When Ugandan Prophecy Fails

Back to Uganda, where local media are raising the issue of a failed prophecy from megachurch pastor Robert Kayanja. Here’s what he was reported as saying last year, when discussing the upcoming Ugandan elections on TV:

“It was so clear to me. We shall have five presidential candidates; one will die, one will quit, three will remain…And it will be 61.8 percent for the winner.”

But here’s how last week’s election actually turned out:

Mr Museveni won 59% of the vote while main rival Kizza Besigye took 37%, the Electoral Commission said…Three other candidates had shared just over 3% of ballots cast.

Something about this reminds one of Pat Robertson’s infamous prophecy that the 2004 US election would be a “blowout” in favour of Bush…Kayanja is currently out of the country and unavailable for comment; however, a Kayanja ally explained one of the discrepancies to the Kampala Monitor (via AllAfrica, link added):

Mr Peter Mutebi, a theologian and pastor at Bugolobi Evangelical Church, said the failure of the prophecy “does not necessarily discredit the prophet”. He said that within the born-again Christian community, when a prophecy about death is made, Christians pray that it does not come to pass… The concept of prophecy, said Mutebi, is often misunderstood in contemporary society because “all prophetic messages come out as a warning” that may not come to pass. The failed death prophecy, he suggested, was a case of clemency from God.

Mutebi pointed to the Biblical stories of Jonah’s prophecy against Ninevah and the illness of King Hezekiah as precedents.

 Those who might want to use Kayanja’s failed prophecy against him, though, ought to be careful. Here’s what he told Charisma magazine back in 2002:

“A witch who challenged me [in 1983] said I would be dead in three days,” Kayanja said. “Instead, the witch died. They found his body in the middle of the road, his severed head lying on the roadside. His family came and took his body, and they moved away.”

Kayanja said that the night before, he had had a dream in which God handed him a sword to fight the enemy. When Kayanja saw the witch’s severed head, he knew that God “had dealt with this man,” he said.

He also purportedly had better luck with a political prophecy during a trip to Kenya, as Masscom Online claims:

In November [2005] while addressing a big crowd in Nairobi pastor Robert Kayanja that there would be a very big political shakeup in Kenya and a mild earthquake before Christmas in East Africa. Believe it or not both of those prophecies happened. The political shakeup happened just recently when Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki sacked all his Cabinet ministers following the winning of the referendum by the opposition.

Kayanja claims that 2.2 million Ugandans have been converted by his crusades, and that he has cured people of AIDS. He is also close to Paul Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and earlier this month it was announced that TBN, Kayanja and Museveni were working together to bring the movie industry to Uganda:

…Through Mr. Kayanja, Mr. Matthew Crouch [son of Paul] was invited to Kampala and held discussions with President Yoweri Museveni in November last year. Mr. Museveni is said to have given TBN a go-ahead and was consulting with Uganda’s Attorney General on modalities of legislation on the movie industry in Uganda.

“The president told Mr. Crouch that Uganda was well suited for any type of movie because of its variety of climatic conditions and terrain. Uganda is well endowed with hills, valleys, savanna, woodland, lakes, snow-capped mountains, thick forests, rivers, rapids and almost semi-desert conditions,” pastor Kayanja told Business Week at his Kampala office…

Kayanja is also a strong supporter of Museveni and the First Lady, who have both attended events connected with Kayanja’s churches, such as this one, as reported by East African Procurement News in 2004:

PASTOR Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral had no ordinary parishioners on Sunday.

He hosted President Yoweri Museveni and his family and also donated Ush25m to the Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO), which is patroned by Mrs. Janet Museveni.

This was at the church’s dedication ceremony, at which the President and his wife were the chief guests.

The President gave the church 100 cows from one of his farms. He said he got the cows either as gifts from people or purchases from peasants in order to enable them pay up their loans.

The 10, 500-seater church, believed to be the biggest of its kind in East Africa, has 1,216 other branches within the great lakes region. Pastor Kayanja said he got a vision to build the church in 1985, times when Uganda was very insecure.

[The President] said it is better for the young to come and dance in church instead of going out into the world and dancing ekimansulo (provocative nude dancing taking root in Uganda).

The report included this odd detail:

…Pastor Kayanja got a US$750,000 donation from a Korean Buddhist lady whom he prayed for to get out of a coma.

Just before the election, the New Vision Online reported from Museveni’s final rally:

We have already won this election, Museveni declared, echoing statements by Kigongo, Mbabazi, the Rev. Betungura and Pastor Robert Kayanja, who prayed for and blessed him.

On his website, Kayanja describes the American Pentecostal evangelist TL Osborn as his “spiritual father”, and tells us that Osborn had given him a car.

Haaretz notes Faurisson’s Iranian Connection

Haaretz (scroll down) reports on December’s exchange of love-letters between French Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson and Jawad Sharbaf, an Iranian academic (link added):

…Holocaust-deniers from the West play a key role in attempts by Iran to cast doubts on the veracity of the Holocaust, according to documents that have appeared on an Internet site…The documents were published on an Internet site involved in Holocaust denial and reached scholars at the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Tel Aviv University.

…In the letter, which opens by expressing regret over the United Nations resolution to establish an international Holocaust Day, Sharbaf writes that the recent statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the Holocaust had created the right conditions to raise the subject in Iran. “Our assumption for the time being is that the president will undoubtedly do his best if you make contact and request assistance for organizing an international conference,” Sharbaf wrote.

…Faurisson praised Ahmadinejad and added a request “that Iran make repeated appeals to the Western world for the freeing of our prisoners of conscience,” referring to his colleagues convicted of denying the Holocaust…

I actually blogged this back in mid-January; I have some more details there.

(Hat tip: History News Network)

US Christian Right Activist in Ugandan Jail over Illegal Guns

Could face terror charges

UPDATE (28 March): All charges have been dropped, and Peter Waldron is now free. See here for more details.

Strange news from Uganda. The Kampala Monitor reported two days ago that

…police in Kampala are holding an American national who was allegedly found with four illegal guns and 184 rounds of live ammunition. Police Spokesman Assuman Mugenyi told journalists at a press conference at Kibuli Police headquarters yesterday that Dr Peter E Waldron was arrested at about 8pm on Monday.

Waldron, 59, works as an Information Technology consultant for the Ministry of Health and has been living in Uganda since 2002. He was arrested at his home in Kisugu near International Hospital after a tip off.

Documents found on him indicate that Waldron is also an advisor to the President of Rocky Mountain Technology Group, Contact America Group Inc and Founder of City of Faith Ministries in Kampala.

(Actually, according Waldron’s website that should be “Cities of Faith Ministries”)

Apparently three men were seen near Waldron’s home dropping a bag; when a passer-by asked them what they were up to, he had a gun waved at him for his trouble. This rather unfortunate move led to an alarm being raised, and a hostile crowd forming:

They pleaded with the mob not to lynch them saying they would show them where more guns were hidden. “The suspects led the police to Waldron’s house in Kisugu and on conducting a search, two more SMG rifles were recovered with 94 rounds of ammunition in a wardrobe in his bedroom and copies of The Africa Dispatch newsletter,” he said. One of the men who were arrested was a Congolese national.

The Monitor also reports that

…Some of the pictures in the magazine show Waldron with diplomats in the High Court during the trial of [Dr Kizza] Besigye.

This raised the spectre of terrorism at the high court; however, a Reuters report says that this was incorrect:

Police mistakenly identified Waldron on Tuesday as being in a picture taken at the trial of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and this, they said, was proof of a terrorist threat.

But on Wednesday they said they had been mistaken and the man in the picture was a senior diplomat, not the suspect.

This is a bit curious, given that Waldron’s appearance is somewhat distinctive (he has a large moustache). Reuters also provides some extra information:

An American evangelical and IT consultant, arrested in Uganda with assault rifles this week, planned to set up a political party, police said on Wednesday.

…Major-General Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, told a news conference Waldron was suspected of links to a group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and “planned to set up a political party here based on Christian principles.”…

The Monitor also refers to an article from the New Republic in 2004 entitled “Evangelicals v. Muslims in Africa: Enemy’s Enemy”. Here’s the relevant section of that piece, by Andrew Rice:

The Sunday I attended [Pastor Martin] Ssempa’s church, after he finished his sermon, the pastor told his audience that he had a special guest to introduce, a visitor from the United States. All eyes fixed on a stocky white man with a thick moustache who wore a gray safari suit. He introduced himself as Dr. Peter Waldron of Wyoming. Waldron told the congregation that he had once been a military man and that he used to travel around Africa a lot in the 1960s. He was vague about the nature of his work. (“I’m not at liberty to say,” he later told me.) But he claimed that, on one occasion, it resulted in some good people getting executed by a firing squad. After that, he contemplated suicide, he told the audience. Then he found Jesus… When Waldron launched into a story about how he’d recently been invited to the real White House in the company of religious rapper MC Hammer, the audience was wowed.

Several days later, I met Waldron at a Kampala hotel. He told me more of his story. At different times in his career, he said, he’d been a syndicated talk-radio host, a lobbyist, and a Republican political consultant. More recently, he had run sports programs for underprivileged youths in Tampa, Florida. Now, he was in Uganda, trying to sell computer software to government ministries while preaching on the weekends. “They embrace Americans here,” he said enthusiastically. Indeed, as we sat together, a steady stream of young admirers who had seen Waldron in church came up to greet him. They made complicated handshakes, the way Ugandans do, and Waldron boasted to me that he had met privately with President Museveni and his born-again wife.

A short bio of Waldron on Contact America (currently down – Google cache only) fills in a bit more detail (link added):

Dr. Waldron has worked on several campaigns for candidates seeking to be the President of the United States as well as a great number of U.S. Senate and House races since his first Reagan/Bush campaign of 1979/80. His organization of the faith-based community was, at the time, the beginning of a trend to involve thinking people of faith in the political process.

Uganda

Dr. Waldron has traveled around the world several times on assignment for clients desiring to either pioneer work or maintain relationships with foreign countries. Dr. Waldron worked throughout the African continent and the Middle East during the period when African colonies were transitioning into independent, sovereign nations. One nation with whom Dr. Waldron has had a relationship dating back to the 70’s is Uganda.

Afghanistan

Dr. Waldron accompanied a Member of Congress, Rep. William Dannemeyer to Pakistan on a fact-finding trip. During that visit Dr. Waldron met with the leadership of the Afghani Mujahadeen who, at the time, were engaged in a war with the Soviet Union. Throughout the 80’s Dr. Waldron was involved in the public policy debate to dismantle the Soviet Empire.

On Capitol Hill

Dr. Waldron makes frequent visits to Capitol Hill on behalf of advocacy groups, private sector businesses and non-profit groups on a myriad of issues.

A long list of distinguished clients follows.

Waldron’s website lays out his theology, which draws explicitly on Rousas Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism. Hence libertarian rhetoric is put at the service of a theocratic agenda:

Families reigned supreme on earth from Adam until Nimrod (Genesis 10:9) and the gathering of families at Babel (Genesis 11).  Until that time, families gave birth to clans and nations but there was no central government.  All the people and their families spoke the same language, (Genesis 11:6), and dwelt in their own lands (Genesis 10: 31).  God, the Creator, was recognized as the Supreme Ruler and Sovereign Lord over the earth.

This changed, however, when it was determined by those families and nations on earth to unite in an overt effort to rebel against the Lord’s prophetic command given to their forefathers, Adam (Genesis 1:28) and Noah (Genesis 9:1-17).

… A totalitarian form of governance arises when the Word of God is compromised, ignored or denied.  A person will self-destruct from abuse of spirit, soul and body.  A nation will collapse under a “hard” or “soft” form of dictatorship, abuse of public or elected office, and a general denial of human freedom – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – arises. The source of one’s belief system dictates the conduct whether it be personal or national.   The same goes for the end result.

The Bible represents the absolute source for the guiding principles and precepts for all governments in man (self-government), of families (family government), churches (church government), and for nations (civil government).

…Laws and statues are added by local, state, and federal state governments to control human behavior that is contrary to the Word of God.  One wishes that it were not so but man rebels against God’s authority hence civil governments must construct laws to protect the civil society as a whole.

“Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  He is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:3, 4)

Waldron is also the author of several Christian books; one of these, Rebuilding the Walls: A Biblical Strategy for Restoring America’s Greatness, is available to read. This book, written in 1987, makes the case that “traditional conservatism has led evangelicals astray”, and bemoans that

…It was during the conservative administration of Ronald Reagan that trade was normalized with the Soviet dictatorship, that sanctions were imposed on South Africa.

Rebuilding the Walls was co-written with George Grant, a high-profile Reconstructionist. Waldron also publishes a newsletter, African Dispatch:

The Africa Dispatch is a newsletter that will alert Congress, U.S. and foreign funding agencies , governmental and non-governmental decision-makers, investors, journalists and opinion leaders in the United States and abroad  about news concerning hopeful developments in Africa.

…Waldron said the publication, edited and produced in Washington by veteran newspaper and magazine journalist Bob Selle, intends to fill a perceived gap in information available on the positive aspects of a continent that, though still struggling, is in many way making extraordinary progress.

Oddly, however, the only “Bob Selle” (or “Robert Selle”) I could find who is associated with journalism is the editor of World and I, a Unification Church publication (the same Selle also works for Moon’s ” Family Federation for World Peace and Unification”). Judging from the pdf issue of Africa Dispatch available on-line, the newsletter really exists mainly to puff the Rocky Mountain Technology Group.

Waldron is also reportedly a sometime member of the Council for National Policy, although his name does not appear on all lists. He has also been associated with Dennis Peacocke’s Anatole Fellowship, a one-time Christian Right lobby-group within the Republican Party.

So, just why were all those guns found in Waldron’s house? What are his plans for Ugandan politics? How does this fit in with popular Christian support for the increasingly autocratic President Museveni? And just who is Waldron associated with in Congo?

UPDATE: Commentator Michelle posts a defence of Waldron:

NEWS ALERT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 28, 2006 Contact: Dave Racer, 651-340-1911 Peter Waldron, American businessman, arrested in Uganda on trumped up charges Retaliation cited as motive for Waldron’s report on Ugandan riots…Waldron adamantly denies owning or storing guns of any kind. Police arrested Waldron and charged him with illegal possession of firearms. Later, a police spokesman alleged that Waldron is a terrorist, and that he conspired to create a Christian political party in Uganda. The charges stem from the publication of Waldron’s newsletter, The African Digest, published late in 2005. The entire document is available at http://www.daveracer.com/index1.htm…Never in our conversations then or since did Waldron ever discuss any political plans whatsoever for Uganda beyond rewriting his book, Rebuilding the Walls, to apply to Ugandan life…

There may be something in this; a report from Reuters states that

A news magazine found at Waldron’s home, “The Africa Dispatch,” listed him as publisher. [Police Inspector General Kale] Kayihura said the magazine’s articles on Uganda were defamatory.

The statement also appears on a new website, Free Peter Waldrom. This site includes a message from Waldron’s wife; there is no mention of the claim made in some reports that one of those arrested with him was his “girlfriend”.

UPDATE 2: Back in the 1990s, Waldron ran The Rising Stars Education and Sports Foundation. The St. Petersburg Times reported in 1999:

The Rising Stars Education and Sports Foundation, a non-profit group that garnered more than a half-million dollars in public grants, has left St. Petersburg and Clearwater recreation centers where the program claimed to have helped nearly 2,000 black youths.

In January, the Times reported Rising Stars had been awarded $609,000 in state and local grants since 1995 to stage motivational sessions for children who also received free basketball coaching in city rec centers.

But questions arose about the program’s effectiveness. Waldron said the program at one point had 1,500 participants in St. Petersburg and 400 in Clearwater. But in 1998, the city’s numbers revealed a much lower participation rate. Fewer than 400 youths were involved in St. Petersburg during a nine-month period, and some youngsters participated only occasionally.

…In Largo, Rising Stars recently settled a yearlong legal battle after being sued by Faith Community Church, which now has merged with another church.

Church leaders gave Rising Stars 3 acres adjacent to the church so the program could grow but saw little activity there. Waldron angered church leaders when he tried to sell the property to a bus company. The church then sued to get back the land…

UPDATE 3: I’ve noticed that Peter Waldron is referenced on page 20 of Russ Bellant’s The Coors Connection (1991), drawing on Sara Diamond’s Spiritual Warfare. He appears in a discussion of Dennis Peacocke, who was then director of the Coalition on Revival. COR was closely connected to the “shepherding movement”, and Peacocke submitted to one of the founders of this authoritarian Charismatic Christian doctrine, Bob Mumford. Over to Bellant, starting on page 19:

Another group, the secretive Anatole Fellowship, was founded by Peacocke to “gain influence within the Republican Party” on behalf of the Religious Right…One 1987 meeting in Washington, D.C. was arranged in which “[Paul] Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation was a key player in the two-day meeting, which focused on issues ranging from school-based health clinics to 1988 electoral strategies to South Africa, Nicaragua and El Salvador,” according to Sara Diamonds Spiritual Warfare [Page 130].

An undated Anatole letter to state-level coalition members advised:

For Christians to be successful in influencing legislation in Washington, D.C., it is imperative that we have a national communications network to inform God’s people of issues to concern them. To this end the Anatole Fellowship has formed an issues committee co-chaired by Connie Marshner and Peter Waldron…

Pete Waldron is also a member of the Council for National Policy and the steering committee of Coalition on Revival.

Another undated Anatole Alert directed associates to support Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, a military force supported financially by South Africa and allied operationally with South Africa’s military campaign to destabilize Angola and strategically control the southern portion of Africa. The Anatole newsletter also counseled against Senate ratification of the Genocide Treaty, an international pact which criminalizes genocidal actions. Peacocke was also active in recruiting and training anti-Sandinista religious leaders in Central America.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog. Cross-posted to Talk to Action).

Nigerian Islamists Responsible for Hundreds of Polio Cases

This report is a few weeks old, but I’ve only just come across it. From the Abuja Daily Trust (via AllAfrica):

…Speaking yesterday at an interactive forum with newsmen in Abuja, the interim NPI [National Programme on Immunization] boss said Nigeria is the only country in Africa transmitting not only the wild polio virus (WPV), but also the only country in the world circulating types 1 and 3 of the wild polio virus covering a large geographical area.

“As at January 20, 2006, Nigeria had 751 cases of OPV in 22 states, with five states (Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi and Zamfara), accounting for 63 percent of the total case,” Dr. [Edugie] Abebe declared and lamented the low immunization coverage in the country.

Unfortunately, however, the Daily Trust gives no information about who’s responsible for this utterly needless tragedy. Two years ago exactly, Integrated Regional Information Networks reported:

Two more states in northern Nigeria have refused to participate in a global vaccination campaign to eradicate polio which kicked off this week.

…A total of four staunchly Muslim states in Northern Nigeria are now blocking the immunisation programme, casting doubt over a plan to eradicate the disease worldwide by the end of the year.

I blogged on this at the time, and noted the central roles of Kano governor Ibrahim Shekarau and Lagos State University Professor Hussain Abdulkareem: both of them deliberately distorted scientific findings in order to spread hysteria about the vaccine’s safety. A harmless trace amount of the hormone estriadoil (western drinking water contains a greater amount) was said to prove that the vaccine would cause genital deformity in boys, while Abdulkareem also alleged that the vaccine would spread cancer and AIDS – claims that were then spread by local imams. Shekarau rejected a scientific committee’s finding that the vaccine was safe on the utterly bizarre grounds that the committee consisted only of Muslims, and that more Christians should have been involved [sic!]. Kano now imports the vaccine from Indonesia.

In May of last year, it was reported that the virus had spread beyond Nigeria. The BBC noted that:

Health authorities in Yemen say 83 children have been diagnosed with polio, nearly double the figure reported just over a week ago.

…Sixteen previously polio-free countries have reported new cases since 2003, when a polio vaccine boycott in Nigeria was blamed for spreading the disease.

…Experts suspect the strain could have been carried from Nigeria to other countries by migrant workers or pilgrims visiting Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

Hardline Islamic clerics claimed the polio vaccination was part of a plot by the US to make people infertile or give them HIV-Aids.

(for further details, see my entries here, here, and here)

Joseph Farah Denounces Evangelical Leaders on Climate Change

Over at WorldNetDaily, Joseph Farah gives a typically thoughtful response to the news that a number of high-profile evangelical leaders have decided to work to oppose global warming (link added):

…some significant church leaders are attempting to make the global, pagan, socialistic agenda behind the conspiracy a matter of faith…They all signed on to the “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action” – and climbed into bed with funding sources that hate God, hate Christianity and hate freedom.

What’s more, this is a sign of the Last Days:

…Have you ever wondered what Jesus was talking about – who He was talking about – in Matthew 7:22-23 in the context of turning people away on Judgment Day? These are people who seem to believe they are Christians…I would suggest to those signing on to the lies of global warming, to the coercive government and supra-government plans to tackle it, to the confiscation of wealth and the destruction of private property that this fake crisis portends to give those verses some serious consideration.

Farah’s screed comes in the wake of a highly publicised letter that asked the National Association of Evangelicals not to take a position on global warming (I blogged on that here). However, in his specific allegations of a secret conspiracy, Farah is taking his lead from Senator James Inhofe; several months ago I blogged on his charge (reported on Agape Press) that

…liberals are “trying to suck up some of the evangelical crowd and put them into the issue of global warming. And when they do that, they give up their litmus tests. They give up their positions on abortion, their positions on gay marriage, and all that.”

But as I noted then, evangelical concern over global warming is hardly mysterious, and is far from being a “conspiracy” of pagan socialists. The New York Times reported a year ago:

…Over the last three years, evangelical leaders like Mr. [Rich] Cizik [vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals] have begun to reconsider their silence on environmental questions. Some evangelicals have spoken out, but not many. Among them is the Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network, who in 2002 began a “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign and drove a hybrid vehicle across the country.

Mr. Cizik said that Mr. Ball “dragged” him to a conference on climate change in 2002 in Oxford, England. Among the speakers were evangelical scientists, including Sir John Houghton, a retired Oxford professor of atmospheric physics who was on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a committee that issued international reports.

Sir John said in an interview that he had told the group that science and faith together provided proof that climate change should be a Christian concern.

Sir John Houghton is a very distinguished scientist. I’ve given his profile before, but it’s worth repeating:

Sir John Houghton

is chairman of the John Ray Initiative. He has held positions as chairman or co-chairman of Scientific Assessment for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 1988-2002, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Oxford, 1976-1983, Director General and Chief Executive of the UK Meteorological Office, 1983-1991, Chairman of the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 1992-1998, member of the UK Government Panel on Sustainable Development, 1994-2000. He has received numerous awards including Fellowship of the Royal Society of London and the International Meteorological Organisation Prize. His publications include The Physics of Atmospheres (3rd edn. CUP [i.e. Cambridge University Press], 2002), Global Warming: the Complete Briefing (2nd ed CUP 1997) and The search of God, can science help? (Lion, 1994).

If Farah really wants to prove that Christian concern over global warming is the result of a “conspiracy”, he should provide an in-depth critique of Houghton’s books to prove his case. Otherwise we’ll just to assume that Farah is a know-nothing demagogue.

Meanwhile, ConWebWatch catches WND misrepresenting the validity of an anti-evolutionist petition.

SubGenius Membership Allegedly Leads to Loss of Child Custody

UPDATE: A Special “hello” to everyone from BoingBoing, Jesus’ General and all the other sites that are linking this. Details about how to give donations for the custody appeal are given on Rachel’s blog. She writes: “Please PayPal all donations to Magdalen@subgenius.com, or send a check directly to: Rachel Bevilacqua c/o Francis C. Affronti, Esq., 130D Linden Oaks, Rochester, NY 14625″.

A Texas woman alleges on her blog that her membership of a satirical religious group with very liberal views on sexuality has led to a court forbidding her to have any form of contact with her son:

This case began in 1997 when Rachel Knight [the blog’s author, in third person] and her son, Kohl Jary moved to Texas to be with her fiancé, Steve Bevilacqua.

…On December 22, 2005, without informing Rachel, Jeff [Jary, the boy’s natural father] went to the Orleans County Courthouse and presented Judge Punch with a series of allegations about not being able to contact Rachel and needing an order of Temporary Sole Custody in order to prevent Kohl from being kidnapped.

Rachel Bevilacqua denies Jeff Jary’s claims, and gives her account of the court case (square brackets in original, emphasis added):

…On February 3, 2006, Judge Punch heard testimony in the case. Jeff entered into evidence 16 exhibits taken from the Internet, 12 of which are photographs of the SubGenius event, X-Day. Kohl has never attended X-Day and is not in any of the pictures. Rachel is depicted in many of these photos, often wearing skimpy costumes or completely nude, while participating in X-Day and Detroit Devival events.

The judge, allegedly a very strict Catholic, became outraged at the photos of the X-Day parody of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ — especially the photo where Jesus [Steve Bevilacqua] is wearing clown makeup and carrying a crucifix with a pool-noodle dollar sign on it while being beaten by a crowd of SubGenii, including a topless woman with a “dildo”.

…Judge Punch lost his temper completely, and began to shout abuse at Rachel, calling her a “pervert,” “mentally ill,” “lying,” and a participant in “sex orgies.” The judge ordered that Rachel is to have absolutely no contact with her son, not even in writing, because he felt the pictures of X-Day performance art were evidence enough to suspect “severe mental illness”…

(UPDATE: In a later blog entry, Bevilacqua retracted the “very strict Catholic” claim, which she had heard from someone else. Apparently the judge told her that he “does belong to a ‘church’ of some kind, but he did not elaborate on what denomination”.)

The Church of the SubGenius can be accessed here (a bit non-work safe). Those who find the experience confusing might find the Wikipedia enties on the Church and on X-Day more useful.

UPDATE: More links are provided by MonkeySaltedNuts here.

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)

An Icon from an Age of Persecution

A bit of Japanese Christian history, via the Asahi Shimbun (links added):

KYOTO–Behind the serene smile of the Madonna in the scroll “Maria Jugo Gengizu” linger clues about a history of bloody religious persecution.

Dating from the early Edo Period (1603-1867), the unique religious icon, whose name means 15 scenes from the life of Mary, remained hidden for centuries.

…Those who created and preserved the painting risked their lives to do so. In the early 17th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate outlawed Christianity, and Christians were forced to renounce their religion on pain of death–sometimes by burning or crucifixion. Devotees went underground, becoming kakure kirishitan, or hidden Christians.

…The painting is done mostly in oil paint, using a color scheme virtually unknown in Japanese art. At the same time, parts of the picture are done in Chinese ink, and Mary, who traditionally holds roses, is holding a flower more familiar to Japan, the camellia.

Specialists assume the painting was executed by a Japanese artist who had studied Western techniques.

The scroll is now on temporary display for the first time, at Kyoto University Museum. Here’s a rough idea of what it looks like, from my photo of the poster outside the exhibition:

mariajugo-gengizu

One detail that puzzles me: what is the woman holding and why does it apparently contain a pair of eyes?

maria-closeup

UPDATE: Commentator Ray explains the eyes:

The woman is St. Lucy and she is always portrayed with a tray with a set of eyes. It had to do with her martyrdom. It was also said that a pagan man fell in love with St. Lucy because of the beauty of her eyes. since she refused to have anything to do with him, he reported her as a Christian. So before she died she gave them to him, so that he could have them. A good story if there ever was one.

Anglicans for Israel Patron wants Summary Executions, Journos Imprisoned

Back in July 2004 distinguished UK professor David Marsland gave a speech to the Springbok Club describing how to win the War on Terror. His advice, after a lengthy rant, includes the following (emphases added):

…Halt or segregate air flights into or out of Britain by Arabs.

…Strengthen anti-terrorist legislation to allow on suspicion indefinite secret imprisonment (without appeal, without visits and without any privileges), tough interrogation, and where necessary summary execution by authorised agents.

…Reduce the need for prisons in Iraq by authorising summary execution of known enemy. Throw journalists, servicemen or anyone else who seek to file lying and negative reports about conditions in terrorist prisons in Iraq or elsewhere into these same prisons for an indefinite term.

…Censor prejudiced and negative reporting of the war against terrorism by British media. Neutralise by military means any Arab media providing a propaganda outlet for terrorists.

And Marsland had harsh words for anyone who might dare to demur:

…Our enemies will no doubt claim that measures such as these will “make us as bad as the terrorists”, that ends, however desirable, can never justify such “undemocratic” and “immoral” means. This is utopian nonsense calculated to assist al-Qa’eda.

David Marsland is of interest to this blog because he’s one of the patrons of Anglicans for Israel, the new pro-Israel lobby group currently being puffed at the London Times and elsewhere as the supposedly “moderate” voice opposed to Anglican criticism of Israel and the General Synod’s recent call (inspired in large part by Palestinian Christians) to divest in firms that assist with the Occupation (I blogged on the group a few days ago). And like Anglicans for Israel founder Simon McIlwaine and campaign director Huw Shooter, he has extensive links on the Tory right.

It’s also interesting that Marsland chose the Springbok Club to lay out his plan: the club is a network which allows disaffected white South Africans and former Rhodesians living in the UK to reminisce about the good old days before – as founder Alan Harvey puts it – the “sell-out policies of P.W. Botha and F.W. de Klerk”. Harvey explains:

In a nutshell our policy can be summed up in one sentence: “We want our countries back, and believe this can now only come about by the re-establishment of civilised European rule throughout the African continent.”

The Observer (via the Black Information Link) describes Harvey as a “former NF [National Front] activist”; a claim backed up by trawling through some far-right websites. However, while the NF was anti-Semitic, Harvey is vehemently pro-Israel, and an upcoming event is an address by an “Ulster supporter with strong Israeli connections who recently visited Israel – including the Gaza Strip – to express solidarity with the Israeli settlers there.”

(amended for clarity)

Mugabe’s Sects Appeal Wears Off

The Zimbabwe Independent discusses links between Robert Mugabe and several disgraced leaders of religious sects, in somewhat polemical language:

[Mugabe’s Zanu-PF] party has poked its snout into the religious trough and allowed itself to feed on the sect membership to boost its ranks in a desperate effort to maintain superiority…The ruling Zanu PF party exploited the religious charisma of the sect leaders to bolster its membership hoping to reverse diminishing support since 2000. It has courted sect leaders to woo their members to boost its ranks.

However, this is has now all backfired:

…So far two prominent sect leaders have tarnished their images with rape cases against female members.

Another one will soon do so if women lobbyists maintain pressure and remain resolute about putting enough sting into a new rape law.

The pro-Mugabe sect leaders are Lawrence Katsiru, Godfrey Nzira and Obadiah Msindo. Of these, Katsiru and Nzira are currently in prison. The Harare Herald (via AllAfrica) gives a bit of background on Katsiru:

IN the late 1990s, a goatee-bearded and bespectacled prophet took the small farming town of Marondera by storm with his booming voice and precise prophecies.

At the height of his prophecies, others claimed he would tell, with precision, the whereabouts of stolen property, including vehicles.

Troubled people came in droves from as far afield as Egypt, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi as his influence, fame and reputation grew.

…Born into a Johane Masowe Apostolic Church family in Katsiru Village on the banks of Dande River, near Ruyamuro Centre in Guruve, Lawrence was seen by his followers as gifted with prophecy as a young man in the late 1980s at the sacred Rushanga Shrine where his father was the church’s second in command.

…In May 2001, Katsiru was elected Zanu-PF deputy political commissar for Mashonaland East, one of the most influential positions one can hold in the ruling party.

Last month Katsiru was convicted of the rape of a thirteen-year-old church member.

Like Katsiru, Nzira also had his roots in the Johane Masowe WeChishanu Apostolic Church (an African church formed in the 1930s), but was better known for heading the African Apostolic Faith sect. A 2002 News From Africa report explains that

ZANU-PF’s marriage with the African Apostolic Faith sect dates back to the run up to the 2000 parliamentary elections when its chief campaign strategist then, the late Border [Gezi] converted to the sect. The sect has its roots in the country and derives its membership mainly from among the poor. It practises polygamy. Women in the sect always dress in white and the men maintain a long beard accompanied by a clean-shaven head.

Nzira went down for twenty years in 2003 for raping seven women; his conviction caused a riot, as was also reported in the Herald (via WorldWide Religious News). Nzira’s political perspective was noted by scholar Terence Ranger in 2002:

At a prayer day in Harare in February Mugabe addressed an audience which included ‘hundreds of the Madzibaba Nzira’s Apostolic sect members, holding and lifting placards inscribed with ZANU/PF political messages…Baba Nzira announced a prophecy that Mugabe was “divinely appointed King of Zimbabwe and no man should dare challenge his office.”

Obadiah Msindo, meanwhile, is currently facing a charge of raping his maid on five occasions. The Zimbabwe Standard reports:

Reverend” Musindo heads the pro-Zanu PF Destiny of Africa, which operates from the Harare International Conference Centre, adjacent to the five-Star Sheraton Hotel.

…The perceived police reluctance to effect an order by the AG’s Office to charge Musindo was according to sources, based on the perception that he has very close links to senior government officials.

…The Standard is reliably informed that Zanu PF bigwigs had ordered that Musindo be given sacred cow treatment because he is “the only man of God” who supports the ruling party.

Musindo made a very early appearance on this blog, when I noted his claim that Mugabe was a “black, political, economic Moses” who intended “to raise millionaires and billionaires”, while George Bush was the “earthly representative of the Anti-Christ and the devil on earth”.

Back in 2004 the Herald made the more general observation that

There have been several cases of prominent prophets indulging in incestuous relationships with their relatives and raping minors, presumably in a bid to enhance their spiritual and healing powers.

However, even with the prophet-rapists out of the way, Mugabe still has some other religious supporters he can turn to. For instance, there’s Nolbert Kunonga, the Anglican bishop of Harare, who (Ranger reports), gushed to Mugabe that he had “been more merciful than God Himself!” Kunonga – widely known as “His Disgrace” – was rewarded with a farm, and the help of a militia to evict the rightful residents. There’s also Stephen Mangwanya, a Pentecostal leader who has publicly blessed Mugabe.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

Cardinal McCarrick Backs Palestinian Christians

A few days ago I looked at a new report by Justus Reid Weiner on the difficulties – in some cases, persecution is not too strong a word – which Palestinian Christians have faced under the Palestinian Authority and with the rise of Islamism in Palestinian society. As much as I dislike Weiner (for reasons that I gave at the time) I figured that this was a serious problem that had be aired and that Weiner’s flaws and biases were no reason to dismiss the concerns he raises. I also, however, complained about his deliberate failure to consider seriously the role of the Israeli Occupation as a source of Palestinian Christian pain.

Now, however, Robert Novak joins the Catholic archbishop of Washington in giving the other side of the problem, in a column for the Chicago Sun-Times (links added):

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., is taking an increased interest in the desperate plight of Christians in the Holy Land — to the point of politely and privately asking for help from President Bush. Immediately at stake is the West Bank village of Aboud, whose Christian roots go back two millennia, and which now is threatened by Israel’s security barrier.

…The new barrier will confiscate 39 percent of the village’s olive fields and take over the aquifer that supplies one-fifth of the West Bank’s total water supply. In October, construction uprooted 500 grapevines in Aboud. Twelve kilometers of the barrier will be built on Aboud’s land, and the villages of Al-Lubban and Rantis also will lose more territory.

All this is justified as protection against terrorists, but the Holy Land Christian Society rejects that. ”It is clear that the security barrier is not about security but the annexation of land for the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Israeli control over the water supply,” argues a society paper. Israeli settlements Beit Arye and Ofarim were built on land taken from residents of Aboud.

Novak adds:

The problems of the Catholic and Orthodox Christians of Aboud do not resonate in American politics. The evangelicals have signed a blank check to Israel in the interests of security in the Middle East.

Indeed – and I’ve covered US conservative evangelical support for Israel and the Occupation in a number of my entries on Christian Zionism.

Further details about the plight of Aboud are available from the website of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

(Name variations: Abboud, Abud)