Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here.

Slowly, gradually, and with little publicity, archeological work is beginning in Saudi Arabia. One of the last regions in the world that has had little digging done, important finds slowly are being uncovered from Arabia's pre-Islamic past. Pagan, Jewish, and Christian sites lie buried and are beginning to be studied.

They have remained unexamined because Islamic authorities prefer to let the ages prior to Islam remain in darkness.

The sensitivities run deep. Archaeologists are cautioned not to talk about pre-Islamic finds outside scholarly literature. Few ancient treasures are on display, and no Christian or Jewish relics. A 4th or 5th century church in eastern Saudi Arabia has been fenced off ever since its accidental discovery 20 years ago and its exact whereabouts kept secret.

In the eyes of conservatives, the land where Islam was founded and the Prophet Muhammad was born must remain purely Muslim. Saudi Arabia bans public displays of crosses and churches, and whenever non-Islamic artifacts are excavated, the news must be kept low-key lest hard-liners destroy the finds.

"They should be left in the ground," said Sheikh Mohammed al-Nujaimi, a well-known cleric, reflecting the views of many religious leaders. "Any ruins belonging to non-Muslims should not be touched. Leave them in place, the way they have been for thousands of years."

In an interview, he said Christians and Jews might claim discoveries of relics, and that Muslims would be angered if ancient symbols of other religions went on show. "How can crosses be displayed when Islam doesn't recognize that Christ was crucified?" said al-Nujaimi. "If we display them, it's as if we recognize the crucifixion."
Posted by: an okie gardener
Amazing if true. According to this news report, the Ethiopian Patriarch will allow public viewing of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ethiopian Church has long claimed to be hiding the Ark, formerly kept in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Link from Breitbart.

I've posted before on the Ark in Ethiopia.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here.

I missed this story when it happened. I have no insights to offer, including how it might affect his political ambitions.

A sentence in the coverage did sadden me once again.

The family-values crowd has never completely embraced Newt, probably because he has been married three times, most recently to a former Hill staff member, Callista Bisek.

Republicans seem to have trouble finding spokesmen and leaders who exemplify conservative values. In 1980 and 1984 the Republicans ran the divorced-and-remarried Reagan against the married-to-their-first-wives Carter and Mondale. In 1996 the divorced-and-remarried Dole against the married philanderer Clinton. In 2008 the divorced-and-remarried MCain against married-to-his-first-wive Obama. Conservative favorite Fred Thompson--divorced and remarried. I've lost count of Rush's wives.

Thank God for the Bushes.
Posted by: Tocqueville
"If we credit the Bible's description of the relationship between Creator and Creation, then we cannot deny the spiritual importance of our economic life. Then we see how religious issues lead to issues of economy, and how issues of economy lead to issues of art, of how to make things. If we understand that no artist--no maker--can work except by reworking the works of Creation, then we see that by our work, by the way we practice our arts, we reveal what we think of the works of God. How we take our lives from this world, how we work, what work we do, how well we use the materials we use and what we do with them after we have used them--all these are questions of the highest and gravest religious significance. These questions cannot be answered by thinking, but only by doing. In answering them, we practice, or do not practice, our religion."

. . . .

"If we think of ourselves as lofty souls entrapped temporarily in lowly bodies in a dispirited, desperate, unlovable world that we must despise for Heaven's sake, then what have we done for this question of significance? Not much, I think. For we are still stuck, like Macbeth, in a condemnation of this life and this world, which were not made for our condemnation. If we divide reality into two parts, spiritual and material, and hold (as the Bible does not hold) that only the spiritual is good or desirable, then our relation to the material Creation becomes arbitrary, having only the quantitative or mercenary value that we have, in fact, and for this reason, assigned to it. Thus we become the judges, and thus inevitably the destroyers, of a world we did not make, and that we are bidden to understand as a divine gift.

It is impossible to see how good work might be accomplished by people who think that our life in this world either signifies nothing or has only a negative significance.

If, on the other hand, we believe that we are living souls, God's dust and God's breath, acting our parts among other creatures all made of the same dust and breath as ourselves; and if we understand that we are free, within the obvious limits of mortal human life, to do evil or good to ourselves and to the other creatures--then all our acts have a supreme significance. If it is true that we are living souls and morally free, then all of us are artists. All of us makers, within mortal terms and limits, of our lives, of one another's lives, of things we need and use."

--Wendell Berry, Christianity and the Survival of Creation

Posted by: an okie gardener
My daily calendar tells me that today is Johnny Appleseed Day.

John Chapman (1774?-1845), aka Johnny Appleseed, is famous for planting apple trees along the American frontier in the Old Northwest, primarily in the Ohio River Valley. He subsisted by selling seedlings (at six cents each, if he could get it), or bartering them for food and clothing.

He also carried a religious message as he went. My calendar mistakenly identifies him as "evangelical" in spreading "biblical messages."

Chapman was a Swedenborgian, a religion that follwed the teachings/visions of Emmanuel Swedenborg (1668-1772), a Swedish scientist, engineer, and philospher. Swedenborg believed that God spoke to him through dreams and visions, showing him spiritual truths and the correct interpretation of the Bible. To quote from Encarta

Swedenborg maintained that in 1757 the last judgment occurred in his presence, that the Christian church as a spiritual entity came to an end, and that a new church, foretold as the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, was created by divine dispensation. According to Swedenborg, the natural world derives its reality from the existence of God, whose divinity became human in Jesus Christ. The highest purpose is to achieve conjunction with God through love and wisdom.

Many of the Romantics were influenced by Swedenborg's writings, including for a time William Blake.

A church was founded based on his teachings that continues today, though in its influence diminished since the nineteenth century, and split into two. The Swedenborgian Church and The New Church.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Essay, originally in The American Spectator, reprinted in the Institute for Religion and Democracy
Posted by: an okie gardener
These videos are a hoot, and also thoughtfully informed.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here from Reuters.

Hard to be a Christian in a Muslim land. The article's explanation, Turkish secularism, only covers 80 years of the last 1000. At one time all of present-day Turkey was a Christian land. Then Islamic conquests reduced Christians to second-class citizens--dhimmis--and their numbers have dwindled since.

Good luck with that E.U. membership thing Turkey.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Posted by: an okie gardener
Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

Read the full essay. From The Times Online, link via Brits at Their Best.

Not all religions are equal.