Agape Press Censors Itself over Loyola-for-Protestants Book Review

Book published by evangelical press accused of being “New Age”

A writer at Agape Press has apparently strayed off-message:

“On August 28, 2006, AgapePress, a news division of American Family Association, carried a positive review of the book Sacred Listening. The author of the book is James L. Wakefield. The person who reviewed the book is a contributing writer and not a staff person of AFA or AgapePress. AFA and AgapePress have received a number of e-mails from AgapePress readers and AFA supporters who believe this book promotes New Age practices and teachings. AgapePress and AFA regret running this review — and, while AFA works with many religious groups on matters of public policy, it maintains a traditional evangelical position with respect to theology and Christian doctrine.”

Tim Wildmon, President, American Family Association

Jody Brown, Editor, AgapePress

The review was by JoAnne Potter, and it currently remains available in the Google cache (links added):

“Achieve spirituality in 20 minutes a day.” “Seven ways to reconnect with God.” Do you ever wonder whether some guides to spiritual development make it all sound just a little too easy? If so, you aren’t alone.

Fortunately, Dr. James Wakefield has provided a welcome alternative in Sacred Listening (Baker Books, 2006), an adaptation for Protestants of the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola — a series of meditations on the Gospels that are often said in retreats. Dr. Wakefield, currently Associate Professor at Salt Lake Theological Seminary and formerly a self-proclaimed cynic, encountered the exercises in 1984 when he volunteered to be guided through them by his mother, then a Roman Catholic, as part of her Masters degree project.

…Dr. Wakefield replaced Roman Catholic doctrinal prayer patterns with direct scriptural references, encouraged participants to pray for personal discernment, and structured the daily pattern of reading and meditation around the strong step-by-step framework of the lectio divina.

…At first, the manuscript was refused as having “new age” associations, presumably because of its scripturally meditative nature.

“I have taken a lot of criticism over the years for leading people astray,” says the author. “But I have also received great encouragement from many people who found their spiritual [re]-grounding through this process. More recently, there has been very little resistance. I meet people with a deep hunger for contemplative prayer almost everyplace I go.”…

Baker Books is one of the best-known evangelical publishers in the US, and Wakefield’s book enjoys endorsements from high-profile evangelicals Eugene Peterson and (the somewhat controversial) Gregory A. Boyd.

Catholic-evangelical tensions are perhaps on the rise: the Roman Catholic Georgetown University has just expelled various evangelical ministries from its campus after apparently claiming to have received instruction from God.

Neo-Pentecostal Revival Suspected for Destruction of Ancient Arctic Art

UPDATE: The archaeologist cited in the newspaper article below has since claimed he was misquoted, and that there has not in fact been a “pattern of previous attacks”. Please see my entry here for fuller details.

From the Canadian Leader-Post:

Canada’s only major Arctic petroglyph site — a 1,500-year-old gallery of mysterious faces carved into a soapstone ridge on a tiny island off of Quebec’s northern coast — has been ransacked by vandals in what the region’s top archeologist suspects was a religiously motivated attack by devout Christians from a nearby Inuit community.

The petroglyphs were created by the now-extinct Dorset culture, and it was hoped that the site would become a UNESCO world heritage site (all links in this post added):

Now, dreams of global renown for Qajartalik may be dashed after a visit to the island last month by Quebec cultural officials revealed extensive damage to the prehistoric drawings, including deep gouges across many of the faces.

…Daniel Gendron, chief archeologist with the Inukjuak-based Avataq Cultural Institute, the key promoter of indigenous history and identity in Nunavik, said the latest vandalism at Qajartalik follows the pattern of previous attacks by members of what he called “a very strong movement” of conservative Christians in Kangiqsujuaq and several other Inuit communities in northern Quebec.

The carvings were recently featured in the Nunatsiaq News, in an article which begins with some sadly prophetic words:

Anyone can pick up a piece of ancient mummified wood in Nunavut’s High Arctic, or write graffiti over Nunavik’s delicate rock carvings.

…Qajartalik is home to the only major rock carving site in the Canadian Arctic. The rocky island looks like a dark strip of soapstone. On its 130-metre-long kayak-shaped ridge, lichens camouflage what some have dubbed “devil’s faces.”

Qajartalik’s etchings resemble the tiny carved masks archeologists associate with Dorset culture, believed to have flourished in the Eastern Arctic 1,000 to 1,500 years ago.

Some display cat-like features, and appear to have horns. Lines radiate from many of the mouths, perhaps symbolizing the breath of a shaman, archeologists speculate.

The Christian “movement” mentioned by Gendron is a neo-Pentcostal revival which has been gaining strength for several years. Canadian Christianity has some details:

A “MOVE of the Spirit” in parts of northern Canada is moving south, and beginning to touch some troubled communities in Labrador, according to Roger Armbruster, director of Canadian missions with Maranatha Good News Centre in Niverville, Manitoba.

…Some Nunavut and Nunavik communities have undergone near total transformation, and many northern Inuit now see themselves as missionaries, says Armbruster. He recently accompanied 12 Inuit from northern Quebec and Nunavut on an outreach trip to Nain, Labrador, a community that has seen a large number of suicides — 22 since January, 1999.

During that visit, one of the women, Annie Tertiluk, declared that at one time some 90 percent of the adults in her community were alcoholics; and of those, she said, “we [she and her husband] were some of the worst.”

Today, however, Tertiluk can testify that in her community of Kangiqsujuaq in northern Quebec, the situation is exactly reversed. Now only about 10 percent of the adult community are alcoholics, and 90 percent have been set free by “the truth of the gospel, and the liberating power of the Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and that now lives within us,” reports Armbruster.

The revival, as expected, strongly stresses the supernatural. A 2004 report posted on Worldwide Religious News explains:

…After years of patient work, fundamentalist religious leaders across the eastern Arctic are about to join hands and their rapidly growing flocks to form a new church that combines speaking-in-tongues, cast-out-the-devil Christianity with Inuit cultural pride. “We are organizing,” says James Arreak, the cherubic, 36-year-old former bank employee who is now pastor of the Iqaluit Christian Fellowship and one of the movement’s shepherds.

…Pentecostal Christianity, brought in by southern evangelists, has been present in the North for at least two decades. But the advent of a new generation of Inuit preachers such as Arreak and Billy Arnaquq has made the difference, says Roger Armbruster of the Maranatha Good News Centre in Nivervillle, Man.

Arreak, along with his Anglican clergyman brother Joshua, believes that God revealed himself through a supernatural event while he was leading worship at a church in Pond Inlet, on Baffin lsland, in 1999; Christianity.ca reported:

It started like thunder, and at first no one knew what was happening. Moses Kyak, who was operating the sound system, turned the volume off but the noise kept getting louder. Then people began falling down without anyone touching them. James Arreak, who had been leading worship, began to shake. The building began to shake. For about a minute the noise continued to fill the church, like a mighty, rushing wind.

“It sounded like Niagara Falls,” says Rev. Joshua Arreak, who was helping lead an afternoon youth service at St. Timothy’s Anglican Church with his younger brother James. And then the sound went away.

The revival also has a political aspect, and the missionary Armbruster has given strong support to Tagak Curley, a local politician who is a “Christian gay-rights opponent”. The Nunatsiaq News explains:

In a section of his web site headed “Jesus is the Lord of Government,” Armbruster said, “Jesus proved his supremacy of his authority over the government when he rose from the dead.”

And he said that in Nunavut, “there is a real warfare over the government, as the enemy seeks to influence those in office to be controlled by deceptive thoughts or by humanistic thinking rather than by the Word of God.”

…Armbruster’s ministry, “Canada Awakening, “is devoted to “building the indigenous church in Canada’s north,” a church that respects Inuit traditional cultural values and Inuit leadership. It’s one of several ministries that have helped the Inuit Christian movement in Nunavut and Nunavik grow by leaps and bounds since the 1990s, sometimes with the help of municipal governments.

The Hamlet of Cape Dorset, for example, donated $25,000 last year [2003] for steel pylons for a new church built by the late John Spillenaar’s Arctic Missions Outreach, now headed by David and Joan Ellyat[t] of London, Ont.

…A bible conference last September in Baker Lake drew about 600 people, and cost $300,000 in charter fares alone. In April 2003, a conference in Kangirsuk drew hundreds of Inuit from 21 communities throughout Nunavut and Nunavik.

At the Baker Lake conference, participants such as Patterk Netser, then the newly elected member for Nanulik, held up signs saying “Jesus is Lord over Nunavut,” printed for them by a group called Prayer Canada, which encourages political activism on the part of fundamentalist Christians.

Armbruster also spreads the gospel of Christian Zionism, and has led solidarity tours to Israeli communities. He explains in a Christian newsletter:

From January 23 to February 3, 2005, the Inuit and First Nations of Canada made their sixth annual pilgrimage to the land of the Bible.

…The vision is therefore to build relationships with all people groups in Israeli society, spreading joy through our songs of praise to the Lord, and spreading healing and comfort.

…This year we were able to visit the community of Sderot near the Gaza Strip, a community that has been the target of over 500 rocket attacks since June of 2003.

…Some Jewish Rabbis have an oral tradition which says that when the North American Native come to Jerusalem to pray, it will be a sign that the coming of the Messiah is near, because it will be a sign that the Torah has gone to “the ends of the earth.”

On his website, Armbruster stresses the importance of reconciliation between different native groups – if original inhabitants are resentful of newcomers, he explains, this will create a curse that will bring “defilement” to the land. He claims that a recent ceremony of reconciliation (led by a Fijian Pentecostal group) has led to the land becoming dramatically more fertile:

…There are rigid and dogmatic mindsets in the world who presuppose a naturalistic explanation for everything.   But it is the indigenous people of the world who have something to teach the western mindset, and it is that the spiritual and the natural worlds are connected, and that the things we see in the natural flow out of the supernatural. Everything that we see around us had its source and origin in the spirit, and then it manifested into the natural from there.

Those like members of the Fiji Healing the Land Team have seen this happen far too often to be a mere co-incidence. They have seen a pattern that when certain things are addressed in the spirit, and that when repentance of the sins that defile the land take place under the authority of the local gatekeepers and authorities, that that is an outward manifestation that takes place that affects the environment, and the land itself!

As he makes clear in the comments section to this blog post, Armbruster is just as appalled as the rest of us by the vandalism of an ancient heritage site – but it’s also very likely that the non-Christian religious art of Qajartalik is going to be seen by some Pentecostals as one of the things that “defile the land”. This is not unique: as I blogged recently, Kenyan Pentecostals have been threatening to destroy colonial-era art which they believe to be associated with Freemasonry.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

UPDATE: I explore the political issues further at Talk to Action.

Foreign Affairs discusses US Evangelicals on Africa, Israel

Walter Russell Mead discusses the impact of US evangelicalism in Foreign Affairs:

…As evangelicals have recently returned to a position of power in U.S. politics, they have supported similar causes and given new energy and support to U.S. humanitarian efforts. Under President Bush, with the strong support of Michael Gerson (an evangelical who was Bush’s senior policy adviser and speechwriter), U.S. aid to Africa has risen by 67 percent, including $15 billion in new spending for programs to combat HIV and AIDS. African politicians, such as Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, have stressed their own evangelical credentials to build support in Washington, much as China’s Sun Yat-sen and Madame Chiang Kai-shek once did. Thanks to evangelical pressure, efforts to suppress human trafficking and the sexual enslavement of women and children have become a much higher priority in U.S. policy, and the country has led the fight to end Sudan’s wars. Rick Warren, pastor of an evangelical megachurch in Southern California and the author of The Purpose Driven Life (the single best-selling volume in the history of U.S. publishing), has mobilized his 22,000 congregants to help combat AIDS worldwide (by hosting a conference on the subject and training volunteers) and to form relationships with churches in Rwanda.

The nature of these “programs to combat HIV and AIDS”, however, is not assessed or discussed. I’m far from dismissive of Warren’s real efforts in these areas, but this glosses over certain problems that have been seen in Uganda and elsewhere, and which I have blogged. And while the historical references to Sun Yat-sen and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek are nice, why not mention the fascist Chiang Kai-Shek himself? Or the apartheid regime in South Africa? Or Rios Montt? The fact is that for all their honest desire to offer humanitarian assistance, US evangelicals have a track record of falling for very dodgy foreign leaders who claim to share their faith. Warren’s closeness to Paul Kagame of Rwanda is of doubtful wisdom (as I blogged here), and the Museveni regime is now showing some worrying signs (see here).

Mead also discusses Christian Zionism.

...U.S. policy toward Israel is another area where the increased influence of evangelicals has been evident…That U.S. foreign policy now centers on defending the country against the threat of mass terrorism involving, potentially, weapons of apocalyptic horror wielded by anti-Christian fanatics waging a religious war motivated by hatred of Israel only reinforces the claims of evangelical religion.

…Conspiracy theorists and secular scholars and journalists in the United States and abroad have looked to a Jewish conspiracy or, more euphemistically, to a “Jewish lobby” to explain how U.S. support for Israel can grow while sympathy for Israel wanes among what was once the religious and intellectual establishment. A better answer lies in the dynamics of U.S. religion. Evangelicals have been gaining social and political power, while liberal Christians and secular intellectuals have been losing it. This should not be blamed on the Jews.

This is an interesting take on the subject, although it could have been more nuanced. There are all kinds of lobbies everywhere in politics; if someone mentions a “Jewish lobby” must we always assume that he or she really means “Jewish conspiracy”? And where do any serious “secular scholars and journalists” talk about “the Jews” with the definite article like that?.

However, Mead’s perspective is useful for its emphasis on culture. Radical critics of the “pro-Israel lobby” theory of US support for Israel usually focus on Israel’s strategic position in Middle East geo-politics – there may be something to that, but it overlooks the possibility that the US supports Israel in large part because it believes that that’s the right thing to do. Many Americans support Israel because the Bible tells them to (see this Pew report) – but those Americans believe that they have interpreted the Bible correctly because of their underlying values. Those of us who are informed about the Palestinian human rights situation and the occupation of the West Bank may find this support to be misplaced, but the sanguinary nature of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Ahmadinejad regime together make up an extremely effective “anti-lobby” that can only re-enforce the pro-Israel position in the US.

Further, as examples of Christian Zionists, Mead presents us with John Hagee and, in his reading list, Hal Lindsey. Both are, of course, hugely influential figures – but there’s not much evidence that they shape US foreign policy. If George W Bush were taking cues from Hagee, there would be no discussion of the “two-state solution” Bush apparently favours. Hagee’s apocalyptic Christian Zionism gets all the headlines – but perhaps someone like Ted Haggard is a more significant figure. Haggard, who heads the National Association of Evangelicals, is a strong supporter of Israel, and his New Life church helps to fund an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. But Haggard does not go on about the Last Days – instead, his support for Israel is grounded in a more generally conservative political perspective.

Mead also discusses the differences between evangelicals and fundamentalists, although he doesn’t say much about the latter group’s influence on US public life. He concludes optimistically:

…As more evangelical leaders acquire firsthand experience in foreign policy, they are likely to provide something now sadly lacking in the world of U.S. foreign policy: a trusted group of experts, well versed in the nuances and dilemmas of the international situation, who are able to persuade large numbers of Americans to support the complex and counterintuitive policies that are sometimes necessary in this wicked and frustrating — or, dare one say it, fallen — world.

(Hat tip: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life)

Denis MacShane: “’Witches’ Brew’ of Anti-Semitism in the UK”

It’s 350 years since Oliver Cromwell re-admitted Jews to England, and this week BBC Radio 4’s religious news programme Sunday consists of a special edition about Jews in Britain. The programme has some interesting material, and includes input from a wide range of British Jews – secular, religious, gay, pro- and anti-Zionist. The show also includes discussions about anti-Semitism and Zionism, and features a short interview with Denis MacShane, the former Labour cabinet member who currently chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism. The Inquiry has been underway for ten months now, but MacShane manages only a curiously vague assessment of the problem. Presenter Edward Stourton begins by asking him how anti-Semitism expresses itself in Britain today; MacShane responds:

Just the way that anti-Semitism has always been expressed in the past: direct assaults on Jews as they were going to their synagogues; on Jewish children from Jewish schools; desecration of cemeteries; spray-painting; insults; remarks. They had to spend millions of their own money to protect their synagogues, their community centres, their schools. That’s not right, I think, that any British citizen of any faith has to dig into his or her own pocket because they feel there isn’t adequate protection for their right to express themselves as Jews.

It would have been nice to have had some indication as to the extent of this kind of thing, and how it compares with other forms of prejudice, but Stourton moves on:

To what extent do you think that the phenomenon that you observed is a consequence of people’s views about what’s happening in the Middle East?

Undoubtedly there was a read-across. Some of the vilest anti-Semitic propaganda we saw came from ultra-Islamist groups. One only has to read some of the official policies of some of the organisations active in the Middle East, listen to the President of Iran calling for the eradication of the State of Israel from the map of the world, not to see that there is a direct connection.

I’m thinking, I suppose, more, of the views of ordinary citizens, really.

There’s obviously every right to be critical of Israel. That’s a normal democratic response in any country. People who criticise Israel are not anti-Semitic. On the other hand I haven’t met, or I haven’t seen, during the year’s work we’ve done, an anti-Semite was wasn’t viscerally anti-Israeli. So in that sense there is a connection, but I think anti-Semitism is there. It’s always been there. There was the post-1945 sense of “never again”, and that anti-Semitism had to be absolutely eradicated from everybody’s thinking, but it’s there. Look at the work of the [British Nationalist Party], look at some of the slogans and the placards carried by some of the Islamic fundamentalists, the ultra-left groups. The kind of sneering anti-Semitism that you find in clubs and the old joke of Harold Macmillan that Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet was more Old Estonian than Old Etonian. All those little remarks are there, they come together and they can turn quite ugly quite quickly.

This last part is a bit weak; these days the BNP is more interested in whipping up anti-Muslim hatred than pursuing anti-Semitism. While in 1997 BNP leader Nick Griffin was churning out an anti-Semitic screed entitled Who are the Mind-Benders?, now he prefers Jared Taylor’s strategy of including Jews among “white nationalists” (as was reported in the Forward back in March, and which Max Blumenthal followed up in the Nation); and regarding the Lebanon conflict, the BNP took the line that it was none of their business. [UPDATE: However, the report does also quote a 2005 BNP publication that blamed “filthy-rich Zionist businessmen” for leading the UK into war in Iraq]. And just how prevalent are these supposedly “sneering” comments in clubs? We need a bit more than one dodgy quip made by an ancient politician 25 years ago by way of evidence.

Some of those who are concerned about it do say that it’s a particular problem of the Left, that the Left tends to be concerned about how Israel is acting and how that quite often slips over into anti-Semitism. Do you accept that?

Yes and no. I think that very many people were very surprised at the position that William Hague of the Conservative Party took on the recent conflict where he was so obviously condemning Israel and not condemning equally Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria and so on.

That wasn’t anti-Semitic, though

It wasn’t anti…no, no, no, no…but when you say it comes from the Left it creates a culture of saying that we’re not going to look at this in an even-handed way. And of course, here the problem comes again. I don’t think I know a single person, single MP, a single journalist on the Left or the Right who expounds on these problems who I think for a nano-second I would say is anti-Semitic. But when Jewish people feel and they read stuff that is so aggressive, comparing Israel to Nazis, comparing Israel to those responsible for the Holocaust, and they shudder inwardly. And I think they’re right to be concerned.

Well yes, that kind of “Israel=Hitler” stuff is stupid and nasty (although “Nazi” accusations are thrown about fairly commonly in Israel), but what’s that got to do with William Hague and “even-handedness”? Must every criticism of Israel be preceded with a checklist of repudiations of anti-Israel extremists in order to be taken seriously? MacShane concludes:

But there is a Left problem certainly, the coming together of ultra-Islamist fundamentalist groups and fanatically anti-American, anti-British government, anti-any idea of a democratic solution for the Middle East that is based on the right of Israel fully and openly to exist. Then yes, I’m afraid there is a kind of “witches’ brew” and it’s an old politics we’ve also seen before of the ultra-left coming together with people that really they should have nothing to do with in terms of respect for women, respect for human rights, respect for gays, in some of the Islamist organisations. But that’s modern politics.

I’ve also noted this unhappy trend, and recently I blogged on British anti-war protestors cheering on a pro-Hezbollah and pro-Hamas rant from Azzam Tamimi.

The interview is followed by a more general discussion of anti-Semitism in the UK, in which various Jewish contributors complain of “tensions” which were not in evidence a few decades ago. Stourton tries to pin down where exactly criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic, but the answers remain vague, focusing mainly on Israel’s “right to exist” – although what that means in practical terms (are supporters of a bi-national solution beyond the pale, for instance?) was left unspecified. This is a complaint I’ve made previously.

UPDATE: The report is out, and I’ve discussed it here.

Good News for Adams

SZ at World O’Crap draws attention to the latest gem from conservative demagogue (see my blog post here) and academic Mike S Adams, in which he ponders what might have been:

Just how many Muslim terrorists could I kill if the military would ignore my age and let me serve as a sniper?

According to Adams’s profile, he was born on 30 October 1964. And according to this report, there’s some good news:

Older soldiers…are showing up more often at Army training bases across the country since Congress gave the service approval earlier this year to raise its enlistee age limit, which had been 35, to just under 42 years.

Gosh, Adams, you just might make the deadline…

Plutonian Goad

Buddhist leader: Scientists “make discoveries after we did them”

From Interfax (link added):

Sanjey-Lama of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Moscow has stated that the decision of the International Astronomic Union to demote Pluto down from the category of planet will not affect the Buddhist astrology in any way.

He says the Buddhist astrological system has never given Pluto the importance it has attached to other planets; it has always considered it ‘rather a gasiform entity or a comet’.

The representative of the Russian Buddhists stressed that it often happened in the history of the world science that scientists ‘make discoveries after we did them’.

How “gasiform entity or a comet” in any way relates to “dwarf planet” is not explained.

Western astrologers, however, apparently disagree with the Buddhist perspective; the WSJ has a quote:

“Whether he’s a planet, an asteroid, or a radioactive matzo ball, Pluto has proven himself worthy of a permanent place in all horoscopes,” says Shelley Ackerman, columnist for the spirituality Web site Beliefnet.com. Ms. Ackerman criticized the [International Astronomical Union] for not including astrologers in its decision.

Believers in the Fungi from Yuggoth were also unfairly excluded from discussions.

*****

Meanwhile, an evangelist invokes Islamic astrology in a new warning about Iran:

A former Muslim Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist says that while August 22 passed without Iran attacking Israel…

(Yes, I did notice that)

…this is still a religiously significant and dangerous time. Kamal Saleem, who became a Christian in 1985 and now lectures about the dangers of militant Islam, believes Iran is still likely to attack this month, during the present rare alignment of the crescent moon and Mars as seen on the Islamic flag.

Full Moon

John Gorenfeld (who else?) notes recent developments in South Korea, where followers of Rev Moon have expressed their displeasure with certain elements of the media. Gorenfeld cites two newspapers; firstly, the JoongAng Daily:

About 700 Unification Church members sat in at the Dong-A Ilbo building in central Seoul yesterday to complain about Shindonga magazine’s coverage of their religion. The Dong-A Ilbo’s monthly magazine featured the religion in its September issue in articles the church members said was malicious.

The Dong-A Ilbo adds:

The [Family Federation for World Peace and Unification] worshippers destroyed the computers and office fixtures of the Shindonga journalists and stole the coverage documents of journalist Cho Seong-sik, the one who wrote the report concerned. They threatened to “throw sand on the rotary press of Dong-A Ilbo” and even sent more than 200 text messages to Cho’s cell phone, saying, “We’ll kill you.” Also, a photojournalist of this newspaper company Gang Byeong-gi and a CBS reporter Kim Jae-pyeong were attacked with violence and threats by the worshippers.

This kind of strategy is not unique to the Unification Church – back in 1999 followers of the neo-Pentecostal faith healer Lee Jae-Rock tried to suppress a critical documentary by invading a TV studio.

****

Meanwhile, Kurt Easterwood blogs from across the water, where Moon has long-standing links with Japanese rightist politicians. These connections go back to the 1960s, when Moon ally Ryoichi Sasakawa was close to Japanese PM (and former war criminal) Nobusuke Kishi; now Kishi’s powerful grandson Shinzo Abe maintains the family tradition (links in original; alas, the video links are dead):

As reported on some blogs in June, this YouTube video shows two Unification Church wedding ceremony events in May to which Shinzo Abe apparently sent congratulatory telegrams…Not surprisingly, TBS was the only TV network I know of that ran a story about the Abe/Unification Church connection. I say not surprisingly because TBS has often been linked to Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist organization (cult?) that is rather powerful here in Japan, and therefore perhaps a media outfit with some sort of axe to grind against the Unification Church and Abe.

Abe – who provoked criticism in Korea back in April after visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine – is a strong contender to succeed Junichiro Koizumi as PM next month.

Easterwood also notes a second link:

In this YouTube video clip, you can see the same Katsumi Otsuka who was presiding over the wedding ceremonies in the other YouTube video here opening a meeting of the UPF (Universal Peace Federation) Rally for the Restoration of the Homeland held in Yokohama (this year?). What’s interesting about this clip is that one of the dignitaries introduced is one Tadashi Kobayashi, Chairman of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (Wikipedia link), a group that authored a controversial revisionist textbook on Japanese history that was published last year, and which predictably drew the ire of South Korea and China. The clip ends with some dignitaries, including the aforementioned Kobayashi, on stage being blessed rather strangely by two Koreans.

Iran Fails to Deliver the Quds

Boing Boing makes merry at the expense of Bernard Lewis:

A couple of weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published Mideast Scholar Bernard Lewis’s op-ed piece suggesting that Iranian President Ahmadinejad might commit some kind of catastrophic mischief, such as launching nuclear weapons, on August 22.

Lewis said this might be so because that’s the anniversary of Mohammed’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. (Makes sense, doesn’t it?)

As it turns out, instead of attacking anyone, Iran announced it was going to “resume negotiations with the group of 5+1,”

Lewis’s comments were widely reported, with other conservatives sounding a chorus. One “expert” who concurred was Joseph Kickasola of Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Agape reported:

Some Islamic scholars worry that Iran’s president may launch an attack on Jerusalem, perhaps with a nuclear missile, a week from Tuesday. That is the date when Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem. It is also the date Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has picked to reply to Western demands that he renounce efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Professor Joseph Kickasola, an Islamic scholar at Regent University, says Ahmadinejad believes he has a God-given mission to prepare the way for the Muslim messiah, or mahdi, who will arise from end-times chaos to convert the world to Islam. Kickasola says that while a nuclear strike on Jerusalem would kill Muslims as well as Jews and Christians, Iran’s president believes the Muslims would be ushered into paradise.

And naturally, obliterating a holy site dedicated to Muhammad’s night journey would be the most obvious way for a Muslim to commemorate the event.

However, as much as one might have fun with Lewis and Kickasola, let’s not forget what kind of a place Iran under Ahmadinejad is: Direland has comprehensive coverage of the country’s persecution of homosexuals; I’ve done a few entries on the country’s sponsorship of Holocaust denial and assaults on independent higher education. The situation for religious minorities remains difficult – especially for Baha’is – and Teheran’s sinister Evin jail recently saw the suspicious death of one of the political prisoners held there. Ahmadinejad’s statements about Israel give the likes of Lewis just what they need while failing to do anything useful for the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the US political right shows that it has nothing in common with the sanguinary worldview of Islamic extremists (from a site linked from Townhall):

america-nuke-iran

UPDATE: Robert Spencer has stern words for the mockers and the scoffers:

…all those who are crowing about “right-wing hysteria” should not lose sight of the real problem: the continuing threat from Iran.

Well, Robert, we can try not to – but you don’t make it easy for us.

Meanwhile, an interesting picture of life in Iran today is provided by this Guardian article from Nasrin Alavi:

…Ahmadinejad is not the whole story. Among ordinary Iranians, the talk is not about Israel, Palestine or even the nuclear crisis. Most conversations on buses and in taxis are about inflation, economic stagnation, unemployment, corruption, poverty and drugs. To them, Ahmadinejad is not an all-powerful head of a monolithic regime but a toothless president who can be overruled at any time by figures and institutions that constitute a fracturing elite…

WND Reports on Francis Collins/D. James Kennedy Controversy

WorldNetDaily has a follow-up to its report highlighting a new show that blames science for the Holocaust:

Darwin-Hitler connection sparks attacks
Bloggers try to discredit experts on evolution’s connection to bloodshed

…Author and Christian broadcaster D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries said the new “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy” is a ground-breaking inquiry into Darwin’s “chilling” social impact, and it will air nationwide on Aug. 26-27 on “The Coral Ridge Hour.”

But yesterday comments appeared on the Pharyngula website, among others, offering stinging criticism of those on the show…One of those targeted was Human Genome Project Director Francis Collins, whose book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” was published only a few months ago.

…The program, according to producer Jerry Newcomb, is about the social effects of Darwinism, and the bloodshed that can be attributed to those beliefs. He said before Darwin, the basic concept was that man was made in the image of God, and was therefore valuable. But Darwin changed all that.

Alas, WND makes no mention of my own modest contribution to the discussion – if they had seen it, perhaps they might have at least learnt to spell the name of the show’s producer correctly (“Newcombe”, not “Newcomb”).

WND also includes the following tasteful photo and caption:

wnd-science-libel

I’m sure that not one of those emaciated figures imagined that sixty years later their iconic suffering would be put to service as part of a fundamentalist campaign to whip up hate against scientists. And I suspect that Jews who care about using science to improve human welfare will find this crass misappropriation to be particularly painful and offensive.

UPDATE: It ooks as though my instincts were right. Pharyngula has the details:

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement: “This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis…”

Collins, meanwhile, is

absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy’s program utterly misguided and inflammatory,”

PZ notes that publicity for the show has now removed all mention of Collins (and, more weirdly, of Ann Coulter).

Francis Collins Repudiates D. James Kennedy’s Darwin = Hitler Prog

From Pharyngula:

A reader wrote to Francis Collins about the use of his name to promote D. James Kennedy’s upcoming ahistorical anti-evolution program, and Collins wrote right back. He’s doing exactly the right thing.

Collins did not wish for his written response to become public, but

…He’s unambiguous in stating that he was interviewed about his book, and that was then inserted into the video without his knowledge.

…I apologize to Dr Collins for assuming he was a party to this creationist video, and I hope he sues those frauds.

Ditto.

UPDATE: Collins is “appalled”; the ADL condemn “trivialization of the Holocaust”. See this entry.