Serb Nationalist Branches Out

The Anomalist links to a Reuters report about yet another Jesus simulacrum:

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Christians are flocking to a northwestern Bosnian town to view an image of Jesus Christ that allegedly appeared in a section of a cut tree branch two days ago, Bosnian media reported on Friday.

The image resembling Jesus’ face cannot be seen from a close distance but only from a few metres away. The branch in the town of Bijeljina was cut about a year ago, said Oslobodjenje daily.

…The region’s Serb Orthodox bishop Vasilije visited the site and said church officials would discuss the phenomenon and advise believers how to behave. He appealed to visitors not to destroy the tree and not to leave money at the site.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any actual picture of the “phenomenon”. However, while Jesus appearing on a Texas frying pan or an Ohio door can be taken as just a bit of fun, in Bosnia this kind of thing could have a rather worrying political aspect – especially given the involvement of Bishop Vasilije, a noted Serb nationalist who has a history of using the Serbian Orthodox church to bully local Bosnians (The state known as Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two parts: (1) a federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; (2) the Republika Sprska, or “Serb Republic”, which should not be confused with the neighbouring Republic of Serbia. Bijeljina is in the Republika Sprska.) Back in 2003 a report from the Bosnian Institute asked:

Will the Orthodox Church leaders ever be able to explain why Bosniak houses and other buildings in Bijeljina’s centre had to be destroyed so that, on the land ‘liberated’ in this manner, their Bishop Vasilije Kacavenda could build his residence?

…At the time of the signing of the Dayton Agreement, there were 1,800 Bosniaks living in Bijeljina, which is something of a record for Republika Srpska. That provided the basis and encouragement for a massive return of Bijelina refugees in the afterwar period, so that today some 7,000 Bosniaks live in the town. This, and the fact that a similar number of Bosniaks has returned to the nearby town of Janja, has upset the guardians of Serb supremacy in this ‘suburb of Belgrade’, as the town is now known. Among these, key roles are played by the town mayor Dragutin Ljuboviæ and Bishop Vasilije Kacavenda of, who has chosen Bijeljina for his new residence. As a result of their efforts Bijeljina has became the site of a fierce anti-Bosniak campaign that has included an explosion on the premises of the Islamic Community and the demolition or closing down of several Bosniak shops and restaurants, among them a café owned by Jusuf Trbiæ, the most popular Bijeljina journalist in the prewar period.

Bijlelina appeared on British television in 1993, when Gaby Rado of Channel 4 news reported on the night dynamiting of five mosques in the town. Vasilije has opposed the rebuilding of one of these:

…The strongest resistance comes from Bishop Vasilije, who claims that, if rebuilt, the mosque would spoil the view of his residence, including the courtyard and the church, which he has erected on land seized from Bosniak families.

More generally, the bishop is breaking all records in implementing a great Orthodox revolution. Among the new street names, and in heavy competition with various tsars, vojvode, princes and kings, a significant number has gone to Orthodox Church dignitaries. The city hospital is named after the Holy Magi, while every institution in the town boasts its own Christian slava [saint’s day], including the library, the police station, the electric power station, etc.

And just why is the bishop of “Zvornik and Tuzla” based in Bijeljina anyway? Victoria Clark explained in The Tablet in 1999 that Vasilije:

had abandoned his diocesan seat in Tuzla and been branded a war criminal by the Muslims of the town. Even the Serbs of Tuzla did not want him back, so he had built himself a new palace in Serb-controlled Bijeljina. He blamed the United States for starting the Yugoslav wars and then suggested that Britain would soon be doing its own ethnic cleansing of coloured minorities.

Vasilije would also appear to be a bit of a hypocrite. While he objects to the possibility of a mosque blighting his view, Bosnians complaining about an illegal church on their doorstep get short shrift. Back to another report from the Bosnian Institute:

A battle over a church in Konjevic Polje, in Bratunac, in the east of the Republika Srpska, is threatening to ignite a new inter-ethnic and religious conflict in the region, pitting Serbs against Bosniak returnees. The Serb Orthodox church was built there illegally in 1996 on the private land of a Bosniak, Fata Orlovic, after she had been expelled from the village along with other local Bosniaks in the war. After Orlovic returned and got her property back, she asked the church and civil authorities to remove the building, which stands in front of the family home.

…Radio Television Republika Srpska (RTRS)…carried an interview with the local bishop, Vasilije of Zvornik-Tuzla, describing moves to close the Konjevic Polje church as ‘genocidal’. The bishop claimed Orthodox people in the area had been ‘deprived of the right to their religion. Relocation or destroying the church is out of the question.’

Given the strife that can be stirred up by a church, imagine the impact of a holy place where Jesus himself appeared in the form of a tree branch to give his blessings to Serbian nationalism.

Agape Press Attacks Every Nation

UPDATE (9 March 2007): Agape has withdrawn the story, and has stated that its linkage of EN with the New Order of the Latter Rain was “mistaken”. See here.

Don Wildmon’s Christian news service Agape Press lays into the neo-Pentecostal grouping Every Nation, in a report about the Bethel World Outreach Center:

Bethel World Outreach Center is a member of the Every Nation family of churches, which is part of “The New Order of the Latter Rain.” The “New Order” is a cult movement that covertly believes its leaders are the collective reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

That’s unexpectedly strong stuff. As I’ve covered on this blog before, Every Nation was formerly known as Morning Star International, and some of its leadership was previously associated with the controversial Maranatha Ministries (critics allege MSI/Every Nation is just a continuation of Maranatha). Bethel is just one of Every Nation’s many outreaches, but it’s not the first to find itself in controversy. Previous entries I’ve written on the subject (assisted, I should acknowledge, by some disaffected ex-members) have also noted how Every Nation-affiliated sites are often very cagey about their connections, and sometimes contain dates in their histories that simply don’t add up. While I’m not particularly interested in whether Every Nation is “orthodox” or not, these anomalies and controversies have caught my attention.

So what about the claims by Agape Press? I find it very hard to believe that any conservative Christian group would use the word “reincarnation”, and I think we can see that as a polemical interpretation of Every Nation’s alleged covert belief. “The New Order of the Latter Rain” (NOLR) is also probably better seen as a trend rather than as a tight organisation. The Religious Movements Homepage offers a neutral description of the NOLR that includes the following:

The movement was led by William Branham and Oral Roberts. Oral Roberts was a Pentecostal Holiness Preacher who started his own independent healing ministry in 1947 (Riss, 107). William Branham began his healing ministry in the fall of 1946. He claimed to be divinely inspired by an angel and his reputation as a healer grew quickly (Riss, 106). Stemming from Ephesians 4:11 of the Bible, the Latter Rain followers believe in the restoration of the five-fold ministry. This ministry consists of apostles, prophets, missionaries, evangelists, pastors and teachers with the addition of apostles and prophets being the most controversial (Melton, 418).

…The doctrine of Manifest Sons of God holds that “anointed” ones can enter into sonship and hence become divine (Holy Laughter link). The belief that humans can become gods is highly controversial because it blurs the line between creator and created (Melton, 420). Latter Rain supporters think the doctrine of sonship is aligned with Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:45-47 and Romans 8:19) so that “sonship is an actual gaining of the image and likeness of Christ” (Melton, 420).

Joel’s Army is another doctrine of the Latter Rain faith. This claims that the Latter Rain advocates must conquer and dominate the world in order for the new millenium and Christ to come.

Another common theme in NOLR is the “new thing” of Isaiah 43:19 and Acts 17:18-21. This belief is similar to gnosticism in that they are always seeking a “new thing” or revelation to escape the material world.

But does this apply to Every Nation, a grouping whose leader Rice Broocks was recently defended by Faith of George W Bush author Stephen Mansfield? With claims of a “covert belief” this is hard to say, and in the 1998 book The Apostolic Churches (edited by C Peter Wagner) Broocks writes that

None of us at Morning Star think we are in the same league as the original 12 apostles or that anything we say is equal to Holy Scripture (144)

Quite likely, the Agape journalist made use of a bundle of documents that an ex-member has put together, and who kindly sent me a copy a while back. This ex-member claims that the founder of Maranatha, Bob Wiener, had been “initiated” by a Latter Rain figure named Royal DeWayne Cronquist back in 1967 (the source was a phone call between the ex-member and Cronquist’s widow; Every Nation apparently rejects the link). Weiner was also quoted as having talked of the Body of Christ bringing “to birth a race of God-men and women”; the ex-member claims that these are now identified with the “Apostles and Prophets” of Every Nation and its affiliated organisations. There are also a number of polemical websites linking figures such as C Peter Wagner with the Latter Rain, such as this one.

But what can we infer leaving that polemical material aside, and accepting the possibility that Broocks may not share all the views of his mentors? We’ve got the fact that Every Nation is an “Apostolic Church”, and led by an “International Apostolic Team”. Rice Broocks also appears to believe that he has a special “spiritual power”. The “Joel’s Army” idea might well explain why Christian Reconstructionists appear to have influence with Every Nation (particularly George Grant, a non-member who has taught at Every Nation’s Victory Leadership Institute); it also chimes with warfare/Crusade rhetoric I’ve seen in some MSI/Every Nation materials.

It would be an unexpected twist if the definitive answers finally emerged thanks to a news source of the US Christian right.

*******

Religious Movements Homepage references:

Melton, Gordon J., ed. 1996. Encyclopedia of American Religions. Detroit, MI: Gale Research. “Latter Rain Revival, Independent Churches of the, pp. 418-420.

Riss, Richard M. 1988. A Survey of 20th Century Revival Movements in North America. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 105-124.

Riss, Richard M. 1979. The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-Twentieth Century Evangelical Awakening. Vancouver, BC: Regent College, MA Thesis.

Putin Critics Cause Nashi-ng of Teeth

Another Russian church leader has warned against any emulation of the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in Russia. Last month it was Sergei Ryakhovsky, one of the country’s main Pentecostal leaders; this time it’s Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church, as reported in the Moscow Times:

“Russia has already lived through one colored revolution — a red one,” Vsevolod Chaplin said on Saturday in a speech to leaders of the Nashi youth movement at their summer camp on Lake Seliger, northwest of Moscow, Interfax reported.

“Russia will not survive a new revolution,” said Chaplin, who is the church’s deputy head for external relations.

Nashi, or Us, is seen by many as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to build a bulwark against a potential popular uprising in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. The group gained attention shortly after its founding in April for its aggressively patriotic rhetoric and the staging in May of a rally in Moscow attended by 50,000 people…According to Nashi head Vasily Yakemenko, the movement currently has more than 150,000 members nationwide.

The article carries criticism from Lawrence Uzzell, of International Religious Freedom Watch:

“The Moscow Patriarchate is the last surviving Soviet institution both in terms of its statist mentality and its imperialist mentality,” Uzzell said. “In a sense it is an empire-restoring institution that is used by the Russian state as a vehicle for political interference in the affairs of countries like Ukraine.”

The Nashi youth group (which denies official links with the Orthodox Church) was in fact formed a bit earlier than April. Back in March Paul Goble noted some of its aims, as quoted from a Nashi leaflet:

“We want to work in order to ensure that true democracy will triumph in our country. Because at present, Russia is being governed according to the principles of the democratic society of the US. And as the practice of recent years shows, democracy in the US does not exist; instead, that country is ever more a mix of an aggressive dictatorship of power and anarchy in society.”

And it continues, “We must not allow ourselves to become the same. We are simply obliged to ensure the observance of all civil freedoms, to cure the bureaucracy of corruption and to stop the arbitrary actions of the force structures. In our view, the key posts in the state must be occupied by genuine practical specialists.”

Goble also notes the response of Boris Falikov, a Russian religion scholar:

He notes that various groups on the fringes of society have been encouraged by official backing for a struggle against foreign influences and now believe they can engage in violence against them without any risk of being punished for such actions – as many of them have been able to do in recent months.

“Foreign influence” was Ryakhovsky’s complaint against the “Orange Revolution”, it’s worth remembering.

In another article, Goble discusses Nashi’s tactics:

…”Nashi” leadership added that among those sympathizing with fascism and thus dangerous for Russia and especially the country’s youth are Duma members Irina Khakamada and Vladimir Ryzhkov, Yabloko youth leader Ilya Yashin, chess champion-turned-political activist Garri Kasparov, and Yukos co-counder Leonid Nevzlin.

The group’s efforts to attach the epithets fascist or fascist sympathizers to virtually anyone who opposes President Vladimir Putin’s current course has lead many of those placed on this latest Russian “enemies” list to dismiss it as absurd or as exemplifying the very problem that “Nashi” leaders say they are fighting against.

(Story tipped from Christianity Today weblog)

Caldwell’s “non-Religious” anti-Evolution Materials

A small victory for Larry Caldwell, the California lawyer who believes he has a right to dictate science education in his school district. Caldwell is an anti-evolutionist, and his Quality Science Education for All was set up to promote

a science education that exposes students to the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

Eugenie Scott wrote an attack on Caldwell’s aims and methods, which Caldwell considered to be libellous. The latest California Wild magazine (published by the California Academy of Sciences) now carries a retraction by Scott of some of her accusations, and a response by Caldwell:

Contrary to false statements and implications in Scott’s article, I never asked the district to ban or limit the teaching of evolution in biology classes, or to present the Bible or the Genesis account of creation in biology classes, or to teach creation science, or young-earth creation, or intelligent design theory in biology classes, and our district’s board of trustees never considered implementing any such policy for its biology classes. Contrary to Scott’s claim, our board also never “declared that . . . [any] creationist materials would be ‘recommended’ but not required.”

So it seems from this Caldwell is really just interested in science, and not religion at all. But a prior paragraph suggests otherwise:

The only materials I submitted for adoption and use in classrooms in our district were a video entitled Icons of Evolution Curriculum Modules, and written materials authored by Cornelius G. Hunter, who holds a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Illinois. The Icons Modules video consists of a discussion of five scientific weaknesses of Darwinian evolution by well-credentialed scientists, including, ironically, Eugenie Scott herself defending Darwin’s theory. Dr. Hunter’s written materials are contained in a Power Point presentation Dr. Hunter made to our science teachers. His Power Point presentation consists of Dr. Hunter’s critique of the District’s biology textbook’s discussion of evolution and suggested written materials to be used in conjunction with the textbook.

Icons of Evolution  is very well-known, and was written as a book by Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute. His work was inspired by Rev Moon, as he explains on the True Parents Organisation website:

Father’s [i.e. Moon’s] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism…When I finished my Yale Ph.D., I felt confident that I understood the theological basis of the conflict between Darwinism and theism.

The book from which the Icons video is derived was not, of course, scientifically peer-reviewed, and was published by the right-wing publishing house Regnery.

Hunter’s 2001 PhD was entitled Protein structure analysis and prediction (via the University of Illinois library catalogue), but he is better known as the author of Darwin’s God, published by the evangelical Brazos Press, in which he claims

the theory of evolution, from its origins with Charles Darwin up to its present-day proponents, is motivated at bottom by theological concerns. Behind the scientific story is the story of Charles Darwin’s grappling with questions about God, reality, and the nature of the universe. Ultimately, Hunter shows how Darwin’s inability to reconcile his understanding of a benevolent God with the cruelty, waste, and quandaries of nature led him to develop the theodicy called evolution. Importantly, the tale Hunter has to tell is not merely historical. He demonstrates how today’s theory of evolution continues to rely on Darwin’s metaphysics.

Doubtless it is this argumentation, rather than anything derived from Hunter’s study of protein structure, which Caldwell believes qualifies Hunter to critique the biology textbooks currently in use.

So, two religiously-motivated scientists known only for books published by non-scientific and ideologically conservative publishing houses. And just why do they deserve to have the law step in to ensure that their opinions are taught in science classes? Caldwell explains:

The science statements made in the Icons Modules video and Dr. Hunter’s slide show presentation are supported by meticulous citations to peer-reviewed articles in mainstream science journals, and Dr. Hunter’s Power Point presentation and the Icons Modules video have been endorsed by a number of university professors and other scientists.

There. Caldwell’s materials may not have been peer-reviewed, but they do mention peer-reviewed works in them, which is just as good. Plus some other scientists and professors (who may be friends and co-ideologists with Wells and Hunter, but that doesn’t matter) liked them.

UPDATE: I’m always happy to get feedback from someone on the inside; Cornelius Hunter and Larry Caldwell respond in the comments.

Doug Ugly

Back in June commentator “Dave” left a comment on my first entry on conservative pastor and columnist Doug Giles:

I think it’s just a case of a guy using the media (in a poor and unoriginal way) to present his notions, provide for his family and perhaps get something done. I understand the Giles phenomenon and I understand why he is going about his ministry the way he is. Obnoxious? Absolutely. Copycat? You bet. (He’s Ann Coulter and Ted Nugent in one.) He needed an agenda to further launch his ministry – and he latched on to the whole man movement, about 5 years too late. I think if you guys paid him a little less attention, he might just disappear. The far right has their darlings and always will. So do the faithful. Doug Giles is vying for darling status in both of those camps and won’t make it. Most of the faithful see through the jive. They’re not as lockstep and stupid as you think.

For the record, I’ve never suggested that “the faithful” are “lockstep and stupid”, but judging by Giles’s recent Townhall output, Dave’s diagnosis of Giles  is perhaps prescient. Doug’s shtick is “masculine spirituality”, and how we should hate and fear feminists and men who fail to conform to the supposed Biblical “warrior” stereotype. Jeff Sharlet explains the psychology of the movement far more eloquently than I can:

…Christian conservatives loathe all forms of homo- and bisexuality, of course, but it is the gay man (singular; he’s an archetype) who looms largest in their books and sermons and blogs and cell group meetings. Not, for the most part, as a figure of evil, but one to be almost envied. “The gay man” is the new seductress sent by Satan to tempt the men of Christendom. He takes what he wants and loves whom he will and his life, in the imagination of Christian men’s groups, is an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie. The gay man promises a guilt-free existence, the garden before Eve. He is thought to exist in the purest state of “manhood,” which is boyhood, before there were girls.

Giles’s hysterical rants against “metrosexuals” ought to be seen in that light. The problem is, though, that he doesn’t have much else to say; hence we now find some plagiarism, and new Townhall columns that are less and less focused and more obviously bandwagon- jumping. One strategy was to introduce a 10-part series, but this seems to have drifted away after just five episodes. Recently we’ve had a tedious screed on the need for more capital punishment and a weird advice column for women tourists going abroad (inspired by the disappearance of an American tourist in Aruba). Even the “Clash Point” brand-name seems to be disappearing.

But now Giles has gone for easiest target of any third-rate demagogue – Muslim-bashing. Here’s from last week’s column:

Dear Moderate Muslims,

What’s up? I see that you guys have been in the news a lot lately. I thought I’d write you a letter and ask you some questions because it seems as if some Muslims are involved in some very bad stuff around the globe, i.e. targeting and killing innocent people and all in the name of your god.

…What are you going to do about all the verses in the Quran that instruct Muslims to convert, conquer or kill those who will not bow their knees to Allah? You don’t believe that stuff, do you? You don’t believe that peaceful Jews, Christians and secularists are belligerent infidels, right? I would think not, because that would be extreme.

This actually shows that Doug is rather clever. Of course Muslims are not going to say, “We don’t believe those bits of the Koran”, which means that Doug can say: “Aha, all Muslims are out to kill us!” What Doug wants his readers to ignore, of course, is context. Most Muslims believe that those verses refer to military strategy from the early days of Islam, and not something that should be undertaken today. But this is too much to take from a man who boasts about how he keeps a copy of Rousas Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law on his desk – a work of extreme Christian fundamentalism which also calls for the death of unbelievers, but which was written in the 1970s rather than in the seventh century. Moving on:

…In addition, your public and incessant condemnation of extremism within your ranks would also serve the purpose of exonerating all moderates from the smallest hint of supporting such behavior. The reason why? It’s simple. Usually, when groups are silent regarding an issue that should be condemned it leads other people to believe that the groups really don’t disagree at all with what has occurred and are, therefore, in agreement with the bad people that perpetrated the despicable act.

Giles found this column so easy that his latest is along the same lines:

Evidently “moderate Muslims” in the UK didn’t read my column last week—either that or they really dropped the ball, as London has once again been slapped by terrorists.

In fact, many Muslim groups and individuals in the UK and elsewhere condemned the London bombings, without prompting from a hypocritical and preening bully from Florida (even though there is more that needs to be done, as Mona Eltahawy argues in the lastest Washington Post). But to acknowledge that would dissipate the hatred and fear that Giles gets his energy from. Instead, let’s have an LGF-style rant:

I’m kind of thinking we are failing to appreciate the millenniums of unmitigated murderous madness that’s behind Islam…Their “death to the west” wishes have been, are and will continue to be a part of the Muslim milieu until Jesus returns. They roll off the assembly line equipped with this as a standard feature, and anyone who tells you something different is full, I said FULL, of crap. Their loathing of us, the Great Satan freedom-loving losers, will not change unless moderate Muslims completely revise the Quran, which will, of course, spawn a religious civil war that Ridley Scott will not be able to replicate on film.

This is of course nasty and ill-informed. Muslim moderates have undertaken reasonable interpretation of the Quran for centuries; they don’t wish to “revise” it, which would be impossible. What Giles is hinting at, of course, is that moderates do not really exist. Nasty and ill-informed; but from a man who fancies himself as cutting edge, it’s also kind of desperate and sad: “Look at me, I hate Muslims too!”.

*****

And while we’re on the topic of Doug Giles, I see his Clash Church website has now been revamped, and finally we get to see which other pastors he is associated with. As I posted in the past, Giles originally started out as part of the His People denomination. That was led by Paul Daniel in South Africa; His People later became part of Every Nation, and Daniel was removed from leadership after a sex scandal. Around this time Giles rebranded his church as the “Clash Church”, and announced that

Doug and his Church are overseen by local, national and international leaders within the greater body of Christ.

The question was, though – who? Now we have some answers:

Clash Christian Church is an independent, interdenominational church. An advisory counsel comprised of both national and international leaders oversees Pastor Giles’ life and doctrine.

They are:

David Fredriksz, The Eagle’s Nest Church, Ede, Holland

Glenn Robertson, Kaleidoscope Church, Cape Town, South Africa

Joe Rodriguez, The Mobile Christian Center, Mobile, Alabama

Jeff McCreight, New Life Family Center, Lubbock, Texas

Like Giles, David Fredriksz (or Dave Fredriksz) emphasises “Warrior” spirituality. In 2003 he held a “Gathering of the Warriors” in Holland:

For quite a while already I have been hearing a sentence in my spirit which , I think, is from God : Gather the warriors! I want to respond to that calling by gathering the young warriors in Holland. The Warrior evenings will prepare the young generation for the task ahead: to testify to the Kingdom of God.

God ordered man to be fruitful, to increase in number and watch over His creation. Is the church of Jesus Christ still visible AD 2003? Are we the men and women the world is waiting for – like the Bible says? To bring a radical change in the history of the Netherlands, are we men and women prepared to do what the Master asked us to do?…

In Dutch, his church is known as Adelaarsnest. Fredriksz is also part of the Reformation Roundtable, which was founded by Pastor Ted J Hanson at Abundant Life Ministry. It has very little internet presence, but according to its website

Reformation Roundtable is a brotherhood of Christian leaders who are committed to provide encouragement, relationship and accountability to one another. R. R. is intended to be a facilitator and enabler around a basic belief system not a control. It is the intent of R. R. to establish a fellowship of churches and men that share the vision of R. R. while maintaining local autonomy.

Another member of the Roundtable is Andrew Shearman, a Brit who was formerly team leader at the Mobile Christian Center, where Joe Rodriguez is now in charge. Mobile Christian Center is currently updating its website; it appears, however, to have totally bought in to Giles’s rhetoric and now has a vision section that has been taken from Clash’s culture section.

A bit of information about McCreight can be seen here; Robertson is almost completely obscure, aside from having authored a Vineyard hymn

By the way, the revamped Clash site still lists Giles’s MA from Knox Theological Seminary as “pending”. This has been going on for years now…

Anti-Semites on Rise in Ukraine, David Duke Helps

Anti-Semites in the Ukraine appear to have learnt from their co-ideologists in Russia. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

Leading Ukrainian intellectuals condemned a recent surge of anti-Semitism in the media and criticized authorities for not doing enough to stop such ideas.

A group that included leading journalists, authors and philosophers made its position public at a news conference Tuesday in Kiev. The statement “Against Xenophobia, For a European Ukraine” condemned the activities of MAUP, a private university whose leaders are considered responsible for a recent rise in anti-Semitism in the media and who earlier this summer endorsed calls to deport Ukrainian Jews.

The authors of the statement also condemned an anti-Semitic letter, signed by some 100 public figures, including two legislators, calling on authorities and the Supreme Court to investigate the activities of local Jewish organizations. The statement was signed by philosophers Miroslav Popovich and Yevgeniy Sverstyuk, journalists Vachtang Kipiani, Yuri Makarov and Natalia Ligachyova, writer Yuriy Andruchovich and others.

This anti-Semitic letter is directly parallel with what happened in Russia back in January, when anti-Semites produced a letter calling for Russian Jewish groups to be banned. The letter appeared in April; journalist and blogger Veronica Khokhlova noted at the time:

Andriy Shkil, leader of the UNA-UNSO and one of the tackiest Ukrainian politicians, and Stepan Khmara, a former dissident, were among those who signed a letter to Yushchenko (in Ukrainian), asking him to quickly do something about “organized Jewry” in Ukraine. Both Shkil and Khmara are members of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party. The letter is remindful of the one written in Russia earlier this year – only the Ukrainian copy has gotten a lot more signees and a lot less publicity.

Yulia Tymoshenko (or “Yulia Timoshenko”) is the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, and Shkil and Khmara are not the only legislators to have embarrassed her. Back in June the JTA noted an alarming conference that was held at MAUP (“The Interregional Academy of Personnel Management”):

Participants at an anti-Zionist conference in Kiev called for the deportation of Jews from Ukraine.

The call came from one of the participants in the June 3 meeting in the Ukrainian capital. David Duke, a U.S. white supremacist, presided over the one-day conference, titled “Zionism as the Biggest Threat to Modern Civilization.” A number of Ukrainian politicians and public figures took part in the conference, including Levko Lukyanenko, a member of Parliament from the bloc headed by Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.

The Kyiv Post‘s response was blistering:

We call on Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to eject Lukyanenko from her Bloc immediately. There should be no room in her ranks for anyone who feels comfortable mucking about with Duke in an anti-Semitic cesspool like this event was.

To be honest, it’s hard to tell how persistent an ally of Tymoshenko or President Viktor Yushchenko has to be in his misbehavior before his leaders decide it’s worth disciplining him. Ukraine’s new leaders are, by our standards, a little too easygoing when it comes to punishing the nonsense perpetrated by their underlings.

…There is no ambiguity on this matter: Lukyanenko willingly participated in a disgusting orgy of racism and hatred. In any other responsible country, he would already be a pariah. If Tymoshenko does not eject him from the Tymoshenko Bloc, observers will be free to draw their own conclusions about how far Ukraine really has come, and how different its new leaders are from the last pack. A country in which a politician is allowed to move with impunity from discussing Jewish evil with a fringe-right lunatic to taking his place at the table with the prime minister is one that doesn’t deserve to “join the West,” and never will. It’s a country that deserves derision.

MAUP is run by Heorhiy Shchyokin, who also is also a leader of the new Ukrainian Conservative Party, which is linked to David Duke. Some more information has been blogged by David Bloom at the very good World War 4 Report:

A new party in Ukraine allegedly aligned with US-based neo-Nazi, former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard and Louisiana state representative David Duke has Ukrainian Jews concerned. The Ukranian Conservative Party was registered with the country’s Justice Ministry last month and espouses “anti-fascist” and “anti-Zionist” views. But it also calls for re-inserting the ethnic identity of Ukrainian citizens in their passports, a practice which led in the past to discrimination against Jews. According to AP, the party’s leaders is Heorhiy Shchyokin, chief of the Kiev-based International Academy of Personnel Management, which teaches some 35,000 students. The Moscow-based Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union has accused Shchyokin in the past of turning his academy “into the leading publishing center of anti-Semitic literature in Ukraine.” Shchyokin has been widely criticized in the Ukrainian media for his reported links to Duke, with his party being labeled the “Ukrainian Klu Klux Klan.” AP does not say which materials Shychyokin has been publishing, but Duke has been making inroads in the last decade into the former Soviet Union and India. His book “Jewish Supremacism” is billed as a “world-wide bestseller” on his website, and is sold in front of the Russian Duma…

In 2004 Mark B Levin of the NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia gave testimony to the U.S. House International Relations Committee that MAUP enjoys “significant funding from Arab and Muslim states”. The Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies has an article by Anatoly Podolsky that carries further details about MAUP (although unfortunately not very well translated):

According to the recent research, xenophobia and anti-Semitism on post-Soviet territories are absolutely commercial – anti Semitic propaganda for financing. [4] And in avant guarde of anti Semitic movement in Ukraine for more than two years stands notorious Interregional Academy of Management (MAUP – this abbreviation creaks on the teeth for the frequency of repetition in mass-media, different discourses in connection with anti-Jewish propaganda) and its publishing bodies “Personal”/the Staff/ magazine and weekly “Personal +”/Staff Plus/. Since March 2002 [5] in almost every single number of the magazine and then the weekly edition anti Semitic materials have been published. The authors of these opuses are, but for absolutely odious characters like the president of MAUP G. Shokin and prof. V. Yaremenko, rather well-known scientists like M. Sentchenko, I. Hiznyak, S. Bilokin etc. Though I believe their publications, containing hardly hidden anti-Semitism, are disastrous for their scientific reputation.

…MAUP has about 27 thousand students, 55 affiliates in Ukraine, 7 regional institutions, Open International University [12]. The new year of studies is soon to begin and new students will fall under anti Semitic rhetoric of the authorities of this educational establishment and its editions. Nowadays I firmly believe that the state, the public must stop anti-Jewish propaganda in MAUP.

So will President Yushchenko and PM Timoshenko tackle this problem? Or will it be left to the writers, journalists, and philosophers?

 *******

 Footnotes from the Podolsky excerpt:

4. V.Likhachev. Anti-Semitism in Ukraine. In collection “Main Anti Semitic Tendencies in CIS Countries”.-K.,2003.-p.21

5. In March 2002 the “Staff” published the article of G. Shokin “Zionism: “UBERMENSCHEN” Ideology”.-The “Staff”.-3.-2002. I think it important to note here the work of S. Averbuch “Sinusoid of Judophobia”, which is due to be published. This analytic collection characterises almost all anti Semitic publications of the “Staff” for two years. Unfortunately, I think the author will have more and more material to add.

12. S. Averbuch. Sinusoid of Judophobia. On Rights of Manuscript.-p3

UK Gov. Human Rights Report Out

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has just published its 2005 Human Rights Annual Report. The report lists particular concerns with “China, Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam”; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also come under scrutiny.

Unite Against Terror

unite-against-terror

Click here to see the website. And here to see why I signed.

Russian Orthodox Extremists Re-launch Attack on Jews

Just when it looked like it was dead, the campaign by Russian anti-Semites to use ancient Jewish literature as a means to ban Jewish groups is back in action. The AP reports:

MOSCOW – A group of Russian nationalists has asked a Moscow court to order an investigation of Jewish leaders over the abridged halakhic guide Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, an ancient text that the nationalists say incites hatred, a news agency reported Tuesday.

This comes just weeks after the Forward reported that:

Following an international outcry, state prosecutors in Moscow have abandoned an investigation into claims that a centuries-old code of Jewish law contains racist and anti-Russian material.

Prosecutors had been investigating the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia because of its role in publishing and distributing Russian translations of the Shulchan Aruch, the 16th-century code written by Rabbi Joseph Caro. The organization’s leader, Rabbi Zinovy Kogan, was questioned last week as part of an investigation reportedly launched at the behest of Russian nationalists, who said the code incited ethnic hatred and racism.

(Blogger Jim Davila of Paleojudaica clarifies that the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh is a nineteenth-century compendium of material from the Shulhan Arukh; media reports seem to be using the two document titles interchangeably).

The campaign began back in January, as I covered at the time, and was led by the Orthodox Christian fundamentalist Alexander Krutov of the Rodina (“Motherland”) Party. However, there was another man prominent in that campaign, who is leading the latest attack. Back to the AP:

Interfax quoted one of the authors of the request as saying that 15,000 people have voiced support for banning Jewish religious organizations in Russia. Mikhail Nazarov said that government and media officials who “support the principles” of the text should resign, the agency said. The Basmanny district court declined to comment or confirm that it had received the request.

As reported in Izvestia.ru in June (scroll down), Nazarov hoped the first legal challenge would lead to

“recognition that Judaism inspires in those Jews trained in this religion hatred for all other peoples.” Mikhail Nazarov considers a legislative prohibition for Jews to participate in the governmental life of the country to be an ideal scenario. He insists that his philosophy is not directed against the Jewish people: “Every Jew can become a member of society with full rights, if he converts to another faith.” Mikhail Nazarov noted that the Cheremushkin prosecutor’s office in Moscow began an investigation of his book, “Russia’s Secret,” for which he was forced to give testimony. “‘Russia’s Secret’ cannot be antisemitic since it is sold in the patriarchal system,” Mikhail Nazarov noted, and he added that he intends to file suit in court against those who call him “an ideologue of neonazism and antisemitism.” “We are Orthodox people, and on the basis of Orthodox teaching we strive to defend Russia from destructive forces,” he explained.

Anyone facing Nazarov in a libel suit should not worry too much. Back in May the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union noted that:

The Moscow Bureau on Human Rights and the Holocaust Foundation wrote to Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov urging him to open a criminal case of hate-speech charges against Mikhail Nazarov, an anti-Semitic writer who recently accused Jews of killing five children in Krasnoyarsk.

Last week, the charred remains of five boys who went missing in April were found in a drainage system in the Siberian city. Police said the boys apparently had run away from home. In an article posted on several radical nationalist Web sites, Nazarov suggested that the local Jewish community had kidnapped the boys, aged nine to 11, pointing out that they had gone missing on the eve of Passover.

Plus here’s a taste of Nazarov’s rhetoric, taken from a far-right website (which I’ve declined to link):

Well, the President Putin visits “holy Judaic places” as often as Orthodox monasteries. He takes part in the Talmudic rituals and congratulates the Jews on their celebrations. And a large number of Orthodox bishops sit with the Antichrist’s servants in presidium of some congresses. Probably, it is necessary to achieve daily penitence to Jews in TV show that is broadcast from the Christ the Savior’s Cathedral…

But St. John Chrysostom banished from the Church the “evil custom” to participate in the Judaic holidays and he prohibited even to “watch them”. He wrote about the synagogue quoting the famous Christ’s words from the Gospel: “When the God leaves a place, it will be a dwelling of demons…Who says it? The Son of the God…What more reliable evidence can be cited? So, if they do not know the Father, they crucified the Son and rejected the help of the Holy Spirit who cannot safely tell that place (synagogue) is a dwelling of demons? The God is not worshiped there, it is a place of idolatry” (St. John Chrysostom, Works, Saint-Petersburg 1898)

Back in December the UCJFSU also carried a UPI report discussing the Russian far right:

On November 22, a group of Russian nationalists – led by sculptor V.M. Klychkov and including ideologist Mikhail Nazarov, singer Aleksandr Shamkhmatov, and “Russkiy vestnik” editor Aleksei Senin, among others — met in Moscow to make arrangements for restoring the tsarist-era Union of the Russian People at a congress to be held next spring.

In an appeal to Russians adopted at the meeting, the organizers explicitly stated that the Union will be “the successor” of the group that was created in November 1905 to defend Tsar Nicholas II and the Orthodox Church against all those including revolutionaries, liberals, and Jews whom its leaders, Aleksandr Dubrovin and Nikolai Markov, identified as enemies.

The new organization will be directed, the appeal said, to unifying the “state-forming Russian people” in order to build “a strong and effective state” based on the principles of Russian Orthodoxy — although the appeal added that organizers were not “rejecting the possibilities of cooperation with representatives of other confessions.”

It looks like this “Union” is the driving force in the campaign against Russian Jews. And what is it exactly that these Orthodox stalwarts believe should be banned? Back to Izvestiva:

Quotations from “Kitzur Shulchan Aruch” that upset the author of the statement to the prosecutor’s office, Mikhail Nazarov, with comments by Rabbi Pinkhas Goldshmidt

1. “The figure of two crossed sticks, which they venerate, is forbidden of us.” In Nazarov’s opinion, Christians are considered to be idolaters. According to Goldshmidt, in the “Orach Chaim” section of “Shulchan Aruch” it is said that “if a non-Jew believes in a single G-d and he also believers in other higher powers, we do not consider him as an idolater.” Christians (akums) are not considered idolaters.

2. “The prohibition to teach a trade to non-Jews”  Goldshmidt maintains that the phrase is distorted; it is prohibited to teach idolaters (cf. point 1). In addition, this prescription was included in the law as a warning for Jews against performing actions that, in the event of an unfortunate outcome, could lead to the accusation of ritual murder. The same consideration applies when it says “a Jewish woman should not help a non-Jewish woman in childbirth” if she is not a professional midwife.

3. “It is forbidden to betray a Jew into the hands of a non-Jew, whether it is a matter of the Jew’s life or his property; and it is irrelevant whether this is done by some kind of action or by words; and it is forbidden to inform on him or to reveal the places where his property is hidden.” Nazarov notes that such conduct is prescribed for Jews in court and in an investigation. Goldshmidt points out that Jewish law prescribes the right not to testify against relatives. “Shulchan Aruch” also establishes a prohibition on informing: “When it is established that someone has betrayed a Jew or his money three times to an akum [non-Jew], then it is necessary to find the ways and means for removing him from the world.”

4. “It is a good thing to kill a Jewish freethinker, that is, someone who performs the worship of akums.” According to Goldshmidt, this law pertains only to the time before the end of the period of the first temple, which was destroyed 2,500 years ago. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 June 2005)

Whether or not Rabbi Pinkhas Goldshmidt accurately interprets the intentions of the authors, this is what the text means for Russian Jews today.

(There is also a Russian monarchist historian named Mikhail Nazarov associated with the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations. I think this is a different person, though)

(Tipped from Paleojudaica)

Computer Culture?

An oddity from the New Scientist (links added):

Virtual computer characters more accustomed to battling deranged alien monsters are about to take part in a unique social experiment.

The project, known as New and Emergent World models Through Individual, Evolutionary and Social Learning – or NEW-TIES – brings together experts in artificial intelligence, computer science and sociology.

The project will place a thousand agents in a virtual environment, where they will communicate via random words for objects, reproduce, and seek out food to survive. The hope is that a culture may emerge:

Nigel Gilbert, [one] of the project researchers at the University of Surrey, says it would be particularly interesting if the agents were to start using non-functional items in a symbolic way, or develop ritual practices.

I’m doubtful, but it would be fun to see. Can disembodied agents lacking in human imagination and existential reflection really come up with symbols and rituals? Or are rituals and symbols merely a rational way to organise and communicate, not even requiring consciousness for their generation?

Deep stuff…

(via BoingBoing)