Friday, July 30, 2010

Anti-Defamation League Comes Out Against Ground Zero Mosque

Move over Sarah Palin.

In a move sure to cause liberal apologists for Islam to fall to the ground twitching and foaming at the mouth (oh, it's starting already, I see), the Anti-Defamation League has come out with a statement that not only calls for the Ground Zero Mosque to be built somewhere else, but also calls for further investigations into who is behind the Mosque project and where the money is coming from. Good for them.

Here is the full statement from the ADL website:
We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values. These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming. But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Even More on "Not AT Ground Zero"??

The photo below gives an idea of the actual proximity of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque location (in what was formerly the Burlington Coat Factory building) to Ground Zero itself. Notice in particular the location of the remains of World Trade Center Building Number 7:

Here is WTC 7 (still standing) during the collapse of the North Tower (WTC 1):

And here is the rubble left after the collapse of WTC 7, 1 block from proposed site of the Ground Zero Mosque:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Anne Rice: Apostate

Almost a full year ago I blogged about being surprised and delighted to discover Anne Rice's book reviews at Amazon. This was in spite of the fact that I had never read any of her novels, and also in spite of the fact that she was, at the time, a Christian, and often wrote about Christianity in her reviews. I found her writing to be engaging, highly intelligent and refreshingly honest and direct.

I was especially blown away to read such a thoughtful and positive review of Jan Assman's Moses the Egyptian, written by an outspoken Christian!

But now, well, I just might be in love. Below is, verbatim, what Ms. Rice posted on Facebook yesterday:
For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

A few minutes later, she posted this:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

All I can think to say is: Jesus Christ on a bicycle. And wouldn't "Apostate" make a great title for an Anne Rice novel? Or a memoir?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More On: "Not a Mosque"?? "Not AT Ground Zero"???

Late last year (December 8, 2009, to be precise), the New York Times ran a predictably kumbaya-esqe puff-piece about how wonderful an idea it was to build a Mosque at Ground Zero, written by Ralph Blumenthal and Sharaf Mowjood. Therein, the authors described what had happened to the the Burlington Coat Factory building on September 11, 2001:
On that still-quiet Tuesday morning, the sales staff was in a basement room eating breakfast, waiting to open the doors to the first shoppers at 10 a.m.

There was no immediate sign of the fiery cataclysm that erupted overhead starting at 8:46. But out of a baby-blue sky suddenly stained with smoke, a plane’s landing-gear assembly the size of a World War II torpedo crashed through the roof and down through two empty selling floors of the Burlington Coat Factory.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attack killed 2,752 people downtown and doomed the five-story building at 45 Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center, keeping it abandoned for eight years.
After that, Blumenthal and Mowjood go on to describe how the building was already, seven months ago, being used as a make-shift Mosque, and how "these modest beginnings point to a far grander vision: an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land that would stand as one of ground zero’s more unexpected and striking neighbors." And then we read:
The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

“We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61.

Although organizers have sought to avoid publicizing their project because they say plans are too preliminary, it has drawn early encouragement from city officials and the surrounding neighborhood.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said through a spokesman that Imam Feisal told him of the project last September at a celebration to observe the end of Ramadan. As for whether Mr. Bloomberg supported it, the spokesman, Andrew Brent, said, “If it’s legal, the building owners have a right to do what they want.”
In today's Huffington Post, Matt Sledge (Associate Blog Editor) poses the (apparently literally) blindingly stupid question "Just How Far Is the 'Ground Zero Mosque' From Ground Zero?"

In fact, Sledge shows us "just how far" removed from reality "progressive" apologists of Islam are. He insists that we should pretend that since "you can't see Ground Zero -- the former site of the World Trade Center -- from the future site of the Cordoba House" that there is no there there. He even provides us a map (to the right) with a helpful "walking tour" from point A, the Ground Zero Mosque, to point B, the former site of the Twin Towers.

Gee, golly, everybody, it's two full city blocks! Sledge, being the investigative journalist type, took the walking tour for himself and found that it takes "pretty much two minutes exactly" to walk from A to B. Oh, and you have to turn a corner, which is why you can't see B from A.

Personally, I couldn't help but think there was something missing from the very nice "walking tour" aerial photo that Matt Sledge provided to illustrate his point. I thought about this for some time, and I finally decided that perhaps a somewhat different aerial photo, also showing the proximity of the proposed Mosque location to Ground Zero, reveals what Sledge and the Mosque-boosters are overlooking:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Not a Mosque"? "Not at Ground Zero"? Oh really?

The latest "progressive" meme making the rounds on teh interwebs is that opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque are silly because (1) it's not really a Mosque, and (2) it's not really at Ground Zero.

Thomas Knapp has even gone so far as to claim that "Ground Zero Mosque" is a "phrase fraudulently coined" by the Mosque's opponents. While Clyde Haberman, writing in Monday's New York Times ("In Islamic Center Fight, Lessons in Prepositions and Fear-Mongering"), claims that it is "debatable" whether or not the proposed building "may even be called a Mosque," while also quibbling over whether or not the Mosque, or whatever it is, will really be "at" Ground Zero.

Here are some quotes from supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque:

Michael Bloomberg:
“I happen to think this is a very appropriate place for somebody who wants to build a mosque, because it tells the world that America, and New York City, which is what I’m responsible for, really believes in what we preach."

Robert Wright:
"When I first heard about the plan to build a mosque and community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, I didn’t envision any real opposition to it."

Kamran Pasha, from his blog post "The Mosque by Ground Zero":
"the very presence of a progressive, peaceful mosque near Ground Zero invalidates the claim by both the Muslim fanatics and their mirror images among the anti-Muslim bigots that America and Islam are enemies."

Harris Zafar, Senior Writer, Muslim Writer's Guild of America, in his piece "Ground Zero Mosque: A Muslim's Perspective":
"Should a Muslim group be allowed to build an Islamic prayer center two blocks away from Ground Zero? .... Muslims in America need to be sensitive to the fears and the mistrust that have infiltrated the minds of many of their fellow citizens. Patience and perseverance are needed in order to help our fellow Americans understand that a Muslim and a Mosque are nothing to be afraid of.

"It appears that the Cordoba House's organizers sought to avoid early publicity around the proposed construction project and apparently waited months before seeking public comment. The ensuing firestorm from the local neighborhoods and communities does not, therefore, appear to be all too surprising. A better and potentially more palatable approach would have been to conduct broad community outreach and enlist broad community support before pushing the Center's plan through local government channels. Given the sensitivities surrounding the Ground Zero site and the general ignorance of Islam, this approach may have averted the nasty debate we have now. Ultimately, I am in the favor of the construction of a mosque, but I am not happy with the way the organizers have appeared to have pursued it."

Andy Ostroy in his piece "Why the Ground Zero Mosque Should Be Built":
"The proposed building of a Muslim mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has created a firestorm of anger and emotion not just in Lower Manhattan, but all over the country .... Yes, Ground Zero is sacred ground. No one should or would ever dispute that. But that can mean different things to different people. Perhaps in the interest of healing we should honor it and those killed by not using it as monument for more bias and vitriol. Wouldn't religious tolerance and acceptance be a far greater legacy for that site than one that perpetuates the kind of wholesale hatred and intolerance that was at the root of the very attacks themselves?"

A Moratorium (my proposed answer to the Ground Zero Mosque)

Of course it is very tempting to reflexively be in favor of anything that Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin loudly oppose. But there is nothing inherently "progressive" about the building of Mosques -- whether at Ground Zero or anywhere else. Nor is there anything intrinsically "right-wing" about being opposed to the building of a particular Mosque.

My solution to the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is this: (1) a moratorium on all foreign funding of Mosques in the US, including money for the operating costs of already existing Mosques, combined with, (2) a moratorium on all US funding, public and private, of Christian "missionary" work outside the US.

Let American Muslims have exactly as many Mosques as they themselves are willing to pay for. No more, no less.

And let American Christians donate as much money as they please to secular schools, hospitals, etc, around the world -- but let's stop the unconscionable practice of buying converts to Christianity in exchange for food, medicine, basic social services, etc.

Let the Christians and Muslims pray all they want, worship all they want, believe whatever they want, say whatever they want. But let's limit the transnational monetary influence of these two aggressive, intolerant ideologies. Such limitations would violate no one's right to believe and practice exactly as they choose.

Such a moratorium is unlikely to happen any time soon. In the meantime there are specific issues, like (1) opposing the foreign funded $100 million dollar Ground Zero Mosque, and (2) opposing all use of US taxpayer money for Christian missionary work, whether at home ("faith based initiatives") or abroad (a significant portion of "foreign aid" goes to Christian missionary groups).

We can use the Ground Zero Mosque issue to shine a light on the pernicious role of money in spreading ideologies of hatred and intolerance around the world. It also provides a golden opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of Palin, Gingrich and other spokesmodels of the most medieval and intolerant varieties of Christianity.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dutch Christian Democrats Agree To Consider Gov't With Wilders

CDA agrees to talks about talks on a right-wing government Sunday 25 July 2010

The Christian Democrats have agreed to enter talks about talks on forming a right-wing government with the free market Liberals and anti-Islam PVV.

The party's 20 MPs met on Saturday and gave their unanimous go ahead to party leader Maxime Verhagen to take part in informal talks with the VVD and PVV.

On Friday, new cabinet negotiator Ruud Lubbers called on the three parties to meet informally to look at the options. Earlier, the CDA refused to join because of the PVV's extreme stance on Islam.


'We have decided to fall in with negotiator Lubber's request,' Verhagen said after the meeting. 'But we will not budge from our principles. Freedom of religion is for everyone...' he said.

PVV leader Geert Wilders wants the introduction of a tax on Muslim headscarves, a ban on the Koran and ethnic registration. He currently faces charges of inciting religious and ethnic hatred.

The exploratory talks between the three leaders will take place without Lubbers, to emphasis the informality. No date and time as yet been set.


Verhagen and Liberal leader Mark Rutte had dinner together on Friday night.

If the three parties go on to form a new government, it would control just 76 of the 150 seats in parliament and have no majority in the upper house, or senate

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Religion Of Peace"

Submitted for your approval:

I discovered this little gem at Toni Saghbiny's blog here. The original is found here.

Who Is Behind The Ground Zero Mosque?

The following was written by Stephen Schwartz and published in the Weekly Standard. Here is a link to the original. In addition it can be found at the website of the Center for Islamic Pluralism. I also highly recommend Aseem Shukla's very thoughtful blog post in yesterday's Washington Post On Faith section (Shukla is a co-founder and board member of the Hindu American Foundation).

And be sure to check out another closely related article by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz from last week's Weekly Standard: Ground Zero Mosque Property Developer Comes Out.

A Mosque Grows Near Brooklyn
The dubious financing of ‘Cordoba House’ deserves scrutiny.
BY Stephen Schwartz
July 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42

Since a proposal to construct a 15-story mosque and community center two blocks from Ground Zero was announced last year, the project has been a focus of widening protests. To be named Cordoba House, the project would require demolition of two buildings at 45-47 Park Place and Broadway that were damaged on 9/11. They would be replaced by a glass and steel 100,000-square-foot structure with a new address, 45-51 Park Place.

According to its sponsors, the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society of Muslim Advancement (ASMA), the structure would cost $100 million and would include "a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores, restaurants," and an area for Islamic prayer. The Cordoba Initiative and ASMA were created by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Kuwait-born cleric of Egyptian background.

Every inch the professional moderate, Rauf has the imprimatur of the State Department, which sent him on an international bridge-building tour earlier this year. And he has cloaked the Cordoba effort in the rhetoric of reconciliation, describing himself and his colleagues as "the anti-terrorists." But he deflects inquiries about its financing. On July 7, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio called on state attorney general Andrew Cuomo, who is also Lazio's Democratic opponent in the coming election, to "conduct a thorough investigation" of three aspects of the project:

- Rauf's refusal to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization;

- Rauf's leading role in the Perdana Global Peace Organization, "a principal partner," in its own words, of the Turkish-launched flotilla that tried to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza;

- and the project's questionable sources of funding.

Lazio has been supported in this demand by New York Republican congressman Peter King.

Many who object to construction of an Islamic facility so close to the site of the World Trade Center feel that a large, if not dominating Muslim presence there would be at best insensitive and at worst a symbol of the very Islamist supremacy that is the goal of al Qaeda and other jihadist killers. Such sentiments are hardly the last word in a question of public policy. But the background support and financing for this ambitious undertaking are matters that deserve to be addressed.

Non-Muslim defenders of Rauf—including Cuomo and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg—have rejected demands for investigation of the ideological and financial underpinnings of the Ground Zero mosque. They have argued that such an inquiry would violate the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion. But faith should not serve as a pretext for extremist or potentially criminal activities.

Rauf's ASMA website lists mainstream philanthropic donors, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, three Rockefeller charities, the Danny Kaye & Sylvia Fine Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, three feminist-oriented groups, and six other funders. New York Muslims, however, are well aware that the Rauf scheme is also associated with financing and support from other doubtful individuals and entities in addition to Perdana, which is led by the notorious Jew-baiter Mahathir bin Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia.

The idea of building an Islamic peace memorial in lower Manhattan was circulating as early as 2003. Its early proponents were two Iranian brothers, M. Jafar "Amir" Mahallati, who served as ambassador of the Iranian Islamic Republic to the United Nations from 1987 to 1989, and M. Hossein Mahallati. Amir Mahallati had served with Rauf in the leadership of an obscure nonprofit, the Interfaith Center of New York, for which Rauf was a vice chair and Mahallati a board member. The two had also participated in a 2006 radio program, "From Turmoil to Tourism: Following the Path of Abraham."

Hossein Mahallati had experience of his own in the intersecting New York worlds of charitable giving and property management. He was director from 1983 to 1992 of the Alavi Foundation, set up in 1973 by the government of the shah of Iran as the Pahlavi Foundation, but taken over and renamed after the Khomeini revolution. The Alavi Foundation is currently the subject of a federal civil action seeking forfeiture of assets, including an office building at 650 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and four Shia mosques and schools in New York, California, Maryland, and Texas.

While U.S. sanctions on the Alavi Foundation, announced in 2009, received little notice, the government's charges are disturbing. They include control of Alavi by the Tehran dictatorship through its diplomats at the United Nations, and transfer of income from the office building at 650 Fifth Avenue to Bank Melli, the Iranian national financial institution. Bank Melli had been designated a "Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferator" by the U.S. Treasury Department. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey noted, "The international community has recognized the proliferation risks posed by Iran's Bank Melli." In late 2009, the Alavi Foundation's last head, Farshid Jahedi, pled guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice for destroying documents about the Alavi-Melli relationship that had been subpoenaed in the investigation, which continues. Jahedi was sentenced on April 29 to three months' imprisonment, six months' supervised release, and a $3,000 fine.

Hossein Mahallati was the subject of an unsuccessful federal inquiry in 1992 regarding an alleged conspiracy to export biological warfare materials to Iran. His predecessor as Alavi director, Manoucher Shafie, who managed the foundation's transition from serving the shah's government to that of Ayatollah Khomeini, was charged with conspiring to export prohibited U.S. technology to Iran. Neither was prosecuted.

Hossein Mahallati remains an enthusiastic supporter of Rauf's Ground Zero enterprise, especially since an Egyptian property developer, Sharif El-Gamal, who appears to be the real leader of the effort, using Rauf as his public face, put up $4.85 million in cash to purchase the location. El-Gamal is chief executive officer of Soho Properties, Inc., a commercial real estate investment firm he founded in 2003. His partner is Nour Mousa, another guiding figure in the Ground Zero mosque effort and the nephew of Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. Amr Moussa was the first major Arab leader to go to Gaza and affirm support for Hamas, in mid-June, after the recent blockade-running assault.

El-Gamal has kept a low profile in the dispute over the appearance of an Islamic institution near Ground Zero, although last week he appeared before a hearing of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to announce that Cordoba House will now be known as Park51. He and Rauf have both taken to downplaying the religious character of the proposal, preferring that the building be called a "community center."

So far, then, the Ground Zero Islamic facility rests on a support network linked to the anti-Jewish Mahathir and the Perdana-supported Gaza raiders, some notable servants of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, and an Egyptian property developer associated with the pro-Hamas chief of the Arab League.

But the questionable aspects of the Ground Zero Islamic project do not end there. Feisal Abdul Rauf's wife, Daisy Khan, executive director of ASMA, has been one of the most assiduous promoters of the lower Manhattan mega-mosque. She spoke on July 6 to the Chautauqua Institution, celebrating the double heritage she claims: "The first, the American faith-based social activism, a legacy that included the abolitionists, women's suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. Second, I have inherited the tradition of my faith, a faith that has inspired positive social change for over 1,400 years."

Rauf's wife failed to mention another feature of her background: She is the niece of Dr. Farooq Khan, formerly a leader of the Westbury Mosque on Long Island, which is a center for Islamic radicals and links on its website to the paramilitary Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the front on American soil for the Pakistani jihadist Jamaat e-Islami.

Lazio and King are right, and Cuomo and Bloomberg are wrong. Aside from the matter of sensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims and other Manhattanites who live near Ground Zero, if the friends and fans of Feisal Abdul Rauf believe his mosque plan is entirely above board, they should be the first to encourage full public disclosure of its backing and finances.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Geert Wilders Could Be In Next Dutch Gov't After All

One and a half months after Dutch Parliamentary elections on June 9, attempts to form an ABBW (Any Body But Wilders) coalition government have collapsed. In response, Queen Beatrix has appointed three-time former Prime Minister Rudd Lubbers (a Christian Democrat) "to oversee and co-ordinate talks to form a new government," according to a new report from the Amsterdam Bureau of Dow Jones Newswires.

According to a report by Jurjen van de Pol over at, Mark Rutte, head of the VVD party (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), has publicly stated his preference for a coalition that includes Geert Wilders and Wilders' PVV party (Party For Freedom). Rutte's VVD was the biggest vote getter in the June elections, with 31 seats in Parliament, while Wilders' PVV garnered 24 seats (third, coming in after Labor which now has 30 seats).

Immediately after the election, both Queen Beatrix and Mark Rutte had indicated a desire to see Wilders included in the next government, but that was torpedoed by the Christian Democrats who refused to even discuss the idea. Basically, the Christian Democrats were pissed off because Wilders' dramatic success, jumping from 9 seats to 24, was directly at the expense of the CD's who lost nearly half their seats.

That led to over a month of talks trying to form a "purple" coalition government that would have been headed up by Rutte's rightist VVD along with Labor, the Greens and the D66 party, the last being variously described as "center-left", "radical democratic", and "progressive liberal".)

The "purple" coalition effort appears to have died peacefully in its sleep earlier this week. At issue was -- surprise!! -- budget cutbacks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wayne Newton Weighs In!

This news just in from our "HOLY FUCKING SHIT" Department.

Noted Las Vegas personality Wayne Fucking Newton has publicly declared his unambiguous backing for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Anybody would be deaf, dumb, and blind" to not support Reid in the upcoming election, according to the entertainment icon. Newton, a Republican, also stated that Reid is a "personal friend."

Here is the man himself playing the hell out of a banjo and singing "Ma She's Makin' Eyes At Me" (seriously, watch the whole thing -- it just keeps getting better, and weirder):

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"The Occult Revival: Satan Returns"

While innocently searching the web looking for candles and candle holders with themes like "baphomet", "setian", etc, I happened upon what I at first assumed was a clever photoshopping job.

It looked, I thought, very much like a legit Time Magazine cover, with some sort of crudely "Satanic" looking drawing and the headline: "The Occult Revival." The subtitle did not disappoint either: "Satan Returns."

Turns out, it was no joke. At least not intentionally.

Inside the June 19, 1972 issue of Time, the cover story is given the title: "The Occult: A Substitute Faith." Subtle. Very subtle.

This bit of early 70's upscale yellow journalism proceeds to describe a friendly suburban get-together: an army officer, his wife, a computer programmer (they had computers back then?), a store clerk, a dog trainer and a university student (psychology major), meet up at a "comfortable split-level home, which stands amid the tidy landscaping of a housing development in Louisville", and after exchanging a few pleansantries, they "all troop downstairs to a vinyl floored recreation room."

It sounds innocent enough until we are told that "the hour is midnight", and that these good folks are now "gathered solemnly before a black draped altar." On the wall above the altar is, quite naturally, "a chartreuse goat-image superimposed on a purple pentagram." One can almost hear the Church Lady: "Well, isn't that special? And just who might we be worshipping tonight?? Hmmmmm???"

1972 was the same year that the low-low budget cult movie Blood Sabbath was released. It was also a full three years after the members of the Birmingham based heavy blues band Earth (lead vocalist: Ozzy Osbourne) decided to change their name to Black Sabbath (inspired by the 1963 Mario Bava/Boris Karloff movie of the same title that was playing across the street from their rehearsal studio). And it would still be another 14 years before Dana Carvey first introduced his "Church Lady" character to the world on Saturday Night Live.

It was also 320 years after the original publication of Thomas Brooks' little classic Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices:
To his most dear and precious ones, the sons and daughters of the Most High God, over whom the Holy Spirit has made him a Watchman.

Beloved in our dearest Lord,

Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan's devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter. It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver; which I have endeavored to do in the following discourse, according to that measure of grace which I have received from the Lord. God once accepted a handful of meal for a sacrifice (Lev. 2:2; 5:12), and a small quantity of goat's hair for an oblation; and I know that you have not so "learned the Father," as to despise "the day of small things" (Zech. 4:10).

Beloved, Satan being fallen from light to darkness, from felicity to misery, from heaven to hell, from an angel to a devil, is so full of malice and envy that he will leave no means unattempted, whereby he may make all others eternally miserable with himself; he being shut out of heaven, and shut up "under the chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6), makes use of all his power and skill to bring all the sons of men into the same condition and condemnation with himself. Satan has cast such sinful seed into our souls, that now he can no sooner tempt, but we are ready to assent; he can no sooner have a plot upon us, but he makes a conquest of us. If he does but show men a little of the beauty and finery of the world, how ready are they to fall down and worship him! Whatever sin the heart of man is most prone to, that the devil will help forward.

If David is proud of his people, Satan will provoke him to number them, that he may be yet prouder (2 Sam. 24). If Peter is slavishly fearful, Satan will put him upon rebuking and denying of Christ, to save his own skin (Matt. 16:22; 26:69-75). If Ahab's prophets are given to flatter, the devil will immediately become a lying spirit in the mouths of four hundred of them, and they shall flatter Ahab to his ruin (2 Kings 22). If Judas will be a traitor, Satan will quickly enter into his heart, and make him sell his master for money, which some heathen would never have done (John 13:2). If Ananias will lie for advantage, Satan will fill his heart that he may lie, with a witness, to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). Satan loves to sail with the wind, and to suit men's temptations to their conditions and inclinations. If they be in prosperity, he will tempt them to deny God (Proverbs 30:9); if they be in adversity, he will tempt them to distrust God; if their knowledge be weak, he will tempt them to have low thoughts of God; if their conscience be tender, he will tempt to scrupulosity; if large, to carnal security; if bold-spirited, he will tempt to presumption; if timorous, to desperation; if flexible, to inconstancy; if stiff, to impenitency.

From the power, malice and skill of Satan--proceeds all the soul-killing plots, devices, stratagems and machinations, which are in the world. Several devices he has to draw souls to sin, and several plots he has to keep souls from all holy and heavenly services, and several stratagems he has to keep souls in a mourning, staggering, doubting and questioning condition.

He has several devices to destroy the great and honorable, the wise and learned, the blind and ignorant, the rich and the poor, the real and the nominal Christians.
At one time, he will restrain from tempting, that we may think ourselves secure, and neglect our watch. At another time he will seem to flee, that he may make us proud of the victory. At one time he will fix men's eyes on others' sins than their own, that he may puff them up. At another time he may fix their eyes more on others' graces than their own, that he may discourage them. A man may as well count the stars, and number the sands of the sea, as reckon up all the Devices of Satan; yet those which are most considerable, and by which he does most mischief to the precious souls of men, are in the following treatise discovered, and the Remedies against them prescribed.

Beloved, I think it necessary to give you and the world a faithful account of the reasons moving me to appear in print, in these days, wherein we may say, there was never more writing and yet never less practicing, and they are these that follow:

Reason 1. Because Satan has a greater influence upon men, and higher advantages over them than they think he has--and the knowledge of his high advantage is the highway to disappoint him, and to render the soul strong in resisting, and happy in conquering.

Reason 2. Your importunity, and the importunity of many other "precious sons of Zion" (Lam. 4:2), has after much striving with God, my own heart, and others, made a conquest of me, and forced me to do that at last, which at first was not a little contrary to my inclination and resolution.
Reason 3. The strange opposition that I met with from Satan, in the study of this following discourse, has put an edge upon my spirit, knowing that Satan strives mightily to keep those things from seeing the light, that tend eminently to shake and break his kingdom of darkness, and to lift up the kingdom and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the souls and lives of the men.

Reason 4. Its exceeding usefulness to all sorts, ranks and conditions of men in the world. Here you have salve for every sore, and a plaster for every wound, and a remedy against every disease, especially against those that tend most to the undoing of souls, and the ruin of the State.

Reason 5. I know not of any one or other that have written of this subject; all that ever I have seen have only touched upon this theme, which has been no small provocation to me, to attempt to do something this way, that others, that have better heads and hearts, may be the more stirred to improve their talents in a further discovery of Satan's Devices, and in making known of such choice Remedies, as may enable the souls of men to triumph over all his plots and stratagems.

Reason 6. I have many precious friends in several countries, who are desirous that my pen may reach them, now that my voice cannot. I have formerly been, by the help of the mighty God of Jacob, a weak instrument of good to them, and cannot but hope and believe that the Lord will also bless these labors to them; they being, in part, the fruit of their desires and prayers.

Reason 7. Lastly, Not knowing how soon my hour-glass may be out, and how soon I may be cut off by a hand of death from all opportunities of doing further service for Christ or your souls in this world, I was willing to sow a little handful of spiritual seed among you; that so, when I put off this earthly tabernacle, my love to you, and that dear remembrance of you, which I have in my soul, may strongly engage your minds and spirits to make this book your companion, and under all external or internal changes, to make use of this heavenly salve, which I hope will, by the blessing of the Lord, be as effectual for the healing of all your wounds, as their looking up to the bronze serpent was effectual to heal theirs--who were bit and stung with fiery serpents. I shall leave this book with you as a legacy of my dearest love, desiring the Lord to make it a far greater and sweeter legacy than all those carnal legacies that are left by the high and mighty ones of the earth to their nearest and dearest relations.

Beloved, I would not have affection carry my pen too much beyond my intention. Therefore, only give me leave to signify my desires for you, and my desires to you, and I shall draw to a close,

My desires for you are, "that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:16-19) "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." (Col. 1:10-12) "That you do no evil." (2 Cor. 13:7); "That your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment." "That you may approve things that are excellent, that you may be sincere, and without offence until the day of Christ." (Phil. 1:27, 4:1) That "our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power." "That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. 1:11, 12) And that you may be eminent in sanctity, sanctity being Zion's glory (Psalm 93:5); that your hearts may be kept upright, your judgments sound, and your lives unblamable. That as you are now "my joy", so in the day of Christ you may be "my crown"; that I may see my labors in your lives; that your lives may not be earthly, when the things you hear are heavenly; but that it may be "as becomes the gospel" (Phil. 1:9, 10).

That as the fish which live in the salt sea yet are fresh, so you, though you live in an ungodly world, may yet be godly and loving; that you may, like the bee, suck honey out of every flower; that you may shine in a sea of troubles, as the pearl shines in the sky, though it grows in the sea; that in all your trials you may shine like the stone in Thracia, which neither burns in the fire nor sinks in the water; that you may be like the heavens, excellent in substance and beautiful in appearance; that so you may meet me with joy in that day wherein Christ shall say to his Father, "Lo, here am I, and the children that you have given me" (Is. 8:18).

My desires to you are--That you would make it your business to study Christ, his Word, your own hearts, Satan's plots, and eternity--more than ever. That you would endeavor more to be inwardly sincere than outwardly glorious; to live, than to have a mere name to live. That you would labor with all your might to be thankful under mercies, and faithful in your places, and humble under divine appearances, and fruitful under precious ordinances. That as your means and mercies are greater than others--so your account before God may not prove a worse than others. That you would pray for me, who am not worthy to be named among the saints, that I may be a precious instrument in the hand of Christ to bring in many souls unto him, and to build up those who are brought in, in their most holy faith; and "that utterance may be given to me, that I may make known all the will of God" (Eph. 6:19); that I may be sincere, faithful, frequent, fervent and constant in the work of the Lord, and that my labor be not in vain in the Lord; that my labors may be accepted in the Lord and his saints, and I may daily see the travail of my soul.

But, above all, pray for me--that I may more and more find the power and sweet of those things upon my own heart, that I give out to you and others; that my soul may be so visited with strength from on high, that I may live up fully and constantly to those truths that I hold forth to the world; and that I may be both in life and doctrine "a burning and a shining light," that so, when the Lord Jesus shall appear, "I may receive a crown of glory which he shall give to me in that day, and not only to me, but to all who love his appearing." (John 5:35 and 2 Tim. 1:8).

For a close, remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well- doing, and heaven shall make amends for all!

I shall now take leave of you, when my heart has by my hand subscribed, that I am, your loving pastor under Christ, according to all pastoral affections and engagements in our dearest Lord,

Thomas Brooks

[If you think some of the art work in this post is pretty crazy, check out where I found it!!]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Underground Paganism in the Renaissance. Literally. (The Heathen-Minded Humanists, Part Four)

[The Heathen-Minded Humanists: Part One provides the background of the struggle between Pope Paul II and the Roman Academy; Part Two describes the crisis of 1468; Part Three (which I haven't posted yet) presents the denouement, in which all charges are dropped and the Heathen Academy survives intact; Part Four (below) tells the tale of the surprising evidence discovered four centuries later of the literally underground Paganism that existed in Rome in the 15th century; Part Five looks at the other Roman Academy and its head, Cardinal Bessarion.]

The main focus of this post is on two excerpts from works by Rodolfo Lanciani, in which Lanciani discusses the discovery, starting in 1852, by Giovanni Battista de Rossi, of a number of inscriptions attributed to Pomponius Laetus (aka Pomponio Leto) and other members of the 15th century Roman Academy.

Lanciani was in no doubt as to the significance of these inscriptions:
"One line, one word alone, of the records which have been discovered by us four centuries later, made known in proper time to the court of Castle S. Angelo, would have brought their heads under the sword of the public executioner."
But first I will provide a little background information on De Rossi and Lanciani.

The following is from the entry for Giovanni Battista de Rossi from the online Catholic Encyclopedia:
A distinguished Christian archaeologist, best known for his work in connection with the Roman catacombs, born at Rome, 23 February, 1822; died at Castel Gandolfo on Lake Albano, 20 September, 1894. De Rossi, the modern founder of the science of Christian archaeology, was well-skilled in secular archaeology, a master of epigraphy, an authority on the ancient and medieval topography of Rome, an excellent historian, and a very productive and many-sided author. In addition to his professional acquaintance with archaeology De Rossi had a thorough knowledge of law, philology, and theology. He was the son of Commendatore Camillo Luigi De Rossi and Marianna Marchesa Bruti, his wife, who had two sons, Giovanni and Michele Stefano. Two days after birth Giovanni was baptized in the parish church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and, according to Roman custom was confirmed while still very young, by Cardinal Franzoni, Prefect of the Propaganda. Up to 1838 De Rossi attended the preparatory department of the well-known Jesuit institution, the Collegio Romano, and through his entire course ranked as its foremost pupil. From 1838 to 1840 he studied philosophy there, and jurisprudence (1840-44) at the Roman University (Sapienza), where he was a disciple of the celebrated professors Villani and Capalti. At the close of his university studies he received, after a severe examination, the degree of doctor utriusque juris ad honorem.
And this is from Rodolfo Lanciani's entry in the online Dictionary of Art Historians (Lee Sorensen, ed.
Date born: 1847
Place Born: Montecelio, Rome vicinity, Italy
Date died: 1929
Place died: Rome, Italy
Lanciani was a pioneer of a rational, modern approach to Roman cartography and archaeology. He formed part of a core of distinguished late nineteenth-century scholars of the Roman forum who included Thomas Ashby (q.v.), Heinrich Jordan (1833-1886), Christian Huelsen (q.v.), and Samuel B. Platner (1863-1921). In 1967, Richard Brilliant (q.v.) described Lanciani's Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome as undiminished in vitality as a study of ancient Roman ruins. His Forma Urbis Romae was "a magnificent map of the city and a marvellous example of cartography as well as an encyclopaedia of typographical information. It is still an essential tool for anyone working on the ancient city" (Richardson). City maps of the twenty-first century typically have a scale of 1:20,000 (five cm on the map equivalent to one km on the ground). The forty-six maps of the Forma Urbis have a scale of 1:1,000. The work is still unsurpassed to this day. Many of his English-language books on Rome were subsequently translated into Italian.
Excerpt One: from Rodolfo Lanciani's Ancient Rome, Chapter One, pp. 8-12 (first published in 1890):
We must now pass to the time of the return of the popes from Avignon to Rome, which marks the beginning of the Renaissance, — the beginning, that is, of the most glorious period in the history of my own nation. At this period, mediaeval Italy had disappeared. A new element, the genius of the ancient world, had risen in its glory, and had fascinated the higher classes of society, the heads of the various states into which the Peninsula was politically divided, the aristocracy, the fashionable and literary circles, and, in a more modest measure, the members of the clergy and of monastic orders. That mighty genius took possession at once of the field of art and science, modified the manners and the education of the higher classes, and even shook, for the time being, the very foundations of the Christian faith. At the head of the movement marched a handful of scientific men, philologists rather than archaeologists, better known under the name of the Humanists. They became professors in the universities, they won confidential positions in princely houses as private secretaries, they attached themselves especially to the princes of the Church. Their engagements lasted only for a short period, sometimes for six months only: thus they were able to move without intermission from town to town, from court to court, from college to college, multiplying, as it were, from one end to the other of the Peninsula, and sowing everywhere the seed which was to bring forth such magnificent harvests.

The study of the Greek language and literature was the most fashionable of all studies: hence the fifteenth century has been called the Golden Age of Hellenism. The beginning of the following century saw the first decline of this pursuit; under the Popes of the Medici family, Greek had already left public life, to confine itself again within the precincts of cloisters and schools, which became, and are now, I regret to say, its last insecure shelter. In order to obtain able masters from the East, especially from Byzantine schools, fabulous prices were offered and paid to those professors who were willing to change their country; but the capture of Constantinople, May 29, 1453, very soon dried up this rich source. These circumstances enable us to understand why, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, men of letters and women of the upper classes could easily converse in Greek; whereas, fifty years later, the same language was no longer spoken, but only read, and was totally forgotten at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

It is difficult to form an idea of such a powerful movement towards classical studies; more difficult to investigate its causes. We can explain something by a reference to Fashion, that despotic and capricious goddess; but this will not explain all. Captivated by hitherto unknown fascinations, eager to tear aside the veil which concealed its mysteries, the Humanists deified and idolized archaeology, and congregated around its temple to partake of the treasures of science which had been kept there in safe concealment since the fall of the Roman Commonwealth, more than nine centuries before. Many conceived the hope or labored under the illusion that pagan science would heal the wounds of society; some followed the movement out of pure love of fascinating enquiries, others from curiosity; the profanum vulgus felt the contagion of example and fashion; the higher classes hoped to find in ancient philosophy the consolations which, to their own misfortune, they had ceased to expect from faith.

Paganism not only penetrated the domain of science, but conquered also the field of fine arts, although this last was exclusively and absolutely consecrated to the service of the Church. The evidence of this fact is to be found everywhere in Italy, in churches as well as in public edifices of Rome, Florence, and Venice. Those genii who surround the Blessed Virgin, holding on high the torch of life; those winged classic youths who are meant to represent angels; those nymphs whose part it is to represent the holy women of Christendom, and whose immodest forms were not considered out of place in a church, — are all nothing but a revival of paganism and of pagan art. Every one knows that Daniele da Volterra was surnamed "il Braghettone," or breeches-maker, because he contrived to cover the most crude nudities of Michael Angelo's "Last Judgment," and that the reclining statue of Giulia Farnese, near S. Peter's chair in the Vatican, the masterpiece of Guglielmo della Porta, was clothed by Bernini with clothes of painted lead. Giorgio Vasari asserts that Perugino could never be induced to believe in the immortality of the soul, although he had devoted all his life to painting saints and madonnas.

I must quote here an incident from the life of the greatest Humanist of the fifteenth century, Pomponius Laetus, because, owing to a recent discovery made in the catacombs of S. Calixtus, on the Appian Way, we are able to solve for the first time a mystery connected with the pagan tendencies of the Renaissance. Pomponio Leto founded in Rome an academy for classic studies, to which the most celebrated literary men of the period belonged: Cardinal Platina, the historian of the Church; Giovanni Antonio Campano, Bishop of Teramo, Pietro Sabino, professor of epigraphy in the University of Rome; Marco Antonio Sabellico, Pietro Pallini, and many others.b All these illustrious members of the Roman Academy, either because they had exchanged their Christian names for names of pagan heroes, or else on account of their extravagant worship of ancient philosophy and civilization, were stigmatized by so‑called public opinion as apostates from the faith, as worshippers of false gods, as conspirators against the authority and the life of the Pope. Imprisoned and chained in the Castle of S. Angelo by order of Paul II, a religious and political action was brought against them upon the charge of conspiracy to secure the supreme pontificate of Rome for their master and president, Pomponio Leto. Cardinal Platina vindicated the innocence of his colleagues, and Pomponio himself addressed to the court of Castle S. Angelo a vigorous speech, the original of which is preserved in the Vatican archives. The lack of positive evidence and the intervention of influential friends caused them to be set free; so that the Academy was able to return to its work, amidst the applause and with the help of cardinals and prelates of the Roman Church.

It is, no doubt, exceedingly remarkable that the evidence against these men, sought in vain by Paul II and his judges, should have come to light only a few years ago, and in a place entirely unsuspected. In the course of the excavations carried on by my illustrious master, Commendatore G. B. de Rossi, in the catacombs of Callixtus, a cubiculum, or crypt, was discovered, May 12, 1852, in the remotest part of that subterranean labyrinth which had been used by Pomponio's brotherhood as a secret place of meeting. On the white plaster of the ceiling the following inscription had been written with the smoke of a tallow candle: "January 16, 1475. Pantagathus, Mammeius, Papyrius, Minicinus, Æmilius, Minucius, all of them admirers and investigators of antiquities, and the delight of the Roman dissolute women, [have met here] under the reign of Pomponius, supreme pontiff [pontifex maximus]." Many other records of the same nature have been since discovered in the catacombs of SS. Pietro e Marcellino and of Praetextatus, in which records Pantagathus (Cardinal Platina?) is styled sacerdos academiae Romanae, and Pomponius again sovereign pontiff.

It is evident that such a priesthood and such a pontificate have nothing to do with the Christian hierarchy; on the other hand, it is difficult to determine whether we have to deal with a more or less absurd pedantry, or with a solemn apostasy from the Christian faith by a handful of dissolute conspirators. One thing only is certain: that Pomponio and his colleagues were very wise in confiding their secret to the deepest and most impenetrable recesses of the Roman catacombs. One line, one word alone, of the records which have been discovered by us four centuries later, made known in proper time to the court of Castle S. Angelo, would have brought their heads under the sword of the public executioner.
Excerpt Two: from Rodolfo Lanciani's Pagan and Christian Rome, Chapter Seven, pp. 358-361 (first published in 1896):
The catacombs of SS. Peter and Marcellinus have another attraction for students. Poor as they are in epitaphs and works of art, they contain hundreds of names of celebrated humanists, archaeologists, and artists who explored these depths in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and made record of their visits. When one walks between two lines of graves, in the almost oppressive stillness of the cemetery, with no other company than one's thoughts, the names of Pomponius Letus and his academicians, of Bosio, Panvinio, Avanzini, Severano, Marangoni, Marchi, and d'Agincourt, written in bold letters, give the lonely wanderer the impression of meeting living and dear friends; and one wonders at the great love which these pioneers of "humanism" must have had for antiquities, to have spent days and days, and to have held their conferences and banquets, in places like these.

In chapter I, page 10, of "Ancient Rome," [see immediately preceding excerpt] I mentioned Pomponio's Academy, and its visits to the crypts of Callixtus. Since the publication of my book, and the subject has been investigated again and illustrated by Giacomo Lombroso and de Rossi. It appears that after the trial which the Academicians underwent at the time of Paul II., and their unexpected liberation from the Castle of S. Angelo, they decided to turn over a new leaf. From a fraternity which was pagan in manners and instincts, which had made itself conspicuous by the use of profane language, and by the celebration of profane meetings over the tombs of the martyrs, they became the "Societas litteratorum S. Victoris et sociorum in Esquiliis," a literary society under the patronage of S. Victor and his companion saints, namely, Fortunatus and Genesius. Their pontifex maximus became a president; their sacerdos a priest, whose duty it was to say mass on certain anniversaries. The most important celebration fell, as before, on April 21, the birthday of Rome. We have a description by an eye-witness, Jacopo Volaterrano, of that which took place in 1483: "On the Esquiline, near the house of Pomponius, the society of literary men has celebrated the birthday of Rome. Divine service was performed by Peter Demetrius of Lucca; Paul Marsus delivered the oration. The dinner was served in the hall adjoining the chapel of S. Salvatore de Cornutis," etc. In 1501, after the death of Pomponius, the anniversary meetings were held on the Capitol; the solemn mass was sung in the church of the Aracoeli, while the banquet took place in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The convivial feast of 1501 was not a success. Burckhardt describes it as satis feriale et sine bono vino (commonplace and with no good wine).

Was the conversion of the Academicians a sincere one? We believe it was not; they manifested under Sixtus V. the same feelings which had brought them to justice under Paul II.

In the calendars of the Church of Rome only one name is registered on April 21, that of Pope Victor. His alleged companions, Fortunatus and Genesius, were singled out of old, disused calendars of the church of Africa, unknown to the Latins. Why did the academicians select such enigmatic and obscure protectors? The reason is evident. Genesius was chosen because his name suggested an allusion to the genesis (natalis) or birthday of Rome; Victor and Fortunatus, likewise, were considered names of good omen, with a suggestion of the Victory and Fortune who presided over the destinies of ancient Rome.

Under the protection of these alleged saints, Pomponius and his friends worshipped, and celebrated the birthday of Rome, and the goddesses connected with the city.

This state of things did not wholly escape the attention of contemporary observers. One of them, Raffaele Volaterrano, expressly says: "Pomponius Laetus worshipped Romulus and kept the birthday of Rome; the beginning of a campaign against religion (initium abolendae fidei)."

The Roman academy found the means of keeping faithful to its traditions, and to the spirit of its institutions, in spite of the reform of its statutes. Victor, Fortunatus, Genesius, in whose honor divine service was performed on April 20, did not represent to the initiated the saints of the Church, but the fortunes of ancient Rome, its founder, the Paliliae. Still, we are not yet able to discover whether all this was done simply out of love and admiration for the ancient world, under the influence of the Renaissance of classical studies; or from hatred and contempt of the Christian faith: initium abolendae fidei.

Geert Wilders' popularity in the Netherlands increases dramatically

A new poll conducted in the Netherlands by Maurice de Hond has found that if another election were held today, Geert Wilders' Party For Freedom (PVV) would be, by far, the largest vote getter. In fact, the PVV would receive 35 seats in the Dutch Parliament, four more than the 31 currently held by the Netherland's largest party, the VVD (Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy) led by Mark Rutte (which would be reduced to 23 seats!), and an increase of nearly 50% over the 24 seats garnered by Wilders' PVV in the elections held on June 9.

Meanwhile the right-wing VVD is still trying to form a new coalition government with Labor, the Greens, and the "D66" party (variously described as center-left, radical democratic, and progressive liberal). Both Labor and the Christian Democrats have publicly ruled out any coalition that involves Wilders, while the VVD is open to such a coalition, but would need other partners to form a majority.

Lastly, a new video has been posted here, showing Wilders' announcement of his plans for an "International Freedom Alliance" that will initially include the US, the UK, Germany, France and Canada. Wilders mostly speaks in Dutch, but there are subtitles.

"Children Accused of Witchraft": New UNICEF Report on Africa's "Witch Children"

UNICEF has released a new 59 page report titled: Children Accused of Witchcraft An anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa (click that link to download the pdf of the full report). The report is dated "April, 2010", but has only recently been widely publicized first in the African press, and now in the western media.

One of the main themes of the report is that widespread violence against children accused of witchcraft is a very recent phenomenon in Africa, and it is not related to African Traditional Religion, but rather is associated with the spread of Christianity and Pentecostalism in particular.

Unfortunately, the idea that traditional "African superstitions" are behind this phenomenon has been widely disseminated in the West, even by people who are supposedly committed to helping the thousands of victims of these accusations, who often suffer horrific abuse and death.

One man in particular, Gary Foxcroft, has made a career for himself out of sensationalizing this tragedy in the name of raising money for his Stepping Stones Foundation (which Foxcroft runs from his hometown of Lancaster in the UK). Foxcroft and his "charity" have consistently stated that the root of the problem lies in traditional African beliefs. According to Foxcroft, the solution is for Africans to become better Christians, because then they would stop being so ignorant and superstitious.

Below are two excerpts from the full UNICEF report. [Also check out other relevant posts from this blog collected here: The Christian Roots of the "Witch Children" Phenomenon in Africa.]
Excerpt 1. Predominance of Christianity [section 2.2. in the report]

Churches, especially those belonging to the Pentecostal and prophetic movement (charismatic, revivalist, etc.), play an important role in the diffusion and legitimization of fears related to witchcraft, and in particular, child witches. The pastor‐prophet is an important figure in the process of accusing children of witchcraft, by effectively validating the presence of a “witchcraft spirit”. Pentecostalists, for example, present their faith as a form of divine armour against witchcraft, and they participate actively in the fight against Evil that is incarnated through witchcraft.
Despite a lack of precise and detailed information, it would appear that this phenomenon is far less significant in Islamic countries. It is important to understand why reactions to witchcraft in countries of Islamic belief differ from those in Christianized countries. Certain writers believe the difference stems from the ability to translate their religious message. The translation of the Bible into the local language was a priority for early ministers and priests: “The Word of God: open to everyone” (Fancello, 2006:113). For example, in Burkina Faso, the policy of indigenization resulted in missionaries from the Assemblies of God learning the Möré language and investing in translating biblical text (ibid.). In contrast with Christian practice, Islam considers Arabic to be a sacred language and has rejected any attempt at translating religious texts into local languages. “Whoever wants to praise God,” comment Christine Henry and Emmanuelle Kadya Tall, “must do it in Arabic, and submit to learning verses at a Koranic school” (2008: 19). In contrast, by putting sacred texts within everyone’s reach, Christianity has facilitated the successful localization of its message and led to the creation of authentic African movements and churches.

Another possible reason is the difference in the perception of Evil in each of the religions. Witchcraft is able to integrate itself so well within Christian discourse because it has been personified and associated with the Devil or Satan. Do witches benefit from the same support from Satan or the Devil in Islamic discourse? While it should be acknowledged that in Islam there is reference to a satanic force, it is not attributed to a single figure who personifies Evil. Instead, Islam discusses “satans”, in the plural. The satans are generally incarnated as jinns and shayâtîn. The latter spirits are generally considered to be responsible for illness and madness that is attributed to satanic possession. However, it is clear that, although there is a difference in the perception of Evil, Islam does present itself as an antidote to witchcraft, by developing talismans or other counter‐measures to warn of or thwart witchcraft spells or attacks.

Despite the translation of the Christian message and the perception of witchcraft as the Devil’s work, the question remains as to why children are accused more frequently in Christian circles. And why are these accusations less common in Islam? There is not enough detailed data to answer these questions. However, it would appear that the response lies within the doctrines and representations that each religion has with regard to children and their place in the religious system. Generally speaking, the Koran does not address underage children, but rather older children with an understanding of responsibility, or the adults responsible for them. The power of the child thus appears to be reduced. Consequently, a child would not be capable of assuming the role of a witch. In contrast, in Christian belief, there has been a transformation in the perception of children’s power: previously children were considered too weak to practice witchcraft, as in current Islamic belief. Now, however, their “power” seems to be gaining in strength.

Excerpt 2. The Deliverance of Child Witches [section 4.1 in the full report]

Revivalist churches [subsection 4.1.1]

Since the end of the 1980s, there has been a rise of various religious movements in sub‐Saharan Africa. The most visible groups originate in the large “universal religions”: protestant movements (evangelical, apostolic, Pentecostal, Baptist or Methodist) and the charismatic renewal in Catholicism. In sub‐Saharan cities, the public space is filled with these churches. It is of course necessary to distinguish, state André Mary and André Corten, the “historical” Pentecostal churches (Assemblies of God or Pentecostal Churches), some of whom have been present for over a hundred years, and those churches belonging to the “Pentecostal movement”, such as revivalist, spiritualist or African prophetic churches (2000: 12).

Pentecostalism is a religious movement in which followers claim personal experience of a supernatural force, the Holy Spirit. Generally speaking, Pentecostalists believe that everyone can be saved by faith in Jesus. The force of the Holy Spirit within those who have been truly saved is the most obvious characteristic that distinguishes Pentecostalism from other forms of evangelical Christianity. During services, the Holy Spirit is called upon to descend on the faithful and is a necessary presence in ceremonies.

Followers attend services several times a week that can last many hours and take place in a highly charged atmosphere of singing, prayers, trances, sermons, revelations – testifying and confessions – healing rituals through laying on of hands, miracles and offerings. The “high” points are undoubtedly the public or private deliverance sessions, divine healing and testifying typically related to the forces of evil. Followers’ whole lives centre on their church, which integrates them in a new kind of community, the Pentecostal family. They call each other brothers and sisters. The main message of these churches focuses on their ability to use the presence of the Holy Spirit to fight against the satanic world that is incarnated by witches, evil spirits and ancestral spirits. Pentecostalism takes all these imaginary African characters seriously and gives them a new status through assimilation with Satan. These are of course highly syncretistic churches that have successfully integrated African beliefs into their discourse, as well as certain behaviour, such as trances and possession. According to André Mary and André Corten, Pentecostal discourse gains “its strength and ability to mobilize the two imaginary worlds of public space and invisible forces by intertwining them and inventing a new syntax” (ibid.: 17). By manipulating the forces of good to combat the forces of evil, Pentecostalism operates essentially in the universe of demonization.

Deliverance and the “spiritual war” [subsection 4.1.2]

Most Pentecostal churches (revivalist and charismatic) are centred around a pastor or prophet who claims to have been chosen by God through divine revelation. In their main objective to fight an omnipresent evil (witchcraft is an evil force that is still omnipresent), the pastor‐prophets offer their followers not only a better life – financial prosperity – but above all divine healing and deliverance (from where the commonly named, “healing churches”).
Maman Joséphine L. was born in 1954 and began working in 1974 in response to a miraculous divine calling. In 1997, she began to help children overcome bad spirits through deliverance. In her opinion, it is God who has given her this gift. The bewitching of children is shown to her by a spirit and through prayer. (Aguilar Molina, 2005: 27)
The phenomenon of deliverance is, according to Sandra Fancello, “at the heart of the explosion of Pentecostalism in Africa since the beginning of the 1990s” (2006: 147). The practice of deliverance is at essence based on a dualistic vision of the world between the forces of evil and divine power. It is closely linked with divine healing through the fight against genies and evil spirits that haunt African populations by inflicting physical and psychological harm. The personalization of the image of the demon, notably in the figure of the witch, enables churches to declare a “war against Satan” (Meyer, 1995).

Through increased reliance on therapeutic aspects – the miraculous healing – these churches’ discourse focuses on the healing and salvation of the soul, through “exorcisms” that are often accompanied by singing or performance that reduce anxiety. Many confessions by members involve visions or being possessed by evil spirits. While exorcism and promises of divine or miraculous healing apply to the individual – within the family – “deliverance” often contains a collective dimension, that of spiritual war and liberation from evil forces.

This healing by the Holy Spirit is interpreted as being miraculous, and forms part of the validation or certification procedure of the prophet, who is supposed to be capable of healing all kinds of illnesses. These include diabolic, satanic illnesses that modern medicine (that is, “the white man’s”) cannot cure, such as AIDS, cancer and diabetes. Accounts by people who have been “cured” of AIDS can be heard every day on the radio or television. They give hope to all those who have not yet received this deliverance from God. According to Fancello, “miraculous healing is at the centre of conversion strategies of Pentecostal churches” (2006: 148), but is equally valid for other revivalist churches.

The role of pastor‐prophets and “spiritual” treatment [subsection 4.1.3]

The role of pastor‐prophets in these churches seems to be of major importance in the “anti‐witch hunt”, not only through the possibility of bringing deliverance to people possessed, but also through their ability to identify witches. In several African cities, these pastor‐prophets play an essential role in witchcraft accusations against children. Although they are not always at the origin of the accusation – the person is already suspected by the family or members of the community – they confirm and legitimize the accusation. Numerous articles in the press, videos on the Internet64 and anthropological studies indicate that in Angola,65 CAR, DRC66 and Nigeria,67 as elsewhere in sub‐ Saharan Africa, these pastors detect witches through visions and dreams.

Maman Putu, from the Eben Ezer centre in Kinshasa, calls herself a prophet and explains her gifts in the following terms:
When a child first comes here, I first check the condition of his soul. I’m not only a prophet but also a clairvoyant. I start by praying with the child and then I ask him some questions about his dreams and his food situation. I use references and I can very quickly tell if a child is bewitched or not. (D’Haeyer, 2004: 37)
The “spiritual” treatment can only begin once the child has confessed. The confession is often obtained under duress or violence, as one accused of witchcraft, Bruno, explains:
For three days we were not allowed to eat or drink. On the fourth day, the prophet put our hands above a candle to make us confess. So I admitted the accusations and the harsh treatment stopped. Those who didn’t confess were threatened with whipping. (Interview by Human Rights Watch with Bruno, Kinshasa, 30 September 2005)
In exchange for money, the pastors then propose the “soul cure”, which consists of divine healing and the deliverance of the child. In the language of the Pentecostal churches, a child that is possessed by the evil spirits of “witchcraft” must be delivered “from the forces of darkness”. Deliverance ceremonies can last several days, and generally begin with the laying on of hands and prayers; they regularly transform into extremely violent “exorcisms”. According to de Boeck, “the space of the healing church enables the relocation and reformulation of the physical and psychological violence, sometimes extreme, that the accused child undergoes within the family group. In fact, the child is extracted from the threatening family situation in which his place has become very problematic, to be entrusted to a pastor. There, the treatment is often equally severe, beginning with a period of reclusion or quarantine, which may be individual or collective with other child witches.” (2000: 41)

The “spiritual” treatments described in studies carried out in Angola68 and DRC69 also exhibit a violent nature. The “healing” of children accused of witchcraft varies from one church to the next, and from one region to the next. Children are sometimes isolated in the churches for a period ranging from a few days to several months. During this time, they are forced to fast, deprived of food and water for such long periods that some children die.

The treatment can also consist of swallowing potions, administering perfume, spiced sauces, as well as injecting petrol in the eyes or ears. They are also often beaten.70 The surveys carried out by Ballet, Dumbi and Lallou in Kinshasa offer further evidence of the extreme violence inflicted on certain children. Glodie Mbete, aged eleven, recounts her “deliverance”:
The healing ceremonies took place in the revivalist churches. One pastor burned my body with candles. A prophet mama covered my body with a red cloth. In yet another church, they poured the sap from a tree into my eyes. It stung terribly. The healer said that the witchcraft had gone. My eyes hurt so badly. (Ballet, Dumbi and Lallou, 2007: 15)
In this way, the children are not only stigmatized because they are accused of witchcraft, they are also abused and tortured within the churches. The churches claim to eliminate the evil definitively from the child’s body. However, if the child survives this “spiritual” treatment, he will be stigmatized as being a witch and rejected by his family. The phenomenon of the child witches illustrates, as Facello rightly notes, “the paradox of churches that are themselves caught in the trap of witchcraft accusations while claiming to fight against witches. Between witch and counter‐witch, there is a constant switching of places (2008: 78). Another result is that parents sometimes doubt that their child has been healed after deliverance ceremonies in churches. It is not uncommon that after being initially convinced, after experiencing a single new misfortune, the child is once again accused.

Miracle Merchants [subsection 4.1.4]

All the “spiritual” treatments offered by pastors and prophets belonging to Pentecostal, revivalist and other churches require some form of payment. To my knowledge, no church offers these services for free. While the fee may vary from one church to the next, it is generally higher than most people can afford. For example, one Congolese family, for whom the pastor had detected five cases of witchcraft, had to pay the equivalent of €24 plus a piece of sheet metal for each child. Another family had to pay the equivalent of €27 per child, and so on. (Aguilar Molina, 2005: 29). One young believer explained it thus:
The hard‐earned money of the women selling vegetables in the market goes towards building the pastor’s villas or the upkeep of one or other of his mistresses. (D’Haeyer, 2004: 45)
The earnings from a deliverance ceremony, and also during a regular service when the collection plate goes around, are not insignificant. Consequently, a number of pastor‐prophets, including women, have found their calling in the anti‐witch hunt, as is the case with Prophet Helen Ukpabio in Nigeria. She founded the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, whose primary goal has become the detection and deliverance of child witches. For these pastor‐prophets, “detecting” child witches brings not only money, but also a certain social status and popularity that draws new members and “clients”, and leads to yet more income. Accusations against children therefore form part of this vicious circle of the prophets’ “business” and their status.

According to Marshal‐Fratani (2001), these days, pastor‐prophets are the new models of social success and power. They are associated with wealth, social status, connections with transnational networks and contacts among the political elite. Their conspicuous wealth – clothes, luxury cars, mobile phones and computers, villas, jewellery, etc. – escapes no one. They own television channels and radio stations, and they do not hesitate to advertise themselves, as the following billboard shows:

All this promotion is part of the goal to increase the number of members, who represent their “wealth in numbers”. Without ignoring their social function, while fighting evil, revivalist churches keep their members afraid of their neighbours and promote fatalism rather than action. Furthermore, although pastor‐prophets represent the fighters in the struggle against the forces of evil, they cannot escape from the suspicion that they are in fact collaborating with these forces. “Through healing gestures and other “miracles” that are supposed to replace the “charlatan witch”, these pastors appear to be endowed with the same extraordinary magical powers, and are therefore witches.” (Marshal Fratani, 2001: 43). This brings them, symbolically at least, closer to their direct “competition”, traditional healers.