Friday, December 31, 2010
Worship of Angels
"People have a tendency to worship spiritual beings, but the Bible forbids the worship op angels.
As created beings, they are of course mere creatures. They are not divine and their worship is explicitly forbidden (see Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9). As a separate order of creatures, they are both distinct from human beings and higher than humans with powers far beyond human abilities in this present age (cf. 1 Cor. 6:3; Heb. 1:14; 2:7). But as creatures they are limited in their powers, knowledge, and activities (1 Peter 1:11-12; Rev. 7:1). Like all of creation, angels are under God’s authority and subject to His judgment (1 Cor. 6:3; Matt. 25:41)..."
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Friday, December 24, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Pa. couple who only prayed for dying tot convicted
By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A fundamentalist Christian couple who relied on prayer, not medicine, to cure their dying toddler son was convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Philadelphia face more than a decade in prison for the January 2009 pneumonia death of 2-year-old Kent.
"We were careful to make sure we didn't have their religion on trial but were holding them responsible for their conduct," jury foreman Vince Bertolini, 49, told The Associated Press. "At the least, they were guilty of gross negligence, and (therefore) of involuntary manslaughter."
The Schaibles, who have six other children, declined to comment as they left the courthouse to await sentencing Feb. 2.
Experts say about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year. An Oregon couple were sentenced this year to 16 months in prison for negligent homicide in the death of their teenage son, who had an undiagnosed urinary blockage.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore will ask the judge at sentencing to put the couple's other children under a doctor's care. She was not yet sure if she would seek prison terms for the two felonies.
Kent Schaible's symptoms had included coughing, congestion, crankiness and a loss of appetite, although his parents said he was eating and drinking until the last day, and they had thought he was getting better.
The lone defense witness, high-profile coroner Cyril Wecht, testified that a deadly bacterium could have killed him in hours.
Herbert Schaible, 42, teaches at a school affiliated with their church, First Century Gospel Church. His wife, 41, previously taught there, but now stays at home with the couple's children, from an infant to teenagers.
The Schaibles grew up in the church and have never received medical care themselves, not counting the help of the 84-year-old lay midwife who attends home births, according to pastor Nelson A. Clark.
Clark, 69, knew the couple as children and described them as honors students who dropped out of the church school in ninth grade, a year shy of the school's 10th grade graduation. Catherine Schaible did so at age 16 to begin teaching younger students, he said.
Clark balks at suggestions the church is a cult or fringe religion.
Church elders do not shun members who seek medical care, although they pray that they make a different choice next time, he said. He notes the high number of deaths blamed each year on medical mistakes - as many as 100,000 a year in hospitals alone, according to a widely discussed Institute of Medicine study from 1999.
"The legal community is trying to force our church group to put them in the hands of this flawed medical system, when they have chosen to put them in the hands of a perfect God, who does not make mistakes," Clark said Friday.
The couple did not take the stand during the four-day trial, but a social worker testified that Kent Schaible once said "the devil won" in the battle for their son's life.
Pescatore argued Thursday that adults can choose to forgo medical care for themselves but not for their children.
"If you want to be a martyr yourself and you don't want to go to the doctor or the dentist or the eye doctor, that's (within) your power. We're in America," she said in closings. "But you must take care of your children."
About a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year, a handful of which spawn criminal charges, according to Shawn Francis Peters, a University of Wisconsin lecturer who wrote a book about the phenomenon.
The Schaibles deployed a defense strategy common in such cases: Their lawyers said they did not know Kent was near death.
Defense lawyers also argued that the case was not about religion. But Bertolini, who works for an educational testing service, said there was no putting religion aside. He said the deliberations were informed by several people of faith on the jury.
Some states carve out exceptions to criminal neglect statutes for parents who rely on faith or spiritual healing. But even in states that don't, juries or judges often sympathize with them.
In a 2009 Oregon trial with parallels to the Schaible case, a jury acquitted the defendants of manslaughter in their 15-month-old's pneumonia death, convicting the father, Carl Worthington, only of a misdemeanor.
But his in-laws, Jeff and Marci Beagley, were the couple sentenced to prison this year in their 16-year-old son's death.
"The fact is, too many children have died unnecessarily - a graveyard full," Judge Steven Maurer said at their March sentencing. "This has to stop."
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Westboro Church to Protest at Elizabeth Edwards' Funeral
Fox 8 News
RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) —
The Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas church famous for its anti-homosexual protests at funerals, said it plans to protest at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards on Saturday.
The church plans to protest for 45 minutes before the funeral starts at 1 p.m., according to the church's website.
The church did not provide a specific reason for the protest.
By Thursday afternoon, groups had already formed on social media to counterprotest Westboro's actions. Nearly 400 people had confirmed their attendance to one event, titled Protect Elizabeth Edwards' funeral from Westboro church, by 4 p.m. Thursday.
The Westboro Baptist Church is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities. The WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations.
Edwards, 61, died Tuesday from cancer -- six years after she was diagnosed the day after the 2004 election when her husband John was a vice presidential candidate.
For years, Elizabeth Edwards prepared her family for the day she would be gone, talking bluntly about the cancer consuming her body and writing a letter to leave for her children with life advice on topics such as how to pick a church -- or even a spouse.
The preparation continued in her final days, when she made sure Christmas decorations were up in their Chapel Hill home and became the source of comfort to those closest to her.
"That was sort of who she was. She was always, always the shoulder to lean on," said family friend John Moylan. "And, even at the end, she remained a very strong person. I think they all took their strength from her."
Since her cancer returned in an incurable form in 2007, Edwards had talked openly about the expectation that the disease would take her life before long. She had hoped to live several more years, enough time to see her youngest child, 10-year-old Jack, graduate from high school and possibly see the oldest, 28-year-old Cate, have a child of her own.
But Edwards also said over the years that she was talking directly with the kids about death. Meanwhile, she had been penning a letter that her children could use as guidance for their lives ahead. It was an idea she came up with two decades ago after watching the movie "Terms of Endearment," in which the mother knew she was dying and gave advice to her children.
David "Mudcat" Saunders, a political adviser and Edwards family friend, said the two youngest children appeared to be coping well with the loss. He said the home, while consumed with sadness, also has a feeling of celebration as family and friends remembered stories of Elizabeth Edwards' life. In part, he said, that was because of her never-look-back attitude.
"I think that spirit of Elizabeth is so branded in Emma Claire, Jack and Cate, that the kids will be fine," Saunders said.
In her final days of rapidly declining health, Saunders relayed a story about how Jack had jumped onto the bed with his mother to say that he loved her. She smiled at him and said, "I love you too, sweetie," Saunders said.
John Edwards was at her side around the clock. He was deeply upset by his wife's death, Saunders said, but is also focused on attending to the children. He recalled asking Edwards what he planned to do now, to which the former North Carolina senator vowed simply: "I'm going to be the greatest father there ever was."
Added Moylan: "His full focus is on those children."
Three decades after the law school sweethearts married, Elizabeth Edwards separated from her husband about a year ago following his affair and after learning that he fathered a child with his mistress during his second campaign for the White House. He still faces a federal investigation into campaign finances.
A family friend said Wednesday that Elizabeth Edwards will be honored Saturday at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh. The friend spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the plans have yet to be announced by the family.
The public is allowed to attend the event, set to begin at 1 p.m. The family is still working on burial plans.
Mourners were asked to make donations to the Wade Edwards Foundation, which was created in honor of Edwards' son who died in a car crash at age 16.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
*Received via email through Andrew Strom’s ministry:
THE "CHRISLAM" MOVEMENT in the APOSTATE CHURCH
-by Bill Wilson.
During the weekend of November 13, many Christian churches across the United States began a series of sermons aimed at bringing about reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. These misguided Presbyterian ministers are trying to focus on a relationship between the Holy Bible and the Koran they call “Chrislam.” They are saying that because the Koran mentions Jesus that there is common ground with Christianity. To prove their point, they are placing Korans along side the Holy Bible in their pews. And they are teaching that you can be a follower of Christ without necessarily believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who died for our sins offering the gift of eternal salvation.
Writes commentator Paul Williams:
“The Chrislam movement has gained impetus by statements from President George W. Bush and that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God and by Rick Warren’s reference to Isa (the Muslim name for Jesus) in his prayer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.”
Williams points out that Jesus in the Koran is not the only-begotten Son of God nor the Messiah. Williams says,
“He is rather viewed as a prophet who was appointed by Allah to prepare mankind for the coming of Mohammad.” In the Koran, Williams reminds readers, “The victim at Calvary, Islam teaches, was either Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot.”
The Koran states in Sura 5:17, “In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then hath the least power against God, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every-one that is on the earth? For to God belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For God hath power over all things.” The Koran has many verses that command the followers of allah to kill Christians and Jews if they do not convert to Islam. There is absolutely no common ground between the Holy Scriptures and the Koran when these are the mandates of the prophet Mohammed, who wrote the Koran.
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
This is the central doctrine of Christianity. There is instruction by the Holy Scriptures to not fellowship with those who do not recognize the truth in this doctrine. 2nd John verses 9-11 say,
“Whoseover transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Thus are those deceivers who believe in common ground with Islam.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
By MEG KINNARD - The Associated Press
While their donors continue to give generously heading into the holiday season, food bank managers throughout the Carolinas say they constantly struggle to meet the demand of more and more hungry families.
“I am very thankful that more people are becoming engaged,” said Denise Holland, executive director of Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia, which has seen its donor rolls and fundraising go up by 10 percent and 21 percent, respectively, this year. “Donations have not quite kept up with what the increase has been, but certainly an increase in donations is very, very helpful.”
But the sheer numbers of those in need have been staggering in a state like South Carolina, where unemployment marked its second straight monthly decrease in October — 10.7 percent — but still measured the sixth-highest in the nation.
On Monday, the two emergency food pantries at Harvest Hope — which distributes food and household products to more than 400 nonprofit agencies in 20 South Carolina counties — served 750 families, a one-day record.
In the past year, Holland said the number of families served by Harvest Hope has increased by 29 percent, with more than 740,000 families served so far this year. The agency gave more than 2 million prepared meals to soup kitchens, and, in just the first nine months of this year, distributed 13 percent more pounds of food than in all of 2009.
“It really brings it full scope when everybody sees what people just like all of us are experiencing and waiting in line just to be given — they don’t have the freedom of a choice to walk into a grocery store and buy what they would like,” Holland said. “Because hunger is such a travesty, they are willing to take whatever we have that we can give to them.”
In Charleston, Lowcountry Food Bank executive director Jermaine Husser reported similar news. Particularly during the holiday season, Husser said his organization sees more giving from individuals and businesses that are able to fit generosity into their own fiscal plans.
“It’s really a tough time for those families to have to go back through this cycle again, especially around the holidays, when they’re supposed to be cheerful and giving and in that kind of spirit,” Husser said. “People who are fortunate to have a job or are fortunate to be running a small business or a corporation understand what a blessing it is to even be in this environment, the ‘new normal.’ They’re stretching as much they possibly can.”
The situation is similar in North Carolina, where the current unemployment rate mirrors national figures, down slightly to 9.6 percent in October. At Raleigh’s Catholic Parish Outreach in North Carolina, food pantry director Terry Foley said she has seen no drop-off in donations at the center, which over the month of October doled out a week’s worth of groceries to more than 8,000 people.
At Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, a Charlotte-based organization that provides food for 19 counties in both Carolinas, executive director Kay Carter said her generous donors still can’t keep up with the demand.
“We haven’t seen a slowdown in the request for assistance,” said Carter. “And we’re certainly not bringing in enough donations to take care of the escalating need. I think people are giving all they can give. I think we just have a lot of people that are in a very different financial circumstance than they may have been a year ago or two years ago.”
Heartened by images of heavily laden dinner tables, family festivities and cheerful celebrations, many people may feel most generous during the sprint from the Thanksgiving to Christmas season, organizing family and friends to volunteer a shift at the soup kitchen or food pantry. Both food providers and advocates say they need that generosity to spill over into other parts of the year.
“Hunger doesn’t go away after Christmas and after Thanksgiving,” said Sue Berkowitz, executive director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Foundation. “What I’m frustrated with is why we’re not recognizing that there are just real policy changes that are going to need to be made.”
To do that, Berkowitz encourages state-level leaders in the new year to take real strides at improving state government’s approach toward tackling hunger, even as economic times continue to be tight.
“Nobody wants to look at their child and say, ‘I’m sorry, this is all we’ve got. We’ve got to make it last for the week, and I’m not sure we can make it happen,’” Berkowitz said. “Why are we not opening our hearts and our minds that there are policies that we need to be thinking about and programs that need to be continued to be funded?”
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church
by Drew Dyck
Some striking mile markers appear on the road through young adulthood: leaving for college, getting the first job and apartment, starting a career, getting married—and, for many people today, walking away from the Christian faith.
A few years ago, shortly after college, I was in my studio apartment with a friend and fellow pastor's kid. After some small talk over dinner, he announced, "I'm not a Christian anymore. I don't know what happened. I just left it."
An image flashed into my mind from the last time I had seen him. It was at a Promise Keepers rally. I remembered watching him worship, eyes pinched shut with one slender arm skyward.
How did his family react to his decision? I asked. His eyes turned to the ground. "Growing up I had an uncle who wasn't a Christian, and we prayed for him all the time," he said wistfully. "I'm sure they pray for me like that."
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Thursday, November 18, 2010
NEPTUNE, N.J.— The Associated Press
Thou shalt not commit adultery. And thou also shalt not use Facebook.
That's the edict from a New Jersey pastor who feels the two often go together.
The Rev. Cedric Miller said 20 couples among the 1,100 members of his Living Word Christian Fellowship Church have run into marital trouble over the last six months after a spouse connected with an ex-flame over Facebook.
Because of the problems, he is ordering about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions. He had previously asked married congregants to share their login information with their spouses and now plans to suggest that they give up Facebook altogether.
“I've been in extended counselling with couples with marital problems because of Facebook for the last year and a half,” he said. “What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great.”
Rev. Miller is married and has a Facebook account that he uses to keep in touch with six children, but he will heed his own advice and cancel his account this weekend.
On Sunday, he plans to “strongly suggest” that all married people to stop using Facebook, lest they endanger their marriage.
“The advice will go to the entire church,” he said. “They'll hear what I'm asking of my church leadership. I won't mandate it for the entire congregation, but I hope people will follow my advice.”
Rev. Miller said he has spoken from the pulpit before about the dangers of Facebook, asking married couples to give each other their passwords to the site.
“Some did. Others got scared and deleted their accounts right away. And some felt it was none of my business and continued on,” he said.
Rev. Miller said he has gotten a mostly positive response so far among the leaders subject to his edict, which was first reported by the Asbury Park Press.
Pat Dawson, a minister at the church, uses her Facebook account to see photos of her relatives. She is unmarried and therefore not required to delete her account, but she agrees with Miller about the dangers such sites can create.
“I know he feels very strongly about this,” she said. “It can be a useful tool, but it also can cause great problems in a relationship. If your spouse won't give you his or her password, you've got a problem.”
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81 per cent of its members have used or been faced with evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites in divorce cases over the last five years.
About one in five adults uses Facebook for flirting, according to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And a do-it-yourself divorce site in the United Kingdom, Divorce-Online, reported late last year that the word “Facebook” was appearing in about one in five of the petitions it was handling.
Rev. Miller says there are legitimate uses for Facebook, which is why he started an account a few years ago.
“People use it as an opportunity to invite others to social gatherings, to share Scripture or talk about what went on at church,” he said. “Those are all positive, worthwhile things. But the downside is just too great.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a before-hours interview request left at its California offices.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan 'for blasphemy'
Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.
Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.
Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan.
Ashiq Masih, her husband, said he had not had the heart to break the news to two of their children.
"I haven't told two of my younger daughters about the court's decision," he said. "They asked me many times about their mother but I can't get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed." Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.
The court heard she had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water.
Some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore "unclean", according to Mrs Bibi's evidence, sparking a row.
The incident was forgotten until a few days later when Mrs Bibi said she was set upon by a mob.
The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety.
Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, said: "The police were under pressure from this Muslim mob, including clerics, asking for Asia to be killed because she had spoken ill of the Prophet Mohammed.
"So after the police saved her life they then registered a blasphemy case against her." He added that she had been held in isolation for more than a year before being sentenced to death on Monday.
"The trial was clear," he said. "She was innocent and did not say those words." Earlier this year, Pakistan's internet service providers were ordered to block Facebook to prevent access to supposedly blasphemous images.
Human rights groups believe the law is often used to discriminate against religious minorities, such as the country's estimated three million Christians.
Although no one has ever been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws – most are freed on appeal – as many as 10 people are thought to have been murdered while on trial.
Ali Hasan Dayan, of Human Rights Watch, said the blasphemy laws were out of step with rights guaranteed under Pakistan's constitution and should be repealed.
"It's an obscene law," he said. "Essentially the blasphemy law is used as a tool of persecution and to settle other scores that are nothing to do with religion.
"It makes religious minorities particularly vulnerable because it's often used against them."
Monday, November 8, 2010
The Golden Ephod of Success - Part 1
by Stephen Crosby
The emerging news regarding Eddie Long has stirred the usual flurry of blog commentary. There are those who haven't read 1Corinthians 13 lately who seem to rejoice in Eddie's difficulties. On the other hand there are those who seem ready to excuse anything, even if the allegations should be proven true. Their attitude seems to be: "Well, he may be a scoundrel, but at least he's our scoundrel, and we will defend him to the end." Until proven guilty, Eddie deserves the benefit of the doubt. But if proven guilty, he should receive reproof, rebuke, discipline, and restoration.
However it may play out, the situation with Eddie Long is symptomatic of a much deeper, broader, and long abiding problem that I have been meditating on for some time, and will address here. The problem is not with Eddie Long, nor Earl Paulk, nor Ted Haggard, nor Todd Bentley, nor Jimmy Swaggart, etc. These individuals are merely the public faces of a much deeper systemic problem. The problem is not a lack of this or that program of accountability, nor this or that form of church government. The problem is: us-you and I, the Church in America, and to some extent, the entire Western Church.
There's a corrupt value system that permeates the fiber of American Christianity. It's a beast supported by the time, talent, and treasure of people like you and me. It's hidden from public awareness until the beast spits out one of its own, to be mocked and derided by the public (Christian and otherwise) who worship the beast. If not for our support of this beast, these individuals would never have had the platform to fall from in the first place. We built the platform and gave it to them. We made them kings. We feed the beast. The beast is the worship of success.
A theology of success has replaced a theology of the Cross.
A methodology of pragmatism has replaced death and resurrection life.
A theology of success is inherently and eternally incompatible with the Cross of Christ. We demand it anyway. It's what we are willing to pay for. It promises to deliver everything we want and demands only our loyalty and money, not our lives or our rights to ourselves, things the Cross demands. The American cultural value of success (size, money, significance) is promoted every Sunday from pulpits across the land as a kingdom virtue. It is not. Success and the "anointing" are all that matters to us. We embrace the notion that more money, media exposure, and posteriors in seats equals God's endorsement of a man, message, or ministry. By that standard, neither Jesus nor Paul would qualify as successful.
We sing: "Not by might, not by power," but we operate with the might and power of money, size, and significance. We read: "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee . . . but we operate under: "Silver and gold we must have, and the only way to have it, is to be "successful." There are even those who claim to be apostles in this day who are promoting the necessity of being a millionaire in order to be considered as an apostle. Paul would be shocked to hear that. They conduct "wealth building seminars" rather than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. They think the spiritual bankruptcy of the Western church can be solved by more success and money.
The danger to our spiritual welfare is threatened far more by our success than our failures. If our adversary cannot use our weaknesses and failures to drag us down, he will use our success.
In Judges 8:22-27, Gideon successfully defeated the Midianites on behalf of Israel. He refused their offer of kingship, but took the fruit of success, their gold earrings, (money, wealth, the fruit of victory) and made a golden ephod (breastplate/vest) of them, which then became an object of idolatrous worship for them. They worshiped the benefits of their success. The biblical language is strong: they prostituted themselves.
To me, there is not a clearer metaphor for the prostitution of the American/Western church. We worship success and money, and we make kings/celebrities out of the ones who lead us to success. We have worshiped the idol of success for so long that we have lost all spiritual abilities to recognize anything but our idolatry. Our idolatry has been normalized. Dare to call the golden calf of success what it is, and you will be accused of having a judgmental, critical or Pharisaical spirit, or not on board with the latest "cutting edge" revelation.
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010
By Marshall Ramsey II, Worthy News Correspondent
TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)-- A believer with a Muslim Background (BMB) died in Iran after being severely beaten by a relative, according to Christian Human rights group.
According to Middle East Concern, he left behind a wife and two young children. Due to security concerns to the surviving family, the man's name was not able to be released.
A number of Christians continue to be held in jail in Iran for their faith in Jesus Christ. According to Farsi Christian News Network, three of 15 believers arrested near Mashhad on July 8th of this year are still in detention. They are under pressure to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, but have refused to do so.
In the city of Ahvaz, another believer, the assistant pastor of a fellowship, remains detained after having been arrested during a raid on his home July 24th. His wife and daughter were also arrested and detained, but were released shortly after.
According to a report on Iranian State television in early September, nine Christians were arrested in the town of Hamedan on charges of evangelism. Any religion other than Islam is forbidden in Iran.
Friday, October 29, 2010
By Electa Draper, The Denver Post
One in four Americans said they couldn't think of a single positive societal contribution made by Christians in recent years, according to a nationwide survey released Monday.
Also, one in 10 adults said they couldn't think of a recent positive contribution because Christians hadn't made one, the Barna Group reported.
On the positive side, almost one in five mentioned how U.S. Christians help poor and underprivileged people. Those under the age of 25 were most likely to reference such service.
Among other findings, researchers noted that Evangelical Christians over age 25 and those who said they are "mostly conservative" on socio- political matters were least likely to list serving the poor as an important contribution.
"Young Christians are avoiding alignment with politics and power and getting back to basics: love and service," said Gabe Lyons, author of "The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America."
Barna researchers asked two open-ended questions: What were Christians' recent positive contributions and what were the negative ones?
"Overall," researchers noted, "there was a more extensive and diverse list of complaints about Christians and their churches than there was of examples of the benefits they have provided to society."
At the top of the negatives list: One in five Americans, or 20 percent, said Christians have incited violence or hatred in the name of Jesus Christ. Of the non-Christians surveyed, 35 percent gave this response.
Thirteen percent of adults said church opposition to same-sex marriage was a negative. People under age 25 were twice as likely as other Americans to mention this as a problem.
"Young Christians are more empathetic to gay friends, neighbors and the other people in their lives," Lyons said. "It doesn't make sense to them to be 'anti-their friend.' " Lyons said they feel just as strongly about protecting life and opposing abortion.
Twelve percent of those surveyed said churches were too involved in political matters.
Another 12 percent cited the sexual- abuse scandals involving Catholic priests as most negative.
Among the most-mentioned positive contributions: Sixteen percent said Christians' efforts to advance belief in God or Jesus Christ were beneficial, and 14 percent said Christians help shape and protect the values and morals of the country.
Twelve percent said they couldn't think of any negative contributions.
The nonpartisan, for-profit research group conducted the phone survey, taking a random sample of 1,000 adults 18 and older Aug. 16-22. The maximum margin of sampling error given is plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
Monday, October 25, 2010
By Tony Tagliavia
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Is a posting seeking a Christian roommate illegal discrimination or an exercise of constitutional rights?
It's very hard to tell which interpretation of the posting at a Grand Rapids-area church is exactly right, Cooley Law School Associate Professor Paul Sorensen told 24 Hour News 8 on Friday.
"I think it's important to point out that people could choose if they want to -- even under the federal law -- to live with someone who shares their own faith," the professor said. "The problem is, can you advertise seeking that type of person?"
State law appears to allow that advertising, Sorensen said, but it appears the federal Fair Housing Act does not.
The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan -- a local nonprofit -- filed a state civil rights complaint after it received a complaint about the posting, executive director Nancy Haynes said.
"Open and shut -- it's a violation," she said. "What if it said, 'looking for a black roommate,' or 'looking for a white roommate' or 'looking for a Hispanic roommate' ?"
Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund, said the logic used in the complaint would also mean the woman could not seek a female roommate.
He said ultimately, the issue is a constitutional one.
"They're quibbling," he said. "She has a first amendment right to free speech. She has a first amendment right to the free exercise of religion. And what they're basically telling her is she cannot go out there and seek out a Christian roommate."
Sorensen called that argument "broad ... and frankly, I think other than kind of the first-blush reaction to this, it's probably not going to go very far if it ever got into the courts or even at the civil rights department."
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is investigating the complaint. It was filed in September and the average complaint takes 10 months to investigate, department spokesman Harold Core said.
Haynes said she hopes the issue can be settled before that time passes. She said she wants to see the woman who posted the ad get some training -- and reimburse the Fair Housing Center for its investigation costs.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Crystal Cathedral megachurch, home of "Hour of Power," files for bankruptcy in California
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power," has filed for bankruptcy in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.
In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.
The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart, church officials said.
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"Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever," Sheila Schuller Coleman, the Cathedral's senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters Monday outside the worship hall.
"Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception," she said.
The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power" and sold property to stay afloat. In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year's "Glory of Easter" pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.
Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral.
Kristina Oliver, whose Hemet-based company provided live animals for the church's "Glory of Christmas" manger scene, said she doubts she will recover in full the $57,000 she is owed.
"The church never made any kind of advancement that they wanted to pay their debt, that they were willing to try to make it happen and every time we tried they told us, 'You can't tell us how to run our business,'" Oliver said.
"I'm upset because I have a 30-year relationship with them and you need to be up front, put all your cards on the table."
Crystal Cathedral was founded at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. It features a soaring glass spire and is an architectural wonder and tourist destination.
The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.
Church leaders said the telecast and Sunday services will continue while in bankruptcy.
Crystal Cathedral and other megachurches have suffered from the recession and reduced charitable giving.
The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn't slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the "Hour of Power."
Penner said it became difficult to hold the vendors' committee together after several vendors filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash.
Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.
"What we're doing now is we're trying to walk what we preach, we're paying cash for things as we go," he said.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
2 Chilean miners accept Christ while trapped underground
Baptist Press, by Tristan Taylor
SANTIAGO, Chile (BP)--José Henríquez leads a small group of men in prayer every evening in northern Chile -- 2,300 feet below the surface of the earth.
For more than two months, 33 Chilean miners have been trapped beneath the desert floor in a chamber the size of a living room. A partial collapse blocked the mine exit Aug. 5.
Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne confirmed Oct. 11 that a trial run of a rescue capsule was successful. The miners' rescue is scheduled to begin at midnight, Oct. 12.
When the mine collapsed, three of the miners -- including Henríquez -- were Christians. Since then, two more of them have made professions of faith.
"It was José who made the request that an evangelical pastor come to minister to the miners and their families," said Bryan Wolf, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary serving in Vallenar, Chile.
Rescue engineer Igor Bravo, a member of First Baptist Church of Santiago, was one of the first to hear of Henríquez's request for a pastor and contacted the Chilean Baptist Union.
Bernardino Morales, director of the Baptist union's Social Testimony Network, searched for a pastor who lived near the mine in Copiapó but no one was available. Two weeks ago he called Marcelo Leiva, pastor of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, Chile, located about two hours away.
"Pastor," Morales said to Leiva, "it's either you, or it's you."
Leiva's response: "Amen."
The miners had been on the pastor's heart before Bernardino called. He said Bravo contacting the Chilean Baptist Union was the "channel of blessing" that brought him to Camp Esperanza (Hope), where the miners' families are staying.
When Leiva arrived at the camp, he didn't know anyone. But Henríquez's family quickly connected him with other families.
"That [connection] allowed a lot of other people to hear the Word," Leiva says, "and to know that in the midst of this catastrophe, God is in control, and it is the Lord who has kept their family members alive."
The wife of one of the miners who became a Christian since being trapped in the mine met with Leiva over the past two weeks and also accepted Christ.
Miners' families have been staying at Camp Hope for weeks in what Leiva describes as rudimentary conditions. They receive three meals a day and sleep on mats inside government-provided military tents. Despite the simple accommodations, being close to their loved ones brings them comfort.
After the frenzy of activity during the day subsides, Leiva finds the families are more available to talk with him in the evenings. He has noticed the difference between the families who know Christ and the families who do not.
"This has been a testimony to what the Lord can do in a person's life," Leiva said. "Those that are the children of the Lord have been those that have shown, even in the midst of the storm, a testimony of peace, tranquility and trust in the Lord."
At Henríquez's request, Leiva was recently given 10 minutes to speak through a telephone that connects the trapped miners with the rescue crew. Leiva used that time to pray for Henríquez and encourage him.
Henríquez sent a letter to Leiva on behalf of the trapped miners, calling him a blessing and thanking him for being there with their families. Leiva also has been sending down letters of encouragement to the trapped miners.
Besides Leiva, a Pentecostal pastor is the only other evangelical preacher allowed in the camp. The two have been working together when they can and have made a "good team," Leiva said.
Leiva has had the opportunity to witness to family members, Chilean policemen and foreign press -- including a Japanese reporter, Wolfe said. Leiva also wrote down a Scripture portion from Psalms and gave it to Mining Minister Laurence Golborne.
As the rescue draws near, the families in Camp Hope are anxious. Leiva realizes that this unique opportunity to share the Gospel is a fleeting one.
"Let's do our job and fulfill the purpose for which God brought us here," Leiva said. "Not to just have a protagonist role without sharing the Gospel. Because this camp, in a few more days, is going to close and the people will return home.
"Pray that we, the children of God, will do our job," Leiva said.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media
One of the Rev. Martin Luther King's famous statements was that 11 a.m. Sunday morning was "the most segregated hour of Christian America."
More than half a century later -- despite myriad task forces, initiatives and informal efforts by church leaders and congregations to increase racial diversity in the pews -- nine in 10 congregations have a single racial group that accounts for more than 80 percent of their membership, said Dr. Kevin Dougherty, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University.
Equally significant is that congregations that manage to attract worshippers of other races have difficulty keeping them, according to research by Dougherty and Dr. Christopher P. Scheitle, senior research assistant at The Pennsylvania State University. They co-authored the article "Race, Diversity, and Membership Duration in Religious Congregations" published in the academic journal Sociological Inquiry in August.
"Socially, we've become much more integrated in schools, the military and businesses. But in the places where we worship, segregation still seems to be the norm," Dougherty said.
"It's not just an issue of attraction, of getting them into the door, but of retention," he said. "Can we keep them? Our research indicates that we've not been able to."
In learning whether, and why, minority members leave congregations faster than majority members, Dougherty and Scheitle studied data from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey of 2001, a survey of more than 100,000 worshippers in more than 400 congregations representing more than 50 faith groups.
One theory is that the more groups an organization tries to serve, the less effective it is at serving any specific group. Specialist organizations tend to do better than generalist organizations. And congregations are no different.
A Korean church that tries to add other ethnic groups is still likely to serve its traditional majority better, whether it comes to the type of food served at a potluck, the type of ministries it offers or the use of the Korean language, Dougherty said.
The decision is not necessarily conscious or malicious, but simply a matter of habit and the greater visibility of the majority, according to the article.
"People choose churches where they feel comfortable," Dougherty said. "Maybe they get challenged there, but they're going for the comfort."
But diversity comes with a cost, usually to both minorities and majorities, he said.
In trying to fit in, minority members may feel they are abandoning part of their identity. A 2003 study of a Filipino congregation showed that non-Filipino members tended to have fewer friends within the congregation and felt like outsiders. Such feelings may lead to lower attendance and eventually leaving.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a white member of a Latino church or a black attending a white church or what the specific groups are," Dougherty said. "If you're the under-represented group, do you call it 'my church'? That feeling of 'us' is the key."
Power is another issue. Minority members may feel that they are tokens. Scheitle and Dougherty found that until minority members represent 40 percent of a congregation, they are at a higher risk of leaving.
"That's when we expect retention, when minority members say, 'There's enough of me that I see we have some say,'" Dougherty said. Conversely, once the minority is more than 40 percent, some majority members start to leave.
"Animosity can grow," Dougherty said. "There may be a feeling of 'They're taking our church away from us' or 'They're not doing things our way.' Churches want diversity -- but usually the people who want it most are the ones it costs the least. They aren't the ones sacrificing culture, heritage and customs."
Usually the first members of a minority group to join a congregation are a special type of person, Dougherty said. "Those people are called 'boundary spanners.' They're willing to tolerate risk. They're the pioneers. They pave the way for others from their ethnic group to follow."
Some characteristics of congregations that have been successful in becoming diverse:
• Racially diverse leaders.
• Racially inclusive worship. Diverse congregations "tend to be more expressive, with more clapping, more raising of the hands, more verbal affirmation," Dougherty said. "If you look at congregations of blacks and whites, you'll see more 'Amens' and clapping, but not as much as in a black church. The services likely will last longer, but not last as long as at a black church. Out of diversity comes something that is different for both."
• Opportunities for member interaction. Dougherty sees small groups as helpful for diversity. "Small groups are a powerful way to forge relationships," he said. In previous research, he found that small groups are a common feature of racially mixed congregations.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
9) When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
10) There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
11) Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12) For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
*I would not mess with astrology, yoga, horoscopes, hypnosis, mantras,...these things are an abomination!!
10) For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am , and none else beside me.
11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
12) Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast labored from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.
13) Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
14) Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
Southern Baptist leader on yoga: Not Christianity
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Southern Baptist leader who is calling for Christians to avoid yoga and its spiritual attachments is getting plenty of pushback from enthusiasts who defend the ancient practice.
Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler says the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God.
Mohler said he objects to "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine."
"That's just not Christianity," Mohler told The Associated Press.
Mohler said feedback has come through e-mail and comments on blogs and other websites since he wrote an essay to address questions about yoga he has heard for years.
"I'm really surprised by the depth of the commitment to yoga found on the part of many who identify as Christians," Mohler said.
Yoga fans say their numbers have been growing in the U.S. A 2008 study by the Yoga Journal put the number at 15.8 million, or nearly 7 percent of adults. About 6.7 percent of American adults are Southern Baptists, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Mohler argued in his online essay last month that Christians who practice yoga "must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga."
He said his view is "not an eccentric Christian position."
Other Christian leaders have said practicing yoga is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. Pat Robertson has called the chanting and other spiritual components that go along with yoga "really spooky." California megachurch pastor John MacArthur called yoga a "false religion." Muslim clerics have banned Muslims from practicing yoga in Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia, citing similar concerns.
Yoga proponents say the wide-ranging discipline, which originated in India, offers physical and mental healing through stretching poses and concentration.
"Lots of people come to yoga because they are often in chronic pain. Others come because they think it's a nice workout," said Allison Terracio, who runs the Infinite Bliss studio in Louisville.
And some yoga studios have made the techniques more palatable for Christians by removing the chanting and associations to eastern religions, namely Hinduism and its multiple deities.
Stephanie Dillon, who has injected Christian themes into her studio in Louisville, said yoga brought her closer to her Christian faith, which had faded after college and service in the Army.
"What I found is that it opened my spirit, it renewed my spirituality," Dillon said. "That happened first and then I went back to church." Dillon attends Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and says many evangelical Christians from the church attend her yoga classes.
She said she prayed on the question of whether to mix yoga and Christianity before opening her studio, PM Yoga, where she discusses her relationship with Jesus during classes.
"My objection (to Mohler's view) personally is that I feel that yoga enhances a person's spirituality," Dillon said. "I don't like to look at religion from a law standpoint but a relationship standpoint, a relationship with Jesus Christ specifically."
Mohler wrote the essay after reading "The Subtle Body," where author Stefanie Syman traces the history of yoga in America. Syman noted the growing popularity of yoga in the U.S. by pointing out that first lady Michelle Obama has added it to the festivities at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the front lawn.
Mohler said many people have written him to say they're simply doing exercises and forgoing yoga's eastern mysticism and meditation.
"My response to that would be simple and straightforward: You're just not doing yoga," Mohler said.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
The Fire of Holiness vs. the Spirit of Perversion
By Lee Grady
Moral failure in our ranks has become an epidemic—and the only solution is a heaven-sent spiritual housecleaning.
I'm sure you felt as heartsick as I did when you heard about the nightmarish charges leveled against Atlanta preacher Eddie Long of New Birth Full Gospel Baptist Church. While I passed through two airports last Thursday, CNN was airing the sordid details of the lawsuits filed by two young men who are accusing Long of coercing them into sex. Two more men have since come forward with similar lawsuits.
Whether the charges are true or not (please pray for Long and his church during this ordeal), it was awkward to hear newscasters suggesting that a married Pentecostal bishop had abused his power and carried on secret gay affairs. What's really sad is that in our sexually desensitized culture people don't even blush when they hear such talk about a minister.
"We must preach the full gospel, not a neutered version that avoids any mention of sin, judgment or holiness. The redemption of Jesus does not give us a license to sin, and those who teach such heresy will be held especially liable."
In a sermon last Sunday, Long dismissed the allegations and vowed to fight his accusers. Most members of his 25,000-member church rallied behind him, even after incriminating photos began circulating. Long has not explained the suggestive photos of himself or how the young men obtained them, but he declared he is "not the man" he is portrayed to be in the lawsuits.
At this point it is Bishop Long's word against the four men, and we will soon endure the embarrassment of a civil trial that could be very ugly—and even more shameful if evidence supports the accusations. As with the Catholic child abuse cover-up, and numerous recent scandals among Christian leaders, the name of Jesus will be dragged through the mud and Christians will be broad-brushed as hypocrites who preach one thing and do another.
I started noticing a disturbing trend way before the allegations against Bishop Long surfaced. A sinister spirit of perversion has invaded the ranks of charismatic churches. Here are just a few examples that have been reported to me by people familiar with the situations:
* The leader of one supposedly Christian ministry encouraged the wives of two men to have adulterous affairs, and then asked the women to provide detailed descriptions of their activities
* A group of traveling ministers routinely met for weekend getaways that included wife-swapping
* The male leader of a "prophetic" church on the West Coast seduced several men in his core leadership team. (The church shut down after the sin was exposed.)
* A pastor learned that members of his staff were having sexual affairs in the sanctuary of his church, and he did nothing to stop the debauchery.
* A church in the Southeast hosted a marriage seminar in which Christian couples were encouraged to install poles in their bedrooms so wives could engage in pole dancing prior to sex. (Question: Didn't pole dancing originate in strip clubs? Did someone visit a strip club to get this idea?)
Forgive me for being so graphic. It gives me no pleasure to describe sins that should never be named among believers, especially those who claim to be "Spirit-filled." Any leader who engages in or tolerates such behavior has no business laying his filthy hands on people in a church and pretending to have the Holy Spirit.
The spirit of perversion resembles the cult of Baal worship, which caused ancient Israel to backslide constantly. In the New Testament, it is associated with Jezebel, the priestess of Baal, and it manifests when false teachers invade the church and lead people into idolatry and immorality (see Rev. 2:20). It attacks church leaders because the enemy's goal is to contaminate the people through defiled pulpits.
God raised up an Elijah to confront Baal and Jezebel. To pull down the stronghold of perversion in today's compromised church, we must have an army of fearless men and women who live in the fire of holiness and who preach the Word without compromise. Not perfect people, but those who have allowed the Refiner to consume their selfish pride and materialistic greed—the breeding grounds of perversion. Not self-righteous people, but humble, broken men and women like Elijah, who was prepared on the backside of the desert before he confronted Baal's prophets on Mount Carmel.
We need holiness, and true holiness is not legalism. We preach the mercy of the cross and God's amazing love for sinners. We offer forgiveness and healing to those who have been immoral. The blood of Jesus and the renewing power of the Spirit can free any repentant person from the bondage of sexual sin. But we must also warn believers that those who turn from Christ, and return to perversion, have trampled His blood and "insulted the spirit of grace" (see Hebrews 10:29).
We must preach the full gospel, not a neutered version that avoids any mention of sin, judgment or holiness. The redemption of Jesus does not give us a license to sin, and those who teach such heresy will be held especially liable.
My prayer is a desperate one: Lord, baptize us in the fire of Your holiness! I hope you are desperate for the same flame. Ask Him to rekindle the Refiner's fire in you.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
This is such a sad story below. I am a former atheist (but I never felt a need to be threaten by other people’s belief in their gods and the God); however, I can understand part of this man’s (Christopher Hitchens) position reflecting back on those days. Continue to pray for him.
Atheist Hitchens skipping prayer day in his honor
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Stricken with cancer and fragile from chemotherapy, author and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens sits in an armchair before an audience and waits for the only question that can come first at such a time.
"How's your health?" asks Larry Taunton, a friend who heads an Alabama-based group dedicated to defending Christianity.
"Well, I'm dying, since you asked, but so are you. I'm only doing it more rapidly," replies Hitchens, his grin faint and his voice weak and raspy. Only wisps of his dark hair remain; clothes hang on his frame.
The writer best known to believers for his 2007 book "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" has esophageal cancer, the same disease that killed his father. He is fighting it, but the 62-year-old Hitchens is realistic: At the very best, he says, his life will be shortened.
For some of his critics, it might be satisfying to see a man who has made a career of skewering organized religion switch sides near the end of his life and pray silently for help fighting a ravaging disease.
He has an opportunity: Monday has been informally proclaimed "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day."
Christopher Hitchens won't be bowing his head, even on a day set aside just for him.
"I shall not be participating," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer in June, forcing him to cancel a tour to promote his new book, "Hitch-22: A Memoir." He took time off from work as chemo treatments began but recently published the first of what is intended to be a series of essays in Vanity Fair magazine about his diagnosis.
On Sept. 7, he visited Birmingham for his first public appearance since the diagnosis, a debate against David Berlinski, author of "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions." They argued over the implications of a purely secular society before a crowd of about 1,200 in an event sponsored by Fixed Point Foundation, the Christian apologetics group headed by Taunton.
Taunton is devoutly Christian yet has developed a fast friendship with Hitchens, who appeared at a similar debate sponsored by the organization last year. Taunton is among those praying for Hitchens, and Hitchens takes no offense.
The way the English-born Hitchens sees it, the people praying for him break down into three basic groups: those who seem genuinely glad he's suffering and dying from cancer; those who want him to become a believer in their religious faith; and those who are asking God to heal him.
Hitchens has no use for that first group. "'To hell with you' is the response to the ones who pray for me to go to hell," Hitchens told AP.
He's ruling out the idea of a deathbed change of heart: "'Thanks but no thanks' is the reply to those who want me to convert and recognize a divinity or deity."
It's that third group — people who are asking God for Hitchens' healing — that causes Hitchens to choose his words even more carefully than normal. Are those prayers OK? Are they helpful?
"I say it's fine by me, I think of it as a nice gesture. And it may well make them feel better, which is a good thing in itself," says Hitchens.
But prayers for his healing don't make him feel better.
"Well, not any more than very large numbers of very kind, thoughtful letters from nonbelievers, some of whom know me, some of whom don't, asking me to know that they are on my side," Hitchens said. "That cheers me up, yes."
Hitchens doesn't know exactly how "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day" began, other than that it's one of those things that appears on the Internet and goes viral. He declined an invitation to appear at a rabbi's prayer service in Washington that day, and he doesn't see any point in the exercise.
"I'm perfectly sure that there is nothing to be gained from it in point of my health, but perhaps I shouldn't even say that. If it would do something for my morale possibly it would do something for my health. We all know that morale is an element in recovery," he said. "But incantations, I don't think, have any effect on the material world."
The National Cancer Institute says esophageal cancer affects about 16,500 Americans each year, almost 80 percent of them men. Smoking and drinking alcohol regularly increase the risk of the disease; Hitchens does both.
The cancer that began in Hitchens' esophagus already has spread into the lymph nodes in his neck, and he fears it has reached a lung. He's visibly tired after a book signing and luncheon appearance and says he needs to rest, even though resting seems like such a waste of time when so little time may be left.
Already into his fourth round of chemotherapy, which he is receiving every three weeks, Hitchens says it's difficult to gauge his eventual legacy. He hopes to be remembered with affection by some; with passion by others; and hopefully as a good father by his three children.
As for his work, Hitchens says he would be happy to be recalled simply as one of those "who are attempting to uphold reason and science against superstition."
"I'd be proud to have my contribution at that," Hitchens said. "This is a very long, long, long story. It's humanity's oldest argument. If I played a small part in keeping it going that would be enough for me."
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
IHOP spars with IHOP. Is a new name in the future? Pancakes versus heresy--who knows? IHOP has connections to the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement. Time for breakfast….
IHOP (the pancake-maker) sues IHOP (the prayer center) over trademark
By DONALD BRADLEY, The Kansas City Star
Pancakes and prayers — have we reached a point where even those two can’t get along?
Frankly, yes. So praise the Lord and pass the syrup, the International House of Pancakes and International House of Prayer are fixing to throw down.
IHOP (pancake), based in Glendale, Calif., has sued IHOP (prayer), based in Kansas City, for trademark dilution and infringement. The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, essentially said there was room for only one IHOP and that would be the restaurant chain that has been using the initials since 1973.
The religious group drawing thousands from around the world to south Kansas City to prepare for “end times” was started just 10 years ago.
Other than an acronym, the two have nearly zilch in common.
The IHOP (prayer) on Red Bridge Road operates 24/7/365, sending a never-ending digital signal of prayers to Jerusalem, where it streams live on God TV for broadcast all over the world.
The other largely operates 24/7/365, too, but it is known for its pancakes, including a signature breakfast specialty called “Rooty Tooty Fresh ’N Fruity.”
But the chain, which has 1,476 restaurants across the country, claims it has six registered trademarks with the IHOP acronym and that the religious group’s use of the same four-letter logo causes, according to the lawsuit, “great and irreparable injury and confuses the public.”
The lawsuit further accuses the church mission of adopting the name International House of Prayer knowing it would be abbreviated IHOP — the intent being to misappropriate fame and notoriety of the food chain.
On Tuesday, IHOP (pancake) spokesman Patrick Lenow said the suit was filed only after the church mission refused repeated requests to stop using the trademark.
“We are compelled to protect the 350 small-business owners who own IHOP franchises and the IHOP good name that’s been around for 52 years,” Lenow said.
Thus the question, why sue now? The church mission started calling itself IHOP a decade ago.
“They’ve expanded — and now some of the branches are serving food,” Lenow said.
Among the seven defendants, four are in California where the suit was filed, including the Pasadena International House of Prayer. Although the suit also seeks attorney fees and costs of litigation, it does not ask for monetary damages.
Calls to IHOP (prayer) chief operating officer Mark Schumacher were not returned.
Gary Cooper, a former Houston attorney who until recently served as the mission’s chief financial officer, said the lawsuit lacked legal basis.
“I don’t think it will go anywhere,” Cooper, who serves on an IHOP board, said Tuesday by telephone from Oklahoma.
But Gary Hecker, a well-known intellectual rights attorney in Los Angeles and founder of the Hecker Law Group, said the court would probably side with the restaurant chain.
“Because of that extremely famous name, IHOP may well have the right to protect itself even well outside the scope of selling pancakes,” Hecker said Tuesday.
One defense might be that the two sides are so different that no confusion could exist.
Even so, Hecker said, “I would take the pancakes.”
IHOP (prayer) was started by a man named Mike Bickle, who by his own admission grew up in a Waldo bar and claims to have traveled to heaven twice.
The ministry is now planning to build a $150 million world headquarters — including IHOP University and a 5,000-seat conference center — along U.S. 71 in Grandview.
Again, IHOP (pancakes) got there first. One of the restaurants is across the highway.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
By NINIEK KARMINI (AP)
JAKARTA, Indonesia — A group of Christian worshippers said they would defy police and the threat of attack to hold Sunday prayers outside their now-boarded-up church near Indonesia's capital.
Religious tensions that had been growing for months in the industrial city of Bekasi came to a head last week when unidentified assailants stabbed a member of the Batak Christian Church in the stomach and hit its preacher on the head with a wooden plank. Neither injury was life-threatening.
Police arrested 10 suspects including the local leader of the hard-line Islamic Defender's Front, which has for months warned the Christians against holding prayers in the staunchly Muslim neighborhood.
The Islamic Defender's Front pressured local authorities early this year to shutter the Batak church, arguing the permit was granted without the required approval of residents.
But dozens of church members have gathered in the vacant lot in front of the church each Sunday for months.
Police said Saturday that to prevent more violence they would deploy 600 officers to block services on Sunday.
Bekasi Police Chief Col. Imam Sugianto warned them against returning Sunday, saying "if they don't listen, we will take them ourselves to a temporary place for worship offered by the government."
Travis Siagian, a member of the congregation, called it unfair to block their services.
"We're going back — not because we want to provoke anyone. We just want to enjoy the same rights to worship as any other religion in this country," Siagian said.
Indonesia, a secular country of 237 million people, has more Muslims than any other in the world. Though it has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal — and violent — in recent years.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Pastor keeps changing mind on Koran burning
A Christian church leader in the United States has abandoned his weekend Koran-burning plans to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Pastor Terry Jones from the Dove World Outreach Centre in Florida had planned to mark the occasion by burning as many as 200 copies of the Koran.
But he received a strong rebuke from president Barack Obama, who urged him to give up on what he called a "stunt".
Mr Obama even warned it could help recruit suicide bombers to blow themselves up on American soil.
Pastor Jones has now sparked new controversy by claiming that he dropped his plan in exchange for a deal to move a proposed Islamic centre away from New York's Ground Zero.
The developers say there is no such deal.
Pastor Jones said: "The American people do not want the mosque there. And of course Muslims do not want us to burn the Koran.
"The imam has agreed to move the mosque. We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday. And on Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with him."
But the imam leading the project for the Islamic cultural centre in New York, Feisal Abdul Rauf, quickly denied any such agreement.
However the imam from the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Muhammad Musri, says he has been negotiating a meeting with Pastor Jones and Imam Rauf.
"[I] got the commitment to fly up to New York and meet with [Imam Rauf] in the company of Pastor Jones to discuss and come to a decision on relocating the mosque in New York," he said.
Imam Rauf quickly denied any such meeting.
In a statement, he said: "I am glad Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However I have not spoken with Pastor Jones or Imam Musri.""I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we here to barter."
It was enough to draw Pastor Jones back out from his church to address the media for a second time.
"I was told he cannot move it tomorrow. I said that is fine, but it cannot be in 10 years. These are the exact words that I said," he said.
"The man said that is fine. I said now he has agreed to move the mosque away from the Ground Zero area? Yes he has, that is what I was told."
So does Pastor Jones doubt what he has been told?
"I don't feel tricked. I was lied to of course. That is why at this time I am not prepared to believe that. I am not prepared to make that accusation," he said.
"I want to just wait and see. And right now I am believing his word. I find it very hard to believe that he would lie to me."
Pastor Jones says no matter what happens the Koran burning is definitely off.*Continue to read the entire article here.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The New York Times, by Samuel G. Freedman
NEW ORLEANS — Five minutes past 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday this month, which is to say five minutes past the time the worship service was supposed to start, Shantell Henley pushed open the front door of her pastor’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward. She entered the living room to find a gospel song playing on the stereo, two ceiling fans stirring the sticky air and 25 folding chairs for the congregants waiting empty.
“Am I late?” she asked the pastor, the Rev. Charles W. Duplessis.
“No,” he replied, smiling. “We’re Baptists.”
His joke, though, could not dispel the truth. The problem at Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church had nothing to do with any Baptist indifference to punctuality and everything to do with Hurricane Katrina, even as its fifth anniversary on Aug. 29 approached.
Having lost his house and his church to the broken levees in the Lower Ninth, Mr. Duplessis had managed by grit and will and fathomless faith to reopen in early 2009, using his rebuilt home to replace the sanctuary he couldn’t afford to replace, the sanctuary that had stood in some grim coincidence on Flood Street.
He installed an electric piano and a computer with a projector. He collected several dozen copies of the Baptist Hymnal. He put out weekly editions of the church bulletin; he put up a lawn sign declaring, “Our Church Is Back!”
What was not back was the bulk of his congregation. Of the 120 members before Hurricane Katrina, only 40 had returned. The rest were still strewn across the map — Alabama, California, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas. And Mr. Duplessis could not in-gather the exiles, as the Bible commands, because most of the Lower Ninth remained a ruin of buckled roads, cracked foundations and swamp grass six feet high.
“It’s church — it’s serving the Lord,” Mr. Duplessis, 59, said in an interview in his house. “If I linger on what I don’t have, I can’t see what I do have.” He paused. “But I know this isn’t where God wants us to be.”
In his plight and his persistence, Mr. Duplessis represents the experience of churches, ministers and congregations throughout the Lower Ninth. While the fifth anniversary of Katrina offers much reason to celebrate New Orleans’s revival, this neighborhood that once thrived with a black working-class of homeowners and churchgoers continues to stand as a desolated disgrace.
As every level of government has failed to restore more than a fraction of former residents to habitable homes, the black churches have tried desperately to return through a combination of sacrifice, insurance and charity. And anyone with an even cursory understanding of African-American life knows that without vibrant churches, the Lower Ninth can never truly rise again.
Where about 75 churches operated before Katrina, barely a dozen have been able to reopen, according to the Rev. Willie Calhoun, a local minister who has closely tracked the process. Even among those churches that have rebuilt, what were once congregations of 150 to 200 now number in the dozens. The monthly intake of tithes and offerings, previously $20,000 or more, has fallen to the low thousands.
“You got those that are still struggling to come back,” said Mr. Calhoun, the assistant pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church, “and you got those that came back but the congregations are so small they’re struggling to keep their doors open. And without the churches, you got no community.”
East Jerusalem, for example, has only $55,000 of the $150,000 it needs to replace the church building that was destroyed when the floodwaters propelled a house into it. In an especially perverse touch, which several other congregations have faced, New Orleans officials are requiring the church to buy land for off-street parking, as if the pressing problem of the Lower Ninth is traffic gridlock.
“I remember that film — ‘build it and they will come,’ ” said the Rev. Hall Lanis Kelly Jr., 62, the pastor of East Jerusalem. “I believe in that. The Bible tells us, you plant the seed, God will do the watering. But we sure thought that in two, three years, we’d be back.”
The Rev. Michael Zacharie did get back, rebuilding Beulah Land Baptist Church for nearly $400,000 with a combination of savings, insurance money and a grant from Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization. On the Sunday in early 2009 when he rededicated the trim red-brick sanctuary, Mr. Zacharie preached to only 50 of the 400 pre-Katrina members. Etched in the church cornerstone were the names of four who had died in the flood.
“We were determined to come back so we could be the light shining in the darkness,” Mr. Zacharie, 54, said in a phone interview. “We want to be there for anyone that needs comfort, counseling, compassion.”
Such balm in Gilead has long been the mission of the Lower Ninth’s black churches. When Mr. Duplessis first inspected the wreckage of Mount Nebo’s building — pews tossed aside like toothpicks, chunks gone from the roof, the rear wall knocked loose — he also learned that several boats had been tied to the steeple. With 20 feet of water around, the second floor of Mount Nebo was, in more ways than one, a sanctuary.
And so he has persevered in his living room. On this particular Sunday, the faithful finally did arrive, a dozen by 10:15 a.m., nearly 25 by 10:35. Mr. Duplessis preached from the Book of Joshua, all about determination. He conducted a baby blessing. And he joined his people in singing lyrics that were almost unbearably freighted with double meaning:
“Storm clouds may rise
Strong winds may blow
But I’ll tell the world wherever I go
That I have found the Savior and he’s sweet, I know.”
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
2nd Fromberg Sect Leader Arrested
FROMBERG — A leader of a transplanted Utah religious sect accused of raping a 15-year-old girl was arrested in Wyoming Thursday after peacefully surrendering to law enforcement officials, a day after a fellow church leader was arrested at their compound near here.
Terrill Dalton, 43, was arrested on a warrant issued by authorities in Salt Lake City on two counts of first-degree rape. Dalton is the president of the Holy Ghost of the Church of the Firstborn of the General Assembly of Heaven, a group of former Mormons who fled Utah last year after federal authorities raided their headquarters.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Marshals Service went to the church’s new headquarters near Fromberg looking for Dalton and Geody Harman, who describes himself as First Counsel of the church.
Harman, 37, was arrested at the property on a Utah warrant charging him with the rape of the same 15-year-old girl. Dalton could not be found.
On Thursday at about 4:45 p.m., the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Department arrested Dalton near Thermopolis, Wyo. Acting Montana U.S. Marshal Rod Ostermiller said he was picked up after calling authorities, telling them where he was and then surrendering.
The warrant out of Utah asked for a $250,007 bond. Dalton is being held at the Hot Springs County jail and an extradition hearing had not been set for him as of 9:30 p.m.
Harman remained Thursday in the Yellowstone County jail on a $250,007 bond. The reason for the unusual amount was not known. He has yet to make an initial appearance in court, and it is unclear if he has been assigned a public defender. Harman can challenge the warrant or agree to waive extradition proceedings and be returned voluntarily to Utah.
Dalton, who claims to be the Holy Ghost and the father of Jesus Christ, would have been arrested on the warrant if he remained in Montana, Ostermiller said.
A man came to the door Thursday at the church’s rental property at 605 Bridger-Fromberg Road surrounded by three young boys.
“We have no comment,” the man said as he ordered the boys back into the house. He declined to give his name.
A “for sale” sign has been placed on the property, which was the scene of a murder in May 2009 when a 66-year-old man shot his 43-year-old son in the back during a dispute. The sign lists Realtor Tera Reynolds as the agent.
Reynolds said Thursday that the house has been for sale for little more than a year and was placed back on the market about two months ago. The church members living on the property have a month-to-month rental agreement, Reynolds said. She declined to identify the property owners.
A neighbor, Valerie Wichman, said news of the arrest Wednesday traveled quickly. Wichman was interviewed by The Gazette in March and said then that she was concerned about her new neighbors.
“I knew eventually it was going to happen,” Wichman said Thursday of the police activity at the property the day before. “There are bad people in the world, and we have some right here.”
Wichman said she has seen numerous children and young girls on the property, and she is concerned for their welfare in light of the allegations against the church leaders.
“It’s pretty unreal that this is allowed to go on,” she said.
According to the arrest warrants, the girl told Utah authorities that sometime in 2005 or 2006 she was told by Harman and Dalton that she would be “blessed” for having sex with them.
Members of the church fled from Utah to Idaho last year after their large home was raided by federal authorities. The raid was conducted to investigate claims of child sexual abuse and assassination threats against President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and Thomas S. Monson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Church members began moving from Idaho to the Fromberg property last September. Harman told The Gazette in March that he did not know how many people lived on the property but said the number was about 16, including his wife and nine children.