Archive for February, 2010

The Catholic Church of Brazil seems to be under the impression that it owns any image of the famous Christ the Redeemer sculpture which stands high above Rio de Janeiro, and is suing Columbia Pictures for using it in last year’s blockbuster 2012.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

This beggars belief, Cross-post MediaWatchWatch:-

Brazil Catholics sue Hollywood for crumbling Redeemer image

The Catholic Church of Brazil seems to be under the impression that it owns any image of the famous Christ the Redeemer sculpture which stands high above Rio de Janeiro, and is suing Columbia Pictures for using it in last year’s blockbuster 2012.

The apocalyptic film shows Rio being destroyed by a tidal wave, and the 40-metre statue crumbling under the water.

The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, who commissioned the sculpture in 1931, refused permission to Columbia when they asked to use the image in their film, but Columbia went ahead anyway. The Archdiocese’s laweyer, Claudine Dutra, explained:

many faithful have said they are shocked and offended by the images of the destruction of this sanctuary that the archdiocese wanted to preserve.

We want Columbia Pictures to publicly declare that it did not intend to cause offense.

They are also seeking undisclosed damages.

Funnily enough, director Roland Emmerich wanted to include a scene which showed the destruction of the Kaaba – the holy rock-in-a-box towards which devout Muslims point the crown of their head five times a day. But he feared a fatwa.

THANK GOD FOR THE REALITY OF HARD CASH

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Cross-post Cranmers Curate:-

This by Cranmer’s Curate first appeared on the US-based news service for Anglican Communion orthodoxy, VirtueOnline:

Thank the good Lord the Holy Spirit did not inspire ‘money is the root of all evils’ to be written but rather ‘the love of money is the root of all evils’ (1 Timothy 6v10 – RSV).

As postmodernism strengthens its grip on the Western mind, money is one of the few inescapable realities left in the institutional Church. At gatherings of Anglican clergy at the local level, Laodicean self-delusion is now pandemic. If there is a worldview unifying the diversity of ‘traditions’ around the room, it would be the religion of the new Volkswagen advertisement – Dudeism.

The dude has a worldview suited for the times, he’s in touch with the modern world, he doesn’t get hung up on old doctrines – in fact he’s inclined to satirise them with a dry one-liner. But the satire towards others is balanced by the self-mockery on the T-shirt, which shows that the dude is basically a nice guy.

Dudeism is comfortable driving through ambiguous ideological terrain – in fact the vehicle has been designed to do that – and it is chilled about picking up the passengers of the permissive society.

Amongst the dudes in dog-collars, the most extraordinary theological opinions are affirmed as insightful, even by professing Evangelicals. If the dudes are exercised about anything, it is about the ‘quality of relationships’. But don’t expect to hear the dudes mention biblical holiness as a quality that should be characterising these touchy-feely ‘relationships’. And of course to state categorically which ones should be genuinely touch-feely and which ones not and with whom would be to commit the one cardinal sin for the dude – ‘judgementalism’.

It is such a relief that in this clerical Avatar world of in-your-face 3D theological diversity there is the God-given and inescapable reality of hard cash. This cosy, postmodern, all-affirming, dudeistic love-in cannot escape from the reality of the diocesan budget deficit. It cannot escape from the reality that sustainable churches are those with enough regenerate Christians whom the Holy Spirit has moved to give real money generously and sacrificially to the work of Christ’s Kingdom in and through their local church.

In their behaviour within the institutional Church, Christlikeness demands that these viable churches should not become arrogant or bullying or reactionary. Their financial generosity is a work of God’s unmerited grace in them as the Holy Spirit has applied the Word of God to their minds, hearts and actions.

But the problem now facing these orthodox churches is that they are becoming the victims of their own success. Unlike churches that have dwindled into non-viability because of a liberal-induced famine of the Word of God down the years, they can afford a vicar and therefore they are liable to get one. But God spare them a new vicar in the form of one of the dudes posing as an Evangelical.

This mainly affects medium-sized Anglican Evangelical churches, Conservative and Charismatic. The megachurches are able to call the shots with dioceses over appointments. But Evangelical churches that are viable but not mega are much more susceptible to pressure from liberal-led dioceses to take a soft Evangelical incumbent or one who will turn out to be less than a fighter for biblical truth, one who is not going to threaten the dudeist status quo.

Unfortunately, this practical downside to the inside strategy of Evangelicals trying to operate within the structures of the institutional Church is happening on the ground. Generous, godly, viable churches with an evangelistic track record are being sold postmodern dudes for pastors.

The Apostle Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1v9-11 is so very urgent for local churches facing appointments in these increasingly dangerous times: ‘And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God’ (RSV).

Orthodox Anglican churches facing vacancies really do the need the spiritual discernment to spot the dude at the interview and issue the Archdeacon with a firm no thank you.

Otherwise, institutional neo-liberalism, which is dudeistic in theory but not in political practice, could win by stealth.

Question of the Day: Is Hell a Necessary Christian Doctrine

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I just wanted to draw your attention to a fascinating discussion over at The Church of Jesus Christ.

Question of the Day: Is Hell a Necessary Christian Doctrine

Why there’s Nothing British about the BNP’s (British National Party) “Christian values”

Friday, February 26th, 2010

There has been an inordinate amount of outrage online relating to this small article in Dutch News today:-

Christians can’t vote for Wilders, say vicars

A Christian cannot vote for Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration party PVV, say 75% of church leaders in a poll of 1,200 ministers and church workers in the Nederlands Dagblad.

The ministers represent a cross-section of all the Netherlands’ Protestant churches, representing 2.3 million people, the paper says.

One third of the people polled said there were people who supported Wilders in their communities and 5% said Wilders had a lot of support.

Wilders and the PVV’s views contradict Christianity,’ one minister told the paper.

As you will note from comments on this article, there is little sympathy for these church leaders simply stating that Christians cannot vote for Geert Wilders, and the accusation that these leaders are “out of touch”.

Church leaders in the UK have made similar comments in recent times relating to the British National Party. Most notably in July last year, BNP members were banned from joining the Methodist Church,

It was back in October that a joint statement was issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, stating that; “Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNP  of the language of our faith“.

Towards the end of last year the Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan became embroiled in a furious war of words with the BNP, over the far-right party’s claim to represent “Christian values”.

We also had the embarrassing episode whereby, David North a Churchwarden from Melton Mowbray, was bullied into resigning, after church leaders deemed that his membership of the British National Party (BNP) was “incompatible” with Christianity.

The truth is that I do not believe that church leaders should be banning or discriminating against folks who vote for, or are members of, any legal political body, no matter how distasteful we may find their “politics”.

This may sound a little ironic to regular readers, as I have often posted rebuttals of the BNP claims to represent Christianity, especially articles written by Edmund Standing, see; here, here, here & here.

My point in saying this, is that it is pointless church leaders simply saying Christians mustn’t be involved with political parties such as the BNP, they must make a strong case as to why this is so.

I personally know of some Christians who are leaning towards the BNP right now. These are good folk, who are utterly disillusioned with the “main” political parties on a number of issues, especially, immigration, the perceived rise of Islamic extremism and the erosion of a “Christian British cultural identity”. Readers have to be aware that as Christians we are acutely aware of the horrific persecution of our brothers and sisters in Islamic lands, which gives additional impetus to the fear of the rise of Islamic extremism in this country.

The BNP are cunningly attempting to fill a vacuum and tap in to a Christian sense of abandonment by the “main” political parties, and have gone as far as to clone and hijack Christianity through the Rev West West’s Christian Council of Britain. Do take the time to read the interesting comments on this blog relating to the Rev Robert West, including some from Rev West himself.

The British National Party (BNP) candidate styles himself as Rev.

I agree with the Communities Secretary John Denham, who last October called on faith groups to “nail the lie that the BNP is a “Christian party”, however, this does not take place by “bashing” those Christians who have been duped by the BNP, but by informing them and peeling off the skin of the BNP Christian claims.

I’ll say publicly that at one stage I was personally leaning toward the BNP, until I began reading articles written by Edmund Standing, who worked tirelessly to highlight the inconsistency of the BNP’s Christian claims (even though he himself is an atheist), but sadly has now stopped this work (tired of swimming in the sewers), which left a worrying gaping hole.

Thankfully, the website “There is nothing British about the BNP” has picked up the gauntlet today:-

Why there’s Nothing British about the BNP’s “Christian values”

Nick Griffin and the British National Party are keen to portray themselves as on the sides of traditional British culture.  They see a gap in the market that they can fill. While other parties surrender to multiculturalism, Islam, and politically correct secularism, the BNP stand up for traditional British Christianity. This is nonsense. There is nothing Christian about the BNP.

On the BBC’s ‘Question Time’ programme, British National Party leader Nick Griffin stated: ‘If Muslims do stay in this country they must remember that Britain is essentially a fundamentally British and Christian country’. The BNP is a ‘Christian’ party that can save ‘Christian culture’

The BNP have created a front organisation called the ‘Christian Council of Britain’, headed by BNP activist and electoral candidate Robert West who leads religious services at various BNP events, including the party’s ‘Red, White & Blue’ and reportedly preaches on topics such as ‘the importance of nationalism’ and how “homosexuals do greatly err”. For West, a multi-racial society is a form of ‘Holocaust’, with immigration used to create “Lebensraum” for the Third  World. Despite initially denying any connection with the BNP, West has admitted that the BNP “encouraged and facilitated” its establishment.

Why the BNP are not Christian

-          There’s nothing Christian about the BNP’s ethics. For Jesus Christ, humanity was all part of one family. Christianity from the outset taught a universal message which dissolved the idea of race or nation, teaching that it is of no significance to God. He said that we should love our neighbour, preach the good news and understanding to all nations. He taught the parable of the Good Samaritan, to show our true neighbours were not just those from the same race. Most of all, he abhorred violence and the hatred that is fascism’s speciality.

-          The BNP use Christianity as an excuse to attack Muslims. Rather than refer to the actual teachings of Christ, the BNP’s favoured role model are the Crusaders. In a letter, Nick Griffin wrote “We will never allow our children to become a minority in our homeland! We will fight to the bitter end, just like our Crusader ancestors, to preserve our Christian culture and heritage. The spirit of the Medieval Knights lives on in all of us!”

-          The BNP’s use Christianity as an excuse for their homophobia. British fascism has a history of extreme homophobia. While the party’s policy is no longer officially to ban homosexual activity, they are always keen to claim that homosexuals are an affront to Britain’s ‘Christian heritage’. 

-          The BNP’s real ideology is pagan. Christianity, of course, is a “foreign import”, and for the extreme activists within the BNP inner circle, like all other imports it must be purged.

The BNP’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Arthur Kemp wrote in his March of Titans that “the introduction of Christianity has to count as the single greatest ideological catastrophe to ever strike Europe.”

Ever since Himmler’s obsession with the occult, there has been a strain of Paganism with fascism, as zealots attempt to reclaim a purely European religion.

Lee Barnes, the BNP’s legal director, is a particular fan: ‘Christianity is a semitic religion, it is creature [sic] of the deserts of the Middle East not the forests of the Northern Europe [sic] and its symbol the cross is an instrument of torture not of living redemption’. In place of Christianity, Barnes advocates Odinism, the worship of the Norse pagan gods of pre-Christian Europe, and he connects the Odinic ‘tree of life’ (Yggdrasil) with a religion based on race: ‘The roots represent our descent from the Gods and our connection to the Earth, the trunk represents our shared European racial heritage, the main branches of the tree our nations and tribes, the twigs on each branch represent each family unit and each single leaf symbolises an individual life’.

Response to the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Policy for Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

As the Director of Public Prosecutions has just released the long anticipated new guidelines on assisted suicide, I anticipate quite a bit of interesting analysis, so I’ll post links here.

As I was musing over the the stark differences between the Christian community’s view of euthanasia and many non-believers, I suddenly realised that many non-believers tend to view humans as no different than animals. On this blog we frequently receive pro-euthanasia comments from non-believers, that simply ask why should we not have “mercy” on humans as we do dogs and “put them out of their misery”.

Anyway, here are the first of the Internet links:-

I’m putting George Pitcher from the Telegraph first, because he has been on particularly fine form.

Geroge Pitcher Telegraph – Rejoice! DPP deals severe blow to Dignity in Dying’s hopes for assisted suicide

Church of England – Response to the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Policy for Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide

Telegraph – Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, set out a list of factors for prosecutors to consider when deciding whether to charge someone who had assisted a suicide. There are six that will sway decision against prosecution.

Lee Rayfield Guardian – Let’s not take the path of assisted dying – Arguments in favour of assisted dying play on our sense of compassion – but they should be resisted

The Christian Institute – Pro-lifers have voiced their concern over new assisted suicide guidelines, published today, which say prosecutions are unlikely if the act was “motivated by compassion”.

CPS – Assisted Suidce Guidelines

Telegraph – Relatives who profit from assisted suicide may not be charged – People who assist another person commit suicide and then make a financial gain from the death can still escape charges under new prosecution guidelines.

Telegraph – The new policy on prosecuting assisted suicides, published yesterday by Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, might make those who campaign for legalised euthanasia in Britain wish they had been more careful about what they asked for.

CCFON – The Department of Public Prosecutions must uphold Parliament’s view that assisting suicide is a serious crime and not necessarily an act of mercy, says Professor John Keown.

Church Times – THE CHURCH of England has commended changes to policy for prosecutors on assisted suicide, published on Thursday by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC.

LifeSite – Despite urgent warnings from the British pro-life movement and shouts of triumph from euthanasia campaigners, a statement from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has “welcomed” newly published legal guidelines on the prosecution of assisted suicide cases, saying they have given “greater protection” to vulnerable people.

Catholic News Agency – Vulnerable better protected by new assisted suicide prosecution policy, says Archbishop Smith

The Governments sex education scheme

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Two quite depressingly realistic posts on “sex education”:-

Cranmer – Teaching abortion in an ‘enlightened’ and ‘non-judgmental’ way

Aunti Joanna – Much discussion today, at a pro-life working group which tackles such matters, about latest developments on the Govt’s sex education scheme.

Whilst I’m linking, Ruth Gledhill has been the first to comment on the new guidelines on assisted suicide, which have just been released by the DPP:-

Ruth Gledhill Times – Assisted suicide guidelines ‘blunt’ the law, warn faith groups

Mosab Hassan Yousef a man of rare courage

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Melanie Phillips – Spectator

I have been following for some time the remarkable journey of Mosab Hassan Yousef, about whom I wrote here last year. Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader, renounced not just terrorist violence but his family and his faith to become a Christian and move to California. Since apostasy from Islam carries a death penalty, this in itself was an act of extreme courage. The Telegraph ran an interview with him which set out starkly the extreme risk he was running, along with the principled reasons for his actions:

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Watching over Zion

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

SaltShakers

The Word: I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength:”Surely I will no longer give your grain as food for your enemies; and the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, for which you have laboured. But those who have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; Those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.” Go through, go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, lift up a banner for the peoples! Indeed the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the world:”Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.’” And they shall call them The Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. (Isaiah 62:6-12)

‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it. For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ”
(Zechariah 2:4-5)

• Pointers for prayer:

• Stolen Identity: Once again, as we continue to stand with Israel, may all our actions, support & prayer be lead by the Holy Spirit. Please pray that we would have ears to hear, and hearts open to the areas the Lord wants us to be effective in. Please pray that many within the church would have a clear revelation regarding God’s purposes for Israel. Pray that we would have many opportunities to share the truth regarding Israel within our churches and fellowships. Please pray for strength and wisdom for the leaders in Israel, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu to deal with the threats of Abbas regarding Israel’s national heritage sites.

• On your walls O Jerusalem: Praise God for the constant reminders of the truth as to whom the land of Israel belongs to. As archaeologists unearth more proof of historical Israel, do pray that many in the Church would make the connection with the Israel of the Bible, and the Israel of today.

• Pray for truth: There continues to be much deception and propaganda surrounding the whole issue of Israel. This week, the controversial Respect MP George Galloway was speaking at a meeting in Haringey, London, to mark the “anniversary” of the 2008/09 conflict in Gaza Please pray that the truth will be revealed and that lies and deception will be cast down, wherever they are found.

Stolen Identity

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Richard Dawkins is re-vamping his forum – which he modestly calls “a clear thinking oasis” – and, because of that, people have been calling him names.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I read yesterday P Z Myers leaping to the defence of fellow disciple Richard Dawkins, over his plans to “revise” the structure of his forums, because of the prevalence of “unsavoury” comments. The changing structure of the Dawkins forums has caused an avalanche of raw panic among atheists, or as P Z Myers articulates; “a great deal of unwarranted anxiety”.

I’ll hand over to David at Anglican Samiszdat to furnish us with more details:-

Richard Dawkins keeps attracting the wrong sorts of people

Richard Dawkins is re-vamping his forum – which he modestly calls “a clear thinking oasis” – and, because of that, people have been calling him names.

Dawkins puts this down to there being something rotten in the Internet culture. He might have a point to a degree, but, comically, the rather obvious thing he has overlooked is that a forum devoted to atheism attracts a lot of people who are more interested in irrationally venting their spleen than in calm reasoned argument.

From the exchanges with atheists on this blog, I have noticed that most atheists – all who have commented here – are emotional atheists: their belief system is based mainly on feeling. When a visiting atheists is asked to explain himself, one is confronted by a torrent of chaotic, emotive, unexamined aphorisms and clichés.

Just as he overlooks the obvious reason for Creation, Dawkins overlooks the obvious reason for the name-calling. Here is some of Dawkins’ response:

A Message from Richard Dawkins about the website updates

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this:

Dear forum members,

We wanted you all to know at the earliest opportunity about our new website currently in development. RichardDawkins.net will have a new look and feel, improved security, and much more. Visits to the site have really grown over the past 3 1/2 years, and this update gives us an opportunity to address several issues. Over the years we’ve become one of the world’s leading resources for breaking rational and scientific news from all over the net and creating original content. We are focusing on quality content distribution, and will be bringing more original articles, video and other content as we grow.

The new RichardDawkins.net will have a fully-integrated discussion section. This will be a new feature for the site, similar to the current forum, but not identical. We feel the new system will be much cleaner and easier to use, and hopefully this will encourage participation from a wider variety of users.

We will leave the current forum up for 30 days, giving regular users an opportunity to locally archive any content they value. When the new website goes live, you are welcome to submit these posts as new discussions. The forum will then be taken down from the web. You will not loose your username on the new system.

The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as “Education”, “Children”, and “Critical Thinking”. Starting a new discussion will require approval, so we ask that you only submit new discussions that are truly relevant to reason and science. Subsequent responses on the thread will not need approval—however anything off topic or violating the new terms of service will be removed. The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. This is purely an editorial exercise to help new visitors find quality content quickly. We hope this discussion area will reflect the foundation’s goals and values.

We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible.

We’re confident that these changes will improve the site experience and we look forward to seeing what you do with the new system.

Many thanks again.

[…..]

Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical. Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?

Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.

If you are one of those who have dealt out such ludicrously hyperbolic animosity, you know who should receive your private apology. And if you are one of those who are as disgusted by it as I am, you know where to send your warm letter of support.

Richard

Are Muslims obligated to hate all Jews and Christians?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

In my last post on the “cleansing” of “undesirable” Christians from Iraq by Islamic extremists, I made this comment:-

It’s not just the Christians but the Jews as well of course, as we together are the despised “People of the Book”.

Coincidentally the ElderofZiyon blog have just posted this:-

Are Muslims obligated to hate all Jews and Christians?

Last week, an op-ed was written by a Dr. Hamad Al-Majid in Asharq al-Awsat, calling on Muslims to interpret the Quran in liberal ways that would allow respect for non-Muslims:

I think that with a careful Shariaa reading of a number of texts on this subject, and by confining this [hatred] to specific cases, many problems and dilemmas would be solved, and this could even have help in consolidating social peace, especially in the Muslim countries where acts of violence are being carried out against their Christian minorities such as Egypt and Nigeria. This is something would also need to be taught as part of the academic syllabus, and this may be the key to solving this problem.

When I was working for the Islamic Center in London in the 1990s, I saw for myself the state of confusion in the British people who had recently converted to Islam when they were taught the principles of hatred, rather than [peaceful] disagreement. This had a negative impact in the way in which they treated other people; their parents, their brothers and sisters, their family and friends, and so Islam lost a number of potential converts who might have been attracted to the religion had they been treated with more respect and compassion.

It appears that many Muslims were very unhappy with Dr. al-Majid’s liberal interpretation. So much so that he felt compelled to write a follow-up, possibly out of fear, saying that the Muslims that passionately hate Christians and Jews have solid textual evidence for their feelings:

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Sums it all up really. I’m sick to my stomach of reading every single day of fresh murders of Christians in Islamic lands, I really am.

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