Westboro Church Uses iPhone to Announce Steve Jobs Funeral Protest

The height of hypocrisy:

The Westboro Baptist Church took to an iPhone when they heard about Steve Jobs’ death Wednesday night, sending out a message saying the Apple founder would be going to hell and calling for a protest of his funeral.

“Westboro will picket his funeral. He had a huge platform; gave God no glory and taught sin,” wrote Margie Phelps, daughter of the church’s founder.

The controversial group often pickets outside of soldiers’ funerals to draw media attention to their cause, which includes anti-gay material. Phelps tweeted the messages from her account, with an automatic note appearing at the bottom of the Tweet saying “via Twitter for iPhone.”

“No peace for man who served self, not God,” she wrote with the hashtag, #hellgreetedhim. “Westboro must picket.”

Thursday morning, Phelps responded to widespread criticism of her using the iPhone to Tweet the messages, saying that the phone was created by God–not Jobs–for that purpose.

“Rebels mad cuz I used iPhone to tell you Steve Jobs is in hell.God created iPhone for that purpose! icon smile Westboro Church Uses iPhone to Announce Steve Jobs Funeral Protest ” she wrote.

Arrangements for Jobs’ funeral haven’t been announced.




Steve Jobs a Zen Buddhist?

The Zen of Steve Jobs:

CNN Steve Jobs’ admirers praised him for de-cluttering the world of high-tech gadgetry. The products that made him famous, from the Macintosh computer to the iPad, exemplified minimalist design and simplicity of use, enabling what some called a Zen-like experience.

“Apple products are as defined by what they’re missing as much as by what they contain,” wrote tech and pop culture columnist Jeff Yang this year in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The spiritual side of Steve Jobs

Might Jobs’ approach to innovation and design have been provoked by real-life Zen, as in Zen Buddhism?

The Apple chief, who died Wednesday at 56, had a decades-long relationship with a Zen master, who presided over his wedding and whom Jobs reportedly appointed as a corporate spiritual adviser. Their ties have fed speculation about such a connection.

Early on in life, Jobs took a spiritual retreat to India that helped lead him to embrace Buddhism. But the teacher with whom Jobs bonded with in the United States was a Zen Buddhist, a tradition rooted in Japan.

According to Yang and to other press reports, Jobs studied at the Los Altos Zen Center in the 1970s and developed a close relationship with a Japanse-born Zen master, or roshi, named Kobun Chino Otogawa.

Kobun focused his teaching on developing a Zen meditation practice.

“The real purpose of practice is to discover the wisdom which you have always been keeping with you,” Kobun said in a talk that’s posted on the website for the Jikoji Retreat Center, a Zen center he founded outside San Francisco.

“To discover yourself is to discover wisdom; without discovering yourself you can never communicate with anybody,” said Kobun, who died in 2002, in the same talk.

Jobs seemed to echo that spiritual self-reliance in public comments, including his oft-quoted 2005 commencement address at Stanford University:

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

According to Yang, Jobs appointed Kobun as the official “spiritual adviser” for the company he founded after being fired as Apple CEO in 1986. Called NeXT, that company was eventually purchased by Apple, paving the way for Jobs’ second act there.

Kobun also presided over Jobs’ 1991 marriage to Laurene Powell.

The relationship between Jobs and Kobun is the subject of a graphic novel, soon to be published by Forbes. The book, which is fiction but is inspired by the real-life relationship, is titled “The Zen of Steve Jobs.”



Damascus Crown Bible Manuscripts Go On Rare Display

But only for a few hours last night at the Israel National Library:

Jerusalem – Precious Bible manuscripts originating in the Jewish community of Damascus, Syria, went on display for several hours Wednesday, offering a rare glimpse at a collection that includes books spirited to Israel in clandestine operations before the ancient community disappeared at the end of the 20th century.

The books are held at Israel’s national library. Because of security and conservation concerns, most of the collection has been on display just once before, also for just a few hours, more than a decade ago.

The collection includes 11 volumes. Three, including the oldest and most important book in the collection, were brought out of the library’s vaults and displayed during a symposium Wednesday evening.

Ranging from 700 to 1,000 years old and written in the Middle East and Europe, the parchment manuscripts include meticulous Hebrew penmanship and illustrations in ink and gold leaf. Some boast intricate micrography – decorations made up of thousands of tiny Hebrew letters.

None were written in Damascus, but rather came to be held in synagogues in the city over the centuries. They are known collectively as the Damascus Crowns, “crown” being a Hebrew term sometimes used to describe particularly important and venerable biblical manuscripts.

The Jewish community in Syria’s capital had been there for more than 2,000 years before its members were driven out by government persecution and mob violence linked to the rise of Arab nationalism and the establishment of Israel in 1948. A second ancient community in the country’s business center, Aleppo, met the same fate, as did others across the Arab world.

A trickle of Jewish emigrees managed to escape beginning at the time of Israel’s creation, with the help of Israeli agents running smuggling routes through Lebanon and Turkey.

Most of the rest of the community left in the 1990s after Syria’s late dictator, Hafez Assad, bowed to international pressure and allowed them out. Most settled in Israel and the U.S. A handful, no more than several dozen, remain in Damascus.

The oldest of the Damascus Crowns was written in the late 10th century A.D. in what is now Israel. Because it shows the influence of two rival schools of textual scholars, it has provided modern researchers with important information on how the Biblical text evolved. It was purchased by a famed British collector of manuscripts, David Solomon Sassoon, in 1914 and taken to Britain. The library purchased it in 1975.

Another of the books displayed Wednesday, a 700-year-old Bible that scholars believe was written in Italy, had a riskier journey to Jerusalem.

Beginning in the late 1970s, a Canadian Jewish woman, Judy Feld Carr, undertook an effort to smuggle Jews out of Syria, raising money from North American synagogues, bribing Syrian officials, dispatching envoys and running an independent immigration operation for more than 20 years from her living room in Toronto. All told, Feld Carr’s endeavor facilitated the emigration of more than 3,000 Syrian Jews.

Feld Carr learned of the manuscript, she said, from Jews who had already fled, and dispatched a contact to Damascus in 1993. She would identify the man only as a Western Christian who died last year.

Feld Carr orchestrated a meeting in Damascus between her envoy and the community’s rabbi, she recounted. The rabbi slipped him the book, and the man then smuggled it out of the country hidden under his raincoat in a black shopping bag. The book reached Feld Carr in Canada and came to Israel the next year.

While the book was in her possession, Feld Carr saw there were two records of purchase appended to the manuscript. One showed it had changed hands in Spain before Jews were expelled from the country in 1492, and the second recounted another sale in the Ottoman Empire, where many Jews found refuge.

“It went from Italy to Castille, to Constantinople, to Damascus, and then to Toronto – this book was the story of the Jewish people,” she said.

The eight books that were not put on display at the library Wednesday arrived in Israel in the 1990s in murkier circumstances, smuggled out of Syria via the West in an operation conducted by Israel’s intelligence services. Few details of that smuggling operation have been disclosed. Aviad Stollman, the library curator in charge of the collection, said the eight books were not displayed to avoid putting a spotlight on a story that remains largely classified.

In Damascus, the manuscripts were guarded in some of the 24 synagogues that existed before the community’s emigration. They were taken out only on special occasions or with permission from community leaders, said Shlomo Baso, a Damascus-born rabbi.

Baso escaped to Israel in 1985, at age 33, by hiking across Syria’s mountainous border with Turkey with his wife and five young children.

In the early 1990s, when the Jews fled en masse, they brought the Torah scrolls they had used for centuries. Some were dismantled into parchment segments that were then distributed among the emigrees and concealed in their luggage. When the pieces reached Israel, Baso sewed them back together and reconstituted the scrolls. Today, his synagogue in a Tel Aviv suburb houses four scrolls from Damascus, each about 300 years old.

“Every community has riches of some kind. We were rich in books,” he said.




Antiochian Delegation to Damascus, Syria

I rather enjoyed reading this morning, an account of a trip to Syria by Fr Patrick Henry Reardon (Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese) to investigate the internal political situation in that country:

During this past September 13-18, I was part of a delegation sent to Syria by Metropolitan PHILIP to investigate the internal political situation in that country, particularly with respect to its Christian minority. Our group consisted of six priests of the Antiochian Archdiocese: Fathers Dimitri Darwich (our guide and the only Arabic-speaker), Timothy Ferguson, Joseph Honeycutt, John Winfrey, David Bleam, and myself; two Protestant pastors: Bonn Clayton and Norman Wilson; and an expert in international law, James Perry, accompanied by his wife, Martha, who served as the delegation’s secretary. Attached to the delegation as a reporter for Ancient Faith Radio was John Maddex, its executive director.

The following narrative is my own assessment of that experience, along with some account of what I learned…

Do read it as well,  here.

Also, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip letter on the delegation:

Brother Hierarchs, Beloved Clergy, Esteemed Members of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees and Faithful Laity of our God-Protected Archdiocese:

Greetings to you and your families in the name of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ!

As you are all aware, there has been a lot of turmoil throughout many of the countries of the Middle East since the beginning of the year. Many of these uprisings coined “the Arab-spring” have resulted in changes of governments in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and unrest in other Gulf and North African nations. Since the spring, this phenomenon has supposedly spread to Syria, the country of the seat of our Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. The reports we receive on an almost daily basis from our Patriarch and various Metropolitans of the See of Antioch, together with our many contacts in Syria do not agree with the reports we see and hear in Western media such as CNN, Fox News, and others. Likewise, many of the gulf sponsored Arabic news channels like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya seem to portray a dire situation in Syria when the reality based on our many contacts there appears to be something quite the contrary.

Because of this contradiction, and because our office has been inundated with letters, emails and phone calls about the situation in Syria, we felt it necessary to send a delegation made up of a group of some of our convert priests, other religious leaders from non-Orthodox communities, and an international lawyer to see first-hand the situation and report back to me and to all of you, the faithful of our God-protected Archdiocese. This is important because of our deep connection and roots as Antiochian Orthodox Christians (either by ancestral roots or by religious roots or both) to the land of Syria. The consequences of the uprisings in Syria for the Christian community, and all minority communities in Syria, are likely to be drastic should the government collapse as the country will slip into chaos and sectarianism. Syria, despite the need for some reforms, has been, and should remain a secular state in which all people can practice their religion freely and openly.

The group spent three days in mid-September making official visits including a 90 minute meeting with President Assad, another meeting and dinner with the Grand Mufti of the Syrian Republic, a third meeting with opposition leaders and finally a meeting with representatives from our Patriarchate. You will see for yourselves in the following article what their impressions were, what they witnessed, and how they found the state of the country.

Praying for the peace from above that only God can bring, I remain,

Your Father in Christ,

+Metropolitan PHILIP
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America


Church of England Newspaper: Ordinariate Falling Short in US

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The American branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the Anglican Church in America (ACA) has called upon Archbishop John Hepworth to resign, saying it will not follow him into the Roman Catholic Church.

Meeting at the Our Lady of the Snows conference center in Belleville, Illinois, the ACA synod released endorsed a resolution stating they would not follow Archbishop Hepworth to Rome under the terms of the Anglican Ordinariate.

“It is increasingly obvious to us and those for whom we are pastorally responsible that recent developments have made it impossible for you to continue to function effectively as Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and that the responsibilities of that office add immeasurably to the personal stress inevitable in your personal situation.”

The American rebuff to Archbishop Hepworth and the Anglican Ordinatriate follows similar moves by the TAC’s South African and Indian branches rejecting the move towards Rome.

Archbishop Hepworth, who made headlines last month after he revealed he had been sexually abused by three Roman Catholic clergy while he was a seminarian and young priest, told ABC radio this week that he would not step down.

“Nine years ago, when I became the primate, I wrote to the then Cardinal Ratzinger who headed the CDF, which is where unity takes place, and said that if I ever became an obstacle through my personal circumstances or background, then understand that I will step aside,” Archbishop Hepworth said.

“Now, at the moment, the Vatican isn’t saying that to me, they’re saying to me the opposite, to keep going as you are.”

While the American branch of TAC had rejected the Ordinariate, “in England, Canada and Australia, we’re going ahead with some careful planning and we hope our people will become involved early in the New Year,” Archbishop Hepworth said.

“Naturally those not going in to the unity [with Rome] at this stage, would prefer a primate who wasn’t going in to it either,” he said.




UK Chaplains in Afghanistan: Ordinary Priests with an Extraordinary Flock

With their camouflage Bibles and combat crosses, the forces’ 278 chaplains are outsiders in the church and the military.

The Guardian:

The Rev James Francis was travelling in an armoured vehicle north of the Bowri desert in Afghanistan, accompanying the Brigade Reconnaissance Force during the stopping and searching of vehicles for insurgents, when a Royal Marine interrupted his chat with a gunner to ask if it was right to kill.

“That was a direct question,” says the padre for 30 Commando, “but it’s quite normal for these things to occur to people out here and it’s vital that when difficult decisions are being made we have direct answers, that as Christians we don’t retreat into some kind of holy huddle.”

Francis is the archetypal Church of England priest – cheerful, polite, with James Herriot DVDs and a lavish tea collection – but his congregation is extraordinary: British forces who on Friday will have been engaged in operations in Afghanistan for 10 years in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Chaplains – there are 278 serving in the British military – have also been in the country for a decade to minister and give comfort when the war exacts terrible costs. There have been 382 UK military fatalities in Afghanistan since 2002 – 35 of them this year.

Camp Bastion and other British military bases in Afghanistan hold vigils, overseen by padres such as Francis, to commemorate those who have died. These have come to represent the most formal face of collective worship here, but much of the work of the chaplains is in smaller gatherings, perhaps over a cup of tea.

The men and women are forced to deal with mortality at a far younger age than most of their civilian peers. “For when you need someone to pray with” is the motto for a dedicated military telephone prayer line.

Combat crosses

Wherever UK forces are, padres will be found. They have military and medical training but no weapons. The tools of their trade are camouflage-cover Bibles and they wear combat crosses – small, metallic discs with a punched-out cross – alongside the standard military-issue dogtags bearing their surname, blood type, service number and religion…

The majority of the 278 military chaplains across the three services belong to the Church of England and there are civilian chaplains for each major faith group. A Ministry of Defence spokesman has said the spending of £22m a year on military chaplaincy is “currently being assessed”. Groups such as the British Humanist Association argue that religious groups should fund their own chaplains – whether they work in hospitals, prisons or universities – and that the job of providing pastoral support should not be confined to people of faith but open to all “qualified people”.

According to figures released last year, the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department is experiencing one of its busiest decades since the second world war. It has deployed 15 padres to Afghanistan and the experience of chaplaincy has left a life-changing impression on some troops. Around 70 men and women from the armed forces are considering military chaplaincy as a result of their experiences with padres on the frontline.

The starting salary for a military chaplain is £37,172 on appointment, rising to £55,857 after 15 years’ service. Senior chaplains are on a separate pay scale. The average salary for a Church of England bishop is £39,020.

Do read the whole piece here.



Steve Jobs Dead

Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder and former CEO, has died at the age of 56  after a long and battle with cancer.

“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius and the world has lost an amazing human being,” Apple said. “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives.”Jobs, who has fought cancer in recent years and received a liver transplant in 2009, stepped down as Apple’s chief executive in August. But his death is still likely to come as a shock to many in Silicon Valley and across the world.

Born on February 24, 1955 and raised in Palo Alto, California, Jobs was one of a handful of figures who straddled two generations that helped transform the small corner of California into the world’s hub for technogical innovation.

Having founded Apple in his family’s garage in 1976 with his friend Steve Wozniak, more than 30 years of innovation resulted in Apple surpassing oil giant Exxon Mobil as the world’s most valuable company earlier this year. In the process Jobs helped reinvent the personal computer, music and mobile phone industries as well as reshape the attitude of millions to technology.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, said that “the world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.”…

More here.

The Telegraph has a live blog covering the news of his death here and an obituary here.

The Apple epitaph is here:

Wikipedia has more on Steve Jobs here.

See also (on this blog) Steve Jobs on dying.

Eternal rest, grant him, Father, through Christ our Lord.