Psalm 136 1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.His love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods.His love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:His love endures forever. 4 to him who alone does great wonders,His love endures forever. 5 who by his understanding made the heavens,His love endures forever. 6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,His love endures forever. 7 who made the great lights—His love endures forever. 8 the sun to govern the day,His love endures forever. 9 the moon and stars to govern the night;His love endures forever. 10 to him who struck down the firstborn of EgyptHis love endures forever. 11 and brought Israel out from among themHis love endures forever. 12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;His love endures forever. 13 to him who divided the Red Sea a asunderHis love endures forever. 14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,His love endures forever. 15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;His love endures forever. 16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;His love endures forever. 17 to him who struck down great kings,His love endures forever. 18 and killed mighty kings—His love endures forever. 19 Sihon king of the AmoritesHis love endures forever. 20 and Og king of Bashan—His love endures forever. 21 and gave their land as an inheritance,His love endures forever. 22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.His love endures forever. 23 He remembered us in our low estateHis love endures forever. 24 and freed us from our enemies.His love endures forever. 25 He gives food to every creature.His love endures forever. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.His love endures forever.
When I wake up in the morning, my mind gropes around for something to hold onto.
Some days I am facing problems, some days are days where enjoyable things are planned. Some days are days of battle. Some days are days of sorrow. Some days are days in sunshine, riding waves or skiing powder.
But every day, the most steadying thought is the confidence that “His love endures forever.” He will never leave me nor forsake me. In death or in life, “His love endures forever.”
“The maker of the stars would rather die for you
than live without you.” – Max Lucado
Those who wish to support them and their airing of lewd and bigoted shows, have at it. Serves you right to pay more for their service.
From SF Gate: This article, Netflix raised prices because you all are signing up like crazy, originally appeared on CNET.com.
If you want to blame anyone for Netflix raising prices, look to all the newbs who are signing up in droves.
The streaming video service reported that more people signed up in the last three months of 2018 than any other quarter ever, and it predicted even more new members in the first quarter of 2019. The company added 8.84 million new paid members, according to its end-of-year financial report Thursday. That’s better than the 7.6 million it’d predicted in October.
Netflix tends to end every year on an upswing, as people on holiday breaks spend extra time streaming and those who received new gadgets as gifts start setting them up by adding services like Netflix. But this time, Netflix had already issued a couple of particularly positive signals about how business was faring.
Last month, the company said Bird Box, its post-apocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock, was watched by 45 million accounts in the first seven days it was available, the best viewership for one of its original movies yet. And Tuesday, Netflix announced price hikes.The prospect of a higher monthly bill wasn’t welcome news for consumers, but investors reacted with glee, and analysts interpreted it as Netflix flexing its muscles in the middle of a hot streak.
Netflix doubled down on viewership disclosures Thursday. Bird Box has now been watched by more than 80 million member households in four weeks, the company said, adding that the movie was getting “high repeat viewing.” Looking ahead, Netflix expects You — a thriller series about a bookish stalker, which struggled to find an audience when it aired on Lifetime — to surpass 40 million households in its first four weeks, and it predicts Sex Education, a British series that Netflix is distributing globally, to reach more than 40 million in the first four weeks too.
The eternal caveat about Netflix numbers like these? They’re not independently verified. Nielsen offers some ratings for Netflix programs, which it figures with its own system of measurement that leaves out any viewing on mobile devices and doesn’t count people watching outside the US. Nielsen’s initial Bird Box numbers supported the general case that the movie was widely popular, though.
And Netflix’s definition of a view carries different meaning for a movie versus a show. Netflix counts a movie as viewed once an account watches 70 percent of the total runtime, including credits. But for shows, Netflix credits the title with a view if an account gets through 70 percent of the total runtime of a single episode.
Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
Last Sunday’s Devotional was on the account in Luke 3 of the Baptism of our Lord. The significance of the narrative is twofold:
Luke 3 is one of several instances in the Old and New Testaments — see also Genesis 1:26, John 5:7, and Matthew 28 — when the nature of the Triune Godhead is revealed as the sublime mystery of three Persons in one God.
Luke 3 also speaks to the importance that Jesus holds for the sacrament of Baptism: Even the Son of God, who needed no cleansing, before He began His public ministry. Indeed, the sacrament of Baptism is an act of exorcism — it purifies and sanctifies (makes holy) the person, making him/her a dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Put another way, an unbaptized person is without the Holy Spirit and rendered defenseless against the Evil One.
All of which brings us, quite logically, to today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
With Baptism, not only are we made a dwelling of the Third Person of the Triune Godhead (how awesome is that!), we also receive spiritual gift(s) from the Holy Spirit!
“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
The spiritual gift may be:
Wisdom: The capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of judgement in the choice of means and ends”; the opposite of folly.
Knowledge: The faculty of understanding or knowing; intelligence, intellect; clear and certain perception of fact or truth.
Faith: Belief in, trust in, and loyalty to God, the result of which should be a transformation — radical change — of the individual.
Healing: The restoration — making whole or well — of physical, psychological or spiritual health from a state of damage or disease.
Mightydeeds: Praiseworthy acts or feats that are great, powerful, or skillful.
Prophecy: The ability, with divine inspiration, to predict the future.
Discernment of spirits: The ability by intuition and/or theological study to judge various spiritual agencies — the human soul, Divine grace, angels, devils — for their moral influence. Humility is the key to discernment, as well as consulting others and praying for guidance.
Varieties of tongues: The supernatural ability to speak in a languageunknown to thespeaker; not to be confused with the acquired skill of speaking in a foreign language.
Interpretation of tongues: The supernatural enablement to express in an intelligible language an utterance spoken in an unknown language; not to be confused with the acquired skill of language interpretation.
Which spiritual gift were you given?
May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you!
Chad Pergram is an award-winning reporter who covers Congress for Fox News.
On January 16, 2019, Pergram tweeted this picture of the floor of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda with the cryptic text: “A cross is now visible on the center circle on the floor of the US Capitol Rotunda”.
Pergram has not responded to readers’ queries as to whether the cross had always been there or if it’s a new phenomenon, but a reader (@Knuffle_Bunny) of his tweet responded with a picture of the Capitol Rotunda’s floor before/without the cross:
Another reader (@Sindiesuu) tweeted a picture of a star in the middle of the floor, claiming that it’s of the Capitol Rotunda. But she’s mistaken: the floor with a star in the middle is in the Capitol building’s Crypt — a large circular area on the first floor of the building — not the Rotunda, which is a large, domed, circular room on the second floor of the Capitol building.
I have searched in vain for photos of the Capitol Rotunda’s floor, including a 360° virtual tour of the Rotunda, but did not find any picture showing the center of the Rotunda floor with or without a cross.
If anyone reading this can supply us with pictures, please leave a comment!
Update (Jan. 20, 2019):
A reader of FOTM, Mary, found this pic of the Rotunda floor, taken before Chad Pergram’s January 16 tweet:
I cropped and enlarged the center of the floor. I do not see a cross in the white circle, do you?
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An exhibition at the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel displays artworks that insult Jesus Christ, but not the Islamic and Judaic religions.
The museum describes the “Sacred Goods” exhibition, curated by Shaked Shamir, which began on August 4 last year and ends today, as follows:
This exhibition focuses on the responses of contemporary artists to issues of religion and faith in the contemporary global reality, which is dominated by the consumer culture. In recent decades, various cultures and places around the world have witnessed a surprising religious revival. Theorist Boris Groys argues that in a world that has renounced the grand secular ideologies, the return to religion fulfills the need for meaning. Contemporary religions offer answers to the ills of the modern world and the sense of emptiness that pervades this era of extreme individualism and aggressive capitalism…. Consumer culture dictates a superficial interest in religious products and techniques, while ignoring the philosophical and ethical meanings of religion…. In the contemporary context, the artists participating in the exhibition employ religious symbols to criticize the encroachment of the consumer culture on our lives in general, and on the religious sphere in particular. The artists also criticize the way religions use consumer values and practices in order to prosper in the contemporary reality.
The participating artists are identified as Elodie Abergel, Ido Abramsohn, Gabi Ben Avraham, Magnus Gjoen, Vania Heymann, Jani Leinonen, Tony Leone, Ariane Littman, Esther Naor, Karam Natour, Pool & Marianela, and Nick Stern.
The exhibition includes these artworks and images that blaspheme God the Father, Jesus Christ and insults Christianity:
Our Lord Jesus Christ as a Ken doll:
Mocking His Crucifixion:
Mocking His Resurrection:
But no mockery of the Ark of the Covenant that’s celebrated in Judaism, or any other Judaic symbol or figure, nor of Islam:
In addition to insulting Jesus, the art exhibition trashes religion in general, while glorifying globalization:
In a reality wherein globalization aspires for cultural unification, religion offers its followers the illusion of a return to their roots and to distinctive local traditions.
Christian leaders in Israel have singled out Finnish artist Jani Leinonen‘s McJesus sculpture of a crucified Ronald McDonald, while ignoring the other offensive exhibits.
For his part, Leinonen said that last September, he had requested his McJesus sculpture be removed from the museum’s Sacred Goods exhibition, to no avail, and that McJesus is on display against his wishes.
In early January 2019, some four months after the opening of the “Sacred Goods” exhibition, Israel’s culture minister Miri Regev sent museum director Nissim Tal a letter week demanding McJesus’s removal, writing that: “Disrespect of religious symbols sacred to many worshippers in the world as an act of artistic protest is illegitimate and cannot serve as art at a cultural institution supported by state funds.” But the museum refused to remove the sculpture.
On January 14, 2019, hundreds of Christians protested outside the Haifa Museum of Art against McJesus. Violent clashes broke out between Christian protesters who tried to storm their way into the museum and the police, after a molotov cocktail was thrown at the museum the day before.
One of the protesters complained that the Israeli government was slow to respond because McJesus mocks Christianity and not Judaism: “If they put up [a sculpture of] Hitler with a Torah scroll they would immediately respond.” (The Art Newspaper)
A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD . . . . Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Baptism of our Lord by St. John the Baptist was one of several instances in the Old and New Testaments — see also Genesis 1:26, John 5:7, and Matthew 28 — when the nature of the Triune Godhead is revealed as the vexing mystery of three Persons in one God.
But the above narrative in Luke 3 also speaks to the importance that Jesus holds for the sacrament of Baptism. Even the Son of God was Baptized, intended for sinners, before He began His public ministry.
These are the words on Baptism of His Apostle, St. Paul:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” -Romans 6:3-4
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:11
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” -Galatians 3:27
Baptism purifies and sanctifies (makes holy) the person, making him/her a dwelling of the Holy Spirit. That means that without Baptism, a person is without the Holy Spirit and rendered defenseless against the Evil One.
I don’t know what other Christian denominations believe about baptism, but in the Catholic Church — for all its many flaws, including the terrible sins committed by its clergy — the sacrament of Baptism is an act of exorcism:
Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. (#1237 of Catechism of the Catholic Church)
In this manner, through the exorcizing sacrament of Baptism, “all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”
Moreover, through Baptimism we receive the gift of grace from the Holy Trinity — to believe in God, to love Him, and to grow in goodness. “Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.”
I was baptized when I was four, but fell away from God and from the Church when I entered college, naïvely believing in a charismatic professor named Mitchell Bedford who said the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls had proved Christianity was a myth. What terrible and evil deeds college professors can do.
An agnostic, I wandered in the wilderness for decades until I was born again. This August 9 will be the 17th anniversary of my coming home. On that day in 2002, choking with tears streaming down my face, I made my big Confession for all my sins and He forgave me. I truly believe that, had I not been baptized all those many years ago and given the shield of protection, I would have been lost forever.
So if you are a Christian, don’t make the mistake of postponing the baptism of your child(ren). Baptism — clothing your child “with Christ” — is the most important thing you can and will ever do for your child.
Jesus, I love You with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind, and with all my strength.
And may the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
The Oxford Dictionaries defines “ephiphany” (with a small “e”) as “a moment of sudden revelation or insight” and “a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being”. The word “Epiphany” (with a capital “E”) refers to “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi”.
Today is the great feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi — an event that had been foretold in Isaiah 60:1-6 some 800 years befre the birth of Christ.
Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you…. Then…the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.
The Magiwere wise men — non-Hebrew pagans from the East. Bearing gifts fit for a king — those of gold, frankincense, and myrrh — their coming to Jerusalem to pay homage to “the king of the Jews” shows that they seek in the messianic light of the Christmas star, the one who will be king of all nations.
It is noteworthy that the first creatures to see the newborn Jesus were his human parents, Mary and Joseph; angels on high; humble farm animals; lowly shepherds; and Gentiles — the Magi.
The Epiphany, therefore, signifies the manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and Savior of the world— not just the Old Testament‘s oft-prophesied messiah of the Jews. God is not a tribal deity, exclusive to only the so-called “chosen people”. Jesus the Christ came for Jews and Gentiles. He came for all of us, no matter our race, gender, language, country, or creed.
AsSt. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians 3:6:
[T]he Gentiles are coheirs,
members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise
in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Noteworthy also is the fact that the Magi, as the first Gentiles to find Jesus, were also the first Gentiles to receive His salvific grace. As recounted in Matthew 2:12:
And having been warned in a dream
not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country
by another way.
By the way, astronomers, using software programs reproducing the night sky exactly as it was thousands of years ago, have determined there really was a Christmas Staror Star of Bethlehem. David Reneke, news editor of Australia’s Sky and Space Magazine, said: “We found out something startling. It looks like the ‘Christmas star’ really did exist.”
It’s generally accepted by most researchers that Christ was born between 3 BC and 1 AD. On 12 August, 3 BC, Jupiter and Venus appeared very close together just before sunrise, appearing as bright morning stars. It would have been visible in the eastern dawn sky of the Middle East from about 3:45 to 5:20 a.m.
But it didn’t stop there. The crowning touch came ten months later, on 17 June 2 BC, Venus and Jupiter joined up again in the constellation Leo. This time the two planets were so close that, without the use of our modern optical aids, they would have looked like one single, brilliant star.
Venus is known as the planet of love; Jupiter as the planet of kings; and Leo denotes royalty and power.
See these other cases of science confirming Biblical accounts:
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) was Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015 — credited with pushing Obamacare into law — and Senate Minority Leader from January 3, 2015 to January 3, 2017, when he retired from the U.S. Senate.
Remember Reid’s strange injuries?
On May 14, 2018, Reid underwent surgery after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
A source told the Nevada Independent: “They caught it early. The doctors believe it went well, and he is expected to make a full recovery.” According to Roll Call, Reid’s family put out this statement:
Today, Former Democratic Leader Harry Reid underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center to remove a tumor from his pancreas. His doctors caught the problem early during a routine screening and his surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success and that the prognosis for his recovery is good. He will undergo chemotherapy as the next step in his treatment. He is now out of surgery, in good spirits and resting with his family. He is grateful to his highly skilled team of doctors and to all who have sent and continue to send their love and support,” the statement said.
Reid, who is 79, does not have long to live. I hate to be so abrupt about this….
I had planned to visit Reid, who had not granted an interview since his cancer diagnosis, in November, but he put me off, saying he felt too weak. People close to him were saying that he had months left, if not weeks….
Reid’s health, even before the cancer diagnosis, was a factor in opting not to seek re-election for a sixth Senate term in 2016. Over the last few months, he has had chemotherapy and two back surgeries….
Reid had dismissed Trump as a “spoiled brat,” a “con man” and a “human leech.”… In 2016, he dismissed Trump as “a big fat guy” who “didn’t win many fights.”
As with John McCain (R-AZ), I will not mourn Harry Reid’s death.
Update (Jan. 4)
Reacting to this post, a Christian friend wrote in an email that he would pray for Harry Reid. A reader wrote an email scolding me that when I wrote “I will not mourn Harry Reid’s death,” I was kicking a man when he’s down. Here is my response:
I’d always had problems with our Lord’s injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself”. I don’t believe He means an uncritical, all-accepting, non-“judgmental” love. That would go against everything that He is.
Nor do priests help in their homilies: I have yet to hear one that satisfactorily defines/explains what “loving your neighbor” means.
I believe the answer is in Luke 10:25-37‘s account of the Good Samaritan, in which a scholar of the law asked Jesus “who is my neighbor” whom Jesus enjoins us to “love as ourselves”. Jesus replied with the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
“A man fell victim to robbers as he went down to Jerusalem from Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
And so, when we are instructed to love our neighbor, in Jesus’ own words, it means that when another has fallen, through no fault of his/her own, we are to treat “our neighbor” with kindness and compassion, and provide assistance to the best of our abilities. That is what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Harry Reid does not fit the definition of “our neighbor” — the man who fell victim to robbers through no fault of his own. Harry Reid’s pancreatic cancer is not akin to being robbed. Harry Reid did every evil in his life with full knowledge and free will, including profiting financially from the Obama BLM’s war against the Bundy Ranch. (See “Dirty Harry Reid Has His Hands All Over Bundy/BLM Dispute” and InfoWars)
And so, I do not believe I am obliged to “love” Harry Reid. I don’t hate him — I don’t hate anyone — nor did I wish him pancreatic cancer, but I do not believe he merits my kindness, compassion, assistance, or love.
“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” -Proverbs 11:10
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Facebook’s “hate speech” suspension only lasted 24 hours. But it may have been the longest 24 hours yet for the social media giant. Evangelist Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told the Charlotte Observer that he was recently suspended from Facebook for taking a stand for his biblical beliefs. The offending “hate speech” that shut down Graham’s account was nothing recent. Rather it stemmed from an April 9, 2016 post in which Graham endorsed a North Carolina law that prevents men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms. In addition, Graham’s post urged a return to biblical principles as a way of life.
The Facebook suspension prompted an immediate flurry of comment from numerous media outlets, including Fox News, the Washington Post and The New York Times. In addition, the suspension was concurrent with a Times investigative report revealing that Facebook maintains a secret rule book for policing—and censoring—Facebook members’ speech.
Facebook moved quickly to remove the suspension, but not soon enough. By the time Facebook restored Graham’s account, the word was out. On December 28, Facebook apologized. A Facebook spokesperson admitted to the Charlotte Observer that Graham was indeed punished for his post. And while the spokesperson is now apologizing for censoring Graham, it’s clear that some of Facebook’s team of 15,000 speech police can censor conservative Christians at will.
Graham says it’s just wrong that his biblical comments would be ever considered “hate speech.”
“Facebook said the post went against their ‘community standards on hate speech.’ Facebook is trying to define truth. There was a character in a movie a few years back who said, ‘The truth is what I say it is!’ That’s what Facebook is trying to do. They’re making the rules and changing the rules,” Graham said.
But he says God’s truth will always be the only real truth. “Truth is truth,” Graham said. “God made the rules and His Word is truth. Actually, Facebook is censoring free speech. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA.
Graham reposted his 2016 post, last week, asking readers to judge whether what he said was “hate speech.”
“April 9, 2016—Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert. He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms is going ‘backwards instead of forwards.’ Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense. Mr. Springsteen, a nation embracing sin and bowing at the feet of godless secularism and political correctness is not progress. I’m thankful North Carolina has a governor, Pat McCrory, and a lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, and legislators who put the safety of our women and children first! HB2 protects the safety and privacy of women and children and preserves the human rights of millions of faith-based citizens of this state.”
The suspension, however brief, raises serious questions. If Facebook is willing to block one of the most prominent Christian leaders in the world, then what’s next? Graham’s Facebook suspension also reinforces ongoing reports of censorship against Christian beliefs by other social media giants and the tech companies that control so much of the communication and interaction in our world today – companies such as Google, Twitter, WordPress and Apple.
The revelation that Facebook records, monitors, scrutinizes and judges all subscribers’ speech according to a draconian and biased set of secret rules is frightening. It is a direct threat to free expression and an assault on conservative and Christian values. Had Graham’s suspension been confined to his account, Facebook might have been able to say that it was a simple error in judgment. But it was not an aberration. It was a punitive suspension levied according to corporate policy that was, until then, a secret. But the cat, so to speak, is out of the bag.
Christopher Carbone, writing for Fox News, outlined the report by The New York Times that disclosed the existence of Facebook’s rulebook. He said the rulebook was Facebook’s attempt to eliminate misinformation and hate speech. But he noted that the effort was predicated on a “byzantine and secret document of rules packed with spreadsheets and power point slides that gets updated regularly for its global content moderators.”
He said the New York Times showed the social network to be “a far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself.” The Times, he said, discovered a range of gaps, biases and outright errors — including instances where Facebook allowed extremism to spread in some counties while censoring mainstream speech in others.”
The rulebook’s details were revealed by a Facebook employee who leaked more than 1,400 pages of the speech policing rulebook to the Times because he “feared that the company was exercising too much power, with too little oversight — and making too many mistakes.”
Carbone said that Facebook “is trying to monitor billions of posts per day in over 100 languages while parsing out the subtle nuances and complicated context of language, images and even emojis. The group of Facebook employees who meet every other Tuesday to update the rules, according to the Times, are trying to boil down highly complex issues into strict yes-or-no rules.”
Facebook, he said, then outsources the content moderation to other companies that tend to hire unskilled workers. The 7,500-plus moderators “have mere seconds to recall countless rules and apply them to the hundreds of posts that dash across their screens each day. When is a reference to “jihad,” for example, forbidden? When is a “crying laughter” emoji a warning sign?”
In the U.S., Facebook has banned the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has been accused of fomenting real-world violence. It also blocked an advertisement about the caravan of Central American illegal aliens put out by President Trump’s political team.
“It’s not our place to correct people’s speech, but we do want to enforce our community standards on our platform,” Sara Su, a senior engineer on the News Feed, told the Times. “When you’re in our community, we want to make sure that we’re balancing freedom of expression and safety.”
Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, said that the primary goal was to prevent harm, and that to a great extent, the company had been successful. But perfection, she said, is not possible.
“We have billions of posts every day, we’re identifying more and more potential violations using our technical systems,” Bickert told the newspaper. “At that scale, even if you’re 99 percent accurate, you’re going to have a lot of mistakes.”
Facebook’s most politically consequential and potentially divisive document could be an Excel spreadsheet that the Times reports lists every group and individual the company has barred as a “hate figure.” Moderators are told to remove any post praising, supporting or representing any of the people on that list.
Anton Shekhovtsov, an expert in far-right groups, told the publication he was “confused about the methodology.” The company bans an impressive array of American and British groups, he added, but relatively few in countries where the far right can be more violent, particularly Russia or Ukraine.
Still, there’s inconsistency in how Facebook applies the rules. In Germany, where speech in general is more scrutinized, Facebook reportedly blocks dozens of far-right groups. In nearby Austria, it only blocks one.
For a tech company to draw these lines is “extremely problematic,” Jonas Kaiser, a Harvard University expert on online extremism, told the Times. “It puts social networks in the position to make judgment calls that are traditionally the job of the courts.”
…streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill.
…The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted. – Isaiah 30:25-26
Something terrible happened September 11, 2001.
It was indeed a day of great slaughter when the towers fell. It matches the mysterious event spoken of by Isaiah the prophet. Was Isaiah speaking exactly to our moment in history? In my opinion, God’s word speaks to us all in a great variety of situations. In His manifold wisdom, one word accomplishes many things, more than we can count.
For me, this scripture lit up like a beacon, capturing my attention through the mention of an unforgettable shared trauma. And here’s the remarkable thing. He announces that this horrible satanic attack also triggers a great spiritual outpouring of Grace and Living Waters, far more than adequate to heal our wounds and meet the challenges of our time head on.
That’s what I get out of this amazing passage.
How about you, dear readers?