Category : Religion & Culture

(Sightings) Martin Marty–Are traditional holy days still something more than just any other day?

“Sunday Is Not the New Monday” shouted the headline of the “Success” section in a recent edition of our Chicago Tribune (Monday, December 30, 2019). Having many reasons—cultural, theological, traditional, personal, etc.—to care about Sunday (or analogues to it in Judaism, Adventism, Islam, and more) I took the bait and read on. Author John Boitnott opens the article with a description of what Sunday used to mean—or what he thinks it used to mean—and how it served: “Sunday used to be for relaxing, spending time with family and friends and catching up on personal tasks.” Boitnott says that he associates with “entrepreneurs” and authors of advice columns who encourage their readers to “stay available for work outside traditional business hours.”

Boitnott offers four clusters of advice in settings where “work” casts its shadow on Sundays: “Stop the guilt,” “Remove yourself from the work environment,” “Set limits and retrain those around you,” and “Plan for Monday on Friday.” So far, so good, if “workism” or “workaholism” is your problem. But is that all that is at stake and all that is to be offered to face the problem? We Sightings columnists are charged to notice those overlookable stories wherein religion or the religious may in fact be significant. Reread the Boitnott sentence again, the one about how “Sunday used to be for relaxing, spending time with family and friends and catching up on personal tasks.” Yes, but for tens of millions of North Americans, among others, Sundays (for Christians; Fridays for Muslims; Shabbat for Jews; etc.) were also for helping people tend to general and specific matters of the spirit and the soulful flourishing of life….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Media, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(CT) For Christian Women, Persecution Looks Like Rape

Dali’s work serves but a tiny number of the millions of women around the world who suffer from persecution. Of the 245 million Christians attacked for their faith last year, many are women and girls who are specifically and most frequently targeted through forced marriage, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. These are the findings of Gendered Persecution, an Open Doors report that examined the differences in persecution by gender in 33 countries for women and 30 countries for men. (An updated report will be released this March.)

While forced marriage is the “most regularly reported means of putting pressure on Christian women” and “remains largely invisible,” when analyzing the data on female persecution, researchers Helene Fisher and Elizabeth Miller found that

Among all forms of violence… the one most often noted [for women] was rape. The research found it to be a common characteristic of persecution of Christian women in 17 countries, with other forms of sexual assault being listed for exactly half of countries with available data. There are no mentions of this form of violence against men, nor is domestic violence one of the pressures mentioned as a tactic used against Christian men.

Not only must Christian women like the Boko Haram captives deal with their own trauma, they often can’t find sanctuary within their faith communities when they come home.

“Unfortunately, it is all too common that Christian communities do not distinguish themselves from their surrounding cultures and, as a result, will stigmatize their women and girls who have been victims of violence,” Fisher and Miller, the authors of the report, wrote in a statement to CT.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(CC) China’s attack on the Uighurs and their Muslim faith

To coerce behavior in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has employed thousands of security agents along with high-tech forms of surveillance, in­cluding security cameras and facial recognition software. Because the Chinese press is censored by the government, news of these abuses has filtered out of the region largely through foreign journalists and independent researchers. China denied the existence of the internment camps until classified government documents were leaked last year; since then, government officials have described the camps as “vocational centers.”

China’s role as scheduled host of the 2022 Winter Olympics offers the world a chance to speak up for the Uighurs and apply pressure on the government to relent. So far, China’s economic clout on the world stage has rendered many nations hesitant to respond. The US shows no signs of making religious freedom for the Uighurs a key issue in trade negotiations.

The US Congress is, however, considering a bill that would direct the Trump administration to identify Chinese officials involved in the abuses and to deny them entry to the US and freeze their financial assets. The bill would also impose sanctions on tech firms that supply China with equipment used in repression and surveillance. The bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. As modest as it is, such a law would be one of the more significant international efforts to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their brutal and systematic assault on a religious community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WBUR) Can Spirituality Exist Without God? A Growing Number Of Americans Say Yes

Tippett also talks about those who use nature to experience the spiritual. One of those she interviewed was former priest John O’Donohue, who spoke about the abstract aesthetics of the landscape he grew up in, which he said were “all laid down by some wild surrealistic kind of deity like a wild invitation to extend your imagination.”

She says that this plays into the notion of “awe” and the work of Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

“And not only is an awe a real thing,” Tippett says, “awe is a life-giving, health-giving thing.”

While “awe” has been historically connected to religion and belief in God, she says Keltner’s research shows humans can experience awe through the natural world.

To her, part of the key is that mind, body and spirit are not separate — she says the spiritually she pursues is about connecting your inner and outer self, making space for discernment and authenticity. It’s about “constantly coming back, looking inward, getting re-centered, looking beyond ourselves,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Bishop Alan Smith welcomes the credit card gambling ban

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has welcomed an announcement from the Gambling Commission that consumers will no longer be able to use credit cards to gamble from April 2020.

“This marks a significant step in progressive policy-making, reducing the risks to gamblers,” he said, following the announcement.

“For too long people have been vulnerable through gambling with money they don’t have, using credit cards, additionally incurring the costs of borrowing alongside any losses.

“I have been calling for this change as consultation turned into consultation, while gamblers were facing the consequences of delay.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Bishop Rachel Treweek responds to the Peter Ball documentary

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(C Of E) Response to BBC 2 documentary on Peter Ball

“The powerful BBC documentary Exposed: the Church’s Darkest Secret is a stark and important reminder of the serious sexual wrongdoing of Peter Ball against many young men, including Neil Todd who took his own life, and the complete failure of the Church to respond appropriately over a period of many years.

“Both the Gibb Report, An Abuse of Faith, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the 2018 IICSA hearing into the case, highlighted our failings and the bravery of those who were prepared to speak out. The documentary brings home in a graphic way the courage of the survivors who shared their story.

“It is a matter of great shame and regret that the Church did not act to address the behaviour of Peter Ball at the time and that survivors were left to fight tirelessly for justice.

Read it all and follow all the links.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

A Telegraph article on the first of a two-part documentary on BBC Two of the Peter Ball case

The disgraced paedophile bishop Peter Ball repeatedly mentioned his friendship with Prince Charles so he would seem “impregnable”, one of his victims has said.

In 2015 Ball, the former bishop of both Lewes and Gloucester was convicted of sexual offences against 17 teenagers and young men – one of whom took his own life. He was released from prison in February 2017 after serving half of his 32-month sentence. He died aged 87 in June 2019.

Speaking in a new documentary, part two of which airs tonight on BBC Two, one of Ball’s victims, Cliff James, who has waived his right to anonymity, spoke of how Ball would boast about his relationship with the heir to the throne.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Media, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(GR) Any darkness to report? The cathedral dean (and bishop) who led St. John the Divine to relevancy

[Dean James] Morton was a liberal Protestant hero who led an Episcopal sanctuary that served as a Maypole around which activists of many kinds danced. However, his career was closely connected with an even more famous liberal Christian hero — Bishop Paul Moore — who was hiding secrets.

Read it all and the NYT article to which it refers.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes

Stephen Freeman–Hidden from the Eyes of Modernity

The modern world is dominated by the cult of politics. There is no better way to describe how we imagine things to work. Regardless of our protests to the contrary, contemporary people believe in a secular world – a world that operates according to its own laws and principles (cause and effect) – and where those with power are those who are able to “make things happen.” Power is understood to be identical with coercion (or the “authority” to coerce) and wealth (the ability to pay people to do your bidding). The apex of this power is identified with governments. As such, we understand “politics” to be the primary means of controlling and shaping the world. This is life as cult. We are told (and agree) that the thing we call “government” controls and shapes the world, and that it is its legitimate role. Every protest to the contrary is met either with perhaps two verses of Scripture (if you’re a Christian) or dismissal as some sort of nut (perhaps an Amish nut of sorts).

Much of this cult has been created in the crucible of modernity itself. At its heart, modernity (and all of its political forms) teaches that the shaping and control of history is the proper role of government. It is the agent of change. If anyone resists this claim or refuses to participate, then they are charged with failing to take up their responsibilities. It is a cult that demands our participation (the very nature of a cult).

Malick’s film concludes with a quote from George Elliot’s Middlemarch:

“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I would go further than Elliot. The hidden life is the only true life, and what is deemed “historic” is little more than propaganda. The propaganda does not serve the moment-by-moment reality that each of us necessarily inhabits. Rather, it serves to empower those who most want to do violence without the distraction of a conscience.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(AJ) ‘Coming to God without freedom is not coming to God’: Philosopher Charles Taylor on seeing God in church decline

Why are fewer people going to church?

It’s very hard to put your finger on this, but this is what I’m trying to work out: that there’s another kind of spiritual life, spiritual searching, going on to a great extent in our contemporary West—sometimes it’s in totally different religions, or totally non-religious—and that this somehow is taking off at the expense of an earlier way of expressing one’s spirituality, which involves being members of national churches or in the case of a very diverse country like Canada, at least a church which you know is very big and solid in some parts of the country.

It’s not that religion is disappearing, or spirituality is disappearing; it’s taking different forms. If you put yourself in the mindset of people, in particular of younger people, who are concerned about the meaning of life, concerned about becoming better people, more loving, more open, etc., and are seeking in some way some discipline—it could be meditation, it could be various things—if you put yourself in the mindset of these people, when they go to the pews the least bad thing is that they don’t feel it’s very relevant! The worst thing is they feel that their whole way of approaching this is not really appreciated and it may be seen as threatening the people in the pews. Now of course this is perhaps more the case—I’m a Catholic—in the case of the Catholic church [laughs], where you have these very backward-looking people who are screaming abuse at [Pope] Francis and so on [laughs]!

That’s the extreme case, where you actually feel, “I’d better rush out of this place [laughs]! Or I’m going to be badly treated.” But the least worrying or problematic [for those outside the church] is just that this is not a concern that people [in the pews] recognize, this searching concern. “Everything is all settled, and we’re all together in these pews affirming it.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Books, Canada, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(WSJ) Marina Gerner–Simon Wiesenthal’s story is example of how Jews can find hope in dark times

In an obituary, the British-Austrian journalist Hella Pick wrote that Wiesenthal always liked to be addressed as “Mr. Engineer.” But when he was asked why he didn’t return to architecture after the Holocaust, he said his belief in God and the afterlife prevented him. The millions who died in the camps, reunited in the afterlife, would ask their fellow Jews what they had done: “You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.’ ”

For those horrified by the recent attacks against Jewish communities, Wiesenthal’s story raises important questions: Who will stand up for their Jewish neighbors? How will legal justice be served? And how can we maintain spirituality amid persecution? There are many ways of being resilient, but forgetting is not an option.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(America) How parishes can tackle the U.S. church’s money crisis

For the Catholic Church, this means starting with our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. But the road to the financial health of a parish also means seeing financial resources as a spiritual issue, and encouraging parishioners to contribute, as Christian disciples, relative to their means. We recommend three steps to get started.

Preach and teach about money more. The Bible has some great wisdom on how to handle money, and Jesus had more to say about it than any other issue. The pulpit needs to be leveraged to give parishioners insight on money and how giving can be an act of faith. Beyond the pulpit, parishes can host courses to help people get out of debt and more skillfully manage their money.

Talk about money more but ask for it less. Incessant, guilt-tinged “asks” for causes ranging from busted boilers to leaky roofs create the impression that all the church talks about is money. These asks take the form of second collections, special appeals, sales in the lobby and, of course, raffles, bake sales and bingo. These fundraisers create confusion, and parishes should wean themselves off of them. At Mass, pass the offering basket once, and, barring an extraordinary event, ask for additional financial support no more than once a year.

Lead by example. The Gospels say that people followed Jesus because he spoke as one having authority. Church leaders can speak with authority about money when we ourselves are giving at a sacrificial level through our gifts of time, talent or, when possible, financial resources. Our credibility is further enhanced when we are good stewards of the money we receive in offerings, honoring parish budgets, avoiding unnecessary debt and eliminating unneeded expenses.

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stewardship

(Rod Dreher) When A Bishop Does Right

Whenever you read about bishops here, it’s usually to complain about their failings. I’m delighted to be able to write about something good a bishop has done. In this case, it’s the Antiochian Orthodox Bishop Basil Essey, of Wichita, who corrected one of his priests, Father Aaron Warwick. As I wrote here, Father Aaron published an essay in a dissenting Orthodox online journal in which he called for a strong revision in Orthodox pastoral care for LGBT people — including encouraging same-sex couples to pair off and keep their sex lives within the pairing. Father Aaron insisted that he wasn’t challenging Church teaching, only pastoral practice, but this is a Jesuitical distinction without a difference (no, it really is: this is the tactic the Catholic LGBT activist priest James Martin, SJ, uses).

Father Aaron was scheduled to be elevated to archpriest (sort of like “monsignor” in the Catholic Church) this month, but now, that’s not going to happen quite yet. This went out yesterday:

I don’t know what, exactly, Bishop Basil did, but Father Aaron issued a public apology, and a retraction of his essay….

There is no more difficult stance in contemporary American culture for a cleric, bishop or not, to take than the one Bishop Basil has taken here. When our priests, pastors, and bishops do take those stands, we need to praise them, and praise them publicly. A senior church leader who doesn’t temporize or surrender to the culture — imagine that! God, send us more!

Read it all (cited by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Orthodox Church, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(This Day) Gunmen Free Woman After Collecting N60,000 Ransom, As Anglican Cleric and his Son are Attacked

[A] few hours after the release of a 60-year-old woman, Mrs. Banjo Ademiyiwa, sequel to the payment of N60,000 ransom, gunmen last Monday attacked an Anglican Church cleric, Reverend Canon Foluso Ogunsuyi, and his son, who is a Nigerian Army sergeant with machetes.

Ademiyiwa was kidnapped on Ikun-Oba Akiko Road in Akiko North West Local Government Area of Ondo State last Monday just around where Ogunsuyi and his son were attacked.

The cleric is the shepherd in charge of Danian Marian Memorial Anglican Church, Ikun Akoko in Akoko South-west LGA of the state.

A source told journalists that the gunmen during the attack collected valuables, including N92,000 cash from the vehicle in which the cleric and his son were travelling.

While the gunmen spared the cleric, his son who sustained several machete cuts, was admitted at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owo.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

The Archbishop of York awarded honorary Doctorate of Divinity by Durham University

Durham University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge said: “We are delighted to award an honorary degree to the Archbishop of York, who so clearly shares our passion for empowering young people and preparing students to transition successfully to the next stage of their lives.

“We take our responsibilities as a centre for learning seriously and, like the Archbishop, we strive to create the opportunities, support and freedom for students to become the best they can, so they can go on to do inspiring and innovative things around the world.

Awarding the honorary degree strengthens the existing relationship between Durham University and the Church of England. A recently renewed partnership sees the University continue in its role as the single validating partner for the Church of England’s ordination training. The scheme, known as the Common Awards, is overseen by a dedicated team from the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(GR) Terry Mattingly–After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future?

Wait a minute. The crucial language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was just approved this past February? That hasn’t been the language in church discipline documents for many years before 2019 and affirmed in multiple votes?

But here is the most crucial point. What, precisely, are the “fundamental differences” that the United Methodists involved in these negotiations — leaders from left and right — cited as the cause of the upcoming ecclesiastical divorce? Was it really LGBTQ issues, period?

Consider this commentary from David French (an evangelical Presbyterian) of The Dispatch:

The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands — as focused on “LGBT issues” — but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause. …

Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues — even hot-button cultural and political issues — but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.”

Ah, there’s the rub. Who wants to put “Scripture, theology and practice” in a news report — especially at NBC Out and similar structures in other newsrooms — when you can blame the whole denominational war over conservatives refusing to evolve on LGBTQ issues?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Central Florida, TEC Conflicts: Central New York, TEC Conflicts: Colorado, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut, TEC Conflicts: Florida, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Georgia, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Conflicts: Milwaukee, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, TEC Conflicts: Ohio, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: Quincy, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande, TEC Conflicts: San Diego, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Conflicts: Tennessee, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A CT Article on the Proposal for the Methodist Split

The eight-page statement details the terms of the split for the nation’s largest mainline denomination:

The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.

The protocol will still need to be approved by the UMC’s legislative body, but has unanimous support from a diverse 16-member mediation team, including representatives from “UMCNext; Mainstream UMC; Uniting Methodists; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; the Wesleyan Covenant Association; Affirmation; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world.”

“This is very likely to bring to an end this dysfunction that we have suffered through for the past 47 years,” said Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News and pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands UMC outside of Houston. “We were never going to find a way to move forward together. Our ultimate goal of setting each other free to do ministry as we believe God would have us do has come to fruition.”

The 12.5-million-member UMC has been in a standoff over LGBT issues for decades, culminating in a vote in favor of its traditional position against same-sex marriage and gay clergy during a special session last year. As a result, some left the UMC, some continued to defy the UMC positions outright, and some challenged the legality of the vote in the denomination’s court—ultimately putting the question of how to move forward before the delegation once again in 2020.

The result of months of negotiation, the new protocol creates a quick, “clean break” for a new, traditionalist denomination that has yet to be created but will receive a $25 million sum at its inception.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention.

As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2019

You may find the full text there (click on the “show more” under the video link).

Posted in Christmas, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NZ Herald) ‘This is mass rape’: China slammed over programme that ‘appoints’ men to sleep with Uighur women

In November, various Western media outlets reported that Han Chinese men had been assigned to monitor the homes of Uighur women whose husbands had been detained in prison camps.

The reports came out after an anonymous Chinese official gave an interview with Radio Free Asia, confirming the program but denying there was anything sinister about it.

As part of the “Pair Up and Become Family” programme, Han Chinese men stay with and sleep in the same beds as Uighur women.

According to the Chinese Government, the programme is designed to “promote ethnic unity”.

But to Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist whose family members have been detained in the Xinjiang camps for more than a year, it’s nothing more than systemised rape – part of the Government’s brutal ongoing crackdown against the country’s ethnic minority.

“This is mass rape,” she told news.com.au. “The Government is offering money, housing and jobs to Han people to come and marry Uighur people.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence

(DM) George Pitcher–This Christmas, we have a golden opportunity to re-invent our political culture and our economy

If Mr Johnson is to be true to his word and consolidate his northern vote, finance must serve those nearer the bottom of the pile to address our North-South inequality.

It’s apt that this sea-change election fell just before Christmas, the time in our Christian calendar when we trace the start of our narrative – that Nativity story about displacement, refugees, insufficient accommodation, the cruel and casual oppression by a ruling class and a baby born in a stable.

The child we celebrate at Christmas-time would grow up to tell some Pharisees who tried to trick him over Roman taxation policy to ‘render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’.

Christians believe everything belongs to God. So some of the more rapacious models of capitalism we’ve suffered under, which brought about the financial crisis that cost the world so dearly, really won’t do today.

This Christmas we have a golden opportunity to re-invent our political culture and our economy.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Crux) Actor Ken Jennings breathes new life into Gospel of John at New York’s Sheen Center

On a nightly basis this month – and on weekend afternoons – “the word” is becoming flesh in lower Manhattan with a one-man performance of the “The Gospel of John” at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture.

Longtime Broadway actor Ken Jennings has memorized the entirety of his favorite Gospel – which he first began to commit to memory as a personal prayer – and at age 72, is thrilling audiences with his new dramatic staging of it.

In an interview with Crux, Jennings said that it took him somewhere between two to three years to memorize the full text, which he turned to when he was going through a rough period in his personal life.

Throughout the performance, he often carries a small pocket-sized Bible around the stage with him – a Bible that dates back to when he was a part of the original Broadway cast of Sweeney Todd in the 1970s.

It was that same Bible that he would carry with him when he’d go out jogging in New York and that he’d use on the walks back to his apartment to read passages from the book of John.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology: Scripture

The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue

First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.

As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.

Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of [some of] American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Local Paper) How Dabo Swinney’s Christian evangelism boosts Clemson recruiting

Swinney, an evangelical Christian, is reluctant to elaborate with reporters about his faith; he declined an interview request for this story. But in the moments after Clemson’s 44-16 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game Jan. 7, he made a bold statement in front of a global audience.

“We beat Notre Dame and Alabama. We left no doubt. And we walk off this field tonight as the first 15-0 team in college football history,” he said. “All the credit, all the glory, goes to the good Lord.”

Recruiting new talent is perpetually on the minds of college football coaches, and Swinney, who will lead Clemson against Ohio State in the Dec. 28 Fiesta Bowl, has struck a chord with prospects who come from strong Christian backgrounds.

Players insist Swinney doesn’t force his views on others, but it’s clear faith is imbued in the program.

The results are the envy of the sport: five straight College Football Playoff appearances, two of the last three national titles, 28 consecutive wins.

“Only God can do this,” Swinney said Jan. 7 inside Levi’s Stadium, purple and orange confetti clumping on his pullover. “That’s a fact. People may think I’m crazy or quacky, or whatever.

“But only God can orchestrate this.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Sports

(WSJ) Ari Lamm–The Christian Hanukkah Tradition

Christians focused almost exclusively on the theme of martyrdom. In particular, they were fascinated by a narrative found in 2 Maccabees about an anonymous Jewish woman and her seven sons who allowed themselves to be tortured and killed by Antiochus rather than violate their faith. Early Christian writers understood the Jewish martyrs as role models, who achieved the ultimate goal of escaping this world for a better one. According to Ambrose, the fourth-century bishop of Milan, the mother could have encouraged her sons to avoid death, “but she considered that her maternal love lay in [urging] her sons to a life that is everlasting rather than an earthly one.”

The authoritative story of the Maccabean era in Jewish tradition is quite different. Jewish rabbinical literature in antiquity didn’t focus at all on the Maccabean martyrs in the context of Hanukkah. Instead it emphasized the role of the Jewish fighters and what happened after their victory. Like the Christian retellings, Jewish tradition focused on the partnership between man and God. But rather than locating that partnership in heaven, it identified it here on earth.

Jewish tradition’s emphasis on the Hanukkah miracle of the oil reinforces this point. In a story popularized in American culture by Jewish celebrities like Adam Sandler, rabbinical literature records that when the Jewish fighters finally recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, they sought to rekindle its seven-branched oil lamp, best known by its Hebrew name, menorah. Although they only had enough oil for one night, it lasted miraculously for eight nights until the Jews were able to procure a new supply. This tradition focuses on temporal existence. The miracle of the menorah allows the Jews to work at resuming their regular lives here on Earth.

While Christian tradition connected the story of the Maccabean era to the Temple’s menorah, it did so in a different way. In praising the Maccabean martyrs, the Syriac Christian writer Severus of Antioch wrote: “Not so [truly] did the candlestick of seven lights which made glorious the temporal Temple give light, as did this woman with the seven human lights, her sons, give light to the Church.” Severus played down the significance of the Temple’s menorah by comparing its seven branches with the seven martyrs who left this world behind.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology

Kendall Harmon–the myth of some kind of monolithic evangelical support for President Trump

I think one can clearly state the nature of the myth of some kind of monolithic evangelical support for President Trump.

The evangelical movement is quite broad and diverse and comprises nearly ¼ or so of the USA population.

In this movement in terms of the last election (2016) there were four groups.

In the first group are evangelicals who voted for Hillary Clinton with varying degrees of enthusiasm, either for her policy or party stance in terms of things like support for the disenfranchised. This also includes also a number who voted for her because they saw no choice but to vote against Donald Trump.

In the second group are evangelicals who voted for a third party, or stayed at home and didn’t vote because even though they opposed a number of the Democratic nominee’s proposals they were horrified by Donald Trump’s character and modus operandi and could not in good conscience support him.

In the third group were people who were adamantly opposed to a number of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, but who reluctantly concluded that the only way they could influence public policy was to vote for one of the two people who were going to win. They therefore held their nose and voted against Hillary Clinton but very much thinking that they were worried about Trump as a person and what his character would do to the office.

In the fourth group were people who enthusiastically supported Donald Trump. The reasons for this support vary a great deal under the surface, one of the most interesting being a who number felt that the culture war had been shoved down their throat during the Obama years, and actively wanted a person who would enable a kind of payback, even with his modus operandi.

The main distortion comes from the NEARLY COMPLETE FOCUS on group four, and even a minority of leaders among group four. There may be an occasional nod to group three, but often it is falsely implied that group three are enthusiastically behind the current President, whereas they are not at all but saw no alternative given the American two party system. Groups one and two are hardly even talked about.

Therefore the picture given of the movement as a whole is entirely false. I would like to say personally how sorry I am for the Hispanic, African American, and mainly younger evangelicals whose voices are nearly entirely silenced by the false picture–KSH.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * By Kendall, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(A CT Editorial) President Trump Should Be Removed from Office

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CC) Philip Jenkins–A look at faith in film over the last decade

Matters are different in Eastern Euro­pean countries where Christianity, and especially Catholicism, remain deep­ly rooted in social institutions. In these settings, art still has the capacity to shock and divide. In 2018, the Polish film Clergy (Kler) generated something like a cultural crisis in that country. In a land where religion is deeply intertwined with national identity, the film showed multiple forms of clerical misconduct and concealment, with priestly crimes ranging from child sexual abuse to misconduct with adult women, to embezzlement and alliances with organized crime. The resulting controversy sparked calls for the film to be banned, but it also encouraged many complaints of actual abuse to be reported and publicized.

It appears that apart from monastic settings, churches are generally seen as threatening and deeply suspect places. Even with all the nightmarish images, however, filmmakers keep returning almost despite themselves to core elements of the Judeo-Christian story. I would highlight two examples, each quirky and far removed from traditional Holly­wood Bible epics. The bizarre French-Belgian comedy The Son of Joseph (2016) shows a son searching for his father in a narrative explicitly following a biblical structure, drawing both on the story of Abraham and Isaac and the Nativity. In its weird way, we might call it a parable. Also set in the present day is The Blind Christ (2017), a visually gorgeous Chilean film focused on another kind of quest. After receiving a revelation, a young man—Christ or a prophet?—has to cross a desert to undertake a healing miracle, and his journey involves encounters with many ordinary people, and the stories they tell.

As we enter the second century of Christian cinema, after an especially vibrant decade of cinema, we can say that filmmakers, while anything but uncritical of the faith, still find it a rich vein to mine.

Read it all.

Posted in Movies & Television, Religion & Culture