Questions Raised in Bible's Accuracy
by Sari Bashi
Associated Press Writer
October. 29, 1999
Jerusalem -- There was no exodus from Egypt, Joshua didn't bring down the walls of Jericho, and Solomon's kingdom was a small, tribal dynasty, an Israeli archaeologist says in a new article.
Colleagues and critics accepted some of Zeev Herzog's evidence, and questioned some of it -- but warned that by targeting the accuracy of the Bible the research undermines the national myths that are the basis of Jewish claims to the land of Israel.
Archaeological findings do not support and in many cases directly contradict Biblical stories describing the birth of the Jewish people, Herzog of Tel Aviv University wrote in Thursday's Haaretz daily.
He reviewed evidence now commonly accepted by most archaeologists showing that there was no exodus from Egypt at the time the Bible says Jews left Egypt en masse, and that Jericho fell in stages over an extended period -- and not in a single raid led by Joshua.
More controversially, Herzog argues that the seeds of the Jewish state are to be found in the 9th century B.C. when groups of shepherds who had settled in hilltops established two rival states, Judah and Israel.
Excavations of cities from the supposedly majestic time of Kings David and Solomon a century earlier, he said, revealed that the "cities" consisted of scattered buildings and the kingdoms were small, provincial dynasties that exercised no real claim over the land.
Herzog said Jerusalem, the majestic capital built by King David to rule over an empire that spanned much of the Middle East, was at best a small fiefdom.
Fellow archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tor of the rival Hebrew University, a top critic of Herzog and his post-modernist school of thought, said Herzog uses archaeology to satisfy a political agenda, namely debunking the legends upon which the Jewish state was founded.
Ben-Tor agreed that "there is a large measure of glorification in the Bible," but said that inscriptions and excavations from the 10th century B.C. show the ancient Hebrews had established a state ruled by David and Solomon, that was substantial if not magnificent.
Lawmaker Tommy Lapid, a secular rights champion who believes human authors wrote the Bible, accused Herzog of trying to undermine the educational and ideological basis of the state.
Herzog is "feeding propaganda to Israel's enemies who want to negate our right to be here," Lapid said.
He said the Bible contained many myths, but that its basic historical facts document Jewish claims on Israel and form the basis for Jewish history, culture, language and literature.
Herzog's article addressed archaeological discoveries from the last few decades, when archaeologists in Israel broke away from seeking out physical evidence for Biblical events.
Their findings have not entered the public consciousness, said archaeologist Moshe Kochavi of Tel Aviv University, because Israelis are not ready to abandon their national myths.
Kochavi said books publishing these findings have met with particularly vehement opposition from the 30 percent of Israeli Jews who define themselves as in some way religious, many of whom believe the Bible is the word of God.
"The religious scream out when books like these, saying there was no conquest and that David's period was not majestic, are written," he said.
Israeli adults and schoolchildren regularly tour archaeological sites that guides say prove the Bible was right, and the state devotes substantial resources to excavations thought likely to reveal evidence of Biblical footsteps.
Liberal Education Minister Yossi Sarid, who recently stirred controversy by expunging from textbooks what he says are myths of modern Israeli history, said Herzog's work deserved consideration.
"If it's interesting and well-founded, I don't see why it shouldn't be presented in schools as an option," he told Haaretz.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
at Trappist Monastery
by Chuck Shepherd
Brother Eric Metivier, 28, was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly stabbing Brother Fernard Bremaud, 71, several times in a dispute at the Trappist Fathers monastery near Holland, Manitoba.
Nuns Apologize for
"Stolen" Christmas Tree
by Cliff Walker
December 22, 1997
The nuns of St. Cecilia's congregation in Nashville, Tennessee, inadvertently "stole" a Christmas tree last week, but got the tree back to its rightful owner Monday. "We're glad there's a happy ending to the story," said St. Cecilia's Stephanie Sundock.
Maintenance men were sent to pick up a tree donated to the order and left on the porch of a home, but they returned with the wrong tree. When the owner of the donated tree called wondering why it had not been picked up, the maintenance men could not remember which house they took the tree from.
The Nashville Tennessean newspaper printed a plea for the owner of the tree to contact the nuns. The workers finally identified the tree's owner and returned it. The owner said she had given up on ever seeing the tree again, but gave the men a plate of cookies.
by Chuck Shepherd
Awni Hasham, 58, a furniture company owner in Gaza City, explaining to the Washington Post why he takes seriously the rumors that Israel had introduced chewing gum that had been laced with hormones to make people so horny that Palestinian society would be disrupted: "If they can put a spaceship on Mars, they can make sex chewing gum."
Church' Sexual Policy
by Woody Johnson
More than 40 Presbyterian churches are protesting a new policy that forbids sexually active singles from being ordained.
The Fidelity and Chastity Amendment requires that church leaders must live "either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."
Meanwhile, the New Testament, in I Timothy chapter 3, firmly cautions churches regarding the sexual behavior of a "bishop":
 ... If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
The New Testament book of I Timothy makes similar sexual demands of a "deacon":
 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
The New Testament also gives detailed instructions pertaining to the behavior of the wives of bishops and deacons.
Fires Entire Staff
by Cliff Walker
February 19, 1998
Washington D.C. -- Due to a financial crisis, Promise Keepers, the male-only Christian revivalist movement that has been urging men to take charge of their families, will lay off its entire staff of 345 workers. This announcement may end up being very economical way to solicit donations.
"Promise Keepers today gave its staff six weeks notice that they will be paid until March 31 and no further. As stable and sufficient donations are received, re-staffing will occur," the announcement said.
The announcement came only four months after Promise Keepers inspired hundreds of thousands of men to trek to Washington, D.C., for what promoters called the largest religious gathering ever held in the United States. That the gathering was held at the nation's capitol caused some critics to wonder just how political this "religious gathering" really was.
Promise Keepers has been organizing all-male weekend revival meetings in sports arenas for several years, drawing 1.2 million last year alone. The organization outwardly urges men to accept Jesus and become better fathers and husbands by taking spiritual leadership of their families; however, the Promise Keepers movement finds itself attractive to those who advocate converting the United States of America into a Christian Theocracy.
Previously, the group has charged $60 for attendance at stadium rallies; such fees accounted for 72 percent of income. Last year, though, Promise Keepers decided to stop charging admission and to rely on donations. "The new dependence of contributions has proved to be both a financial and an operational challenge," the announcement said.
Founder Bill McCartney told the Promise Keepers staff of the decision Wednesday. "I have a broken heart. But I don't have a discouraged heart. I have a heart that is filled with hope," he said. He added that Promise Keepers would move to an all-volunteer staff for an indefinite period.
Even at the time of its apparent triumph last October, some observers said speculated that Promise Keepers' appeal could only decline after the Washington event. Attendance at its weekend rallies in 1997 was considerably lower than in 1996, prompting the move to end admission charges. The Washington event was a drain on resources, forcing Promise Keepers to use the contributions it gathered around Christmas to pay the millions of dollars in costs. Donations in January and February continued to drop.
McCartney is still planning 19 stadium events this year and called on church leaders to donate funds that would allow the organization to continue."We have seen how God has used this ministry to change men's lives and lead them back to the church. Now ... it is time for those churches to assist us in our mission," he said.
McCartney has aroused fear and suspicion among women, homosexuals, state-church separationists, and political moderates who say the group has a hidden political agenda that is profoundly right-wing. The company that the Promise Keepers movement keeps attests to these suspicions. Leaders of the Christian "Reconstructionist" movement, which advocates that America become a Christian theocracy based on Old Testament law, are very fond of the Promise Keepers movement. Also, "Christian Nation" advocates such as David Barton of Wallbuilders, freely distribute their revisionist literature at Promise Keepers events.
Jocks for Jesus?
Attention and Concern
by Conrad Goeringer
June 10, 1995
A former college football coach has a vision thousands of men packing a stadium, cheering, re-claiming lost territory.
It's not the Big Ten playoff or the Rose Bowl. But you might consider it the "Superbowl" of Christian masculinity, preaching on steroids, religion with an attitude.
It's called Promise Keepers, a movement which has been described as ecumenical, nondenominational, interracial, Christian and, distinctly, for men only. Its goal is to return men to the spiritual leadership of churches and families, making them "better" husbands and fathers.
The group likes to meet in football stadiums or sports arenas, reflecting the proclivities of its founder Bill McCartney, former coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes. Promise Keepers started in 1990, but by 1994 succeeded in attracting an average audience of 50,000 men. According to Episcopal News Service, "At these conferences, men gather to sing hymns, to listen to motivational speakers, to witness, to mentor, to confess, to pray, to hold hands, to cry."
According to the president of the movement, Randy Phillips, the stadium events are "where men can let down and be real." At these rallies, "Men are told ... that through God's power, they have the resources to interrupt the collapse of the moral foundation of the world by making and keeping promises to lead the nation toward a revival."
The message seems to be catching on, at least in religious circles. Atlanta's Georgia Dome will be one of the 13 big Promise Keepers events held this year upwards of 1/2 million men are expected to attend those conferences.
But it is the emphasis on spiritual "leadership" which has critics even those in religious areas worried. Although the group is interracial, some have charged that Promise Keepers uses tough, anti-homosexual rhetoric in its message. Tony Evans, a Dallas minister who wrote "Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper" claimed that "the primary cause of this national crisis is the feminization of the American male," which has lead to a men's movement seeking to regain power "the same white male Republican vote you saw in the last election."
That has even women religious leaders worried. Catherine Clark Kroeger, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, conditionally supports the group if it makes men "better team players when they get home." She told Religious News Service, though, that if "they (men) swagger around acting superior, acting like they are calling the shots, that's a different story." Other critics worry about "Testosterone Christianity." Aside from the macho venue of stadiums, the Promise Keepers perceive themselves as "soldiers in the army of Christ," and organize themselves into small units they call "squads." And EPS quoted two religious writers who noted that "the agenda of Promise Keepers does not listen to the interests of feminists, homosexuals and social libbers. While it touts being an organization of racial harmony ... the African American presence at its events has been lacking."
Promise Keepers are exhorted to "influence the world" by obeying "Jesus' Great Commandment and Great Commission."
Just where all of this leads is uncertain. Mainstream religious groups like the United Methodist Church are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the Promise Keepers movement, saying that they neither "endorse or denounce" the group. But the emphasis on men as the "spiritual leader of the house" suggests that Promise Keepers may be a sports-version of traditional patriarchy or even a religious coopting of the "men's movement" in the secular world. Despite its emphasis on transforming men into "better" fathers and husbands, the movement has yet to make its opinions visible on important issues such as abortion rights, state-church separation, and the role of diversity in a pluralistic society. Promise Keepers may end up a "men's club" within the religious mainstream, or a tougher, even threatening advocate of Christian ideology.
In this stadium, we'll just have to wait for the coin-toss.
Where Church Equals State!?
Obscenity Trial Begins
Over Anti-Jesus T-Shirt
by Woody Johnson
|The term liberty of the press arose from a FACT, the abolition
of the office of Imprimatur, and that opinion has nothing to do in the
case. The term refers to the fact of printing free from prior restraint,
and not at all to the matter printed, whether good or bad.
-- Thomas Paine
February 16, 1998
Ocala, Florida -- Jury selection began Monday in the obscenity trial of a 24-year-old Florida man. Florida charged Record-store clerk Andrew Love with obscenity over a T-shirt promoting the British "death metal" band Cradle of Filth.
Meanwhile, Christians around the country scamper to enact legislation to protect their freedom to express their views on Jesus.
The controversial shirt shows a drawing of a bare-breasted woman in a nun's habit reaching between her legs, with the words, JESUS IS A CUNT. "I know its offensive," Love said. "Since when is it against the law to be offensive?" Love contends the shirt was not obscene but prosecutor Steve Rogers disagrees.
Love was wearing the shirt at work in November when security officers at the Ocala shopping mall told him to turn the garment inside out or leave. Before he was able to reverse the shirt, Ocala police showed up, arrested him, and confiscated his shirt.
Love was never jailed on the misdemeanor charge and was released on his own recognizance. If convicted, he could be fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year in jail.
Florida law defines obscenity as something the average person believes would appeal to a prurient, shameful or morbid interest. Something is obscene if it depicts or describes sexual material in a patently offensive way and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
"In this community, that T-shirt is definitely political," said Love's attorney, Jim Reich. He said the case had sparked an outcry from fans of Cradle of Filth, civil libertarians and "those of an anarchistic bent."
Where do atheists and separationists fit in to this picture?
Reich argued Love's arrest amounted to unlawful prior restraint because police officers determined on their own that the T-shirt was obscene.
Marion County Judge Sandra Edward-Stephens rejected that argument and opening statements were expected to start in the case on Tuesday.
Couple Defies Superstition
During Wedding Ceremony
by Cliff Walker
February 13, 1998
For a Friday the 13th promotion, radio station KLCE in Blackfoot Idaho helped two listeners defy superstition. The couple were wed after walking under a ladder, breaking mirrors, and flouting other conventions of bad luck.
Unfortunately, a lack of superstition does not necessarily indicate a lack of stupidity.
The wedding party released mylar balloons, which got caught on the station's power lines, causing a spark-studded explosion, and knocking out power to 3,000 people.