Rev Moon Reviews Passion, Brings Peace to Israel/Palestine

Several bloggers (Jesus’s General, John Gorenfeld) have been having sport over Reverend Moon’s pronouncement that he is returning to Korea. In a rather rambling and disjointed report in which Moon explains why he has made this decision, he also reflects on The Passion, Jews and Middle East peace.

First, the historical background:

Who tried to kill Jesus? It was not initiated by the Romans. The Jews killed Jesus at that time.

After telling us that he went to the see the movie because he had promised his wife, Moon turns film critic:

It wasn’t that great in terms of artistic value or production, but it was very timely concerning who is Jesus and who killed Jesus. The main teaching of True Father is that Jesus should not have had to die… The fact that there was talk the Jesus was the King of Israel was very serious and contributed to Jesus death. The reality is that the Jews of 2000 years ago did reject and kill Jesus.

“Father” then applies his deep insight to the contemporary situation:

The Crisis in the Middle East is serious. Now Korea has calmed down and the Middle East is hot.

However, the Unification Church is doing its bit, and Moon describes several church events in Israel/Palestine, including one in a Jerusalem park in December 2003 where Moon adherent Rev. Michael Jenkins

before all proclaimed welcome Home Jesus!! and that Jesus is the Messiah and the King of the Jews and the King of Peace… Major leaders of Israel and Palestine were in support including Chairman Arafat and top Israeli Jewish leaders… If that ceremony hadn’t taken place all the Jews in the spirit world and those who will go to the spirit world would face impossible suffering. Because of this event this condition was liberated and the Jews are free and forgiven before heaven.

What’s this? Moon’s UPI wire service gives a puff-piece on the event that describes “two people representing the Jews”, who, by placing a crown and robe on a seat, restored the Jews’ “rejection of Jesus.” An Israeli report gives further details:

Three thousand Moon adherents (they evidently resent being called Moonies…) arrived in Israel from 70 countries to sit in the cold in Independence Park to listen to a two hour program of speeches full of platitudes, interspersed with musical selections from a Sufi Chant Ensemble, the Black Hebrew Choir of Dimona and the Gaya Band.

Bemused Israeli Arabs were bussed in from the Galilee, although there were also “a few Jewish peace activist types”. The report also claims that the organisers had billed themselves as the “Inter-religious & International Federation for World Peace”, and that the Moon connection had been revealed by the Jerusalem Post, leading to a far smaller gathering than was hoped for.

So who were the “top Israeli leaders” supporting the event? Jenkins’s speech tells us: “Dr. Eliezar Glaubach, a professor and long respected City Council member”. Er, that’s it…


As the last Left Behind novel hits the shelves, WorldNetDaily reports that Israeli intelligence has uncovered an “Islamic messianic whirlpool” of ideas. If you think LaHaye and Jenkins are living in a fantasy world, try

the march of Islam through Russia, the return of Islam to Andalusia and a victory parade in Jerusalem with liberated Saddam Hussein at the lead. This will follow after a war in Syria and the assassination of King Abdullah of Jordan.

All of this will attend the coming of the Mahdi, an eschatological Islamic figure with whom Osama bin Laden may or may not be identifying himself. There’s a bit of astrology thrown in too.

Something about all this reminds me of Criswell.

(PS [27 May] – I wrote this before I realised just how wacko WorldNetDaily actually is, rather than just conservative. It’s quite possible that the above was completely made up.)

God Directs Movie

Speaking at the National Religious Broadcasters’ convention, Passion public relations man Paul Lancer announced that

This movie has been operating on a God level. [This film] is a work of God.

But there may be evidence! Another production company is working on a TV special called Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion. The makers are looking for stories such as

a marriage being rescued, an addict who was set free, a Jew who now accepts Jesus as Messiah, someone who experienced physical or emotional healing, and so on.

The executive producer of this project is Jody Eldred, a member of Jack Hayford’s Charismatic Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California (audio interview, where he comes across as personable). Eldred is a director and photographer of thirty years experience, working on a variety of secular and religious projects. As well as a website for his Passion project, he has one of his own which shows him working in Kuwait and Iraq as a freelance for ABC last year. Here he tells us that al-Jazeera was “Iraqi state-run TV”. Ahh, so that’s why al-Jazeera journos in Iraq have to be imprisoned and abused.

China: Crackdown on Blogs, Religion

Yan, who blogs at Glutter, reports that Typepad sites have been banned in China. To tie in with this news, today’s entry concerns religious freedom in that country.

In 2002, Jiang Zemin announced that, “All the world’s people, including the people of China, should be free to choose how they live, how they worship and how they work.” Nice sentiment, but at the moment only government-approved temples, churches and mosques are allowed. For those outside the “approved” organisations, things are rather more dangerous.

There are plenty of sources for what is going on. A recent news article, reproduced on this Tibetan Buddhist site, provides a decent round-up of the current situation, including oppression faced by the Muslim Uighurs. The US State Department International Religious Freedom Report provides further details. There is also a handbook published by Human Rights Watch, China: State Control of Religion.

I’ll just note a couple of very recent developments from 2004:

Catholicism: The Tablet reports that

Catholics in China’s “underground” Church, which recognises the Pope’s authority, are bracing themselves for a fresh wave of government attacks following the arrest last week of one of its most outspoken bishops…Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar in northern China was arrested on 5 March on suspicion of travelling abroad illegally, and detained in a prison in Harbin.

The “underground” Catholics number about 10 million; the “patriotic” official Catholics 4 million.

Protestantism: ASSIST reports:

China Aid Association (CAA) has just had confirmation of the arrest of 19 house church leaders in Henan Province. On 24 January 2004, Ms Qiao Chunling and her husband, leaders of a house group church with some 100,000 members, were arrested in their home, and their computer, Christian literature, phone, cash and other belongings were confiscated. The Qiaos had with them the train tickets for 19 of their house church leaders to attend a Seminar on Christian Marriage that day in Beijing.

Later, all 19 house church leaders were arrested either at Luoyang City Train Station or on the train. The Qiaos are reportedly being held in Mangshan Detention Centre, Henan province. The location of eight of the ten still in custody is unknown.

Christians have also just been arrested for speaking out about what’s going on.

Falun Gong: Reported on their website:

NEW YORK (FDI) – During the month of February 2004, details of 30 deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in China were uncovered despite a continued black-out maintained by Chinese authorities on information about Falun Gong-related cases.

Many of the deaths occurred in the past few months, while some were deaths from 2002 and 2001 that have only recently been uncovered.

Bashing the Bishop (2)

The current New York Review of Books discusses the history of hand relief, with a review of a book on the subject by Thomas W Laquer. The case of Samuel Pepys (who blogs here) in particular caught my eye:

Only on such solemn occasions as High Mass on Christmas Eve in 1666, when the sight of the queen and her ladies led him to masturbate in church, did Pepys’s conscience speak out, and only in a very still, small voice.

The Sin of Onan was actually about failure to procreate, and punishing Percy in the palm was not such a big deal before it became a medical issue in the eighteenth century:

Within the monastery anxiety focused far more on sodomy than on masturbation, while in the world at large it focused more on incest, bestiality, fornication, and adultery.

Converting Iraqi Christians to Christianity

A report in the Washington Times confirms what I already suspected, about the gushing reports of new churches opening across Iraq. The reality, according to a local pastor, is that

“While the number of churches increases, the number of Christians does not.”

The missionaries lavish money in poor Christian areas, and cause annoyance by presenting local Christians with Bibles, causing Bishop Meti Mattoka of the Syrian Catholic Church to ask:

“Do we really need this huge amount of Bibles? Do they think we don’t know Jesus Christ?”

What’s more, local Christians seem not to share American optimism about the future of Iraq:

Some are deliberately lowering their profile in anticipation of a diminishing American military presence.

The report also states that Yonadam Kanna, the only non-Muslim member of the Governing Council, had failed in an effort not to have the children of mixed marriages automatically registered as Muslim.

Kanna, as I’ve noted before, was the only member of the Council to argue for exiled Iraqi Jews being allowed to come home – he didn’t get very far there either. The Times also notes that “dozens” of Mandeans have been killed since last year – a shockingly large figure also attested by the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia which as of last July was citing eighty dead, and many rapes since the fall of Saddam.

Meanwhile, one (rather crude) set of statistics by the Pew Research Center reveals that:

Majorities in Morocco (73%), Pakistan (62%) and Turkey (52%) express negative views of Christians.

In this context, one hopes that American missionaries are being careful not to jeopardise local Christians by their actions. Certainly, a number of missionary organisations appear to be above-the-board humanitarian outfits that enjoy the respect of local Muslims. But others may be making life a lot more dangerous for those without the option of fleeing to the USA if things go wrong.

Perverse Perspective on Peace

Despite the recent rift over The Passion, the alliance between Christian Zionists and Israeli reactionaries is back on track, with a huge effort to unite Christian conservatives in support for Israel and against Muslims being organised for October. According to a report by ASSIST Ministries:

Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders from around the world are endorsing an international “Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem,” to be held annually on the first Sunday of October, this year on October 3. People all around the world will be asked to pray in harmony for the Peace of Jerusalem.

The plan, according to the event’s website

is for all men and women of prayer throughout the world to assemble in New York City for an urgent two-day convocation on May 20-21, 2004 to affirm and sign [the] proclamation [of the October event].

But I’m confused. What’s Pat Robertson doing on the list? Or the International Christian Embassy doing as a sponsor? These are people who’ve been telling us for ages that war is inevitable in the Middle East, and that the only “peace” will be a plot by the anti-Christ (and the UN) before Jesus returns to convert the few Jews who survive all the horrors of the Tribulation. Indeed, Eagle’s Wings, the organisation behind the “Day of Prayer”, is also insistent that these are the “last days”.

The answer is that the plan is not so much about peace as such as trying to persuade conservative Christians across the board to sign up to a “clash of civilisations” worldview where “Judeo-Christian” values stand against the Muslims hordes:

[Rev. Robert] Stearns, co-chairman of the call to prayer, says, “We must realize the hour in which we are living. Throughout the world dark forces are at work, seeking to destroy the Judeo-Christian world and Western Civilization as we know it. This gathering is a strategic time in which both Jewish and Christian leaders can affirm the importance of faith, the value of unity, and a commitment to pray for Israel and the Peace of Jerusalem.”

So praying for Jerusalem means praying for Israel, and not for Palestine or Palestinians. And what does praying for Israel mean? Well, given that the above is as far as analysis of the Israel/Palestine conflict goes, and Stearns describes himself as “pro-Israel”, we can assume it basically means unconditional support for the Israeli government in whatever it does. Indeed, the word “Palestinian” appears only once on the “Call to Prayer” website, where it exhorts readers to visit Israel under its guidance, so as to

Understand and be able to articulate the reality of the current Palestinian situation along with an understanding of the Radical Islamic agenda as pertaining to the Judeo-Christian world population.

That’s it. Deftly put, but the implication is clearly that Palestinian complaints are based purely on a commitment to radical Islamism – and are part of an Islamic plot against “Judeo-Christians”.

Rev Stearns, who heads up Eagles Wings, is a multi-talented individual, and according to the website of his magazine Kairos he

has sung for the last three Prime Ministers of Israel, including a special concert for former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

One weird statement on the ASSIST report is that

The Roman Catholic Church was represented [in the endorsement] by Monsignor William Showali, the personal representative of the Latin Patriarch in the Old City.

Given that I can’t find a William Showali anywhere on the internet, I suspect ASSIST means William Shomali, the General Econmo of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Since both he and Patriarch Michel Sabbah have for a long time advocated Palestinian rights (and co-existence with Israel), I wonder if he was fully aware of what the event really aims to do.

Of course, there are actually plenty of Christian organisations out there genuinely trying to build peace in Israel/Palestine, such as Sabeel and Christian Aid. Somehow, though, I doubt Stearns and friends are likely to want to hear from them.

Down By God’s Law

Vincent at Religion Related Injuries has linked to an article in the Orlando Weekly about the Lawtey Correctional Institute, the “faith based” prison endorsed by Jeb Bush. Although this particular prison does not appear to be linked to the IBLP, the outfit that is soon going to be providing faith-based prison resources across the USA (see my previous entry on this), it gives a flavour of the kind of thing to expect:

the state [of Florida] has drastically cut funding for prisons across the board. Gone are the GED classes, computer classes, vocational classes, even television antennas. The faith-based groups, and their army of volunteers, bring these things back…At the community meeting we attend later that night, three Muslim inmates are siphoned off into an adjacent room, while the Christians sing along to a full band and enjoy the preaching of an ordained minister. No imam is coming for them tonight, and [chaplain William] Wright, a Baptist, is in charge of leading their spiritual journey.

Before the prison went faith-based, [inmate Michael E.] Wynn says, things were more laid-back. “It got worse for us the way the procedures went. We can’t watch Jerry Springer, we can’t watch nothing but news and sports (under the faith-based rules).”

But the biggest complaint from the men on Lawtey’s yard concerns each dorm’s council of inmates, which recommends disciplinary actions to dorm chaplains…In other prisons, the state prohibits inmates from having any authority over each other, lest resentment turn into violence…that’s the case at Lawtey too…But each dorm’s inmate council and each pod’s leaders, called “encouragers,” can recommend to the dorm chaplain that misbehaving inmates be punished via essay-writing or extra cleaning details.

The article also notes that prisoners are picked very carefully – because there are as yet no studies showing that faith-based prisons work, Jeb Bush is desperate to make sure that this project does.

Three churches are named by the Orlando Weekly as responsible for providing the faith at Lawtey: Beaches Chapel, Miracle Mission of Hope and the Church of Jacksonville. I checked out each, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

The Miracle Mission of Hope is an outreach of The Grace Place. The Pastor of The Grace Place, Rick Addison, is a Moody graduate and the church seems to be moderately conservative Evangelical. From their statement of beliefs:

The sole basis of our belief is the Bible. The scripture in its entirety is composed of the 66 books of the Old and New Testament, which originated with God, and was given through the instrumentality of many different chosen authors.

The Church of Jacksonville is more fundamentalist:

We believe in the full historicity of the biblical record of primeval history, including the literal existence of Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all people, the literal fall and resultant divine curse on the creation, the worldwide cataclysmic deluge, and the origin of the nations and languages at the tower of Babel (Genesis 1-11).

This church is run by Michael T. Smith, whose “mentor and spiritual father” is Creflo A. Dollar. The aptly-named Dollar is a Prosperity Gospel preacher in the tradition of Kenneth Hagin, although he also does “motivational” style-sermons. The message of “God will make you rich” naturally supports conservative visions, but the Church of Jacksonville’s website is not explicitly political.

However, Beaches Chapel, which the Orlando Weekly sees as the most significant player at Lawtey, is the most disturbing. The church’s statement of belief is explicitly authoritarian:

Church Government – We believe in church government to ensure order, and we believe in loyalty to those acting in rightful authority as they lead us in the Lord. (I Peter 5:1-5, Romans 15, Ephesians 4:11-13)

It is also the most political. The links page contains six links, the first of which, and most prominent, is a link to a right-wing Christian talk-show host called John Pendleton. The links page of the church’s school website has links to various Bush sites, including Columba Bush’s (Jeb’s wife) homepage…

Patriarchy: What is it Good For?

A snippet from The Manila Bulletin:

THE renowned journalist Barbara Walters did a story on gender roles in Kabul several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked about five paces behind their husbands.

She returned to Kabul recently and observed that women still walk behind their husbands, but now seem to walk even further back and are now happy with the old custom.

Barbara approached one of the Afghani women and asked. “But why do you now seem happy with the old custom that you used to try and change?”

“Because there are still a lot of unexploded land mines left from the war,” said the woman.

UPDATE: Whoops, this one’s not true:

…During the Vietnam war, the story was presented as a joke about how the Vietnamese were handling the grim the reality of living in a landmined country. In the early 1960s, the tale starred the Burmese who were said to be reacting to the threat of leftover WWII mines, During WWII our tale was told about British troops musing the change in the bahavior of an unnamed desert people…

Prisoners, Government Employees, Provide Captive Audiences for Christian Authoritarian

Vincent at Religion Related Injuries has noted the announcement of a faith-based prison in Florida, opened with a gushing endorsement from Jeb Bush:

I can’t think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional. God bless you.

The news report adds that

Yesterday, Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, the largest operator of privately run prisons in the United States, announced that it has teamed up with the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a Chicago-based church group, to bring full-time religious programs to eight prisons next year. There are plans to expand into all of CCA’s 64 institutions.

What’s more:

Two years ago, Mr. Bush fired the head of the [Department of Children and Families] and appointed Jerry Regier, an Oklahoma conservative activist with a master’s degree in Bible studies who headed the Christian Family Research Council…[Regier] has…introduced a program called Character First!, in which government employees are coached in 49 key biblical qualities including deference, virtue, loyalty and meekness. It is modelled after a popular evangelical Christian program called the 49 Commands of Christ.

As ever, the journo does not ask the most obvious questions: who or what is the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP)? And who’s behind Character First!?

Well, the answer is that both are derived from a controversial and authoritarian figure named Bill Gothard. He founded the IBLP and The Charter School of Excellance, which produces the secular Character First! textbooks. In 1999 these textbooks came very close to becoming standard in all elementary schools in Florida until the link to Gothard was noted by a local newspaper, The New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Quoting a second report from that paper:

Character First! was stripped from the [state legislature] bill after a New Times article revealed that it was designed by authoritarian Christian minister Bill Gothard and includes obedience drills — complete with group salutes and ”hup, two, threes” — demanding that children ”follow orders instantly.”

…Gothard, known to be a media recluse, has refused to speak with New Times, but his teachings can be found in seminars held around the world. He espouses ”universal, non-optional” principles and a ”chain of command,” which holds that authority figures represent God, and therefore wives must obey husbands, workers their employers, and citizens their politicians. He boasts of 2.5 million ”alumni,” who are given rules on everything — what clothes to wear, what music to listen to, how to manage money.

This sounds like the Shepherding Movement, and Gothard is a Charismatic, but although at least one source (here) links him to Reconstructionism, it seems that the late Reconstructionist leader Rousas Rushdoony disagreed with him on a number of issues. One critical assessment of his teachings (by, I think, a Calvinist by the look of it – more academic info is hard to come by) provides an outline to his thought with references to his works and statements. Including his war against Cabbage Patch Dolls…

Prisons, schools, books for government employees…I think this guy needs to become much more well-known between now and November. Very much so.

UPDATE (20 March): Blogger Jesus’ General has more on this in his 18 March entry. He links to an earlier New Times report and quotes this stirring number from Character First!:

Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly.
For when I am busy at my work or play,
And someone calls my name, I’ll answer right away!
I’ll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say “Yes, sir!” “Yes ma’am!”
Hup, two, three!

UPDATE 2 (22 March): More today.