Friday, April 20, 2018

300 years ago: The birth of David Brainerd

On April 20, 1718, missionary David Brainerd was born in Haddam, Connecticut. Mr. Brainerd had a conversion experience at the age of 21, two months before he entered Yale University. His religious enthusiasm led to his expulsion from Yale, and after a brief time as a pastor, he embarked on missionary work among Native Americans in New York and New Jersey. From 1743-1746, Rev. Brainerd experienced success in working with the Delaware Indians in New Jersey, despite a chronic battle with an illness believe to be tuberculosis. He spent his last months as a guest of the famous revivalist Jonathan Edwards, and died of consumption on October 9, 1747 at the age of 29. Rev. Brainerd's influence was probably greater after his death than it was during his life, as Rev. Edwards' biography An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd (1749) influenced future missionaries such as William Carey, Jim Elliot, and Adoniram Judson.

I must admit that I knew almost nothing about David Brainerd until I looked up the Infogalactic and Wikipedia entries on him. What little I had read about Rev. Brainerd depicted someone who was so saintly that I found it impossible to identify with him as a real person. It seems that Jonathan Edwards doctored up his biography--taken from Rev. Brainerd's diary--to remove the parts where Rev. Brainerd expressed his despair, and to make it express Rev. Edwards' doctrine.

The David Brainerd of Jonathan Edwards' biography may have inspired some people to become missionaries, but I can't help but wonder how many others were discouraged from becoming missionaries because they couldn't hope to ever achieve the level of godliness of Rev. Brainerd as depicted by Rev. Edwards. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the real David Brainerd was a flesh-and-blood human being who had a less than reverent attitude toward certain figures of authority in academia, and who suffered from loneliness and depression exacerbated by poor health that made his life miserable. I much prefer the real David Brainerd to the authorized version.

It's interesting to note the negative attitude toward religious "enthusiasm" at Yale University in the early 1740s. By the last quarter of the 18th century, the anti-Christian attitudes on the major college campuses in the United States hardened to the point of violence, making for interesting history.

It's also interesting to note that there was a law in Connecticut in the 18th century regarding the licensing of pastors. Strict separation of church and state didn't exist in colonial America. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which begins with "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," refers exactly to that. The United States Congress couldn't make a law establishing a religion, but individual states had such laws, and those continued after the Constitution took effect.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Honduran Congress votes to move the country's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem

As reported by Jewish News Service, April 15, 2018:

Lawmakers in Honduras voted on Thursday to relocate the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Israel congratulates the National Congress of Honduras for passing with an overwhelming majority a resolution in favor of opening an Embassy in Jerusalem,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Twitter.

Honduran lawmakers approved the measure 59-33, which now must be approved by the executive branch.

“A notice has been sent to the secretary of state in the Foreign Ministry who handles [Honduran] ties to the Israeli people, according to which Honduras should consider moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv,” said National Congress First Secretary Jose Tomas Zambrano Molina.

Earlier this week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that Guatemala will open its new embassy in Jerusalem just two days after the United States in mid-May.

Like its Central American neighbor, Honduras has been strongly supportive of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the American embassy there.

Israel and Honduras also enjoy a strong relationship. In March, Israel announced it would be expanding cooperation with Honduras in areas such as security, economic development, education, health and the environment.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was also scheduled to take part in Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations next week, but was forced to withdraw from the event over human-rights objections from some in Israel.

See also my post Paraguay and Honduras are reported to be ready "in principle" to move their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem (March 16, 2018)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mime "ministry" provides another example of worldliness in evangelical churches

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Exodus 20:4

Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain:
Jeremiah 10:1-3a

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Ezekiel 22:26

...blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. John 20:29b

The following item might be regarded as a companion to the item posted immediately below, and not just because they come from the same city; the two depict similar examples of worldliness infecting ostensibly Christian churches. As reported by Nicky Gorny of the Toledo Blade, April 6, 2018:

It’s a Sunday at St. Mark Baptist Church, and congregants are drifting steadily into the building. They stop to greet each other in the hallway off the main entrance, then stake out a seat among to the pews to wait for the morning service to begin.

On another day, Dynasty Davis might be among them. But on this particular Sunday, she’s arrived early to tuck herself away in the basement of the church. There, in front of a small bathroom mirror, she examines her reflection critically as she covers her face in white makeup, using even, circular motions to transform all but her lips and eyebrows.

These she outlines next in black. Then she slips on a purple robe, a pair of white gloves, and her look is complete: She’s ready to minister as a mime.

“It’s my way and my outlet of connecting with God,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s my way of worshiping.”

Ms. Davis is one of several area mime ministers, who seek to glorify God and inspire viewers through choreographies that blend elements of sign language and interpretative dance. Their white makeup and gloves intentionally accentuate their expressions and gestures, which in turn give visual representation to psalms or songs like Le’Andria Johnson’s “Better Days,” which Ms. Davis chose for the recent service at St. Mark.

Mime ministry, a cousin to praise dance, rose to prominence in the 1990s and, today, is pervasive enough to support numerous gatherings and conferences across the country each year. In Toledo, it has a steady, if not prolific, presence in ministers like Ms. Davis, Kiera Williams of Kingdom Mime Worshiper Ministry, and Daniel Rice of Unblockable Worship Mime Ministry.

Ms. Davis ministers under her own name by herself and under Dancing to Our Destiny Mime Ministry when she’s with the four girls she’s taken under wing. They range in age from 7 to 12.

While there’s certainly a performance element to what they do, Ms. Davis, Ms. Williams, and Mr. Rice are quick to clarify that they’re ministers rather than performers.

A performance, in these ministries, is a means to a greater end.

“We’re not entertainment. We’re coming to minister. We’re coming to deliver,” Ms. Davis said. “Somebody [in the audience] is hurting. Somebody is going through something. Somebody needs to get closer to Him. And we can do that, through our movements.”

Ms. Williams spoke similarly.

“I mime because it’s an expression of my love toward God,” she said. “My mission is to just touch somebody or save a soul through my movement.”

While the secular roots of mime stretch as far back as Ancient Greece, its use as an expression of worship is much more recent. K&K Mime Ministry of Pittsburgh is largely credited with blazing this trail beginning in the late 1980s and early ‘90s

K&K Mime Ministry is made up of Karl and Keith Edmonds, twin brothers who began to dabble with the artform as children. Their then-uncommon ministry first filtered through churches in Pittsburgh, and by the mid-1990s, they were introducing it to mainstream audiences through high-profile television appearances, like Bobby Jones Gospel on BET in 1996.

“Basically,” Ms. Williams said, “they’re known as the godfathers of mime.”

Ms. Williams herself remembers watching K&K Mime Ministry on YouTube before she entered the ministry four or five years ago; she said they’re still among her favorite to watch.

Mr. Daniels spoke similarly of his online introduction to mime ministry. He was 16 years old when he came across K&K Mime Ministry on YouTube; their ministry was featured in a suggested video that popped up while he looking up clips of preachers.

“They really gripped my heart,” Mr. Daniels said. “I said, I would love to do something like that.”

The idea of the ministry, in some ways, is to give new dimension to the word of God, according to Pastor Marcus Taylor of Resurrection Church on the Rock in Cleveland, where prophetic dance, prophetic art, and even a drill team are among the creative worship expressions a congregant might experience during a service.

“It is personifying the very word of God in dance,” Pastor Taylor said of mime ministry. “If you really receive the ministry of mime, it can really take you into the story of what is happening. It’s like an invitation to another level of intimacy and worship with God.”

Mr. Daniels, who is planning to relocate from Toledo to Cleveland, is an occasional minister at Resurrection Church; like Ms. Davis and Ms. Williams, his ministry is not tied to a particular church and he is just as likely to minister at a community or church event as he is at a service.

His pastor in Cleveland described him as a “walking, dancing filmmaker.”

“It’s giving the word something to see visually,” Pastor Taylor continued.

Local mimes described several paths that brought them to the ministry.

Ms. Davis was called to it by prophetic word in 2013, she recalled, and was initially hesitant to embrace it, in large part, because she knew so little about mime ministry.

She enlisted a friend with experience in praise dance the first time she ministered in front of a congregation. Then things clicked.

“I got that feeling, like this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said. “This is me.”

She brought younger mimes into the ministry in 2015, acquiescing to their entreaties that she teach them, and said it’s proved to be a positive outlet for the girls.

For Mr. Daniels, it was about two years between when he first felt the pull of mime ministry as a 16-year-old and when he first ministered at Bibleway Temple; today his home church in Toledo is Mount Hope Church of Jesus Christ.

“I didn’t know how to dance when I started,” he recalled. “I had no rhythm whatsoever. I just kept praying. I prayed for two years. My prayer was consistent: I just asked the Lord to teach me how to dance, give me insight on how to move, and he did just that.”

It also helped to see that he was better off not trying to mimic the moves he saw other mime ministers using in videos, he said, and rely on God to guide his own motions. He rehearses choreographies before stepping in front of a congregation or a conference, he said, but, even today, when he feels called in a moment to substitute a different gesture, he listens.

He’s been ministering at local and out-of-state engagements for about eight years.

At St. Mark Baptist Church, when the sounds of an impending service begin to drift down to the basement, Ms. Davis takes it as her cue to kneel in prayer. When she heads upstairs, she prefers to wait in the hallway for a worship leader to call her forward, so as not to distract other worshipers in the pews with her getup.

A few late-comers greet her warmly as they arrive, offering air kisses and teasing that they don’t want her makeup to rub off on their cheeks.

Then, eventually, it’s her time to minister. The music begins on a sound system. In her sinuous movements, she tells begins to tell the congregation — visually — that better days, better days, better days are coming.
Traditionally, it's pagans who feel a need for a god they can see, hear, or feel; the Lord Jesus Christ, in the passage from John cited above, pronounces His blessings on those who believe in Him without seeing.

I don't need to look at the website of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church to get an idea of what kind of church it is: women as "ministers," and decisions made on the reception of a "prophetic word" (which conveniently confirms what the recipient want to do, anyway) tells me that there are too many unscriptural and worldly practices, and that it's a church best avoided by those who accept the Bible as their only authority of doctrine and practice. It does seem odd to this blogger that this kind of church has the name "Baptist" attached to it, but maybe that's the way it is in Negro American evangelical circles.

The reporter perceptively notes that the roots of mime to back to ancient Greece, but "Christian" mime "ministry" is of recent origin. Indeed, it's another example of the professing evangelical church imitating the world. As with "Christian" rock and "Christian" tattoos, this wouldn't exist apart from the influence of the surrounding culture.

I question the effectiveness of mime as a "ministry." I don't think I'm alone in saying that I've never liked mimes. It's not too long ago that "clown ministry" started to infect churches; as with mimes, many people don't like clowns, which, apart from the worldliness, probably limits what effectiveness they may have as "ministries."

When it comes to the effectiveness of Dynasty Davis's mime "ministry," click on the links to see the photographs of her in character. I find this character downright creepy, and find it very hard to believe that this is enabling people to better worship God.

Dynasty Davis performing to "Better Days", song by LeAndria Johnson.

Dynasty Davis applies clown makeup in a room near the children's area.

Dynasty Davis prays in the children's area before going upstairs to the sanctuary.

St. Mark MBC pastor I.J. Johnson, left, with Dynasty Davis

Mime minister Dynasty Davis at her home church, St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio on March 18, 2018.

See my posts:

"Christian" brawling Mixed Martial Arts is now a "ministry" (February 5, 2010)

Christian imagery is among the most popular to be found in tattoos (April 12, 2018)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Christian imagery is among the most popular to be found in tattoos

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Exodus 20:4

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:28

Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain:
Jeremiah 10:1-3a

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Ezekiel 22:26

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
I Corinthians 6:19-20

Submitted for your disapproval, yet another example of professing Christians imitating and following the world instead of separating and setting a better example. As reported by Nicki Gorny of the Toledo Blade, March 31, 2018 (bold in original):

Superheroes. The Munsters. Michael Jackson in “Thriller.”

There’s a reason that Toledoan Amanda King chose these images for the tattoos that cover significant parts of her body.

“These are things that I love,” she said.

So perhaps it’s natural that she opted to represent her faith, as well, in her body art. Peeking out from her sleeve, on her forearm, is an illustration of the face of Jesus. It’s a way for Ms. King, a Christian, to indicate that she also identifies by a love for God.

Religious iconography is perennially popular in the chairs and tables of local tattoo shops like Ink and Iron Tattoo Parlour on Adams Street in Uptown Toledo, where Ms. King works as a receptionist and where artists describe a wide range of religious imagery among the most consistent requests they field.

Often clients want simple symbols that are easily tucked away: Think crosses, crescent moons and Stars of David. Others ask for attention-grabbing depictions of biblical passages or elaborate portraits of figures like Buddha, Jesus or the Virgin Mary.

Michael Klein is the owner of Ink and Iron. He’s a Christian who himself sports prominent religious ink, including a gothic-lettered reminder to “PRAY BOLD” across his knuckles.

“There’s not a lot that I haven’t done, as far as religions go,” he said, ticking off examples of tattoos he’s done tied to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Wicca.

At Infinite Art Tattoo Studio on Secor Road, religious fare is similarly common. Artist Michael Fairman estimated that any tattoo artist at the shop handles at least one such tattoo in a given week.

Simply drawn “stick” crosses are particularly trendy of late; Mr. Fairman’s lost count of how many he’s inked on customers.

Likewise at Studio 13 Tattoo on Monroe Street, where, in addition to quick-appointment crosses, the latest examples of religious ink include an illustration of the Garden of Eden that artist Bradley Atherton has been filling out on the bicep of Matt McCormick over multiple sessions.

Jake Farris, who co-owns Studio 13 with his brother, Jes, said said he’s seen a consistent demand for religious imagery since he and his brother entered the field in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1999. He himself has a tattooed sleeve featuring, in part, an illustration of the Annunciation.

Indeed, according to the business research website, Americans spent $2 billion on tattoos in 2017, a large segment of that work representing their faith.

“Tattooing isn’t going anywhere,” he said. “Religion isn’t going anywhere. It only makes sense that they have this happy marriage and have found each other.”

A history that runs deep

The subtle symbols, scrawled scriptural references and artistic illustrations that customers request today continue a rich history of religious tattooing that Chicago-based historian Anna Felicity Friedman said some would argue is as old as the history of religion itself.

In Christianity, certainly, the documented roots of bodily adornment run deep: Ms. Friedman said the earliest adherents of the faith are believed to have identified themselves and each other with tattoos.

“As early as 528 CE, Procopius of Gaza wrote of Christians tattooed on their arms and shoulders with crosses, Christ’s name, the acronym INRI, and other Christian symbols, including fishes and lambs,” she wrote in The World Atlas of Tattoo. “These marks, in addition to expressing devotion to their faith, may also have helped confirm the identification of one Christian to another.”

This tradition of tattooing in Christianity has remained largely consistent throughout history, Ms. Friedman said in an interview with The Blade; it continued, in part, with pilgrims who would memorialize trips to the Holy Land with tattoos – a practice that continues to thrive in Jerusalem at Razzouk Tattoo, a family-run shop that boasts of being established in 1300 A.D.

And, even into the mid- the late 18th century, Ms. Friedman said, crosses are among the most frequently identified tattoos on various historical registries.

While some detractors argue that tattoos go against the faith, typically interpreting Leviticus 19:28 to support this view, Ms. Friedman said that, historically, marking oneself as a Christian has long been an accepted practice.

There is not a comparably consistent precedent for tattooing in Islam and Judaism, Ms. Friedman said, and, in practice, local artists said they receive requests affiliated with these faiths far less frequently than they do for Christianity or even Buddhism.

That’s not to say that Islam or Judaism forbids tattooing, according to academics Yonatan Miller and Fatima Al-Hayani. It’s particularly a misconception within Judaism, Mr. Miller said, pointing to the long-standing and inaccurate belief that a tattooed individual cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Endless interpretations

Several local artists said they frequently see clients lean into their faith especially when picking out a first-time tattoo. Mr. Farris of Studio 13 can relate: He recalled that he turned to Christianity for inspiration in his earliest tattoos, in part, because he found the imagery to be more palatable to family and friends than some alternatives.

“I think a lot of it, for me, was that it was easier to convince the people around me that it was OK for me to be a heavily tattooed person,” he said.

Religious imagery can also make a lot of sense in light of the permanence of tattoos, he said.

“Most people would never want to get something tattooed on them that they’re not going to be happy with a year from now or 10 years from now or 20 years from now,” Mr. Farris said. “I think most people feel like their faith isn’t going anywhere, so it’s easy to capture with a tattoo.”

It’s a pattern Michael Klein also sees at Ink and Iron.

“It’s that linear thought process,” he said. “I’ve grown up with religion my whole life, and it’s comfortable and familiar and it’s not something that’s going to change drastically.”

It might, of course. But that’s OK, too: Mr. Farris and Scott Biddle, a tattoo artist at Ink and Iron, each said their relationship with religion has changed since they began to plan tattoo sleeves with imagery that, at the time they selected it, reflected the central role that faith played in their lives. Rather than regret the work, they said they see it as a reminder of a different point in their lives.

“It’s a part of me. It's a part of who I was,” Mr. Farris said. “That’s one of the best things about tattooing. Every tattoo takes you back to a time and a place.”

Religious ink today serves a variety of purposes: It can be a subtle faith reminder to oneself, a public affirmation of beliefs to others, or, in some cases, a sort-of protective talisman, as with the tattoos of St. Michael the Archangel that Mr. Fairman said he frequently tattoos on police officers, firefighters and other first-responders.

Some tattoos are religious at face value but that don’t carry any real spiritual significance: An individual might be drawn to the cultural connotations of a three-leaf shamrock or a Celtic cross, for example, or perhaps the aesthetic appeal of a gnarly barbed-wire-entwined crucifix.

While people have used tattoos “to show a million different things over time,” Mr. Farris said he sees devotion as one the primary motivators to go for a tattoo. That devotion could be directed toward anything: a spouse, a sports team, a television show.

Or, of course, to God.

“I don’t think religious iconography will ever stop being probably one of the most frequently designed tattoos,” Mr. Biddle said.
Marking of the body has always been associated with paganism, often as a requirement to appease the harsh demands of pagan gods, in contrast to the Biblical God of grace. As for the "Christian" tattooers who appeal to the past to justify their current practices, the 6th and 14th centuries were not periods characterized by widespread adherence to Biblical Christianity. It's easy and tempting to romanticize and deify the past and to forget that the past was once the present, inhabited by people who were as fallible as we are.

The idea of "Christian" tattoos is a recent invention. Would there be such a thing if there weren't already a practice of tattooing in the surrounding secular culture? Of course not. As someone who grew up in western and northern Canada, I'm not exaggerating when I say that right up to the end of the 1980s, I didn't know one person, Christian or non-Christian, who had a tattoo, and that includes Negro football players from urban areas in the United States (as an aside, people also signed their names so that you could read them, unlike the squiggles that pass for signatures today). Which is to say, even the non-Christian society that I grew up in had higher standards than the professing Christian church does now.

I'm tired of people claiming that their activity, for which their is no Biblical warrant or example, is a "ministry," when what they're doing is a "Christian" version of what they were already doing before they professed to be Christians.

How you dress and what you do or don't do to your body projects an image. Don't go around claiming to be a Christian while the image you project of yourself is pagan. If you complain that I'm unable or unwilling to see past the image, my reply is that it's pretty hard to see an inner "Christianity" when the outer image of paganism is being so flagrantly projected.

See my post "Christian" brawling Mixed Martial Arts is now a "ministry" (February 5, 2010).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Former Winnipeg rabbi is a fugitive facing arrest for various sex-related charges

As reported by Ron Csillag of Canadian Jewish News, March 16, 2018 (links inserted by blogger):

A Chabad rabbi who worked for years in Winnipeg remains in hiding after police issued a warrant for his arrest on eight sex-related charges.

Rabbi Yacov Simmonds, 42, who’s worked as a fundraiser for Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg and its Jewish Learning Centre for 16 years, fled the city last fall, when he was charged with three counts of sexual assault, three counts of sexual interference and two counts of invitation to sexual touching.

The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 1993 and 1999. The Winnipeg Free Press quoted a source as saying the complainants are three females.

Police believe he is in hiding in the United States.

The warrant for Rabbi Simmonds’ arrest was issued in October, said Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Jay Murray. He told The CJN that he doesn’t know whether the rabbi fled before or after the charges were filed.

In either case, “we believe he’s in the U.S.,” Murray said.

Rabbi Simmonds “is aware of the warrant and is actively evading police,” Winnipeg police said in a statement to The CJN.

Police released the information only recently, in response to media inquiries, Murray added. Both the CBC and the Free Press ran stories on Simmonds on Feb. 20.

Six days later, Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg issued a statement stressing that the charges “allegedly occurred prior to Rabbi Simmonds’ engagement with the centre.”

The matter was brought to Chabad’s attention in January 2016, “after which the centre concluded an agreement to terminate Rabbi Simmonds’ employment,” the statement added.

Rabbi Avrohom Altein, executive director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg, told The CJN that he believes Rabbi Simmonds’ family is also in the United States and although he doesn’t know where Rabbi Simmonds is, “He’s not in touch with anybody (in the Chabad movement). That I know for a fact.”

As soon as Chabad found out about the allegations, “we let him go not because we have evidence, but because we didn’t want to have anything that would taint us,” Rabbi Altein said.

Rabbi Simmonds’ association with Chabad was ended in March 2016 and his termination was finalized the following May, Rabbi Altein pointed out.

Chabad paid Rabbi Simmonds a severance “and that was it,” Rabbi Altein said.

Rabbi Simmonds then stayed in Winnipeg “and did a bit of business sales on his own.”

Local media reported that Rabbi Simmonds’ departure was announced on Chabad Winnipeg’s website in August 2016.

“Rabbi Yacov Simmonds is currently embarking on a career change; by mutual agreement he is no longer part of the rabbinical staff or administration of Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg. The organization expressed its gratitude for Simmonds’ years of service,” the announcement reportedly said.

In dismissing Rabbi Simmonds, Rabbi Altein said he operates under a different system than standard legal procedure, in which a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“My situation is the opposite,” he said. “Until we can feel absolutely certain that a person is innocent, they can’t represent our organization or represent Yiddishkeit.”

Rabbi Simmonds’ brother, Rabbi Avrohom Simmonds, the director of the Chabad Jewish Centre of Regina, did not respond to The CJN’s inquiries.

Motti Seligson – a spokesperson for the global Chabad movement, which is based in New York – said it is up to local and regional Chabad centres to respond “to things that relate to them directly that don’t relate to the entire movement.”

On Feb. 24, Bernie Bellan, editor and publisher of Winnipeg’s Jewish Post & News, wrote a 2,300-word story in which he defended Chabad as “a beacon of light for this community,” and said that the reporting on Rabbi Simmonds had “unfairly besmirched the reputation” of the Jewish Learning Centre.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Former adviser at Vatican's U.S. embassy arrested on suspicion of watching child sex abuse

As reported by the foreign staff of the London Daily Telegraph, April 8, 2018 (link in original):

The Vatican said on Saturday a monsignor who was a former adviser at its US embassy in Washington has been arrested on suspicion of watching child sex abuse.

A Vatican statement said that an arrest warrant had been issued for Carlo Alberto Capella, which was carried out by the Vatican Gendarmerie.

"The accused is being detained in a cell in the barracks of the Gendarmerie Corps, available to the judicial authorities," the statement said.

The arrest warrant was issued by the investigating magistrate of the Vatican City State Tribunal. Msgr Capella, who was in office until last year, was recalled from Washington last September by the Vatican.

It is the latest case the Catholic Church has faced after repeated criticism for the way it has handled scandals over paedophile priests.

The US State Department notified the Vatican in August through diplomatic channels of a possible violation of child pornography laws by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See in Washington, the Vatican said in September.

The United States made "an official request" for the man's diplomatic immunity to be lifted but the Vatican refused, said a US official on condition of anonymity.

In February, the Vatican said it had renewed its anti-paedophile panel in a bid by Pope Francis to quell the global scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests.

The panel had come under fire from two high-profile members, former sex abuse victims who quit at what they saw as a lack of reform and obstruction at the highest level of the Catholic Church.

Victims have come forward from across the world over the past two decades accusing priests of sex crimes, unleashing one of the biggest crises faced by the Catholic Church.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Most distant star yet observed, 9.3 billion light years away

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Will Dunham of Reuters, April 2, 2018 (link inserted by blogger):

WASHINGTON - Scientists have detected the most distant star ever viewed, a blue behemoth located more than halfway across the universe and named after the ancient Greek mythological figure Icarus.

Researchers said on Monday they used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to spot the star, which is up to a million times more luminous and about twice as hot as our sun, residing 9.3 billion lights years away from Earth. It is a type of star called a blue supergiant.

The star, located in a distant spiral galaxy, is at least 100 times further away than any other star previously observed, with the exception of things like the huge supernova explosions that mark the death of certain stars. Older galaxies have been spotted but their individual stars were indiscernible.

The scientists took advantage of a phenomenon called “gravitational lensing” to spot the star. It involves the bending of light by massive galaxy clusters in the line of sight, which magnifies more distant celestial objects. This makes dim, faraway objects that otherwise would be undetectable, like an individual star, visible.

“The fraction of the universe where we can see stars is very small. But this sort of quirk of nature allows us to see much bigger volumes,” said astronomer Patrick Kelly of the University of Minnesota, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We will now be able to study in detail what the universe was like — and specifically how stars evolved and what their natures are — almost all the way back to the earliest stages of the universe and the first generations of stars,” Kelly added.

Because its light has taken so long to reach Earth, looking at this star is like peering back in time to when the universe was less than a third of its current age. The Big Bang that gave rise to the universe occurred 13.8 billion years ago.

The star spotted in this study is formally named MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star-1, but its discoverers dubbed it Icarus, who flew so close to the sun that his wings fashioned from wax and feathers melted, sending him plunging fatally into the sea.

Kelly said he preferred the nickname Warhol, after the American artist Andy Warhol, owing to the star’s “15 minutes of fame” following its discovery.

“No one liked that, except for one other person, so it ended up Icarus,” Kelly said.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Backlog: Evangelical pastor gives $100 bills to families, challenges them to use the money for good works

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:1-4

As far as I can tell from a quick glance at the website of Community Bible Church in Stittsville, Ontario, it seems to be a typical evangelical church, sound enough in its statement of faith, but with worldly accessories such as the usual "worship" band. I don't know how the project described in the article below turned out, but the church and its pastor would do better to heed the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and do their good works in secret. As reported by Zev Singer of the Ottawa Citizen, June 1, 2011:

Ottawa preacher Steve Stewart got up to address his congregation on Sunday with a bible and a stack of hundred dollar bills. By the time the service was over at the Community Bible Church in Stittsville, he'd given out $10,000 to the gathered faithful. Nobody fell asleep during that sermon.

Take the money, he told the flock, and go make the world a better place. Then come back in 90 days and report on what you did.

"I'm not kidding you," he told the crowd. " I want you to make a positive impact in your world."

"Everybody's jaw dropped open," he said in an interview. "They couldn't believe it."

As he handed out the crisp brown bills, one for each family, he laid out three rules.

"I would like you to pray," he told them first, "and ask God how He'd like you to spend His money."

Second, they had to finalize and carry out the "investment" in goodness. Then, third, they must return at the end of August and let the congregation know what they did.

The money arrived at Stewart's home in a folded manila envelope, after a donor arranged to have it delivered to him. Stewart said the donor lives in Ottawa but wishes to remain anonymous.

A few years ago, Stewart tried a small-scale version of the money giveaway with a stack of $5 bills.

But this time, the larger sums mean greater potential.

"The idea is to try to grow your money, too," Stewart said, "and maybe try to get other people to join in (with their own money), and this becomes the seed money to get something bigger going so we can have some really big things happen."

While he doesn't know yet what people will choose to do, he has heard a few tentative ideas so far. One family is thinking about using some land they own to grow a garden. The money would contribute toward the planting of an ambitious crop, worth much more than the money invested, which would be donated to people in need.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Jordan protests Israeli court decision in favour of Jews praying outside Jerusalem's Temple Mount

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it...
Zechariah 12:2-3

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Breaking Israel News, April 4, 2018 (links in original):
The Jordanian government filed an official complaint with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, objecting to a recent ruling by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court stating that it is not illegal for Jews to pray outside the Temple Mount.

According to Israel’s Channel 10, Jordan charged Israel with “violating the status quo in the area and is carrying out extreme provocations that harm relations between our two countries.”

The “status quo” refers to a long-held arrangement between Jerusalem and Amman whereby Jordan became the religious custodian over the Temple Mount. According to the agreement, Jews may still visit the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site for the Jewish people, however, only Muslims are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount compound.

Jordan’s ire concerns the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court’s decision 10 days ago to reject a request by Israeli police to restrict three 14-year-old Jewish girls who had bowed down outside a closed gated entrance to the Temple Mount, from accessing the compound. The police cited security concerns, claiming the girls’ actions might provoke Muslim violence.

“This [phenomenon] began on the Temple Mount, is continuing into the Old City, and what is the next stage? Someone will take out a prayer book on Jaffa Street and will be told that this is a provocation?” challenged the counsel for the defense, Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Judge Shmuel Harbest, a judge who ruled in the case, agreed with Ben Gvir’s argument.

“In a democratic state, we do not distance and certainly do not arrest citizens who want to pray in a place where one is allowed to pray,” he wrote in the court’s ruling, adding that it is “the responsibility of a democratic state” to allow the girls to be present at the site and pray there unimpeded.”

Ben Gvir issued a statement, criticizing the Jordanian complaint as “first degree chutzpah (audacity).”

“I expect the prime minister to summon the Jordanian ambassador for a reprimand and explain to him that it is the right of Israeli citizens to pray everywhere in Jerusalem,” Ben Gvir said.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Saudi crown prince says Israel has the right to exist as a state

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 3, 2018 (links in original):

WASHINGTON — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Israel has a right to exist as a state, but stopped short of saying it should be recognized as a Jewish state.

The remarks by the prince, Saudi’s effective ruler, incrementally advanced Saudi Arabia’s willingness to publicly engage with Israel.

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic, Mohammed affirmatively accepted Israel’s right to exist as a state, apparently a first for a Saudi leader. The interview was posted on Monday.

Mohammed avoided Goldberg’s question as to whether he would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a key Israeli demand of any permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” he said. “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

Since 2002, Saudi Arabia has embraced the Arab League peace plan, which would recognize Israeli statehood, but conditions such recognition on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 lines.

Mohammed also said that Saudis had no religious problem with Israel as a whole, but with the control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a site known to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif that is holy to both faiths, and with Palestinian rights.

“We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said. “This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

Under Mohammed, who last year consolidated his power in Saudi Arabia, longstanding secret ties with Israel have become more open; Saudi Arabia recently allowed flights launched in Israel by non-Israel carriers to travel through Saudi airspace. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long shared intelligence about their common enemy in the region, Iran.

Mohammed said Israel’s commercial ties with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries would likely flourish should there be peace.

“Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course, there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan,” he said. The GCC, an economic umbrella led by Saudi Arabia, encompasses most countries in the Persian Gulf.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Mohammed’s father, King Salman, emphasized in a statement distributed through state media “the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

In the Atlantic interview, Mohammed repeated his claim that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was worse than Hitler, a comparison that made headlines when he made it last month in a “60 Minutes” interview.

“I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good,” the prince said. “Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”

Hitler’s genocide against the Jews cost 6 million Jewish lives. The war he initiated is believed to have cost as many as 50 million lives.

Last week, Mohammed participated in an off-the-record interfaith meeting that included three American rabbis: Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. He also met separately with the heads of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish Federations of North America.

Monday, April 2, 2018

20 years ago: Activist Supreme Court of Canada invents sodomite rights in provincial legislation

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:24-32

On April 2, 1998, the blackshirts in black robes known as the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 7-1 in Vriend vs. Alberta that sodomites couldn't be excluded from the provincial Individual Rights Protection Act. The case was instigated by former lab instructor Delwin Vriend, who was fired by The King's University College (now known as The King's University) because his voluntarily chosen lifestyle violated the college's code of behaviour. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the exclusion of sodomites from provincial human rights legislation was a violation of Section 15 of the Orwellian-named Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The fact that the politicians who cobbled together the Charter deliberately left sodomite rights out made no impression on the court.

The ruling was widely misunderstood as being a ruling against The King's University College's right to fire Mr. Vriend; in fact, that wasn't the case at all. All Mr. Vriend won was the right to have sodomites included in provincial human rights legislation.

By the way, this blogger has it on good authority that The King's University College's position regarding Mr. Vriend wasn't as purely biblical as they made it out to be. It seems the college knew about Mr. Vriend's lifestyle and made no attempt to enforce discipline, but a local Christian who wasn't affiliated with the college heard about this, and wrote a letter to The King's University College threatening to notify all the churches who supported the college, and ask these churches if they knew about the situation. When The King's University College received the letter, they were suddenly shocked--shocked!--to find that they had an unrepentant, active sodomite in their employ.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Israeli Orthodox rabbi claims cloned pigs are kosher

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Isaiah 29:13

Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean'...
...For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
Mark 7:15, 19 (NIV, 1984)

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
I Timothy 4:4-5

Another item from the man-made religion known as Orthodox Judaism, as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 22, 2018 (links in original):

A prominent Orthodox rabbi in Israel said that meat from a genetically cloned pig would be kosher for consumption by Jews, including when eaten with dairy products.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow told Ynet in an interview published Wednesday that cloned meat is not subject to the rules that apply to the consumption of regular meat.

Cherlow is quoted as saying that “cloned meat produced from a pig shall not be defined as prohibited for consumption – including with milk.”

In the interview, Cherlow of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization appears to be talking about meat that is grown artificially in a laboratory from the cells of a pig rather than meat produced from a live pig whose genetic material comes from a cell from which the pig was cloned. However, the article does not quote him as making the distinction.

In the interview ahead of a Bar-Ilan University symposium titled “Science and Halacha” featuring a talk by Cherlow, he advocated rabbinic approval of cloned meat “so that people would not starve, to prevent pollution, and to avoid the suffering of animals.”

When the “cell of a pig is used and its genetic material is utilized in the production of food, the cell in fact loses its original identity and therefore cannot be defined as forbidden for consumption,” Cherlow said. “It wouldn’t even be meat, so you can consume it with dairy.”

In 2013, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division, said that meat from a lab-grown hamburger could be consumed with dairy products, although halacha, religious Jewish law, forbids it in meat produced from a live animal.

But Genack, who was commenting on the production of an artificial hamburger produced by researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, did not mention pork, whose consumption is one of Judaism’s strongest prohibitions.

“Without prophesizing, clearly there will be a major disagreement,” Cherlow said over the consumption of what he called cloned meat. And while “there is merit” in prohibiting this meat, too, “halachic thought should examine the needs of all humanity, not only one’s own case,” he said.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi may face criminal charges after calling black people "monkeys"

As Archie Bunker said, everybody calls them something. As reported by Michael Bachner of the Times of Israel, March 29, 2018 (links in original):

The Israeli government is considering criminal action against the Sephardic chief rabbi after he likened black people to monkeys during his weekly sermon last weekend.

A Justice Ministry official said Thursday that the ministry has contacted relevant authorities to review the remarks by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and decide if they constitute incitement.

Yosef’s reported statement is “very serious” and could “justify various measures — administrative, disciplinary and even criminal — against the rabbi, if it turns out they constitute incitement to racism,” Avka Zana, head of a Justice Ministry unit that combats racism, said.

Ynet quoted the anti-racism unit as saying it was “examining various measures on the issue, and has requested relevant authorities to check and inspect the remarks, so they will be examined in depth and appropriate action taken.”

“The unit will continue following developments and will take all necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of racist remarks like this in the future by state officials and public servants,” the unit said.

In a video shared by the Ynet news site, Yosef was addressing Jewish legal aspects of the blessing made upon seeing fruit trees blossoming, during the current Hebrew month of Nissan, and, specifically, whether one should bless one tree or at least two.

In that context, he discussed another blessing mentioned in the same section of the Talmud, which is recited upon seeing an “unusual creature.” The Talmud states that the blessing should be recited when seeing “a black person, a very red or very white person.”

Yosef explained that the Talmud is not referring to an African-American, but a black person born to two white parents. When referring to African-Americans he used the word kushi, which is the word used by the Talmud but is a pejorative term in modern Hebrew. He then compared this black person to a monkey.

“You can’t make the blessing on every ‘kushi’ you see — in America you see one every five minutes, so you make it only on a person with a white father and mother,” the chief rabbi said.”How do would you know? Let’s say you know! So they had a monkey as a son, a son like this, so you say the blessing on him.”

In response, the rabbi’s office said that he was merely citing the Talmud, which states that the same blessing is recited upon seeing an elephant, a monkey or an ape.

The Anti-Defamation League slammed Yosef on Tuesday, calling his comment “utterly unacceptable.”

Racially charged comment made by Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, comparing people of color to "monkeys", is utterly unacceptable.

— ADL (@ADL_National) March 20, 2018

Yosef has been known to court controversy in his sermons.

In a sermon delivered in May last year, he appeared to suggest during his weekly sermon that secular woman behave like animals because they dress immodestly.

In March 2016, Yosef was forced to retract a comment that non-Jews should not live in Israel, calling it “theoretical.”

He said non-Jews could live in Israel only if they observe the seven Noahide Laws, which are prohibitions against idolatry, blaspheming God, murder, forbidden sexual relations, stealing, and eating limbs off a live animal, and which prescribe the establishment of a legal system.

Non-Jews, Yosef said, are in Israel only to serve Jews.

Israel has two chief rabbis. Yosef represents those with origins in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East, and David Lau represents Ashkenazi Jews, with origins in European lands of the Roman Empire.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Jordan inaugurates annual Christian-Islamic celebration of the Annunciation to Mary

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote an interesting book in which he predicted that Islam would be converted to Christianity "through a summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God." He reasoned thus:

The Koran...has many passages concerning the Blessed Virgin. First of all, the Koran believes in her Immaculate Conception and also in her Virgin Birth...Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: "Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary."

Sheen goes on to say how remarkable it was that "our Lady" had the foresight to appear in the Portuguese village of Fatima (named after Muhammad's daughter during the Muslim occupation) and thus become known as "Our Lady of Fatima."

Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast: The Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days (1994), p. 458, citing Fulton J. Sheen, "Mary and the Moslems," The World's First Love (1952)

There will come a day, John Paul believes, when the heart of Islam--already attuned to the figures of Christ and of Christ's Mother, Mary--will receive the illumination it needs. Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood: Pope John Paul II Versus Russia and the West for Control of the New World Order (1990), p. 285

Submitted for your approval, the following example of the fulfillment of Bishop Sheen's prediction; note that the emphasis of the celebration is not the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Virgin Mary. As reported by Fr. Rif'at Bader in the Turin newspaper La Stampa, March 22, 2018:

His Majesty King Abdullah II addressed the 71st United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2016. He said: “Jesus, whom we call ’Christ Messiah’, is named 25 times in the Qur’an. His mother Mary, called the ’best of all women in creation’, is named 35 times. And there is a chapter in the Qur’an called ‘Maryam’. The khawarej deliberately hide these truths about Islam in order to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. We cannot allow this to happen.”

From this premise and in light with the King’s address, which is based on the relevant congruent views of the Qur’an and the Holy Bible, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) in Jordan, in cooperation with the heads of the Churches in Jordan, has decided to hold an annual celebration marking the Annunciation to Blessed Virgin Mary as mentioned in the Holy Bible and the Qur’an, so that it would be a national feast celebrated in this grand homeland.

Lebanon, with its different religious affiliations, has been celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the national level over the past 12 years after its religious leaders realized that as a character, Virgin Mary brings people together, and that She is neither a source of controversy nor dispute as She maintains a special status in Islam. She also has prominent status in the Holy Bible in Her capacity as the Mother of Lord Jesus Christ. Since the event relevant to the Annunciation is mentioned in detail in both books, the leaderships and the people of good will considered the view to mark this feast as a national and social feast. This feast officially had been celebrated in Lebanon over the past 12 years. It acquired prime importance when it was announced eight years ago, and it culminated with the announcement that it would be marked as a national holiday eight years ago. Its slogan continues to be, “The Islamic Christian Gathering Around Virgin Mary”.

Jordan, with its archaeological sites and national unity, is more qualified than any other country to mark a new renaissance of Muslim-Christian harmony and brotherhood that can be added to the numerous initiative attributed to the wise Hashemite leadership, its people’s awareness, and the harmony between its Muslims and Christians. Jordan issued the Amman Message in 2004 and A Common Word in 2007 in light of the unstinting efforts of His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Muhammad, the King’s advisor for religious and cultural affairs. Jordan also proposed launching the World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010 which was adopted by the United Nations members. Jordan also called for convening the “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians Conference” in 2013 and hosted Christians forcibly displaced from Mosul in 2014.

Therefore, Jordan is the country of history, of civilization and of the Hashemites which contains sacred heritage and blessed water. It is the land Moses crossed, and where Elijah was born and from where he ascended to Heaven. It is the country of John the Baptist who baptized Lord Jesus Christ at the site known as Baptism Site. It is also the land crossed by Blessed Virgin Mary where she is remembered in Anjara. The Christian tradition states that she crossed this place with Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a historic grotto was installed there in Her memory and known as Our Lady of the Mount.

There are also several other grottos in our country which are reminiscent of its holiness.

Thus, Jordan of today is the country of common living with its Muslim and Christian population. Since the establishment of the Emirate of Jordan in 1921, and a few years after the Great Arab Revolt, whose centennial was marked two years ago, the Christians and Muslims lived side by side, and contributed to the establishment of the Emirate of Jordan, which later became known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Consequently, it is not a novel event to have feasts marked by everybody for at a time when His Majesty King Abdullah II assumed his constitutional authorities in 2000, he announced that Christmas would be marked as “an official holiday for all citizens”. We call nowadays for celebrating the Feast of Annunciation so that its religious significance would serve as an incentive to enrich our national unity and social cohesion.

In view of this, the CCSM is holding the ceremony for the first time under the patronage of the Deputy Prime Minister Jamal Sarayrah on Wednesday, March 28. It will be attended by representatives of the General Ifta’a Department, of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and of the Chief Justice. Present at the ceremony will be head and members of the “Lebanese National Committee for the Celebration of the Feast and Annunciation” and several shades of society who are keen to worship God and to be loyal to the country, its leadership and people.

The Feast of the Annunciation, whose events took place in the holy city of Nazareth, invites us from the side of the immortal river, the Jordan River, to pray for Jerusalem, the Holy City, in light of the injustice and aggression being perpetrated against its history and civilization. We also call on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities by implementing the relevant international resolutions, to preserve the historic Hashemite guardianship, and to give the Palestinian people their right to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Prince of Wales expresses solidarity with persecuted Christians

Whatever Prince Charles' own beliefs may be, his expression of support for persecuted Christians--even if they may be just "cultural Christians"--is more than Billy Graham ever did for the persecuted church. As reported by Abe Hawken of the London Daily Mail, March 30, 2018:

The Prince of Wales has recorded an Easter message of support for persecuted Christians around the world.

Charles says in the video, released on Good Friday, how he has been 'deeply moved' by the 'truly remarkable courage' and 'selfless capacity for forgiveness' of those he met who have suffered because of their religion.

The prince, who will one day become head of the Church of England, said: 'My heart goes out to all who this day, whatever their beliefs, are being persecuted on religious grounds.'

He said of persecuted Christians during Easter: 'I want to assure them that they are not forgotten and that they are in our prayers.'

The prince said: 'Over the years, I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life - or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country - and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered.

'I have also heard that in the darkness there are small shafts of light, signs of resurrection and of hope that, slowly but surely, Christians who have had to flee from their homelands are beginning to return and to rebuild their shattered homes.'

The prince goes on to say of Judaism, Christianity and Islam: 'All three Abrahamic faiths have known and continue to know the bitterness of persecution when religion has fallen into the barbaric grip of those who distort and misrepresent faith.'

Clarence House said the prince's message was inspired by his recent meetings with Christian Church leaders from the Middle East including the Coptic Pope.

Through the charity Aid To The Church In Need, he met Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been overseeing the care of more than 100,000 Christians driven out of their homes on Iraq's Nineveh Plains, and Melkite Archbishop John Darwish of Zahle and Furzol, Lebanon, who is helping Syrian Christian refuges.

Aid To The Church In Need said that more than 3,200 Christian houses on the Nineveh Plains in Iraq have been restored out of some 12,000, and more than 37,000 Christians had returned home.

The prince's message also forms part of his ongoing dialogue with Church leaders in the UK, Clarence House said.

In recent years, Charles has met many Syrian and Iraqi Christians who have been forced to flee their homes following the rise of Islamic State, and heard the stories of Britons whose relatives in the two nations have been persecuted.

Aid To The Church In Need's report into human rights' violations against Christians around the world, has highlighted the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, and warns that the resulting exodus could threaten the continuing survival of the region's ancient churches.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Leader of New York self-help sex cult NXIVM arrested in Mexico

As long as stupid women continue to exist, cults like NXIVM (pronounced (nex--ee--um) will continue to exist. As reported by Brendan J. Lyons of the Albany Times-Union, March 26, 2018:

Keith Raniere, the co-founder of the NXIVM corporation, a secretive Colonie-based organization that an expert has called an "extreme cult," was arrested in Mexico this week by the FBI based on a federal criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York.

The complaint, filed recently in connection with an ongoing federal grand jury investigation being headed by the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, charges Raniere with multiple counts of sex trafficking and forced labor.

The federal complaint alleges that Raniere, known as "The Vanguard," took part in forming a secretive group within NXIVM in which women said they were coerced into joining a slave-master club and later branded with a design that included the initials of Raniere and Allison Mack, an actress and NXIVM associate who is identified in the complaint as an unnamed co-conspirator.

A warrant for Raniere's arrest was issued more than a month ago. Raniere was taken into custody this week after Mexican immigration officials helped U.S. authorities track him to a luxury, $10,000-a-week villa near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he was staying with several women, federal officials said.

Raniere flew to Mexico last November after U.S. authorities began interviewing "witnesses and victims" associated with NXIVM and the secret club, authorities said.

But finding Raniere had been difficult, they said, because he "began using end-to-end encrypted email and stopped using his phone."

"The defendant was uncooperative when immigration authorities arrived and after he was taken into custody, the women chased the car in which the defendant was being transported in their own car at high speed," prosecutors said in court papers.

Raniere, who co-founded NXIVM more than two decades ago, is being held in federal custody in Texas and is scheduled to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth on Tuesday afternoon. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have asked a magistrate judge not to set bond and to order Raniere be returned to the Eastern District of New York.

The federal court filings cast Raniere as a manipulative figure who overstated his intelligence and systematically exploited women, including creating a secret slave-master sex club within NXIVM. An affidavit filed by an FBI agent said their investigation found that NXIVM has similarities to a pyramid scheme.

Federal prosecutors, in pressing their case to have Raniere held without bond, said he "has spent his life profiting from his pyramid schemes and has otherwise received financial backing from independently wealthy women."

A person briefed on the case said the federal complaint does not include all of the charges that are being examined by the U.S. attorney's office as part of its ongoing investigation. Raniere faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted on the sex trafficking charges, according to federal prosecutors.

In a letter to a U.S. magistrate judge on Monday, federal prosecutors said that Raniere "has access to vast resources, (and) poses a significant risk of flight. In addition, his long-standing history of systematically exploiting women through coercive practices for his own financial and sexual benefit demonstrates that, if released, he would pose a danger to the community."

Warning: The document below contains graphic depictions of alleged sexual activity.

Raniere, in statements previously posted on NXIVM's website, had characterized the slave-master group as a consenting, private "sorority" and he said that he and the corporation had no role in it.

But the federal complaint said that emails seized from Raniere's private messaging accounts "support the conclusion that Raniere created" the club, which was known as "Dominus Obsequious Sororium," which means "Master Over the Slave Women."

The women in the group, according to the federal complaint, were lured into the club by other female NXIVM members and required to provide "collateral" in order to join.

"Collateral consisted of material or information that the prospective slave would not want revealed because it would be ruinous to the prospective slave herself and/or someone close to her," states an FBI agent's affidavit filed as part of the complaint. "Collateral provided by prospective slaves included sexually explicit photographs; videos made to look candid in which the prospective slaves told damning stories ( true or untrue) about themselves, close friends and/or family members; and letters making damaging accusations (true or untrue) against friends and family members."

The participants were told the secret club was a "women-only" organization and some were not initially informed that Raniere was the highest member of the organization, the complaint states.

Sarah Edmonson of Vancouver is one of at least 20 women associated with NXIVM who were lured into the club and required them to consent to being branded in their pubic area.

Edmondson said she was never told that the unusual-looking brand was a design that included the initials of Raniere, NXIVM's co-founder, and Mack, a NXIVM associate. In a complaint filed with the New York state Health Department last year, Edmonson identified Mack as having "started" the secret women's group with Raniere.

Edmondson had been associated with NXIVM for 12 years and left the organization in June after she learned the brand that she received contained the initials of Mack and Raniere.

The federal criminal complaint filed against Raniere said the slaves understood that if they left the club, publicly spoke about it, or failed in their obligations, their collateral could be released.

"Some of the masters gave their slaves assignments that either directly or implicitly required them to have sex with Raniere, which they then did," the complaint states. "Other assignments appeared designed to groom slaves sexually for Raniere."

Federal authorities said Raniere does not hold bank accounts in his name, has no driver's license, and for more than a year has used a credit card account associated with a "dead lover" to make purchases.

"In the past year and a half, the defendant and the mother of his child have accessed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a bank account in the same dead lover's name, which contains over $8 million," prosecutors wrote.

Copies of some of the American Express credit card statements associated with that account, which belonged to Pamela Anne Cafritz, who died in November 2016, indicate there were numerous purchases made with that card after her death. The statements, shared with the Times Union last year, indicate the account was used to make purchases from iTunes and Amazon, as well as to make payments to a Saratoga Springs chiropractor.

In their filing that warns a federal magistrate about Raniere's risk of flight, prosecutors noted that Clare W. Bronfman, an heiress of the Seagram Co. business empire who has described herself as the operations director of NXIVM, financially backs Raniere and has paid for private jets — costing up to $65,000 per flight — that have transported him around the world.

"Bronfman also owns a private island in Fiji, which the defendant (Raniere) has visited, and both Bronfman and the defendant have contacts all around the world," prosecutors wrote.

Multiple people who have defected from NXIVM or publicly criticized Raniere have received letters purported to be from Mexican law enforcement officials warning them to "cease and desist" making statements about the organization. Federal prosecutors said that Raniere was behind those letters.

The complaint noted that Raniere was also known to prefer women who are exceptionally thin, and that a number of slaves were "required to adhere to extremely low-calorie diets and to document every food they ate."

The first public disclosures about the branding and the secret club within NXIVM were reported last June by, an online blog operated by Frank Parlato, who was formerly a publicist for NXIVM. The New York Times later published a story about the secret NXIVM club in October.

But reports about NXIVM's troubling practices are not new. In 2012, the Times Union published an award-winning series — Secrets of NXIVM — that raised questions about NXIVM's inner-workings and also Raniere's questionable dealings with women.

The Times Union reported in December that the Justice Department's ongoing investigation is also examining NXIVM's business dealings, including its practice of recruiting members from abroad. A federal grand jury empaneled in Brooklyn has been reviewing evidence in the case, according to people who testified before the panel.

Among those who provided testimony are women who claimed they were lured into the secret club that required them to consent to being branded.

NXIVM's supporters have insisted it is a self-help group focused on business improvement. NXIVM officials and associates have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and dispute any allegation that it is a cult. Recent efforts to reach NXIVM officials for comment have not been successful.

Dating back years, people with connections to NXIVM have filed complaints with various law enforcement agencies, including the New York state Attorney General, the U.S. attorney's office in Albany, the New York State Police, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.

But law enforcement sources said the federal probe in Brooklyn was the first significant investigation involving either the organization or its leader, Raniere.

The federal court records unsealed Monday also disclose information about Raniere that raise questions about some of his assertions through the years, including boasting that he has one of the highest IQs in the world.

"Nxivm students are also taught that the defendant is the smartest and most ethical man in the world," federal prosecutors wrote in their letter seeking detention for Raniere. "He frequently cited having earned three degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but a review of his transcript shows that he graduated with a 2.26 GPA, having failed or barely passed many of the upper-level math and science classes he bragged about taking."

On Sunday, the Times Union reported that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office is investigating a nonprofit foundation associated with NXIVM that allegedly sponsored brain-activity and other human behavioral studies without any apparent oversight, according to court records.

The nonprofit Ethical Science Foundation was formed in 2007 by Bronfman, who owns a horse farm in Delanson and is listed in public records as the trustee and donor of the foundation.

A state Supreme Court justice recently signed an order directing Bronfman and Dr. Brandon B. Porter, who is involved with NXIVM and conducted the human studies, to turn over all documentation associated with the research, including any written communications, videos, conclusions, consent forms and the names and addresses of "individuals associated with Ethical Science Foundation who participated in any manner with the studies."
There are sure to be more news items to come such as the following, reported by Chris Spargo and Emily Crane in the London Daily Mail, March 29, 2018 (link in original):

A former television star was among those who chased down officers after they took away cult leader Keith Raniere in the Mexican resort village of Puerto Vallarta over the weekend.

Video that was first obtained by Art Voice shows Smallville actress Allison Mack in a state of disbelief as officials arrest Raniere, four months after he crossed the border following the launch of a federal probe.

The women can then be heard saying that they are going to get into a car and follow the officers.

A local authority tells that the women then engaged in a high-speed car chase with police.

The 57-year-old leader of the secretive New York-based group called NXIVM was taken into custody by Mexican authorities after he was found surrounded by a group of women at a $10,000-a-week luxury villa on Sunday.

Raniere was extradited to Fort Worth, Texas on Monday and charged with sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy.

An individual with former ties to NXIVM tells that Mack was joined in the video by a group of women including actress Nicki Clyne and high-profile members Lauren Salzman and Loreta Garza.

The same source described Mack as Raniere's right-hand woman at NXIVM.

The actress only recently traveled down to Mexico however, with her social media showing her in the area for just the past month.

The group, which has been described by former members as a 'sex cult', claims to be a self-help organization that operates centers in US, Mexico, Canada and South America.

It emerged last year that the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million to speak to 3,000 NXIVM followers and place a khata - a traditional ceremonial Tibetan scarf - around Raniere's neck.

Raniere left the US last year after the New York Times reported that some women who joined a group in his organization had been branded with a symbol that included his initials.

The women told investigators they were subjected to 'master-slave' conditions that involved physical punishments for disobeying orders.

'As alleged in the complaint, Keith Raniere created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets,' US attorney Richard P. Donoghue said.

The complaint says Raniere founded NXIVM about 20 years ago and held a series of purported self-help workshops.

Since NXIVM's creation, Raniere has maintained poly-amorous relationships with its members, according to the complaint.

Courses associated with the group costs thousands of dollars each and participants are encouraged to pay for additional classes and to recruit others in order to rise within the ranks of NXIVM.

According to the complaint, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called DOS in 2015, which loosely translated to 'Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions', or 'The Vow'.

DOS operated with levels of women slaves headed by masters and most were recruited from within NXIVM's ranks.

When new DOS slaves were recruited, they were required to provide collateral, which included highly damaging information about friends and family members, nude photographs and/or rights to the recruit's assets.

The complaint says DOS slaves feared that their collateral could be released by the group if they left.

Many DOS slaves were branded on their pelvic areas using a cauterizing pen with a symbol which, unbeknownst to them, incorporated Raniere's initials, according to the court documents.

During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked and a master would order one slave to film the branding while the others restrained the slave being branded.

Smallville actress Allison Mack was considering a high-ranking member of the cult and was believed to have been second in charge to Raniere.

Former Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg had previously met with prosecutors in New York to detail her daughter's experience in the group.

Oxenberg, through her lawyers at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, said she hoped Raniere's arrest would go as far as reuniting her with her daughter.

'I want to help all the young women affected by this cult. They are the victims of human trafficking, which is slavery,' she said.

'For months, I have worked to expose Keith Raniere and Nxivm and today's arrest vindicates my efforts.

'I want my daughter to know I love her and that I want her back in my life.'

If convicted, Raniere could be sentenced to life in prison.

'As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves,' FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney said.

'He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme.

'These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today.'
The perceptive reader will notice that the Dalai Lama, alleged to be a spiritual giant, accepted money from this cult.

Click on the links to see the articles:

Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded by Barry Meier, The New York Times, October 17, 2017

Attorney general probes nonprofit associated with NXIVM by Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times-Union, March 25, 2018

FBI raids NXIVM president's house as Raniere appears in federal court by Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times-Union, March 27, 2018

Special Report: NXIVM, a compendium of articles in the Albany Times-Union

NXIVM: What We Know About Alleged Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor by Laura Barcella in Rolling Stone, March 29, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dark matter continues to baffle astronomers

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Seth Borenstein of Associated Press, March 28, 2018 (links in original):

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a double cosmic conundrum: Lots of stuff that was already invisible has gone missing.

Astronomers have found a distant galaxy where there is no dark matter.

Dark matter is called “dark” because it can’t be seen. It is the mysterious and invisible skeleton of the universe that scientists figure makes up about 27 percent of the cosmos. Scientists only know dark matter exists because they can observe how it pushes and pulls things they can see, like stars.

It’s supposed to be everywhere.

But Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and colleagues spied a vast, old galaxy with relatively few stars where what you see truly is what you get. The galaxy’s stars are speeding around with no apparent influence from dark matter, according to a study published in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Instead of shaking the very foundations of physics, scientists say this absence of dark matter may help prove the existence of, wait for it, dark matter.

“Not sure what to make of it, but it is definitely intriguing,” wrote Case Western Reserve astronomer Stacy McGaugh, who was not part of the study, in an email. “This is a weird galaxy.”

Van Dokkum studies diffuse galaxies, ones that cover enormous areas but have relatively few stars. To look for them he and colleagues built their own makeshift telescope out of 48 telephoto lenses that he first tested by using a toy flashlight to shine a light on a paper clip. The bug-eyed telescope, called Dragonfly, peers into the sky from New Mexico.

Using Dragonfly, van Dokkum and colleagues found a large, sparse galaxy called NGC1052-DF2 in the northern constellation Cetus, also known as the whale. It’s as big as the Milky Way but with only one percent of its stars. Then they used larger telescopes on Hawaii and eventually the Hubble Space Telescope to study the galaxy.

Even though the galaxy is mostly empty, they found clusters of densely grouped stars. With measurements from the telescopes, van Dokkum and colleagues calculated how fast those clusters moved. If there were a normal amount of dark matter those clusters would be speeding around at about 67,000 mph (108,000 kilometers per hour). Instead, the clusters were moving at about 18,000 mph (28,000 kilometers per hour). That’s about how fast they would move if there were no dark matter at all, van Dokkum said.

The team also calculated the total mass of the galaxy and found the stars account for everything, with little or no room left for dark matter.

“I find this unlikely in all possible contexts,” said McGaugh, who is a proponent of a “modified gravity” theory that excludes the existence of dark matter altogether. “That doesn’t make it wrong, just really weird.”

How could this absence of dark matter help prove that it exists? By potentially disproving modified gravity theories that suggest gravity acts in a way that the cosmos makes sense without dark matter. But those alternative theories require stars in this galaxy to zip at least twice as fast as they were seen moving in this study.

Other outside scientists said the initial look at the calculations appear to be correct, though the results are confounding. A galaxy with so few stars should have more dark matter than others, not none.

“These are very strong scientists and so I take the results very seriously,” said Marc Kamionkowski, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University.

One outsider suggested that perhaps the “galaxy” van Dokkum studied is so diffuse that it may not really be a galaxy. Another suggested that the dark matter might just be outside of the area that van Dokkum measured.

Van Dokkum dismissed both possibilities. “It’s sort of non-negotiable. There’s nothing else, just the stars,” he said. The only way this can be explained is if dark matter exists in the universe, just not in that galaxy, he said.

There’s no good explanation for why and how this galaxy has no dark matter, van Dokkum said. He proposed four different possibilities — all unproven. His favorite: That the galaxy formed in the very early universe in a way astronomers have never seen or understood.

“It’s not so often you get a true surprise,” van Dokkum said.
Click on the link to see the original article Beguiling dark-matter signal persists 20 years on by Davide Castelvecchi in Nature, March 28, 2018.

"Freedom coins" from A.D. 66-67 Jewish revolt against Roman rule discovered in Temple Mount cave

‘Freedom Coins’ from the revolt of 67-70 CE / (Photo credit: Eilat Mazar/Hebrew University)

As reported by Jewish News International, March 26, 2018:
Bronze coins, the last remnants of a four-year Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, were found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They were now discovered by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located below the Temple Mount’s southern wall.

These 1.5cm bronze coins were left behind by Jewish residents who hid in a large cave (21×42 ft.) for four years (66-70 C.E.) during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, up until the destruction of the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem.

While several of the coins date to the early years of the revolt, the great majority are from its final year, otherwise known as “Year Four” (69-70 CE). Significantly, during that final year, the Hebrew inscription on the coins was changed from “For the Freedom of Zion” to “For the Redemption of Zion,” a shift that reflects the changing mood of the rebels during this period of horror and famine.

“A discovery like this—ancient coins bearing the words ‘Freedom’ and ‘Redemption’—found right before the Jewish Festival of Freedom, Passover, begins, is incredibly moving,” Dr. Mazar noted.

In addition to Hebrew inscriptions, the coins were decorated with Jewish symbols, such as four plant species mentioned in relation to the Sukkot holiday: palm, myrtle, citron and willow, and a picture of the goblet that was used in the Temple service.

Many broken pottery vessels, including jars and cooking pots, were also found in the cave. According to Mazar, it is remarkable that this cave was never discovered by subsequent residents of Jerusalem, nor used again after the Second Temple period. In this way the cave acts as a veritable time capsule of life in Jerusalem under the siege and during the four-year revolt against the Roman Empire.

These finds all date back to the time of the rebellion and were found in the Ophel Cave directly above a Hasmonean Period layer that was situated at the base of the cave. A more complete report of these findings will be published in the third volume of the Ophel excavations; the second is being published this week.

According to Mazar, the coins were well-preserved, probably because they were in use for such a short time. A similar number of “Year Four” coins were found near Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall, by Professor Benjamin Mazar, Eilat Mazar’s grandfather. He conducted the Temple Mount excavations right after Israel’s Six Day War, on behalf of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.

The Ophel excavations are situated within the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, which is managed by the National Parks and Gardens Authority and the Eastern Jerusalem Development Company. Funding was generously provided by the Herbert W. Armstrong College of Edmond, Oklahoma, whose students participate in the digs.
It's interesting to note the mention of Herbert W. Armstrong College; this college is affiliated with the Philadelphia Church of God, which is one of numerous organizations that split off from the Worldwide Church of God after Mr. Armstrong died in 1986, and the WCG, under the direction of Joseph W. Tkach, moved in the direction of biblical Christianity, to the displeasure of those loyal to the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. One of the doctrines of Mr. Armstrong was a variation of British Israelism, which claims that the "lost" tribes of Israel became the people who formed the founding populations of the United Kingdom and United States. Mr. Armstrong's views were expressed in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which went through various editions from 1967 on, with revisions made every few years to excise predictions that had been proven false as a result of Mr. Armstrong's faulty exegesis. The Worldwide Church of God changed its name to Grace Communities International in 2009. The Philadelphia Church of God is one of the splinter organizations that claim to be holding to the teachings of Armstrongism, which comprise a false gospel of works. See my post 25 years ago: Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, goes to the "wonderful World Tomorrow" (January 15, 2011).