Iranians knock turbans off clerics’ heads in a show of contempt amid mandatory hijab protests
A revered crocodile that lived in a pond outside of an Indian temple for decades received something of hero’s send-off this week when hundreds of mourners gathered for the great reptile’s funeral. The creature, dubbed Babia, reportedly resided in the waters around the Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy temple in the state of Kerala and was seen by many as a guardian of the sacred site, especially since the question of how it originally arrived in the unattached lake is a mystery. Believed to be divine by virtue of its enigmatic origin story and because it never showed aggression toward other animals or humans, the creature was also beloved by way of its unique diet, which was said to consist of only rice and sugar blessed by the temple priests rather than the fish that shared the pond with it.
As one might expect, given the Babia’s iconic status, sadness filled the air when the creature was discovered dead on Monday morning. Priests promptly set about giving the crocodile a proper burial by adorning its body with flowers, parading it through the streets of Kasaragod, which is the community where the temple is located, and then briefly displaying the creature in a transparent coffin in the center of the village. Hundreds of heartbroken residents flocked to the ceremony to pay their respects to the perceived holy reptile before it was buried at the site where it had famously stood guard for decades. In a testament to Babia’s cultural significance, India’s Agricultural Minister even took to Twitter to mourn the passing of the creature that she called “God’s crocodile.”
A priest in Nigeria claims that the Virgin Mary recently appeared at his church and over 100 parishioners were on hand to witness the miraculous event. The peculiar incident reportedly occurred at the St Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in the city of Calabar last month and was revealed to the world shorty thereafter by Fr. Evaristus Bassey, who heads the parish, on his Twitter account. In detailing the wondrous event, he asserted that more than 100 people witnessed the visitation, including “a Protestant pastor who came to visit his cousin, the assistant priest.” After first appearing at the church, Bassey recalled, “she moved up to the Shrine dedicated to her and then was taken up. It was amazing.”
Along with his recounting of the visitation, the priest also including several photos (which can be seen in the video above) of what he contends to be the Virgin Mary, though conceded that “the rays around her were too bright for a clear picture.” According to Bassey, there was no message imparted during the visit, which led him to theorize that “she came to assure” the congregation “of God’s presence with us.” A few days after sharing the amazing account, the priest provided an update to the story by way of insights from interviews that he conducted with some of the witnesses to the event, including the first individual who allegedly saw the Virgin Mary appear in the sky that day.
Saviour Asuquo told Bassey that his attention was initially drawn to a rainbow on the horizon that was so vivid that it “made him wonder what was up.” Before he had much time to ponder that question, he noticed “a beam of light that came from the sky” and fell onto a spot in the church parking lot. When Asuquo looked back at where the rainbow had been, he saw “the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary emerging” from that area and coming closer towards him. According to Bassey, “he saw very clearly a woman wearing a blinking crown and a rosary with lights blinking as well, and that all around her was light.”
Looking over at a statue of the Virgin Mary, Asuquo marveled that “it did not in any way match the beauty of the woman,” who proceeded to smile at him. The apparition then merged with the beam of light on the ground and illuminated the entire area, which led to the entire congregation coming out of the church to see what had caused the curious event. Another witness that Bassey spoke to was a young woman who insisted that “I saw the apparition very clearly” and, despite being doubted by her friends and family, was adamant that “I know what I saw.” This was echoed by yet another observer, who told the priest “this wasn’t a matter of seeing only the brightness of the sun, I saw her very clearly with my own eyes.”
Alas, despite there being so many witnesses to the event, the handful of pictures from the visitation only show a glowing anomaly in the sky that seems to be in the shape of a figure. Responding to those who wondered why there were no videos from the incident, Bassey amusingly argued that “maybe they think it is like the visit of a celebrity, where you have time to take all the selfies you want.” On the contrary, he said, “a supernatural event such as this fills you with a certain awe that you don’t even think about reaching to your phone.” He concluded the account by noting that some parishioners hope that the Virgin Mary will return with a message, but the priest mused that he is content with “the fact that she came with a smile,” which he believes “is a positive indication.”
A first century dwelling in Nazareth. It is quite likely Jesus lived in a abode such as this.
Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963) is an American pastor, televangelist and author based in Houston, Texas. Known for his weekly televised services and several best-selling books, Osteen is one of the more prominent figures associated with prosperity theology.
The current mansion of Osteen and his previous residence below.
Osteen lives with his family in a 17,000 square-foot mansion in River Oaks, with an estimated value of $10.5 million. Osteen says that as senior pastor, he draws no salary from the church, which has an annual budget of $70 million, and that he instead relies on income from book sales.
Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, the gospel of success, or seed faith) is a religious belief among some Protestant Christians that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Material and especially financial success is seen as a sign of divine favor.
Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders from various Christian denominations, including within some Pentecostal and charismatic movements, who maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to the Bible. Secular as well as some Christian observers have also criticized prosperity theology as exploitative of the poor. The practices of some preachers have attracted scandal and some have been charged with financial fraud.
Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be blessed. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.
It was during the Healing Revivals of the 1950s that prosperity theology first came to prominence in the United States, although commentators have linked the origins of its theology to the New Thought movement which began in the 19th century. The prosperity teaching later figured prominently in the Word of Faith movement and 1980s televangelism. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was adopted by influential leaders in the Pentecostal movement and charismatic movement in the United States and has spread throughout the world. Prominent leaders in the development of prosperity theology include E. W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, Robert Tilton, T. L. Osborn, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Reverend Ike, and Kenneth Hagin.
The New Testament quotes Jesus as saying that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.
An Arkansas funeral home that accidentally cremated the remains of a man who passed away with the hopes of later being raptured has been sued by his family over the grave mistake that, they contend, prevents him from being taken up to heaven when the miraculous moment arrives. According to a local media report, the very strange lawsuit centers around the November 2019 death of a deeply religious individual named Harold Lee. Upon his passing, the man’s family enlisted the Roller-McNutt Funeral Home to handle the arrangements and subsequent burial, which they intended to be at a cemetery alongside his late parents. However, Lee’s final wishes wound up going wildly awry and his family fears that the miscue may result in him being ‘left behind.’
That’s because, their lawsuit states, Lee’s loved ones expressly told the funeral home that he “stickily desired not to be cremated, as he believed his body would be raptured following the second coming.” With that being said, the man’s family were understandably aghast when, a few days later, they were told that his remains had been accidentally cremated. According to the lawsuit, the shocking news left his heartbroken widow “violently shaking” and his family suffered from “extreme mental and emotional distress” due to the error. Believing that Lee cannot be raptured without a body and thus will not join them in the kingdom of heaven, his loved ones are now suing the funeral home for unspecified damages.
Talk about missing the boat!
Ark Encounter is a Christian religious and Young Earth creationist theme park that opened in Grant County, Kentucky in 2016. The centerpiece of the park is a large representation of Noah’s Ark based on the Genesis flood narrative contained in the Bible. It is 510 feet (155 m) long, 85 feet (26 m) wide, and 51 feet (16 m) high.
Ark Encounter is operated by Answers in Genesis (AiG), a young Earth creationist (YEC) organization that also operates the Creation Museum 45 miles (70 km) away in Petersburg, Kentucky. The theme park promotes pseudoscientific young Earth creationist beliefs about the age of the universe, age of the Earth, and co-existence of man and non-avian dinosaurs.
After feasibility studies projected that the park would be a boon to the state’s tourism industry, the Ark Encounter received tax incentives from the city, county, and state to induce its construction. This drew criticism from groups concerned with the separation of church and state. A dispute over AiG’s hiring practices was adjudicated in U.S. federal court, which found in 2016 that the organization could require Ark Encounter employees to sign a statement of faith as a condition of their employment, prompting criticism of the park’s discriminatory hiring practices.
The ark contains 132 bays, each standing about 18 feet (5.5 m) high, arranged into three decks. Visitors enter on the lowest deck and move between decks on ramps constructed through the center of the ark. Bays on the first deck contain models of some animals that AiG believes could have been on the ark; there are no live animals within the exhibit though there is a petting zoo on the grounds. The models are meant to represent “kinds” of animals, which AiG says gave rise to modern animals after the flood. Prior to the Ark’s opening, media outlets reported it would feature models of dinosaurs and “Biblical unicorns”.
I’m sticking with Darwinistic evolution.
The Hill of Crosses is a site of pilgrimage about 12 km north of the city of Šiauliai, in northern Lithuania. The precise origin of the practice of leaving crosses on the hill is uncertain, but it is believed that the first crosses were placed on the former Jurgaičiai or Domantai hill fort after the 1831 Uprising. Over the generations, not only crosses and crucifixes, but statues of the Virgin Mary, carvings of Lithuanian patriots and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims. The exact number of crosses is unknown, but estimates put it at about 55,000 in 1990 and 100,000 in 2006.
Over the generations, the place has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism despite the threats it faced throughout history. After the 3rd partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire. Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. These two uprisings are connected with the beginnings of the hill: as families could not locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses in place of a former hill fort.
When the old political structure of Eastern Europe fell apart in 1918, Lithuania once again declared its independence. Throughout this time, the Hill of Crosses was used as a place for Lithuanians to pray for peace, for their country, and for the loved ones they had lost during the Wars of Independence.
The site took on a special significance during the years 1944–1990, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. Continuing to travel to the hill and leave their tributes, Lithuanians used it to demonstrate their allegiance to their original identity, religion and heritage. It was a venue of peaceful resistance, although the Soviets worked hard to remove new crosses, and bulldozed the site at least three times (including attempts in 1963 and 1973). There were even rumors that the authorities planned to build a dam on the nearby Kulvė River, a tributary to Mūša, so that the hill would end up underwater.
On September 7, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. In 2000 a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby. The interior decoration draws links with La Verna, the mountain where St. Francis is said to have received his stigmata. The hill remains under nobody’s jurisdiction; therefore people are free to build crosses as they see fit.