Category : Religion & Culture

(New Telegraph) Insecurity: Tackle arms smuggling, Anglican Bishop tells Nigerian President Buhari

The Bishop of Ijebu North Diocese, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Rt. Revd. Solomon Kuponu, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to find a lasting solution to arms smuggling which is posing serious threats to Nigeria’s internal security. The cleric made the call at the second session of the Fifth Synod of the diocese held at the St. James’ Anglican Church, Atikori, Ijebu- Igbo, with the theme: “Fight the Good Fight of Faith, Lay Hold on Eternal life.”

In his charge at the event, Kuponu expressed concern over the increasing rate of crime and arms proliferation in the country, noting that the arms being illegally imported into Nigeria were often used by bandits, militias and insurgents to terrorise innocent people. He condemned the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents, urging the Federal Government to confront them, and also asked the Buhari-led administration to dispense with commanders and intelligence chiefs that have failed the country in the fight against terrorism. He said: “Nigeria faces existential wars, terrorism and corruption. Both require sound strategies and continuous adaptation. Buhari should imbibe this in confronting the resurgent Boko Haram.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(ES) Archbp Justin Welby–This is a time to put aside our rifts, so come pray with us at Pentecost

The Spirit makes real for us, each of us, the reality of the love of God in Jesus. It’s a love which doesn’t just forgive and restore us, which doesn’t just invest us with a value and worth beyond our comprehension, but a love which turns us towards others to truly love them.

For the first time this Sunday, in Trafalgar Square, and thanks to the Mayor of London, thousands of us will gather from dozens of different churches. It’s something that is fairly different and unusual, and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we will get together to pray for a renewing touch of God’s presence with us. Because we need God.

Because we need God to break the barriers down between us, to bring love between people of different backgrounds and opinions, we need God to give us his love and his hope.

The gift of God is for us all. We simply need to ask. This is prayer. Prayer is the simplest yet most profound practice of opening up our hands and hearts and lives to God. And everyone can do it. At any time. In any place. And of all the things we could do, I think this is what we need to do more than ever.

Please join us in Trafalgar Square on Sunday as we pray and wait on the presence of God to set us free — so that we have strength, courage and love to live in the middle of all that occupies us.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Pentecost, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Priest resigns in transgender-pupil row

The rector, the Revd John Parker, accused both the Church of England school and the diocese of silencing his concerns over transgender issues and how the school’s leadership was handling the topic.

The clergyman and the other governors and staff were informed earlier this year that the eight-year-old wished to return to school as a girl, not a boy.

Concerned by the school’s approach, Mr Parker secretly recorded a training session at the school led by the transgender education charity Mermaids.

In the recording, Mr Parker can be heard trying to ask questions and challenge some scientific and legal issues that are raised, but is told by the head teacher and others that he should not speak out and instead send his concerns in an email.

“Throughout the training session, there was an implicit threat to us that if we did not implement Mermaids’ ideology and affirm LGBTQI+ children, it would result in children committing suicide, self-harming, and police and OFSTED would enforce the policy,” Mr Parker said later.

“After the head told us about the plan to allow the pupil to transition, the school suddenly turned into a place where you did not even have the freedom to question or express a view. I felt it was no longer a Christian place of truth but a place of fear and intimidation.”

Read it all and there is a lot more about this story on the Archbishop Cranmer blog there.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) How Reasserting Anglicans in Canada Found New Life After Their Eviction

In 2002, when his regional synod voted to let its bishop bless same-sex unions, [David] Short stood up and walked out of the room (as did Packer). So did leaders from half a dozen other churches.

The pastors knew they had to form their own organization and to find episcopal supervision. But that didn’t seem hard. Most of the global Anglican church still held to the gospel. The Canadians just had to appeal for alternative episcopal oversight, something already permissible in Canada, and call it a day.

“I thought it would take 10 weeks,” Short said.

It took 10 years. Ten years of accusations and meetings and lawsuits. Ten years of stress and fear and anger. Nearly all the churches would lose their buildings; all did lose congregants and money. Pastors lost sleep. Some nearly lost their sanity.

“We asked all the wisest people I knew—all the cleverest theologians,” Short said. “No one had any idea what to do.” So they just did the next thing. And the next.

This June, the Anglican Church in North America—made up of…conservative Anglicans primarily in the United States and Canada, including Short—will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The denomination has 135,000 members in more than 1,000 churches. It’s in “full communion” with the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON).

“It was all worth it,” said Ottawa rector—the Anglican term for senior pastor—George Sinclair, whose church left with Short’s. But he would have said that no matter what.

“Even if the church had declined, that wouldn’t be a sign that we had made a mistake,” he said. “Because the Bible is clear on this issue. You need to take a stand on it—without any expectation about how God will bear fruit from your faithfulness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wash Post) Ajay Verghese–Is India becoming a ‘Hindu state’?

So what does the BJP’s victory mean for Indian secularism?

First off, the term “secularism” is quite different in Indian politics — it’s not what U.S. audiences imagine it to be: a separation between church and state. Instead, it refers to religious neutrality (dharmnirpekshta): the equal treatment of all religious communities, irrespective of size, by the government.

Secularism in India is less concerned with religion interfering in politics (as in the United States) than with the state interfering in religion. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, Indian secularism is about maintaining a “principled distance” between the state and religion.

To get a better understanding of secularism in India, I conducted research in villages in the northern Indian state of Bihar in late 2017, and in February 2018, I conducted a survey of 900 Hindus across the state on religion and politics.

My preliminary findings show that Hindus in Bihar overwhelmingly support many of the ideals of Indian secularism — even government support for mosques. Critically, however, this is not true for more pious Hindus: The more religious voters are, the more they subscribe to the tenets of Hindu nationalism, especially the idea that Hindus deserve preferential treatment over Muslims.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(Theos TT) Hannah Rich–Never walking alone: the poster boys for public faith

The Egyptian forward represents a public face of Islam which sits in stark contrast with many contemporary media portrayals of Muslims. His characteristic goal celebration in which he kneels on the pitch to perform sujud – the Islamic act of thanksgiving to Allah – has been immortalised in football computer games. Comedian John Oliver recently described him as ‘a better human being than he is a football player and he’s one of the best football players in the world.’ Salah has spoken about his support for women’s equality and the need for cultural change in the way women are viewed in the Middle East. His toddler daughter delighted the crowd at Anfield when she scored a goal in front of the Kop on the last day of the season, before being scooped up and hugged by her hijab–wearing mother. She is named after the holy city of Mecca.

That these are all details rather than the story itself is testament to a normalisation of religious faith among players and fans to which Salah has contributed.

This phenomenon is not limited to Mo Salah and Islam. At full time in Saturday’s final, Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson – a practicing Catholic – took his jersey off to reveal a vest decorated with hand drawn symbols proclaiming, ‘cross equals love’. He subsequently posted a photo of himself holding the Champions League trophy aloft and looking to the sky, with the caption ‘God is love’.

The Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has frequently discussed his Christian faith in public and in media interviews. On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in his native Germany, he took on the role of Reformationsbotschafter or ‘reformation ambassador’ in a publicity campaign for the Bible in which he cited Martin Luther as one of his role models:

“Luther fought for faith and justice, so people could live their faith in a mature way and without fear… I like Luther because he took the path of the less privileged on the margins. He risked a great deal, so we could have a positive image of God: the loving god in whom I believe, who welcomes everyone regardless of race, background or education.”

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Guardian from 2014) Giles Fraser–If Christianity is a romance, helping those we love to die is an abandonment

One of the main things that many atheists (and some believers for that matter) fail to register about Christianity is that it’s not so much a metaphysical account of the nature of the universe, nor a codification of ancient moral principles, but primarily a romance, a sort of love story.

…the logic of the romantic is that the centre of gravity in human life has to be outside of oneself to be meaningful. If it’s all about my choices, then human life has withered to the dimensions of my paltry imagination. Some will believe the control held out by autonomy to be liberating. I think it’s about trying to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control.

If I ever got so low as to be close to suicide, I don’t want anyone respecting my choice. I want them to come looking for me and to try and love or bully me out of it – even if I am lost to a settled decision for self-destruction.

I would be secretly very unhappy if my children didn’t attempt every trick in the book to overrule me. The thought that they would go “OK, Dad, it’s your choice” feels like a terrifying form of abandonment.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Theology

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (V): (NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–What Are Conservatives Actually Debating? What the strange war over “David French-ism” says about the right

Still, you can see three broad demands at work in their arguments. First, they want social conservatives to exercise more explicit power within the conservative coalition.

This may sound like a strange idea, since, after all, it is social conservatism’s growing political weakness, its cultural retreat, that led the religious right to throw in with a cruel sybarite like Trump. But there’s a plausible argument that even with its broader influence reduced, religious conservatism should still wield more power than it does in Republican politics — that it outsources too much policy thinking to other factions, that it goes along with legislation written for business interests so long as the promised judicial appointments are dangled at the end, and that it generally acts like a junior partner even though it delivers far more votes.

A more assertive form of social conservatism is already visible in the state-level pushes to substantially restrict abortion, which amount to a demand that all those Republican court appointees actually deliver the latitude for pro-life legislation that generations of religious conservatives voted for. It’s visible in the forays made by Missouri’s new Republican senator, Josh Hawley, who has incited small uproars by imposing sharper abortion and religious-liberty litmus tests than usual on the Trump administration’s judicial nominees, and by taking an explicitly censorious stance toward Silicon Valley.

But a more assertive social conservatism would also pursue the second thing that the post-fusionist conservatives seem to want — namely, stronger state interventions in the economy on behalf of socially conservative ends.

These interventions might include more aggressive versions of the pro-family tax policies championed by Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee. They might take the form of a new pro-family industrial policy of the kind Trump gestures at but hasn’t really pursued, some kind of infrastructure spending or manufacturing support that tries to revive the breadwinner wage. Or they might take the form of the kind of trustbusting culture war envisioned by Hawley, in which the new formations of woke capital, especially in Silicon Valley, get regulated in the name of both economic fairness and cultural conservatism.

Then alongside these practical power plays and policy moves, the post-fusionists want something bigger: A philosophical reconsideration of where the liberal order has ended up. How radical that reconsideration ought to be varies with the thinker.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (IV): (Atlantic) Alan Jacobs–What a Clash Between Conservatives Reveals

Why did Fish’s essay need a response? In large part because it made this argument:

If you persuade liberalism that its dismissive marginalizing of religious discourse is a violation of its own chief principle, all you will gain is the right to sit down at liberalism’s table where before you were denied an invitation; but it will still be liberalism’s table that you are sitting at, and the etiquette of the conversation will still be hers. That is, someone will now turn and ask, “Well, what does religion have to say about this question?” And when, as often will be the case, religion’s answer is doctrinaire (what else could it be?), the moderator (a title deeply revealing) will nod politely and turn to someone who is presumed to be more reasonable. To put the matter baldly, a person of religious conviction should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas but to shut it down, at least insofar as it presumes to determine matters that he believes have been determined by God and faith. The religious person should not seek an accommodation with liberalism; he should seek to rout it from the field, to extirpate it, root and branch.

This is Sohrab Ahmari’s argument, 23 years avant la lettre.

Neuhaus began his response by quoting a part of the passage I just quoted and then setting out to refute it—though not with a whole heart, because Neuhaus realized that one variety of liberalism is indeed programmatically opposed to religion. That variety contends that confidence in metaphysical claims—especially claims about what human beings are, and are for—is always dangerous because those claims are just not true. But Neuhaus saw that there was another kind of liberalism that is programmatically modest about what a whole society can claim to be true—and that kind of liberalism, he thought, was useful.

Thus, in his essay, he cites the great American Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray:

John Courtney Murray said that pluralism is written into the script of history, and I would add that it seems God did the writing. By pluralism, I mean a world in which people live by significantly different accounts of reality, including moral and religious reality, and must learn to live together.

Neuhaus thought not only that Good Liberalism is compatible with Christianity, but also that Christians, if they are properly mature, are among the best-suited to live in such an environment: “The Christian understanding of reason, faith, and how the world is created to be is the best guard against the totalitarianism, whether liberal or religious, that is invited by a monistic view of reality … This gives the Christian confidence that he can enter into conversation with the non-Christian … The Christian therefore tries in various ways to enter into the reason and language of non-Christians in order to help reorder them to truth….”

 

Ahmari thinks that “civility and decency are secondary values,” but even if that is true, they remain values, and Ahmari is not warranted in discarding them so flagrantly. Yet I am not sure that that statement is true. And here again, Neuhaus’s response to Fish is relevant: “The Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom is titled Dignitatis Humanae. Respect for the dignity of the other person created in the image of God requires that we not silence or exclude him but try to persuade him.” Even when people are wrong, he says, “we must put up with them or tolerate them or, much better, respect and love them”—not because that is a politically effective strategy, which it may or may not be, but because we are so instructed by God.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (III): (TAC) Rod Dreher–Sohrab Ahmari Vs. David French

I am not at all sure that that is a fair characterization of David French’s views, but let’s let that stand for the sake of argument. Ahmari wants a more robust, activist government, but active on the side of socially conservative goals. I can go along with that, and indeed there’s probably not much difference between how Sohrab Ahmari thinks the state should intervene, and my views. But here’s the thing: in a pluralistic democracy, if you’ve already lost the culture, how can you hope to elect a government that represents the will of the people, and that supports socially conservative policies?

I wish I saw more evidence that America is a socially conservative country. I wish I saw more evidence that we are a religiously traditional country. It’s just not true, and barring some kind of massive revival, it’s not going to be true for a long time. I am more concerned about religion and culture than politics. I believe in the Benedict Option as a practical response for traditional Christians to the crisis of our time in part because politics are so insufficient to the scope and severity of the crisis. It’s not that I am against politics; it’s that I think politics are downstream from religion and culture, and that we have to first restore a firm cultural basis for a decent politics. At this time, we are fighting (or should be fighting) with all we’ve got just to hold what ground we have.

Many conservatives I know wrongly think that the main part of the battle is political, when the truth is that the absence of moral and spiritual discipline in our own lives, and in the lives of our families and communities, is the root cause of disorder. A Christian academic friend and I were talking a while back about classical Christian education, and he lamented that most of the parents he knew from his local classical Christian school were running away from liberalism more than running towards a vision of classical virtue, Christian or otherwise. This is an important insight. Fighting political battles are necessary, but not remotely sufficient to keep the faith alive. And the faith is not just something we carry in our heads, but is a way of life. The way most of us conservative Christians live — I’m judging myself here too — can often be as much of a threat to passing on the faith to our children as attacks coming from progressives in power.

We have to fight progressivism in politics now in part to protect the institutions through which we pass on our virtues and religious beliefs to our children. But these freedoms won’t mean anything if we don’t use them.

I say all this simply to explain why I don’t have Ahmari’s faith in smashmouth right-wing politics of the Trumpian sort. David French’s fundamental decency as a man and as a Christian is not a fault, but a feature. I don’t get why his decency and honor is a liability. If we lose that for the sake of winning political battles, are we not at grave risk of having sold our souls? Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that sometimes politics may require us to do things we find distasteful (like, well, vote for Donald Trump) for the sake of the greater good. But we can’t let ourselves get to the point of despising decency as weakness — and this is where I depart most from Ahmari, who writes:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

What does this mean? The leftists that I fear most of all are those who would throw overboard any standards of decency for the sake of destroying their opponents. These are the leftists who showed themselves in the Kavanaugh hearings, and in the Covington Catholic media pogrom. I don’t believe Sohrab Ahmari is that kind of conservative, not at all, but these kinds of figures have appeared on the pro-Trump Right.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (II): (National Review) David French: What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong

“Frenchism” (is that a thing now?) contains two main components: zealous defense of the classical-liberal order (with a special emphasis on civil liberties) and zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. It’s the formulation that renders the government primarily responsible for safeguarding liberty, and the people primarily responsible for exercising that liberty for virtuous purposes. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Moreover, I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the “Lord’s servant” must be “kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.”

I’m a deeply flawed person in daily (or even hourly) need of God’s grace, so I don’t always live up to those ideals. But I see them for what they are: commands to God’s people, not tactics to try until they fail. Ahmari does not wrestle with these dictates in his essay. He should have.

It is mystifying to me that my critics seem to believe that I don’t understand the nature and intentions of the enemies of American liberalism. They think me naïve, as if I wasn’t shouted down at Harvard, as if I don’t know what it’s like to be the only social-conservative faculty member at Cornell Law School, as if I don’t speak at events from coast to coast about the immense threat to Christian liberties and livelihoods. Still, they say, I just don’t understand.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (I)–(1st Things) Sohrab Ahmari: Against David–Frenchism

The more that conservative liberals like French insist on autonomy, the more they strengthen the bullies’ position. This far with autonomy, they insist, but no farther. But why should the other side stop? Why shouldn’t this new, aggressive vision of maximal autonomy not overtake the old?

Here French and others fall back on religious liberty. French has done yeoman’s work in defense of Christians and other people of faith persecuted in America. But in the long term, religious-liberty absolutism will put Christians and other traditional believers in a bind. If the moral law is merely a matter of ancient, if sincere, conviction, then of course it must give way to the demands for autonomy of people in the here and now.

Archbishop Charles Chaput made this point in his 2017 book, Strangers in a Strange Land. If traditional moral precepts are “purely religious beliefs,” he wrote, then “they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. Thus two thousand years of moral truth and religious principle become, by sleight of hand, a species of bias.”

Again and again, French insists on the sincerity of the believers whose causes he takes up, as if asserting sincerity of belief can move the heart of an enemy who finds you and your beliefs repulsive: “The biblical sexual ethic is based on a sincere conviction. . . .” “Evidence of devout faith is frequently evidence of a sincere commitment to fairness, compassion, and the faithful discharge of one’s constitutional duties. . . .”

But they won’t listen. Tub-thump long enough about your sincere but irrational (in the eyes of the reigning ideology) views, and soon opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, polyamory, kids in drag, and much else of the same kind will come to resemble the wrongheaded and indeed irrational opposition to vaccination mounted by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York. Sorry, Pastor French, but your superstition will have to give way to public health and the smooth functioning of the autonomy-maximizing society.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) All 9 of Sri Lanka’s Muslim Ministers Resign, as Bombing Backlash Intensifies

All nine Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka’s government and two Muslim provincial governors resigned on Monday as the fragile, Buddhist-majority country grappled further with the communal backlash of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed as many as 250 people.

The resignations were in response to a hunger strike by an influential Buddhist monk, Athuraliye Rathana, who said he would fast to death unless the country’s president removed three senior Muslim officials — the two provincial governors and one of the ministers — that he accuses of having ties to the suicide bombers who targeted churches and hotels.

The eight ministers not targeted by Mr. Rathana announced their resignations in what appeared to be an act of solidarity with the three officials accused by the monk, who also serves as a member of Parliament and an adviser to the president, Maithripala Sirisena.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(NPR Codeswitch) The Ramadan Podcast Where Muslims Take It Up A Notch From ‘Islam 101’

In a media landscape that can still be pretty awful for Muslims, Tell Them, I Am, a new podcast from KPCC, aims to give Muslims a space to define their own identities outside of stereotypes and broad generalizations.

Over the course of the series, host and producer Misha Euceph interviewed 22 people, all Muslims, about the defining moments of their lives. While the show dropped episodes every weekday of Ramadan, “Tell Them, I Am” doesn’t really have anything to do with the holiday. “If somebody released something during Christmas time or during Hanukkah,” Euceph says, “they wouldn’t necessarily be asked about like, what are important aspects of Christmas or Hanukkah.”

It’s in each guest’s hands how much they want to talk about culture or religion; for some it’s a central part of their story, for others it’s mostly incidental. Tan France of Queer Eye talks about his first big “I told you so,” which involved his older brother and a metal fan. Ramy Youssef, creator of the Hulu show Ramy, talks about the medical condition that catalyzed his acting career. Alia Shawkat talks about the extremes of her stoner-y teenage rebellion, including borrowing urine to cheat a drug test (Spoiler: It didn’t work).

And every episode of the podcast offers glimpses into Euceph’s story: the fashion she endured to be more popular in middle school; the glamour she didn’t quite inherit from her mother; the drive to prove people wrong that sent her up actual mountains.

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture

(Independent) Humanist weddings rise by 266 per cent across England and Wales

They are weddings that are, officially speaking, not even legally recognised.

But such a small detail, it seems, is not stopping increasing numbers of couples from opting for humanist marriage ceremonies across England and Wales.

Such weddings have risen by more than 250 per cent in the last 15 years, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The massive rise makes it the fastest growing type of wedding in the country – and comes as the number of faith-based ceremonies fell in the same period.

While humanist weddings went up 266 per cent between 2004 and 2016, Church of England weddings fell by 28 per cent, Catholic by 34 per cent and Baptist by 42 per cent.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Guardian) All Germans urged to wear kippah in protest against antisemitism

Germans of all faiths and none are being urged to wear kippah skullcaps on Saturday as a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish community, after a steep rise in antisemitic attacks.

Protests across the country have been called by the government’s antisemitism ombudsman after he triggered a heated debate when he warned Jews last week not to wear the kippah because of the increasing likelihood of being attacked.

The German tabloid newspaper Bild has been one of the most vocal supporters of the protests, even publishing a cut-out kippah for readers to download and print.

Felix Klein, who was appointed as antisemitism ombudsman a year ago, told German media last week: “I cannot recommend that Jews wear the kippah whenever and wherever they want in Germany, and I say this with regret.”

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Nina Shea and Bob Fu–Inside China’s War on Christians

President Xi Jinping last year began enforcing religious regulations to rein in church growth and bend Christian belief to party dictates. Mr. Xi gave direct control of churches to the officially atheistic Communist Party. Some urban underground megachurches were shut down. Thousands of congregants were arrested and several prominent Protestant pastors received lengthy prison sentences. Earlier this month, the regime launched a nationwide campaign to eradicate unregistered churches.

Mr. Xi calls this policy “sinicization.” The goal is to make religions “instruments of the Party,” the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions asserts. The government confirmed this when it inadvertently posted internal documents—downloaded by ChinaAid, a nonprofit Christian human-rights organization—revealing that it intended to “contain the overheated growth of Christianity.”

Last year in Henan province, 10,000 Protestant churches were ordered shut, even though most were registered with the state. During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted and 5,000 arrested. Among them is an American permanent resident, Pastor John Sanqiang Cao, 60, who is serving seven years for “organizing illegal border crossings” to deliver aid in Myanmar.

Mr. Xi’s regulations also ban minors from entering churches and forbid Sunday schools and Bible camps. In churches, Christian symbols sometimes are being replaced with pictures of Mr. Xi. Surviving churches may substitute biblical teachings with socialist values.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture

(CT) Churches Outnumber Pubs in the UK

The three biggest UK denominations—Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Presbyterians—are all declining quite quickly. Overall, their numbers have gone down 16 percent in just the last five years, Presbyterians the fastest (down 19%). Two other major groups are also declining, Baptists and Methodists, but they are much smaller in size.

The three major denominations form 60 percent of church members, and the smaller two another 16 percent. The remaining members often belong to the types of churches that are seeing the most growth right now—many of which have a Pentecostal bent, ranging from immigrant-founded denominations to Hillsong campuses.

Their increase, although significant, is unfortunately not enough to compensate for the drop among the bigger churches, but has moderated the overall decline. I’ll share below which kinds of churches are growing the fastest amid demographic shifts in the UK.

London is the epicenter for growing churches. Between 2005 and 2012, overall church attendance (not membership) in London went from 620,000 people to 720,000, a 16 percent increase. The number of churches increased by two a week, from 4,100 to 4,800. During this time, the city welcomed immigrants both from Europe and the rest of the world, its population growing from 7 million to 8 million in 10 years.

Many of those newcomers were Christians and sought a church that spoke their language.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture

(BBC) The prosperity gospel preachers getting rich from poor Americans and the Christians trying to thwart their efforts

Televangelists are not as talked about today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when many rose to fame and fortune through mushrooming cable channels.

But they have never gone away. Even after numerous press exposés, the rogue elements have often bounced back. Some have got even richer. Many have taken their appeals on to social media.

A number of those making the most persistent pleas for money tap into something called the prosperity gospel, which hinges on a belief that your health and wealth are controlled by God, and God is willing you to be prosperous. Believers are encouraged to show their faith through payments, which they understand will be repaid – many times over – either in the form of wealth or healing.

For followers, it is a way to make sense of sickness and poverty. It can feel empowering and inspiring amid despair. The hard-up donors are often not oblivious to the preachers’ personal wealth – though they may not know the extent of it – but they take the riches as a sign of a direct connection with God. If seed payments have worked for them, maybe they can work for you too?

And if the seeds never flourish? Some are told their faith is not strong enough, or they have hidden sin. In Larry’s case, he often interpreted small pieces of good fortune – a gift of groceries from a neighbour, or the promise of a few extra hours of work for his wife, Darcy – as evidence of fruition.

He estimates he gave about $20,000 to these operators over the years. A little here, a little there. A few years ago, he started tallying it all up.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Theology

([London] Times) Say a little prayer for me: Alexa app helps users to connect with God

In centuries past people went to priests and prophets with questions about the Almighty. Now Christians and the curious are “connecting with God” through Amazon’s Alexa.

Tens of thousands have interacted with the Church of England through the digital assistant since the launch of its own voice-controlled app, or Alexa “skill”, a year ago.

Some 9.5 million Britons use smartspeakers such as Amazon’s Echo to answer questions and control devices and the church said that more than 75,000 engaged with its new service.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CWR) A story of one Anglican community finding a home in the Roman Catholic Church

When Father Christopher Pearson and some of his flock at St. Agnes Church in Kennington, South London, made the decision to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, they had to leave quite a lot behind. A church they loved, with its own particular story—destroyed by bombing in World War II and then rebuilt—and a comfortable role in the local community. The congregation and its networks of friends had a strong sense of belonging. No Remembrance Sunday was complete without Father Christopher in cope and cassock arriving the take the traditional service at the local War Memorial. The church’s annual round of celebrations and processions was well known and appreciated locally.

Leaving all of this was not easy—but the call of Peter was not one that they felt, in conscience, could be resisted. When Benedict XVI issued the invitation, in Anglicanorum Coetibus, to “groups of Anglicans” to join the Catholic Church, Father Christopher invited members of his flock to join him on Sunday following the main service, to pray and ponder.

The result was a decision to follow Peter—which meant, in effect, leaving everything that had become comfortable and venturing ahead in faith. Father Christopher became a Catholic layman—entering the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham carried no guarantee of ordination, but only meant that he could submit an application and apply for training and ordination. The “South London Ordinariate group”—as he and his flock became known—met each Sunday at a local Catholic church for Mass, and during the week for instruction. Good humour and a sense of sharing this whole venture together meant that they simply took things stage by stage.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A New Benjamin Kwashi Biography released for your reading list consideration

Herewith the blurb form the publishers website:

In the warzone that Nigeria has become, Archbishop Ben Kwashi has survived three assassination attempts. A brutal assault on his wife, Gloria, drove him to his knees – to forgive and find the strength to press on. Islamist militants have Nigeria in their sights. These are the terrorists who kidnapped hundreds of Christian schoolgirls – who have vowed to turn Africa’s most populous nation into a hard-line Islamic state. Their plan is to drive the Christian minority from the north by kidnapping, bombing and attacking churches. Plateau State is on the frontline. But holding that line against Boko Haram, and standing firm for the Gospel, is Ben Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos. In Jos, churches have been turned into fortresses and Archbishop Ben now conducts more funerals than weddings and baptisms put together. Yet his faith grows ever more vibrant. He has adopted scores of orphans who live in his home, including many who are HIV positive. And the challenge of his message – to live for the Gospel even in the face of terror – has never been so timely.

Posted in Children, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(CT) Mark Galli–The Heart of the Evangelical Crisis–It’s more fundamental than we’ve been led to believe

I was skeptical at the time [Michael Spencer]…wrote this, and said so in print. But today I admit that Spencer was more right than he was wrong. Recent events and surveys bear out many of his predictions. We truly are in a moment of crisis in the American evangelicalism.

To be clear, I have no money in this game, meaning it doesn’t matter to me if, as many predict, the movement known as American evangelicalism fades away with the sunset. God has raised up many reform movements since the day of Pentecost, and has seen many die—some of which I suspect he has killed off. If evangelicalism fades away, he will in his mercy raise up another movement that will revive his people. The future of the church in America does not hinge on the health of evangelicalism; it hinges on the power of God. I’d say we’re in good hands.

That being said, American evangelicalism has had a unique beginning, one that energized it and carried it along for two centuries and more. And it has been one of the most revolutionary movements in church history, changing the face not only of North American Christianity, but with the 19th century missionary movement, the entire globe. This history has many troubling elements, as many have pointed out. This is not surprising, because it is a movement full of sinners. But God has been good and has nonetheless used it to enable people from all walks of life and every corner of the world to know the unsurpassable grace of Jesus Christ.

Still, contemporary evangelicalism is in serious trouble. Actually, its crisis is the same one that afflicts all Christianity in America. At the risk of hubris, and the risk of merely adding one more item to the seemingly endless list of crises, I believe that the crisis lies at the heart of what ails large swaths of the American church. Alexander Solzhenitsyn named it in his speech upon receiving the Templeton Prize in Religion in 1968. He was talking about Western culture when he used it. I apply it to the American church, evangelical and not:

We have forgotten God.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) David Molton–My Jewish Family’s American Life Almost Wasn’t–They were turned away 80 years ago but made their way to the U.S. eventually

Left alone with three children, my grandmother formed a plan to reunite the family. She spent much of her dwindling savings on a voyage to Cuba aboard the St. Louis. The ship was filled with hundreds of Jews with similar stories. In what should have served as a warning of trouble ahead, the passengers were required to purchase return tickets.

As the ship neared Havana in May 1939, the Cuban government announced it wouldn’t honor the Cuban landing permits sold to passengers by a corrupt Cuban minister. Most passengers weren’t concerned, since they held immigration quota numbers committing the U.S. to grant them entry when their turn came over the next few years. They assumed Washington would move up the timetable and let them enter right away.

Yet the St. Louis was anchored in Havana harbor from May 27 to June 2. A representative from the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief group, negotiated with the Cuban government to allow the passengers to disembark. Dinghies carried separated family members, including my grandfather, for temporary reunions. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remained silent, and the negotiations failed.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Cuba, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Germany, Immigration, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Bishop of Bristol speaks of being ‘silenced’ by ‘tribalism’ in Gloucester Diocese in the 1990s

THE Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, has said that she was “silenced and marginalised” while she was a deacon in Gloucester diocese in the 1990s by the same “tribalism and clericalism” identified by the official abuse inquiry in its latest report.

Bishop Faull was one of a handful of bishops to respond individually to the scathing conclusions published in the latest Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) report, Anglican Church Case Studies: The diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball (News, 17 May).

In both the diocese of Chichester and the wider Church, it states: “The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and a failure to take professional advice.”

This included the Church’s “unwavering support of Peter Ball” — the disgraced former bishop and convicted abuser — during the Gloucestershire Police investigation (allegations about Ball came to light when he was translated from Lewes to Gloucester), and its failure to “recognise or acknowledge the seriousness” of Ball’s misconduct.

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

(Atlantic) The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East

The call came in 2014, shortly after Easter. Four years earlier, Catrin Almako’s family had applied for special visas to the United States. Catrin’s husband, Evan, had cut hair for the U.S. military during the early years of its occupation of Iraq. Now a staffer from the International Organization for Migration was on the phone. “Are you ready?” he asked. The family had been assigned a departure date just a few weeks away.

“I was so confused,” Catrin told me recently. During the years they had waited for their visas, Catrin and Evan had debated whether they actually wanted to leave Iraq. Both of them had grown up in Karamles, a small town in the historic heart of Iraqi Christianity, the Nineveh Plain. Evan owned a barbershop near a church. Catrin loved her kitchen, where she spent her days making pastries filled with nuts and dates. Their families lived there: her five siblings and aging parents, his two brothers.

But they also lived amid constant danger. “Everybody who was working with the United States military—they get killed,” Catrin said. Evan had been injured by an explosion near a U.S. Army base in Mosul in 2004. Catrin worried about him driving back and forth to the base along highways that cross some of the most contested land in Iraq. Even after he stopped working for the military, they feared he might be a victim of violence. That fear was compounded by their faith: During the war years, insurgents consistently targeted Christian towns and churches in a campaign of terror.

The Almakos had watched neighbors and friends wrestle with the same question: stay, or go? Now more and more Christians in the region were deciding to leave. The graph of the religion’s decline in the Middle East has in recent years transformed from a steady downward slope into a cliff. The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(AP) Washington is 1st state to allow composting of human bodies

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.

It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks.

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

“It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Secularism

A NYT Review of Jennifer Berry Hawes’ New Book on the Charleston 9 and the Mother Emmanuel Massacre

Hawes is a poised writer and a patient observer who trains her focus on the present. She gestures briefly to Charleston’s role as the epicenter of the nation’s slave trade (“as the Civil War approached almost three in four white families here had owned slaves”) and the long history of attacks on black churches, including Emanuel, which was first burned to the ground in 1822. Her primary interest is in the lives of the survivors and the families of the victims, “the people who will live this story forever.”

For most, trauma begat trauma: health problems, even sudden deaths. One widower lost 60 pounds and became unable to return to work. Bitter divisions flared. Eleven months after the shooting, Sharon Risher and Nadine Collier, two daughters of Ethel Lance, one of Roof’s victims, couldn’t even agree on a headstone for their mother. When Risher finally had one erected over the grave, Collier installed her own version directly in front of it. At one point, according to the author, Risher felt it was more likely that she might forgive Dylann Roof than her sister.

Even those who fought to return to some semblance of normalcy found that their lives had become uncomfortably public. Private people felt forced into activism and advocacy even as the shootings had left them adrift — and they felt spiritually abandoned by their church (which itself became mired in controversy after donations went missing).

Roof remains a shadowy figure in the narrative (see the journalist and critic Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s Pulitzer Prize-winning profile for a more detailed look at his life and radicalization). He is not even named at first, referred to only as “a young white man, lean of frame…”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Violence

(Ely Standard) Science festival at Ely Cathedral – a ‘seamless mix of reverence and awe’ celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing

Launch night for the Ely Cathedral science festival began with choral evensong that included the first performance of the anthem ‘The Ordinances of Heaven’, a piece commissioned especially for the festival.

It has been written by Tim Watts, artist-in-residence at the Institute of Astronomy and a fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge, set to the words from the Book of Job.

Once over the choristers were among those cheerfully and gleefully enjoying the delights of the science festival.

Not only is there plenty to see and to do but exhibitors actively encourage audience participation – such as discovering, for scientific purposes, who can refrain from blinking the longest.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), History, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Premier) Durham church criticised for offering to cover crosses and host Muslim prayers

A Darlington church is coming under fire after offering to cover up crosses and allow Muslims to say prayers in its building.

St Matthew and St Luke’s had initially invited members of the Muslim community for an event next month to mark Ramadan.

It also offered different rooms to allow segregated worship for men and women.

Upon hearing about the event the Diocese of Durham intervened and told the church it must not hold Islamic prayers in the church building.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer