WeekEnder: At 100, Boy Scouts say they're still `essential'

At 100, Boy Scouts say they're still `essential'

By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer © 2009 The Associated Press

Dec. 19, 2009, 11:52PM

123

Carolyn Kaster AP

In this Oct. 3, 2009 photo, Tenderfoot Scout Bradley Corr, 11, center, his father Warren Corr, Troop 29 committee member, right, and his grandfather Ted Corr, left, who is Unit Commissioner with the Forks of the Delaware district of the Minis Trails Council attend Boy Scout camp at Camp Minsi in Pocono Summit, Pa. As the Boy Scouts of America heads toward its 100th anniversary in February, its first century adds up to a remarkable saga, full of achievement, complexity and contradiction. On one hand, no other U.S. youth organization has served as many boys, an estimated 112 million over the years. On the other hand, in both the courts and the public arena, the BSA has doggedly defended its right to discriminate, excluding gays and atheists from its ranks, and overriding requests from some local units to soften those policies. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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POCONO SUMMIT, Pa. — A fifth-generation Boy Scout, 11-year-old Brad Corr is steeped in all the lore and tradition: the Scout Oath and Scout Law, campcraft and community service, the daily doing of good deeds.

If he were recruiting a friend for the Scouts, though, what would be his best pitch? "We got to build catapults and launch pumpkins from them."

Old-fashioned fun is part of the Scout heritage. So is doing one's duty to God and country. And so too is controversy. As the Boy Scouts of America heads toward its 100th anniversary in February, its first century adds up to a remarkable saga, full of achievement and complexity.

On one hand, no other U.S. youth organization has served as many boys — an estimated 112 million over the years — and is so deeply ingrained in the Norman Rockwell version of American popular culture. It can boast of a congressional charter and a long, unbroken string of U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, serving as its honorary leader.

On the other hand, in both the courts and the public arena, the BSA has doggedly defended its right to exclude gays and atheists from its ranks, overriding requests from some local units to soften those policies.

"We do have folks who say we probably should rethink this," Bob Mazzuca, the chief Scout executive, said in an interview. "We can agree to disagree on a particular issue and still come together for the common good."

The Scouts — though their numbers have dropped in recent decades — remain a pervasive presence across America, vibrant in many suburbs and heartland towns, pressing minority recruitment campaigns in urban areas where enrollment often has lagged. Mazzuca and others in the Scouts' extended family view the centennial as an opportunity to look forward as well as back.

"We're going to reintroduce folks to the impact Scouting has made and the reality that Scouting is more essential today than it's ever been before," he said.

___

No centennial campaign is needed to convince the Corr family that Scouting is essential. They've been engaged since 1928, when Edgar Corr became scoutmaster of Troop P-2 in Easton, Pa., and his son, Andrew, became one of the Scouts.

Andrew's son, Ted Corr, now 71, became a Scout in 1950 and remains active as a unit commissioner. Warren Corr, Ted's 40-year-old son, earned his Eagle Scout rank in 1987 and has served in various leadership posts since then. And Brad, Warren's son, joined Cub Scouts in 2004 and crossed over into Boy Scouts last February as one of more than 100 members of Troop 29 in Forks Township, Pa.

A sixth grader, Brad is a Tenderfoot, the first rank a Scout can earn, with merit badges in leatherwork, fingerprinting and space exploration, and has the ambitious goal of becoming an Eagle Scout within three years. He savors the camping trips and the do-it-yourself projects like building rockets and signal towers.

Some of Brad's friends are in the Scouts, others have dropped out or never joined. A common refrain from many families, in Troop 29's area and across the country, is that they just don't have the time for Scouting.

For the Corrs, though, forgoing Scouting isn't an option — even with Brad playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse, as well as cello and drums in the school band.

"Scouting gives enough flexibility that boys can do all kinds of activities — it's not one or the other," said Warren Corr. "If they've got other stuff to do, they take care of it. You don't have to go to every meeting."

Many parents, as well as their sons, feel overstretched, he said, posing a challenge for Scout leaders in recruiting enough adult volunteers.

"You always have some moms and dads willing to step up, and others who hang back," Corr said. "But if you approach them and ask, 99 times out of 100 you'll get a yes."

For the boys, said Corr, a big draw is "doing some cool stuff."

But as a former Scout turned adult leader, he sees a bigger picture.

"It's about leadership, the confidence that comes with accomplishing something, the service to your country and community," he said. "When you're in Scouting, even three or four years of it sticks with you for the rest of your life."

Ted Corr, the family patriarch, joined son Warren and grandson Brad for an in-depth discussion of Scouting at Camp Minsi, a 1,200-acre lakeside Scout facility in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.

The biggest changes he's seen in 60 years of Scouting?

"Aerospace and computer merit badges," Ted Corr replied. "As a kid growing up in the 1940s, who'd have thought it?"

And the worst change? Corr answered by brandishing his cell phone.

"They take these on camping trips now," he grumbled good-naturedly.

___

Had cell phones been around in 1909, or the GPS devices that Scouts now sometimes use for orienteering, perhaps the Boy Scouts of America wouldn't have come to be — at least not in the manner depicted in the BSA's legendary story of the "Unknown Scout."

According to this tale, American businessman William Boyce became lost in the London fog, and was guided to his destination by a helpful youth. When Boyce offered a tip, the boy replied that he was a Scout (they were formed in Britain in 1907) and couldn't accept money for doing a good turn.

Boyce was so impressed that he studied up on British scouting and incorporated the BSA on Feb. 8, 1910.

By 1917, the organization already was an American icon. During World War I, Scouts contributed to home-front activities by selling Liberty Loan bonds and planting war gardens. They expanded their efforts in World War II, collecting rubber and aluminum, distributing civil defense posters, assisting fire brigades.

The BSA grew steadily over its first six decades, with membership peaking at more than 6 million boys and adult leaders in 1972. As of 2008, the total had dropped to under 4 million — 2.83 million boys and 1.13 million adults.

Reasons for the membership decline are manifold — the explosion of other after-school activities and sports, a perception among some families that the Scouts were too old-fashioned or conservative, and sporadic scandals that generated bad publicity while undercutting the BSA's own commitment to integrity. Among the problems:

_Allegations in several states that membership rolls of some Scouting programs were inflated to boost contributions that were based on enrollment. A Scout official resigned in Atlanta and auditors found that nearly 5,000 boys were falsely registered in an inner-city program. In response, the Scouts tightened verification of enrollment data.

_Several sex-abuse cases involving troop leaders and BSA officials, including Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr., who ran a Scout task force combatting sexual abuse and was sentenced to eight years in prison on child pornography charges. These cases prompted the Scouts to strengthen background screening and awareness programs.

Perhaps the biggest long-term jolt to the Scouts, however, came in the form of a legal victory — the June 2000 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said the BSA, as a private organization, had a right to exclude gays from its adult and youth ranks.

The Scouts' national leadership welcomed the ruling, but it prompted numerous local governments and charities to curtail support for the Scouts because the exclusionary policies toward gays and atheists violated anti-discrimination codes.

Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, said the current Boy Scout executive council seems immovable on the membership debate, but he predicted change would come as today's young people — shown in polls to be more open-minded about gays — mature into leadership roles.

"The world has changed immensely in these past nine years and the Scouts appear not to have changed at all," said Cathcart.

Mazzuca, asked about the exclusion of gays, offered a reply that has become standard among Scout leaders.

"We recognize that not everyone is going to agree with us on this particular issue," he said.

"We don't live in a vacuum," he added. "This issue is going on in every nook and cranny of our country. ... We're just not at the point where we're going to be leading on this."

As for the exclusion of atheists, the BSA leadership has signaled no interest in amending the Scout Oath, which includes a pledge of duty to God. Religion is fundamental to the Scouts; the Mormon, United Methodist and Roman Catholic churches are the largest sponsors of units across the country.

"That's one reason we're still as strong and viable as we are," Mazzuca said. "We do believe that to become the best you can be, you need a belief in something bigger than yourself."

Many atheists have a different view.

"The Boy Scouts are synonymous with American values and patriotism — like motherhood and apple pie," said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. "By excluding atheists and secular Americans, they are essentially saying we cannot be good citizens."

Niose's association, and several allied groups, had urged Obama to turn down the honorary presidency of the Scouts until the exclusionary policies were changed. But the calls went unheeded, and Obama accepted the honorary position in March, as had all of his predecessors since William Howard Taft.

"I was there when a membership card was handed to him," Mazzuca said of Obama. "He said he was proud to have it."

___

Even as it defends its policies toward gays and atheists, the BSA has been striving over the past two decades to correct a long-standing underrepresentation of blacks and other minorities in its youth and leadership ranks. There have been various minority recruiting efforts under the BSA's Scoutreach Division, and now a vigorous new campaign to recruit Hispanics — including a Spanish-language Scout Handbook.

But the ethnic gap remains wide. Though the BSA doesn't have precise racial numbers because declaring ethnicity is optional, an analysis it commissioned last year indicated that about 11 percent of Scouts were black or Hispanic — compared to about 28 percent of the national population.

By contrast, the Girl Scouts of the USA — which has no formal ties with the Boy Scouts — says blacks and Hispanics now constitute 23 percent of its 2.6 million youth members.

The minority outreach is hard work, but the Boy Scouts are committed to it, Mazzuca said.

"This whole Hispanic phenomenon has become a huge part of our focus," he said. "In the past, we thought we could just translate our materials into Spanish, and did nothing to truly understand the cultural institutions."

Among those on the front lines of recruiting is Ron Timmons, director of field services with the Boy Scouts council in New York City.

Now 38, Timmons was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout in Brooklyn. His first paid job with the Scouts was cleaning offices — more recent duties have included recruiting missions into inner-city elementary and middle schools.

"When you walk in to a classroom with the Scout uniform on, you always have some giggles," he said. "But when we start talking about the outdoor experience, the camping, rappelling and climbing, they kind of sit up in their chair. It's cool to watch."

Inner-city recruiters face multiple challenges, Timmons says: Many boys don't live with both parents, and many families are hard-up financially, complicating the task of getting enough adults to enroll their sons in the first place and to help run a unit thereafter.

John Ward, 45, is scoutmaster for a predominantly Hispanic troop affiliated with a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan's Inwood neighborhood.

"You have kids with low-income families — how do you get them to come camping when they can't afford it?' he said. "We'll buy equipment and loan it out. We have uniform exchange programs. We tell the families, 'We'll work with you. We'll find a way.'"

The recruiting challenges are different two hours away in northeastern Pennsylvania, where Glen Lippincott, 59, helps oversee Scouting activities in the small town of Sciota.

Lippincott says the local Scout unit, Troop 84, is holding its own with 21 active Scouts, but has struggled to attract boys from the black and Hispanic families moving into the region — often with a breadwinner making a daily commute of 90 minutes or more into the New York City area and feeling there's scarce time left for an activity like Scouting.

"Us white, middle-aged leaders — we've tried to understand why we can't get them involved," he said. "Probably it will take a couple of generations."

___

Scouting is a passion for Lippincott, who can theatrically narrate the "Unknown Scout" legend, has a collection of vintage Scout Handbooks dating back to the 1930s, and credits map-reading skills he learned as a Scout with helping his commanding officer avoid a friendly-fire incident during combat duty in Vietnam.

Lippincott has been active in Scouting for 50 of his 59 years — as Scout, scoutmaster, district chairman and a host of other short- and long-term positions. His wife, Donna, was the first female assistant scoutmaster in their Pocono district.

His family's involvement with the BSA spans four generations, starting with his father, Jack, who joined the Scouts before World War II, and extending to his brother's grandson, Cody Weiss, currently a Scout with Troop 84.

Cody, 13, joined other members of his troop — and a contingent of relatives — at a cookout in the fall on a hillside above a cluster of Lippincott family homes in Sciota. While his troop mates cooked beef stew and biscuits, Cody talked about the Scouting pursuits he likes best — camping trips, shelter-building, learning first aid. He aspires to be an Eagle Scout, yet he guessed that a sizable majority of his peers at school look down on Scouting as "not cool."

That's a common perception, one which the Scouts acknowledge. In fact, one of the key goals of the BSA's strategic plan for 2011-2015 is "to be seen by youth as cool." It hopes to reverse the nearly 40-year membership decline with innovations that might include a partnership with Major League Baseball.

"We've been slow to realize the changing landscape of how people form their opinions," said Mazzuca, who noted that the Scouts are making greater use of social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to communicate and recruit.

He said the BSA plans to launch a $1 billion fundraising campaign and has hired McKinsey and Company, a renowned management consulting firm, to help modernize its structure "so we can be more nimble."

"One of the magic parts of this adventure is that none of the bedrock things that made us who we are have to change for us to be more relevant and dynamic," Mazzuca said.

He sees two contrasting forms of competition for the Scouts — youth sports and "unhealthy things" like video games.

"If our competition is some other recreation program, we deliver a whole lot more," he said. "We can show empirically that an engagement in Scouting over four or five years means more likelihood of graduating from college, higher lifetime earnings."

Glen Lippincott drew the contrast this way: "In sports, if you're not good, you sit on the bench. In Scouts, nobody sits on the bench."

Lippincott became emotional as he talked about Scouting's core goal — to teach boys character-building skills that will last a lifetime.

"It's a game with a purpose," he said. "It gives you a moral compass on how you conduct yourself with other people."

His words echoed those of 71-year-old Ted Corr, who — miles away, earlier the same day — also reflected on the essence of Scouting.

"It's same as what my dad and granddad signed onto," Corr said. "We're transmitting values. It's leadership. It's attitude. It's how you play the game."

___

On the Net:

Boy Scouts of America: http://www.scouting.org/

WeekEnd Edition

This material was brought to you by The WeekEnder and Broadcast(B.C.)Christianity. The WeekEnd Edition Digest, is a ministry of  Broadcast(B.C.)Christianity and Michael James Stone. It is an aggragate of  materials selected from the Internet and materials provided by Authors and Readers. Though often Christian in nature, the materials are subjective and do not necessarily reflect the views of  Broadcast(B.C.)Christianity or anone associated with.

 

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WeekEnder: The Reason for the Season? -J.R.Hall

The Reason for the Season?

Written by J.R.Hall

  

'Tis the season for remembering, but what is it that we are to remember? 

For many it is the remembering of Christmases past; times of good cheer and family and friends. But even in cheer is the overshadowing presence of all the societal pressures of the season which all but erase the true reason for the season. Having a 'Merry Christmas' has slowly, but effectively, been replaced with the neutral words of 'Happy Holidays'; and the world pays no heed to the change. Gone are the days of quiet reflection and awe, and instead are the days of hustle and bustle, silver bells and noise. The once silent night has in decades past been callously replaced by rockin' around the Christmas tree. 

Even for those who remember it has something to do with the birth of God's Son long ago in Bethlehem, the memory remains somewhat in the background of all else that is going on. Like other legends and tales of lore, the reason for the season has all but been forgotten or reduced to a mere bedtime story. We have decorations of trees and lights, school plays and musicals, music and song, parties and gatherings, and all kinds of snacks and goodies to make our belt lines jolly. All this we do for the sake of tradition, and we're not even sure why we do it - beyond the basic understanding that we always have. 

What makes this time of year a celebration anyway? What's so special about December 25th that causes us all to stop our normal lives to decorate, buy gifts and spread cheer? 

A Child is born 

For the Christian, this time of year is a wonderful celebration of hope, faith and encouragement. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the secular celebration of 'Happy Holidays', Christians call to remembrance that 2000 years ago, in fulfillment of perfect prophecies, a child was born to a virgin. This child was to be called Immanuel, "God with us", and is the real reason why we traditionally celebrate Christmas. And more importantly, even though (like others) our holidays may indeed be happy, our true joy resides in the promises of the Word of God and just who this Christ child was, is, and will always be. 

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." - Isaiah 7:14 

"Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" - Luke 2:10-14 

Two thousand years ago, the Christ child was born. The announcement was first given to His mother Mary, and confirmed to His earthly father Joseph in an angelic dream: 

"And she[Mary] will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which is translated," God with us." - Mat 1:21-23 

This Immanuel - the one of whom John the Baptist would later cry out, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" had a grand purpose in God's eternal plan. This Christ child whose purpose was declared to Joseph, "He will save His people from their sins." is the true reason for reflection, celebration, wonder, awe and worship at Christmas. 

But is the point really to celebrate His birthday? Is it simply akin to the gathering of friends around a cake and singing Happy Birthday? Or should it perhaps go deeper in meaning? 

Is it about the date? 

We celebrate His birth on December 25th, but yet, historical and biblical evidences would place His birth more likely in late September. 

History of December 25th 

It is very interesting to note that in the first two hundred years of Church history there is no mention given as to the celebration of, nor the date of Christ's birthday. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Sextus Julius Africanus gave the first mention of December 25th as being a celebration of Christ's birth. This idea seemed to gain popularity by 336 A.D. where we not only find mention of it, but also debates surrounding the issue of the date of Christ's birth. 

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church reports, 

"Though speculation as to the time of year of Christ's birth dates from the early 3rd century, Clement of Alexandria suggesting the 20th of May, the celebration of the anniversary does not appear to have been general till the later 4th century. The earliest mention of the observance on Dec. 25th is in the Philocalian Calendar, representing Roman practice of the year 336. This date was probably chosen to oppose the feast of the Natalis Solis Invicti [nativity of the unconquerable sun] by the celebration of the birth of the 'Sun of Righteousness' and its observance in the West, seems to have spread from Rome"1 

Note the words, "probably chosen to oppose the feast of the Natalis Solis Invicti" . What was that exactly? 

In ancient Rome December 25th was the date of a celebration by the Romans to their primary god, the Sun, and of Mithras, a popular Persian sun god who supposedly was born on the same day. Pope Liberius in 354 made December 25th the celebration of Christ's birth, and it became the rule in the West in 435 when the first 'Christ Mass' was officiated by Pope Sixtus III. The Roman Catholic writer Mario Righetti candidly admits that, 

"to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the birth of Christ to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the ''Invincible Sun'' Mithras, the conqueror of darkness"

Protestant historian Henry Chadwick sums up the controversy: 

"Moreover, early in the fourth century there begins in the West (where first and by whom is not known) the celebration of December 25th, the birthday of the Sun-god at the winter solstice, as the date for the nativity of Christ. How easy it was for Christianity and solar religion to become entangled at the popular level is strikingly illustrated by a mid-fifth century sermon of Pope Leo the Great, rebuking his over-cautious flock for paying reverence to the Sun on the steps of St. Peter's before turning their back on it to worship inside the westward-facing basilica"3 

Providing an alternative to the popular Roman holiday - that celebrated the winter solstice as a resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer - certainly seemed to be an easy parallel for the Church to make. It can truly be seen that after the popularization of December 25th, many Christian writers made the connection between the birth of the sun, and the birth of the Son

Now many of you reading along may be wondering, "Pagan Festival?! Should Christians even be a part of this?" So I think we need to provide some discussion on this issue. 

Special Days of Observance 

The Bible does not give us direction for the celebration of Christ's birthday. Christ himself made no mention of such an observance. He did however call us unto remembrance of His death and sacrifice through the ordinance of communion. 

I think it is important that we keep our heads about this and not overreact in regards to the concept of a pagan celebration being hijacked by a Christian observance. I can guarantee you that throughout human history it can be found on every calendar day of the year that something evil or some ungodly worship practice has been done. The meaning of a day therefore must be left to the heart of the observer. I believe the Bible speaks clearly on this. 

"One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord…." - Romans 14:5-6

"Let no man therefore judge you…in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." - Colossians 2:16-17 

What matters most is what you do with each day the Lord has given you. Whether you or I had anything to do with December 25th being chosen is inconsequential. The fact remains that Western Civilization has adopted the date of December 25th for the remembrance of Christ's birthday. It is therefore most important what we as Christians actually celebrate on that day. 

The First Advent 

The Christian heart truly sings out in praise and wonder at the words of the angels on the night of Christ's birth - 'Glory to God in the highest'. We know the rest of the story of this once small child. Through His life, death and resurrection we became believers and inheritors unto the glory of our salvation. Through this sovereign act of God, fallen man can once again be justified to God through repentance and faith in the Christ who was born in Bethlehem; destined to die on a cross and be raised again. What more reason is there for celebrating? 

And yet I wonder if we actually have true understanding of the wonder of it all. What this birth, life, death and resurrection really means to you and me, and the world? That we, wretched sinners, are now made justified before a Holy, just and awesome God; that the creator died for the creation, so that we could regain what was lost in the Garden of Eden, on that fateful day with the fall of man. 

If truly this message is recalled unto remembrance within a Christian heart, it would seem more akin to the celebration of Resurrection Day (Easter) and not Christmas. But yet we must recall the reason Christ came into the world at His first advent and give glory to God for the sacrifice made. We give praise, thanks and worship to the God that satisfied 300 promises (prophecies) with Christ at His first coming. 

But are we truly celebrating Christ through spreading the hope of Christmas, or are we just celebrating selfishly amongst ourselves? 

Our Blessed Hope 

I often wonder if the modern church has not indeed lost site of the 'rest of the story' as Paul Harvey would say. How often we forget the 2nd part of the Messianic promises that the prophets and apostles of old declared so many years ago. 

It may surprise the reader to know that there are over seven times more prophecies referring to Christ's second coming than there were in regard to His first. As each of the first coming prophecies were fulfilled consistently in a literal fashion, we must therefore assume that those second coming prophecies will likewise be fulfilled - literally. 

The Bible gives us great promises of things yet to come. We who are Christian know the whole story. We know that Christ has conquered death and that we have the promise of resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57, 1 Thess. 4:16-18, Rev. 20:6). We know that we are inheritors of the Kingdom. (2 Peter 1:11), That Christ will one day rule for 1000 years from David's throne in Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:7, Rev. 20:6), and that Justice will ultimately be satisfied and the wicked will go to everlasting punishment along with Satan the old serpent, the accuser of the world. (Matt. 25:41, Rev. 20:10-15) 

The Bible declares there will be doubters and scoffers in the last days; that there would be those that would try to take the hope of the Christ from the world. 

"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget:" - 2 Peter 3:3-5a 

But yet we have the promises given to us through God's Word that Christ indeed is coming back. Isaac Watts, a musician and writer of one of the most favorite Christmas hymns, Joy to the Word, obviously had these promises in mind when he penned the song. What is very interesting is to actually read and pay attention to the lyrics that we sing. You will be surprised to see clearly that Isaac Watts was not referring to Christ's first advent when he wrote the hymn. He was in fact referring to the Second Advent of Christ in the words of Joy to the World. It would seem that throughout the years we have all been practicing for the eventful day of Christ's return! 

When Christ ascended to heaven after His first visit to earth the angels said unto those watching, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." 

My prayer is that in this season of celebration of an advent, we Christians would stand proud and shout from the rooftops about the true hope of Christmas. 

Christ did in fact come to earth once as a baby in a manger. He lived a humble life of servitude and sacrifice. He died on a cross, like a meek and lowly lamb led to the slaughter He left this world as a bruised and broken sacrifice. However, when he returns the picture will be quite different. 

"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." - Rev. 19:11-16 

My friends Christ is coming! Our Lord! Our Savior is coming soon! 

"Joy to the World , the Lord is come! 
Let earth receive her King; 
Let every heart prepare Him room, 
And Heaven and nature sing, 
And Heaven and nature sing, 
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing. 

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! 
Let men their songs employ; 
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains 
Repeat the sounding joy, 
Repeat the sounding joy, 
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy." 

This holiday season may we all feel the urgency to spread the good news of the gospel to a world full of those that are perishing for lack of knowledge of the good news. 

If we truly do love our fellow man and if we truly do love Christ, Christmas this year will be far more than a casual 'Merry Christmas' followed by a 'Happy New Year'. Like the angels of old that announced Christ's first coming, we too are to spread the 'Goodwill to all Men' - the gospel of Jesus Christ which has the only power to save man from the sureness of God's justice. We must declare the saving grace of God. 

May we be all be emboldened with renewed vigor, and may we all, in these dark days on earth, place all our hope and trust in the One who saved us! 

"Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" - Tit 2:13 

Maranatha & Merry Christmas,

- J.R. Hall

References:
1. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1983 edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 1983, p. 280, "Christmas"
2. Manual of Liturgical History, 1955, Vol. 2, p. 67
3. The Early Church, Penguin Books, London, 1967, p. 126.

WeekEnd Edition

This material was brought to you by The WeekEnder and Broadcast(B.C.)Christianity. The WeekEnd Edition Digest, is a ministry of  Broadcast(B.C.)Christianity and Michael James Stone. It is an aggragate of  materials selected from the Internet and materials provided by Authors and Readers. Though often Christian in nature, the materials are subjective and do not necessarily reflect the views of  Broadcast(B.C.)Christianity or anone associated with.

 

The WeekEnder

The WeekEnder supplies News and Views by the Readers and Authors from posts reviewed the previous week.  WeekEndEdition@michaeljamesstone.com

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WeekEnder: Y'shua, the Light of the World -J4J

Y'shua, the Light of the World

A Hanukkah Message

"I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life."

John 8:12

Birthed out of the tumultuous Inter-Testamental Period, Hanukkah is a key celebration in the Jewish tradition. For many Christians, this near-Christmas, Jewish holiday carries a darkness of ignorance. Allow Jews for Jesus the opportunity to shed some light on the Festival of Lights. Discover the roots of Hanukkah, its current significance to the Jewish people, and what believers can learn from it today. More than a simple historical lesson, this message is also a call to purity and stresses the importance of letting "your light shine before men" (Matthew 5:16).

WeekEnd Edition

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WeekEnder: How to Stop Iran -OLIVIER DEBOUZY

How to Stop Iran

The West has reached a defining moment in its bid to prevent the rogue state from going nuclear.

By OLIVIER DEBOUZY

The lack of progress in negotiations with Iran, together with the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran's announcement that it would develop new enrichment facilities, all point toward an inconvenient truth: Iran is not only not serious about negotiating in good faith. It is also very likely that it has, for more than a decade now, concealed a significant part of what appears to be a major nuclear military effort. This week's revelations about Iran's recent work on warhead design underscore the point. No country has ever gone so far along the road toward the acquisition of a nuclear military capability without actually developing one.

Iran could well stop at the threshold of such capability, letting it be known to all specialists that it has a military capability without openly deploying it. This would still leave it uncertain, in the eyes of the public, whether it really has an effective nuclear arsenal. But this would not change much in practical terms. Western decision makers are now at a defining moment.

Politically, no Israeli prime minister could survive the fact that Iran became a nuclear-armed state, officially or unofficially, on his watch. The pressure on the Israeli government to do something to counter Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would be so strong that it could well be tempted to play a desperate gamble, regardless of any security guaranties that the U.S. might offer.

Similarly, no U.S. president (especially one endowed with a Nobel Prize) could escape blame for having let Iran become a nuclear-weapon state by consistently underestimating its ability to conceal its preparations. The intelligence community's credibility would be devastated, and the indecision by successive administrations (Clinton, Bush and now Obama) to quash a program that has been suspected for 15 years and openly known for seven would be seen as a failure of major proportions.

What's more, the message sent to all U.S. and Western allies in the Gulf region would be dire. For all the promises made to these allies, the West has been unable to prevent a rogue state—one intent on destabilizing their societies, the strategic balance in the Middle East and beyond, and the oil market—from acquiring nuclear weapons that will make it much more difficult to compel it to behave prudently.

Last but not least, the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which has been significantly weakened by the North Korean antics and the Iranian finessing, would be close to collapse: If Iran has nukes, the temptation for countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, among others, to equip themselves with such weapons would be almost irresistible. The 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be rendered a feckless pantomime, with almost as little effect as those aimed, between the two world wars, at preventing armed conflict.

It is now necessary, therefore, to plan for the worst—some form of military constraint upon Iran. It is urgent that the U.S., Great Britain and France, together with Israel if possible (in a discreet and deniable way, of course), gather and try to reach agreement on how to terminate the Iranian nuclear program militarily. Those three permanent members of the U.N. Security Council should not be cowed by the argument—which has already been deployed repeatedly by Iranian advocates and idiots utiles—that such an endeavour would be akin to pitching "the West against the rest." They would actually be exercising an implicit mandate on behalf of all the states that have renounced nuclear weapons and do not accept being threatened and bullied by rogues.

How could this be done? The experience of the 1962 Cuban crisis provides an interesting precedent. Applying pressure on the Iranians by interdicting any imports or exports to and from Iran by sea and by air would send a message that would undoubtedly be perceived as demonstrative by Tehran. Additionally, reinforcing the Western naval presence inside or immediately outside the Gulf would make it clear to the Iranians, without infringing on their territorial waters, that they (and all states dealing with them) are entering a danger zone. In parallel to this slow strangulation, measures should be taken to deter Gulf states (such as Dubai) from engaging in any trade or financial transactions with Iran and to encourage them to freeze Iranian assets in their banks. This should not be too difficult, as the threat of disconnecting any renegade from the Swift system would be sufficiently persuasive in the current circumstances, in which Dubai sorely needs international financial assistance.

It might be necessary to go beyond that and actually resort to force to prevent the Iranians from achieving nuclear military capabilities. Planning for a massive air and missile attack on Iran's nuclear facilities (known and suspected) should be considered seriously, and this planning made public (at least partially) to convince Iran that the West can not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Such planning should also, to the extent possible, involve NATO, against the territory of which there is little doubt that the majority of Iranian missiles and nuclear weapons would be targeted (if only because they cannot yet reach the U.S.). The U.S., U.K., French and Israeli intelligence services should better co-ordinate what they know, and contributions from others should also be welcome, as well as any information that could be provided by internal opposition movements in Iran.

The idea here is simple, and has been expressed many times by theoreticians of deterrence: When one plans for war, when one deploys forces and rehearses military options, one actually conveys a message. Deterrence is about dialogue. Whether the Iranian government would listen to it is uncertain. But at least it would have been properly warned.

The time for diplomacy has passed. Iran must cave in, and quickly. If the West is not prepared to force it to comply with its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, this in effect means that the treaty is dead and that the Gulf countries are being abandoned—stealthily, but nonetheless very definitely. It also means that the non-proliferation regime is, for all practical purposes, dead. Is this really what we want?

Mr. Debouzy is a lawyer and a former specialist in nuclear military affairs and intelligence for the French government. He writes here in a strictly personal capacity.

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WeekEnder: Saving Israel or Assisting it to Commit Suicide? -Alan Hart

Saving Israel or Assisting it to Commit Suicide?

Alan Hart 

20 December 2009

I had to struggle with myself to decide which of two headlines was most appropriate for this article — the one above or “The hard core of lunatics are pulling up the drawbridge”. A Jewish friend in Canada drew my attention to an article in the Jewish Ledger, an independent weekly newspaper in Westport, Connecticut. The headline over it is “Saving Israel” Expert says American Jews key to Israel’s survival.

I have rarely read such dangerous nonsense. It’s the voice of Zionism, deluded as ever, but with more than a hint of panic. The “expert” quoted is Dr. Daniel Gordis, senior vice president of the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, which describes itself as a research and education institute. He had addressed a standing-room only crowd of close to 300 in the small sanctuary of Westport’s Conservative Synagogue.

His main point was that Israel has survived all conventional military attacks and frustrated their aims (never mind that Israel’s survival was never in question), and has reduced terrorism to a minor threat, but there is now a threat “that is capable of succeeding and against which Israel has no defense.”

What, according to Gordis, is this new threat? “The direct assault that Israel is now under by the Arabs via appeals to the world community.

This coordinated effort aims to delegitimise the Jewish state and cause it to be treated as an international pariah, whose products and scholars will be boycotted and ostracised from the international community.”

Gordis went on to say that in order to survive this new attack, “American Jews must fight in the halls of Congress and on the American campuses. This means getting involved with organisations willing to present Jewish arguments, e.g. The American Israel Political Action Committee, AIPAC.” (Its real title is The American Israel Public Affairs Committee; and “Jewish arguments” is a misrepresentation. Some Jewish arguments are opposed to Zionist arguments. Gordis wants more American Jews to present Zionist arguments).

So according to Gordis the fact that the Zionist (not Jewish) state is now being seen by a still smallish but growing number of people in the Western world as a pariah state is all the fault of the Arabs. To say that I think one has to be either a devilish spin-doctor who knows what he is saying is propaganda nonsense, or deluded close to the point of clinical madness.

The real reasons for Israel’s worsening image in the world are the extraordinary self-righteousness of its leaders, their contempt for international law and their policies, which currently amount to completing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by stealth. That plus the fact that more and more people are beginning to see Israel for what it really is – the obstacle to peace on terms virtually all Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept. My view is that if more American Jews take Gordis’s advice and become active in support of this Israel, they will not be saving it but assisting it to commit suicide. They’d also be exposing themselves to a charge of complicity in its crimes.

In an apparent effort to frighten more American Jews into campaigning for Israel right or wrong, Gordis reportedly said this: “If Israel were to be destroyed, American Jewry would be reduced to the bleak existence they experienced years ago in Poland or Russia.”

I can only guess at what Gordis was seeking to imply with those words. One obvious implication is that he meant something like this. If there was a turning against American Jews, and if Israel did not exist to be a refuge of last resort for them, they would be persecuted and possibly exterminated. One of my own often stated fears is that, provoked by the Zionist state’s behaviour, there could be another great turning against Jews, possibly starting in America. It follows, or so it seems to me, that the way to stop the monster of anti-Semitism going on the rampage again is not by supporting Israel on its present course as Gordis advocates.

The way is by making Americans and other Westerners among whom most Jews live aware of the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and thus why it is wrong to blame all Jews everywhere for the crimes of the hardest core Zionist few in Israel. It could also be said, and should be said, that American and other Western Jews could best protect their own real interests by distancing themselves from the monster the Zionist state has become. (And in my view was always bound to become with the failure of the major powers to control it).

Gordis is also in doubt that Israel will have to attack Iran. The notion of a nuclear-armed Iran posing an existential threat to Israel is beyond crazy. It presumes that a nuclear-armed Iran would launch a first strike against Israel. That would never happen. If it did, the whole of Iran would be obliterated. No Iranian leader is ever going to be that stupid. Not even by miscalculation.

Zionism is playing up the Iranian threat because a nuclear-armed Iran would change the balance of power in a way that prevented Israel from imposing its will on the region at no significant cost. So far as I know there were no men and women in white coats to carry Daniel away to the nearest asylum.

The Canadian friend who drew my attention to the article in the Jewish Ledger was Sid Shniad, the co-chair of Independent Jewish Voices. In my thank you email to him I commented, “What expletive deleted nonsense!” He replied, “The hard core of lunatics are pulling up the drawbridge.”

Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialised in the Middle East

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WeekEnder: Chicago terror operative was US double agent -Debka

Indian-US ties soured by suspicion Chicago terror operative was US double agent

DEBKAfile Special Report

December 18, 2009, 10:02 PM (GMT+02:00)

David Headley of Chicago accused of terror

Courts documents in the criminal case against the David Headley, who was arrested in Chicago in October for suspected involvement in the Mumbai terrorist siege, suggest the Chicagoan US citizen may have been a double agent for the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Lashkar e-Taibe and US intelligence. This suspicion, also the subject of leaked media reports from US, Indian and Pakistani intelligence sources, is severely straining relations between New Delhi and Washington.

DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources report that New Delhi suspects the CIA knew in advance about the Mumbai attack, in which 177 people died and 500 were injured, and were aware of Headley's links with its LeT perpetrators, al Qaeda's operational arm in Pakistan, but omitted to forewarn Indian authorities for fear of touching off a military showdown between India and Pakistan.

Israel was not tipped off either although the Chabad Center of Mumbai, where six people were killed, was a special target

Rancor against Washington was registered in New Delhi where an official at the Indian Ministry of the Interior confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 16, said that his government "is looking into whether Headley worked as a double agent." A former counter-terrorism officer in the Indian foreign intelligence service said: "The feeling in India is that the US has not been transparent."

The atmosphere between the two countries is not helped by the FBI's refusal to let Indian anti-terror officers question Headley, who is believed to have led a Chicago-based cell which set up Islamist terrorist operations world-wide.

DEBKAfile's sources add: The court records show that the Chicago-based Headley was pressed into service by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 1977 after he was caught smuggling heroin from Pakistan to America. They also show that he became an FBI informant after al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. After that outrage, the FBI and CIA were directed to coordinate their counter-terror work. The Indians assume that the CIA must have been aware of the Chicagoan's existence, and certainly picked up on his frequent trips to India with side trips to Pakistan to meet his Lashkar e-Taibe associates.

Whether he worked directly for the CIA will probably never be proven.

Indian security authorities are also asking who paid for Headley's frequent trips to Europe and India on missions to locate targets for terrorist attack, gather intelligence and chart Lashkar e-Taibe routes to target. He would then carry the information and guidelines to the Pakistani LeT operations headquarters.

The Chicagoan was clearly a staff member of the group and participated in its planning conferences. Some Western intelligence sources believe he may have been pulling the strings from Pakistan during the three-day terrorist siege of Mumbai in November 2008.

Indian counter-terror sources believe that data which Headley may have leaked from his Pakistan conferences to his American controllers may have prompted a US warning to New Delhi in July 2008 that a large-scale terrorist operation was in store for Mumbai. When two months went by and nothing happened, the Indians relaxed and lowered their security alert level.

Headley stands accused of making five reconnaissance trips to India to set up the Mumbai attack in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008.

On one or more of those trips he traveled disguised as a religious Jew, scouting the Chabad Center and other Jewish locations. Israel was never informed that Lashkar e-Taibe had set its sights on Jewish and Israel centers in India.

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WeekEnder: Obama gives Iran another year -Debka

          Obama gives Iran another year's grace for nuclear dialogue

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis

December 19, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu on second visit to White House

US president Barack Obama's tough talk of sanctions has melted into soft soap for luring Iran into further dialogue. Adopting the reverse tactic, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sounds almost reasonable for a change, even as Tehran pushes its revolutionary goals as pugnaciously as ever.

DEBKAfile's Washington sources disclose Saturday, Dec. 19 that official US warnings that Washington's patience is running out and tough sanctions are imminent are no more than a smokescreen for three major steps embarked on by the Obama administration in the last four days for dragging out sanctions and setting back military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the US president another six months for diplomacy without the threat of military action when they met at the White House November 9. The first six months' grace runs out at the end of Dec. 2009. The second ends in mid-2010. Netanyahu was backed up by defense minister Ehud Barak who said Monday, Dec. 14: "There is still time for diplomatic action to stop Iran.”

Using the respite, our sources report that the US president offered three inducements for tempting Tehran to call off its military program:

1.               Whereas Tuesday, Dec. 15, Congress approved penalties for firms selling Iran gasoline and the insurance companies underwriting its sale, the following day, the influential senator John Kerry announced through his spokesman Frederic Jones that the Foreign Relations Committee, which he heads, "needs time to consider the bill."

2. Friday, Dec. 17, Pentagon spokeswoman Tara Rigler announced a six-month delay in deploying the precision-guided, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator or "bunker buster" bomb (developed specifically for the nuclear facilities Iran and North Korea have sunk deep under ground).

"Funding delays and enhancements to the planned test schedule have pushed the capability availability date to Dec. 2010," she announced.

Only five months ago, in August, the US Air Force announced that the 15-ton bomb for delivery by B-2 stealth bombers had been funded and would be ready for service in July 2010.

Washington is thus offering Tehran another six months to play with, free of threat of sanctions and safe from the bombardment of its subterranean nuclear facilities.

3. Over the weekend beginning Friday, Dec. 18, Israeli newspaper correspondents briefed by administration officials ran stories denigrating Mossad director Meir Dagan as the only Israeli official hold-out on the need to attack Iran. He is presented as being in the grip of a fixation detrimental to his handling of other key issues. One editorial advised the Israeli government to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

But the Obama administration's lures had at least one result: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking from the Copenhagen climate conference, said:

"Everything is possible, 400 kilos, 800 kilos, it's nothing," for enrichment abroad, "but not in a climate where they threaten us. From the outset, delivery of 1,200 kilos of uranium was not a problem for us, but if they believe they can wave a stick to threaten us, those days are over. They have to change their vocabulary to respect and legality."

While preaching to others about sticks, the Iranian president must have thought the big sticks Tehran waved in the last four days alone were invisible.

Wednesday, Dec. 12, Tehran launched an improved Sejil 2 missile whichDEBKAfile's military sources confirm is capable of penetrating US and Israeli anti-missile defense shields and defying their interceptors, although US and Israeli sources were at pains to play down its capabilities. Those sources report that Sejil-2 is loaded with electronic chips used as decoys to mislead the electronic systems of the Israeli Arrow 2 and the US Patriot, Aegis and THAAD anti-missile missile systems.

Only last week, furthermore, Tehran signed a new military pact with Syria, roping in the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas as second-strike wielders; Wednesday, the "Iranian Cyber Army" hacked into Twitter and filled its home page with anti-US slogans; for most of December, Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have kept Saudi and government forces on the run and, Friday, Iranian soldiers seized control of an Iraqi oil well in a disputed border region.

All the same, Obama's beckoning gestures and Ahmadinejad's smooth response indicate a fresh round of talks will be explored between the 5P+1 bloc (five Security Council permanent members plus Germany) and Iran before sanctions are broached or either the US or Israel resort to military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

This means that Washington's determined ultimatum to Iran to comply with its international obligations by the end of 2009 has been extended by a whole year - an extra six months granted by Israeli up to June 2010 and another six months which President Obama tagged on himself in order to further delay an Israeli attack on Iran.

By then, it will all be over: Tehran will have attained a nuclear weapon plus the means of delivery.

Saturday, an Iranian military spokesman declared: "Our forces are on our own soil, and based on the known international borders this well belongs to Iran."

It is not hard to imagine how Tehran will comport itself once it has "the bomb."

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