Christians Celebrate Good Friday

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

–Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV

ATLANTA—Christians all over the world are celebrating Good Friday, marking the anniversary of the suffering and death (the “passion”) of Jesus Christ of Nazareth outside the city walls of Jerusalem, during which Christians believe a sinless man paid the price for their sin, fulfilling thousands of years of Old Testament prophesy of a coming savior and redeemer.

The story of Good Friday, from the Gospel according to Luke:

Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” And a third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs¬†that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how the body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

–Luke 23:20-56 ESV

“Come behold the wondrous mystery, Christ the Lord upon the tree. In the stead of ruined sinners, hangs in the Lamb in victory. See the price of our redemption, see the Father’s plan unfold. Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!”

–Matt Boswell, “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” (2013)

THE LATEST: Pyongyang Ready For War

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (Associated Press)—The Kremlin says it’s watching the developments around North Korea with “great concern.”

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia is calling on all parties to show restraint and refrain from any provocative action. He emphasized that the crisis could only be settled by political and diplomatic means.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the U.S. that attempts to rely on force to pressure North Korea will not help.

Tensions in the region have risen with the dispatch of a U.S. aircraft carrier to the area and the deployment of thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry for their biggest joint military exercises. Pyongyang has warned of war if it sees any signs of aggression from south of the Demilitarized Zone.

Good, Good Father

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like, but I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night and you tell me that you’re pleased and that I’m never alone.

You’re a good, good Father, it’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are and I’m loved by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.

I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide, but I know we’re all searching for answers only You provide ’cause you know just what we need before we say a word.

Because you are perfect in all of your ways, You are perfect in all of your ways to us.

Oh, it’s love so undeniable I, I can hardly speak. Peace so unexplainable I, I can hardly think, as you call me deeper still into love.


Ancient Sacred Art Resurrected In City Of Jesus’s Birth

BETHLEHEM (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP)—Down a Bethlehem alleyway, sunlight illuminates a golden icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, signaling the revival of an ancient art being practiced in the workshop inside.

The building near the Church of the Nativity–the site where Christians believe Jesus was born–houses a group of enthusiasts specializing in the sacred art of iconography.

They are doing so some 2,000 years after Christian iconography began in nearby Jerusalem–also where Christians believe Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion, to be commemorated this Sunday for Easter.

They work in both silence and prayer, with their art a far cry from the cheap mass-produced icons sold in souvenir shops to tourists and pilgrims.

“Icons are not commercial objects for us, but holy images that we honour,” said Nicola Juha who heads the Bethlehem Icon Centre.

He explains that icons like theirs are used by worshippers who, for example, light candles before them and pray.

According to tradition, Luke the Evangelist painted the first Christian icon in 60 AD.

Ian Knowles, far from his native Britain, now teaches the same art to not only Palestinian Christians, but also those from countries including Canada and Poland.

Watching the meticulous brushstrokes of his students, he said he left home to spend two weeks in the region and was still there nine years later. Read more here.


O’Reilly Seeks Refuge at Vatican

ROME, ITALY (The New York Times)—Bill O’Reilly left Fox News this week for a long-planned vacation to Italy and the Vatican, with his fate in the hands of a Murdoch family calculating the risks and rewards of keeping him on or forcing him out of the network.

Facing a boycott by advertisers, unrest inside the company, protests outside Fox News headquarters and public calls for human rights investigations into company culture, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, are reckoning with the fallout of a sexual harassment scandal that has once again engulfed Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox.

The Murdochs are awaiting the results of an investigation into Mr. O’Reilly’s conduct before making a decision about whether he will stay or go, two people briefed on the plan said Wednesday. The law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has been enlisted by 21st Century Fox to investigate, and although the probe started with a review of accusations made by Wendy Walsh, a former guest on Mr. O’Reilly’s show, the law firm is expected to expand its purview if other issues arise, the people said.

The calculation on whether to keep Mr. O’Reilly is complex and rests in part on a generational divide between Rupert Murdoch, 86, who controls 21st Century Fox, and Lachlan, 45, and James, 44, who have top leadership positions at the company.

Rupert Murdoch, a cleareyed businessman whose priorities often are driven by the bottom line, has long backed Mr. O’Reilly as the Fox News host’s career has soared and pulled the network up along with him. The sons, while also business-minded, have worked to modernize the company’s workplace, which has been the target of repeated allegations of sexual harassment.

Ousting Mr. O’Reilly–in the wake of an investigation by The New York Times that found multiple settlements related to sexual harassment allegations against him–could alienate his fans, create programming challenges at the network and result in a significant financial blow for the company. Mr. O’Reilly has long reigned as the king of cable news, with his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” not only pulling in top ratings but also anchoring the prime-time lineup at Fox News.

Yet keeping Mr. O’Reilly, while viewed by some as in the best interest of shareholders, could result in reputational damage. Critics both inside and outside the company have said that standing by Mr. O’Reilly would contradict the brothers’ stated commitment to maintaining “a work environment based on trust and respect.”

The Murdochs are in a position similar to the one they were in last July, when determining whether to force out Roger Ailes, the network’s founding chairman. After two weeks, the company ultimately decided to oust Mr. Ailes after lawyers from Paul Weiss took statements from at least six women who described inappropriate behavior by him.

At the time, Rupert Murdoch thanked Mr. Ailes for his “remarkable contribution” to the company; he left with an exit package worth $40 million.

The back and forth over Mr. O’Reilly’s future at the network, where he earns an estimated $18 million a year, comes after the company extended his contract, which had been set to expire this year, according to people familiar with the matter. At the time, the company knew of several settlements that had been reached with women who had complained about his behavior.

In response to the Times investigation, 21st Century Fox has said that it discussed the issue with Mr. O’Reilly. The company believes his new contract gives it more leverage over him regarding his behavior, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Both Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Ailes have denied allegations against them. Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Mr. O’Reilly, has said that Paul Weiss had already been retained by the company “to look into all hotline calls” and that there was “nothing special” about the handling of this case.

Mr. Fabiani said that Mr. O’Reilly’s vacation coincided with his children’s spring break and that arrangements, including airline and hotel, had been made in October. “Other than the vacation guest hosts, the ‘Factor’ broadcast will remain unchanged until Mr. O’Reilly’s return post-vacation,” Mr. Fabiani said.

Mr. O’Reilly is expected to return to his show on April 24. Dana Perino, another Fox News host, is filling in for him, for at least some of the broadcasts.

Though Rupert Murdoch acceded to Mr. Ailes’s departure, he has shown a resistance to wholesale change at Fox News. When Mr. Ailes left, he installed himself as its chairman and quickly promoted two longtime network executives, Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, to co-president.

Inside Fox News, Mr. Shine is reputed to be a vigorous advocate for keeping Mr. O’Reilly on, according to three people told of internal discussions. A longtime Fox News executive and Ailes loyalist, Mr. Shine is viewed as a holdover from the Ailes era, but he is also close to some of the network’s major stars, including Sean Hannity. Mr. Shine is also seen in the newsroom as channeling the views of typical Fox News viewers, millions of whom remain loyal to Mr. O’Reilly.

As the Murdochs grapple with the decision about Mr. O’Reilly at the very top of the company, a sense of unease gripped Fox News employees, especially women working in both on- and off-the-air roles, according to current newsroom employees. And at the entertainment side of 21st Century Fox, morale is starting to suffer, particularly among middle- and lower-rank female employees.

In interviews, workers at the Fox broadcast network; the FX and National Geographic cable channels; and the 20th Century Fox movie studio used words like “outrage,” “embarrassment” and “depressing” to describe how they feel about the Murdochs’ standing by Mr. O’Reilly.

These people–men and women, ranging from senior executives to relatively low-level administrators–communicated by phone or text message on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. Several said they were afraid of reprisals if they were caught expressing their frustration.

None said they had spoken to a manager or to human resources personnel about their position.

Two 21st Century Fox executives who do not work in the news division said Wednesday they were eager for a resolution so the company could move on from the distraction and adopt a more productive work environment. They said they were troubled by the allegations but relieved that the turmoil was not directly affecting their divisions.

Externally, pressure continues to build. More than a week after advertisers started to boycott Mr. O’Reilly’s show, there have been calls for government agencies to investigate sexual harassment and retaliation issues at Fox News.

The latest such call came on Wednesday, when Letita James, the New York City public advocate, said she had asked that the city’s Commission on Human Rights investigate.

Ms. James organized a protest outside Fox News headquarters in New York on Wednesday evening, where around 50 protesters gathered. Speakers highlighted the sexual assault settlements that Mr. O’Reilly has paid out and pointed to his recent public criticism of the hairstyle of Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat and an African-American, as examples of the issues they were trying to highlight.

Holding a sign that read “make this vacation permanent,” Leeanne M. G-Bowley said she had long disagreed with the politics of Fox News and was especially upset to see how poorly women and minorities were treated by the network, both on and off the air. “I hope the company will change its policy to address what seems like a systemic problem,” she said.

Short Story: Born Without Emotions

I was born without emotions. For some time I did not understand why others seemed to experience events and situations differently than me, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, I just didn’t know how, or even a better word, what to express. One day I decided that I wanted to feel. I wanted those experiences that everyone else was having, even if they weren’t the best. I wanted to feel normal, and belong. I created an emotion donation box, that sat outside my front door, for anyone who was willing to donate their unwanted emotions. One thing I learned from creating this box, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Each day I woke up only to find that the day was filled with nothing better than the nightmares I endured the night before. My emotion box yielded the same dark,  unwanted emotions that I was plagued with each and every minute.

I open my eyes and clear the sleep dust from their corners, I groggily sit up and swivel to the side of my bed, yet another day of disappointment awaits. Except…I don’t feel empty? Something is different. None of the nausea that accompanies depression, none of the repetitive thoughts of what I could have done that accompany regret. I feel warm and content–is this happiness? I immediately run to my front door, to my emotion box that I relent to check every day. I look to my left, nothing. I look to my right and catch a glimpse of someone walking around the corner. I eagerly chase after them, keen to thank this person for what quite literally is the happiest day of my life. Upon reaching the point where I last saw them there is nothing, no sign that anyone was here just a few moments ago.

The glee that they gave me is overwhelming and overpowering, everything delights me, all I can think of is how badly I would like to thank them for what they did. They were wearing your average jeans and a red hoodie–nothing entirely discernible. I then return home, overjoyed beyond compare. I turn on the television to catch up on the news, and there was breaking news live on a scene, paramedics line a perimeter set-up by several police cars. The camera pans to the person on top of the building above…then…they jump. A man, no older than twenty, wearing jeans and a red hoodie.

I never did get to thank them, the person who gave up their last ounce of happiness, so I could experience my first.