Friday, December 17, 2010

Devotional: There is a time appointed...

There is a time appointed in the history of our world, when that very Jesus who appeared on earth, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," shall reappear with all the circumstances of majesty and power, "King of kings and Lord of lords." We are led to expect a day when Christ shall find a home in the remotest hearts and families, and the earth in all its circumference be covered with the knowledge and the power of the Lord. ... Henry Melvill image

The feminist deception

Nowhere is fraud at heart of feminist movement more apparent than in silence of inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law.
By CAROLINE B. GLICK
12/14/2010

Excerpt:
Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 1960s, non-leftist women in the West and Israel have been hard-pressed to answer the question of whether or not we are feminists. Non-leftist women are opposed to the oppression of women. Certainly, we are no less opposed to the oppression of women than leftist women are.

But at its most basic level, the feminist label has never been solely or even predominantly about preventing and ending oppression or discrimination of women. It has been about advancing the Left’s social and political agenda against Western societies. It has been about castigating societies where women enjoy legal rights and protections as “structurally” discriminatory against women in order to weaken the legal, moral and social foundations of those societies. That is, rather than being about advancing the cause of women, to a large extent, the feminist movement has used the language of women’s rights to advance a social and political agenda that has nothing to do with women.

So to a large degree, the feminist movement itself is a deception.

The deception at the heart of the feminist movement is nowhere more apparent than in the silence with which self-professed feminists and feminist movements ignore the inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law. If feminism weren’t a hollow term, then prominent feminists should be the leaders of the anti-jihad movement.
 the rest image

Author: Most Evangelicals Believe Good People are Heaven-Bound

|Fri, Dec. 17 2010
By Stephanie Samuel
Christian Post Reporter

The majority of Protestants and evangelicals believe that good people and people of other religions can go to heaven, according to author David Campbell.

Campbell, who co-wrote American Grace, How Religion Divides and Unites Us, contends that surveys of 3,000 Americans, used to write the book, show that American people of faith, though devout, are very tolerant. So much so that most believers also believe that good people, despite their religious affiliation, can go to heaven.

Among the faiths, 83 percent of evangelical Protestants agreed that good people of other religions can go to heaven. Ninety percent of black Protestants also believe good people can go to heaven.

When prodded further, more than half – 54 percent – of evangelical Protestants said yes, people of religions other than Christianity can go to heaven. Sixty-two percent of black Protestants agreed with the statement. the rest

Health judge fears 'broccoli' mandate

By JENNIFER HABERKORN
12/16/10

PENSACOLA, Fla. — In a federal courtroom Thursday, Judge Roger Vinson questioned how far Congress’s authority would go if it can legally require nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance.
Could they "mandate everybody has to buy a certain amount of broccoli?” Vinson questioned, comparing the positive impact both could have on health. The comments came during oral arguments in the constitutional challenge 20 states have brought against the health reform law—just days after a federal judge in Virginia struck down the same controversial piece of President Obama’s signature legislation.

The federal government argued that health insurance and health care are unique markets and that Congress has the power to regulate them. the rest image

Planned Parenthood Gets $363M in Tax Money, Abortions Rise

by Steven Ertelt
Washington, DC
LifeNews.com
12/16/10

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America finally released its 2008-2009 Annual report detailing its financial figures. The report shows it received more government funding, which has translated into more abortions.

The nation’s largest abortion business released a factsheet in September showing the number of abortions it performed in 2008 increased to 324,008, a 6.1 percent increase over the 305,310 abortions it did in 2007.

The total government grants and contracts received by PPFA affiliates from government sources including state, local and federal governments, increased from $337 million to $350 million in 2009. The new report shows that figure has increased again to $363 million, though it does not specify what portion of the figure was received from each level of government. the rest

Austria: Judge Rules That Yodeling Offends Muslims


by Elad Benari
12/15/10

It seems as though in Austria, the popular yodel is an insult to Muslims.

An Austrian court has recently fined a citizen for yodeling while mowing his lawn, according to a report in The Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

The citizen, 63-year-old Helmut G., was told by the court that his yodeling offended his next-door Muslim neighbors, who accused him of trying to mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin. the rest image
Helmut G. clarified that “It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood.”

Barcelona: Islamist Stronghold on the Mediterranean

by Soeren Kern
December 16, 2010
American and Spanish officials say the autonomous region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain is "a major Mediterranean center for radical Islamists" and the United States has proposed setting up an intelligence hub at the US Consulate in Barcelona to counter the growing threat, according to diplomatic cables that were obtained by Wikileaks and published by the Madrid-based El País newspaper on December 11.

The three cables, all of which are from the US Embassy in Madrid, say that Catalonia has become "a prime base of operations" for Islamic terrorists; and thanks to uncontrolled immigration the region, it now has a "large Muslim population susceptible to jihadist recruitment." The documents also provide insights into the extent of the links between Islamic terrorists and organized crime in Barcelona, which the cables call a "crossroads of worrisome activities." Viewed as a whole, the cables largely corroborate the conclusions of many independent analysts about the huge challenges Spain faces from militant Islam. the rest

In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage

By SCOTT SAYARE and MAÏA DE LA BAUME
December 15, 2010

PARIS — Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not quite ready for old-fashioned matrimony.

Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.

When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples. the rest
“Marriage bears the traces of a religious imprint,” he said, often anathema in a country where secularism has long been treated as a sacred principle. “It’s really an ideological slant, saying, ‘No one is going to tell me what I have to do.’ ”

The State of Episcopal Church Cathedrals in the US

A SPECIAL REPORT By David W. Virtue and Mary Ann Mueller
http://www.virtueonline.org/
December 16, 2010

A special VOL investigation into the state of Episcopal cathedrals across the U.S. has revealed that many are living on borrowed time, while a handful are thriving in difficult economic circumstances. Cathedrals usually occupy prime real estate locations in major cities, locations that, should they go out of business, offer great opportunities for developers or evangelical mega churches.

The cathedral of the Diocese of Western Michigan - the diocese of the now deceased Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Sr. - was sold to an evangelical mega-church for less than the price to build it. The diocese is now without a cathedral. Fire sales can be expected in other dioceses across the US in the next decade. the rest
Based on the 2009 ASA figures from The Episcopal Church, eight cathedrals have less than 100 Average Sunday Attendance (ASA). They include: Central New York, Easton, Western Kansas, Fond du Lac, Minnesota (Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault), Nebraska (both Trinity in Omaha and St. Mark's in Hastings), Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh.

Albert Mohler: So, Why Is Incest Wrong?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

There are certain questions now pressed upon us that previous generations would never believe could be asked. One of these is thrust upon us by events in New York City, where a well-known Ivy League professor has been arrested for the crime of incest. What makes the question urgent is not so much the arrest, but the controversy surrounding it.

David Epstein is a professor of political science at Columbia University, where his wife also teaches. He previously taught on the faculties of Harvard and Stanford. Last week, he was arraigned before a judge in Manhattan, charged with a single count of felony incest. According to authorities, Professor Epstein was for several years involved in a sexual relationship with his adult daughter, now age 24.

Though the story was ignored by much of the mainstream media, it quickly found its way into the cultural conversation. William Saletan of Slate.com, who remains one of today’s most relevant writers working on the issues of bioethics and human nature, jumped on the story with a very interesting essay that openly asked the question many others were more quietly asking: “If homosexuality is OK, why is incest wrong?” the rest
It is extremely revealing that, for many of our fellow citizens, incest may merely “seem icky.” And yet, all around us are folks who, with a straight face, deny the inevitability of this slippery slope.

Russia Decides to Search for Sodom and Gomorrah-in Jordan

12/14/10
by David Lev

Russia and Jordan have signed an agreement to search the bottom of the Dead Sea for the remains of the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Arabic news media reported over the weekend. According to the report, a Russian company has agreed to conduct the search in cooperation with Jordanian authorities, picking up all costs – in exchange for exclusive rights to film a documentary of the search. The report quoted one of the Jordanian heads of the project, Zia Madani, as saying that the search would begin in late December.

The Russian company that was chosen as a partner for the search has special underwater exploration equipment that can stand up to the extreme salinity of the Dead Sea, the reports said. the rest

NH Democratic Party accused of ‘religious intolerance’

By Patrick Hynes
December 16, 2010

The head of a pro-family political group in New Hampshire accused the New Hampshire Democratic Party of “religious intolerance” on Thursday for criticizing a Christian state legislator for conducting what it called “a religious tirade” at a Christian gathering in September.

Democratic spokeswoman Harrell Kirstien accused Republican State Rep. David Bates of attempting to impose a “Bible belt social agenda” after video surfaced of Bates saying “the only hope for America” is to “turn from our wicked ways and ask god to heal our land” and “the problem we have here in this country and in all of our states is that we no longer fear god” at New England Solemn Assembly in Plymouth Massachusetts.

Now Kevin Smith, head of Cornerstone Policy Research, is calling on the Democratic Party to apologize for the attack. the rest
“No elected official, whether Republican or Democrat, should have to endure such bigoted remarks from a political party simply because they express their religious faith in a public forum,” continued Smith. “Mr. Kirstein ought to re-read the first amendment to the US Constitution and realize all people are guaranteed the freedom of religion, whether he agrees with their beliefs or not.”

UK: The Red Cross bans Christmas

by STEVE DOUGHTY, Daily Mail
Friday, Dec 17 2010

Staff have been ordered to take down decorations and to remove any other signs of the Christian festival because they could offend Moslems.

The charity's politically-correct move triggered an avalanche of criticism and mockery last night - from Christians and Moslems.

Christine Banks, a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in New Romney, Kent, said: 'We put up a nativity scene in the window and were told to take it out. It seems we can't have anything that means Christmas. We're allowed to have some tinsel but that's it.

'When we send cards they have to say season's greetings or best wishes. They must not be linked directly to Christmas.

'When we asked we were told it is because we must not upset Moslems.' the rest

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Episcopal Church news publications to cease with January issues

Episcopal News Service continues online
By ENS staff
December 16, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal News Monthly, a newspaper printed in conjunction with diocesan partners, and Episcopal News Quarterly, a supplement to certain diocesan quarterly news magazines, will cease publication with the January 2011 issues.

The final issues of both publications, which will be produced before Christmas, mark the end of the Episcopal Church's 50 years as a newspaper publisher. Episcopal News Service will continue to operate online, offering a mix of news stories, commentary, photos and video reports. The ENS website is due for a major redesign in 2011. the rest

Stand Firm: What’s A Little Paganism Between Friends?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
 Jackie Bruchi

I'll bet you woke up this morning and right after that second cup of Joe said, "Gee, I wonder what Ann Holmes Redding, the Episco-Muslim priest is doing these days?" Well, wonder no more.


A Celebration of the Tree of Life in the Time of the Great Turning
Join people of different spiritual and cultural traditions in an evening of the sights and sounds of dance, music, drumming, ritual, story, and song at St. Mark's Cathedral, a Greening Congregation.

You are invited to join in this historical moment known as the Great Turning by gathering around the ancient mythic image of the Tree of Life. This event features an address by author, environmental activist, and Gaian teacher Joanna Macy; storytelling by Michael Meade; liturgical dance by Betsey Beckman; and world music by Gina Salá. The evening is designed to bring together people of different spiritual and cultural traditions to express their sorrow and hope over the environmental and cultural upheaval our world is currently experiencing. The sacred space of the cathedral will be filled with the sights and sounds of dance, music, drumming, ritual, story, and song--a feast for the senses and the soul. the rest

Video here

Bush: Religion Is Not a Course in Self-Improvement

Wed, Dec. 15 2010
By Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter

Former president George W. Bush admitted in a recent interview that he was drunk when he met evangelist Billy Graham.

"I was listening to Billy through the haze of alcohol," he told Focus on the Family president Jim Daly.

The interview, which took place in Dallas last week, was broadcast on the ministry's daily radio program on Monday and Tuesday. It was one of many interviews the former president has been granting to promote his memoir Decision Points. But in the Focus on the Family interview, Bush opened up more about his faith and his family.

It was in Maine where former president George H. W. Bush invited the entire Bush family to meet Graham. The evangelist was answering questions, the younger Bush recalled, adding that he had drunk possibly four beers and five wines before the meeting. the rest

Only 45 percent of American Children Growing Up In Intact Families

December 15, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Only 45 percent of American children have spent their childhood in an intact family, according to the Index of Belonging and Rejection. Fifty-five percent of American teenagers' parents have rejected each other, either through divorce, separation, or choosing not to marry.
The Index, produced by Pat Fagan, Ph.D. of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, a project of Family Research Council, defines an intact family as a biological mother and father remaining legally married to one another since before or around the time of their child's birth. the rest
"American society is dysfunctional, characterized by a faulty understanding of the male-female relationship," said Dr. Pat Fagan. "Our culture needs a compass correction, learning again how to belong to each other when we have begotten children together. If we fail in this, as a nation we will continue to 'define deviancy down,' in the inimitable phrase of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Episcopal Bishop of Chicago: Civil unions are crucial first step

December 14, 2010
Bishop Jeffrey Lee

The Illinois’ General Assembly’s approval of a bill authorizing civil unions is a step toward dismantling the barriers that limit access of gay and lesbian couples to the full protections and benefits guaranteed all Americans in our Constitution.

It is a crucial first step after years of legislative obstructions and diversions, dating back to 1996 when the U.S. Congress adopted the Defense of Marriage Act which restricted marriage to heterosexual couples, followed eight years later by adoption of constitutional amendments or statutes banning same-sex marriage in 13 states, including Illinois.

What this action is not is a threat to the sanctity of marriage, nor is it an effort to undermine religious freedom. Churches, synagogues and temples are not encouraged or compelled to bless or otherwise recognize civil unions in the act (SB1716) adopted by the state Senate December 1.

The language of the bill makes this clear: “Nothing in this act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body. Any religious body, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group is free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union.” the rest

Is the Evangelical Left Fizzling?

Dec 16, 2010
By MARK TOOLEY

Over the last several years the old religious right reputedly has been melting down, with younger, more liberal evangelicals in the ascendency. But exit polling from the 2010 midterm election indicate no major political shift among evangelical or Protestant voters.

According to CNN's exit poll, 77 percent of self-described white evangelicals or born again Christians voted Republican. This number is actually higher than the 74 percent who supported George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, which was considered a high water mark for conservative evangelical activism. Seventy percent of white evangelicals and born-agains voted Republican in 2008 and 2006. The total white Protestant vote (including members of more liberal mainline denominations) was 69 percent Republican this year, compared to 65 percent in 2004 and slightly less in 2008 and 2006. Total Protestant and other non-Catholic Christian support for Republicans was 59 percent this year, compared to 57 percent in 2004. the rest
Exit polls of actual voting by evangelicals indicate that the evangelical left remains primarily a phenomenon among evangelical elites on seminary and college campuses and among some parachurch and activist groups. The prolonged wars, culture clashes, and ultimate financial collapse during the George W. Bush years undoubtedly moved some evangelical elites and young people to the left. But the ongoing recession, explosion of government spending, and liberal stances on abortion and homosexuality by the Obama administration (the NAE quietly opposes revoking “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), along with the president's discomfort with American exceptionalism, have likely solidified grassroots evangelicals overall within their traditional conservative politics. Like left-leaning mainline Protestant elites starting decades ago, evangelical elites increasingly will probably denounce their own constituency for its lack of political enlightenment.

Muslims forced Canadian envoy's grave removal

Tamsin McMahon, National Post
Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

The remains of a Canadian diplomat buried in Turkey were reportedly forcibly removed from a local cemetery after a prominent Muslim family said they weren't comfortable praying next to a Christian grave.

Hans-Joachim Himmelsbach, 65, a retired trade commissioner from Vancouver who was living in Turkey, died about three weeks ago after suffering a blood clot to his brain while he was recovering from a throat operation, his stepfather, Heinz Koletzko, said in an interview. the rest

Commission Urges U.S. to Step Up Protection for Iraqi Christians

Wed, Dec. 15 2010
By Elena Garcia
Christian Post Reporter

An independent federal commission on international religious freedom is calling on the U.S. government to "redouble its efforts" in protecting the religious rights and safety of Iraqi Christians.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wants the government to use Wednesday's United Nations Security Council meeting on Iraq as an "opportunity" to address the "grave situation facing that country’s Christians and other imperiled religious minorities."

Since America entered Iraq in 2003, more than half of the Christian population in Iraq, an estimated 1.4 million, have left the country. More persecuted Christians have chosen to flee the country following a recent wave of violent attacks, including an Oct. 31 slaying of worshippers and priests at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. the rest

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The digital story of the Nativity

Happy Birthday Raymond!


One of my favorite pictures of you!  Love/Pat

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8

Kids write Santa this year for basic needs instead of toys

By Donna Leinwand
posted December 15, 20120
USA TODAY

Santa Claus and his elves are seeing more heartbreaking letters this year as children cite their parents' economic troubles in their wish lists.

U.S. Postal Service workers who handle letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole say more letters ask for basics — coats, socks and shoes — rather than Barbie dolls, video games and computers.

At New York City's main post office, Head Elf Pete Fontana and 22 staff elves will sort 2 million letters in Operation Santa, which connects needy children with "Secret Santas" who answer their wishes. the rest

Franciscan friars bury stillborn babies abandoned in hospital by their mothers

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist
 December 15, 2010

 Christmas carols were playing over the sound system at the nearby skating rink on Boston Common yesterday morning and Macy’s was decked out in fresh wreaths, as Father David Convertino walked into a tiny upstairs chapel at St. Anthony Shrine in the midst of Downtown Crossing to preside over an event that would challenge even a friar’s faith.

Dim light filtered through a wall of stained glass and flattened along the dark hardwood floors of the room where 16 people, some of them in brown robes and sandals, waited for the proceedings to begin. A clear vase held an elegant bouquet of white flowers; the altar was made of simple wood; a woman sang hymns in an angelic voice.

And at the center sat two tiny caskets covered with one white cloth, each topped with a spray of fresh flowers and a small stuffed bear that had never been touched by a child’s hand.

Their names were Andrew and Nicholas. There were no headlines when they died, no press releases, no investigations — really no public awareness at all. the rest

Pot smoking makes a comeback among teenagers

More high school seniors report using marijuana than smoking cigarettes in the last 30 days, a government survey finds. The U.S. drug czar blames Prop. 19 and similar measures. By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
December 15, 2010

After nearly a decade in decline, marijuana is making a strong comeback among teens, with more high school seniors reporting that they had recently smoked pot than cigarettes, according to a government survey issued Tuesday.

This year, 21.4% of high school seniors said they had used marijuana in the last 30 days, while 19.2% reported smoking cigarettes in the same time period, according to the annual "Monitoring the Future" survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It was the first time since 1981 that pot surpassed tobacco in that age group.

The remarkable crossover is a victory for public health campaigns aimed at stamping out cigarette smoking among teens. But the federal office that tracks illicit drug use said it was driven by an uptick in youth marijuana use that is broad-based and likely to continue, with even eighth-graders reporting softer attitudes about the risk of smoking pot. the rest

Vatican Bank 'allowed clergy to act as front for Mafia'

By Victor Simpson
Associated Press, in Vatican City
Monday, 13 December 2010

The Vatican Bank is under new scrutiny in a case involving money-laundering allegations that led police to seize €23m (£19.25m) in September.

The Vatican calls the seizure of assets a "misunderstanding" and expresses optimism it will be quickly cleared up. But fresh court documents show that prosecutors say the Vatican Bank deliberately flouted anti-laundering laws "with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital". The documents also reveal investigators' suspicions that clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and Mafia. the rest

Australia: Anglican Church 'swept child sex abuse under carpet'

Sean Fewster
December 15, 2010

ANGLICAN priest Wilfred Dennis was fired after being convicted of indecent assault but was welcomed back by the church just 12 months later.

Within five years, the sexual predator molested an altar boy left in his care and went on to abuse two more people in the months that followed.

Yesterday, District Court Judge Paul Rice said the reason Dennis was able to prey on the young was because the church had "swept" his previous crimes "under the carpet".

"So indecent assault is all right, is it?" he asked.

"That's the only conclusion one can come to, that the Anglican Church thought indecent assault was OK but if it was something more serious, it may have a different view. the rest

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Visualizing Friendships

by Paul Butler
Monday, December 13, 2010

Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle.

When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.

I began by taking a sample of about ten million pairs of friends from Apache Hive, our data warehouse. I combined that data with each user's current city and summed the number of friends between each pair of cities. Then I merged the data with the longitude and latitude of each city. the rest/image

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Obama Admin Working to Rescind Conscience Rights on Abortion

by Steven Ertelt
Washington, DC
LifeNews.com
12/14/10

The Obama administration is still working to overturn conscience rights for medical professionals on abortion that were put in place at the tail end of the Bush administration.

In 2008, the Bush administration issued a rule that prohibited recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in medical procedures to which they have religious or moral objections, such as abortion.

The rule implemented existing conscience protection laws that ensure medical professionals cannot be denied employment because they do not want to assist in abortions.

New information about the state of those protections and efforts to repeal them comes from legal papers the administration filed in a case the state of Connecticut launched against the conscience protections. the rest

Abortion and the occult: a glimpse inside life at a death mill

by Kathleen Gilbert
Mon Dec 13, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia

 (LifeSiteNews.com) - When Abigail Seidman’s mother had an abortion over twenty years ago, it marked the beginning of her plunge into some of the darkest places in human experience.

Seidman herself, a one-time atheist, is now a pro-life activist and shared her intimate knowledge of life inside the abortion clinic where her mother began to work as a nurse in a recent LifeSiteNews.com interview.

According to Seidman, her mother’s descent into the abortion culture was not motivated by the usual social talking points - to save women from dangerous back-alley abortions, or to “help” women in difficult situations - or even for the money. It was a religion – literally.

Seidman described her mother’s abortion clinic as “pervaded with occult imagery and practices.” The workers considered “abortion to be a form of sacrifice,” would perform the procedure as a sort of ritual, and worshipped deities embodying death, she said. the rest
Seidman says that there was ritual drug use, “sacred prostitution,” and ritual abortions performed after-hours, involving clinic staff who had intentionally become pregnant.
Complete interview with Abigail Seidman - abortion and the occult

More Protestant churches feel economic pain

By Bob Smietana
The (Nashville) Tennessean
posted December 14, 2010

The recession is dipping into church collection plates.

A growing number of Protestant congregations have seen their Sunday collections drop this year, according to a survey by LifeWay Research on the economic health of churches. Pastors blame high unemployment and a drop-off in giving by members.

To make ends meet, churches have laid off staff and frozen salaries, put off major capital projects and cut back on programs. At the same time, more of their congregation members and neighbors are asking for help with basic needs like paying the rent and buying groceries, the study found.

About half of Americans identify themselves as Protestant, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. the rest

What Killed Europe

by Guy Milliere
 December 13, 2010

Bitterness, resignation and absence of hope are the dominant emotions among the French population; surveys and statistical data confirm it. The unfortunate situation that pervades the rest of Europe suggests strongly that the French malaise is in tune with a much larger malaise that has infected the whole Continent.

The month-long strikes, demonstrations and riots that engulfed France from early October until a month later are gone, but the ills that erupted so visibly continue to fester beneath the surface, growing stronger as the principle actors of disruption prepare their encore.

There are no political alternatives here: in every European country, political parties fall into one of two camps: Protest Movements that foment and channel discontent and resentment though they have no chance to prevail in national elections; and Incumbent Establishment Parties that offer only statism, political interventionism, redistribution and stagnation. Even if an elected politician actually did try to move in an encouraging new direction, his efforts would be quickly squelched: Europe's key decisions are now made in technocratic and bureaucratic spheres where voters have no sway.

Public and journalistic access to political information is extremely restricted. In most larger European countries, mainstream media are nationalized or owned by companies largely financed by contracts with the State -- leading to auto-censorship, news filtering, and editorial policies totally compatible with their owners' and/or State interests.
 the rest

Vatican Denounces Europe's Intolerance of Christians

VATICAN CITY
 DEC. 12, 2010

(Zenit.org).- The Holy See is concerned about the new phenomenon of intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe, says a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, reported this in on the last episode of "Octava Dies." He commented on the five-year report published Friday by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe.

Father Lombardi noted: "The importance of the new report is precisely in its giving a long and detailed series of examples of intolerance toward Christians in Europe: acts of vandalism, of hatred, toward Churches and religious symbols, manifestations of hatred and offences against persons. the rest

Poland, Bastion of Religion, Sees Rise in Secularism

European Court to rule on Irish abortion laws
The European Court of Human Rights is issuing a ruling this week on whether Ireland’s restrictions on abortion violate women’s human rights. The ruling, which could have significant implications for Irish abortion law, is based on a case taken by three women in Ireland who say their health was put at risk by being forced to go abroad for abortions, according to a report in the Irish Times, issued by Lifezine today...

Christianity in the US: Six Megathemes Emerge from Barna Group Research in 2010

December 13, 2010

Change usually happens slowly in the Church. But a review of the past year's research conducted by the Barna Group provides a time-lapse portrayal of how the religious environment in the U.S. is morphing into something new.

Analyzing insights drawn from more than 5,000 non-proprietary interviews conducted over the past 11 months, George Barna indicated that the following patterns were evident in the survey findings.

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.....
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented...
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life...
5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church...
6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible...

Full story here

As churches crumble, communities fear loss of heritage
...The crumbling state of the churches is a physical embodiment of the state of religious observance – and the phenomenon is hardly limited to Quebec. From British Columbia to Newfoundland, places of worship of all mainstream denominations are falling victim to dwindling attendance, rising land values and maintenance costs too onerous for congregations to bear...

West Village YMCA axes Santa Claus for Frosty

By SUSANNAH CAHALAN and CYNTHIA R. FAGEN
December 12, 2010

He's a lost Claus.

A politically correct West Village YMCA has fired Ol' St. Nick in favor of Frosty.

Kids who once thrilled at sitting on Santa's lap at the 14th Street McBurney YMCA's wildly popular annual holiday luncheon will now suffer the icy embrace of a talking snowman and his sidekick, an anonymous penguin, at today's event.

Forget about bringing a list or checking it twice -- Frosty doesn't take gift requests, and doesn't care if you're naughty or nice.

YMCA officials, who say they are in the midst of "rebranding" the Young Men's Christian Association to "The Y," defended their decision. the rest

A chilly reception greeted the news that the YMCA -- an organization founded to spread Christian values in 1844 -- was replacing the Christmas icon with a secular cartoon character.

What on Earth is happening to marriage?

A new report has the bad news for all of us - a growing class marriage gap.
By KATHERINE KERSTEN, Star Tribune
December 12, 2010

The growing "marriage gap" is one of our nation's most important and troubling trends. For Americans with college degrees (30 percent of the population), marriage -- our bedrock social institution -- is stable and getting stronger. But for the moderately educated (the 58 percent with a high school but not a college diploma), it's in precipitous decline. In fact, the family life of America's once-great middle class is quickly becoming almost as fragile as that of our poorest citizens -- the 12 percent who are high school dropouts.

The disturbing details are in a new study -- "When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America" -- by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values. The conclusion is stark: "The United States is devolving into a separate-and-unequal family regime, where the highly educated and affluent enjoy strong and stable households and everyone else is consigned to increasingly unstable, unhappy, and unworkable ones." the rest

Assembling the Global Baby

With an international network of surrogate mothers and egg and sperm donors, a new industry is emerging to produce children on the cheap and outside the reach of restrictive laws..
DECEMBER 10, 2010
By TAMARA AUDI and ARLENE CHANG

In a hospital room on the Greek island of Crete with views of a sapphire sea lapping at ancient fortress walls, a Bulgarian woman plans to deliver a baby whose biological mother is an anonymous European egg donor, whose father is Italian, and whose birth is being orchestrated from Los Angeles.

She won't be keeping the child. The parents-to-be—an infertile Italian woman and her husband (who provided the sperm)—will take custody of the baby this summer, on the day of birth.

The birth mother is Katia Antonova, a surrogate. She emigrated to Greece from Bulgaria and is a waitress with a husband and three children of her own. She will use the money from her surrogacy to send at least one of her own children to university. the rest

Today, Mr. Aki and his husband have two 21-month-old daughters. The girls share the same genetic mother. Each man is the genetic father of one of the girls. Next week, Mr. Aki and his husband will officially adopt each other's genetic daughter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Devotional: When we stand in the middle of a lifestorm...

When we stand in the middle of a lifestorm, it seems as if the storm has become our way of life. We cannot see a way out. We are unable to chart a course back to smoother waters. We feel defeated - and broken. Will that brokenness produce a cynicism that will keep us forever in the mire of if only thinking? Or will we yield up that brokenness to the resources of One who calms the winds and the waves, heals the brokenhearted, and forgives the most grievous of sins? The choice is ours.
...Verdell Davis image

Iraqi Christians on the Run


December 13, 2010

Story

Tennessee: ACLU warns schools not to celebrate Christmas

Dec 09, 2010
By Staff and Wire Reports

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is warning Maury County Director of Schools Eddie Hickman and 136 other public school superintendents across the state to refrain from winter celebrations focusing primarily on one religious holiday.

The group sent a letter to Hickman citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions that support the opinion that such celebrations amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

In a news release, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said the letter was sent in response to numerous complaints from families. the rest image

Obamacare individual mandate ruled unconstitutional

Obamacare: Individual Purchase Mandate “Exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution]”
Monday, December 13, 2010
Wesley J. Smith

As promised, I have read Judge Henry E. Hudson’s 42-page ruling invalidating the individual purchase mandate of Obamacare. In a nutshell, Judge Hudson ruled:

•That the individual purchase mandate (“Minimum Essential Coverage Provision”) is an unprecedented stretch of government power, in his words, it “extends the Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high water mark.”
•Further, that the justification must come from Congress’s enumerated Commerce Clause power to regulate economic activities.
•But the law exceeds the enumerated powers of the Commerce Clause.
•The Congress’s efforts to bootstrap authority with findings and conclusions do not, in effect, amend the constitution (my words) to increase governmental power in this sphere.
•The fines for not purchasing insurance are a penalty and not a tax, and the general power of the government to tax is not applicable to the IPM.
•The individual purchase mandate is therefore, unconstitutional.
•The unconstitutional part of the law will be severed from the rest, so that Obamacare remains in effect.
•No injunction against Obamacare was issued because the unconstitutional part of the law does not take effect until 2014.

the rest

Voyage of Dawn Treader Debuts No. 1 at Box Office


Mon, Dec. 13 2010
 By Katherine T. Phan
Christian Post Reporter

"The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" debuted at the top of the box office this weekend.

The third movie entry based on the beloved children novels by C.S. Lewis raked in $24.5 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters despite a weak start on Friday.

In the latest Narnia movie, the two youngest Pevensies, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) journey back to the magical Kingdom along with their bratty cousin Eustace (Will Pouter). Led by King Caspian (Ben Barnes), the crew set out on a quest on the Dawn Treader to battle new threats to the Narnia while struggling over temptations like pride, greed, and envy.

Despite nabbing the number one box office rank, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" fared way below what its predecessors of the same series took in opening weekend. the rest

Christian radio almost extinct in Russia

13 December, 2010 New Life Radio-Moscow staff

Russia (MNN) ― Religious freedom took another hit in Russia last week. One of the last remaining local Christian radio stations was shuttered by authorities.

Dan Johnson with New Life Radio Moscow says their Norilsk FM affiliate, located in Siberia, was the target. "This is the third radio affiliate we've had that's been shut down by the government under a variety of pretexts. The station in Norilsk was one of the few existing FM stations across the country."

Johnson says this isn't an isolated case. "We're just noticing a general decline in the ability of Christians to have access to the mass media in Russia. And for those existing Christian radio stations that are operating, they're facing all kinds of harassment by federal authorities." the rest

When local Lutherans split

Monday, December 13, 2010
GetReligion

Excerpt:
How quickly a newly reorganized group gets together is one measure, I guess. It’s so hard to compare these things considering how different every denomination’s polity is. But I just find the raw number of congregations leaving to be interesting. As I noted back in August when “only” 200 congregations had left, this is far more than the reported number of congregations that left the Episcopal Church during its recent unpleasantness. Now it’s up to almost 300 but still the Episcopal split received more coverage. It’s also interesting what’s considered “small” in terms of a split. My church body has about 6,000 congregations, I think. And if we lost 175 congregations in a year, it would be a big deal. A huge deal, actually.

Anyway, the story gets at another reason, perhaps, for the decreased coverage. That’s because the splits are more amicable:

The bitterness that marked the Episcopal Church split is mostly held in check among Lutherans. One reason is that, unlike in the Episcopal Church, property ownership is generally not an issue for defectors. As long as a former ELCA church aligns with a Lutheran denomination, it keeps its property.


A second reason is the sensibility within the Lutheran faith.

“We don’t call this a schism,” said David Wendel, pastor of St. Luke’s and one of 17 regional deans for the NALC. “Lutheranism has a flexibility that allows for this realignment.”

TMatt looked at some of the reasons for why the Episcopal Church receives a disproportionate amount of media coverage … back in 1994. But it is also certainly true that a polity like that shared by the ELCA is just not going to elicit the same type of media coverage as you’ll find elsewhere. If a congregation wants to leave, it does. Kind of hard to juice that for sensational media coverage. the rest

Anglican churches to file appeal in Supreme Court of Canada

December 13, 2010

St. Matthew's Anglican Church in Abbotsford is among four parishes that are filing an appeal with Canada's highest court.

Trustees from the four churches have instructed their legal counsel to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, in response to a B.C. Court of Appeal decision reached on Nov. 15. The application must be submitted by Jan. 14.

Last month's decision removed the parishes' rights to use their church buildings, because they are using their properties outside the jurisdiction of the Diocese of New Westminster. the rest

Only pre-Islamic Christian site in Muslim heartland opens to public

Built by monks, nurtured by pilgrims from India
 Mail Reporter
13th December 2010

A 1,400-year-old monastery in the United Arab Emirates that is the only pre-Islamic Christian site in the region has opened to the public.

The site at Sir Bani Yas island in Abu Dhabi dates back to around 600AD. It was built by a community of 30 to 40 monks and is understood to have been established by pilgrims travelling from India.

The remains, which also include a church, chapel and tower, were unearthed in 1992 during an archaeological study. Excavations will continue as visitors come to the site with the first being allowed access on Saturday. the rest

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A.S. Haley: Constitutional Crisis in ECUSA (Pt. V): The Dennis Canon

December 11, 2010

Excerpt:
You will search ECUSA's earliest and current Constitutions in vain for any delegation of authority to dictate how Church property is to be held, purchased, encumbered, or sold. (When the first Canon on that topic was adopted in 1868 -- the predecessor to current Canon I.7.3 -- it provided, as it always has since, that the sale or encumbrance of parish property required the approval of the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese, subject to such exceptions as the diocese might provide. The Canon thus was not an exercise of a national delegated power at all, but instead a recognition, or declaration, of where such power lay: with the individual dioceses.)

The problem is that ECUSA itself has no court or other body with the power to interpret its Constitution, or to declare a canon "unconstitutional". For that reason, an unconstitutional Canon unfortunately has been found enforceable, and enforced, in secular courts -- and that only because the secular courts are barred by the First Amendment from entertaining questions about the ecclesiastical constitutionality of Church legislation. (Indeed, I have contemplated recommending to my fellow chancellors that the next suit brought by a bishop to enforce the Dennis Canon be met with this objection, based on the words of Canon IV.14.2: "No Member of the Clergy of this Church may resort to the secular courts for the purpose of interpreting the Constitution and Canons, or for the purpose of resolving any dispute arising thereunder . . .". Someone also ought to bring a presentment against the bishop for violating the Canon.)

So the Church is, in the end, whatever it says it is -- which is exactly how God intended it to be. If a Church wishes to pursue all manner of ungodly goals and purposes, that is the kind of church it will be. We are witnessing today the spectacle of a Church tearing itself apart for the sake of unconstitutional power being asserted by those in a position to do so. Few are trying to check the powers so asserted; most are going along with the flow, like blind sheep. the rest image

Australia: Disgraced Anglican bishop removed

posted December 12, 2010

The primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Reverend Phillip Aspinall, has officially approved the removal of disgraced South Australian bishop Ross Davies from the Murray diocese.

The former bishop's conduct was the subject of a church tribunal hearing in Adelaide in September.

It found him guilty of eight of nine church charges brought against him, including protecting another archdeacon who was accused of sexual misconduct. the rest

Canada: Evangelical TV show pulled from the air

December 10, 2010

Christian broadcaster Crossroads Television System (CTS) has been found in violation of broadcasting codes for statements made by evangelical television personality and minister Charles McVety that implied there was a “malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial purpose” to the activities of homosexuals.

Rev. McVety said he was told Thursday by CTS that his show, Word TV, would be temporarily pulled from the air.

“My good name has been impugned by this report,” he said. the rest
On air he expressed opposition to the use of taxpayer money to fund the pride parade, questioned whether it really brought tourists to the region and called it a “sex parade.”

“One reason is because this [parade] is a criminal activity, to parade down the streets in the nude,” Rev. McVety said on Word TV. “There is the Criminal Code of Canada that says you can’t do that. It’s an abuse of public space, it’s abuse of our children.”

The broadcasting council, which made the decision in June but which was only made public this week, censured the comments because he referred to the event as a “sex parade” in a “disparaging tone,” expressed skepticism over the parade’s popularity and “claimed that the City of Toronto’s tourism slogan had been changed to ‘as gay as it gets’ and that advertising for the Pride events promoted sex with children.”

The broadcasting council said Rev. McVety derided the city for advertising Toronto as a “sex tourism destination … with full opportunity for sex with hot boys.”