Taipei Prayer Breakfast

Here’s one I missed from a few weeks ago:

The 9th National Prayer Breakfast took place on November 28th at  7:30 a.m. under the theme “Rise up and Shine: Creating a just, merciful, and peaceful  country”. It took place at Taipei International Convention Center and President Ma Ying-jeou, along  with several cabinet ministers, attended the meeting. Ma went up to the stage at one  point during the breakfast so that pastors could lay hands on him, bless him, and pray for him.

Ma’s background is Roman Catholic, although he is reportedly non-practising. However, as with “prayer breakfasts” in other countries, the event was useful to all concerned; the political leader gets a boost, while the church leaders get a national pulpit:

The sermon in Taiwanese was delivered by Rev. Hsiao Shiang-hsiu, who reminded the audience through his sermon that God wanted Taiwan to become a  country that loved  justice, mercy, and peace. He also lauded President Ma’s  moral integrity and urged him to continue leading the country in the way of righteousness.

Meanwhile, Rev. Chou Shen-Chu of Taipei Bread of Life Church urged Taiwan to emulate Singapore:

…though  Singapore was a country sandwiched between countries, it somehow managed to blossom and  become a strong country. Singapore’s success is due in large part because of  its government’s integrity and love for justice, as well as its vibrant churches.

The China Post adds further details:

At the breakfast meeting…Chou Shen-chu termed the obscene and violent presentation of “Animated News” Web site by the Apple Daily as a kind of “dark force”, and lauded Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s decision to impose fines on the Apple Daily and ban city schools and libraries from subscribing to the Apple Daily until it improves the Action news contents.

Chou said that Hau’s practice is aimed at allowing the next generation to grow up in a clean environment, and prevent the “dark force” from continuing to influence the country.

Apple Daily is a sensationalist tabloid based in both Hong Kong and Taiwan; its “Action News” consists of bad-taste Grand Theft Auto-style reconstructions of violent crimes, and it recently received international attention for a tacky and speculative piece on Tiger Woods’ car accident. However, when clergy and politicians appear on stage together to praise censorship, alarm bells tend to go off. As the New York Times notes:

The young democracy is especially wary of any controls on the news media, given four decades of censorship under the Kuomintang government.

Chou is incorrectly described by the China Post as being a Catholic priest; in fact, his “Bread of Life Church” (or “Ling Liang Church”) is an independent Protestant denomination. He has spoken at various civic events in Taipei, such as Mayor Hau’s inauguration in 2006, and last year he “presented a Chinese-English devotional book” to President Ma while Ma was meeting Franklin Graham. He takes the view that

churches should not intervene or involve in politics, but should produce positive influence in spiritual education aspect; the greater influence is the best.

Last year’s Prayer Breakfast showed that Taiwanese politicians were prepared to embrace in Christian unity only so far; the Taipei Times reported:

Ma promised to answer people’s expectations by establishing a clean government and pushing for a peaceful cross-strait relationship.

Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen…also attended the event.

Although Ma shook hands with Tsai immediately after arriving at the event, the two, who were at the same table, did not exchange words.

The Prayer Breakfast is of course an American import, but the Washington Prayer Breakfast  – memorably described by Jeff Sharlet in his book The Family (p. 195) as a means to “lop off the left end of the political spectrum and cauterize the wound” – has been more than just a model for Taiwan. The St. Petersburg Times reported in 2000:

In past years, Taiwan’s long- ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has been a major financial backer of the prayer breakfast and many other such events in the United States.

The party contributes to the prayer breakfast as part of an unpublicized, but highly effective effort to maintain Taiwan’s influence with Washington politicians. The KMT’s strategy was developed after then-President Richard M. Nixon broke off formal diplomatic relations with the tiny island nation in the early 1970s.

(Name variations: ???, Chow Shen-Chu, Chou Sin-cho, Chow Shin-cho)

Patrick Mercer and Another Glen Jenvey-Sourced Terror Tale

3 February 2009: Patrick Mercer MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Counter-Terrorism, reportedly sends a letter to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith:

Al-Firdaws English Forum Website (www.alfirdaws.net)

One of my security sources has approached me with information relating to possible terrorist attacks targeted at train carriages carrying Members of Parliament. Discussions of this nature on website forums are clearly contrary to Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 (on encouragement of terrorism and glorification of terrorism).

First, I would be very grateful if you could provide me with some reassurance that this matter will be investigated expeditiously by the relevant authorities as I am concerned for the safety of Members of Parliament when they travel to and from their constituencies each week.

Second, I would like to know when the individual responsible for posting these entries under the alias of ‘Resistance’ will be arrested or charged under the encouragement and glorification provisions found in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

I have enclosed a copy of the relevant discussions and look forward to hearing from you.

A shortened version was also supposedly sent to Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons.

The letters have been put into the public domain by Glen Jenvey; their authenticity is unconfirmed, although we know that Jenvey has in the past provided Mercer with evidence of Islamic extremism taken from Muslim discussion forums and the like. Alas, however, it was apparent in January that Jenvey had himself been making postings to Muslim sites in order to concoct the conspiracies he would then go on to “expose”. Tim Ireland laid out the initial evidence on 8 January; Private Eye published the story (derived from Tim without credit) on 20 January, and the Guardian followed up on 28 January. Mercer’s office ignored all this, and was offering Jenvey-sourced tabloid fodder to the People as late as March. Only towards the end of March did Mercer admit he may have been duped, after Jenvey launched a campaign of harrassment against Tim:

I disassociate myself from anything that Glen Jenvey may have claimed about Mr Tim Ireland and will be looking carefully into my other dealings with Mr Jenvey.

That “looking carefully” has fallen far short of a complete audit of Jenvey-sourced material that Mercer’s office may have used; instead, Mercer has tried to play down his association with Jenvey, and pressing the point further has elicted only “no comment” responses. We’ve seen how easy it was for Jenvey to get a scare story onto the front page of the Sun (helped by an endorsment from Mercer); it seems it was just as much of a doddle to get tainted material onto the desk of the Home Secretary.

Jenvey has since apologised for his attacks on Tim; however, the baton was subsequently taken up by a certain Charlie Flowers and various associates, who posted Tim’s home address widely on-line and threatened him with violence. Jenvey used to be associated with an organisation called the “VIGIL Network”, whose director, Dominic Wightman (var. Dominic Whiteman) had previously posed outside New Scotland Yard with Mercer. Flowers has also claimed to have worked with VIGIL, and his campaign began after Tim and I discovered that Wightman had lied to us in an attempt to manipulate our investigation of Jenvey into an attack on someone else, against whom he has a grudge. However, Wightman denies that he has had anything to do with the attacks on Tim by Flowers and his friends.

VIGIL folded in 2007, and Wightman failed to pay an employee thousands of pounds she was owed. After the courts found in her favour, he declared bankruptcy; however, he told me that he had moved assets out of reach (supposedly in order to write freely about Islamic extremists without fear of libel law), and on his website he boasts that he “was abroad with my family at our finca in South America” in January 2009, which was just weeks before he filed. The employee, who has since been vilified by Wightman in abusive terms, wrote to Mercer to ask for his help. However, while Mercer was happy to pose with Wightman for a photo-shoot, he was less inclined to intervene when it was discovered that the man he had endorsed was questionable. As with Jenvey, enquiries on the subject are now met with a “no comment” response.

BNP Rev Robert West “Doubts” Fellowship of Independent Churches “Would Oppose My Views”

Back in May, Seismic Shock carried a report on the Fellowship of Independent Churches’ reaction to the news that a chapel affiliated with the grouping had given a platform to Rev Robert West, the BNP candidate who teaches that races should live apart:

British Messianic Jews had expressed grave anxiety over the FIEC’s slow response, first blogged by Bartholomew, to the BNP priest’s meeting at an FIEC church. However one concerned Messianic Jew was told that the “FIEC is entirely opposed to any BNP spokesman or representative being used to forward their cause in our churches.”

I had asked the FIEC for comment on the matter, and was politely fobbed off by an uninterested church official. It seems they took the Messianic Jew more seriously – although only so far as to give a private assurance; no statement was published on the FIEC website.

Now, however, Rev West has responded with a comment to my blog entry on the subject:

I doubt very much that the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches oppose my views or the views of any genuine Christian and patriot, backed-up as they are by the holy Scriptures. They may express disapproval of how evil men (and women) twist my Christian views, but that is an altogether different matter. It is the devil (not me, or the British Nationanl Party) which likes to demonise, simply because their views are so stupid and hence cannot bear the light of proper debate and arguementation; which is what lies behind their “No Platform” stance “for any free speech but their own”. This clearly shows who the real Fascists are – not the BNP.

West takes the view that a multiracial society is

a transgression of God’s will…Adam and his descendants were commanded by God to fill the earth, not to come to one part of it, namely England. The refusal of Adam’s surviving descendants through Noah to spread out led to God’s judgement at Babel, and his confusing of the tongues…The blossoming of what I call the proto-race…into many nations was to be a manifestation of God’s glory, like light passing through a prism.

The FIEC would appear to adopt a contrary position, as can be seen from the black and East Asian models who appear as part of its website masthead; this is a visual representation of Galatians 3:28, that within the Christian community there should no longer be distinctions such as “Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female”.

West’s appearance at the chapel, in the village of Barton-in-the-Beans, was arranged by chapel administrators who appear to be related to a local BNP candidate. The chapel has no regular minister, and it is unlikely that the FIEC gave specific approval. However, while Rev West did get some photos from the event, this is the first time he has directly asserted that the FIEC would be willing to indulge his views. Perhaps now, belatedly, the FIEC mught like to clarify the point?

Parsley Sauce

Just days after the death of Oral Roberts, Pastor Rod Parsley has given the world the most shameless and risible fund-raising plea seen this side of 1987. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

The Rev. Rod Parsley has issued a desperate plea for money, telling his flock that he is facing a “demonically inspired financial attack” that is threatening his ministry.

…When asked to comment yesterday, Parsley’s World Harvest Church issued a statement saying the recession caused a decline in member giving in 2009, which has led to a fourth-quarter deficit of $3 million despite a 30 percent reduction in the budget.

This year, the church settled for $3.1 million with a family whose son was spanked at its day-care center in 2006, to the point his buttocks and legs were covered with welts and abrasions.

The boy, then 2, said he was spanked with a “knife” by a substitute teacher. His parents, Michael and Lacey Faieta, believe it was a ruler.

The Ohio Court of Appeals opinion can be seen here, and makes for grim reading: the substitute teacher was unqualified, and the only other time he had been left in sole supervision, a few months earlier, another child had mysteriously fractured his skull. In the case of the Faietas, when they tried to ask about how their son had come to have his injuries, they were threatened with a prosecution for criminal tresspass if they returned to the property. Further, the Human Resources Director issued a note to parents about children suffering from a “rash”, and she later

admitted that her focus in conducting the investigation was not to make sure the children in the Cuddle Care program were safe but, instead, “to protect our employees.”

Naturally, the jury could recognise evidence of a cover-up, and awarded punitive damages. While Parsley blames the devil for the outcome of the case – and appears to villify the boy and his parents in the process (“will you help me take back what the devil stole?”) – other religious believers may perhaps take the view that if a supernatural agency can be discerned in all this, it was God intervening to shut down the program and expose the way it was run before a worse tragedy could occur.

Parsley was famously described as “a moral compass, a spiritual guide” by a rather unenthusiastic John McCain last year in a clunkily cynical bid to shore up the Christian Right vote; alas, however, McCain soon regretted his words, when Parsley’s view that the USA was created by God to destroy Islam (“we get off on warfare”) became a subject of general discussion.

So how strapped for cash is Parsley really? We can’t know for sure; MinistryWatch, a Christian website which advises potential donors about the finances of religious organisations, gives Parsley’s Breakthrough Ministries an “F” for transparency, and warns that it

has exhibited an utter disregard for transparency and accountability in its financial operations.

MinistryWatch also explores Parsley’s prosperity theology:

Parsley’s favorite fund-raising appeal, which ties in directly to his “health and wealth” message, is called “planting the seed,” which is a metaphor commonly used by many television evangelists. The basic concept is that if you will give whatever money you have to God (i.e., planting the seed), even if you do not currently have enough to meet your needs, then, by a spiritual law of cause and effect, God becomes obligated to give you a manifold financial return on your investment…At times, Parsley performs a kind of “priestly” rite whereby he invokes the debt-canceling power of God for people who give to his ministry.

This is followed by a quote from a fund-raising letter:

I [Parsley] am going to place your enclosed prayer form on our brazen altar at World harvest Church . . . during our ENOUGH IS ENOUGH DEBT BURNING SERVICE and burn the totality of your debt as a symbol of faith that God will Rebuke the Devourer on your behalf!

“Brazen” is certainly a word that comes to mind when watching Parsley’s begging video; but given Parsley’s supposed ability to fix other people’s finances, perhaps the faithful should remind him of Luke 4:23 rather than reach for the wallet…

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

Rick Warren on Museveni, Ssempa and Wagner: “I Know Not the Men”

Rick Warren has issued a statement speaking out against the proposed Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

Of course, there are thousands of evil laws enacted around the world and I cannot speak to pastors about every one of them, but I am taking the extraordinary step of speaking to you — the pastors of Uganda and spiritual leaders of your nation — for five reasons: 

First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.

Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.

Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know, in Africa, it is the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation.

Fourth, ALL life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God. My wife Kay and I have devoted our lives and our ministry to saving the lives of people, including homosexuals, who are HIV positive. It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others. We’re not just pro-life. We are whole life.

Finally, the freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expression are gifts endowed by God. Uganda is a democratic country with a remarkable and wise people, and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up. For these reasons, I urge you, the pastors of Uganda, to speak out against the proposed law…

He goes on to discuss “Key Facts Concerning Recent Media and Blog Reports on Rick Warren’s  Position on Uganda” with responses to nine questions. He affirms that he is opposed to criminalization of homosexuality, and he deals with a quote that was atttributed to him in the Kampala Monitor in March 2008:

Dr [Rick] Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. “We shall not tolerate this aspect at all,” Dr Warren said.

Warren claims that this was a misquote:

 What I said in an interview in Uganda was that there is no civil right to gay marriage guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

In fairness, the wording of the Kampala Monitor does have a slightly unusual ring to it – but why wait so long to put the record straight?

Some of Warren’s other “Key Facts” are somewhat dubious. In particular:

Are you a friend of the President of Uganda?
No. I’ve never met him, and never had any kind of communications with him, or with any member of the Ugandan Parliament.

Yes, but Warren has had links with President Yoweri Museveni’s wife, First Lady Janet Museveni, who was delegate to a conference at Warren’s church. Why is this detail elided, when Warren makes a point of mentioning his lack of association with Ugandan MPs?

Related to this, another question asks:

Did the President of Uganda say he wanted his country to be Purpose Driven?
No, he didn’t.  That was said by the President of RWANDA, not Uganda, at a national rally in Rwanda in 2005.  Years later, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda made a similar comment so people are confusing Uganda with Rwanda, the country next to Uganda.  While we have just begun to train pastors in Uganda, we are very involved in Rwanda, creating a nationwide P.E.A.C.E. plan at the invitation of the churches there. Over 1,000 Saddleback members have served on humanitarian projects in Rwanda.

I noted that back in 2005, when Warren announced that

The President, Paul Kagame, has invited us to help Rwanda become the first ‘purpose-driven nation’

However, Bruce Wilson draws attention to the following official press release from 2008:

Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, CA, this weekend launched a national Purpose Driven Living program in Uganda, a unified and focused effort to equip Ugandan leadership with practical tools to live lives of purpose in their homes, businesses, and communities.

This is the second East African country to invite Dr. Warren to bring the well- known Purpose Driven Life and Church leadership training to churches, businesses and government on a national scale. Rwanda adopted the program nationwide in 2005. Over 30,000 American churches – approximately one-tenth of the congregations across the country have used the 40 Days of Purpose emphasis.

…At a press conference and subsequent meeting with organizers upon arrival in the capital city of Kampala, Dr. Warren expressed appreciation to the coalition of national leaders who invited him to return for his fourth visit for a series of public meetings…

…While in Uganda, Dr. Warren met with First Lady Janet Museveni to discuss the PEACE Plan, an aggressive and progressive vision to promote reconciliation, equip servant leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick and educate the next generation. He also addressed students at Uganda Christian University…

The  press release clearly infers that Warren intends Uganda to follow the Rwanda model, and that he enjoys governmental support for his efforts. Now that Uganda is on a downward spiral with a president suffering from advancing “big man” syndrome (e.g. see here) and an increasingly debased civil society, it looks as though Warren is backpeddling.

Also:

Is Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa an associate who represents you?
Not at all.  At each of our Global Summits on AIDS (on World AIDS Day) we’ve invited speakers from a wide spectrum of religions, beliefs, political views, and health care expertise. We’ve had believers and atheists, liberals and conservatives, gays and straights.  Ssempa was just one of over 200 speakers we’ve invited. At each Summit we make it clear that no speaker represents us, and that we don’t control, endorse, or agree with all that is said.  Our desire is to encourage everyone to work together in ending AIDS and caring for those infected and affected.  Ssempa was one of many speakers in 2005 and 2006.  In 2007, when we learned that Ssempa’s beliefs and actions were vastly different than ours, we disassociated ourselves from him.

Warren’s repudiation of Ssempa was publicised last month. But Ssempa was not just one of 200 speakers; as Max Blumenthal reported in January:

When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it “had the audience on the edge of its seats,” according to Warren’s public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. “You are my brother, Martin, and I love you,” Rick Warren’s wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke and tears ran down her cheeks.

Plus:

Are you and Peter Wagner attempting to rid the world of homosexuals?
Absolutely not.  Peter Wagner was a seminary professor of mine, but not my doctoral dissertation advisor.  I have not had contact with Peter Wagner for many years and am certainly not conspiring with him for any purpose.

In fact, nobody has suggested that Warren and Wagner are “conspiring” in an eliminationist plot – but Wagner’s views on how Christians should take “dominion” over society do not quite accord with the free society that Warren assures us he supports. However, there’s a puzzling discrepancy here. Various sites have posted the following FirstSearch Dissertations Abstracts listing:

Title: NEW CHURCHES FOR A NEW GENERATION: CHURCH PLANTING TO REACH BABY BOOMERS. A CASE STUDY: THE SADDLEBACK VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH (CALIFORNIA)
Author(s): WARREN, RICHARD DUANE
Degree: D.MIN.
Year: 1993
Pages: 00413
Institution: FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, DOCTOR OF MINISTRY PROGRAM; 0790
Advisor: Mentor: C. PETER WAGNER
Source: DAI, 54, no. 03A, (1993): 0967

One can understand why Warren might want to play down this link: Warren represents the face of urbane mainstream evangelicalism, which is why he was invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Wagner, in contrast, is a rather more exotic figure: a neo-Pentecostal “Apostolic” leader, he receives regular messages from God and interprets all kinds of mundane events as the work of demons which need to be battled through acts of spiritual warfare and deliverance.

So, Warren may have had regular contact with Uganda’s First Lady, but that doesn’t mean he has had anything to do with the president. His wife may have called Martin Ssempa her “brother”, but that didn’t mean they were close in any way. And Peter Wagner may be listed as Warren’s thesis “mentor”, but that doesn’t mean he actually was. That’s three denials – time for the cock to crow?

(Hat tip: Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action)

Max Factored

Why does Max Weber look like he’s sucking on a lemon? Perhaps he’s pondering this:

ln(ui t ) = ?i + ?t + ? ?? · Proti · I? + ? ?? · controli · I? + ? ?? · controli · Proti · I? + ? i t

That, apparently, is the equation devised by a young scholar named Davide Cantoni which supposedly explodes Weber’s famous “Protestant work ethic” thesis. He explains:

Using population ?gures in a dataset comprising 272 cities in the years 1300–1900, I ?nd no effects of Protestantism on economic growth. The ?nding is robust to the inclusion of a variety of controls, and does not appear to depend on data selection or small sample size. In addition, Protestantism has no effect when interacted with other likely determinants of economic development.

Of course, this is far from being the first challenge to Weber’s theory. A cracking 2004 review essay from the New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert observed that:

Almost immediately, “The Protestant Ethic” became a target of criticism, which Weber, alternately aggrieved and irascible, spent years trying to answer…In the century since then, there is hardly a claim made in “The Protestant Ethic,” either about the history of religion or about the history of economics, that hasn’t been challenged; one Weber scholar recently dubbed the ongoing debate “the academic Hundred Years’ War.” The reason that Weber’s essay remains so compelling despite all the controversy is that it isn’t really a work about the past; it’s an allegory about the present.

(Hat tip: Damian Thompson)

Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan and Wagner’s Dominionism

C. Peter Wagner yet again – Bruce Wilson finds an interesting quote from Wagner’s 2008 book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World, in which he discusses Rick Warren’s “P.E.A.C.E.” Plan, which seeks to improve conditions in Africa (p. 174):

I think the P.E.A.C.E. plan fits most comfortably into Phase One, the “social action” phase of strategies for obeying God’s cultural mandate. The Phase Two emphases on strategic-level spiritual warfare and associated activities have not been placed front and center. And crucial to Phase Three, as I am defining it, are such things as apostolic/prophetic government of the Church, the Church (including apostles) in the workplace, the great transfer of wealth, dominion theology and the 7-M mandate.

The “7-M mandate” is the idea rthat Christians need to take charge of a country by “capturing” seven “mountains” that represent cultural aspects of society: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.

We don’t know whether Warren himself sees his “P.E.A.C.E” (“Promote reconciliation – Equip servant leaders – Assist the poor – Care for the sick – Educate the next generation”) Plan in these terms, but, as Bruce notes, Wagner was Warren’s PhD supervisor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Warren enjoys close links with President Museveni of Uganda – a country which is currently pondering a draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and last year Warren gave support to Ugandan Anglicans with a statement that gay rights should not be accepted (although he just recently distanced himself from one of the more obsessive anti-gay religious leaders). Further, one of the powerful Ugandan evangelists promoting the Bill is inspired by the “Seven Mountain” strategy (as I blogged yesterday, drawing on work by Warren Throckmorton), and has other links with Wagner.

Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan was unveiled in 2005, as I blogged at the time, and it was initially focused on Rwanda. Warren declared that Rwanda would be the first “Purpose-Driven nation”, implementing Peter Drucker-inspired management ideas from Warren’s bestselling book The Purpose-Driven Life; concerns were raised at the end of 2006 that “Warren and his teams of PEACE missionaries may be unwittingly playing politics” in the country. Warren was in Rwanda just a couple of weeks ago, leading a prayer breakfast with Kagame and “a cross-section of Rwandan leaders”; according to the Kigali New Times, Tony Blair “dropped by the event”.

Warren Throckmorton on Julius Oyet and the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Warren Throckmorton has a couple of interesting posts (here and here) about Julius Oyet, one of the Ugandan neo-Pentecostal ministers who has played a significant role in bringing forward the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, while keeping a lower profile than Martin Ssempa and some of the other religious figures backing it:

Oyet is a self-designated Apostle and leader of the Lifeline Ministries. He has found favor with President Museveni for praying against areas of Northern Uganda once controlled by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army. Oyet’s Born Again Federation in Uganda oversees over 10,000 churches and estimates 9 million Christians attend these churches.

Oyet promotes what is known as the “7 mountains strategy”; this is the belief that Christianity should advance in a society by taking control of seven domains:

To establish The Kingdom of God on the earth, we must claim and possess The Seven Mountains of Culture namely: Business, Government, Religion, Family, Media, Education and Entertainment.

This perspective is also shared by American “spiritual warfare” expert C. Peter Wagner, and Oyet has preached at a church in Atlanta whose pastor, Johnny Enlow, is the author of The Seven Mountain Prophecy and the Coming Elijah Revolution. This book has been endorsed by Wagner (whatever that’s worth), and it features Enlow’s views on homosexuality:

A Christian who espouses abortion rights or the validity of gay marriages, for example, is worthless as a “Christian” candidate. If candidates don’t understand righteous politics, they aren’t anointed for this mountain. They may have enough Christianity in them to enter heaven, but they don’t have enough Christianity to bring the rule and reign of God down to earth…

The world will come to learn, for example, that though God passionately loves every homosexual, remaining in that sin will cause someone to fall under the sword of His judgment. Feelings don’t validate a homosexual lifestyle any more than they validate a murderer’s desire to kill…. What comes to us naturally is sin… The sooner we understand that God expects righteousness—regardless of what our innate tendencies tell us—the sooner we will be able to eliminate His judgments from our personal and corporate lives.

One of the primary roles of future government leaders will be to instruct in righteousness. The more God’s judgments are poured out on earth, the more explicitly will they be able to give that instruction.

Throckmorton asked Enlow for a clarification about his views on how the law should relate to homosexuality, and received this response:

As to the question of whether governments should criminalize homosexuality as part of taking the mountain of government- this would only be a second best method of bringing awareness that the behavior of homosexuality is wrong. This becomes a necessity only when the moral fiber of society has become so degraded that society itself is in need of knowing right and wrong. For me, the point of criminalizing homosexuality is not to bring punishment to homosexuals but rather to inform society of right and wrong. I would be against harsh punishments against homosexual activity between consenting adults and would not endorse capital punishment for this scenario…The in-your-face activist homosexual agenda is of course generating it’s own strong repercussions and backlashes and to the degree that they insist on forcing upon society their aberrations to that degree they will see increasing measures to limit their activism of a sin behavior.

Throckmorton goes on to clarify that:

I want to state clearly that I do not believe anyone in the 7 Mountains movement prompted the Ugandan legislators to write and offer this bill as an expression of the 7 mountains teaching. However, according to Rev. Enlow, the concept of criminalization is consistent with his Apostle Wagner endorsed view of reclaiming the mountain of government. Could leaders and members of the Ugandan Born Again Federation view this bill as a means to a Kingdom end?

He notes this prophecy from Oyet, pronounced earlier this year:

God will judge evil in 2009 as mob justice will kill and destroy witches, thieves and evil people. There will be lots of manifestation of Satanists and exposition of homosexuality and other evils in the Church, human sacrifice and all sorts of evil will manifest in the nations. God’s people will rise in full authority and dominion! The righteous will march against evil and triumph over them all.

In Throckmorton’s view, the context seems to be the religious promotion of “national salvation” over the traditional evangelical emphasis on individual salvation.

Incidentally, it’s worth recalling that the “7 Mountains” idea is also promoted by Thomas Muthee, the Kenyan evangelist known for having anointed Sarah Palin in 2005. Muthee has dispensed some “mob justice” of his own to “destroy witches”, as one of his victims attests. And three women were burned to death as witches by “mob justice” in Uganda in 2007.

UPDATE: Bruce Wilson has more:

The 2001

Transformations II, The Glory Spreads, portrayed the impact of supernatural transformation on governments in several locations including Uganda, and featured footage of a January 1, 2000 stadium event initiated by First Lady Janet Museveni which dedicated Uganda to Jesus Christ through a 1,000 year covenant. Transformations II claimed that reductions in the Ugandan AIDS rate were achieved both through abstinence only campaigns and thousands of cases of miraculous faith-healings of HIV. Oyet also claims miracle cures of HIV, which he showcases on his ministry website.

…The 2005 Transformations video An Unconventional War, portrayed Julius Oyet as a hero who helped to end the suffering of Northern Uganda’s Acholi people. The video shows Oyet, at the request of President Museveni, supernaturally breaking the power of the Lord’s Resistance Army. When Oyet destroys the demonic altars which the video claims gave the rebel army supernatural powers, Acholi children the Lord’s Resistance Army had kidnapped are miraculously returned to their parents.

But Robert Ochola-Lukwiya presents another view of Oyet in his Ph.D. dissertation on the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative – a multi-religious initiative that includes Christians and Muslims. Ochola-Lukwiya reports that Oyet almost provoked a riot, during a 2004 revival crusade Oyet held in the Acholi district of Kitgum, when he called for participants to bring forward their rosary beads and condoms to be burned.

…Julius Oyet is head of the Uganda division of the College of Prayer, an Atlanta-based international leadership training ministry led by Fred Hartley III, for which Wagner and his Apostles have frequently taught courses. Oyet presided over a series of 2009 high-profile prayer breakfasts billed as having the participation of dozens of Ugandan MPs and hundreds of Ugandan leaders. An article on the College of Prayer website, titled “COP Comes To Parliament,” describes an April 16th, 2009 event during which a College of Prayer team personally prayed and “prophesied” over each of 50 attending Ugandan MPs.

…Toward the close of [a bigger event soon afterwards], COP leaders selected eight MPs, including David Bahati, to serve in a College of Prayer “servant leadership team” in Uganda’s parliament.

…Co-sponsoring the Anti Homosexuality Bill with David Bahati was Ugandan MP Benson Obua-Ogwal, who later attended a July 21-25, 2009 conference that the College of Prayer held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at which Julius Oyet played a leadership role.

I blogged the “College of Prayer” here.

The Quest for the Conservative Jesus

A few months ago it was announced on the absurd  Conservapedia wiki website that plans were underway to create a “Conservative Bible”, in which Biblical texts problematic to conservative sensiblities would be expunged. I assumed this was another spoof page added to the site by a non-conservative as a bit of trolling satire; not so:

In August, New Jersey attorney Andy Schlafly, son of renowned conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, launched the Conservative Bible Project at Conservapedia.com.

…So far, the Conservative Bible Project, which is funded out-of-pocket by Schlafly, has completed about a third of the New Testament and Genesis. The most controversial changes are the elimination of the New Testament stories of Jesus forgiving the adulteress and forgiving his persecutors from the cross.

“The basic error (of the passages) is that it teaches people they can do what they want and they will be forgiven, even if they don’t repent,” Schlafly said.

…”Liberals love (the stoning scene) because they can use it to argue against capital punishment,” Schlafly said. “But they didn’t stone women (then). They strangled them.”

This is actually a remarkable development: until now, one of the defining hallmarks of conservative Christianity has been that the whole Bible is to accepted as inerrant and as having been faithfully transmitted. Downgrading particular Biblical passages in the light of reason (such as Thomas Jefferson excising miracles), or due either to ethical re-evaluation (such as a call to remove anti-Jewish passages from the Gospel of John) or textual and historical study (such as the Jesus Seminar) have always been dismissed as undermining the Bible as the Word of God. There may be arguments about points of translation, and over interpretations of difficult texts, but mainstream or liberal Christians whose religious views have been informed by critical approaches are usually excoriated and accused of seeking to marry their faith to the spirit of the age. Yet now we see the son of a major Christian right activist cheerfully consigning parts of the supposed Word of God to the dustbin purely for ideological reasons.

So what method is Schlafly following? It’s true that the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John do not feature the story of the woman taken in adultery, but Schlafly’s foray into Biblical scholarship is somewhat selective:

Schlafly’s project is distinctive, though, because non-experts collaborate Wiki-style on the Internet to produce their version. “The best of the public is better than a group of experts,” said Schlafly.

As Jim West observes:

 …if Schlafly thinks experts are evil, why doesn’t he get one of his flunkies to do brain surgery on him if he ever develops a tumor or heart surgery on him if he ever needs bypass surgery.

Schlafly’s not the first conservative to propose re-writing parts of the Bible; last year, I noted the growing acceptance of the idea that “666” in the Book of Revelation was a mistaken transcription of an Arabic phrase revealed to the book’s author by God and warning about the rise of Islam. This absurd proposition has been received despite the fact that it has no historical basis and despite the fact that its originator, Walid Shoebat, lied about having consulted ancient manuscripts. And despite the fact that the final passage of the Book of Revelation encourages a “hands-off” approach to the text, with a warning which has been regarded by Christians as generally applicable to the Bible as a whole:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Or, to use the translation found at the LOLCats Bible, a wiki project which is of comparable scholarly value to Schlafly’s effort (although more fun):

Birdcat say: if pplz adz stuff to teh profetzi of book, Ceiling Cat make them sicz, leik sayed in book.

And if pplz photoshpz the Heliez Bibul, Ceiling Cat sez no can has cheezburger!

C Peter Wagner on Ted Haggard

As disgraced former mega-church pastor Ted Haggard makes a modest comeback, a word of caution from neo-Pentecostal ” spiritual warfare” expert C Peter Wagner:

C. Peter Wagner, who came to Colorado Springs at Haggard’s behest and cofounded New Life;s World Prayer Center with him in the late 1990s, said he thinks Haggard’s spiritual restoration is incomplete.

“He said in his letter to his congregation after he was fired that he is a liar and deceiver,” Wagner said, adding that because Haggard didn’t finish the restoration program, he’s not fit to preach. “He must have someone confirm him in the body of Christ” before he can preach again, Wagner said.

Presumably Wagner thinks that someone such as himself should be the one to make the judgement-call; in which case, hopefully no-one will remember his words about Todd Bentley, the revivalist on whom he lavished the following supernaturally-laden and gushing words in June 2008:

“This commissioning represents a powerful spiritual transaction taking place in the invisible world. With this in mind, I take the apostolic authority that God has given me and I decree to Todd Bentley, your power will increase, your authority will increase, your favor will increase, your influence will increase, your revelation will increase.

“I also decree that a new supernatural strength will flow through this ministry. A new life force will penetrate this move of God. Government will be established to set things in their proper order. God will pour out a higher level of discernment to distinguish truth from error. New relationships will surface to open the gates to the future.”

Alas, less than two months later, Bentley was found to have been having an affair with a female staffer, and he has since slipped back into obscurity; for some unaccountable reason, God failed to tip Wagner off about this when conveying his prophetic endorsement.

After the Haggard scandal broke in 2006, he was passed over to a “restoration team”; one of the team’s members, Rev. Mark Cowart, warned that “Ted is not in touch with reality”. Cowart, by contrast, had previously battled Satan by ordering the graphic mutilation and destruction of Pokemon toys in a church service for children. Haggard severed his connection to the team early in 2008.

(Hat tip: Religion Dispatches)