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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

from End of The American Dream:

Be very thankful that you don’t live in China.  Approximately one out of every seven people on the entire planet lives in China, and it has become one of the most dystopian societies that the world has ever seen.  Surveillance cameras, government spies and facial recognition scanners are everywhere, and the totalitarian “social credit score” system that is currently being rolled out is an absolute nightmare.  And the Chinese government is not content to simply control how people behave.  They also want to literally control what people believe, and the ongoing crackdown on the Christian faith has been absolutely brutal.  Over the past several years, scores of pastors have been arrested, countless underground churches have been shut down, and thousands of Bibles have been burned.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for Chinese officials, and so they have now taken things to an entirely new level.

When the communists first came to power in China, it was a very dark time for Christians.  But underground churches started blossoming even in the midst of the persecution, and eventually there were a few decades where the national government more or less tolerated unsanctioned gatherings.  Today, it has been estimated that there are more than 100 million Christians in China, and it is being projected that China may actually have more Christians that any other nation on the planet by the year 2030.

Needless to say, the communists don’t like any threats to their power, and they see this underground movement as a very serious threat.

Under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the persecution of unofficial churches has steadily escalated.  This year they actually tried to ban Christians from gathering on Christmas, and a series of new regulations has just been introduced that requires “total submission to the Chinese Communist Party at all times”

A new mandate entitled “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” has been approved by the CPC and is comprised of six chapters and 41 articles dealing with the organization, functions, offices, supervision, projects and economic administration of religious communities.

The new rules also seek to ensure that religious leaders support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party at all times.

So what does that sort of “submission” look like?

Well, in some cases officials have required churches to take down pictures of Jesus and replace them with pictures of President Xi Jinping.

Yes, this is how twisted things have become in China.

The new regulations also require all churches to “spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” in all of their activities…

According to International Christian Concern, Article 5 of the new ordinance reads that “religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values ​​of socialism …”

In addition, Article 17 specifies that all religious organizations “must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” in everything they do.

Any church that does not go along is likely to be raided and shut down at any time.

For example, Pastor Wang Yi once led one of the most important underground churches in all of China, but his church was raided and he was arrested.

And now we have learned that he has just been sentenced to nine years in prison

Wang Yi, a leader in one of the most well-known Christian congregations in China, has been quietly sentenced to nine years in prison, according to a statement on the website of the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu Municipality.

The sentencing is the latest incident in an ongoing crackdown on organized religion in China. Early Rain Covenant Church, which Wang founded in 2008, attracted about 500 followers and was considered one of the most influential “underground churches” in China, operating independently of the state……..

Read the full article here.

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2 Corinthians 11:13-15:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their actions.…”

from OneZero:

One of the charges against Socrates was that his arguments were like robots. As the Greek philosopher approached his own trial, Euthyphro told Socrates, “You are like Daedalus.” He meant that just as Daedalus made automata that moved on their own in Greek myth, Socrates’ arguments were so persuasive that his ideas seemed to move under their own power. Even 2,500 years ago, automata inspired both fascination and fear.

I recently speculated about whether a machine could have a mystical experience. If we aren’t careful, the claim of divine inspiration can make the mystic’s words influential. When someone, whether human or machine, claims to have peeked behind the veil, we don’t know whether the prophet or the mystic has really glimpsed the divine. We only know what they claim, and it’s up to us to decide whether to trust them.

Deus ex machina

My interest in the connection between religion and robots is related to the charge against Socrates, and it’s a pragmatic interest rather than a technical one. What matters is not whether we have invented true artificial intelligence, but whether we believe we have invented it. If we trust the machine, we might let it function as a mystic or a priest, even if it isn’t one.

This raises the interesting question of what to do when someone makes a machine that is actually intended to play the role of clergy. Some pastors joke that they help people “hatch, match, and dispatch,” by celebrating births, weddings, and funerals. They joke, but even if we aren’t religious, we do tend to trust professionals to guide us through those serious moments. A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook could play a similar role, giving meaning to lives just as a pastor does for a church. Given the amount of trust we put in clergy — and given the many examples of Facebook’s untrustworthiness — Zuckerberg’s suggestion is alarming. What does that trust entail?

Maybe our intention is to distance ourselves from the difficult work of care. Our machines might offer one kind of care, while being the physical expression of our lack of interest in those who need the care.

That’s an important question, because we’re being given more and more opportunities to trust machines to act in the roles of clergy. The company SoftBank Robotics created Pepper the robot to chant at Buddhist funerals in Japan, and a church in Germany programmed a machine to pronounce traditional blessings. Very recently in Dubai, the government’s cultural and Islamic affairs agency IACAD launched the first-ever “Virtual Ifta” that uses A.I. to issue fatwas. Other groups have experimented with machines that can hear confessions, offer prayers, or even offer sacraments.

Sinless machines?

Religious communities will need to decide whether they accept machines performing these functions within their traditions, but there’s a bigger issue that affects all of us: these machines are tools we have made, and to various degrees, they already “make arguments move around.” If they persuade us with voices that sound divine, we only have ourselves to blame.

Ursula Le Guin once wrote that “a machine is more blameless, more sinless even than any animal. It has no intentions whatsoever but our own.” The function of machines is the result of their design, even if the designers did not intend that function. As Charles Sanders Peirce wrote, even if we eventually make machines that can “wind their way through the labyrinths” of complex thinking, “the machine would be utterly devoid of original initiative, and would only do the special kind of thing it had been calculated to do.”

Perhaps someday Peirce will be proven wrong, and we will have machines that act originally and creatively. But in general we want machines that do what we tell them to do. We might want a machine to write original music, but we don’t want too much creativity; what we want is a machine that figures out what people already like, and writes songs that will sell. Only quirky academics are likely to pay for a machine that wrote songs that machines wanted to hear. Peirce adds, with some irony, “We no more want an original machine, than a housebuilder would want an original journeyman, or an American board of college trustees would hire an original professor.”

So we might not want a truly mystical machine, but maybe we could use machines that do the best things clergy do for us. A machine that resembles a human could chat all night with a lonely person, and might make a very good counselor. It could offer comforting words at the bedside of someone who suffers from dementia, or who needs a listening ear. It could read stories or sing songs. Why not automate the singing of hymns, the reciting of scripture, the chanting of prayer, the pronouncement of blessings? All of those things are desirable, at least to some people.

What risks come with the benefits of care-machines? As Euthyphro and Socrates point out, automated ideas and religious authority can be very persuasive.

But are there kinds of work, like caring for our communities and for our own bodies, that we should not automate? Tools amplify our efforts. They also amplify our intentions, and maybe our intention is to distance ourselves from the difficult work of care. Our machines might offer one kind of care, while being the physical expression of our lack of interest in those who need the care.

Here’s another question: What risks come with the benefits of care-machines? As Euthyphro and Socrates point out, automated ideas and religious authority can be very persuasive. Automata that speak and act with religious authority could be doubly persuasive. We worry about the influence of corrupt human clergy; what political, ethical, and economic influence could automated clergy have?

And here’s a third question: A machine can repeat ritualized “hatch, match, and dispatch” words for us, but can it share our experience as an empathetic companion? And if it can’t, does that diminish the meaning of the ritual?

What has it got in its pocketses?

In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the Lilliputians try to understand Gulliver by looking in his pockets. They have never seen a pocket watch before, so they observe how he uses it. They decide it must be “the god he worships: for he seldom did any thing without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.”

The pocket watch was a new technology in Swift’s time. At first, pocket watches helped us to be on time. Little by little, we shifted from measuring our lives in hours to measuring them in seconds. The technology we invented to help us observe time wound up changing the way we viewed our own lives. There is a lesson here.

Paul Virilio puts a finer point on this: “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution… Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.”

Whether we believe in gods or not, our technologies can begin to function like gods, or like the priests that tell us how to behave. Even if we don’t intend them to, our machines can become our oracles, and where there are oracles, there are people ready to profit from those oracles.

Pandora’s Facebook Box has been opened. I don’t know if robots can be priests, but some are beginning to function like priests. This calls for care on our part, and I don’t think it is wise to expect a machine to care on our behalf.

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It is safe to say that attacks on Judeo-Christian belief systems in the U.S. is also on the rise. With the latest shooting in a Christian Church in Texas and the attack on a Rabbi’s home in New York.

Uber Liberals believe that if you kick out Christianity, then the supposed “natural goodness” and “inclusivity” of man’s nature will rush in and we will have “Heaven on Earth” unfortunately the opposite is true. Evil abhors a vacuum, and rushes in to fill that vacuum with hatred and chaos!

Man does not have a natural tendency to “goodness” in actual fact man’s natural tendency is to selfishness and evil, and unfortunately mankind has had to learn this lesson repeatedly throughout its history!

The message of Christ is: Man has fallen into evil because of man’s own selfishness & disobedience, and therefore separated himself from God. Jesus can remove that separation, if we allow him!

theo4

 

from The GATESTONE Institute:

Anti-Christian hostility is sweeping across Western Europe, where, during 2019, Christian churches and symbols were deliberately attacked day after day.

Gatestone Institute reviewed thousands of newspaper reports, police blotters, parliamentary inquiries, social media posts and specialized blogs from Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain. The research shows (see appendices below) that roughly 3,000 Christian churches, schools, cemeteries and monuments were vandalized, looted or defaced in Europe during 2019 — which is on track to becoming a record year for anti-Christian sacrilege on the continent.

Violence against Christian sites is most widespread in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries and monuments are being vandalized, desecrated and burned at an average rate of three per day, according to government statistics. In Germany, attacks against Christian churches are occurring at an average rate of two per day, according to police blotters.

Attacks on Christian churches and symbols are also commonplace in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Spain. The attacks overwhelmingly involve Roman Catholic sites and symbols, although in Germany, Protestant churches are also being targeted.

The perpetrators of anti-Christian attacks — which include acts of arson, defecation, desecration, looting, mockery, profanation, Satanism, theft, urination and vandalism — are rarely caught. When they are, police and media often censor information about their identities and ethnic backgrounds. Many suspects are said to have mental disorders; as a result, many anti-Christian attacks are not categorized as hate crimes.

In France and Germany, the spike in anti-Christian attacks dovetails with the recent mass immigration from the Muslim world. The lack of official statistics on perpetrators and motives makes it impossible to know precisely how many attacks can be attributed to Muslim anti-Christianism or the jihadist cause.

In Spain, by contrast, attacks against churches and crosses are overwhelmingly carried out by anarchists, radical feminists and other far-left activists, who appear to be striving for Christianity to be permanently removed from the public square.

The motives behind the anti-Christian attacks, which are often met with public indifference, seem to fall into four broad categories:

  • Vandalism. Most attacks against Christian sites in Europe consist of acts of vandalism. These often lack explicit anti-Christian intent, but cross over into profanation and desecration when they target objects and symbols sacred to Christians. From a strictly legal perspective, such crimes are difficult to prosecute as hate crimes: according to the laws of most European countries, prosecutors must prove that the vandalism was specifically motivated by an animosity toward Christians or Christianity.
  • Theft. Many attacks have financial motives. In France, Germany and elsewhere, thieves have stolen church bells, sacred metal objects and even drain pipes, apparently with the aim of selling those items to scrap dealers. In Britain, nearly half of all churches on the National Historical List for England have been ransacked. Many of the crimes are being attributed to highly organized gangs which use drones, online maps and global positioning systems first to identify their targets through aerial footage and then plot their own escape routes. The plunder is dominated by thefts of metal, with entire roofs being removed from historic places of worship, according to the heritage agency, Historic England.
  • Politics. Some attacks, especially those against Roman Catholicism, which some radical feminists and radical secularists perceive to be a symbol of patriarchal power and authority, are political in nature. Such attacks include defacing churches and religious symbols with political graffiti, much of it anarchist or feminist in nature. In Geneva, Switzerland, for instance, the iconic International Monument to the Protestant Reformation, also known as the Reformation Wall, was vandalized with multi-colored paint forming a rainbow, a symbol of the LGBT groups.
  • Religion. Many attacks that appear to be religious or spiritual in nature reflect a deep-seated hostility toward Christianity. Such attacks include smearing feces on representations of Jesus Christ or statues of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Other attacks involve the defilement or theft of Communion wafers, which Roman Catholics believe are transformed into the real presence of Christ when consecrated. Some of these attacks may be the work of Satanists, who use the consecrated host in a ritual called the Black Mass.Such attacks, especially on the essence of Roman Catholic beliefs, appear to be aimed at intimidating or harassing Catholics or preventing them from practicing their faith. These attacks, which do meet the definition of hate crimes, pose a direct threat to the freedom of religion in Europe, but prosecutions are rare.

Writing for the Spanish newspaper ABC, Juan Pedro Quiñonero, its Paris correspondent for more than 35 years, explained:

“The desecration’s have an evident anti-Christian character. Drunk with fierce hatred, the vandals want to give their actions a clear anti-religious dimension. In recent months, anti-Semitic gangs have desecrated Jewish cemeteries, ‘signing’ their actions with swastikas. In the case of the desecration of Catholic churches, vandalism is not ‘signed.’ It speaks for itself: heinous mockeries of the figure of Christ on the cross and the desecration of high altars.”

European media outlets, which often amplify attacks on Muslims, have tended to downplay malicious acts against Christians. The issue of anti-Christian vandalism was rarely reported by the European media until February 2019, when vandals attacked nine churches within the space of two weeks. The issue made headlines again in April 2019, when a suspicious fire gutted the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Since then, however, the European media are once again shrouding facts in silence.

The French newspaper Le Monde has disputed the government’s use of the term “anti-Christian acts” and warned politicians not to “instrumentalize” the issue:

“More than a thousand acts a year, an average of three per day: the number is high, but what does it cover? Can we really speak of ‘profanations’ — a strong term — which implies an attack on the sacredness of a place of worship?

“Ideological motivations are in the minority: it is mainly about thefts and vandalism. The perpetrators often are minors.”

Annie Genevard, a French MP for the center-right Republicans party, has called for a parliamentary investigation in order better to understand the nature and motivations of anti-Christian attacks. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, she said:

“Recently, two terribly serious acts of vandalism were committed in symbolic places and shocked me greatly. A few days ago, the fire in the Church of Saint Sulpice, a church that houses remarkable works: there is nearly a million euros of damage and works are irretrievably lost! And some time ago, vandals broke into the Basilica of Saint Denis and damaged stained-glass windows and the organ. Saint Denis it is not only a place of Christian worship, it is the necropolis of the kings of France! It is a meeting place between our national history and our Christian roots. That one dares to attack this monument is really shocking not only for Christians but for many citizens, whatever their convictions. When an anti-Christian act is committed, we turn our backs on the history of France, which has an intimate connection with the Christian religion.

“To attack a Christian tomb or a church, whatever the motivation of the author, is a way to attack one part of our collective identity, because Christianity and its monuments have shaped our culture, our history and our landscapes. Seeking to destroy or damage Christian buildings is a way of ‘wiping the slate clean’ of the past. In an era where the most absolute cultural relativism reigns, it is all the more serious that some of our oldest and most valuable landmarks are endangered. A civilization that would deny and turn away from its past would be a civilization that would be lost. I think this is worrying, and there is a need for a strong political response.”

In an interview with the Italian magazine Il Timone, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Dominique Rey, said that the attacks against churches in Europe are taking place within the context of a European society marked by secularism, nihilism, hedonism, cultural and moral relativism, consumerism, and the widespread loss of the sense of the sacred. He noted:

“In the past, even those who said they were non-Christian lived in a cultural context marked by Christianity…. roots that have been abandoned by our culture and by our societies. Once the Christian roots, which were the common denominator, were removed, people turned to communitarianism, which led to a social fragmentation that is leading to a break. To find a common base of values and points of reference, Europe must restore centrality to its Christian roots….

“There is an evolution of acts of profanation against monuments, but also against the Catholic faith itself. In the past, even if one was not a Christian, the expression of the sacred was respected. We are facing a serious threat to the expression of religious freedom. Secularism must not be a rejection of the religious, but a principle of neutrality that gives everyone the freedom to express his faith.

“We are witnessing the convergence of laicism — conceived as secularism, which relegates the faithful only to the private sphere and where every religious denomination is banal or stigmatized — with the overwhelming emergence of Islam, which attacks the infidels and those who reject the Koran. On one hand, we are mocked by the media … and on the other, there is the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism. These are two joint realities.”

The French political analyst Jérôme Fourquet, in his book — French Archipelago: Birth of a Multiple and Divided Nation — shows how the de-Christianization of France is taking place within the context of mass migration from the Muslim world. He provides extensive statistical data — for instance, that less than 5% of French people regularly attend Mass on Sundays — to show that France’s detachment from Christianity is so far-reaching that the country now is effectively “post-Christian.” He writes:

“There is a growing de-Christianization, which is leading to the ‘terminal phase’ of the Catholic religion…. For hundreds of years the Catholic religion profoundly structured the collective conscience of French society. Today this society is the shadow of what it once was. A great civilizational change is underway.”

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from Life Site News:

November 29, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Chick-fil-A has betrayed its Christian customers, and emboldened the LGBT mob. If you’re still defending them, then please, read on.

Chick-fil-A provoked the ire of the LGBT lobby in 2012 when its CEO Dan Cathy affirmed the Biblical view of marriage. But in the process they became a cultural icon for Christian conservatives, who flocked to the restaurant in droves. With their support, Chick-fil-A’s sales have more than doubled since 2012.

But after seven years of attacks from the LGBT mob, Chick-fil-A announced Nov. 18 that it would cease funding its remaining grantees that oppose same-sex “marriage,” including the Salvation Army.

Many of Chick-fil-A’s supporters, including LifeSite, have decried the decision as a capitulation.

At LifeSite, we have run countless articles over the years touting Chick-fil-A, and now we have taken a leading role in raising the alarm. We launched a petition to the company, garnering over 40,000 signatures so far. The American Family Association launched a petition that has grown even larger, with 102,000 signatures.

But Chick-fil-A has gone on the offensive, denying that it capitulated and claiming that its Christian mission remains as strong as ever. They managed to convince Franklin Graham, who sought to reassure Christians of Chick-fil-A’s commitments.

As a result, Chick-fil-A’s supporters have claimed the capitulation narrative is fake news, and have accused LifeSite and others of perpetuating a false story.

But that is wrong, and naïve.

Chick-fil-A did cave. Sure, they have kept God in their mission statement. Yes, they say they will remain closed on Sundays. They are keeping a soft Christian identity, for now. But where it’s hard – where the Gospel butts up against our culture of death and sexual licentiousness – they have indeed caved. And that’s where it counts.

Let’s remember that Chick-fil-A was clear when they announced the decision on Nov. 18 that defunding these groups was about rebranding in order to expand into new markets. The company’s president, Tim Tassopoulos, said:

There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are. There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.

The decision comes as Chick-fil-A is beginning to expand out of the U.S., into Canada and the U.K. Their new restaurant in Toronto faced immense backlash. And in London, England, the backlash was so severe that they are closing their first restaurant.

With a massive push from its Christian fan base, Chick-fil-A has skyrocketed to the third largest restaurant chain in the U.S. – behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks – with over $10 billion in revenue. Of course they want to expand now outside the U.S. But it appears they are willing to abandon their core customers to do it.

This was a flash point – a big cultural moment when the mob can declare victory in the public eye. But the reality is Chick-fil-A went off course very soon after Cathy’s comments in 2012, when they began withdrawing funding from the most ardently pro-family of the Christian groups they had been supporting, like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. In 2014, Cathy said that while he maintains his personal opposition to same-sex “marriage,” he had decided to keep quiet about it:

The bottom line is we have a responsibility here to keep the whole of the organization in mind and it has to take precedence over the personal expression and opinion on social issues.

Now, as supporters dig deeper, they’re seeing that Chick-fil-A has quietly been betraying their Christian customers for years. According to the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s IRS filings they have already been giving money to pro-abortion and leftist groups. Most shocking, as revealed Nov. 26 by pro-life leader Ryan Bomberger, Chick-fil-A donated $2,500 to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a virulently anti-Christian group, and arguably one of the biggest agents of the soft persecution of faithful Christians in the U.S. today. It is famous for its “hate map” targeting pro-family groups that promote Biblical teaching on homosexuality.

In 2012 domestic terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins cited their hate map as his inspiration after he entered the Family Research Council’s DC headquarters with the intention of gunning down its employees. In his backpack Corkins was carrying Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and intended to rub them in the faces of his victims. Thank God for the courage of FRC’s security guard Leonardo Johnson, who was shot while subduing Corkins.

And we learn now from the Family Research Council that Chick-fil-A never reached out to them even privately after the attack.

Yet five years later Chick-fil-A gave money to the very anti-Christian group that inspired the attack.

Chick-fil-A is continuing to tout its Christian values, remaining closed on Sundays, but as they abandon their principles, it’s beginning to appear that they are using the Gospel as a marketing tool.

This isn’t about the groups they are defunding. The Salvation Army, in particular, is not fully pro-life and I would not advocate giving them money. It’s about the message Chick-fil-A is sending by defunding them – and that is that they are distancing themselves from organizations that uphold a Biblical view of sexuality. They are capitulating to the LGBT mob, and emboldening them, showing that their persistence pays off. That we will cave if they come at us hard enough and long enough. And thus, Chick-fil-A is, in fact, encouraging the persecution of faithful Christians who cannot and will not capitulate.

The persecution is growing in Europe, North America, and around the world, and we need to be ready. It will take a heroic faith – deep conviction, and a willingness to give up everything. Christ is clear in the Gospel:

They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. … You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.

You know what we should fear more than persecution? That the persecution would come, and we would miss it because of our own apathy. That our faith is so lukewarm that we’re not deemed worthy of suffering for it. We don’t seek out martyrdom – but we should make sure our conviction is worthy of it.

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from Real Clear Politics:

At Thursday’s “LGBTQ Equality” town hall on CNN, presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage to lose tax-exempt status.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone … that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said.

CNN, DON LEMON: Congressman, I want to ask you a question. This is from your LGBTQ plan, and here’s what you write. This is a quote. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right but it should not be used to discriminate. Do you think religious institutions, like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?

BETO O’ROURKE: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.

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from Campus Reform:

Swarthmore College offers a course on “Queering God,” most recently taught during the spring 2019 semester, that provides a feminist and queer perspective of the Bible, while also exploring God’s gender identity.

The course, taught by Professor Gwynn Kessler, questions whether God is a masculine or feminine figure through the examination of feminist and queer writings. Its course description says the class “stretch[es] the limits of gendering-and sexing-the divine.” Key themes of the class, also outlined in the course description, include gender, embodiment, masculinity, liberation, sexuality, and feminist and queer theory.

“Part of the student community definitely wants to have more representation and to have LGBTQ issues addressed in courses and elsewhere on campus,” a Swarthmore student, who asked to remain anonymous, told Campus Reform. “This means spreading awareness and getting people to action through taking courses like this.”

Natalie, another Swarthmore student who asked for her last name not to be published, noted that the school demonstrates “normalized progressivism, unfazed by even the most controversial topics.”

Queering the Bible is a similar course that the institution offers, which uses Biblical readings from a queer and transgender perspective to explore sex, identity, and gender. Campus Reform has previously reported on the rise of such courses in American academic institutions.

“I took [Queering the Bible] because I’ve always overheard of people claiming that being queer, specifically homosexual, was a sin, or that the Bible said so,” another Swarthmore student, who also asked to remain anonymous, said. “It pushed me to ask questions so absurd that it seems even unthinkable to ask.”

Kessler is an associate professor of religion at Swarthmore College. She received her Ph.D. in Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary and has taught at various universities in the U.S., including the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Florida. Kessler has taught many different courses, some of which are on Jewish History, Judaism and Gender, Judaism and Ecology, Feminist Theology, and Religion and Gender. In her university bio, it says that her work fits the categories of “postmodern, feminist, and queer theoretical approaches.”

Campus Reform reached out to Kessler for comments regarding her course but received no response in time for publication.

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from The Gatestone Institute

Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels,'” the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.

According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being “the most persecuted religious group”. “Religion ‘is at risk of disappearing’ in some parts of the world,” it noted, and “In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been “asleep” — his word — concerning this growing epidemic:

“I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers. That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue—the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.”

Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is that many of the world’s most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries. Those most faced with the threat of genocide — including Syria’s and Iraq’s Assyrians or Egypt’s Copts — were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe’s colonizers became Christian and went missionizing.

The BBC report highlights “political correctness” as being especially responsible for the West’s indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard: “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”

Although the BBC report has an entire heading titled and devoted to the impact of “political correctness,” ironically, it too succumbs to this contemporary Western malady. For while it did a fair job in highlighting the problem, it said nothing about its causes — not one word about who is persecuting Christians, or why.

The overwhelming majority of Christian persecution, however, evidently occurs in Muslim majority nations. According to Open Doors’ World Watch List 2019[WWL], which surveys the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, “Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians.” In seven of the absolute worst ten nations, “Islamic oppression” is the cause of persecution. “This means, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly following Jesus can have painful consequences,” including death.

Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Islamic law, or Sharia — which academics such as Georgetown University’s John Esposito insist is equitable and just. In Afghanistan (ranked #2) , “Christianity is not permitted to exist,” says the WWL 2019, because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward” Christians. Similarly, in Somalia, (#3), “The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. Sharia law and Islam are enshrined in the country’s constitution, and the persecution of Christians almost always involves violence.” In Iran (#9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.”

Equally telling is that 38 of the 50 nations making the WWL 2019 are Muslim majority.

Perhaps the BBC succumbed to silence concerning the sources of Christian persecution — that is, succumbed to “the atmosphere of political correctness” which it ironically highlighted — because in its own report, it did not rely on the WWL. The problem with this interpretation is that the study the BBC did rely on, the Bishop of Truro’s, is saturated with talk concerning the actual sources of Christian persecution. In this regard, the words “Islam” and “Islamist” appear 61 times; “Muslim” appears 56 times in this review on persecuted Christians.

Here are a few of the more significant quotes from the Bishop of Truro’s report:

  • “The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity—the Middle East & North Africa.”
  • “In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage.”
  • “The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of [Islamic] extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines.”
  • “[T]here is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia.”
  • “The single-greatest threat to Christians [in Nigeria] … came from Islamist militant group Boko Haram, with US intelligence reports in 2015 suggesting that 200,000 Christians were at risk of being killed… Those worst affected included Christian women and girls ‘abducted, and forced to convert, enter forced marriages, sexual abuse and torture.'”
  • “An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence [in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines] was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols. The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the Church’s structure and leadership.”
  • “Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.”

The BBC should be commended for (finally) reporting on this urgent issue — even if it is three years behind the times. As the Truro report correctly observes, “In 2016 various political bodies including the UK parliament, the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, declared that ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minority groups such as Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims met the tests of genocide.”

At the very least, it appears that the BBC has stopped trying to minimize the specter of Christian persecution as it did in 2013, when this situation was just starting to reach the boiling point.

 

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