Category : Religion & Culture

(CT) DL Mayfield–How Government Support Saved Me; Signing up for food stamps changed my view of poverty in America

Just a few months ago, my family stopped qualifying for government cheese.

It came as a little bit of a surprise to me—I had, after all, been a part of the WIC (women, infants, and children) program for almost seven years, starting with my first child. My daughter was born two months early due to life-threatening complications and I was never able to breastfeed. WIC supplied the formula, an expense that would have been a huge blow to our family’s finances. As my husband and I took turns getting our graduate degrees, WIC provided us with milk, cheese, eggs, and a few other essentials, and when we were support-raising missionaries living in immigrant and refugee neighborhoods for three years, we used our WIC vouchers along with all of our neighbors.

Two years ago when my second child was born, I wasn’t able to work, and while moving across the country, our only car broke down. By the time we finally found an apartment to live in and a job for my husband, we didn’t even have enough money to buy curtains for our windows. We applied for food stamps, or SNAP, along with WIC, and I don’t know what we would have done without it for those few months. I felt sweet relief being able to go to the grocery store, swipe my card, and purchase food for my family. Each time, I was incredibly grateful for my country.

In light of where my family is now, it’s important for me to take a moment and remember those feelings—both the stress of not having money to buy essentials and the gratitude for any small breaks.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(NYT) “The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters”–Samuel Tadros-Coptic Christians: ISIS’ ‘Favorite Prey’

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.

The terrorists chose today’s target well. The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, which I visited a decade ago, is very hard to reach. One hundred and ten miles on the Cairo Luxor desert road, you make a right-hand turn and for the next 17 miles drive on an unpaved road. The single lane forces cars to drive slowly, and, as the only route leading to the monastery, the victims were guaranteed to be Copts. Friday is a day off in Egypt, and church groups regularly take trips there. Outside of a few policemen stationed out front, there is little security presence.

The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters. Coming their way were three buses, one with Sunday school children. Only three of them survived. Their victims were asked to recite the Islamic declaration of faith before being shot.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

BBC’s Beyond Belief–How Islamic is the So-Called Islamic State?

In claiming responsibility for the Paris atrocities, the so-called Islamic State described the attacks as “a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah”. Last year, when the group’s self-imposed Caliphate was declared, hundreds of Muslim leaders and scholars from across the world wrote an open letter to the self-professed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accusing him of heinous war crimes and a violation of the fundamental principles of Islam. So how Islamic is ‘Islamic State’? Why have mainstream interpretations of Islam so far failed to provide an effective counter-narrative? What needs to happen for the group to be defeated?

William Crawley discusses the beliefs which underpin the so-called Islamic State in the light of the Paris terrorist attacks with Sheikh Dr Salah Al Ansari, an Imam, theologian and academic; Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of the anti-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation; and Dr Katherine Brown, an expert in Islamic Studies at King’s College London.

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Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(PRC FactTank) Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims, combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries. Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – say they know little or nothing about Islam.

Here are answers to some key questions about Muslims, compiled from several Pew Research Center reports published in recent years…

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Posted in Globalization, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(WSJ) Sohrab Ahmari–How Nationalism Can Solve the Crisis of Islam

Then again, the 19th-century marriage of liberalism and nationalism ended in a very ugly divorce in the first half of the 20th century. What about the dangers of reviving nationalism today? “There is no a priori guarantee that it could not devolve into something nasty,” Mr. Manent says. “But if we don’t propose a reasonable idea of the nation, we will end up with an unreasonable idea of the nation. Because simply: However weakened the idea of the nation, nations do not want to die.”

Then there is the example across the Atlantic. Like Tocqueville, Mr. Manent sees much to admire in the American experiment. Even as Europeans have sought to pool or even abandon their sovereignty, he says, “Americans remained very much attached to the idea of a people making its laws to protect itself.”

True, “this people was open to the world, since of course it was formed by immigration. But people came from all over the world, not to be human beings but to be citizens of the United States, which had a keen sense of its exceptionalism and unique character.” In the Second Amendment, the persistence of the death penalty, and the reluctance of U.S. courts to follow foreign precedents, Mr. Manent sees “not a proof of American barbarism” but of democratic vigor.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Europe, History, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Fulcrum) Colin Chapman–Christian Responses to Islamism and Violence in the name of Islam

Max Warren, General Secretary of the Church Mission Society from 1942 to 1963, used to tell a story from his time in hospital after returning from service in Nigeria with a serious illness. One day he was examined by a medical student as part of his final examinations in front of his professor. After the examination the student gave his diagnosis of Warren’s illness to the professor. Warren knew that the diagnosis was wrong. So when he saw the professor the following day, he said to him, ‘I suppose that student failed because he got the diagnosis wrong’. ‘Oh no!’ replied the professor. ‘The diagnosis was wrong. But he would have got there in the end because he asked all the right questions’.

While we have been living with Islamism for some years, the creation of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in June 2014 no doubt took all of us by surprise. And if there’s been a variety of responses among national governments, academics and journalists, there’s also been a variety of responses among Christians. So if none of us can claim to give a definitive answer to the question of how Christians should respond to Islamism and ISIS, can we at least attempt to ask some of the right questions? These would be the ten questions that I would want to ask.

(1) What do we Mean by ‘Islamism’ and How does it Differ from Other Kinds of Islam?

I hope we are past the stage of speaking about ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ and are starting to use terms like ‘Islamism’, ‘political Islam’ or ‘radical Islam’. I am not talking about ordinary Muslims who may have a political agenda of one kind or another, but Muslims who have a clear agenda about creating some kind of Islamic polity. It is important to recognise, however, that Islamists are not all the same. Some believe in democracy, pluralism and human rights, while others do not. Some believe that violence is sometimes justified in pursuing an Islamic agenda, while others reject the use of violence. They all want to see Islamic principles applied in the public sphere; but they recognise the huge differences in the political make-up of states all over the world and have different ideas about how a particular state could be more Islamic….

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Church Times) We will repair damage done to our city and its people, Bishop tells Manchester

The killing of 22 people in a suicide bombing in Manchester on Monday had provoked “proper anger and rage” that must be directed into a “force for good”, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said this week.

In the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the London bombings of July 2005, a lone attacker, Salman Ramadan Abedi, detonated an im­­provised explosive device at Man­chester Arena at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert. Among those killed were children, and parents waiting to collect their children. In addition to the deaths, 59 people were injured. Many are being treated for life-threatening conditions.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced that the threat level in the UK had been raised to “critical”, indicating that a further attack might be “imminent”. For the first time since 2003, troops were being de­­ployed to join the police’s armed patrols. “It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” Theresa May said. On Wednesday afternoon, the Manchester police chief, Ian Hopkins, said: “I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating.” Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(BBC) Egypt Coptic Christians killed in bus attack

At least 23 people have been killed and 25 wounded after gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, state media report.

The incident occurred in Minya province, 250km (155 miles) south of Cairo, as the bus headed to a church.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Barna) Who Are the Lonely in America?

Science has shown that people who have close friendships are happier, more successful and even more physically and emotionally healthy. And in our hyper-connected culture, it may seem like it’s never been easier to make and maintain relationships. But is that true? How do Americans meet their friends? Who is most likely to feel lonely? In the infographic below, Barna explores new data about the care and keeping of friends.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CT) Shame, Guilt, and Fear: What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most

Many Americans are more worried about their reputation than their conscience.

They worry less about guilt and fear and more about avoiding shame, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Shame has become particularly powerful in American culture in the internet age, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. A single mistake or embarrassing moment posted on social media can ruin a person’s life.

“What’s our biggest cultural fear? Shame,” he said. “What’s surprising is not that personal freedom, ambition, and doing the right thing are valued by Americans. It’s that risk to our reputation is what matters most.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

(Premiere) Only half of young people believe Jesus was a real person

One third of Christian teenagers don’t know how to talk about Jesus according to a recent poll.

The ComRes survey of 2000 eleven to 18 year olds in England also found that despite this, 56 per cent of non-Christian teenagers said they’d be comfortable with a friend talking to them about faith.

Jimmy Dale who is the Church of England’s Youth Evangelism Officer told Premier’s News Hour the research leaves a big challenge.

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Posted in England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Andrew Graystone’s Thought for the Day the day after the Manchester bombing

Thousands of excited young people gathered last night for a concert in the Manchester Arena, just a couple of miles from where I am now. For some, their tickets were a birthday or Christmas present. For others, perhaps a quick break in their revision schedule. Many of those young people saw and heard things they will never forget. For them, and for countless friends and family members of those who were killed or injured, the course of their lives has changed forever

An event like this tears through the ordered fabric of our lives. We can find ourselves overwhelmed by anger, fear or deep sadness at the fallenness of our world, and the sinfulness of human hearts. If, as police are currently assuming, it was some sort of terror attack, then that was the precise intention. Random violence can’t win any followers – but it has the power to destabilise us, even those of us who aren’t affected directly. It can stoke the flames of fear or alienation.

But that response is not inevitable….

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology

(Stuff) Christ Church Cathedral ‘holding up city’s regeneration’ as government intervention calls grow

The neglected Christ Church Cathedral is one of about 30 sites being targeted by council for holding up the city’s regeneration.

The Christchurch City Council’s list comes amid growing calls for the Government to take control of the earthquake-damaged building, which has been sitting derelict in Cathedral Square since the February 2011 tremor.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner wants action on the site before a planned Anglican vote on its future in September, while campaigners have called for immediate government intervention to restore the cathedral.

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Posted in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia, Australia / NZ, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Spectator) Isabel Hardman–It’s not Tim Farron who is illiberal: it’s society

So why the squeamishness about certain beliefs? If it’s OK to say that Heaven exists, then why not answer a question on abortion or sex outside of heterosexual marriage? The answer is that even if Farron thinks it is perfectly possible to be a conservative Christian and an effective Liberal, he doesn’t believe it is possible to express certain Christian beliefs in today’s society. In other words, he suspects that our public debate isn’t particularly liberal.

And this is what the problem is. It’s not that Tim Farron is illiberal: his voting record suggests otherwise. It’s that he appears to fear that the reaction to his own religious beliefs would be so illiberal as to damage his party, and therefore he must obfuscate on those beliefs when asked. We live in a society of liberal intolerance, where only certain worldviews are deemed acceptable by people who often refuse to accept that they themselves have a worldview that also deserves interrogating. Such intolerance is often born of a sincere desire to make life better for those who have been persecuted in the past, including gay people, women who have abortions and those who divorce. But it becomes a form of persecution in itself, just focused on a newly unpopular group.

An election campaign is not the easiest time for a politician to take a principled stand against this liberal intolerance. But with every prominent figure who locks away the unpalatable parts of their worldview, society becomes a little less liberal. Which should worry many more people than just those who support Tim Farron’s party.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Uncategorized

(Scotsman) Princess Royal: Scotland’s churches have ‘major role in welcoming strangers’

The Princess Royal has praised the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly as a place for “reasoned debate” in her opening address at the annual event.

Her remarks come ahead of a debate at the assembly later this week which could move the Kirk a step closer to allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriage.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture