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(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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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

A Prayer for Easter from John R W Stott

Lord Jesus, risen from the dead and alive for evermore: Stand in our midst [this day]…as in the upper room; show us thy hands and thy side; speak thy peace to our hearts and minds; and send us forth into the world as thy witnesses; for the glory of thy name.

–The Rev. John R. W. Stott

Posted in Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures for ever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his mercy endures for ever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his mercy endures for ever.

Who only does great wonders,
for his mercy endures for ever

–Psalm 136:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(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.

Read it all.

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

(60 Minutes) Silicon Valley programmers are engineering your phone and its apps to make you as addicted to them as possible

That phone in your pocket is like a slot machine. Every time you check it, you’re pulling the lever to see if you get a reward.

At least that’s how former Google product manager Tristan Harris sees it. This week on 60 Minutes, he tells correspondent Anderson Cooper that Silicon Valley programmers are engineering your phone and its apps to make you check them more and more.

Take Snapchat. It’s the app that teens rank as “most important social network,” according to a Piper Jaffray report, and it’s keeping teens hooked by design. Snapchat’s “streaks” feature shows the number of days in a row that two people have traded photos, and the anxiety of breaking a streak is real.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in Science & Technology

Martin Luther for Easter–A Sermon on the Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Christ himself pointed out the benefit of his sufferings and resurrection when he said to the women in Mt 28, 10 – “Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” These are the very first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he therefore anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection.

The risen Christ waits not until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Do we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples all fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with its young. He should have called them deserters, yea, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also, when we are mired fast in our sins, temptations and condemnation.

These are words full of all comfort that Christ receives desperate villains as you and I are and calls us his brethren. Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of? Just as it is among natural brothers, so is it also here. Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance, otherwise they would not be brothers: so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, and have in common with him one Father and one inheritance, which never decreases by being distributed, as other inheritances do; but it ever grows larger and larger; for it is a spiritual inheritance. But an earthly inheritance decreases when distributed among many persons. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance, has it all.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Easter, Preaching / Homiletics

(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.

Read it all.

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

Jerri Savuto–Easter Memories: Escaping the Commercial Trap

As I am in the US for the first time in many years, I find myself longing for the simplicity of Maua, Kenya, during Easter time. There Easter has none of the commercial trappings we find here. As I enter grocery stores, discount stores, and department stores I am shocked at the amount of space taken by the Easter candy, bunnies and stuffed animals, baskets, decorations, and new spring clothing. These items take more space than any grocery store has for all their goods in Maua.

I recently read that an estimated $2 billion will be spent on Easter candy this year in the US. Two billion dollars to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who asked us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, care for the sick and imprisoned, and welcome the stranger.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Easter, Theology

More Music for Easter 2017:O Radiant Dawn – James MacMillan


O Radiant Dawn – James MacMillan

Posted in Easter, Liturgy, Music, Worship

The Bishop of Chichester’s 2017 Easter Sermon

I am not, and probably never will be, a gardener. This does not mean that I don’t like gardens: I do, but mainly when they are somebody else’s responsibility. But one of the things I like about gardens is that they are great for playing hide and seek, which is what today’s gospel is all about.

In fact, the whole of St John’s gospel is a brilliantly constructed unfolding of the unseen God who is hidden revealingly in Jesus Christ: it’s an eternally significant game of hide and seek. And John’s literary method is also brilliantly captured, in art, by Graham Sutherland’s depiction of the hide and seek moment that is central to this Easter celebration.

Sutherland’s 2-dimensional garden is a jewel-like work that is filled with memories of the garden of Eden where we enjoyed but seriously damaged, our friendship with God, according to the book of Genesis. The prize it holds out to us is finding a way back into that garden of friendship for real, and not simply as a theoretical proposition.

If you have time after the Eucharist, go and find this icon of the resurrection. It’s at the far end of the south aisle. Go and pray; light a candle and rejoice in the opportunity to seek and find the image of the risen Christ. And here are five details that are hidden in the picture…

Read it all.

Posted in Art, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Easter, Preaching / Homiletics

An Easter Message from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence

As a parish priest I remember telling parishioners, on more than one occasion, “When death comes into your home he brings a lot of unwanted relatives with him.” I do not mean relatives or in-laws who may come from out of town for the funeral. The relatives of death to which I refer are grief, fear, loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, depression, even anxiety. Once these come under the roof of your house it is difficult to show them the door. They tend to take up residence, over staying their welcome. Just this morning I read the story of Clint Hill, the secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy during the days some refer to as Camelot. With poignant grief he recalled her words that day almost fifty years ago as the President’s wounded head lay in her lap like a modern Pieta, “They shot his head off. Oh Jack, what have they done?”

I’ve been listening to Dr. Billy Graham’s recent book Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. He is no stranger to moments of national grief, like the one Clint Hill witnessed so painfully. At age 93 he has seen firsthand more than a little of our country’s sorrow. Yet grief when it is personal strikes even deeper. In recounting the death of his beloved wife and best friend for almost sixty-four years, Ruth Bell Graham, he writes, “Although I rejoice that her struggles with weakness and pain have all come to an end, I still feel as if a part of me has been ripped out, and I miss her far more than I ever could have imagined.” “Death”, he goes on to say, quite accurately, “is always an intruder even when it is expected.” Frankly, if there is no answer to death there is no answer to our most abiding enemy and all those blood relatives he brings with him. This, as you might imagine, brings me to Easter. I am happy to recall it. The apostle affirms, “Our Saviour Jesus Christ has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10 NEB)

Easter unflinchingly confronts our enemies, death and sin that would lock us in a self-justifying bondage, and plague our lives from start to finish. Christ’s death, however, is God’s No to sin. In the cross God reveals his hatred of sin as Christ dies to destroy it; and shows his love for sinners as he dies to free us of it. In Christ’s resurrection God speaks his Yes to life and human freedom, breaking the power of death. Donald Coggan, a former Archbishop of Canterbury put it well: “You may not like it. You may ignore it. You may deny it. But this is it. Take away the Cross and Resurrection from Christianity and you have a poor lifeless and maimed thing left…” And we must also say a dead religion dreadfully inadequate for our needs. Archbishop Coggan was right. We need to keep the Cross and Resurrection central. They tell us of God’s No, to death, and the fear that is death’s power; No, to sin and its tyranny of our lives; No, to fear that cripples us from living the dance of life freely; No, to the shame we don’t deserve and grace for the shame we do; No, to the loneliness that dogs our steps for the Risen One is with us always. Let me say again. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Great Yes of God. It has left us an empty tomb and an open door. It will in God’s good time and grace sweep our lives clean of death and the unwanted relatives it brings into our homes. Even this Sunday as we say the words, “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” the joy of Easter may escort some these out the door. We can then live our lives in Christ, with Christ and for Christ freely, and for his sake for a hurting and broken world.

May the Peace of the Risen Christ be always with you,

–(The Rt Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Easter