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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.

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Daily Mail reported on Friday that Google Home wasn’t responding when users were asking the speaker “Who is Jesus?” Instead, the device would respond with “I’m not sure how to help you with that.”

Users of the voice-activated digital assistant shared their confusion and anger after discovering the device had been programmed to answer questions about Muhammad, Satan and Buddha.

This started a public outcry that has ultimately led the company to disable devices from answering any questions about religious figures. Customers began posting videos on social media showing the personal assistant struggling to answer the questions.

Google released in a statement that until the issue is fixed all responses for questions about religious figures would be temporarily unavailable.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison, tweeted about the situation on Friday. “The reason the Google Assistant didn’t respond with information about ‘Who is Jesus’ or ‘Who is Jesus Christ’ wasn’t out of disrespect but instead to ensure respect,” it stated. “Some of the Assistant’s spoken responses come from the web, and for certain topics, this content can be more vulnerable to vandalism and spam.”

Google Home’s reliance on “featured snippets” — the blurb information that appears at the top of a page of search results — has been an issue before. Sometimes inaccurate, false and offensive information can find it’s way into featured snippets. In 2017, Google Home was parroting conspiracy theories about the former president Barack Obama.

Other personal assistant devices didn’t have the same issues. Amazon’s Alexa offers an answer for “who is Jesus?” according to posts of people testing it on social media and Youtube. Ask similar questions to the iPhone assistant Siri and she will direct you to websites related to Jesus Christ. Though, if you simply tell her, “Jesus,” on an iPhone, she might answer like this: “I would ask that you address your spiritual questions to someone more qualified to comment. Ideally, a human.” Sometimes, in response to the word, “Jesus,” she says this: “Humans have religion. I just have silicon.”

When users are asking the question to their Google phones, however, it does direct the user to a list of top websites on Jesus Christ. Only time will tell how Google will handle the situation when it comes to their home assistant device.

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.