Category : Religion & Culture

(CT) Blasphemy Blocks Re-Election of Indonesia’s Only Christian Governor

The blasphemy charges that cost Indonesia’s top Christian politician his re-election race won’t send him to jail.

Just a day after Basuki Purnama—popularly known as Ahok—conceded the runoff for governor of Jakarta, prosecutors recommended a light sentence of two years probation instead of the maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Ahok, a double minority in the archipelago as a Christian and as an Indonesian citizen who is ethnically Chinese, secured approval ratings as high as 70 percent in the capital region during his campaign. But when the anti-corruption crusader was accused of distorting a Qur‘an teaching to convince the nation’s overwhelming Muslim majority to vote for a Christian, public opinion shifted dramatically.

Ahok repeatedly denied the claims as a translation error, and accused Indonesia’s hardline Muslim groups of coordinating an attack against him. He ultimately conceded Wednesday’s election, trailing in the polls by less than 10 percentage points.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Indonesia, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(538) Don’t Bet On The Emergence Of A ‘Religious Left’

The first and perhaps most significant reason for skepticism is that there are far fewer religious liberals today than there were a generation ago. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) liberals are religiously unaffiliated today, more than double the percentage of the 1990s, according to data from the General Social Survey. In part, the liberal mass migration away from religion was a reaction to the rise of the Christian right. Over the last couple decades, conservative Christians have effectively branded religious activism as primarily concerned with upholding a traditional vision of sexual morality and social norms. That conservative religious advocacy contributed to many liberals maintaining an abiding suspicion about the role that institutional religion plays in society and expressing considerable skepticism of organized religion generally. Only 30 percent of liberals report having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in organized religion. Half say that religion’s impact on society is more harmful than helpful.

Another challenge confronting the progressive religious movement is the yawning generational divide in religious identity. Young liberals today are simply not that religious. Nearly half (49 percent) of liberals under 30 are religiously unaffiliated, according to the General Social Survey, which is more than the number who belong to all Christian denominations combined. Only 22 percent of liberal seniors are unaffiliated, while the overwhelming majority identify as religious. Your average left-leaning Christian is pushing 50. Coaxing young progressives to join a movement that would require them to reset their approach to religion is no small undertaking.

Read it all and makes sure to see this earlier Reiters story earlier which takes a different tack.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(Wash Post) Kay Warren–Who pastors the pastor? Even ministers suffer from suicidal thoughts

Wayne is not the only pastor or faith leader to experience mental illness, addiction, financial difficulty and thoughts of suicide. Sometimes the media blares the news of a pastor who dies by suicide, but often, they die quietly, unnoticed by many outside of their church and local community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every completed suicide in the general population, there are 25 attempts, and thousands more who think seriously about ending their lives. Pastors are not exempt from these statistics.

Wayne devoted countless hours to the duties of a pastor — preaching, teaching, marrying, burying, visiting the sick, showing up in the wee hours of the night for those in need. Every step of the way Lynn was right by his side, working as tirelessly as they could to care for and nurture the congregations they loved. His sons, Rusty and Dusty, knew they could count on their dad to be at countless tennis matches and soccer games, no matter what was happening at church. He was fiercely proud of his boys and frequently told them so.

But over time, his life slowly began to change. Sometimes pastors and congregations don’t mesh well, even when there’s nothing really wrong, and Wayne and Lynn were asked to resign from a church they were serving. For the first time in his adult life, Wayne was no longer a pastor. Still in his late 50s with many years ahead of him, he was rudderless. He had never been great with money management, and he began to overspend, taking on more debt than they could handle. He started drinking too much. He found employment as a chaplain for a funeral home, but it just wasn’t the same as being a pastor.

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Posted in Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(WSJ) Jonathan Den Hartog–‘In God We Trust,’ Even at Our Most Divided

If both North and South stood under divine judgment, then a new attitude was demanded, one of humbly working for the common good. In his peroration, Lincoln called his hearers to steady service: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

The most important of these tasks was “to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Lincoln was calling to mind the good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, who, finding an injured man, “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” Similarly, his injunction to help the widow and the orphan echoed the Book of James, which taught that “pure religion” consisted at least partly of visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”

Lincoln concluded that this vision could be a global one, as they would “do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” The 16th president thus demonstrated that the best religious reflection in public life could lead to humility, self-criticism, care for fellow citizens, and renewal of civic ties. And that seems like a beneficial reminder from the random coins jangling in our pockets.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(JSTOR Daily) Peter Feuerherd–How Religious Literacy Might Have Changed Waco

The siege had begun on February 28th of that year when, tipped off to an upcoming raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Koresh and his followers killed four government agents who came to investigate alleged firearms violations at their compound. Six Branch Davidians were also killed in that initial gun battle.

While government officials saw the tragedy as inevitable given Koresh’s obstinancy and violent tendencies, a cascade of religious scholars argued that the Waco raid was not completely justified and that, with a little more patience and understanding of biblical theology, the massive loss of life could have been avoided. They note that Koresh had been in touch with two scholars who challenged his teachings. When the final raid took place, Koresh was writing an interpretation of the Book of Revelation in response to that critique. A little more time, religion scholars argued, and Koresh and his followers might have left the compound peaceably. They say he needed time to finish his manifesto.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government, Violence

(Church Times) Anglican university to open in South Sudan

The first Anglican university in South Sudan will be a place in which the next generation escapes warring factions and prepares to build a peaceful nation, the theologian who chairs the project said this week.

Dr Eeva John, director of pastoral studies at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, chairs the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan University Partnership, a charity that is working with the Episcopal Church in South Sudan to open a multi-campus university within the next two years.

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Posted in --South Sudan, Education, Religion & Culture, Sudan

(Guardian) God in the machine: my strange journey into transhumanism

After losing her faith, a former evangelical Christian felt adrift in the world. She then found solace in a radical technological philosophy – but its promises of immortality and spiritual transcendence soon seemed unsettlingly familiar….

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Posted in Evangelicals, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Spectator) Melanie McDonagh–If you want to save the CofE, then get stuck in (and go to worship in your parish)

If you want the grisly figures, Linda Woodhead, the sociologist of religion, has them; or the website Counting Religion in Britain. The most obvious cause for concern about the CofE is not numbers but demographics. A recent study, The Last Active Anglican Generation, (OUP, 2017, £50 – so one to get from a library), is a study of Anglican laywomen from what the author calls Generation A (born in the twenties and thirties) in the UK and North America. Among its observations is something called pew power, viz, the notion of power over the institution wielded by ordinary congregations and parish workers – as opposed to leading from the front, the institutional stuff. But the point of it is in the title.

The unfortunate thing about Generation A is that it’s diminishing by the year, as its members go to their eternal reward, for a lifetime of church fetes, flower arranging, keeping the keys for empty churches and turning up, Sunday after Sunday. So, I have a simple proposal for the cultural Christians who agonise about the rise of Islam and the vanishing Christian character of Britain: go to church. Take the place of Generation A. Turn up for Easter Sunday as well as Christmas; keep Pentecost Sunday, because hardly anyone now knows what Whit Sunday stands for, and Ascension Thursday. There are lots of churches out there, you know: Anglicans in cities are spoiled for choice, and you can’t throw a brick in places like Norfolk without landing on something fabulous from the fifteenth century. Anglicans have, moreover, for those that seek it out, the loveliest liturgy, and you don’t deserve it. There are rubbish clergy, of course, but, you know, it’s possible to separate your feelings about the thing that’s being celebrated from the celebrant (Catholics are quite good at this). So, get out there. The numbers attending Anglican services fell below a million at the beginning of last year; they’re still falling.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

Johnny Cash & The Carter Family–Were you There When They Crucified my Lord? (1960)

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

Queen Elizabeth distributes Royal Maundy money at Leicester Cathedral

Queen Elizabeth II has distributed ceremonial pouches of coins to 182 men and women in a Maundy Thursday ceremony that dates back to the 13th Century. The queen, wearing a turquoise green coat and matching hat, handed out the money during a service at Leicester Cathedral in the English Midlands. In doing so she has now taken part in the traditional annual Maundy Thursday service in every one of England’s Anglican cathedrals.

The recipients were selected for their service to the church and community. Each of them – 91 each of male and female as the Queen is 91 years of age – received two pouches. A red one contained a commemorative £5 coin, commemorating the Centenary of the House of Windsor and a 50p coin commemorating Sir Isaac Newton; while a white pouch contained 91 pence – again, equal to her age – in specially minted Maundy coins.

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Posted in England / UK, Holy Week, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Ian Johnson’s book ‘The Souls Of China’ Documents Country’s Dramatic Return To Religion

SHAPIRO: There is such an interesting relationship between these emerging religious practices or returning religious practices, I guess we should say, and the government. There are several instances where you talk about sort of local government observers sitting in the back of a religious ceremony, and the preacher trying to thread this needle where he can deliver a message that might be a little bit barbed but deliver it not so explicitly that the government agents will shut down the ceremony.

JOHNSON: Yeah, especially with Christianity. There’s a suspicion of it from the government side. They see Christianity as foreign-influenced. So in that particular case, yeah, there were plainclothes police at the back of the hall – this was a big Christmas service that I attended – and they were listening in. And I think they were eager to find an excuse to shut it down, but they didn’t.

On the other hand, the so-called traditional faiths are often really encouraged by the government. And we can see this under Xi Jinping, that he’s given a lot of money and support to traditional religions like Buddhism and Taoism.

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Posted in Books, China, Religion & Culture

Rowan Williams Interviewed by the THE

What guidance can religious leaders offer in these times of political uncertainty and polarisation?
I think that religious leaders have an absolute duty to be crystal clear about human equality, about the porous nature of national boundaries, about the indivisible character of human interests and well-being. In other words, you can’t have a globe in which one bit of the human race profits indefinitely at the expense of another, or in which the suffering of one part of the human race is irrelevant to the well-being of another. I think that’s built into the DNA of every major religious tradition and that’s perhaps what religious leaders should be saying.

Have academics and religious leaders become more politicised recently?
I think they have always been political. If you look at the history of the university in the 17th century, the great political arguments get hammered out in universities as much as in court or in Parliament, so I don’t think that there’s anything new about academics or religious leaders having a political profile. I think that sometimes we nurture a bit of a fiction that, in the old days, clergy and dons just kept to themselves; they never did.

How has higher education changed in the past five to 10 years?
The public rhetoric around it has become much more oriented towards the idea of the student as a consumer, and a great deal of publicity has been predicated on that.

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, Education, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Is Radical Islam ‘taking hold’ in prisons?

A terrorist incident in a jail is more likely now than at any time since a break-out by the Provisional IRA from a top-security prison in 1994, according to a former governor who has conducted a review into Islamic extremism.

Ian Acheson warns that radical Islam is “taking hold” in prisons and that officers lack the skills to deal with the threat.

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Posted in England / UK, Islam, Religion & Culture

In Canada, Owen Sound Anglican church merger seen as a ‘natural step’

Owen Sound’s two Anglican churches will become one in June.

In February, the congregation of St. Thomas Anglican Church, in a 91-year-old stone building at 1331 4th Ave. W., asked if it could join St. George’s Anglican Church at 1049 4th Ave. E. in downtown Owen Sound.

The Rev. Claire Miller of St. Thomas church said the financial burden on the small congregation grew too heavy to bear alone. As both churches have shared services and social events, it seemed a “natural step” to join, she said Wednesday, pausing from preparing for Easter Sunday services.

“I think it was a very obvious decision,” Miller said. “From a practical sense and a business standpoint it makes sense to consolidate and pool resources and have a larger Anglican presence, one Anglican presence rather than being split.

“But I mean it is very emotional. People were born and baptized in this church, and married and there’s been funerals. So they’ve spent their life, this has been a big part of their spiritual and their social lives as well.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Spectator) Matthew Parris: Why I admire the Church of England

Mr Dreher, who advocates the second of these two responses, disapproves of the Church of England’s frequent accommodations with secular society. I do not. Like many atheists, agnostics and searchers, I find myself rather drawn to a church that, however fitfully, seems to be trying to stay open to ideas, differences and influences outside.

Connecting a religion and the culture within which it lives, the metaphor of a length of elastic is illuminating. The two may diverge, but each exerts a pull on the other. In its long, turbulent history, the church has sometimes run ahead of secular culture, sometimes lagged behind. It has a proud record in questions such as the abolition of slavery; in education, welfare and prison reform it has sometimes lit the way. On overseas aid and concern for the homeless, the church has led where secular society first looked away.

On the other hand, the church has had a chronically difficult relationship with the advancement of science, and, in recent centuries, has had to be dragged reluctantly to a recognition that religion is not the seat of learning about the material world. Wherever sex or gender are involved, the church has tended to lag a good few paces behind the rest of society. Mr Dreher might disagree, but I think that — pulled by secular society and with the elastic often stretched very tight — the church’s agonised progress towards the recognition of divorce and the acceptance of contraception (with of course powerful pockets of resistance among Roman Catholics) has been good for the world. Though I’m not myself opposed to abortion, I think Christianity’s anxiety about careless disregard for human life has also been good for the world.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Religion & Culture