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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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What does this mean for conservative Christians? Keller uses the analogy of an umbrella:
So what’s happening is the roof has come off for the devout. The devout had a kind of a shelter, an umbrella. You couldn’t be all that caustic toward traditional classic Christian teaching and truth. I spoke on Friday morning to the American Bible Society’s board. American Bible Society does a lot of polling about the Bible. The use of the Bible, reading the Bible, attitudes toward the Bible. They said that actually the number of people who are devout Bible readers is not changing that much.
What is changing is for the first time in history a growing group of people who think the Bible is bad, it’s dangerous, it’s regressive, it’s a bad cultural force, that was just never there. It was very tiny. And that’s because the middle ground has shifted, so it is more identified with the more secular, the less religious, and it’s less identified now with the more devout.
Later, he explains what the loss of this umbrella means for the devout:
The roof came off. That is, you had the devout, you had the secular, and you had that middle ground that made it hard to speak disrespectfully of traditional values. That middle ground now has not so much gone secular, but they more identified with this side. They are identified with expressive individualism, and so they don’t want to tell anybody how to live their lives.
And so what that means now of course is that the devout suddenly realize that they are out there, that the umbrella is gone, and they are taking a lot of flak for their views, just public flak.
Read it all.
Terrorism is a multifaceted problem, so the solutions should address the political, economic, social and religious layers. Approaches that reduce the problem to religion do a disservice to at-risk youth and the world at large. The international community would do well to realize that Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism—both literally and symbolically—and they can help marginalize terrorists and prevent recruitment. That’s why governments should avoid statements and actions that result in the alienation of Muslims.
Violent extremism has no religion; there will always be people who manipulate faith texts. Just as Christians do not endorse Quran burnings or the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, and Buddhists do not endorse atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, mainstream Muslims do not endorse violence.
Muslims have historically added much to the flourishing of human civilization. Our greatest contributions were made in eras when the faith cherished mutual respect, freedom and justice. It may be immensely difficult to restore the blotted image of Islam, but Muslims can be beacons of peace and tranquility in their societies.
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Cardinal William Joseph Levada, once the highest-ranking American official at the Vatican, was arrested last Thursday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for drunken driving and is now set to respond to the charge in court next month.
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This week, Archbishop Foley Beach, at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill of Russia, led a delegation from the Anglican Church in North America to Moscow for formal ecumenical meetings with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The delegation made a pilgrimage to the monastery of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius on Monday, August 24th before beginning meetings with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations on Tuesday, August 25th. Later in the day, the conversations continued when the delegation was officially received by Patriarch Kirill at his residence.
During the communist era, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered decades of severe persecution. This week the Anglican delegation saw a transformed religious landscape in which Christian symbols now dominate Red Square and Moscow, and new churches are being planted across the country (on average 1,000 per year for the last 27 years).
Both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church in North America expressed a desire to see the growth and deepening of relationships between Orthodoxy and faithful, global Anglicanism. Archbishop Beach delivered a letter of greeting from Archbishop Wabukala, the Archbishop and Primate of Kenya, and Chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON).
As the realignment of Anglicanism continues to unfold, Archbishop Beach gave thanks for the common ground that the faithful of both churches are finding on the practical moral issues that confront our societies:...
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On 25 August 2015, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, met with members of the delegation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), who had come to Russia on a pilgrimage visit. The meeting took place at the DECR premises.
Metropolitan Hilarion told the guests about the activities of the Department for External Church Relations, paying special attention to inter-Christian contacts of the Russian Orthodox Church and her relationships with the Protestant world. As the DECR chairman noted, the process of liberalizing moral teaching is going in a number of Protestant Churches today. The Moscow Patriarchate breaks off communion with such Churches.
The participants in the meeting discussed the issues, pressing for the Anglican Communion today, including the issue of admitting women to ‘episcopal’ orders, which has become a topic of heated debate after the General Synod of the Church of England made the respective decision in 2014, as well as the problem, closely related to the previous one, of preserving the unity of the Anglican Communion, whose spiritual centre is the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The guests shared with Metropolitan Hilarion their vision of the abovementioned issues, reaffirming the ACNA’s commitment to the Gospel moral principles and doctrines, traditional for Anglicans.
The participants in the meeting expressed their satisfaction over the fruitful cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church in North America in academic sphere.
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On 25 August 2015, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with members of the delegation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), who had come to Russia on pilgrimage, at the Patriarchal residence in St Daniel’s Monastery in Moscow.
The delegation included Archbishop Foley Beach, head of the Anglican Church in North America; Bishop Ray Sutton, chairman of ACNA’s Ecumenical Relations Committee; Bishops Kevin Allen and Keith Ackerman; and Rev. Canon Andrew Gross, head of ACNA’s Communications and Media Relations Service.
Greeting the delegation of the Anglican Church in North America, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted the difficulty of the situation in which this denomination had been established six years ago. “At the time your Church was undergoing a very difficult period in her history, which required from believers fortitude and the ability to resist great temptations,” His Holiness said.
“It is my firm belief that in the course of her history, the Church faces challenges which she must overcome with all her courage,” he continued, “There are two models of behavior of the Church and Christians. The first one implies obedience to secular power and those mighty forces that influence the development of society. The second one implies the ability to tell the truth and show commitment to Christ’s glad tidings.”
As the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church noted, the second model always implies martyrdom. “There is nothing new in it. The Lord said that we should follow the narrow path leading to the Heavenly Kingdom. A wide and nice path will not lead us there,” he said, “Here, in Russia, we realized it in the hard times of persecutions of our Church. We also could choose one of the models of behavior, and I thank God for granting fortitude to our predecessors who followed the only right path and never fell away from the Apostolic faith and the Tradition we received through the Apostles and holy fathers.”
“For a moment it seemed that the Church had no future here, for the majority of people would not associate the future of our country with Christianity,” His Holiness Patriarch Kirill continued. “Yet, the Lord changed the course of history in several days, and those who had been regarded as outcasts and retrogrades, turned out to be heroes courageously defending their beliefs.”
The participants in the meeting discussed the processes going on in the Anglican Communion in recent years, as well as prospects of Orthodox-Anglican dialogue. Archbishop Foley Beach told about a positive experience of bilateral dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America and the Orthodox Church in America.
Also discussed at the meeting were practical aspects of cooperation between the Anglican Church in North America and the Russian Orthodox Church.
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Next month a hilltop square in Rome is due to be named Piazza Martin Lutero, in memory of Luther’s achievements. The site chosen is the Oppian Hill, a park area that overlooks the Colosseum.
The move has been six years in a making, following a request made by the Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant denomination, Italian daily La Repubblica said. The original plan was to inaugurate the square in time for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s historic trip to Rome in 2010. City officials were not able to discuss the process behind naming the square or the reason for the holdup.
Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.
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..For the most part, segments of our life - often entire chunks of it - aren't going well and much of it we don't live well. Given that joy attaches to life going well and being led well, must joy be lost to us? It need not be. We can rejoice over the many small goods we experience, and for those of us who are religious, we can find joy in the One Good that is both the source and the goal of our existence.
Though fragmentary, all small joys celebrate goods in our lives that are and remain wonderful, at times no more than tender plants in the cracks of our otherwise heavily cemented and gray lives. And in all true joys we yearn for, and perhaps also faintly experience, a world in which all things and all manner of things shall be well.
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Filed under: * Religion News & Commentary
Religious freedom in America is under threat, and the battle is already in progress. For the most part, the burden of the struggle has been borne by Christians. America’s Jews, living safely behind the front lines, have paid little heed. But that safety is likely to be ephemeral. If freedom falls for those now fighting for their religious rights, it can fall for all, prominently including a community characterized by its attachment to an ancient and traditional moral code and defining ritual practices.
The threat emanates from a classic question: what is the proper relationship between church and state? The tension is as old as recorded history. It appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh and throughout Greek mythology. Some societies, from the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to Japan’s chrysanthemum throne, imbued their rulers with divinity. In Christendom, western kings answered to the pope while eastern churches supported the emperor. In Islam, the caliph held titles of both temporal and spiritual authority. England maintains an established church still today, while France severed its formal ties to Catholicism more than a century ago. In Jewish tradition, the Second Temple period was replete with conflicts between royals and priests—hence the rabbinic reluctance to embrace the Hasmoneans, priestly usurpers to the throne whose victories are celebrated annually by today’s Jews at Ḥanukkah. In modern-day Israel, selected areas of civil governance have been relegated entirely to religious authorities.
The U.S. Constitution, steeped in classical liberalism, attempted a novel—and ingenious—resolution. It combined the absence of an official, “established” religion with the individual’s freedom to choose and follow his faith.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Education History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism
The historic First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, announced in May that it would declare itself be “open and welcoming” to all people and that it would allow same-sex marriage and ordain openly homosexual ministers.
The move came after the church had undergone a “discernment” process under the leadership of a “LGBT Discernment Team.” That team brought a report to the church’s deacons, who then forwarded it to the congregation. The church then approved the statement by standing vote.
The congregation, now more than 180 years old, is one of the most historic churches in the South. It participated in the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 and its pastor, William Bullein Johnson, became the SBC’s first president. The church was largely responsible for the birth of Furman University and its old “church house” became the first home of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859. Few churches in the South can match its historical record.
Nevertheless, First Baptist Greenville and the Southern Baptist Convention had moved in very different theological directions in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The church was moving steadily in a more liberal direction and the Southern Baptist Convention was moving to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and a far more confessional understanding of its identity.
The church and the denomination were set on a collision course, and the congregation voted to withdraw from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999. If that had not happened, the SBC would have moved to withdraw fellowship on the basis of the church’s announcement in May...
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...Grainy security camera footage showed Khadiza and her two 15-year-old friends, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, calmly passing through security at Gatwick Airport for Turkish Airlines Flight 1966 to Istanbul and later boarding a bus to the Syrian border.
“Only when I saw that video I understood,” Ms. Khanom said.
These images turned the three Bethnal Green girls, as they have become known, into the face of a new, troubling phenomenon: young women attracted to what experts like Sasha Havlicek, a co-founder and the chief executive of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, call a jihadi, girl-power subculture.
An estimated 4,000 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq, more than 550 of them women and girls, to join the Islamic State, according to a recent report by the institute, which helps manage the largest database of female travelers to the region.
The men tend to become fighters much like previous generations of jihadists seeking out battlefields in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. But less is known about the Western women of the Islamic State. Barred from combat, they support the group’s state-building efforts as wives, mothers, recruiters and sometimes online cheerleaders of violence.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe Turkey Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology
There was a miserable stint in the Army, mercifully shortened by a psychiatrist who thought I had no business being a soldier. There were a couple of romantic relationships with married women. Casting about for something to do, I eventually settled on studying journalism at San Francisco State University.
That’s where I found Islam. A friend introduced me to the Qur’an, and I was entranced by its words, which speak of a God who cares a great deal about the men and women he created. But it was also the people: the Palestinian and African American Muslims who first taught me what it meant to surrender. They welcomed me as no one else had before.
Some people look to faith for ideas of right and wrong, or some understanding of good and evil, or a set of principles with which to order the world. Not me. What I sought, what I ached for, was meaning and belonging. And Islam gave me both.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Christology Soteriology
Taxpayers in the UK donate £2.7 billion a year in aid to countries where Christians are suffering some of the most extreme religious persecution in the world, figures show.
Analysis of official aid statistics shows that four out of five countries listed on a global human rights watch list, charting attacks or official suppression against Christians, receive money from the overseas development budget or through other official agencies.
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It would be hard to imagine a story much more hellish than the lengthy New York Times piece that is racing around the Internet today that ran under this blunt headline: "ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape."
However, it is the second piece of the double-decker headline that will be the most controversial and discussed part of this piece: "Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool."
The bottom line: To make that statement, the Times team needs to show readers specific references in the Quran, by quoting them, and then show proof of how ISIS leaders are interpreting those passages, perhaps through a lens from earlier expressions of the faith. It would then help, of course, to show how mainstream Islamic scholars, and experts outside of Islam, read those same passages today.
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A Pennsylvania pastor who’s the key suspect in a global insider-trading scheme must remain in custody while being sent to New York for a bail hearing.
A judge in Philadelphia, whose decision on Tuesday to free Vitaly Korchevsky on $100,000 bail was blocked by a judge in Brooklyn, ordered the pastor temporarily detained while he’s transported by U.S. Marshals to the New York borough for the hearing.
Korchevsky made no comments Friday in court in Philadelphia. He whispered to his wife and brother-in-law across the courtroom. Bob Levant, one of his attorneys, said the father of two is the “centerpiece” of a close-knit Ukrainian community in the Glen Mills area.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Law & Legal Issues Media Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
U.S. intelligence agencies have evidence indicating Islamic State used mustard agent against Kurdish forces for the first time at least two weeks ago in fighting in Syria, a tactic that the group may have repeated in two subsequent attacks in Iraq, U.S. officials said Friday.
The developments are fueling concerns that Islamic State has acquired a crude arsenal of banned chemicals that could herald a significant escalation of fighting in the region.
“It could be a pattern,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the intelligence.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
She was a cheerleader, an honor student, the daughter of a police officer and a member of the high school homecoming court who wanted to be a doctor.
He was a quiet but easygoing psychology student. His father is a well-known Muslim patriarch here, whose personable mien and habit of sharing food with friends and strangers made him seem like a walking advertisement for Islam as a religion of tolerance and peace.
Today, the young woman, Jaelyn Young, 19, and the young man, her fiancé, Muhammad Dakhlalla, 22, are in federal custody, arrested on suspicion of trying to travel from Mississippi to Syria to join the ranks of the Islamic State.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Psychology Religion & Culture Violence Young Adults * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
On a hot August morning, 30-year-old Sister Bethany Madonna sits before the altar of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist. Seated alongside her are seven other women, also in their 30s, also dressed in blue habits and long white veils.
The moment has been years in coming: the day they consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ as they offer their final vows as members of the Sisters of Life.
Which provoked a question: What could lead a personable young woman from a happy family to give up everything -- especially at a moment when women have never had as many opportunities before them?
It’s a reasonable question.
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The white Christians I know who care deeply about solving our nation’s racial injustices are those who are embedded in communities with black and Hispanic and Asian Christians. They care not just about issues but about people they love as their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Where we see churches that expand beyond the sameness of ethnicity or economic status, we see people who are willing to stand up for one another in the public square, because they’ve learned to love one another at the family table.
The answer to racial injustice is precisely the way the Hebrew prophets once framed the answer to all social evil. It means working for courts and systems that are fair and impartial. But it doesn’t stop with policies and structures. It must also include people who are transformed, not just by greater social awareness, but also by consciences that are formed by something other than our backgrounds. For that, we need more than national conversations and policy proposals (as important as those are).
We need, nationally, what Abraham Lincoln called “a new birth of freedom.” But we also need, personally, a new birth.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
To the casual skeptic, the notion of getting sucked into the Church of Scientology's belief system is a prospect as likely as a Sunday brunch date with galactic overlord Xenu.
But for the average Canadian, it helps that this film's main liaison is filmmaker Paul Haggis, a practising Scientologist for 35 years before his explosive departure from the church in 2009.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The BBC's John McManus says Archbishop [Josiah] Idowu-Fearon, who is the new secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, has a strong reputation for promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
But the archbishop told our correspondent that efforts to maintain unity were undermined by some fellow Christians who failed to engage with their Muslim counterparts.
"We warned the leadership in my country, the Christian Association of Nigeria: 'Let us listen to the Muslim leadership, because the leadership is not in support of Boko Haram.'
"'Oh no no no,' they said, 'they are always deceiving us. They are all the same,'" he said.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
..Here's what a Charity Commission spokesperson told me about that: "In May 2015, the Commission was made aware that the trustees of Barnabas Aid International were considering asking Dr Sookhdeo to serve on their board again. This gave rise to serious regulatory concerns..
...Sookhdeo's lawyers sought leave to appeal against his convictions. However, he changed his mind and withdrew the application. In the words of a statement to Christian Today: "Despite having consulted a leading QC and feeling encouraged that his solicitors expect he would be vindicated at court, Dr Sookhdeo has decided, at least at this stage, not to proceed with his appeal against his conviction."
The statement says: "His lawyers have urged him to consider the effect that an appeal and consequent retrial would have on his health and that of his wife Rosemary, not to mention the emotional stress that they would have to endure over the next one to two years whilst the appeal went through the courts. Dr Sookhdeo would also have to pay very considerable legal fees just to clear his name."
It also says that he is "acutely aware" of the effect continued media coverage would have on the Barnabas Fund and that he is "very thankful and humbled by the continued support he has had for his ministry".
The statement concludes: "With the support and confidence of its trustees, he will continue to serve Barnabas Aid International as its International Director. His expertise on Islam and his unrivalled knowledge of the persecuted Church are needed more than ever."
So here's the question.
What is Barnabas thinking?
Read it all and the background post is here
It was a formal church setting with nine area Christian leaders present, but no formal sermons were given or messages with the Bible cracked open to a particular passage.
Instead, the clergy spoke off the cuff in a Christian “conversation” Wednesday night on issues of faith and belief.
And that led them into some areas of modern-day debate and concern, such as marriage equality, race and the church’s relevance in a digital age.
“We’ll be having a great debate next April about same-sex marriage and transgender (issues),” said the Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, at “Christianity Beyond the Catchphrases,” held at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology Sexuality * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Perhaps John Rhys-Davies was channeling Gimli, his character from The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, because the Welsh actor delivered a soliloquy late Monday about good and evil and even warned of the end of days courtesy of radical Islamic terrorism and political correctness.
"There is an extraordinary silence in the West," said Rhys-Davies on Adam Carolla's podcast posted Monday night. "Basically, Christianity in the Middle East and in Africa is being wiped out — I mean not just ideologically but physically, and people are being enslaved and killed because they are Christians. And your country and my country are doing nothing about it...."
"This is a unique age. We don't want to be judgmental," said Rhys-Davies, who's also known for his role in the Indiana Jones franchise. "Every other age that has come before us has believed exactly the opposite. I mean, T.S. Eliot referred to 'the common pursuit of true judgment.' Yes. That's what it's about. Getting our judgments right."
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The recruiting ground for Islamic extremism looks vastly different for western Muslims and Muslims living in the Middle East.
The traditional picture of the Australian recruit is of a young man, poorly educated in his faith. But a visiting Middle East expert says that in Muslim nations recruits are increasingly well-educated professionals who are deeply frustrated by a lack of opportunity.
Professor Hamdy Hassan is a faithful Muslim, the son of a Sheikh, and political scientist at the University of Cairo and Zayed University in Dubai. He's a Visiting Fellow at Deakin University, Victoria, and is sponsored by the Council of Australia Arab Relations
Listen to it all.
Burma is a deeply religious nation—predominantly Buddhist but with big religious and ethnic minorities.
Stephen Than, the Anglican Archbishop is from the minority Karen people. During his lifetime he has faced ethnic discrimination and a crisis of faith. Archbishop Than is the subject of a new biography, Dancing With Angels, by Melbourne Anglican priest Alan Nichols.
Listen to it all (just over 13 minutes).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Prison/Prison Ministry Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Asia Myanmar/Burma * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Buddhism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Is the Pope Catholic? Of course. Wait ... no! Oh, hang on -- yeah, yeah, he is. pic.twitter.com/Hql9d8Inw5— Freakonomics (@freakonomics) August 11, 2015
Life is stranger than fiction.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Media Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
White-on-black Islamic calligraphy still adorns the establishment that the Islamic State used to recruit fighters and bombers in this town in southeast Turkey.
Known as the Islamic Tea House, it was a hub for bearded men in tunics, who lured young men for explosives training in Syria before complaints from the community led police to shut it down.
“It wasn’t exactly a tea house, but they did drink tea among themselves,” says Mahmoud Tunc, a chatty boy with a whisper of a mustache who works at a tiny tea shop across the street. “They were a carbon copy of the IS guys you see on social media. Even if you put a Quran in front of them, they wouldn’t read it. They would just parrot their stupid ideology. They were not harmful to us but they were very harmful to Adiyaman and Islam.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence Young Adults * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Turkey * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
I’ve noticed before the strange tendency of hateful buildings to become almost lovable after the passage of decades. Not all of them, of course. Some, like the 1960s highrise clones lining Moscow’s New Arbat (Kalinin Prospekt) become more annoying as they get shabbier. But the Moscow State University building on Lenin Hills, one of Moscow’s seven late-Stalinist wedding cakes, has definitely undergone a metamorphosis in my mind. When I lived there in the late 1960s, I regarded it as an anti-people monster, guarded by dragons who, if you had lost your pass, would throw you out to die in the snow. (According to Hatherley, they now use swipe cards to protect the building against invasion.) But I noticed a while back that I had started regarding the wedding cakes with something like affection; apparently the passage of time has naturalised them.
But Hatherley is young, and so are the Poles who like the Palace of Culture; their reassessment must come from somewhere else. Actually it seems to come from two different places. One is the Western pop/youth phenomenon that might be called Soviet ruin chic – a fascination with Soviet imperial ghosts or, as Hatherley puts it, ‘tourism of the counter-revolution’. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, with its memorable imagery of the Zone, is a reference point here, as is real-life Chernobyl, now a tourist destination for those with a ‘ruin chic’ sensibility. Hatherley distinguishes his own position from that of the admirers of Totally Awesome Ruined Soviet Architecture, and his ideological and personal baggage is definitely not counter-revolutionary. But there’s some family – or perhaps more accurately, generational – resemblance.
The other place this re-evaluation comes from is Eastern Europe, specifically young people who grew up in the Soviet bloc at the end of the communist era, and don’t share their parents’ bad memories.
Read it all from the LRB.
Professional football isn’t known for being a place that encourages deep intellectual reflection. With its history of silence on head injuries, locker-room harassment, and macho culture, the NFL would be the last place you would expect to find a philosopher and a poet–and an atheist to boot. But all of those things come together in Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who was the subject of an ESPN feature yesterday in which he revealed that he didn’t believe in God. That’s unusual in a league where players regularly point to the sky (nevermind the questionable theology behind the assumption that heaven is somewhere up in the sky) and meet for regular Bible studies.
Foster, raised in New Mexico and San Diego, played for the University of Tennessee Volunteers before entering the NFL in 2009. His father was Muslim, and Foster grew up in that tradition, praying five times a day and asking God for help when he was in a difficult situation. He eventually garnered the courage to tell his father that he didn’t believe in God, and instead of a lecture, Foster’s father told him to ” Go find your truth.”
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A year after tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled communities overtaken by Islamic State militants, their lives are on hold in exile: They won't go back to Iraq, saying it's not safe for Christians, but as refugees they're barred from working in temporary asylum countries such as Jordan. Expectations of quick resettlement to the West have been dashed.
"We've lost hope in everything," said Hinda Ablahat, a 67-year-old widow who lives with dozens of fellow refugees in plywood cubicles set up in a church compound in downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. "We've been sitting here for a year and nothing's happened."
About 7,000 Christians from northern Iraq have found refuge in Jordan, including about 2,000 living in church-sponsored shelters.
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Indian democracy has not blown up. But Ambedkar’s contradiction persists, and the caste foundation of India’s political structure maintains the hierarchy at the root of the country’s tremendous inequality of status and condition. Much of the careful thought of the nineteenth-century reformers and the founding generation has been shunted aside by the force of caste-based politics on the one hand and capitalist materialism on the other. The political principles on which the Indian state is founded have not been sufficient to create an inclusive, egalitarian society. Although the post-independence generation of Congress politicians promoted a secular vision of the Indian nation, they did not pursue the kinds of reforms that might have brought social reality closer to their political ideal. In doing so, they opened the way for the ascendance of caste-based politics and, ultimately, the more reactionary rise of religion in politics.
Hindu nationalism, with its dual focus on cultivating traditional social practices and providing social services afforded neither by the state nor economic growth, would seem to provide the strongest alternative to a modern capitalist society. But Hindu nationalism itself has adapted to India’s increasing wealth. The upper castes, particularly the Brahmins, once prided themselves on simple, even ascetic, living; they now hold up material success as another sign of caste superiority. The traditional Hindu elite is no longer distinguishable from the modern economic elite.
Prime Minister Modi is the living embodiment of this troubling marriage of Hindu nationalism and capitalism, of traditional social hierarchy and modern materialism. While he has maintained the support of his elite urban business constituents, he has proven himself to be as much a disciple of the Hindu Right as he was in his youth. Even as the RSS offers hope and basic services to thousands of poor, lower-caste youth like Aakash, we cannot take the organization’s apparent social egalitarianism at face value. At its core remains the inequality that has long marked Indian life.
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With scant media attention, leading U.S. thinkers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon) and Evangelical Protestantism have been holding regular dialogue meetings the past 15 years. This is a good moment for religion writers to examine where things stand between these two dynamic faiths.
That’s because the talks are pausing temporarily as participants issue a new anthology: “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation” (InterVarsity Press). The book’s editors, who’ve led the dialogue to date, are top sources for journalists: Robert Millet, former religious education dean at the LDS Brigham Young University, and Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary.
The two sides constitute the most unlikely dialogue partners imaginable, despite their concord on moral issues in the socio-political realm.
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There is a natural link between evangelism and worship. Yes, at Redeemer we talk about sharing the hope of Jesus out of our gratitude for his love and rescue. Worship and gratitude is a natural motivator for evangelism but there’s another link that comes to mind. When I talk to Christians and pastors who have a natural bent towards evangelism, I notice they live their faith very publicly because evangelism is an act of worship. They get to see a glimpse of God’s sovereignty, his unrelentless love and pursuit of someone and they get to see the Holy Spirit do beautiful things in their midst. Lyn Cook, a Community Group Director with Redeemer’s East Side Congregation, told me one time, evangelism is one way God reaches into her heart and reminds her of his grace and goodness. He reveals himself to her by giving her hope and compassion as she prays, listens and talks with non-believing friends. God’s sovereignty and relentless love are the foundation for evangelism and the way that many Christians, like Lyn, experience God as they live out their faith publicly.
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My argument thus far is that the policymakers in the West and especially in the United States and Britain do not just tolerate dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, but at a minimum, refuse to oppose them and often will actively support them because of a basic sense of insecurity about Muslims exercising self-autonomy and determination. There is a visceral but historically rooted fear of the bogeyman of a united Islam and of Muslims demanding to be treated as equals and not as colonial subjects. Muslims are still the faceless, indistinct mass of dark-skinned natives who cannot be trusted unless they speak, act, and even covet what their imperial masters teach them.
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In addition to writing about your own experiences, you personally interviewed U.S., U.K., and Iraqi officials as well as clergy and religious leaders of all faiths. Can you describe some of the insight people of faith had on ISIS?
One of the terrible tragedies in Iraq is the fate of Christians, who were a central part of Iraq. I think there are more Iraqi Christians now in the state of Michigan than there are in Iraq. There were 1.2 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003; today there are 400,000, and most want to leave. I interviewed Reverend Canon Andrew White (vicar of the sole Anglican church in Iraq); he lost a quarter of his flock who were persecuted or forced to pay a tax or be killed. I asked myself, why has the Christian population gone down? It’s ISIS. The terrible violence, you wouldn’t believe it—what they did to people’s children, the churches they blew up and the number of people they have killed. I cite a report in the book about ISIS cooking a two-year-old Syrian girl and serving it to her family.
Can you describe what life is like in Iraq?....
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Niloy Chakrabati, a Bangladeshi blogger who used the pen name Niloy Neel to criticize Muslim extremism, was hacked to death by a machete-wielding gang who broke into his apartment Friday. He is the fourth such social media activist to be killed in the South Asian country so far this year.
"They entered his room on the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him to death," Imran H. Sarker, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Online Activist Network, or BOAN, tells Agence France-Presse.
According to The Associated Press: "Hours after the assault, Ansar-al-Islam, which intelligence officials believe is affiliated with al-Qaida on the Indian subcontinent, sent an email to media organizations claiming responsibility for the killing and calling the blogger an enemy of Allah. The authenticity of the email could not be independently confirmed."
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Zainab Bangura, the UN’s special envoy on sexual violence, said yesterday that a document discovered eight months ago that appeared to show Isis trading pre-pubescent girls as sex slaves had been authenticated.
“The girls get peddled like barrels of petrol,” she said. “One girl can be sold and bought by five or six different men. Sometimes these fighters sell the girls back to their families for thousands of dollars.”
In an interview with Bloomberg, she said that the document claimed that children aged nine or under could be sold to Isis fighters as slaves for $165. Older women, from the Christian or Yazidi communities, were worth less, with those over 40 selling for as little as $41.
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Nestled amongst the nondescript concrete buildings of Silicon Valley, home to start-ups and tech giants, are a surprising number of churches and temples.
They cater to the highly successful and wealthy population of the world’s tech capital. It is surprising because this is a region that is known for its agnosticism, rather than religiosity.
"Silicon Valley attracts people with a type-A personality,” said Skip Vaccarello, author of Finding God in Silicon Valley. "[That type has] the lowest number of people that go to a church on any Sunday. The gods become the things like money, technology, success and so on."
A recent survey listed San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose as having the least church-going population of any place in America.
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Christian preacher Pastor James McConnell has said he wants to be “exonerated, liberated and set free” after he pleaded not guilty at a Belfast court in connection with charges he faces over a sermon where he branded Islam as “satanic”.
At Laganside court on Thursday, the north Belfast preacher’s solicitor Joe Rice said his client would be pleading not guilty to the case prosecutors have taken under the 2003 Communications Act.
Supporters, including DUP MP Sammy Wilson, gathered outside the court holding placards to protest what they described as the pastor’s right to free speech.
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Boko Haram Islamists shot dead at least nine people and set homes on fire in a raid on two villages in conflict-hit northeastern Nigeria, fleeing residents told AFP on Thursday.
All nine victims were gunned down with assault rifles as the jihadis attacked Tadagara around 10:30 pm (2130 GMT), looting thatch-roofed mud homes and shops before setting them ablaze, according to witnesses.
"Boko Haram gunmen came on motorcycles and opened fire on the village after we had retired for the night and killed nine residents," Tadagara villager Shuaibu Nuhu told AFP.
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Mr Choudary, the former head of the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, was accused of promoting Isis and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on social media.
The preacher gave a 20-minute speech protesting his innocence as he appeared at Westminster magistrates’ court yesterday afternoon. He told the court that it was David Cameron and the police who should be in the dock.
Wearing a long white robe, Mr Choudary, 48, spoke confidently and waved notes around about his case. He said that he wished to represent himself as he appeared alongside Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 32, from Whitechapel, east London, who is also accused of inviting support for Isis.
Mr Choudary, who was born in Britain, refused to confirm his east London address.
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Two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Sudan for, amongst other things, “spying” have been freed by the Judge of Khartoum North Central Court, Ahmed Ghaboush. Had they been found guilty of this, they could have faced the death penalty.
Yat Michael had taken his child to Khartoum for medical treatment when he was arrested on 14 December, 2014, after being asked to preach at a local church during his stay. Peter Yen was arrested in January 2015 when he went to enquire about Michael’s whereabouts. The two men were then reported as missing until Sudanese authorities revealed that they were being held in prison for “crimes against the state”.
Guilty on some accounts, but freed due to time served
The DPA German news agency reported that the judge found Yat Michael guilty of a “breach of the peace” (Article 69) and Peter Yen (also known as David Reith) guilty of “managing a criminal or terrorist organisation” (Article 65). But he ordered both be released, as they had already served the sentences for these offences through their eight-month stay in prison.
Experts said there were fears that they would have been convicted of the more serious charges; it was felt the judge was under pressure to balance local expectations on him to uphold the principles of the Sharia-governed state, with adherence to international human rights standards.
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For many reasons, then, Boko Haram is a significant and threatening phenomenon, which demands explanation. It is valuable to have Virginia Comolli's thoughtful and wide-ranging account of the movement, which draws on extensive conversations with Nigerians of many backgrounds, apart from archival work. As with any study of a current topic, her book runs the risk of becoming obsolete the moment it appears in print, but it is nevertheless a very useful overview. Surprisingly, many aspects of this strictly contemporary movement are fiercely debated and poorly understood, and Comolli is a sure-footed guide through the scholarly battlegrounds.
She roots the insurgency in some very old-established traditions within North African Islam. Long before the arrival of British colonialism, the lands that became northern Nigeria were ruled by proud sultanates and emirates, of which Kano was the most celebrated. One of the great events in that history was the sweeping jihad movement undertaken at the start of the 19th century by the visionary Fulani reformer Usman dan Fodio. Islamic memories survived powerfully under the British, who worked closely with local political and religious authorities.
That historical legacy is cherished up to the present day, providing an ideological vehicle for popular disenchantment and resistance. Comolli rightly points out that Boko Haram did not spring from nowhere in 2002, but grew out of a series of Islamist, Wahhabi, and fundamentalist sects and student movements that had been flourishing from the 1970s onward. Islamic insurgencies are nothing new to Nigeria, and neither are charismatic and prophetic leaders.
I offer one criticism of an excellent book, namely that Comolli is so focused on tracing the tangled origins of Boko Haram that she underplays the larger political, ethnic, and religious picture, and specifically the role of Christianity. Undoubtedly, she knows that story very well, but most non-specialist readers will not, and they need to be told. A case can be made that Boko Haram is the most aggressive and acute form of a sweeping anti-Christian protest movement.
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If pastors and pundits and politicos follow Moore's lead, what would that mean for evangelicals—and for everyone else?
On the evangelical side, Moore hints at a few strategic shifts ahead—and, perhaps, strategic retrenchments. During his time as a Southern Baptist leader, Moore has pushed hard on the topic of racial reconciliation within the denomination. He sees the broader church for what it’s becoming: markedly less white, and steadily more global. This is part of the context for his campaign against a vague, American-values Christianity—the real movement in the faith is happening outside of the United States.
He also thinks Christians need to change how they relate to their LGBT brothers and sisters. “The loudest voices against the hounding and intimidation of gay and lesbian persons around the world should be from the wing of the church most committed to a biblical Christian sexual ethic,” he writes. This means working to end homelessness among gays and lesbians, he says, and caring for teens who have been rejected by their parents.
But this response is not a softening on sexuality; if anything, Moore is calling for more fidelity to this Christian sexual ethic. This means talking about “chastity,” not just “abstinence,” he says; condemning “fornication,” not just “premarital sex.” It means eschewing divorce and recognizing traditional gender roles and rejecting the values of the sexual revolution.
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[The Rev. Gretta] Vosper, 57, who was ordained in 1993 and joined her east-end church in 1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view.
What’s important, she says, is that her views hearken to Christianity’s beginnings, before the focus shifted from how one lived to doctrinal belief in God, Jesus and the Bible.
“Is the Bible really the word of God? Was Jesus a person?” she said.
“It’s mythology. We build a faith tradition upon it which shifted to find belief more important than how we lived.”
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Christians are facing growing persecution around the world, fuelled mainly by Islamic extremism and repressive governments, leading the pope to warn of “a form of genocide” and for campaigners to speak of “religio-ethnic cleansing”.
The scale of attacks on Christians in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America has alarmed organisations that monitor religious persecution, with most reporting a significant deterioration in recent years.
On his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Francis said he was dismayed “to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus”. He went on: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
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A veteran leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was so alarmed by the rising calls for violence from the group’s youth that he risked arrest to urge the movement to stay peaceful.
Already hunted by the police for his role in a banned organization when he released his online manifesto in May, the leader, Mahmoud Ghuzlan, conceded that shunning violence in the face of the government crackdown on the Brotherhood was “like grasping a burning coal.” But, he said, history taught that “peacefulness is stronger than weapons, and violence is the reason for defeat and demise.”
It was a losing argument, or so it now appears. The police in Cairo soon found and arrested him. A chorus of Islamists mocked him on social media as naïve, unrealistic and hypocritical.
And his manifesto for “peacefulness” was quickly drowned out by official statements that have come closer to endorsing violence than anything the organization has said or done in more than four decades — an ominous turn for both Egypt and the West.
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Around the world there are approximately 15 million Ismaili Muslims, who belong to the Shia branch of Islam. Their spiritual leader is the Aga Khan, who traces his ancestors directly back to the Prophet Muhammad. A wealthy philanthropist, he has made it his mission, based on his faith, to fight poverty, encourage peace, and promote religious understanding. We spoke with him in Toronto, where the Aga Khan Museum, the first art museum in North America devoted to Islamic art and culture, recently opened to the public.
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Sacks is reported to have shied away from media appearances for the past two years so as not to overshadow his successor as chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. However, his head is firmly back above the parapet as he challenges many who say that religion is intrinsically a cause for violence. It is another challenge altogether from that of being the head of mainstream Orthodox Judaism — during which he became probably the best-known British chief rabbi in Anglo-Jewish history. An Archbishop of Canterbury during his period in office is the principal leader of the Church of England, even though the synod can resemble the House of Commons at prime minister’s questions. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster cannot argue with the Pope. A chief rabbi has to cope not only with the deviating views of other clerics but also with members of his flock who enjoy sniping from the wings.
The resulting magnum opus has been a labour of love. “I wrote with passion and it took 12 years,” he says, adding that he has a profound belief in detail: “You can’t do microsurgery with a pneumatic drill.” He has also rewritten the book four times.
Is it a book that could have been written while he was chief rabbi? After all, The Dignity of Difference, a previous book, was severely criticised by other rabbis because it appeared to give equality to other faiths. “The Dignity of Difference was a statement of global ethics. This is a statement of what I take to be the bedrock of Abrahamic monotheism,” says Sacks, adding that his latest book is more hard hitting. “I can probably speak more forcefully now than I could, because I am putting myself on the line, not the community on the line.”
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In May, authorities in eastern China’s Zhejiang province unveiled rules severely limiting the size and placement of crosses on churches — the codification of a sometimes-violent 2014 campaign that saw crosses torn from more than 300 churches in and around the city of Wenzhou, home to a large Christian community.
The local government now appears to be enforcing the new regulations.
As shown in the Associated Press..authorities last week dispatched demolition crews to shear off the cross that sat atop Lower Dafei Catholic Church outside Wenzhou as parishioners sang hymns in protest.
“They say we have religious freedom. Is this freedom?” one congregation member, surnamed Chen, told the AP. “Have we violated any national laws? We are also good Chinese citizens.”
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At least eight people were killed and about 100 others were kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants in an overnight raid on a village near Cameroon's northern border, a local government and a military source said.
Tchakarmari, the village targeted early on Tuesday, lies north of Maroua, where dozens of people were killed in a series of suicide bombings by the Nigerian Islamist group last month.
"Residents said the attackers headed back to Nigeria where Cameroon is not allowed to pursue them," the local government source in the Far North region said.
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The largest Presbyterian church in the Lehigh Valley has begun a process that could lead to a split from the most visible national denomination — a move initiated after a survey showed most of its congregants disagree with church positions, including those allowing same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay ministers.
The leadership of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted on June 15 to enter the discernment process to leave Presbyterian Church (USA), or PC (USA), and seek affiliation with ECO: a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians after spending years considering the move.
The 140-year-old church on Center Street in Bethlehem has 2,609 members and would be the largest congregation to leave the Lehigh Presbytery, the group of congregations covering seven counties in eastern Pennsylvania.
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A new ecumenical resource is offering an alternative way for small groups and congregations to lead worshippers in the singing of hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing Hallelujah! is a video hymnal comprised of a five-volume DVD set. In each video, musicians perform well-known traditional and contemporary hymns while lyrics scroll in large letters along the bottom of the screen, allowing viewers to join in and sing along.
Ralph Milton, a retired former missionary and longtime member of First United Church in Kelowna, B.C., played the lead role in creating the video hymnal. Reflecting his ecumenical outlook, Sing Hallelujah! was designed for use by all denominations, though many selections are drawn from United Church hymn books.
“Having been a writer and penned more books than anybody would want to read, I did a lot of travelling around at one point to small, various congregations,” Milton said.
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The radical Islamist group Boko Haram has intensified its suicide bombing attacks in northern Nigeria and Cameroon in recent weeks.
On Friday (31 July) a massive bomb exploded in the market in Maiduguri, north-eastern Nigeria – the traditional heartland of Boko Haram violence. At least six died, and 11 were injured.
The previous Saturday (25 July), 20 people were killed when a 12-year-old girl blew herself up in a crowded bar in Maroua, northern Cameroon. Seventy-nine others were injured.
However, on 2 August the Nigerian military said it had rescued 178 people – including 101 children and 67 women – taken captive by Boko Haram in the northern Nigerian state of Borno.
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On June 28 a handful of fundamentalist hecklers from the Church of Wells, located in the piney woods of East Texas about three hours northeast of Houston, disrupted services at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. As reported in national and local media outlets, and astutely analyzed by historian Charity Carney, security removed the activists after they shouted at the popular preacher and they were arrested. While that June Sunday was not the first time the Wells hecklers visited Lakewood, it represented a bold and memorable confrontation with America’s smiling pastor, not unlike the one evangelist Adam Key had with Osteen in 2007.
It is easy to dismiss the Wells hecklers and Key as fundamentalist partisans whose messages appeal to a small number of like-minded followers. However, as my book Salvation with a Smile argues, their actions are part of a longer history of public castigation of popular preachers. And Molly Worthen’s insightful description of evangelicalism’s crisis of authority speaks powerfully to the rhetorical combat between Osteen and his critics, as does Todd Brenneman’s post for this blog.
Lakewood’s heckler episode this summer, while documenting one way to understand Osteen’s popularity, also prompts historical reflection about the summer of 2005 when Joel and his congregation moved into Houston’s Compaq Center, a sports-arena-turned-megachurch. The last decade encompassed Joel Osteen’s ascendancy to the peak of American evangelicalism.
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...the scale of the initial rescue is tragically small. The objective is to rescue 2,000 families. Compared to the carnage in Syria wrought by the pitiless combatants — 230,000 dead, half the 22 million population driven from their homes — it’s a paltry sum. But these are real people who will be saved. And for Weidenfeld, that counts.
Yet he has been criticized for rescuing just Christians. In fact, the U.S. government will not participate because the rescue doesn’t extend to Yazidis, Druze or Shiites.
This comes under the heading of no good deed going unpunished. It’s a rather odd view that because he cannot do everything, he should be admonished for trying to do something. If Weidenfeld were a man of infinite means, the criticism might be valid. As it is, he says rather sensibly, “I can’t save the world.” The Arab states, particularly the Gulf monarchies, are surely not without resources. With so few doing so little for so many, he’s doing what he can.
And for him, it’s personal. In 1938, still a teenager, he was brought from Vienna to London where the Plymouth Brethren took him in and provided for him. He never forgot. He is trying to return the kindness, he explains, to repay the good that Christians did for him 77 years ago. In doing so, he is not just giving hope and a new life to 150 souls, soon to be thousands. He has struck a blow for something exceedingly rare: simple, willful righteousness.
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According to David Alton, a crossbench peer who campaigns on religious freedom, “some assessments claim that as many as 200 million Christians in over 60 countries around the world face some degree of restriction, discrimination or outright persecution”. That is about one in 10 of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world. Christianity remains the faith with the most adherents.
“Whatever the real figures the scale is enormous. From Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt to North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, from Cuba, Colombia and Mexico to Eritrea, Nigeria and Sudan, Christians face serious violations of religious freedom,” Alton said. Persecution ranged from murder, rape and torture to repressive laws, discrimination and social exclusion.
One consequence was “a form of religio-ethnic cleansing of Christian communities”, said John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic campaign group that monitors persecution. “The persecution of Christians is at a level we’ve not seen for many, many years and the main impact is the migration of Christian people. There are huge swaths of the world which are now experiencing a very sharp decline in the number of Christians.”
In the past 15 months, a number of egregious attacks have highlighted the targeting of Christians by Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Africa. They include:
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..Pope Francis, who was born in Argentina, knows how to talk in a language that is not simply a replay of liberation theology. During his trip, which included visits to Ecuador and Paraguay, he repeatedly invoked the idea of a “Patria Grande,” a great Latin American homeland, brought about through greater social, political, and economic unity. Such appeals for unity have been made in the recent past by the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, but they have their origins in the stirring rhetoric of Latin American independence heroes such as José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar.
Notably, Pope Francis was a crucial figure, behind the scenes, in the recent secret diplomatic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. In May, Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, a lifelong communist, went to the Vatican to see Francis and remarked, “If the Pope continues to speak like this, sooner or later I will start praying again and I will return to the Catholic Church—and I’m not saying this jokingly.” Evo Morales, for his part, said, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a Pope—Pope Francis.”
But it is not only the leftists of Latin America who see something in the pontiff. Paraguay’s conservative President, Horacio Cartes, was equally effusive, lauding him for “his direction [that] lights the way and also gives us a grand task: to work together, with sacrifice and perseverance, so that we might have a country that is more equal for all.”...
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Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily suspended the death sentence of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said, in a case that hit global headlines after the murder of two politicians who tried to intervene on her behalf.
Asia Bibi, a farm worker and mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law in 2010.
The Supreme Court will soon begin hearing an appeal against her conviction, said lawyer Saif-ul-Malook.
"The execution of Asia Bibi has been suspended and will remain suspended until the decision of this appeal," Malook said. No date had been set for her execution, he added.
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British Muslims who hold “intolerant ideas” and create a climate for extremism will become the target of a new clampdown to be announced by David Cameron today.
In a landmark speech the prime minister will say that a failure of integration has meant that there are people born and raised in this country who do not identify with Britain. Outlining a five-year strategy to combat extremism, he will attack those who hold ideas “hostile to basic liberal values” and who promote “discrimination, sectarianism and segregation”.
Mr Cameron will single out Muslim conspiracy theorists who believe that “Jews exercise malevolent power”, that 9/11 was inspired by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, and that Britain allowed 7/7 because it wanted an anti-Muslim backlash.
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Polygamy may well make for a coalition of strange bedfellows drawn from across the religious and non-religious spectrum in the United States. If the so-called “mainline” churches repeat their same-sex marriage trajectory, they could well provide polygamy some hefty cultural and political ballast (though the impact of that support may not be quite as big as it was for same-sex marriage in light of the continued demographic decline of these denominations).
These Christians would, of course, also need to square their religious heritage around polygamy with the kinds of feminist critiques that informed the overhaul of monogamy during the past 50 or so years. The Reformation proponents of polygamy, after all, only had polygyny in mind, and a very male-dominated version at that. Protestants today would almost certainly need to consider polyandry and, to use a clunky term, polygynandry.
I agree with Douthat and Silk that Americans are going to need to think seriously about polygamy. Douthat is probably right in arguing that many of the arguments liberals put forth on behalf of same-sex marriage will be deployed on behalf of polygamy, but Silk is probably also correct that religious freedom claims will play a role as well. In any case, rather than let fear guide the conversation, perhaps we should embrace an honest, thorough, and thoughtful debate that will likely generate a new set of pro- and con- alliances from a diverse range of people and groups in the United States. It wouldn’t be a reformation of marriage without one.
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“One of the highlights for me in the last few months has been the visit of the Grand Imam of Al-Alzhar. He came and stayed here at Lambeth Palace for three days, and we spent much time in conversation. The importance of those sorts of relationships cannot be overestimated. In spending time together we were able to discuss our differences, as communities and as individuals. We need to recognise that we differ on crucial points of faith, but that we are united in understanding the importance of faith, and in our commitment to the common good.
“During this last few weeks as well you have been on my prayers as news has put pressure on the Muslim community. I never forget how much you need support and encouragement when you’re under pressure, as we do as well.
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In recent years, traditional Islamic seminaries, or madrasas, have come under scrutiny and criticism as incubators of terrorism and extremist interpretations of Islam. Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has a report on one school, the Jamia Islamia Clifton madrasa founded 40 years ago in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, that is trying to change that image and broaden the scope of what students are taught.
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"Compromising the truth is a serious blunder" but we must always live out our beliefs with love and grace, Ravi Zacharias has said in a detailed blog post addressing same-sex relationships.
The author and speaker who chairs the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), says he is against gay marriage, and points to the biblical description of one man and one woman in sacred commitment. "So profound is this union that the relationship of God to the Church bears that comparison. He is the bridegroom; the Church is the bride," Zacharias writes.
Responding to the US Supreme Court's recent decision to legalise same-sex marriage, which Zacharias says "sent tremors around the globe," the author warns that we are at "breaking point".
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Haley knew early on that she’d attend every funeral, even speaking at them when asked. She wanted each family to feel the state’s embrace of support.
“And I felt the need to go for me,” she says during a rare moment of quiet in a sitting room at the Governor’s Mansion.
Haley wanted to know the nine beyond a list of names.
“I had a need to meet them. I had a need to know, because I knew the forensic story. I knew the investigative part of the story. I needed to know the people.”
Through each funeral, she met them.
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Just beyond a massive strip mall, with its Best Buy and Hobby Lobby, Abdul Baasit, the imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, found himself preaching on Friday about a nightmare.
It was Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, normally a time of gift-giving and carnival celebration. But the party that had been planned was canceled: A man who had attended prayer services at the center’s mosque killed four Marines on Thursday. And Mr. Baasit, 48, was trying to help Chattanooga’s Muslim faithful cope with their grief over the deaths, and their fear of reprisal.
“You do not want what is not right to be associated with Islam,” Mr. Baasit, a native of Ghana, said in lilting, heavily accented English. “And yet it is happening.
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A picture emerged Friday of Abdulazeez as a likable, outgoing young man who enjoyed a laugh, made the wrestling team and seemed "as Americanized as anyone else," yet was clearly aware of what set him apart at his Chattanooga high school.
What's not clear — to counterterrorism investigators and to neighbors and former classmates — is what set him on the path to violence that ended with him being gunned down by police.
Abdulazeez did not appear to have been on federal authorities' radar before the bloodshed Thursday, officials said. But now counterterrorism investigators are taking a deep look at his online activities and foreign travel, searching for clues to his political contacts or influences.
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Imagine that an American politician, competing with a dozen other candidates for media attention, launched his presidential campaign by describing the nation’s evangelical Christians as a problem: “They’re charlatans who raise money from poor people to spend on private jets,” he says. “They have multiple affairs and sexually abuse children. And, some, I assume, are good people.”
Millions of evangelical Christians would be fighting mad, and rightly so. While there have been a few, highly publicized cases of professing evangelicals committing these sins and crimes, the overwhelming majority have not. This charge against believers would be what the Bible calls bearing false witness, and what the world calls slander.
No presidential candidate would make such a claim, as no candidate would want to alienate millions of evangelicals. And yet this blanket slander is precisely what Donald Trump did in recent days by describing Mexican immigrants as “bringing crime” to the U.S. and as “rapists.” Mr. Trump then “clarified” his views by suggesting that the problem is “not just Mexico,” but immigrants from other parts of the world as well.
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Like 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Jeff Cook has been rising before dawn each morning to have breakfast. He doesn’t eat again until breaking his fast with dinner.
But Mr. Cook isn’t Muslim, doesn’t have close Muslims friends, and has never been inside a mosque. The Christian pastor from Greeley, Colo., is fasting for the 30 days of Ramadan, which ends Friday, as part of a nascent effort among American Christians to better understand and support Muslims.
Mr. Cook posted a photo of himself on Twitter holding a sign that read: “I’m Jeff—A Christian in America. I’ll be fasting in solidarity #Christians4Ramadan.”
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At least 49 people were killed and dozens injured when twin blasts struck a market in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe on Thursday, rescue workers said.
The first explosion took place outside a packed footwear shop around 1620 GMT, followed by a second explosion just minutes later, said Badamasi Amin, a local trader who counted at least three bodies.
He said the area at the time was crowded with customers doing some last-minute shopping on the eve of the Eid festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
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It has been a deadly July in Nigeria. More than 200 people have been killed since June 30 in attacks that have come almost daily in the country's northern and northeastern regions, stronghold of the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram.
Obscured by Boko Haram's headlines, violence also has raged farther south, where a lesser reported, years-long campaign has claimed thousands of Christian lives. Militants among the ethnic Fulani, a predominantly Muslim and nomadic population of cattle herders, are suspected of killing dozens of Christians in the states of Plateau and Taraba in recent months. The two states form the eastern end of Nigeria's "Middle Belt" -- the handful of states straddling the pre-colonial line dividing Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north from its Christian south.
The Middle Belt's most recent violence traces back to March, to a case of cattle rustling....
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Sacks is well placed to muse on this theme as the former Chief Rabbi of Britain and a prolific author on religious conflict. In fact, he has carved out a niche for himself as the man who gave theological coherence to the Samuel Huntingdon “clash of civilisations” thesis while also critiquing it. Sacks’ 2004 book, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilisations, remains one of the wisest texts for negotiating religious pluralism in the modern world.
Sacks has no time for the politician’s mantra that violence committed by religious extremists like ISIL has nothing to do with Islam. Yes, the vast majority of the conflicts in the world today are nothing to do with religion, but “when terrorist or military groups invoke holy war, define their battle as a struggle against Satan, condemn unbelievers to death and commit murder while declaring ‘God is great,’ to deny that they are acting on religious motives is absurd” (p.11). Harder work needs to be done to glimpse the twisted logic and primitive psychology of these groups, he says, otherwise the proffered solutions will never create a compelling enough counter-narrative that weans believers from hate to love, and to value weakness rather than power.
Religious violence is rooted in the same source as all violence – identity wars, and Sacks worries that the West, which secularized so merrily, has created societies and institutions that cannot provide enough identity because it has forgotten humans are meaning -seeking creatures; “The result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning” (p.13). Having thought religion was finished, now the West has seen it roar back - partly because of the vacuum secularisation created and, tragically, the religion that has returned is not gentle or ecumenical, but adversarial and aggressive. Make no mistake he warns “the greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world is radical, politicised religion” (14). So if you don’t realise you are dealing with religion – however twisted – you are not going to find any meaningful responses.
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The video reveals Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood, discussing the intentional harvesting of organs and other tissues from babies aborted in Planned Parenthood clinics. While reaching with her fork for salad, Dr. Nucatola openly tells a group she believes to be medical researchers that there is a great demand for fetal livers, but “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.”
Dr. Nucatola went on to explain in chilling detail that abortionists often plan in advance how to harvest desired organs, even telling the group that a “huddle” is sometimes held with clinic staff early in the day, so that targeted organs can be harvested from unborn babies.
Her language is beyond chilling as she described how abortions are conducted specifically to harvest intact organs: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” She also described using an abortion technique that appears to be partial-birth abortion.
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Most British Muslims are Sunni, only about 5 per cent are Shia, but both communities are represented by the MC, which believes the government’s “Prevent” anti-terrorism strategy is discriminatory, demonising a law-abiding community. Relations have thawed; Shafi is pleased that Theresa May, the home secretary, is beginning to close what he calls the “trust deficit” by ordering police authorities to record every reported Islamophobic incident for the first time, even if charges are not pressed.
The MC is working with the government and the police to find out why young Muslims feel “alienated” and hence vulnerable to be being lured by the promise of a foreign adventure by people who are “misinterpreting Islam”.
“The Muslim Council has condemned those who claim to act in our name and we have mobilised mosque leaders, civil society leaders and families to speak out and redouble their efforts. However, we’ve no magic wand and what is important is sustained work within communities,” says Shafi, a retired doctor who arrived in Britain from India 46 years ago. “Extremism is mainly hidden on the internet and on social media and our concern is that the age group it attracts is getting younger and younger.”
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The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the Italian embassy in Cairo. The BBC reported that ISIL had called western embassies “legitimate targets”.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently said it was important not to underestimate or be complacent about the national security threat from ISIL. He also said it was equally important not to overestimate that threat. He called ISIL twisted and wicked but said it wasn’t Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, with their power to conquer or challenge the West.
Australian journalist Martin Chulov has been on the ground in Iraq and Syria for a decade. He is Middle East correspondent for The Guardian and recently won the prestigious Orwell Award for his reporting. In Australia for a series of Guardian lectures, he assesses the current strength of ISIL.
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The free tickets were for the festival this Saturday in Central Park featuring Luis Palau, one of the world’s leading evangelical Christian figures, whose event is expected to draw 60,000 people to the Great Lawn. For months it has been promoted not only in churches, but also on billboards, on the radio and in the subways, and it promises to be the largest evangelical Christian gathering in New York since the Rev. Billy Graham led a crusade in Queens 10 years ago.
The size of the festival belies the city’s secular reputation and speaks to the vibrant evangelical movement in New York. The phenomenon is driven largely by immigrant-led churches that have proliferated in the boroughs outside Manhattan.
Nearly 900 of the 1,700 churches participating in the festival are Hispanic, organizers said. Latino leaders were the ones two years ago to invite Mr. Palau, an endearing, white-haired bilingual immigrant from Argentina who has built a reputation as the Hispanic Billy Graham, but African-American and Korean-American church leaders quickly got involved in the planning.
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A Change of Heart recounts his dramatic turnabout. After he arrived at Drew University in 1970, his older colleague, the former Communist Will Herberg—by then writing for National Review, having returned to his own Jewish faith at Reinhold Niebuhr’s urging—implored Oden to read the early church fathers before presumptuously rejecting their faith. After months in the library absorbing Sts. Athanasius, Vincent, and Augustine, among others, Oden was stunned by their persuasive powers, which he credited to the Holy Spirit. He would spend his next three decades at Drew as a respected but lonely voice for Christian orthodoxy, tutoring several generations of “young fogey” orthodox scholars and clergy.
No less important, Oden connected with a wider network of conservative religious voices who shared his critique of liberal modernity, including the Vatican theologian Joseph Ratzinger—who, of course, would become Pope Benedict XVI and whom Oden credits for inspiring his Ancient Christian Commentary project—and the Lutheran-turned-Roman-Catholic Richard John Neuhaus, who joined Oden in the ecumenical project of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Oden also befriended Avery Dulles, the Catholic-priest son of John Foster Dulles who excelled as a crisply orthodox theologian and became a cardinal.
Unlike other Protestant intellectuals who turned conservative in collaboration with Catholic thinkers, Oden seems never to have been seriously tempted to leave Wesley for Rome. He insists that he would never leave the church that baptized him, which means the small-town Methodism of Depression-era Oklahoma, where he was shaped by the preaching, prayers, and hymn-singing of traditional Wesleyan piety.
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For years Catholics and evangelical Protestants have found common cause especially in opposing abortion and homosexual practice, including gay marriage and challenges to Christian privilege. They have also stood together to assert their right to conscientiously object to laws they find morally repugnant.
But does this mean they're friends? Jamie Manson's sharp-eyed piece on the pope's embrace of some of the more visible evangelical figures suggests it is so. If that is the case, it must be a rather narrow version of friendship that collides with the pope's major message in several ways.
Rick Warren , Tony Perkins, Jim Robison and the others identified as Francis' amigos are an unblended lot. They act on their individual agendas (evangelicalism being perhaps the truest form of free enterprise extant) and not only compete for audience but frequently stir mutual friction. They publicly stand four square against shared moral evils, however, and that alone makes for friendships of convenience with official Catholicism. Warren has become the media go-to preacher for his image as the "new evangelical" who shows sympathy with broader social causes like environmentalism, but so far that advocacy has barely shown itself.
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In recent days, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have all spoken out on the vital issue of climate change. It is vital, because the long-term future of the Earth and its inhabitants is at stake. It is no less a matter than that.
The issue of climate change led to the landmark Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system. What is termed the Conference of Parties (COP) regularly reviews the implementation of the Rio action programme. The next COP will be held next December in Paris and, for the first time in two decades of UN negotiations, will seek to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, aiming to keep global warming below 2°C.
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On Dec. 6, 1942, 10 German soldiers marched into Rekówka, a Polish village 90 miles south of Warsaw. They’d received a tip from some locals that two families, the Skoczylas and Kosioróws, were sheltering Jews. When the Germans apprehended the families in their shared house, all but four of its inhabitants were at home. The soldiers spotted a trapdoor in the kitchen, which opened to a small, but empty, hiding place. They demanded that the families reveal the whereabouts of the stowaways, but nobody would talk. The soldiers took them to the barn behind the house, locked them inside and burned them alive. When two of the boys tried to escape, they were shot in the back.
Almost 72 years later, in August 2014, a cultural investigator named Jonny Daniels lifted that trapdoor for the first time since the surviving family members sealed it off years ago. He lowered himself down a ladder into a dark, damp space, with no light source and a floor covered with straw. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had uncovered the only known World War II hiding place for Jews that has remained intact and undisturbed since the end of the war.
On Thursday, after a year of negotiations and research, the space became an official heritage site in Poland, the only one of its kind.
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Cameroon's army has repulsed an attack by Boko Haram and killed three of the Nigerian Islamist militants in heavy fighting in the Far North region of the country, a Cameroon government spokesman said on Thursday.
The attack represented a change of tactics by the militants following a series of battlefield defeats this year in which they have lost territory to a regional force that comprises Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, spokesman Issa Tchiroma said.
"Early Tuesday morning around 3.:40 a.m. (0140 GMT) an enemy column in four-wheel drive vehicles opened fire on positions held by our defense forces," he said of the attack in Bodo town.
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Shortly after graduating from college in Pennsylvania last year, Elaine Rita Mendus hopped on a Greyhound bus, hoping the $2,000 in her bank account would keep her afloat until the first paycheck. There was only one city in the country that seemed moderately promising for a 6-foot-3 transgender woman in the early stages of transitioning to launch a career.
“I figured, where else will I be accepted?” Ms. Mendus, 24, said. “New York.”
It was a rude awakening. The luckiest break she caught after a monthslong quest to find steady work was a coveted slot at one of the city’s few homeless shelters that give refuge to gay and transgender youths for a few months. It was a blessing, she said, but also “a really strange pill to swallow.”
Americans’ understanding of transgender people has been shaped recently by the riveting, glamorous lives of the former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and the actress Laverne Cox. The two, though, are far from representative of an economically disadvantaged community that continues to face pervasive employment discrimination, partly as a result of lagging legal protections.
Roughly 15 percent of transgender Americans earn less than $10,000 a year, a rate of extreme poverty that is almost four times higher than the national average, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They are twice as likely to be unemployed as the general population, though transgender Americans have a higher level of education than the general population. About 16 percent of respondents to a 2011 survey said they resorted to illegal trades like prostitution and drug dealing. Ninety percent said they faced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job. The worst off are black and Hispanic transgender women, particularly those who don’t have the means to alter their physical appearance as much as they would like. For many, coming out means being drawn into a cycle of debt, despair and dreadful choices.
In 1993, Minnesota became the first state to enact a law protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Since then, 18 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and scores of jurisdictions have taken similar steps, which today collectively cover about 51 percent of the population.
In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began taking the position that discrimination against transgender employees was a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That offers individuals valuable legal recourse, but pursuing claims through the E.E.O.C. is time-consuming and generally futile for those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
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Four children were killed when Islamic State blew up an historic church in Mosul, Iraq's second city.
The blast destroyed the Mother of Aid church, according to the Kurdish news site Rudaw.
Saeed Mamuzini, of the Mosul branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said the children happened to be near the church, which was more than 1,000 years old and was in central Mosul.
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We presume to know more than we can know. In periods and places where religious doubt is criminalized, unquestioning faith is likely to appear universal. Where religious faith is treated as naive and intellectually indefensible, few will confess to it. Where it truly is naive and intellectually indefensible, those who can’t identify with it are often treated as having actually rejected faith, and may believe this of themselves.
So let us call this inability to know the state of our fellow’s soul a veil dropped down between his or her sacred inwardness and the coercive intrusions to which the religious and the anti-religious are equally tempted. If the fate of souls is at the center of the cosmic drama, is it difficult to imagine that it will unfold, so to speak, in a place set apart, a holy of holies—that is, a human consciousness? Where better might an encounter with God take place? If God is attentive to us individually, as Jesus’ saying about the fall of a sparrow certainly implies, then would his history with us be the same in every case, articulable and verifiable, manifest in behaviors that square with expectations? Would it be something we should be ready to talk about to pollsters or journalists?
Perhaps the real lack of faith in modern society comes down to a lack of reverence for humankind, for those around us, about whom we might consider it providential that we can know nothing—in these great matters that sometimes involve feigning or concealment, that are beyond ordinary thought and conventional experience, and that can in any case be minutely incremental, since God really does have all the time in the world. Perhaps it is a gross presumption to try to imagine a God’s eye view of things, but I can only think these encounters, every one unique, must be extraordinarily beautiful. If it is hard for us to believe that the God who searches us and knows us also loves us, perhaps we should learn to be better humanists.
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Some Christians are worried that their churches will lose their tax-exempt status as a result of the Supreme Court's decision declaring gay marriage a constitutional right. I'm worried that my church will cease to exist altogether, or at least in its present form.
The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America. Following decades of steep membership losses across all these historic churches, that's kind of like being the tallest building in Topeka. But only the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have more U.S. members, and the United Methodist Church's international membership is actually growing.
Almost alone among mainline Protestant churches, the United Methodists have remained committed to orthodox Christian standards of sexual morality. Clergy must be celibate when single and monogamous in marriage, which is defined as the union of a man and a woman. Methodist pastors are not permitted to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
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People of Irish Catholic ancestry will be able to trace their origins back almost 300 years online from Wednesday.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys will officially launch online the entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI).
Involved are more than 370,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded and which will be accessible free of charge.
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The Catholic Church in England and Wales is turning to the pioneer of the Alpha course to inspire parishes to evangelise.
The Revd Nicky Gumbel, vicar at the Holy Trinity Brompton church in South Kensington, London, is due to address 850 diocesan representatives at Proclaim ’15, a national Catholic evangelisation gathering in Birmingham on Saturday.
The Alpha course is a 10-week introduction to Christianity borne out of the charismatic Evangelical movement and is now used by more Catholic churches worldwide than Anglican ones.
Clare Ward, home mission adviser to the bishops’ conference said Mr Gumbel had been invited to help parishes shift their mentality “from maintenance to mission”.
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Over the past three years, a major church scandal has unfolded in the island state of Singapore (literally, the “Lion City”). The target of investigation is the mighty City Harvest megachurch, which claims more than 20,000 adherents. Founding pastor Kong Hee has been accused of diverting at least $20 million to support his wife’s pop music career. Several other church leaders have been implicated in alleged cover-ups.
At first sight such a scandal might seem unremarkable. Sadly, clergy on all continents sometimes fail to live up to their principles, and churches often lack accountability.
What is astonishing is the existence of megachurches in Singapore, and their enormous popularity. This fact challenges much of what we commonly think we know about the nature of Christianity outside its traditional Euro-American heartlands. It also raises basic questions about the process of secularization....
Most of the usual explanations for Christian expansion in Asia fall flat in the case of Singapore.
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A bomb attack has killed at least 25 people and wounded 32 others in northern Nigeria's Zaria city, the state governor has said.
A suspected suicide bomber targeted civil servants at a government building in the city, witnesses said.
Emergency workers have rushed to the scene to help evacuate the wounded.
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Ten years to the minute after the 7/7 bombings brought carnage to London, the 52 victims of the terrorist atrocity were remembered in a simple ceremony at the Hyde Park memorial that bears their names.
At the first of a series of events throughout Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary, David Cameron and Boris Johnson stood with heads bowed in silent tribute at 8.50am amid the 52 steel pillars, each one representing a life lost.
The skies above central London darkened suddenly as the prime minister and the mayor of London walked silently through the thicket of stainless steel pillars, the only sounds the clicking of cameras and the rumble of passing traffic.
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Contrast this statement with another, from January 1963. [Maxie] Dunnam, then a young pastor in Mississippi, invited three other Methodist pastors to his river camp in order to draft “Born of Conviction,” a historic challenge to Jim Crow amid one of its darkest moments. Only a few months before, rioting had broken out when James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. A few months later, a white supremacist shot and killed Mississippi NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers (whose wife would later honor Dunnam).
“Born of Conviction” cited the official Methodist teaching that all men were equal, denounced resegregation under the cover of Christian schooling, and rejected the charge that the civil rights movement was Communist. Several of the twenty-eight Methodist pastors who subsequently signed the statement were forced to leave the state. Some received death threats.
The distance between Dunnam's statement in 1963 and [Bill] Mefford's in 2015 provides another measure of the loss of moral seriousness in mainline social justice activism. The comparison is not, I think, an altogether unfair one. Mefford's official position makes it impossible to dismiss his comments as the mere product of one man's glibness, rather than to admit them as evidence of a church bureaucracy that has lost touch with scripture, tradition, and the believers it purports to represent.
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...in the wake of the 5-4 Obergefell decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the U.S. Supreme Court, the Chicago Tribune has followed up with a news report about Reardon that does a good job of describing his decision, yet does little to dig into the thoughts and beliefs of those who either oppose or dismiss his strategy. Consider, for example, this passage in which an Orthodox bishop seems to echo, in reverse, some of Reardon's thinking:
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, said he doesn’t foresee such a boycott in Chicago. He even questions whether it’s legal.
“I can’t imagine any of our priests doing that,” he said. “It hasn’t happened yet and I don’t anticipate it happening to make a political statement,” he said.
That's a really important quote.
I would stress that this statement by a Greek Orthodox bishop in no way represents an endorsement of Obergefell, but it clear indicates that there will be theological and legal debates ahead – inside Eastern Orthodoxy in this land and in other sanctuaries – about how priests should handle this clash between state and church.
In other words, this quote should have been near the top of the Tribune report and backed with more material explaining, on the record when possible, the views of those – in Orthodoxy and elsewhere – who have rejected Reardon's strategy.
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Senior Anglican leaders have responded to a move by the Presbyterian Church in NSW to consider ministers handing back their marriage licences if marriage is redefined to include same-sex couples.
Kevin Murray, the moderator of the NSW Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, wrote to churches about debate at the annual assembly in Sydney last week.
“The Assembly considered what the church should do if marriage is redefined in Australia. It decided to ask the General Assembly of Australia to withdraw the whole church from the Marriage Act, so that our ministers could no longer solemnise marriages under the Marriage Act.” Mr Murray said. “The report which recommended this decision argued that if the Federal Government were to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage then it would corrupt a good gift of God into a wrong. That would mean that ministers would then be acting for the government in a system which did not reflect the biblical view of marriage. In this case the positive reason for our co-operation with the Marriage Act would have been removed, and we would be better to avoid association with evil by no longer acting as celebrants.”
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Carrying one child in her arm, a second on her back and holding the hand of a third, Hasinah Izhar waded waist-deep through a mangrove swamp into the Bay of Bengal, toward a fishing boat bobbing in the dusk.
“Troops are coming, troops are coming,” the smuggler said. “Get on the boat quickly.”
If she was going to change her mind, she would have to do it now.
Ms. Izhar, 33, had reached the muddy shore after sneaking down the dirt paths and around the fish ponds of western Myanmar, where she and about one million other members of the Rohingya minority are stateless, shunned and persecuted for their Muslim faith.
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Two bombs blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram exploded at a crowded mosque and an elite Muslim restaurant in Nigeria’s central city of Jos, killing 44 people, officials said Monday.
Sixty-seven other people were wounded and were being treated at hospitals, said National Emergency Management Agency coordinator Abdussalam Mohammed.
The explosion at the Yantaya Mosque came as leading cleric Sani Yahaya of the Jama’atu Izalatul Bidia organization, which preaches peaceful coexistence of all religions, was addressing a crowd during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to survivors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
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Justin taylor provides a helpful summary which begins:Tony Reinke asks New Testament scholar and Gospel Coalition president D. A. Carson the following questions:
 Generally speaking, what would you say to someone who came up and asked you for your initial thoughts about the SCOTUS ruling?
 Does this landmark ruling today mark a new era for the church in America?
 What would you say to Christians who feel angry and betrayed by the courts for this ruling?...
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The Area Bishop of North Africa, and Rector of St George's, in the capital Tunis, the Rt Revd Bill Musk, visited survivors of the attack in intensive care at hospital. He said that they were still deeply in shock.
"It's very humbling - you just go to listen," he said. "Everyone wants us to pray with them. When you have come very close to dying, or someone you love has, we are all vulnerable."
The overwhelming response from Tunisians has been one of shame, Bishop Musk said. One of the nurses at the bedside of a British victim of the shooting was continually apologising and explaining how Mr Rezgui did not represent true Islam, he said.
The attack was also a disaster for Tunisia, as it would lose billions of pounds if tourists decided to stay away.
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One reason that this has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950's, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality.
But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed, not so much by other religious denominations, as it was in the 19th century, but by the ideology of secularism and the self-defining individual -- admirably expressed, by the way, in Justice Kennedy's articulation of the majority position in the case under consideration.
So what do we do?
We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.
The Church has faced this sort of thing before -- and we're still standing.
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An historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is "getting closer every day," a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on 28 June.
The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054.
"Now such a meeting is getting closer every day but it must be well prepared," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
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