Daily Archives: April 13, 2014

(Time Mag.) Why the Middle East's persecuted minority of Christians is making unholy choices

In February, the 20 or so Christian families still living in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa were given the same choice. The cost of protection is now the equivalent of $650 in Syrian pounds, a large amount for people struggling to make ends meet in a war zone. The other two options remain unchanged. This time the offer came from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an extremist antigovernment group that seized Raqqa in May 2013 from more-moderate rebel brigades and declared the town the capital of its own Islamic state.

Most of Raqqa’s 3,000 Christians had already fled the fighting, leaving just a few families in a place suddenly run by a group known for its violent tactics in both Iraq and Syria, including beheadings and floggings”“tactics so ruthless that even al-Qaeda has disowned the group. The number had fallen even further by the time ISIS commanders promised the Christians that as long as they paid the levy, the one church that had not already been destroyed in the fighting would be left untouched and the Christians would not be physically harmed. They would have the right to practice their religion as long as they didn’t ring bells, evangelize or pray within earshot of a Muslim.

Church leaders urged Raqqa’s Christians to pay the militants. “[ISIS] told me that all I need to do is pay the taxes, and they will protect me,” says George, a 17-year-old Christian music student still living in Raqqa. “I know that under the Caliphate, Christians got a lot of things in return for paying taxes. The Christian community was left in peace.” That hasn’t been the case so far in Syria’s new Caliphate. When ISIS arrived in town, it warned Christians to stay out of sight and hide their crucifixes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(NPR) Why People Exaggerate Religious Behavior

Social scientists have learned you can’t always believe what people tell you. An analysis of 3 places in the Muslim world examines whether peoples’ reports of religious behavior match what they do.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(ABC Aus.) Tom Wright: On Palm Sunday, Jesus Rides into the Perfect Storm

The crowd went wild as they got nearer. This was the moment they’d been waiting for. All the old songs came flooding back, and they were singing, chanting, cheering and laughing. At last, their dreams were going to come true. But in the middle of it all, their leader wasn’t singing. He was in tears. Yes, their dreams were indeed coming true. But not in the way they had imagined.

He was not the king they expected. Not like the monarchs of old, who sat on their jewelled and ivory thrones, dispensing their justice and wisdom. Nor was he the great warrior-king some had wanted. He didn’t raise an army and ride to battle at its head. He was riding on a donkey. And he was weeping – weeping for the dream that had to die, weeping for the sword that would pierce his supporters to the soul. Weeping for the kingdom that wasn’t coming as well as the kingdom that was. What was it all about? What did Jesus think he was doing?

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was riding into the perfect storm. Recall the story of the famous “perfect storm.” It was late October 1991. A New England fishing boat by the name of Andrea Gail had sailed five hundred miles out into the Atlantic. But the weather was changing rapidly. A cold front moving along the American-Canadian border sent a strong disturbance through New England, while at the same time a large high-pressure system was building over the Maritime provinces of south-eastern Canada. This intensified the incoming low-pressure system, producing what locals called “The Halloween Nor’easter.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Sunday Tel.) Church of England faces 'crisis’ as priest weds another man

A priest has become the first in Britain to defy the Church of England’s ban on gay clergy marrying.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, 58, a divorced hospital chaplain, wed his long-term partner Laurence Cunnington, 51, on Saturday afternoon.

Campaigners expressed delight that the couple had taken advantage of Britain’s newly-introduced gay marriage laws and urged bishops to “bless” their partnership. They predict he will be the first of many gay clergy to marry.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sexuality

(BBC) Anglican Chaplain defies church Same-sex wedding ban

An Anglican hospital chaplain has become what is believed to be the first member of the clergy in Britain to have a gay marriage.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton is a chaplain at Lincoln Hospital and has Permission to Officiate and leads occasional services in Nottinghamshire.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Holy Week (II)

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Europe, Germany, Holy Week, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Holy Week (I)

The first suffering of Christ we must experience is the call sundering our ties to this world. This is the death of the old human being in the encounter with Jesus Christ. Whoever enters discipleship enters Jesus’ death, and puts his or her own life into death; this has been so from the beginning. The cross is not the horrible end of a pious, happy life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Every call of Christ leads to death. Whether with the first disciples we leave home and occupation in order to follow him, or whether with Luther we leave the monastery to enter a secular profession, in either case the one death awaits us, namely death in Jesus Christ, the dying away of our old form of being human in Jesus’ call.
”¦.Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ and are not disciples. But those who lose their life in discipleship, in bearing the cross, will find it again in discipleship itself, in the community of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed of Christ, of the cross, and to take offense at the cross. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditations on the Cross (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1998 [trans Douglas Stott]), pp. 14,16

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Europe, Germany, Holy Week, Theology

Choral Music for Palm Sunday: 'Miserere'

Composer Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere” is a piece of choral music so powerful that a 17th-century pope decreed it could be played only during the week leading to Easter ”” and then only in the Sistine Chapel. Jesse Kornbluth of HeadButler.com talks about the “Miserere” with Jacki Lyden.

Listen to it all from NPR and make sure to click the link and listen to the piece from the Westminster Abbey Choir

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer for Palm Sunday (II)

As on this day we keep the special memory of our Redeemer’s entry into the city, so grant, O Lord, that now and ever he may triumph in our hearts. Let the King of grace and glory enter in, and let us lay ourselves and all we are in full and joyful homage before him; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Handley Moule

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for Palm Sunday (I)

O Christ, the King of glory, who didst enter the holy city in meekness to be made perfect through the suffering of death: Give us grace, we beseech thee, in all our life here to take up our cross daily and follow thee, that hereafter we may rejoice with thee in thy heavenly kingdom; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.

–Church of South India

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

–1 Timothy 6:12-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Nigerian senator: '135 civilians killed' in attacks

Gunmen have killed 135 civilians in north east Nigeria since Wednesday, a senior official from the region has told the BBC.

Borno state senator Ahmed Zannah said the killings took place in at least three separate attacks in the state.

The attackers are suspected to be from the Islamist Boko Haram movement.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Diversity and Dishonesty

I am (or try to be) a partisan of pluralism….But this respect is difficult to maintain when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality ”” the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the “spirit of free expression” from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.

And with the pretense, increasingly, comes a dismissive attitude toward those institutions ”” mostly religious ”” that do acknowledge their own dogmas and commitments, and ask for the freedom to embody them and live them out.

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Poetry to Nourish the Soul–Benjamin Myers' “Jonah and Pinocchio”

It was the two whales,
swimming each an inch
below the surface of my eight-year-old
mind that confused me,
left me standing before the Sunday School class
mute in my corduroy pants,
hair as stiff and slicked as the oil-spill
collected in the rushes along the beach,
trying to remember
what God sent a marionette
to Nineveh and whether the message
was “repent” or “always tell the truth.”

Read it all and consider reading his “Elegy for Trains” which contains not only this poem but many others–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Children, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Theology, Theology: Scripture