Sunday, December 05, 2010

Ancient Religions Had Much in Common, Says Grawemeyer Winner

The ancient Christians had more in common with their Jewish and pagan neighbors than most people realize, says the winner of the 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Luke Timothy Johnson, a biblical scholar and senior fellow at Emory University, won the $100,000 prize for the ideas set forth in his 2009 book, "Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity."

Johnson proposes a new framework in the book for analyzing early Christianity in its religious, social and historical contexts. He shows that the Christians, Jews and pagans of ancient Rome and Greece shared certain ways of being religious regardless of their differences in doctrine.

Johnson's approach is "powerfully illuminating, not only for historical study but also for interfaith relations today," said award director Susan Garrett.

"He shows that if we want to see how early Christians differed from other religious people of their day, we first have to see how they were similar," Garrett said. "And he shines fresh light on the diverse religions of our contemporary world — a light that shows common ground where we thought there were only radical differences."

Johnson, a former Benedictine monk, is Robert C. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins in Emory's Candler School of Theology and senior fellow at its Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

His research focuses on the literary, moral and religious dimensions of the New Testament, including the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts of early Christianity, Luke-Acts, the Pastoral Letters and the Letter of James.

He is a noted critic of The Jesus Seminar, a group of religious scholars formed in 1985, refuting their examination of Jesus as a purely historical figure. He also has disagreed with Vatican teaching, publicly declaring his support for same-sex partnerships and the ordination of women.

A prolific author, Johnson has written 27 books and more than 300 articles, lectures and reviews.

He holds a doctor of philosophy degree in New Testament from Yale University, a master of arts degree in religious studies from Indiana University, a master of divinity degree in theology from St. Meinrad School of Theology and a bachelor's degree from Notre Dame Seminary.

Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented annually for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology, education and religion. The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Seminary jointly award the religion prize.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Just one wikileaks back story example

Back when Arturo Beltrán Leyva was killed by Mexican Naval troops, the media covered the story as the Mexican government taking action that the U.S. applauded -- LINK:
Mexico was celebrating a rare victory in its war on drugs yesterday after one of the country’s most notorious traffickers was killed in a two-hour gun battle after 200 Navy Marines stormed his luxury hideout.

Arturo Beltrán Leyva, known as the “Boss of Bosses”, died along with six of his henchmen after the Marines surrounded a complex of flats in Cuernavaca, a holiday town south of Mexico City. Beltrán Leyva, also wanted in the US, was the highest-ranking figure to be taken out by the authorities and his death marks the biggest success yet in President Calderón’s campaign to stamp out the drugs trade.

The Marines, among Mr Calderón’s best-trained — and least corrupt — forces, had been planning the assault for months. They had tracked Beltrán Leyva’s movements since Friday, when they narrowly failed to capture him.

One of the embassy cables recently released by Wikileaks tells the back story:



Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Gustavo Delgado.
Reason: 1.4 (b),(d).

¶1. (S) Summary. Mexican Navy forces acting on U.S.
information killed Arturo Beltran Leyva in an operation on
December 16, the highest-level takedown of a cartel figure
under the Calderon administration. The operation is a clear
victory for the Mexican Government and an example of
excellent USG-GOM cooperation. The unit that conducted the
operation had recieved extensive U.S. training. Arturo
Beltran Leyva's death will not solve Mexico's drug problem,
but it will hopefully generate the momentum necessary to make
sustained progress against other drug trafficking
organizations. End Summary.

The Operation

¶2. (S) Mexican Navy (SEMAR) sources revealed on the night of
December 17 that SEMAR forces killed Arturo Beltran Leyva
(ABL), head of the Beltran Leyva Organization, during a
shoot-out in Cuernavaca (approximately 50 miles south of
Mexico City) that afternoon. At least three other cartel
operatives were killed during the raid, with a fourth
committing suicide. While it still has not been confirmed,
Embassy officials believe the latter to be ABL's brother,
Hector, which would mean that all Beltran Leyva brothers are
either dead or in prison. Arturo Beltran Leyva has a long
history of involvement in the Mexican drug trade, and worked
with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and his Sinaloa Cartel before
splitting in 2008. The rivalry between the Sinaloa and
Beltran Leyva organizations has been a key factor driving the
escalating levels of narcotics-related violence in recent
years. Born in Sinaloa, ABL has been key to the importation
and distribution of cocaine and heroin in the United States,
and also has extensive money laundering capabilities,
corruption networks, and international contacts in Colombia
and the U.S.

¶3. (C) Embassy law enforcement officials say that the arrest
operation targeting ABL began about a week prior to his death
when the Embassy relayed detailed information on his location
to SEMAR. The SEMAR unit has been trained extensively by
NORTHCOM over the past several years. SEMAR raided an
identified location, where they killed several ABL bodyguards
and arrested over 23 associates, while ABL and Hector
escaped. On Monday, the Embassy interagency linked ABL to an
apartment building located in Cuernavaca (about an hour south
of Mexico City), where ABL was in hiding. SEMAR initiated an
arrest operation on Wednesday afternoon, surrounding the
identified apartment complex, and establishing a security
perimeter. ABL's forces fired on the SEMAR operatives and
engaged in a sustained firefight that wounded three SEMAR
marines and possibly killed one. SEMAR forces evacuated
residents of the apartment complex to the gym, according to
press accounts, and no civilian casualties have so far been