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Jim Bakker is making headlines again three years after his “Praise the Lord” (PTL) empire near Charlotte collapsed amid financial corruption and sexual scandal. Now, instead of rebuilding his 2,300 acre Christian theme park and resort, Heritage USA, Bakker is selling supplies for the coming apocalypse. “We are in the final days,” Bakker says.

While Bakker claims that he has abandoned his previous lifestyle in favor of coming to a truer understanding of Christ, plenty of people remember that his theme park and TV show funded an opulent lifestyle filled with vacation homes, expensive cars and an air-conditioned doghouse. There are questions about whether Bakker truly repented after serving five years in prison for fraud or if he is merely capitalizing on 21st century fears such as terrorism and climate change. His new TV show, “The Jim Bakker Show,” certainly works hard to sell fuel-less generators, doomsday guidebooks and freeze-dried food with a shelf life of up to 30 years. Bakker, however, insists that the twin disasters of Hurricane Harvey and Maria and concerns of nuclear war with North Korea are signs that the end times are on the horizon, and that Christians ignore the warnings at their own risk. “One day,” Bakker says, “you’re going to shake your fist in God’s face and you’re going to say, ‘God, why didn’t you warn me?’ He’s going to say, ‘You sat there and you made fun of Jim Bakker all those years. I warned you. But you didn’t listen.’ ”

Some people believe that Bakker really has turned over a new leaf. “Jim lost everything, and then he came back,” says Bakker’s brother-in-law Mark Graham. “All he wants to do is get the message of salvation out there. And keep people alive.” Graham further claims that Bakker has disowned the Prosperity Gospel, the idea that God rewards faith with blessings such as wealth. Others, however, are skeptical. John Wigger, a professor of history at the University of Missouri and author of “PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire,” claims that Bakker is simply tapping into new opportunities to make money. “The Prosperity Gospel, with all its glitz and money, fit the culture of the 1980s and Jim found that was a very successful component of his message,” Wigger says. “In this post-9/11 era, he’s found that the Apocalypse and survivalism make for a very compelling message that will also gain him an audience.”

Whether or not the Bakkers are once again getting rich off their TV show is difficult to say. There are no Nielsen ratings for Christian television and because Morningside, Bakker’s ministry and broadcast station, is registered as a church, it does not have to file financial information with the IRS. Unlike most faith-based organizations, Bakker’s ministry also refuses to post financial details on their website. Bakker and Graham insist that they have “nothing to hide…We’re transparent with the IRS and the government,” Graham says. “Our partners trust that their money is going to be used for what they designated it for.” Charles Shepard, the former investigative report who anchored the Observer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the fall of PTL, believes that Bakker is up to his old tricks. “If he were someone who had really seen the light,” Shepard says, “he would be forthcoming about…revenues and his compensation.”

Whether Bakker really has turned over a new leaf or is capitalizing on current tensions is currently unclear. Only time will tell where he really stands and if his dire predictions of a rapidly approaching Armageddon come true.

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On MSNBC’s “Hugh Hewitt” last Saturday, well-known Harvard professor Steven Pinker asked where was God during the massacre that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida.

Pinker was on the show to discuss his new book, Enlightenment Now. When defending his book, he stated: “It is not against religion. It is certainly against the belief that God interferes with the laws of the universe and that by praying to him we can make the world better. I think that is a dangerous belief because it’s not true. If we want to make the world better, we have to figure out how to do it ourselves. If we want to cure disease, we have to come up with antibiotics and vaccines and not prayer. If we want to stave off global warming, we can’t assume God won’t let bad things happen.”

Pinker continued and discussed the Florida shooting, which he stated “Cast doubt on the idea that there is a benevolent shepherd who looks out for human welfare. What was the benevolent shepherd doing while the teenager was massacring his classmates?”

He added, “If you’re counting on God to make the world a better place you are probably going to make the world a worse place because he is not listening and we saw that yesterday.”

Christians everywhere were offended by Pinker’s comments, and disagreed with his analysis. Many spoke up saying that we should not be blaming God for the work of Satan. Others cited that God has been readily pushed out of society, for example no prayers in schools, and therefore we are suffering from the consequences of these actions.

Why God allows suffering is a hot topic that has been debated in Christian circles since the beginning of the religion. Pastors understand that after tragedy, they have to find a way to properly address doubts felt by their congregations.

Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of The Humanitarian Disaster Institute, stated:”People will be turning to Christian leaders for guidance in the aftermath of the senseless violence that happened yesterday…One of the biggest challenges pastors will face is the pressure to explain why someone would do something like this. Yet, no answer will take away the pain and heartache. What will be most helpful to those struggling is to meet them in their suffering by creating space for lament, providing comfort, encouraging community, and reminding others of the hope we have in Christ.”

One way that Christians can come together during tragedies is through volunteer efforts. Despite many that criticize the Christian faith, there are still organizations that mobilize after tragedies of this stature. Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association arrived in Flordia within hours of the shooting and are trained to provide emotional and spiritual support amid crises. The team partnered up with Parkridge Church to host a vigil for the victims.

Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, said in a statement “So many lives have been forever changed by this evil act. As we pray for the students, faculty, and families, we know God can bring hope and comfort, in Jesus Christ, in the darkest hours.”

These statements are very different from Pinker’s claims, and these organizations believe we should focus on God after tragedy’s like this. Scripture promises that God never leaves us, and that evil is going to be a part of our world due to incredible sin.

“He’s the only hope we have. He’s the only thing that provides a future. He’s the only one who can bring peace where there is nothing but lostness and struggle and anger and fury and confusion…We just want to see Christ in the forefront of all of this,” Pastor Eddie Bevill of Parkridge Church stated in an interview.

Group_of_Women_Wearing_BurkasDenmark is set to ban the Islamic full-face coverings, the burqa and niqab. Several other European countries already have bans in place due in part to the security risk that comes with allowing people to completely conceal their face in public. Should Denmark’s new law pass, anyone who covers their face in public would be fined 1,000 kroner. Repeat offenders could face fines of up to 10,000 kroner.

The proposed ban is, unsurprisingly, very controversial. Some people claim that the ban is discriminatory against Muslims. Proponents, however, site both the security concerns that come with being unable to see another person’s face as well as the prevailing, if unspoken, rules of Danish culture. Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said, “It is incompatible with the values of the Danish society or the respect for the community to keep the face hidden when meeting each other in the public space…With a ban, we draw a line in the sand and establish that here in Denmark we show each other trust and respect by meeting each other face to face.”

The ban is led by the Danish People’s Party, and the minority ruling coalition government depends on this party to push the legislation through. The ban would only apply to the niqab which covers the whole face with only a small slit for a woman’s eyes, and the burqa which covers the whole face and conceals the eyes behind a mesh screen. The hijab, amira, shayla and other Islamic headgear will continue to be allowed so long as the face can be seen.

Similar bans to the one proposed in Denmark already exist in several European countries. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria all have restrictions on face-concealing veils. Switzerland is also considering banning the full face covering gear in public. Nearly 100,000 Swiss people signed a petition calling for a ban. In response, the government set the matter to a public referendum.

Austria also passed a law banning full-face coverings in 2017. The Anti-Face-Veiling Act prohibits face coverings in all public places and buildings such as courts, schools and public transportation. The ban will apply to balaclavas, Islamic veils and surgical masks. Under this law, police can issue fines on the spot to men and women whose faces are “hidden or concealed by clothes or other objects in such a way that they are no longer recognizable….You must uncover your face on the spot when asked to….If ultimately you continue engaging in the offence by refusing to uncover the face…or your identity is impossible to determine, you might have to accompany the police agent to the police station.”

The bill that would ban burqas and niqabs is currently set to be voted on in the spring. It is expected that the legislation will pass.

Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.com

Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.com

President Trump spoke about the link between faith in God and national greatness at the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. He also declared that the United States of America will be a great nation provided its citizens remain open to the grace of God.

“As long as we can open our eyes to God’s grace and open our hearts to God’s love, then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light to all nations,” said Trump.

“When Americans are able to live by their convictions to speak openly of their faith and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish, and our nation can achieve anything at all.”

Trump also spoke on the religious heritage of the United States, pointing to the national motto “In God We Trust” on money and “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, adding that “throughout our history, we see the story of God’s providence.”

“Our rights are not given to us by man, our rights come from our Creator. No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away,” Trump said.

Trump’s statements were part of the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a major DC-area event that features several members of Congress, world leaders, religious leaders and other honored guests.

The National Prayer breakfast is a massive ecumenical gathering put on annually by a group of Christians who want to focus on a shared admiration of Jesus. Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the event, which draws several thousand people from around the world, especially evangelicals, who have proved strong supporters of the Trump administration.

Trump also referenced the Bible at least twice in his address, mentioning Jesus both times.

One group that was not thrilled with his remarks? Atheists. They are calling foul after Trump only referenced Christianity, and specifically Jesus Christ, in his remarks on Thursday.

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said the president excluded Americans who practice other faiths or no faith at all.

“Trump has taken these government-endorsed prayer breakfasts to a new low, demonstrating his ignorance and disdain for the growing diversity of faiths and philosophies found in the country he’s supposed to be leading,” Speckhardt said in a statement.

The group compared his speech unfavorably to those previous presidents who acknowledge faith traditions other than Christianity. In his 2010 remarks President Obama called on “Americans of every faith, and no faith,” to unite “around a common purpose,” specifically mentioning Hindus and Sikhs, as wells as Jews, Catholics and Protestants.

While some groups felt Trump ignored the 33 percent of Americans that are not Christian, other groups are praising Trump for strongly declaring God’s place in our nation.

Trump’s message was clear – that God has a uniquely Christian purpose for the United States.