(Centennial Fellow) Some 60% of Coloradans now feel their religious freedom is being threatened by the prevailing political and cultural forces in America over the past 20 years, according to a new survey done by the Centennial Institute.
These fears have intensified with recent events, including the federal government mandate for many religious organizations (who provide health insurance plans) to include contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization coverage for their employees. Hobby Lobby, a Christian-based arts and crafts company, faces a daily $1.2 million fine for non-compliance with the same requirement. Labor unions have been disproportionately granted Obamacare waivers arousing concerns about fairness and religious freedom in the minds of the American public.
The survey also asked whether economic and political rights, religious freedom, or tolerance was the most important value to Coloradans. Over 57% of those surveyed said religious freedom was the most important value, followed by tolerance (25%) and economic/political freedom (17%.) The survey indicated that 66% of Americans identified themselves as Christian (Protestant or Catholic) while 16% identified as "other", 15% of Americans have no religious preference, 2% were Muslims, and 1% were Jewish. Clearly, the issue of religious freedom is on most people’s minds today, irrespective of religious affiliation.
This is a surprising result given the current economic reality in the US where families with 2013 incomes in the top 20 percent of the nation will pay an average of 27.2 percent of their income in federal taxes, among the highest since 1979. In addition, total US debt has risen to over $16.5 trillion (up six trillion dollars in the past four years) while GDP growth has declined to approximately 2% annually. According to the Commerce Department, income tumbled 3.6 percent in January 2013, the largest drop since January 1993.
John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute, stated, "The unemployment rate has not declined since President Obama took office in January 2009 when it was 7.6%. Today it is 7.9%. Economic growth and opportunity have been muted for the past several years, yet despite the economic travails that Americans find themselves in, survey respondents are more concerned about religious freedom than they are about economic and political rights."
Survey results indicate that 44% of Coloradans believe that Islam is a religion of peace, consistent with other religion polling at the national level. The survey reveals that respondents are concerned about a perceived movement from freedom of religion to freedom of worship, where 56% of respondents believe this distinction, made by media and government officials, is an attempt to privatize religion and keep it out of the public square.
Christians should be concerned about these polling results as it reflects increasing concerns about religious freedom, America's first freedom. The movement from "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship" is an attempt to privatize religious expression and remove religion from the public square. As secular interests exert increasing control over the media, education, and government, the freedom of religious expression in the public square will be discouraged. This effort to privatize religious expression is a back-door effort to undermine the constitutional protections guaranteed by our founding fathers. History is replete with examples where strictures upon religious freedom ultimately get expressed through constraints on economic and political freedom.
Founder Benjamin Rush said "Without virtue, there can be no liberty." Samuel Adams, widely recognized as the father of the American revolution, said " “While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”
James Wilson, signer of the Constitution and U. S. Supreme Court Justice, said “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants."
George Washington said "Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.”
And Benjamin Franklin, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, summed it up: “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
It is clear that our founders intended the celebration and protection of religious freedom. Religious freedom is inseperable from political and economic freedom. These freedoms represent a cord of three strands, not easily broken when accompanying each other.
It is also clear that religious freedom is under assault, like never before, by established interests in the media, education, and government spheres. Challenges to economic and political freedom will not be far behind. These polling results done by the Centennial Institute should mobilize those who understand the times in which we live. Religious freedom is a concern to Americans of all religious persuasions.
John Adams said "But a constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. liberty, once lost, is lost forever." It is our individual responsibility to know and protect our constitutional rights.
The survey was conducted for the Centennial Institute by Smart Voice on January 28, 2013 using a statewide sample of 379 respondents who also subscribed to a landline phone.
Economic distress is of pandemic proportions throughout western civilization. Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, and Italy are but a few international examples of countries under great economic distress. The United States, now facing a looming economic crisis of its own, has added over $5 trillion of new debt under the Obama Administration over the past three years, while being downgraded by Standard and Poors for the first time in history. The United States has moved from the top creditor in the world to the top debtor in the world over the past 30 years. The primary reason for the increasing economic distress in America and these other countries is the unwavering commitment to secularism. The belief in state solutions coincides with the abandonment of the Judeo-Christian worldview in western civilization. America had enjoyed the leadership position of being the greatest country in world history because it had elevated freedom and morality in its institutions, society, and government. As America has abandoned its commitment to personal liberty and morality, it has entered a period of moral decay and economic decline. The economics of capitalism and morality, thought by secularists to be handmaidens of imperial oppression, are actually the sine qua non of prosperity, progress, and peace. Moral decay precedes economic decay. Moral decay, left unchecked, leads to the concentration of state power that inevitably ends in either tyranny or collapse. A review of 20th century history speaks volumes about how distributed freedom, based upon a framework of Judeo-Christian morality, offers the single best hope for freedom and prosperity. If the evidence is so clear, why do we see such passion for secularism as the path to progress? Devotion to secularism is rooted in moral relativism. Moral relativism posits that no one is objectively right or wrong and therefore one should tolerate other behaviors, irrespective of aberration. Truth claims are based upon preferences, not reality, and moral authority resides within each individual. It is a moral framework that is self-refuting. One can not consistently be a moral relativist yet complain when their wallet is stolen. This is clearly manifest in the changing of American mores over the past several decades with respect to abortion, gambling, pornography, illegitimacy, divorce, same sex marriage, et. al. If nothing is wrong, all things are permissible. Ethicists call this the "logical slippery slope." There is a concept called "moral velocity", i.e., what is tolerated as unusual today will be widely practiced tomorrow. Civilizations inevitably decline in relation to their moral velocity. Individually, the majority of those who reject faith do so on moral grounds, e.g., they do not want to be accountable to a higher moral authority, i.e., God. Secondly, most secularists adhere to a philosophical construct that posits man is born good, has suffered due to the wrong institutional practices, and can be restored to a utopian state if institutions, i.e., government, can accomplish "heaven on earth." History teaches that totalitarianism begins with the promise of utopianism. Totalitarianism is always realized through the concentrated power of the state. Man has predominantly been ruled throughout history by this concentration of power through tyranny or monarchy. A democracy or republic represent the rare exceptions. America, as a constitutional republic, has been singularly exceptional. Until now, under this current administration. The founding fathers understood that absolute power corrupts absolutely long before Lord Acton gave voice to this truism. This is why they established checks and balances through the three branches of government, a bicameral legislature, shared power between the federal government and the states, the power of veto, and the restraints imposed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They understood, as the Bible taught, that man was not born good when John Adams said “...our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” They also knew that creating obstacles to unilateral change was the key to protecting liberty. Secularism is the worldview that opposes what the founding fathers believed about the nature of man and the purpose of government. The secularist worldview has been on the march throughout recent history due to the writings of people like Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Julius Wellhausen, John Maynard Keynes, John Dewey, and Soren Kierkegaard. Their body of philosophical work from the 19th century found expression in the actions of 20th century secularists such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history with over 174 million killed through democide (death by government). (1) The full fruit of secularism is a horror to behold. Secularism was considered a religion by the U.S. Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins when it stated "...among the religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others." The American Humanist Association secured an IRS religious tax exemption. (2) “[Secularism] is a philosophical, religious, and moral point of view.” (3) Secularism is a religion where man reigns supreme. Unfortunately, history teaches us that man repeatedly fails to govern himself. It is when Judeo-Christian principles, a constitutional republic, and free market capitalism are joined together as the three pillars of strength that civilization flourishes as it has in the United States. Why do secularists turn from a winning formula? The secularist worldview is based upon atheism, moral relativism, government interventionism, scientific naturalism, evolution, and legal positivism. This explains why secularists support the changing of the U.S. Constitution, the changing of marriage laws to support gay marriage, the changing of capitalism to support social justice, the changing of education to require teaching macro-evolution as fact, the changing of U.S. sovereignty to embrace international consensus, and so on. This is the change that secularists adumbrated in the campaign before 2008, attempted to over-reach in their execution post election, and now divide Americans against each other in an effort to perpetuate their power. Many adherents to the Judeo-Christian worldview are now waking up to the language of deconstructionism (words mean whatever the reader wants them to mean). Change has simply meant the abandonment of Judeo-Christian principles, the restriction of free market capitalism, and the abrogation of the constitutional republic. Has discernment arrived too late to reverse course? Recent elections in France, Greece, and Germany suggest that those secularized countries, reluctant to reverse their course, will no longer support austerity measures imposed by the morality of rational economic thought. Like the Euro zone (the most secular geography on the planet) America is now entering a period of great economic risk. Some of America's largest and most secular states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon) have some of the lowest financial ratings by Standard and Poors, often due to bloated government payrolls, excessive union obligations, inability to control spending, and an emphasis on state provided solutions. California currently faces a $16 billion deficit yet has some of the highest tax rates in the country.(4) It is not a tax problem. It is a spending problem. It is a problem from following a secular worldview. The relationship between the addiction to state solutions and economic decline is irrefutable. Secularism promises hope and change but delivers widespread misery. It promises moral freedom but ultimately delivers economic bondage. Europe is learning slowly. Will America demonstrate it has learned the history of secularism? Vote against Barack Obama and the interests of secularism this November. The future of our republic depends on it. ------------- Footnotes
3. Humanist Manifesto I and II. Preamble.
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This article will look at four questions: Why are the names Allah and Jehovah beginning to be used interchangeably by some Christians in this country? Why are those two deities not the same God at all? Why does it matter? What can be done? Footnotes are provided at the end to document the argument and conclusions on this vital distinction.
Many Arab Christians in America are now referring to Jehovah, the God of the Bible, as "Allah." Using the same name for different gods serves the objectives of the interfaith movement which is focused on political correctness and the unity of a one world religion. This lapse in linguistic rigor has helped contribute to the fact that 40% of evangelical Christians now believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. (1)
A partial Arabic translation of the Bible, for liturgical purposes, is often traced back to the 8th century A.D.(2) (after Mohammed established the regional presence of Islam) but no definite evidence exists on the date of those liturgical verse translations. The entire Bible was not translated into Arabic until the 19th century by British missionaries to complete the few verses that had been translated into Arabic for liturgical purposes earlier. (3)
We know that post-Islamic missionaries (from Great Britain, etc.) came to the Middle East after Arabic Bible translations were completed but they were reluctant to evangelize under the name of Jehovah because they feared Islamic reprisal due to Mohammed's history of violence and conquest. (4) British missionaries came to the Middle East when Muslims ruled the land. They had to appease the political rulers and used the name "Allah" in an attempt to avoid violence. The Christian Arabs typically used "al-Rub" not "Allah" before that time. (5)
It's important to understand that the name of Allah originated in polytheism and long before Islam ever arose. Mohammed was born in 570 and began preaching about his new religion of Islam (with Allah as its god) around 610. He gained 150 converts in his first 13 years of evangelism in Mecca and then went to Medina where he pursued physical, or combat, jihad while acquiring 100,000 converts up until his death in 632 A.D. using the name of Allah. (6) However, the god name Allah had existed several centuries before Mohammed co-opted it as the god of Islam. Allah was a truncated form of Al-Ilah, one of the 360 pagan deities worshipped by the nomadic pagan and polytheistic Arabs at the Kaaba in Mecca before, during, and after the time of Christ. (7) Mohammed's father was also named Abdullah (meaning "slave of Allah".) A tribe of Jews was called Abdullah bin Salam in the Bukhari Hadith. (8)
The Christian church exploded in growth in the first century A.D. Christian missionaries came through the Middle East/Africa regions in the late 2nd century and, in an effort to evangelize the polytheistic Arabs, sought a way to get these Arabs to understand the one true God of Jehovah. The missionaries may have used the name "Al-Ilah" (understood by the polytheistic Arabs as the one god higher than the other 359) in an effort to evangelize the Arabs at that time. Although we do not have archaeological, manuscript, inscription, mural, sermon, theological writings, or similar evidence of Christian missionaries using Al-Ilah as a reference to Jehovah in pre-Islamic history, many speculate that Arab Christians in pre-Islamic history used Allah as a reference to Jehovah. (9) If true, Christian missionaries, through lack of discernment, might have used Al-Ilah, a god that the polytheistic Arabs were familiar with as being the supreme god of the 360 gods worshipped by polytheistic Arabs at Mecca and throughout the region as an evangelical tool.
As Arabs converted to Christianity, some may have referred to Jehovah as Allah while the pagan Arabs referred to Allah as one of the 360 gods worshipped by the polytheistic Arab community. This concession to naming expediency on the part of Christian missionaries to reach polytheistic Arabs may have started the problem that we find today with two groups (Arab Christians and Muslims) using the same name of Allah to refer to two different gods. Al-Ilah was shortened to Allah. The problem is that the missionaries may have conflated two gods into one name in their zeal for evangelism. Some of these early Arab converts, e.g., Ghassanids, Lakhmids, Banu Judham, and Hamadan, etc. may have begun calling Jehovah "Allah" post 300 A.D., and 300 years before Mohammed created the Islamic "Allah." Mohammed used "Allah" as the means to bring Arabs out of polytheism and into Islam. The Jews and Christians of that time rejected his teaching as false (they were also familiar with the Al-Ilah becoming Allah) and Mohammed ultimately became a physical jihadist to compel conversion. Forced conversions to Islam (and Allah) continue to this very day. Unlike Islam, Christianity (as taught from the Bible) does not condone forced conversions. These are two very different religions with two very different gods. It makes no logical or theological sense to have these two different gods share the same name.
Here's why this matters so much: The contemporary problem is that some places (Mauritania) still use Allah as a reference to Jehovah while others (Mali) culturally reject that notion. (10) Riots erupted in Malaysia when some Christians used the name Allah to refer to Jehovah. (11) This is now becoming a problem in the United States as Arab Christians, among others, come to America and call Jehovah "Allah." Our culture, unfamiliar with this history, is ill equipped to reconcile this naming aberration. Consequently, we are seeing Christians say that they worship the same God as Islam. Sadly, this may have started with over-zealous Christian missionaries in the 2nd and 3rd centuries who chose a naming expediency in their efforts to lead polytheists into monotheism.
There is ambiguity among Muslims with respect to the Allah naming convention because Allah is the name of their God, and it, through colloquial use, is becoming a generic name for God. However, this contradiction confounds the Muslim when encountering other religions such as Hinduism, a polytheistic religion of 900 million adherents. (12) "When asked, does Hinduism have thousands of Allahs, Muslims say no, because there is just one Allah. The Muslim response is that Hindus worship idols." (13)
The lack of discernment in pre-Islamic evangelism and the lack of courage in post-Islamic evangelism on the part of Christian missionaries has corrupted the use of Allah as a name for Jehovah. Further, there is an interfaith effort (of questionable theological origins) called Chrislam that seeks to bring these two disparate faiths together. This constitutes heresy as Islam rejects Jesus as God and Savior while Christianity rejects the Allah of Islam as a means to salvation outside of Jesus Christ.
The Allah of Islam has 99 names, only one of which includes love, the primary character attribute of Jehovah, God of the Bible. (14) An extreme example illustrates the point of having one name for two different persons. Imagine naming a child Adolf Hitler in a remote tribal region yet when he grows up to be an international businessman, he finds social outrage when conducting business in the West. Those familiar with the German tyrant would see this as a horrendous offense to society while those who were ignorant of who Hitler was would be indifferent to such a naming convention. This, in an overly dramatic way, resembles the challenge to Christians who neither understand the origins of the name Allah in polytheistic Arab culture nor the co-option of the name Allah by Mohammed in promoting Islam.
What then can be done? The failure of discernment on the part of pre-Islamic Christian missionaries in the Middle East and the lack of courage (or fidelity to truth) on the part of post-Islamic Christian missionaries in the Middle East has contributed to the current problem of one name (Allah) being used to represent two different gods. American Christians today should be understanding of the global cultural confusion regarding the use of Allah for Jehovah but discourage the use of Allah for Jehovah by Arab Christians, and others, in the United States.
These two monotheistic faiths make separate and conflicting truth claims regarding salvation for eternity. Those that use the same name for the different gods of these two faiths serve the interests of ignorance, deception, or error. Discerning Christians and Muslims already acknowledge the differences in faith, the differences in the gods they serve, and the differences in the names of those gods. It is now the task for followers of each respective faith to preserve those differences in the public arena without succumbing to the political correctness of the interfaith movement while retaining a civil discourse and respecting the sincerity of each others faith.
Accepting the same name for two different gods as part of "political correctness" accelerates the onset of Chrislam efforts, increases the likelihood of apostasy, ignores the historical truth, and denies the reality of the two largest religions asserting competing truth claims. It appears that Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation, was prophetic when he said "It is better to be divided by truth than united in error."
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3. Correspondence with Robert Morey, Ph.D. May 11. 2012
5. Correspondence with Robert Morey, Ph.D. May 11. 2012
6. Correspondence with Bill Warner May 21, 2011
7. Winning the War with Radical Islam. Robert Morey Ph.D. Christian Scholar Press 2002 p.14.
8. Bukari Hadith vol.5 book 59 ch.13 no.362 p.241
9. Correspondence with Craig Blomberg, Ph.D. May 8, 2012
13. Correspondence with Messianic Rabbi R. Drebenshedt May 11. 2012
('76 Contributor) This evening, for the second time in a decade, I decided to add some of my own thoughts to our family's Seder. I love to hear myself talk of course, but I’m completely unqualified for actual sermonizing. Believe me, it’s a bit of a relief not to have a rabbi as a guest this year. But I do follow the news occasionally (ok, compulsively) and that made me feel a few additions were called for.I gave my additions after we shared–abbreviated for the kids’ benefit – the story of Passover, how the Jews were enslaved in Egypt and how G-d came to our aid -- a story which is, of course, is about freedom -- and before we came to the portion of the Seder involving the three matzos on the table.
I began by asking: Why are there three? One is are that there are three kinds of people – those who are unfree, those who don’t care about the freedom of others , and those who are free and work to help others become free.We are fortunate to live in a country where, for all our domestic political squabbling, freedom is still a central value. For the Jewish people as a whole, we are able to count on the State of Israel as a beacon of freedom – sometimes the only safe haven for Jews in lands that oppress them. And because of the shared centrality of liberty, Israel is America in the Middle East.Just as in the time of Moses and Pharaoh, there are many who don’t want the Jews to be free. With respect to Israel, the first approach was military. Israel has survived existential attacks including the Sinai War in 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.Next came terrorism. Nine years ago, as part of the second Intifada, Hamas launched a brutal attack at Netanya on a Passover Seder much like this one – a peaceful gathering of friends and loved ones – killing 30 people and injuring 140 others. And if something in my remarks makes you angry let it be this: Not even three weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority celebrated the attacks and awarded the family of mastermind Abbas Al-Sayed an official, festive plaque celebrating the anniversary of the attacks. Of course, terrorism is ongoing. Eleven days ago an Israeli school bus was shot with an anti-tank missile, and a month ago an Israeli family including a baby and two small children was brutally stabbed to death as they slept in a West Bank settlement.But what I want to talk about today is delegitimization. Delegitimization is the organized –and you’d better believe it is organized – effort to undermine the moral standing of Jews and of Israel – including especially Israel’s right to exist, its right to exist as a Jewish state, and its right to defend itself and its citizens. Golda Mier famously said, “Better a bad press than a good epitaph,” but today, survival as a member of the global community depends upon the acceptance of the global community.Of course, delegitimization is nothing new – in 1975, the UN passed an abominable resolution declaring that Zionism is racism. But in recent years it has moved from a fringe tactic to a mainstream strategy. Some of it is petty – like anti-Israel students at Columbia protesting the presence of Israeli hummus in the cafeteria. Much of it is small scale – a campaign by the anti-war group Code Pink to boycott Ahava skincare products because they are made on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank – but clearly exhibit the double standard inherent in delegitimization – do CodePink’s leaders seriously believe it is a human rights violation to respond militarily to thousands of rockets being fired at civilians? Would they feel the same way if Vancouver were shelling Seattle? Of course not, but somehow defending Jewish lives is less worthy.Twenty-first century delegitimization can be deadly serious. Isn’t it something new and frightening when the government of Turkey supports the dispatch of a flotilla of armed radical Islamist fighters, some seeking martyrdom, with cargo to Hamas in Gaza with the purpose of providing a confrontation with Israel and calls it “humanitarian”?And of course I want to talk today about the Goldstone Report. This was the document produced by the so-called United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. I say “so-called” because there was very little actual fact finding. Taking you back, from 2005 through 2008, Palestinian – mostly Hamas – forces in Gaza had fired about 3,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel. At the end of 2009, Hamas launched “Operation Oil Stain,” firing 87 mortar shells, Katyusha and Qassam rockets at Israel in a single day. The next day, then prime minister Ehud Olmert went on al-Aribiya television giving a final warning to Hamas to stop the shelling – this warning was answered with more Qassam rocket fire. The Israeli military then initiated Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza, hoping to put an end to Hamas’ attacks on Israel’s innocent citizens. After the end of hostilities, the UN Human Rights Commission – consisting of such even-handed pillars of human rights as Pakistan, Cuba, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, decided to “investigate” the conflict. The truth of Israel’s conduct of its military operation, and I’m quoting here directly from the former head of British Forces in Afghanistan, is this: “During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population. The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.” Perhaps no one should have been surprised, but the UN report, which came to be known as the Goldstone Report after the judge who led the team, had a different finding. It was nothing short of a blood libel: that Israel specifically and purposefully targeted civilians for military strikes as a matter of policy. Of course, that conclusion was false. In fact, two weeks ago, Judge Goldstone himself retracted his finding that Israel targeted civilians. But the damage is done. The report shocked the world, and led many governments to take specific anti-Israel actions undermining Israel’s legitimate sovereign rights. These bodies included the governments of the European Union, France, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, China, Nigeria. Global NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch used the report as an excuse to ramp up their criticism of Israel. The damage to Israel’s legitimacy is incalculable, and Hamas and other terrorists and enemies of freedom have pointed to the Goldstone report time and again to incite or justify violence. And, while the accusations bear the full imprimatur of the United Nations, the recanting was accomplished with nothing more than an op-ed in the Washington Post. Indeed, the UN human rights council spokesman said, "the UN will not revoke a report on the basis of an article in a newspaper.”A great president once said, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” - - and that was never more true than today for the Jewish people. We must be the people of the third matzo – those who work for the freedom of others.YES – it matters that Columbia students have the choice to eat Israeli hummus. YES – it matters that Jews in the West bank be free to sell skincare products.BUT YES YES YES –it matters that there is no moral equivalence between disciplined, restrained self defense and the brutal murder of infants asleep in their beds or children riding on school buses. According to Isaiah, “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me!” But my answer is, send all of us. All I ask of you is to speak up. Don’t let these dangerous, bigoted strategic slurs go unanswered. Use your voice. Say something. Be firm. Be loud. The freedom of the next generation depends upon it.
(CCU Student) Recently, I was able to attend the first public showing of “I Am”, a documentary film directed, conceived and funded by Tom Shadyac. Mr. Shadyac was able to fund his film through his enormous success in directing blockbuster comedies such as; “Ace Ventura”, “The Nutty Professor” and “Bruce Almighty”. The screening was shown at Denver University (free to all Colorado students) complete with a Q/A session with Tom Shadyac himself.
What made a successful director choose such different and dangerous production? After a serious concussion, leading to severe bouts of depression and detachment, Tom Shadyac has decided to pursue a different type of film. “I Am” is attempting to answer two questions, “What is wrong with our world? What can we do to fix it?” In solving these mysteries Shadyac employs the wisdom of scientists, academics and historians. The result is a documentary spliced with beautiful scenery, inspiring scientific research, apolitical & political arguments and quotes of Jesus Christ and Gandhi lumped together.
The danger of this film comes from the base concept which Shadyac subscribes to… ‘We are perfectible; if every person just gets on board with an idea we can end humanities struggles and pains.’ As a Christian this concept is very dangerous. I understand that we are fallen beings. We are destined to fail. But does this mean any attempt to improve the world is to be rejected? No. We are to do the best that we can on this earth with the understanding that any good we do, of our own creation, is not impermeable. The only lasting deeds are those that are of Christ.
What I fear of Shadyac’s mantra is that it more proficiently steers people away from Christ’s redemption than calls to immorality and depravity. “I Am” and it’s ideologies fit perfectly in our world. If one were to full heartedly subscribe to Shadyac’s progressive call to action, one will never be discouraged by the continued imperfections of the world do to sin, rather one will blame them on the fact that not everyone “gets it” as they do.
Now to be fair, Shadyac is very sober and has a greater understanding of the world than much of his future audience, who will undoubtedly embrace his movie as the new ultimate blueprint for humanity. Shadyac is very introspective, and his movement does focus on individual deeds, resistant of government intervention. However, having gone to the screening, I was able to witness how quickly the audience at Denver University brushed over that point and persisted in asking how they could start getting everyone else to do this, and how to change everyone else, not for a moment assessing their own righteousness.
The company Shadyac employs in his pursuit of a perfect world is also worth noting. Noam Chomsky, a true source of wisdom in this film; a man who claimed that Communist leader Mao did not really mean to kill any of the 76+ million Chinese that died under his reign.(Rummel) Shadyac also turns to Howard Zinn, a documented communist. Zinn, despite being widely discredited and having stated in his celebrated book that,
“if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity”
Howard Zinn is shown in this movie as a Historian who knows best. Shadyac rounds off his ‘unbiased’ political perspective with the liberal/progressive talk show host, Thom Hartmann.
The world is not what God intended for it to be. Instead of a place for Him to walk with man, sin has corrupted all of the earth. To ignore the inherent nature of our sin and envision a utopian way of human existence void of God is quite reckless. An attempt to create a “heaven on earth” by ignoring our nature of sin is a clear subtraction from the glory and salvation that we all need so desperately. “I Am” makes a nearly convincing proposal for actually obtaining that utopia. That is what makes this film the most dangerous fill of the year.
** Zinn, A People's History of the United States, p. 646
** Rummel, R.J. "DEATH BY GOVERNMENT: GENOCIDE AND MASS MURDER." University of Hawaii. 1994. Web. 09 Feb. 2011. <http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM>
If you've somehow been in a Rip Van Winkle sleep and have awakened without knowing what season it is, you might catch on by seeing how niceness is suddenly directing traffic or how smiles surround us wherever we go. (Centennial Fellow) While making my way through a traffic jam the other day, I could not help being impressed by the various driver courtesies. Later, I encountered great gobs of gladness while poking around in a shopping mall. Then, on returning home and scouting out news on the Internet, I bumped into three tales of a giving spree. The stories were about red kettles, the Salvation Army donation containers you see in front of stores with a volunteer ringing a bell or maybe, like a sight I witnessed the other day, a bunch of happy little girls singing carols. In Louisville, Ky., it's reported, someone dropped a South African Krugerrand worth $1,400 in one red kettle. In Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., the anonymous kettle gift came in the form of cashier checks. The amount was $5,500. It was cashier checks again in Joplin, Mo. There were five, wrapped in $1 bills and signed by Santa Claus. They added up to $100,000. A literary character named Fred, nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," tells his uncle what underlies such acts, saying that Christmas is "a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." Scrooge, we all know, is a bah, humbug kind of guy and isn't buying any, but then come the visiting ghosts, including that of Jacob Marley, his regretful, dejected, deceased former partner. Trying to buck him up, one online discussion of the story reminds us, Scrooge says to the old fellow that he was after all good at business. The death-refashioned Marley responds with Dickensian eloquence.
"Mankind was my business," he cries.. "The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" We all feel that way, don't we, that goodness to others is our business? You don't think so? Adam Smith, who wrote famously, powerfully and lastingly in the 18th century about the power of self-interest to benefit the common welfare in economic affairs, also wrote persuasively and importantly about sympathy for our fellow human beings as a virtually universal sentiment crucial to and forming the core of our morality. We want others to be happy, he says. James Q. Wilson, a superb social scientist of our own era, explores aspects of the idea in "The Moral Sense," arguing that sympathy is a key element in our moral apprehensions, serving as a powerful motivator in some instances, though weak or even absent in others. For most of us, I am convinced, it definitely is there. It is evident as one example in charitable giving that is higher per capita in American than anyplace else in the world, that has been picking up this year after a recessionary decline and that is especially pronounced during this special holy day season. Even many outside the Christian faith seem to find themselves moved by the story of amazing grace and a humble birth that would bring vast new, loving possibilities into our lives. And with visions of doing unto others dancing in their heads, great numbers slow down in traffic so someone in front of them can change lanes, or drop a few dollars or even many thousands in a red kettle somewhere, scuttling through anonymity any accusation of merely seeking praise. Bah, humbug? No. Joy to the world. Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."
Those words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian prisoner and eventual martyr in Hitler's Germany, were the concluding line in remarks at a world religions panel on Dec. 10 by Ryan Murphy, CCU Assistant Professor of Christian Thought.
Addressing a convocation of faculty and staff two weeks before Christmas, Murphy pointed out that Advent is unique for the same reason Christianity itself is. His talk began this way:
One question we were each asked to address was: “What is the most serious misunderstanding of you by outsiders?” It would have to be that Christianity is yet another variant of religion....
Why? Because in Christianity we have a fundamentally different assessment of the human condition. That’s what sets Christianity apart. The assessment is not that vice is ignorance (as per the classical conception, Plato, etc.); it is not that we have corrupted our revelation, lost knowledge of God, and we required simply a better prophet, a more sound revelation, as per Islam, or Joseph Smith).
What’s unique, is that Christianity posits that humankind is unable to bridge the gap between ourselves and God – not just ignorant of how, in which case further instruction would be necessary; Not just unwilling, in which case a helpful example would be called for. Unable. In which case, if this gap is to be bridged, it will be bridged by God himself. This is Anselm’s conviction – Man owes a debt he cannot pay, God wishes to pay a debt he does not owe – the elegant divine solution? The God-Man. God incarnate in the person of Christ, reconciling the world to himself.
Read the full text here. Ryan Murphy - This I Believe - 121010 And have a blessed Christmas, a liberating time in the highest and holiest sense of that word, a passage through that door of ultimate freedom of which Bonhoeffer wrote and Murphy spoke.
Friday, 10 December 2010 13:48 by Admin
Centennial Institute assisted Bill Armstrong, president of Colorado Christian University, in presenting a world religions panel for a half-day workshop of all CCU faculty and staff at the Lakewood campus on Friday, Dec. 10. With a theme of "This I Believe," thought-leaders of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and atheism offered summations of their faith and sparred amicably with each other in response to audience questions.
The panel was one in a series of CCU Strategic Objectives Workshops, designed to help everyone in the community stay on track with the institution's 13 core values, spelled out here. John Andrews, Centennial Institute director, said that three of those in particular would be served by the Dec. 10 program, including:
* Be seekers of truth
* Honor Christ and share the love of Christ on campus and around the world;
* Teach students to trust the Bible, live holy lives, and be evangelists. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sid Buzzell, Dean of the CCU School of Theology. The panelists were Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, editor of the Intermountain Jewish News; Ryan Murphy, CCU Assistant Professor of Christian Thought; Imam Karim Abuzaid of the Colorado Muslim Society; and Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. For the opening round of comments, each panelist was asked to address some or all of the following questions: 1- What core beliefs define your overall faith or worldview?
2- What variations of belief characterize the major subgroups?
3- What is the most serious misunderstanding of you by outsiders?
4- What collective self-criticism could be made by you and fellow believers?
5- What is the most important ongoing contribution of your belief system to mankind's wellbeing?
6- Is your belief system more in coexistence, competition, or conflict with other systems?
Ryan Murphy's position statement comparing and contrasting Christianity with the other three belief systems will be posted here in full, next week. A complete video record of the program will be up on CCU.edu in January 2011.
Below: CCU's Murphy, atheist Barker, and Rabbi Goldberg listen as Imam Abuzaid states, "We eagerly await the second coming of Jesus, who will return as a Muslim."
(CCU Faculty) In a speech on Nov. 7 during his recent trip India, President Obama stated: “The phrase jihad has a lot of meaning within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations, but I will say that first Islam is one of the world's great religions. More than a billion people practice Islam and an overwhelming majority view their obligations to a religion that reaffirms peace, fairness, tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion, in the hands of a few extremists, has been distorted by violence.”
President Obama’s assertion that Islam is a great religion demands further consideration. Most importantly, what makes a religion “great”? Before turning to that specific question, two caveats: first, President Obama delivered his speech just a few days before moving on to Indonesia, a Muslim nation. In the political context, he may very well have simply been making an overture to the next stop on his Asia trip. Second, this is not meant as a partisan questioning of Obama. In a speech on September 17, 2001, President Bush stated: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” A few days later, in a meeting with American Muslim leaders, Bush stated that “the teachings of Islam are the teachings of peace and good."
Let’s return to our central question: what are the qualities of a “great” religion? There are two approaches to this question: one from a Christian perspective and the other from a political one.
First, consider the Christian approach to this. Christian faith teaches that there is only one way to salvation and eternal connection to God: a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Any religion that teaches otherwise is false. Can a Christian recognize another religion as “great”? If the followers of other religions are destined to eternity in hell and permanent separation from God, then the answer is obviously no.
The second, geo-political, approach to considering whether Islam is great is a bit more complicated. It is estimated that there are over between ¾ and 1 ½ billion Muslims in the world. If we were to measure greatness based solely on numbers, then with approximately 20% of the world’s population, Islam would be considered a “great” religion. However, if we are simply using popularity as our standard, then we can agree that “popular” does not always coincide with “right” or “great”.
If we look at the countries who have Islam as the official religion and those that are governed by Islamic rulers, there are approximately 25 countries. When we add to that number those countries where Islam is the predominant religion, the number rises to 47. Again, this suggests that Islam is indeed popular and influential in many countries. But does popularity and influence translate into right and great?
Does size and influence equate with greatness? While it certainly does make the religion impactful, we obviously need to measure the impact to determine greatness. No American can deny that racism was a widely held belief in American history, and that the racism that existed was significantly impactful on American culture. However, we would certainly not describe it as “great”.
Finally, we must consider what some of the political mandates of Islam and Sharia are so that we can better judge the impact. The list of Muslim political mandates is often quite disturbing, including: the second class citizenship of non-believers, women and homosexuals; a Fatwa against Salman Rushdie and of cartoonists who dare to draw Mohammad; the harboring, encouraging and sanctioning of violent terrorist attacks against innocent civilians; etc. A study done by the Pew Research Center in 2005 of Muslims around the world found widespread support for terrorism and of Osama bin Laden. For instance, Muslims in Jordan, Indonesia and Pakistan supported suicide bombings and violence against civilians at a rate of 57%, 15% and 25%, respectively. For the same countries, confidence in bin Laden was 61%, 36% and 52%. Does this behavior translate to a “great” religion?
Not only is Islam associated with great wrongs, but the accomplishments of the faith also need to be questioned. James 1:27 states: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Are the deeds of Islam “great”? When horrible natural disasters occur around the world, is Islam the first to respond? When terror reigns, do they condemn? When women are oppressed, do they step in and stop? When people of other faiths dare to worship their God, do they fight for this right?
President Obama owes the public an explanation of exactly what it is that makes Islam “great”.
If Scripture is authoritative, it should guide not only religion on Sundays, but politics, economics, and academics the other six days of the week. That's the premise of the Saint Louis Statement, a position paper issued by some friends of mine.
They were concerned about the many Christian schools and churches that buy into relativist, collectivist, and leftist ideas in disregard of biblical teachings to the contrary. We can all think of examples. (Colorado Christian University, sponsor of this blog, thankfully is not one of them; not in the least.)
The statement, entitled "The Bible, the Republic, the Economy, and the Academy," is posted here. Those of us already listed as signers welcome comments and discussion, as well as anyone wishing to add his or her signature.