It’s Nothing to Do With Equality

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry in which the issue presented is “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the· union of a man and a woman.”

Let’s get beyond whether the Supremes will extend the 14th even further beyond all intent, stretching until it has got to finally snap. The Nine – and their various incarnations over the last 50 years -have  made the 14th into whatever they have want to fashion it. And one may argue that they can do so. The 14th Amendment is a creation of the people of the United States and those who are the lawful representatives of the United States, whether in matters legislative, executive or judicial, will do what they may.

What all the “fair-minded people” in front of the Supreme Court building and all of their friends in the blogosphere have missed is that whilst the 14th Amendment is the creation of the people, marriage isn’t it. Marriage isn’t the creation of any people, “fair-minded” or not.

I can understand why there might be some confusion by those who think that either marriage laws or individual marriage licenses create marriage. From at least  the time of Moses, there has been civil regulation of marriage. The Biblical concern was degrees of consanguinity. In more recent times, there have been age regulations and occasionally health precautions. All of these are concerned with the core purpose of marriage: procreation.

Likewise the purpose of a marriage license is to prevent those who should not procreate from doing so and to register the initiation of the marriage, should such information be needed later in the case of a dissolution. That there are those who will procreate unlicensed does not invalidate the purpose. After all, the law formerly addressed adultery and fornication to curb that factor.

But we need to get this clear: marriage was created by God and is merely regulated by the State. That marriage was created by God to be between a man and a woman is patently clear from Scripture. It’s very institution is linked to the creation of woman as distinct from man. Scripture never suggests that it could be otherwise. All of human history until this most recent blink of an eye has been a universal witness to this. This is, of course, not surprising, as this is the only means of procreation.

And what of the constant cry that we shouldn’t stand in the way of two people loving each other? Love only enters into the matter within the bounds of the institution itself. There are many loves in the world that are not the love of marriage. Each of those must respect the bounds of the type of relationship in which the love grows.

Our affections for other people do not define us. Our desires do not define us. Love itself is not subject to our definition. It is an attribute of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The legislatures of the several States have the authority to create a type of contractual relationship which persons of the same sex can enter into that carries with it the same legislated advantages that marriage has in the eyes of the law. These legislatures can pass laws regarding real property ownership, taxation, and intestacy.  If the 14th Amendment were going to apply, it would be that these new contractual relationships would be allowed to heterosexual fornicators as well.

So once again, let us be clear. Marriage equality is not about marriage equality. All marriages are equally marriages. However, to declare something a marriage outside of the inherent definition of marriage in creation is to directly defy the Creator. We can throw ourselves on the floor and have a tantrum and say, “But it’s not fair!” all we want. “Fair”, along with “righteous,” “just,” and “true,” are not ours to decide or define.

If the Supreme Court of the United States decides that the State of California is prohibited from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman on the basis of the 14th Amendment, it will really be saying states must recognize the marriage of any two people – though logically the next step must be to overturn polygamy laws – but I’ll leave that for now. This is not really about the 14th Amendment or equality before the law. It is about who or Who has the authority to define marriage.

Defrauding the Church

Recently I was looking at the résumé of a famous preacher who was outed as a adulterer some years ago by another famous preacher (who was himself then outted in the same way). I was looking mostly because he calls himself “Dr.” Under his education he lists “Correspondence Courses Continuing Education – Berean School of Bible”, then an honorary MA (who gets an honorary MA?), two honorary doctorates, and what purports to be a Ph.D. in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology. I had never heard of this institution, but you, dear reader, can probably can probably smell the same rat I did. It is just a bit unusual to go from correspondence courses with no certificate, diploma, or not to mention degree, straight to a Ph.D.

How do you get a doctorate from NCCT? Let them tell you how in their course catalog (spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation, including random elipses, from the original):

The North Carolina College of Theology does award degrees for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE. The specific requirements for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE Degrees are outlined in this catalog. NCCT DOES NOT sell degrees…Qualified applicants must submit proof of verifiable time in ministry in order to receive the degree for which he or she has applied….All applicants must meet NCCT requirement with approval of the President and Executive Board. Each individual application is assessed with consideration of various jobs and positions in which an applicant has worked within the church or ministerial realm. Many pastors and five-fold ministers are NOW deserving a Doctorate, and should rightfully be awarded. NCCT LIFE-EARNED DEGREES are identical to the degrees that are issued to students who graduate from the Satellite Extension Program or “Individual Study Program”. It is the desire of the NCCT President, Board, Staff, and Faculty to be a blessing to those in the field of ministry and offer confirmation of education to the many deserving men and women of God.

That’s right. If you have been in full-time ministry for ten to fifteen years, and you have $2,750.00 plus $60.00 application fee, plus $100.00 administration fee, plus the $860.00 graduation fee, you deserve a doctorate. They would like you to write a 25,000 word paper, which they even have the gall to call a dissertation, but that can be waived. That will get you a Doctor of Biblical Studies. If you want to have a Ph.D. you need to have been in ministry 20 years, have bought one of the other doctorates, and it will cost an additional$5,500.00, plus all the other fees. Because you deserve it. And because you have a ministry that can afford to spend the $10,290.00 in total from the offerings you have received from other people. The one thing NCCT is very clear about: no money, no degree, and absolutely no refunds if you ever realize that you paid for a worthless piece of paper.

From whence comes this idea that a degree of any kind is deserved? A degree is earned through a demonstration of academic achievement in a field of study.

NCCT will tell you not to worry about the value of your LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE degree, because it is accredited. According to the course catalog, NCCT is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, Inc. of Beebe, Arkansas. ACI is run by non-trinitarian Pentecostal preacher “Dr.” John Scheel who is the bishop of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of Beebe. “Dr.” Scheel got his Ph.D. from Toledo Bible College and Seminary, which had to be re-branded when it was run out of Ohio by the authorities. ACI is also a rebranding of the International Accrediting Commission (IAC) which was run out of Missouri after a sting operation.

But why have one fake accreditation with four is better? A real college doesn’t need the approval four accrediting agencies, but according to the NCCT website, they are accredited by three other bogus accrediting agencies in addition to ACI.

NCCT likes to keep things tightly controlled. The President is “Dr.” J. L. Cook. The Senior Vice-President is “Dr.” Judy Cook, the wife of J. L. Cook. The Executive Vice-President is “Dr.” Jon Cook, the son of J. L. Cook. The rest of the Executive Board includes “Dr.” W. L. Baltimore with two diploma mills doctorates, including one from NCCT;  “Dr.” Varnie Fullwood, who got his Bachelor’s from diploma mill Zoe University (also accredited by ACI) before getting his Master’s and Ph.D. from NCCT; “Dr.” Stephen Thomas, with two diploma mill doctorates, one from Rhema University (accredited by one of ACI’s competitors and not to be confused with Rhema Bible Training Center, which does not offer degrees) and one from NCCT; and Revs. Dan and Tim Cook, who bears a striking resemblance to the other Cooks and each other.

All of the Cook sons, Baltimore, and Thomas also serve on the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board, though how the two Cook non-doctors serve on a doctoral dissertation review board further boggles the mind. Ever other member of the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board about whom I can find any further information also appears to their doctorates from NCCT or another mill.

NCCT is just one of many purveyors of bogus theological degrees. I just picked them out by chance, due to their association with Marvin Gorman, mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are others who are making just as much money out of spreading false credibility throughout the Church. But be clear about this: it is fraud and it is rife.

It may be found predominantly, but not exclusively, in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist circles. Does that mean that there is anything wrong with these groups within the Church? Absolutely not. It does mean that there is a need to be extra vigilant. Does it mean that someone has to have a real doctorate or even a real degree of any kind to minister in the Church? No. God uses all sorts of men from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of formal and informal education.

It does mean that no one should represent that they possess formal educational achievement that they have not earned. I don’t care what else they want to say about how great their ministry is, or how fruitful it is in whatever way their group acknowledges fruitfulness, they are defrauding the Church.

Intellectual Dishonesty

I have recently discovered how plagued the Church is with deception. I’m not talking about people wandering around in false doctrine, though there is plenty of that about. I’m talking about Christian ministers — some in high profile ministries — in collusion with faux educational institutions, deliberately deceiving others with regard to their academic qualifications. The real scandal is that it is not a scandal.

I just thought it was a bit silly when I saw the late Kenneth Hagin calling himself “Dr. Hagin” after Oral Roberts gave him an honorary doctorate courtesy of ORU. But one preacher, however popular, flaunting his honorary degree does not a scandal make.

Recently I was looking at the websites of various leaders involved in what is known as the “Apostolic-Prophetic” movement. A disproportionate number of them seemed to have doctorates. Cindy Jacobs even has two. It didn’t take long to discover that all of these doctorates were from “schools” of theology started run by their friends. Cindy Jacobs got her honorary first doctorate from Christian International Ministries, run by Bill Hamon. Hamon “earned” his bachelor’s and master’s from his own Christian International School of Theology before allegedly receiving an honorary doctorate from an unnamed university.

Beyond those who are using honorary doctorates to call themselves “Dr.”, there are those who are claiming to have earned doctorates. They have them from organizations like the Wagner Leadership Institute. They get credit for attending each other’s meetings and conferences or watching each other’s videos. They take two-day and three-day courses like “Discovering Your Destiny through the Fivefold Ministry Gifts” and “Apostolic Breakthrough”.  Each of these equates to “training units”. Get enough training units and you get a doctorate. Or as WLI states on their website:

WLI  desires to remain unhindered from traditional higher-level educational requirements and is not an accredited institution. WLI offers three diploma tracks: Bachelor, Master, and Doctor of Practical Ministry. Diplomas do not certify levels of attainment, but rather accumulation of training units.

You can’t get your training units simply by attending a seminar or webcast or listening to a CD or watching a DVD. You have to write a 3-5 page paper. Within 90 days. Unless you bought a CD or DVD, in which case you have one year. The paper should not have anything to do with demonstrating knowledge of the “course” content. It is only a self-evaluation. “Students fail a course only when they neglect to turn in papers on time.” Not academically up to watching a DVD and taking a year to say what you got out of it? “Students may also receive training unit credit for on-going ministry, writing books, mission trips, and pre-approved self-studies.” It is nice that WLI admits that its diplomas are essentially worthless.

However, do those who attended conferences and other meetings and sit under the teaching of these “doctors”, know where their spurious credentials were obtained? Or do they trust that Dr. Chuck Pierce or Dr. Cindy Jacobs or Dr. Bill Hamon or Dr. Rus Jeffrey or Dr. Don Lynch or Dr. Jim Goll or hosts of others have legitimate claims to use the title?

To put oneself forward as having what a reasonable person would expect to be academic credentials in the promotion of Christian ministry, when no such credentials exist, is nothing less than fraud. It is deception. Fraud and deception are not condoned by the apostles and prophets of the Bible, those who claim to be such today notwithstanding.

I wish that the rot in worthless academic credentials ended with this particular infestation, but it runs deeper and wider in the Church. Of this, more later.

You Shall Not Bear False Witness

As a conservative Republican, I get sent a lot of email from like-minded friends attempting to expose the foibles and failings of the current presidential administration. As the 2012 election campaign heats up, the mail volume has increased, even including various virals that have been around for a couple of years now.  These get passed on and on and on as if they are the Gospel truth.

It appears that a reckless disregard for the truth is okay as long as it is against the other side. The ends justify the means. In some of the hundreds of blogs and forums where these virals have been reproduced, any challenge to them is met with venom.

While I may disagree with President Obama on most issues and will undoubtedly vote for his opponent in the next general election, I cannot condone the rampant behavior of sending emails and posting any combination of personal attacks and false information. No Christian should condone it either.

If you feel so opposed to President Obama that you consider him an enemy, then you are to love your enemies.  That love is described in I Corinthians 13. It sound wonderful when being read in a wedding service, doesn’t it? Loving your enemies is when it is actually put to the test.

You are to pray for those in authority over you. It is difficult to hate someone for whom you are praying, unless you are just using your prayers to vent your feelings, like those people who try to preach sermons with their prayers if called upon during a church service. God isn’t impressed in either case.

And let’s not forget the Ninth Commandment: you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You must not lie about other people. Even Democrats. Even President Obama. Even if you think he has lied to you from time to time. There’s no quid pro quo when it comes obeying God. Even if you are a hard core theonomist and you wanted to invoke the lex talionis, an eye for an eye isn’t a lie for a lie.

To demonstrate just how bad the problem is, I am going to reproduce the contents of a viral unleashed with renewed vigor recently. However, I independently researched each claim made.  This is the list of all of Obama’s “czars” – heads of policy areas that report directly to the President.  If you care about the truth, read on.

Read more of this post

Deadline

The Taleban have granted an 24-hour extension on the lives of the kidnapped Korean missionaries in Afghanistan, set to expire anytime now.

korea1_190628a.jpg

The terrorists and their captives are surrounded by US and Afghan troops. Continue to pray for their release.

Free At Last

The continuing saga of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya is finally at an end. Through a deal brokered by the EU with the help of Qatar, the nurses and their Palestinian doctor colleague have flown to Bulgaria. They were released under a 1984 prisoner exchange agreement

The Bulgarian president and prime minister both met the plane as it landed. The former hostages (let’s call it like it is) were travelling with the wife of the French President and the European Union foreign affairs commissioner. They were immediately officially pardoned by the president, who has even gone one step further and is putting them up at the presidential residence. This includes the doctor, who was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month.

ubul.jpg

Libya agreed to release them after the EU agreed to take care of all of Libya’s HIV children in European hospitals for the rest of their lives. The Libyans were also offered normalised relations with the EU. I’d say they managed to pull of a good deal. Find some Christians who have come to your country to help people, arrest them on ludicrous charges, see that they get sentenced to death, and it is amazing how much leverage you can have.

While we rejoice in their freedom, let us not forget that there are other Christians imprisoned, killed, and otherwise persecuted for their faith by Islamic (and other anti-Christian) regimes around the world.

Apologies

Checking my stats tonight, I saw that I had referrals to this site from stantonythegreat.org.uk. I thought this a bit strange, since I don’t have a link on that site. Then I realised that through all my messing around with my domain name, I had messed up that site, which is set up to reside in my old hosting account.

The site has been moved to new hosting and the links have been fixed. My apologies to anyone who might have though the views on this blog represent in any way the views of the Herefordshire Orthodox Fellowship of St Antony the Great.

Differentiating Martyrdom

As if it weren’t self-evident by now, the Taleban are once again showing why they must be eradicated and extinguished from the face of the earth. They have kidnapped 23 Korean Christians (including 18 women) and will murder them unless all South Koreans leave Afghanistan.

If you think this is a ploy to get a Coalition country to remove its troops, you’d be wrong. South Korea has no troops in Afghanistan. There are 200 Koreans there, but they are engineers, doctors and medical staff.  They are trying to rebuild the country and keep its people alive. But then the Taleban have never been big on keeping people alive.

The Koreans have been specifically targeted because they are Christians. Even though they were on their way to work in a hospital in Kandahar, they are accused of evangelism, which carries a death sentence under the Taleban – though must be remembered things are not much better under the elected government of the country. Thus, I would not expect a lot of help from President Hamid Karzai in negotiating their release.

Their plight will not come as a surprise to them. Many of the Korean missionaries who go into the Muslim-controlled countries speak of a desire for martyrdom – exhibiting a ferver reminiscent of various Roman persecutions. But in an age where the desire for martyrdom is only ever seen in an Islamic context, the world cannot understand those who give their lives willingly without explosives strapped to themselves and who hope to see the face of the Saviour and not 72 virgins.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

Forcing the Profane on the Holy

The local Anglican bishop was taken to an employment tribunal recently for turning down a gay man for a job as a youth worker.

Reaney was not denied the job because he is gay. Rather, the bishop made it clear to him during the interview that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the role. This seems to be a rather conservative view for Anglicans, especially in a diocese that has led the way in the ordination of women.

Nonetheless, the employment tribunal said Reaney was discriminated against “on the grounds of sexual orientation”. This has massive ramifications. First, it means churches must hire people whose sexual orientation they may believe is incompatable with a particular position. Second, it equates orientation with activity. This means church must hire people openly engaged in immoral behaviour (whether homosexual or heterosexual), even as youth workers. Third, this will logically and necessarily include those who have been hired while demonstrating good moral character but who susequently make different behavioural decisions. The Church in this country effectively has no way of preserving and living out its teachings about living holy lives.

Keeping Chastity Out of School

Millais School must be an incredibly orderly school with lots of money. I have a hard time getting pupils to take off hoodies and pull up their ties. At Millais, if you are wearing a ring with a Scripture reference on it, they can pull you out of all your GCSE classes to study on your own. Since the school has an obligation to provide an education, I have to assume that they had provision for teaching and supervision in place.

As I mentioned last month, Millais student Lydia Playfoot went to the High Court to challenge the school’s policy, which allows for Muslim and Sikh jewellery and other non-uniform accoutrement. And now Millais need not worry about discriminating against Christians and their dastardly little sliver rings. The High Court has ruled against Lydia.

In response to the ruling, she said it would “mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith”.

The headmaster characterised it differently: “Any suggestion that our school is anti-Christian is not correct. We have always respected Lydia’s right to hold and express her views and believe there were many ways in which it was possible for her to do this during her time with us.” It just not possible to do it in the same ways as those of other religions, of course. No one would dare tell them how to practice their faith, but Christians are different. Maybe they aren’t anti-Christian – just pro-Muslim and pro-Sikh. They probably aren’t anti-chastity – just pro-promiscuity and pro-STI.

This isn’t going to affect her personally. She’s taken her GCSEs and left Millais. (It will affect her father, who has been ordered to pay £12,000 in costs to the school.) In the future the school can be a chastity-free zone. If someone wants to express religious ideas of sexual purity, they can wear a hijab.

The Living and the Dead

Dr David Holford has linked to an article from Hot Air about Christianity rebounding in Europe and in his adopted country of Sweden in particular. Most of it is not happening in the Church of Sweden. Why?

Hedvig Eleonara [parish church] has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn’t believe in God and took the post “on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday.”

Russian Civilisation?

If you were thinking that human rights are a reality in post-Communist Russia, you would be very mistaken. The former KGB officer serving president may claim to be a devout believer, but with another KGB agent leading the Holy Synod in which at least another two members were also KGB agents, perhaps its not surprising that things haven’t changed much in Holy Mother Russia.

When a Chechen meat wholesaler named Zaur Talkhigov helped the security services to negotiate the release of hostages in the Moscow theatre siege, he was arrested for terrorism and sent to Siberia. Investigating his case is one of the reasons investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. As reported in The Sunday Times:

Talkhigov is now in a cramped cell with 18 inmates sharing one lavatory in Komi, a remote and forbidding region that became infamous under Stalin for its many forced-labour camps. In winter, temperatures drop to -30C. In summer, the cell is a stifling 30C plus.

He is allowed out of his cell for just an hour a day and permitted to wash once a month. The food consists of buckwheat porridge, rancid fishbone soup and the occasional plate of boiled meat.

His mother Tamara can visit him only once a year, for three days. The return train journey to the prison from her home in Chechnya takes 84 hours.

“Conditions in the prison where I am now are relatively good,” said Talkhigov. “In Moscow I was held in a cell so cramped that we took it in turns to sleep. Tuberculosis was rampant. In another prison, where I was held in solitary confinement, two guards came into my cell shortly after I arrived and beat me all over my body with their truncheons as their way of welcoming me. I’ve been under constant psychological pressure.”

Yet this is a country that wants to be treated as an equal with the G7 nations. Putin has cooled relations with the US over NATO missile defence systems in free nations that have aligned themselves with the West, rather than their previous compulsory alliance with Russian under the Warsaw Pact.

In terms of law and justice, Russia still has a long way to go to be considered a civilised nation. The other question is whether the Church in Russia is going to be an agent of reform or of collusion.

Historical History

As we left the local library and museum today, we stopped at the new Oxfam bookshop. Until recently, Oxfam had a few used books for sale in their main shop. The selected is now expanded, but still quite limited.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time passing up a used bookstore, especially if I haven’t visited it before. I saw several things that interested me. One I couldn’t pass up. For £3.99 I picked up a copy of The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is 632 pages, in almost perfect condition and was published in 1885. It’s not a reprint. It came off the press when William Gladstone was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria still had 16 years left on the throne.

I don’t know when I shall read it cover-to-cover, but it is nonetheless a jewel on the bookshelf and no doubt a useful Church history resource.

The Cost of an Education

Apparently getting a university education may contribute to the end of British civilisation as we know it. According to Melanie McDonaghan writing in the The Times, 40% of women graduates do not have a baby by age 35. If the Government succeeds in its goal of getting 50% of the population through university, this only asking for trouble, especially with more women than men now attending university.

A simple mathematics exercise indicates that with 60% of graduates being women (based on the current ratio of intake), 24% of women of childbearing age will be childless. If this is all childlessness by choice, it does not take into account the surge of barrenness that will result from the chlamydia epidemic, which the Health Protection Agency showed has infected 12% of young women 16 to 19 as of last year.

Britain’s birthrate is 1.87 children per couple. This is not a replacement rate and will place a huge tax burden on the tiny workforce to support the pensions of an ageing population that is living longer. However, compared to the rest of Europe this is almost a population boom. The average across the Continent is 1.37 children per couple.

Biblically, children are a blessing and barrenness is a curse. Post-Christian Europe may deny it, but it can’t avoid the consequences.

Shameful

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I didn’t see what all the excitement was over the Hindu prayers in the Senate. Apparently members of Operation Save America did.

In a shameful, God-dishonouring way, Ante Pavkovic, Kathy Pavkovic, and Kristen Sugar disrupted the proceedings of the Senate just to demonstrate for anyone who might have missed it that baptism is not an innoculation against stupidity. I rephrase what I said previously to ask where they were when Muslims and Jews have prayed in the Senate (or any other legislative body in the US).

And even being convinced in all their bone-headedness that their objections should not be lodged in a lawful manner, surely they could have quietly chained themselvs to the doors of the Senate or something. No, their goal was not to stop the prayer, but rather to make a spectacle of themselves.

Being involved in such a high profile incident just spreads the shame further.

Redefining the Downward Slide

The Times ran an op/ed piece last week by a New York trial lawyer bemoaning how graduates from Regent University Law School have “infiltrated” the federal government. Because Regent is a “faith-based” school, this is unacceptable and violates the separation of church and state. For James D. Zirin is comes as no surprise that this “faith-based” school is also ranked in the “fourth tier” by U.S. News and World Report. In other words, they are Christians and of course we know Christians are just stupid.

Zirin sees this as part of a bigger problem:

According to a Newsweek poll conducted in March, 73 per cent of Evangelical Protestants said that they believed that God created men and women in their present form within the past 10,000 years. In recent debates, four of the ten Republican candidates for President took the position that they do not subscribe to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, preferring the biblical creation narrative that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that many people are beginning to wonder whether America is on a downward slope towards its own form of Sharia, where secular matters are governed by religious law, especially when an increasing number of legal posts are being filled by students from one poorly regarded faith-based law school.

Zirin’s reasoning, which I have seen across the blogosphere as well – particularly amongst those who mock creationists or anyone who subscribes to intelligent design – is that Christians are somehow ushering new Dark Ages.

But what Zirin and liberal bloggers are missing is that it’s not like there is some sort of surge of belief in the Bible. It only that liberalism and atheism have not had the impact they would like.

There’s no downward slope, at least in terms of an increase in governance by religious law.  The law in the US has always been tied to religious (or specifically Biblical) law. The idea that there are purely secular matters is the innovation. The various facets of the separation of church (by which they invariably mean religious ideas, not the institution of any particular denomination) and state are all innovations, perpetrated piecemeal by the SCOTUS and increasingly irreligious legislators.

Occasionally those who hold to traditional Biblical values dig their heels in or claw back a little from the downward slide into secularism. That’s when liberals start complaining even louder about “Christian sharia”.

As for Regent’s low ranking, it has to be remembered the law school only started in 1986.  In terms of bar exam pass rate (one of the key factors in the ranking), in an average over the last four years, it is only six places below New York Law School, where Zirin is a trustee. This year Regent student’s won the American Bar Association’s national negotiation competition, beating all the top law schools.

Directionless Civic Prayer

There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle about the Senate session tomorrow being opened with a prayer by a Hindu. This will apparently be the first time a Congressional day will begin with polytheistic supplications.

I don’t know what the big deal is. The Senate has had prayers by others who do not name the name of Christ. There have been a number of prayers by Jews and Muslims. There doesn’t seem to a national outcry when one of these is on the agenda.

No doubt this is because of the idea that there is something special about monotheism. This the proposition that as long as you are praying to “God”, someone is bound to hear you. I suppose if you praying to multiple gods, then there is a degree of uncertainty as to whether a specific deity is looking over the Senatorial proceedings.

The fact is that the business of the Senate is not going to be consciously guided allegiance to Jesus or Ganesh or Lakshmi or Devi. It’s all form over substance.  Were the Senate to invoke the name of Jesus and actually see it’s work as delegated by God with a responsibility to act according to His will, the official supplications offered on it’s behalf might be something worth getting right.

Two Wrong-Headed Views

I don’t know if I have ever come across two boned-headed people coming from such completely different perspectives about the same thing.

Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Jade Goody told a magazine that she felt her miscarriage was God’s punishment for the row caused by racist remarks she made to and about Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on CBB. Apparently the British public got angry, the Indian public got really angry, but God decided somebody had to die.

Why the Anglican Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines felt the need to step into this, I don’t know. Nonetheless he issues a statement, saying, “Jade Goody can be sure that losing her baby wasn’t a punishment from God.” Master of the obvious, Bishop Nick. But then he continued, “God doesn’t punish people. He stands by them and shares in their suffering as we see in Jesus Christ.” What? I’m not sure how he sees the latter sentence relating to the former.

God doesn’t punish people? Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira. Or Herod Antipas. Or anyone who has read the book of Hebrews:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Chastening and scourging sounds like punishment to me. It sounds like God is a bit harder than I am on Aidan, who I have chastened but never scourged. Bishop Nick must be one of those liberals whose theology is entirely independent of the Bible.

Catholics Avoid Hell

 Five-year-old Max Hell, that is. Max, who has a perfectly fine German surname, was not being allowed to enroll in St Peter Apostle School in Melbourne, Australia unless he used his mother’s maiden name of Wembridge.

You would think Catholics would be keen on the importance of carrying a father’s surname and that using a mother’s maiden name would only raise unnecessary questions.  You would also think they would want to help a child who was bullied because of his name in the state school he attended.

The school has now relented because Max’s father complained to the media.

Hindsight

Many of you who are Orthodox probably already regularly visit Fr Stephen Freeman’s blog. Fr Stephen is an OCA priest in East Tennessee.

He has a post today about The Spirit, the Modern World, Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy that I found particularly enlightening. He knows of what he speaks on more than just an academic level:

My wife and I met in a charismatic house Church so that I do not write as a stranger on the subject. I spent two years, as well, living in a charismatic commune. Many years ago I would have been about as hard core as they come. Today I judge the matter quite differently and see, with fear and trembling, Pentecostal thought and practice in a different light.

Though his spiritual journey does not mirror mine exactly, he has expressed the same concerns I have over a number of issues more eloquently and pastorally than I could.

Supporting Persecution

While I’ve never been a peacenik or a dove, I am aware that the “War on Terror” has been especially bad for Christians. With all the focus on Iraq and the murdering of relatively powerless Christians in the midst of the struggle for power, I had lost sight of Afghanistan.

I was reading an article in the Daily Telegraph which mentioned that someone tried to have another person arrested on charges of being a Christian missionary. Afghanistan is still just as much an official Islamic state as it was under the Taliban. Girls may be allowed to go to school (where Taliban fighters or their sympathisers don’t kill them for daring to get an education), but they are not allowed to hear the Gospel.

According to Operation World, 33 Foreign aid workers who were suspected of sharing the Gospel have been killed. There may be a handful of Afghan Christians in Kabul, though there are no churches and Christian expats meet in private locations. As one website puts it, “Persons who convert to Christianity in the countryside do not survive.”

I’m not exactly sure why American and British troops are in Afghanistan. I hate to say it, but I have a hard time with Christian, or post-Christian, nations setting up or even propping up Islamic regimes that actively persecute Christians.  That’s before mentioning the foreign financial aid that’s being sent from the pockets of Christian taxpayers.

I suggest we pull out altogether and say, “Look, you tolerate Christians and stop tolerating those who persecute them, and we’ll come back. Otherwise keep your own regime afloat.”

Catholic Church Favours Birthing Hybrid Humanoids

I don’t know how I missed this when it was announced, but the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said women should be allowed to give birth to human-animal hybrids created in the laboratory. The bishops said this in a submission related to the Draft Tissue and Embryos Bill, which overhauls the law regulating fertility treatment and embryo research.

The bishops have said there should be no ban on implanting hybrid embryos in the womb of the woman who supplied the egg. According to their statement: “Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.”

This is not to say that the bishops are in favour of hybrids. They oppose creating them, but say if hybrids (or chimera, as they are called) are allowed to be created then they have to be allowed to live. The Church had to make this distinction because one aspect of the legislation that is not up for change is the requirement that any embryos that undergo experimentation must be destroyed within 14 days of fertilisation.

Chimera are not true hybrids of the sperm of one species with the egg of another. This would still not be allowed under the draft legislation. The proposal allows for the introduction of non-human DNA, but the embryo would still be 99.9% human. Perhaps when they are allowed to be 1% non-human and then 5% non-human and then whatever percent can be technologically managed, the Church will have to modify its position. Or not. The current position of the bishops is based upon the view that “At very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly.” So a 50.01% human should still be carried to term.

The full response to the draft bill can be downloaded from here.

Invasion, Please

What with all the problems in Iraq, invading other countries is not a popular option these days. So it just goes to show you how bad things are in Zimbabwe when the head of the Catholic Church there is asking for Britain to topple Robert Mugabe from power.

Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo is asking for Britain to invade Zimbabwe before millions die of starvation. There has been 95% crop failure in some places. Inflation is currently at 15,000% and it predicted by the American ambassador to reach 1,500,000% by the end of the year. Most people are living less than £1 per week, yet Mugabe just spent £1,000,000 on equipment to monitor telephone calls and emails.

Though the Catholic Church is not usually big on military intervention, Archbishop Ncube said, “People in our mission hospitals are dying of malnutrition. We had the best education in Africa and now our schools are closing. Most people are earning less than their bus fares. There’s no water or power. Is the world just going to let everything collapse in on us?”

He said that people within Zimbabwe cannot rise up against Mugabe because there is too much fear. “I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe. We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready. How can you expect people to rise up when even our church services are attended by state intelligence people?”

Church is not a particularly safe place to be in Zimbabwe. The most recent time Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and beaten to the point of hospitalisation he was attending a prayer meeting.

Of the Making of Books

The first difficult aspect of writing a novel seems to be picking which “how to write a novel” book or books to buy. I had seen one at Waterstones and went back to refresh my memory of the title so I could look for it on Amazon. That was the easy part.

Once I got on Amazon, I found there were loads of others. All of them are claiming, of course, to be the best book on the subject. This, of course, undermined my faith in the first book, which was based entirely on the fact that I had seen it first.

It also caused my fragile confidence to waver anyhow, because if there are enough people to buy all of the “how to write a novel” books, there are an awful lot of people trying to do the same thing I’m doing. And chances are, I’m not better at it than they are. After all, the scramble for readership due to the Malthusian nature of the blogosphere is evidence of this.

Every time I go into a large bookstore I realise just how many books are on the market at any given time. These are the lucky ones – the ones that are not languishing manuscripts in the bottom of drawers or computer files in no need of a printer, or even half-formed ideas in somebody’s head. Most of the time they are not the ones that have been repeatedly returned with a rejection slip.

So I think why bother? After all, my mother thinks I should write short stories and my wife wonders why I’m not sending off more magazine articles. But then I’m not sure there’s any money in the former and it takes ages to the latter published for a very small sum in return. Sadly it seems no different than the music business. Everybody wants a break and so few are talented or lucky enough to get it.

It reminds me of the monthly “Jesus Jam Night” at the Sonshine Inn, the Christian coffee house where I used to be on staff. People would get up on stage all evening. Some were mediocre, some were worse. Many of them did Christian karaoke, using backing tracks to sing somebody else’s song, but not nearly as good. Occasionally a real talent would come along, but they were rare enough that even some of the mediocrity would get picked up for the regular rotation of artists and bands playing the coffee house. I’m evidence of that.

I was going to get back to researching my book, but in my head I’m still playing with some chord changes in my new worship song. Off I go – jack of all trades, master of none.

Adding to the Rotation

My two new Delirious? CDs got here today. I got their most recent studio release The Mission Bell (2005) and King of Fools (1998), the first release the produced under their current name. (Before then they were part-time musicians called The Cutting Edge Band, because they were the worship band for a youth outreach called Cutting Edge.) They are best known in the US market for the 1995 worship song “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”.

Having been very impressed with World Service (2003), I was hoping I would not be let down. Both CDs are very good. More depressingly excellent musicianship. I’m currently listening to the radio chart singles off of King of Fools. I listened to the whole thing, unaware of which tracks had made the UK single chart. Now I’m going back to see if they stand out among the others, because the whole album is impressive.

I don’t buy new music very often. I tend to play the same CDs in the car. Until I got World Service, for months I have rotated between The Best Worship Songs… Ever, Geoff Moore Greatest Hits, and Rich Mullins Songs. I don’t often find new music that’s worth buying. I will probably end up getting just about the entire Delirious? back catalogue.

Who Should Apologise?

I don’t want to give the impression that the silliness about Salman Rushdie is limited to Iran. Pakistan continues to insist that not only should the British Parliament strip the knighthood, but also apologise for hurting Muslim feelings.

I think a better approach would be for the British Government to withdraw all aid to Pakistan and for the outraged Pakistanis to return all of the filthy Christian and secularist UK money that has been provided to them. The first thing the Government can do is rescind the doubling of development aid over the next three years as announced last November. Why is this £480 million of my tax money being spent on a country that foments terrorism, encouraged by its government ministers? And that’s on top of the €60 million annually from the EU and the $3 billion (plus a $1 billion debt cancellation) from the US.

How about apologising for all the martyrdom of Christians in Pakistan. These are not like Pakistanis who have driven car bombs or strapped them to their bodies and thus become martyrs by taking their own lives and the lives of others. Maybe they don’t get Christian martyrdom since it doesn’t involve hurting others and a lot more than just their feelings.

What about those Christians in Charsadda, a town in North-West Frontier Province who were warned that if they did not convert to Islam by 17 May they would face “dire consequences and bomb explosions”? How about apologising for those hurt feelings?

Or what about 18 months ago when 3,000 militants attacked Christians in Sangla Hill, about 80 miles from Lahore, and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and Presbyterian churches? They also set alight two houses of priests, one convent, one high school and the houses of three Christian families. This was all because of a false allegation that an illiterate boy had set fire to a special bin used to dispose of scraps of paper that have bits of the Qur’an written on them. This happened because people started to hear announcements from nearly every mosque loudspeaker informing every Muslim that a Christian had desecrated the Qur’an and that because of that Christian houses should be burnt and every visible Christian should be killed. Is anyone apologising for this?

So I agree with the Pakistani parliament that in light of grave offences, apologies are in order. They can apologise any time they like.

Bush, Britain, and Values Clarification

I was at a social event recently and everything was going along swimmingly until someone said to me, “Do you like George Bush?” I realised at the time this was meant to be phrased, “Of course you don’t like George Bush, do you?” Nonetheless, I said, “Yes, I suppose so.”

If there is anything that a random gathering of British people do not want to hear, it is that someone might, in some way, or for any reason, support Bush. The only other whole sentence I managed to utter was, “Just like any other President, his administration has policies with which I agree and those with which I disagree.” Otherwise, any time I started to get more than one word out, I was shouted down.

When someone said, “What about the war in Iraq?” I said, “What about it?” When they said, “Where were the weapons of mass destruction?” I didn’t get a chance to say, “I suppose they all got used up on the Iranians and Kurds.” After all, there was no question that Saddam had used them in the past. Not that I care about WMD or their role in the overthrown of Saddam’s regime.

After all, if after the swift war victory, all sides had said, “Thank you very much. We’ll set up a civilised government from here,” it would have been hailed a success and no one would have cared whether or not there were WMD. It would have been like war is supposed to be – superior armies fly over and subdue the enemy with precision bombing, then armies walk in. If there are any casualties, they do not happen to us.

It’s not that I would have been any less attacked or ostracised for supporting Bush. He is a Republican and talks openly about God. He isn’t slick as Clinton, nor does he share the same personal values. Brits still presume to know better about the American presidency than Americans.

When it come to American presidential politics, the only thing I pay attention to less than Brits is opinion polls and their approval ratings. After all, whether it’s a 88% approval or 28% approval or 7% disapproval or 66% disapproval, it’s still the same president. It’s the people who are changeable.

Throughout four or eight years, the course of human events brings what it may. Some things are handled better than others. Throughout it all, an administration represents certain values and principles. In this sense, perhaps Brits have a better vantage point. The repugnance with which they treat Bush has little to do with day-to-day policy decisions. Britain also represents certain values and principles which have little in common with Bush or most people in the red states that elected him.

If in terms of values I have to choose between Bush and Britain, I have to go with Bush every time.

Symbolic Justice

The case of Lydia Playfoot was argued before the High Court in London today. She is the 16-year-old girl who was banned by her school from wearing a chastity ring with “I Thes 4:3-4” inscribed on it.

This is a school which allows Sikh and Muslim jewellery, but not Christian.

Lydia eloquently put her view to the court in a written statement, much of which has been reprinted by the Guardian.

As a practical matter, Lydia has taken her GCSEs and left school, but the ruling by the court could affect others who not only want to wear chastity rings but other Christian symbols as well, in a culture that does everything to accommodate non-Christian faith practices. Even though a trial court ruling has no value in precedent (unless it is taken to, and upheld on, appeal) it will have a persuasive effect on other judges in similar cases and on schools facing litigation.

St Mewan

Today is the commemoration of St Mewan. Never heard of him? Not surprising. I hadn’t either until I checked the Menologion.

He appears to have been born in South Wales, worked in the vineyards of the Lord in Cornwall, and moved on to Brittany. This is not an uncommon route of ministry, as all three regions shared a nearly common language.

I feel a bit of a link with St Mewan because he was ordained by St Samson of Dol, who was elevated to the episcopate by one of my own patrons, St Dyfrig. Mewan and his godson Austol (namesake of the town of St Austell in Cornwall) both followed Samson to his monastery in Brittany. Thus when I think of my visit to the cathedral in Dol during half-term break, I also made a pilgrimage to the memory of Mewan.

Holy Mewan, pray to God for us who also try to shine the light of the Gospel in a heathen Britain.