Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Do So Many Muslims Hate Dogs?

From PJMedia, where there is more:
A Muslim taxi-driver in England, one Abandi Kassim, was recently fined for refusing to take on a blind passenger’s seeing-eye dog because, as Kassim claimed: “For me, it’s about my religion.”

There have been many such cases in the U.S., the UK, and Canada of Muslims refusing to pick up fares with seeing-eye dogs. Many of the Somali taxi drivers who made up three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at the Minneapolis airport refused to pick up blind passengers because of their dogs. When forced to do so, some of them simply quit.

In Toronto, a guide dog’s owner was refused taxi service by a Muslim driver. In Saskatchewan, the same problem. In Montreal, in Ottawa, and all across Canada, Muslim drivers have refused service to seeing-eye dogs. In London, in Nottingham, in Reading, and in Tunbridge Wells, taxi drivers have refused service to fares with dogs.

Blind or poorly sighted people with guide dogs have been forced by Muslim bus drivers to get off -- often to calm the hysterical reaction of other Muslim passengers. Much worse, killings of dogs, chiefly by poison, in areas populated mainly by Muslims has been reported in Spain, Sweden, France, and Great Britain.

This Muslim hatred for dogs, as even many non-Muslims now know, has its origin in a celebrated hadith from the most authoritative collection, that by Bukhari:
Once Gabriel promised the Prophet (that he would visit him, but Gabriel did not come) and later on he said, " We, angels, do not enter a house which contains a picture or a dog." (Sahih Bukhari 4.54.50)
Two hadith from Sahih Muslim vividly convey Muhammad’s murderous hatred of dogs:
Abdullah (b. Umar) (Allah be pleased with them) reported: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) ordered the killing of dogs and we would send (men) in Medina and its corners and we did not spare any dog that we did not kill, so much so that we killed the dog that accompanied the wet she-camel belonging to the people of the desert. (Sahih Muslim 3811) 
Ibn Mughaffal reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) ordered killing of the dogs, and then said: “What about them, i. e. about other dogs?” and then granted concession (to keep) the dog for hunting and the dog for (the security) of the herd, and said: "When the dog licks the utensil, wash it seven times, and rub it with earth the eighth time." (Sahih Muslim 551)
Dogs are to be killed, according to Muhammad, with the only exception made for those that are used for hunting or to guard a herd of cattle. But why? And why the mysterious coupling of two disparate items deemed haram: “pictures and dogs”?
Read the rest.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

American pastors are old and getting older

From Baptist News, where there is more:
If you’re noticing a lot of gray in the pulpit at your church these days, you’re not alone. Pastors are getting older.

“The aging of pastors represents a substantial crisis for Protestant churches,” David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said in remarks included with a report titled “The Aging of America’s Pastors,” released Wednesday.

“In fact, there are now more full-time senior pastors who are over the age 65 than under the age of 40,” he said. “It is urgent that denominations, networks and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource and deploy … younger pastors.”

The data on aging is part of a larger study Barna conducted with Pepperdine University. It examined how religious leaders are negotiating the increasing complexity of modern life and ministry. “The State of Pastors” study also looked at shifts in the demographics of faith leaders and at the trends driving those changes.
The findings on age are often dramatic.

In 1992, Barna reported that the median age of pastors was 44. A third of them were under 40 and a quarter was over 55. Only 6 percent were 65 or older.

“Twenty-five years later, the average age is 54,” Barna announced in a summary of the new report published online. “Only one in seven pastors is under 40, and half are over 55.”

And the percentage of faith leaders 65 and older has tripled since 1992, Barna said.

Going back even further, Barna found that 55 percent of all Protestant pastors were 45 or younger in 1968 – “that is, the majority of all church leaders were in their 20s, 30s and early 40s.”

By 2017, only 22 percent are under 45.

The research group cited a number of causes for these trends.

“At the most basic level, people are living longer.”

The average life expectancy for men in 1968 was 66 years old, compared to 76 today, according to the report summary.

The increase in second-career clergy has been another factor – especially in non-mainline and historically black congregations. In other words, many ministers are answering their callings at later ages.

The 2008 economic crisis has also played a part by imploding 401(k) plans and home values. As a result, many older pastors are financially unable to leave their jobs.

“On the other end of the age spectrum, an insufficient number of young would-be pastors is likely a factor, too,” Barna said. “A majority of current pastors say even finding future leaders — much less mentoring them — is a challenge.”

Two-thirds of pastors surveyed said they believe it’s becoming more difficult to identify suitable, younger ministry candidates.

Also, 52 percent of clergy said they believe many young leaders think vocational ministry is less important than other kinds of work.

The report also cautions churches about the possible implications of increasingly older clergy.

“It’s not inherently a problem that there are older pastors in positions of leadership,” Kinnaman said in his published remarks. “In fact, younger generations are often looking for wisdom and leadership from established teachers and leaders.”

But there can be challenges.

“The problem arises when today’s pastors do not represent a healthy mix of young, middle age and older leaders,” he said. “For the Christian community to be at its best, it needs intergenerational leaders to move it forward.”
  Read the rest (with graphics).
  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Terror We Don't Hear About: ISIS Driving Christians Out of Northern Sinai

From here:
The story, painfully old, sounds like a scene from “Anatevka.” Were it not for the geography, century and ethnicity of the protagonists, it might as well be.

“My father is the second name on their list…” said a man huddling with four members of his family at the Evangelical Church in Ismailia.

He and his family are waiting for the kindness of others, hoping to find a place to stay, far from the threat of death that now hangs over his father.

The Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai) terrorist organization, the Sinai branch of Islamic State (ISIS / Da’esh) terrorist group, is driving Egypt’s Christians out of the northern section of the Sinai Peninsula.

Residents of the northern Sinai town of el-Arish told a Reuters reporter on Friday that members of the terrorist group have been circulating “death lists” online, and in the streets. The lists carry a warning to Christians to leave the region, or die.

Many local Christians are taking the hint. But some are just too old to flee, too old to face the hardship that comes with never knowing where your next stop will be. And so they’re staying, knowing they may die.

Church officials have said that of the 160 families in North Sinai, 100 were leaving. More than 200 students fled El-Arish as well.

Since January 30, seven Christians were murdered by members of Wilayat Sinai, including five who were shot and killed, one set afire, and one who was beheaded.

How more ironic can it get, with Passover approaching, that such a horrific tragedy is taking place at this time and in this place, and targeting this population?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Afghan refugees threaten to kill Christian converts in the refugee camps

From here, where there is more:
A recent report explains that the refugees who had converted to Christianity are now facing threats from Afghan refugees.  There have been increased reported incidents of Christian converts facing persecution they face at the hands of Muslims who are targeting converts.


A group of Christians converts living in the refugee camps in Europe told a Christian persecution watchdog that they “fled from the Islamic Republic of Iran because they have been accused of being Christians and, therefore, have repeatedly been threatened by torture, imprisonment and the death penalty.”  They were quoted as saying: “Here, where we have been accommodated presently, we are exposed to the same kinds of threats as before, this time at the hand of Afghan Muslims, and we fear for our lives.”

“The Afghan refugees, call us Iranian Christians ‘apostates’ and ‘infidels’ because of our decision to leave Islam and consider the shedding of our blood as legitimate or even necessary.”  There are reports of the Kurdish church leaders being threatened and warned to leave the refugee group.  The Kurdish pastor who had converted said that he was forced to leave Kurdistan because he received threats from local rebels and the local police.
Read the rest.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Couples are getting divorced over the election of Donald Trump as US President.


Gayle McCormick, 73, decided to split up with her husband of 22 years after he voted for the Republican in last November's presidential election.  He had announced his intentions at a lunch with friends prior to the election.

‘It totally undid me that he could vote for Trump,’ said McCormick, who identifies as a ‘Democrat leaning toward socialist’.  She added: ‘I felt like I had been fooling myself.

‘It opened up areas between us I had not faced before.  I realized how far I had gone in my life to accept things I would have never accepted when I was younger.’

(Click to enlarge) Graph showing Reuters/Ipsos polling results.

Families across the US have been divided by the election according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

The number of respondents who argued with family and friends over politics jumped six percentage points from a pre-election poll in October, up to 39% from 33%.

Many people had also stopped talking to their loved ones after the vote, with 22% of Hillary Clinton fans admitting they had ended communication with a relative or close friend.

‘It’s been pretty rough for me,” said Rob Brunello, a truck driver who voted for Trump.  ‘People couldn’t believe Trump could beat Hillary.  They are having a hard time adjusting to it.’

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom with some respondents saying their relationships had not suffered because of the election.  Around 40% had not argued with a family member or friend over the race.

Friendships were also created with 21% saying they become friends with someone they did not know because of the election.

I would like to remind my Christian friends of the words of Scripture: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2-3).
 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Defector: North Korea is turning against Kim Jong Un


From the New York Post:

The North Korean elite are expressing their discontent toward young leader Kim Jong Un and his government as more outside information trickles into the isolated country, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to London said Wednesday.

Thae Yong Ho defected to South Korea in August last year and since December 2016 has been speaking to media and appearing on television shows to discuss his defection to Seoul and his life as a North Korean envoy.

“When Kim Jong Un first came to power, I was hopeful that he would make reasonable and rational decisions to save North Korea from poverty, but I soon fell into despair watching him purging officials for no proper reasons,” Thae said during his first news conference with foreign media Wednesday.

“Low-level dissent or criticism of the regime, until recently unthinkable, is becoming more frequent,” said Thae, who spoke in fluent, British-accented English.

“We have to spray gasoline on North Korea, and let the North Korean people set fire to it.”

Thae, 54, has said publicly that dissatisfaction with Kim prompted him to flee his post. Two university-age sons living with him and his wife in London also defected with him.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North, which is subject to UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs, regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States.

Thae is the most senior official to have fled North Korea and entered public life in the South since the 1997 defection of Hwang Jang Yop, the brains behind the North’s governing ideology, “Juche,” which combines Marxism and extreme nationalism.

Today’s North Korean system had “nothing to do with true communism,” Thae said, adding that the elite, like himself, had watched with unease as countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union embraced economic and social reforms.

Thae has said more North Korean diplomats are waiting in Europe to defect to South Korea.

North Korea still outwardly professes to maintain a Soviet-style command economy, but for years a thriving network of informal markets and person-to-person trading has become the main source of food and money for ordinary people.

Fully embracing these reforms would end Kim Jong Un’s rule, Thae said. Asked if Kim’s brother, Kim Jong Chol, could run the country instead, Thae remained skeptical.

“Kim Jong Chol has no interest in politics. He is only interested in music,” Thae said.

“He’s only interested in Eric Clapton. If he was a normal man, I’m sure he’d be a very good professional guitarist.”

Of particular concern is Thae Yong Ho's assertion (toward the end of the video) that Kim Jong Un would readily press the nuclear button if he saw his regime threatened.  North Korea already possesses nuclear warheads and is in the process of testing missiles that could soon have the capability of reaching the United States.


[Sorry, the video interview originally posted here no longer exists.]
  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Rise of the 'Nones'? Christianity Shrinking? Not So Fast

At P.J. Media, John Ellis writes about the United Methodist Church's decision to "spend 75 weeks praying about accepting homosexuality."  The whole article is worth a read because it tells what is happening to this once-great tradition of Wesleyan holiness and revivalism.  Of particular interest, though, are these two paragraphs, commenting on the state of western Christianity in general.  The loss of membership in western denominations that one hears to much about isn't as clear as it seems:
Over the last year, non-theists have gloated over numbers that indicate religion's shrinking place among Americans.  While not lying, the numbers don't reveal the whole truth at first blush.  According to the Pew Research Center, evangelicalism in America has remained steady even in the face of a shrinking attachment to Christianity among Americans.  So where is the loss of numbers coming from? Well, mainline/liberal denominations.  In other words, yes, it's true that religion's place in our society is shrinking.  But the religion that's disappearing is a false religion anyway. [Emphasis added.]

Proving Roger Finke and Rodney Stark correct, denominations that have embraced liberal theology are losing members at an alarming rate.  The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops may very well believe that the path to sustained denominational growth is through a continued embrace of liberal theology and progressive ideology, but every indicator points to the reality that their solution is actually an anti-solution.  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
Read the rest.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Obama's Shameful Betrayal of Israel

From PJMedia, where there is more:
To President Obama's legacy of foreign policy debacles, we can now add his landmark betrayal of Israel, carried out Dec. 23rd at the United Nations. By declining to wield the U.S. veto at the Security Council, by choosing instead to abstain -- by Vanishing-from-Behind -- Obama allowed the passage, by a vote of 14 in favor, 1 abstaining, of Resolution 2334. In the guise of condemning Israeli settlements, this resolution is configured to delegitimize and imperil Israel itself, America's longtime ally and the only democracy in the Middle East.

With that signal abstention, Obama abandoned decades of U.S. practice of defending Israel against the bigots and thug governments that routinely sit on the Security Council, including permanent members Russia and China, and their rotating sidekicks, such as Venezuela. As a Wall Street Journal editorial accurately put it, referring to the U.S. abstention: "What it reveals clearly is the Obama administration's animus against the state of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous president has done."
Read the rest.

Friday, December 02, 2016

After 80 Years, Islamist Turkey Again Seizes Hagia Sophia Church for Islam

From the date of its construction in 537 AD, and until 1453, Hagia Sophia [Holy Wisdom] served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople.  The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.  The church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, its patronal feast taking place on 25 December, the commemoration of the birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ.

From PJ Media:
The Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful and well-known buildings in the world -- and Islamists have detested that fact for years.  After all, it is a Christian church, and therefore a Christian symbol.

That's why the Ottoman Turks wasted little time transforming the church into a mosque when they invaded and conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) centuries ago.  Christian symbols and works of art were destroyed or covered, and a dominating tower was built from which the Islamic call to prayer could be sung.

The Ottomans did that because they wanted to show Christians that, from then onwards, Islam was in power.  Christianity would be subjugated.

That changed in the 20th century, when the Ottoman Empire fell and was succeeded by the secular Turkish Republic.  The Hagia Sophia was declared a neutral place for Christians and Muslims (and for people of all other religions).  The church/mosque was made into a museum where everybody was welcome.

Just about everybody was happy with that situation -- except for the remaining Islamists.  Thankfully, fundamentalist Muslims were marginalized in the Turkish Republic.

Sadly, that has all changed under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's current president.

Erdogan is an Islamist who believes that Turkey can only restore its old glory (note: the glory days of the Ottomans) by becoming a truly Islamist nation.  That's why nobody was surprised -- shocked, yes, but not surprised -- when the government announced earlier this year that the Muslim call to prayer would be sung twice a day in the Hagia Sophia from then on.

Christians and others criticized the decision, but Erdogan ignored them.  At best, he and the other members of the government said Christians had nothing to fear.  It was just a call to prayer, twice a day.  What's the problem?

Logically, Christians and other critics of the government had a hard time believing the president.  They feared that this was just the first step in a project to once again Islamize the Hagia Sophia.

This fear has now been validated: last Friday, the Turkish government announced that it had appointed a permanent imam to the Hagia Sophia.

This means that the Islamic call to prayer will now be heard five times a day, instead of two times -- and that it will basically function as any other mosque.

It's a tremendous slap in the face of Turkish Christians, who already are an increasingly beleaguered minority.

Earlier this month, Rev. Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine were arrested for supposedly being "national security threats."  That's an excuse this government always uses to take out those who don't support the president.  Brunson has been arrested because of his work for Christ.

Turkey's Islamist president is on a war path with Christians in Turkey.  Their churches are turned into mosques, their pastors are arrested and deported, and those Christians who remain are constantly forced to look over their shoulder.

Welcome to the New Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where non-Muslims are soon to face the traditional Koranic choice of "convert, submit, or die."

The Christian population of Turkey is evaporating rapidly.  The nation, a NATO member since 1952, experienced a reduction in its Christian population from 20 percent 100 years ago to only 0.2 percent today.

Presumably, the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque means that these precious mosaic icons from the Byzantine Era will once again be plastered over.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed the Conqueror, who ordered this main church of Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque.  The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over.

We need to pray that this marvelous edifice once again becomes a place where Christ is worshipped.
  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro Dead: Nothing Changes

As I have grown older, I have become more pragmatic.  Thirty or forty years ago, I would have taken the time to wax eloquent on the subtle and not so subtle differences between socialism and communism.  Today I am content to say that the only difference between the two seems to be the militancy with which the redistribution of wealth is enforced.

I have always had a sadness in my heart for Cuba.  As a four year old boy I went to Havana with my parents only a couple of months before Castro came to power.  I have always retained vivid memories of my early childhood and the trip to Havana is no exception.  I still remember the beautiful beaches and boulevards, the hotel where we stayed and the restaurants where we ate—and, yes, the casinos (even though my parents didn't take me into the areas where the gambling occurred, I still remember seeing the roulette tables and other games through the open archways).  Cuba before Communism was a playground for those who could afford to play.

It was Christmas 1958, but amid all the celebrating there was a tension in the air.  It was as if wealthy Cubans and American tourists alike realized they were celebrating a last hurrah before a terrible fate befell their world.  Cubans who could afford to were already fleeing the country, and American tourists were saying farewell to a country and a way of life they would not see again.

Tourism and the growing and selling of sugar had been making Cubans rich for decades, but not all Cubans.  What most tourists didn't see, or didn't want to, was the underclass, people who lived in poverty like the macheteros—sugarcane cutters—who worked only during the four month growing season, and the rest of the year were unemployed and angry.  The growing class disparity as well as accusations of corruption in the government of President Fulgencio Batista made the country ripe for a revolution.  A band of guerrillas, led by Fidel Castro, had begun fomenting just such a revolution that would soon bring an end to Havana's high-life.

Born in Birán, Cuba, as the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer (his father owned a 23,000 acre estate), Fidel Castro adopted leftist politics while studying law at the University of Havana.  After participating in rebellions against governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953.

After a year's imprisonment, he traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the "26th of July Movement," with his brother Raúl Castro and revolutionary icon Che Guevara.  Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista's forces.  The Revolution was successful in overthrowing Batista's government in 1959, and Castro assumed military and political power as Cuba's Prime Minister.

A quote that has been variously attributed to Marx, Lenin, or Stalin is "When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use."  I think Castro was surprised that, having taken over Cuba, the United States did not continue to sell (or give) Cuba the rope—or anything else they needed.  The US government stood on principle, something a Communist would not expect a Capitalist to do.

The United States opposed the establishment of what was clearly a Communist dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere and unsuccessfully attempted to remove Castro by assassination, economic blockade, and inciting a counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961.  Countering these threats, Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis—a defining incident of the Cold War—in 1962.  Thus hardened in their respective positions, the US has maintained an embargo on commerce with and travel to Cuba for more than 50 years.

So how have the Cuban people fared during those 50 years?  If George Orwell were still living, he could make a case study out of Cuba.  A revolution supposedly begun to help poor people only made them poorer.  A revolution to free them from oppression has only made them more oppressed.  A revolution in the name of democracy resulted in a dictatorship and family dynasty by one man and his brother for over 50 years.  And it really doesn't matter whether you call it socialism or communism.

Fidel Castro is, at last, dead.  His brother and successor as supreme tyrant, Raúl Castro, announced his death on Friday night, “with a profound pain."  The pain cannot compare with the pain felt by the Cuban people for the past half-century.  The reality is that Fidel Castro presided over the cultural genocide of his own people, employing the firing squad liberally against “counter-revolutionaries;” sending Christians and other undesirables to concentration camps, and pushing still more undesirables out of the country in huge boat lifts, mostly to southern Florida.

President Obama and the "Mainstream" Media are mourning Castro's death—whitewashing his crimes against the Cuban people while having the gall to compare him to George Washington.

"We know that this moment fills Cubans -- in Cuba and in the United States -- with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.  History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," President Obama said in a statement.

ABC's Jim Avila said Castro "was considered, even to this day, the George Washington of his country among those who remain in Cuba."  MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell lavished the evil man with high praise mentioning he "will be revered for education and social services and medical care to all of his people."

President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, called out Castro for who he really was--a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people: "Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights," Trump said in a statement.

Senator Marco Rubio, himself of Cuban descent, took to Twitter with several Tweets: "History will remember Fidel Castro as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery & suffering on his own people."  Rubio also urged Obama to avoid Castro's funeral. 

Following is President-elect Trump's full statement:
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.  Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

"Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.  I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba."
Numerous media outlets have taken note of the stark contrast between Obama and Trump's statements.

President-elect Trump is absolutely correct.  Our sympathies and our prayers should be with the Cuban people who have suffered for decades under the oppressive regime of Fidel Castro and will continue to suffer until true freedom comes to Cuba.