Category : * International News & Commentary

(CT) Sunday Bobai Agang–The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us

I appreciate our Christian patriotic interest in guarding the Christian faith from being supplanted by Islam. However, the church should not allow that concern to distract it from keeping its house in order. God does not call us to compete with Islam. Rather, he calls us to holy living. “It is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Pet. 1:16). As it is, the Christian faith in Nigeria is suffering public disgrace and disrepute because of our lack of self-control, ungodly living, and compromised integrity.

Jesus declared that he is the truth, the way to eternal life (John 14:6). Christians can be confident in our salvation by faith in our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ; we have nothing to fear. Our source of power and authority is God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:18–20). We are given power and authority to combat satanic and demonic oppression, to destroy the works of the flesh, to heal obsession with material things, and to create just structures and systems that guarantee human flourishing. By the power and authority God has vested in us, we have nothing to fear and no excuse for failure. We have in us what we need to create fertile environments for social and spiritual transformation, in Nigeria and around the world.

The fear of an Islamization agenda is very real, but it must not be allowed to distract us from our primary concern: Christlikeness, holy living, hard work, and moral integrity. If we are concerned about the spread of Islam, let us be equally concerned about the lack of Christian public integrity and witness in our society. We must not allow fearmongering or conspiracy theories to prevent us from recognizing the true threat.

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Posted in Christology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(FT) UK politicians preach their own brands of Christianity

Mrs May, whose father was a Church of England vicar, discussed Christianity mainly as an inspiration for people to do good such as visiting the sick or bereaved.

“We should celebrate all these contributions and others like them, and the difference they make in our society and around the world,” she said.

Mr Farron, meanwhile, accused Mrs May of linking Easter to “comfortable nostalgia”. He insisted that the message was, instead, “radical and disturbing”.

“People do not traditionally willingly exchange riches, glory and comfort for poverty, shame and pain — but that is what we see in the Easter story,” Mr Farron said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

How The Church Of England Is Extending Its Congregation

‘The Church’s structure is unique. We are, in effect, an umbrella organisation at a national level. The way I describe my role is that I shine a light on what is going on locally, whether that is registering Christmas services and bringing them together in a national directory, or creating a great set of videos for them to share. These are the things that our dioceses have neither the funds nor the time to create, and people associate with the Church of England so we can join it all up so that it doesn’t look too random.’

The social media work around Christmas ‘provided a real confidence boost regarding the opportunities there are with a relatively small budget’, adds [Adrian] Harris.

One popular initiative launched by the Church of England is to post a simple prayer on its social media accounts. ‘People write in their hundreds ‘Amen’ underneath,’ says Harris. On All Soul’s Day, when Christians remember deceased relatives and friends, many wrote their memories of lost ones under the prayer. He adds: ‘When awful things happen in the world, prayers tend to do well because it is about the Church showing relevance. It is about us being in that conversation with a Christian message.’

Prayer has proved particularly effective on Instagram. ‘We have got into a routine of posting at key points of the day, such as Sunday evening, and we are really strict about this schedule so that we can reach the biggest organic audience,’ says Harris. ‘We have 2,000 followers on Instagram, sharing prayers and nice pictures of the life of the Church. Every fortnight we are changing our focus, featuring a different church or a different tradition. We have an opportunity to tell our story, and our relevance stems from all the things that we do and the breadth and depth of the Church across the country.’

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) France Braces for Runoff Between Nationalism and Globalism

In the coming two weeks of the French campaign, Marine Le Pen’s challenge is to break through a wall of voter antipathy that she inherited from her father. Emmanuel Macron’s task is to persuade the French he has the gravitas and experience to be president.

The far-right Le Pen and centrist Macron both took just under a quarter of the vote in a contest with 11 candidates. Now they must convince the rest of the population that they have what it takes to lead the country after the May 7 runoff.

The next round will see two radically different visions. Macron embraces globalization and European integration, Le Pen channels the forces of discontent that triggered Brexit and brought Donald Trump to power. The runoff will also be unique in that it will be the first contested by neither of the major parties, giving Macron, 39, and Le Pen, 48, space to try to forge alliances that might have seemed unlikely until recently.

“Marine Le Pen’s toughest job is to break the traditional glass ceiling which her father Jean-Marie also suffered from,” said Yves-Marie Cann, a pollster at Elabe. “Even if her image is better than his was, the truth remains that most voters say they don’t share her ideas and have a bad opinion of the Front.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Europe, France, Globalization, Politics in General

(Eleanor Parker) The Story of St Mellitus

24 April is the anniversary of the death in 624 of Mellitus, first Bishop of London in the Anglo-Saxon period and third Archbishop of Canterbury. Mellitus arrived in England in 601, as part of the second wave of missionaries sent by Pope Gregory to support Augustine in his attempt to convert the Anglo-Saxons.

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Posted in Church History, England / UK

(NYT) Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen Are Poised to Advance in French Election

In France’s most consequential election in recent history, voters on Sunday endorsed Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen — one a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand — both outsiders but with starkly different visions for the country, early returns and projections indicated.

The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path at a critical moment when France’s election could also decide the future of the European Union. The two candidates appeared to be headed to a runoff on May 7.

Mr. Macron, a former investment banker, abandoned traditional parties a year ago to form his own movement with an eclectic blend of left and right views. He campaigned on a pro-European Union platform, coupled with calls to overhaul the rules governing the French economy.

“The French people have decided to put me ahead of the first round of the vote,” Mr. Macron told jubilant supporters at a rally in Paris. “I’m aware of the honor and the responsibility that rest on my shoulders.”

Ms. Le Pen’s success is a victory for skeptics who oppose the European Union and for those who want to see more “France first” policies to restrict signs of Muslim faith in public, like the wearing of head scarves.

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Posted in France, Politics in General

(Sun Telegraph) 1/2 of England’s Anglican cathedrals could close amid funding crisis

Anglican cathedrals could be forced to charge for entry or face closure, amid dwindling public funding and expensive running costs.

Financial crisis is threatening the future of half of England’s Anglican cathedrals, the chairman of a new working group has warned.

Currently just nine of the 42 cathedrals charge for entry, but that could change amid severe financial difficulties.

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Posted in Architecture, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint George

Almighty God, who didst commission thy holy martyr George to bear before the rulers of this world the banner of the cross: Strengthen us in our battles against the great serpent of sin and evil, that we too may attain the crown of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, England / UK, Spirituality/Prayer

An Economist vs Eurasia Group debate–France’s presidential election: What are Marine Le Pen’s odds of victory?

“EURASIA GROUP and The Economist are frequently sympatico,” says Ian Bremmer, “but not on the French elections.” Mr Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy. He recently took us to task on Twitter regarding our statistical forecast for France’s upcoming election. Our model calculates that Marine Le Pen of the National Front has a 1% chance of becoming the country’s next president. Eurasia pegs her probability at a far higher 40%, and Mr Bremmer wrote that our analysis was the “biggest mistake I’ve seen from them in ages”.

After seeing Mr Bremmer’s tweet, our data editor offered him a friendly wager on Ms Le Pen’s electoral fortunes, at the current price on the PredictIt betting market of 30%. After some back-and-forth, we have agreed to a bet at those odds: $60 on Mr Bremmer’s end if Ms Le Pen loses, $140 on our data editor’s side if she wins. Either way, the proceeds will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières, a charity. However, the victor will also claim from the vanquished a fine bottle of Meursault wine. “Since we’re betting on Le Pen,” Mr Bremmer says, “a French white seems required”.

In addition to our wager, we have invited Mr Bremmer to share with our readers an explanation of how Eurasia Group reached its conclusion that Ms Le Pen has a 40% shot to win, and responded with an account of our own reasoning. We hope you enjoy the debate.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Europe, France, Politics in General

(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

(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

(CT) Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

“The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.

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Posted in Christology, Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Terrorism, Theology: Scripture

(Bloomberg) Boko Haram Conflict Cuts Nigeria Wheat Crop as Farmers Flee

Wheat growers in Nigeria’s northeast have abandoned their farms under the onslaught of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency, a setback for the country’s efforts to cut imports by boosting local production, a research agency said.

“Wheat production in the zone has declined to just 20 percent of what it used to be due to insurgency,” Oluwashina Olabanji, executive director of the Lake Chad Research Institute, said in an interview in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. Borno, which used to account for about a quarter of Nigeria’s production, currently grows no wheat, he said.

Nigeria produced an average of 80,000 metric tons of wheat a year for decades until the introduction of a new variety in the 2012-13 season that tripled the average yield to as much as 6 tons per hectare (2.47 acres), increasing output to 400,000 tons in 2015-16 as more areas were cultivated, according to the institute. This compares with the output of 3.3 million tons during the same period by Ethiopia, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest producer.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Nigeria, Terrorism