The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, August 2, 2011


UH, NO? “Is Christian the New Gay?”

GAYLE TROTTER: How have evangelicals modeled the gay and lesbian community in the workplace and entertainment industry? How is “Christian” the new “gay”?

MICHAEL LINDSAY: This comes from a quote that one woman who I interviewed in Hollywood recounted to me a story that she had where the conversation basically was a Hollywood producer telling her that it had become new and interesting for committed Christians to “come out” in Hollywood. And they actually used that language of “coming out” where one publicly identifies in this way. I think what it really reflects is although historically Christianity has been a very powerful force in this country, within the pockets of elite cultural life — in Hollywood, at universities like Harvard and Yale and the rarefied heights of arts and entertainment — being a deeply committed person of faith, whatever that faith tradition may be, is seen as unusual or odd. There’s pressure when you’re in those high positions not to be too public about your faith and certainly not a faith that is evangelistic in approach because that’s seen as overbearing or narrow-minded. And so that has been the framework for the last 20 to 30 years. Over the last 10 years, however, there has been a gradual opening up of opportunities for committed Christians to become more open about how their faith is relevant to what they do in public life. So you have journalists, Hollywood writers, directors, as well as other public figures who are willing to talk about the relevance of their faith. You can think of Patricia Heaton, the actress who co-starred on Everybody Loves Raymond. She’s a committed Christian, and there are more possibilities for someone like her to be public about their faith. In the same way, folks who are gay and lesbian once felt they couldn’t be public about their identity, but now are feeling a little bit freer, so also are Christians in public life.

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OOD QUESTION! Christianity Today posts an interesting exchange of opinions on question: “Drones: Is It Wrong to Kill by Remote Control?”

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VERY, VERY INTERESTING! “Muslim Americans are most optimistic religious group, study says.”

Muslim Americans are more optimistic about their future than members of any other religious group in the United States, according to a Gallup report released Tuesday.

“They have generally optimistic and positive views about government, its agencies and the future of America, but they report a significant level of prejudice and discrimination,” said Ahmed Younis, an analyst for the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center.

THE PERSECUTED CHURCH: “Iraq church bombing wounds at least 20.”

In the past years, extremists have carried out major attacks against churches.

An October 31 attack on the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, or Our Lady of Salvation Church, left 70 people dead and 75 wounded, including 51 congregants and two priests.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes a number of Sunni Muslim extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the Baghdad church siege.

Religious minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis, make up less than 5% of Iraq’s population, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since 2003, attacks against these minorities by insurgents and religious extremists have driven more than half of the minorities out of the country, according to UNHCR statistics.

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WELL, GOOD…MAYBE. “French Secularism Dies in the Middle East.”

In Turkey, a sometimes feisty and over the top Kemalist regime has given way to a sometimes feisty and over the top group of Islamists; in the Arab world a gaggle of failed secularist modernizers is being driven from power by waves of public resentment and frustration.

Either way, the century in which French secularism was the dominant ideological force in the Middle East has now clearly come to an end.  From Pakistan to Morocco the Muslim world has turned its back on the modernity of the 20th century.

God only knows what comes next.

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LET’S DO IT, THEN! “Ending Poverty with Global Christianity’s Phantom Trillion”:

The Church could end poverty, scarcity, sickness and famine without a dime from the rest of the world. Obviously, that doesn’t mean it should do so by some centralized economic fiat. The last thing anyone needs is a megalith — even one as diverse and nuanced as the global church really is — setting this kind of agenda. Noting that the Church could foot the bill for the saving of the planet doesn’t mean that the Church is otherwise equipped to do so, and it doesn’t even mean that something called “the Church” exists in any sort of organizationally connected way across the world. We may (and I do) believe in the mystical Body of Christ, but can you imagine the impossibility of mobilizing every Christian group under some sort of prime directive?

Then again, that’s what Jesus did by giving the Great Commission and promising the Holy Spirit. Perhaps if all Christians understood the economic power they possess and the practical implications of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, this phantom trillion would find its way to points of need. Perhaps if the Church was busy consciously investing even 10 percent of its annual income to overcome the systems that breed injustice, hate,and other things we still call sin, Jesus’ talk of the Kingdom of God being here even now would make a hell of a lot more practical sense.

Also check out this follow-up article.

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UNDERSTANDING YOUR MUSLIM NEIGHBOR: Today is the second day of Ramadan. Don’t know what that is? Check this out: “Explain it to me: Ramadan.”

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DEPENDS ON WHICH KIND IT IS. “How serious a heresy is univeralism?”

So, what is my final word on universalism?  I don’t have a “final word” on it because “it” is not all that clear.  What kind of universalism?  Based on what?  I consider all positive affirmations of universal salvation that include denial of everlasting hell heretical.  But not all are equally bad or condemnable.  Some are based on confusion.  Some are based on liberal theology.  Some (e.g., Karl Barth’s) are based on the logic of God’s love and electing grace (viz., “Jesus is victor!”).  All are wrong, but not all are equally bad.

Let me be clear.  (This is necessary because of the power of neo-fundamentalists within evangelicalism today!)  I am not a universalist nor do I sympathize with universalism.  I am simply trying to get people to consider the possibility that not all versions of universalism are on the same level of error.  There is egregious error and there is simple error.  One kind of universalism (based on denial of God’s wrath and human sinfulness) is egregious error.  Another kind (based on confusion about God’s love requiring his overriding free will) is simple error.  I hope I don’t hold any egregious errors, but I’m sure I hold some simple errors.  I am open to having those pointed out to me.

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SOMETIMES, PROPHETS AND ATHEISTS AGREE. “Good Religion, Bad Religion”:

We tend to create rituals and beliefs, rites and ethical systems to justify our existence, to placate our guilt and fear of death, to make ourselves useful to the world and acceptable to God. In short, religion is our valiant attempt to get right with God while ignoring the fact and way that he has gotten right with us: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. To continue to work for our justification instead of accepting our justification is the essence of religion.

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