Author Archives: holynewsdaily

How Powerful Is the Devil?

This is something we should all think about.

In a message addressed to the king of Tyre, but obviously meant for Satan, we have these words, “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty… You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God… You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:12-15).

And in Isaiah, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!… For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God… I will be like the Most High'” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Satan was the highest of the created beings. As such, he is extraordinarily powerful. He is also subtle, deceitful, vile, and hateful beyond imagination. Jesus called him the “prince of this earth” and the “father of lies.” (See John 8:44)

His name Lucifer means “the light one.” His name Satan means the “adversary.” His name Beelzebub, according to some, means the “lord of the flies” or the “restless lord.” His name Apollyon means “destroyer.” (See Unger’s Bible Handbook, Chicago: Moody Press, 1966, p. 520-521.) The apostle Peter said that he is like a roaring lion going to and fro seeking whom he may devour (see 1 Peter 5:8).

Christians must remember that Satan appears as “an angel of light” — very beautiful, very seductive, very appealing (2 Corinthians 11:14). His initial appearance is not that of some hideously deformed creature. That view comes later. Satan’s guile and power notwithstanding, every Christian has the power, in the name of Jesus, to resist him and to overcome him. Jesus gave His disciples authority over all the power of the enemy (see 1 John 3:8, Luke 10:19, and James 4:7).

Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson. 

The Final Moments of a Christian Celebrity

Singer, actress, and Christian celebrity Olivia Newton-John died peacefully on August 8, 2022, at age 73, following a 30-year battle with cancer.

Her Rise To Fame: Olivia Newton-John Bio

Though born in England in 1948, Olivia’s family moved to Australia when she was five. And one look at the Olivia Newton-John bio points to just how talented she was.

As a teen, she won a singing contest and later enjoyed some musical success in England in 1966. But it wasn’t until the 70s that she became widely known in the United States.

Her song “Let Me Be There” landed as a top-10 hit in the U.S. in 1973. After that, a list of Olivia Newton-John songs hit number one, including “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow,” and “Please Mr. Please.”

But for many, she sealed her iconic status with her appearance in the 1978 film Grease.

In the wildly popular movie musical. 29-year-old Olivia Newton-John plays Sandy, a wholesome high school student. Sandy just so happens to transfer schools from Australia and coincidentally lands at the same school as her summer romance, Danny, who is played by John Travolta. Only, Sandy discovers Danny is a tough, hot-rodding “greaser” at school, which is very different from the kind, sweet boy she met at the beach.

Three of the hit songs from Grease — “You’re The One That I Want,” “Summer Nights,” and “Hopelessly Devoted To You” — featured vocals from Olivia-Newton John.

And from there, she continued releasing music through the 80s, including the racy song “Physical.” She also continued acting in movies and on TV.

Though Olivia Newton-John, a Christian, enjoyed plenty of success, she endured her share of tragedy, as well, before she died. And it was her faith that helped see her through all of the peaks and valleys.

In the 90s, doctors diagnosed Olivia with breast cancer. This really pushed the Christian celebrity to prioritize faith and family over all else.

In 2005, her boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, vanished while on a fishing trip off the coast of California. No one ever found him and the unsettling disappearance plagued Olivia for many years.

“It’s very hard to live with that,” she explained. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot of things.”

Enduring Trials: Olivia Newton-John Religion And Faith

Olivia Newton-John’s cancer battle was a roller coaster of ups and downs spanning over 30 years. She would overcome her bout in the 90s, only for it to return in 2017 and again in 2020.

Yet, even with all the illness and uncertainty, Olivia leaned on her faith and lived her best life.

“Listen, I think every day is a blessing,” she said at the age of 72. “You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.”

Every journey on this earth will include some type of pain, suffering, and adversity. And while battling cancer is certainly nothing Olivia Newton-John would wish on anyone, before she died Olivia saw the blessings paired with her suffering. As only He can do, God brought purpose to her pain.

“I see it as my life’s journey. It gave me purpose and intention and taught me a lot about compassion,” she said. “It has been a gift. I don’t wish it on anyone else. But for me, it’s been important in my life.”

We can let our trials either drive us further from God or bring us closer to Him. And it truly seems as though Olivia learned to surrender her fate to the Lord. In fact, surrender is the central theme from her song “Let Go Let God” off the 2010 album, Grace and Gratitude.

So, when John Easterling announced his wife, Olivia Newton-John had died at 73, he said she did so peacefully and surrounded by loved ones.

“Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” John wrote on his wife’s social media accounts, requesting respect for the family’s privacy.

“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” he went on to say.

In addition to her husband, John Easterling, Olivia Newton-John leaves behind her 34-year-old daughter, Chloe Lattanzi.

Reactions To The Loss Of An Icon

The news that Olivia Newton-John had died certainly hit hard. Fans and friends of the actress and singer expressed their sorrow and condolences.

Actress Jane Seymour shared a “very special bond” with Olivia for over 40 years. And Jane got emotional over the fact that the world was now without the “light” her friend brought into it.

“What brings tears to my eyes is that she always cared about other people,” she said. “She was just this positive light and amazing, amazing person.” Jane went on to explain, “She reminds me, and will always remind me every day, that life is a journey, has its ups and its downs, and she just had such strength and fortitude…She just gave back all the time. I think that’s the legacy.”

John Travolta, Olvia’s co-star from Grease, paid a tribute to her kindness as well, writing on Instagram, “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again.”

Another one of her co-stars from Grease, Barry Pearl, who played T-Bird Doody, got emotional as he shared, “Everything sounds so trite when you discuss who she is and what she was, but it is so because it’s so profoundly true … a heart that was so giving and loving.”

A New Zealand-Australian TV host, Richard Wilkins, broke down in tears when

“It is our loss,” he said. “A world has lost a beautiful human being today. We kind of knew this day was coming but hoped it would be a long way away.”

Sometimes, the best way to share our faith is to simply live it out. To let others see a light and a love shining from us that they can’t quite comprehend. And it sounds like that’s just what Olivia Newton-John did.

Please continue to lift her family up in prayer as they walk through this difficult time. May they find comfort in seeing the beautiful legacy Olivia left behind.

Who Really wrote the Dead Sea scrolls?

In November 1946, as the sun slowly rose over the Judean Desert, three Bedouin cousins went looking for a lost goat in the hills close to the Dead Sea. Intent on finding the animal, they stumbled instead on some of the most important religious texts in the ancient world—the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some 100,000 fragments from around 900 manuscripts, found in 11 caves, have been discovered to date, and new scroll fragments continue to be found to this day. 

Written on animal parchment and papyrus, most of the manuscripts are sectarian, though about 100 of them are biblical text, providing insight into the Bible and shedding light on the histories of Judaism and Christianity. Every book of the Hebrew canon—the Christian Old Testament—are among the texts (except Esther). They also contain previously unknown prayers, hymns, mystical formulas, and the earliest version of the Ten Commandments.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are estimated to be 2,000 years old. While their authenticity is not in doubt, what remains a mystery is their authorship. In this ancient whodunnit, here are some possibilities.

First theories 

The Essenes, a monastic Jewish sect that lived in a nearby desert complex known in Arabic as Khirbet Qumran (ruins of Qumran), is the most common answer among scholars. This notion was set forth by Roland de Vaux, a French archaeologist who, with an international team, excavated Qumran between 1952 and 1957. He came to this conclusion in a couple of ways.

Flavius Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish historian who would have known the Essenes, wrote about them in his book, The History of the Jews. Millenia later, De Vaux matched Josephus’ descriptions with those of the region’s inhabitants written in the newly discovered scrolls. Similarities include communal living, wearing linen shifts, and ritual bathing.

Josephus wrote, for example, that at the fifth hour, after “they have clothed themselves in white veils, they then bathe their bodies in cold water.” And indeed, de Vaux and his team excavated a number of mikva’ot (the plural of the Hebrew word mikveh) on the site. These ritual baths would contain around 85 gallons of mostly “living water”—rain or seawater that had not been stored—enabling members to immerse themselves at set times of the day. These common rituals surely confirmed the Essenes and the locals were one and the same, no?

Furthermore, Josephus wrote the Essenes “take great pains in studying the writings of the ancients, and choose out of them what is most for the advantage of their soul and body.” That must be a reference to the sea scrolls, right?

De Vaux concluded the scrolls’ authors had lived in Qumran, since 11 scrolls were discovered close to the site. And, since the Essenes had lived in Qumran, they and the scroll authors appeared to be one and the same.

Debating identities

And yet, many scholars contest the identification of the Qumran community as Essene. For example, many devoutly observant Jews, not just the Essenes, practiced ritual immersion in mikva’ot. In addition, Josephus describes the Essenes as an urban phenomenon rather than a community of hermits in the desert. The Jewish philosopher Philo seems to agree, writing that the Essenes lived “in many cities of Judea and in many villages and grouped in great societies of many members.”

Furthermore, a growing number of scholars have suggested that the people who hid the scrolls around Khirbet Qumran may not be the same people who wrote the scrolls. In fact, given that the Dead Sea Scrolls encompass nearly the full range of the Hebrew Bible, some historians believe that it is almost impossible for a remote, small group of scribes to have written such a large corpus.

Jerusalem origins? 

Some scholars argue it is far more likely that many—if not all of the scrolls—were written by professional scribes working in the Temple in Jerusalem. This so-called “Jerusalem Origin Theory” was first advanced in 1960 by the German theologian Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, who argued that the scrolls must have formed part of an extensive library maintained at the Temple.

The American scholar Norman Golb took this a step further and suggested that the scrolls were evacuated from a number of libraries in Jerusalem and Judea at large as the Roman army under General Titus approached Jerusalem around 70 A.D.

New technology, including artificial intelligence–based analysis of handwriting conducted at the Netherland’s University of Groningen in 2021, bolsters this theory. For example, the research found that different forms of script, and the varying biomechanical behaviour of wielding a pen, show that more than one scribe may have worked on the same Great Isaiah Scroll. Careful analysis of the text has also identified subtle changes in the style of Hebrew, or in the Aramaic, Greek, or even Nabatean of other documents.

Another question is the presence of many duplicates of certain biblical books; why copy more than one version if the scroll was only for local use? The fact that the scrolls represent a near-complete collection of Hebrew Scripture also seems to suggest a more prominent source than a remote breakaway sect.

Reaching compromises  

Some modern archaeologists believe the Essenes authored some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but not all. Recent evidence suggests that during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, when the Temple and much of the city was destroyed, Jews may have escaped to safety through sewers. Researchers have found artefacts, including pottery and coins, in the sewers dating from this time of siege—sewers that lead to the Valley of Kidron, a short distance from the Dead Sea … and Qumran. Perhaps some of the Dead Sea Scrolls travelled this way as well.

Another clue to the compromise theory is the pottery in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. According to Jan Gunneweg of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, like DNA, no clay on Earth has the exact chemical composition so the specific area in which pottery was made can be determined. Her conclusion: Only half of the pottery that held Dead Sea Scrolls is local to Qumran.

Gaining new insights

Modern scientific testing has added to the debate. In recent years, the scrolls have also been analysed by linguistic experts, who proposed a date range from 225 B.C. to A.D. 50, based on the style of writing as well as the size and variability of the characters. This appears to roughly match the later carbon dating of the inks, which were made of carbon soot from oil lamps mixed with olive oil and honey or water.

These tests produced a date range between 385 B.C. and A.D. 80, which would extend the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls well beyond the estimated occupation of the Qumran settlement.

The bottom line: Research is still ongoing and the debates continue to fly. What’s not debated is that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide a rare glimpse into the first-century Jewish world, whoever their authors were.

New Scholarly Debate Rages Over Age of Jesus at Death

While some maintain certainty over the topic of Jesus’ age of death, new discoveries cast major doubt.

Jesus Christ (also known as Jesus of Galilee or Jesus of Nazareth) is the central figure in  Christianity who is seen as the son of God. Important aspects of the Christian canon are the Virgin Birth of Jesus from his mother, Mary, and Jesus’ death, which was the crucifixion.

This brings up the question of how long he lived. Different sources have different death and birth dates. Research concludes it is difficult to find the exact date of Jesus’ death because of differences in the chronology of narratives surrounding his final days.

How old was Jesus when he died?

Jesus was born around 4 B.C. and was crucified in A.D. 30, according to the PBS FRONTLINE show “From Jesus to Christ.” Britannica cites his birth year as ranging from 6 to 4 B.C. and has the same death year as Frontline.

In general, Jesus’ age at death is heavily contested by scholars, according to “Dating the Death of Jesus” by Helen Bond and published online by Cambridge University Press in 2013. Some cite Jesus’ death as happening on 14th of Nisan, which would be “Friday April 7th 30 [A.D.] or April 3rd 33,” based on a scholar’s timeline preference, but Bond does not subscribe to the specificity of those dates.

Depending on which calendars or accounts of Jesus’ final days people use, it is difficult to find one specific answer on when Jesus died and as a result, how old he was.

However, Bond makes the case Jesus died around Passover, between A.D. 29 and 34. Considering Jesus’ varying chronology, he was 33 to 40 years old at his time of death.

How old was Mary when Jesus died?

According to Christianity.com, Mary was 46 to 49 years old when Jesus died. Britannica states that she “flourished” from 25 B.C. to A.D. 75. Assuming this is in reference to her lifespan, according to Britannica, Mary was approximately 54 to 59 years old when Jesus died.

The Truth About Elvis And Christianity

While his fans worshipped him as a rock’n’roll deity, Elvis Presley would say a prayer before going on stage, reading the Bible and looking to God for guidance in everything he did, his stepbrother has recalled.

“When we saw him bow his head, then we knew,” Billy Stanley, who also worked for the singer, told the Observer, noting that Presley did not recite the prayer aloud. “It was probably about 15 seconds long. I asked him once, ‘Why do you say the prayer before?’ He said: ‘It kind of settles my nerves but also I want God to help bless this concert, so make it a good one.’ He always turned to God whenever he needed help.”

Presley once told him that a show was like a first date: “You never really know how the date will turn out but you always hope it will be a good one.”

Although Presley’s love of gospel music is well known, Stanley believes that the depth of his Christian faith is not realised. “He relied on God for everything,” he said. “It’s where he got his strength. Elvis was so appreciative of what the Lord had given him. He thanked God every day and constantly sought God’s guidance through prayer and reading the Bible.”

He added: “Everybody looked at the glitz and glamour [of Presley]. They didn’t look at the man and try to understand his faith. When you’ve spent 17 years with an individual, you get to know him pretty well.”

Stanley’s insights into life with his famous stepbrother will be outlined in a forthcoming book, The Faith of Elvis, to be published in October.

The king of rock’n’roll modernised blues, country and bluegrass, sparking a musical revolution and mass hysteria with his extraordinary voice, his stage presence, his matinee idol looks and his hip-shaking moves. He died suddenly in 1977, aged 42, but his popularity remains, inspiring Baz Luhrmann’s latest film, Elvis.

Stanley was seven when he and his two younger brothers, Ricky and David, moved to Presley’s Memphis mansion, Graceland, in 1960, the year their mother, Dee, married Presley’s father, Vernon.

Presley was 25 and had already found fame with hits such as Heartbreak Hotel and Love Me Tender. Stanley recalled: “He scooped me and my brothers up in his arms and exclaimed, ‘Daddy, I always wanted a little brother. Now I’ve got three!’ ”

As their big brother and mentor, he taught them “the value of laughing”, gave advice on relationships – “Be protective of women … make them laugh. If you can do that, they will love you for ever” – and boosted their self-confidence, telling them: “With God, all things are possible.”

He took them through bedtime prayers and read the Bible with them, sometimes acting out its characters. “It was quite an experience to have Elvis as your Sunday school teacher,” Stanley said.

When they first arrived at Graceland, he and his brothers were too young to know who Presley was. They were puzzled by fans who waited at the gates and in the trees outside Graceland. Presley told his stepbrothers: “I’m just an entertainer.”

In 1961, aged eight, Stanley attended his first Presley concert: “Suddenly the lights went down and people began to scream. That scared us, so we looked back at Mom and Vernon. They gave us a look that said everyone was OK.”

Afterwards, Stanley asked Presley why everyone had screamed: “He smiled. ‘That’s what some people do when they like something.’ ”

He remembers that Presley was such a perfectionist that he would never listen to his own recordings: “One time I asked him, ‘Elvis, how come you don’t listen to your own stuff?’ He said, ‘Billy, I know I can always do it better. When I hear my own music, all I want to do is go fix it. But I can’t, because it’s already been done.’ ”

Stanley would hear Presley singing around the house, usually gospel songs: “It was how he would unwind after a concert. He would sing gospel songs until the sun came up.”

He added that, while Presley enjoying performing rock’n’roll songs such as Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock, his “heart and soul were always with gospel music”, which he likened to “singing the Bible”.

Presley struggled with addiction and his playboy image, and whenever he faced self-doubt or anything negative he would pray, Stanley said. But Presley never went to church with his brothers, telling Stanley: “I’m afraid if I go in, people will pay more attention to me than the preacher.”

Japanese Village Claims To Have Buried Jesus

Was Jesus actually buried in Japan? While Jesus and the Land of the Rising Sun may seem like strange bedfellows, thousands of people visit the village of Shingo in North Japan every year to pay homage to a simple mound with a wooden cross, protected by a picket fence – which is said to be Christ’s final resting place.

So how did He wind up there, and not the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem? Apparently Jesus had an interest in “Turning Japanese” (as the song goes) from a young age. The story goes that “Jesus first came to Japan at the age of 21 to study theology” recounts Smithsonian Magazine. “This was during his so-called ‘lost years,’ a 12-year gap unaccounted for in the New Testament.”

Having become a “disciple” himself, to “a great master near Mount Fuji”, he traveled back to Judea. There the story seems to fall back in line somewhat with the Biblical version, though there’s a shocking twist. A man was indeed crucified by the Romans, but it wasn’t Jesus – his “kid brother” Isukiri was the one supposedly on the cross that day.

The Japanese Jesus then hot-footed it to Shingo, where he saw out his days as a rice and garlic farmer. He was known as Daitenku Taro Jurai to the villagers. Not that his feet would have been that hot. Apparently he endured freezing temperatures, crossing from Siberia to Alaska – a flight which took several years. The Independent writes that, having settled in the village, he married a farmer’s daughter called Miyuko, fathered three daughters and died at the age of 106.

What did the ageing Jesus look like? According to Smithsonian Magazine, he “sported a balding gray pate, a coat of many folds and a distinctive nose, which, the museum (the Legend of Christ Museum) brochure observes, earned him a reputation as a ‘long-nosed goblin.’” Those poring over his possessions may have found Isukiri’s ear and a lock of hair from the Virgin Mary – these are buried alongside the Shingo Savior.

Where’s the evidence for this fantastic take on Jesus’ story? Various written records, if the legend is to be believed. There are the Takenouchi Documents, which are over a thousand years old, transcribed in Japanese and Chinese by Takenouchino Matori (or Hegurimo Matori). Ancient Origins writes, “according to modern transcriptions, the Takenouchi documents describe the history of all nations in the ‘Divine Era’. They talk of an ancient world which evolved in four different periods of time starting around 300”.

Rediscovered for the 20th century by 1930s archaeologists, they form a “truly huge and remarkable ancient work” according to the website Ancient Pages, “that has been handed down through the lineage of the Takenouchi family, the head of the family being the chief priest of the Koso Kotai Jingu shrine.”

The Documents naturally cover a wide area. But of particular interest are their Christ-related content. It’s here that details of Jesus’ life as a Japanese scholar and the end of brother Isukiri were immortalized for the ages. Smithsonian Magazine also mentions a scroll found at the same time – his “last will and testament, dictated as he was dying in the village.” While the Documents perished during the Second World War, the Legend of Christ Museum displays a modern transcription of the texts.

Scepticism over the scrolls is rife. The JNTO (Japan) website talks about Wado Kosaka, a “cosmoarcheologist” and transcriber of the Takenouchi Documents who “became notorious in the 1970s for contacting a UFO on live television.” They add, “His documents don’t just tell the story of how Jesus came to Japan, but also about how human ancestors arrived from outer space.”

Others point to a connection between Ancient Japan and Israel. Landowners the Sawaguchis – a family of garlic farmers – are subjects of great interest, and not just for having the supposed grave of Jesus on their turf. Sanjiro Sawaguchi drew attention for his striking blue eyes. This is proof for some that he could be descended from the Son of God.

Furthermore, the Independent writes: “The museum says the old village name – Herai – sounds more Hebrew than Japanese and notes odd similarities between local culture and the songs and language of the Middle East, including a mantra chanted for generations in Shingo which it claims, bears no resemblance to Japanese and may be an ancient Hebrew-Egyptian riddle.”

Strengthening the link was a plaque-dedicating visit to Shingo by Eli Cohen, ambassador for Israel. Smithsonian Magazine notes. “Embassy spokesman Gil Haskel explained that while Hebrew tribes could have migrated to Japan, the marker was merely ‘a symbol of friendship rather than an endorsement of the Jesus claims.’”

However the situation arose, the alternate grave of Jesus has brought in tourist dollars for the village. Though Christianity has had a far from warm welcome in Japan across the centuries. It was actually banned in the early 17th century, and those who practiced it faced harsh punishments.

“Hidden Christians” were exposed when “officials administered loyalty tests in which priests and other practitioners were required to trample a cross or an image of the Madonna and the baby Jesus.” Those who refused to denounce their beliefs faced horrifying ordeals. Another unusual legacy of Christianity there involves the celebration of Christmas. Commercialism for the most part rules at yuletide in the West, but in Japan it’s fused with another type of holiday.

“Japanese chocolate makers, jewelers and hoteliers have re-branded Christmas into a kind of Valentine’s Day with bells on” writes the Independent. “Come Christmas Eve, many of Japan’s hotels will be packed with romantic couples, which may not be what Jesus of Shingo had in mind when he left his little brother hanging on the cross.”

This intriguing deviation from the Bible’s teachings provides comfort in all manner of ways… religious or otherwise!

New Study: Men Now More Religious Than Women

For decades, we’ve thought of women as more religious than men.

Survey results, conventional wisdom, and anecdotal glimpses across our own congregations have shown us how women care more about their faith, though researchers haven’t been able to fully untangle the underlying causes for the gender gap across religious traditions and across the globe.

Now, recent data shows the long-held trend may finally be flipping: In the United States, young women are less likely to identify with religion than young men.

The findings could have a profound impact on the future of the American church.

As recently as last year, the religion gender gap has persisted among older Americans. Survey data from October 2021 found that among those born in 1950, about a quarter of men identified as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular, compared to just 20 percent of women of the same age. That same five-point gap is evident among those born in 1960 and 1970 as well.

For millennials and Generation Z, it’s a different story. Among those born in 1980, the gap begins to narrow to about two percentage points. By 1990, the gap disappears, and with those born in 2000 or later, women are clearly more likely to be nones than men.

Among 18- to 25-year-olds, 49 percent of women are nones, compared to just 46 percent of men.

There’s also a gender gap in church attendance. This pattern has been so stark that Pew Research Center found in 2016 that Christian women around the world are on average 7 percentage points more likely than men to attend services; there are no countries where men are significantly more likely than to be religiously affiliated than women.

In the US, older men are more likely to say they never attend church services when compared to women of the same age. Among 60-year-old men, 35 percent report never attending; it’s 31 percent of women.

While the difference between men and women identifying as nones doesn’t disappear until those born in the 1990s (today’s 30-year-olds), we see the gender gap in church attendance has closed for earlier generations as well. For people born as early as 1973 (in their late 40s today), men and women are equally likely to say they never go to church. The youngest adults are less likely to report never attending services compared to those who are between 35 and 45 years old.

What demographic factors may be leading to this emerging gender difference in the religiosity of young men and women?

There’s no real difference in the share of male and female nones among Black, Asian, and other racial groups. But among Hispanic young people, men are 8 percentage points more likely to be nones than women.

The Pastor Who Focuses on Witches and Warlocks

This sounds like an amazing movie plot, but it’s all true.

Two pastors who led a unique and fascinating ministry in Salem, Massachusetts — a hotbed of witchcraft and spiritual activity — believe Christians need to turn to “unconditional love” when trying to reach people in difficult or uncomfortable situations.

Guy and Tana Miller, the husband and wife who planted Remix Church in Salem in 2011 and ministered there 10 years before leaving, recently joined “The Playing With Fire Podcast” to discuss how they interacted with witches, Satanists and others in the community — and what some Christians get wrong when trying to reach these groups.

Their ministry, called Remix Church, came about after the couple felt prompted by God to provide pastoral care in Salem.

“I was shocked to find out … there was only a couple, very small but faithful outreaches going on,” Guy said. “There wasn’t a lot of evangelical … witness in Salem, and I was blown away.”

Tana added, “God clearly spoke to us to go into Salem.”

Listen to Guy and Tana discuss their fascinating ministry in Salem:

The couple said, when they arrived, there had been a lot of damage done to biblical witness in the community, as extremists would often come into the area “preaching hate.” This would sometimes happen during the Halloween season when tourism is intense.

“There was witness, and it was just the wrong kind,” Guy said, explaining some ministers came during October and riled the community by preaching God hates witches and God hates gays.v

So, the Millers launched their church and dove into one of the most exciting ministry experiences imaginable. Their first step, in light of the aforementioned divide, was to take a relational approach. They began to meet people, interact, show love, and make friends with some surprising people.

From transvestites to people who identified as “mermen” and warlocks, there was no shortage of individuals with whom to meet and get to know. They even ended up living next door to the official witch of Salem and also built a relationship there.

The Millers, who didn’t sacrifice their beliefs or values in the process, said they relied on loving and listening to people’s stories, especially amid the natural tensions that followed.

“You know how we handled that?” Tana rhetorically asked. “Unconditional love.”

She continued, “We wanted to meet everyone, love everyone, and get to know everyone personally, regardless of what they believed in.”

Guy and Tana said their goal in heading to Salem wasn’t to reach the witchcraft community specifically but a much broader effort of ministering to the city as a whole. Still, the many interactions they had with people from divergent backgrounds and beliefs left a mark.

“I believe that whole time that we were there, that God placed us in Salem to plant seeds,” Tana said, adding that another Christian couple is considering heading back to Salem to harvest those seeds.

Guy and Tana also explained some of the challenges of their decade-long ministry in Salem. While they didn’t interact with any of the “deep, dark” evil that rages in underground elements of the city, they sometimes felt the spiritual heaviness.

“This was the first time in our ministry lives when I would wake up in the middle of the night and just really feel an evil and have to pray it through,” Tana said.

As for the witchcraft and other elements that rage in parts of Salem, Tana said “it’s definitely real” and that Christians need to be wise and on guard.

But these elements, the couple argued, aren’t dangerous for Christians rooted in truth.

“First of all, it’s not dangerous to us, because we have the power of our testimonies and the blood of Jesus,” Tana said.

Guy added that God’s not threatened by any of these practices — elements Christians are called not to partake in.

He said, “the Holy Spirit is up to the task” and pointed to realities about spiritual warfare that are detailed in Ephesians 6: mainly, the reality God gives believers the power to triumph amid spiritual battles.

Buddha Was A Christian Saint – Really

There are many examples in the history of religion, or literature in general, where a motif or a tale travels cross-cultures and changes, deforms or evolves into something that it did not connote to in the first place. Such is the case of Barlaam and Josaphat, two legendary Christian martyrs and saints, who, it turns out, were based eventually on the life of the Buddha.

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According to legend, King Abenner or Avenier in India persecuted the Christian Church on his territory, founded by the Apostle Thomas. When astrologers had predicted that it would be his own son who would convert to Christianity one day, Abenner had the young prince Josaphat isolated from any influences on that matter. Despite that, the young prince met the hermit Saint Barlaam and became a Christian. Josaphat preserved his new faith even in the face of his father’s anger and faith. Consequently, King Abenner also converted, turned over his throne to his son, and retired by going to the desert and becoming a hermit. Josaphat later resigned too and retreated with his old teacher Barlaam.

“Long attributed to the eighth-century monk and scholar, St. John of Damascus, Barlaam and Josaphat was translated into numerous languages around the world. Philologists eventually traced the name Josaphat as a derivation from the Sanskrit bodhisattva, the Buddhist term for the future Buddha, highlighting this text as essential source reading for connections between several of the world’s most popular religions,” writes also the College of Literature, Science, and Arts at the University of Michigan.

The ancient Buddhist text most likely dates back to the second through to the fourth century. The Sanskrit word Bodhisattva was first changed to Bodisav in Persian texts in the 6th or 7th century, then to Budhasaf or Yudasaf in an 8th century Arabic document. In the 10th century, in Georgia, the name appears as Iodasapah and from there was adopted in Greece as Iosapah, and in Latin under Iosaphat or Josaphat.

The two figures entered the Eastern Orthodox calendar with a feast day on 26th August, and in the Roman Martyrology in the Western calendar as “Barlaam and Josaphat” on 27th November. They were, however, never formally canonized by the church.

The majority of scholars who have researched how the narrative has traveled cross-borders, agree and point out to errors in prints that have mistranslated the first versions.

One of the first Christianized adaptations of the story is the Georgian epic “Balavariani” issued in the 10th century. Then, a Georgian monk translated the story into Greek and from there it was translated into Latin. That’s how the story got ultimately popular in Western Europe as “Barlaam and Josaphat”. Other accounts also suggest that the Greek legend of “Barlaam and Ioasaph” is attributed to the aforementioned 7th century John of Damascus.

Nevertheless, the story was widely read in the Middle Ages, almost in each Western European country. The tale appeared in such works as the “Golden Legend”, a popular late medieval Europe collection of hagiographies, written by the Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa, Jacobs de Voragine. A scene there that involves three caskets appears in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” too.

The misinterpretation behind the saint’s figure was largely debunked by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a Canadian professor of comparative religion, who from 1967 to 1973 was director of Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions.

As one of the field’s most eminent and influential figures, he traced the story of Barlaam and Josaphat from the Mahayana Buddhist text, and how it found the way into Muslim cultures as the Arabic Book of Bilawhar and Yudasaf.

Real Cases of Exorcism

“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism.”

This is how the sacramental ritual is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II. Whether or not such evil forces exist, or if this practice does relinquish them, is all a matter of supposition. Scientists agree that the practice is based on superstition and that the people who claim to be possessed may actually be suffering from mental illnesses, or in fact just faking it.

However, there have been a great number of exorcisms performed throughout history, and some of the more recent are guaranteed to send chills down your spine.

Five cases of real-life exorcism

“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism.”

This is how the sacramental ritual is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II. Whether or not such evil forces exist, or if this practice does relinquish them, is all a matter of supposition. Scientists agree that the practice is based on superstition and that the people who claim to be possessed may actually be suffering from mental illnesses, or in fact just faking it.

However, there have been a great number of exorcisms performed throughout history, and some of the more recent are guaranteed to send chills down your spine.

Anna Ecklund, the Levitating Girl

The story of Anne Ecklund and her alleged demonic possession starts in 1912, and continues for several decades. According to rumors, Anne’s father and aunt cursed her with the help of Satan, causing the 14-year-old girl to act strangely without explanation.

Even though her first exorcism seemed to have worked, according to the nuns and priests of a convent in Earling, Iowa, the girl’s apparent recovery was just the calm before the storm.

In 1928, three further sessions were conducted in the convent, with the girl reportedly resisting with supernatural strength against the efforts to relieve her from demons.

The nuns reported her hissing, throwing food that had been blessed, speaking in foreign tongues, and even levitating at one point.

Cited as the most documented case of exorcism ever, this case was also a major influence on the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin.

Clara Germana Cele and her Pact with the Devil

In 1906, in South Africa, an orphan girl was reported to her schoolmaster as exhibiting strange behavior. She had been talking with herself as if some invisible force was present. When the school’s priests arrived, she became increasingly erratic and angry before confessing to making a pact with the Devil, who then possessed her.

Like the last entry on the list, Clara also spoke “foreign tongues,” was reportedly clairvoyant, revealing secrets of people she never knew, levitated, and shunned holy objects.

An exorcism was performed by two priests which lasted the entire day. At one point, the girl allegedly attempted to strangle one of the priests, but this fact remains a matter of debate.

While the 1906 exorcism was deemed successful, with the girl renouncing Satan, in 1907 she once again claimed to have made a pact with the Unholy. This time the ritual of relinquishing demons was reported to have lasted two days before she was finally “freed.”

The Exorcism of Ronald Doe

While some elements of Anne Ecklund story were used to portray exorcism in Fridkiens supernatural horror, the true character on which the Exorcist book franchise was an unknown man referred to as Ronald Doe.

During the 1940s, a series of exorcisms were conducted on an anonymous boy, whose identity was hidden behind the pseudonyms Ronald Doe and Robbie Mannheim.

The boy was around 14-years-old at the time. His family reported to the local priest that strange things such as objects moving on their own accord were happening around the house.

Once faced with a team of Jesuit exorcists, the boy showed similar behavior as the other two entries on the list. He also managed to injure the priests several times, and spoke in a guttural voice, symptomatic of people believed to be possessed. The boy was exposed to the ritual over thirty times. Allegedly, when the exorcism was over, a sulfuric odor could be sensed in the room.

Michael Taylor and the “Demon of Murder”

Contrary to other stories on this list, Michael Taylor’s exorcism caused him to turn to murder.

Together with his wife, Christine, Taylor became a member of the Christian Fellowship Group in the early 1970s, with whom they practiced Bible studies, attended prayer meetings, and exchanged worship experiences.

However, when Michael developed a love affair with another member of the group in 1974, things turned sour.

After the affair was revealed to his wife, Taylor became erratic and violent, claiming he had been possessed by an evil spirit. The local vicar and other ministers of the Fellowship then conducted an ad hoc exorcism upon him, claiming they had “invoked and cast out at least forty demons, including those of incest, bestiality, blasphemy, and lewdness,” during a ceremony which lasted all night.

In the end, exhausted, they allowed Taylor to go home, certain that the ritual had helped him. However, their fears that at least three demons — insanity, murder, and violence — were still left inside him were realised that very morning.

After arriving home, Michael Taylor murdered his wife as well as the family dog in a gruesome manner. In the aftermath, he was arrested by the police as he walked naked beside the road, covered in blood.

Anneliese Michel ― the story behind Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) is based on the real life the story of Anneliese Michel and addresses the question of whether or not are demonic possessions real.

Born in 1952 in Leiblfing, West Germany, Anneliese was raised in a Roman Catholic family. When she was 16, a head trauma caused her to develop temporal lobe epilepsy.

In 1970, the fits returned and she reportedly began to see devil-like creatures. Her condition was initially regulated by medications, but as more epileptic fits followed, she was diagnosed with other mental issues. Anneliese attempted suicide in 1973, and developed an aversion to religious artifacts.

Anneliese herself claimed to be possessed and wanted to be “cured” ― but her parents decided that employing an exorcist was not going to solve her problem. Secretly, she met with two priests who arranged for exorcism rites to be conducted. In the meantime, she stopped taking her epilepsy meds.

After ten months and over 70 sessions, some of which were even recorded, Anneliese passed away. The cause of death was starvation. Both the priests who organized the rites in secrecy and her parents were charged with negligent homicide.