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Gavle Goat

o-GAVLE-570Gavle Goat Hopes To Survive Fire In Christmas 2013 As Swedish Town Protects Giant Straw ‘Gävlebocken’ From Arson

By Yasmine Hafiz –  Huffpost
Posted: 12/04/2013 7:21 am EST

Since the enormous straw caprine, or ” Gävlebocken,” was erected in the town’s main square in 1966, it’s been subject to the attacks of vandals who try to burn it to the ground and often succeed. In fact, it’s been torched by arsonists on more occasions than it has actually survived the season.

The goat itself is a social creature that updates the world on its life via Twitter, Instagram, and Blogspot in both English and Swedish.

Last year, the goat only lasted until December 12th, before it went up in flames.

But this year, town officials are confident that the goat won’t burn, due to the anti-flammable liquid that they’ve soaked the hay with, reports The Local.

It was officially opened to the public on Sunday, Nov. 30, amidst much fanfare in the Castle Square. The Gavle goat is an enormous version of a Yule goat, one of Scandinavia and Northern Europe’s oldest traditions.

Fast goat facts:

Weight: 3.6 tonnes
Height (horns): 13 metres
Withers hight: 7,6 metres
Length: 7 metres
The straw is delivered by Mackmyra Swedish Whisky.

In past years, the goat has been subject to a foiled helicopter kidnapping attempt, and an arson gang that tattooed themselves with images of the burned Gavlebocken.

Gavlebocken says it’s optimistic about this year, however.

Gävlebocken @Gavlebocken
Gävlebocken
@goatwatcher Yes! I am planning to celebrate Christmas and New Year with all my friends! Feeling safe this year!

We wish it all the best.

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who is this idiot, Rush Limbaugh?

Rush Limbaugh vs. Pope Francis: Talk Show Host Attacks ‘Pure Marxism’ Of ‘Evangelii Gaudium’

Posted: 12/02/2013 4:11 pm EST

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Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh slammed Pope Francis’ stance on social justice in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” calling the document “pure Marxism” on his show.

Limbaugh went viciously on the attack with the show, titled, “It’s Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It’s a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists).” He began:

You know, the pope, Pope Francis — this is astounding — has issued an official papal proclamation, and it’s sad. It’s actually unbelievable. The pope has written, in part, about the utter evils of capitalism. And I have to tell you, I’ve got parts of it here I can share with you. It’s sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth. Wait ’til you hear it.

Though “Evangelii Gaudium” has been lauded by many for its sharp stand for social justice, equality, and economic equity, Limbaugh expressed his disagreements with it, commenting:

Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny’ and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. … In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the ‘idolatry of money.'”
I gotta be very careful. I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn’t exist without tons of money. But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn’t exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States. Unfettered, unregulated.

Limbaugh continued to proclaim the evils of socialism and the benefits of capitalism, supporting the “trickle-down” economic policies that the Pope has criticized.

He confessed himself “bewildered” by the Pope’s statements, as he claimed that:

The Catholic Church, the American Catholic Church has an annual budget of $170 billion. I think that’s more than General Electric earns every year. And the Catholic Church of America is the largest landholder in Manhattan. I mean, they have a lot of money. They raise a lot of money. They wouldn’t be able to reach out the way they do without a lot of money.

“Evangelii Gaudium” called unfettered capitalism “a new tyranny” and urged global leaders to fight poverty. Pope Francis built on earlier remarks about the evils of the “idolatry of money,” and the importance of guaranteeing all citizens “dignified work, education, and healthcare.”

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Olympics

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has met a large delegation of Olympic leaders, and used the occasion to issue a warning over the commercialization of athletes.

Francis told several hundred members of the European Olympic Committees that when sport “is considered only in economic terms and consequently for victory at every cost … it risks reducing athletes to mere trading material from whom profits are extracted.”

The pope added that “sport is harmony but if money and success prevail as the aim this harmony crumbles.”

It was the second straight day that sports was high on the pope’s agenda. On Friday, he met with IOC president Thomas Bach, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the rugby teams of Italy and Argentina.

Francis concluded Saturday by blessing “everyone who will take part in the next Olympic Games.”
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Evangelicals In Brazil Rise In Power With Consequences For Catholics, Gays

(Reuters) – When televangelist Silas Malafaia gathered 40,000 followers outside Brazil’s Congress this week, it wasn’t just to raise their arms to the sky and praise the Lord.

The rally was a show of support for lawmakers who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage and a message to other politicians that they should not ignore Brazil’s fast-growing evangelical churches if they want to stay in office.

“Gay activism is moral garbage,” Malafaia roared into the microphone to a cheering crowd on the grassy esplanade of the Brazilian capital. “Satan will not destroy our family values.”

The rise of evangelical Christians as a conservative political force in Latin America’s largest nation has put the ruling Workers’ Party on guard and led President Dilma Rousseff – who is seeking re-election in 2014 – to appoint an evangelical bishop to her cabinet.

The growing clout of evangelical churches is also bringing social and moral issues such as abortion to the center of the national agenda, some say at the expense of political and economic reforms needed to restore robust growth to the world’s seventh-largest economy.

Pentecostalism was introduced to Latin America by U.S. missionaries a century ago and has gained masses of followers in recent decades in countries like Brazil, especially among the urban poor who feel neglected by the dominant Catholic Church.

With their vibrant preaching, emotional prayer and singing, evangelical Protestant churches appeal to Brazilians more than the liturgical masses of the Catholic Church. They also use electronic and social media more effectively to proselytize.

EXODUS

Many Brazilians who join evangelical congregations say their new religion has brought meaning to their lives, that they no longer identified with the Catholic Church.

Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation and Pope Francis will travel to Rio de Janeiro next month on his first trip abroad as pontiff, in part to try to reverse the exodus away from Catholicism.

The Catholic Church is losing followers across Latin America – even among Hispanics in the United States – and opinion polls in Brazil point to the Church’s strict positions on sex and divorce as contributing factors.

A Datafolha survey in March found 58 percent of Brazilians believe the Catholic Church should accept divorce and 83 percent believe the use of condoms should be allowed, two issues where the Vatican has refused to budge and evangelical churches are more flexible, allowing followers to decide for themselves.

One in four Brazilians is an evangelical Christian today and their churches have multiplied and become wealthy institutions that own radio and television networks, finance political campaigns and even fund their own political parties.

While Catholic priests are banned from running for public office, evangelical churches actively encourage their pastors to engage in politics and often use the pulpit to persuade their followers who they should vote for.

“Today there are 44 million mainly Pentecostal evangelicals in Brazil, which is a large social force. Obviously, this was going to change things in Congress,” said Fernando Altemeyer, a former Catholic priest who teaches theology at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo.

In the last national election in 2010, evangelicals increased their presence in Congress by 50 percent and now have 68 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and three in the Senate. Though belonging to a dozen different parties, evangelicals have begun to act as a caucus in Brazil’s fragmented legislature where only the farm lobby tends to speak with one voice.

ANTI-GAY PREACHER

The evangelical presence in Congress has been very much in the public spotlight since one of its members, a conservative preacher known for his racist and anti-gay statements, was named chairman of the chamber’s Human Rights and Minorities Committee.

Pastor Marcos Feliciano, of the Social Christian Party, once stated that John Lennon’s murder was divine retribution for saying the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ.

The committee’s sessions have been disrupted almost daily by demonstrators demanding Feliciano’s ouster. He has ordered guards to remove the protesters and closed the committee to the public. Congressmen from Rousseff’s Workers’ Party walked out, saying he was unfit to be chairman.

His backers say the longer the controversy lasts, the more votes evangelical candidates will get in the next election because he is defending traditional family values.

“He got 200,000 votes in the last election. Well, he won’t get less than 500,000 next time,” Malafaia said in an interview before his rally in Brasilia on Wednesday. “He’s on a roll.”

“The Workers’ Party is going to suffer in the next election because of the evangelical vote,” Malafaia predicted.

Rousseff has every reason to worry. In 2010, evangelical voters helped force the election to a runoff after abortion became a big issue late in the campaign and many votes went to her Green Party rival, Marina Silva, an evangelical Christian.

Last year, Rousseff named evangelical bishop Marcelo Crivella as her fisheries minister, even though he admitted publicly he knew little about fishing. Crivella is nephew of Edir Macedo, founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Bishop Macedo, a billionaire who owns the TV Record network, has 5 million followers and is a hugely influential power broker in Brazil.

“Rousseff is not going to do anything that would alienate the evangelicals,” said David Fleischer, political science professor at the University of Brasilia. “No candidate in their right mind would do that.”

(Editing by Kieran Murray and Eric Walsh)

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June 10, 2013 · 17:37

Southern Baptists Meet In Houston Amidst Declining Influence On Religious Freedom, Politics, Gay Rights

TRAVIS LOLLER  06/09/13 02:50 PM ET EDT AP

 Southern Baptist Politics
  
Logo of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Logo of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A decade ago, the Southern Baptist Convention was riding high.

The president of the United States was a conservative evangelical Christian who personally addressed the group’s annual meetings, either by satellite or video, at least four times in two terms, and SBC leaders were feeling their influence at the highest levels of government.

Ten years later, as members prepare for their 2013 annual meeting in Houston on Tuesday, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination finds itself in flux: It has less influence in government and a growing diversity that may be diminishing its role as a partisan political player. And some Southern Baptists are beginning to cry foul at what they see as discrimination by gays and liberals that violates their religious liberty.

“For 100 years the Southern Baptists have been the dominating religious entity of the South,” said David W. Key Sr., director of Baptist Studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and a Southern Baptist. “Now they are starting to feel religious victimhood. … In many ways, Baptists introduced pluralism to America. Now they are feeling like victims of that pluralism.”

A resolution passed at last year’s SBC meeting titled “On Protecting Religious Liberty” cites several issues of concern: They include the Obama administration’s mandate requiring religiously affiliated institutions (but not houses of worship) to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees; government defense of gay marriage; and the acceptance of gay service members in the U.S. military.

Russell Moore, the incoming president of the Nashville-based SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he would be very surprised if there was not at least one resolution on religious liberty introduced at this year’s annual meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The government is overstepping its bounds in breathtaking ways,” Moore said in an interview. “The audacity of state challenges to religious freedom would have been unbelievable just a few years ago. A warning about some of these threats would have been dismissed as slippery-slope scare tactics.”

Recently, some Southern Baptists thought their worst fears were realized when military chaplains trying to access the Southern Baptist website came across a warning that it was unavailable due to “hostile content.” As it turned out, that referred to malicious software, not the ideological content.

“I think the reason why these incidents were taken seriously is because there are so many threats to religious liberty in the U.S. military right now,” Moore said.

He cited a recent statement from the Department of Defense that troops and chaplains are free to engage in evangelism, but not proselytizing, a distinction Moore called “artificial and confusing.”

“We need a clear definition (of proselytizing) that protects free-speech and free-expression rights,” Moore said.

Probably no issue more starkly reflects the Southern Baptists’ recent struggles than the growing mainstream acceptance of homosexuality.

“Ten years ago they were passing constitutional amendments against gay marriage. Now they are watching states approve gay marriage and they have no control over it,” Emory’s Key said.

Even the Boy Scouts have voted to allow gay members, despite dire warnings from SBC leaders that such a move would be a disaster for an organization with numerous troops sponsored by Southern Baptist churches.

Jonathan Merritt, a faith and culture writer whose father is a former SBC president, remembers watching President George W. Bush address the convention and receive a standing ovation.

“It’s very clear the Southern Baptist Convention has lost the cultural cachet it had even 10 years ago,” he said.

Today, the U.S. president is a liberal Christian whom many Southern Baptists opposed despite his opponent being Mormon, a religion many Southern Baptists don’t consider to be Christian.

Merritt sees the SBC’s declining role in divisive partisan politics as an opportunity to expand its focus to a broader array of issues, something that he says is already happening.

Richard Land, the outgoing President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, felt so strongly against Obama, that he broke a long-standing personal pledge last year and endorsed Mitt Romney for president. But incoming President Moore, while politically conservative, is widely considered to be a less polarizing figure than Land.

Merritt noted that the SBC recently has taken more progressive stances on immigration and social justice issues like caring for the poor and vulnerable, including orphans, and Moore has been part of that change.

Also, a recent push within the SBC to expand its ethnic membership has brought political diversity to Southern Baptist churches, Merritt said.

“For a long time the SBC has been a predominantly white denomination with a focus on issues of concern to predominantly white conservative evangelicals,” he said. “The question now is whether the SBC will be able to speak to the diversity of issues important to the diversity of people within the SBC.”

Last year, the SBC for the first time elected an African-American president. The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. did not publicly announce whether he supported Romney or Obama, leaving open the possibility that the leader of a denomination often viewed as closely aligned with the Republican party could have voted for a Democrat.

“This is the first time in 30 years that we don’t know who our president voted for,” Key said.

___

Online:

Southern Baptist Convention: http://www.sbc.net/

2013 annual meeting: http://www.sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc13/

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The Mitzvah of Shofar

Calling Out to Our True Selves: A Hasidic Meditation on the Mitzvah of Shofar

Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), was a mystic and spiritual teacher who lived in the 18th century Eastern Europe and founded the Hasidic movement in Judaism. According to Hasidic teachings, a Jewish spiritual practice is a mitzvah, an opportunity for the soul to connect to the Divine. Rosh Hashanah is associated with the mitzvah of sounding the Shofar (traditionally a ram’s horn) to wake the soul from its spiritual slumber and during Elul (the month preceding Rosh Hashanah). It is customary to sound the Shofar every day during morning prayers to prepare for the Jewish New Year.

Elul is a time for Teshuva, which is usually translated as “atonement” but is more accurately translated according to the root of this word: “to return.” Teshuva is the process of returning to ones true self. The Jewish spiritual practice of sounding the Shofar is not just an event happening on the outside, it is also an inner event happening within the soul. The psychological and spiritual disposition, the intention of the person engaging in the mitzvah deeply effects the experience of the mitzvah. The following is my interpretation of a story told by the Baal Shem Tov, to describe the inner state associated with sounding the Shofar:

There was once a great King whose vast realm spanned many lands. The King was good, wise and kind. He knew that the throne was given to him in order to serve his people and that his power came from a Higher source and he dedicated his life to stewarding and building a healthy kingdom. The King had a son, a prince whom he loved very much. The Prince lived in the royal castle with his family and his days were spent studying, practicing arts that would prepare him to govern and learning about people so he could serve them. The Prince was taught that, although he was a prince, he was not here just to live for himself, and that he was part of a great tapestry of life — that he was bound together by invisible threads to all the other people and beings that made up this tapestry and was here to be of service this great whole.  He learned that human beings should be treated with the utmost respect, that life was sacred and how each of his actions were important.  How easy it was to destroy and how hard it was to build. He was schooled to not let the reasons for his actions come from outside himself but from within, not to react but to choose and most importantly to love his fellow as himself. He learned these and many other things and the life of the Prince was very glad.

Then one day his father, the King, told him he must go to a small town very far from the castle, to a place so far away that most people did not even know that there was a King. He was told to live with and learn about the people there. It pained the heart of the Prince to leave his father, family and everything he loved, but he trusted his father and so he departed on his mission. He journeyed across the land to the edge of his fathers realm and entered into the town. Although he was wearing the royal garb of the castle, none of the people in the town recognized him for who he was. The Prince made his way to the town market and his eyes beheld new sites that worried him. The people of this town did not conduct themselves like those who inhabited the castle and its surrounding lands.

The people of this place were pushing and shoving each other. Yelling at each other, rather than speaking to each other. He saw people lying in the street and others walking by them or over them as if they weren’t there. He saw many people looking down and ignoring each other. Without saying it they seemed to say that to be alive was a burden, that other people were burdens, simply mouths to feed. He began to walk through the market scanning the faces of the crowd, and he saw that people in this town had forgotten that they were good, that life was a gift, that there was a King and that their actions mattered.

The Prince yearned to return to the castle but was bound to his fathers will to  find work and lodgings and to live among them and so he did. At first life in this town was painful, the smells of sweat, animals and other odors offended him and made it hard for him to breathe.  It was also hard to be in the company of others and to see how they spoke to each other. They even spoke to him in the same manner. Although he tried to reply courteously, eventually he felt within himself anger. It seemed as if people found something to be upset about even when there was nothing wrong and it grew harder to not react to the daily teasing, taunting and yelling that many people accepted as a part of life. Still he tried to set an example, by being kind to those around him and speaking about the importance of loving ones neighbor. He knew that there was a higher way of living, but most people did not listen or care and were more interested in going to the games and circuses that happened every night.

Slowly, the bad feeling in him grew and he constantly had a feeling of wanting to get away or lash out even though there was nowhere to go. The Prince started to doubt himself, to believe he was too small to withstand the darkness of the ignorance and suffering he saw all around him.  He tried to hold on to the lessons he learned in the castle, but he began to think that he was only being punished for his good deeds and that his kindness was for naught. The Prince’s heart grew closed and eventually he began to despair. He became cynical. It grew harder for him to care about anything, and he began to dislike people for no reason. The cruel behavior people had toward each other, and the self destructive actions that once repulsed him, he now took for granted and even laughed at.

Over time the Prince grew so used to being spoken at and yelled at, being treated as if he were some sort of object rather than a person, that eventually he forgot his thoughts and dreams, for in this town so far from the castle, the soul did not matter. He became coarse, numb to himself, and everything around him became a joke. It had been so long since he had been at the castle, so long since he had been in the presence of the King, that he forgot how to speak the language of the castle, forgot the wisdom he learned. His robes grew encrusted with dirt and stains, tears and patches, and now resembled the mud colored coarse rags everyone else around him wore. Many years past and his life as a prince receded so far in his memory that it was but a dim dream. His mind was focused mainly on day-to-day survival and distraction with no thoughts toward anything beyond.

Things stayed this way for a very long time until one morning the Prince saw a crowd gathering along the sides of main street of the town.  He asked a passerby what was happening he was told that the “King” was passing through the town and it was a special day. At first, the Prince, thought perhaps the “King” was another type of circus performer, and so he pushed close to the front of the crowd to get a better view. He saw something in the street he did not expect: uniformed soldiers with the the royal crest emblazoned on their coats. Then the eyes of the Prince went wide, and it was as if a horn blasted inside him, and his heart began to beat in his chest. The Prince, along with the rest of the crowd, stared at the proud soldiers marching in orderly lines and then following behind them came row upon row of royal Knights seated on great horses. Their silver armor gleamed in the sunlight and their bearing was regal and beautiful. Then into view came a golden carriage and in it sat a man whose being emanated love, kindness, justice and mercy — in it sat the King. It seemed as if an invisible light was radiating from the carriage, strengthening and healing all whom it touched and many of the eyes in the crowd began to tear though they knew not why.  All who saw him knew that this was the King. Something was happening to him, to everyone.

In the mind of the Prince a glimmer of remembrance awoke within him and he recalled that he was the son of the King and that something terrible had happened to him. That the King was real. Love was real. Goodness was real. Truth was real. That the reality of who he was, was so much more than the person he appeared to be, the coarse person he had been acting like. That he was the Prince! He was the son of the King! The Prince began to weep for how much he had lost, how much he had forgotten, and he knew that he so badly needed to speak to the King, to let the King see who he was and there in front of him was the carriage of the King. The Prince knew that at any moment he could lose this spark of truth and that he must do something. But the Prince could not speak for he did not have the words, the high speech of the castle long forgotten. Thus he could not call out to the  King, could not call out, “Father its me!” Nor could he approach the carriage slowly making its way past him, for he knew that guards would not recognize him for he no longer resembled who he once was, his face now hard, covered in dirt and lines of pain, and his clothing was the coarse, dirty, torn garments of the street folk.

shofarAll the Prince  wanted was to be next to his father the King, but the carriage was getting further and further away. It felt as if his heart were going to burst in his chest and suddenly out of his mouth, from the depths of his soul, came an involuntary cry, a loud piercing wail that shocked everyone in the crowd who heard it. Every inch of his being was screaming screaming wailing, wanting so badly to return to presence of his father of the King, to return to his true self, his original being. The crowd took a few steps back but ignored the screaming man pretending he was not there. The guards around the carriage tightened their grips on their spears, watching the man, alert for any danger.

Then the carriage of the King slowed to a halt, and at some unseen signal a guard approached the King. The guard turned his ear to the King and then looked at the man weeping in the crowd and his eyes lit up with a sudden knowing, and he turned and looked closer at the pitiful man still crying still wailing. The Prince looked toward the King with bright eyes on fire, with yearning and tears, and to the surprise of all gathered there, the guard walked from the carriage to the crying man dressed in rags, stood in front of him, saluted him and then gently grasped his arm and led him to the carriage. When the King heard the sound of the cry, he knew it was his son the Prince; the King remembered this cry from when the Prince was a baby, and that was a cry he would never forget. The Prince wept and felt the strong arms of his father, the King, embrace him and pull him into the carriage. The Prince and the King were reunited and there was great rejoicing in all of the land.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the sound of the Shofar is the sound of the Prince crying out to his father the King. It is the sound of our yearning to return to the Source of our true selves. The mitzvah of the Shofar is not about blowing a horn; it is a ritual for self realization. Rosh Hashanah is known as a day of crowning Hashem as King, a Day of Remembrance and a Day of Shofar sounding. May Hashem bless us that this Rosh Hashanah when we hear the Shofar, we remember who we are, we return to our true Source, that we reclaim our identity as children of the Divine and be written into the Book of Life.

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