October 2011


There’s an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in San Francisco, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, which despite its name is apparently no longer Lutheran, or even Christian. Rather, ELC has decided to make up its own religion, and calls it “HerChurch.” They worship a goddess, they even have a goddess rosary, and in November they are inviting a priestess of Isis to join them for a conference they’re having. Among other things.

The 5th Annual Faith and Feminism –Womanist –Mujerista Conference is being held November 11-13 at Ebenezer. Among the items listed in the conference announcement:

Friday, November 11

11:00 – 12:00  Kundalini Yoga
2:30 Keynote: Dr. Jeanette Rodriguez, “The Nahuatl [Aztecan] Interpretation of Guadalupe and its Implications for the Faith and Empowerment” [Rodriguez is a professor at Seattle University, Roman Catholic school]
6:00 – 7:00 PM Soup and Salad Bar
7:15 PM  Welcome, Sacred Drums, Sacred Dance, Chanting
8:00 PM Keynote speakers share their story/encounter with the Divine Feminine
10:00 PM (optional) Ananta performs “Elemental” and guided Meditations with Lady Lorean of Isis Oasis

Saturday, November 12

10:00 AM Keynote: Max Dashu, “Goddess of the Americas” [Dashu is from the "Suppressed History Archives" in Oakland]
2:30 Keynote: Dr. Jeanette Rodriguez, “Guadalupe and the Feminine Face of God/dess”

Sunday November 13

9:00 AM Keynote: Mary Streufert, Ph.D. [Streufert is "Director of Justice for Women" for the ELCA, and according to Exposing the ELCA, is a member of the Office of the Presiding Bishop]

As is always the case with conferences like this, you can tell a great deal about what it’s about from the workshops. Among those are:

•”Talking to Goddess, Powerful Voices from Many Traditions” led by Dr. D’vorah Grenn (According to her bio page at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, “She is co-director and core faculty in the Women’s Spirituality MA Program at Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California, and founding kohenet/priestess of Mishkan Shekhinah (2007), a movable sanctuary honoring the Sacred Feminine in all spiritual traditions.)

•”Women Body Modifications as spirituality?” led by Artist Sybil Erden

•Drumming Circle-Drumming Priestess Dionne Kohler (she’s on staff at Ebenezer, even though Lutherans don’t use the word “priest,” much less “priestess”)

•Chanting with Musician and Isis Priestess Katie Ketchum

•”Divine Feminine in Songs and Stories” led by Dr. Jann Aldredge Clanton (from her bio she appears to be a Baptist who is currently serving as an adjunct professor at the United Methodist Perkins School of Theology–this conference seems to be ecumenically pagan)

•”The Unconscious Mind by Design” led by Priestess Shamana Cea Hearth–her bio has to be shared in full:

Cea T. Hearth, M.Ed., Priestess and Shamana, is a National Board recognized educator, and presenter of metaphysical/spiritual workshops, as a component of her business in alternative healing, Hearthstone Alternative. Previous topics have been internal dowsing techniques (deviceless dowsing); styles of meditation/visualization, such as Impact Meditation, Inner Temple Meditation, the Meditation of the Unfolding Fist, and Developing the Panoply of Self, an exploration of psycho-synthesis, embracing the divergent aspects/characters within the self. Ms. Hearth is also a musician, playing the banjo, guitar, and percussion, with one CD of original songs, “Hearthsongs,” produced so far, and a single song CD soon-to-come. She is author of several books, including two novels, exploring the bleed-through of a past-life into a present life (Precious is the Night and Bright Shade and Shadow), and a book of dowsing grids, Dame Apothecary’s Compendium of Natural Remedies. For more, please visit her web-site at http://www.hearthstonealternative.com.

So there you have it. An all-out paganfest, graced by the presence of a national official of the denomination. Is it any wonder that congregations and pastors are fleeing the ELCA in droves?

(Via World Net Daily, which is not a source I would normally use, but in this case there’s no question about the material, which comes straight from the goddess’s mouth, as it were.)

Jesus was a great moral teacher. Somebody as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist if he had known what we know today.

–atheist propagandist Richard Dawkins (by all means read the entire piece from Carl Olson at Ignatius Press’s Insight Scoop–it’s a terrific takedown of a man whose ego is many, many times the size of his education, at least in matters religious)

For more than a year, I’ve been detailing the increased involvement of former Christian Century editor-in-chief and current contributing editor James Wall with various Internet anti-Semites. But I think it’s finally time to pull off the mask, and name Wall for what he is: a terrorist sympathizer.

In his latest blog post, Wall goes all teary-eyed over Ahlam Tamimi, one of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. He writes:

The Western public saw and read virtually nothing about the 477 Palestinians who were released from Israeli prisons, except for those stories that reminded the public that many of the prisoners, to use the term so popular among Israeli politicians, had “blood on their hands”.

This bias against Palestinians was so blatant that Jewish activist Noam Chomsky was moved to accuse the media of treating the released Palestinian prisoners as “unpeople”.

It is time to tell their stories, and to do so without apology.

Unfortunately, this is correct. All too many of the prisoners in question did not have their past exploits described by a press determined not to raise any questions about the appropriateness of the exchange, whether because of a desire to get Schalit home or because of a desire to see as many Palestinians as possible go free, regardless of past actions. So Wall tells Tamimi’s story, but leaves out the best parts:

However one-sided this struggle has always been, it is still a war between the fourth largest military force in the world, and an occupied population, some of whom employ military tactics to resist that occupation.

“Military tactics.” Remember that phrase.

Which brings us to Ahlam and Nezar, two Palestinian prisoners who had known each other briefly before both were imprisoned. They are members of a large, extended Tammimi family.

They had both attended Birzeit University, at different times. As prisoners in separate Israeli jails, they connected again through a correspondence that traveled a circuitous route to the village of each of their parents, and then back to the Israeli prisons where they were incarcerated.

It was through their correspondence that Ahlam and Nezar determined they were in love. Ahlam tells the story of their courtship:

“Each letter would take a month to reach Nezar and another month [for me] to get his response back. I would place the letter in the mail and send it to my family. My family would send it to Nezar’s family. Nezar’s family would send it to him.”“Nezar would go through the same process to send me a letter. Our letters were so precious, they took so much time and they were our only means of communication.

We would share experiences, express our love and share our virtual dreams of being and living together after our marriage. After exchanging letters and falling in love we both decided to get engaged even if we were both jailed for life”.

The Media Line reports on Ahlam’s story of the letters, an account she presented “with a broad smile and a sparkle in her eyes”.

Aw, isn’t that sweet?

Now that they have been released in the October 18 prisoner exchange, Ahlam and Nezar want to somehow have a “big wedding—as soon as they can finally see each other”.

Their formal marriage came in August, 2005.

The fathers of Ahlam and Nezar arranged the necessary marriage documents and sent the couple copies of the marriage contract. Ahlam reports that Nezar sent her wedding rings but Israeli prison administration officials “confiscated them all”.

Can you believe that? Mean, mean Israelis!

When Ahlam and Nezar were released on October 18, the IDF—not-so-helpfully–sent the couple to different locations. Nezar returned to a joyous hero’s reception in his home village of Al-Nabi Saleh, a farming center, where his extended family still lives.

Not helpful. Not helpful at all. How dare those nasty old Israelis try to keep these two lovebirds apart?

Ahlam, whose family also has roots in Al-Nabi Sahel, was born in Jordan, where her family had moved in 1967. As a condition of her release in the October 18 prisoner exchange, Ahlam was forced to fly to Jordan to join her parents’ family.

She was not allowed to travel with her husband to his family village, Al-Nabi Saleh. The couple was able to meet briefly at Cairo’s Airport’s Sheraton Hotel on their way to their separate destinations.

This then, is the story of three prisoners carefully selected by Israeli officials to be released from prison. Two of the prisoners, Ahlam and Nezar, were separately arrested, charged and sentenced by military courts. Each was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Their “crimes”, for which a military occupying power had served as jury and judge, were identified and punished according to a military court in a system operated by an illegal occupation.

Israeli sees the prisoners as threats to the security of the State of Israel. The Palestinians who were sent to jail, on the other hand, saw themselves as resisting an occupying army, taking actions they believed appropriate to deal with that occupation.

“Crimes.” Did you catch the scare quotes? How could two such lovely people be accused of “crimes” by that horrible occupying power and separated yet again after all those years apart? It makes you just want to go to the nearest Ahava store and pound on the counter, yelling, “how could you! You beasts!”

Oh, and note the apologetic: “…saw themselves resisting an occupying army, taking actions they believed appropriate to deal with that occupation.” One terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, right?

Wall writes, “this then, is the story,” but it’s not the whole story. Far from it. As Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story:

Ahlam Tamimi,  sentenced to 16 life sentences for her involvement in the “Sbarro” suicide bombing on 9 August 2001 in Jerusalem, says she had no regrets and stressed she would, given the opportunity, do it again.

“It was a calculated act, performed with conviction and faith in Allah,” Tamini said in an interview posted on the Hamas website. “Jihad warriors are always ready to die as martyrs, to be arrested – or to succeed. I managed to overcome the barrier of prison and was released. Why should I repent?”

Of those terrorists who remain in prison after the Gilad Shalit deal, she said, “We left with our heads held high. All attempts to keep us in prison, and those who remain, will soon be forsaken.”

Tamimi, who was deported to Jordan upon her release as a part of a deal to exchange 1,027 terrorists for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, added “resistance is the only way to liberate Palestine. Israel understands only the language of arms.”

Tamimi was a 20-year old university student at the time of Sbarro bombing. She disguised herself as a Jewish tourist and escorted suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri to the restaurant in order to draw suspicion away from him.

The Sbarro attack resulted 130 wounded and 15 killed.

Wall’s account of mass murder:

Her crime, for which she was sentenced by a military court for multiple life terms, was for “choosing the location and securing transportation to reach that location” for Hamas member Ezz Al Din Al Massri, 20,who blew himself up in Sabarro restaurant in Jerusalem in August 2001, killing 16 Israelis and injuring 150. It was a massive act of murder to the Israelis and the outside world. To Israelis, Ahlam was guilty of aiding and abetting a crime of murder.

Now she is out of prison, looking for some avenue that would allow her to unite with her husband, who was was jailed in 1993 during his Birzeit University years.

Ahlam’s dream now is to settle down after a huge wedding that reunites her with her husband Nezar. “All I dream about now is to live with Nezar, settling down and raising our future children”. [Emphasis added.]

So, Massri’s suicide bombing was “a massive act of murder to the Israelis and the outside world.” In contrast, “To Israelis [but not the outside world--DSF], Ahlam was guilty of aiding and abetting a crime of murder.” No, actually to pretty much any civilized person she was guilty of that. I don’t know of a nation on Earth that would consider what she did any less than being an accessory to 15 murders and 130 attempted murders. And since she tells Hamas that “it was a calculated act, performed with conviction and faith in Allah,” that it was premeditated murder of civilians and an act she admits and for which she has no regrets, the fact that she was tried by a military court–a fact Wall mentions three times–is of no consequence whatsoever.

The PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network links to this appalling garbage on their Facebook page, which isn’t surprising. Perhaps IPMN believes that the mass murder of civilians can be explained away as well.

(Thanks to Deroy Murdock of NRO, who mentions Tamimi in a story this week about the exchange, and whose article provided the link to Israel National News, where the Hamas interview with Tamimi was quoted.)

UPDATE: Wall’s post has been up for three days. Normally, his fellow Israel-haters leave a dozen or so comments telling him what a great “journalist” he is. On this one, however, there’s only been one. Maybe he has crossed a line that even his followers can’t stomach.

UPDATE: One of Wall’s followers chimes in:

It is wonderful to see the photos of what actually happened. How sadistic are the Israelis for separating the couple.

Words fail me.

I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I was married in a different Southern Baptist church. I graduated from a Southern Baptist seminary. Boy, am I glad I left the Southern Baptist Convention behind long ago. From the Western Recorder:

Was a western Kentucky church denied admittance to a Baptist association because it is too Calvinistic?

Acting on a report brought by its credentials committee, Daviess-McLean Baptist Association voted 104-9 at its annual meeting last week not to accept Pleasant Valley Community Church in Owensboro for membership.

“Our concern in the initial stages of our investigation revolved around the fact that Pleasant Valley Community Church’s confessional statement is one that (is) Calvinistic in nature. It affirms the doctrine of election and grace,” the report from the association’s credentials committee stated.

“It affirms the doctrine of election and grace”? Heaven forbid!

(Via Associated Baptist Press and RealClearReligion.)

It isn’t often that the Usual Suspects in liberal Protestantism do something that I can unequivocally get behind, so when there is I need to say so. Led by activists at Auburn Seminary (PCUSA), they are pressuring Village Voice Media to close their Backpage.com adult solicitation web site in order to prevent sex trafficking of boys and girls. Their organization, called Groundswell, has written an open letter to VVM in an attempt to persuade CEO Jim Larkin to do the right thing:

It is a basic fact of the moral universe that girls and boys should not be sold for sex.

So we were surprised and stunned to realize your company, Village Voice Media, continues to publish an Adult section on its classifieds Web site Backpage.com that has been used as a platform for the trafficking of minors.

Arrests of adults selling minors for sex via Backpage.com have been reported by the media in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. And these are just some of the cases thathave been documented.

As moral and religious leaders of many creeds and backgrounds, we are united in calling on your publication to shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com. We appreciate your efforts to put in place new measures attempting to screen for ads featuring minors. However, we do not believethat these measures are doing enough to adequately solve the problem, and we share the opinion of the nation’s 51 Attorneys General that the bestway to eradicate your company’s connection with the sex trafficking of minors is to shut down the Adult section of your Web site, as Craigslist did.

We trust that your company shares our outrage over the sex trafficking of minors. While we empathize with your business challenges and the increasingly difficult marketplace in which Village Voice Media competes, we trust that you are committed to running your business without compromising the lives of our nation’s girls and boys.

We know there is much more to be done to end the sex trafficking of minors beyond what we ask of you. Ending this practice for good requires agroundswell of people in our business, media, and religious communities joining together in partnership. We need educational campaigns and robust law enforcement to challenge all dimensions of the problem, including the poverty and abuse at the root of the practice.

But we can do something right now to help these girls and boys. Please shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com immediately so that no minor isexploited through advertisements on your Web site.

I might not have phrased everything the way they did, and could point out the ways that their advocacy of sexual license has contributed to an environment in which the sex traffic (not just of children, but adult women as well) could flourish. I certainly find their solicitude for Village Voice Media’s “business challenges” laughable in the face of their efforts, however unsuccessful, to destroy the businesses of any of a number of other corporations with whom they disagree. But then, they and VVM are ideological bedfellows, so I suppose that’s not surprising. Nonetheless, I hope that they are willing to take the next step, if VVM refuses, to call for a boycott of all VVM products, including the Village Voice itself.

But here’s the real point: on this particular issue, they are on the side of the angels. Virtually anything that makes sex trafficking of children more difficult should be supported. To ask VVM to shut down a web site as reprehensible as Backpage.com’s adult section is a no-brainer. This is one of those things on which liberal and conservative Christians should have no difficulty agreeing and cooperating.

So do children a favor: swallow your distaste of being seen on the same side of anything as Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts-Schori, or Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, or NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnamon, or Jim Wallis, and sign the petition. Tell VVM to get out of the child prostitution business.

One of the denominational bureaucrats for the PCUSA responded to the congregations that are fleeing the sinking ship he works for by suggesting that the most important founding father of Reformed Christianity, John Calvin, would be appalled at the way they are standing up for orthodoxy. He told the Christian Post:

Dr. Charles A. Wiley III, coordinator for Theology and Worship at PC(USA)’s General Assembly Mission Council, does not approve of these proposals to leave PC(USA). Wiley explained to The Christian Post that if alive today John Calvin would not approve of these congregations opting to separate.

“I do believe that Calvin would have been discouraged by the amount of squabbling that goes on in Presbyterian churches and our lack of theological rigor, whatever our theological perspective,” said Wiley.

Dr. Wiley will, I presume, be returning to the Roman Catholic Church as soon as he recovers his irony meter from the stratosphere.

I believe it was Lyndon Johnson that said, “Don’t these people realize if they push me over to an extreme position I’ll lose the election? And I’m the one who will be supporting what they want but they’re going to make it so I can’t win.” Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the frontrunners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election.

Pat Robertson, who has obviously been turned into a black pot for Halloween

Just wanted to remind y’all that I’ve published a short story that, just in time for Halloween, fits nicely in the horror genre. It’s called “Ezcape from Sobibor,” and describes the divine intervention (as I imagine it) that led to the escape of more than 700 Jews from the Nazi extermination camp. You can find it for free at Smashwords, or, if you don’t mind paying 99 cents in recognition of my genius, you can also get it at Amazon. One other thing: if you like it (actually, even if you don’t), take a few minutes to write a review. The more feedback I get, the better the next one will be.

Biblical scholar Lisa Sharon Harper demonstrates in Sojourners today that she isn’t much better at public policy than she is at understanding Scripture. She writes:

Do the numbers 917 billion, 1.5 trillion, 690 billion, 98 billion and 32 mean anything to you?

If not, I bet they just washed over you like water off a duck’s back. Hearing those figures probably felt as inconsequential as the drink you had with your lunch yesterday. What was that, anyway? Iced tea? A diet soda?

Numbers feel insignificant — until we understand their meaning.

The meaning to which she is referring is the terrifying possibility that the beast that is the federal government may not have total carte blanche to citizens’ money, and may, as a result have to give up some of its more badly or unnecessarily done tasks. But Harper is not one to pass up a propaganda moment:

  • The U.S. Congress already cut $917 billion from the nation’s budget on August 1 as part of the infamous debt ceiling deal.
  • As part of the deal, Congress has to cut another $1.2 – 1.5 trillion from the budget by November 23.
  • As you are reading this, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. The Super Committee) is making choices about who and what our nation will protect. Will we protect the wealthiest 2 percent by preserving$690 billion in Bush era tax cuts? Or will we protect children by preserving $650 billion in special education, student aid, and assistance to low-income schools? Will we protect corporations by preserving $97.5 billion in subsidies for big business or will we protect families by preserving $98 billion in Head Start and child care programs?
  • We have 32 days left to remind Congress that, “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss” (Proverbs 22:16).

Behind the numbers are vulnerable people and sacred lives.

Actually, behind those numbers is an extraordinary amount of horse hockey, as Col. Potter might have put it. One at a time:

1) On the $917 billion, that’s over ten years, so its less than $100 billion a year toward reducing a deficit of over a trillion a year for years to come. Then there’s the composition of that figure: $156 billion of it is in reduced interest payments; $741 billion is from discretionary spending including defense (“discretionary spending” being defined as anything that is not an entitlement, meaning it could include countless unnecessary or wasteful expenditures, such as the stationing of troops in Germany to guard against a Soviet invasion, farm subsidies to people like David Rockefeller and Ted Turner, duplicative programs–do we really need 130 programs for at-risk youth?–corporate welfare, etc.); and $20 billion from educational loans and other forms of waste, fraud, and abuse. The deal actually increases Pell grants (a major source of the student aid mentioned in her third point). Oh, and according to CNN, “The framework will immediately cap domestic and defense spending, resulting in cuts of $917 billion over 10 years.” That means that nothing now being spent will be cut, only that future increases will be foregone. (That’s how they define “spending cuts” in Washington and at Sojourners, apparently.)

2) The $1.2-1.5 trillion the “Super Committee” has to come up with is, again, over the next ten years, and will also almost certainly be of the “no more money for you than you’ve got now” variety.

3) This third point is the real howler. She sets it up as if these are the actual choices Congress will face: tax cuts for rich people, or cutting off special ed kids? Subsidies for EvilCo, or Head Start? It’s one or the other. They can’t consider cuts in subsidizing academic research on the sex lives of cockroaches, or farm subsidies for corporate farmers, or grants to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, or funding for Planned Parenthood or National Public Radio, they can’t consider cutting out any of the 342 economic development programs, or any unnecessary military bases or weapons programs. They can only cut Head Start (the efficacy of which is simply assumed) and special education so that Warren Buffett can continue to complain about being undertaxed while Berkshire Hathaway continues to dispute billions in back taxes.

The rest of her article expands on her title: “Behind the Numbers: We are Mobilizing!” (She is “Director of Mobilizing” for Sojourners, so I guess like Governor William J. Lepetomane and many federal employees she has to protect her phony-baloney job.) Desperate times require desperate measures, so the Director of Mobilizing is calling the righteous to action:

Last year we asked, “What would Jesus cut?”

Last spring we fasted for a moral budget.

Now, we’re escalating. Please join us!

Come and See!

Inspired by the biblical story of Philip and Nathanael (John 1:43-46), Sojourners is calling on faith communities and faith-based organizations to invite their Congressional representatives to “come and see” the organizations and people in your communities that will be placed at risk by severe budget cuts.

Human Circles of Protection

On Nov. 16, 2011, at 12 p.m. in each time zone, faith leaders, parishioners, advocates, community leaders and their constituents will come together, join hands and create human circles of prayer and protection around agencies and programs at risk of deep budget cuts.

We will let Congress know we must not balance our national budget on the backs of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

That’s escalation, all right. Next thing you know, Harper will be calling on her soldiers of statism to pull out the big guns. That’s right: bring on the drum circles!

The Washington Post reports today that the separation of church and state has been repealed in the District of Columbia:

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray is seeking emergency funding for restoration of Washington National Cathedral from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after touring the earthquake-damaged church.

Gray called the cathedral an “iconic monument” in the city during a tour Thursday. He noted it is visited by more than 500,000 people a year from around the world.

The cathedral and the Washington Monument sustained significant damage during the 5.8-magnitude quake that shook the nation’s capital nearly three months ago. Initial repairs to the cathedral are expected to cost at least $15 million. The monument remains closed, while the cathedral is scheduled to reopen Nov. 12.

I’m not a strict separationist a la Americans United or the ACLU, but this strikes me as grossly unconstitutional. Regardless of its name, the National Cathedral is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and while it has been a hub of interreligious activity (some of which has been simply the promotion of good old fashioned paganism), it is still a denominational, rather than public, structure. It doesn’t matter how many “secular” or civil religion events (say, presidential funerals) take place there, its fundamental nature as a church of a particular denomination remains. I’ll be watching to see whether the usual self-appointed guardians of the First Amendment speak up in favor of having the Episcopal Church rather than the taxpayers foot the bill for the repairs.

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