Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest churches in the Chicago area, will be closed on Sunday, Dec. 25--because it's Christmas.
Although thousands of the faithful usually flock to the South Barrington church and its satellites on Sundays, Willow Creek is joining several other evangelical megachurches across the nation in choosing not to worship as a congregation on Christmas Day.
Instead, they will urge members to focus on family at home, rather than filling the pews.
"At first glance it does sound contrarian," said Rev. Gene Appel, senior pastor of Willow Creek. "We don't see it as not having church on Christmas. We see it as decentralizing the church on Christmas--hundreds of thousands of experiences going on around Christmas trees. The best way to honor the birth of Jesus is for families to have a more personal experience on that day."
It's not that the church does not value Christmas, the day set aside to commemorate the incarnation of God on Earth. Willow Creek is organizing almost a week of worship ending Christmas Eve, and total attendance at the services is expected to top 50,000. The church has also produced a short DVD designed to reinforce the theme of the Christmas services and help viewers process spiritual questions that may cross their minds during the holidays.
Four police officers, guns drawn, ran after a tall, fair-haired man hurrying toward the crowded entrance of a shopping mall, his hand suspiciously thrust inside a bulging bag.That headline makes me sad. When you're dealing with a determined suicide killer and you're still trying to respect basic human principles, such as trying to not kill innocent bystanders, how can you call a heroic effort a "failure"?
After he blew himself up and killed five Israelis on Monday, the police themselves faced tough questions: Did they foul up by not firing, or did they do the right thing by not shooting in a crowded area or risking mistaking an innocent man for a suicide bomber?
Israeli media questioned the conduct of the security forces, with the banner headline Tuesday of the mass-circulation Yediot Ahronot daily declaring in outsize letters, "OUR FAILURE."
Policewoman Shoshana Attia even shouted, "Terrorist! Terrorist! Take his hand out of the bag!" as she ran toward him, prompting bystanders to scatter.This pregnant policewoman who put her life and her baby's life on the line is not a failure, she's a hero. The mall security guard who pushed him against the wall, preventing him from entering and getting killed in the process, is a hero as well. The failure here is policies of appeasement and excuses and "understanding," in a futile effort for peace.
Attia told Israeli media there were too many people near the entrance to the Sharon Mall in the coastal city of Netanya to open fire. "If I had a chance, I would have shot him," the pregnant policewoman told Israeli TV on Monday from a hospital where she was treated for minor injuries.
The immense significance of Rep John Murtha's November 17 speech calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is that it signals mutiny in the US senior officer corps, seeing the institution they lead as "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth", to use the biting words of their spokesman, John Murtha, as he reiterated on December his denunciation of Bush's destruction of the Army.Err, sure. Generals take their fight to the media, as if the American military dabbled directly in American politics. Maybe in an alternate fantasy universe...
A CounterPuncher with nearly 40 years experience working in and around the Pentagon told me this week that "The Four Star Generals picked Murtha to make this speech because he has maximum credibility." It's true. Even in the US Senate there's no one with quite Murtha's standing to deliver the message, except maybe for Byrd, but the venerable senator from West Virginia was a vehement opponent of the war from the outset , whereas Murtha voted for it and only recently has turned around.
So the Four-Star Generals briefed Murtha and gave him the state-of-the-art data which made his speech so deadly, stinging the White House into panic-stricken and foolish denunciations of Murtha as a clone of Michael Moore.
It cannot have taken vice president Cheney, a former US Defense Secretary, more than a moment to scan Murtha's speech and realize the import of Murtha's speech as an announcement that the generals have had enough.
At a strategic-dialogue meeting this week among senior officials, Israel laid out for the United States three scenarios if Bashar Assad is toppled: chaos, an Islamist regime or another strongman from Assadโs minority Alawite sect. Israel fears all those options, saying Assad provides a measure of stability.Israel prefers Assad- and his friendship with Iran and hosting of Palestinian terrorists count as stability? To hell with stability!
U.S. officials told their Israeli counterparts that toppling Assad could be โtransformative" and dismissed concerns about an Islamist regime taking his place. Israel and the United States favor pressure on Syria to force it to stop hosting Palestinian terrorist groups and supporting Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization.
As the American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, arrives in Europe, it is instructive to look at the areas where her country's interests clash with those of the EU. They fall into six broad categories: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Israel, China and what one might loosely call "supra-nationalism" - that is, the power of the UN, the Kyoto process, the International Criminal Court and so on. These disputes are not unrelated; they are linked by a common ideological thread. In each case, the United States is pro-democracy, the EU pro-stability.
In Cuba, Brussels has withdrawn its support for anti-Castro dissidents. In Iran, the EU has pursued a decade-long policy of "constructive engagement" with the ayatollahs. In Iraq, with a few exceptions, Europeans were horrified at the notion of toppling a tyrant by force. In European capitals, unlike in Washington, Israel's status as the region's only democracy is not seen as meritorious.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.