Progressive Denominations Racing toward Servitude


The Presbyterian Church USA and the Anglican Communion in Great Britain seem locked in a neck and neck race to see which denomination can best debase the gospel message by bowing in submission before Islam.

You may recall that at the opening worship service of the most recent General Assembly meeting of the PCUSA (June 2016, in Portland, OR), that denomination’s top leaders decided to invite a local Muslim to help lead in worship. Prior to his scripted prayer (which drew from verses in the Qur’an), Mr. Wajdi Said began by chanting in Arabic (for which no translation was given): “I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the accursed.” He followed this with a recitation of the Fatiha, the opening Sura of the Qur’an, which contains a prayer asking Allah to guide those praying to the “straight path” (i.e., Islam), not the path of those who have incurred Allah’s wrath (i.e., the Jews), nor the path of those who have gone astray (i.e, the Christians). After this unscripted beginning, Mr. Said turned to his assigned liturgy. The Presbyterian leadership saw nothing wrong with this travesty, believing apparently that they were contributing to “interfaith dialogue” (although they labeled it “ecumenical dialogue at the time). Of course, there is nothing wrong with true interfaith dialogue, but to make it part and parcel of a service purporting to worship the Trinitarian God of the Bible is at the very least dimwitted and at worst blasphemous. (For detailed analysis of this event, check out “Wide Is the [Straight] Path…”.) Only when subsequent objections became too loud and numerous did then Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons issue a weak and whispered apology to any who “might have been offended” (See Gradye Parsons and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Apology.) Apparently the message of the gospel, which Christians down through the ages have suffered martyrdom for (not least at the hands of Muslims), can be swept aside in order to bow and scrape before the world of Islam.

Earlier this month, the Anglican Church mounted its own double-barreled offensive to outdo the PCUSA. The first occurred during a worship service at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway for the Scottish Episcopal Church.

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On Jan. 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, the church held a worship service in celebration of that holy day. “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation,” and its aim is to celebrate the manifestation of “…the majesty and divinity of the newborn Savior,” Jesus Christ. So it would make perfect sense, wouldn’t it, in the midst of Christian worship celebrating the majesty and divinity of the newborn Savior of the world, that the Cathedral officials would invite a Muslim to chant a passage from the Qur’an which intentionally denies this conviction?

The text in question is from Sura Mariam (19), verses 16-36, the majority of which presents a fanciful narrative (inspired in large measure by the apocryphal Syriac Infancy Gospel dated to the 5th-6th C. AD) of the young virgin Mary’s experience from annunciation to the birth of Jesus and his infant proclamation to the crowd that he indeed is the servant of Allah and a true prophet, thereby exonerating his mother of even the hint of sin. sura-mariamHowever, it is the punchline of this text that flies in the face of the core Christian teaching that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Here is the English translation of Sura 19:35-36 (Hilali-Khan trans., parenthetical comments are those of the translators):

 It befits not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son [this refers to the slander of Christians against Allah, by saying that ‘Iesa (Jesus) is the son of Allah]. Glorified (and Exalted be He above all that they associate with Him). When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, “Be!” and it is. [‘Iesa (Jesus) said]: “And verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him (Alone). That is the Straight Path. (Allah’s Religion of Islamic Monotheism which He did ordain for all of His Prophets).”

The Cathedral provided an English translation of the Qur’anic recitation up through verse 33, either unwittingly or intentionally omitting these offensive teachings from view for all except those who know Arabic. Nonetheless, they were proclaimed in a cathedral in the midst of worship directed ostensibly to the Triune God. The message they enshrine is that Jesus is not the Son of God, that he is not divine (only Allah is worthy of majesty), and that Jesus himself claimed he was on the same level as all other human beings when it came to relationship with God. This is the “straight path,” according to the Qur’an. Obviously, that means the gospel is a crooked path, and will lead one to hell.

As you can see in the video above, the Muslim woman is reciting behind a podium known as the Eagle Lectern. Fairly common in Anglican church furniture, the Eagle Lectern is meant to hold the Bible as it is read to the people. The eagle itself symbolizes the uplifting and spreading of the Word of God to all the world. How wonderful that now it serves equally to broadcast the anti-gospel word of Islam to any listeners….

The provost of St. Mary’s, Kelvin Holdsworth, kelvin-holdsworthwho is responsible for this disgrace, defended his decision in the face of a subsequent storm of protest. His rationale was three-fold: 1) everything else in the service upheld the traditional beliefs of the Christian faith; 2) we’ve had Muslim recitations in the past with no fallout; 3) our goal is hospitality, not syncretism.

Apparently it’s okay to eat a meal with a pinch of deadly poison on your plate, as long as everything else is safe and edible. It must be okay because we’ve done it before and haven’t noticed very many ill effects. And after all, we want to have good relations with those who peddle poison, not scare them away, so we will smile and swallow what they eagerly give us.

To show you how far out of touch Mr. Holdsworth is from a biblical worldview, his analysis of why there has been such a hostile reaction to this event from Christians boils down to homophobia or misogyny. In his own blog posting, he confesses that prior to the uproar he had thought that he might have generated controversy over his choice of tune to go with the hymn Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning, “…which may have taken some people by surprise.” In light of the over 10,000 mostly negative responses the Cathedral received, Mr. Holdsworth concluded they were generated certainly by ignorant Islamophobia, but exacerbated by hatred for homosexuals and women (which, interestingly, are hallmarks of Islamic practice, though the provost didn’t mention that…). So, he mused,

This same Qur’anic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is in a cathedral run by a gay man? Is it because the recitation was given by a young woman?

Well, of course! Who in their right mind would be offended that a foreign religion’s slur upon the God of Christianity and the Savior of the world would be tolerated, not to say, celebrated in a sanctuary dedicated to the gospel? What could generate such passion? Oh, yes. Homophobia! Misogyny! That explains it.

Holdsworth doubled down on his defense. The problem church leadership in the Anglican Communion faces is not bowing down before the demands of Islamic supremacists, but rather being cowed by Islamophobic activists. We must open the doors to the anti-Christian views of Islam, and shut our ears to the complaints of those who want the Church to stand tall for the gospel over against Islam.

In this midst of all this mess, the primus (head bishop) of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, took a tiny step in the right direction with his official statement:

The decisions which have led to the situation in St. Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the provost and the cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offense which has been caused.  We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community.

Notice, however, in this carefully crafted statement there is no acknowledgement of the wrongfulness of what had been done, but only deep distress that widespread offense had been caused. And, of course, focus of culpability is equally directed toward those who abusively called out the cathedral staff for their unfaithful acts.

As of yet, there has been no mea culpa from Holdsworth and his staff, only defensiveness and counter-attack.

Not to be outdone, the nabobs of Gloucester Cathedral in England launched a multi-cultural Faith Exhibition before a thousand attendees on January 14th. It kicked off with an Islamic call to prayer led by one Imam Hassan of a local mosque.

 

But Gloucester Cathedral’s leadership is much more visionary and inclusive than the rubes of Glasgow. According to the Cathedral website, the launch entertainment also included:gloucester-cathedral

  • Buddhist chanting
  • Rasta drumming
  • Hindu dancing
  • Rasta story telling
  • Salvation Army brass band
  • Jewish Klezmer band
  • Gospel choir
  • Pagan rock band
  • A Fire eating vicar
  • Face painting
  • Much more

For six weeks, 37 portraits on display will highlight unique elements of “…Zoroastrians, Druids, Witches, Pagans and Baha’i as well as all the other more well-known religions.” It may be that Christianity will be included in all this, too. Who knows?

I’d say that for now the Anglican Communion has jumped out into the lead over the Presbyterian Church USA in the race over which denomination can most quickly cross the finish line into oblivion. Sadly, many other liberal denominations are laboring to catch up and pass the front-runners.

Is there any good news in all this? Certainly! God has promised that He will always keep a remnant of His people secure from compromise. Jesus declared that the gates of hell would never be able to withstand the march of his Church. The Kingdom of God will prevail in the end. On this we stake our hopes. (Incidentally, both offending videos embedded in this blog have been removed for their respective cathedrals’ official websites.)

And for the denomination which wins the race to Islamic subjugation and oblivion, what will be its prize? I don’t claim to know. But perhaps the Islamic prayers for the dead will be chanted over it, and over each denomination that follows in its footsteps. That’s the least the Muslim world can do.

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A Dramatic Proposal on Dealing with “Outsiders”


I have a proposal for how to deal with America’s immigration problem, for which there is ample precedent for over a thousand years in another world civilization.

  • We identify all living in the USA according to whether they are citizens or not. Non-citizens, whatever their original country or legal status in the USA will henceforth be known as “Outsiders.” They are welcome to remain in this country as long as they obey the laws of the land as well as laws established for their particular status, including the following:
    1. They will pay a special, heightened income tax, as well as the regular Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid taxes. The rate will be figured on the basis of what needs to be raised in order to cover a balanced Federal budget, thereby freeing citizens from the need to pay any state for Federal income taxes. Citizens will still contribute to the Social Security system to ensure their retirement status.globe-patch
    2. Outsiders may not wear any clothing with patriotic American symbols, and they must dress in a style setting them apart from citizens, together with a patch embossed with a globe, indicating their alien status.
    3. When meeting a citizen, they must always give right of way, and make sure to pass by on the citizen’s left side. On public transport, they must give up their seats when necessary so that citizens can be seated. In the presence of citizens, outsiders must walk humbly with lowered eyes, accept insults without reply, or stand respectfully in place until citizens have passed by.back-of-the-bus
    4. Outsiders may not hold positions at any level of government, nor are they permitted to hold private sector positions giving them authority over any citizens.
    5. All manual labor positions, including those related to sanitation, waste disposal and factories must be filled by Outsiders.
    6. Outsiders will have their own graveyards; their bodies may not be buried in the cemeteries of citizens. Their dead must be buried hastily and without excessive ceremony.
    7. Outsiders will live in areas specially designated for them, and may not be outside those areas after dark without permission from the authorities.ghettos2
    8. Outsiders of Judeo-Christian heritage may, with permission of proper religious authorities, participate in the worship of Christian or Jewish congregations. Outsiders of other faiths may participate in any already established meetings of those respective faiths, but may not start up new gatherings, or build new temples, mosques, or other houses of worship to foreign gods. If such a building is abandoned at any time, it may not be reopened in the future.
    9. The practice of religions other than Judaism and Christianity must be done behind closed doors and quietly, such that no citizen is aggravated by it.
    10. Outsider men may not marry female citizens. Male citizens are permitted to marry outsider women, at which point those brides are accorded citizenship.
    11. The height of Outsider homes and places of worship may not exceed the height of the nearest homes or churches/synagogues of the citizens around them.
    12. Outsiders may not purchase, own or bear arms of any sort, including but not limited to firearms, swords, knives, tasers and explosives. They are also not permitted to serve in the Armed Forces, unless conscripted by the government in times of emergency.
    13. In the U.S. judicial system, the testimony of an Outsider carries no legal weight. The legal status of an Outsider is equal to half that of a citizen. The penalty for murder of a citizen by an Outsider is immediate death. The murder of an Outsider by a citizen is a misdemeanor offense requiring a fine and financial recompense equivalent to five year’s minimum wage to the Outsider’s family.
    14. On pain of imprisonment or death, Outsiders may not:
      1. Strike a citizen
      2. Plot sedition against the USA with other Outsiders
      3. Publicly criticize or wish ill to the President, Congress or Supreme Court
      4. Initiate a conversation with a citizen
      5. Engage in an illicit relationship with a citizen of the same or opposite sex.
    15. For the time being, until Congress enacts new legislation to the contrary, all immigrants will be assigned Outsider status, and no Outsiders will be permitted to become citizens, except through marriage as noted in subsection 10 above.
  • Such a system would free up all American citizens from any state or federal income tax, since that responsibility would shift completely to the Outsider community, roughly 22-33 million people. Certainly the tax burden on them would be onerous, but that’s a small price to pay for the benefits of living in the USA under the protections and advantages all legal residents enjoy.
  • This system would also ensure that menial and unpleasant jobs are filled completely by Outsiders, freeing up more attractive and higher paying jobs for citizens.
  • It would cut down on crime since Outsiders would have their own housing zones, curfews, and no access to certain citizen-only areas.

What do you think?

This, of course, is not what I think should happen in a country built on the recognition of unalienable human rights and equal protection for all under the law. And I truly have no actionable plan for how to deal with America’s “immigration problem.” So why did I write the preceding proposal?

First, let me say again for anyone not tracking very carefully: I AM NOT SERIOUSLY PROPOSING THE CITIZEN/OUTSIDER APPROACH OUTLINED ABOVE. IN FACT, I VEHEMENTLY REJECT IT!

 Rather, I wrote this to reflect on how non-members of a certain state have been treated on and off over the last millennium or more. If you substitute for the USA the term “Caliphate,” and for citizen the term “Muslim,” and for Outsider “Dhimmi,” you will get a fairly accurate historical picture, mutatis mutandis, for what life has been like for non-Muslims living under Sharia’ compliant governments since the time of Muhammad. “Dhimmi” is the term used in Islam for non-Muslims who agree to live in the Islamic state as third-class participants (Muslim men are of course the “first class”, and Muslim women the “second class”), whose legal and societal status is that of a humiliated and subjugated people group. Of course, a non-Muslim has the option not to grovel as a dhimmi. In that case, he is called an infidel, and executed. Dhimmis live under the constant fear of being accused of breaking their pact with the Islamic state (by doing something forbidden them under the pact) and thus losing their “protected status,” thereby being re-labeled infidels and facing the mortal wrath of the Caliph or his agents.

This is not a pleasant way to live, but it is the fate suffered by millions of Jews and Christians over the centuries under the thumb of Islamic civilizations.

Please know that, if history is any indicator of future trajectories, and if orthodox Islam has anything to say about it, this will be what life looks like for all non-Muslims under Islamic governments wishing to implement Sharia’ within their borders.

Should the United States of America go the way of the Middle East and North Africa in the mid-600s as Islamic armies swept through and imposed their will on formerly “Christian lands,” and as the Iberian peninsula and South Asia did in the 700s, and as Turkey did around 1100, and as the Balkans did in the 1400s, (to name a few fallen non-Muslim lands), we will become what we are seeing transpire before our eyes in modern Europe – islam-and-europrthe crumbling of a morally and spiritually bankrupt Western power under the incursion of a resurgent Islam that is “feeling its oats.”

If, fifty to a hundred years from now, America has so lost her Judeo-Christian moorings such that she cannot recall the truths upon which she was created, and in the meantime has allowed the Islamic world free access to promote its way of life and agenda within her borders and encouraged wholesale immigration from Muslim lands unabated, then it would not be surprising to see a united Islamic front lobbying successfully to supplant a crumbling democracy with a new order promising the blessings of harmony and prosperity under divine Sharia’. Should that ever happen, as the noose of Sharia’ closes around the necks of the remaining non-Muslim population of America, the scenario I painted above may become frighteningly real: in the Muslim State of America, Muslims will be citizens, non-Muslims will become outsiders known and treated as dhimmis, the those resisting this state of affairs will be driven out of the country or executed as infidels or traitors.

Such is the undeniable fate of indigenous peoples whose lands have been conquered by Islam in the past – just ask the Copts, or Maronites, or Diaspora Jews, or Yazidis, or millions of other minorities living under Muslim rule today. Unfortunately, you cannot ask the hundreds of millions over the last 1300 year who gave their lives fighting for their freedoms against Muslim invasions, or who bowed their necks in submission, hoping their lives would thereby become more endurable only to discover their less-than-human status conferred by institutionalized Muslim derision,  and finally dying unnoticed and ignominious deaths.

Having celebrated the births of three precious grandchildren in the last three years, I do not want to see this become the kind of world bequeathed to them, or to any other non-Muslims. That is one reason I am committed to teaching and training others about the core teachings and practices of Islam, and to sharing with Muslims the good news of divine love and salvation in Jesus Christ, which is the only message strong enough to free them from the theology of hate inculcated in them from birth by the Qur’an and Sunna (authoritative Islamic traditions).raqqa-church

If you are concerned about the encroachments of Islam into the Western world and would like to have me come to your church, group or community for a seminar or training tailored to your particular needs, please let me know. I’d be delighted to partner with you in bringing light to dispel the gathering darkness!

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Merry Christmas and a Headless New Year?


In a skillfully worded NYT op-ed piece appearing Dec. 23rd, Turkish Muslim Mustafa Akyol contends that Muslims have every right to wish their Christian neighbors “Merry Christmas!” Unfortunately, not all fellow Muslims agree with him.

Akyol’s argument is that since the Qur’an also teaches the miraculous birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary, Muslims can join in the Christmas cheer, although not in quite the same way as Christians. virgin_mary_and_jesus_old_persian_miniatureWith refreshing candor, he admits that Islam rejects the core Christian teaching that God became a human being in Jesus (a sine qua non of Christianity), but then sweeps that difference aside by saying we nonetheless have much in common! That seems a bit like saying, “Though human beings and rats are different creatures, we share much in common (living beings which eat, breathe, reproduce, inhabit cities…), and so we should focus on those commonalities.” Unfortunately, surface similarities cannot surmount essential differences, nor should they. We learn more from facing such differences squarely rather than dismissing them from thought.

Here are some elements of the biblical Christmas accounts that Akyol leaves out.  The angel appearing to Joseph commands him to name the coming child “Jesus”, which means in Hebrew “God saves,” because, in the angel’s words, “He will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is also to be known as “Emmanuel,” which translates as “God with us.” Islam categorically rejects the idea that there is any Savior sent for sinners, much less the idea that this Savior is God Incarnate.

Matthew tells us that magi from the East come seeking Jesus, and upon finding him, “fell down and worshiped him.” Such an act, while wholly appropriate based on Christian assumptions concerning Jesus’ divine nature, is an act of shirk (idolatry) according to Islam, punishable by death in this world and eternal fire in hell.

When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to inform her that she will bear this unique child into the world, he refers to Jesus as “Son of the Most High,” whose Kingdom will have no end, and again as the “Son of God,” who will be called “holy.” The Qur’an, on the other hand, rejects as anathema the notion that God could have a son, and that any kingdom can stand for eternity other than Allah’s Kingdom. In Islam, the angel Gabriel would lose his head over such declarations.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angelic address to shepherds on the hill outside Bethlehem speaks of the one born as “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This announcement is punctuated by a multitude of angels praising God’s glory in song. According to Islam, this could not have happened – how could such a heavenly host be so misguided?

If the message of Christmas that God became human in Jesus is not true, then the religion of Christianity crumbles into irrelevancy. If it is true, then Islam lies exposed as a false revelation. Both claims cannot be true.

The reason many Muslims shy away from wishing Christians a merry Christmas is their concern that in doing so, they are giving the impression they affirm what Christmas celebrates: that Jesus is not merely a prophet sent to the Jews, or even a great miracle-worker, even a word from Allah, but in his essence he is fully God and fully human, the one and only Savior of the world, sent for all peoples in every time and place, the One to whom full allegiance and worship is due. Or in the words of the hymn, “….for with blessing in his hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.”

Saudi religious scholar Muhammad al-‘Arifi sent out a fatwa by tweet on 12/23/15 (ironically, exactly one year before Akyol’s op-ed piece) addressing this issue:

“It is permissible to greet a kafir (infidel) on his happy occasions [e.g., promotion, graduation, etc.]…but it is forbidden to greet him on religious occasions. If he celebrates the birth of the son of God and you greet him, then that is an affirmation of his beliefs.”

wishing-merry-christmas-to-christians-is-a-sin-islamic-preacher-1A few days ago on Christmas Eve, Zakir Naik, considered a “rock star” among contemporary Muslim preachers, tweeted, “Wishing Merry Christmas to Christians is Worst Evil, Worse Than Fornication or Murder.” He went on to label it a form of “shirk”, Islam’s one unforgivable transgression.wishing-merry-christmas-to-christians-is-a-sin-islamic-preacher

These are merely two among a slew of Muslim scholars and conservative believers who disagree vehemently with Mr. Akyol on the subject. Of course, there are multitudes of more liberal Muslim thinkers who would line up on the other side.

As much as the non-Muslim world would like to believe Mr. Akyol’s reassurances, the dissonant voices of traditional Muslims warn us otherwise. For now, we can manage without the well-wishes of Muslims for a “Merry Christmas,” if only they will stop bombing our churches, driving trucks into holiday crowds, plotting mall massacres, banning Christmas decorations and the like. Maybe then they can take up the pressing question of whether Muslims can wish Christians a merry Christmas without facing the wrath of Allah. I believe I speak for many Christians in saying, “We are willing to wait for the latter while you get around to the former.”

(For an article I wrote on this same question last December, please see this link.)

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All I Want for Christmas Is No Christmas Music…?


On December 3rd, a customer in a tapas-style restaurant in Florida left a hastily scribbled complaint on the back of his receipt as he departed. The restaurant’s manager, a Christian, had decided to play traditional Christmas music for background atmosphere in the dining area, hoping to create an appropriately festive spirit for the season.

The customer was not happy, and expressed his displeasure: “Christmas music was ‘offensive.’ Consider playing holiday music or less religious themed.”christmas-offense

How sad. Another attempt to dumb down Christmas, to eviscerate its original meaning and replace it with nondescript “holiday music,” something like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” or “Rudolph…,” or “Frosty the Snowman.” Line up Bing crooning “White Christmas,” or Burl Ives having a “Holly, Jolly Christmas.” Maybe for a finale every hour they could play the YouTube video of Ariana Grande singing “Santa Baby!”

I’m guessing this particular patron has some ax to grind against the Christian faith — somewhere in his past he must have been deeply hurt by a Christian or a congregation or some authority figure. Who knows? But to want to squelch the meaning of the Christmas season for others by removing any reminders of Jesus from the public sphere is simply sad.

Ironically, the name of the Florida city in which this restaurant is located is St. Augustine (named after the greatest theologian among the Western church fathers)! ahippoIt must be galling for the patron in question to have to share his home address with others.

I wonder if he restricts his travel plans so as to avoid unnecessary misery. No road trips within state to St. Petersburg, or Port St. Lucie, or even New Smyrna Beach. California is pretty much off limits — too aggravating to fly into the City of Angels, or Santa Ana, or San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento. I hate to rain on his parade, but one of the most beautiful spots on the Pacific coast is Carmel, named after the biblical site in the Holy Land. And forget Santa Cruz (the “Holy Cross”)!

Touring the Alamo is out, for it lies in San Antonio. And heaven forbid he should come too close to Corpus Christi (the “Body of Christ”) — smelling salts might be required to revive him. Skip the Gateway Arch over the Mississippi in St. Louis. I hope our patron is not a US history buff — Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are of course located in Philadelphia, a biblical name (ouch!).

If he loves to drive to see the country, he’ll have to plan his itinerary very carefully to avoid the many cities and small towns named after biblical sites or characters. I can imagine his blood pressure skyrocketing as he approaches New Canaan, CT, or Bethesda (or for that matter anywhere in Mary-Land — imagine, a whole state named after a biblical figure!).  Think of all the Bethels, Antiochs, Shilohs, Mt. Zions, and Salems sprinkled across the land. How offensive! When is our population going to get together and replace these odiously suggestive names with ones more secular and non-provocative? How about Sponge Bob, or Pepe Le Pew, or Pumbaa? Avatar, Hogwarts, Oompa-Loompa Land, or Mordor (wait, I think, that’s already been taken to replace Washington, D.C.).mordor

Maybe our friend is a hiker. There are certainly many places in America he can climb, but some places will be out of bounds: the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains of Southern Colorado; Mt. St. Helens; St. Jacinto Peak; the St. Francois range in MS, or the St. Elias Range in Alaska. On  the other hand, he might feel right at home in a couple of locations that Wyoming boasts: Hell’s Half-Acre between Shoshoni and Casper should be free of any Christian influence; likewise, Devils Tower may feel safe, unless he spends too much time meditating while on the trails. God has a way of insinuating His presence into our thoughts when we are alone and our guard is down.

In the future, if this gentleman wants to avoid “offensive” Christmas music on December dinner outings, I would suggest he visit Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis for a good Noel-free meal. Just don’t head east if you take an after-dinner stroll. You might end up in St. Paul….

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“There Are None So Blind…”


We are only as blind as we want to be.” – Maya Angelou.

Two recent media stories that have gone viral illustrate the point that we are quick to believe what we (or the mainstream news media) desperately wish to be true.

The first is a heart-wrenching account published on Dec. 12th of a good-hearted Santa Claus tennessee-santawho went to deliver a gift to a terminal child, who then died while in the arms of said Santa. After the story went viral, certain skeptics started asking questions, noting inconsistencies in the report. With doubt in the air as to the story’s veracity, media outlets as of Dec. 14th are now backpedaling like crazy, hoping to protect their journalistic integrity (despite not having carefully vetted the story in the first place) should the account prove to have been a hoax. Interestingly, even Snopes.com has waded into the fray, highlighting this claim as its top story and labeling it “unproven” at this point – not “false” but rather unverified.*

(*Apparently, as I post this blog, the Santa story has been verified as true. Hallelujah!)

The second is a dark, unsettling account of an alleged hate crime said to have occurred in NYC on Dec. 1st. Yasmin Seweid, an 18 year old Muslim woman,yasmin-seweid filed a police report claiming that while riding the subway that evening she was verbally and physically harassed by three drunk men shouting their support for Donald Trump, calling her a terrorist and demanding she leave the country, yanking on her shoulder bag hard enough to break a strap, and then attempting to tear her hijab off her head. Even worse, she claimed, no one on the train came to her defense.

This story also went viral, adding fuel to the Islamophobia fire raging across all mainstream media outlets as the “malevolence du jour” of conservative, redneck America. In spite of nagging inconsistencies in her story, Seweid kept insisting in the truthfulness of her account as police questioned her over the last two weeks and even took to Facebook to shame not just her alleged attackers, but New Yorkers in general who failed to come to her aid: “It breaks my heart that so many individuals chose to be bystanders while watching me get harassed verbally and physically by these disgusting pigs. Trump America is real and I witnessed it first hand last night!”

Apparently, on Tuesday Dec. 13th, Seweid admitted to the police that the whole story was a hoax which she concocted due to “family problems.” Apparently, she had been out late on Dec. 1st drinking with friends (behavior not tolerated among women in strict Muslim families) and has been dating a Christian man (also not tolerated by observant Muslims), and felt she needed an alibi which would gain her sympathy with her parents. The authorities, who had devoted significant man-hours and resources to this investigation of an alleged “hate crime,” have now charged and arrested Ms. Seweid on charges of filing a false police report.

News agencies have not been falling over themselves in haste to retract all the “Hate Crime” headlines that they launched two weeks ago. This is not surprising since it harms the “Islamophobia plague” narrative which they are so eager to put forward. Sadly, when such false reports are gobbled up and spewed far and wide only to be later revealed as hoaxes, they damage the credibility of both old and new reports which turn out to be true. When the public does not know what to believe, it tends to take no action. Those in the media wanting so badly to portray the evils of Islamophobia as reaching epic proportions in America that they are willing to blindly trumpet anything they hear which fits their narrative, are actually doing a disservice to their cause, like the proverbial boy who falsely cried “Wolf” too many times.

And groups like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), which seem to want to traffic in Islamophobia victimization as a way to curry favor and power among political and societal elites, don’t help matters when they try to twist an obvious false narrative into a further attack on the Muslim world.ibrahim-hooper Ibrahim Hooper (the National Communications Director for CAIR) said in an interview yesterday:

No one out of the blue decides to make this kind of report…Whenever there are these rare instances of alleged false reports — it’s still an allegation at this point — it’s used by the growing Islamophobic community to delegitimize and undermine the many legitimate anti-Muslim incidents.

Even though Ms. Seweid confessed that she concocted this hoax due to fear of her own Muslim family situation, Hooper wants to lay the blame for this incident at the feet of an increasingly Islamophobic America. You see, the real problem is that Muslims are feeling “…tremendous psychological stress and pressure” which leads to unfortunate lies like this one. Ms. Seweid’s deception in falsely painting conservative Americans as Islamophobic is not the issue; Islamophobia is the issue. It is the culprit which so frazzled her thinking that she had to make up an Islamophobic attack in order to bring some peace into her life. Amazing! Ibrahim Hooper should compete for the Olympic gold medal in mental gymnastics. He is as practiced as they come. (I find it more than a bit interesting that a search for the name “Yasmin Seweid” on the CAIR website turns up zero hits.)

Until the media in general return to the business of reporting news that has been monkey_typingaccurately vetted, rather than jumping to be the first to report stories which fit their own appetites (whether good or bad, Santa or Islamophobe), the public will continue to grow more skeptical and inert, even when news of the wolf’s arrival is actually true and compelling. Then, such news might be too late to arouse an indifferent culture.

Where Islamophobia truly results in hate crimes, that needs to be opposed both at the immediate criminal level as well as at the conceptual societal level. Likewise with Islamic jihadism – it needs to be reported accurately, dealt with judicially or militarily and opposed ideologically. In both cases, we need a press corps that is impartial, providing the public with a perspective that reflects the real world (as much as that is possible), not one slanted by the biases of reporters and their editors. Then we can weigh the issues for ourselves, and determine as a public the best course of action, whether it accords with the private views of our media purveyors or not.

Otherwise, we will truly be, in the words of humanity’s wisest man, “the blind leading the blind.”three-blind-mice

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What Is Human Life Worth?


An article I wrote for Presbyterians Pro-Life just appeared today in their monthly online newsletter, which can be found here. Entitled The Twin Towers of Theological Anthropology,  this meditation focuses on a biblical assessment of the value of human life. I’ve reproduced it below, and hope you find it meaningful.

C. S. Lewis freed me from the fear of enjoying fairy tales as an adult. In a collection of essays on literature he wrote, ““When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”[i]

One of the great advantages of fairy tales is that they can “smuggle” into the minds of unwary readers the deeper truths of life which are often otherwise ignored. Exposure to such truths over time can lead to a richer, more profound world view. So children (and adults) discover through fairy tales that the world is made up of good and evil, and that to fight on the side of good is the nobler path. We learn that the conquest of evil often demands great sacrifice, that love wins out over hate, that evil typically disguises itself in beauty. And of course, we learn that human nature can be transformed.

The first offering in Grimm’s Fairy Tales is “The Frog Prince.” We learn little of the original life of the handsome prince who now is cursed to live as a frog other than a spiteful fairy had condemned him to his present unhappy state until a princess should find him and allow him to eat from her plate and sleep upon her bed for three nights, a remedy outside the realm of all likelihood. the frog Princess 2The frog prince is doomed to his fate, until a princess happens by and accidentally drops her favorite gold ball into the spring which is his home. He makes a deal with the desperate princess as she wipes her tears, that he will retrieve her ball from the watery depths if she will agree to take him home, let him eat from her plate and sleep on her bed. Having no intention to honor her agreement with a “nasty frog”, she readily consents, and of course, once she has her prized toy back in hand, she bounds off without another thought of the frog. The frog prince, however, is also desperate, and he follows her to the castle. That evening at dinner, he knocks at the castle door during the dinner hour. The king wants to know what is going on, and the princess recounts the “silly deal” she had made with the frog. Her royal father says, “As you have given your word you must keep it; so go and let him in.” As a result, the nearly unattainable conditions set by the malevolent fairy are fulfilled, the curse is broken, and the princess wakes up on the fourth morning to discover a handsome prince “with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen” now gazing at her from the head of the bed. With stunned delight she listens as he recounts the whole story, lauding her as his liberator. His greatest wish now is that she will accompany him back to his kingdom where he will marry her and love her all her life. As the story goes, she is “not long in saying ‘Yes,’” and the ride off in glory to a new life of exuberant joy.

The story of the Frog Prince follows in broad outline that of the biblical narrative concerning human nature: Paradise; paradise lost; paradise regained. The prince originally lives in glory, until he is cursed in a way that distorts his nature. The only option for his escape from the curse is beyond his power to achieve. The actions of another break the curse and the prince’s former glory is restored. He and his rescuer are joined together and live happily ever after.

In the same manner, Adam and Eve, originally created good “in the image and likeness” of God, dwell in the paradisiacal Garden in the glorious presence of God. But at some point they experience the Fall (due to their disobedience) with the result that their once innocent, perfect natures are corrupted by sin. They and their progeny have no ability to lift the curse, but must depend on the promise of their loving Creator that He will send a Redeemer. The rest of the biblical story is the unfolding of God’s solution to humanity’s curse, whereby through the inextricably loving sacrifice of His incarnate Son the perfect image and likeness of God will be restored to fallen human beings who still are the apple of God’s eye. In the new heavens and earth, God and His redeemed community will be reunited fully to an eternity of exuberant joy.

Like the frog prince tale, the biblical meaning of humanity (what the learned called “theological anthropology”) is built upon two foundational theological truths: creation and redemption. It is no surprise that these two themes are the key refrains of all the doxologies sung in Revelation 4-5 by those around the throne of God. The glory of God is enthroned on the praises of the twenty-four elders around the divine throne who sing in 4:11: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” Then in chapter 5, after the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (who is also the Lamb standing as if slain) is revealed as the one able to take the sealed scroll of human history and open it, thereby making sense of it, we hear a new song being sung to the Lion/Lamb with soaring elation: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed sinners for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” The glory of God is celebrated on account of the love He demonstrated in creating a good world and specifically a human race made in His image and likeness; and also in shedding His own blood (see Acts 20:28) for the redemption of refractory sinners. To quote Lewis again, “It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion.”[ii]

One of my mentors, Rev. Earl Palmer, drove these truths home with an illustration I’ve never forgotten.golden-gate-bridge Using the image of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, he pointed attention to the two towers anchored into the bedrock of the Bay. Think of these as the twin doctrines of creation and redemption, rooted inseparably in the eternal love of God. The road suspended over the watery expanse represents the course of human history, and remains steadily in place due to two huge cables supported by the twin towers. Attached to those cables are smaller “suspender ropes” which shift the weight of the road to the unyielding towers. The course of human history is guaranteed by the indestructible love of God seen in the twin doctrines of God’s creation and redemption.

Because of this, we as Christians are reminded to look at all other humans as those created in the image and likeness of God, even in our common fallenness. From conception to death bed, life is precious in the sight of God. Not only does each person bear the image of God and the imprimatur of His creating decree, in the same way each human being bears infinite value as one for whom Christ’s blood was shed. Were we to see others through the lens of God’s remarkable love, would we not be more quick to defend the vulnerable, give to those in need, comfort the grieving, help prodigals to find reconciliation with God, sit tenderly with those near death’s door? God’s claim on all human beings is: “You belong to me, for I created you and I redeemed you.”

God is like the little boy who all summer long whittled away on a block of balsa wood to create a sailboat. He took great pride in shaping it smooth hull and keel, creating masts and spars and finally attaching sails. boy builds a toy ship of wood. child in the workshop makes crafts. toy boat of woodFinally, late in the summer on a sunny afternoon he took it down to the lake in town to test it out. With great anticipation, he set it afloat and pushed it from shore. A gust of wind filled the sails and sent its prow majestically through the waters. Soon it was moving quickly and he sat entranced until it moved around a promontory and he lost sight of it. Running with all his might, he arrived at the other side of the point, but his boat was nowhere in sight. For the rest of the afternoon he scoured the shores, with no luck. As dusk began to settle, he knew he had to get back home. Dejectedly, with hands in pockets and head hanging down, he headed up the main street and past some stores. One of them was a pawn shop, and as he passed by the window his attention was caught by some movement. The owner was putting something new in the window. Incredibly, it was his sailboat! Bursting into the store, he cried out, “Hey, Mister! That’s my boat. I just lost it. Will you give it back to me, please?” The owner said, “I’m sorry, son, but I just paid money for that boat. If you want it, it will cost you five dollars.” The boy exclaimed, “Mister, hold onto that boat. Don’t sell it to anyone else. I’ll be back with the money!” Running all the way home, he emptied his piggy bank and counted out the necessary amount. With the change ringing in his pockets, he sprinted back to the pawn shop and emptied his cash on the counter. With a smile, the owner handed him the handmade boat. As the boy left the store clutching his boat with joy, he held it before his eyes and said, “Little boat, you belong to me now for two reasons: I made you and I bought you.”

That sums up the story of humanity. God says to all whom He has created: “Little children, you belong to me for two reasons: I made you and I bought you.” We would do well to remember that whenever the wellbeing of another human being is in our hands.

[i] C. S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature.

[ii] Ibid., Mere Christianity.

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Newsflash! Muslims Accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus!?!


People uneducated in Islam are often startled upon hearing Muslims say, “We believe in Jesus.” Even more, they will protest, “We accept Jesus as a true prophet, exalted in many ways beyond most of Allah’s prophets.” They point to the teachings of the Qur’an, which declare that Jesus was conceived miraculously by the virgin Mary and was able throughout his lifetime to do many miracles (far more than are attributed to any other prophets mentioned in the Qur’an).  He is a messenger, who, like Muhammad and a few other prophets, was given a “book” of revelation to bring to his generation. The Qur’an grants him unique titles far surpassing those of any other holy figure, including Muhammad: Word of Allah, Spirit from Allah, Messiah (though none of these titles are defined with any clarity).muslims-love-jesus Inexplicably, the name for Jesus in the Arabic Qur’an is ‘Isa, rather than Yasu’a (the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew Yeshua). I contend that Muhammad knew the given name of Jesus (even in Arabic) means “God saves,” and sought to eliminate this fact from the ears of his listeners. Consequently, the “Isa” he presents is not the “Jesus” of the New Testament.

Muslims will often say to Christians, “We honor your prophet Jesus as a true prophet. Why won’t you honor our prophet Muhammad as a true prophet?” The primary answer to this is that our Scripture prohibits the notion that God would send any further (and lesser) revelatory figures after He has already given us the fullness of revelation in and through His Son (see Hebrews 1:1-2).

But secondly, we must respectfully point out to Muslims that the ‘Isa they revere is not the Jesus of history, but a fabricated, emasculated invention of Islam meant to undermine the message of the gospel and therefore legitimize Muhammad as a true prophet and Islam as the final revelation of God. Contrary to the message of the Bible, the Qur’an teaches that Isa is:

Not the Son of God/God the Son, so there is no Incarnation of God into human flesh. The conception of ‘Isa was a miracle, but has no significance for the salvation of the world. Indeed, for Islam there is no logical reason why ‘Isa should be conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary other than that Allah did it on a whim, and no one can question Allah. Why haven’t any other prophets been brought into the world in this same miraculous way? Silence is Islam’s only answer. Jesus shared his Father’s glory as God the Son before the foundation of the world (John 17:5), but ‘Isa makes clear in the Qur’an that he would never claim for himself the glory that belongs to Allah alone (5:116).

Not the final and full revelation of God. Though Jesus declares that “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27), and John makes it clear that “No one has ever seen God; the only God [i.e., the Incarnate Son] who is at the Father’s side,he has made him known” (Jn 1:18), the ‘Isa of the Qur’an is made to prophesy that a final apostle will come after him. “Children of Israel,” the Son of Mary says, “I am indeed the Messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” The name Ahmad linguistically is an intensified form of Muhammad, and so the Qur’an conveniently confirms that Muhammad is indeed a true prophet, since the prophet ‘Isa predicted his coming.

Not the Savior of the world. Since ‘Isa is merely human, he cannot bear the punishment of humanity’s sins. John the Baptist was mistaken when he pointed ‘Isa out to his disciples and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).a-savior-is-born ‘Isa’s death could have no atoning significance. In fact, according to the Qur’an ‘Isa never died – he was not crucified, but it only appeared that way to his Jewish enemies; instead, Allah raptured ‘Isa to protect him from death and ignominy, and right now ‘Isa is alive in heaven either in a state of suspended animation, or twiddling his thumbs passing the time until Allah summons him and sends him back to earth as caliph to lead the forces of Islam to triumph over the rest of the world and so usher in the Day of Judgment.

 Not the resurrected Lord of glory. ‘Isa has not personally conquered death, and so cannot conquer death for others. Peter was misled in his opening sermon on the Day of Pentecost when he declared, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Paul also apparently fell for the same deception, for he says in Rom 6:9, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” ‘Isa plays no central role in God’s plan of salvation for the human race, for he is merely a human being subject still to a coming death.

Not the Mediator between God and humanity, because according to the Qur’an, there can be no mediator for human beings other than Allah himself (32:4). Again, apparently, Paul missed the boat when he wrote to Timothy in 1 Tim 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and human beings, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…” ‘Isa provides himself as a ransom for no one.all-power

Not the Judge of the living and the dead. The biblical Jesus sits on the throne of God and will judge all humanity (see Mt. 25:31-46), as the Apostles’ Creed reminds us (“He will come again to judge the quick and the dead”), but the Islamic ‘Isa is merely the servant of Allah who in the end will stand before the divine judgment seat along with every other human being. He does not “hold the keys of death and hades” in his hand (see Rev. 1:18). In fact, his hands are impotent except as Allah permits him to act.

For these and a host of other reasons, the ‘Isa Muslims say they believe in is not the Jesus revealed in the New Testament. ‘Isa has no power to save, and the message he is said to have brought (identical to that of Muhammad) is not “good news” but rather the onerous teaching of legalism binding humans with even heavier chains than those draped over the ghost of Christmas past.

In this coming Yuletide season, if you happen to hear Muslims say that they too celebrate the wondrous birth of Jesus, please gently let them know that the Jesus we celebrate can free them from the bondage under which they labor, and that if they come to know him, they can join the song with full-throated worship, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come; let earth receive her King!”

 

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