Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Allah, Odin, and Thor: Mythical Gods of War, Not of Love

Brian James’ novel Ragnarok brings the brutality of the Viking Apocalypse to the modern world.  by David Forsmark

Americans have a na├»ve view of religion. The religious freedom that is so ingrained in our tradition — and our Constitution — has morphed beyond tolerance to a sort of anthropomorphic acceptance of pretty much anything.

In other words, in order to prove how tolerant we are, we take our basically Judeo-Christian view of what religion and God should be, and assume all other religions share the same goals, have the same values, and are just differing manifestation of the same loving and just God.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the God of the Bible is unique in the history of the world’s religions. From Baal to Zeus, from Jupiter to Allah and Odin, the gods of paganism are capricious masters, not loving fathers. Control is their goal — when they think of humans at all — not justice or peace.

But saying so is sooooo judgmental!

Marvel Comics master storyteller Stan Lee took the most interesting of the Norse gods, Thor, the God of Thunder, and made him a crusader for truth, justice, and maybe even the American Way… or at least Western values.

But think of it from the view of the Vikings — what could be more capricious and destructive than the god of the weather?

But of course, a self-centered destructive superhero who loves war and longs to be worshiped would make for a crappy comic book.

On the serious side, though, a misunderstanding of a leading world religion has serious implications for most of the current world conflicts.

Even George W. Bush mouthed the diplomatically convenient canard “Islam means peace.” Yes, and Pravda means “truth.”

A non-rebellious slave is at “peace” with his master, too.

As Nonie Darwish writes in her seminal books Now They Call me Infidel and Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law, the notion of a loving Father God who oversees a brotherhood of men is something she never encountered until she immigrated to the West. It is a Christian concept that Muslims adopt when living in Western cultures in order to fit in, or because they aren’t particularly informed about their religion in the first place (and want to fit in).

Perhaps because the Quran gives lip service to Jesus, or because of its Middle East origins, or because, quite coincidentally, the main ethnic group that follows Islam is also descended from Abraham, many act as though Islam is somehow related to the Judeo/Christian tradition, however distantly.

But Allah is much more like every other pagan deity… no matter how far flung.

I talked to PJ Media contributor Brian Cherry who, under the pseudonym Brian James, has recently published Ragnarok: The Hammer, Book One in a planned trilogy of novels set in the present day about the Norse prophecies of Apocalypse — hey, unlike the Mayans, the Vikings actually predicted one, you don’t have to infer it by when they calendar happens to end.

Since the end of any religion is one’s eternal destiny, we started there. Brian told me that Odin and Allah agree on the surest — and quickest — way to heaven. Not through faith in a Savior, but through sanctified violence.

Although I’m sure the original myths many of Odin’s circumstances are borrowed directly from the bible, his personality is much closer to that of Allah. The first thing that comes to mind is that he would have loved suicide bombers.
Those who went to Valhalla didn’t go there based on a belief in a savior, enlightenment or good works. You went to Valhalla based on a good death in battle. Odin would have adored warriors who killed thousands of their enemy by crashing an airliner into a building. Dying during the act would have assured their place in heaven.

Doing god’s work

The Vikings also had their own 9-11, as Cherry explains.

The Vikings were also the world’s first (and arguably most successful) terrorists. They would appear quietly out of nowhere and often someplace that was undefended…a soft target. The attack on the Lindisfame monastery in 793 is not only an act of overt terrorism, but accepted by most as the start of the Viking age. They did what they did in Odin’s name, and they believe with his blessing. That is not much different then Allah smiling on his followers for killing the helpless in his name.

Lindisfarne was the home of the famed monk Saint Aiden, a center for evangelization throughout northern Europe, and known for an illustrated copy of the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John known as the Lindisfarne Gospels. When Thomas Cahill wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization, he had in mind people like the Lindisfarne monks.

To the Vikings, followers of Odin, the Lindisfarne Monastery was as major a symbol of Christianity as the World Trade Center was a symbol of the capitalist West to certain followers of Allah in 2001. And there was little booty to be gained from the raid, which was conducted in as bloody a way as possible and sent shudders through Christendom. The scholar Alcuin wrote, “The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”

The followers of Odin did not start their war on Christianity with the attack on Lindisfarne, as Cherry explains.

Odin and Allah both seemed to have a major problem with Christians. Before the Viking age of the Norse started with the attack on the Lindisfame Monastery, the pagan followers of Odin persecuted and purged Norway of Christians. This started in late 772 or early 773 AD. The Quran (as the inspired word of Allah) also shows an intolerance for Christians and Jews.

About this time I can hear someone who had the same history teacher as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton yelling, “Hey! What about the Crusades?”

Look, like Odin, Allah made his first appearance somewhere around the 7th century. Conversion was more by force and violence than by rhetoric. While Obama seems to adopt the Third World position that Islam is the organic and legitimate religion of Arab regions, it’s worth remembering that Alexandria, the great city of Egypt, at one time was a central city of early Christianity.

So, while the Crusades, whatever their wisdom or excesses, took on the mission of “liberating the Holy Land,” to act as though it was some imperialistically religious, unprovoked attack is to pretend Normandy was an act of aggression against a peaceful country.

Perhaps the most remarkably specific similarity between Odin and Allah is how women are used to welcome the slain warrior into heaven. Everybody knows by now about the famed 72 virgins made available to the man who dies in the service of jihad. (What happens to these apparently specifically created creatures whose sole reason for existence is to service the jihadist after they are no longer a virgin is not spelled out, however…)

Odin has his own version of this. Valkyries meet the warrior who is killed in battle and escort him to Valhalla. Any other role is not spelled out, though Valkyries are certainly not presented as asexual creatures in any interpretation of Norse myths. Cherry speculates, “Valkyries guided/carried the hero to Valhalla. Servicing then was presumably the in flight entertainment.”

But then sex plays a central role among all the gods in Brian’s modern interpretation of the Viking’s gods, and their interactions with modern American culture.

So enough serious stuff. Time to talk about Brian Cherry’s (aka Brian James) Ragnarok — easily the most fun way I can think of to get a good idea of the various personalities of Norse mythology (yes, we can call it that now, since darn few Swedes believe this stuff anymore, unlike the other religion we have been discussing) .

First, forget everything you absorbed from the (really terrific) Avengers movies. Starting with the Hammer, Mjolnir.

Unlike what Marvel Comics had to say about the Hammer of Thor (or what any other myth describes regarding the use of powerful, supernatural weapons) using Mjolnir had nothing to do with the purity of one’s heart or the strength of their convictions. If morality truly dictated what tools one could use, none of the Gods would be able to pick up a Craftsman screwdriver from Sears without bursting into flames.

That gives you a flavor for Cherry’s tone here. From proposing that Chuck Mangione was used to torture souls in Hel, until even those in charge couldn’t stand it anymore; to souls from Cleveland finding Hel a respite, to the Gods using Facebook, Cherry cleverly mixes satirical cultural references with nonstop action for an irresistible ride for anyone inclined to take it.

Ragnarok is the Viking version of Armageddon, a civil war between their gods that takes place on Earth, destroys the world, and finishes off their main deities in the process. In the first book in a planned trilogy, Ragnarok: The Hammer, Cherry posits that Odin has banished many of his offspring to modern day America, but is getting concerned that the day of Ragnarok is approaching and begins to take steps to try to beat the prophecy and survive it.

Thor is playing football for the Oakland Raiders. He is so fearsome that starting and backup quarterbacks feign illness or injury to avoid playing the day they would face him. But for Thor, football is just a way to earn money for partying and to gain the adulation and hero worship he craves. But deep down, he is still grieving the loss of his wife, Sif, whom Odin sent on a suicide mission. Upon learning of her death, Thor threw his Hammer away, and it landed in Area 51. (Okay, a little of the Avengers survives here, along with the notion that Thor, for all his faults, is still a better person than Loki.)

Loki is now the head of Amway (speaking of cults) — and using the company to prey on young women. The Goddess of Love and Beauty, Freya, is working as a rather intimidating and appealing prostitute, and Baldr, God of Light, surprises everyone by walking out of Hel — apparently one can only take so many repetitions of Feels So Good.

Odin wants control of the Hammer, and thinks he can use it to forestall his end; but only Thor can wield it (pure of heart or not). Odin enlists the demon god Surt, and even the dragon Nidhogg (who is supposed to kill everybody in the end of Ragnarok)—along with a surprising appearance by Fenris, the original Wolfman.

Like all self-published books, Ragnarok has its rough spots and editing mistakes, but it’s easily forgiven in this wild and wooly ride, one that might lead to the Viking version of a fatwa against the author — if there were still Vikings. But he has little reason for worry, as Cherry reminds us:

Of course the biggest similarity between Odin and Allah is that from a deity standpoint, they are both as real as Hawkman or Mr. Bubble.


Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Via Cranach with HT to PJLifestyle

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dan Bongino, Ex-Secret Service Agent, Speech Against Tyranny

Why Is This Month-Old Clip of an Ex-Secret Service Agent Suddenly Going Viral?
Feb. 22, 2013 by Mike Opelka

Dan Bongino lost his race for the U.S. Senate last Fall and the former Secret Service agent was finally closing up shop on his campaign offices when his phone started ringing like crazy. Television and radio shows were calling to ask Dan if he was free… free to talk about this brief speech he gave on January 19th at a Guns Across America rally in Annapolis Maryland.

We started seeing the clip popping up on various pro-Second Amendment websites and wondered why the six minute speech had suddenly started attracting so much attention.

TheBlaze spoke with Dan Bongino on Friday night. He told us that the video had only generated about five or six views before this week.

“For three weeks, almost nobody watched it, then boom, this week it started getting posted in a few different places. I believe there are five or six versions of it that have already been seen 100,000 times.”

Bongino also speculated that the looming new gun laws coming to his home state of Maryland might also be fueling the spread of his message.

“The legislation they are close to passing is a path to confiscation.”

We also learned that the address was not something Dan Bongino had written down, “It was really just a few minutes of off the cuff remarks.”

Look for Dan Bongino on Wilkow! next week on TheBlaze TV.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Obama Nominates LCMS Chaplain for Navy Reserve's Highest Rank

President Barack Obama has nominated the Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Gard, an LCMS chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve and professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., to serve as a rear admiral (lower halgard.giff) in the role of deputy chief of chaplains for Reserve Matters, U.S. Navy.

Gard's nomination as rear admiral, the highest rank for a chaplain in the Navy Reserve, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta announced the promotion, along with several others, Feb. 14.

Gard said he is humbled by the opportunity that awaits him.

"To be a pastor is the greatest honor a person can have and then to have been sent in uniform to minister to America's magnificent men and women who risk all for freedom is a privilege beyond what I deserve," he said. "All I can say is 'Soli Deo Gloria' -- to God alone be the glory!"

Gard is completing a tour of duty as Joint Task Force Guantanamo chaplain, Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He will resume his seminary teaching duties during Holy Week. He also is the dean of Military Chaplaincy Programs at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS).

"Dr. Gard's service to this seminary, the church at-large and to his country has been exemplary and provides an excellent example of a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ," said CTS President Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. in a seminary news release.

Gard asked for prayers that he be a "faithful servant of our Lord."

"God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and family and with the support of a unique community of faith, study and prayer at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne," he said. "There we have a mission that is unequaled in this world -- to form servants in Christ Jesus to teach the faithful, reach the lost and care for all."

To read the U.S. Navy's release about Gard, click here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Society & Media Should Not Vilify Lutheran Church

Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook. Only they know the pain of losing a child on that terrible day. This touched our church in Newtown, too. Our hearts weigh heavy for every father and mother who grieve the empty seat at the table.

How sad that so much vitriol can be stirred up in the media against the Lutheran Church while the pain of their loss is so fresh ("Newtown vigil bares discord for Lutherans," Feb. 9).

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is just as shocked, just as grieved, just as saddened as anyone. But though our hearts hurt, we do not participate in syncretistic or unionistic events.

The term unionism was coined when the government in Germany wrested control of the land’s churches. Church denominations of differing confessions were forced into a union against their will, creating a state church. Syncretism is simply when different religions get together for religious rites.

To enforce the Union, soldiers broke down the doors, arrested our ministers, defrocked and imprisoned them and confiscated their property. We were forced at bayonet-point to join together with those of differing views. All this was because we wouldn’t worship the way the government dictated.

We came to the United States looking for religious liberty and freedom from oppression.

Shall society and the media dictate our participation in civil religion? Shall they vilify us for not participating in a ceremony contrary to our beliefs?

I’m getting the impression that if you don’t go along with the civil religion, you’re the bad guy. What has happened to freedom? Is the knock of the soldier far away from your door?

Rev. Michael G. Piper • New Melle

Sunday, February 17, 2013

P-3 Orion Hunting Submarines

Russian Bombers Circling Guam Intercepted

Two Russian nuclear-armed bombers circled the western Pacific island of Guam this week in the latest sign of Moscow’s growing strategic assertiveness toward the United States.

The Russian Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers were equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and were followed by U.S. jets as they circum...navigated Guam on Feb. 12 local time—hours before President Barack Obama’s state of the union address.
Air Force Capt. Kim Bender, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Air Force in Hawaii, confirmed the incident to the Washington Free Beacon and said Air Force F-15 jets based on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, “scrambled and responded to the aircraft.”
“The Tu-95s were intercepted and left the area in a northbound direction. No further actions occurred,” she said. Bender said no other details would be released “for operational security reasons.”

The bomber incident was considered highly unusual. Russian strategic bombers are not known to have conducted such operations in the past into the south Pacific from bomber bases in the Russian Far East, which is thousands of miles away and over water.

John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador and former State Department international security undersecretary, said the Russian bomber flights appear to be part of an increasingly threatening strategic posture in response to Obama administration anti-nuclear policies.

“Every day brings new evidence that Obama’s ideological obsession with dismantling our nuclear deterrent is dangerous,” Bolton said. “Our national security is in danger of slipping off the national agenda even as the threats grow.”

Defense officials said the bombers tracked over Guam were likely equipped with six Kh-55 or Kh-55SM cruise missiles that can hit targets up to 1,800 miles away with either a high-explosive warhead or a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead.

The F-15s that intercepted the bombers were based at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and were deployed to Guam for the ongoing annual Exercise Guahan Shield 2013.
Two U.S. B-2 strategic bombers were deployed to Guam in late January and last fall advanced F-22 fighter bombers were temporarily stationed on the island. Three nuclear-powered attack submarines and the Global Hawk long-range drone also are based in Guam.

About 200 Marines currently are training on the island. Earlier news reports stated that Japanese and Australian military jets joined U.S. jets in the Guam exercises.
Guam is one of the key strategic U.S. military bases under the Obama administration’s new “pivot” to Asia policy. As a result, it is a target of China and North Korea. Both have missiles capable of hitting the island, located about 1,700 miles east of the Philippines in the Mariana island chain.

This week’s bomber flights are a sign the Russians are targeting the island as well, one defense official said.

Guam also plays a key role in the Pentagon’s semi-secret strategy called the Air-Sea Battle Concept designed to counter what the Pentagon calls China’s anti-access and area denial weapons—precision guided missiles, submarines, anti-satellite weapons, and other special warfighting capabilities designed to prevent the U.S. military from defending allies or keeping sea lanes open in the region.

Defense officials disclosed the incident to the Free Beacon and said the Russian bomber flights appeared to be a strategic message from Moscow timed to the president’s state of the union speech.

“They were sending a message to Washington during the state of the union speech,” one official said.

The bomber flights also coincided with growing tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands. A Chinese warship recently increased tensions between Beijing and Tokyo by using targeting radar against a Japanese warship.
The U.S. military has said it would defend Japan in any military confrontation with China over the Senkakus. The bomber flights appear to signal Russian support for China in the dispute.

Meanwhile, Obama on Wednesday telephoned Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reiterate U.S. nuclear assurances to its ally following North Korea’s third detonation of an underground nuclear device.

A White House statement said the president told Abe, who visits Washington next week, that the United States “remains steadfast in its defense commitments to Japan, including the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.”

“It shows that the Russians, like the Chinese, are not just going to sit idly by and watch the United States ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ its forces toward Asia,” said former State Department security official Mark Groombridge.

“One could argue the Russians were poking a bit of fun at the Obama Administration, seeing how they flew these long-range bombers close to Guam on the same day as the state of the union address,” he said.

“But the broader implications are more profound,” said Groombridge, now with the private strategic intelligence firm LIGNET. “The Russians are clearly sending a signal that they consider the Pacific an area of vital national strategic interest and that they still have at least some power projection capabilities to counterbalance against any possible increase in U.S. military assets in the region.”

Airspace violations by Russian Su-27 jets triggered intercepts by Japanese fighters near Japan’s Hokkaido Island last week. The Feb. 7. incident prompted protests from Tokyo and took place near disputed territory claimed by both countries since the end of World War II.

The Russian air incursion around Guam was the third threatening strategic bomber incident since June. On July 4th, two Bear H’s operated at the closest point to the United States that a Russian bomber has flown since the Soviet Union routinely conducted such flights.

The July bomber flights near California followed an earlier incident in June when two Bear H’s ran up against the air defense zone near Alaska as part of large-scale strategic exercises that Moscow said involved simulated attacks on U.S. missile defense bases. The Pentagon operates missile defense bases in Alaska and California.

Those flights triggered the scrambling of U.S. and Canadian interceptor jets as well.
The bomber flights near Alaska violated a provision of the 2010 New START arms treaty that requires advance notification of exercises involving strategic nuclear bombers.

Military spokesmen sought to play down the June and July incidents as non-threatening, apparently reflecting the Obama administration’s conciliatory “reset” policy toward Russia that seeks better relations by tamping down criticism of Moscow, despite growing anti-U.S. sentiments and policies from the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey questioned his Russian counterpart, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, during a meeting at the Pentagon July 12th.

The latest Russian nuclear saber rattling through bomber flights comes as the Obama administration is planning a new round of strategic arms reduction talks with Russia. State Department arms official Rose Gottemoeller was recently in Moscow for arms discussions.

The president was expected to announce plans to cut U.S. nuclear forces by an additional one-third in a new round of arms reduction efforts with Moscow.
However, the president did not announce the plans and said only during his state of the union speech that he plans further arms cuts.

“Building Guam as a strategic hub has played a critical role in balancing U.S. security interests in responding to and cooperating with China as well as in shaping China’s perceptions and conduct,” wrote Government Accountability Office analyst Shirley A. Kan in a September 2012 report.

“Since 2000, the U.S. military has been building up forward-deployed forces on the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam to increase U.S. presence, deterrence, and power projection for potential responses to crises and disasters, counterterrorism, and contingencies in support of South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, or elsewhere in Asia.”

~Bill Gertz
Washington Free Beacon

P-3 Orion Compilation Video

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lutheran Leader Apologizes for Sandy Hook Vigil Controversy

Lutheran leader apologizes for handling of Sandy Hook vigil controversy

The Rev. Matthew HarrisonThe Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has apologized for his handling of an internal crisis over a Sandy Hook school massacre interfaith prayer vigil.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch Monday, Harrison said his effort to contain the controversy had failed. His words mirrored those in a letter and video he posted online over the weekend taking blame for what he termed a “debacle.”

“I handled it poorly, multiplying the challenges,” Harrison wrote in his letter. “I increased the pain of a hurting community.”

He apologized to the members of the Connecticut church, to the pastor in question, to the people of Newtown and “to the membership of our great church body for embarrassment due to the media coverage.”

Last week, Harrison wrote in an online letter that he had asked the Rev. Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, to apologize for upsetting some members of the synod by participating in the vigil. The synod posted the letter of apology from Morris at the same time on its website.

After the forced apology was picked up in the press, outrage followed in social media and blogs.

In 2001, a similar moment threatened the administration of Harrison’s predecessor after he allowed a pastor to take part in an interfaith prayer vigil at Yankee Stadium in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“My deepest concern was that we not have another protracted multiyear fiasco like we had after Yankee Stadium,” Harrison said in an interview Monday. “I believed at that time, had simply a brief apology been given ... it could have been dealt with in a sane way.”

Harrison declined to say when he knew that Morris would be participating in the vigil. Doing so, he said, would “stir up potential antagonisms and differences.”

The constitution of the 2.4 million-member denomination, based in Kirkwood, prohibits members from taking part in worship services that blend the beliefs and practices of Lutherans with those of other faiths and Christian denominations.

The prohibition on worshipping with other Christians stems from the synod’s 19th-century history in Germany, when its members were forced by the government to accept Calvinism against their will — and fled to the United States to preserve their religious freedom.

In 2004, in the wake of the Yankee Stadium controversy, the synod issued a 23-page document called “Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events,” including an acknowledgment of “once-in-a-lifetime” situations which “can be evaluated only on a case-by-case basis.”

Harrison said Monday that the synod’s constitution “gives a clear indication of our practice,” and that the guidelines “are somewhat problematic.” The guidelines “are not in themselves totally clear,” he continued. “Any and all guidelines have to be interpreted in light of the constitution.”

Referring to the Sandy Hook shootings in his pastoral letter posted online over the weekend, Harrison wrote that the synod has “struggled and continues to struggle with how to respond to civic/religious services in the midst of such events and to do so in a way that is in accord with our core convictions about the uniqueness of Christ.”

He said he “naively thought” an apology from Morris would allow the synod to “move quickly beyond internal controversy and toward a less emotional process of working through our differences, well out of the public spotlight. That plan failed miserably.”

But Morris’ apology and his own letter of explanation last week were “spun in the media,” Harrison said Monday. “I issued a very pastoral letter, and Pastor Morris issued a fine letter, but they were picked up as a rebuke and censure.”

The two men and the president of the synod’s New England district, signed a “statement of unity,” which was posted online over the weekend.

“By the grace of God, we have worked through a very challenging situation,” the statement said. “We have mutually forgiven each other where we have fallen short.”

Harrison said he’d received “an overwhelming blanket of positives from people, including those on different sides of the issue,” and that he is “at peace with what I did.”

“Could I have handled it better?” he asked. “I’m not Jesus. I’m just trying to be faithful and keep synod together.”

Harrison is up for re-election in July, when LCMS delegates gather in St. Louis for their triennial convention.

Before the mainstream secular press even knew about the story, Lutheran blogs had sent news of Morris’ participation across the Internet.

A blog run by the Brothers of John the Steadfast, whose members stress strict Lutheran orthodoxy, and who are credited with helping Harrison get elected three years ago, was one of the first on the story in December.

One commenter on said Morris’ participation in the service “does more harm to the souls of the survivors than any gunman could ever do.”

The Rev. Timothy Rossow, Steadfast’s leader, wrote in agreement in a post that followed. “The gunman killed the body which lasts for 70 or 80 years. ... False teaching and practice kills the soul which lives for eternity in heaven or hell.”

Harrison said Monday that he’d taken the “unprecedented” step of contacting “the most prominent blogs in the synod and asking them to refrain from commenting on the issue.” He said he asked Steadfast and another blog, the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, to pull down comments about Morris and the vigil.

“He didn’t need to be attacked,” Harrison said. “We don’t need a public airing of our pent-up grievances.”

Morris was “a young pastor in a difficult situation who took action which he felt was the right thing to do in the circumstance, and he did the best he could,” Harrison said. “I also believe that when you get into those situations, you should be ready to repent boldly, and to forgive boldly.”

Tim Townsend is the religion reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @townsendreport.

Vernon's & 11th Hour, Corpus Christi TX

A tribute to Vernon's Saloon and its spin-off, the 11th Hour Bar & Grill

Two mighty fine Naval Aviator gathering places operated and owned by Pat McLary Monks.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Janitor Fired for Defending the Flag

South Dakota Janitor Cesar Zakahi Fired for Defending the Flag?!

Cesar Zakahi was a janitor in South Dakota before he got in trouble for… defending our nation’s flag?!

He posted the picture above on Facebook and complained to the school superintendent, which ultimately got him fired, he says.

Zakahi is a disabled veteran and was angry with how the flag was being handled by a fellow janitor. He said, “She would take the flag down [...] bundle it up in her arms, go into the boiler room, roll the South Dakota flag and the United States flag up in a bundle and throw it on top of a boiler.”

Zakahi told Steve Doocy on Fox and Friends that from the beginning, he showed her how to fold it properly, but she said it “was too much of a bother” to do it that way.

After showing his boss the pictures and a video of what was happening, he got a call from the superintendent.

“He told me that I had overstepped my bounds as an employee and that I was on probation for work, which I understood, and that I had embarrassed him because he got caught not doing his job,” Zakahi said. He believes because this superintendent was retiring in three months that he was just trying to “sweep [this incident] under the rug.”

The Stanley County School District also issued this statement on the matter:

“The result of our investigation did not reflect a mishandling of the flags. We question the circumstances & if the pictures circulating are an accurate reflection of how the flags were stored.”

Zakahi has an attorney, a fellow veteran, who is helping him pro bono.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ethiopian Church Severs Ties With ELCA

Ethiopian Church Severs Ties With Lutherans Over Homosexuality

Ethiopian 50th celebrationAn Evangelical denomination in Ethiopia has recently announced that it is severing ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and it sister church, the Church of Sweden, because of its position regarding homosexuality in the church.

The denomination, known as the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, also announced that it will not be affiliated with any churches "who have openly accepted same-sex marriage," and from this point onward may not accept Holy Communion from ELCA pastors, nor are they allowed to distribute Holy Communion to ELCA members.

Another stipulation of this severing is that any leaders affiliated with the ELCA will not be invited to speak at the Mekane Yesus church, nor may they accompany the church on spiritual ministries.

According to The Lutheran magazine, leaders of the Mekane Yesus church have vowed not to visit any ELCA dioceses or synods without permission from the head office of the Ethiopian church, effectively ending ties with Northwest Washington, Southwest California, Pacifica, LaCrosse Area and Southeastern, five ELCA synods which have connections to the African church.

"The ELCA is very saddened by this decision," the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission, said in a statement.

"The ELCA and its predecessor church bodies have been walking with the people of Ethiopia for more than 50 years, and our sister church, the Church of Sweden, for more than 150 years. In this journey, we have learned from one another, we have deepened and extended the bonds of fellowship and partnership in the gospel," Padilla added.

This decision to sever ties with the ELCA, which is composed of a nearly 4 million member congregation in the U.S., was ratified after a general convocation meeting that took place from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.

The decision to sever ties with the ELCA was originally introduced in a July 2012 initiative implemented by the Mekane Yesus Church council.

In 2009, the ELCA held a national church-wide assembly, which voted to allow congregations to ordain homosexuals in monogamous relationships as clergy to the church.

The ELCA also adopted a social statement titled "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," which supports families headed by same-sex couples.

This decision received criticism from its partner church, the Board of Evangelical Mekane Yesus Fellowship in North America, which issued a press release in October 2009 declaring "disunity" from the ELCA, and stating that "it would not be in good conscience able to commune and partner with ELCA Church that has willfully disobeyed the word of God and regrettably departed from the clear instructions of the Holy Scriptures."

Although the Ethiopian denomination has chosen to separate from its Lutheran partner, the ELCA asserts that it has not completely closed its door to the Mekane Yesus Church.

"As the ELCA, we are always standing ready to open the door of conversation for the sake of reconciliation and our shared commitment to proclamation and service," the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said in the statement.

"Reconciliation is not an option. It is given in Christ, and we stand ready to engage with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus on what this gift of reconciliation might mean for us now," Hanson added.


Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Interfaith Vigil

Lutheran pastor apologizes for attending Sandy Hook interfaith vigil
From ASSOCIATED PRESS, 0:05 AM, February 8, 2013

A conservative Lutheran group has reprimanded a Newtown, Conn., pastor for participating in an interfaith vigil after the Sandy Hook massacre.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod said the Rev. Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church inadvertently gave the impression he condoned joint worship by offering the benediction at a Dec. 16 event with other religious leaders for the elementary school shooting victims.

The church constitution bars clergy from praying with representatives from other religions, including some other Lutheran groups, for fear of giving the appearance that theological differences about salvation and other doctrines aren't significant.

The vigil included Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i leaders. President Barack Obama and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy attended.

In a statement posted Feb. 1 on a denominational blog, the Missouri Synod president, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, said Morris took "specific and commendable" steps to avoid violating the church's constitution: Morris requested an announcement before the event that participating clergy were not endorsing each other's views, and he read from Scripture.

However, Harrison concluded that the event was joint worship since other clergy wore their vestments and the vigil included prayers and religious readings.

"There is sometimes a real tension between wanting to bear witness to Christ and at the same time avoiding situations which may give the impression that our differences with respect to who God is, who Jesus is, how he deals with us and how we get to heaven, really don't matter in the end," Harrison wrote.

Morris does not believe he engaged in joint worship, but has apologized, Harrison said.

"I accept his apology," Harrison wrote, and made what he called an earnest request that no one file a complaint against Morris under the denomination's disciplinary system.

Harrison declined to comment further Thursday. But Vicki Biggs, a spokeswoman for the denomination, said, "We are proud of the work Pastor Morris has done in Newtown and how he has served the community in so many ways."

In his own statement, Morris underscored the steps he took to avoid any appearance he was supporting other doctrines.

"To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies," he wrote. "I did not believe my participation to be an act of joint worship, but one of mercy and care to a community shocked and grieving an unspeakably horrific event. However, I recognize others in our church consider it to constitute joint worship and I understand why."

The denomination has been struggling for years with this rule, which is currently under a broad review. The church constitution requires congregants to renounce "unionism and syncretism of every description." A Missouri Synod pastor, the Rev. David Benke, was suspended for a time after participating in a Yankee Stadium interfaith service soon after the Sept. 11 attacks that was held in Yankee Stadium. About two dozen pastors and a few congregations had complained about Benke's involvement.

The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the former Missouri Synod president who had defended Benke, has also spoken out in support of Morris. Kieschnick wrote on his blog that Morris was "responding in a pastoral way to people in need of healing and hope." Outsiders watching this dispute will "shake their heads in disgust and dismay. For them, the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism and legalism," Kieschnick said.

The 2.3 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, based in the St. Louis area, is separate from the larger, liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, based in Chicago.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why Johnnie Moore is Optimistic about Christianity’s Future

By Johnnie Moore, Published February 03, 2013,

I've been asked more times than I can remember by secular people and the secular press if Christianity is now, truly...finally...a dying religion.

The scenario plays out a bit like this.

A reporter, after rattling off a steady stream of apocalyptic examples "supported by research," then asks something like: "Given the decline of Christian influence in our society, and around the world, is Christianity on a respirator?"

At this moment, I think they expect me --us -- to jump on the blame bandwagon, and moan on about why Christianity is in danger of being relegated to history's dustbin.

If you're a young leader, as am I, they expect us to unleash a torrent of criticism about what Christians and their standard bearers have done wrong.

The conversation, then, is supposed to take on a "change-or-die" funeral tenor to advance the cultural narrative that the relic of Christianity is on its way out. Our world, it is inferred, is evolving beyond religion -- especially the evangelical kind.

So, you can imagine the wrench it throws into their gears when I declare my fanatical optimism for Christianity's future.

Think about it.

The evidence is everywhere.

Never before have masses of evangelicals and Catholics been more engaged in the public square. The novelty of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority has been multiplied a thousand times over, cementing the role of evangelicals and Catholics in every major election since Ronald Reagan. This was especially apparent in 2012 when evangelicals represented 27% of the electorate (the highest ever) with 78% of them voting for a single candidate, a Mormon nonetheless.

Prominent Christians, like Mike Huckabee, have the ability to instantly mobilize millions of Christians in support of causes that matter to them, and the Obama administration's hostility toward religious liberty didn't shove people of faith into obscurity. The bullying ignited a powder keg of religious liberty that has produced unprecedented solidarity among Catholics and Evangelicals, almost like we've never seen before.

Meanwhile, people are converting in droves.

In metropolitan cities around the world, Christianity is exploding, and tens of thousands hold worship services each Sunday in mega-megachurches across the U.S.

The Internet has empowered the faithful with new tools to reach people sitting in their homes in nations -- like Iran -- whose archaic systems greet proselytizing with

Today, anyone "Googling for God" can be directed to the Bible in their own language. Liberty University, the world's largest Christian university, alone provides liberal arts education in more than 200 programs of study to some 100,000 on-campus and online students.

In the "global south," Brazil's evangelical population has swelled by 30% in the last decade, even faster than its economic boon.

The same is true in the east, where China has become, perhaps unwittingly, an
incubator for Christianity.

In Africa, the church even oversees some
American congregations who've broken off from their liberal denominations. This faith is no mere "white man's religion" but an indigenous force that influences every facet of African society.

Christianity is not only a threat to "progressive" policy and social injustices -- within which I would include the attack on religious liberty -- in the United States. Christianity's influence is seeded on every continent, and it is forcefully on the move.

Now, while it’s true that some media critics of Christianity have lost their minds touting the so-called rise of the “nones” in the U.S. – the growing number of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans – they fail to note that nearly 70% of the self-identified “unaffiliated” still admit to believing in God. In fact, one-in-five of America’s “least religious” say they pray everyday! I even know a lot of devoted Christians who, tired of cultural and denominational labels, have opted to be classified as “unaffiliated” rather than be stereotyped.

You understand, then, why, for all these reasons, I believe that Christianity is at its most important and promising moment in history.

It is nonsense to think otherwise.

Those who think so ought to be reminded of something Theodore Beza said centuries ago, "The church is an anvil which has worn out many hammers."

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Saturday, February 2, 2013