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IN THE NEWS

Palestinians Honor Helen Thomas →

April 03, 2012

On Sunday, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization General Mission to the U.S., Maen Areikat, led a Washington ceremony honoring former White House reporter Helen Thomas, recognizing what he said was her "long career in the field of journalism, during which she defended the Palestinian position every step of the way." Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said on Tuesday he "was appalled by the award ceremony given by the PLO delegation in Washington to Helen Thomas...This atrocious act is an indication of the Palestinian Authority's failure to meet the basic requisites of peace." Thomas drew fire in 2010 when, when asked of her opinion on Israel, she said: "Tell them that they need to get out of Palestine, and return home to Germany, Poland, and America."
- Haaretz

Jerusalem-Born Boy May Yet Have 'Israel' on His Birth Certificate →

April 01, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to trial a case in which the secretary of state refused to allow "Israel" to appear as the country of birth on an official U.S. document of a boy born in Jerusalem. The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision handed down last week, said Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky's request to have "Israel" on his birth certificate is straightforward and devoid of political implications. The case was remanded to the Washington district court for trial on the merits of the constitutional issue. "Zivotofsky does not ask the courts to determine whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," said Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority. "He instead seeks to determine whether he may vindicate his statutory right...to choose to have Israel recorded on his birth document as his place of birth."
- UPI

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ARTICLES AND COMMENTARY

EVIDENCES OF JESUS CHRIST'S RESURRECTION - (Print)

"I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history ..."
- E. M. Blaiklock - Professor of Classics, Auckland University

The Resurrection of Christ is the most powerful event in history.  It has affected the last 2000 years of history and politics, from peasants to kings to nations.  Christianity has spread across the entire world, into every country and into a vast number of ethnic groups and languages. Billions of people have experienced the life-giving, healing, forgiveness and freedom offered by God because Jesus Christ conquered death and rose again from the grave.

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:12-22 that without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is useless. "And if Christ be not raised," Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

There are many skeptics who disregard the resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as a fable.  However, the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is extremely strong, even to the point of converting some who sought to disprove it:

The Empty Tomb: Though well-trained Roman soldiers guarded the tomb of Jesus Christ, it was empty 3 days after Jesus' death as Jesus had repeatedly foretold (Matt 12:40, Mark 8:31).  The guards had fled (a death penalty offense). The massive stone had been rolled away, and the body was gone – and was never produced by the enemies of the Christians.  The linen grave clothes in which the Jews bury their dead were still in the tomb, undisturbed. From the Jewish historian Josephus to a compilation of 5th-century Jewish writings called the "Toledoth Jeshu", even Jewish sources and traditions admit that the tomb was empty.  The body was never found.

Living Witnesses:  There were a multitude of witnesses who saw Jesus Christ alive after his death.  The disciples, the travelers on the road to Emmaus and a number of women all spoke to Jesus alive. Thomas doubted until he was able to put his fingers into Jesus' wounds (John 20:26-27).  He later spread the Gospel all the way to India.  The apostle Paul tells of 500 people to whom Jesus appeared at one time, most of whom were still alive and available for questioning when Paul wrote his letter  (1 Cor 15:6).  When several people testify in a courtroom that they witnessed an event, and their accounts are found consistent with each other, their testimony is considered factual information.  Jesus Christ was seen alive many times by hundreds of different people over the course of forty days after his death (John 20-21, Acts 1:3).

The Disciples:  Christ's followers, who had been fearful and who had run away when Jesus was arrested, were completely changed after the Resurrection and became courageous witnesses.  Peter, who had denied knowing Christ when recognized by a simple servant girl, became the powerfully bold leader of those who had seen Christ alive, speaking to the thousands gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot – Pentecost.   A person may die for a lie if they do not know it is a lie.  But people do not give their lives up and face severe persecution to spread a lie they themselves invented.   The fact that the disciples willingly suffered beatings and persecution and death is strong evidence that they had actually witnessed the resurrection they refused to stop telling people about.

Saul of Tarsus:  A devoutly religious Pharisee, who persecuted the Church and had Christ's followers thrown in prison, Paul had his life absolutely changed by his encounter with Christ.  He became a devoted follower of Christ himself, spreading the Gospel throughout Turkey and Greece in the face of beatings and shipwrecks and imprisonment and, finally, execution.

"If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt." - F. F. Bruce, Manchester University

Skeptics' Arguments Against the Resurrection:

The Hallucination Theory claims that the witnesses who met the resurrected Jesus were all "seeing things" - they were hallucinating.  However, this goes against common sense as well as psychological principles. Five hundred people do not all hallucinate the same thing.  Jesus appeared to many people at many different times.  Also, the body was never produced.

The Swoon Theory argues that Jesus did not die – that he simply fainted from loss of blood and exhaustion.  However, this also goes against common sense.  The Romans were professionals who severely whipped Jesus, hung him on a cross, and then stabbed him in the side with a spear to make sure he was dead. He was in the grave for three days, wrapped head to foot in a burial cloth, without food or water or medical treatment.  When he appeared to his disciples he was completely whole and healthy and his appearance inspired awe and worship that lasted throughout the rest of the disciples' lives.

The Disciples Faked the Resurrection:  Discouraged, fearful fishermen and former tax collectors, whose teacher had been viciously murdered, were in little position to take on a detachment of trained Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.  They would have had to create a fantastic plan in order to fight off or bribe the professional soldiers, raid the tomb, unbind the grave clothes from Christ's body, take the body away, and hide it where nobody would ever find it. The Roman soldiers faced death if they failed in their guard duty, and the disciples had little money for bribing anybody.  Many people would have had to be involved in the conspiracy, and all those involved would not only have known the truth, but would know that they were risking meeting the same fate as their recently crucified leader. And what purpose could it possibly serve, if Jesus were dead?  They would have had nothing to gain.  Their leader was gone and they would have only faced persecution and death for their invented resurrection story.

And again, the disciples' attitudes completely changed after the Resurrection and especially after Pentecost. They became bold and courageous in spreading their message, fearless of beatings or imprisonment. They never sought to fight Rome or to establish any position or kingdom or authority for themselves.  They had nothing to gain, physically speaking.  They simply went about the known world, telling their story in spite of persecution and suffering, poverty and ridicule. Their message quickly spread across the Middle East and Europe and even into Asia without any military conquest or political support involved - and in spite of strong opposition. Only belief and hope based in the reality of their experiences would have produced such dedication in the lives of Christ's followers.

His Miracles Today:
Perhaps the greatest evidence today of Christ's resurrection is the work that he is still doing in the lives of every day people.  In the name of Jesus, people are still being healed emotionally and physically and spiritually by the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Sinners are being freed from the burden and pain and shame of sin – sometimes immediately, sometimes after long years of steady work by the Holy Spirit in their lives.  Hearts are being mended and lives are being turned around.   The best evidence today is the faithful follower of Christ who can say, "He saved me, and I am not the person I used to be" just as the apostles testified 2000 years ago.

[For more in-depth coverage of the above arguments, as well as many further evidences and related information, please see the links below.]

Related Links:

 

ARIZONA LAW COULD MEAN INTERNET CENSORSHIP - (Print)

China's Communist Party takes Internet censorship seriously. During the past two months, more than 1000 people have been arrested for posting the wrong sorts of information online. Whether intentionally or not, the state of Arizona is in the process of opening its own Pandora's box of Internet censorship. Arizona's legislative houses have passed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to be obscene or profane or even annoying on cell phones or the Internet. While the goal of this law is to stop cyber-bullying and not to keep a communist regime in power, its vague wording would made a wide range of Internet speech illegal.

Arizona House Bill 2549 amends a previous law meant to protect people from telephone harassment, changing the word "telephone" in the law to the term "ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE" and "telephone calls" to "ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS." The original law made way for a person being intimated by threatening phone calls to stop harassment coming in over the phone lines. The person who purposesly called to annoy or frighten another person could be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor, potentially earning the troublemaker six months in jail in the state of Arizona.

With the changes, the first part of the law now reads:

It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person. It is also unlawful to otherwise disturb by repeated anonymous ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person at the place where the COMMUNICATIONS were received.

It is not a simple thing to change "telephone" to "electronic or digital device" and expect a neat and tidy fix to the problem of digital harassment. A telepone call involves one person specifically targeting another person or household. It's reasonable to have a law against using a telephone to threaten and terrify another person or harass them with obscene phone calls. It's reasonable to have a way to legally stop somebody from calling incessantly at dinnertime. In this digital age, however, stopping long-distance harassment is not so simple.

First, not all digital communications are one-to-one. There are obviously a host of electronic and digital devices today communicating to and from people, and presumably this law could apply to cell phone calls and text messages, emails, Facebook posts, YouTube comments and online message board threads. The definition is so broad that even television commercials that "annoy" or "offend" people could technically be attacked using this poorly amended law. One person could lodge a complaint about an offhand Internet comment he or she finds offensive, and the person who wrote the comment could be charged with a misdemeanor. In the name of halting cyber bullying, HB 2549 makes a broad directive that could be used to censor knee-jerk responses on message board threads or legally harass people who make off color jokes on Facebook posts.  As written, it could even be used against editorials and cartoons.  

Most web sites already have policies in place to remove obscene or violent or terrorizing comments from their web pages. What's more, Arizona already has laws in place that allow a person to petition the court to stop harassment, including harassment "by electronic contact or communication." If Arizona lawmakers want to specifically target intimidating or obscene attacks on individuals made through the ever-widening range of digital media, they need to draw up a law specifically tailored to the issue rather than quickly amending an older law that dealt with a simpler problem. As it is, House Bill 2549 opens up the Internet to tremendous government control and censorship, and if Governor Jan Brewer signs it, it will be unlikely to stand constitutionally.

Related Links:

 

GERMANY WOULD SUPPORT ISRAEL AGAINST IRAN - (Print)

Germany would side with Israel in a war against Iran, according one Israeli journalist. While Europe has consistently castigated Israel for the contention in the Holy Land, Gad Lior says that Germany would take up for Israel against Iran if the tension over Iran's nuclear program should come to blows. Still, neither the United States nor Germany has given any blessing to Israel to attack Iran, and few countries in the world can financially afford a war right now.

Iran's economy has been hit hard by sanctions, but financial hardship has apparently not deterred Tehran from its nuclear program. "The Iranian government ... is having economic troubles but it has yet to move backward, even a millimeter, in its nuclear program," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference Tuesday. Netanyahu did not mention any plans to deal with Iran's nuclear program, but there is little doubt in anyone's mind that the small Jewish nation has the nerve to hit Iran if a strike is deemed necessary.

Germany announced two weeks ago that it would sell Israel a sixth military submarine and help Israel pay for it. Germany has been dedicated to Israel's security since the end of the Holocaust, and its 2012 budget includes 135 million euros for "defense systems for Israel." Still, neither the United States nor Germany wants Israel to hit Iran. Both countries have been urging Israel to wait and let sanctions do their job. "The orders of the day are strict sanctions and hard negotiations," German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, warning against the "incalculable risks" of hitting Iran militarily.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that the United States would push to toughen the sanctions, cutting Iranian oil imports and penalizing other countries that engage in oil business with Tehran. There are worries that this move would lead to a spike in already high gas prices, but the President pointed to reserves and increased oil production by other countries as means to replace the lost oil supply from Iran.

Whether these additional sanctions will move Iran is unknown, but it appears unlikely. A proud pro-Iranian article by Kaveh L. Afrasiabi published on Middle East Online points out that China, Russia, and Pakistan are expected to continue to purchase Iranian oil. In fact, oil exports to Iran's Asian market have increased to about 600,000 barrels a day, Afrasiabi notes. Plus, the United States has given waivers to ten European allies that might need to purchase Iranian oil.  Iran will certainly feel the pinch of losing some oil markets, but Tehran has appeared stiffly determined to continue its nuclear program in the face of world criticism and possible military attack.

Israeli officials have warned that Iran has already been moving its nuclear program underground, and the window for making an effective strike is closing, but the world powers hope – perhaps naively – that the situation can be resolved without military engagement. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are scheduled to hold nuclear talks with Iran April 13-14th.   The planned meeting place has been Istanbul, but Iraq says that Iran has suggested Baghdad as a location for talks. This will be the first time since January 2011 that the six world powers have met with Iran.

Israeli ambassador to Germany Avi Primor does not think there will be any military action against Iran. He believes that Israel's threats are mostly saber rattling to scare the Iranians. Either way, nuclear power in Iran's hands is a threat to the security Israel and to the world.

"I will do all I can to fend off this danger," Netanyahu said in reference to Iran's nuclear program, "I hope we will be able to do this together with the leading players in the international community, it is a great danger to them, but first and foremost it is a danger to us."

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