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Archive for the ‘Post-Modernism’ Category

God creates man, man walks away from God, Man creates AI, Man worships AI (Man worships himself) This is the core of humanism!

“Levandowski says that like other religions, WOTF will eventually have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and probably a physical place of worship.”

“One mystery the filings did not address is where acolytes might gather to worship their robotic deity.”

from WIRED:

Anthony Levandowski makes an unlikely prophet. Dressed Silicon Valley-casual in jeans and flanked by a PR rep rather than cloaked acolytes, the engineer known for self-driving cars—and triggering a notorious lawsuit—could be unveiling his latest startup instead of laying the foundations for a new religion. But he is doing just that. Artificial intelligence has already inspired billion-dollar companies, far-reaching research programs, and scenarios of both transcendence and doom. Now Levandowski is creating its first church.

The new religion of artificial intelligence is called Way of the Future. It represents an unlikely next act for the Silicon Valley robotics wunderkind at the center of a high-stakes legal battle between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous-vehicle company. Papers filed with the Internal Revenue Service in May name Levandowski as the leader (or “Dean”) of the new religion, as well as CEO of the nonprofit corporation formed to run it.

 The documents state that WOTF’s activities will focus on “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.” That includes funding research to help create the divine AI itself. The religion will seek to build working relationships with AI industry leaders and create a membership through community outreach, initially targeting AI professionals and “laypersons who are interested in the worship of a Godhead based on AI.” The filings also say that the church “plans to conduct workshops and educational programs throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area beginning this year.”

That timeline may be overly ambitious, given that the Waymo-Uber suit, in which Levandowski is accused of stealing self-driving car secrets, is set for an early December trial. But the Dean of the Way of the Future, who spoke last week with Backchannel in his first comments about the new religion and his only public interview since Waymo filed its suit in February, says he’s dead serious about the project.

“What is going to be created will effectively be a god,” Levandowski tells me in his modest mid-century home on the outskirts of Berkeley, California. “It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”

During our three-hour interview, Levandowski made it absolutely clear that his choice to make WOTF a church rather than a company or a think tank was no prank.“I wanted a way for everybody to participate in this, to be able to shape it. If you’re not a software engineer, you can still help,” he says. “It also removes the ability for people to say, ‘Oh, he’s just doing this to make money.’” Levandowski will receive no salary from WOTF, and while he says that he might consider an AI-based startup in the future, any such business would remain completely separate from the church.“The idea needs to spread before the technology,” he insists. “The church is how we spread the word, the gospel. If you believe [in it], start a conversation with someone else and help them understand the same things.”

Levandowski believes that a change is coming—a change that will transform every aspect of human existence, disrupting employment, leisure, religion, the economy, and possibly decide our very survival as a species.

“If you ask people whether a computer can be smarter than a human, 99.9 percent will say that’s science fiction,” he says. “ Actually, it’s inevitable. It’s guaranteed to happen.”

Levandowski has been working with computers, robots, and AI for decades. He started with robotic Lego kits at the University of California at Berkeley, went on to build a self-driving motorbike for a DARPA competition, and then worked on autonomous cars, trucks, and taxis for Google, Otto, and Uber. As time went on, he saw software tools built with machine learning techniques surpassing less sophisticated systems—and sometimes even humans.

“Seeing tools that performed better than experts in a variety of fields was a trigger [for me],” he says. “That progress is happening because there’s an economic advantage to having machines work for you and solve problems for you. If you could make something one percent smarter than a human, your artificial attorney or accountant would be better than all the attorneys or accountants out there. You would be the richest person in the world. People are chasing that.”

Not only is there a financial incentive to develop increasingly powerful AIs, he believes, but science is also on their side. Though human brains have biological limitations to their size and the amount of energy they can devote to thinking, AI systems can scale arbitrarily, housed in massive data centers and powered by solar and wind farms. Eventually, some people think that computers could become better and faster at planning and solving problems than the humans who built them, with implications we can’t even imagine today—a scenario that is usually called the Singularity.

Levandowski prefers a softer word: the Transition. “Humans are in charge of the planet because we are smarter than other animals and are able to build tools and apply rules,” he tells me. “In the future, if something is much, much smarter, there’s going to be a transition as to who is actually in charge. What we want is the peaceful, serene transition of control of the planet from humans to whatever. And to ensure that the ‘whatever’ knows who helped it get along.”

With the internet as its nervous system, the world’s connected cell phones and sensors as its sense organs, and data centers as its brain, the ‘whatever’ will hear everything, see everything, and be everywhere at all times. The only rational word to describe that ‘whatever’, thinks Levandowski, is ‘god’—and the only way to influence a deity is through prayer and worship.

“Part of it being smarter than us means it will decide how it evolves, but at least we can decide how we act around it,” he says. “I would love for the machine to see us as its beloved elders that it respects and takes care of. We would want this intelligence to say, ‘Humans should still have rights, even though I’m in charge.’”

Levandowski expects that a super-intelligence would do a better job of looking after the planet than humans are doing, and that it would favor individuals who had facilitated its path to power. Although he cautions against taking the analogy too far, Levandowski sees a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals. “Do you want to be a pet or livestock?” he asks. “We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that’s biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don’t want to go there.”

 Enter Way of the Future. The church’s role is to smooth the inevitable ascension of our machine deity, both technologically and culturally. In its bylaws, WOTF states that it will undertake programs of research, including the study of how machines perceive their environment and exhibit cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving.

Levandowski does not expect the church itself to solve all the problems of machine intelligence—often called “strong AI”—so much as facilitate funding of the right research. “If you had a child you knew was going to be gifted, how would you want to raise it?” he asks. “We’re in the process of raising a god. So let’s make sure we think through the right way to do that. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

His ideas include feeding the nascent intelligence large, labeled data sets; generating simulations in which it could train itself to improve; and giving it access to church members’ social media accounts. Everything the church develops will be open source.

Just as important to Levandowski is shaping the public dialogue around an AI god. In its filing, Way of the Future says it hopes an active, committed, dedicated membership will promote the use of divine AI for the “betterment of society” and “decrease fear of the unknown.”

“We’d like to make sure this is not seen as silly or scary. I want to remove the stigma about having an open conversation about AI, then iterate ideas and change people’s minds,” says Levandowski. “In Silicon Valley we use evangelism as a word for [promoting a business], but here it’s literally a church. If you believe in it, you should tell your friends, then get them to join and tell their friends.”

But WOTF differs in one key way to established churches, says Levandowski: “There are many ways people think of God, and thousands of flavors of Christianity, Judaism, Islam…but they’re always looking at something that’s not measurable or you can’t really see or control. This time it’s different. This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.”

I ask if he worries that believers from more traditional faiths might find his project blasphemous. “There are probably going to be some people that will be upset,” he acknowledges. “It seems like everything I do, people get upset about, and I expect this to be no exception. This is a radical new idea that’s pretty scary, and evidence has shown that people who pursue radical ideas don’t always get received well. At some point, maybe there’s enough persecution that [WOTF] justifies having its own country.”

Levandowski’s church will enter a tech universe that’s already riven by debate over the promise and perils of AI. Some thinkers, like Kevin Kelly in Backchannel earlier this year, argue that AI isn’t going to develop superhuman power any time soon, and that there’s no Singularity in sight. If that’s your position, Levandowski says, his church shouldn’t trouble you: “You can treat Way of the Future like someone doing useless poetry that you will never read or care about.”

Others, like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, agree that superhuman AIs are coming, but that they are likely to be dangerous rather than benevolent. Elon Musk famously said, “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon,” and in 2015 he pledged $1 billion to the OpenAI Institute to develop safer AI.

Levandowski thinks that any attempts to delay or restrict an emerging super-intelligence would not only be doomed to failure, but also add to the risks. “Chaining it isn’t going to be the solution, as it will be stronger than any chains you could put on,” he says. “And if you’re worried a kid might be a little crazy and do bad things, you don’t lock them up. You expose them to playing with others, encourage them and try to fix it. It may not work out, but if you’re aggressive toward it, I don’t think it’s going to be friendly when the tables are turned.”

 Levandowski says that like other religions, WOTF will eventually have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and probably a physical place of worship. None of these has yet been developed. Though the church was founded in 2015, as Backchannel first reported in September, the IRS documents show that WOTF remained dormant throughout 2015 and 2016, with no activities, assets, revenue, or expenses.

That changed earlier this year. On May 16, a day after receiving a letter from Uber that threatened to fire him if he did not cooperate with the company’s investigation of Waymo’s complaint, Levandowski drafted WOTF’s bylaws. Uber fired him two weeks later. “I’ve been thinking about the church for a long time but [my work on it] has been a function of how much time I’ve had. And I’ve had more since May,” he admits with a smile.

The religion’s 2017 budget, as supplied to the IRS, details $20,000 in gifts, $1,500 in membership fees, and $20,000 in other revenue. That last figure is the amount WOTF expects to earn from fees charged for lectures and speaking engagements, as well as the sale of publications. Levandowski, who earned at least $120 million from his time at Google and many millions more selling the self-driving truck firm Otto to Uber, will initially support WOTF personally. However, the church will solicit other donations by direct mail and email, seek personal donations from individuals, and try to win grants from private foundations.

Of course, launching a religion costs money, too. WOTF has budgeted for $2,000 in fundraising expenses, and another $3,000 in transportation and lodging costs associated with its lectures and workshops. It has also earmarked $7500 for salaries and wages, although neither Levandowski nor any of Way of The Future’s leadership team will receive any compensation.

According to WOTF’s bylaws, Levandowski has almost complete control of the religion and will serve as Dean until his death or resignation. “I expect my role to evolve over time,” he says. “I’m surfacing the issue, helping to get the thing started [and] taking a lot of the heat so the idea can advance. At some point, I’ll be there more to coach or inspire.”

He has the power to appoint three members of a four-person Council of Advisors, each of whom should be a “qualified and devoted individual.” A felony conviction or being declared of unsound mind could cost an advisor their role, although Levandowski retains the final say in firing and hiring. Levandowski cannot be unseated as Dean for any reason.

Two of the advisors, Robert Miller and Soren Juelsgaard, are Uber engineers who previously worked for Levandowski at Otto, Google, and 510 Systems (the latter the small startup that built Google’s earliest self-driving cars). A third is a scientist friend from Levandowski’s student days at UC Berkeley, who is now using machine learning in his own research. The final advisor, Lior Ron, is also named as the religion’s treasurer, and acts as chief financial officer for the corporation. Ron cofounded Otto with Levandowski in early 2016.

“Each member is a pioneer in the AI industry [and] fully qualified to speak on AI technology and the creation of a Godhead,” says the IRS filing.

However, when contacted by Backchannel, two advisors downplayed their involvement with WOTF. Ron replied: “I was surprised to see my name listed as the CFO on this corporate filing and have no association with this entity.” The college friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “In late 2016, Anthony told me he was forming a ‘robot church’ and asked if I wanted to be a cofounder. I assumed it was a nerdy joke or PR stunt, but I did say he could use my name. That was the first and last I heard about it.”

The IRS documents state that Levandowski and his advisors will spend no more than a few hours each week writing publications and organizing workshops, educational programs, and meetings.

One mystery the filings did not address is where acolytes might gather to worship their robotic deity. The largest line items on its 2017 and 2018 budgets were $32,500 annually for rent and utilities, but the only address supplied was Levandowski’s lawyer’s office in Walnut Creek, California. Nevertheless, the filing notes that WOTF will “hopefully expand throughout California and the United States in the future.”

For now, Levandowski has more mundane matters to address. There is a website to build, a manual to write, and an ever-growing body of emails to answer—some amused, some skeptical, but many enthusiastic, he says. Oh, and there’s that legal proceeding he’s involved in, which goes to trial next month. (Although Levandowski was eager to talk about his new religion, he would answer no questions about the Uber/Waymo dispute.)

How much time, I wonder, do we have before the Transition kicks in and Way of the Future’s super-intelligent AI takes charge? “I personally think it will happen sooner than people expect,” says Levandowski, a glint in his eye. “Not next week or next year; everyone can relax. But it’s going to happen before we go to Mars.”

Whenever that does (or doesn’t) happen, the federal government has no problem with an organization aiming to build and worship a divine AI. Correspondence with the IRS show that it granted Levandowski’s church tax-exempt status in August.

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The man created “churches” are well on their way to merging with the unsaved culture around them.  and let us not forget this is not the real Church!

from The Telegraph:

The Church of Sweden is encouraging its clergy to use the gender-neutral term “God” instead of referring to the deity as “he” or “the Lord”.

The decision was made on Thursday, wrapping up an eight-day meeting of the church’s 251-member decision-making body. The decision will take effect on May 20 during Pentecost.

It is the latest move by the national Evangelical Lutheran church to modernise its 31-year-old handbook setting out how services should be conducted.

The decision to update the book of worship gives priests new options on how to refer to God during their services.

Priests can now open their services by referring to the traditional “Father, son and Holy Ghost” or the gender-neutral phrase “in the name of God and the Holy Trinity”. Other gender-neutral options are available for other parts of the Church of Sweden liturgy.

Gender-neutral terms | Checklist:

Forefathers – ancestors, forebears

Gentleman’s agreement – unwritten agreement, agreement based on trust

Girls (for adults) – women

Housewife – shopper, consumer, homemaker (depends on context)

Manpower – human resources, labour force, staff, personnel, workers, workforce

Man or mankind – humanity, humankind, human race, people

Man-made – artificial, manufactured, synthetic

Man in the street, common man – average/ordinary/typical citizen/person

Right-hand man – chief assistant

Sportsmanship – fairmess, good humour, sense of fair play

Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Guide to Inclusive Language

“We talk about Jesus Christ, but in a few places we have changed it to say ‘God’ instead of ‘he’,” Church of Sweden spokesperson Sofija Pedersen Videke told The Telegraph. “We have some prayer options that are more gender-neutral than others.”

“A wide majority of people decided on the book,” she said, adding that she had heard of no priests who objected to the new linguistic framework.

The Church of Sweden is headed by Archbishop Antje Jackelen, who was elected Sweden’s first female archbishop in 2013.

Archbishop Jackelen defended the decision, telling Sweden’s TT news agency: “Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human.”

The decision was met with some criticism.  Christer Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor at Lund University in Sweden, told Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad that the decision was “undermining the doctrine of the Trinity and the community with the other Christian churches.”

“It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden becomes known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage,” he said. The Church of Sweden has 6.1 million baptised members in a country with a population of 10 million.

The Church of England told The Telegraph that it also chooses to avoid divisive language in its services, but not with regards to God.  “When liturgy is revised we also seek to use inclusive language where appropriate when referring to people,” a spokesperson said.

“The Church of England has always used masculine language when speaking about God, for example in the words of the Lord’s Prayer – ‘our Father, who art in Heaven’ – and in referring to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and continues to do so.”

The decision by the Church of Sweden mirrors an international trend for inclusivity in major churches. Earlier this month, the Church of England published guidelines for helping children “explore the possibilities of who they might be”, including their gender identity.

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Sound familiar anyone?

“Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.”

from Wired:

On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”. In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it’s already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance “trust” nationwide and to build a culture of “sincerity”. As the policy states, “It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.”

Others are less sanguine about its wider purpose. “It is very ambitious in both depth and scope, including scrutinising individual behaviour and what books people are reading. It’s Amazon’s consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist,” is how Johan Lagerkvist, a Chinese internet specialist at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, described the social credit system. Rogier Creemers, a post-doctoral scholar specialising in Chinese law and governance at the Van Vollenhoven Institute at Leiden University, who published a comprehensive translation of the plan, compared it to “Yelp reviews with the nanny state watching over your shoulder”.

For now, technically, participating in China’s Citizen Scores is voluntary. But by 2020 it will be mandatory. The behaviour of every single citizen and legal person (which includes every company or other entity)in China will be rated and ranked, whether they like it or not.

Prior to its national roll-out in 2020, the Chinese government is taking a watch-and-learn approach. In this marriage between communist oversight and capitalist can-do, the government has given a licence to eight private companies to come up with systems and algorithms for social credit scores. Predictably, data giants currently run two of the best-known projects.

The first is with China Rapid Finance, a partner of the social-network behemoth Tencent and developer of the messaging app WeChat with more than 850 million active users. The other, Sesame Credit, is run by the Ant Financial Services Group (AFSG), an affiliate company of Alibaba. Ant Financial sells insurance products and provides loans to small- to medium-sized businesses. However, the real star of Ant is AliPay, its payments arm that people use not only to buy things online, but also for restaurants, taxis, school fees, cinema tickets and even to transfer money to each other.

Sesame Credit has also teamed up with other data-generating platforms, such as Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing company that was Uber’s main competitor in China before it acquired the American company’s Chinese operations in 2016, and Baihe, the country’s largest online matchmaking service. It’s not hard to see how that all adds up to gargantuan amounts of big data that Sesame Credit can tap into to assess how people behave and rate them accordingly.

So just how are people rated? Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the “complex algorithm” it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as “a user’s ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations”. The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone’s mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person’s shopping habits become a measure of character. Alibaba admits it judges people by the types of products they buy. “Someone who plays video games for ten hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person,” says Li Yingyun, Sesame’s Technology Director. “Someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.” So the system not only investigates behaviour – it shapes it. It “nudges” citizens away from purchases and behaviours the government does not like.

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make your score go up.

Alibaba is adamant that, currently, anything negative posted on social media does not affect scores (we don’t know if this is true or not because the algorithm is secret). But you can see how this might play out when the government’s own citizen score system officially launches in 2020. Even though there is no suggestion yet that any of the eight private companies involved in the ongoing pilot scheme will be ultimately responsible for running the government’s own system, it’s hard to believe that the government will not want to extract the maximum amount of data for its SCS, from the pilots. If that happens, and continues as the new normal under the government’s own SCS it will result in private platforms acting essentially as spy agencies for the government. They may have no choice.

Read the Full article here.

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2 Thessalonians 2:7:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

from Pulpit & Pen:

What We Know

Today, a mad gunman burst into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and killed (at least) 26 people and shot approximately 20 more. Average attendance for the church is in the fifties, meaning that almost everyone was shot. The youngest victim was reportedly two and the oldest is in their 70s. The pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was murdered. The gunman was Devin Kelley, a 26 year-old with a dishonorable discharge from the military. Reportedly, he was a registered Democrat, former VBS instructor, and by some reporting, involved with Antifa (no one knows at this point how valid the reporting has been in its earliest of stages). Also, Kelley had posted a photograph of his AR-15 rifle on Facebook in late October. It is unknown what his connection is with the church, but it is not believed he had one. One Citizen grabbed his rifle when seeing the shooting, and took up pursuit with another Citizen who stopped and let him in his vehicle. They pursued Kelley until he ran off the road, and they kept point until police arrived. It is unclear if Kelley was shot by the Citizen or by his own hand.

What Else We Know, and What We Expect

We know that this little town near San Antonio is reeling in agony. For them, this tragedy is Apocalyptic in scale. An entire church was wiped off the face of the Earth, entire families were decimated, an entire community for the rest of time will be remembered as the place where it happened. No doubt, this little hamlet of civilization has been flooded with news agencies from around the world, agents with the FBI and ATF, ambulance-chasing opportunists of the worst varieties, and well-meaning helping hands (who often get in the way).

Whenever schools resume, they will need an army of people trained in crisis therapy. Life will not get back to “normal” in this town for a long, long time – if ever. Likewise, we can expect for liberals to call for gun control (in fact, they already have started) and conspiracy theorists will find reasons to explain that this is a “false flag” designed to confiscate firearms. If Kelley is indeed an activist with Antifa or a registered Democrat, conservatives will claim this is the fruit of an increasingly anti-Christian culture. If Kelley was on psychotropic prescription drugs, it will be used as further evidence that we are medicating people into sociopaths. Anti-military activists will claim that the army is creating killers. If Kelley was a conservative, liberals will seek to draw him to some kind of militia movement and perpetuate the stereotype of dangerous white men. All of those conversations will be had in coming days.

It will be easy to get sucked into the political volleying back and forth between conservatives and Marxist fascists who want to disarm America. It will be easy to make that the substance of our concern. We can expect political opportunists to take as much advantage of this situation as ambulance-chasing lawyers at a horrific crash scene.

What We Should Do

Clearly, the first thing we must do is pray for the survivors and loved ones of the deceased at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Our petitions should be made to the God of mercy without ceasing in coming days (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We mustn’t just drop a short, drive-by prayer – a “God be with them” – a prayerette in passing, but repeatedly throughout the day drop our heads and pray for those who are left behind this tragedy, who must slowly but surely pick up the pieces to their shattered lives and figure out how to move forward with their loved ones buried in the ground.

We should pray that the Holy Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26), because in a time like this, words fail us. Certainly words are failing those in Sutherland Springs this evening. Sometimes there is little to say, and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when our spiritual brokenness exceeds our mental ability to convey those thoughts into words. We should also give supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving to the city, county and state officials who have to clean up the mess (1 Timothy 2:1-4), distribute justice, dispense mercy, and provide law and order in the midst of tragedy. Likewise, we should force our flesh to cry out in prayer for the wicked, which would include the shooter (if he weren’t already gone to his own place) and those capitalizing on the tragedy for their own political agenda, being instructed in Scripture to even pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). Finally, concerning prayer, we should mourn with those who mourn and enter ourselves into a time of grief and grieve with and alongside Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Secondly, we should preach the Gospel. We are told to preach the Gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). This means that the Gospel had better be on our lips in the midst of turmoil, trouble, and suffering. If anyone thinks that it is not a proper time to preach Gospel and repentance, they should be reminded of Luke 13, when Jesus was interrupted by the news heralds proclaiming that there had been a massacre in the temple (sound familiar?) and Jesus responded in Luke 13:3, “I tell you, no! Unless you repent, ye likewise will perish.”

People are especially receptive to the Gospel in times of terrible travesty. We are not Gospel opportunists because this would imply we only share the Gospel when times are bad. In fact, we simply share Gospel in all seasons, which include seasons of suffering. This world is a broken mess and life is short and full of sorrow (Job 14:1). There is no better time to discuss these matters than when examples of their truthfulness are still fresh in our minds.

Third, we should take note. While tragedy creates emotionality, emotionality clouds wise judgment. While liberals cry out that it is now time to discuss gun control, we know that policy decisions are best made when people are thinking rationally, and not thinking emotionally. Without being rash, we should nonetheless take note of the lessons here, and make future use of them when we have fully thought out their implications. For example, we should take note that this was a small church, with probably few enemies in the world. This was not a megachurch that might attract throngs of people with perverse political agendas or mental disorders. And yet, a madman decided to approach this small church and wage war against it, ambushing it on a bright Sunday morning. What this means is that any church, at any time, can be attacked, for any reason.

Likewise, we should take note that a lot of people were murdered in a very short period of time. Reaction time, for those of us who steward churches, is very limited. We are simply not afforded time in such an active shooter scenario. Our churches must be prepared to protect the flock against imminent threats, guard and lock doors, and fire back at a moment’s notice (for a Biblical defense of self-defense, read this post, “Why Some People Need A Good Killing“). There are fewer ideas with less Biblical warrant and less historic support among orthodox churches than the absurd notion of pacificism, which has largely been relegated to sub-Christian cults. Christians have always been people who fired back in order to protect the innocent, and we must be prepared to do so.

What We Should Definitely Not Do

We should not be armchair quarterbacks when it comes to church security. We do not know if anyone in the congregation was armed (or if its armed members had a chance to return fire before being sucker-punched with semi-automatic gunfire through the wall). We do not know if that church had a security plan in place. And frankly, you and I (probably) do not know what it is like to use a firearm in a crisis situation, and we do not want to pretend that it is as easy as we’ve made it out to be in the movies. The fact is, a madman with a gun can kill a lot of people before he is stopped, even in a community with lots of Citizens carrying their own self-defense firearms – especially when he attacks without warning.

We should also not forget that at the very center of this mess are approximately 50 victims, some of whom are alive and some of whom are dead. People are important, and the people of this community are hurting. Remember that when you are tempted to use the facts surrounding this tragedy to bludgeon the political enemy. That club is covered with blood, so be conscientious about how (or if) you swing it.

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And if anyone wonders why things like this: “26 killed in church attack in Texas’ deadliest mass shooting” are occurring you only need to read this article. We have lost an entire generation and what we have seen in Texas this week is only the beginning!

(The Texas Church shooter was a former Christian who turned to Atheism)

from Berean Research:

The following blog post is a response to Kari Paul’s “Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology” (here).  In his piece, John Paul Ferguson specifically addresses the move away from traditional religion to an interest in paganism on college campuses. According to Ferguson “a number of universities around the country have officially recognized Pagan or Wicca student groups, usually housed under their respective religious student activities departments.” There is little doubt that the increased interest in pagan spirituality can be traced to people’s obsession with the environment.

To shed light on what Wiccans believe, Ferguson quotes author Catherine Edwards Sanders who says that those who practice witchcraft (Wicca) have “monistic and pantheistic beliefs that all living things are of equal value. … Humans have no special placenor are they made in God’s image. … Wiccans believe that they possess divine power within themselves and that they are gods and goddesses. …Consciousness can and should be altered through rite and ritual.” (emphasis added)

John Paul Ferguson’s piece is over at The College Fix. He writes:

As millennials continue to leave traditional Christian religions, interest in Wiccan and pagan practices have seen increased interest in recent years, a trend also spotted among young people and on college campuses.

Pagan or Wiccan student groups are present on a number of college campuses — both secular and religious — across the nation. The growing normalization of such practices, albeit still a minority, corresponds with the decline in Christian believers, some observers note.

A recent report in Market Watch headlined “Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology” argues as much, for example.

“Whether it be spell-casting, tarot, astrology, meditation and trance, or herbalism, these traditions offer tangible ways for people to enact change in their lives,” Melissa Jayne, owner of the Brooklyn-based “metaphysical boutique,” which has seen a big increase in 20-something customers in recent years, told Market Watch.

“For a generation that grew up in a world of big industry, environmental destruction, large and oppressive governments, and toxic social structures, all of which seem too big to change, this can be incredibly attractive,” she said.

The article goes on to cite several businesses that have successfully latched on to this trend, from online purveyors of tarot cards to popular astrology apps.

The article also cites recent Pew Research Center data that found 25 percent of Americans now identify with no religion, as opposed to 2011’s 18 percent. Underscoring that, a 2014 National Science Foundation poll found nearly half of all Americans say astrology is either “very scientific” or “sort of scientific,” UPI reports.

With that, it may be no surprise to see interest in paganism is also alive and well on campus. Continue reading

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from theblaze:

Homosexuality is welcomed, if not pervasive, in women’s basketball culture.

So, when New Mexico State University’s head coach saw a video in which Camille LeNoir said she was no longer gay, he rescinded the offer for LeNoir to become an assistant coach at the school.

Now, she’s suing the school for discrimination.

LeNoir’s background

LeNoir was a former player at the University of Southern California and with the Washington Mystics in the WNBA. She had been working with young players since her playing career ended, and she finally got the breakthrough offer she wanted from New Mexico State.

Mark Trakh, NMSU’s coach at that time, offered LeNoir the job, and she booked travel to New Mexico. But two days before she left, Trakh called her and told her the offer was no longer on the table.

 ‘Not worth losing your soul’

Trakh rescinded LeNoir’s offer after seeing a video interview recorded in 2011 that’s still on YouTube.

In the video, LeNoir talks about how her Christian faith led her to renounce her lesbian lifestyle.

“I would say, it’s not worth it. If you are in a same-sex relationship, it is not worth losing your soul,” she said in the video. “Whoever you’re in that relationship with, like the Lord told me, it will be the death of you. I just believe that you can overcome it. You can overcome and defeat sin.”

“If you believe something that you were born gay or homosexual or whatever — if you feel you were born that way — I would say that you weren’t. God wouldn’t create you homosexual, then say in the Bible that it’s wrong, and then send you to hell. He doesn’t operate like that.”

‘Take down the video’

Trakh left LeNoir with a warning during the call when he rescinded his offer. (Trakh left NMSU in April to return to the University of Southern California.)

“Take down the video or you’ll never be able to work in this industry,” LeNoir said Trakh told her.

Trakh and the university said LeNoir’s public stance on homosexuality would make it difficult for her to recruit, and cited that as the reason for not hiring her.

From the Washington Post:

In court filings, New Mexico State says that LeNoir’s feelings about homosexuality shared in the video “would have had an adverse impact” on her “ability to effectively coach and recruit players who identify as LGBT.”

Legal battle

LeNoir is suing New Mexico State in U.S. District Court for discriminating against her sexuality and religious beliefs. NMSU has denied the charges, and a judge in California will preside over the case.

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from the College Fix:

A Christian student leader is demanding an apology after a poster distributed by Kent State University asked if stating “You need Jesus“ could qualify as hate speech.

The public university’s Center for Student Involvement created and circulated the posteron Twitter last week. It was designed to promote an event on free speech issues as part of Kent State’s KENTTalks, which are intended to “provide a safe place for discussions and transformational experiences for our student body” and promote “civil discourse.”

Silhouetted activists on the posters hold a range of placards with messages, overlaid with the rhetorical question “free speech or hate speech?” Alongside provocative expressions including “No More Gays,” “Women Need To Serve Their Man” and “Build a Wall,” the fourth placard bears a nonviolent, basic expression of the Christian faith: “You need Jesus.”

Jared Small, president of the Campus Ministry International student organization, told The College Fix that the poster was inappropriate.

“The university should apologize because it appears to be targeted toward one political and religious side,” he wrote in an email:

They could have included hate speech against president Trump or hate speech against Christians as examples. In my opinion, free speech protects hate speech to an extent. However, the university appears to show a bias against Christians and conservatives.

Small later clarified he was speaking personally, not for his organization.

Prof. Amy Reynolds, the dean of Kent State’s College of Communication and Information, moderated last week’s KENTTalks panel discussion on free speech.

She told The Fix in an email that she had no involvement in creating the poster for the event: The Center for Student Involvement “created all of the promotional materials … I’m not sure what the process is/was.”

Neither Eric Mansfield nor Emily Vincent, the executive director and director of Kent State media relations, responded to repeated Fix queries. Neither did Kristan Dolan nor Rick Danals, assistant director and assistant dean of the Center for Student Involvement.

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