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Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, with Tattoos

Kirill Tattoos Detail

(Detail from Refusal of Confession, by K. Altunin)

This one has been widely reported:

Police confiscated a satirical portrait of Russia’s president and premier clad in women’s underwear – along with paintings depicting arch-conservative lawmakers and the Moscow Patriarch with prison tattoos – from a provocative museum in St. Petersburg, its owner and the police said Tuesday.

The painting of Putin and Medvedev (in which Medvedev has also been given a woman’s body) is now being gleefully reproduced around the internet, but less attention has been given to the other seized paintings:

The portrait was displayed at the Museum of Authoritys “Rulers” exhibition that opened in Russia’s second-largest city less than two weeks ago, the museum’s owner Alexander Donskoy said.

Police confiscated the canvas along with a portrait of local lawmaker Vitaly Milonov titled “Rainbow Milonov,” a painting named “Erotic Dreams of Lawmaker [Yelena] Mizulina” and a portrait of Moscow Patriarch Kirill wearing prison tattoos with skulls and profiles of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, Donskoy said.

The artist, Konstantin Altunin, uploaded the portrait of Kirill to his Facebook page during June; he has given it the title Refusal of Confession, in reference to a painting of the same name by Ilya Repin. The Patriarch is depicted posing bare-chested, and the tattoos – which also include a Madonna and child – are of the sort that feature in Danzig Baldaev’s Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia. In 2004, the BBC posted some photos taken by Baldaev; some include the word “Bog“, which means “God” but is also an acronym for “I shall rob again”, and one is a religious image. According to the BBC:

Religious images remain popular among Russia’s criminal fraternity, although they rarely reflect the piety or zeal of the wearer. Some icons are badges of honour, oaths of vengeance or even symbols of devotion to the art of thievery. Others, include the Virgin Mary, are often talismans supposedly protecting the wearer from the police or rivals.

Kirill was previously the target of satire in June last year; this was when a comedy award ceremony organised by a radio station made fun Kirill’s expensive Breguet wristwatch, which had come to wide notice after a botched attempt to photoshop the timepiece out of a photo on the church’s website. Inevitably, several MPs called for the law to be amended so that the organisers would to be sent to prison for inciting religious hatred, although no action appears to have followed.

As for the other pictures seized by police: Vitaly Milonov co-authored an anti-gay ordinance in St Petersburg, and attempted to have the singer Madonna arrested when she gave a concert in the city; Mizulina was recently profiled by the AP, which described her as “Vladimir Putin’s new morality crusader, spearheading efforts to curb gay rights, punish online cursing and impose a tax on divorce.” Altunin’s painting of her “erotic dream” depicts a woman (not sure if it’s Milonov herself) engaged in fellatio, and can be seen here (NSFW, obviously).

A notice posted to Altunin’s Facebook page last night has confirmed reports that the artist – perhaps wisely – has relocated to Paris.

Mayor of Tallinn Receives Orthodox Award From Moscow Patriarch

Interfax reports:

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on Wednesday conferred a high church honor on Tallin’s mayor for helping build an Orthodox church in Estonia’s capital.

The patriarch handed the insignia of the Order of Glory and Honor of the Russian Orthodox Church to Edgar Savisaar during a meeting in Tallin and again thanked the mayor for warm welcome he gave the patriarch during his visit to the city in June…

The construction of the Church… has been funded by ordinary Orthodox believers in Estonia with support from the Moscow mayor’s office and the Russian Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called.

The spiritual honour bestowed on Savisaar comes in the wake of more worldly advantage; the Baltic Business News reported in 2011:

Tuuli Koch, a reporter for Postimees daily, received the 2010 Bonnier Award, Estonia’s biggest annual prize for investigative journalism, writes Äripäev.

Koch won the prize for her story, published at the end of 2010, in which she revealed that Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar had secretly attempted to fund his political party and the building of a church in Savisaar’s electoral district in Lasnamäe through the deep pockets of Vladimir Yakunin, president of the Russian state-owned railway company.

Yakunin is a member of Putin’s circle, and he heads the Foundation of Saint Andew the First-Called; I’ve discussed him a number of times on this blog.

The timing is quite useful, too – Estonian Public Broadcasting notes:

Polling experts have attributed Savisaar’s political popularity to his outreach to Estonia’s Russian voters, including, most recently, in the form of building the Orthodox church and organizing the patriarch’s visit.

Receiving the order from the Russian patriarch could serve to further bolster that relationship ahead of municipal elections, set to take place on October 20.

I’m reminded of when Yakunin presented an award  to President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev ahead of elections in 2011.

In 2008, Tallinn was one of two European Union capital cities (Riga was the other) that declined to sign a statement affirming freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people in Europe; Savisaar took advice from from Tallinn City Council’s education and culture commission that the “good situation” of minorities in Tallinn meant that there was no need.

Savisaar is not the only foreign politician to receive praise from the Patriarch of Moscow; Kirill is also an enthusiast for Alexander Lukashenko.

Ousted Jerusalem Patriarch’s Former Treasurer Resurfaces In Athens

Kathimerini has reported that  Nicholas Papadimas (var. Nikos Papadimas), the fugitive former treasurer to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, has been arrested at Athens International Airport.

Papadimas disappeared from Jerusalem in 2005, after it came to light that land in East Jerusalem belonging to the church had been leased to the Israeli settler group Ateret Cohanim. According to a Russian report, Papadimas now says he stayed with family in Israel before moving to Panama, and that he returned to Greece to surrender himself due to threats by Hamas.

The 2005 land deal, as was reported widely, led to the dethronement Patriarch Irenaeus (var. Irineos), who claimed to have known nothing about the transaction; Andrew Walsh, who provided a good overview at the time, noted:

…Denying any part in the land transaction, Irineos pinned the blame on his financial lieutenant, a 32-year-old Greek national named Nikolaos Papadimas, who had disappeared, apparently taking $800,000 in funds realized from the deal along with him. “May my hands be cut off if I have stolen,” Irineos told Kathimerini in mid April.

But on Good Friday, April 29, Ma’ariv reported that it had obtained copies of a 198-year lease signed in August 2004 by Papadimas, as well as a power of attorney authorizing Papadimas to act on behalf of the patriarchate that Irineos had signed a few months earlier. The patriarch didn’t have persuasive response to that revelation, and, at about the same time, the Greek government reported that he had not cooperated with investigators sent from Greece.

Iranaeus was ousted in favour of Theophilos, who promised to rescind the deal but in fact didn’t do so; Theophilos’ failure to act led to a  breach with the controversial Palestinian bishop Atallah Hanna. Israel continued to recognise Iranaeus as the Patriarch for several years, despite a 2001 letter from the cleric to Yasser Arafat, in which the cleric conveyed his “disgust and disrespect… for the descendants of the crucifiers”. As of 2011 Iranaeus was living under Israeli police guard in his Patriarchal apartments, from where he was railing against Theophilos as a man “to whom ecclesiastical history will ascribe the name traitor!”

Another character the story of Iranaeus is a certain Apostolos Vavylis, a former drug smuggler who became a close associate of the late Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens. Vavylis – who wears clerical garb despite being a layman – was said to have had links to Greek and Israeli intelligence, and to have facilitated Iraenaus’ own rise to the Patriarchate in 2001. Vavylis was arrested in 2006 after fleeing from Greece to Italy via Thailand “with the help of his Taiwanese friends”; he was subsequently acquitted of various charges connected to espionage and fraud.

New Russian Group to Oppose “Atheist Extremism”

From Russia Today:

A group of activists connected with the Russian Orthodox Church are setting up a center against atheist extremism which, according to them, is promoted mainly by foreign-sponsored organizations.

The decision was announced this week at a meeting between city residents and deputies of a district council that was held near the pilgrimage center of the Moscow Patriarchate, in south-west Moscow. 

The atheist extremism is currently rearing its head. It is sponsored by various funds and NGOs with roots outside Russian borders,” reads the first statement released by the new movement.

Obviously the one thing Russia lacks at the moment is a sufficient number of religious activist groups (e.g. here and here).

RT gives few details about the group itself, although a Moscow News interview from a few days ago shows that the organiser is the politician Alexander Chuev (or “A.V.Chuev – website here). Chuev told the interviewer that hatred of religion permeates the media, and that his organisation will identify extremists and pass their names to prosecutors.

Chuev has a long history of this kind of thing. Born in 1965, back in 1989 he was a dissident described as a ” a close colleague of Alexander Ogorodnikov”, who founded the Christian-Democrat Union (and who is today celebrated as a man who suffered to establish religious freedom in Russia). A 2003 SOVA report by Alexander Verkhovsky notes Chuev’s support of “traditional religions”, in collaboration with a Communist deputy:

[Viktor] Zorkaltsev’s assistant Alexander Chuev (a politician traditional lobbying the Patriarchate’s interests and the leader of a very small Christian-Democratic party of Russia) reported on a draft law on traditional religious organizations he prepared. 

Chuev is against new restrictions on non-traditional religions, but he in favor of privileges to traditional ones – concerning an access to schools, to social work, free-of-charge access to mass media, restoration of tax privileges etc. 

(Verkhovsky explained Zorkaltsev’s support by adding that “the Communist party is known for its imperial-nationalist ideology”).

In 2004, Chuev “pledged to push through a law that would make it a crime to defame or dishonor Russia’s ‘traditional religions'”; in 2005 he put forward a bill which would introduce fines for the organisers of “immoral” public events; and in 2006 he led calls for a gay pride march and for homosexual “propaganda” to be banned.

You’d think he’d be more than happy by now.

Satanic Panic: WND Misleads on Speech Given by Cardinal Ahead of Conclave

Once again, we turn to WorldNetDaily:

It’s a matter so dark and serious it has only been whispered about behind closed doors in Vatican circles by courageous priests such as the late John F. O’Connor, Alfred Kunz and the late Malachi Martin.

But now, thanks to the release by the Holy See of an official bulletin titled “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” it has been confirmed that the papal conclave that elected Pope Francis March 13 heard a message, immediately before the voting, from a senior cardinal dealing directly with the threat of “The Smoke of Satan” descending on the Vatican itself.

The meditation about “that which Christ wants from his Church” was delivered by Maltese Prosper Grech, an 87-year-old Augustinian who could not participate in the vote. After his meditation, reports the Catholic online newsletter Chiesa, he left the Sistine Chapel.

WND goes on to cite Martin directly:

…The “Smoke of Satan” reference hearkens even more directly to what a close personal friend of Pope Paul VI observed in interviews and in two books he wrote about a Satanic “superforce” at work inside the Vatican.

“Suddenly it became unarguable that now… the Roman Catholic organization carried a permanent presence of clerics who worshipped Satan and liked it,” wrote Martin. “The facts that brought the Pope to a new level of suffering were mainly two: The systematic organizational links – the network, in other words, that had been established between certain clerical homosexual groups and Satanist covens. And the inordinate power and influence of that network.”

This falls apart on more than one ground; Grech did not in fact reference the “Smoke of Satan” – the phrase was added as a subheading by a newspaper – and his talk contains nothing which confirmed or suggested sympathy with Martin’s lurid conspiracy-mongering.

At 87, Grech was too old to vote, which was why he then left the chapel. L’Osservatore Romano published a segment of his talk here, and the full text is officially published by the Vatican in PDF form here, starting at page 352. His meditation formed part of the normal proceedings that relate to how a conclave is conducted; it is apparently officially known as an “admonition”, which caught the journalistic imagination and which is why Chiesa‘s headline in English thus describes it as a “warning”.

Chiesa‘s published extracts in English included the following:

SMOKE OF SATAN IN THE CHURCH

The evil spirit of the world, the “mysterium iniquitatis” (2 Thes 2:7), constantly strives to infiltrate the Church. Moreover, let us not forget the warning of the prophets of ancient Israel not to seek alliances with Babylon or with Egypt, but to follow a pure policy “ex fide” trusting solely in God (cf. Is 30:1; 31:1-3; Hos 12:2) and in his covenant. Courage! Christ relieves our minds when he exclaims: “Have trust, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). […]

However, it should be noted that the this subheading – and others in the report – have been added by Chiesa. The phrase “Smoke of Satan” does not in fact appear in the speech as officially published in Latin. Second, it’s clear that Grech’s point is merely a general warning against compromise; to see a coded reference here to Satanic covens is simply a grotesque misreading.

WND‘s interest in all this is because it wants to promote an absurd apocalpytic “Final Pope” scenario thought up by a certain Thomas Horn; Horn and WND have alreadly published more than one grossly fact-mangling article on the subject, as I discussed here and here.

The “Smoke of Satan” is a phrase famously associated with Pope Paul VI – it dates from a 1972 homily in which the then-pope expressed frustration with the state of the church:

…faced with the situation in which the Church finds itself today, we have the feeling that the smoke of Satan has seeped through the cracks and penetrated the People [Temple] of God. It was widely believed that the Council [i.e. Vatican II] was going to usher in an era of shining brilliance in the history of the Church. Instead we have had storm clouds and shadows, an atmosphere of quest and unncertainty.

That’s from a translation by Denis Crouan in a mainstream Catholic book called The Liturgy Betrayed; he argues that “the Pope is highlighting the failure to apply the decrees of the Council in practice”, due to diocesan bureaucracies. An official summary from 1972 (translated here) has a slightly different emphasis, suggesting that the Pope was actually thinking more generally of ideas with which he disagreed:

Referring to the situation of the Church today, the Holy Father affirms that he has a sense that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”  There is doubt, incertitude, problematic, disquiet, dissatisfaction, confrontation.  There is no longer trust of the Church; they trust the first profane prophet who speaks in some journal or some social movement, and they run after him and ask him if he has the formula of true life.

Either way, it’s clear that the Pope was discussing spiritual matters – but the story eventually developed that the phrase “smoke of Satan” in fact referred to a Satanic cult operating in the Vatican. In 1990 Martin claimed that Pope Paul had made “an oblique reference to an enthronement ceremony by Satanists in the Vatican”. As I discussed here, the whole thing is nonsense.

John F. O’Connor, who is cited by WND alongside Martin, is not someone with whom I was previously familar. Here’s a profile:

Born and raised in Chicago, Father O’Connor was a Military Chaplain during the Second World War. He became curious about Hitler and the “anti-Semitism” of the Nazi regime. Many soldiers asked him why, when they liberated Jews from the concentration camps, some of the Nazi guards were themselves Jewish and had even been former mayors of towns in Germany prior to the War.

Fr. O’Connor was ordered to be examined by a psychologist following a talk in which he named his Superior as a member of the Gay Rights Movement. His Superior barred young men from joining the Dominicans if they refused to accept sodomy and homosexuality as a viable life style alternative. He had been informed of this by several young males who had sought ordination. 

O’Connor sought the advice of a Canon Lawyer, Fr Alfred Kunz. Fr. Kunz was brutally murdered in a ritualistic fashion after assisting in the investigation of a satanic pedophile cult connected to the priesthood.

Various websites commend a two-hour sermon by O’Connor entitled The Reign of Anti-Christ, in which he apparently

…shows how we will be able to recognize the Anti-Christ through Bible and Current Events, that he is alive and prepared to enter world seen, about infiltration of Catholic Church, about the New World Order, end of US independence, One World Socialist Atheist Government, Wars, Paper Money, Homosexual infiltration of the Catholic Church.

An blurb for another video (pre-dating his death in 2006) advertises him as

…another of the few within the Catholic clergy that has spoken out against the Luciferian Judeo-Masonic conspiracy to destroy the Roman Catholic Church from within. Still alive, he often speaks on the Last Days, The False Prophet and on The Anti-Christ. Fr. O’Connor speaks principally on Lucifer and how he has waged war against the “Kingdom of God” and the Catholic Church for 2,000 years and how his disciples through membership in Masonry, Freemasonry and the Illuminati devised a plan called “Alta Vendetta” that is designed to take control of the Papacy.

Fr. O’Connor also spoke (prophesied?) about how these Luciferians would send missiles to destroy the U.S. (911) in the coming Third World War and about the Federal Reserve Bank and has questioned where the money goes that is paid for the interest on the USA national debt. He has also spoken extensively on how “The False Prophet” ( the next Pope) will deceive Catholics into worshiping the Anti-Christ…

Following his death, Renew America columnist Matt C. Abbott commended him as a “whistleblower” on homosexuality in the church, and drew attention to a text by a certain Randy Engel, entitled The Rite of Sodomy — Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church.

Chuck Missler Book Plagiarised New Age Science Author

As is well known, conservative Christians usually tend to take a dim view of other religions; at best, they are seen as mere human gropings the dark; at worst, they are Satanic counterfeits created to deceive humans. A partial exception is often made for Judaism, which is seen as merely “incomplete”, but as having a continuing positive role of some kind (particularly in inspiring Jews to move to Israel), and Mormons are increasingly accepted as being Christians. These days, hostility is particularly focused on Islam, and self-styled prophecy teachers have scrambled to explain how perceived threats to US interests and to Israel foreshadow a “Last Days” conflict in which Muslims will be under the direct control of the anti-Christ.

However, Islam is not the only tradition to be singled out: there is particular horror at anything which might be termed “magical” or “occult”. Interest in supernatural or “psychic” forces is seen as the channel by which demons directly intervene in the world and take control over individuals’ lives, which is why neo-Pagans, Wiccans, and New Agers are sometimes abused by some Christians as being “Satanists”.

So it’s rather odd that a prominent Christian fundamentalist teacher and writer should have been found to have plagiarised an author associated with the “New Age”. Christian website Herescope has compiled a dossier which shows that Chuck Missler’s book Alien Encounters (co-authored with Mark Eastman) has cut and pasted a number of passages from a book called The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot.

Gaylene Goodroad gives 17 examples, and writes:

I wasn’t prepared for what I actually found. Not only do these identical quotations appear in both books—but so do multiple other passages as well. I searched in vain for a single mention of Talbot’s name (or book) in Missler;s Cosmic Codes. He is not cited anywhere in the 372 pages of text, nor is he listed in the appendices, endnotes, or index. This is an inexplicable omission, especially because Talbot’s words and source work are clearly incorporated into Missler’s book. Entire paragraphs have been imported from Talbot’s book, many times word-for-word, without any attribution—even including Talbot’s original source work in the footnotes. 

Talbot (who died early from leukaemia aged 38 in 1992) does not appear to have been associated with any particular New Age group, but Goodroad notes that he acknowledged a debt to Marilyn Ferguson’s Aquarian Conspiracy. His book seems to be at the more intellectual end of the New Age spectrum, drawing on the work of quantum physicist David Bohm and neurophysiologist Karl PribramWouter J Hanegraaff‘s academic survey New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought is somewhat dismissive of his oeuvre, describing him as:

…representative of a trend in popular New Age science to convince the reader by simply overwhelming him with a mass of accumlated facts, theories, conjectures and speculations.

Talbot enthuses over all kinds of psychic phenomena that most Christians would regard as taboo, which could create difficulties for Missler beyond the simple fact of the plagiarism itself.

As I’ve noted previously, Missler is known for his particular focus on exotic subjects such as UFOs (and for arguing that peanut butter disproves evolution), but he interacts with a wider Christian Right scene:  he has featured on GOD TV, his “Strategic Perspectives” conferences have attracted a range of high-profile speakers, and the “Board of Regents” for his Koinonia House “Christian Think Tank” includes Joseph FarahErgun Caner,  Jerome CorsiAlan KeyesTim LaHaye, several Calvary Chapel pastors, and others (including Binyamin Elon MK, a long-time US Christian Right ally).

Goodroad also draws attention to a previous example of plagiarism involving Missler, although this time fellow Christian author was plundered (links added):

 Back in 1992, Missler and fellow Bible author Hal Lindsey had published a manuscript called The Magog Factor utilizing large portions—as much as 25 percent—of unattributed material from Edwin Yamauchi’s 1982 book, Foes from the Northern Frontier.

(H/T Ed Brayton)

WND Promotes New “Islamic Anti-Christ” Author As “Prequel” To Jonathan Cahn’s Harbinger

New York Compared to Babylon; “radical Islam will be victorious” 

From WorldNetDaily (WND):

Jonathan Cahn’s bestselling book, “The Harbinger,” has been criticized for suggesting that God would judge America, beginning Sept. 11, 2001, without first providing a warning – as He did before judging Israel in Isaiah 9:10.

But a new book, promoted by the publisher as a “prequel” to “The Harbinger,” the bestselling Christian title of 2012 and 2013, and “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,” the No. 1 faith movie of the last two years, makes the case that, indeed, there was a warning.

That shocking warning is documented in the coming “The 9/11 Prophecy” by James F. Fitzgerald, the creator of “The Watchword Bible,” the first word-for-word video production of the entire New Testament.

Fitzgerald’s WatchWORD Bible DVDs display text from the Bible along with narration, sound effects, and images. The product has been endorsed by a number of high-profile evangelical figures, including Michael Flaherty of Walden Media (“So well produced”), George Barna (“The words of scripture with great visuals!”), the late Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ (“A wonderful achievement!”), and the late Ted Engstrom of World Vision (“This marvelous apocalyptic revelation will be a blessing to hosts of people.”). The box set is distributed by “Good New Holdings of Los Angeles, headed by David Kirkpatrick, a former president of production at both Disney and Paramount”, and there are foreign language versions including Arabic and Japanese.

The idea for the project came to Fitzgerald in 1991 following a three-day fast, and his quest to complete the task was noted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1996:

In a small office on the fourth floor of a renovated Downtown office building, James Fitzgerald is trying to do for the Gospel in the 21st century what Johannes Gutenberg did for it in the 15th century.

Just as Gutenberg’s printing press brought the Bible to millions of newly literate readers, Fitzgerald is ready to bring it to the millions who now prefer television and computers to books.

…Fitzgerald, 49, an Episcopalian, was vice president of Cornerstone Television, a small Christian network based in Wall, when he got the idea for the WatchWORD Bible in 1991. He worked at it part time until 1993, when, with backing from a handful of investors, he quit his job to work at it full time along with his wife, Betty.

Fitzgerald’s presentation of the Book of Revelation was shown at the NY International Independent Film and Video Festival in Madison Square in May 2000. According to a promotional video alongside the new WND story, Fitzgerald now says that at the time, chapter 18 of the book struck him as being particularly significant: the chapter deals with the fall of Babylon, and it occured to him that New York is a “type” of Babylon. Fitzgerald believes that this sense of the chapter’s importance was prompted by God, and that the film showing in Madison Square was actually a warning sent to the city to repent ahead of 9/11 (as further confirmation, God prompted Fitzgerald to read the Book of Lamentations the night before 9/11).

Fitzgerald presented his theory connecting 9/11 to the Book of Reveleation in a self-published e-book in 2010, entitled Out of Time: The 9/11 Prophecy and bearing the tagline:

The Lord Sent a Jonah to NYC One Year before a Prophetic Surprise Attack Began the End-Time Judgments of the Final Generation

According to a blurb on a website promoting the book (the site has since been removed):

In the year 2000, the Lord led this Jonah to see through scripture and providence that New York City would soon suffer a surprise attack in a single hour, with tall buildings falling, great fire and smoke, and many people killed. The Lord also made it clear that this imminent attack would be a prophetic sign – pointing to the events of Chapter 18 in THE BOOK OF REVELATION. The Lord then sent this Jonah and his team into the heart of New York City with His word at a time of intense speculation about the future – the Millennium year. And as the Lord would have it, His warning was not hidden in a corner. On July 9, 2000, the name of the messenger and the message were prominently posted at Madison Square Garden. Yet, hardly anyone paid attention to the prophetic words written in bright lights upon the marquee of the most famous auditorium in America…but, unlike the prophet of old, this Jonah was certain God’s judgment would happen. For New York City, unlike Nineveh, would never even hear God’s warning when it came, much less heed it.

Fitzgerald’s book included:

How the Lord revealed His imminent judgment in advance
A real-life Jonah was sent to NYC before 9/11
The Lord prepared this Jonah for this unique task his whole life
9/11 was a prophetic judgment that points to Revelation 18
9/11 was God’s great catalyst to begin the final generation
How “the beginning of sorrows” that Jesus foretold has begun with 9/11
How the first of the Apocalyptic judgments has occurred before our eyes
That the second of the Four Horsemen is now preparing to ride
How America has a major hidden role in end-times prophecy
How America must fall in this generation to make way for Antichrist
How radical Islam will be victorious in its quest for world dominion
What and who is now restraining the coming of Antichrist

One is struck by the easy conflation of personal biography, historic events, and cosmology.

Fitzgerald’s e-book appears at some point to have come to the attention of Joseph Farah, whose birther news website WND links the Christian Right to wider “Tea Party” conservativism and conspiracy-mongering. Farah showcases all manner of bizarre apocalyptic prophecy-mongers (including one author who warns of UFOs heading to the Vatican to install a “serpent savior”), but although he’s given a platform to the aged Hal Lindsey to continue expound on his 1970s anti-Soviet “Revived Roman Emperor” anti-Christ theory, Farah is much more interested in an alternative eschatology which fits better with current global conflicts and with the anti-Islam views of his target readership: this is the claim that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ, as predicted by the likes of Joel Richardson (“Glenn Beck’s End-Times Prophet“) and Walid Shoebat.

Although Fitzgerald is not particularly known, high-profile endorsements of the WatchWORD Bible perhaps demonstrate that he has the potential to promote fears over an “Islamic anti-Christ” more widely within evangelicalism. The e-book has been withdrawn, and Farah’s WND Books has now brought out The 9/11 Prophecy. This time, though, the somewhat overwrought “Jonah” tagline has been removed, in favour of a simple “Startling Evidence the End-Times Have Begun”. A special edition of the WatchWORD Bible Book of Revelation DVD has also been produced, with WND cover branding.

A new book blurb creates a cosmic tie-in between Fitzgerald and Cahn’s Harbinger, which also been heavily promoted by WND and by Joseph Farah personally:

…Incredibly, the site of the attack – Ground Zero – had been owned by his wife’s direct ancestors at the founding of New York City, and portions had remained in the Dey family for almost a century. The were astonished: Not only had the Lord led him to foresee the surprise attack through His Word and providence, but when it occurred it occured upon the same land her Dutch ancestors had owned over three centuries before!

This was the same land, including St. Paul’s Chapel, that also figured so prominently in “The Harbinger” by Jonathan Cahn and its video documentary, “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment.” And contrary to what some critics claimed, 9/11 truly fit the Isaiah 9:10 pattern, as “The 9/11 Prophecy” proves beyond doubt. In fact, one of the critics’ chief arguments that 9/11 didn’t fit the Isaiah pattern is that New York City had no prior warning. But it did! “The 9/11 Prophecy” demonstrates this with powerful, irrefutable evidence – “The Lord sent a word …” (Isaiah 9:8). Even more importantly, 9/11 has a startling connection to the Second Coming of Christ that is also directly related to the Isaiah passage (Isaiah 9:1-7).

…Islam is destined to exercise worldwide dominion as the religion of Antichrist… who even now must be alive on earth to be of age to appear in his proper time. 

I’ve written about Cahn and his book previously: Cahn is a Messianic Jew (i.e. a Jewish believer in Jesus whose Jewish cultural identity is expressed in worship), and he has for some years been marketing himself as an expert on esoteric “Hebrew mysteries” and such.

In 2011 Cahn drew attention to the fact that in the wake of 9/11 a couple of politicians (Tom Daschle and John Edwards) had quoted a text from the Bible (Isaiah 9:10) which they thought conveyed ancient Israel’s resolution in the face of adversity, but which in original context are actually defiant but futile boasts against God’s judgement. From this, Cahn has extrapolated an apocalyptic theory about how 9/11 was allowed by God to happen because of the USA’s wickedness, and about how Biblical accounts of ancient Israel can also be applied to the USA.

The Harbinger is published by Charisma Media, and has been been heavily promoted by Charisma’s CEO Stephen Strang (one of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005); last year, Strang and Cahn appeared together on Jim Bakker’s television show to explain that the book itself is the result of divine provenance:

The “prophet” is a businessman from New Jersey named Hubie Synn. We mentioned him in an article in Charisma four years ago after he prophesied to football player David Tyree that God was bringing him out of obscurity and that his name was going before him. Soon after Tyree made a catch against his helmet, which has been called the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. His team won the game.

Synn emailed Strang in January 2011 to explain that he had met Cahn by chance at an airport and given him Strang’s details:

What makes it doubly exciting is that Cahn was praying for guidance at that moment in the airport as he was reading his Bible and waiting for his connecting flight. Hubie’s flight had been cancelled and as he was waiting for the next flight he felt he should give a word to a total stranger who turned out to be Cahn!

Alongside support from Strang, Cahn’s theories have been promoted by Joseph Farah, and The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment DVD was a tie-in published by WND. As a result, Cahn’s stock has rapidly risen, and he is now a regular fixture on the Christian Right speaker circuit: in January he took part in an unofficial “Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast” in Washington DC (which also included a pastor who says he regularly prays for Obama’s death), and in May he was at a prayer event alongside the ludicrous Newt Gingrich. If you would like to see the Farah and Cahn in action for yourselves, they will be leading a “pilgrimage” to Israel in November 2013, at which “contemporary End-Times Insights” are promised.

I’m sure that Fitzgerald can now expect to follow exactly the same career arc.

UPDATEWND now reports:

Today, more than a decade after the completion of “The WatchWORD Bible” and hundreds of thousands sold, WND announces it has signed an exclusive worldwide licensing deal to market and distribute this unique product.

“We hope to make the scriptures come alive for millions of people who have never had the opportunity to see and hear the New Testament literally come alive for them,” said Joseph Farah, chief executive office of WND and founder of WND Films. “We intend to use the platform of success we built with ‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment’ to expand the marketplace for ‘The WatchWORD Bible’ and to reduce the consumer price for this breakthrough product.”

The whole set now carries WND branding. This means that a hitherto neutral Bible product with potentially quite a wide reach will be tied directly to WND‘s paranoid and shrill political agenda and fringe apocalypticism. Joseph Farah, it should be remembered, is a Birther, and WND articles have accused Obama of everything from  masterminding the Sandy Hook massacre to sending a secret message to Muslims that he plans to continue the Jewish Holocaust. Perhaps Farah had a better distribution offer than Good News Holdings – but it’s a deal with the devil.

UK Tabloid Resurrects Breast Implant Bomb Threat Story

Here’s one that sounds familar; from Andy Lines at the UK Mirror:

Breast implants suicide bomb threat: Heathrow on high alert over “credible” intelligence

Heathrow Airport is on high terror alert amid fears women suicide bombers are ready to strike with ­explosives concealed in breast implants.

Security checks have been beefed up after “credible” intelligence that al-Qaeda is plotting attacks on airlines flying out of London.

One staff member said: “There are genuine fears over this.

“We have been told to pay particular attention to females who may have concealed hidden explosives in their breasts.

…Al-Qaeda’s chief bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri is understood to have developed the method of foiling airport scanners by concealing ­explosives in an implant or bodily cavity.

Note that the headline heavily infers that that the “‘credible’ evidence” refers to breast implants, but that in the main text it applies only to a general terror threat.

The spectre of implant bombs has haunted the media’s imagination since 2009; as the Daily Mail‘s David Gardner reported in October of that year:

Air travellers could face even more intrusive security checks amid fears that Al Qaeda is planning a terror campaign using suicide bombers carrying explosives hidden in their bodies.

The body bomb threat was revealed after the tactic was used in an assassination attempt on a Saudi prince.

…The body bomb method was tested for the first time by 23-year-old Al Qaeda militant Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, who got through several security checks with military grade plastic explosive in his rectum and detonated them during a meeting with the Saudi anti-terrorism chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in August.

Abdullah al-Asiri was Ibrahim’s younger brother, and the detonation was not a great success (“the terrorist’s body absorbed much of the impact of the blast and was ripped into seventy pieces”). However, it was never actually established for sure whether the bomb had really been a suppository or had simply been sewn into his underwear.

Specific fears about a “breast implant bomb” followed in early 2010, as I discussed here and here; the idea appeared as a speculation in Forbes, developed into full-blown scare stories in the Daily Mail and WorldNetDaily, was then passed back to the Sun, and then went global.

So far as I can see, no actual implant bomb attacks followed, but the idea was later dusted off by Mark Hosenball of Reuters in May 2012:

Western authorities fear militants will carry implanted bombs

(Reuters) – U.S. and allied officials said they are increasingly concerned that doctors working with al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate will implant bombs inside living militants in order to try to circumvent airport security measures and bring down aircraft.

Earlier this year, a missile fired by a CIA-operated drone killed a Yemeni doctor who had devised medical procedures which could be used to surgically plant explosive devices in humans, several U.S. officials told Reuters.

…three U.S. officials said counter-terrorism agencies report that other doctors in Yemen are prepared to surgically load bombs into the organs of militants.

Two weeks later, David Leppard and Dipesh Gadher followed up in the Sunday Times, this time specifically referencing breast bombs again:

Al-Qaeda implants bombs in humans

WESTERN intelligence agencies believe doctors working with Al-Qaeda in Yemen have been trained to plant explosives inside the bodies of suicide bombers.

The medics can place explosive compounds in the abdomens and breasts of suicide bombers to evade airport security and bring down passenger aircraft.

A doctor who had devised procedures to plant explosives inside terrorists was killed by a CIA drone earlier this year. He is believed to have worked with Ibrahim al-Asiri, the top bomb maker of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Intelligence officials believe a small number of other doctors are working with Asiri. The CIA wants to identify and hunt them down. “This is a transferable skill and there is still some concern,” said a western security official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

What the Reuters headline reported as a fear by “authorities” for the future has now become something that is already happening. Details about the unnamed doctor killed by the CIA drone appear to be non-existent, by the way.

The new Mirror article – which has now been picked up by other sources, including the Telegraph – is little more than a rehash of the wild speculations that were being bandied around in 2010. As was the case with the media at that time, and again in 2012, the Mirror gives no example of a “breast bomb” ever having been attempted, or any evidence that Ibrahim al-Asiri or anyone else has been working on such a thing.

Staff members at Heathrow may indeed have been told “to pay particular attention” to the possibility of a breast implant bomb as part of a more general alert (see Update 2 below), but the report gives us no reason to believe that breast bombs are any more probable now than they were three years ago.

However, lack of evidence has not deterred self-promoting experts from churning out rent-a-quotes; the Mirror continues (links added):

…Explosives expert Andy Oppenheimer said: “There is a great fear that al-Qaeda are planning on using internal devices to try and get through airport scanners.

“These explosives could be in breast implants.”

…Another specialist, who asked not to be named, said breast implant bombs could be set off by injecting another liquid.

…Independent security analyst Paul Beaver said: “There are currently deeply serious concerns over body cavities and implants of all kinds – including breast implants – being used to hide explosives…”

Nice work if you can get it.

Of course a terrorist attempting to use a breast implant bomb is within the realms of theoretical possibility (although whether such a thing is actually feasible is another matter), but nothing here gives us any reason to think that the “experts” know any more about it than the rest of us – much less the hacks looking for an easy scoop during “silly season”.

UPDATE: The story is now being further hyped; according to Kounteya Sinha at the Times of India:

Britain has credible intelligence that female suicide bombers with explosives concealed in breast implants are planning to blow up Heathrow airport.

Security agencies have found that al-Qaida’s chief bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri has developed a method to conceal explosives from airport scanners in an implant or bodily cavity. A large contingent of female suicide bombers have been recruited.

“We have been told to pay particular attention to females who may have concealed explosives in their breasts,” the airport authorities said.

The Mirror‘s unnamed “staff member” has now become “airport authorities”; the “credible intelligence” is now firmly linked to breast implants; al-Asiri’s supposed interest in developing an implant bomb, which has been public knowledge since 2009, becomes a new discovery by “security agencies”. The “large contingent of female suicide bombers” appears to be Sinha’s own contribution.

UDPATE 2: Heathrow Airport’s website has included the following notice for the past few days:

At the request of US authorities (TSA) additional security measures are being carried out by airlines flying to the USA. If you are flying to a US destination, please allow extra time for your journey.

This must be related to the global travel alert that was issued by the US Department of State on 2 August:

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.  Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.  This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.

So, there’s a heightened general risk, and Heathrow is taking extra precautions at the TSA’s advice. But there’s nothing to indicate a specific threat to flights out of Heathrow, much less one involving “breast implant bombs”.

Evangelist Taken In Adultery Reminds People Not to Judge

A Bible lesson, from evangelist Sam Hinn (Benny Hinn’s less famous brother, apparently) and posted on Facebook:

An adulterous woman was thrown at Jesus’ feet. She knew the punishment for her was public stony [sic]. The fact that she was caught in the very act only heightened the shame and intensified her fear of a painful death. 

Her accusers stood with confidence because the law of God supported their position. They held the stones that would soon take her life while, she waited for them to display their outrage for her complete disregard of God standard of holiness. 

Then the MASTER began to write in the sand. We don’t know what he wrote. All we know is that the atmosphere created by the writings of the “grace giver” completely disarmed her accusers. They fled as the grace of God drove away the judgments of men as quickly as light displaces the darkness. Grace is superior.

Might there be some special reason as to why Hinn chose last Sunday to dwell on this particular Bible story? Aha – from Charisma News:

After a four-year affair and an eight-month restoration process, Sam Hinn, the brother of evangelist Benny Hinn, was re-ordained into the ministry on Sunday night at Bishop Mark Chironna’s Church on the Living Edge.

But not everyone is impressed by the speed with which Hinn has recovered from his “off-brand” (to borrow a currently-popular contemporary usage) behaviour:

“I have to confess that when I heard about the plans to re-ordain Sam, I was upset. I told one of my ministry colleagues, ‘This is a joke and makes a mockery out of everything I hold dear and have spent my life proclaiming and upholding,'” wrote Pastor Ron Johnson, who was charged with overseeing Hinn’s restoration process.

“I outlined a two-year plan of restoration and walked through the initial stages with him. But after three months, Sam wanted to renegotiate the terms. When I wouldn’t agree to that, he withdrew from my covering and has since found a group of men willing to endorse his leadership in a more expeditious manner.”

According to Hinn, again on Facebook (links added):

These are my heroes of restoration. These are the men that brought me back to life– Bishop Lonnie Langston, Dr. Joel Hunter, Dr. Mark Chironna, Bishop Decker Tapscott and Dr. Dwight Bain!

Hinn describes Bain as his “covenant friend and Life-Coach”. Also on board are “Bishop Joseph and Pastor Barbara Garlington”.

There are also photos of Hinn’s restoration ceremomy, which included him being wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl.

Rees-Mogg Dinner Date Highlights Fringe-Right Groups

This one has already had widespread coverage; from the Independent:

The prominent Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has become embroiled in a race row after he spoke at a dinner organised by an extreme right-wing group which backs the repatriation of ethnic minority Britons.

Mr Rees-Mogg spoke of his shock of learning about the views of the Traditional Britain Group which this week called for Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, to leave the country.

However, it has emerged that the MP had been warned about the group by Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation, the day before his speech and still decided to deliver it. The organisation describes itself as a “home to the disillusioned patriot”.

After ignoring the warning, Rees-Mogg learned the hard way after the dinner came to the attention of Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy and from there took off into mainstream media

Friends of Rees-Mogg have been quick to explain the fiasco as an unfortunate consequence of his “unworldliness”, and there is no reason not to take him at his word when he says he was shocked; he has no “form” when it comes to matters of race and extreme nationalism. However, while Rees-Mogg’s personal foibles may have played at part (“he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter. Only recently accepted e-mail and then only in a pinch”, according to Louise Mensch), the incident does once again show how easy it is for particular groups or indviduals to co-opt hapless MPs and other public figures.

The story has also drawn attention to the Traditional Britain Group and its leader Gregory Lauder-Frost; the Independent ran a follow-up piece called “Gregory Lauder-Frost Exposed”, although “Gregory Lauder-Frost Noticed” would have been more accurate; the man is quite open about his views.

Not all Conservatives consider Lauder-Frost to be toxic; Norman Tebbit attended a small dinner at which he spoke in 2007. However, the right-wing UKIP MEP Roger Helmer pulled out of a dinner engaging in 2008 involving Lauder-Frost under the auspicies of the “Baldwin Dining Club” (presumably named for Stanley rather than James). On his website, Helmer wrote:

I was invited some weeks ago to speak at the Club, and I understood that it was a group of conservatives and like-minded people.  However I was approached last week by colleagues who expressed some concern, and suggested I research the Club, and its leading members, on Google.  Having done this, I found some apparent connections with which I was very uncomfortable.

I make no accusation against the Club, and I am not in a position to verify the information on the internet.  Nevertheless, I have had to make a judgement call based on the information I have to hand, and on the advice of colleagues, and I therefore decided to err on the side of caution…

Helmer’s decision enraged a close associate of Lauder-Frost named Michael Keith Smith (since deceased), who characteristically threatened to sue Helmer for “breach of contract and negligence” and for “libel”, although no legal action followed.

Lauder-Frost should have been easy enough for one of Rees-Mogg’s staff to check out; his name is distinctive, and for many years he was a leading light of the anti-immigration Monday Club. In 1984 he successfully fended off an attempted libertarian take-over of the Club by a group of radicals (“the Camberley Group”) associated with the Club’s only black member, Derek Laud, although for a while after he worked with conservative libertarians through the Western Goals Institute (more on that here). Conservative libertarians eventually disassociated themselves from WGI over links with characters such as Jean-Marie Le Pen (1).

In 2008, Lauder-Frost was again the news over a spat with a certain Alan Harvey over membership of another fringe-right group, called the Swinton Circle; Hugh Muir noted at the time:

Back with discomforting news about discord within the Swinton Circle, the group that inhabits the murky ground between the crazies on the far right and the outer reaches of David Cameron’s Conservative party…There was, it seems, a furore about the alleged infiltration of the meeting and of the group itself by NF/BNP types who only serve to lower the tone. Bad blood between Alan Harvey, the London chair, and Gregory Lauder-Frost, the former political secretary of the Monday Club, appeared to sour everything – reflecting what one web poster described as “scenes more redolent of a bear garden than a meeting of a respected Conservative organisation”…

I discussed the follow-up to this a number times, such as here, and culminating here. Harvey also runs a group called the Springbok Club, which at the centre of its own dinner-speaking controversy when Johann Hari noted Andrew Roberts’ involvement with one of its events in 2007.

Footnote

(1) Lauder-Frost’s dinosaur views have long since fallen out of favour with the Conservative Party, and links between the party and the Monday Club were suspended in 2001. However, conservative libertarianism also came to be seen as a liability by Conservative Central Office; Tebbit closed down the libertarian “loony right” Federation of Conservative Students in the mid-1980s (some activists from which found refuge with the Greater London Young Conservatives), and there were subsequent claims by Tebbit and Keith Smith of a shadowy libertarian faction called “the Movement” which was out to depose Tebbit as a form of revenge.