Western Standard

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Muslims for unconditional free speech

A phrase that has never been uttered before in the history of humanity. I checked. Maybe someone said it in a bar once, but it doesn't show up on Google. But these Muslims do exist, I have a list of them right here. And here's what they've said:

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible. We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation. We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed. We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

Check out the names, Google them. Some of them are as pure as the driven snow. Some have said stuff so odious it would shame a Pope. But that is what free speech is all about isn't it? Freedom for even the most prickish of our fellow citizens to say absurd and hateful garbage (and concomitantly, the freedom for the rest of us to call them pricks).

And if these people are willing to stand up and sign their names to a letter in defence of the rights of Cartman and 'Everyone Draw Mohamed Day' lady - then I feel much less like a dupe for standing up and defending their right to hate on Israel and sing the praises of Libby Davies.

You can read the full statement here.

H/T Hit and Run Blog

 

Posted by Robert Jago on September 24, 2010 in Freedom of expression, Religion | Permalink | Comments (27)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The story of South Park, and the recent Muhammad episode controversy

Click the image for larger pic.

South-park

Thanks to OnlineSchools.org for the comic.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on August 11, 2010 in Humour, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

(Video) Greg Gutfeld discusses Islam-friendly gay bar on Glenn Beck

Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News' Red Eye, discusses his plan to build a gay bar for Muslims across from the Ground Zero Mosque. "I'm dead serious," says Gutfeld:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on August 10, 2010 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Greg Gutfeld: I'm building a gay bar next to the Ground Zero Mosque

UPDATED BELOW

VIDEO UPDATE 2: "I'm dead serious," says Gutfeld on Glenn Beck show.

Greg Gutfeld, host of Red Eye on Fox News, wants to build a gay bar right next to the "Ground Zero Mosque."

This idea comes on the heels of his August 6th post on Fox News, responding to Huffington Post's Russel Simmons' piece. Simmons argued that he won't stand for Islamophobia in his "backyard." Gutfeld responded by saying that while building a Mosque at Ground Zero is perfectly legal, it's kind of a jerk move:

Rather than argue against my point that it's simply obnoxious to build the mosque, they'd rather belch "race!" It's a reflex.

"Islamaphobia"? Please. Like I said before, I'm totally tolerant and if they want to build the thing, go for it. But just realize if you do, you're a jerk.

Today, Gutfeld has decided to up the ante. Writes Gutfeld:

As an American, I believe they have every right to build the mosque - after all, if they buy the land and they follow the law - who can stop them?

Which is, why, in the spirit of outreach, I've decided to do the same thing.

I'm announcing tonight, that I am planning to build and open the first gay bar that caters not only to the west, but also Islamic gay men. To best express my sincere desire for dialogue, the bar will be situated next to the mosque Park51, in an available commercial space.

Just in case you think this is a joke, Gutfeld assures us that it isn't:

This is not a joke. I've already spoken to a number of investors, who have pledged their support in this bipartisan bid for understanding and tolerance.

As you know, the Muslim faith doesn't look kindly upon homosexuality, which is why I'm building this bar. It is an effort to break down barriers and reduce deadly homophobia in the Islamic world.

[...]

Bottom line: I hope that the mosque owners will be as open to the bar, as I am to the new mosque. After all, the belief driving them to open up their center near Ground Zero, is no different than mine.

Related: Check out J.J. McCullough's political cartoon entitled "Sacred Ground Zero."

UPDATE: There's a lively comment section over on reddit about this post. Worth checking out.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on August 9, 2010 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (17)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Supreme Court rules against Hutterite's religious freedoms

On July 24th, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against some of Alberta's Hutterite communities, ensuring they will no longer be exempt from being required to have photographs on their drivers licenses.

The Hutterites believe that photographs are prohibited by the second commandment. While that belief would seem to fall under their constitutional right to freedom of religion, the ruling states that being exempt from having their photograph taken on religious grounds does not satisfy Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that our rights and freedoms can be overridden if it can be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." You can thank Trudeau for that one.

In his latest column written for the Western Standard, Pierre Lemieux examines the ruling and questions the need for photographs on government identification in the first place:

A drivers’ licencing system calls for adding photographs, which soon morph into a digital photo data base. What’s the next step? Biometric ID papers or RFID implants? Once you get into this logic, the end product will be a parent licencing system, a three-decade-old academic proposal based on the driver licencing model. The reason why no drivers’ licences should carry a picture is that we need to stop this drift – if we are too shy to question the whole system of licencing drivers.

Look at the big picture. The danger of official ID papers is that they allow the state to monitor individuals and, thus, to reduce the cost of enforcing and imposing growing regulation on them. Photographs on drivers’ licences (and on medicare cards) contributed much to the rise of government ID papers in Canada. When they bore no picture, they were less efficient. Blessed inefficiency!

Even the Supreme Court recognizes that requiring photo identification is a violation of the Hutterite's right to freedom of religion. The Hutterites originally came to Alberta because it offered them the freedom to practice their religion as they see fit. Not anymore apparently.

Not only is it disgraceful for the Alberta government to challenge the exemption, which to my knowledge has not created many problems in the past, it is also wrong that the Supreme Court thought that limiting their freedoms was justified, supposedly to protect identity theft.

Pierre Lemieux's full article can be found at westernstandard.ca

Posted by Jesse Kline on August 4, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (32)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Illegal Blasphemy in Ireland

If you visit Ireland after October, you'd better watch what you say about God.

A blasphemous slip of the tongue could cost you 25,000 euros under revamped legislation that will soon be signed into law.

Blasphemy is an act of challenging or offending a religious belief.

Liberty takes a step back for the folks in Ireland. Not only does this threaten atheists, agnostics and the non-religious, but also anyone who values freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of/from religion, and the separation of church and state.

Though a similar law is unlikely to happen in Canada, Western governments love to borrow bad ideas for each other and this need to be watched; this is not a good day for liberty.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 23, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (60)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Was America founded as a Christian nation? Are Americans more or less religious now?

I've often been curious about the history of America, especially its religious history. This curiosity was sparked early in undergrad when I discovered that many of the founding fathers were not Christian, but Deist. Included in this list is Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, and so on.

Garry Wills, author of Head and Heart, has an interesting talk on this subject worth watching here:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 21, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (34)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Polygamy, The More the Merrier?

The case against two men accused of polygamy has been put on hold until September when a B.C. Supreme Court judge will consider a defence argument to toss out the charges.

What are the charges? Polygamy; having more than one wife at the same time.

These folks in Bountiful, B.C. are what’s called “Momon fundamentalists”, in that they have the same lineage with the “Mormons”; the folks headquartered in salt Lake City Utah known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and that they believe that they are living the fundamentals of the religion that the mainstream Church abandoned over 100 years ago; the practice of plural marriage.

At it's core, marriage is a contract between two or more people that can consent to the provisions of the contract. The trouble comes in when you add a third party, the government.

In these communities, they usually have one legal government marriage between the man and the "first wife"; the other marriages are spiritual marriages of a religious nature that are only binding in their church, and do not constitute bigamy, which is legally marrying someone while still having a previous legal marriage.

These "Celestial marriages" are not recognized by the state, so the ladies that enter them and have children will often go on government assistance, and to the government they appear as stay-at-home single mothers. They often do not live with their husbands and may or may not receive financial and emotional support from them.

Put aside the (likely true) accusations of underage brides, put aside the welfare mothers this situation creates, put aside the unusual nature of their religious practices; the question that stands is should these people be allowed to practice their religion when it comes to plural marriage?

I believe in freedom, including religious freedom. While I don't agree with many of the tenants of their faith, I believe that where there is informed consent there is the right to be left alone. It is their faith, it is their lives, and they should be free to choose how to live it, and should be free to choose to leave, as some have.

The RCMP have launched numerous investigations into Bountiful since 1990, and prosecutors have repeatedly shied away from laying charges, concerned the polygamy laws wouldn't survive a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I think that they may be right.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 9, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (53)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Forced Blood Transfusions

If you expect to have religious freedom for yourself, then you have to allow it for other people, whether you agree with their choices or not. That is how liberty and fairness works.

There are many religious practices out there that I disagree with, that I think are harmful. When we talk of harm, we talk of consent; where there isn't consent, there is harm. So the question becomes, if a person capable of understanding consent, are they allowed to harm themselves?

4 years ago, a 14 year old female in Winnipeg was forced by the government to have a blood transfusion, something against her religious convictions as a Jehovah's Witness. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that decision by the Manitoba Court that allowed for the forced transfusion to take place.

The unidentified girl, now 18 years old, reacted.

"I don't want to die, which is why I went to the hospital for treatment. I just wanted the best medical treatment without blood …" the young woman, who is now 18, told CBC.

"There almost are no words to say just how brutal of an act [blood transfusion] is. I once compared it to almost being raped. There are no options for you, there's nothing you can do about it and it's very hard to deal with."

This girl compares her experience to being raped; rape sanctioned and enforced by the government.

Those are very strong words, that should not be taken lightly. To her, this was a violation of her body, a body that she owns and is in charge of.

Three psychiatrists who assessed her all concluded she understood her medical condition and the consequences of not getting a transfusion.

If this is the case, if she truly understood the consequences of such an action, then she is free to decide what to do with her body. Her body, her choice.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on June 26, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (52)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back on the sawdust trail

Readers who have been following my series of posts about Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley may be interested to know that he is back on the job.

This morning, despite the concerns of many Christians who looked askance at the collapse of Mr. Bentley's Florida revival and his marriage, Mr. Bentley announced the launching of his new website. It has print and video teachings, an internet store and a page where you can ask him to minister at your church. So, he's back on the job.

I may have indepth analysis of this later, once I have had time to read and listen, but I wanted Shotgun readers to be the first on the 'net to learn this which, according to Google, is apparently the case.

{I do have one passing, tongue-in-cheek observation though. The typeface for Mr. Bentley's ministry logo is apparently borrowed from the original TV series of Star Trek. Any idea in your mind that Mr. Bentley is so spiritually adept that he can "go where no man has gone before" was probably put there by accident.)  

Posted by Rick Hiebert on June 22, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I guess that if you die and go to heaven, that's a "healing" of sorts...

Canadian preacher Todd Bentley will rue the day that he learns that a reporter at the U.S. magazine World has a long memory.

Mr. Bentley, whose claims to take part in spectacular healings were a feature of his revival in Lakeland, Florida last year, will no doubt be dismayed to hear that that two of the people that he claimed at the time to have helped have since died of the grave illnesses that were "healed" at his meetings.

The faith-healing evangelist has had problems with documenting his healings for many years now. When I first wrote on Mr. Bentley for the Report magazine(s) back in 2001, I asked for some proof that he had been able to help heal people through his prayers. All that Fresh Fire Ministries was able to send me were a couple of vague notes. One was from a doctor that noted that his patient "felt better", but nothing indicating that there was anything that would be visible to a third party.

Last year at Lakeland, there were indications that Mr. Bentley was stretching things a bit. Robert Ricciardelli, another charismatic minister, urged Bentley to stop saying that people were being raised from the dead, when they were unable to substantiate any of them. (He repeated his concern on a Seattle christian radio program as the revival was continuing.)

Mr. Bentley's inclination to run with accounts that would help hype the revival once blew up in his face. One enterprising YouTube user, suspecting that Mr. Bentley would say anything from the pulpit to hype his revival without checking out the truth of his statements first, decided to conduct an amusing test that Mr. Bentley fell for, being reeled in like a fish. It’s still on YouTube in two parts. Part one is here. Part two is here. 

Those who watched the ABC News program Nightline on July 9 of last year will recall reporter Jeffrey Kofman trying to pin down Mr. Bentley on the amount of people that he had helped to heal. The exchange starts at 3:33 of the video portion saved here where Mr. Kofman asked for proof that would be conclusive for a third party that the revival had healed someone. Mr. Bentley talked about "thousands" of healings while Mr. Kofman observed "We just want three." ABC News, however, was disappointed, as their staff was unable to substantiate any of the accounts of healing that Mr. Bentley provided.

Which leads me to the latest story in World, which hits newsstands in the U.S. as I write. (Warning to my readers--I'm told that apparently you can only get the full version of the online story the first time that you access it. Blogger P.J. Miller at Sola Dei Gloria, however, has copied most of the relevant details in a blog post here.)

World reporter Warren Cole Smith wrote a critical story on Mr. Bentley last year and recently decided to follow up on a list of 13 people that Mr. Bentley's ministry provided, at the time, of people who had been healed at Lakeland.

Christopher Fogle, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was suffering from cancer when he was at Lakeland. Mr. Smith adds:

Fogle was No. 12 on the list, along with this note: “Healed through the Outpouring and is back to fishing.”

That was on Aug. 8, 2008. There was just one problem. Two weeks earlier, on July 22, Christopher A. Fogle—according to his obituary in the Keokuk (Iowa) Daily Gate City, “left this life . . . after a courageous battle with cancer.”

Mr. Smith carries on with his adept reporting spadework:

When I called Phyllis Mills, of Trinity, N.C., on April 22 [2009], to hear the testimony of her healing, a polite family member said, “Phyllis passed away a few days ago. In fact, we’re on our way to her funeral now.”

Mills, 66 at the time of her death, had lung cancer and was undergoing aggressive treatments when she was, according to the list, “healed at the revival.” Mills “was taking radiation, but was sent home,” according to notes on Bentley’s list, with “no trace of cancer in her body.”

Mr. Smith writes that some of the people on Mr. Bentley's list that he spoke to do feel better. However, they tend to either have no medical proof of the healing, or their recovery may be due to other reasons than their Lakeland visit.

Praying for someone to be healed, I would say, is one of the kindest things that a Christian would do, so I want to encourage it. Even if it only shows caring and offers emotional comfort to the patient, prayer is worth doing. However, we do need to recognize that prayer for the sick should be done with honesty and integrity, recognizing that sometimes people may not be healed. Christians should exhibit Christlike behaviour and character when trying to be kind to the ill.

Playing fast and loose with the facts is not a sign of integrity. Mr. Bentley needs to be honest, even brutally so, if he hopes to truly help the sick through what he does. If he is not honest, the resulting fruit of Mr. Bentley's ministry will definitely be wormy.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on May 9, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Watchmen on the wall

Here's an heads-up for you. My blogging friend "Bene Diction" advises that several Canadian bloggers have started Religious Right Alert. The blog hopes to report and comment on the work of "social conservatives" particularly as it relates to their work in Ottawa and their political efforts in general. They will probably be sceptical of so-cons.

My own reaction, as a so-con, would be more along the lines of "Canada's religious right has a presence in Ottawa? They actually have some influence? If only that were so!"

However, I also wish them Godspeed too. Religion is newsworthy, and so often it is not covered in the Canadian media, or covered only superficially. Canada's "religious right" does share some similarities with their cousins in the U.S., but there are some significant differences too. If you are an editor, you can't just plug an American story into your newspaper and assume that you have automatically covered what is happening in Canada. We need to report on what is happening here too.

I may often disagree with them, but additional "labourers in the vineyard" are badly needed, if not overdue.  

Posted by Rick Hiebert on April 20, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The art of the apologetic non-apology

It's probably only a matter of days before Todd Bentley returns to working as an evangelist, according to a video update released by his friend and mentor Rick Joyner on the latter's website today. In "Todd and Ministry", Mr. Joyner says that he is powerless to stop God from overriding the restoration process which was allegedly necessary to bring the Canadian preacher back to work. And gee whiz if he doesn't see evidence that this may be happening.

One nagging question that readers may have is why are Mr. Bentley's critics still assailing him, when he says that he is sorry? Well, I can make an educated guess. Although I am not in this camp, I do think that it is in the public's interest to bring blatant lying to their attention.

I suspect that those watching the videos below the fold of this post might suspect that Mr. Bentley and Mr. Joyner are either trying to pull a fast one or are really dumb. They will know, however, the the pair are at least insulting towards a group of friends that tried to help Mr. Bentley when his revival in Lakeland, Florida was in trouble last summer.  

Mr. Bentley's series of revival meetings, shown worldwide by satellite and Internet TV, suffered a body blow after a crew from the ABC-TV news program Nightline visited the revival and found that the meetings seemed to be having no impact on the surrounding communiuty. Moreover, Mr. Bentley was unable to provide "just one" example of someone who could prove with medical testimony that they had been healed. The evangelist immediately decided to take the following day off, probably to strategize.

 On July 24, 2008, several charismatic evangelist friends of Bentley's came to Lakeland to "commission" him. Most of the evangelists belong to a group called Revival Alliance led by C. Peter Wagner, an informal but de facto denomination. The intent, Mr. Wagner explained, was to give some leadership and oversight to the Lakeland meetings. (And thereby, it was left unsaid, to attempt to quiet criticism of Mr. Bentley and reassure Christians who might be fearing that Mr. Bentley was going off the deep end.) Mr. Joyner was also there, participating.

It did not work. Attendance dwindled and Mr. Bentley struck his tents a few weeks later when it came out that his marriage was falling apart (due, it was later revealed, to "adultery" with an intern whom he has now married).

Fast forward to quite recently. On April 3, Mr. Bentley and Mr. Joyner issue a video entitled "Apology to the Revival Alliance and the Church." Amazingly, if you carefully parse what is said, it's an apology that winds up being extremely non-apologetic.

Here is the Bentley-Joyner "apology":

"....There's a big misunderstanding [about] what was going on," Mr. Joyner begins, referring to the special July 24 service.

Mr. Bentley then goes on to try to argue that he was still trying to reconcile with his first wife when the Revival Alliance came to Lakeland, so therefore they weren't blessing anything untoward. Shortly after the 5:18 mark of the video, he says, "Shonnah and I were hoping and working at that things were gonna work even when that ordination took place..." He makes a further reference to "ordination" a few seconds later.

Mr. Bentley, however, goes on to say that the Revival Alliance members were, in his opinion, coming to give God a pat on the back for doing good things, and to give him a "buffer" against attacks on the meetings. At the 7;13 mark of the video, he adds, "I saw it as a simple--not that they were responsible, not that I was coming under any government or organization, as if there was a political structure now, but I saw it simply that there was a bunch of guys that loved revival were all getting together to say 'Yay, God'..."

Okay, Mr. Bentley, after apologizing to the Revival Alliance members, is going on to say that there was nothing significant or formal in what was taking place. Unfortunately for him, the Revival Alliance ordinaton has been saved to YouTube in four parts and we can check what the truth of what he now says. (Did Mr. Bentley check the record first to see if what he was about to say was the truth? As you'll see below, that is doubtful.)

The four parts of the "Lakeland commissioning video" are at this YouTube playlist address:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=221A1C6B40B55DA0

Mr. Bentley's problem is as this was an ordination, this necessarily involves entering a formal arrangement with his friends in the Revival Alliance.

Some examples in the above videos explain what I mean.

C. Peter Wagner, at the 45 second mark of the Part 1 video explains "This is a ceremony celebrating the formal apostolic alignment with Todd Bentley..." In Mr. Wagner's theology, an evangelist such as Mr. Bentley needs to come under the authority of someone to do his work in good order. Mr. Wagner after rattling off his credentials and authority, cites Ephesians 4:11-12 and argues that the phrase translating "aligning" should be understood in the sense of a Greek word meaning when a doctor sets a broken bone. At the 1:58 mark of Part 1, he adds, "This is the responsibility of apostles, such as those you see here on the platform and that is the reason we are present here tonight."

As Mr. Bentley stands on ths stage listening to this, he should understand that a patient who refuses to let a doctor set his broken bone and wrap it in a cast is in dire straights indeed. Therefore, following Mr. Wagner's logic, the Revival Alliance "apostles" are asking Mr. Bentley, as a condition of their coming to support him, to listen and heed when they perceive "broken bones" in the body of his revival. If they spot something wrong, Mr. Bentley must heed and change.

Three members of the Revival Alliance, evangelists Che Ahn, Bill Johnson and John Arnott, all friends of Todd Bentley, are called forward to establish a direct working relationship with Todd Bentley. At the 4:48 mark of the Part 1 video, Todd Bentley, nodding frantically "Yes" in response, is formally asked by Mr. Wagner, "Do you recognize the apostolic authority of these three men in your life and ministry and do you desire to establish an apostolic alignment with them, with Revival Alliance?" Noting Mr. Bentley's nodds, Mr. Wagner then starts to formally commission Todd and offer him the "right hand of fellowship" between Revival Alliance and the evangelist.

The formality continues. At the 9:30 mark of the Part 1 video, Che Ahn anoints Todd Bentley with "special oil".

Over Parts 2 and 3, several ministers pray blessings over Todd Bentley. Rick Joyner makes his presence felt at the end of Part 2, prophesying "increase" and "longevity" for Mr. Bentley's work.

At the beginning of Part 4, Che Ahn gives Todd Bentley a special ring, saying "...we not only seal this commission with this ring..." As the formal part of the ceremony ends, it leads Mr. Bentley to muse on the benefits of partnership. Starting at 3:08 of the Part 4 video, Mr. Bentley muses "Sometimes in the church we get so wounded that there's no room for trust, for friends, for working together with friends. You end up just [saying] 'I'm gonna do it myself...'"

The "tale of the tape" is clear. The Revival Alliance members were making a formal relationship with Todd. And now, after nodding happily at the time and grabbing for their help, Mr. Bentley is saying it never happened. Didn't he realize at the time that with the oaths, anointing and presentation of the ring that something formal was happening? Of course. If he didn't want this to happen, why didn't he make clear to Mr. Wagner that he refused a formal relationship with his group? Why didn't he stop the ceremony as it was happening? Why didn't he formally break the agreement from the pulpit in the days he had left at Lakeland?

This explains why the video "apology" is anything but. Obviously, the formal ceremony parts of the service were important and significant to the Revival Alliance members, but now Mr. Bentley is dismissing their thoughts and feelings (and indeed truthfully the fact that there were taking a risk to their own reputations by standing with him) with a wave of his hand. Is it Christ-like to apologize to someone and then to add "Oh and by the way, something that meant a lot to you has always meant nothing to me"? I'd think that Mr. Wagner would rather forego any "apology" and instead prefer that Mr. Bentley treats his friendship with the Revival Alliance members with respect.

This is troubling. Mr. Bentley's flawed work and ministry has been attributed to burnout and marital problems with his wife. Entering the restoration process, as we have been told over and over again in the many videos released by Mr. Joyner, means that Mr. Bentley should now exhibit good character. Is he burned out now? No. Is he experiencing strife with his wife, now? No, he has a new one. Then what does it mean if he is trying to lie now?

Mr. Joyner is at fault too. Even if Mr. Bentley didn't realize what was formally taking place, Mr. Joyner should have. The fact that Mr. Joyner decided to let Todd Bentley misrepresent what happened with his approval, using his ministry's resources, is dismaying.

What could be really going on? Here's a guess.

After Mr. Bentley left the revival meetings, Mr. Wagner tried, in the capacity of being the head of the Revival Alliance--the group that had aligned with Todd--to offer some public commentary that would offer his ideas on what went wrong and what should happen in the future. (Here's one of his statements.) Mr. Wagner released some details of Mr. Bentley's sins and mistakes and seems to want to give the impression that he would be firm with the lapsed evangelist.

Mr. Joyner, on the contrary, has been very gracious towards Mr. Bentley. His "restoration videos" given lots of evidence of this.

What may be happening is that Mr. Joyner and Mr. Bentley are, politely but firmly, telling Mr. Wagner by way of the video "apology" that he is to have no real role in discipling Mr. Bentley, or deciding how firm to be with him. Mr. Bentley used his video to try and pretend that Mr. Wagner has never had a reason to think that he should have a role. But, as you have seen, there is convincing evidence to the contrary.

It's a turf war. Think of Mr. Joyner and Mr. Wagner as the "Jets" and the "Sharks" with Todd Bentley cast as Maria. ("I feel BAM! Oh, so BAM!")

By the way, whatever made Mr. Joyner think that he was in a position of authority to be a formal mentor to Mr. Bentley?  Stephen Strader, friend of Mr. Bentley and pastor of Ingited Church in Lakeland, Florida--home church of the "revival", might provide a telling clue.

Mr.Strader contributes to a public e-mail list, Apostles Today [Discussion] on charismatic Christian issues. On March 18, replying to a writer who was concerned that Shonnah Bentley, Todd's first wife, was being ignored in the process, he began by reccomending that the other writer watch "the videos done by Rick [Joyner] and Todd."

He continued: "Rick is not (nor any of us) welcoming Todd nor ignoring Shonnah. First, the whole process of the Apostolic Alignment was to bring Todd into proper accountability. Rick was assigned by the Revival Alliance to bring correction & restoration to Todd."

Hmm. If true, Mr. Joyner took the responsibility from the Revival Alliance and then, Todd Bentley in hand, told them to beat it.

One last note. In 2003, Todd Bentley wrote in his self-published autobiography Journey Into the Miraculous, that he was an ordained minister. It reads almost exactly the same in the current mass-market version printed last year, so I will quote the latter printing:

I thank God for my friendship with Patricia [King], and for how God used her as an instrument to ordain me into the ministry--but I always will know that the call came from God. I've since been ordained in Canada by my local church, and through the Christian Minister's Association. In the U.S., I'm recognized as a minister of the Gospel through World Ministry Fellowship in Texas. [Todd Bentley, Journey Into The Miraculous, Destiny Image Publishers, January 2008, p. 162]

Bud Press, the irrepressible boffin of the Christian Research Service, has done some  looking into this and learned something surprising. Which you may read in full at:

http://www.christianresearchservice.com/ToddBentley12.htm

It seems that the Christian Minister's Association says that they have never ordained Mr. Bentley. World Ministry Fellowship, following what happened in Lakeland, has "moved in quickly and taken action" pulling his U.S. credentials.

I guess that Mr. Bentley now desperately needs the kind of formal ordination service that he now says never happened at Lakeland. I would advise Mr. Wagner to stay by his phone, just in case.


Posted by Rick Hiebert on April 18, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (21)

What is a pro-life policy?

China's totalitarian, anti-life abortion policies continue, understandably, to upset Christians in the West. Meanwhile, America's destructive, anti-life Middle Eastern policy continues, understandably, to upset Christians in the Middle East. What proves less understandable is the disconnect certain American Christians eagerly draw between the value of a life in embryo and the value of a life once it reaches its mother's arms.

Abortion For the record, the life of a fetus is not more sacred than the life of a human being. Christians who value the lives of fetuses should also value the lives of the people they become. You cannot be pro-life and pro-war without ultimately eviscerating the word "life" for the sake of political preferences. Christians who are "pro-life" must be for human life in all cases; humility should characterize their spiritual and intellectual position before God.

All life is God's sacred creation and all humans are lovingly crafted in His image. What does this mean exactly? This means that, apart from you and the members of your congregation, Christ also loves Muslims, Greeks, skateboarders, Rastafarians, Victoria's Secret shoppers, vegans, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Richard Simmons, neo-Nazis, rapists, criminals, meth addicts, thieves, Jon Stewart, Oprah, Barbara Walters, harlots, rascists, ignoramuses, prom queens, young single mothers on welfare because they have chosen NOT to have an abortion, yoga instructors, and even old people who drive at 50 mph in the fast lane.

There is no place in the New Testament, the covenant secured between Christ and his followers, which calls upon Christians to kill other human beings. To the contrary, Christians are called upon to love God's enemies as much as they love his followers. Rather than seek revenge, the New Testament encourages us to give love and forgiveness unconditionally to those most in need. Rather than screaming "Whore of Babylon" at young girls entering abortion clinics, we should open our arms to them and show them a love which is greater than the worst sin on this earth. Rather than spit at returning soldiers, we should comfort them and urge our government adopt a more sensible, less trigger-and-death-happy foreign policy. Rather than kill horrible criminals, we should do our best to bring Christ's love to those whose sins are heaviest.

Abortion, like almost every other form of conscious killing, is a sorrowful event. In China, it is mandated. In the US, it is a legal option. In most Muslim countries, it is illegal. While Dr. Albert Mohler mourns the effects of China's policy on Chinese females, he is merely toeing the all-too-familiar conservative Christian line-- "aw shucks, those evil communists are killing again". Of course, Dr. Mohler, like any sensible, publicity-seeking American Christian, knows that criticizing the taking of life by communist regimes is a political winner. No one except a Chinese communist would find an excuse for such horrible policies.

But Dr. Mohler isn't really concerned about valuing human life-- he is mostly concerned about the loss of human life when it is someone else's fault. He prefers judgement to humility. There is no point in being concerned about the loss of human life as a result of his own country's militarist policies (i.e. "collateral damage") because "that's just the way things are" and "wars happened in the Bible too" plus "Christians are supposed to follow their leaders" not to mention that "Muslims hate Christ" and of course "God doesn't expect us to be perfect".

All of this is just another way of saying that Christianity, contrary to Jesus words', is not a radical and life-affirming faith. Instead, it is just another lifestyle trend. There are no sacred traditions, only pragmatic reinterpretations. For Christians who embrace the Christian trend movement, it is not my place to interfere in their styles and tastes. My only request bears on their moral integrity, as opposed to their denominational preference. It's very simple, really. If you oppose abortion but have no qualms about government-sponsored, publicly-funded killing sprees, stop corrupting the language by calling yourself "pro-life". The correct moniker is "anti-abortion". Alas, you cannot be pro-life and pro-war.

And you cannot purport to respect life while showing such dehumanizing photos of innocent dead babies for the sake of your political message. These babies are deceased human beings, not toys or propaganda ploys. For shame. Anyone can explain why rape is wrong without showing you the naked, bleeding body of a rape victim.

Since I can't leave you with the photos chosen by anti-abortion activists seared in your mind, I'll try to leave you with something more life-giving, like the Bible. Christians who rely on the Bible to justify their support for war often cite Matthew 10:34-36, in which Christ uses the "spiritual warfare" metaphor by saying that he "brings not peace but a sword". Anyone who reads this literally will have to explain why Jesus does not carry swords or give out swords or encourage the making of swords anywhere else in the Bible. If He meant it literally, it stands to reason that He would have a literal sword. Since He used this statement as a metaphor suggesting that His word would destroy life and society as it had previously been known, the absence of swords and weapons from Jesus' ministry makes more sense in context. In actuality, the New Testament never urges one human to kill another. Though there are references to the terrible things that God will do to human beings should they ignore His word, Christ never asks one human to do this work for God.

For more on Christianity and the pro-life movement:

Cross-posted at totalitarianism today.

Posted by Alina on April 18, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A divorce from reality?

The latest videos from the friends of shamed Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley show that his divorce and instantaneous remarriage is central to their thinking as they seek to "restore" him to ministry. Evidently, they hope that he will be the first of thousands, if not millions, to be restored in this way.

Mr. Bentley, they are determined, will be making a comeback....and if his friends have to change the beliefs of millions of Christians about marriage and divorce to do so, that is merely incidental.

One feature of the developing restoration campaign may be doing the evangelist himself a disservice. Another feature of the campaign may do a disservice to the Christian church as a whole, particularly the charismatic Christian subculture that Mr. Bentley and his friends are in a position to most influence.

You may recall that Mr. Bentley separated from his first wife Shonnah immediately after the collapse of his internationally famous revival in Lakeland, Florida, last summer. The separation was attributed to an "affair" that he had been conducting with Jessa Hasbrook, whom he married shortly after his divorce was finalized with his first wife.

Although there are several reasons to view Mr. Bentley and the fruit of his revival with dismay, it appears that Mr. Bentley's friends--led by his mentor, U.S. charismatic evangelist Rick Joyner--see his instant trophy wife as the biggest obstacle to his being restored, as their series of videos thus far have concentrated on Mr. Bentley's divorce and the resulting fallout.

Mr. Bentley is to be definitely restored to the ministry, no ifs ands or buts, Mr. Joyner explains in a video  released a few days ago, or Mr. Joyner has failed in his task:

At the 1:20 mark of the above video, Mr. Joyner, citing Galatians 6:1, argues that when the verse "...talks about being restored....it really does mean to restore them, to put them back where they were. That has to happen." This restoration, moreover, can be as short, or as long as necessary.

In Mr. Bentley's defense, this sort of thinking may harm him. Things are being structured to not allow him the chance to do a deep soul searching, rethinking everything including his work, his theology and what God might have called him to.

For example, his tapes and CDs are being sold by Mr. Joyner's ministry. So, his mentor is saying that there is nothing wrong with his way of looking at the Bible. This discourages Mr. Bentley from studying the Bible, learning in-depth theology, and praying about whether the fruit of what he teaches is good--let alone considering the views of those who fear that he has lapsed into heresy, and whether they might have some valid points to consider.

Mr. Bentley has had what some of his friends consider two extramarital affairs. They are being blamed, at length, on "burnout", in statements issued by Mr. Joyner. Mr. Joyner, moreover, notes that Mr. Bentley's first wife Shonnah wanted to keep him grounded, more often at home with her and the kids. Perhaps Mr. Bentley is not suited to have a high pressure, international ministry and should be a pastor or a lay worker who should only do evangelistic work in addition to his day job. I don't know, but in the best interest of Mr. Bentley, he should be free to consider options like these. [I can argue that his first wife seems to have been a check and balance that could have kept him better grounded, and not burned out. His new wife, Jessa, will have less ability and authority to tell him to slow down, being younger and less mature in the faith.]

Everything, however, is being set up for him to be an evangelist again. He already has a new ministry office, Fresh Fire USA, based at Mr. Joyner's ministry. It seems, from the subtext of what Mr. Joyner and his friends are saying, that they would have a hard time explaining that Todd Bentley was restored if God didn't "put him back where he was". Todd Bentley could be very happy and content operating a skid road soup kitchen, but with a theological build-up on the need to "restore" Mr. Bentley, anything less than full-time evangelism would be seen as something continuing to be "wrong". And that's not fair to Mr. Bentley.

An example of true soul-searchhing comes to mind, one that should come to Mr. Joyner's mind as the evangelist recently, in great humility, reminded the entire Internet that he had helped Jim Bakker get back on his feet after he was released from prison. Jim Bakker, as his book I was Wrong shows, had a crisis of conscience while in prison. He came to believe that the "prosperity gospel", a feature of his PTL ministry theology, was quite wrong, and in the years since leaving prison has developed a different mindset about Christianity and how it should best relate to the world.

It would be a good sign if Mr. Bentley would be open to putting everything on the table. But, there seem to be overt and subtle pressures to leave doors and drawers locked in the spiritual house of his ministry, so that he cannot re-examine everything, as God may wish him too. Of course, Mr. Bentley's critics would suggest that his theology and ministry are so aberrant that he should blow up everything and start over. But that can't happen if restoration must, of necessity, mean that Mr. Bentley goes back to preaching the same things in the same way.

A last point about "restoration". Mandatory restoration to doing the same thing in perhaps the same way opens up questions of prudence, discernment and common sense. Mr. Bentley may have been removed by circumstances precisely because, in the great scheme of things, it is very unwise to have him doing this sort of work. Had Christian leadership thought things through, it may have been wisest to leave him working in that Fraser Valley sawmill, for various reasons. That can't happen now.

As sad as this reluctance to allow true self-searching to take place is for Mr. Bentley, what is sadder is his friends' attitude to the ease of fixing divorce.

After decades of ministry, Mr. Joyner and his friend, California minister Bill Johnson, have perhaps discovered only recently that divorce is endemic in the Christian church. And, lo and behold, the process that will "restore" Todd Bentley will restore millions of Christians too.

In the very first video made by Mr. Joyner, he notes that more than half of U.S. church members have suffered from a divorce. He defines it, however, as having "been through something similar to what you've (looking at Todd Bentley) gone through." Not so. If accounts are correct, Mr. Bentley precipitated an affair and got married as soon as possible, an explosive end to a marriage which is not the norm in most divorces.

Divorce, though serious and sad, is not the end of the world. Shortly after the 8:58 mark of this video, below, Mr. Joyner remarks that "God is divorced". But, happily, He is going to "re-marry Israel", so all will be well in the end, one assumes:

More odd thinking is prominent in a recent video, which was saved to YouTube in two parts. I'm citing the second of the two parts. Mr. Joyner is on the right, Mr. Johnson the middle and Mr. Bentley the left:

"We've got people hiding in the thousands," Mr. Johnson says, contuing (at 1:32 into this video) to add that "he (i.e. Todd Bentley) is going to raise a flag of hope for these people."

This leads Mr. Joyner to chime in a few seconds later with the note that allegedly many divorced people have been contacting his ministry to say that the Bentley restoration process "gives them hope."

Mr. Bentley's example, adds Mr. Johnson "is going to prophesy to those without hope, to those without jope, to those who have given up, to those who are outside the church for any reason".

This leads Mr. Joyner to add, "We have a terrible scourge of divorce. It is tragic, but if you've been though it, it isn't the end. God hasn't given up on you and we haven't given up on you, even if it was your fault."

The two ministers decry all the giftings that are going to waste because excessively conservative Christians are not allowing divorced people to step up and do Christian work. They express hope that Todd Bentley can be an example of the restored diroced and remarried person being an example to the church, and Mr. Bentley chips in with "I want to be that message."

Two points.

It is self-serving for Mr. Bentley's friends to appeal to the thousands of divorced Christians in their audience, hoping that he will get some residual sympathy from those who think that they have been treated unfairly after their divorce. Mr. Bentley's divorce and remarriage is different in scale and public impact that the divorces suffered by most Christians. His divorce and remarriage is arguably worse because as a minister with a very public ministry he had a thousand times more reason to want to avoid a divorce and remarriage. The Bible holds ministers to a higher standard than lay people as well.

As one gets "restored" from one's divorce, one shouldn't be surprised to see Mr. Bentley in front of you in line, with a shy grin on his face. His work is arguably so important that he has to butt in line, and who are you to say that the grace extended to you shouldn't be extended to him?

I do realize that Christians have very differnt views on divorce, but what troubles me is that historically charismatics have been very conservative on the issues of divorce and remarriage. (I'd respecfully argue that reading the Bible to mean what it says would seem to imply that men and women should only marry once in their lives.)

What disturbs me about how Mr. Bentley and his friends are approaching this is that it isn't being addressed Biblically so far. Theological liberals, who have, well, liberal views on these questions are at least trying to parse the Greek, look at history and such. There's none of that so far in the videos, and if Mr. Joyner, Mr. Bentley and friends really want their audience to rethink their views on these questions, they need to start here. (Start and end here, my theologically conservative friends would say, as they probably would be hard pressed to do that without reading into the text and dismissing things that are there.)

It's chilling to see these issues being addressed on grounds of utility. People are not in the church! Their gifts aren't being used! Their offerings aren't being taken--er, strike that. Perhaps I'm too much of a conservative, but I would like to see some solid theological arguments.  I hope that Christians hearing Mr. Bentley's appeal would demand them. 

One last note. If what is being reported on his behalf is true, Mr. Bentley's affair caused him to act quite peculiarly. See if you agree.

Mr. Joyner, issuing a follow-up statement on what has been happening to Mr. Bentley, discusses his affair with Jessa. A few days ago, Mr. Joyner wrote:

....After Todd hit the wall with burnout, he then fell to an emotional attachment to a staff member. There was no physical relationship, and the girl did not return even the emotional attraction. When Todd went to his leadership team about what he was feeling, they immediately sent the girl away. Todd, trying to be open, then went to his wife to confess this attraction. Todd was trying to be transparent, but he is convinced that this was what killed what was left of his relationship to his wife.

       Todd often called this attraction “an affair,” but it was not one. There was no physical adultery or even physical contact with the girl. However, Todd said that he knows he would have entered into such a relationship if she had been willing, and therefore, he felt that he needed to repent of it as if it had been an affair. I can appreciate Todd feeling this way. Because of the way rumors spread and grow, many still think that Todd had an actual affair several years ago, when in fact he did not.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this is true for a moment. Wouldn't the ultimate defense for this be Todd and Jessa themselves issuing a statement to this effect in print and in video. Or were things seen and overheard that would lead to the pair being openly rebuked for what they said?

One assumes that Todd Bentley would have said these things privately to people before Mr. Joyner sent his trail balloon to fly. Where are the retractions and apologies from Robert Ricciradelli, C. Peter Wagner and Stephen Strader, often cited as the most reliable sources that something like an affair (at least) was going on? One would think that even one apology would be trumpeted by Mr. Bentley, but there is silence so far.

The governing board of Todd's old Fresh Fire Ministries defined Todd Bentley's actions as "adultery" in an open e-mail last fall. Are they so conservative that they would define something harmless, conducted in the brain according to Mr. Bentley, as adultery. One assumes that Shonnah Bentley would know the most details. As her reformed ministry is under the guidance of Califormia pastor Bill Johnson (a friend of Mr. Bentley's, as noted above), the first Mrs. Bentley may well be under an-offer-she-can't-refuse kinds of pressure to smooth over her ex-husband's affairs. But she has let her statement, as part of the board, be.

Mr. Bentley's critics will argue that Mr. Bentley may be testing how credulous his audience is. If so, he may have some success, as I have read commentary from people who wouldn't believe that something was amiss unless Todd and Jessa had (speaking purely hypothetically out of respect to the two in case they were good) gone to Tampa Bay and consummated an affair on the 50 yard line during Bruce Springsteen's performance at the last Super Bowl.

Sorry but I am more sceptical. Puzzled too. If Mr. Joyner's account is correct, we have a Mr. Bentley who is very conservative on sexual questions that can lead to an affair, then a divorce. Following Christ's admonition that looking at a woman with lust is essentially the same as adultery, he even polices his thoughts. Not necessarily thoughts that are a problem, thoughts that could lead to thoughts that are a problem.

Then, following his separation, Mr. Bentley goes from being very conservative on these questions to quite liberal. A church leader should be the husband "of one wife"? Shrug. Christ notes that the Isralaelites were allowed to divorce as a concession to their sinful frailties? Yawn. Off to the Nevada marrying parlour!

This is not the same person before and after. We have no evidence that Todd Bentley came to an epiphany in his understanding of these manners which, if he had rethought matters so profoundly, should have been amongst the first things he has said. Unless, Mr. Bentley is considering his very conservative audience and trying to put the most positive spin on matters that is possible, sadly even if at variance with the facts.

If Todd and Jessa Bentley were innocent friends, I'd like to hear and see them say it. Their reputations are at stake and I myself would be indignant and wanting to clear my name if falsely accused.

One wonders if they would be that brave. Sadly, one must wonder if the appropriate word, instead, would be "brazen."

Posted by Rick Hiebert on April 4, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (8)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mr. Bentley enters his rehab

At last, new trophy wife in tow, Todd Bentley, the Canadian evangelist who has been having many problems over the past year (to put it lightly) has entered rehabilitation. Over seven months after the collapse of his internationally famous revival in the U.S., he has at last gotten around to going to North Carolina to come under the mentoring of charismatic leader Rick Joyner. Mr. Joyner is to help him return to ministry. Yet, already, in the annoucements and videos that are coming out with Mr. Bentley, there's more backspin than at a convention of billiards players evident, which is not a good omen for those hoping that Mr. Bentley can return to his work with integrity and a good character.    


As videos began to be released a couple of days ago, there was a flurry of commentary and a bit of news coverage. Blogger Miriam Franklin has already weighed in with several pointed critical posts on Mr. Joyner and Mr. Bentley. I'd defintely agree with her on one point she has made, namely that people are concentrating too much on Mr. Bentley's divorce and quickie remarriage to Jessa, whose affair with the evangelist seems to be the proxinate cause of the "Lakeland revival". Not so. The affair was a symptom not a cause. That is to say, Mr. Bentley had a character problem that exhibited itself in lying from the pulpit about, for example, raising people from the dead. There were some aberrant, heretical things being said and done at Lakeland. And he was canoodling with a younger, prettier intern while his wife was either watching the kids or taking the pulpit herself to promote what her husband was doing. Marrying Jessa will likely not fix what leads to these sorts of actions.

My blogging friend Bene Diction makes an excellent point in a post that notes that many prominent charismatic groups and churches are slumping in the amount of people that are logging on to their sites. This relates to several things that I have been seeing on The Elijah List, an e-list that caters to charismatics, to the effect that people with alleged prophetic insight are commenting that God will bring Christians through the current economic woes, or bless them in amazing ways financially. There are reports of layoffs at ministries, and the tone of requests for donations has been stepped up. All this backs up Bene Diction's suspicion that there may be a lot of pressure to get Bentley out on the road prematurely so, as the "star" of the "Lakeland revival", he can start to draw the crowds again.

Mr. Joyner's first letter, announcing that Bentley and new wife had arrived, also noted that Mr. Bentley has a new ministry, Fresh Fire USA, which is organized under Mr. Joyner's own ministry for now. Those wanting to help Mr. Bentley were offered Fresh Fire USA's address. So, I had to smile when religion editor Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat, on his religious news blog, titled his note on Mr. Bentley's restoration process: "Sorry about the adultery. Please send $$$" . 

Charisma, the magazine of record for charismatic Christians in the U.S., is covering this too. Their own story has an intestesting note. At the tail end of Bentley's time in Florida, a team of charismatic leaders and ministers lead by C. Peter Wagner held a special commissioning service for Bentley which was broadcast worldwide via Internet, in which the "Revival Alliance" members predicted that Bentley would go from success to success. They welcomed Bentley as a member of their group and even gave him a special ring, but Charisma's story quotes Revival Alliance member John Arnott (known for pastoring the "Toronto Blessing" in the 1990s) as saying that Bentley is no longer considered a "member in good standing" of their group. Mr. Wagner and Mr. Arnott revealed some of Bentley's misdeeds in the aftermath of his leaving the revival, so Mr. Bentley has evidently decided to form alliances with those who are more sympathtic to him, such as Mr. Joyner.

Mr. Joyner features in another Charisma item as well. Charisma editor J. Lee Grady, in his latest column,  is disgusted with the rush to bring Bentley back too quickly, calling it a "travesty". Mr. Grady is righteously indignant, but what I find telling is Mr. Joyner's response. He writes, in part:

Lee, I love some of the things you write, but I also feel that some are straight from the mouth of the accuser.

I'll need to translate this for non-Christians. Mr. Joyner is referring to Revelation 12:10 which mentions that Satan is the "accuser of the brethren" (i.e. christians). So, what Mr. Joyner is saying here is that Mr. Grady, editor of a charismatic Christian magazine, is channeling Satan, basically.

It should go without saying that if you are a professing Christian, one of the worst possible insults that you could use would be to say that your opponent is being used by the devil as a ventriliquist dummy.

One would think that "fighting dirty" would be abhorrent for a Christian such as Mr. Joyner.

Mr. Joyner, as the conservative site  Apologetics Index notes has a history of doing other things that would raise the eyebrows of many Christians. He has a reputation of being "prophetic" and having special insight from the Lord, but non-Christian sceptics would no doubt be amused that he occasionally sees through a glass very darkly, such as his prediction of Los Angeles being levelled by an earthquake and nuclear bombs in the 1990s.

Mr. Joyner's occasiional intemperance, as exhibited in his response to Mr. Grady, may also be shown in one of his famous prohetic words, in his book The Final Quest, about the "Blues and the Grays". He predicts a coming civil war in Christianity, with the winning side (of which Mr. Joyner is a part, of course) defeats the Christians who have been misled by Satan being defeated and removed from their positions of authority in the church.  We must "remove the cancer from our midst" he writes in his book. (I wonder, given the violence waged between Christians in history, and in our own time, whether it is appropriate to share these sorts of visions in public. Certainly, Christians should "contend for the faith", but so sadly, they do not need encouragment to turn to violence in the direst of circumstances.)

I note these things and note that Mr. Bentley, when not kneeing cancer victims in the stomach, has often delighted in telling his audiences about times that he has kicked old ladies in the head with his biker boot and such. (As I write, some of these stories are preserved on YouTube.) Amongst the fruits of the Holy Spirit that should be exhibited by an evangelist such as Mr. Bentley are meekness, gentleness and self-control. I have to ask whether Mr. Bentley's mentor, Mr. Joyner, would be effective in advising him here when Mr. Joyner himself--this week--accuses his opponents of speaking on Satan's behalf, and cherishes visions of winning a "war in the church". Yes, often the flawed have to help the flawed, but this is not promising. 

On to the videos that have been released to explain Mr. Bentley's rehabilitation process. The first video from Mr. Joyner's ministry has Mr. Bentley himself as a guest. I'm posting a copy of most of the first video that has been saved on YouTube in case the videos start to disappear from Mr. Joyner's own website:

Some things that jump out at me:

1. You'll notice that Mr. Bentley is full of talk of mistakes and errors, but never mentions the word "sin". Even Jimmy Swaggart had the grace to cry "I have sinned," when he next appeared before the public after he sinned.

Not that people would demand a pound of flesh, of course. But talk of sin and sinning would indicate that Mr. Bentley is a lot more serious about making things right than his critics think that he is. The evangelist already has the problem that it took him over half a year to begin this supposedly important process, so he needs to be seen to be taking it seriously.

2. I don't really believe that in an age of fax, e-mail and videoconferencing that it was impossible for Mr. Bentley to be working on his visa appeal with the U.S. custonms officials while moving to North Carolina. I'm sure that it is done all the time for compassionate reasons, for example. I sincerely doubt that it would be impossible as Mr. Bentley implies.

3. As a Canadian, I am a little dismayed to hear Mr. Bentley say this:

"....Shonnah's doing everything she can to help with my immigration process...."

It would appear that Mr. Bentley is tring to become a landed immigrant or even a U.S. citizen. No points for guessing that his marriage to Jessa was designed to help with this.

If we grant for a moment that Mr. Bentley's faith, giftings and burden to convert non-Christians are valid, this is sad. Yes, Canadian christians have been moving to the U.S. to pursue their calling since Aimee Semple McPherson, but the United States already has so many ministers and so much resources. If Mr. Bentley is who he says he is, the church in Canada needs  people like him. Of course, his critics would say that Mr. Bentley should not let the door hit him on the behind as he leaves Canada. But the need is acute. If Mr. Bentley's style of faith-healing evangelism is what is needed, then it is particularly sad that he never devoted much effort to the nearest major city to where he lived, Vancouver. (The last time that he himself ministered in the city was at a medium sized church over five years ago.)

Of course, Mr. Benley's citics could question how committed Mr. Bentley was committed to "revival" in Canada's cities and towns in the  first place, based on his decision to move.

4. Mr. Bentley, 7:30 into the video, starts talking about how he dealt with problems as an unsaved teenager:

"....That old [sin] nature in you is when you hurt someone, you just want to give up and run away from the whole thing. That's how I dealt with pain as I grew up as a child. If I was hurt or rejected or I disappointed my mother or disappointed my father, I just packed up and moved to the next town. When I burned all the bridges there, I just packed up and moved. This time we want to deal with everything square in the face...."

Let's follow his logic. Mr. Bentley says that it is sinful, or at least immature, to deal with problems by running away from them. This is after he has divorced his wife and not only "packed up and moved to the next town" but moved to the next country. He has "burned all his bridges" with his ex-wife, turning in for a new model, instead of "dealing with everything square in the face" of Shonnah Bentley, his first wife.

How can you teach someone to stand and deal with their problems when they have just run away from most of them? What is preventing Todd Bentley from packing up and giving up on Mr. Joyner's restoration process when by implication, spending the past few months running from everything that is painful to deal with is quite all right?

Did Mr. Joyner even try to persuade Mr. Bentley to stay with his wife and kids and stay in Canada? 

5. An offhand remark of Mr. Bentley's at the 8:55 mark will raise some eyebrows:   

"There's so much that I've learned on all this. There's triumph. There's tragedy. And, you know, there'll be a message. Ther'll be a whole series of messages...."

Tragedy I can understand. Triumph? The only triumph that there would be is Christ somehow cleaning up the pig's breakfast that the evangelist has made, but the "restoration process" has only just started. Rather, are we seeing a "triumph of the will" specifically Todd Bentley's will? He got the wife he wanted. He got the parenting situation that worked best for him. He got a very sympathetic mentor to counsel him. He has a lot that he wants, and that might not be good for him.

Watching this video may bring a sense that Mr. Bentley is not being asked to be serious about his mistakes. This is an unease that is shared, according to Cary McMullen of the Lakeland Ledger newspaper, who has done a lot of great reporting on Mr. Bentley's revival and its aftermath. In a post on the reaction to the plans to restore Mr. Bentley in "Pentecostal circles", McMullen notes that many  seem to fear that "this is just further evidence that Bentley and his supporters are frauds".

Mr. Bentley and Mr. Joyner have their work cut out for them. If they are truly wanting to do the right thing, there is a lot of scepticism to deal with. Well-founded scepticism, I am afraid. 

Posted by Rick Hiebert on March 14, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (17)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Todd Bentley marries woman whom he had extramarital affair with

Those who have been following the misadventures of Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley may be interested to know that he remarried a few days ago.

Mr. Bentley has married the former Jessa Hasbrook, a former intern for his ministry. Last summer, his internationally famous revival campaign in Lakeland, Florida collapsed when it was revelead that he and Jessa had begun an "emotional affair". Charismatic leaders C. Peter Wagner and Robert Ricciardelli, however, have reported that the affair was apparently sexual. Mr. Ricciardelli, furthermore, has indicated that this affair, whatever type it was, began in January of last year, which would place it well before Mr. Bentley announced that he was separating from his wife Shonnah. This is also well before Mr. Bentley brought Shonnah Bentley and his kids to Lakeland to show them to an international T.V. audience. Shonnah Bentley even preached in a local church to promote her husband's revival.

(Even non-contested  divorces in British Columbia take at least two to five months to process. If we work backwards, it appears that Todd and Jessa Bentley could have wound up marrying as quickly as the day after Todd Bentley's divorce paperwork arrived in the mail from Canada. A five month delay until now would place the start of everything back around last November, which, interestingly, was around the same time that Shonnah Bentley and her mom Val Andres, in control of the remnant of the Fresh Fire board, issued the statement on behalf of the board that Todd was committing "adultery", and castigated the evangelist at some length.)  

Readers may recall that I reported on The Shotgun last fall that Shonnah Bentley has a lifelong disability after suffering cancer as a teen:

I wrote: 

Mr. Bentley must realize that if, he divorces his current wife in favor of a trophy wife, there will be speculation in the minds of some of his Internet and Christian media critics that one of the reasons that he is getting rid of Shonnah is because her disability embarrasses him—and moreover, that his  theology does not work with a wife hobbling along at his side. 

There are several pictures and videos of Jessa on the Internet now. With all due respect to Shonnah Bentley (as I do not like to make such comparisons in print), the new Jessa Bentley is certainly a "trophy wife" for the evangelist. She is significantly younger than Todd Bentley, pretty, and by all indications, completely able bodied. I do not think that Mr. Bentley was thinking of Jessa's spiritual gifts, skills, training or knowledge, when he asked for her hand. To my knowledge, Jessa has never preached, ministered in faith-healing as Mr. Bentley has, or done anything to indicate that she can significantly help her new husband in his work. (Shonnah Bentley has. Not that it matters to Mr. Bentley now, though.)

Watch for the Christian press, if they are on the ball, to point this out. Hopefully, with side-by-side photos of both Mrs. Bentleys.

This is a fait accompli presented to Rick Joyner, the U.S. Christian evangelist who has yet to begin "restoring" Mr. Bentley to ministry. Mr. Bentley is saying to Mr. Joyner. "Look, buddy, I'm marrying this woman, and whatever advice you may have to the contrary based on the Bible or your educated wisdom, is beside the point." Very conservative Christians (which include some charismatics) believe that remarriage while one's first spouse in alive is proscribed by the Bible, so it will be interesting to see what kind of arguments that Joyner and Mr. Bentley can advance here. I don't think that arguing something like "I no longer love my first wife, but I love this prettier, able-bodied and younger woman who doesn't have the maturity (spiritually or emotionally) to hold me accountable to God's standards (as a husband and evangelist) in the same way that Shonnah can. So, that's why I married Jessa." will work well for Mr. Bentley. Nevertheless he will try.

Readers of Mr. Bentley's autobiography, Journey Into the Miraculous, will also recall a vision that Mr. Bentley had before his marriage that I've discussed in the Shotgun before. You may recall that he claims in his autobiography that he received a special message from the Lord that he was to marry Shonnah Andres...which he did. He wrote:

“…the Lord had actually shown me an open vision of Shonnah. It was my first open-eyed vision. I was in my living room and my fireplace opened up, kind of like a TV screen, and I saw us embracing in a wheat field that was ready for harvest. We were both weeping and I was wearing a tux and she was wearing a wedding dress. As the vision unfolded, her friend Roswetta (who was now my friend) was talking with me in the living room about Shonnah. I described the open vision to her as it happened. The presence of the Lord fell and we both wept. Roswetta said, ‘I can’t see it but I can feel goose bumps.’ During this vision, I also received an anointing of creativity, poetry and writing. In fact, I even received a three-page prophetic poem that I read at our wedding. I still write prophetic poems for my wife to this day.” 

Todd Bentley lied. He lied to get Shonnah Bentley to marry him. Otherwise, if he believed that heard from God, in the same way that he "hears from God" on behalf of people wanting a healing touch or a message from the Lord, he would have moved heaven and earth to stay with his first wife. Sadly, that is the point of view on this that makes the most sense now.

Jessa Bentley--if Todd told you anything about a vision that he had where Jesus told him to marry you, please save yourself some heartbreak and take it with the biggest grain of salt that you can find.  

This poses an interesting question for Mr. Bentley's U.S. publisher Destiny Image Publishers. Are there any whoppers in Mr. Bentley's three books? What will happen to Todd's account of his vision about marrying Shonnah in future editions of his autobiography? Will it disappear in the same way that officials who displeased Stalin started disappearing from pictures and photos as they were taken to the Gulag?

Sad, very sad. I wonder what Mr. Bentley can say when he fields inquiries from the press again. 


Posted by Rick Hiebert on March 7, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

God's happy walls

Metro Vancouver won't be allowing those internationally notorious atheistic messages on its buses. That's the word from Translink after the B.C. Humanist Association sought to festoon Lower Mainland buses with ads reading, "You can be good without God."

It's too bad we won't be seeing the ads. As a committed Catholic, I relish just the sort of opportunity for engagement and dialogue that the ads present.

I particularly would have enjoyed discussing the idea, raised by one set of bus ads in Britain, that one should stop worrying about whether God exists, and just start enjoying life. I'd answer that it's far easier to have a really good time knowing that God does exist. G.K. Chesterton put it best in his book Orthodoxy:

Those countries in Europe which are still influenced by priests, are exactly the countries where there is still singing and dancing and colored dresses and art in the open-air. Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism.

“We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”

h/t: Tom McFeely at the National Catholic Register

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 12, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dalai Lama on terrorism

The Dalai Lama gave a speech a couple of days ago that seems to have stunned people. He said two things, first that he “Loves George Bush” and second that he thinks “It’s difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence.”

A disclaimer, I am far more wary of the Dalai Lama than most people. I don’t mind him as a spiritual leader but his claim to government-in-exile scares me. The Tibetan regime before the Chinese invasion was a theocracy and in many ways more oppressive than the communist government. That being said, I always have found him interesting as a spiritual preacher.

The first comment can be properly dismissed. From what I understand of Tibetan Buddhism’s theology, the Dalai Lama would say, “I love squirrels” with equal conviction. It may shock some of you to learn that George Bush is still a human being and thus deserves the respect that any human being should receive, but that wouldn’t shock the Dalai Lama.

The second statement seems contradictory to the Dalai Lama’s teachings only if you take a simplistic view of both his teachings and his statement. You have to consider what he said along with another quote, "They (terrorists) are very brilliant and educated... but a strong ill feeling is bred in them. Their minds are closed."

This statement reminded me of the beginning of Plato’s Republic. Polemarchus and Glaucon wanted Socrates to come and enjoy the festivities with them. Plato didn’t want to hang about;

Polemarchus: Well, you must either prove stronger than we are, or you will have to stay here.

Socrates: Isn’t there another alternative, namely, that we persuade you to let us go?

Polemarchus: But could you persuade us, if we won’t listen?

Glaucon: Certainly not

How can you negotiate or argue with someone whose first and only method is violence? Polemarchus did not even attempt to coax Socrates into staying with them. He resorted straight away to the threat of force. Polemarchus is like a terrorist. The greatest debater of all time could not convince him because he would simply not listen to the argument.

This is what the Dalai Lama is saying. Those who would kill to win an argument must be stopped. But he does not necessarily endorse violence as the ultimate solution for terrorists. Killing people can only close more minds and create more terrorists. A far more effective method would be to find ways to keep their minds open.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 19, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Read your Bible, Todd

If Richard Nixon were alive, sheepishly sinful Canadian faith-healing evangelist Todd Bentley could perhaps have already heeded any advice that the former President had to give. Mr. Bentley, according to a story in the latest print edition of the charismatic magazine Charisma is managing to "stonewall" quite nicely. He remains in a relationship that he has with a former staffer while still being married to his wife. Also he has been about to enter a "recovery" program--for about six months now--under the direct supervision of noted U.S. charismatic evangelist Rick Joyner.

Alas for Mr. Bentley, he apparently has his own "Deep Throat". The text of seemingly confidential letters to Rick Joyner--which are alleged to be from Todd's father, Dave Bentley and from the evangelist himself-- have been leaked to the Internet. If they are accurate, it appears that a nasty public fight is developing between Shonnah Bentley's family and Todd Bentley and his allies. The gloves have been dropped and the benches are clearing. Game misconducts all around.

These letters can be easily found. What cannot be easily found is a book I have that shows an interesting perspective on Mr. Bentley's woes. If I were to say to Mr. Bentley, "Read your Bible..." I would not be talking about the Bible that most people have in their house. I mean his Bible. The Open Heavens Bible that was published by his ministry, with study notes by Mr. Bentley. Specifically, his teachings on "lust" and "sexual sin".

What has bothered me about the Internet discussions of Mr. Bentley and his affair with his intern is that people seem to be confusing the cause and the effect. As I have mentioned, I first learned that the evangelist was not all that he seemed to be over seven years ago. My editors at The Report magazine allowed me to catch the evangelist in a grave lie, which he then repeated the following year. The sequence was clear. A character failing on Mr. Bentley's part led to lying. So, I was dismayed, but not surprised, to see Mr. Bentley lie and lie again. (Several of my posts here go into his most recent fibs.) What I hope that Mr. Joyner sees is that there is a basic issue of character that needs to be fixed when he counsels Mr. Bentley, lest a lack of honour or integrity threatens what he does in the future. You don't want to just fix the "affair" and then have the evangelist do other woeful public sins or expound faulty theology or use the wrong methods in his evangelism. You want a change of heart and mind, so that these things don't happen again.

You may recall that I noted that Todd Bentley claims in his autobiography that he received a special message from the Lord that he was to marry Shonnah Andres...which he did. He wrote:

“…the Lord had actually shown me an open vision of Shonnah. It was my first open-eyed vision. I was in my living room and my fireplace opened up, kind of like a TV screen, and I saw us embracing in a wheat field that was ready for harvest. We were both weeping and I was wearing a tux and she was wearing a wedding dress. As the vision unfolded, her friend Roswetta (who was now my friend) was talking with me in the living room about Shonnah. I described the open vision to her as it happened. The presence of the Lord fell and we both wept. Roswetta said, ‘I can’t see it but I can feel goose bumps.’ During this vision, I also received an anointing of creativity, poetry and writing. In fact, I even received a three-page prophetic poem that I read at our wedding. I still write prophetic poems for my wife to this day.” 

If I had received such a direction from the Lord, I would be very apprehensive about going against His will. But if you listen to Mr. Bentley now, he will tell you that his marriage has been troubled for many years and that his wife Shonnah Bentley is a shrew. Shonnah, in particular in her remarks at Ignited Church last spring, has often said that she felt most comfortable being a stay-at-home mom with a husband and family. Perhaps, if this was a valid vision, what God intended was that Todd Bentley hold back somewhat on his desire to be another Billy Graham who also happened to knee cancer victims in the stomach and boot old ladies in the head. Rather, instead he would be well grounded emotionally and have a travelling ministry closer to home, good friends that he could depend on to give him good counsel and a home church. With this sort of partnership, Mr. Bentley could have avoided his well publicized burnout of a few years ago, and lapsing into excessive drinking and an extra-marital affair. Two halves of a team.

Then again, he could have made the vision up to fool Shonnah Bentley into marrying him. He's acting like he never saw anything, at any rate. 

Which brings me to the Open Heavens Bible. It's not unusual for evangelists to commission a special edition of the Bible. In 2006, that's what Todd Bentley's ministry did, working with Thomas Nelson to bring out a very limited special edition of the New King James Version, with special study notes by Todd Bentley based on his very charismatic theology. It never made the bookstores and I would be very surprised if more than two or three thousand copies were printed. It is now out of print.

It is Todd Bentley's Bible, in a very personal sense.

Mr. Bentley in his Bible, is eager that his readers avoid spiritual pitfalls, such as the 'Curses" that believers can bring on themselves. "Often when I speak of curses, people become afraid that they're going to get one or that they already have one. You can't pick up a curse at the supermarket or Wal-Mart," Mr. Bentley writes. "Curses don't have an effect without a cause (Prov. 26: 2)....The widest open door for curses in our life is disobedience."

The evangelist has a full page (page 778) on curses due to sexual sins. I quote it in full:

Curses: Open Doors of Lust and Adultery

Different kinds of sickness are sometimes rooted in lust. "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt 5:28). Looking at a woman's beauty isn't necessarily lust; lust is more than an appreciative glance--it is accompanied with the thought: I want her, or involves fantasy. Soon lust takes root and we become bound by it.

While men struggle most with lust of the eyes, women struggle more with the emotional aspects of lust. Romance novels or soap operas captuire the imagination and create unrealistic expectations. Some woman long for romance and satisfy their emotional need for it by feeding on the fairy-tale love lives of others.

In such instances, the doors of resentment, bitterness, and disappinment with her own life and partner grows. She begins to vet what she doesn't have. Single women also develop unrealistic expectatiosn for their "Prince Charming". Every fairy-tale idea about love, marriage, life and relationships that's allowed to settle in the mind--Hollywood glamour, movies, romance, sex and beauty--takes root in the imagination and becomes a form of lust.

Proverbs 2: 16-19 describes the dire consequences of falling into lust. It says that those who are ensnared by lust do not regain the paths of life.

The spirit of lust and adultery saps strength and life. It pulls its victims down paths that lead to the place of death. "Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one" (Prov. 5:8,9). Our honour is our strength and vigor, but when we fall into lust and adultery, we give our years to the cruel one.

Lust can actually cut life short, or cause sickness. 'Now therefore lisetn to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death." (Prov 7:24-27)

The Proverbs writer continued to warn his reader abut the dangers of lust: "But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell." (Prov. 9:18). It's amazing what kind of demonic powers and demonic spirits work with the spirit of lust--adultery, sexual sin, perversion, and pornography. Don't give your strength, your years, and your vigour over to the crual one or to the spirits of death that are released in the midst of sexual sin. Flee from lust and the curse of sexual sin--choose to live a life of purity, as a vessel of honor, fully consecrated to God. 

Can you imagine what Todd Bentley, the author of these words, would have to say to the Todd Bentley, who fell into an affair with a younger woman--an employee--because he didn't fell like being married to his wife any longer?

Readers who appreciate irony would also note that the first two full verses on the facing page to the above note are Matthew 6, verses 31 and 32. The headline given these verses: "Marriage Is Sacred and Binding".

What is sad about all this is that there are some useful insights in these notes, but will anyone pay attention to them now if Mr. Bentley doesn't apply them to his own life? "Do as I wrote, not as I did," is hardly the advice that any religious leader should be offering.

This is why Mr. Bentley must be forced to have a change in his character before resuming any public ministry. "Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words", Francis of Assisi once said. Without a life to back up what he writes in his Bible, or speaks from the pulpit, Mr. Bentley risks letting his words fall to the ground, empty of purpose and devoid of any real value to anyone.

 

 

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 10, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (57) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Heaven doesn't need socialism, and neither do we

Pat Robertson, in his latest public statement, will surely raise some eyebrows amongst Christians.

The veteran evangelist, who ran to be the Republican nominee for President in 1988, says that a little dab of socialism will do ya:

"What the Lord was saying, the people are willing to accept socialism to alleviate their pain," Robertson said on a broadcast of "The 700 Club." Robertson hosts the program, which is aired from the Christian Broadcasting Network studios in Virginia Beach.

....Cast off the gloom and the doom because things are getting ready to turn around," he said. "I’m flying in the face of all of the experts or most of the experts who say, ’Oh no, no, no, it’s going to get worse,’ but I don’t think so."

....Robertson said on New Year’s Day that "nothing will stand in the way of a plan by Obama to restructure the economy in the same fashion as the New Deal in the ’30s," according to videotaped comments aired on Friday’s show.

The New Deal consisted of economic initiatives, such as publicly funded job programs, that Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted during the Great Depression.

Robertson said on Friday that with a New Deal-style initiative, "you’re federalizing many of the things you’re doing. And it’ll be the largest transfer of power to Washington since the ’30s, but people are just willing to accept it because the pain has been so bad."

Mr. Robertson adds that he hopes that he has heard from the Lord. I advise new batteries for his spiritual hearing aid.

You can argue that the Bible, as a casual reading of it would attest, is friendly to free market economics and laissez-faire solutions to social problems. Many conservative Christians have written books attempting to explain this. I would hazard a guess that, as a Republican, Mr. Robertson would be familiar with such arguments. So, if I were he, I would be puzzled to hear that "the Lord", is suggesting that growing socialism will lead to an economic recovery, as it contradicts what many of his conservative friends suggest that the Bible seems to say.

Even if you discount what The Bible may teach on economic matters, there are several books that argue that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression. Murray Rothbard's book comes to mind.  Burton W. Folsom Jr.'s New Deal or Raw Deal? is on bookstore shelves now. Or Mr. Robertson could refer to a study by two UCLA professors which found that FDR's economic policies "prolonged Depression by 7 years".

I would wonder how "moral" it would be to endorse economic policies shown to cause pain, not alleviate it. Perhaps Mr. Robertson would care to illuminate this for us, but the Bible verse referring to seeing "through a glass darkly" comes to my mind at the moment.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 6, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (19)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Todd Bentley, Inc.

Todd Bentley, the infamous Canadian faith healer whose Lakeland, Florida revival collapsed last summer, appears to be sticking a toe into the Internet waters, seeing if it is safe for him to swim. I can report, though, that there is evidence that the evangelist may have decided to forsake working though a charity.

I guessed a few weeks ago in a post that Mr. Bentley would instead develop his private company, Sound of Fire Productions, as an outlet for his materials. Well, over the Christmas holidays, his ministry, Fresh Fire Ministries, closed its online bookstore. Also, the only materials that FFM is promoting on its website have nothing to do with Mr. Bentley at all. (Has Mr. Bentley been given his walking papers? I don't know. Perhaps Fresh Fire is delaying the announcement in order not to cause a slump in donations.)

Meanwhile, over at the Sound of Fire Productions website, now Mr. Bentley is offering his later CDs and DVDs for sale, where he wasn't before. Perhaps it is the last of his stock from the book tables at the revival.

I think that Mr. Bentley is setting up going private as a "Plan B", and that he would prefer working through some sort of chairity. However, I do note that Oral Roberts, during his faith healing days in the 1950s and early 1960s, used a private company, Healing Waters, Inc., as a base for his work. Todd Bentley, as a company, would be workable. He could sell everything, as he does now, and demand an "appearance fee" up front for doing his work at a church. Having sat in his audience while Mr. Bentley talked up the blessing of giving to his work, I suspect that he would still receive what he calls "Pentecostal handshakes", and still have people sticking money into his pockets as he talks, to get the particular blessing from God that he is speaking about at that moment. I saw this happen. He could get donations without having to issue receipts. So, perhaps he might prefer not having to answer to tax authorities at all.

Two more quick notes.

1.  There's recent talk amongst Mr. Bentley's Internet critics that the identitity of the "other woman"--the one whose affair with Mr. Bentley was the proximate cause of the end of the Florida revival--has been revealed. I won't link to their commentary, in case they are fingering a wrong woman with the same first name, but it is easy enough to find. I do want to note that the alleged "authoritative source" that they are citing dates the affair from January of last year, well before the start of the revival. Mr. Bentley's friends, however, have stated that it was pressures of the revival that led to the affair.

[Mr. Bentley's decision to relaunch his personal MySpace page allows him to neatly edit his history too, which he has done before. I recall that once he posted about his tattoos on his MySpace page, which led to a back-and-forth debate reagrding whether it was appropriate for a Christian to have tattoos. Mr. Bentley later elminiated all the criticism of his decision to get tattoos by deleting the post and pretending that it had never existed.]

2. There's a new revival flavour-of-the-month, which is being led by Steve Gray out of Kansas City, and yes, has it's own international TV hook-up. Mr. Bentley must be chagrined to see that this latest revival is seemingly being promoted as the "anti-Lakeland". Reading between the lines of the linked article, you hear: "Oh no, we're not flashy, unlike that tattooed guy's revival. We are 'God honouring', unlike, well... connect the dots for yourself".

What may be of interest is that the author of the linked piece, Robert Ricciardelli, was one of the first critics of Mr. Bentley's revival.  He was invited by Gray to come to Kansas City and assess his revival, leading to Mr. Ricciardelli's thumbs-up.

However, I remember that Mr. Gray was the leader of the "Smithton Outpouring", which was briefly of note in charismatic circles in 2001 and 2002, when revival hit a small community church in Smithton, Missouri. After events started to die down, Mr. Gray decided to move most of his church to Kansas City, the nearest big city, launching the World Revival Church there.

Not everyone moved away from Smithton, however. Several of the former members of Mr. Gray's church are critical of the way he did things. Their website has morphed into the Charismatic Reform Journal, and many of their pseudonymous observations about the alleged flaws of the revival have been saved online. It's a bracing critique, including speculations that the Smithton "revival" was "cooked up", and that Mr.  Gray made and did not keep a promise to keep a church in Smithon for those who did not want to move. We do need to keep in mind that we are hearing here from one side in an acrimonious church split, but there's certainly evidence to suspect that Mr. Gray is imperfect and that any "revival" he leads must be tested and weighed carefully.

I do hope and pray that Mr. Gray's work proves to be good. That said, however, "caveat emptor" is clearly the order of the day here. Just because Mr. Gray does not have a shaved head and tattoos, or neglects to knee cancer victims in the stomach, as Mr. Bentley does, does not mean that Christians should not use discernment here as well.         

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 2, 2009 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Todd Bentley speaks!

Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley once told an audience a few years ago that even before he became a born-again Christian he had the gift of gab—that he was “always good at speaking”. He put on a display last week, trying to explain away the collapse of his world-famous revival this past summer and his affair with a former intern. Those who understand Mr. Bentley’s history and theology, however, will likely find his explanations wanting.

Mr. Bentley fielded questions from Paul Steven Ghiringhelli, a writer for Charisma magazine. The reporter wanted some comments on a statement issued by the governing board of Fresh Fire Ministries, Mr. Bentley’s ministry, criticizing his affair as “adultery” and condemning his planned divorce from his wife Shonnah. Mr. Ghiringhelli deserves praise for getting Mr. Bentley to comment to the press for the first time in months, but his editors, posting the story on their website. were definitely trying to downplay Mr. Bentley’s remarks by implying that they were only reporting on the FFM statement (“Leaders of Todd Bentley’s Ministry Break Silence”) and by dropping his quotes to the second half of the story.

If we parse what Mr. Bentley has to say, it’s pretty scary. I’ll reproduce it here, and then offer what I hope is some useful background.

The relevant section of the article runs as follows:

On Tuesday, Bentley said there had been no sexual immorality between him and the former nanny. He claimed that for two years no “spark or interest” in the former staff member existed, and that the two developed only an emotional relationship several weeks after July 1, when Bentley filed for divorce.

He admitted, however, that the budding relationship was “absolutely” bad timing.

“I would call it an inappropriate relationship, in the sense that it was too soon, too quick, and should’ve never happened the way that it happened,” Bentley said. “Emotionally, she had stepped in to comfort me as a friend would.

“But I never left my wife to be with another woman,” he said. “There was nothing premeditated or inappropriate in my heart. I had never even entertained the idea that I liked this girl. It never went there.”

Claiming to have gone through years of counseling with his wife, Bentley said he is divorcing her over “irreconcilable differences.”

He denied disconnecting from his children and told Charisma he is in constant phone contact with them and plans to see them as soon as he sorts out issues with his visa.

Bentley said FFM let him review the letter before they made it public and that he was unhappy with portions of it. He said he felt the letter implied that the breakup of his marriage could be blamed on his relationship with his former nanny and the pressures of leading daily nonstop revival meetings in Lakeland.

“I have the utmost respect for my team in Canada and we have had a lot of years together,” he said. “[But] I’m not in agreement with my board on this. The point is, [the former nanny] wasn’t the cause. And I don’t want to blame Lakeland. I want to blame a bad marriage.”

Bentley said he is willing to take 100 percent responsibility for his actions and that he readily admits he’s guilty of doing a lot of things wrong over the years. “In a lot of ways, the ministry has been my mistress,” he said. “That did destroy my marriage. That I have to take responsibility for.”

….Bentley said he is still involved at an emotional level with his former nanny and soon plans to move to Joyner’s headquarters in Fort Mill, S.C., to “fully embrace a healing and restoration process.”

To begin, not only the board, but also Mr. Bentley’s friend, Ignited Church pastor Stephen Strader has said that the Mr. Bentley’s affair is apparently sexual. Before Mr. Bentley spoke to Charisma, he spoke to Strader. Pastor Strader, based on what Bentley told him, told his local paper that he agreed with the FFM board that what Bentley was doing was basically adultery.

People who have been following the evangelist will recall that three years ago he pulled himself off the road on the grounds that he had suffered a breakdown due to nervous exhaustion. He went into this in a full sermon-length message, which he sent to his contributors, describing his “dark night of the soul”. Left unmentioned in his message, however, was this was directly after a sexual affair with another staffer than the one we are mentioning now. Mr. Bentley was no doubt coming off the road in an attempt to save his marriage.

This has been remarked on twice. Once by Stephen Strader, immediately after Bentley left the revival, in the local newspaper.

Perhaps Pastor Strader was a source of information for C. Peter Wagner, a charismatic leader in the United States who wants Mr. Bentley to become one of his disciples. Mr. Wagner noted in a report on the revival in August that this first affair, during Mr, Bentley’s emotional “breakdown”, was sexual: “Their marriage has been torn for years by his emotional attachment with at least one other female whose physical contact went beyond hugging and kissing and holding hands. Enough said-maybe more details will be revealed later-but it was clearly immoral. All of this was skillfully concealed by lying and by swearing close associates who had observed his behavior to secrecy.”

It’s interesting that Bentley says that there was no “spark or interest” on his part for the intern. Really? Did he put safeguards in place, as many do, to ensure that nothing could come up that could threaten his marriage? If not, why not?

(One hopes that the lady in question does not take offense at the implication that Mr. Bentley was basically seduced, It takes two to tango.)

He couldn’t talk to the intern and another lady friend of his at the same time, so that they could both comfort him in a purely sisterly way ? (Someone who had fallen into an affair in the past would particularly want to be careful here.)

As I have noted, there is nothing preventing Mr. Bentley, a Canadian citizen, born in Canada, from being in Canada right now to be near his kids. The visa “issues” relate to re-entry into the United States, a big source of revenue for the evangelist. Does he have personal assets in the United States that he must access in person, such as, perhaps, safety deposit boxes in a bank stuffed with cash (that his wife may not know about)?

Mr. Bentley’s remarks, however, are troubling to someone who is a charismatic Christian, as he professes to be. Citing years of counseling, and a bad marriage as a reason to divorce, does not jibe with the account of the marriage in Mr. Bentley’s autobiography, Journey Into The Miraculous.

Mr. Bentley writes that his wife-to-be, Shonnah Andres, initially saw him as just a friend. Furthermore, she was interested in another fellow, and thought, after prayer, that she would marry this other man.

Then, Todd had a “vision from God”:

“…the Lord had actually shown me an open vision of Shonnah. It was my first open-eyed vision. I was in my living room and my fireplace opened up, kind of like a TV screen, and I saw us embracing in a wheat field that was ready for harvest. We were both weeping and I was wearing a tux and she was wearing a wedding dress. As the vision unfolded, her friend Roswetta (who was now my friend) was talking with me in the living room about Shonnah. I described the open vision to her as it happened. The presence of the Lord fell and we both wept. Roswetta said, ‘I can’t see it but I can feel goose bumps.’ During this vision, I also received an anointing of creativity, poetry and writing. In fact, I even received a three-page prophetic poem that I read at our wedding. I still write prophetic poems for my wife to this day.”

Shonnah’s friend then went off to tell her about the vision. Shonnah gradually fell in love with Bentley and they married.

Charismatics sometimes make decisions partly based on what they think the Lord is telling them. Ladies in charismatic churches sometimes need to tell ardent suitors who say, “The Lord has shown me that you are to be my wife!” something like “Well, I’m sure that he will ‘tell’ me too and he hasn’t said anything yet!”

What disturbs me about the account in the book is this. Mr. Bentley is alleging that he received special direction from the Lord to marry his wife, moreover, that he received special help from God to enable him to show love to her. If I were Bentley, I would be frightened to fly in the face of this alleged vision by pursuing a divorce. Would he not be going against the revealed will of God in what he is said to have seen…if we assume this vision actually took place?

Mr. Bentley is acting like this vision never took place, or is wrong. This poses a serious logical problem for the evangelist.

If the vision never took place, what other visions has he made up? He's had some doozies, which I won't get into here.

If the vision never took place, did he use his fib to prevent Shonnah from having God’s best for her life? What kind of selfish person would you have to be to do something like that?

This poses a problem for how he does his ministry as well. Many times, Mr. Bentley has explained how he often does ministry. Supposedly, he prays and tries to foresee what God will do at his upcoming meeting. In a vision, God will show him the faces of people, or tell him their names, or show him where they will be sitting in the meeting and then reveal extra information such as what their sickness is, or a special message from God for them.

If Mr. Bentley misread what he thought God was saying, this implies that in a “big question” that he can be horribly misled in hearing from God. Someone with terminal cancer, wanting healing prayer from Mr. Bentley, would certainly want to be able to put confidence in him being able to hear from God, especially if they were going to make medical decisions partly based on what he said.

If Mr. Bentley makes up what he says that God shows him, or uses the technique of “cold reading” to give those who come forward for prayer what they want to hear, that would certainly reflect on his character in a bad way.

If Mr. Bentley is to return to ministry, those counseling him will need to make sure that he has the character to be honest, and not to spin tales out of whole cloth. Alas, he has developed a demonstrated tendency of playing fast and loose with the truth and this must be addressed if he is to do good works.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on December 10, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (51) | TrackBack

I am Islamophobic: The untold story of a Queen's University student's acute fear of religious radicals

In October, Gareth Chantler wrote an article entitled “I am Islamophobic” for the Queen’s University campus publication, Diatribe magazine.

Chantler was told by editor-in-chief Jeff Fraser that the article would be published in the November issue of the magazine.

Growing tension on campus between Muslim and non-Muslim students, however, has put the article on hold indefinitely, despite Diatribe’s editorial promise to be “provocative.”

The tension has been caused by a handful of incidences, ranging from serious to silly.

In late September, the Queen’s University Muslim Student Association (QUMSA) had their offices broken into, property stolen and posters vandalized. It was a serious incident.

In October, Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Jacob Mantle issued an apology for a comment he made about a photo on a friend’s Facebook wall. The comment, “I like your Taliban picture,” was made about a picture of two girls wearing headscarves. Insensitive? Sure, but the reaction to it has been described as “hysteria.”

Shortly after this Facebook incident, graffiti was found throughout the Queen’s campus that was thought to be an expression of the growing tension.

It was all too much for Diatribe editor Fraser. In an email to Chantler, he explained his decision to spike the article:

“I have no right to jeopardize the safety of the executives” [referring to the executives of Diatribe] and that “frankly, I don’t see the position you’ve taken on Islam as something worth defending at the expense of people whose necks are not mine.”

Having read Chantler's article here, I can say it is, in fact, worth defending. Chantler makes a reasonable argument against radical Islam that is, by his own admission, just as applicable to Christian fundamentalists. Chantler argues that there are parts of the Koran, like parts of the Bible, that advocate violence. And if you believe the Koran is the literal word of Allah, then you also believe in the parts of the Koran that advocate violence. If you are one of these people, then Chantler is afraid of you, hence the title of his article: “I am Islamophobic.”

Chantler is Islamophobic because he is afraid of radical religious dogma. Is this really a controversial statement? Perhaps. But bigoted? Of course not.

Fraser believes Chantler has a right to be heard and that his work is important – he’s just not willing to do the heavy lifting himself:

“I believe you have a right to be heard, and what you have to say is important, but I have put other priorities first; namely, the safety of my staff, sympathy for campus Muslims, and the dismissal of the Jacob Mantle hysteria before it permanently damages this university's reputation.”

My favourite part of Fraser’s email is his suggestion that Chantler go after Christians instead of Muslims, as they are a soft target for critics of religious fundamentalism:

"If you really do believe that attacking religious ideology is progress, make a concerted attack on Christianity. That is a well established religion, whose many followers feel safe and comfortable in the society in which they live."

Fraser also wrote that:

"If you are truly interested in opening discussion, you will make your argument in less controversial terms at a less controversial time."

The latter is a sad comment coming from the editor of a magazine Chantler describes as a “bastion of free speech and free publication on campus, publishing both right-wing and left-wing views [which] has provided a counterbalance to the newsy and politically correct views expressed in the Queen’s Journal. This is to say that articles such as mine, which may be offensive to certain people, have always found a home in Diatribe’s pages. There is now no place for the publication of my article at Queen’s University.”

There may be no place for Chantler’s article at Queen’s, but there is a place for it on the Western Standard.

Read “I am Islamophobic” on the Western Standard here. But if you’re expecting hyperbolic language and angry anti-Islamic rhetoric, you’ll be disappointed. Chantler offers a thoughtful, liberal critique of Muslim radicalism that applies equally to Christians who believe seriously that the Bible is the literal word of God.

Chantler has no fear of the vast majority of what he calls “secular Muslims” (or secular Christians for that matter) and, in fact, argues that the Osgoode Law students who sought to convict Mark Steyn of human rights violations, while wrong to try to censor Steyn and Maclean’s magazine, are people “no one needs to be especially worried about.”

I don’t know how this article will be received. It’s free of gratuitous language and reveals no bias except toward non-violence.

It wasn’t long ago that the Western Standard's publisher, Matthew Johnston, offended some readers by removing ugly comments on this blog after they were brought to his attention by Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy. The anonymous comments were repugnant and not typical of the kinds of comments that appear everyday on the Shotgun Blog. Still, some readers felt this move would invite further demands from the Muslim community and lead to self-censorship. He issued a public apology to Soharwardy for the comments and we agreed to keep an open channel for communication between us and Soharwardy, which we’ve done.

Since this incident, but not because of it, the Western Standard has added legal scholar Moin Yahya and paleo-conservative blogger Omar Abu Hatem to our editorial team -- both Muslims, both friends of liberty.

There is no room at the Western Standard for anti-Muslim bigotry, but there is room for serious discussions about the threat to peace of radical religious beliefs of every variety. I trust this distinction will be made by readers with respect to "I am Islamophobic."

UPDATE: Rob Breakenridge had Gareth Chantler on his radio program to talk about his article. Listen to the interview, it's interesting.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 10, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (87) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Todd Bentley's sock puppet will now field questions from the press?

Readers who remember my post last Friday on beleaguered Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley may be interested to know that, in a surreal turn of events, he has responded  to the criticism levied by the governing board of his ministry last week. In a second-hand way.

The details come in a story in today's Lakeland Ledger, the newspaper in the city where Mr. Bentley held his revival earlier this year. Reporter Cary McMullen, who has done a lot of great coverage on Mr. Bentley's recent work in Florida, decided to report on the board's public complaints about Mr. Bentley's conduct.

Pastor Stephen Strader (of Ignited Church, host of the revival meetings) was asked for comment and  passed on some alleged comments from Mr. Bentley about the statement by the ministry. Mr. Bentley, vacationing in California, reportedly made some specific denials of items in the statement, but did, allegedly, confirm that he is shacked up with his former intern while still being married to his wife.

What is odd about all this is that there is nothing preventing Mr. Bentley from telling Pastor Strader that he would be happy to answer questions himself--just pass on his number. Certainly, being honest and upfront would be part of a process of adopting the appropriate moral character to resume ministry, but Mr. Bentley sees no need for that yet. He could have even issued his own statement, or found a reporter willing to lob softball questions at him. If it is so urgent to reply to the criticism, I am sure he could find a sympathetic reporter.

Mr. Bentley has reportedly said that he is not able to return home to Canada to see his wife and kids due to visa issues. Actually, the issue is access to the United States. American charismatic Christians like to stay close to home to attend meetings and conferences--complete with collection plates and groaning book tables full of things to buy--and Americans have most of the money in this wing of Christianity. So, in order to make a better living, you move to where the money is. It appears that Mr. Bentley, who bought residential property in Florida this summer and rented an office for his ministry, might have been thinking along these lines when his revival imploded.

It looks like a donnybrook may be in store if Mr. Bentley and his board start to snipe at each other. But Mr. Bentley may have an ace up his sleeve. Fresh Fire Ministries needs him more than Mr. Bentley needs them. The evangelist (his books, his DVDs and tapes) is the ministry's main source of revenue. Mr. Bentley, however, may have a alternative ready to go. 

When Mr. Bentley first published his autobiography, it was self-published under the imprint of Sound of Fire Productions, a private company on Vancouver Island, where his father and stepmother live. Mr. Bentley has always been careful to keep Sound Of Fire viable and separate from Fresh Fire. At meetings and conferences featuring Mr. Bentley, Sound of Fire materials and Fresh Fire materials were kept strictly separate, with separate sales staff and separate cash registers. If you have a look at the Sound of Fire website, linked above, you will note that it includes video teachings, an online bookstore and such. It could easily be turned quickly into a new charity for Mr. Bentley, if it comes to that.

A new chaity could force the parents of Mr. Bentley's wife, Valerie and Earl Andres (who both currently work for Fresh Fire) to find new work. Mrs. Andres, who no doubt remembers "doing Timmy runs (trips to Tim Horton's)" and working in a room of Todd Bentley's house as his first employee hoping that he would be able to pay her, would, I am sure, be chagrined to see this happen.

UPDATE: Mr. Bentley has now spoken to a reporter to the U.S. charismatic magazine Charisma, but Charisma has "buried the lede" in the story by not highlighting the fact that their reporter is the first to speak to Bentley in months. An obvious question would be "Have you filed for divorce, since you are now in a relationship with another woman?", but I don't know if it was put to him.

I may have more to add after a careful read of what he has to say.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on December 2, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday, November 28, 2008

Todd Bentley, adulterer

Bentleyhealing Readers who recall my series of posts on Todd Bentley, earlier this fall, may be dismayed to learn that things are going from bad to worse for the faith-healing B.C. evangelist.

The current leadership of Mr. Bentley's ministry, Fresh Fire Ministries, issued a statement by e-mail this afternoon which is now posted on their website. Evidently they are somewhat exasperated with their "star", but, in journalistic parlance, the author has "buried the lede."

A salient point is this:

"....further silence on our part would be misrepresenting the truth by allowing you to believe that what we said in our first two statements (which were true to the best of our knowledge at the time of their writing) is still the case. Unfortunately that is not so....

....It also needs to be clarified that Shonnah has in no way initiated this divorce and has no present intention to do so at any time in the future. She is understandably hurt by Todd’s infidelity, but is not asking or pressing for a divorce. The legal separation from Shonnah was initiated completely by Todd and he has not seen her or the children since the last week in July. To our knowledge, Todd’s relationship with the female staff-member, who was a former intern and also, at his initiative, a live-in nanny in his house for over a year, is still ongoing. We believe that there are currently no biblical grounds for Todd to leave his wife and children. While it has been maintained that no physical contact happened between Todd and the former female intern until after he filed for legal separation from Shonnah, in the Boards’ eyes, the nature of the present relationship between Todd and his former staff member is that of adultery....."

One hopes that we will be spared footage of Todd Bentley on television saying "I... did... not... have... sexual... relations... with..."

Also, YouTube watchers may have spotted that internationally famous evangelist Benny Hinn -- whose critics (and reporters from CBC's The Fifth Estate for one) suggest may have his own issues with infamy or aberrant theology--has criticized Todd Bentley's Lakeland Florida revival as theologically unsound. This was in late October, well after Mr. Bentley had gone into seclusion, making it almost impossible for him to respond to what Mr. Hinn has to say.

The Hinn citique, which was broadcast internationally on Hinn's television program, has begun to appear on YouTube in sections over the past few days. A partial transcipt of Mr. Hinn's observations and remarks about Mr. Bentley has been made by Hinn critic Bud Press.

UPDATE: I note that blogger Miriam Franklin, who has provided a thorough critique of Mr. Bentley's theology and activities for many months now (and who also, I suspect, is not on Mr. Bentley's Christmas card list!) has issued a sentence-by-sentence dissection of the Fresh Fire board's statement for those who may be interested in it. Her opinions are hers, but her observations may be useful for those wanting to "read between the lines" here.

SECOND UPDATE : The St. Petersburg Times is reporting on the ministry's letter in their newspaper today. The Tampa Tribune has a similar story. The newspapers were unable to track down Mr. Bentley, so no quotes from him.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 28, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (227) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 09, 2008

6,000 Muslim clerics endorse anti-terror fatwa

Muslim_clerics_endorse_antiterror_f From UPI News:

About 6,000 Muslim clerics from around India approved a fatwa against terrorism Saturday at a conference in Hyderabad.

Maulana Qari Mohammad Usman Mansoorpuri, president of the Jamaiat-Ulama-i-Hind, called terrorism the most serious problem facing Islam, The Hindu reported. He blamed Islamic radicals for their actions and the news media for failing to distinguish between the radicals and the majority of Muslims.

"We have no love for offenders whichever religion they might belong to," he said. "Our concern is that innocents should not be targeted and the career of educated youth not ruined. The government should ensure transparency in investigation."

More:

Muslim clerics Saturday issued a fatwa (diktat) against terror, saying terrorists have no place in Islam. “We have declared a war on terror and the general message is that terrorists have no place in Islam. Our religion does not preach violence. Time has come for all of us to be vigilant and wage a war on terror,” Hilal Qasimi, head of the Islampur Madrassa (religious seminary), told IANS.

The fatwa was issued at an anti-terror convention organised by the Burha Masjid Committee, one of the oldest mosques in Guwahati.

Times Now reports:

With the Muslim community under attack from Hidutva forces, clerics belonging to the moderate Deoband school of Islam on Sunday (Nov 9) resolved to fight terrorism and distanced themselves from all kinds of terror activities.

They also drew a distinction between "jihad" and terrorism saying while the former "is basically a constructive phenomena", terror is "based on destruction alone". The resolution adopted at the two-day national session of  Jamiat-Ulema-I-Hind (JUH) here strongly condemnded efforts being made to link Islam with terrorism and made it clear that Islam did not allow killing of innocent people or disturbing peace in any manner.

It said 'jihad' and terrorism were "poles apart". While "jihad basically a constructive phenomenon, terrorism was based on destruction alone. Jihad is permitted only for restoring peace and is a fundamental right of a human being". The Jamiat said it was against any kind of terrorist activity and is ready to fight the menace with the help of others. [...]

Senior journalist M J Akbar descried attempts to link Islam with terrorism. "Quran described terrorism as 'fasad' while 'jihad' is a word used only for holy war. Jihad has nothing to do with fasad," he observed. "The misconceptions and misinterpretations of Islam have to be removed," Akbar said.

He wanted the Muslims to shed their "inferiority complex" and strive to achieve excellence in all spheres. "Let us identify our weaknesses like poverty, illiteracy and discrimination on the basis of sex. They are our worst enemies. We have to overcome these weaknesses to excel," Akbar added.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 9, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Good old spell check proves useful in more ways than one

One of the main supports of B.C. evangelist Todd Bentley’s “Lakeland revival this summer was the live coverage provided by God TV, a London-based charismatic TV channel, which broadcast his daily services to the world via satellite TV and the Internet.

Following the collapse of Mr. Bentley’s campaign, God TV owners Rory and Wendy Alec felt that they had to issue a statement about their friend and former feature performer. The statement was saved here on their website. It was also saved several places on blogs shortly after release.

It’s been critiqued on religious grounds but Mr. Bentley’s internet critics have missed small, but perhaps important details. I fear that Mr. Bentley may rue the day that “spell check” was invented….

Being Canadian, I use British spellings for some words, so I spotted something very interesting. In the paragraph in the God TV statement starting "Todd ministered each....", criticized is spelled with a z. Isn't the British spelling "criticised"? Also, in the paragraph starting "At the same time....", "honoring" is spelled without a "u". The British/Canadian spelling would be "honouring".

I am sure that Rory and Wendy Alec would not buy a computer program at a computer software store in England that defaulted to American spellings. Wouldn’t it be odd for a British TV channel website to spell words incorrectly in this way?

I'll bet that this seemingly independent statement was sent back and forth across the Atlantic for editing and rewriting before release. If so, Mr. Bentley certainly saw it. That would be significant because Mr. Bentley has begged off making a reply to his religious and media critics on the grounds that he is burned out, needs to consult with friends and such.

If my guess is correct, and Mr. Bentley had time to edit and rewrite the God TV statement, he has time to answer his media and Internet critics. It would be not that he “can’t” answer in these matters…rather that he “won’t”.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on October 18, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Mr. Bentley's credulity is e-x-p-o-s-e-d

During Canadian faith healer Todd Bentley’s revival campaign this summer, 31 alleged resurrections from the dead were reportedly connected to the revival in some way. Alas, none happened to be confirmed by doctors or medical staff, which led charismatic Christian leaders  such as Robert Ricciardelli to urge the revival’s leaders to stop falsely claiming that people were coming back from the grave.

One enterprising YouTube user, suspecting that Mr. Bentley would say anything from the pulpit to hype his revival without checking out the truth of his statements first, decided to conduct an amusing test that Mr. Bentley fell for, being reeled in like a fish. It’s funny, and the YouTuber was never credited for his work by internet Bentley watchers, so I would like to share it with you. It’s in two parts. Part one is here.  Part two is here.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on October 18, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The faith healer, his disabled wife, and a possible divorce

It’s very unusual that someone that I wrote about in my Report magazine days (not once, not twice, but three times) would have since become an international celebrity. This past summer, faith healing Christian evangelist Todd Bentley of Abbotsford B.C. held  a series of “revival” meetings in Lakeland, Florida, broadcast worldwide on satellite, cable TV and the Internet by the British charismatic Christian television network God TV, which made him a “nine-day wonder” in the religious and secular press.

But then, the wheels fell off the wagon. First, an indepth report by the reporters of ABC News’ Nightline news program in July learned that Mr. Bentley—who had claimed not only healings but that 31 resurrections from the dead were connected with his revival in some way—could not provide the name of one person that Nightline could prove had been healed. The day after the story aired, Mr. Bentley decided that he needed an immediate break from conducting the meetings. Then in August, following revelations of some serious moral lapses on Mr. Bentley’s part, he left the revival and temporarily withdrew from public ministry for a time.

I can pass on some news. Ignited Church in Lakeland, the revival’s “host”, which had been keeping the meetings going, quietly held the last special meeting for the revival—the crowds have dwindled since the “star” left—on Sunday October 12. This must be embarrassing to the various charismatics who had predicted that “Lakeland” would begin to be a world-wide revival.

Is Bentley done? Hardly. Plans are already afoot to bring him back to full-time itinerant evangelism as early as late this year.  And Mr. Bentley, who announced on leaving the revival that he has separated from his wife Shonnah, after reports in the press of two “emotional affairs” with other women may be divorced by the time he ministers again.

I can also reveal one of the reasons, virtually kept secret by the evangelist, that may be tempting Mr. Bentley to consider a divorce.

It seems that, contrary to the impression that the faith healing preacher has given for the past ten years that he has been married to Shonnah Bentley, she has been crippled by a lingering disability caused by bone cancer….

Mr. Bentley, as I found to my dismay when writing about him, has a way of wording things when talking about his past and ministry that leads people to believe things that are not strictly true. I found that I could only get him to be entirely truthful in some matters when I knew what the answers to his questions *should* be before I put the questions to him.

It would be naturally embarrassing to a faith healer that his wife has a life-long disability. Alas, Mr. Bentley has artfully avoided an embarrassing series of questions from the press, such as “Has your wife Shonnah had any lasting health problems due to her cancer? She has? Have you tried praying for her? How do you explain that your wife continues to have this health issue when your revival allegedly raises people from the dead…?”

How could reporters seeking honesty and accountability from this minister know that they could ask such questions of Mr. Bentley  when he misleads his readers?  Anyone reading either edition of his autobiography, “Journey Into the Miraculous” would get the idea that his wife is completely healed—suffering from no lasting disabilities as a result of her bout with bone cancer at 16.

Mr. Bentley writes:

“Shonnah had grown up Catholic. She got saved   at 16 when the Lord healed her of cancer and a spot on her lungs. Several Christians, including some ministers, prayed for her over a period of several weeks and God blessed her with a miracle The nurturing of the church impacted her immediate family and they all got saved too….”

However, one would see that something is amiss with this description when seeing video footage of Shonnah Bentley on YouTube. She is the heavyset woman that falls after being prayed for Watch her walking and pay particular attention to her left leg in this video:

The above video may be pulled from YouTube once this blog post is circulated. Fortunately the same footage is also used in a YouTube video here posted by one of Mr. Bentley’s critics

Why Is Shonnah Bentley hobbling? She has no left knee.

Doctors at a Vancouver hospital took out her left knee when she was 16. Now, her left leg is held together by a straight metal rod to just above her ankle.

I do not blame Shonnah Bentley. She seems to be a honest lady.  Whether she has been deliberately kept in the background until recent weeks I cannot say. Yet, have another look at what Mr. Bentley wrote as quoted above and then hear these excerpts from when she spoke at Lakeland’s Ignited Church on June 11, 2008…

[While her evangelist husband was speaking to large crowds at televised services at night, the church had morning services for those who had come to the revival and wanted extra prayer. These morning services were low key and although this particular service was apparently broadcast over Ignited Church’s own video feed, these video services were not saved on their extensive Ustream.tv feed page archive. I’ve obtained an audio CD of her remarks, which Ignited Church seems not to sell through their online bookstore.]

The service that morning was an informal interview of Shonnah Bentley conducted by Kira Mitchell, one of Todd Bentley’s “associate ministers”. Ms. Mitchell, in the process of asking Mrs. Bentley questions to coax out her life story, asks about her bout with bone cancer:

[The quotes, as you will see, are verbatim]

Mitchell: “And so, Shonnah went through over a ten hour operation and—do you want to share what they did with your leg?—as you can see Shonnah’s leg is physically unable to bend and maybe you’ve always thought like, ‘Why does she walk so funny across the stage?” or whatever, and so can you explain what they did? 

Shonnah Bentley: “So what they did is during the 10 hour operation they removed my knee completely in the left leg. I have no knee. And what they did is they put a metal rod from the top of my leg to just above my ankle and—just to fuse the whole leg together. So, I will never be able to bend my leg unless God does a creative miracle, but, you know, the doctors [say] I’ll be like this until the day I die kind of thing. They just basically fused everything together and the cancer was in the upper part of my leg so what they did is they removed the bone and they removed the muscle and they put the rod through just to fuse everything together and then I was in the hospital for a month after that recovering.”

Mitchell; “And Shonnah also had to have part of her lung removed as the cancer also spread to her lung and so she had part of that removed.”

It would have been very interesting, given that people were allegedly being spectacularly healed, to see Mr. Bentley bring his wife up for prayer in front of an evening audience. She was there one evening for sure, when several famed charismatic Christian teachers and evangelists came to Lakeland to “commission” Mr. Bentley into ministry. Did they lack faith, or lack consideration of Mrs. Bentley’s needs?

Bringing Mrs. Bentley up on stage would have posed a problem for the evangelist. Praying for a miracle for Shonnah, and not having it happen, would have implied that prayers at the revival were only partly successful. Not the best advertisement when you are trying to attract a crowd, I know, but perhaps more honest.

A spectacular healing of Mrs. Bentley, I note, would have been the “just one” person that the ABC News reporter was asking  Mr. Bentley to provide as evidence that his “healing” revival was truly, well, healing people. How unfortunate that he lacked the courage to try. [I’ll bet that Mr. Bentley steered the ABC crew away from his wife, as I know that their reporter and producer were on the ball and would have asked, “Say, why is your wife hobbling? Don’t you pray for her?”]

You see, Mr. Bentley’s theology has difficulties with people not being miraculously healed. Christians of all stripes can attest to times when prayer to God has helped people to recover from illness and times when it has not. Certainly, given the loving and merciful nature of God as reflected in Christian theology, and the several Biblical references to prayer for the sick, it can be an expression of kindness and mercy by the Christian to either  pray for the sick or offer them medical care or comfort.

Mr. Bentley, however, has moved from a balanced and mature approach to the subject to one that, while boosting Mr. Bentley’s alleged expertise in these matters, implies to the sick and needy that there is something wrong with you or your faith if you are not healed. 

In 2004 he issued a self-published book, Christ’s Healing Touch, Volume 1-- which I suspect will be reworked a little and published with a new title, Kingdom Rising, by Destiny Image in the U.S. later this month. In this 2004 book, Mr. Bentley relates several stories of alleged “creative miracles”—instances where something brand new and whole such as a new eye was created from nothing—and then adds:

“I believe God wants to raise our faith to the level where creative miracles like these are normal events in our lives and ministries. He wants us to have a revelation of God as Creator so we can have faith to believe for, and to bring about, creative miracles…we will realize how easy creative miracles are…I believe a time is coming when our thinking will be so transformed that when someone says ‘I was in a meeting last night and people’s blind eyes were being opened’, we won’t be very surprised.”

“I have definitely grown in levels on healing in my ministry,”’ he adds (and remember that this was written four years ago). “I remember when [healing] a headache or back pain was intimidating. Today, we see people coming out of wheelchairs or being healed of incurable diseases. I am growing in my spirit to a kingdom place of authority in the area of creative miracles.”

Imagine the pressure this sort of mindset places on those wanting to be healed.

You may remember that Mr. Bentley stated flatly in his autobiography that “God” healed his wife. The whole truth, as his wife related in her remarks at Ignited Church, is that doctors may have had a great deal to do with it.

She relates that several pastors prayed for her to recover from her bone cancer. The added emphasis is mine:

Shonnah Bentley “….My grandmother called me up and said ‘Why don’t you come over to my house?’ This was before I had the surgery…She says ‘Why don’t you come to the house and I’ll get a couple of my pastors to pray?’ And so my family said ‘Okay’ because we were desperate, we wanted, we were willing to do anything…So, basically we went and my grandmother had these two pastors pray and I remember when we had the pastors pray that we went there and—and remember that we were still from a Catholic background—[that] they were praying in tongues so we were like ‘What the heck is going on? What are these people doing?’ We didn’t understand, but at the time we weren’t concerned about that. I believe that was the first time we really felt God’s presence.”

This is sometimes how Christians see prayer at work. In Mrs. Bentley’s account, prayer here, practically, is at least a comfort—if not more—to help the sick person. Yet, doctors are seen as working in partnership with whatever God may be doing behind the scenes. It’s not “either or” But “both and”. Balanced and wise.

Mr. Bentley’s own approach, however, has evolved over the years. In 2001 he told me, for a Report magazine story, that he never told people that they were healed and advised them to work with their doctors. Even a cursory glance at what was happening in Lakeland this summer, however, showed Bentley impulsively implying that people were “healed” again and again.

Todd Bentley’s wife Shonnah’s lasting disability is an opportunity for Mr. Bentley to learn and mature in his faith, one that he would throw away by divorcing her. There are many people who would like to be healed by God, but whom are not. Many Christian theologians and ministers have explored the issue of how God can and does work in and through a sick person’s life and witness even if they are not instantly healed at a revival crusade. As someone who likes to specialize in this particular form of faith healing   evangelism, Mr. Bentley really owes it to the rest of his audience to flesh out his theology.

If we presume that God would want to show compassion to everyone in Bentley’s audience, he needs to think of people like the man featured in the ABC News Nightline feature on him. The man, with a gravely ill son, had brought his son to Lakeland to be healed.  Due to the size of the crowd, it would admittedly have been unrealistic to expect Todd Bentley to pray for his son, or declare from the pulpit that God had “healed” someone with the exact description of his son’s illness. But, the man and his son left the revival meeting with no one having prayed for them at all.

When criticized, Mr. Bentley often cites the alleged woes of his pre-Christian past as a reason for people to sympathize with him. Ironically, his wife’s disability offers him a valid reason to get sympathy, as people would realize that God does not have to heal someone to do good things through them. (The audiences that Shonnah Bentley has begun to speak to as part of Fresh Fire’s work may attest to that.)  Mr. Bentley’s actions this summer show that he is “only human” in a bad way.  It would be much better for Mr. Bentley to be humble, acknowledge his wife’s disability, and thereby show his humanity in a good way.

Mr. Bentley must realize that if, he divorces his current wife in favor of a trophy wife, there will be speculation in the minds of some of his Internet and Christian media critics that one of the reasons that he is getting rid of Shonnah is because her disability embarrasses him—and moreover, that his  theology does not work with a wife hobbling along at his side. 

One hopes that he will do the right thing and stay with his wife. One can pray that he will--and that everyone disappointed by Mr. Bentley’s flawed revival will be ministered to…some day…

Posted by Rick Hiebert on October 18, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Friday, October 03, 2008

Canada's own Bill Maher

Heathensguidefrontcover Before there was Bill Maher and his "Religulous," there was William Hopper and the Heathen's Guide to World Religions.

Originally published in 1997, the book has gone through five editions, and is now in its sixth. Like Religulous, the new Bill Maher-hosted anti-religion movie, The Heathen’s Guide has found its share of recognition from reviewers and religious folk alike. Surprisingly, most of it has been good.

The Georgia Strait wrote "Instead of getting mad at God, [Hopper] made it his mission to get even... Assuming he survives the letter bombs, the fatwas, and the bus-stop lectures, I can’t wait for the promised sequel." The Toronto Star's reviewer, meanwhile, called The Heathen’s Guide  “Wickedly fun and informative.”

"After ten years of doing what Maher is doing now, I can say there’s some envy at his success,” says Hopper honestly, "But when you’re working within the Canadian publishing system, you take what you can get.”

Two years ago Hopper took his book to the internet, and has drawn some interesting fans, and interesting stories. "It’s an odd feeling to ship copies of The Heathen’s Guide to places like Iran and Saudi Arabia," says Hopper. “I’ve honestly worried that someone could get killed for reading a copy of it under certain regimes.”

Amongst the fans of his book is the female singer Esthero who went on tour with "the Artist formerly known as Prince" recently. The atheist magician-comedian duo Penn & Teller, famous for their television show entitled "Bullshit", have also received copies.

“It’s popular in the film and music world,” Hopper says. “But they tend to keep it behind the cameras where it’s safe.”

This week in California, during an interview with Brave New Films to promote his movie, Bill Maher will be handed his very own copy. It will be signed by the author, with a note that reads “To Bill Maher; a kindred soul.”

“Maher looks at today’s religions and shows them up for what they are,” Hopper says. “My stuff shows the history... where it all came from; who slept with who, who killed who. You know... the real origin of the doctrines. It’s a perfect compliment for Bill’s work.”

Copies of The Heathen’s Guide are available online exclusively at Heathensguide.com, and the first 30 pages are available as a free download on the site.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on October 3, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, September 12, 2008

Indian Court Fiddles while Orissa burns

Have you heard of Orissa? A story about religious persecution seems to be getting scant media coverage.

Here are the facts: By last count 10,000 refugees have fled the state of Orissa in India. Another 50,000 are hiding in the surrounding country-side. According to both AsiaNews and Assyrian news association, mobs are giving locals an ultimatum to convert or have their homes burned or even lose their lives.

However, the Indian government seems reluctant to clamp down on the violence. A report to the Indian Supreme Court said, "that the situation in communal riots-hit Kandhamal district of Orissa was ‘much much better’ and the situation was ‘under control’."

I was amazed that the only way that I can keep tabs on what can only be called a pogrom is to check my trusty google news alerts. Where is George Clooney and Matt Damon? Where's 60 Minutes?

Orissa1_2

Where is the outcry? I did a quick search on CNN and found one story and not a single video clip from either CNN or FoxNews on youtube. Christians are being forced to convert to Hinduism or lose their lives. Hundreds have been burned alive and the Catholic News Service says that there are reports that nuns have been raped and burned alive.

What I did find on youtube was an excerpt from a documentary about the violence that explains a great deal. I have no idea if its credible but I include it here:

Ostensibly, the spark that lit this conflagration was an accusation that Christians killed prominent Hindu Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati several weeks ago.

However, the forced conversions tell me this isn't about self-defense or political unrest. Saraswati was the head of an anti-conversion movement in India. Even though Maoists claimed responsibility for his death, a note reportedly left by the body claimed the attack was in retaliation for the Swami's thugs who attacked Christians on Christmas Day.

That self-proclaimed Hindu armies are forcing conversion tells me that this is about the untouchables. The Hindu caste system relegates dalits or outcasts to a sub-standard existence. They are not allowed in temples or homes. When some dalits dared enter a temple in Orissa, it had to be cleansed.

Orissa has seen many dalit converts to Christianity. A militant sect of Hinduism led by the Swami seeks to end any conversion of dalits to Christianity. This IBN video has an interview with one such sect leader who vows that India will always be Hindu and any one who impinges on Hindu rights will be eliminated

Whatever your thoughts about proselytizing, there is no evidence dalits are being forced to convert. But there is a verifiable fact that the late Swami's thugs were committing violence before his death. It is also justifiable to accuse them of using the assassination as an excuse to ramp up the body count.

I call on Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and everyone in-between to let people know about what is going on in Orissa.

Posted by Jay Lafayette on September 12, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Drugs and Church

My wife and I were visiting a new place for Sunday morning service this week and I couldn’t help but be disturbed yet again at the tendency of Christians to mistake political accomplishments for spiritual ones.

The pastor told a story about a small church that is located in a “rough” neighborhood. Some parishioners were on the corner outside the church praying for the area when they ran into some drug dealers (I’m not sure how the churchgoers knew them to be drug dealers). The dealers told the prayers, “This is our corner” and the interceding churchmen replied, “No, this corner belongs to Jesus”. The pastor said one of the drug dealers was visibly moved and walked away saying, “this isn’t right what we’re doing. I’m going home”. The rest of the drug dealers stood their ground, so the church members retreated back into the church. So far, an interesting story.

Then, the pastor told us, the police showed up and arrested the remaining drug dealers on the street corner. Everyone listening to the story started clapping and shouting “amen”. The pastor used the story to illustrate the effectiveness of prayer, and the transforming power of the church located in the rough neighborhood. 

This was all rather unsettling to me and my wife and as we discussed on our way home. Combined with the abysmal performance of the Detroit Lions, it put a bit of a damper on my day.

The part of the story where one drug dealer felt some kind of conviction and went home was interesting. The faith and words of the Christians on the corner apparently got him thinking deeply about his life. But what about those arrested by police? What victory is there for the church in that? There was no mention of any violent acts by these men. There wasn’t even mention of a violation of property rights (it was never clear if the corner was part of church property). There was only an assumption that these men were somehow “bad” and therefore their arrest was somehow “good” for the neighborhood, and ostensibly the Kingdom of God.

But how did this event advance the Kingdom of God? Is not the point of the Kingdom to transform lives? Is not the point to demonstrate the power of Christ to forgive and to move individuals to break free from the bondage of sin and embrace His forgiveness and live freely and righteously? What did this confrontation and arrest do for these men to help them see their need for freedom in Christ

Moreover, what grounds is there to cheer “amen” at the arrest of these men? It betrays a notion that runs deep in the church; that political action is analogous to spiritual action. This same conflation was demonstrated some years ago when members of my church collected petition signatures sufficient to force a strip club to move from downtown to a location outside of town. This was touted as a victory. But in spiritual terms, who won? Did any of the petition signers go down and offer hope and freedom to the men in bondage to sexual addiction? Did they offer comfort and companionship to any of the strippers who were, purportedly, desperate for money and approval? Was a single soul set free? Did the patrons of the establishment have a new respect for Christians after seeing them forcibly remove the business from town? If anything, it set the stage for a more hostile relationship between strippers and patrons of the strip club and Christians. Banning sinful behavior by force of law is no signal to sinners that they can come to the church for freedom and aid. 

Christ did not behave this way. Even when given the chance to use the laws of the day to punish a prostitute, He instead offered her grace and left her to make the choice on her own. He did not petition to hide sinful behavior from His sight, but spent much of His time hanging out with the least reputable sinners of society. He offered them hope and escape from damaging behavior, not prison.

When Christians look to laws of man to accomplish goals of the Kingdom they distort and corrupt both. All earthly governments are based on force. The Kingdom of God is based on love, freely given and freely received or rejected. Even the despotic, egotistical, and violent Napoleon saw this clear distinction in his last days exiled on the Island of St. Helena: 

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love…”

Why does the church so often fail to see what Napoleon understood? His Kingdom is truly, “not of this world”, and we shouldn’t reduce it to the activities and tools of earthly kingdoms – force, fraud, pomp, and patriotism.

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on September 10, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Canadians want Anglican Church to ordain women and homosexuals: poll

According to an Angus Reid poll released today, the majority of Canadians think the Anglican Church should ordain women and homosexuals. The poll was conducted after a decision by the Church of England—the mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion—to ordain women as bishops.

Here are the key findings:

The Anglican Church first ordained homosexuals in 2003.

(Source: Download anglican_church_angus_reid_poll_july_2008.pdf )

From the Western Standard archive, I recommend “Crisis in the church” by Candis McLean as a compliment to this story. McLean reports that Canadians in search of a meaningful religious experience are turning away from liberalized congregations and turning to evangelical churches in record numbers.

And if that's not enough, pick up Dr. Michael Wagner's newish book Standing on Guard for Thee. Jon Dykstra with Reformed Perspective called it "a gore-filled account of Canada's spiritual decline...."

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 23, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (46) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ric Dolphin Writes Again

Although loath to use another of those horrible words  concocted by the geeks  who, sadly, have inherited the world, there seems to be no avoiding it. I now have a "blog" which I shall endeavor to update at least every Monday and which you are invited to visit at, ricdolphin.com
Be aware that, unlike when I wrote for Western Standard magazine, I am not being  censored for language. I am also not specifically writing about politics, although the subject may be broached on occasion.  Be assured, however, that I shall never  use "blog" as  a verb.

Posted by Ric Dolphin on July 9, 2008 in Aboriginal Issues, American History, Books, Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian History, Canadian Politics, Canadian Provincial Politics, Crime, Current Affairs, Film, Humour, International Affairs, International Politics, Media, Military, Municipal Politics, Religion, Science, Television, Trade, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Western Standard, WS Radio, WStv | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Christian objectivists?

I stumbled across a blog recently that surprised me, and should surprise anyone familiar with Objectivism, the philosophy of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand: Christian objectivists (sic).

Ayn Rand was a pretty fierce atheist. Rumour has it that she "excommunicated" economist Murray Rothbard from her close circle partly because his wife refused to "see the light" and quit being Christian. Here's an interesting article by Rothbard accusing Ayn Rand and friends of being a "cult."

Choice (and indicative) excerpt:

"Shortly after Atlas [Shrugged] was published, one high-ranking cult leader chided me for only having read Atlas once. "It’s about time for you to start reading it again," he admonished. "I have already read Atlas thirty-five times."             

"The rereading of Atlas was also important to the cult because the wooden, posturing, and one-dimensional heroes and heroines were explicitly supposed to serve as role models for every Randian. Just as every Christian is supposed to aim at the imitation of Christ in his own daily life, so every Randian was supposed to aim at the imitation of John Galt (Rand’s hero of heroes in Atlas.) He was always supposed to ask himself in every situation "What would John Galt have done?" When we remind ourselves that Jesus, after all, was an actual historical figure whereas Galt was not, the bizarrerie of this injunction can be readily grasped. (Although from the awed way Randians spoke of John Galt, one often got the impression that, for them, the line between fiction and reality was very thin indeed.)"

(It needn't be pointed out, of course, that just because Rand led a cult does not mean that she was ipso facto wrong. She might be right, and have a cult following.)

SOLO (Sense of Life Objectivists) have an interesting string of posts critical of the Christian objectivists.

But the Christian objectivists look like they're going to put forward a good effort to try and squeeze Jesus' philosophy into Rand's (or vice-versa). So, for instance, what do we make of Rand's visceral denunciation of altruism and self-sacrifice, with what appears to be Jesus' affirmation of both not just in word but also in deed? Here you go:

"Jesus said that no man took his life from him, that he laid it down of his own free will.

"He says this at a very major critical point in his life, not as some cigar-fragranced afterthought as he drinks mint juleps from a wicker rocking chair.
"In other words, it's an important point, his act-of-will explanation of what he did. 

"He went to trouble here to make perfectly clear that his act, so wrongly translated as a "sacrifice" nowadays, was NOT what we understand as a sacrifice, where someone has something and lets someone else take it away, in weakness.

"So when the English translations choose the word "sacrifice" to describe what Jesus did, only an idiot would fail to see that the appearance of the word "sacrifice" in the translated bible is NOT the linguistic equivalent of the word "sacrifice" as used in Rand's writings.
"What Jesus did was a monumental act of WILL, which act kept him in conformity with his values. It was not a weak and whimpering act of giving UP what was important to himself, for the good of others.
Rather, it was an act without which, he would have had to go against his values, and therefore, even though he suffered in one sense, he dominated in another sense, by using a will so powerful that it was greater than death and was willing to enter into negatives in order to win the greater positive."

I leave it to you, dear reader, to judge this interpretation of scripture. I will be following with some interest the further scriptural revisionism in light of Rand's philosophy.

(N.B. Interestingly, when I asked Stephen Harper whether or not he was a libertarian when he received the Colin M. Brown Medal of Freedom at a National Citizen's Coalition award ceremony--back when it was run by Gerry Nicholls, actually stood for freedom, and was worth supporting (it's now just a partisan shill for the Conservatives)--he told me he didn't like the word because of its association with Ayn Rand and atheism. Instead, he told me, he likes to call himself a classical liberal. Oh, if only... )

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 1, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, June 06, 2008

Die for Gaia

Do you have children? Are they really young and impressionable? Great! Gather them together and point them to this website called "Planet Slayer." Then have them figure out when they should die in order for them to use only their "fair" share of the Earth. When they should die.

Just another crazy envirotalitarian website, you say? Well, yes, it is. But guess who's behind it? David Suzuki would be a good guess, given the way he's not shy about using Stalinesque tactics to rope children into ratting out their parents and complain about how dangerous their mom and dad are to the future of children. But it's not David Suzuki or the CBC--it's the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. And they're targeting their little website at nine-year-olds.

"Prof. Schpinkee's Greenhouse Calculator. Find out when you should die."

Some screenshots, just in case enough sensible Australians express their outrage and have it taken down:

Slayer1

Slayer2

I was curious to see when I should die, so I filled out the little quiz. When should I die? It looks like I've overstayed my welcome by many, many moons:

Slayer3

I should die at 7.4 years-of-age. In a pool of blood and guts. The pig--me--literally explodes at the end.

h/t: Alex

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 6, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mass detention of religious minorities in Iran - First Bahai's and now Christians

I've been busy dealing with the fundraising stuff recently but it doesn't mean that the important news should be ignored or set aside. Unfortunately, Tehran's Amir-Kabir University independent news website informs us (in Persian) that as many as 10 newly Christian converts have been detained in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz where a suspicious blast killed several people in a mosque. The Amir-Kabir Univ's website mentions that the Islamic regime of Iran is now trying to tie these ex-Muslims to that bombing and prosecute them. As you know the penalty for either of those two so-called crimes in Iran is death.

The Iranian regime's recent detention of Bahai's leadership also demonstrates the evil nature of this Islamofascist establishment that has hijacked and abused a once proud nation since 1979.

Posted by Winston on May 23, 2008 in Crime, Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fun with words

The Audacity of Hype has more problems with his spiritual mentor pastor.

To recap, what Obama says now:

He was never my quote unquote, spiritual adviser, my quote unquote spiritual mentor, he was my pastor.

What Obama said last month:

The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on April 29, 2008 in International Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Man the barricades! YWAM is coming!

Kevin Potvin, the editor of the free newspaper The Republic of East Vancouver, does warn his readers, in the slogan on his paper's website, that his is a "completely biased news source." So, I should not have been surprised to see this article in the latest issue, raising an alarm that the Christian missionary group Youth With A Mission (YWAM) was hoping to get permission from the city of Vancouver to rezone what was a private hospital in East Vancouver. The former hospital has been vacant for a long time, and YWAM hopes to get permission to use it as a local operations center and occasionally bring in small groups of young adults for training.

I'll admit my own bias--I have friends in YWAM. Nevertheless, I was puzzled when I read Mr. Potvin's catalogue of various "scary" conservative YWAM positions and statements, as I know that some of my YWAM friends do things that everyone would see as a non-threatening influence in the community, such as helping with my church's weekly distribution of warm food to the poor. Yet, judging by what he wrote, I doubt that Mr. Potvin would be reassured to learn (as he would have had he done any interviews for the story) that my friends, in many ways, are probably very much like his readers in the neighborhood centered on Vancouver's leftist and quirky Commercial Drive.

I'm also puzzled by Mr. Potvin's observation that "...someone should at least speak for the loss to rental housing stock this permit [to rezone the hospital] seeks..." After all, if he fears that potentially conservative youngsters will be brought in and trained by YWAM, and then sent out to influence his  neighborhood on their way to mission fields around the world, what is to prevent 10-20 Shotgun readers from moving into the former hospital as condo tenants and permanently infecting the neighborhood with their politically or socially conservative views? Unless, of course, you used it as social housing and then, in order to "protect The Drive", had a committee of dour-faced  landlords ask would-be conservative renters those "Are you now, or have you ever been..?" types of questions that the left has historically enjoyed having to answer.

I would ask, however, that Mr. Potvin, following his paper's motto that it "...supports no party, advocates for no cause, represents no group, serves no master, and considers problems with no preconceived notions...", use the same standards to assail all forms of religious "extremism" that could possibly threaten his neighborhood. Just as he did in November 2002, when he bravely published an editorial assailing  the small group of Islamic extremists who turned their back on peaceful efforts to help humanity on September 11, 2001:

....I have a terrible confession to make. When I saw the first tower cascade down into that enormous plume of dust and paper, there was a little voice inside me that said, "Yeah!" When the second tower came down the same way, that little voice said, "Beautiful!" When the visage of the Pentagon appeared on the TV with a gaping and smoking hole in its side, that little voice had nearly taken me over, and  I felt an urge to pump my fist in the air.

This is a revolting confession, I know. But it's what happened....                  

Oh well.

I can nevertheless appeal to Mr. Potvin's better nature as a journalist...just as I hope that an active Youth With A Mission center in his neighborhood--which would incidentally help the poor and troubled as it  evangelized--would appeal to his better nature as a human being.   

Posted by Rick Hiebert on April 10, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On Europe, Islam, and a bunch of other things

While I wrote the post cited below as part of a debate in the Virginia blogosphere, I am curious as to what folks north of the 49th think of my argument:

As for "Islam," we need to remember just who our enemies are, here.  They are far more specific than we are led to believe.  We are fighting Wahhabists (Afghanistan and Iraq), Ba'athists (Iraq), and Khomeinists (Afghanistan and Iraq) - hence the initials in my term for this conflict (the WBK War).  Contrary to conventional wisdom, Wahhabism is relatively young "sect" of Islam (about 200 years old), and most Muslims outside of it consider it heresy.  Ditto for Khomeinism (named after the founder of the Iranian regime), the Shi'ite version of violent "faith" - which also roundly condemned by the Shia majority that are not part of it.  Ba'athism's roots are not in Islam at all, but rather in Arab racism directly inspired by the Nazis.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on April 3, 2008 in International Politics, Religion, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (149) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Accommodating fashion statements

Here we go again.

From today's National Post. First, the headlines: "Sikhs fight sawmill hard hat policy/Turbans 'Sacred;' Sidelined workers file human rights complaint." And the quote: "This turban is pretty sacred to us."

Repeat after me: The five symbols of Sikh faith are a comb, a steel bangle, a kirpan (a sword or knife), special undergarments, and--of special note--uncut hair, not a turban.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 1, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Friday, March 14, 2008

'Total ownership of our human condition'

The story you are most likely NOT to find in the Globe and Mail.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on March 14, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social conservatism and libertarianism

I met Joseph Quesnel at last year's Liberty Summer Seminar. He was thoughtful, erudite, and a nice guy all-around. So it comes as no surprise that he would be the author of this magnificent essay on social conservatism and libertarianism in the C2C Journal of Conservative Ideas.

An excerpt:

"Thus, it would be illogical for a social conservative to declare that they want to impose their beliefs and morality on society.  That would be a violation of the right of religious conscience. Within the New Testament, Christ spoke often of the Kingdom of God in the future tense and as distinct from the earthly realm.  His will was that individuals come to repentance and change their individual lives. There was never any mention of imposing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth or forcing people to accept beliefs they disagreed with.  After all, most of the sins and sanctions mentioned within the Bible are applicable only to Christians who voluntarily accept them. This is one area social conservatives need to work on.  Without compromising their beliefs, their judgments could be better spent in making existing believers more committed than in judging those who do not come under their moral code.  This would entail social conservatives disentangling their morality from the justice system, which may prove a problem with some.

"This social conservative belief in individual conscience is what allows it to enter into conversation with libertarianism.  If religious conviction is ultimately private, there is room for other conceptions of the moral good life in society.  It would be immoral to impose a religious vision on another. It stands to reason within most religions or moral codes that they are more meaningful if they are arrived at through genuine faith coming from the individual.

"Therefore, there is absolutely no contradiction between holding social conservative beliefs and being libertarian as a matter of policy. As long as social conservatives do not try to legislate their values or impose them on others, they are following the libertarian commitment of respect for individual rights."

Bravo! There is more to be said about this, and Joseph spends a lot of his essay saying much,  much more. Do head on over, and read the piece in its entirety. It is worth the time it takes to read it.

I should note that I'm always surprised by how much content some want to stuff into "libertarianism." At bottom, libertarianism is a commitment about what government institutions should look like, the concept alone does not tell us exactly why government institutions should look like that. As Joe makes plain, you can be a thorough-going social conservative, and still have a commitment to liberty and small government; a commitment to generating social conservative outcomes through persuasion, rather than at the point of a gun.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on January 29, 2008 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Italian Imam Guilty of Terrorism Links

An Islamic cleric who preaches hate at his mosque in Milan has been found convicted on terror charges by an Italian court:

This type of punishment can happen when Imams preach hatred and encourage the muslims to go on Jihad in free western countries.

Posted by Winston on December 20, 2007 in Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Monday, December 17, 2007

Boycotting Canada

California based radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt is to boycott Canada. Why? Because Canada's Human Rights Commission, a tool of socialists' oppression, wants to silence Mark Steyn:

Posted by Winston on December 17, 2007 in Books, Canadian Politics, Current Affairs, Media, Religion | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Friday, December 14, 2007

Public facility honours religious figure

My op-ed in today's National Post explores a subject that none of the mainstream media in B.C. thought interesting enough to cover. But judging by the high number of emails I've already received this morning in response to the column, it's clearly an issue of public interest.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on December 14, 2007 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (45) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Unlike Muslims

When Christians find a freak in their midst, we call them out. We take them to court. We publicly denounce and vilify them.

Unlike the Muslims.

The brokenhearted father of a Marine killed in Iraq won a long-shot legal fight today after a federal jury in Baltimore awarded him nearly $11 million in a verdict against members of a Kansas church who hoisted anti-gay placards at his son’s Westminster funeral.

The jury's announcement 24 hours after deliberations first began was met with tears and hugs from the family and supporters of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, whose March 2006 funeral was protested by members of the Westboro Baptist Church with signs including "Thank God for dead soldiers."

It wasn't so long ago that the most wanted fugitive in America was Warren Jeffs. A Mormon, he believed in Christ, but practiced a dangerous form of religion that put women and children at risk of sexual exploitation. This man was hunted down like the dog he is, and now stands trial.

We're still waiting for the Muslims to hand over Bin laden and his ilk. But that day will never come, because more of them stand with him than against him. There is so much evil in Islam, that they have no reason to hold each other accountable.

We stood against Jeffs, and against Phelps.

Unlike the Muslims.

Posted by RightGirl on October 31, 2007 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (49) | TrackBack

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Atlas Shrugged": 50 years later

(Cross-posted from Burkean Canuck).
Depending on whether you believe the New York Times or the Ayn Rand Institute, the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged was either October 12th or October 10th.  If the latter, the title of Ayn Rand's, er, Alisa Rosenbaum's bestseller serves as the perfect reaction to the Ontario general election results.

Full disclosure:  I am not a fan of Ayn Rand.  However, she was an important popularizer of a number of first principles of social and political theory, as well as economics.  Ayn Rand understood the power of literature and film to serve as vehicles for ideas -- something (sadly) the socialist and social democratic Left understood all too well, and the free market and constitutionalist Right understood too little for far too long.  She introduced many students to ideas that for a long time seemed "verboten" in far too many university lecture theatres and seminars.

Rand popularized a number of ideas that had been around for awhile.  Once introduced to the ideas she highlights, budding political philosophers and economist are well-advised to turn to others (as I wrote, here).  The best analysis of Ayn Rand's deficiencies may still be Whittaker Chambers's withering critque, published about two and a half months after the publication of Atlas Shrugged:

It is, in sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. Upperclassmen might incline to sniff and say that the author has, with vast effort, contrived a simple materialist system, one, intellectually, at about the stage of the oxcart, though without mastering the principle of the wheel. Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting God, religion, original sin, etc., etc. (This book's aggressive atheism and rather unbuttoned "higher morality," which chiefly outrage some readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world.

What defeated Soviet, Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism?  Unfettered capitalism?  Put in Chambers's terms, was the leading bastion of Marxist materialism defeated by the leading bastion of free market capitalist materialism?  Was the Cold War victory traceable to Ronald Reagan's leading a country whose economy allowed him to outspend the Russians on defence?

Or, is the end of the Cold War attributable to something else?

Posted by Russ Kuykendall on October 12, 2007 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gaia be gone!

From the National Post today:

A Toronto mosque is telling Muslims not to say "Happy Thanksgiving" or invite friends into their homes for turkey dinner on the holiday weekend. The Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque says to "avoid participating" in dinners, parties or greetings on Thanksgiving because it is a kuffaar, or non-Muslim, celebration. A two-part article on the mosque Web site says Muslims should also "stay completely away" from "Halloween trick-and treat nonsense," Christmas, New Year's, anniversaries, birthdays and Earth Day.

Well, at least they got the Earth Day part right.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on October 3, 2007 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack