Ted Cruz Tells Middle East Christians To “Stand With Israel”

From Tristyn Bloom at the Daily Caller:

Sen. Ted Cruz was booed offstage at a conference for Middle Eastern Christians Wednesday night after saying that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

…”If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews,” he said. “Then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless.” And with that, he walked off the stage.

The report also includes a short video.

Cruz was speaking at the Inaugural Summit Gala Dinner of In Defense of Christians, a new initiative to highlight the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East and Sudan. The organisation groups “Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories” together as “the Holy Land”; its president is a Lebanese businessman named Toufic Baaklini, and the Board of Advisors ranges from James Zogby through to John Ashcroft. According to Cruz’s own account:

“I told the attendees that those who hate Israel also hate America,” Cruz said. “That those who hate Jews also hate Christians. And that anyone who hates Israel and the Jewish people is not following the teachings of Christ. These statements were met with angry boos. I went on to tell the crowd that Christians in the Middle East have no better friend than Israel. That Christians can practice their faith free of persecution in Israel. And that ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, along with their state sponsors in Syria and Iran, are all part of the same cancer, murdering Christians and Jews alike. Hate is hate, and murder is murder.”

Baaklini has now issued a statement about the disruption:

“As Cardinal Rai so eloquently put it to the attendees of the In Defense of Christians’ inaugural Summit gala dinner: ‘At every wedding, there are a few wedding crashers.’ In this case, a few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all other faiths and all people of good will.

“Tonight’s injection of politics when the focus should have been on unity and faith, momentarily played into the hands of a few who do not adhere to IDC’s principles.  They were made no longer welcome…”

Prior to the event, the Washington Free Beacon had already drawn attention to “pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad speakers” billed to appear, also including quotes from Rai.

The fiasco brings into sharp relief some of the tensions around support for Christian minorities in the Middle East. For a large segment of US Christianity, support for Israel and philo-Semitism are now central to religious belief and activism: but these priorities reflect a particular ideological/political and cultural outlook that reflects American society today. But this is very different from the context of Christians living in traditional Middle Eastern societies,  particularly those belonging to local denominations and churches less connected with the West. Strands of historic Christian anti-Jewish discourse are less likely to have been expunged, and even where ancient religious prejudice against Jews is not an operative factor, there’s no reason why the automatic support for Israel we find with Christian Zionism would follow.

There’s also a more pertinent explanation for why Cruz’s speech was not well received; as the Daily Caller article (perhaps surprisingly) notes:

Many Christians in the Middle East take issue with Israeli military policy, which has made life for Palestinian Christians in their homeland very difficult, and driven many from their homes. “Israel’s policies have led to demographic pressure that’s made the West Bank and Gaza far more Muslim than in 1948,” explained one Middle East analyst.

I’m reminded of an incident from 2006, when Reps. Joseph Crowley and Michael McCaul withdrew a draft resolution on the plight of Palestinian Christians, rather than acknowledge Palestinian complaints about the occupation as a factor in their decline.

So who will Middle East Christians turn to, if Americans demand a form of Christian Zionism in return for solidarity? A 2013 report from Vatican Insider, describing “Russia’s ‘Protectorate’ over Middle East Christians“, has the obvious answer.

UPDATE: I’ve just come across an article in the Algemeiner by CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile that appeared a couple of days ago; Van Zile draws attention to concerns from the Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC) that the conference will “promote support for Assad in Syria and normalization with the Mullahs in Iran”, and claims that a weak section on Iran was added to the IDC site only after CAMERA noted its absence. Further:

The conference has also attracted the attention and generated some criticism in a French language newspaper, L’Orient Le Jour. On August 28, the paper published an article asking if the summit was intended to promote the interests of Tehran and Damascus.

The paper reported that one of the backers of IDC’s conference was Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese businessman who was born in Nigeria and made his fortune in that country.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Chagoury was close to Nigeria’s military dictator Sani Abacha, and that because of his association, Abacha, “helped him land lucrative business contracts in construction and other areas.” After Abacha’s death, Chagoury was forced to return $300 million to that country to unfreeze his bank accounts.

The article is headlined “Has Pro-Christian Conference Been Hijacked by Pro-Iran/Hezbollah Dhimmis?” The word “Dhimmi” here is of course polemical hyperbole, deployed to suggest that the participants are making choices due to internalized oppression or coercion.

UPDATE 2: Interesting commentary from Matt K. Lewis, drawing on Russ Douhat:

Douthat is suggesting that the crowd wasn’t booing Israel, instead, they were booing Cruz for playing politics — for having the audacity to lecture them about their own business.

Remember that Republican debate where the crowd booed a gay soldier? The optics were horrible, but here’s what I always suspected. I always suspected that they weren’t booing the soldier so much as they were booing the media for setting them up.

They were booing the media for the unseemly way they were using this soldier to advance the notion that conservatives are anti-gay. They were booing the media for focusing on this one wedge issue when there are so many important issues. They were booing the media for framing the debate when it should really be up to Republicans to select their nominee. They were booing because they were being used as a pawn — as a backdrop — to make a larger point (at their expense, no less).

Yakunin Outfit Hides Involvement of Larry Jacobs and Don Feder in Conference Committee

At Mother Jones, Hannah Levintova has an interesting detail about what happened when she asked the World Congress of Families about its involvement with a “Large Families: The Future of Humanity” conference currently taking place in Moscow:

 WCF managing director Larry Jacobs and WCF communications director Don Feder were listed on the forum’s seven-member organizing committee.

As of last Friday, when Mother Jones asked WCF for comment, Jacob and Feder were still on the list of organizers. By Sunday, the committee list had disappeared from both the English and Russian versions of the website of the Istoki Fund, an endowment run by Vladimir Yakunin, a close adviser to President Vladimir Putin who codirects several of the conference’s sponsoring organizations. The original page, including the committee list, is archived here. A copy of the original press release on the site of another Yakunin-affiliated conference sponsor has also vanished. (Here’s the Russian original.)

Levintova previously noted the members of the committee here; they include the billionaire businessman Konstantin Malofeev (blogged here) and Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov, who heads the Moscow Patriarch’s commission on the family.

The conference had originally been scheduled as a WCF event, although the WCF formally withdrew due to the “geopolitical situation”. Jacobs issued a statement a few days ago:

The Russian Organizing Committee determined they wanted to go ahead a conference anyway. We understand, as they do, that the conference that convenes this week in Moscow is not a part of the World Congress of Families.

A few World Congress of Families personnel plan on attending the conference as individuals and supporting our Russian civil society friends who are working to protect the unborn child and the natural family. Though we will be present, as was agreed by the International Planning Committee many months ago, the WCF is not financially supporting the conference in Moscow this week and we have not lent our name to what should be a very interesting conference.

So why the need to scrub the details from the Istoki Fund? Levintova notes a problem with Yakunin and with one of the other organisers, Elena Mizulina:

Yakunin and Mizulina are currently on [Office of Foreign Assets and Control]‘s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. Once someone is on the list, American citizens and businesses “are generally prohibited from dealing with them,” according to OFAC, which administers economic and trade sanctions.

The Human Rights Campaign (the USA’s “largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization”) has called on the US Treasury to investigate.

Mizulina previously featured on this blog last year, after she became the inspiration for a sexually explicit painting by Konstantin Altunin. The AP describes her as “Vladimir Putin’s new morality crusader, spearheading efforts to curb gay rights, punish online cursing and impose a tax on divorce.” Yakunin, meanwhile, has appeared on numerous occasions; alongside his links to US religious conservatives through the WCF, his World Public Forum initiative has built links with international academics, religious figures, and some other more eccentric characters.

The Moscow Times has some details of the conference itself; there are few surprises:

In choosing conservative values, Russia represents “the final hope” for the modern world, which has been corrupted by the Western debauchery of individualism, consumerism and globalization, participants of a Moscow forum agreed Wednesday.

…Participants lashed out against abortion, same-sex marriage and gay pride parades as threats to Russia’s traditional spiritual core.

President Vladimir Putin sent a greeting to participants via an official from his administration. In his message, Putin spoke about the “large-scale demographic crisis” that civilization faces and “the erosion of moral values” around the world.

UPDATE: Right Wing Watch has some further details, including a link to the schedule. RWW notes in particular the presence of Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, and the far-right French politician Aymeric Chauprade.

The line-up also includes other Americans, such as Austin Ruse (who has his own links with Yakunin and Malofeev) and Evelyn Beahr of Movieguide (Ted Baehr’s daughter), and participants from western Europe, Africa, China, and Iran. There are also two speakers from Ukraine: Sergey Belyakov of the Parents’ Committee of Ukraine, will speak on “Family Policy in Ukraine: Conclusions and Warnings for Russia”, while Bishop Panteleimon Povoroznyuk will discuss “Family Crisis in the Modern Ukraine”.

Keeping the British end up are Ben Harris-Quinney of the Bow Group, and Thomas Ward of the National Association of Catholic Families and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Christian Zionist Elvis Drama Sees Poor Reviews and Box-Office Takings

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Faith-based Elvis musical drama The Identical bombed at the North American box office, falling outside the top 10 with $1.91 million. The independent movie cost more than $32 million to make and market.

Identical is playing in 1,956 theaters. If the theater count was rounded up, its debut would mark the third-worst opening of all time for a film playing in 2,000 or more locations, not accounting for inflation…

The story concerns not Presley himself, but rather a fictional “Drexel Hemsley” character whose twin brother is adopted by a Tennessee preacher played by Ray Liotta.

The film currently has 53 “rotten” reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, versus just two “fresh” positive assessments. And the positive reviews damn with faint praise: the Hollywood Reporter itself describes the film as “passably palatable”.

The film has, however, been heavily promoted by Drew Zahn at WND. In a piece last week, Zahn described it as a “Hollywood Hit”, and highlighted a scene set in 1967 in which Ray Liotta, playing a Tennessee preacher, urges support for Israel during the Six-Day War:

Liotta’s character tells his 1967 congregation why the war a world away is so important: “What does that have to do with the Christian church in the state of Tennessee? Everything! It has to do with everything! We are commanded by the Word of God to give Him no rest from our prayers. For who? Today for Israel. If we love God we must love what God loves, and God loves his chosen people!”

The article includes an embedded video, in which executive producer Yochanan Marcellino (the director’s father) expands portentously on the same theme:

…It is our responsibility now as it was then [in 1967] for Zion’s sake, not to be silent. We are commanded in Scripture to give God no rest from our prayers for Israel. I encourage you to hear God’s heart for his chosen people, and the miracle he performs for Israel during the Six-Day War.

Alas, however, Zahn’s follow up piece on the “Hollywood Hit” is less up-beat: under the headline “Christians Sabotage Gospel in Hollywood”, the author rebukes Christians for failing to support the film, and warns that the church needs to “get serious about culture war”:

The moviemakers spent tens of millions marketing this film – a budget most Christian movies could only dream about – through churches, Christian radio and other key outlets. The movie stars big Hollywood names like Ashley Judd, Seth Green and Ray Liotta… It also delivers a profoundly Christian message in the context of a story that you don’t have to be a pew-sitter to love.

In other words, it’s just the kind of film that could take Christ outside the church walls. All it needs to succeed and to see more films like it made, to see the candle become a blaze in our culture, is for Christians to go see it. That’s it.

But even Zahn is forced to concede that the film “has some flaws”.

The film is produced by City of Peace Films, of Nashville. Marcellino also has an associated company, City of Peace Media, which in 2012 brought together various Christian singers for a CD called iStandforIsrael (tagline: “for love of God and country”).

Helen Ukpabio: Spiritual Lawfare

From the British Humanist Association:

The British Humanist Association (BHA) and Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) are being sued by the wealthy evangelical preacher and ‘witch hunter’ Helen Ukpabio who has dubbed herself a ‘Lady Apostle’. Mrs Ukpabio claims to have expertise in identifying children and adults who are possessed with witchcraft spirits and in how they can be ‘delivered’ from those spirits. Her lawyers have informed the BHA and WHRIN that she is launching a legal case against them due to their criticism of her teachings and methods.

…Her legal case against the BHA is based on Mrs Ukpabio’s stating that she wrote that a child ‘under the age of two’ who is ‘possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits’ can be identified by features such as s/he ‘screams at night, cries, is always feverish, suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.’ Her teachings are to the effect that babies under the age of two who exhibit signs of illness or standard, entirely normal childhood behaviour (such as crying, not feeding well, screaming at night, having a fever) may be possessed by vampire witchcraft spirits. She also teaches that children who stamp their feet may be ‘trying to make signs… to communicate with gnomes, the witchcraft spirit in charge of the earth.’ Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she ascribed these symptoms to Satanic possession and hence has damaged her reputation and livelihood to the sum of half a billion pounds.

…Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director of WHRIN, commented, ‘This court case is the latest in a long line of unsuccessful legal actions that Helen Ukpabio has pursued against me and other human rights activists. Previous cases were thrown out of court in Nigeria but this time she is looking to take action in a UK court. I have no doubt that a judge in the UK will reach the same conclusion as those in Nigeria.’

(Actually, Ukpabio doesn’t just “dub herself” an apostle; she was consecrated in a special ceremony in 2010, which I wrote about here).

I discussed Ukpabio’s previous court cases here and here; her targets have included the actress Sophie Okonedo, because she narrated the Channel 4 documentary about child-witch accusations in Nigeria that brought Ukpabio to wide international attention in 2008.

As far as I am aware, the largest libel payout in British legal history remains the £1.5 million that was awarded to Lord Aldington in 1989 – and that was in an age before measures were taken to prevent excessive awards. Ukpabio’s claim is more than 300 times that amount, and if successful would be most sensational libel award in British (and perhaps world) legal history. So, which distinguished libel specialist is Ukpabio using? Carter-Ruck, perhaps? Or Schillings, maybe?

The Independent has the details:

In a letter sent to the BHA’s lawyers last Thursday, solicitors acting for the controversial preacher accused the charity of causing “members of the public to regard our client as an evil woman” with the damage to her reputation resulting in a “huge loss of incomes to her churches”. The letter, from London-based Graceland Solicitors, claims Mrs Ukpadio is “a Christian leader of international repute known and respected in many countries of the world”.

Graceland has an office above a beauty salon in Woolwich, and also shop-front premises in Lewisham – an image of the Lewisham chambers can be seen here. According to the company’s website, it was founded in 2006 and specialises in “Immigration Matters, Housing, Employments [sic], Family / Divorce, Crime, Traffic Offences”. The site does not name the actual solicitors at the offices, although other sites indicate that the proprietor is a certain Adolph Okoro.

Putin Confidant Vladimir Yakunin and Helga Zepp-LaRouche Attend “Cultural Roundtable” In China

Vladimir Yakunin, who runs Russia’s railways, is currently banned from many countries in the west due to his membership of Putin’s inner circle. No such trouble in China, though:

On the morning of 24th August, “One belt one road” cultural roundtable conference hosted by China Song Ching Ling Foundation and Lanzhou University opened. Nearly a hundred of experts and scholars from 21 countries including Russia, the United States, Japan, India, Thailand, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, Norway, Australia attended. They expressed their views on the way to mobilize the local organizations and colleges and universities in order to promote the exchange and cooperation among countries along the silk roads and reached common ideas towards a peaceful development, exchange, mutual learning, cooperation and win-win situation among the related countries. 

…Experts and professors at home and abroad delivered keynote speeches after the opening ceremony. … ‘Economic Belt Across the Eurasian’ by Yakunin, the president of JSC Russian Railways, chairman and founder of public forum of World Civilization…

Yakunin’s “World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations” has featured on this blog a number of times;  it has made links with an extraordinary array of top-tier academics, religious leaders, and emeritus politicians (along with some rather more eccentric figures), and it devotes its energies to “dialogue” and promoting a “multi-polar world”. For some reason, the views and analysis it promotes always seems to coincide with Russian interests.

Yakunin’s presence in China appears to be part of an ongoing association; a WPF event in Rhodes in 2012 included a delegation of Chinese academics, again organized through the Soong Ching Ling Foundation.

Among those present at Lanzhou, curiously, was Helga Zepp-LaRouche, wife of Lyndon LaRouche. According to LaRouchePac:

Helga Zepp-LaRouche, the founder and head of the Schiller Institute in Germany, was a significant participant in an international conference on the New Silk Road that was held Aug. 25 and 26 at Lanzhou University in Gansu province in northwest China, on the subject of the New Silk Road.

…Mrs. Zepp-LaRouche addressed the conference on the subject of “The Silk Road in the 21st century is the cornerstone of peace and order.”

Zepp-LaRouche’s presence may have been facilitated by Yakunin; she has spoken at World Public Forum events, and in 2009 LaRouchePac claimed that Yakunin had endorsed and promoted Lyndon LaRouche’s economic views:

Vladimir Yakunin, the CEO of Russian Railways and a long-time associate of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said in an October 16 interview with the Baltic Information Agency (BaltInfo), that American economist Lyndon LaRouche’s warnings of a systemic global crisis prepared him and his company for what has happened during the past three years.

…In February of this year, Yakunin took the same message to a conference at the London School of Economics, where he again named LaRouche as the “very rare” economist who predicted the collapse of the world financial bubble.

… LaRouche and his wife, Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche, were speakers at the 7th annual Rhodes Forum, held last week.

FBI Files On Paul Crouch Prompt Sensationalised Reports

Muckrock has posted FBI files relating to the late televangelist Paul Crouch:

Requested by long-time MuckRock user RobbyD, the file reveals the laundry list of Crouch’s activities the FBI was monitoring or even investigating. Though the file is heavily redacted, it’s intact enough to describe the FBI’s investigations into some of his exploits, whose findings are mostly based on a host of phone calls to and from Trinity Broadcasting Network with some pretty sketchy players.

The files show that in 1997 the Italian Revenue Service (the GDF) was investigating Teletevere, TBN’s Italian operation, over “possible violation of the Italian Mammi Law which prohibits majority foreign ownership of Italian broadcasting companies” and “the legality of religious broadcasts promoting healing powers followed by the solicitation of donations from viewers”. The FBI provided the GDF with various background details, including the claim that an apparent subsidiary, called CHLC, had allegedly made false financial statements in the early 1980s relating to “pre-billing” (Muckrock incorrectly suggests this was revealed as part of the GDF’s investigation).

Further, however:

The file mentions phone contact between TBN and the Sons of Italy Lodge in the Bronx, NY. You might be thinking that this is pretty shaky evidence to suggest Crouch was in contact with the mob, but considering the fact that the phone record was included in a subsection of the infamous Bronx mobster Vincent “Chin” Gigante’s FBI file, it’s pretty clear that the FBI was drawing some kind of connection.

MuckRock links this rather obscure and tenuous connection to Gigante with TBN’s business affairs in Italy, although there’s nothing in the original documents to justify doing so. But that’s just the start of it:

Numerous sections of the document mention TBN’s phone communications with an unnamed agent who was “recruited by the East German Intelligence Service.” The file later describes that the man believed to have been recruited by East Germany was a New York attorney who called TBN repeatedly between April and September of 1986… Other sketchy phone calls that went in and out of TBN over the years were from a Hungarian computer programmer whom TBN sponsored for U.S. citizenship, and phone calls from a number in Omaha to the TBN line which were documented in a separate FBI narcotics transfer investigation. 

We don’t know who made or took these calls at TBN, or what they were about. The New York attorney’s day job would have brought him into innocent contact with hundreds of individuals and businesses – does that mean they were all involved with “East German spying”?

One document provided to Italian authorities for background notes a number of subjects, and includes the following:

199H-LA-3499: Paul Crouch is the subject of this case which is an IT-PLO investigation. [REDACTED] was was initiated 8/11/87 based on reporting that Paul Crouch, along with Reverend Earl Paulk, [REDACTED] and Oral Roberts, were anti-Semitic and white supremacists. Crouch and the others were supposedly receiving funds from the PLO to “run guns.” The closing serial for this case is serial 6 and is dated 10/8/87.

A handwritten note under this adds: “NOT UPLOADED! NO NEW LEADS”! The second page of the document adds that

TBS [sic] was also the subscriber of a number provided in response to a Balitmore airtel dated 12/16/85, captioned ISLAMIC EDUCATION CENTER (IEC); IT-IRAN.

This particular detail seems to have been mentioned because the IEC was of interest to the FBI in 1985 for some other reason (apparently to do with Iran); the Muckrock article links this to the alleged “gun running”, although again the source itself doesn’t do so.

But the whole story lacks credibility. How exactly would TBN “run guns”? And the “anti-Semitic and white supremacist” accusation is completely off-base; I expect the anonymous accuser was inspired by an outdated and stereotypical view of white fundamentalist preachers derived from the likes of Gerald L.K. Smith. It’s unsustainable in all three cases, and Crouch in particular was an ardent Christian Zionist who strongly supported Israel.

It’s frequently intriguing and informative to see private files that reveal how the authorities gathered intelligence on a public figure; but the temptation to get carried away and sensationalise ought to be resisted. MuckRock‘s piece has also been picked up by Raw Story, under the headline “FBI Files Link Christian TV’s Paul Crouch to Italian Mob, Palestinian Gun Trafficking.”

WND Finds Another Gaza “Miracle” Claim

From WND again:

ISRAELI SOLDIER TESTIFIES TO MIRACLE IN GAZA

One of the many Israeli soldiers who have been dispatched to Gaza over the years to eliminate rocket-launching equipment and lower the threat of destruction to Israeli citizens has testified to the miracles he witnessed.

Such as a day of firefights, explosions and terror, with the only resulting injury a scratch that was handled with a baby wipe.

The testimony comes from Ariel Siegelman, who was with an Israel campaign a few years ago.

The same issue, arose, however, in recent weeks in a conflict between Israel and Gaza that erupted when Hamas fighters in Gaza began a rocket attack on next-door Israel.

WND reported then that an operator of Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system said he personally witnessed the “hand of God” diverting an incoming rocket.

I discussed some background to that earlier report here: the “operator” was unnamed, his supposed quote was second-hand, and it’s not even clear that the second-hand source was authentic. The story came on the heels of a claim that Hamas had supposedly admitted that “the God of the Jews” is diverting its missiles (discussed here).

Siegelman’s “testimony”, which has been available online for several years, is of a rather more modest sort. He does not claim to have seen any kind of interruption of the natural order; rather, the “miracle” is his subjective interpretation of why it was that his unit was able to get in and out of Gaza without experiencing death or serious injury, and of why a “double rainbow” appeared as they were on their way out.

Siegelman also wrote about his experiences in a 2009 article for Colloquium, a journal published by the US Army/US Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center, in which he contrasted Israel’s failure in Lebanon with success in Gaza:

It is not good training, technology, or strategy that makes bullets miss their targets or causes your eye to notice a trip-wire. For those experiences, I have to thank the Big Guy upstairs. He and I became very close during those cold nights… The successes that we saw in Gaza resulted from a combination of an appropriate response to the new kind of enemy, a healthy Israeli attitude that fiercely guarded its men and its right to stop intolerable attacks against its people, and protection from the Almighty, which some people call “luck”.

Rick Joyner Warns of Global Pandemic: Advises Buying Water Filter that also Protects from Cancer

From Right Wing Watch:

On today’s “Prophetic Perspective on Current Events” broadcast, Rick Joyner warned his viewers that the rise of some sort of global pandemic (maybe Ebola or possibly bird flu) in the near future was inevitable and so they should be stockpiling food, water, and supplies… In particular, Joyner recommended that people stock up on water filters  – which they can buy through his website, of course – especially ones that can help users reduce the pH level in their bodies, which he says will make them immune to cancer.

Right Wing Watch notes that the medical claim about cancer is nonsense.

The broadcast is billed as being “about some of the world’s most pressing issues, including the Ebola epidemic and how to prepare for the days to come”. This is vintage Joyner; although he claims to receive special words of prophecy from God, his fearmongering warnings tend to follow the curve: after the Fukushima disaster, his dubious grasp of plate tectonics led him – and Jim Bakkerto warn that a similar disaster would very soon hit the west coast of the USA.

Water filters are listed on Joyner’s MorningStar Disaster Response page; he’s not selling them himself, but there’s a click-through to a company called Zeb Gear. Joyner’s site adds:

Zeb Gear is an excellent resource for any other high quality disaster preparedness items that your household might need… Should you choose to purchase any items from the Zeb Gear website, please use the code MSTAR when checking out.

However, the Zeb Gear website is down, and its social media presence appears to have fallen into disuse. An archived version of the website, though, shows that it sold a range of products ahead of “Economic Apocalypse” (“The amount of the U.S. dollar in circulation is skyrocketing. What does it mean for you?”) and “The Next Pandemic: Disaster without Boundaries”.  The owners – Brian and Laura Kunzie – have appeared in a National Geographic documentary series on Doomsday Preppers, and they have a particular concern over bird flu. There’s no indication that they themselves have ever claimed that the filters can provide protection from cancer.

Joyner’s website shows that the company also had, or has, a presence at the Heritage Grand Hotel in Fort Mill – this property is owned by Joyner’s ministry, and was restored from the ruins of Bakker’s doomed Heritage USA project. As Joyner notes in his broadcast, Bakker also has a sideline in survival products.

WND Ponders “The Mystery of the Shemitah”

New silliness from WND:

SHOCKER! ECONOMIC CRASHES LINKED TO BIBLE PATTERN
‘Harbinger’ author’s new book unlocks ‘The Mystery of the Shemitah’

The Harbinger is by Jonathan Cahn, and the book  interprets 9/11 through the lens of how the Hebrew Bible treats ancient Israelite history. Cahn is a Messianic Rabbi, meaning that he and his congregation are believers in Jesus of Jewish heritage and culture, and for many years he has claimed that his background gives him special insight into esoteric “Hebrew Mysteries” in the Bible and such.

Cahn’s subject may seem obscure, but the Harbinger has been heavily promoted in evangelical and conservative circles (here’s John Boehner posing with a copy): the notion that America is under divine judgement appeals to conservatives who dislike current trends in American society, while the idea that American history can be interpreted by applying a template from ancient Israel is confirmation that the USA is “special”.

The Mystery of the Shemitah is selling the same product as his earlier works:

The eight greatest postwar economic crashes are all mysteriously connected to a biblical Sabbath year pattern known in Hebrew as “the Shemitah,” reveals a book about to be released by the author of “The Harbinger,” the bestselling Christian book of the last three years.

…Among the stunning findings of the author who found jaw-dropping links between the 9/11 terrorist attack and an otherwise obscure biblical passage, Isaiah 9:10, is that 100 percent of the worst U.S. economic calamities since World War II are all lined to the “Shemitah,” the biblical Sabbath year, its wake or the biblical month of Tishri in which the “Shemitah” falls.

Here’s an example of his method:

In 1931, a solar eclipse took place on Sept. 12 – the end of a “Shemitah” year. Eight days later, England abandoned the gold standard, setting off market crashes and bank failures around the world. It also ushered in the greatest monthlong stock market percentage crash in Wall Street history.

This shows that he’s simply looking for anything that might fit in the years he thinks are special. Thus the UK abandoning the gold standard is a sign of “economic crashes linked to Bible pattern”, yet for some reason we don’t have to take account of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The fact that Wall Street’s nadir was actually in July 1932 isn’t a problem either – he simply finds an event in September 1931 that might plausibly be connected, and decides arbitrarily that this the origin of the chain of events (1)

In other words: Confirmation Bias 101.

Incidentally, the solar eclipse which the article also mentions was a partial eclipse that was visible in Alaska and Russia. It’s not clear what this has to do with anything, but the next “Shemitah” year is 2015, and  WND is also promoting a complementary theory about the apocalyptic and Biblical significance of “blood moons”:

Is Cahn predicting doom and gloom on Sept. 13, 2015? He’s careful to avoid a prediction, saying, “In the past, this ushered in the worst collapses in Wall Street history. What will it bring this time? Again, as before, the phenomenon does not have to manifest at the next convergence. But, at the same time, and again, it is wise to take note.”

…Cahn also notes the fact that 2014 and 2015 are marked by a series of blood moons – a pattern that began on Passover 2014 and will conclude on the Feast of Tabernacles in 2015, as discovered by Pastor Mark Biltz, author of “Blood Moons” and the inspiration for a documentary of the same name.

Blitz’s theory has also been promoted by John Hagee, and I discussed it here.

The Mystery of the Shemitah will be published by Frontline, an imprint of Stephen Strang’s Charisma House. Strang also published the Harbinger, and in 2012 Strang and Cahn appeared together on Jim Bakker’s television show to explain that the book itself is the result of divine provenance. Meanwhile, WND produced a tie-in DVD, called The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment, and a number of other WND religious products are branded as “By the Creators of the No. 1 Faith Film The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment”.

And this autumn, Cahn and Bakker will be taking part in a tour of the Holy Land with WND editor Joseph Farah.

Note

(1) However, it’s not actually at all clear that the events are connected in this way: I’ve taken a quick look at a few economic history books, and there’s no sign that the UK leaving the gold standard in 1931 should be understood in catastrophic terms – quite the opposite, in fact. The gold standard is, though, something of a fetish for certain US conservatives.

David Oyedepo Reportedly Banned from UK

From This Is Africa:

The UK Home Office has barred multi-millionaire Nigerian preacher David Oyedepo from entering the United Kingdom, according to sources.

The source is someone “at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport”, who appears to have provided a photograph of a Home Office “Airline Alert” issued by the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos. The text of the image is blurred, but seems that airlines have been warned that they face a fine of £2,000 if they transport Oyedepo to the UK, despite the fact that he holds a “Category C” ten-year visa.

There has been some speculation over whether the document is genuine; however, Oyedepo was known to have been due to travel to his son’s franchise church in Dartford over this weekend, and there is no sign of him on the church’s Twitter feed, @WINNERSLONDON. There are, though, photos of and Tweets about his wife, Faith Oyedepo, who has come to Dartford.

The apparent banning of Oyedepo is something of a surprise: he’s made regular visits to the UK without attracting controversy or adverse attention (indeed, a few years ago I saw his face advertised on the side of a taxi in central London). However, in 2012 he was the subject of a negative profile in the Daily Mail, entitled “Laughing on his private jet – the £93m pastor accused of exploiting British worshippers“. As well as dwelling on the controversy of the “prosperity gospel”, the article noted:

The Mail on Sunday has seen video footage of Mr Oyedepo striking a woman across the face and condemning her to hell after she said she was a ‘witch for Jesus’. He attacked her in a Winners’ Chapel superchurch, believed to be in Nigeria, in front of worshippers. A separate video shows him saying: ‘I slapped a witch here last year!’

I wrote about the incident here. Oyedepo’s ministry is not focused on looking for supposed “witches” in the same way that Helen Ukpabio is obsessed with the subject, but it was nonetheless troubling and indicated that he’s a part of the problem of harmful “witchcraft” accusations.

If the This is Africa report is accurate, I expect Oyedepo is being kept out under a catch-all “not conductive to the public good” provision. The Canadian faith healer Todd Bentley was similarly kept out of the UK in 2012.