Pence Consoles Jews in Missouri Over Vandalizing of Jewish Cemetery

Statue of Jesus vandalized at the Cottage Avenue Pentecostal Fellow Church, in Indianapolis, Indiana

Statue of Jesus vandalized at the Cottage Avenue Pentecostal Fellow Church, in Indianapolis, Indiana

Two heinous acts of religious desecration occurred last weekend at two separate sites in two separate states. In response to one of these events, the vice president of the United States personally involved himself, making a trip to the scene to denounce what had happened and to assist in the cleanup.

The other event he seems to have completely ignored.

At the Cottage Avenue Pentecostal Fellowship Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, vandals targeted a statue of Jesus outside the church, severing the head from the body. The attack occurred sometime during the night of February 19/20.

On the same weekend vandals attacked a Jewish cemetery causing damage to approximately 150 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, Jewish cemetery located in University City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

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Vandalized gravestones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery

After the media raised an uproar over the attack on the cemetery, an uproar which included complaints that President Trump had not sufficiently condemned the attack or denounced anti-Semitism enough, Vice President Pence made a trip to St. Louis, where he spoke at the cemetery and even participated in the cleanup.

“I am so inspired by what the people of Missouri are doing, by the way you are handling this,” he is reported to have said.

I did an Internet search in an effort to determine if Pence had made any similar-type gestures on behalf of the Christians at the church in Indianapolis, but could find no indication he had, or even that he had bothered to issue a public comment on it–even though the attack occurred in Pence’s home state of Indiania and even though it was the second time in two weeks that the statue had been desecrated.

Here is a news report on what happened at the church…

And here is a video of Pence at the cemetery, participating in a prayer with a Jewish rabbi and helping with the cleanup…

I guess it’s nice to see a member of America’s political elite with a rake in his hand and doing some actual physical work, but the video would seem to provide us with ample evidence of what group of people he’s really working for.

We Are Living in a ‘Post-Truth’ Era

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By Richard Edmondson

Recently Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made an interesting comment. He described the time we are living in as a “post-truth” era. It’s a very apt, on-target description.

Lavrov made the comment at the Munich Security Conference, held February 17-19 in Munich, Germany. In his remarks at the gathering he spoke of the need for nations to seek harmony by advancing justice and also by practicing “modesty,” as he termed it. It’s hard to find fault with such a proposal.

“If everyone adopts that approach,” said Lavrov, “we could overcome the period of post-truth fast and resist information wars imposed on the international community.”

“Information wars” in a “post-truth” era–this of course is what we are experiencing now.

Lavrov also said that the expansion of NATO “has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last 30 years in Europe,” and yet Russia now nonetheless seeks a relationship with the US based upon “pragmatism, mutual respect, and an understanding of special responsibility for global stability.”

Compare Lavrov’s remarks to those of Vice President Mike Pence, who represented America at the conference. Pence alluded to President Trump’s desire for better relations with Russia, but at the same time he also adopted a belligerent tone, calling for Russia to be held “accountable” for events in Ukraine.

“In regard to Ukraine we must hold Russia accountable and demand that they honor the Minsk agreements, beginning by deescalating the violence in eastern Ukraine,” Pence said.

He also spoke of “Russia’s efforts to redraw international borders by force,” an apparent reference to the alleged “forced annexation” of Crimea. Despite claims perpetually made by the media in this post-truth era, Crimea was not annexed by force. A referendum was held there on March 16, 2014 in which more than 96 percent of the people voted to join Russia. The referendum took place after the US had sponsored a coup in Kiev, overthrowing the legitimate, democratically-elected government.

One wonders: does Pence believe the US should be held “accountable” for organizing the coup which triggered the Ukrainian conflict in the first place? Apparently he does not.

Another US speaker at the conference in Munich was Sen. John McCain, who discussed what he views as the indispensable role that America and the rest of the West have played in advancing “truth,” and in advancing the current global order as well as the “prosperity” that the West now supposedly enjoys.

“We must take our own side in this fight,” said McCain. “We must be vigilant. We must persevere. And through it all, we must never, never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our own values—that we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, hope against despair.”

McCain made no mention of America’s shameful support for terrorists in Syria, and it defies logic of course to describe the US, whose mainstream media are widely recognized as the number one purveyors of fake news, as standing “for truth against falsehood” in today’s world.

The Arizona senator also described the West as having ushered in an “unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades”–and of course for the wealthiest one percent, we are, no doubt about it, in an “unprecedented” period of prosperity. But the unemployment rolls and the numbers of homeless people on the streets of America would suggest that the “prosperity” has not been enjoyed by all. McCain may not be “certified,” as such, but he does appear to be a fully-fledged lunatic.

The unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades did not happen by accident. It happened not only because of the appeal of our values, but because we backed them with our power and persevered in their defense. Our predecessors did not believe in the end of history—or that it bends, inevitably, toward justice. That is up to us. That requires our persistent, painstaking effort. And that is why we come to Munich, year after year after year.

McCain objectified his laudatory comments in terms of “the West,” for of course he was speaking at a conference held in the EU. But in his use of the words “we” and “us,” what he really meant was America. America is the “indispensable” and “exceptional” nation–this is the ideology relentlessly, one might even say fanatically, adhered to by US leaders and the mainstream media.

So it seems that while we get truth out of a Russian official like Lavrov, we get delusions, reverie, fantasy, and outright lies from our own leaders. Americans, I would say for the most part, are good, decent people. How did we end up in this fix?

Perhaps worth recalling are the words of Jesus: “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” If that principle applies to nations as well as to individuals, then the implications for America are not good.

By the way, those words–about the last becoming first and the first becoming last–appear in one form or another in Matthew 19:30 and again in 20:16, as well as in Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30. Additionally, in Luke 9:48 we have Jesus telling his disciples that, “the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest,” this after overhearing them arguing about which one was to become the “greatest.”

And let us not forget also the episode related in the Gospel of John of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. What we can conclude, then, is that the practicing of humility was a central tenet of Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps little wonder that Jesus was not terribly popular with his fellow Jews. Jewish “exceptionalism” (or more specifically “chosenness”) was, and still is, a central component of Judaic belief.

And yes, what we have in America are leaders who, rather than practice humility, spout boastful words like McCain’s. Thus it should come as no surprise we now find ourselves in a “post-truth” era. After all, boasting and lying are two human traits which go very much hand in hand.

I often wonder when, if ever, we will have a leader who will make Americans proud to be Americans again. Sadly it has been a very long time since we had one.

Appeal Aimed at Fordham University: ‘Don’t Ban Students for Justice in Palestine!’

 

Posted on January 31, 2017

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[ Ed. note – Imagine a student organization at a major American university–(where such lofty ideals as academic freedom and free speech presumably are held dear)–being banned before it even gets organized or holds its first meeting.

Well, that’s what happened at Fordham University with the local Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.

The school’s dean of students, Keith Eldredge, vetoed a measure approved by the University Student Government association which would have recognized the SJP group. Eldredge announced his decision in a December 22 email sent out to the young student activists who had applied for permission to form the organization on campus.

“After consultation with numerous faculty, staff and students and my own deliberation, I have decided to deny the request to form a club known as Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University,” he wrote. “While students are encouraged to promote diverse political points of view, and we encourage conversation and debate on all topics, I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the University.”

So in other words opposing an apartheid state and calling for an end to a decades-long occupation runs against the “mission and values” of Fordham University? What’s disgusting about this is that Fordham is, at least nominally, a Christian university that was founded by the Catholic diocese of New York. So is Eldredge trying to imply that SJP’s support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement somehow violates the teachings of Jesus?

“There is perhaps no more complex topic than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is a topic that often leads to polarization rather than dialogue,” Eldredge goes on.

So Jesus–a man who called the Pharisees hypocrites, turned over the tables of the money changers, and accused the Jewish scribes of turning his Father’s house into a den of robbers–was somehow timidly averse to being polarizing when a clear need presented itself?

“The purpose of the organization [SJP] as stated in the proposed club constitution points toward that polarization,” the dean continues. “Specifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding.”

Thank you, Dean Eldredge, and I’m sure the Zionist settlers in the West Bank are also aware of the dire need for “open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding”

Maybe the occupation of Palestine is a “complex topic” to the deans at Fordham University, but of course for most of the rest of us, it’s really not that hard to figure out.

The current president of Fordham is the Rev. Joseph M. McShane. If you follow one of the links below you will find a letter addressed to McShane written by Palestine Legal, whose mission is to protect “the civil and constitutional rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom.” Quite a big job obviously and probably about to become even more challenging.

Also below you will find an appeal addressed to Fordham University by the Friends of Sabeel North America. I must say I admire their diplomacy. It’s probably more than I could have mustered. FOSNA, by the way, is a Christian ecumenical group affiliated with Sabeel, an international peace movement launched by Palestinian Christians. ]


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After subjecting Palestinian student activists to an extensive and abnormally elongated vetting process that lasted over a year, Fordham University in New York City has banned its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights stated that the ban “blatantly violates [the University’s] promise to guarantee freedom of inquiry on campus,” calling on Fordham’s administration to “immediately permit and facilitate the formation of SJP.”

On Monday, FOSNA Executive Director Tarek Abuata sent an open letter to Fordham’s administration urging them to reinstate the chapter.

Help us tell Fordham University that as people of conscience, now more than ever, we have a responsibility to take action and support Palestine solidarity efforts.

Please call, write, or e-mail:

President Rev. Joseph M. McShane
president@fordham.edu

Keith Eldredge, Dean of Students
eldredge@fordham.edu

Office of the President, Fordham University
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10458
Tel: 718-817-3000

Free debate and open inquiry are hallmarks of university study. Help us ensure that Fordham University gives students who seek to debate, organize, and advocate for justice in Palestine and Israel the opportunity to do so as part of their educational experience.

Support our work by donating

Letter in support of Fordham Students for Justice in Palestine:

President Rev. Joseph M. McShane
Keith Eldredge, Dean of Students
Office of the President, Fordham University
president@fordham.edu
eldredge@fordham.edu
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10458
Tel: 718-817-3000

Dear President Rev. McShane and Dean Eldredge,

Friends of Sabeel North America is a Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through nonviolent advocacy and education. As executive director, I write to express deep concern that Fordham University has decided to prohibit students from organizing a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on your campus.

You may have seen this week’s statement from the Catholic Bishops of the 2017 Holy Land Coordination. This statement provides an urgent plea for the people of the world (and Catholics in particular) to pray and act for justice in the Holy Land:

Fifty years of occupation demands action.

For fifty years the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. This is a scandal to which we must never become accustomed.  Our Coordination has called for justice and peace every year since 1998, yet the suffering continues. So this call must get louder. As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognise our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.

So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarising social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity.

(See the signatories and full text)

We implore you to encourage your students to become active for justice and peace in Palestine and Israel by allowing the SJP chapter to form. As you know, throughout history students have been at the forefront of debating and organizing for justice causes (women’s rights; abolition of slavery; equality in racial, ethnic, and economic matters; opposition to war and to the apartheid regime in South Africa).

The First Amendment protects free speech as a hallmark of our democracy. Free debate and open inquiry are hallmarks of university study. Please give to the students who seek to debate, organize, and advocate for justice in Palestine and Israel this fundamental opportunity as part of their educational experience at Fordham University.

Friends of Sabeel North America has worked closely with SJP groups across the country. We find they are composed of bright, compassionate, highly conscientious students. SJP chapters are usually comprised of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular students. They represent a cross-section of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity.

Please allow your Fordham students the freedom all Americans hold dear. Encourage rather than prohibit their work for justice in Palestine and Israel as the Catholic Bishops of the 2017 Holy Land Coordination have urged.

With warm regards,

Tarek Abuata, Executive Director

Friends of Sabeel North America


Fordham University’s Ban on Palestinian Rights Group Sets Dangerous Precedent

By Joe Catron | January 26, 2017

Mint Press News

NEW YORK — Nearly a hundred students and community members rallied on Fordham University’s Manhattan campus before marching to nearby Columbus Circle on Monday.

The protest marked the latest chapter in an ongoing effort by students at the Jesuit institution to found a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on their campus.

SJP organizations, which take their name from a still-existing student group founded at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993, already exist on over a hundred campuses in the United States, as well as several overseas.

A national organization using the same name organizes annual conferences attended by many of these loose affiliates, but maintains no formal relationship with them.

On Nov. 19, 2015, four students at Fordham applied with the university’s administration to register an SJP club at the school’s Lincoln Center campus.

By all accounts, they did not expect the grueling ordeal that lay before them.

Their plans finally ground to a halt on Dec. 22, 2016, when Keith Eldredge, dean of students at the Lincoln Center campus, informed several SJP activists in an email that he had overruled a vote by the school’s United Student Government to recognize the group a month earlier and denied it registration as a student organization.

“According to sources within student government, he has never even reviewed a club for veto, let alone actually vetoed one, in his entire ten years here at Fordham,” Sapphira Lurie, a senior and lead campus organizer for Fordham Students for Justice in Palestine, told MintPress News. “This is a clear example of the Palestine exception to free speech.”

“The Palestine exception,” a term popularized by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights in a 2015 report of that name, refers to barriers to free speech and organizing faced by Palestinian and solidarity activists in the US.

In a Jan. 17 statement on Fordham’s ban of SJP, Palestine Legal, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance and representation to Palestine activists, said it had responded to more than 600 attempts to repress their activities nationally since the start of 2014.

Of these, it said, “the vast majority” targeted students and faculty.

On campus, these efforts often include obstacles to student organizing, like challenges to event funding and space registration, or the unwarranted suspension of recognized groups, as well as the intimidation, and occasional termination, of faculty.

But Fordham’s preemptive ban of a student organization sets a dangerous new precedent, one students and other local activists are determined to fight.

“As far as we’re aware, this is the first time a college has summarily banned a group supporting Palestinian rights before students even held their first meeting,” Radhika Sainath, a Palestine Legal staff attorney and cooperating counsel at the CCR, told MintPress News.

‘Fordham breached its express promise’

Palestine Legal’s statement summarized a letter, sent by it and the CCR to Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., Fordham’s president, on the same day.

When they filed their application, the letter said, “[T]he students expected Fordham would approve their group within a few weeks so that they could start their educational programming.”

[[[ Read Palestine Legal’s letter to Fordham’s president Rev. Joseph M. McShane. ]]]

Instead, they faced months of stonewalling, punctuated by meetings at which administrators asked if they would consider a different name, expressed concern at their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and use of the word “apartheid,” and inquired about their willingness to work with groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, and Seeds for Peace.

The administrators also inquired whether an anti-BDS resolution passed by the New York City Council or an executive order and blacklist opposing the movement issued by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all last year, should preclude SJP’s recognition by the university.

As the USG decision on Nov. 17 neared, one administrator, Dorothy Wenzel of the university’s office of student leadership, who had previously admitted to polling Jewish faculty on whether SJP should be allowed to register at Fordham, instructed a USG officer to notify the school’s Jewish Student Organization of the pending vote.

Continued here

Putin Befuddles the West: A Lesson From Scripture

 

putin3r-jptBy Richard Edmondson

What is it exactly with the leaders of the West and Vladimir Putin? Clearly they view Russia and its president as a threat, but why?

We have heard endless stories of “Russian hacking” and “Russian aggression,” while Putin has been called a “thug,” a “dictator,” and Russian forces have been accused of bombing hospitals in Aleppo–in fact Russia, it seems, bombed the “last hospital” and killed the “last doctor” in Aleppo on at least five different occasions in 2016: on November 18, July 30, July 23, April 27, and sometime either in the last week of January or early February (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here ).

So What accounts for all this hysteria? Is it simply because Russia has thwarted US regime-change plans in Syria? Or is there something else behind it? Perhaps the Gospel of John can give us an answer.

In John chapter three, Jesus gets a visit from a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, or ruling council. Christians will recall, of course, that Jesus had numerous problems with the Pharisees. They attacked him, despised him, and were at odds with him more so than any other group. However, Nicodemus seems to be one of the few Pharisees with an open mind, and who is at least somewhat willing to listen to reason. Moreover, the gospel tells us that Nicodemus “came to Jesus at night,” which has led scholars over the years to speculate that the Jewish leader was afraid to be seen talking to Jesus.

I should also mention here, that John chapter three is a favorite passage of evangelical Christians, for it is in this conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus uses the phrase “born again,” and of course it is also here he utters the famous words that make up the oft-quoted John 3:16. My focus here is not so much on either of these two lines, however.

Instead, the part of the dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus I find most interesting, and most germane to our commentary on Putin, is a curious comment Jesus makes about “Spirit” and “wind.” This comes after Nicodemus admits to being perplexed regarding Jesus’ admonition that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus responds quizzically. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born.”

It is at this point that Jesus attempts to clarify the matter, and in doing so ties in the concepts of spirit, wind, and rebirth–all into one. He says:

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

The frenzied minds of the West’s corrupt leaders contemplate the sound of Russia’s wind blowing, but they “cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” Imagine having an enemy like that and how bonkers it would drive you.

As I have pointed out in a number of posts, Russia has experienced an almost phenomenal spiritual rebirth since the fall of communism. You can go here, for instance, to see a post I did in 2013 that includes a fascinating video documentary on the Valaam Monastery. Located north and east of St. Petersburg, the monastery is considered one of the holiest sites of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“Those who’ve been here more than once,” the narrator remarks at one point in the documentary, “say you have to put the time into Valaam to understand it fully, that living and working here is the only way to really tap into its energy. The job is tough and repetitive, but none of the volunteers complain. Everyone is confident of a spiritual reward and happy that they’re working to reestablish a faith that was so persecuted during the Soviet Union.”

Monastic life also figured prominently in Putin’s visit to Greece last summer, for his state visit to that country included an excursion to perhaps one of the most unique places in the world. As I commented in a post on June 1:

Mount Athos is an autonomous monastic state located on a peninsula jutting into the Aegean Sea from the northern part of Greece. It is the home of a number of monasteries and is inhabited almost entirely by monks. With a political status kind of unique in the world, the 130 square-mile region is governed by a “Holy Community,” consisting of representatives from each of the monasteries, yet there is also a Civil Governor appointed by Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose main job is to keep the infrastructure in tip-top shape.

The post also includes a video of the Russian leader being received warmly by the monks, as well as commentary by Russian writer Pavel Shipilin, who discusses what he thinks Putin’s leadership means to a majority of the Russian people:

I think, first of all, it is hope:

  • A person who aims at eternal values, not immediate ones, rules the country.
  • He supports peace, not war.
  • Russia for him is the last outpost of Orthodoxy (NS maybe Christianity in general). That’s why he is going to protect it.
  • That the office of the President for him is, first of all, for service, not a source of gain.

It is very important that Putin never emphasizes his Orthodoxy. He speaks and acts, as the President, not as a monk. It would be difficult to suspect him of ostentatious godliness. He visits remote churches all over Russia during major Christian holidays instead of going to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior as would be expected.

At the same time, we understand that Christian values are above so-called universal human values, which are imposed on us instead of centuries-old traditions. Postmodernism is just a beautiful cover; its essence is the decomposition and atomization of society. If we don’t resist it, it will end badly.

What is so attractive about Putin? It’s the fact that he calls things by their name. Same-sex marriage is a sin. The introduction of military forces into sovereign states without being requested by the legitimate government violates the rules established after World War II. It is also a sin. As is the behavior of one nation that decides its power gives it the right to rebuild the world in its own image.

Today Russia is the only country saying “No” to the US. It’s the only country whose “No” Washington clearly hears and cannot do anything about. And the main thing is that this firm “No” is heard by those who appreciate our common roots and traditions, who still hope that this crazy world will recover its soul.

Yes, Washington hears Russia’s “No” clearly–just as it hears the wind blowing without knowing what direction it’s coming from or where it’s going.

Shipilin’s comment about Putin spending Christian holidays visiting remote churches in rural areas of Russia, rather than attending services at the main cathedral in Moscow, is also interesting. The Russian Orthodox faith celebrated Christmas this year on January 7, and a huge and elaborate Christmas Eve liturgy took place at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In fact I put up a post on it on January 6, here, which included a link to a two-hour video filled with scenes from the service. Most of the video was of the service in Moscow, but at a couple of different points the camera cut away to a small church in the province of Novgorod where Putin is observed attending a service with the locals. At one point he leans over and can be seen helping a small girl light a candle.

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Think back to the last time you saw film footage of an American president attending a worship service at a church–any church. I don’t recall ever seeing anything of the sort, although maybe there were a few such incidents during the Carter administration.

So now we have Russia…fighting terrorists in Syria that America has supported…blocking Monsanto and banning GMO foods…taking steps to protect endangered species…while serving as snare and pitfall to a US-installed puppet government in Ukraine–and all the while, through its actions for good, counterchecking and abrogating the western media’s efforts to paint it as the villain.

“So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

By “Spirit” Jesus is of course referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in all four gospels, but it is in the Gospel of John that it takes a front-and-center place in Jesus’s teachings. In addition to the passage in chapter three, we have these words in chapter four spoken by Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well:

A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

to his disciples in chapter six:

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

and in chapter fourteen (here most of all):

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you…

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

This is what Nicodemus was trying to understand, but couldn’t quite grasp; and it is also what Western leaders have found so maddening.

“How can this be?” asks Nicodemus.

Jesus’ answer to him is instructive.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” he replies, “and do you not understand these things?Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

For the past six years US leaders have been trying to instigate a coup in Syria, and as we know, bringing down governments is something they have accomplished with ease countless times in countless countries around the world–but for six years now and counting they have failed to achieve this objective in Syria.

“How can this be?” they must be asking themselves.

I suspect if Jesus were here he would give them the same answer he gave Nicodemus.

Significantly the Holy Spirit also plays an important role in the birth narratives provided in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. In Luke, chapter one, the angel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary to inform her she is to give birth.

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God,” he tells her.

The birth of Christ occurred at a time when a corrupt empire had expanded to the stage where it had come to tyrannize and prevail over much of the rest of the world. Christ’s coming into the world was in a sense a “rebirth” for humanity, and the empire at that time, as we know, eventually collapsed.

Now we see a present-day empire that has become grotesquely corrupt, prevailing over practically the entire world, this coming simultaneous to a rather amazing spiritual rebirth that we see occurring in one country–a country which, it so happens, is “the only country saying ‘No’ to the US,” as Shipilin rather aptly puts it. The parallels are there if you wish to see them.

Meanwhile, a rather befuddled Obama seems able to do little other than listen to the sound of the wind while wondering…where it’s coming from and where it’s going…as he prepares to leave office on the 20th.

Americans Are Clueless on Muslim Views of Jesus

I came across this video and thought I would post it for the fun of it. As I have said for a long time, Christians have far more in common with Muslims, who venerate Jesus as a prophet, than with Jews, whose Talmud contains blasphemous depictions of Jesus as well as his mother Mary.

Merry Christmas Russia!

orthodoxchrist1

January 7 is celebrated as Christmas day by millions of Orthodox Christians around the world. A midnight liturgy is scheduled for tonight at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.  You can watch the service here. Merry Christmas to all!

Related

 

israeli rabbis say Christmas trees not ‘kosher,’ raising questions of synagogue and state

No Xmas lights for state that is ‘light unto nations’

Source

By Andrew Tobin, JTA
December 21, 2016

‘Tis the season, but some Israeli rabbis are not feeling the Christmas spirit.

Rabbinic officials in Jerusalem and northern Israel recently issued separate statements saying that displays of Christmas trees are against Jewish law. Other Israelis rushed to the defence of the ornamented evergreens.

The difference of opinion over Christmas highlighted disagreement about the role of religion in the Jewish state.

In a letter that emerged Tuesday, the Jerusalem Rabbinate urged hotels in the city not to put up Christmas trees this year.

“As the secular year ends, we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha and that therefore it is clear that no one should erect [a tree] in a hotel,” Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar wrote to hotel managers.

The letter also said it was “appropriate to avoid hosting” New Year’s parties, reminding hotel managers that the New Year is properly observed at the beginning of the Jewish calendar.

A day earlier, the rabbi of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, a prestigious public science and engineering university in Haifa, forbade students from entering the student union on campus because of the presence of a Christmas tree in the building.

“The Christmas tree is a religious symbol — not Christian, but even more problematic — pagan,” Rabbi Elad Dokow wrote in a Q&A on the religious Srugim website. “Halacha clearly states that whenever it is possible to circumvent and not pass through a place where there is any kind of idolatry, this must be done. So one should not enter the student union if it’s not necessary to do so.

“This is not about freedom of worship. It’s about the public space of the campus,” he added. “This is the world’s only Jewish state. And it has a role to be a ‘light unto the nations’ and not to uncritically embrace every idea.”

Dokow compared the Christmas tree’s display to letting students declare that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jewish people or allowing a Spanish food festival that “prominently featured pork.”

Israel’s Basic Laws, which serve as a provisional constitution, enshrine its status as a “Jewish and democratic state.” But the proper balance of these two parts of Israel’s identity is an open question.

The Supreme Court in Israel has consistently protected the right to freedom of religion, which it finds in a constitutional law protecting “human dignity and liberty.” How far that right extends into the public arena is unclear.

A private hotel, though it serves the public, has clearer discretion regarding religious expression than a public university, said Shuki Friedman, a religion and state researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.

“No one can oblige a hotel to put up or take down a Christmas tree,” he said. “On the other hand, when we talk about a university, it’s considered a public space. Whether a university puts up a Christmas tree or refuses to put up a Christmas tree, it could be legally challenged.”

Friedman said it also depends on who is using the space. In Nazareth, an Arab-Israeli city in northern Israel with a large Christian population, a public Christmas tree would clearly serve the local population, he said. Conversely, Friedman added, the Western Wall is “one place there will not be a Christmas tree.”

About 2 percent of Israel’s population is Christian. Most Christians in Israel are Arabs, who comprise some 20 percent of Israel’s more than 8 million residents.

The Chief Rabbinate — the highest Jewish authority in Israel and overseer of the Jerusalem Rabbinate — last year offered some protection to displayers of Christmas trees. Under threat of a petition to the Supreme Court, the Chief Rabbinate issued guidelines stating that its kashrut inspectors could not revoke the kosher certifications of hotels over the trees or Shabbat violations.

The Technion responded to its Christmas tree controversy with a statement saying that Rabbi Dokow’s words “expressed his personal opinion and not that of the Technion.”

“Even before the Technion opened its gates about 100 years ago, its founders stated that the institution they hoped to build would be open to all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity and gender,” the statement said, noting that religious and secular Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians from around Israel and the world study “side by side” there and students of “all religions and communities” help manage the student union.

“The union, it goes without saying, celebrates all the Jewish festivals and, concurrently, it allows students from other religions to express themselves with respect and tolerance. The different festivals are celebrated in a range of ways, including, in this case, a Christmas tree beside the Hanukkah menorah.”

Knesset member Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List of Arab political parties accused Dokow of incitement. In a letter [sent on] Monday to the Technion’s president, Peretz Lavie, Jabareen said,

There’s no need to elaborate on the gravity of these statements, and the serious offence to the Technion’s Arab students and to Israeli Arabs in general. These statements contain clear incitement to racism, in violation of the law, and therefore also constitute a serious criminal offence.
Haaretz

According to Haaretz, Technion student Peter Hana said “an absolute majority of students, as well as management and the dean,” supported the Christmas tree, and “only a handful of students and the rabbi himself chose to come out against it.”


Jerusalem rabbis instruct hotels to drop Christmas trees

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate says the city’s directive, which also takes aim at New Year’s parties, is a ‘private initiative’

By Times of Israel staff
December 20, 2016

The Jerusalem rabbinate has called on hotels in the city not to erect Christmas trees or host New Year’s Eve parties, according to a letter that emerged Tuesday.

The letter, addressed to hotel managers and signed by the two chief rabbis of Jerusalem, stated:

As the secular year ends we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha [Jewish law] and that therefore it is clear that one should not erect [a tree] in a hotel.

It is also appropriate to avoid hosting parties to mark the end of the secular year. We wish to remind you that our new year occurs on the first of [the Hebrew month of] Tishrei, in an atmosphere of holiness, with the happiness of mitzva.

Although the letter does not threaten sanctions, it could be interpreted as a veiled threat, in contravention of guidelines issued by the Chief Rabbinate in 2015 asserting that kashrut inspectors could not revoke the kosher certification from hotels and other establishments over photography, music or movie screenings on Shabbat, or if a Christmas tree was displayed during the holiday season.


One of the city’s many Santa Clauses passes the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90

A spokesperson for Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said that the letter was not connected to the kashrut licensing authority. “This was a private initiative from the Jerusalem rabbinate. The purpose was to request that [hotels] remove Christmas decorations out of consideration for the feelings of those members of the public who observe mitzvot,” he told the Kipa website.

The Israel Hotels Association said it was concerned the directive could prove detrimental to Christian tourism.

Last year’s guidelines were issued following a petition by the Israeli group Hiddush*, which threatened to appeal to the Supreme Court if the existing regulations weren’t changed.

Hiddush said the Chief Rabbinate had been in violation of the Kosher Fraud Law established in 2013, which states that “the kashrut inspector should only consider standards of kashrut alone in certifying an establishment as kosher.”

According to a Supreme Court ruling, basing an establishment’s kosher certification on considerations such as Sabbath observance or modesty was in contravention of the law.

Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush, said on Monday, “We have heard of [local] rabbinates that do not consider themselves bound by the law or the ruling of the Supreme court. We understand the sensitive situation that hotels find themselves in, and offer our assistance in enforcing the law against renegade rabbinates, which are publicly funded by the state but disregard its laws.”

Separately, the rabbi of the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa forbade students to enter the student union building due to a Christmas tree placed there.

Rabbi Elad Dokow, writing on the Srugim website, described the tree as an attack on Jewish identity. “It is not a Christian religious symbol but, even worse, a pagan one,” he wrote. Therefore he said, students may not enter the building to purchase food or for any other reason.

He described the tree as “anti-Jewish,” not simply as anti-religious.

MK Youssef Jabareen of the Joint (Arab) List wrote to the head of the Technion calling the rabbi’s words were incitement to racism, Haaretz reported, and saying that such an attitude harms relations on campus between Jews and Arabs. He called on the Technion to dismiss the rabbi.

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