International


The decline of Europe into a parody of civilization continues apace. The European Court of Human Rights has now declared that citizens of the European Union have a right to put up a satellite dish. According to the UK’s Daily Mail:

It is regarded as a luxury that allows people to watch top sport and blockbuster movies from the comfort of their armchairs.

But owning a satellite dish is actually a human right, according to unelected European judges.

In an extraordinary ruling, lawmakers in Strasbourg have warned that banning dishes on listed buildings, social housing and even private homes could breach the right to freedom of expression by preventing people from practice religion.

Two tenants in Sweden took their government to court after they were evicted by their landlord in a dispute over a dish.

The couple installed one of the dishes on their rented property but the landlord ordered them to take it down. They refused and were later thrown out of the property.

But European judges ruled that the Swedish government had failed in its obligation to protect the couple’s right to receive information. It found that satellite dishes come under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

So what do you file this under? “Debasement of the concept of human rights”? “Orwellian language”? “Creeping authoritarianism”? “Lawyers gone wild”? How about under, “European Union a bad idea”? That would fit, because here’s the article under which this decision was issued:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

This all sounds good, as human rights language generally does. The problems begin when lawyers with ideological presupposition begin mucking around. In this case, the presupposition is that ownership of property does not give the owner the right to say how it should be used. That right belongs to those who occupy it. Another term for this is “squatters rights,” which have been generally disdained in the West as a form of theft (not that the tenants in the Swedish case are actual squatters–they’re paying rent, after all–but they are using the same argument, that occupation trumps ownership).

Once the presupposition is in place, it’s simply a matter of applying it to whatever the lawyers decide. In this case, they took the right to receive information and voilà! of course tenants have the right to put up a satellite dish regardless of this wishes of the landlord. Since this is a matter of confusing a technological means for the right itself, the logical next steps will be to declare that newspaper must give away their product for free, that governments must insure that all citizens have broadband Internet access (already being pushed by religious leftists in the U.S.), and that everyone be provided a high definition big screen television. You heard it here first.

(Via Hot Air.)

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The Interfaith Alliance, a religious left advocacy group that frequently works with secular left organizations such as the ACLU, People for the American Way, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, responds to the death of Osama bin Laden:

Last night’s announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden closes a difficult chapter in the life of this nation.  Bin Laden brought unspeakable tragedy into our lives that can and never will be forgotten.  Additionally, President Obama’s remarks last night on bin Laden provided an additional important step forward in the healing process we have been going through for nearly a decade.

Extremely important in the President’s remarks was his clear statement that Osama bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, but rather a murderer of Muslims – a statement that echoed those made by President Bush immediately after September 11, 2001.  I commend the President for making the point that the United States “is not, and never will be, at war with Islam.”  It is my fervent hope and prayer that as we put this chapter behind us, we also leave behind the demonization and mistrust of the broader Muslim community that came with it.

The best possible follow-up to bin Laden’s death would be our nation’s recommitment to living together with respect for diversity, achieving unity through cooperation, and strengthening our resolve for establishing peace with justice.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a PCUSA affiliate led by former General Assembly moderator Rick Ufford-Chase that counts the Israel Palestine Mission Network and the far-left Fellowship of Reconciliation among its partners, has weighed in on the death of Osama bin Laden:

On this day, reflecting on the death of Osama bin Laden during a U.S. military operation in Pakistan, we turn to Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome . . .

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

On this day, we mourn the loss of life experienced by so many on September 11, 2001, and we stand in compassion with our sisters and brothers for whom that loss of life remains a daily reality. We are deeply moved by the service of so many who risked their own lives on that day and in the days that followed.

On this day, aware that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now gone on for almost a decade, we are keenly aware of the continued sacrifice borne by U.S. families as tens of thousands of our soldiers have been wounded or killed.

On this day, we know of the suffering of countless—truly countless—numbers of families in both of those countries who also have lost loved ones because of the wars, or who have been displaced by the violence, and whose lives will never be the same again. We say, again, it is time to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq swiftly to an end, bring all U.S. soldiers and military contractors home to their families, and commit to the hard work of partnering to rebuild those communities devastated by the wars.

On this day, with many other sisters and brothers across our country and around the world, we dare to ask…

  • What might the world look like today had we responded to our own fear with the courage to love those of whom we are most afraid?
  • What if the billions upon billions of dollars spent to wage war had been spent instead on food and potable water and schools and development projects—the things that make for peace?
  • What if we prepared our young people to wage peace rather than to wage war?

We follow the Prince of Peace. We are a people of hope. We will seek common ground with sisters and brothers who share our commitment to peace in all religious traditions.

I said I’d put up any response to the death of Osama bin Laden without comment. So here’s the first official reaction, from the usual suspects at the National Council of Churches (also signed by the leaders of the ELCA, UCC, Disciples of Christ, Church of the Brethren, and the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops–apparently Gradye Parsons of the PCUSA and Katharine Jefforts-Schori of the Episcopal Church were MIA):

The death of Osama Bin Laden is a significant moment in the turbulent history of the past decade. It does not eradicate the scourge of terrorism nor does it bring closure to the grieving and pain the world has endured since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, for which he was the primary architect. The National Council of Churches deplores and condemns the extremism he personified, the twisted illusions that wrought years of violence and evil in the world.

Now the member communions of the National Council of Churches pray for God’s help as we commit ourselves to moving forward together as witnesses for God’s love and peace. In November 2001, as the world reeled from the terror attacks, the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service challenged their communions to take the lead:

It is time [we said then] for us as an ecumenical community to make a renewed commitment to a ministry of peace with justice, and to make real in these days the call of Jesus, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) In his Beatitudes, Jesus calls us, his followers, to be merciful if we are to receive mercy; he reminds us that the peacemakers are blessed and will be called children of God. And, he proclaims us “the light of the world”; our good works should be a beacon to others so they may give glory to God. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We lift up “Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century,” a 1999 Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. We reaffirm and highlight the Statement’s call to build a culture of peace with justice characterized by these convictions:

1. “the transcending sovereignty and love of God for all creation and the expression of that love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, whose mission was to reveal understanding about that divine presence, to proclaim a message of salvation and to bring justice and peace;

2. the unity of creation and the equality of all races and peoples;

3. the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God; and

4. the church, the body of believers, whose global mission of witness, peacemaking and reconciliation testifies to God’s action in history.”

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Just as Christians must condemn the violence of terrorism, let us be clear that we do not celebrate loss of life under any circumstances. The NCC’s 37 member communions believe the ultimate justice for this man’s soul — or any soul — is in the hands of God. In this historic moment, let us turn to a future that embraces God’s call to be peacemakers, pursuers of justice and loving neighbors to all people.

He doesn’t get the usual R.I.P., because I’m rather hoping that he’s finding his 72 virgins all look like Yasser Arafat. A few random thoughts:

1) There’s no question that Islamic fundamentalists will seek revenge. That could take any of a number of forms, but one that should especially drive us to our knees is the possibility of mob violence against Christians throughout the Muslim world. At the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, columnist Damian Thompson has a blog out on that subject, complete with an AP photo of an attack on a church in Pakistan yesterday. Our brothers and sisters in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent need our prayers in abundance today and in the days ahead.

2) There’s a real threat to both America and Europe. There are reports that al Qaeda has a nuclear device somewhere in Europe that they’ve threatened to explode if anything happens to bin Laden–that’s may just be bluster, but standard issue explosives can kill lots of people as well. It’s all find and good to celebrate the death of the poster boy for Islamic fundamentalism, but it’s important to keep in mind that such accomplishments will come with a cost.

3) Certain people have an opportunity to show their true colors, and one of them already has. From Reuters:

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Monday condemned the killing by U.S. forces of Osama bin Laden and mourned him as an “Arab holy warrior.”

“We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters.

Though he noted doctrinal differences between bin Laden’s al Qaeda and Hamas, Haniyeh said: “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

Remember this next time the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network or the mainline church-supported U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation tells us that Israel, and the United States, should deal with Hamas.

4) No official reaction yet from the World or National Council of Churches, or any of the the mainline denominations. When and if there is any, I’ll post it without comment. The Christian Post reports on some tweets that a handful of pastors have put out, but only one prominent name has responded substantially. Brian McLaren writes:

Brian McLaren, considered an emergent church leader, lamented the image he saw on television of “American college students reveling outside the White House, shouting, chanting ‘USA’ and spilling beer.”

Currently in the U.K., McLaren blogged that he saw the same scene as he flipped through the channels.

“I can only say that this image does not reflect well on my country,” he stated.

“Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?”

He quoted an email he received from his friend back in the U.S.: “When I received the news of his death, I must confess that my primary emotion was not excitement, but sadness…deep sadness that his life did not reflect God’s intent for the world…deep sadness as I anticipated the rhetoric that awaited me on Facebook, the internet, and TV.

“I do not understand a world that allows for a man to cause so much pain and I do not understand a world that rejoices in the death of that man who just happens to be created in the image of God.”

The email continued: “Perhaps everyone is right. Perhaps the death of Osama Bin Laden has made this world more safe. I do not believe, however, that his death has made this world more beautiful.”

5) I’m conflicted. It is never right to rejoice over the death of one of God’s creatures. At the same time, there is a certain satisfaction that this one reaped what he sowed. Feel free to offer your own reaction in the comments.

The “Spirit of Life” fair that the Church of England’s Manchester Cathedral is running on May 2 has put up a “provisional programme” of events, exhibitors and so on. Among the stalls will be:

Two Church Mice: Cards, gemstones, saints, and healing.

Penny Horsemen: Jesus Deck readings.

Celtic Springs: Christian travellers in the New Age. Jesus Deck and Christian creation cards.

Among the workshops will be:

Healing Serpent (Pauline Warner): Looking for inspiration in the Old Testament bible stories about M oses and Aaron in Egypt, we find that the God of Moses was the Great Serpent, the Protector and Deliverer.

Angelic Encounters (John and Olive Drane): Angels are all around us, if only weareopentotheir presence.

Christianity and the Goddess (Steve Hollinghurst): Exploring the relationship between the Goddess and Christian tradition to uncover the divine feminine in Christianity.

So is there really any doubt about what is going on there?

The reports from Japan have been heart-rending and horrendous. I suspect the numbers of casualties are seriously underestimated in the areas such as Sendai hardest hit by the tsunami, and there is damage all over the northeastern coast of the country. I saw earlier that the 1995 Kobe earthquake was the most expensive natural disaster in history, costing $100 billion. There’s a good chance this one will be even bigger. So far, I’ve come across three agencies that are already moving to help and have links to donate to their efforts. They are:

Red Cross

World Vision

Church World Service

PCUSA General Assembly Mission Council

I’ll update this list as others become available. Pray for Japan, and give as you can.

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