Should the PCUSA Open an “Office of Condemnation”?


The 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA met last month in St. Louis. As I reported in a previous blog, one of the overtures of particular interest to me on their agenda dealt with interfaith relations. Known as Overture 7-1, it was approved as amended by the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 20th. Among the seven directives of this overture was number 2, the final version of which reads: “Condemn  all religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination, and hate speech.” Image result for condemnationAs I commented in the earlier blog, passage of this overture would keep the PCUSA extremely busy, especially with regard to the actions of the Islamic world. Perhaps the denomination will open up a new ministry dedicated to this new directive, appropriately named the Office of Condemnation.

It has been almost a month since the close of the General Assembly, and I have checked the official news organizations of the PCUSA to track the denomination’s obedience to this new directive. As of yet, there have been no condemnations of religiously inspired and motivated violence, violence, prejudice, discrimination, and hate speech. That does not mean, of course, that such things have not occurred around the world, just that the PCUSA is not attuned to obvious existence, especially with regard to the Muslim world. To be of help, I have catalogued a representative sample of the types of activities since June 20th which should have triggered an official PCUSA response:

Discrimination:

  • On 7/8 Iran sentenced a young woman to 2 years imprisonment and 18 years probation (she must keep silent or else) for protesting the mandatory nature of the hijab.
  • During Ramadan, a Sikh teenager at the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Kashmir was systematically pressured to convert to Islam and observe Ramadan; when she complained after being stabbed by two masked men, the Muslim Vice-Chancellor dismissed the harassment claims, arguing that her classmates were “only joking.”
  • On 7/6, there was a public mass flogging of “suspected prostitutes” in Indonesia’s Muslim-dominated Aceh province.
  • On 6/27, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) revealed that it was imposing the Muslim jizya tax on the Assyrian Christian town of Ankawa in the province of Irbil, simply because its inhabitants were Christians, not Muslims.
  • In the country of Kyrgyzstan, officials recently ordered a church of Muslim converts to close or face the consequences.
  • Rampant discrimination against females within Islam is reflected in the high rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced (and supported by Shari’a law). The British government recently reported that there is a religiously-based act of FGM committed every two hours on average among its population — the vast majority of these mutilations take place in immigrants’ home countries where they return specifically for this reason.
  • Fulani Muslim militants have systematically targeted Christian citizens in Nigeria for ethnic cleansing. So far in 2018, some 6,000 have been massacred.

Hate Speech:

  • A recent internal survey of 100 mosques in “moderate” Jakarta found that 41 of them were “radical,” meaning that their typical messages included “hate speech, calls for the establishment of a caliphate, and a negative portrayal of other faiths.” If this is true in a country touted for being moderate in Islamic practice, what might that imply for more conservative Muslim countries?
  • In June, Dutch politician Geert Wilders announced that his Freedom Party will be holding a “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest soon to highlight the need for vigilance over the right of free speech. He has since received many public and private death threats. Pakistani hardline politician Khadim Hussain Rizvi, upon hearing of this, publicly declared, “If they give me the atom bomb I would remove Holland from the face of the earth before they can hold a competition of caricatures….”
  • On 7/5 the official Palestinian Authority TV station publicly lauded as heroes the mutilators and executioners of Israeli soldiers captured in 2000. Imprisoned for years now by the Israelis, these individuals are being praised as “giants of endurance.”
  • On his 79th birthday (7/17) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared his intention once again to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. “…[T]he fabricated Zionist regime will be eradicated,” he promised.

Prejudice:

  • In early July, Pakistan’s first Sikh police officer, Gulab Singh,was attacked in his home by Muslim officials who removed his turban, unwound his hair and then dragged him from his home by his hair, disrespecting his faith and pressuring him and his family to leave the country.
  • On July 5 it was reported that a joint declaration (produced by a British Muslim) condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred sought the signatures of both Muslim and Jewish leaders in France. Interestingly, all the Jewish leaders supported the declaration, but no French Muslim leader was willing to sign the document.
  • In late June, a Dutch Muslim named Hussein Jamakovic sent an email to four major news sites in Holland with the wish, “May you get cancer, you filthy, far-right cancer Jews.” This mindset while not always voiced, is not far below the surface in many Muslim circles.
  • On June 25, three Arab Muslims were sentenced in Sweden for a December 2017 firebomb attack on a synagogue in Gothenburg. The court concluded, “The crime…had a hate motive.” Some nine other masked men were involved in the attack, but could not be identified and so escaped prosecution.
  • Five African nations (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria and Sudan) are regularly in the news for slave-trafficking. Evidence of prejudice is found in the fact that the slaves are overwhelmingly dark-skinned, and the slave-owners are principally light-skinned Arab Muslims.Image result for religious hatred

Violence:

  • On 6/24, over 150 villagers were massacred by Muslim Fulani members of the militant group Miyetti Allah (which I’m told means “We are grateful to Allah”).
  • On 6/26, the Taliban issued a public statement justifying violent jihad on theological grounds, countering criticisms that their observance of Islam is aberrant.
  • As of 6/27, UNHCR estimates that Boko Haram attacks within the last decade have displaced some 1.9 Nigerians internally, as well as another half million plus in neighboring states.
  • On 7/3, the bombing of a Sikh community in Jalalabad, Afghanistan left 19 dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility and offered this warning: “Leave for India or convert to Islam.”
  • On 7/6, seven family members returning from a wedding celebration near Diyala were stopped by an Islamic State patrol and machine-gunned to death.
  • On 7/8, ten “Syrian refugees” were arrested in Berlin for attacking a man wearing a Star of David.
  • On 7/10, 50 villagers in Adamawa, Nigeria, were slain by Miyetti Allah. Likewise, the next day, members of the same terrorist group massacred 42 others in the town of Taraba.
  • On 7/13, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of a political rally taking place in Mastung, Pakistan. The blast killed 149 and injured 186. Radical Muslims see man-made political parties as an affront to Allah, who has already determined the right pattern of government and its application.
  • On 7/14 in Kabul, Afghanistan, another bomber struck a rural development agency, killing 7 and injuring 15.
  • On 7/16, jihadists invade the village of Injagalane, Mali, and mow down at least 14 fleeing residents.
  • Yesterday, in Ajiram, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber sent by the Islamic State attacks a rival mosque during a funeral, killing 22 mourners and injuring another 23.

As I indicated above, all of these events by no means exhaust the list of violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech fomented by members of the Muslim world in the name of Islam over the last thirty days. Image result for religious hatredWhy do we see such a disproportionate amount of hatred and violence perpetrated by Muslims against others? The answer is that violence and hatred against unbelievers and “unfaithful Muslims” are endorsed by Allah and his messenger in Islam’s holiest revelatory sources. Though the average Muslim today rejects these commands to hatred and violence, those who are most zealous for a return to the Islam of Muhammad believe that the path of violent jihad is the way to Allah’s blessing.

Since the 9/11 attacks on America by al-Qaeda, over 33,500 deadly assaults have been carried out around the world by self-described Muslims in the name of Allah, an average of 2.000 per year. The PCUSA, in its virtuous crusade to condemn all “religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech” has its work cut out for it.  Not only must the denomination now denounce all future acts of religiously inspired/motivated violence, etc., but if it is honest it must take issue with the commands to violence and hatred woven throughout the Qur’an, Hadith traditions and the earliest biographies of Muhammad (whom Muslims aspire to emulate as far as humanly possible).

I suspect the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA was engaged in politically correct self-preening when it passed this feel-good motion inviting arm-chair condemnation of those “hate crimes” identified by the progressive world. Enough to justify its self-righteous perch as the moral arbiter of all things, but not enough to truly engage the religious leviathan terrorizing the world today.

Will we see a future string of condemnations against Muslim violence from Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson in the coming months. Hardly likely. Instead, satisfied that it has done its moral duty with the approval of Overture 7-1, the PCUSA will now go back to sleep, rousing itself only to express outrage against those it views as haters of liberal causes (which bizarrely as of now includes the defense of Islam).

 

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Salami That’s Full of Baloney


Iran has been making the news consistently for the past month, and for all the wrong reasons.  As conditions continue to deteriorate for Iranians by and large, the ruling mullahs lash out at anyone other than themselves to pin blame. This is really not a surprise, for Islam (whether Sunni or Shi’ite) cultivates a finger-pointing mentality to explain why things go wrong. Here’s the rationale: Since Islam is the perfect religion, and since Allah is on the side of the Muslims, and since Muslims are the best of all peoples (as the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, tells us), then when things go wrong (and they do so often in Muslim majority countries) the blame must lie with outsiders (the infidels) or with hypocritical Muslims (who are living as infidels). Certainly the problem cannot lie within the religion of Islam itself, nor with those who are its leaders.

Iran’s mullahs have perfected the blame game, and given there are so many problems in Iran at present, fingers are pointing every which way but to the ayatollahs themselves. Economic hardship has led to a recent spate of protests and riots against the government. No longer are Iranians voluntarily chanting “Death to America!”, “Death to Israel!”; now instead the crowds are shouting, “Death to Rouhani” [Iran’s president who ran on a platform of prosperity and the ending of government corruption], “Death to Khamenei!” [Iran’s Supreme Leader and pre-eminent Grand Ayatollah]. At a protest in Teheran on June 25th, a new refrain was chanted: “Our enemy is right here; America is not our enemy!” These are startling developments.

Due to mismanagement, corruption, incompetence and the stubborn intent to extend themselves as a regional military bully, Iran’s mullahcracy has driven its country into economic ruin.  Unemployment has risen to nearly 40% of the work force. From June 2017 to now, the rate of exchange of the Iranian rial has gone from 37,500 per dollar to 90,000 per dollar, an inflation of almost 250%. Not surprisingly, another popular protest chant has been, “Death to inflation!” The government, of course, blames all this on the West, principally the USA, for the renewed imposition of economic sanctions. And on top of this, some 90% of Iran geographically has been suffering moderate to extreme drought conditions for almost fourteen years, making farming (the principal livelihood in rural areas) almost impossible. Image result for drought in iranBut rather than see this as a natural climatic condition, or perhaps a sign of Allah’s disapproval of their leadership, the mullahs and their military have another explanation: Israel and a “Zionist Arab ally” (i.e., Saudi Arabia) teamed up to create and deploy a new technology able to suck moisture out of clouds before they can drift over Iran! As always, “It’s a Zionist plot.”

Recently, a draft of next national budget was leaked to the public, and everyone had an opportunity to see just how much money was budgeted to the pet projects of influential mullahs, as well as to paramilitary and military organizations, and finally the support of “revolutionary causes” outside Iran (the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the regime in Syria), while the majority of Iran’s citizens were told the government’s resources were too limited to help them. Needless to say, the masses were irate. Riots have broken out marked by chants such as “Islamic Republic, no more, no more!”, and “No Gaza, no Lebanon, my life for Iran!”, “Leave Syria and think of us!,” and perhaps most stunningly, “Death to Palestine!” [meaning presumably, “Forget the Palestinians, pay attention to our urgent needs!”]. Seeing excessive fiscal corruption among the religious elite feeding at the public trough, protesters shout, “Capitalist mullahs, give our money back!” Image result for khamenei personal wealthA recent Reuters news investigation of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei revealed that he rules over a personal financial empire worth some $95 billion, putting even the most greedy Western televangelist to shame with his avarice. Khamenei is no doubt the largest hog, but there are plenty of other piggish mullahs at trough alongside him.

Mullahs believe the blame for Iran’s problems must also lie with its citizens who are not model Muslims. Thus, the regime is cracking down hard on those who transgress the strict social and religious dictates of the Islamic Republic. Those Iranians practicing the Baha’i faith continue to be the target of divinely-decreed eradication from this world. Muslims are becoming Christians at explosive rates across Iran, and house church networks are multiplying under the noses of Muslim authorities. As a result, the government is threatening and/or arresting Muslim convert leaders whenever it discovers them. Women are regularly harassed for not wearing their hijabs properly (i.e., allowing some hair to show). One young woman who openly protested against the mandatory nature of the hijab law was convicted last week of the crime of protesting against Shari’a — two years incarceration and eighteen years probation, lest she open her mouth again. Another, a teenage girl who filmed herself dancing fully-clothed but without hijab in her own bedroom and then uploaded that video to Instagram was arrested and subsequently forced to confess on State television her “moral lapse.” Other girls have suffered the same fate. The judiciary is contemplating the prevention of any further access to Instagram from within Iran so that teens will no longer threaten the moral fabric of the Muslim nation.

But of course, the received wisdom of Shi’ite leadership is that the real cause of all the problems experienced in the Muslim world is none other than the existence of Israel. At the Islamic Republic of Iran’s creation in 1979, founder Ruhollah Khomeini coded the regime’s DNA with an inextinguishable hatred for Israel and undying commitment to its destruction. Image result for khomeiniHe created al-Quds Day as an Islamic holiday to celebrate the future hope of Israel’s destruction and Palestine’s rule over Jerusalem (al-Quds is the Arabic term for the “Holy place”, i.e., Jerusalem).

This year, al-Quds Day occurred on Friday, June 8th. In Iran’s religiously important city of Mashhad, the Friday “sermon” was delivered by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander Hossein Salami who spent much of his time bragging about how Israel has been quaking with fear since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. (You can read a copy of his translated message here.It is Iran, he boasted, that has kept Israel from expanding its political influence throughout the Middle East, thereby frustrating the plans of America to dominate the Muslim world. Because of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas have been armed to the teeth with missiles, and an Islamic army is now assembled in Syria just awaiting the order (from Allah, presumably) to overrun and destroy Israel. Painting a picture of Iran’s indomitable courage and power, Gen. Salami seemingly believes that Israel’s and America’s days are numbered, and soon Iran will flex its muscles for all to see. Here is his assessment of Iran’s victorious struggle since its inception in 1979:

The enemy has shown us all his might, and he has nothing hidden. For 40 years, we have fought all America’s, the West’s, and their allies’ institutions of might. We experienced [the Iran-Iraq] war for eight years, even though at that time we had not much might. During the war we became strong; the people came [to the arena of war], and the Imam [Khomeini] revived in the people the spirit of jihad, and becoming a martyr was the ideal for the people. We won the war, and America, the USSR, [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein], England, Germany, and all their allies were defeated.

You may have missed that war where all the combined military might of the USA and her European, Arab, and Asian allies was unleashed against Iran, yet the mullahs bravely fought everyone off and instead defeated the forces of Satan to emerge victorious. In fact, it did not happen in the real world, but apparently it did in Gen. Salami’s mind, and that’s all that matters. The general, like his mullah masters, lives in the fantasy realm of Islamic supremacy, ignoring important facts and twisting others to fuel his illusions.

As a case in point, you may remember that on April 9th this year, Israel attacked a Syrian air base known as T-4 in order to destroy an Iranian advanced anti-aircraft system recently moved there. Iran vowed to retaliate, which it did in the early morning of May 10th, firing some twenty missiles toward Israeli military bases in the Golan Heights. Israel reported that four were intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system and the rest landed short of Israel in Syrian territory. The next night, Israel responded rather massively against Iranian forces in Syria, deploying some seventy missiles. After intelligence assessments the next day, Israeli Defense Ministry Avigdor Liebermann announced tersely that Israel’s retaliation had struck “…almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria“, and that he hoped all concerned parties would get the message so as to avoid further escalation. There have been no attacks from Iran on Israel since.

However, Gen. Salami’s take on the above series of events is quite different:

“When the Zionists bombed the T-4 base in Syria and killed some young men, they thought that they would get no reaction. They thought that America’s and England’s support could frighten the resistance front. They thought that no one would respond. Everyone is witness to the fact that they said, ‘If they respond, we will put an end to the Syrian regime.’ But the response came in the Golan, and dozens of missiles were fired, along with the message ‘If you respond, we will flatten the heart of Tel Aviv into dust.’ They were silent, and did nothing further…

He does acknowledge Israel’s attack in the T-4 base, and he embellishes Iran’s response, failing to admit its negligent impact on Israel. He fabricates a brazen warning supposedly transmitted to Israel, and gives his audience the impression that Israel was appropriately subdued by Iran’s demonstration of might and threat of more fire and fury against Tel Aviv, and so meekly retreated in silence.

Amazing! When you live on Fantasy Island, reality becomes whatever you desire it to be. What do we learn from the al-Quds Day speech by Deputy Commander Hossein Salami?

We find that Salami is full of baloney. It seems to be his normal condition, any way you slice it. But what is true of him is true as well of his mullah puppet-masters. Look at and weigh a few of their declarations:

  • Iran’s people are on the verge of prosperity and happy with the regime — BALONEY
  • Iran’s drought has been caused by the evil Jews — BALONEY
  • The mullahs are truly seeking to serve the interests of the people — BALONEY
  • America and Israel are out to destroy the Iranian people — BALONEY
  • Minority religious groups are bringing punishment from Allah on Iran — BALONEY
  • “Uncovered women” must be punished to please Allah — BALONEY
  • If you simply obey your mullahs and don’t question, all will go well — BALONEY.

I know, sadly, that if Mr. Salami or any of the other Shi’ite leaders in question were to read this blog they would be highly offended by my claim they are full of baloney. So to avoid offense, let me stipulate that I am speaking only about halal baloney — nothing with haram pork products in it.

Image result for halal baloney

There, I hope that makes them feel better….

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Supreme Hypocrisy in Court Nominee Opposition


While I rarely comment directly on political matters, every so often the level of hypocrisy and deceit rises so high that my conscience is compelled to weigh in. Image result for hypocrisyI recognize that deceit and hypocrisy are not the exclusive domain of any political party (nor indeed of any human enterprise), but in this particular case the liberal Democratic left has plunged far below the normally lax boundaries of acceptability one has for deception and pretense among politicians.

In their desperation to prevent any conservative presidential nominee to the bench of the Supreme Court, liberal politicians began last week to cast dire warnings about the future of our nation should any of President Trump’s “short list” actually be nominated.

Now that Judge Brett Cavanaugh has received the nomination, these dire warnings have become personalized. Democracy for America, a far-left political action committee, quickly declared, following Cavanaugh’s public nomination, that his confirmation would “…directly lead to the deaths of countless women with the dismantling of abortion rights.” Women’s March, a social change movement, released a statement saying, “Trump’s announcement today is a death sentence for thousands of women in the United States.” Democratic congressional hopeful Justin Dewitt issued his unresearched judgment that “…Kavanaugh has sided against the American people time and time again.” Most apocalyptically, however, former VA governor and Democratic heavyweight Terry McAuliffe prophesied, “The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come and will morph our Supreme Court into a political arm of the right-wing Republican Party.” Apparently, Democrats want to save the lives of countless Americans, women especially, while Republicans are out to kill as many as possible because of their heartless and evil policies.

I might be willing to give such Democrats the benefit of the doubt as to their sincere desire to save lives, but while they talk in hypotheticals about myriads of back alley abortion deaths (for the future reality of which there is no credible evidence) there are thousands dying right now about whom they have been strangely silent.

So far in 2018 alone, there have been over 6,000 Christians massacred by Muslim Fulani tribesmen and Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria. These victims are mostly women, children and the elderly.  Christian persecutionDuring the last week of June, in the Plateau state region in the center of the country, 238 Christians were murdered by Muslim marauders. But this loss of life hardly merited a mention in the Western press.

Now. of course, I normally wouldn’t expect American politicians to spend much of their time and energy commenting on atrocities happening around the world. But when they pretend to crusade for the rescue of lives at risk, and to cloak themselves in robes of righteous indignation against those who threaten “countless lives” through the support of a Supreme Court nominee, it seems fair to ask why they haven’t voiced even a squeak of concern over the many lives actually lost in recent months due to unjust persecution.

Certainly for those politicians who value life as sacred, it can’t be that they see American lives as more precious than the lives or Nigerians or other nationalities, can it? Their fervor for the safety of all humans shines clearly in their statements, doesn’t it? Perhaps they feel their voice cannot accomplish any good for those in other countries, so they must resign themselves to the fight in America. But principles are principles. If they really cared about human lives, the least they could do would be to publicly urge our State Department to engage more forcefully with the Nigerian government and the United Nations to protect the peaceful and defenseless Christians against unjust Muslim aggression. But to date, their silence is deafening.

Principles indeed are principles, but apparently in hyper-partisan Washington they only matter when they can be trotted out cynically as weapons against the other party. Otherwise, they remain packed away in the moral attic gathering dust until the next political crisis crops up.

Oh, for the former days of normal hypocrisy and deceit in Washington! It was far easier to swallow than today’s nauseating diet….

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No Solus Christus for the PCUSA!


Image result for 223rd general assembly plenary photos

Good news!!! At this morning’s “ecumenical faith” worship service held during the Presbyterian Church’s 223rd General Assembly,  the opening leader was not a Muslim invoking an Islamic prayer (unlike at the 222nd GA in 2016 – see here for a critique of that event).

But, still, there is bad news. During the service, this written prayer was included in those offered by the attendees:

We praise you for the gift of faith we have received in Jesus Christ. We praise you also for diverse faith among the peoples of the earth. You have bestowed your grace that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Practitioners of traditional religions and others may celebrate your goodness, act upon your truth and demonstrate your righteousness. In wonder and awe we praise you great God.                                                — (see pg. 113 of the 223GA Program Book)

Reading this prayer carefully, one discovers that faith in Jesus Christ is just one of many diverse faiths on earth, all of which are good. God’s gift of grace is not linked uniquely to the work of Christ opening up salvation for all the world, but rather only one way of coming to God.

Apparently the Cross was not necessary to reconcile human beings to God. The mission of Jesus Christ was misguided. Why would God send His Son to die if His grace is dispensed to all people regardless of their belief systems and practices? Animists (the non-PC word for “practitioners of traditional religions”) whose lives are driven by currying the favor of angry spirits indwelling objects in their world; Buddhists who don’t believe in a supreme divinity but hope through reincarnation to attain nirvana and lose themselves in the monistic “Being” of all that is; Muslims who consciously and vehemently reject the person and work of Jesus as revealed in the New Testament and instead claim that Jesus is not the Son of God and did not die on the Cross, Jews likewise who reject the gospel and turn from their Messiah; all these (and what about Hindus, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Mormons and the like?) apparently celebrate the “goodness” of God, although Jesus himself declares that “…no one knows the Father except the Son and those  to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27).

All faith communities, according to this prayer, “act upon your [God’s] truth,” even though they reject Jesus’ claim to be THE Truth. Again, the New Testament tells us that no one has ever seen God (the Father), but that the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known (John 1:18). “If you reject me,” Jesus says, “you reject the Father who sent me” (Lk 10:16). That Jesus equates himself with God’s Truth is clear in so much of his teaching. For example, in John 8:32, Jesus declares, “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free [from slavery to sin].” Four verses later (v. 36), in the context of the same conversation, he asserts, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” The truth sets free; the Son sets free; by clear implication, the truth=the Son.

But according to this PCUSA prayer, people of diverse faiths can reject the truth claims and teachings of Jesus and still act upon God’s truth. Now there is no question that elements of moral and spiritual truth can be found in all religions. But the issue is whether that truth points ultimately to Jesus or not, for as Peter said, “There is no other name under heaven given among me by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12). The implication of this prayer is that the diverse faiths of the world are all gifts of God and equally able to teach saving truth that leads to God. If such is the case, Christ died to no avail, and the Great Commission is unnecessary at best, or religious imperialism at worst.

And finally, all faith communities are equally able to demonstrate God’s righteousness. Even though Isaiah would lament that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags” (64:6), and Paul, quoting the Old Testament, would say, “There is none who is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10), and a little later on in v.23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, this prayer vetted by the PCUSA argues instead that God’s common grace poured out on all humanity ensures that people of any faith are able to demonstrate the righteousness of God. When Paul says of Jesus that God has made him  “…the source of your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:31), the apostle was hopelessly myopic. He should have seen that through any of the world’s religions people can demonstrate God’s righteousness. Romans 8:1 should really read, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who believe in anything.” According to the PCUSA, apparently, Jesus is nice, but he is not essential to salvation, to a relationship with God, to understanding Truth.

It’s hardly a surprise, then, that this once-gospel-believing-and-preaching-and-sending denomination is imploding, having lost over half its membership in the last 26 years. Having debased the gospel into a social action movement, it has no incentive to reach a lost world with God’s good news. Instead, it reinvents “the gospel.” The world is not lost apart from Christ; in fact all believers of whatever stripe and creed are in fact part of the same happy family and despite all those silly, contradictory theological beliefs that pretend to separate us, so we can and must pull together to do the really important work of reversing global warming, decrying the nation-state of Israel, condemning “Islamophobia,” erasing national borders, redistributing wealth and dreaming up new genders. “In wonder and awe we praise you great God,” the GA worshipers intone breathlessly.

No wonder members are bailing out in record numbers. No wonder official PCUSA world missions work continues to dwindle, having been transformed from a gospel-planting work in former generations to a social justice and aid distributing agency today.

Am I making too big a deal over one prayer in a week’s worth of worship liturgies at the 223rd General Assembly? Perhaps. But the fact that such a prayer was vetted and chosen to be included in plenary worship indicates the mindset of the PCUSA leadership. That no one raised a concern strongly enough to strike this from the program would suggest acceptance of an anti-gospel, pro-universalistic approach toward the non-Christian world.

“Renewing the Vision: Kindom [sic] Building in the 21st Century” is the theme of this year’s Assembly. The play on the word “Kingdom” is intentional, as the denomination’s goal is no longer focused on following God as our King but on revering human beings around us as “kin.” These two shouldn’t be in opposition to each other, of course, but when the second replaces the first, the gospel loses its original meaning and purpose, and the Church can no longer sing:

We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.

We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God.

Image result for we've a story to tell to the nationsMay Jesus Christ, head over the Church Universal, prevent the PCUSA from making a full shipwreck of its faith. Either that, or remove the denomination from the world stage. My heart yearns for the former, but not at the expense of the gospel.

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Presbyterian Church USA Poised to Condemn Islam, Muhammad and the Qur’an….


The 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) kicks off this week (June 16-23). It promises to be an orgy of progressive delights — from bashing America’s immigration policies to demonizing fossil fuels to trashing Israel while apotheosizing Palestine to global warming warnings to the horrors of white privilege to the blessings of intersexuality to the condemnation of  hate speech in all its forms. Image result for 223rd ga logoWhat Christian in his/her right mind would want to miss such a momentous event? Surely in all this, the biblical message that Jesus Christ came to save sinners will receive some passing mention….

One of the overtures of special interest to me has been proposed by the Presbytery of Carlisle (Item 07-01 on the GA docket). Entitled “On America’s Interfaith Context and the Church’s Challenge,” this overture contains seven recommendations for action. Six of them are the kind of vapid directives one might expect from a moralistic, progressive bureaucracy, and offer nothing that other mainline denominations have not also chattered about.

The seventh , however — directive number two in order –breaks new ground and would launch the PCUSA boldly into new territory with regard to interfaith activity. It reads:

Condemn all religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech, and in particular anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim behaviors and language.

This sounds very PC on the surface, but in fact would mandate that the PCUSA would have to condemn Islam as a religion and its “holy book”, the Qur’an.

Since 9/11/2001 there have been over 33,000 deadly attacks around the world carried out by Muslims in the name of Islam. The Religion of PeaceNo other religion approaches even one percent of this figure over the same period. The bromides bandied about that the perpetrators are not really Muslims or that they have wrongly interpreted their religion beg the question: Why have so many gotten their religion so wrong, if indeed they have? Why is the religious violence we see around the world overwhelmingly associated with Islam? Surely if this PCUSA overture passes, the denomination will quickly issue an official condemnation of Islam’s “religiously inspired and motivated violence” as seen over the last two decades (not to mention its bloody history over the last 1400 years). I will wait with bated breath….

Religiously inspired and motivated…prejudice will also be in the crosshairs of the PCUSA. So the common references to Jews as “descendants of apes and pigs” which echo through mosques around the world every Friday will be condemned, as will all the other epithets targeting the Jewish race for being the source of all the world’s evils. Indeed, the PCUSA will necessarily denounce the Qur’anic teaching that the Jews are the enemies of Allah, and the Hadith reports where Muhammad declares that the Day of Judgment will not come until the armies of Islam hunt down and exterminate all Jews from this world, per the decree of Allah. The anti-Jewish prejudice inherent in Islam will face the scorching condemnation of the Presbyterian Church USA. I can hardly wait.

As regards “religiously inspired and motivated…discrimination,” the yet-to-be approved overture will lead the denomination to excoriate Islam over the third-class status of dhimmitude within the Islamic state, where non-Muslims are allowed to live (except for polytheists and atheists, who are forced to become Muslim or face immediate execution) in subordination to Islamic law and with extremely constricted rights compared to their Muslim neighbors. Likewise, the discriminatory, Shari’a-compliant, hefty, annual poll tax (jizya) levied on all dhimmis will face the withering censure of the PCUSA. Of course, since this is an obvious “justice issue,” the denomination will make its denunciations of Islamic discrimination a first-order priority. I expect a public proclamation by Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, Jr. by the end of this month. If he asks, I would gladly help him compose it.

Lastly, Overture 7-1 would require the PCUSA to condemn religiously inspired and motivated…hate speech. Primary among PCUSA targets would have to be the Qur’an, which serves as the principal source of hate speech against non-Muslims for almost a quarter of the world’s 7.6 billion people. Finally a mainline Protestant denomination will censure the hate-filled portions of the Qur’an that fuel Muslim loathing toward the unconverted world. Here are a few examples to give them a running start:

  • “You are the best of all peoples,” (3:110) the Qur’an says to the Muslim community, while “Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein forever. They are the worst of creatures” (98:6).
  • The non-Muslim world is variously characterized as diseased (2:10), perverse (2:99), stupid (2:171) and deceitful (3:73).
  • According to 8:55, “Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, and they will not believe.” As a result, the kuffar are compared unfavorably with dogs and cattle (7:176, 179), dirty (9:28) and ignorant (6:111).
  • The Jews merit these descriptions, but as noted above they garner even more hate speech from Allah. Image result for jewish caricatures in Islamic thoughtAs descendants of apes and pigs (because in the past Allah transformed them into these subhuman animals as punishment for their unbelief (see 5:60, 7:166, 2:65), they are especially corrupt, filthy and helpers of the devil (4:76).
  • As a result of all these odious decrees and descriptions, Muslims are warned repeatedly not to take unbelievers as friends, for they are “unto you open enemies”(4:101; see also 4:144; 5:51; 58:22; 3:118; 60:4).
  • Therefore, Muslims are commanded to fight against the unbelievers, inflicting harshness on them (9:123); or in the words of the Qur’anic golden rule, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are severe against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves…” (48:29).
  • Curses are indeed a powerful form of hate speech. Since Allah himself calls curses down upon Jews and Christians (and all who reject Muhammad’s claims), divine hate speech against other religious groups is canonized in Islam. If Allah speaks hatefully toward the non-Muslim world, how can his followers not imitate him?

After leaning long and hard toward a gospel-denying universalism, the PCUSA seems poised now to condemn the religious teachings of a rival faith. To be fair, it has to be said that this unintended exclusivistic drift is not being nourished by a true belief in the gospel but by a mindless pursuit of “progressive justice,” which holds that anything negative said about anyone or their beliefs must be “hate speech” (except when said against Christians, of course), and as the cause du jour it must become one of the PCUSA’s pet pursuits.

Unfortunately, one of the other fabrications commonly accepted by the progressive left is that all religions, including Islam, are peaceful at heart. Hence, Overture 7-1 assumes that any “religious hate speech” will arise from those perverting their religions, not practicing them faithfully. Unfortunately, as those who know Islam well can testify, religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech is endemic to the heart and culture of Islam as taught and practiced by the prophet of Arabia.

If Overture 7-1 is approved by the PCUSA later this week, then the denomination will be poised to condemn the teachings and example of Muhammad, and of Islam’s “holy book” which enshrines religiously inspired and motivated violence, prejudice, discrimination and hate speech. Even Allah will face the condemnation of the PCUSA, for he is the source of all this malice. I’m trembling with anticipation over the denomination’s bold move!

Of course, this will only happen if the denomination is consistent in its application of Directive number 2. And the denomination has been anything but consistent in following its past principles when they have conflicted with its post-Christian pursuits in recent decades. Image result for hold your breath

So, on second thought, I’m not holding my breath….

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Allah + Appeasement = Abomination


That Islam is a merit/demerit based religion is beyond question. One’s eternal destiny hinges (as far as any human actions can sway the will of Allah) on how well or poorly one obeys the divine commands, now conveniently gathered in what is known as Shari’ah law (in one approved version or another). The goal of Muslims is to stack up as many “merit points” as possible while avoiding the demerits that accrue from disobedience to Allah. At the Day of Judgment Allah will use a pan balance to weigh the totality of one’s good deeds against his bad deeds. Although Allah in his sovereign freedom is not obligated to follow the results, the Muslim hope is that he will have accrued enough good over evil to sway Allah’s judgment toward Paradise rather than hellfire.

One doesn’t need to read much in Islamic literature to see the obsession with reward and punishment based on deeds. Many scholars and hadith traditions weigh in on the specific rewards (in quality and quantity associated with particular good deeds or intentions. For example:

  • “The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah [i.e., in jihad] is like a seed which grows seven spikes, in each spike is a hundred grains. Allah multiplies His reward for whom He wills, for Allah is vast and knowing” (Sura 2:261)
  • “Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and He made them clear. Image result for recording angels in islamWhoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it then Allah will record for him a single bad deed” (Sahih Bukhari, 6126)
  • “Whoever reads a letter of the Book of Allah will be credited with a good deed, and a good deed gets tenfold reward. I do not say that Alif-laam-meem is a letter, rather alif is a letter, laam is a letter and meem is a letter” (Tirmidhi, 2910)
  • Reading or reciting Surat al-Ikhlas (Sura 112, composed of only 4 verses) gains the reward otherwise associated with reading or reciting 1/3 of the whole Qur’an (Bukhari, 4628)
  • According to Muhammad, “Whoever sends blessings upon me once will have Allah send blessings upon him ten times” (Sahih Muslim, 408)
  • Even better, according to Sunan Timidhi 2689, “Imran ibn Hussein reported: A man came to the Prophet and he said, ‘Peace be upon you.’ The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: ‘Ten good deeds.’ Then another man came to the Prophet and he said, ‘Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah.’ The Prophet said: ‘Twenty good deeds.’ Then another man came to the Prophet and he said, ‘Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.’ The Prophet said: ‘Thirty good deeds.'” (Apparently it really pays out well to heap praises upon Muhammad!)
  • “Every [good] deed of the son of Adam is multiplied from ten to seven hundred times. Allah the Exalted says: Except for fasting, for it is done for my sake and I will reward it” (Sahih Muslim 1151). The implication of this is that fasting is in an exalted category all by itself, and earns mountains of blessings from Allah.
  • Providing food for one breaking his fast earns you as much reward as that achieved by the one fasting, without detracting from his reward in any way.
  • The Prophet said: “Prayer in congregation is superior to praying individually twenty-seven times.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
  • “Allah’s Messenger (Peace be Upon Him) said: ‘Whoever says ‘Subhaanallaahi wa bihamdihi’  [Glorified is Allah and praised is He] one hundred times a day, will have his sins forgiven even if they are like the foam of the sea.'” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • Perhaps the “jackpot command” is: “The Prophet said: “Whoever enters a market and says: ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah waHdahu laa shareeka lah, lahul mulku wa lahul Hamdu yuHyi wa yumeetu wa huwa Hayyun laa yamoot, bi yadihil khayr, wahuwa `alaa kulli shay’in qadeer’  [there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah, He is alone without partner, to Him belongs dominion and praise, he causes life and death and He is the Living and does not die. In His Hand is all the good, and He is over all things competent.] Allah will write for him a million good deeds, erase a million of his bad deeds and raise him a million levels.” (at-Tirmidhi)

There are thousands of such incentives sprinkled throughout Muslim religious texts, and they are taken seriously by the pious Muslim who fears the unquenchable fires of hell and is troubled by the doubts of having done enough good works to qualify for paradise. Image result for hellfire in islamIt is a bit comforting to know that Allah has his finger on the scales, so to speak, multiplying one’s good deeds while counting bad deeds only as single events. However, in works-righteousness salvation systems, one never has ultimate assurance of making the grade, and adherents often remain plagued with fears of eternal punishment.

For this reason, the month of Ramadan is all the more important to Muslims, for according to Muhammad, Allah takes the “normal” rewards associated with meritorious actions at other times of the year and multiplies them 70-fold if they are done during Ramadan. This increased incentive leads to extra attention to the mandatory prayers as well as voluntary evening prayers in the mosque, to hearing and reciting the Qur’an, to giving mandatory alms and then some, and of course to an increase of jihad attacks against the infidel world (the greatest act of devotion in Allah’s eyes). Muslims hope that their devotion during this month will wipe out all their sins and accrue new heights of heavenly reward for their future.

And yet, there remains a nagging uncertainty that they have pleased Allah sufficiently; left with no assurance of their positive stature with him, many try to show him their devotion in extreme ways — giving up their wealth, giving up their lives by “killing and being killed in the way of Allah”  (see Sura 9:111, where Allah assures the jihadi of paradise in exchange for the jihadi’s promise to “go out in a blaze of glory for Islam”), or sacrificing whatever else is most precious to them in life.

This mindset helps explain the horrific actions of one Indian Muslim man early last Friday morning. Nawab Ali Qureshi, a 26 year-old husband and father in Jodhpur, India, had retired to bed with his wife and two young daughters before rising shortly after midnight, waking his four-year old daughter Rizwana and taking her downstairs to the courtyard where he recited some verses from the Qur’an and then slit her throat. Leaving her to bleed out, he then went upstairs to sleep again before waking to eat his pre-fast meal of the day.  His wife, Shabana, awoke around 3 am and went downstairs, presumably to begin preparing her husband’s suhoor meal before the day’s fasting would begin, and she came upon her daughter’s lifeless body. When she frantically roused her husband, he played dumb, suggesting that perhaps the cat had dragged her downstairs and clawed her throat open. Shabana called the police and filed a criminal report, after which the authorities quickly suspected the father as the perpetrator.

When Qureshi confessed, he explained that his fear of the wrath of Allah led him to seek divine appeasement by sacrificing that which was most precious to him: “I had to offer my most prized possession to Allah,” he told police. “I am a devout Muslim and love my daughter more than my life.” But Allah is a hard master to satisfy. Qureshi thought that if he offered the jewel of his life, his young and innocent daughter, that would demonstrate to Allah his ultimate devotion and submission.

Now, to be fair, Islam does not condone child sacrifice — in fact, Muhammad was instrumental in stamping out female infanticide on the Arabian peninsula. And yet, the taking of life is not an unusual thing within Islam — honor killings, death to apostates, the beheading of infidels, the lionization of martyrdom all contribute to the notion that human life in and of itself is not highly valued.

When you mix that with a legalistic approach to seeking God’s approval, one which drives you to extreme efforts to demonstrate your devotion, and you add to that mix some mental imbalance, you end up with a Nawab Ali Qureshi, who does the unthinkable, barbarically slaughtering his daughter in a quest to appease the Allah of Islam.

There is no question that at some level Qureshi knew his actions were wrong. His kills his daughter at night, as everyone else is asleep. When confronted with his daughter’s corpse, he blames a cat. When he finally confesses, he explains that to appease Allah this “sacrificial offering” was necessary. Later on, he adds that he felt as if Satan had overtaken him in the act of murder.

So, which is it? Was his “sacrificial offering” prompted by Allah’s demands, or by Satan’s machinations? How could Qureshi confuse the inner promptings so grievously, unable to tell the difference between Allah and the devil? Well, as it turns out, he is no better than his prophet, Muhammad, who at least once mistook the whisperings of Satan for the voice of Allah as mediated through the angel Jibril. If Islam’s prophet could be so easily fooled, who can blame one of his frail followers?

For Muhammad, the damage was minimal. All he had to do was eat some crow, ignore the mocking of his detractors, and concoct a new divine revelation announcing that all true prophets in the past had been tricked by Satan, but that Allah had always set the record straight and preserved his true revelation.

But for Qureshi and the world around him, the damage is irretrievable. His daughter has been robbed of life; his family has been shattered; the albatross around his neck will never be removed. All because he sought to show his allegiance to a severe and pitiless god for whom the death of an innocent four-year old is just one more corpse added to the string of millions dating back fourteen hundred years.

May the true God of love have mercy on little Rizwana, now beyond the shadow of death. And may He, who is also God of justice, bring to an end the death cult which has terrorized so many.

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Ramadan: “If I Can’t Eat, Neither Can You”


Every religion encourages fasting as a form of spiritual discipline, but only one to my knowledge requires it publicly of every adherent for one month of the year. That religion, of course, is Islam, and the month of fasting is Ramadan, the ninth month of Islam’s lunar calendar.

While exceptions are made for those in hardship (the elderly, the pregnant, the seriously ill, those traveling, and of course menstruating women — who are too unclean for their fasting to be acceptable to Allah, but who must make up their lost days in the month after Ramadan), all other Muslims are expected/required to fast, and in Muslim countries the social and legal pressure to conform is intense. Image result for Ramadan fasting enforcedEven non-Muslims are expected to refrain from eating or drinking in public so as not to tempt or aggravate Muslims.

This expectation reflects the Islamic mindset that the world must conform to Muslim ways. In Muslim majority countries, this is not surprising, but the West is now discovering that Muslims are increasingly demanding special treatment in the way of concessions so they can practice their faith requirements with little or no problem. If accommodation is needed, the world must bend to Muslim practice, not the other way around. We have seen this with Muslim factory workers, who demand time-off from the production line even if it disrupts the company’s efficiency, just so they can pray their mandatory prayers within the prescribed periods of Shari’a law.  (By the way, Shari’a law permits Muslims to make up prayers that circumstances force them to miss, but most Muslims will not share this with employers, as they wish their non-Muslim bosses to bow to the rhythms of Islamic life.) Image result for Ramadan fasting enforcedWe are seeing this same reality of Western concessions to Muslim sensibilities during Ramadan. If there are Muslims around, then eating and drinking must be banned, and everyone inconvenienced equally. For example:

 

  • on Friday May 25th, in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos a group of Arab Muslims attacked a group of Kurds (also Muslim) based on an allegation that the Kurds were not fasting during Ramadan. Some 17 were injured.
  • last week a Muslim resident of Scotland named Paigham Mustafa penned a public letter posted to Facebook in which he argued that the Qur’an never prescribed ritual fasting, and indeed that the ritual fasting of Ramadan is “another detrimental facet of religion and no part of Islam.” A number of incensed commenters insulted him as a “kafir” (i.e., a slur used for disbelievers), and threatened him with beheading if he didn’t recant and remove the post.
  • on May 24th, the Interior Ministry of Iraq issued a public notice that it would take”…legal measures against people publicly breaking their fast (during day time) and refer them to the judiciary.”
  • last month in Germany, Muslim parents complained to educational authorities that their children should not be required to take compulsory exams as they were exhausted from fasting and therefore liable to undue stress.
  • the Grand Mufti (religious judge) of Jerusalem “…demanded that the owners of the restaurants and cafés close them during the daytime hours of the month of Ramadan in order to preserve the sanctity of the month. He called on the responsible parties to go after anyone who publicly breaks the fast and put them on trial.” The Palestinian Authority’s Supreme Fatwa Council supported the Grand Mufti in this, decreeing that “breaking the Ramadan fast in public is one of the greatest sins,” and quoting Muhammad as saying, “Whoever stops fasting on Ramadan has renounced Islam… [shedding] his blood is permitted.
  • Netherlands’ Muslim politician Tofik Dibi posted a photo of a sniper at a window, implying he would pick off Dutch people enjoying drinks on open terraces during daylight hours during Ramadan. He later claimed it was only a joke.
  • as a sign of abject dhimmitude (non-Muslim submission to Muslim demands), someone at the Oregon State University posted a whiteboard message near the library entrance: “Ramadan Mubarak! Try to avoid eating in shared spaces especially if your food has a strong smell. Thanks for being considerate!” Of course, showing consideration for others is a wonderful thing, and should be encouraged. The problem is, the thought of accommodation is a one-way street. Fasting Muslims could show consideration for non-fasters by avoiding areas where food and drink are normally present so as not to disrupt the routines of others, but this notion is never broached.

Interestingly, Jesus had a bit of guidance for his followers when it came to fasting. As he said concerning almsgiving and prayer, fasting was a practice to be done in private before God, not publicly as a way of eliciting admiration from others:

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Mt. 6:16-18)

In other words, no one else should know if and when you fast. You should not make a big deal about it — in fact, you should present yourself to the world in a such a way that no one would guess what you are up to. If any accommodations are to be made, they are to be made by the disciple who is fasting, not by the world around him/her. “Your Father will see and know what you are doing, and His approval is all that matters.”

It is a natural (fallen) human trait to want others to undergo the same privations we are facing, even when they are voluntary on our part. The old saying, “Misery loves company” sums this up. Related imageIf, as a Muslim, I am fasting, then I will make sure the Muslims around me are fasting as well. And, I will make sure that non-Muslims toe the line by changing their behaviors to accommodate me and my brothers. Ramadan seems to bring this attitude to full flower.

C. S. Lewis, in his profound book Mere Christianity, wrote:

One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.

Indeed, it is not the way of Christ to force others to adapt themselves to his teachings or practices. Nor is it the way of those who truly follow him. But according to Islam, it is the way of Muhammad, and of those who follow the Arabian prophet’s command, “”Whoever stops fasting on Ramadan has renounced Islam…his blood is permitted.

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