-- Who is Christmas really for, anyway?
-- Clash of civilizations: Battle of Lepanto revisited
-- Christian 'Hate Groups' Accused of 'Anti-Gay Crusade'
-- Episcopal Church next to shun Israel?
Who is Christmas really for, anyway?
Posted: December 23, 2006 By WND
It's very interesting, even curious, that there are increasing objections in several quarters to the Christmas observances that have been an annual part of American life for as long as any of us can remember.
I say ''curious'' because the objections are coming from small groups that wouldn't seem to have a lot in common. Some are made up of people who apparently have only recently discovered that they object to Christmas observances. Many of them have participated in the Christmas traditions themselves. And many still do, albeit at home or behind the closed doors of their churches! What's afoot here?
It's not surprising that the Anti-Christian Lawyers Union (known to most by just its initials) would recently ''decide'' that open displays like manger scenes in public places are unconstitutional; their lawsuits and threats against any Christian manifestations have become the expected background noise for Americans of faith. And, although we heard little or nothing from atheists and their small organizations in the past, they've recently decided that other citizens openly celebrating the birth of Jesus anywhere near them is offensive, and a ''violation of their rights.'' It was inconsequential to them for generations, but now they can't stand it.
What's really puzzling, though, is the alliance between these militant groups and some others, like Barry Lynn's Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and Norman Lear's People for the American Way. In their memberships these latter groups actually have professing Christians, even ''ministers,'' who are lately persuaded that manger scenes in department store windows and town squares are somehow violating the First Amendment and abridging the ''rights'' of a few individuals most of whom hadn't even thought to complain.
I've been around quite awhile now, admittedly, but I feel sure most people reading this have early memories similar to mine: The Christmas season heralded, right after Thanksgiving, by all kinds of carols on most radio stations. Department stores and other emporiums competing for the most attractive and impressive depictions of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, the shepherds, and the three wise men. Little towns and major cities decorating the business sections and virtually transforming them into scenes from Charles Dickens' ''A Christmas Carol.''
And with all this decorating and celebrating, people's attitudes softened and spirits lifted, and the emphasis seemed to shift from ''getting'' to giving. New happy Christmas songs were added to the popular play lists, and constantly we heard ''Don't you wish Christmas could last all year long? Wouldn't the world be a better place?''
Now, somehow, while we were hardly noticing, the scene leading to Dec. 25 has changed dramatically. School teachers are afraid to let their kids sing any songs that refer to the reasons for Christmas, or to the babe around whom the season formed. Haphazard bureaucrats decree that no crθches can be erected on public property and local officials (cowed by the ACLU) agree. Store chains remove any reference to Christ or His birth from all advertising, while many continue to instruct all employees to chirp ''Happy Holidays!'' to customers and avoid the word ''Christmas.''
All this for any good, substantive reasons? Not on your life. No, the same First Amendment that decrees, ''Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion'' proceeds to add, specifically, ''or restricting the free exercise thereof.'' Congress (and by inference other legislative bodies) shall make no law restricting the free exercise of people's religion!
Has our whole government and our whole legislative system suddenly become concerned that a very few atheists and people of other religions are being seriously and unconstitutionally offended? No, all this friction and protest and legal action are being militantly prosecuted by individuals and groups who resent any notion that America is a ''Christian nation,'' and who are determined not to be confronted by moral or spiritual expectations that might cramp their style. You can draw your own conclusions about the source of this anti-Christ spirit.
Meanwhile, on a very positive note, an exceptional youth chorus called the Children of the World Choir are setting a much different example and shedding light into the gathering moral darkness. This large choir, already internationally known, is made up of kids of various ages, almost every racial and ethnic background, every size and color and they've been amazing and entertaining audiences worldwide for years now.
The group was founded, nurtured, and taught by a wonderful woman named Marrina Waks, and it has performed for royalty, Olympics and Special Olympics events, on the Tonight Show, and on countless other TV shows over the world. Joyously singing each other's songs and exemplifying harmony, mutual respect and appreciation for all the colorful differences they personify, they help raise money for medical research, education, children's charities, homeless people, human rights and environmental causes. I've sung and appeared on TV with them myself, as have many other entertainers. You really should check them out at www.cotwc.com. It'll bless your heart. Do I have an overall point here? Just this: Nobody forces Christmas on anybody. Nobody forces a St. Patrick's or Sons of Italy or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Cinco de Mayo celebration, or any of the many other festive celebrations that are special to groups among us in this diverse society, on anybody.
Nobody has to participate or even give one of these special events any notice. Just like old Ebenezer Scrooge, people with pinched, warped, insensitive, self-absorbed, miserable souls can stand off and mutter ''Bah, humbug'' to their shriveled hearts' content. The festive spirit will pass soon enough, anyway.
And hey, if these admittedly hopeless nonbelievers want to devise some public display of their own a depiction of a black hole, an empty eternity, a molding grave, an endless evolution from primordial ooze through ape ancestors all the way through to final meaningless ooze and blackness more power to 'em! We'll find room in the public square for them, too.
But don't repeat, don't try to stifle our joy or rob us of the gentle, giving, and loving spirit of the Christmas season. Who's it for? It's for all who will receive it, be blessed by it, bask in it, profit from it, or even like old Ebenezer himself be surprised and overtaken and rejuvenated by it. Millions of us still hear the echoes of the angels proclaiming, ''Peace on earth, good will toward men.'' All men. Even the disclaimers, the nonbelievers, the Scrooges. Can't we all use a little period of peace right now? And will good will, like that exemplified and sung by the Children of the World Choir, hurt anybody?
Who's Christmas for? For the child in all of us.
For anybody with a heart.
Clash of civilizations: Battle of Lepanto revisited
Today marks anniversary of crucial war between Islam and West
Posted: October 7, 2006 By Mary Jo Anderson 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
Today, Christians quietly recall the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, Oct. 7, 1571. On that date the forces of Islam battled the Holy League in a crucial engagement at Lepanto, the modern day Gulf of Corinth. The date assumes larger significance in light of recent struggles between the West and Islamic jihad.
Sparked by the events like the Danish Cartoon Wars, Pope Benedict XVI's speech at Regensburg and the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, a firestorm of renewed debate about the nature of Islamic jihad fills Western magazines and newspapers. Some maintain that the "war on terror" is the result of the Bush administration's mishandling of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Others have revised their thinking after five years.
Jonathan Last, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 1 states, "It's the West vs. the Islamic world, a clash that has never abated. It predates America itself. It is a clash between Western civilization and the Islamic world."
Last quotes Samuel Huntington, author of the 1993 article "Clash of Civilizations" and subsequent book of the same title. Huntington, a Harvard professor, wrote, "Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1,300 years." Islam advanced under the sword conquering North Africa, Sicily, Spain, Portugal and parts of France. Twice "the forces of Islam laid siege to Vienna. For 1,000 years, Islam advanced and Christendom retreated," observed Last.
But at Lepanto, Christendom did not retreat.
The Ottoman Turks had attacked and captured Christian strongholds throughout the Mediterranean. Their strategy was to control the sea, the trade routes, and thus crush European navies and commerce. In 1522, the Knights of St. John were driven from Rhodes by the Moslems. The year 1529 saw an attack on Vienna. By 1570 Cyprus was under siege. According to historian H.W. Crocker III, the Turks skinned the commander of Cyprus while the officer was still alive. More than 12,000 Christians were enslaved on Moslem galleys, lashed to the oars of Turkish ships that then threatened Europe. Feared as "invincible," the Moslem fleet terrorized cities along the coasts of Italy and Greece.
The Turkish fleet, under the command of Ali Pasha, gathered at Lepanto (Gulf of Corinth). They were reinforced with lawless Corsairs under the command of the ferocious Moslem pirate, Uluch Ali.
Europe's Holy League was an allied fleet of the Knights of Malta, Spanish, Venetian and Papal ships assembled by Pope Pius the V. The famous Don Juan of Austria, assisted by equally famous Andrea Dorian, led the Holy League. Maritime historians note that the Battle of Lepanto was the last of the great sea battles between oared vessels, and the largest battle since the Battle of Actium in 30 B.C.
Battle of Lepanto
An estimated 50,000 seamen and another 30,000 fighting men fought for Europe against a stronger, better armed Ottoman force of 330 ships. Ottoman ships flew flags emblazoned with verses from the Quran. Christian galleys were named "Resurrected Christ," "Christ of Venice," "Angel of Venice," "St. Euphemia" and "Our Lady of Venice."
As the day dawned over Lepanto, in Rome Pius V called the faithful to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. There he led the people to pray, asking God for a Christian victory. Throughout the morning the prayers of the people continued until, it is said, the pope had a vision of the victory and shouted, "Our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given us."
The Battle of Lepanto sacrificed nearly 8,000 European soldiers who had fought under Don Juan. Yet, the Moslem forces suffered catastrophic losses; more than 25,000 perished. Don Juan rescued the 12,000 Catholic galley slaves. All Christendom rejoiced.
Within a decade, the Moslem fleet was rebuilt and the Islamic assaults again threatened Europe. For this reason few historians credit the Battle of Lepanto as a decisive military victory against Islamic forces. However, few deny the great psychological victory that Oct. 7, 1571, marks for Europeans who refused to retreat before the "invincible" flag of the crescent.
Jonathan Last of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, "As Pope Benedict XVI explains in his book 'Without Roots,' the very concept of 'Europe' emerged as a reaction to the surge of Islam. Not until the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 did the Islamic tide recede definitively. For the next 300 years, Western civilization was ascendant and the Islamic world stagnated."
Crocker, author of "Don't Tread On Me," wrote in the Oct. 6 issue of The American Spectator, "As we (or the better informed among us at least) celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto this Saturday, marking the date in 1571 when the navy of Pope Pius V's Holy League turned back the Ottoman Turks from one of their recurrent jihads, it might be opportune to consider how the Islamic world has advanced politically over the last half century."
Meanwhile, despite Islamic furor over his remarks at Regensburg, Benedict XVI has not canceled his plans to visit Turkey in November.
Mary Jo Anderson is a contributing reporter to WorldNetDaily and co-author of "Male and Female He Made Them: Questions and Answers on Marriage and Same-Sex Unions."
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Christian 'Hate Groups' Accused of 'Anti-Gay Crusade'
June 30, 2005 By Randy Hall CNSNews.com Staff Writer/Editor
(CNSNews.com) - A civil rights organization that has spent the last 25 years monitoring "hate groups" and "extremists" such as the Ku Klux Klan now has a new target -- the religious right -- which the group claims is conducting a "holy war" against homosexuals.
In the current issue of its quarterly magazine "Intelligence Report," the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) contends that "religious leaders have engaged in 30 years of name-calling and bogus 'science' in their attack on gays. But only now is their crusade reaching biblical proportions."
In response, the spokesman for one pro-family group said it's the SPLC that is guilty of "engaging in hate speech." Another conservative said his group wears the criticism from the SPLC as a "badge of honor."
Along with an article on "Curious Cures" for homosexuality and a feature on the myth that homosexuals helped mastermind the Holocaust, the SPLC's latest Intelligence Report contains a timeline of the "anti-gay movement" from Anita Bryant's efforts to repeal a "gay rights" ordinance in Florida in 1977 to the present.
In an editorial, SPLC spokesman Mark Potok asserted that "the religiously based crusade against homosexuals in America" reached a turning point in 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision struck down state anti-sodomy laws.
Since then, the Christian right has increased fund raising and poured millions of dollars into TV, newspaper and radio ads, including during last year's successful campaign to pass constitutional amendments in 13 states to define marriage as between one man and one woman. More such measures are set to go before voters in November of 2006.
Potok in his editorial also charged that leaders of the religious right were guilty of using "bully-boy tactics" such as "cruel name-calling." The contention of many Christians, that they hate the sin but love the sinner, is "a hard one to swallow," according to Potok. "When perpetrators of hate crimes against gays use identical words to describe their victims, you have to wonder where it began," he states.
Under the heading, "A Mighty Army," the SPLC's Intelligence Report lists "a dozen of today's most influential anti-gay groups" that it claims "help drive the religious right's anti-gay crusade." The list includes the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.
"Fundamentalist Christians have every right to their views of religion," Potok states. "But when they use that right to launch vicious personal attacks on an entire group based on characteristics that most scientists see as immutable, they poison the political debate and subject the objects of their scorn to the very real possibility of violence and even death.
"And that can only damage a healthy democratic society," Potok adds.
According to its website, the Southern Poverty Law Center "was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm." Today, the Montgomery, Ala.-based organization "is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups."
'Badge of honor'
Cybercast News Service contacted representatives of several organizations on the SPLC's list, and most agreed with Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, that "the company looks pretty good to me from here.
"I would use different terminology" than the center does, he said, "but to the extent that we oppose the homosexual social and political agenda and were named by this group, we wear it as a badge of honor." Hear MP3 Audio Clip
Wildmon stated that the list represents "the pro-family movement in America today" and added that the AFA "joins those groups in standing up for traditional marriage and traditional family values."
Robert Knight, director of the Culture & Family Institute for Concerned Women for America (CWA), accused the SPLC of "engaging in hate speech" against people they disagree with because they're "less concerned with poverty than in advancing a radical left-wing agenda on all fronts.
"They seek to discredit groups like CWA precisely because our message is resonating with the public," he said, "so they have to smear us, put words in our mouths and liken us to the Klan and Nazis to direct attention away from the fact that their radical agenda is being exposed and repudiated by the American people."
Melissa Fryrear, gender issues analyst for Focus on the Family, took a different view of her organization's inclusion on the SPLC's list.
"The real issue is what we're for," Fryrear said, "and we're for marriage being what it's been for 6,000 years -- a man and a woman for a lifetime and not being redefined by judicial activists."
Fryrear also disagreed with the contention that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic. "I'm a former homosexual," she noted. "There are tens of thousands of men and women who have overcome homosexuality, who know first-hand that it's not an immutable characteristic, so it cannot be equated to race or gender."
Knight from CWA conceded that the SPLC will probably benefit from taking on the religious right. "They're vilifying pro-family groups in order to energize their base of washed-up hippies and tree-hugging environmental extremists," he added. Hear MP3 Audio Clip
Several calls to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center seeking comment for this article were not returned by press time.
E-mail a news tip to Randy Hall.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.
next to shun Israel?
Anglican leaders following Presbyterians, pushing for divestment from Jewish state
Posted: September 24, 2004 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
Leaders of the Anglican Church, which in the U.S. includes the Episcopal Church, USA, are preparing to follow in the footsteps of the Presbyterian Church, USA, which incurred widespread condemnation this summer when it voted to side with the Palestinians and economically divest from the Jewish state.
Anglican Church leaders advocating the punitive move which amounts to removing capital from Israel include church officials from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, said Nancy Dinsmore, director of development for the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, in an Associated Press report.
The report said the recommendation to divest, made by 29 Anglican representatives who toured the Holy Land this week before reaching their decision, will be delivered at a 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, to be held in Wales. It will include representatives from all 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England in England, as well as the Episcopal Church, USA.
The strategy of pressuring the Jewish state by divestment a tactic last used against South Africa to bring about an end to apartheid is advocated by Palestinians and Arabs worldwide, Dinsmore told the wire service.
While touring Israel and the West Bank areas, the Anglican leaders were exposed "to the draconian conditions of the continuing occupation under which so many Palestinians live," according to the group's website.
Jenny Te Paa of New Zealand, who led the delegation, told AP the Anglican Church is likely to accept the divestment proposal, since it is becoming increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
In July, by an overwhelming vote of its general assembly, the 3 million-strong the Presbyterian Church, USA, voted to divest from Israel.
With the decision, approved in a 431-62 vote at the 216th annual general assembly of the PCUSA, the denomination became the largest organization or institution to join the divestment campaign against Israel. It was the first Christian denomination to do so.
In 2001, the combined value of the Presbyterian Church, USA's foundation and pension fund was estimated at $7 billion.
In a news release at the time, the PCUSA liaison to the Middle East, Rev. Victor Makari, was quoted as saying: "If nothing else seems to have changed the policy of Israel toward Palestinians, we need to send a clear and strong message."
The church statement noted that "divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa."
As a result of the Presbyterian Church's controversial action, an online petition was launched in protest.
The petition, addressed to the church's stated clerk, Rev.Clifton Kirkpatrick, asserts the vote is "morally wrong."
The petition says the church's resolution is "anti-Semitic because NO OTHER nation is being singled for divestment, not even those whose violations of human rights are truly egregious."
"Only the moral blindness of Jew-hatred could lead the church to compare Israels multi-racial democracy to apartheid South Africa," the petition says. "Only anti-Semitism could lead the church to condemn democratic Israel, while not voting divestment from Saudi Arabia, where women have virtually no rights and non-Muslims are not even permitted to enter the country without special permission, from Sudan, where race-based genocide is occurring even as we speak, from Iran, where Bahai are murdered for their faith, or from the many other countries where human rights are violated as a matter of routine." The petition concludes: "We condemn the Presbyterian divestment resolution as an act of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people and call for its immediate revocation."
The Anglican representatives, who met this week with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Palestinian church representatives, several Israel Arabs and an Israeli activist but no Israeli government officials are urging Israel to implement U.N. resolutions mandating Israeli withdrawal from areas it captured when it was attacked in the 1967 Six-Day War.
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