Ignorant Reporting on Greek Orthodox Cremation Objections

Some ignorant reporting about a new law in Greece allowing cremation, from the Murdoch-owned News.com.au:

GREECE’S highest court has approved a government move to legalise cremation, brushing aside complaints from the powerful Orthodox church that it was un-Greek and could hamper the resurrection of the dead…[The church] says bodies which God created should not be burned as this will prevent their resurrection on Judgement Day.

The AP, more ambiguously, states that the Orthodox Church believes “that it is contrary to the notion of the resurrection of the dead”, while Kathimerini has a more sensible explanation:

The Church of Greece opposes cremation for believers, arguing that Orthodox traditions only allow for burial.

That’s better, although it begs the question of “why?”.

I’m not a fan of Greek Orthodoxy’s tendency to demand secular law follow its religious teachings, but in fairness it should be pointed out that there is in fact no doctrine in the religion which says that a person whose body is destroyed by fire cannot be resurrected – otherwise no believer would dare to risk flying in an areoplane, as well as numerous other absurdities. Burial is, though, a matter of tradition, and respect for the symbolism of resurrection. The Encyclopedia of Cremation – which can be consulted via Google Books – has an entry on Greek Orthodox rejection of cremation:

Saint Simeon, archbishop of Thessalonica…wrote: ‘and we place the corpse in the grave and give it to the earth with prayers, fulfilling the divine commandment, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” and thus we proclaim the resurrection.’

…Burial is a symbol, proof and confession of faith and hope in the immortality of the soul and in the resurrection…In addition, graves mark a place as a motherland

…Orthodox Christians hope to benefit from the grace which streams from the uncorrupted relics of the saints.

…However, no one should think that anyone who is cremated will not be raised from the dead and will escape the second coming of the Lord.

In the Catholic world, Thomas Aquinas considered the hypothetical problem of a cannibal who had only ever eaten human flesh, with parents who had followed the same practice. Such a person’s body would consequently be made up totally from other human bodies; what would happen then at the resurrection? Aquinas resolved the issue by noting that the particles of a body constantly change over time, and so a resurrected body need not be made of the same matter as the original. Bertrand Russell describes this as a “comforting thought”.

Satanic Panic in South Africa

A report from South Africa:

Although Satanism is generally regarded as an “underground movement”, there are various signs parents can look out for if they suspect their child is involved in the “hidden curriculum”.

…Dr Attie Lamprecht, a senior superintendent at the SAPS detectives’ head office, who specialises in harmful religious practices, urged love, acceptance and communication within the family if parents want to protect their children from Satanism.

…Dr Ado Krige, chairman of the Extreme Freedom Foundation which seeks to prevent drug abuse and the spread of Satanism in schools, said drugs, violent music and sex all contribute to young people becoming involved in Satanism.

Both men warn of “danger signs”, such as “a rebellion against authority, compulsive lying and becoming emotionally detached from the parent” and “rebellion against the mother of the family in particular, and Jesus Christ. They also become defensive and withdrawn.”

The Extreme Freedom Foundation has a website here; it offers drugs counselling but is also heavily evangelistic in character; Krige is an ex-drug addict who became a Christian in prison, and he then “spent more than three years working undercover to expose syndicates.” He has also written a book, a blurb for which begins:

This easy reading book is aimed at teenagers and parents. It explains why there has been a revival in these modern times in ancient occult cultures such as Wicca. It explains how New Age philosophy…

A following “read more” button doesn’t work.

Lamprecht, meanwhile, is a detective with the Occult Related Crimes unit, which has featured on this blog previously; its founder, Kobus Jonker, insisted that only police officers who shared his religious beliefs were suitable members. According to a statement on a Christian website:

He is a registered Specialist Councillor with a Masters of Arts in Sociology specialising in Narrative Therapy.

“When Christ put something in your way, He will equip you to deal with it in a way that His spirit in you becomes visible.”

When you cannot serve with a spirit of modesty and a deep dependence in Christ, get out and reset your focus as the World has probably won a battle/ As a detective I prefer a sober look at things (before other avenues are explored) as I believe the power of decision are seldom transferred without the explicit permission of the individual thus many discourse is a direct result of wrong decision and of a toxic thought process. No permanent and sustainable healing can take place without Christ’s involvement. Spiritual happiness is what we are all after. Unfortunately the boundaries at times become fuzzy and we grab false replacements. Then we starve as one can eat as much candyfloss as the world can throw at you and you will still die of malnutrition.

Back in August, Lamprecht was quoted as saying that

There is probably not a school in South Africa where Satanism does not exist…”It starts with white magic. It goes to gateway religious systems and then to destructive religions. It is pretty prevalent.”

The context for this latest flurry of Satanic panic is the case of Morne Harmse, a mentally-ill teenager who murdered a fellow school-pupil with a samurai sword last month. Apparently Harmse (a loner) claims that “a ghost” told him to become a Satanist, and he committed the crime after becoming convinced that the devil wanted him to do it. Police found some occult-related paraphenalia in his bedroom. There is no indication that he started with “white magic” or that that he had any interest in “gateway religious systems”.

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)

More Jewish Wariness of Christian Zionism

A page on Jim Hutchens’s “Jerusalem Connection” website includes an interesting detail:

Unfortunately, what Caroline Glick decries in the following article was replicated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of greater Washington, DC when it disinvited a Christian Zionist voice at a rally opposing Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the UN.

Alas, who this “Christian Zionist voice” actually was is not revealed, and I can’t find the details anywhere else…

The Glick article that follows (reposted from the Jerusalem Post) claims that “liberal American Jews” were responsible for preventing Sarah Palin from attending the New York anti-Ahmadinejad rally, and that they did this because of their support for abortion.

UK Neo-Pentecostal Church Leaves Venue: Claims of Death Threats, Harassment

News from Hastings, on the south coast of England:

A Christian church group is packing up and leaving St Mary-in-the-Castle following death threats and harassment.

Sonrise Church, which took over the running of the building in January last year, said it has endured a campaign of hatred from a small group of people for almost two years and plans to vacant the premises in January.

Glenn and Cathy Khan, senior pastors, said they have had to put up with constant harassment from a minority of ‘nameless, faceless people’.

St Mary-in-the-Castle is an architecturally significant but redundant 1820 church building that has been run as a venue and art gallery for a few years; the neo-Pentecostal Sonrise Church was given a lease on the premises eighteen months ago, on the understanding that they would use it as a church on Sundays and continue to run it as a venue during the rest of the week. However, some questioned the process by which the lease was awarded:

Cllr Jeremy Birch, labour leader for Hastings Borough Council, said: “A lot of people and I at the time Sonrise Church was granted the lease questioned the council’s process of exclusively giving it St Mary in the Castle rather than going out to open competition.

“There was never an open process to look at other alternatives and look at offers on their merits.”

The Guardian also complained:

One of the best places to see and buy local art was at the SoCo Gallery, housed on the ground floor of St Mary In the Castle, on the seafront. SoCo is a local art group that runs well-attended regular shows where the art on the walls often tends to be of the cutting-edge variety. Upstairs, there were occasional concerts in an extraordinary beautiful and criminally underused circular concert hall. If you wanted a taste of the spirit of happening Hastings, it was as good a place as any to visit.

Last month, though, the local Tory council suddenly evicted SoCo and leased the building to an obscure evangelical Christian church called SonRise. Thus one of the few venues in Hastings suited to art events has been turned over to a minority Christian group that plans to turn it into a coffee bar, conference centre and, rumour has it, a Christian-oriented arts centre.

The church denied it would seek to censor art displayed by SoCo (South Coast Artists), and so the gallery exhibited a piece calculated to press the point. Glenn Khan complained to the local paper:

Prior to our moving into the building, an exhibition was held by the group and artwork using our child protection policy was displayed and put up for sale to the general public. We considered this work disturbing as images of a sexual nature had been superimposed over that information, even though one was of a fertility goddess from an old church building at Kilkenny.

There were also fears that as a neo-Pentecostal church Sonrise would have a negative view of homosexuality, and that it would discriminate against gay groups that might wish to hire the venue; Khan, however, responded that

“We are not homophobic. We would accept bookings from any group except ones promoting hatred or violence towards a minority group.”

Which seems reasonable enough; however, some critics continued to complain, pointing out the church’s use of the Alpha Course (which is hardly remarkable) and demanding to know

Why is it that “Sonrise Church “welcomes” new government legislation on religious discrimination in employment”, but only “accepts the legislation, regulations and codes of practice which separately and collectively outlaw certain kinds of discriminations.”

Despite assurances to the contrary, it seems that Sonrise was unable to shake off the public impression that its style and beliefs meant that it was of a piece with the American Christian Right, or somewhere like “Bishop” Michael Reid’s Peniel Church. That does not, however, appear to be the case (not that that would justify a campaign of harassment).

Sonrise is an independent church, although it used to be part of an Australian grouping called the Christian Outreach Centre. This was founded in 1974 in Brisbane by Clark Taylor, who was Australia’s “first televangelist”. Clark left Australia for the USA after an affair was exposed.

Tancredo’s “Jihad Prevention Act”

The perennially preposterous Tom Tancredo is moved to propose a new law:

Amid disturbing revelations that the verdicts of Islamic Sharia courts are now legally binding in civil cases in the United Kingdom, U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton) moved quickly today to introduce legislation designed to protect the United States from a similar fate.

…Tancredo’s bill, dubbed the “Jihad Prevention Act,” would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law. In addition, the legislation would make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.

So what counts as a “radical” Muslim? What counts as “advocacy” of Sharia law – would a non-polemical historical survey bar the author? What about US citizens who adopt such positons? What about other advocates of alternative, and repressive, religious-based legal systems (such as Christian Reconstructionists, to give the most obvious example)? etc. etc. Presumably we’re not supposed to ask about such details, lest we find ourselves accused of sympathy for Islamism.

The legal recognition of Sharia courts in the UK has inevitably been presented by the right as evidence of British “appeasement” of Islam; in fact, however, the courts’ new legal status is simply due to an already-existing legal provision concerning third-party arbitration. As the Daily Mail reported:

Islamic sharia law courts in Britain are exploiting a little-known legal clause to make their verdicts officially binding under UK law in cases including divorce, financial disputes and even domestic violence.

A new network of courts in five major cities is hearing cases where Muslims involved agree to be bound by traditional sharia law, and under the 1996 Arbitration Act the court’s decisions can then be enforced by the county courts or the High Court.

It should also be pointed out that the courts have no power to prescribe criminal penalties, although reports of the courts’ activities are certainly unencouraging: inheritances doled out unequally between male and female relatives, and women “persuaded” to drop complaints to the police about domestic violence. The obvious – and reasonable – fear is some women are agreeing to be bound by the courts’ decisions as a result of community and family pressure rather than giving true consent.

However, while the undesirability of this is being widely decried, what exactly should be done is less clear. Of course for Tancredo all that’s needed are some new repressive laws targeting immigrants, but that’s hardly a serious proposition in a free society. Perhaps in some cases anti-discrimination legislation can be brought to bear, but the simple truth is that undesirable things cannot be avoided in a free society.

Muthee Anoints Sarah Palin, 2005

…we thank you today. We come in the hindrance of the enemy, standing in her way to there. In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus! Every form of witchcraft, it will be rebuked in the name of Jesus. Father, make her way now. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Full story here.

Shoebat’s Horses of the Apocalypse

And while we’re still on the subject of Walid Shoebat and Joel Richardson, Richardson’s blog carries a link to an audio interview between Shoebat and a Messianic Christian organisation called “Messiah’s Branch” on the subject of Islam and Bible prophecy. As expected, it’s a car crash of crackpot interpretations of various Bible passages, and I had to laugh in particular when the subject turned to Israel being attacked by invaders on horseback. Of course, this particular detail couldn’t be in the Bible because the Bible is a product of the ancient world; it must be because that is indeed what is going to happen in the future! And it’s further evidence (a) that the Bible predicts a Muslim invasion of Israel and (b) that Muslims are like Nazis:

[Interviewer:] I [wouldn’t] look for Russia to be attacking on horses as the Bible talks about. It would be clear to see Muslim nations attacking Israel on horses. You know, because they’re still predominately using horses. Right?

[Shoebat:] That’s right. In fact, the Nazis used horses, the German army. Horses were a very main element of transferring and transforming [sic] weapons, and soldiers, that all kinds of things like that. And the Muslims do have tons of horses.

Shoebat is not alone in seeing horses as having apocalyptic significance – the Left Behind novels end with Jesus slaughtering them:

Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood…It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin…Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated.

Richardson Defends Pro-Koln

Walid Shoebat associate Joel Richardson is annoyed:

You know the world has been turned upside-down when those who wish to preserve Germany and Europe from Islamization (and the inevitable corrosion of human rights and freedoms that always follow such) are marginalized as extremists and right-wing nationalists while those Islamo-imperialists who would fulfill the prophecies of their prophet are seen as the poor and the persecuted that need protection from “intolerance”…

Richardson is upset that authorities had shut down the “pro-Koln” anti-mosque rally in Cologne. So how did it come about that the pro-Koln activists were “marginalized as extremists and right-wing nationalists”? Speigel Online reports:

In an effort to attract large crowds to the event, Pro Cologne recently unveiled a lineup that reads like a Who’s Who of the European right-wing populist scene. As keynote speakers, it listed Jean-Marie Le Pen of the French National Front (“I believe in the inequality of races”) and Heinz-Christian Strache, chancellor candidate for the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) — a man who had contact to the banned right-wing extremist Viking Youth group and is seeking to amend the Austrian constitution to forbid mosque construction…

(Le Pen actually denied he had been invited, and claimed that his name was being used “to create propaganda” by the event organisers)

The British National Party website adds:

The BNP’s Richard Barnbrook will be one of the high profile speakers addressing an open air meeting which is part of an international “anti-Islamisation conference” in Cologne, Germany, today, to protest against the construction of mosques and Muslim immigration.

You know the world has been turned upside-down when those who support Israel and regard Jews as God’s chosen people are willing to laud a group that seeks the support of the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen (“In France, at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders” – presumably refering to the deportation of 76,000 Jews) and Richard Barnbrook, whose party leader Nick Griffin (a) wrote an anti-Jewish screed entitled Who are the Mind-Benders? and (b) has admitted that his turn to anti-Muslim rhetoric is simply strategic.

Schlussel on Racial Slurs

Debbie Schlussel, 19 September 2008:

Now, there is Sandra Bernhard…Her bigoted anti-Gentile video tirade against Sarah Palin is embarrassing, and as a Jew, I’m disgusted….The two slurs she uses against Sarah Palin–“goyishe” and “shiksa”–are derogatory terms for non-Jews, and I never use them. My dad taught me from when I was very little, to refrain. And I cringe when I hear other people use them. The terms are bigoted. Period.

Debbie Schlussel, 16 April 2007 (via Wayback):

… The Virginia Tech campus has a very large Muslim community, many of which are from Pakistan

* Pakis are considered “Asian.”…

When the connotation of the term “Paki” was pointed out to her by a commentator, Schlussel responded that

UH, ACTUALLY IT ISN’T A RACIAL SLUR. AND WHERE WERE YOU WHEN DICK CHENEY AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FRAN TOWNSEND CALLED THEM PAKIS? SORRY, BUT WE HAVE NO USE FOR THE IMUS THOUGHT POLICE HERE. GO TO OPRAH’S SITE AND HAVE FUN THERE.
DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL

Eventually Media Matters took an interest, and Schlussel used this as an excuse to remove the posting on the grounds that “Nazis” were posting comments.

(It should be remembered that Schlussel’s entire foray into the VT Shooter tragedy was something of a fiasco.)

Claim: Blogger Barred from Palin Church

From Max Blumenthal:

After appearing on Countdown to discuss Muthee’s battle with a supposed witch in Kiambu, Kenya, and his ties to Palin, the Wasilla Assembly of God allegedly told [Shannyn] Moore not to appear at their Saturday services. They knew what she looked like, and would immediately oust her, they supposedly warned.

This comes despite an “everyone is invited to attend these meetings!!” advert on the church website. Blumenthal is “holding off” from his own reports on Muthee for a couple of days; Irregular Times is annoyed.