No, Babylon and the Tower of Babel are Not in Saudi Arabia

From Jim FletcherWND columnist and “now director of the apologetics group Prophecy Matters

A prominent Bible-prophecy teacher claims the true site of the biblical Tower of Babel is in Saudi Arabia and the concept of “Mystery Babylon” actually refers to Mecca, not the Vatican, as some researchers of Scripture claim.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s no such thing as a “Bible-prophecy teacher”; there are Biblical scholars, some of whom work on Biblical prophecies in historical and literary context, and there are hucksters who instead impose meanings on the texts for their own purposes. In this instance, Fletcher is referring to Walid Shoebat, whose “Bible prophecy” sideline perhaps the most preposterous – if not the most vicious – aspect of the “ministry” through which he collects funds from undiscerning churchgoers:

…Traditionally, many scholars have placed the tower built in an attempt to reach God, recounted in Genesis 11, near Baghdad, Iraq. Some scholars believe “Mystery Babylon” will be located there. Other Bible prophecy teachers insist “Mystery Babylon” refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Shoebat claims these views are incorrect.

He told WND the key is understanding the ancient place names that correspond to modern sites in Saudi Arabia.

…”When it comes to the destruction of end-days Babylon, Scripture makes no mention of any of the ancient Babylonian cities: Nineveh, Ur, Babel, Erech, Accad, Sumer, Assur, Calneh, Mari, Karana, Ellpi, Eridu, Kish, or Tikrit. All of the literal references in Scripture are in Arabia.”

…”Isaiah says, the burden against Arabia,” said Shoebat. “They [other teachers] most of the time look at the traditions – it’s a traditional interpretation – that doesn’t encompass the entire oracle of Scripture.

This builds on Shoebat’s earlier claim that “666″ is actually a misreading of the Arabic “in the name of Allah”, and his son’s suggestion that Allah is a Babylonian god of “violence and revolution”.

First, the Tower of Babel: according to the Bible story, Babel is in the “a valley in the land of Shinar”, which had been colonised by people who had moved eastwards. The previous chapter mentions Nimrod’s empire in “Babel, Erech and Accad”. These locations are all in ancient Iraq, and the author may also have been thinking of Mesopotamian ziggurats.  There is absolutely no reason to transpose the story to the peripheral location of Arabia.

Second, “Babylon” in the Book of Revelation: Chapter 17 of the text is an obvious reference to the Roman Empire: the prostitute who bears the name “Babylon the Great” sits on a seven-headed beast: “The seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman is sitting. The seven heads are also seven emperors”, says the text. Rome, of course, sits on seven hills, and its pagan emperors at the time of writing had begun to persecute the Christians. That’s the context in which the text was written, and the context in which its first readers and listeners would have found it meaningful. The big mistake of “prophecy teachers” is to assume that a difficult text’s full meaning can be discerned only by interpreting it through later events – resulting in a subjective, idiosyncratic, and unhistorical mess.

Third, the “burden against Arabia” in Isaiah 21: this is tacked onto the end of a prophecy about the fall of ancient Babylon (perhaps reworked from a prophecy against Assyria), and a short and obscure passage about Dumah, an oasis in northern Edom. The text urges the inhabitants of Tema to welcome refugees from Dedan: the context is local and specific, and there’s no reason to extrapolate from this short passage to the idea that Arabia is actually a central concern of the author, or to infer that the passage refers to eschatological matters.

Shoebat thinks that “nukes” should “take care” of the Muslim world; and he just so happens to have discovered that the “real” meaning of Bible texts is to warn of the wickedness of a religion that came into existence hundreds of years after the author of Revelation had died. What an amazing coincidence!

Turkey Provides Gambia with 10,000 Korans

From The Point (Banjul, Gambia):

The Turkish Embassy in Banjul Thursday handed over 10,000 Quranic copies to the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC), at a ceremony held at the Council’s head office in Kanifing. Speaking at the ceremony, Ergin Soner, Turkish Ambassador, said he was very happy to be associated with such a prominent Islamic council.

He said both the Islamic Council in The Gambia and that of Turkey are the same, adding that the gesture would add on strengthening the relationship between The Gambia and Turkey. He said both countries are very much enjoying the political relationship they share as nations…

He thanked President Yahya Jammeh, who he said had long been in support of the council.

Actually, it’s more the case that the council has “long been in support”of the president  - a few years ago, the council bestowed the title of “Sheikh” on the dictator, and the body supports his continuing emphasis on opposing homosexuality (although the President of the council, Alhaji Momodou Lamin Touray, has generously opined that [reported speech] “Gambia has not yet reached a stage where capital punishment can be used on suspected gays and lesbians”). One opposition source reports “rumours” that the council has engaged in animal sacrifice on Jammeh’s behalf, “to appease the Djinns traditionally believed to be allied to the Darboe clan”.

A 2012 piece in the Gambia Echo judges that:

Yet since the coming into power of President Yaya Jammeh it has become overtly evident that Gambians do not fear God but fear the man – Jammeh. The statements, actions, denials, subterfuge from persons in leadership including religious leaders are a clear manifestation that Gambian leaders and the general public fear Jammeh more than they fear their Lord and Maker.

Turkey is also providing Gambia with USD1m in electronic goods, and plans to send 30 health professionals to the country. Jammeh visited Ankara in February; according to the Banjul Daily Observer, “Since The Gambia’s first foreign mission in Turkey opened in 2010 and a Turkish embassy opened in the capital, Banjul, in 2012, bilateral relations have improved significantly.”

One reason why Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip “Israeli Sperm” Erdogan wants closer ties with Jammeh is to reduce the influence of Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement in Africa. Erdogan is rumoured to have asked Jammeh to shut down Hizmet schools in Gambia; and in April, Reuters reported:

Last month, parents of the Yavuz Selim school in Kanifing, Gambia, received a letter announcing its immediate closure… 

Gulen’s Hizmet movement cites this as an example of Turkish pressure on governments to shut down Gulen schools, a key source of its influence and revenue at home and abroad, and discourage Hizmet-linked commerce from banking to construction.

Turkish Islamic lender Bank Asya, which has extensive dealings with Hizmet companies in Africa, reported it had suffered mass deposit withdrawals, weeks after a power struggle between Erdogan and Gulen erupted in December.

Convictions Against Dead Sea Scrolls Sockpuppeter Partially Upheld

Robert Cargill reports:

The NY Court of Appeals upheld 9 convictions of criminal impersonation and all 10 forgery convictions in the case of the People of NY v. Raphael Golb, in which the defendant created an army of pseudonymous online sock puppets to criticize, harass, and ultimately impersonate various scholars who disagreed with the academic findings of his father, Dr. Norman Golb, concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I’ve blogged about the case several times previously: Golb was brought to justice in large part due to Robert’s careful attention to detail, which Golb’s lawyer sought to stigmatise as “obsessive” and “stalking” (an accusation that is often the first refuge when unwelcome attention is directed at internet activity undertaken in bad faith).

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman issued a dissenting opinion, although Eugene Volokh says that “I think the majority opinion is likely right as a statutory matter, and that its analysis is consistent with the First Amendment.”

However, the court also overturned harassment and related charges, on the general grounds that the state’s aggravated harassment statute is “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.” Inevitably, Golb’s supporters have preferred to dwell on that aspect of the Appeal Court ruling; as Howard Fredrics announced it on Twitter:

@bungarsargon NYS Appellate overturns nearly ALL charges in #RaphaelGolb #DeadSeaScrolls case. NY Harassment law OUT http://tinyurl.com/lv3smcd

Fredrics’ Tweet was directed at – and retweeted by – Batya Ungar-Sargon. Ungar-Sargon previously wrote a preposterous piece on Golb for the US Tablet, in which it appeared that Golb (described as “a brilliant young Harvard Ph.D.”, although he’s actually past 50) had been persecuted for sending one email that was obviously a parody. I picked apart her account here.

Lippmann’s dissent shows that there may be different views on the criminality of Golb’s behaviour, but there is absolutely nothing to debate over what his actions tell us about his character.

World Congress of Families Presents Award to Christian Concern’s Andrea Minichiello Williams

From J. Lester Feder at Buzzfeed:

An Australian cabinet minister, a British lawyer, and a Venezuelan activist are among those who will be honored later this year by the World Congress of Families (WCF), the U.S.-based global organization that opposes LGBT and abortion rights.

Australian Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews will be named 2014′s “Natural Family Man” by the organization… Andrews will be receiving the award alongside British activist [Andrea] Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern, who will receive an award for organizational development. Williams recently sparked controversy for urging anti-LGBT activists to argue that homosexuality is connected to pedophilia during a visit to Jamaica in December.

It was Feder who first reported Williams’ alleged comments in Jamaica; most of the media, however, chose instead to focus on another of her statements, which was that the swimmer Tom Daley had entered into a gay relationship because his father had died. Like some others, I was surprised that Williams had made comments of such virulence, but despite some subsequent controversy Christian Concern never claimed it had been misrepresented.

Andrews, meanwhile, is a long-time activist with the Australian Religious Right, associated with the Australian Family Association and a co-founder of the now-defunct “Lyons Forum“.

Other activists receiving awards include Christine Vollmer, of the Latin American Alliance for the Family, and Theresa Okafor, the WCF’s African representative; Right Wing Watch reminds us that Okafor has suggested that gay Nigerians may have entered into a conspiracy with Boko Haram to persecute Christians. A piece on Christian Newswire has more details of prize-winners.

WCF is controversial not just for its anti-gay views; the organisation also has significant links with Russia. In particular, the WCF’s leadership work closely with Vladimir Yakunin, a member of Putin’s inner circle who is currently under sanction. The WCF says that it “takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family”, although the group’s spokesman, Don Feder (presumably no relation to the Buzzfeed journalist) wrote a piece in March for the American Thinker with the title “Putin Doesn’t Threaten Our National Security, Obama Does”. This prompted Cliff Kincaid to issue a rebuke, that conservatives “do not have to ignore, excuse, or rationalize Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

Footnote: Unfortunately, J. Lester Feder misnames Andrea Minichiello Williams as “Michelle Minichiello Williams”

Daily Telegraph Highlights Exorcism Course In Rome

The Daily Telegraph reports on a course in Rome that

…aims to train about 200 Roman Catholic priests from more than 30 countries in how to cast out evil from people who believe themselves to be in thrall to the Devil.

The conference, “Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation”, has also attracted psychiatrists, sociologists, doctors and criminologists in what the Church called a “multi-disciplinary” approach to exorcisms.

Giuseppe Ferrari, from GRIS, a Catholic research group that organised the conference, said there was an ever growing need for priests to be trained to perform exorcisms because of the increasing number of lay people tempted to dabble in black magic, paganism and the occult.

This is barely news: the course has been running for nine years. Matt Baglio’s The Rite: The Making of a Modern-Day Exorcist (2009) has the background:

According to Doctor Ferrari, the idea came about in 2003 when he met with a priest from the diocese of Imola who told him that a growing number of his fellow clerics were being inundated by parishoners suffering from problems related to the occult…

Ferrari decided there was a need for a university-level course that would cover “a wide variety of historical, theological, sociological, and medical topics, in order to go beyond the superficial and sensationalist aspect of of exorcism.” One wonders what Ferrari will make of the Daily Telegraph‘s take, which is illustrated by a ludicrous and grotesque cartoon apparition of the devil as drawn by George Cruikshank.

Baglio adds that Fr Paolo Scarafoni arranged for the course to be held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, which is run by the (scandal-plagued) Legionaries of Christ. The course’s website shows that registration is through the university’s Istituto Sacerdos, which is turn “a program of Mission Network, Inc.”

GRIS, meanwhile, stands for Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione Socio-Religiosa. As well as the exorcism course, it is also currently advertising a one-day conference in collaboration with the Bar Council of Acqui Terme on “Satanism, magic and destructive cults.”

However, GRIS and Ferrari are controversial; I noted one critical source in 2005, which claimed that

…on January 1997… L’Osservatore Romano (the official Vatican daily paper) started to publish a series of articles about the dangers of Satanism. This series was edited by Giuseppe Ferrari, the president of the GRIS. Ferrari himself wrote the first piece, titled ‘The Phenomenon Of Satanism In The Contemporary Society’. He described Satanism as an absolute emergency, drawing alarmist conclusions from a hopeless mess of rumours, cliches and urban myths. No specific examples, no precedents, no statistics. Moreover, Ferrari extended to excess the definition of ‘Satanism’, including ‘other groups that do not intend to present themselves as Satanists and, for example, claim to practice pagan rituals in order to harmonize with the occult powers of nature. As a matter of fact, these groups are suspect and we can include them in the multi-form world of Satanism’. Such a mysterious sentence was aimed at accusing a whole constellation of various movements, cults and philosophies.

Mo Ansar: Some Notes On Recent Controversies

From Jeremy Duns, on Twitter:

People asking me about Mo Ansar, here was his sockpuppet account, @The_Truthteller, originally called @MoAnsar2 [Link]

Ansar, who is known as a UK Muslim media commentator, says that he has been “smeared”; @The_Truthteller has now disappeared, although its author said before departing that he (or she) had taken Ansar’s name at one point in the past out of “solidarity”. Relevant screenshots have been assembled by Homo economicus.

Duns – who is known for his efforts in exposing online fakery and deception, particularly in the case of thriller author Stephen Leather - also summarizes some further charges against Ansar: that his supposed religious moderation is false, that he bears some responsibility for death threats against Maajid Nawaz, and that he made a vexatious complaint to police against Iain Dale.

Duns further suggests that Ansar may be running some other sockpuppet accounts; but while it looks to me that there’s a case to answer as regards @The_Truthteller, I’m not convinced by the other examples: they don’t sound like him, and the inference seems to be based purely on the fact they are supportive of Ansar. One of these accounts has also sent Tweets in my direction, while to my knowledge there’s no indication that Ansar is aware of my existence.

The issue of Ansar’s moderation has come under particular scrutiny since a television exchange with Nawaz in which Ansar appeared to prevaricate on the implementation of traditional hudud punishments in Islamic states; I don’t think this means Ansar is “really” an extremist: rather, he lacks the willingness to stand up to conservatives. As the historian Tom Holland wrote last October:

I don’t for a minute thinks @moansar supports slavery or judicial mutilation – but he can’t 100% historicise Islamic scriptures, so twists.

(Holland and Ansar used to engage in banter on Twitter, although their interaction these days is simply acrimonious)

The death threats against Nawaz, meanwhile, relate to the controversy over Nawaz’s Tweeting of a cartoon from the Jesus and Mo cartoon strip, which I discussed here. The image showed Jesus and Muhammad greeting each other with “Hey” and “How ya doing?”, and Nawaz explained that “I posted that image here to explain how, as a Muslim, I didn’t find this particular image offensive.” This falls far short of an endorsement of the whole Jesus and Mo corpus, but Ansar attempted to push the issue by claiming – incorrectly – that Nawaz had linked “to a website which depicts prophets in bed together.” At a time when tempers were running high, that was at best irresponsibly careless, at worst deliberately malicious.

The police complaint against Dale followed a spat in March. Dale writes:

This all stems from a twitter exchange between Nicky Campbell and Mo Ansar on 22 March which I got involved with. It concerned the chairman of the Birmingham Mosque (who has since sadly died) who had made intemperate remarks likening gays to murderers and paedophiles. Mo Ansar appeared to be defending him on the basis he was an old man. I asked him directly if he agreed with his views, as I would have found that very surprising given his self styled “thoroughly modern muslim” stances.

Dale then presents a Storify of the Twitter exchange. Here’s part of it:

Dale: @MoAnsar @NickyAACampbell Engage with the argument. Or are you as bigoted as your mate in Birmingham?

Ansar: @IainDale @NickyAACampbell Stop trolling me, Iain. You’re boring me.

Dale: @MoAnsar @NickyAACampbell Good. I will block you then. You’ve bored me for years. Which is why you never get on my show. And never will.

Dale: …you are a gobby prick who leeches off the state while pretending to represent a “community”. Bye. 

This doesn’t present Dale in a particularly good light; his question is goading rather than challenging, and he’s clearly revelling in his status as a media gatekeeper before descending into plain abuse. But Ansar’s absurd reaction was to out-diva him:

For the record, I have reported @LBC’s @IainDale for anti-Muslim harassment and abuse relating to his behaviour on 22nd March 2014.

Inevitably, Ansar’s complaint to police went nowhere, and Dale says he was also cleared of anti-Muslim sentiment by Tell Mama. A correct outcome - although Dale himself, when it suits him, is not adverse to conflating criminal behaviour with being robustly criticised.

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns and Nick Cohen have now published comprehensive accounts examining Ansar’s background and strange rise to media prominence.

WND And Thomas Horn Promote New Apocalyptic Potboiler

Staying with WND, news of a new book; Jim Fletcher introduces

 …my dear friend, Terry James, the well-known Bible prophecy teacher and author. Terry has been writing on these subjects for decades and represents – in my view – one of the real bridges between the generations.

Terry is of an age to be “old school,” but his burden is to reach young people with the truth of the Bible. Specifically, he views Bible prophecy as one of the most important evangelistic tools of this era. His books are always terrific, but a new one, “Cauldron,” is a cut above. It’s written for the person who knows little about the subject.

Yes, apparently there’s room for yet another paperback explaining about how events in the Middle East are signs of the end times. This time the focus is on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and, supposedly, “the push by both Muslims and Jews to build the Third Temple in Jerusalem”.

James is not so well-known as the likes of John Hagee or Tim LaHaye, but he’s brought out a number of books overs the years, and he enjoys influence as the co-founder of the Rapture Ready website. The book also comes with blurbs from LaHaye (“Deep Understanding”) and Mark Hitchcock (“Compelling!”) and a foreword by Thomas Horn, who has published the book through his Defender publishing outfit of Crane, Missouri (sometimes billed as “Defense Publishing”).

Horn, as I’ve written before, promotes extremely eccentric and fantastical conspiracy theories, in books with titles such as Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project L.U.C.I.F.E.R. and the Vatican’s Astonishing Plan for the Arrival of an Alien Savior. He ought to be a fringe figure, yet somehow he’s embedded himself within the wider conservative evangelical and fundamentalist milieu as some sort of Bible teacher.

According to the Defender website blurb:

Our authors have been featured in syndicated print, television and radio markets representing over two billion households worldwide including Celebration Daystar TV, FaithTV, The Harvest Show, The 700 Club, Prophecy in the News, The Michael Savage Show, WorldNetDaily, The American Freedom Network, Coast to Coast AM, Radio Liberty, The Southwest Radio Church, At Home With Chuck & Jenni, Changing World Views and dozens more syndicated and local programs.

Also:

Our distribution and sales teams are managed and led by committed Christians with many years of experience in the Christian publishing and retail industry. Their background involves selling to the Christian chains and catalogers including Family Christian Stores, LifeWay, Cokesbury, Mardel, Christian Book Distributors (CBD), Berean, and others.

Many of the books highlighted on the site are apocalyptic or conspiratorial, including some titles and authors I’ve looked at previously: there’s Temple at the Center of Time, by the late David Flynn; Isralestine, by Bill Salus; and Apocalypse Soon by Patrick Heron.

Evangelical Holocaust Survivor Says Mockery of Birtherism A Sign That Obama Is Like Hitler

From WND:

Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, with its messianic characterizations – the photographs in which a halo was cast around his head, the worship-like adulation from crowds – gave Holocaust survivor Anita Dittman nightmares.

About Adolf Hitler.

The petite 86-year-old over the weekend told a riveted audience at Olive Tree Ministry’s “Understanding the Times” conference it’s becaEbuse she sees clear parallels between Nazi Germany and present-day America.

Dittman’s “nightmares” were apparently triggered by what she regarded as the media’s over-inflated and uncritical view of Obama in 2008, including the detail that:

Establishment media reporters didn’t question his qualifications or competencies; conservative news outlets that investigated his birth certificate were openly mocked.

A photo on the WND website shows that audience members, with questionable taste, donned yellow stars for the proceedings.

Olive Tree Ministries (the plural is the correct form)  is the primary vehicle of Jan Markell, a veteran apocalyptic Christian Zionist. The line-up at the conference included Erwin Lutzer of the prestigious Moody Church in Chicago, as well as George Escobar, who heads WND film productions – and Dittman is the subject of a new WND DVD, entitled Trapped in Hitler’s Hell. Thus, once again we see mainstream evangelicalism and Christian Zionism converging with the hateful and absurd excesses WND‘s anti-Obama conspiracy-mongering - WND, it should be recalled, brought us the claim that Obama orchestrated the Sandy Hook massacre, while WND editor Joseph Farah has suggested that Obama used a speech at Buchenwald to send a secret message to Muslims signalling his intention to continue the Nazi holocaust – and that’s just a sample.

Dittman and Markell have been partnering for many years: Markell edited Dittman’s testimony into a book that was first published in 1979 by Tyndale House as Angels in the Camp: A Remarkable Story of Peace in the Midst of the Holocaust. The work describes how Dittman, who was the daughter of a Jewish mother and an “Aryan” father, was in 1944 sent to a forced labour camp north of Breslau (1). The scholar Yaakov Ariel places it within a genre of Christian Holocaust memoirs that “portray the behavior of evangelical Christians through the war years as exemplary, a proof that the acceptance of Jesus as a savor guarantees correct moral behavior, courage, and an ability to survive spiritually, if not physically” (2). A juvenile fiction version of her story, Shadow of His Hand by Wendy Lawton, was published by the Moody Press in 2009, as part of a series entitled “Daughters of the Faith”.

Angels in the Camp was later re-issued as Trapped in Hitler’s Hell: A Young Jewish Girl Discovers the Messiah’s Faithfulness in the Midst of the Holocaust, and to accompany the new DVD, it has now been re-published as a “WND Books Classics”. The cover shows a stock image of the gateway into Auschwitz, and there’s a foreword by the creationist Ray Comfort. Comfort and Joseph Farah have both opined that the Holocaust was facilitated by the theory of evolution.

As Terry Krepel notes, Dittman is not the first figure who lived through the war to be promoted by WND as having special insight into how Obama is like Hitler – up until his death in 2012, another favourite was a ex-Hitler Youth member named Hilmar von Campe. More on him here.

However, Dittman is not a new recruit to the anti-Obama speaker circuit – indeed, her fear-mongering over Obama’s popularity already sounds hopelessly out of date. In 2009 Brannon Howse of the Worldview Weekend Foundation produced a DVD in which she  explained how “America is going down a dangerous road that looks all too familiar to what she witnessed in Germany”.

***

(1)  The book names the location as “Camp Barthold”, and Dittman was forced to dig ditches against the Soviet advance. I assume this means that Dittman was in one of many subsidiary camps of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp (itself a satellite of Sachsenhausen); the creation of ditches to protect Lower Silesia was known as Unternehmen Barthold, or “Operation Barthold”, and several camps were established in the Milicz region for this purpose.

(2) See his An Unusual Relationship: Evangelical Christians and Jews (New York University Press, 2013), p. 164

Nadine Dorries Doubles Down On Catholic Church “Attack” Claim Over Novel

A dramatic headline from the Big Issue:

Nadine Dorris Interview: There is a Catholic Church Conspiracy Against Me

The “conspiracy” refers to her debut novel, The Four Streets:

…Critic Christopher Howse – a former member of the hard-line Roman Catholic grouping Opus Dei – described it as “the worst novel I’ve read in 10 years”.

He was brought in, Dorries told The Big Issue, because the original review wasn’t tough enough on her.

“The Telegraph commissioned someone to review my book,” Dorries said. “It was a lovely review. They didn’t like it so they got someone from Opus Dei to review it.

“And one of the central characters in my book is a child-abusing priest. So you’re not going to get someone from Opus Dei to review a book about an abusive priest.

“If you go on to Conservative Home you can see a review Iain Dale has written of the Telegraph review.

“I was told the Catholic church will come out and attack me for the book and that seems to be what’s happening.”

Howse’s review was certainly mocking, and perhaps made the mistake of criticising a potboiler for failing to be high literature (for a contrasting positive review, there’s Lucy Helliker at the Express); but the suggestion that it was written in bad faith as part of a conspiracy to protect the Catholic Church from criticism over priestly child abuse is just the latest variation of the histrionic and vicious counter-attacks she dishes out against critical voices (including, it should be remembered, her ex-boyfriend’s estranged wife).

In this instance, though, Dale appears to have put the idea in her head:

…And then you need to take into account Howse used to be a member of Opus Dei. I doubt he took kindly to the storyline of the Catholic Priest abusing a young girl. True to form he gave it a one star review and called it the worst novel he’d read in ten years. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

The claim also made it into the Daily Mail, albeit just as “some wonder”.

Dale also suggested, more reasonably, that the Telegraph may have a particular animus against Dorries over her views on MPs expenses and  the paper’s owners, and he noted a row on Twitter with the paper’s diarist Tim Walker, after Walker was disinvited from her book launch:

…Yesterday [10 April] morning he went even further in a vitriolic attack on her. To be honest he showed himself up. Nadine wasn’t taking any of it and accused him of lying. When he was caught out denying Cristina Odone had ever been commissioned to write any piece for the Telegraph Nadine posted a tweet from Odone confirming she had indeed been asked to do just that. “Telegraph asked to interview Nadine – I read the book, couldn’t put it down and told her so.”

Note here the slide from Dorries’ claim of an “original review” that “wasn’t tough enough on her”, to an “interview”. Here’s the Twitter context:

Dorries: Daily Telegraph rejected review of my book they commissioned  Christina Odone to write and got a bloke to write a spiteful nasty one instead

Odone: …telegraph asked to interview Nadine -i read the book, couldn’t put it down, and told her so

Walker: fair enough! At the Telegraph, there is a belief in free speech. So Nadine’s claim untrue.

Dorries: Sadly, @ThatTimWalker telling porkies – claims DT did not commission review from Christina Odone. Happy to show any journo texts on phone. [Later deleted - RB]

Dorries: OFFS have you read Christina’s tweet? You LIED is that plain enough?

Odone’s interview has not apparently been published, and Dorries may have valid cause to complain; but there’s nothing here to suggest that Walker “LIED”, or that – in a typical piece of slipperiness from Dale – he “was caught out denying Cristina Odone had ever been commissioned to write any piece”. Why can’t these people just make their case honestly?

The dispute also made its way into the Press Gazette:

Howse suggests that any conspiracy theories are wide of the mark: “I rather admire Nadine Dorries, and I hoped her novel would be good.

“Reading it spoiled my weekend. It’s just so badly told: a sagging narrative with a castration fantasy stuck on top. It’s not my fault.

“I wasn’t invited to the party anyway, but if we meet in future I hope we’d speak civilly.”

Author Who Sees God’s Judgment in 9/11 To Open National Day of Prayer Event

From WND:

“Harbinger” Author to Open National Day of Prayer

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, author of runaway bestseller “The Harbinger,” has been invited to join the speakers for the 63rd annual National Day of Prayer on a date he tells WND holds a special significance in both his book and American history.

…”April 30 is the date given in ‘The Harbinger,’” Cahn told WND. “April 30, 1789, is the day that America came into existence as a fully formed nation with president and Congress, and on that day George Washington and America’s first government prayed and dedicated America to God at the very corner of what today we call Ground Zero.

“Now on the anniversary of that first prayer gathering, with America in grave moral and spiritual apostasy, the nation gathers again for prayer,” Cahn said.
Get “The Harbinger” and movie companion “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment.”

According to the website of the National Day of Prayer Task Force:

The National Observance in Washington D.C. will be broadcast LIVE on GOD TV (DirecTV channel 365) and their networks on Thursday, May 1… Speakers include Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of Rev. Billy Graham), Dr. James and Shirley Dobson, Congressman Robert Aderholt, Mrs. Vonette Bright, The Honorable Bob McEwen, Congressman Mike McIntyre, Don Moen, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy, Dr. Dick Eastman, Mr. David Butts, Mr. John Bornschein, and many more. 

I suspect Cahn’s “30 April” rather than “1 May” is a bit of poetic licence rather than an error.

WND tries to infer that this event is the official embodiment of the National Day of Prayer; the presence of the House of Representatives Chaplain Patrick Conroy and of Billy Graham’s daughter perhaps adds to this impression. However, although the National Day of Prayer is indeed designated by the United States Congress, this does not mean that the “Task Force” and its particular “National Observance” event have any kind of “official” status; indeed, in 2009 the Task Force issued a statement complaining that the Obama administration had not responded to a request “to send a representative on behalf of the Executive Branch”.

I’ve written about Cahn a number of times: for some years he has used his Jewish heritage to claim special insight into esoteric “Hebrew Mysteries” in the Bible and such, but he hit the big-time with  the Harbinger. The book interprets 9/11 through the lens of how the Hebrew Bible treats ancient Israelite history; in particular, Cahn points to two American politicians (Jonathan Edwards in 2001 and Tom Daschle three years later) who quoted a Bible verse out of context following the attack as “inviting judgment” on the USA.

By the “corner of what today we call Ground Zero”, Cahn means St Paul’s Chapel, which was damaged by debris from the Twin Towers. George Washington indeed attended an Episcopal prayer service at this location following his first inauguration; his most recent serious biographer, Ron Chernow, has the context (Washington: A Life, page 569):

Setting the pattern for future inaugural speeches, Washington did not delve into minute policy matters… National policy needed to be rooted in private morality, which relied on the “eternal rules of order and right” ordained by heaven itself. On the other hand, Washington refrained from endorsing any particular form of religion.

…After this speech, Washington led a broad procession of delegates up Broadway… to an Episcopal prayer service at St. Paul’s Chapel, where he was given his own canopied pew.

But there’s no reference here to America being “dedicated to God”; Cahn is probably thinking of a spurious “Washington Prayer”, which Franklin Steiner showed in 1936 had been concocted later from a 1783 letter to state governors. In Cahn’s worldview, the prayer would not just be an example of Washington’s piety: such a “dedication” would amount to a near-magical invocation, unleashing God as a mechanistic spiritual force in American history.

Cahn previously took part in a similar “Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast” in January 2013; WND‘s editor, the birther Jospeh Farah, was also due to attend, but dropped out amid some confusion (he eventually sent a message that was read out). The event was apparently followed by some sort of copyright dispute between Cahn and the event organisers.