The Burden of Sin: What Jesus Endured on the Cross

The One Who knew no sin became sin for us.

 

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Graphic images, not for children.

The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America?

Is President Obama going to unilaterally take this country to war in Syria against the wishes of the American people and without the support of our greatest ally, Great Britain?

Before I write about the situation today, I’m going to do a little re-wind and take us back to late October, 2012, and the presidential campaign debates. If you will remember, Governor Romney (the Republican nominee) was all agog about going to war with Iran. It didn’t take much of a seer to know that if he won the election, he was going to lead us into a war with them.

I think that was one reason why he lost that election.

Slowly, and painfully, the American people are beginning to get wise to the fact that these wars aren’t for us and for our protection. The reason why papa’s always gotta have a new war is to feed the demand for profits from those who make money off war.

I wrote this post back then, and I’m going re-post it and one other today to give you something to chew on before we dive into talking about Syria and why we’re being told that young Americans need to die there.

American military cemetery Omaha Beach.

The first presidential election I actually remember in any detail was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

During that election, then Senator Kennedy complained about a missile gap that America needed to fill with more military spending.

In every presidential election since then, there has been one reliable “issue.” Both candidates say we need to spend more money on the military. It was a little different last night, in that President Obama was talking about not raising the spending so fast while Governor Romney chided him for this. Obama’s defense? Military spending had gone up every year of his presidency. That was the brag.

The reason is always the same. We are told that we need to spend, spend, spend on ships, planes, bombs and guns (never, notice our troops) to “keep America safe.”

We have reached a point where military spending on top the table comes to over 50% of our budget. And that’s just the money we know about. A lot of military spending is under the table and off the record. How much of our treasure are we really putting into the military? No one knows.

Let me repeat that: No one knows.

This nation has been at war economically since Pearl Harbor in 1941. What I mean by that is that we have been maintaining a wartime military capable of defending us in an all-out world war on multiple fronts against massive enemies for 70 years. Not only that, but we have set ourselves up as the guardians of the world. Our many military bases around the world are a critical part of the economies of a large number of countries. We are draining our economy and sustaining their economy to maintain a vast network of military bases and installations all over the globe.

Is it any accident that we have also found reasons to actually be at war for most of the past 70 years?

Look back in history at the effects that decades of war has on the economies of the nations who engage in it. Consider the 100 years war and what it did. So far as economics are concerned, America has been in a 70-year war, so that’s not an outrageous analogy.

My question: What are the dangers to the people of America if we continue to blindly believe that we have to keep on increasing our military budget year after year, election after election, into perpetuity? Where is this kind of thinking leading us?

I would like to offer you a few thoughts on that matter. These are not absolutes. They are just thoughts. But I do think we need to at least start a conversation about these things. We are Americans. This is our government, and since it is a democracy, we have a responsibility engage in the questions government raises. We are tasked with thinking things through rather than just blindly accepting the rhetoric of political candidates and pundits.

1. Would we have invaded Iraq if we had a universal draft? When we went to war in World War II, President Roosevelt had sons in uniform. Wealthy and powerful men like Joseph Kennedy had one son who was killed in combat and another who was permanently disabled as a result of injuries from combat. Who does our fighting now? My kids. Your kids. The people who are making money from these wars are totally disconnected from the cost in terms of human life and suffering that our children pay for their profits.

This began in Viet Nam. I came from a poor school. It seemed for a while that all I did was go to the funerals of my friends who a few months before had been driving their cars down the strip every night and now were soldiers killed in action. I didn’t realize at first that this was not happening at the wealthier schools. No one was dying who went to those schools. No one was even serving in the military at all. And this was a time when we did have a draft. But it had become corrupt. If you had money, you could get out of it.

A few years ago, I was at a meeting about how to help the kids in my district. It was convened by then Father, now Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock. People from many walks of life were there. One of them was a recruiter for one of the military services. He said to the kids who were at the meeting, “Would you rather join the military and go to Iraq and die a death with honor, or die on the streets here with no honor?”

What he said resonated with these kids. They saw it as true.

Is that the America we want? Is the new American dream a dream where the “opportunity” we offer a large segment of our population is a choice between death with dishonor on our streets or a death with “honor” in an unnecessary war that was started under false pretenses?

2. How can we spend so much on “defense” and still not provide adequate care for our troops? Our soldiers tell me they don’t have adequate equipment in the field, such as body armor, that many of the sophisticated weapons they are given malfunction in actual combat conditions with dust, rain, heat and cold. They fight one war over there and come home to fight another war for treatment for their injuries here. How can we spend so much money and not take care of our troops?

3. Does “privatizing” military services amount to graft and corruption; to giving contracts to your pals so they can make even bigger bucks off our wars? I know what my answer to this will be. I believe emphatically that this is what is happening.

4. How can we balance the budget if we won’t even talk about cutting in the area where we’re spending over half of our money? How much are we willing to impoverish the American people to finance our military? When does the money we’re spending on it start doing us more harm than good?

5. Does all this vast expenditure of our capital on war making actually keep us safe, or does it endanger our economic survival while keeping us at war with somebody all the time? The young people I represent are fighting our wars. They are not getting rich. But somebody is making money beyond the dreams of avarice out of their service.

I am not advocating that we disarm. I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense, both for individuals and nations. But I do not want to see my sons killed and my country bankrupted for wars of empire that serve to advance the interests of multi-national corporations.

That is not self-defense. It doesn’t keep my country safe. It endangers us all.

I haven’t discussed the moral issues involved in all this. But they are some of the most important and least discussed of any moral issues facing this nation.

Last night’s debate was predictable in that no one talked about or was even asked if being economically in a world war for 70 straight years might be harming our economy. No one suggested that wars which are fought by kids from the poor neighborhoods while everyone else sits home safe, fed and fat are not democratic wars. I didn’t hear a peep about the graft and corruption involved in military contracts.

Not one word.

All I heard was the usual electioneering blather about who was spending the most to “keep America safe.” Maybe it’s time we at least asked other questions that demand different answers.

Are Americans as Trashy as Our Media Believes?

Deacon Greg Kandra has the story.

This is the latest cover of Time Magazine in Europe, Asia and South America:

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This the latest cover of Time Magazine here in the good old USA:

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I guess it makes sense. You know us Americans; we do love our lynch mobs. We’d rather glue our well-rounded rear ends to the sofa and drool over the misery of others before taking to the streets to yell for more blood than anything else.

We don’t want to hear about how our government has all of us under surveillance or that we are playing footsie with another war that has nothing to do with us or, or, or …. certainly and for sure we don’t want to hear anything good, like say, about the Pope. 

After all, we’re Americans and our interests revolve around Friday night wrestling, “reality” tv shows that depict maladjusted people with gross obsessions and fetishes and talking heads on “news” shows yelling at one another. 

Are we really this stupid?

Are we truly this trashy?

And if we are, who do you think made us this way?

As I said in another post, it’s time we turn off our televisions and go outside in the sunlight and fresh air. We need to spend some time talking to real people and doing real things that involve our own lives. 

Get your head out of the trash bin, America. Before you make yourself as mentally, morally and socially ill as the people you watch for your entertainment. 

Televised Trials: The For-Real Hunger Games

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I did not watch the Zimmerman murder trial. I did not watch the OJ trial. I haven’t watched any of the televised trials that obsess the public.

I also didn’t follow the Timothy McVeigh trial, even though I had a personal interest in its outcome.

From the way that Americans seem to react to these trials, I think perhaps a lot of other people should consider skipping them, too. Trials that put people’s lives and freedom to the test are not some sort of call-in entertainment where the audience picks the winner. 

The people who are tasked with the terrible decisions these trials require are the citizens who sit on the jury. I leave it to them, and when I do it, I am grateful that I am not one of them. 

Even with Timothy McVeigh, I did not want to sit on the jury that tried him. I did not want to watch his execution. I didn’t want any part of it. However, with McVeigh, I was so trapped in the horrible web of near victim obsession with this particular crime and criminal that I could not stop thinking about it. I oppose the death penalty, but it was a relief when he finally shut up and I knew I would not have to hear about him anymore. 

I cannot imagine how I would have felt if the jury had turned him lose. However, I do know two things: My job would have been to go on from there and live, and watching the trial would not have helped me deal with an unwanted verdict. 

I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through trials where people I know are involved. Believe me, you don’t want that to be you. 

These trials are about horrible events that shatter people’s lives. They are usually about twisted situations that have been brewing and stewing; distilling their malice and meanness for years. There is nothing pretty or edifying about them. The people involved, on both sides, are at the extremities of grief, terror and desperation. This is not a fictional movie or television show in which actors pretend to be in anguish. These are real people, and they are suffering agonies. 

Obsession

These televised trials are becoming a sort of Hunger Games gone real, with vast audiences entertained by watching people suffer horribly. There are no winners in trials like this. The person who has been murdered has already lost their life. In a very real way, the person who is on trial has lost their life, as well. They are suffering extremities of fear that are unimaginable for those of us who haven’t been in the judicial barrel. The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will usually end up with tarnished reputations and, due to the massive television audience, the full grief of public notoriety. 

The public, in many ways, is the biggest loser, for the simple reason that they have the most to lose. They aren’t dead. Their loved ones haven’t been murdered. They are not on trial for their lives. They don’t have to make the agonizing decision as to guilt and innocence. They are safe, free, unburdened by the responsibility of holding another person’s life in their hands.

But by watching this trial hour after hour, day after day, they become enmeshed in the terrors and miseries of other people’s tragedies to the point that they start feeling as if it did happen to them, and it is about them. This is empathy turned self-destructive. It is obsession that removes the person watching from the simple reality that none of this is about them and none of it happened to them. 

These viewers let this trial eat up their days and consume their emotions and thoughts. They take on the responsibility of the jury and sit there in front of their tvs, allowing a cheap obsession to take over their thinking and their lives. 

When the verdict comes down and they don’t agree with it, they go into paroxysms of rage and outrage, demanding a re-trial, another charge, another dose of vengeance. Or, if they like the verdict, they feel sated and smug, released of the tension-producing competitiveness that their understanding of the evidence might not prevail.

Obsession

There is a word for this. The word is obsession. The so-called “news” stations who run these trials are not even vaguely trying to report news. They are going for inexpensive ratings. They are ignoring serious news stories that the public needs to know about to put these trials on the air. 

I didn’t watch it, but I gather that the President of the United States had to make a speech about this latest public trial. I see photos of protesting mobs, and grief stricken people, including little children, who are enraged, bereft and emotionally scarred by this verdict. 

Make no mistake about it: The events that set this trail in motion are tragic. It was and is a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing tragedy that should not have happened. The people who are close to it will never be the same. But it didn’t happen to that vast television audience or those enraged mobs or even to the President and his Attorney General.

The people it did happen to will suffer for it all their days. But the rest of us will forget it and move on to the next new televised tragedy. In a matter of weeks, we’ll be wringing our hands over something else. Because, you see, it didn’t happen to us. It’s not our lives that are torn apart. It is our cheap entertainment, our obsession that blocks out the pain of whatever really is happening to us. It is our hunger games. 

From my I-didn’t-watch-it perspective, all this obsessive rage over this trial looks crazy. I can not fathom it, and that, my friends, is the fruit of not watching. I’m not enraged and distraught. I have not spent my days suffering through a tragedy I can’t change. I am clear of all this craziness and pain. 

I know I’m going to get thrashed for saying this. But people need to turn off their televisions and go outside. They need to take a walk or go to a movie about a fictional trial where nobody really dies and nobody really suffers. 

Spend time with your families. Pay your bills. Read a book. Play some golf. Go swimming, kiss your babies, say your prayers. 

And realize: This didn’t happen to you. 

 

Obsession

The Government Lost the Trayvon Martin Case. Now the Government Should Accept the Verdict.

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The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that American citizens may not be put on trial repeatedly for the same crime. 

If a jury finds you innocent, the government can not turn around and re-try you again and again for the same crime. 

Do you see the reason behind this? If the government can just keep putting a person on trial over and over until they finally get a jury who will convict, then they will eventually win every case. Under circumstances like that, there is no reason to have a trial at all. 

It does not matter if lots of people watched a trial on tv and are angry about the outcome. It does not matter if the federal government meddled in what should should have been a state case in the first place. The verdict is the verdict is the verdict. 

In recent decades, the Federal government has taken to meddling in cases where the jury chose not to convict by charging the defendant with some other crime that is related to the first charge but is federal, rather than local. Every time they have done this that I’ve seen what they are actually attempting is to overturn the first jury decision by putting the defendant on trial over and over until they finally convict him or her.

The Constitution protects us from being tried repeatedly for the same crime. What they are doing is using statutes that address different aspects of the same crime to try people and void our Constitutional rights to freedom from double jeopardy in court.  

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Let’s say someone robs a convenience store and you are put on trial for the robbery. Let’s further say that the jury find you not guilty. You are free to go.

Unless the federal government steps in and says that the theft of a bag of chips that was also taken during the commission of the robbery makes it a federal crime. After all, the chips were manufactured in one state and shipped to the store that was robbed in another state. Ergo, the crime is interstate, and federal. The feds then put on you trial in a federal court on the chip charge.

Is this putting you in double jeopardy? I think so. Does it violate your Constitutional rights? I believe it does. 

I’ve read that the Justice Department of the United States Government is considering taking up the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case by charging Mr Zimmerman with federal aspects of this same crime for which he was found not guilty. I think this is because they don’t like the verdict the jury in Florida gave and want to, as a friend of mine said about an entirely different case, “try him until they fry him” on the Federal level. 

Mr Zimmerman was tried in open court by a jury of his peers and found not guilty. The government had the opportunity to use all of its massive powers to formulate a presentation in court that would convince the jury to convict. They did not convince this jury. The jury has spoken, and their verdict is not guilty.

I think the Justice Department should accept the verdict. 

From Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it is looking into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case.

The department opened an investigation into Martin’s death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.

In a statement Sunday, the Justice Department said the criminal section of the civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida are continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal probe, in addition to the evidence and testimony from the state trial.

Congress Considers More Gun Control and Less Gun Control

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Gun control has become a metaphor for the way our Congress doesn’t work these days. 

Proponents of the defeated gun background checks bill are looking at ways to amend it in hopes of getting the votes of push it through. Meanwhile, at least one senator, as well as the House of Representatives are pushing measures to either relax existing gun control laws or broaden situations where guns are allowed. 

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My question is, why try to jump the Grand Canyon flat-footed if you’re a turtle?

What I mean by that is that politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. But it appears that it’s become the art of public demagoguery in order to rally your voter base. The desire to actually accomplish anything for this country appears to be dead.

Right wrong

I do not see how constantly erecting straw man legislation and then voting on it does anything for the people. I know that there are times when a lawmaker will introduce legislation they don’t have much hope of passing to make a statement about deeply-held principles. I’ve done this myself. But when this becomes the only thing that Congress is doing, it starts looking like cheap demagoguery designed to deepen the culture wars and lock your sliver of the vote in place for the next election.

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We call these kinds of things “hero deals,” and done in moderation, they are not only harmless, but can serve a purpose. However, the purpose of a governing body is to govern, not do endless “hero deals” for the cameras. 

Surely there is something besides pumping more money into unneeded defense contracts and going on lobbyist-provided junkets that the members of Congress can agree on. Frankly, I’d like to lock all of them up in a dormitory and make them eat beans and sleep on cots until they agree to start governing for the common good and what is best for the people of the United States of America.

Given the deference they are accustomed to, I think one night of this torture should break almost all of them.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators backing gun control are discussing ways to revise the defeated Senate background check bill to help win the votes they need to resuscitate the measure.

Among the changes they might consider are limiting the fees buyers would pay at gun shows, adding provisions dealing with the mentally ill and altering language extending the background checkrequirement to all online sales, senators said Tuesday.

Supporters fell five votes short when the Senate defeated legislation last month that would have extended required federal background checks to more buyers.

That vote, four months after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at a school in Newtown, Conn., was a defeat for President Barack Obama and gun control advocates. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised to revisit the issue, perhaps by early summer.

While Senate Democrats hunted more votes to expand background checks, the Republican-run House took a step in the opposite direction Wednesday, voting to make the system less restrictive for some veterans.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted by voice to require a judge or magistrate to declare a veteran is dangerous before the name is entered in the background check system’s database of people barred from getting firearms. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs sends the system the names of veterans it has declared unable to manage their financial affairs — 127,000 names since 1998.

Supporters of the measure said veterans who can’t handle their money aren’t necessarily dangerous. The department opposes the measure, saying veterans in the database already have the ability to appeal.

Gun rights advocates were also taking the offensive in the Senate.

The chamber planned to vote Wednesday on a measure by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., allowing firearms on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers if it didn’t conflict with state law. (Read the rest here.) 

 

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

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This week’s six quick takes on Christian Persecution include one that I’m not entirely sure about, another that deals with a 100-year-old genocide, and the usual dismal roundup of wanton killings, abductions and imprisonment of Christians around the globe. 

I think there are two reasons why Christianity is attacked. First, as President Obama said in a speech a few years ago, it is revolutionary. His complaint at the time was that the Sermon on the Mount, would, if it was followed, lead to disarmament.

Indeed.

Governments the world over have tried to control the revolutionary message of Christ in one of two ways: Co-opt it, or attack it. Hitler was an example of co-opting coupled with attacks against those who didn’t buy into his program, while Stalin and the Communist states are examples of outright attack.

That division seems to hold up right to this day and even here in America. Right wing politicians are more prone to claim their religiosity while attempting to twist the Gospels to support their goals and left-wing politicians tend to veer toward limiting religious freedom with ironic claims of inclusion and tolerance.

Christianity has a better record of standing up to outright attack than it does co-option. I suppose that’s only natural. If somebody punches you in the nose, you know you’ve been hit. But if they flatter you and tell you how great you are while they ask you to sign the title to your house away, it’s harder to catch. Or, at least it is for some people.

The second reason is that Christianity is attacked is that it is true. Jesus really is the Son of God. He really did die for our sins and He really did rise again on the third day. He really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It is politically incorrect to say that, but taking offense to the truth does not make it untrue. People resent the claims that Jesus makes on their hearts and their lives. They want to be their own little gods, but they are unwilling to admit what that means. So … they attack the only hope they have.

Pope Francis talks about satan more than is politically correct, even for a Pope. But he is right to do this. Christianity is attacked because it is the Light, and the darkness hates it.

This week’s quick takes focus mainly on the nose-punching type of attack on Christians, rather than the soft-soap of the co-opters. As always, there’s a heavy dose of persecution from the Middle East. I decided to include the Armenian genocide because these people have been forgotten in the name of political expedience. I’ve read that out of a population of 2 million Armenian Christians, 1.5 million were murdered. Their blood, like Abel’s, cries out from the ground. 

I also included a story about the Pentagon blocking the Southern Baptist web site. I had read about this in several places, but only decided to take it seriously (I’m still confused by it.) because Fox News carried it. Note: I was wise to doubt this story. The Pentagon has explained that their computer detected malware on the SBC website. They say they were not blocking the site. You can read about that here

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Here are the Six Quick Takes about Christian Persecution this week. I hope that you read each of them prayerfully. 

1. NIGERIA 

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18 More Followers Of Christ Slaughtered By Muslim Attackers In Christian Village Of Mile Bakwai

Morning Star News – “Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.

The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometers away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.

‘When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated,’ Mashaf said. ‘I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers.’

They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.

‘They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village,’ Mashaf said. ‘They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured.’

Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.

The 18 slain were members of Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Rev. James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men’s Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday. (Read more here.)

2. USA

Cross Flag

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

By Todd Starnes

NOTE: A reader passed along the Pentagon’s response to this. They say that the problem was a result of their software detecting malware on the SBC’s website. You can read that story here.

The U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.

Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net   had been blocked at military installations around the nation. An Air Force officer told Fox News that when he tried to log on to the website he received a message that his Internet usage was being logged and monitored for trying to access a blocked site.

The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.

Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon.

It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage. (Read more here.)

3. EGYPT

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Egyptian Muslims murdering Christians with impunity

Ten people are dead following clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. The people have been killed over the past few weeks which have seen spates of violence between Christians defending their churches and homes from angry Muslims. Few Muslim attackers ever face justice.

CAIRO, EGYPT (Catholic Online) – Clashes between Muslims and Christians have claimed 10 live in Egypt where sectarian violence between the groups has been renewed in the face of Mohammed Morsi’s administration.

The most recent spate of violence started after children drew crosses on the walls of an Islamic institute in Khosoos, just north of Cairo. That acts of children’s vandalism sparked a bloody retaliation from Muslims in which four Christians and a Muslim were killed.

At the Christian funeral, Muslims struck again, this time carrying on until they reached the Coptic cathedral and damaged the structure. More Christians were murdered. (Read more here.)

4. TURKEY

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The Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s Attempt to Deny It

From 1915 to 1917 the Young Turk regime in the Ottoman Empire carried out a systematic, premeditated, centrally planned genocide against the Armenian people.  One of the documents authenticated by Turkish authorities in 1919 is a telegram sent in June 1915 by Dr. Sakir, one of the leaders of the secret organization that carried out the planning and implementation of the Genocide.  He asks the provincial party official who is responsible for carrying out the deportations and massacres of Armenians within his district: “Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly….”

The evidence of intent is backed also by the outcome of the actions against the Armenians: it is inconceivable that over a million persons could have died due to even a badly flawed effort at resettlement.  Moreover, the pattern of destruction was repeated over and over in different parts of Turkey, many of them far from any war zone; such repetition could only have come from a central design.  Further, the reward structure was geared toward destruction of the Christian minority: provincial governors and officials who refused to carry out orders to annihilate the Armenians were summarily replaced.

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

The basic argument of denial has remained the same, it never happened, Turkey is not responsible, the term “genocide” does not apply. (Read more here.)

5. SYRIA

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Kidnapped bishops raise fears of Christian nightmare in Syria

ICC Note: Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, condemned the kidnapping of two archbishops and said Pope Francis is “following [the] events with deep participation and intense prayer.” The bishops were abducted by armed rebels on Monday in the village of Kfar Dael, near Aleppo, Syria while carrying out humanitarian work. The bishops are the most senior church leaders abducted in the conflict which has now killed more than 70,000 people across Syria. The kidnapping “is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living,” Lombardi said.

By John L. Allen Jr.

4/23/2013 Syria (National Catholic Reporter) – Rome on Tuesday reacted with alarm to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria, fearing it may mark the beginning of the nightmare scenario: that Syria will become the next Iraq, meaning the next Middle Eastern country where Christians emerge as primary victims of the chaos following the disintegration of a police state.

A Vatican spokesman called the kidnappings “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living.”

According to a report from the Asia News agency, the two bishops were stopped at gunpoint by armed men Monday on their way to the city of Aleppo. A catechist traveling with them was shot to death while the two bishops were forced out of the car and taken away.

The prelates involved are the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji. Both are well known in Rome as veterans of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic church.

The identity of their kidnappers remains unclear, but sources in Syria say kidnapping of Christians has become a growth industry as various armed factions look for ways to fund their activities. (Read more here.)

6. CHINA: 

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Seven House Church Leaders Sentenced to Prison

4/21/2013 China (ChinaAid) – Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week.

Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Yang Lianbing, three-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Zhang Mian, four-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center. (Read more here.)

 

President Obama: The Gun Lobby and Its Allies Willfully Lied

“This bill represented moderation and compromise,” President Obama said after his gun registry bill went down to defeat yesterday. The President appeared angry at the press conference discussing the bill. He vowed, “This effort is not over … so long as the American people don’t give up” on the effort.

What this means in terms of real politics remains to be seen. The President used political blackmail against Democratic senators to force them to support the Affordable Health Care Act. He also lied to Democratic Congressmen, saying that he would support religious and conscience exemptions to the bill. He then signed and has stood by the HHS Mandate.

I think this led to mistrust of the president in some quarters. I would guess that this played a part in why gun owners were “upset” about this bill and why they did not trust the president’s statements in support of it.

There is a large segment of the population that believes the president absolutely. Unfortunately for him, those were not the citizens whose support he needed to push this bill over. In order to pass gun control, the president needed the votes of Senators and Representatives who are from areas in the country who do not trust the president and who are also strongly in favor of the right to keep and bear arms.

Blaming the “gun control lobby” for “willful lying” seems disingenuous, considering the attitudes of the people in those states. I doubt very much that they needed to lie, willfully or otherwise to get people in those areas to let their elected officials know how they felt about these pieces of legislation.

This is a clip from President Obama’s statement on the gun control vote yesterday.

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Gun Control, The Gun Lobby, the Prez and Voters Who Mean It

Gary england We had weather in Oklahoma last night. 

It wasn’t too bad; just some small hail, winds, driving rain and a couple of little tornadoes. But anytime we have weather, we watch Gary England. Weatherman in Oklahoma is a serious job. People trust their lives to those folks on tv and most of us feel safest when the person we’re trusting is Gary England.

Watching the weather gave my family and I a healthy dose of other news, along with watching the radar screen and storm chasers. We worked in some channel flipping to see what was happening with the fertilizer plant explosion in Waco. Somehow or other that led to a momentary pause at MSNBC in which they were deploring what they said was the “gun lobby’s” total “control” of Congress.

This particular public deploring was a reaction to the defeat of President Obama’s plan for strict background checks on would-be gun purchasers. I didn’t watch it long enough to sort it out, but I’m betting that the defeat was more difficult for the bill’s supporters to take because it was handed to them by the Democratically controlled Senate instead of the Republican-controlled House.

I mean, what’s a prez to do when his own party leaves him standing at the curb like that?

NRA Enter the “gun lobby” boogie man. 

I don’t mind when critics of legislation get upset over the hammerlock special interests have over so much of our public policy in this country. In fact, I share their pain. But I am little tired of hearing about the draconian “gun lobby.” 

My experience as a voting member of a legislative body for these past 17 years is that the “gun lobby” couldn’t persuade anybody to do anything if the people themselves didn’t back them up. The real “lobby” that killed this legislation is almost certainly the American people. 

That’s a painful pill for gun control backers to swallow. It appears to be so tough that they will not admit the truth of it, no matter how obvious it is.

The people of this country do not, by and large, want gun control. You can slice it and dice it and poll it until your spreadsheet software crashes and it doesn’t change anything. If you pass a gun control law, people who haven’t voted since heck was a pup will register just for the purpose of voting against you.

Back in 1994, I had relatives who had never voted in their lives and who were no more political than your average goldfish get themselves registered to go vote against a Congressman who was running for the United States Senate. Why did they do this? The Congressman had voted for the Brady Bill that President Clinton passed.

That, of course, is part of the  reason why polls don’t mean much with these fire-brand issues. Pollsters poll “likely voters,” which is another way of saying that they poll people who are in the habit of voting. But issues like gun control get the Saturday Night Wrestling crowd off the couch and out to the polls.

This kind of voter can not be massaged. They can not be persuaded by other issues. There is nothing you can say or do that will change their minds once they’ve set them on voting you out of office. If you represent certain parts of these United States and you do something as dumb as vote against these folks on one of their I-mean-it issues, you’d better be ready to pack up your office and go home, because your time in elected office is through.

That, and not the draconian machinations of the “gun lobby,” is why that bill bit the dust yesterday. It is also why if it hadn’t bitten the dust, the United States Senate would most likely be in Republican control come December 2014.

These aren’t tea leaves you need a sooth sayer to read for you. They’re the plain facts of what matters to a big swath of the electorate in a good many states.

Obama

Based on the news stories I’ve read, President Obama is steamed about losing his bill. He’s pledged to fight on and has accused the “gun lobbies and their allies” of “willfully lying” about the legislation. Frankly, I find the notion of a president who publicly promised conscience and religious exemptions in order to pass the Affordable Health Care Act and then turned around and signed the HHS Mandate accusing anyone of “willfully lying” to be pretty rich.

Whatever.

My only thought is that if the Senators in question represent people who don’t want gun control as much as Oklahomans don’t want it, they’d be wise to stick with what they did yesterday. The only reason to go against your constituents when they feel as strongly as people around here do about this is if you personally believe in it enough to sacrifice your career for it.

The following excerpt from a Newsmax article will give you a taste of the President’s angst over this vote.

An angry President Barack Obama denounced Senate Republicans on Wednesday for failing to pass stricter background checks on gun purchases, calling it a “pretty shameful day” for Washington.

Speaking in the Rose Garden as the families of some of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shootings looked on, Obama vowed to press on in the fight for tougher gun laws.

“Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders,” he said, standing alongside former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left Congress after suffering a life-threatening gunshot wound to the head. “A few minutes ago a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even when these families looked on from the gallery.”

Earlier, Senate Republicans, backed by rural-state Democrats, blocked legislation to tighten restrictions on the sale of firearms.

In recent weeks, the families of some of the victims of the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School pressed lawmakers with stories of personal loss, as Second Amendment advocates countered that none of the proposed changes would have stopped the grisly tragedy.

Attempts to ban assault-style rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines also faced certain defeat in a series of showdown votes.

The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. A total of 41 Republicans and five Democrats pulled together to scuttle the plan.

“The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Obama said, referring to fears by some that the law would allow for creation of a federal gun registry.

The president alluded to polls that peaked at 90 percent of Americans supporting expanded background checks for convicted criminals and the severely mentally ill. He said “90 percent” of Democrats supported the bill, but “90 percent” of Republicans opposed it.

“There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this,” Obama said. “It came down to politics.”
Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/newswidget/Obama-Senate-background-checks/2013/04/17/id/500024?promo_code=F323-1&utm_source=Life_Site_News&utm_medium=nmwidget&utm_campaign=widgetphase1#ixzz2QqimRzua Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!

ACLU Says Gun Control Legislation Infringes on Civil Liberties

This is a man bites dog story. Chris Calabrese, a lobbyist for the ACLU, has said that the gun control bill pending in the United States Senate may infringe on privacy rights and civil liberties.

That’s the problem when you create a sociopath-producing society. You end up having to hermetically seal the whole population to try to keep these monstrous few from going into movie theaters and schools and killing people. Instead of punishing the guilty, you end up using police state tactics on everyone.

It doesn’t surprise me that the proposed gun control legislation raises questions about privacy rights and civil liberties. Anyone who’s ever thought about it for longer than five minutes knows there is no way to have effective gun control without doing exactly that. While I realize that other countries have gun control, I would wager that their citizens do not have the Constitutional guarantees of individual freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms, that Americans do.

What I find surprising is that the ACLU is willing to say it. After the HHS Mandate, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that the ACLU is in the bag for politics, rather than defense of the Bill of Rights.

While this interview is a long way from an official ACLU position, it still surprises.

From Daily Caller:

As Senate Democrats struggle to build support for new gun control legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union now says it’s among those who have “serious concerns” about the bill.

Those concerns have the capacity to prove a major setback to Sen. Harry Reid’s current gun bill, which includes language from earlier bills introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, a top lobbyist for the ACLU announced that the group thinks Reid’s current gun bill could threaten both privacy rights and civil liberties.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/04/exclusive-aclu-says-reids-gun-legislation-could-threaten-privacy-rights-civil-liberties/#ixzz2PWQfooQ5


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