Friday, December 25, 2009

News, Links of the Day, Coming WWIII, Climategate, Global Depression

Merry Christmas

This is a quote from a speech in Australia that a long-time reader from Down Under sent me:

“The spiritual base of civilisation:

Once Christians can grasp the truth of the origins of Christianity, they can move on to a consideration of how Christ's truths were progressively incarnated. A Civilisation is not merely a physical creation; it is the incarnation of under-girding intangible values. Death starts when belief and understanding of those values are shattered and eroded…

When Christ was confronted with the trick question about how one should regard Caesar, He gave what was regarded as an amazing answer:

"Render unto Caesar the things which belong to Caesar, but render unto God those things which belong to God."

In that one short statement Christ resolved a problem which had baffled the Greek and other philosophers concerning government.

How could man have government without becoming enslaved by government? Christ, the Son of God, gave government a legitimacy it had never had before, but He also said that it must ensure that the individual had an area of freedom upon which government could not access.

The result was a long process of evolving a Christian concept of constitutional government.

Both Caesar and the individual were subject to a higher law, that of God…”

Eric D. Butler from his speech “Is the Word Enough?” 1983. Mr Eric Dudley Butler at the time was the National Director of the Australian League of Rights

Escalating War in Afghanistan Apt to Hurt Fragile US Economy ~ link ~ That the United States of America has no real national interests at stake in the Afghan War is of no importance to the hidden powers controlling the Obama Administration. That the American people want to get out, and totally out of, the Afghan War is of no importance to the hidden powers controlling the Obama Administration. That the expansion of the Afghan War into a AfPak War, including nuclear armed Pakistan in the long on-going insanity, is strongly against the interests of America and the intentions of the American people is of no importance to the hidden powers controlling the Obama Administration.

Timeline of US-NATO Israel Middle East War 2000-2010 ~ link ~ Its always helpful to look back to understand just where we are being steered to for the near future.

Egypt blamed for Gaza convoy delay by George Galloway ~ link

U.S. – led World Community Fails, Palestinians on Brink of Explosion
~ link ~ "In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope,” Palestinian Christian leaders, representing churches and church-related organizations, meeting in Bethlehem on December 11, concluded in their 13-page document titled “Kairos Palestine – 2009: A Moment of Truth,” enlisting Christians worldwide in proactive efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Their “cry” symbolizes the popular mood of their people as well as the political status quo.

Pope delivers Christmas message after Vatican security breach ~ link ~ BBC with video ~ link

Queen uses her Christmas Speech to express sadness at the death toll among British troops in Afghanistan - video~ link ~ Also see: Royal Family gathers ahead of Queen's Speech - with video ~ link

German President Koehler warns banks in his Christmas address ~ link ~
"We have just experienced that excess amongst financial actors, and faults in state oversight have plunged the world into a deep crisis," he said. "We need to understand that money must serve people and cannot be allowed to rule them."

Mr. 10%: Our Man in Islamabad ~ link

Taliban Video of US POW ~ link

The Aim of America's Secret War? ~ link

End of the Year: US recruits worldwide for Afghan War ~ link ~
The first of 33,000 more U.S. troops have arrived in Afghanistan for a Christmas surge and they will soon be joined by as many as 10,000 additional non-American troops serving under NATO in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Washington will have over 100,000 uniformed personnel and tens of thousands of new military contractors in the South Asian war zone, and with more than 50,000 other NATO and NATO partner forces present total troop strength will exceed 150,000.

Chinese dissident Lin Xiaobo jailed for subversion ~ link ~ Also see: China's Christmas Warning to Political Dissidents ~ link ~

Time Magazine: 50 Moments of 2009: A Week by Week News Chronicle with photos ~ link

Fears for 4,000 Hmong refugees soon to be deported by Thailand to Laos ~ link ~ If you want to help, send a letter to the Thai Embassy in your nation objecting to this and to the Laos Embassy asking that they be protected.

"Accountability For War Crimes Is Imperative" - An interview with Cindy Sheehan ~ link ~
"The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most....

Chechen President: West seeks to destroy Russia through Caucasus ~ link


Jazz: "The Night Before Christmas" with Louis Armstrong ~ link

Music for the Christmas Season: A whole day and night's worth - video ~ link


The following is from Fab_Codes:

ARE CHRISTMAS AND EASTER "PAGAN"?

holly

One occasionally hears the accusation that early Christians derived Christmas and Easter from pagan celebrations, and that these feasts are therefore pagan (though overlaid with a thin veneer of Christianity) . How much truth is there in this assertion?

Christmas

Since the Western Christmas (25 December) falls near the Winter Solstice (21 December), it occurs at the same time of the year as certain pagan solstice feasts. One such feast was the Roman celebration of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Nativity of the Invincible Sun), which commemorated the birth of the sun god Mithra. After Emperor Aurelian declared Mithra/Sol Invictus to be the patron of the Roman Empire in 274 AD, this feast in his honor became very popular.

Some say that the Christians invented Christmas, a feast in honor of Jesus' birth, as an alternative to this popular feast of Mithra's birth. Others claim that Christmas was never a separate feast, but is the feast of Sol Invictus itself, continued and adapted by pagan converts in the fourth century, after Constantine forced them to become Christians. Unwilling to abandon their beloved Mithraism, they changed Dies Natalis Solis Invicti into a feast of Christ's Nativity (since no one knows for sure what day Jesus was born).

This common theory has a few problems. First, careful study shows that Western Christians were celebrating Christmas on 25 December in the late third century, before the Sol Invictus festival was widely celebrated in the Empire. So Christians did not create this feast to oppose a popular Roman one. As far as Christmas being a "continuation" of a pagan festival, this seems unlikely when one considers the abhorrence many Christians felt toward paganism. Believers of Jewish descent did not suddenly lose their deep aversion to idolatry after Baptism, and converts from paganism often despised the religions which they left behind. Thousands of Christians died during the Romans persecutions rather than engage in pagan rites. Why would they embrace the hated celebrations of their persecutors?

So how did Christ's birth come to be celebrated on 25 December? Early Christians believed that Jesus was crucified on 25 March (according to the Julian Calendar, that is). They also believe that this was the very same day that He was conceived in Mary's womb about thirty-four years earlier. It seemed most fitting to them that the first day of His earthly mission be the same day as his last, thus connecting the mystery of the Incarnation with that of the Redemption.

So Christians celebrated 25 March as the Feast of the Annunciation, a commemoration which continues today. Since 25 December falls exactly nine months after the Annunciation, it seemed the most natural day on which to celebrate Jesus' birth (although Eastern Christians, following a different tradition, opted for 6 January, twelve days later than their Western brothers and sisters).

There may even be a strong basis for 25 December as the actual, historical date of Christ's nativity. In a recent issue of "Osservatore Romano" (the Vatican's official newspaper), Professor Tommaso Federici, Professor at the Pontifical Urbanian University and consultant to two Vatican Congregations, says that recent archaological discoveries in the Holy Land shed light on when Jesus was born:

"As long ago as 1958, the Israeli scholar Shemaryahu Talmon published an in-depth study on the calendar of the Qumran sect, and he reconstructed without the shadow of doubt the order of the sacerdotal rota system for the temple of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 24, 7-18) in New Testament times. Here the family of Abijah, of which Zechariah was a descendent, father of John the herald and forerunner (Luke 1,5) was required to officiate twice a year, on the days 8-14 of the third month, and on the days 24-30 of the eighth month. This latter period fell at about the end of September. It is not without reason that the Byzantine calendar celebrated 'John's conception' on September 23 and his birth nine months later, on June 24. The 'six months' after the Annunciation established as a liturgical feast on March 25, comes three months before the forerunner's birth, prelude to the nine months in December: December 25 is a date of history".
Even the common argument that shepherds would not have been in the fields in December is inaccurate. That is the time of the year when sheep naturally begin giving birth ("lambing"), and the shepherds would typically stay with the sheep at night to take care of the newborn lambs. In fact, the lambing season would have been the only time of the year in which the shepherds would have stayed with the flocks during the night (see Luke 2:8).

This information seems to confirm that Jesus could well have been born on or near 25 December, perhaps even 6 January (considering the many possible normal fluctuations of gestational periods). So either of these traditional dates may be - or at least come very close to - Jesus' real birthday! The fact that December 25 happens to fall four days after the Winter Solstice is a coincidence of history (and the Eastern Christmas is sixteen days removed from the solstice, so it's harder to see a connection there).

Easter

Easter is said to be pagan because it falls near the Vernal Equinox and because many believe that the word Easter comes from "Eostra" or "Ostara", an Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring. This would seem to make Easter a remnant of some pagan Spring festival in honor of Eostra.

Yet this theory is disputed. Experts aren't even certain that anyone ever actually believed in goddesses named Eostra or Ostara. The only ancient writer who mentions the alleged Eostra is the Venerable Bede, an eighth century Benedictine monk. He states in his book, De temporum ratione, that the Saxons named the fourth month of their year, Esturmonath, after a goddess named Eostra whose cultus had died out before Bede's time. However, there is absolutely no mention of this alleged divinity in surviving Anglo-Saxon mythology or any other ancient source. As a result, some modern scholars question the accuracy of Bede's statement, suggesting that he might have been guessing at the origin of the word "Esturmonath" . After all, the Saxon word "eastre" indicates a beginning or opening, so Esturmonath could simply mean "month of beginnings" or "opening month." It may have nothing at all to do with some ancient spring goddess.

As for Eostra's alleged Germanic counterpart, Ostara, there is even less evidence for her! She was effectively invented circa 1835 AD by Jacob Grimm, one of the brothers Grimm of folklore fame. In his book, Deutsche Mythologie, Grimm speculated, based on Bede's statement about Eostra, that the ancient Germans must have had a similar goddess of spring. Since the Old High German term for Easter is "Ostertaga", Grimm suggested that this hitherto unknown divinity may have been called Ostara. What hard evidence did he have for this? Absolutely none. Yet the idea caught on among nineteenth century Germans, who produced drawings of this alleged goddess and even named a magazine after her. Still, there is absolutely no evidence that any Germanic tribe ever believed in such a divinity; as with Eostra, existing ancient Germanic mythology makes no mention of an "Ostara."

Also, contrary to another popular misconception, the word Easter does not derive from "Ishtar", who was a Middle Eastern goddess. The term did not originate in the Middle East; it is definitely of northern European origin.

Finally, the statement above regarding early Christian hostility toward paganism also fits well in this case. Why would Christian missionaries tolerate the syncretistic mixing of the feast of Christ's Resurrection with a spring fertility festival dedicated to a pagan goddess?

Now, even if the name Easter were somehow derived from that of an ancient goddess of spring (unlikely as that is), that would only prove a pagan influence on Christians who spoke Germanic tongues. For not all Christians call the Feast of the Resurrection "Easter". Byzantine Christians use the Greek term Pascha, a transliteration of the Hebrew word Pesach, or Passover. Pascha is also the name of this feast in Latin, the official language of the Roman Rite. The Romance languages reflect this usage; the Italian word Pasqua, the French Paques and the Spanish Pascua each derive from Pascha, and ultimately from Pesach.

Thus the Feast of Christ's Resurrection has two names among Christians: Pascha, or Passover, and Easter, which may connote a beginning or opening. Either way, the feast is truly Christian, not pagan.

A final problem remains: some who believe in the pagan origin of these holidays actually state that any Christian who celebrates them is unknowingly worshipping pagan deities. We can answer this by pointing out that a Christian who celebrates Easter does not intend to worship the non-existent "Eostra" or "Ostara," but to commemorate the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God looks upon the heart and sees His child's intention to worship Him, so He does not mistake it for idolatry.


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