What is a family?

THERE are those who see techniques such as in vitro fertilisation as the first step on a slippery slope to the Brave New World.
Some believe the issue of IVF treatment for anyone outside the traditional family throws the whole nature of family into doubt.
The family, according to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”.
But does the definition preclude a homosexual couple or a single person raising a child created through reproductive technology?
The nuclear family is far from a recent western European invention. The unit of intimate partners, often with children, has been the core of virtually all societies. But same-sex couples, and single women who want children are also social realities.
Homosexuality was condemned by both Christianity and the ancient Greek philosophers.
Although the philosopher Plato was supposedly homosexual, he argued that, since neither animals nor birds indulge in it, nor should humans.
But he also regarded monogamous marriage, with parental responsibilities, as a threat to social solidarity. He recommended instead that wives and children be shared in common.
According to Plato’s philosophy, the basic laws of the universe were timeless and simple. Parenting was a community matter, not confined to parents.
Science has made parenting possible, in theory, for everyone.
But what is the authority of science? Is it the best type of knowledge we possess, or just the most influential?
Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Man is condemned to be free”. On the other hand, our freedom obliges us to make something of ourselves; to live authentically or truely. Life is not a technical or mechanical process. There is a far deeper reality to existence.
The vital ingredient — the essence of us — seems to be that mysterious element called soul. It distinguishes us from all other beings on the planet.
Benedict De Spinoza argued that, with our souls, we should see everything from the perspective of eternity. He influenced John Locke, who in turn argued that subjugation of people on sexual grounds was invalid.
Many of those who philosophically followed — including Voltaire, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard — questioned the standard definitions of family.
The Moral Majorities of the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries were pretty clear that families entailed a male and female parent and at least a couple of kids. Child-rearing was considered tough but necessary and rewarding work.
The Techno Age radically altered our lives, allowed us to die more slowly, possibly surrounded by machines rather than family and friends, and threw up great ethical dilemmas.
N OW we have the age of ethical debate. Some scientists claim human cloning is achievable with relative ease. The spiritual and ethical implications are challenging.
So are the questions surrounding IVF availability outside traditional relationships.
First we have to define what family really means.
Single parent families are prevalent, divorce is common, many parents avoid marriage, a significant number of marriages have no children, and many lesbians and gay men establish long-term and committed relationships.
We know the traditional family is not always a haven from the perils of the world, but is sometimes a site of violence, exploitation and danger, especially for women and children.
American minister Mark Kowalewski and religious scholar Elizabeth Say examined the up and down sides of homosexual relationships in the book Gay,Lesbians and Family Values.
They concluded that many couples had constructed pluralistic family values filled with love, care and humor despite “virulent bigotry and ignorance of extremists who claimed restrictive values of family”.

Fear is an unworthy belief system

WHAT are you really afraid of?

The Roman philosopher Petronius concluded 2000 years ago that “fear created the gods”.

Petronius said fear of unknown powers, mysterious events, hunger and especially eventual death were natural horrors to man.

God was created, he said, to overcome the environmental and psychological obstacles over which man felt he had no control.

Science has managed to some extent to narrow the circle of unexplained phenomena. But fear still governs many lives.

There is much fear of random violence, nuclear war and road rage. And psychologists have coined a new word – AtmosFear – to describe the widely held belief the world’s supply of good food, water and air is about to run out.

Collectively, we are afraid of almost everything. Instead of natural harmony, we see disorder, chaos and extinction.

Social researcher Faith Popcorn, according to the Los Angeles Times, that companies should take advantage of social fears.

She advised airlines, for instance, to list the training and experience of their flight crews in transit lounges. Reassurance would lead to
greater sales, she said.

Religion has often not been the antidote to fear. Indeed, too many churches have consciously and unconsciously, verbally and non-verbally, taught fear of damnation, fear of nature (particularly our own), fear of our bodies, fear of others and fear of the world.

Religions built on fear must keep preaching their fears to survive. They do injustice to the mystery of faith.
Because of this many people believe that traditional Western religions are inadequate to adult spiritual needs.

It has driven many to seek solace in ridiculous pseudo-sciences. Nervously clutching crystals and consulting horoscopes, they slide back into superstition and, sadly, greater fear.

It is hard to learn wisdom when you lack a basic trust in a loving creator.

It should not be this way.

We learn to trust as children. But bad parenting, or bad experiences, can destroy the concept.
Then it is a matter of being healed to regain faith. This reconciliation ought to be a function of religion. It probably once was.

Pisteuin, the original Greek word most often used by Jesus in the New Testament to convey “faith”, also means “trust”.

He said faith, or trust, had the power to heal the sick; even to move mountains.

Augustine later understood faith as “intellectual assent”. Trust in one’s own existence, he said, was the basic meaning of faith.

The early Hebrews had a passion and reverence for the process of change. They believed the natural changes that embrace us all – including the birth to death process – should be embraced, not feared.

Death was seen, not as the natural consequence of Original Sin, but as the final expansive explosion of our being on the planet.
“We are of God and that is enough to know for us to live in peace,” is an old Jewish saying that sums up the philosophy.

Release from the fears is seen by most psychologists as the key to better relationships.

The great German writer Goethe saw the value of self-trust and other-trust.
He wrote: “If you treat a person as she appears to be, you make her worse than she is. But if you treat a person as if she already were what she potentially could be, you make her what she should be.”

The message is that trust, or faith, in the miracle of existence and the goodness of change can eradicate fears that have bound us.

As Albert Einstein wrote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
“He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

Sudan detains 10 women for wearing miniskirts and trousers to church

Sudanese authorities have detained 10 Christian students on a charge of indecent dressing, a criminal offense, after they wore miniskirts and trousers to church.

The young women were arrested last month in front of the Evangelical Baptist Church in the war-torn Nuba Mountains region in South Kordofan.

The girls, ages 17 to 23, had attended a ceremony at the church.

Police charged 12 women under Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Act, but two were released. The rest are to appear in court in coming days. If convicted, each will face 40 lashes.

“Sudan must drop the charges and release these women immediately,” Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s East Africa Deputy Director said on Sunday (July 12). “A hem-line is not a crime.”

Jackson said authorities imposed the charges in a discriminatory and inappropriate way and violated the women’s rights.

The 17-year-old student’s case has been transferred to the juvenile court. The rest of the women have court dates this week.

The Sudanese government is now trying two Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church pastors. The pastors face a possible death penalty conviction on charges of spying.

Yat Michael Rout was arrested last December after he delivered a sermon in a church in Omdurman area, while Peter Yein Reith was arrested weeks later after he raised the arrest issue with Sudan authorities.

Islamic law is strictly imposed in Sudan, and its government has increased persecution of Christians.

Darlene Zschech Leads Worship For The Pope

Australia’s iconic Christian singer Darlene Zschech led worship for Pope Francis at an ecumenical prayer gathering of more than 30,000 people at the Vatican this week.

The event, was a prayer and worship gathering for the persecuted church called Voices In Prayer led by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.

It was part of the 38th Annual Convocation of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a Holy-Spirit centred movement within the Catholic Church also known as Renewal In The Holy Spirit (Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo).

Darlene sang alongside the world-renowned tenor and devout Catholic Andrea Bocelli, US worship leader Don Moen, and Israeli singer-songwriter Noa (Anchinoam Nini).

Together they led the gathering of believers in singing Amazing Grace.

The event brought together Protestants, Catholics and Jews together to pray for believers around the world who are being martyred and persecuted.

It was the first ever ecumenical event held in St Peter’s Square

That judgemental thing

One of Jesus most famous teachings is, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” But in the very same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus also teaches that we should judge people by the “fruit” of their lives. Is judging others an absolute no-no or not?

Author Hugh Halter explores the heart of this issue in his new book Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Non judgment –

A excerpt—-Christians should stop trying to make the call of heaven or hell, in or out, dirty or clean, and instead model our humanity after Jesus’ humanity. If every Christian actually followed Jesus’ lead, the Christian movement would be the least judgmental but most influential movement the world has ever seen.

Here’s an interview with him.


Obama Sings ‘Amazing Grace’ During Charleston Eulogy

PRESIDENT Obama traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to deliver the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine victims of last week’s shooting. It was an emotional speech, which included this memorable passage:

Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group. The light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court, in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.

Near the end his speech, Obama began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Soon, the congregation joined him. Watch:

Quiet please!


IN the early 1700s, a new drug was hailed as the likely cure for depression.
“Providence has been kind to us beyond all expression in furnishing us with a certain relief, if not the remedy even, to our most intense pains and miseries,” trumpeted Scottish physician George Cheyne.
The wonder drug opium had no side-effects; no drawbacks, he claimed.
A century later, after society was awash with opium addicts, science found a way to extract “a positively non-addictive” constituent called morphine.
Doctors happily prescribed it until it was realised patients were becoming morphine dependent.
Next came heroin, said at the time to be far safer than morphine, then cocaine, which Sigmund Freud prescribed to wean his patients off their morphine habits.
Then ecstasy, which some doctors prescribed to patients with marital problems.
Now we have, as part of the pleasure principle panacea, the many wonder drugs that claim to make people feel better rather than well.
They not only seem to stave off depression, but enhance the personality and make people feel more attractive.
About four million Australians take anti-depressants. Such is the chemistry of happiness.
But you have to wonder whether meddling with a person’s internal chemistry is going to be risk- free. Especially spiritually.
Happiness, as John Stuart Mill said, is not something you can patent or buy. There are no chemical shortcuts.
We seem to have lost the art of drawing from the deep well within us. We have lost the ability to fight and survive on our own God-given instincts and resources.
An Australian woman who went with her husband to work with AIDS-infected children in Thailand wrote of being startled by the victims’ amazing will to live after being diagnosed.
“It struck me that they lived in appalling physical conditions yet drew on their spiritual natures to fight this virus, whereas in Western cultures — which have great standards of living — there is a suicide epidemic,” she wrote.
“We in the West have everything, except what we need to survive.
“That’s why there is such a reliance on chemicals and on filling up each moment of our spare time with chatter, loud music and television. We don’t want to confront the quiet truth that we do not really know how to survive.”
The great monk Thomas Merton, who was concerned with the spiritual yearning of every human heart, thought drug, alcohol and sex addictions arose from the fear of living with emptiness. He said we could distract ourselves forever, playing roles and never really understanding our true self.
Merton called for more solitude in lives — solitude that could lead to touching an inner part of the soul separate from all except the Creator.
IT was in solitude that we could best confront and deal with social disintegration, job insecurity, ceaseless pressures and the devaluing of all that was decent by the “greed is good” philosophy, he said.
Poet Carl Sandburg said only those who learned to live with solitude could come to know themselves and life.
“I go out and walk, and look at the birds and trees and sky,” he said. “I listen. I sit on a rock or stump and say to myself `Who are you, Sandburg? Where have you been and where are you going?’ ”
The process can be difficult because some of the answers you hear in solitude’s self-evaluation can be confronting.
But it can also be the best place for encouraging the “soft voice of inspiration” Thomas Merton reported sometimes hearing.
“You gradually become more attuned to the frequency God uses to speak to us,” he said. “The depths of God and ourselves meet in the abyss of solitude.”

Outside the box it looks peacful

APOLLO 8 astronaut Frank Borman was moved to tears the first time he glimpsed our tiny fragile planet from outer space.

“When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people,” he later said.

Michael Collins, a traveller on Apollo 11, said he believed that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from the moon their outlook could be fundamentally changed.

“That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified façade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment,” he said.

Edgar Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut, put it more bluntly. “From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch’.”

Albert Einstein was no atheist; 27 letters up for auction show ‘he believed in God’

einstein22222222 Over two dozen of Albert Einstein’s personal letters, some which reveal that he was not an atheist, will be auctioned this week. California-based auction house Profiles in History is putting the letters up for auction in Los Angeles. “We all know about what he accomplished, how he changed the world with the theory of relativity. But these letters show the other side of the story — how he advised his children, how he believed in God,” said Joseph Maddalena, founder of Profiles in History, The Associated Press reported.

On the issue of God, Einstein dismissed the belief that he was an atheist.

. “You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the spirit of the professional atheist. … I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

Mr. Maddalena said the letters are on sale from $5,000 to $40,000 each. He said the total take could range from $500,000 to $1 million, AP reported. “These are certainly among the most important things I’ve ever handled,” Mr. Maddalena said, AP reported. “This is not like a Babe Ruth autograph or a signed photo of Marilyn Monroe. These are historically significant.”

Vatican orders former archbishop to stand trial on child abuse charges

In an unprecedented move, the Vatican announced its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, would stand trial on charges he paid for sex with children.

Wesolowski, 66, who had the title archbishop during his five-year post in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic capital, was recalled to the Vatican in 2013. He was later the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on child abuse charges.

He also faces charges of possessing child pornography during his stay at the Holy See and ahead of his arrest in September 2014, the Vatican said in a statement.

The decision to put Wesolowski, a native of Poland, on trial was announced nine days after a Vatican prosecutor requested the ex-archbishop be indicted. The first hearing is scheduled to take place within the Vatican walls on July 11.

The upcoming trial will prove to be a test case for the Holy See

There Are More Catholics In The World, But Fewer Priests: Report

A new report mapping the Catholic Church’s more than 1.2 billion souls — on track to reach 1.64 billion by 2050 — holds some surprises.

And not all bode well for the church’s future as it faces major demographic and social shifts.

“Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts,” released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, looks at seven regions of the world.

The focus is on “the three most important indicators of ‘vitality’ for the Catholic Church … the number of Catholics, the number of parishes, and the number of priests.”

Among the key findings:

The global Catholic population has grown by 57 percent since 1980.

It’s up from 7.83 million in 1980 to 1.2 billion. However, this growth varies steeply by region.

Europeans are rapidly shedding the continent’s historic Catholic identity while the Global South, particularly Africa and Asia, booms with Catholics.

Europe saw only a 6 percent increase — from 271 million to more than 289 million. Meanwhile, the number of Catholics in Africa was up 238 percent, from 58.6 million in 1980 to 198 million in 2012.

But that growth is primarily due to a higher birth rate, “not to conversion or evangelization,” observed the Rev. Thomas Reese, a social scientist and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter who has seen the report.

More people than ever before are receiving the core sacraments of Catholicism including baptism, First Communion, confirmation, and marriage in the church.

But the growth in absolute numbers disguises more telling numbers.

Worldwide, there has been just a 7 percent growth in parishes, the brick-and-mortar churches where these rites are held. And the overall rate per 1,000 Catholics receiving the sacraments “is in uninterrupted decline worldwide. It’s not keeping up with population growth,” said Mark Gray, senior research associate for CARA and a co-author of the report.

The reasons vary from a lack of interest in the West to a lack of access to parishes and priests in developing countries to simple demographics.

If birth rates fall, there are fewer babies to baptize. As life expectancy increases and the average age of Catholics rises, those areas with older Catholics have lower baptism rates: “You only get baptized once in your life,” said Gray.

In raw numbers, marriages are increasing. But measured by the rate per 1,000 Catholics, marriage in the church, said Gray “is one of the hardest-hit sacraments around the globe.”


Tony Campolo Calls for churches to welcome Gay & Lesbian Christians

I do not put up this post to be controversial but to inspire respectful discussion of the issues that face all Christians. This morning, Dr. Tony Campolo, well known evangelical activist, educator, speaker, and founder of Red Letter Christians released a statement on his blog announcing his official change of heart and mind on LGBTQ inclusion in the church. In the statement he says: “While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous. One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them. The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right. It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” To read his full statement go here http://tonycampolo.org/for-the-record-tony-campolo-releases-a-new-statement/#.VXZ4_Gd-8iT

New Study Shows Israelis And Palestinians Would Gain Billions From Peace

Israelis and Palestinians would gain billions of dollars from making peace with each other while both would face daunting economic losses in case of other alternatives, particularly in case of a return to violence, according to a new study.

The RAND Corp., a U.S.-based nonprofit research organization, interviewed some 200 officials from the region and elsewhere during more than two years of research into the costs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its main finding was that following a peace agreement, Israelis stood to gain $120 billion over the course of a decade. The Palestinians would gain $50 billion, marking a 36-percent rise in their average per-capita income, the report said.

In contrast, the Israeli economy would lose some $250 billion in foregone economic opportunities in a return to violence, and the Palestinians would see their per-capita gross domestic product fall by as much as 46 percent, the report said.

The findings are in line with long-time arguments that peace is in the economic interest of both sides.

“We hope our analysis and tools can help Israelis, Palestinians and the international community understand more clearly how present trends are evolving and recognize the costs and benefits of alternatives to the current destructive cycle of action, reaction and inaction,” said C. Ross Anthony, co-leader of the study and director of RAND’s Israeli-Palestinian Initiative.

The study looked into five different scenarios: a two-state solution, a coordinated unilateral withdrawal, an uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal, nonviolent resistance and a violent uprising. Not surprisingly, the economic benefit for both sides dropped considerably in each alternative scenario down the ladder.

Some of the elements of the nonviolent resistance scenario are already unfolding with Palestinians taking actions to put economic and international pressure on Israel. The study found that Israelis could lose $80 billion and Palestinians could lose $12 billion relative to current trends. But compared with a two-state solution, losses from the non-violent resistance scenario become even more dramatic: about $200 billion for the Israelis and $60 billion for the Palestinians.

RAND teams are currently in the region, presenting their findings to both Israeli and Palestinians officials.

Nice guys really do finish last, says study

Food for thought – Does it pay, at least in worldly terms, to be a jerk?
At the University of Amsterdam, researchers have reportedly found that semi-obnoxious behavior not only can make a person seem more powerful, but can make them more powerful. The same goes for overconfidence. Act like you’re the smartest person in the room, a series of striking studies demonstrates, and you’ll up your chances of running the show. People will even pay to be treated shabbily: snobbish, condescending salespeople at luxury retailers extract more money from shoppers than their more agreeable counterparts do. And “agreeableness,” other research shows, is a trait that tends to make you poorer.

The transgender dilemma

On April 24, all-American sporting superstar Bruce Jenner, who won gold for the decathlon in Montreal in 1972, announced that he was transsexual and that for all intents and purposes, “I’m a woman”.

This week, she revealed that her new name was Caitlyn. The shock was seismic: Jenner is not only a sporting hero but also features in the reality TV series Keeping up with the Kardashians, as until recently she was married to Kris and stepfather to her children.

What really perplexed evangelicals however, was that she was both a Christian and a Republican – neither of which really seemed to fit with her new identity. She said in her interview with Diane Sawyer: “I would sit in church and always wonder, ‘In God’s eyes, how does he see me?'”

Jenner’s revelations made headlines because of who she is. But there are more and more people, and not just in the US, who identify themselves as transsexuals – generally used for people who transition from one sex to another – or transgendered, whose sense of their gender differs from their physical sex. In a sign of how what was once rare is now becoming mainstream.

For some Christians, helping people to transition from one gender to another is a compassionate response to a deeply-felt need. Others are profoundly uncomfortable about the theological implications of such interventions. So what are the issues, and how should Christians approach them?

Treatments for the condition span the full range from counselling to full-scale gender reassignment surgery. People who don’t choose that or aren’t suitable candidates might have speech therapy, hair removal or hormone therapy. If they do want to make a full transition they’d be expected to live in their chosen gender identity for at least a year beforehand. The rigorous process of assessment generally seems to ‘work': according to the NHS, after surgery most transsexuals are happy with their new sex and feel comfortable with their gender identity. One review of studies carried out over a 20-year period found that 96 per cent of people who had gender reassignment surgery were satisfied (though a 2011 Swedish survey found “considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population”).

However, many evangelical Christians have serious theological doubts about the procedures, and about the increasing normalisation of the ‘transgendered’ identity.


Happy birthday Sgt Pepper’s


ON this day, June 1, in 1967, the Beatles’ 40-minute masterpiece Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released.
Those 12 songs (with a reprise of the title track at the end) changed pop music forever.
The Beatles spent 129 days, 400 hours, recording this album.
it all started, according to Paul McCartney, over a conversation with road manager Mal Evans on a flight home to England. The topic was salt and pepper. It was misheard as Sgt. Pepper . And so the seed was planted of a fictitious band whose hope was that fans would all “like the show”.

Awake after being Trapped inside his own body for a decade

AFTER an unknown illness sent him into a vegetative state, Martin Pistorius’ parents were told that their son had less than two years to live. The Pistoriuses plummeted into depression. They had lost their boy before he ever reached adulthood, went to college, or had a chance to wed and have children. Or so they thought.

A decade later, emerging computer technology allowed Martin to communicate that he was still alive, but trapped inside his own body. This allowed doctors to help him return from the darkness and regain his life.

His gripping memoir, Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body, shares the consequences of misdiagnosis and what Martin experienced at the hands of abusive caretakers. Sitting in a wheelchair and talking through a computer, he shares how faith sustained him through that dark decade.

He wrote:

I don’t know how I came to realize God. He was just always there.  He still is there. I grew up in a Christian home, but we very rarely attended church. This combined with the path my life had taken meant that I never learned the formalities of faith. But I became very close to God. There were many, many times where I felt utterly alone, even if there were people around me. But while a part of me experienced the extreme loneliness and isolation another part of me always felt the presence of the Lord.

Unlike the people around me, God knew I existed. And I knew He existed. I often found myself talking to God. Perhaps one could call them prayers, even though my eyes were open and my hands weren’t pressed together.

Apocalyptic madness

INSPIRED by earthquakes and Islamic State, the doomsday prophets are busy driving fear into the hearts of the gullible.
Yep, it’s Armageddon season again and it’s a rich time for the conspiracy theorists. Nothing new there; apocalyptic visions are a part of many belief systems and probably most often reflect the preoccupations of a stressed society.
Somewhere in this hideous mix of selective fundamentalism is the notion that this world is a mere waiting room, easily discarded, like the heathens who populate it.
The belief that humans are created in the image of a loving God seems to be diminishing. Secular and religious groups sometimes seem to teach that we are not worth much because we are human. Thus, we deserve the plagues and pestilence that are to come.
There seem no limits to this something-dreadful-is-about-to-happen-right-now lunacy.
A lot of the speculation about imminent Armageddon is based on the final Biblical book, Revelation.
Some believe this foretells a world battle from which a new dictator _ the Anti-christ _ will emerge. A global war will follow in which most of the population will die and the surviving believers will be whisked to heaven in a supernatural event called the Rapture.
The Rapture Index, a popular internet barometer that supposedly calculates a rise in natural and man-made disasters, claims it gauges how close we are to the end. Anything above 145 signals the Apocalypse is near. In recent weeks, it has been hovering about 180. But last year it hit 188.
Christians and Jews have been on the lookout for the advent of the Antichrist since he was first referred to in the Old Testament.
He was first described by the ancient prophet Daniel, who 2600 years ago wrote of a satanic individual who, in the final days of the planet, would be supreme world dictator for seven years and be known by the numbers 666. He was defined by Daniel as the most evil man that would ever live.
The game to identify the Antichrist has been going on for years. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a candidate. So were the Emperor Nero, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Wilson Reagan (because he had six letters in each of his names), Saddam Hussein and John F. Kennedy (he received 666 votes at one political convention.
Some speculation comes with urban myths. One tells of a group that is planning to clone Jesus from religious relics if the Son Of God doesn’t return soon.
Another claims airlines will not pair Christian pilots and co-pilots out of fear that the Rapture will snatch away both crew members capable of landing the flight.
Another tells of a minister who picks up an angelic hitchhiker. The hitchhiker says the second coming of Christ is imminent, then disappears.
Not surprisingly, no one has yet been able to track down the players in either of the stories.
The stories are urban myths. Old ones, too. They have been passed around, in one form or another, for a few years now. The internet has breathed new life into the myths.
There’s certainly evidence that this world will one day end. There are plenty of Biblical prophecies of wars and rumours of war signalling the end times, but we should all stop worrying about dates and times.
Many Christians believe those events could occur soon. Some are obsessed by it.
It is a time when people can be easily misguided.

Pope urged to force Pell to explain role in paedophile cover-up


POPE Francis has been urged to force Cardinal George Pell to explain any involvement he may have had in the cover-up of paedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale.

Secret church documents tendered to a royal commission revealed that the Cardinal helped move Australia’s worst paedophile priest between parishes.

The move came decades after complaints were first made about Ridsdale and years before his last known offending.

It is not clear whether Cardinal Pell knew of the offending.

Now a social media campaign is demanding Pope Francis act on the stunning revelation.

Angry supporters of child sexual abuse victims are lobbying the pontiff on Twitter to take immediate action to force Cardinal Pell to appear at the commission.

There have also been calls for his sacking.

Pope Francis promoted Cardinal Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, to the newly created position of Prefect of the new Secretariat for the Economy last year.

While the Vatican is yet to comment on the latest revelations it is expected they will mount increased pressure on the Cardinal.

Atheist’s kids often find religion later in life, report shows

The Pew Research Center released a report earlier this week that looked at the religious landscape of the United States.

Among the findings, Pew reported that almost half of all children who grow up as religiously unaffiliated (that’s about one in 10 Americans kids) end up finding religion later in life.

“Yes, 1 in 5 people raised in a community of faith now identify as non-religious — the primary talking point from yesterday’s well-publicized report,” The Daily Beast reported. “But what most of this week’s flurry of media coverage missed is an even more pronounced trend in the opposite direction: nearly half of everyone raised with no religion is now part of a faith tradition.”

Nelson Mandela’s day


YESTERDAY would have been Nelson Mandela’s 96th birthday. He is remembered, not as a perfect man because he wasn’t that, but as a revolutionary who did much to rid his South Africa of the evil of apartheid.

Here are some memorable quotes from Mandela.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
― Nelson Mandela

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

If America Became a Christian Nation

American author Benjamin Corey has imagined what would need to happen If America Became a Christian Nation and concluded: “The ones who advocate it probably Wouldn’t Like What it Looked Like”

Corey’s list of what might happen if America followed Jesus’ teaching and example include:

We’d Have To Abolish the 2nd Amendment (the one about right to bear arms).

We’d Have to Replace the Department of Defense with the Department of Enemy Love.

We’d Have to End Capital Punishment.

Eradicating Poverty Would Be One of Our Most Pressing Concerns.

We’d Freely Care for the Sick.

We’d Become The Most Loving Nation Toward Immigrants.

We’d Do Away with the Pledge of Allegiance.

We’d Pay Our Taxes Without Complaining About It.

You can read Corey’s justification for the above at

Why are Christians so different in attitude?

ENGLISH author and feminist Virginia Woolf wondered about the lack of empathy between some people.
“Why are we so hard on each other,” she asked, “when life is so difficult for all of us and when, in the end, we value the same things?”
Martin Luther himself was not kind about Protestant groups other than his own, particularly the Baptists who had won many converts from the Catholics.
But Luther also seemed to think that denominations were unnecessary. “I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call   themselves not Lutherans, but Christians,” he said.
But he had already opened a can of worms. The rise of thousands of denominations within the Christian faith can be traced back to the movement to “reform” the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century, out of which four major divisions or traditions of Protestantism would emerge: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Anglican. From these four, other denominations grew over the centuries.
You didn’t even have to be a Christian to be denominational. British writer Quentin Crisp said when he I told the people of Northern Ireland that he was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”
The word denomination is not found in the Bible. Jesus never taught there should be divisions in the church with significant doctrinal differences. The original church was a single congregation of Christ’s followers.
Some modern denominations emphasise slight doctrinal differences, but more often they simply offer different styles of worship to fit the differing tastes and preferences of Christians.
Most Christian churches have far more in common than they have in disagreement with each other. Research in the US a couple of years ago indicated that the majority of protestant/evangelical congregations shared at least 90 per cent of the same beliefs. The researchers found little disagreement over the most basic elements of Christianity — such as Jesus’ life and teachings, including His deity, death and resurrection.
There is a common Christian faith that is recognisable in a large outdoor church in Sri Lanka, an evangelical meeting in Latiin America, a small Anglican church in Melbourne or Hobart and a Catholic cathedral in Rome. The cultural “flavour” may be different but the heart is the same.
Diversity is a good thing in Christianity. Disunity is not.
The great theologian J.B.Phillips said he understood why some people could not understand why the churches can’t “get together”.
He said: “The problem is doubtless complicated, for there are many honest differences held with equal sincerity, but it is only made insoluble because the different denominations are (possibly unconsciously) imagining God to be Roman or Anglican or Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian or what have you.
“If they could see beyond their little inadequate god, and glimpse the reality of God, they might even laugh a little and perhaps weep a little. The result would be a unity that actually does transcend differences, “
One thing’s for sure. There will be no denominations in Heaven. But there might be plenty in Hell.

Reality lies in what we can’t see

THE veil between heaven and earth seems to be sometimes lifted, but usually only for a moment.

Paul the apostle talked of humans seeing life mainly “through the glass dimly’’. He said there would be a day, not in this world, when we would see ourselves, each other and God very clearly.

But he said the full clarity was dangerous to unprepared hearts and minds, so, on this side of heaven, we could only sense the reality of God.

“Humankind can not bear too much reality,’’ T.S. Eliot observed. Or, as John Lennon said: “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.’’

The creed of modernity is that man can understand anything and everything through rational inquiry and therefore master the world.

But the wise know that our constructs of reality can only point to the truth.

An Oxford study a couple of years ago concluded that belief in God is part of human nature. We are naturally predisposed to believe in a divine power and that some vital part of us survives death, according to the wide-ranging three-year international study.

The theory is that human thought processes are “rooted” in religious concepts rather than ideas simply learned from experience because they provide some social benefit.

The co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg, said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.

“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies,” he said.

“This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”

Who is the most influential person on Twitter

A new study shows U.S. President Barack Obama is still by far the most followed world leader on Twitter, but Pope Francis is considered the most influential by the number of his messages retweeted.

The annual Twiplomacy analysis of Twitter accounts released by Burson-Marsteller shows nearly 57 million people following Obama, up from 44 million last year. Pope Francis was next with 19.5 million followers on nine language accounts, up from 14 million in 2014.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had nearly 11 million followers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had more than 6 million, and the White House had almost 6 million followers.

Pope Francis’ words were spread widest, with an average of 9,929 retweets per tweet, compared to Obama in fourth place with 1,210

Another finding from the study is that Spanish is the Most Tweeted Language

World leaders tweet in 54 different languages, and English is by far the lingua franca of digital diplomacy. However, the 74 Spanish language accounts are far more prolific, making Spanish the most tweeted language among world leaders.

French is the third most-used language , followed by Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Turkish, Croatian, Bahasa Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, and German.

See more at http://twiplomacy.com/blog/twiplomacy-study-2015/#section-15