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Israeli archaeologists find 2700 year old artifact

(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, archaeologist in Isreal discovered a 2,700-year-old seal that supports the Bible’s record of a governor ruling over the city of Jerusalem.

The small clay piece is imprinted with a seal in ancient Hebrew that translates to “belonging to the governor of the city.” It is about the size of a small coin, like a penny. Archaeologists were able to date it to the period of the first Jewish temple because it was uncovered in soil from the first temple period.

According to lead site excavator Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, the seal “supports the Biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of the city in Jerusalem 2,700 years ago. This is the first time that such a sealing is found in an authorized excavation.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was presented the coin, said in a statement “It is very overwhelming to receive greetings from First Temple-period Jerusalem. This shows that already 2,700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city.”

The artifact was found while researchers were examining the dust from a First Temple structure 100 meters northwest of the Western Wall. The site has been worked on since 2005, and has offered up insights into Jerusalem’s Second Temple and Roman periods.

The seal was likely attached to a shipment or sent as a souvenir. It was discovered near the plaza of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“It is likely that one of the buildings in our excavation was the destination of this transport, sent by the city governor,” said Dr. Weksler-Bdolah.

The impression on the artifact was studied by Hebrew University Professor Tallay Ornana and Tel Aviv University Prof. Benjamin Sass. According to their analysis, “above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised. Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment.” Below this image, is the inscribed quote.

The role of governor is referenced in the Hebrew Bible. First in 2 Kings, Joshua is listed as the governor of the city in the days of Hezekiah, and second in 2 Chronicles, Maaseiah is noted as governor of the city in the days of Josiah.

“The Bible mentions two governors of Jerusalem, and this finding thus reveals that such a position was actually held by someone in the city some 2,700 years ago,” said Weksler-Bdolah.

“Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals of the world, continually populated by the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years. Today we have the privilege to encounter another one of the long chain of persons and leaders that built and developed the city. We are grateful to be living in a city with such a magnificent past, and are obligated to ensure its strength for generations to come, as we daily do,” said Barkat.

584688341_1280x720A senior Church of England bishop has lambasted conservative evangelical Christians in the US for their “uncritical support” of Donald Trump, urging them to reflect on how their endorsement of the president relates to their faith.

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, said “self-styled evangelicals” risked bringing the word evangelical into disrepute, and added there was no justification for Christians contradicting God’s teaching to protect the poor and the weak.

Bayes told the Guardian: “Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalises the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country.

“Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable.”

He said he regretted that “people who call themselves evangelical in the US seem to be uncritically accepting” positions taken by Trump and his allies.

“Some quite significant so-called evangelical leaders are uncritically supporting people in ways that imply they are colluding or playing down the seriousness of things which in other parts of their lives [they] would see as really important,” Bayes added.

He stressed that not all evangelicals were Trump supporters, saying there were “many, many Christians who are trying to proclaim the gospel as we’ve received it, even if that means political leaders have to be challenged”.

Last month, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said he could not comprehend the strength of support for Trump among conservative evangelicals in the US. “I really genuinely do not understand where that is coming from,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme.

In his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Welby criticised “populist leaders that deceive” their people, in comments interpreted as being aimed at Trump.

According to the Washington-based Pew Research Center, 80% of self-identified white evangelical Christians said they voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and three-quarters have since said they approve of his presidency.

Bayes, who has been bishop of Liverpool since 2014, said: “If people want to support rightwing populism anywhere in the world, they are free to do so. The question is, how are they going to relate that to their Christian faith?

“And if what I believe are the clear teachings of the gospel about love for all, the desire for justice and for making sure marginalised and defenceless people are protected, if it looks as though those teachings are being contradicted, then I think there is a need to say so.”

Bayes was speaking to mark the launch of a new Christian charity, which he is chairing, aimed at eliminating discrimination based on sexuality or gender.

The Ozanne Foundation will work with religious organisations around the world on LGBTI, gender and sexuality issues, as well as conflict resolution and education. It will be led by Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for equality within the C of E. Along with Bayes, the charity’s trustees and advisers include David Ison, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, and Martyn Percy, the dean of Christ Church, Oxford.

Bayes has previously called for far-reaching change in C of E attitudes to LGBTI people, saying he had been “profoundly changed” by encounters with lesbian and gay Christians, including within his own family. “I have come to believe that we need to change the church,” he said last year.

The Ozanne Foundation would provide “strong and clear advocacy, not only for LGBTI inclusion, but against other forms of discrimination and hurt in the church”, he said. “There is room in the church for people who strongly and clearly advocate for change, and I want to support them.”

The church’s “institutional inertia” needed to be countered, Bayes added. “There is no doubt that the church at the moment is on a journey, and that journey needs to arrive at a place of inclusion further on than we are at the moment.

“What matters to me in terms of my own responsibility and my own advocacy is that we don’t settle for second best, that we keep trying to move the organisation forward.”

Feature originally seen on The Guardian.

19815465305_7ea6f2bd9c_bLike many churches, services at the Coachella Valley Church begin and end with the Lord’s Prayer. The service lasts about one hour and is filled with Christian prayers and sermons. Somewhere in between, there is the sacrament.

However at churches like Coachella, it’s done a little bit differently.

Pastor Grant Atwell distributes marijuana joints to church goers. He encourages the members to take deep breaths, and reflect on their own life and what they are thankful for. Coachella encourages its member to abstain from consuming meat and alcohol, but it uses cannabis to aid meditation.

This isn’t the only “pot church” in California. Oklevueha Native American Church, in San Jose, views marijuana as a sacrament, and the use of sacred medicines like cannabis and peyote as “a mandatory part of our spiritual journey,” the church says on its website.

Nationally, such churches have opened in states like Indiana, where marijuana remains illegal, and Colorado, which legalized pot in 2012. The “International Church of Cannabis” in Colorado for instance is also testing the boundaries of state rules on partaking in marijuana in a public setting.

How do churches get away with having the substance? The churches say that the government is interfering with religion. The churches rely on court rulings that made it possible for some groups, including Native Americans, to use federally banned drugs like peyote in religious ceremonies.

“Our Rastafarian Cannabis Church in San Jose is not politically originated,” Coachella’s websites reads. “And we support no political organization, or commercial institution, seeing that religion, politics, and commerce are the three unclean spirits which separate the people from their God.”

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and is going to start selling recreational marijuana beginning January 1, 2018. Because of this, churches have popped up throughout the state in Oakland, Roseville, San Diego and others.

Law enforcement is having issues shutting them down, despite many of them believing they’re simply dispensaries in disguise. Churches skirt the rules that govern other marijuana providers, such as requirements to pay taxes.

“I’m not going to say they’re not churches, but to the extent that they’re distributing marijuana, they’re an illegal dispensary, in my view,” said San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle.

However, the City of Coachella is beginning to fight back and will have a formal hearing in front of a judge about the legality of these churches soon.

Marijuana churches typically require people to purchase a membership, then give or sell them marijuana and related products. They may ask for ID such as a driver’s license but don’t require a doctor’s recommendation or medical marijuana identification card.

These church leaders stick by their statements that they are a real place of worship and choose to honor God through these means. The members of the church do, too.

Marco, a church-goer who spoke with California Healthline, grew up in the Catholic church. However he felt that the Roman Catholic Church disapproved of his sexual orientation and marijuana use.

“Honestly, this has been the most life-affirming church I’ve ever been to,” Marco said. “Here there are true believers in cannabis — if not the faith.”

Basilica_of_the_National_Shrine_of_the_Immaculate_ConceptionThe Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is finally complete. Construction of the massive church was finally completed on December 8, 2017, nearly a full century after building first began. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, also called the Trinity Dome, is now the largest Catholic Church in North America. The church is located in Washington, D.C. next to the Catholic University of America.

Even before the church was completed, the National Shrine was visited by nearly one million people every year. Many of these people were undoubtedly there to see the mosaic that decorates the ceiling of the Trinity Dome. The enormous masterpiece is the largest of its kind and is comprised of more than 14 million individual pieces of glass. The artwork depicts the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, the four evangelists and a procession of angels. A number of saints are depicted as well, several of whom are important to the United States. The first canonized Native Americans, St. Juan Diego and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, are represented as well as the first American citizen to be canonized, St. Francis Cabrini, M.S.C. St. Junipero Serra, whose canonization was the first to take place on American soil, also appears in the design. The Nicene Creed is written out in the mosaic as well.

The Trinity Dome’s incredible artwork was a challenge to create for Viggo and Martin Rambusch, the artistic designers of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’s now famous mosaic. The dome is a deeper curve than others in the basilica which made for unique opportunities and challenges when the Rambusch’s designed the mosaic. The Trinity Dome’s icon scheme was patterned after the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice with the ceiling area of the shrine meant to be a succession of decorated domes.

The mosaic itself was created in Italy, and the Rambusches made roughly ten trips to Italy in order to work and consult with the mosaicists. Both Rambusches are pleased with the final result. Martin Rambusch commented that the new dome has “a strength of its own” while still managing to be “harmonious with everything else” in the National Shrine. Viggo Rambusche added that the mosaic on the Trinity Dome ceiling was deliberately designed to look “like the whole thing [had] been [in the National Shrine] forever.”

In addition to the elaborately mosaiced Trinity Dome, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is home to over 80 chapels and oratories that honor the Virgin Mary. The mammoth church is one of the ten largest churches in the world and has been described as a “hymn in stone.” Now that the church is complete, Barcelona’s  Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is now the largest unfinished Catholic church. As for the National Shrine, the church is looking forward to celebrating its upcoming 100th anniversary two short years from now, the first anniversary where the church is truly complete.