Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Burning incense to worthless gods

MB Montage Obama: GOP doesn't own faith issue
Ed. Note: Is Obama Barak the political voice for the New Evangelical?

CNN [Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner] - By Peter Hamby - October 8, 2007

GREENVILLE, South Carolina -- Republicans no longer have a firm grip on religion in political discourse, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama told Sunday worshippers.

The senator from Illinois delivered his campaign message to a multiracial evangelical congregation in traditionally conservative Greenville, South Carolina. "I think it's important, particularly for those of us in the Democratic Party, to not cede values and faith to any one party," Obama told reporters outside the Redemption World Outreach Center where he attended services.

"I think that what you're seeing is a breaking down of the sharp divisions that existed maybe during the '90s," said Obama. "At least in politics, the perception was that the Democrats were fearful of talking about faith, and on the other hand you had the Republicans who had a particular brand of faith that oftentimes seemed intolerant or pushed people away."

Obama said he was pleased that leaders in the evangelical community such as T.D. Jakes and Rick Warren were beginning to discuss social justice issues like AIDS and poverty in ways evangelicals were not doing before.

"I think that's a healthy thing, that we're not putting people in boxes, that everybody is out there trying to figure out how do we live right and how do we create a stronger America," Obama said.

He finished his brief remarks by saying, "We're going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

It's rare for Democratic candidates to venture to the traditionally conservative Upstate region of South Carolina, which is characterized politically by church- going Republican primary voters living in and around Greenville and Spartanburg. - - - -


Giuliani cites Bible on personal life
ASSOCIATED PRESS [Cooperative] - By Libby Quaid - September 28, 2007
WASHINGTON --Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani compared the scrutiny of his personal life marked by three marriages to the biblical story of how Jesus dealt with an adulterous woman.
In an interview posted online Friday, Giuliani was questioned about his family and told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "I think there are some people that are very judgmental."
Giuliani has a daughter who indicated support for Democrat Barack Obama and a son who said he didn't speak to his father for some time. Giuliani's messy divorce from their mother, Donna Hanover, was waged publicly while Giuliani was mayor of New York.
"I'm guided very, very often about, 'Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani told CBN interviewer David Brody. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.
"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."
In the New Testament story, related in the Gospel of John, Jesus does not actually hold stones. The Pharisees bring Jesus a woman charged with adultery, reminding him the punishment for adultery is stoning. They are testing Jesus in an effort to charge him with breaking the law.
The Gospel reads: "But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.'
"--- And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders."
Giuliani has insisted his family relationships are private. In 1968, he married his cousin, Regina Peruggi. They divorced 14 years later, and Giuliani obtained an annulment from the Catholic Church on the grounds that as second cousins, they should have received a dispensation to marry.
Giuliani married Hanover in 1984 and they divorced in 2002. He has been married to Judith Nathan since 2003.
Likewise, he says his faith is private, although he evokes his Catholic upbringing on the campaign trail.
He told CBN he believes in God and prays to Jesus for guidance and help.
"I have very, very strong views on religion that come about from having wanted to be a priest when I was younger, having studied theology for four years in college," he said. "It's an area I know really, really well academically.
"--- And my personal view of it is I need God's help for everything, and I probably feel that the most when I'm in crisis and under pressure, like Sept. 11, when I was dealing with prostate cancer, or (when) I'm trying to explain death to people, which unfortunately I've had to do so often.
"So it's a very, very important part of my life," he said. "But I think in a democracy and in a government like ours, my religion is my way of looking at God, and other people have other ways of doing it, and some people don't believe in God. I think that's unfortunate. I think their life would be a lot fuller if they did, but they have that right." - - - -
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Bishop Would Deny Communion to Giuliani
ASSOCIATED PRESS [Cooperative] - By Cheryl Wittenauer - October 3, 2007
ST. LOUIS - Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke, who made headlines last presidential season by saying he'd refuse Holy Communion to John Kerry, has his eye on Rudy Giuliani this year. Giuliani's response: "Archbishops have a right to their opinion."
Burke, the archbishop of St. Louis, was asked if he would deny Communion to Giuliani or any other presidential candidate who supports abortion rights.
"If any politician approached me and he'd been admonished not to present himself, I'd not give it," Burke told The Associated Press Wednesday. "To me, you have to be certain a person realizes he is persisting in a serious public sin." - - - -
Read Full Report

Bush: All religions pray to 'same God'
'That's what I believe. I believe Islam is a great religion that preaches peace'

1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

WORLDNETDAILY - October 7, 2007

President George Bush has repeated his belief all religions, "whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God" - an assertion that caused outrage among evangelical leaders when he said it in November 2003.

Bush made the statement Friday in an interview with Al Arabiya reporter Elie Nakouzi.

Al Arabiya is Al Jazeerah's top competitor in the Mideast.

As the president and Nakouzi walked from the Oval Office to the Map Room in the White House residence, Nazouki asked, "But I want to tell you - and I hope this doesn't bother you at all - that in the Islamic world they think that President Bush is an enemy of Islam - that he wants to destroy their religion, what they believe in. Is that in any way true, Mr. President?"

"No, it's not," said Bush. "I've heard that, and it just shows [sic] to show a couple of things: One, that the radicals have done a good job of propagandizing. In other words, they've spread the word that this really isn't peaceful people versus radical people or terrorists, this is really about the America not liking Islam.

"Well, first of all, I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives [Ed. Note: I believe Bush is talking about himself here] aren't religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that - we had a person blow up our - blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that's not a Christian act to kill innocent people.

"And I just simply don't subscribe to the idea that murdering innocent men, women and children - particularly Muslim men, women and children in the Middle East - is an act of somebody who is a religious person.

Friday's statement echoes one made by Bush in November 2003 during a joint press conference with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. A reporter noted Bush had frequently expressed the view that freedom is a gift from "the Almighty," but questioned whether Bush believes "Muslims worship the same Almighty" as the president and other Christians do.

"I do say that freedom is the Almighty's gift to every person. I also condition it by saying freedom is not America's gift to the world," Bush replied. "It's much greater than that, of course. And I believe we worship the same god," reported the London Telegraph. - - -

In Friday's interview with Al Arabiya, Bush emphasized his outreach to Muslims.

"We are having an Iftaar dinner tonight - I say, 'we' - it's my wife and I," Bush told Nakouzi. "This is the seventh one in the seven years I've been the president. It gives me a chance to say 'Ramadan Mubarak.' The reason I do this is I want people to understand about my country. In other words, I hope this message gets out of America. I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you're a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you're equally American.

"And the value - the most valuable thing I think about America is that - particularly if you're a religious person - you can be free to worship, and it's your choice to make. It's not the state's choice, and you shouldn't be intimidated after you've made your choice. And that's a right that I jealously guard.

"Secondly, I want American citizens to see me hosting an Iftaar dinner."

"That's a strong message for the Americans," said Nakouzi.

Last year, WND reported criticism of Bush from Wafa Sultan, a native of Syria, who said the president was empowering terrorist leaders whose ultimate aim is for Islamic law to govern the world by proclaiming Islam a "religion of peace."

"I believe he undermines our credibility by saying that," said Sultan. "We came from Islam, and we know what kind of religion Islam is."


Ramadan 2007: US enriched by Muslims Bush said
September 13, 2007
Washington - US President George W Bush wished the world's Muslims well as they began observing Ramadan on Thursday, saying the United States was richer for its own citizens of Islamic faith.
"I send greetings to Muslims observing Ramadan in America and around the world," Bush said in a statement released on Wednesday.
"America is a land of many faiths, and our society is enriched by our Muslim citizens," he said. "May the holy days of Ramadan remind us all to seek a culture of compassion and serve others in charity."

Presidential Message: Ramadan, 2007
EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES -- Abu Dhabi, UAE - September 7, 2007
I send greetings to Muslims observing Ramadan in America and around the world.
Ramadan, the holiest days of the Islamic faith, begins with the first light of dawn and commemorates the revelation of the Qur'an to the prophet Muhammad. During the days of fasting, prayer, and worship, Muslims reflect and remember their dependence on God. Ramadan is also an occasion for Muslims to strengthen family and community ties and share God's gifts with those in need.
America is a land of many faiths, and our society is enriched by our Muslim citizens. May the holy days of Ramadan remind us all to seek a culture of compassion and serve others in charity.
Laura and I send our best wishes. Ramadan Mubarak.
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Scandal Brewing at Oral Roberts
ASSOCIATED PRESS [Cooperative] - By Justin Juozapavicius - October 6, 2007

TULSA, Okla. - Twenty years ago, televangelist Oral Roberts said he was reading a spy novel when God appeared to him and told him to raise $8 million for Roberts' university, or else he would be "called home."

Now, his son, Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, says God is speaking again, telling him to deny lurid allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal.

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.

She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."

At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit --- is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, a member of the ORU board of regents, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation."

Colleagues fear for the reputation of the university and the future of the Roberts' ministry, which grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS. - - - -


ORU to employ an additional audit firm

US churches lure young with Halo 3 services

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH [Barclay] - By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles - October 8, 2007

Churches across the United States are under fire for using the ultra-violent video game Halo 3 to attract younger members to their congregations.

Even some evangelical churches known for taking a hard line on violent entertainment have been hosting sessions where boys come to play Microsoft's incredibly popular futuristic "space epic" in which an alien religious group is bent on destroying the Earth, and much of the galaxy.

The game, which came out two weeks ago and has already made more than 300 million dollars in sales, can only be bought by over-17s and is rated 'M' for its mature content. It features a vast array of weaponry which players use to annihilate opponents.

Pastors and church leaders defend their use of the game saying it is an effective way of connecting with boys and young men, who are notoriously hard to reach. Once they are in the church setting, ministers can offer them Christian messages after playing the game.

"We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell," wrote Gregg Barbour, youth minister of Colorado Community Church near Denver, in a letter to parents.

But critics are worried about the message implicit in allowing boys as young as 12 to play a potentially corrupting adult video game.

"If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it," James Tonkowich, president of the non-profit Institute on Religion and Democracy, told the New York Times. "My own take is you can do better than that."

Daniel Heimbach, a professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, agreed. "To justify whatever killing is involved by saying that it's just pixels involved is an illusion," he told the paper.

Hundreds of churches, however, are using the game and finding it a highly effective tool. The Colorado- based Dare 2 Share Ministry recently sent e-mail messages to 50,000 young people about how to reflect on and discuss their faith using themes from the game.

John Robison, associate pastor of one 300-member church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, told the New York Times he managed to allay parents' fears about the game. "We explain we're using it as a tool to be relatable and relevant, and most people get over it pretty quick."

SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL [Tribune Company] - By Stephanie Horvath - September 9, 2007

Wellington - It started one Sunday when Deacon Charles Cannon noticed the iPods and Sidekicks coming out in church.

"I realized pretty quickly that the kids were disconnected during the service," Cannon said of the teenagers in his youth group at St. David's Episcopal Church. "I learned they didn't know what was going on in the service and the music didn't reach them."

So on Aug. 19, Cannon brought in Bono to lead worship and made Where the Streets Have No Name the offertory song at St. David's. It was the first U2charist at an Episcopal church in Palm Beach County.

The services are Eucharists sprinkled with U2's music, and, like U2 frontman Bono, they carry a strong social justice message. They collect money to support developing countries and fight problems such as poverty and AIDS.

U2charists have popped up in churches around the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Rock bands and loud music in church services is nothing new in some Christian circles. But for the Episcopal Church, heavily steeped in tradition, the U2charists offer a way for it to experiment with contemporary worship. And many of them find the services invigorate younger members and draw people who might not normally attend church.

"We love our tradition, and we love the fact we love our tradition. It's a big part of our identity," said the Rev. Paige Blair, the rector at St. George's Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, which popularized the U2charists. "It's a safe way for Episcopalians to try these 21st-century ways to worship."

That's what's happened since Blair's church started spreading the word about U2charists in 2005. In the last year, churches across Florida in places as different as Fort Walton Beach, Tampa and Pompano Beach have held U2charists.

At St. David's, David Hietapelto, a dad with shoulder- length hair and a rock-star stance, filled in for Bono, and Pride, One and Mysterious Ways replaced traditional hymns. About 120 people filled the pews; after the Sunday night service finished, most of them said they enjoyed it, including the very teenagers Cannon was trying to reach.

"When you have the rock music there, the church becomes more personal. It's music they like," said Edwin Morlu, 16, one of the church's members.

"They can hear it while still being able to hear the message and spread it in a more fun and enjoyable way."

The teenagers weren't the only ones connecting with the songs. Two 10-year-old girls, one of them Hietapelto's daughter, threw their bodies into full-on dancing. Laura Thornton, 38, sang along with each song, her eyes pressed shut and face pointed heavenward.

"It's music that resonates with someone my age," she said after the service. "While I might hear a song from Bach, it doesn't resonate the same way, even though it's as gorgeous and beautiful as something I grew up watching, seeing and listening to."

But it's more than just any rock music. U2's lyrics have long addressed spiritual issues, and most of the band's members are Christians. The band's song 40 is a version of Psalms 40, and some have interpreted Where the Streets Have No Name to be about heaven. Blair said U2 fed her spiritually as a teenager when she wasn't involved in church.

"People who are in church now and people who aren't will say going to a U2 concert is a spiritual experience," she said.

Despite the Christian undertones, many of the churches, including St. David's, were a bit nervous initially about playing rock music.

The Rev. Bill Richter at St. Simon's on the Sound Episcopal Church in Fort Walton Beach said he held his first U2charist on a Saturday night rather than a Sunday morning because he worried it might not go over well. But 90 people showed up, a big turnout, and 40 percent of them weren't connected to the church.

"It was powerful. Just to see the kids excited about being at church was wonderful," said Richter, whose church is planning another U2charist. "I think it's a good way to appeal to a different segment of the community that like what we're doing but are a little off- put by the formality."

Cannon had to enlist the help of the St. David's priest, the Rev. Steven Thomas, in order to serve communion at the U2charist. He was nervous, despite having already held three contemporary services during the past year, including one featuring Bob Marley's music.

"I was really afraid the priest wasn't going to go for it. He said, 'Why would I play that kind of music in church?'" Cannon said. "I said, 'If you read the lyrics of the songs, they all speak about the mystical experience of God.'"

Thomas said he thought the U2charist was a good way to focus the church on social justice. St. David's collected money for Play Pumps International, a nonprofit group that builds water pumps in Africa.

"The music's not for everybody," Thomas said. "I told the congregation it's extreme liturgy."

LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS RESEARCH PROJECT - Press Release - October 5, 2007

Today on the Oprah show, Oprah's guest will be the author of the best-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert's book is the story of how she left her husband and her life behind and found what she came to call "the only true religion": the silence. Her journey took her around the world, where she learned to meditate in an India ashram.

Oprah, who openly resonates with the New Age and meditation techniques, said she is very excited to have Ms. Gilbert on her show. Calling it a "phenomenon" and "a life-changer," Oprah expresses her excitement for the book and the author.

Gilbert explains that the first step in her journey was to go on an eating binge in Italy. "I would not have been able to physically do the yoga, the meditation, the hard rigor of spiritual work. So I went to Italy first and I ate my guts out for four months."

From Italy, Gilbert traveled to India where she learned to meditate: "There was something about that yoga path that really appealed to me--and you do that through silence and the discipline of meditation -- and I really wanted to go pursue that full out." "None of this works without stillness," Liz says. "One of the great teachings that I learned in India is that silence is the only true religion."

During her time at the ashram, Gilbert had a meditative experience where she says "the scales fell from my eyes and the openings of the universe were shown to me."

Oprah's promotion of Gilbert and her book will likely cause millions of women (and many men too) to go out and buy the book. And once again Oprah, who has become a prophet and an evangelist for the New Age message, will help lead so many over the cliff of spiritual lostness through meditation (i.e., the silence).

Is it any wonder why ministries like Lighthouse Trails show such concern when Christian leaders tell followers, You can't really know God without the silence.

Different than finding a quiet place away from noise and distractions, the silence is referring to a stillness of the mind.

Ray Yungen, author of A Time of Departing, says it is like putting the mind in neutral. Contemplatives say it is like tuning into another frequency. New Agers call it different things like a thin place, sacred space, ecstasy; whatever it is called, both New Agers and Christian leaders are telling us we must practice silence and stillness if we really want to know God. - - - -

NEW YORK POST [News Corporation/Murdoch] - By Maureen Callahan - August 15, 2007

CHARLOTTE Harrigan is a 23-year-old sophisticate who works in the fashion industry, lives in Williamsburg and is a somewhat embarrassed devotee of "The Secret" - the Oprah-endorsed self- help book/DVD combo that preaches the so- called "law of attraction." Though, she adds, it did help her land her dream job. Her sister, too.

"My sister watches 'Oprah' a lot; she's into all that fabulous cult stuff," Harrigan says. "It sounds a little cheesy. We just did it kind of as a joke. We didn't buy into the whole thing. "

Funny. That's not quite how one of her closest friends recalls it.

"Charlotte and her sister took it very seriously," says Nicole Darling, a 27-year-old writer. "They told me they deliberately downplay it because they don't want to sound like crazy people."

As for Darling's take on "The Secret": "It's the stupidest thing I have ever seen.

A crock of s - - -." When friends tell her they are believers, she says her immediate response is, " 'Oh, God. No. Are you serious?' Then I usually make fun of them."

While the book and DVD have become pop-cultural phenomena since Oprah's endorsement in February, it's almost shocking that people outside her core audience - namely young, hyper-literate New Yorkers who pride themselves on their cynicism, taste and intellectual snobbery - would not only read it, but also actively embrace it. The same hipster who smirks at your iPod playlist or thinks the Serra exhibit is totally overrated may just be going home to make inspiration boards, meditate and talk to the Universe (that's with a capital U, by the way).

It's caused more than a few rifts among otherwise tolerant urbanites.

"My roommate is a 27-year-old bartender on the Lower East Side, and she's really into 'The Secret,' " says a graphic designer from Jersey City, who asked not to be named and who found this development alarming. "I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' She told me she has two friends who no longer speak to people who've tried to give them the DVD."

So what makes "The Secret" - which traffics in the kind of harmless power-of-positive-thinking jargon that's been packaged and re-packaged since the late 19th century, when the spiritualist movement in America began - so polarizing?

There is, of course, its dubious origins: The book and DVD were written and produced by an out-of-work Australian named Rhonda Byrne, who claims to have stumbled on "The Secret" to life in a 100-year-old book that remains unnamed. She writes that "Jesus was a millionaire" and wants you to be one, proffers the profoundly narcissistic notion that the Universe is a catalog and is just waiting for you to "place your order," and throws around the phrase "quantum physics" without ever explaining just what that is.

She enlisted the help of self-help gurus - two of whom, Esther and Jerry Hicks, later claimed Byrne swindled them out of their share of profits. (Jerry is a former Amway salesman; Esther is a former secretary who claims to channel the dead.)

Hence the alarm when an otherwise young, cynical, well-read New Yorker begins to proselytize.

A 33-year-old writer recently discovered two of her best friends are converts. She learned this, she says, when neither would shut up about it.

"I get the power of positive thinking, but the people who get into it are like cultists," she says. "Finally, I was like, 'I love you, but you are not allowed to bring this up to me ever again.' "

"It's intellectually misguided to put these ideas forth - it's magical thinking," says Andy Wibbels, who ran a "Secret"-debunking contest online.

Wibbels, 32, believes that "The Secret" resonates with young, well-educated urban dwellers partly because this generation came of age during the self-esteem movement: the idea that "just because you're YOU, you can do anything. I think 'The Secret' hooks into that. All that matters is your perception of the world around you - it's very egotistical." - - -

"['The Secret'] is incredibly materialistic and narcissistic, but superstitions and magical thinking are built into our brain," says Michael Shermer, who writes for the Skeptic magazine and Scientific American. "It doesn't matter what your education level or environment is. It takes a fair amount of vigilance to overcome that kind of folk psychology - 'I know someone who tried it, and it worked for them.' That's normal."

"It's as if there's no empirical baseline of data from which to operate," says blogger Wibbels. He adds that while he doesn't have any friends who are followers, he does have one who, he says, "worked on a TV show that heavily featured 'The Secret' " and is shot in Chicago.

Would that be "Oprah"?

"I can neither confirm nor deny," Wibbels says, laughing. "But I said, 'Why did you guys have to do so many shows on "The Secret"? There was no voice of dissent, no historical context.'

"He just said, 'It's a TV show. They're not journalists. It's entertainment.' "

Ed. Note: A notice to those of you who may be new to Be Alert! and an important reminder to everyone else is that an article such as this one that takes a somewhat neutral or positive stance towards false teaching does not mean that Be Alert! or Moriel endorses that stance. In fact, we are completely against such false teaching and for the truth contained only in the Word of God. However, in order for one to be prepared against the attacks of the enemy, we need to be aware of the lies he is propagating.

For a good source of information on the poison Esalen has spread through America and Western society, see Dave Hunt's book Yoga and the Body of Christ.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE [Hearst Corporation] - By Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer - September 13, 2007

For more than 40 years, people seeking personal transformation have come to Esalen, an enclave on the Big Sur coast that's been a defining home for counterculture spirituality.

Workshops on the lush 150-acre property range in topics as varied as Gestalt awareness, "massage weekend for couples" and "art as a spiritual path." Joseph Campbell developed and taught much of his groundbreaking work on comparative religion and mythology there decades before he became famous.

Now Esalen's leaders are trying to bring Islam into the fold. A Muslim sits on its board of trustees and the course catalog includes offerings by influential Muslims. Esalen's leaders say understanding of Islam is vital as a spiritual matter and as a way to empower "citizen diplomats."

But it's not clear whether that mission will draw followers, particularly after an Oakland imam's five-day course about Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that begins today, was canceled for lack of interest.

Faheem Shuaibe, the imam, said he had hoped to persuade participants to believe that Islam can be something outside of what they've seen on television or read in magazines.

"The idea is that there is something that Islam is outside of Saddam, bin Laden or even (Muslim congressman) Keith Ellison," said Shuaibe, who is a well-respected voice for Islam in the Bay Area and nationally. "It was something before all of them. That's what's being lost in the smoke."

Shuaibe believes any understanding of Islam today faces an uphill battle because of terrorists such as those who participated in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, whom he described as "insane," and a long list of essays depicting a "clash of civilizations." - - -

Esalen's leaders say that despite the failure to attract participants this year, they're committed to the course in future years. - - -

Esalen has brought in another Muslim speaker, Hamza Yusuf, a Danville resident who is considered to be one of the most influential Muslims in the nation. But Yusuf's course was given the distinctly secular title of "the alchemy of happiness." And while 17 people came for that course, Yusuf regularly draws hundreds and his books and CDs are widely sold.

The faith of Esalen has been described as a "religion of no religion," a recognition that the divine is not exclusive to any one people or culture or text. Esalen's spiritual ethos is about inquiry, said Nancy Lunney- Wheeler, Esalen's executive director of programming. And that extends to Islam.

"The survival of our world depends on our ability to understand each other across religions and cultures," said Lunney-Wheeler, who also is an Esalen board member. "We have neglected Islam. It has taken this terrible situation that the world is in for us to recognize that there is this religion that is a very strong force in the world." - - -

In the 1970s, Esalen's leaders began making trips to the Soviet Union because they were interested in psychical research, auras and mind-body healing, which the Soviets studied. In the process, a decades- long relationship developed that strengthened diplomatic ties.

When Boris Yeltsin made his first trip to the United States in 1989, he was sponsored by Esalen, according to Kripal. The trip ended up playing a formative role in how Yeltsin wanted to introduce capitalism to the former Soviet Union, according to Joseph Montville, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who now directs Esalen's efforts to bring Muslims, Jews and Christians together.

"Just the very effort of inviting an imam like this to give a seminar is an incredibly symbolic act," said Kripal. "Whether it works or not, in some ways, is irrelevant. They're trying to reach out again, and they're trying to create these spaces that are nontraditional and can have some positive role in this crisis right now."

Growing number of secular Muslims fast during Ramadan; Christians alarmed

YEDIOTH AHRONOTH (YnetNews) - By Yehuda Litani - October 3, 2007

Bashir Barghouti, the late secretary-general of the Communist Party in the West Bank, once told me that he and his party colleagues used to visit veteran communist leader Radwan al-Hilu (known as comrade Musa) at his home in the refugee camp of Jericho at the beginning of every Ramadan fast.

Al-Hilu, the secretary-general of the Palestine Communist Party in the 1930s, invited the leaders to a grand meal, which they purposely ate on the veranda of the house so that all the neighbors could see them. Barghouti added that every meal began with a glass of vodka. No one dared say a thing, said Barghouti, although it blatantly violated Jordanian law, which prohibited eating in public during the Ramadan fast and even imposed prison sentences on those who broke the law.

For the sake of comparison: A Jewish journalist who phoned the communist Hadash party leader Mohammad Barakeh this week, two minutes before the break of the Ramadan fast (the iftar) just a little before six in the evening, was reprimanded: "This is not the time to call. The iftar (evening meal breaking the fast) is about to commence."

It appears the Communist Party leader is not the only one who fasts during Ramadan ("I have fasted for many years," Barakeh told me,) so do many other secular Arab Israelis, including those who were raised from childhood on the Communist Party ideology. A doctor friend born in the Galilee who works in Jerusalem told me that he was raised in a typical secular home and his family always voted Rakach (New Communist List). This year he decided for the first time in his life to fast for the entire month of Ramadan. "The younger children have grown and I would like to serve as a role model," he explained. "For me it's a matter of tradition rather than religion." - - -

A Haifa couple, he an Arab and she a Jew, who became acquainted in the Rakach ranks, were shocked this year to discover that their two daughters decided to fast during Ramadan "to be like their friends." A building contractor from the Triangle area told me that he too fasted for the first time in his life although he and his brother "grew up in the Rakach party." - - -

In recent years groups of Israeli Arabs are undergoing a change: More and more are joining the circle of those fasting and worshiping at the mosques throughout the fast. Adjacent to a mosque in the Shuafat neighborhood in Jerusalem, traffic builds up during the noon prayer because of the hundreds of cars blocking the main road.

A friend from Shefar'am told me that this year graffiti with a quote from the Quran was sprayed on the walls saying that the fate of those who ate during the fasting hours of Ramadan was akin to challenging Allah. Although there are still a few secular "islands" of Muslims who make a point of not fasting, their numbers cannot be compared to those of 10 and 20 years ago: The fast has turned into a kind of social- fashionable trend that also attests to a nationalist affiliation.

This phenomenon is alarming Christian Israeli Arabs. A prominent figure told me this week: "It's enough to glance out of the window of my house to see the masses of worshippers flocking to prayer and blocking the roads in the area. The majority are secular before and after the Ramadan fast. Our response to this is that more and more of us are joining the IDF and the police force; others are secretly hoarding weapons to prepare for the day of order, for the eventuality that this vast Muslim energy will be directed against us."

Participants include CAIR, an unindicted co- conspirator in Texas Hamas case

WORLDNETDAILY - October 3, 2007

The National Council of Churches, with the support of an organization named as an unindicted co- conspirator in a Texas terror case and another lobbying for multiple sexual partners, has scheduled a day of prayer and fasting Oct. 8 in support of an immediate end to the war in Iraq.

"When you are fasting for Ramadan, you are enhancing your sense of compassion," said Sayyid Syeed from the Islamic Society of North America, one of the organizations working on the project. "We will be asking mosques to open their doors to people of other faiths around the world on October 8 for prayer and dialogue."

The plans were announced by the National Council of Churches, which noted that among the other supporters is the Council on Islamic American Relations, which was cited by federal prosecutors in Texas who are working on the trial of the Islamic charity Holy Land Foundation.

The foundation and five of its former organizations are accused of supporting Hamas, and it was in this case prosecutors named CAIR as an unindicted co- conspirator.

The announced plans, however, brought a negative reaction from the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

"Left-wing mainline Protestants are joining Muslims in a political fast aimed at getting the United States to 'end the war' in Iraq, an objective that no U.S. action could quickly accomplish," said Mark Tooley, executive director of the IRD's UMAction.

"Organizers cite the biblical prophet Isaiah as a model for fasting, but Isaiah called upon the people of Israel to fast as an appeal to God's mercy, not to make a political statement," he continued. "This protest fast is not about spiritual transformation but about exploiting an ancient religious practice for a political purpose."

The NCC announcement noted that leaders of faiths "representing tens of millions of faithful Americans" are participating in the "day of fasting and prayer to end the Iraq war."

"We must return to the ancient disciplines so that we will turn away from violence toward reverence," noted Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia.

Members saying they represented Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and Baptist "traditions" were on hand. They used the ram's horn, or Jewish shofar, to sound a "wake up" call to the nation. They also placed ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance, and a bell was tolled to announce the fast, from dawn to sunset on Oct. 8. Plans are for a Muslim "iftar" meal that evening. - - - -

Christ-like bin Laden image stirs debate in Australia
REUTERS - By Katrine Narkiewicz - August 30, 2007

SYDNEY - Artworks depicting Osama bin Laden in a Christ-like pose and a statue of the Virgin Mary covered in a burqa have caused a stir in Australia after they were showcased in a prestigious religious art competition.

"Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross" by Priscilla Bracks is a "double vision" print that depicts both Jesus and bin Laden.

Luke Sullivan's "The Fourth Secret of Fatima" is a statue of Mary, her head and torso obscured by a blue burqa like the one Afghan women had to wear under the militant Taliban.

The artworks were among more than 500 entries in the Blake Prize for Religious Art, and have been included in an exhibition at the National Art School in Sydney.

"The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians," Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Thursday's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Opposition Labor leader Kevin Rudd also criticized the artwork. "I accept you know people can have artistic freedom, but I find this painting off, off in the extreme. I understand how people would be offended by it," he said.

Australia's 20 million population is overwhelmingly Christian and the print was condemned by the Australian Christian Lobby.

"It's really unfortunate people take liberties with the Christian faith they wouldn't take with other religions," Lobby spokeswoman Glynis Quinlan told reporters.

Cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammad in European newspapers in 2006 sparked violent protests by Muslims around the world, who saw them as an affront to Islam. - - - -


That's Osama art controversy
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD [Fairfax-Syme Group] - By Arjun Ramachandran - August 30, 2007
The head of Australia's Islamic Council believes a statue of the Virgin Mary shrouded in a burqa is not offensive, because it shows a key female figure of Islam in the modest fashion required of all Muslim women.
Prime Minister John Howard yesterday described as "gratuitously offensive" the statue and another artwork depicting a holographic image of Osama bin Laden that morphed into an image of Jesus Christ.
The artworks were entries into the Blake Prize for religious art.
But Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said the statue was "not at all offensive", because both the Virgin Mary and Jesus were revered figures in Islam.
"So [Mary wearing a burqa is] no different to how our mothers and sisters are expected to be modest in their dressing," he said.
But Mr Patel said he was affronted by the image of bin Laden's face blending into that of Jesus, who is deemed a prophet in Islam.
"You have a revered prophet of Islam being equated to somebody like Osama bin Laden.
"Also in Islam, we don't have any paintings or drawings depicting any of our prophets, so I find it quite offensive."
The Anglican bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, said he was surprised by offended reactions to the artwork.
"Christians are not about to go and kill people because someone did some cartoons - it's not the way we respond," he said.
He said the artwork comparing Jesus to bin Laden was "somewhat critical" rather than offensive.
"It raises questions about what they have got in common and how they are different - Jesus himself said there will be many false Christs that will arise," he said.
Christians ought to be cautious about "running to the press" to complain about being offended, he said.
"You need to limit the language of outrage to things that are really outrageous," he said.
"[Politicians] should get on with running the country. Even though they are Christian men it's not an area they should be commenting on." - - - -
Read Full Report

FYI See Also:
Who Is Allah?

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD [Fairfax-Syme Group] - By Linda Morris Religious Affairs Reporter - August 16, 2007

SYDNEY'S Muslim leaders have offered to open their mosques and school halls to Catholic pilgrims for World Youth Day as the Catholic Church seeks to ease tensions between the two faiths.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is also considering staging mixed-faith sporting competitions and mosque open days for the largest religious gathering to be staged in Australia, which will bring Pope Benedict here for the first time.

The Catholic Church has given a commitment that it will not try to convert members of other religious denominations taking part in inter-faith forums and volunteering facilities.

It is also calling for 8000 people, including those of other faiths, to volunteer for the largest Catholic event on the 2008 religious calendar. There will be roles in areas including operations and crowd management, customer service, language and translations, staffing, hospitality and catering, accommodation, production, communications, liturgy and evangelisation.

Fifteen Islamic religious and community leaders, including Sheik Shady Suleiman, representing the Lebanese Muslim Association, and the leaders of four Muslim schools, were briefed by the Catholic Church on Monday. Jewish leaders will also be invited to attend a briefing.

The olive branch comes almost a year after Pope Benedict provoked Islamic fury when he quoted an obscure medieval text which criticised some teachings of the prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman". - - -

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said Sydney's Islamic leaders had responded positively to the overtures of the Catholic Church and saw World Youth Day as an opportunity to "break down barriers" between the two faiths.

Some mosques would be willing to open their doors to inter-faith forums, and could even invite Catholics to Friday prayers. At least four or five schools present at the meeting would be willing to offer their school halls for boarding.

"I think as Muslims in Australia we want to demonstrate very positively we are part of the community. There is not inherently that much difference between Islam and Christianity and this is an opportunity to educate the general community and Christian faith."

The co-ordinator of World Youth Day, Bishop Anthony Fisher, said the event had had a positive impact on all faiths in the countries in which it had been held.

"Peace and co-operation between people of faith - especially the three great monotheistic traditions of the book - is an inspiration of most young people and given the tensions in our world, it is an urgent message for us to all hear," Bishop Fisher said.

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE - By Angelica Martinez and Karen Kucher - September 7, 2007

SAN DIEGO - The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego reached a $198.1 million agreement with 144 childhood sexual abuse victims Friday morning.

The settlement was reached after marathon discussions between attorneys and victims.

As part of the settlement, the diocese will also ask a federal bankruptcy judge to dismiss its Chapter 11 case.

Another important part of the agreement was the diocese's promise to release church documents about priest abuse, said Irwin M. Zalkin, an attorney for 33 victims in the case. He said that without that concession, the victims would not have agreed to settle their claims.

The amount each victim will receive is to be determined by a state judge in a week or two, Zalkin said. Victims will likely get two payments, in January and in September 2008. - - - -

TIME [Time Warner] - By Jeff Israely - September 21, 2007

ROME: In a provocative article, an Italian medical professor argues that Pope John Paul II didn't just simply slip away as his weakness and illness overtook him in April 2005. Intensive care specialist Dr. Lina Pavanelli has concluded that the ailing Pope's April 2 death was caused by what the Catholic Church itself would consider euthanasia. She bases this conclusion on her medical expertise and her own observations of the ailing pontiff on television, as well as press reports and a subsequent book by John Paul's personal physician. The failure to insert a feeding tube into the patient until just a few days before he died accelerated John Paul's death, Pavanelli concludes. Moreover, Pavanelli says she believes that the Pope's doctors dutifully explained the situation to him, and thus she surmises that it was the pontiff himself who likely refused the feeding tube after he'd been twice rushed to the hospital in February and March. Catholics are enjoined to pursue all means to prolong life.

The article, entitled "The Sweet Death of Karol Wojtyla" (using the Pope's birth name) appears in the latest edition of Micromega, a highbrow Italian bi-monthly that has frequently criticized the Vatican's stance on bioethics. - - - -

REUTERS - September 6, 2007

ROME - Pope Benedict could visit the Holy Land next year, Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Thursday after a private audience with the Pontiff.

"His initial inclination is to do it next year," Peres told a news conference. "I believe he will try to do whatever he can to have his visit not postponed for any length of time."

The Pope told Peres's predecessor two years ago that he hoped to visit Israel in 2006, but that failed to happen and his spokesman said the timing of a visit was still not clear.

"As you know, the Pope is ready but the timetable still needs to be seen," Federico Lombardi told reporters after the audience.

The German-born Pope, who visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz last year, is due to pray at a memorial for Austrian victims of the Holocaust when he visits Vienna on Friday.


Pope refuses to meet Rice: report
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - September 19, 2007
Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday.
Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East, the Corriere della Sera daily reported without citing its sources.
She was hoping to meet the pontiff at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of August, it said.
"'The pope is on holiday' was the official response," the paper said.
It said the reply "illustrated the divergence of view" between the Vatican and the White House about the "initiatives of the Bush administration in the Middle East."
The newspaper said the pope had rejected all meetings with political representatives during August. - - - -
Read Full Report

'Catholic Church isn't hiding apocalypse secret'
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH [Barclay] - By Malcolm Moore, Rome Correspondent - September 12, 2007

The only surviving witness to a decades-long conspiracy theory has firmly denied the Catholic Church is hiding details about a predicted apocalypse.

Archbishop Loris Capovilla, 91, said there was no truth in the rumour that the Vatican was suppressing a vision of the end of the world.

The vision said to have been revealed 90 years ago by the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children on a hillside at Fatima in Portugal.

The three "Secrets of Fatima" were written down by one of the children, Lucia Dos Santos, who later became a nun.

Two of the secrets were revealed by the nun in 1941.

The first was a vision of hell, while the second apparently predicted the two world wars and the return of Russia from communism to Christianity.

The third secret, which was sent to Pope John XXIII in a sealed envelope in 1959, was only revealed by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The Vatican said it referred to an assassination attempt on the pope in 1981 by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca.

However, many Catholics suspected that parts of the secret were not disclosed in order to avoid panic about the apocalypse.

The rumours swelled when the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, gave an interview in 1984 suggesting that the secret concerned "the dangers threatening the faith and life of Christianity, and therefore the world. And also the importance of our ultimate days".

He added that the "things contained in this third secret correspond to what is announced in the Scripture".

Antonio Socci, a journalist and author of The Fourth Secret of Fatima, said when he attempted to investigate the issue, he was denied access by the Vatican.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the second- in-command at the Vatican, insisted earlier this year that conspiracy theories about an apocalyptic prediction were "pure fantasy".

Today Mgr Capovilla, who witnessed Pope John XXIII opening the envelope of the third secret, said: "There are not two truths from Fatima and nor is there any fourth secret.

"The text which I read in 1959 is the same that was distributed by the Vatican. I have had enough of these conspiracy theories.

"It just isn't true. I read it, I presented it to the Pope and we resealed the envelope."


Critical mass
Priest's alleged response to criticism of his homily leaves parishioner so angry he's suing the church and diocese
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES [Sun-Times Media Group/Hollinger/Ravelston] - BY Stefano Esposito - October 3, 2007
Angel Llavona considered his priest open to honest criticism.
And so after one Sunday mass last year, Llavona telephoned the Crystal Lake priest and left a message that went something like this: Your sermon stunk.
The Rev. Luis Alfredo Rios, a priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, then did something equally brazen, Llavona claims. He played the private phone message during Sunday mass and asked his flock, "What should we do? Should we send him to hell or to another parish?"
Now Llavona, who was sitting in church when his message was played, is suing Rios and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford. Llavona claims in the lawsuit filed this week in McHenry County that he was defamed and suffered "immediate emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation."
Llavona says the humiliation forced him to change parishes. He is seeking a minimum of $50,000 in damages. - - - -
Read Full Report

Italian archbishop closes convent after nuns come to blows
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - September 30, 2007
ROME - A convent in southern Italy is being shut down after a quarrel among its last three remaining nuns ended in blows, press reports said Sunday.
Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista, reportedly upset about their mother superior's authoritarian ways, scratched her in the face and threw her to the ground at Santa Clara convent near Bari in an incident in July that was kept quiet until now.
Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri tried to reconcile the nuns but finally decided in late August that they had "clearly lost their religious vocation" and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent.
Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista moved to another convent, but Sister Liliana barricaded herself inside, refusing to leave, the reports said, adding that she suspected Battista Pichierri of planning to cede the convent to another community. - - - -
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Papal stargazers reach for heaven
BBC NEWS [PSB operated by BBC Trust] - By David Willey - October 1, 2007
For the second time in seven years the Vatican is hosting a scientific conference for astronomers.
More than 200 scientists from 26 countries including the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany, Russia, and Japan have gathered in Rome for a five-day meeting on disc galaxies.
At the Papal University in Rome, normally frequented by Catholic theologians studying the Bible, the scientists, including Jesuit priests who work at the Vatican's own astronomical observatory, will be grappling with abstruse formulae and mathematical simulations about the physical origins of the universe, involving concepts such as cold dark matter and black holes.
Father Jose Funes, the head of the Vatican Observatory, said exciting new discoveries have been made with the help of space telescopes since the Holy See's last meeting on galaxies in 2000.
"Disc galaxies are a hot topic," he said. - - - -
Read Full Report

Vatican paper set to clear Knights Templar

Analysis: Anglicans Already Breaking Up
Analysis: Episcopal Church, Anglican Fellowship Already Damaged by Fight Over Homosexuality

ASSOCIATED PRESS [Cooperative] - By Rachel Zoll - September 23, 2007

As Episcopal leaders consider barring more gays from becoming bishops to prevent an Anglican schism, the world Anglican family is already dying by a thousand cuts.

Theological conflict over the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, is draining the Anglican Communion of its global influence.

Episcopal and Anglican conservatives who have been trying to maneuver collectively have instead been scattering in different directions, adding to a sense of chaos.

And while the number of Episcopal parishes that have broken with the national church is relatively small, observers say there's another threat that's harder to measure: that some parishioners upset by how leaders have handled the crisis are falling away from the church.

"It's turning people off," said David Hein, a religion professor at Hood College in Maryland who specializes in Episcopal and Anglican history. "They never endorsed gay marriage. They never said ordaining gay bishops was all right. They just did this as an ad hoc thing."

The 77-million-member Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England. It is the third-largest Christian body in the world, behind the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and is represented in the U.S. by the Episcopal Church.

After four years of emergency summits and failed talks over Robinson's consecration, Episcopal bishops are meeting here under enormous pressure to roll back their support for gays.

Anglican leaders, called primates, have set a Sept. 30 deadline for the Americans to pledge unequivocally not to consecrate another gay bishop or approve an official prayer service for same-gender couples. Episcopal bishops have dedicated their meeting here to crafting a response.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, has tried to play down the significance of the date, saying "there is no ultimatum involved." However, he took the unusual step of attending the meeting on its first two days, warning Episcopal leaders behind closed doors that they must make concessions to keep the communion together. - - - -


Vicars urged to drop 'risky' dog collars
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH [Barclay] - By Jonathan Wynne-Jones - October 8, 2007
Vicars have been told to stop wearing dog-collars because they increase the likelihood of them being attacked.
Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, should abandon the traditional dress, according to the Church of England's security adviser.
A new report warns clergy that the collars make them an "easy target" and says they should adopt more casual clothing in a bid to give them greater safety.
It was commissioned after the murder in March of Paul Bennett, vicar of St Fagan's Church in Trecynon, near Aberdare, who became the fifth cleric to be killed in a decade.
Other safety measures proposed include disguising the whereabouts of the vicarage by taking down signs and ensuring that the front doors of their homes do not have a letter box that people can look through.
However, it is the recommendation that they should cease wearing dog-collars in public that is most controversial. They have been worn since the early 19th century and many priests are not seen without them.
The report, called The Clergy Lifesytle Theory, says: "One of the factors in the assaults away from the vicarage is the fact that clergy are easily identifiable as they tend to wear a 'clergy collar' which clearly informs people that they are a clerk in Holy Orders."
Research has shown that half of attacks against clergy take place on the street or in the church when the priest is on their own. - - -
Nick Tolson, the coordinator of National Churchwatch - the organisation that produced the report, claimed that there would be no attacks on clergy if they heeded the advice.
"They haven't been streetwise in the past," he said. "They need to realise that wearing the dog collar makes them a target, especially in the case of single females. It isn't wise for them to wear it out shopping or in the car and they should never wear it when alone. The Archbishop and other bishops should give a lead in this." - - - -
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Heresy by Proxy
APOSTASY ALERT - By Sherry Neese - October 1, 2007

    If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself [1 Timothy 6:1-5].

Pastors, teachers and ministry leaders with heretofore unblemished reputations enjoy positions of trust in ministries and churches and may have laid down a track record for the truth of the Lord for many years. They may have never preached or taught anything questionable or even remotely heretical from their venues of ministry yet they have startedtaking up with known wolves. They may lack any evil intent and could be unaware that they have been deceived and are in fact a detriment to the blood-bought Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. These double-minded individuals have a "form of godliness" but are in fact betraying the Lord they profess to love. They want the grass on both sides of the fence. They preach words of truth on the one hand, but abuse the trust that has been placed in them and mock God by their actions. Their error is obscured behind the skirts of truth and it is next to impossible to find a speck of error in their actual teaching. The old adage "Actions speak louder than words" describes this scenario perfectly. To coin a new phrase, "You are what you promote."

These teachers practice heresy by proxy. A proxy is someone who stands in for another. They consort with heretics and thereby encourage their followers to partake of their apostasy. They mix truth and error, a deadly concoction. They give the impression that the truth they speak is compatible with the falsehood they endorse. This is not 'guilt by association," this is guilt by endorsement. Flirting with deluding spirits and doctrines of demons is dangerous business and they do so at great peril. - - - -

Junk Christianity
WORLDNETDAILY - By Joseph Farah - September 24, 2007

You've heard of "junk science."

Let me introduce you to "junk Christianity."

I received a press release today from a high-rolling public relations outfit that specializes in "Christian ministries" - including "America's Pastor" Rick Warren and his mega-church.

I almost fell off my office chair when I read it.

I'm still stunned, dazed, bemused and deeply troubled by what I see as disrespect and irreverence for the Word of God, misrepresentation of God's promises and a disturbing kind of know-nothing modern-day idolatry.

It seems a group called Light the Highway has declared Interstate 35, sometimes known in less spiritual circles as "the NAFTA Superhighway," to be the "Highway of Holiness" proclaimed in Isaiah 35:8. Beginning Oct. 28 and running through Dec. 1, Light the Highway will hold its "35 days of I-35," culminating, we're promised, in "5 Nights of Miracles" in the Dallas area.

In case you're running to your Bible to look it up, Isaiah 35 is about a specific time and place - and it's not Texas or Minnesota or even the USA. It's about the coming of the Lord in triumph and renewal and the passage specifically refers to Israel. There is a highway mentioned in Isaiah 35:8, but it is certainly not I-35:

    "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein."

Isaiah 35 mentions Carmel, which is a prominent mountain and forest area in Israel. It mentions Sharon, a coastal plain nearby. It mentions Lebanon, just to the north. It does not mention Laredo or Duluth.

By the way, this highway of the future may already exist - but, again, it is not I-35. It is more likely Via Maris, sometimes called the International Highway, which passes through Mount Carmel along an ancient travel route that connected Egypt with Syria. Via Maris literally means "Way of the Sea."

But enough of the history and geography lessons - what is plainly written in the Bible, in this case, is being distorted and twisted to suggest, somehow, that this clear, unambiguous text was actually a prophecy about Interstate 35.

Give me a break!

"God has given this scripture to us, not as a word of encouragement, but as a commission," explains Cindy Jacobs, the founder of Light the Highway. "God spoke to us about a highway we have that goes all the way from the bottom of America in Texas, to the top of America, in Minnesota."

Somehow I missed that description in Isaiah 35. Must be the translation.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to "radical evangelism," one of the activities Jacobs promises will be part of her "Highway of Holiness" campaign. I'm not opposed to 24-hour prayer. I'm not opposed to praying for sites of "impurity" - like abortion clinics and porn shops.

What I do oppose is claiming the Bible says anything about Interstate 35. What I do oppose is claiming the clear, concise, unadulterated promises about the future of Israel and the Jews are actually meant for any other land or any other people. What I do oppose is cheapening prayer and evangelism by tying them to blatant misinterpretations of the Word of God.

"Light the Highway is a movement, and we are creating something real, something tangible, something permanent," says the organization's website.

But it's not real - not if you claim Isaiah 35 is talking about a highway that runs from Texas through Minnesota. It's not tangible - because it's built on an unbiblical foundation. It's not permanent - because God will not be mocked.

Oh, by the way, another benefit of this program, says the organizer is that its online community website will "revolutionize intercession on a global scale."

With all due disrespect, God doesn't need a website nor a fanciful story about a biblical promise realized in the U.S. to make the prayer of His people more effective.

And that's lesson No. 1 in "junk Christianity."

Ed. Note: Some Additional info from James Sundquist
Top Warrenist Leader and Pastor Arrested
Donald (Roddy) Clyde, 48, a 13-year pastor at The Fellowship at Forest Creek in Round Rock, TX (after successfully having its name changed), was arrested after it was discovered he stole a minimum of a half million dollars from the church.
Mr. Clyde is regarded as a major leader in the Warrenism movement, and has led churches into the transition into the model as a leader of Church Transitions, Inc, which is a major player in the Warrenist movement. According to the Suzanne Sataline Wall Street Journal article last fall, Mr. Clyde's tactics are very reminiscent of Saul Alinsky, and he encourages churches which are planning a switch to Warrenism when they expel members for not supporting the movement, as they change churches, the Warrenist pastor should call the minister of the church which the expelled member is joining, and recommend banishing that person from any leadership role -- in essence, if he tries to join the church, they recommend he not be permitted to be a leader in any organisation at the new church, and in some instances, may recommend the letter to join the new church be denied.
It should be noted in Warrenist churches that the pastor is in near-absolute control of the church and acts like a dictator.

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN [Cox Enterprises] - By Isadora Vail - August 17, 2007

A longtime Round Rock pastor was arrested after telling authorities he embezzled at least $500,000 from his church, according to court records.

Donald "Roddy" Clyde, 48, turned himself in to authorities Wednesday and was charged with felony theft of more than $200,000 from the Fellowship at Forest Creek Church. Clyde's bail was set at $400,000, and he could face 99 years in prison if convicted.

Clyde told police that he used the church's bank account and credit card to buy land, horses, vacations and other property, according to his arrest affidavit.

Lawrence Swicegood, a church spokesman, said a private investigation is under way to determine how long the church has been missing money and how much might have been taken.

Swicegood said a church accountant noticed some strange charges on the church credit card and bank account about three weeks ago. The church's leadership team then began to look at the receipts and charges, he said. Police interviewed Clyde about the charges Monday, and he stepped down that day.

"The church has always been about the people and not about one individual," Swicegood said of the 1,500- member congregation. "We are greatly saddened that our pastor had to resign, but we are pulling together to meet the needs of the community and the church."

Clyde's home in Round Rock's Forest Ridge subdivision is valued at about $350,000, according to the Williamson County appraisal district, and he also owns land in Taylor.

Glenn Hamilton, a church member, said the congregation's feelings about Clyde, who had been at the church since 1992, are divided.

"There are people that, despite what he's admitted to, don't want to go on without him, and then there are those that feel betrayed," Hamilton said.

An Austin fraud specialist said that Clyde could have stolen more than the $500,000 he reportedly admitted to taking.

"If he's saying $500,000, in my experience, I would look for a lot more because when perpetrators do estimate, it's always grossly underestimated," said Jim Ratley, president of Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

THE CHRISTIAN POST - By Lillian Kwon - October 6, 2007

An evangelical theologian is visiting several churches this fall refuting the common Christian interpretation of the Bible that Jesus and Scripture opposes homosexuality.

Jack Rogers, professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary, is trying to get a positive word out in the Christian churches about the gay and lesbian community and thinks churches should be leading the charge for their equal rights.

"I'm trying to help people understand that the Bible rightly interpreted, which I would think is through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry ... does not condemn Christian people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered," said Rogers, according to The Lawrence Journal-World.

He makes that argument in the book Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. The former Fuller Theological Seminary professor and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) launched his fall book tour last week and is currently making stops at churches and ministries to speak on the controversial topic.

Rogers says those who argue that the Bible condemns gays and lesbians are taking biblical literalism too far and feels there is excessively negative words in the religious community, according to the Journal-World. - - - -

News Briefs
School Keeps Christmas, Halloween; Adds Ramadan
WBBM-TV CBS2 CHICAGO [CBS Corporation] - October 4, 2007
OAK LAWN, Ill. Following a school board meeting where parent complained about what the saw as an assault on traditional American celebrations, an Oak Lawn school district has decided to keep observing Halloween and Christmas, but only on the condition that Muslim holiday Ramadan is celebrated as well.
The school district had asked principals to tone down all holiday celebrations after a Muslim mother requested that her children be separated from others during lunch for the Ramadan fast. - - - -
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Disgraced Pastor Ted Haggard Asks Supporters for Cash
ASSOCIATED PRESS - August 25, 2007
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Rev. Ted Haggard, who left the megachurch he founded after admitting to "sexual immorality," has asked supporters for financial assistance while he and his wife pursue their studies.
The former New Life Church pastor plans to seek a master's degree in counseling at the University of Phoenix while his wife studies psychology, he said in an e-mail sent this week to KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs.
The couple and two of their sons planned to move Oct. 1 to the Phoenix Dream Center, a faith-based halfway house in Phoenix, where Haggard and his wife would provide counseling, the e-mail said.
"It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years," the e- mail said. "During that time we will continue as full- time students, and then, when I graduate, we won't need outside support any longer."
Haggard left the 10,000-member New Life Church late last year and resigned as head of the National Association of Evangelicals after a former male escort accused Haggard of paying him for sex.
Mike Ware, an overseer for New Life Church, told The Gazette of Colorado Springs on Friday that it was premature of Haggard to release the statement without first consulting the overseers.
A New Life spokesman did not immediately return a phone message left late Friday by The Associated Press.
Haggard received a salary of $115,000 for the 10 months he worked in 2006 and an $85,000 anniversary bonus before the scandal broke, The Gazette reported. Haggard's severance package included a year's salary of $138,000, and he collects royalties on his book titles, the newspaper reported.
El Paso County records show Haggard's home, which has been up for sale, has a market value of $715,051.
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Overseers criticize Haggard's cash plea
COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE - By Brian Newsome - August 30, 2007
Disgraced minister Ted Haggard's e-mailed plea for money and his announced intention to return to religious work was "unacceptable" and "inappropriate," according to a statement Wednesday by pastors overseeing his restoration.
The fourpastor team of overseers said in the statement that Haggard must seek secular employment to support himself and his family.
Reached by phone, Haggard said Wednesday he is barred from commenting on the overseers' statement. - - - -
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Uganda: Pastor in Trouble Over 'Sowed' Car
NEW VISION [State Owned] (Uganda) - By Chris Kiwawulo - August 28, 2007
KAMPALA - THE Police have arrested Pastor Ronnie Badda and his wife Betty for allegedly conning a follower of her car and property worth millions of shillings. Badda and his wife were arrested from their church, Jesus Liberty Praising Centre International, in Biina-Luzira, a city suburb, on Sunday.
A witness said there was drama when the Police arrested the couple at around mid-day, leaving the believers confused.
The couple had eluded the Police, which first stormed the church last Thursday.
The Police interrogated the couple for five hours over claims that they used deceit to take Milly Akello's car, two mobile phones, a fridge, a watch and other household items.
Badda and his wife were later released on Police bond. They reported at the station on Monday for further questioning.
The Kira Road Police Station crime chief, Grace Akullo, said Akello filed the case three weeks ago.
Akello, a resident of Luzira, claims that the couple lured her to 'sow' her car and property as a way to help salvage a relationship with her boyfriend in 2005.
"They told me that our relationship would recoup and end into a marriage, which never happened. "All of a sudden, they changed and started telling me that God had revealed to them that he was not the right man for me. They told me that they would get me another man and I refused," narrated Akello.
Akello, who joined the church in 2003, left it in October 2006 and tipped The Sunday Vision which ran an undercover story recently.
However, according to Betty, Akello 'sowed' her car because she wanted to seduce her husband (Badda).
She told the Police that they sold the dark-gray Toyota Starlet at sh2.8m and used the money to pay rent for the church premises. - - - -
Read Full Report


"Why I Left The Prophetic Movement"

Police say televangelist assaulted by her husband - Weeks Charged With Assaulting Bynum

Brazilian church leaders get U.S. jail time for cash smuggling

Evangelist Hinn lands under a cloud
Benny Hinn readies for crusade and defends lavish healing ministry

TORONTO STAR [Torstar/Star Media] - By Stuart Laidlaw - August 17, 2007

Pastor Benny Hinn, in Toronto this weekend for two days of miracle cures and old-time gospel, makes no apologies for all the money his far-flung ministries take in each year.

"The gospels are free, but the means of delivering the gospels is really expensive," Hinn, who got his start in Toronto 30 years ago, told the Star.

Tonight and tomorrow, Hinn brings his Texas-based Miracle Crusade to the Air Canada Centre, attracting up to 20,000 to each of his three shows.

The shows are free but, as at all his crusades, donations will be sought and many buckets will be passed as the audience sings rousing hymns along with a mass choir amid a light show worthy of a rock concert. While Hinn acknowledges people come mainly to see and take part in the healing miracles, that is left to the feverish end - they will first hear him preach, pray and sing in his trademark white suit.

But Hinn arrives under a cloud after the CBC's The Fifth Estate this week challenged his claims of miracle cures and described a lavish lifestyle of fancy cars, a 7,000-square-foot ocean-side mansion and luxury travel to five-star hotels on a private jet.

In the show, reporter Bob McKeown estimates Benny Hinn Ministries takes in as much as $250 million a year in donations and proceeds from sales of such items as autographed bibles.

Hinn, who keeps his finances private, doubts the show will hurt turnout at the ACC. - - -

After the prayers, songs and preaching from the charismatic minister, Hinn tells the crowd he is getting a message from God that people in the audience are being cured, and he asks them to come to the stage. The Fifth Estate used hidden cameras to show staff screening audience members coming forward, ensuring none with obvious physical ailment get near Hinn.

"It's always somebody that has some kind of illness that can't be readily seen" that makes it to the stage, Justin Peters, a Baptist minister in Mississippi who studied Hinn, tells the CBC.

Hinn says the cures take place in the audience, not on stage, so no one still in a wheelchair is allowed on stage. God, he says, has obviously not cured these people.

"I won't let them up, because they haven't been healed," he says.

The CBC tracked down some of the people claimed to have been cured, only to find that they were either still sick, never had the condition they were supposedly cured of, or had died.

Speaking to the Star, Hinn says he is forced to rely on the word of those coming to his crusades to tell him they are cured.

"It's not my job to claim that they are healed. I have never done that," he says. "I'm not a doctor."

Hinn defends his use of luxury hotels and a private Gulfstream jet detailed by the CBC, saying they offer greater efficiency and security.

"People in my position will have threats," he told the Star. "If you ask for a secure (hotel) floor, you're going to pay more money."

Hinn also criticized the CBC for using hidden cameras and old footage he says depicts his wife just before she had a nervous breakdown.

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