Blues for Brown

Keeping with our literary theme, Publishing News reports that Dan Brown may be in trouble:

IT APPEARS THAT Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, authors of the 1982 bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, are considering suing Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, for breach of copyright of ideas and research…Lewis Purdue, author of Da Vinci Legacy, is another writer reportedly preparing to sue.

Charges of plagiarism and breach of copyright are notoriously hard to prove, but if Baigent and his co-authors – who have themselves now fallen out – do pursue a case through the courts, the action is likely to jeopardise Columbia’s planned film of The Da Vinci Code.

(Actually, that should be “Perdue” – thanks Lilith) Any legal action would take place in the UK, although

a spokesman for Random House, which publishes Holy Blood in Arrow, would say only that they do not believe there are any proper grounds for complaint.

Perdue’s complaint can be read on his website. Just over a week ago Random House began a counter-suit against Perdue, as reported in The New York Post:

In a stinging 15-page complaint, Dan Brown and publisher Random House say author Lewis Perdue was a nobody until he started making accusations that Brown copied material from Perdue’s two books, “The Da Vinci Legacy” and “Daughter of God.”

Baigent and co-authors will be harder to dismiss.

Meanwhile, CBA reports by email that:

Grizzly Adams Productions bought TV/DVD/VHS rights to Darrell Bock’s Breaking the Da Vinci Code(Nelson), Erwin Lutzer’s The Da Vinci Deception (Tyndale), and James Garlow & Peter Jones’ Cracking Da Vinci’s Code (Cook) for its Breaking the Da Vinci Code, scheduled to air on television in early 2005. The Christian DVD version will be titled The Da Vinci Code Deception.

Alas, CBA fails to tell us that (as I noted previously) the producer ar Grizzly Adams Productions is David Balsiger, who is most famous for producing a pseudo-documentary about the discovery of Noah’s Ark and for co-writing Mike Warnke‘s fake autobiography The Satan Seller, a far more harmful hoax than Brown’s fantasies.

It should, however, be remembered that the wider scholarly community has also been less than impressed. Back in November last year, the Ganett News Service provided a piece in which various secular historians laid into Brown:

Joseph Forte, an art historian at Sarah Lawrence College, says there has long been speculation about sexual messages in Leonardo’s art, about his reputation as a “court master” of riddles and games, about inconsistencies in various gospels, and other factors that Brown may have seized on in “marrying” Jesus and Magdalene.

“I know of no serious scholar who has proposed this notion,” Forte says.

J.V. Field, an art historian at the University of London and president of the Leonardo da Vinci Society, says the real history requires proof, and the “Code” offers none that scholars would recognize.

“As a historian, I can only say that, for me, everything I know about how pictures were used to communicate indicates that the theory is absurd,” Field wrote in an e-mail from London. “This means that I should require very strong evidence indeed to make me take it seriously — such as a document written by Leonardo himself giving an explanation of the procedure he followed; and the authority of the document would need to be established by unassailable provenance. In the present case, that is clearly an unattainable standard of proof.”

Meanwhile, guides at the site of Da Vinci’s Last Supper are also complaining, as reported by Reuters this month:

34-year-old [Lidia Sanvito] has heard of little else since U.S. author Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller was published in March 2003, first from American readers, then starting late last year, from Italians and others as foreign translations hit bookstores worldwide.

“They torture me,” she said of the curious visitors. “I wasn’t surprised about the Americans. But it really did shock me that Italians, with their strong Catholic traditions, would also ask these questions.”

While in Paris, report AP and Reuters:

At Saint-Sulpice, which is featured repeatedly in the novel, they come to snap photos of the church’s obelisk, the spot where the book’s murderous albino monk starts a quest for the Holy Grail.

For the church’s pastor, Rev. Paul Roumanet, this newfound fame has proved a headache. He’s fielded so many questions that he finally posted a sign to debunk the book’s claims. It starts, “Contrary to the fantastical allegations in a recent best seller [this is not a vestige of a pagan temple]“.

…The book claims there are 666 panes of glass in I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre. But an official Louvre document on the Web put the number at 673, while tour guide Jean-Manuel Traimond says he counted 674. Traimond said he is incensed by Brown’s artistic liberties with French geography and history.

Other Paris guides, though, have adapted to the book’s impact. According to The Christian Science Monitor (link from Christianity Today):

Ellen McBreen, a Paris-based art historian and tour guide agrees. Following a book, she says, “gives travel more depth, and everybody wants something that feels more real and more authentic, even if, ironically, it is based on fiction.”

Ms. McBreen runs lively but academically rigorous tours of the Louvre, where Mr. Brown’s book opens, examining the evidence for the book’s thesis that the Holy Grail was not a cup, but actually Mary Magdalene, the bride of Jesus, who bore his children and carried his bloodline, which ran to the early kings of France.

In the UK, the custodians of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland seem to be looking on the bright side (unsurprisingly – despite this being a real church, when I visited last year the bookshop was doing a brisk trade in Holy Blood and such). According to The Scotsman in June:

Stuart Beattie, project manager of the Rosslyn Trust, said: “I would describe the numbers so far this year as exceptional. I would like to say it was down to me but The Da Vinci Code has obviously had a significant effect…We might get another increase in numbers when the film comes out but we are not expecting it to continue for the long term. We’re just trying to make the best of it while it lasts.”

The Publishing News article also alleges that “Not surprisingly, the book was banned in many Catholic countries.” Given that most Catholic countries I can think of are democratic with freedom of speech, and that the Index has been discontinued, in fact I would be surprised. The only places I know of where it has been banned are Lebanon and Jordan.

(Publishing News and Perdue links via Publishers Lunch [sic for lack of apostrophe])

UPDATE (27 Dec): Da Vinci Code tours of Rome are now available.

Secular Move means Profits for Prophet

The New York Observer recently had an interesting piece by Rachel Donadio on Tim LaHaye’s move into mainstream publishing (unfortunately only a cached version is now available). Apparently LaHaye has just made his

largest deal yet with a major secular publisher: The four-book Babylon Rising series, featuring a swashbuckling, evangelical Indiana Jones–like archeologist who acts out biblical prophecies.

A rather odd concept – does this mean the “evangelical Indiana” is going to marry a prostitute, like Hosea? Or that he’s going to go around tattooing “666” on people’s heads? But of course I’m being facetious: Babylon Rising is a prequel to the Left Behind franchise, set before the Rapture, and the hero (Michael Murphy) goes around finding artefacts that prove the Bible. According to Donadio, the deal, which involved Bantam Dell head Irwyn Applebaum making a personal visit to LaHaye,

entailed Bantam paying Mr. LaHaye about $40 million for a four-book series, the second of which came out last month. (Mr. LaHaye said that he and Bantam had since “readjusted” the sum downward.)

Not sure that LaHaye, who boasts (literally) two doctorates, will appreciate the “Mr”… But there’s more. As well as the Bantam deal, LaHaye’s agent Joel Gotler (who tells us he was “instrumental in branding” LaHaye) says that a deal with Viking Penguin is about to be signed (for The Jesus Chronicles), as well as one with Kensington. Plus:

Even Esquire magazine is getting in on the action. Alongside essays by pop conservatives Tucker Carlson and Andrew Sullivan, this month it published a pro-Bush screed by Mr. LaHaye in which the minister makes outlandish claims that a Kerry victory might lead to Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe winding up on the federal bench.

Those who wish to pay can read the article here. LaHaye argues that Democrats have had the temerity to appoint liberal judges who are the moral equivalent of Islamic terrorists (nice to see Dershowitz in such a role at least):

America is at war! Not just with terrorists from abroad who want to destroy our country as we know it, but with anarchists who have worked from within for the better part of a century to attack our nation’s values and principles as outlined by the Founding Fathers in our Constitution. Their weapon of choice? The judiciary branch of our federal government, consisting of the Supreme Court (which has a five-to-four liberal majority) and the federal court system, with its more than eight hundred predominantly liberal judges…If John Kerry is elected, we can expect him to continue the tradition of appointing radical, left-wing liberals to all federal judiciary positions and to his administration, with probable appointees such as Alan Dershowitz or Laurence Tribe taking the bench. If George Bush is reelected, you can expect him to appoint constitutional constructionists like Charles Pickering or Al Gonzales to the bench, judges who believe their duty is to interpret the Constitution accurately, not subvert it.

An attack on Ted Kennedy and those who opposed Robert Bork’s 1987 appointment follows.

Donadio notes that both Appelbaum and Gotler are Jewish, and that the co-author (i.e. the actual hack) for his first Babylon Rising novel is non-religious (Greg Dinallo, who wrote the Six Million Dollar Man). I was also amused to read the company profile for Kensington:

We are considered a leader and innovator in such areas of publishing as African-American (Dafina), Gay and Lesbian, Erotic Romance (Brava), Wicca, and Alternative Health (Twin Streams) and of course romance.

Well, I suppose since Zondervan and HarperCollins are owned by Murdoch and even Hodder & Stoughton are part of a stable that includes an erotic imprint (Delta) one shouldn’t be too much of a purist. I once saw a Bantam edition of The Late Great Planet Earth that had adverts in the back for A Complete Guide to the Tarot, Power Through Witchcraft, The Spaceships of Ezekiel and God Drives a Flying Saucer.

(NY Observer article brought to my attention by Publishers Lunch and CBA)

Same Sex Marriage Advocates Caused Beslan Massacre by Muslim Werewolves

So writes Mikhail Morgulis in ASSIST News:

By their concessions to Satan mankind has made the Evil One feel invincible and allowed him to fiercely attack the world…Satan’s strength is being enhanced by people who have turned away from God in their disgrace and depravity. These include “men of law” who accept single-sex marriages, those who approve abortions, and those who speak out against school Bible classes. They also include those who persecute believers, those who lie and deceive others in churches and those who speak about God but steal from their own brethren.

Apparently:

What happened in Beslan surpasses in its cruelty everything that terrorists have previously done. Such unthinkable brutality – ruthless and cold-blooded murder of children – occurred only in Nazi concentration camps during WWII.

As for context:

We must understand that we are not dealing with people, but with vampires and werewolves who have come alive, with vermin and venomous snakes, whom Satan has robbed of any human feelings. They are not God’s children but Satan’s creations…These are a new type of beings: they are infected with a paranoid mania born of militant Islam – to destroy the world. They live with a consuming desire to kill and to die. They glorify suicide and murder calling it “martyrdom”. These are not dregs of society – they are simply NOT HUMAN. Hopefully, with God’s help top political leaders in Russia and the United States will come to understand this.

But Morgulis has a plan:

all countries must urgently create an anti-terrorist coalition…Even though opposition to such a coalition will be enhanced by the fact that many European countries are literally taken over by a large Muslim population, there is still some hope that the coalition’s joint stance against terrorism will increase our chances of victory…President Putin is only beginning to understand what this common enemy is and what it looks like, and that Russia is not really fighting against Chechnya but against Satan in the guise of terrorists. This explains why Satan’s servants and messengers from different countries were among the murderers in the school in Ossetia. What took place in Beslan was a Satanic slaughter, a shabash: this was the first time Satan openly disclosed his goal to crush and eliminate children and adults – in a word, to stop life on earth. Only now are we able to recreate these apocalyptic events from the testimonies of survivors.

A “shabash”? “Well done” in Urdu and Persian? Eh? Morgulis also alleges that schoolchildren were raped by the terrorists, a detail overlooked by the BBC and other sources.

Morgulis is a Ukrainian based in Chicago, where he runs a websiteless organisation called Christian Bridge International, which promotes “Spiritual Diplomacy”. According to a quote in another ASSIST article:

when professional diplomats are unable to achieve success in diplomacy, spiritual people appear, truly spiritual people. The idea of Spiritual Diplomacy – complete trust in one’s colleague, complete desire to reach peaceful results, personal mutual understanding, the use of the Bible in discussions, desire to see in one’s colleague not a diplomat promoting only the interests of a given country, but a person, the victorious creation of God, a father, a husband, a son.

Morgulis’s gut reaction to the horrors of Beslan is understandable, although one might think ASSIST might have spiked this one. After all, despite the sub-bestial behaviour exhibited there, Christianity teaches that people do wicked things because they human, not that the wicked among us are not human. And the hysterical “not since the Holocaust” take is just foolish. But whatever disgust felt by Morgulis (and by most of us), that does not give license to tell lies: no country in Europe has been “taken over” by Muslims, literally or otherwise (and, of course, most Muslims are appalled by the Beslan massacre anyway). And when Morgulis fingers supporters of same sex marriage as responsible, one suspects less an unbalanced, grief-stricken rant and more a carefully plotted attempt to use the Beslan tragedy to inflame hatred against those with whom he disagrees.

Evil Darwinists Attempt to Ban The Truth of Intelligent Design

Unsurprisingly, the cry of “censorship!” has gone up now scientists have dared to respond to Stephen Meyers’ 26-page academic paper in support of Intelligent Design. According to Agape Press:

A pro-Darwin lobbying group is being accused of trying to censor a published and peer-reviewed scientific article that deals favorably with the theory of intelligent design.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) claims the article by Dr. Stephen Meyer is “substandard science” and should not have been published by the peer-reviewed biology journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

Clearly, such “claims” amount to a call for ID literature to be banned.

Proceedings is a journal that ordinarily deals in descriptions of new species. Meyer specialises in history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University, although he also has a background in geophysics. Since the article’s appearance in August, biologists at The Panda’s Thumb, Pharyngula,  and elsewhere have been offering critiques and raising questions about the review process: questions that have led the board associated with the journal to also make critical remarks. Now Dr John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) and Meyer have responded to Agape reporters:

Dr. John West…says the NCSE has flip-flopped just like a politician.

Oh, I wonder if he has any particular politician in mind? But let us proceed:

“The refrain of Darwinists up till this point has been intelligent design isn’t science because its proponents don’t publish peer-reviewed articles,” West says. “That has always been false; in fact, scientists have been publishing peer-reviewed articles about their ideas on intelligent design.” Now, however, he says the scientists who want to exclude intelligent design and promote Darwinist science cannot ignore West’s paper, because it has appeared in “a very standard, peer-reviewed biology journal.”

Eh? Have they been publishing in peer-reviewed journals before or not? Seems West is making two contradictory statements (a flip-flop?). What’s more:

The Biological Society of Washington has distanced itself from the article and from [Richard] Sternberg [the editor of the journal], accusing him of bad judgment. Meanwhile, a recent report in Nature describes Proceedings as a “low-impact journal” and quotes a Brown University biologist as saying “peer review isn’t a guarantee of accuracy.”

Dr. Meyer himself has noted the double standard being applied to his article. “Until a few days ago,” he says, “Darwinists have argued that intelligent design isn’t science because it hasn’t been published in peer-reviewed journals. But now that an increasing number of scientists are making their case for design in scientific publications, Darwinists are ready to disown peer review — temporarily, I’m sure.”

Actually, the review piece in The Panda’s Thumb (by Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry) hardly “disowns” peer review or dismisses the paper:

We congratulate ID on finally getting an article in a peer-reviewed biology journal, a mere fifteen years after the publication of the 1989 ID textbook Of Pandas and People, a textbook aimed at inserting ID into public schools. It is gratifying to see the ID movement finally attempt to make their case to the only scientifically relevant group, professional biologists. This is therefore the beginning (not the end) of the review process for ID. Perhaps one day the scientific community will be convinced that ID is worthwhile. Only through this route — convincing the scientific community, a route already taken by plate tectonics, endosymbiosis, and other revolutionary scientific ideas — can ID earn a legitimate place in textbooks.

Apparently, such sentiments are in fact a call for ID to be “censored” by Darwinian fundamentalists…

However, Meyer and his editor Sternberg have another complaint that Agape declines to mention, but is noted in an article in The Scientist, and reported via WorldNetDaily (where Meyer has previously published):

Sternberg told the journal he and Meyer have falsely been labeled creationists by the scientific community, noting: “It’s fascinating how the ‘creationist’ label is falsely applied to anyone who raises any questions about neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. The reaction to the paper by some [anti-creationist] extremists suggests that the thought police are alive and well in the scientific community.”…

“Dr. Meyer is a well-known proponent of intelligent design and that is what his paper is about,” Crowther told The Scientist. “To try and characterize him as a creationist is just an attempt to stigmatize him and marginalize his paper, all the while avoiding the scientific issues that it raises.”

Lee Jae-Rock: Germans Must Repent

I like the Charismatic Christian news service ASSIST Ministries. It often contains very interesting information unavailable elsewhere, and usually its news journalists try to bring in various views and perspectives, rather than just push a particular line. Also, in a world where most of the religious wingnuts have been snapped up by Pete at the Dark Window and SZ at World O’Crap, its opinion pieces have provided one or two just for me, such as Tom Snyder and Tom Marsland. However, for some reason the writers have completely fallen for extremely dodgy South Korean faith healer Lee Jae-Rock, who for months has been reported in nothing other than gushing terms. Back in November it described at length a miracle rally in St Petersburg:

Soon, people were moving out of the audience to stand on the stage and give witness to their healing. One of them was a 44-year-old who had not walked since his childhood. As he came on stage, it was obvious that his leg was bent like the letter Z. Soon he was walking across the stage and holding up his crutches. Scores of others follow him including a woman who threw away her crutches and walked and there were several people who were blind and deaf who were healed. (Pictured: 44-year-old man walks for first time since childhood).

In fact, the accompanying picture was completely underwhelming (James Randi agreed with me). As we can see, the man is still clearly disabled in both his left leg and arm:

supposed-miracle-by-jae-rock-lee

ASSIST also added that:

There were two medical teams on hand – one led by Dr. Vera [Samarina], a professor at a St. Petersburg university and also a radio personality and writer – and Dr. Nikolai [no apparent surname], who is a psychiatric professor at the Naval Academy.

“Dr. Nikolai is going to write a paper about the miracles that have taken place during the crusade,” said Johnny Kim. “And Dr. Vera is planning to have a special seminar in which she will bring some of those who were healed before the medical community so that they can personally see what God has done! She is also planning to form a Christian doctors association in St. Petersburg.”

In May I contacted ASSIST to ask about the academic paper proving Jae-Rock’s supernatural powers. They forwarded my question to Johnny Kim, Lae-Rock’s assistant. After a while, having received no response there, I wrote back to ASSIST suggesting the need for a bit of scepticism, and perhaps some input from someone like Peter May (a British Christian who opposes irresponsible claims of miracles). That received no reply (perhaps I shouldn’t have also mentioned Randi), and neither did my query about what they thought about some odd beliefs attributed to Jae-Rock. Some of these are (as reported on a hostile website):

The prophets, disciples, apostles, God and Jesus all appeared in photos he took with his camera after he imposed his hands on it in prayer.
(July 17th 1998 at a Friday all night prayer meeting)

Sin resides in the blood of the human. The blood of Jesus shed on the cross had no original sin or committed sin. Jae Rock explained that he himself shed all of his blood in 1992, so the sinful blood from his parents was done away with and he was refilled with new blood that does not have any original or committed sin.
(July 5th 1998 Sunday evening service)

When Jae-Rock calls any of the prophets, disciples or Patriarchs they appear before him just like an executive will appear when the president calls. Jae-Rock says they come and greet him.
(July 5th, 1998 Sunday evening service & July 17th,1998 Friday all night prayer meeting)

Jae-Rock has accomplished all the words in the 66 books of the Bible except walking on water.
(June 21st, 1998 Sunday service)

There is also some strange stuff about UFOs. Back in 1999 the BBC reported that a critical South Korean TV documentary on Jae-Rock was forced to postpone after his followers invaded the television station.

Now, ASSIST reports that Jae-Rock is planning a new “Miracle Healing Festival” in Düsseldorf, and this has inspired his assistant to make what must be the ministry’s most crass statement yet:

We have come to believe that God the Trinity wants the Manmin ministry to have a conference in Germany so that firstly, God wants to show his great love by giving a chance to German people who did something really bad towards His chosen people, the Jews, in the Second World War to repent before the return of Jesus Christ.

Yes, Germans are still all Nazis. They have done absolutely nothing to mend their ways since 1945, and it’s high time Jae-Rock got them to repent. Plus, the Germans didn’t just kill anyone, they killed people chosen by God, which is worse.

(More of Jae-Rock’s “evidence” for miraculous healings can be seen here)

Whited Sepulchres Safe in Iran

From the (Iranian) Islamic Republic News Agency, 25 August:

Majlis [Islamic Consultative Assembly] Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said here Tuesday that the Americans sow the seeds of grudge in the hearts of Muslims by violating the sanctity of the mausoleum first Shiite Imam Ali (AS). “We have witnessed the US hidden and open efforts in violating the sanctity of the holy Islamic sites since 40 years ago but hopefully awareness has risen among Muslims,” Haddad Adel told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on the occasion of international mosques week.

From the Baha’i World News Service, 12 September:

The destruction of yet another Baha’i holy place in Iran has prompted an outcry by Baha’is around the world, who see that the Iranian Government is persisting in a campaign of persecution so extreme in the fanaticism driving it that it even jeopardizes invaluable assets of the country’s cultural heritage.

The demolition in June of an historic house in Tehran, which followed the leveling of a Baha’i holy place in Babol earlier this year, has spurred national Baha’i communities in several nations to place a statement in major newspapers decrying the destruction.

De Borchgrave: “Beware Ramadan!”

An employee of Reverend Moon warns of a religious fanatic entering the USA with evil intent, as Washington Times and UPI “editor at large” Arnaud de Borchgrave uses Moon’s organ to weigh in on the Tariq Ramadan affair (link snagged from Christianity Today):

Tariq Ramadan is radioactive. Speak to any Christian in the Arab world, and “roadkill” is the nicest thing you’ll hear about him…

Any chance of an actual quote, or explanation of why they would say this?

In a televised debate with France’s then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy late last year, Mr. Ramadan declined to condemn “lapidation” — the stoning of adulterous wives as mandated by a strict interpretation of the Koran. Instead, Mr. Ramadan said he favored a “moratorium” in the practice.

A transcription of the interview is available here, from a French secularist website with anti-Ramadan footnotes added. Here’s some of what Ramadan said:

T.R.: Monsieur Sarkozy, Monsieur Sarkozy, Monsieur Sarkozy, écoutez bien ce que je dit. Ce que je dis, c’est que ma position à moi, c’est qu’elle n’est pas applicable, c’est clair ? Mais aujourd’hui je parle à des musulmans du monde entier et je collabore, que ce soit aux Etats-Unis, dans le monde musulman. Vous devez avoir une posture pédagogique qui fasse discuter les gens. Vous ne pouvez pas décider tout seul d’être progressiste sans les communautés, c’est trop facile. Aujourd’hui, ma position c’est de dire nous devons cesser… Ma position, elle est extrêmement claire, la violence conjugale et la violence à l’endroit d’une femme, est inacceptable islamiquement.

His argument seems to be that stoning can never be applicable in practice, and as a Muslim progressive debating within the Muslim community that is the best position to hold. In other words, rather than reject part of his sacred texts, he has looked for a way to interpret around them. For those of us who prefer secularists like Tariq Ali on the subject of Islam, this might appear a bit weak (fatal, even), but it’s hardly evidence of a secret fundamentalism. Judaism has been doing exactly the same thing with its sacred texts for centuries. I also  recall that when Jesus rejected lapidation, he did not condemn the Torah but stated that stoning could not be applied because only someone without sin should do it (John 8, whether or not historical). Clearly Jesus was really a Pharisee fanatic packaging his message of Jewish extremism for credulous liberal gentiles…

But de Borchgrave has more:

The author of a dozen books, Mr. Ramadan lets fly staccato-style, at the speed of an AK-47 on full automatic, quotations from Nietzsche, Heidegger and the Koran, to prove a central point: Decadent Europe will give way to an Islamized Europe.

The 21st century, he says, will see a second role reversal between Islam and the West: “The West will begin its new decline, and the Arab-Islamic world its renewal” and ascent to seven centuries of world domination after seven centuries of decline.

My God, a triple whammy of Nietzsche, Heidegger and the Koran! And, in his own words, we have his belief that the west in decline but that his religion might improve things in his part of the world! Of course, the experts know what that really means: “Kill the Jews and Crusaders!”

De Borchgrave was first introduced to me by Dark Window Pete at Sadly No! back in July. Pete explored de Borchgrave’s article for NewsMaxDaily Terror Diet“, in which de Borchgrave used the case of the French woman supposedly attacked on a Paris train to show that virulent anti-Semitism is overtaking France. This was AFTER the woman had been arrested, tried and sentenced for making the whole thing up, but de Borchgrave shrugged all that off:

True or not, the woman’s story was all too believable.

More links on the Ramadan affair are available from the latest Christianity Today weblog.

50 Million Christian Zionists?

Plans for the Day of Prayer For Israel (noted by me back in March) are heating up. Charisma News offers an update:

International Prayer Day For Jerusalem Enlists 50 Million Christians

Christians from around the world are expected to join a massive army of intercessors to pray for Israel next month. Inaugurated by Eagles’ Wings ministry based in Clarence, N.Y., the annual Day of Prayer for Jerusalem is slated for Oct. 3.

ASSIST adds that:

More than over 40,000 churches globally have confirmed their participation to mark the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, said Rev. Robert Stearns, co-chairman of the October 3 event to be held near the Knesset parliament building in Jerusalem, Israel…The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, which is being called for the first Sunday of every October, has garnered the active support of such evangelical leaders of influence as Ted Haggard, Jack Hayford, Glenn Plummer, Ravi Zacharias, Jane Hansen, Benny Hinn, and hundreds of others.

Plus, as an added bonus:

Leadership of the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem announced that Dr. Pat Robertson, a leading evangelical figure, will be the keynote speaker at a massive gathering to be held in Jerusalem on Sunday, October 3.

With straight face, Day of Prayer organiser Robert Stearns tells us that:

“We can think of no more appropriate leader to address this event than Dr. Robertson, who has lived a life of spiritual passion, moral clarity, sound thinking, and influenced millions around the world to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Well, I’m not surprised to see that the “moral clarity” of Pat “Liquor Officer” Robertson (a.k.a Pat “Diamond” Robertson; Pat “Chinese Forced Abortions” Robertson; Pat “Wild Oats” Robertson) includes support for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. As was reported by the American Council for Judaism:

At a Washington rally in October, The Forward (Oct. 18, 2002) notes that, “Thousands of Evangelical Christians waving Israeli flags cheered as Knesset member Benny Elon called for the ‘relocation’ of Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan…Elon, whose Moledet Party advocates the ‘transfer’ of Palestinians to Arab countries, said that a ‘resettlement’ of the Palestinians is prescribed by the Bible…Pat Robertson was the main speaker during the pro-Israel rally…Dismissing the legitimacy of the Palestinians’ claim to the land, and particularly to Jerusalem, Robertson said that ‘the Palestinians are really Arabs who moved there a few decades ago.'”

The veneer that this event is about “peace” is also undermined by dehumanising statements from Charismatic leader Jack Hayford in Charisma News:

Hayford sees Israel’s role in the end times as a turning point for the church because of the prophetic season. “I don’t mean how you read the prophetic handbook,” he said. “I mean recognizing that this is a moment that God is at work in our world. It’s manifest first in the recovery of Israel, the challenge to that recovery by hostile forces that are more than political forces. They clearly are spiritual forces that are antichrist-nourished, antichrist in spirit.”

Hayford feels no need to clarify whether by “hostile forces” he means the religious and political extremists among the Palestinians and Muslims, or any opposition to Israeli expansionism and Jewish supremacy, but I think we can safely assume the latter.

As I’ve noted more than once previously, most Christian Zionists are against either a Palestinian state or equal rights for Palestinians in a bi-national state. Palestinians are supposed to either leave or accept Israeli overlordship. No doubt for white Christian fundamentalists in the American South this brings a warm glow of nostalgia, but if it is true that Stearns really has 50 million Christians from around the world behind him, then the religion is in rather bad shape.

Meanwhile, the Michael D. Evan’s book American Prophecies, which declares that the very existence of Arabs is a mistake caused by Abraham’s lust, continues to top Amazon.com’s bestseller lists, puffed by Joseph Farah. According to WorldNetDaily:

Bible-believing Christians are rallying around Evans’ book, which supports President Bush and charges Clinton with the lack of moral clarity that led to the terror crisis worldwide.

Ohio Court asked to oppose Demonic Divorce

Jesus’ General (with help from Bellatrys) brings to our attention news from Ohio on the Focus on the Family website:

An Ohio woman is asking a state court to turn her divorce proceedings over to the Catholic Church.

Bai Macfarlane says she and her husband had a legally binding agreement to seek help before they ended their marriage.

When Catholic couples get married, they make a verbal agreement to follow the laws of the church before getting a divorce. When Macfarlane’s husband left, she said, he broke that agreement…

Macfarlane is asking the judge to remand the case to the Catholic Church for counseling. In the process, she’s hoping to make it harder for any couple to divorce, according to her attorney, Robert Lynch…The real enemy Lynch is going after are the nation’s permissive no-fault divorce laws.

MacFarlane is being advised by her friend Judy Parejko, a “marriage advocate”. Back in 2001, Parejko was a relationship specialist at the Mediation Center of Menomonie in Wisconsin, and was the subject of an opinion column in the Michigan Daily Telegram:

[She] calls herself a “doubting liberal” when it comes to George W. Bush. However, Parejko, who teaches problem-solving and communication skills to distressed and divorcing couples, admits she finds herself gravitating toward “a conservative perspective” when it comes to issues of marriage and divorce.

Since then her situation and outlook appear to have changed. Parejko is described on one website as “an ex-family court mediator who lost her job after helping to save marriages.” Jesus’ General also notes this article from 2002, where she makes the following argument:

Robert Flores walked onto the campus of the University of Arizona at Tuscon and opened fire on three of his female instructors, murdering them in cold blood. In his 22-page letter, discovered later by investigators, Flores sketches the story of his failed marriage, poor health and tythe slights he perceived from a nursing school he claimed treated male students as “tokens.”

In the Washington area, accused sniper, John Muhammad, targeted innocent people, shooting them down like prey. His 17-year-old accomplice, John Malvo, was also believed to have pulled the trigger. The story reveals at least three divorces – two were Muhammad’s and one was Malvo’s parents – as well as several child custody battles.

It’s not politically correct to connect the dots but it’s time for someone to begin. Could it be that our family court system is causing blood in the streets? Somehow, these men came unhinged – turned into killers.

MacFarlane has written a book on her experiences, to which Parejko has given this endorsement:

The demonic nature of our domestic relations courts is an open secret, operating in the light of day. But history shows that the most sinister schemes have worked that way.

This is an account of one victim’s experience of the “final solution” for troubled marriages, designed years ago by legal experts intent on “unifying” this country’s response to the troublesome problem of divorce. No one would escape.

Parejko also features on Dan Dick’s No Divorces website, which, like her endorsement, shows the influence of the Charismatic movement, as this item from Dick’s site shows:

Removing the Curse of Divorce and Adultery

Every couple whether married or planning to marry should protect their relationship from this curse…

This curse comes about through sin. This can be our sin, the sin of a parent or grandparent, someone close to us, or sins of the society we live in. In any case, the curse needs to be uprooted.

She has also written a book and has a website titled Stolen Vows.

Meanwhile, MacFarlane heads up Mary’s Advocates, which tells us:

Millions of Catholic Mothers and Fathers are being forced to watch our children be harmed by our wayward spouses’ choice to divorce. We are MADDD: Mom and Dad Divorce Defendants, and we expect our antenuptial agreement to follow the Code of Canon law, and our marriage contract to be married till death to be upheld.

However, there is an interesting twist in the tale, as Bellatrys has pointed out. Bai MacFarlane (also known as Marie MacFarlane or Marie Christine “Bai” Tepas Macfarlane) is the estranged spouse of conservative Catholic author William “Bud” MacFarlane Jr, and it seems the story has been buzzing around the conservative American Catholic blogosphere for a while. In particular, Through the Narrow Gate and My Domestic Church have a number of links. The Cleveland Plain Dealer gives us some specifics:

Her husband, William “Bud” Macfarlane, has filed for divorce, accusing his wife of “extreme cruelty” and “gross neglect of duty” – a brutal legalese that she says cannot describe her marriage. So Marie, a devout Catholic, is taking a stand not often seen today: She’s fighting to stop the divorce altogether.

“I’m innocent. There’s no way my husband is going to prove that,” she said of the charges raised against her in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. “From my perspective, I’m being punished and my children have been punished because my husband is having a lapse in character.”

Letters from MacFarlane and Parejko followed. However, although Bud MacFarlane has declined to comment, Through the Narrow Gate reports that he has apparently associated himself with an odd group called e5. According to group founder Steve Habisohn:

To be an e5 Man one must register and fast once a month for 24 hours on bread and water for the benefit of his bride, whether that be his wife, his fiancée or his future, unknown bride. A celibate man can fast for Christ’s bride, the Church…

In Ephesians 5 — from which the group, e5, gets its name — St. Paul calls on men to “love their wives as Christ loved the Church.” He calls on men to be like Christ to their brides.

Besides the fact that Christ fasted, even more importantly Christ gave his very body up for his bride, the Church, on the cross. This idea of a groom giving his body for his bride is a basic tenant of married love. Ephesians 5:25 calls a husband to be like Christ in giving his body up for his bride: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Rather creepily:

The man who belongs to the e5 Special Forces can add fasts specifically for his bride, but also can fast for other women who are in great need… 

One of the first unmarried e5 Men who signed up fasted for his ex-girlfriend, unknown to her. She called him up that evening and told him how her experience at her Bible study that very night was amazing. She said that the words seemed to fly off the page and were seemingly written just for her. Needless to say, this new e5 Man started fasting more than the once a month.

… A husband is to orient his will to serve his wife’s needs ahead of his — like Christ, even unto death. In doing this, he subjects his entire self to her needs. She becomes his body. St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:29, “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it.”

In a complementary response of total self-gift, the wife orients her will to her husband’s to allow for his gift of self to be given freely. She becomes submissive — which literally means “under” his “mission” — to serve her needs. A woman who dominates a husband does not allow his gift to be given freely, and it becomes no gift at all. Her gift of her will — within right reason, as Pope Pius XI writes — is therefore a complementary total self-gift.

My Domestic Church makes one interesting point concerning the dispute:

Previous case law shows that the prenuptial agreements of Orthodox Jews have been upheld by civil authorities. Mr. Lynch asks the court to uphold his client’s prenuptial agreement in the same way.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer also notes the development of covenant marriages, which have extra conditions to those required by law. However, this article by Miriam Colton (annoying undated) has a rather different take on Jewish marriage law in the USA. The purpose of these prenuptials are not to bind couples together in a way that secular divorce law would not recognise, but the opposite:

In recent decades there has been an intensification of concern for agunot [“anchored” women unable to get a divorce] in the Jewish community. A Jewish woman is halachically bound to her husband and cannot remarry until she receives a get, a Jewish divorce. Although a beit din, court of law, can call upon a man to give his wife a get, the beit din has no way of enforcing it Unfortunately, many men have used the get process to exploit their wives…

In response, a number of respected rabbis and organizations, including the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), have encouraged the use of prenuptials. The agreement, a halachic and civil document, consists of two essential parts, intended to provide for an expedient get process in the event of a divorce.

The first part, arbitration, states that in the unlikely case of marital dispute the couple agrees to abide by the binding decision of a specific beit din, court of law, clearly named by the couple. The second part is the husband’s assumption of obligation to support his wife on a daily basis upon separation. This payment, which is usually $100-$150 per day, is designed to give a strong incentive to the husband to accelerate the get process, and not to blackmail his wife into paying him a large sum of money.

Crucially:

This agreement is legally and halachically enforceable, though to date, no cases have reached civil court.

I would keen to hear if this is still the case.

Meanwhile, north of the border, religious marriage arbitration remains a point of controversy as some shariah looks likely to be introduced. According to one opinion in the Toronto Star:

Muslims can’t be excluded from Ontario’s 1991 Arbitration Act, which allows religious groups to resolve family disputes, says the attorney-general’s office. Hassidic Jews have been running their own Beit Din arbitrations based on Jewish law for years. Catholics, too, even Ismaili Muslims. Rulings are binding, but must be consistent with Canadian laws and the Charter of Rights.

UPDATE (25 September): Dan Dick has left a comment, on the basis of which this blog entry has been amended.