Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twitter-ing with the Russians

Who needs the "Hotline"? The Red Phone is not needed anymore! I'll twit yous instead!

It's time to push the re-set button!

We need to go forward to the final frontier. Dah?

Kagan Defends Approach To Military Recruiting

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan answers questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, the second day of her confirmation hearings.

Published: June 29, 2010

by Carrie Johnson

Elena Kagan's treatment of military recruiters at Harvard Law School took center stage Tuesday on her second day of confirmation hearings to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In tones at times emotional and steely, Kagan defended her record as a Harvard dean and expressed her respect for students who belonged to the military.

"This has been a sort of long process, and sometimes an arduous one," Kagan said. "I only cried once," when she read a favorable opinion piece by Marine Corps Capt. Robert Merrill, a former student now in Afghanistan.

Kagan, the Obama administration's current solicitor general, asserted that "military recruiters had access to Harvard students every single day I was dean." She did not back down, even when Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, challenged her veracity about the atmosphere she fostered on campus.

Senate conservatives have criticized Kagan for her role in reinstating a ban on military recruiters using career service facilities on the Harvard campus because the "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays violated the university's anti-discrimination policy. Harvard Law School still allowed recruiting through student groups.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Glenn Beck Thinks Catholics Should “Leave Their Church”

Monday, March 8, 2010, 1:42 PM

Joe Carter

On his radio program, Fox News’ Glenn Beck encouraged listeners to leave their church if it proclaims a concern for social justice:
I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and
read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your
church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next
year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the
words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you
find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are
code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

Listen to the audio here.

Although many Protestant denomination express concerns about social justice, the term is most closely associated with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. A Jesuit priest, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, coined the term in the 1840s and based the concept on the movie downloads teachings of Thomas Aquinas.

According to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “a large part of the Church’s social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer.” Social justice is even given a section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Could Beck’s claim be construed as “anti-Catholic?” Yes and no. I think if anyone else had made the remark it would have been hard to dismiss the anti-Catholic undertones. But Beck is a special case: He is too prone to say any dumb thing that pops into his head and too ignorant about history and religion to truly understand the implications of his statement. This doesn’t excuse him, of course, but it certainly is reason not to be too shocked when a self-professed “rodeo clown” advises people to leave their churches over Catholic “code words” like social justice.

Still, I’m curious to see how Beck’s loyal defenders will excuse his latest outrageous remarks. If we’re not supposed to take him seriously when he says stuff like this, when exactly are we to take him seriously?


DC Catholic Charities: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

by Bryan Cones 06-14-2010

Few people expect their workplace benefits to be a casualty of the culture wars, but in Washington, DC, the battle over same-sex marriage hit local employees of Catholic Charities square in the pocketbook.

Last December, the District passed a law recognizing same-sex marriage and requiring any organization that has contracts with the city to provide equal spousal benefits to employees regardless of a spouse’s gender. DC Catholic Charities, which has extensive contracts with the city to provide social services, argued that it could not offer benefits to same-sex spouses because doing so would violate Catholic teaching on marriage. To avoid that contradiction, it eliminated all spousal benefits for new employees and for current employees who have not elected to cover their spouses. The change became effective after a single day’s notice to the organization’s approximately 850 employees.

In other words, for the sake of “defending marriage,” Catholic Charities has made it harder on its own employees who are or plan to get married. It has also taken the cheap way out: as it hires new employees with this reduced benefits package, it stands to improve its bottom line. Time will tell if Catholic Charities will pass those savings on to employees to supplement their slim social-service salaries.

While the decision may have upheld the church’s teaching on marriage, the spirit of Catholic social teaching about fairness to workers got thrown under the bus. The Catholic labor priests of the 20th century would no doubt have objected to Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl’s bald statement to The Washington Post that “employers have the right to frame compensation packages.” Even more unfortunate is the precedent that the Washington archdiocese sets for the future, since it is unlikely that Wuerl will be the last archbishop to find himself in the same bind between church teaching on marriage and political reality.

Situations like this call for creativity, not retrenchment; a promising solution is modeled by the Archdiocese of San Francisco. That city’s board of supervisors began requiring groups with city contracts to provide equal benefits in 1997. Rather than take the easy way out, then-Archbishop William Levada expanded employee benefits, allowing employees to cover any other legally domiciled adult member of a household — a sibling, parent, or domestic partner.

Defending his position to the likely-suspicious readership of the conservative ecumenical journal First Things, Levada wrote: “We have achieved a notable success by shifting the debate so that what was intended by proponents of the legislation as a requirement that all employers accept an equality of status between domestic partnership and marriage has now become a situation where employers can expand health care benefits, while not being forced to recognize that marriage and domestic partnership are equivalent.” That reasoning hardly hurt now-Cardinal Levada’s ecclesiastical career; he currently heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

The debate around legal recognition of same-sex relationships has changed dramatically since 1997, but it is clear that its trajectory is leading to greater and greater acceptance. Society in many places is showing a willingness to be more generous to same-sex couples by extending to them the benefits and duties of civil marriage. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups who oppose this development have two basic options if they want to continue their social-service partnerships with the state. They can either adopt the DC response — and, in effect, become as parsimonious as any corporate employer — or, like San Francisco, they can do civil society one better by being even more generous, widening the circle of protection that benefits such as health insurance offer.

Given the deteriorating and uncompromising tone of the debate, one wonders if Catholic institutions in the future will have the courage to follow San Francisco’s lead.

President Obama hosts LGBT reception at White House

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 22, 2010

Remarks by the President at LGBT Pride Month Reception

East Room

6:16 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, hello, hello! (Applause.) Hello, everybody! (Applause.) I was going to say welcome to the White House -- but you guys seem like you feel right at home. (Laughter.) You don't need me to tell you -- it’s the people’s house.

A couple of acknowledgements that I want to make very quickly -- first of all, our Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who has just done an extraordinary job across the government -- give John Berry a big round of applause. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: All right, John!

THE PRESIDENT: All right, John! (Laughter.)

Our chair of the Export/Import Bank, helping to bring jobs here to the United States of America -- Fred Hochberg. (Applause.) Our chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, doing outstanding work each and every day -- Nancy Sutley. Where is she? (Applause.) Nancy is a little vertically challenged, but I see her over there. (Laughter.)

We've got here a trailblazer for federal appointees -- we are so proud of her -- Ms. Roberta Achtenberg is here. Give Roberta a big round of applause. (Applause.) And then I understand we've got a terrific country singer -- Chely Wright is in the house. (Applause.)

In addition -- I know they had to leave because they had votes, but you guys obviously don't have just fiercer warriors on your behalf than a couple of our openly gay and lesbian members of Congress -- Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis. (Applause.) They are openly terrific. (Laughter.) They do great work.

And it is also great to have so many activists and organizers from around the country -- folks who fight every day for the rights of parents and children and partners and citizens to be treated equally under the law. And so we are very proud of all of you. (Applause.)

Oh, and by the way, the guy standing next to me -- this is Joe Biden. (Applause.) Just because he’s a Phillies fan -- he’s from Delaware. (Laughter.)

Now, look, the fact that we’ve got activists here is important because it’s a reminder that change never comes -- or at least never begins in Washington. It begins with acts of compassion -– and sometimes defiance -– across America. It begins when ordinary people –- out of love for a mother or a father, son or daughter, or husband or wife -– speak out against injustices that have been accepted for too long. And it begins when these impositions of conscience start opening hearts that had been closed, and when we finally see each other’s humanity, whatever our differences.

Now, this struggle is as old as America itself. It’s never been easy. But standing here, I am hopeful. One year ago, in this room, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall protests. (Applause.) Some of you were here, and you may remember that I pledged then that even at a time when we faced enormous challenges both on the economy and in our foreign policy, that we would not put aside matters of basic equality. And we haven’t.

We’ve got a lot of hard work that we still have to do, but we can already point to extraordinary progress that we’ve made over the past year on behalf of Americans who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

Just stay with me here for a second. Last year, I met with Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mom, and I promised her that after a decade’s-long struggle, we would pass inclusive hate crimes legislation. I promised that in the name of her son we would ensure that the full might of the law is brought down on those who would attack somebody just because they are gay. And less than six months later, with Judy by my side, we marked the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act. It’s now the law of the land. (Applause.)

Just a few moments ago, I met with Janice Langbehn and her children. Where did Janice go? There they are right there. And when Janice’s partner of 18 years, Lisa, suddenly collapsed because of an aneurysm, Janice and the couple’s three kids were denied the chance to comfort their partner and their mom -- barred from Lisa’s bedside. It was wrong. It was cruel. And in part because of their story, I instructed my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to make sure that any hospital that’s participating in Medicare or Medicaid -– that means most hospitals -- (laughter) -- allow gay and lesbian partners the same privileges and visitation rights as straight partners. (Applause.)

After I issued that memorandum, I called Janice and I told her the news. And before we came out here today, I wanted to make sure that I had followed up -- Secretary Sebelius will officially be proposing this regulation. And I can also announce that the Secretary has sent a letter today asking these hospitals to adopt these changes now -– even before the rule takes effect. (Applause.) Nothing can undo the hurt that her -- that Janice’s family has experienced. And nothing can undo the pain felt by countless others who’ve been through a similar ordeal –- for example, Charlene Strong is here. She lost her wife, Kate Fleming -- and Charlene is here along with Kate’s mom, who said on behalf of all mothers, thank you. Because we think it’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)

In addition, I’ve issued an executive order[SIC]* to extend as many partnership benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees as possible under current law. And I’m going to continue to fight to change the law: to guarantee gay federal employees the exact same benefits as straight employees -– including access to health insurance and retirement plans. (Applause.) And in an announcement today, the Department of Labor made clear that under the Family and Medical Leave Act, same-sex couples –- as well as others raising children -– are to be treated like the caretakers that they are. (Applause.)

Because I believe in committed -- I believe that committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country, I have called for Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. (Applause.) We are pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill. (Applause.) No one in America should be fired because they’re gay. It’s not right, it’s not who we are as Americans, and we are going to put a stop to it.

And finally, we’re going to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. (Applause.) That is a promise I made as a candidate. It is a promise that I reiterated as President. It’s one that this administration is going to keep. Now, the only way to lock this in -– the only way to get the votes in Congress to roll back this policy -- is if we work with the Pentagon, who are in the midst of two wars.

And that’s why we were gratified to see, for the first time ever, the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, testify in favor of repeal. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, has repeatedly and passionately argued for allowing gay men and women to serve honestly in the military. (Applause.) We know that forcing gay and lesbian soldiers to live a lie or to leave the military, that doesn’t contribute to our security -- it harms our security.

And thanks to Patrick Murphy and others, for the first time in history, the House has passed a repeal that would allow gay men and women to openly serve in our armed forces. And this repeal is authored so that the Pentagon can complete its review of the policy -- which is critical, by the way, not only to passage, but it’s also critical to making sure that the change is accepted and implemented effectively. In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee has approved repeal for the first time, and the full body is poised to vote soon.

So here’s the bottom line: We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy. And I’m going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk and I can sign it. (Applause.)

Of course, ultimately, change is about more than just policies in our government. And that’s why I want to close by recognizing all the young people who are here -– I had a chance to take a bunch of pictures with them, just really impressive folks who are advocating on their behalf. I know there are some in the audience who have experienced pain in their lives, who at times have been -- felt like outcasts, who have been scorned or bullied, and I know that there are families here on behalf of loved ones who are no longer with us, some in part because of the particularly difficult challenges that gay men and women still face.

This is a reminder that we all have an obligation to ensure that no young person is ever made to feel worthless or alone -- ever. Now, at the same time, I think there’s plenty of reason to have some hope for many of the young people including those who are here today. They’ve shown incredible courage and incredible integrity -- standing up for who they are. They’ve refused to be anything less than themselves.

And we all remember being young -- sort of. (Laughter.) But it’s not easy. It’s not easy standing up all the time and being who you are. But they're showing us the way forward. These young people are helping to build a more perfect union, a nation where all of us are equal; each of us is free to pursue our own versions of happiness.

And I believe because of them that the future is bright. It’s certainly bright for them. Of course, it does depend on all of us. It depends on the efforts of government and the activism of ordinary citizens like yourselves. It depends on the love of families and the support of communities. And I want you all to know that as this work continues, I’m going to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, fighting by your side every step of the way. (Applause.)

So, thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 6:29 P.M. EDT

*Clarification: The President signed a Presidential Memorandum on June 2, to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees. Click HERE to view the memo on



Watch Video Here:


Monday, June 28, 2010

The United Nations and the Occult Agenda

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Doug Batchelor Preaches Against Women Pastors

Posted March 19th, 2010 by News Staff

On February 6, Doug Batchelor, senior pastor of the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in California and president of the international media ministry Amazing Facts preached a sermon entitled "Women Pastors: A Biblical Perspective." Batchelor's main point is to assert that women should not be pastors (or elders), as God designed women to be subservient to men, according to Batchelor. He states, "Sin came into our world as a result of man neglecting and women disregarding the husband’s leadership role." He presents his point of view as Biblical and therefore irrefutable by saying, "God's word is God's word."

Reactions have been pouring in to Adventist Today, as many feel Batchelor's conservative Biblical interpretations are being taken out of its historical and cultural context and his unrestrained remarks are offensive toward women.

Batchelor goes further, stressing the biological differences between the sexes. He states that "[M]en have more neurons in their brain, and some of that is because we have more mass and that may mean more nerve endings. But you should also know…and I know this isn’t gonna get me reelected. According to the British Journal of Psychology, [men] on an average score five points higher on an IQ test." He continues, "[I]t’s important to recognize that as we approach this subject that those who are clamoring and campaigning to say that there shouldn’t be any difference in the roles of men and women in the church - we are different. We are gifted differently and God has said there should be a different [sic]."

Batchelor's take on the "ordination versus commissioned" debate, he feels, is really just a play on words, as both male and female pastors are granted the same rights to perform their duties. Batchelor is not shy about his strong opposition of such rights for women pastors:

"I believe that we have been badgered and intimidated so that we are not really going by what does the Bible say. Matter of fact in the Seventh-day Adventist Church if you trace the history a little bit, I am sorry to say a lot of those changes and of course in North America, not so much in other parts of the world now, women are being ordained. They call it commissioned but it’s really the same thing as being ordained as pastors. And it’s… you know you can call it commissioned but in every other way it’s the same as ordination with all the rights, privileges. It’s like Abraham Lincoln used to say, ‘you can call a dog’s tail a leg, but it’s still a tail.’ And so just changing the label of something doesn’t change the definition of it. And what they have done is they have tried to pacify people who read the Bible and say only men should be ordained as pastors and say well we’re not ordaining women pastors - were commissioning them as pastors. That’s the same thing. And in every other way—the authority, they’re baptizing, they’re leading out in communion services, they’re fulfilling all the sacred offices that God originally said should be reserved for the man. And this is a dangerous subject for me to share. But you know I just figure someone's gotta say something and if I perish, I perish. I’ve been here a long time anyway. And I know it’s not very popular in our culture to say these things. Kind of like wearing a mink coat to a PETA convention. But someone needs to say it. Both male and female pastors."

The concern for many stems from the fact that thousands of Adventists, and even non-Adventists, look to Batchelor as a voice of Biblical authority and interpretation of scripture. Some are calling for responsible hermeneutics, and that other interpretations of Scripture be presented from the pulpits across North America to people of good faith.

Batchelor's church in Sacramento, CA, falls in the territory of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Adventist Today reached the president of that conference—Jim Pedersen, for a response and received this official statement by e-mail:

"When I’m asked to respond to a sermon’s topic, I always want to preface my comments by stating I honor the right of pastors to speak from their biblical study in the context of the Seventh-day Adventist message. Pastor Doug Batchelor, in his sermon titled “Women Pastors: A Biblical Perspective,” articulated his viewpoint on this subject as part of the ongoing discussion worldwide about the role of women in pastoral ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, I also deeply respect the positions voted by the world church and the Northern California Conference. The NCC has a history of supporting women in pastoral ministry. The members in Northern California went on record at the 2002 Constituency Session in support of this issue by recommending women’s ordination to the General Conference. While I wish views on this topic were always completely compatible, I remain confident that the Lord will eventually lead us all to the unity that Christ desires for His people."

Adventist Today is also waiting for a statement from Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The Union's Executive Committee met last week, and, according to a close source at that meeting, Batchelor's sermon was brought up for discussion. Adventist Today will bring alerts to its readers of any subsequent action against Batchelor resulting from the Union meeting.

Adventist Today has also recently received the manuscript of the sermon. You can now download the entire 24-page sermon by clicking here. NOTE: The sermon was transcribed verbatim. The editing staff has streamlined the copy by eliminating only wordy redundancy and some "rambling" from the original sermon.

Finally, Adventist Today will be posting articles by thinking pastors, theologians and the laity in next few days. They will respond and challenge the Batchelor sermon in good taste and offer their own perspective of what the Word of God states on women and the church.

David Newman, senior pastor of New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fulton, MD, and editor of Adventist Today begins the series by providing the first response to Batchelor. Click here to read it now.

Below is the video of the Batchelor sermon which is available on the Amazing Facts website.



The Logo

Dan Jackson Becomes North American Adventist Division President

Posted by Luther Blanchard on Jun 28th, 2010

Dan Jackson has been elected as the president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists on June 28.

The 246-member Nominating Committee appointed him to president of the division and the full 2,410 delegates to the General Conference session have confirmed that appointment.

Jackson has served as pastor, teacher, and administrator in Canada for the whole of his ministry except five years in the Southern Asia Division. He has received his education from Canadian Union College and Andrews University.

Jackson replaces Don Schneider who was the division president since 2000.

Schneider praised Jackson as a “wonderful Christian” who “has demonstrated a commitment to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist church.”

Little to show for G20 security billCanada paid $930m for security at the G20, yet the weekend saw chaos in downtown Toronto. What did we pay for, exa

Canada paid $930m for security at the G20, yet the weekend saw chaos in downtown Toronto. What did we pay for, exactly?

Colin Horgan,
Monday 28 June 2010 17.30 BST

Police at the G20 throw a protester to the ground as they make an arrest.
Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

As last week's G8 and G20 summits approached, most of the domestic discussion surrounding them centered on costs. A marketing pavilion that was set up in the international broadcast centre designed to promote Ontario's Muskoka region, (the picturesque lake district that hosted the G8 leaders), was the most popular target for public and political scrutiny early on. The pavilion featured two walls of canoes surrounding a wooden dock and an artificial miniature lake. At a cost of $57,000, what became dubbed as the "fake lake" was a particularly easy target to exemplify what many believed to be an overall outrageously overpriced summit. But it was the security tab, ringing in at roughly $930m (CAD) that drew the most ire. Now, after a weekend that saw downtown Toronto in a state of chaos, that number is put into new perspective. What did we pay for, exactly?

During a press conference at the closing of the G20 meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Harper deplored Saturday's scenes of vandalism and violence, citing them as justification for the security costs. In so doing, he echoed the line trumpeted by his government for the last month – a month where the Conservatives tried to defend their summit spending and deflect attention away from PR nightmares like the "fake lake". Arguably, in retrospect, Harper's words now seem to make sense. One only had to turn on the television to see the endless, breathless coverage of the police cars ablaze in Toronto's financial district; the storefront vandalism; or the snatch squads in Queen's Park breaking rank and apprehending demonstrators in quick precision movements to see what he was talking about. The heavy security was, according to Harper, completely warranted.

Others might have a different opinion. Just as the G8 summit got underway last week, it was revealed that the Province of Ontario had quietly passed a controversial piece of legislation under the Public Works Protection Act. The law allowed a member of the Integrated Security Unit to arrest anyone who came within five metres of the G20 security zone who refused to either identify themselves, or allow a search of their possessions. The legislation was not debated in the provincial legislature, and though it is only temporary (it expires the day after the summit ends), it won't even be officially published until 3 July. According to some activists, this was all the evidence anyone needed to show that the government(s) had gone too far, and that the G20 served as a way to justify the strangling of civil liberties. And, arguably, that also seems to make sense.

Thus, the pre-summit rhetoric from either side served as a kind of opening bell for the ensuing fight between protesters and police, and it looked (as it always does) as though we might witness a victor; a decision, once and for all, on the true state of democracy in Canada.

But that battle – if it was one – predictably ended exactly as it should have, with both the government and protesters getting what they wanted: justification for their grievances, and not a lot more.

In his comments on Sunday, Harper was also speaking to the bizarre circularity of the images from the streets of Toronto. That is, he inadvertently acknowledged the frustrating relationship between the police and the demonstrators: that, effectively, they exist now virtually only to justify each other's presence.

So, back to that question of what Canadians actually paid for. In this regard, what part of the weekend was a success? Was the Integrated Security Unit successful? Six hundred arrests might lead us to believe they were, but three burned-out police cars might tell us different. In the end, the ISU was as successful as it needed to be: the security zone remained secure, and everything else was gravy, as it all served only to reinforce their presence in the first place.

Were the protesters and anarchists successful? Again: only as much as they needed to be. They, too, played their role perfectly, providing the world with the kind of images we've come to expect, while ensuring that they were completely devoid of any meaning. In the process they got to justify their actions by complying with a familiar narrative wherein they became as much a part of the system that they wished to destroy as the leaders they railed against.

So, what did Canada get for $930m? We got a gallery of stock photos – representations of western democracy in action, and completely replaceable by any number of virtually identical others gathered in the last decade. In effect: nothing.

Humanist Manifesto 2000

Humanist Manifesto 2000

This entirely new Humanist Manifesto is designed to address the problems of the twenty-first century and the millennium beyond. Providing a strong defense of scientific naturalism and technology, it is offered as a contribution to the dialogue among the different cultural, political, and economic viewpoints in the world.

Humanist Manifesto 2000 is formulated in the conviction that science, reason, democracy, education, and humanist values can enhance human progress. Drawing on the achievements of modernity--the success of scientific medicine, the overall improvement of public health, the Green Revolution, the conveniences of a consumer society, global communication and transportation, increased understanding of the natural world, and many others--the planetary humanism that this manifesto presents seeks to transcend the negativity of postmodernism and looks forward to the information age now upon us.

Humanist Manifesto 2000 promotes a humanistic ethics based on reason and a planetary bill of rights and responsibilities. It proposes a new global agenda, stresses the need for international institutions (including a new world parliament and regulation of global conglomerates), and concludes on a note of optimism about the human prospect. Endorsed by a distinguished list of humanist intellectuals-including Arthur C. Clarke, Alan Cranston, Richard Dawkins, Richard Leakey, Jill Tarter, E. O. Wilson, and eleven Nobel Laureates-Humanist Manifesto 2000 recommends long-range attainable goals and generates confidence in the ability of the human species to solve its problems by rational means and a positive outlook. This manifesto was drafted by Paul Kurtz in consultation with a twelve-person internal committee.

Paul Kurtz (Amherst, NY), professor emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is president of the International Academy of Humanism and is one of the leading spokespersons for Secular Humanism today. He is the author or editor of over thirty-five books, including most recently Embracing the Power of Humanism (Rowman & Littlefield) and The Courage to Become (Praeger/Greenwood).


The Great Lighthouse at Alexandria

In the fall of 1994 a team of archaeological scuba divers entered the waters off of Alexandria, Egypt. Working beneath the surface they searched the bottom of the sea for artifacts. Large underwater blocks of stone were marked with floating masts so that an Electronic Distance Measurement station on shore could obtain their exact positions. Global positioning satellites were used to further fix the locations. The information was then fed into computers to create a detailed database of the sea floor.

Ironically, these scientists were using some of the most high-tech devices available at the end of the 20th century to try and discover the ruins of one of the most advanced technological achievements of the 3rd century, B.C.: The Pharos. It was the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Alexander the Great

The story of the Pharos starts with the founding of the city of Alexandria by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.. Alexander started at least 17 cities named Alexandria at different locations in his vast domain. Most of them disappeared, but Alexandria in Egypt thrived for centuries and continues even today.

Alexander the Great choose the location of his new city carefully. Instead of building it on the Nile delta, he selected a site some twenty miles to the west, so that the silt and mud carried by the river would not block the city harbor. South of the city was the marshy Lake Mareotis. After a canal was constructed between the lake and the Nile, the city had two harbors: one for Nile River traffic, and the other for Mediterranean Sea trade. Both harbors would remain deep and clear.

Alexander died soon after in 323 B.C. and the city was completed by Ptolemy Soter the new ruler of Egypt. Under Ptolemy the city became rich and prosperous. However, it needed both a symbol and a mechanism to guide the many trade ships into the busy harbor. Ptolemy authorized the building of the Pharos in 290 B.C., and when it was completed some twenty years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence, with the exception of the Great Pyramid.

Construction of the Lighthouse

The lighthouse's designer was Sostrates of Knidos. Proud of his work, Sostrates, desired to have his name carved into the foundation. Ptolemy II, the son who ruled Egypt after his father, refused this request wanting his own name to be the only one on the building. A clever man, Sostrates had the inscription:


chiseled into the foundation, then covered it with plaster. Into the plaster was chiseled Ptolemy's name. As the years went by the plaster aged and chipped away revealing Sostrates' declaration.

The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired the name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word "Pharos" became the root of the word "lighthouse" in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages.

There are two detailed descriptions made of the lighthouse in the 10th century A.D. by Moorish travelers Idrisi and Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh. According to their accounts, the building was 300 cubits high. Because the cubit measurement varied from place to place, this could mean that the Pharos stood anywhere from 450 to 600 feet in height, although the lower figure is more likely.

The design was unlike the slim single column of most modern lighthouses (left), but more like the structure of an early twentieth century skyscraper. There were three stages, each built on top of the lower. The building was constructed of marble blocks with lead mortar. The lowest level was probably more that 200 feet in height and 100 feet square, shaped like a massive box. Inside this section was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the top in horse-drawn carts.

On top of this section was an eight-sided tower. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue of Poseidon. The lower portion of the building contained hundreds of storage rooms.

The interior of the upper two sections had a shaft with a dumbwaiter that was used to transport fuel up to the fire. Staircases allowed visitors and the keepers to climb to the beacon chamber. There, according to reports, a large curved mirror, perhaps made of polished metal, was used to project the fire's light into a beam. It was said ships could detect the light from the tower at night or the smoke from the fire during the day up to one-hundred miles away.

There are stories that this mirror could be used as a weapon to concentrate the sun and set enemy ships ablaze as they approached. Another tale says that it was possible to use the mirror to magnify the image of the city of Constantinople from far across the sea to observe what was going on there. Both of these stories seem implausible, though.

The lighthouse was apparently a tourist attraction. Food was sold to visitors at the observation platform at the top of the first level. A smaller balcony provided a view from the top of the eight-sided tower for those that wanted to make the additional climb. The view from there must have been impressive as it was probably 300 feet above the sea. There were few places in the ancient world where a person could ascend a man-made tower to get such a perspective.


How then did the world's first lighthouse wind up on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea? Most accounts indicate that it, like many other ancient buildings, was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for 1,500 years but was damaged by tremors in 365 and 1303 A.D. Reports indicate the final collapse came in 1326.

There is also an unlikely tale that part of the lighthouse was demolished through trickery. In 850 A.D. the Emperor of Constantinople, a rival port, devised a clever plot to get rid of the Pharos. He spread rumors that buried under the lighthouse was a fabulous treasure. When the Caliph at Cairo who controlled Alexandria heard these rumors, he ordered that the tower be pulled down to get at the treasure. It was only after the great mirror had been destroyed and the top two portions of the tower removed that the Caliph realized he'd been deceived. He tried to rebuild the tower, but couldn't, so he turned it into a mosque instead.

As colorful as this story is there does not seem to be much truth in it. Visitors in 1115 A.D. reported the Pharos intact and still operating as a lighthouse.

Did the divers actually find the remains of Pharos in the bottom of the harbor? Some of the larger blocks of stone found certainly seem to have come from a large building. Statues were located that may have stood at the base of the Pharos. Interestingly enough, much of the material found seems to be from earlier eras than the lighthouse. Scientists speculate that they may have been recycled in the construction of the Pharos from even older buildings.

There are plans to turn this site into an archaeological park with a lighthouse museum. In a few years visitors maybe able to rent snorkle gear and wet suits and dive in the bay among the remains of the great Pharos lighthouse.

Prophecy 2-Daniel's Beasts & the Little Horn



Sunday, June 27, 2010

But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

Ezekiel 33

1Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:

3If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;

4Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.

5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

6But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.

7So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.

8When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

9Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?

11Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

12Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.

13When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.

14Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;

15If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.

16None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

17Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.

18When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.

19But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.

20Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.

21And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.

22Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.

23Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

24Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance.

25Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land?

26Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife: and shall ye possess the land?

27Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.

28For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.

29Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.

30Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.

31And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

32And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

33And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.

King James Version (KJV)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, ...

33Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

34And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

36Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

37But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

38But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

39And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

40When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

41They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

42Jesus saith unto them
, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

43Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

44And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

45And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

46But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

Matthew 21:33-46.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Neal C. Wilson's compromise

General Conference President--Neal C. Wilson--states under oath in Court:

"Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term 'hierarchy' was used in a pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance, that attitude on the church's part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery among conservative protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the Seventh-day Adventist church is concerned."
Reply Brief for the Defendant, p 4, case #C-74-2025 CBR. March 30, 1975.

In 1985, Neal Wilson denied ever making such a statement. He states:

"Our position is not changed. But our work is not to denounce the Roman Catholic church. We speak the truth and let the truth do the cutting. We have not consigned anything to the 'trash heap,' as one publication has charged. We are not watering down or diluting the message. I regret that statements get into print that do not give an accurate picture."
Pacific Union Recorder, Feb 18, 1985.
(See Testimonies, vol 5, p 94-95 regarding perjury, and Testimonies to Ministers, p 304).


--- ---------- ------------ ------------ ------

"there is another universal and truly catholic organization, the Seventh-day Adventist Church."
(Neal C. Wilson, General Conference President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Adventist Review, March 5, 1981, p 3).



The walls at Georgetown's Gaston Hall

At Georgetown University's Gaston Hall (a popular venue for politicians and celebrities to give speeches) the walls are intricately designed; There are numerous depictions of signs and symbols. The elaborate art decorating the wall behind the podium captivated my attention. If a picture tells a thousand words? How many 'words' would the pictures of the walls of Gaston Hall tell? Maybe an encyclopedia's worth!

One symbol that particularly caught my eye of 'the wall' at Georgetown's Gaston Hall is the one of the Bible with a cross in the midst of it. It seems that I've seen several variations of this theme in a number of Protestant denomination's logo (emblems). Which Bible with cross came first? The one at Gaston Hall or the Protestant Logo?

What came first the chicken or the egg?

The chickens are home to roost?

Nobody here, but us chickens!


New beginnings in Egypt?

New beginnings in Egypt?

By Katherine Marshall

Two hands cradling a tender young plant provided the visual image for an ambitious conference last week in Alexandria, Egypt. The image aptly illustrated the underlying question: have the new beginnings that President Obama promised one year ago, in his speech to the world's Muslim communities at Cairo University, taken root? Not surprisingly, those of us who attended the conference heard a wide range of answers.

Rashad Hussain, special envoy of the U.S. President to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), waxed enthusiastic, with a long litany of changes in tone, paradigm, and approach that the Obama administration brings in its dealings with the Muslim world.

Seventh-day Adventists elect new president

By William Wan

The big news coming out of the Adventists' conference that's been going on this week down in Atlanta is the new president they chose this morning: Ted N.C. Wilson, who was the organizations vice president.

There's been some interesting coverage of the conference this week in Georgia. A good takeout piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the church's own mediaconference, which includes a bio of Wilson.

Wilson has made the rounds worldwide within the church organization, which is based in Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md.

Ted N. C. Wilson, a vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the son of a former church president, was today elected to serve as president of the 16.3-million member global Protestant denomination. Wilson was appointed by the church's 246-member Nominating Committee and confirmed by the General Conference Session delegation, which is an international body of 2,410 appointed members and the highest governing body in the church. Wilson replaces Jan Paulsen, who has served as president since 1999. The appointment took place at the church's 59th General Conference Session, being held at the Georgia Dome and adjacent World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Wilson, 60 years old, was elected as a general vice president of the Adventist Church in 2000 during the General Conference Session in Toronto. His 36 years of denominational service include administrative and executive posts in the Mid-Atlantic United States, Africa and Russia. Wilson began his church career as a pastor in 1974 in the church's New York Conference. He served as an assistant director and then director of Metropolitan Ministries there from 1976 to 1981. He went on to serve in the church's then Africa-Indian Ocean Division, based in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, until 1990. There he served as a departmental director and later as executive secretary, the second highest officer. Following his post in West Africa, he served at the church's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, as an associate secretary for two years before accepting the position of president of the church's Euro-Asia Division in Moscow, Russia, from 1992 to 1996. Wilson then came back to the United States to serve as president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association in Hagerstown, Maryland, until his election as a General Conference vice president in 2000. An ordained minister, Wilson holds a doctorate degree in religious education from New York University, a master of divinity degree from Andrews University and a master of science degree in public health from Loma Linda University's School of Public Health. Wilson is married to Nancy Louise Vollmer Wilson, a physical therapist. The couple has three daughters. Wilson is the son of former General Conference president Neal C. Wilson, who served in the post from 1979 to 1990. Wilson is expected to address a press conference this afternoon. Of Adventist world church membership, roughly one-third resides in Africa, while another one-third lives in South America and Central America. There are about 1.1 million Adventists in the United States, where the denomination was established in 1863. The Adventist Church operates the largest Protestant network of schools and hospitals worldwide. The church also runs disaster response and development programs through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International. It also sponsors a religious freedom forum, having established in 1893 what is now the International Religious Liberty Association. The General Conference Session, held every five years, is an international spiritual gathering and business session to elect leaders and vote on proposed changes to the Church Manual and Constitution. Session runs through July 3.

By William Wan June 25, 2010; 2:47 PM ET


'Freedom of Worship' Worries

New religious freedom rhetoric within the Obama administration draws concern.

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted 6/22/2010 09:17AM

"Freedom of worship" has recently replaced the phrase "freedom of religion" in public pronouncements from the Obama administration. Experts are concerned that the new rhetoric may signal a policy change.

"Freedom of worship" first appeared in President Obama's November remarks at the memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting. Days later, he referred to worship rather than religion in speeches in Japan and China.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the shift in language. In a December speech at Georgetown University, she used "freedom of worship" three times but "freedom of religion" not at all. While addressing senators in January, she referred to "freedom of worship" four times and "freedom of religion" once when quoting an earlier Obama speech.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted the shift in its 2010 annual report. "This change in phraseology could well be viewed by human rights defenders and officials in other countries as having concrete policy implications," the report said.

Freedom of worship means the right to pray within the confines of a place of worship or to privately believe, said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom and member of the commission. "It excludes the right to raise your children in your faith; the right to have religious literature; the right to meet with co-religionists; the right to raise funds; the right to appoint or elect your religious leaders, and to carry out charitable activities, to evangelize, [and] to have religious education or seminary training."

The State Department does acknowledge that worship is just one component of religion, said spokesperson Andy Laine. "However, the terms 'freedom of religion' and 'freedom of worship' have often been used interchangeably through U.S. history, and policymakers in this administration will sometimes do likewise."

While Obama's administration may simply be using different words to say the same thing, the timing of the change is worrisome, said Thomas Farr, religion professor at Georgetown University. Obama just recently announced an ambassador for international religious freedom (Suzan Johnson Cook), but the position has been demoted within the State Department.

"It puts what otherwise might have been passed off as a rhetorical shift under the spotlight a little more," Farr said.

The softened message is probably meant for the Muslim world, said Carl Esbeck, professor of law at the University of Missouri. Obama, seeking to repair relations fractured by 9/11, is telling Islamic countries that America is not interfering with their internal matters, he said.

As with all diplomatic decisions, the move is a gain and a loss, Esbeck said. Other countries may interpret the change as a sign that America is backing down from championing a robust, expansive view of religious freedom, which if true would be a loss, he said.

But the State Department has traditionally ignored religion's impact on foreign affairs, he said. "The Obama administration seems, at least in part, to get that a large part of successful foreign relations is taking religion into account."

If Obama is telling the State Department to be religiously sensitive, that's a gain, Esbeck said.

Not everyone agrees.

"If [Obama is changing language to signal sensitivity], it is terribly shortsighted and self-defeating," Farr said. "It will not work, and it will simply make the situation more difficult … to engage."

Shea said the danger is greater than a mere backfiring. "I'm very fearful that by building bridges, we're actually stepping away from this fundamental principle of religious freedom. … It is so critical for Western, especially American, leaders to articulate strong defense for religious freedom and explain what that means and how it undergirds our entire civilization."

Thanks Bro. J. T. for the scoop!

More preachers need a 'day job,' too

Posted 5d 7h ago

By Bob Smietana The Nashville Tennessean

Ray Gilder has some advice for Baptist preachers who are just starting out.
Prepare to get a day job.

"Make sure you have a marketable skill," said Gilder, bivocational ministries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Gilder was in Orlando this past week to meet with bivocational ministers, preachers with day jobs, at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are truck drivers and government workers, contractors and teachers, who also feel called to preach. They often minister in out-of-the-way places, far from the spotlight.

But while Baptist megachurch pastors get the spotlight, says Gilder, bivocational ministers keep the convention running. Without them, many small churches would close, says Gilder, national coordinator for the Southern Baptist's Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network.

And they are a growing group.

About three-quarters of Southern Baptists churches draw fewer than 100 people on Sunday morning. That means they often can't afford to pay a preacher a full-time salary. So about half of Southern Baptist churches nationwide, and two-thirds in Tennessee, rely on bivocational ministers.

"We represent the majority of churches," said Gilder, who also pastors Gath Baptist Church in McMinnville.

The idea of bivocational ministry dates back to the Bible. The Apostle Peter was a fisherman before becoming a preacher. The Apostle Paul, when he wasn't writing most of the New Testament or starting new churches, made tents for a living.

"He was a pretty good preacher on the side," Gilder said.

For much of their early history, many Southern Baptist preachers were farmers or teachers as well. That changed in the 1950s, as more churches began to hire full-time ministers.

Today, bivocational ministers can be seen as second-class citizens.

"People sometimes say, 'If they were any good as preachers, they'd have a full-time job,' " Gilder said.

That irks the Rev. Bo Brown, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Maylene, Ala.

Brown, who works for the Social Security Administration for his day job, says he works as hard as other ministers. He's not looking for a full-time church job. He took vacation time from work to attend the Orlando convention.

"Bivocational ministry is a calling," he said. "It's not something that you do until your church gets bigger and you don't have to do it anymore."

And don't call Brown a part-time pastor.

"It's not part time," he said, "because you don't work half as hard as any other minister."

Many of the bivocational ministers got a call to preach long after they'd had established careers. They often can't afford to quit their jobs and go to seminary. So they preach where they are.

That's the case of the Rev. Andy Courtney, pastor of Bledsoe Creek Baptist Church in the Sumner County community of Bethpage. He has driven a truck for the Dunlap & Kyle Tire Co. for 16 years and been a pastor for 4½ years.

"I drive a truck to pay the bills," he said, "but my job, my calling, is the pastorate."

It's not a lucrative calling.

According to a 2008 compensation survey from LifeWay, the average pastor of a small church with between 50 and 74 members makes $39,459. For a bivocational pastor of the same size church, the salary is $10,181.

"I'd starve to death if I had to depend on preaching for a living," said Kenny Louden, who preaches at McCrae's Chapel in Big Sandy, Tenn. "I don't look at preaching as a job. That's working for the Lord."

Louden runs a construction company, along with pastoring the 60 or so people who attend his church, which is part of New Harmony Baptist Church in Paris, Tenn. The church had been closed for a number of years before Louden began preaching there.

"I preach in cowboy boots, a pair of blue jeans and a button-up shirt," he said.

Like many bivocational ministers, Louden didn't start his career as a preacher. Until his mid-30s, he didn't want much to do with church.

"I sowed a few wild oats," he said, "and I ran with a pretty rough crowd."

But his wife was a churchgoer who prayed for years that her husband would find faith. That happened when Louden was 36.

He started preaching in his early 40s. Because he runs his company during the days, writing sermons happens at night or on the weekend.

Finding time to write sermons and take care of other pastoral duties, like visiting the sick, can be a challenge.

The Rev. Bobby Clark of Abbot Baptist Church in Mansfield, Ark., gets up at 4 in the morning to work on his sermons before going to work. He is also a contractor, and carries two phones with him. One is for work, and one for the church.

If the two ring at the same time, he answers the church phone first. Having two phones helps him draw a line between his two roles.

"I don't want to answer the phone for someone whose loved one just died in the same way I'd answer a guy calling with a problem on the job site."

Gilder said that in recent years, a number of pastors have decided to stay bivocational, even if their church grows large enough to hire a full-time pastor.

They believe that having financial independence allows them to preach what they want to preach in the pulpit, and allows them to stay out of church conflict.

If they disagree with the church's deacons or other members, the pastors can deal with the conflict without feeling that their job is threatened.

And some pastors say that staying in the work force helps them relate to their parishioners better.

"If someone comes in and says, 'My manager is killing me,' I can say, 'My manager is killing me, too. Let's pray together,'" said Brown, the Alabama pastor.



Methodists set to clash with Jewish community in UK

06/18/2010 20:44

Board of Deputies of British Jews says Methodist document could damage relations.

LONDON - The Methodist Church of Britain is on a collision course with Jewish community leaders after being accused of producing a document against Israel to debate the conflict at its annual conference in Portsmouth later this month.

The church, the fourth largest Christian denomination in Britain, is set to have a “debate on Israel-Palestine” then vote on whether to implement a boycott of products and services from the West Bank. Written by group of Methodist clergy, academics and peace activists, the document, titled “Justice for Palestine and Israel,” has been accused of being selective and “full of historical distortions and bias.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has expressed concern saying the document could damage Jewish-Methodist relations in the UK. Board chief executive, Jon Benjamin, has written to the president of the Methodist Conference to ask for an urgent meeting.

“This deeply disturbing paper is full of historical distortions and bias,” Benjamin told The Jerusalem Post. “That's unsurprising, given that its main sources appear to be anti-Zionist campaigners. Especially troubling is the suggestion that the Methodist Church will investigate expelling Zionists.

“If it passes, the paper will be damaging to Jewish-Methodist relations. We are seeking an urgent meeting with Methodist leaders to make our objections clear and to seek a resolution.”

The 54-page document has been distributed to all Methodist churches, circuits and regions throughout the UK in order to “resource them in their understanding of and engagement with the issues,” the document described.

Almost all the sources used in the document are controversial. It includes anti-Zionist and anti-Israel activists such as scholars Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim; Jeff Halper from the fringe group ‘Israeli Committee against House Demolitions’; Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer and journalist Robert Fisk.

There are also testimonies from Breaking the Silence and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a group funded and supported by the World Council of Churches, which supports the divestment campaign against Israel.

Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor said EAPPI uses a biased Palestinian narrative using demonizing terms such as “apartheid” and “war crimes” to describe Israel and said that most volunteers become active in anti-Israel campaigns on returning to their hometowns.

The report says that 12 volunteers from the Methodist Church in the UK have so far volunteered with EAPPI and spoken at numerous church gatherings.

“EAPPI members have a history of promoting anti-Israel agendas under the facade of peace,” NGO Monitor president Prof. Gerald Steinberg said.

“Christian groups that promote anti-Israel demonization and international isolation display a very disturbing insensitivity and fuel the conflict. The report reflects the distortions of the World Council of Churches, Amos Trust, KAIROS, EAPPI and other groups in this one-sided and biased document. The exclusive emphasis on "occupation" strips away the context of Palestinian terror and rejectionism for seven decades, which forced Israel to response in defense of its citizens.

“This document entirely ignores the rights of Israelis including Gilad Schalit, who was kidnapped and held in Gaza for four years, in violation of all moral principles. If the Methodist leaders and their allies were really concerned about justice, they would not ignore the suffering of Jewish victims of Palestinian terror,” Steinberg added.

In the recommended reading section, the document recommends the Goldstone Report; a 2008 report on Gaza by Christian Aid, Amnesty, Oxfam and other charities. Apart from Herzl’s Jewish State, other recommendations include Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid and books by Fisk, Pappe and Shlaim.

“The report is amateurish and one-dimensional in its depiction of the history of the tortuous Israel-Palestine conflict,” said Prof. Colin Shindler, senior lecturer in the Department of the Near and Middle East at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Its recommended sources are highly selective - presumably to produce a narrative which would reinforce an intended outcome. For example, in the recommended ‘books on background history’, the names of Benny Morris, Anita Shapira, Martin Gilbert and Howard Sacher - all well-known historians of Israel - do not appear.

“There is no suggested book for understanding the evolution of Zionist ideology. No interested student of this complex conflict would treat this seriously. While it is understandable that the Methodists would wish to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians, this skewered account will be viewed as simplistic and partial,” Shindler added.

Among the Israeli groups the documents recommends are Machsom Watch, Women in Black, Physicians for Human Rights and Zochrot.

David Gifford, chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) also raised his concerns with the document.

“We all agree the Palestinians need to be heard but Methodist church has fallen into this chasm of listening to one voice,” he told the Post. “It is sad that the Methodist Church’s document is so unbalanced, appearing to completely ignore other cries of frustration, desperation and confusion.

“A closer examination by the authors of the Methodist document, of projects of reconciliation and community and economic development in Israel and the West Bank would have revealed opportunities for investment in hope. Instead all we are left with is a call for disinvestment again and no real solutions. Instead we are all thrown into even greater desperation,” he added.

Gifford said that reconciliation over “fertilizing discontent” was the way forward.

“The way forward is to water the seeds of reconciliation rather than fertilize discontent by hearing one narrative and seeing only what one wants to see,” he said.

In a statement, Rev. Graham Carter, chair of the working group that produced the report, said: “The report is not a doctrinal statement but is designed to facilitate a stimulating and wide-ranging debate at the Methodist Conference concerning justice for Israel and Palestine.

“We are sure that the discussion at the Methodist Conference will be open and balanced, addressing the report in a spirit of discernment and with a commitment to hearing, as well as expressing, a variety of perspectives on the issues. Conference members will make the final decisions on the resolutions in the report following this discussion.

“We are committed to seeking ways of achieving a lasting and just peace for all people living in the region, regardless of religious affiliation. We remain deeply committed to working with people of all faiths and none and hope to seek a way forward that will both honour and learn from these relationships,” Carter said.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pete Hamill’s Circuitous Route to a High School Diploma

Pete Hamill’s Circuitous Route to a High School Diploma
Published: June 24, 2010

Having published 10 novels, finished an 11th, written a memoir and four other works of nonfiction, polished off countless columns and magazine articles, covered a few wars, briefly run the newsrooms of two newspapers and landed on a list of 400 New Yorkers described as helping to define the city over the past four centuries, Pete Hamill figured it was time to graduate from high school.

Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times
Pete Hamill, journalist, columnist, novelist and more, was on a list of 400 New Yorkers described as helping to define the city over the past 400 years

On Saturday, he will.

Two days after his 75th birthday, 59 years after dropping out of Regis High School as a thoroughly sophomoric sophomore, Mr. Hamill will receive an honorary diploma from the Jesuit-run school, on East 84th Street.

The Jesuits,” he said, “believe in taking their time on the big decisions.”

Regis is an academically rigorous incubator for roughly 500 Roman Catholic boys, who pay no tuition. In Mr. Hamill’s day, “it was very much sink or swim,” said James E. Buggy, the school’s vice president for development. William Peter Hamill of Park Slope, Brooklyn, and a member of the class of ’53, chose to sink.

“It was one of those dumb things you do,” he said the other day. “I had convinced myself, full of 16-year-old melancholy, that it was the only thing I could do. And it was dumb. But it forced me to live the kind of life I lived.”

You may take this story any way you want — as evidence that a formal education isn’t the be-all and end-all; as proof that you create your own breaks; maybe as a sign of how much the world has changed, because the prospects for 16-year-old dropouts today are grim indeed. Or all of the above. Or none.

In any event, Mr. Hamill bounced around after leaving Regis in 1951. “I was living like I was double-parked,” he said. He worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, joined the Navy, studied art in Mexico, took a few academic courses in New York, signed on with an advertising agency and then, 50 years ago this month, took his first step toward an honest-to-goodness career. He got a tryout as a reporter at The New York Post.

“It was the last period when you could do that and still have a life,” Mr. Hamill said about leaving school early. “Try getting a job on a newspaper now without the résumé.” Not a chance. He said he would “never encourage some kid to drop out and go work in a steel mill instead.” The kid would have a hard time these days finding a steel mill.

In 1960, Mr. Hamill wrote a letter to The Post’s editor, James A. Wechsler, who was intrigued and invited him to the newsroom, which was then on West Street and looked as if it had last been cleaned around the time that Alexander Hamilton founded the paper, in 1801. Mr. Wechsler asked the young man if he had ever thought about becoming a newspaperman.

Sure, Mr. Hamill said. Hey, he had seen “Roman Holiday,” in which Gregory Peck played a reporter. His reaction was, “Look at this: Here’s Gregory Peck riding around Rome with Eddie Albert, never does any work, and he’s getting paid!”

Mr. Hamill remembers the idea of a belated diploma as having begun with a Regis classmate, Thomas Hickey, a retired lawyer in Paramus, N.J. Mr. Hickey’s recollection is that list after the list of 400 celebrated New Yorkers was announced in September by the Museum of the City of New York, Mr. Hamill told him, “I’d much rather have a Regis diploma on my wall.” Arrangements were made. He will receive his certificate from the school’s president, the Rev. Philip G. Judge, S.J.

Mr. Hamill makes no pretense of being much of a Catholic. “Somebody once said there’s no ex-Catholic, there’s only retired Catholics,” he said. “Because of the music and the architecture and the structure of the Mass and all that, it stays with you. I’m a retired Catholic.”

The Jesuits stayed with him, as well. “They put doubt in you, intellectual doubt,” Mr. Hamill said. “Someone presents a thesis, you back up and say, ‘Is that really true? How do we know that’s true?’ ” The Jesuits, he said, also bequeathed “standards of excellence — you couldn’t just show up.”

“Even now, as old as I am, I have this secret Jesuit over my shoulder,” he said. “I think I’ve written a pretty good paragraph and he’s shaking his head: ‘C’mon, pal. Better try that again.’ This critical intelligence directed at yourself is very good. In that sense, those two years at Regis shaped a lot of what I did later, because I was never satisfied.”

Still, he said, “I did feel I was the best Pete Hamill that ever lived.”


A version of this article appeared in print on June 25, 2010, on page A25 of the New York edition.