eNews For The Week Of March 06, 2012
In This Week’s Issue
- Fluke's 'Reproductive Justice' vs Religious Freedom - (Read)
- Syria's New Constitution Little Help For Christians - (Read)
- Purim And The Apple Of God's Eye - (Read)
Memory Verse of the Week
Important News Headlines
The movement to change Russia's political system will continue, say many Russians, but Putin's election Sunday to a six-year presidential term has many activists wondering whether they are entering dangerous times.
It was Putin who originally disposed of the direct election of governors, and it is he who has overseen the banning of most opposition candidates from state-controlled media. Tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting alleged voting irregularities Monday were met by security forces who arrested more than 200 people.
"We anticipated this. We knew ... we would see a constriction of our liberties," said opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, who was among those arrested. "We have yet to see whether this will become a tendency. If we see a tightening of the screws, this will be very dangerous."
A senior German defense figure said in a report this week that Iran may be significantly further ahead in its nuclear weapons program than public intelligence assessments have so far suggested. Hans Ruhle, who directed the planning department of the German Defense Ministry from 1982 to 1988, argued that Iran may have been involved in the detonation of an experimental uranium nuclear bomb in North Korea in 2010. The article, which appeared on the website of the German daily Die Welt, said that many intelligence agencies believe that at least one of the two nuclear tests that occurred in North Korea in 2010 was an Iranian atomic weapon.
The Jerusalem Post
According to AllAfrica.com, a sucide bombing in Ghana last week killed three church members and injured 40 more. Had a motorcyclist not gotten in the way, however, the entire church full of people would have been destroyed. Koinonia House received a copy of the following letter from eyewitness Chris Morris, who declared the protection of God in the situation, saying, "The absolutely amazing thing is the force of the bomb went backwards, away from the church, killing 3 people, but sparing the nearly 1,000 people inside. Had any of that gone the other way, the whole structure would have collapsed on everyone. Picture the Samson/Philistine scenario and you have an idea of what this church looks like. The devastation was so awful that later when people saw it, the refrain on everyone's lips was, 'ONLY God could have done this..only GOD could have blown the blast backwards...only God could hold up an invisible hand and shield the people from death.'" Praise the Lord for His protection on the churches in Ghana.
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Articles And Commentary
FLUKE'S 'REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE' VS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
When President Barack Obama made a supportive call to Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, he took a definite position on America's contraception controversy as a woman's rights issue, and in doing so turned his back on the religious freedom concerns involved in the matter. The controversy stirs up questions that are much deeper than whether Rush Limbaugh should be calling a female law student a "slut"; it demands that Americans make decisions about how far they want the government micromanaging every aspect of their lives. It demands that Americans take a stand about how far an institution should be forced to financially support personal decisions that violate its religious and moral codes.
Sandra Fluke is a Georgetown law student as well as a 30-something activist dedicated to making contraception and other "reproductive healthcare" free for university students. Rush Limbaugh spotlighted Fluke nationally when he called her a "slut" and said, "So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch." Rush later apologized for his disparaging comments as a poor effort at humor. His attack earned Fluke a call from the President himself.
Rush has rarely been praised for his diplomacy, but his comments were not just inappropriate, they have served to fuel a backlash in support of Fluke and free contraception for women. Unfortunately, the firestorm has diverted attention from the real issue. The issue is not about whether contraception is useful for society. It's not whether the easy availability of contraception protects students or just encourages sexual promiscuity. The issue is this: should Georgetown, a Catholic institution, be forced to cover contraception in its health plans when the Catholic Church opposes contraception? Does the U.S. government have the authority to demand such a thing? Do we want the government making decisions about how we run our businesses and our schools and our homes, down to the fine details? Where does this sort of invasion end?
The idea that this is a woman's rights issue is a farce. Georgetown was not sending people with cameras to spy on women in their dorm rooms nor insisting that the coeds wear ankle-length dresses. Georgetown has not persecuted its female students for using birth control. This private Jesuit university simply does not pay for contraception as part of students' health plans. The President's Office of Budget and Management is reviewing a possible new regulation that could affect student health plans, and students like Fluke are fighting to get not only contraception, but even sex change operations covered by school health plans.
Contraception is much easier to sell to the public than gender reassignment, though, and Fluke uses emotionally charged language in promoting her cause. After not being able to speak at a recent hearing, Fluke told The Washington Post, "My testimony would have been about women who have been affected by their policy, who have medical needs and have suffered dire consequences… The committee did not get to hear real stories I had to share, about actual women who have been dramatically affected by this policy."
Fluke said it has been "heartbreaking" to watch the government "play political football with women's health."
Before taking Fluke too seriously, let's remember a few facts about Georgetown University. The 2011-2012 annual tuition for the full-time undergraduate is almost $41,000. Law students pay nearly $47,000. Georgetown is also not a slipshod school that accepts just anybody; its student body is expected to be full to the brim with exceptionally bright, well-informed young people. For Fluke to suggest that Georgetown females' health has been dramatically affected by the fact that their school health insurance won't pay for a $20-per-month (or less) pill prescription seems a bit far-fetched. Students can easily pay four times as much each month on their iPhone plans.
Whether married or not, whether promiscuous or not, Georgetown students are certainly a bright, capable group. Those in need of contraception should be expected to find it, with or without coverage in their health plans. If they don't want to pay for a prescription for the pill, Trojans are sold, readily available, in grocery stores and drug stores and in gas station bathrooms for a few quarters. If Georgetown law students are desperately broke, they can obtain free condoms at a host of locations in Washington DC (see link below). Most county health departments across the country will provide condoms as part of the effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies and combat the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
The whole matter is not about women's health or "reproductive justice." The matter is about forcing the entire country, regardless of religious or moral values, to submit to a far-left sexual agenda.
The U.S. Constitution has nothing in it about subsidizing personal decisions. It does, however, uphold religious liberty. Fluke's crusade to deny freedom of conscience to Georgetown University – and any other like-minded private school – not only violates the First Amendment, it insults women who are truly suffering from attacks on their rights. Terms like "reproductive justice" should not be bandied about lightly; they should be saved for efforts to protect women from true violations - forced sterilization or forced abortions or the tragedy of female circumcision. Expecting young women to pay for their own contraception is not extreme cruelty. It's just part of expecting them to grow up and take responsibility for their own life choices.
SYRIA'S NEW CONSTITUTION LITTLE HELP FOR CHRISTIANS
Forces loyal to the government of Bashar al-Assad shelled the town of Rastan, Syria on Sunday, bringing that day's civilian death toll to at least 19. Refugees from Homs describe the militias' merciless slaughter of children in the crackdown on rebel forces. Syria has managed to agree on its new constitution, but Christians are still not permitted to run for president. Jesus spoke to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, yet the Christian communities in Syria face turmoil regardless of whether Assad stays in power.
Syrians voted to approve President Bashar al-Assad's new constitution by 89.4 percent in late February, with an official turnout of 57.4 percent, according to Syrian state television. The constitution places a limit of two seven-year terms for the office of president, giving Assad a possible position of power for 14 additional years after the next presidential election. In a nod to open government and freedom, the new constitution no longer limits presidential candidates to the ruling Baath Party but has opened the country to a multi-party system. Parliamentary elections are to be held in May, and Assad's government has offered hope that these moves will calm the country's violence and appease the opposition.
Instead, the opposition cried for a boycott of the referendum, and fighting continued on the Sunday it was held while people went to the polls. The constitution still gives the president a position of authority over the legislative and judicial branches. The president can pick the prime minister rather than letting parliament have its way. The seven-year term is only renewable once, but the opposition wanted it shortened to five years.
Prime Minister Adel Safar responded to the opposition's call for a boycott, saying, "We are not concerned with this. We care about ... spreading democracy and freedom in the country." Safar said, "If there was a genuine desire for reform, there would have been movement from all groups, especially the opposition, to start dialogue immediately with the government to achieve the reforms and implement them on the ground."
Yet, peace cannot be encouraged by the wonton butchering of innocent lives. The city of Homs is without electricity most of the day and people are holed up in their homes, not daring to come out. Schools and businesses are closed. Civilians continue to be the victims of Syria's shabiha militias, which reportedly have been rounding up random men, whom they torture and execute. Mere boys are being slaughtered in front of their fathers, their throats sliced open, and a new constitution will not bring them back.
World leaders are not impressed with the constitutional changes.
"The referendum in Syria is nothing more than a farce," said Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister. "Sham votes cannot be a contribution to a resolution of the crisis. Assad must finally end the violence and clear the way for a political transition."
Minorities On The Side:
Christians in Syria find themselves in a particularly difficult situation. While Assad's abuse and crimes against humanity persist, the country's Christians are not guaranteed any greater safety should Assad's regime topple and be replaced by the more strict Islamic government represented by much of the opposition forces. Christians make up 12 percent of Syria's 23 million people, but their numbers may dwindle if a more fundamentalist form of Islam takes over. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Christians were driven from Iraq - from some of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but Christians were not specifically targeted as they have been since his regime fell.
Many Christians in Syria have backed Assad, but while the revised constitution allows a variety of political parties, the section that bars non-Muslims from running for president is still firmly in place. In 1973, President Hafez al-Assad attempted to leave out the clause in Article 3 that makes Islam the state religion, but hardline Muslims protested, and Syria is still legally an Islamic state. Christians fought to have the clause removed from the current constitution, but Assad's need to placate the Islamists in the country overruled.
Older Christians in Syria see their choices as either the Baathists or the Islamists – or else a breakdown of government followed by lawlessness. These are not a pleasant set of choices, and the Christians are not alone in their quandary over which side to take. The Druze and Kurds benefit from the semi-stability of the current regime, in spite of the violence. The opposition has not risen up with a strong leadership that could be trusted to take the reins from Assad without a dangerous power vacuum that will lead to chaos and corruption - or a religiously motivated dictatorship.
There are many Syrians on the sidelines who want to avoid getting mixed up in the mess, not liking any of their prospects, not having a great deal of hope. Many have fled. Most simply want to raise their families in peace, but until Assad stops allowing the butchering of children and offers the country real freedom, the fighting will lead on in the direction of civil war – with little help for the stabilization of the Middle East.
Our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria need our prayers. God's arm is not short, and He alone can bring Syria much needed spiritual and physical salvation even in the midst of bombs and bullets.
PURIM AND THE APPLE OF GOD'S EYE
"For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye." – Zechariah 2:8
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave US President Barack Obama a timely gift - filled with symbolism – when he presented the President with a scroll of the Book of Esther during his White House visit this week. At a time in history when the world frowns on Israel, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is calling on Muslims and Christians to wrest Jerusalem from the Jews, Purim becomes an especially important holiday to celebrate with joy.
This year, Purim will be celebrated March 7-8. The famed foiling of the wicked plot of Haman to blot out the Jews is, of course, one of the more dramatic narratives in the Bible. The feast of Purim was instituted by Mordecai at the end of the Esther to celebrate the deliverance of the Jews from Haman's plot to kill them. Purim (from Akkadian, puru, "lots") is so called after the lots cast by Haman in order to determine the month in which the slaughter was to take place (Est 9:26; 3:7).
The celebration of Purim involves many hidden things. Dressing up in costumes (concealing one's true identity) is a fun part of the holiday, but one of the most enjoyable parts of Purim involves feasting on "hidden foods." In the Bible, Esther's true identity as a Jewess was kept secret until the time she was able to speak up on behalf of her people, saving their lives. In the same way, Purim celebrants munch on foods that look like one thing on the outside but have a surprise filling. Persian Jews might enjoy gondi - a meatball filled with raisins and nuts in a sweet and sour sauce. Jews from Eastern Europe might gorge on kreplach, meat-filled dumplings or challahs stuffed with onions and poppy seeds.
It's a time for Jews to celebrate God's providential protection in ancient Persia, as well as many many other times throughout the centuries. Sometimes God works overtly – as when He parted the Red Sea – and at other times He works quietly behind the scenes. Always, whether openly visible or not, His power and protection and love always make themselves known.
The more we look in Esther, the more we realize that there is still much more to discover; the entire drama has deeper roots. Haman was a royal Amalekite, a descendant of the very king Agag whom King Saul was supposed to have slain (1 Sam 15:1-28; Est 3:1). Samuel killed Agag instead, and for Saul's failure, his kingdom was taken away. Mordecai, too, a key benefactor in the tale, was a result of David's having refused to take vengeance upon Shimei so many years earlier (2 Sam 16:5-13; 19:16-23; cf. 1 Kings 2:36-46; Est 2:5). It was Esther's marriage to the King of Persia that ultimately led to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
Along with its celebrations, Purim is a time for the giving of charitable gifts and remembering the provision of God in protecting the Jews from their enemies throughout history. When Haman determined to destroy the Jews in the Book of Esther, God provided deliverance. Hitler may have done great damage, but today we see the Jewish people thriving, and doing so in the land of Israel ! (The Nazis, on the other hand, didn't fare so well. )
More than 200,000 Holocaust survivors still live in Israel, elderly with little financial means. In the spirit of Purim, Israel Today readers sent in donations to help provide care packages to these dear people. The Purim care packages included warm blankets among other things, and the staff of Israel Today was pleased with the support of its readership, writing on behalf of the Holocaust survivors, saying, "It lets them know that today, unlike during the decade of horror they endured in the 1940s, there are people around the world that not only care for them, but are willing to go the extra mile and provide for them. That these people of goodwill are Israel-loving Christians was a real shocker, especially for those who were so brutally treated at the hands of those who represented Christian nations…"
Those words should slice at our hearts. We hope we can be known and trusted as friends of the Jewish people. During WWII, brave Christians souls like Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom hid Jews in their homes, even when their own lives were at risk. Tragically, though, there were many people who called themselves followers of Christ who did nothing to save their Jewish brothers. The Third Commandment tells us not to take the LORD's name in vain. If we claim to serve God, if we call ourselves by His name, we must live as Christ and lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters – especially when their worst enemies come banging at the door.
Nasrallah is mistaken to call on Christians to chase the Jews out of Jerusalem; we should be the first to say, "Sit down, Nasrallah! How can we throw stones on the apple of God's eye!" As Gentiles, we need to remember that we are grafted into the true olive tree by the skin of our teeth (Rom 11:17-24). We must not forget that we were joined into what was a Jewish Church - with Jewish leaders, a Jewish Bible, and are worshipping a Jewish Messiah.
Baruch HaShem Adonai. Bless The Name of the Lord!
Memory Verse Of The Week
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
James 5:4 KJV
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