NY Christians Protest Against Korean Faith Healer

A reader sends me a link to a remarkable set of photos of a protest against Korean evangelist Lee Jae-Rock in New York last week. The protestors were all Christians who believe that Lee is heretical; banners included signs such as “JESUS IS THE ONLY ROCK! NO JAE ROCK!”, and one, from New York Presbyterian Church, even goes so far as to exhort us to “STOP LEE JAE-ROCK’S HERETICAL CRUSADE”.

Other banners I can make out belong to the All National Disciple Church of NY, The Word in Action Church, the NY Central Korean Church of the Nazarene, the Council of Korean Churches in Greater NY and the ominous-sounding “Christian Counter-Heresy Committee” (? – last word obscured).

Lee and his Manmin church have been of periodic interest to this blog several times; he claims to be able to cure all manner of illnesses, and that supernatural signs have followed his ministry. He also has a rather eccentric theology, which involves UFOs and blood transfusions, and 1999 his followers stormed a Korean TV studio to prevent the broadcast of a critical documentary. Recently he held a healing conference in the Philippines which featured David Prentice of the Family Research Council and was supported by Filipino government officials.


Shurely Psalm Mishtake?

The discovery of a medieval Psalter in an Irish bog is being hailed as the “Irish Dead Sea Scrolls”; it’s also got Christian Zionists excited. Agape Press gets a soundbite from prominent Christian Zionist Dave Hunt (link in original):

The book was open to Psalm 83, in which God hears the complaints of nations plotting the destruction of Israel. Dave Hunt, founder of The Berean Call, says the discovery is “remarkable” in light of Israel’s current war with Hezbollah and other enemies; he believes God’s promises still apply to Israel, although many believers seem to dismiss this idea that scripture addresses contemporary events…”‘That’s my land,’ God said in Leviticus 25:23. ‘I gave it to these people.'”

The Psalm is actually an invocation for God to destroy the nations opposed to ancient Israel:

See how your enemies are astir,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

…Make them like tumbleweed, O my God,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest
or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm

Very exciting for those of an apocalyptic disposition, and word of the “omen” has spread across the internet – WorldNetDaily has also run a piece on the supposedly synchronicitous find.

However, the National Museum of Ireland has now published a clarification:

…The Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Dr. Patrick F. Wallace, would like to highlight that the text visible on the manuscript does NOT refer to wiping out Israel but to the ‘vale of tears’.

This is part of verse 7 of Psalm 83 in the old latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) which, in turn, was translated from an original Greek text would have been the version used in the medieval period. In the much later King James version the number of the Psalms is different, based on the Hebrew text and the ‘vale of tears’ occurs in Psalm 84. The text about wiping out Israel occurs in the Vulgate as Psalm 82 = Psalm 83 (King James version).

It is hoped that this clarification will serve comfort to anyone worried by earlier reports of the content of the text.

The Douey-Rheims translation of the Catholic Psalm 83 can be seen here; the KJV and other English translations give us “Valley of Baca” for “vale of tears”, which was apparently the proper name of a “Valley of Weeping” near Mt Zion in Jerusalem (see here).

(Hat tips: Paleojudaica, Slugger O’Toole)

Anti-Communist Islamist Recruits for Lebanon Conflict in South Asia

AKI reports from Indonesia:

Some 200 Islamist extremists mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand have enrolled to fight against Israel in the Middle East, a top official of a radical Indonesian Muslim organisation said Thursday. The Islamic Youth Movement’s Suaib Didu, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that he was aware of 217 jihadists who were traveling to the Middle East…The group includes 72 Indonesians, 57 Filipinos, 36 Malaysians, 43 Thais, five militants from Brunei, three from Bangladesh and one from Singapore.

…”We don’t want their jihad to be used later to damage the name of Islam,” he said adding that the militant’s objective was to bomb Israeli and American targets around the world.

Didu explained his motivation further in the Jakarta Post:

He said the militants, who were inspired by his book entitled Radikalisme: Antara Jihad dan Terorisme (Radicalism: Between Jihad and Terrorism), came to him to ask for guidance about jihad.

“I told them it was better to go to Palestine and Lebanon to fight Israel than to stir things up here,” he said. “I also told them not to attack civilians in their jihad, especially women and children because they are innocent.”

Indonesia Matters adds an extra detail:

Suaib Didu claims that three of his men are not Muslims, but men who believe they are fighting for a humanitarian cause, and, Suaib Didu added, Jerusalem is a holy city not just for Muslims.

Didu previously raised forces to fight the US in Afghanistan and Iraq; in 2001, he claimed that around three hundred Indonesians had gone to assist the Taliban, and before the invasion of Iraq, Time reported that he “claims to have thousands of volunteers ready to go to war if the U.S. attacks Iraq”.

However, Didu is also interested in the home front, and he had a warning for any dissenters in the run-up to the attack on Afghanistan:

A hardline Muslim youth group warned on Thursday anyone backing Washington’s self-declared war on terrorism should leave Indonesia, or risk being forced out. The Islamic Youth Movement (GPI), which claims hundreds of its followers have signed up for a possible war against the United States, said it would be dangerous for any U.S. supporters to stay in the world’s largest Muslim nation after a possible strike against Islamic Afghanistan. “We will evacuate anyone who supports the U.S. aggression against Afghanistan… regardless of his nationality. This even applies for Indonesians,” GPI chairman Suaib Didu told Reuters. Hundreds of hardline Muslims at the weekend raided hotels in search for Americans and have warned them to leave the country. Didu said his group was planning similar action against citizens of U.S. allies, not to scare foreigners but as a preventive security measure. “After the revenge strike, there will be high passions and these people will certainly be targets. So, before anything happens, we want to escort them to the airport for their own safety. They can return when things calm down,” he said. Asked what would his group do if they cannot persuade people to leave, Didu said: “We love peace. We will not use any coercion. But if they refuse, they have to bear the risks.”

In this instance Didu failed to follow through, but the same gangsterish clichés were in evidence in 2003, when the Islamist rabble-rouser produced an anti-war petition which foreigners were “encouraged” to sign. The Syndey Morning Herald reported:

Today police questioned Suaib Didu, leader of the radical Islamic Youth Movement (GPI) whose members allegedly harassed foreigners during an anti-war rally on March 24, group spokesman Adang Hidayat said.

Police have arrested 10 GPI members for allegedly trying to force foreigners to sign a document condemning the US invasion of Iraq.

Police accuse Didu of threatening others with violence, but it is not clear if he will be detained further, Hidayat said. Police could not be reached for comment.

Hidayat said the arrested GPI members had only requested the foreigners to join a poll on whether they were for or against the war on Iraq.

“Maybe our boys were so enthusiastic that the foreigners got scared,” Hidayat told AFP.

Didu also had a warning for US interests in the country:

“For the U.S. installations here, we will want them to shut down. We will try to take over these places. For McDonald’s and KFC we want them to halt operations”

US capitalism, though, is just one enemy; pre-9/11 he was more interested in railing against “communists” (i.e. anyone vaguely left-wing) for the shocking crime of publishing books. This was reported in May 2001:

Gramedia, the country’s largest bookstore chain, is removing books on communism from its shelves in response to threats from anticommunist groups who threatened to raid the stores and burn the books.

The controversy surrounding the sale of books on communism, Marxism and Leninism was sparked by a recent rally by the Islam Youth Movement  (GPI), during which the demonstrators burned books on Karl Marx.

The group, a member of the Anti-Communist Coalition, has said it will raid major bookstores in the capital on May 20 to commemorate National Awakening Day.

“All of our people, around 36,000 in Greater Jakarta, will move on that day to show our commitment to fight against communism,” GPI chairman H.M. Suaib Didu said.

When asked if his group would raid the bookstores even if the titles they objected to had already been removed from the shelves, Suaib said: “We’ll go to the publishers and demand they stop the production (of these books).”

The activities of the Anti-Communist Coalition (or the “Aliansi Anti-Komunis”) were also discussed in the Australian Financial Review, which describes it as a group that “brings together Moslem and nationalist groups agitating for a return to more authoritarian government”. Among works targeted were writings by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the country’s best-known author and political prisoner under Suharto, and associates of the former US-backed dictator loom large in the coalition. Targeted bookshops were offered little support; one Marxist website joins the dots:

Especially when attacking the Left, those organisations collaborate openly with the police and army. We have here a curious concurrence. On the one hand fundamentalism is targeted by the state for acts of terrorism against the public order. On the other hand fundamentalism is supported by the state as a force of terror against the working class and socialism. Muslim extremism is an essential instrument in the counter-revolution.

If the promised bombing “of Israeli and American targets around the world” actually materialises, it may be worth remembering what these supposed champions of suffering Lebanese civilians actually stand for.


Variations: Palestine Jihad Bombing Force, Palestine Jihad Bombing Troops, Suaib Dido

UK Chief Rabbi Invokes Mother Teresa at Rally for Israel

MSN reports on Sunday’s pro-Israel rally in London, and includes a curious quote that has British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks supposedly citing none other than Mother Teresa in the context of the bombardment of Gaza:

“Israel is fighting today in Gaza because one year ago it withdrew from Gaza. And Israel discovered the terrible truth spoken by the late Mother Theresa – that no good deed goes unpunished.”

Of course, the famous aphorism did not originate with Mother Teresa; a quick internet search attributes it to Claire Booth Luce. But mentioning Luce, one suspects, would not give the speaker the same sense of vicarious virtue that an invocation of the late nun can impart. Whether Sacks went on to name-check Gandhi and Martin Luther King is not recorded.

Some pictures of the rally can be seen here. It looks like it was well organised – the tone appears to have been upbeat, with all the banners bearing the same glib message of “Peace Yes, Terror No”. A more attractive scene than that provided by Azzam Tamini, the ranting Palestinian advocate I had cause to criticise a few days ago, whether or not the political purpose of the event is persuasive. However, a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which organised a counter-protest, reports some unpleasantness.

Sacks’ comments, meanwhile, can be seen as a criticism of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, a decision that has been condemned by the Israeli right ever since. This is a new angle for the chief rabbi, who a few years ago tried criticising Israel from the left, when he suggested to the Guardian that events were “forcing Israel into postures that are incompatible in the long run with our deepest ideals.” This created a bit of a stir, and Sacks went on to deny that he had ever said it.

(Hat tip: Jews Sans Frontieres)

Samaritan’s Purse: Lebanese Muslims “Softened” to Gospel

Of all the comment and analysis about the Israeli attack on Lebanon, Agape provides the unlikeliest quote, from Ken Isaacs of Samaritan’s Purse:

He says this crisis has softened the hearts of many Muslims in Lebanon to the spiritual truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Samaritan’s Purse, as is well-known, has been controversial for several years, ever since its President Franklin Graham famously called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion”. Isaacs has wisely avoided this kind of rhetoric, and the organisation’s humanitarian efforts do appear to have been appreciated in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the proselytising agenda remains central:

…in the midst of what is being called a humanitarian crisis of major proportions, Samaritan’s Purse has continued to reach out through its partners to the war-devastated people of southern Lebanon. “Right now,” Isaacs notes, “we’re supporting a network of six pastors and over 20 volunteers who are working out through the schools.”

…Also, Isaacs observes, a number of Muslim families have asked for Bibles. “So, where people are asking us for it, we’re making that available — that’s up to them,” he asserts. “As I said, it’s a very difficult situation, and resources are tight right now.”

But Samaritan’s Purse is not just focused on converting Muslims; its website adds that it is “helping provide food parcels to hungry Israelis living in the shelters”, and it suggests that we should pray for “Muslim and Jewish people to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and experience His peace in their hearts and homes”.

UPDATE: Jesus General offers some free advertising advice.

Saudi Arabia Wins New US Human Rights Waiver

This is a week old, but it has only just caught my eye. Headline News reports:

The State Department officials on Wednesday said that the United States has extended a waiver that avoids imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia…The extension, which came Wednesday, was based on the kingdom’s efforts to improve religious tolerance in the region, officials said.

The State Department website gives further details, noting

…policies designed to halt the dissemination of intolerant literature and extremist ideology, both within Saudi Arabia and around the world, to protect the right to private worship, and to curb harassment of religious practice. For example, the Saudi Government is conducting a comprehensive revision of textbooks and educational curricula to weed out disparaging remarks toward religious groups, a process that will be completed in one to two years. The Saudi Government is also retraining teachers and the religious police to ensure that the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims are protected and to promote tolerance and combat extremism. The Saudi Government has also created a Human Rights Commission to address the full range of human rights complaints.

The Saudi Human Rights Commission consists of government officials, and Human Rights Watch complains that it “lacks independence”; when thirteen reformers were arrested in 2004, the commission failed to speak out (apparently, the reformers were jailed after asking for a non-governmental human rights commission to be established; some of them were pardoned by King Abdullah last year). However, the commission’s president, Turki ibn Khalid al-Sudairi, insists that the commission is independent, and is committed

to promoting human rights in a way that safeguards the Kingdom’s cultural values, which include adherence to Shari’ah law.

The commission’s board of directors does not include any women, a decision which al-Sudairi justified in May:

Al-Sudairi said while addressing a number of academics in Riyadh that a board member should possess vast experience and knowledge about the rights and problems of the people in various walks of life, as well as a personality suited to the nature of his task.

The US State Department produced a report on religious freedom last November, which was met with complaints that it “tends to confirm the view that Washington is reluctant to tell the truth about its own allies” – I blogged on that here. In May, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom produced its own report, which I discussed here; that report included the complaint that the State Department “has not yet acted on or responded” to its recommendations on refugees from religious persecution.

Israeli MK: McCain and Gingrich Got WW3 Talking Point from Christian Zionist

Sarah Posner at American Prospect notes a very interesting comment that appeared recently in the Jerusalem Post:

Several top US political figures, including Sen. John McCain (R) Arizona, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Rep.) called the current Middle East crisis the beginning of “World War III” and said they were “gravely concerned” in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live.

…”They said this because they think it will lead to Iran getting involved, which they believe will set off World War III,” said MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party)…Elon said that the comments originated with American evangelist John Hagee, who published a book in 2006 called Jerusalem Countdown, which predicted that World War III would begin in Jerusalem and spread to Western states.

But from where did Hagee’s comments themselves originate? Back in February, I noted the initial publicity for this book in Christian Retailer magazine. The quote I took from the magazine bears repeating:

With an initial printing of 250,000 for its Jan. 17 release, Jerusalem Countdown provides detailed information that Hagee has received from top Israeli government officials concerning a nuclear showdown between Iran and Israel.

…The world is “standing on the brink of a nuclear Armageddon,” Hagee wrote. “We are on a countdown to crisis. The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty…That war will affect every nation on earth, including America, and will affect every person on planet earth.”

The most recent issue of the same magazine contains a two-page ad for the book that extorts us to

STAND WITH ISRAEL As prophecy and current events collide!

It goes on:

More than 650,000 copies sold in 4 months!
#1 Christian Retailing Top 100
#1 Publishers Weekly religion best-sellers’ list
#2 CBA Stats list (Christian market best sellers)
#7 Overall books at Wal Mart
#32 USA Today’s Top 150 best sellers

The book is published by Front Line, an imprint of Charisma House, which is owned by Strang Communications. One of its other titles is David Brog’s Standing with Israel, which I discussed here. Strang’s CEO, Stephen Strang, is himself an ardent Christian Zionist.

(Hat Tips: Christianity Today Weblog and Joshua Holland)

O Lord, Make Me a Martyr, But Not Yet

Radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, as reported in July 2005:

“Let your death occur in the battlefield. If you make yourself available to Jihad He will accept you as Shaheed (a martyr).”

Radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, as reported in July 2006:

Omar Bakri Mohammed, the controversial Islamic preacher banned from returning to Britain, has begged the Royal Navy to rescue him from Beirut, according to reports in the tabloid press.

Simon & Schuster Editor “Believes” Claims of “Jesus Descendant”

In the aftermath of the James Frey fiasco, is there any evidence that US publishers are showing increased scepticism towards claims made by their authors? Erm…USA Today reports (link added):

Meet Kathleen McGowan, novelist and self-proclaimed descendant of a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. McGowan, who says she is from the “sacred bloodline” Brown made famous in his mega-selling novel, says she’s ready to cope with people who think she’s crazy or a heretic.But among believers are her powerful literary agent and the editors at New York publisher Simon & Schuster, who are throwing their weight behind her autobiographical religious thriller The Expected One, out July 25, with a sizable first printing of 250,000 copies.

…Trish Todd, editor in chief at Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster…says she has no problem believing McGowan’s claim that she descends from a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. “Yes, I believe her. Her passion and her mission are so strong, how can she not be?”

McGowan is a New Ager, with a particular interest in numerology and astrology. She believes herself to have been in posthumous contact with the late astrologer Linda Goodman; a discussion board preserves one of her writings on the subject:

In the fall of 1997, a decade after my initial Star Signs indoctrination, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Holy Land and study the Essene mysteries. This journey was caused, indirectly, by Linda’s passing. On the shores of the Dead Sea during a full lunar eclipse, I was given more information about this wonderful and powerful system of number vibrations. I learned to understand the deeper mysteries of the relationship between planets and numbers, blending the ancient wisdom of both astrology and numerology. I was instructed to take these teachings and share them with the world…I heard a clear voice, advising me to create a tool that would facilitate the teaching of the Chaldean numerology system.

Goodman apparently also shared McGowan’s beliefs about Mary Magdalene; another poster adds that

I read Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCI CODE last year when it came out, and remembered Linda speaking of someday hoping to find a marriage certificate in the vatican that would prove the marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

But even those who can believe all that may find one claim hard to swallow. Back to USA Today:

“Everyone’s going to think I’m on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon, but I’m not,” says McGowan, who began working on her book in 1989.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

Islamist Demagogue Cheered at Stop the War Meeting

Lenin’s Tomb links (approvingly) to a short video of a sanguinary speech delivered by Dr Azzam Tamimi at an anti-war meeting in London on Monday. The meeting was convened by Stop the War to oppose Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and any escalation of the conflict; Tamimi, however, seems to have little interest in stopping any war, as he rants about how Hamas and Hizbollah “deal with” the “Zionist entity”, which is “made of evil” – sentiments and rhetoric which, of course, can only delight those who wish to discredit the Palestinian cause.

Tamimi is a senior member of the Muslim Association of Britain and has strong links with Hamas, so perhaps one should not be too surprised. More depressing was the audience response. I was at a meeting in support of Palestinian rights at the same location (Friends Meeting House, HQ of the pacifist Quakers) back in 2003; I remember some nutter speaking from the floor about his delight at seeing the deaths of Israelis on TV. He was generally booed off, and a rebuke from former MP Tony Benn followed. Tamimi, in contrast, appears to have received an enthusiastic response. It looks as though the events of the past few years have had a corrosive effect on the ethical sensibilities of all sides of the debate.

Regular readers of this blog might know that I consider myself to be a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, although I don’t (usually) choose to bore people with political opinions that others have expressed far more eloquently elsewhere. But this is too much. Tamimi has many good reasons to be angry, but a pro-Palestinian (or anti-war) movement that exults in militarism and religious extremism, and which has lost its capacity for compassion, can only make the world a worse place. Those who preach dehumanisation must be challenged, wherever they are found.

UPDATE (4 August): Andrew Murray, the chair of Stop the War, has now written an op-ed for the Guardian which includes the following:

Calls for the destruction of Israel or any suggestion of welcoming the deaths of Israeli civilians in the present conflict are, of course, unacceptable. Not only wrong in principle, they also entirely miss the point that the authors of the present catastrophe are to be found in Washington and London above all.