Category : * Religion News & Commentary

News and commentary from / about other (non-Anglican) Christian churches and denominations

(Spectator) Chris Wright–John Stott: the centenary of a true radical

But such evangelicals, a fraction of the global majority, are not typical. Most evangelicals are more aligned with the faith modelled by John Stott, which had nothing to do with ethnic or political allegiance but simply a personal devotion to Jesus Christ as saviour and Lord, belief in the trustworthiness of the Bible, and a commitment to live out their faith in daily practice.

Decade after decade, Stott travelled around the globe, speaking and teaching at conferences, building friendships among church leaders in the majority world, and mentoring young men and women by his own example of humility, integrity, and servanthood. Together with Billy Graham, he launched the Lausanne Movement in 1974 which, in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance, holds evangelicals to the historical legacy of Wesley, Wilberforce, and Shaftesbury – integrating their evangelistic message and mission with social action in combatting the evils of poverty, injustice, racism and slavery.

As an Anglican clergyman who stayed rooted in his own local parish for 50 years, he had a profound love for the Church of England and the rapidly growing Anglican churches in other continents, especially in Africa. He founded and inspired the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC), a global network to encourage faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching and moral standards. But his vision also embraced all denominations of the global church – he founded the Langham Partnership to resource churches worldwide with enhanced theological scholarship, quality literature in local languages and cultures, and training in biblical preaching.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Steve Bruce’s new book ‘British Gods: Religion in Modern Britain’

Steve Bruce, Professor of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen, is a leading proponent of the secularisation thesis. Religion has been in decline in Britain for 150 years, he argues, and there is little reason to think this process is going to be halted. Religious believers will not find his new book a comforting read but it does have lessons to teach us. Members of the Church of England concerned with evangelism and church growth would do well to read it.

Bruce is adept at dismissing those who have argued in defence of the persistence of religion. Grace Davie has spoken of vicarious religion in which a small proportion of the population are seen as carrying out religious activities on behalf of a larger number of people who are not directly involved. The role clergy often play when disaster strikes could be seen as an example of vicarious religion but Bruce argues clergy are candidates to act as honest brokers because they no longer have religious significance. ‘Like eunuchs working in a harem,’ he writes, ‘the clergy are invited to play significant social roles because they are impotent’.

For many Christians the charismatic movement is an important sign of renewal. Bruce argues this has not brought many new members into the churches. Most of those who have been at attracted were already Christian. Only 1 per cent of those who attend Alpha courses have not at some time been regular church goers. Bruce sees dangers for Christianity in the way the charismatic movement prefers feelings over doctrine and moves away from a distinctive culture of church architecture, liturgy, dress, ritual and hymns. In some ways it represents a secularisation of Christianity. Examining New Age beliefs and practices Bruce, correctly argues, they are not widespread enough to take the place of Christianity.

When it comes to new African or West Indian churches, Bruce maintains that their language and style is too alien to enable them to be effective carriers of the gospel to the white, British population. He may have a point here but he is mistaken in arguing that church growth in London is only fuelled by the immigration. The Diocese of London has seen significant growth and John Wolfe has analysed why this has happened. David Goodhew has also written of growing churches in London and elsewhere but Bruce nowhere refers to his work.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) Building a Mosque in France, Never Easy, May Get Even Harder

As the temperature hovered around freezing, hundreds of men trickled into a former slaughterhouse on a recent Friday. In the overflow crowd outside, scores more unfurled their prayer mats on the asphalt as the imam’s voice intoned through loudspeakers.

The old slaughterhouse has served as a temporary mosque for the past 21 years for many Muslims in Angers, a city in western France. Construction on a permanent home has stalled since last fall when the City Council unanimously rejected a proposal by Muslim leaders to hand ownership of their unfinished mosque to the government of Morocco in return for its completion. Local members, after donating more than $2.8 million, were tapped out.

Building a mosque in France is a tortuous endeavor at the best of times. Members tend to be poorer than other French people. Turning to foreign donors raises a host of concerns — both inside and outside Muslim communities — that are coming under intensifying scrutiny with President Emmanuel Macron’s new law against Islamism, which is expected to get final approval in the Senate in coming weeks.

Complicating matters for Muslims has been France’s principle of secularism, called laïcité, which established a firewall between state and church. While the government regards itself as strictly neutral before all faiths, the law effectively made the state the biggest landlord of Roman Catholic churches in France and the guardian of cultural Roman Catholicism.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Wednesday Food for Thought–Rabbi Sacks on Time

Posted in Judaism, Theology

([London] Times) China is guilty of genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, says US report

The state department report included new details about China’s use of forced labour in Xinjiang, the source of a growing trade dispute with the West over the past year. The report noted Xinjiang government documents had revealed a large-scale government plan, known as the “mutual pairing assistance” programme, where 19 cities and provinces, mostly in eastern China, have established factories in Xinjiang and were using forced labour.

It said the labour was provided by detainees in the internment camps who were subjected to forced labour in the factories “producing garments, hair accessories, and electronics and in agricultural production, notably picking and processing cotton and tomatoes”.

The report said there was credible evidence of the forced transfer of Uighur detainees to work in technology, clothing, and automotive factories and in the production of personal protective equipment. It noted reports that transfer schemes led to forced labour of nearly half a million people in the Xinjiang cotton harvest.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(GR) Richard Ostling–Inspiring feature idea on Christianity near Holy Week sent aloft by (what are the odds?) producers at MSNBC

This got The Guy to thinking about how much we’re missing on TV and religion. Leave aside fictional entertainment, which when religion turns up in the plot too often causes anybody who knows anything about religion to cringe. And let’s not get into the fare transmitted by paid-time preachers.

Eastertide or Christmas may bring seasonal documentaries, often over the years sensationalized attempts to debunk the church or the Bible. David Gibson’s 2015 archaeology series on CNN, “Finding Jesus,” was an exception.

But what about intelligent treatment throughout the year of news and ideas in the world of religion, which interests masses of today’s viewers just as it has gripped imaginations across human history?

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2021 Ecumenical Easter Letter

Across the world we look towards the promise of the vaccine, and rebuilding society after the tumult of the last year. We take our places as salt and light in the world, remembering that, as Christians, we are called to keep our eyes fixed not on ‘normal’ life, but on the eternal life Jesus promises us in His Kingdom. That is our ultimate hope and our salvation. May we find comfort and hope in the God who died for us, and may we proclaim His name in the confidence that He is risen indeed.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Ecumenical Relations, Holy Week

(WSJ) What Do Dogs Really Think? Pet Psychics Are Standing By

Once or twice a year, Terri O’Hara visits a ranch in Littleton, Colo., to talk with the animals.

Ms. O’Hara strolls through the barn, mingles with the herd and sits down with the poultry. She says she drinks in telepathic images that reveal animals’ inner thoughts, be they profound or mundane.

On a typical visit, Ms. O’Hara will report that a gelding is concerned that human staff members get dangerously underfoot around the feeding stations. The miniature steer is miffed that the male pig has a female companion and he doesn’t. The alpacas divulge that cliques are forming among the volunteer ranch hands. The hens complain that the rooster is abusive.

Ranch owner Bernadette Spillane takes these reports into account when managing the 53-acre property. The ranch is a sanctuary for rescued horses, and Ms. Spillane says they line up to unburden themselves on Ms. O’Hara’s visits. “There were horses we didn’t realize were having an issue,” says Ms. Spillane, 65 years old. “Or they knew other horses were having an issue, and they wanted to talk about it.”

In humans’ long quest to communicate with their beloved pets, some are casting doubts aside and turning to animal communicators—sometimes called pet psychics—to try to learn what’s on Fido’s mind.

“Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not real,” says former Manhattan restaurateur Alex von Bidder, whose daughter brought an animal communicator to her horse farm in Aiken, S.C.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Animals, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

([London] Times) New Yorkers sweep away bad vibes at home with a spiritual spring clean

As a spiritual guru chants in my bathroom and sprays holy water into the lavatory, I awkwardly loiter in the hallway. In small apartments with no attics or basements “nonphysical beings” can often lurk in the bathrooms, warns Sondra Shaye.

I am witnessing a so-called space clearing in which Shaye removes all the negative vibes from my flat before channelling in a “divine, blessed, sacred energy”.

After a year of being largely trapped indoors by the pandemic, hiring a healer to give your home a spiritual spring clean is increasingly popular, according to my bohemian friends and wealthy acquaintances in New York.

The couple who shelled out $51 million to buy the paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion have ordered “a full makeover – physically and spiritually”, reported the New York Times last week.

I first came across the concept of space clearing in New Yorkers, a new book by Craig Taylor,,,,

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

Charles Henry Brent for his Feast Day–Time Magazine’s Cover Story on him, August 29, 1927

In the past few weeks, the Christians of the world have been holding their first major conference in some 500 years for the specific purpose of seeing what can be done about unifying Christianity as the sum of its world-wide parts.

Preparation. Today the parts (denominations) number 200-odd, all of them organized as distinct entities. The practical necessity of relating so many parts, of discovering identity among so many entities, was established by the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. The logical necessity was established later the same year, at a convention of the Episcopal Church in Cincinnati. The man who then proposed a world conference on Faith & Order lived to see such a conference actually held, after 17 years of preparation, and to preside over it as chairman, at Lausanne, Switzerland, the past three weeks.

Chairman Brent. This man was Bishop Charles Henry Brent of the Episcopal diocese of Western New York. Canadian-born and educated, naturalized in the U. S., an obscure worker in the awkward robes of the Cowley Fathers among the poor of Boston, later (under Bishop Phillips Brooks) an Episcopal rector who was made a missionary bishop and sent to the Philippines because of his earnest simplicity, rugged strength and adaptability among people of other races, it was Bishop Brent who confirmed General Pershing in the Philippines and subsequently became Chaplain-in-Chief of the A. E. F.

First in war, first in peace, Bishop Brent had had experience in handling international conferences, as president of opium parleys at Shanghai (1909) and The Hague (1911). He declined the bishoprics of Washington, D. C., and New Jersey, to preserve for his world ministry the freedom of action he enjoys at Buffalo, N. Y. When his world ministry reached its peak this month, he was not content merely to preside over the hundreds of churchmen he had brought together, but went with them into their councils; explained, directed, adjusted and dictated daily despatches on their progress to the New York Herald Tribune.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops

(PW) Fear and Hope: When Timothy Keller’s Book Met His Life

“Most books you write after you have gone through an experience, but in this case what was so strange was I was having the experience while writing the book,” he told PW. “When you realize this may be the end and you have this abstract belief in heaven and the promise of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, you have to ask, do I really believe this? So writing the book was really a struggle with that question.”

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the 70-year-old Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the sodom known as Manhattan does believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus. While writing, he spent extra time in prayer and “experiencing the presence of the risen Christ,” as he put it. “I was just shocked at how much more experience of God there was than I found before. So I have grown and I have confidence in the resurrection after a combination of faith and experience.”

Keller has buckets of experience as an author. His first title, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008) hit number five on PW’s Bestseller List and sold more than 150,000 copies in its first year. That was followed by more than 20 titles on everything from love to suffering, Christmas to church planting. He hit PW’s twice more, with Prodigal God (Dutton, 2008) and Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014), both of which hit the 100,000 copies sold mark. Hope in Times of Fear is intended as a bookend to Hidden Christmas, a holiday book published by Viking in 2016. In between books, Keller became one of the pioneers of the now-standard megachurch model of multi-site worship. Before retiring in 2017, he spent years of Sundays hopscotching across Central Park, going uptown and down, giving three or more sermons a day at Redeemer’s five different sites. Today, there are Redeemer-affiliated churches in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout his publishing career, he has been with one editor — Brian Tart, president and publisher of Viking Penguin. Tart heard about Keller and his popular church in 2006 and headed there one Sunday to hear him preach. “Obviously, he knew the Bible inside and out, but he also took a lot of examples from stories and myths and movies and books. He was really engaged in the cultural conversation of the moment and there wasn’t a barrier of entry for people to understand him. He reached people where they were,” Tart told PW. “That Tim is talking about cancer makes his personal journey to God helpful to people. He is saying ‘I’ve been through a dark time, we all been through a dark time, and yet I feel this great reservoir of hope.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(TGC) Justin Taylor–Questions for David French on the Connections between the Atlanta Killer and Purity Culture

But what’s the evidence that the shooter, who would have been in youth group during the presidencies of Obama and Trump, was taught the toxic purity culture that peaked in the 1990s?

My argument is not “no evidence will ever or could ever exist,” but rather “no one actually knows, and therefore we shouldn’t draw that connection until and unless evidence emerges.”

If I was a betting man, I would actually put a hefty wager on this young man having heard the normative / traditional / orthodox teaching on sexuality that David French taught his youth group instead of the toxic legalism that Bill Gothard taught.

And if that’s true, then the argument of this piece basically falls apart. It could become a good standalone article on purity culture, but not a very illuminating one of the killer and his theological culture.

(By the way, if you want to hear from the church itself, you can read their statement.)

So my encouragement to everyone: let’s slow down on drawing connections that might seem obvious but are actually quite tenuous.

Read it all.

Update: Terry Mattingly also has helpful reflections Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(TLC Covenant) Gareth Atkins reviews Bruce Hindmarsh’s new book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World’

Among historians of evangelicalism it has long been an article of faith that the movement they study was an Enlightenment phenomenon. Rooting its self-examination in Lockean empiricism, its offers of salvation in consumer-driven individualism, and its optimism about an imminent millennium in notions of human progress, David Bebbington, David Hempton, Phyllis Mack, and others have situated early evangelicalism squarely within the wider Anglo-American and European intellectual universe. But has anyone else noticed?

Thanks to J.G.A. Pocock, J.C.D. Clark, and others, we no longer think of Enlightenment as the rise of modern paganism. Indeed, recent scholarship is coming to emphasize continuity: Enlightenment as late humanism, with the “new” philosophy sharing many of the concerns of the “old,” and borrowing many of its intellectual tools, too. Sermons remained probably the most popular single literary genre in a print sphere dominated by divinity. But even so, among social and cultural historians what may be termed the Roy Porter view predominates: that if religion still mattered it was because it hitched itself to the coat-tails of the political order; and that if it was still taken seriously intellectually it was because it was prepared to dilute itself with enough rationalism to make it palatable to polished literati. Enthusiasm was the province of a few extremists. And few were more enthusiastic than John Wesley, George Whitefield, and their ilk, who are therefore assumed, according to this view, to be fundamentally anti-enlightened. Exhibit A for exponents of the Porter view is William Hogarth’s Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism: A Medley (1762), which depicts an unhinged preacher – possibly Whitefield – ranting about witches and demons to a congregation of drooling misfits.

Bruce Hindmarsh’s magnificent new book underlines how misleading that over-reliance on hostile caricatures has been. “The rise of evangelicalism,” he states crisply at the outset, “occurred in tandem with the rise of modernity and in the midst of a hugely consequential turn away from transcendental frames of reference to the authority of ‘nature’ in multiple fields” (p. ix). Lockean sensibility, Newtonian physics, Shaftesburian politeness, and the growth of the public sphere, he argues, opened up fresh cultural and intellectual space for more personal, emotional and individualistic forms of belief, allowing and indeed impelling figures like Jonathan Edwards in New England and Whitefield and the Wesleys in Old England to pose an urgent question: “Is it possible to experience the presence of God in the modern world?” Their answer was urgent, disruptive and democratic, offering the possibility of spiritual rebirth to all, not as the result of incremental, ordered contemplation, but as an immediate, transformative and potentially explosive experience: “be born again”; “expect it now” (pp. 2-3). Wesley preached on the “one thing needful” more than fifty times, while Whitefield’s pious mnemonic, “one thing is needful,” scratched onto a friend’s window with a diamond, was still visible a century later (p.3). The simple but fervent piety thus produced overtopped denominational and national boundaries, as Methodists in England and Wales, “New Lights” in North America, evangelicals in the Churches of England and Scotland, Moravians, and evangelical nonconformists strove to experience God for themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Evangelicals

David French–Why the Atlanta Massacre Triggered a Conversation About Purity Culture

As this conversation unfolds, it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, the purity culture I’m describing never fully captured the church. Millions of people have thankfully lived their entire Christian lives free from the extremes I’ve described above.

Second, however, it’s absolutely vital that Christians do not leave the task of confronting extremes to a secular world and media that is often hostile to (or doesn’t understand) Christian orthodoxy itself. The secular critique is typically all confrontation, no redemption.

The Christian response, however, requires both confrontation and redemption. It recognizes that Christ holds the answer when the church fails. As I’ve written before when addressing the failures and faults of the purity movement, through Christ even stories of past pain and suffering can be redeemed and transformed into instruments of grace and mercy.

Shortly after we received the first reports about the Atlanta killer’s motives, my friend and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Karen Swallow Prior tweeted two insightful words, “Culture cultivates.” A culture that defines a person by their sexual sin cultivates misery. When it places women in a position of guarding a man’s heart, it cultivates abuse. And sometimes, when a man’s heart is particularly dark, it can even cultivate murder.

The problem with purity culture is not Christianity. The problem with purity culture is that its extremes are not Christian at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(NYT) Clergy Preach Faith in the Covid Vaccine to Doubters

During a recent Sunday service at the Gathering Place, an evangelical church in Orlando, Fla., the Rev. Gabriel Salguero focused his sermon on the Covid-19 vaccine, and the fear and suspicion that his largely Latino congregation clutches so tightly.

He turned to the New Testament: the parable of the good Samaritan, about the importance of aiding the stranger.

“In getting yourself vaccinated, you are helping your neighbor,” he preached to about 300 masked and socially distanced worshipers. “God wants you to be whole so you can care for your community. So think of vaccines as part of God’s plan.”

Mr. Salguero is among thousands of clergy members from a cross-section of faiths — imams, rabbis, priests, swamis — who are trying to coax the hesitant to get vaccinated against Covid-19. By weaving scripture with science, they are employing the singular trust vested in them by their congregations to dispel myths and disinformation about the shots. Many are even offering their sanctuaries as vaccination sites, to make the experience more accessible and reassuring.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

([London] Times) China guilty of genocide over Uighurs, international lawyers say in report

China’s campaign of persecution against its Uighur ethnic minority has violated every article in the UN genocide convention, a landmark independent review has found.

The report by more than 50 international law experts, which runs to 25,000 pages, is the first legal non-governmental examination of a swelling body of evidence over Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. It adds that the government under President Xi bears responsibility for an “ongoing genocide”.

Under the UN Genocide Convention, a party can be found to commit genocide if they carry out any of five acts, including murder, displacement and birth suppression, with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(SBC) Bible teacher Beth Moore, splitting with Lifeway, says, ‘I am no longer a Southern Baptist’

For nearly three decades, Beth Moore has been the very model of a modern Southern Baptist.

She loves Jesus and the Bible and has dedicated her life to teaching others why they need both of them in their lives. Millions of evangelical Christian women have read her Bible studies and flocked to hear her speak at stadium-style events where Moore delves deeply into biblical passages.

Moore’s outsize influence and role in teaching the Bible have always made some evangelical power brokers uneasy, because of their belief only men should be allowed to preach.

But Moore was above reproach, supporting Southern Baptist teaching that limits the office of pastor to men alone and cheerleading for the missions and evangelistic work that the denomination holds dear….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Women

(P O) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church look for new ways of being church

The third round of dialogue between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church continued last week. The two denominations have been conducting bilateral dialogue since 2000 in an effort to deepen ties and work together.

In this latest virtual gathering, participants heard from the Rev. Dr. Amy Plantinga Pauw, a theology professor at Louisville Seminary, who led them through a discussion around her book “Church in Ordinary Time: A Wisdom Ecclesiology.” Plantinga Pauw writes about the seasons of the church year and uses wisdom ecclesiology to help the church think about addressing the realities of today’s world.

Dianna Wright, director of ecumenical and interreligious relations with the Office of the General Assembly, says the conversation centered on what it means to be church.

“We have this idea that we’re the ones who have all of what it means to be God wrapped up as the church. But there are so many different entities that are a part of who God is,” said Wright. “The church is only one part of that, and we are supposed to participate with the whole world and share the story of God. We don’t have it all together, but we are continuing to grow and evolve as the church.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presbyterian

For Their Feast Day–(CH) John and Charles Wesley

John and Charles Wesley are among the most notable evangelists who ever lived. As young men, they formed a party which came to be derisively called Methodists, because they methodically set about fulfilling the commands of scripture. In due course they learned that works cannot save, and discovered salvation by faith in Christ. Afterward, they carried that message to all England in sermon and in song. John Wesley is credited with staving off a bloody revolution in England such as occurred in France.

Although the brothers did not set out to establish a church, the Wesleyans and the Methodists are their offspring.

Both preached, both wrote hymns. But John is more noted for his sermons and Charles for his hymns. Here we present two hymns by Charles and a sermon by John.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Wash Post) An evangelical scientist on reconciling her religion and the realities of climate change

Because here’s the thing. When I run into people who are very adamant about rejecting climate change — they’re not that many; only 7 percent of people are dismissive, but they’re very loud about it. I look at those people, whether it’s on social media or if they wrote me a letter — rarely do I run into them in person; most prefer to be behind the safety of a keyboard before they attack you — but I look at who they are because I’m curious. And easily 90 percent of the time — probably more than that — climate change is just one of a package of issues: extreme nationalism, anti-immigration, right-wing politics. You know, whatever the current issue of the day is — covid, school shooting — you can guarantee that whoever rejects climate change will also be adamantly defending the right of people to bear weapons and supporting covid myths and disinformation. It all goes together.

So only 7 percent are what we would call climate-change deniers?

Yeah. Seven percent are really hardcore, but then what happens is that a lot of people are not outright dismissive — they just are what social scientists call “cognitive misers.” We all are. [Laughs.] Because who has time to read all of these things and develop a thoughtful opinion on the myriad issues that we’re expected to have in order to vote or to advocate or even [address] when it comes up in conversation? So we look to the opinions of people we respect, whose values we believe that we share, who we assume have spent a bit more time thinking about it than we have. And we adopt their opinions. Unfortunately, today a lot of that has become very politically polarized. And you have a lot of people who are just really confused because they hear people whose values they share, who call themselves Christians, who have called themselves Republicans or conservatives, telling people, “Oh, this isn’t real.” “Those scientists are just making it up.” “It’s just a liberal hoax.”

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Time Magazine talks to Russell Moore

Often Moore has to tap-dance around the gap between his church’s beliefs and its behavior. He dismisses as a “manufactured controversy” the criticism of six SBC seminary presidents who in November released a public condemnation of critical race theory. “I don’t find any postmodern theory motivating those who are concerned for racial reconciliation and justice,” says Moore. “I find that what motivates such things is the Bible.” And while Moore has set himself apart from those who support the President, he declines to condemn those who opted to vote for Trump because they believed in the platform, not the man.

Moore thinks reports of the death of American Christianity are overblown. But as increasing numbers of Americans tell pollsters that they are not affiliated with any kind of religion, and in the wake of Trump, he wants the church to take a harder look at its priorities. “The biggest threat facing the American church right now is not secularism but cynicism. That’s why we have to recover the credibility of our witness,” he says. It’s one thing to dismiss the teachings of his faith as strange and unlikely, he notes, but “if people walk away from the church because they don’t believe that we really believe what we say, then that’s a crisis.” This is what he fears will be the legacy of an era in which people of faith put so much faith in a President. “There is an entire generation of people who are growing cynical that religion is just a means to some other end.”

Read it all.

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

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

(CT) Mexican Census: Evangelicals at New High, Catholics at New Low

The Catholic majority in Mexico is slipping, as Protestants surpassed 10 percent of the population in the country for the first time ever.

According to recently released data from Mexico’s 2020 census, the Protestant/evangelical movement increased from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.2 percent last year.

The Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America, but especially in Mexico, which ranks among the most heavily Catholic countries in the region. Today, though an overwhelming majority of Mexicans still identify as Catholic, declines are accelerating.

It took 50 years—from 1950 to 2000—for the proportion of Catholics in Mexico to drop from 98 percent to 88 percent. Now, only two decades later, that percentage has slipped another 10 points to 77.7 percent.

National church leaders attribute the boom in Protestantism to a range of factors, from the influence of Americans and fellow Latin Americans in the country to effective evangelical outreach in indigenous areas.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Mexico, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sociology

(WSJ) Robert Nicholson–Abraham’s Missing Child: Christians

The announcement that Israel would normalize ties with Muslim-majority Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates might have been the highlight of an otherwise dismal 2020. Yet these groundbreaking accords still lack one important child of Abraham. Do Near Eastern Christians have a seat at this table? If not, who can help get them there?

Years of international anxiety over the slow demise of Christianity in its ancient homeland hasn’t translated into action. The situation in old bastions like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is now catastrophic. Egypt, with the largest population of Jesus followers in the region, isn’t much better. That the region’s second most afflicted religious group—after the devastated Yazidis—has gained the least from a long-overdue peace is a painful irony not lost on its persecuted members.

Part of the problem is that the regional hostility being rolled back under the Abraham Accords was never a distinctly Christian problem. The centurylong animus between Muslims, the region’s largest group, and Jews, its oldest Abrahamic population and newest recipient of sovereignty, could only be rectified by Jews and Muslims. The relative lack of Christians in any the four Muslim countries that are part the Abraham Accords—Israel has as many as all of them combined—means that Christians simply haven’t been part of the discussion.

Another thorny problem is the imprisonment of the region’s most dynamic Christian communities in its other geopolitical axis: the resistance bloc controlled by Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(Reuters) U.S. ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps

The United States is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region and there must be serious consequences for atrocities committed there, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

A BBC report earlier on Wednesday said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture. The British broadcaster said “several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.”

Asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.”

The spokeswoman reiterated U.S. charges that China has committed “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang and added: “These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(DW) Coronavirus: Sri Lanka’s forced cremations spark anger among Muslims

Zeenat-ul-Razaniya has no news about the body of her deceased husband Mohammed Hilmi Kiyasdeen, who suffered from kidney failure and died on November 30 last year.

The family had taken him to the hospital, where he was due to undergo a dialysis procedure. The family was shocked to learn that Kiyasdeen would be cremated as per the regulations for those who die of coronavirus-related complications.

“We were not shown any reports to prove the status of his infection. He showed no [COVID-19] symptoms. He was in close contact with us in his last days,” Zeenat told DW, adding that she and her three children all tested negative for the virus.

“How is it possible that he had the virus? They just forcibly took away the body,” she said.

Zeenat sought a court intervention, but judges ruled in favor of Sri Lanka’s coronavirus cremation policy.

It has been a distressing experience for the family.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Islam, Sri Lanka

(BBC) ‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape

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Article content may not be suitable for some blog readers–KSH.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(CH) David Mills–The Ecumenical Dog That Doesn’t Bark

I’m all for praying for Christian unity and making a big deal of it for a week. But we should be clearer about what this means than the ecumenically-minded tend to be. They prefer the dog not to bark, but the barking dog warns us of something we need to remember.

Jim Packer remembered it. He wanted me to give in. I wanted him to give in. In our own circles, we both barked, and I think felt that a bond. We each knew what the other wanted and remained friends, with a deep respect for each other as well as affection. We enjoyed a great degree of unity despite our differences.

We should pray for Christian unity. But also offer the old-fashioned prayers that our Protestant friends would convert. And be the kinds of Catholics whose lives encourage people to join us.

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Posted in Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, Soteriology

(Guardian) ‘I only know one god – and that’s me’: non-believers on the meaning of life

Religion may once have been the opium of the people, but in large swaths of the world the masses have kicked the habit. In countries once dominated by churches characterised by patriarchy, ritual and hierarchy, the pews have emptied and people have found other sources of solace, spirituality and morality.

In the US, those who say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” is up from 17% in 2009 to 26% last year. In Britain, according to the most recent data, more than half the population proclaimed no faith in 2018, a figure that rose from 43% to 52% in a decade.

But there are many different ways of being an unbeliever – among them labels such as atheist, agnostic, humanist, free thinker, sceptic, secular and spiritual-but-not-religious. According to Understanding Unbelief, an academic research project based at the University of Canterbury in Kent, “unbelief in God doesn’t necessarily entail unbelief in other supernatural phenomena… Another common supposition – that of the purposeless unbeliever, lacking anything to ascribe ultimate meaning to the universe – also does not bear scrutiny”.

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Posted in Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths

(PRC FactTank) Biden is only the second Roman Catholic president, but nearly all have been Christians

Much has been written about President Joe Biden’s Catholic faith. He often speaks of his religious convictions and quotes the Bible, and he attends Mass regularly.

Although about one-in-five U.S. adults are Catholic and Catholicism has long been one of the nation’s largest religious groups, John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic president until Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20. Aside from Biden, only one other Catholic, John Kerry, has been a presidential nominee on a major party ticket since Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and many have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations.

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Posted in Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Let us pray – the gift of life from the Church of Scotland

From here:

We praise you, living God
And cry: ‘Abba’, Father!
For you are the One who creates life
And loves all that your hand has made.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, living Christ
And confess that Jesus is Lord!
For you are the crucified and risen One
Through whom we have peace with God.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, Spirit of the living God
And thank you that we are adopted as children of God.
For you are the One who shares in all our struggles
And inspires in us hope.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
And worship and glorify your name.
We cry: ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.’
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Posted in --Scotland, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Spirituality/Prayer