Posts from January 2016 (Page 2)

His Dire Porn Warning About What’s on the Horizon: ‘The Greatest…Threat to the Christian Faith in the History of the World’

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Christian apologist Josh McDowell believes that rampant and unrestrained pornography use is the “probably the greatest problem or threat to the Christian faith in the history of the world,” explaining his reasoning in a recent interview with The Church Boys podcast.

More specifically, McDowell sounded the alarm on how virtual reality products hold the power to exponentially increase porn consumption, imploring faith leaders to take a bold stand against smut.

“If pastors don’t wake up and Christian leaders … [and] do something — and I mean radical, then the devastating consequences [for] our children will be upon the shoulders and conscience of those pastors,” McDowell said.

Listen to McDowell’s warning about pornography and what’s on the horizon below:

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As an apologist, he said that he has always worked hard to pursue truth and to help people to understand the basics of the Christian faith, exploring and analyzing social patterns in an effort to relate to audiences.

It was about five or six years ago that McDowell starting feeling as though something in society wasn’t quite right, observing that whatever was wrong was “effecting belief systems [and] behaviors.”

“Normally I can pin it right away,” he said, noting that he was having a hard time doing so. “So, I started studying. Oh, did I have a wide awakening: it was pervasive Internet pornography.”

Realizing that, as an apologist, he is tasked with dealing with the barriers to belief, he said that he knew that he had to take action.

As TheBlaze previously reported, McDowell recently commissioned a sweeping porn study through his organization, Josh McDowell Ministry — a landmark report that revealed a litany of troubling trends.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Nearly half of young people are actively seeking pornography weekly or more frequently — and more than one-in-four individuals between the ages of 25 and 30 first viewed smut before hitting puberty. The survey also found that 21 percent of youth pastors and 14 percent of pastors involved in the study are currently struggling with porn use.

Read the entire study here and learn more about McDowell’s four-day “Set Free Summit” that will address the issue of porn in April.

During his interview with The Church Boys, McDowell also warned that something else is coming that will make the porn problem exponentially worse: virtual reality.

“We haven’t seen anything yet,” he said, citing virtual reality products like Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

McDowell believes that virtual reality products will elevate porn use and the associated experience to dangerous levels we have yet to see, adding that he believes that the Christian church is ill-prepared to cope with this dynamic.

You can read more about how the porn industry is seeking to capitalize off of these products here.

Front page image via Shutterstock.com.

Obama: Anti-Semitism on the Rise Across the World

President Barack Obama addresses the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony at the Israeli Embassy January 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama became the first president to speak at the Israeli Embassy Wednesday, pledging solidarity with Israel, even as the president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to have an icy relationship.

“We must confront the reality that, around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it,” Obama said at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. “I’ve made sure that the United States is leading the global fight against anti-Semitism.”

President Barack Obama addresses the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony at the Israeli Embassy January 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Though Obama has frequently been criticized for having a wavering commitment to Israel, particularly in light of the recent Iran nuclear deal, which the Jewish state strongly opposed, Obama said it would “be a fundamental moral failing” for the United States to break its bond with Israel.

“America’s commitment to Israel’s security remains, now and forever, unshakeable,” Obama said to applause.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg introduced Obama and Netanyahu delivered a video message about the strong U.S.-Israeli bond, and the horror of the Holocaust.

Four individuals were recognized with the Righteous of the Nations Awards, for putting their own lives at risk to save the lives of Jewish people during World War II.

As described by the White House, the four were:

Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds participated in the landing of the American forces in Europe and was taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. While in captivity, the Germans ordered the captured Jewish POWs at the camp to report. Master Sergeant Edwards, the highest-ranking American non-commissioned officer, ordered all of the U.S. soldiers to stand together, and he announced to the German officer, “We are all Jews.” The German officer gave up, and the Jewish soldiers’ lives were saved.

Lois Gunden was an American teaching in France who helped smuggle Jewish children out of an internment camp and into a children’s home she established.

Walery and Maryla Zbijewski were a Polish couple who put their lives at risk to secretly house a Jewish child in Warsaw for several months.

“We hear their stories and are forced to ask ourselves, under the same circumstances how would we react? How would we answer God’s question, where are you?” Obama said.

He said that Americans should “make common cause” with all people, “whether Christian or Jew, Hindu or Muslim, native or immigrant, Israeli or Palestinian.”

“An attack on any faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Obama said.

A Team of Hamas ‘Warriors’ Was Killed This Week. The Reason Has Israelis Worried.

A Palestinian youth crawls in a tunnel during a graduation ceremony for a training camp run by the Hamas movement on January 29, 2015 in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Eight Hamas fighters were buried alive Wednesday when the secret tunnel they were in collapsed in Gaza, prompting concern in Israel that the Islamist group is planning for a new offensive against the Jewish state.

After initially saying nothing about the event, Hamas’ military wing confirmed the tunnel collapse, but did not reveal the purpose of the underground tunnel. Hamas has had a history of using tunnels for smuggling goods and weapons and for armed attacks against southern Israeli communities on the other side of the fenced-in border.

A Palestinian youth crawls in a tunnel during a graduation ceremony for a training camp run by the Hamas movement Jan. 29, 2015, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas also did not say what the men were doing inside the tunnel; however, various media reports suggested they were involved in digging the secret passage — a theory bolstered by Israelis living on the Gaza border who told Israel’s Channel 10 that they have been hearing loud underground drilling sounds. The residents said that they have been hearing the noises during overnight hours until 4:00 a.m.

“We started hearing things like concrete cracking, we felt that the concrete was rising up. We heard booms and bangs from the kitchen,” resident Esther Naim told Channel 10.

Israel’s Channel 2 television Wednesday night quoted Hamas’ military wing, which said it had “lost contact with the team of warriors who were in the tunnel when it collapsed due to weather conditions. … The search for them continues.”

An unnamed Hamas security source told Agence France-Presse, “The resistance tunnel collapsed last night due to the weather and flooding.”

“There were 11 resistance men inside. Three of them escaped in the first hour after the accident,” he said, using the “resistance” euphemism frequently invoked to describe what westerners would view as terrorism.

The Times of Israel noted that Hamas tried to “keep a lid on the disaster” by preventing local media from initially reporting on the incident and by at first accusing Israel of intentionally flooding the tunnel.

The Israeli military checked into the residents’ reports of overnight banging noises but determined that there were no underground tunnels in that area, Channel 10 reported.

During the 2014 fighting with Israel, Hamas sent heavily-armed fighters into Israel via attack tunnels.

AFP noted that 14 Palestinians were rescued last month after being stranded for hours in a flooded and partially collapsed tunnel.

In the fight against Islamist militants, both Israel and Egypt have destroyed the tunnels that they have found, but given the latest development, Hamas is working to dig new ones.

Teen Uses Pepper Spray to Fend Off Would-Be Rapist. Guess Who Will Likely Be Charged Now?

A police officer tries to separate pro-migrants and anti-migrants protesters at the Danish-German border on January 9, 2016 in Krusaa, Denmark. January 9, 2015. The anti-Islamic group SIAD protesting againts migrants claims that the border should be completely closed. (Claus Fisker/AFP/Getty Images)

A Danish teen used pepper spray to fight off a man who tried to sexually assault her near an asylum seekers’ center, but since the device is illegal in Denmark, the girl has now been warned by police that she will likely be charged, Danish media reported.

The 17-year-old girl is one of many who, according to media reports, have been carrying self-defense devices since reports emerged about the wave of sexual assaults by groups of Middle Eastern migrants in Germany and elsewhere in Europe over the New Year’s holiday.

It is unknown if the attacker was a migrant. He was described in various media accounts as “English-speaking” and “dark skinned.”

A police officer tries to separate pro-migrants and anti-migrants protesters at the Danish-German border Jan. 9 in Krusaa, Denmark. (Claus Fisker/AFP/Getty Images)

The girl told police that she was knocked to the ground at about 10 p.m. Wednesday in the coastal town of Sonderborg by the man who then unbuttoned her pants and tried to undress her, The Local reported.

She was able to free herself by using the pepper spray she was carrying, a move that may end up costing her.

“It is illegal to possess and use pepper spray, so she will likely be charged for that,” local police spokesman Knud Kirsten told TV Syd. Britain’s Telegraph reported that the fine in Denmark for carrying pepper spray is about $70.

That police warning unleashed acerbic comments on Danish social media by those upset by the possibility that the victim could face punishment under the law. “Self-defense is a human right,” one person wrote while others offered to pay her fine.

As for the assailant, he is still at large.

Following the widely reported sexual attacks in Cologne, German merchants have reported a spike in sales of self-defense devices such as pepper spray, blank firing guns, body alarms and high performance flashlights that can momentarily blind attackers.

Right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders — a strong opponent of Muslim migration to Europe — over the past weekend handed out fake pepper spray canisters to women, telling them they need to defend themselves against men he described as “Islamic testosterone bombs.”

Because pepper spray is also illegal in the Netherlands, the canisters Wilders distributed contained red paint.

The Local noted that a nightclub in the same town where the teenager was attacked has decided to bar the entry of those who don’t speak Danish, English or German following complaints that women had been harassed by foreigners.

Front-page image via Shutterstock

Muslim Teen Accused of Plotting a Terror Attack Involving an Islamic State Symbol and an Exploding Kangaroo

Sevdet Besim (Image via Instagram)

A Muslim Australian teen is accused of planning an attack on police officers using a kangaroo packed with C4 plastic explosives and painted with an Islamic State symbol, prosecutors told a Melbourne court Thursday.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted documents prosecutors presented in court summarizing communications last year between Sevdet Ramadan Besim, 19, and an overseas teenager about the attack plot timed to the national Anzac memorial day.

Sevdet Besim (Image via Instagram)

“[T]hey have a general discussion around animals and wildlife in Australia including a suggestion that a kangaroo could be packed with C4 explosive, painted with the IS symbol and set loose on police officers,” the prosecution said.

The attack plan also involved running over then beheading a police officer, whom Besim referred to as a “dog,” the Australian Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors quoted Besim’s online communications in which he allegedly said he was “ready to fight these dogs on there [sic] doorstep”

“I’d love to take out some cops,” he said. “I was gonna meet with them then take some heads ahaha.”

“Main thing I guess is that I send the dog to hell,” he reportedly said.

Besim pleaded not guilty to the four charges related to the April 25 attack plan.

When he was booked in April, Besim refused to bow to the Australian judge, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported last spring.

Even nearly a year after his arrest, Besim’s Twitter account was still up as of this writing, which included messages glorifying so-called “martyrs” and deriding infidels.

Front-page image via Shutterstock

Wife of Christian Pastor Released in Iranian Prisoner Swap Files for Separation and Pens Heartbreaking Open Letter Alleging Abuse

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, right, who is being held in Iran, prays with Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, prior to a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with testimony from four people whose family members are being held in Iran. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, the Christian pastor and American citizen who was detained for more than three years in Iran, has filed for a legal separation, penning an open letter on Facebook apologizing to supporters and alleging abuse at the hands of her husband.

The letter opened by noting that her two young children — Rebekka, 9 and Jacob, 7 — had a “wonderful reunion” with their father this week, and that they will be spending more time with him in the coming days.

“I am so happy for this long waited reunion and for the joy that I see in my children and in Saeed,” Abedini wrote. “Nothing can make me happier than seeing those whom I love be happy and free from the pain that they had been under for the last 3.5 years.”

But she also expressed regret for concealing purported details about her marriage and apologized to her supporters.

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, right, who is being held in Iran, prays with Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness,” she wrote. “I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage.”

In the end, though, she said that the opposite unfolded, claiming that her husband made demands that she could no longer conceal.

“Three months ago, Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer,” she wrote. “He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.”

Abedini went on to say that she hopes for reconciliation that is “based on God’s word” — a reunion that is achieved through counseling to “deal with the abuse.”

She also said that she has taken “temporary legal action” to ensure that her kids remain in Idaho until a resolution is reached.

“I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer. We cannot go on the way it has been,” she said. “I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.”

Dearest Friends,Saeed landed in Boise yesterday and had a wonderful reunion with the children. They will be spending…

Posted by Naghmeh Abedini on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Abedini, who has been a public advocate for her husband since 2012, had emailed supporters late last year, telling them that she had suffered abuse at the hands of her husband and that he has a purported porn addiction; she later said that she regretted making that information public, as she was “under great psychological and emotional distress” at the time, according to Religion News Service.

As TheBlaze has reported, Saeed Abedini was first arrested in Iran back in 2012 on charges stemming from meetings he had with other Christians inside private homes — an act that is not illegal in Iran. Abedini was among five Americans who were released earlier this month from Iranian prison, with the U.S. agreeing to pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians in exchange.

Prior to the prison exchange, Naghmeh Abedini had been very critical of the U.S. government for starting negotiations for the Iran deal while her husband, among others, remained imprisoned in the Middle Eastern country.

“From day one, we had said that even before we started negotiating with Iran on the deal, we should have — as the United States of America — have said, ‘Release the American hostages, and then we can talk about the nuclear deal,’” she told The Church Boys podcast last summer, months before her husband’s release. “I’ve never wanted Saeed part of the deal … having to think that we ever gave up anything for my husband in terms of such a big issue.”

Listen to that interview from last summer below:

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(H/T: Reuters)

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Professor Says Ted Cruz Shouldn’t Be Using His Dad’s Christian Conversion Story. Here’s Why He’s Wrong.

Cruz Paul pastors

This week, Ted Cruz was accused of pimping his father’s conversion to Christianity for votes. The accusation was made by a professor of religion no less, who observed that Evangelicals prefer the godless Donald Trump because they “hate hypocrites.”

Stunning, isn’t it? That a professor of religion is so far removed from “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them,” that he confuses the ultimate aim of religion with base theft and cooptation. I can hardly grapple with the next sentence.

What is the entire point of religion? If it’s not to make us better, more Godly people—here and in the eternities—I don’t know what it is. If living our religion isn’t making us better, either we’re doing it wrong or it isn’t true religion.

Hundreds of pastors prayed over Sen. Ted Cruz in Des Moines, Iowa. (Credit: Christian Broadcasting Network)

Mark Silk, professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, complains that the testimony of conversion Ted Cruz so movingly bears “is his father’s, not his own.”

In the first Republican presidential debate last August, Cruz described the father of his youth as “alcoholic” and “not a Christian.” The non-practicing Roman Catholic Rafael Cruz abandoned his family when his son was only three. The born-again Rafael Cruz returned to his family and became an ordained minister. After he was converted, “[h]is son and wife followed him, becoming born-again Christians as well.”

Ergo, the fruit of conversion.

Professor Silk has it all wrong. His contention is that what Evangelicals “really want to experience is a fellow sinner explaining how Jesus turned his life around. Instead, Cruz gives them: ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, / That saved a wretch like Dad.’”

Of course we’re moved by amazing stories that come about when a life is put in God’s hands, but faithful belief in God is not a “give a man a fish” affair; it’s a “teach a man to fish” power that is in turn bequeathed to one’s willing descendants. After he was converted, “[h]is son and wife followed him, becoming born-again Christians as well.”

As exciting as it may be to hear Duck Commander Phil Robertson’s conversion from philandering drunkard to God-fearing husband and father, it is the result—the fruit of the decision—that reveals its glory. Decades later, he is still married to the same woman, father to four Godly men, one a pastor, who themselves are married to Godly women, all of whom working together have created a family and a business of lasting value; now that is some powerful testimony.

Ted Cruz isn’t stealing his father’s conversion story, or coopting it to get a few votes. He is telling his own conversion story, a story that begins with his father’s conversion and that is still in the telling. Ted Cruz may just be our next commander in chief. Is that not Ted Cruz’s story to tell of the power God has in his life? And the story continues with his own daughters. Sincere conversion waters desert flower blooms for generations to come.

I don’t know why Trump of the “Two Corinthians” has nearly as much Evangelical support in Iowa as Cruz, 29 to 31 percent respectively. I don’t know if Ted Cruz will be elected President of the United States. I don’t know if the Cruz daughters will continue in their family’s faith. What I do know is that turning to God put the Cruz family back together. I know that Ted Cruz credits his faith as the bedrock of his principled conservatism. If asked, he would likely say it is the bedrock of his roles as husband and father as well.

There is no telling Ted Cruz’s story without including the parts of his father’s story that molded him. Without the conversion of Rafael, the second, even more powerful conversion of Ted may never have happened. He talks about God because he and his life are inseparable from God.

Ted Cruz may be a lot of things, but a hypocrite isn’t one of them.

Donna Carol Voss is an author, blogger, speaker, and mom. A Berkeley grad, a former atheist, pagan, and hot mess, she is now a Mormon on purpose and an original thinker on 21stcentury living. Her memoir, “One of Everything,” traces the path through one of everything she took to get here.www.donnacarolvoss.com

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.

Question Posed to British Government: Could Reading the Bible in Public Be a Crime in the UK?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the former leader of the UK Independence Party. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The topic of religious freedom and extremism in the U.K. came up during a government meeting Wednesday in the House of Lords.

Independence Party peer Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked the government to address whether new plans to combat religious extremism could lead to a ban on reading the Bible in public, Premier reported.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, former leader of the U.K. Independence Party. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The concern comes after a Christian street preacher was found guilty last year of a public order offense while preaching on the streets of Taunton, England.

Michael Overd, who lives near Taunton, claimed at the time that he was simply reading the Bible but was found guilty of making hateful remarks about homosexuality through a loudspeaker.

Overd successfully appealed the ruling.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Pearson asked the government to discuss the potential risks of the legislative changes that will be effective in April. He suggested that some people might be offended if others claim that Jesus is God and deny the “divinity of Allah.”

If this were to happen, Pearson fears a rise in the number of Christians accused of hate crimes.

Home Office Minister Lord Ahmed replied to Pearson, assuring him that reading the Bible in public would never become a criminal offense in the U.K.

“Reading texts from the Holy Bible in public or preaching the divinity of Christ is not a crime and never will be in this country,” he said. “The government’s counter extremism strategy makes it clear that the government will protect free speech and the right to profess, practice and propagate any religion or indeed none.”

Lord Pearson went on to praise Prime Minister David Cameron’s Christmas message that Jesus was the son of God, saying “that won’t have gone down all that well with the Islamists.”

(H/T: Premier)

A Stunning Change Unfolded When Pew Asked This Question About Hillary Clinton’s Faith in 2007 and 2016

Hillary Clinton delivers a national security address at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Nov. 19, 2015. (Getty Images/DON EMMERT/AFP)

The U.S. public views Donald Trump as the least religious presidential candidate among the pool of Republican and Democratic contenders, but that’s not the only intriguing faith finding to come from the Pew Research Center’s new “Faith and the 2016 Campaign” report.

Metrics surrounding Trump’s perceived religious devotion aside, the percentage of the U.S. public who believe that Hillary Clinton is not very faithful has increased notably since her last presidential run.

“The share of Americans saying Clinton is not religious now stands at 43 percent, up from 24 percent in 2007,” the Pew report reads.

Hillary Clinton delivers a national security address at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Nov. 19, 2015. (Getty Images/DON EMMERT/AFP)

In Aug. 2007, 53 percent of the public said that they believed Clinton was “very” or “somewhat” religious — a proportion that decreased to 48 percent when the question was again asked in Jan. 2016.

So, while nearly half of the country still contends that Clinton is at least somewhat devoted to her Methodist faith, there was a massive, 19-point increase among those saying that they believe that she is “not too” or “not at all” religious.

Pew Research Center Pew Research Center

This was most pronounced among Republican and Republican-leaning respondents. While 43 percent believed that Clinton wasn’t very religious back in 2007, that proportion jumped to 65 percent in 2016.

Democrats, too, are more skeptical, with just 12 percent saying that she was “not too” or “not at all” religious in 2007; that proportion grew to 27 percent in 2016.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Some similar trends were noted for President Barack Obama as well, though the proportion of Americans who said that he is at least somewhat religious grew from 50 percent in 2007 to 59 percent in 2016.

There’s more to the story on that front, though, as the share who see him as not very religious has actually increased quite a bit.

“Roughly one-third of Americans now say that Obama is not too or not at all religious, up from 9 percent in 2007,” the report reads. “Over this period, the share expressing no opinion of Obama’s religiousness declined from 40 percent to 6 percent.”

Read the entire report here.

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Why Did Leonardo DiCaprio Have a Private Meeting With the Pope?

Pope Francis meets with actor Leonardo Di Caprio during a private audience in the pontiff's private studio, at the Vatican, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Oscar-nominated actor Leonardo DiCaprio had a private meeting with Pope Francis Thursday, Vatican Radio confirmed.

DiCaprio, a long-time environmentalist, has a lot more in common with the pontiff than one might initially think. Though famous for very different reasons, the two share an interest in climate change issues and an ability to influence others.

Pope Francis meets with actor Leonardo DiCaprio during a private audience in the pontiff’s private studio at the Vatican Thursday. (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Earlier this month, DiCaprio received an award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, for his commitment to green campaigning.

“We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity,” DiCaprio said at the forum, according to the Independent.

He also announced that the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will donate $15 million to environmental projects. “The Revenant” star launched his charity in 1998 to support sustainable environmental initiatives.

In May, Pope Francis published his encyclical Laudato Si (“Praise Be”), which exhorted wealthy nations to provide more aid in combatting climate change and encouraged environmental stewardship.

Watch the video from the Telegraph here: