Kenneth Copeland and a Message from the Pope

From the National Catholic Register:

…Pope Francis sent a video message to a gathering of U.S. Pentecostal leaders, voicing his “yearning” that separation between Catholics and other Christians may end.

…Pope Francis’ message was delivered to a meeting of the Fort Worth, Texas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries by Pentecostal Bishop Tony Palmer, who had recorded it on an iPhone in a Jan. 14 meeting with the Holy Father. Palmer knew Pope Francis from his time in Argentina, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. The video was later uploaded to YouTube.

Like most people, my initial reaction was to think (like this lady): “You’re joking? The pope?”. Copeland is primarily a US Christian Right ideologue, and his “Word of Faith” Prosperity Gospel theology is to many outside observers – both Christian and non-Christian – predatory and intellectually risible. However, it’s unlikely that Francis knows much about Copeland – Francis’ message was to Pentecostals in general, rather than being an endorsement of Copeland’s controversial “Ministry”.

Copeland’s website has some background to the link with Palmer:

Over the past decade the Rt. Rev. Tony Palmer, a former director of Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ South African office and co-founder of The Ark Community, an international and interdenominational community of Christians based in the United Kingdom, has been extensively involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR).

In 2003, Palmer was invited by the Catholic Church to move to Europe and minister to Catholics within the CCR worldwide, as a non-Roman Catholic minister. As a result of this calling, Palmer has traveled to many countries around the world and participated in numerous meetings with leaders within the charismatic renewal.

It was during a mission to Argentina five years ago that Palmer met and soon became close friends with Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I.

…From the inception of The Ark Community, KCM has maintained a strong partnership with Palmer through prayer and by supporting his mission work. It was through Palmer’s assistance that Kenneth and Gloria Copeland were able to minister to the Roman Catholic Church in Italy for the first time ever in 2006. They have since returned there to minister.

Apparently, Copeland has in the past defended the Catholic Church against an anti-Catholic strand in Pentecostalism; according to a forum post made in 2007:

On the May 21st, 2007 edition of BVOV [Believer’s Voice of Victory], guest John Hagee began slamming the RCC with the usual anti-Catholic rhetoric. After listening politely for a couple of minutes, Copeland jumped in and began defending Catholics, stating “The Roman Church at this time is filled with people that love God with all their heart”. Copeland continued on to talk about the Charismatic Movement within the RCC, how John Paul II had been a strong proponent of the Charismatic Movement, how John Paul II had, on behalf of the RCC repented of the sins that had occurred against the Jewish people and asked for their forgiveness, etc.

(Hagee jettisoned his anti-Catholicism soon afterwards, when past comments on this subject and others caused some embarrassment and damage to John McCain; anti-Catholicism was already somewhat archaic anyway, in an age when apocalyptic Christians are more interested using the Bible to place Islam with a demonic narrative of the “Last Days”.)

Meanwhile, Palmer’s background is the subject of a recent post for Patheos by  Fr. Dwight Longenecker. The author notes that Palmer’s denomination affiliation is not quite clear, but that he appears to be “a member of the Anglican Episcopal Church of the CEEC [Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches] (Celtic Anglican Tradition).” He adds that he “suspects” this group – one of many Anglican breakaway groups – has

embraced a bogus historical theory that has been growing in popularity in Anglican circles: this is the idea that there is a pure strand of British Christianity which dates right back to the Roman times when Coptic Christians brought Christianity to the British Isles along with Joseph of Arimathea who came to Glastonbury as a missionary… The whole theory is completely and crazily bogus–rather like British Israelitism or the Mormon claim that the native Americans were the lost tribes.

In a follow-up piece, he adds:

Clearly distancing themselves from the “continuing” Anglican churches, the CEEC (here’s their website) was founded not only by Anglicans, but a whole range of Protestant leaders who see themselves as part of a “convergent church” movement… One has to ask, when Tony Palmer presented himself therefore as “an Anglican Bishop” did Archbishop Bergoglio of Argentina have any idea that this was the background and was he aware of this rapidly shifting identity of Anglicanism? I suspect he did not. How was a Catholic bishop in Argentina expected to be aware of the mushrooming complexity of Anglicanism? No doubt as their friendship developed Bishop Bergoglio became aware of the real situation.

Key Vladimir Putin Ally Warns of Plan to “De-Sovereign States” Through Human Rights

One under-reported subject this blog has looked at from time to time is an organisation called the “World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations”. This is an initiative created by Vladimir Yakunin, a controversial member of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and a man dubbed “the Kremlin’s ‘model Orthodox businessman'”. The WPF has made links with an extraordinary array of top-tier academics, religious leaders, and emeritus politicians (along with some rather more eccentric figures), who have spoken at conferences in Rhodes and Vienna and written for WPF publications.

At the start of the month, Yakunin addressed the WPF International Coordinating Committee in Vienna, and the WPF has now published his presentation in English:

…In his article “Globalization of Insecurity and the Dialogue of Civilizations” (published in the collection of papers from the 2011 Rhodes Forum), Prof. Joseph Camilleri describes in detail the ever increasing feeling of insecurity. What is more, this feeling seems to be spreading everywhere: both in different societies which tend to practically determine the strategies and tendencies in present-day globalization processes, as well as in communities that have become involved in global expansion.

All this, I believe, compels us to think about the growing pace and scope of what we may call “barbarization” of international relations. What is meant here is the following: under slogans of “advancing” democracy and “strict observance” of human rights, there are those who are arming themselves with the most ridiculous means to de-sovereign states and to justify interference from the outside into the affairs, history, culture and the very lifestyles of whole countries and regions. Instead of trying to pave the way to attain noble goals, this process is being aimed at attaining poorly disguised interests and at “revolutionizing” the public masses that are rapidly transformed into mobs of marauders and terrorists…

This is, of course, a veiled yet familiar swipe at critics of the increasing authoritarian nature of the Putin regime, and of its growing obsession with suppressing Russia’s gay minority – and it should be noted that his talk begins with a shout-out to “our colleague from Iran, who represents the founder of the inter-state initiative Dialogue among Civilizations – Mohammad Khatami” (1).

But Yakunin’s rhetoric, in which he outlines the shortcomings of “neoliberalism” and “globalisation”, is designed to have wide political appeal. Further:

We most certainly welcome diverse ecological initiatives that are not aimed at transforming “values” into “price tags,” or at reselling “the right to life” of the people in some countries to others or for making profits for a small group of oligarchs.

It is difficult regard without mirth one of Russia’s richest men talking critically about “oligarchs”; as Spiegel Online noted late last month:

 Yakunin is still in office [as head of Russia’s railways] even though opposition leader and blogger Alexey Navalny revealed several months ago that the railway boss is not only an excellent contractor, but he is also extremely adept at taking care of himself. Navalny reported that Yakunin built himself a veritable palace just outside of Moscow, complete with dozens of rooms and a special, climate-controlled space for his wife’s fur coats. Yakunin says the report was nothing more than a “smear campaign.”

The same report describes Yakunin as “arch-conservative and powerfully eloquent”.

References to the WPF – and to the “Saint Andrew the First-Called Foundation”, through which Yakunin set up the WPF – pop up in unexpected places. For example, the WPF is sponsoring a “Musical Olympus Festival” at Carnegie Hall in April. The Musical Olympus Foundation’s founder, Irina Nikitina, has a “Faith and Faithfulness” medal from the Foundation.

****

(1) This description of Khatami as “founder of the inter-state initiative Dialogue among Civilizations” is explained here:

WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations” has become a practical realization of the UNGA resolution “Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations” accepted on November 9th, 2001, on the initiative of former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Khatami.

The “Dialogue of Civilizations” program started on May 19th, 2002, at the Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin.

This suggests that Khatami was a general inspiration rather than a “founder” in the proper sense of the word. The WPF was actually founded by Yakunin himself, although he had two co-chairs: the Indian philopher Jagdish Kapur, who has since passed away, and, more curiously, a Greek-American businessman named Nicholas Papanicolaou. This is odd because Papanicolau is a close associate with the elements of the neo-Pentecostal Christian Right, in particular Rick Joyner and retired Lt. General “Jerry” Boykin”: the three men are part of a “chivalric order” (which has held meetings on Rhodes around the same time as WFP events), and in 2011 Papanicolau and Boykin sent out an anti-Islam fundraising letter.

“Family Values” Group Pickets French Embassy in Armenia

News from Armenia:

 A picket in support of the French fighting for family values was held in front of the French embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday.

…The picket “against preponderance of gay propaganda” has been organized by the all-Armenian parent committee.

A couple of photos from the picket can be seen here; it looks like about 30 to 50 people attended, holding banners of the same kind that were seen at the large-scale anti-same sex marriage demonstrations that took place in Paris and Lyon earlier this month (in particular, signs claiming that equal marriage is “familiphobie“).

The protests in France (a nascent “French Tea Party”, according to Interior Minister Manuel Valls) were also against the teaching of gender theory in schools, and the “all-Armenian parent committee” was formed last summer with a similar concern about a gender equality law. Armenian news-site Tert reported at the time:

The Law on Gender Equality poses a threat to Armenian families, publicist Lia Avetisyan, Assistant Professor at the Department of Divinity, Yerevan State University, Vardan Khachatryan, priest Grigor Hovhannisyan, and Coordinator of the all-Armenian parental committee Arman Boshyan told a press conference on gender equality.

Grigor Hovhannisyan has links with opposition forces; when Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovhannisyan ended a hunger strike amid anti-government protests in 2011, his clerical namesake was on hand with some consecrated bread with which he could break his fast in a suitably theatrical manner.

Avetisyan, meanwhile, is known for some eccentric opinions: according to reports, she has claimed that “Armenians saved the humanity from cannibalism” (apparently in response to a claim that some Armenian dishes may have their origins elsewhere), and that the materialism of Valentine’s Day has led to a situation in which “one has a beautiful wife but buys a rubber girl.”

Boshyan followed up with another press conference a couple of months later, this time with pro-Russian Finnish “dissident” Johan Bäckman. According to Aysor, Backman told journalists in Yerevan that

“The gender policy is a war against humanity, with fascist methods being used… Unfortunately the main ideology of the EU consists in homosexuality, which has become a specialty for many European officials”

He and Boshyan “signed a memorandum on cooperation on the fight against gender policy”.

Bäckman is better known for his fulminations against “anti-Russian” forces in his home country and in other Baltic states, and in 2009 he took part in a demonstration in Helsinki with members of Nashi, the Russian “Putin Youth” group. One of his targets at that time, a political scientist named Iivi Anna Masso, has some background context here.

Bäckman’s twin obsessions come together in his concern for the alleged plight of Russian women who marry Finns, which is a theme I’ve previously seen in Russian anti-gay rhetoric. His most recent thoughts appeared last week in Pravda, where he explained that people become gay as “a profession”, and that Europe, like Sodom and Gomorrah, is on course to become “the Dead Sea”.

An article from September in the Armenia Weekly by Samson Martirosyan has some more general background: “The ‘Gender Equality Law’ Hysteria in Armenia“.

(H/T to this forum post for some of the links)

Name variations: pan-Armenian parent committee; all-Armenian parental committee; Arman Boshoyan; ????? ??????

Maajid Nawaz Accuses Twitter User of Making Threat Over Freedom of Information Release

From the Liberal Democrat Voice:

Quilliam Foundation to sue after Maajid Nawaz’s and other staff members’ personal information went up on government website

The Times reports (£) that in the week when Liberal Democrat candidate Maajid Nawaz was subject to death threats after tweeting a cartoon of Mohammed, the Department of Communities and Local Government erroneously published his personal mobile number as part of a response to a Freedom of Information request…

There follows an extract (without a link) from the paywalled article itself, by Katie Gibbons. Headlined “Lib Dem in Muhammad hate campaign row to sue government for posting details online”, it includes the following:

The response that led to the publication of personal details concerned e-mails between Mr Nawaz and Mark Caroll, a senior DCLG official, sent in October last year in which the former requested funding for “vital” community work. The grant has since been denied.

The request is thought to have been made by an individual named Jason Schuman, who, under the Twitter handle @debatingculture, threatened to publicise the data that had been released by DCLG. His Twitter account has now been suspended.

Nawaz asked for renewed funding on the back of  high-profile defections by the leaders of the EDL, which were “facilitated” by Quilliam in October; the Guardian reported a few days later that Nawaz had told Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) that “he would work to introduce [him] to his own contacts in government and the Home Office in an attempt to procure government funding.”

Perhaps there’s more behind the paywall, but the extract on Lib Dem Voice does not substantiate the claim of a threat by Schuman to “publicise” the phone number, and the @debatingculture Twitter feed has been restored. The two men had an acrimonious exchange on 2 February:

debatingculture
If anyone is wondering why @MaajidNawaz’s personal details are being published, ask @CommunitiesUK, as it is they who failed to redact. Link

Maajid Nawaz:
@debatingculture yes @CommunitiesUK have failed by releasing my private data,I intend to formally complain,but u are preparing to publicise Link

debatingculture:
@MaajidNawaz: Two FoIRs. One is mine. Mine not yet published. You discussed conspiring to withhold with aid of @NewScotlandYard. Link

Maajid Nawaz 
.@debatingculture 1) was protecting my team after death threats 2) why not publish your own private details on here instead of mine.Scared? Link

debatingculture
@MaajidNawaz: Again, DCLG published your details, not me. They should have redacted but didn’t. I tried to stop this. Even had arguments abt Link

Maajid Nawaz ?@MaajidNawaz Feb 2
.@debatingculture last two RTs prove you know who’s publishing my data. I’ve had threats. Send your name so you can cooperate with police Link

Since that time, Schuman (of whose existence I was unaware before seeing this today) has continued to maintain that he did not make any such threat and that he is opposed to publicising private details. There is nothing immediately visible in his timeline to suggest otherwise, and he seems to be a reasonably civil person. He does, however, confirm that his Twitter feed was suspended, and he says that he was told this was for “spamming” (which he denies, and of which there is no evidence).

The contents of the FoI request were published on WhatDoTheyKnow.com; the page and its contents were highlighted by Jessica Elgot in a piece for the Huffington Post on 3 February. However, the same page now carries a holding message:

The Department for Communities and Local Government has alerted us to the fact they accidentally released a great deal of personal information in this message. A replacement response has been requested.

This is somewhat mysterious: the DCLG release included Nawaz’s mobile number (mentioned in an email), and there’s a private personal detail he has already mentioned in interviews anyway, but it’s an exaggeration to call this a “great deal of personal information”. Problematic details could have been redacted in moments.

Nawaz has come under threats of violence since he Tweeted an image taken from the Jesus and Mo cartoon series, and some of his opponents (such as Mohammed Shafiq) have seized on the controversy opportunistically – and irresponsibly – in an attempt to derail his election candidacy. Consequently, he has also received a great deal of support from supporters of free speech and opponents of religious extremism.

Perhaps Nawaz is on a short fuse as result of the threats against him, but one is forced to suspect that he’s abusing the goodwill he’s received. The charge against Schuman does not appear to stand up, and it looks like Nawaz – with the help of an uncritical media locked into a particular narrative – is attempting to whip up a mob of his own in an attempt to discourage critical interest in his communications with government departments.

That Sochi “Toothpaste Bomb Plot”

This one was all over the media a couple of days ago:

The US has warned airlines with direct flights to Russia that explosives hidden in toothpaste tubes could be smuggled onto planes.

….Unnamed US security officials were quoted as saying there were fears toothpaste tubes could be used to smuggle explosives which could then be used to assemble a bomb either in flight or upon arrival at the Olympics.

…The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that “out of an abundance of caution” it “regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners”.

“While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority,” it added.

Homeland Security chair Rep. Michael McCaul had a little more detail, speaking on CNN:

I’ve been briefed on this actually today, but the terror threat has been around for several days. I find it to be very specific and incredible. At 2:00 today, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to airlines, particularly flights going out of Europe into Russia warning about this potential threat where explosives can be put in toothpaste containers and cosmetics on board either to detonate on the airline itself or to possibly smuggle into the Olympic village.

So this is a serious threat. I know that Homeland Security officials are taking a lot of precautions in terms of tightening up screening at the airports to ensure that these explosives, if they’re on airplanes, they’ll be able to stop them.

For ABC, this amounts to “Sochi Toothpaste Bomb Plot Ongoing, Sources Say“, but the whole thing is actually rather vague, and there is nothing in the DHS statement that we didn’t know already: small containers for gels and liquids have been a focus of airport security for some years now, and we take it as standard that a major international public spectacle will require extra security. We also know there are terrorists in Russia and that one group, Vilayat Dagestan, has made a specific threat against the Sochi games. Russia actually instituted a ban on liquids on airplanes for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics a month ago in response to this general context.

McCaul’s interview doesn’t take us much further, either – there has always been a “potential threat where explosive can be put in toothpaste containers”; the question is whether anyone has any specific knowledge of a plot to do so now. The Homeland Security statement specifies that “we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland”; this does leave open the possibility of “a specific threat” elsewhere, but the overall tone – “abundance of caution… routine communication” – does not suggest the same kind of particular urgency as McCaul’s warning.

Last August, there was general heightened airport alert that led to silly headlines about “breast implant bombs”, while the 2012 London Olympics brought a “cyanide hand cream” scare story.

Terror threats are real, and the Sochi Olympics represents a period of heightened danger. But it seems to me that security authorities, politicians, and the media could do a better job of treating the public like intelligent adults. Or maybe I’m missing the point?

BBC Profiles Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

…and its evangelical Christian founder

Documentaries about life in North Korea are always worth catching, and the BBC’s Panorama has just broadcast an interesting piece on Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a private university where 500 hand-picked students are allowed by the regime to study business and technology skills under Western lecturers – albeit under close monitoring and restricted conditions.

One quirky element is that the students are all male but most of the guards are female, but also unexpected is that the founder and president is a US-Korean evangelical named James Chin-Kyung Kim (var. Kim Chin-Kyung). The programme, presented by Chris Rogers, concentrated on student life and what the existence of such an anomalous institution means for North Korea, although Kim himself would be a interesting documentary topic. There is input from Lord David Alton, who previously wrote about Kim for a website called Felix in 2010:

The university had its genesis in 1987 in a series of intermittent visits to Pyongyang.

Initially, he was treated as a curiosity by the regime. After the death of Kim Il Sung the climate changed and, during a visit in 1998, Dr Kim was arrested and thrown in jail, accused of being an American spy.

The situation appeared so bleak that he was told to write a will – and, in keeping with his vow to give everything back to his country – he even told his captors that once they had executed him they could have his body parts for medical research.

James Kim told me that “The North Korean Government was moved and allowed me to return to my home in China.” It was the first time someone was released after the death penalty was imposed.  He made no public complaints about what had occurred and “two years later they invited me back to North Korea and asked whether I would forget our differences and build a university for them like the one I had established in China.”

Kim appears in photo with Alton and with the oddly ubiquitous Baroness Cox.

Kim’s own story is told in a book entitled Loveism (published by Hongsungsa), which is in Korean but which was helpfully summarised by an evangelical website last November. According to this memoir, Kim served in the Korean war “as the youngest soldier”, aged 15, during which he was converted to Christianity by an American chaplain. He then studied philosophy at Soongsil University and became a high-school German teacher, before travelling to Europe, where he stayed at L’Abri in Switzerland at the invitation of Francis Schaeffer and afterwards studied for a Master’s degree in England. After that he returned to South Korea, where he founded a seminary and started a taxi company. However, he lost his money after being ripped off by a friend, prompting him to move to the USA. Next, he did a PhD and opened a shoe shop, which then led to a successful clothing company.

Then, in the 1980s, Kim was invited to an institute of science and society in China. Recalling that his father had founded a farming school in northeast China during the Japanese colonial period, Kim decided to create the Yanbian University of Science and Technology for ethnic Koreans, for which he eventually got approval after a two-year wait. This institution, known as YUST, formed the template for PUST in North Korea.

So, he keeps busy. But it’s not quite a one-man band: according to a book called The Teaching Ministry of Congregations, by Richard Robert Osmer, funding for YUST has come from the Somang Presbyterian church of Seoul, a prominent and politically well-connected church in South Korea.

The BBC documentary also follows Kim to worship at the Bongsu Church, a showcase place of worship for foreign workers in Pyongyang. Odd scenes ensue: it was clear that some of the attendees  – looking bored and awksward – were there for purely for show, dipping  an empty hand into the collection bag. The church was rebuilt a few years ago in partnership with the South Korean Presbyterian Church Association; its status is controversial, with some South Korean Christians denouncing it as a “fraud“, although Franklin Graham (whose mother went to school in Pyongyang back when it was the “Jerusalem of the East”) preached there in 2008.

Pamela Geller Gives Interview to VCY America

From Right Wing Watch:

In an appearance last week on VCY America’s Crosstalk radio program, [Pamela] Geller pulled out all the stops, suggesting that President Obama didn’t really want to kill Osama bin Laden, and “doesn’t respect or even like our armed forces.” She even claimed that fact that the president’s staff screens questioners at events shows that he is “obviously incompetent” and the “quintessential affirmative action project.” Geller also looked abroad, entertaining the idea that Prince Charles may be a secret Muslim.

This is not the first time that Geller has claimed that Obama authorized the operation to kill bin Laden only very reluctantly: in 2011 she drew attention to a pseudonymous website run by a self-styled pastor named Anthony Martin,who, as “Ulsterman”, claimed to regularly receive information from a “White House insider”. The swipe at Prince Charles, meanwhile, was probably inspired by her recently-declared lawsuit against Queen Elizabeth.

VCY America has featured on the blog before, after WND editor Joseph Farah made an appearance in 2011. Farah used his interview to make the salacious and prurient claim there is “a lot of circumstantial evidence” to suggest that Ann Dunham was actually Obama’s half-sister, adopted by her to help her mother cover up the scandal of his birth.

As I noted at the time, VCY promotes old-school fundamentalism;  shows have included a critique of animal rights with the gloriously Landover Baptist-esque title “Worship Not the Creature”; other offerings I noted in 2011 included “Growing Government Tyranny” (“The Obama health care logo looks similar to the Nazi logo”); “Spiritual Warfare and New Ageism” (including the “role of the Jesuit Priests” and how Oprah Winfrey is “helping to lay the foundation for the coming of a one world religion, a one world political structure, a one world leader, and the new world order”); and an attack on Rick Warren entitled “Purpose Driven Islam: Rick Warren and the Muslims”.

It should also be noted that Geller’s interviewer, Vic Eliason, is a also a vicious gay-hater, who in 1990 persuaded the UPI to fire a lesbian reporter named Julie Brienza on the grounds that as a UPI subscriber he should not be “helping finance Brienza’s work for a publication aimed at homosexuals”.

These kind of associations have brought Geller trouble in the past; in 2010 Geert Wilders withdrew from a film premiere that Geller and Robert  Spencer had organised in his honour after he became aware of the involvement of a group called the Christian Action Network.

However, not all Geller’s religious associates are fringe fundamentalists: back in September, she was endorsed warmly by Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT)  – the largest Orthodox synagogue in north America – as  being someone who is “merely speaking the truth”.

Britain First and the “Christian Patrol”

From the website of far-right group Britain First (1):

In response to the infamous “Muslim Patrols”, Britain First has launched our own “Christian Patrols”.

Last night (Friday 31st January) several units of Britain First activists spent several hours in East London handing out “Christian Patrol” leaflets in places such as Brick Lane and outside the East London Mosque.

Britain First has made a short video of its exploits, which included stationing two men on the pavement opposite the East London Mosque drinking beer as “bait” in a futile attempt to “draw out” hostile Muslims. The leaflets  – as explained to camera by chairman Paul Golding, sitting in an armoured vehicle – urge the public to phone Britain First to “report” any harassment by Muslims (for some reason, whoever originally uploaded the video made a half-hearted and botched attempt to blank out the phone number displayed on the leaflets).

This was, of course, no more than a stunt: the thuggish trio who were going around harassing people as a self-styled “Muslim patrol” more than a year ago tended to target individuals in back-streets or isolated areas, and it’s unlikely they would have challenged two burly men who were likely to resist. Plus, more importantly, they’re currently in prison. And given Friday evening’s foul weather, “Christian Patrol” activists standing around in the rain were more likely to catch a cold than ensnare any Islamic fanatics.

The “Christian” element of the patrol appears to be purely nominal: no hymns were sung, and there were no references to God, Jesus, or the Bible. I would be surprised if any of the activists are on their way to church this morning.

However, Britain First’s originator, Jim Dowson, is a “Reverend”, and the group was set up in 2011 to protect “British and Christian morality”. The group’s website shows an active interest in promoting Christianity as an aspect of traditional values: Golding writes of a “Holy Crusade” and of “Christian soldiers and fellow patriots”; there is a “Sunday Sermon” section “on the fundamental role that Christianity played in our long and glorious heritage”; and the site includes attacks on a “sordid” sex education video and on Boris Johnson for vetoing “an advertisement from two Christian groups regarding homosexuality”. There’s also an account of a delegation to an event organised by the Scottish Christian Party (an affiliate of the Christian Party). Hope Not Hate judges that it “is squeezed between its fascist roots and its religious ambitions”; Dowson and Golding both have backgrounds in the BNP, with Dowson in particular having played a significant role.

Britain First recently held protest in Cricklewood, ostensibly against a Muslim Brotherhood office above a shop; a counter-protestor named Martin Francis has an account here (H/T Charlie Pottins)

(1) britainfirst.org/britain-first/britain-first-launches-christian-patrols-in-east-london/

 

Remainders of the Day: Ariel Sharon’s Death and the Return of Jesus

Rabbi Messiah Discounted

From WND (WorldNetDaily), 22 January:

…today only, WND readers can get Carl Gallups’ “The Rabbi Who Found Messiah” for only $4.95 – a huge $21 discount off the regular $25.95 price!

In the fall of 2005, a 108-year-old rabbi, the most venerated rabbinical Jewish leader in Israel, proclaimed that he knew the name of the real Messiah. He insisted that he knew where the Messiah was and when He was going to reveal Himself to the world. Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri claimed that he had personally seen the Messiah in a vision.

But … there were just a couple catches: Kaduri declared that a particular and famed world leader had to die before the Messiah appeared publicly.

By “today only”, WND actually means “forever until we shift these books” – as of 1 February, clicking on the link and adding the item to the shopping cart shows that’s still available for $4.95, billed as “SPECIAL ONE-DAY OFFER… OFFER ENDS TONIGHT AT 10 P.M. AND IS VALID IN THE U.S. ONLY.” There is one slight catch, though: the purchase is bundled in with a sample subscription for WND‘s fringe-right Whistleblower magazine which the buyer has to opt out of to avoid being charged for a year’s worth of issues.

The “famed world leader” referred to in the blurb, of course, was Ariel Sharon – Kaduri (actually a politically controversial obscurantist rather than “the most venerated rabbinical Jewish leader”) had predicted that he would be the last Prime Minister of Israel, and when this prophecy failed it was reinterpreted by his followers as referring to Sharon’s death.

Kaduri also said that the Messiah had “attached his soul” to someone in Israel, and a note emerged after his death identifying the name of this person as “Yehoshua” or “Yeshua”. Even though Kaduri was a life-long adherent of a mystical form of Judaism, elements of the Christian Right in the USA decided this was a sign that the life-long Kabbalist had had a supernatural encounter with Jesus. Those who jumped on the bandwagon included Left Behind author Tim LaHaye:

when a much loved Jewish Rabbi dies at 106 years of age, shortly after leaving a secret message revealing the true identity of the Messiah of Israel, it is news of worldwide significance. This is a well-written story worth reading!

The book and an accompanying DVD were published last autumn, and its main selling point was that the death of Sharon would be somehow mystically linked to the return of Jesus. The book’s absurd and Landoveresque author, Pastor Carl Gallups (best-known for his crank claim that the Bible predicts that the anti-Christ will be named  “baraq o bamah”) has attempted to maintain interest by arguing that Jesus’ non-return before the death of Sharon shows that Kaduri’s prophecy “has come true”, but it’s clear that the book and its thesis are now past their sell-by date.

A screenshot of the cover of the book as it appears on the 22 January page shows that WND has slapped a sticker on the front advertising another apocalyptic product: a DVD called The 9/11 Judgment. This is an official tie-in with Jonathan Cahn’s book The Harbinger, which links the 9/11 attacks with God’s judgement against the USA. That book – published by Steve Strang’s Charisma House – has achieved bestseller status.