Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elvis Presley

In a sermon “Interpreting Failures, Conserving Victories” , Ravi Zacharias quoted from a Albert Goldman article in Life Magazine about Elvis Presley.

Our society’s heroes tell us more about the society than it does about the heroes.

Presley’s daily regimen went this way. He had 3 or 4 attacks caused of drugs. At 4am, he would asked for an envelope from one of his aids and that envelope would consist of 11 different pills and 3 shots of Demerol, mainly downers and a lot of barbiturates. All of them were habit forming, increasing tolerance but not increasing the volume needed for a fatal dose. Says Goldman he risked his life everyday. That was at 4am. At 4.30am, just before it would take its effects, he will order his one main meal for the day which consists of three huge cheese burgers or six and seven banana splits.

The man’s life had become so erratic and so out of control. That was at 4.30. At 8.30am, in four hours, all those drugs would have stop taking their total effect because the tolerance was increasing. At 8.30, he would begin to stir his 250 pounds frame and then he would call for the second attack, administered by an aid. And then one and half hours at 10am , a third attack. By mid-afternoon he would be groggy and it would be time for him to wake up to get ready for some of his performances, an aid would come with cotton swaps , soaked it into liquid cocaine and plunge it into his nostrils and a handful of Desbutal to jumpstart his heart.

He needed drugs to wake him up, drugs to knock him out.

Finally, one of his friends look at him and said “Elvis, what are you doing to yourself?”

And he said this “I rather be unconscious than miserable.”

One pathologist described him as a pharmaceutical freak. In last two and a half years, he said he had 19,000 narcotics, stimulants and sedatives.

Dr Norman, the chief pathologist to compile the toxicology report said he had never seen so many drugs in one body.

When Goldman finished the article, what is a complete mystery to me is why a man whose life become so bizarre and out of control has still been such an idol to millions of people and synonymous with the urethra of the fifties and sixties as the idol winning the accolades of the millions. He said “So indestructible is Elvis that even a suicide and the details of his life are not able to destroy him,” and the article ends by saying “Even Elvis could not destroy Elvis.”

What I say to you is this: look at the heroes that we have today. Turn on your television screen and see the heroes. People in the entertainment media or leadership media whose lives in private betray standards that ought to be abort by civilisations. But somehow politicians go into great bastion of power and believe their private lives has nothing to do with their public lives.

Ladies and gentleman, how you and I live in private has everything to do with what we present ourselves in public. If it does not, it ought to. And the reason for that is there is unifying threat in reality and God say it’s spirituality. Have you ever realised that the very word universe is looking for unity, the very word university is looking for unity in diversity. And God say the unity for all diversity is spiritual strength that a person has.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Justices Show Reluctance for Broad Marriage Ruling

U.S. | MAR 28, 2013, 09:33 AM GMT+08:00
Justices Show Reluctance for Broad Marriage Ruling
By Jess Bravin

WASHINGTON—Two days of arguments on same-sex marriage revealed a Supreme Court uneasy about making sweeping moves on gay rights and holding doubts about whether the cases belonged before the justices at all.

The arguments also brought to life more familiar fissures between the court's liberal and conservative wings. On Wednesday, liberal justices suggested that a 1996 federal law denying benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples was motivated by animus against gays, while Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, challenged assertions that gays and lesbians need judicial protection from repressive majorities.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, seen as a pivotal vote, gave gay-marriage proponents some hope by suggesting the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act might infringe on states' rights to make their own marriage rules. That suggested at least five justices—Justice Kennedy plus the court's four liberals—might be ready to strike down the law.

But questions about whether the court could properly hear the case made it hard to predict any outcome.

Decisions are expected by late June on the Defense of Marriage Act case as well as the case the court heard Tuesday on California's 2008 voter initiative prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The arguments highlighted a point in common between the two cases. Normally, federal courts require two adverse parties before they can decide a case. Strikingly, however, both the federal and state governments agree with the plaintiffs that the challenged laws are unconstitutional, and have declined to defend them on appeal.

Other groups have stepped in to defend the laws banning gay marriage—the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives for the Defense of Marriage Act and the private citizens who officially sponsored Proposition 8.

But justices of different ideological stripes were wary of litigants without clear legal standing, even though advocates on both sides were eager for vindication in a roiling culture war.

"I can't think of another instance where that's happened," said Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal, referring to the House's intervention in the federal marriage law case. "I'm afraid of opening that door."

The Obama administration calls the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, agreeing with the ruling of lower federal courts.

Nonetheless, it asked the Supreme Court to approve those rulings, an additional level of review Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan said reflected the administration's "respect" for the judiciary's role.

Chief Justice Roberts called that stance "totally unprecedented," in one of several remarks criticizing the Obama administration.

If the justices decide that neither the Obama administration nor the House had reason to bring the federal marriage case before the high court, that would keep in place two lower-court rulings nullifying the law.

Although it would create no precedent on sexual-orientation discrimination, such an outcome likely would lead the Obama administration to cease enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, effectively extending federal marriage benefits to same-sex spouses in states that recognize such status, currently nine plus the District of Columbia, as well as for spouses of federal employees.

Moreover, more than 1,000 federal laws in some way affect people based on marital status.

A similar outcome in the Proposition 8 case, finding that the initiative's sponsors lack standing to appeal a federal district court ruling, would nullify California's gay marriage ban without providing the U.S. Supreme Court's guidance on the core constitutional issues.

Should the justices take that path, they will defer their own entry into the culture wars over marriage, perhaps for years. And when the next same-sex marriage case arrives, a national consensus on the issue could be clearer. To be sure, the justices could end up brushing aside the concerns about legal standing and end up ruling on the merits of the case. Even then, the court seemed to lean toward cautious language rather than a ringing declaration about the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection as applied to gays and lesbians. Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, argued that gays were the type of long-oppressed minority group that the court has traditionally acted to protect. "No other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have," Ms. Kaplan said. "Until 1990, gay people were not allowed to enter this country."

But Chief Justice Roberts didn't accept that assertion.

"You don't doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same sex-marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?" he told Ms. Kaplan. "As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case."

Justice Elena Kagan quoted from a House report from 1996 when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. The report said the law was intended "to express moral disapproval of homosexuality," she said, eliciting a gasp from the spectators' gallery.

"If that's enough to invalidate the statute, then you should invalidate the statute," replied lawyer Paul Clement, who was defending the law. But the motivations of lawmakers shouldn't matter, he continued, if the measure was justifiable for other reasons, such as establishing a uniform definition of marriage for federal benefit purposes.

When Justice Kennedy expressed concerns about the Defense of Marriage Act, he did so on grounds of states' rights, not equal protection. The law poses a "real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody," Justice Kennedy told Mr. Clement.

Mr. Clement disagreed, saying that the law simply clarified the meaning of marriage for federal purposes, without supplanting separate state law.

And on this point, Mr. Clement's principal adversary, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, agreed. Typically for government lawyers, Mr. Verrilli resisted conceding that the federal government categorically lacked authority to legislate in a particular field.

Mr. Verrilli repeatedly tried to lead the discussion into the Constitution's equal-protection principles, only to be drawn back by justices who were seeking other grounds to evaluate the law.

Write to Jess Bravin at

Corrections & Amplifications The 'Shifting Support' chart had incorrect figures with an earlier version of this article. It incorrectly said 32 current members of Congress voted against the bill (31 Democrats, one independent) and 99 for it (40 Democrats, 59 Republicans), with 32 of those now supporting same-sex marriage. The correct figures are 29 voted against (28 Democrat, one independent) and 87 for (36 Democrats, 51 Republicans), with 29 of those now supporting same-sex marriage.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Point Of View: The Trouble With Freedom

BBC News
24 August 2012 Last updated at 17:15 GMT

A Point Of View: The trouble with freedom

We've come to believe that freedom is the natural human condition, which only tyrants prevent everyone from enjoying - but when a tyrant is toppled, we can't know what will come next, says John Gray.

In February 1917, a young boy was reading a Russian translation of one of the books of Jules Verne in a street in St Petersburg (at the time called Petrograd) where a bookseller had laid out his stock in the snow.

The boy heard a commotion and, looking up from the book, saw a terrified man being frog-marched down the street. The ashen-faced figure was one of the city's policemen, who were among the last functionaries of the Tsarist regime to remain loyal.

Discovered hiding on the roof of a building, he had been brought down to be taken to what he evidently feared would be his end. What happened to the man cannot be known, but his deathly white face as he was marched away made an enduring impression on the boy who witnessed the scene.

Aged seven at the time, the young boy went on to be the philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin, who spoke of the episode repeatedly in conversations I had with him towards the end of his life. He often contrasted the mood of optimism that accompanied the February revolution with the darker atmosphere that followed the Bolshevik coup in October of the same year.

Yet the incident occurred during the first of these upheavals, and it was clear that the impact it had on him had nothing to do with any differences between the two revolutions. As noted by his biographer, the episode left Berlin with a dread of violence that stayed with him after he left Russia in 1921 with his mother and father for a life in England and right up to his death in Oxford in November 1997. But I believe there may have been a subtler effect on Berlin's thinking, which has something important to say to us today.

Not long after the start of the 21st Century, we like to tell ourselves an uplifting story in which freedom expands whenever tyranny is overthrown. We believe that freedom and democracy are inseparable, so that when a dictator is toppled the result is not only a more accountable type of government but also greater liberty throughout society.

This belief forms the justification of the repeated attempts by Western governments to export their own political model to countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In this simple and seemingly compelling story, freedom and democracy are a package that can be delivered anywhere in the world. An older generation of thinkers recognised that freedom and democracy don't always go hand in hand. The 19th Century liberal John Stuart Mill was a life-long campaigner for greater democracy, but he also worried that personal liberty would shrink once governments could claim to express the will of the majority.

Born in 1872 and dying in 1970 at the age of 98, Mill's godson Bertrand Russell agreed and shocked many people when he observed that while Britain after World War II was a more democratic society than the one he'd grown up in, it was also in some ways less free. For Russell, as for Mill, liberty was one thing, democracy another. It's a deeply unfashionable view, but I think essentially correct.

Where this older generation differed from many today is that they thought of freedom as a lack of restriction on how we can act. Being free meant simply the absence of obstacles to living as we choose. While it's a view that's been criticised because it seems to see individuals as being separate from society, it seems to me to capture better than any other what freedom means and why it's important for every human being.

We need freedom because our goals and values are highly diverse and often quite different from those of the people around us. Having a voice in collective decisions - the basis of democracy - is a fine thing, but it won't protect your freedom if the majority is hostile to the way you choose to live.

Many will tell you that this danger can be dealt with by bills of rights that put some freedoms beyond the range of political interference. But politics has a habit of finding ways around the law, and when the state is weak declarations of rights tend to be unenforceable.

Once you think of freedom as living as you choose, you'll see that it's not just tyrants that stand in its way. The world is full of failed and enfeebled states in which the main threats to freedom come from organised crime, ethnic conflict and militant sectarian groups.

If you live in some provinces of Mexico, you're likely to be more afraid of ruthless drug cartels than of corrupt and ineffectual governments. In parts of the Balkans in the 1990s, you'd be afraid of lawless militias, operating on ethnic lines but often intertwined with organised crime. In these cases, it's a condition of near-anarchy rather than tyranny that threatens freedom.

In other cases, it's the power of fundamentalism that can most threaten your freedom.

Think of Iraq. You only have to consider what happened to the Marsh Arabs, whose ancient way of life was destroyed by draining the marshlands and blowing up villages, or the use of chemical weapons against Kurds, to recall how severe Saddam's repression could be. Yet freedom wasn't enhanced for everyone once the dictator had been removed.

Today, if you're an Iraqi woman and opt for a lifestyle that fails to square with a narrow interpretation of religion, you're at risk of violent attack from fundamentalist groups. If you're known to be gay, you risk being hunted down and killed.

If you belong to a religious minority such as Christians or Mandeans (a branch of Gnosticism that was practised in the region for about 2,000 years), you face persecution and the risk of extinction. The country has a type of democratic government, but the state is too weak and fractured and politics too dominated by sectarianism to prevent these assaults on freedom. Syria is different from Iraq in many ways, but it's hard to avoid fearing that a similar pattern may be emerging there.

In the reassuring story we like to repeat to ourselves, the emergence of these new threats is just a phase - in time these countries will achieve the type of freedom-loving democracy that we believe we enjoy. But we can say this only because we've forgotten our own history and neglect the dangers we currently face.

The democratic nation-states that exist in Europe today came into being in a process - extending from the French revolution through the collapse of the Habsburg empire after WWI to the break-up of former Yugoslavia - that included repressing the freedom of minorities, and the process hasn't ended with democracy and freedom co-existing in harmony as we like to think.

The far right is on the march in many European countries, using its rights to attack minorities. The dictatorships of the 1930s are unlikely to return, but toxic democracies based on nationalism and xenophobia could emerge in a number of countries and be in power for long periods.

Coming from Russia, where the despotism of the Tsars was replaced by a far more repressive system of government, Isaiah Berlin didn't need English liberal thinkers to teach him that the overthrow of tyranny doesn't by itself expand liberty. Where he was at one with them was in understanding that liberty is a fragile achievement that can be undermined in many different ways.

We've come to believe a story in which freedom is the natural human condition, which only tyrants prevent everyone from enjoying. The reality is that when a tyrant is toppled we can't know what will come next.

When we tell our tale of freedom spreading across the world, we might pause to think for a moment of the young boy who looked up from his book to see a terrified policeman being dragged off to an unknown fate.

Here is a selection of your comments.

Mankind seems to have made less progress in taming the inate savagery potentially in all of us and concentrated more on systems to codify how society operates. How little encouragement there is for ethics, standards and compassion, the true values.
Peter Mounsey, Harlow, Essex

I would propose another principle: that freedoms flourish in social environments where power is spread most widely and equally. I have met a former German concentration camp prisoner, a refugee from Georgia in the Breznef era, a Kurd from eastern Turkey in a time of military dictatorship and a Ugandan who fled his homeland because of repression by Idi Amin. Also one of my former colleagues lost some friends in Tianamen Square. These were victims of "strong government". We should oppose the concentration of power wherever it occurs. Power brings responsibilities to the governed, unbridled power brings evil.
John Price, Bath

There are many countries better of with a dictator than without such as Iraq, Libya,... and yes, dictators will abuse power and target certain groups of people but at least they in general control the majority of people from targeting others that are not like minded. This is what happened in DR Congo and it's neighbours after Mobutu was gone, all these different tribes try to eradicate each other over thousand year old feuds and in the process slaughter each other in the most cruel ways. Sometimes you just need one man to stop the masses from taking others peoples freedom.
Manu Henrotte, Bali

The democracy here in Australia functions almost exclusively on economic rational; putting matters of finance above the matters of individuals. The competition for work is so intense that people quickly fall into any position available and often one far below that which their qualifications truly merit. The majority of us end up working in positions (through the necessity to provide for ourselves and our families) that actively support the very causes we are stand against. We are only as free as Weber's cage allows us.
Chris Tope, Sydney

Democracy has been hijacked by so called freedom. Freedom has come to mean the freedom to exploit. Individual freedoms such as religious, sexual are just a pretence at freedom. Institutions have the freedom to exploit in a democracy as is evidenced by these pay day loans at exorbitant interest rates that can only be described as usury. In other cultures they may have more repressive regimes in terms of religious or sexual freedom but sharia law protects people from the worst excesses of usury. What you win on the swings you lose on the roundabouts.If we could just combine the best of both then we might have freedom with responsibility.
Jane Jackson, Ireland

I returned to New Zealand about 7 years ago after 25 years overseas, having lived and worked in a number of places across Europe and Asia. Rather than feeling freer than for a very long time (there's only 4m of us in a very large, mostly empty country), I feel more restricted than at any time in my life. I may be in a country that runs a proportional representation system, but unless I subscribe wholeheartedly to one party's particular point of view (and most have a relatively narrow political agenda), I have no voice. All of our parties are remarkably conservative and not one, indeed not even a single politician, can be singled out as a champion of individual freedoms or liberal ideas. Layer onto that an extensive and all-encompassing bureaucracy, and to a truly amazing extent so much of our everyday living is dictated by "others". The final straw for me living in Christchurch has been the absolute powers assumed by Authority following the Christchurch earthquake which have seen (and continue to see 18 months after the last sizeable 'quake) individual rights and freedoms trampled over with no avenue for appeal whatsoever. Much as I love my my friends and my corner of NZ, the overriding power of "Democratic" government and the absence of respect for individual freedoms will take me and my family away forever as soon as we are reasonably able.
Brian Anderson, Christchurch

There is no such thing as Freedom, unless you are marooned, alone, on a desert island. To live with another individual you have to subjugate some of your or their desires and wishes. In large Societies, the freedom of the individual very much depends on the beliefs, values and capabilities of the ruling elite. In a democracy, this tends to be a reflection of the beliefs, values and capabilities of the voting majority. Thus, in a democracy, the majority get the government they deserve.
Steph, Pershore

Democracy is certainly not synonymous with freedom. For the most part, democracies are controlled by those people with the financial means to run for office or by those people who are backed by some external power. While we would like to believe that our votes count and that our voice is heard, for the most part, people find themselves increasingly told what to believe by those who have the money or power to have their message heard. If the people who represent us in the government are nothing like us, how can they represent us. They can't. However laws have been passed to make it difficult for anyone without the necessary capital or connections to run for any office for the most part. When the majority of us are slowly regressing towards poverty and the rich have absolute power and influence through both the people who represent us and through the power of lobbies then it is time to examine our options. We are essentially not free. We have been brainwashed into believing we are through the illusion of a vote and an elected government.
Jimmy Arthur, Jakarta

I see the definition of freedom as simply an absence of restrictions as an essentially immature or 'teenage' view of freedom. A more mature view view of freedom accepts a trade-off, in some ways a form of delayed gratification: in return for payments of various taxes we loose the freedom to spend all our money as we like, but gain health care and retirement benefits, etc. If we accept driving rules, we enjoy greater 'freedom' to travel further than if there were no rules at all. Some may also argue that if we voluntarily accept some restrictions on sexual behaviour, we may enjoy deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
Paul Saunderson, Aalesund

Democracy is the rule of the mob. When the mob votes to spend money they don't have, on fripperies they don't need, this is legalised theft. In spite of all my "freedom" I can't travel abroad without government-approved identification, own a firearm without approval, set up a business without interference, or live in a caravan on privately owned land. My earnings are taxed at source while corporations and individuals end up with 0% and even negative tax rates. It is true that our freedom is an illusion. We have two dozen coffee shops, a dozen bakeries, seven or eight religions, hundreds of TV channels, but only two political parties. How is that freedom of choice?
Colin C, Barnsley

What we have to thank the wretched barons of 1215, or the slave-holder/founding fathers of the US, for is not "democracy" but the fact that the power of the state can be limited. Guarantees for the weak were a while coming, admittedly.
Karen Ray, Colerain, US

I am often surprised how 'The West' thinks the process of liberalisation can be short-cut simply by installing democracy, and assuming everything else will fall into place. I am not at all sure such a quick process has any precedent anywhere in history. As the author mentions, the formation of the liberal democracies in the west took time "extending from the French revolution...". In the case of England, I would go even further back. One could use Magna Carta as a convenient start point (issued in 1215, limiting the interference of the state in the affairs of the individual), and the process continued at varying rates over the next 800 years. England did not emerge suddenly from "the horrors of tyranny" in 1928 with the advent of universal suffrage. As for the future of this "democratisation". Even the UK may not be immune to the ill effects of the assumption that "greater democracy leads to greater freedom". The recent moves towards a fully elected House of Lords seem a case in point. There are obvious problems of two houses being selected in the same democratic way, and then being expected to act differently. However, due to a belief in maximal democracy being a good thing, most politicians appear to support such a change nonetheless.
Ian, Manchester

BBCBBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Chorus: Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,


There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,


Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,


Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,

A sixth verse was later added to the hymn by Ed­ward H. Bick­er­steth, Jr. as follows:[2]

There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.

I Will Sing of My Redeemer

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.

Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer,
With His blood, He purchased me.
On the cross, He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In His boundless love and mercy,
He the ransom freely gave.

I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant power I’ll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin, and death, and hell.

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His heav’nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Through All The Changing Scenes Of Life

Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.

Of His deliverance I will boast,
Till all that are distressed
From my example courage take
And soothe their griefs to rest.

O magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt His Name;
When in distress to Him I called,
He to my rescue came.

Their drooping hearts were soon refreshed,
Who looked to Him for aid;
Desired success in every face,
A cheerful air displayed.

“Behold,” they say, “Behold the man
Whom providence relieved;
The man so dangerously beset,
So wondrously retrieved!”

The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliverance He affords to all
Who on His succor trust.

O make but trial of His love;
Experience will decide
How blest are they, and only they,
Who in His truth confide.

Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make you His service your delight;
Your wants shall be His care.

While hungry lions lack their prey,
The Lord will food provide
For such as put their trust in Him,
And see their needs supplied.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Love Of God by Frederick M. Lehman

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Verse 3 was penciled on the wall of a narrow room in an insane asylum by a man said to have been demented. The profound lines were discovered when they laid him in his coffin.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Now fewer than six in 10 say they are Christians as religion goes into decline

Proportion of Christians in England and Wales down to 59.3 per cent
Quarter of people say they do not follow any religion following rise of aggressive atheism
Number of Muslims up to 2.7million, 4.8 per cent of the population

PUBLISHED: 14:51 GMT, 11 December 2012 | UPDATED: 09:26 GMT, 12 December 2012

Christianity has declined sharply over the past decade, according to the census returns. Numbers who choose to call themselves Christians fell by more than four million.

The collapse in belief in the religion which has been central to the history of the country for 1,500 years means that fewer than six out of ten, or 59 per cent, now describe themselves as Christian. A decade ago nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, did so.

The diminishing number of Christians is mirrored by a rapid growth in those who profess no religious affiliation. A quarter of the population, 14.1million, now say they have no religion, nearly double the 7.7million who said the same thing in the 2001 census.

The growth religion in England and Wales is Islam, the census returns showed. Over a decade, numbers of Muslims have gone up from around 1.5million to 2.7million, and almost one in 20 of the population is now a Muslim.

The lowest level of Christian belief is in London, where fewer than half the population, 48 per cent, now say they are Christian.

'British whites' are the minority in London for the first time as census shows number of UK immigrants has jumped by 3 million in 10 years

Returns showed the most Christian district is Knowsley on Merseyside, where more than four out of ten are Christian. More than a third of people in the London borough of Tower Hamlets are Muslim. Norwich is the most Godless place in Britain with 42.5 per cent of its population professing no religion.

The Church of England said it was pleased a majority of the population remain Christian. Spokesman the Rev Arun Arora said: ‘These results confirm that we remain a faithful nation.

‘England remains a country where the majority of the nation actively identifies the role that faith plays in their life. When all faiths are taken together, people of faith account for two-thirds of the nation – two in every three people identify themselves as having a faith. ‘The fall in those choosing to identify themselves as Christians is a challenge. One of the reasons may well be fewer people identifying as “cultural Christians” – those who have no active involvement with churches and who may previously have identified as Christian for cultural or historical reasons.’

Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association said: ‘In spite of a biased question that positively encourages religious responses, to see such an increase in the non-religious and such a decrease in those reporting themselves as Christian is astounding.

‘Of course these figures still exaggerate the number of Christians overall – the number of believing, practising Christians is much lower than this and the number of those leading their lives with no reference to religion much higher.’

Around 177,000 people claim to be Jedi – the ‘faith’ made famous in the Star Wars films – though this number is down on the 2001 figure by more than a half.

And 6,242 people subscribe to the Heavy Metal religion, set up in 2010 by the Rock music magazine, Metal Hammer. Other alternative religions included 56,620 Paganists, 39,061 Spiritualists and 2,418 Scientologists.

Read more:

There's a Discipleship Crisis in the Church Today

There's a Discipleship Crisis in the Church Today
by Jonathan Dodson,
May 4th 2011 8:06 PM

In the US, this year 3,500 churches will close, this month 1500 pastors will leave the ministry, and today approximately 7,575 people will move on from church. Of those who move on, some never affiliate with a religion again saying they just “gradually drifted away from the religion.” America is experiencing, not only economic decline, but also church decay. Why?

Although there is no single reason for the collapse of the church, one has to wonder what would have happened if the pastors were not responsible for most of the ministry in these churches? What if the people who left, moved on equipped and committed to discipling others in the faith? What if these churches acted more like a community of disciples and less like consumers of spiritual goods and services? Wouldn’t the outcome be different? Churches would be more resilient and people would be less prone to drift. The church collapse is, in part, the result of a discipleship crisis.

The Discipleship Crisis

To rebuild the church, everyday people, leaders, and pastors must be taught and equipped to re-think and re-live Christianity. A “Christian” needs to be re-conceived as a person who shares their life and the gospel with others. The meaning of “church” has to be restored as the people of God on the mission of Christ—a people who posses an obligation of love to one another instead of a duty to a religious service. The role of “leader” needs to be reconfigured around discipling people not exerting influence. “Pastor” needs to be rebooted around the identity of disciple not the role of preacher. Christians, leaders, and pastors need to recover their fundamental identity as disciples of Jesus in order to renew their churches.

Rebuilding the church will require repentance on all levels. We need to turn away from finding our worth in our (important) roles and return to our (eternal) identity as disciples of Jesus. We desperately need to come back to being and making disciples of Jesus.

Without the driving force of the gospel, discipleship devolves into self-help religiosity motivated by conservative pietism.

Why Discipleship Isn’t the Answer

Yet, contrary to what some might think, discipleship is not the engine of the church. The gospel is. Without the gospel, both discipleship and church fail. Without the driving force of the gospel, discipleship devolves into self-help religiosity motivated by conservative pietism. The church is reduced to a glorified non-profit in which people lose interest. But the gospel reactivates both church and discipleship!

The good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us, changes everything! In the gospel, God in Christ welcomes sinners and sends out disciples. The gospel, not discipleship, is central to the church. If we make discipleship the engine of the church, we’ll run quickly out of gas. But when the gospel is central, the church gets traction and disciples get depth.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship

While all disciples of Jesus believe the gospel is central to Christianity, we often live differently. A gospel-centered disciple returns to the gospel over and over again though, to receive, apply, and spread God’s grace and wisdom into every aspect of life. One of my goals is to help make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus by restoring the gospel to the center of discipleship, and one of the ways I'm striving to do this is through

We're writing articles to help disciples return to the gospel again and again by providing practitioner-tested, gospel-centered, community-shaped, and mission-focused articles, eBooks, and curriculum (coming soon). Topics range from “How to Disciple a Transsexual” to “Why Make Disciples.”

Our hope is that the gospel can transform disciples, and disciples living in communities on mission can renew churches, and churches can renew their neighborhoods, suburbs, and cities.

Original Page:
Food Taboos: It's All a Matter Of Taste
National Geographic Channel
April 19, 2004

On TV: Taboo: Delicacies airs Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT in the United States and is available only on the National Geographic Channel.

Fancy a dish of poisonous fugu fish? How about rams' testicle pâté? Sheeps' heads and rotting shark are a particular treat. Or if it's an aphrodisiac one seeks—why not try a carefully prepared bull penis?

All of these foods are delicacies on menus around the world.

Food taboos and delicacies often arise from cultural and religious beliefs; one person's meat is another's poison. The humble hamburger, a mainstay of U.S. cuisine, is a forbidden food for Hindus. Pork is off the menu for many Jews and Muslims. More than 1,400 species of protein-packed insects are part of African, Asian, Australian, and Latin American cuisine, but one would be hard pressed to find these creepy crawlies at a U.S. restaurant (at least intentionally).

Two documentaries airing on the National Geographic Channel this week examine delicacies and taboo foods around the globe, revealing that what's good or bad is all a matter of taste.

"Food is often the subject of taboo or disgust because it is internalized. Any revulsion we have for the food is magnified by the thought it will become part of us," said Carole Counihan, an ethnographer at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. Counihan studies the relationship between food, culture, and gender and is author of Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family, and Gender in Twentieth Century Florence.

In New York rats are considered filthy creatures that consume human garbage, carry disease, and live in the sewers with human waste—eating one would be unthinkable. But in the West African nation of Togo, rats live a more wholesome existence in the forests and are sold in the village markets.

"[West African] rats are more like squirrels or something. They're not in an environment that's sort of filled with human filth," said Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Sheep's Head and Rotting Shark

Food symbolizes many aspects of everyday culture and is a vehicle for social relations.

In February the people of Iceland celebrate an old tradition called Thorrablot—a festival of feasts. The feast is comprised of some unusual delicacies: rams' testicles, sheep's heads, and rotting shark. Although these dishes strike most outsiders as vile, for Icelanders the feasts are potent ways to preserve their Viking heritage.

"The purpose of continuing to eat these foods makes the rituals real and distinguishes the festival culture from everyday life—it reinforces history," said Nan Rothschild, an archaeologist at Barnard College in New York.

It also provides a bonding experience for Icelanders. "By eating these foods—which can be hard to eat—you prove your tie to the community," Rothschild said.

Medicinal Foods

Many foods are considered delicacies, not for their taste, but for their medicinal effects. In East Asian markets not only can just about every creature be found—domestic, wild, and endangered—but almost every body part also makes it to the supermarket shelf.

According to numerous legends, organs have special properties that can be transferred if eaten. Supposedly, the penises of many animals endow the consumers with healthy sex lives, rooster testicles help women stay young, and monkey brains cure neurological ailments.

In China the penis of a bull is considered a potent aphrodisiac—the natural version of Viagra.

"There is a symbolic link between the sexual potency of something like a bull penis and eating it," Counihan said. "It makes sense that people thought that if they eat some part of the animal, they will gain the attributes of that organ."

For foreigners these overlapping functions are a source of disgust. "Food is food and sex is sex—for many it is unthinkable to consume body parts used for sex," Counihan said.

Many older people, from both industrialized and developing nations, remember eating the testicles, cheeks, lungs, kidneys, hearts, and livers of animals. The broad repertoire of edible animal parts emerged from a subsistence culture in which nothing was wasted. This still applies to many countries around the world where people struggle to get enough to eat.

Americans have become distant from the source of their food. Animals are rarely served whole, and innards are not considered worth marketing and have faded from the inventory of edible foods.

Adults, Babies, and Fetuses

Not all delicacies have deep cultural roots. Some have emerged relatively recently as cultures have merged and hybridized.

In India the children of European and Indian unions were rejected by both parent cultures and formed their own Anglo-Indian community with unique customs and distinctive culinary traditions. One dish that reflects this departure from both parent cultures is kutti pi—an animal fetus.

Kutti pi, reviled by most Indians and Europeans, is considered a delicacy both because it is rare—it is only available if a pregnant animal happens to be killed that day—and because of its medicinal properties. Many Anglo-Indians believe it is healthful for pregnant women and also beneficial for people with tuberculosis or back pain.

Eating a fetus, however, triggers a note of discord for many people. "It's taboo, it violates our sense of order and propriety. Most people eat animals that have been born. Veal horrifies many people because it is eating a baby animal—eating a fetus goes beyond," Counihan said.

The concept of delicacy is very often related to how hard it is to get certain foods and how much they cost. To find truffles requires the cooperation of trained pigs. A nest of the swiftlet bird is an essential ingredient in "bird-nest soup"—getting to these nesting sites is quite an ordeal.

Food is a window into culture, and in many ways our comments on what other people eat says more about us than them, Counihan said.

On TV: Taboo: Delicacies airs on the National Geographic Channel Thursday, April 22, at 10 p.m. ET/PT in the United States.

Related Stories
Thai "Ladyboy" Kickboxer Is Gender-Bending Knockout
Inside Voodoo: African Cult of Twins Marks Voodoo New Year
Voodoo Blood Rite: Reporter on African Ritual
Maori Chief on Facial Tattoos and Tribal Pride
Voodoo a Legitimate Religion, Anthropologist Says
Tattoos—From Taboo to Mainstream

Related Web Sites
National Geographic Channel
Video Preview of Taboo
Taboo: Program Schedule
Culture Shock Week
Taboo Photo Gallery
Third Sex Photo Gallery

© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Once to every man and nation

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His

James R. Low­ell

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rejoice, the Lord Is King

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
mortals, give thanks and sing,
and triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart,
lift up your voice; rejoice;
again I say, rejoice.

Jesus the Savior reigns,
the God of truth and love;
when he had purged our stains,
he took his seat above.
Lift up your heart,
lift up your voice; rejoice,
again I say, rejoice.

His kingdom cannot fail;
he rules o'er earth and heaven;
the keys of earth and hell
are to our Jesus given.
Lift up your heart,
again I say, rejoice.

Rejoice in glorious hope!
Jesus the Judge shall come,
and take his servants up
to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear
th'archangel's voice; the trump of God
shall sound, rejoice!

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne,
still may we dwell secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting, thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages, in thy sight,
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night,
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
bears all who breathe away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come;
be thou our guide while life shall last,
and our eternal home.

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,“
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Marcell Sturnberger

The story is told of a man named Marcell Sturnberger who used to get into a train every day at 9:09 on the Long Island railroad. He would go to work every weekday, get into that train, and then later get into a subway train and continue on the way to work. One day he was in the middle of the first train ride when he thought of a friend of his who was rather ill, and he thought he should really not go to work that day and instead visit his sick friend. So he got off at another station, took another train and headed in the direction of his sick friend’s home. But as he entered that subway train, it was very crowded. He knew he wasn’t going to get a seat until a man suddenly realized that he had just missed his station and got up from his seat and Marcell Sturnberger made a beeline and sat down in that seat even though there was very little space.

The man next to him opened a Hungarian newspaper and started to read it, and Marcell Sturnberger could read Hungarian. So he looked at the man and said, “Are you looking for a job sir? Is that why you’re reading this newspaper?” And he said, “no. He said, “The truth of the matter is that I am looking for my wife.” He said, “You’re looking for your wife?” “Can you explain to me what you mean?” He said, “Yes sir, but you’re not going to believe why I still think there is a possibility that I might find her.” He said, “My hometown is in Debrecen in Hungary. And he said, “During the war I was taken away by the Russians to the Ukraine to bury the German dead. But while I was gone the Nazis invaded our town and when I returned, they told me my wife along with many others were taken to the concentration camps and probably to Auschwitz. But there is a small thread of hope in my heart that the Americans who came in may have rescued her. And if she was indeed rescued, my hope is that she came to the United States. So every day I’m looking in the newspapers to see if there may be an announcement of my wife wondering if I am still alive too.

All of a sudden Marcell Sturnberger’s heart began to beat faster. It beat very hard because he remembered that he’d been at a gathering some months ago where a woman sitting next to him said her name was Maria Paschan. She said she came from Debrecen and that her husband had been taken away to the Ukraine by the Russians to bury the German dead and that she’d been taken into Auschwitz and had been rescued by the American soldiers. And as he began to listen he began to wonder if there was a distinct possibility that they were talking about her. He put his hand into his wallet and took out the name because he had kept her name, planning to get together in the same gathering of people. And Marcell Sturnberger took out that card and saw the name Maria Paschan with the telephone number and put it back rather covertly and he looked at the man and said, “Sir, what is your name? He said, “My name is Bella Paschan.” He said, “What is your wife’s name?” He said, “My wife’s name is Maria Paschan.” He said, “Mr. Paschan, I do not know whether I should tell you any more than this, but I’d like you to get off at the next station with me, I think I may have some help for you.

They got off at the next station and Marcell Sturnberger began to dial the number while Bella Paschan stood outside. After several rings a voice responded and he said, “Is this Maria Paschan?” and she said, “Yes.” “Maria,” he said, “this is Marcell Sturnberger.” “Do you remember me?” She said, “Yes I do.” He said, “Maria, can you tell me the name of your husband?” She said, “My husband’s name is Bella Paschan.” He said, “Maria, just a moment.” He took the phone and gave it to Bella Paschan and said, “Sir, you are about to witness one of the greatest miracles of your life.” And he took that telephone and said, “Hello.” And it was not more than thirty seconds until he sobbed and sobbed uncontrollably. And all he could say was, “Maria, Maria, Maria, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.”

The article ends with these words by Maria: “Even now it is difficult to believe that it happened. We have both suffered so much. I have almost lost the capacity to be not afraid. Each time my husband goes from our house I say to myself,’Will anything happen to him before he comes home again?”‘ Skeptical persons may doubt the events of that memorable afternoon and attribute it to mere chance. But was it chance that made Marcell Sturnberger suddenly decide to visit his sick friend and hence take a subway line that he had never been on before? Was it chance that caused the man sitting by the door to rush out just as Sturnberger came in? Was it chance that caused Bella Paschan to be sitting by Sturnberger reading a Hungarian newspaper? Was it chance, or did God ride the Brooklyn subway that afternoon?

Legends and Lyrics: Second Series (1861) by Adelaide Anne Procter

I do not know what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.

I know too well the poison and the sting
Of things too sweet.
Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.
I do not know what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.

It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.
I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the Organ,
And entered into mine.
It may be that Death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heaven
I shall hear that grand Amen.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Charge to Keep I Have

A charge to keep I have,
a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
my calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage
to do my Master's will!

Arm me with jealous care,
as in thy sight to live,
and oh, thy servant, Lord,
prepare a strict account to give!

Help me to watch and pray,
and on thyself rely,
assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall forever die.