During a coffee break today, we ran into some rough-looking characters. If we were living 2,000 years ago, we'd be shaking in our boots.
Instead, we grabbed our camera and snapped a shot of a couple of guys wearing some pretty realistic costumes of Roman guards. At first we thought they might be part of Mayor Steve Bach's new security force to keep pesky reporters and gripy citizens away from City Hall.
In truth, they were downtown to promote The Thorn, New Life Church's enactment of Jesus Christ's condemnation and execution.
The show is being staged at the World Arena for the first time in its many-year history. Dates are March 30 and 31, and April 1. Go here for ticket info.
Jenna Hilb, marketing coordinator at Poor Richard's, confirms that Weinstein will indeed hold a book-signing at the store from 5 to 7 p.m., March 3.
——- 9:21 A.M., THURSDAY, FEB. 16 ——-
According to an employee of Poor Richard's Bookstore, Weinstein's March 3 book-signing is not yet confirmed. We'll update when anything changes.
——- ORIGINAL POST, 3:30 P.M., MONDAY, FEB. 13 ——-
To say Mikey Weinstein has made a name for himself would be an understatement. Now the Washington Post will be giving its readers a steady dose of Weinstein's message through a twice-monthly column called "Faith at the Front."
Since forming the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2004, the 1977 Air Force Academy grad has become the watchdog for unconstitutional imposition of religion on military members. His organization represents tens of thousands of soldiers, airmen and sailors, including more than 300 cadets, faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy.
Here's a few of the issues he's brought to light.
New York Daily News, January 2010:
A Michigan weapons company is under fire for branding thousands of rifle scopes used by U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan with passages from the Bible.
U.S. military rules prohibit any service member from proselytizing while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, which are primarily Muslim nations.
Trijicon, a sighting manufacturer based in Wixom, Mich., has several multimillion-dollar contracts with the Pentagon to make sights.
Along with the sight's stock number, there are coded Bible passages from the New Testament engraved on the sights. One reads JN8:12, an apparent reference to John 8:12, which says, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
TruthOut.org, July 2011:
The United States Air Force has been training young missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons by citing passages from the New Testament and commentary from a former member of the Nazi Party, according to documents obtained exclusively by Truthout.
The mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which includes a discussion on St. Augustine's "Christian Just War Theory," is led by Air Force chaplains and takes place during a missile officer's first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Gazette, November 2011:
The Air Force Academy backed down Thursday after it came under fire for alleged religious intolerance, this time with a program designed to spread Christmas cheer.
Academy critic Mikey Weinstein accused commanders of crossing the line by promoting “Operation Christmas Child” a program sponsored by an evangelical Christian group that sends toys and toiletries in shoe boxes to needy kids around the globe. The group includes a Christian message with the gifts.
Most recently, Weinstein's group exposed a Marine unit's display of a Nazi SS flag below a United States flag.
Although the Marines initially claimed they didn't know where the flag came from or even what it stood for, Weinstein said his supporters have run down the source. It came from a Third Reich website, he says.
Anyway, you get the picture. Weinstein and his organization are credible. So it's peculiar why the Gazette would report on Saturday that everything seems to be going well at the academy on the religion front. Reporter Jakob Rodgers, a cops reporter recently assigned to cover the military, reported that the academy's Board of Visitors was told the academy would be providing training to faculty on religious sensitivity. He also quoted the board chair:
“It is incredible how far we’ve come since 2004,” said Susan Schwab, chairwoman of the board and a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland. “It’s very impressive.”
What's missing from the story is a comment from Weinstein, who instigated examination of allegations that the academy favors fundamental Christianity eight years ago. Former Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa admitted in 2004 the academy had a serious problem with religious sensitivity.
Turns out, Rodgers interviewed Weinstein on Friday but decided not to include him in his story. We asked Rodgers and weekend editor Tom Roeder why he left Weinstein out of his report, and Roeder declined to comment.
In case anyone thinks everything at the academy is peachy, just a week or so ago, the academy dealt with a cadet who sent a religious message to her entire class. The Indy reported that here. The academy treated the incident as a "teaching moment," giving the freshman the benefit of the doubt.
In case you're wondering, here's what Weinstein says he told Rodgers:
"I told him that first of all, I didn't want to hear anything related to the faculty reception to religious tolerance when the head of the faculty has lied about her calling for a counter insurgency to my organization," he tells us, referring to Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Dana Born.
"I also said, 'Let's make sure we say B-O-R-E-D of visitors, because they're asleep at the switch. That place is a disaster. Until Dana Born gets fired and gets punished for what she's done and her superiors, there's nothing to talk about in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.' I thought that was fairly relevant, but I didn't get any comments in the story."
As for Weinstein's column in the Post, that gig starts later this month.
Weinstein will attend a book-signing for his newest release, No Snowflake in an Avalanche, recently published by Vireo of Rare Bird Books, at
7 p.m. 5 p.m., Saturday, March 3, at Poor Richard's Bookstore.
The book is his second; With God on our Side was published Oct. 1, 2006, by St. Martin's Press.
An Air Force Academy freshman cadet has been "counseled" for sending an e-mail to the entire freshman class urging them to pray and citing specific Scriptures.
Here's the missive the cadet sent out two days ago:
Subject: Daily Devotional: Prayer
January 24, 2012
Do Your Own Praying
Is anyone among you afflicted - ill-treated, suffering evil? He should pray.
— James 5:13
The Greek word translated afflicted doesn't mean the result of sickness and disease. It means "troubled."
If you're in trouble, you need to pray. That's what the Word says. Notice it didn't say your pastor needs to pray for you or your friends need to pray for you. It says you need to pray.
Too often we try to find a quick fix to our problems by asking everyone else to pray for us. There's nothing wrong, of course, with having others pray for you, but you'll never get your life to a place of permanent victory until you begin to pray yourself.
The biggest church in the world is in Seoul, Korea. It's pastored by Dr. David Cho, and the last I heard, it had more than 700,000 members. How did that church grow to be so large? According to Dr. Cho, the key is prayer. Not just his prayers but the prayers of his people. Praying is a way of life in that church. They have a place called Prayer Mountain where thousands of people come every day to pray.
I once heard Dr. Cho's mother-in-law on television talking about the emphasis they put on prayer. She said that when their church members are in trouble, when they have marriage problems or problems in their personal life, before anything else is done, those church members are told to go and fast and pray for 24 hours.
We need to do more of that here in our churches in the United States. We need to quit training our people to run around asking others to pray for them and train them instead to do their own praying.
You see, if I pray for God to solve one problem for you, you may enjoy success for a while, but then another problem will come along because you'll still be making the same old mistakes that got you in trouble the first time. But if you buckle down and do that praying for yourself, if you discipline yourself to start searching out the things of the Spirit, you'll get permanent answers. You'll learn how to make adjustments in your life that will keep those problems from cropping up again.
If you have made Jesus your Lord, you have access to the throne of Almighty God. He has every solution to every problem you'll ever have, and He's just waiting for you to come to Him, so He can give you the answer. It may take some private time alone with Him for you to hear it, but He will never disappoint you.
Don't depend on others to do your praying for you. Go personally to the throne of God today.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 5
Thank you for your time and consideration. (etc., whatever)
When the Independent asked the academy about the e-mail and what action, if any, was taken, director of public affairs Lt. Col. John Bryan issued the following prepared statement:
"While everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs, proper use of official email and respect for others' beliefs (or non-beliefs) is paramount. In the instance you've inquired about, we agree, the cadet made an error. We look at this as a teachable moment. The Squadron Commander and the Group Chaplain both counseled the freshman cadet for this lapse in judgment."
Wait a minute, says Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 AFA grad who is the academy's biggest critic on religious issues, accusing the academy of favoring fundamentalist Christianity and tolerating proselytizing by staff, faculty and cadets over the years.
"The academy ran out of teachable moments about 2006," Weinstein says. "These are discipline moments."
He launched his charge against the academy in 2005 and formed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation around academy issues, though the group has since branched out to spotlight religious favoritism military wide.
Weinstein called the prayer e-mail a "blatant violation" of Air Force Chief of Staff of Gen. Norton Schwartz's Sept. 1 memo demanding religious neutrality. Of course, he notes, the directive never was widely circulated at the academy as it was on many other Air Force bases, including Peterson AFB.
In any event, it's mystifying how a cadet who's been at the academy since June could commit such an act, considering the academy claims that it adamantly teaches religious sensitivity from the time doolies arrive, Weinstein says.
"The academy's record on the separation of church and state, if it increased 1,000 percent, would reach the level of abysmal," he says. "That's why the MRFF has 362 clients at the [Air Force] academy, 19 at West Point [U.S. Military Academy] and 11 at Annapolis [U.S. Naval Academy]."
Halloween sucks, right? It just sucks. You've got to drop cash on that Lady Gaga meat dress you've been eyeing for a few months, or you're on the hook for hours of hair-doing after you finally rope all your friends in to a Jersey Shore ensemble. (Worst of all: You go Zombie Steve Jobs — too soon.)
And this is before we even get into all the intrinsic horrible-ness that is the fall holiday: the devil worshipping, the candy gorging, the sexy-ing of all things female (though I think Pink Sexy Crayon is a winner) and the like.
So thank God — and the Holy Ghost, and, specifically, Jesus — for JesusWeen. Sounding like a combination body part and savior of the believers, JesusWeen is the invention of Texas pastor Paul Ade, according to Dallas/Fort Worth station KDAF-TV.
The group's website explains further. "Every year, the world and its system have a day set aside (October 31st) to celebrate ungodly images and evil characters while Christians all over the world participate, hide or just stay quiet on Halloween day."
Of course, some people are still a little confused what the hell the good pastor is talking about. Brian Hurst asked on the group's Facebook page, "so what do you find immoral about halloween," and like any good religious group, JesusWeen deferred. (In a rather British fashion, actually.)
"@Brian: Any PRACTISING Christian regardless of faith base, even if they like Halloween, can still easily point out the parts of Halloween that are immoral and contrary to the Word of The Living God," reads the response. "Ask a Practising Christian near you and they will show you. I am not talking about the one that has a Christian name and goes to church once a year during Christmas. I am talking about a PRACTISING Christian or some priest you know in your area."
So get on board ... or off board. Or, you know, just get your costume ready for some serious sinning this Halloween. After all, if you don't sin, Jesus died for nothing.
In case you thought this state and country were growing more civil, here's a wake-up call.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that an audit shows the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the nation increased slightly in 2010 over the previous year, with a total of 1,239 incidents of assaults, vandalism and harassment reported during the calendar year. In 2009, 1,211 incidents were reported.
"This was the first increase reported since the numbers hit a record high in 2004, when the United States experienced 1,821 incidents of anti-Semitism," the league said in a press release. "Since 2004, the numbers have declined incrementally each year."
But in Colorado, the increase from 2009 to 2010 was remarkable. The number of incidents rose from 14 in 2009 to 38 in 2010, 35 of which were acts of anti-Semitic harassment and three acts of anti-Semitic vandalism.
From the press release:
Among the incidents in Colorado was the hacking of the websites of three Boulder Jewish communal organizations where the perpetrators posted language that included, “Jews are terrorists,” “Child Organ Smugglers,” “F—- The Jews!” and “F—- Israel.” In another incident, a student in a Colorado high school was reportedly bullied with anti-Semitic text messages, one which allegedly read, “Jews are really hot when they’re on fire.”
Scott Levin, ADL’s Mountain States Regional Director, released the following statement: “The sharp regional increase in anti-Semitic incidents is extremely troubling and reinforces the harsh reality that anti-Semitism, like all forms of hatred, remains a problem in the Mountain States region. Every member of our community deserves to feel safe and welcome.”
Stuart Pack, ADL’s Mountain States Regional Board Chair, said, “We will not be satisfied until anti-Semitism and hatred in all its forms are eradicated. ADL will continue to lead the fight ‘to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.’ The Mountain States region is no place for hate.”
The ADL Audit tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, pr operty and community institutions across the U.S., using reports and data gathered by the League’s 30 regional offices and law enforcement.
“While we have come a long way in society as Jews have been accepted into the mainstream, America is still not immune to anti-Semitism and bigotry,” said Levin. “The bad news is that for all our efforts to educate, to raise awareness and to legislate, anti-Jewish incidents remain a disturbing part of the American Jewish experience.”
The 2010 ADL Audit identified:
— 22 physical assaults on Jewish individuals (down from 29 in 2009);
— 900 cases of anti-Semitic harassment, threats and events (up from 760 in 2009);
— 317 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism (down from 422 in 2009).
The 2010 Audit comprises data from 45 states and the District of Columbia, including official crime statistics as well as information provided to ADL’s regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders and members. The Audit encompasses criminal acts, such as vandalism, violence and threats of violence, as well as non-criminal incidents of harassment and intimidation.
The news release noted that the highest totals came in California, with 297 incidents in 2010, up from 275 in 2009; New York, with 205 incidents, down from 209; New Jersey, with 130 incidents, down from 132; and Florida, with 116 incidents, up from 90.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
Last summer, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs became part of President Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Since then, the school has set up a slate of events, and they start tomorrow.
Hosting the first event, a panel discussion, is the UCCS Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life, with help from sponsors Campus Crusade for Christ, Colorado Secularist, Free Thinkers and Skeptics and the Coloradan Buddhist Society.
The public is invited. For more information, go here.
Here's the press release:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Helping University of Colorado Colorado Springs students who come from different religious traditions or who have no religious commitment find common ground will be the subject of the first event of the White House Interfaith and Community Service Challenge.
The inaugural event, featuring a local pastor and a panel discussion of campus and community leaders, is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. Sept. 27 in the University Center Theater.
Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak will introduce Benjamin Broadbent, pastor, First Congregational Church, Colorado Springs, who will speak on the issue of religion in a diverse community. Jeff Scholes, instructor, Department of Philosophy and director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life, will lead a panel discussion of how to address concerns involving religion on the campus. The discussion is a planned kick off of a year-long series of efforts designed to explore how people of differing faiths, as well as those who do not consider themselves religious, can work together toward a common goal.
In June, UCCS was accepted into President Barack Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge for the upcoming academic year. In August, Scholes and Peg Bacon, provost, traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss UCCS efforts for the coming year. Throughout the fall semester, there will be weekly lunch meetings for students interested in a continuing dialogue around these issues. Students will also be invited at the event to participate in the Give! Campaign sponsored by the Colorado Springs Independent this fall and to help with the local parks services this spring.
“We know we have many students at UCCS who have deeply felt beliefs,” Scholes said “We also know that we have many students who believe equally strongly that organized religion or even spirituality is not for them. How do we honor these commitments while attempting to bridge this gap in order to effect real change in our community?”
Panel members will include
Peg Bacon, provost
Kee Warner, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusiveness, Academic Affairs.
Benjamin Broadbent, pastor, First Congregational Church, Colorado Springs
Kristy Milligan, director, Citizens Project
Jeff Scholes, instructor, Philosophy Department
The Resurgence blog is interesting, as always, if you like to follow the conversations going on in the world of evangelical Christians.
Yesterday, Harvey Turner, a pastor in the Acts 29 church-planting network who oversees a church in Reno, posted an essay on Matthew 11:19 that fits into the general conversation raised by this week's cover story.
I’ve heard many Christians say, “Oh, we're trying to remain holy.” Jesus was holy. His holiness caused him to reach out to people whom the culture deemed sinners, criminals, adulterers, fornicators, offenders, outlaws, and materialistic. Jesus was known to hang out with these types of crowds, so much so they accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton.
Turner lays out the Biblical argument for loving the sinner, and the criminal, etc. Of course, the criminal is a lot more flexible of a concept — as is clear in the realm of undocumented immigrants — than the sinner.
You remember the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell's evangelical assault on our 1980s political system? For those of us who were alive during those times, it became abundantly clear that if you were a Christian, you were a Republican. If you were a godless heathen, the Democratic was your party.
The Moral Majority went belly up in the late 80s, leaving its followers to be scooped up by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition of America. Robertson then passed the evangelical torch to President George W. Bush.
We all saw how well that went.
And now, those people who want to use Christians to political ends may be out of luck.
From Christianity Today:
A new CNN-Opinion Research poll finds that a majority of Americans think government should not promote "traditional values," the first time in the past two decades that support for promotion of traditional values has been below 50 percent. The June poll finds that more Americans now believe that the government should stay out of the values business.
Since 1992, CNN's pollsters have found that the majority of people feel that the government is "doing too much." The only exception to that was in the days after September 11, 2001, but other than that anomaly, Americans have polled consistently that they want government to stay out of their business.
And now, this year, they also are polling that they want government to stay out of their morality. But why? Did Americans suddenly become a bunch of drunken baby-killers? No, as Christianity Today goes on to point out, a recent Gallup poll showed that, overwhelmingly, Americans are not happy with the state of our country's moral character.
The shift in opinion does not mean that Americans like the current values in society. A January Gallup poll found that seven in ten Americans were dissatisfied with "the moral and ethical climate" in America. This was up from 62 percent a decade ago.
So what's going on?
The theory that is floated by CT, which is a good one, goes something like this: Conservative Americans, the kinds of people who would have been ripe pickings for the moralizing crowd, have become so completely fed up with government, so completely convinced that anything government touches turns into a bureaucratic soul-crushing nightmare, that they now want said government to stay out of everything. Period. End of story. Go crawl into that bathtub and die.
That's one theory. Another, of course, is that the Right is starting to see that legislating morality is a non-starter. With New York just legalizing gay marriage and the lifting of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the hardcore religious right certainly can't feel like they are gaining ground. Perhaps they are just changing tactics?
Personally, I like the former theory more, mostly because it gels with what I have been witnessing, from the local Liberty movement, and its poster girl, Sarah Anderson, to the conversation I had about NYS's gay marriage bill with a Republican organizer that went something like this:
Me: You don't support gay marriage? But you are all about personal liberties, government non-intrusion into private matters, blah blah blah. What gives?
Him: I don't care if gay people get married, but I don't want government making that decision. In fact, I don't want government in charge of licensing marriages at all. Get rid of all government-sponsored marriage licenses and leave it to the churches and the lawyers.
Has the fear of big government overtaken the fear of our immoral neighbors?
CT does a good job laying out the argument:
The turn away from values-promotion may be part of a more general movement favoring less government. The poll found that for the past two years the public increasingly think "the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses"; a shrinking number think "government should do more to solve our country's problems." Sixty three percent said government was doing too much, up from 52 percent when Obama was elected President. The current support for less government is the highest in the past two decades.
In his sermon a week ago today, Pastor Glenn Packiam was making what seemed to me to be the hard sell. The product was New Life Church's latest social justice venture, the Dream Centers of Colorado Springs.
DCCS is a free women’s health clinic on Montebello Drive founded by New Life, which is footing most of the bill. The clinic will provide all forms of primary care, from screenings for heart diseases to referrals for cervical exams.
"There might be this thought in the back of your mind or maybe somewhere deep inside your heart,” Packiam was saying. “Maybe somewhere in the back of your mind, you are thinking, 'Eh. Why are we doing this? That's sort of cute, but whatever happened to old-fashioned preaching? Shouldn't we just get everyone saved? ... What is our motivation? What drives us to think about, or care about, justice? To care about the plight of the poor and needy?”
These are good questions, and for the most part they echo the doubts from us in the secular world. Why would New Life open a health clinic for uninsured or underinsured women? Is it a recruiting tool? A chance to preach anti-abortion?
“Isn’t this just about evangelicals trying to launch a big PR campaign?" Packiam asked rhetorically. "I mean isn’t this kind of like Christians in America realized, ‘OK, we’ve earned a bad rap for being anti-abortion and anti-gay … man, the world thinks that we’re so harsh and mean.’ … Is that what this is? Is this about saving face?”
At its core there is a deeper motivation, says Packiam, and if you are interested in his explanation, you can watch the video of his 40-minute sermon at this link. I would recommend it, especially if you are thinking about forming an opinion on their actions or motives.
The takeaway is this: Helping the needy is Christ-like. And who can argue with that? Most of the time I hear secular criticism of the Christian church, it's someone saying the church ought to stay out of politics and focus on living out the teachings of their messiah, teachings that even those of us in the secular realm can appreciate and respect.
For someone who grew up in the 1980s and ’90s, watching preening, smug televangelists give way to massive suburban churches that preached a watered-down, feel-good gospel of self-admiration, this migration from condemning culture to helping the poor has been a real eye-opener.
But it is the trend that we have seen over the past few years. As Dr. Scott Todd, with Compassion International, put it when talking with the Indy a couple months back, the Christian world is re-awakening to the plight of the needy.
He points to Rick Warren’s 2003 book, Purpose Driven Life. Hugely popular, it sold 30 million copies in four years.
And yet, Todd notes, the word “poverty” was not mentioned once in the book. The word “justice” was used only once in a casual reference, while “the poor” were mentioned twice.
Only a few years later, Warren has become fully engaged in the poverty crisis in Africa, he says. “Rick Warren has become a key evangelical leader in the space of concern for the poor. He is sending thousands of members of his church to Africa every year.”
And as New Life Pastor Matthew Ayers, the executive director of DCCS, says:
“I think that it has been a wake-up call to a lot of Christians, that there has been an imbalance in the terms of how we live our life. I think that people are realizing that we have become unbalanced. There is a movement all over the world of the church waking up to that reality.”
Evangelicals doing good works is an exciting development.
So when I first heard about New Life’s clinic, I called up a pastor friend of mine to find out what he thought.
He sounded skeptical.
There are 30 Jehovah's Witnesses from the Western Slope of Colorado and Colorado Springs? Never would have guessed that.
Well, there are, and apparently they will soon be trekking to Pueblo, to the Colorado State Fairgrounds, for their own “Let God’s Kingdom Come!” Convention.
If you're interested in what this whole witness thing is all about, you're invited to join them in their celebration:
Jehovah’s Witnesses are inviting all in the area to attend a program focusing on a government that millions, perhaps billions, pray for. God’s Kingdom government, which is requested in the world-famous model prayer taught by Jesus Christ, will be the focus of the 2011 “Let God’s Kingdom Come!” District Convention to be held at Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo, Colorado.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the request for God’s Kingdom in the model prayer, recorded in the Bible at Matthew 6:10 (also known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father), has profound meaning. They also believe that the answer to that prayer will bring significant changes to the earth and mankind. The Witnesses’ convention program promises intriguing details from the Bible’s explanation of such developments. Starting June 16th, and continuing for the next couple of weeks, Jehovah’s Witnesses will put forth extra effort to extend a personal invitation to everyone from Aspen, Carbondale, Grand Junction, Montrose, Norwood, Hotchkiss, Gunnison, Falcon, Fountain, Colorado Springs, and Woodland Park to attend the convention with them. The three-day event to be held in Pueblo, Colorado will begin Friday, July 1, 2011, at 9:20 a.m. The daily themes are based on passages of Scripture including Matthew 4:17, Matthew 6:33, and 2 Peter 1:11. Strengthening one’s faith in the reality of that Kingdom will be the focus of the program. There is no admission fee. Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are supported entirely by voluntary donations.
Locally, the area’s 30 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be supporting the activity of distributing printed invitations to the convention. An estimated 3,400 people will come to the Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo, CO for the Bible-based program.
Throughout the United States, there will be 381 conventions in 98 cities. Worldwide, there are over 7,500,000 Witnesses in more than 107,000 congregations.
In the interview that became this week’s cover story, Focus on the Family leader Jim Daly and J. Adrian Stanley covered a lot of ground. While most topics were represented in the final printed version, a lot of pretty good stuff ended up on the cutting-room floor, so to speak.
For those interested in reading more about the current state of Focus, here are some of those additional questions and answers (with the occasional interjection from Focus PR guy Gary Schneeberger).
ON 'THE DAY OF DIALOGUE'
Indy: I’m wondering about the “Day of Dialogue,” which was meant to counter the “Day of Silence,” a day meant to honor and observe kids who are bullied because they are LGBT. A lot of people see the Day of Dialogue as an endorsement of the bullying that the Day of Silence is meant to counter. And, of course, with the bullying-related suicides we’ve been seeing lately, this is a sensitive issue. I’m wondering, how do you view the Day of Dialogue?
JD: I think the Christian community, in our history, understands bullying. I mean, Christians, in centuries past, certainly have lost their lives for what they believe. So, it’s not new, and we would just categorically say bullying of all sorts is not a standard that any culture should embrace.
And so the Day of Dialogue is that attempt to actually do the exact opposite, to have a discussion where people may have an opposing view, but can still express it. ...
When you look at the Day of Dialogue and the temperament that’s being expressed, I think it’s very civil. I don’t see it as creating an opportunity for people to bully other people.
Get a Taste of Colorado Springs, support local foster care families or take in the stars on a midnight bike ride through Garden of the Gods in this week's Indy Minute with Jack Ward.
Tune in to the Indy Minute — as seen on ABC affiliate KRDO News Channel 13 — each week for details on all the events that entertain and bring our community together. It's simulcast on KRDO News Radio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM.
If you're led by a preacher who copped a plea after being accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from another church ... where better to gather than a place known as Syn?
St. George’s Anglican Church is eyeing the historic stone building at 217 E. Pikes Peak Ave., which was built as an Episcopal church in 1901. Most recently, though, it housed the Syn nightclub — one of the rowdiest places downtown. It closed in March 2010 after the city revoked its liquor license for violations.
St. George’s broke away from Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church several years ago amid an investigation of the Rev. Don Armstrong’s handling of church funds. The congregation moved from Grace, 601 N. Tejon St., after a judge ruled the diocese, not St. George’s, was the rightful owner. Armstrong’s group relocated to 2760 Fieldstone Road, which is owned by a bank.
Parish member Bob Balink, El Paso County’s treasurer, says a group that helps people with autism is interested in buying the Fieldstone property.
And frankly, St. George’s wants to get back downtown, Armstrong says.
“I like it a lot because it’s centrally located for our congregation,” he says. “Because it was once a church, it looks and feels like a church.” The windows are arched, the ceilings vaulted, and it's very roomy, he notes. He also says St. George's is interested in the parking lot north of the building.
“We’re already in talks to see if these pieces fall together,” Armstrong says, adding the church will know more in 30 days.
Given its downtown location, Armstrong predicts the church might initiate more events, such as a lenten lunches program, or evening gatherings. Oh, and the building’s former identity isn’t lost on Armstrong, who says, “We can turn Syn into a place of redemption. That will be kind of fun.“
The New York Times is reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold an Arizona scheme that awarded tax credits up to $500 for donations to fund scholarships to religious schools.
The court broke on a 5-4 decision, with the issue of whether or not a tax credit constituted the unconstitutional use of taxpayer money to support specific religious sects.
The program itself is novel and complicated, and allowing it to go forward may be of no particular moment. But by closing the courthouse door to some kinds of suits that claim violations of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion, the court’s ruling in the case may be quite consequential.
Justice Elena Kagan, in her first dissent, said the majority had laid waste to the doctrine of “taxpayer standing,” which allows suits from people who object to having tax money spent on religious matters. “The court’s opinion,” Justice Kagan wrote, “offers a road map — more truly, a one-step instruction — to any government that wishes to insulate its financing of religious activity from legal challenge.”
We'll see how long it takes for this ruling to have an impact in Colorado — starting, of course, in Colorado Springs.
I've been feeling wonky lately. And, frankly, everyone I work with seems to be a bit overwhelmed and out of sorts, too.
I came across this fascinating piece about the earthquake in Japan and our collective consciousness by Rev. Ahriana Platten, currently the acting minister at Unity Church in the Rockies, and also the director of the local Colorado Ecospiritual Center.
It made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps it will ring true for you as well.
Earthquake in the Mind of Humanity
I awoke this morning to find out about an Earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunamis around the world. My niece and her husband are in Japan so step one was checking in on them. It appears that they are okay. Step 2? Check on friends in Hawaii who might be affected by the resulting tsunami. They seem to be fine. Step three — write to my Spiritual Community and ask them to pay attention to how they feel.
That would be the purpose of this letter.
If you are someone who understands the power and purpose of mass consciousness — if you meditate regularly — if you pray on a regular basis — if you do yoga — or take time to still yourself — or if you are a person who strongly connects to the earth through your spiritual practices, I am asking you to pay special attention to your current and future state of being.
Immediately following the Haiti earthquake and soon after the earthquake in Chile last year, I began to notice an escalation of emotion in the people around me. People were highly emotional and had no idea why. I wonder if the reason might be our connection to global consciousness. When millions of people are “shocked” by an earth happening, it affects all of us. The "mass consciousness" is flooded with fear, concern, pain and sorrow. Not only are we affected by a flood of emotions from the area affected, but also by the emotions of all the people who have loved ones they cannot reach, all the people concerned about business implications, and all those who are simply sensitive to earth changes. Our animal instincts tell us there is danger and we react emotionally. All of that emotion exists in the field of mass consciousness and we are all affected by it on some level.
There are two things to do — one for yourself and one for others:
For yourself — Take an assessment of your emotional state. Ask yourself what you are feeling and name the emotion. Take action to respond to your feelings. If you feel sad, acknowledge your sadness. Perhaps you can talk with a friend about it or journal about it. If you feel frustration or fear, ask yourself if you are in danger or if you are frustrated as a result of your own life or something outside you. If your emotions do not belong to you, either lay them down or allow them to flow through you for the benefit of the people who are so traumatized that they cannot feel at this moment. It is possible to consciously step out of the emotions that do not belong to you — and to do it, you must pay close attention to your own body and your own circumstances. Be aware of your emotions and do not ignore them. Take care of yourself. Feeling this strong emotional field is taxing and you may notice you are unusually tired. Rest. Eat lightly. Acknowledge the animal-self and soothe it in whatever way works best for you — music, a walk outside, or a comforting bath for example.
For others: Be gentle with the people around you. Those who are unfamiliar with the concept of collective consciousness may not be aware that they are being affected. All of us are likely to be short tempered or easily “set off.” You may choose to share this information with others — or simply be kinder and more forgiving than usual, keeping in mind that we may all be more "edgy" than normal.
If you want to do more to help those who are in “direct affect zones,” sit still and “tap in.” You may experience tears when you do this. Let them flow. Truly, when people are traumatized they often cannot access their own emotions. They become zombie-like and disoriented. We can help take the pressure off by making time to allow some of their emotions to flow through us. Beneath the emotions of anger and frustration, you will always find fear. Go to the fear and calm it. Let it move through you gently and easily. Release it with your breath, and with tears if the come. Surrender it to the Divine in whatever form you are most comfortable with. I like to gather it up into a cube and ask the angels to come and take it from me. Once you are done, think of the safest and most beautiful place you know. Allow your entire Being to be filled with the emotions of safety, gratitude and love. Feel the comforting presence of the Divine within you. Intentionally send those feeling into mass consciousness. Breathe them out into the world. Just as fear and sadness are filling the mind of humanity, we can send love and calming to meet it. Send what you can for whatever time you can. Even a few moments of calming energy sent to the group mind will be helpful.
Plan to continue this work daily for the next several months, whenever you think to do it. It will take awhile for things to settle. Anyone can do this work and any amount of time you dedicate to it will be helpful for you and for others. Know that whatever you do will be helpful.
Blessings and love,