Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spiritual Formation "From where have you come to where do you go" - Bill Hughes

Bill Hughes
Spiritual Formation - From where have you come to where do you go


Uploaded on Oct 15, 2011


Pope Signals A New Direction For The Church

November 30, 2013 8:00 AM

Listen to the Story

Weekend Edition Saturday

4 min 46 sec

Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation criticized the way much of the world, including the United States, does business. Host Scott Simon talks with the Rev. James Martin, editor at large for America magazine, on why this document is so interesting.


It was a fundamental principle of the order that the end justifies the means

Throughout Christendom, Protestantism was menaced by formidable foes. The first triumphs of the Reformation past, Rome summoned new forces, hoping to accomplish its destruction. At this time the order of the Jesuits was created, the most cruel, unscrupulous, and powerful of all the champions of popery. Cut off from earthly ties and human interests, dead to the claims of natural affection, reason and conscience wholly silenced, they knew no rule, no tie, but that of their order, and no duty but to extend its power. (See Appendix.) The gospel of Christ had enabled its adherents to meet danger and endure suffering, undismayed by cold, hunger, toil, and poverty, to uphold the banner of truth in face of the rack, the dungeon, and the stake. To combat these forces, Jesuitism inspired its followers with a fanaticism that enabled them to endure like dangers, and to oppose to the power of truth all the weapons of deception. There was no crime too great for them to commit, no deception too base for them to practice, no disguise too difficult for them to assume. Vowed to perpetual poverty and humility, it was their studied aim to secure wealth and power, to be devoted to the overthrow of Protestantism, and the re-establishment of the papal supremacy.

When appearing as members of their order, they wore a garb of sanctity, visiting prisons and hospitals, ministering to the sick and the poor, professing to have renounced the world, and bearing the sacred name of Jesus, who went about doing good. But under this blameless exterior the most criminal and deadly purposes were often concealed. It was a fundamental principle of the order that the end justifies the means. By this code, lying, theft, perjury, assassination, were not only pardonable but commendable, when they served the interests of the church. Under various disguises the Jesuits worked their way into offices of state, climbing up to be the counselors of kings, and shaping the policy of nations. They became servants to act as spies upon their masters. They established colleges for the sons of princes and nobles, and schools for the common people; and the children of Protestant parents were drawn into an observance of popish rites. All the outward pomp and display of the Romish worship was brought to bear to confuse the mind and dazzle and captivate the imagination, and thus the liberty for which the fathers had toiled and bled was betrayed by the sons. The Jesuits rapidly spread themselves over Europe, and wherever they went, there followed a revival of popery.

The Great Controversy, pp.234, 235 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jesuits in Middle East Speak Out on Syria

"Respect for the dignity of the person as well as for human rights should constitute a criterion and a preliminary primary point of reference for all material aid"

Rome, October 31, 2013 (

Here is a statement from Oct. 25 from the Conference of Jesuit Provincials in the Middle East and Europe concerning Syria.

* * *

We the Jesuit Provincials, as major superiors of the Society of Jesus in the Middle East and in Europe, warmly welcome the Holy Father’s recent statement on Syria. With all his strength, he alerted international opinion to the Syrian tragedy and asked “all the parties in conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience and not close themselves in solely on their own interests”. With him, we also declare that “never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake”,*[1]but that the only way to peace is through the culture of encounter and the culture of dialogue.

Steps toward peace

Therefore, we rejoice that the threat of air attacks against Syria has ceased and we support the launching of the process which aims at the destruction of all chemical weapons found on Syrian soil. We welcome negotiations for a peace conference for Syria which have now begun and we urge that this peace process moves forward rapidly, courageously and firmly. We ask all parties in the conflict, as well as the international community,

- to urgently seek a cease-fire guaranteed by an international authority;

- to establish a road-map to prepare the meeting of all the parties in conflict;

- to convene the peace conference to reach a common agreement which safeguards the lives of the Syrian people.

Social and civil mobilization

At the same time, we call once again for mobilization of all civil and social agencies to help the Syrian people face one of the biggest humanitarian tragedies of our century. The care of refugees both within and outside the country (about one quarter of the population), the need for food, medicine and medical aid, freeing detainees and hostages, and the reopening of educational institutions, continue to be urgent needs.

Interests at play

We also wish to draw attention to the necessity of acknowledging and naming the real interests that are at play, both locally, regionally or internationally, and which, unfortunately, do not always correspond with the interests of the Syrian people. In particular, we call for a reflection on the consequences of the production and sale of arms; we call for the cessation of the delivery and the sale of arms to all parties in conflict.

Necessary discernment

We would like to urge the wider international community, to refuse all support, whether diplomatic or military, for every party, which openly advocates any forms of violence, fanaticism or extremism. Respect for the dignity of the person as well as for human rights should constitute a criterion and a preliminary primary point of reference for all material aid.

Christian communities in Syria

Finally, we point particularly to the future of Christian communities living in Syria. Present in Syria since the beginning of the Christian era, these communities constitute an inseparable element of its social fabric and its cultural richness and they contribute actively to its development. Solutions advocating the exile or the elimination of these communities are unacceptable. We want to encourage those Christian communities and to assure them that they can play a valuable role in their societies through faithful witness to the Gospel: a gospel that calls for peace, justice, forgiveness, understanding and reconciliation.

Rome – Friday 25th October 2013

*[1] Pope Francis - Angelus prayer - 1st September 2013
(October 31, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.



The Pilgrim Separatists

Pilgrim Separatists and the Founding of America - Drive Thru History


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Pilgrim Separatists and the Founding of America - Drive Thru History

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Pope Francis Declares Consumers and Capitalists Need to Help the Poor

Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty

By Daniel Gross
November 26th 20131:55 pm

In a new declaration, the pope warns that the ‘culture of prosperity deadens us,’ taking aim at free market capitalists and consumers alike.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

I guess Pope Francis doesn’t watch Bloomberg TV.

This quote is one of the many zingers Pope Francis aims at global capitalism in his just-issued Apostolic Exhortation (here’s the PDF version)

The economic sections were a small component—items 54-60 of a 106-item, 86-page document. But they were noteworthy for injecting the Vatican into the raging global debate about inequality. And they are likely to delight many followers and alarm many others who generally look to the Vatican for guidance on spiritual and policy matters. Earlier this month, Sarah Palin kicked up a storm when she expressed concern about some of Pope Francis’s views on a range of issues—from poverty to the treatment of gays. “He’s had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me,” she told CNN. I wonder what she’s thinking now that Francis has unleashed a broadside at supply-siders, defenders of the prerogatives of finance, and at consumers in general.

Francis, of course, hails from Latin America, the wellspring of the radical, feared ‘Liberation Theology’ movement of the 1960s and 1970s. While no leveler, Francis is allergic to ostentation. He doesn’t like the imperial trappings of the office. He has no entourage, and moved into rooms at the Casa Santa Maria, the Vatican hotel, instead of occupying the large papal penthouse at the Apostolic Palace. Not for him the Red Prada slippers of his predecessor. His church has cracked down on showy displays of wealth. This fall, he suspended of the Bishop of Limburg, who spent millions of Euros renovating his residence.

Francis has been relentless in talking about the church’s mission and need to serve the poor. Poverty and inequality used to be accepted as an order imposed by God. Today, Francis forthrightly pinned the blame on humans. The global economy has grown in every year since 1944 except one—2009. Broadly speaking, living standards are rising around the world, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of abject poverty. Yet there are glaring, often violent deficiencies in the system.

Popes have never been big fans of Darwinism. This Pope takes direct aim at economic Darwinism. “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless,” he wrote. Francis has little use for those who argue that cutting taxes for the rich helps the poor. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he said in a mini-rant that wouldn’t be out-of-place on MSNBC. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Time and again, he goes after the malign influence of the theology of free-market, financial, consumer-based capitalism. As for money, “we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies.” There are too many worshippers of Mammon among us. “The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex. 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

That’s old school. But Francis also engages in the sort of critique of modern finance that has emerged in the slew of post-crisis books: the financial industry captures government, redirects policies and resources to benefit itself at the expense of everybody else—with toxic results. “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few,” he writes. “This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.” He complains about excessive debt and “self-serving tax evasion” among the wealthy. And even as they rig the system, those at the top often “content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their trouble.” He calls for reforms that make finance subservient to industry and for the redistribution of wealth. “The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.”

As I read this, I imagined a fresco depicting the economic section of the document. In the central panel, Sen. Elizabeth Warren whispers into the ear of the Pope as Mitt Romney and hedge fund managers are flayed. To one side, a group of union organizers rip up a copy of the Republican Party’s 2012 platform. In one corner, a pile of Apple iPads and Google glasses are torched in a bonfire. In another, makers, personified by the small, suited figure of Paul Ryan beg forgiveness from a gallery of takers, which include bedraggled peasants with the faces of Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, and Che Guevara. And Alan Greenspan, clutching a copy of Atlas Shrugged, boils in a bath of molten gold.

It’s not just financiers who come in for censure. Consumers take it on the chin, too. Gadgets, technology, and stuff, contrary to what you read in advertisements, don’t make us happier or better people. “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

It’s a message we should all keep in mind—Catholic or not—as we flood the malls in search of Black Friday deals.


God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.
 Deuteronomy 8:3 

1 Corinthians 1
King James Version (KJV)

1 Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:

3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Atheists Take On The IRS

By Victoria Bekiempis / November 22 2013 4:17 PM

Top American secularists allege the tax agency discriminates against them. Reuters

IRS policies on church tax exemptions aren’t just potentially making America poorer – they also illegally discriminate against atheists, a lawsuit alleges.

American Atheists and several other secularist groups claim that the Internal Revenue Service gives preferential treatment to churches and religious organizations who seek or have 501(c)(3) non-profit status compared to secular non-profit organizations. The groups say this violates non-believers’ Constitutional rights because it treats churches differently than non-churches and equates to government support of religion.

Under current IRS policy, churches automatically qualify for 501(c)(3) status, though nonreligious 501(c)(3)s must go through an extensive application process to get the same tax benefits. In addition, religious organizations do not have to fill out annual Form 990 returns reports, which detail charities’ finances so the IRS or nonprofit watchdogs can identify possible fiscal wrongdoing and law-breaking. Critics, who have recently renewed their calls for religious exemption reform, say that these filing differences cost the U.S. government from some $17 to $71 billion annually.

Though American Atheists’ first filed their federal lawsuit in December 2012, oral arguments in the case began late this week.

“We find it discriminatory, so we’re suing,” American Atheists spokesman Dave Muscato tells Newsweek. “The way that this is set up, we all pay for it. We’re all supporting churches for what they do.”

In court filings, the advocacy group argues that a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that “neither the federal government nor state governments can ‘constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God, as against those religions founded on different beliefs’” supports their claims. American Atheists is also arguing that church-only tax breaks, such as the “parsonage exemption,” which lets clergy members write off housing expenses from their taxable income, aren’t constitutionally kosher, since “non-religious entities may not take any deductions for the housing or living expenses of their employees or volunteers.”

IRS policies also discriminate against donors to non-religious organizations, American Atheists alleges. Non-religious nonprofits must identify, on Form 990, contributors who give more than $5,000, or 2 percent of the organization’s total contributions and grants. But religious non-profits don’t have to disclose mega donors, because they don’t have to fill out a 990. These policies, plus the expense and labor required to meet 501(c)(3) filing requirements, gives churches a “fundraising advantage” and put atheists at risk. “Because there’s a lot of stigma about atheism, many people talk to us and say they would donate more but don’t want their name publicized in that way,” Muscato says.

Court proceedings are set to continue in the coming weeks.

The IRS did not immediately reply to requests for comment, though the agency often does not comment on pending litigation.

When asked previously about the issue, an IRS spokesman sent Newsweek an e-mail linking to a tax guide for religious nonprofits.


UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw keeps governments on a track towards 2015 climate agreement

23 / 11 / 2013


(Warsaw, 23 November 2013) The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw ended on Saturday, keeping governments on a track towards a universal climate agreement in 2015 and including significant new decisions that will cut emissions from deforestation.

“Warsaw has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement. So it appears on the table at the next UN Climate change conference in Peru. This is an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris, in 2015, said Marcin Korolec, President of the COP19 conference.”

In the context of 2015, countries decided to initiate or intensify domestic preparation for their intended national contributions towards that agreement, which will come into force from 2020. Parties ready to do this will submit clear and transparent plans well in advance of COP 21, in Paris, and by the first quarter of 2015.

Countries also resolved to close the pre-2020 ambition gap by intensifying technical work, including through workshops, and increased opportunities for information sharing. Work will also be intensified through the more frequent engagement of Ministers by means of Ministerial Dialogues.

“We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are witnessing ever more frequent, extreme weather events, and the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference,” she said.

In addition, governments provided more clarity on mobilizing finance to support developing country actions to curb emissions and adapt to climate change. This includes requesting developed countries to prepare biennial submissions on their updated strategies and approaches for scaling up finance between 2014 and 2020, complemented by a decision to hold a similar schedule of high-level ministerial dialogues on finance.

The Warsaw meeting also resulted in concrete announcements of forthcoming contributions of public climate finance to support developing nation action, including from Norway, the UK, EU, US, Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden, Germany and Finland.

Meanwhile, the Green Climate Fund Board is to commence its initial resource mobilization process as soon as possible and developed countries were asked for ambitious, timely contributions by COP 20, in December, next year, to enable an effective operationalization.

The conference also decided to establish an international mechanism to provide most vulnerable populations with better protection against loss and damage caused by extreme weather events and slow onset events such as rising sea levels. Detailed work on the so-called “Warsaw mechanism” will begin next year.

Cutting emissions from deforestation

Today’s agreements included a significant set of decisions on ways to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests, which account for around one fifth of all human-generated emissions. The agreement on REDD+ is backed by pledges of 280 million dollars financing from the US, Norway and the UK.

President Korolec said: “I am proud of this concrete accomplishment. We are all aware of the central role that forests play as carbon sinks, climate stabilizers and biodiversity havens. Through our negotiations we have made a significant contribution to forest preservation and sustainable use which will benefit the people who live in and around them and humanity and the planet as a whole. I am proud that this instrument was named Warsaw Framework for REDD.”

Further progress in help for developing nations

In Warsaw, a landmark was passed after 48 of the poorest countries of the world finalized a comprehensive set of plans to deal with the inevitable impacts of climate change. With these plans, the countries can better assess the immediate impacts of climate change and what they need in the way of support to become more resilient. Developed countries, including Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland have also paid or pledged over 100 million dollars to add to the Adaptation Fund, which has now started to fund national projects.

Governments completed work on the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) so that it can immediately respond to requests from developing countries for advice and assistance on the transfer of technology.

The CTCN is open for business and is encouraging developing countries to set up focal points to accelerate the transfer of technology.

Climate action at all levels

COP19 has been a showcase for climate action by business, cities, regions and civil society.

The UNFCCC secretariat also celebrated its annual Momentum for Change lighthouse activity awards for climate actions that demonstrate positive results through innovative finance, by women and the urban poor. In addition, Momentum for Change launched a new initiative focusing on contributions by information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaption capacity.

“A groundswell of action is happening at all levels of society. All major players came to COP19 to show not only what they have done but to think what more they can do. Next year is also the time for them to turn ideas into further concrete pledges,” Ms. Figueres said.

2014 New York Summit

In Warsaw, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his invitation to all governments, and leaders from finance, business, local government and civil society, to a climate summit in New York on 23 September 2014. This will be a solutions summit, complementing the UNFCCC negotiations. “I ask all who come to bring bold and new announcements and action.  By early 2015, we need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the internationally agreed two degree temperature rise,” he said.

The next UNFCCC meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform is to take place in Bonn from 10 to 14, March, 2014.



Grassy Knolls - Conspiracy Thinking in American History

... ...

President John F. Kennedy greets the crowd in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963, shortly before his assassination (Library of Congress).

Published: November 22, 2013

On November 22nd, 1963, 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy was killed while riding in a motorcade in Dallas – a tragedy that inspired conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Why have alternative assassination theories proven so resilient over the years? And why do other conspiracy theories persist in public memory? This episode takes a look at conspiracy thinking throughout American history, and finds a long tradition stretching all the way back to the Founding.

From a political party formed to combat the secretive power of Freemasons, to whispers of a “slave power” conspiracy in the 19th Century, to an outcry over a criminal network fostering “white slavery” in the early 20th Century, and, of course, an abundance of Communist conspiracies during the Cold War – the Guys and their guests discover that while conspiracy theorists might sometimes be on the fringes of American society, conspiracy thinking has always been mainstream.


A Foray Into The Blood-Soaked 'Cultura' Of Mexico's Cartels

November 21, 2013 5:00 PM

In Narco Cultura, director and photojournalist Shaul Schwarz interrogates the collision of pop culture and Mexico's drug cartels — as personified by bands like Los Bukanas de Culiacan (above), who perform narcocorridos, or songs glorifying the drug trade. Shaul Schwarz/Cinedigm

Narco Cultura

Director: Shaul Schwarz
Genre: Documentary
Running Time: 103 minutes

Rated R for grisly graphic images of disturbing violent content, drug material, language and brief nudity.

In Spanish and English.

Following police through Mexico's Ciudad Juárez — reputedly the world's homicide capital — the Israeli filmmaker Shaul Schwarz finds mutilated corpses and gutters running with blood. But the resulting documentary, Narco Cultura, is not nearly so vivid as its most gruesome footage.

One reason for this is Schwarz's attempt at ironic juxtaposition: His principal characters are Richi Soto, a Juarez crime-scene investigator; and Edgar Quintero, an LA singer-songwriter. The latter performs narcocorridos, or ballads that extol drug lords and their murderous thugs as heroic outlaws. The idea may be shocking, but the songs are pretty dull.

As stage props, Quintero and other narcocorrido singers employ bazookas and machine guns — but their music is traditional norteño, a blend of Mexican folk and Germanic polka performed with guitar, accordion and the occasional tuba. It sounds about as ominous as something from a Lawrence Welk Show rerun, even if the lyrics do celebrate sociopaths.

"I think we can be the next hip-hop," boasts a narcocorrido impresario, who's surely kidding himself.

Schwarz talks briefly with journalist Sandra Rodriguez and includes clips from Anderson Cooper's 60 Minutes coverage of Mexico's killing fields. A few statistics encapsulate the horror: In just six years, Juárez's annual murders rose more than tenfold, from 320 in 2006 to 3,622 in 2012.

To flesh out these grim numbers, the director relies heavily on Soto and Quintero. Neither of them proves especially thoughtful.

The cop can't really explain why he stays at his job as his colleagues are picked off by the drug cartel that's invaded Juárez. (Like many lawmen in Mexico, he routinely wears masks in public, so he won't be identified and targeted.)

Even in a conversation with his mother, who wants him to relocate to the safety of nearby El Paso, Soto can't rationalize the risks he's taking.

The singer shows even less self-awareness. From the relative safety of Los Angeles, he fantasizes about traveling to the cartel's hometown, where he'd meet some of the killers he glorifies. The father of two young children, Quintero eventually makes his pilgrimage, over his wife's perfectly sensible objections.

The movie shows narcocorrido concerts that attract fervent singalong crowds, and not just in cities along the border. (Seattle and Atlanta are also on the circuit.) It also introduces promoters and producers who brag about such successes as getting their product into Wal-Mart, whose executives reportedly resisted carrying narcocorrido CDs — until they discovered just how well they'd move.

Mostly, however, the narrative circles back to Soto and Quintero, even though the recurring visits never further illuminate their characters or circumstances. Set to Jeremy Turner's spare and mournful score, Narco Cultura is ultimately more pensive than lurid.

A veteran war photographer, the director shot the movie himself, and he doesn't flinch from the carnage. He depicts singed and dismembered bodies and vehicles laced with bullet holes, often emphasizing the crispness of the highlighted subject with an exceedingly narrow focal plane.

The two most powerful images, however, are landscapes. In the movie's opening scene, a camera positioned on the border shows a verdant USA and a desiccated Mexico. Later, Schwarz turns his camera to plots full of baroque structures, each one testifying to narco riches. They're not McMansions, though — they're mausoleums.

As a picture of a culture besotted with gold and death, that vignette is more chilling than a hundred bloody cadavers.


The country where exorcisms are on the rise

25 November 2013 Last updated at 19:10 ET

By Vladimir Hernandez BBC Mundo

Does God exist? Does the Devil exist? The Catholic church believes they both do - and some priests say they are currently having an immense battle in Mexico.

In today's Magazine
The story behind The Tiger Who Came To Tea
Why is the Bay Psalm Book valued at £18m?
The village where time has stood still
Rebuilding after 9/11

To some it may seem extraordinary, but priests say the country is under attack by Satan, and that more exorcists are needed to fight him.

This attack, they say, is showing itself in the gruesome drug-related violence, including human sacrifice, that has engulfed the country since 2006.

According to the latest official figures available, at least 70,000 people have died in this period, including gunmen, members of the security forces, and many innocent civilians.

But, the priests say, it's not just the numbers. The savagery also stands out.

In recent years it has not been uncommon in many parts of Mexico for children to find dismembered bodies on the streets on their way to school. Or for commuters on busy roads to drive past bridges with severely tortured corpses hanging from them. Scenes from hell.

A mass exorcism at a church in Veracruz in Mexico

"We believe that behind all these big and structural evils there is a dark agent and his name is The Demon. That is why the Lord wants to have here a ministry of exorcism and liberation, for the fight against the Devil," says Father Carlos Triana, a priest, and an exorcist, in Mexico City.

"As much as we believe that the Devil was behind Adolf Hitler, possessing and directing him, we also believe that he (the Devil) is here behind the drug cartels."

Mexico's exorcists say there is unprecedented demand for their services.

Some are even not taking new cases, as they are having to exorcise demons almost every day.

Vatican view on Saint Death
Earlier this year, a senior Vatican official condemned the cult of Santa Muerte
"It's not religion just because it's dressed up like religion; it's a blasphemy against religion," said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture

Vatican denounces Mexico 'saint'

"This didn't happen before", says Father Francisco Bautista, another exorcist in Mexico City.

Most of the cases, he explains, require a lesser form of exorcism, called liberation prayers - effective when a person still controls part of his or her mind and body.

Only rarely does the Devil possess someone completely, he says, but when that happens, the bishop of the diocese must intervene.

In Bautista's view, the rising demand for exorcism is partly explained by the large numbers of Mexicans joining the cult of Saint Death, or Santa Muerte.

It is estimated that the cult, whose followers worship a skull in a wedding dress carrying a scythe, has some eight million followers in Mexico - and more among Mexican migrants in Central America, the US and Canada.

"It has also been adopted by the drug traffickers who ask her for help to avoid arrest and to make money," Bautista says. "In exchange they offer human sacrifices. And this has increased the violence in Mexico."

Another reason for the surge in exorcisms, he argues, is the decriminalisation of abortions in Mexico City, in 2007. Both the cult and abortion have given evil spirits a foothold in the country, he insists.

"Both things are closely related. There is an infestation of demons in Mexico because we have opened our doors to Death."

If it is surprising how many Mexicans believe in Saint Death, it may also be surprising how many believe, like Father Triana and Father Bautista, that the Devil and demons are at work in the country.

Mexico's war on drugs 

Drug traffic from Mexico to US worth estimated $13bn annually
Two main players in recent years have been Sinaloa (or Pacific) cartel and Zetas
Estimated 60,000 people killed in drug-related violence since late 2006
Q&A: Mexico's drug-related violence

Exorcism is an ancient practice and one that appears in many different religions, but many believers doubt the existence of demons.

A frontline of sorts for Mexico's exorcists is the northern region of the country where, for the last seven years, the Mexican military has been waging war against the heavily armed and cash-rich drug cartels.

In parallel with the soldiers, priests have been waging a spiritual conflict. One is Father Ernesto Caro, based in Monterrey, a city blighted by frequent shootouts and kidnappings.

He has exorcised several members of the drug cartels - and there is one case he cannot forget. It was a gang hitman, who confessed to horrific crimes. Father Caro said the man had been in charge of cutting the bodies into pieces and he said he enjoyed hearing them cry as he did so. Others he burned alive.

The priest says the man had committed his life to the service of Saint Death.

"The cult is the first step into Satanism and then into this band of people [the drug traffickers], that's why he was chosen for that job."

"Santa Muerte is being used by all our drug dealers and those linked to these brutal murders. We've found that most of them, if not all, follow Santa Muerte," he adds.

The cult is also followed by criminals, policemen, politicians and artists.

"The biggest presence is in the poorest sectors of Mexican society," says journalist Jose Gil Olmos, who has published two books on Saint Death.

The first references to Saint Death occur in the 18th Century, he says, not in Aztec times, as many believe.

"In modern times the numbers of followers exploded, especially after the early 1990s economic meltdown."

Many middle-class Mexicans found themselves in misery. In despair they searched for hope, and some turned to Saint Death, Olmos says.

"From approximately eight years ago we have seen Santa Muerte having a big presence with drug cartel members, from the bosses all the way down. Why? Because these people say that Jesus or the Virgin Mary can't provide what they ask for, which is to be protected from soldiers, police and their enemies."

I went to see what this cult was all about at its biggest annual ceremony in the neighbourhood of Tepito, in Mexico City, a place riddled with drug trafficking and crime.

It's here that one of the biggest sanctuaries of Saint Death in Mexico is located. It's kept tidy by Enriqueta Romero, a woman in her sixties, whose life changed dramatically 12 years ago when she shocked her neighbours by putting a Saint Death figure in her window.

Over the years, more and more people started arriving to pay tribute to the skull figure in a dress. And now thousands gather for the cult's most important ceremony on 31 October, the eve of Mexico's Day of the Dead festival.

"She loves us and heals us. People come here to ask her for help - a son in prison or with Aids, or something to eat," says Romero.

During my visit, some people reach the shrine walking on their knees. One of them is a man who carries a 20-day-old baby in his arms. He's come to present his daughter to the skull.

I also see ordinary working-class families, pregnant women asking Death to protect the life of their unborn child, and plenty of people heavily tattooed with the female skull.

Are these people possessed, as the church says?

"No, I also believe in God, in the Virgin, and all the saints, but I am more devout to [Saint] Death. She is the one that helps me the most," says Jose Roberto Jaimes, a man in his 20s who's come on his knees to thank the skull after surviving three years in jail.

I get similar answers from all of the cult followers I talk to.

More from the Magazine

A film of a woman being beheaded in Mexico caused an international outcry in October when Facebook refused to remove it from its site. There have been hundreds of reports about the video - but why has no-one identified the victim in it? 

Facebook beheading video: Who was Mexico's Jane Doe? (4 November)

Romero says the church itself bears responsibility for the rise of the cult, having shot itself in the foot with the worldwide child abuse scandal.

"They finished off our faith with the things that the priests did. What can they criticise? That we believe in Death? That is not bad. What's bad is what they did," says Romero.

But does she feel comfortable knowing that people behind horrific crimes also follow this cult?

"We are in a free country and everyone can do what they want. We all will have to answer to God at some point," she says.

It was former President Felipe Calderon who launched the offensive against drug cartels in Mexico in 2006, by deploying troops to the worst-hit areas.

Over the years the military has discovered numerous shrines, temples and even churches of Saint Death across the region, and plenty of evidence of human sacrifice.

"He [Calderon] started a war against them and he started a war as well against the cult of Saint Death, and he asked the church to help him," says Father Ernesto Caro.

"The Church is not going to go on TV and say: 'Look, we think that Mexico is going to get better and be saved if we do exorcisms because the Devil is behind all of this.' We have to be discreet [with exorcisms] or else we may be ridiculed, even by our own followers," adds Father Carlos Triana.

Whether exorcisms can help reduce the drug-related violence in Mexico - especially the sadistic killings - is debatable. Although at this point, many in Mexico would probably welcome any help if it brings them some peace.

You can hear and see more about this topic in Crossing Continents, BBC Radio 4 on 28 November 2013 at 11:00 GMT, and Our World, on BBC News Channel or BBC World on the weekend 30 November/1 December 2013, or catch up later on BBC iPlayer.


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From Discrimination to Dignity: Standing with Women, Girls and LGBT People Worldwide

Please join American Jewish World Service President
Ruth Messinger

For a lecture, brunch and dialogue:
From Discrimination to Dignity
Standing with women, girls and LGBT people worldwide

In many societies, women, girls and LGBT people are second-class citizens, facing rampant violence and violations of their human rights. Join us for this special event to learn how people of all faiths can stand together with women, girls and LGBT people worldwide. Hear Ruth Messinger speak at the Rector’s Forum at All Saints Church, followed by a unique opportunity to talk with Claudia Samayoa, a Guatemalan human rights activist and AJWS grantee.

$18 per person for brunch. Space is limited, so make your reservation today!

Immediately followed by:
Private Brunch and activist discussion with Ruth Messinger and Claudia Samayoa at McCormick & Schmick’s next door

December 8, 2013
10:15 a.m.
Rector’s Forum, All Saints Episcopal Church
132 N. Euclid Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101

Map this location

For more information, please contact or 310.843.9588.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Nuclear Paradox (Update)

The Nuclear Paradox 

Iran's Nuclear Agreement

Under the guidance of Secretary of State (Globalism) John Kerry (previous U.S. Presidential Candidate, also cousin of Pres. George W. Bush and fellow Skull and Bones member). ..

Over the weekend we have found out that the U.S. has reached an agreement with Iran over its Nuclear ambitions;  The U.S. and the P5 +1 (6 world powers) aka the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, have reached a temporary 6 months agreement with Iran.  Iran agrees to halt or suspend its Nuclear enrichment program as it ultimate leads to Nuclear Weapons proliferation which the aforementioned nations do not want...

The United States and the P5 +1 will temporarily relax the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran beginning in 1979...

The Nuclear Option (at the American Loya Jirga)

Just a few days before this Nuclear phenomenon, last week the U. S. Senate under the leadership of Senator (D) Harry Reid of Nevada, gutted the procedure called a Filibuster, under which the minority party can stall judicial and cabinet nominations by the sitting president.   They call it the Nuclear Option...

'Nuclear option' in Senate makes president more powerful

Washington Post-by Chris Cillizza-19 hours ago
When Senate Democrats invoked the “nuclear option” last week, they immediately did one thing: made this president — and future ones ...

Wow, two Nuclear Events in one week?  
You know... They are really playing when they run out of names to call things...

Regarding the second issueWhat an amazing choice of words?


(Update) 11/26/13;  Minimal changes to better convey the point. 


What China Is LearNing From the U.S. Military


They're realizing that disaster relief and humanitarian aid are among of the most effective tools in the national security toolbox.

(Elizabeth Dalziel - Pool/Getty Images)

By Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
November 20, 2013

As Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Nov. 2, about 60 soldiers from the Chinese military were in Hawaii taking part in a joint military exercise with the United States and several other nations to better coordinate relief efforts in the event of a typhoon in the region.

The military exercise was timely, if not ironic
, but it also underscores China's growing willingness to work with its neighbors, even if they're not allies.

After first offering just $100,000 in aid, China has now pledged $1.4 million after a recent editorial in China's Global Times criticized the government for not doing more for the Philippines, which lies right across the contested South China Sea. "China, as a responsible power, should participate in relief operations to assist a disaster-stricken neighboring country, no matter whether it's friendly or not. China's international image is of vital importance to its interests. If it snubs Manila this time, China will suffer great losses," the editorial said.

China is learning what U.S. military leaders have known for some time, which is that disaster relief and humanitarian aid are among of the most effective tools in the national security toolbox. It's also central to the Pentagon's post-war rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

"The key pillars of our defense strategic guidance is to -- not just in the Asia Pacific region, but elsewhere -- build partner capacity. One of the linchpins of that guidance is to continue to invest in our allies and partnerships, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, where we have had bases open and closed over the years," said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little last week. "The goal is not to have new permanent bases for the U.S. military, but it's to enable rotational presences so that we can work together with allies and partners in the region to address problems like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."

During a speech this weekend in California, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said disaster relief helps build these partnerships -- but it also provides priceless PR for the U.S. military. "When America responds to these kinds of human tragedies the way we are, the world sees the best of who we are," he said.

The joint exercise in Hawaii wasn't the first the Chinese participated in, but it was the first coordinated field exercise and is part of China's growing participation in maritime exercises in the region, including anti-piracy operations. It's exactly the kind of openness senior U.S. leaders have hoped for from the People's Liberation Army. As the U.S. looks for ways to connect with the PLA, some planners have suggested the Pentagon -- the Army in particular -- should do whatever it can to get China to participate in humanitarian exercises like disaster relief operations and civilian evacuations. The thinking goes that those types of operations are far more likely to occur in the years to come than any American land invasion of the Chinese mainland, and therefore that's what the U.S. Army should be training to do.

"What the American and Chinese militaries have tried to do, and we've been making more headway over this over the last year or two is to define domains in which both countries see an opportunity to cooperate without infringing on either country's perceptions of their sovereignty," said Jonathan Pollack, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings Institute.

The United States responded significantly after the 2004 tsunami, and even offered aid to Burma, which refused to let U.S. Navy ships dock there to deliver medicine and supplies. "We recognize obviously that it's a huge benefit [to] perceptions of the United States, so you could say we're doing well by doing good, in some sense," Pollack said.

As China steps up its aid to the Philippines, it seems its government is mindful of perceptions as well.


The sins of Babylon will be laid open.

In every generation God has sent His servants to rebuke sin, both in the world and in the church. But the people desire smooth things spoken to them, and the pure, unvarnished truth is not acceptable. Many reformers, in entering upon their work, determined to exercise great prudence in attacking the sins of the church and the nation. They hoped, by the example of a pure Christian life, to lead the people back to the doctrines of the Bible. But the Spirit of God came upon them as it came upon Elijah, moving him to rebuke the sins of a wicked king and an apostate people; they could not refrain from preaching the plain utterances of the Bible-- doctrines which they had been reluctant to present. They were impelled to zealously declare the truth and the danger which threatened souls. The words which the Lord gave them they uttered, fearless of consequences, and the people were compelled to hear the warning.

Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power--all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven. As the people go to their former teachers with the eager inquiry, Are these things so? the ministers present fables, prophesy smooth things, to soothe their fears and quiet the awakened conscience. But since many refuse to be satisfied with the mere authority of men and demand a plain "Thus saith the Lord," the popular ministry, like the Pharisees of old, filled with anger as their authority is questioned, will denounce the message as of Satan and stir up the sin-loving multitudes to revile and persecute those who proclaim it.

The Great Controversy (Between Christ and Satan), pp.606,607.

To Beast or Not to Beast

Photo (Courtesy)



Recently, while traveling on business, I had occasion to meet with a group of about 50 Adventists. Those gathered were well educated, with many of them coming from families of long experience in the church. As our discussion progressed, someone raised the topic of how the church publicly presents Bible prophecy.

Some in the group knew that I had recently finished preaching a three-part sermon series (back in my home church) on portions of the book of Revelation. And while few had heard the series themselves, some who had were clearly agitated about it. “I noticed that you mentioned Catholicism by name in one of your sermons,” one man said. “That really made me uncomfortable!” His discomfort, he explained, came in large part from the extreme contrast between how he was raised to view Catholicism and his subsequent experience with Catholics as an adult. With obvious passion and genuine concern, he detailed how he had been taught as a child that Catholics hated Protestants like him; that Catholic churches had (and I’m not making this up) jail cells in their basements in which to hold captured Protestants; and yes, that the Catholic Church was “the beast” of Bible prophecy.

But later in life it came as a great surprise to this man (and undoubtedly to many other Adventists before and since) to discover that many Catholics are genuinely nice people. In fact, he currently employed a number of them in his privately owned business precisely because he found them to be such kind people. Catholics, he said, are courteous, hardworking, and honest—in short, completely different from the stereotype he’d been taught as a child. “So why,” he said, concluding his argument, “would we squander that kind of goodwill with Catholics by preaching against them and calling them ‘the beast’?”

My guess is that this man’s experience is not unique, or even rare. There are probably many others who have similarly squeamish feelings regarding the traditional Adventist understanding of prophecy in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular. And for this sincere group there are dozens of topics they’d rather have their church declare publicly than Bible prophecy! Wisdom—and perhaps just sheer good taste—would seem to dictate that we stick with seemingly less-controversial topics (Christ’s death and resurrection, heaven, etc.), while steering clear of things that might cause unnecessary divisions among those we live, work, and play with.

I can certainly relate to such sentiment. I too have been uncomfortable with the abrasive and ham-fisted prophecy presentations I’ve sometimes sat through, ones in which the presenter seemed to care more about causing shock and awe than they did about reaching people for Christ. And consequently, I firmly believe that in some contexts, prophecy is not the all-purpose “entering wedge” we’ve sometimes made it out to be, and instead proves simply to offend people, not save them.

But all that said, is it possible that seeing this issue as a question only of community relations might be oversimplifying what is really a significantly more complex problem?

What Adventism has to say to the world (or, as the case may be, what it doesn’t have to say to it) is more than a question of whether people like us—as important as that is. It also involves the deeper question of identity: Who are we as a church? What is our message and our mission? What is it that God has asked us to be and to do and to say to those in our sphere of influence? Questions like these must always precede (though not preempt) questions of social propriety— and therein lies a fascinating discussion.

Still a Place for Prophecy?

Let me be quick to state what I hope is obvious: It is hardly the primary mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to identify the Catholic Church as the antichrist/beast power of Daniel and Revelation (our billboard-posting friends past and present notwithstanding). Our primary mission is, instead, to proclaim the same good news about Jesus that the apostles did, although now in the additional context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.
Our goal in doing so is to make fully devoted followers of Christ (think Matthew 28:18-20) who help others Biblically withstand the final deception (that’s where the three angels of Revelation 14 come in, showing God’s truth and exposing Satan’s counterfeit gospel). And in accomplishing that mission, it may indeed be necessary at times to share some startling and uncomfortable truths with either friends or strangers who have a desire to know more about God’s will for their lives.

“But won’t that just needlessly chase them off?” some will ask. “Can’t we just skip those uncomfortable things until later, or perhaps completely?” To answer these questions, let’s do a little case study on the idea of Catholicism having a major role at the end of time being part of (not all, but part of) the Adventist witness. Yes, there are other “uncomfortable” things that we have taught—the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, what happens after you die, the health message, etc. But the topic of Catholicism at the end of time might just provide us with a good vantage point from which to view the rest of our witness.

So here goes: Why do it? Why is it necessary to publicly proclaim something so potentially uncomfortable as Catholicism and its role in Bible prophecy? I believe there are at least three reasons:

1 It is truth.

In my experience it is exceedingly rare for Adventists opposed to discussing Catholicism’s end-time role to oppose it on the grounds that it’s untrue. In other words, it’s not that they necessarily believe Catholicism has no role to play at the end of time, but rather that they see it as uncomfortable and awkward to talk about.

But to state the obvious, this does not mean that Catholicism does not play a significant role at the end of time. Traditionally, Adventists have given a prominent role to the Papacy in discussions of Christian history (that is easily justifiable by generally accepted historical fact), as well as a prominent role at the end of time (this is based on proven principles of Biblical interpretation). In other words, discomfort does not equal discredit. Simply because something makes us uncomfortable does not make it untrue—which brings up an important point.

In John 8:32 Jesus makes a profound statement regarding truth. He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The primary definition of the “truth” in this context is the person of Jesus. But the statement has implications beyond His personhood, at least as personhood is commonly defined. Surely what Jesus is really saying here is that if anything is true, it is true because He is who He is. Christ is thus the foundation of all truth: the truth that water quenches thirst; that E = mc2; that murder is wrong; that Jesus’ death can pay the price for our sins; etc. All these things are true in a very real sense because Jesus is who He is: Creator, sustainer, sovereign king of all! And furthermore, because all truth is rooted in Christ, all truth seen through the person of Christ is liberating—even (and at times, especially) uncomfortable truth. Thus Christ’s statement in John 8 means that knowing and appropriately sharing the truth about Catholicism’s end-time role (or, for that matter, any truth), when done in the love of Christ, is, on some level, a liberating and freeing experience. This brings us to the next point.

2 Knowing the truth about Catholicism’s end-time role

—as well as other prophetic truths—can bring tremendous freedom. A few years ago I was in Rome, Italy. As part of my travels I visited the scala santa, or holy stairs. I will never forget the sight that greeted our tour group that day.

The stairs are reportedly the same ones that Christ walked up as He went to His trial before Pilate, painstakingly transported from Jerusalem hundreds of years ago to their current site in Rome. As we entered the building containing the stairs, about 15 people were silently ascending them on their knees, saying the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer) and confessing their sins on each stair before moving to the next. A plaque on the wall with text in several languages explained these pilgrims’ behavior. It read in part as follows:

“The following indulgences may be received [that is, for ascending the stairs], in accord with the usual conditions: PLENARY INDULGENCE—on all Fridays of Lent, and once more each year on an occasion of one’s choice. PARTIAL INDULGENCE—on all other days of the year, as long as one is sincerely repentant of one’s sins.”

My Protestant bones couldn’t believe it! What year is this, anyway? I thought. How can such a pitiful scene persist in our day? Isn’t this the very thing that Martin Luther and dozens of other Protestant Reformers fought so hard to overthrow 500 years ago, the same righteousness-by-works slavery they risked (and at times, lost) their lives to remove? Moreover, what kind of monstrous picture of “God” is it that requires sinners to evaluate their salvation by the depth of the calluses on their knees? And how outrageous is it that an organization that commands the devotion of more than 1 billion people reduces the gift of God’s Son to a veritable trinket that must be bought by the actions of one’s body (and on occasion, one’s wallet), rather than “mere” repentance and faith in God?1

Upon further reflection, I had to confess there was little reason for my surprise. You see, as the businessman I mentioned earlier alluded to, the world is filled with compassionate and gracious Catholics (some of whom I was undoubtedly watching that day on those stairs). But the core teachings of the church they reside in are, sadly, a different matter. For while Catholicism’s public face has softened since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, it has never changed its fundamental teachings on salvation—not for Luther, nor for anyone else before or since. The Catholic Catechism and the councils of the church throughout history are instead unanimous in teaching that salvation comes only through the Catholic Church; that believers can receive that salvation only by participating in the sacraments of the church (the Eucharist,2 in particular); and that those believers who refuse this “grace” via these sacraments will suffer eternal damnation—no exceptions.3

Is it any wonder that Jesus’ words “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) have utterly transformed the lives of thousands of Catholics who are now hearty and happy Seventh-day Adventists?

Let it be crystal clear: It is true that some people—be they nonbelievers, Protestants, or, of course, Catholics—are offended by what the Bible teaches about the end-time papal role.4 But that offense pales in comparison to the extreme relief that comes to so many Catholics when they realize for the first time that Jesus died for them personally; that they can go directly to Him without a human intermediary; that they don’t have to earn the love of the Father! And seeing the joy on the face of a prisoner set free ought to give pause to the critic who declares Bible prophecy to be too offensive and embarrassing for public consumption.

3 Jesus is coming.

September 2011 marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Few Americans will ever forget that day—where they were when they first heard the news, the images of the planes striking the towers, the mounting sense of horror and uncertainty. The unthinkable had become reality, and whatever sense of immunity we may have felt to terrorism unraveled into a billion pieces as the World Trade Center cascaded into the streets of lower Manhattan.

But as tragic as the events of that day were, my sense is that something that may prove even more deadly has come about in the 10 years since: Many Adventists have lost their sense of the nearness of Christ’s coming—and with it, their appetite for Bible prophecy.

That sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it—losing confidence in prophecy even as end-time-like events are happening? But nonetheless, as I travel in North America in ministry-related settings, it seems that an increasing swath of Adventism since September 11 is losing its prophetic focus rather than sharpening it. More and more Adventists see prophecy as antagonistic rather than liberating. And yes, some have suppressed public prophecy presentations in part on the grounds that people have enough fear in their post-September 11 lives already. Why burden them with more by studying scary prophetic beasts?

There are many answers that could be given to that question. But for our purposes here, one final response stands out: Being prepared for the end of time and Jesus’ return is far better than not being prepared.

Jesus is still coming back whether we are calm or September 11-nervous! And the only way to be ready for Jesus to come—and to thus delete that nervousness—is to know Jesus, personally and daily. He is our salvation, not Bible prophecy or anything else. And Jesus went through a great deal of effort to provide reams of prophetic insight (e.g., the books of Daniel and Revelation, the writings of Ellen White, etc.) precisely so that people might make that decision to choose Him as their Lord and Savior. In other words, prophecy matters! It matters greatly to God, and it therefore ought to be of everlasting importance to all Christians everywhere! Jesus inspired prophecy to be written, knowing that that prophetic message would provide a quantum leap in helping people be ready for His return.

Furthermore, in the heart of that message—that is, the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, the very message that God has tasked Adventism with sharing with the world—is a warning against counterfeits. So strong is the warning that nothing else in Scripture exceeds its intensity. And in spite of what conservative talk radio may have us believe, the warning is not against making bad financial investments or high unemployment rates or having a weak national defense. It is, instead, a warning against worshipping an end-time beast and receiving his mark—a discussion that is extremely difficult to have without mention of Catholicism and its role at the end of time.

When preparing people for the end of time, Adventists must present Jesus clearly. That is the heart of our mission. And many, many people won’t see Jesus clearly or be ready for His soon return unless the truth about counterfeit forms of salvation and other real issues of the end-time are presented in detail—including, when necessary, details about Catholicism.

A Gift Like No Other

I can readily sympathize with that Adventist businessman and others who get nervous about our prophetic message. At times I still get nervous when I present it, for it remains a difficult topic to convey appropriately. I know that some people, no matter how much I love them and treat them with respect, may be offended by that message. But I keep doing it—carefully, tactfully, yes, but still doing it—because Christ has asked us to, and it has proved so liberating to so many people.

We do live in a post-September 11 world that is more tenuous than ever. But that also means that Jesus is more relevant than ever. “To beast or not to beast?” should thus no longer be a question we approach with irritation or distrust. Instead, let us be tactful, let us be kind, let us be loving—and let us faithfully present Christ with all the prophetic clarity we can muster.

1 Some may point out that the phrase “as long as one is truly repentant of one’s sins” shows that the Catholic Church believes in biblical grace. This would be true but for one stubborn fact: God’s grace in the Catholic understanding is given only after you’ve walked the stairs (or performed some other meritorious action)—not before. This is consistent with the Catholic definition of grace: the unmerited favor of God mediated to the believer through the sacraments of the church. No sacraments, therefore, equals no saving grace—regardless of the sincerity of one’s repentance.

2 The Eucharist is vaguely similar to what Adventists call Communion, or the Lord’s Supper.

3 Some commentators insist that Vatican II fundamentally changed the “exclusivist” view of salvation that Catholicism had held for centuries before. But there are some very well respected theologians who emphatically disagree that any such change occurred—among them Pope Benedict XVI, the current pope. Benedict has made it abundantly clear that Vatican II did not make any changes to the historic Catholic doctrine concerning salvation. See William Cardinal Levada’s “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church,” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican, June 29, 2007, at: Pope Benedict fully ratified Levada’s document (see the closing paragraphs of the above link), and made very similar statements himself in the document Dominus Iesus (, when he previously held Cardinal Levada’s post in the year 2000.

4 However, though it is by no means official dogma of the church, a sizable and growing segment of Catholicism now believes that the end-time antichrist will arise from within the Catholic Church (they say it will be a pope, while Adventism would say it is not a person, but a system of religious belief coupled with political power). Without going into their rationale for this conclusion, suffice it to say that for many Catholics today, Adventist prophetic interpretation is a very welcome elucidating force.

Shane Anderson is senior pastor of the New Market Seventh-day Adventist Church in Virginia. This article was published July 19, 2012.

Source: Copyright © 2013, Adventist Review. All rights reserved worldwide.


With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. 

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Mark 10:17-31