University Lets Man Live with Girlfriend!

The weird world of Agape Press has perhaps reached its nadir with its latest, and lamest yet, moral crusade:

…One father, Greg Myers, says he was outraged to learn that the school’s Student Affairs Office [at Illinois State University] allowed his daughter’s dorm supervisor to cohabitate with his girlfriend in ISU’s Watterson Hall.

Myers’ daughter, a senior at ISU, is a resident assistant in the dorm. Like her father, she objects to the staff cohabitation policy because of her Christian beliefs.

Perhaps a few years ago someone in Myers’ position might have preferred to ship his daughter off to a religious institution like Bob Jones University, where she would not become exposed to such wantonness. But that, of course, was before the Christian Right became quite so drunk on power:

Myers is asking Illinois State University to reverse its cohabitation policy, which currently permits unmarried heterosexual and homosexual staff members alike to have live-in romantic partners in student dormitories. “This is something that I think is just over the top as far as lack of character and lack of values in a policy decision,” the father says, “and I just think it is detrimental to a balanced education by a university charged with the responsibility of our children.”

Agape gives us few details about Myers, preferring instead to bombard us with some statistics:

…women are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a spouse.

and a bit of nostalgia:

Unmarried cohabitation was illegal in the U.S. up until 1970…

The above statistic was derived from the ubiquitous Charles Colson, and was apparently based on findings by the US Justice Department. Some might question the validity and significance of such a vague result, but that would be unwise: given that these people are already redefining science, debasing statistics should be easy.

The good Christians of Agape, by the way, also believe that global warming is “wacko”; that anyone critical of secret prisons is “unrealistic”; and (of course) that Palestinians should be ethnically cleansed from the West Bank.

Jerusalem Patriarch to Nullify Land Deal

Aaron Klein, WND‘s Jerusalem Correspondent, brings us the latest about Theofilos III, the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem – but with his usual twist on the subject:

The man enthroned last week…signed a secret document obliging him to nullify the recent sale to Jewish groups of land comprising much of a key entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, and has allegedly made statements against Jews living in certain parts of Jerusalem, WorldNetDaily has learned.

The original land deal led to the downfall of the previous patriarch, Irineos, as I blogged on back in May (here, here, and here). Klein notes that:

Irineos, still recognized as patriarch by Israel, has for now resisted World Orthodox leaders’ calls to step aside, claiming a former aide signed the leases without his knowledge. Sources close to the lease negotiations told WND the deal was signed by the financial minister of the church’s Israel bank accounts and that Irineos was directly involved with the property transfer.

The former aide is Nicholas Papadimas, who is currently missing. As quoted by al-Jazeera, Irineos said that:

“I can say that these allegations are lies. I would like to confirm that I did not carry out any property deal and I confirm that even if such a thing took place through fraud or any other manner then we will coordinate with the legal consultants to annul these illegal measures,” Patriarch Irineos said.

So, the nullification was on the cards anyway, whoever the patriarch was. Klein, meanwhile, allows an anonymous quote to enunciate the WND line on the conflict:

“The candidates were essentially blackmailed by the Palestinians that if they didn’t sign the document and cancel the lease, they would not get approval of the PA as candidates and could not run in elections,” a church source told WND. “This is an outright racist policy against the Jews. If peace proposals come through and Jerusalem is ever divided, the Palestinians want Jaffa’s Gate, but Irineos’ lease would give it to Israel.”

Apparently, Palestinians are not too keen on their Israeli occupiers taking over strategically-important chunks of land in Palestinian areas, and they don’t want the Greek hierarchy of their local Orthodox church colluding with such a scheme (a scheme, by the way, just recently described by British officials at the EU). Funny, that – must be racism, then.

Irineos is still hopeful that Israel will arrange his restoration, despite the ridiculous position that would put him in. Everyone else, meanwhile, appears to prefer his replacement – including the Roman Catholics. AsiaNews reports:

The enthronement of Theophilos III as the new Orthodox Patriarch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem opens a “new and more cordial chapter” in the relationship between the Catholic Church and its Greek-Orthodox counterpart, this according to Father Athanasius, Franciscan in charge of the Holy Sepulchre, who spoke to AsiaNews about the ceremony held on November 22 that he attended.

“Theophilos III is a good person, educated and cordial,” Father Athanasius said. He has already said that he is looking forward to renewing and strengthening ties amongst the various Christian denominations in the Holy Land.

That will mean an end to one of one of the few bits of light relief available in the alleged “Holy Land”: the tradition of Franciscans and Greek priests punching each other. The last outbreak was September 2004.

UPDATE: Joseph Farah himself weighs in. His argument is that lots of Jews lived in Jerusalem in the early twentieth century, and therefore they have special ownership rights over anything in the city that may currently belong to anyone else. Some think otherwise, but that’s anti-Semitism, of course.

Disney Works with British Churches

The London Times (owner: Rupert Murdoch) reports on the latest from Narnia (books owner: Rupert Murdoch):

The Walt Disney organisation has appointed Christian Publishers and Outreach, an evangelistic publishing company, to promote the Christian message behind the story in churches across Britain.

Alas, this is slightly botched. The company is actually Christian Publishing & Outreach (CPO), a moderate evangelical publisher of magazines and posters. Scotland on Sunday broke this story a few days ago:

The deal has been arranged with Christian Publishing and Outreach (CPO), a company that sells printed materials and other resources to 20,000 UK churches.

As well as posters and sermon ideas, CPO will even offer churches DVDs containing the official trailer for the £62m film, which is due out on December 9.

Christian Herald], said the film is probably the biggest opportunity the Church has had for many years. Bravo said: “We have seen enormous demand. A lot of churches have been wanting to get on board with this. This is a family film that appeals across the board. Obviously a lot of churches are very keen on CS Lewis and his writings and see this as a good chance to maybe communicate something of their message in the context of the film.”

This is the CPO’s usual strategy. According to a brief profile elsewhere:

They will frequently work with other Christian organizations to produce specific joint evangelistic material. Such collaborations have produced literature for the World Cup, Tour de France, Olympics, and other sporting events.

Liberal Christians, however, provide Scotland on Sunday with some sceptical commentary:

Don Cupitt, author of the acclaimed Taking Leave of God, said: “The film companies will use the Church exploitatively and deliberately. The evangelical wing of the church is always looking for a handle, often very naively. It is a mistake. It would be much better if the evangelicals had some thoughts of their own.”

The former bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, said: “I would have thought that CS Lewis himself would not have been easy with this. While he is the darling of the evangelicals he was not really strictly speaking an evangelical Christian, he was quite a complex and subtle theologian. So I think he would be a bit bemused.”

Disney’s partnership with CPO mirrors similar developments in the USA, as the Telegraph reported earlier this month:

After carefully avoiding religion for most of its history, the Walt Disney Co, in a sharp deviation from corporate policy, has reached out to Christian evangelical groups to help shape a marketing campaign for its big Christmas film, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The entertainment giant has hired several Christian marketing groups to handle the film, including Motive Marketing, which ran the campaign for Mel Gibson’s wildly successful The Passion of the Christ.

Russian Chief Rabbi: “Common ground” with Far-Right Politicians

Back in 1998, far-right Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky caused bemusement with a visit to a concert at a synagogue which had been bombed. The JTA reported at the time:

After the concert, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party got up on stage, said he was outraged by the synagogue bombing and added that he would support any anti-vandalism bill brought before Russia’s Parliament.

Zhirinovsky, who heads the third largest faction in the Duma, the parliament’s lower house, also spoke positively about the Jewish contribution to Russian culture, economy and politics.

…Berel Lazar, the rabbi of the bombed Marina Roscha synagogue, said he was bewildered by Zhirinovsky.

As well he might be:

At a news conference in Moscow [the prior April], Zhirinovsky blamed Jews for starting World War II, provoking the Holocaust, sparking the 1917 Bolshevik revolution — and destroying the country ever since.

However, this was just the unlikely beginning of their even more unlikely relationship. In 2001, Zhirinovsky actually admitted to being himself partly Jewish, but added:

“Why should I reject Russian blood, Russian culture, Russian land, and fall in love with the Jewish people only because of that single drop of blood that my father left in my mother’s body?” he writes.

At that time, Lazar commented that:

…it has become fashionable for people who formerly hid their Jewish roots to advertise them publicly.

“Thousands and thousands of people who knew they were Jewish and were hiding it…are opening up their closets,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

But now the rapprochement between Lazar and Zhirinovsky has become even greater (square brackets in original):

Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar met this week with Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Dmitri Rogozin, the heads of two Russian nationalist parties that disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda.

…Following the meeting, a statement on the official Web site of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, which Lazar heads, declared: “There is common ground. Both sides [the Jews and the nationalist anti-Semites – Y.M.] adopt patriotic positions.”

…A spokesman for Lazar, who was in New York on Wednesday, said: “The Foreign Ministry forgets that the rabbi is committed to the well-being of Jews in Russia. The meetings were public and demonstrate the status of the Jews to all the supporters of these parties; moreover, the two leaders with whom he met undertook not to persist with their [anti-Semitic] declarations.”

Responding to criticism from Israel, a spokesman for the Federation said that:

“…Lazar knows what is beneficial and how to take care of Russia’s Jewish community better than any Foreign Ministry official.”

Dmitri Rogozin’s Rodina (“Motherland”) bloc is also virulently anti-Semitic: its members have called for Judaism to be banned and blamed Israel for the recent bombings in Jordan. Russian prosecutors are also currently investigating a TV advert the bloc recently ran which inferred that dark-skinned immigrants were “trash” that needed to be “cleaned up”.

(Tipped from Failed Messiah)

Texas Rejects National Assoc. of State School Boards

Education news from Texas, via Agape Press (link added):

The Texas State Board of Education has severed ties with the National Association of State School Boards [NASBE] whose policies, says the Texas group, “continue to gravitate to liberal left.”

According to NASBE’s website:

The National Association of State Boards of Education is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s State Boards of Education. A non-profit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and assure continued citizen support for public education.

NASBE was particularly offensive to Republican board member Terri Leo, who argues that:

NASBE holds to the notion that the phrase “separation of church and state” accurately summarizes the Bill of Rights — even though the phrase does not appear in any founding American document and was used by Thomas Jefferson 11 years after the Bill of Rights was passed. Leo says the Texas Board of Education voted not be associated with an organization that chooses to perpetuate a myth.

Leo does not bother to explain why Jefferson’s interpretation of the Bill of Rights should be seen as so off-base as to constitute a “myth”, and the propagandists at Agape are not about to raise questions that would probably not occur to its credulous target readership. But there are other complaints:

Leo says she and her nine Republican colleagues oppose NASBE’s effort to encourage state boards to implement a bullying policy that has a special victim category for homosexuals.

…Citing a third policy area of disagreement, Leo notes that NASBE supports comprehensive sex education — while state law in Texas advocates abstinence-only sex education. On top of that, she says, “the Republicans on this board and the majority of Texans support” that law.

There is also another area of disagreement, which Agape does not note: Leo is also bitterly opposed to science, for religious and ideological reasons. As PZ Myers at Pharyngula noted a year ago, in a lament over Texas education:

It must be sad and hard to be a textbook in Texas.

Last year, the school board was trying to cut evolution out of them.

The year before, they were removing references to pollution, global warming, and overpopulation.

Oh, and now the phrase “married partners” is not to be used, because it’s too general and could include gay couples.

…There’s a name that keeps coming up in all of these dreary efforts to send Texas spiralling back in time to the Middle Ages, as if it were Bruce Campbell, only without the cool, and this time he’s fighting on the side of the Deadites. The name is Terri Leo.

Around the same time, I noted her dishonest quote-mining of Texas physicist Steven Weinberg in her attempt to have pseudo-scientific “alternatives” to evolutionary biology included in science classes.

Withdrawal from the NASBE is another move in the campaign by the notoriously theocratic Republican Party of Texas to recreate education in its own image; but with the state’s huge textbook market, the damage is likely to spread nationwide.

Publisher: Intelligent Design about “our Relationship with God”

*Hello to visitors from Pharyngula

(Corrected – see comments, and thanks to Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

The InterVarsity Press reports* on its role in propagating Intelligent Design materials:

The book Darwin on Trial, by University of California-Berkeley Law School professor Phillip Johnson, was published by both InterVarsity Press and Regnery Press in 1991. Two years later InterVarsity Press exclusively published the paperback version, and went on to publish five more titles from Johnson as well as two books by William Dembski. These books, along with Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box (published by The Free Press), have positioned Intelligent Design as a logical alternative to the perceived shortcomings of naturalistic evolutionary theory.

In other words, the movement has been promoted in the main by an evangelical Christian publisher, with a bit of help from wingnut outfit Regnery and one other publishing house. The Free Press is an imprint of Simon & Schuster – but Behe’s pre-publication reviewers hardly offered much of an endorsement: Robert Shapiro thought his conclusions were wrong but that book was provocative and so worth publishing, while K. John Morrow thought it was nonsense and sent a section to Russell Doolittle (a clotting expert) who was even less impressed. Behe himself claims that publication got the go-ahead after a review from Michael Atchison, but, as the ACLU of Pennsylania noted a month ago, Atchison never saw the manuscript and his “peer review” was a ten minute phone call with the editor, in which he said he thought Behe’s ideas sounded interesting (Two other reviewers are currently unidentified. For some reason, the InterVarsity report fails to note William Dembski’s The Design Inference, which at least had Cambridge University Press backing).

However, lack of support from mainstream scientists is no bar to success:

InterVarsity Press Publisher Bob Fryling can tell that Intelligent Design has suddenly become a hot topic. Sales of the four main ID books quadrupled between June and September of this year. The books are Intelligent Design and The Design Revolution, both by William Dembski, plus Defeating Darwinism and Darwin on Trial, both by Phillip Johnson.

ID proponents famously argue that their position is not a religious one; design can be inferred by scientists who are not biased, but that does not mean the designer is God. Their main publisher, however, is less interested in this distinction:

“The debate over beginnings reflects fundamental issues of how we understand the nature of humanity, our purpose in life, and our relationship with God,” said Fryling.

And there’s more on the way:

Next March InterVarsity Press will publish a book on Phillip Johnson, edited by William Demski [sic], called Darwin’s Nemesis.

One dead Victorian scientist who travelled the world to develop a theory that has become the keystone of biology, versus…a California lawyer (By the way, Dembski should not be too upset; elsewhere on the page his publisher does manage to spell his name correctly).

InterVarsity does, though, recognises that ID is controversial even among Christians (and not just Young Earthers):

While the debate has helped the bottom line at InterVarsity Press, it is a sensitive subject among the Christian professors that InterVarsity works with on the nation’s college campuses. There are Christian scholars on both sides of the Intelligent Design debate. “We have done the right thing to play a role in encouraging discussion of ID,” says Faculty Ministry director Stan Wallace. “It fosters conversation about a fault line within higher education.”

The lack of non-Christian scholars on both sides of the debate (besides Jonathan Wells of the Unification Church) is not commented on. Wallace apparently has a background in the philosophy of science, and he explains that

Many scientists, based on their training, do not accept conclusions that are not explained fully and only by physical causes…But other scientists reject Methodological Naturalism. They are open to considering that whatever can’t be explained by natural causes may be explained scientifically by non-natural causes, and still count as scientific theory, much as psychologists and sociologists appeal to the choices people make to explain some phenomena. “For scientists who embrace Methodological Naturalism, Intelligent Design is a non-starter,” Wallace says. “To them it’s just wrong headed. But those who reject Methodological Naturalism believe Intelligent Design theory makes sense of much of the data.”

This, of course, fits with the new definition of science recently adopted by the Kansas School Board. But, just like them, Wallace does not explain how non-naturalistic science should actually work as a practical method. Here’s my (hopefully) helpful definition, the Unwritten Rule of Non-Naturalistic Scientific Method (which I first posted back in January):

When observing any phenomenon, the scientist should first of all consider how it could be explained as evidence for an action by God, angels, or demons. However, a supernatural interpretation should not be given when even a poorly-informed lay-person could reasonably say that such an explanation is “silly”.

*Report is also featured on ASSIST.

US Report on Religious Freedom: Some Reactions

Two weeks ago the US State Department produced its annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Countries singled out for particular concern (“CPCs”) were Iran, China, North Korea (which has also just been the subject of another report, and now a UN Resolution), Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Burma, and Vietnam, but a number of other nations also received criticism. Reactions to the report are now coming in.

From the CPCs themselves, not much has been heard, although China has made a predictable response. Xinhua reports:

China firmly rejects, with strong displeasure, accusations from US State Department of its national religion policy, [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman] Liu [Jianchao] said.

…When asked to comment on this report, Liu told a regular press conference that the report posed unreasonable criticism of China’s religious policies, trampled the norms of international relations and interfered in China’s internal affairs.

Liu said China protects its citizens’ religious rights in accordance with its law, and all ethnic groups and people across the country enjoy religious freedom. “Chinese people have a say in this matter,” Liu noted.

Liu urged the United States to stop its “intervention” in China’s internal affairs in regards to religion, to “face up” to its own domestic problems of religious freedom, and to take more actions conducive to promoting China-US mutual understanding.

Russia is also unhappy. Moscow News summarised the report’s findings on the country and its neighbours shortly after its publication:

The report cited in particular societal discrimination and antagonism against Muslims in Russia, legal obstacles that work to the disadvantage of such nontraditional groups as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and an increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and the harassment of evangelical and Pentecostal Christians.

The report also said concerns remained about Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus.

Russian officials and religious leaders who enjoy a close relationship with the state have offered critical responses. Over to Interfax:

‘I have analyzed the U.S. Department of State report am sure that one-sided information from Russia was used for compiling this document’, metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, head of the Department for external church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate said at a press conference at Interfax on Tuesday.

…According to the metropolitan, protest groups and sects were major source of research by the American analysts. ‘None of the compilers asked the Russian Orthodox church or the traditional religions of Russia for information, and we have got what protest groups and sectarians wanted’.

(Kirill was one of the leading campaigners against the “Beware Religion!” art exhibition that led to criminal charges last year, and which I blogged on at the time). Kirill’s line was echoed by a government official:

“The Russian Foreign Ministry is bewildered by the persistence with which the U.S. State Department is trying to label this country as a nation allegedly having problems with guaranteeing religious freedoms,” [Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail] Kamynin said.

Kamynin also invoked the recently-revealed secret CIA prisons to suggest the report was intended to shift attention from this “touchy matter”. Russia Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar (a close Putin ally; the two even give each other medals) was a bit more positive, but not much:

In short, experts from the State Department have done a great deal of work on collecting and processing data, while their analytic work wholly deserves praise. Nevertheless, I am surprised with the conclusions deducted from this analysis. If the dynamics are so positive and if, in a period of 15 years, Russia has grown from a dictatorship of aggressive atheism to become a state that realizes the need to restore religious spirituality and provide thousands of religious communities with religious freedom – then it is hard to understand why, in its analysis, the State Department depicts our country as ‘unfavorable’. I believe this conclusion is made due to some kind of inertia in thinking, since, while recognizing the many positive changes, we are still being considered from a position of times past. This is, of course, not Russia’s problem

Meanwhile, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports on the Israel and Occupied Territories section, which

expands its criticisms of Israel’s treatment of non-Orthodox Jewish denominations, and places Israel on notice that the United States is monitoring its treatment of other minorities, including “messianic Jews” and faiths practiced by guest workers.

…Lengthy passages in the report expand on the alleged discrimination, looking at the status of non-Jewish spouses of Jewish immigrants; allegations of discriminatory funding in favor of Orthodox schools; and the state of efforts to legislate civil marriage. Such allegations of discrimination have circulated for years in Israel, but previous reports hardly addressed them.

(I noted a particular campaign against Messianics here)

The report is praised by Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, who heads the Religious Action Center in Washington:

“The State Department is trying to lay down more consistent standards in these areas and to hold friends and allies to the same standards as it holds other nations,” he said “It’s hopeful that this will make Israel sit up and take notice when it sees the international community so deeply troubled.”

On the other hand, the report is also accused of letting some countries off lightly (links added):

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended earlier this year that the State Department cite Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan as “countries of particular concern.”…But in its annual report last week, the State Department made no change to its list of the most serious violators of religious freedom.

[Chairman of the Commission Michael] Cromartie said the State Department’s finding that Turkmenistan had made significant improvements in religious freedoms in the past year was particularly distressing to rights advocates. He said most religious activities in Turkmenistan are under state control. And Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, he said, continues to cultivate a personality cult that has become an enforced quasireligion for the Turkmen people.

John Hanford, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, defended the decision:

“In Turkmenistan, presidential decrees and amendments to law resulted in the registration of new minority religious groups and the release of a number of prisoners. And just recently, the government conducted a first-ever roundtable with representatives of religious minorities. Nevertheless, serious problems remain.”

US Congressman Chris Smith, who chairs the House Human Rights Subcommittee (and who was largely responsible for the legislation which led to the first report in 2001), thought that the section on Vietnam could have been stronger, despite the serious concerns raised. The AP noted his reaction when the report was released (link added):

On Vietnam, where the State Department found improvements, Smith disagreed, particularly on the way the government treated Montagnard Christians.

The religious situation has deteriorated, he said, and the arrest and sentencing of Vo Vanh Thanh Liem (Nam Liem), a leading figure of the independent Hoa Hao Buddhists, was an outrage.

But what’s going to happen? Christianity Today reports:

Seven years after vowing to punish countries that restrict religious freedom, the U.S. government announced sanctions against the tiny African nation of Eritrea. The September 23 announcement represents the first such action the U.S. has taken under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

…White House officials opted to negotiate with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Vietnam before deciding on whether to impose sanctions…State Department officials plan to continue to speak with Saudi leaders and issue a statement by late March.

Simon Henderson, a conservative scholar with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, surveys the report and ends on a pessimistic note:

There remains the danger that the annual State Department report will become a dead letter, serving as a goldmine of information only for academic researchers, and that the Religious Freedom Commission will become increasingly frustrated by its powerlessness. The longest section of the 2005 report’s executive summary lists U.S. actions to advance international religious freedom in the CPCs and several other states. That list reflects time and energy invested by U.S diplomats but also suggests a triumph of form over substance.

UPDATE: Lawrence Uzzell, of International Religious Freedom Watch, also notes the report’s shortcomings, in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor:

The State Department’s annual reports on topics such as religious persecution, with their country-by-country surveys, get far more attention from the alleged persecutors and their victims than from Americans.

Unfortunately the department’s latest report, released this month, tends to confirm the view that Washington is reluctant to tell the truth about its own allies – or even countries with which it would like to be allies.

UPDATE 2: Amnesty International has a new report highlighting persecution in Eritrea.

Bahamas PM Backs Promise Keepers

ASSIST Ministries reports that the Promise Keepers are making headway outside the USA:

NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS (ANS) — Hundreds of Bahamian men and boys (and dozens of women) gathered at Nassau’s historic Clifford Park on Friday night, November 11, for the opening night of “The Bahamas Awakening,2 a cooperative effort between local Bahamas-based ministries and churches and the U.S.-based ministry to men Promise Keepers.

…The Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Right Honourable Perry G. Christie saluted the organizing churches, the Bahamas Awakening organizing committee and Promise Keepers for their work on building up and encouraging the spiritual strength of The Bahamas’ men. Representatives from churches and governments around the Caribbean also attended.

The emphasis was, as ever, on repentance for sin, the need for fathers to take more responsibility, and the importance of living according to divinely-ordained gender roles:

One of the most well known voices in global Christianity is Myles Munroe, who addressed his Bahamian countrymen on the topic “Discover Your Unique Design. “You can’t let your manhood be defined by culture. Proverbs tells us that many are the plans in a man’s heart, but God’s purpose is more important than our own plans. That’s where we find true satisfaction.”

Munroe is a prosperity gospel preacher, whom we’ve seen before on this blog; he’s also a prominent Christian Zionist (and a major ally of Ron Wexler on the new Ten Commandments Commission). ASSIST also notes PK inroads into the country:

At Her Majesty’s Prison men worked for three days on renovating a building to be used as a pre-release training facility. On Thursday, November 10, PK president and CEO Tom Fortson and VP for Advancement George Fisher visited the prison along with other local ministers for an “inside-the-yard” event.

…Among the most respected women on the island is Deputy Prime Minister The Honourable Cynthia Pratt, who spoke at a women’s luncheon along with Florida businesswoman Bernadette Claybourne and Toni Fortson, wife of PK president Tom Fortson.

Claybourne is the wife of Broward Times publisher Keith Clayborne; her own company, Behold His Glory, Inc., produces religious-themed bedding.

The issue of Christian manhood is one that has vexed the Christian Council of the Bahamas for a long time, particularly in relation to homosexuality and the presence of gay holiday-makers. This last issue was used to pressure Prime Minister Christie last year, as the Nassau Guardian reported at the time:

Pastor Lyle Bethel of Grace Community Church challenged Prime Minister Christie to overturn the pro gay-cruise position recently put forth by Minister of Tourism Obediah Wilchcombe and keep with the anti-gay cruise position he affirmed while in opposition.

He said while Mr Christie was visiting his church, shortly after then Prime Minister Ingraham had insulted church leaders by calling them hypocrites as a result of their stance on gay cruises, he asked what the position of a PLP [Progressive Liberal Party] government would be on this issue. “Perry Christie said to me ‘Lyle, my government will be against gay cruises.’ Now I’m wondering how far that has gone, because I read where Minister Obie Wilchcombe suggested that we were open to this.” “I want to call on the Prime Minister to be reminded of the that conversation in Grace Community Church yard, that his government is going to be opposed to this.”

Munroe was also part of that campaign:

He said the only thing keeping The Bahamas from a homosexual onslaught was the preamble to the constitution, which declares that The Bahamas shall have an abiding respect for Christian values. “They (homosexuals) know that, but we know that too,” said Dr Munroe.

Munroe warned of “national judgement” if homosexual visitors were accommodated.

Back in 1998, Perry’s predecessor Hubert Ingraham had stood up to the country’s religious right on the same subject, stating that he had

been chilled by the vehemence of the expressions against gay persons made by some in our newspapers and over our radio talk shows.

…I believe that the hysteria being created by certain individuals against gay persons visiting The Bahamas and who represents themselves as the leadership of the Christian Council, is becoming irresponsible. I believe that the hysteria is, as is usually the case with hysteria, unfounded. It is also un-Christian.

Ingraham had the advantage that he was not seeking re-election in 2002 (although he has just recently returned to the leadership of the Free National Movement); Perry Christie, in contrast, has the Christian Council as a major ally. An op-ed in the Bahamas News from 2003 gives more details:

Since the PLP came to power on May 2, 2002, some pastors have taken a new approach to deliver their message. Since the infamous “If you ain’t PLP get out of my church,” speech , some pastors have gotten bolder with their directives. Even if government officials are in the congregation, stern warnings are given. The attitude now is that we will make you or break you!

…In fact, some politicians are so intimidated by religious opinion that they will not make a decision without consultation. The big joke in the Bahamas today is that the Honorable Cynthia Pratt is not the Deputy Prime Minister, but a flamboyant pastor who lives in a million dollar house…

And now with the huge resources of the Promise Keepers entering the scene, conservative religion and gender politics is likely to be an even greater force.

Take with a Grain of Sultanov

The Muslim News carries a report derived from BBC Monitoring about the recent massacre in Jordan:

Russian experts see Israeli, US links in Jordan blasts, Lebanon murder

The “expert” on the Jordan bombs is Member of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Shamil Sultanov. Sultanov believes King Abdullah (“who, by the way is half-English”) may be behind the bombing “to strengthen his personal authority”, but also that (square brackets in original):

…the second theory I adhere to is the Israeli connection. Abu-Mazin [Mahmud Abbas], the leader of the Palestinian National Authority, is seriously ill. And many believe that his Fatah party may not win with such a leader, that it will definitely not win the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in the next few months. So for a very large number of players – for the Americans, for Israel, for Sharon, for the Egyptians – [Palestinian Minister of Civilian Affairs Muhammad] Dahlan would be the optimal player and politician to replace Abu-Mazin. In that sense, these explosions, and in particular the murder, as a result of one of the blasts, of Bashir Nafi, the Palestinian National Authority’s military intelligence chief in the West Bank, is, from my point of view, a clearing of the way for Dahlan.

Sultanov’s analysis was broadcast on Russian Mayak radio on November 11. This was the day after the BBC reported that al-Qaeda in Iraq had claimed responsibility; a development the interviewer felt no need to challenge his “expert” with.

Unreported, however, is the tiny detail that Sultanov is a member of the far-right Rodina (“Motherland”) political bloc. They’ve featured on this blog before; it was a Rodina parliamentarian, Alexander Krutov, who was behind the notorious petition which demanded the banning of Judaism back in January. Finnish analyst Inna Rogatchi described the bloc thus:

The only difference of Motherland block with a grass-root neo-nazis in Russia is that its leadership has been covered with a scientific titles, they are present themselves as doctors of science in different areas… there is hardly anyone in Russia who is mislead on the real stand of Motherland block – their speeches are quite clear and presents their views in full. The real problem is that too many of the Russian people, especially those aged between 45 and 55, seems to share this stand.

A short profile of Sultanov is available from the US-Russia Business Council:

Syltanov, Shamil Zagitovich

Affiliation: Rodina

DOB: May 16, 1952

Shamil Sultanov is currently a member of the Committee on International Affairs. He is a member of the analytical group the Association on Foreign Policy, the Party of Islamic Renaissance and the editorial board of the newspaper Unity. Prior to his tenure in the Duma, Mr. Sultanov worked in the Research Center on International and Interregional Economic Issues. In 1995, he became a member of the National Council of United People of Russia. A journalist and a political scientist, Mr. Sultanov has served on the editorial boards of several magazines and newspapers and is the author of numerous books and publications. Shamil Sultanov graduated from the international journalism department of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Here’s a bit more from Sultanov the “political scientist”, via an interview with the Kavkaz Center:

On September 11, 2001 Osama Ben Laden announced that he had nothing to do with the terrorist acts, and that these attacks were conducted by the right wing, who are against the sway of Jewish bankers. There is a good trustworthy chance that he really did not participate in these terrorist acts, but due to some reasons (maybe secret services played a certain role in it), he to a certain extent funded the American fundamentalists. So, there must have been some contacts with terrorists, if you take into account financial capabilities of the Saudi millionaire.

According to Pravda, Sultanov also believes that the West is plotting to break up Russia by 2015, and that

…The West wants to remove Putin and his team from power. They want to put their puppet on top and get Russia ready for sale.”

As we’ve seen before – keeping in with Putin tends to be a very good career move. Especially if you have no other talents than those of the demagogue.

Megachurch Pastors Demand Breast Implants

Once again, Charisma editor J Lee Grady astonishes with his willingness to display the dirty linen of neo-Pentecostalism. Recently it was American pastors demanding excessive remuneration for preaching in Europe; this time it’s sex (parentheses in original):

At one charismatic megachurch, staff pastors successfully convinced all their wives and female staff members to get breast implants. (I wonder: Was this discussed at a staff meeting?)

A church in California (known for its revival meetings and prophetic ministry) recently imploded after members learned that several men in the church had been having homosexual affairs with the pastor, who was married.

A leader with an international following (who wears the label of “apostle”) recently informed his leaders that men of God who reach his level of anointing are allowed to have more than one sexual partner. Then his own son offered his wife to his father out of a sense of spiritual obligation.

As ever, no names are named, although Grady does a J’Accuse on Clarence McClendon, a pastor who ditched his wife for another woman, and on Bishop Earl Paulk (an ally of the UK’s Bishop Mike Reid, whom we’ve seen before), who married McClendon to his mistress a week after the divorce came through.