Ted Haggard wants Jews to be Afraid

…is the title of my debut diary entry over at Talk To Action. See here.

Hugo Chavez on the Christ-killers’ Riches

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

“The world offers riches to all. However, minorities such as the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have become “the owners of the riches of the world,” Chavez said Dec. 24 on a visit to a rehabilitation center in the Venezuelan countryside.

This comes several weeks after a raid on the Colegio Hebraica, a private Jewish school in Caracas. The reason given for this was purported Mossad involvement in the assassination of State Prosecutor Danilo Anderson. The Weekly Standard (yes, I’d prefer a more progressive source, too, but sadly there isn’t one) gives some wider context:

Hostility to Jews has become one of the hallmarks of the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chávez, the radical populist who became president in 1999, and of Chavismo, the neo-fascist ideology named for him. In January, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released a “Report on Global Anti-Semitism.” The report documents how openly anti-Semitic the Venezuelan government now is. Besides the raid on the Jewish school, it noted that “President Chávez cautioned citizens against following the lead of Jewish citizens in the effort to overturn his referendum victory. Anti-Semitic leaflets also were available to the public in an Interior and Justice Ministry office waiting room.”

Chávez first ran for president on a reform platform, winning in a landslide. What few understood then was that Chávez planned to revolutionize the country following a plan masterminded by his longtime friend Norberto Ceresole, an Argentinian writer infamous for his books denying the Holocaust and his conspiracy theories about Jewish plans to control the planet.

It should be noted, however, that Ceresole was later deported due to his anti-Jewish rantings. But Chavez appears to be an impressionable character; his latest comments have come shortly after making a new friend in Iran…

chavez-in-iran

UPADTE: Le Revue Gauche makes the case that Chavez was being quoted out of context; “those who crucified Christ” are supposedly capitalists. See also this discussion at World War 4 Report.

UPDATE 2: The Forward has an article on the subject:

“We believe the president was not talking about Jews and that the Jewish world must learn to work together,” said Fred Pressner, president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela.

…Both the AJCommittee and the American Jewish Congress seconded the Venezuelan community’s view that Chavez’s comments were not aimed at Jews. All three groups said he was aiming his barbs at the white oligarchy that has dominated the region since the colonial era, pointing to his reference to Bolivar as the clearest evidence of his intent.

One official noted that Latin America’s so-called Liberation Theology has long depicted Jesus as a socialist and consequently speaks of gentile business elites as “Christ-killers.”

…”It appears to us that Chavez did not intentionally speak about Jews,” said David Twersky, director of the AJCongress’s Council on World Jewry. “I don’t think we should raise the flag of antisemitism when it doesn’t belong.”

Messianic Jews Attacked in Beersheba

Compass Direct (via Crosswalk) reports on the latest anti-Christian disturbance in Israel:

Orthodox Jews disrupted a Messianic congregation’s worship service in the Israeli town of Beersheba on Saturday (December 24)…The agitators struck Messianic believers in the face, back and stomach. Though one received a blow near his eye, no one needed medical attention.

“Messianics” are Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but who maintain a Jewish identity and style of worship. They claim to have about 10,000 members in Israel, although authoritative figures are hard to come by. But here’s an interesting detail:

The Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Beersheba, Yehuda Deri, stood outside speaking to demonstrators during the incident. The police handcuffed two of the more violent agitators but then released them in Deri’s presence.

(Deri is the brother of Aryeh Deri, the disgraced one-time leader of the Shepardic Orthodox Shas political party)

…One Christian tried to videotape the incident, and when demonstrators yelled that this was “forbidden on Shabbat” (Jewish Sabbath), he told them he was not Jewish. But police forbid him to use his video camera, saying it would constitute a provocation. Others, however, did take photographs and videos of the demonstration.

This assault follows attacks on Messianics and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Arad and Holon, which I discussed here. It is also part of a long campaign against the Beersheba group. Back in 1998 Compass reported (again, emphasis added):

In a November 28 incident in the Negev town of Beersheva, rumors were spread in synagogues that Messianic Jews planned to baptize Jewish children. A mob estimated by police to number 1,000 “haredim” (ultra-orthodox) Jews started to surround a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church rented by the local congregation of Messianic Jews for their Shabbat (Sabbath) gathering.

…Natan Aridan, a history professor at Ben-Gurion University, described the latest attack to the “Jerusalem Post” as reminiscent of anti-Semitic attacks in Eastern Europe. “I witnessed a pogrom,” he said. “There can be no other word for it.”

The siege lasted for about three hours, and the crowd only disseminated after being addressed by local rabbis, [elder Olavi] Syvanto said. A policeman remained at the site to keep order, but later on, leaders of the congregation were told to take charge of guarding the compound themselves.

This infuriated [Charles] Kopp, chairman of the United Christian Council in Israel.

“I think this is intolerable. If a synagogue anywhere in the Western world is attacked, the police will be there until the situation is settled. Likewise, the Israeli police should be there as long as needed. Period.”

UPDATE: A first-person account of the attack is available here.

Jerry Falwell and Pseudo-Pat Robertson

(corrected – Dateline Hollywood is satire; thanks to Mollie at Get Religion)

A massive banner headline in WorldNetDaily, billed as “Breaking News”:

L.A. Times admits false claim about Falwell, 9-11

So what new act of persecution against a good Christian is this? WND has the shocking details:

A column by a rabbi published in the Los Angeles Times falsely asserted Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed lesbian actress Ellen DeGeneres played a role in the 9-11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina because she was the host of the Emmy Awards before both events.

The Times ran a correction explaining the Baptist minister “made no such claim.”

The accusation appeared in a column by Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein that was critical of religious fundamentalism. But why did Stein make such an unwarranted suggestion? WND can’t be bothered to tell us, and the LA Times offers no clues either. However, two minutes of googling brings up the following, from satirical website Dateline Hollywood back in September:

Pat Robertson on Sunday said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of expressing its anger at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for its selection of Ellen Degeneres [sic] to host this year’s Emmy Awards.

…Robertson also noted that the last time Degeneres hosted the Emmys, in 2001, the September 11 terrorism attacks took place shortly before the ceremony.

“This is the second time in a row that God has invoked a disaster shortly before lesbian Ellen Degeneres hosted the Emmy Awards,” Robertson explained to his approximately one million viewers. “America is waiting for her to apologize for the death and destruction that her sexual deviance has brought onto this great nation.”

Yes, the rabbi made the huge error of confusing Falwell with Pat Robertson, in a general discussion of Christian fundamentalism. And embarrassingly, he picked a fake quote which originated with a satirical website, rather than choosing any of the far more reasonable utterances Pat is famous for. This has led to an appalling misrepresentation of Falwell’s true position on 9/11, which in no way places the blame on one lesbian:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.”

(Falwell endured considerable mockery and condemnation for this, and backed down)

First Larry Flynt, and now Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein – just how long will God allow his most faithful servant to be persecuted like this?

Proselytising in Aceh?

More news about religious tensions in the wake of last year’s Tsunami – The Australian reports from Aceh:

Islamic activists have claimed that aid workers are secretly attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity, pointing particularly to World Vision, Aceh Relief, the International Catholic Mission and Church World Service.

However:

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said his organisation had a strict policy forbidding proselytisation.

Aceh’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency will begin investigating the allegations next month and, more importantly, probe why the Acehnese are feeling so insecure about Christians in the province.

Fears over Christian proselytism go back to the first weeks following the disaster. The Jamestown Foundation reported at the time that

On January 14 Indonesia’s most influential group of Islamic clerics warned of a widespread Muslim backlash if international aid groups indulged in Christian proselytizing or attempted to adopt orphans to raise in Christian children’s homes. However, more sinister manifestations emerged with evidence of the participation in the relief work by radical Islamist groups, known more for their militant jihadist activities than any humanitarian functions.

Perhaps these Islamist groups have been whipping up resentment against Christian rivals; but it’s also possible that some Christian groups have been engaging in aggressive evangelisation. As I noted on this blog just a few days ago, that is certainly the case in post-Tsunami Thailand, where relief workers associated with Calvary Chapel have been openly boasting of their successes at converting Thai children.

One evangelical organisation that has been present in the area is Iris Ministries. In April its founder, Rolland Baker, wrote about the situation – and was implicitly critical of the softly-softly approach taken by other Christians:

Money, personnel and relief goods poured in. Sympathy skyrocketed. Aid management quickly became a massive challenge. Corruption set in. And Christians were were almost universally advised to keep a low profile and not take advantage of the situation to advance their faith. Heidi and I wanted Iris to be involved with tsunami relief in Aceh, but with so much aid arriving from secular agencies, we felt our main contribution had to spiritual. Still, Christian influence from outsiders was not generally welcome, even by other evangelical workers on the scene.

Many Christians did, of course, come to help in any way they could, and Indonesian believers arrived to comfort and pray with the small Banda Aceh church community that survived. I was delayed by my travel schedule for months. But God has His own plan to raise up fiery preachers of the Gospel who will carry His glory with wisdom and power throughout Indonesia, even into the most tragic and resistant of situations.

Elsewhere, Baker tactfully wrote of a “tsunami of the Holy Spirit”.

(Tipped from Bulldada Newsblog)

Traditional Engrish Christmas

engrish-christmas1

Together at Last: David Balsiger and Patrick Heron

First there was the Amazon bestseller. Then there was the endorsement from WorldNetDaily. And now – the TV show and DVD (links added):

Grizzly Adams Productions, Inc. (GAP), producers of family-friendly network television shows, announced it has acquired the worldwide TV/DVD rights to two best-selling books, Apocalypse Soon, and The Nephilim and the Pyramid of the Apocalypse, written by Patrick Heron and published in the USA by Xulon Press. GAP plans to produce an investigative TV/DVD program based on the books examining the dire predictions of mankind’s end, as stated in the Bible and other sources, plus take a look at the current mega-disasters befalling the world during recent years.

Heron’s book – a rehash of some very old conspiracy theories concerning the Great Pyramid – was discussed on this blog here. I also noted his background, which appears to be with a semi-Christian New Religious Movement (now defunct) known as The Way International.

“Our TV program will paint a new and different picture of end-times prophecies, unveiling connections Heron has discovered between Nephilim (the sons of God, or fallen angels referred to in Genesis 6:4), the pyramids and end times,” notes David W. Balsiger, Vice President of GAP. “It will also examine what is believed to be the newly discovered role of America in end-times prophecies, an area that has been largely neglected by previous biblical scholars.”

Funny how Biblical scholars have failed to connect a book written in the ancient Near East with the USA, given that the USA is so important in the eyes of God. Maybe Balsiger ought to have a word with the NCBCPS, whose high-school Bible curriculum (see yesterday) endorses any crank who happens to be a Biblical literalist.

David Balsiger has also come to my notice before now – last year he was touting his documentary George W. Bush: Faith in the White House as an antidote to Michael Moore. I’ll repeat now what I wrote then:

Balsiger is a one-time Council for National Policy member, and is best known as the enabler of two hoaxes. The first, in the early 1970s, was when he co-ghostwrote Mike Warnke’s autobiography The Satan Seller, launching the “Satanic survivor” genre that caused so much panic and harm over the next twenty years (Balsiger still stands by the book). The second was in the 1990s, when his Sun International Pictures made The Quest for Noah’s Ark, a pseudo-documentary that included an interview with a man who falsely claimed to have found it. That fiasco led to the termination of a contract with CBS.

Balsiger and Heron are clearly a match made in heaven – although Christians who care about the integrity of their religion might suspect that the other place is more likely responsible…

Odessa Chooses Junk Bible Curriculum

(amended – see comments)

Over a month ago, the Ector School Board in Odessa, Texas, was asked to choose a curriculum for an elective Bible class. The front-runners were the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), endorsed by actor Chuck Norris and subject of a devastating critique by mainstream Biblical scholar Mark Chancey, and the Bible Literacy Project (BLP), which has been widely praised for its scholarly and non-partisan approach to studying the Bible. Unaccountably, it took the board weeks to make what should have been an obvious decision; but even more bizarrely, after all that time, the Board has decided on the NCBCPS option. The AP reports:

School board President Randy Rives said a petition earlier this year with more than 6,000 names sparked the decision to add a course on the Bible. He voted for the National Council curriculum because it uses the Bible as its textbook.

The distinction is misleading: both syllabi are based on the Bible – it’s just that the NCBCPS curriculum gets readers to look through a copy of the King James Version, while the BLP curriculum allows students to choose their own translation. Rives fails to acknowledge the root problem: that the NCBCPS curriculum has been shown to fall far short of basic scholarly standards, and exists to promote Biblical fundamentalism. Perhaps most worrying, part of the curriculum is written by David Barton, a theocratic pseudo-historian who has served in the Texas GOP. And why is there an obsession with the KJV? It’s certainly of great literary interest, but no other ancient text is seriously studied today on the basis of a translation made four hundred years ago.

But it looks like this is just the beginning:

“For those who don’t know how this story will end, the federal judge in the Dover case provided a preview,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a religious rights watchdog that opposes the Odessa board’s decision.

An earlier report also noted:

David Newman, an OC [Odessa College] professor who’s been actively following the curriculum selection, has said publicly that he will sue the school board if it chooses the National Council’s curriculum. Newman said he believes the National Council’s curriculum brings too much of an opportunity for proselytizing.

Meanwhile, a bill that would put the far superior (albeit not perfect) BLP syllabus in schools is currently under consideration in Alabama. This is being opposed by the American Family Association, which claims the BLP is a Communist conspiracy to bring about a one-world religion.

(Tipped from The Revealer)

Dembski’s New Allies and Spontaneous Generation

Hello to readers from Jesus’ General and Pharyngula.

From the website of William A Dembski, foremost proponent of Intelligent Design (links in original, emphasis added):

I reported earlier on this blog that I was to be the only gentile speaker at an Orthodox Jewish (Lubavitcher) conference on Torah and science (go here, here, and here).

…I felt very much at home with the Lubavitchers, and I was extremely gratified by their receptivity to ID.

Meanwhile, from the blog Failed Messiah, which critically monitors the Lubavitcher (also known as Chabad) movement (emphasis added):

Coincidentally, RebelJew points out that Chabad’s view of science is, shall we say, heavily warped by extreme apologetics like this, on spontaneous generation:

The literal meaning of Torah’s words must always be upheld…The issue with spontaneously generated worms is very simple. True, experiments do allow for following the process through which a worm [larva] develops from an egg. And, when there are also explanations for the process of how these eggs were laid, that allows for the conclusion that these specific worms were created through a reproductive process. However, when eggs found in rot are identified as belonging to a specific species of worm, and the worms found there also bear signs of belonging to that species, that in no way proves that it is impossible for these worms to have appeared without the eggs, through spontaneous generation.

Dembski concludes that with Lubavitcher help

it will be that much more difficult for critics of ID to characterize it as a purely “Christian thing.” ID is not only going international but it is also going interfaith.

What any of that has to do with ID’s scientific standing is not explained.

Thai Children Get Rapture Ready

The Telegraph reports on post-Tsunami religious developments in Thailand:

A year ago there were no churches on the Khao Lak coast, where thousands died. As the first anniversary approaches there are a score, mostly set up by United States-based evangelical groups that moved in following the deluge.

In particular:

James Garwood, the leader of…Life in Action in Thailand, addressed the congregation in Nam Khem, most of them local residents who have recently converted.

A former heroin addict who found Christianity in prison in the US, Mr Garwood said “hundreds and hundreds” of local residents had converted since the tsunami.

Although the Telegraph does not give much more detail, Garwood was in fact sent to Thailand by Calvary Chapel Carlsbad, and the full story of Calvary’s work in Thailand is described in the latest Calvary Chapel Magazine (link added):

…James Garwood and Joe Walters, graduates of U-Turn for Christ Camino, CA, had been ministering in northern Thailand for six months when the tsunami struck. Within days, they made their way south to the shores of Ban Nam Khem. “When we arrived, it looked like a war zone. It’s a scene I’ll never forget,” recalled James. “There were bodies still being recovered and hauled around in trucks, elephants removing debris, and people walking around dazed and crying.”

“The Lord directed us to the refugee camp Bhan Muang, where the first people we met at the office were Christians,” said James. “They gave us a mosquito net and a place in a tent, and the camp has been our home ever since.”

With a gift for serving children, James and Joe were soon put in charge of all children’s activities at the camp…”Many kids have come to know the Lord,” James joyfully stated. “The Lord has definitely touched quite a few of these kids. God has put it on our hearts to have the Word open and available…”

The ethics of evangelising traumatised children are not discussed – and it’s a strategy we’ve seen before. A year ago I blogged on a visit to Israel by a group of children who had survived the Beslan massacre. Although paid for by Israeli charities, their hosts were a Messianic Jewish Congregation belonging to Calvary Chapel and led by Pastor Bradley Antolovich; Antolovich enthused over how the children would be brought to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (claimed by some evangelicals to be Jesus’ tomb) and invited to “receive Christ”.

Calvary Chapel is a large neo-Pentecostal grouping which emerged out of the Jesus Movement of the 1960s. Calvary Chapel Carlsbad’s statement of faith includes:

WE BELIEVE in the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.

The grouping’s founder is Chuck Smith, who has produced a constant stream of Christian Zionist and apocalyptic works over many years, in the style of Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. His most recent work is The End Times Collection.

(Tipped from The Revealer)