Religion Archives

Do You Think It Would Matter?

Jen Engel asks a pointed question. Do you think that Tim Tebow would be subjected to the same ridicule and scorn from other football players, sports journalist and other pundits if, instead of being a Christian who thanks God for his talent, he was a Muslim facing Mecca after every touchdown?

Yeah, me neither. Read the whole thing.

Gay Liberation Network Boycotts Salvation Army

The one charity that has the lowest administrative costs (i.e. more of your donation actually gets to the needy) is being boycotted by the Gay Liberation Network. Why? Because it adheres to its religious beliefs. It stands up for what it believes in.

(Ever notice that folks who admire others who "stand up for what they believe in" almost invariably don’t appreciate it when they don’t agree with what’s being stood up for?)

Bil Browning explains his opposition to the Army this way.

As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you’ll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn’t actively discriminate against the LGBT community.

The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations. Many LGBT people are rejected by the evangelical church charity because they’re "sexually impure."

While the Army, as a church, does indeed believe that homosexuality goes against God’s plan for us, they most emphatically do not discriminate on who can receive their aid. That charge is entirely false. Everyone can share in the donations.

However, the Army is allowed to decide who represents it to the public. And that’s where the Army will indeed stand up for what it believes in.

And the GLN is free to start its own charity. Light a candle instead of curse the "darkness", and all that.

In the meantime, consider dropping a little bit more in the kettle this year. And it may not be a bad idea to make that a standard practice. Donations have been going down year-over-year, and which is why the "kettle season" has been moved up to a few days before Thanksgiving, rather than the long tradition of the day after it. It’s a down economy, but especially for the needy.

Friday…er, Tuesday Link Wrap-up

I’ve been on something of a sabbatical with regards to blogging and news-reading in general. I have, however, saved some links during that time, so here’s a bunch of them.

If even the Dutch have fallen out of love with windmills (by which I mean, they can’t afford to keep subsidizing them), you gotta’ wonder.

Right after Alabama’s illegal immigration law kicked in, unemployment dropped in a big way. Yeah, those jobs you keep saying Americans won’t do? Turns out they just might.

Spain has apparently had enough with the failed policies of socialists. They voted them in to appease terrorists back in 2004 following the Madrid bombings. But since then, Spain has been tanking economically along with the rest of Europe, and what seemed like a good idea at the time has now been revealed to be a huge mistake. This past weekend, conservatives won a landslide victory.

Iranian Christian pastor update: "Yousef (also spelled Youcef) Nadarkhani, sentenced to death a year ago after a court of appeals in Rasht, Iran, found him guilty of leaving Islam in September 2010, is in deteriorating health, according to a member of Nadarkhani’s denomination, the Church of Iran, who requested anonymity. "

"Who would Jesus protest?" According to Jimmie Bise, working from the New Testament, He wouldn’t be protesting government. He’d be changing hearts, one individual at a time.

Iran with nuclear weapons capability. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m certain many on the Left will be shocked, unfortunately.

And finally, the oldest social network is new again. (Click for a larger version.)

On Ben Witherington’s comments regarding firearms

Ben Witherington is a Biblical scholar whom I highly respect. While I’ve not read any of his books, I have heard him interviewed several times, and recently read his critique of Frank Viola & George Barna’s book Pagan Christianity. When it comes to New Testament data, you’d be hard pressed to get a better or more thorough commentator.

However, in perusing his site, I ran across a post he wrote (just after the 2011 Tucson shooting in which Rep. Gabby Giffords was gravely wounded and 6 other people killed) regarding firearms and gun ownership in general. Suffice it to say that he is less than enthusiastic about the manner with which the 2nd Amendment is exercised in 21st century America. While he is entitled to his opinion, I must say that I consider his arguments to be weak and without substantial basis.

In Guns and Religion – Enough is Quite Enough, Witherington lists the following pro-gun arguments which, as he puts it, are actually “myths”.

Myth # 1: “Guns don’t kill people”

Myth # 2: “If we ban guns, only criminals will have guns”

Myth # 3: “The Constitution and the Bill of Rights gives the private citizen the right to own whatever gun his heart desires”

Myth # 4: “Hunting Animals (e.g. Deer) is a Sport”

Myth # 5: “The Best Way to Protect Yourself and Your Family is to Buy Guns”

Rather than actually address these “myths” properly, however, he resorts to erecting straw men, following illogical paths, tossing out red herrings, and presenting false or misleading information. Let me address what I believe to be the problems with his arguments.

Read the rest of this entry

Finding God in Twilight

My Take: 5 reasons Christians should love ‘Twilight’ is a confusing piece, from CNN Opinion, attempting to argue for the merits of the Twilight series due to some intersections (so the author claims) it has with Christianity. The mistake here is that she appears to fall into the Moral Therapeutic Deism camp. Rather than do a stretch search for Biblical principles in something like Twilight, how about looking at what the Bible has to say? Or at least peruse the works of authors who intended to write fiction with a Biblical grounding (e.g., C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, PD James, Stephen Lawhead, etc.).

The five reasons Jesus would love Twilight?

  1. The supernatural surrounds us whether we’re aware of it or not.
  2. Love results in, and even requires, sacrifice.
  3. Humans crave divine perfection.
  4. A drastic change of direction may be exactly what you need.
  5. You’ll only really fit in after you accept what it is God has designed you for.

Oh, and I really like the Jeremiah 29:11 reference as an argument for reason # 5 [sarcasm].

Taxes and Morality

Daniel Hannan, writing for the London Telegraph, poses the following question.

Now that [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams is intruding into the debate about a financial transactions tax, I’d like to ask him a question. Which does he consider more meritorious – to give your own money to good causes…or to force your customers, clients and shareholders to do so in the name of ‘corporate social responsibility’? Which has more virtue – to ‘sell that thou hast, and give to the poor’, or to be expropriated through the tax system?

His article is a good, short read on the subject.

Thinking Alike

Looks like someone else got the thought that Occupy Wall Street had a problem with one of the 10 Commandments.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

This just seems a little too end-times-ish for my taste.

The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises. The document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department should please the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn.

“Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” was at times very specific, calling, for example, for taxation measures on financial transactions. “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” it said.

But never mind the Biblical implications, let’s just consider this from an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" perspective. Does the Vatican really think that a global authority on money is going to be better than those in any of our individual countries. Given that any institution is staffed by fallible, corruptible humans, what this would do is allow the mistakes and failings of a few to impact the entire planet. This is a better idea?

It called for the establishment of “a supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions.

Asked at a news conference if the document could become a manifesto for the movement of the “indignant ones”, who have criticised global economic policies, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department, said: “The people on Wall Street need to sit down and go through a process of discernment and see whether their role managing the finances of the world is actually serving the interests of humanity and the common good. “We are calling for all these bodies and organisations to sit down and do a little bit of re-thinking.”

I believe it’s the Vatican that needs to do some rethinking. This goes against every single understanding of human nature that the church teaches. Our US founding fathers understood this, which is why they set up distributed government.

Should we be expecting a proposal for one-world government next? 

Vatican Back Stem Cell Research!

To those in the mainstream media, and those not paying attention (typically because they read only the mainstream media), this might be shocking. However, as points out, it’s rather something of a yawner; the Catholic Church has always supported stem cell research. It’s just that the media conflate embryonic with adult stem cells so often, that to the casual reader it might indeed come as a surprise.

Terry Mattingly has the analysis. His group blog documents how the press covers religion. I’ve put this blog in my list to keep up with, and you should too.

Christian Persecution Update

From Somalia:

Militants from the Islamic extremist al Shabaab beheaded a 17-year-old Somali Christian near Mogadishu last month, a journalist in the Somali capital told Compass.

The militants, who have vowed to rid Somalia of Christianity, killed Guled Jama Muktar on Sept. 25 in his home near Deynile, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mogadishu. The Islamic extremist group had been monitoring his family since the Christians arrived in Somalia from Kenya in 2008, said the source in Mogadishu, who requested anonymity.

The Islamic militants, who are fighting the transitional government for control of the country, knew from their observations of the family that they were Christians, the source said.

“I personally know this family as Christians who used to have secret Bible meetings in their house,” he said.

This comes from the website Compass Direct News, a good source of news about Christian persecution worldwide.

Secular vs Religion and the Public Square

On and off again I refer to the little book published that consists of the debate between Jurgen Habermas (eminent German philosopher) and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict). The title of this book is Dialectics of Secularization. Mr Habermas opens, sets the stage and gives a brief argument (streching 30 pages of a small format book) … and Cardinal Ratzinger replies in like length. This book is published by Ignatius Press (2006) and is quite inexpensive (and available on Amazon). It was, of course, originally published in German.

The Question:

Does the free, secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whetherthe democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence; it also expresses the assumption that such a state is depenedent on the ethical traditions of a local nature.

Mr Habermas takes the affirmative, and of course Mr Ratzinger the negative. Read the rest of this entry

Thou Shalt Not Covet the 1%’s House

One of God’s top 10.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Contrary to what some think, coveting is not just wanting something. Coveting is wanting something that belongs to someone else. God made it pretty clear about not coveting that which is your neighbor’s. (And of course, Jesus explained to us that our neighbor is essentially anyone else.)

But right now, in cities and countries all over, there are protests going on, getting rave reviews from liberals and the media, where the key ingredient is precisely this; covetousness. Much of what you hear from videos and their own website, even the whole 99% thing, is out of a want, not for money, but for the money of the "1%". (But, because these things would be paid for by taxes, they’re really aiming for the wealth of the 53%.)

"You, cancel my loans!"

"You, pay me even when I’m not working!"

"You, finance my healthcare!"

And the target of their protests must pony up the cash. No, not "the 1%", but the 53%, and their children. These protestors want their money; no their own. That is not at all to say that cancelling loans, unemployment benefits or subsidized healthcare are, in and of themselves, a bad thing in moderation, and when circumstances may warrant. But the method these "99%" suggest — more power to a government that got us into this situation in the first place — is both ironic and sad at the same time because they propose we keep digging the hole we’re in rather than get out of it.

(And, by the way, the folks who say they are 99% of the country? Not so much.)

We have some modicum of socialism in this country already — Social Security, Medicare, for examples — but these programs are going bankrupt. Social Security is now paying out more than it is taking in, and has been for a year now, because the socialized method used to pay for it couldn’t handle a Baby Boom. And yet these folks want the 1%/53% to finance yet another iteration of this.

The blame is misplaced, and the solution follows the direction of failed policies. So what’s a country to do?

Brett McCracken writing at his blog The Search sums things up well, both the issues and the solution.

As a “movement,” Occupy Wall Street doesn’t reveal an organized grassroots agenda as much as it represents a general climate of anger, frustration, and antagonism against the “haves”–a suspiciously narrow (1%), heartless, no good very bad group whose entrepreneurial success and capitalistic success apparently oppress the 99% of us have-nots who are being unfairly kept from sharing in the 1 percent’s riches.

Mostly, though, Occupy Wall Street represents the natural discontent of an entitled generation raised on the notion that we deserve things, that the government owes us something, that everything we want should be accessible, and that somehow we are not responsible if we don’t end up quite as successful in life as we’d hoped. It’s a blame-shifting problem. It’s an inability to delay gratification or go without that which we believe is our right or destiny. And it’s a problem both on the micro/individual and macro/government level.

McCracken suggests that the blame is one that we all share, not just some tiny slice of us, from whom we need to extract our pound of flesh.

The thing is, “sharing blame” is hard for us humans to do. We’re infinitely averse to admitting our own culpability. In almost anything. Whether it be our own financial hardships, or those of our communities, or the high taxes under which we suffer… We have to lash out against someone. We have to go occupy something.

As Christians, though, I think we must first and foremost look within for the blame. We must own our share in the mess. Beyond institutions and hegemonies and Wall Street tycoons, how are we responsible for the trouble we’re in? True revolution begins here. True change begins with what we can actually control: our own lives, an awareness of our weaknesses and potentials, and a commitment to working to improve.

If we have to occupy something, let it be the dominion of our own culpable Self, the guiltiest of all institutions and the one we are likeliest to spur toward positive change.

I dare say that should this particular philosophy suddenly grip the Occupy Wall Street crowd, things might disperse rather quickly. Is there injustice in America? Yes, there is. But Jesus didn’t storm the house of Zacchaeus, among the "1%" of his day. Jesus didn’t complain that the government in Rome was unfair and make demands of it. He spoke truths to individuals, even the 1%ers. He changed hearts, which then changed the culture. Let’s follow that example instead.

Christianity Under Fire in the Middle East

According to the US State Dept., there is not a single Christian church left in Afghanistan.

The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report. The report, which was released last month and covers the period of July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, also states that “there were no Christian schools in the country.”

“There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church’s claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March [2010],” reads the State Department report on religious freedom. “[Private] chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams], and at the Italian embassy. Some citizens who converted to Christianity as refugees have returned.”

In recent times, freedom of religion has declined in Afghanistan, according to the State Department.

“The government’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice declined during the reporting period, particularly for Christian groups and individuals,” reads the State Department report.

“Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity," said the report. "The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom.”

And in Egypt, with the power vacuum left after the exit of Mubarak, the lid is coming off anti-Christian hatred there, too.

Now many fear that the power vacuum left after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak is giving Muslim extremists free rein to torch churches and attack Coptic homes in the worst violence against the community in decades.

An assault Sunday night on Christians protesting over a church attack set off riots that drew in Muslims, Christians and the police. Among the 26 people left killed in the melee, most were Copts. For Coptic scholar Wassem el-Sissi, it was evidence that the Christian community in Egypt is vulnerable as never before.

"In the absence of law, you can understand how demolishing a church goes unpunished," he said. "I have not heard of anyone who got arrested or prosecuted."

Once a majority in Egypt, Copts now make up about 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Their history dates back 19 centuries and the language used in their liturgy can be traced to the speech of Egypt’s pharaohs. Proud of their history and faith, many Copts are identifiable by tattoos of crosses or Jesus Christ on their right wrists, and Coptic women do not wear the veil as the vast majority of Muslim women in Egypt do.

But then, it wasn’t all that wonderful under Muarak, either.

Under Mubarak, the problems of Copts festered even if they faced less violence than they do now. Their demands for a law to regulate construction of churches went unanswered and attacks on churches went unpunished.

There was some hope at the start of the Arab Spring, but it didn’t last long.

Copts shared in the euphoria of the 18-day revolution that ousted Mubarak and like so many other Egyptians their hopes for change were high. Mainly, they wanted to be on equal footing with Muslims.

At Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution against Mubarak, there were glimpses of a fleeting utopia where coexistence and mutual respect between Muslims and Christians was the rule. The iconic image of Christians forming a human shield around Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers to protect them from thugs and pro-Mubarak loyalists spoke volumes to the dream.

But shortly after Mubarak’s ouster, a series of assaults on Christians brought home a stark reality: The fading of authoritarian rule empowered Islamist fundamentalists, known here as Salafis, who have special resentment for Christians.

Pray for the persecuted church. It really still does exist, and in more places than you may think.

Shining the Light on Oppression

As they say, sometime light is the best disinfectant. The Iranian pastor who wouldn’t renounce Christianity and was being sentence to death has has his case moved to the top.

The case of an Iranian pastor facing a possible death sentence for apostasy has reportedly been referred to Iran’s supreme leader, a move some say shows the Islamic republic is feeling pressure in the face of growing international support.

Attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told AFP on Monday that an Iranian court has decided to seek the opinion of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the Islamic republic’s spiritual leader and highest authority — in the case of Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old pastor who was arrested in October 2009 and later sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

Messages seeking comment from Dadkhah were not immediately returned early Monday.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington-based organization that is monitoring Nadarkhani’s case, told that the move was unusual and is part of the "secretive process" within the Iranian judicial system.

"Based on these reports, Pastor Youcef is alive and we have reached the highest level of Iranian government," Sekulow said on Monday. "I don’t believe this would’ve ever reached the level of Khamenei without the media attention and outpouring of support we’ve seen."

Sekulow said the move to involve Khamenei in a case before a regional court is uncommon and indicates that "Iran is feeling the pressure" of the growing international community in support of Nadarkhani.

Pray that he will be spared, and that the world will see this for what it is; Christian persecution.

The Latest "Believers Are Stupid" Study

Not being as good at math proves religious people don’t think. No, really, that’s what a Harvard study is saying it proves. Lisa Mill tears it down for us.

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