The shepherd and the sheepfold
1 day ago
Extremist Hindu groups offered money, food and alcohol to mobs to kill Christians and destroy their homes, according to Christian aid workers in the eastern India state of Orissa.
The U.S.-based head of Good News India, a Christian organization that runs several orphanages in Orissa — one of India’s poorest regions — claims that Christian leaders are being targeted by Hindu militants and carry a price on their heads. "The going price to kill a pastor is $250," said Faiz Rahman, the chairman of Good News India.
A spokesman for the All-India Christian Council said: “People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties. They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are given petrol and kerosene.”
Ram Madhav, a spokesman for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the largest hardline Hindu group, denied the claims. “The accusation is absolutely false,” he said.
Orissa has suffered a series of murders and arson attacks in recent months, with at least 67 Christians killed, according to the Roman Catholic Church. Several thousand homes have been razed and hundreds of places of worship destroyed, and crops are now wasting in the fields.
President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month, a departure from the example of his two immediate predecessors.
On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym.
Asked about the president-elect's decision to not attend church, a transition aide noted that the Obamas valued their faith experience in Chicago but were concerned about the impact their large retinue may have on other parishioners.
"Because they have a great deal of respect for places of worship, they do not want to draw unwelcome or inappropriate attention to a church not used to the attention their attendance would draw," said the aide.
Both President-elect George W. Bush and President-elect Bill Clinton managed to attend church in the weeks after they were elected.
More than 20,000 protesters spilled into the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and even Modesto on Saturday in mostly peaceful demonstrations over passage of Proposition 8, the statewide ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage.
The unfolding street scenes underscored the racial and religious tensions that have surfaced since Tuesday's vote threw into question the legality of 18,000 marriages of gay and lesbian couples and foreclosed the option for any more.
Police estimated that 12,500 boisterous marchers converged about 6 p.m. at Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards in Silver Lake near the site of the former Black Cat bar, which the city recently designated a historic-cultural monument for its '60s role as home of the local gay rights movement.
About 100 people stood in front of First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday morning to protest Dr. Robert Jeffress' sermon, "Why Gay Is Not O.K."
Carrying signs bearing the words "I'm Gay and It's OK" and "Christ Taught Love Not Hate," the protesters lined both sides of San Jacinto Street in front of the downtown church.
They sang "Jesus Loves Me" and cheered when passing motorists honked their horns and waved in support.
"Most of the people here are Christians, and they're taking offense at the Baptist Church trying to say how Christ's love should be interpreted," said Patrick Hancock, who attended the peaceful protest. It was organized earlier this week when someone noticed the sermon topic on the church marquee.
Dr.[Robert] Jeffress said the purpose of his sermon was to "let Christians know what the Bible says about this important topic, and to reaffirm that any and every sin can be forgiven."
Dr. Jeffress addressed what he called two "myths" about homosexuality: that prohibitions exist only in the Old Testament, and that Jesus never condemned this behavior.
During one of his three Sunday morning sermons, he cited New Testament passages that he said condemned homosexuality, including Romans 1:27. It speaks of "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, [who] burned in their lust one toward another."
Dr. Jeffress acknowledged that "Jesus never used the word homosexual." However, he said, Christ condemned homosexuality by affirming Old Testament truths and by upholding God's plan for human sexuality – "one man and one woman in a marriage relationship."
"The No on 8 people didn't want us to use the word 'bigots.' But that's what they are, bigots, bigots, bigots," Tyler said, bringing a round of cheers from the growing crowd. "We will never be made invisible again. Never again will we let them define who we are."
In California, where same-sex marriage had been performed since June, the ban had more than 52 percent of the vote, according to figures by the secretary of state, and was projected to win by several Californian news media outlets. Opponents of same-sex marriage won by even bigger margins in Arizona and Florida. Just two years ago, Arizona rejected a similar ban.Of particular interest is who supported the bans:
Exit polls in California found that 70 percent of black voters backed the ban. Slightly more than half of Latino voters, who made up almost 20 percent of voters, favored the ban, while 53 percent of whites opposed it.
Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath....It will be interesting to see what the text actually has to say, however the additional finds that point to a strong king and central government during the time of David would be devastating to the so-called 'Biblical minimalists' who deny that thre was any such person as David, and he is simply a later mytholigical construct to promote Hebrew nationalism.
Archaeologists from the Hebrew University said they found five lines of text written in black ink on a shard of pottery dug up at a five-acre (two-hectare) site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa.
Experts have not yet been able to decipher the text fully, but carbon dating of artifacts found at the site indicates the Hebrew inscription was written about 3,000 years ago, predating the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1,000 years, the archaeologists said.
Several words, including "judge," "slave" and "king," could be identified and the experts said they hoped the text would shed light on how alphabetic scripts developed.
In a finding that could have symbolic value for Israel, the archaeologists said other items discovered at the fortress dig indicated there was most likely a strong king and central government in Jerusalem during the period scholars believe that David ruled the holy city and ancient Israel.
The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.
They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.
“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”
Here in Kandhamal, the district that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall where the Digals worshiped. Today it is a heap of rubble on an empty field, where cows blithely graze.
Across this ghastly terrain lie the singed remains of mud-and-thatch homes. Christian-owned businesses have been systematically attacked. Orange flags (orange is the sacred color of Hinduism) flutter triumphantly above the rooftops of houses and storefronts.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a murder case in which a jury foreman read passages of the Bible to hold-out jurors who subsequently voted to impose the death penalty.It was all a tempest in a teapot, grasing at straws to set a murder of three people free. If reading the Bible leads to more convictions I'm all for it.
Without comment, the justices declined to consider whether the jury foreman's conduct violated the rights of Jimmie Lucero, an Amarillo, Texas, man sentenced to death after being convicted in the shotgun slayings of three neighbors at their home in 2003....
During deliberations, the foreman read aloud from Romans 13:1-6, which states that everyone must submit to authority and that those who do wrong should be afraid, for a ruler is "God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment to the wrongdoer."
Attacks on nuns, churches and Christian refugees across India are stoking fears that Hindu extremists are planning to target minority communities as the country prepares for a general election.
The worst anti-Christian violence in India since independence 60 years ago came in Kandhamal district, in the state of Orissa, in recent weeks. Hindu fanatics attempted to poison water sources at relief camps holding at least 15,000 people displaced by mob violence, local activists alleged. Hundreds of Christian refugees in the region were told not to return to their homes unless they converted to Hinduism.
In Chattisgarh, central India, two nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, were beaten by a mob when they took four orphans to an adoption centre.
The remains of the southern wall of Jerusalem that was built by the Hasmonean kings during the time of the Second Temple have been uncovered on Mount Zion, the Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.
The 2,100-year-old wall, which was destroyed during the Great Revolt against the Romans that began in 66 CE, is located just outside the present-day walls of the Old City and abuts the Catholic cemetery built in the last century where Righteous Gentile Oskar Schindler is buried.
The sturdy wall, which is believed to have run 6 km. around Jerusalem, was previously exposed by an American archeologist at the end of the 19th century, the state run archeological body said.
He voiced the hope that the First Temple wall would be uncovered next.
The excavation was initiated as part of a plan to build a promenade along the southern side of Mount Zion.
The promenade, which is expected to become a major tourist attraction when it is completed in the next few years, will run alongside parts of the newly exposed ancient wall.
[Prof. Israel] Knohl told the [International Herald] Tribune that he interprets the tablet to tell of a messianic figure named Simon, whose death was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. The tablet, Knohl contends, was likely written by Simon's followers and demonstrates that messianic followers even before Jesus looked to their leaders rising again, thus nullifying the frequent claim that Jesus' resurrection was a uniquely developed story.
If Knohl's interpretation of "Gabriel's Revelation" is correct, it would lend evidence to his previous theories, published in his 2002 book, "The Messiah before Jesus." Knohl is one of several scholars who suggest Jesus may not have been unique in his claim to face suffering, death and resurrection, but that sources, like this tablet, suggest a common messianic story that New Testament writers may have merely been copying.
"This should shake our basic view of Christianity," Knohl told the Tribune. "Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."
The little tree was sprouted in 2005 from a seed recovered from Masada, where rebelling Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman attackers.
Radiocarbon dating of seed fragments clinging to its root, as well as other seeds found with it that didn't sprout, indicate they were about 2,000 years old — the oldest seed known to have been sprouted and grown....
[Dr. Sarah Sallon] hopes there's a chance to use it to restore the extinct Judean date palm, once prized not only for its fruit but also for medicinal uses.
"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD," the head of Jordan's Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan, said.
He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.
"We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians -- the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ," Husan said.
These Christians, who are described in a mosaic as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine," are said to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded churches in northern Jordan, Husan added.
Orthodox Jews set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testament in the latest act of violence against Christian missionaries in the Holy Land.
Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon said missionaries recently entered a neighborhood in the predominantly religious town of 34,000 in central Israel, distributing hundreds of New Testaments and missionary material.
After receiving complaints, Aharon said, he got into a loudspeaker car last Thursday and drove through the neighborhood, urging people to turn over the material to Jewish religious students who went door to door to collect it.
"The books were dumped into a pile and set afire in a lot near a synagogue," he said.
Israeli authorities and Orthodox Jews frown on missionary activity aimed at Jews, though in most cases it is not illegal. Still, the concept of a Jew burning books is abhorrent to many in Israel because of the association with Nazis torching piles of Jewish books during the Holocaust of World War II.
Women who had less than one drink per day were found to have a 7 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared with those who didn't drink. Those who drank one to two drinks had a 32 percent greater risk; those who drank three or more drinks had up to a 51 percent increased risk. A woman's risk was similar whether she drank beer, wine, or spirits, researchers reported.This strikes a strong blow to the movement in recent years to promote drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, because of its health benefits. While the health benefits may be real, the risks far outweight any benefit. And as we've discussed here before, drinking grape juice gives one the same heart benefits as drinking red wine without the dangers of alcohol consumption.
“People will think this is a piece of spin, but,” he said, “I’ve always been as interested in religion as in politics.” Then, for good measure, he adds: “I see this over time as the rest of my life’s work.”
Though he intends to engage others in questions of faith, he seems awkward about some aspects of his beliefs and wants to avoid an evangelical posture. For example, when asked whether he thought a person would be better off believing that Jesus was the Son of God, he said: “I believe in and I hold the doctrines of the Christian faith. But I think that when you start to engage in that type of thing — that actually you’d be better off if you converted to my faith — if you’re not incredibly careful about how you approach that conversation — that’s actually what leads to a lot of confrontation and difficulty.”
This answer tells you something important about his Faith Foundation. While Mr Blair may have changed the subject to talk about religion, he remains to his fingertips a politician. He knows that, while the fact of his religious faith is essential to making his initiative work, the content of it might get in the way.
Then comes more of that Blair instinct for a political position to occupy. Al Gore has global warming sewn up. Bill Gates is sorting out a cure for malaria. Resolving interfaith conflict is crying out for a standard-bearer and he realises the position is vacant.
“I think that the areas to do with climate change, and Make Poverty History, where there’s a well-trodden piece of ground there, and actually I have interest in both of those things. But in respect of faith, there is a burgeoning interest in it now.”
Marriage rates in England and Wales have plunged to their lowest rate since records began almost 150 years ago, according to the latest official figures.
Only a fraction more than two per cent of woman and 2.28 per cent of men over the age of 16 chose to get married in 2006.
The number of marriages for the whole year was just 236,980, a fall of four per cent on the previous year and lowest proportion of marriages since they were first recorded in 1862.
It is also the lowest number of marriages since 1895, when 228,204 tied the knot.
I will tell you that I don't believe in gay marriage, but I do think that people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and that the state should not discriminate against them. So, I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other. I don't think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.
"Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (emphasis added, nac)In that passage Jesus affirms the intent of marriage and of sexual relations. They are to be within marriage and between a man and a wife. And since Jesus also said in the gospel of Matthew (15:19-20) that
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man..."it seems that Mr. Obama will find that the thing he condones is condemned even in non-obscure books like Matthew.
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez asked Congress today to investigate the IRS' threat to strip the United Church of Christ of its tax-exempt status over Barack Obama's speech to a church convention in Hartford in 2007.
"If the IRS is successful, every church synagogue and mosque that invites an elected official to speak on issues such as the war in Iraq, abortion, the environment, labor and other issues of social justice could fear loss of their non-profit status," Perez said.
He is asking U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson to intervene.
"This IRS action should outrage members of both parties and people of faith throughout the country," Perez said.
A letter from the IRS to the church says candidates are permitted to speak at church functions, but if a candidate is speaking "in his or her capacity as a candidate, then other candidates running for the same office must also be invited."
The church says Obama, a UCC member, was one of 60 speakers from many fields invited to talk about the intersection of their faiths and vocations. He was invited a year before becoming a presidential candidate.
The remains have been discovered at Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state of Orissa.
Researchers say the items found during the excavation point to a highly developed urban settlement.
The population of the city could have been in the region of 20,000 to 25,000, the archaeologists claim....
RK Mohanty of the department of archaeology, Deccan College, Pune, who is one of the two researchers involved in the excavations.
"The significance of this ancient city becomes clear when one bears in mind the fact that the population of classical Athens was barely 10,000," he said.
But some historians and archaeologists in Orissa have expressed reservations about the claim of the two researchers.
"At best, it is a guesswork. Without excavating the entire area of the fortified city, it is not possible to determine its population or periodicity," said BK Rath, former director of the state archaeology department.
"The actual area excavated so far is only a minuscule part of the city. How does one determine the size of the average family in a period about which very little historical literature or evidence is available?"
But archaeologists say they have now found the ashes, bones and other evidence of animal sacrifices to some pre-Zeus deity on the summit of Mount Lykaion, in the region of Greece known as Arcadia. The remains were uncovered last summer at an altar later devoted to Zeus.
Fragments of a coarse, undecorated pottery in the debris indicated that the sacrifices might have been made as early as 3000 B.C., the archaeologists concluded. That was about 900 years before Greek-speaking people arrived, probably from the north in the Balkans, and brought their religion with them.
The excavators were astonished. They were digging in a sanctuary to Zeus, in Greek mythology the father of gods and goddesses. From texts in Linear B, an ancient form of Greek writing, Zeus is attested as a pre-eminent god as early as 1400 B.C. By some accounts, the birthplace of Zeus was on the heights of Lykaion.
After reviewing the findings of pottery experts, geologists and other archaeologists, David Gilman Romano of the University of Pennsylvania concluded that material at the Lykaion altar “suggests that the tradition of devotion to some divinity on that spot is very ancient” and “very likely predates the introduction of Zeus in the Greek world.”
Jacobson, co-host of "First Take" on ESPN2, went on an expletive-filled rant about Notre Dame University during her turn at the podium to roast the ESPN Radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. According to The Press' review by At The Shore Editor Scott Cronick, Jacobson approached the podium drinking vodka straight from the bottle, and spent her time in the spotlight mumbling and repeatedly cursing....
The controversy surrounding Jacobson's choice of words has continued to grow, and some religious groups continue to insist that more must be done. Today, the Christian Defense Coalition will lead a public demonstration and prayer vigil outside the ESPN offices in Connecticut. The group wants Jacobson fired.
"By publicly saying, 'F--k Jesus,' while representing ESPN, Dana Jacobson has crossed a very well-defined line," reads a statement from the coalition. "Her comments are so outrageous and inflammatory that the only proper response for ESPN is to immediately release her."
Her story reflects a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent. While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.
The revival is part of a broader movement to restore churches to their traditional role as moral enforcers, Christian leaders say. Some say that contemporary churches have grown soft on sinners, citing the rise of suburban megachurches where pastors preach self-affirming messages rather than focusing on sin and redemption. Others point to a passage in the gospel of Matthew that says unrepentant sinners must be shunned.
The process can be messy, says Al Jackson, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala., which began disciplining members in the 1990s. Once, when the congregation voted out an adulterer who refused to repent, an older woman was confused and thought the church had voted to send the man to hell.Neither I nor anyone else can send someone to hell. One's status before God will be a reflection of one's own attitude and actions, not those of someone else. But that does not mean that congregations do not have a God-given responsibility to discipline members when it is called for, while still treating the errant member as a brother, not an enemy. That means if someone is not actively disruptive to the proceedings at hand, I would think worship is exactly where the unrepentant member needs to be in hopes he will be encouraged in the right direction. Dragging little old ladies away in handcuffs tends not to be the way to go.