Religious Rally Against Israel

Religious Rally Against Israel

Posted By Mark D. Tooley On June 11, 2010 @ 12:19 am In FrontPage | 18 Comments

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) tries to organize American religious opinion against Israel with relatively measured tones.  Its participants predictably include officials from the left-dominated Mainline Protestant denominations, liberal Catholic orders, and the Greek Archdiocese of North America, as well as the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the U.S.  Its official “friends” include more overtly anti-Israel diehards like Friends of Sabeel – North America, which essentially wants to dissolve Jewish Israel in favor of a multi-ethnic “Palestine.”   Various advocates of anti-Israel divestment, an otherwise largely defeated cause, are also “friends” to CEMP, including the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

The star of CMEP’s annual “advocacy” conference in Washington, D.C. starting June 13 will be Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  Comfortably liberal Episcopal refinement is exactly the sort of tone that CMEP often prefers to mask its more provocative agenda.  Bishop Schori is enmeshed in the melt-down of her own denomination, including lawsuits against departing local congregations, and its schism with the more theologically orthodox global Anglican Communion.  But denouncing Israel still merits her attention.

Last week, she wrote President Obama a relatively long, substantive and, by Religious left standards, temperate denunciation of Israel’s interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla. But the bias and preoccupation with Israeli sins, perceived or real, are still obvious, even if cloaked in Episcopalian politesse.  Admitting all the details of the flotilla event are still unclear, she still insisted:   “It is clear, however, that the deaths of civilians working to deliver humanitarian aid could not have happened absent the counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza.”  Ostensibly there are “far better ways to protect Israel’s security and promote moderate political leadership in Gaza than a blockade that intensifies human suffering and perpetuates regional insecurity.”

What are the alternatives to counteracting Hamas rule in Gaza short of a partial blockade against it?  Like most Israel critics, Bishop Schori does not say.  And as with other professions of supposed concern about Israel’s “security,” Bishop Schori and other clerics who publicly pontificate about the Middle East almost never offer substitute proposals for whatever Israeli defenses they reject.  The security wall is supposedly an outrage, but what else will impede suicide bombers?  Israel’s continued security oversight of the West Bank is purportedly oppresses the Palestinians.  But since most Palestinians still seem to reject a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside a Jewish Israel, what are the other options?  Religious and secular complainants insist that removal of Jewish settlements from the West Bank is prerequisite for peace.  But the abrupt closure of all Jewish settlements in Gaza hardly generated good will and instead seemed only to stimulate appetite for more Israeli concessions.  Browbeating Israel into endless accommodations that only feed an inexhaustible expectation by Palestinians for further Israeli retreat and eventual Arab/Islamist triumph seems to be the Religious Left’s main strategy for Middle East “peace.”

“Instead of enhancing Israel’s security, the blockade has harmed its international standing and imposed an inexcusable humanitarian toll on the people of Gaza,” Bishop Schori insisted in her letter to Obama.  ”While Israel has allowed a very limited amount of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, the restriction on basic goods for agriculture, fishing, and infrastructure construction has caused poverty and joblessness to soar.”  This may be true, but why is Israel exclusively at fault for Gaza’s suffering?  How was Gaza faring before to the blockade, and under the rule of the Palestinian Authority?  What evidence is there for Palestinian leadership genuinely interested in responsible governance rather than indefinite conflict?

Bishop Schori provided details about the number of trucks with supplies entering Gaza per day. The concern is partly admirable, if sincere.  But why is a U.S. Episcopal Bishop obsessed with living standards for Gaza, or the Palestinians, when hundreds of millions globally live in far greater poverty?  Would Palestinian GNP, in Gaza or the West Bank, interest liberal U.S. bishops at all, absent Israel as the targeted culprit?  How many anti-Western dictators have blockaded or literally starved hostile populations much larger than Gaza, without a murmur from Bishop Schori or the Religious Left?

Rather than tacitly backing an ill-advised blockade, the U.S. should work with its ally, Israel, to promote constructive new policies toward Gaza that serve the aims of peace and security,” Bishop Schori lectured.  The former oceanographer and teacher wants “continued efforts to halt violence, and credible long-term strategies to support Palestinian leaders who are actively working for peace,” while also drawing “support and legitimacy from across Palestinian society.”  She suggests “political reconciliation so that a future Palestinian government can draw strength both from its internal support and from its external actions on behalf of peace.”  How does the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop, unable to reconcile the divisions within her own denomination of tea sippers and Volvo drivers, propose to reconcile Hamas with other Palestinians, much less Israel?

For Schori, the goals for the Middle East are simple.  The Episcopal Church has “repeatedly” supported a “secure Israel with defined borders, whose right to exist is universally recognized; a sovereign, independent and secure state for the Palestinian people; and shared custody and protection of the holy sites in Jerusalem held sacred by the three great Abrahamic faiths.”  This rhetoric appeals to Episcopalians snugly secure in their New England hamlets.  But how many Palestinians, even outside Hamas, share this vision?

Schori instructed Obama to shift our nation’s posture” towards “lifting the blockade,” while also “robustly” encouraging “long-term peace.”  She also expects “direct negotiation between the parties,” i.e. apparent recognition for Hamas.  How will abandoning the Gaza blockade and recognizing Hamas, which would surely inflate that Islamist group’s prestige and ambitions, advance peace?   In the rarified and often beautiful world of Episcopal liturgy, noblesse oblige, gothic spires, and ancient endowments, simply demanding “long-term peace’ may seem quite attainable over a lunch at the country club.  In the real world of guns, power, and even more ancient hatreds, appeasement often only breeds greater conflict.

Bishop Schori’s pleas to appease Hamas were relatively more thoughtful than other Religious Left voices.  United Methodist lobbyist Jim Winkler histrionically bewailed Israel’s “high-seas piracy” against the “Freedom Flotilla.”  But her appeal to Obama, and her likely commentary to Churches for Middle East Peace later this week, are just as feckless, and, if heeded, just as dangerous.

On Satan’s trail with Don Gabriele, the world’s most famous exorcist

On Satan’s trail with Don Gabriele, the world’s most famous exorcist

Richard Owen, Rome

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Father Gabriele Amorth said Pope Benedict XVI himself ?fully believes in liberation from Evil, because the Devil lodges in the Vatican.

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Father Gabriele Amorth

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“Are you afraid of the Devil?” The world’s most famous exorcist levels his gaze at me and then smiles.

“No, it is he who is afraid of me. I work in the name of the Lord. Poor Satan.”

Poor Satan?

“Oh yes. The Evil One shouts and makes noises, but we are made in God’s image, we have the Holy Trinity on our side. There is no need to be afraid of the Devil unless we give in to his temptations.”

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We are in the infirmary of the Society of St Paul, the order of Father Gabriele Amorth, in the shadow of St Paul’s Basilica, Rome. The Vatican’s chief exorcist was taken to hospital last autumn with a blood infection and is now convalescing — “they found nothing serious”. Perhaps it was the Devil who laid him low. “Oh no — just an illness. He has more serious evil to perform.”

Father Amorth made headlines this week by suggesting that those who had “given in to Satan’s temptations” included paedophile priests and even some cardinals and bishops who paid only lip service to the Gospels.

The growing crisis over the clerical sex abuse now engulfing Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican, he said, was the work of Satan, who had even “infiltrated the Vatican corridors”.

Is the sex abuse crisis really due to the Devil? “Oh yes. All evil is due to the intervention of the Devil, including paedophilia.”

And the Vatican? “Legions of demons have lodged there. The majority of those in the Vatican do good work. But Pope Paul VI talked about the ‘smoke of Satan’ infiltrating the Vatican as long ago as 1972. Satan sets out to damage the leadership of the Church — and of politics, industry and sport, for that matter.”

And although all manner of incidents, scandals and misdemeanours in Italy and abroad leap to mind as potential evidence of diabolical intervention, he declines to give examples. Father Amorth — or Don Gabriele, as he is universally known — has just published The Memoirs of an Exorcist, a book of interviews with Marco Tosatti, the Vatican journalist. In a style that is somewhat reminiscent of a medieval chronicle, he describes his often hair-raising experiences over the past quarter of a century in the front line against the Evil One and his minions.

Father Amorth, aged nearly 85, is honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists. He fought for the Resistance in the Second World War, took a law degree but then entered the Church. He began conducting exorcisms shortly after his ordination 60 years ago; in 1986 he was appointed by Cardinal Ugo Poletti, then the Vicar of Rome, as assistant to Father Candido Amantini, the chief exorcist, eventually succeeding him.

Now frail, he becomes animated as he describes his life-long struggle with demons who possess the bodies of their victims, at one stage spreading his arms wide to show me the length of one particular demon occupying the body of a woman he had “liberated”.

He talks to Lucifer and his demons, he says, and knows their names. On the writing table in his room he keeps pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, “who came into the world to fight the Devil and return us to God”. But the modern world, he says, has “given in to the Evil One. You see it in the lack of faith, the empty churches, the collapse of the family.”

“Compare the world of today to when I was a boy in Modena: families and parish communities were strong, women did not go out to work. Now they have to because one income cannot support a family. So young people are left to their own devices, they get into bad company, they have lost their roots and replaced them with the negative influences of television and the internet, or the occult.”

What about those who believe in neither God nor Satan? “The Devil is only too happy to take advantage of those who do not believe in his existence. It means he can operate with complete freedom, even inside the Church. He exploits lust and power.”

The Devil tries to reach all of us, Father Amorth adds, and “the possessed are those who listen to him most. Mind you, they are a minority. If you read my book you might get the impression the whole world is possessed, but I am describing a small number of cases, comparatively speaking.”

His claim to have carried out 70,000 exorcisms seems incredible. “But I was talking about the number of exorcisms, not the number of people exorcised. You often have to exorcise someone dozens, even hundreds, of times, and an exorcism ritual can take anything from a few minutes to several hours.”

Exorcism can only be done with the approval of the local bishop, usually after medical or psychiatric tests show no rational explanation for the symptoms, which include vomiting, violent headaches and stomach cramps but also superhuman strength, fits and extreme aversion to holy symbols. He is adept, he says, at distinguishing hysterics from the real thing. There are more women than men among the possessed, “but we don’t know why. There are various explanations: Satan taking revenge on the Virgin Mary, or using women as a means of reaching men. None of them is convincing.”

The possessed talk in languages they do not know, including ancient tongues such as Aramaic, the language of Christ. “Sometimes the language is incomprehensible. I once asked a demon what it was and he said, ‘Satanic language’.” The victims often react so violently to the ritual of prayers, incantations, holy water and the sign of the Cross that they have to be held or tied down while the priest touches the possessed person with his stole and places his hand on his or her head.

In many cases, he says, they vomit objects such as nails or glass. Father Amorth has a collection weighing two kilograms. “You get used to being vomited over. I once performed an exorcism on a woman who managed to hit me in the face with a stream of vomit from the other side of the room — physically impossible.”

The Devil, he says, is humourless but does sometimes play tricks. He and his demons speak through the victim, sometimes using their normal voice but sometimes in hoarse, raucous tones. He imitates the unnerving low growl for me. They are not, however visible, any more than angels are.

“Angels exist, and how, but they are not as depicted in art — they are pure spirit. We all have guardian angels. Demons are, of course, fallen angels who rebelled against God; that is why they are so intelligent, and so arrogant.”

He does not believe in ghosts, which are “an invention of the human mind”.

Father Amorth has no designated successor, and complains that even now the Church hierarchy does not take exorcism — or the Devil — seriously enough. But “the Lord has made use of me” and his example has inspired many other priests — as did the 1973 film The Exorcist, which although “exaggerated” was “substantially true”.

At his age does he still have the stomach for the battle with Satan? “Oh yes. I have work to do.”

Banished! City forbids Bible studies in homes The city of Gilbert, Ariz., has ordered a group of seven adults to stop gathering for Bible studies in a private home because such meetings are forbidden by the city’s zoning codes.

Banished! City forbids Bible studies in homes

‘This letter will serve as a 10-day written notice to quit such use’


Posted: March 13, 2010
12:20 am Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

The city of Gilbert, Ariz., has ordered a group of seven adults to stop gathering for Bible studies in a private home because such meetings are forbidden by the city’s zoning codes.

The issue was brought to a head when city officials wrote a letter to a pastor and his wife informing them they had 10 days to quit having the meetings in their private home.

The ban, however, prompted a response from the Alliance Defense Fund, which filed an appeal with the city as the first step in its campaign to overturn a provision it describes as illegal.

 

“The interpretation and enforcement of the town’s code is clearly unconstitutional, ” said Daniel Blomberg, a member of the litigation team for ADF. “It bans 200,000 Gilbert residents from meeting in their private homes for organized religious purposes – an activity encouraged in the Bible, practiced for thousands of years, and protected by the First Amendment.”

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The appeal was filed on behalf of the members, all seven, of the Oasis of Truth Church.

Pastor Joe Sutherland had been told in a letter from code compliance officer Steve Wallace that the people were not allowed to meet in a home for church activities under the city’s Land Development Code.

(There had been no complaints about the meetings, which had been rotating among members’ homes before the officer wrote the letter and ordered the group to “terminate all religious meetings … regardless of their size, nature or frequency,” because he noticed signs about the meetings.

The town interprets its law so that “churches within its borders cannot have any home meetings of any size, including Bible studies, three-person church leadership meetings and potluck dinners,” ADF said.

A city letter confirmed, “Given that the church is considered to be religious assembly, and given the LDC provisions prohibiting that use on Local streets without Use Permits and prohibiting it in single family residential structures, it follows that the church meetings cannot be held in the home.”

“The assembly activities associated with the church, including Bible studies, church leadership meetings and church fellowship activities are not permitted,” wrote Mike Milillo, the city’s senior planner.

“This ban is defended based upon traffic, parking, and building safety concerns. However, nothing in its zoning code prevents weekly Cub Scouts meetings, Monday Night Football parties with numerous attendees or large business parties from being held on a regular basis in private homes,” the ADF said.

The few adults in the church had met for a few hours weekly in members’ homes.

The ADF argues such bans violate the Constitution’s free-exercise clause, and even the state’s Free Exercise of Religion Act protects such meetings.

Further, the restrictions imposed by the city violate the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which grants significant authority for churches to pursue their ministry goals.

Finally, Blomberg said, “the First Amendment’s free-speech clause prevents the town from stopping the church from holding its meetings on the public sidewalk outside the pastor’s home, yet the town won’t allow him to hold the same meetings just a few feet away in the privacy of his own living room.”

The small church has been forced to halt its regular meetings. It meets now in a local school but only can afford the rental once a week.

A spokeswoman for the city of Gilbert told WND city officials were aware of the concern and planned to address it.

Vice Mayor Linda Abbott told WND the code apparently was adopted years earlier, and there was considerable concern on the city council because of the current issues.

“I’m not in favor of that code. That is something we would want revisited,” she said.

WND reported a similar situation in San Diego County. In that case, officials eventually withdrew a warning letter and a cease-and-desist order they had issued against a pastor who had been holding a weekly Bible study in his home.

“I want to offer my apology to you, your wife and your congregation for the unfortunate events of the past several weeks,” said the letter from Walter F. Ekard, chief officer of the county. “My review of the situation shows that no administrative citation warning should have been issued and that a major use permit is not required for the Bible study you have in your home.”

The Religious Left Targets Israel

The Religious Left Targets Israel

Posted By Mark D. Tooley On February 17, 2010 @ 12:03 am In FrontPage | 16 Comments

Seemingly not content with its already extensive anti-Israel activism, the Swiss-based World Council of Churches, comprised of over 300 denominations, is highlighting a new anti-Israel initiative.

The WCC’s blandly but revealingly named “Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum” (PIEF) has been around a few years but has just unveiled its own website [1] and newsletter, presumably in a new wave of protest against “The Occupation.”

According to PIEF’s new website, it plans to “catalyze and coordinate new and existing church advocacy for peace, aimed at ending the illegal occupation in accordance with UN resolutions, and demonstrate its commitment to inter-religious action for peace and justice that serves all the peoples of the region.”

Translation:  the WCC wants to fine tune its Religious Left alliances for undermining Israel’s legitimacy by faulting Israel exclusively for Palestinian suffering.  Tragically, the Religious Left’s ostensible concern for Palestinians is similar to much of the Arab world’s supposed concern.  For both, the Palestinians are mostly useful props for assailing Israel.   A more sincere and thoughtful empathy for Palestinians might them urge to follow the example of Israel’s founders 60 years ago:  take the deal available and strive to create a productive nation.

Ironically, the Religious Left’s contrived solidarity with Palestinians, like the international secular Left’s, will only help fuel unrealizable Palestinian hopes for demographically, if not militarily, deconstructing a Jewish Israel.  The ultimate beneficiaries of these anti-Israel campaigns are Hamas-style militants, who prefer unending conflict with Israel, and the West, to any decent settlement for Palestinians.

Either groups like the WCC and its PIEF are insidiously clever or simply willfully naïve, probably the latter. PIEF wants to target “government” and “public”  support for The Occupation, as well as its ostensibly “theological and biblical justifications.”  In other words, a primary objective is to discredit pro-Israel Christians in the U.S., not to mention Jewish historic rootedness to Israel.   It also wants to help uphold a “viable the Palestinian Christian presence in the Holy Land.”

Almost all the anti-Israel Religious Left groups profess to be very interested in defending the Christian presence in the West Bank and Gaza. Their interest is largely limited to identifying Israel as the anti-Christian persecutor, because they typically have little interest in often more threatened Christian communities in neighboring Arab countries.  Nor do they delve very deeply into why Christians are leaving the Holy Land, an ongoing exodus that long predates Israel’s founding, and which has accelerated since the Palestinian Authority’s creation and Israel’s partial withdrawal.   Obligingly, the Religious Left, including WCC/PIEF, quote Christian prelates in the West Bank, without admitting the political necessity for Christian Palestinians, as merely one percent of Palestinians, to burnish their anti-Israel credentials in a bid for survival among often hostile Muslims.

Radical Islam’s threat to Christians, to Israel, and to non-militant Palestinians goes unremarked by WCC/PIEF, as it usually does by the Religious Left as a whole.  PIEF’s website complains about Israel’s Gaza incursion and the “continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip” as “increasingly stringent” and a likely “form of collective punishment.”  This “blockade” has subjected 1.5 million Gazans to “unemployment, penury and malnutrition,” the WCC/PIEF bewail.  But Hamas’s misrule, terrorism and arms smuggling are naturally unmentioned as the cause for closing Gaza’s borders.  That Egypt has joined Israel in containing Hamas-controlled Gaza is likewise unnoted.

PIEF’s first newsletter focuses on Gaza’s “humanitarian and political crisis” as an obstacle to “just and durable solutions.”  Apparently Gaza would be fine if only Israel had not militarily interceded to halt rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.   Or at least so PIEF asserts. In fact, even before the Hamas putsch against less rabid Palestinian rule, Yasir Arafat’s regime was scandalously bleeding Gaza of its already limited wealth in support of lavish living by Arafat cronies.  Theoretically, Gaza could be a thriving beach resort for European tourists, further engorged by endless international aid.  But of course its Palestinian rulers, with not inconsiderable public support from Gazans, prefer self-defeating conflict with Israel to any meaningful economic or political future.

According to PIEF, millions of dollars in international aid for Gaza has not helped Gazans because “essential supplies to Gaza are cut off.”  But Gaza’s declining fortunes began well before the Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions. “Churches must intercede in a way to guarantee that aid reaches the suffering swiftly,” PIEF implores.  “There needs to be concerted insistence on the assertion of accepted humanitarian practices and policy which guarantee that aid reaches those who need urgent without impediments of any sort.”

The Religious Left’s professed humanitarian concerns would be laudable, absent the crass political calculations behind it.  The Religious Left has long championed relief for impoverished Cuba, only because U.S. sanctions can be faulted.  The Religious Left similarly was supposedly very concerned about the Iraqi people under United Nations sanctions against Saddam Hussein, but only because the U.S. was the ultimate villain.  North Korea’s deplorable poverty and starvation periodically arouse Religious Left interest, but again only because of the U.S. angle.   The Palestinian Authority’s failed regime in the West Bank, and even more deplorable Hamas despotism in Gaza, with all the consequent suffering, would likely never cross the Religious Left radar screen, or generate groups like the WCC’s PIEF, were Israel and its U.S. ally not the final targets.


Article printed from FrontPage Magazine: http://frontpagemag.com

URL to article: http://frontpagemag.com/2010/02/17/the-religious-left-targets-israel/

URLs in this post:

[1] own website: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-affirming-peace/churches-in-the-middle-east/pief/pief-home.html

Ahmadinejad dines with church officials in New York.

A Feast with the Beast
Ahmadinejad dines with church officials in New York.
by Mark D. Tooley
10/02/2008 12:30:00 AM

IN A FOURTH encounter over two years, American church officials shared an Iftar meal with the visiting Iranian president on September 28 in New York City. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier in the day had delivered his usual rant against Israel and the United States at the United Nations. But hosting religious officials, anxious for dialogue, were undeterred. Nor were they were intimidated by boisterous demonstrators outside their Manhattan hotel, where some placards demanded: “No Feast with the Beast.”

Hosts of the evening with Ahmadinejad were the Mennonite Central Committee, the Americans Friends Service Committee (Quakers), the World Council of Churches’ UN Liaison Office and Religions for Peace. About 300 religious representatives attended, mostly American church officials, but also including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, leftist Jewish Renewal movement chief Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a Zoroastrian priest, and former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik, a Lutheran minister.

Called “Has Not One God Created Us?”, the meal and gabfest “demonstrated both the power and potential of religious leaders contributing to peace,” explained a World Council of Churches (WCC) official. “While there were points of contention and clear disagreements, the event reaffirmed that religious traditions insist on dialogue, respect and love for peace making.” The discussion question for the evening was: “What does my faith tradition bring to the struggle to eliminate poverty, injustice, global warming and war?”

Moderating the evening with Ahmadinejad was former Indiana Democratic congressman John Brademas, who is also President Emeritus of New York University. “We believe that war is not the solution to the differences that divide peoples,” Brademas implored, according to a WCC report. “Dialogue can make a real difference.”

Finding left-wing church officials to meet with Ahmadinejad is relatively easy. Finding willing Jewish leaders has been considerably harder. But Rabbi Gottlieb has previously joined in the interfaith outreach to Iran. “Torah councils us that no matter what problems face us, we are to engage in solutions through dialogue, reconciliation and peace building measures,” she opined, according to the WCC. “Dialogue brings many perspectives together, gives special attention to minority opinions and must be conducted by treating everyone with respect.”

Some participating church groups published reports of their evening with Ahmadinejad, but they focused on their own comments, while mostly only paraphrasing the Iranian president. According to the WCC, Ahmadinejad addressed the “commonalities of religions, the fundamental place of justice, and the essential role religion plays in the spiritual, moral and legislative fabric of society,” while stressing the “dire situation facing the world and called with urgency for religious groups to contribute to peace building.”

But according to Reuters, Ahmadinejad specifically denied that he is anti-Semitic, instead insisting he only opposes the “Zionist regime.” During his earlier UN speech, he had denounced “Zionist murderers” and purported Zionist influence on world finance. “As soon as anyone objects to the behavior of the Zionist regime, they’re accused of being anti-Semitic, whereas the Jewish people are not Zionists,” Ahmadinejad reportedly told the religious officials. “Zionism is a political party that has nothing to do with Jewish people.” He also denounced “selfish powers” that try to dominate the globe and oppose Iran’s supposedly peaceful nuclear program. “A lot of it was very challenging,” Rabbi Gottlieb admitted afterwards to Reuters. She said Ahmadinejad had not specifically denied the Holocaust to the religious officials but had minimized it in his description of World War II.

Some of Ahmadinejad’s comments were responding to questions from Mennonite official Arli Klassen, who symbolically lit an oil lamp before talking about peacemaking, according to a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) report. “As a Christian, I believe that we are following Jesus Christ’s example and his teaching as we eat together and hold this dialogue despite our many differences,” she explained. “We ask you to find a way within your own country to allow for religious diversity, and to allow people to make their own choices as to which religion they will follow.” Klassen also told Ahmadinejad that she was “deeply concerned” about his Holocaust statements and asked him to “change the way” he speaks about it. She likewise pressed him to declare that his “one-state solution” to the Palestine/Israel conflict was a “political, not a military solution.”

The MCC reported that Ahmadinejad did not respond to the concern about human rights in Iran, instead speaking “at length about theological issues, such as monotheism, justice and commonalities among religions.” His remarks about opposing Zionism did not make it into the MCC account. “All divine prophets have spoken of one truth,” Ahmadinejad sermonized. “The religion of Islam is the same as that offered by Moses.” According to the MCC, he decried the suffering from wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon and spoke “extensively” about the Palestinians’ difficulties. And he criticized the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

United Methodist Women’s chief Harriett Jane Olson told Reuters afterwards that she wished Ahmadinejad had talked about “practical issues” such as the treatment of women and children in Iran instead of abstract theology. But most of the quoted religious officials expressed appreciation for the chance at dialogue with Ahmadinejad. “While there were points of contention and clear disagreements, the event reaffirmed that religious traditions insist on dialogue, respect and love for peace making,” a WCC host commented.

Notably absent from the interfaith evening with Ahmadinejad was the National Council of Churches (NCC), whose chief, Michael Kinnamon instead released a statement to be read at an earlier anti-Ahmadinejad rally. “President Ahmadinejad’s hateful language, denying the Holocaust and apparently calling for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map,’ must be persistently and forcefully denounced by all who value peace,” the ecumenical official declared. “If President Ahmadinejad has so little regard for the verifiable facts of history and the legitimacy of a state created by UN decision, it is hard to believe he means it when he insists that Iran’s nuclear program is only intended for peaceful purposes.”

Also remarkable was a statement specifically against the dinner with Ahmadinejad by the president of the very liberal United Church of Christ (UCC), a routine partner in such interfaith political events. “I fear the occasion can and will be used by President Ahmadinejad to claim legitimacy and support for himself by an association with respected United States religious leaders,” said the Rev. John Thomas. “I respect the sponsoring organizations’ intent for dialogue, but fear that the more likely outcome is sowing confusion and disappointment among our own members and, in particular, the American Jewish community.”

The NCC and UCC leadership have been sensitized to contacts with Ahmadinejad, thanks mostly to warnings from U.S. Jewish groups. The other denominations that sent representatives to the Iftar dinner included the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), all of which, along with the UCC, have recently rejected anti-Israel divestment initiatives, thanks partly to appeals from American Jews.

An attending Presbyterian official explained that he was attending the dinner to press for the release of a recently arrested Protestant minister in Iran. It’s not clear whether he had the chance. After his long speech, Ahmadinejad left the hotel without taking any questions.

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

ADL: Religious groups’ plan to break bread with Ahmadinejad is a ‘betrayal’

ADL: Religious groups’ plan to break bread with Ahmadinejad is a ‘betrayal’
By Shlomo Shamir and Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: Iran, Israel, ADL 
Five American religious organizations have announced plans to host a dinner to break the Ramadan fast with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his upcoming visit to the United States.

The Mennonite Central Committee, the Quakers, the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee are sponsoring the meeting with President Ahmadinejad on September 25 in New York City.

The dinner to break the Ramadan fast, called an Iftar, is being billed as “an international dialogue between religious leaders and political figures” in a conversation “about the role of religions in tackling global challenges and building peaceful societies.”

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National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Abraham H. Foxman, issued a response to the announcement, calling the planned event “a perversion of the search for peace and an appalling betrayal of religious values.”

“It simply defies belief that five organizations with a mission of promoting peace through dialogue would choose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from among the hundreds of world leaders and ambassadors who will be in New York this month, as an appropriate and legitimate interlocutor on world peace,” Foxman said.

Foxman continued, “In extending an invitation to Ahmadinejad, the religious organizations sponsoring this dinner have tarnished their reputations as peace seekers and bridge builders. Their breaking bread with President Ahmadinejad is a perversion of the search for peace and an appalling betrayal of religious values.”

Ahmadinejad has caused international uproar with his continued denial of the Holocaust and his frequent anti-Israel tirades, in which he has called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

The Fourth of July: A Day of Mourning?

The Fourth of July: A Day of Mourning?

By Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | 7/3/2008

Should Christians mourn on July 4, given what a disaster the United States has been for the world? Much of the Religious Left thinks so!

Undoubtedly speaking for many left-wing seminary faculty and clergy, Ted Smith of Vanderbilt University penned an editorial for this month’s Christian Century magazine called: “The Fourth of July: How Does a Christian Celebrate?”

The answer from Smith is: very carefully, if at all. He recalls the early misgivings he had about Independence Day when he was a young staffer at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in 1989. The horror of it all smacked him like a hot skillet.

“We were training death squads to terrorize people in El Salvador, selling weapons to Iran to fund a revolution against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua, trading freely with an apartheid-dominated South Africa, and propping up a vicious dictator in Iraq named Saddam Hussein. And that was just our foreign policy.”

Smith’s memories are darkly stained by his far left ideology. His recollection of “death squads” refers to successful U.S. support for the elected, Christian Democratic regime in El Salvador, which was attempting to survive against a Soviet-supported Marxist insurgency. His recollection of U.S. weapons sales to Iran was a misbegotten attempt to bolster Iranian “moderates” and free U.S. hostages in Lebanon. His citation of the “democratically elected” regime in Nicaragua refers to the Marxist Sandinistas, who seized and retained power at the point of a gun. His memory of U.S. trade with Apartheid era South Africa does not include the partial U.S. sanctions imposed n 1986, nor the fact that by 1989, under newly elected President Frederik De Klerk, Apartheid was already crumbling. By “propping up” Saddam Hussein, he means that the U.S., along with other Western and Arab countries, tilted towards Iraq against the Ayatollah’s Iran, whose war with Iraq had ended in 1988, thanks partly to the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.

Note that Smith, in his historical review, omits any mention of the most historically significant event of 1989: the collapse of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe after 44 years, thanks partly to U.S. perseverance during the Cold War.

Smith goes on to describe the nightmares at home in America: “We had millions—millions!—of people with unlivable housing or no housing at all. Some of them came to the patio of the bar [where Smith had a part time job during his State Department stint] and asked for food. A crack epidemic raged. The president had won the election in large part by playing on white Americans’ fears of African-American men and promising to get tough. It is tempting to blame one party or one politician for these failings. But the years since that summer have made clear just how deeply and widely they are woven into the life of our nation.”

In fact, while Smith remembers only homelessness, a favorite media preoccupation during the Reagan years, by 1989, the U.S. had had 6 years of robust economic growth, falling unemployment and reduced poverty. His recall of a supposedly racist election refers presumably to television ads about the furloughing of killer/rapist Willie Horton that an independent agency ran to benefit the campaign of George H.W. Bush against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

“This was not the nation I had marched for as a child,” Smith somberly remembers. “Instead of shining like a city on a hill, we were acting in ways that could not survive disclosure. Forgetting our faith that all people are created equal, we were undertaking policies that sought to widen and legitimate inequalities of many kinds.” By 1996, convinced that the founding ideals of the U.S. intrinsically perpetuated “inequality,” Smith stoically refused to celebrate Independence Day altogether: “I celebrated the Fourth like a Puritan of the old school celebrated Christmas: I went about my business as conspicuously as I could. I prayed for the country and then did my daily work as pastor. I questioned not just whether the U.S. was living up to its ideals, but whether those ideals were worth living up to at all. I still do.”

Smith recounts, later in 2003, when asked by Emory University to advise on whether or how the 4th of July might be celebrated, he realized that “we cannot invent new lives that are completely outside of or apart from this nation.” He told the Emory students that he would “love my country like I love my family—as that which has been given to me to nurture, chastise, wrestle with, care for, raise up, suffer beside, celebrate with, and love.” That year, Smith “tried to celebrate the Fourth as a chastened, realist, radical, democratic Christian.”

Thank goodness Smith gave the go ahead for Emory students to honor Independence Day! Today, he “would not want to renounce any of these celebrations of the Fourth,” or “other faithful attempts to mark this day.” What are these other “attempts”? He does not explain but suggests that “our separate stumblings through the Fourth” are a beautiful constellation that is “complex” and “plural.” Who knew that July 4th could be such a byzantine labyrinth of emotions and anxieties?

At least Smith has abandoned his full throttle boycott of American Independence Day, despite his dreadful memories of America’s crimes during the 1980’s. No doubt other, less temperate, seminary professors will grimly acknowledge the 4th of July only as a sad day of mourning for all of America’s genocides and thefts. But the vast majority of America’s Christians, unencumbered by far-left seminary indoctrinations, will robustly celebrate God’s blessing upon their nation.


Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Presbyterians Urged To Side With Palestinians

Presbyterians Urged To Side With Palestinians

By JOSH GERSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun
June 25, 2008
http://www.nysun.com/national/presbyterians-urged-to-side-with-palestinians/80623/

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Presbyterian Church is hearing impassioned pleas to declare its solidarity with the Palestinian Arabs by adopting a series of anti-Israel measures, including proposals for divestment and for backing a suspension of American military aid to the Jewish state.

RELATED: Presbyterian Church Proposals Could Reopen Wounds With Jews.

Click to enlarge image >

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at Washington, DC in April 2005.

 

At a session that began yesterday afternoon and stretched into the night, a church committee on peacemaking heard a range of public testimony on the measures, which may be referred on to the American church’s general assembly holding its biannual meeting here this week.

“The situation in Palestine is dire. The call from our Palestinian brothers and sisters has fallen on deaf ears,” a Presbyterian minister, Reverend William McGarvey of San Francisco, told the committee. “The American Christian church has largely watched this catastrophe continue as if we did not care.”

In the first round of votes, the Presbyterian committee seemed to signal a reluctance to trigger a new round of recriminations by re-embracing a divestment initiative that the church adopted in 2004, but shied away from two years later. Last night, the peacemaking panel voted, 32-23, to strike language that would authorize a council of church leaders to carry out divestment without further approval from the general assembly.

However, moments later, the committee voted, 38-26, to endorse the Amman Call, a peace proposal that includes a Palestinian Arab “right of return,” a guarantee that Jewish leaders contend would lead to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state.

Some Presbyterian leaders spoke out yesterday against the anti-Israel proposals and offered alternatives calling for a “nonpartisan” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

“We have to try to do the impossible that is to try to say both sides in this conflict, ‘We want to be an agent of reconciliation.’ If we choose one side over the other, we have lost that opportunity,” a minister from Idaho, Reverend Robert Henley, said.

“Whether it is our mission network, our staff, or our leadership, we are overinvested and have been for some time in the Palestinian narrative,” a Presbyterian who leads an anti-divestment group, James Roberts, said.

A Palestinian religious leader, Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Haifa, told the Presbyterians that they should not adopt measures calling for further study and a more balanced approach.

“If the good Samaritan would not have cared, the Jew would have been killed. If he went on fact-finding, the Jew would have been killed. But he got his hands dirty. And I urge you to get your hands dirty, to take sides,” the prelate said.

Although Father Chacour was designated to speak in favor of several of the anti-Israel proposals, he stopped short of endorsing the one calling for divestment against two American firms whose equipment is used by the Israeli Army. “Instead of being cornered with divestment, why don’t you take a proactive initiative, a kind of reinvestment?” he asked. “We would welcome a positive action rather than continue criticism of one side against the other.”

Jewish leaders have warned that passage of some of the “overtures” could lead to a rupture similar to what occurred in 2004, when a church convention voted “to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”

Last month, six senators who are Presbyterians urged the church not to endorse the proposal to cut off defense help to Israel. “We are adamantly opposed to the call for the U.S. government to temporarily suspend military aid to Israel,” senators Kyl of Arizona, Bond of Missouri, DeMint of South Carolina, Carper of Delaware, Shelby of Alabama, and Inhofe of Oklahoma wrote. “We ask that you take no action that would make a case for moral equivalency between the Israeli military, which is fighting to keep Israel safe, and Palestinian terrorists, who seek to destroy it.”

A former American negotiator in the Middle East, Dennis Ross, also warned against taking the Palestinian side in the long-running dispute. “If your church is going to adopt a position that is one-sided in favor of the Palestinians, it takes no account of what the Israelis have done,” Mr. Ross said in a videotaped message to delegates. “I find the resolution on divestment from companies doing business with Israel and the others that criticize Israel to be divorced from reality. They don’t take into account the price the Israelis have paid or the concessions they made or the many times the Israelis in negotiations have been prepared to go very far and not found responsiveness on the other side.”

 


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Injudicious Religious Activism — Left wing churches ignore the law, engage in the equivalent of judicial activism.

Injudicious Religious Activism

Left wing churches ignore the law, engage in the equivalent of judicial activism.

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The Wall Street Journal, in its July 20, 2007, edition printed an article based on a Time Magazine story in the July 30 edition.  The first two paragraphs are the following:

Sanctuary Drive Could Bolster Religious Left
TIME—JULY 30

A movement to give sanctuary in churches to illegal immigrants threatened with deportation might bring new firepower to the long-quiescent religious left, writes David Van Biema in Time. Inspired by churches who offered sanctuary to Central Americans fleeing civil wars in the 1980s, members of a range of religious faiths have launched the New Sanctuary Movement in cities around the U.S. The effort has been small-scale, housing eight undocumented immigrants in churches in five U.S. cities. (While immigration authorities legally can raid a church, they rarely do.) NSM activists say four more congregations will house immigrants in August, and the mainline Protestant United Church of Christ has resolved to work with it.

A few observations:

First, deciding to break the law of the land solely on the basis of what an individual or a group, including a church, thinks the law ought to be is essentially what activist judges do when they ignore the Constitution or statute law and, in effect, legislate from the bench.

Second, such action undermines respect for all of the law.  When people see others break the law with impunity or create new law via judicial opinion, they wonder why they should obey laws that displease them. 

Liberals make a big to-do about majority rule and the sovereignty of public opinion.  In the case of sheltering illegals against lawful deportation, clearly the public is overwhelmingly opposed to these churches’ actions.

Third, one of the entities backing the campaign to break the immigration laws is the United Church of Christ.  One wonders by what right they employ the name of Jesus Christ.  The words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul are in direct contradiction to their campaign.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.  For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

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What Makes Christians so Gullible?