Daily Archives: November 15, 2013

Food for Thought from C.S. Lewis for a Friday Afternoon

We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity-as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him; wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble-delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are.

–Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 9

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Church History, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(WSJ) Melanie Kirkpatrick: The Bible in the Bird's Nest (of North Korea)

The Bible is “the most dangerous book on Earth,” George Bernard Shaw famously warned a century ago. Today, Shaw’s words ring true””literally””for the 24 million people of North Korea. Possession of a Bible is a one-way ticket to the gulag or worse.

The worst came true this month for a handful of North Koreans who were caught with Bibles, which are outlawed by the communist regime. The Christians were among a group of 80 North Koreans who were executed by firing squad on Sunday, Nov. 3, according to a report in the South Korean daily, JoongAng Ilbo. Those put to death also included North Koreans accused of watching South Korean DVDs that had been smuggled into the North, or of distributing pornography. The ruling Kim family regime controls every aspect of citizens’ lives, including what information reaches them from the world outside North Korea’s borders. Bibles, foreign DVDs, the Internet, cellphones that can make international calls””all are banned.

The executions were public and took place in seven cities across the country, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Books, Law & Legal Issues, North Korea, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Baroness Warsi: Christian minorities 'endangered' in Middle East

Christianity is at risk of extinction in some parts of the world due to growing persecution of minority communities, a minister has warned.

Baroness Warsi said Christians were in danger of being driven out of countries, such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root.

Syria’s civil war and the instability in Iraq has seen many leave.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology, Violence

(New York Magazine) One in 3 women has an abortion by the age of 45. Here are 26 of their stories

…abortion is something we tend to be more comfortable discussing as an abstraction; the feelings it provokes are too complicated to face in all their particularities. Which is perhaps why, even in doggedly liberal parts of the country, very few people talk openly about the experience, leaving the reality of abortion, and the emotions that accompany it, a silent witness in our political discourse. Even now, four decades after Roe, some of the women we spoke with would talk only if we didn’t print their real names.

As their stories show, the experience of abortion in the United States in 2013 is vastly uneven. It varies not just by state but also by culture, race, income, age, family; by whether a boyfriend offered a ride to the clinic or begged her not to go; by the compassion or callousness of the medical staff; by whether she took the pill alone at home or navigated protesters outside a clinic. Some feel so shamed that they will never tell their friends or family; others feel stronger for having gotten through the experience. The same woman can wake up one morning with regret, the next with relief””most have feelings too knotty for a picket sign. “There’s no room,” one woman told us, “to talk about being unsure.”

Read it all. I offer readers a caution here–do not delve into this unless you are in the proper mode, so to speak–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology, Women

(RNS) State Department names Boko Haram a terrorist organization

The U.S. Department of State designated Boko Haram and a spinoff group called Ansaru as foreign terrorist organizations Wednesday (Nov. 13).

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria, according to the State Department.

The group has stated that it desires to establish a Shariah-law theocracy in Nigeria.

Boko Haram has attacked churches, local police stations, the United Nations building in Abuja, local security offices and an agricultural college. In September, a single attack in northeastern Benisheik killed 160 civilians.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

A ”˜mega-church’ where God is unwelcome; atheists unite at Sunday Assemblies across US, globe

It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia ”” with more to come ”” after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles attracted several hundred people bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.

Read it all from the AP.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(Gallup) Americans Trimming Their Holiday Spending Plans

U.S. consumers now estimate they will spend $704 on Christmas gifts this season, down from their $786 average prediction in October. Americans’ latest estimate is also significantly below the $770 they forecasted at this time last year — a particularly worrisome sign for retailers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy

(AP) China to Abolish Labor Camps, Ease 1-Child Policy

China will loosen its decades-old one-child policy by allowing two children for families with one parent who was an only child and will abolish a much-criticized labor camp system, its ruling Communist Party said Friday.

The changes were part of a key policy document released by the official Xinhua News Agency following a four-day meeting of party leaders through Tuesday in Beijing. The document also seeks to map out China’s economic policy for coming years.

The labor camp ”” or “re-education through labor” ”” system was established to punish early critics of the Communist Party but now is used by local officials to deal with people challenging their authority on issues including land rights and corruption.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry

(Church Times) Archbp Welby denies change in policy on Church school admissions

The Archbishop of Canterbury has denied that he wants Church of England schools to stop using children’s faith as a criterion for admission.

The Times reported on Thursday that Archbishop Welby had told them that church schools were moving away from selecting pupils on the grounds of their religion. But the Church quickly issued a statement that insisted that there had been no change in policy, and that church schools were free to continue to admit children based on their faith, if they wished.

Archbishop Welby said in the statement: “I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as dissenting from this policy.”Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Education, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the (Provisional) Feast Day of Francis Asbury and George Whitefield

Holy God, who didst so inspire Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a great awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by thy Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share thy Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, most holy, most loving, infinite in wisdom and power: Teach us to reverence thee in all the works of thy hands, and to hallow thy name both in our lives and in our worship; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

–Revelation 19:11-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Redeemer NYC) Tim Keller–Getting Stuck in Suffering

What must you do? If you suffer then you””or your friends and care-givers””must be keenly aware of these possibilities so you can move through them. Obviously, any afflicted person needs times of solitude, but isolation must ultimately be resisted. Suffering can make you more lonely or drive you into deeper community. Let it be the latter. And while all afflicted persons need to spend a great deal of time self-examining and healing, at some point they must face outward and think of others and love their neighbors and not think exclusively of themselves.

Even for Christians who understand the gospel, the feeling of condemnation can be a great challenge, but it is in the end a welcome one. We may think we believe we are saved by grace, but in times of difficulty we can finally learn to use the doctrine we know on our hearts, remembering that God’s wrath and punishment of our sin fell into the heart of Jesus, and now that we believe in him, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

Our anger can be the greatest challenge of all. Again, the answer is to not merely believe gospel doctrine but use it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theodicy, Theology

Sally Quinn–Believe this (or choose not to): The search for meaning in our lives takes many paths

We are all searching for meaning in our lives, regardless of our beliefs or lack thereof.

In the past few weeks, I have attended or read about four completely different events about the act of seeking and my mind is reeling. This is not unusual when you are working on a religion Web site such as On Faith. There are days when I feel schizophrenic: participating in religious events, being on panels, giving speeches, doing interviews, writing pieces or reading submissions for the site. I always try to identify with the person who is writing or speaking or to whom I am listening or watching. The whole point of starting On Faith was to learn about faith, to understand the different beliefs and the people who do not adhere to any religion. I am totally pluralistic in my approach.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(LapioMedia) Jenny Taylor–The end of the secular era

The religion gravy-train is beginning to roll. Vast resources are being made available to study religion from a myriad angles, most notably security. Islamic extremism ”“ 9/11, 7/7 and the nightmare fall-out of America’s hapless foreign adventures ”“ sparked a thousand religion research projects, not least being the £340million Global Uncertainties Programme.

Religion is trendy. (Not Christianity of course. Not church. Perish the thought.) But any shaven-headed sociologist with an ear-ring, any hijabbed and articulate ”˜outreach worker’, any multi-faith professional in fact will look oddly at you if you mention the traditional reticence of the British about faith. Good grief. Even the leader of the English Defence League is ”˜taking religious instruction’ from the sheikh – Usama Hasan – who runs Quilliam Foundation.

We are at the end of the secularist era. The New Religious Era is upon us.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(Living Church) Daniel Muth reviews recent books on God and the problem of evil

[In Norman Geisler’s book]…the chapters are admirably clear and succinct. Christians called upon to answer the typical prattle of the village (or dorm room) atheist will find it useful. An electronic copy would provide particularly quick and handy reference.

On the other hand, while Geisler is clearly a capable and experienced pastor and peppers his text with practical anecdotes, he suffers from the malady of most writers on the intellectual problem of theodicy: he fails to address the visceral response that suffering and evil provokes in Christian and secular hearts alike. On the whole, I would not hand his book to a grieving parent….

A somewhat deeper chord is struck by Terence Fretheim’s Creation Untamed, which limits itself to the question of natural evil. Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, brings an Old Testament scholar’s background and sensibility to the question, building his case mainly around the Genesis accounts of creation and the flood, and the book of Job.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Theodicy, Theology

Anglican agencies, Churches rally to help Typhoon Haiyan victims

The mission agency Us is the latest in a series of Anglican agencies raising funds to help people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

In a statement issued today, the UK-based agency appealed for donations to help them provide food, water, sleeping bags and blankets, plastic sheeting and materials for housing.

“Donations will also fund a long-term rehabilitation programme that will include helping farmers to start growing crops again.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Philippines

(Barna) Prodigal Pastor Kids: Fact or Fiction?

When it comes to the children of the clergy, stereotypes abound. First, there’s the model child, who lives by the rulebook and follows in the footsteps of his or her minister parent. In many churches, this is an expectation as much as it is a stereotype. Yet perhaps the dominant stereotype of the pastor’s kid is the prodigal””the wayward child, the rebel who has fallen away from the faith, the backslidden who’d rather strike out on their own than live in the shadow of the steeple.

The underlying assumption of this stereotype, however, is that Christians believe those who’ve grown up closest to the church are the quickest to leave it. And as with any stereotype, it’s worth closer examination to see if any of these perceptions are really true….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture