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Suus Wansink/Flickr.com

Suus Wansink/Flickr.com

Scientists in the U.S. and Switzerland have announced an astounding revelation – that all modern humans descended from a common father and mother who appeared 100,000 to 200,000 years ago after a cataclysmic event that almost wiped out the human race. Is this scientific breakthrough proof of the biblical creation story and Noah’s Ark?

According to a FoxNews report, Mark Stoeckle at Rockefeller University and David Thaler at the University of Basel came to this conclusion after analyzing the DNA bar codes of five million animals from 100,000 different species. The bar codes are snippets of DNA that reside outside the nuclei of living cells – so-called mitochondrial DNA, which mothers pass down from generation to generation.

Stoeckle and Thaler also found that 90 percent of all animal species alive today are from parents who all began giving birth around the same time, which would be around 250,0000 years ago.

The scientists in this study aren’t pointing to the biblical Adam and Eve, or even to Noah and his wife; however, this research is raising many questions and causing quite a stir and debate, particularly in the scientific community. One of those questions is what happened to remove almost all life on the planet, leaving behind the people who would become our original mother and father? It is also throwing into doubt the patterns of evolution currently accepted by so many in the scientific community.

So how does this study line up with the Bible? Well it does in two significant ways. According to FoxNews, it confirms that we and our fellow creatures on Earth arose from a recent and profound creation event, orchestrated by some unknown mechanism. It also states that the DNA barcodes reveal that species are quantized. This means that instead of there being a continuum of animal varieties, as one might expect from millions of years of gradual evolution, creatures fall into very distinct, widely separated populations – what the Bible describes as “kinds.”

According to science, we are all surrounded by our genetic brothers and sisters.

“At a time when humans place so much emphasis on individual and group differences, maybe we should spend more time on the ways in which we resemble one another and the rest of the animal kingdom,” Stoeckle said.

The research is published in the journal Human Evolution.

We want to know what you think.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

China’s crackdown on religious freedom continued last weekend with a raid in southwestern China. Nearly 100 Christians were snatched off the streets or dragged from their homes in a series of coordinated raids. Members of the Early Rain Covenant Church were particularly targeted in the raids. Around the same time that the raids began, members’ personal accounts, cell discussions and social media channels were shut down, and the church’s telephone line was cut.

“Most church members were taken from their homes, and some were grabbed off the street,” one churchgoer recounted. “Some were found via their smartphone’s location and were taken away…The police had the whole neighborhood under control, as well as the surrounding area. They didn’t let anyone get close.”

A number of the church members have since been released, but the ordeal is far from over. Zhang Guoqing, the assistant deacon, remains under around the clock watch by “security personnel” in his home. Church members who went into hiding were hunted down and arrested. One parishioner also reported, on condition of anonymity, that at least 80 people from the church are missing. The fate of those who have vanished is uncertain given China’s record of brutality, and the treatment of those arrested in this same raid is equally unsure. Less than 48 hours after the raid began, three of the church members who were arrested have already attested in a prayer letter to having been tortured by the Chinese police while in custody.

The raids on the homes of members of the Early Rain Covenant Church is only the latest in China’s crackdown on religions that refuse to fall in with the communist party line. Nearly 10,000 Christians have been arrested in 2018, multiple churches have been leveled, Christians have been told to display pictures of President Xi instead of Christ and communist officials have announced their intentions to rewrite the Bible in order to make it more compatible with state ideology. Most ominously of all, prominent Christians, such as Bishop Shao Zhumin, have disappeared without a trace. Christianity is not the only religion facing harsh persecution either. Over one million Muslims are reportedly being detained in western Xinjiang for “re-education.”

China, naturally, denies any allegations of human rights violations despite the fact that they are ubiquitous. Supporters of China continue to cite the official party stance that China’s crackdown is merely “enforcing laws.” Chinese police have told those arrested, however, that the Chinese people are “not supposed to know some details [of the law], so you can never know. It is us rather than you who enforce laws.” Between such statements and the almost daily reports of persecution coming out of the world’s second most populous nation, it is impossible to believe China’s official stance. After all, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

These days, any sort of openly Christian decoration is sure to become controversial. Atheist activist groups have gone after a wide variety of displays and demanded the removal of everything from the Christmas lights on an Idaho family’s private dwelling to Maryland’s Peace Cross, a memorial dedicated to the veterans of World War I. As such, it is perhaps no surprise that St. Susanna’s Parish Dedham’s nativity scene has become the subject of debate. What is unusual is that the nativity is facing criticism, not from atheist groups claiming it is somehow discriminatory or offensive, but from other Christians.

The nativity scene as St. Susanna’s contains the usual suspects. Mary, Joseph, an angel and some shepherds are all present. This year, however, baby Jesus is in a cage, the wise men are locked behind a wall and the traditional “Peace on Earth” phrase ends in a question mark. The political statement is about as far from subtle as possible, and that is what has some Christians irritated.

Helen Watson drove to St. Susanna’s to see the nativity scene which is slightly different every year. She was not pleased, however, by the flagrant political message embedded in it. “This is where you come to pray not to be preached at what you should think about politics,” she said.

Watson is not the only one irritated by the mixing of religion and politics, especially when the church is openly taking one side of a contentious debate. Pat Ferrone, a member of the Pax Christi committee which came up with the idea for the display, however, claims that the display was not meant to “scandalize anyone. We’re trying to reflect back a reality that has to be looked at,” said Ferrone.

The statement that the church is trying to start the dialogue about a controversial topic, however, appears to some to contradict Father Josoma’s claim that the nativity is not a dig at President Trump’s policies or political activism. This assertion has garnered skepticism as the caged Jesus has been clearly identified with the children who have been separated from family members at the border, and the wise men are meant to be a representation of the thousands of migrants who are part of a deeply divisive caravan that traveled to the United States through Latin America and Mexico. On one hand, there is no doubt that the nativity has created discussion. On the other, the dialogue appears to have been less about the immigration debate and more about whether or not using religious displays to endorse a political stance is appropriate, especially in times when public displays of Christianity are already under attack.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

Sodom and Gomorrah are biblical shorthand for absolutely everything going as morally wrong as possible and being utterly annihilated as a result. Biblical skeptics have dismissed the story as nothing but a cautionary tale made up millennia ago, but science has found evidence that Sodom and Gomorrah may have been destroyed more or less exactly how the Bible describes.

According to the Bible, “the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah–from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus He overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities–and also the vegetation in the land…Abraham looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” According to science, this catastrophic destruction may have been the result of a low-altitude meteor that passed over the area. The meteor began to fragment in the atmosphere before slamming into the Austrian Alps at Kofels and causing a landslide that was over three miles wide and over 400 yards deep. The fragmented meteorite did not leave a traditional impact crater which made it difficult for scientists to locate it, but the trail of destruction it left behind as it hurtled over the Mediterranean and Middle East would have been inconceivable to the ancients.

As the meteor raced close to Earth’s surface, it would have superheated the air around it and the ground below it. Pottery found at the city of Tall el-Hammam, a site near where Sodom and Gomorrah were believed to stand, showed that the mud-brick walls were suddenly eradicated and pottery shards were found to have melted into glass, signs indicative of extremely high temperatures as the meteorite raced overhead.

Things did not improve for the region once the meteorite slammed into the Austrian Alps. The explosive impact created a flash that was over 700 degrees Fahrenheit and threw debris across an area of nearly 400,000 square miles. The shockwave pushed hypersaline water from the Dead Sea over its banks where it was absorbed into the soil of nearby communities, quite literally salting the earth. A clay tablet that baffled scientists for over a century gave further evidence for the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah really were destroyed in a hail of “burning sulfur…[that destroyed] all those living in the cities and also the vegetation in the land.” Once successfully translated in 2008, the tablet was found to contain an eyewitness account of the meteorite strike. This, combined with the debris and flash burn-created glass on pottery, is essentially the smoking gun that proves that fire really did rain down over the Middle East during the time of Abraham and level cities.

When most people go to church, they expect the same handful of basic things. They expect to hear hymns and worship songs. They expect to listen to a sermon and hear or read Bible verses. They expect a cross, an altar and prayers. Most people do not expect to see their pastor zip lining on Sunday morning. That, however, is exactly what Pastor Bartholomew Orr of Brown Baptist Church in Mississippi did one Sunday morning.

Orr entered the church using a slow-moving zip line while asking his congregation, “Are you ready? Are you ready for His return?” The video of his dramatic entrance went viral and earned Orr the nickname “The Flying Preacher.”

“I didn’t expect [the video] to go viral,” Orr said. “I come out and someone tells me, ‘You know what, it’s at 250,000 views.’ We are like, ‘Huh!’… Now seven million folks, if nothing else, have heard the message, ‘Are you ready for His return?’”

The response to Orr’s use of the zip line, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been divided. One comment on the video of Orr’s entrance read, “Props are for stage acts and shows, not for getting [Christ’s] message out. I guess [Orr] will walk on water next.” Other commenters worried that the zip line had been bought with tithes and offerings. Orr, however, defended his use of the zip line. “It fit with the message I was preaching,” Orr said. “What better way to say, ‘He is coming back, [and] are you ready for His return?’ I am a prop preacher anyway, so I have used props. … It just goes to show you [that] you never know what the Lord might use to get His message out.”

Orr is not the only pastor to have ended up at the center of a social media debate over the use of unusual props, unorthodox actions or even gimmicks in churches. There has been no consensus among Christians on the matter, but perhaps this is an issue that does not need one. What works for one congregation, after all, may not work for another. With regards to those who find such dramatics unpalatable, well, there are plenty of other churches that one can attend.

 

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