December 24, 2012

Persecution Wiping Out Christians: Christianophobia, Rupert Shortt Study

Pray for those who suffer persecution in the middle east.  

9 "Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.  
                                                    Matthew 24:9 

EGYPT Coptic Orthodox Christian's at the saint Bishoi church in Port Said, famous for it's icon of Mary which oozes a holy oil

Christianity 'close to extinction' in Middle East

Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report.

The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.
And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.
It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.

"A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”
It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.
He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.
State hostility towards Christianity is particularly rife in China, where more Christians are imprisoned than in any other country in the world, according to the report.
It quotes Ma Hucheng, an advisor to the Chinese government, who claimed in an article last year that the US has backed the growth of the Protestant Church in China as a vehicle for political dissidence.
“Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities,” he wrote in the China Social Sciences Press.
“Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the China and overturn it,” he added.
The “lion’s share” of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith, the report says, quoting estimates that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.
“There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands,” it claims.
The report shows that “Muslim-majority” states make up 12 of the 20 countries judged to be “unfree” on the grounds of religious tolerance by Freedom House, the human rights think tank.
It catalogues hundreds of attacks on Christians by religious fanatics over recent years, focusing on seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Burma and China.
It claims George Bush’s use of the word “crusade” after the September 11 attacks on New York created the impression for Muslims in the Middle East of a “Christian assault on the Muslim world”.
“But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured by Christians,” the report says.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq left Iraqi Christians “more vulnerable than ever”, highlighted by the 2006 beheading of a kidnapped Orthodox priest, Fr Boulos Iskander, and the kidnapping of 17 further priests and two bishops between 2006 and 2010.
“In most cases, those responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled from the country,” the report says.
In Pakistan, the murder last year of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s Catholic minister for minorities, “vividly reflected” religious intolerance in Pakistan.
Shortly after his death it emerged that Mr Bhatti had recorded a video in which he declared: “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.
"I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.”
The report also warns that Christians in India have faced years of violence from Hindu extremists. In 2010 scores of attacks on Christians and church property were carried out in Karnataka, a state in south west India.
And while many people are aware of the oppression faced in Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy activists, targeted abuse of Christians in the country has been given little exposure, the report says.
In some areas of Burma the government has clamped down on Christian protesters by restricting the building of new churches.
“Openly professing Christians employed in government service find it virtually impossible to get promotion,” it adds.

December 15, 2012

RFID Chips and Schools: Texas School Forces Students to Wear RFID Technology

RFID Chips continue to become the norm in many areas of society.  With the most recent school shooting in Connecticut, how much longer before this technology goes mainstream?  Biotechnology continues to warm up the police state government's notion of security at all costs.

RFID chips and GPS technology is becoming more and more apart of our society, think iPhone and other smart phones which embed these chips and allow users to find locations of interest near them at the click of a button.  Sure, they may be great to use in a 'free' society, but what happens if that democracy goes away?  Governments, Americas and others especially communist China, are already implementing massive tracking programs to monitor activity of identified 'suspect' individuals that are viewed as a threat to the country.

Texas School Tracking IDs Face Lawsuit Against 'Locator' Chips

AUSTIN, Texas -- To 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, the tracking microchip embedded in her student ID card is a "mark of the beast," sacrilege to her Christian faith – not to mention how it pinpoints her location, even in the school bathroom.
But to her budget-reeling San Antonio school district, those chips carry a potential $1.7 million in classroom funds.

Starting this fall, the fourth-largest school district in Texas is experimenting with "locator" chips in student ID badges on two of its campuses, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students with GPS-like precision. Hernandez's refusal to participate isn't a twist on teenage rebellion, but has launched a debate over privacy and religion that has forged a rare like-mindedness between typically opposing groups.

When Hernandez and her parents balked at the so-called SmartID, the school agreed to remove the chip but still required her to wear the badge. The family refused on religious grounds, stating in a lawsuit that even wearing the badge was tantamount to "submission of a false god" because the card still indicated her participation.

A state district judge had been expected to decide Wednesday whether Northside Independent School District could transfer Hernandez to a different campus. But the family's attorney said late Tuesday that the hearing was cancelled after the school district asked that the case be moved to federal court.
A new hearing hasn't been set.

"How often do you see an issue where the ACLU and Christian fundamentalists come together? It's unusual," said Chris Steinbach, the chief of staff for a Republican state lawmaker who has filed a bill to outlaw the technology in Texas schools.

The concept isn't new, but hasn't exactly caught on nationwide. In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns about a similar initiative at a California school. That same year, a suburban Houston school district began putting the chips in its student IDs, and served as the blueprint for Northside's pilot program that began this fall.

Ronald Stephens, executive director of the nonprofit National School Safety Center, said he didn't believe the technology to be widespread but predicted "it'll be the next wave" in schools. The chips use radio-frequency identification (RFID) transmitters and only work on campus.

The Northside school district spent roughly $261,000 to equip students at one high school and one middle school with SmartIDs, a decision made with safety and efficiency in mind, said district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez. Imagine quickly accounting for students in the event of a lockdown, he said, or cafeteria lines moving faster as scanners instantly identify who's picking up that lunch tray.
Yet the biggest motivation was financial. In Texas, school funding is based on daily attendance. The more students seated in homeroom when the first bell rings, the more state dollars the school receives. If a student is lingering in the hallway or the library when roll is called, the marked absence hurts the school's bottom line.

But with the locator chips – the district doesn't like to call them "tracking" – a clerk in the main office can find out if a student is elsewhere on campus, and if so, include them in the attendance count. Every student found amounts to another $30 in funding, based on the school's calculations. In that way, those moving red dots that represent students on the clerk's computer screen are like finding change in the couch cushions.

Gonzalez said the district has estimated another $1.7 million in funding if the program delivers on expectations, somewhat lessening the sting of losing $61.5 million after state lawmakers cut public school funding in Texas by nearly $5 billion last year.

"Nobody is sitting at a bank of monitors looking for the whereabouts of 3,000 students," Gonzalez said. "We don't have the personnel for it, nor do we have the need to do that. But when I need to find (a student), I can enter his random number and I can find him somewhere as a red dot on that computer screen. `Oh, there he is, in Science Room 22' or whatever. So we can locate students, but it's not about tracking them."

Hernandez's family isn't convinced. Nor is a Virginia-based civil rights group, The Rutherford Institute, which took up Hernandez's cause and filed the lawsuit against the district.
The organization declined to make the Hernandez family available for an interview Tuesday, before the Wednesday court hearing had been cancelled.

John Whitehead, the organization's founder, believes the religious component of the lawsuit makes it stronger than if it only objected on grounds of privacy. The lawsuit cites scriptures in the book of Revelation, stating that "acceptance of a certain code ... from a secular ruling authority" is a form of idolatry.

Wearing the badge, the family argues, takes it a step further.

"It starts with that religious concern," Whitehead said. "There is a large mark of Evangelicals that believe in the `mark of the beast.'

Republican state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst has filed bills since 2005 to ban the chips in Texas public schools. Steinbach, her chief of staff, is hopeful the bill will now get more traction with the attention surrounding Hernandez's case.

Yet despite the lawsuit, proposed legislation and concern from outside groups, there are no signs of a groundswell of opposition in San Antonio from parents whose children have the chips in their campus IDs.

Gonzalez said that of the 4,200 students, the Hernandez family is the only one who has asked out of the program.

National Counterterrorism Center: Holder Gives Order to Record your Online Activity

It's happening all around us.  Everything we do.  Everything we say.  All being stored, recorded, and Used----for our good use of course.  I mean what could possibly go wrong here with a little more information on innocent Americans?

Holder order gives feds access to citizens' data

From the Washington Times:
Holder order gives feds access to citizens' data
Attorney General Eric Holder Photo Credit:AP

Remember when government needed something called a warrant or even probable cause to look at your records?  Good times, good times.  I’m nostalgic for the halcyon days of, er, February of this year, before the Attorney General of the United States signed off on an order allowing the government to access pretty much everything it wanted in the name of counterterrorism.

The Wall Street Journal found out about the order and got a FOIA request to force its exposure: "Top U.S. intelligence officials gathered in the White House Situation Room in March to debate a controversial proposal. Counterterrorism officials wanted to create a government dragnet, sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens—even people suspected of no crime.…

The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center … can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior.

Atheism Explained

It's either in the beginning....GOD
it's in the beginning..............NOTHING

Belief Systems

Evil & Suffering: School Shooting Leaves 27 DEAD at Elementary School

"And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?

Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Chap. XVIII

When evil happens, we question about everything from the goodness of God to the goodness of man.  Death happens, but death is supposed to only happen when you're 85 and living in a retirement community in Florida, right?  It is not easy to deal with pain, suffering, and evil.  It's all around us though, so we have no choice but to recognize it and deal with it.  The first question is always why.  Why an elementary school?  Why the killing of innocent children of all people?  The questions remarkable, for the most part,  appeal to some sense of justice, both an injustice of the lives that were taken and a desire for justice to be brought on the individual who committed this act of evil. 

This appeal to justice is natural, within our conscious being, and demonstrates the fact that this world cannot be operating like it should, there is something wrong. 

CS Lewis spoke on the conflict between Justice and Mercy, saying the following on our desire to see people brought to justice or to put another way, kept from injustice.  He said that 'if evil is present, pain at recognition of this evil, a kind of knowledge, is relatively good; for the alternative is that the soul should be ignorant of the evil, or ignorant that the evil is contrary to its nature, 'either of which', is manifestly bad.   Or to put another way, We don't want to believe that the killing of innocent children is natural and also want to believe that retributive punishment on the person responsible will happen.   We're not ignorant that evil is contrary to our nature at least when it comes to evil so obvious as school shootings at an elementary school.

A summary below with a couple links on the topic of evil and suffering.

20 children, 6 adults, and shooter dead in Connecticut school massacre

Americans tonight are facing more tragic evidence of cultural implosion. Please pray. This story is heart-breaking, and still developing. “There’s been a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut,” reports CNN. “20 children, six adults and the shooter are dead, police say. Below are the latest updates as they come to us or you can read our story of the Connecticut school shooting….Police did not discharge their weapons at any time when responding at the school, police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. However, he could not confirm whether the suspected shooter — who died at the scene — killed himself, saying that would have to be determined by the medical examiner.” 

“Twenty-seven people, including 20 children, were killed Friday when a gunman  clad in black military gear opened fire inside his mother’s kindergarten class  at a Connecticut elementary school,” reports Fox News. “The shooter, who sources identified as  Adam Lanza, 20, gunned down his mother and her entire class at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to sources. Lanza was found dead  inside the school, according to officials. Eighteen of the children and six  more adults were dead at the school and two more children died later, according  to Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance. Vance would not confirm the shooter’s  name, and earlier in the day there were conflicting reports over the gunman’s  identity. Law enforcement sources told the shooter was  Lanza. His brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, was in custody, but it was not sure if  he faced charges. ‘It is not a simplistic scene,’ Vance told  reporters. An official with knowledge of the  situation said the shooter was armed with a .223-caliber rifle. Four weapons in  total were recovered from the scene. The motive is not yet known.”

Why would God allow Evil & Suffering in this World?

A practical application from a site by apologist Ravi Zacharias:
“There cannot possibly be a God,” he said, “with all the evil and suffering that exists in the world!”

I asked, “When you say there is such a thing as evil, are you not assuming that there is such a thing as good?”

“Of course,” he retorted.

“But when you assume there is such a thing as good, are you not also assuming that there is such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to distinguish between good and evil?”

“I suppose so,” came the hesitant and much softer reply.

“If, then, there is a moral law,” I said, “you must also posit a moral law giver. But that is who you are trying to disprove and not prove. If there is no transcendent moral law giver, there is no absolute moral law. If there is no moral law, there really is no good. If there is no good there is no evil. I am not sure what your question is!”

There was silence and then he said, “What, then, am I asking you?

December 10, 2012

Humility: John Henry Newman and Why Faith Matters

Humility is a learned trait, often through trial, struggle, and hardship.  But for those of us who have been there, in the darkest of days, and come out to see the sun still shining, come out all the better, as individuals forever changed with a different perspective on life.  A worthy quote and post found on a thoughtful blog JessesCafe, speaks to that creative, unique, YOU that emerges appreciative of life and grateful.

Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather, that it shall never have had a beginning. For that is to choose a darkness and an emptiness without end or fulfillment.

God beholds you. He calls you by your name. He sees you and understands you as He made you. He knows what is in you, all your peculiar feelings and thoughts, your dispositions and likings, your strengths and your weaknesses. He views you in your day of rejoicing and in your day of sorrow. He sympathizes in your hopes and your temptations. He interests Himself in all your anxieties and remembrances, all the risings and fallings of your spirit.

He encompasses you round and bears you in His arms. He notes your very countenance, whether smiling or in tears. He looks tenderly upon you. He hears your voice, the beating of your heart, and your very breathing. You do not love yourself better than He loves you.

You cannot shrink from pain more than He dislikes your bearing it; and if He puts it on you, it is as you would put it on yourself, if you would be wise, for a greater good afterwards.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission -- I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good, I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.

He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me -- still He knows what He is about.

Let us feel what we really are--sinners attempting great things. Let us simply obey God's will, whatever may come. He can turn all things to our eternal good. Easter day is preceded by the forty days of Lent, to show us that they only who sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have had a beginning.

May the Lord support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.

John Henry Newman

December 9, 2012

Mayan Anticipation: December Doomsday: What's this all about?

Panic spreads and Doomsayers await the end of the world with each passing day.  Could this be another 'Y2K' false panic or something more serious?  It is anyone's best guess, but the fact that many prophecies such as Pope Malachy's Pope Prediction among other end of the world prophecies are all coming about at the same time cannot be overlooked as mere coincidence.  These are fascinating days we live in. 

Who are the Mayans?

An excerpt from Mayans 2012 Prediction:
The Mayan Indians were advanced in mathematics, writing, and astronomy. They lived in Mexico and built a famous pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula during the year 1050 BC. This pyramid had 365 steps leading to the top of the pyramid which marked the solar year. However, their most famous invention was their calender.
The long calender on the Mayan calender begins August 11, 3114 BC and will be completed on December 21, 2012. This will mark the end of a major 5126 year cycle on the long count calender.

The reason many are interested in this is the fact that during the year 2012, the sun will be aligned with the center of the milky way galaxy during the winter solstice for the first time in 26,000 years! THIS MEANS: Whatever energy typically stems to the earth from the center of the milky way will be disrupted on 12/21/2012 at 11:11 PM. Coincidence? Some believe that the sun spots could wreck havoc on the earth during this time causing power outages, earthquakes, etc.

Recall the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:  "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not troubled for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows."

There is coming a great time of trouble in which the world has never seen before or will see again.  Whether this major time of trouble comes in our lifetimes makes no difference whether or not one should be prepared to face God in the life to come.  We will die. That is sure.

Exciting days though are here now.  The middle east is a lit firecracker, prophecy is coming true, and technology has lurched the world forward toward eventual war using nuclear weapons. 

Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears

Fears that the end of the world is nigh have spread across the world with only days until the end of the Mayan calendar, with doomsday-mongers predicting a cataclysmic end to the history of Earth.

Cubans participate in a Mayan ritual at Bacuranao beach in eastern Havana.
Cubans participate in a Mayan ritual at Bacuranao beach in eastern Havana. Photo: AFP/Getty
Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year "Long Count" Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.
The precise manner of Armageddon remains vague, ranging from a catastrophic celestial collision between Earth and the mythical planet Nibiru, also known as Planet X, a disastrous crash with a comet, or the annihilation of civilisation by a giant solar storm.
In America Ron Hubbard, a manufacturer of hi-tech underground survival shelters, has seen his business explode.
"We've gone from one a month to one a day," he said. "I don't have an opinion on the Mayan calendar but, when astrophysicists come to me, buy my shelters and tell me to be prepared for solar flares, radiation, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) ... I'm going underground on the 19th and coming out on the 23rd. It's just in case anybody's right."
In the French Pyrenees the mayor of Bugarach, population 179, has attempted to prevent pandemonium by banning UFO watchers and light aircraft from the flat topped mount Pic de Bugarach.
According to New Age lore it as an "alien garage" where extraterrestrials are waiting to abandon Earth, taking a lucky few humans with them.
Russia saw people in Omutninsk, in Kirov region, rushing to buy kerosene and supplies after a newspaper article, supposedly written by a Tibetan monk, confirmed the end of the world.

The city of Novokuznetsk faced a run on salt. In Barnaul, close to the Altai Mountains, panic-buyers snapped up all the torches and Thermos flasks.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, even addressed the situation.
"I don't believe in the end of the world," before adding somewhat disconcertingly: "At least, not this year."

In China, which has no history of preoccupation with the end of the world, a wave of paranoia about the apocalypse can be traced to the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster "2012".
The film, starring John Cusack, was a smash hit in China, as viewers were seduced by a plot that saw the Chinese military building arks to save humanity.

Some in China are taking the prospect of Armageddon seriously with panic buying of candles reported in Sichuan province.

The source of the panic was traced to a post on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, predicting that there will be three days of darkness when the apocalypse arrives.
One grocery store owner said: "At first, we had no idea why. But then we heard someone muttering about the continuous darkness."

Shanghai police said scam artists had been convincing pensioners to hand over savings in a last act of charity.

Meanwhile in Mexico, where the ancient Mayan civilisation flourished, the end time has been seen as an opportunity. The country has organised hundreds of Maya-themed events, and tourism is expected to have doubled this year.

Nasa has been aggressively seeking to dispel doomsday fears. It says there is no evidence Nibiru exists, and rumours it could be hiding behind the sun are unfounded.

"It can't hide behind the sun forever, and we would've seen it years ago," a Nasa scientist said.
The space agency also rejected apocalyptic theories about unusual alignments of the planets, or that the Earth's magnetic poles could suddenly "flip."

Conspiracy theorists contend that the space agency is involved in an elaborate cover up to prevent panic.

But David Morrison, an astronomer at Nasa, said: "At least once a week I get a message from a young person, as young as 11, who says they are ill and/or contemplating suicide because of the coming doomsday. I think it's evil for people to propagate rumours on the internet to frighten children."

Mayans themselves reject any notion that the world will end. Pedro Celestino Yac Noj, a Mayan sage, burned seeds and fruits to mark the end of the old calender at a ceremony in Cuba. He said: "The 21st is for giving thanks and gratitude and the 22nd welcomes the new cycle, a new dawn." 

Doomsayers await the end of the world – in 12 days' time

Related articles
The end of the world is nigh, or so apocalypse observers would have you believe. The Mayan and Hopi Mesoamerican Long Count calendar may have begun in 3114BC and continued unerringly ever since, but it comes to an abrupt halt on 21 December 2012. Hence, the belief gaining ground among those who fall for this kind of thing that the cosmos will cease to exist in 12 days' time.
Although it may not yet have taken root in Britain's Acacia Avenues, the idea of an approaching cataclysm is troubling folk from Moscow to France, and the US to Brazil. The New York Times has reported that some spooked Russians have been panic-buying matches, fuel and sugar to prepare for the post-apocalypse. And they are not alone. A poll by Ipsos recently found that one in seven people believe the world will end during their lifetime (or, presumably, just after it). The same poll suggests that one in 10 people have experienced fear and/or anxiety about the eschatological implications of Friday week.

But reassurance is at hand. Governments around the world are taking the prophesied threat seriously enough to inform their citizens that they are not taking it seriously at all. Here in the United States, for example, an official government blog entry was posted on Monday, reassuring Americans that "Scary rumors about the world ending in 2012 are just rumors".

Nasa itself has waged a campaign of facts to combat the fear-mongering, releasing a 6.5-minute YouTube video, in which David Morrison, astronomer and Nasa scientist, personally debunked the Doomsday theories. Last month, the space agency published detailed rebuttals of five separate apocalyptic scenarios on its website, including a meteor strike, a solar flare and the so-called polar shift, whereby the Earth's magnetic and rotational poles would reverse, with devastating
consequences. While magnetic reversals do take place approximately every 400,000 years, admits Nasa, "As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn't cause any harm to life on Earth. Scientists believe a magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia."

A few days ago, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, tackled the Mayan predictions in a spoof television appearance for the radio station Triple J. Acknowledging that "The end of the world is coming", she grimly intoned, "It turns out the Mayan calendar was true … Whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell beasts or from the total triumph of K-Pop, if you know one thing about me, it's this: I will always fight for you to the very end." Some Australian commentators wondered aloud whether such a light-hearted intervention was becoming of the PM. In Russia, meanwhile, the Minister of Emergency Situations, Vladimir Puchkov, issued a statement insisting that the world would not end this month, a sentiment echoed by senior clerics from the nation's Orthodox Church.

Experts in Mayan culture – which flourished in what is now Central America between AD250 and 900 – have dismissed the doomsayers, claiming the 2012 phenomenon misrepresents the Long Count calendar, and is unsupported by any surviving Mayan texts. The internet, with its capacity for sustaining conspiracy theories, is thought to be to blame.

One such theory is the "Nibiru cataclysm", which posits that the Earth will collide with a planet by that name. The notion originated in the 1990s, with an American woman called Nancy Lieder, who claims she is a "contactee" with an implant in her brain that allows her to communicate with aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system, 39 light years away. Ms Lieder, who has a website and a Twitter account, says she was chosen to warn mankind of the interplanetary danger that awaits us.

In South and Central America, where the original prophecy was allegedly made, responses are mixed. The mayor of the mountain town San Francisco de Paula, in the far south of Brazil, has urged local residents to stock up on supplies in preparation for the worst. But in Yucatan, Mexico, which still has a large Mayan population, a cultural festival is planned for 21 December. Any British people still concerned about the Long Count's conclusion could perhaps seek refuge in Bugarach, a tiny French village in the Pyrenean foothills, which the web has inexplicably agreed will be spared the ravages of Armageddon – possibly due to a nearby mountain, which resembles the alien landing site from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Or they could do what most of us do when our calendars run out: buy a new one.

December 1, 2012

Barna Research: 'Christian' closer to 8%, not 40% in the USA.

Approximately 40%, according to Barna's recent research in late 2011, identified themselves as Christians according to his press release found here.  Given that high percentage of self proclaimed Christians, one has to wonder why God and Jesus are continually getting pushed out of schools, government, and culture.  The answer apparently lies when one drills down further in his research.  I read the following on another blog as to Barna's further line of questioning on his religious survey.  The results are more in line with what you would expect for a declining impact of Christian principals on behavior. 

When Barna asked those same 40% to identify themselves as defined by the following 9 points, the answer he got, was only about 8% do indeed affirm all 9 basic Christian principals.  My guess is that a majority of 'Christians' have a problem with point 8, which asks one to believe in the infallibility of the Bible.  8% is more what you'd expect, given the faith v. secular battle raging in the USA.

Thus, the answer to the question of why 'Christians' have a declining relevance in today's post modern society.  If one cannot affirm basic tenants of scripture and disagree among themselves over what they believe in, it becomes difficult to convince skeptics your view is the right view. 

He chose to determine who exactly was an "Evangelical" rather than simply a "Christian" because Evangelicals were supposed to be closer to the definition of someone who practiced what they preached rather than merely being a cultural Christian in name only or someone who just "goes to church". Barna developed a set of criteria he calls "the 9-point evangelical". Such people are defined according to the following rules:
1. They say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.
2. They believe when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ as Savior.
3. They say their faith is very important in their life today.
4. They believe they have a personal responsibility to share their beliefs with non-Christians.
5. They believe Satan exists.
6. They believe eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works.
7. They believe Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.
8. They assert that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches.
9. They describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.
In other words, if you ask everyone in a given room if they consider themselves to be a "Christian", practically all the hands will instinctively go up. If you then ask, "How many of you are 'Evangelical' Christians?" the majority drop their arms and only 38% of hands are still in the air. But if you ask everyone to keep their hand in the air to affirm they believe in each of the above nine points as they are read one by one, the end result will be that only about 8% of the room will still be holding up a hand to affirm all nine of the basic criteria. By what standard do you determine whether or not someone or something is "Christian"? If Barna hasn't provided the minimum requirements for the members of the faithful remnant, what would you add or change? I think these are minimally basic.

For a long time many of us have followed the work of George Barna, the Christian researcher who knew that there was something wrong when most Americans identified themselves as "Christian". Common sense tells us something is wrong with that kind of response because if the majority were truly "Christian" then how could we be experiencing so many moral and spiritual problems today? Why wouldn't every law passed in America conform to scriptural standards? How could America not obviously be anything other than "Christian" if such a majority claimed to be so? Why would we ban prayer in school, the Ten Commandments from courtrooms, or promote Islamic practices in our schools? Barna realized that he had to narrow the requirements in order to uncover the truth.

Barna also documents other statistics among the so called 'born agains'.  Behavior has changed in America over time, and like most cultures the move has been away from Christ and the Church as wealth and prosperity has become more prevalent. 

Born Again Christians
This category is comprised of people whose beliefs characterize them as born again; it is not based on people calling themselves “born again.” This segment, which now stands at 40% of all adults in the U.S., experienced significant changes in relation to all six religious behaviors tracked by the Barna Group.
  • The largest shifts in behavior pertained to the 14-point decline in adult Sunday school attendance (now 26%) and the 12-point drop in volunteering at church (down to 29%).
  • Attendance at church services in any given week decreased by seven percentage points over the last two decades among born again Christians, falling from 66% to 59%.
  • The proportion of born again adults who read the Bible during a typical week, not including when they are at a church event, has decreased by nine percentage points since 1991. The weekly average now resides at 62%.
  • Two behavioral statistics increased since 1991, one for the worse and the other of little consequence. The unfortunate shift is the increase in the unchurched among born again adults, which has risen by five percentage points to 19%. The neutral transition is the eight-point increase in born again adults who attend a large church (600 or more people).
Only one of the seven religious beliefs measured among born agains shifted significantly in the last two decades. That was the nine-point drop in the percentage of those who firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. In 1991, three-quarters of born again adults held that view, but it has declined to two-thirds of them today (65%).

 Check out the rest of Barna's survey here.