Category : Europe

(NPR) Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey

In a hotel conference room in Denizli, Turkey, about 60 Iranians sing along to songs praising Jesus mixed with Iranian pop music. When the music stops, American pastor Karl Vickery preaches with the help of a Persian translator.

“I’m not famous or rich. But I know Jesus. I have Jesus,” he says, with a Southern drawl. The Farsi-speaking Christian converts shout “Hallelujah!” and clap.

Vickery, who’s part of a visiting delegation from Beaumont, Texas, then offers to pray for each person in the room.

Women with hair dyed blond and short skirts and clean-shaven men in slacks stand up to pray in unison. Vickery puts his hand on one woman’s head and speaks in tongues. One man closes his eyes as tears fall. Another woman raises her hand and shouts “Isa,” Jesus’ name in Arabic and Persian. The room smells of sweat.

Among the parishioners are Farzana, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Tehran, and her daughter Andya, 3, who runs around, taking photos with her mother’s cellphone.

“It feels good. Our relationship to God becomes closer,” Farzana says. She doesn’t want to give her last name because she says her family in Iran might face persecution for her conversion. Her family knows she is a convert and they’re scared for their own safety inside Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Immigration, Iran, Religion & Culture, Turkey

(FT) Holocaust survivor Charlotte Knobloch on the rise of anti-Semitism and rebuilding Jewish life

[Charlotte] Knobloch is right to worry about time. Even the most cursory examination of her life would require days, not hours. Born in 1932, the year before the Nazis took power, she witnessed the pogroms of November 1938, and went on to survive — miraculously — the regime’s systematic attempt to murder the Jews of Europe, by hiding in a German village and pretending to be Christian.

While initially after the war she was determined to leave the land of the perpetrators, she stayed in Munich, raised a family, joined the board of the local Jewish community, and embarked on a late career of advocacy culminating in a stint as president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. Above all, she became a builder: the cluster of constructions that grace the Jakobsplatz today are to a large extent the fruit of her vision.

“Sometimes I catch myself thinking this cannot be true. Every day, when I arrive here, I draw such happiness from seeing the synagogue, and the museum and the community centre,” she tells me as she spoons up her eggs. “What is amazing is not just that we have this, but that it has become so accepted. When the tourist buses stop here, I often hear the Munich guide say: ‘And here you can see our synagogue.’ I cannot imagine anything more beautiful.”

For Knobloch and many others, the decision to build a new temple in the city where Hitler plotted his rise to power was deeply significant. It was, she tells me, the moment she decided to “unpack her suitcase” — to finally admit to herself she had made Munich her home, despite the past.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(FT) Anti-Semitism prompts 40% of European Jews to consider emigration

Close to 40 per cent of European Jews have considered leaving their home countries over the past five years because of rising anti-Semitism, according to a poll released on Monday. Of those who said they had considered emigration, two-thirds said they had considered moving to Israel. One in 10 had considered the US and another tenth had considered a move to a different EU country. The survey, which was conducted by the EU agency for fundamental rights (FRA), highlights growing concern among Jewish communities in Europe, with almost 90 per cent of respondents saying that anti-Semitism has increased since 2013.  The Jewish community in France — which has suffered a number of high-profile deadly attacks in recent years — appears to have been especially shaken: almost 80 per cent of French Jews told pollsters that anti-Semitism in the country had “increased a lot”, the highest proportion in Europe. But there was also a marked deterioration in Germany, where 44 per cent of Jews said they had thought about emigrating, up from 25 per cent five years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(CJ) Daniel Mahoney–Solzhenitsyn: A Centennial Tribute

Solzhenitsyn, denounced by some as a supporter of messianic nationalism (something he always repudiated, even when it manifested itself in a great writer like Dostoevsky), also provided an enduring model of constructive patriotism. He loved Russia profoundly but refused to identify his wounded nation with a Soviet despotism that stood for religious repression, collective farm slavery, and the elimination of political liberty and a tradition of literary reflection that spoke to the health of Russia and the permanent needs of the soul. He wanted Russia to abandon destructive dreams of empire and turn inward, but without forgetting the sorry fate of the 25 million Russians left in the “near abroad” after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In 1998’s Russia in Collapse, he forcefully attacked “radical nationalism…the elevation of one’s nationality above our higher spiritual plank, above our humble stance before heaven.” And he never ceased castigating so-called Russian nationalists, who preferred “a small-minded alliance with [Russia’s] destroyers” (the Communists or Bolsheviks). He loved his country but loved truth and justice more. But as Solzhenitsyn stated with great eloquence in the Nobel Lecture, “nations are the wealth of mankind, its generalized personalities.” He did not support the leveling of nations in the name of cosmopolitanism or of a pagan nationalism that forgot that all nations remain under the judgment of God and the moral law. In this regard, Solzhenitsyn combines patriotism with moderation or self-limitation. One does not learn from Solzhenitsyn to hate other peoples, or to deny each nation’s right to its special path, one that respects common morality and elementary human decency.

How one evaluates Solzhenitsyn tells us much about how one ultimately understands human liberty: Is it rooted in the gift of free will bestowed by a just, loving, and Providential God? Or is it rooted in an irreligious humanism, which all too often leads to human self-enslavement, as we saw with the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century? Solzhenitsyn’s reasonable choice for “Liberty under God” has nothing to do with mysticism, authoritarianism, or some illiberal theocratic impulse. Those who attribute these positions to Solzhenitsyn cannot provide a single sentence to support such misrepresentations.

Solzhenitsyn spoke in the name of an older Western and Christian civilization, still connected to the “deep reserves of mercy and sacrifice” at the heart of ordered liberty. It is a mark of the erosion of that rich tradition that its voice is so hard to hear in our late modern world, more—and more single-mindedly—devoted to what Solzhenitsyn called “anthropocentricity,” an incoherent and self-destructive atheistic humanism. Solzhenitsyn asks no special privileges for biblical religion (and classical philosophy), just a place at the table and a serious consideration within our souls.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Politics in General, Russia, Theology

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full speech in last week’s Lords debate on the Brexit deal

What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path. For although a Remainer, like the noble Lord, Lord Hope, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented, and the shape of which is now in the hands of parliament and particularly of the other place.

With that responsibility there is a moral agency and moral choice, and it is that that should guide our votes.

It must reflect a genuinely hopeful vision for our nation and its place, because there is a hope and global influence, a vision of that, to be grasped in this country with proper leadership.

Second, whichever way we go there is a requirement for national reconciliation, for restating what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, calls core values of civilised discourse, and for ensuring they are lived out.

The negative impact of the previous referendum is why I see another one as a possible but not immediately preferable choice, and then only if parliament has failed in its responsibilities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General

(PRC) How do European countries differ in religious commitment? Use our interactive map to find out

Europeans generally are less religious than people in other parts of the world. But within Europe, there are sometimes sizable differences in levels of religious commitment, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys in 34 countries.

To learn more about religion in the nations of Europe, select a country to see where it ranks in overall religiosity. While exploring the interactive, keep in mind that differences between two countries may not be statistically significant due to the margins of error inherent in survey data.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Religion & Culture

(The Mod) Sex, Art and God: Carl Trueman Talks With Camille Paglia

Why do you as an atheist think that the God of the Bible offers a more realistic approach to reality than post-structuralism? 

Camille Paglia:Post-structuralism is a cynical, reductive, and monotonously simplistic methodology that arose from the devastated landscape of twentieth-century Europe, torn by two colossal world wars.  It has nothing whatever to do with American culture, American imagination, or American achievement in literature, art, music, and film.  The trendy professors who imported post-structuralist jargon into U.S. academe were fools and frauds, and they deserve to be unmasked and condemned for their destruction of the humanities.

The worship of Michel Foucault (called “Saint Foucault” in the title of one sycophantish book) has been the worst kind of idolatry, elevating a derivative writer of limited historical knowledge to godlike status.  Foucault borrowed from a host of prior writers, from Emile Durkheim and Max Weber to the great Canadian-American sociologist, Erving Goffman (a major influence on my work).  For three decades, young professors have been forced to nervously pay homage to Foucault’s name, as if he were the Messiah.  Elite academe likes to insult religion and religious belief—except when it comes to the sacred names of post-structuralism, before whom all are expected to kneel.

I am an atheist who takes religion very seriously and who believes (as I argue in Provocations) that the study of world religions should become the core curriculum of global education.  I call comparative religion the true multiculturalism.  Who is better prepared for life and its inevitable shocks and losses:  the faddish Foucault acolyte or the devout Jew or Christian?  The Bible is a masterpiece of world literature, an archive of Hebrew poetry of the very highest level.  Its hero sagas have saturated Western literature and flowered in epic Hollywood movies still broadcast at every holiday.  The parables of Jesus (with their vivid metaphors drawn from everyday life) strike to the core of human experience.

As I have repeatedly insisted, Marxism, of which post-structuralism is a derivative, has no metaphysics.  It sees nothing bigger than society, which constitutes only a tiny portion of the universe.  Marxism does not perceive nature, nor can it grasp the profound and enduring themes of major literature, including time and fate.  Marxist social analysis is a useful modern tool that all scholars should certainly know (Arnold Hauser’s 1951 Marxist epic, The Social History of Art, had a huge impact on me in graduate school).  However, in its indifference to the spiritual, Marxism is hopelessly inadequate as a description of human life and its possibilities.  By externalizing and projecting evil into unjust social structures and prophesying a paradise-like utopia via apocalyptic revolution, Marxism evades the central issue that both religion and great art boldly confront:  evil is rooted in the human heart.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Philosophy, Theology

(Yorkshire Post) The Archbishop of York: I voted Remain, but now I’ll be backing the Brexit deal and here’s why

The “Brexit deal”, negotiated by Her Majesty’s Government and agreed by the Cabinet, is a government deal and not Theresa May’s deal. She may have secured it, but it is now a deal the Government is putting before Parliament and the people of our four nations. Having read the document and gone through it with a fine-tooth comb, I have come to the conclusion after much thought and prayer, I will walk in the content lobby in the House of Lords. One of the enduring British characteristics, nurtured and honed by the Christian ethic in its application to human responsibility, accountability and the ever changing challenges, is that of tenacity. Like a Yorkshire terrier never letting go and doing so only in order to get a firmer grip, we should stick to the rule book when we disagree with others’ decisions and interpretations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Metro UK) Belgian Doctors face possible jail after ‘diagnosing woman with autism so she could get lethal injection’

Three doctors will face a criminal trial in Belgium accused of certifying a woman as autistic so she could die by euthanasia.

Tina Nys died after claiming to be autistic to two doctors and a psychiatrist. She was euthanised after telling officials her suffering was ‘unbearable and incurable’, however her sisters have said that her suffering was caused by a broken heart, not autism.

In the first such case since it was decriminalised in 2002, the officials face trial accused of failing to comply with the legal conditions for euthanasia. Ms Nys’s sisters have accused the doctors of making a rushed decision without treating her for autism.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics

Richard Mouw on the Lordship of Christ

Recently someone asked me what Christian thinker had most influenced my social-political thinking. I did not hesitate for a moment in coming up with the answer; Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper, who lived from 1837 to 1920, founded a Christian political party, and he even served as prime minister of the Netherlands during the early years of the twentieth century….

[Kuyper believed passionately that Jesus was king over all.] He insisted that God wants Christians to be active in showing forth the divine rule. Jesus is king, we are his subjects. This means that we must try to be obedient to the reign of Jesus in all areas of our lives:family relationships, friendships, business, politics, leisure time, art, science, farming. In whatever we do, we must seek to glorify God.

My favorite Abraham Kuyper quotation comes from a speech that he once gave before a university audience in Amsterdam. He was arguing that scholarship is an important form of Christian discipleship. Since scholarship deals with God’s world, it has to be done in such a way that it honors Christ. Kuyper concluded with this ringing proclamation: “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!'”

This strong sense of Christ’s cosmic Lordship is thoroughly biblical.’For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him’ (Col 1:16 NIV). To emphasize Jesus’ Lordship this way is very important for a healthier understanding of what we have come to think of as “the ministries of the laity.” The home, the brokerage firm, the auto dealership, the gym and the concert hall–all belong to Christ. Our work in these settings is as much Christian ministry as anything that goes on in a church building.

When Kuyper pictured Jesus as crying out that everything belongs to him, he was not suggesting that the Lord is a self-centered property owner. Jesus isn’t like a toddler who screeches “Mine!” as he yanks toys away from his playmates. Kuyper knew that for Jesus ‘This is mine’ expresses a love so deep that he was willing to suffer and die in order to rescue his creation from sin.

–Richard Mouw, Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World (Downer’s Grove, Ill. Inter-Varsity, 2010 2nd ed), pp. 160-161; and quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Books, Christology, The Netherlands

(Economist Erasmus Blog) The Greek Orthodox Church faces a battle over secularisation

Theresa May is not the only public figure in Europe who is making a rearguard defence of a “historic” agreement about an ultra-sensitive matter that was struck behind closed doors and may not survive open debate among the interested parties.

Earlier this month it was reported that a landmark accord had been reached to secularise the most theocratically governed democracy in Europe, Greece. The bargain was sealed on November 6th between the country’s leftist and atheist (though not especially anti-religious) prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the head of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Ieronymos. Today the archbishop was struggling to defend the accord before the bishops who make up his Holy Synod. It has been billed as the hardest moment in the 80-year-old cleric’s ten-year reign, and even a turning point in the 200-year history of the Greek state.

The deal is certainly an intriguing piece of political gamesmanship. One provision dominated the headlines: the country’s 10,000 or so priests would no longer be considered civil servants, with all the job security and pension rights that go with that status. Instead the state would pay the church an annual subsidy of €200m ($230m) a year, a sum that would not be affected by any change in the number of clerics. Over time, the need for such a subsidy would diminish. In what was described as a win-win arrangement, a large portfolio of properties, ranging from land to urban real estate, whose ownership had been disputed between church and state since the 1950s would be jointly managed for the benefit of both parties.

Read it all.

Posted in Greece, Orthodox Church

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Elizabeth of Hungary

Almighty God, by whose grace thy servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Hungary, Spirituality/Prayer

(Church Times) Find a way for the UK and EU to coexist, Archbp Welby and Bishop Bedford-Strohm tell politicians

In a joint statement issued by Lambeth Palace on Friday morning, Archbishop Welby and Dr Bedford-Strohm said: “European relationships are changing, not least as a result of Brexit. We do not know what will happen and what the relationship between the UK and EU will look like after 29 March 2019. However, what we do know is that the relationship between the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland goes back over many centuries — long before the European Union.

“As churches, we urgently appeal to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU. United in Christ we are drawn together in hope, faith and love, and those things which divide us are of much lesser importance.”

Last week, during a Q&A at Great Yarmouth Minster, the Archbishop said that there was “no necessary defeatism, no necessary outcome either to staying in Europe or leaving. . . The big problems in our society of inequality, of unfairness, of the abandonment of an understanding of a moral and ethical framework which helps us choose how to treat people — that is the thing that will decide our future. . . Being in Europe or being out is obviously important, but there is as much hope out as in or in as out.’’

Read it all and the full joint statement may be found there.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(NYT) At Brexit Crunch Time, Theresa May Takes a Pummeling

Theresa May rose to her feet before the British House of Commons on Thursday to make the sales pitch of her life, promising that the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union would be “smooth and orderly.”

It was not supposed to be a laugh line.

But the members of Parliament laughed out loud at Mrs. May. They laughed uproariously, and for long enough that she had to pause, eyes flickering over her papers, and wait for them to stop, so she could continue.

Over the past two and a half years as prime minister, Mrs. May, 62, has plenty of experience being derided and conspired against. On Thursday, the day she publicly presented her long-awaited, 585-page deal to withdraw from the bloc, or Brexit, she took such a pummeling that her survival as prime minister was in question….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer