‘The Soul of the World’ by Roger Scruton

Book Review:
A first kiss is more than the mating ritual of gene-perpetuating machines. It summons ‘the consciousness of another in mutual gift.’

May 15, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

The English philosopher and writer Roger Scruton might receive more grudging admiration than any other living thinker. My aesthetics tutor at Oxford—a self-consciously Wildean character with long hair and puffy sleeves—once assigned a text by Scruton with a caveat: There is, he explained, a little known but valid form of argument called argumentum ad Scruton: “If Scruton says p, p is necessarily false.” This “argument” has what currency it does because Scruton is defiantly conservative, and he wears that designation on his (decidedly unpuffy) sleeve. But to the irritation of bien-pensants everywhere, his philosophical work is simply too sharp and cogent to be ignored.

“The Soul of the World” is an example of what conservatism can be, at its best—a clear-eyed, affectionate defense of humanity and a well-reasoned plea to treat the long-loved with respect and care. This kind of conservatism comes into being when something good is threatened: Here Mr. Scruton aims to conserve “the sacred” in the face of threats from scientific reductionism, an ideology that asserts that all phenomena—including things like love, art, morality and religion—are most accurately described using the vocabulary of contemporary science.
Viewed through the lens of scientific reductionism, all existence is fundamentally the bouncing around of various material particles, some arranged in the form of gene-perpetuating machines we call humans. Mr. Scruton almost agrees—we are, in fact, gene-perpetuating machines, and the finer, higher aspects of human existence emerge from, and rest upon, biological machinery. As he points out, though, it’s a long jump from this acknowledgment to the assertion that “this is all there is.” The jump, according to Mr. Scruton, lands us in “a completely different world, and one in which we humans are not truly at home.” A truly human outlook involves the intuition of intangible realities that find no place in even our most sensitive systems of biology, chemistry or physics.
Philosophers and theologians have traditionally understood that certain things transcend our abilities to fully perceive, comprehend and articulate them and that the way we incorporate those things into our lives is through the experience of the sacred—the irruption of the transcendent into our mundane reality. The sacred stands, as Mr. Scruton puts it, “at the horizon of our world, looking out to that which is not of this world” but also “looking into our world, so as to meet us face-to-face.” While sacredness is most commonly associated with religious actions and artifacts—such as sacraments, scriptures and holy places—it is not limited to these. Mr. Scruton argues that our encounters with one another, and indeed with nature, are experiences of the sacred as well. He makes his case with bravado and sensitivity, exploring the role of the sacred in such realms as music, city planning and moral reasoning.
Happily, it is entirely possible to embrace the findings of science without rejecting the older vocabulary of the sacred, even if one finds oneself (as Mr. Scruton does) unable to fully embrace the claims of any metaphysical doctrine, religious or otherwise. The reductionist leap is unnecessary, in the first instance, because the idea that “this is all there is” could never be substantiated by science. What experiment could possibly prove that there is no such thing as a soul or that God doesn’t exist? But perhaps all science needs to do is present a complete explanation for reality that eliminates any need for nonmaterial explanations. This will not do, according to Mr. Scruton. Even if the guild of scientists produced a million-volume tome that comprehensively tracked the tortuous series of causes and effects that led from the pinpoint origin of material existence through the Big Bang and the earliest wrigglings of life, all the way to our own wedding vows and Pachelbel’s Canon in D, we would still need more. We would need the sacred.
In making this case, Mr. Scruton employs the concept of Verstehen borrowed from the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (roughly, this means the kind of understanding that is the product of human interpretation and interaction rather than scientific measurement). To take an example, the moment of a first kiss is not experienced simply as the mating ritual of complex gene-perpetuating machines. To describe it thus would be to take leave of the human perspective. Our actual experience is better captured by more emotionally, spiritually freighted language. As Mr. Scruton writes, “the lips offered by one lover to another are replete with subjectivity: they are the avatars of I, summoning the consciousness of another in mutual gift.”
The interface between I and You is, for Mr. Scruton, the defining human perspective. In terms of religion, he writes: “People who are looking for God are not looking for the proof of God’s existence . . . but for a subject-to-subject encounter, which occurs in this life, but which also in some way reaches beyond this life.” Myriad other examples abound. When we make a vow to our lover, we do not—or, Mr. Scruton says, we had better not—understand ourselves as signatories to a provisional, mutually beneficial contract but rather as willing parties to a binding, eternal, even transcendent pledge, something stronger and more substantial than our momentary desires.
Viewed through the lens of science, we may be the products of genes and chance. But viewed as people, we are free, responsible and creative—and kisses are richer phenomena than any scientific analysis can capture.
Mr. Corbin is a 2013 Novak Journalism Fellow and doctoral candidate at Boston College.

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for converting to Christianity

16 hours ago

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – A Sudanese court has sentenced a 27-year-old woman to death for converting to Christianity, judicial sources said.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim had been ordered to abandon her newly adopted Christian faith and return to Islam. She had also been charged with adultery for marrying a Christian man.

Judge Abbas al Khalifa asked Ibrahim whether she would return to Islam. After she said “I am a Christian,” the death sentence was handed down, the judicial sources said.

A government spokesman said the ruling could be appealed in a higher court.

“Sudan is committed to all human rights and freedom of faith granted in Sudan by the constitution and law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abu-Bakr Al-Siddiq said. He added that his ministry trusted the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

Outside the court, around 50 people held up signs that read “Freedom of Religion”, while some Islamists celebrated the ruling, chanting “God is Greatest”.

Students have mounted a series of protests near Khartoum University in recent weeks asking for more freedoms and better social and economic conditions.

Western embassies and Sudanese activists have condemned what they said were human rights abuses and called on the Islamist-led government to respect freedom of faith.

(Reporting by Khaled Abdel Aziz; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


Burst water pipe reveals century-old Crusader murals in Jerusalem


By Stephanie Pappas

Published May 15, 2014

Rediscovered late-1800s paintings in a storeroom in Saint-Louis Hospice, a Jerusalem hospital built by a prominant Christian

Wall murals portraying Crusader knights and symbols of medieval military orders have been rediscovered in a Jerusalem hospital thanks to a burst water pipe and a storeroom reorganization.

These paintings were the works of a French count, Comte Marie Paul Amde de Piellat, who believed himself to be a descendant of Crusaders. The count was a frequent visitor to Jerusalem and had the Saint-Louis Hospice built between 1879 and 1896, naming it after St. Louis IX, a king of France and leader of the Seventh Crusade between A.D. 1248 and 1254.

During World War I, however, the hospital came under the control of Turkish forces, who painted over the designs with black paint. The count returned to Jerusalem to restore his murals, but died in the hospital in 1925, his work undone. [See Images of the Rediscovered Murals]

A beautiful discovery
More recently, the nuns who run the hospital found some of the forgotten wall paintings while reorganizing storerooms in the building, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). A burst water pipe also stripped away modern paint and plaster, revealing more sections of the paintings.

IAA conservators are now working to clean and stabilize the paintings, and are looking for funds to continue the preservation work. There are no plans to turn the paintings into a tourist attraction, however, as the hospital is still in use for chronic and terminally ill patients. Sisters of the order of St. Joseph of the Apparition run the facility.

De Piellat was a devout Christian who wanted to boost the Catholic presence in Jerusalem at a time when multiple religious factions vied for influence in the city. His two-story hospital replaced a smaller medical facility in the city’s Christian Quarter. For Saint-Louis, de Piellat chose a location where the Norman king Tancred and his forces camped before storming Jerusalem in A.D. 1099, during the First Crusade. Today, the hospital is next to the Jerusalem municipal building and IDF square, which is on the dividing line between Israeli-dominated West Jerusalem and heavily Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Artistic history
The murals themselves are enormous paintings of Crusader knights dressed in full battle gear. The count also painted the names and genealogy of the families of French Crusaders, including their heraldry symbols. The murals are further decorated with symbols of military and monastic orders and cities conquered in the Crusades.

At the time de Piellat was working, the city was under the control of the Ottoman Turks. During the upheaval of World War I, the Turks took control of the building, according to the IAA, and painted over the Christian murals. The British captured Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917, at the end of the war.

De Piellat returned to his beloved hospital after the war and worked to restore his murals. After his death in 1925, however, no one took up his fallen paintbrush, and the unrestored murals were mostly forgotten.


That’s no way to say goodbye

05/15/2014 15:06


Here are a few questions to ponder that may help you become more comfortable with an end-of-life discussion.

My longtime readers will know that over the past 14 years of writing this column, I have not infrequently written about death. As a thanatologist (a word my spellchecker continues to underline in red), I have advanced training and certification in, and frequently deal with, issues of all sorts related to death, dying and bereavement. Counseling people at various stages of living and preparation for moving on is not something from which I shy away. However, many others do, and so I’d like once again to address the importance of talking about death and dying, for yourself and for your loved ones.

A “good death” happens in part because of the meaningful choices you make now and in the future. Although you may not like to think or talk about the time when you or your loved ones no longer walk this earth, most people like to plan how they generally spend their days, and take comfort in being able to do so. While some may say it doesn’t matter what happens once they are gone, as they won’t be here to experience it, others want to know that their end-of-life desires and needs will be addressed and respected.
I have had people in my office express their serious concerns that their wishes will be ignored, and this has upset them greatly.

Years ago, I had the privilege of discussing with each of my parents, in great detail, their wishes in anticipation of the onset of any illness, and helped them to revise their plans when they eventually became unwell. They spoke about what they had hoped for when they were to die, and I was fortunate to be with each parent at the time of their death. My beloved mother went one step further and wrote her own eulogy, and it was read at her funeral. There were no unanswered questions about my dear father’s wishes, either. He and I shared the honor of being on the hevra kadisha (Jewish burial society) in the city where we lived (there is a chapter about this in my book). While having a discussion about death was somewhat difficult, as it meant acknowledging a reality no one wants to face, it was honest, comfortable and reassuring.

For years, my wonderful in-laws have told us exactly what they would like in terms of end-of-life decisions and have already picked out and paid for their burial plots. While that may sound strange to some, this has brought them much comfort and closure, because they don’t want to burden anyone. Sadly they have witnessed many of their friends’ decline and subsequent deaths.

Being able to give your loved one permission to die, as the end draws close, is a tremendous gift. Not everyone can dialogue about death with ease, and those dying often know exactly with whom they can feel comfortable talking, and who cannot handle this important conversation.

Here are a few questions to ponder that may help you become more comfortable with this discussion, whether for you or your loved one.

1. Is it important for you to talk with your loved ones about end-of-life concerns? If so, with whom would you like your information to be shared, and with whom is it important for you to speak?

2. Have you written down your desires, and have you let people know where to find this information, or have you discussed in detail what your concerns are?

3. A living will or end-of-life plan can include anything from what you would or would not like to be informed of should you become ill, to how you would like medical decisions to be handled; from final funeral and burial arrangements, to your message for future generations. Some people, for instance, want to be a partner with their doctor and family in every decision, and others want to leave all decisions to their physicians. Some people want no heroic measures, and others want everything possible to be considered in treatment planning. Are you ready to spend time working on this? If not, are you okay with your reasons for not focusing on this now? I recently discovered an excellent document on the Internet that can help you think about these very important decisions for yourself, and I refer you to TheConversationProject.org to help you get started.

4. In this day and age, when organ donation is so important, have you shared your feelings and concerns with your loved ones? Do you carry a donor information card?

5. Being organized is just one gift you can offer to your family. Have you thought about whom you would like your treasures to be left with, and do you have a written will? Have you checked to ensure that your finances are in order, and that you have recorded important information in a way that others can access when needed? Studies have suggested that people who are dying are most afraid of being in pain and being left alone. It is reassuring to know that in 2014 we can help ensure that these and other concerns can be dealt with so that when the time does come to go on to our final resting place, we can do so with greater ease. If you are having difficulty dealing with issues around death, make sure that you seek professional help. This is one area where you certainly don’t have to deal with things on your own.

The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana, and author of the book Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships – Resolving Conflicts, which contains several chapters on death and dying. She has written about psychology in The Jerusalem Post since 2000.



Christian Coalition: Double Standard Between Reactions For Sam, Tebow

By Matthew L. Higgins
May 14, 2014 10:28 AM

ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis) — The complexion of the National Football League changed last Saturday after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted.

People worldwide saw the video of Sam getting emotional on the phone talking to St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher after getting picked, then embracing and kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano.
Sam getting drafted and the kiss were mainly met with positive results, though there were some detractors. Both the Miami Dolphins’ Don Jones and former Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson took to Twitter to denounce Sam kissing his boyfriend during the NFL Draft broadcast.
ESPN producer Seth Markman, who oversaw the network’s draft coverage, called it an emotional and historic moment.
“In the end, I am glad our team made the decision we did,” he told The Monday Morning Quarterback regarding showing the kiss on air. “It was a really cool moment to be involved in.”
With the league and the media seemingly embracing Sam, attention has turned to a player that’s not currently playing – Tim Tebow – and raising questions if there is a double standard on how the two were received and treated.
Tebow, who last appeared for the New England Patriots during training camp in 2013, sat out the season after no other team decided to sign him. Despite his previous success, Tebow has been slammed for his play and mocked by some for his Christian beliefs in some media outlets.
Peter Roff, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, wrote in April 2013 that Tebow was treated like a “circus freak” by the New York media after he was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.
“Tebow, you see, is a Christian – and is fairly open about. He seems to take the Biblical admonition not to hide one’s faith under a bushel rather literally,” Roff wrote. “He’s used eye black to put scriptural citations on his face on game days. He prays in public and talks about God in an utterly respectful, even loving way. He and his mother appeared in a Superbowl Sunday television ad that talked about the virtues of life and directed people to a website where they could learn more about abortion.
“The secular crowd, New York sports writers included, have never forgiven him for any of that,” Roff continued. “When he arrived at the Meadowlands he was treated more like a circus freak than the guy who helped Denver make the playoffs the previous year and might just be the thing to get the Jets offense in line.”
The New York Times reported in 2011 about the constant criticism Tebow received.
“One columnist in Denver called Tebow the worst quarterback in football,” reported the Times. “Another columnist in Canada labeled Tebow the ‘Kim Kardashian of sports,’ for the intense reaction he elicited. Online, the torrent of mockery and criticism has been fierce. Blog posts included ‘God explains why he let Tim Tebow fail’ and Twitter exploded in hateful vitriol, to which the Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski mused: ‘I believe Tim Tebow isn’t an N.F.L. starter and I want him to prove me wrong because I believe he’s a great guy. Is that allowed?’”
The Christian Coalition of America told CBS St. Louis that there is a double standard of how Tebow’s religious beliefs were mocked compared to how Sam was received.
“I think that there was so much pressure on (Tebow) and that anytime you zero in on someone they can be open to mistakes,” said Michele Combs, spokeswoman for the Christian Coalition. “I do think that the pressure gets to you. I think that a lot of people wanted to see him fail unfortunately.”
Combs stated that there was a bias toward Christianity.
“I just think it’s amazing when someone talks about his religion, especially being a Christian, they are not embraced by the media or the Hollywood elite,” Combs said, adding that Americans do want to see Tebow get treated fairly.
“I think it’s just a certain elite group that has a lot of power and gets a lot of media’s attention,” she said. “I think a majority of Americans would like to see someone like Tim Tebow get the same equal treatment (as Sam).”
Wade Davis, executive director of You Can Play, doesn’t believe that there is a double standard between the reactions of Sam and Tebow.
“I don’t think either one was treated differently,” Davis, the former NFL player who came out as gay in 2012, told CBS St. Louis. “Unfortunately we live in a society where there is no middle ground, you either support or hate someone.”
Davis stated that fans don’t understand the business side to football as to why a player like Tebow is not in the league currently.
“If you sit back and understand the game of football, you will understand why he will be cut,” Davis explained.
Davis also said that he isn’t worried about how his teammates will embrace Sam in the locker room.
“Athletes spend enormous amounts of time with one another,” Davis told CBS St. Louis. “Unlike your normal 9-5 job, athletes move through periods of discomfort much quicker because of the time they spend together.”
During an introductory press conference for the Rams draft picks, Sam said that his sexuality was never a secret.
“Apparently, everybody else makes a big deal out of it,” Sam said. “But my teammates and my school didn’t.”
Sam also said that his focus right now is on football.
“I will always support equality, period,” he said. “But my job is to focus on football and help this team win a championship.”


Anti-Semitism still prevalent around world, Anti-Defamation League study finds


Published  May 13, 2014 Associated Press

NEW YORK – Anti-Semitism remains prevalent around the world with one in four adults surveyed in a new international study expressing anti-Jewish sentiment, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL Global 100 Index found someone to be anti-Semitic if they answered “probably” or “definitely” true to six or more of 11 stereotypes about Jews offered on the survey.

The survey, which the ADL called “the broadest survey of anti-Jewish attitudes ever conducted,” found the lowest level of anti-Semitism in Laos, with just 0.2 percent of the adult population expressing such views. The highest level of anti-Semitism was found in the West Bank and Gaza at 93 percent.

Greece was the most anti-Semitic country in Western Europe, with 69 percent of the adults surveyed expressing such opinions and Sweden, with four percent, was the least. In the United States, nine percent of adults were found to harbor anti-Semitic views.

“Our findings are sobering but sadly not surprising,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. “We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is virtually non-existent.”

Foxman said findings about Greece had already led to an invitation from that country’s prime minister to discuss possible remedies.

“Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/to the countries they live in,” was the most commonly accepted stereotype with 41 percent of respondents surveyed across 101 countries and the West Bank and Gaza saying that it was at least “probably true.” The second most accepted stereotype, held by 35 percent of respondents, was: “Jews have too much power in the business world.”

The survey also found that only 54 percent of those polled had heard about the Holocaust, a figure Foxman called “disturbingly low.”

Holocaust awareness was highest in Western Europe where 94 percent of respondents said they had heard about it and lowest in sub-Sarahan Africa with only 24 percent.

According to the survey, 49 percent of Muslims hold anti-Semitic views compared with 24 percent of Christians.

But Jeffery Liszt, who oversaw the survey for Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, said that anti-Semitic views conformed more closely to region than religion with 75 percent Muslims in the Mideast and North Africa holding anti-Semitic views while only 18 percent of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa expressing similar sentiments.

The Mideast and North Africa region was found to the most anti-Semitic and the Oceania region the least, followed by the Americas.

Anti-Semitic attitudes were relatively low in English speaking countries at 13 percent compared with 30 percent for Spanish speaking countries, the report found.

The survey also found that among the 74 percent of those surveyed who said that they had never met a Jewish person, 25 percent nonetheless harbored anti-Semitic attitudes.

The survey interviewed 53,100 adults across 102 countries with funding from New York philanthropist Leonard Stern. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 0.97 percentage points for results across all nations surveyed and varies for results from individual nations.


Satanic Black Mass’ to Take Place Tonight at Harvard

7:01 AM, MAY 12, 2014 • BY DANIEL HALPER

Students from the Harvard Extension School at Harvard University are hosting a “Satanic black mass,” which will take place tonight in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“A black mass ceremony is a ritual performed by satanic cults to parody the Catholic Church Mass. Historically, the ceremony features a ritual of sacrilege of the Catholic host, or the sacred bread used in the Eucharist, which becomes the body of Jesus Christ upon consecration,” the Harvard Crimson explains.

The performance, which will take place Monday night at Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub in the basement of Memorial Hall, is organized by the Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club with help from the New York-based Satanic Temple.

The ceremony will model the script of the black mass articulated in novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans’ work “Là-Bas,” although a consecrated host will not be used. In addition, Christopher Robichaud, an ethics and public policy professor at the Kennedy School of Government, will speak at the demonstration to frame the event in terms of religious liberty and tolerance, according to the club.

The event has been condemened by the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Archdiocese of Boston, which oversees Catholic churches and schools in the area, also denounced the event.

“This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil,” the Archdiocese wrote in a statement earlier in the week.

A Harvard grad student emails to say, “Can you imagine them using a Koran or Torah and getting away with this?”


Story of Jacob’s Daughter Dinah to Be Turned Into Lifetime Miniseries


May 8, 2014|9:41 pm
Lifetime has announced that it will be adopting Anita Diamant’s New York Times Old Testament bestseller into a two episode miniseries.












Anita Diamant’s bestselling book “The Red Tent” is set to be adapted into a Lifeway miniseries.
Anita Diamant’s bestselling book “The Red Tent” is set to be adapted into a Lifeway miniseries.

Released in 1997, The Red Tent chronicles the life of Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah, who is mentioned in the book of Genesis, and her relationship with her father’s two wives, Leah and Rachel, and his two concubines Zilpah, and Bilhah.

Because Diamant’s story deviates from the Genesis account, The Red Tent was not warmly received by all Christians and Jews.

The author defended her story, arguing that “The Red Tent is not a translation but a work of fiction. Its perspective and focus — by and about the female characters — distinguishes it from the biblical account, in which women are usually peripheral and often totally silent. By giving Dinah a voice and by providing texture and content to the sketchy biblical descriptions, my book is a radical departure from the historical text.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Rebecca Ferguson has been cast as Dinah, Morena Baccarin as Rachel, and Minnie Driver as Leah. Debra Winger will play Rebecca, Dinah’s grandmother, with Iain Glen as Jacob and Will Tudor as Joseph, her brother.

The book’s title comes from the tent, which according to the book, the women of Jacob’s tribe must enter whenever they are menstruating or giving birth

According to Diamont, in her research for the book, she did “not find any evidence that women in this period of history in this place (ancient Iraq/Israel) used a menstrual tent. However, menstrual tents and huts are a common feature in pre-modern cultures around the world, from native Americans to Africans. The rendering of what happened inside that tent is entirely my own creation.”

From Sony Pictures Television, Red Tent will be executive produced by Blood Diamond’s Paula Weinstein. Roger Young (Law & Order) will direct the drama, which is written by Elizabeth Chandler (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Anne Meredith (Secrets of Eden).

Lifetime’s announcement comes in a year where five faith-based movies have been released and are currently all in the top 20 highest grossing films of 2014. Further, following on the heels of the 2013 popular History Channel The Bible series, NBC has also announced it will be releasing an A.D. Beyond the Bible, while CBS will released The Dovekeepers, based on the book by Alice Hoffman, which describes the siege of Masada.

Fox has also announced Nazareth, which will focus on Jesus growing up from age 13 to 30, which is largely not written about in the Bible. While little has yet been revealed about the project so far, the writer and executive producer is purportedly David Franzoni, who was involved in “Gladiator” and “Amistad.” Bob Cooper, Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson are also signed on as executive producers.



Sean Astin: I’m not afraid to make ‘Christian’ films

Sean Astin: I’m not afraid to make ‘Christian’ films
By Sasha Bogursky  Published May 12, 2014  FoxNews.com

Known for his leading roles in “Lord of the Rings,” the “Goonies” and “Rudy,” actor Sean Astin’s approach to choosing his next movie role is similar to his take on religion; he doesn’t want to be confined to one group.

“I guess I never wanted to declare a team because I wouldn’t have wanted any of the other teams to invite me to their party,” Astin told FOX411. “I’m a wildcard, they can’t figure me out.”

Astin, who is “technically Lutheran” after he, his wife and three daughters were baptized in the same church, never thought about defining his faith until he was asked in a live interview to share his religious beliefs.

“I thought, ‘Huh, I guess I have to have an answer’,” he recalled. “I consider myself a Christian. I don’t know if I’m a very good one but I’m praying the forgiveness thing is legit.”

While Astin’s answer is confident now, his road to faith was a winding road. Raised by his mother, actress Patty Duke, and father, “The Addams Family’s” John Astin, in what he describes as a secular home, Astin was exposed to a variety of religions before coming to his own faith.

“My mother was a Catholic who had been kicked out of the church at one time and she put me in Catholic school in sixth to eighth grades and I wanted to become a Catholic then,” he said. “But my father, who was an atheist because his parents were a scientist and school teacher, later discovered Buddhism.”

In addition to his exposure to Catholicism and Buddhism, Astin’s oldest brother “went to India, shaved his head and lived on an ashram and became Hindi.”

In 2003, Astin decided to “embrace Christianity” and develop his own “relationship and understanding with God.”

“I figure since I went to Catholic school for three years and my mom did some really good Catholic type work, and since I starred in ‘Rudy’ and I was in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ I figure if I get to [heaven] and St. Peter is taking numbers, I might have to wait a little while, but I’ll probably get let through.”

Astin stands strong in his faith today and currently star alongside “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Sarah Drew in the faith-based “Moms Night Out.”

But Astin didn’t say yes to a role in his new film because of its Christian message; the actor chooses roles with artistic value.

“I don’t think my faith has had a conscious part in decisions in terms of what movies I make,” he said. “I won’t do something if I feel it has zero moral redemption. I answer to a truly higher power than I’m capable of understanding and I don’t go by what other people would determine as a legitimate Christian offering or not.”

After appearing in his second Christian-focused film, Astin laughs at the fact that he might now be labeled as a Christian filmmaker despite having been in many more mainstream movies.

“What’s funny is the idea that I might become a paragon of Christian filmmaking because I’ve done two Christian films,” he said. “I’m just not going to not make films because Christians are making them if they’re good films.”

“Hollywood is antagonistic to Christian films because of forces that are hard to describe, but Christians have made things difficult for themselves by the way they approach the outside community,” he continued.

Astin said people need to forget about those “who grab the microphones and yell the loudest.” The fact is, people are hungry for family-friendly, faith-based entertainment and studios are finally starting to listen.

“The Christian ground game is presently revolutionizing marketing in filmmaking,” he explained. “It’s not a subtle thing, and it’s a great thing and it’s not owned by the Christians. They are just getting there first because they’re tired of not being able to get their product into a wide marketplace.”

No matter your faith, Astin hopes his new movie will allow the audience to stop, breathe and reflect for a minute.

“This sweet premise of moms, whose evening has gone bad and dads who are struggling to kind of make things go right, this movie chooses to let it sink at certain moments and let us reflect for a minute.”


Israeli archaeologist says he’s found citadel captured by King David


Published May 06, 2014

Mideast Irael King Da640







Associated Press

May 1, 2014:

Eli Shukron, an archeologist formerly with Israel’s Antiquities Authority, walks in the City of David archaeological site near Jerusalem’s Old City. The dig, which began in 1995, uncovered a massive fortification and pottery shards that date to 3,800 years ago. Shukron says this is the legendary citadel captured by King David in his conquest of Jerusalem. But archaeologists are divided on identifying Davidic sites in Jerusalem, the city he is said to have made his capital. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
JERUSALEM – An Israeli archaeologist says he has found the legendary citadel captured by King David in his conquest of Jerusalem, rekindling a longstanding debate about using the Bible as a field guide to identifying ancient ruins.

The claim by Eli Shukron, like many such claims in the field of biblical archaeology, has run into criticism. It joins a string of announcements by Israeli archaeologists saying they have unearthed palaces of the legendary biblical king, who is revered in Jewish religious tradition for establishing Jerusalem as its central holy city — but who has long eluded historians looking for clear-cut evidence of his existence and reign.

The present-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also wrapped up in the subject. The $10 million excavation, made accessible to tourists last month, took place in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem and was financed by an organization that settles Jews in guarded homes in Arab areas of east Jerusalem in an attempt to prevent the city from being divided. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future independent state.

Shukron, who excavated at the City of David archaeological site for nearly two decades, says he believes strong evidence supports his theory.

“This is the citadel of King David, this is the Citadel of Zion, and this is what King David took from the Jebusites,” said Shukron, who said he recently left Israel’s Antiquities Authority to work as a lecturer and tour guide. “The whole site we can compare to the Bible perfectly.”

Most archaeologists in Israel do not dispute that King David was a historical figure, and a written reference to the “House of David” was found in an archaeological site in northern Israel. But archaeologists are divided on identifying Davidic sites in Jerusalem, which he is said to have made his capital.

Shukron’s dig, which began in 1995, uncovered a massive fortification of five-ton stones stacked 21 feet wide. Pottery shards helped date the fortification walls to be 3,800 years old. They are the largest walls found in the region from before the time of King Herod, the ambitious builder who expanded the Second Jewish Temple complex in Jerusalem almost 2,100 years ago. The fortification surrounded a water spring and is thought to have protected the ancient city’s water source.

The fortification was built 800 years before King David would have captured it from its Jebusite rulers. Shukron says the biblical story of David’s conquest of Jerusalem provides clues that point to this particular fortification as David’s entry point into the city.

In the second Book of Samuel, David orders the capture of the walled city by entering it through the water shaft. Shukron’s excavation uncovered a narrow shaft where spring water flowed into a carved pool, thought to be where city inhabitants would gather to draw water. Excess water would have flowed out of the walled city through another section of the shaft Shukron said he discovered — where he believes the city was penetrated.

Shukron says no other structure in the area of ancient Jerusalem matches what David would have captured to take the city. The biblical account names it the “Citadel of David” and the “Citadel of Zion.”

Ronny Reich, who was Shukron’s collaborator at the site until 2008, disagrees with the theory. He said more broken pottery found from the 10th century BC, presumably King David’s reign, should have been found if the fortification had been in use then.

Shukron said he only found two shards that date close to that time. He believes the reason he didn’t find more is because the site was in continuous use and old pottery would have been cleared out by David’s successors. Much larger quantities of shards found at the site date to about 100 years after King David’s reign.

Reich said it was not possible to reach definitive conclusions about biblical connections without more direct archaeological evidence.

“The connection between archaeology and the Bible has become very, very problematic in recent years,” Reich said.

Critics say that some archaeologists are too eager to hold a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other in a quest to verify the biblical narrative — either due to religious beliefs or to prove the Jewish people’s historic ties to the land. But other respected Israeli archaeologists say recent finds match the biblical account more than naysayers claim.

Shukron, a veteran archaeologist who has excavated a number of significant sites in Jerusalem, said he drew his conclusions after nearly two decades exploring the ancient city.

“I know every little thing in the City of David. I didn’t see in any other place such a huge fortification as this,” said Shukron.

The biblical connection to the site is emphasized at the City of David archaeological park, where the “Spring Citadel” — the excavation’s official name — has been retrofitted for tourists, including a movie projected on a screen in front of the fortification to illustrate how it may have looked 3,800 years ago. The City of David — located in east Jerusalem — is one of the most popular tourist sites in the holy city, with 500,000 tourists visiting last year.

“We open the Bible and we see how the archaeology and the Bible actually come together in this place,” said Doron Spielman, vice president of the nonprofit Elad Foundation, which oversees the archaeological park. He carried a softcover Bible in his hand as he ambled around the excavation.

The site has come under criticism because of the Elad Foundation’s nationalistic agenda. Most of the foundation’s funding comes from private donations from Jews in the U.S. and U.K., and its activities include purchasing Arab homes near the excavated areas and then helping Jews move in, sometimes under heavy guard.

Critics say this political agenda should not mix with archaeology.