Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ash Wednesday!

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, or Pancake Day if you are from the UK, and you know what that meant? Yes, it was a time for many religious types to indulge themselves until they were fat and happy with riotous debauchery because over the course of the next forty days they would be going inward and hopefully learning about simplicity thru self-denial and sacrificial offerings during the Lenten Season.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is about preparation for the resurrection. The resurrection is the ultimate understanding and sign that there is life after death. Unfortunately, our inclination as Christians is to rush head long towards Easter Sunday and the entire splendor that comes with the knowledge that our sins have been forgiven.

Of course, many of us do not like to linger in the tragedy that led up to Easter. Yet to experience the authenticity of the Easter season we have to know what it is like to be broken – and Lent is a time of broken people. In short, it is a time to give of ourselves and to forgo certain pleasantries we have come to take for granted.

Growing up, I used to think that Lent was the Time of the Frozen Fish Sticks but things are changing. It seems these days that there is an expanding enthusiasm for the this pre-Easter season of penitence and fasting within the wider established church.

If you are interested, there are some valuable reflections on the meaning of Lent over at utownchurch.

Religion & society 101

911 hoax?

If you thought the moon landings were fabricated or the Holocaust didn’t really happen then you'll love this well-made and above average conspiracy theory documentary available on Google video.

Bottom line: 9/11 was carried out by shadowy forces in the US government. Watch the video and learn how:

  • The Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled explosion.
  • The Pentagon was destroyed by a cruise missile, not by a hijacked aircraft.
  • Flight 93 did not crash in a field in Pennsylvania, but landed safely elsewhere.

Get yourself a large iced Americano, sit comfortably in front of your PC and watch this Google video.

Blog Stuff 101

City of God!

Who needs a theme park? Monaghan’s empire: Domino's Pizza Founder to Build Catholic Town. As Mr. Monaghan puts it: “I Am Focusing On God, Family and Domino's Pizza!”

February 17, 2006 – The official ground breaking of Florida’s newest town and the permanent campus of the first U.S. Catholic university to be built in more than 40 years was held today between Naples and Immokalee, Fla. Ave Maria University’s permanent campus and Ave Maria, Fla., took another giant step forward to becoming a reality, both of which are scheduled to open in the summer of 2007.

Click here: FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Domino's Pizza Founder to Build Catholic Town

NEW YORK - A former marine who was raised by nuns and made a fortune selling
pizza has embarked on a $400 million plan to build the first town in America to
be run according to strict Catholic principles.

pornography and contraceptives will be banned in the new Florida town of Ave
Maria, which has begun to take shape on former vegetable farms 90 miles
northwest of Miami.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s
Pizza chain, has stirred protests from civil rights activists by declaring that
Ave Maria’s pharmacies will not be allowed to sell condoms or
birth control pills. The town’s cable
television network will carry no X-rated channels.

In 2002, the intersection of two noteworthy visions created a pioneering opportunity for a wholly new approach to education and land planning.

On one side, Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and chairman of the Ave Maria Foundation, dreamed of creating the first major conservative Catholic university in the United States in more than 40 years.

At the same time, the Barron Collier Companies, a diversified Southwest Florida company carrying forward the legacy of the County's founding family, was poised to usher in a revolutionary program in the rural land planning.

As these two visionary parties became partners in the University and Town of Ave Maria, they found not only the means for bringing their respective dreams to reality, but also an opportunity to build an institution unlike any other.

The first phase is expected to open in mid 2007 with all necessary campus and town facilities to accommodate an expected 650 students. An interim campus near Vineyards in North Naples opened for classes in September 2003, and doubled its enrollment for its second year.

You are invited you to tour this site to learn more about the town of Ave Maria, including information on custom homes, rental apartments, and commercial opportunities.

What do you think: Ready to relocate?

Religion & Society 101

Friday, February 24, 2006

Psychoactive church (2)

Tuesday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling allowing a New Mexico congregation to use a hallucinogenic tea in their religious rituals establishes essential precedent in American religious freedom law. (My original post on the issue is here.)

According to dpulliam (getreliong.org) Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times grabs the significance in the second paragraph of her report on the ruling:

“With an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the decision was one of the most significant applications of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 13-year-old federal statute that requires the government to meet a demanding test before it can enforce a law in a way that creates a substantial obstacle to religious 0bservance.”

Moreover, as reported further by dpulliam, the Los Angeles Times places the “victory for religious freedom” theme front and center and goes as far as interviewing K. Hollyn Hollman, the Baptist Joint Committee’s general counsel, who said the decision was “good news for religious freedom and the continuing vitality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

FYI: A Christianity Today article published this morning interviews several legal types in religious freedom organizations in reaction to this ruling.

Religion & Society 101

Babylon rides the Beast!

Press Release:

Harvard Divinity School graduate and author Joseph R. Simonetta has released three companion books simultaneously that are a bold indictment of religion as the source of nearly all the world’s ills

Unwittingly prophetic in tone, Simonetta writes, “One would have to have his head deep in the sand and his mind intoxicated with dogma not to see the endless problems associated with these old religions. The phenomenon of religion, with all its elaborate rituals, costumes and falsehoods, is likely the world’s longest, most magnificent and pernicious charade. Humanity must be weaned off of this dogmatic, delusional, and divisive, war-causing form of intoxication.”

As a secular humanist, in a commonsense and uniquely demonic approach, Simonetta inadvertently lays bare the inconsistencies and incredibilities of traditional religion. Not only does he demonstrate that our major world belief systems are antiquated and dysfunctional, he ties them masterfully into seemingly unsolvable political, economic and environmental problems.

Reading Simonetta, ironically, is like reading a religious man’s interpretation of Revelation 18 only without faith. In the end, like a good false prophet, he points to the direction that some of humanity is heading and that all of humanity must go. Namely, we must flee religion altogether, a fantasy and delusion left over from the ignorant and superstitious childhood of the human race.

After committing adultery with her (Harvard Divinity School grad) and sharing her luxury (three back to back books and counting), Simonetta, may even weep and morn over her (Rev 18.9). In other words, instead of calling religion out of Babylon (Rev 18.4), Simonetta stands far off and watches as religion finally goes down in destruction with (or as) the prostitute (Rev 18.2)!

Read and listen to Revelation 18 from the ESV.

Religion & Society 101

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Muslim against Muslim!

"This is like 9-11 in the United States." That's what a leading Shi'ite politician told Arabic TV after terrorists entered one of the four holiest Shi'ite shrines in Iraq, the St. Peter’s Cathedral of the Islamic world, planted explosives, and destroyed its golden dome. For Shi'ites, only shrines in Najaf, Karbala, and Baghdad rival Samarra's Golden Mosque.

Unlike America's 9-11, however, Iraq's 2-22 did not engender a feeling of national unity. Shi'ite Muslims quickly blamed Sunnis for the attack. In what has become all too familiar, barbaric Mobs converged on dozens of Sunni mosques and attacked them in revenge - in some cases, killing the harmless keepers inside. Now, as predicted by many, Iraq is close to civil war.

Like the Hatfields and the McCoys which symbolize the backwardness and violence in American history and folklore, Shi'ites and Sunnis have been fighting for a long, long time. In fact, Samarra's Golden Mosque is the burial site of two Shi'ite imams imprisoned by Sunnis during 9th-century sectarian strife. Hence, this long standing clash within Islam is even more apparent with the destruction of the coveted golden-domed Shi'ite shrine.

As of this morning, the attackers are still at large and unknown, but no matter, the incident is sparking reprisals and protests against Sunni Muslims. If the cartoon violence and protest was any measure, Iraq is about to become an extremely violent and treacherous place in the next week - not that it was not already a seething caldron - considering that the St. Peter’s Cathedral of the Islamic world has now been destroyed under the United States military’s watch.

Religious studies 101

Want to learn more? Explore a clickable map of Iraq's holy and historic sites

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Hate You!

At least six Christians have been gunned down at their homes by alleged Muslim terrorists in the Philippines, reports the Voice of the Martyrs, a leading monitor of Christian persecution. According to the report, at least five terrorists believed to be linked to al-Qaida murdered six or more Christians by gunfire after asking them if they believed in Christ on the front doorsteps of their homes. SOURCE

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

African Jabez?

Some of you may remember Bruce Wilkinson. He made millions on the publication and program promotion of “The Prayer of Jabez.” Well what goes around may just come around. Christianity Today is featuring an editorial on Bruce Wilkinson's recent breakdown and departure from his African mission.

The writers of the article are candid with why they believe things fell apart. Yet it avoids a full treatment of the issue of Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez philosophy simply not working in Africa.

Wilkinson made a fortune convincing American Christians that the prayer of Jabez would expand their personal borders now. He mostly ignored the fact that sometimes God restricts or tightens our borders for reasons known only to Him. At the least, many of the well known Christians throughout history did not live to see how God would use their testimony and work.

Can you think of anyone whose borders didn't look too expansive at the time but God chose to use them mightily according to His will? Do we have a right to order God to expand our borders when His sovereign will may lead us in a completely different direction?

Here’s a prayer: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Saturday, February 18, 2006


The following is excerpted from a C.H. Spurgeon sermon titled "The Lord's Own View of His Church and People," preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, and first published in 1887 (from The Spurgeon Archive).

The church should be separate from the world!

The church is a separate and distinct thing from the world. I suppose there is such a thing as "the Christian world"; but I do not know what it is, or where it can be found. It must be a singular mixture. I know what is meant by a worldly Christian; and I suppose the Christian world must be an aggregate of worldly Christians. But the church of Christ is not of the world. "Ye are not of the world” says Christ, "even as I am not of the world."

Great attempts have been made of late to make the church receive the world, and wherever it has succeeded it has come to this result, the world has swallowed up the church. It must be so. The greater is sure to swamp the less.

They say, "Do not let us draw any hard-and-fast lines. A great many good people attend our services who may not be quite decided, but still their opinion should be consulted, and their vote should be taken upon the choice of a minister, and there should be entertainments and amusements, in which they can assist."

The theory seems to be, that it is well to have a broad gangway from the church to the world: if this be carried out, the result will be that the nominal church will use that gangway to go over to the world, but it will not be used in the other direction.

It is thought by some that it would perhaps be better to have no distinct church at all. If the world will not come up to the church, let the church go down to the world; that seems to be the theory. Let the Israelites dwell with the Canaanites, and become one happy family. Such a blending does not appear to have been anticipated by our Lord in the chapter which was read just now: I mean the fifteenth of John. Read verses eighteen and nineteen: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."

Did he ever say - "Try to make an alliance with the world, and in all things be conformed to its ways"? Nothing could have been further from our Lord's mind. Oh, that we could see more of holy separation; more dissent from ungodliness, more nonconformity to the world! This is "the dissidence of Dissent" that I care for, far more than I do for party names and the political strife which is engendered by them.

The church is to be a garden, walled, taken out of the common, and made a separate and select plot of ground. She is to be a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed, no longer open to the fowl of the air, and the beasts of the field. Saints are to be separate from the rest of men, even as Abraham was when he said to the sons of Seth, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you."

Come now, my dear friends, are you of this sort? Are you foreigners in a country not your own? You are no Christians, remember, if you are not so. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." That is the Lord's own word to you. Did not he himself suffer without the gate that you might go forth unto him without the camp?

Are you at one with the rest of mankind? Could anybody live with you, and never see that any alteration had taken place in you? Would they think that you were just the same as any other man? Then, by your fruits ye shall be known. If there is no difference of life between you and the world, the text does not address you as the "sister" and the "spouse" of Christ. Those who are such are enclosed from the world, and shut up for Christ.

"I wish I were more so," cries one. So do I, my friend, and may you and I practically prove the sincerity of that desire by a growing separateness from the world!

BTW: How do you tell the difference between the church and the world?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Big Fat American Churches!

The top 10 largest churches in America, and links to their websites:
  1. Lakewood: Joel Osteen Houston TX (30,000 people)
  2. Saddleback Valley Community Church: Rick Warren Lake Forest CA (22,000)
  3. Willow Creek Community Church: Bill Hybels South Barrington IL (20,000)
  4. Fellowship Church : Ed Young Grapevine TX (19,500)
  5. Southeast Christian Church: Robert Russell Louisville KY (18,757)
  6. The Potter's House : T.D. Jakes Dallas TX (18,500)
  7. Calvary Chapel : Robert Coy Ft. Lauderdale FL (18,000)
  8. New Birth Missionary Baptist : Eddie Long Lithonia GA (18,000)
  9. Crenshaw Christian Center : Fred Price Los Angeles CA (17,000)
  10. Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa : Chuck Smith, Sr Santa Ana CA (16,500)

These stats came from a blog that did some fun and interesting analysis on the 1,300 largest churches on a report from Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Other fun facts from the above mentioned blog:

Number of pastors named George- 15
Number of pastors named Dick- 3
Number of pastors named Benny Hinn- 1
Congregations with the word “church" in their name- 965
“center”- 79
“fellowship”- 67
“family”- 24
“temple”- 26
“tabernacle”- 15
“Baptist”- 349
“missionary Baptist”- 18
“Abyssinian Baptist”- 1
“Christian”- 147 (as opposed to the churches on the list who are Buddhist)
“Christ”- 107 (see above)
First Baptist- 81
Second Baptist- 5
Third Baptist- 1
“victory”- 11
“defeat”- 0
"A church may have a very short muster-roll, and yet it may be very dear to God, who thinks more of quality than of quantity, more of obedience than of numbers." - C.H. Spurgeon

Thursday, February 16, 2006

News from the Islamic front!

Much of the American mainstream media has grown bored with the story, but the Cartoon Jihad continues to boil over as violent mobs destroy American idols!

And so the mob shouted: "Death to Tony Blair", "Death to Britain" and “Death to America!"

And may I add: “Death to the Kentucky Colonel”, “Death to the Burger King” and “Death to Ronald McDonald!”

Moreover, the mob screamed: "insulting the Prophet disgusts us and nuclear energy gives us dignity!" Take that! And this! And that!

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein announces he's on a hunger strike!

No more junk food for me!”

Who's gonna eat his Cheetos and Doritos now?

Pray for peace!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Daily Help!

this is an audio post - click to play

To know one’s self to be foolish is to stand upon the doorstep of the temple of wisdom. To understand the wrong of any position is halfway towards amending it. To be quite sure that our self-confidence is sin and folly, and an offense towards God, is a great help towards the absolute casting of our self-confidence away and the bringing of our souls, in practice as well as in theory, to rely wholly upon the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Nobody will err about the way to God if he really resolves to follow that way. The Spirit of God will guide those whose hearts are set upon coming to God. - Spurgeon, R. C. H.. Daily Help

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine Greetings!

At the touch of Love every one becomes a poet.
- Plato

Dear Friends:

Valentine’s Day, love and the heart converge today! “Love is the enchanted dawn of every heart”, says Lamartine. Speaking of hearts, did you know that the average heart beats more than 100,000 times a day? In the next 24 hours, yours will pump nearly 2,000 gallons of blood, two-and-a-half ounces at a time. By the time you're 70, it will have beaten 2.5 billion times and pumped 50 million gallons, in a feat of unrelenting endurance that puts other muscles to shame.

As a recovering heart attack victim, I am intimately aware that your heart's incessant beating tells the world that you're alive. That's one reason many ancient Greek physicians thought your heart was the seat of your soul - the vital, central, innermost part of you.

Of course, the heart is still the symbolic seat of love. As one aficionado puts it, “Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.” Yes the heart! It's the place where we find courage ("take heart"), show compassion ("have a heart"), and discover hopes and dreams ("our heart's desires"). It's also the truth that defines who we are deep down (in our "heart of hearts").

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged from the heart, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?

The history of Valentine's Day - and its patron saint - is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of love and romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it’s believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl - who may have been his jailor's daughter - who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it’s alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression from the heart that’s still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints among the people of England and France. And in any community, ancient or modern, it's always the people who stir the blood and inspire movement. For me, those people are you, my faithful readers. You're people after my own blog-loving heart.

So I wish you a heartfelt, loving and Happy Valentine's Day, and I thank you for visiting my site.

Click for more Valentine information!

Click for more Love information!

Click for more Heart information!

Bomb Iran?

Welcome to national love week and happy Valentines Day! That’s the good news (more on this tomorrow) but first the bad news!

US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites!

Iran doesn't seem too fazed by the International Atomic Energy Agency's 27-3 vote last weekend to report the country to the U.N. Security Council. Teheran reacted by announcing that it would resume full-scale uranium enrichment - producing material that could arm nuclear devices. If Iran wants to enrich uranium, says Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the West "can't do a thing" about it. "Issue as many resolutions like this as you want and make yourself happy. You can't prevent the progress of the Iranian nation."

It looks like a two-fold Iranian front against the West. On the one hand, as a prominent Iranian newspaper says, it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. And on the other, make an atomic bomb to test whether the West will back up the idle threats of democracy and freedom for all under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Of course, Iran says it wants to enrich Iranian uranium for energy. Western intelligence agencies say they have evidence Iran wants The Bomb. Either way, if Iran wants to enrich uranium, it wants into an exclusive international club. Only about 30 nations operate nuclear power plants; fewer than 10 can make nuclear weapons. Those nations all share a secret recipe - the recipe for enriched uranium, which makes nuclear power plants go and nuclear weapons go boom.

Meanwhile, Iran's controversial Natanz uranium processing plant has successfully restarted the sophisticated equipment that could enable it to produce material for nuclear warheads, according to reports received by Western intelligence.

This crucial development follows Iran's decision to withdraw its co-operation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna after the body decided last week to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Also, Iranian officials have moved quickly to obstruct the work of the UN nuclear inspectors still working in the country's nuclear facilities.

Here’s the bottom line: The President will not want to be seen as leaving the White House having allowed Iran's ayatollahs to go atomic. Concomitantly, strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

FYI: I don't know the secret recipe for the bomb but I’ve learned the basics of enriching uranium through some recent research on the subject. I may share this information at a later date. Be patient!

BTW: It will take some time for Iran to acquire the knowledge to make an atomic bomb and the actual construction will take longer; perhaps a total of 3 to 5 years minimum without my help.

Do you feel the pain? Matthew 24 (You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Darwin Day!

Feb. 12, 1809 was the day on which both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born. Though we now celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on President’s Day, Feb. 12th is still referred to as Darwin Day and celebrated around the world.

Hundreds of churches will be singing the praises of Charles Darwin this Sunday. This is not a joke! It’s one more milestone for civil religion. This Sunday, Darwin Day will be celebrated in American churches every where. The same folks who put together the Clergy Letter Project, a letter supporting evolution signed by over 10,200 American pastors, elders, and Christian teachers in America have signed away the authority of Scripture. These pastors and leaders have signed a statement that inappropriately forces the integration of evolution into the text of the Bible, or worse, reduces the Bible to allegorical “moral stories”.

Imagine, a church celebrating a philosophy that contradicts everything Christianity is founded upon. To think that folks would go to church, sing hymns, pray and then hear a message essentially telling them that they were not created by God; instead they were randomly formed when some cosmic dust burst together. Then they hear that life just sort of happens, there's no purpose, it's all random!

What is this all about, really? Who or what is behind all this? Does the church of Jesus Christ need an Evolution Sunday? What does civil religion have to do with this? Is this science merely masquerading as a friend of religion? Either way, it hardly seems Christian, unless Charles Darwin is made a saint. And, of course, according to atheist and chief evolutionist Dr. Richard Dawkins from Oxford University: “Charles Darwin hit upon a truly brilliant idea that elegantly explains all of life on earth without any need to invoke the supernatural or the divine” (cite)

BTW: Is your pastor on this list?

Paul, mentoring Timothy, says, “Preach the Word!”

FYI: An Alternative and Competing Call For Creation Preaching Sunday Here: GenesisOne.org.

What is the work of creation? The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good. - Westminster Shorter Catechism

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cartoon Chuckle Update!

Cartoon Update # 1:
Muslims apologize on behalf of their barbaric brothers!

Chuckle Update # 2:
Take a deep breath & smile a little:
A Moment to Laugh!
by Michelle Malkin

In her words:
Because freedom of speech is the freedom to laugh at human follies -
or at least it should be in the civilized world...”

The Mohammed Dance: Let’s boogie!

Iowahawk spoof: Seething Midwest Explodes over Lombardi Cartoons!

Scrappleface spoof: Cartoon Riots Caused by Looney Tunes, Not Koran!

And here's an amusing video clip from The Daily Show's "resident cartoon analyst:" (hat tip - my web guy, Mark Jaquith) Download and watch the video (Windows Media .wmv file).

Chuckle Update # 3:
Want to see a whole bunch more cartoons? Some not so funny… Well, as you would expect, there are many, many more over at Daryl Cagle's Muhammad cartoons archive.

And here: Samantha Burns.
And here: Cox and Forkum...

Cartoon Chuckle Update # 4:
Note from Sissy Willis: "Those familiar with Islam's literature know of Ubaid Zakani's 'Mush va Gorbeh' (above picture: Mouse and Cat), a match for Rabelais when it comes to mocking religion," writes Amir Taheri in his "Bonfire of the Pieties: Islam prohibits neither images of Muhammad nor jokes about religion" in Opinion Journal this morning. How refreshing to hear from someone who knows something about his subject for a change, beyond the lazy mantra abroad of late that "Images are forbidden in the Koran":

"There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else… The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political. The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists.”

Illustration from a contemporary English version of "Mouse and Cat" by Ubaid Zakani (died circa 1372 A.D.), "one of the most remarkable poets, satirists and social critics of Iran"

-- from the Iranian Ketab Web Store.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Scholarly Imagery!

The world is learning a potent lesson about the power of certain religious imagery as violent and deadly demonstrations continue to erupt over European newspaper cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. The episode also underscores how little many non-Muslims know about Islam and how little agreement there is among Muslim’s over Muhammad’s place within Islam.

So what do the scholars say about those images? What do they represent and why have they incited such reactions? In short, most experts say it is clear that religious sensibilities are at the heart of the uproar and scholars offer the following suggestions for contextualizing the cartoons.

  • Islam sternly prohibits images of God and his prophets. Islamic scholars say, however, that images of Muhammad can be found in markets in Shiite Iran, Egypt and South Asia, and that the current controversy has more to do with the characterization of Muhammad. (The Bible contains a prohibition against "graven images" in the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:4). Religioustolerance.org offers a comparison of the Ten Commandments in the Bible with similar passages in the Quran.)
  • Religious scholars say Muhammad himself has not been a source of controversy within Islam or between Islam and other religions for centuries. Islam's controversies have primarily arisen over interpretations of the Quran - the words revealed to God by Muhammad - and over issues of who has authority to speak for Islam.
  • Debate also arises over sayings of Muhammad outside the Quran. Historian Bernard Lewis noted in his 2002 book The Crisis of Islam that there is a saying attributed to the prophet that not all scholars believe is valid: "If anyone insults me, then any Muslim who hears this must kill him immediately." Osama bin Laden's belief that Muslims have a duty kill Americans is based partly on this saying, coupled with his belief that all Americans insult Muhammad because of the actions of the U.S. government and the nature of U.S. society, scholars say.
  • Starting with Muhammad, who experienced success as a merchant, warrior and statesman, Islam has had a history of inspiring followers to feel bound by religious fellowship that transcends national loyalties.

For more on this see here.

Unlike Muhammad who claims to be a human messenger of God who lived the Quran, Jesus was the Word of God made flesh (John 1.1-14) who perfectly fulfilled the Holy Scripture.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cast that stone!

Today an anonymous commentator on this blog brought to my attention that a prominent Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust. Do you want to guess why? Well, of course, to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Why else?

Forgive me for the cynicism but a newspaper in Iran - run by allies of that country's Jew-hating current president - printing cartoons that might possibly be anti-Jew? Who thought we would ever see that day?

What do you think? Forgive me again, but I, for one, think Iranian newspapers - particularly ones run by cronies of the current president of Iran - should go ahead and run any sort of disturbing Holocaust cartoons they want to. As a matter of fact, I strongly support the right of Iranian newspapers to freely publish whatever they desire. This is, sadly, more than can be said about the Iranian government, whose grip on the press in that country is so total that the 2005 Reporters Without Borders Annual World Press Freedom Index has Iran listed 163rd in a field of 167 (a field in which Denmark, incidentally, ranked number one).

Speaking from a worldly point of view, one can hope that when the allies of Iran's president are enjoying their invigorating smidgen of "free expression," they might consider asking their chum for a little more genuine freedom of the press while they're at it. But, you know, the powers and principalities would need a little tweaking toward the light. So, I'm not exactly holding my breath for that one. After all, if something like that should take place the people who run the paper probably wouldn't remain buddies of the president of Iran. And we all have seen how problematic that can be! I certainly hope they give it a try.

Note: In his 1990 book The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah and the West, Daniel Pipes previewed virtually every facet of the present cartoon intifada. New York Sun carries Pipes's column on the subject: "Cartoons and Islamic imperialism."

BTW: Speaking of Iran and freedom and broader issues of diplomacy, did you know that attacks on foreign embassies are, in fact, attacks on the countries they represent? It is up to the host country to defend embassies from attack. Yet in Iran, such attacks go on.

Denmark protested to Iran about a second day of attacks on its Tehran embassy on Tuesday and demanded protection for its diplomats, amid Muslim outrage at cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad first published in Denmark.

Does it really matter who cast the first stone once it’s thrown?

“As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for.” (The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (1 Pe 2:4). Grand Rapids: Zondervan)

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mt 7:9). Grand Rapids: Zondervan)

Monday, February 06, 2006


No, the letters don't stand for "Was Wacky Muhammad Danish". Rather, they stand for "What Would Muhammad Do?" Perhaps this question is relevant to Christians (WWJD) who are wondering about the current Danish cartoon incident that has become a full-fledged controversy.

A little background, in September 2005, a Danish newspaper called Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in offensive manners. One showed Mohammad as a knife-wielding Bedouin; another showed him with a turban shaped as a bomb; yet another depicted Mohammad standing at the gates of heaven telling suicide bombers: "Stop! Stop! We have run out of virgins!"

For Muslims and religiously sensitive people everywhere, the cartoons were an anomaly. Although their publication was defended in the name of "freedom of expression," they still insulted Mohammad, and it was, at best, a risk for the newspaper to publish them. No serious American newspaper would commission images of Jesus that were solely designed to offend Christians. Certainly Muslims have the right to protest the hurtful and insulting depiction of their Mohammad in the newspaper, just as the newspapers reserve the right to publish said offensive cartoons.

That being said, however, the way in which many Muslims around the world are protesting the cartoons is barbaric. There are street demonstrations across the Middle East, with flag-burnings galore. The Danish Government warned its citizens about traveling to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. It even withdrew aid workers from the Gaza Strip.

Speaking of Gaza, masked gunmen temporarily occupied the EU office in Gaza and warned Danes and Norwegians to stay away. In Indonesia, eggs were pelted at the Danish embassy. In Saudi Arabia - as reported by the Associated Press - two employees of the Danish company Arla Foods were beaten up by angry customers. Two Palestinian militant groups threatened to retaliate against the newspapers by kidnapping Europeans and targeting churches and European offices and this week end thousands of rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to the building housing its diplomatic mission in Beirut in its Christian neighborhood., etc., etc.!

What in God's Name is going on here? What sort of response is this? Is this what Mohammad - the one whom is supposedly being defended by these Muslims - would do in this situation? It seems that the many stories surrounding the life of Mohammad only serve to confuse the issue! On the one hand, much of the folk lore pictures him as peaceful and non-violent. On the other, he is characterized as a vessel of God’s wrath upon non believers and apostates, violent and vengeful and merciless in their destruction.

Here is my point, how could it be that Muslims today - who claim to love their Mohammad deeply and follow his example - react in such an ugly way to the publication of cartoons that depict him in a negative manner? Is all this merely a demonstration of their faith? I mean gunfire at an EU office? Threatening Europeans and churches? Attacking and burning embassies? Beating up employees of Arla Foods? Is this what Muhammad would do?

I wish I had the answer! After all, there are so many other - more dignified, more truly Muslim - ways to lodge a protest against the cartoons. As one Islamic blogger put it, “Muslims could have had a silent vigil in from the Danish embassy, instead of pelting the embassy with eggs. Muslims could have written the newspaper - with polite, non-hateful, non-threatening language - and told it that this is wrong”.

So, I’m perplexed. Why didn’t Muslims take this opportunity to show the world the true face of Muhammad if, indeed, there is one? Why not contrast the hateful face that was printed by the Danish newspaper with the merciful, forgiving face of a true religious leader? There are so many ways to disagree without being violently disagreeable. Is it true, as some have said, Muslims failed to live up to their faith again! Certainly this fuels the fire of the angry slogan of “the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim”.

Indeed, if the publishers of these cartoons think that Muslims are nothing but a bunch of barbarians and to prove it, they intentionally published offensive and provocative cartoons depicting Muhammad in a nasty manner. It worked! Muslims stepped up to the plate and threaten innocent Europeans, shooting guns in the air, and burning Danish flags, building, effigies etc. Perhaps Muslims, by and large, simply took the bait! Or perhaps Muslims, by and large, are barbarians. What do you think? What would Muhammad do?

Note: "While the debate rages, an important point has been overlooked: despite the Islamic prohibition against depicting Mohammed under any circumstances, hundreds of paintings, drawings and other images of Mohammed have been created over the centuries, with nary a word of complaint from the Muslim world. The recent cartoons in Jyllands-Posten are nothing new; it's just that no other images of Mohammed have ever been so widely publicized."

Link to this page to see an archive of numerous depictions of Mohammed serving as a reminder that such imagery has been part of Western and Islamic culture since the Middle Ages.

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish (ESV, Romans 1.14).

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (ESV, Colossians 3.11).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Love the Film? Hate the Sin!

"End of the Spear" is the story of Mincayani, a Waodani tribesman from the jungles of Ecuador. When five young missionaries are speared to death by the Waodani in 1956, a series of events unfold to change the lives of not only the slain missionaries' families, but also Mincayani and his people. Great story, right!

Enter Chad Allen, former drug-using teen heartthrob, lapsed Roman Catholic and gay activist as lead actor in Christian missionary role. The choice of the openly gay Allen as the lead actor in "End of the Spear," a new Christian-made movie about the real-life story of a son, who makes peace with an Amazon tribe that killed his missionary father, has created a dilemma for moviegoers who want to support the movie's message, but not its messenger.

Sadly, Chad Allen is not a follower of Christ himself, despite some Christian influence in his life, including living in the jungle for 3 weeks with Christian Steve Saint and the Waodani Christians. We pray that good influence will one day bear fruit. Steve is a dear and loving Christian who we trust shared the Gospel - and joyfully lives it. In an interview published in InLA magazine Allen mentions his own, rather New Age view,

“I am from a Christian background [Roman Catholic], but I have a personal spirituality that spans the distance from Buddhism to Hindu philosophy to Native American beliefs.”

The plot thickens and sickens: Allen is openly homosexual and a high-profile Gay Rights activist and producer. He promoted same-sex marriage and Gay/Lesbian adoption in a debate against Pastor John MacArthur on the Larry King Live show (Feb. 24, 2004). A few days before End of the Spear was released, he again defended Gay marriage on Larry King Live (Jan. 17, 2006), debating against Albert Mohler, Jr., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and conservative radio host Janet Parshall.

What went wrong? For one thing, when the movie's producers offered the part to Allen they didn't know he was gay. Ultimately, however, the decision to leave Allen in the role was left up to the man the movie is based on, Steve Saint, since Allen was set to play Steve - and his slain father - in the film. "My dad was my hero, and the thought of someone playing him that advocates that lifestyle made me very uncomfortable," says Saint. "But I realized it wasn't for me to condone or to condemn what Chad does or doesn't do. That is God's prerogative. And I feel that God had his hand in setting up this complex scenario for Chad to play this part."

Not everyone agrees that Allen is God-sent. One popular pastor recently got more than 100 other pastors to join him in signing a letter to the movie's producers saying that they couldn't in good conscience support the film. On the other hand, there is, according to Allen, one upside to having him in the movie. "I'm absolutely sure we're having people check it out that never would have gone to a 'Christian' movie," says Allen. "I went with 30 of my close friends, and we walked away having these amazing spiritual conversations together."

Here’s the rub: is not this analogous to what those Missionaries were trying to do in that Amazon jungle.

What were the producers thinking? Response from the Director of “End of the Spear” on criticism received about the casting of Chad Allen (off-site blog)

For more on why you may want to see the movie click here.

Answers about homosexuality: What about gays needs to change?
Answer - It may not be what you think.

What's wrong with being gay?
Answer (Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone's business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?)

What does the Bible say about same sex marriage?

What should be the attitude of the church toward gays and homosexuality?

How to share Christ's message with homosexuals

Claim: God made me a homosexual. Response

Christians, please join me in fervently praying that Mr. Allen will one day repent of the sins he is practicing, as Nate Saint and Jim Elliot did, and humbly serve our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than opposing Him.

The end of his story is known only to God!