FaithWorld

from John Lloyd:

A church married to the wrong side of history

After the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, the evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell took some time to tell his fellow Americans that homosexuals (along with abortionists, feminists and pagans) were at least in part to blame. “I point my finger in their face,” he said, “and say, ‘You helped this happen.’”

Later, in a “did I say that?” moment, he apologized.

It was a low moment, but not an unusual one. Falwell is in the hate-filled corner of the religious spectrum. But even those religious leaders at the mild and inclusive end must, more in sorrow than in anger, generally tell gay men and women that as much as they respect them, they can’t officiate at their marriages. That’s a bridge over too-troubled waters.

This past Christmas time has been an active one for those in the Catholic Church concerned that legislation in both France and the UK to permit gay marriage will hollow out their faith. In a pre-Christmas address to fellow Vatican officials, Benedict XVI called for all faiths to come together against a practice that would cancel out the “authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint for human existence.”

Picking up, more mildly, the theme from his Holy Father, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, said that creativity lay in the bond between husband and wife, and claimed in a BBC interview that the Conservative-led government had no mandate for legislation permitting gay marriage, now being brought forward. In Scotland, Nichols’ brother in Christ, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, argued that same-sex marriage was “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”

They don’t hold a candle, however, to the viciousness of their brethren elsewhere – both in Christ and out of him. Victor Tonye Bakot, the Catholic Archbishop of Yaounde, in the central African state of Cameroon, put a harder spin on the Pope’s message on Christmas Day, arguing at a mass that homosexual marriage was “a serious crime against humanity.” In a reporting trip to Uganda some years ago to write about the rapid spread of evangelical churches, I found that many of the pastors were consumed with what they saw as a pervasive, deadly threat – and have put strong pressure on President Yoweri Museveni, whose wife is an evangelical Christian, to pass stronger laws against the “plague.” The pressure worked: A law that includes life imprisonment in some cases (and had initially included the death penalty) is in front of the parliament now. Discovery of a gay relationship can be – and has been – the subject of a death sentence in Iran; in Egypt, where there are no laws explicitly banning homosexuality, those who are open, or are discovered, can face charges like “debauchery” and are imprisoned for years.

Evangelical Christians from Global South see expanding influence

Prisoners attend a cult meeting presided over by Evangelical pastor Marcos in Rio. 30 October 2009

A survey of evangelical Christian leaders found a Global North-South split on how they see their prospects.

The 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life revealed optimism among 58 percent of evangelical leaders in the Global South – sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East/North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia. But 66 percent of leader in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand tended to be pessimistic about evangelicals’ influence on society. 

New Israeli film claims discovery of nails from Jesus’s cross

()

(Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici at a news conference in New York, February 26, 2007/Mike Segar)

Could two of the nails used to crucify Jesus have been discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem? And could they have mysteriously disappeared for 20 years, only to turn up by chance in a Tel Aviv laboratory?

That is the premise of the new documentary film”The Nails of the Cross” by veteran investigator Simcha Jacobovici, which even before its release has prompted debate in the Holy Land. The film follows three years of research during which Jacobovici presents his assertions — some based on empirical data, others requiring much imagination and a leap of faith.

Merkel: Germany doesn’t have “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity”

merkel (Photo: Chancellor Angela Merkel in Karlsruhe, 15 Nov 2010/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

German president welcomes Islam in 20th anniversary Unity Day speech

imam (Photo: An imam leads prayers at a mosque in Dortmund on German Unity Day, October 3, 2010./Ina Fassbender)

German President Christian Wulff said Sunday that Islam had a place in Germany, during a speech celebrating two decades of the country’s reunification.

The president, who holds a largely ceremonial position but is considered a moral authority for the nation, used the televised ceremony to wade into a debate over immigrant integration that has captivated public attention for weeks.

“First and foremost, we need adopt a clear stance: an understanding that for Germany, belonging is not restricted to a passport, a family history, or a religion,” he told an audience in the northern city of Bremen.  “Christianity doubtless belongs in Germany. Judaism belongs doubtless in Germany. That is our Judeo-Christian history. But by now, Islam also belongs in Germany.”

Excerpts from greeting speeches by pope and queen in Edinburgh

pope queen 1 (Photo: Queen Elizabeth and Pope Benedict in Edinburgh, 16 Sept 2010/Dave Thompson)

Pope Benedict and Queen Elizabeth delivered short speeches in Edinburgh at the start of the pontiff’s four-day visit to Britain. Here are excerpts from their comments:

Pope Benedict: “…The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland …. the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years…

“We find many examples of this force for good throughout Britain’s long history. Even in comparatively recent times, due to figures like William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, Britain intervened directly to stop the international slave trade. Inspired by faith, women like Florence Nightingale served the poor and the sick and set new standards in healthcare that were subsequently copied everywhere. John Henry Newman, whose beatification I will celebrate shortly, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women. These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands.

Ghosts, astrology, New Age: you name it, Americans believe it

Although most Americans are Christian and many are devout, that hasn’t stopped some members of the flock from believing in astrology, reincarnation or the ability of trees to trap spiritual energy.

A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a surprising number of U.S. adults claim to have had supernatural experiences such as ghost sightings or hold beliefs associated with the New Age movement or Eastern religions.

LIFE PARANORMAL

Among its findings: nearly 25 percent of U.S. adults polled said they believed in reincarnation and 23 percent said yoga was a spiritual practice. Twenty six percent said they believed “spiritual energy” could be found in objects such as trees. Eighteen percent said they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost.

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan: the Gods of war

[CROSSPOST blog: 27 post: 4308]

Original Post Text:
peshawar twoIn openDemocracy, Paul Rogers writes that one of the great mistakes of the media is that it tends to assume the only actors in the campaign against Islamist militants are governments, with al Qaeda and the Taliban merely passive players.

"Beyond the details of what the Taliban and its allies decide, it is important to note that most analysis of Barack Obama’s strategy published in the western media is severely constrained by its selective perspective. There is a pervasive assumption - even now, after eight years of war - that the insurgents are mere “recipients” of external policy changes: reactive but not themselves proactive," he writes.  

"This is nonsense - and dangerous nonsense. It would be far wiser to assume that these militias have people who are every bit as intelligent and professional in their thinking and planning as their western counterparts. They have had three months to think through the Obama leadership’s policy-development process; and much of this thinking will be about how the US changes affect their own plans - not how they will respond to the United States. Thus they may have very clear intentions for the next three to five years that are embedded in detailed military planning; and what is now happening on their side will involve adjustment of these plans in the light of the great rethink across the Atlantic."

Top Japan pol calls Christianity self-righteous, Islam hardly better

japan-buddhistA top politician in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party has praised Buddhism while calling Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” and Islam only somewhat better.  Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa made the remarks after meeting the head of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a group traditionally close to the rival Liberal Democratic Party, which was trounced by the Democrats in an August election.

Christianity “is an exclusive and self-righteous religion. And society in the United States and Europe, which are based on Christianity, are at a dead end,” the Nikkei newspaper quoted Ozawa as telling reporters after the meeting. “Islam is better, but it is also exclusive.” (Photo:Buddha statue at Todaiji Temple in Nara, western Japan, 29  Oct 2008/Itsuo Inouye)

Ozawa, seen by some as the mastermind behind the Democrats’ election win, had kinder words for Buddhism, which along with Shinto is the dominant religion in Japan, although many people take a mostly secular and eclectic view.  Christians are a tiny minority and Muslims are few in Japan.

“No religion” segment of U.S. population profiled

At the “Values Voter Summit” of conservative Christian activists I attended last week in Washington, more than one participant lamented the “secularization” of America.

That will come as a surprise perhaps to more than one foreign reader of this blog, given America’s famously high rates of religiosity which set it apart from much of the rest of the developed world. And the evangelical tradition which much of the U.S. “religious right” comes from has been fast growing in recent decades.

spire1But Americans who claim no religion are fast growing and Trinity College in Hartford offers a detailed portrait of this group in a new report released this week called “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population.”