Posts from December 2015 (Page 6)

Watch Him Surprise New Yorkers by Bringing the ‘True Meaning of Christmas’ to Life

A photo of the live nativity

New Yorker Ron Cutlip believes that people are absolutely “thirsty and hungry for [the] true meaning of Christmas,” so he sets out each year to try and bring the gospel to life, hosting a surprise living nativity in the center of Manhattan.

“New York City is a busy place and it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. I grew up in Olney, Maryland, which was a small town,” Cutlip, a golf course architect by trade, told TheBlaze. “We used to have a live nativity every year at one of the local churches. I have always carried that memory with me and wanted to share that experience with my new small town, New York City.”

A photo of the live nativity (YouTube)

Cutlip generally calls friends and strangers, alike, to a local park to come together and sing carols, while reenacting the traditional nativity.

This year was the first time that Cutlip — who has hosted the event for nine years — was permitted to host the “secret” nativity in Times Square, as he had repeatedly been denied a permit by New York City officials to do so.

“There were tons of excuses the city gave me with all of its political-correct ideas,” he said of the four previous rejections.

Regardless of the location, though, Cutlip believes that the nativity brings about great joy, helping to get people in the holiday spirit.

Individuals assemble for the live nativity inside New York City's Time Square Individuals assemble for the live nativity inside New York City’s Times Square (YouTube)

“New Yorkers are always busy. They carry burdens and stress,” Cutlip said. “After participating in the nativity, many have shared that it puts them in the Christmas spirit and they carry that feeling throughout the season.”

Watch the secret nativity unfold below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgvLeiiLL-4&w=640&h=360]

Cutlip said that his goal is to “spread the hope and joy we have in Christ and to share with people that Jesus can meet them on the streets where the live, where they work, where they play.”

He said that he simply wants to share that message in an incredibly simple way.

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See What Happens When You Morph All of These Photos of ‘Jesus’ Into One Composite Image

Bluefield

Speculation about Jesus’ physical appearance is nothing new, with contemporary perceptions typically being restricted to depictions of Christ that are presented in the art and pop culture realms — illustrations that are frequently critiqued for being patently inaccurate.

That in mind, the Department of Art and Design at Bluefield College, a Christian, liberal arts school in Bluefield, Virginia, recently decided to create a composite image of 20 different actors who have played Jesus on the big screen.

“The origin of the idea is that with Christmas coming up, several of these movies will be played for the holiday season and it’s interesting to see how Jesus has been portrayed in Hollywood over time,” Ryan Taylor, who is helping promote the project, told TheBlaze. “So in a sense, it is a media studies, art and design, and holiday project all in one.”

Here’s what the college’s Jesus composite looks like:

Bluefield College

The image combines photos of the following actors: Brian Deacon, Chris Sarandon, Christian Bale, Diogo Morgado, Enrique Irazoqui, Ewan McGregor, Haaz Sleiman, Halvard Hoff, HB Warner, Henry Ian Cusick, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeremy Sisto, Jim Caviezel, John K Steel, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Max von Sydow, Robert Powell, Ted Neeley, Will Ferrell and Willem Dafoe. You can see all of the images here.

But the Department of Art and Design didn’t stop with the composite image of Christ, going on to also create a separate photo that combines photos of 21 notable actors who played Satan.

“Originally, they were just going to do Jesus, but decided that it would be interesting to do the [devil] as well, considering there have been several portrayals of him in film,” Taylor said.

See the devilish composite below:

Bluefield College Bluefield College

The actors included are: Al Pacino, Anton Lavey, Bruce Payne, Clarence Williams, Claude Rains, David Warner, Elizabeth Hurley, Gabriel Byrne, George Burns, Harvey Keitel, Jack Nicholson, Max von Sydow, Peter Cook, Peter Fonda, Peter Stormare, Robert De Niro, Rosalinda Celentano, Tom Waits, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Price and Walter Huston. See that composite come to life here.

You might have noticed that both George Burns and Max von Sydow played both Christ and Satan, landing the latter in both composites.

As for the picture of Jesus, Taylor said that the most surprising element is “how ‘unsurprising’ it is,” as “Jesus has been portrayed as very ‘European’ or ‘westernized,’ sometimes even having blonde hair and blue eyes.”

“The composite image shows that pretty clearly,” he said.

As TheBlaze previously reported, the debate over Christ’s physical appearance continues to forge on. Read about it here.

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Christian Singer Crowder Breaks Down Why the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Possibly the ‘Best Song Ever Written’

Singer David Crowder, who regularly churns out hits on the Christian charts, recently said on The Church Boys podcast that his two favorite songs ever written are “Happy Birthday” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

As for “Happy Birthday,” Crowder, who recently released the “Neon Porch Extravaganza” EP, said that there’s brilliance is in the fact that such a simple song allows for everyone’s name to be placed in the lyrics

“Happy Birthday” has become a beloved tradition and is, no doubt, the most well-known tune in America.

“Who could write a song that has everybody’s name in it?” Crowder said. “That’s genius right there.”

As for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States of America, he called it “one of the most perfect pieces of poetry ever” and said that it’s “the best song ever written, maybe.”

“It’s unbelievable the way the story unfolds … you don’t even know what you’re singing about until later,” Crowder said of the lyrics. “You can’t see the flag until the moment of conflict … it’s ‘still there,’ ‘bombs bursting in air.'”

Crowder also discussed his career, the Grammys and plenty more. Listen to his Church Boys appearance at the 35:40 mark below:

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Christmases Past and Future

A nativity scene of Christmas is displayed in a museum in Asuncion, Paraguay,  December 22, 2012. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

It is Christmas and we all think back on Christmases past not without a bit of nostalgia for what the feast represents. We think back on Christmas trees, manger scenes and midnight Masses. We recall family dinners, marveling children and Christmas carols. Such memories fill us with joys in a brutal world ever more joyless.

The celebration of Christmas is part of our long Christian tradition. It is not only the personal memories that so capture the imagination but our participation in this long tradition that spans centuries. We all are part not only of our own celebrations but we also share in celebrations in all places and all times that have welcomed the Christ Child. Whether in magnificent cathedrals or humble chapels, in good times or bad, in full freedom or in prisons, all these Christmases truly become ours and we rightly savor them.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

This is the great beauty of true tradition. Through it, we are able to participate in those good things of the past–and provide them a future. True tradition preserves and passes down the essence of what is most good and valuable. It preserves that which we experience and want to savor. It allows us to share joyfully with others in our families, communities and nation a common practice that celebrates our identity and makes us who we are.

There are those who do not understand tradition. They associate it with stagnation, abuses and restraint. They do not realize that true tradition is an affirmation and projection of one’s personality and family over time. They do not see that tradition is only tradition when it is good, dynamic and progressing. Tradition must be constantly purifying and perfecting itself much like the distillation process makes excellent spirits ever freer of impurities and sediment. Tradition’s memories must age over time, allowing the full flavor to appear. Thus, tradition does not distort but rather leaves us with the pure essence of reality, from which we can progress yet more.

This is especially true of Christmas. In this case, the reality is so overwhelmingly magnificent that it is hard not to be overawed with wonder and delight. On that ineffable night when our Savior was born to Mary Ever Virgin, an immense impossibility became possible: the God-man was born. The path to our redemption was opened. It made possible a Christian order in which the Commandments and counsels were practiced.

Thus, the celebration of Christmas Eve is impregnated with the notion of the birth of Our Savior where, in that holy and silent night, one can sense the irresistible sweetness and perfection that emanates from the Divine Infant in the manger in Bethlehem. Christmas thus calls and invites us to celebrate and observe our holy traditions.

We are called to do this in a neo-pagan and commercialized world that tries to take Christ out of Christmas. Yet, the power of Christ is ironically highlighted not diminished by these efforts. Despite all the forces that conspired against Him, the celebration of the birth of this tiny Child stops Wall Street trading, defies communist dictators and illuminates ugly modern buildings. This same Child also lightens the heavy hearts of those under trial and delights the innocence of little children everywhere. The Divine Infant forces us all to put aside the frenetic intemperance of our days and turn for a moment toward that which is most important—the adoration of our God.

Christian worshippers from Nigeria pray at the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Our Christmas traditions still survive because we rightly hold on to the distillation of memories make sublime over the ages. Let us make this our defense against the empty din of soulless holiday spending and parties. Our joyful celebrations must vanquish the secular retailers who wage their shameless war on a merry Christmas. Our public displays must welcome the Christ Child who is banished from the public square.

If we do this, our efforts will make future Christmas memories yet more sublime. For in saner times to come, it will be recalled that when Christ was abandoned by a postmodern world, there were those who remained faithful to God and upheld their traditions. There were those sublime Christians who defied the world and joined with Christians from all times and all places, joyfully proclaiming: Puer natus est nobis, Et filius datus est nobis. “For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us.”(Is. 9:6)

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

6 Shocking New Discoveries About Jesus of Nazareth

Shutterstock

The entrance to the Mary of Nazareth International Center in central Nazareth doesn’t look like much. It’s just a simple doorway off narrow Casa Nova Street, a few hundred yards from the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Yet inside this recently built Catholic evangelism center lies an amazing discovery that has sent shockwaves through the world of Biblical archaeology: the remains of a first-century stone house reliably dated to the early Roman period in Palestine.

Shutterstock

The Nazareth excavations are the first concrete archaeological proof that Nazareth was settled in the time of Jesus – and, judging from the limestone cups found at the site, almost certainly by observant Jews.

This shoots down one of the central arguments used by those who claim that Jesus never existed and that the Gospels are entirely fiction: that we know Jesus of Nazareth never existed because there never was a village called Nazareth.

Incredibly, the archaeological excavations at Nazareth are merely one among dozens of startling recent discoveries that are forcing many secular, Jewish and agnostic scholars, at top universities all over the world, to re-think old skeptical ideas about who Jesus was and what he was trying to achieve.

Many people in the pews, however, haven’t heard about these amazing, very recent discoveries.

Experts in the media are still repeating the same century-old, increasingly discredited theories that date to the late 19th and early 20th century – for example, that Jesus was an “apocalyptic prophet” who believed the world was coming to an end in his lifetime or that he was a revolutionary “zealot” who plotted a violent overthrow of Roman forces.

Nevertheless, recent dramatic archaeological discoveries and developments in New Testament studies are challenging these older, now obsolete theories:

Discovery No. 1: The people and places mentioned in the Gospels really existed.

Like most figures of ancient history, there is little archaeological evidence for many New Testament figures, including Jesus. However, in just the past few years archaeologists have uncovered some astonishing finds – including the burial box (ossuary) of the high priest Caiaphas and, perhaps, that of James the Just, the brother, step-brother or close relative of Jesus.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Experts widely believe the Caiaphas ossuary is genuine. While there is fierce debate about the James ossuary, it’s possible that it too is authentic. Dated to the first century, it has inscribed on its side the words in Aramaic, Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua (James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus).

Some archaeologists believe that the ossuary and the words “James, Son of Joseph” inscribed on it are authentic, dating back to the first century, but that the words “brother of Jesus” were added later by a master forger.

If all of it is genuine, however, as some evangelical scholars such as Ben Witherington III argue, then it represents the first ever archaeological confirmation of Jesus.

Along with these finds are numerous recent archaeological discoveries of places mentioned in the Gospels – such as the dramatic 2009 discovery of a large and remarkably ornate first-century synagogue at Magdala, on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus almost certainly preached.

Discovery No. 2: Jesus’ followers didn’t make up the idea of a messiah who would suffer and die.

For more than a century, many academic Bible scholars have claimed that the Jews in Jesus’ time had no concept whatsoever of a suffering messiah, let alone a messiah who would actually die.

Therefore, they suspected the whole idea was invented by the early Christian community and put into the mouth of Jesus decades later, by the evangelists. The Jews in Jesus’ day expected the messiah to be a military leader and king, the argument goes, so obviously a suffering messiah is just a Christian apologetic device created after the fact to explain away the scandal of the cross.

But in 2008, Israeli archaeologists announced the discovery of a first-century stone tablet, written in ancient Hebrew, that mentioned the angel Gabriel and a messianic figure who would suffer, die and perhaps rise again in three days.

Image source: Wikimedia Image source: Wikimedia

Known as the Gabriel Revelation, this was dramatic confirmation of other textual discoveries that suggested many Jews in the first century were expecting a suffering and dying messiah.

This is important because it shows that this theme – that of a suffering messiah – wasn’t just “made up” by the early Christian community as a way to explain the scandal of the cross, as literally generations of scholars have claimed for over a hundred years.

Discovery No. 3: Jesus’ earliest followers – Jewish followers – came to see him as in some way divine very early, perhaps within a year or two of the crucifixion.

Through a variety of methods, including identifying Aramaic phrases embedded in the Greek texts of the New Testament, scholars have identified the very earliest parts of the New Testament writings.

Much to their shock, however, it looks as though it was the Jewish followers of Jesus who proclaimed him “son of God” and “standing at the right hand of God,” not the pagan Gentile followers who joined the movement in the decades after the crucifixion.

This flies in the face of a century of scholarship that believed the opposite, that claims to divinity only arose as the Jesus movement fanned out into the pagan Greek. Even skeptics such as New Testament scholar and bestselling author Bart Ehrman now concede that belief in Jesus’s divinity arose very, very early.

This photo, released by The British Library Tuesday April 17 2012, shows a page in the St. Cuthbert Gospel, a remarkably preserved palm-sized book which is a manuscript copy of the Gospel of John in Latin which was bought from the British branch of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), the library said Tuesday April 17, 2012. The small book - 96 mm (3.8 inches) by 136 mm (5.4 inches) - has an elaborately tooled red leather cover. It comes from the time of St. Cuthbert, who died in 687, and it was discovered inside his coffin at Durham Cathedral when it was reopened in 1104. (AP Photo / The British Library) This photo, released by The British Library Tuesday April 17 2012, shows a page in the St. Cuthbert Gospel, a remarkably preserved palm-sized book which is a manuscript copy of the Gospel of John in Latin which was bought from the British branch of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), the library said Tuesday April 17, 2012. The small book – 96 mm (3.8 inches) by 136 mm (5.4 inches) – has an elaborately tooled red leather cover. It comes from the time of St. Cuthbert, who died in 687, and it was discovered inside his coffin at Durham Cathedral when it was reopened in 1104. (AP Photo / The British Library)

In addition, some Jewish scholars now argue that the idea of a divine-human savior was a thoroughly Jewish concept… rooted in the Biblical prophets. These scholars point to the biblical book of Daniel, as well as intertestamental Jewish writings known as apocalypses, as evidence that some Jews in Jesus’ day could expect “one like a Son of Man,” as Dan. 7:13–14 puts it, coming on the clouds of heaven.

It was only later, as Judaism reacted to the rise of Christianity, that such ideas became forbidden among Jews.

Discovery No. 4: The Gospels are almost certainly based on eyewitness testimony – and, at least partially, written sources.

The whole idea of a “creative” and exclusively oral transmission of traditions about Jesus – as opposed to written sources based on eyewitness accounts – is now questioned by many top secular scholars.

The skeptical New Testament scholars of the early 20th century based their much of their theory of oral transmission on German folk tales that evolve over centuries, such as the Brothers Grimm. The idea was that the “tale grew in the telling,” like the “telephone game.”

“The stories were being told by word of mouth, year after year, decade after decade, among lots of people in different parts of the world, in different languages, and there was no way to control what one person said to the next about Jesus’ words and deeds,” explains skeptic Bart Ehrman in his 2014 book, “How Jesus Became God.”

Shutterstock Shutterstock

The implication is often that the gospels are more myth than history, and certainly not reliable records of what actually occurred.

But increasingly, leading New Testament scholars reject this unproven theory altogether. Some argue that the Gospels, including the Gospel of John, show numerous signs of first-hand observations and written sources — and that those sources could well have been written while Jesus was living and preaching in Galilee.

The British New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham, author of the 2006 book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” has forced a new debate on the existence of eyewitness testimony in the Gospels.

In addition, many Jewish scholars now believe the Gospels preserve accurate traditions about Jesus from people who saw and heard Jesus first-hand.

As the Israeli scholar David Flusser put it, who believes the Gospels were based on written sources, the synoptic gospels “preserve a picture of Jesus that is more reliable than is generally acknowledged.”

Discovery No. 5: The Gospel of Mark, widely considered to be the first gospel written, may have been penned only five or 10 years after the crucifixion, not 40 years later as scholars have thought for over a century.

Many (but not all) modern scholars believe that the gospel of Mark was likely written first, probably in Rome in the late 60s or early 70s AD, followed by Luke in the mid-80s, Matthew in the 80s, and then by John sometime after AD 90.

The reason is due to passages in the gospels where Jesus seems to be predicting the fall of Jerusalem (such as Mark 13:2, where Jesus refers to the temple and says, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another”).

The idea is that the writers of the gospels, living after the Jewish War began in AD 66, simply put words in Jesus’ mouth predicting the coming catastrophe—words that he didn’t actually say. Scholars call this “prophecy after the fact.”

But recently James Crossley, a secular British New Testament scholar at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, has challenged this idea.

Photo: B Calkins/Shutterstock Photo: B Calkins/Shutterstock

In a fascinating 2004 book, “The Date of Mark’s Gospel,” Crossley defies more than a century of New Testament scholarship to argue that the gospel of Mark, far from being written in the late AD 60s or even early 70s as older scholars have long believed, could well have been written as early as the mid 30s—perhaps just five to ten years after Jesus was crucified.

He insists that the “desolating sacrilege” mentioned in Mark 13 that would be “set up” could very likely refer to the statue of the Emperor Caligula that the mad emperor attempted to have erected in the Jerusalem temple in AD 39-40.

If he’s right, and Mark was written in the late AD 30s, that means that some of the earliest source material for the gospels was put to paper within five to ten years after Jesus’ crucifixion—and not thirty, forty, or sixty years, as previous scholars believed.

This strengthens the argument, therefore, that the gospels are likely based on eyewitness testimony, even if that testimony was often rearranged according to the editorial decisions of the different evangelists.

Discovery No. 6: Jesus was not an “illiterate peasant” but likely well trained in Jewish law and scripture.

In the past few decades, Jewish scholars have taken a closer look at the debates in the Gospels between Jesus and the Pharisees.

For much of the 20th century, skeptical New Testament scholars claimed that these debates were not historical – that the reflected the conflicts the early church was having with Jewish authorities in the 80s and 90s and not what Jesus said and did in the 20s.

But many Jewish experts now deny this. In addition, some Jewish scholars argue that the Gospels prove that Jesus had a thorough command of Jewish legal reasoning.

According to Orthodox Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, when Jesus is criticized for healing a crippled man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-47), Jesus quotes a legal precedent preserved in the Talmud to prove that his action is justified.

Boteach explains that the Torah commands that a male child be circumcised on the eighth day after birth, but if that day happens to fall on the Sabbath, the circumcision is still allowed even though it is “drawing blood.”

The Talmud draws from this exception the notion that medical procedures can and must be done on the Sabbath. According to Tractate Yoma, “if circumcision, which concerns one of the 248 members of the body, overrides the Sabbath, shall not a man’s whole body override the Sabbath?”

Boteach then points to the nearly identical reasoning used by Jesus for his justification of healing a crippled man on the Sabbath, recorded by John: “Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses may not be broken,” Jesus says, “why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? (7:23 NIV).

This suggests that Jesus was not an “illiterate peasant”—as many contemporary authors claim—but a highly trained rabbi fully conversant with the complex legal and religious debates in his day.

Conclusion

In the end, there has been a veritable revolution in New Testament scholarship over the last 10 or 20 years yet few experts in the media seem to know about it.

The foundational assumptions that guided a century’s worth of skepticism towards the New Testament have been under relentless assault – and often by secular, Jewish and agnostic scholars at top universities around the world.

The new discoveries discussed above are causing some experts to wonder if the basic portrait of Jesus in the gospels is far more plausible than the elaborate reconstructions created by academic skeptics over the past 150 years.

In other words, the New Testament may be truer than scholars once thought… and Jesus of Nazareth, rather than being smaller than the gospels portray him, may actually be much bigger… and far more interesting.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

Celebrating Christmas ‘Excessively and Openly’ Could Lead to Five Years in Jail in This Muslim Country

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah signs a book at the National War Memorial on March 26, 2013 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo: Hernie Othman-Pool/Getty Images)

Citizens of the oil-rich nation of Brunei could face up to five years in prison if they engage in public celebrations of Christmas, such as wearing Santa hats and sending holiday greetings, British and Australian media reported.

Britain’s Independent reported Tuesday that the country, where Islam is the official religion, introduced the Christmas ban last year over concerns that marking the Christian holiday “excessively and openly” could move Muslims away from their faith.

Under the directive, Christians are allowed to celebrate the holiday but only in private.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah signs a book at the National War Memorial on March 26, 2013, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Hernie Othman-Pool/Getty Images)

The Borneo Bulletin earlier this month reported on sermons by the nation’s imams warning Muslims that they are prohibited from imitating other religions.

“During Christmas celebrations, Muslims following that religion’s acts — such as using their religious symbols like cross, lighting candles, making Christmas trees and singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings, using signs praising the religion, putting up decorations or creating sounds and doing anything that amounts to respecting their religion — are against Islamic faith,” the Muslim leaders said.

The religious leaders reminded the Muslim faithful of a fatwa by the state mufti stating that non-Muslims are allowed to engage in their religious festivities, but only on “condition that the celebrations are not publicized or displayed openly to Muslims.”

“These enforcement measures are … intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community,” the Ministry of Religious Affairs said in a statement reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

The decision by Brunei’s ruler Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah last year to enact Shariah law prompted a boycott of the hotels he owns — including the Beverly Hills Hotel — by Hollywood celebrities including Jay Leno. Under the penal code reported last year, those engaging in homosexuality could face death by stoning and thieves could face amputation.

Bethlehem Rejects ‘Merry Christmas’ Sign

Credit: Shutterstock.com

The little town of Bethlehem, New York, has decided that there’s no room at the intersection this Christmas season for a “Merry Christmas” sign.

Credit: Shutterstock.com

The town traditionally has Christmas and Hanukkah displays at an intersection known as “Four Corners,” including a menorah and Christmas tree.

But this year, officials rejected a sign that says “Merry Christmas” — as well as a “Happy Hanukkah” sign — out of fear of violating the First Amendment, according to Albany’s Times Union newspaper.

A local resident offered to contribute a “Merry Christmas” sign, as she had done in the past, but a lawyer for the town told her that such a sign would violate the separation of church and state.

Lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that represents religious liberty cases, wrote a letter to the town that such signs would not violate the Constitution.

“The irony is not lost on us that your Town’s name is Bethlehem,” ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue wrote.

“No one should fear that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ on a sign like this will violate the Constitution. It does not,” La Rue continued. “The courts, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, have been clear that the government can erect Christmas signs and displays, including even Nativity scenes, without having to fear a constitutional violation.”

The local resident, Elena Marcelle, and ADF have asked the town to reconsider allowing the signs.

Always Winter but Never Christmas

(AP Photo/courtesy of ORDA/Whiteface)

In C.S. Lewis’s classic children’s story, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” we find Peter, Susan, and Lucy standing fearful and confused in a land that is frozen and nearly lifeless. A lamppost stands somberly in the pale and windless forest. The few creatures the children do encounter live in hiding, frightened and without hope.

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver tell the kids that Narnia is under the spell of an evil despot. There is no joy and there is no peace. Narnia has become a land of despair and defeat. Every day is as if it is “always winter but never Christmas.” This is the description of life under the White Witch’s rule.

(AP Photo/courtesy of ORDA/Whiteface)

Suddenly, the children hear sleigh bells in the distance. At first—sure this is the sound of the witch on patrol with her legions—they hide.

But no, it’s not the witch. The driver of the sleigh is a great, glad, giant of a man dressed all in red and white. It is Father Christmas!

“I have broken through at last!” he cries. “She has kept me out for a long time, but her magic is weakening.”

Lucy and her siblings shiver with excitement. Father Christmas has come! And he not only brings presents, he brings peace. He not only offers cookies and cream, but love and compassion. He brings music and he brings a message:

“Aslan is on the move!” he shouts. The great lion, the son of the Emperor beyond the sea, has come to set all wrongs to right. “A Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!”

Today, many of us shiver as we try to shelter ourselves from the freezing winds of nightly news. Violence and suffering in the Middle East: always winter but never Christmas. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Paris, and Fort Hood: always winter but never Christmas. Islamic State, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda; Human trafficking, sexual slavery, Islamic intolerance and magd and subjected to judicial tyranny at home: always winter but never Christmas. Political arrogance, governmental corruption, and the loss of individual liberty: always winter but never Christmas… The list seems endless.

But remember, there’s better news! News of long ago when light shone on the hills of Bethlehem, and Christmas arrived in a stable under the stars.

“Do not be afraid,” cries Christmas. “Winter has begun to melt away, I have broken through at last! For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. And the government shall be upon His shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of kings, Lord of lords, Lion of Judah! Of His kingdom there will be no end. He will reign with justice and righteousness forever!”

“I have broken through at last,” he shouts! “Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and good will toward men,” and…

“Merry Christmas!”

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

Jewish, Pro-Israel Groups Blast Professor for Encouraging Students to Protest ‘Islamophobia’ by Wearing Nazi-Like Yellow Stars

The star was designed as a protest against Islamophobia (Image source: Stand With Us)

A Jewish human rights group and a pro-Israel organization criticized the efforts of a University of San Diego professor to raise awareness about “Islamophobia” by encouraging students to wear a yellow Star of David with the word “Muslim” and the Muslim crescent moon symbol drawn on it.

This star was designed as a protest at the University of San Diego against Islamophobia (Image source: Stand With Us)

The Times of San Diego reported last week that associate professor of theology and religious studies Bahar Davary led some 100 students and faculty members in the silent protest against anti-Muslim statements by wearing the type of yellow stars Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

Following questions raised in reports on conservative news sites including Legal Insurrection and the Washington Free Beacon, the private Catholic university issued a statement explaining that the class project on Islamophobia wasn’t meant to compare the Muslim experience in America to Jews during World War II.

“In no way was the project’s symbol intended to make an analogy between the current situation of Muslims in the U.S. to that of Jews in Germany and wider Europe before the Holocaust,” the University of San Diego posted on Facebook.

“The project’s symbol was an attempt to demonstrate solidarity among Muslims, Jews and Christians. Professor Bahar Davary regrets any misunderstandings that may have resulted from this class project,” the university said.

Stand With Us, a pro-Israel organization active on U.S. campuses, on Sunday called the redesigned yellow star “inappropriate and shocking.”

“While protests against anti-Muslim bigotry are understandable and legitimate, using the Holocaust in this inappropriate and shocking way serves to trivialize and deny meaning to the unspeakable horrors that Jews suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany,” said Stand With Us San Diego area director Sara Schoonmaker.

William Jacobson, a Cornell University law professor who regularly writes about the issues of free speech, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on campuses nationwide, wrote at Legal Insurrection, “The irony, of course, is that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a big supporter and fan of Hitler, and the Muslim world is a hotbed of anti-Semitic propaganda and agitation.”

“Jews routinely are demonized for being Jews, and the ancient Jewish communities in Muslim areas were expelled after the creation of Israel,” Jacobson wrote, adding, “In Europe, Jews cannot walk the streets in many places while displaying any Jewish symbol or even traditional Jewish attire for fear of harassment by young Muslims.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told the Free Beacon that the star “imagery is off” and explained that under the Nazis, Jews “had to wear it under penalty of death.”

The University of San Diego associate professor issued a statement through a campus spokeswoman explaining that she did not wish to diminish the plight of those who were killed in the Holocaust.

Instead, her goal was to put a spotlight on the danger of “marking any group of people as the ‘other,’” she said according to the Free Beacon.

The Times of San Diego reported that the project was prompted by recent statements about Muslims by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

The newspaper also noted that Davary advised her students not to wear the star off campus, apparently aware of the controversy it might stir.

Video Purports to Show Screaming and Crying Yazidi Women Being Forcibly Ripped From Their Families

The Daily Mail reported that the Yazidi women were forcibly separated from their families. (Image source: Live Leak)

Video has emerged that allegedly shows Yazidi women screaming in terror as they are physically dragged away from their families by a group of armed Islamic State fighters.

The video, which TheBlaze is unable to independently authenticate, was first posted on Facebook and LiveLeak and was reported by Britain’s Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail reported that these Yazidi women were forcibly separated from their families. (Image source: Live Leak)

In the video, apparent Islamist militants armed with automatic weapons and clothed fully in black with masks over their heads surround the group of civilian captives.

On the second floor above the courtyard stand more gunmen with one unfurling a black Islamic State flag. One of the men observing from above appeared to be armed with a shoulder-fired rocket launcher.

The fighters are prompted to repeat the call “Allahu akbar,” or “Allah is the greatest,” before the family separation operation gets underway.

As the women are ripped away from their families, their cries of anguish are audible and excruciating.

(Content warning: disturbing scene)

The Daily Mail reported that the video was first posted online by Yazidi activists.

Yazidi women who have been freed or escaped their jihadist captors have told heart-wrenching stories about the time they spent as sex slaves for fighters with the group that aims to establish a global caliphate based on Islamic law.

One 21-year-old survivor of the horrific ordeal told the U.N. Security Council how she was gang raped by Islamic State fighters.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi woman who was held as a sex slave for three months, told the U.N. that the jihadists took her from her Iraqi village to Mosul. She said that even on the journey “they touched us and violated us.”

“The man who took me asked me to change religion. I refused. Then, he asked for my hand in marriage, so to speak,” Taha recounted, according to Britain’s Telegraph.

“That night he beat me. He asked me to take my clothes off. He put me in a room with the guards and then they proceeded to commit their crime until I fainted,” she said.

(H/T: Daily Mail)