Is President Trump Bluffing Again? Or, Does He Actually Know Something?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

If Trump has a Strategy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace, it’s Remaining a Secret

If President Trump has a real strategy to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it’s such a tightly held secret that even the parties involved don’t seem to know what it is. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House this week, that mystery will be on full display.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said last week. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”

Setting aside the patent absurdity of that statement, what’s clear is that the White House is willing to devote time and attention to new Middle East negotiations and the president wants to be personally involved.

The problem is there’s a glaring gap between Trump’s high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy. As the Abbas visit approaches, there’s no clarity in sight.

Last week, a high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat traveled to Washington to prepare for the visit. The group met with Trump’s envoy on Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, as well as with White House and State Department officials.

Both sides are keeping expectations for the Trump-Abbas meeting low. Palestinian officials tell me the Trump team doesn’t seem to know exactly what Trump wants to discuss or propose. White House staff declined to say anything at all about their goals for the meeting. Some experts think that’s because there’s no depth to Trump’s approach.

“How you deal with Abbas is directly related to a broader strategy, which unless they haven’t announced it, they simply don’t have,” said former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. “It’s hard to see that this is going to turn out to be much more than a stage visit.”

In truth, there really isn’t much Trump and Abbas can agree to. There’s little hope that Abbas will give Trump what the US side wants, namely a promise to address the issue of incitement in the Palestinian territories or a pledge to curb the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s policy of paying families of terrorists who have attacked Israelis and Americans.

Likewise, there’s no prospect that Trump will deliver what Abbas wants — a commitment to press the Israelis into a freeze of settlement-building that would meet Palestinian standards. The United States has secured an informal agreement with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to place some limits on building new settlements, a version of the “build up, not out” framework from the George W. Bush administration. But that falls short of what Abbas says is needed before negotiations can begin.

The meeting could be significant by itself, if Trump and Abbas can establish a personal rapport to build on in the future. But therein also lies a risk.

“The president has never met Abbas and that makes it an important meeting,” said former White House and State Department official Elliott Abrams. “But if he forms the opinion that Abbas is not strong enough to do a deal and then implement it, that will have a real impact on American policy.”

Sure to be present at the meeting is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is overseeing Greenblatt’s work. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, will reportedly join Donald Trump for a trip to Israel in late May.

Administration officials sometimes talk about an “outside-in” approach whereby a framework for peace negotiations would be arranged with Arab states and then folded into the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Details of that plan are hazy, and the Trump team has yet to explain how it plans to incentivize Arab states to buy in.

Martin Indyk, who served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy on this issue, said Trump’s approach of trying to find avenues to pursue is positive but cannot overcome the inability of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the political compromises necessary for real progress.

“Based on experience, there’s one principle that I operate on. By American willpower alone, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved,” he said.

There are things the Trump team can do constructively, including bolstering Abbas by promoting economic development in the West Bank, Indyk said. Making small progress on the margins could improve the chances for peace down the line.

But by going for headlines, not trend lines, Trump is raising expectations and putting his administration’s already-thin credibility at risk. There can be dangerous consequences in the Middle East when high-stakes diplomacy fails. The new administration would be better off recognizing that peace is not in the offing.

The Washington Post

This Is A Re-blog Of A Very Serious Article; Everyone Needs To Understand Their Reality, Both Sides

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Final Chapter of Dialogue with Iran

While Iran is fighting Saudi Arabia and Gulf states through its militias in Yemen and directly in Bahrain, and combats for its interests in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, reconciliation and peacemaking attempts continued between Iran and the Gulf States, prominently Saudi Arabia.

Occasionally, calls for negotiations would come from former US President Barack Obama, or through European foreign ministers, and sometimes – shockingly – through Gulf countries’ efforts.

Each party credits itself for strengthening their positions even if it came on the expenses of Arab and Gulf states, though these calls would benefit Iran.

Everyone knows that Iran can’t go on with a reasonable dialogue while executing its expansion and interference in internal affairs policy.

Yet, it seems that the final chapter of these callings is irreversibly over after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman explained his country’s position saying it is impossible to reach mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran: “There is no common ground between us and the Iranian regime.”

So, it is rather impossible to hold negotiations with Iran which Prince Mohammed said was busy with its “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world.”

The more important and clearer message here is that the battle will be in Iran and not Saudi Arabia.

Why the final chapter?

Precisely because Gulf efforts should be exerted to stop Iran’s expansions rather than being occupied with mediations that are only exhausting and offer the Iranian regime with an opportunity to catch its breath and promote its revolution before western state, and not country, as a peace agent.

It is about time things are set straight and positions are made based on facts, reality and the consequences the area will face because of Iran’s sabotage project. It is no longer useful for the collective Gulf official statements to follow a hostile policy towards Iranian extremism, and then it all changes once the meetings are over.

Iran’s position towards Arab interests became unprecedentedly hostile that it exceeds its eight years’ war on Iraq during the eighties of the last century. Tehran’s main goal is to reach Muslims’ Qiblah, as the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince said in his televised interview.

After all the one-way hostility that spreads from the east to the west of the Gulf, is it right to accept the requests for dialogue and mediation which occupy the region rather than focusing on the real battle?

Surely it is understandable for every country to run its policies based on its own interests. It is also clear that no state can force its own statements on another that doesn’t share the same ideas. But, it is important that the old tools of diplomatic exploitation be stopped, like this endless boring tale of dialogue. It is also crucial to end Iranian regime’s penetration of the Gulf system in a way that helps Tehran proceed with its extreme strategies.

It is about time policies match the reality of the stances given that Iran is literally waging wars on its neighbors via sending weapons and training militias.

Those who believe that their interest doesn’t include collectively fighting the Iranian regime should at least let someone else do this mission in a way that doesn’t complicate the decisive confrontation and thus lessen its strategic success once in a while.

No one wants to go into war with Iran or any other for that matter. Stopping Iran’s extremist project surely doesn’t mean anyone is banging the drums for war. But at the same time, an easy policy is never productive with a state like Iran. The administration of former US President Obama followed that policy for eight years and failed catastrophically.

The issue is now clearer to end Iran’s expansion. Offense is the best defense. It began with putting an end to Iran’s external interventions and exposing the Tehran regime for its domestic reality after it had deprived its people of development for over thirty years. Or, as the Saudi Crown Prince said: “We know we are a main target of Iran. We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Our Faith: Do We Really Have Any At All?

 

Faith is a beautiful word and if one truly has faith in what they are speaking or doing the chances are that they will do better regarding that subject matter than if they are lacking in the faith there of. Most of the time when I have heard the word faith it is being spoken of in a ‘religious’ context yet faith is not exclusive to religion. We can have faith in just about anything. We can have faith in our athletic ability, or our ability to make our car or house payment each month, or that our spouse will not cheat on us with another. It is not wrong to have faith in things other than God, yet if we have more faith in something above what we have in God then that subject has become our God. I have faith that the Sun will come up tomorrow just as it did today, but only if God ordains it to be so. I have faith that the Sun will set this evening yet I do not know if I will still be alive to see it, that is up to God. I have faith in God, not the Sun or the Moon, I by my own strength can not cause the Sun or the Moon to do anything, only by God’s strength do they or I exist.

 

There are a few Scriptures that I will add at the end of this article that concern ones faith in God that you can browse through if you wish to. But this article today is going to be about our faith in God and the main Scripture I am going to refer to is found in the Book of Hebrews, the 11th Chapter, verses 1-4 and 6-9.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen.

For by faith the Elders won God’s approval.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: And by it he being dead yet speaks.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

By faith Noah, being warned by God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear. Prepared an Ark to the saving of his house (family), by which he condemned the world.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go into a place which he would later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.

By faith he (Abraham) journeyed in the land of promise, as in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.

 

Okay, that is it for the Scripture quotes of this article today. In my belief there is one main theme that runs throughout those 8 verses and that theme is ‘faith’ in God our Creator. Faith, to me, is the actual base of each and every person. Each person has faith in something, the core of their personality is what their faith is in, even if one only has faith in themselves. I have met many people in my life who do not believe in “a God”, the government, their education system, or even in any member of their family. These tended to be people whom in their own eyes had been let down by pretty much everyone and everything they have experienced in their own lives. All of a persons possessions, all of our family and friends, just like our own bodies, will pass away. There is only one thing we have that is eternal and that is our own Soul and it came from God and after we die it will go back to God. So, personally, if I am going to have total faith in anything or anyone, it will be in He who created us, and who will judge us at the end of our life. He who will decide, from our own actions while we lived, as to where we will spend ‘forever’ at. Our actions while here in this life are dictated by the things we believe in, or do not believe in. I chose to have faith in God before and above all else. If a person has a ‘Godly’ Soul they will put God first and being that God is the foundation of all that is good, if we do honestly put God first then we will tend to walk the path of light that He request of us.

 

Concerning religion it is common to hear term’s concerning the ‘path’ of life that we are walking just as in the business world when it is spoken of our ‘career’ path which decides our advancement in the ‘firm’. What we want the most in our lives is what we tend to believe in most, even if that faith is only in ourselves. When we tell someone that we will walk somewhere with them, would it not help if we move our feet? Lip service to ones faith does not compute to actual faith if there is no physical movement toward that which we say we believe in. We can say we are a rocket scientist because we have done a lot of studying in that field and we may enjoy hearing all about the fields scientific accomplishments, but if all we do is sit on our behinds and do not engage that entity, are we really a rocket scientist?

 

Many people say they are Christians because they do believe that Jesus Christ and the Holy Father Jehovah do exist yet they do not study God’s ‘instruction’ Book at all nor do they attempt to walk a ‘Holy’ lifestyle. We all know of cases where Preachers/Ministers have seriously hurt peoples faith in God because of their personal horrible actions. I was once in the break room of a company I was visiting shortly after a certain well known Preacher in Baton Rouge Louisiana had disgraced himself by his personal actions and a lady in the break room said because of this Preachers action whom she had been a long time follower of that “I will will never believe in God again” because this ‘great’ man had fallen to his temptation.” Everyone of us a human, we all have weaknesses and the Devil and His Angles know exactly what those weaknesses are, this is where they attack us, in our weaknesses, not at our strengths.

 

There will be an event that all of us must face and that event is ‘The Judgement Seat Of Christ’. If our own personal faith was weak or non-existent during our lives, Jesus will know it. Our Creator knows how each of us think and how we believe, or don’t believe, concerning Him and His teachings that He left for us to learn and live by. Our faith toward something is measured by our actions, if we believe in something very strongly, our actions show that belief, that faith, to the rest of the world around us. If we are lacking in that faith, our actions show that to the rest of the world around us also. I will finish this article with one question, when Jesus looks us straight in our eyes, and He will, what then?

 

These are the Scripture verses I spoke to you about at the beginning of the second verse of this letter to you:

Galatians 5: 22-23

John 6: 29

Ephesians 2: 8

I appreciate your time folks, I hope that you obtained some enjoyment and maybe even a little knowledge from the article. I pray that you and your loved ones will choose to have faith in God and in His love for you.

Pope Urges End Of Violence In Venezuela And For Government To Respect Human Rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Pope Francis urged on Sunday for an end to the violence that has marred the anti-government protests in Venezuela.

He called for the respect of human rights where nearly 30 people were killed in unrest this month.

Francis, speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address, decried a “grave humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population”.

Venezuela’s opposition is demanding elections, autonomy for the legislature where they have a majority, a humanitarian aid channel from abroad to alleviate an economic crisis, and freedom for more than 100 activists jailed by President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, respect human rights and seek a negotiated solution …,” he said.

Supporters say Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed head of the hardline opposition Popular Will party, and others are political prisoners whose arrests symbolize Maduro’s lurch into dictatorship.

Maduro says all are behind bars for legitimate crimes, and calls Lopez, 45, a violent hothead intent on promoting a coup.

Vatican-led talks between the government and the opposition have broken down.

Francis told reporters on the plane returning from Cairo on Saturday that “very clear conditions” were necessary for the talks to resume.

On Friday, Venezuela formally notified the Organization of American States of its intention to leave the regional body amid the protests at home and international calls for its embattled government to hold delayed elections and release prisoners.

Venezuelan interim ambassador Carmen Velasquez submitted a letter announcing the move in Washington to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong critic of socialist President Maduro.

The notice begins a two-year exit process from the Western Hemisphere’s largest diplomatic body, which had become a forum for its neighbors to exert pressure on Venezuela.

“This is a historic moment that marks a new independence for Venezuela and the region,” said Velasquez, adding that Venezuela would be the first country to leave the Washington-based bloc this way. “We are not going to be participating in any OAS activities.”

On Friday, hundreds marched to a military prison outside Caracas to demand the release of opposition Lopez and other jailed activists they consider political prisoners.

The march was part of an intensifying campaign by the opposition to force Maduro from office. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in almost four weeks of street clashes.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Hekmatyar Calls Taliban to End ‘Pointless Unholy War’

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
World

Hekmatyar Calls Taliban to End ‘Pointless Unholy War’

Kabul — In his first speech after his first public appearance in Afghanistan after nearly two decades underground, warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called on Taliban insurgents to “join the peace caravan and stop this pointless unholy war.”

He also urged all political parties to reconcile and seek change “without bloodshed.”

In September last year, the Afghan government signed a peace agreement with Hekmatyar and his militant group. In February, the UN Security Council lifted the sanctions imposed on Hekmatyar, which paved the way for his return to Afghanistan and involvement in the political process.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Hekmatyar’s public return, saying the former strongman would cooperate with the government.

“Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s return will have remarkable effects on peace, stability, prosperity and development in all aspects,” Ghani’s office said in a statement.

The agreement between Hekmatyar and Afghani government has been criticized by human rights groups because of the pardon he was granted. Afghani analysts and activists stated that the return of Hekmatyar and some of his fighter is an insult to the victims.

Hekmatyar was controversial during the Afghani war against the Soviets in the 80s. He was accused of ordering his fighters to bomb Kabul causing several casualties. He was Afghanistan’s prime minister for two brief periods, however, he did not rule Afghanistan sitting in Kabul.

Hezb-i-Islami led by Hekmatyar does not have any significant role in the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan currently. He was designated as a “terrorist” by the US state department in 2003.

Western and US officials praised the deal reached with Hekmatyar, hoping it would lead to a comprehensive peace agreement in Afghanistan.

During his speech, Hekmatyar focused on ending the current war in the country and urged the Taliban to adopt politics rather than war.

No one can rule the country by force, he said.

“If you are working to help Afghanistan, then we are grateful, but if you are fighting here for your own political and economic interests, we ask you to stop using Afghanistan as your rivals’ battlefield and instead face each other directly,” Hekmatyar said to the gathering in Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman. “Don’t test your ammunition on our oppressed people.”

He stressed that negotiations must be done to achieve stability and peace in Afghanistan, saying that violence and war are not options. He addressed his opposition saying that everyone should forget the past and work together to build a country based on peace.

Hekmatyar’s return was welcomed in eastern Afghanistan by residents who have been exhausted by decades of war.

Between 1992 and 1996, he was known as the brutal warlord who destroyed entire neighborhoods during the civil war, and later took up arms against civilian rulers.

After the September 11 attacks in the US and the ensuing US invasion, Hekmatyar refused to join the new government and declared “Jihad” against foreign troops.

Some analysts believe that his return will further deepen the sectarian and ethnic disagreements thus creating more problems for the government.

Political analyst Ahmad Saeedi said that the Ghani will face more isolation from the allies who supported him during the elections. He added that disagreements between politicians of different ethnic groups are beginning to emerge.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Pope Francis Gives A Message Of Tolerance And Peace At A Mass In Cairo Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Cairo (CNN) Pope Francis sent a message of tolerance and co-existence Saturday in a Mass at a Cairo stadium before concluding his two-day trip to Egypt.

Francis’ trip came nearly two weeks after the Palm Sunday bombing of two Coptic churches, which left at least 45 people dead.
Heavy security surrounded Francis as he entered Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium in an open golf cart.

Security surrounds Pope Francis at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo.

He waved at worshippers and stopped momentarily to bless a group of children in costume. Parts of the stadium stands were draped with his photo as well as Egyptian and Vatican flags.
“Religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity,” Francis said.
“True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane,” he said.
“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him.”
The Pope started his Mass with the “As-Salaam Alaikum,” the traditional Muslim greeting in Arabic that means “Peace be upon you,” and ended it with “al-Masih qam! Bi-l-haqiqa qam! (Christ is risen! He is truly risen)”.
A Vatican spokesman said 15,000 people attended the Mass at the stadium, which holds 30,000.
The Pope later met with members of Egypt’s small Coptic Catholic community at St. Leo’s Patriarchal Seminary in Cairo’s Maadi neighborhood.
In a more intimate setting than his earlier Mass, Francis urged gathered priests, nuns and worshippers to be the religious builders of peace in Egypt, saying that despite “difficult circumstances, you must endure.”
“Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, and many prophets of destruction and condemnation … may you be the sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony,” he said.
Later Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and an honor guard met the Pope at the airport in a farewell ceremony before he departed for Rome.

Tackling roots of violent extremism

On Friday, Francis stressed the importance of unity between Muslims and Christians to shape world peace.
“Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” he said in Italian in a speech at a peace conference at Al-Azhar University, the premier seat of high learning among Sunni Muslims.
Francis met with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb and became the first pontiff to visit the institution since Pope John Paul II in 2000.
The two religious leaders spoke at the closing of the International Conference for Peace, organized by Al-Azhar. Greeting the grand imam, Francis called him “my brother” and sat by his side at the conference.
The Pope took on a familiar theme: the roots of violent extremism.

Eliminating poverty and exploitation

Francis opened his speech with “As-Salaam Alaikum” after the imam’s address.
“In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence,” he said.
Francis called for an end to the “proliferation of arms” and lambasted “demagogic forms of populism.”
“If they are produced and sold, sooner or later they will be used,” he said. “Only by bringing into the light of day the murky maneuverings that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented. National leaders, institutions and the media are obliged to undertake this urgent and grave task.”
Tayeb addressed the status of faith in modern life.
“With all these accomplishments (of the 21st century), how come peace has become a lost paradise? The answer, I assume, is that modern civilization has ignored religion,” he said.
After the peace conference, Francis and the Egyptian President addressed religious and political dignitaries at Al-Masa Hotel.
The Pope, again speaking in Italian, focused on Egypt’s role in fighting terrorism, evoking events from biblical and modern history. He ceremonially greeted all Egyptian people, including minority Christians — Coptic Orthodox, Greek Byzantines, Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics.

12-point declaration

Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, then greeted Francis at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbassiya district, state TV said. They walked together in procession and took part in ecumenical prayers at the adjacent church of St. Peter, the site of a deadly blast in December that left at least 23 people dead.
Francis commended the efforts of Tawadros II, whom he called a brother, in organizing meetings between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches.
Francis and Tawadros II signed a joint, 12-point declaration reiterating the fraternity between their churches. “Let us intensify our unceasing prayer for all Christians in Egypt and throughout the whole world, and especially in the Middle East,” the declaration says.

The Skeptical State of Bible Reading in 2017

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘CHRISTIANITY TODAY’ NEWS)

The Skeptical State of Bible Reading in 2017

Two surveys examine who studies Scripture, who doesn’t, and why.

For the most part, Americans have positive things to say about the Bible. More than half call it a good source of morals (52%). About a third say it’s helpful (37%), true (36%), and life-changing (35%), according to a new LifeWay Research survey.

Even more told the American Bible Society (ABS) and Barna Group that they believe it’s the actual or inspired word of God (81%).

But a growing segment— 19 percent in 2017, up from 10 percent in 2011—say it’s simply a book of teachings and stories written by men.

That group has remained fairly stable in recent years (17% in 2013, 19% in 2014, 21% in 2015, and 22% in 2016). So this year for their State of the Bible report, ABS and Barna asked the people in that category a new question: If you think the Bible was written only by humans, do you think it was meant to be manipulative or controlling?

Almost 4 out of 5 skeptics said yes, which adds up to 13 percent of the US population. (A similar number of Americans told LifeWay that the Bible was bigoted (8%) or harmful (7%).)

ABS and Barna labeled them antagonistics. They used the same tag in 2013 for the entire group of skeptics, but then reconsidered.

“‘Antagonistic’ may too strongly pigeon-hole those who have not yet embraced the Bible,” Geoffrey Morin, ABS chief communications officer, told CT then. “The new categorization, ‘Bible Skeptics,’ is both more accurate and more hopeful.”

But this year, the survey broke the group in two, and found a marked difference between the resulting 32 percent that remained “skeptics”—those who believe the Bible was not divinely inspired, but neither was it written with the intent to manipulate—and the 68 percent that qualify as “antagonistics.”

Researchers summarized the two groups: “Antagonistics’ average age is 41. He is more likely to be an unmarried male from the Gen-X or Millennial generation. Antagonistics are largely non-Christian, do not attend church, and a small 5 percent report reading the Bible at least three to four times a year.”

Skeptics are slightly older—on average, 43 years old. “More college graduates fall into this category than any other category. … [T]hey are largely single and not Christian, and most are unchurched.”

Antagonists are more likely than skeptics to be white (68% vs. 56%) or Hispanic (18% vs. 13%). They’re less likely than skeptics to make under $50,000 a year (39% vs. 47%) and more likely to make over $100,000 a year (27% vs. 14%).

They’re notably less open to the Bible—91 percent of antagonists have no desire to read the Bible more, compared to 74 percent of skeptics. They’re more likely (53%) than skeptics (37%) to say that none of the traditional sacred texts—the Bible, the Qu‘ran, the Torah, or the Book of Mormon—are holy.

Nearly three-quarters of antagonists believe the Bible has too much influence on US society (72%), compared to less than half of skeptics (42%).

Fewer antagonistic adults believe the Bible is important for the country’s moral fabric (9%, compared to 30% of skeptics), while nearly all (91%, compared to 70% of skeptics) believe the Constitution is morally important.

They also don’t care about being labeled immoral: only 21 percent are bothered, compared to 41 percent of skeptics and 36 percent of the Bible-engaged or Bible-friendly.

However, “being called ‘intolerant’ is particularly bothersome to antagonistics,” the ABS study reported. A quarter would find that offensive, compared with 4 percent of skeptics or the Bible-engaged.

Skeptics report that they wouldn’t care if they were called either intolerant or immoral (40%, compared to 30% of antagonists and 23% of the Bible-engaged).

More antagonists (63%) than skeptics (59%) told Barna that morality is on the decline, though they’re far less likely to believe that than the Bible-engaged (95%). And they’re more likely to blame it on corporate greed (71%, v. 52% of skeptics and 18% of the Bible-engaged) than on a lack of Bible reading (2%, vs. 6% of skeptics and 53% of the Bible-engaged) or a negative influence from movies, television, and music (27%, vs. 42% of skeptics and 29% of the Bible-engaged).

Despite their antipathy, you can find a Bible in most antagonist (62%) and skeptic (67%) homes; in fact, half of them own more than one. Antagonists and skeptics equally report being at least somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible (61%), and they are. More than 3 in 10 knew that Jesus was betrayed by Peter (36% of antagonists vs. 30% of skeptics); even more knew Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection (44% of antagonists vs. 38% of skeptics).

And most said the Bible encourages serving the poor (86% of antagonists, 79% of skeptics), patience (83% of antagonists, 78% of skeptics), and generosity (85% of antagonists, 96% of skeptics).

About 3 in 4 Bible skeptics said the Bible had no influence on their views on abortion, Israel, LGBT issues, refugees, money, immigration, and war. More than 9 in 10 antagonists said the same.

Antagonists are more likely to say that the Bible has exacerbated racial tension (79% vs. 70%) and gender inequality (93% vs. 83%) over the years. They’re also far more likely to say that the Bible oppresses the LGBT community (58%, compared to 22% of skeptics), women (43% vs. 14%), and different races (29% vs. 12%.)

Bible antagonists are more likely to describe a daily Bible reader as judgmental (39%, compared to 19% of skeptics), narrow-minded (38% vs. 21%), or foolish (23% vs. 6%).

Antagonistic adults are significantly more likely than any other group to report experiencing or witnessing trauma (9%), and most of them experienced that trauma personally (50%).

ABS noted that the rising trend of Biblical skeptics seems to be leveling off, but that it was “too early to say the decrease in Bible skepticism is a trend.”

“We are optimistic,” stated Morin, now ABS executive vice president of ministry mobilization. “[We] will continue tracking the data in the coming years to measure how the number of people who are skeptic[al] toward the Bible changes.”

The percent of those who are Bible-engaged—believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God and read it at least four times a week—has remained steady at around 20 percent of the population for the past seven years.

The translation they engage with most is the King James Version at 31 percent, though it’s down from 40 percent in 2016. The New King James Version also dropped slightly, from 12 percent to 7 percent, while the New International Version (11% to 13%), English Standard Version (5% to 9%), and Amplified Bible (1% to 7%) all saw increases in use.

Those who read the Bible were more likely to say that it brought them close to God (68% vs. 57% in 2016) and less likely to say that they sought directions or answers for problems (9% vs. 17% in 2016).

Overall, about a third of Americans have read through all or almost all of the Bible, LifeWay reported this week. Another 23 percent haven’t read more than a few sentences.

The amount of the Bible that Americans have read seems to correlate with the way they read it.

“Twenty-two percent read a little bit each day, in a systematic approach. A third (35%) never pick it up at all, while 30 percent look up things in the Bible when they need to,” reported Facts & Trends. “Nineteen percent re-read their favorite parts, while 17 percent flip open the Bible and read a passage at random. A quarter (27%) read sections suggested by others, while 16 percent say they look things up to help others.”

About half of evangelicals said they chose the systematic approach, reading a little each day (49%).

 

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History Made in South Africa as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHRISTIAN NEWS AGENCY)

History Made in SA as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

IT’S TIME!!!

A crowd of over a million believers from across the country made their way to Free State on Saturday for the National Day of Prayer, organized by Evangelist Angus Buchan.  People from all walks of life were gathered at the Wilde Als farm just outside Bloemfontein for what has been dubbed as the biggest prayer meeting in the history of South Africa.

The multiracial crowd united to pray for justice, peace and hope in South Africa. Buchan began by teaching on prayer, citing the passage about Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross. He also reminded the crowd of the words spoken by Moses before God parted the Red Sea to make way for the Israelites.

“Today, we are witnessing history.  History is in the making today. This gathering is a prayer meeting, it is not a gospel concert. It is not even an evangelistic outreach, it is a prayer meeting.  We are going to pray together and as individuals,” the evangelist added.

The Shalom Ministries Founder told the crowd his vision to host the event was born after he received a video from a Christian leader to get believers together in one place and pray to God to heal the land. However, it was only after God gave him confirmation that he heeded to the call. The words given to him by the Almighty, regarding the event, were simple: “It’s Time” and “One Million”.

“We say there is no other God save Jesus Christ and Him alone.  We will not serve any other God save the Lord Jesus Christ.  Please forgive us for compromising our nation, our family and our future.  From today onwards, we promise to stand up for truth and righteousness at all costs,” said Buchan, leading the crowd of a million in prayer.

Political leaders including Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the ACDP and Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA, also attended in their personal capacity.

Before descending the stage, Buchan said that he was waiting for a day when Parliament will be opened with prayer every morning.

“Through prayer, this country will change in one day.  We want to see love and peace prevail in the new government,” he concluded.

www.thechristiannews.co.za

Forgive us, we did not know. Forgive him, he does not understand (JCC Bomb Hoaxer)

The parents of the JCC bomb hoaxer accused of a vast, relentless two-year campaign of vicious threats and internet crime do their best to explain the inexplicable

Source: Forgive us, we did not know. Forgive him, he does not understand

Washington Post, Gay Marriage & Taiwan Christians

 

April 25, 2017

Washington Post, Gay Marriage & Taiwan Christians

Christians comprise less than 5% of Taiwan. But, according to a recent Washington Post story that read more like a commentary, they are the main obstacle to Taiwan’s becoming Asia’s first country to ratify same sex marriage.

The story fulsomely quoted Taiwanese advocates of gay marriage, but the reporter evidently either didn’t interview any opponents or didn’t find their comments sufficiently interesting to include. These unnamed opponents are instead dismissively paraphrased, accused of making claims “contrary to evidence,” at least in the reporter’s view. Supposedly they resort to “homophobic tropes” and pander to “parental fear.”

On Twitter, the reporter responded to congratulations for her slant with: “Trying my best not to report bigotry as fact.” So the views of several billion people in the world, possibly the majority of humanity, apparently don’t merit serious treatment if they clash with Western elite political correctness.

 

Meanwhile, unnamed church groups are ominously described as “well-funded” without saying by whom. Public comments by Taiwan’s justice minister opposing judicial redefinition of marriage are cited mockingly.

That justice minister belongs to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, elected to power last year led by a presidential candidate supporting gay marriage. The government seems to prefer redefining marriage through legislation rather than judicial fiat. Such legislation has been stalled due to apparently growing opposition. Unmentioned directly in the Post article, there is a multi faith coalition opposing this legislation, which includes Christians but also Buddhists and Taoists, who respectively each represent about one third of Taiwan’s population. Taiwan’s Christians are deemed “homophobic” but the more numerous religious groups are not cited.

Catholics comprise about half of Taiwan’s Christians. Their bishops have published a lengthy pastoral letter explaining why Catholic doctrine opposes same sex marriage. You can read it here. Presbyterians are the largest Protestant denomination, and although they are politically on the left and often aligned with the Democratic Progressive Party, their General Assembly has opposed same sex marriage with its own pastoral letter.

The Post article offers quotes denying allegations that same sex marriage is a Western imposition on Taiwan. Supposedly Taiwan’s sexual openness is due to its history of free spirited seafarers and their “seafaring gods.” Asian history is full of seafarers and traditional seafaring gods, on which Taiwan has no monopoly. Same sex marriage, especially conceived as a “right,” is a uniquely Western creation.

Same sex marriage as a right is also ironically a legacy of Western Christianity, especially Protestantism, with its stress on equality and individualism. Egalitarianism of persons has led to egalitarianism of sex. Taiwan is being asked to accept the social mores of Scandinavia, Holland and New England, where secularized Protestantism reigns.

And Taiwan is partly receptive, unlike the rest of Asia, because it is so Westernized. The Post article asserts same sex marriage is the logical legacy of Taiwan’s struggle against dictatorship. There’s more to the story. After losing Mainland China, Chiang Kai-shek created one party rule under his Kuomintang. But it fostered capitalism and close ties with the West, especially America. Democracy’s advent in the 1980s was the unintended but predictable result.

Taiwan because of its unique political status is arguably the least Asian of Asian countries. More than other Asian countries, it is experiencing a battle between Western individualism and traditional Asian mores centered on family. My guess is that many Taiwanese same sex marriage proponents are themselves from Protestant backgrounds and have secularized their understanding of human rights to include marriage and gender redefinition, like many in North America and Western Europe.

Here’s a postscript. Chiang Kai-shek was Methodist, and Taiwan under the Kuomintang had relative religious freedom while Communist China under Mao tried to destroy Christianity. Yet today Taiwan is at most 5% Christian (with only a few dozen Methodist churches) while Mainland China, where religion still faces restriction, is at least 5%, and some estimate approaching 10%. Under current church growth rates, China in 20 years or so may have more Christians than any other country.

Taiwan’s religious landscape and its debate over same sex marriage are far more complicated and interesting than the Post story, with its editorial caricatures, was able to admit.