Contra Ten Commandments

Well, here’s a new argument for Roy Moore and co. to chew over, courtesy of Nichiren Shoshu:

(PRWEB) February 26, 2005 — The Ten Commandments are “imperfect precepts” and should be discarded, according to Reverend Jisei Nagasaka of the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist sect. Nagasaka further links them to the horrific disasters and confusion rampant in the nation today.

Nagasaka has informed his congregants that they must “discard the imperfect precepts of imperfect religions and ideas such as the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments.” According to Mr. Nagasaka, if all people were to join his sect “we won’t need precepts such as the Ten Commandments.” Instead he asks his parishioners to “denounce heretical, evil religions and lead the people to the True Law.”

…Nagasaka has posted his remarks on his temple’s website which can be found at http://www.nstny.org/discardprecepts.htm, www.nstny.org/etg.htm, www.nstny.org/rar1.htm, and www.nstny.org/pn.htm (retrieved 2/18/2005).

Soka Gakkai used to be Nichiren Shoshu’s lay organisation; however, Soka Gakkai was excommunicated in 1991. See here for details, and thanks to Monte for pointing this out.

(Link via Cult News Network)

Devil in the Detail Part Two

There seems to be some sort of pool of media-exorcists that British hacks call on. Yesterday I covered Trevor Newport’s appearance on Channel 4; today The Observer profiles William Lendrum, the Church of Ireland exorcist who was previously featured alongside Newport on the BBC World Service (both were blogged here). But according to this new report, Lendrum does not think much of his Charismatic competitor (who is incorrectly described as an “Anglican clergyman” by The Observer):

Lendrum was unimpressed by Channel 4’s attempt to film the live exorcism, which lasted less than five minutes and was carried out on an ex-drug addict…’My view watching that programme was that the person involved was disturbed by external forces, that the process was more an act of deliverance than an exorcism. It seemed to be more about the paranormal than a man possessed.’

OK…so what’s Lendrum’s own bag?

Just a couple of hours before Channel 4 screened what was supposedly the first live exorcism last Thursday night, Lendrum was curing a 10-year-old boy who had dabbled in the black arts of the Ouija board…’The boy, who comes from County Derry, was sent to me a couple of months ago on the recommendation of a psychiatrist,’ he said. ‘ He had found a Ouija board by a river, took it home and started playing with it. A few weeks later he said he could hear voices, specifically that a man called Tyrannus was talking to him.

Meanwhile, Newsnight has just reported on the exorcism of children among African immigrants living in London. In some African churches, the practice has led to children being physically abused; the belief that a child can be possessed may have also contributed to the murder of Victoria Climbie, Newsnight argued. The report was quite informative, although it saw exorcism and deliverance in African churches purely in terms of African traditions: in fact, C. Peter Wagner, Bill Subritzky, Derek Prince and other Western “deliverance” practitioners are known in Africa and ought to be given their due.

So should we also be concerned about Lendrum and others like him exorcising children? Or does being white and belonging to a mainstream denomination put all worries to rest? No opinion from the Observer, which, alas, also failed to quiz Lendrum on his conspiracy theory about the satanic “Ulster Assassination Cult”.

(Newsnight link via The Revealer)

Devil in the Detail

A report from the London Evening Standard:

Channel 4 has provoked outrage by showing the first exorcism ritual on British TV.

Except it’s not. I’ve seen two over the past decade or so, although I’m afraid I can’t recall the exact details. The first (I’m sure was in 1991) was an American documentary about a church in Oklahoma where the pastor had persuaded his congregation that most of them had been abused as children as part of a Satanic conspiracy: I definitely remember a meek-looking middle-aged lady swearing her head off while being rebuked by said pastor. The second (probably 1992) was a “fly on the wall” profile of a small band of British Charismatic Christians, and featured a guy being held down at a table as he shouted out “we’re staying in him”. Plus there was a BBC piece just a couple of years back that featured a house being exorcised of a ghost (and, apparently, exorcisms on a British Christian satellite channel which led to a rebuke from broadcasting authorities in 1998).

However, this one was slightly different:

Channel 4 broadcast the programme “as live” hours after it had taken place in front of a panel of experts at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. Channel 4 said it was a “scientific experiment”. It was broadcast at 11.05 last night.

Unfortunately, now being based in Japan I wasn’t able actually to see the “experiment”. However, a reviewer noted:

Doctor [Jonathan] Bird, who was monitoring the EEG machine, revealed that some small tremor had been recorded in Colin’s brain just at the moment when Satan’s henchman did a runner, but that it was not significant enough to constitute a definite exorcism or similar flight of the evil one.

So who was the exorcist? None other than Trevor Newport, who has been featured on this blog before. Newport is a bit of an exorcist pundit, having been used several times in the past by the BBC (most recently, as a preview to the C4 programme, here). He is also, somewhat unlike Father Merrin of The Exorcist, a Word of Faith “Prosperity Gospel” Charismatic with links to Kenneth Copeland (A chap called Mark who claims to have been involved with Newport’s church left a rather negative comment about him on my original entry).

UPDATE: See today.

Spiritual Waves in Europe?

Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor has done a decent job with a series of articles about religion in Europe. In the first part, he calls on sociologists of religion (but not Steve Bruce, alas) for explanations of European secularism and gets sound bites from various political figures, ranging from new darling of the US right Rocco Buttiglione (“The new soft totalitarianism that is advancing on the left wants to have a state religion…It is an atheist, nihilistic religion – but it is a religion that is obligatory for all”) through to Nicolas Sartorius, a Spanish leftist who suffered under Franco’s “Catholic nationalism”.

Part two is rather more arguable, as Ford seeks to find “waves of spirituality” in Europe. There’s a meeting with some French Charismatic Catholics (although no mention of the popular and official distain that Charismatic Protestants receive in France) and some observations about the British book industry:

In Britain, the country’s largest bookseller has noticed that preoccupation, and moved to meet it. Expanding the shelf space it devotes to religious and spiritual books, “we have increased our range over the last few years,” says Lucy Avery, a spokeswoman for the Waterstone’s chain.

Sales of such books rose by nearly 4 percent last year, she adds, and titles such as the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness” and a modern-language “Street Bible” have become bestsellers.

OK, but what does that really signify about the nature of religion in the UK? People are not becoming Buddhists in any number, but the Dalai Lama can get some decent sales when he presents his ideas in the popular “self-help” genre. That suggests to me further evidence of secularisation, not evidence against. Other data is problematic:

“I’ve noticed a steady increase in interest,” says Suvannavira, a Russian-born, British-educated monk who runs the Western Buddhist Order’s Paris outpost in a cramped storefront meditation center. “Our order has doubled in size since 1990.”

According to data found at Adherents.com, that amounts to an underwhelming 800 or so individuals. The increase in numbers is interesting, but it is hardly a religious revival. Also:

…youth workers in Britain are finding “consistent evidence…that a secular generation is being replaced by a generation much more interested in spiritual issues,” says Stuart Murray-Williams, a theologian at Oxford University who recently published a book entitled “After Christendom.”

But that’s hardly unexpected. It’s called “youthful idealism”. Murray-Williams sensibly cautions:

“There is a kind of inchoate spirituality that could be significant, or it could be a passing trend,” he says. “It will be a while before we know whether or not it is strong enough to challenge the culture of secularism.”

Ford also covers the intellectual side of things:

“God is back among intellectuals,” says Aleksander Smolar, a leading European thinker who heads the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw and teaches at the Sorbonne in Paris. “You can feel there is a problem of soul in Europe; people are con- scious of a void and there is a certain crisis of secularism.”

…A preoccupation with spirituality is much more present now at a religious and philosophical level” than it was a few years ago, says Dominique Moisi, a French political analyst.

…In France, leading philosopher Régis Debray, once a comrade in arms of Che Guevara in the Bolivian mountains, has devoted two of his most recent books to explorations of God and religion.

This is an interesting subject, but it’s not something that has just happened: religion has been of particular interest to postmodern philosophers for some time (although Buttiglione’s simplistic world-view, which I blogged here, sees the late Jacques Derrida as some sort of evil nihilistic mastermind behind European secularism). And Debray appears to be anti-religious and pro-secularist.

But for all that, and a note on how aggrieved Muslims and Sikhs in Europe have been supported by Christian leaders, Ford ends his piece in a low-key way:

…the rise in spirituality has not translated into growing support for organized churches, mosques or temples. Indeed, says Murray-Williams, the violence that has accompanied the eruption of religion into European public life “may exacerbate the difference between religion and spirituality.

“Many people see spirituality as something positive, while religion is seen as a system that can be divisive,” he says.

But the signs are there, says Mr. [Jacques] Delors, to suggest that religious sentiment may yet take firmer hold in European life. “I don’t expect a wholesale social mutation,” he says. “But I can see little white stones marking out a path.”

Part Three is a solid but conventional look at Muslims in Europe; supporting pieces by other writers cover Mormon missionaries in France and the question of why Americans work more than Europeans.

CS Monitor links from Christianity Today)

Christian Zionist Archaeologist Smears Colleagues

The Jamaica Gleaner profiles British Biblical archaeologist Garth Gilmour, who is giving a lecture tour there. Despite a decent academic CV and links to both Oxford University and the Albright Institute, Gilmour has a very odd idea of what archaeology actually should be. Defending his belief that archaeology proves the history of Biblical Israel, he has this to say of colleagues who think otherwise:

…several renowned professors and scholars of both secular and Biblical history are dismissive of the historicity of Israel’s King David and King Solomon. Some of these sceptics, he said, say David and Solomon were no more historical than the mythical King Arthur.

…He contends that these academics, unwittingly are acting out a form of anti-semitism. He argues: ” If you can deny ancient Israel’s claim to the land in ancient Israel’s time ­ then you can deny modern Israel’s claim to the land that is based on Biblical history. If you can deny modern Israel’s claim to the land, then you can deny Israel’s right to exist as a state. If you can deny Israel’s right to exist as a state, then you can throw them out and as there is nowhere else for them to go. I leave it to your imagination to take it to its logical conclusion. What do you do with them. They are unwanted people. They are in the land that belongs to other people. They have no rights to any other land. Nobody wants them. We just have to get rid of them ­ and we are right back where we were 60 years ago.”

I’m not sure what’s worse: the gross offensiveness of the “anti-Semitic” libel or the insult to my intelligence in the rest of the paragraph.

As it happens, I have some misgivings about the “minimalist” position that Gilmour dislikes. But showing scepticism of the sources is not anti-Semitism, unwitting or otherwise. What makes Gilmour’s accusation particularly obnoxious is that some of the scholars he is here accusing are actually Jewish Israelis, such as Israel Finkelstein. And as for Gilmour’s general point, that must surely undermine any confidence we can have that Gilmour is a serious scholar rather than an ideologue (although he is not an isolated case). Not only has he betrayed the standards of his discipline, his hysterical ramblings about the consequences of disagreeing with him are simply wrong. Ancient claims to the land may be part of Zionist rhetoric, but they have nothing to do with the legal basis for Israel’s current existence, which is based on international law.

Gilmour was speaking in Jamaica at the behest of a local Christian Zionist organisation, Olive Branch Ministries. Although he is of the view that modern Israel is the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and should therefore be supported, to his credit he adds that

It is very important for the Church to stand with the Palestinians in their sufferings and in their tragedy and humiliation at the hands of Israel and at the hands of their own Arab brothers.

Nice words, but what does this mean in practice? Unless Gilmour is in favour of either an independent Palestinian state or Israeli citizenship for Palestinians, then this qualification is nothing but cant.

(Jamaica Gleaner link from Christianity Today)

Hal Lindsey Puffs Kahanists at WND

Hal Lindsey is at it again, using his WorldNetDaily column to puff the new “Sanhedrin” in Israel:

Two remarkable developments took place recently that are extremely relevant to students of Bible prophecy.

For the first time in 1,600 years, the Israeli Sanhedrin was re-established. It occurred in Tiberius, the site of the Sanhedrin’s last meeting in AD 425.

…On Feb. 9, just a few weeks after the Sanhedrin’s re-establishment, another enormously important development took place. The religious sages began to consider the rebuilding of the Temple and reinstitution of ancient animal sacrifices as prescribed in the Law of Moses.

Lindsey directs us to the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva for further details:

Meeting in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Sanhedrin consists of representatives of all stripes of religious Jewish society. Hareidi-religious, Hassidic, national-religious, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, modern Orthodox and university professors sit side by side in a semi-circle, seeking to re-establish Jewish legal tradition after 2,000 years of exile.

That’s hardly “all stripes of religious Jewish society”. Even if we ignore Jewish-Israeli followers of other faiths, it of course completely ignores the Reform tradition. And, given that many Orthodox and Conservative Jews reject the idea of humans rebuilding the Temple before the Messiah comes, the “Sanhedrin” is likely to be rather unrepresentative there as well. The Jerusalem Post has the details Hal doesn’t want his credulous readers to hear about:

Shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel, religious affairs minister Judah Leib Maimon raised the notion of reinstituting the ancient body, to no avail.

The group composed largely of Kahane sympathizers that gave itself the name Sanhedrin in October, however, met Sunday to discuss the creation of a Jewish monarchy in the State of Israel.

…Rabbi Yosef Dayan from Psagot, known for his recent threats to place a death curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is said to be a leading candidate to become the “king of Israel.”

“Dayan has the best lineage to King David,” several members of the Sanhedrin told The Jerusalem Post. They say he has two documented ancient sources which draw a direct line between him and the males in his family to King David some 3,000 years ago.

In other words, the supposed “Sanhedrin” has been “re-established” in the same way that the USA has crowned Reverend Moon as Messiah (see here for Kahane). And those responsible are bigoted fundamentalist cranks who hate Israeli democracy and believe that they have a divine right to lord it over the nation (I blogged on Dayan and the “death curse” previously). Back to Lindsey:

Sanhedrin member Rabbi Yisrael Ariel is the most ardent believer that the Temple is to be rebuilt in this generation. He is the former Yeshiva head, founder of the Temple Institute, and one of the paratroopers who took part in the 1967 liberation of the Temple Mount.

But just as Lindsey ignores the monarchism (perhaps too absurd even for him), the tasteless “death curse”, and the Kahanist links, he neglects to tell us that Ariel is not much different from the apologists for Hamas WND so despises. As it happens, I just read this in Timothy P Weber’s On the Road to Armageddon:

Ariel is a doer who is not afraid to justify violence in the achievement of his ends. During the mid- and late 1980s, he was the leader of Tzfiyah (“expectation”), a right-wing group organized to support members of the Jewish underground who had been jailed after their attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Ariel was furious that some members of the Gush Emunim had condemned the actions of the underground. He argued that “thou shalt not kill” applied only to killing fellow Jews, not non-Jews…he co condemned all Jews who did not support the building of the third temple and declared that since Christians and Muslims were idolators, they should not be allowed to live in Israel (pp. 260-61; sourced from Gershom Gorenberg, End of Days).

I’m not sure what’s more degrading: Lindsey’s complete abandonment of Christian theology or ethics in an endless quest to remain a “prophecy expert”, or his attempt to curry favour with people who despise him and his religion. But either way, it is his support for bigots and terrorist-sympathisers that is the most shameful.

Douglas Wilson On a Roll

The History News Network reports that historian Eugene Genovese has come to the defence of Douglas Wilson, co-author of Southern Slavery, As It Was, a booklet that asserted that (among much else):

There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world…Slave life was to [the slaves] a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care.

Wilson’s booklet is a few years old, but it came to media attention last December, when it was noticed that it was being used as a textbook in a Christian school in North Carolina. I noted at the time that Rev Wilson was a kind of Christian Reconstructionist, with links to D James Kennedy. Wilson’s co-author Rev Steve Wilkins is a director of the League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as as a hate group (Atrios also has some nice quotes from League founder Michael Hill, second item). Apparently the the booklet was withdrawn after it was shown to have been partly plagiarised from another source.

Now Eugene Genovese has provided editorial help for a new edition, to be entitled Black and Tan, along with a blurb:

The Reverend Douglas Wilson may not be a professional historian, as his detractors say, but he has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery and its relation to Christian doctrine. Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms. And the Reverend Mr. Wilson is a fighter, especially effective in defense of Christianity against those who try to turn Jesus’ way of salvation into pseudo-moralistic drivel.

As HNN notes, Genovese is responsible for a highly-regarded study of slavery, Roll, Jordan, Roll. Genovese is a former Communist who converted to Roman Catholicism and neo-conservatism in 1996 (yawn), several months after his wife (a fellow leftist academic). According to a 1996 book review in First Things:

Fundamentally, he discovered [in his early researches] that Marxism gravely underestimates the power of religion. Among both black and white southerners, Genovese writes, “the overpowering evidence of religious faith aroused in me a skepticism about the reigning tendency in Academia to, as it were, sociologize faith out of religion-to deny the reality of spirituality.”

Genovese here was right (in general) about Marxism, and was on to something quite early (for his discipline, at least). But if he correctly diagnosed an academic blind spot back in the 1970s, this was hardly relevant by the 1990s, by which time scholars like George Marsden, Nathan Hatch and Mark Noll had all produced ground-breaking books on American religious history (See also this recent essay from Stanley Fish). Back to the review of Genovese:

In the decades before the Civil War…as slavery came under harsher attack, southerners retrenched…The crux of the problem, as they saw it, was that under industrialism the elites took no social responsibility for the working classes. By contrast, slavery was an organic, personal, face-to-face relation; it was an extension of the “household” (which, in preindustrial societies, included dependent laborers)…[Genovese] praises the slaveholders’ “unshakable insight that bourgeois social relations irresistibly generated a self-revolutionizing social and economic system that dissolved family and community and made the marketplace the arbiter of moral and social life.”

But:

No matter how kind or decent individual slaveholders may have been, the institution of slavery was itself inherently unjust, since it reduced human beings to economic property to be bought and sold. (This was also the fatal flaw in southerners’ claim that slavery was organic-i.e., outside the marketplace.)…Apologists for the South typically stress the independent freeholders as shapers of the region’s ethos, while tracing its origin ultimately to the older Christian civilization of Europe. “This will not do,” Genovese admonishes.

The rights and wrongs of this thesis have no doubt been considered at length elsewhere (an interesting progressive critique of Genovese from Manuel Yang can be seen here). But it sounds very different from Douglas Wilson’s slave apology. Has Genovese just moved further and further to the right since then? Has Wilson’s new booklet toned it down (there is no mention of Wilkins as co-author this time)? Does Genovese now conflate the value of understanding the religious perspectives of slaveholders with actually holding the same view today? Or is Genovese just another neo-con opportunist?

ASSISTing Anti-Terrorism

There are a couple of things about the Evangelical/Pentecostal news service ASSIST Ministries that I don’t like: the credulous reporting of faith healers like Lee Jae-Rock; stupid opinion pieces from the likes of Ted Baehr and Mikhail Margolis. But, on the other hand, ASSIST is often commendable: unlike Agape Press, it is not a creature of the US Christian Right, and it regularly covers news stories that concern Christian persecution without indulging in the kind of grotesque anti-Muslim rhetoric one finds on some other Christian websites. Radically, it covers Israel-Palestine from a perspective of compassion and cautious optimism, while Agape can only spew fatalism and hatred of Palestinians.

So hats off to Jeremy Reynalds, an ASSIST correspondent now under threat from Islamic radicals for highlighting certain pro-terror websites. As Reynalds himself reported back on Feb 6 (urls here made into hyperlinks):

For a few weeks, one of the hottest jihadi terror sites appeared to have been www.mawsuat.com.

Fortunately, a few hours before the recent very successful Iraqi elections this site was taken down by its American Internet service provider (ISP) after I alerted the company to the contents of the site.

Now thanks to my friends at Internet Haganah, I have learned that the site’s demise has made some jihadis very upset and they would like nothing better than to have my head on a platter.

The following information was posted on the Houston-based radical Islamic site Ansarnet, and the translation provided by Internet Haganah Owner Aaron Weisburd.

Weisburd wrote “The person who ran the now-defunct mawsuat.com starts by blaming Reynalds for the site’s demise, posts a P. O. Box address for Reynalds, and asks if anyone else has more information about him.

“In the discussion that follows, the Islamists first post Reynalds’ home address so that he might be ‘visited,’ then a picture of him and a wish that his ribs should be broken, and finally they offer their prayers to Allah that He should deliver to them Reynalds’ ‘fatty neck’ – a clear reference to the current fad of decapitating anyone deemed to be a critic of the more lethal forms of Islam. The thread closes with a heartfelt ‘amen.’

The Houston site has since had to move to a Chicago host, and the forum that contained the death threat has closed. Now Reynalds is scheduled to appear on the O’Reilly Factor: one hopes that more mainstream and liberal media will also take an interest. Last year, I offered solidarity (for whatever it was worth) to The Revealer after it was targeted by the Islamophobes and racists of Little Green Footballs. The same solidarity goes for ASSIST and Jeremy Reynalds.

Doug Giles’s Plagiarised Chocolate Poodle

Many years ago British missionary pioneer (and cricketer) CT Studd (1862-1931) wrote an essay called “The Chocolate Soldier: or Heroism – The Lost Chord of Christianity” (see here). He exhorted his readers thus:

EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN IS A SOLDIER – of Christ – a hero “par excellence”! Braver than the bravest – scorning the soft seductions of peace and her oft repeated warnings against hardship, disease, danger and death, whom he counts among his bosom friends.

THE OTHERWISE CHRISTIAN IS A Chocolate Christian, dissolving in water and melting at the smell of fire.

Studd then goes on demonstrate the two kinds of Christian from Biblical examples, in ways remarkably similar to Doug Giles’s Townhall column from last November in which he demanded: “Do You Have a Pit Bull Attitude?” Compare the following; Studd in maroon, Giles in green:

NOAH walked with God: he did not only preach righteousness, he acted it. He went through water and did not melt. He breasted the current of the popular opinion of his day, scorning alike the hatred and ridicule of the scoffers who mocked at the thought of there being but one way of salvation. He warned the unbelieving and, entering the ark himself, did not open the door an inch when once God had shut it. A real hero untainted by the fear of man!

NOAH preached and lived righteously when the rest of the world was wicked. He feared God when it wasn’t popular. He obeyed God when everyone mocked him. Noah and his family alone survived the flood when it came upon the earth. Noah got the last laugh…because Noah was a pit bull.

ABRAHAM, a simple farmer, at a word from the invisible God, marched with family and stock through the terrible desert to a distant land to live among a people whose language he could neither speak nor understand! Not bad that! But later he did even better, marching hot foot against the combined armies of five kings, flushed with recent victory, to rescue one man! His army? Just 318 odd fellows, armed like a circus crowd. And he won!

ABRAHAM was 75 years old when he left everything and followed God. That’s radical. With 318 men, this old bulldog whipped the combined armies of five great kings. Not too shabby for a farmer. His secret? He was a pit bull who lived to please his Master.

…There are Chocolates à la Reuben, who have great searchings of heart, and make great resolves of heart too. But somehow they still sit among the sheepfolds, listening to the pipings of their much loved organs, or the strumming of their guitars. It is good to have great heart-searching. It is better to make a great heart resolve. But if, instead of obeying, we squat among the sheep, leaving our few hard-pressed brothers to tackle the wolves by themselves, we are only Chocolate Christians.

…REUBEN, Jacob’s eldest, was a poodle.  He had great intentions and serious heart resolves.  But at the end of the day, he preferred to sit and listen to the shepherds play songs rather than get into the fray.  He chose to squat on the sidelines of life rather than be on the playing field.

It goes on, of course, but it’s a boring exercise…especially as I’ve looked at Giles’s “borrowings” before.

Military Mission

Back in 2003, Porter Memorial Church in Lexington led a Southern Baptist mission to Iraq. The AP reported at the time:

The group’s destination is northern Iraq. They say they are obeying Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, but say they will be respectful of the Muslims they encounter.

“We’re going to go in as Christian Americans. We’re not going to go in as ugly Americans, thinking the world revolves around us,” said one of the missionaries, Mike Moynahan.

…Trent Snyder, the church’s minister of singles, says the Baptists will be culturally sensitive and won’t coerce anybody.

“We are not going over there to cram our faith down anyone’s throat,” he said. “We’re not going to be going over there shouting ‘I’m a Christian. Take this bible or else.'”

Fair enough in principle – although there is always the worry that American missionaries might offend local Muslims who might then take things out on local Christians. The Kentucky Baptist Western Recorder gives a report on the mission, which took place at the end of the year:

The group distributed 200 Bibles along with 650 bags of food weighing about 40 pounds each, according to Bill Henard, pastor of Porter Memorial.

Henard had an encounter with a Kurdish chief:

The chief replied, “We are not friends, we are brothers,” before embracing the pastor and kissing him on the cheek.

When Henard followed up with the offer of a New Testament, the leader put the Bible on his head and said, “If this is a gift from you, I must receive it and I must read it.”

Back in Kentucky, the Men’s Ministry of Porter Memorial has now just hosted a “Men’s Night Out” worship service that doubled up as a military recruitment drive. Of course, “Southern Baptist Church is pro-Military” is hardly a headline, but the event, described here (reposted from another site, from where it has been taken down) with photos, appears to be on a new level of bombast, and the recruitment aspect is a new element. The writer, a pro-war conservative, noted:

I know it’s ridiculously bad taste but yes, that really is Jesus on the cross in the first picture…in behind our troops. When the final modern troop stepped out too the front and center he thrust his rifle one handed into the air to shouts of approval, the Jesus footage was still playing, and at that particular point even my dad was uncomfortable.

jesus-on-flag

Somalia veteran Jeff Sturecker provided the sermon:

Captain Sturecker preached to us in full dress uniform about his early faith was based in fear of going to hell, but now he doesn’t need to fear death, and about his experiences in the black hawk affair. In particular he prayed after his first drive back to base (If you’ve seen the movie, he was the humvee driver with the injured man on strecher [sic] in the back. He was also the guy that said, “The difference in between heroes and cowards isn’t the fear it’s what they do with it”), and after that even though the vehicle was shot to hell, he had no casualties. He even watched an RPG barely miss its mark and deflect off his hood. Every word of this might be true, but it was also part of a “The lord will protect you in the military” themed sermon.

Those wanting to sign up there and then could go to tables of literature.

So, the US armed forces are recruiting at a church that puts a high premium on converting Iraqi Muslims. And a church that wants to present its missionaries as culturally sensitive Christians rather than as “ugly Americans” has decided to celebrate American militarism in the most triumphalist manner possible. Some would say that might be rather unwise for all concerned…

(Link via Jesus’ General)