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Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #90 on: February 09, 2017, 10:32:45 AM »
Moral Factors to Take into Account if You’re Considering IVF

"I can only imagine the struggles you might be facing as you try to conceive a child. Infertility is a reality for many and can be unimaginably painful. We need God’s grace to help us walk through such pain. In addition, we need God’s truth to help us navigate the possible road ahead. It’s true that modern technology has increased the number of reproductive technologies available to us, but we shouldn’t use them indiscriminately. As Christians, we need to think very carefully about the moral implications of these technologies, and there are several significant moral factors to take into account if you are seriously considering in vitro fertilization (IVF).

"In IVF, a woman is given fertility drugs that enable her to produce more eggs than normal in a given cycle. The eggs are extracted from her body and fertilized by the man’s sperm in a test tube or Petri dish, thereby producing embryos. Those embryos are then transferred into the woman’s uterus. First, you need to realize that IVF may produce additional embryos that will not be transferred to the woman. When you put sperm and egg together in a Petri dish, no one knows just how many embryos will actually be produced. Standard IVF practices call for the fertilization of all the eggs produced. Typically, they are transferred more than one at a time, and then leftover embryos are either disposed of or stored indefinitely.

"The first option, disposing of the embryos, is the moral equivalent of taking the life of an innocent human being. The embryo is a living, distinct, human organism in the embryonic stage. Those three characteristics of the embryo demonstrate that it is a member of the human family. Thus, the embryo is valuable because of the kind of thing it is, namely an innocent human being. Certainly the embryo undergoes developmental changes after conception, but it experiences no substantial change or change in nature. The human embryo grows into a human fetus, which grows into a human infant, and so forth. Through each stage of development, it remains a valuable member of the human family. Therefore, the embryo is not a potential human, but a human with great potential, and disposing of it is not an option open to us.

"The second option, storing the embryos indefinitely, also raises some concerns. Oftentimes, couples don’t realize their ambivalence toward their leftover embryos. Couples are probably ambivalent because they intuitively know that disposing of an embryo is not equivalent to the disposing of property that is owned. Their intuitions surface as they observe the continuity of personal identity between an embryo and a child they hold in their arms. As a result, many couples end up paying to store their leftover embryos indefinitely. And this is a problem.

"When an embryo is created through IVF, an intrinsically valuable human life comes into existence. Thus, every human embryo brought into existence acquires the right to life and is owed the chance to mature into a fully developed human person. Therefore, storing them indefinitely would prevent them from having the opportunity to develop and would constitute a sin of omission. The only viable option for leftover embryos once they’ve been created is to adopt them out to other infertile couples.

"As if that did not provide you with enough factors to consider, there is one more problem that may arise in IVF. Sometimes, implantation is very successful, resulting in multiple children. If the woman’s health is at risk, the doctor will recommend selective reduction, which would selectively terminate the lives of one or more of the unborn children. In order to avoid this scenario, a couple can limit the number of embryos transferred to the amount of children a woman can safely carry or the amount of children the couple can handle at once.

"If you consider IVF, please do so in light of the fact that the embryos created are part of your family from the beginning—they are your children from conception. Just because they are a small “clump of cells” at this level of human development, that does not disqualify them from the right to life and an opportunity to fully develop."

Brett Kunkle - Bio-Ethics Blog Post - Stand To Reason - February 7, 2017.

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #91 on: February 10, 2017, 10:27:01 AM »
Free pastors from the Johnson Amendment

"President Trump is doing something relatively rare in American politics – he is fulfilling his campaign promises. One of the several promises made by candidate Trump was to eliminate the problems for churches and religious leaders caused by the Johnson Amendment. Exactly what is the Johnson Amendment? How has it been used? And how should it be fixed?

"In essence, the Johnson Amendment prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)3 organizations from engaging or speaking on matters related to political campaigns. In 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson wanted to weaken organizations politically opposed to him — so he conditioned all such organizations’ tax-exempt status on their remaining silent in political matters. Since that time, the amendment has been used to muzzle anything remotely perceived as political speech from tax-exempt organizations, religious and nonreligious, on both sides of the aisle. This overly broad muzzling has included comments of pastors speaking from the pulpit about candidates as well as policy matters. Simply put, the Johnson Amendment has been used to censor speech — something that should never have occurred.

"To address these concerns, the Free Speech Fairness Act was introduced in the House of Representatives last year by Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. It has been reintroduced in the 115th Congress with a companion Senate version sponsored by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. The bill allows speech from the pulpit even if it touches on political matters. Indeed, it allows all tax-exempt organizations to engage in speech during their ordinary activities, as long as they don’t spend money on such speech. These provisions address the problematic censoring of speech, while leaving in place the restrictions on tax-exempt organizations from using their funds for political activities.

"Pastors will decide differently how and if they will engage on political issues. That is not the point of this legislation. The point is to ensure that those who wish to engage in such speech are free to do so. They would be under the Free Speech Fairness Act.

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out forcefully from the pulpit on political matters that required change, and we are all glad he did so. It benefits us all to have such change agents speak freely from the pulpit.
Since the birth of our nation, pastors and churches have been at the forefront of shaping public debate and our choice of public servants. What would America look like today had King or the Rev. Lyman Beecher, a leading abolitionist, been muzzled by the IRS?

"King once wrote: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” The church should not have to gain its authority or approval to speak from the government because doing so reduces it to a servant of the state.

"More free speech for advocates in the public square should be something that everyone can get behind, whether Democrat or Republican. All pastors will be able to speak more freely, regardless of the party affiliation of the policies they are backing. And nonreligious nonprofits will have more freedom to speak, whether on political solutions to an environmental problem, a health care issue or anything else of concern to them. In addition to the practical reasons for change, the current IRS guidance restricting the speech of pastors and others is very likely unconstitutional.

"For all these reasons and more, we are hopeful that the Free Speech Fairness Act can find the broad and bipartisan support it deserves. All nonprofits stand to gain from this legislation. If we can find the support to pass this legislation, President Trump — who wants to eliminate the problems with the Johnson Amendment — will sign it. Please join me in supporting more free speech for all Americans and back the Free Speech Fairness Act."

Tony Perkins - Religious News Service - February 9, 2017.

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #92 on: February 11, 2017, 11:37:47 AM »
Thailand Officials Using Jehovah’s Witnesses Publications To Address Social Issues

"This year marks three years since Thai Government officials started using publications by Jehovah’s Witnesses as part of the national initiative to educate the public officials on how to address some key social issues. These issues include prevention of domestic violence, effective parenting, and improving physical and mental health.

"Jehovah’s Witnesses Publications Are Being Used To Address Social Issues in Thailand

"These government’s national education initiatives are orchestrated and implemented at over 8,700 regional Community Learning Centers that are spread across the country. The government has also set up 11 Community Development Learning Centers (CDLC), whose main focus is to train the community leaders.

"The director of CDLC in Nakhon Nayok province Chaiwat Saengsri, says the goal of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is very clear and aims at helping the people and communities get to know their Creator. This is the same goal that CDLC has; assisting the community in raising their standards in the quest for peace and better quality life.

"Mr. Chaiwat also requested the Jehovah’s Witnesses make their publications available during the SMART Leader seminar. This seminar seeks to bring together 20 instructors and 100 community leaders from 28 provinces, who will receive training on community building and leadership.

"The spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Thailand Anthony Petratyotin says, “We are happy to know that community leaders are making such good use of the Bible-based advice found in our publications. We will continue to make our literature available to officials, along with our primary means of distribution—our public ministry.”

"Some of the publications that have been used include the Awake! Magazine article, “How to Avoid Hurtful Speech”. This article was used to teach the community leaders on how to handle conflict in marriage without unleashing a torrent of hurtful words whenever a conflict arises.

"The publication seeks to explain why conflict in a marriage happens, and what can be done to end it without necessarily using words that will end up hurting the spouse. Some of the suggested ways to avoid using hurtful words include showing empathy, being respectful, reviving the feeling the couple once shared, avoiding verbal attacks, postponing a discussion when tempers begin to flare.

"Another article, “An End to Domestic Violence” helps the participants in dealing with domestic violence by understanding the prevalence of domestic violence cases, why this happens, and what can be done to stop it.
"The publication offers practical advice that can help violent spouses change their behavior. The education has helped many spouses replace violence with kindness and respect. Violent spouses learn how to treat their better half, and eventually become witnesses that domestic violence can stop. The publication teaches about honor, mildness, and self-control, and condemns abusive speech in marriage."

Alison Lesley - World Religious News - February 10, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #93 on: February 12, 2017, 08:13:26 AM »
The Absurdity of Time and The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

"A few years ago, I was studying history at the University of Mississippi. I was in a class on Latin American history. As we discussed ancient history, I made the observation that we couldn’t prove any of this happened. “Time is a relative construct.” Immediately, I took it a step further and further declared, “I’m not even sure we can prove that we exist.” For historians, such observations are a declaration of war. Historians believe that the past can be proven with proper evidence. I believe that the past can be proven with proper belief. Since it is possible that there is no past, we construct our own past. After about ten minutes of arguing the benefits of such deconstruction with the entire room, my professor lost it and screamed out, “Goddamn it! This is not the f**king Matrix Jeff!!!” After that, my professor cleared the room. Immediately, he turned to me and demanded, “What the f**k was that?” “The deconstruction of history.” “Well, don’t do it again in my classroom.” “Time is an absurd concept.” “Not in my classroom.” Throughout the existence of humanity, there is no fundamentalism stronger than the idea of time. If we think deeply, we quickly realize that time is not real. Time is absurd. The only thing that is real is what we believe.
We have always assumed that time is real. I believe we have assumed wrongly. The clock keeps time because we believe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. Instead of the past, maybe we are going into the future. Instead of growing older, maybe we are growing younger. Perhaps, death is a rebirth. I could go on and on. The point is that we think we know much more than we do. Time exists because we believe it exists. If we didn’t believe in time, time would not exist. The absurdity of time is that it has tricked us into believing that time is real. Time doesn’t change the world. Our beliefs do.
One question frames Christian theology, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” If you answer in the affirmative, you are called conservative or orthodox. If you answer in the negative, you are called liberal or revisionist. The conservatives argue that there is much evidence to prove that Jesus rose from the dead.

I am skeptical of such evidence. The liberals are certain that people just don’t rise from the dead. I am skeptical of such certainty. While these descriptions are simplistic, I think they capture the often-dichotomous debate on a general level. The problem with these positions is that they’re too simplistic. I think they’re both wrong. Neither position takes into account the absurdity of time. If travel to different places in different dimensions became a possibility, what would we find at the tomb of Jesus? Would we find what is or what we believe is? I believe that belief shapes perception. Time is relative to belief. If we believe, our wildest thoughts will be true. Time is not truth. Our beliefs are. Then again… What is truth?"

Jeff Hood - Patheos - February 9, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #94 on: February 13, 2017, 08:46:09 AM »
On Defining Religion

"Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said that President Donald Trump's 90-day ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries is "a religiously based ban," and "if they can ban Muslims, why can't they ban Mormons." This has become the position of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, which has influenced not only the American public but has convinced the majority of the world that America is "bad." How can we blame the world, and even a good segment of American citizens, for hating America when such disingenuous and misleading claims are aired to the world from US officials and broadcast by American television channels?

"The majority of the world does not understand that much of the American media is in a propaganda war against the Trump Administration simply because he names Islamic jihad and would prefer to see a strong and prosperous America as a world leader, rather than to see a dictatorship -- secular or theocratic -- as a world leader. He ran as a Republican; meanwhile, Democrats and the mainstream media refuse to engage in respectful and legitimate debate on the most vital threat to Western civilization in the twenty-first century: Islam. Truth has become irrelevant; people seem to prefer a political game of tug-of-war to sway public opinion against the Trump Administration, and, presumably, to elect Democrats forever. That is how the system is set up.

"Political discussions on television have become extremely frustrating; they have turned into shouting matches and name-calling at the least informative levels. Television hosts often become instigators and participants in the shouting matches. The thinking is apparently that the louder they get, the more attractive the program will be. Meanwhile everyone is talking at once; the viewer cannot hear anyone, so the program could not be more boring.

"Under the US Constitution, freedom of religion is protected. and Islam has been welcomed inside the West on that basis as one of the three Abrahamic religions. According to Western values and the Western understanding of the word, "religion" is supposed to be a personal relationship with God, where free will is of utmost importance; the believer has authority only over himself or herself when it comes to religious laws or punishing sins (such as leaving the religion or committing adultery) -- quite different from criminal laws intended to protect society. Western values also allow followers of a religion the freedom to proselytize, but never by resorting to government enforcement.

"Bottom line, the Western definition of religion is in harmony with the Biblical values of the human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that all human beings are created equal under the law. It is considered a basic Western value to view God, family and country as a top priority.

"Now let us compare these values to Islamic values:

"1 - Muslim citizens have the right to punish other citizens with humiliating, severe, cruel and unusual punishments such as death, flogging and amputation, for sinning against Allah, the Quran or Islam. Those "crimes" include leaving Islam, being a homosexual, or committing adultery. And if the Islamic government does not enforce such punishments, any Muslim on the street has the right to apply the punishment against another Muslim and not be prosecuted. That is why apostates, such as myself, cannot visit any Muslim county; the fear is not only from Islamic governments but from anyone on the street.

"2 - Being a Muslim is not a personal relationship with God, as it is under the Bible, but is enforced by the state at birth. When a child is born in Egypt to a Muslim father, the birth certificate is stamped "Muslim" and all government-issued documents as well. A child must learn Islamic studies in school and practice Islam throughout his life. In Egypt, the twin sons of a Christian divorced mother were forced to take Islamic studies and become Muslim just because their originally-Christian father converted to Islam. Today, in Egypt, I am still considered Muslim and such a status could never change if I ever lived there again.

"3 - Islamic law and leaders rely on government enforcement -- under penalty of death -- to keep Muslims within Islam and to convert the minority Christian population into Islam. Islamic sharia law, obliges Islamic states to enforce religious law, and if the Muslim head of state refuses to follow religious law, sharia permits the public to use force to remove the head of state from office.

"4 - Islam claims to be an Abrahamic religion, but in fact Islam came to the world 600 years after Christ, not to affirm the Bible but to discredit it; not to co-exist with "the people of the book," Jews and Christians, but to replace them -- after accusing them of intentionally falsifying the Bible. Islam was created as a rebellion against the Bible and its values, and relies on government enforcement to do so.

"The tenets above are just a few of the differences in values between Islam, the Bible and the Western concept of religion. What the West does not understand is that Islam admits that government control is central to Islam, and Muslims must demand to live under an Islamic government sooner or later. That might explain the reason for the eternal violence in nearly all Muslim countries, between government being in the hands of a religious theocracy or of the military. Islam, as it is practiced today, has violated all Western definitions of religion and values."

Nonie Darwish - Galestone Institute -  February 12, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #95 on: February 14, 2017, 08:22:40 AM »
What Makes Christianity Different

"Quick, name the practice that most sets Christianity apart from the non-Christian world. Respect for human life? Not really. Religions such as Jainism have, if anything, an even more uncompromising prohibition against harming any living things.

"Sexual morality? Again, there are religions—Orthodox Judaism and Islam immediately come to mind—that place an even higher premium on sexual purity than Christianity. If you doubt this, ask yourself when was the last time you saw a Christian woman in a burqa.

"The answer to this question is forgiveness. No other belief system has the equivalent of forgiving your brother seventy times seven, i.e., every time—much less commands you to love your enemies, and bless those who persecute you.

"The radical nature of Christian forgiveness is so startling, so overwhelming, that it made the CBS Evening News. The story began in 2005 in the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan. On that day, Jameel McGee was, in his words, “minding his own business,” when he was stopped by a policeman, Andrew Collins. The encounter did not go well for McGee. Collins accused him of selling drugs and arrested him. At the time, McGee insisted that the charges were “all made up.” As CBS noted, “Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim,” and the outcome in McGee’s case was pretty much the same as in other such cases: He wound up serving four years in prison. In McGee’s words, “I lost everything.”

"Making matters infinitely worse was that McGee was telling the truth: He was in fact an innocent man. We know this because the policeman, Collins, was subsequently “caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing.” Among the falsified police reports was the one concerning Jameel McGee.

"While exoneration is sweet, it doesn’t make up for the four years spent behind bars. As McGee told CBS, “My only goal was to seek him when I got home and to hurt him.” He appeared to have gotten his chance when both McGee and Collins ended up working at a café run by Mosaic Christian Community Development Center. As CBS put it, the “bad cop and the wrongfully accused man had no choice but to have it out.”

And that brings me back to what I said about Christianity’s unique emphasis on forgiveness. Collins told McGee “Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry.” McGee’s response, “That was pretty much what I needed to hear.” But McGee did not stop there: He befriended the man who wronged him, so much so that he eventually told Collins that he loved him. As Collins tells the tale, “I just started weeping because he doesn’t owe me that. I don’t deserve that.”

"Thankfully, forgiveness, and the healing it brings in its wake, has nothing to do with “deserve.” As McGee, a Christian, understood, we forgive one another because, as Paul told both the Ephesians and the Colossians, God in Christ has forgiven us.

"The power of forgiveness transcends personal relationships. Think of the reaction to the Amish forgiving the man who killed ten young girls back in 2007. There was a power at work there that even the most hardened skeptic could not deny.

"Today, McGee and Collins share their story with others. At least one person seems to have taken its message to heart. The CBS reporter ended with the following question: “If these two guys from the coffee shop can set aside their bitter grounds, what’s our excuse?” The answer, especially for the Christian, is “none.”"

Eric Metaxas - Breakpoint - February 10, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #96 on: February 15, 2017, 07:30:14 AM »
50 Biblical Proofs That Jesus is God

"Jesus is God the Son. He is the eternal, all-powerful, all-loving, self-existent Creator God. We apologists hear every fable, myth, and tall tale regarding theology that anyone could ever imagine. I've heard for over thirty years that “the Bible never says that Jesus is God.” In fact, one of my first research projects in the early 80s, after I started taking up apologetics (back in my evangelical days), was to collect biblical passages that provide evidence for the Holy Trinity and deity, or divinity of Jesus Christ.

"I've compiled this information in one of my books, called Theology of God (if anyone is looking for a handy guide on the issue). Presently, I'd like to highlight a few of the more obvious, undeniable, plain passages, in order to counter those who make such negative claims.

"John 1:1, 14 (RSV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
This is one of the most well-known “proof texts”. Jesus is eternal (here, “beginning” means “eternity past”). He was with God the Father, and is God the Son. To make sure that the reader has no misunderstanding, John (v. 14) reiterates that the “Word” referred to is the Son, and notes that He “became flesh” (the incarnation). Only the Son has a body. The Word = Jesus = God.

"John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
Jesus' hearers, unbelieving Jews, certainly understood His intent in saying this, because they tried to stone Him, as the next verse informs us, since they didn't believe His claim, which, if indeed untrue, would be intolerable blasphemy. 10:33 informs us that they tried to stone Him because (in their words) “you, being a man, make yourself God.”

"John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
This had to do with the famous “Doubting Thomas” incident. Thomas didn't believe Jesus had risen, so Jesus appeared for His sake and told him to touch the wound in His side. Then Thomas believed and said this. If it were untrue, Jesus would have corrected him, but He didn't; He commended Thomas because he “believed.”

"Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,
In context, it is the Son Who is being described (1:13); He is eternal (1:15, 17-18), the Creator (1:16), and the unifying principle of the universe (1:17; cf. Heb 1:3): all attributes true only of God. Paul makes the notion even more explicit in the next chapter:

"Colossians 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

"2 Peter 1:1 . . . our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
St. Paul uses the same phrase in Titus 2:13 as well.

"Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.”
This is a remarkable passage, in which God the Father calls His Son “God.” It is a reference to the Old Testament passage, Psalms 45:6-7.

"In Hebrews 1:6, God the Father also says that all the angels should worship God the Son. Worship can only be rightly applied to God, as we know from Exodus 34:14 and Deuteronomy 8:19. Yet Jesus accepted worship of Himself on many occasions (e.g., Mt 14:33; 28:9) and stated that He should be honored equally with the Father (Jn 5:23). In Revelation 5:8, 12-13 and Colossians 2:6-7, we find that Jesus is worshiped in every way that the Bible specifically describes worship of God the Father, with all the same words used (see: Rev 4:9-11, 5:13; 7:11-12, and Rom 11:33).

"Jesus is omnipotent (possesses all power):
Philippians 3:20-21 . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

"He's omniscient (all-knowing):
Colossians 2:2-3 . . . Christ, [3] in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

"He's omnipresent (present everywhere):
Ephesians 1:22-23 the church, [23] which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. (cf. Col 3:11)

"Another astonishing passage along these lines is one where Jesus speaks about historical events described as being done by God the Father in the Old Testament. He casually applies them to Himself (what might be called “the Divine 'I'”):
Matthew 23: 34, 37 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, . . . [37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

"Many attributes that are said to belong only to “God” are applied to Jesus in Scripture. God the Father said, “besides me there is no savior” (Is 43:11; cf. 1 Tim 4:10). Yet Jesus is called the “savior” of mankind in passages like Luke 2:11 and many others.

"God the Father stated, “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Is 45:23). The same exact description is also applied to Jesus (Phil 2:10-11).

"The Bible teaches that “God” is judge (1 Sam 2:10; Ps 50:6; Ecc 12:14; many others). But so is Jesus (Jn 5:22, 27; 9:39; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1). Therefore He is God.

"God the Father sits on His throne in heaven (1 Ki 22:19; Ps 11:4; 47:8). Jesus is on the same throne, too (Rev 7:17; 22:1, 3).

"At every turn in the Bible, only one conclusion is possible, to make sense of all these statements, taken together as a whole: Jesus is God the Son. He is the eternal, all-powerful, all-loving, self-existent Creator God."

Dave Armstrong - National Catholic Register - February 12, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #97 on: February 16, 2017, 08:09:50 AM »
Educate Religious Leaders & Circumcise the HIV AIDS Epidemic Away

"Educating the world's religious leaders could encourage millions more men to undergo circumcision and reduce the rate of new HIV infections, according to research printed in the Lancet medical journal. Circumcision can lower a man's risk of getting HIV by up to 60 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends it as an effective intervention in countries gripped by an HIV epidemic.

"In Tanzania alone, the education drive could lead to more than 1.4 million new circumcisions, which could in turn prevent 65,000 to 200,000 new HIV infections, the research showed. In 2011, the WHO set a target of 20.8 million new circumcisions across 14 sub-Saharan countries by 2016. By the end of 2015, just 10 million men had been circumcised, the study said. Previous research had suggested that a low uptake may be influenced by religious tradition and fears that circumcision could be an attempt to convert Christians to other religions.

"Circumcision is widely practiced by Jews and Muslims, and is carried out by some Christians. The practice predates Islam and Judaism and was depicted in ancient Egyptian tombs and wall paintings. Aside from religious reasons, it is often carried out for health reasons or as a rite of passage in childhood or puberty. When religious leaders are highly respected in their communities, they can use this influence to convince more men to get circumcised and therefore help to prevent new HIV infections, said the study, which was published late Tuesday.

"The researchers studied 16 villages in Tanzania where the country's health ministry carried out a circumcision campaign. In villages where religious leaders attended seminars about the procedure, 23 percent more men were circumcised compared to villages that only received information from the ministry. More than 30 percent of men cited discussions in church as the reason for their decision to undergo the procedure.

"We equipped religious leaders with information and education, and then they could teach their congregations as they saw fit," Jennifer Downs, of Cornell University and the lead author of the report, said in a statement. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of the virus that causes AIDS, accounting for about 70 percent of the 36.7 million people living with the virus worldwide, according to the WHO. Nearly 1.4 million people were newly infected with HIV in the region in 2015.

"The research said educating religious leaders about the role of circumcision in HIV prevention should be extended to other sub-Saharan countries. They could also be involved in promoting other healthy behaviors, it said. The study took place from June 2014 to December 2015.

Voice of America - February 15, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #98 on: February 17, 2017, 09:21:49 AM »
ISIS Suicide Attack at Sufi Shrine Kills 72

"A suicide bomber attacked a crowded Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan, killing at least 72 people and wounding dozens more in the deadliest of a wave of bombings across the South Asian nation this week. A spokesman for medical charity Edhi said the attacker appeared to have targeted the women’s wing of the shrine, and around 30 children accompanying their mothers were died in the Thursday (Feb. 16) blast. Islamic State, the Middle East-based militant group which has a small but increasingly prominent presence in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.

"Senior police officer Shabbir Sethar told Reuters from a local hospital that the death toll was likely to rise. “At least 72 are dead and over 150 have been injured,” Sethar said by telephone. Television footage from the famous Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in the town of Sehwan Sharif showed army and paramilitary medical teams reaching the site and injured people being taken to nearby hospitals in ambulances and a military helicopter.

“We were there for the love of our saint, for the worship of Allah,” a wailing woman told the Dawn News television channel outside the shrine, her headscarf streaked in blood. “Who would hurt us when we were there for devotion?” The attack comes as the Pakistani Taliban and rival Islamist militant groups carry out their threats of a new offensive. The violence has shattered a period of improving security, underscoring how militants still undermine stability in the nuclear-armed country of 190 million people.

"The high death toll at the shrine makes it one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in recent years. In August last year, at least 74 people, mostly lawyers, were killed in a suicide bombing of a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta. In November, an explosion claimed by Islamic State ripped through a Muslim shrine in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 52 people and wounding scores. Sindh Sufis. At a crossroads of historic trade routes, religions and cultures, the southern province of Sindh where the shrine is located has always been a poor but religiously tolerant region, helping to shield it from much of the Islamist violence more common in other parts of Pakistan.

"The country’s powerful military, which has cracked down on insurgent groups in recent years leading to a sharp drop in militant violence, vowed a swift, decisive response. “Each drop of nation’s blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone,” Army Chief Qamar Bajwa said in a statement.

"Shortly after the blast, the army announced it was closing the border with Afghanistan with immediate effect for security reasons. Insurgents operate on either side of the neighbours’ long and porous frontier. Different militant groups, often trying to outdo each other, say they are responsible for the bombings. In the case of the Quetta hospital blast, both a faction of the Pakistani Taliban – Jamaat-ur-Ahrar – and Islamic State claimed responsibility. Jamaat also said it was responsible for a bombing in the eastern city of Lahore earlier this week that killed 13 people.

"In a separate incident late on Thursday, gunmen on a motorbike killed three policemen and one civilian in the city of Dera Ismail Khan.

"The bomber entered the shrine as crowds massed on Thursday, a statement from the Sindh police spokesman said. Rescue officials said dozens of wounded people were being ferried in private cars to hospitals. The nearest major hospital was nearly an hour’s drive away in Dadu district.

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif quickly condemned the bombing, decrying the assault on the Sufi religious minority. He vowed to fight Islamist militants, who target the government, judiciary and anyone who does not adhere to their strict interpretation of Sunni Islam. “The past few days have been hard, and my heart is with the victims,” Sharif said. “But we can’t let these events divide us, or scare us. We must stand united in this struggle for the Pakistani identity, and universal humanity.”

"An ancient mystic branch of Islam, Sufism has been practised in Pakistan for centuries. Lal Shahbaz Qalander is Pakistan‘s most revered Sufi shrine, dedicated to a 13th-century “saint” whose spirit is invoked by devotees in ecstatic daily dancing and singing rituals in Sehwan Sharif. Thursdays are an especially important day for local Sufis, meaning that the shrine was packed at the time of the blast.

"Most of Pakistan‘s myriad radical Sunni militant groups – including the Pakistani Taliban’s various factions and Islamic State loyalists – despise Sufis, Shi’ite Muslims and other religious minorities as heretics."

Syed Raza Hassan - Religious News Service - February 16, 2017.

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #99 on: February 18, 2017, 10:03:57 AM »
 Scandinavia: The West's Cradle of anti-Semitism?

"On January 12, the Norwegian newspaper "Aftenposten" published an article about Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and his senior adviser: "The Jew Kushner reportedly pushed for David M. Friedman as the new ambassador to Israel", Aftenposten wrote. The newspaper had later to apologize for calling Kushner "the Jew".

"A few weeks earlier, the city council of Trondheim, Norway's third-largest city, passed a motion calling on its residents to boycott Israeli goods -- a city aspiring to be "Israel-free". Then it was the turn of another Norwegian city, Tromso, population 72,000, whose city council approved a similar motion. More than 40% of Norwegians are already boycotting Israeli products or are in favor of doing so, according to a poll.

"What hell is happening in Scandinavia, whose countries, Norway and Sweden, are bastions of political correctness, champions of multiculturalism and, according to the Global Peace Index, the most "peaceful" countries in the world? "The most successful society the world has ever known", however, as The Guardian labelled Sweden, has a dark side: Israel-slandering and anti-Semitism.

"Sweden and Norway are manipulating public opinion in the way immortalized by George Orwell in his novel "1984" as the "Two Minutes Hate". These countries have seen the creation of a public opinion according to which Israel is a merciless enemy of humanity that ought to be dismantled forthwith.

"A year ago, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, an updated map of Israel's friends and enemies. Only five countries are openly at war with the Jewish State: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea. Then there are the friendly countries, including many non-Muslim African countries that once had no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. But the map also included a European country that for the first time moved into the "non-friends" camp: Sweden.

"Hate for Israel has become a real obsession in Scandinavia, which revived the glorious partnership between the liberal "useful idiots" -- the ones concerned about equality and minorities -- and Islamists, the ones concerned about submission and killing "infidels".

"Despite the fact that Jews in Norway are only 0.003 percent of the total population, Oslo is now world's capital of European anti-Semitism. Recently, the Norwegian National Theater opened its Festival in Oslo with a dramatic video clip. The video urged a boycott of the National Theater of Israel, Habima, in Tel Aviv.

"Funded by the government and aired at the festival, the clip shows an actress posing as a spokesman for the National Theater and calling for a boycott of the Israeli theater. Pia Maria Roll labelled Israel a state "based on ethnic cleansing, racism, occupation and apartheid". Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded saying that the seven-minute video recalls "the Norwegian collaborationist Vidkun Quisling and Knut Hamson" (a Nobel laureate for Literature who sympathized with Hitler).

"It is not the first time. A festival in Oslo also rejected a documentary, "The Other Dreamers," about the lives of disabled children, simply because it was Israeli. "We support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel," wrote Ketil Magnussen, the founder of the festival.

?Norway is the European country most engaged in the campaigns against Israel. All Norwegian universities refused to host Alan Dershowitz for a speaking tour about the Middle East. A proposal for an official academic boycott against Israel was promoted by Norway's University of Trondheim. If approved, the boycott would have been the first of its kind in a European university since the Nazi boycott of Jewish professors.

"The Norwegian Ministry of Finance has excluded Israeli companies, such as Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, from its Global Pension Fund, a fund that invests the national wealth in foreign stocks and bonds, and which holds more than one percent of all global stocks. The Norwegian trade union EL & IT, which represents workers from the energy and telecommunications sectors, has boycotted the Histadrut, Israel's national labor union.

"In Norway, anti-Semitism has affected many "intellectuals". One is Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist dubbed the "father of peace studies", a proud leftist who made anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements at the University of Oslo and who claimed (falsely) that there is a link between the perpetrators of the massacre at Utoya in Norway and the Mossad.

"Norwegian newspapers are full of classic anti-Semitic tropes. A cartoon in the largest newspaper, "Verdens Gang", showed the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's feet as those of an animal. In "Aftenposten", the second-largest newspaper, a rat eats the Star of David, the symbol in the Israeli flag. Another daily, "Dagbladet", a glory of the Norwegian Left, published a cartoon in which Palestinian terrorists leave an Israeli prison with the German motto of the Buchenwald concentration camp: "Jedem Das Sein".

"Evelyne Zeira, who works at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, asked a Norwegian researcher, Ingrid Harbitz, to send her material to develop treatments for Palestinian victims of thalessemia, a blood disease. Harbitz's answer was: "Due to the current situation in the Middle East, I will not deliver material to Israeli universities". To her, Israeli Jews and even Palestinians do not deserve Norwegian blood!

"During Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006, the daily "Aftenposten" published an article by Jostein Gaarder, Norway's most famous writer and a "thirdworldist", in which he imagined the destruction of Israel. Gaarder, whose novel "Sophie's World" has been translated into 53 languages ​​and has sold millions of copies, justified the expulsion of Israeli Jews from their land. "We no longer recognize the State of Israel," Gaarder wrote, as if he were an Iranian imam.

"The same racism exists in Sweden. A few days ago, the Swedish Parliament discussed a deal between Volvo, the country's most important car maker, and the Israeli bus companies. Volvo provides, in fact, some buses which keep the Israelis alive in Judea and Samaria. Jewish schoolchildren in these areas have to use armored buses to avoid being shot and murdered by Palestinian terrorists. But according to the chairman of Sweden's parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Kenneth G. Forslund, their right to life, granted by Volvo's buses, is "a violation of international law". Swedish dockworkers sponsored a week-long boycott of Israeli ships and goods. The old good days when Swedish ships saved the Jews from Nazis are gone.

"Sweden's former Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Mehmet Kaplan, a Muslim of Turkish origin, took part in the pro-Hamas assault against Israel by the "Freedom Flotilla" in 2010. He compared Israel to Nazism and called for the "liberation of Jerusalem". The education minister, Gustav Fridolin, has been arrested for protesting in front of the anti-terrorism fence built by Israel in Judea and Samaria to protect the lives of their citizens on the coastal plain, massacred by suicide bombers.

"Recently, Swedish public television broadcast "The Occupation of the American Mind", a conspiracy film about the "Israeli Lobby" supposedly controlling in the United States. During the Second Intifada, in a Stockholm Museum, a photograph was reprinted of a smiling Palestinian suicide bomber, who had killed dozens of Israelis at a restaurant in Haifa. In the photograph, he was on a white boat in a bathtub full of blood-red liquid. Aftonbladet, Sweden's largest daily newspaper, then ran an article by Donald Bostrom where, without any evidence, he charged the Israeli army of harvesting the organs of Palestinians.

""Dagens Nyheter", the most sophisticated Swedish newspaper, published a violently anti-Semitic op-ed entitled, "It is allowed to hate the Jews", in which the historian Jan Samuelson said that until Israel ceases to "occupy" the territories, hatred for the Jewish State will be justified. He totally disregards, however, that the Jordanians illegally seized the territories in the aggression they initiated against Israel in the War of 1948; in 1967, Israel, in fact liberated its own land from illegal Jordanian occupation.

"After Trump's election, the daily Dagens Nyheter ran an anti-Semitic cartoon, in which the Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President-elect were being carried by an Orthodox Jew, a Ku Klux Klan member and a gun-carrying man branded with the Israeli flag. The Nazi daily "Der Stürmer" could not have drawn it better.

"After the massacres of November 13 in Paris, Sweden's minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, said that "to counter the radicalization we have to go back to the situation in the Middle East where the Palestinians see that there is no future for them and must accept a desperate situation and resort to violence".

"Does Wallström really mean that to defeat Islamic aggression, Israel must surrender? The Palestinians' situation is indeed desperate, but as they have had full autonomy for decades, their desperate situation is caused by their own cynical and corrupt leaders who appear deliberately to keep their people in misery try to blame it on Israel, in the same way that people maim children to make them "better" beggars.

"Meanwhile, the Trondheim synagogue has become one of the best protected buildings in Norway, and Jews live under siege in the Swedish city of Malmö. Vidkun Quisling, the Nazi collaborationist, would have been proud of his heirs, even if now they are self-proclaimed "progressives".

Giulio Meotti - Galestone Institute - February 17, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #100 on: February 19, 2017, 09:18:05 AM »
The Religious Right Must Lose

"Denny Burk, a Southern Baptist theologian and pastor, gave expert testimony in the Baronnelle Stutzman case. [Barronelle Stutzman, is a florist in Richland, Washington, who is involved in a same-sex discrimination lawsuit] Here he reflects on what it means. Excerpt:

"When I was first asked to give testimony, I thought my role as an SBC pastor and seminary professor would simply be to enter into the record what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. But that is not at all what it turned out to be.

"For an entire day, I sat across the table from attorneys representing the Washington Attorney General and the ACLU (two different attorneys because Ms. Stutzman is being sued by the state and by the gay couple that she was once friends with). These attorneys didn’t merely ask me what Southern Baptist believe. They tried to show that what Southern Baptists believe amounts to invidious discrimination.

"I had to defend not only our denomination’s statement of faith (The Baptist Faith and Message) but also resolutions passed by our denomination going back 30 and 40 years. It was hostile questioning intended to discredit what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. They wanted to discredit us so that they could discredit her. And make no mistake, once they succeed in punishing her, others will use this precedent to punish the rest of us—and not just Southern Baptists but any person who dares to act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

"This is important for traditional Christians. It might be more important than you think it is. The ACLU, most of the media, the legal establishment, the Democratic Party — they all hate us. I mean, hate us. If Barronelle Stutzman were a Muslim, we never would have heard of this story. She is a Southern Baptist, therefore she must be destroyed. To paraphrase Terry Mattingly, the Grand Unified Theory here is: The Religious Right Must Lose.

"This will never end. It will never, ever end. Best get that learned now. This case is going all the way to the US Supreme Court, which will either refuse to hear it (in which case the Washington court’s ruling stands), or it will hear it and render a judgment. I would not bet money on that judgment going in Stutzman’s favor.

"So, we have to fight where and how we can, but we also have to realize that we will probably lose. What then? If we have any courage at all, we are not going to compromise our consciences. What will we do? How will we pay the debts inflicted on us by our persecutors? How will we work again? How do you get along in a society in which the people who hold the greatest power think you are Public Enemy No. 1?

"From The Benedict Option:

"In the end, it comes down to what believers are willing to suffer for the faith. Are we ready to have our social capital devalued and lose professional status, including the possibility of accumulating wealth? Are we prepared to relocate to places far from the wealth and power of the cities of the empire, in search of a more religiously free way of life? It’s going to come to that for more and more of us. The time of testing is at hand. “A lot of Christians see no difference between being faithfully Christian and being professionally and socially ambitious,” says a religious liberty activist. “That is ending.”

"Like I keep saying: this may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of a world. When the might of the State of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union comes down on the head of gentle, grandmotherly, small-town florist, and seeks her ruin for declining to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, you know that we are dealing with a bottomless well of hatred. You know exactly what we are dealing with here. So, prepare. We are all going to be asked to pay the cost of discipleship. When I interviewed her last summer, Stutzman said to me: “If they can come after me, they can go after anybody.”

"True. Expect no justice, tolerance, mercy, or love in these matters. The Religious Right Must Lose. Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious liberty legal organization representing Barronnelle pro bono, is taking tax-free donations to help pay for her defense. If the US Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, or rules against her, the Christian community nationwide will need to step up to pay her fine, and to reward her for having stood in the crucible and held firm, despite the contempt heaped on her head. Today its Barronelle Stutzman; tomorrow it might be you. And one day, it probably will.

"I’ll say one more thing here. As regular readers know, I do not like Donald Trump and do not like the glee with which so many of my fellow conservatives view his trashing of longstanding rules and conventions of political behavior. Trump is tearing things down, but what will be left after he’s done that? Having said that, when I contemplate a system and a society that is willing to pour everything it has into crushing a little old Southern Baptist lady who arranges flowers for a living, I find that I have very little enthusiasm for defending that system. A society that would do this to a Barronnelle Stutzman is a corrupt and unjust society. At times like this, it is hard not to adopt a “let the dead bury the dead” attitude toward the whole."

Rod Dreher - The American Conservative - February 17, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #101 on: Yesterday at 06:27:06 AM »
N.T. Wright: The Cross Matters More Than We Know

"You can’t escape it. Whether it’s a tiny silver pendant or an enormous structure atop a hill (Rio de Janeiro, Montreal), the cross is both eye-catching and powerful. So powerful, in fact, that a British airline worker was suspended for refusing to remove her cross in case it offended passengers. Millions with little connection to organized Christianity instinctively recognise the cross as iconic. The theater producer Peter Sellars, introducing his staged version of Bach’s "St Matthew Passion" in 2014, explained that in this story people of all sorts glimpse truth, and often comfort, beyond what is available elsewhere.

"Why? Do we need to ask? You don’t need to know the science of cookery before enjoying a meal. Nor do you need to know music theory before you can be moved by Bach. But someone has to know how to cook; and the musicians need to know what they’re playing and how to play it. Those who teach in church, and those who commend the faith to outsiders, need to grapple with the meaning of Jesus’ death. Then the puzzles begin. Some great mediaeval paintings of the crucifixion see Jesus as a battered, vulnerable man – with God the Father behind him, a stern, forbidding presence.

"The message is clear. God is angry with us, but his anger is all poured out on the innocent Jesus. A caricature, of course, or worse. The famous John 3:16 doesn’t say ‘God so hated the world that he killed his son’, but ‘God so loved the world that he gave his son’. But that easily gets twisted the wrong way round. Perhaps that’s because many angry despots, in public or domestic life, have beaten up innocent victims. Sometimes they even claim that they do it out of love. We have learned to shudder at such claims. But isn’t that what the Bible says? ‘He was bruised for our transgressions . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’? Yes, but what matters is getting the story right.

"Many Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, liberal or conservative, have imagined a story like this. (1) We messed up badly; (2) God had to punish us; (3) fortunately, his innocent son got in the way and took the rap. But the Bible tells a bigger, more subtle story. Paul’s summary of the Christian message begins, ‘The Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures’. That doesn’t mean “in accordance with the story we have in our heads, with a few biblical footnotes.” Paul is referring to the entire story of Israel’s ancient scriptures.

"That story is not about ‘sin and what God does with it.’ It’s about creation and covenant. First, creation: God made a wonderful creation, and put humans into it to sum up the praises of creation and to look after his world. This is what it means to be ‘in God’s image’: angled mirrors, reflecting God’s love into the world and reflecting creation’s worship back to God. Some texts speak of this human vocation as ‘the royal priesthood’. When humans mess it up, it isn’t just that they break some arbitrary rule (‘don’t eat that apple!’). They are taking their orders from something within creation rather than from the creator himself. That is what the Bible calls ‘idolatry’. And it ruins creation as well as humans.

"Here’s how it works: humans worship something other than the creator God, and so they think and act in less-than-fully-human ways, thereby failing to take forward God’s purposes for the world. That is ‘sin’: missing the target of true humanness. The idols, meanwhile, gain power through our worship of them, and they use that to enslave us and corrupt the world.

"Think of the contemporary idols: money, sex or power. We worship these forces, and they tell us what to do. So we shrink as humans; not just because we break various commandments (though we do) but because we miss our true calling, and the world suffers in consequence. And if we try to grab that vocation back again – if we try to run the world our way – our sub-humanness shows up all too clearly. Every tyrant, every anarchist, started off by thinking they knew how the world ought to be. That’s why, when the New Testament talks of Jesus’ death and what it accomplished, it doesn’t just talk about dealing with sin (though it does that too). It talks about God overthrowing the dark powers that have taken over the world. ‘Now,’ said Jesus, ‘the ruler of this world is cast out.’

"‘On the cross,’ wrote Paul, ‘Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers.’ That is basic. All the early Christian teachers knew this. That was why they lived as a multi-ethnic, classless community. The ‘powers’ that had kept humans locked up in their sins and their distinct social groupings had been overthrown. The four Gospels explain the ‘how’. Jesus announced that God was becoming ‘king’, ruling the world as he always intended. This took Jesus to the cross, with ‘King of the Jews’ over his head. Throughout the story, Jesus is opposed by forces of evil, human and non-human. The lies, hatred and evil of all the world rushes together in one place and nails him to the cross.

"When he rose again three days later, his followers realised that this could only be because, on the cross, he had exhausted sin’s power. He had taken on himself the punishment of ‘sin’, so that the grip of the ‘powers’ would be broken. New creation was now launched as a result – with rescued humans at last reflecting God’s purposes into that new world. What does this mean today? Not just that believers have fellowship with God, now and hereafter, though it does mean that, too.

"It means that the door of our prison stands open and we are free to resume our vocation. To be image-bearers. To be the ‘royal priesthood’. To worship the living God freely. To be his agents in the world – not by the world’s normal bullying methods, but by following the royal way of Jesus.

"It’s all there in the Sermon on the Mount: blessed are the peacemakers, the hungry-for-justice people, those who care for the poor, who live without anger or lust: those who make the world a radically better place. That has been going on for two thousand years, though we often forget it. It stands at the root of our somewhat battered concept of ‘human rights’. That wasn’t invented by secular modernity. It comes from Jesus – from Jesus as the focal point of the ancient vision of Israel, of covenant renewed and creation restored. From his victory on the cross.

"That’s what it means when people place a cross around their neck, or on top of a hill. It means that the power of love has overcome the love of power. And that it always will."

N.T. Wright - Fox News - February 18, 2017.


- IGI Chat