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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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The UN children's agency says there has been an "alarming" increase in the number of suicide attacks in northern Nigeria, with many of them involving women and children.
There had been 27 attacks so far this year, compared with 26 for the whole of last year, Unicef said in a statement.
Three-quarters of the attacks were carried out by female bombers, some as young as seven, it added.
Militant Islamist group Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in Nigeria.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland wish to affirm that the people of the Republic of Ireland, in deciding by referendum to alter the State’s legal definition of marriage, have of course acted fully within their rights.
The Church of Ireland, however, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter this.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Ireland * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Core Issues Trust offers its gratitude to the many thousands of citizens who voted against changing the Irish Constitution to replace marriage as the union between one man and one woman for life, with a new concept which takes no account of the sex of the marriage partners.
The Irish Government’s poll has enabled simple majoritarianism to usher in a radically new model of marriage based on the lowest possible construct: love while it lasts. Denying that all marriage is thereby redefined, the government has eliminated the very foundation of marriage based on natural male-female complementarity, a complementarity self-evident in human anatomy, physiology (procreative capacity), and even psychology. Now, instead of having sexual unions in which the extremes of each sex are moderated and the gaps filled, we will see the institution of marriage deteriorate even further as the extremes of each sex reshape marriage to be far more accommodating to non-monogamous behaviour and rapid dissolutions. The integrity of the sexes, male and female, will be further dishonoured as people are praised by the state for treating their sex half in relation to their own sex rather than as half of a whole sexual spectrum of male and female, as though two half-males make a whole male or two half-females make a whole female.
In addition, with the elimination of a male-female prerequisite for sexual unions, there no longer remains a logical reason to deny adult-consensual polyamorous unions or even incestuous unions (particularly incestuous unions where procreation is minimized or eliminated). For the limitation of two persons to a sexual union is predicated on the duality of the sexes, male and female; and the principle of embodied otherness upon which incest may be rejected absolutely is discarded in the embrace of the excessive sameness of same-sex sexual unions. The Irish Government in our view has also sacrificed innocent children to the demands of individuals who prioritise their “right” above the right of children to be raised by their natural parents.
We note also that this momentous change has taken place in the vacuum – evident in Irish society and in all our islands and beyond – following the collapse of a faithful Christian witness in Western civilisation: both Catholic and Protestant. Together we have failed to reflect the fruits of repentance and holiness of life in the sanctity of marriage and we are guilty in this fact.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Media Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
he medium of television is—like newspapers, magazines and books—undergoing massive disruption.
The average number of cable stations Americans receive ballooned from 129 in 2008 to 189 in 2013, an increase of one-third in just five years.(1) During the same five-year period, Netflix introduced subscription-based Internet streaming of both TV shows and movies, a service that has multiplied to include more than 60 million subscribers around the globe.(2)
What effects, if any, have these seismic shifts had on the TV audience? Barna Group surveyed a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults on their viewing habits and preferences.
Read it all.
The United Methodist Church has only 15 years to reverse its decline in the United States if it is to have a sustainable future, an economist warned church leaders.
At the same gathering, the church leaders discussed possible missional goals to address that decline and enhance the global denomination’s ministries around the world.
“By 2030, the denomination in the United States will either have found a way to turn around, meaning it is growing, or its turnaround in the United States is not possible,” Donald R. House Sr. told the May 19 combined meeting of the Connectional Table and the General Council on Finance and Administration board. “By 2050, the connection will have collapsed.”
In other words, he predicted that unless things change soon, the denomination in coming decades will not have enough U.S. churches to pay for its connectional structures. Such structures include conferences, bishops, agencies, missions and international disaster response.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
In 1967, as part of the Communist campaign to make Albania an “atheist state”, the 400-year-old church at Laç was destroyed with explosives. Until then it had borne an inscription recording its consecration in 1557 by “Giovanni Bruni, Archbishop of Bar”.
Bruni’s extraordinary life (and more extraordinary death) feature in a remarkable new book by Sir Noel Malcolm, the Oxford historian. With unpublished manuscript evidence, it paints a portrait of the Bruni family, before and after the battle of Lepanto in 1571. What distinguishes the book is the way it integrates their tale into the power struggle between Spain and France, Venice and Rome, and, that behemoth of the Levant, the Ottoman Empire, ruled from 1566 to 1574 by Selim II (pictured here). The soldiers, spies and clerics of the Bruni family were among the Agents of Empire of the title. I can’t tell you how good it is, a future classic. My purpose here, though, is not to review the book but to mention a single fascinating chapter.
Giovanni Bruni was an Albanian speaker, born at Ulcinj (now in Montenegro), then part of Venetian Albania. In the little city of Bar, of which he became Archbishop in 1551, there were 18 churches, with another 48 in the rural parts of the diocese, which extended into the regions beyond the coast occupied by the Turks. Among Bruni’s titles was Primate of Serbia. But, if his task was great, his income was pitiful.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Serbia * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Be your own size. There are 300 billion stars in our own galaxy and a hundred billion galaxies in the universe. Before you tell everyone not to start the party until you arrive, take in the enormity of that reality and your tiniest part in it. Before you say to someone, “Do you know who I am?” ask yourself, in light of the scale of the universe and its venerable age, “Who exactly am I?” Look at the earth, which you share with so many living beings. Many of the tiny ones scurry and multiply in hidden ways that make it possible for you to breathe, heal, digest, and sleep. Realize how you take for granted that the sun will rise tomorrow. If it wasn’t so, what could you do about it? Your life rests in an ecology that you will never live long enough to comprehend, much less thank.
Be gentle. Remember the physician’s mantra, “First, do no harm.” In the words of William Blake, “We are put on earth a little space, / That we may learn to bear the beams of love.” There is so much that we’ve never even paused to imagine. When we look to right and left, we see others who know as little as we do. People tend to do the best they can with what they have and what they know. A little compassion, a little generosity of heart helps us look to our fellow creatures with gentleness rather than bitterness, anger, or condemnation. How often have you commented on what another person said or did with horror, fury, or scorn, only to find yourself, ten years or ten minutes later, saying or doing the same thing? Be sparing with your scorn, lest it rebound on you and make you lamentable in your own sight.
Be a person of praise and blessing.
Read it all.
In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.
Three weeks later, the jihadist group seized the capital of Anbar province after relentless waves of suicide bombings.
U.S. defense chief Ash Carter has blamed Ramadi’s fall mainly on Iraqi forces’ lack of will to fight. But Islamic State’s battlefield performance suggests the terrorist group’s tactical sophistication is growing—a development the Iraqis and the U.S.-led coalition have so far failed to counter, said Iraqi officials, former U.S. officials and military analysts studying the organization.
An examination of how Ramadi fell indicates that Islamic State commanders executed a complex battle plan that outwitted a greater force of Iraqi troops as well as the much-lauded, U.S.-trained special-operations force known as the Golden Division, which had been fighting for months to defend the city.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Science & Technology Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Among the many friends I have had who have now entered the larger life, several were poets. They were more than fashioners of words – they were first the hearers of words. Francis Hall Ford was a parishioner in St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Mission in Chattanooga, which I had a small share in founding. She and her family had years before entered Orthodoxy through the Greek Church. In later years she split her time between little St. Tikhon’s in Chattanooga and St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas where her daughter, Katie, now lives. Katie has been kind enough to share some of her mother’s poetry. With her permission I share it here. As for Frances (whom I knew better by her Orthodox name, Kassiane) may her memory be eternal!
May we ourselves hear what the poets hear, and with such sounds echo the treasure of God in our world. A good feast to you.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Pentecost * Culture-Watch Poetry & Literature Religion & Culture * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
Anglican war chaplains saw terrible things on the Western Front in the First World War and many were hailed as heroes for ministering to dying men amid the shell fire and machinegun bullets in no man’s land. They returned to their pulpits with a righteous anger to change their church and British society.
Linda Parker’s wide-ranging book, Shellshocked Prophets: Former Anglican Army Chaplains in Interwar Britain, tells the story of this brave band of Anglican clergyman — who were awarded around 250 Military Crosses between them — and then helped to transform the church. “Given the changes that occurred in the Church of England institutionally, liturgically and in its attitudes to a rapidly changing society, it is important that the role of former chaplains should be examined and their significance analysed,” says Dr Parker, herself the daughter of a former Territorial Army chaplain.
A harbinger of social change in the church was the Industrial Christian Fellowship founded by the Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, MC,in 1919 to encourage Christians to relate their faith to their working lives. As chief “missioner”, Studdert Kennedy travelled the country evangelising in factories, mines and canteens, and gathered about him a team of other ex-war chaplains.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books History Poetry & Literature Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In his visit to the Republic of Ireland earlier this week, Prince Charles changed the climate in which reconciliation can take place, and massively changed it for the better.
In word as well as action, tone as well as content, public as well as in private, he moved the heart of reconciliation away from the political arena.
He took it to a place where the facing of pain, resentment, anguish and agonies (to use his own words) are put at the very centre of leaving our grandchildren “a legacy of lasting peace, forgiveness and friendship” (again, his own words).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
By about 4pm, the national Yes vote stood at 62.4 per cent against 36.6 per cent for the No side with 60.2 per cent of the country going to the polls.
Donegal, against some expectations, has approved the amendment to the Constitution by a small margin. Donegal South West has been the closest so far, with 50.1 per cent voting Yes, representing a margin of just 33 votes.
The Yes vote in Dublin was particularly pronounced. Dublin Midwest reported a Yes vote of 70.9 per cent and Dublin Southwest returned 71.3 per cent, in line with an overall 70 per cent positive vote anticipated in the capital. As the result emerged thousands of people gathered, against convention, in the courtyard of Dublin Castle signalling widespread jubilation.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
With Victorian-style public lectures now a rarity, listening to anyone speak to a crowd, for most of us above school age, occurs only when the best man tells stories of the groom’s indiscretions. “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking” is as much a case of “unaccustomed as I am to public listening”.
Pity the preacher then, who, as well as the regular Sunday gig, is drafted in for school assemblies, the Women’s Institute and the odd Rotary dinner.
The vicar is charged with delivering something memorable, neither too long nor too short, and not just once in a while, but week in week out. For me, the Sunday sermon looms large enough to make many a Saturday night sleepless. As I step nervously up the pulpit steps I worry that my waffling will leave them uninspired or, worse still, asleep. But while preaching is culturally alien to many, and being “preached at” unappealing to most, it is similar to something we are more used to seeing: standup comedy.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Theatre/Drama/Plays * General Interest Humor / Trivia * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
One morning last week, Lance Laver went to visit a dying friend. Mr. Laver is Jewish and his friend is a retired Episcopal priest, and they had formed a bond over nearly a decade of working together here on an annual interfaith walk for peace.
By the time of this year’s procession, however, the Rev. Frank Toia could not take more than a few steps. He was bound to his home with recurrent pneumonia, tethered to an oxygen tank and a feeding tube. As he turned 78, he decided to use his home as a hospice and await the end.
When Mr. Laver came over, he brought a book written by his rabbi. He and Mr. Toia turned to several verses from Psalm 25, which the rabbi had selected for that particular day. The passage began with the poet asking God, “May we be shown the paths to travel,” and those words drove straight to a fading minister’s heart.
Read it all.
Voters will be given two ballot papers: a white ballot paper for the marriage referendum and a green ballot paper for the age of presidential candidates referendum.
In the marriage referendum people may vote Yes or No to the proposal to include a new clause about marriage in the Constitution.
This new clause provides that two people may marry each other regardless of their sex.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Church/State Matters Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Islamic State fighters are celebrating their second major conquest in a week in Syria and Iraq as they pick through the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra.
The sudden advance of the militants into the UN heritage site in central Syria resulted in the rout of a national army, the exodus of refugees and a fresh pulse of regional alarm at the resilience of the self-styled caliphate force.
The UN said one-third of Palmyra’s 200,000-strong population had fled. And Isis militants used social media to show themselves posing amid ancient columns in Palmyra on Thursday. Other images displayed a more familiar theme: the summary slaughter of local men whose blood drenched the road.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Faith groups are now filling a “huge gap” in British life occupied by the state until the financial crisis and onset of austerity forced a rethink, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said churches, mosques, temples synagogues and other religious organisations had stepped in “in a most extraordinary way” over the past seven years.
He was speaking as a detailed national “audit” of faith groups was published calculating that their members give more than £3 billion worth of time a year on volunteer social action projects.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
The public view of religion among young people, according to a YouGov poll - well, alright it’s a poll, but … [laughter] the reputation of religion among young people is actually more negative than neutral: 41% – this was a poll in 2013, when they still got them right – 41% of 18-24 year olds agreed that “religion is more often the cause of evil in the world” and only 14% say it is a cause for good.
The Faith Action Audit reveals something different. It shows the breadth of commitment across the country, the depth of commitment, and above all the strength of experience and good practice. Thanks to Cinnamon [Network] and other bodies like it, this is not mere do-goodery. It is seeking to find best practice and put it into action in the most professional way that can be imagined.
We’ve heard some of the figures, but just a reminder: the faith sector collectively is delivering, according to the audit – I’ll round it – 220,000 social action projects, from which 47 million people benefit.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Poverty Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
[THE] REV. WAYNE MEISEL: We have a generation of young people in their 20s and 30s that define themselves by their commitment to service and justice work. The challenge is that many of them, I think most of them, do not believe the church cares about them or the causes they care about. There’s this bubbling fervor and energy and possibility that we just have to figure out how to both tap and how to support, and then for guys like me to get out of the way.
ABERNETHY: Craig Barnes is the president of Princeton Theological Seminary.
CRAIG BARNES (President, Princeton Theological Seminary): Wayne is a fascinating and charismatic kind of leader. He works best kind of on the margins of schools, churches, and organizations, and he’s a visionary. But he doesn’t work through the system. He works with the students themselves, and he excites students, and they become all caught up in his vision of changing the world and thinking that their life can make a real difference. And this is not just happening in Princeton. This is happening in seminaries all over the country. So it’s a phenomenon.
The students are asking different questions in class. Our professors are developing their syllabi differently to account for this passion they have to not just study ethics but to do ethics along the way. These students actually are devoted to loving thy neighbor. And they won’t tolerate any more sitting in class taking notes on wonderful lectures about social responsibility and then folding up their laptops and just going home.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Poverty Religion & Culture Young Adults * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Nigerian army has relocated at least 260 women and children recently rescued from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, officials say.
They were taken from a camp in the north-eastern city of Yola and flown to an unspecified military facility.
The women will receive medical help and support as part of their rehabilitation process, the BBC has learnt.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence Women * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
What does directly touch church life are Pew’s numbers on generational change. Attachment to religion is declining across all age groups, but the rise of the nones is most pronounced among younger cohorts: the younger the age bracket, the less likely people are to belong to any Christian (or other religious) body. And of all Christian groups, mainline Protestants do the worst job at reaching and retaining younger generations.
One practical lesson of the Pew report, then, is on the crucial need for mainliners to focus on passing the faith on to the next generation. Mainliners may need to borrow some of the ethos of evangelical Protestants (who seem to do a better job at this) in equipping families to be primary incubators of faith and in forming identities that are distinct and (in some selective ways) more oppositional toward the culture than they have been.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Youth Ministry * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Australia is clearly being asked to take a regional role in this ongoing crisis. What role should we take?
PHILIP FREIER: Well, I think there's a couple of things we could do. One is to look at these countries where many people are wanting to leave for a manifest number of reasons and seek some of the long term solutions that might stabilise those.
But I think that plainly we need to do all we can in association with our regional neighbours in making sure that there are not people simply left starving on boats with nowhere to go.
So the breakthrough that we've had are people being able to come onshore, seems to be the initiative of some fishermen in Indonesia, seems very welcome.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Exeter Cathedral is fighting for its future after it failed to secure multi-million pound funding to uncover the city’s Roman baths.
The £8.7m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid would have seen the first century bath house, buried under the Cathedral Green, excavated and opened to the public.
But the ambitious plans to create a worldwide tourist attraction were dealt a major blow when the funding body decided not to support the project.
Read it all from the Exeter Express and Echo.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria have entered the Unesco World Heritage site of Palmyra after seizing the town next to the ancient ruins, reports say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were no reports yet of any destruction of artefacts.
The militants had taken control of the nearby airport, prison and intelligence HQ after government forces pulled out of the area, the monitoring group said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
3. What are you most looking forward to?
It’s a while off yet, but I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the opportunities for preaching and evangelism. I’m looking forward to meeting the Cathedral church family, getting to know them, the challenges they face and the opportunities they have in living for Jesus. I’m looking forward to meeting those already engaged in gospel work in the city and seeing how we can support one another in advancing the interests of the Lord in ‘that great city’.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ
The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, the Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), on Wednesday called on Nigerians and the incoming administration led Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to focus on peace and the unity of the country. Okoh told newsmen in Abuja no development could be achieved in any society without peace and unity. He said the current problem of insurgency, regional and ethnic suspicion in the country was a threat to peace and unity. “Peace is a major capital needed to develop the country and there must be a deliberate policy by the incoming administration to reassure Nigerians of peace and unity....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now two Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.
The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.
The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
“… must protect all. It must protect the rights of the defendants to have and to manifest their religious beliefs but it also recognizes that the rights of the plaintiff not to be discriminated because of his sexual orientation must also be protected. If the plaintiff was a gay man who ran a bakery business and the defendants as Christians wanted him to bake a cake with the words ‘support heterosexual marriage’ the plaintiff would be required to do so as, otherwise; he would, according to the law be discriminating against the defendants. This is not a law which is for one belief only but is equal to and for all. The defendants are entitled to continue to hold their genuine and deeply held religious beliefs and to manifest them but, in accordance with the law, not to manifest them in the commercial sphere if it is contrary to the rights of others [93 & 94].
As to the defendants’ argument that Article 10 (expression) meant that they could not be compelled to express or commit themselves to a viewpoint or to appear to give support to another’s views, she concluded that what the defendants had been asked to do “did not require them to support, promote or endorse any viewpoint” and did not engage Article 10 – and her view was that, even if she was wrong in that conclusion and Article 10 was engaged, any infringement of the defendants’ rights was justified under Article 10 (2) because they were prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and for the protection of the rights of others
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Fears that Islamic State has sent fighters to Europe posing as migrants were growing last night after a terrorist suspect was smuggled across the Mediterranean to Italy.
Abdelmajid Touil, 22, who was arrested by anti-terrorism police near Milan, is alleged to have helped to stage an attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis two months ago in which 22 people, including a Briton, were killed.
Police said that Mr Touil, a Moroccan, first arrived in Italy on February 17 at Empedocle, Sicily. Since Moroccans are not offered asylum in Italy, he was told that he would be expelled.
Read it all (requires subscription).
One of the most common assumptions is that religiosity is linked to economic and technological underdevelopment. As a society gets more technologically and economically advanced, the thinking goes, religiosity naturally fades away and is replaced by a more secular worldview.
Exhibit A is usually Western Europe, which grew more secular as it grew richer (and much, much more violent) across the 19th and 20th centuries. Exhibit B is the world's most religious continent — Africa — which happens to be its poorest.
Under this view, the 21st century will be the century in which secularization spreads even further as the rest of the world catches up.
But when you look at the actual trends of religiosity across the world, what becomes apparent is actually the opposite: The 20th century was probably the high point of secularization, while the 21st century will likely be dominated by religion. The famous line by the French intellectual and politician André Malraux — "The 21st century will be religious or it will not be" — is on track to be vindicated.
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A new chapter of the Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan’s lifelong ecumenical engagement has begun with her installation as the new president of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) on 14 May.
The current Interim Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and its former Director for Unity, Faith and Order, she was unanimously elected to a three-year term as CCC president by the council’s Governing Board. She succeeds Lt. Col. Jim Champ of the Salvation Army.
A priest of the Anglican Church of Canada, for which she served several years as ecumenical officer, Canon Dr Barnett-Cowan had previously served a term as one of CCC’s vice-presidents. She brings with her a wealth of ecumenical experience, having been engaged with various inter-church dialogues and councils of churches at the local, regional, and international level.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations * Theology
It is religious persecution on a horrific scale, involving massacres, bombings, slavery, beheadings and mass rape.
So why don’t our churches protest against this slaughter of their own?
Yes, Christians are now the prime target of unbelievably barbaric attacks in the Middle East and Africa, yet Australia’s bishops, ministers, priests, church “social justice” units and Christian aid groups — usually so vocal — are now near mute.
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Ten youths have been arrested by Canadian police on suspicion of planning to travel to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State.
All 10 had their passports confiscated after they were detained at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport at the weekend.
Police said in a statement on Tuesday that none of the suspects had been charged, but investigations were ongoing.
Their families have been informed.
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Eternal Light, shine into our hearts;
Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil;
Eternal Power, be our support;
Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance;
Eternal Pity, have mercy upon us;
that with all our heart and mind and soul and strength we may seek thy face and be brought by thine infinite mercy to thy holy presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
DUP MLA Paul Givan is consulting on an Assembly bill that would allow people with religious beliefs a limited exemption from certain equality law requirements.
He said his private member’s bill would protect Christians who “do not feel there is space being made for their religious beliefs”.
Following the court ruling, DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “We have been listening to people and I think the term ‘reasonable accommodation’ is now what we would like to frame some legislation around – recognising that there are rights on both sides and therefore there has to be a reasonable accommodation between the two. So, I think we are not surprised at the outcome, that’s why we had embarked upon the legislative process.”
Mr Givan said his party leader had no apology to make for last year labelling the commission’s support for the court action “bonkers”.
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I have to admit I was surprised by the verdict. For me, the case was not simply one of straightforward homophobia. Refusing to write a message fundamentally at odds with one’s beliefs is different from, say, refusing a couple a bed in a B&B: it is to involve people in an argument rather than simply request that they act as disinterested providers. If Ashers had simply refused to sell any cake at all to Mr Lee or any other LGBT person, then that would be an obvious act of discrimination.
The case is complicated further by the fact that equal marriage is not just a religious issue in Northern Ireland: it is a live political issue. Less than a month ago, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against the legalisation of equal marriage. We are now in the strange situation where the Equality Commission and the court have both decided that refusing to write an equal marriage slogan on a cake is against equality, while equal marriage itself is illegal.
The court ruled that as Ashers is a commercial organisation rather than a church there can be no exception. This is bound to lead to a wonderful summer of Northern Ireland’s national sport, whataboutery. Already all sorts of scenarios are being dreamt up, from Jews baking Nazi cakes to the somewhat confusing conclusion by loyalist “flags” activist Jamie Bryson that the ruling now means pubs must serve him while wearing his pipe band uniform.
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A judge has ruled that a Christian-run bakery discriminated against a gay customer by refusing to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.
Ashers Baking Company, based in County Antrim, was taken to court by gay rights activist Gareth Lee.
A Belfast judge said, as a business, Ashers was not exempt from discrimination law.
The firm's general manager said they were "extremely disappointed" by the ruling and are considering an appeal.
Damages of £500 were agreed in advance by legal teams on both sides of the dispute.
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The reason for Coren’s conversion and the manner of it are newsworthy. It is significant in terms of religious culture and the profession of commentary.
Coren left Catholicism over homosexuality and gay marriage. In the face of cultural juggernauts, people do change their minds. Coren is following the theological path of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I wouldn’t have picked the contrarian Coren to join the trendiest cause around, but that’s how cultural trends become trendy; people join them.
Two weeks ago, Coren told our colleague Joseph Brean that he came back to Catholicism (the second time) for the Eucharist. He then left over homosexuality. In the long Christian tradition, sexual morality has never been more important than Eucharistic theology. Coren lambastes those who put sexual morality at the heart of their faith. Yet in choosing his ecclesial allegiance on matters sexual rather than matters liturgical, sacramental and Eucharistic, Coren did just that. The cultural import of his conversion is that it calls attention to exactly the choice facing churches the world over. Around what principles shall a church organize itself? The sexual revolution? Or divine revelation?
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The Bishop of Salisbury will bless 42 young yew trees on Wednesday at the cathedral.
The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam — the Church of England’s lead bishop for the environment — will hold the service as part of a campaign to celebrate the heritage of the nation’s ancient yew trees.
The trees represent the 42 dioceses of the Church of England.
The Conservation Foundation's 'We Love Yew' campaign is being launched to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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Congregations in Yorkshire and the Humber region have the most entertaining services, with 80 per cent able to recall laughing at a clerical quip – just ahead of London, where 77 per cent had heard a decent joke in church. London also has some of the fastest growing churches in Britain.
In the East of England barely half (53 per cent) could do so. The news will be a disappointment to one East Anglian cleric, the Bishop of Norwich, who said recently that the Church should provide an alternative voice to Russell Brand.
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The Anglican church here will not allow same-sex marriages to take place on its premises, said newly installed Anglican bishop Melter Jiki (pic).
The 50-year-old bishop, who is the first native Kadazan chosen to lead the 90,000-strong Anglican community in the state, said this when asked about the church’s policies and what to expect during his tenure.
“We are totally against the so-called same-sex marriage. We will not allow it in the church,” said the father of four who was installed as the sixth Anglican bishop in Sabah on Tuesday
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....perhaps the day has arrived in the PCA when progressives need not worry about any negative connotations of the term "progressive." However, it might still be proper to ask, "Towards what are the progressives asking their church to progress? If we follow the path of progress or get swept along by its tide, what will be left behind and where will we end up?" (Or, for real traditionalists, "where up will we end?")
Dr. Chapell places the label "Traditionalists" on those who are "highly committed to Confessional fidelity and are often worried about perceived doctrinal drift." Is there a more pejorative term in America, where you buy your laundry detergent because it is "new and improved," than the term "traditional"? Not even conservatives want to be traditionalists unless they are appealing to "traditional values" (as in "family" or , peculiarly in Mississippi, "traditional Mississippi values" - wink, wink, hint, hint, get it?). Americans fought a great War for Independence so we wouldn't have to be traditional like those stuffy old British. The last thing a true American wants to be is a stick-in-the-mud old fuddy-duddy traditionalist.
In the churches it's the old and soon to pass from the scene folks who attend the "traditional" service, which may not be traditional at all but a service in which gospel hymns are sung with a song leader rather than praise and worship songs with a praise team. The cool kids flock to the contemporary service, where they will not be turned off by robes, minsters leading worship, and too much Scripture and prayer - until that comes to feel like it is traditional in which case they may join Rachel Held Evans who likes her doctrine and morals progressive but her liturgy sort of traditional in The Episcopal Church.
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Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”
Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.
Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.
A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition.
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Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in Nigeria.
In interviews, the women described being locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have sex, sometimes with the specific goal of impregnating them.
“They married me,” said Hamsatu, 25, a young woman in a black-and-purple head scarf, looking down at the ground. She said she was four months pregnant, that the father was a Boko Haram member and that she had been forced to have sex with other militants who took control of her town.
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Islamic State leaders in Syria have sent money, trainers and fighters to Libya in increasing numbers, raising new concerns for the U.S. that the militant group is gaining traction in its attempts to broaden its reach and expand its influence.
In recent months, U.S. military officials said, Islamic State has solidified its foothold in Libya as it searches for ways to capitalize on rising popularity among extremist groups around the world.
“ISIL now has an operational presence in Libya, and they have aspirations to make Libya their African hub,” said one U.S. military official, using an acronym for the group. “Libya is part of their terror map now.”
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As a bishop I have strong views on marriage based on my religious convictions. I have, however, no wish to stuff my religious views down other people’s throats, but I also have a right to express my views in the reasoned language of social ethics. In airing my views in public debate, I do not expect to be listened to on the basis of dogmatic utterance, but on the reasonableness of my argument.
I write then primarily as a citizen of Ireland. I have no affiliation with any group of No campaigners. Some such groups will quote me, but I know how short-lived such affirmation can be. I have said that I intend to vote No, yet there are those of the ecclesiastical right-wing who accuse me of being in favour of a Yes vote, since I do not engage in direct condemnation of gay and lesbian men and women.
My position is that of Pope Francis, who, in the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, made it very clear that he was against legalising same-sex marriage, yet he was consistent in telling people not to make judgments on any individual. I know the manner with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – and that fact cannot be overlooked.
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The Church of England is launching a new national resource to help churches get people talking about death and dying.
GraveTalk, provides resources for a café space in which churches provide a relaxed environment for people to explore questions about death and dying, funerals and loss. It is being launched during Dying Awareness week (May 17-23), run by the Dying Matters coalition, and made up of more than 30,000 members including the Church of England.
GraveTalk, is being launched nationally at a giant café in Portsmouth Cathedral between 2pm and 9pm, tomorrow, May 19. The resources include a pack of 52 questions about life, death, society, funerals, and grief to help people start, and has been piloted in more than 100 parishes, is available at a dedicated website http://www.gravetalk.org
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The article brought up more questions than it answered and let stand some amazing assertions by Bill Leonard, a church historian on the "moderate" or progressive side of Southern Baptist life. The church history professor said the reason behind the change is that the Southern Baptists are having so much competition with Pentecostals on the world mission field that they felt they needed to give in this one point.
Really? So the Baptists are so behind on their soul winning among non-whites that they made the calculated decision to dump a decision they got a lot of grief on in 2005 and 2006? Leonard is a very good source, but I would have liked more data to back that one up – another point of view.
Moreover, the link RNS provided to the IMB web site didn’t say that at all. What it did reveal is that divorced people are also being allowed to be long-term missionaries. Christianity Today revealed some other rule changes with the IMB, such as parents of teens being allowed to be missionaries. Before, it was thought that having a teen-ager on a mission post was too challenging for a family.
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Among my own denomination, the Episcopal Church’s fall is hardly a secret, as Episcopalians everywhere have seen their church decline since 1970s.
There are many reasons cited for the collapse of what was once the closest thing to a state-established church in America.
There’s no doubt that deep theological shifts — in particular left-of-center politics moving the national church beyond orthodox theology and churchmanship — are at least partly to blame. Then there is the whole gay issue, which has divided Anglicans domestically and resulted in major schisms and multi-million dollar lawsuits over church assets and buildings.
Case in point: When was the last time you actually read something positive about Episcopalians? Seriously. Pretty much every major news item these days is a report over a lawsuit, schism or controversial theological change.
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Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States – not to mention a majority of U.S. presidents – were members of Christian denominations that fall into the mainline Protestant tradition. But in recent years, the share of Americans who identify with mainline Protestantism has been shrinking significantly, a trend driven partly by generational change.
Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that 14.7% of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition – a sharp decline from 18.1% when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.
Indeed, despite overall U.S. population growth between 2007 and 2014, the total number of mainline Protestant adults has decreased by roughly 5 million during that time (from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014).
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There’s a thin line separating angry youth and the world of jihadists, one that underscores the risk European countries face from people they call their own.
It’s also one Berlin imam Mohamed Taha Sabri knows all too well. When the Arab-born mother of a 23-year-old German Muslim man noticed her son had started using the words “jihad” and “infidels,” it was Sabri she turned to.
“The difference between adopting an extremist opinion and terrorist extremism is sometimes a hair’s breadth,” Sabri, 50, said in an interview at his Dar Assalam Mosque in the German capital’s Neukoelln district.
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[...She asks] “Where and how do I want my establishment to inject itself into secular controversies?”
The essay is well worth reading in full, in part because it shows how L’Engle embodied a deeply articulate and vigorous faith, one that was characterized by liberality and generosity in the best senses. “It is impossible to listen to the Gospel week after week and turn my back on the social issues confronting me today,” she writes. “But what I hope for is guidance, not legislation.”
She goes on to discuss a host of difficult issues, including abortion, divorce, euthanasia, genetic manipulation, and slavery, and her conclusions about the official church’s role are not in every case ones that I agree with myself. She tends to have a more mystical view of how the “Gospel” will necessarily inform the individual believer’s conscience than do I. If she is a conservative, then she is certainly at least what might be called a “liberal conservative” in Peter Lawler’s parlance.
But she certainly is right to point to the necessary task of each individual believer to work for the good within their own spheres of influence regardless of whether the church holds an “official position” on any particular issue.
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On those who say religion is unnecessary, given humanity's growing scientific knowledge.
I think science and religion are at some point both about big questions of origin and wonder. And I think, for me, I've always felt that it's important for religious people to have the same kind of philosophical stance they use in their religious life as they do in the rest of their life. And a lot of times I think religion — religions — ask people to sort of turn off the scientific part of their lives and just go and kind of think about God kind of pre-scientifically.
I don't think we can do that. We've got to have a faith that is, in some sense, consonant with the way we think about the world scientifically. And again, I think one of the things the Pew study suggests to us is that if the church can get over its anxiety about talking about God in a grown-up way, we would actually reach out to and speak to more people than we do right now.
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South of the border, the Church of England already allows clerics to form civil partnerships as long as they claim to be celibate. But the Church of Scotland’s approach does not require celibacy.
The Very Rev David Arnott, who coordinates the General Assembly’s business, said that although the Presbyterian structure of the Church of Scotland is different from that of Anglican churches, he hoped the plan could offer a “template” for the Church of England to consider.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “We are not going to change people’s minds, we have to come to a way of living together with our differences and living with our diversity and I hope that we’re able to do that.”
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University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald W. Bibby has spent several decades surveying Canadians about their attitudes on faith.
He isn't optimistic about a Protestant turnaround anytime soon.
"The United Church, the Anglicans, the Presbyterians and the Lutherans were all being fed with these wonderful immigration pipelines for an awfully long time with people coming from Europe."
"What's happened," says Bibby, "is those pipelines have been shut down. And the reality is unless those groups do some proselytizing, they are going to continue to decline rapidly as far as numbers."
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This week marks one year since Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to 40 lashes for adultery, and death for apostasy. The campaign for her release was joined by thousands across the globe, including David Cameron, but although Ibrahim is now free, the situation for Sudan's religious minorities continues to worsen.
When the Court of Appeal declared Ibrahim innocent of all charges and released her from prison on 25 June 2014, there was cautious hope that the campaign would lead to wider respect for freedom of religion or belief in Sudan. But just five days after her acquittal, on 30 June, the Church of Christ in Thiba Al Hamyida, North Khartoum, was demolished after being given 24 hours' verbal notice.
As 2014 came to an end, religious minorities faced further restrictions. In particular, the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination (SEPC) has been embroiled in a legal battle to maintain ownership of its properties, which began with a court order to seize parts of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church.
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Fear of civil war have gripped parts of the country, the Bishop of Gitega, the Rt Revd John Nduwayo, said this week.
More than 15 people have died since the demonstrations began on 26 April, and some of the 200 people injured are not being well treated because of the lack of medical fees, he has reported. More than 400 protesters are being jailed in "very harsh conditions", and a shut-down of private and social media by the government is preventing the population from getting "balanced information and reality of what is happening on the ground".
The UN reports that 105,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, including Rwanda.
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Cathy Rion Starr and Heather Rion Starr, the ministers of the Unitarian Society of Hartford since last summer, were reminiscing recently about a conversation early in their friendship, before they had become either romantic partners or co-workers.
“We had some colleagues in common, who were a same-sex couple serving a congregation in California,” Heather Rion Starr said on Tuesday in the office they share at the church. “And I think I said something about, ‘So-and-so and so-and-so are starting a co-ministry — what do you think about that?’ And you said, ‘Oh I would never want to do that. I would never want to spend that much time with someone.’ ”
“And now here we are,” Cathy Rion Starr said of the church, which will hold the couple’s installation ceremony on Sunday.
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Their ideals were lofty but simple: They would live off the land, farming with Colonial-era tools, along with a band of like-minded men dressed in homespun robes wielding scythes and pickaxes. They would sleep in atmospheric log cabins and other 18th-century structures that they had rescued from the area and that they began to reconstruct, painstakingly, brick by crumbling brick and log by log.
But what if you built a commune, and no one came?
It turns out it’s not so easy to cook up a utopia from scratch. There are 1,775 so-called intentional communities listed in the Fellowship for Intentional Community’s United States directory: eco-villages, pagan co-ops, faith-based retreats and everything in between. But how do you advertise, organize and thrive? “Don’t ask us,” Johannes said. “We failed that class.”
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....Neuhaus had an extraordinary talent for bringing people together—to discuss, debate, and strategize. He regularly convened intellectually and theologically diverse groups to spend a couple of days discussing topics of interest. (In my own case the topics included, civil religion, multinational corporations, ecumenism, faith and politics, and “culture wars,” among others.)
But the most important of these projects was the 1990 founding of First Things. While Neuhaus had previously edited two similar journals, Worldview and This World, they had each been sponsored by larger foundations, the Carnegie and Rockford Institutes respectively. This time around the journal was Neuhaus’s own, to shape as he wished. And shaped it he did, with great talent and flair, bringing together like-minded writers representing Catholicism, evangelicalism, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, along with fellow travelers from Judaism and Islam.
First Things was the flagship publication of Neuhaus’s Institute on Religion and Public Life, and the concept of “public life” was foundational to his efforts. Neuhaus always insisted that politics is only one aspect of a larger “public square”—one that makes room, as best it can, for a variety of religious, moral, and communal traditions. Boyagoda reminds us that Neuhaus and Berger actually coined the term “mediating structures,” now commonly used in social science, in their 1977 book To Empower People. That short book (just over 50 pages) showed how a wide range of smaller institutions—families, churches, professional associations, teams, guilds, neighborhood organizations, book clubs, schools—can offer a protective, nurturing space between individual and the power-hungry state.
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Pew has released another major poll focused in much greater depth on the United States, and it's being widely interpreted as providing evidence that religion (or at least Christianity) is indeed on the decline in the United States.
So was Dennett right, at least about America? Is the future of Christianity in the United States bleak after all?
Short answer: Not necessarily.
A nearly 8-percentage point drop in those calling themselves Christian (from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent) in just seven years is a big deal. If those numbers are accurate, Christianity is certainly shrinking in America at a rate that, if it continues over the coming years and decades, will produce profound cultural changes.
But we're not there yet.
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Marte, the border town in the northern flank of Borno state has again fallen to the Boko Haram sect, security sources and government officials have confirmed.
Security sources said the terrorists, most of whom had fled Sambisa forests and their other strongholds across Borno State, have now regrouped in Marte, a town 112km north of Maiduguri, the state capital.
The deputy governor of Borno State, Zannah Mustapha, confirmed that Marte was seized on Friday.
The news came as soldiers sustained a 24-hour curfew imposed on Maiduguri, the state capital on Thursday after Boko Haram terrorists attempted an invasion of the city on Wednesday night.
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In my previous post, I detailed the sordid story by which the Episcopal Church (USA) has gotten into the debt collection business. Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.
It's a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church's coffers, to help with its bottom line. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually.
Now thanks to our good friend and frequent commenter El Gringo Viejo, your Curmudgeon has been pointed to this illuminating video message, which tells "the rest of the story," so to speak. It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria. Listen to Ann Corcoran as she explains what she discovered...
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On 22 May 2015 Ireland will go to the polls to vote on a constitutional amendment put forward by the Fine Gael-Labour government that would mandate the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. The Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland have urged the defeat of the bill, but two former Archbishops of Dublin and two current Church of Ireland bishops have said they will vote “yes”.
The Most Rev. John Neill, the archbishop of Dublin from 2002 to 2011, told The Irish Times “we now recognise that there are many different types of unions and I don’t see why they cannot have the protection and status of marriage”. "The understanding of marriage in the church has evolved, putting partnership first before procreation”, in which context “there is less of a problem about same-sex marriage”. The Most Rev. Walton Empey, archbishop from 1996 to 2002 said "I certainly have no hesitation in calling for a Yes vote."
The Bishop of Cork, the Rt. Rev. Paul Colton told the BBC last year he supported the introduction of gay marriage, while the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory, the Rt. Rev. Michael Burrows last month told a conference at Trinity College, Dublin that gay rights was the “great justice issue of our time just as the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women were in the past.”
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The Prime Minister, fresh from his election victory, has been warned not to listen to "harsh, strident voices", but to lighten burdens and "build one nation".
Last Friday, David Cameron celebrated the "sweetest victory of all", defying the polls by securing an outright majority in a General Election that had been widely predicted to be inconclusive.
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, in a blog post written at the start of this week, counsels him to "reach out to the whole nation, to connect with the disaffected, to listen to the people and to be their servant".
The Bishop warns: "There will be those who see the Conservative majority as a mandate to fulfil and go beyond the manifesto commitments, blind to the risk of increasing the burdens of those who already bear the heavy load (of sickness, disability or the struggle to find sustainable employment)."
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...There are several factors, and some lessons to be learned from some of our overseas partners who are actually increasing the percentage of convinced Christians in their societies...
While there are certainly differences of style and emphasis, there is a clear and unmistakable call for repentance from sin, and turning to Jesus Christ as Lord in the fellowship of the Church. There is little talk about denomination in the areas where the church is growing. It is a focus on Christ. There is even a celebration of the fruit that is being born through the lives of other Christians.
In areas like Northern Nigeria where Boko Haram is killing Christians, there are still people choosing to go out and seek to lead others to Christ. Even at the risk of their lives, they choose the difficult course because the alternative is unacceptable to them. They do not want anyone to be lost to Christ. Many are willing, like the seeds Jesus spoke of in John 12, “to fall into the ground and die that they might bear much fruit.” They do not seek to live lives devoid of painful circumstances. They choose lives of purpose and commitment regardless of the circumstances.
We have a lot to learn.
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The meeting includes reflections on questions such as: is there a radicalisation of Muslims in Europe? How is this issue tackled within Muslim communities? How is it possible to promote a culture of dialogue between Christians and Muslims? What is the cultural and religious vitality of the Muslims on the continent?
Speakers include Prof. Olivier Roy from the European University Institute in Florence; Dr. Omero Marongiu-Perria, an expert in the sociology of religions and member of CISMOC (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Islam in the Contemporary World – University of Louvain, Belgium); Bishops Michel Dubost (France), Juan Antonio Martínez Camino (Spain) and Charles Morerod (Switzerland). Practical experiences in relations with Muslims are being shared by Fr. Christophe Roucou (France: dialogue between priests and imams); Helmut Wiesmann (Germany: co-operation in charitable work); and Bisho
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I am publishing this paper on the further research we plan to do around the Resourcing Ministerial Education (RME) workstream on the day it has been considered by the Ministry Council, which since the RME Task Group finished its work and disbanded just before the February Synod, now holds the responsibility for progressing the task. The paper was shared privately for consultation with a number of stakeholders, including TEI Principals. Somehow or other, a copy has found its way to the press. I guess this is part of the price of consulting .
The paper sets out a significant programme of research over a long period. It recognises that the issues raised by RME are profound and need long term and deep enquiry into the effect of ministerial education in terms of mission and ministry in practice. The Ministry Council has today expressed its commitment to this for a number of reasons.
The first is that, as the RME report acknowledged, the research done within the six or so months available to us in the first stage of the task is initial research and reveals a great deal of scope for further work.
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As a new and renewing church, The Episcopal Church celebrates the joys and challenges of a global community called to mission and filled with hope. Amid growing concern about the state of the Church in turbulent times, there are signs of
growing mission, transformation, resiliency, and the presence of the ever-creative and renewing work of the Spirit. Our Church is changing as we shift our gaze from an inward view on conflict resolution to an outward focus on mission. Hope, collaboration, and joy are the images that will describe the State of the Church as we move into a new triennium.
Over the past three years, a group from across the Church has been listening to stories, analyzing data, and developing a snapshot of our collective health and vitality. This information has been compiled into a State of the Church (SOTC) report,
which will be presented to the 2015 General Convention. This report not only provides a glimpse of the Church in action, as it is now, captured into freeze-frame stillness, but it also will be an important artifact, serving as a point on a historical timeline--something to observe and say wisely with the clarity of hindsight, yes, this is when THIS all began, or ended, or shifted.
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The new Pew survey on religious affiliation in America, released and much discussed around the internet yesterday, paints a portrait of institutional Christianity in retreat, and the continuing rise of what we call the “nones” — people attached to no organized religion — as a major constituency in American life. The pace of both trends is striking: As Notre Dame’s David Campbell, quoted in this Daily Caller piece, points out, given how quickly the non-affiliated population rose in the late 1990s and early 2000s you might have expected a slowing or a leveling off, but instead the trendline is still steep, from 16 percent “none” in 2007 to 23 percent today (and about 35 percent “none” among Millennials). Meanwhile identification with every major branch of Christianity is down in percentage terms, and only evangelical Christianity is seeing its absolute numbers still increase; the black Protestant churches are holding steady, but in Pew’s numbers Catholicism seems to have joined the Protestant Mainline in a kind of demographic freefall.
I specialize in a certain pessimism about the state of American Christianity, but when a portrait is this dire-seeming it’s useful to offer some qualifiers. So here are three:
1) What’s in steepest decline is affiliation, not religious practice. What we’re clearly seeing happen, in Bible Belt environs as well as on the liberal coasts, is people who once would have identified as Christians socially (as Christmas-and-Easter Methodists, cultural Catholics, etc.) are now dropping the label altogether.
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The big trends are clear, the nominals are becoming the nones, yet the convictional are remaining committed.
In other words, Americans whose Christianity was nominal—in name only—are casting aside the name. They are now aligning publicly with what they’ve actually not believed all along.
The percentage of convictional Christians remains rather steady, but because the nominal Christians now are unaffiliated the overall percentage of self-identified Christians is decline. This overall decline is what Pew shows—and I expect it to accelerate.
As I have said before, not one serious researcher thinks Christianity in America is dying. What we see from Pew is not the death-knell of Christianity, but another indication that Christianity in America is being refined.
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The leader of the Church of Ireland has said "we may as well close the doors now" if it cannot solve the problem of falling attendances.
Archbishop Richard Clarke made the comments after it was revealed in a survey that only 15% of Irish Anglicans attend services on Sundays.
This represents just 58,000 out of a total of 378,000 who claim affiliation to the church.
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Machete-wielding assailants followed Ananta Bijoy Das on Tuesday morning when he left his house in the northeastern city of Sylhet and hacked him to death, police and friends said.
Das wrote for Mukto-Mona, the blog founded by Avijit Roy, a U.S. citizen who was killed in a similar attack outside a book fair in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in February. Another writer who protested Roy's killing on social media, Washiqur Rahman, was struck down on a Dhaka street in March.
Activists lay blame for the killings on ultraconservative Islamists who have gained prominence recently in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. They have complained about the slow pace of investigations and have accused authorities of allowing a culture of impunity to take hold.
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Archbishop Justin Welby said: “Helping people to get out of debt, and freeing them from the anxiety and exploitation that often goes with being in debt, is part of the Church's commitment to human flourishing.
“I welcome this new training resource to help local churches play a vital role in encouraging people to seek assistance earlier and to make use of the many free debt advice services that are available."
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In India... [Tony Joseph] suggests, Christianity is doing far worse than in most parts of the world, while Hinduism is booming. Presently, he declares, around 78 percent of Indians are Hindus.
Well, yes and no. Nobody can claim that Christianity has claimed major shares of the Indian population, or that it is likely to do so in the near future. But some counter-arguments do need to be stressed, especially about the overall numbers. No sane person believes the religious content of the Indian national census, which is one of the world’s great works of creative fiction. At all levels, there is enormous pressure of all kinds – cultural, political and bureaucratic – to minimize the presence of all non-Hindu religions, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. That pressure becomes overwhelming when dealing with people of low and no caste, those who are most tempted to defect to one of the alternative faiths. Bureaucrats are especially hard to convince in matters of religious conversion from Hinduism.
That matters because such low or no caste people are so very numerous. India presently has over 200 million Dalits, the so-called untouchables. If the census is failing to pick up just a few percent of those groups who have converted to other faiths, that is potentially a huge number. In consequence, the estimate of India as 78 percent Hindu represents an extreme higher-end estimate, achieved only by making that the default stance adopted and enforced by census takers and bureaucrats. I would confidently expect future estimates of Christian numbers to decline still further as the government attitudes become chillier – which has nothing whatever to do with actual numbers on the ground.
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Booby traps, tunnels, mines and dense woodland cover thousands of miles.
The Nigerian military's push to invade the Sambisa Forest, the last stronghold of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, capture its leader and wipe the group out is delicate, highly dangerous and unlikely to be completely successful, analysts said.
Government forces have taken over numerous Boko Haram bases in the forest in Nigeria's northeast, rescued hundreds of women and children and released aerial images of terrorists retreating, but it has yet to capture the top leaders of the group or many of its fighters.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has become the first patron of debt charity Christians Against Poverty.
The charity runs debt services through local churches with the aim of releasing people from the prison of debt. Around 60 of its 280 debt centres are based in Church of England churches.
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The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.
To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.
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Most of us were trained to minister to a culture that had a Christian baseline, but we weren’t trained how to reach people who don’t accept the Bible as true or know about Christ.
In other words, we were trained to focus on Nominals but now we increasingly need to reach Seculars.
There are resources to help with that.
I’m a big fan of Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. Many use that curriculum for reaching secular people. I also recommend the work of George Hunter, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. His book How to Reach Secular People is good, as is James Emery White’s book called The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated.
Do you deal more with Nominals or Seculars? Has your church made progress in reaching either group? What have you found that works in bringing these people to Christ?
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The international community stepped in, investigated, and found enough to warrant a further investigation by the International Criminal Court. In the meantime, the country tried to put things back together. By 2010, post-crisis reforms had come into being along with a new constitution that brought about a coalition government.
These were the first few steps toward reconciliation, but they were surface deep, nowhere near the restoration of the people. David Shibley with Global Advance says their organization was called in to help the church rebuild in 2010. God used them as a catalyst; sometimes it takes someone coming from the outside, speaking into a situation, to be the fresh eyes needed. “God graciously used our first Frontline Shepherds Conference there, five years ago, to bring healing and reconciliation. We saw a marvelous move of God’s Spirit as men who had not talked to each other suddenly were embracing each other, asking for forgiveness.”
Since that time, says Shibley, reconciliation efforts reawakened a sense of belonging to one nation. “The pastoral leaders of that area have been used of God to bring a real healing in that area, and now there is tremendous cooperation among most, if not all, of the evangelical churches of that area.”
Then came the al-Shabaab attack on the Nairobi University campus in Garissa in April. 147 Christian college students were killed. “Since that time, there has been a real galvanizing of the Church in Kenya: kind of a ‘snapping to attention’ that I saw,” explains Shibley.
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If “religious nature of religious art” seems tautological, blame Western curatorial history for making it not so. Although most important American institutions abound with the art of faith, until recently, those museums provided almost no information about that art’s spiritual inspiration, its ritual use, or where it fit into the roiling histories of popular belief or religious politics. Or as Ena Heller—MOBIA’s founding director and now director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Orlando, Florida—remarked in 2004, most museums displayed “an undeniable reluctance to interpret the religious component of art.”
That flaw is breathtaking: Imagine a museum showing Warhols being “reluctant” to talk about late-20th-century consumerism, or an institution exploring German Expressionism being leery of bringing up World Wars. For a decade, MOBIA, which Heller founded in a shoebox in 2005, has acted as a kind of two-cylinder antidote, presenting Christian and Jewish religious art with all the context museums traditionally ignored. And it's done so while maintaining a strictly secular curatorial philosophy, confuting those who think that to concentrate on religion means to evangelize. The victorious Donatello show seemed to assure that MOBIA could continue to explain the cultural influence of the Bible on art—obvious yet ignored—from a perch of true national stature.
Now, it's up to art consumers to internalize the museum’s insight for themselves.
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While Ebola still haunts Guinea and Sierra Leone, where infections have dwindled but refuse to disappear, Liberia has passed a remarkable threshold: at least 42 days since its last Ebola victim was buried, or twice the maximum incubation period of the virus, according to the W.H.O.
Even before reaching that official marker, the nation was trying to stitch itself back together after more than 4,700 deaths from the disease, by far the most of any nation in the epidemic. Liberia has reopened markets, clinics and schools, eager to move past an outbreak so devastating that it “has changed our way of life,” as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf put it.
Similar efforts are taking place inside churches as well, bedrock institutions in West African society that were at once a place of succor and a source of contagion during the outbreak.
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And now we gather again, 70 years on, thankful for victory over the greatest darkness of the twentieth century, perhaps of all history. Our gratitude is not simply for victory-in-Europe, but also reconciliation-in-Europe that followed, neither obviously nor automatically. Peace is more than the end of war: reconciliation dismantles the hostilities which previously separated and alienated us from one another and from God.
In November 1940 Coventry was terribly bombed. The fires lit the skies for miles, so many people died and were wounded, and amongst much else, the Cathedral burned. Yet from the next day the Provost of Coventry, the Very Reverend Richard Howard, set a course towards reconciliation and the dismantling of hostility.
Six weeks later, on Christmas Day 1940, he gave a sermon on the BBC, in which he said: "we want to tell the world... that with Christ born again in our hearts today, we are trying, hard as it may be, to banish all thoughts of revenge... We are going to try to make a kinder, simpler - a more Christ-child-like sort of world in the days beyond this strife."
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Holywood actor Jonathan Jackson, recipient of five Emmy Awards, at an interview given in "Pemptousia" during his recent visit to the Monastery of Vatopaidi - Mt Athos, speaks about how he became Orthodox.
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Christians who have so far avoided controversial “culture war” issues will likely be pulled into those battles as their religious freedom becomes threatened due to...[same-sex] "marriage," Dr. John Inazu warned Monday.
Theologically conservative Christian non-profit organizations, including churches, could face losing their tax exempt status or being shut down, and Christian doctors, lawyers, counselors and other professionals could be forced out of their professions, he explained.
Inazu, associate professor of law and political science at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, was delivering a presentation, “Religious Liberty and the American Culture Wars,” at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s “Faith Angle Forum.”
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Ms. Allen’s article brings to mind another issue that I’m not sure many of those quick to condemn Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, and the citizens such acts seek to protect, have thought through—this country’s long-standing tradition of conscientious objection to compulsory military service.
The notion that government should not compel citizens to engage in behavior that they find morally objectionable on religious grounds has been honored in this country since its founding. The Supreme Court widened the definition of conscientious objector to include strongly held moral convictions not necessarily based on religious grounds. Perhaps Americans believe there will be no future need for the bad old days of conscription.
The “vengeful triumphalism among the progressive elites” over RFRAs signals a change in what many Americans believe their governments can require.
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The irony is that only a few years ago, when the legalization of same-sex marriage didn’t appear so inevitable, gay-marriage advocates eagerly assured a skeptical public that scenarios like those above would never happen. Typical was since-retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who wrote in the 2008 decision legalizing gay marriage in that state: “Affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person.”
The victors have dropped their conciliatory stance. Bubonic plague-level hysteria surged through the media, academia and mega-corporate America in March after Indiana passed a law—modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993—that would enable religious believers to opt out of universally applicable laws under some circumstances.
Amid threats of business boycotts, the Indiana legislature amended the law to ensure antidiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians—but not before a pizzeria in Walkerton shut down for a week amid death and arson threats after its Catholic owners told a reporter that, while they would gladly serve gays in their restaurant, they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.
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The unexpected outright victory of the Conservative party in the General Election shows that "the British people voted for competence", the chief executive of the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) said on Friday.
The result - a majority for the Conservative party, which secured 331 seats to Labour's 232 - contradicted earlier polls which had suggested a neck-and-neck race.
But Colin Bloom of the CCF, who has predicted for weeks that the Conservatives would get at least 326 seats, was unsuprised. Pollsters had "tried to turn politics from an art into a science", he suggested.
While "absolutely delighted" with the result, he was also "conscious that very many good people from various parties have found themselves now out of public service. My thoughts are with them."
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When Melissa Mira suffered sudden heart failure at the end of her second pregnancy last year, she worried first about her health and her baby — then about the more than $200,000 in medical bills that began rolling in.
“Your world is just crashing down around you and you wonder: ‘How is this going to be covered?’ ” recalled Mira, 30, who spent more than a month away from her Tacoma home, hospitalized at the University of Washington Medical Center.
For Mira and her family, the answer came not through traditional health insurance, but through faith that fellow Christians would step forward to pay the bills.
The Miras — including daughter Jael, 4, and baby Sienna Rain, now a healthy 9-month-old — are among the growing numbers of people looking to “health care-sharing ministries” across the U.S.
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“I was very active in the progressive community in my law school, and most of my friends were politically active progressives,” he said. “But I was unprepared for their response when word started filtering out that I had enrolled in divinity school. Some of them literally disowned me; my own roommates moved out. Several folks literally stopped speaking to me and acted as if I had lost my mind.”
His own background was thrown in his face, with friends saying: “Chris, you’re a scientist, you’re a chemist, you trained as a chemist as an undergraduate, how could you possibly believe this insane stuff...?”
Coons’s message was deceptively simple: that we must find ways of “getting past some of our misunderstandings of each other.” The problem: Respecting each other on matters of faith and politics seems beyond our current capacities.
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The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a weekend attack at a center near Dallas, Texas, that was exhibiting cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad - though it offered no evidence of a direct link to the attackers.
An audio statement on the extremist group's Al Bayan radio station said that "two soldiers of the caliphate" carried out Sunday's attack in Garland and promised the group would deliver more attacks in the future
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Small, winner of two national book awards for his recent novels, will discuss “East Meets West: What the Great World Religions Can Learn from Each Other.” He will attempt to weave the key themes of his suspense novels into a serious discussion of how interfaith dialogue can enlighten people’s lives.
In today’s world, Small explained, “when the headlines are too often about the animosity between the religions, I hope to help us build bridges across these conflicts.” He attempts to do this through talks, blog posts and his fiction writing, where he feels he can reach a different audience in a nonconventional way.
Specifically, the suspense/thriller author of “visionary fiction” will attempt to answer “Why do we have so many religions? What can we learn from this knowledge? Why do we need interfaith dialogue? What are the key teachings from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism?”
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The women said several were killed in the stoning, but they did not know how many.
The survivors said that when they were initially captured, the militants had killed men and older boys in front of their families before taking women and children into the forest.
Some were forced into marriage.
They said the Islamists never let them out of their sight - not even when they went to the toilet.
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Until his recent conversion to Anglicanism, the broadcaster and author Michael Coren was one of Canada’s best known Catholics. He has a Catholic wife and four Catholic children and is the author of books that include “Why Catholics Are Right.” So when he was formally welcomed into an Anglican congregation in Toronto the other day, after worshipping with them privately for a year, the news caused a stir in the Catholic world. False rumours were circulated about his motives. Old scandals from a career in punditry were dredged up. The uproar cost him several speeches to conservative American Catholic groups, and his regular column in the Catholic Register was pulled. As he tells the National Post‘s Joseph Brean, he was driven to Protestantism by a growing sense of hypocrisy....
Q: You say Anglicanism is similar to Catholicism, with many shared beliefs, but the split between the Vatican and the Church of England is longstanding, deep and wide. How did you come to cross it?
A: Yes, of course, otherwise, logically, why would I have bothered? … My father was Jewish, I was raised in a very secular home, sort of semi-culturally Jewish, but no religion. I became a Christian in 1984 and I’ve never wavered. I was received into the Catholic Church in 1985 when I was 26. I’d been interested in Christianity since I was a teenager, actually, and I think I just kept on crawling further and further. It was sort of two feet forward and one foot back the whole time. There was a certain inevitability about it. There was no bunker experience, there were no bullets flying over my head. I think I’d achieved quite a bit early. I’d always wanted to be in literary London, and have books published, and I had all that by about age 24. They were very bad books, but they were published. I was in literary London and there was a certain emptiness.
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Malaysian Anglicans have rallied to the support of a Pentecostal church in Petaling Jaya after a Muslim mob disrupted worship services...[recently] and forced the congregation to take down a cross mounted on the church’s facade.
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One of Morley’s most distinguished churches is set to close forever next month after serving the community for more than a century.
All Saints Parish Church in Churwell will celebrate its final service on May 10, bringing to an end 114 years worth of history.
The church is one of many being shut down by the Church of England across the country, as it grapples with the challenges of dwindling attendances to traditional Sunday services.
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Our progressive sensibilities have not, alas, resulted in a genuinely compassionate culture. We no longer have the kind cruel civic Christianity that The Scarlet Letter depicted, yet we still have the shaming scaffolds (they’re called social media now) and we still have ineffable moral codes that must not be trespassed. These codes may not be Levitical but they are indeed legalistic: laws about privilege, sexual autonomy, “trigger warnings,” and much, much more. Violation of these laws can and do result not only in public shame but legal prosecution.
It surely must befuddle those on the inside track of our transforming culture—just as we seem to be learning what true progress is, we rebuild the shaming scaffolds of our Puritan forefathers. Can we not have a culture that embraces the moral equivalence of all forms of sexual expression, the existential (read: non-transcendent) nature of love, and the casting off of ancient beliefs about God and the universe, while simultaneously widening the margins of civic life to include all kinds of beliefs, even those that discomfort us? Cannot we live out the promises of the Sexual Revolution while saving a place in our midst for those who opt out?
No, we cannot. The reason is simple: A broken American conscience cannot be trusted. Compassion is a class that secularism doesn’t offer. Exchanging the Puritanism of Arthur Dimmesdale for the Puritanism of Alfred Kinsey is not progress. Cultural elites may say we are becoming a better people because we break with human history on the meaning of marriage or the dignity of human life, but a glance outside suggests otherwise.
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Such a pattern of religious Dualism did not last into modern times, but it used to be very commonplace to find some such dichotomy. Allegedly, Judaism was the faith of the wrathful, legalistic God of the Old Testament; Christians followed Jesus, and his words of love and mercy. Only a hundred years ago, the great Bible scholar Adolf von Harnack wanted to eject the Old Testament from the Christian Bible, an act he saw as the logical conclusion of the Reformation. Von Harnack himself was not anti-Semitic, although plenty of his sympathizers in such matters were. But the stereotypical dismissal of the Old Testament is certainly anti-Judaic, in the sense of stigmatizing the Hebrew Bible that is the foundation of Jewish faith and identity.
It is hard to know what is most incorrect about this cliché of “the wrathful, Old Testament Jehovah,” or most offensive. A century of Bible scholarship has made it absolutely clear that virtually everything Jesus preached can be found in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, including many sayings and pronouncements that seem most radical and innovative. Any attempt to separate Jesus from his Jewish roots – or the New Testament from the Old – is utterly misguided, and doomed to fail. The whole vision of God as loving and forgiving derives from the Old Testament, as is clear to anyone who has ever opened its pages. If you think of the Old Testament God as merely “wrathful,” your knowledge of the text is very slight.
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Religion has been waning in influence for several centuries, especially in Europe and North America. There have been a few brief and local revivals, but in recent years the pace of decline has accelerated.
Today one of the largest categories of religious affiliation in the world—with more than a billion people—is no religion at all, the “Nones.” One out of six Americans is already a None; by 2050, the figure will be one out of four, according to a new Pew Research Center study. Churches are being closed by the hundreds, deconsecrated and rehabilitated as housing, offices, restaurants and the like, or just abandoned.
If this trend continues, religion largely will evaporate, at least in the West. Pockets of intense religious activity may continue, made up of people who will be more sharply differentiated from most of society in attitudes and customs, a likely source of growing tension and conflict.
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