B Contra Bartholomeum

A few weeks ago I blogged on Fort Lauderdale mayor Jim Naugle’s religious ally the Koinonia Worship Center, members of which shared a stage with him while dressed in military fatigues:

Spaulding notes that Koinonia has a web presence on My Space. An audio message there uses a lot of the “spiritual warfare” language typical of the conservative Christian “men’s movement” (see this essay by Jeff Sharlet for an overview), but aimed specifically at African-Americans (there are a number of US churches that cater to the needs of black Americans; Barack Obama is associated with one, to the outrage of conservatives).

This paragraph has brought down the wrath of “Christian educator” and Townhall blogger Collin B:

Spiritual warfare metaphors have been around about two millennia now. Maybe he will read his Bible. Someday.

Actually, I was plodding through Ezekiel just a few weeks ago – and not only do I read the Bible, I have an audio version on my mp3 player (and read by an American evangelical, as it happens). So why does Mr B think I was unaware of the basis for “spiritual warfare” rhetoric? Apparently because I noted that it was an identifying feature of this particular group – which explains the military fatigues. How that suggests Biblical illiteracy on my part is beyond me; perhaps my analysis was too subtle, and I have been casting pearls before swine. Moving on:

…He says that the criticism of Obama is about being a part of a church that ministers to blacks. NO. The complaint, the basis for it, about Obama is that, several years ago, he make calculated statements that Dems needed to make use of churches as campaign tools. He is a user.

Actually, YES. The righteous Mr B apparently (and this the most charitable explanation) didn’t bother to follow the link I provided. Here’s Tucker Carlson, whose attack was representative:

So Barack Obama is a member of a church called Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s a predominantly black church in Chicago, that espouses something called the “Black Value System,” which includes calls for congregants to be “soldiers for black freedom” and a, quote, “disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness.” Now, it would seem to me, Tom, not to make a broad sweeping statement here, but a racially exclusive theology, a theology that ministers to one group of people, based on race, kind of contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity, and is worth talking about. Wouldn’t you say?

My point was that while this church was the focus of conservative outrage, there are plenty of other churches, such as Koinoina, which also focus on black Americans and their particular socio-economic circumstances. The reason I made the aside was because this shows the ignorance and opportunism of those who attacked Obama through his church [UPDATE 2008: please note I wrote this before Wirght’s more disreputable statements and associations came to light] . As to whether Obama is “a user” of evangelicals or not, I have no idea – although I would suggest that a fair few Republican politicians are.

My nemesis continues:

He says that African-Americans are the target of this Florida ministry. He’s right. So why is that wrong in his mind? So how is this racist?

When I research a topic, I usually figure that my readers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions without superfluous commentary from me. Being human, I sometimes can’t resist adding a bit of opinion, but I am under no illusions that anyone comes here because they want to know what I think about things. However, this does sometimes mean dimmer readers will simply make wild assumptions about why I’m noting something. Of course, I nowhere suggested, or even hinted, that Koinoina was racist, and I don’t believe that it is. I mentioned its particular emphasis on African-Americans because that gives a fuller picture.

He’s not done yet, though:

We’re not allowed to stand against the politics of the homosexual activists and the deconstruction of “family.” Those are “liberal” activities. We’re not allowed to go public — just keep it all within the four walls.

Again, nowhere did I suggest that Koinoina’s activities ought to be curtailed. What Mr B means is that criticism of particular evangelical activities amounts to attempts at religious suppression. This probably works for his target audience at Townhall, but for this rest of us it’s just foolish. As for Koinoina’s appearance with Jim Naugle, I’ll leave it to the church’s congregation and the mayor’s electorate to decide whether the stunt reflects well on either of them.

Though the creation of an evangelical enemy, Mr. Bartholomew has set up the evangelical vs. black and evangelical vs. homosexual conflicts… evangelicals are to him bad Americans.

Doubtless, Mr B draws this inference because another version of my post also appeared on the website Talk to Action, which critiques and brings to public attention many of the activities and positions of the religious right. So, just in case there is any genuine doubt: I do not hate evangelicals (although please don’t ask me to endure very much “Praise and Worship” music). I believe that evangelicalism is fascinating, but that despite being one of the most significant religious trends out there, its global significance has been largely overlooked. One of the purposes of this blog is to try and redress that, by highlighting particular developments and alliances within the movement. Some aspects of current evangelicalism are positive, but others I think are harmful – hence my association with Talk to Action. That does not mean, though, that the investigations of a critical outsider are motivated by bad faith or malice, which appears to be the inference here.

Mr B concludes:

The use of Ephesians 6 is apparently not to be allowed in a pluralistic society. It might offend the Marxists.

Apparently in some circles in America you can still cry “Communist!” when faced with critics and get taken seriously. But again for the record, I prefer Max Weber over Marx. And Mr B is free to use Ephesians 6 as an inspiration for his involvement in public affairs if he so wishes.

Finally, I don’t believe that Mr B indulges in gross misrepresentation and absurd hyperbole because he is an evangelical. The things I find negative in evangelicalism derive from attitudes of mind which one can find in any movement – religious or secular, left or right. Mr B would doubtless be a silly and counter-productive advocate for whichever cause he decided to associate himself with.

UPDATE: Mr B responds. Briefly, he believes that I lack intellectual integrity because I “engage in petty name-calling rather than discuss[ing] the subject dispassionately”. On the other hand, it is quite OK for him to describe my “representative views” as being “Marxist”, but it is dishonest of me to have accused him of using the “Communist” label against people he disagrees with. He also complains that I identify evangelicalism with the religious right; actually, I do try to keep in mind the distinction, but I also think it’s obvious that there’s a considerable overlap.

Further, he is perplexed as to why I called him a Townhall blogger, although he thinks it must be a “slure” [sic]. In fact, anyone can set up a Townhall blog, in the same way as my blog was established when Salon offered the same service – and consequently I’m also sometimes mistaken for someone either paid or endorsed by Salon. One difference, though, is that Mr B’s blog carries a large by-line which states “A Blog of Townhall.com“.

Readers can judge for themselves how adequately this refutes my posting above. It remains only for me to wish those under Mr B’s instruction as a “Christian educator” the best of luck; they will certainly need it.

Anti-Gay Activism Looks Lively in Latvia

From OneNewsNow:

An international pro-family organization, Watchmen on the Walls (WOW), has announced its participation in the boycott of Ford Motor Company.

The announcement comes 18 months into the boycott that began in the United States, and WOW says it will now help spread it to Russian-speaking countries near its headquarters in Latvia.

…[S]pokesman Dr. Scott Lively…says people of the former Soviet Union’s Russian-speaking countries are among the strongest opponents of the homosexual agenda in the world.

Ford is known for being nice to gay employees and for aiming advertising at a gay clientele; this has brought down the wrath of the American Family Association, which runs OneNewsNow. Of course, Lively is quite right about that last statement, given that gay Russians face violent assaults from citizens whipped up by far-right nationalists and Orthodox fundamentalists. And Lively is apparently happy to inflame the situation further; Gay Republic Daily quotes a speech he made during a trip to Russia earlier this month:

“The youth must know about “the blue threat” as much as possible. Many countries of the former Soviet Union, which had been the outposts of family values recently, have submitted to the pressure of homosexuals.”

“A gay parade has already been held in Lithuania, and in Kiev Ukrainian President was standing on one stage with George Michael, a homosexual singer, who has been caught making love in the bushes recently. Even in Russia in the town of Omsk homosexuals penetrated into a local university and formed their own club, which tried to breakdown my lecture. But I believe that Russia will become a country, where “the blue plague” will be stopped.”

Lively is most famous for his 1995 book The Pink Swastika, which explored the presence of homosexuality in the Nazi Party. The book argues that gay activists can be compared with the Brownshirts, and that the claim that homosexuals were the victims of Nazism is a historical distortion on a par with Holocaust denial. He also helps to run the Oregan Citizen’s Alliance, which was dormant before Lively hit on the idea of involving East European immigrants. The Williamette Week reported in February:

In front of about 30 people gathered recently in a Salem church sanctuary to celebrate the reunion of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, Scott Lively found cause for optimism about the rebirth of the anti-gay group.

…Lively, a longtime OCA leader, introduced five members from the group the Watchmen on the Walls—an international network of Christian activists dedicated to fighting what it calls “the homosexual agenda”—to show a video of their movement in parts of the former Soviet Union.

The 45-minute video, which repeatedly refers to homosexuals as “terrorists,” shows how conservative Latvians successfully stopped gays from marching in their capital, Riga. (European news reports show anti-gay demonstrators throwing feces on the gays.)

The video also features Alexei Ledyaev—a Kazakhstan-born Baptist pastor and leader of the New Generation Church, whose satellite broadcasts claim an audience of more than 200 million people—leading large crowds in chants of “In the name of Jesus Christ, we curse the name of homosexuality!”

Ledyaev is Lively’s link-man in Latvia; the Baltic Times published a profile last summer which also recounted details of the anti-gay counter-protest:

Many of those who witnessed the events of that afternoon recall four hours of a tense confrontation between an irate crowd shouting things like “No to sodomy!” and a line of stoical, generally non-responsive policemen, punctuated by sudden moments of banal violence. One protester pelted an LNT cameraman with eggs. When a member of Mozaika [a gay-rights group] attempted to leave the hotel by the front door, one protester ran up to squirt water in her face.

Igors Maslakovs directed the members of his group, No Pride, to go to other exits of the hotel in order to harass gay pride participants as they were leaving, and many of the children, some as young as eight, under his stead, all dressed in particularly graphic T-shirts that suggested a ban on sodomy, jumped up to follow orders, as if they were playing a game of “capture the flag.”

A rambling and poorly-translated essay by Ledyaev reposted here gives his side, and some analysis:

A double policemen cordon around the few mostly foreign homosexuals (at least two policemen per each gay) beating their ownin order to make a way for foreigners this was too much!

A friend of mine grabbed a policeman by his truncheon and asked him,

* Why do you beat the people?
* We were given an order that none of the gay should be hurt.
* And if they tell you to fire at people?
* You should inquire the city council of Riga, said the policeman and pulled out his tool of mass impact.

Security of the gay was more important than security of the people…

Stay home, dear Swedish pederasts, and walk down the streets of your own Stockholm but don’t show up on the squares of Riga.

…Islamization goes full speed wherever homosexual lifestyle is legally accepted. Muslim organizations and committees, centers and mosques, schools are being opened overwhelmingly everywhere…. Homosexuality and islamization are two sides of the medal and integral elements of the one destructive process of European culture and civilization.

Latvia-based blog Marginalia has some further commentary:

The antics of New Generation, a mostly Russophone sect closely tied to Ainars Slesers’ Latvia’s First Party (LPP), have long been reported in Latvia — I’m choosing to describe it as “a mostly Russophone sect” on purpose, because that’s what it is (Ledyaev, its leader and a self-described “apostle,” was furious when our President described it that way)… Ledyaev has suggested replacing Latvia’s constitution, the Satversme, with the Ten Commandments, introducing Christian totalitarianism, and “humbling all liberals and homosexuals.”

Ledyaev was also the subject of a satirical cartoon that showed him as a worshipper of Cthulhu; the newspaper office found itself surrounded by protesters.

In 2002, Ledyaev was barred from Russia, where, according to Charisma, his denomination has sixty branches (there are also plans to expand into Africa). He believes that George Bush “is a man chosen to fulfill God’s plan on earth in the last days”, and that there will be a “New World Order” of Christianity.

Lively visited Latvia in March, alongside a fellow activist named Ken Hutcherson. Hutcherson presented himself as coming from the White House as “Special Envoy for Adoptions, Family Values, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief”. According to the Seattle Stranger, Hutcherson claims he was given this title by the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, although a White House spokeswoman denied it was true.

UPDATE: The SPLC has a report on all this. See my blog entry here.

Family Research Council Rebuttal on David Duke Link Called into Question by Legal Document

A commentator to Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culture Wars draws attention to the following notice on the website of the Family Research Council, a US religious right organisation run by Tony Perkins (link added):

In an article in The Nation (“Justice Sunday Preachers” April 26, 2005), Max Blumenthal falsely asserts, “In 1996 [Tony] Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana.”

Tony Perkins was the manager of the 1996 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Woody Jenkins in Louisiana where Impact Media was contracted to make pre-recorded telephone calls for the campaign. In 1999, an unrelated federal investigation uncovered that David Duke had a financial interest in the company, which he did not report to the IRS, resulting in his conviction on federal tax evasion charges. This connection was not known to Mr. Perkins until 1999.

A second commentator draws attention to this 2002 legal document  – a settlement agreement – on the website of the Federal Election Commission:

…After the 1996 primary election in Louisiana, David Duke contacted Woody Jenkins and recommended that he use the services of a computerized phone bank system run by Impact Mail. Jenkins purchased several rounds of calls from Impact Mail. After the first round of calls, Jenkins began hearing complaints that Duke’s name would appear on the caller ID when a phone bank message would arrive. At that point, Jenkins tried to cancel the transaction but was unable to because Tony Perkins, his campaign manager, had signed a contract with Impact Mail. Subsequently, Jenkins instructed Perkins to put a stop payment on the check issued to Impact Mail and directed that Impact Mail be paid through Courtney Communications, the campaign’s media firm…

For this attempt to hide the connection with Duke, Jenkins’ campaign got off very lightly with a civil penalty of $3000. These rather pertinent facts do not appear in the FRC’s statement.

All of this is of interest to Ed because Perkins was also the founder of the Louisiana Family Forum, which has just received a grant of $100,000 in taxpayers’ money in order to promote Creationism. This is thanks to the efforts Senator David Vitter, who has been desparate to improve his conservative credentials since he admitted to making use of prostitutes; the LFF’s Gene Mills helpfully jumped to Vitter’s defence by noting that Vitter has “repented of the allegations” – a rather uncharacteristically euphemistic way of referring to “sins”.

I looked at Mills and the LFF a couple of years ago, when a sub-group, the Pastor’s Resource Council (sic for apostrophe) set up PRC Compassion to dispense aid post-Katrina. See here and here.

UPDATE: Ed has a follow-up post:

…Joe Carter tells me that Perkins…says that Woody Jenkins has confirmed that he never told Perkins that Impact Mail was Duke’s company when he instructed him to sign the contract with them…We can certainly reason that Perkins found out about Duke’s involvement, at the very least, at the time that the cover up began. It stretches credulity considerably to believe that 1) he didn’t know about the complaints that Duke’s name was showing up on the caller IDs once the calls began; or 2) he didn’t bother to ask Jenkins why he was to launder the payments for Duke’s company through another company.

So it seems all but certain that even if Perkins did not know that they were using Duke’s company at the time he was told to sign the contract with them, he must have known that after the first round of calls took place, the complaints came in about the calls showing Duke’s name on the caller ID and Jenkins told him to start laundering the payments to that company to cover up that fact.

The story is also posted to Talk to Action, where there is further discussion of the evidence going on in the comments.

Ed has also taken issue with a couple of minor points in Blumenthal’s report, to which Blumenthal has responded (somewhat testily) here.

UK Libel News Round-Up

1. Tim Ireland has a new website, where materials about the dispute with Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov are being posted.

2. The latest Private Eye (1194) has a couple of reports about Saudi billionaire Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, whose many lawsuits have led to the pulping of books ranging “from Spartist to Neo-Con”. Fear of the Sheikh’s lawyers has resulted in newspapers and magazines self-censoring, and “no word” has been published about his recent move against the Cambridge University Press (a subject I blogged here), despite considerable media interest in the USA. According to the Eye (page 2):

Two weeks ago the Observer was set to run a column about Mahfouz by Nick Cohen, but then spiked it after a fit of legal collywobbles…the Spectator lined up a long piece about the litigious Sheikh by Brendan O’Neill, which listed all the titles pulped…it too was spiked at the last moment!

Cohen did make a general allusion to the situation on Sunday, when he wrote that

Britain’s repressive libel laws are becoming a threat to security and racial harmony. ‘Saudi money is now a major source of income for London libel firms,’ one lawyer told me. ‘School fees and second homes depend on it.’

A second piece in the same Eye profiles Mr Justice Eady

…who has found against reporters so often that the law lord Lord Hoffman slapped him down for being “hostile” to responsible journalism in the public interest.

Perhaps this is a bit harsh – Eady did recently find in favour of Searchlight in a case brought by the BNP.

3. A bit of historical context: BBC Radio 4 has an interesting documentary about the 1967 pop song “Flowers in the Rain”, and how the band behind it ended up being sued by Harold Wilson over satirical postcards which made reference to rumours about his private life. The Times review of the programme notes that once the court case was over

There was also a ban on any reproduction of the cartoon, or any disclosure of its contents, which remains in force even after 40 years. This is an area in which the BBC has to be careful – Wilson’s former secretary, Lady Falkender, sued it last year over BBC4’s drama The Lavender List and won £75,000 – so Radio 4 muffles this part of the documentary with interference to avoid any contempt of court.

The Lavender List was scripted Private Eye journalist Francis Wheen, and the Eye reported on that at the time of the settlement, back in April (1182):

The cravenness of this capitulation is quite extraordinary. Falkender hadn’t even issued a writ – merely dispatched a letter of complaint via the inevitable Carter-Fuck [sic] and Partners.

The programme carried an allegation that also appears in a memoir by another Wilson aide, and which is has not been subject to any action:

Reports of last week’s settlement said the BBC had apologised to Falkender “for a drama that claimed she had an affair with [Wilson]…” Actually, the film didn’t directly claim they had an affair. It quoted what Wilson himself told Joe Haines: that during one of her regular temper tantrums Falkender had said to Mary Wilson, “I went to bed with your husband five times in 1956 and it wasn’t satisfactory”.* But it also emphasised that Wilson denied any such affair…Falkender’s alleged comment to Mary Wilson was repeated last Thursday in the Daily Mail, whose lawyers are clearly made of sterner stuff…

The BBC has promised never to show the programme again.

*other sources for the quote say “six times in 1956”.

“Scores of Muslim radicals” Baptised by Dutch Evangelist?

Here’s something you don’t see every day, from BosNewsLife:

The founder of the Netherlands-based missionary organization Open Doors has confirmed that he baptized “scores of Muslim radicals” and he challenges other Christians to follow in his footsteps.

The missionary is the 79-year-old Dutchman Anne van der Bijl, a.k.a “Brother Andrew”, the founder of Open Doors:

Despite concerns about growing pressure on Christians in Islamic countries such as Afghanistan, Brother Andrew said he preached the love of Jesus Christ to militant groups such as the Taliban and Hamas, as well as to Muslim clerics in Iran.

He added that he was recently invited to appear on national television in Iran, and has visited Pakistan and Afghanistan, where a Taliban leader allegedly told him he’s welcome back at any time.

“Brother Andrew” is actually an interesting character, and he became a household name among evangelicals in the 1960s due to his efforts at smuggling Bibles into communist countries. Thanks to various ghost-writers, it has not always been completely clear where he himself is coming from: God’s Smuggler (1967), by the Pentecostals John and Elizabeth Sherrill, presents a spiritual man primarily concerned with spreading the gospel; Battle for Africa (1977), ghosted by Amway-enthusiast Charles Paul Conn, gives us a more hardboiled anti-communist crusader, who urges support for Rhodesia and South Africa. A 1990 essay by journalist Lawrence Jones suggested that Conn’s picture was closer to the truth:

Open Doors, a stridently anti-Communist ministry based in The Netherlands, published a comic book in both English and Afrikaans, which is distributed through the chaplain general’s office to all the troops .The comic book portrays the struggle between “democracy” and “communism” as the final contest between Christ and Antichrist.

The founder of Open Doors…calls himself Brother Andrew…In a recent speech to the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, an American evangelical organization, Brother Andrew claimed that there’s a direct relationship between Israel and South Africa. The two nations were united in an end-times scenario. (1)

That would appear to put him firmly in the religious-right camp, but, surprisingly, in the 1990s he hooked up with Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding and with Donald Wagner, a prominent critic of Christian Zionism. The two of them visited the West Bank to investigate claims that Palestinian Christians were being persecuted by the Palestinian Authority, and came away with a report suggesting that the accusations were inaccurate, and had been orchestrated by the Israeli government and the Christian Embassy (which is not, by the way, “American”).

A more recent visit by Brother Andrew to Gaza was reported in the Christian Post in June:

While looting, sporadic violence, and instability still plague the newly Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a Christian persecution group hopes that a long-established friendship between it and Hamas will keep the small Christian community relatively safe from targeted attacks.

…Brother Andrew had built a relationship spanning over a decade with Hamas leaders. In December 1992, over a thousand Hamas leaders were deported from Israel and left on the side of a mountain in Lebanon. Brother Andrew had flew in and visited the Hamas camp in a humanitarian way and gave Bibles and his book “God’s Smuggler” to them, who in turn invited Brother Andrew into their tent for a meal.

When the Hamas leaders later were able to return to their countries, Brother Andrew in turn hosted meals for Hamas leaders where he would testify about the Gospel. The two built a friendship where they would mutually challenge each others religious beliefs but would do would do so with respect.

The new BosNewsLife report also contains a tactful reference to the South Korean missionaries who were kidnapped in Afghanistan:

…he cautioned that “a little more wisdom would be helpful”…

(1) “Divided Evangelicals in South Africa”, in Emile F. Sahliyeh, Religious Resurgence and Politics in the Contemporary World, p. 112.

Minister for Religious Affairs Warns Burmese Monks of 1988 Beheadings

For some reason, whoever runs the website of Burma’s Ministry of Religious Affairs hasn’t felt the need to update it for the past few weeks. The New Light of Myanmar, though, has been keeping up-to-date, and gives the text of a “supplication” made by Minister for Religious Affairs Brig-Gen Thura Myint Maung:

…Some global powers who practise hegemonism totally dislike the proposed Constitution as it contains stipulations assuring self-determination and prohibiting the stationing of foreign troops on Myanmar soil. Hence, those powers in collusion with a group of destructionists from inside the nation are stirring up disturbances.

The protest walk occurring in Myanmar is one of the plots systematically manipulated from abroad.

Internal and external destructionists do not even spare the religion if it is in their interest. They dare instigate young monks, who are trying hard in the religious studies, to stage street protests.

First, those internal and external saboteurs tried to penetrate and instigate students, workers and the public. The people who still remember the beheadings of persons of own race alive in crowded places during 1988 unrest due to their instigation are against unrest. Hence, the people are able to resist all agitations.

Thura Myint Maung’s personal involvement in those events is recorded in a statement in this Congressional Committee record:

I would now like to talk briefly about the events surrounding the attack against Suu Kyi and her NLD members on the evening of May 30th in Depayin Township…The assault was a carefully planned attack against [Aung San Suu Kyi] that, according to first-hand accounts, resulted in the murder of upwards of 100 people who were clubbed to death or impaled on iron rods. Scores of others were severely beaten and women accompanying Suu Kyi were dragged off and raped. The culprits were several hundred thugs recruited from jails and members of the regime’s local political apparatus who were directed by high-level SPDC officers. We now know exactly what happened and the names of those responsible for organizing the assault thanks to the courage of many people in Burma who risked their lives to make sure the truth was made known to the international community. These murders lie squarely on the shoulders of Gen. Than Swe who ordered the attack and his subordinates who carried it out. Their names are Brigadier General Thura Myint Maung and chairman of the junta’s district branch, Lt. Col. Myint Lwin. A local village leader, Thein Aung, also played a key role in the massacre.

This sanguinary background doesn’t appear to have inconvenienced his foreign travel too much – in 2004 he took part in the Fourth World Buddhist Summit in Japan.

Meanwhile, backing the government is the impressively titled – deep breath – Magway Sayadaw Abhidhaja Maha Rattha Guru Abhidhaja Agga Maha Saddhammajotika Bhaddanta Kumara. According to his statement

I hereby give Ovada (enforce rules and regulations) for all members of the Sangha [i.e. Buddhist monks] to strictly follow the directives articulated in Directive Nos 81, 83, 85 and 65 prescribed by prominent and eminent Sayadaws…not to commit any activities that are not related to Gantha Dhura (teaching and learning the Teachings of the Buddha) and Vipassana Dhura (meditation).

Magway Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kumara is a committee Chairman of the State Sangha, and he takes part in various ceremonies with members of the government. Last summer, Minister Thura Myint Maung seemed to think all was going very well with government control of the monasteries:

The minister said it is heartening to see that Sayadaws and members of Sangha, the government and disciples are taking part in their respective roles for the perpetuation of Buddhism.

Zion Oil & Gas Profiled by Portfolio

Stock down from to

Hal Lindsey still a shareholder

Brown claims some evangelicals “a little crazy”

Staying with Israel, Portfolio magazine has an interview with John Brown, CEO of Zion Oil & Gas:

Between sips of Diet Coke, he begins to tell me his story, occasionally interrupting our conversation to leaf through his Bible, which is embossed with Zion Oil’s logo.

Brown describes his early life in business, his past alocohism and failed marriage, and his conversion to Christianity at the age of 41:

In 1981, with his alcoholism worsening, Brown’s marriage began to dissolve, and he moved into a one-bedroom apartment across town. The mover Brown had hired, a laid-off autoworker, began preaching Christ’s salvation as he unpacked Brown’s belongings. He invited Brown to accept Jesus into his heart.

…Soon all vestiges of Brown’s former life fell away. He began attending a nondenominational church after his divorce became final. A few months later, he sat in on a lecture by Jim Spillman, a journeyman minister who was traveling the country preaching that the Bible documented undiscovered oil reserves in Israel. Brown listened with rapt attention to Spillman’s exotic tales. On his first visit to Israel two years later, Brown decided he would quit G.T.E. Valeron to fulfill Spillman’s vision. Two years after that, in his resignation letter, Brown wrote that “it is with deep regret that I must resign…However, I am involved in an oil project that God blessed me with in Israel, and will now devote all my time to the oil business and doing God’s work.” Brown says he spent his life’s savings in his effort to launch his oil company. By the 1990s, he didn’t have enough money to visit a dentist, and he even worked as a fitness-club janitor for a while.

This is actually a story which this blog has been following for a while, and I looked at Spillman’s ideas here. But although Spillman’s reasoning was somewhat dubious (Deut 33:24, “Let Asher be blessed … and let him dip his foot in oil” supposedly refers to a geographical feature where the oil is waiting to be found), there are some more rational reasons to be optimistic:

In 1962, Lewis Weeks, Exxon’s former chief geologist, issued a report commissioned by the Israeli government that estimated that as many as 2 billion barrels could be recovered. A 1979 study conducted by a Shell Oil geologist, reached a similar conclusion. (Israel says it can only confirm proven reserves of 2 million barrels.)

Indeed, some Israeli geologists say the nation hasn’t had a fair test of its onshore oil potential, because only two dozen wells have probed as far down as the Permian layer, a stratum of rock 250 million years old located more than three miles below the earth’s surface.

On the other hand, Zvi Alexander, who used to direct Israel’s state-owned oil company, says that “no oilman in his right mind would put money into the business”. According to the report,

Zion Oil stock, which topped $12 a share on its first day of trading, in January, had slipped to below $6 by July.

Portfolio also tells us that

Shareholders include Christian leaders such as Hal Lindsey, a bestselling evangelical author…In March, four chartered coach buses pulled up to Zion Oil’s white-stucco office building in an industrial park a few miles from the drilling site. In the unyielding glare of the midday sun, Hal Lindsey, author of the prophecy book The Late Great Planet Earth, discharged the 200 evangelical Christians traveling on his nine-day tour of Israel. As part of an itinerary that included visits to Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the Mount of Olives, this unusual, secular-seeming detour was especially thrilling. For Lindsey’s followers and Zion Oil’s evangelical backers, the company is not just a business to invest in. Rather, Zion Oil is evidence that the Bible’s prophecy is actually being fulfilled.

That is particularly interesting, since – as I exclusively blogged in 2005 – one of Zion Oil’s major shareholders used to be a certain Ralph DeVore, a cousin of Lindsey who also helps to run Hal Lindsey Ministries. DeVore and Brown had a spectacular falling-out: DeVore accused Zion Oil of “syncretism” for its close links with Jews, while Brown suggested DeVore was anti-Jewish. I always wondered how this had played out with Lindsey himself.

According to a SEC document, Lindsey himself became a shareholder in 2002:

In October 2002, we gave Hal Lindsey 50,000 shares of common stock upon the recommendation of our chairman, John Brown. Mr. Lindsey has been a supporter of Israeli development for more than forty years through the Hal Lindsey ministries and we wanted to recognize that support in our gift. The gift was recorded in our books as a $50,000 general and administrative expense.

The issuance of securities above were made in reliance upon Section 4(2) of the Securities Act, which provide exemptions for transactions not involving a public offering. We determined that Mr. Lindsey accepted the gift for his own account and not with a view to any distribution thereof to the public. The certificate evidencing the securities bears a legend stating that the shares are not to be offered, sold or transferred other than pursuant to an effective registration statement under the Securities Act or an exemption from such registration requirements.

In 2004, Lindsey, who is regarded by a substantial number of American Christians as a Bible expert, used his column in WorldNetDaily to promote Zion Oil, which, in his opinion, had a good chance of success:

Investment in oil exploration is always a big gamble. But, I believe this is a gamble worth taking for the sake of Israel. Besides, I believe God’s Word is giving some pretty good clues here.

For some reason, the gift of 50,000 shares and his cousin’s then-involvement in the company isn’t included in the article. However, there are many who apparently agree that “this is a gamble worth taking”:

During its I.P.O., Zion received letters from evangelical shareholders who said they had taken second jobs and worked midnight shifts to earn enough money to make the minimum $700 stock purchase…[Anson] O’Connor invested $30,000—almost 10 percent of his life’s savings—in Brown’s company. Despite the fact that no oil has yet been pulled from the earth, O’Connor isn’t worried about losing his money. “It was an act of faith. I needed to do it,” he says. “I wouldn’t risk $30,000 if I didn’t believe.”

But despite this, and despite Brown’s close link with Hal Lindsey, Portfolio includes the following paragraph:

Rapture fantasy has become a multibillion-dollar business, and for a certain type of Christian, Zion Oil provides proof that a global confrontation will soon unfold on the battlefields of Armageddon, as prophesied in Revelations (according to evangelicals’ literal interpretation). For his part, Brown bristles at the apocalypse mania. “I don’t see us as people that are in Israel trying to get this oil because that’s going to make the Messiah come. Some of these evangelical people—they get a little crazy,” he says. “You know I just don’t buy into it. Is he going to come back? Yeah. When? I don’t know.”

A slightly unlikely statement from a man who believes that “a stranger” from “a far country” who comes to help Israel mentioned in 1 Kings 8 is actually a prophetic reference to himself.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

Radyshevsky March to Universal Zionism

New Book from Group Endorsed by Daniel Pipes, Richard Perle, Baroness Cox:

“The Holocaust, then, was necessary in order to preserve the soul of Judaism.”

“What has long been known by only a select coterie of kabbalists must now move from the realm of esoterica to exoterica.”

“First it was a red chariot – Communism; next, it was brown – Nazism; and now, green – Islam”

“The universal soul is a kind of magical crystal, divided into seventy distinct segments”

As I’ve blogged before, the Jerusalem Summit brings together neo-conservatives like Daniel Pipes and Baroness Cox with Christian Zionists like Mike Evans and members of the Israeli right like Benyamin Netanyahu. Based in Jerusalem, it holds meetings in various parts of the world (such as South Africa and Japan), and is bankrolled by the controversial Uzbek billionaire Michael Cherney. The director is Dmitry Radyshevsky.

The Jerusalem Summit takes a hard line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Radyshevsky has now published a short book, Universal Zionism, which gives the theological underpinning to the organisation’s thinking. The book is available from the Jerusalem Summit website, as a Microsoft Word document download (which is why there are no page refs for the quotes following). Take a deep breath:

For the third time this century, the Adversary has harnessed the Pharaonic chariots of totalitarian ideology, hoping to deprive humankind of its spiritual freedom. First it was a red chariot – Communism; next, it was brown – Nazism; and now, green – Islam… Islam today has surpassed “the long arm of Moscow” and gained a foothold everywhere, sowing death on every side, from the Philippines to New York, from Moscow to South Africa.

…A death wish accompanied by homosexuality of SS and death cult of Nazi doctrine in Germany, Communist asceticism in the Socialist camp, and a longing for death on the part of Islamic jihadists are all the very essence of the Adversary, who strives to put an end to Creation, and to life.

Nice gratuitous reference to homosexuality there. Radyshevsky’s (not particularly original) thesis is that there are two paths in the world: the “Path of Jerusalem”, which is God’s plan to bring about global unity, and the “Path of Babylon”, which is Satan’s (who is described as “God’s ape”) plan sow division while preaching unity through false doctrine. Further, the way God brings about the true path to unity is through the essential nature of the Jews:

Instead of the primacy of a single, monolithic ideology, the Jew with his Shema insists on the primacy of conscience, on hearing God’s voice in man’s free heart…Instead of Nazi Ordung, Soviet pravoporyadok, or Islamic sharia, the Jew strives for liberation from the spirit of Egyptian slavery that survives in every totalitarian ideology.

This Jewish striving naturally includes “The visionaries of the early twentieth century…– from Herzl to Jabotinsky”. While rejecting the idea that Holocaust victims were being punished for sin, Radyshevsky still argues that they brought it all on themselves:

God created the Jews to fulfill a universal spiritual mission. If they refuse to exert themselves and to realize that mission, they become superfluous and die off, like any bodily organ that ceases to perform its designated function. God’s mission – more precisely, the horrible perversion of that mission (“God’s ape” mentioned earlier) – is then taken up instead by the Adversary, whose first task is to amputate Judaism, now “dried and withered.” The pain of the knife then compels that organ to remember its calling, and to begin functioning anew.

…The Holocaust, then, was necessary in order to preserve the soul of Judaism. The gas ovens consumed (or, more precisely, weakened) both the ghetto mentality and the assimilationist mentality, thus liberating the Jewish soul for a new ascent – the creation of the State of Israel – in order to advance the world to a new, unprecedented level of consciousness.

However, and rather bizarrely given his rejection of the idea of Holocaust victims as sinners:

As for the souls of the Nazis: they, no doubt, have been reborn in Kampuchea, Rwanda, or Kosovo, to be themselves victims of genocide, to atone for their own sins.

The mystical purpose of Israel and Zionism is then explained in terms of pop-Hegelism:

The solution that Israel will show the world consists not in the wide dissemination of form (democracy), but in the penetration of its actual essence into the very depths of the individual and of society. The essence we mean is an integrated consciousness, imbuing the West’s civilized forms with a thirst for the spiritual values of the East, while channeling the East’s religious zeal into humanitarian, constructive civilized forms…The culmination of that History will be the creation of a perfect social organism – a unique spiritual-political construction that will realize the Eastern ideal of a community of love, while preserving Western human rights and personal freedoms.

The only small snag is that “Unfortunately…, Israel today is very far from understanding its new Mission.” Things then get rather mystical:

Human evolution can be viewed as a process of harnessing increasingly more powerful energies: from sexual energy, to mechanical, to thermal, to electrical, and finally – atomic energy.

But it does not stop there. After those comes mastery of the most powerful energy: spiritual (or, if you prefer – mental-psychical) energy… What will save Israel is not mastery of nanotechnology, but mastering the technologies of creativity through the spirit. What has long been known by only a select coterie of kabbalists must now move from the realm of esoterica to exoterica.

Like the laws of physics, every schoolchild must understand the laws of spiritual science regarding proper goal orientation (teleology) and proper focus of will (known in the Kabbalah as kavvanah). A sufficiently powerful creative mindset, when fortified by steadfast determination, will invariably be realized concretely.

…The universal soul is a kind of magical crystal, divided into seventy distinct segments, each representing one of the seventy nations…Israel is a small diamond of seventy facets, each of which is particularly close to one of the nations’ seventy facets.

After much rambling along these lines, the rather bland punchline is that Israel contains immigrants from around the world, and so could show the world how to get along. There’s also a further reference to “the hidden powers of human consciousness and psychic energy”. A call for some political reforms in Israel follow until, at last, we get to the meat – his analysis of Islam and the Palestinians. He begins rather obscurely:

“I?Slam” is the demon which possesses Islam and compels it to abuse all peoples indiscriminately.

Freud then gets a look-in:

The Islamic world consists of hundreds of millions of men tormented by two basic instincts: sex and murder, Eros and Thanatos. Sharia, which suppresses that first passion, sublimates it completely in the second, and — as luck would have it — global jihad provides the opportunity. While the consciousness of these unlucky slaves of I-Slam is subjugated totally to the sword and the phallus, at the very bottom of that consciousness lives a yearning to be rescued from that yoke. Moreover, the more savage that consciousness becomes, the more savage and impassioned is the subconscious yearning for liberation.

But what about the Palestinians?

…countries that demand that we create a state of Philistines in Judea and Samaria and hamper Jewish progress – on which their very own well-being likewise depends – are in fact only seeking to perpetuate the fragmentation and diabolization of humankind.

…Not for naught do the Palestinians of our day call themselves “Philistines”. While not consanguineous descendants of the ancient Philistines (despite their pseudo-historians’ futile attempts to convince us otherwise), they are the spiritual descendants of Goliath. They have resurrected not only the Philistine hatred of Israel, but also the ancient Philistine abomination of performing human sacrifices, particularly child sacrifices: preparing their young boys for shahada, a sacrifice on the altar of the new Moloch, the jihad.

In other words, resolving this conflict peaceably by reaching a compromise with Evil and agreeing to co-exist with it, is equally impossible as co-existing with Nazism was.

So what’s to be done? Radyshevsky rejects the standard “transfer” solution of the Israeli far-right, and instead lays out the Jerusalem Summit approach, which we’ve seen before: offer Palestinians money to leave, allow them to remain as non-citizens in a “municipal enclave”, or allow them to become citizens if they can prove loyalty (Radyshevskey is opposed to racial exclusivity):However, it is also hoped that the Palestinians will be transformed:

This land is our land. Ishmael here has no claim, but if he will acknowledge Israel’s dominion over this tiny land, then we will be very happy to let him remain.

Israel must consistently integrate the Palestinians into the civilization of the House of Abraham. This means a steady deprogramming of the Palestinians, whose youngest generation has been brainwashed by Arafat’s propaganda machine and the jihad ideology for thirteen years since Oslo – all with Israeli and Western funds!

Israel and the West must establish control over education, the mass media, and the clergy.

…It is difficult of course to imagine that the age of Islamic Zionism is near. But a mere fifty years ago it would have seemed fantastical to think that someday there would be hundreds of millions of Christian Zionists — as there are in the world today.

We’re also told that

The Jerusalem Summit’s recommendations have earned the enthusiastic acclaim of many of the world’s social and spiritual activists, from members of the United States Congress and the British Parliament’s House of Lords, to the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Dalai Lama.

The book also contains standard musings on the dangers of Muslims in Europe, and calls for a “Council of Civilizations” based in Jerusalem.

Radyshevsky divides the world into twelve “primary civilizations”, and declares this to be “likely” to be an omen, since there are twelve gates into Jerusalem and twelve tribes of Israel. This seems to me to be symptomatic of the main problem with the whole book: there’s a sheen of general knowledge, but everything is run through the grinder of one mystical idea. Of course it all fits together wonderfully – because everything is defined according to Radyshevsky’s predetermined political and religious agenda. Although ranging widely through history and across geopolitics, there is very little real engagement with what people believe or why – and despite his supposed opposition to the “primacy of a single, monolithic ideology”, all he has to offer is a rather eccentric grand narrative which he imposes over all human motivation. If Palestinians object to living under occupation, there’s no need to ascribe real human desires to their complaints: rather, we can diagnose morbid psycho-spiritual reasons which also just so happen to show that Radyshevsky’s Greater-Israel Zionism is the exactly the same thing as the will of God.

Radyshevsky’s book is far from unique: Hal Lindsey, Mike Evans, and a whole slew of Christian Zionist paperbacks have a similar Manichean perspective. Unlike those books, however, Radyshevsky’s religious Jewish Zionism does not require the intellectual incoherence of pushing America to be active in the Middle East when God is about to wrap things up through an inevitable Last Days scenario anyway. But how acceptable will this be to the summit’s main allies, the evangelical Christian Zionists? Talk of kabbalah and “psychic energy” will not play well, and he also writes that

After the inevitable victory over Islam, mankind will understand the prohibition of considering any one religion exclusive.

While some evangelical Christian Zionists see validity in Judaism through the idea of a “dual covenant“, this will be pushing things too far (although, of course, there are also non-evangelical Christian Zionists who may be more agreeable). In this context, calls for a world council based in Jerusalem may even stoke Last Days paranoia…

Uzbek Billionaire Gets British Blogs Pulled

(minor correction: one webhost is involved, not two)

Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who is currently negotiating the purchase of a British football team, has succeeded in getting a webhost to pull high-profile blogs that made allegations against him.

In the 1980s, Usmanov was imprisoned in his homeland – he claims this was for political reasons, and that his record was expunged in the post-Soviet era. Blogger (and former UK ambassador) Craig Murray disputed Usmanov’s spin on his past; Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads reported the story. Their webhosts have now received nasty legal letters, and have pulled the plug. In Ireland’s case, this has had a knock-on effect to several other blogs hosted on his site – including that of London mayoral candidate Boris Johnson.

One UK blogger particularly offended by this attempt at censorship is Conservative Party activist Iain Dale, who has been attacked on Ireland’s blog on numerous occasions:

You would think that I would be highly delighted if Tim Ireland’s Bloggerheads site was shut down by his webhost, wouldn’t you? After all the abuse he has directed my way you’d think I’d be taking great pleasure in the fact that that is exactly what has happened. But you’d be wrong…Despite the fact that a large part of his front page is taken up with wholly unjustified smears against me, I defend his right to say what he wants about me. It’s called freedom of speech. And if he does it to me, why should a Russian Oligarch be any different?

It’s most refreshing to see someone who may not like what someone writes about him nevertheless defending his critic’s right to free speech. Let’s hope the example catches on among Dale’s fellow Tories –  in particular, for example, Paul Staines, the supposed “libertarian” who threatened Pickled Politics a few months ago over a 1980s newspaper report retrieved from Lexis-Nexis.

This is the second high-profile libel threat to hit the blogosphere recently: a few weeks ago, US businessman Stuart Pivar, who had written a very strange book about evolution, filed a lawsuit againt scientist PZ Myers and Seed magazine after Myers referred to Pivar as a “crackpot”. Pivar, along with his lawyer Michael Little and PR agent Matthew Rich, were then subjected to widespread mockery, and Pivar withdrew the case (although Little, who trained in the UK, is now threatening to sue the distinguished legal scholar who told Pivar his case had no chance).

Meanwhile, my own investigation into another Uzbek billionaire can be seen here.

UPDATE: A television news report:

UPDATE 2: Tim Ireland is back on-line.

Klein Chai! Part 94

Conwebwatch’s Terry Krepel reviews the latest dispatches by WorldNetDaily‘s Jerusalem correspondent Aaron Klein. There are basically two aspects to Klein’s work: on the one hand, he interviews Palestinian militants and Islamists and “exposes” their views to the world; while on the other he visits honest Jews trying to get by in “Judea and Samaria”, while for some reason overlooking their equally sanguinary political connections:

An Aug. 3 article by Klein…features quotes taken from an Aug. 1 Jerusalem Post article about Shlomit Bar-Kochba, who moved back into the [Hebron] market with her husband and eight children.

…But Klein leaves out one important detail that the Post reported: Shlomit Bar-Kochba is the daughter of Moshe Zar, who purchased large amounts of land in the West Bank to develop Jewish settlements. Neither the Post nor Klein, however, tell the story of Moshe Zar’s terrorist past.

In the 1980s, Zar was a part of a “Jewish underground” group that targeted violence against Arabs in the West Bank and plotted to destroy the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. Zar served a short prison term for his role in the bombings of the cars of three Arab West Bank mayors. Nablus Mayor Bassam Shaka lost both legs in the bombing. A July 22, 1985, Washington Post article noted that Zar and 14 others put on trial over the bombings were “vigorously supported by leaders of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank and by many Israeli members of parliament from the Likud bloc and other right-wing parties.”

And so on. Krepel also notes that Klein joined the chorus against the recent documentary God’s Warriors, which was supposedly biased for having mentioned the above incident, and for recalling the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in 1994. This was unnecessary, according to Klein, because:

Goldstein’s actions were widely condemned by Israelis and worldwide Jewry. The organization he was a part of was outlawed in Israel.

And which organisation would that be? Klein doesn’t burden us with that information, but it was none other than the far-right Kach movement, which was made illegal along with an off-shoot, Kahane Chai. The funny thing is, though, that a number of Klein’s Israeli contacts are linked to these groups – but he rarely, if ever, feels the need to mention these affiliations, let alone note their illegality. In fact, their illegality slips his mind again just today, in a piece where he mentions a Palestinian who undertook a

shooting attack in northern Samaria in December 2000 that killed Benyamin Kahane, leader of the nationalist Kahane Chai organization.

Meanwhile, Klein’s interviews with Islamists provide fodder for his debut book, Schmoozing With Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land, Jihadists Reveal Their Global Plans–to a Jew! Blog Sadly No! has some details.

My own forays into Klein’s writing can be seen here, here, here, and here.