Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mickey's Mantle of Faith

From WorldNetDaily ... Mickey's Mantle of Faith: Yankee great, who would be 75 tomorrow, committed life to Christ prior to death. In full ...
It's October – World Series time.

During much of his Hall of Fame baseball career, Mickey Mantle was a fixture in the Fall Classic.

He was known as a great baseball slugger.

He was known as the fastest man in the major leagues.

And he was known as a hell-raiser off the field.

But two of Mickey Mantle's closest friends – Bobby Richardson and Pat Summerall – say that's not how he died 11 years ago. And, had he lived to see his 75th birthday tomorrow, the world would have a much different picture of the New York Yankee great.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Mickey Mantle's name was synonymous with baseball.

Beginning in 1951, he played for New York Yankee teams that appeared in the World Series 12 of the next 14 years.

Inheriting the centerfield position from the legendary Joe DiMaggio, he won three American League Most Valuable Player awards and the coveted Triple Crown in 1956.

Mantle's former New York teammate, and later the Yankee team manager, Billy Martin, once said, ''No man in the history of baseball had as much (baseball hitting) power as Mickey Mantle.'' Mantle was inducted into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame five years after his retirement from the major circuit in 1969.

But despite all the triumphs and accomplishments, Mantle's baseball career was hobbled by injuries and the ever-present real fear of an early death.

His father, Mutt, an alcoholic, died in his 40s of Hodgkin's disease – a plague with a virulent family history.

From the mid-1950s until his death in 1995, Mantle developed a strong relationship with two professional athletes that would later have a profound effect on his life. One of those athletes was Bobby Richardson, the Yankee second baseman and Mantle’s teammate from 1955 to 1966. Richardson had strong Christian convictions. He also had some outstanding years with the New York team, including winning the World Series MVP in 1960. Richardson described his friendship with Mantle as ''one that lasted a lifetime.''

Richardson always had the ear of his good friend Mantle.

''On numerous occasions Mickey would help me with various (outside) interests I was involved in,'' Richardson told WND. Mantle participated ''in sports banquets, fund-raisers (for the YMCA) and even a baseball instructional film event'' from the University of South Carolina, where Richardson was head baseball coach in the 1970s.

During their years with the Yankees, Richardson had many opportunities to share his faith with Mantle. It appeared at the time, though, that Mantle never really took Richardson's words of spiritual advice seriously. Most everyone closely associated with Mantle knew he had a reputation for playing hard and partying even harder. He also struggled with alcohol.

While Richardson never got discouraged in sharing his faith with his friend, he noticed that Mantle, with the realization of his own mortality, finally asked the questions that revealed he was open to spiritual things. In a television interview with Bob Costas long after he retired from the game, Mantle said he had ''a void in his heart and an emptiness inside'' after the 1985 death of his friend and former Yankee great Roger Maris.

In the 1950s, Mantle used the same locker stall as another New York professional athlete, Pat Summerall, but during different seasons. Summerall was the place kicker and tight end of the NFL's New York Giants. Summerall recalled that he first met Mantle when they played minor league baseball together. Over the years, Summerall and Mantle ''played a lot of golf and interacted socially.''

When Summerall entered the Betty Ford Center for Alcohol in the early 1990s, Mantle showed interest in the center. Summerall told WND, ''Mickey was concerned about his own alcohol consumption.''

After many long question-and-answer sessions with the Hall of Fame baseball player, Summerall challenged Mantle to enter the clinic. Summerall was thrilled when his friend agreed to enter the facility, and did so on a day not normally reserved for new patients.

It was the policy of the Betty Ford Center to disallow outgoing telephone calls during a patient's one-month stay. Summerall remembers fondly how Mantle somehow got on the phone and called him a number of times, sometimes late at night. While this was a difficult period in Mantle's life, both Richardson and Summerall agree their friend was later to become an outstanding spokesman for people everywhere who were suffering from alcoholism.

By 1995, Mantle's health took a turn for the worse when it was discovered he had cancer – that on top of liver problems associated with alcoholism. While hospitalized, it didn't take long for Mantle to call Richardson and ask him to pray for him.

Richardson vividly remembers visiting Mantle a few weeks before his death Aug. 13, 1995. One of the first things Mantle wanted to tell his former teammate was that he ''now trusted in Christ as his Lord and Savior.'' Mantle assured him by quoting to Richardson and his wife one of the more famous verses from the Bible, John 3:16: ''For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.''

Years later, Richardson found out that Mantle, while in the hospital, somehow listened to a Focus on the Family testimonial tape of NBA Hall of Famer Pete Maravich. Commenting on how this tape was instrumental in leading Mantle to Christ, Focus Vice President Kurt Bruner told WND that ''after achieving nearly everything that the world has to offer and finding that something was still lacking, Pete discovered Jesus Christ and never looked back.'' Richardson felt that his former teammate identified with similar aspects of the basketball player's life.

Now, 11 years after Mantle's death, both Richardson and Summerall are more grateful than ever for their friendship with the former Yankee centerfielder.

Mantle is still adored by fans across America. His family still operates several ''Mantle's'' restaurants, and his baseball memorabilia is popular as ever.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Iraq’s Christians Flee as Extremist Threat Worsens

From the New York Times ... Iraq’s Christians Flee as Extremist Threat Worsens. Join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. In full ...
The blackened shells of five cars still sit in front of the Church of the Virgin Mary here, stark reminders of a bomb blast that killed two people after a recent Sunday Mass.

In the northern city of Mosul, a priest from the Syriac Orthodox Church was kidnapped last week. His church complied with his captors’ demands and put up posters denouncing recent comments made by the pope about Islam, but he was killed anyway. The police found his beheaded body on Wednesday.

Muslim fury over Pope Benedict XVI’s public reflections on Islam in Germany a month ago — when he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam “evil and inhuman” — has subsided elsewhere, but repercussions continue to reverberate in Iraq, bringing a new level of threat to an already shrinking Christian population.

Several extremist groups threatened to kill all Christians unless the pope apologized. Sunni and Shiite clerics united in the condemnation, calling the comments an insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In Baghdad, many churches canceled services after receiving threats. Some have not met since.

“After the pope’s statement, people began to fear much more than before,” said the Rev. Zayya Edward Khossaba, the pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary. “The actions by fanatics have increased against Christians.”

Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.

Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.

But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.

Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors.

Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

The number of Christians who remain is also uncertain. The last Iraqi census, in 1987, counted 1.4 million Christians, but many left during the 1990’s when sanctions squeezed the country. Yonadam Kanna, the lone Christian member of the Iraqi Parliament, estimated the current Christian population at roughly 800,000, or about 3 percent of the population. A Chaldean Catholic auxiliary bishop, Andreos Abouna, told a British charity over the summer that there were just 600,000 Christians left, according to the Catholic News Service.

At the Church of the Virgin Mary, Father Khossaba showed a visitor the baptism forms for parishioners leaving the country who need proof of their religious affiliation for visas. Some weeks he has filled out 50 of the forms, he said, and some weeks more.

Attendance on Sundays has dwindled to four dozen or so, he said; it used to be more than 500 on average, and on Easter Sundays, before the collapse of the Hussein government, more than 1,500. Not all the missing members have left, of course; some simply stay at home on Sundays because of fears for their safety.

Many Christians have relocated, changing neighborhoods or even cities. About a thousand Christian families, from Mosul, Baghdad, Basra and elsewhere, have taken refuge in Ain Kawa, a small town outside the Kurdish city of Erbil, which has become an oasis for Christians, said the Rev. Yusuf Sabri, a priest at St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church there.

A Christian man with Baghdad license plates on his car who asked not to be identified said he had just arrived in Ain Kawa to inquire about moving there. A leaflet had been left at his home demanding he leave in three days. It bore the signature of Muhammad’s Army, a Sunni insurgent group.

“They regarded me as an agent for the crusaders,” he said.

Asaad Aziz, a 42-year-old Chaldean Catholic, is one of those trying to leave the country. After the ouster of Mr. Hussein, he bought a liquor store in a mostly Shiite neighborhood. Nine days after he opened, the store was bombed. Mr. Aziz was hospitalized for a month.

The employees rebuilt the store. But several months later, a note slipped under the door gave Mr. Aziz 48 hours to close.

“Otherwise, you will blame yourself,” it said.

Mr. Aziz closed. But after an unsuccessful stint at a friend’s printing company, he returned to the business he knew best, opening a liquor store in a mostly Christian neighborhood. Last month, a gunman riddled the new storefront with bullets as Mr. Aziz cowered in a back room.

He told another story: the teenage daughter of another Christian family he knows was kidnapped recently. The captors initially demanded a ransom, but later sarcastically said the pope was the only one who could release her. She was eventually killed.

“When the pope gave his statement, it destroyed any last hope that we had here,” said Mr. Aziz, who has forbidden his daughters, one in high school and the other in college, to return to school.

He recently went to the Turkish Embassy to inquire about a visa but was rebuffed. At this point, he said, he will go anywhere.

“We cannot practice our rituals and we cannot bring food home to our families,” he said. “That’s why I want to leave the country.”

Mosul, near the historic heart of Christianity in Iraq, has also become increasingly dangerous. The recently murdered priest, the Rev. Boulos Iskander Behnam, is just the latest member of the Christian community to be kidnapped or killed there.

Conditions have been especially bleak for Christians in Basra, the southern city that is dominated by radical Shiite militias. Christian women there often wear Muslim head scarves to avoid harassment from religious zealots trying to impose a strict Islamic dress code. After the pope’s statement, an angry crowd burned an effigy of him.

In Baghdad, Juliet Yusef attends St. George’s, the country’s lone Anglican church. She, too, now wears a head scarf anytime she ventures outside her neighborhood. “I am afraid of being attacked,” she said.

Dora, a neighborhood in southern Baghdad that was once heavily populated by Christians and has been plagued by sectarian violence, has now been mostly emptied of them. Christians were singled out there by insurgents who accused them of being friendly with the occupying Americans.

“They are Christian, we are Christian,” said one holdout, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Suzan. “They think most likely we know each other well.”

Two priests were kidnapped over the summer in Dora, although both were released, one after nearly a month.

Oddly, before the pope’s comments, as sectarian violence has escalated in Baghdad in the past year, some said the situation might have actually improved for Christians as Muslim militants turned their attention on one another.

Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, who lives in Britain but visits Iraq frequently, said his driver was kidnapped recently but was promptly released after his Sunni Arab captors discovered he was a Christian. He said his captors apologized by saying, “We thought he was Shiite.”

“It must be the only occasion when being a Christian actually helped in this country,” he said.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Over 35,000 Christians Have Fled Iraq

From the Jerusalem Post ... Over 35,000 Christians Have Fled Iraq. Join me in praying for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. In full ...
More than 35,000 Iraqi Christians have fled to Syria to escape the violence in their country, the leader of an Iraqi Christian group said Thursday.

Christians, who make up three percent of Iraq's 26 million people, are leaving because of individual threats from Muslim extremists and the general deterioration of security in Iraq, said Emmanuel Khoshaba, the Syrian head of the Assyrian and Democratic Movement.

His figure indicates an increase of 75% from the 20,000 Iraqi Christians who were said to have moved to Syria in 2004, the year after US-led forces invaded Iraq and began the conflict.

One Iraqi Christian refugee, Bassam Najjari, 29, said he arrived in Syria last month; 40 days after gunmen shot and injured him in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, as police looked on.

"I decided to leave Baghdad with my family," said Najjari, who is staying in a camp near the Syrian capital, Damascus, with his parents and brothers.
His brother, Wissam, said he plans to start his own business in Syria.

"There is no hope of going back home as the security situation is very bad and there is no indication that it would get better soon," Wissam said.

"We want to live in safety. We don't want to be killed. We love life," said another Christian refugee, Saddallah Mardini, 43.

Mardini said US forces should leave Iraq now.

"The occupation has brought destruction to Iraq," he said.

His wife, Wissam, 25, complained of shortages of electricity and water in Iraq.

"My kids go to school now (in Syria), which is something they were deprived of in Iraq," she said.

Syria's relaxed visa rules for Arabs, as well as its border and cultural proximity to Iraq, have attracted thousands of Iraqi refugees, Muslims as well as Christians. But a disproportionate number of the refugees are Christian.

The violence in Iraq has hit Christians as it has targeted Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

Seven Christians were killed in 2004 when suspected Islamic militants set off bombs in five churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. It was the first major assault on Iraq's Christians since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April 2003.

More recently, the Rev. Hanna Saad Sirop, the director of the Theology Department at Babel University, central Iraq, was abducted Aug. 15 as he left a Baghdad church after a mass celebrating the Assumption.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers

From the NY Times ... Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers. In full ...

Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.

At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

“I’m looking at the data,” said Ron Luce, who organized the meetings and founded Teen Mania, a 20-year-old youth ministry, “and we’ve become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we’re losing.”

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”

Among the leaders speaking at the meetings are Ted Haggard, president of the evangelical association; the Rev. Jerry Falwell; and nationally known preachers like Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett.

Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away.

Over and over in interviews, evangelical teenagers said they felt like a tiny, beleaguered minority in their schools and neighborhoods. They said they often felt alone in their struggles to live by their “Biblical values” by avoiding casual sex, risqué music and videos, Internet pornography, alcohol and drugs.

When Eric Soto, 18, transferred from a small charter school to a large public high school in Chicago, he said he was disappointed to find that an extracurricular Bible study attracted only five to eight students. “When we brought food, we thought we could get a better turnout,” he said. They got 12.

Chelsea Dunford, a 17-year old from Canton, Conn., said, “At school I don’t have a lot of friends who are Christians.”

Ms. Dunford spoke late last month as she and her small church youth group were about to join more than 3,400 teenagers in a sports arena at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for a Christian youth extravaganza and rock concert called Acquire the Fire.

“A lot of my friends are self-proclaimed agnostics or atheists,” said Ms. Dunford, who wears a bracelet with a heart-shaped charm engraved with “tlw,” for “true love waits,” to remind herself of her pledge not to have premarital sex.

She said her friends were more prone to use profanity and party than she was, and added: “It’s scary sometimes. You get made fun of.”

To break the isolation and bolster the teenagers’ commitment to a conservative lifestyle, Mr. Luce has been organizing these stadium extravaganzas for 15 years. The event in Amherst was the first of 40 that Teen Mania is putting on between now and May, on a breakneck schedule that resembles a road trip for a major touring band. The “roadies” are 700 teenagers who have interned for a year at Teen Mania’s “Honor Academy” in Garden Valley, Tex.

More than two million teenagers have attended in the last 15 years, said Mr. Luce, a 45-year-old, mop-headed father of three with a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard and the star power of an aging rock guitarist.

“That’s more than Paul McCartney has pulled in,” Mr. Luce asserted, before bounding onstage for the opening pyrotechnics and a prayer.

For the next two days, the teenagers in the arena pogoed to Christian bands, pledged to lead their friends to Christ and sang an anthem with the chorus, “We won’t be silent.” Hundreds streamed down the aisles for the altar call and knelt in front of the stage, some weeping openly as they prayed to give their lives to God.

The next morning, Mr. Luce led the crowd in an exercise in which they wrote on scraps of paper all the negative cultural influences, brand names, products and television shows that they planned to excise from their lives. Again they streamed down the aisles, this time to throw away the “cultural garbage.”

Trash cans filled with folded pieces of paper on which the teenagers had scribbled things like Ryan Seacrest, Louis Vuitton, “Gilmore Girls,” “Days of Our Lives,” Iron Maiden, Harry Potter, “need for a boyfriend” and “my perfect teeth obsession.” One had written in tiny letters: “fornication.”

Some teenagers threw away cigarette lighters, brand-name sweatshirts, Mardi Gras beads and CD’s — one titled “I’m a Hustla.”

“Lord Jesus,” Mr. Luce prayed into the microphone as the teenagers dropped their notes into the trash, “I strip off the identity of the world, and this morning I clothe myself with Christ, with his lifestyle. That’s what I want to be known for.”

Evangelical adults, like believers of every faith, fret about losing the next generation, said the Rev. David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology of Emory University, in Atlanta.

“The uniqueness of the evangelical situation is the fact that during the 80’s and 90’s you had the Reagan revolution that was growing the evangelical churches,” Mr. Key said.

Today, he said, the culture trivializes religion and normalizes secularism and liberal sexual mores.

The phenomenon may not be that young evangelicals are abandoning their faith, but that they are abandoning the institutional church, said Lauren Sandler, author of “Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement” (Viking, 2006). Ms. Sandler, who calls herself a secular liberal, said she found the movement frighteningly robust.

“This generation is not about church,” said Ms. Sandler, an editor at “They always say, ‘We take our faith outside the four walls.’ For a lot of young evangelicals, church is a rock festival, or a skate park or hanging out in someone’s basement.”

Contradicting the sense of isolation expressed by some evangelical teenagers, Ms. Sandler said, “I met plenty of kids who told me over and over that if you’re not Christian in your high school, you’re not cool — kids with Mohawks, with indie rock bands who feel peer pressure to be Christian.”

The reality is, when it comes to organizing youth, evangelical Christians are the envy of Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews, said Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, who specializes in the study of American evangelicals and surveyed teens for his book “Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual lives of American Teenagers” (Oxford, 2005).

Mr. Smith said he was skeptical about the 4 percent statistic. He said the figure was from a footnote in a book and was inconsistent with research he had conducted and reviewed, which has found that evangelical teenagers are more likely to remain involved with their faith than are mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews and teenagers of almost every other religion.

“A lot of the goals I’m very supportive of,” Mr. Smith said of the new evangelical youth campaign, “but it just kills me that it’s framed in such apocalyptic terms that couldn’t possibly hold up under half a second of scrutiny. It’s just self-defeating.”

The 4 percent is cited in the book “The Bridger Generation” by Thom S. Rainer, a Southern Baptist and a former professor of ministry. Mr. Rainer said in an interview that it came from a poll he had commissioned, and that while he thought the methodology was reliable, the poll was 10 years old.

“I would have to, with integrity, say there has been no significant follow-up to see if the numbers are still valid,” Mr. Rainer said.

Mr. Luce seems weary of criticism that his message is overly alarmist. He said that a current poll by the well-known evangelical pollster George Barna found that 5 percent of teenagers were Bible-believing Christians. Some criticize Mr. Barna’s methodology, however, for defining “Bible-believing” so narrowly that it excludes most people who consider themselves Christians.

Mr. Luce responded: “If the 4 percent is true, or even the 5 percent, it’s an indictment of youth ministry. So certainly they’re going to want different data.”

Outside the arena in Amherst, the teenagers at Mr. Luce’s Acquire the Fire extravaganza mobbed the tables hawking T-shirts and CD’s stamped: “Branded by God.” Mr. Luce’s strategy is to replace MTV’s wares with those of an alternative Christian culture, so teenagers will link their identity to Christ and not to the latest flesh-baring pop star.

Apparently, the strategy can show results. In Chicago, Eric Soto said he returned from a stadium event in Detroit in the spring to find that other teenagers in the hallways were also wearing “Acquire the Fire” T-shirts.

“You were there? You’re a Christian?” he said the young people would say to one another. “The fire doesn’t die once you leave the stadium. But it’s a challenge to keep it burning.”


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lest We Forget, Part XVII

From the Voice of the Martyrs blog ... A Christian Under Persecution Asks for Prayer. In full ...
Prisoner Alert has updated their website with a new prisoner that we can all pray for and be an advocate for. All we have to do is take a few minutes to pray and then act. My prayer is that all of you reading this take the time to act. Make it a family event that you can do with your children, or you can involve your bible studies or Sunday School classes. Whatever you do, please try.

The picture you're looking at is Issa Motamedi who was arrested on false charges of drug trafficking. It is suspected that because Issa and his wife, Parvah, attempted to register the birth of their son, Micah, who was born in January, with the civil population bureau. Selecting such a Biblical name may have caused the authorities to begin investigating this Christian family.

At the time of his July 24th arrest the convert was told he must renounce Christianity or face years in jail and possible execution for his apostasy. Under Iran’s judicial system based on Islamic law, anyone who leaves Islam for another religion has committed a capital offense. Lakan Prison officials reportedly tried for days to force him to confess to being involved in illegal drug trafficking.

Using strong psychological pressures, including threats to kill his family and other Christian believers, Issa was interrogated by secret service agents and a professor of Islamic theology, who urged him to recant his Christian faith and return to Islam. Issa refused to do so.

Iranian court authorities in the Northern city of Rasht have released Issa. He was granted bail August 24th, but the judge introduced new accusations against him at this hearing. According to unnamed “confidential witnesses,” the judge said, the convert’s eight-year-old daughter, Martha, allegedly had been trying to lead other children to the Christian faith.

He was reunited with his wife, Parvah, and his two children following his release. He has moved his family to an undisclosed location, but is subject to be recalled to court. Issa converted to Christianity seven years ago. He asks, “Pray for me, that I would be stronger in my faith.” Issa told other believers that the calmness and protection God gave him during his time in prison were miraculous.


South Park Creators Say 'Open Season on Jesus,' but Not Mohammed

From the Christian Post ... South Park Creators Say 'Open Season on Jesus,' but Not Mohammed. Give Matt and Trey credit, they're crude and immature -- but they recognize hypocrisy when they see it. In full ...
A Christian religion and media expert agreed with the creators of “South Park” that the Christian response to disrespectful portrayal of Jesus has been “far tamer” than the response from depictions of Mohammed.

“The Christian response to the disrespect shown for Jesus has been far tamer obviously than the response of sacrilegious depiction of Mohammed,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of the Religion & Media program on Thuesday.

“While Christians are bothered by these depictions of Jesus, you don’t see anybody issuing threats of violence and if there are any protests they are protests of non-violent form – namely boycotting products or something like that,” Cromartie noted. “But it is never the case that these people threaten violence because we do believe in freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

South Park, a hit animation on Comedy Central which has been described as crude and disgusting, has poked fun at a wide range of religious figures, politicians, and celebrities including Jesus, Mohammed, President Bush, and Tom Cruise.

The creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, were recently interviewed on ABC “Nightline” about the show and its upcoming 10th season.

“That’s where we kind of agree with some of the people who’ve criticized our show,” said co-creator Matt Stone on Sept. 22. “Because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have.

“We’ve had him say bad words. We’ve had him shoot a gun. We’ve had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn’t just show a simple image.”

The creators said when Mohammed was supposed to air on the screen, Comedy Central replaced the cartoon with a black screen that read: “Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network.”

Following the Mohammed cartoon uproar earlier this year, several networks had refused to air images of Mohammed, even during coverage of the Denmark cartoon riots, claiming to observe religious tolerance, said the South Park creator.

“No you’re not,” Stone countered during the interview. “You’re afraid of getting blown up. That’s what you’re afraid of. Comedy Central copped to that, you know: ‘We’re afraid of getting blown up.’”

Most recently, more than ten churches in Nigeria were burned or destroyed in late September over a dispute between a Muslim and Christian woman, according to Voice of the Martyrs sources in Nigeria. Muslims had accused the Christian woman of blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

Barnabas Fund’s International director, Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, had said he hopes that “Muslims [will] have the courage now to address this part of their faith and stop these attacks on Christians,” following the Nigeria church attacks.


Viewing God as Male 'Contributes to Domestic Abuse'

From WorldNetDaily ... Viewing God as male 'contributes to domestic abuse'. Join me in praying for the Church of England. In full ...
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is backing a Church of England report that claims viewing God in masculine terms can validate "overbearing and ultimately violent patterns of behavior" in intimate relationships and "contributes to domestic abuse," the London Daily Mail reports.

The document, entitled "Responding to Domestic Abuse, Guidelines for Pastoral Responsibility," is a response to a motion passed by the church's General Synod in July 2004 for guidelines to assist dioceses in working with other agencies and "speak[ing] out against the evil of domestic violence."

The report encourages churches to provide pastoral counsel to victims of domestic abuse and to provide information about relevant agencies and support services to those in need.

"Domestic abuse in all its forms is contrary to the will of God and an affront to human dignity," reads the forward co-signed by Williams. "All need to play their part in preventing or halting it."

But it is not the church's focus on the problem of domestic abuse that is drawing attention – it's the report's assertion that traditional church teaching reinforces abuse - intentionally or unintentionally.

"Deficient" and "perverse," the document charges, is the belief in "self-denial," which can be used to urge a victim to forgive without taking action to end the abuse.

"I think of the experience, not least of some victims themselves who can be locked into a belief that they deserve the punishment that they receive and they link that with the theology that they hear in church where Christ is victim," said the Rt. Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. "... maybe even that they think their suffering has redemptive quality to it which justifies it in some way."

The document points to "misguided" or distorted conceptions of God derived from the Bible and the Christian tradition that portrays divine power in "unhealthy and oppressive" ways. Among them are attributing violent actions and attitudes to God, primarily from the Old Testament – scripture that requires "careful" interpretation, the report warns.

Viewing man's relationship with God in terms of domination and submission and "uncritical use of masculine imagery," the report says, can validate "overbearing and ultimately violent patterns of behavior" responsible for domestic abuse.

This is not the first time the archbishop of Canterbury has raised eyebrows. In 2004, Williams publicly backed a new version of the Bible that promotes fornication and flatly contradicts traditional core Christian beliefs on sex and morality.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Liberals Don't Have Very Many Kids

Lord Ron has some thoughts on his blog about a recent USA Today article entitled Liberals Don't Have Very Many Kids. Enjoy.


"We Had Abortions"

From the Associated Press via ... The 'We Had Abortions' Petition. In full ...
At a pivotal time in the abortion debate, Ms. magazine is releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled "We Had Abortions," accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration.

The publication coincides with what the abortion-rights movement considers a watershed moment for its cause. Abortion access in many states is being curtailed, activists are uncertain about the stance of the U.S. Supreme Court, and South Dakotans vote Nov. 7 on a measure that would ban virtually all abortions in their state, even in cases of rape and incest.

"All this seems very dire," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which publishes Ms.

"We have to get away from what the politicians are saying," she said, "and get women's lives back in the picture."

Even before the issue reaches newsstands Oct. 10, anti-abortion activists have been decrying it. Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, wrote in a commentary that when she saw a Ms. announcement of the project, "the evil practically jumped right off the page."

Ms. executive editor Katherine Spillar said more than 5,000 women have signed the petition so far _ heeding its appeal to declare they are unashamed of the choice they made. The magazine itself had room for only 1,016 names, she said Tuesday, but all of them will be viewable online as Ms. encourages other women to continue adding their signatures.

Ms. says it will send the petition to Congress, the White House and state legislators.

The signatories include Ms. founder Gloria Steinem, comedian Carol Leifer, and actresses Kathy Najimy and Amy Brenneman, but most are not famous names.

Tyffine Jones, 27, of Jackson, Miss., said she had no hesitation about signing _ although she lives in a state where restrictions on abortion are tough and all but one abortion clinic has been closed.

Jones said she got an abortion 10 years ago _ enduring harassment from protesters when she entered the clinic _ in order to finish high school. She went on to become the first member of her family to graduate from college, and hopes at some point to attend law school.

"I wanted to do something bigger with myself _ I didn't want to be stopped by anything," she said in a telephone interview.

Another signatory, Debbie Findling of San Francisco, described her difficult decision last year to have an abortion after tests showed that she would bear a son with Down syndrome.

"I felt it was my right to make the decision, but having that right doesn't make the decision any easier," she said. "It was the hardest decision I've ever made."

Findling, 42, is married, with a 5-year-old daughter, and has been trying to get pregnant again while pursuing her career as a philanthropic foundation executive.

She says too many of her allies in the abortion-rights movement tend to minimize, at least publicly, the psychological impact of abortion.

"It's emotionally devastating," she said in a phone interview. "I don't regret my decision _ but I regret having been put in the position to have to make that choice. It's something I'll live with for the rest of my life."

Findling strongly supports the Ms. petition, and believes women who have had abortions need to be more open about their decisions. She has written an essay about her own experience, and plans to include it in an anthology she hopes to publish next year.

Ms. mounted this kind of petition drive when it was first published. Its debut issue in 1972 included a manifesto signed by 53 women _ many of them well-known _ declaring that they had undergone abortions despite state laws outlawing the procedure.

The next year, the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights nationwide. Some abortion-rights activists are concerned that Roe could be overturned, either by the current court or if President Bush has the opportunity to appoint one more justice.

Smeal said Ms. staffers called the women who signed the petition to verify their information and be sure they were willing to have their names in print.

"The women thanked us for doing this," Smeal said. "They wanted to tell their stories."


Modern Eugenics: Our Brave New World

From American Vision ... Modern Eugenics: Our Brave New World. In full ...
The New York Times has seen the future. According to a recent, ominously titled article, “Couples Cull Embryos to Halt Heritage of Cancer,” it will not be long before a parent can choose her child the way a diner chooses her meal at a restaurant. “Soon...prospective parents may be able to choose between an embryo that could become a child with a lower risk of colon cancer who is likely to be fat, or one who is likely to be thin but has a slightly elevated risk of Alzheimer’s, or a boy likely to be short with low cholesterol but a significant risk of Parkinson’s, or a girl likely to be tall with a moderate risk of diabetes.”

What the article does not emphasize is that if the tall girl with a risk of diabetes is chosen, the other three will likely be left to die.

Many newspapers are reporting that preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or P.G.D., is growing in popularity. P.G.D. is a process that begins with in vitro fertilization, where eggs are removed from the mother’s body and fertilized by sperm in a petri dish, creating a set of human embryos. When these embryos are three to five days old they consist of eight cells. One of those cells is removed and genetically tested for diseases, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, Down syndrome, or cystic fibrosis. Scientists can also determine whether the tiny embryo is a boy or a girl. Based on this information, parents can decide which embryos they want to keep, abandoning the rest.

With this technology, we usher in a dangerous new eugenics movement. The theory of eugenics was developed by Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), who was Charles Darwin’s half-cousin. Natural selection, which drives Darwin’s evolution, says that the strong, fit, and well-adapted survive in nature, while the weak and sickly die off. Therefore, the strong pass their healthy genes to the next generation, and the evolutionary tree grows up and up.

In human societies, Galton noticed, evolution is thwarted. Whereas natural selection requires that the weak die early, leaving few, if any, children, society actually protects the poor and the sickly. This compassion for the weak works against evolution and creates a “reversion towards mediocrity.” Galton, and many others at that time, believed that, by practicing selective breeding, human societies could weed out those who were prone to illness or other undesirable traits, thus putting evolution back on track. After all, who wouldn’t want an improved genetic pool?

The eugenics movement was big in the United States in the early 20th century. It took the form of forced sterilizations, reduced immigration quotas for those from “inferior stock”, and marriage laws that prevented the “epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded” from marrying. It was also big in Nazi Germany, where it took the form of the Holocaust.

After facing the grim reality of the Holocaust, eugenics lost its public appeal...for a time. Still, the hope of an improved gene pool seems too tempting for some to resist.

Modern eugenics seeks to project a kinder, gentler visage. Today’s eugenics isn’t about government officials in state offices determining who can or cannot marry. Its proponents maintain it is about mothers and fathers who want to protect their children from debilitating family diseases. Who wouldn’t want their baby boy or girl to be as healthy as possible?

Unfortunately, this understandable desire has led to the destruction of numerous embryonic human beings. With genetic screening, parents now know before their child is born whether or not it has undesirable handicaps, like Down syndrome. A 2002 study found that, when tests determine that a pre-born child has Down syndrome, the parents choose abortion 91-93% of the time. Our desire for healthy children is leading us to destroy those with actual or potential handicaps.

With P.G.D., children are created in a lab, tested, and graded. Those who fail the test are destroyed. In the New York Times article, a teacher named Denise Toeckes, who has a genetic mutation that puts her at a higher risk for breast cancer, says, “It’s like children are admitted to a family only if they pass the test...It’s like, ‘If you have a gene, we don’t want you; if you have the potential to develop cancer, you can’t be in our family.’ “

Articles about P.G.D. often imply that, thanks to the technology, a child is saved from a genetic disease, but that simply is not the case. As many handicapped and at-risk children are conceived today as ever before. The only difference is that now, when the handicap or risk is detected, the unborn child is likely to be discarded or destroyed.

Cynics respond, “Who cares?” If Darwin was right, maybe all these genetically unhealthy people really do just pollute the gene pool. Maybe they are the source of unnecessary suffering, for their families, for the state, and even for themselves. Perhaps they really are “lives unworthy of life,” a category of people targeted for destruction by Hitler’s euthanasia program.

Such cynicism runs counter to Judeo-Christian values. The Scriptures teach that human beings have worth, value, and dignity because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). We have been redeemed not merely with silver and gold but with the “precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, NIV). Our worth is not determined on the basis of what we can do, or how we look, or how smart we are. It is based on who we are and what God has done for us.

God loves us notwithstanding our diseases, handicaps, and sin. Christ never shrank from reaching out to the blind, the lame, or the leper—and neither should we.


Revival in India?

From the BBC ... 'Miracles' boost Indian Christians. In full ...
More than 100 years after the first waves of a great Welsh religious revival reached faraway north-eastern India, Christian church leaders are claiming a religious reawakening in the region.

Leaders of the Presbyterian Church in the north-eastern Indian states of Meghalaya and Mizoram - sandwiched between Muslim Bangladesh and Buddhist Burma - say there have been miracles occurring.

A church at Malki, in Meghalaya's capital Shillong, has been receiving a steady stream of devotees ever since word spread that a cross here has been glowing and radiating the image of Lord Jesus.

This, combined with recent reports of several school students "convulsing, behaving abnormally and even fainting", has prompted the talk of a revival.

"The Holy Spirit is here to reawaken people," says Reverend Laldawngliana, a spokesman for the Presbyterian Church of India in Shillong.

Special prayers

He says similar religious experiences proclaimed the beginning of a reawakening in the region in 1906, just two years after the last great revival in Wales.

The Presbyterian Church celebrated the centenary of the revival with special congregations and prayer services in April.

Reverend Laldawngliana says reports of students fainting started pouring in a couple of weeks after the centenary celebrations.

Theologian Reverend Chuauthuama says similar reports have come in from Mizoram too.

All the seven north-eastern states have a significant population of Christians and at least three states in the region - Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland - are Christian majority.

Christianity came to the northeast in early 19th century when the British conquered Assam and slowly muscled their way into the rest of the region.

The Presbyterian Church of India was founded in 1841 by a Welsh missionary, Reverend Thomas Jones, in Meghalaya (then a part of Assam).

'A boost'

"The revival in 1906 gave a fillip to the evangelical works of Welsh missionaries in both Meghalaya and Mizoram," says Rev Vanlalchhuanawma, an expert in the history of Christian revivals.

"Christianity came to the region in a western garb. Now if a revival really occurs in the region, we will be very happy. It will possibly give a boost to our efforts to get rid of the 'foreign religion tag'," he says.

Christian leaders in Mizoram and Meghalaya say a revival here may help the church in Wales, the seat of the Presbyterian Church.

Though Wales witnessed some 15 major revivals in the 18th and 19th centuries, the region has of late been going through a religious crisis.

According to a 2001 study, not even one in 10 people in Wales regularly go to church.

The Presbyterian Church of India sent two priests - Rev Hmar Sankhuma and Rev John Colney - to Wales a few months back to fill the "spiritual void" there.

"We owe a lot to the Church in Wales. We have to do our bit when our parent church is in crisis," says Rev Chuauthuama.

'Bogus attempt'

The claims of miracles in Meghalaya have gone largely unchallenged.

But Bengal-based rationalist Prabir Ghosh dismisses the phenomenon as a "bogus attempt" by the Church to draw converts.

Earlier, Mr Ghosh had challenged the basis for Mother Teresa's beatification. He argued that she should be conferred sainthood on the basis of her great work amongst Calcutta's poor rather than over miracles attributed to her.

"The Pope has said this will be the century of Christianity, so churches all over are seeking large-scale conversions and the miracles are part of the exercise," says Mr Ghosh.

The governments of the north-eastern states have maintained a studied silence on the issue.

"We are keeping a close watch on the situation," is all that they will say officially.


US Invaded Iraq to Stop Islamic Messiah, al Sadr Claims

From the Times Online UK ... Waiting for the imam's return to Earth. In full ...
The followers of Moqtada al-Sadr believe that the US invaded Iraq to prevent the return to Earth of their sect’s messiah-like figure, the Mahdi, or 12th imam.

Hojatoleslam al-Sadr claims that his militia is preparing for the day when the Mahdi, the last direct descendent of the revered Shia figure Ali, reappears. Shia believe that the Mahdi, who disappeared in 868, will bring justice to Earth.

At a prayer service in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 15, the cleric told a crowd of thousands that the Americans were collecting a dossier on the Mahdi to prevent his return. “Did you ever ask yourself about why all of this, the bloodshed and the prisons? Why are the brothers fighting each other for a political game planned by the Americans? This all happened because they (the Americans) are waiting for the Mahdi. This planning started ten years ago. They have a big file for Imam Mahdi and they just need his picture to complete it.”

Hojatoleslam al-Sadr and his advisers are convinced that the Americans want to destroy Islam and stop the Mahdi. “The Americans are trying to hijack Islamic movements. They think that these are serving the Mahdi’s interests. Whatever they did in Afghanistan and Iraq are all attempts to hijack the Mahdi’s return.”