• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Museveni Gets Statue of Himself

The Ugandan Kampala Monitor reports:

It is exactly one week since the historic unveiling of the Shs40 million shilling [=about $23,000 – RB] statue at Kabamba military barracks.

It depicts a youthful Popular Resistance Army (PRA) guerrilla leader; Yoweri Museveni directing the attack on the armoury at the beginning of the five year ‘bush war’ between 1981 and 1986 against the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) government of the late Dr Apollo Milton Obote.

The Monitor’s astute commentator Nicholas Sengoba is unimpressed:

…Africa’s issue with statues says a lot about the vicious cycle of our politics. Politics, because on the continent contributions from other spheres of society for instance medicine and education go unnoticed and are rarely rewarded with anything.

…The typical African leader usually starts off on a high note being liberal and reforming as much as possible to sell himself as being different and more enlightened than the usual autocratic gunmen that have graced African politics. His good intentions are perpetually overpowered by human weaknesses.

…He begins to look at the great events (that endeared him to the people) in the past, with nostalgia to draw some inspiration and procure relevance in the sceptical minds of those he leads.

Museveni, a close ally of the White House, has been in power now for 21 years, having scrapped term limits prior to a controversial re-election last May (which came in the wake of a crack-down on journalists). Museveni and his wife also enjoy strong support from US evangelicals, and just a few days ago the president received an endorsement from faith-healing evangelist Morris Cerullo:

CHRISTIANS had their faith reawakened when Dr. Morris Cerullo visited Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral on February for the Fresh Fire for Jesus rally. The American Evangelist took to the pulpit with a vigour that belied his 75 years of age.

…In the congregation were several cabinet ministers, over 20 MPs, business moguls and the Queen Mother of Toro, Best Kemigisa.

After the church meeting, Cerullo also called on President Yoweri Museveni at State House, Nakasero. Accompanied by Kayanja and Peter Sematimba, Cerullo thanked the President for the impressive performance of his government in the last 20 years. He was particularly impressed by the freedom of worship that has resulted in a great number of born-again Christians.

“You are the right man in the right country at the right time and God has blessed your leadership,” Cerullo told Museveni.

Cerullo was hosted by pastor Robert Kayanja, whom I blogged on here.

WND Hypocrisy Part 94,000

Dennis Prager pontificates on WorldNetDaily:

The trivialization of the Holocaust

In her last column, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman wrote: “Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers. …”

…Just imagine if, for example, an equally prominent Christian figure had written that denying America is a Christian country is on a par with denying the Holocaust. It would have been front-page news in the mainstream media, the individual would have been excoriated by just about every major liberal individual and group, and the ADL would have cited this as an example of burgeoning Christian anti-Semitism and Holocaust trivialization…

Meanwhile, another page on WND offers us this:

Stunning documentary links Darwin, Hitler
Holocaust was fallout of evolution theory, says production

…Ann Coulter, bestselling author of “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” a WorldNetDaily columnist and featured speaker at WND’s upcoming NewsExpo2007 event, said Hitler was simply taking Darwinism from the theoretical to the practical…

The documentary has been puffed on WND for several months; I blogged on it here. At the time, WND illustrated the story with the following picture and caption; it reappears in the new puff-piece for the “documentary”, but with a question-mark added.

US Tycoon to Build Religious Broadcasting Empire in Rwanda

HQ for “the rest of Asia and Africa”

From the Kigali New Times:

President Paul Kagame yesterday held talks with the founder of Family Christian Network (FCN) Decarol Williamson, who promised to build a US$20m Television and radio network in Rwanda. Speaking to the press shortly after the meeting, Williamson’s personal assistant Joshi Uruashi said that Williamson reiterated his willingness to build a modern television to be set up in Gacuriro, Gasabo District that would serve as headquarters to the rest of Africa and Asia.

…Family Christian Network, whose headquarters are in Costa Rica, Central America has over the years reached out [to] ten million people.

FCN is a ministry of Fore Christ, which Williamson founded after a religious experience in 1974. Its website explains:

In August of 1974, Dr. DeCarol Williamson was thrown to the floor by the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. He was instantly delivered and healed from both alcohol and drug addiction. While on the floor he received a Vision from God.

The vision was “to build A Global Army Fore Christ”:

…Williamson believes that like in the day of Pentecost when the church was in one place with one mind and in one accord there will once again come a fresh baptism of power.

Following the example of Paul and Barnabas who made tents to support themselves in ministry, Dr. Williamson founded many companies with the blessing of the Lord and is using these companies to fund the majority of the ministry’s activities so that the ministry would depend on God and not man. God is leading others now around the world to support the army “Fore Christ” to help facilitate this last day revival of God and meet the needs of the poor and suffering.

In fact, Williamson has his own corporate website, where we learn that DeCarol Williamson Enterprises (based in Wilmington, North Carolina) consists of more than fifty companies, ranging from construction through to horse breeding and golf – in fact, his golf package holiday service is named “Fore Travel“, echoing his “Fore Christ” religious venture. FCN has had an interest in Rwanda since 2005, as these rather dull legal documents show.

Details about Williamson are scarce, although he is described as a Vietnam veteran and a USA International Director of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. His full name is Odell DeCarol Williamson Jr, and he is obviously named for Odell Williamson (most likely he’s a grandson), who developed the Ocean Isle Beach area of North Carolina after returning from World War II. There is now a Odell Williamson Auditorium and Odell Williamson Municipal Airport, but the name is not without controversy: in 2004 a local weekly named the Indy made mention of

…one [of] North Carolina’s most prominent developers, Brunswick County land tycoon Odell Williamson…[who] was indicted in June 1999 on charges of using his position on the N.C. Board of Transportation to direct public road projects to benefit his private developments. (A judge ruled in December 1999 Williamson was medically unfit to stand trial, ending the case.)

The website of the North Carolina Real Estate Commission has the detail that someone named Odell DeCarol Williamson of Ocean Isle Beach (one assumes another relative of the evangelist) had had his broker license suspended in 1996 for “drug related offenses”.

A 1999 news report from Nicaragua has a short profile of DeCarol Williamson and his mission:

El Ministerio Para-Cristo, Inc., es un organismo que se define sin inclinación denominacional, es decir, no se identifica con bautistas, pentecostales, Asambleas de Dios o cualquier otra organización. Tampoco es nacionalista ni étnico.

However, although his ministry is not related to any particular organisation, he is not apolitical at home: records (e.g. here and here) show various donations made by his wife Jan through DeCarol Williamson Enterprises to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Where’s Milingo?

From Ecumenical News International:

A member of the family of the excommunicated former Zambian Catholic archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, has said the cleric may be held against his will in seclusion near Lusaka by the Unification Church.

The accusation is made by Tomaida Milingo, niece of the former Catholic archbishop who is now close to Rev Moon. Tomaida accuses Emmanuel Milingo’s wife, Maria Sung, of “making contradictory statements about the whereabouts of the former archbishop”, who was reportedly recently in Seoul to study Moon’s teachings; I noted that a few days ago in an entry for Talk to Action. Tomaida wants the authorities to intervene:

“I’m appealing on behalf of the Milingo family to nations of goodwill through their embassies and missions accredited to Zambia not to process applications for visa purportedly made by Archbishop Milingo or Maria Sung’s organization…We believe that the archbishop is not in a condition to decide on matters concerning his life…The last time I spoke to him was on 26 December when he was leaving the US for Zambia. He told me he would be in Zambia on 10 January, but he is nowhere to be seen.”

The Unification Church, however, rejects the claim:

The leader of the Unification Church in Zambia, Adamson Musonda said: “We feel it is unfair for the family of Archbishop Milingo to alarm the nation by saying that mystery surrounds his whereabouts.”

The Church has been active in Zambia for a while; Moon’s wife visited the country last year, and was met by various dignitaries:

…former President Kenneth Kaunda, a key founding father of modern, post-colonial Africa, and former Vice President Zulu, and former PM Gen. Malimba Masheke, and others.

The Church’s Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace organisation held a ceremony in Lusaka in 2004:

The former Second Lady of the First Republic of Zambia, Mrs. Edna Kamanga gave the opening speech. Later, the video “The Crown of Peace” was shown, followed by a lecture given by Rev. Faerber on power-point about family value and the blessing of marriage.

The Guests were invited to participate in the holy wine ceremony lead by representative couple, Dr. L.F. Chipatanga and wife.

Thirteen new Ambassadors for Peace were appointed, including one Indian and two Chinese nationals.

Left Behind Video Game Teaches “Spiritual Warfare” and “Verbal Defence”

A recent issue of Christian Retailing carries an article (22 Jan, p. 10) on the Left Behind: Eternal Forces videogame. As the piece notes, the game has come under attack from various groups (Christian and secular) for allegedly featuring

…teens…killing nonbelievers, teaching teens that most musicians are “singing the praises of the Antichrist” and portraying non-Christian humanitarian aid workers as part of enemy forces.

Jeff Frichner, the president of Left Behind Games, responds to the criticisms:

…Frichner questioned how it could remain true to the Bible and the novels if it omitted the violence that appears in both.

The LBG president said too few youth are taught to defend themselves–not physically, but in verbal confrontations with those who question the validity of their faith.

So how is LB:EF teaching Christians the arts of verbal defence? Frichner explains:

…”You can win the game by not firing a shot, but by conducting spiritual warfare. There’s a prayer button (and) a worship button…”

I look forward to the “Oxford Debating Society” videogame, in which players will defeat opponents by use of a “rebuttal” button.

LBG is also trying to win over critics by spamming blogs that discuss the game. Since I’ve mentioned it a few times on this blog (see here and here), I’ve received several of these. “GamerZ@leftbehindgames.com” asks me:

Hey, with so many people having an opinion about this game, how many have actually played it? And what credibility do they have? Focus on the Family has publications which can set the record straight for everyone…

A link is given to here. “Sandi@leftbehindgames.com” tells me that:

There has been alot of misleading information spun throughout the public and media regarding Left Behind Eternal Forces game. I encourage you to visit www.menofgod.us & download a trial version. I believe the first hand experience will allow you the opportunity to judge for yourself and put these rumors to a rest.

A long statement from LBG CEO Troy Lyndon follows, which includes the following disingenuous distinction:

…Our game does NOT teach the pre-tribulation theology of the book series, except that this worldview is utilized as a FICTIONAL backdrop of the game…

Is the Bible in general a “FICTIONAL backdrop”, then?

Meanwhile, Tim LaHaye is feeling no reason to be modest as he speaks to Christian Retailing journo Ken Walker:

“We are fishing for a younger generation to know who Jesus is, what He did and how they can receive Him…That is why we included a mass-market paperback of the Left Behind book in the final packaging. I do not know of a book that has led so many thousands to Christ.”

That’s put C.S. Lewis in his place. LaHaye rejects as “preposterous” the claim that the game encourages killing enemies:

“The whole point of our lives and ministries is that we love all such people…our goal is to persuade them, not hate or do harm to them in any way.”

Indeed not. That will be Jesus’ job, as described in the final Left Behind novel, Glorious Appearing. And horses won’t be let off lightly, either:

Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood…It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin…Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated.

Concerned Women for America “Frightened” By Israel

OneNewsNow (formerly Agape) reports that Concerned Women for America is warning of “a ‘frightening’ development” in Israel. But it’s nothing to do with tension with Iran, or oppressive policies against the Palestinians:

An official with Concerned Women for America official is disturbed by the news that, for the first time in history, the Holy City of Jerusalem has recorded and officially recognized the “marriage” of a homosexual couple.

In November, Israel’s highest court ruled that same-sex “marriages” that were legally performed in other countries will be now included in Israel’s records.

…”For them to be recognizing so-called gay marriage officially in the Promised Land, the Holy Land, I think is just frightening, really,” he says, “and it’s just a step away from breaking out the golden calf.”

A while ago I came across a Christian Zionist pamphlet that compared gay Israelis to the pigs that were used by Syrian ruler Antiochus IV to defile the Jewish temple in the second century BCE. Of course, it’s always a shock when Christian Zionists discover that Israel is place that contains ordinary people – which is why they prefer the fantasy of the “Holy City of Jerusalem” rather than the reality of a town that contains (in both Israeli and Palestinian areas) a decent number of bars and nightclubs, and where people work in offices and go to the cinema (I lived there a few years ago, so I know).

The CWA spokesman, Matt Barber, adds:

…Israel’s acceptance of same-sex marriage will give ammunition to its Islamic enemies and fuel their propaganda. “It does provide them fodder — there’s no doubt about that,” he asserts. “They can now turn around and say, ‘Look; like we’ve been saying all along, Israel is the great infidel. They’re the heathen. Just look at what they’re doing now. They’re now recognizing gay marriage.'”

Whereas Barber’s view is that Israel is just great, but that the actual Israelis are letting the side down…

A few months ago, I noted the opinion of Christian Zionist author Christine Darg that the Israel-Lebanon conflict was the result of God answering prayers against the Jerusalem gay pride march.

Emmanuel Milingo: Rev. Moon’s Key to Africa?

My latest post at Talk to Action.

New Podium for Al-Aqsa

WorldNetDaily‘s Aaron Klein notes the new Salah-al-Din Podium being installed at the Al-Asqa mosque:

“This historic occasion proves that the extremist Jews will never achieve their goals of taking over the [Temple Mount.] It shows that we are much closer to liberating the Al Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem from Israeli occupation,” said Waqf chief Adnan Husseini.

…The new stand replaces a 1,000-year-old podium believed to have been shipped to Jerusalem by the Islamic conqueror Saladin. That stand was destroyed in 1969, when an Australian tourist set fire to the Al Aqsa Mosque.

The “Australian tourist” was, in fact, a mentally-ill follower of Herbert Armstrong (Al-Jazeerah appears to have withdrawn an article describing him as “an extremist Australian Jew”, although some other reports repeat the error).

Klein also enjoys himself noting the views of local Islamists who deny that the Jewish Temple was ever located at the same spot – which, Klein alleges, is also the line of most of the Waqf officials who control the site:

In an interview with WND, Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, which will take part in the podium installation ceremonies, claimed the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and that a Jewish Temple may have existed, but not in Jerusalem. The Movement, which works closely with the Waqf, is the Muslim group in Israel most identified with the Temple Mount.

Such a perspective is, of course, a perversion of history – the whole point in building the Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock was to restore honour to a place that had been neglected and despised during centuries of Byzantine Christian rule. It’s also bad news for Palestinian rights, since falsifying history concedes the idea that the reality of ancient Israel justifies Palestinian dispossession today (needless to add, such an bogus position also undermines Palestinian credibility more generally).

To his credit, the hawkish pro-Likud Klein does give us a Muslim who understands this:

Last June, in a widely circulated WND interview, a former senior leader of the Waqf contradicted his colleagues, saying he has come to believe the first and second Jewish Temples existed and stood at the current location of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

[The existence of the Jewish Temple at the site is obvious] according to studies, researches and archaeological signs that we were also exposed to….We learned [in oral tradition] that the Christians, especially those who believed that Jesus was crucified by the Jews, used to throw their garbage at the Temple Mount site. They used to throw the pieces of cotton and other material Christian women used in cleaning the blood of their monthly cycle. Doing so they believed that they were humiliating, insulting and harming the Jews at their holiest site. This way they are hurting them like Jews hurt Christians when crucifying Jesus.

However, there’s more than one way to misrepresent the meaning of the Al-Aqsa; Jerusalem Newswire offers an extremist Jewish perspective:

The Arab usurpers of Israel’s holiest site have proclaimed that their imminent installation of a new podium in the Al-Aqsa Mosque is proof that Mount Moriah is exclusively Islam’s.

Israel is uncomplainingly enabling the Muslim takeover of the site where Abraham offered up Isaac and where the First and Second Temples were built.

How Arabs “usurped” a site that had been ruined for centuries is not explained.

A report carried by the Pakistan Daily Times gives a bit more background to the new podium:

“The burnt pulpit was destroyed into pieces,” Adnan Husseini, a senior official in the Waqf, which oversees Muslim religious sites, told AFP. “The new one was constructed on the model of the original. Once the plans were drawn up, it took four years to construct it,” Husseini said. The cost of the new pulpit stood at 1.5 million dollars, donated by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, said Luay Dabbur, a deputy dean at Jordan’s Balqa Applied Sciences University where the pulpit was built.