Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were deeply religious people whose personal and professional lives were imbued with a sense of spiritual struggle and religious engagement. The 2005 biopic Walk the Line was very good at depicting the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll aspect of Cash’s life and art, but, like almost all Hollywood movies, it steers clear of religion in general and of evangelical Protestant religion in particular. Also left out the film was the story of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s passionate engagement with Israel, an engagement that grew out of their religious beliefs. John’s interest in Israel started with a wish to visit the Christian holy sites and “walk where Jesus walked.” Cash’s initial visit to the Israel in 1966 was followed by a trip with June in 1968 and developed into a lifelong project to serve as advocates for the State of Israel, even when such advocacy was unfashionable among American performing artists.
Daily Archives: September 14, 2014
I am in no position to teach the Bishop of Salisbury about patristics, but what dear old Irenaeus wrote was “For the glory of God is a living man” (Gloria enim Dei vivens homo). He wrote in Greek, but that bit only survives in Latin. It comes in his masterpiece Adversus Haereses, the point of which is the central belief of Christianity: that God became a man; the Word was made flesh.
The Word of God, Irenaeus says in this paragraph (Book IV; 20:7), dispensed the fatherly grace of God, revealing God to man. (By “man”, homo, he means the kind of creature we humans are. We are also persons, but so are the persons of the Holy Trinity, so that word is better avoided here.)
The Word, Irenaeus wrote, “also protected the invisibility of the Father lest man should ever come to despise God”. However, “He made God visible to man by many methods lest man, entirely falling away from God, should cease to exist”.
Then comes the famous quotation: “For a living man is the glory of God; but the vision of God is the life of man.”
Synthesis and radical: The two words don’t seem to go together. Synthesis often means bland middle-of-the road. Radical often means far out, extreme, fringe, crazy.
And yet, this is precisely where John Wesley was radical. He was a genius at the balance and interplay of experience, structure, and doctrine. Digging into Scripture, studying history and the created order, and reflecting on his own experience, Wesley held together in creative tension key truths that tend to fly apart in most periods of church history.
Wesley’s genius, under God, lay in developing and nurturing a synthesis in doctrine and practice that kept biblical paradoxes paired and powerful. He held together faith and works, doctrine and experience, the personal and the social, the concerns of time and eternity. His synthesis speaks profoundly to the church today.
Between 1900 and 2010, the total number of Christians in the region ”“ including Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories ”“ grew from 1.6 million to 7.5 million. But while the Christian population in the Middle East more than quadrupled in that period, the non-Christian population increased ten-fold. As a result, the Christian share of the overall population in the region decreased from 10% in 1900 to 5% in 2010. In recent decades, Christians in the region have tended to be older, have fewer children and be more likely to leave the area compared with Muslims.
Since 2010, there has been considerable population change in the region due to war in Iraq and Syria, hostilities in other countries and related migration, but there is little reliable data to measure overall regional shifts in the last few years. Many Christians have left Iraq in recent years, though many stayed in the Middle East, fleeing to neighboring countries such as Jordan.
Pew Research has found rising social hostilities related to religion in the region since 2007. Christians faced religious harassment in a greater share of countries in the Middle East and North Africa than in any other region in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available).
From his own wallet, Kowbeidu also supports his siblings and obsesses over spending his money on Western luxuries. After Valerie threw him a 50th birthday party, he made her promise no more. That money could help Liberian children attend school, as he received help.
“I am here because of God’s generosity through God’s people,” he says. “From whence I came, I pray I never forget.”
That’s largely what made him run for Mount Pleasant Town Council last year, he says.
“This country has given me more than I could have imagined,” he says. “I want to give back.”
My first job at 13 was jumping in and out of a milk truck making deliveries. I told myself, “There is no way in God’s creation that I’m going to be a milkman when I grow up.”
I joined the army. Then, wouldn’t you know it, I married a girl whose dad was a milkman.
When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he said that if I brought his daughter and grandchildren back to Seattle, he’d give me the business. It beat the hell out of getting shot at. I’ve been driving this route for 20 years.
There are three reasons for this invisibility. The political left in the West associates Christian faith with dead white male imperialism and does not come naturally to the recognition that Christianity is now the globe’s most persecuted religion. And in the Middle East the Israel-Palestine question, with its colonial overtones, has been the left’s great obsession, whereas the less ideologically convenient plight of Christians under Islamic rule is often left untouched.
To America’s strategic class, meanwhile, the Middle East’s Christians simply don’t have the kind of influence required to matter. A minority like the Kurds, geographically concentrated and well-armed, can be a player in the great game, a potential United States ally. But except in Lebanon, the region’s Christians are too scattered and impotent to offer much quid for the superpower’s quo. So whether we’re pursuing stability by backing the anti-Christian Saudis or pursuing transformation by toppling Saddam Hussein (and unleashing the furies on Iraq’s religious minorities), our policy makers have rarely given Christian interests any kind of due.
Then, finally, there is the American right, where one would expect those interests to find a greater hearing. But the ancient churches of the Middle East (Eastern Orthodox, Chaldean, Maronites, Copt, Assyrian) are theologically and culturally alien to many American Catholics and evangelicals. And the great cause of many conservative Christians in the United States is the state of Israel, toward which many Arab Christians harbor feelings that range from the complicated to the hostile.
Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sake didst endure the cross, and hast bidden us to follow thee: Take away from us all fear, all coldness of heart, all unwillingness to suffer; that we, glorying in thy cross, may glory also that thou hast called us to bear it with thee; for thy name’s sake.
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!
Growing into a full humanity requires cultivating virtues that temper one another. Some are associated with adulthood””courage, tenacity, autonomy. Others are more closely associated with childhood””curiosity, humility, generosity.
So, yes: only engaging in “juvenile” culture could shape us in bad ways. (And here at CT, anyhow, we try to take part in both””so go read about the Dardennes brothers’ new film when you’re done here.) But only engaging in “grown up” culture can, too, as can reflexively defending sophisticated products and rejecting simpler ones.
As Scott points out, the kind of culture creative output that results from our cultural shift doesn’t merely mean we end up with “juvenile” culture and fart jokes and boy-men and girl-women. It also means we end up with a lot of “childish” culture.
Or maybe “childlike” is a better term.
In discussions of the threat posed by the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, a spinoff from al Qaeda in Iraq), some Western pundits have argued that the terror organization poses only a distant threat, not a near one. They have claimed that the Islamic State’s goals are mainly territorial and focused on the Middle East, as compared to al Qaeda’s, which are transnational and focused on attacking the West. On June 30, the US State Department referred to the ISIS’ strategy as that of creating a regional caliphate.
That general view was fairly widely held until recently, when the Islamic State executed two American hostages, which brought home to the West that its citizens are at risk. But in addition to committing shocking crimes in Syria and Iraq against civilians, security forces, and Western captives, the group has also developed an international following. The Islamic State’s growing international presence demonstrates the dangerous fallacy of the argument that the group has primarily only regional goals.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen said on Sept. 3 that the US currently has “no credible information” that the Islamic State is presently planning to attack the homeland. But that assurance is not a signal to dismiss the threats presented by the group. Although the IS arguably has reason to avoid crossing American ‘red lines’ as it attempts to solidify gains and develop infrastructure, it must be regarded as a formidable organization with sweeping global ambitions.
Most young people want a happy marriage and family life. As a new report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia shows, the choices people make in their relationships prior to marriage matter. Unfortunately, the laissez-faire sexual practices embraced and promoted in our culture today don’t build a strong foundation for marriage.
According to the report, authored by Galena K. Rhoades and Scott M. Stanley of the University of Denver, individuals with more sexual partners and cohabitation experience tend to report poorer marital quality, as do couples with children from prior relationships. And yet, today the average person reports five sexual partners prior to marriage. Less than one quarter (23 percent) have only had sex with the person they marry. Cohabitation is also common, with the majority of people cohabiting prior to marriage. And more than 40 percent of all children are born outside of marriage.
The pathway to marriage is a precarious one today. Sexual freedom and experimentation pervade our culture. Yet they jeopardize the outcomes that most people say they desire. An anything-goes ideology marginalizes intentional decision-making in these most important areas of marriage and sexual activity.