Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

Morning Prayer for Saturday, July 14, 2018 — Look for God’s Leading

July 14, 2018

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Look for God’s leading in all your personal relationships, in all your dealings with other persons. God will help you to take care of all your relationships with people, if you are willing to let Him guide you. Rejoice that God can protect you and keep you from temptation and failure. God can protect you in all situations during the day, if you will rely on His strength and go forward. You should feel that you are entering upon the stage of success in the proper way of living. You should not doubt that better things are ahead for you. Go forward unafraid because you feel deeply safe under God’s protection.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that God may protect and keep me as long as I try to serve Him. I pray that I may go forward today unafraid.

Today’s Mass readings and Reflections:


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

14 JULY, 2018, Saturday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 6:1-8MT 10:24-38 ]

It is not easy to be a Christian in today’s world.  Witnessing to Christ and professing Him as the Saviour of the world, and confessing Him to be our Lord is considered arrogance by the world.  There is pressure from society to be more modest in confessing our faith in Christ.  This is just on the question of beliefs.  Equally challenging is to propose the gospel values taught by our Lord for the world.  All the teachings of the bible are being challenged by relativism, materialism and humanism.  Whether it is with regard to the traditional understanding of marriage, sex, family, dignity of life, and authentic freedom, these issues are challenged as outdated, impractical, irrelevant and impossible.

It is easier for us to succumb to such pressures than to stand up for Jesus.  That is why many Catholics are so cowardly in professing their faith.  They are afraid to be seen as Catholics in the world and at their place of work for fear of being challenged, ridiculed and even discriminated.  This is understandable.  We are afraid of suffering and rejection.  We need to belong to the world so that we feel safe.  But yet, we know that we are of the world but do not belong to the world.  This is what the Lord says to us.  (Jn 15:19)   Jesus warns us, “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.  But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  If we are afraid to stand up for Jesus, we will betray ourselves and lose our faith eventually.  Either we transform the world or the world will secularize us.  By not standing up for Jesus, the issue is not so much that He will disown us, but that we will eventually disown Him.  There is no neutrality in faith.  Either we are for Christ or against Him.

In the face of such challenges, how, then, can we remain faithful to God? Firstly, the gospel warns us that Jesus our master suffered the same fate and therefore we are not exempted.  “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?”  Indeed, although Jesus was doing good for the people, healing them of their illnesses, setting them free from bondage of the Evil One, exhorting them to repentance, to live a life of authenticity and integrity, reconciling everyone to God and with each other by advocating the brotherhood of all and the equality of all men and women; yet, He was grossly misunderstood.  The Jewish leaders felt threatened by Him, the political leaders felt He might be a threat to their powers and the common people projected their political hopes on Him.  When Jesus failed to deliver all these expectations, He was put to death.

We can learn from the courage of our Lord.  He was confident that even if He were innocently condemned and put to death, justice would prevail in the end.  Hence, He advised us, “Do not be afraid of them therefore.  For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the house tops.”   Indeed, like Jesus, we will be misunderstood.  The Church has been misunderstood in her teachings, whether doctrinal or morals.  But history will unveil the truths of what the Church of Christ has consistently maintained all these years.  We have confidence that the Lord who looks after the Church will protect her and the gates of hell will not overcome it. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (cf Mt 16:18f) We, too, will let history judge us and humanity.  The truth will prevail in the end because as Jesus said, what is hidden will be made clear eventually.

Hence, we should not be afraid even of death.  “Do not be afraid of those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  This was the faith of the Fathers of the Church.  If the Church had been so faithful, it was because there were some Christians who were ready to die for their faith and their beliefs.  The martyrs of the Church testified to the truth of death.  When death is no longer feared, then as St Paul said, we have overcome the power of death.  “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’” (cf 1 Cor 15:25-27).  With the resurrection of Christ, we know that death is not the last word.  This last enemy of man has been overcome by the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus has demonstrated that death is not the last word but eternal life.

Let us take consolation that the Lord will look after us.  He will surely protect and guide us.  He assures us, “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny?  And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”  Indeed, let us take heart that no matter what trials come our way, He will help us to overcome them.  He does not take away our pains just as His Father did not take away His suffering, but He will help us with the power of His Holy Spirit to keep us strong, wise and faithful.  Also, He assured us that those who endure to the end will be saved.  “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.”  (cf Mt 24:13f)

How can we do what Jesus did?  We need to be empowered and sent by Him as Isaiah was. The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of the heavenly court before he was called.  He “saw the Lord seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings: two to cover its face, two to cover its feet and two for flying.  And they cried out to one another in this way, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. His glory fills the whole earth.’  The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filed with smoke.”  It must have been a powerful vision of God.  Those of us who have had some visions of God in our dreams or some religious encounter in prayer will understand how much more life-changing the vision must have been for Isaiah.

We know that we have encountered God when we come to consciousness of our total unworthiness and sinfulness.  The reaction of Isaiah to the encounter was “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of hosts.”  We feel unworthy to come before the Lord.  The realization of our sinfulness is always one of the consequences of entering into the presence of the Lord.  This explains the radical transformation.  But it is more than just the realization of our utter unworthiness; it is the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.  “Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  With this he touched my mouth and said: ‘See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged.’”  This was also the experience of the call of Moses and Gideon in the Old Testament (cf Ex 3Judges 6:11-18); and the call of Peter and Saul in the New Testament.  (cf Lk 5:1-11Acts 9:1-19) Their encounter with God made them aware of their sinfulness, but at the same time, God also reassured them that their sins had been forgiven.  They were given His assurance of divine assistance and protection.  “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” (Ex 3:12)

When we have been loved unconditionally, the desire to proclaim His love is a natural consequence.  We want to announce to the world how much God loves them too, just as He has loved us.  God does not just give us a personal encounter with Him without sending us out on mission.  So like the prophets before Him, Moses and Elijah, Isaiah also “heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’  I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’”  God too chose Peter to be the leader of the Twelve and the rock of the Church.  St Paul was given back his sight so that he could lead all peoples back to God through the proclamation of Jesus as the Christ and the Lord of all. “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  (Acts 9:15f)

Without a special encounter with the Risen Lord, our faith would remain weak.  This explains why although many priests, religious and lay people have faith in God and love the Church, their witnessing is weak, because they have not had a personal, transforming encounter with the Lord.  Their faith is dependent on hearsay and study.  Because they lack a real encounter with the Lord, in times of trials and challenges, they give in to temptation.  It is not surprising because they then begin to wonder where God is. Doubts enter their minds as to whether what they are teaching is true and whether Jesus is real.

Of course, those who receive the special encounter with the Lord have to continue to grow to become more like Christ. This is the mistake of many who have received such an encounter.  They do not continue to nurture this relationship with the Lord through prayer, study and sharing the faith in the community.  Eventually, they too will lose the faith.  Hence, “Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master.”  This is an ongoing process.  We must never stop growing in understanding of our faith in Christ and our relationship with Him.  In this way, we will remain faithful to Christ and be courageous in standing up for truth and the gospel of our Lord.



South China Sea: Time for a different Philippine narrative on maritime dispute with China

July 7, 2018

Since the stunning victory over China in 2016, the official story has been defeatist

Soon, it will be two years since the Philippines overwhelmingly won in its maritime dispute against China. But during this time, the official narrative in the Philippines has been one with strong defeatist tones.

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug


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From Day 1, July 12, 2016, when the international arbitral tribunal issued its decision invalidating China’s 9-dash line and clarifying the status of certain features in the South China Sea, this ruling has never been given the national attention it deserved. It has not been used as leverage in the country’s dealings with China. It has not been in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ talking points.

It has not been part of the country’s diplomatic arsenal.

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Yes, we won, officials say, but…

  • China is our source of economic deliverance. China will rebuild war-torn Marawi. China will invest heavily in the government’s “Build, Build, Build”
    program. Millions of Chinese tourists will boost our tourism industry. China is our new source of weapons.
  • China is a dear friend who, unlike the European Union, is nonchalant about the deadly drug war that has killed thousands and has led to a crushing wave of impunity.

These buts drown out the gains of July 12, 2016, weakening the Philippine position, making our country’s voice part of the chorus of approval of China in the region.

Let us not be taken by the official story. It’s time to talk about a different narrative.

Let’s go back to the story of Philippines vs. China, the historic arbitration case that reverberated in various parts of the world. As a law professor from the University of Geneva said, “July 12, 2016 is a date that will remain etched in the history of international adjudication.”

Let’s go back to the almost two decades of back-and-forth with Beijing when our diplomats asserted Philippine rights over parts of the South China Sea – only to be rebuffed with its stock response that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over this vast area.

Let’s hear from our scholars, experts, and diplomats on how to make use of our legal victory and start a national conversation on this crucial issue.

Historic case

In my new book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines won its maritime case against China, I tell the story of this victory that gave the country so much – a maritime area larger than the total land area of the Philippines, rich in resources – but has since been disregarded by the government.

First of all, the case is historic. It is the first to interpret the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) definitions of rocks, islands, and low-tide elevations; the first case to be filed by a South China Sea claimant state against China; and it is the first case to address the scope and application of the Unclos provision on protection and preservation of the environment.

This book addresses why President Benigno Aquino III took China to Court. Among others, he particularly remembered the quip of one ASEAN senior leader: “There are big countries and there are small countries. That’s the way of the world.” He mulled over this and thought that it was precisely the law that would serve as the great equalizer.

With this as anchor – the law as the great equalizer – Aquino decided, with the approval of the Cabinet, the leaders of Congress and two past presidents, to sue China.

In January 2013, the Philippines began its legal battle. It filed a “notification of statement and claim.”

More than year later, the Philippines submitted its memorial, like a plea, which reached more than 3,000 pages. It was a product of massive research in history, international law, geology, hydrography, marine biodiversity, and cartography. This included 10 volumes of annexes, which contained maps, nautical charts, expert reports, witnesses’ affidavits, historical records, and official communications.

Almost two decades of written exchanges between the Philippines and China, including notes verbale, were made public. Intelligence reports of the Navy, the Western Command of the Armed Forces, and the Department of National Defense were also submitted to the tribunal.

This was a first in the country: that diplomatic cables and intelligence documents were revealed to the public, a fascinating trove of our diplomatic history.

The Philippine story also unfolds in the transcripts of the oral hearings in The Hague which capture the essential points of the case. Paul Reichler and his team at Foley Hoag used the richly-documented diplomatic history of the Philippines-China dispute in their arguments before the tribunal.

These transcripts, the Philippine memorial, the awards (or the tribunal’s decisions) on jurisdiction and merit are accessible reading to non-lawyers like me. They can be downloaded from the website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

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Despite the stunning victory, why was the Philippines so glum about a historic ruling that was on its side? Why did it choose to bury a euphoric moment instead of using the victory to galvanize a nation?

The answer lay in the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte. He held a different view: his heart and mind were with China.

The Duterte government has taken a defeatist stance despite the immensity of what the Philippines had gained from the ruling. Duterte once said that the Philippines was “helpless” in the face of China’s might. For him, the choices in dealing with China were extreme, either to talk or to go to war. He has framed foreign policy in a false dichotomy.

While the story of Philippines vs. China offers hope and inspiration, it is the aftermath that offers more challenges. Rock Solid gives a few prescriptions on how to make the tribunal’s decision work, but there are definitely more ideas out there worth exploring.

Many have said that international pressure can encourage the implementation of the award – but friendly countries have to take the lead from the Philippines.

In the region, the award benefited not only the Philippines but other Southeast Asian states which have made claims to parts of the South China Sea. It was clear from the ruling, as Reichler explained, that “if China’s nine-dash line is invalid as to the Philippines, it is equally invalid to other states bordering the South China Sea like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and the rest of the international community.”

Making the tribunal ruling work and seeing it come to fruition, partly or fully, will take a long time, way beyond a single president’s term. It will require strategic thinking anchored on a strong sense of justice, equity, and sovereign rights. –


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Philippines President’s Godless State: Show me proof that God exists and I’ll resign

July 7, 2018
Christians may be seeing more proof that evil is with us…

President Rodrigo Duterte prays during the mass at the wedding of Waldo and Regine Carpio at San Agustin Church in Intramurous, Manila on September 16, 2017.

King Rodriguez/PPD, file

Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – July 7, 2018 – 1:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday vowed to immediately resign if Christians can prove that their God exists.

“If there is anyone of you there, the noisy ones, who would say that you have been to heaven, talked to God, saw him personally, and that He exists, the God that is yours, and if He does is true, I will step down the presidency tonight,” Duterte said in a freestyle speech.

He then hit the members of the Catholic clergy for asking for donations from churchgoers.

“If you are really helping people, why do you ask money from them?” he said.

Duterte has sparked public outrage in the predominantly Catholic Philippines after he called the Christians’ God a “stupid son of a bitch” for creating Adam and Eve only to allow their purity to be destroyed by temptation.

In the same speech on Friday, Duterte questioned anew the Church’s concept of original sin, which he said taints people “even if you are just a seminal thing inside the balls of your father.”

“So where is the logic of God there? You create a perfect then you spoil it through the snake and an apple. And you give us the sin that we never even agreed to commit and that is the original sin,” he said.

But the firebrand leader maintained that he is not an atheist, adding that he believes “there’s a universal mind somewhere which controls the universe.”

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Extra-judicial or just murder?

The hugely popular Duterte and the Church, which has a significant political and social clout in the Philippines, have repeatedly locked horns amid mounting death toll in the government’s bloody war on drugs.

To ease the tensions sparked by his controversial remarks about God, Duterte has agreed to meet with Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles on Monday at Malacañang.


Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, June 28, 2018 — “Be like a wise man who built his house on rock” — Saving Others and Saving Ourselves

June 28, 2018

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

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Saint Irenaeus , Église Saint-Irénée, France photo by Gérald Gambier


Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr
Lectionary: 374

Reading 1 2 KGS 24:8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.
His mother’s name was Nehushta,
daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
He did evil in the sight of the LORD,
just as his forebears had done.
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At that time the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
himself arrived at the city
while his servants were besieging it.
Then Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother,
his ministers, officers, and functionaries,
surrendered to the king of Babylon, who,
in the eighth year of his reign, took him captive.
And he carried off all the treasures
of the temple of the LORD and those of the palace,
and broke up all the gold utensils that Solomon, king of Israel,
had provided in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had foretold.
He deported all Jerusalem:
all the officers and men of the army, ten thousand in number,
and all the craftsmen and smiths.
None were left among the people of the land except the poor.
He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon,
and also led captive from Jerusalem to Babylon
the king’s mother and wives,
his functionaries, and the chief men of the land.
The king of Babylon also led captive to Babylon
all seven thousand men of the army,
and a thousand craftsmen and smiths,
all of them trained soldiers.
In place of Jehoiachin,
the king of Babylon appointed his uncle Mattaniah king,
and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 79:1B-2, 3-5, 8, 9

R. (9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the birds of heaven,
the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
They have poured out their blood like water
round about Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

Alleluia  JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.


Saint Irenaeus’ Story

The Church is fortunate that Irenaeus was involved in many of its controversies in the second century. He was a student, well trained no doubt, with great patience in investigating, tremendously protective of apostolic teaching, but prompted more by a desire to win over his opponents than to prove them in error.

As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

The circumstances and details about his death, like those of his birth and early life in Asia Minor, are not at all clear.


A deep and genuine concern for other people will remind us that the discovery of truth is not to be a victory for some and a defeat for others. Unless all can claim a share in that victory, truth itself will continue to be rejected by the losers, because it will be regarded as inseparable from the yoke of defeat. And so, confrontation, controversy and the like might yield to a genuine united search for God’s truth and how it can best be served.



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


28 JUNE, 2018, Thursday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 KINGS 24:8-17PS 79:1-5,8-9MT 7:21-29 ]

The world has come to the stage where leaders are no longer trusted. Unfortunately, the greatest disappointment is when religious leaders who are supposed to be moral markers fail in their leadership and in their way of life.  Hence there is a growing distrust in the institutions as they are no longer viewed as protectors and guardians of the people’s morality and justice.

Is it because the world’s level of morality is degenerating? Perhaps so, but this might not be the real picture.  Since the beginning of time, in the history of Israel, there has always been bad and evil leaders.  It is true everywhere in the world and in every sphere of life.  That is why it is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I suppose the real reason why we see so many evil and self-centered leaders is because with social media they are easily exposed for their double dealings, and people today are also better educated and informed and so are able to tell if the leaders are following the rules they set for others.  In the early days, one could cover up quite easily one’s evil deeds by using their authority to instill fear in their subordinates to keep them quiet.

What, then, do we do when we find leaders who do not walk the talk, or worse still, deliberately cheat using their office and influence?  This is what the Lord said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”  (Mt 23:2f) If they are teaching the truth, even if they do not practise what they teach, it is still the Word of God and we must therefore listen and obey accordingly.  We must be focused on the content, not just the preacher or the teacher.  Living out the truth is ultimately for our good and our salvation.  It would be unwise of us to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  We must be discerning and not react to the imperfections and the sinfulness of our teachers and those in authority. We are not perfect ourselves and therefore we can afford to be sympathetic and compassionate with them when they too fall into the temptation of the Evil One.

But the real problem is, how do we deal with leaders who are hypocritical and living a double life without usknowing it until they are exposed?  In public, they appear to be earnest preachers, sincere ministers, good workers, dressed in nice robes, making “their phylacteries broad and their fringes long” like the scribes and Pharisees.  But in fact, they are simply putting on a show when they are quietly enriching themselves, living a spendthrift, luxurious and wanton life, irresponsible and lazy in their work, mixing only with the rich and powerful, and caring for their own interests.

The irony is that they seem to be producing the fruits that Jesus said we should look out for when discerningtrue leaders, ie, good works, miracles and healings, attracting great crowds of people, bringing much money to their projects and growing the Church as well.

But the Lord warned us immediately after giving us the rule of thumb for discerning good leaders, that good works alone does not mean that they are good. “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.  When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work miracles in your name?’  Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil man!”  Indeed, good works alone need not indicate that they are saved or that they are holy men and women!  They could be simply making use of religion to make money, enjoy a life of luxury, getting attention and fame for themselves, but in truth they are far from God.  “From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”  (cf 1 Tim 6:3-5) Sound doctrine is not focused on personal gain but on the salvation of the souls of others.

This is why the Bible makes it clear that we are not saved by our merits but purely through faith in the grace of God that comes from the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  St Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God -not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Eph 2:9f) He repeated this in his letter to Titus, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  (Tit 3:4-7)

How, then, do we see the value of their works, since they apparently bring many to conversion, even if they are imperfect to say the least?  The truth is that good works can be produced either by the Holy Spirit. Even the devil can mimic good works as well.  St John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  (1 Jn 4:1) Even if we do things from the wrong motives, God can make use of our good works for the conversion of many people.  The devil on the other hand can also hijack our good works by tempting us to sin, as St Paul warns us.  “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”  (1 Tim 6:9f) In fact, greater is their punishment, like the evil kings of Israel, for their misconduct.

St Paul has this to say about those ministers and missionaries that have selfish intent in proclaiming the gospel.  “Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill.  These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.”  (Phil 1:15-18) So we should rejoice that even if they serve imperfectly with impure motives or even deliberately with selfish motives, His gospel is preached to all who have faith and they are saved not by them but by Christ.

How, then, can we avoid being hypocritical leaders who harm not just our own souls but that of others?  Jesus makes it clear that we need to have a personal relationship with Him. Otherwise, He will say to you, “I have never known you; away from me, you evil man!”  A personal relationship with the Lord is the key to having greater faith in Him.  Out of this faith in Christ, His grace will be at work in us and through His grace, we will do good works, not to gain our salvation as such, but to express a life that is under the reign of Christ and His kingdom.  We do good not to earn salvation but to cooperate with His grace to live a good life, bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  (cf Gal 5:22)

This is what our Lord is asking of us, to build our House, that is, our lives on Him as the rock of our salvation.  “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against the house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.”  When our foundation is on the love of Christ for us and our personal relationship with Him, then we will not falter in times of trials and tribulations because we know that Jesus is with us and will supply all our needs and will strengthen us.

Most of all, because God is with us, He will make use of us more powerfully for His glory because of our greater receptivity to His grace than those ministers who are insincere and living a sinful life.   Whilst it is true that God can still make use of them, the power of His grace is also limited by man’s personal response to His grace.  So when we live holy lives in accordance with the Word of God founded in our personal relationship with the Lord, our ministry will remain pure and powerful in the name of the Lord.  This is why we read at the end of the gospel, that “his teaching made a deep impression on the people because he taught them with authority, and not like their own scribes.”  Jesus did not simply teach but lived out what He taught and did good in the power of the Holy Spirit.


 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

Philippine President Duterte: ‘Your God is stupid. Mine has a lot of common sense.’

June 25, 2018
Duterte’s latest attack on the Catholic Church
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Audrey Morallo ( – June 25, 2018 – 9:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday stuck to his guns on his comment that God is “stupid” but clarified that he was insulting the God of his critics.

The president was widely criticized for questioning the Genesis creation story and saying that God was “stupid” for allowing temptation to corrupt his creation.

This was Duterte’s latest attack on the Catholic Church, whose priests he has criticized for corruption and hypocrisy. He also questioned the teachings of the Catholic church, which has been critical of his administration’s human rights violations.

In an attempt to clarify his remarks, the chief executive said that he was not talking about his God and was instead insulting the God of his critics.

According to Pew Research Center data, there were an estimated 86.79 million Christians in the Philippines in 2010. Of that number, 75.94 million were Catholic, around 10 million were Protestant, and around 820,000 were classified as “other Christian.” Christians believe there is only one God.

“Wala akong sinabing torpe ang Ginoo ko (I did not say that my God was sheepish),” the president said, without clarifying whom he meant.

“What I said was your God is not my God because your God is stupid. Mine has a lot of common sense,” Duterte added.

During his speech at the oath-taking of newly-elected village chairpersons, Duterte again questioned the logic behind the Genesis creation narrative.

At one point, he even called the creation of the first woman, Eve, as “the greatest mistake of God.”

RELATED: Duterte: I’m not a chauvinist, I just really like girls

Duterte again questioned why God had to tempt mankind and destroy his creation by falsely claiming that God had sent the serpent to tempt Eve.

He also labeled the Catholic belief in the concept of original sin as an “idiotic proposition.”

Duterte also challenged his critics to prove that their God was perfect and offered to kneel down and ask for forgiveness if they were able to do so.

The Catholic Church does not teach a literal interpretation of the creation story and stresses that the story employed “figurative language [but] affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.”

Palace counters with Church scandals 

Malacañang, in an effort to defend the president, brought up the issue on the child abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the president’s comments stemmed from his bad experience with priests when he was younger. Duterte claimed that he was abused by an American priest when he was still studying at Ateneo de Davao.

Roque, a lawyer, also sidestepped the issue on the president’s remarks and instead urged the Catholic Church to apologize for the abuses of some of its priests.

Several senators and religions groups have panned the president for his remarks, with one lawmaker labeling his statement as the “height of arrogance of power.”

The president meanwhile accused his critics of taking advantage of the issue and riding on the wave of criticism over his comments.


South China Sea: Divisive Ideas Harming the Philippines, Acting Chief Justice Says — Will Filipinos Stand Up?

June 24, 2018

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio delivered this speech to the graduates of the National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines, on June 22, 2018.

Allow me to warmly congratulate the 2018 graduates of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) of the University of the Philippines. I have high hopes that you will contribute greatly to the advancement of public governance in our country, especially in ensuring the development of our nation as a united and undivided sovereign state with its territorial integrity and maritime zones intact.

Our nation today is facing radical proposals to change its historic identity, its grant of regional autonomy, and its foreign policy. Because these proposals are radical and divisive, they require the deepest examination from all sectors of our society – from lawyers, public administrators, historians, political experts, businessmen, scientists, farmers, NGOs, and all other sectors in our society. I call these proposals “Ideas that Divide the Nation.

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Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio

We should be wary of new concepts imported from foreign shores and alien to our history as a people, which could divide the nation and even lead to the dismemberment of the Philippine state. Let me point out a few examples of these divisive ideas that have been introduced into our national discourse.

First divisive idea: First Nation

The first Idea that Divides the Nation is the attempt to introduce the concept of a First Nation into our legal system. The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, initialed by the Arroyo administration with the MILF in 2008, and which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, contained a provision designating the Muslims as the First Nation in the Philippines.

In Canada and the United States, the First Nations were the native inhabitants of North America at the time of the arrival of the European settlers starting in the 16th century. The European settlers or Caucasian white people later became the majority and dominated the earlier people – the Indians – thus creating two distinct classes of people inhabiting the same territory. The native inhabitants or the Indians have a different DNA and facial features from the Caucasian white people. The Indians and the Caucasian white people belong to different races. Clearly, there are real First Nations in Canada and the United States. These First Nations are thus accorded their own territory or ancestral domains. The First Nations receive royalties for the exploitation of natural resources in their ancestral domains.

“Any attempt to designate a group of people in the Philippines as the First Nation is historically baseless and a fraud on the rest of the Filipino nation.”

In the Philippines, there is no First Nation. If you take the DNA of people in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, whether Lumads, Christians, or Muslims, you will find they all belong to the same Malay race, except probably the Aetas. Practically all the people of the Philippines belong to one race. They are all native inhabitants of the Philippines. There is no foreign race that settled in the Philippines and dominated the native inhabitants.

The native inhabitants of the Philippines were originally all Lumads. When Arab traders arrived in Sulu in the late 15th century, they introduced Islam and some Lumads became Muslims. In the early 16th century, Magellan arrived in the Philippines and some Lumads became Christians. However, the Lumads, Muslims, and Christians in the Philippines belonged to the same race – the Malay race – as they, of course, still do today. Thus, there is no First Nation in the Philippines.

Three thousand years ago, the first wave of Austronesian migrants, the ancestors of the Malay race, arrived in Batanes from Taiwan. Over the next 2,500 years, the Austronesian migrants spread over to Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Borneo, Indonesia, peninsular Malaysia, central Vietnam, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, reaching as far as Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa and Easter Island off the western coast of Chile in South America. It was the widest migration of people by sea in the history of mankind.

Before the sea-faring Austronesians arrived in the Philippines 3,000 years ago, the Philippines was inhabited by Aetas, who came to the Philippines in an earlier wave of migrations from the Asian mainland, possibly through land bridges. The ancient migrations of peoples were driven by climate change and other natural calamities, not by conquest to subjugate a native population. These ancient migrations were not state sponsored as was the colonization and plunder by the Old-World nations of the Americas, Africa, Oceana and Asia starting in the Age of Discovery in the 15th century. We do not consider as the First Nation those who migrated to the Philippines more than 3,000 years ago because of natural phenomena.

Historically, there is no First Nation in the Philippines. Any attempt to designate a group of people in the Philippines as the First Nation is historically baseless and a fraud on the rest of the Filipino nation. Such designation is divisive and will only create conflict within the same Filipino race.

Second divisive idea: Indigenous people

The second Idea that Divides the Nation is the legal concept of indigenous people under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 or the IPRA Law. Under the IPRA Law, Filipinos who are Christians, and those who have adopted Western customs and practices, constituting the vast majority of Filipinos, are not indigenous people of the Philippines. As a legal, social, and historical concept, indigenous people are the First People or the Native People, inhabiting a territory from the beginning, in contrast to those who settled in, occupied or colonized the territory later. If the Christian Filipinos like me, and almost all of you here, are not indigenous to the Philippines, where did we come – from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, America, or Mars?

“The IPRA Law discriminates against the majority of native Filipinos on the basis of religion, language, customs, and traditions. The worst injustice is that the majority of native Filipinos like you and me are no longer considered indigenous people of the Philippines.”
We are definitely not Europeans, Middle Eastern, Africans, or native Americans. We certainly are not Martians. We are, of course, beyond any shadow of doubt, indigenous to the Philippines. We have the same DNA, belonging to the same Malay race, as the non-Christian Lumads who are called indigenous people under the IPRA Law. The ancestors of Christians Filipinos were Lumads too before they converted to Christianity. Should their descendants now be designated by law non-indigenous to the Philippines just because their ancestors exercised their religious freedom upon the arrival of the Spaniards almost 500 years ago?

The fact that some native inhabitants of the Philippines embraced Christianity, Islam, or any other non-indigenous religion and adopted Western or Middle Eastern customs and practices did not, for sure, make them non-indigenous to the Philippines. But the IPRA Law disqualifies them from being called indigenous people. Under the IPRA Law, Filipino Muslims are also not indigenous people.

The IPRA Law discriminates against the majority of native Filipinos on the basis of religion, language, customs, and traditions. The worst injustice is that the majority of native Filipinos like you and me are no longer considered indigenous people of the Philippines. Under the IPRA Law, we are non-indigenous, meaning, we are alien settlers, occupiers, or colonizers in our own country. This is historically false, divisive, and should never form part of our legal system.

Third divisive idea: Right to self-determination

The 3rd Idea that Divides the Nation is the proposition, found in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL now pending before Congress, that the BBL represents the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people to their right to self-determination. The right to self-determination, a recognized principle in international law, has two meanings, depending on the socio-political environment where it is used. First, the right to self-determination can mean the right of an ethnic minority to self-governance within a single indivisible state. This meaning is consistent with our Constitution. Second, the right to self-determination can also mean the right to secession or independence from a state. This meaning is anathema to the Constitution and must not be allowed to be grafted into our legal system.

There is an absolute need to clarify that the right to self-determination proposed to be embodied in the BBL is the right to self-governance within a single Philippine state. There should be no ambiguity whatsoever about this. If there is no clarification, or if there is even a shadow of doubt, then the right to self-determination can be interpreted in the light of the long history of secessionist movements among the Muslim communities in Southern Philippines. That would mean that the right to self-determination is the right to secede. This will result in the dismemberment of the Republic, a prospect too horrendous to contemplate.

I once asked a Spanish judge why the Catalonia autonomous region in Spain held a referendum on whether or not Catalonia should secede from Spain. The Spanish judge replied that the Spanish Constitution is silent on whether the autonomous regions can secede or not. The central government in Madrid interprets the silence as prohibition to secede, while Catalonia interprets the silence as non-prohibition to secede. The Spanish judge then gave a very sound advice: be sure that in your law granting autonomy to any region, there is a clear and categorical prohibition to secede, including a clear and categorical prohibition to hold any referendum on secession. Thus, we cannot incorporate into our legal system, through silence, negligence, or ignorance, the utterly divisive idea of the right to secede in the BBL.

Fourth divisive idea: Enforcing the arbitral ruling means war

The 4th, and my last example of an Idea that Divides the Nation, is the Duterte administration’s foreign policy in the West Philippine Sea which can be summarized in this way: if we seek to enforce the arbitral ruling, China will go to war against the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that he was “setting aside” the arbitral ruling by an UNCLOS arbitral tribunal that declared without legal effect China’s notorious nine-dashed line in the South China Sea. The arbitral tribunal held that the Philippines has a full 200 NM Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, a maritime area larger than the total land area of the Philippines. By any yardstick, the landmark ruling was an overwhelming victory for the Philippines and the Filipino people.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte has opted not to enforce the ruling in order to secure loans and investments from China, even as China continues to relentlessly encroach on Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea. We all know that the fish, oil, gas, and other mineral resources in our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea are worth far more than whatever loans and investments that can come from China. Besides, the country’s national territory and maritime zones, involving sovereignty and sovereign rights, are beyond any monetary value.

The President has warned the Filipino people that China will go to war, resulting in a massacre of Filipino soldiers, if the Philippines insists on enforcing the arbitral ruling, as if war is the only means of enforcing the ruling. The President has declared that there are only two options for the Philippines: either we talk to China or go to war with China. There are, of course, other options. There are many peaceful means of enforcing the ruling. Let me mention some of these peaceful means of enforcing the ruling.

“[S]eeking arbitration is never a hostile act. The UN Charter expressly recognizes arbitration as a peaceful means of settling disputes between states.”
First, since the ruling recognized our full Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea, we can file an extended continental shelf claim beyond our Exclusive Economic Zone off the coast of Luzon. This is similar to our extended continental shelf claim in Benham Rise in the Philippine Sea. The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which approves applications for an extended continental shelf, will of course recognize the arbitral ruling issued by a tribunal created under UNCLOS, the same Convention that created the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In filing our extended continental shelf claim off the coast of Luzon, China will not even be a respondent or defendant.

Second, we can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Vietnam over our overlapping extended continental shelves beyond the Spratlys. Vietnam has already proposed that we sign such a sea boundary agreement. Likewise, we can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Malaysia over our overlapping EEZs between Borneo and Palawan. We can enter into these sea boundary agreements because the arbitral tribunal ruled that there is no geologic feature in the Spratlys that can generate an exclusive economic zone. These sea boundary agreements apply the arbitral ruling by state practice, thus reinforcing the ruling. In these sea boundary agreements, China will not even be a party.

Third, we can send our survey ships to Reed Bank, and if they are turned back by Chinese coast guard vessels, we can bring the matter in a new arbitration case under UNCLOS. We can demand damages from China for preventing us from exploiting the Reed Bank which has been declared in the arbitral ruling as part of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines.

Fourth, we can file another arbitration case against China for preventing our fishermen from fishing within the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, in violation of the arbitral ruling that Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese fishermen can fish in the territorial waters of Scarborough Shoal. We can include in this new arbitration the continuing destruction by Chinese fishermen of the coral reef system in Scarborough Shoal. We can ask the arbitral tribunal to award damages to our fishermen for the economic losses they have suffered due to the Chinese actions.

Again, these are just some of the peaceful and legal means of enforcing the arbitral ruling. In particular, seeking arbitration is never a hostile act. The UN Charter expressly recognizes arbitration as a peaceful means of settling disputes between states.

Not a single, right-thinking Filipino asserting our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea has called for war against China. It is utterly false to claim that war with China is the necessary consequence of asserting our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. War as a means of enforcing the arbitral ruling is simply a preposterous idea.

Our Constitution prohibits resort to war to enforce the arbitral ruling. The Constitution expressly mandates that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy. The UN Charter has expressly outlawed war as a means of settling disputes between states. If we declare war against China to enforce the arbitral ruling, we will surely be condemned by all members of the United Nations and even severely sanctioned by the UN Security Council for violating international law and the UN Charter. If the Philippines goes to war, the obvious outcome will be the Philippines fighting not only China, but also the rest of the world. The Philippines will be a pariah in the community of civilized nations.

Under our Constitution, Congress has the sole power to declare war by two-thirds vote of the House and Senate voting separately. I have not heard a single congressman or senator calling for war against China to enforce the arbitral ruling. Besides, we all know that if we go to war against China, we will surely lose and lose badly. Obviously, only a fool will resort to war against China to enforce the arbitral ruling.

War is not an option and has never been an option. That is why when China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, we did not send the Philippine marines to retake the shoal. We sent our lawyers to The Hague to invalidate China’s nine-dashed line claim under international law. And we won an overwhelming victory. Therefore, we should continue resorting to international law to enforce our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. We should never waiver in enforcing the arbitral ruling in accordance with international law.

“The idea that war is the only means of enforcing the arbitral ruling, or that war is a necessary consequence of enforcing the ruling, is nonsensical, impractical, illegal, divisive and even laughable. Unfortunately, the laugh is on the Filipino nation.”

We all know that China is the only state that has seized Philippine territory and maritime zones. China is the only state that is actually a threat to the territorial sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines. That is why our China policy – our response to the Chinese threat in the West Philippine Sea – must not divide the Filipino nation. The nation must be united in defending Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea against China. When a nation is facing an unjust and unlawful aggression from a foreign state, the leaders of the nation must unite the people in the defense of the state. What our national leaders should never do is to mindlessly divide the nation, like claiming that there will be war if we seek to enforce the arbitral ruling.

My dear graduates, we must all be steadfast in fighting Ideas that Divide the Nation for a divided nation cannot focus on national development, and worse, a divided nation is a weakened nation in defending national territory and maritime zones. We must always be on guard and resist any and all attempts to weaken the nation in defending our national territory and maritime zones. Every Filipino citizen, whether in government or in the private sector, whether holding the highest or lowest position, has a solemn civic duty to preserve, protect, and defend what belongs to the Filipino people. We owe this duty to the present and future generations of Filipinos.

Thank you and once again, congratulations to the graduates. –


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Above: China’s stealth fighter


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See also:

Understanding China’s perpetual wars against its neighbours.


President Duterte walks with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano during the 120th anniversary of the Departmernt of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City.

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Christians Throw The Book At Trump on Immigration — “God’s law trumps man’s law.”

June 16, 2018
Cardinal Dolan slams Trump immigration crackdown as ‘unbiblical’

Franklin Graham hosting rallies in California urging Christians to vote

May 28, 2018

Evangelist leader and vocal President Trump supporter Franklin Graham is currently on tour in California to urge Christians to vote in the upcoming primary as part of an attempt to combat progressive policy in the state, The New York Times reported.

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The Hill

Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, is taking a three-bus caravan up the middle of California, which is home to some of the most contested elections this year.

He plans to hold 10 rallies to urge evangelicals to vote, the Times reported. His tour will end on June 5, the day of the primary.

“The church just has to be wakened,” he told the Times. “People say, what goes in California is the way the rest of the nation is going to go. So, if we want to see changes, it is going to have to be done here.”

Graham said that his tour is for Jesus and for supporting candidates that advance the social conservative causes — such as opposition to abortion and gay marriage — many evangelicals want.

“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless,” Graham told a group of supporters, according to the Times.

He added that it was time for churches to “suck it up” and vote, according to the Times.

Graham sees an opportunity to bring out the evangelical vote in California. The nation’s largest state has more megachurches than any other state and one in five of its residents are evangelical Christians, the Times noted. But in 2016, only 13 percent of California voters were white born-again Christians, compared to 26 percent nationwide.

Graham said that “all of California is like a university town now” but noted that there are enclaves in the state that signal change could be coming.

“But you are beginning to see a groundswell of revolt out here. Orange County, San Diego County, are beginning to take on Governor Brown. It’s good for Christians to capitalize on that. So yeah, we could help turn the tide,” he told the Times, referring to counties challenging the governor’s “sanctuary state” policies opposing immigration restrictions.

Most experts doubt that Republicans can win additional statewide offices in the traditionally blue state, and the GOP is vulnerable in seven districts that elected Republicans to Congress while supporting Hillary Clinton.



The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California

As the primary approaches, Franklin Graham brings Jesus — and a conservative political message — to a state with a vast pool of evangelical voters.

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Franklin Graham wants Christians to run for city council seats, mayor and every level of government to help effect change in California. Credit Rozette Rago for The New York Times

PASADENA, Calif. — Franklin Graham stood in a packed locker room at the Rose Bowl, surrounded by fellow evangelists, pastors, and his top Los Angeles donors. It was two weeks before the California primary, and Mr. Graham was urging them to take a stand against their state’s “blue wall.”

The blue wall of California, Mr. Graham told the gathering, represents secular values that have taken root on the country’s west coast.

“Progressive?” he went on, “That’s just another word for godless.” Now is the time for churches to “suck it up” and vote.

“We’re tired of being stepped on,” Felix Martin del Campo, a board member of Samaritan’s Purse, Mr. Graham’s international humanitarian organization, said in an interview as the meeting ended and worship music played. “Only as we change the heart of the people of California can California go red again.”

Read more:


‘We are absolutely in a new culture war’: ‘Religious freedom’ next on the Liberal agenda — “Our freedoms can no longer be taken for granted.”

May 27, 2018

On Monday night, former deputy prime minister John Anderson delivered a rousing and ominous speech to a gathering of religious educators in Parliament House. With a gusto more suited to the Great Hall in which the Christian Schools Australia gala dinner normally takes place, Anderson dared speak the name of a spectre which is often invoked but rarely acknowledged: the culture war.

“We’re living in the age of enormous cultural disharmony, I put it to you,” he told his audience of principals, lobbyists and MPs. There was a “battle in our culture” between a classic version of freedom and the “latter day, politically correct” incarnation, he said, and “they can’t both win”.

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Illustration: Matt Golding

Hubris had replaced modesty in Australia, Anderson lamented. “The dominant cultural ethos seems to have changed enormously … there’s an enormous smugness now in the public debate and an enormous price to pay if you dare to disagree.”

By Michael Koziol
The Sydney Morning Herald

The 61-year-old served for six years as deputy PM to John Howard, another culture warrior whose lasting impact on Australia is still maligned by progressives. And Anderson, like Howard, invests great hope that a forthcoming review of religious freedom headed by their former cabinet colleague Philip Ruddock will mark a turning point in what they regard as a war that is being lost to the left.

The review was a consolation prize for conservative MPs bitter about the legalisation of same-sex marriage and concerned – at least ostensibly – about the impact on religious practice and belief. But others are suspicious of the “religious freedom” mantra, arguing the law already grants too much power to churches to hire and fire on personal grounds. They fear an attempt to break down and override anti-discrimination laws.

Ruddock’s report has been handed to Malcolm Turnbull and his Attorney-General, Christian Porter. We don’t yet know what it says, but it will not be entirely toothless: it will recommend changes to the law. It also won’t be revolutionary. We know this because Ruddock has said he believes religious freedom is already well-protected in this country, and almost everyone agrees with that.

Despite this, the issue of religious freedom has proven to be a rallying cry for conservatives in the Liberal Party, underpinned by future leadership ambitions. Treasurer Scott Morrison, a committed Christian, led the charge last year for the same-sex marriage bill to give ground to faith demands. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton pushed to delay the debate until this year, and won. He was out of the blocks last week, the day the review was handed to the Prime Minister, calling for religious schools to keep their rights to hire staff and teach the curriculum in accordance with their values.

These rights are already enjoyed. And when you talk to conservative Liberals about what they want from this review, you start to understand it is not about change but protecting the status quo from assault by the left and state governments.

Assistant Home Affairs Minister Alex Hawke, who watched Anderson’s speech at Monday’s sit-down dinner, is refreshingly honest when he tells Fairfax Media that Australia is “absolutely” in the middle of “a new culture war”.

“The Labor Party is pursuing a militant secularist agenda,” Hawke says. “It’s a fundamental shift in Australian politics and we’re struggling to catch up on the conservative side. We’re really behind the eight ball now.”

Hawke says the religious freedom review will “spell out how we can move forward”. “We’re all waiting for the review but we do want to see at a federal level that when the states use anti-discrimination law to overstep the mark that they’re unable to restrict people’s rights in this space.”

The Turnbull government is no stranger to a culture war. Even after Tony Abbott abandoned plans to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, Turnbull tried again, but was stymied by the Senate. Conservatives were granted a review of the contentious Safe Schools program, designed to address bullying of LGBTI students but maligned by culture warriors as Marxism-by-stealth. There is the ongoing attack on councils, which take a different view on Australia Day. Even the budget fired a shot in the battle by cutting $84 million from the ABC while allocating $50 million for a commemoration of Captain Cook’s landing.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, a rising-star conservative who could be described as one of the Liberal Party’s newer cultural warriors, plays down talk of an internal fissure over religious freedom.

John Anderson, Alex Hawke, Michael Sukkar, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Philip Ruddock.
John Anderson, Alex Hawke, Michael Sukkar, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Philip Ruddock.Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“I can’t really see there being that much daylight between most Liberals on freedom,” he tells Fairfax Media. “Basically we all agree on the importance of religious freedom, the question is how you do it.

“We don’t want anyone to suffer a detriment by virtue of religious observance or a traditional view on marriage. That includes institutions like schools having all of the rights that they currently have, and parents having control over what their children are taught. Basically, enshrining the freedoms we have always enjoyed.”

That’s the sort of talk that makes Luke Beck, an associate professor of constitutional law at Monash University, wonder why we ever had the $1 million Ruddock review in the first place. “What exactly is it that these fringe religious groups want to do that they’re not currently allowed to do?” he asks. “I can’t really think of anything.”

But Beck – who specialises in the separation of church and state – does see value in a new national protection from discrimination for religion. While this is already granted in most states, there are gaps in the law in NSW and South Australia.

“Technically if you’re at a cafe in NSW you could say ‘we don’t serve coffee to Muslims’,” says Beck. “It’s a gap that needs filling. But I’m not sure there are many cases of this happening.”

Patrick Parkinson, a law professor at the University of Sydney, approaches the issue from directly the opposite position as Beck. He lobbies MPs from both major parties on behalf of Freedom for Faith, a Christian legal think tank. His comments about the Ruddock review at a conference this week intrigued and irked secularists.

“I have been kept closely in touch with the Ruddock inquiry,” he said, according to the Eternity News. “I have been kept informed by the Prime Minister’s office and we have been making progress. It is a glass-half-full situation. Will we get all that we would like? No.”

Parkinson did not want to expand on those remarks. But he did assert the aftermath of the Ruddock review would not amount to a “grand final rematch” of the fight over same-sex marriage – that fight was over. But the marriage debate “was to some extent a proxy for a much wider range of fears and concerns about freedom of conscience, thought and belief”, he said.

“Values about marriage and family life are just a subset of a broader set of beliefs and values,” Parkinson said. “People are deeply concerned in part because of what they hear about in other Western nations in which freedoms can no longer be taken for granted.”

Indonesia president says attacks on churches ‘barbaric’ — Islamic State claims responsibility

May 13, 2018

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Sunday that suicide attacks by suspected Islamist militants on three churches in the country’s second-biggest city of Surabaya were “barbaric” and ordered police to track down the perpertrators.


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Indonesia President Joko Widodo (R) visits the burned church location at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya (GPPS), in Surabaya, Indonesia May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

At a news briefing alongside Police Chief Tito Karnavian, Widodo said that in one of the attacks, two children had been used in the bombing.

Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze following a blast at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya (GPPS), in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Photo: Handout Surabaya Government via REUTERS

“I have instructed police to look into and break up networks of perpetrators,” said Widodo.

Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Lincoln Feast


Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bomb attacks on three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya on Sunday that has killed 11 people, the Islamist militant group’s Amaq news agency said, without providing any evidence.

“Three martyrdom attacks inflicts at least 11 deaths and 41 injuries of the churches’ guards and Christians in the city of Surabaya in East Java province in Indonesia,” the agency said in a statement that gave no further details.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi)