Company Touts 'Medical Tourism" in Israel for Sick Pilgrims

Tourists pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Via Wylio

Pilgrims and tourists pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Via Wylio

JERUSALEM — Every year, thousands of Americans travel abroad for less-expensive fertility treatments, hip replacements and other medical procedures. Now, an Israel-based tourism company is offering a package that combines medical care with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 

IsraMedica plans to unveil the initiative Thursday (Feb. 16) at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.  

Eli Knoller, the company's vice president of operations, said IsraMedica already brings about 6,000 nonmedical tourists to Israel every year, the majority of them Christian pilgrims.

Why Do Mormons Baptize the Dead?

A painting of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus at the LDS visitor center in Salt Lake. Photo by Jason Andrew/Getty Images.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has apologized for a Mormon who baptized the late parents of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. But despite calls this week from Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel (and others) to rethink the controversial rite, the church is unlikely to drop it entirely.

Latter-day Saints trace posthumous baptism to the Apostle Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:29, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?" Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, their faith's founding prophet, restored the apostolic practice after centuries of neglect by mainstream Christians. 

Proxy baptism was also Smith's answer to a classic Christian conundrum: What happens to people who, through no fault of their own, did not join the church during their earthly lifetime? Should they be barred from heaven?

Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom. To Mormons, only members of the LDS priesthood possess the power to baptize.

Today in God: Feb. 10, 2012

Photo by Getty Images.

Photo by Getty Images.

Nuns vs. strippers. Oprah and Hasidim. A Christian Muslim tweeter is in trouble. Female backlash against the GOP. Catholic television network EWTN files a lawsuit against the contraception mandate. Santorum says the contraception fight has "nothing to do with women's rights." Did Cardinal Bevilacqua die of foul play? A plot to kill the pope. Drive-thru funerals and more...inside the blog.

Military Chaplains Heed Call to Serve God and Country

Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell mourns a fallen soldie. RNS photo via Odell.

Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell mourns a fallen soldier in Afghanistan. RNS photo courtesy Joseph Odell.

Growing up in Kuwait, Asif Balbale thought he wanted to become a chemical engineer. He never imagined enlisting in the U.S. Navy, much less becoming an imam.

Balbale got his engineering degree after immigrating to the U.S. at age 21. With jobs hard to come by, he tried to enlist in the Army, but didn't weigh enough. Instead, he met the Navy's minimum requirements.

He was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in 2005 while deployed aboard the USS Boxer. Intending to apply for an officer program, Balbale, 31, mistakenly emailed a recruiter for the chaplain corps.

"God, I think, had better plans for me," Balbale said, looking back.

And so it is for a number of military chaplains who, by twists of fate or perhaps divine Providence, found their calling to become chaplains while on active duty.

Eddie Long's Bizarre 'Kingship' Ceremony

Atlanta-area megachurch pastor Eddie Long has had his share of headlines, many of them not good. Now he's making news — and raising eyebrows — again with a "kingship" ceremony that can only be described as bizarre.

Jewish groups say the ceremony -- in which Long was shrouded by a Torah scroll (allegedly saved from Auschwitz) and then paraded around on a chair — was the height of disrespect. And it's not just Jews who were offended.

Heeding the Bethlehem Call: Freedom Comes from Tenacity

Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.

Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via

A hegemonic power that separates and excludes is not of Jesus. I came away from the deep darkness settling on the land of the Holy One to declare along with my fellow Kairos delegates that, to paraphrase Bishop Marianne, “the fate of the free world depends on a civil society committed to Christ and a persistent, all-encompassing faithful non-violent tenacity pursuing creative and compassionate resistance.“

We must respond to those faithful ones behind both sides of the walls who are saying to us, “Come and See and Be with the people.” We must feel what Jesus felt as he witnessed tyranny and empire – the principalities and powers that oppress and dispossess and kill the poor for whom He had a heart. Please listen to the cries of the oppressed and act today in doing at least one small thing to bring a just peace…make a personal and if possible corporate choice in this critical moment of God’s Kairos.  

If all who hear the “Bethlehem Call” respond then momentum will build for the liberation of all God’s children in the Holy Land.

The Friday News: Dec. 9, 2011

Young, Hip Jews Leading a Makeover; EPA Finds Fracking Contaminated Drinking Water in Wyoming; Dick Durbin May Block Religious Freedom Commission’s Renewal Until Feds Buy His Favorite Prison; Against “Taking Things Back:” Rethinking the OWS Slogan; Rick Perry Anti-Gay Ad Puts Spotlight on GOP Consulting Class; Black, atheist and living in the South Benjamin; The New Evangelicals; Why Rick Perry’s New Ads Are Wrong On Religion–And Obama; Latinos Don't Vote On Faith Or Religion But On Economic Issues; Faith And Family Values At Issue In Republican Contest; Children Of Immigrants Ask For Halt To Deportation That Splits Families; Sesame Street Muppet Pitches Government Dependence: Free Food At School; Economic Experts Gather In DC To Explain Why Politics Has Doomed Us.

The Morning News: Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

‘Morning Joe’ Crew Mocks Perry’s War On Christmas Ad; Odd Couples: Gingrich Casts Wide Net To Evangelicals, Tea Party And K Street Lobbyists; The Real War On Christmas; GOP Presidential Hopefuls Make Bid For Jewish Vote; Republicans: Save Social Security!; Protesters Arrested In DC After K Street Shutdown; Obama To Congress: Don’t Mix Oil Pipeline, Payroll Tax Cut; Income Gap Stays Wide In District, Narrows In Suburbs.