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I do not promote or support the “No More Fake News” website I only post this link to point out that censorship is extending to WordPress.com. Makes me wonder how long it will be before WordPress.com starts removing Christian websites. This website has been up for over 12 years. We will see!

from No More Fake News:

On May 11, 2019, WordPress suddenly took down my blog after 10 years of continuous operation. There was no warning or advance notice of any kind.”

from CNS News:

The Department of Health and Human Services says it has granted a second 90-day extension to a contract it has with the University of California at San Francisco that requires UCSF to make “humanized mice.”

These creatures are made by implanting mice with human tissues taken from late-term aborted babies.

The HHS’s multi-million-dollar contract with UCSF that requires the construction of these “humanized mice” creates a demand–driven by federal tax dollars–for tissue taken from late-term aborted babies. According to an estimate it has published on its website, the National Institutes of Health (which is a division of HHS) will spend $95 million this fiscal year alone on research that–like UCSF’s “humanized mouse” contract–uses human fetal tissue.

Under the new 90-day extension, the contract—which the government calls “Humanized Mouse Models for HIV Therapeutics Development”–will run through June 5.

HHS also is still in the process of conducting the “comprehensive review” it announced last September “of all research involving fetal tissue.”

That review was initiated to ensure that all federally funded research using human fetal tissue is consistent “with statutes and regulations governing such research, and to ensure the adequacy of procedures and oversight of this research in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

“The UCSF contract has been issued another extension,” HHS said on Friday in response to questions from CNSNews.com about the contract and the review.

“We will provide an update on the review once it has concluded and as appropriate,” HHS said.

As CNSNews.com first reported on Oct. 17, 2018, the National Institutes of Health, which is part of HHS, originally signed its “humanized mouse” contract with UCSF on Dec. 6, 2013. The contract was for a one-year period and gave the government the option of renewing it for up to six additional one-year periods through Dec. 5, 2020.

According to contract information published on the Federal Procurement Data System, the new three-month extension will pay UCSF $521,082—bringing the total payments the federal government has made to UCSF for this contract to $10,596,960.

If the government continues renewing the contract through Dec. 5, 2020, HHS would end up paying UCSF a total of $13,799,501.

The contract specifically requires researchers at UCSF to make two different types of “humanized mice” both of which are “engrafted with human fetal liver and thymus.”

The “Statement of Work” in the original contract solicitation said that the contractor would be required to make one “cohort” of “up to 50” mice per month of the first type of humanized mouse and another cohort of “up to 40” mice per month of the second type. The statement said each of these two cohorts of “humanized mice” should be made “with tissue from a single donor”—meaning a single aborted baby…..

read the full article here.

A Covenant That Pushes Us Much Closer To A One World Religion!

from The Guardian:

The pope and the grand imam of al-Azhar have signed a historic declaration of fraternity, calling for peace between nations, religions and races, in front of a global audience of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths.

Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seat of learning, arrived at the ceremony in Abu Dhabi hand-in-hand in a symbol of interfaith brotherhood.

The document pledges that al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism. Claiming to be in the name of “all victims of wars, persecution and injustice”, it warns against a “third world war being fought piecemeal”.

It says: “We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.”

In the first ever papal visit to the Arabian peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, the pope specifically called for an end to wars in the Middle East, naming Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. All religious leaders had a “duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war”, he said in a 26-minute address.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led military coalition engaged in the war in Yemen. On Sunday, before leaving Rome for Abu Dhabi, Francis said he was following the situation in Yemen “with great concern”, and that the population was “exhausted by the lengthy conflict, and a great many children are suffering from hunger”.

In his speech on Monday evening – his first public comments during the three-day trip – he welcomed “the opportunity to come here as a believer for peace … We are here to desire peace, we are here to promote peace, to be instruments of peace.”

Violence, extremism or fanaticism could never be justified in the name of religion, he said. He also called for religious freedom “not limited only to freedom of worship”, justice and for religions to “stand on the side of the poor”.

Sheikh Tayeb, who addressed the pope as “my dear brother”, said millions of Muslims had paid the price for the actions of “a handful of criminals” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Earlier on Monday, Francis arrived at the lavish presidential palace in Abu Dhabi in a small black Kia. He was greeted with a 21-shot salute and military flyover trailing yellow and white smoke in the colours of the Vatican flag. Horse-mounted guards escorted the pontiff’s motorcade through the palace gardens.

The pope had a private meeting with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who later tweeted: “We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence & important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies.”

The UAE is promoting itself as a regional leader in religious diversity and tolerance. According to the organisers of a conference on “human fraternity” this week, the UAE since its formation in 1971 has “given special attention to issues such as dialogue, tolerance, fraternity and peace. It also offered the world a model example of applying these human values through the coexistence and tolerance embraced by the various cultures, races and faiths living on its soil.”

The population of the Emirates is 90% expatriate, with people from more than 200 countries, including significant numbers from Asia who are employed in domestic service, hospitality and construction.

Christians are free to worship at churches and wear religious clothing. But Open Doors, which monitors discrimination against and persecution of Christians around the world, says the UAE government does not allow Christians “to evangelise or pray in public. Converts from Islam endure the most persecution as they face pressure from family members and the local community to recant their Christian faith.”

The government has also been criticised by human rights organisations for restrictions on freedom of expression.

Reem al-Hashemi, the UAE’s minister of state for international cooperation, said it was “important to note that openness has to have parameters, otherwise things can quickly spiral into incitement or hate. Freedom of expression has to have limitations.”

Pope Francis is to celebrate mass in front of an expected audience of 120,000 people at a sports stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday before flying back to Rome.

from The Los Angeles Times:

A Northern California pastor has parted ways with his church following outrage over a sign outside the parish that read, “Bruce Jenner is still a man, homosexuality is still a sin.”

The sign, shared on the pastor’s Facebook page, sparked protests and national news coverage. Justin Hoke announced his departure on the Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church Facebook page on Saturday evening.

“I was informed that essentially all but one couple in membership would leave the church if I continued as pastor of TBPC,” Hoke said in his post. Another church elder agreed to assume pastoral responsibilities, according to Hoke, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The church has been under fire since the sign went up less than two weeks ago, targeting transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner. Hoke first announced that the message was going up outside the church through a Facebook post.

“The response we’re receiving from this sign proves that it was posted way too late,” Hoke commented under a photo he shared of the sign. “If a conservative mountain farming community is no longer a safe place to call sin, sin. Then is anywhere in this country still safe for real Christians?”

The church is located in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border.

Someone vandalized the sign earlier this week, breaking the Plexiglas and stealing some of the letters. It went back up the following day with essentially the same message.

The sign prompted a few people to organize the Shastina Love Rally “to show our love and support for the LBGTQ community; not only to our community, but worldwide.” The first rally took place Jan. 6, and the second one is planned for Sunday.

Amelia Mallory, a resident of Lake Shastina and organizer of the rally, said the sign was shocking. When the organizers reached out to the pastor about taking down the sign, “He seemed really not open to the idea,” she said.

“Even acknowledging that we live in a more rural, and generally a more conservative area — the fact that somebody thought that that would be accepted by our community was definitely surprising,” Mallory said.

The rally organizers applauded the congregation for being “willing to stand on their convictions,” but also expressed concern for Hoke and his family.

On the church’s Facebook post announcing the pastor’s departure, Mallory offered to help take down the sign.

from Into:

The Church of England hasn’t always been LGBTQ-friendly. In fact, the official church stance is still that marriage should remain a strictly heterosexual affair between a man and a woman. But the church is slowly evolving, and on Wednesday announced new pastoral guidelines for an official gender transition ceremonythat can be performed by its parishes.

That’s a big deal for a country in which church and state are inextricably linked; the Church of England is the official state religion, public schools are run according to church tenets, and church bishops even participate in lawmaking through a special section of Parliament called “Lords Spiritual.” Unlike in the U.S., the English church has broad influence over national policy and the culture at large. And the Church of England is the mother-ship of the international Anglican faith, with over 85 million members worldwide.

The new ceremony for trans church members incorporates something called the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into celebrations that mark a gender transition.

“Everyone’s journey through life is unique. Baptism is the place where we find our true identity in Christ,” reads the pastoral guidance. “As with all pastoral encounters with people negotiating major life events, ministers will wish to respond sensitively and creatively to the person’s circumstances.”

The church guidelines recommend a ceremonial event that fosters a “celebratory character.” The pastor conducting the ceremony is advised to use the trans person’s chosen name and pronouns, perform an anointment using water or oil, allow “testimony” to reflect on the person’s journey, and present the person with a baptismal certificate of sorts.

The impressively detailed church guidelines include basic definitions of what it means to be transgender along with an overview of terminology for church officials for whom the concept is new. “It should be noted that the term ‘transgender’ is typically preferred to transgendered,” reads the guidance.

The church’s ceremonial blessing of gender transition does not mean the work of LGBTQ advocates in England is over. With the church still defining marriage in heterosexual terms, a debate is roaring within its ranks over the welcoming of LGBTQ congregants.

This past May, bishops from the Lichfield diocese just outside Birmingham, England signed a letter calling for “radical Christian inclusion” that urged LGBTQ people to seek leadership positions within the church. In the letter, the bishops also instructed their parishes on how to treat LGBTQ people in a way that made them feel welcome.

“Nobody should be excluded or discouraged from receiving the Sacraments of Baptism or the Lord’s Supper on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” read the May 2018 letter. “It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith.”

from Yahoo:

Witchcraft is thriving in the US, with an estimated 1.5 million Americans now identifying as witches – more than the total number of Presbyterians. As Christianity declines across the country, paganism has swung to the mainstream, with witchcraft paraphernalia for sale on every high street and practices normalized across popular culture. In the past two years, it has also become darkly politicized.

Dakota Bracciale, a 29-year-old transgender/queer witch and co-owner of Catland Books and witch shop in Brooklyn, is pleased with the outcome of the ritual hex placed on US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October. The curse, carried out from Catland Books, was well attended by witches, atheists ad humanists – and was followed around the country on social media.

Millennials, says Bracciale, are looking for spiritualism outside traditional religion. “The hex centres on the notion that we live in a universe of chaos, entropy, destruction, death, decay with a final ending of oblivion – scientists are telling us. So the witch does everything for themselves – there is no other help in this universe of decay and chaos. If you don’t get in the driver’s seat things will just get worse,” the witch said.

In a wide-ranging discussion with the Telegraph, Bracciale, who described the interview questions as “sensationalist”, talked about political hexes and witchcraft in general.

Bracciale is “absolutely” willing to cause physical harm through a hex – “no issue with that”. And while Bracciale would have been just as pleased with the new Supreme Court Justice’s death, resignation or physical disfigurement, the main goal of the Kavanaugh hex, and the three hexes on President Donald Trump from Catland Books this summer, was to “let them be exposed for who they are – especially as impotent men”. The curse began with a recitation of the Biblical scripture Psalm 109: 8: “let his days be few, let another take his office.”

Catland Books is replete with Christian images including the Archangel Michael, Christian defender against the demonic, and the Virgin Mary. Bracciale, a self-described sexual abuse survivor, who grew up in a born-again-Christian evangelical cult in Arizona, takes umbrage at the notion that witchcraft and Christianity are mutually exclusive. Witchcraft “has a ton of roots in Christianity”, the Brooklyn witch says. Indeed, in Bracciale’s view, the Bible is a spell book, particularly the Book of Psalms.

Witchcraft is powerful, according to Bracciale, because of the “intersectionality of feminism, sexuality, gender, the fight for freedom, eschewing the patriarchy and having sort of a vitriolic response towards it”.

From Bible History Daily:

On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?

The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

This stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus’ last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death. According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed. This would have occurred on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, just before the Jewish holiday began at sundown (considered the beginning of the 15th day because in the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown). In Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, the Last Supper is held after sundown, on the beginning of the 15th. Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.a

Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion. Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival…”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.”

Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C.E. Christian writers. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament. The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. In the second century C.E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth.

Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”2

Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor). The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.

The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.

In the East, January 6 was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?

There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.

Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.

It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.5 In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.6 They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.

More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.

There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.

Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.

This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.

The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have known it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.7

Read the full article here.

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