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Before halal food became an issue in the West over the past decade, it had already stirred up vigorous debate in Africa.  This post explains the debates that Christians and Muslims have had — two people, two cultures, living in one country.  Not unlike the baobab tree at left — united in one body and yet divided.

Today’s post looks at the halal debate historically in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland and South Africa.

ZIMBABWE

Munetzi Ruzivo, who teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, wrote a paper published in 2008 entitled, ‘Evangelical Christian – Muslim Relations in Zimbabwe’.  In it he traces the recurring debate over halal and, subsequently, religious education.

As with much of the halal controversy, it all centred around non-Muslims seeking more money through expanding export markets into Muslim countries via halal food.  Muslims comprise 3% of the Zimbabwean population, by the way.  70% of the population is Christian and another 24% practice traditional African religions.  What follows is a timeline from his paper, which is well worth reading in full (emphases mine):

1976: Zimbabwe’s Cold Storage Commission (CSC) approached the Zimbabwe Council of Islamic Scholars (ZCIS) ‘requesting that the Commission’s meat products be recognised by the council as halal meat for export purposes‘.  The two bodies entered into a contract whereby ‘all their abbatoirs would uncompromisingly employ the halal method of slaughter‘.  (p. 4 of PDF)

1996: Christian leaders realise that this agreement produces halal meat for the Zimbabwean population as a whole — 97% of which is non-Muslim.  Muslims reply that it was the CSC who approached them, not the other way around. It appears that the implications of the original contract were not foreseen at the time.  In any event, they do not appear to have been discussed.  The CSC made a lot of money from this contract over the previous 20 years. (p. 4)

1997: In order to calm down the controversy, the CSC said that it would have halal and a non-halal abbatoirs.  ZCIS replied that halal production would be impossible under such an arrangement and threatened to withdraw their licence.  The CSC said that if that happened, their export trade would be severely affected.  The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) mediates and mandates that all meat be labelled halal and non-halal.  Meanwhile, the CSC’s customers overseas begin to question whether the meat they are buying is actually halal. A CCZ document comes to light, ‘Zimbabwe a Muslim State: Is This Possible?’ It criticises the CSC’s contracts with Malaysia and Iran and lists all the Muslim butchers, mosques and organisations in Zimbabwe. (pp. 5 and 6)

2000: Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Sports, Education and Culture proposes replacing the standard education module Bible Knowledge with Moral Education.  Christians take issue with this proposal, including those who had spoken out against halal meat in 1996.  The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the National Association of Secondary School Headmasters ‘described the move as retrogressive’.  They claim it deprives future generations of a Christian perspective in their education.  The previous issue of halal meat combined with a general course on Moral Education raised alarm bells.  (pp. 6 and 7)

2000: The author says there was nothing conspiratorial in these two events, which he sees as unrelated.  However, now that both had come to light, they had to be dealt with carefully.  The fact that the Zimbabwean government made a move the same year to revise the nation’s constitution only added to public outrage.  The Government’s referendum on changing the constitution is defeated. (p. 8 )

2003: Muslims petition the government over Christian teaching in state schools, stating that it violates Section 19 of the nation’s constitution, which allows for freedom of religious expression and conscience.  They appealed for Muslim school holidays and religious instruction.  Not to have these would be discriminatory. (p. 9)

The author notes that during this time, Christians complained about halal meat and Muslims complained about Christian teaching: one faith group unknowingly and unintentionally threatened by another.  It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  He advocates an Interreligious Dialogue Curriculum among Zimbabwe’s smaller institutions.  He rightly observes that larger conflicts often arise out of lower-level, localised conflicts.

MALAWI

Is Malawi a Christian country or not?  For most of my life, I would have confidently answered ‘yes’, but over the past few years, I would be more inclined to say ‘no’.

In the February 13, 1998 issue of Malawi News Online, the lead article discusses this very question.  Keep in mind the following was written 12 years ago but covering an impression that first surfaced 16 years ago:

Some Christian believers in the country have formed the opinion that Malawi, which has always been thought of as a Christian country, is slowly but surely becoming Islamized. This ‘suspicion’ began to crystallize in 1994 when the country’s first ever multi-party elections ushered in the United Democratic Front party led by a Muslim, President Bakili Muluzi.

And, after coming to power, Muluzi’s administration did not wait very long before it established diplomatic ties with a number of Islamic countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Iran …

Those who talk of these ‘visible signs’ refer to the Muslim students who have won scholarships and are now studying in Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states. And to the mosques that are a common sight in most towns now but which were once only found along the lakeshore areas of Lake Malawi, or in the cities which have a high proportion of Asians.

During the first week of January this year, the opposition Malawi Congress Party owned Daily Times newspaper carried a story which reported what Muluzi had been denying for some time, this being that he had ordered the treasury to release money to be used for the building of a mosque. Muluzi has so far not refuted the story.

And now there are many who think that what they describe as a time bomb is threatening the country and say that if this is not properly handled it could well explode. They say this ‘time bomb’ is threatening to pit Christians and Muslims against each other over their different religious beliefs.

And, what’s next to appear in the article? The halal food issue, common to many countries around the world, as we have seen (emphasis mine):

What has sparked what many Malawians think could very well degenerate into a religious war is the treatment of all meat and meat products in the country’s super markets, slaughter houses, hotels and other meat suppliers by the Halaal method

Many Christians view this as a slow but sure penetration of Islamic practices and see it as a Muslim wish to have only Halaal meat products distributed through the country’s main meat suppliers.

In the wake of this development a group of ‘concerned’ Christians have threatened to boycott meat products slaughtered by Muslims. They say that they do not see any wisdom in buying meat products slaughtered by Muslims when Muslims boycott meat slaughtered by non-Muslims.

In a statement, the group said they had noted that although Muslims enforce the supply and sale of Halaal meat products in the country’s meat stores, they themselves prefer to buy live animals such as chickens and goats and slaughter them themselves. The group said Christians eating Halaal meat signifies submission to the Islamic faith, that is, believing and supporting Islamic practices. The group said in the statement that they felt this was to deny people freedom of choice and religion…

The group said that other concerned Christians should come out more strongly in their stand by boycotting meat slaughtered by Muslims.

As with the UK, France and other countries, it is a question of non-Muslims out to make money by discarding the majority population’s Christian and secular heritage.  When and where will it stop?  In all these situations, all the majority population is asking for is resumption of consumer choice — at no extra charge.

SWAZILAND AND SOUTH AFRICA

Our final story today begins with an American corporation and a Roman Catholic.  Are the two of them opportunistic?  Read the following excerpts from this article, ‘Your KFC is now halal’, from the Swaziland News, dated July 5, 2010 and decide for yourselves (emphases mine):

MBABANE – When Kentucky Fried Chicken officially announced that its meat was now halaal, there was a little agitation among some of its Christian customers …

Two years ago, the Swaziland Halaal Authority (SHA) launched a concern to KFC, that the Islam community wanted to buy the fried chicken but were unsure of its status regarding the halaal regulations. They then engaged KFC management in discussions over the issue.

KFC Franchise owner Mario Pimenta told the Times that the meat had always been halaal, though the Islam community did not know about this and last month they obtained a certificate declaring this. He said the chickens were slaughtered by Swazi Poultry Processors in Matsapha, who apply strict rules in processing meat according to the halaal regulations.

KFC is just meat and has nothing to do with religion. We had concerns from the SHA that some Islam faith members were unsure of the status of our meat, so each time they came into KFC they had to go through the trouble of asking if the meat was halaal first before eventually buying it. “At KFC, we understand that our customers are international, so we had to do something to notify them that indeed we are halaal. We informed the SHA of our state and they were happy. If the government of Swaziland accepts the Islam faith, then it follows that our products have to also accommodate Muslims,” he said.

Yes, but universally?  Even the Quick solution in France sounds better.  It is unclear whether Mr Pimenta has thought this one through:

Pimenta said he was Catholic himself, further explaining that the KFC was not about religion. “I do appreciate that there might be an issue between the Islam and Christians but this has nothing to do with KFC,” he insisted. Pimenta says in South Africa, the KFC’s supplier is Rainbow Chickens, who also process according to the halaal standards.

A Protestant pastor echoes what many Christians around the world believe on this subject and why so many of us are confused:

The news of KFC being officially halaal has been met with surprise by the Christian fraternity and cutomers. Pastor Zipho Mhlanga of the Latter Harvest Church in Manzini says …

“The … meat is eaten by all people, whether Christian or Muslim. Why is there a need to make it halaal? Our understanding is that they are selling to the market …”

However, Apostle Mhlanga said there was a leaf to be taken from the issue. “Christians also have to establish their own businesses so they would not have to argue over such issues.”

Sadly, it’s the big ‘Christian’ multinationals who have thrust these circumstances upon us.  The name of the Swazi Poultry Processors General Manager is Jeremy Boyd.  Hmm.

What’s even worse is that ‘Christian’ customers don’t understand the problem:

Most of the customers found munching at the Swazi Plaza branch of the KFC said they were Christians but not aware that KFC was halaal. They also pleaded ignorance on the meaning of the meat being halaal.

Perhaps one has to investigate the meaning of halaal because we just love the KFC and can’t stop eating it,” said Zanele Manyatsi who had bought the popular Streetwise Two.

Swaziland News also investigated Nando’s.  On July 19, 2010, they carried this report (excerpted):

Nando’s buys its meat from Swazi Poultry, the same Matsapha-based company that supplies Kentucky Fried Chicken.

When the Times visited Swazi Poultry to investigate how the halaal slaughter is conducted, it was gathered that the company supplies a variety of outlets, two of which are Nando’s and KFC.

When Nando’s South Africa was asked to come clear on this, the company confirmed that its products were halaal, but was quick to say Nando’s does not subscribe to religious beliefs, but was neutral …

Kentucky Fried Chicken received a barrage of criticism when it announced its meat was halaal recently. Most vocal in their protestation of the move were Christians who felt they were being made to subscribe to the religious beliefs of the Islamic faith. So serious is the issue that some churches resolved to completely boycott KFC.

The article notes that Muslim comment is downplaying the significance of halal, saying that it simply means the meat is clean and appropriate for consumption.  This makes it sound as if non-halal meat is dirty and defective.

The Swaziland Standards Authority (SWASA) says that it is not in a position to resolve this issue:

… its mandate is merely to ensure that the standards are safe for consumption.

Ricardo Kruger was responding to questions on SWASA’s comment now that KFC customers wanted the outlet to have two sections – one that will supply halaal foods and another that will not.

Kruger said as long as the standards were safe and qualitative, the authority would not hold anything against KFC. “From what I understand so far, this is purely a debate over religion and not the product itself. According to the standards we use, there is no particular standard demanding that food should be halaal or not. “I was also made aware that a short prayer is made when the chicken is slaughtered, which means this is not particularly about the standard of the meat,” he said.

See how Mr Kruger contradicts himself. If he were better acquainted with his Bible, he would understand the questions that many Christians have over this practice. However, he has forgotten the more secular principle of leaving the majority population with their freedom of choice, which he has effectively removed from the marketplace.

But, there’s a bit of good news in this story, echoing what Pastor Mhlanga said above:

One of the few chicken processors that are adamantly refusing to subscribe to halaal regulations is Valley Farm at Sidvokodvo. The company is owned by a Christian family, which say if they were to conform to the halaal specifications they would be compromising their faith. Marketing Manager Andry Bornman says some of the chain stores have asked Valley Farm to supply them with some halaal meat but they refused.

We are Christians; hence we do not subscribe to the halaal specifications. We believe the nation must have a choice to whether buy halaal food or not, and they must not be forced,” he said. Valley Farm sells both frozen and non-frozen chickens.

And on that happy note, we end our African story.  We can only hope and pray that more meat producers, restaurants and food conglomerates show the same fortitude.

Tomorrow: Halal, the Bible and the Christian conscience

Over the past year, the issue of halal in France has become highly charged.

During this time, the French (originally Belgian) fast-food chain, Quick, has turned some of its establishments into halal-only eateries.  Anyone who opposes this is accused of being closed-minded.  Of course, it is a privately-owned company.  And, yes, halal and kosher establishments have long been a feature on the French dining landscape.

The difference with a large chain experimenting with halal, however, is that it erodes the choice that the majority population has.  Principally, no pork.  France, like many European nations, has a proud heritage of regional pork-based specialities: from saucisson to rillette to boudin to ham.  Within a short space of time, these disappear from restaurant and canteen menus.  Everyone must eat chicken or lamb.  If they don’t like that, well, there’s always the vegetarian option.

How did it all happen?  First, a bit more about the Quick story from GalliaWatch:

Quick’s initiative, that reinforces communitarianism and Islam in France, is being closely watched by its American rival McDonald’s. It has also aroused numerous protests from animal activists. In order for the meat to be suitable for Muslims the animal must have its throat slit while awake, with its head turned towards Mecca by a certified sacrificer. One of our readers wrote to Valérie Raynal, a top manager of the Quick corporation: “In the name of a religion we are experiencing a return to barbarity,” he deplores …

Raynal replied in part:

This in no way constitutes an obligation for our customers because we have 10 Quick restaurants in the environs of Lyons and 33 in the whole Rhône-Alpes region that offer classic menus.

Things to ponder:

… the mosques receive payment for this, and that Quick, though originally Belgian, was acquired in 2007 by CDC Capital Investment, an extension of the French Caisse de dépôts et consignations (the Bank for Official Deposits), an investment bank created in 1816 following a financial crisis and “dedicated to the general interest and to economic development”. In other words, a bank emanating from the French State, and under the control of Parliament, even though its investments may be in private companies.

Brigitte Bardot also wrote to Quick, objecting to ritual slaughter. Yet, a growing number of Frenchmen see a larger issue.  A Facebook group, the name of which translates as ‘I don’t eat halal, I don’t want to finance Islam’, explains its raison d’être:

A portion of money that buys halal meat is given towards Muslim organisations.  According to Le Figaro [a respected national daily newspaper], 30% of meat turning up on French plates is halal.  Let’s stop the scandal!

The author of the GalliaWatch piece above wrote a longer article for the Brussels Journal.  More people are mulling over the extra they unknowingly fork out in this respect for across-the-board ritual slaughter.  (Kosher is different: you choose to eat at a kosher establishment — you’re not eating it unknowingly at mainstream restaurants or buying it unlabelled at the supermarket.)

A supposedly ethically-minded Catholic organisation with the acronym of ETHIC chimed into the Quick halal debate earlier this year:

Recently, ETHIC has vigorously defended Quick’s decision to serve halal food, declaring:

“This choice results quite simply from the encounter between supply and demand, and from a marketing decision … It is senseless to try to tell a merchant what he can and cannot sell. To raise an outcry over halal is extremely discriminatory.”

Mmm.  Slippery slope, there.  Try substituting ‘pork products’ for ‘halal’ in that last sentence.

There’s more:

A Quick that admits non-Muslims on the condition that they bend to sharia law and that they too pay the tax on halal food that contributes to the construction of mosques and the spread of Islam …

Ethical business leaders, the head of the Grand Mosque of Paris and the national secretary of the Socialist Party in charge of renewal, are all in perfect agreement. In the name of freedom, Islam must be imposed.

This availability, or imposition, of halal produces a cultural shift in the country which is, to many, the world’s gastronomic capital.  The article in Brussels Journal cites another from an online magazine, Polémia (emphases mine):

… the promotion of halal foods is no longer confined to the private sphere; rather it is extending into the public space, for two reasons: commercial interests and political pressures.

In an effort to make halal production profitable, producers are tempted to make everyone eat halal

In the logic of the business world, prepared dishes also must be halal: many companies such as Maggi are eliminating pork and alcohol from their preparations and are providing only halal meats … Likewise, in collective restaurants, such as those found in schools, the rules of the minority are imposed on the majority.

Municipalities subject to growing pressures from Muslim associations now provide almost systematically a menu without pork. Secular [“laïc”] groups rebel against what they are calling the apartheid of food that results in discrimination in the schools between the “without pork” and the “pork”. The latter are often labeled as “impure” in the schoolyards at recess time. This phenomenon is massive – a Google search on “school cafeterias without pork” turned up more than 100,000 sites.

The municipality of Grenoble has stated that in its schools “no dietary regimen other than meals without pork can be offered.” Lyons has gone even further. Along with its classic menus, it offers a vegetarian menu on grounds that one third of the pupils refuse the main meal, even without pork, because the meat served is not guaranteed to be halal.

The question is one of — to borrow a leftist phrase — fairness for all.  I don’t blame Muslims for this cultural shift as much as I blame Western corporations and their bosses.  And they are the ones with whom I take issue on this subject — not Muslims.

I don’t recall Muslims demanding halal-only menus, although I can see that they would be happy with these corporate decisions.

Western food manufacturers would do well to take a good, hard look at what they are doing.  Is their quest for the ‘almighty dollar’ (or pound or euro) such that they need to to compromise the food and heritage of their Christian and secular clientele for it?

In the meantime, I shall be reading labels more carefully and making more considered decisions.  What about you?

Tomorrow: Halal, Africa and Christians

On Monday, I featured a post on halal food in the UK.  Many Christians are unaware of how much halal food we eat unknowingly.

Recall that in our country, just over 4% of the population is Muslim, yet schools, hospitals, sporting venues along with a surprising number of restaurants and supermarkets are offering halal unlabelled and often with no notice in the food establishment.  In Australia the Muslim population is under 2%, but many products on sale are halal.

The reason for uniformity in halal products being pushed out to the population at large is because of growing Islamic export markets, a lucrative trade which started in the 1980s, believe it or not.

This post is a follow-up to Monday’s, adding a bit more about the UK but also delving into the amount of halal food being sold in Australia as well as Europe and North America.  It would appear that business leaders have deemed it ‘cheaper’ and ‘more efficient’ to serve everyone halal food than it would be for halal to operate on more of a kosher footing — with smaller establishments catering for a religious minority.

UNITED KINGDOM (continued)

Commercial caterers

Harrison Catering Services (for Harrow state schools)

Metrofresh (for Wigan Council and their state schools)

Food producers

Dew-Lay Products Ltd (Garstang, Lancashire) launches halal cheese range — to be labelled — for the catering and retail trade.  Halal Food Authority president Masood Khawaja said, ‘Non-Muslims are seeking out and enjoying a wide range of Halal products’.  Are we?

New Zealand lamb: 70% of what is sold in the UK is halal and unlabelled (article is in French)

Restaurants

Steakout UK is a new restaurant chain in London which looks very American and offers ‘a friendly unique Halal dining experience’

Schools

Harrow (state schools, see Harrison Catering Services above)

Reading

Wigan (see Metrofresh above)

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AUSTRALIA

Councils

Hume (Melbourne): Stopped serving ham and pork at council functions in 2003 because 12% of the population was Muslim.

Food products

Atlantic Pacific Foods Pty Ltd.

Bega Cheese.

Bellis Fruit Bars.

Bulla Cream.

Byron Bay Cookie Company Pty Ltd.

Cadbury’s: most chocolates.  Some bags of treat size are not labelled on the outside, only the small bars inside are.  Even Easter and Christmas bags may be halal!  Just don’t question it — it’s about export markets, and, as with all of this: ‘As a business, Cadbury was founded upon values of integrity and respect …’

Dairy Farmers.

Dairygood Sour Cream.

Danisco Australia Pty Ltd.

Douwe Egberts.

Haberfield’s Rich Cream.

Maggi Cup Noodles.

Murray Goulburn Double Cream.

Nestle: A variety of products, including yoghurt.

Paul’s Sour Cream.

Peter’s Ice Cream.

Red Kelly’s salad dressings.

Serendipity Ice Cream: selected halal range.

Ski: Yoghurts.

United Dairies Thick Cream.

Vaalia: Yoghurts.

Vegemite (Kraft): A Kraft spokesperson says, ‘Vegemite has been certified halal for many years, however, the product label was updated recently and now displays both the halal and kosher logos on the jar.’

Yoplait: Yoghurts.

Meat producers / abattoirs / butchers

– 123 Halal-certified abattoirs.

– 2,700 Halal-certified butchers shops — meat is normally labelled, some sell pork.

Aus-Meat.

Colonial Farm meats.

– G.A. Gathercole of Carrum.

– Hardwick’s Meat Works of Kyneton.

– MC Herd of Geelong.

G H Keily.

– Lenard’s chicken shops: stores are Halal-certified, and one reader has confirmed seeing a sign on his local shop indicating this. However, information was not on the website as stated in the meat producers link.  (Thanks to commenters Aaron and ‘anyone’.)

Luv-a-Duck.

Spiess Australia.

Restaurants

Chooks: Three halal-only chains located in Mirrabooka, Beechboro and Forest Lakes.

– McDonalds: Halal branches in Preston; Roxburgh Park and Brunswick East in Melbourne.

Nando’s: No signs indicate they are halal, although the company says plaques are in every restaurant.

Supermarkets

Coles: dairy, flour, vegetable products, baking chocolate.  Shelves might not be marked, so check product packaging.

Franklins: special halal section where food has green tags.

Safeway: many products, including dairy.  Read product labelling.

Woolworths: products such as own-brand baking chocolate, labelled.

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CANADA

Meat producers and packers

Manitoba’s Agriculture Minister, Stan Struthers, is urging his province’s beef producers to move into halal slaughter.  The market is worth $214m in Canada.  Compare this with kosher slaughter, where the market is estimated at $130m.

– Ecolait Ltd (veal).

– Healthcare Food Services Inc. (pre-packaged).

– Maple Lodge Farms (chicken and deli).

– New Food Classics (beef burgers).

– St Helens Packers (beef).

– Sunterra Meats Ltd (beef, bison, goat, lamb).

Supermarkets

– Food Basic

– Loblaws Supermarket and Super Store

– Metro (Old Dominion)

– No Frill

– Price Chopper

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ICELAND

No Muslims live in Iceland, but one part of the nation will be slaughtering their lamb in the halal way in order to open up their export market.  IceLandView says the method is very humane.

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INTERNATIONALLY

– The first Düsseldorf Halal Conference took place in September 2010, with 75 attendees all involved in halal food production.  One of the goals is to protect halal production in Europe and resist calls that meat be labelled when stunning is not used.

SAS, the Scandinavian airline, may move to a halal-only in-flight menuBritish Airways may also be affected — along with many other Western airlines.  This is because the Swiss-based GateGroup, which owns airline caterer GateGourmet, wants to consolidate food preparation for all the airlines it serves.  If you would like non-halal food, you will have to pay extra once this comes into effect.  Keep in mind that all the food will be halal-compliant — from the skimpy bag of a dozen pretzels to spreads to desserts.  (What happens if someone brings a ham sandwich on board?)  Be aware, there is no escaping GateGourmet — they service all the major airlines.

Nestle is the world’s leading manufacturer of halal food.  Executive Vice President Frits Van Dijk attended the World Halal Forum recently and told Reuters, ‘Twenty percent of the world’s population is going to be Muslim one day and they have expectations, they have needs … a company likes ours has to make an extra effort to try and meet those needs.’ The world halal market is worth $634 bn.  Europe’s is $66 bn.

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NEW ZEALAND

Blue Sky Meats abandoned its halal slaughter some years ago and returned to traditional processing — ‘improving its business’.

Having said that, the country is one of the world’s largest exporters of halal slaughtered beef and lamb.

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UNITED STATES

Food products

– Archer Farms Market: selected products.

Archway: Windmill Cookies.

Betty Crocker: some cake mixes and frostings.

Dean: cottage cheese and some ice creams.

Dreyer’s: some ice creams.

Duncan Hines: some cake mixes and frostings.

Edy: some ice creams.

Enfamil: some infant formula.

Fritos: corn chips.

General Mills: some cereals.

Hartz: Krispy Chicken Milk Dip.

Hershey’s: some chocolate bars.

Home Pride: Butter Top White Bread.

Kellogg’s: some cereals.

Kirkland Cheeses: not halal in many states.

Little Caesar’s Cheese Pizza: neither halal nor kosher.

– Market Pantry: some products.

Millville: some cereals.

Mott’s: some apple juice and sauce.

Nabisco: some Oreo products and Nutter Butter biscuits.

Nestle: Good Start 2 Infant Formula.

Ocean Spray: Cranberry Juice Cocktail.

Pepperidge Farm: some biscuits.

Pillsbury: pumpkin bread mix.

Post: some cereals.

Quaker: some cereals.

Similac: some infant formula.

Wonder: white bread.

Meat producers

Since 2003, a Maryland Catholic, Brian Schiner, has opened his lamb ranch up to men from various world faiths who can purchase an animal and slaughter it in situ before taking it home.  His ranch holds a special appeal for his Muslim customers as he does not rear pigs.  He’s sorry he didn’t enter the business sooner.  He doesn’t know what the prayers mean, but he’s sure they all say the same thing.  Uh-huh.

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What can we do?  It’s up to you.  This will bother some Christians whilst others won’t think twice about it.  For those who do want to take some sort of action, however, Australia’s Islam Monitor advises (emphases in the original):

Tell your butcher you DON’T want Halal meats.
Tell your supermarket you DON’T want Halal food.
Tell your favourite eating places you DON’T want Halal food.
But more importantly….
Tell your local MP you DON’T want Halal food.

Boycott HALAL.

Tomorrow: Halal in France

The UK Government’s Office for National Statistics recently issued results of a survey which explodes myths about Britain left, right and centre.  Those interested in more detail can find more on the Integrated Household Survey page.

I published the religious affiliations yesterday, but in case you missed that post, here they are again:

71.4% of Britons are Christian

– 20.5% have no religion

– 1.5% are Hindu

– 0.7% are Sikh

– 0.6% are Jewish

– 0.4% are Buddhist

– 4.2% are Muslim

– 1.1% follow another faith

So, only one-fifth have no religion.  Secularists demand all sorts of concessions and have pronounced this a non-religious country for many years.  This influences other world faiths to believe that we are heathens and pagans.  Not true!

Statistics on sexual orientation are equally revealing:

94.8% of Britons are heterosexual

– 1.0% are gay or lesbian

– 0.5% are bisexual

– 3.7% were unsure or did not wish to respond

The survey also has a racial breakdown.

The Daily Mail tells us that the Integrated Household Survey is the furthest reaching survey of its kind to date:

It was compiled by putting new questions to individuals who already take part in six existing large-scale surveys.

As a result the ONS has managed to draw answers from a large number.

In total, the new Integrated Household Survey can cover 450,000, hundreds of times the size of databases commonly used in research.

The questions on sexuality were put to 247,623, of whom 238,206 provided an answer.

By contrast, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles which last tried to make a count of the gay population in 2000, used a database of 12,000.

Please circulate these links to your friends, families and church leaders.
These widespread findings — the largest body of data outside the census — clearly illustrate the lie of political correctness in our society.   It’s good to be able to finally have some solid data which back up our scepticism in this area.  We are Christian and we are straight.  End of.

Last weekend during Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit to the UK, a startling news story came to light.  It was quite ironic, considering how he warned us in several talks to not abandon our Christian ethos and heritage.

Yet, it appears that some restaurants and catering facilities are doing just that by serving halal meat without informing the British public.

In case anyone is in doubt, this is still an overwhelmingly Christian country.  The UK’s Office for National Statistics has published their findings about religious and sexual orientation:

71.4% of Britons are Christian

– 20.5% have no religion

– 1.5% are Hindu

– 0.7% are Sikh

– 0.6% are Jewish

– 0.4% are Buddhist

4.2% are Muslim

– 1.1% follow another faith

So, for 4.2% of the population, the nation is going halal … by stealth.

A Mail on Sunday investigation revealed what institutions have served or are serving Halal meat to the population at largeMany do not disclose this fact to the public. The Mail has more — on supermarkets and other restaurants. Here’s an article on New Zealand lamb. I’ve cited additional links below.

Hospitals:

– Guy’s Hospital (London).

– Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

– St Thomas’s Hospital (London).

Hotel chains:

– DeVere Hotels and Conference Centres: menus state that all chicken and lamb are halal (not in the Mail article, but info forwarded by a reader).

Restaurant and pub chains:

– All Bar One (Mitchells and Butlers).

– Beefeater (Whitbread): most poultry.

– Brewer’s Fayre (Whitbread): most poultry.

– Browns (Mitchells and Butlers).

– Costa Coffee (Whitbread): most poultry.

– Domino’s Pizza: poultry. *

– Harvester (Mitchells and Butlers).

– Kentucky Fried Chicken : a number of outlets — only five went back to serving regular meat.

– Nando’s: 61 halal-only restaurants.

– Subway: 119 halal-only restaurants.

– Table Table (Whitbread): most poultry.

Tai Pan Chinese Restaurant (London).

– Taybarns (Whitbread): most poultry.

– Toby Carvery (Mitchells and Butlers).

* Domino’s Pizza dropped its halal menu in August after poor sales! BUT — most of its chicken is halal.

N.B.: McDonalds, Burger King and Wimpy are halal-free chains.

Schools:

– Cheltenham College.

Harrow state schools.

– Marlborough: ‘occasionally’ to all pupils.

– More than 200 other schools across the country!

Sporting venues:

– Ascot:  All chicken.

– Twickenham: All chicken.

– Wembley Stadium: All beef, chicken and lamb.  (They also sell pork.)

Supermarkets:

Asda (Walmart-owned): refused to comment.

– Co-operative (Co-op): All New Zealand lamb.

– Marks & Spencer: All New Zealand lamb.

– Sainsbury’s: All lamb.

– Somerfield: All New Zealand lamb.

– Tesco: All New Zealand lamb and 35% of UK lamb; 5% of chicken.

– Waitrose: All lamb.

A number of questions spring to mind:

– If halal meat is less expensive, then, are all the animals raised in the UK or are they imported?  The UK has the highest standards of animal welfare in the world.

– How can we be sure that the slaughter is compassionate?  Yes, we have someone’s word for it, but I have more confidence in kosher slaughter, having seen documentaries, than I do in halal.

– Why weren’t we told until now — and then, thanks only to the Mail on Sunday?

– Why are we catering to less than 5% of the population?

– Why aren’t we being given a choice?  And, I’m not talking about a vegetarian or fish course.

Reactions

The Halal Food Authority (HFA), based in London, has this to say about KFC’s halal-only restaurants (emphasis mine):

It is a pleasure for HFA to cherish and rejoice with the Muslim community that for the first time in European history corporate restaurants such as KFC are serving halal only recipes and these approved stores are completely ‘PORK FREE’.

Note the words ‘European history’ and ‘PORK FREE’.

About the Mail on Sunday investigation, the HFA’s president, Masood Khawaja, told The Sun:

‘This is completely wrong. As Muslims have a choice of eating halal meat, non-Muslims should also have the choice of not eating it. Customers should know it is halal meat.’

Is another halal food authority supervising the other restaurant chains’ food?  It’s hard to tell from their website.

The Harrow Interfaith Council said that parents of some state school pupils are thinking of finding other schools for their children:

Sikh representative Paramjit Singh Kohli said … ‘I’d say to parents take your kids out of school. I would advise them strongly. But that’s the second option, the first option is to make sure there is another meat option on the menu.

‘Fish and vegetarian dishes are not the alternative, the alternative is non-halal meat. Those dishes are for the people who are vegetarian and vegan.’

… Ghulam Rabbani, general secretary of Harrow Central Mosque, said: “I welcome the fact they serve Halal meat. They should also take account of all the religions, not just Muslims.

‘Halal I think is our right but if it is Halal only people might think they are doing a favour for Muslims.’

Indeed, and that’s how it looks to many, however well-intentioned.

A Twickenham spokesman told the Mail on Sunday:

the lack of transparency ‘had never been an issue’ and said: ‘Our consideration is more for those who want halal, to ensure they get it.’

What about kosher meat?

Ascot racecourse told the Mail (same link, emphasis mine):

it was easier to store and cook only one type of meat. ‘All our chicken is halal. This is not advertised as the menus are kept as simple as possible.’

Cheltenham College with its ‘strong Christian ethos’ told the Mail (same link):

We have not sent a letter, nor is there any note on menus that informs parents and pupils that the chicken served in the canteen is mostly halal.’

Why is Cheltenham College serving halal at all?

Whitbread said (same link):

It is not mentioned on any of our menus because we don’t think there is customer demand for that information. But if people started asking, then we would definitely provide it.’

They really don’t think people don’t mind? C’mon!

The National Secular Society said (same link):

It is disgraceful that ­people aren’t being told if the food they are being served is from meat that has not been stunned prior to slaughter.’

The RSPCA agreed.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said (same link):

‘I don’t object to people of different religious groups being catered for but it’s not something that should be imposed on everybody else.

‘The vast majority of people in this country would not want meat of this origin. The outlets have a duty to let their customers know because some will object very strongly, not least because of the animal welfare implications of halal.’

Mr Rosindell states exactly where I stand on the subject.

Halal is not something that should be imposed on everyone.  We should be told.

If you want to stop this, then I would advise not eating at these places if you can possibly help it.

I have nothing against halal meat and have purchased it myself when I lived in London and couldn’t get to the supermarket (we had a number of halal butchers in the neighbourhood, which had changed dramatically over the previous 20 years).

It’s the principle of the thing.  We should know exactly where and when halal is being offered.  Non-halal options for the same meat should also be available.

Today Churchmouse Campanologist features the letter of Jesus Christ — the ascended Lord, King of Kings — to the church of Thyatira.  Over the past few Sundays, letters to the other churches in Revelation 2 have also featured: Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum.

As with the other letters in Revelation 2, the letter to Thyatira does not appear in any standard three-year Lectionary, therefore qualifying it as part of the ongoing series of Forbidden Bible Verses, those essential verses.  The letters to the churches reveal much about them and about ours today, for better and for worse.

Today’s reading comes from the New International Version (NIV).

Revelation 2:18- 29

To the Church in Thyatira

18“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
27‘He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery’— just as I have received authority from my Father. 28I will also give him the morning star. 29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

———————————————————————————————

If you have read the past three entries on Christ’s letters to the churches, you will readily recognise the commonality amongst them.  One feature is that He comes in power and majesty as a judge.  The other is that He orders them to pay attention to His specific message.

The church of Thyatira is no exception.  If the church of Pergamum ‘married the world’, then Thyatira was fully immersed and at one in it.

Thyatira had no prominent pagan temples as Pergamum and Ephesus.  Yet, it was linked with the pagan priestess Sambethe, who told fortunes for a sum of money.

Thyatira has also been known as Pelopia and Semiramis.  Today, it is part of Turkey and is called Ak-Hissar, with a population of around 20,000.  The populace are comprised of Greeks, Armenians and a minority of Jews.  Ak-Hissar means ‘white castle’.  The name derives from the ancient castle ‘of Thya’, the ruins of which still exist today.  In the very ancient world, it was the city of the sun god Tyrimnos.  At right is a map of the seven churches to which Christ wrote through the apostle St John (the Divine). 

The city was in the old province of Lydia. Thyatira is to the northeast of Ephesus (designated by the red marker on the map at right).  Note that the early Christian whose name is connected with Thyatira is also called Lydia.  She was a merchant of purple dye (‘Turkish red’) who travelled the region and heard the teachings of St Paul whilst on a trip to Phillipi (Acts 16:14). It is believed that Lydia went back to Thyatira with St Paul’s teachings and converted her family.  They were the original disciples of the church of Thyatira.

Lydia’s merchandising of purple dye would have made her a member of a tradesmen’s guild.  This was not unlike a mediaeval guild or, in today’s equivalent, a union.  In Thyatira, the dyers’ and coppersmiths’ guilds held much influence.  They owned property, could negotiate grand contracts and engaged in other important activities.  Some people, whom Christ refers to collectively as Jezebel (see below), thought that the church should unite with them in order to increase the number of Christians — not unlike today’s church growth advocates linking congregations with community-based organisers and movements in the United States.

Before we go into the text, think about the power that today’s trade unions — whether in Europe or the US — possess.  They can negotiate their own pay, they can hold a nation to ransom through strikes (whether to put out a fire, deliver post or ensure sufficient electricity).  Along with that is the ideological aspect which Pope St Pius X warned against: the ideology of such a common bond (in his and ours, e.g. Communism, Socialism) that can interfere with Christ’s Great Commission.  Do we make disciples of the world’s people in His name or do we follow man-centred teachings with its yearnings for equality, justice and church growth?

A prophetess whom Christ calls Jezebel attempted to do just that in the city of Thyatira.  But, she had a precedent.  Let’s read on.

As with the previous letters, Christ writes through St John (on exile in the Greek island of Patmos, circa 95 AD) to the church in Thyatira.  Lydia, the seller of the purple dyes, has no spiritual connection to the Jezebel mentioned in this passage.

In verse 18, Christ announces himself as a powerful judge: note the mention of His being ‘the Son of God’ in majesty (not ‘the Son of Man’ in humanity).  To emphasise this, He says that His eyes are like ‘blazing fire’ and His feet ‘burnished bronze’ (or ‘fine brass’, if you read the King James Version).   We are all acquainted with eyes that burn like fire from a person in authority who comes in judgment.  The Lord tells Thyatira’s church that He can also, quite rightly, dominate us in judgment with feet like burning bronze, burnishing us into submission unto the Truth or damnation.  ‘Burnished bronze’  indicates Christ’s perfect holiness, nature, judgment and wisdom.

Yet, as a good manager so often does at work, Christ acknowledges the church at Thyatira’s ‘deeds, love and faith’ (verse 19).  He says they are also doing more as a church than they did initially, all to the good.

However, Jezebel is leading the church into sin by integrating it with the world through pagan practices (verse 20).  A word about Jezebel as Christ uses the name here.  Matthew Henry wrote that it may have been several people, not necessarily one woman.  John MacArthur writes that Jezebel is one woman.  Whoever this person or persons are, they suggest to Christ the Jezebel of the Old Testament, who persuaded her husband Ahab and Israel to worship the god Baal (1 Kings 18).  Some in the church of Thyatira are now fornicating and engaging in idol worship whilst calling themselves Christians.  By doing so, they are profaning Christ and His Church.

Christ reminds the Christians of Thyatira that He has given them ample time to repent (verse 21).  He always gives us time to change our ways and obey Him.  However, if we refuse, we must accept His perfect judgment.  If Jezebel chooses to lie in sin (verse 22), Christ will ensure that she suffers for her disobedience.  Furthermore, all those who join with her on that ‘bed’ will also suffer more than they could ever imagine.  ‘You made your bed, now lie on it!’

But worse is yet to come for Jezebel’s children, whom Christ will strike dead (verse 23).  John MacArthur reads this literally, saying that their removal is necessary for the purity of the Church.  Matthew Henry interprets it as remaining alive on Earth but being condemned to Hell. God took the Jezebel of the Old Testament out of the equation;  He told Ahab that dogs would devour her (1 Kings 21:23).  Similarly, Christ will ensure that those who continue in serious sin will lose the promise of everlasting life.  If this seems harsh, remember that the church in Thyatira should have disciplined Jezebel for perverting the Gospel message and corrupting the church. (Perhaps they feared the guilds’ power.) St Paul lays this out clearly in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. Henry also notes that this verse predicts the fall of Babylon.

Christ goes on to say in verse 23 that this judgment will be a very clear message not only to Thyatira but to the other churches that gross sin will not go unnoticed or unpunished.  Therefore, we must leave churches which have moved towards integration with growth methodology, political involvement or the social gospel.  And there are many churches today doing just that.  Think of Rick Warren, the USCCB and those working with politicians and community organisers with a secular agenda.  Also think of congregations whose priests and ministers turn a blind eye to or advocate sexual immorality and deviance.

In verses 24 and 25, He tells the faithful in Thyatira that He will ask nothing more of them but to remain true to Him until He comes again.  Christ tells the good Christians of Thyatira (verse 26) that those who overcome in faith and obedience will share with Him authority over all nations.  In verse 27, He cites Psalm 2:9 and His authority from God the Father.  This power may refer to the time of the Roman emperor Constantine or to the afterlife, when they will be co-judges of those who have sinned against Him and His church.

In verse 28, Christ promises Himself — ‘the morning star’ in all His grace, wisdom and glory — to the faithful.   He closes (verse 29) with an exhortation to the church in Thyatira to pay attention and repent.  Those who have not sinned are asked to stand firm and persevere in faith.  The judgment or reward is everlasting.

Because many of today’s Christians are unaware of the content of these letters to the churches, next Sunday’s instalment will look at the letters in Revelation 3, beginning with the church in Sardis.

For further reading:

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

‘The Disaster of the Church that Tolerates Sin’ — John MacArthur

‘Thyatira’ — Bible Encyclopedia

Thanks to a thread on Puritan Board, I have found a wonderful new Bible-reading system.  Professor Grant Horner, who teaches English at John MacArthur’s The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California, devised an easy-to-follow method of Scripture reading.

Using Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System (see Resources in the left-hand column of the blog), you will read 10 chapters of the Bible a day.  It won’t be one book at a time, either.  You’ll be skipping around between the Old and New Testaments.  You won’t get bored and you’ll have a better idea of how the various books of the canon fit together.

I’m trying this out myself, having taken stock of all the time I’ve spent over the years reading about politics and other secular subjects.  I have never read the Bible all the way through.  If you’re like me, here’s more to get you interested in Scripture.  I don’t want to approach my judgment being asked by the Almighty, ‘Churchmouse, how was it you lived so long, knew so much about the world, yet you never read what I had to tell you for your salvation?’

Horner tells us a bit about how this method came about (excerpted, emphases mine):

I began in 1983 (adapting and tweaking the basic design of another system) as a brand-new convert; within 3 years I knew the text of my Bible very well. Twenty-five years later it is essentially imprinted on my mind and heart. I have been all over the country and have taught this system in many churches. I have done open-microphone Q&As on Bible and theology — with 1200 people in the audience — as well as cultural-analysis live radio shows where you have to think fast — and it has been the “imprinting” value of this system that has helped me provide quick, clear, heavily contextualized scriptural answers.

I have no Seminary degrees, no Bible-college or Christian school education — hey, I never even went to Sunday school. All I did have was a chair, a lamp … and my Bible.

Did Horner have a special talent?  No, he is just like you and me, and at the time he started, he was overcoming other challenges:

I was a college dropout, ex-heavy-druggie when I started it. If I can do it — so can you!

His future father-in-law gave him a Bible in 1983, the year that Horner converted to Christianity.  He began using a similar system and has adapted it throughout the years to its present form, which dates from the 1990s:

I was in doctoral work at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke and wanted to keep my head screwed on somewhat straight. That old Scofield [edition] was literally read to tatters by then — covers absolutely gone, spine vanished away, glue-backing visible and all curled up, stitching coming apart, the prefatory material destroyed all the way up to Genesis 1 and the concordance vanished past the entry for “sin.” But as a poor grad student, I had no money for a quality re-bind.

He went for an interview at The Master’s College and met its president, none other than John MacArthur himself.  MacArthur asked to see Horner’s Bible.  Horner was ashamed to show him the tattered book, fearing that its state would reflect poorly on him.  On the contrary, MacArthur was so impressed, he hired Horner on the spot, saying:

“If your Bible is falling apart, you probably aren’t.”

Why is this particular method so useful?  Horner explains:

The very best effect it has is rapid, broad-scale contextualizing across both testaments and all the different biblical genres. Did you know about all the similarities between Ecclesiastes and 2 Corinthians? How about the relationship between Deuteronomy and Matthew? It is like no other system that way, and it provides constant variety (which humans love) as well as consistent conviction (which humans hate).

You’ll note that the 10 reading lists (page 3) take a varying number of days to get through, hence, you will see the relationships to which Horner refers.

Things to remember:

– This system is for individual silent reading, not group study.

– You need only 35-40 minutes a day.

– Try it for a month.  Within that time your reading will become easier.

– Just read the text — don’t start reading commentary or concordances.

– Use bookmarks (page 4) for your paper Bible (I’m actually using Biblegateway.com for my reading) so that you know where to pick up the following day.  Horner uses his bound copy because he can remember on which part of the page he has seen particular passages.  Needless to say, this helps him find them quickly.

– Once you finish reading one chapter in the list, move swiftly on to the next.

Horner’s advice:

On day one, you read Matthew 1, Genesis 1, Romans 1, and so forth. On day 2, read Matthew 2, Genesis 2, etc. On day 29, you will have just finished Matthew, so go to Mark 1 on the Gospel list; you’ll also be almost to the end of 2nd Corinthians and Proverbs, you’ll be reading Psalm 29 and Genesis 29, and so forth. W hen you reach the last chapter of the last book in a list – start over again. Rotate all the way through all theScriptures constantly …

You will NEVER read the same set of ten chapters together again! Every year you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the OT wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the OT History and Prophetic books about 1 ½ times. Since the interweaving is constantly changing, you will experience the Bible commenting on itself in constantly changing ways

stay relaxed, focus, and just keep it moving. Moderate but consistent speed is the key. This is “gross anatomy” — looking at the whole body; you’re not closely studying organs or systems or tissues or cells — it is not microbiology. BUT — microbiology and the study or organs makes more sense when you know what the whole structure of the human body is like, and how all the parts, large and small, relate in perfect interdependence.

What if you miss a day or wish to read ahead?

I have done the system sometimes doubling up (2 sets per day, or 20 chapters), and other times by alternating days (5 chapters per day). The key is to get into a habit for a month. Then you’ll see you’ve probably been starving yourself …

If you miss a day or two – ok, get over it, then keep going. Don’t cover yourself in sackcloth and ashes and quit! Move the bookmarks along, to find your place(s) quickly next day.

Why do we need to read the Bible so continuously?

If you are wondering why you should read Acts (or Proverbs) all the way through every single month, then — you’ve just shown that you NEED to read them that often!

The goal of this system is simple, and twofold: To know scripture, and to love and obey God more!

Remember what Horner’s boss said about overcoming and obedience!

Here’s a great closing thought from Horner:

Your Bible is the only thing on Earth that, as you wear it out, will actually work better and better.

If you have tried Horner’s method, please feel free to comment either way.  I’m really looking forward to using it.

Apologies, but I do not recall how I chanced upon the Weston A Price Foundation website.  Otherwise, I would give a huge tip of the hat!  (I have borrowed the photo above from the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation website.)

Dr Weston A Price (1870-1948) was a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943) of breakfast cereals fame.  Unlike Kellogg, however, he believed that man needed fats and meat in his diet. It’s worth remembering that Kellogg’s Seventh Day Adventist membership informed his advocacy of a vegetarian diet.  What both men did have in common was a focus on better health through improved nutrition.

Price was a dentist who chaired the Research Section of the American Dental Association (ADA) between 1914 and 1923.  Price later researched and criticised aspects of the procedure of root canals, after which the ADA effectively marginalised him.

We might wonder what connection diet and dental health might have.  After all, if we brush our teeth, we won’t need to worry, will we?  Yet, Price undertook years of study in faraway parts of the world, not only in North America and Western Europe but also in Africa, South America and the Pacific Islands.  His published findings shocked the medical and dental authorities in the United States.  In ‘Politically Incorrect: The Neglected Nutritional Research of Dr Weston Price, DDS’ we find that his research started in Euclid, Ohio, where he practiced dentistry (emphases mine throughout):

Price noticed that his patients were suffering more and more chronic and degenerative diseases. He also noticed that his younger patients had increasingly deformed dental arches, crooked teeth, and cavities. This definitely concerned him: he had not seen such things just ten or fifteen years ago. Why was it happening now? Price also noticed a strong correlation between dental health and physical health: a mouth full of cavities went hand in hand with a body either full of disease, or generalized weakness and susceptibility to disease. In Price’s time, tuberculosis was the major infectious illness, the White Scourge. He noticed that children were increasingly affected, the ones with the lousy teeth …

Yet Price had read of people isolated from Western diets of tinned food, packaged meats, processed sugars who had healthy teeth.  He and his wife spent several years travelling around the world to find out how and why these people had no dental problems:

During his nine years of journeys, Price did indeed come across groups of primitives who were having problems for various reasons. Price noted these groups down, what appeared to be their difficulty, and then passed them over. Again, he was not interested in sick people. Price often found that the health problems were caused by food shortages (especially a lack of animal products), droughts, things people living off the land must face from time to time, or contact with white European civilization

After gaining the trust of the village elders in the various places, Price did what came naturally: he counted cavities and physically examined them. Imagine his surprise to find, on average, less than 1% of tooth decay in all the peoples he visited! He also found that these people’s teeth were perfectly straight and white, with high dental arches and well-formed facial features. And there was something more astonishing: none of the peoples Price examined practiced any sort of dental hygiene; not one of his subjects had ever used a toothbrush! For example, when Price visited his first people, isolated Swiss mountain villagers, he noticed right away that the children’s teeth were covered with a thin film of green slime, yet they had no tooth decay. What a difference this was from the children in Ohio!

Dr. Price also noticed that, in addition to their healthy teeth and gums, all the people he discovered were hardy and strong, despite the sometimes difficult living conditions they had to endure. Eskimo women, for example, gave birth to one healthy baby after another with little difficulty. Despite the Swiss children going barefoot in frigid streams, there had not been a single case of tuberculosis in any of them, despite exposure to TB.

Tuberculosis was still a threatening disease at that time.  (Interestingly, those of us who live in Greater London know that what we thought was a vanquished disease has resurfaced in our area over the past decade because of an increase in immigration from countries — including some European nations — where health care and diet have been poor.)

Price also found something else interesting among the people he studied:

they were happy. While depression was not a major problem in Price’s day, it certainly is today: ask any psychiatrist. While certain natives sometimes fought with neighboring tribes, within their own groups, they were cheerful and optimistic and bounced back quickly from emotional setbacks. These people had no need for antidepressants.

What did Price find as a common link amongst all these people, from the Outer Hebrides and Switzerland to the Masai and Bantu?

Price never found a totally vegetarian culture. Modern anthropological data support this: all cultures and peoples show a preference for animal foods and animal fat

Price also noted that all cultures consumed fermented foods each day. Foods such as cheese, cultured butter, yogurt, or fermented grain drinks like kaffir beer (made from millet) in Africa, or fermented fish as with the Innu were an important part of native diets …

The last major feature of native diets that Price found was that they were rich in fat, especially animal fat. Whether from insects, eggs, fish, game animals, or domesticated herds, primitive peoples knew that they would get sick if they did not consume enough fat. Explorers besides Dr. Price have also found this to be true.

This commonality brought the following health benefits:

Because of the consumption of fermented and raw foods (including raw animal products), Price noted that native diets were rich in enzymes. Enzymes assist in the digestion of cooked foods.

Price noted that all peoples had a predilection and dietary pull towards foods rich in the fat-soluble vitamins. Price considered butter from pasture-fed cows, rich in these vitamins as well as minerals, to be the premiere health food. Fat-soluble vitamins are found in fats of animal origin, like butter, cream, lard, and tallow, as well as in organ meats.

Price took tens of thousands of photographs and kept copious notes.  He photographed many people, many elderly among them, in each group.

He also studied native peoples living near Europeans or Americans with a standard Western diet.  It was in these places that he found tooth decay and health problems:

Price noted in several places that where modern foods had displaced traditional ones, suicide rates from dental caries were high. As most of us know, dental pain can be excruciating. With no drugs to ease their pain, and no dentist around to pull the dying tooth, people took their own lives to escape the torture.

White Europeans who lived in Africa had to leave periodically for health reasons. Children born there had to be sent away several times during their youth in order to survive. Such was the hardy effect of modern foods on these people. Native Africans, of course, had no such problems as long as they stayed on their native diets.

The essay has more findings from Price’s journeys — a fascinating read.  Ultimately, Price concluded — and this is important to note — that we can reverse the adverse results of a bad diet by returning to food made the way God created it:

If a native abandoned his ancestral eating habits in favor of modern foods, ill health and dental caries followed. If that same person switched back to the original eating pattern, however, health returned and the progression of dental decay stopped and reversed itself. This is perhaps the most uplifting aspect of Price’s work: one can always reverse the trend; there is always hope.

Price accurately and ominously predicted that as Western man consumed more refined sugar and substituted vegetable oils for animal fats, disease would increase and reproduction would be more difficult. Today, some 25% of Western couples are infertile, and rates of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease have skyrocketed.

Well, you can understand why this would make Price unpopular in the United States, which had been moving rapidly towards greater convenience for the housewife since the late 19th century with tinned and increasingly processed foods reliant on factory and farm mass production.  Today, it’s even worse with increased amounts of sodium, refined flour and corn syrup in most products on our supermarket shelves.  And this is happening not only in North America but in Europe, the Antipodes and other advanced parts of the world.

For the medical profession, captains of the food industry and Big Pharma, however, it’s even more threatening.  What if consumers started going back to the land — buying meat from small holdings, fish from local fisheries and vegetables from local growers — helping individuals rather than multinationals?  What if we went back to eating cheese made with unpasteurised (raw) milk and fought for the freedom to drink raw milk, which Britain’s Royal Family rightly and regularly consume?

What if we could do away with heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and tooth decay just by changing our diets? Who in power is going to like that we are taking control of our own lives and our own health?

The essay concludes:

We humans evolved eating certain food stuffs in certain ways. You did not see a caveman trimming the fat off of his meat – he ate the whole thing. You did not see a Swiss Alps villager eating low fat cheese – she ate the whole thing. You did not see Maori fishermen avoiding shellfish for fear of cholesterol – they ate the whole thing. Foods are packaged in ways that Nature intended: they contain all the nutrients within themselves for optimal assimilation by our bodies. Eating whole foods insures us the highest amount of nutrients food has to offer. Tampering with them is ill advised.

I have spent the last few weeks reading The Weston A. Price Foundation website, which I have included in my Resources section under ‘Health Topics’.  I’m learning something new every day about how we can inexpensively and practicably improve our own health.  Whether you are young or old, with children or without, I highly recommend what it has to say.  Disclaimer: always check with a medical professional first before stopping your medication — do not attempt a drastic change on your own at home.

Why not live the way God intended?  Let’s make full use of what He gave us, the way He created it.

25And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 1:25-31

I have a long-time friend living in the US who has recently begun an alarming course of regular electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and psychotropic prescription drugs.

As a result, I have been researching the effect that psychotropic drugs have on the brain.  I have also been looking into less damaging alternatives for her.

She hasn’t asked me to do anything on her behalf.  Her husband was instrumental in getting her to start this treatment, more out of discouragement than anything else.  He isn’t being consciously destructive — I know him well, too — he just wants his bride back, the way she was 30-odd years ago.  They have both been retired for some years — at an age many of us can only dream of.  They are financially well-off.

For my part, I am still trying to figure out how an attractive, shapely, intelligent, physically healthy, well-informed woman could require this type of treatment.  Naturally, her psychiatrist is only too happy to oblige.  He has been prescribing drugs for her for the past year.  Suddenly, I received a letter from her this summer saying that she had started going for ECT and continuous drugs.

I wrote back saying that I was happy that she was feeling better.  She was so ecstatic in her letter that I was at a loss to say anything to the contrary, even though I am concerned to read that she may have permanent partial memory loss.  The drugs she will need for the rest of her life.  The ECT seems to be long-term as well.

‘Well, Churchmouse,’ I hear you say, ‘you could always advise getting more involved with the Bible and with church.’  But that’s part of the problem.  She has been — along with her husband — a card-carrying member of the healthist-pietist brigade for years.  Minimal alcohol, no tobacco but excessive worries about health!  She was one of the first women I knew in the 1980s who regularly went to the gym after work.  Couldn’t live without that gym.  All I have heard from her since the 1980s is ‘health, health, health!’  I once asked her why she was so obsessed with it.  She wrote back and replied, ‘Isn’t everyone?  You have to be these days.’

I think of all the energy that she wastes on worrying about her physical wellbeing.  She could have spent all that time studying the Bible and deepening her faith.  But, that’s the other part of the problem.  She’s a healthist, so she adopts the default position of unbelief.  Yet, she’s so worried about losing her health that … she lost it.

And she was railing against God increasingly in the run-up to last year.  She detests God.  She certainly dislikes Christians intensely (yes, I’m a bit low-key with her on that subject).  The usual secularist thing.  I wonder what God thinks about that.  Perhaps He has temporarily left her to her own devices.  I don’t know.  I pray He helps her soon.  Perhaps she has to realise her brokenness first.

So, I am at a loss as to how to respond to her letter from last week saying that her health insurance doesn’t cover mental health treatments and that Obamacare (something she desperately wanted) is already affecting the rest of her health insurance — i.e. other medical treatments have been capped across the board. Now she’s upset.  (Ahem.  I tried to tell her this would happen. She asked me last year why I was so ‘angry’ when Obamacare, once passed, would be just wonderful.  I wasn’t angry, but I could see what was coming.  And now the day of reckoning has arrived.)

Whilst I think of something encouraging and uplifting to tell her, as mentioning prayer (she was raised a Presbyterian) or getting more active around the house (doing her own gardening and cooking would be a start) are out, here is what my independent research has turned up.  You are a more receptive audience for this sort of thing, so perhaps you are as interested as I am in finding out the long-term effects of prescription drugs and how we can wean ourselves off them.

Disclaimer — there are real health — physical and mental — dangers in weaning yourself off drugs, even the ‘perfectly safe’ (!) ones.  Always take professional advice — don’t try this on your own. And, I agree that there are people who really do need to be on drugs for physical or mental ailments — just maybe not forever.

Having said that, here’s the scoop on what happens in Big Pharma followed by a possible way out.

Here’s Gwen Olsen, a former successful Big Pharma sales rep who has since been working with natural supplements and speaks publicly about her career — the highs and the lows.  She also has a website which is worthwhile visiting.

In this video from 2007, she describes her work as a sales rep.  She tells you how she was trained to manipulate doctors by personality type — just like many sales reps do in other fields!  She describes today’s psychiatry, which is no longer treatment and a prescription;  often, it’s just a prescription.  A psychologist handles the therapy.  She warns us about the strength and potency of these drugs, of which she was unaware until she heard doctors discussing them privately:

Olsen says that the physical symptoms we see in mental patients — unusual motor co-ordination or facial habits (licking of the lips) — result from the drugs they are taking, not from the illness itself!  Also, she says that when the side-effects of the drugs make the patients physically uncomfortable, they stop taking the medication.  This is why we have so many outpatients with mental disorders who don’t want to take their pills.  It’s not the fact that they have to take a tablet;  they want to avoid what that tablet does to them physically.

In this next video, also from 2007,  she describes her own personal hell with Xanax and explains how this type of drug — an anxiolytic — can be highly dangerous.  She took it for mild anxiety and became more and more anxious.

Before we get to the link, I recall at the time Xanax hit the US market in the 1980s, it was hailed as a wonder drug for depression.  I worked with a young woman in her early 20s who suffered from ‘mild anxiety’ over a temporary situation.  Her doctor prescribed Xanax and we were quite intrigued to see what we expected would be magic, instantaneous results.  Instead, my colleague, although handling herself well with us, soon started having crying spells in private (most unlike her!).  She put it down to the Xanax.  Naturally, she had some time convincing her doctor to wean her off them.  I also know of a young man in the UK who took Xanax in the early 1990s.  His anxiety turned into aggression.  His girlfriend, another colleague of mine, ended up dumping him because his personality changed for the worse.  In his case, he was sure the Xanax was working just fine — it was everyone else who was the problem!

In this 2008 video, Olsen explains why Big Pharma has no interest in making you or your family well!  I said something similar at the end of May:

As the years go by, one pill leads to another and another until such point as they have a veritable daily cocktail of colourful tablets to take.  What they don’t realise is that Pill B corrects Pill A’s side effects.  Pill C corrects a side effect that occurs when taking Pills A and B together.  And so on.

In many cases, we’ll never really get better. We are cash cows, just part of ‘market share’ — and don’t forget all the scans and tests that go with!

Olsen says that we need to look at our health holistically (sorry if that’s a pagan word) — diet, exercise, wellbeing.  Someone who has a good deal of experience in this area is Dr Vincent Bellonzi of Austin, Texas (I have no connection with him or his clinic, by the way — I merely wish to pass along what he has to say).  He says that you cannot discount the physical aspects of a mental illness.  Often, a physical imbalance of nutrients or amino acids can cause mental problems. Once you go on prescription drugs to ‘cure’ these, you can permanently alter the way your brain works — not always for the better. He explains his seven-point approach:

He also warns about stopping a prescription drug cold turkey.  Practitioners like Bellonzi, however, can help shorten the time you are on them whilst they help you to transition to a tailored set of natural supplements and a better diet:

It worries me to think that we are putting so much faith into doctors and prescription drugs, especially when I read nightmare scenarios like this one which took place in Texas.  Welcome to ‘The Worst Hospital Ever’.  The author describes what happened when she took Chantix (Champix) in an effort to stop smoking. (I’ve seen people on this, too — the woman I knew could go from ecstatic to manic within seconds.) This lady went through a real-life hell for days in a place which should have helped her. Here’s what happened (emphases mine):

I had a bad reaction to Chantix.  I knew that was the problem.  So I asked to be taken to the E.R.  I had heard all the news stories of people killing themselves and hurting themselves after taking it. I was entirely too committed to living and remaining a productive member of society to want to take that chance

Then the intake counselor for UBH Denton, “Ingrid,” came in and talked with me. She said I’d had some kind of episode… and with the help of a very competent physician who came along later, we figured out that it was sleep deprivation, plain and simple. IF someone had just knocked me out to sleep for about 24 hours, I’d have been fine …

The scary thing is that when I told the other patients I was leaving, they all told me, “No, you’re not.” I said “Yes I am. I came in here on my own.” They told me if I had good health insurance, the doctor would file an order of commitment against me. And sure enough, when I filled out the paperwork to leave, the nurse looked at me and said, “He’s going to commit you.” I said “Huh? But I didn’t DO anything! I didn’t try to hurt myself or anyone else. I just had some kind of episode. Why?” They just told me he would.

Then:

I walked in there on my own two feet, and signed myself in voluntarily.  Lisa was wheeled in on a stretcher at about the same time, with bandages on both of her wrists where she had cut herself in an effort to end her life.

I didn’t see her for two days.  When I finally did, she said they had medicated her and put her in bed and she’d been knocked out ever since.  But, we both agreed we weren’t getting any help, and by Tuesday we decided we wanted to leave.  Lisa called her husband, and she was gone in a few hours.  I called my ex-husband who had our son, and my boyfriend, and told them I’d be leaving, too.  I filled out my request to leave.  It was quickly denied

I did not understand how someone who had tried to kill herself was allowed to leave and I was not.  But, thankfully, I wrote down her contact information and we stayed in touch.  I found out later that she didn’t have insurance.  So, think about it from their point of view–she had a choice whether to pay them or not, and if they held her, she might refuse to pay.  But, I was there on great health insurance, known for paying great benefits.  So, they held me.

They kept telling me I’d “probably be well Friday.”  When I raised enough hell about wanting to leave, they let me go on Thursday.  I walked into my house feeling like someone who had just been seriously violated and I wasn’t sure why.  Until I opened my mail and found the letter from the insurance company noting that my benefits for inpatient care were “approved through Friday.”

This episode had serious knock-on effects later from a prescription issued to her by a hospital psychiatrist:

I went to get life insurance about a year ago.  I told the agent what I had been through. He said the biggest problem is that I’d had a prescription for lithium filled at a pharmacyI am now uninsurable for life and health insurance.  I am lucky I have an employer who will give me insurance regardless of that, but as far as life insurance goes, I now pay triple the price I should pay for it because I am “high risk.”

Apologies for the length of the post, but I still haven’t figured out what to say to my unbeliever, healthist friend upthread. (If you have any suggestions, please feel free to chime in.) Meanwhile, let’s be alert as to what can happen in the medical arena.

Something lighter tomorrow.

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Many people outside of Britain may be unaware of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic  State Visit to Britain a few days ago. I am pleased to report that television coverage was much better (thorough and respectful) than I had anticipated.

Many recall that Pope John Paul II visited the UK in 1982.  However, that was a pastoral visit.  Pope Benedict’s was a state visit, with the invitation extended to the Vatican by the previous Labour government.  This was the first time a Pope had set foot on British soil in his capacity as a head of state since the Reformation took place here in 1534.

The Pope arrived in the UK on Thursday, September 16 — St Ninian’s Day in Scotland.  Children from every eponymous school took part in a parade along Princes Street.  His first stop was Edinburgh, to be received by Queen Elizabeth and Scottish dignitaries at Holyrood Palace.  The Queen acknowledged the invaluable help of the Holy See in helping heal the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The Pope acknowledged Britain’s national ethos, shaped by Christian teachings.  He said that Christ’s Church had informed our history and laws.  However, he warned us that giving too much sway to secularism and atheism could weaken our Christian way of life.

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The Scots also commissioned a papal tartan for the Pope’s visit.  Ironically, they chose an American Catholic — Matthew Newsome from North Carolina — to design it.  Mr Newsome was on hand in Scotland to see the final product, which was part of the official merchandise which reporters and various dignitaries received. The Pope wore the tartan scarf in the Popemobile on his way to Cardinal O’Brien’s residence.  Mr Newsome told the Daily Record (which also has a picture of Cardinal O’Brien holding one of the scarves):

“As a Catholic, I’m just thrilled that my design was chosen as the official papal visit tartan.

“I obviously witnessed the visit of Pope Benedict to the US in 2008 and can assure the people of Scotland that the events of next Thursday will live long in the memory.

“The white line on blue field draws upon Scotland’s national colours while the green reflects the lichens growing on the stones of Whithorn in Galloway. It was there that Ninian first brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to Scottish shores over 1,600 years ago.

“The white lines are also accompanied by a pair of red lines, reflecting the colours of Cardinal Newman’s crest. And finally, the thin yellow lines in the tartan, together with the white, reflect the colours of the Vatican.”

Each white line on the green contains exactly eight threads, one for each Catholic diocese in Scotland. There are 452 threads in the design from pivot to pivot, representing the number of Catholic parishes.

The tartan has been created in conjunction with two Scottish companies – Ingles Buchan of Glasgow and ClanItalia of Falkirk.

Later that day, the Pope travelled to Glasgow to celebrate an open-air Mass in Bellahouston Park (photo at right), where Pope John Paul II said Mass on his pastoral visit in 1982.  One young woman, afflicted by cerebral palsy her entire life, had received Holy Communion from John Paul II and told television news how honoured she was to receive the Sacrament from Benedict XVI at this Mass.

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The following day, he arrived in London, first to appear before schoolchildren in Twickenham, best known for its rugby matches.  There, he heard a beautiful girls’ school choir and gave a talk to the youngsters.  He told them that money could not buy happiness and, furthermore, happiness was nothing we could actively seek unless we turned to God.

From there, he traveled in his Popemobile to the heart of London, where he addressed Members of Parliament at Westminster Hall.  He then took part in a service of reconciliation across the street at Westminster Abbey.  The photo shows him with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Revd Rowan Williams.

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I hadn’t intended watching any of it but did end up seeing the Pope’s morning in Edinburgh, part of the Westminster Abbey service (including the very warm welcome from the crowds nearby), part of his address to MPs in Westminster Hall (across the street at one end of the Palace of Westminster), part of Saturday morning’s Mass and all of Sunday’s.

The Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday morning (September 18) was beautiful and dignified, with the Eucharistic Prayer and a few of the other prayers said or sung in Latin (1968 Novus Ordo), but the real highlight was when the Pope walked out of the cathedral to hundreds (probably thousands) of youngsters from every diocese in England. Wow — you would have thought they were glimpsing a rock star — screams of delight which brought real smiles to BXVI’s face. His talk to them was the most spontaneous that I have heard him give on this trip. Although he had his speech typed up, he looked up from it most of the time, making eye contact with them. The kids were so energised, and I think that he was, too. He told them how important prayer was and to discern Christ’s direction in their lives and careers. He told them how important it was to make time for daily prayer and — silence.  So important.

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Then, he spoke with a young parish youth leader and university student, a chap named Paschal Uche. (Paschal had made a short speech before the Pope spoke, asking him to bless a modern candle stand — see photo at right — which would be used at various youth services around the country.  Paschal is in the photo, between the Pope and the girl shaking his hand.) The Pope blessed Paschal and shook hands with a number of the other teens who were on the steps of the cathedral. The BBC commentators (Huw Edwards and a monsignor) voiced their surprise at how much time the Pope was spending with the youngsters. Apparently, it was only supposed to be a brief appearance. (A prayer vigil in Hyde Park took place that evening, and it would appear that many of them were planning on being there.)

On Sunday, September 19, the Pope beatified Cardinal Newman, now known as Blessed (Bl) John Henry Newman.  His feast day for Catholics is October 9, the day he was received into their  Church.  (Wikipedia tells us that his Anglican feast day is August 11, which is the date of his death, the traditional feast day. In the Episcopal Church (United States), his feast is commemorated on his date of birth, February 21.)  The miracle which sealed his beatification was healing the lower back of a Catholic deacon, Jack Sullivan, who, with his wife, travelled from Boston, Massachusetts, to participate in the Mass held at Cofton Park near Birmingham.  Mr Sullivan read the Gospel.

Bl John Henry Newman now requires an additional miracle attributed to him in order to qualify for canonisation.

Fifty thousand worshippers heard the Pope describe Cardinal Newman’s outstanding intellect.  Yet, he said, it was combined with his profound holiness in conducting pastoral duties.  As an Oratorian — following the spiritual values of St Philip Neri — he worked for many years with the disadvantaged and needy.  Even today, the hungry or those in need of ministry can approach an Oratory at any time of day or night.  Priests are always on duty to supply a small meal or to hear a confession.

The Pope also had a word to say about education — it should not be purely ‘utilitarian’ but also teach ‘moral discipline’.

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Prime Minister David Cameron met briefly with the Pope at Birmingham City Airport prior to his return to Rome.   Mr Cameron had been on compassionate leave and attended his father’s funeral during the Pope’s visit, precluding any earlier meeting.

So, a warm reception from our monarch and Head of State — the Queen, the British people and our government. Particular appreciation goes to Lord Patten, a Catholic, who organised the events involving the state visit (as opposed to the pastoral events, which a delegation from the Catholic Church organised). Despite all the adverse publicity and seeming delay in deciding where to site the beatification Mass, and despite my personal reservations about the Catholic Church, it’s good that the Pope came to our shores. It also seemed that he really enjoyed his time here.

People lining the streets glimpsing the Popemobile or attending the various events will have wonderful memories of his visit. He has done much for evangelism amongst Catholics here, truly (re)kindling their faith.

UPDATE: Well, here’s something I hadn’t seen on the news … anyone else?  Broadcast blackout?

Here, thanks to Ichabod, The Glory Has Departed, is a word about the Crusades.  Dr Jackson writes about Christian theologians distorting the history behind them:

For instance, the slave trade in Africa was always a Muslim business. Moreover, the First Crusade was precipitated by Muslims capturing Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem and selling them into slavery.

Jerusalem was a Christian territory and this pouncing on peaceful pilgrims made the Crusaders want to protect them and regain the Holy Land. They did not set any records for decorous behavior, but to portray Islam as heaven-itself and Christianity as evil is typical disinformation.

More on the Pope’s State Visit to the UK:

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