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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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As the Prime Minister knows, I am very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage, which will be debated in the House of Lords within the next two months there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial. By dividing marriage into religious and civil the government threatens the church and state link which they purport to support. But they also threaten to empty marriage of its fundamental religious and civil meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.
If this is not enough, the legislation fails to provide any protection for religious believers in employment who cannot subscribe in conscience to the new meaning of marriage. There will be no exemptions for believers who are registrars who can expect to be sacked if theycannot, in all conscience, support same-sex marriage. Strong legal opinion also suggests that Christian teachers, who are required to teach about marriage, may face disciplinary action if they cannot express agreement with the new politically-correct orthodoxy.
The danger I believe that the government is courting with its approach both to marriage and religious freedom, is the alienation of a large minority of people who only a few years ago would have been considered pillars of the community.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism
The number of multicultural churches -- those in which at least one in five people is from a different ethnic group -- is still relatively tiny. Even within diverse denominations such as the Assemblies of God, where about a third of the churches have minority congregations, or the Southern Baptists, where 20% of churches have minority congregations, only a small percentage meet that one-in-five criteria.
Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church, a diverse non-denominational church based in Little Rock, says he believes the number is going to grow. DeYmaz said his congregation of 600 is about 40% white, 33% African-American, 15% Hispanic, with the rest from a variety of backgrounds.
When Mosaic opened in 2001, DeYmaz said he knew of few diverse churches. Now he knows of several hundred.
"When we get to heaven, the kingdom of God isn't going to be segregated," he said. "So why should the local church be segregated?"
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Multiculturalism, pluralism Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches
Perhaps it is understandable angry Muslims in the Middle East or Africa would demonstrate outside American diplomatic missions against the apparent circulation of a YouTube video mocking the Prophet Muhammad by a person based in the US. There is no such excuse for Australian Muslims.
Citizens and residents of Australia know we live in a democratic society in which the government does not, and mostly cannot, engage in acts of political and religious censorship. That's why Americans have not been able to get the cheap film deleted from the web. And that's why footage of beheadings of non-believers by Islamist extremists remain on the web.
Some Muslim leaders in Australia have condemned Saturday's violent demonstration in which several members of the NSW Police were injured. Others have not. Whatever the response of Muslims, the incident provides yet more evidence that multiculturalism - after a promising start - has failed. If some Australian Muslims do not understand how democracy works, it's time for a rethink.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Multiculturalism, pluralism Philosophy Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism
Having arrived at what they described as a “broad consensus”, representatives of 90 per cent of the world’s Christians have published guidelines on how to conduct relations with each other and with members of other faiths. It is an important step forward in relations between different Christian denominations, but its real significance may lie elsewhere. In many parts of the world Christians live cheek by jowl with other religions. Often they are a minority group. Violence is sometimes stirred up by troublemakers when Christians are accused of evangelising and seeking to convert others to Christianity. This has happened time and again in the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.
In most cases the troublemakers are militant Islamists, but in India it has also occurred with militant Hindus. Such charges will be much easier to refute now these guidelines are in existence. They also provide ammunition for church authorities seeking to restrain the more zealous of their own members.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Middle East
Does anyone really want their children to be without a knowledge of that heritage? Think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who asks him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom and how Jesus says to him tonight he will be with him in paradise.
Some stories are true because of the depth of life they contain. We should keep alive the story of Easter if we want our children to understand what's going on in much of the greatest painting we have. It's necessary if they are to realise why the words led to the music in Bach's St Matthew Passion, one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. Or even to cotton on to the poignancy of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Mary Magdalene song in Jesus Christ Superstar, I Don't Know How To Love Him.
No one has ever known what to do with Easter or with the Bible that shaped every straight and crooked step our civilisation has taken. How does the story go? The light shone in the darkness, but the darkness could not comprehend it.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter * Culture-Watch Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ
There is... no escaping the fact that Jesus speaks in the Bible of a hell for the "condemned." He sometimes uses the word Gehenna, which was a valley near Jerusalem associated with the sacrifice of children by fire to the Phoenician god Moloch; elsewhere in the New Testament, writers (especially Paul and John the Divine) tell of a fiery pit (Tartarus or Hades) in which the damned will spend eternity. "Depart from me, you cursed [ones], into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," Jesus says in Matthew. In Mark he speaks of "the unquenchable fire." The Book of Revelation paints a vivid picture — in a fantastical, problematic work that John the Divine says he composed when he was "in the spirit on the Lord's day," a signal that this is not an Associated Press report — of the lake of fire and the dismissal of the damned from the presence of God to a place where "they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
And yet there is a contrary scriptural trend that suggests, as Jesus puts it, that the gates of hell shall not finally prevail, that God will wipe away every tear — not just the tears of Evangelical Christians but the tears of all. [Rob] Bell puts much stock in references to the universal redemption of creation: in Matthew, Jesus speaks of the "renewal of all things"; in Acts, Peter says Jesus will "restore everything"; in Colossians, Paul writes that "God was pleased to ... reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven."
So is it heaven for Christians who say they are Christians and hell for everybody else? What about babies, or people who die without ever hearing the Gospel through no fault of their own? (As Bell puts it, "What if the missionary got a flat tire?") Who knows? Such tangles have consumed Christianity for millennia and likely will for millennia to come.
Read it all.
[ Boston University Department of Religion professor Stephen Prothero] started by pointing to some of the obvious irreconcilable differences, from the spiritual atheism of Buddhism to the chasm separating monotheistic and polytheistic faith traditions.
Not only does the liberal theological spin of the essential sameness of all religion constitute a stumbling block to the truth, it also trivializes what adherents of different faiths consider to be ultimately significant. In other words — and this may be an understatement — to say that particular pillars of faith, of a particular faith tradition, are not as important as the things they share in common is, well, condescending.
To act as if the divinity of Christ and the Quran as the revealed word of Allah are ultimately trivial differences you can paper over by getting a bunch of liberal Christians and Muslims to agree on a "God is love" document, or some other feely-touchy joint statement, is a slap in the face to the masses who hold these conflicting testimonies as central to their faith.
It's not only condescending, Prothero said, it's dangerous. It's dangerous because reducing all religions to one common truth "makes it impossible to understand the most intractable conflicts in the world today" — the Middle East and Kashmir being just two popular examples.
Read it all.
Ah, dialogue. That would be refreshing when it involves Islam.
The truth is, the most virulent "Islamophobia" plaguing America is the fear of offending Muslims. We've grown gun-shy about speaking up and granted radical Islam a formidable power over us from which the Bill of Rights restrains Congress: abridging our freedom of speech.
Now, I'm not hanging a radical tag on Zaghari-Mask. While I believe that on this she was a mite thin-skinned, in America she owns the right to speak her mind. And that's the point.
Yet, since 9-11, we've often ceded that right, often exercising free speech about Muslims with chilled restraint. Just look at Hollywood.
Two years ago, CAIR decried a story line about a Muslim sleeper cell on the popular Fox network series 24 because the portrayal might "increase Islamophobic stereotyping and bias." So Fox issued a disclaimer.
That same year, Fox swaddled in the free-speech blanket when incensed Christians blasted an episode of Family Guy. God, in the episode, lies beside a blond bombshell who produces a condom.
Read it all.
The Get Religion post by Terry Mattingly immediately below this entry asserts that many journalists, religious leaders and others too quickly try to dismiss the differences between various faiths and claim all religions are alike. Obviously readers who follow this blog are aware of the story of the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding who claims she can be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim. We've seen the desire to try and minimize the differences between religions firsthand recently.
However, rather than just wring our hands in despair at this tendency, let's compile some resources we can use to strengthen our skills in apologetics. What resources are out there: books, websites, etc. that you have found helpful in inter-faith dialogue and witnessing to those of different faiths, or, in answering those who wonder whether there really any differences among religions?
Enquiring Elves want to know...!
For instance, if you had the chance to sit down one-on-one with Ann Holmes Redding, what might you say to her? Or what will you say (or have you said) to friends who ask you about this story during coffee hour at church? With a growing trend towards multiculturalism and pluralism, this elf is convinced we need to be better equipped to share the distinctive truths of Christianity and answer specific objections and questions raised by adherents of other faiths as to how on earth we could be so "judgmental" and "exclusive" to believe that Christianity makes absolute truth claims.
Over at Get Religion, Terry Mattingly reviews a recent article by Newsweek and examines the tendency among some journalists as well as some liberal religious leaders to believe "all religions are alike:"
I was flipping through my copy of Newsweek the other day and came across a headline that almost made me swoon. To make matters more interesting for people who care about religion news, this little article was part of the magazine’s giant “What You Need To Know Now” spread.
The headline said: “True or False: The Major Religions Are Essentially Alike.”
According to author Stephen Prothero of Boston University, the correct answer is “false.” Prothero is, of course, the author of the new book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t.
Here is now the Newsweek article opens:
At least since the first petals of the counterculture bloomed across the United States in the 1960s, it has been fashionable to affirm that all religions are beautiful — and all are true. The proof text for this happy affirmation comes, appropriately enough, from the Hindu Vedas rather than the Christian Bible: “Truth is one, the sages call it by many names.”
According to this multicultural form of wisdom, the world’s religions are merely different paths up the same mountain. But are they?
Anyone willing to deal with facts and doctrines, rather than emotions and fog, has to come to the conclusion that the various world religions clash over and over again, creating eternal divides that are real and can only be covered up by living in a state of denial, according to Prothero.
Yet that is precisely where many people — including scores of journalists — like to live.
Here's the full Get Religion entry.
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