Precarious Monasteries Reveal Faith Close To The Edge

They are not all Christian monasteries, but worth a look.

stgeorge monastery israel

More spectacular photos here.

George Washington and Army Chaplains

James Caldwell, the “soldier parson”

On Fr Peter Preble’s blog, yesterday:

On this day, February 7, 1776, General George Washington notifies his troops of a new policy regarding chaplains’ pay. He’d advocated for better treatment of his chaplains, and he’d succeeded!Shortly after Washington assumed command of the American army during the summer of 1775, the Continental Congress approved its first act regarding chaplains. This act set chaplains’ salaries at $20 per month just above that of lieutenants. Washington was unimpressed. He wrote the President of Congress, noting that the pay was “too Small to encourage men of Abilities.” He asked that a way be found to increase chaplains’ salaries.

Congress approved Washington’s request. It passed an act providing for the appointment of one chaplain to every two regiments. The chaplains had more responsibility, but their pay was also increased. Instead of $20 per month, they were to receive a little more than $33 per month. Washington announced the change on February 7, 1776.

After a few months, Washington decided that the system (unfortunately) did not work for logistical reasons. If regiments were separated due to the demands of war, one regiment might find itself without a chaplain for a while. Washington wrote Congress again. He asked that chaplains be assigned one per regiment, with a salary “competent to their support.”

Congress initially agreed, but the new policy did not last. Eventually, fiscal concerns caused chaplains to be assigned one per brigade. A brigade was a much larger unit of the army; it could be composed of several regiments. In other words, there were fewer chaplains, overall, in the army.

Washington objected again. Interestingly, his main concern was for religious liberty. He wanted many chaplains of a variety of faiths. If there were fewer chaplains overall, then, by definition, there were fewer choices for his men. They were more likely, he wrote Congress, to be compelled “to a mode of Worship, which they do not profess.” Washington preferred the old system, with more chaplains and a greater likelihood that the men could have “a Chaplain of their own religious Sentiments.”

Perhaps what is most interesting about all of these events is the great importance that Washington placed upon the presence of chaplains in his army. He thought they served a valuable function, and he advocated for them consistently. Remember that Washington often faced shortages of supplies and funds. Yet he thought it important to spend some of these valuable funds on chaplains.

 

Inter-Religious Dialogue

HT

 

Beyond Belief: Archaeology and Religion

Beyond BeliefThe BBC:

A new series of Beyond Belief begins with a discussion on the impact of archaeological discoveries on religious belief.

Listen here (right click & “save target as / link as”).

Duration: 28 mins.

Features renowned Bible scholar Francesca Stravrakopoulou.

 

Who Is a Jew?

Competing answers to an increasingly pressing question.

Who is a Jew? This question is becoming ever more pressing for Jews around the world. It looks like a religious issue, but is bound up with history, Israeli politics and the rhythms of the diaspora. Addressing it means deciding whether assimilation is a mortal threat, as many Jews think, or a phenomenon to be accommodated. The struggle over the answer will shape Israel’s society, its relations with Jews elsewhere, and the size and complexion of the global Jewish community.

For Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Tubul, the solution is simple and ancient: you are a Jew if your mother is Jewish, or if your conversion to Judaism accorded with the Halacha, Jewish religious law. Gentiles might be surprised that for Jews by birth this traditional test makes no reference to faith or behaviour. Jews may be atheist (many are: apostasy is a venerable Jewish tradition) and still Jews. Joel Roth, a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, likens this nativist criterion to that for American citizenship: Americans retain it regardless of their views on democracy or the constitution. Some strict rabbis even think that a child is not Jewish if born to a devout mother but from a donated gentile egg…

 

The Economist has more.

 

How Religion Cuts Crime

    • Study found people who visit places of worship commit fewer crimes
    • The more frequent the visits, the lower the chance of delinquent behaviour
    • Crimes ranged from littering and music piracy up to the use of illegal drugs

This much, we already well know:

People who regularly visit a place of worship are less likely to get involved in low level crime and delinquency, according to new research.

A survey from Manchester University found a direct correlation between higher visits to religious places and lower crime figures, especially in relation to shoplifting, drug use and music piracy.

Researchers believe this is because religion not only teaches people about ‘moral and behavioural norms’, but also spending time with like-minded people makes it less likely they’ll get mixed up with the ‘wrong crowd’…

Although the study found varying degrees of correlation between increased church visits and decreased crime rates, the most significant were seen in relation to shoplifting, the use of illegal drugs and music piracy.

The researchers did not include more serious, high-level crimes because they ‘were too rare for the data to be able to show a significant pattern.’

Read more here.

 

Exposed: Waqf Illegally Drilling on Temple Mount

This behaviour is totally unacceptable and to be denounced in the in the strongest terms. If only we could get proper archaeologists in there!

Muslim worshippers don’t just have more freedom to pray on the Temple Mount, a recent investigation reveals: they apparently also have permission to drill.

An investigation Monday by Yehuda Glick, Director of the Haliba organization for Jewish freedom on the Temple Mount, caught Waqf officials red-handed in the act of drilling through the ancient stones.

Vandalizing the Mount – Judaism’s holiest site and a national landmark for people of all religions – violates the law; when caught in the act on film, the perpetrators quickly tried to conceal their actions.


 

The Waqf is the Jordanian-run Islamic trust which administers the Temple Mount. It has been accused on numerous occasions of mounting a concerted campaign to “Islamize” the site by destroying ancient Jewish artifacts.

Glick spoke to Arutz Sheva about the revelation and about the special session of the Knesset Committee for the Interior Wednesday regarding the ineffectiveness of Israeli law enforcement system in light of recent events at the Temple Mount compound.

Glick said that on Monday, during his daily visit, he noticed a group of Waqf officials drilling with heavy machinery at the site. Needless to say, such an act is supposed be performed only after obtaining permission from the authorities and in the presence of a government inspector.

“They saw me coming and immediately tried to hide. It set off warning bells for me and I started filming straight away,” Glick recalled. “They tried to hide, and then shouted to the policeman who was there that I could not take pictures without their permission. The policeman ignored them.”

Glick stated that the Waqf officials were using a drill bit measuring over a meter long to drill through the stones, potentially causing serious damage to artifacts buried underneath. “This is in contempt of the law,” he lamented…

More here.

 

Satanic Group Unveils Goat-Head Statue

The Washington Times:

 Satanic Temple members just unveiled their design for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan they want to locate at the Capitol building in Oklahoma, right next to a monument of the Ten Commandments that has stood since 2012.

And to many, the design may prove shocking.

The Associated Press reported an artist’s depiction shows Satan as the goat-headed and horned figure of Baphomet, complete with wings and a long beard. The Satan figure is shown sitting on a throne decorated with pentagrams, in the middle of a few smiling children.

“The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond,” said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the group, in a statement reported by the AP. “The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

The group is based in New York, but says it’s not fair for Oklahoma lawmakers to let a Ten Commandments statue stand at the building, without also allowing monuments that reflect other spiritual beliefs, The Associated Press reported. The Ten Commandments statue was privately funded. The American Civil Liberties Union sued to have it removed shortly after it was place, AP reported.

And the Satanic Temple isn’t the only group seeking equal access to the site.

The AP reported that a Hindu head in Nevada wants to put a monument at the Capitol, along with an animal rights group and the — satirical — Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In response, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has put a moratorium on deciding new requests.

But it’s the Satanic Temple request that’s sparking ire among Bible Belt residents and politicos.

“I think you’ve got to remember where you are,” said Rep. Don Armes, in the AP report. “This is Oklahoma, the middle of the heartland. I think we need to be tolerant of people who think different than us, but this is Oklahoma and that’s not going to fly here.”

The group, meanwhile, said it’s already raised $10,000 to build the monument — about the half the amount members estimate is needed.

“We plan on moving forward one way or another,” Mr. Greaves said, in the report.

Pray this evil plan fails.

 

Islamic Authorities Seize Bibles Because Christians Use the Word ‘Allah’

In Malaysia. Reuters:

Islamic authorities in Malaysia on Thursday seized 321 Bibles from a Christian group because they used the word Allah to refer to God, signaling growing intolerance that may inflame ethnic and religious tension in the Southeast Asian country.

The raid comes after a Malaysian court in October ruled that the Arabic word was exclusive to Muslims, most of whom are ethnic Malays, the largest ethnic group in the country alongside sizeable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

That ruling overturned a court decision that allowed a Roman Catholic newspaper printed in Malay, the country’s national language, to use Allah.

The change has heightened concern that religious authorities, which issue rulings for Muslims and operate alongside civil courts, now have more legal muscle.

Analysts say new rulings that affect non-Muslims could be a way of deflecting anger against Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government from poor Malay Muslims over subsidy cuts likely to force up electricity, petrol and sugar prices.

On Thursday, the top Islamic authority in the richest and most populous state of Selangor seized the Malay-language Bibles from the Bible Society. The society said authority officials escorted two of its officials to a police station to make statements after which they were released on bail.

“We were told that we were under investigation for breaking a Selangor state law banning non-Muslims from using the word Allah,” said Bible Society of Malaysia Chairman Lee Min Choon.

The raid is a marked escalation from the occasional seizure at border checkpoints of Bibles imported from Indonesia. It was the first time Islamic authorities have entered premises belonging to a Christian organization to carry out a raid.

Christians from Malaysia’s rural states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo, who have used the word Allah for centuries, have moved in droves to Selangor and other parts of peninsular Malaysia in recent years to look for work…

Rest here.

 

Finding God in a Storefront at the Mall

In the New York Times:

Several days into the Christmas shopping season at the Northgate Mall here, the Rev. Dan Anderson stood improbably in a storefront between Sci-Fi City and the Loveable You Portrait Studio. An older couple, strolling past, slowed down to regard him.

Father Anderson, 66, wore the brown habit of the Franciscan friar, its plain humility broken only by a name tag affably identifying him as Dan. The former shoe store that he occupied contained holiday decorations, a brimming coffeepot and a life-size statue of the order’s founder, St. Francis of Assisi. On one table rested a glass fishbowl for prayer requests.

The couple asked Father Anderson if they could confess, and he guided them to a quiet corner. They spoke, he listened, and as the minutes passed, 15 or more, they gathered the courage to ask their question of both the friar and the universe: A relative of theirs had committed suicide. Was he in heaven?

As startling as the encounter may have been, it was also the precise reason Father Anderson and about 25 other friars based nearby in Cincinnati had set up temporary shop at the Northgate Mall. They opened their doors on Black Friday, which they promptly renamed Brown Friday in wry reference to their clothing, and they will remain until the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

“It’s from the basis of Franciscan theology,” Father Anderson said. Referring to St. Francis, he continued, “For him, the ultimate wonder is that God loved us enough to be one of us. And he was one of us in the simplicity and vulnerability of a child.”

The Rev. Jeffrey J. Scheeler, 61, the provincial minister for the Franciscans in a large portion of the Midwest, took his scriptural inspiration from John 1:14. While a central phrase in the verse is commonly translated along the lines of, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” Father Scheeler said he preferred an alternative rendering: “He pitched his tent among us.”

How a tent in ancient Judea became a storefront in a Cincinnati suburb is a particularly Franciscan story…

Read on here.

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