Is Secularisation Dead?

Christianity Today’s weblog rounds up a few “revenge of God” stories about a resurgence of Christian religiosity. First up, Ruth Gledhill of The Times:

The rapid growth of evangelical and Pentecostal congregations in Britain and the United States has astonished almost everyone, save the evangelicals and Pentecostals themselves.

The UK revival began in the 19th century and in the US at the start of the 20th century. This week, Pentecostals have overtaken Methodists and shot into third place in the country’s ecclesiastical ranks, after Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

…When evangelicalism did come to public notice, as with Britain’s Alpha Course or the US mega-church phenomenon, it was often seen by the mainstream as at the eccentric end of fringe.

That’s still the case in some quarters: a report in last week’s Observer explained Alpha as a “controversial” organisation which apparently “opposes homosexual acts and sex before marriage”.

But why the alleged “revival”?

…As the liberals theologised themselves out of existence (destroying their reason for existing), the void was filled by hundreds of thousands of Bible-toting US Christians eager to swap the turgid relativism and multiculturalism of the past with a more vibrant approach to faith…More than one third of Church of England worshippers is now evangelical, as are more than 80 per cent of the largest churches.

So, does this mean sociologist Steve “God is Dead” Bruce has got it wrong? Or that church statistician Peter “The Tide is Running Out” Brierley needn’t worry so much after all? We’ll probably never know, since Gledhill a) doesn’t bother to call up either person, and b) gives us only relative percentages rather than absolute figures. Just how impressive is “more than 80 per cent of the largest churches”, when she doesn’t tell us how big these “largest churches” actually are?

And insofar as there has been a conservative “revival” in the US, to what extent is that down to liberal “relativism and multiculturalism”? It’s an ever-popular diagnosis for complacent conservative columnists: liberal Christians sell out to the “spirit of the age” while conservatives hold fast to timeless truths, but the complaint can just as easily be turned back on itself. Which segment of Christianity is it that relies on celebrity-like pastors? Which is it that has churches that resemble shopping malls? That offers pop-like “Praise and Worship” music to its congregants? That has a large consumer sub-culture of novels, computer games, CDs and “Jesus Junk”? If the Alpha Course is indeed “controversial”, it’s not because it has unremarkable conservative views on sex – it’s because critics accuse it of offering up a shallow “McDonaldized” Christianity which caters to “Alphaholics” who keep on retaking the course. (By the way, does anyone remember when “multicultural” wasn’t a dirty word?)

Even the supposed rejection of relativism is, well, relative. Recall the confrontation between Ted Haggard and Richard Dawkins in January – Haggard told Dawkins that he (Dawkins) was arrogant to claim he knew more about science than other people just because he’s studied it a lot more than many of his opponents. Conservative columnists like Joseph Farah will glibly pronounce that intelligent design, or some other form of Creationism, has clearly trounced evolutionary biology, and that qualified scientists who say otherwise are either “brainwashed” or serving some ideological agenda. Such columnists feel no need to get to grips with scientific literature, because their repudiation of “Darwinism” is not based on scientific evaluation. Rather, Creationism provides a sense of comfort and justification which the difficult subject of evolutionary biology does not offer. In the case of someone like Ann Coulter, support for Creationism is primarily an exultation in the strength conservative political power, and belongs to the anti-intellectual tradition in American life. Although not recognised as such, this is relativism: something is true because it feels true.

Moving on, Zenit reports that French anthropologist René Girard has turned prophet:

In a book published recently in Italian, “Verità o fede debole. Dialogo su cristianesimo e relativismo” (Truth or Weak Faith: Dialogue on Christianity and Relativism), the anthropologist states that “we will live in a world that will seem and be as Christian as today it seems scientific.”

Girard, recently elected to be one of the 40 “immortals” of the French Academy, said: “I believe we are on the eve of a revolution in our culture that will go beyond any expectation, and that the world is heading toward a change in respect of which the Renaissance will seem like nothing.”

Girard argues that the problem (again) is relativism, and that Christianity is the solution:

“Anthropology has failed because it has not succeeded in explaining the different human cultures as a unitary phenomenon, and that is why we are bogged down in relativism.

“In my opinion, Christianity proposes a solution to these problems precisely because it demonstrates that the obstacles, the limits that individuals put on one another serve to avoid a certain type of conflicts.”

The French academic continues: “If it was really understood that Jesus is the universal victim who came precisely to surmount these conflicts, the problem would be solved.”

There’s actually a subtlety of thought there which possibly eludes positivistic critics of religion like Dawkins; but are such intellectual musings really likely to lead to a sea-change in western culture?

In the book, the French professor states that “religion conquers philosophy and surpasses it. Philosophies in fact are almost dead. Ideologies are virtually deceased; political theories are almost altogether spent. Confidence in the fact that science can replace religion has already been surmounted. There is in the world a new need for religion.”

Well, there may be a “new need” if you’re a French intellectual who worries about whether one’s theories are “deceased” or “spent” – but is that the case for the average person enjoying consumer society and making the odd donation to charity? And insofar as some feel this “new need”, why is Christianity going to be the answer rather than, say, the New Age movement? But this is not the only commonplace platitude served up by Girard:

…The French anthropologist criticizes the “politically correct world” which considers “the Judeo-Christian tradition as the only impure tradition, whereas all the others are exempt from any possible criticism.”

What’s the point here? No-one is stopping Girard from criticising other religious traditions. Or perhaps he means rather that the “Judeo-Christian” tradition should be criticised less – in which case his complaint is that there is not enough “political correctness”.

We now turn to Holland, where Joshua Livestro explores increased signs of religiosity for the Weekly Standard:

…The idea that secularization is the irreversible wave of the future is still the conventional wisdom in intellectual circles here. They would be bemused, to say the least, at a Dutch relapse into religiosity. But as the authors of a recently published study called De Toekomst van God (The Future of God) point out, organized prayer in the workplace is just one among several pieces of evidence suggesting that Holland is on the threshold of a new era–one we might call the age of “post-secularization.” In their book, Adjiedj Bakas, a professional trend-watcher, and Minne Buwalda, a journalist, argue that Holland is experiencing a fundamental shift in religious orientation: “Throughout Western Europe, and also in Holland, liberal Protestantism is in its death throes. It will be replaced by a new orthodoxy.”

Signs include prayer groups in companies and literary prizes going to religiously-themed books:

Calvinist Jan Siebelink’s Knielen op een bed violen (Kneeling on a Bed of Violets)…sold nearly 350,000 copies in its first year, making it the single bestselling Dutch-language book of the past decade–apart, that is, from a new Bible translation…

One wonders how this compares to Dutch sales of The Da Vinci Code, which would no doubt be repudiated in a Europe under the sway of this mysterious “new orthodoxy”.

And – once again – we come across the Alpha Course:

Since its inception in 1997, 120,000 people have taken the Dutch version of the course. The number of related courses is growing by around one hundred a year. Prison Alpha, Business Alpha, Student Alpha, Youth Alpha, and more recently the Alpha Marriage Course: Collectively, they seem to have struck a chord in Holland’s secular society.

The Standard also notes one trend which ought to be more-widely known about:

An SCP [Social and Cultural Planning Agency] estimate puts the number of Christian immigrants in Holland at around 700,000– and rising fast. Recent immigration reports suggest that for every new Muslim moving to Holland, there are at least two new Christian immigrants…In the meantime, Islam is already finding itself in a difficult position fighting off another threat, namely that of apostasy.

This is a welcome corrective to the lazy “Muslims are taking over Europe” hysteria currently popular in the US – theo-con George Wiegel is so obsessed with the subject that in a recent short article on Christian books for the Wall Street Journal he raised the subject of “the magnitude of Chartres’ stained glass and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes” for no other reason than to tell us that “jihadist Islam” wants to destroy it all.

Livestro certainly has some interesting data: he interviews Stanley Hofwijks, a Surinamese pastor who featured on this blog a while back, and explores the rise of house churches and Christian youth groups.

Clearly, there’s more overt religion about in Europe and the US now than there was a few years ago, and religion serves as more of an identity-marker than in the past. But just how many people, especially in Europe, are really caught up in any sort of religious “revival”, much less one that will establish a “new orthodoxy”? Even in the US, the “faith based” presidency is on the ropes, while the inroads of Creationism into schools have been largely beaten back.

Maybe we are indeed about to see “a change in respect of which the Renaissance will seem like nothing.” But based on the evidence, these obituaries for secularisation are somewhat premature.

Moon Over Galilee

The UPI reports on a peace initiative in Galilee (link added):

Plans are to construct the Cultural Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue and Understanding over the next three years, a $7 million campus with space for meetings, academic research, education in communication and technology, and a library. The Israeli government has donated seven acres of land to the project in this area, almost entirely populated by Muslims.

[Mahmoud] Mufare and Bustan Al Marg mayor, Ahmed Zoubi, are making the rounds of Muslim leaders in the United States, trying to raise the remaining $5 million needed to begin construction.

But who’s behind the scheme? The UPI has an inside track:

Mufare and Zoubi are members of Ambassadors for Peace and active in the Middle East Peace Initiative, both of which are projects of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). The UPF is a broad consortium of individuals and organizations brought together by Sun Myung Moon for the purpose of conflict resolution through greater harmony among world religious traditions.

One wonders if this is the same Zoubi who was formerly a deputy mayor of Nazareth, and who was involved in the 1999 Nazareth mosque controversy, which saw plans for a mosque close to the Church of the Annunciation:

The Islamic Movement, a political party, wanted the entire area for a mosque because a Muslim sage is buried there. The disagreement erupted into violence between thetown’s Muslim majority and Christian minority over Easter weekend. Cars were stoned and shops were set on fire.

…Salman Abu Ahmed, the leader of the Islamic movement in Nazareth’s municipality, said the compromise is acceptable, but that the movement has “certain reservations” about it, including opposition to delaying construction of the mosque until 2001 and to removing a Muslim protest tent at the site. Another Muslim representative, Ahmed Zoubi, said the tent would be evacuated “over our dead bodies.”

This Zoubi was also interviewed a few years later, after riots between local Arabs and Jews that saw three Israeli Arabs killed by Israeli police:

In the Mayor’s office, adorned by framed photographs of the three dead Arabs, Ali Salam, and Ahmed Zoubi, two of Nazareth’s three deputy mayors explained how the city’s Arab residents and political parties had come together…

“The Jews, they are the problem,” says Zoubi.

“No, it is Zionism that’s the problem,” says Salam, as Zoubi nods his head in agreement.

This might be a different Zoubi altogether, but influence from Rev Moon has been known to have dramatic effects on some people’s perspectives.

Meanwhile, the Middle East Peace Initiative is apparently

…a global effort by 11,000 Ambassadors for Peace who come from 147 nations every other month to join hands with Jews, Christians and Muslims of the Holy Land to bring an end to violence.

I’ve looked at the activities of the Unification Church in the “Holy Land” a couple of times in the past: see here and here.

Name variation: Ahmad Zu’bi

Smithsonian Accused of “Anti-Religious” Discrimination

Agape Press reports on an Intelligent Design controversy (link added):

A congressional investigation finds the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, demonized one of its research associates for publishing a peer-reviewed article critical of Darwinian evolution. A report from the House Government Reform Committee says Smithsonian officials retaliated against biologist Dr. Richard Sternberg for publishing an article by Dr. Stephen Meyer that discussed the scientific evidence for intelligent design (ID) relating to the “Cambrian Explosion.” The report concluded that Sternberg’s civil and constitutional rights were violated…”The House report concludes the Smithsonian’s harassment of Dr. Sternberg “was reinforced by anti-religious and political motivations.”

For reasons best known to themselves, however, Agape declines to mention the one congressman responsible for the “congressional investigation”: Mark Souder, a self-described “ultra-conservative” evangelical who has long-time links with the Discovery Institute. Back in 2000, he attended a briefing on Capitol Hill in which proponents of Intelligent Design creationism sought to debunk Darwinian evolution and suggest that evolutionary scientists peddle evil. Skeptical Inquirer reported at the time:

Entitled “Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design and its Implications for Public Policy and Education,” the briefing was sponsored by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank (www.discovery.org), and its Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture…The briefing featured a number of the leading lights in the ID movement, including Lehigh University biology professor Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, Whitworth College philosophy professor Stephen Meyer, who directs the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture; Discovery Institute Fellow Nancy Pearcey, co-author with Chuck Colson of How Now Shall We Live?; and Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial. Behe and Meyer spoke first, focusing on a scientific explanation of ID theory and discussion of the weaknesses of Darwinian theory. The second two speakers, Pearcey and Johnson, focused on social and political implications of the competing worldviews represented by these two theories…[C]ongressional co-hosts listed on the press release included House Science Committee members Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (R-Texas), and Education Committee member Mark Souder (R-Indiana).

These were heady days for Intelligent Design advocates at the end of the Clinton era, as they hoped Republican political patronage would allow them to leapfrog the peer-review process: three years later, ID advocate William Dembski was crowing to Richard Dawkins that his political connections would give him access to Bush, and so allow him to direct “the future of science in the United States and the possibilities for public funding of intelligent design research”.

Souder, however, has never had a very sophisticated take on the subject, as he shows in a 2004 interview in which he explains why he is a supporter of national parks despite the bad company this puts him in:

A lot of the environmental movement has been captured by almost an antireligious segment that worships nature in and of itself. And the environmental movement also is a big promoter of evolution — that we all evolved from some amoeba, and therefore we ought to treat the grizzly bear [well] because it’s our ancestor.

Clearly, this is just the man to take on the Smithsonian.

Richard Sternberg alleges that he was subjected to various censures and humiliations after he published a paper by the Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, such as losing office space and having his keys taken from him. His claims are disputed by Ed Brayton:

What little ill-treatment Sternberg may have gotten…was largely self-inflicted, the result not only of his violation of procedures in regard to the Meyer paper, but in regard to several other instances of professional malfeasance and prior examples of poor judgement as PBSW editor…Sternberg has grossly exaggerated several alleged instances of “retaliation” in the early days of the scandal. In particular, he claimed that he had his keys taken away, his access to the Smithsonian’s collections taken away, and lost his office space. In reality, the keys and office space were exchanged as part of larger museum changes and he retains the same access today that all others in his position have…[T]his is a trumped-up report orchestrated by political allies of the Discovery Institute, particularly Rep. Mark Souder and former (I love saying that) Sen. Rick Santorum. They have put out a report that simply is not supported by the evidence and was designed, intelligently or otherwise, to support the disingenuous PR campaign that includes the attempt to position themselves as victims of discrimination.

A supporter of Sternberg named Krauze complains that Brayton has “trivialised” Sternberg’s woes; Brayton responds to that, and expands on his theme, here.

Souder’s faith does not just inform his take on science – it also guides his understanding of the Middle East conflict:

…So when you come to a question like the [separation] wall, I would prefer, just personally, that Israel handle things a little bit differently from time to time. But the bottom line is, they’re God’s chosen people. He’s going to stand with them. The question is: Are we going to stand with them? Because God’s going to stand with them…And if you really believe in a fundamentalist Bible, the Book of Revelation is pretty clear.

Alexy Praises “Good Fruits” of Secular and Spiritual Interaction in Turkmenistan

Sunni Mufti Remains in Prison

Moscow Orthodox Partriarch Alexy II offers a brief eulogy to the late Saparmurad Niyazov:

“As head of the Russian Orthodox Church, I was pleased to see the good fruits of interaction between the secular and spiritual leaderships in the republic. The president was the initiator of many good works,” Alexy II said in a message of condolences to acting Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov.

Well, I suppose he might be doing nothing more than just being polite (and mindful of the position of Orthodox Turkmen) – but this is the same Alexy who is notorious for heaping praise and honours on Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko (as I blogged here).

So, just what were “the good fruits” of the Turkmenbashi’s interaction with religious leaders? Forum 18 and ASSIST Ministries explain:

Exiled human rights activist Farid Tukhbatullin, of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, noted that hostility to religious freedom was a “personal instruction” of Niyazov.

…Although harassment of religious communities has eased in the past year or so, between 1997 and 2003 no religious communities apart from some state-approved Muslim and Russian Orthodox communities were allowed to function. Police raids and harsh punishments on those conducting religious activity without state permission were the norm.

…Even the Russian Orthodox Church – one of only two legal faiths between 1997 and 2003 – faces restrictions on its activity. The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) reported in October that final construction work on the women’s convent next to St Nicholas’ Church in Ashgabad had to come to a halt in late 2005, after President Niyazov warned the Orthodox clergy in a private conversation that if they carried on with the building work he would order the demolition of all the country’s Orthodox churches.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Protestant groups have suffered particularly, although judging from the situation in Russia one doubts that Alexy has any qualms about that.

Of course, Niyazov’s most significant “interaction” with religion was the creation of his own holy text, the Ruhnama:

It is unclear whether Niyazov’s invented Ruhnama religion will continue to be state-imposed…Niyazov’s two-volume Ruhnama (Book of the Soul) has become compulsory reading in schools and other institutions and has been imposed on religious communities. Quotations from it have even – in an action that is for devout Muslims blasphemous – been carved around the interior of the dome of a vast new mosque built in Niyazov’s home village of Kipchak near Ashgabad, where he is due to be buried

In 2002 the Sunni Mufti, Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah, was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for “treason”; a secret trial accused him of plotting Niyazov’s assassination, although dissent and religious objections to the Ruhnama were more likely responsible for his downfall.

The Book of the Soul itself can be read here.

Jezus Chrystus Królem Polski

Reuters reports:

Some Polish lawmakers want to make Jesus the honorary king of their overwhelmingly Catholic country, Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper reported on Wednesday.

…Deputy Artur Gorski said some of his colleagues ‘were praying in the parliamentary chapel for (Jesus’) coronation.’

Gorski is a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party; the proposal is backed by the far-right League of Polish Families and the Polish Peasants’ Party:

Wojciech Wierzejski, a top LPR MP, said: “Jesus is a King in the hearts of many Catholics”

Wierzejski was formerly head of the All-Polish Youth, a violent skinhead organisation with unambiguous Neo-Nazi tendencies, as I blogged just recently. He is also notorious for calling for violence against a gay-rights parade:

gay by definition is a coward, so when German politicians get a number of baton-hits, then they will not come again.

Gorski, meanwhile, has a theological background, as noted in Warsaw Voice:

Nasz Dziennik, an eight-page tabloid-format newspaper costing zl.0.70, intends to fill the “Catholic press void.” Artur Górski, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief who graduated from the Catholic Theological Academy, was a journalist for the Polish Press Agency and is a Monarchist Club activist. He describes his newspaper as right-wing Catholic…

Details of the “Monarchist Club” in English are scarce; however, the Polish Wikipedia entry includes subheadings such as “Katolicki tradycjonalizm” and “Antydemokratyzm”. For those who read Polish, Gorski explains his campaign on his website.

The Reuters report adds:

…If the motion becomes law, Jesus would join a Virgin Mary icon that was made honorary queen of Poland in the 17th century after she was believed to have helped turn the tide in a battle with Sweden.

Time magazine explained the circumstances in 1983:

For Poles, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa is far more than an object of Roman Catholic reverence…By legend, the painting is attributed to St. Luke the Evangelist, and was executed on a table top from the house of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Nazareth.

…The Madonna’s status as an emblem of Polish nationalism dates from Sweden’s invasion of the country in 1655. For 40 days, as the Swedes surrounded the monastery, the monks prayed to the Virgin for deliverance. The siege failed, and the Poles subsequently drove the Swedes out of the country. In gratitude, the reigning Polish monarch, Jan Kazimierz, dedicated his throne and the country to “the Virgin Mary, Queen of Poland.”

The Virgin Mary’s status as Queen of Poland was re-established fifty years ago, and was the subject of anniversary celebrations in August (such as this one in Scotland).

This time, though, the enemy is not the Swedish army, but European secularisation:

“Poland’s deep spirituality may be able to rescue Europe from drowning in a lack of faith and morality,” the authors of the declaration said in their justification of the initiative.

However, the Catholic Church in Poland appears sceptical of this attempt to revive the spirit of Jan Kazimierz:

“Let parliament deal with passing better laws that we need,” Gdansk Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski said.

“This kind of action, although it may stem from good will, sounds a bit like propaganda,” said bishop Tadeusz Pieronk.

And:

Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz said: “Let bricklayers build apartments, tailors sew dresses, and MPs not interfere in things they do not know anything about.

“MPs should pray and suffer, so that they will be remembered fondly.”

Principles Left Behind?

Tim LaHaye, on violence, 1981:

As you compare this description [of the present world] with that of Lot’s day, you will note that both generations produced lovers of violence. Whenever men degenerate sexually to the level of animals, they also adopt the animalistic propensity for violence. (1)

Tim LaHaye (with Bob Phillips), on violent video games, 2002:

This type of sick and violent television and movie programming, filled with “rageaholism”, is sent overseas and represents the United States…There is also a host of violent home video games. Game arcades are filled with violent games. (2)

Tim LaHaye, on the Left Behind: Eternal Forces controversy, 2006 (emphasis added):

These groups don’t attack other violent video games…Their real attack is on our theology. (3)

 Jerry Jenkins, on same:

I looked at the violence for the game to be in the (Christian retail) market. It’s not more violent than the Old Testament. (4)

****

(1) Beginning of the End: Amazing Fulfillment of Prophecies Tell Earth’s Future, p.129
(2) Anger Is a Choice, p.1
(3) In the National Post
(4) In Christian Retailing

Left Behind Game’s Eastern European Charity Tie-In

ASSIST Ministries reports on a charity tie-in from the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game:

Left Behind Games, the company that produces Christian video games based on the books made famous by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, is including an insert in every box that tells purchasers about the Eastern European Outreach (EEO) child sponsorship program.

The game makers latest release, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” is flying off store shelves, and Jeff Thompson, EEO Executive Director, expects that 200,000 families will learn about the EEO ministry to at-risk children as a result of the inserts.

Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon heard about EEO, and along with his wife, Robilyn, decided they wanted to raise awareness about the plight of at-risk children in Russia and Ukraine by including the inserts in the game package. The company has a game programming team in Ukraine, so they have firsthand knowledge of the needs there.

The insert itself can be seen at Joystiq.

EEO is an outreach of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta, California. EEO executive director Jeff Thompson gives some background on his organisation’s website:

A wide door opened for us into Russian prisons and I have now personally ministered in over 75 prisons inside Russia and our teams continue to preach the gospel there. We are blessed and excited to serve the Lord through ministries of compassion for the “children at risk” in the former Soviet Union; we sponsor 100 indigenous pastors with Christian libraries to Russian prisons and public schools; 1500 children are sponsored by EEO Child sponsors in Ukraine and Kosovo; 6 different two week bible camps were sponsored for 1200 children (all expenses paid) for underprivileged children from the Chernobyl area of Ukraine and in war torn Kosovo; approximately 80,000 Bibles and Christian books are distributed each year by EEO teams and indigenous missionaries.

One Ukrainian church that is “partnered” with EEO is Christian Hope Church in Kiev, founded by Pastor Valeriy Reshetinsky. EEO has reposted a profile on him from Charisma magazine:

…Many of us in the West haven’t noticed this quiet miracle. But while church growth has been stagnant in the United States in recent years, Ukraine’s churches have grown up to 20 percent per year since 1993. Currently the growth rate is estimated to be 10 percent annually… Reshetinski believes that God has given Ukraine a 15-year window of opportunity. If the church doesn’t seize the moment, he fears that Islam will fill the vacuum.

…Christian Hope Church currently operates 30 ministries that touch the needs of Ukrainians—including orphans, drug addicts and the blind. But because Reshetinski is a scientist at heart, he also wants to change the Soviet intellect. Schools in Russia and Ukraine are still atheistic. Christian Hope is working with Americans to establish an institute of scientific creationism in Kiev. “Our No. 1 job must be to change the worldview of the people here and apply Christianity to economics, law and education…Please don’t allow the United States to become like Western Europe. Don’t allow it to become secular. I was so surprised to learn that until 1949 Christians had their hands in education in your country. But [John Dewey] took faith out of education. The church in your country has so many spiritual resources. Please keep America a Christian nation.”

The special emphasis on prisons is especially interesting, and some time ago I noted how Russian prisoners were enjoying the televised ministrations of Jan and Paul Crouch. A separate ministry, International Prison Ministry, adds that “As with Eastern European Outreach, the government has become a vital ministry partner”. However, recent events are less encouraging for the EEO: in July, an EEO team was denied entry into Russia.

EEO in the Ukraine also emphases faith over medicine, as an anecdote from missionaries Tom and Melody Monk testifies:

A young teenage girl, Anya, came to our camp last year. She learned so much from the Bible Studies and was especially touched as we studied the miracles of Jesus. She suffered from severe Psoriasis and was ashamed to come to camp. After going home and sharing the camp experiences with her mother, they began to pray for her healing. The mother began attending church with Anya and one day went forward to pray for her daughter. She was convicted that she had been putting more faith in the physicians of man than God. She repented and asked Jesus to be her Savior and Lord. Soon Anya’s skin began to heal and now she is totally free from psoriasis. After this, Anya’s father read his wife’s journal. There, he discovered how she wished he would love her as “Christ loves the church”. Rather than get angry, he began going to church with his wife and daughter. Hearing the word preached, he surprised them one day by going forward to except Christ as his Savior. The whole family received Water Baptism this past Easter! Anya is looking forward to sharing in the summer camps, all that God has done to make her family one, in Christ.

I’ve looked at some of Calvary Chapel’s other missionary activities (both targeting vulnerable children) previously: see here and here. The grouping is headed by Chuck Smith, who shares the “pre-tribulation rapture” theology of the Left Behind books and game.

Iranian Freakshow

(This entry contains material from various far-right sites which I have chosen not to link)

Judging from the website of the far-right Adelaide Institute, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has managed to assemble a true menagerie of nutters and saddos for his Holocaust-denial conference. All the expected figures are there, such as David Duke (whose Ukrainian links I blogged on here) and Robert Faurisson (whose gushing praise of Ahmadinejad I blogged on ahead of the media curve here). But there are numerous other characters – including some ultra-orthodox anti-Zionist Jews, who were always likely to embarrass the Palestinian cause sooner or later. Some participants are completely obscure, but a few have a bit of internet presence. Here’s a sample, in no particular order:

Patrick McNally

Here’s an extract from one of his articles, helpfully carried on the Adelaide Institute:

Elite Jewry really has to be congratulated on the ingenious way it has been able to suck stupid Whites into fighting its multi-faceted war against the Islamic world. The fingers of elite Jewry are all over New York’s 9/11 debacle, but nobody in the White power elite dare point that out…

His email address was “tkuh50@tku.ac.jp”, which is associated with Tokyo Keizai University, but he’s now based at Chuo University. His Japanese wife, Midori McNally, accompanied. He was due to speak at the conference on “A Philosopher looks at the Holocaust”

Bradley Smith

Smith runs “CODOH”, formerly “The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust”, now “Committe for Open Discussion of the Holocaust Story”. There we can find works such as “Reading Mein Kampf”, in which he rambles bizarrely while comparing his own life with that of the fuehrer:

…I never went to the opera, and never knew anyone who did. Ironically, while in John C. Fremont High School , like Adolf [sic!], I did study architecture for a year and a half as a vocational major. I was drawn to design, but would not take the trouble to learn the engineering that was demanded. I managed to not get thrown out of the class by not completely failing my exams. It didn’t matter to me. I was in a world of horses and horsemen.

Adolf read a great deal at that age, and reports that he “pondered deeply” what he read. All his free time after work was devoted exclusively to study… I read for pleasure, not as Adolf did, to study.

However, Smith’s wandering mind does take him off-topic occasionally:

…Last night, half asleep and yet restless, I watched most of Alexander the Great on television. Brad Pitt as Alexander and Angelina Jolie as his mother. Jolie is an actress with facial features of great beauty and deep sexual wantonness. As a movie, Alexander was poorly conceived and poorly executed. At the same time it contained the outline of a magnificent story. I found I did not want to turn it off. The battle scenes were immense, impressive, but unreadable. With all its faults, it made me want to read a short biography of Alexander. I have a set of 1954 Britannica. The materials there on Alexander will be all I should need. I suppose…But last night, in the moment, it occurred to thought to compare the teenage “dreamings” of Alexander and those of Adolf Hitler…

Mohammed Hegazi

An obscure figure from Melbourne, Hegazi has enlightened the world with his views on the Bali bombing:

…In the aftermath of the Bali blasts, the dubiously controlled American and British mass media were quick to announce the “possible” responsibility of one “Islamic” group or another.

Instead, could we contemplate the possibility of CIA or Mossad responsibility? After all, they are the only party to benefit from the post-carnage propaganda.

Historically, similar occurrences were the responsibility of Zionist groups. The bombing of occupied Jerusalem’s King David hotel in 1946 was the work of the Irgun gang headed by Menachem Begin.

George Kadar

Although described as based in Budapest, one assumes that this is the American white supremicist who once ran a “patriot” group called “American Springs”. In one article he describes a trip by David Duke to Hungary:

…Dr. Duke and the interviewer went through the usual motions for a while, the “victims” tape recorder rolling while this reporter kept psycho-bubbling about the KKK and “500,000 Jews” carried out of Hungary during the War, etc. After a short cross-examination by Dr. Duke he admitted to being a Jew, and closed the interview real fast…Many in the audience were veterans of the fights having taken place in the country against the Judeo-Bolshevik forces during the last two months.

Matthias Chang

Chang, a Malaysian barrister, is the former political secretary of Mahathir Mohamed, and the author of Brainwashed for War – Programmed to Kill: Out in the Open Mind-Control Programs/Operations of the MOSSAD, CIA, MI6, Etc. From the Amazon review:

…a continuing effort by the best-selling author of Future Fastforward, the erudite scholar of political intrigue and conspiracy, Matthias Chang, sets for the modi operandi of the Zionist masterminds to brainwash and program the minds of the people to achieve their goal of world domination. Tracing back four decades and more, Brainwashed for War – Programmed to Kill documents the atrocities carried out by the imperialist forces to subjugate the peoples of the world. Replete with documentary evidence, this volume exposes the vile propaganda warfare, mind-control, and brainwashing operations carried out by some of the most powerful clandestine intelligence agencies in the word – including Mossad, the CIA and MI6 – and how these operations have come to impact our lives today.

Jan Bernhoff

An obscure figure, Bernhoff also participated in the Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest.

Michael Collins Piper

Known for his book The Final Judgement, which a reader has helpfully summarised:

…When New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison charged businessman Clay Shaw with participation in the JFK assassination conspiracy Garrison stumbled upon the Israeli Mossad connection to the murder of President Kennedy…What didn’t Oliver Stone, in his famous movie “JFK” not mention any of this? It turns out the chief financial backer of Stone’s film was longtime Mossad figure, Arnon Milchan, Israel’s biggest arms dealer.

I could go on, but one can only take so much…

Pokemon Mutilator to Bring Haggard Back to Reality

Over to the latest news about former Pastor Ted Haggard, from the Los Angeles Times:

Haggard, 50, has turned himself over to a team of counselors who are “assessing his spiritual, emotional and mental condition,” said the Rev. H.B. London, who is helping to guide Haggard through the process.

…”Ted is not in touch with reality,” said the Rev. Mark Cowart, a friend. The mentors can confront Haggard or rebuke him forcefully; they may also ask him to submit to a polygraph test.

Cowart, by contrast, is completely in touch with reality; and he knows a thing or two about rebuking forcefully. Let’s go back to 1999, when Cowart discovered that Pokemon was an occult conspiracy:

…While driving with his kids, he heard them in the back seat talking about “Abra” and “Cadabra,” and “my antenna went up,” Cowart said.

Cowart said one of his concerns is that one of the Pokeman characters sprouts horns. Another concern, he said, is that children exploring a Pokemon Web site can click to other games, including “Magic: the Gathering,” a game similar to Dungeons and Dragons.

Cowart delegated his church’s children’s pastor to get medieval on the Japanese toys:

At a church service Wednesday at Grace Fellowship Church, children’s pastor Mark Juvera told 85 children ages 6 through 12 that Pokemon is evil.

To make his point, Juvera burned Pokemon trading cards with a blowtorch and struck a plastic Pokemon action figure with a 30-inch sword. Juvera’s 9-year-old son then tore the limbs and head off a Pokemon doll.

During the demonstration, the children chanted: “Burn it. Burn it,” and “Chop it up. Chop it up.”

(Based on a post I wrote a while back for Talk to Action)

Religious Studies Lecturer Launches attack on Lancaster Uni

For the past twelve years, US scholar of religion Robert Segal has been based at Lancaster University in the north of England. Segal (with whom I once shared the back of a car) is known for his work on methodology, Gnosticism, myth and Jung, and was largely responsible for making us all aware that Joseph “Power of Myth” Campbell had a nasty habit of interspersing his “follow your bliss” perennial philosophy classes with anti-Jewish diatribes.

Now, however, Segal has left Lancaster for Aberdeen, and he has launched a hilariously catty attack on his former employer:

…Apart from one actor and one venture capitalist, the only successful graduate of the University in its forty years has been Robert Fisk. He has been honored by Lancaster more effusively than a head of state. A few weeks ago he was invited anew to give the inaugural lecture to some Institute of Peace Studies at the University–one of those one-man operations that in American academia would be called an “institute” only as a joke.

The lecture was widely publicized, just as every possible tidbit of activity at Lancaster is publicized in an effort to tell the world that Lancaster is Harvard.

Meow. Why does one get the feeling that Segal’s departure was perhaps not a happy one? But it must have been quite a blow to the university: one can only hope that there are other Americans there to advise staff as to what would be considered to be a “joke” by American academic standards, and to provide the required accents which might make the benighted staff think that they’re in Harvard.

So what sent Segal over the edge?

…I would relish an occasion for publicizing the anti-Israeli bias at the University. I can offer you examples that will, I think, shock you.

Maybe someone could show Segal how to work the internet, where he could publish all his flesh-creeping revelations.

Segal’s complaint, unsurprisingly, appears on the website for the pro-Israel lobby group “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East”. He also vents his spleen against ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Ahron Cohen, who is due to speak to the Palestine Solidarity Group at Leeds University on the subject of “Judaism vs. Zionism: Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism”. Segal is on the case, and helpfully informs us that

I have never heard of this rabbi…

However, he is able to hazard a guess about him:

…I will be surprised if his animus toward Israel does not stem from lingering Orthodox opposition to a secular Jewish state.

So will I.* Segal then turns to deep ruminations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

I daresay that the animus of Arabs and Muslims toward Israel has a rather different source.

No doubt pure anti-Semitism is the answer, with no role played by military occupation, poverty, and human rights abuses. And I daresay that the animus (I assume he’s using the word in the non-Jungian sense) of Robert Segal toward Palestinian complaints is, by contrast, completely justifible…

*UPDATE (12 December): Actually, Ahron Cohen is a bit of a disaster area, and he is currently in Iran giving cover to Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust pseudo-conference.