Steven Sotloff: Observant Jew. Grandson of Holocaust Survivors.

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ISIS recently released another video of their British Muslim terrorist, beheading an American journalist.

The journalist was Steven Sotloff, an American Jew with dual Israeli citizenship. According to reports, Mr Sotloff followed his religion, even in the extreme circumstances of captivity by ISIS.

He did not, understandably, tell his captors he was Jewish. He kept up his prayers and fasted on Holy Days by claiming that he was sick and couldn’t eat. The deep irony in all this is that Steven Sotloff is the grandson of holocaust survivors.

Think about that.

Mr Sotloff’s grandparents survived a genocide of Jewish people. Decades later in another part of the world, he was abducted and murdered as part of an attempt to force America to pay a ransom. The ransom would have been used to finance an Islamic killing machine which is bent on the genocide of Christians and other non-Muslim faiths.

The difference between Mr Sotloff and his captors is more than just the difference of the relative power of the murderer vs the murdered. It is, indeed, one of faith.

Steven Sotloff, James Foley and the man who murdered them each claimed to be men of faith. The difference is what their faiths inspired them to do.

James Foley, who prayed the Rosary while in captivity, and Steven Sotfloff, who fasted on Jewish Holy Days by pretending to be ill, were both capable of something that the members of ISIS are not: Compassion.

Their faiths inspired them to bring the stories of the helpless victims of war to the larger world view. They were the voices of the voiceless. They gave the whole world facts and information to help us view what is happening in the dark places of current history with at least some accuracy. Their work was a vital part of the empowerment of ordinary people, both in the Middle East and in the West.

ISIS, by contrast, is a destroyer. It does not build. It does not redeem. ISIS murders and rapes, tortures and lies. The videos it has put out showing the beheadings of these two brave men are themselves lies. These men were not murdered for some bizarre idea of retribution against American power. Their murders were acts of extortion in an attempt to get American dollars.

ISIS is not, as it styles itself, a great religious army. It is a band of pirates. There is no honor in ISIS. It is a disgrace to humanity.

Steven Sotloff’s faith, and that of James Foley, is evident in the good they did. We see what kind of men they were by the lives they lived. We see the life-giving power of true faith in the real God in these men’s goodness.

By the same token, we see what kind of men the adherents of ISIS are by the lives they live. When they stand before God, they will answer for their genocide, rapes, thefts, terrors, lies and destruction of whole societies.

God is real. And He is just.

I have no doubt that Steven Sotloff and James Foley took comfort in that as they knelt in the desert awaiting the knife. If their murderer has any knowledge of God at all, he will fear it.

Christianity: The Religion of Life

The Light of Life

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

 

In a world beset with narcissistic -isms, Christianity is the one light.

Every other philosophy, sooner or later, gets around to death. But the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is a message of life. And that light of life and love not only illumines our deepest darkness, it plants hedges around our most pitiless impulses.

In a world where the power to kill helpless human beings is labeled “compassion” or a “human right,” both compassion and human rights become matters of definition, and the defining is done by those who want to kill at will. What is in fact, monstrous, we call good. And what is in fact good, we call monstrous.

Christianity, with its unyielding call to life and love, is the light that shines in this darkness. And the darkness hates it.

This attraction — I cannot call it love, for love is not in it — to ever deeper darkness grows from our most selfish impulses. It creates an upside down world based on language mis-used that demands that everyone — everyone — accede to the lies of manufactured definitions of our finest words. Killing, we are told, is a “right” of the killer, as in abortion is a “right.” Murder is compassion, as in euthanasia is compassionate. Genocide is godly, as in the bestial behavior of Boko Haram and ISIS.

In this upside down world of lying definitions, we can pretend that homosexual couples are the same as a man and a woman, is the same as groups of people consorting sexually, is the same as … whatever. We can label the deliberate killing of people who are slightly different from the norm — such as those with down’s syndrome — a moral necessity. We can reduce women and children to commerce with surrogacy and egg harvesting, sex trafficking, prostitution and porn and call it variously, freedom of expression, creation of families and, once again, the “right” of the purchasers.

Whatever our dark desire to degrade, exploit or kill other people, we can use our facile gift of language to construct a lie to convince ourselves that it is good.

This darkness slides over all life like sludge from a tar pit. It seeks, always, to take us back to the time before; before Christ, even before Abraham. It wants to take us back to the time when we used our big brains in the service of our reptile brains without the hedgerow of Christian teaching to fence them in.

Without God, without Christ, we are capable of anything. There is no bottom to our depravity, no end to our malignant craving for self-gratification. Because we are not animals. Or rather, we are not animals entirely. We are made of the same dust of this earth as any other living thing on this planet. But we alone of all the life on this planet teeming with life have the breath of God within us. We know that we are creatures. We know that we are finite and temporary.

And, if we will admit it, we also know that there is an Other, a being outside ourselves, greater than us, Who is both infinite and eternal. Our inchoate longing for this Other can haunt us. It can drive us to brittle anger and rageful hate that sends us screaming through our years, leaving a past of toppled lives behind us.

The terrors we weave of our unsatisfied longings for God and our refusal to live in the light of His life are the terrors that only a living soul, a creature made in His image who rejects that image in an irrational self-deification, could devise. We are not just animals. We are cathedral builders and bomb builders, poets and beheaders, we are slavers and freedom fighters, abortionists and mothers who lay down their lives for their child. We are the men who protect their families, and the men who kill their families. We are destroyers and builders, killers and nurturers.

No animal possesses this grandeur of good and bottomless capacity for evil. We do.

That is our darkness. It is the darkness of freedom that runs so frantic that it becomes a prison. We are, and we have always been, free. We are not spiders who spin the same web from one generation of spiders to the next. We are free. We can create. We can destroy. We can reject this Other, this God Who calls us but will not force us to love Him. We can even create alter-gods of our own devising, bastardized versions of the real God in whom we attempt to deify our deepest darkness.

The Light of Life that is Christ is the only beacon in the darkness of the hidden places in our own souls. The Gospel message is the message of life. Christianity is the religion of life.

The darkness fights to overcome it with weapons that appeal to our vaunting need to be our own gods. It uses our great facility for language, our enormous creativity, to shape the lies, excuses and bogus philosophies of false belief and disbelief that become tools for tearing down our common humanity and the walls of our civilization.

But the darkness, however many it pulls into its quagmire of lies, never overcomes the Light of Life. This Light shines through us, through ordinary weak and willful Christians who are as afflicted by the fallenness of this world as any other human. We are different in that, though we stumble on the path, we know the Way.

Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, is the bulwark against the forces of death. It shines the light of Life into the darkness of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, egg harvesting, surrogacy, human trafficking, the destruction of the family and the whole range of degradations, humiliations, and destructions of the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God.

The howling hatred which is directed at Christians and Christianity is the rage of those who wallow half alive in the sludge and do not want to be awakened from their nightmare. Christianity is the religion of life. It defends life in this world, and, to those who are willing to accept Christ, it gives eternal life in the next.

We are not made for the sludge pits of evil that so many of us call home. We are eternal beings who are made for the Light.

Our great dignity is that of all the creatures and living things on this planet, we alone are free. God sets before us each and every day life and death. We can chose the life of His Light. Or we can chose the death of our many false gods and self gods.

It is no accident that the powerful ideas of the value of the individual, the splendid notion of inalienable human rights and the essential equality of all human beings came into existence within Christendom. Such ideas could not have come to fruition anywhere else. Only the Light of Christ, the enlightening mustard seed of Christianity which teaches that there is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus, could have grown and blossomed into the progenitor of the idea of universal human rights.

This is not a Western notion. It is a Christian teaching.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered.

If you have done it for the least of these you have done it for me. 

Blessed are the poor.

If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that you may have life and that you may have it abundantly. 

Christianity is growing rapidly throughout the world, even as we are moving into a new age of martyrdom. It is growing the way it always has: By voluntary conversion. People who are attracted to the Light, who hunger for Life, are drawn to Jesus because He is the Light and the Life.

Christianity is the religion of life because Christ is the Light of Life.

And the darkness will never overcome Him.

ISIS Demanded $132 M for James Foley. When They Didn’t Get It, They Beheaded Him.

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If you’ve seen the video of James Foley’s beheading, you witnessed a speech from his heavily disguised murderer giving political reasons for the crime.

It turns out that the real reason was probably mostly about money. ISIS has been receiving large amounts of money as payment for freeing ransomed Western captives. If the claims that they wanted $132 million in exchange for James Foley’s life are true, then it may well be that one of the ways in which this killing machine is being funded is through ransom.

It also makes it even more apparent that James Foley is an American hero who was murdered for his country.

America does not pay ransoms to terrorists, for the reason that I gave above. Ransom money that is paid to terrorists finances terrorism, and it leads to more innocents being taken hostage. Despite this, I want to emphasize that the work of journalists like James Foley is both heroic and necessary. They are heroes, every one of them.

James Foley’s death was murdered because he was an American. That much is absolutely certain. His murderer plainly stated that he was being killed as a reprisal for American air strikes.

It appears now that he was actually murdered because America does not pay ransom to terrorists. In this way, and only a bit indirectly, he died to prevent other people from being taken hostage and to prevent additional funding from falling into ISIS’ hands, which would have then been used to perpetrate more crimes against humanity. In short, his death saved lives.

Stories are swirling around that France has been paying these enormous ransoms. I understand the emotions behind this, but it seems clear that the money is being used to finance a genocidal army that is bent on destroying civilization.

Notice, I did not say a genocidal army that is bent on destroying civilization in the Middle East. ISIS has made continuous direct threats against Europe. They have explicitly said that they intend to wage the same kind of war there that they are waging in Iraq and Syria. They have also made similar threats against America.

How many of the immigrants from the Middle East are in fact carriers of the violent terrorism virus? We don’t know. What is clear is that ISIS is making threats that are in many ways a veiled claim that they have people on the ground in both Europe and America.

ISIS has been actively recruiting “soldiers” from among Muslim immigrant communities, which probably explains why James Foley’s murderer had what sounded like an undertone of a British accent.

From USA Today:

… if thousands of fighters with Western passports return home, terrorism analysts warn.

“Right now, they have plenty of other things to worry about and bigger fish to fry,” says Mia Bloom, an expert on suicide terrorism. But “everybody’s worried about what happens when these guys come back” – especially after the U.S. bombing.

The Islamic State, which emerged from the Syrian civil war, has conquered a swath of Iraq and Syria and governs the region under an extreme form of Islamic law. Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called its threat “beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Many Americans have been troubled by the Islamic group’s military victories, outraged by its atrocities and startled by its ability to recruit fighters from Western nations. The video-recorded beheading this week of journalist James Foley has made some wonder whether the jihad that swept from Syria into Iraq could reach America.

An attack could come later from returning fighters, experts say, or sooner from Americans who’ve never been to the Middle East but are inspired by Islamic State propaganda.

But the thrust of the Islamic State’s polished online recruiting pitch is to come on over and join the fight, not to stay home and plot terrorism.

In videos featuring fighters such as Canadian Andre Poulin, the recruitment message is clear, says John Horgan, a UMass-Lowell expert on terrorist groups: “There’s a role here for everybody.’

Deacon Greg Kandra wrote a post today taken from an interview of a former hostage of ISIS, French journalist, Didier Francois.

Mr Francois was held captive along with Mr Foley. He said that Mr Foley was subjected to beatings and psychological torture, including mock executions. Among other things, his captors made him stand against a wall and pose as if he had been crucified.

According to Francois, “… Foley never cracked, even under the most difficult situations … (he) was one of the pillars of the group.”

Nicholas Henin, another former ISIS hostage, said that Mr Foley escaped briefly, but was recaptured.

Mr Henin’s reaction to the video of James Foley’s murder is exactly the same as mine:

“That is someone, I mean, a real man … Many people would’ve freaked out and (would have been) terrified because he knew very well what was going to happen to him … but he was still standing up, looking forward and speaking with a clear voice.”

At the end of the video of James Foley’s murder, his carefully disguised murderer drug another bound American. Steven Sotloff, into the camera view as if he was a sack of potatoes.

“The life of this American, Obama, depends on your next decision,” he said while he held his helpless captive in front of the camera.

In the context of the speech this murderer was making, it sounds as if he was threatening to also kill Steven Sotloff is America did not stop bombing in Iraq. However, taken in the larger context of what we now know, it sounds as if this was a ransom demand; pay up or we’ll kill this one too.

This is the press conference James Foley’s parents gave after his death. They beautiful, Godly people, an antidote of American goodness to ISIS evil.

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Christians Attacking Christians is the Devil’s Handiwork.

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I read a book this weekend, Even Silence has an End, by Ingrid Betancourt.

Doctor Betancourt is a former senator and candidate for the presidency of Columbia. She was kidnapped by FARC Communist rebels while she was en route to a campaign appearance in her race for the presidency and held prisoner for six years.

Even Silence has an End describes her long years in captivity. A number of her fellow captives have also written a book, Out of Captivity

If I read the other book, it will be after I give the subject a rest. There’s only so much of the brutality and injustice that FARC visited on these people that I can take.

What interests me today is the extremely toxic personality conflicts that developed among this small group of abductees and the hatred that it engendered in them toward one another. Small group toxicity and the resulting nastiness affects all of us as we go about our jobs and workaday lives. It poisons our relationships and wounds people deeply. It also makes us less effective in what we are trying to accomplish. Instead of getting good things done, we end up wasting our energies scratching and clawing at one another.

It sounds very much like this is what happened among these captives during their long years of helpless insecurity at the hands of brutal guards who might beat, starve, put them on forced marches or even kill them at any time.

One of the comments the American authors made about Doctor Betancourt is absurd and abusive on its face. “It was her own arrogance that got her kidnapped,” one of her fellow captives said.

Let’s be clear. The abduction of Ingrid Betancourt, as well as the other captives, was caused by the criminals who abducted them. FARC did this.

According to Even Silence Has an End,  what happened is that presidential candidate Betancourt was scheduled to make an appearance in an area that officials had recently declared guerrilla free. She was supposed to have armored vehicles and military escort. When she arrived at the jump-off point, her armored vehicles and military escort were withdrawn. The orders probably came from her political opponent, the president.

Doctor Betancourt does not say that the president wanted her to be abducted. She says that he was trying to keep her from making the campaign appearance.

Whatever the motives behind all this, she had gone into dangerous areas before and decided to go ahead with the campaign trip. She was abducted while she was en route to the engagement.

Does that make her abduction her “fault?” No. She was abducted by FARC. It is their fault.

What is astonishing is that this intelligent person is so messed up by his captivity that he doesn’t “get” that.

It is a mark of the damage that prolonged and intense association within toxic little groups does to people’s thinking. Leadership plays a huge part in this. if the leader — and by that, I mean the one who has the power — wants people to settle down and get along, they usually do. But FARC had everything to gain by pitting these prisoners against one another. If they had worked together, it would have made escape much more likely.

By dividing them emotionally and keeping them focused on hating one another, FARC had a much more manageable group to deal with.

One of the oddball claims that the other prisoners have made is that Doctor Betancourt retained authority, even as an abductee. She certainly was the most high profile prisoner, which would have made her more valuable to FARC. She also had dual citizenship with France, and the French went to bats for her and kept on fighting for her throughout her captivity. This, too, would have made her more important to FARC.

At the same time, the other prisoners, including the Americans who wrote Out of Captivity, were pretty much forgotten and ignored by everyone but their own families and sometimes not even them. They had less value to FARC because of this. They also had to live with the emotional damage this abandonment did to them throughout their captivity and for the rest of their lives.

It is important to note that Doctor Betancourt was chained with a chain around her neck. She was also starved and put in solitary confinement. When she attempted escape, the FARC soldiers gang-raped her as punishment.

If that’s what it means to be the queen bee of a FARC prison camp, I think I’ll pass.

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The interesting point in all this is that these captives might very well have managed an escape, and they certainly would have been much less damaged emotionally by their captivity, if they had not yielded to the manipulations of their captors and fallen into obsessive small-group hatred and internecine rivalry.

They needed leadership and discipline within their ranks. They also needed to work out goals for themselves that would have allowed them to function as a unit without attacking one another. I can think of no better goal for a group of abductees who are being unjustly held prisoner than escape.

They got confused — and apparently are still confused to this day — as to who their enemy was. And that made a hell of their hell, which continues to run their emotions, even after they are physically free.

This sad tale forms teachable parallels with Christians today all over the world. I’ve heard from more than one person that part of the trouble in forming a Christian resistance to the genocide taking place in the Middle East is internecine rivalries between different Christian faith traditions. I see it all the time in the internet rivalries and name-calling that goes on among Catholics on internet websites.

We are feuding with one another over whether or not to say the mass in English or Latin, whether or not to hold hands during the Our Father, and whether or not or even how much to bend our faith to politically correct cultural dictates such as gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. Even our own priests are all over the map about these things.

At the same time, we are carrying on these absolutely moronic feuds among ourselves, we are seeing a genocide of Christians in Muslim countries that just keeps intensifying and growing. We stand silent while Christians are imprisoned in North Korea, while their churches are razed in China and while they are mocked and unjustly reviled here in the United States and in Europe.

Much of the reason why is that we are wasting our energies and our time fighting with one another. We need to remember that we are not, ever, truly in the power of those in power in this world. We answer only to Jesus Christ and we are citizens of His Kingdom before any other.

We need to stop fighting with one another. That is the devil’s handiwork in our lives.

 

At This Time Last Year: 45 Churches Burned in Egypt

Egypt Church Bombed

The story originally said 20 churches burned. Then, it was updated to 45 churches burned.

It’s an old story. Out of date. After all, it happened a year ago.

Which means, I suppose, that we should dust our hands of it and forget.

But it’s more than a year-old story. It’s part of an on-going, continuous pattern of blood violence that rises to a genocidal scale directed at Christians by various Muslim groups throughout a whole region of the world.

The question arises and keeps arising: Who is funding this? The Islamic Brotherhood, who participated in church burnings, kidnappings, forced conversions and murder of Christians in Egypt, is, so far as the people they murder, kidnap, rape, force from the homes, sell into slavery are concerned, the same as ISIS, is the same as Al Qaeda, is the same as Boko Haram, is the same as Hamas.

They may have all sorts of carefully defined definitions and distinctions among themselves, but they are all the same in their results. They slaughter innocents, and they destroy the societies in which they live.

Make no mistake about it: People who do this kind of thing enjoy doing it. If they kill all the Christians in that part of that world — and they very well might — then, they will kill someone else. In fact, they already kill other Muslims who do not fall within their narrow definitions of who has a right to life.

Let’s go back for a moment to the question I keep asking: Where are they getting their money? Armies run on money. Terrorism runs on money. They are probably making money from the spoils of war, including the buying and selling of abducted women and girls in the slave/human trafficking market. But someone is still supplying a lot of doh-re-me to be used to slaughter men, women and children and bring whole nations to the brink of a dark age. Who?

For now, I’m going to leave you with a few photos from that long time ago outrage of last year. Because these people deserve better from us than to be swept under the rug of political correctness and forgotten as if they had never lived.

 

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