Christians in India facing violent persecution, “convert or flee” demolition of homes by Hindu majority.

The following is an excerp from an interesting article in today’s New York Times: (click here to read whole, original article.)

BOREPANGA, India — The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.

They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.

“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”

India, the world’s most populous democracy and officially a secular nation, is today haunted by a stark assault on one of its fundamental freedoms. Here in eastern Orissa State, riven by six weeks of religious clashes, Christian families like the Digals say they are being forced to abandon their faith in exchange for their safety.

The forced conversions come amid widening attacks on Christians here and in at least five other states across the country, as India prepares for national elections next spring.

The clash of faiths has cut a wide swath of panic and destruction through these once quiet hamlets fed by paddy fields and jackfruit trees. Here in Kandhamal, the district that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall where the Digals worshiped. Today it is a heap of rubble on an empty field, where cows blithely graze.

Across this ghastly terrain lie the singed remains of mud-and-thatch homes. Christian-owned businesses have been systematically attacked. Orange flags (orange is the sacred color of Hinduism) flutter triumphantly above the rooftops of houses and storefronts.

India is no stranger to religious violence between Christians, who make up about 2 percent of the population, and India’s Hindu-majority of 1.1 billion people. But this most recent spasm is the most intense in years….”

Bill Moyers’ Democracy in the Balance.

please read this important excerpt from Bill Moyer’s “Democracy in the Balance”:

“…….The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and Religious Right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children’s children are ready for retirement; and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war.

And, yes, they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of producing a news magazine I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t have made up the things that this crew in Washington have been saying. The president’s chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy. The president’s Council of Economic Advisers reports that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president’s labor secretary says it doesn’t matter if job growth has stalled because “the stock market is the ultimate arbiter.” And the president’s Federal Reserve chair says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in Social Security – but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway.

You just can’t make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing.

But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans and the poor – and to the workings of American democracy – is no laughing matter. It calls for righteous indignation and action. Otherwise our democracy will degenerate into a shell of itself in which the privileged and the powerful sustain their own way of life at the expense of others and the United States becomes another Latin America with a small crust of the rich at the top governing a nation of serfs.

OVER THE PAST few years, as the poor got poorer, the health care crisis worsened, wealth and media became more and more concentrated, and our political system was bought out from under us, prophetic Christianity lost its voice. The Religious Right drowned everyone else out.

And they hijacked Jesus. The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, “The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” The very Jesus who told 5,000 hungry people that all of you will be fed, not just some of you. The very Jesus who challenged the religious orthodoxy of the day by feeding the hungry on the Sabbath, who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast, who raised the status of women and treated even the tax collector like a child of God. The very Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple. This Jesus has been hijacked and turned into a guardian of privilege instead of a champion of the dispossessed. Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist, sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don’t work, and punitive public policies.

Let’s get Jesus back. The Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight-hour work day. Let’s get back the Jesus who caused Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop. The Jesus who called a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor – 10 years before the New Deal. The Jesus in whose name Dorothy Day challenged the church to march alongside auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. The Jesus who led Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.

That Jesus has been scourged by his own followers, dragged through the streets by pious crowds, and crucified on a cross of privilege. Mel Gibson missed that. He missed the resurrection – the spiritual awakening that followed the death of Jesus. He missed Pentecost.

Our times cry out for a new politics of justice. This is no partisan issue. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative, Jesus is both and neither. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, Jesus is both and neither. We need a faith that takes on the corruption of both parties. We need a faith that challenges complacency of all power. If you’re a Democrat, shake them up. If you’re a Republican, shame them. Jesus drove the money changers from the temple. We must drive them from the temples of democracy. Let’s get Jesus back.

But let’s do it in love. I know it can sound banal and facile to say this. The word “love” gets thrown around too casually these days. And brute reality can mock the whole idea of loving one another. We’re still living in the shadow of Dachau and Buchenwald. The smoke still rises above Kosovo and Rwanda, Chechnya and East Timor. The walls of Abu Ghraib still shriek of pain. What has love done? Where is there any real milk of human kindness?

But the love I mean is the love described by Reinhold Niebuhr in his book of essays Justice and Mercy, where he writes: “When we talk about love we have to become mature or we will become sentimental. Basically love means…being responsible, responsibility to our family, toward our civilization, and now by the pressures of history, toward the universe of humankind.”

Jesus Christ, Hillel the Elder, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi.

Jesus Christ, Hillel the Elder, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi.

The Problem of Moral Relativism

The following is a truly outstanding explanation of everything in play here (written by Scott Sullivan at his scholastic philosophy page, read article below here or click to see other articles of Scott’s), and a good guide to see if one’s own tendency is towards moral relativism and if that is constructive or destructive:

The Problem of Moral Relativism
What is moral relativism? It is the ideology that there are no absolute right and wrong actions; it’s all just a matter of personal perspective. There is no objective good and evil, only matters of personal taste and opinion. Moral right and wrong are relative to a particular culture (cultural relativism) or is relative to the individual (individual relativism). Morality in this view is subjective (comes from within a person).
Moral absolutists on the other hand are those who think there is really a right and a wrong, regardless of what anyone thinks about it. Rape is really wrong, it doesn’t matter what the rapist or his groupies think. Morality in this view is objective (a real fact about the world).
Moral relativism It is the underlying philosophical assumption in these common trumpet blasts: “That’s true for you but not for me”, “That’s just your truth”, “That’s just your opinion”, “That’s just your value judgment”, “Don’t judge”, “What gives you the right to say this action is wrong?”, “Who’s to say this action is wrong?”, “I think this action is wrong, but I don’t want to say someone else can’t do it”, “Different strokes for different folks”, “Don’t like abortion don’t have one”, “Don’t impose your morality on me!”, “Just be true to yourself”, “Do your own thing”, “Be open-minded”, “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so”.
On the other hand even small children instinctively know moral absolutes. Hey don’t cut in line, that’s unfair, etc. Moreover, conscience tells us morals are objective and objective moral values are all around us in public discourse, international human rights organizations, war crimes, international law, UN resolutions, etc.
Which view is correct?
Four Arguments for Moral Relativism
The Argument from Tolerance, Guilt, and Compassion:

“Moral absolutes create guilt. Millions have been made to feel bad about their actions and lifestyle because of oppressive people thinking they can tell them what is right and wrong. We should get rid of moral absolutes to be more tolerant and compassionate!”
Response: Feelings are not the standard for determining morality. Certainly we wouldn’t want a rapist or a Hitler to feel good about their immoral actions.
Secondly, the argument assumes things like tolerance and compassion are really good. But this is self-refuting. If there are no moral absolutes these values cannot be really good. Why not be intolerant? Only a moral absolutist can take tolerance seriously. What is needed for true tolerance is the recognition that tolerance is a real good and that one ought to live in harmony with those whom they disagree on some relatively minor issues. Now, only an absolutist can have a real moral disagreement with another, for if relativism is true then there is no wrong opinion to tolerate, every view is equally true. The relativist just agrees with everyone, and agreeing is not tolerance.
Besides, grave immoral actions are intolerable. Should we tolerate genocide, enslavement, or tyranny? Can we tolerate racism, underpaying women or gay bashing?
The Argument from Differing Cultural Values:
“Different cultures and societies have different moral values. Individuals do too. Therefore right and wrong are determined by one’s culture.”
There is a hidden false assumption in this argument, that it is good to obey one’s culture. Why shouldn’t that be relative too? It is self-contradictory to say there are no moral absolutes but that one should follow their culture.
Secondly, it is obvious that entire cultures can morally err. Cultures that enslave others, Nazi Germany, etc.
Thirdly, Even if this objection were correct, the argument is a non sequitur. Just because there is disagreement on morality doesn’t mean objective morality is nonexistent. It doesn’t follow that because there is lack of consensus there is no truth. If it did, then all one would have to do is object to this “consensus requirement” and thereby make it false too.
Finally, upon examination, the real difference between the values of different cultures is often exaggerated. Killing innocent human beings has always been wrong in every culture. What has changed is the justification for killing. The cultural differences are superficial, not absolute. No culture has praised cowardice, disrespect towards parents, and rape as morally good, and on then other hand condemned truth telling, love of one’s wife, and courageous patriotism as morally bad.
The Argument From Parental or Societal Influence:
“Morals are the result of upbringing. We would have different values if we were brought up in a different way. Morals are learned traits, not real.”
Response: The fact that morality is learned does nothing to prove its subjectivity. History and science are learned too, but that doesn’t make them relative.
The Argument From Freedom:
“Everyone should have the freedom to live out their own morality. The Supreme Court ruled ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’” (Planned Parenthood v Casey)
Response: This argument presupposes that freedom is already an objective good and that everyone ought to respect it. The relativist cannot consistently hold that there are no real values and that freedom is a real value. Only a moral absolutist can take things like freedom seriously.
Five Arguments Against Moral Relativism
1. Relativism is very often self-refuting: Relativism is almost always offered in a form that commits intellectual suicide. When someone tells you not to impose your morality on others, what are they actually doing? They are imposing their morality on you! They are saying that you shouldn’t do something. The person who professes this view thinks it is wrong to impose morality on others, but they can’t live by their own rule.” You are wrong for telling others they are wrong – you shouldn’t tell other people what they shouldn’t do”. If the relativists are allowed to tell others they are wrong and what they shouldn’t do, why can’t everyone else? The argument cuts its own throat. Consider these examples:
“People should just be true to themselves, do their own thing, and be open-minded. You shouldn’t condemn others!”
Notice that the relativist here uses the morally obligatory “should” word twice while at the same time professing that there is no such thing as moral obligation.
This statement is saying that we shouldn’t morally condemn the actions of others while at the same time it morally condemns one who believes in objective morality.
Don’t impose your morality on others!”

But this very command is itself an imposition of morality on a person who believes in objective moral values.
“Who are you to judge?”
A rational human being with at least a basic understanding of logic and an intuitional knowledge of basic moral principles. This qualifies me to make moral judgments about individuals and society. Your claim here that I ought not to judge is itself a judgment against me and is therefore self-refuting.
These objections reveal the hypocrisy of the relativist – who first says we should not judge others or impose values on others, and then turns right around and judges others for judging and imposes their relativism on those who do not accept it
2. Relativism is unlivable: It’s easy sometimes to sit in the ivory tower of the university and pretend relativism to be true, but as soon as these folks go out into the “real world” they act like everyone else. They will get upset if someone cuts in line, steals their car stereo, and if there is a burglar in their house they will call the cops so the police can come and impose their morality on the burglar. If there are no objective moral values then everyone should be let out of prisons and jails because these convicted felons did nothing really wrong.
3. It is impossible for the relativist to say anything is wrong, including intolerance. If morals are relative then who are to say that one should not be an intolerant Nazi? Maybe my personal morality says its ok to beat women, or wear a white sheet and burn crosses in my front yard and go around lynching minorities. Why should the relativist force their idea of tolerance on them? Is it wrong to torture babies for fun? The relativist must answer “no”. If relativism were true, there can be no immoral societies and no immoral laws. Cultures that enslave others, Nazi Germany, etc. are morally neutral. Relativists cannot be moral reformers for culture. Why change the culture if there is no real standard? What could possibly be the objective moral standard by which a cultural reformer demands change?
4. It is impossible for the relativist to say anything is right, including tolerance or compassion. Since relativism rejects absolute moral values then they cannot say anything is truly morally good either. The actions of Hitler and Mother Theresa do not morally differ at all. In the same way, for the moral relativism there can be no moral improvement. “Moral progress” can only be an incoherent phrase in the vocabulary of the relativist. If there is no real good, there is no really good goal and so nothing towards which we can “progress”.
5. Relativism reduces to moral nihilism: Moral nihilism is the view that there are no moral values, period. If relativism is true, then moral nihilism is true. If moral values are personal and individual, then this reduces to everyone should be allowed to do what they want, which is indistinguishable from having no moral standards. Moreover, since our legal system is founded on moral norms, and if it turns out there are no moral norms, then there should be no criminal codes. There is nothing wrong with stealing someone else’s property, from neglecting one’s own children, underpaying and cheating employees, etc. If relativism is true then everything goes. There is no difference from being a moral relativist and having no morality at all.
We live in a culture inundated with moral issues and disagreements (euthanasia, gay marriage, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, just wars, etc.) yet our culture is continually telling us the morals are relative and hence there really is no truth to the matter. What a waste of time all of these arguments must be.
This last argument really narrows it down. Either there are objective moral standards binding on everyone or there is no morality at all. Traditional morality holds that morals are prescriptive, that is, they are not simply describing what everyone is doing but authoritatively prescribing and governing what they should do.
It is indeed worth mentioning that the above are the main arguments for moral relativism. It doesn’t take much to see that moral relativism is one of the weakest and most transparent philosophies ever proposed – yet it is still very widespread in our culture.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about “MORAL RELATIVISM” lately and thought I’d share this escerpt from Geoffrey Biddulph’s article in Meridian Magazine:“: (in response to the question of weather we are meant to “judge,” in response to the moral reativists’ argument that the Ethics of Jesus Christ are largely in support of moral relativism as the path of a true Christian:

(is one who calls himself ‘Christian’ meant to “judge?”) “…..We are meant to judge every day whether it is better and morally correct for us to go to work or sit at the beach. We are meant to judge whether it is right or wrong to get in fights with those around us, honk at people who take a millisecond too long to go at the red lights, argue with lazy postal clerks. We are supposed to judge whether it is wiser for our kids to hang out with the local drug dealer or with the straight-A students.

We are supposed to make moral judgments every second of the day. Do we go home early from work so we can spend time with our family, or do we stay to impress the boss? What do we look at and think about during the day? What are our plans for the future? Every single decision we make is about moral judgments.

It seems to me that the true meaning of Jesus’ message was not that we should never make judgments. If you read the rest of the quotation (“For by what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged…why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”) it seems that Jesus is talking about the need to avoid hypocrisy. The Joseph Smith Translation makes it clear that Jesus is talking about judging righteously, not to avoid judging at all.

For example, if I am guilty of adultery myself, I have no place to lecture anybody about sexual sin. In addition, the rest of the Sermon on the Mount makes it clear that we should recognize and disdain the sin but love the sinner. Why else would Jesus tell the people that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?” (Matt. 5:28)

Jesus is clearly setting down strong moral rules that involve self-control and self-mastery. And we are expected to teach these moral rules: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach (them), the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19)

Make me an Instrument of your peace, a prayer.

Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.

— St. Francis of Assisi

Always cherish and foster Optimism.

“Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.”

……………………….Why it pays to be forever optimistic in life, as voiced by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Nice short prayers to the Lord, for Children :)

Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

A Child’s Evening Hymn

I hear no voice, I feel no touch,
I see no glory bright;
But yet I know that God is near,
In darkness as in light.
God watches ever by my side,
And hears my whispered prayer:
A God of love for a little child
Both night and day does care.

— Anonymous

Dear Heavenly Father from above,
Look down on (Names of Children) with love,
Please keep them in your care,
And tonight hear their prayer.

A Child’s Grace

God is great and God is Good,
And we thank God for our food;
By God’s hand we must be fed,
Give us Lord, our daily bread. Amen.

— Traditional

God made the sun,
And God made the trees,
God made the mountains,
And God made me.
Thank you O God,
For the sun and the trees,
For making the mountains,
And for making me.

A Child’s Prayer for Morning

Now, before I run to play,
Let me not forget to pray
To God who kept me through the night
And waked me with the morning light.
Help me, Lord, to love thee more
Than I ever loved before,
In my work and in my play
Be thou with me through the day.

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest.
God is nigh.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
God bless our family and our friends.

God Hear My Prayer

God in heaven hear my prayer,
keep me in thy loving care.
Be my guide in all I do,
Bless all those who love me too.

— Traditional

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
May angels watch me
through the night and
wake me with the morning light.

Angel Blessing at Bedtime

Angels bless and angels keep
Angels guard me while I sleep
Bless my heart and bless my home
Bless my spirit as I roam
Guide and guard me through the night
and wake me with the morning’s light.

— Traditional

Prayer for Students

God of Light and Truth,
thank you for giving me
a mind that can know
and a heart that can love.
Help me to keep learning every day of my life,
for all knowledge leads to you.
Let me be aware of your presence
in all things and at all times.
Encourage me when work is difficult
and when I am tempted to give up;
encourage me when my brain seems slow
and the way forward is difficult.
Grant me the grace to put my mind to use
exploring the world you have created,
confident that in you there a wisdom
that is real.

— Charles Henderson

Angel Blessing at Bedtime

Angels bless and angels keep
Angels guard me while I sleep
Bless my heart and bless my home
Bless my spirit as I roam
Guide and guard me through the night
and wake me with the morning’s light.

— Traditional

A Child’s Evening Hymn

I hear no voice, I feel no touch,
I see no glory bright;
But yet I know that God is near,
In darkness as in light.
God watches ever by my side,
And hears my whispered prayer:
A God of love for a little child
Both night and day does care.

— Anonymous

Child’s Prayer

Dear God most high, hear and bless
Thy beasts and singing birds:
And guard with tenderness
Small things that have no words.

— Traditional

Table Blessing

God is great! God is good!
Let us thank God for our food.

— Traditional

For Happy Hearts

We thank Thee Lord, for happy hearts,
For rain and sunny weather.
We thank Thee, Lord, for this our food,
And that we are together.

— Traditional

Child’s Prayer for Protection

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here;
Ever this day, be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide.

— Traditional

Matthew 25

Matthew 25:

“41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'”

Of God and Greed…

Found this article on (from 2001, concerning events of 1987), thought it was interesting:

“…Said Falwell: Bakker “needs to return the millions of dollars that have been taken from the coffers of this ministry at the cost of widows and supporters and people who have sacrificially built this Christian ministry.” At the press conference, Falwell waved a note that Tammy had jotted on her own stationery. She had given it to a PTL emissary who was sent last month to Palm Springs by Falwell to arrange a severance package. The note’s wish list: $300,000 a year for life to Jim; $100,000 a year for life to Tammy; all royalties and rights to their PTL-related books and records; the furnished $400,000 lakeside mansion in South Carolina that PTL had provided for the Bakkers’ personal use; two cars; security staffing; payments for attorneys to handle the Bakkers’ possible problems with the Internal Revenue Service; a maid and secretary for one year. Falwell thundered, “I see the greed. I see the self-centeredness. I see the avarice that brought them down.”

On Nightline, the Bakkers described the list as a starting point for bargaining, but it was apparent that they were not geared for a hardscrabble life. Jim estimated his 1986 salary at $1.1 million, while Tammy professed that she had no idea what she made. (By Falwell’s account, Jim got a salary of $1.6 million, and Tammy, $300,000, not counting perks.) Bakker, however, did admit to Koppel that “I think we’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I’m very sorry about it.”

The couple protested that the PTL board had urged the munificent sums upon them, and Koppel did not pursue the nature of Bakker’s control over the board. The Washington Post later reported that PTL board minutes, which could prove important in federal investigations, show that members often took no action on important money matters.

To underscore the Bakkers’ opulent life-style, the Falwell administration escorted journalists on tours of the couple’s private penthouse in PTL’s Heritage Grand Hotel. There they examined Tammy’s 50-ft. walk-in closet and the gold-plated plumbing fixtures. The lavish expenditures of the Bakkers were pointed up even further at a mammoth May 23 auction of the possessions acquired during the fat years of PTL. The auction served a second purpose, explained by a PTL aide: “Whatever we don’t need we are trying to convert to cash.”

No auction artifact better symbolized the excesses of Bakkerdom than the air-conditioned doghouse that Tammy had built at their lakeside home. Among the 1,000 bargain-hunting fans on hand at Fort Mill was a California contractor who bought the doghouse for $4,500, and then donated it back to PTL so it could be resold for $600, this time to a Pennsylvania railroad worker. Other notable transactions: $27,000 for a restored 1927 Franklin automobile, $10,500 for a 25-ft. boat. So mountainous is the miscellany that a second auction will be held on July 4.

The day’s $200,000 take, however, was piddling compared with the amounts of PTL cash the auditors have been trying to trace. Supporters had sent in $50 million to build an addition to the PTL hotel at Fort Mill — a project now in suspension — but only $11 million was allotted to construction. The Bakkers have drawn salaries and bonuses of $4.8 million since 1984; they and top aides also picked up $640,000 in unexplained cash advances. One Bakker friend, James Taggart, got $120,000 a year to decorate Tammy and Jim’s residences. Peter Teeley, Vice President George Bush’s former press secretary, received $120,000 as a consultant.

South Carolina last week was given $1 million in back taxes due from a PTL “Lifetime Partner” offer of three nights a year at the hotel to all who donated at least $1,000. Meanwhile, the state consumer-affairs office is checking out complaints from Lifetime Partners who have been refused promised hotel visits. The IRS is so intrigued by the flow of cash that it has opened a temporary field office at Heritage USA. Federal tax laws state that officials’ remuneration from nonprofit organizations must be “reasonable,” which might mean deep trouble for the Bakkers and their well-paid former executives.

The FBI and the Department of Justice are also on hand, and PTL Board Member Jerry Nims, for one, hopes for a full-dress fraud investigation. He charges that the local representative for PTL’s outside auditors, Laventhol & Horwath, operated a secret fund through which PTL higher-ups got enormous bonuses. Laventhol says it is unable to discuss the situation until PTL gives permission. In addition, says Nims, some PTL officials were observed pocketing cash from mail donations right off the counting table.

What are PTL’s prospects? Amazingly enough, attendance at Heritage USA is running 20% ahead of last year’s levels. At week’s end a banner at the entrance to the amusement park that had read MAY EMERGENCY had been altered to read MAY MIRACLE! The proclamation was the result of a surge of donations that enabled Falwell to raise the $7 million he said was needed by May 31. Now, however, another $20 million to $25 million within 90 days is being solicited by Falwell, who claims PTL requires that amount to consolidate its loans and pay 40 TV stations to which it owes $8 million. Survival depends on keeping the daily PTL show on its broadcast and cable systems so that money will continue to roll in. Belt tightening and staff cuts (including the Bakkers’ $45,000-a-year housekeeper) have dropped the monthly operating deficit from $2 million to $250,000.

Nonetheless, long-range prospects are at best uncertain. One looming threat ) emanates from a vocal group that wants to rally the 518,000 PTL Partners in order to oust Falwell. Like the Bakkers, these protesters are Pentecostals and Charismatics, believers in “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, such as healing and speaking in tongues. As a Fundamentalist Baptist, Falwell is doctrinally opposed to these practices, and the five-member PTL board he appointed has no Pentecostal representatives. The loudest of the anti-Falwell group is the Rev. Mike Evans of Fort Worth, who thinks the chastened Bakker “has every right to have the PTL back,” if he is not guilty of homosexual sins. Evans regards the homosexual charges as unproven. As for Falwell: “I think the guy is a skunk.”

On Nightline, Bakker, musing about a possible return to PTL, proposed to set up a new 25-member board to govern the organization. The notion of the Bakkers’ making a comeback might seem incredible, but supportive mail has poured in to the Palm Springs retreat. Some Pentecostals think Bakker could try to set up a clone of Heritage USA in California, or an independent Charismatic congregation somewhere. Indeed, one Chattanooga, Tenn., TV station has already offered to help Bakker launch a new gospel show. Says the Rev. Tommy Barnett, of the flourishing (15,000-member) Phoenix First Assembly of God: “I know the man has his drive and dreams, and you just don’t hold a man like that back.”

The scandal seems to have had a fallout effect on some other televangelists. Falwell admits that proceeds at various enterprises in Lynchburg were down $2 million in April; Jimmy Swaggart reports a $1.5 million decline for that month. The Rev. Robert Schuller of Garden Grove, Calif., whose popular Hour of Power is carried by 172 TV stations, shows a 3% dip in donations so far in 1987, but he does not consider that necessarily a result of the PTL scandal. The televangelist with the most to lose is the one with the biggest video operation, Republican Presidential Candidate Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He briefly took time out from the campaign trail to report that April donations were down a perilous 33%. “We can’t just continue to have that sort of drain,” said the worried preacher.

It is not difficult to discern why many contributors are becoming edgy about secretive and sensationalistic televangelism empires. Asks McKendree R. Langley in Eternity, a respected evangelical news monthly: “Wouldn’t it be a step in the right direction for TV preachers to cut back on financial appeals, end outrageous claims of having direct pipelines to God, reaffirm by example the rightness of modest life-styles, demonstrate deeper biblical spirituality and articulate a Christian worldview?” That sound you hear is an army of embarrassed Christians shouting “Amen!”

FOOTNOTE: *The initials stand for Praise The Lord or People That Love, though mockers suggest other variations, such as Pass The Loot or Pay The Lady.

With reporting by Reported by Marcia Gauger and Joseph J. Kane/Fort Mill, with other bureaus”

Jesus Christ on the evils of Nationalism and War:

“In the former law it was said: “Do good to men of your own nation, and do evil to strangers.” But I tell you, love not only your own countrymen, but people of other nations. Let strangers hate you, let them fall upon you, wrong you; but you speak well of them, and do them good. If you are only attached to your countrymen, why, all men are thus attached to their own countrymen, and hence wars arise. Behave equally towards men of all nations, and you will be sons of the Father. All men are his children and therefore all brothers to you.” -Jesus Christ (Mt. v. 43)
(Click here for a link to Tolstoy’s The Kingom of Heaven is Within You, then read it, then readThe Gospel in Brief by Tolstoy as well Thank you.)