October 2009

What major institution most deserves the title of greatest force for evil in the world? In a field of stiff competition, the Roman Catholic Church is surely up there among the leaders.

–Atheist/scientist Richard Dawkins, apparently confusing one of the world’s largest providers of charity, hospitals, and schools for China, North Korea, Cuba, the Soviet Union, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and other atheist regimes that have killed over 100 million people in the last century, in a piece in which the word “bigots” is used in the title entirely without irony

(Via MCJ–be sure to read Chris Johnson’s entire fisking of Dawkins’ hate-filled screed.)

Every opinion I’ve read on the subject of the 2009 World Series says it should be one for the ages. Most have said that the Yankees have the edge, if for no other reason than the home field advantage (thanks to Bud Selig’s hair-brained idea of using the All-Star game to determine it–if he’d left well enough alone, the Phillies would have it this year) and the supposed invincibility of Mariano Rivera. But not only were the Phils the best road team in baseball this year, but I’ve long thought that Rivera’s dominance was at least partially explained by batters letting themselves be convinced of it. These Phillies, however, are not intimidated by any pitcher. So just to be contrarian (along with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, the only one of their panel of experts to pick the National League champs), I’m going to go with Philadelphia in seven. However, given my track record this year (Mets as wild card? Cubs winning World Series??), I wouldn’t bet on that.

Remember the campaign to get conservative hate speech off the broadcast airwaves, launched by petition to the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Commerce last week? It turns out the effort by the United Church of Christ Communications Office-staffed So We Might See Coalition is getting pushback from two of the members of the coalition. First, there’s this from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, via LifeSite News:

Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has stated that a religious coalition, which recently petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clamp down on “hate speech” by conservative talk-show hosts, has misrepresented the U.S. bishops’ involvement in their initiative.

The USCCB Office of Communications is listed as a member of the So We Might See Coalition, a group billing itself as a national interfaith coalition against hate speech in media led by the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) Office of Communications’ Executive Director, J. Bennett Guess.

However, the American Spectator’s Jeffrey Lord reports that, in responding to a parishioner’s request for an explanation about the scandal, Archbishop Chaput said that “the USCCB feels that its involvement has been misrepresented” by So We Might See.

The USCCB’s Communications Secretary Helen Osman told the Catholic News Agency on Monday that, although the USCCB is one of the groups in the So We Might See Coalition, the USCCB did not sign on to the current petition, which is at the center of the controversy.

Archbishop Chaput pointed out that the USCCB’s goals in joining the coalition were specifically outlined in a letter that it sent in July to the FCC.  Lord reports that the USCCB’s letter did not mention any specific public figure or media forum, but simply supported “a broad public forum in which to raise and debate (hate speech and other issues) in a respectful manner.”

Chaput also observed that at the time the USCCB had “informed the sponsors of this effort that (1) there are serious constitutional concerns raised by any interference with free speech; (2) it’s not at all clear that the FCC has jurisdiction or can actually do anything about the problem; and (3) ‘hate speech’ is an ambiguous concept with some troubling implications for religious believers and their right to hold and preach doctrines that some might find offensive.”

So We Might See has put the USCCB statement on its Web site, though it isn’t easy to find. Meanwhile, United Methodists are apparently having second thoughts about their involvement, according to an item at UCC Communications:

On Oct. 20, United Methodist Communications requested temporary removal of its name and logo from the coalition’s website until its board was given more time to consider the agency’s involvement. This request was honored immediately.

This is from a piece written by Bennett Guess (who is both executive director of UCC Communications and the first person listed under staff for the SWMSC) in which he supposedly responds to “misleading and untruthful articles that have appeared this past week at The American Spectator about the UCC and the So We Might See interfaith media justice coalition.” (The article–as far as I know there was only one–in question is here.) I say “supposedly,” because there’s no response to much of anything that Jeffrey Lord writes. The only fact that Guess disputes has to do with SWMSC funding, about which Guess says this:

Neither the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc., nor the So We Might See Coalition, receive any financial support from George Soros, as an individual, nor from his foundation, the Open Society Institute. While the Open Society Institute is one of multiple supporters of the Media Democracy Fund, neither the UCC, the Coalition nor its campaigns have been recipients of these funds directly.

Of course, if he’d carefully read the article, he would know that Lord never said that either the UCC or the SWMSC got money from Soros or the Open Society Institute. All he said was that SWMSC got money from the Media Democracy Fund, which is partially funded by Soros’ OPI. So in sum, Guess refutes nothing that Lord said, and the point still remains: the basic aim of the SWMSC and its petition to the FCC (about which there’s no word on number of signatures, naturally, given their previous failure) is to drive competing political points of view off the air, or, if that can’t be achieved, to demonize them as “hate speech.” That’s the real scandal of this effort.

Kudos to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in rolling out the State Department’s annual report on religious liberty, made clear that the Administration opposes the annual effort of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to shut down free speech. According to the Christian Post:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced strong opposition Monday to the proposed U.N. resolution on “defamation of religions,” saying that such policies would restrict free speech.

In opening remarks for the release of the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Clinton said that while some claim so-called defamation of religions policies would help protect freedom of religion, she “strongly disagree[s].”

“The United States will always seek to counter negative stereotypes of individuals based on their religion and will stand against discrimination and persecution,” Clinton stated. “But an individual’s ability to practice his or her religion has no bearing on others’ freedom of speech.”

Earlier this year, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted an anti-defamation draft resolution that human rights groups warn would protect a religion rather than adherents of religions.

Leonard A. Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, last week testified to Members of Congress that the only religion and religious adherents that are specifically mentioned in the “defamation” resolutions – this year’s and past years – are Islam and Muslims.

The resolution in question is an annual offering from the OIC that constitutes an attempt to get the UN to put its stamp of approval on religious tyranny and other abridgements of the right to free speech that is supposedly guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As Secretary Clinton rightly points out, there is no connection between freedom of religion and the fact that some people have ugly things to say about religion in general or one religion in particular. If you object to something someone says about religion or your religion, say so, show where he’s wrong, insult him if that’s all you can come up with. But don’t shut anyone else down just to protect your feelings.

By the way, for those who think that there’s religious freedom in North Korea, here’s another perspective:

The State Department’s annual report precedes an expected update from the department on the list of “countries of particular concern” – the category for the worst religious freedom violators. The last U.S. list released in January included Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Uzbekistan – the same countries that made the list in 2008.

The relationships we share with these three congregations, as brothers and sisters in Christ, are more important than property. Therefore, we didn’t make property an issue.

–The Rev. Rick Irish, interim Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of San Joaquin, speaking of the agreements reached with three PCUSA congregations who were dismissed to the EPC’s Presbytery of the West recently (and may God bless him and his presbytery for such an attitude!)

(Hat tip: Toby Brown.)

We feel student groups should not bring people on campus that jeopardize the safety, or just the way people feel on this campus.

–Megan Chialastri, vice president of All Sides, an organization at Temple University in Philadelphia that seeks to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians, protesting a speech at Temple by Dutch politician Geert Wilders

(Via David Horowitz through Binky.)

Samuel Kobia, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, continues to demonstrate that he is either extraordinarily dishonest, genuinely deluded, or has some ulterior motives (not all of which would necessarily be bad, by the way) in addressing the situation on the Korean peninsula. On Wednesday, he gave the opening presentation at an “International Consultation on Peace, Reconciliation, Reunification of the Korean Peninsula” in Hong Kong. It’s an amazing speech.

It’s too long to go through paragraph by paragraph, especially since what is so objectionable is by and large what’s not in it. Not a single mention of human rights violations in North Korea, nor of the persecution of Christians there. Not a single hint that the North started the Korean War, and thus bears a lot of the responsibility for the continued state of affairs on the peninsula. No suggestion that much of the suffering and starvation in the North over the last decade has been self-inflicted by a regime monomaniacally pursuing nuclear weapons (a quest which, at least in theory, the WCC opposes). No suggestion that reunification of North and South Korea might have some connection to the nature of the North’s dictatorship. Here’s an example of this thinking:

However, it has been an encouraging factor that a new thinking contrary to the earlier hard line policies of South Korean leaders emerged. The new generation of South Korean leaders have attempted to change or move away from the old perceptions and move beyond the Cold War era politics of rivalry. The most visible expression of such movement was evident during the regime of the late President Kim Dae Jung. The South Korean leaders came forward to address the issues by dealing with their northern neighbour within a post-Cold War framework based on nationalism and shared ethnic ties and cultural values. They upheld the aspirations of the majority of the Korean people to seek the realization of the long-held dream of Korean reunification. In other words, they conveyed the message that they wanted to move in the direction of a concept, “from confrontation to community”. A shift in hard line policies and willingness to move away from confrontation with North Korea should be the ultimate goal towards reconciling the bonds of community that were torn apart during the Korean War and in the following years of the Cold War. I am sure, the aspirations and willingness of the Korean people to move beyond the Cold War era will rewrite the history of the Korean peninsula.

There’s no suggestion here (nor anywhere else in the address) that North Korea’s “hard-line policies” have anything to do with the continuing conflict, or that there is any need for the North to change its political culture. Here’s Kobia’s explanation for why no progress toward reunification was made back in the bad old 1980s:

The Tozanso consultation organized by the CCIA of the WCC in 1984 was held in a most difficult time for Korean churches to discuss openly the issue of Korean reunification. When WCC’s active engagement in the Korean peace and reunification process began in the 1980s, South Korea was under a military dictatorship and was experiencing rampant human rights violations. Due to the Cold War, the Korean peninsula was in the grip of militarization and the arms race. There were deliberate and systematic efforts to create enemy images which demonized the other. Any discussion of reunification at that time was considered an offence to Korean society. The National Security Law was used to suppress people’s movement and their aspirations for justice, peace and reunification on the pretext of safeguarding national security. Some participants invited to Tozanso failed to turn up because of fear of the consequences they would have to face under the draconian National Security Law.

Once again, the blinders are truly incredible. The problem was that South Korea was under a military dictatorship! Not that the North was similarly shackled in its approach to the South, or that people might have feared for their lives if they’d advocated reunification on the basis of democratization in the entire peninsula.

All in all, this speech is one of the most astounding proofs of the degeneration of at least the leadership of the World Council of Churches. Whether Kobia’s successor will be any better is yet to be seen, but it’s hard to believe there’s anywhere to go but up.

The Church still has the freedom to carry out its mission, but of course, still has some limitations. The challenge of the church is how to do its mission in a different societal system.

–Prawate Khid-arn, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, who also revealed that he doesn’t currently reside in Asia, but on Planet 10, commuting here on occasion via the Eighth Dimension


(Via I Can Has Cheezburger?)

In their effort to make themselves important, the leaders of the World Council of Churches occasionally come out with some very strange statements. Today, it has to do with North Korea, where General Secretary Sam Kobia has gone for some reason or another. The press release on the visit says:

In a recent meeting with a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) visiting Pyongyang, North Korean president Kim Yong-nam said a significant impetus to solving the nuclear weapons stand-off in the region would be for North Korea and the U.S. to meet “face-to-face with each other”.

Kim is one of the three principal leaders of North Korea along with Kim Jong-il, the Supreme Leader, and Kim Yong-il, the Premier. Kim Yong-nam is often described as the de facto leader since he often represents the country on state visits around the world and in the signing of treaties on behalf of the DPRK. [Emphasis added.]

The only place Kim Yong-nam has ever been described as the de facto leader of North Korea is right here, in this press release, and he is so referred to because that makes the WCC delegation look more important, as if they had visited with the real leader of the country, rather than just a flunky who takes his marching orders from the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il. Of course, it may be that the writer simply doesn’t know the difference between de jure (“in law”) as opposed to de facto (“in fact”), but that seems unlikely.

More from the release:

During his meeting with Kobia, Kim talked about how the North Korean government has assisted over the years in rebuilding churches that were destroyed during the Korean War and the bombing of Pyongyang by the U.S.

He invited the WCC to continue its relationship with the Korean Christian Federation through ongoing visits to the country.

There’s no indication that Kobia didn’t swallow this hook, line and sinker. The fact that the North Koreans have “rebuilt churches” says nothing about whether they are actually being used as churches, which is in a way beside the point. The fact is that North Korea persecution of Christians is among the world’s worst. Open Doors has ranked the DPRK as the worst offender among nations for seven years in a row. Voice of the Martyrs says “Government-organized religious activities exist solely to provide the illusion of religious freedom. North Korea is the worst perpetrator of persecution against Christians in the world….Christians must practice their faith in deep secrecy and are in constant danger, though many continue to stand strong under relentless persecution. The government considers Christians to be a stability threat, and they are hunted all over the country.” And yet there is nothing in the press release to indicate that Kobia expressed any concern whatsoever this continuing and pervasive persecution. Instead, all he seemed to want to talk about was Korean reunification and nuclear weapons:

Commenting further on the nuclear weapons situation of North Korea, Kim said the solution was to denuclearize the entire region. Creating a nuclear free Korean peninsula was “one of the last instructions from the Great Leader”, former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, who is called the “eternal leader” of North Korea and died in 1994.

Kobia said the position of the WCC is that “those who have nuclear weapons should get rid of them and those wanting them should no longer seek them”.

A nice thought, until you realize who he’s dealing with: a regime that has repeatedly lied about the scope and even existence of its nuclear weapons program, one that continues to rattle sabers in the direction of South Korea and Japan, and one that has spent who knows how much money developing those weapons while millions of its own people starved to death. Put it all together, and I think one could easily conclude from this press release that 1) the WCC doesn’t care about Christians being persecuted, at least not by Communist dictatorships; 2) that it is extraordinarily naive when it comes to some of the world’s most evil people; and 3) that it has learned absolutely nothing from the prior damage to its reputation accrued from its previous record of glad-handing Marxist totalitarians.

In other news, the sun came up today…

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