Joining up the dots – of anti-semitism

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The violence against the Jews of France, which has escalated as feelings have boiled over against the war in Gaza, is shocking and terrifying.

A mob of mainly Muslim demonstrators in Paris, reportedly armed with knives, axes and iron bars and chanting “Death to the Jews,” tried on Sunday to storm the Don Isaac Abarvanel Synagogue within which nearly 200 congregants were praying for the safety of Israel.

The attackers were kept at bay by members of Jewish defense organizations. A French Jewish journalist said: “Thank God they were there, because the protesters had murder on their minds and it took awhile before police reinforcements arrived.”

The previous day, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a synagogue at Aulnay-sous-Bois, a Parisian suburb. At Asnieres, another suburb, the police said a Muslim mob of 300 gathered in front of the synagogue and shouted anti-Israel slogans. A firebomb was hurled at a synagogue in Belleville. A Middle Eastern man shot pepper spray at the face of a 17-year-old Jewish girl on a Paris street shouting: “Dirty Jewess, inshallah you will die.”

Muslim attacks on French Jews long predate the current hostilities in Gaza. Earlier this year, a 59-year-old Jew was beaten up on a Paris street by three North African men who screamed “Dirty Jew’ and scrawled a swastika on his chest.

In 2006, Ilan Halimi, a young Parisian Jew, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered. In 2012, a radicalized Muslim murdered a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Muslim attacks on Jews are spiraling across Europe. In May, four Jews were killed in an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels; the suspect, another radicalized French Muslim, was said by the Belgian state prosecutor to have confessed to the attack “against Jews.” In Sweden, Jews have been driven out of the city of Malmo by Muslim attacks, harassment and intimidation.

All this goes virtually unreported by mainstream Western media. Street protests are routinely described as “anti-Israel.”

Everyone is therefore missing the big story: the tsunami of anti-Jewish hatred rolling across Europe. In Paris and elsewhere, the always paper-thin “anti-Zionist but not anti-Jew” excuse has been stripped away.

“Death to the Jews” is the cry that resounds through the Middle East. Nazi images demonizing Jews pour out of the Arab and Muslim world. The Tsarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which alleged that the Jews formed a conspiracy to take over the world, is widely published and believed as historical fact. Iran’s leadership claims the Jews are trying to destroy Islam. Islamist ideologues from Syed Qutb to Osama bin Laden, Hamas and beyond have taught millions of Muslims that the Jews are behind all the ills of the world.

Palestinian society is suffused by this lunacy.

Palestinian Media Watch reports that the “moderate” Palestinian Authority presents Jews as inherently treacherous, corrupt, deceitful and unfaithful. Forgeries and fiction masquerading as history are used to document and support the libel that Judaism is in essence racist and evil. Jews are said to be planning and executing heinous crimes, including burning Palestinians in ovens, murder, using prisoners for Nazi-like experiments and more.

A few days ago, Yahya Rabah of the Fatah Leadership Committee in Gaza was but the latest Arab to recycle the medieval blood libel when he wrote in the official PA daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida that the “Jewish God” demands Jews offer sacrifices during Passover in the form of matza “made from the blood of our children.”

Last year, a PA TV show for children taught them that the devil and the Jews were on the same side. Earlier his month, Al-Hayat al-Jadida wrote that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “confirms the Talmud’s teachings, [according to which] killing others – the insects (gentiles) – is a good thing.”

It is astounding that neither the media nor any Western leader has sounded the alarm over this epidemic anti-Jewish madness in the Islamic world. But neither political nor cultural leaders want to join up the dots.

Partly this is due to the cultural confusion over “Islamophobia” and third world-ism. But mainly it is because anti-Semitism is now the prejudice that dare not speak its name. It’s the big one, the crime of crimes, the knockout blow. If the Muslim world is driven by anti-Semitism, all the excuses being used by Western leaders to appease that world and limit the push-back against it are invalidated.

It would mean it is being fueled by something which is utterly immune to reason or negotiation. So it would mean there could be no half-measures against it. It would have to be identified as a source of evil in the world and utterly defeated.

But of course, that hardly sits with the dominant Western narrative that says the Palestinians are entitled to a state and that Israel is to blame for the conflict. So the Jew-hatred pouring out of the Islamic world is simply ignored.

Worse, all those in the West who trumpet their progressive support for the “oppressed” Palestinians are thus tacitly supporting this frenzied anti-Semitism.

The Palestinian strategy is to efface Jewish history altogether: denying or destroying the historic evidence of the biblical Jewish Kingdom of Judea, obscuring the Jews’ unique right to settle what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza enshrined in treaty obligation in the 1920s by the international community, and inverting the Holocaust to claim that Israel is committing genocide. When London demonstrators and British intellectuals declare that Israelis are the new Nazis, colonizing land to which they have no historic connection and which they have stolen from the Palestinians, they make themselves accessories to an infernal creed which is inciting violence and murder against Jews.

Anti-Jewish hatred is not just directed against Israel and the Jews of Europe. It is fueling the Islamic war against the West. It is often said that the Jews are the “canary in the mine.”

Those who turn against the Jews in their own societies invariably deal a death blow to those societies themselves.

Written by Melanie Phillips

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Never Stop Chanting

The other day I told you about my 40th anniversary of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. Now here is an old friend of mine who has probably sung thousands more kirtans than myself, who has involved hundreds of thousands more people, and who tours the world introducing kirtan to countless people for the very first time. He never – ever – tires of sitting down with a small pair of cymbals and singing. To see the effect he has on others while he’s singing, have a look at this very short film:

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Farewell to the Rabbi

 

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I couldn’t let this week go by without saying a few words of appreciation for Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi who has just passed on, aged 89. I met him once, some years ago in London, and he was the father of a friend of my wife who is from Winnipeg, Canada.

My knowledge of him is sketchy, but I do know that he was a teacher of Judaism and brought invigoration to dispersed congregations around North America. Together with Arthur Waskow he created a movement of small groups known as Ruach Havura, whose practise of Judaic liturgy and ritual was creative, experimental – and apparently effective. Many people owe their renewed appreciation for the Jewish culture to his outreach.

After escaping the Nazi threat in 1941 he discovered a USA where Judaism was somewhat accommodated and on the decline. By singing in English, using theatre and alternative forms of presentation, he rekindled interest in spirituality and tradition but in a way that took modern thought and artistic expression into consideration.

When I read his book: “The First Steps” in which he described the key factors of Jewish belief and practise, I knew that he was someone who loved his tradition, but that wanted others to appreciate it too. It was no surprise to me to discover that he was also associated with the Lubavitcher tradition, since outreach is one of their key activities.

Interestingly for me, due to his influences in America and the counter-culture times, he started something called the Jewish Ashram, and was also very favourable to meditation, even chanting the Hare Krishna on occasion. Shalom.

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Soundtrack of my life

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Above: Wakey wakey campers! Reading Music Festival, 1976. After two years on tambourine, I had been promoted to chief drum-banger.

This year, on a sunny afternoon in August, I will be celebrating my 40th anniversary of kirtan. On the sunny afternoon of August 24th, 1974 I sat down with a group of Hare Krishna devotees and had my first ever kirtan experience. They’d camped up in a field and, like they do, let me sit with them and try to follow along with the words.There are only three words, so it wasn’t too hard to sing along, but you do have to remember to sing them in the right order.

At some point, just when I was becoming filled with all sorts of new feelings I couldn’t yet comprehend, someone handed me a tambourine.I’d been accepted, I felt, as part of the group and thought to myself: “I’m playing tambourine with the members of the Radha Krishna Temple – cool.” (Or whatever word like ‘cool’ was in vogue at the time)

So for the past 40 years I’ve been singing kirtan. I have to tell you something: it works. Yes, it doesn’t quite make sense, just repeating three words over and over again. And yes,it should have driven me to distraction by now. But it hasn’t. Quite the reverse.

In fact, kirtan has been the solace of my life, the undisputed mood-lifter, the peaceful sound and the sonic energizer – all at the same time. I have been in kirtans in fields and forests, up mountains, down streets on foot and up rivers in boats. I’ve sung kirtan on the telly, in the homes and halls of the great and good of the land, and ‘performed’ it at pop festivals. I’ve sung in the pouring rain and the scorching sun. Its been the soundtrack of my life and of many thousands who I’ve known.

 

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Cheer up Brazil, there’s more to life…

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The Great Vishnu, transcendentally situated in a place beyond winning and losing

Three weeks ago I was in Cologne, Germany. We were celebrating the 10th annual Hare Krishna chariot festival there. For four hours we sang and danced our way round the town in the sunshine while members of the team threw rose petals from the top of the wagon, and another handed out smoking sticks of incense. The locals loved it.

It was a Saturday, and the German football fans were getting ready to watch their national team play another game in the sun. Luckily the fans were happy enough to take part in our singing as our procession passed them, standing in groups or filling the pubs noisily to bursting point. They may not have been so accurate with their choice of lyrics to sing back at us, but they cheered us on.

Last night those fans would have been enjoying something close to religious ecstasy, with their 7-1 defeat of Brazil. And last night the Brazilians would have been feeling, no doubt, considerable pain of loss, as their national team passed into football history as losers of the greatest defeat of the World Cup. What an upset for such a footballing nation.

Yet although football is a religion for some, it does not contain all the ingredients that a religion does. Religion, ultimately, is to help us not to become too depressed in our sad moments, and not too elated during our happy ones. Too much of emotional extremes – and not being able to cope in between – is one of the factors leading to stress; and from stress comes depression.

With 53 million prescriptions for depression being handed out in the UK in 2013, there’s an awful lot of people that could do with something to help them get through life. I don’t know what its like in Germany for depression (although there’s probably significantly less depression nationally this morning) but no doubt its comparable. So without medication what is the solution for stress-induced depression?

Religion can also be a cause for mood swings – especially when the religion is the man-made type – as many religions are, but genuine religion, as found in the Bhagavad-gita, will always take us above the ups and downs of life, the winning and losing and the happiness and distress of changing fortunes.

So the people of Brazil can change their fortunes immediately – or their perceptions of their fortunes – by taking to the other thing they like to do, singing and dancing in the streets, and by adding the Hare Krishna chant to their music.

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Are you Church or Chapel?

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Boyton in Cornwall. It was a small village with two places of worship – one at either end of the main street. One was a church and the other a chapel, a situation which posed an existential question.

“Are you Church or Chapel?” was the question posed to my mother one day after we moved into a house in a small Cornish village. We’d moved there from our previous home – also in a small Cornish village.

Church or Chapel? It was an important question, for it defined the social circle we would be joining, our emotional support team, and ultimately our chances of salvation. The Church of England and the Methodist Chapel were the two places of worship in the village, one the establishment religion and the other dissident. The chapel stood at one end of the one street in the village, and the church was firmly at the other end. The blacksmith’s shop, with its fiery orange furnace, the heavy clink of hammer on anvil and the burning smell of sizzling horses’ hooves, stood right in the centre.

Half a century later, I still live in a small village, this time just four miles from the edge of the north London suburbs. You can’t get horseshoes made in this village, but there are still variant theologies poised at either end of the high street, not only Christian but Jewish, too. Quite literally at opposite ends of the parade of shops lies the United Synagogue and the Reform Synagogue. Which reminds me of an old Jewish joke. When rescuers finally discover the lone Jewish survivor of a shipwreck on a desert island, they find that he’s used bamboos and coconut leaves to build himself two synagogues, one at either end of the island. “Why two?” they ask, “There’s only you here.” “Oh, this one is where I pray,” he replies, “and that other one is the synagogue I wouldn’t be seen dead in!” I think you have to be Jewish (or married to one) to fully grasp the sad irony of that joke, but the meaning is clear: human beings tend to pull any religion in two, and for as much as they love one they tend to spite the other. The reality is not far from the joke. Some years ago, the Jewish population of the island of Bermuda was a mere 110 – and there were, indeed, two synagogues.

Just last week I was in Liverpool where there are two grand cathedrals, both built over many years and at enormous expense. They are connected by one short street that runs between them – Hope Street. Although named after a local merchant, the theological implications of the name have not been lost on the local clergy. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England live in hope of a full reconciliation between their respective denominations. Sadly, they have been trying for centuries without success. Religion, you see, would be so easy if it weren’t for human beings. We are influenced predominantly by raja and tama guna, the two forces of nature that ceaselessly pull us apart and then set us against each other. In this condition we are almost bound to project our own selfish concerns onto the pure messages of God. In doing so we appropriate the Divine and fashion Him in our own image then, because we are all individuals who, mostly, can’t agree with anyone else completely, we enter into conflict. Whatever the reason may be, we become heated in our opinions, find friends to support us, and then pull apart into distinct groupings.

What divides religious people? Often, it can be the very small things: bells, smells, decorations and robes, priests and songs, or whether being baptised with water is for babies or adults. Or the bigger things of which these are parts: Theology, liturgy, governance, gender issues, and whether God has a living representative on Earth and so on. But it doesn’t end there. History has shown, in every religion, that each division becomes rent by fresh divisions and the two become three, four and more. New theologies are developed to support human preferences, and the clear water of pure revelation becomes muddied by tribal thinking. In this way, the one great man who spoke the Sermon on the Mount is now represented by 41,000 different Christian denominations. The one Catholic Church, presumably in a bid to stave off the debilitating effects of multiple splintering, has given permission for no less than 23 different ‘Rites,’ 38 separate ‘Orders,’ and 272 distinct ‘Congregations,’ all with different costumes, customs, prayers and organisational structures.

The ‘Great Schism’

The tendency to divide is, of course, seen everywhere. We have become so accustomed to it that we may hardly even notice it at all. If we do, it may not even alarm us. Take sport, for instance. It wasn’t long after I joined my school rugby team that I learned that there were, in fact, two games of rugby: Rugby Union and Rugby League. The game originated in 1823 but only 72 years later, in 1895, the ‘Great Schism’ had taken place, never to be repealed. The ‘working class’ northerners had felt it necessary to separate from the ‘upper-class’ southerners, and the League and the Union were created accordingly. The game of rugby was itself an ‘upper class’ separation from the original game of football, played by all boys. In that game, the pulling apart continued to be a long-standing tradition of the game. Footballers were often pulled into two rival teams. A fan had to make his mind up who to support. There was, for instance, Liverpool and Everton in the same city; Rangers and Celtic in the same city of Glasgow, the two teams split along religious and social lines; and Manchester United and Manchester City, all rival teams for one town.

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1895: Even the great game of Rugby football divides into two factions

But it is when the divisions occur in religions that the potential for rivalry can escalate into something far more serious. Religion is no game, and the issues involved are all of the ultimate importance. The issues are so serious to the adherents of denominations that strongly opinionated members of opposing religious tribes can often go to war with each other, each convinced that they have the blessings of the Divine. In my own lifetime I have personally experienced street battles between Catholic and Protestant in the towns of Northern Ireland and have witnessed tensions between denominations of Jews. I have read of open conflict between factions of Tibetan Buddhists, and I am all too aware of the immense chasm that exists between Sunni and Shi’a strands of Islam, with periodic warfare between them in different parts of the world. Vaishnavism has not always been immune from these schisms. The followers of the teachings of the great Ramanujacarya (1017-1137) were united for seven centuries, but then succumbed to conflict over cardinal philosophical points, eventually becoming the Tengalai (Southern School) and the Vadagalai (Northern School) sometime in the 17th or 18th century.

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Two Vaishnava forehead markings for two schools of thought

In the Hare Krishna movement, the splintering tendency was regularly subjugated by the single, commanding voice of its founder-acarya who confessed “I am always afraid of this crack.” His urgent and repeated pleas for peace and unity amongst his followers didn’t stop some from splintering away during his life, and certainly hasn’t prevented them from doing it since. And, just as in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, where all fractures are done in the name of God, his son, prophet or blessed and inspired rabbi, in the Hare Krishna movement it was, and continues to be done, in the name of ‘what Srila Prabhupada really wanted.’ So it was that the ‘true’ followers of Srila Prabhupada began a campaign against all his other followers when they failed to support their views on how initiations would be conducted after his physical demise.

It was also how the similarly ‘true followers’ of Srila Prabhupada justified their transformation of a hitherto unknown Indian sannyasi into an international figurehead of messianic proportions. For them, who needed him to be so, the sannyasi became ‘the real inheritor of Srila Prabhupada’s legacy.’ The little-known sannyasi was preened, styled and re-branded by those who had left ISKCON as ‘Srila Prabhupada’s very dear friend who has come to give us the knowledge that he did not.’ The fame of the sannyasi followed a predictable arc. After some time, as his original supporters left him, he became convinced that he’d been used, and fell victim to fits of anger against ISKCON. It presumably didn’t occur to the ‘very dear friend’ that, when he told his excited and impressionable followers that ‘ISKCON must be smashed,’ that he might be stretching the limits of his much-vaunted friendship with A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami. Now deceased, the rifts that he managed to create, pulling apart communities, marriages and families, are all but impossible to heal. ISKCON has thus lost hundreds of members to this and several other breakaway movements – movements of varying degrees of integrity and endurance – all of which claimed to have adopted their stance because of a more refined understanding of the founder-acarya’s instructions. Such is theology, and such is life.

ISKCON members could help themselves by learning a bit more of religious history. They should know that all of this has happened before. They need to learn sufficient Vaishnava theology to identify and understand the veracity of ideas that arise from time to time within their own community. They should be aware when someone seeks the imposition of Judaeo-Christian notions upon Vaishnavism, such as the ‘ritvik’ idea of a truncated parampara, or the deification of an ordinary sannyasi as a moshiach (messiah). Splintering of a religious grouping is also exacerbated by poor spiritual leadership, sexual and financial scandals, poor governance and managerial ineptitude. ISKCON would be helped greatly by putting measures in place to prevent all of these. In addition, and because members of any group will periodically enter into conflict, the ISKCON machinery must allow room for overheated members to find their place, always using the oil of reason to reduce friction, and the water of understanding to cool things down.

Like the Vatican and its shepherding of a disparate flock of many-hued sheep, we may end up with several dozen ‘orders’ within the Hare Krishna movement, but at least they will be working under the same name and style. Theologies have a tendency of variation according to the very genuine physical needs and faith-levels of their proponents. As such, they won’t always mesh together, and practices may not always conform to strict orthopraxis, but splintering might be prevented, and we may all be spared the debilitation of any further reduction in size and influence. Splintering diminishes the strength of collegiate effort and repeated division is a scourge that ultimately ends in a loss of power and increased apathy. If people can be united to do good in the world it is helpful for everyone concerned.

So, was it church or chapel? It was chapel. Actually, to be more precise, it was both. I went to the Methodist chapel on Sunday where I enthusiastically sang Wesleyan hymns and learned the elements of faith free from unnecessary rituals, bell-ringing or stained glass, and then I went bell-ringing every Monday evening in the Church of the Holy Name, where I pulled thick, well-worn ropes beneath the bell tower to my heart’s content, sending loud, thunderous peals throughout the village.

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Golden Hours in Darkest Winter

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Sunrise in England. Hard to catch it, sometimes, but always worth the effort.

This week I have been thinking about the Gayatri mantra and how it is chanted at sunrise, noon and sunset. Although the Hare Krishna maha-mantra can be chanted without following any ‘hard and fast rules,’ the Gayatri does have rules attached to it, and they must be followed in order to achieve the full effect. When I was living in the tropics, in East Africa, it was very easy to chant the Gayatri mantra at the same times every day. That’s because the sun always came up at six in the morning and went down at six in the evening. And when I was living for a few months on the equator, noon was easy to calculate because it was when the sun was directly overhead.

In England the sun rises and sets at different times each day, and its a little bit harder to chant at the right times. In this month of November, sunrise does not happen until around 7.30, and sunset comes upon all of us quite unexpectedly, right in the middle of the afternoon!

But a brahmana is meant to chant the Vedic Gayatri according to the movements of the sun, and so becomes a bit of a sun-watcher. However, brahmanas have almost a one hour period in which to chant their mantra, so there’s a bit of laxity allowed in their precision timekeeping. The old Vedic lengths of time are the muhurta, which lasts for 48 minutes; and the danda, which lasts for half of that, 24 minutes. A brahmana wanting to chant the Gayatri in the morning can do so any time from one danda before sunrise (24 minutes before sunrise) all the way through until one danda after sunrise (24 minutes after sunrise). Let us say that it is late November somewhere in England and the sun rises at precisely 7.36 am. The brahmana can chant his/her Gayatri at any time from 7.12 am until 8.00 am. The same rule applies for the evening Gayatri at sunset.

Punctilious brahmanas will also tell you that the most preferential time for chanting the Gayatri is slightly before sunrise, before the first glimpse of the sun disc can be seen; and slightly after sunset, when the sun has disappeared but before the stars can be seen.

For those who chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra, any time is a good time. However, it has been proven by thousands of years of experience that chanting any mantra is particularly efficacious during the early morning Brahma-muhurta period. That’s not because the mantra becomes any more powerful – its because the chanter can listen to the mantra with more concentration! The Brahma-muhurta is a golden period every morning before sunrise and it is highly recommended to take advantage of this little celestial secret of Mother Nature and to use this time to our great advantage. When is it, and how long does it last?

You’ll notice from the word muhurta that the golden period lasts for 48 minutes. It begins two muhurtas  – or 96 minutes – before sunrise. So let us say, again, that sunrise is at 7.36 am. Counting back 96 minutes (or one hour and 36 minutes) from 7.36 am brings us to 6.00 am. That means that the Brahma-muhurta begins at 6.00 am and will last until 6.48 am. This will be the best natural time for meditation or any kind of contemplative or transcendent activity.

In the summertime it will naturally be difficult for English people to take advantage of this golden period as it falls very early in the morning. Take the month of June, for instance. On the 6th of June, 2013, sunrise in England was at 4.46 am. Counting back 96 minutes from sunrise brings us to 3.10 am. That gives us a Brahma-muhurta from 3.10 am until 3.58 am. Taking into account getting up out of bed, brushing your teeth, having a shower and getting dressed, that would mean your alarm clock going off at 2.30 am. Which, if you want to get any beauty sleep at all, means that you would need to go to bed by 8.00 pm the evening before. Not easy with three children.

What it does mean is that as far as early morning meditation is concerned, the darker winter months in England – beginning right now – are the best. They’re an even better opportunity than living in India would give you. So I warmly recommend my readers to take full advantage and grab at least a few minutes of that golden period in darkest winter.

If you want to know the rising and setting times of the sun and moon throughout the year, this site may be helpful.

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Upanishads in a New Light

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Manuscript of the Isha Upanishad

Dear readers, you may well know that the Upanishads are the cardinal philosophical scriptures for those who follow the Vedic tradition. All of them are important, but the Sri Isha Upanishad, or Ishavasya Upanishad (also known as the Isopanishad) is particularly interesting – along with the Katha, Kena, and Swetashvatara – for the Vaishnavas. So I was particularly happy to see that a devotee artist is making the Isopanishad accessible to a new generation that might not otherwise discover it. He is rendering the entire 19 verses in different word media with accompanying videos. If any of you feel his project is worth your support, do please make a contribution. The benefit of ‘Kickstarter’ is that if the total is not reached, you won’t pay a penny, no matter how much you pledge. Have a look today. JUST CLICK HERE 

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Girl Guides fall prey to Secular Inquisition

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One of my favourite stories is the one about the boiling frog, who simply fails to realise that the water is getting hotter. His failure to comprehend the incremental rise in temperature (he’d jumped into a pan of cool water on an outdoor fire, you see) spelled his death. Similarly, the heat of fashionable nouveau atheism is increasing all around us. One writer who regularly does notice – and speaks up about it – is Melanie Phillips. I want to share her latest piece with you today.

Like a poorly knotted woggle, the attempt by the Girl Guides to rope in the new generation is now steadily unravelling.

In June, the Guides announced they were changing the historic promise made by all Guides and Brownies from ‘to love my God’ to ‘be true to myself and develop my beliefs’.

They would also drop the pledge to ‘serve my country’, which was to be replaced by ‘my community’.

According to the Chief Guide, Gill Slocombe, the old promise put some girls off because they found it confusing. The new formula, she said, would be easier for Guides to make and keep.

The change – which comes into force in six days’ time – was received with horror and outrage by Christians, and left many others bemused and uneasy. It seemed to be just a crude and shallow attempt by the Guiding establishment to rebrand itself as modern, by dumping timeless values.

Much worse was to follow, though. Guide groups in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, rightly dismayed by the proposed change, announced last week that they would encourage their girls and leaders to continue to use the old promise.

In a letter written jointly with a local vicar, they insisted the movement had to keep God at its core. Impeccably fair-minded and inclusive, they also proposed to offer the new promise to anyone who might prefer that form of words.

Yet in response, Ms Slocombe said such rebels need to accept this change, and even suggested they could be forced out of the movement altogether if they did not.

So much for diversity!

For with this not-so-veiled threat, the true intention of the movement’s leaders has been laid bare. A move they claimed to be more inclusive has turned out to be entirely the opposite.

Indeed, it now stands revealed as being actively discriminatory; far from pulling down any (mythical) barriers to joining the movement, the Guide leaders are actually putting them up.

Under the spurious guise of encouraging membership by atheists, or (inexplicably) those with an aversion to serving their country, the Guides are now threatening to expel those who wish to express a religious belief.

A belief, moreover, which forms the basis of the Christian values in which the Girl Guide movement is rooted, and on which its identity rests.

Yet this movement is now actively discriminating against those who wish to proclaim the continuation of those religious values at its own core.

Having dumped God and country altogether, it is now actually forbidding Guides – on pain of excommunication – to promise to serve anything beyond themselves.

Is this not beyond perverse? For there is no reason why the new promise needs to be exclusive of any other. After all, the Scouts apparently intend to offer atheists an alternative promise rather than abandon the existing one.

Other institutions have long done something similar to accommodate both believers and non-believers. When you swear to tell the truth in court, for example, or take the oath of allegiance as a new Member of Parliament, you are given the choice to swear on the Bible or to affirm.

Just imagine if you were forbidden to give evidence in court or take your seat in Parliament if you insisted on swearing on the Bible!

Of course, this would be utterly unthinkable. And yet that is precisely what the Guides are now doing. As church leaders have pointed out, this is nothing other than secular totalitarianism.

There is thus a weary absence of surprise upon learning that the Guides’ chief executive, Julia Bentley, formerly headed an abortion and contraception group. For it is hard to think of a background which more powerfully symbolises merciless and doctrinaire individualism.

Indeed, to Ms Bentley the Guides are the ultimate feminist organisation but  – tsk! – too middle-class.

Thus she revealed herself to be just another politically correct zealot, standing for the secular sectarianism of group rights.

For far from serving the whole of society, each such interest group exists to gain power over everyone else – and damns anyone who stands in its way.

Indeed, this is why ‘political correctness’ is not remotely liberal at all, but viciously oppressive. It is simply a mechanism for re-ordering the world according to a particular dogma – and thus inescapably stifles all dissent.

Innately hostile to traditional morality, it paves the way for a secular Inquisition in which today’s Torquemadas are the ideologues of such group rights – and it is Christians and other religious believers who are the heretics to be silenced by force.

It is, indeed, the principal weapon of unholy war wielded by the forces of militant secularism, which are intent upon destroying the Judeo-Christian basis of western morality.

It supplants traditional morality and the concepts of right and wrong, truth and lies by a creed which says in effect, ‘Whatever is right for you is right’.

It also seeks to replace patriotism and service to one’s country by serving ‘the community’. This is yet another slippery concept, which today can simply amount to membership of just such an interest group, which is in the business of elbowing out other interest groups in the greedy clamour for entitlements.

So the new Guiding promise is all about being true to me, myself and my beliefs, whatever they may happen to be. It represents the antithesis of duty to others. It says, more or less, ‘I promise to serve myself’.

It is a promise for a narcissistic, self-centred and morally vacuous age.

And now we can see also that it is about brutally trampling underfoot the beliefs of others. Pinch yourself: this is the Girl Guides we are talking about, for heaven’s sake!

They have now managed to embody the aggressive secularism and hyper-individualism that the retiring Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, talked about yesterday when he told BBC Radio’s Sunday Programme that British society was losing the plot.

As he said, religious faith underpins the existence of trust. When religion breaks down, trust breaks down. When society becomes secularised, the collapse of trust and the rise of individualism mean the breakdown of social institutions such as the family.

Worse than that, by replacing God with an ideology which brooks no dissent, individualism is a mechanism for illiberalism and even tyranny as these groups get their way through tactics of insult, professional ostracism or outright banning.

Now, though, some Christians are fighting back. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that he hoped many others would join the rebellion by the Harrogate Guide groups.

And now some churches are saying they will deny the Guides the use of church halls, which hitherto hundreds of their groups have used for free.

As the Rev Paul Williamson, vicar of St George’s church in Feltham, west London, has said, it would be hypocritical of the Guides to expect to use the church’s premises after abandoning its core beliefs.

That’s the spirit! Such responses show that, faced with the kind of secular intolerance that is now in danger of pushing Christianity to the very margins of society, the Church is not altogether on its knees.

Churches should deny the Guides use of their premises. Guide groups should offer the old promise, and people should refuse to join those that do not.

Only through such mass resistance will the secular zealots who have hijacked the Girl Guides be faced down, and a great institution be restored to the defence of a decent society, rather than hastening its demise.

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Dance for the pleasure of The Avatars of Vishnu

Although I am from England and grew up as a Christian, I was always interested in Vishnu. When I became a Vaishnava I learned more about Vishnu from the scriptures. I have also raised my children on the same path. Here is a dramatic dance by my daughters Jahnavi and Tulasi, with Jaya Krishna Das. It describes the avatars of Lord Vishnu according to the early mediaeval song written by Jayadeva Goswami. You will hear me singing the song in the background.

 

The Ten Avatars of Vishnu

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