. The success of Marine Le Pen, the far-Right Front National leader, has been the most visible sign of the rising tide of Islamophobia in France, which increased again in the wake of several attacks in December.

Miss Le Pen said that she was “horrified” by the attack on the satirical magazine, saying she felt “huge sadness for the victims and sent her condolences to the families of the victims.” In December, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls had to call for calm after a series of attacks – where cars were used as battering rams on festive crowds – at Christmas. Mr Valls called for “cool-headedness”, while the President Francois Hollande urged the nation not to panic.

Read on. It gets even stupider…

Is it time to panic now? If not, what will it take to wake up the West to the existential danger posed by Islam?

UPDATE: Read more choice stupidity here.

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Kerry Cites French Imam Who Said Muslim Community ‘Dumbfounded’ by Paris Attack

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry gave a lengthy statement on the Paris terror attack in English followed by French, saying he agreed with “the French iman who today called the slain journalists martyrs for liberty.”

Dalil Boubakeur, the head of the French Muslim Council and imam of the Paris mosque, told Le Figaro that the brazen assault that killed 12 at magazine Charlie Hebdo was “a thunderous declaration of war.”

“We absolutely condemn such an act and we look forward to the authorities meting out justice,” Boubakeur said, adding the Muslim community “is dumbfounded by what has happened.”

Kerry offered his remarks at a planned presser with Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna.

“I would like to say directly to the people of Paris and all of France that each and every American stands with you today. Not just in horror or in anger or in outrage for this vicious act of violence, but we stand with you in solidarity and in commitment both to the cause of confronting extremism and in the cause which the extremists fear so much and which has always united our two countries, freedom,” Kerry said.

“No country knows better than France that freedom has a price because France gave birth to democracy itself. France sparked so many revolutions of the human spirit, born of freedom and of free expression, and that is what the extremists fear the most,” he continued. “They may wield weapons, but we in France and in the United States share a commitment to those who wield something that’s far more powerful, not just a pen, but a pen that represents an instrument of freedom, not fear.”

“Free expression and a free press are core values. They are universal values. Principles that can be attacked but never eradicated, because brave and decent people around the world will never give in to the intimidation and the terror of those seeking to destroy those values.”

Kerry called today’s murders “part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations, no, but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.”

“The murderers dared proclaim, Charlie Hebdo is dead. But, make no mistake. They are wrong. Today, tomorrow, in Paris, in France or across the world, the freedom of express that this magazine — no matter what your feelings were about it, the freedom of expression that it represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror. On the contrary, it will never be eradicated by any act of terror,” he added.

“What they don’t understand, what these people who do these things don’t understand, is they will only strengthen the commitment to that freedom and our commitment to a civilized world.”

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Christian Leader Weighs In on Newsweek’s Take on the Bible

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Newsweek made its way back into print with a bang, ringing in 2015 with a lengthy cover article about the Bible. In the 8,500 word piece, business writer Kurt Eichenwald barely hides his disdain for evangelicals and those who interpret the Bible through a theologically conservative lens:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

[...]

The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established.

Eichenwald sets out to rip apart just about every mainstream belief about the Word of God, relying almost exclusively on liberal scholarship to prove his points.

The article probably ticked off plenty of theological conservatives, but one evangelical leader found himself angry enough to refute Eichenwald. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, mounted his missive in a post on his website.

When it comes to Newsweek‘s cover story, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” Eichenwald appears to be far outside his area of expertise and knowledge. More to the point, he really does not address the subject of the Bible like a reporter at all. His article is a hit-piece that lacks any journalistic balance or credibility. His only sources cited within the article are from severe critics of evangelical Christianity, and he does not even represent some of them accurately.

[...]

Eichenwald demonstrates absolutely no attempt to understand traditional Christian understandings of the Bible, nor ever to have spoken with the people he asserts “claim to revere [the Bible] but don’t read it.” What follows is a reckless rant against the Bible and Christians who claim to base their faith upon its teachings.

In a predictable move, Eichenwald claims to base his research on “works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries.” But the sources he cites are from the far, far left of biblical studies and the most significant living source appears to be University of North Carolina professor Bart Ehrman, who is post-Christian. Even so, he makes claims that go far beyond even what Bart Ehrman has claimed in print.

Mohler muses aloud whether “some fundamentalist preacher [ran] over young Kurt Eichenwald’s pet hamster when the reporter was just a boy” and accuses the journalist of raising arguments “that could only impress a ten year old.”

Yet, most impressively, Mohler refutes nearly all of Eichenwald’s points and blows holes in the writer’s logic before concluding that Eichenwald “has an axe to grind, and grind he does.”

Anyone who has read the Newsweek screed would do themselves a favor to read Mohler’s response. It’s nice to see him stand up to the flimsy scholarship and agenda-driven writing Eichenwald puts on display.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Natykach Nataliia

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Pontiff Pulls Plug On Priest In Oz

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Lest you think the Pope is a closet Lefty:

An Australian priest who supports the ordination of women has been excommunicated by Pope Francis.

In the first such excommunication since the new pontiff took office Fr Greg Reynolds was dismissed in a letter from the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, which stated that “the decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr Reynolds from the clerical state and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made because of his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest.”

Archbishop Hart also told other priests in the archdiocese by letter that Fr Reynolds’s excommunication was “because of his public teaching on the ordination of women”, which are grounds for automatic excommunication. Fr Reynolds is also a supporter of same-sex marriage and has attended rallies in favour of changing the definition of marriage. He has even reportedly presided at same-sex ceremonies.

It remains to be seen whether the first Jesuit pope will issue an encyclical about alleged “climate change,” as my friend Dennis Prager thinks he will. But no doubt the Pope has just seriously disappointed some of the secularists who think he is secretly one of them.

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Gay Mafia Takes Out Hit on TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Cinemablend reports on the backlash over TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay, a special focusing on Mormon men, both married and single, “who are attracted to men but who cultivate relationships with women”:

Over at Change.org, former Christian Josh Sanders wrote about his experiences as a gay man whose church convinced him to undergo reparative therapy so that he would no longer be gay. His petition calls for TLC to “stop spreading such dangerous misinformation” by canceling My Husband’s Not Gay.

GLAAD also backs up the petition, and the organization’s President and CEO made a statement this morning calling My Husband’s Not Gay “downright irresponsible”. Here’s the whole statement:

“This show is downright irresponsible. No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to. By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm’s way.”

The Cinemablend article expresses the bias made common by activist groups like GLAAD in their own explanation of the show’s premise:

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Congress More Religious Than U.S. Population; Nearly 92 Percent Christian This Year

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

pewgraphicThe Pew Research Center says there will be little change in the religious makeup of the nation’s legislative body when the 114th Congress comes into session today, with more self-identifying Christians than the overall population in the United States.

There will be one Jewish lawmaker in the GOP: freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York. The only Republican Jew in the 113th Congress was former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Overall, there are five fewer Jewish members in Congress than in the last session.

All of the other 301 Republicans in the House and Senate identify with some branch of Christianity. Two-thirds of the caucus is Protestant, a quarter are Catholic and 5 percent are Mormon.

Pew studies have found 49 percent of American adults identifying as Protestant, 22 percent as Catholic, 2 percent Jewish, and 20 percent unaffiliated with any religion. Blue Dog Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is the only member of Congress who describes herself as unaffiliated.

Among the rest of the Democratic caucus, 44 percent are Protestant, 35 percent are Catholic, 12 percent are Jewish, two are Mormon (including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid), two are Buddhist (Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Hank Johnson) and one is Hindu (Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard). Nine Dems refused to state any religious affiliation.

There remain two Muslims in Congress, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.).

Seven ordained clergy members serve in Congress, four Republicans and three Democrats.

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Will Pope Francis Really Come Out for ‘Global Warming’?

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Or it is just more disinformation about the Catholic Church from the lefty media? The Telegraphs Christopher Booker thinks it just might be:

Last month there was the defacing by Greenpeace of two Inca World Heritage Sites. Then there was the study from the Woods Hole Research Center showing that Arctic squirrels are “contributing far more to global warming than was previously thought” by burrowing into permafrost to release huge quantities of methane.

Ever more desperate become the warmists’ efforts to lobby for that “global climate treaty” they hope to see signed in Paris next December. But a special prize must go to the Guardian for its claim that Pope Francis will soon issue an encyclical calling on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to pressurise their politicians into supporting this treaty.

Not bloody likely

Not bloody likely

Remember that most of what you read about the Pope comes from journalists who know next to nothing about the Catholic Church, and who can’t tell a Franciscan from a Jesuit from a Dominican.

The Pope has been persuaded to take this dramatic step, it is alleged, by a series of papers from something called the “Pontifical Academy of Sciences”, which might sound vaguely impressive until we see who wrote them. They are like an A-list of the world’s most strident climate alarmists…

Did the Guardian fall for the lobbyists’ wishful thinking? The Pope’s promised encyclical on man and the environment may well be outspoken about human greed, and inequality in how the world’s natural resources are being exploited. But from his previous statements on the subject there is little to suggest that he will lend his support to that ludicrous treaty the warmists are clamouring for.

There’s never any predicting what any given Pope is going to say or do. But, for Catholics, unless he’s speaking ex cathedra (from the chair of St. Peter) about matters of faith and morals, everyone’s also free to ignore him.

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More Historical Proof of the Existence of Jesus

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have made a startling find:

It started 15 years ago with plans to expand the Tower of David Museum. But the story took a strange turn when archaeologists started peeling away layers under the floor in an old abandoned building adjacent to the museum in Jerusalem’s Old City.

They knew it had been used as a prison when the Ottoman Turks and then the British ruled these parts. But, as they carefully dug down, they eventually uncovered something extraordinary: the suspected remains of the palace where one of the more famous scenes of the New Testament may have taken place — the trial of Jesus.

Now, after years of excavation and a further delay caused by wars and a lack of funds, the archaeologists’ precious find is being shown to the public through tours organized by the museum.

Piece by piece, brick by brick, find by find, researchers are discovering that the New Testament, far from being a collection of fairy tales, is trying to tell us something.

For the more than 1 million Christian pilgrims who visit Jerusalem each year, the site is especially significant because it could have been an important place in the life of Jesus. “For those Christians who care about accuracy in regards to historical facts, this is very forceful,” said Yisca Harani, an expert on Christianity and pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

So far, no reports on whether archaeologists have discovered the hitching post for Mohammed’s flying steed (whose name was “Buraq“) during his fabulous “night journey” from Mecca to Jerusalem, up to Heaven, and back again. Maybe this inconvenient fact has something to do with it:

There were many skeptics when Mohammed recounted the details of his trip the morning after his night journey on the flying animal. As Dr. Rafat Amari points out in the introduction to “Islam: In Light of History”, Abu Bakar (the first assistant of Mohammed who became his first Caliph) confirmed Mohammed’s descriptions of the temple he had visited, because Abu Baker claimed he had once taken a journey to Jerusalem and had seen the temple himself, and remembered it to be just as Mohammed had described it.

There is, however, a little difficulty with their accounts. The temple had been torn down over 500 years before their claims of having made personal visits to it. Indeed if Mohammed had actually hitched his flying animal anywhere near where the temple had been, to the “ring” he suggested “the prophets” had hitched theirs, at the time in history that his night flight was supposed to have taken place, he would have found that the temple mount was being used as a garbage dump.

Also read:  Meanwhile, Back in the Land of the Pharaohs…

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Are We Being Acculturated to Worship Sex?

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Over at Salon, the apparent temple of all things sex-worship, Tracy Clark-Flory chronicles “The Year In Sex Writing,” explaining in part:

I read about sex, constantly. At least five days a week, I do a Google News search for “sex.” It’s one of the first things I do each morning. …As I look back at the year in sex writing, these are the pieces that stand out, the pieces that most validated that daily sex-news slog. (I’m excluding myself and Salon in general from the list, because to do otherwise would be lame, wouldn’t it?)

Some of the less graphic stories highlighted include:

“The Japanese Firm Selling Videogames to Women, Using Sex” by Daniel Feit

Synopsis: A journalist reports on a Tokyo gaming convention, where women line up for the chance to interact with actors modeled after characters in hugely popular dating simulators.
Choice quote: “‘We’re basically hitting on them, without being too forward,’ said Kyle Card, an actor and model who lives in Tokyo. ‘A lot of the reactions are hands over the face, unable to speak, laughing to themselves. Lots of silence.’”

“For Women In Porn, The Personal Is Political And Profitable” by Susannah Breslin
Synopsis: A look at how women are faring in the new porn industry landscape.
Choice quote: ”‘Women control the industry,’ she opines. ‘They just don’t realize the power they have.’”

A growing number of pop culture outlets possess an evangelistic zeal for the act of sex. Whether it is through ever-more visible bodies on network television or full-fledged sexually oriented nudity on premium cable, shows like Californication and Masters of Sex now compete with basic cable’s Sex Sent Me to the E.R., Strange Sex and Let’s Talk About Sex. Sex was so prevalent this year that Slate declared 2014 to be a “banner year for sex on television.”

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How Long Before Obama Appoints ISIS Czar?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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In a painfully intellectual breakdown of the American struggle to comprehend ISIS, the New York Times discusses the educational endeavors undertaken by Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, to “defang” the Islamic State:

Trying to decipher this complex enemy — a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army — is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.

That’s right, your tax dollars are paying for professors to develop even more politically correct terminology and intellectual strategy to dodge the dangers of radical Islamic militants in favor of convincing themselves and the American public that said religiously-motivated lunatics couldn’t actually be as powerful as they appear to be.

General Nagata’s frustration is shared by other American officials. Even as President Obama and his top civilian and military aides express growing confidence that Iraqi troops backed by allied airstrikes have blunted the Islamic State’s momentum on the ground in Iraq and undermined its base of support in Syria, other officials acknowledge they have barely made a dent in the larger, longer-term campaign to kill the ideology that animates the terrorist movement.

And when the President is losing on the ground, the President turns to think tanks to fix the problem. Stay tuned for the nomination of Obama’s “ISIS Czar” to lord over the

…disagreements among the experts over whether ISIS’ main objective is ideological or territorial — General Nagata encourages competing views, urging the group to have “one hell of a debate” over his questions.

But the panel raised doubts whether ISIS “has the bureaucratic sophistication necessary to govern.”

Apparently the panel of experts is unaware of a little militant group-turned-governing body known as Hamas.

“When I watch Americans use words like cowardly, barbaric, murder, outrageous, shocking, etc., to describe a violent extremist organization’s actions, we are playing right into the enemy’s hands,” General Nagata added. “They want us to become emotional. They revel in being called murderers when the words are coming from an apostate.”

The funny thing is, academic papers and speeches don’t motivate public opinion or soldiers the way the plain, simple truth does. But as long as Nagata is determined to avoid the truth of radical Islam’s dual ideological and territorial goals that are, indeed, barbaric, murderous and outrageous, ISIS and their radical Islamic terror allies will continue to gain ground in this global battle. Our bureaucratic waste is the Obama Administration’s tacit declaration that time is on radical Islam’s side.

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Even at Christmastime, Beware the Krampus!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

In the German-speaking lands, the big day for presents arrives on Dec.5-6, which is  the eve and feast day of St. Nicholas. That’s when kids put out empty boots, which miraculously get filled with presents the next day. But it just wouldn’t be Germanic if all went well, and so the good saint — from whose name we derive “Santa Claus” — is accompanied by the Krampus, an evil spirit who tortures those who have been naughty instead of a nice. Here he is, paying a visit alongside jolly St. Nick:

Naughty or nice?

Naughty or nice?

Krampus is a dark counterpart to the jolly Santa. While Santa gives gifts to good children, Krampus whips the bad ones and takes them into his evil lair for more torture. Krampus comes to town the night before St. Nicholas on Krampusnacht to weed out the bad kids in order to make Santa’s gift giving easier. In some countries, drunk men dress up as devils on Krampusnacht and chase kids through the streets which somehow manages to be more horror-inducing than Santa Con. You can see several videos of Krampusnacht on Youtube.

Krampus’ origins stem from Pagan tradition rooted in Norse mythology practiced in northwestern Europe in the days before Christianity. Yuletide itself was a Germanic Pagan tradition celebrating the winter season. Animals were sacrificed to the darker, shorter days and there was a lot of drinking and “celebrating fertility” as they ate the year’s harvest. Early Christians were pragmatic. When trying to convert folks away from their “savage” religions, recruiters adapted some already existing Pagan traditions and put a Christian-spin on it. The Christmas tree? Pagan. Christmas being celebrated on December 25th? An adaptation of Pagan Solstice celebrations. Santa’s judgmental friend Krampus? Very Pagan.

We’ve moved the present-giving to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; Christians believe that Christ was incarnated on the day we celebrate as Christmas (the festival of Christ, a Greek word meaning the “Chosen One” or “Redeemer”), a day that also symbolizes the return of the light as the days grow longer. Krampus reminds us, however, that the forces of darkness and evil are never very far away.

 

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In South Carolina, a Healing Springs Miracle?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

So they say:

For longer than anyone has recorded history, water has bubbled from out of the ground at a natural spring in what used to be deep woods about an hour’s drive down a two-lane road south of Columbia.

American Indians let four gravely wounded British soldiers in on the secret in 1781, leaving the men to astonish the garrison in Charleston that left them behind to die. Since then, people have flocked to the Healing Springs of Barnwell County for some restorative and perhaps supernatural help.

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That’s why Annabelle Galik of Goose Creek drinks the clear, cool water, which according to local property records was deeded to the Almighty God in 1944. Two and a half years ago, Galik, 50, was diagnosed with lung cancer and given about four months to live. She drank the water along with some more traditional cancer treatments. ”I’d take a shower in it if I could,” Galik said. “Jesus owns it, and if He’s maintaining it here, it’s got to be good.”

“There’s just something about this place. People for hundreds of years can’t be wrong,” Steve Galik said. “It’s about as close as I think you can get to the Garden of Eden.”

And speaking of special places with healing properties, don’t forget El Santuario de Chimayo, north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the dirt might also cure what ails you.

 

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On Christmas Eve, Christian Arab Recruits for Israeli Defense Forces

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As pilgrims flock to holy sites and Jews prepare to go to work the next day, Israeli Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Naddaf continues his holy mission to recruit Christian soldiers into the Israeli Defense Forces. Unlike their Jewish neighbors, non-Jews in Israel are not required to serve in the IDF. Druze and Bedouin populations serve voluntarily, as do some 400 Arabs of both Christian and Muslim affiliation.The small number of Arab volunteers is largely due to nationalistic conflicts within the Arab world, conflicts that have made Father Gabriel Naddaf and his Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF) a target of both Muslim and Christian Arab contempt.

Forum members, including the priest, said they have been threatened, and Father Nadaf’s son was attacked in Nazareth. “Some people may say we are traitors,” said the younger Nadaf, who after his compulsory service wants to make a career in the army. “But I tell them to go live in Gaza if they are against Israel. We live here. This is my country and I have to give back.” Arab members of the Israeli Knesset are among opponents of the forum’s work, including its support for the recently passed legislation creating a specific Christian seat on the equal employment opportunities advisory committee that addresses job discrimination. They accused Israel and the forum of ignoring discrimination concerns and trying to divide Israel’s Arab population.

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The attacks faced by Christian Arabs affiliated with the ICRF haven’t just caused them to be accused of dual loyalties. They’ve also motivated these Christian Arabs to observe that they are “Arabic speaking Christians” who, if they lived in any other country in the Middle East, would be facing persecution for their religious beliefs. After his son Judaan was attacked in the streets of Nazareth, Father Naddaf commented:

[M]y son very much wants to enlist, in the near future, and serve in a combat unit. He believes in what I do, that we all have a home here, that he also needs to give to the country. The country gives him his rights, and should receive what it is due in return. We all need to live here in peace, and protect the existence of the country that we live in, since our future is here.

Only a few weeks ago Judaan enlisted in the IDF:

This is “…a historic and exciting day at the Nadaf household and a happy day for Christians in Israel.” Nadaf stated, adding that he “sees this step as a personal example to Christian parents who teach their kids to love, cherish, honor and serve their country and contribute to society!”

The father and his organization have increased voluntary Arab recruitment from 30 to 150 persons per year. On the eve of one of the holiest days in the Christian year, Father Gabriel Naddaf continues to put his faith into action, sending a powerful statement about the importance of Israel to Christians across the globe.

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Church Leader: Jesus Is All That Iraqi Christians ‘Have Got Left’

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

In a moving message on Facebook, Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, writes that Christians in Baghdad have nothing left but the “refugee child” Jesus this year.

White writes movingly: “I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq. They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. ‘How can you be so happy when you are surrounded by suicide bombs, mortar rockets and such violence?’ One of our young people answered the statement. ‘You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left.’

“All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas.”

White, who had to relocate to Bethlehem after threats to his life, also writes about the refugee tents the church has set up to care for Christian suffering at the hands of ISIS.

Christians have been dismissed from their hometowns in there hundreds of thousands. They have fled in their masses to the very North of Iraq fleeing the onslaught of the terrorist group known as ISIS. There for weeks my staff team have fed and clothed, provided mattresses and cradles for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced people.

This Christmas season, we who celebrate in the safety of the West, let us not lose sight of the true meaning of this special holiday. To quote Canon White’s closing statement:

Christmas is a time when we should never lose the meaning of this Christ Child who came to us so that by simply trusting in him we will have a life filled with hope and purpose and love. He is still with us 2000 years after he first came. This Christmas let us not forget that he so loves us that we must love him and in response our life will be changed forever.

This post uses an image from Shutterstock.

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New Archaeological Finds Shed Light on Old Testament Life

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Around the same time that Mississippi State University’s football team found themselves at the top of the college football rankings, an archaeological team from the school was getting ready to go public with some key finds from their three-year project at Khirbet Summeily, a site in southern Israel.

These finds shed light on life in the Old Testament era. One of the finds, a series of clay seals called bullae, lends credence to the Biblical accounts of the reigns of Kings David and Solomon.

Jimmy Hardin, associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said these clay bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods.

[...]

“Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century B.C.,” Hardin said. “We are very positive that these bullae are associated with the Iron Age IIA, which we date to the 10th century B.C., and which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts.

“These appear to be the only known examples of bullae from the 10th century, making this discovery unique,” he said.

[...]

“Some text scholars and archaeologists have dismissed the historic reliability of the biblical text surrounding kings David and Solomon, such as recorded in the Bible in the books of Kings and Second Samuel, which scholars often date to the Iron Age IIA or 10th century B.C,” Hardin said.

Other finds in and around the dig site help clarify what everyday life was like in Israel during that era. Jeff Blakely, another archaeologist involved in the Hesi Regional Project, notes that these finds change the way scholars have viewed economic life at that time.

From the start of the project, archaeologists have tried to determine what people were doing in the region of Khirbet Summeily, Blakely said.

“Generations of scholarship have suggested farming, but over the past few years, we have slowly realized that humans rarely farmed this region,” he said. “It was a pasture. Shepherds tended sheep and goats under the protection of their government. Finding the bullae this past summer strongly supports our idea that Khirbet Summeily was a governmental installation.”

Also read: 

Christians, Atheists, & Pagans Should Take a Sabbath Like Orthodox Jews Do

This post includes an image from Shutterstock.

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Psaki: Kim Jong-un Comedy Totally Different from Mohammed Film Slammed by State Dept.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sony Pictures officially decided not to release The Interview on Dec. 25 as planned, citing the major theater chains that refused to show the movie after hackers made 9/11-style threats against screenings.

“We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers,” the Sony statement said.

“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

The Associated Press reported moments ago that federal investigators have connected the hacking to North Korea.

At the State Department earlier today, Jen Psaki said department officials did meet with studio executives during production, as revealed in leaked emails, but disputed reports that they OK’d the picture. “We’re not in the business of signing off on content of movies or things along those lines,” she said.

“I can confirm for you that [Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel] Russel did have a conversation with Sony executives, as he does routinely with a wide range of private groups and individuals, to discuss foreign policy in Asia,” Psaki said. “[Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues] Bob King, contrary to reports, did not view the movie and did not have any contact directly with Sony.”

“As we have — as we’ve noted before, entertainers are free to make movies of their choosing, and we are not involved in that,” she added.

Psaki said she wouldn’t compare the comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un to the Mohammed film initially blamed for the Benghazi attack, a movie heavily criticized by the State Department.

“I would not put them in the same category, which I’m sure does not surprise you,” Psaki said. “We don’t have — it’s a fiction movie. It’s not a documentary about our relationship with the United — with North Korea. It’s not something we backed, supported or necessarily have an opinion on from here.”

After violent reactions to Innocence of Muslims in 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

“We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of other,” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said back then.

While being asked questions about unilateral changes in Cuba policy today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest if they would relax sanctions on North Korea under the same theory.

“That if you open it up, that you put more pressure on them, maybe they’ll change their behavior?” a reporter asked.

“No. OK,” Earnest bluntly responded, drawing laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rubio: Pope Francis Should ‘Take Up the Cause of Freedom and Democracy’ in Cuba

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Catholic Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), while acknowledging the Vatican’s role in helping free USAID subcontractor Alan Gross from Cuba, said he hopes the Argentine pope continues to press for full human rights on the communist island.

“The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history,” the Holy See said in a statement.

“In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raúl Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties,” the statement continued.

“The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties. The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens.”

At a press conference this afternoon, Rubio stressed that he’s “not criticized” the pope’s intervention in the release of Gross, who had been held by Cuba for more than five years.

“I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy, which is critical for a free people, for a people to truly be free. I think the people of Cuba deserve the same chances to have democracy as the people of Argentina have had, where he comes from, as the people of Italy have, where he now lives,” Rubio said. “Obviously, the Vatican’s its own state, but very nearby.”

“My point is I hope that people with that sort of prestige on the world stage will take up the cause of freedom and democracy,” the senator added.

“The Cuban people are the only people in this hemisphere that have not been able to elect a leader in more than 55 or 60 years. It’s outrageous. And for us to basically — for this government under Barack Obama to unilaterally give up all the things they gave up in exchange for nothing on the side of democracy, is unacceptable in my mind.”

A senior administration official told reporters this morning on a conference call that the support of the pope “was important to us, given the esteem with which both the American and Cuban hold the Catholic Church.”

“When President Obama met with Pope Francis, for instance, earlier this year, Cuba was a topic of discussion that got as much attention as anything else that the two of them discussed,” the official said. “So I would — I would say that this — particularly the, you know, the exchange and transfer of prisoners was finalized in that meeting at the Vatican, but we also were able to review the steps that we would each be taking with the — with the Vatican, including the normalization of relations between the countries and the establishment of diplomatic relations. And the Vatican welcomed that news.”

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Obama: May Hanukkah ‘Embolden Us to Do What Is Right’

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House will be officially celebrating the Festival of Lights with late afternoon and evening  receptions tomorrow, but President Obama kicked off the holiday with his Hanukkah message today:

Over the eight nights of Hanukkah, Jews across America, Israel, and the world will remember an ancient triumph of freedom over oppression, and renew their faith in the possibility of miracles large and small.

Even in the darkest, shortest days of winter, the Festival of Lights brims with possibility and hope.  The courage of the Maccabees reminds us that we too can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.  The candles of the Menorah remind us that even the smallest light has the power to shine through the darkness.  And the miracle at the heart of Hanukkah – the oil that lasted for eight nights instead of only one – reminds us that even when the future is uncertain, our best days are yet to come.

May this Hanukkah embolden us to do what is right, shine a light on the miracles we enjoy, and kindle in all of us the desire to share those miracles with others.  From my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

Tomorrow the Palestinians are expected to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council declaring a state and giving Israel two years to pull out of territory that the Palestinian Authority considers its own. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the door open to a U.S. vote in favor of such a resolution, telling reporters today “we have to see what the details are.”

“There is a perception …that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true,” Psaki said. “We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”

The Palestinians need nine votes, or two-thirds of the council, for passage.

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What’s Moving Millennials Into the Pro-Life Camp?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Millennials areincreasingly more pro-life and supportive of restrictions on abortion” than their Boomer and Gen-X parents. 

Blame science.

“There’s a window into the womb with ultrasound. Just having the look into the womb you can see, even in the first trimester, the early development of the child — you can see the humanity of the child,” Rose said. “Now that we have that imagery and it’s more prevalent, people are having that personal encounter with the child, so it’s easier to recognize their human rights.”

…”Years ago, it was the case that advocates for abortion would talk about the ‘thing’ growing in a woman’s womb as a lifeless blob of tissue,” Monahan explained. “And I think our advances in sonography and ultrasounds, and even our understanding of fetal development has dispelled those myths.”

She continued: “We know that, from the moment of conception, a baby has all of its DNA that it needs for the rest of its life. It has everything inherent that it will need for later on. Really, the only difference [between the preborn and adults] is in size and development.”

When most millennials were in the womb, ultrasound technology was still relatively new to pregnancy. Mothers of Gen-X/millennial crossovers most likely only had an ultrasound if there were suspected complications with the pregnancy. Today, however, those crossovers and their fellow millennials will have an ultrasound as early as 8 weeks to confirm pregnancy, including fetal heartbeat. One-dimensional sonograms will continue throughout the pregnancy. Parents will also have the option to have a 3-D or 4-D ultrasound done so that they may see their smiling baby in the womb.

Abortion is at an all-time low in the United States. And while abortion advocates are quick to note that the majority of women who are required to view sonograms before their abortions will choose to proceed with the abortion, the reality is that the majority of abortions in America are being performed before an 8 week ultrasound can be done. The women who abort after the ultrasound are in the minority that is growing smaller by the year.

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Saving the New Religious Refugees

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

In the 1800s, London became a haven for tens of thousands of Russian Jews fleeing their czarist homeland. Today, a similar scene takes place in the United Kingdom, but this time the refugees are Muslim converts to Christianity fleeing persecution in England or the Middle East.

Many Muslims who convert to Christianity face threats of death and harm, and friends and family turn them away. One organization in particular, Christian Concern, is helping converts find safe haven in homes, churches, and other places in the UK.

Christian Concern believes thousands of Muslims are anxious to convert and in need of housing so they can get back onto their feet after suffering verbal — and sometimes physical — attacks from families, friends and co-workers.

“We are motivated by a deep sense of love and compassion for those that feel trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape,” said Andrea Williams, the group’s chief executive.

“The penalty for converts at best is to be cut off from their family; at worst they face death,” she added. “This is happening not just in Sudan and Nigeria but in East London. The government has failed to deal with the rise in anti-Christian sentiment.”

Some of these converts are like Shokit Ali Sadiq, whose wife is also a Christian. He and his family received safe haven thanks to members of their church. Sadiq now works to convert others from Islam to Christianity, and he says that many Muslims want to convert but are afraid to do so.

“There are hundreds of people out there who want to leave Islam,” said Sadiq. “But they’re frightened of making their desire known.”

Others are like a woman who went unnamed for her interview. She faced physical attacks from other women after becoming a Christian. She prays that “one day my own family will have me back.”

Twenty-three-year-old Ali, whose former friends stabbed him and left him for dead when he converted in Pakistan at age 17, fled to England, where these same young men from his hometown tracked him down and threatened him again. He now works at a store and lives essentially in hiding,but he is hopeful that he can return to Pakistan one day to do the same work that saved his life.

“My life’s ambition,” he said, “is to return and start a charity that would provide safe houses for Muslims who convert to Christianity.”

This post uses a modified image from Shutterstock.

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Pope Bites Dog! Maybe…

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Remember that story about Pope Francis promising some distressed moppet whose dog had just died that good bowsers go to Heaven too? Bogus. The American Interest has the details, while the increasingly untrustworthy New York Times has the correction. First, the details:

A recent controversy over whether Pope Francis said that dogs go to heaven shows how deeply the media has bought into its own narrative about the pontiff’s brand of feel-good religion. Last week many media outlets reported that Francis told a boy whose dog had died that, “one day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” He was said to have supported this statement by a reference to a passage in Bible written by St. Paul. Reaction was swift: spiritual but not religious types got the warm fuzzies, while Catholic traditionalists sighed heavily under the burden of having such a Pope.

But the whole story was completely false. Pope Francis not only never said it; he never talked to a boy with a dead dog at all… The media has fallen in love with their own creation—the softhearted, easygoing, liberal pope they’ve long been waiting for—and are willing uncritically to run a story, any story, that puts him on display.

Oh, noes! It gets worse. The Religion News Service debunks here:

Yes, a version of that quotation was uttered by a pope, but it was said decades ago by Paul VI, who died in 1978. There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words during his public audience on Nov. 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there a boy mourning his dead dog.  “There is a fundamental rule in journalism. That is double-checking, and in this case it was not done,” the Vatican’s deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, told Reuters on Saturday.

But hey — the story was too good to check! Which is why a red-faced Times had to backtrack on its entire front-page story – which began with this by now-obligatory lede, “Pope Francis has given hope to gays, unmarried couples and advocates of the Big Bang theory. Now, he has endeared himself to dog lovers, animal rights activists and vegans” – with this instant classic of a correction:

Correction: December 12, 2014. An earlier version of this article misstated the circumstances of Pope Francis’ remarks. He made them in a general audience at the Vatican, not in consoling a distraught boy whose dog had died. The article also misstated what Francis is known to have said. According to Vatican Radio, Francis said: “The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us,” which was interpreted to mean he believes animals go to heaven. Francis is not known to have said: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.’’ (Those remarks were once made by Pope Paul VI to a distraught child, and were cited in a Corriere della Sera article that concluded Francis believes animals go to heaven.) An earlier version also referred incompletely to the largest animal protection group in the United States. It is the Humane Society of the United States, not just the Humane Society.

That correction is almost as embarrassing as this one (scroll all the way down. Sheesh.

 

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