Month Archives: August 2014

Send Your Ice Bucket Challenge Donation to Ethical, Successful Adult Stem Cell Research

by David Prentice

August 21, 2014

You’ve probably heard of it by now, the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Those challenged are supposed either to dump an ice bucket of cold water over their head, or donate to ALS research.  Most people do both, posting a video of their icy bath.  It’s a stunt, but has successfully raised awareness of ALS as well as donations for research.  But people should consider where their donations go and how the money is used.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a fatal, progressive neurological disease.  It attacks the nerves that control voluntary muscles, so it is sometimes termed “motor neuron disease”.  As the nerves die, muscles weaken and atrophy, including the muscles for breathing; most people suffering from ALS die of respiratory failure.  The cause is unknown and at this point there is no cure, and very little that can even slow disease progression.

So, raising awareness about ALS and increasing support for ALS research is a good thing.  But whether you participate in a challenge or just donate to important research, where should your donation go?

So far, most of the attention and millions of dollars in donation have gone to the ALS Association.  However, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research and has no qualms about doing so in the future.  (Note the ALSA page linked in the above has just recently been changed, and now notes that embryonic stem cell research “has raised ethical concerns.”)

As Rebecca Taylor has pointed out, ALSA also has given money to an affiliate, NEALS, that has given money to a trial that uses stem cells derived from the spinal cord of an aborted fetus.

That trial is being run by the University of Michigan and Emory University, and sponsored by a company called Neuralstem which uses aborted fetus cells for research (“from the donated spinal cord tissue of an 8-week-old aborted fetus.”)  All of the Neuralstem trials use cells derived from abortion.

Project ALS, another charity for ALS research, also funds embryonic stem cell research.

 

But there are alternatives for donations that use only ethical stem cell sources!

Here are a few of my favorites.

The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center (MSCTC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center is only a year old, but is starting an increasing number of clinical trials and educational efforts.

One potential future trial would be using adult stem cells for ALS.  Dr. Rick Barohn, an internationally recognized expert on ALS, recently joined the Advisory Board for the Center.

The MSCTC does not do any embryonic or aborted fetal stem cell research, ONLY ADULT and NON-EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH and CLINICAL TRIALS.

HOW DO I DONATE?  click the “Make a Gift” link in the left column of their web page, it specifies donation for the MSCTC.

(Disclosure:  I am a member of the MSCTC advisory board)

 

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Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are currently doing clinical trials for patients with ALS, using ADULT STEM CELLS.

Dr. Anthony Windebank and his team have one ongoing clinical trial for ALS patients and are ready to initiate a second clinical trial for ALS patients.

HOW DO I DONATE?  there is a “Give Now” link near the top of web page from Dr. Windebank’s link above; people can specify that their donation go to his ALS research team.

NOTE that the second trial is in association with an Israeli company, Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, that is developing the adult stem cell treatment for ALS and other neural conditions.  While this is still an experimental trial, the early results using adult stem cells for ALS treatment have been positive.

 

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The John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City is doing research in several areas including ALS, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.

HOW DO I DONATE?  use the button for “Donate Now” on their main web page

 

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(the following listing was updated Aug 22, 2014 to clarify the profile of this company)

The Adult Stem Cell Technology Center, LLC is a for-profit company developing new methods for growth and application of adult stem cells, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.

Click “Contact Information” in the right column of their web page and e-mail the Director to learn more about the company’s adult stem cell technology development plans.

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Donate to ethical adult stem cell research!  Adult stem cells are helping patients now!

A “God” that is not God; Victoria Beeching, love and acceptance

by Travis Weber

August 21, 2014

At First Things, Professor Robert George usefully explains internal viewpoints that are shaping external issues which are shattering our culture today.

The other week, Victoria Beeching, a well-known singer in the Christian music scene, came out and announced: “I am gay and God loves me just the way I am.” Ok, got it. But one understandable response to such a statement might be: “What makes you say that?”

In his article, Professor George looks to Plato’s description of the three forms of “atheism” — the belief that there simply is no God, the belief that God exists but doesn’t really care what goes on down here, and the belief that there is a God who sees what’s going on down here, but he is malleable and makes no demands of us. This third form, Professor George argues, is the biggest threat to the West today.

I would agree. Most acknowledge some sort of god, and many appeal to his existence regarding earthly affairs. While their appeals vary widely in form and substance, they still appeal to a god in some way, and thus recognize his relevance for our lives today. These facts dispense at the outset with the first two forms of atheism mentioned above. All one has to do is look to the appeals all around us and all over social media — “Jesus is love”; “Jesus never condemned anyone”; and Ms. Beeching’s “I am gay and God loves me just the way I am” etc., etc., to get a sense of the overwhelming prevalence of the view that God won’t tell you what to do, He just wants to hang out, and He loves you regardless of your actions. This view is of course convenient for human beings to hold (as Professor George points out), and ultimately places our authority over that of God — consequently removing Him from that station of authority in our lives which defines His very existence. God is thus obliterated, and our “god” becomes our desires.

No doubt some reading this will call me a “hate-monger” or some such term, and in doing so, will only help me prove my point. Nevertheless, I will point out, as it is important to do, that my communication of these truths is done in love. Of course, God’s love is all-encompassing and greater than we can conceive, but this does not entitle us to deny His truths and objective reality. A firm distinction must be made between loving the person no matter what he or she chooses to do (and we are all called to do that), but not enabling him or her to live according to a subjective reality based on one of these forms of atheism. It is no love which ceases to act to draw people into a right relationship with God (which is my desire) — but this can only be done by presenting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God.

For once and for all, I am telling you: “Sex” means “transgender,” and it also means “gender identity.”

by Travis Weber

August 20, 2014

You had better get with it. I’m not sure why people continue to insist that your “sex” is something integral to your created being, a function of your unique biological identity and who you were born to be — what an anachronistic concept. So says the Department of Labor (DOL), in a recent directive stating that the Department will now interpret “sex discrimination” to also include discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “transgender” status. The DOL relies on a 2012 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decision stating as much, along with other “case law principles” which supposedly support this reasoning.

One theory on which the government relies here is based on “sex stereotyping” as a form of “sex discrimination” — because a male chooses to identify as female, the theory goes, discriminating against them constitutes a form of stereotyping how males are supposed to act, and thus constitutes “sex discrimination.” Such thinking is far-fetched to begin with, but even the legal issues are not as clear cut as the government would have us believe. For while other protected classes are clearly rooted in easily-identifiable inborn characteristics, “sex stereotyping” is based on one’s actions — thus individuals are not protected based on any “gender identity” status alone if they can’t show they were stereotyped, according to this theory.

In addition, the DOL points to the EEOC’s argument that “treating a person differently because the person is transgender is by definition sex discrimination because it is ‘related to the sex of the victim.’” But a person “is transgender” based on a choice not a biological reality, unless someone is prepared to introduce a new biological third category of sex, beyond male and female. Absent such a creation, being “transgender” is still only “related” to sex as an action taken with regard to one’s sexuality.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter even if the “case law principles,” (as the EEOC refers to them), support the government’s wishful thinking on human sexuality here. A person’s sex is not determined on our own, but by God who crafted us distinctly as men and women. We must recognize this truth and submit our sexuality to God for the purposes and ends for which he designed it. Anything else will only produce misery for us, for our society, and for our entire human race.

My Friends Dan and Judy

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 20, 2014

My friend Dan and his wife Judy are missionaries with SIM in Ethiopia.

Dan and Judy, a registered nurse, raised three wonderful children in the Seattle area, which is where we met. We served together for several years on the board of the Seattle-area Christian Action Council, the forerunner of what has become CareNet. Dan’s warmth, good humor, wide reading, and deeply held convictions about all the right things were marrow to my bones.

Dan retired as an engineer with Boeing a few years ago. He had retired as a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve some time before that. Had Judy and he wanted to, they could simply have lived a prosperous and pleasure-focused life in the Pacific Northwest.

Instead, Dan went to theological seminary, earning his Master of Divinity degree, and Judy and he moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to teach at a Bible college training indigenous pastors and Christian leaders (Dan) and serve babies in desperate need of good care (Judy).

Dan is now earning his Ph.D. (from a distance) at a prestigious British university as he continues to teach in Addis. They come back to the states every couple of years to visit their children, growing number of grandchildren, and friends, among whom my family and I are privileged to be counted.

They have “pledged their heads to heaven for the Gospel,” exchanging a life of quiet ease for a foreign culture in a not always safe place, thousands of miles away from those they love best. Why? Because they love Jesus Christ and are committed to making their lives count in the most effective way possible for Him.

Does every retiree need to become a missionary? Of course not. But to whatever God calls His people, we must obey, whether in Renton, Washington or Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

If ever I have the chance, I’d like to introduce Ann Coulter to Dan and Judy. Her disturbing, uninformed attack on SIM missionaries who, in service to their Lord and people, contracted the ebola virus, speaks to much that is twisted in the human heart. Christians should pray for Ann, that she would understand that when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15), He wasn’t making a suggestion but giving a command.

We can fulfill that command locally, regionally, or trans-nationally. It depends on how God leads. Dan and Judy know something about that. I hope that Ann will learn.

Children Are Always a Blessing

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 19, 2014

Here is one of the best quotes I’ve read in a long time; it’s by Courtney Reissig, writing at Christianity Today’s “Her.Meneutics” site:

Children are not a death sentence to our ambitions and goals. They may change them, postpone them, or even make them more difficult to attain—but they are always a blessing. We don’t earn the right to stay home or have children only after having done something important with our lives. We earn the benefit to have children simply by being created in God’s image.

Preach it, sister. Career dreams, professional attainments, academic achievements: All that are done for the glory of God are good and noble things. But to place children in apposition to them is a false alternative. I’ll let Mrs. Reissig have the last word:

Children also come to us — biologically or through adoption — at God’s timing. Despite my desire to start a family earlier, I didn’t give birth to my twins until I was 30. Even when we are open to having children, it doesn’t always happen right away and sometimes, they don’t come at all. But the church should be a place that welcomes expectant mothers regardless of what they have accomplished pre-pregnancy. Even if she never finishes her degree, lands a top client, or wins an Academy Award, bringing life into the world is a beautiful and God-honoring thing.

The Roots of the Islamist Movement

by Connor Headrick

August 18, 2014

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has reignited debates about moral culpability, civilian casualties, and the actual history of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. What drives both sides in the conflict? What are their ultimate goals? In a recent article, I examined the stated purpose of Hamas, a terrorist group with the self-articulated goal of destroying Israel and the Jews.

How can such a claim be taken seriously? In the West, we find it hard to grasp the fact that calls for genocide can be issued with utmost conviction and commitment. How can a movement of individuals desire the destruction of an ethnic group? Can it really be out of pure racism or hatred? Surely there must be another explanation.

And so we come to one of the darkest movements of our day: Islamism. The Islamist movement is defined by Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum as “an ideology that demands man’s complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam and rejects as much as possible outside influence, with some exceptions (such as access to military and medical technology). It is imbued with a deep antagonism towards non-Muslims and has a particular hostility towards the West… Islamism is, in other words, yet another twentieth-century radical utopian scheme. Like Marxism-Leninism or fascism, it offers a way to control the state, run society, and remake the human being. It is an Islamic-flavored version of totalitarianism.”

Again, the idea of Islamism as an ideology that is actually serious about promoting a totalitarian society strikes our Western sensibilities as strange. Surely, we may think skeptically, there must be some misunderstanding, some nuance to the situation that simply isn’t apparent.

As complex as every movement is upon deeper examination, the core tenants of the Islamist movement are very black and white. At the root of Islamism is a desire for the establishment of Islamic government under Islamic law, and an accompanying hatred of and desire for the destruction of the Jews. Hamas’ Charter is a clear example of this, but Islamism is much bigger than simply Hamas. The history and statements of the movement itself prove it.

Islamism, German analyst Matthais Kuntzel explains, was born in the 1930s, and it grew into an immediately recognizable organization. “It was the Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, that established Islamism as a mass movement,” Kuntzel writes. It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas.” Incidentally, Hamas was spawned by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Article Two of its own charter declared it to be one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine.

The Brotherhood itself was founded by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian born in 1906. Middle East scholar David Meir-Levi writes, “While still in his teens, the young al-Banna and friends…met frequently to discuss the situation in the Middle East, to argue about the ills of Arab society, and to lament the decline of Islam. Their angst was in large part a reaction to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the end of the Muslim Caliphate, the British occupation of Egypt, and the resulting exposure of Arab society to Western values.”

Though the group began as an organization which met to preach on the need for moral reform, the face of the Muslim Brotherhood soon changed. “As the group expanded during the 1930’s and extended its activities well beyond its original religious revivalism, al-Banna began dreaming a greater Muslim dream: the restoration of the Caliphate. And it was this dream, which he believed could only become a reality by the sword, that won the hearts and minds of a growing legion of followers.”

The “Caliphate,” according to the Encyclopedia Britanica, is “the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.” () In other words, the goal of the Brotherhood is to re-establish Islamic hegemony over lands once ruled by Muslim leaders.

Kuntzel further analyzes the primary goals of Islamism in its formative days. He writes, “It is true that British colonial policy produced Islamism, insofar as Islamism viewed itself as a resistance movement against ‘cultural modernity.’ The Islamists’ solution was the call for a new order based on sharia. But the Brotherhood’s jihad was not directed primarily against the British. Rather, it focused almost exclusively on Zionism and the Jews.”

Meir-Levi introduces a major player in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In the Great Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, Al-Husseini “incited his followers to a three-year war against the Jews in Palestine and the British who administered the Mandate. In 1936 the Brotherhood had about 800 members, but by 1938, just two years into the ‘Revolt,’ its membership had grown to almost 200,000[.]”

The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood was not peaceful, either. “To achieve that broader dream of a global jihad,” Meir-Levi writes, “the Brotherhood developed a network of underground cells, stole weapons, trained fighters, formed secret assassination squads, founded sleeper cells of subversive supporters in the ranks of the army and police, and waited for the order to go public with terrorism, assassinations, and suicide missions.”

Islamism has a history of violence and the pointed goal of re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Here, the history of Islamism grows even darker.

It was during this time,” Meir-Levi writes, “that the Muslim Brotherhood found a soul mate in Nazi Germany. The Reich offered great power connections to the movement, but the relationship brokered by the Brotherhood was more than a marriage of convenience. Long before the war, al-Banna had developed an Islamic religious ideology which previewed Hitler’s Nazism. Both movements sought world conquest and domination. Both were triumphalist and supremacist: in Nazism the Aryan must rule, while in al-Banna’s Islam, the Muslim religion must hold dominion. Both advocated subordination of the individual to a folkish central power. Both were explicitly anti-nationalist in the sense that they believed in the liquidation of the nation-state in favor of a trans-national unifying community: in Islam the umma (community of all believers); and in Nazism the herrenvolk (master race). Both worshipped the unifying totalitarian figure of the Caliph or Führer. And both rabidly hated the Jews and sought their destruction.”

The historical ties between the Nazism and Islamism are not simply ideological similarities. The relationship between the two movements is frightening. Meir-Levi adds:

When the Second World War broke out, al-Banna worked to firm up a formal alliance with Hitler and Mussolini. He sent them letters and emissaries, and urged them to assist him in his struggle against the British and the westernized regime of King Farouk. The Intelligence Service of the Muslim Brotherhood vigorously collected information on the heads of the regime in Cairo and on the movements of the British army, offering this and more to the Germans in return for closer relations. During the ‘Great Arab Revolt’ of 1936-9, which al-Husseini helped organize and which Germany funded, the swastika was used as a mark of identity on Arabic leaflets and graffiti. Arab children welcomed each other with the Hitler salute, and a sea of German flags and pictures of Hitler were displayed at celebrations.

Additionally, when al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, fled from British troops sent to end the Arab Revolt, he found his way to Berlin, where he worked with the Nazis for the remainder of World War II. Kuntzel notes, “Based in Berlin from 1941 to 1945, he had directed the Muslim SS divisions in the Balkans and had been personally responsible for blocking negotiations late in the war that might have saved thousands of Jewish children from the gas chambers.”

Chuck Morse, a journalist, radio show host, and author who has written extensively on the ties between Islamism and the Nazis, states, “It should be noted that the main line of propaganda used by Hitler and the Mufti against the Jews was that there was a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. This was the basic thesis used against the Jews by Hitler in Mein Kampf and previously, in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery that was widely disseminated in those years.”

Al-Husseini’s actions are further documented by Meir-Levi: “On March 1, 1944, the Mufti called out in a broadcast from Zeesen: ‘Arabs! Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your teeth if need be. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor.’ His goal, with the help of the Nazis, was ‘to solve the question of the Jewish elements in Palestine and in other Arab countries as required by national interests, and in the same way as the Jewish question in the Axis lands is being solved.’ His own memoirs, and the testimony of German defendants at the Nuremberg trials later on, showed that he planned a death camp modeled on Auschwitz to be constructed near Nablus for the genocide of Palestine’s Jews.”

After the end of World War II, however, Western leaders allowed al-Husseini to escape punishment “to avoid spoiling their relations with the Arab world,” as Kuntzel puts it. It was this same al-Husseini who, along with al-Banna, spearheaded the movement to reject a two-state solution in 1947.

Meir-Levi continues:

[W]hen the question of Palestine came before the United Nations, he and Hassan al-Banna urged the Arab world to unite in opposition to it. The two men saw in the UN resolution for the partition of Palestine an example of the ‘Jewish world conspiracy,’ even though the plan provided for an Arab state in Palestine alongside of the Jewish one. But in their view a state for the Arabs of Palestine took a back seat to the eradication of Zionism and the annihilation of Palestine’s Jews. No Arab head of state had the courage to contradict al-Husseini’s rejectionism, and the Arab world’s enthusiastic reception of his message of hate and genocide ended any possibility of the peaceful implementation of the UN resolution and the creation of an Arab and a Jewish state side by side in the Palestine Mandate (80% of the Mandate had already been allocated to Jordan, whose population was more than two-thirds Palestinian Arab).

The wars against Israel in the following years further illustrate that the hatred of the Jews was not merely rhetoric. It was a firm belief which drove the Islamists to action.

As the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Arabia and Morocco invaded Israel in 1948, the general-secretary of the Arab League, Abd al-Rahman Azzam (aka Azzam Pasha), who had previously stated privately that he considered the partition of Palestine to be the only rational solution, now stood shoulder to shoulder with the Mufti. ‘This war,’ he declared on the day of the Arab attack, ‘will be a war of destruction.’ It was: but it was the armies assembled by Arab generals, many of whom had fought with Rommel in behalf of the Third Reich that were destroyed.

Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb, who visited the United States in the 1950s and was upset by what he perceived as the West’s cultural corruption, perpetuated the core ideologies of Islamism and the hatred of the Jews. Meir-Levi examines Qutb’s influence on Islamism:

But whatever America’s intentions, Qutb declared in his seminal essay, ‘Our Struggle against the Jews,’ it was crucial to understand that the Jew was the root of all the world’s evil. Picking up on the Nazi ideology he had ingested as a member of the Brotherhood, Qutb wrote that Jews were responsible for the world’s moral decay, and the West’s animalistic sexual depravity. It was the Jews who had created the anti-Islamic doctrines of atheistic materialism, godless socialism, and democratic individualism. The Jews, therefore, were the perpetual enemies of Islam. This essay, arguably the single most important manifesto of Islamic fascist anti-Semitism in the modern world, was distributed in millions of copies throughout the Islamic world with the help of Wahabbist Islamic sect in Saudi Arabia.”

Qutb, whose understanding of American history reads a like a junior high parody, even hated the fact that Americans have green grass lawns. He was instrumental in providing continuing momentum for the Islamist movement.

Kuntzel brings us full circle in his statement addressing how we interpret these behaviors from a Western mentality.

The refusal…to recognize the substance of Islamist ideology — the death cult, the hatred of the Jews, and the profound hatred of freedom — leads back again and again to the mistaken ‘discovery’ that the ‘root cause’ of terrorism is U.S. policies. Ultimately, the refusal to recognize al-Qaeda’s true motives results in a reversal of responsibility: The more deadly the terrorism, the greater the American guilt.”

He continues

The same pattern explains the bizarre reaction to the Middle east conflict that is widespread in the West: The average observer, ignorant of the anti-Jewish content of the Hamas Charter, has to find some other explanation for terrorism against Jews, which must be — Israel. It is not the terrorists who are guilty, but their victims. Finding suicide terrorism incomprehensible, Westerners rationalize it as an act of despair that invites sympathy…Here, too, following the principle of ‘the more barbaric the anti-Jewish terror, the greater the Israeli guilt,’ the bombers’ victims become the scapegoat for global terrorism. The old stereotype of Jewish guilt is thus amplified in contemporary form — and only encourages the terrorists.

The hatred of the Jews within Islamism is not an antiquated notion that has died away through the years. It continues to this day. Meir-Levi observes, “The long legacy of Arab and Palestinian Nazism, and the Hitlerite themes of lebensraum, ethnic cleansing and genocide, continue to echo in the Middle East today. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, said of the Jews after the Lebanon war of 2006: ‘If they gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them nationwide.’ Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas Foreign Minister, says: ‘I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.’ And most chillingly, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran, looks ahead to the next holocaust and final solution: ‘The use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “Now, as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say ‘Never again,’ we mean never again.”

The infamous al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, expressed a hatred toward the Jews which even played into his opposition toward America. He said in a letter addressed to the American people, “The Jews have taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense…Your law is the law of rich and wealthy people…Behind them stand the Jews who control your policies, media and economy.”

In a post-9/11 trial in Hamburg, the ideas of Mohamed Atta, one of the pilots who flew aircraft into the World Trade Center, and the others among the conspiracy came under scrutiny. Kuntzel reports, “One participant in the Koran circle meetings, Shahid Nickels, said Atta’s Weltanschauung was based upon a ‘National Socialist way of thinking.’ Atta was convinced that the Jews were striving for world domination and considered New York City the center of world Jewery, which was, in his opinion, Enemy No. 1. Fellow students who lived in Motassedeq’s [another of the al-Qaeda cell responsible for the 9/11 attacks] dormitory testified that he shared these views and waxed enthusiastic about a forthcoming ‘big action.’ One student quoted Motassedeq as saying ‘The Jews will burn and in the end we will dance on their graves.’”

The violence of the Islamist movement is especially clear today within Iraq, where the self-proclaimed Islamic State has declared itself to be the new Islamic Caliphate. The article ISIS and the Birth of Early Islam” compares the violence in Iraq today to the violent expansion of Islam in its early years, stating, “When an invading force entered a non-Muslim land, individuals had three choices: convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya), or die. Fast-forward to today and this is the very same thing that is happening to Christians in Iraq by the Islamic State.” The same article observes, “Christian homes are being marked with the Arabic letter ? (nun) for Nazarene, reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David in the early days of Nazism in Germany. Thousands are fleeing, dying, or being left for dead by having food and water sources cut off from them.” Other Islamic nations and organizations are not happy with the creation of ISIS, but one fact is clear: ISIS is the product of a virulent Islamist ideology that utilizes violence against those who do not adhere to its tenants.

The movement of Islamism and its calls for genocide of the Jews now and throughout history are real. Let us recognize the Islamist movement as the threat it is, and stand up against the perpetuation of a belief that calls for the annihilation of Israel and all Jews.

Robin Williams, Rehab, and Reorientation

by Peter Sprigg

August 18, 2014

Robin Williams, the brilliantly talented comedian and actor, was found dead in his California home on August 11, the victim of an apparent suicide.

News coverage of his death reviewed his eclectic career, from the 1970’s TV hit Mork and Mindy to his Oscar for Good Will Hunting.

However, the media also reviewed his long history of drug and alcohol abuse. That began during his early days of television stardom. Williams reportedly gave up cocaine and alcohol, though, after his friend John Belushi died of an overdose and Williams became a father.

Williams spoke candidly about his addictions in a 2010 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian while on a publicity tour for his film World’s Greatest Dad (in which, ironically, he played a writer who fakes a suicide note and journal and attributes them to his late son).

Apparently, Williams quit alcohol and drugs cold turkey in the early ‘80’s, without any professional therapeutic intervention. He reported that he stayed sober for twenty years, but then began drinking again while working on location in a remote town in Alaska. After three years of drinking, a “family intervention” persuaded Williams to enter “rehab” (residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation) at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center near Newberg, Oregon, where he stayed for two months. After that, Williams told The Guardian, he continued to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous every week.

Then just last month, news broke that Williams had again returned to rehab, this time at a Hazelden center in Minnesota. A spokesman for Williams said that he had not relapsed into substance abuse, but was “simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment [to sobriety], of which he remains extremely proud.” That was on July 1 — but six weeks later, he was dead.

In the wake of Williams’ suicide, many TV commentators and friends of the late star talked about the challenges of mental illness (Williams suffered from depression), addictions — and rehab. I saw comedian Andy Dick say, “I’ve been to rehab seventeen times.”

In light of this history, I have only one question for socially liberal political activists — why aren’t you trying to outlaw rehab?

I ask the question because such activists are trying to ban a form of mental health treatment — not drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but “sexual orientation change efforts” (“SOCE”), also known as “sexual reorientation therapy.” Such therapy involves assisting people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome them.

Why would someone want to change their sexual orientation? Some such individuals are simply disillusioned by their experiences in homosexual relationships. Some have legitimate concern about the well-documented health problems associated with homosexual conduct (especially among men), such as high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, of which HIV/AIDS is only one example. Others may seek help in conforming their behavior and lifestyle to the teaching of the religious faith to which they are committed. Some may aspire to a traditional family life, raising children in a home with both their mother and father present.

Whatever the motivation, there are those who have simply made a choice to walk away from the homosexual lifestyle, without clinical help — much like how Robin Williams simply stopped using drugs and alcohol in the 1980’s. Others have sought professional help, perhaps at the urging of family members, in the form of “sexual reorientation therapy” — much like when Williams entered a formal alcohol rehab program in 2006. Whether simply through personal development, religious counseling, or with the help of a licensed or unlicensed counselor, thousands (if not millions) of people have experienced significant changes in one or more of the elements of their sexual orientation (attractions, behavior, or self-identification).

Homosexual groups, however, have successfully pressured professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association to discourage such therapy. More recently, following an example set in California, legislators in several states have introduced bills to forbid licensed mental health counselors from engaging in SOCE with minors at all. Meanwhile in New Jersey (which already passed such a ban), the Southern Poverty Law Center has sued even unlicensed SOCE providers, charging them with “consumer fraud.”

Critics of reorientation therapy make two charges — that it is ineffective, and that it is harmful. But they support these charges only by holding such therapies to a standard of “effectiveness” and “safety” that is impossible for any mental health treatment to meet.

Some (but not all) clients of reorientation therapy testify to a complete transformation from homosexual to heterosexual, experiencing a change in their identity, behavior, and attractions. Others may change their identity, control their behavior, and begin to experience heterosexual attractions, but still experience occasional homosexual attractions as well. Still others may change identity and behavior, but continue to struggle with primarily homosexual attractions. Some clients change little with respect to their sexuality, but still find the therapy beneficial in exploring their feelings, family dynamics, etc. Some may seem to achieve significant changes for a period of time, but then suffer relapse. And finally, a few may simply experience little substantial change.

This range of outcomes is no different from any other form of mental health treatment — such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Yet critics of reorientation therapy claim that “it doesn’t work” because the proportion of clients who achieve complete transformation on a permanent basis is less than 100%. Can rehab live up to this standard?

There is actually no scientific evidence that reorientation therapy is more harmful than helpful. There are, however, anecdotal accounts of people who claim they found it harmful, or who had negative experiences after such therapy, such as depression or even suicide. However, mere chronological correlation is not scientific proof of causation — any more than Robin Williams’ suicide was “caused” by his recent return to rehab.

The real reason why homosexual activists object to reorientation therapy has nothing to do with science or mental health. Instead, it has everything to do with politics and ideology. If it is tolerable for some people to try to change from “gay” to straight — and for others to help them with the process — that might imply that it is tolerable to believe that there is something wrong with homosexuality itself. For ideological reasons, that is a belief that homosexual activists want stamped out at all costs.

If we were to apply the same standards to drug and alcohol rehabilitation that the homosexual activists want to apply to reorientation therapy, why not ban rehab? After all, since some people go to rehab and still suffer relapses afterwards, rehab is clearly “ineffective.” Robin Williams actually went to rehab, and shortly thereafter took his own life. Does that not clearly indicate that rehab is not only ineffective, but downright harmful? In addition, there are surely people who consume alcohol or use illicit drugs but are still able to function and make productive contributions to society — so there is obviously nothing inherently wrong with alcohol or drugs. Allowing people who struggle with their alcohol or drug use to seek professional help to discontinue them implies there is something wrong with them — thus reinforcing the unfair social stigma which attaches to people who use alcohol and drugs. And surely “family intervention” to force someone into rehab is a violation of their personal autonomy. In light of all these concerns, how can we allow the fraud of “rehab” to continue?

This kind of reasoning, of course, would be clearly absurd. There is no kind of mental health counseling that can guarantee it will substantially change the lives of 100% of its clients for the better. Those who do experience improvement may still struggle with temptation (hence the weekly AA meetings for support). Even among those who succeed in rehab, there can be no guarantee that none of them will, at some time in the future, relapse into the problems which caused them to enter treatment in the first place. Furthermore, the fact that a negative outcome (like suicide) follows a treatment like rehab chronologically does not mean that the treatment caused the negative outcome. It is far more likely that an underlying pathology (in Robin Williams’ case, depression) was the cause of both his substance abuse (which led him to rehab) and his suicide.

It would be absurd to ban rehab because it doesn’t work for everyone; doesn’t work 100% by eliminating all temptation; isn’t always permanent; is sometimes undertaken because of family pressure; or because bad things may happen afterwards. It would be equally absurd to ban rehab in order to protect the self-esteem of people who do not consider their alcohol or drug use to be a problem.

But the argument that we should ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) is equally absurd — because it relies on all the same fallacious arguments.

The Social Conservative Review: August 14, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

August 14, 2014

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends:

I’m not in the habit of quoting Osama bin Laden in The Social Conservative Review, but in light of the events in Iraq against Christians and other religious minorities, the words of this devout mass murderer seem apt: “There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword — for it is not right to let him (an infidel) live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”

Not everyone would accept his interpretation of the Quran, but certainly the jihadists in Iraq do. Here’s how the respected journal Foreign Policy describes one Iraqi Christian’s story: “Salwan, an engineer and father of two from Mosul (said that) when he heard that France was ready to welcome displaced Christians, he joined the long queue of people in Erbil applying for asylum. Soon, he hopes to wave goodbye to his lifelong home. ‘There is no future for Christians in Iraq,’ he said. ‘Christians in Iraq are over’.”

What can Christians in America do? Groups like Samaritan’s Purse and the Knights of Columbus are working to provide aid to the Christians who have fled from their homes as the wave of Islamist terror continues. We can give to them, but we must also pray for those who identify as followers of Jesus as they experience such great loss and, in some cases, such great brutality. And we should pray for their persecutors, that they would turn from violence and instead find true peace in Christ.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. Next week, FRC President Tony Perkins will be in Israel to stand with that troubled nation during a time of great need. Tony will be broadcasting his daily radio show from Israel and will offer on-the-ground reports of what’s happening. Be sure to listen here.


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Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly: America’s Own Iron Lady

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

I was being pressed by the bright and persistent students at Grove City College last year. They wanted to know what President Reagan thought about the question of men marrying men. I had been invited to be a guest lecturer at the Center for Vision and Values annual conference honoring the achievements of our fortieth president.

I was prepared to talk about my hero’s courageous stance against an Evil Empire and its 27,000 nuclear missiles, all targeted on us. So, the students’ fixation on the marriage issue took me aback. I was tempted to answer with wisecrack: President Reagan didn’t have to think about that — lucky guy. But as earnest as these young people were, I realized it would not do to be flippant.

Then, I remembered Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly’s heroic stand against the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — and the fact that Ronald Reagan became the first Republican candidate for president since 1928 to publicly oppose the ERA. He had been admirably briefed by Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly.

Mrs. Schlafly was a Harvard-educated and Washington University Law School-trained attorney. She had done her homework about the ERA. She led a spirited campaign of American women to resist the siren song of the ERA. In the 1970s, many of the mostly male Members of Congress and male state lawmakers were afraid to stand up to strident feminists. They feared crossing self-proclaimed women’s spokespersons who threatened: “We’ll remember in November.”

Not Mrs. Schlafly. She feared God and no one else. She waded into the controversy. She exposed the hidden agendas of radical feminists who had crafted the ERA. It would mean abortion on demand. It would force all of us as Americans to pay for this slaughter of innocents with our tax dollars. It would result in women being drafted and ordered into combat if America ever had to resort to the military draft. And, yes, it would doubtless force all jurisdictions in the country to recognize as marriages of the coupling of persons of the same sex.

All of these social troubles would have sprung from the ERA as unwary legislators opened that Pandora’s Box. In the 1970s, both parties, the TV networks, the “prestige press,” business and labor groups, academic and law organizations, and far, far too many church and civic groups fell in line behind the ERA.

That formidable correlation of forces only served to spur on the indefatigable Mrs. Schlafly. She relished the chance to make a goal-line stance and save the country she loves. She inspired in her grassroots supporters a vibrant sense of the enormous issues at stake. Nothing less than the country she loved was in peril.

When Mrs. Schlafly’s effort kicked into high gear, the ERA had already been ratified by more than thirty of the necessary thirty-eight state legislatures. As was said of the Battle of Waterloo, this was “a near run thing.”

In Britain in those years, another strong woman came on the scene. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher won the leadership of a Conservative Party that had lost its way. The Tories were a party that offered the British electorate not a choice, but a mere echo of the pale pastel socialism of the ruling Labour Party. Mrs. Thatcher had the right stuff. She was a formidable figure in British politics and, soon, she became Britain’s strongest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. Her Soviet adversaries called her the “Iron Lady.” Like Churchill, she made Britain great. And as Churchill said — in a phrase he coined — Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain could “punch above her weight.”

The movie “Iron Lady” was, to me, unbearable. I ejected the DVD and mailed it back. But I did value the remarkable movie trailer. That clip shows the talented Meryl Streep as Mrs. Thatcher, being coached on how to speak, how to move audiences.

It’s a valuable lesson in moving a public here, too. My own wife, a distinguished veteran of the U.S. Navy for thirty years, knows how to address a crowd and so does Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly.

I confess I have not always agreed with Mrs. Schlafly. She backed that solid champion of Midwestern Republicanism, Sen. Robert A. Taft, for president in 1952. No one could budge me from my enthusiasm for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. I wore my “I Like Ike” button to school. I was in second grade.

Phyllis Schlafly never had to raise her voice to raise concerns. She never had to equal the stridency of the radical feminists to make her points convincingly. In many ways, Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly is America’s own Iron Lady. And I am proud on this significant day in her life, to salute her.

I loved that boy. I hated that deed:” Della Reese

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

She was on a late night talk show in 1977. Actress Della Reese was being interviewed by Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show. I thought I was seeing a re-run because the host and Miss Reese were talking about the hit TV series, Chico and the Man.

This was shortly after the suicide of Freddie Prinze, the talented comedian who starred in the series. But, no, they came around to the subject. And Johnny, predictably, went on and on about the comic genius and the great tragic loss of Freddie Prinze. Della Reese spoke authoritatively and with finality. “I loved that boy, I hated that deed.” She would go on to become a familiar fixture in millions of American homes as “Tess,” the motherly figure in the popular series, Touched by an Angel.

I identified strongly with what this sensible woman said at the time. A few years later, I was tasked at the U.S. Department of Education with working on suicide among youth. As a project officer during the Reagan administration, it was my responsibility to study this troubling issue in American society. As part of my duties, I had a briefing book given to us by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

That large binder included suicide rates for many ethnic and demographic groups in American society. At that time, I was familiar with the rates for various sub-groups, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.

When I thumbed through the binder, I noted that the suicide rate for Black women was exceedingly low. Almost zero. Could this be a misprint? I called CDC to check on the figures.

We’ve noticed that too,” said the desk officer in Atlanta, “we call it the BFPF.”

What’s that?” I pressed.

The Black Female Protective Factor — they’re very religious.”

Suicide experts going back to Emile Durkheim in the Nineteenth Century have noted the correlation between religiosity and suicide. Those who regularly worship have far lower suicide rates than the unchurched.

Those who join clubs and activities, too, are far less liable to take their own lives. So Volunteer Fire Departments, Rotary, scouting, 4-H, Anglers’ Clubs, etc., can be lifesavers as well.

In the Nineteenth Century, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society and institutions. In his classic Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ “genius for association.” We love to join clubs, it seems.

We cannot read of tragic suicides — like that of Robin Williams this week — without wondering why. One reason may just be the active efforts to suppress religion in America. How can it hurt to get rid of public prayer and open acknowledgment of God? Increased suicide rates is one way it hurts.

Let’s pray that Americans gain a greater understanding of the value to all of society of religious freedom. It used to be said: “The family that prays together stays together. “That was true in the 1950s. It’s true now. It might also be said: Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

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