The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, October 27, 2011


RELIGIOUS POLITICAL AGNOSTICISM: “Why It’s Difficult to Derive Political Affiliation from the Bible.”

I think it’s fine that people bring their religious convictions into their political decisions, as we should with every aspect of life.  However, I’ve become skeptical that there is any one “right” way of doing this.  Moreover, I’m uncomfortable with any message, either explicit or implicit, that suggests that “if you’re a Christian, you should be a _______ (fill in the political party).”

At this point in my life, I would say I’m a political agnostic—I just don’t know if there is one, right way to politics.

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IRONY WATCH: “A Religious Test in Reverse.”

Baptists were once among the most persecuted victims of government tyranny. Now they risk becoming the persecuting majority their forefathers feared.

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THE CHRISTIAN & THE STATE: “Why Capital Punishment is not such a Capital and Christian Idea.”

Here’s the rub however. Jesus quite clearly calls Christians to an ethic of non-violence and an ethic of forgiveness, however grievous the wrong done to us. I will speak to that in a minute. At a minimum what that means to me is that while the secular state may well ‘not bear the sword in vain’ and may even have a Biblical right to do so, Christians themselves who wish to follow the ethic and example of Jesus must abandon that right, and have nothing to do with capital punishment. Let others do what they feel is right according to their own value system, but there is a higher calling on the life of Christians, a higher law and set of principles they must answer to—- namely Jesus and the law of Christ.

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FOR RICHER AND FOR POORER: “Strong Marriages and Economies.”

The long-term fortunes of the modern economy depend in part on the strength and sustainability of the family, both in relation to fertility trends and to marriage trends. This basic, but often overlooked, principle is now at work in the current global economic crisis.

That is, one reason that some of the world’s leading economies — from Japan to Italy to Spain to the euro zone as a whole — are facing fiscal challenges is that their fertility rates have been below replacement levels (2.1 children per woman) for decades. Persistent sub-replacement fertility eventually translates into fewer workers relative to retirees, which puts tremendous strains on public coffers and the economy as a whole. Indeed, one recent study finds that almost half of the recent run-up in public debt in the West can be attributed to rapid aging over the last two decades.

Finally, it’s not just fertility that matters; it’s also marriage. At least in the West, children are more likely to acquire the human and social capital they need to thrive in the modern economy when they are raised in an intact, married family. In the U.S., for instance, children are more likely to graduate from high school, complete college and be gainfully employed as young adults if they were raised in an intact, married family.

And around the globe, men are more likely to give their work their fullest effort and attention when they are married; this is one reason men worldwide enjoy “marriage premiums” in their income, ranging from about 14 percent (Mexico) to 19 percent (United States) to 35 percent (Russia). So, at least when it comes to men, research suggests that marriage has important implications for worker productivity.

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A REST STOP ON THE DIVORCE SUPERHIGHWAY: “A Modest Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Divorce.”

The Second Chances Act proposes new model legislation that includes a one-year waiting period for divorce, along with a requirement that parents of minor children considering divorce take a short online divorced parenting education course, which would include information on reconciliation. Spouses could trigger the one-year waiting period without actually filing for divorce by sending their mates a formal letter of notice. These requirements would be waived in cases of domestic violence.

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WHEN DISCIPLINE BECOMES ABUSE: “Religion And Discipline: Report Explores Punishing Children In The Name Of Religion.”

Last month, Larry and Carri Williams were arrested and charged with homicide by abuse in Washington after their adopted daughter Hana was found naked and unconscious in the family’s yard and pronounced dead at the hospital, the Skagit Vallery Herald reports.

Hana, 13, showed signs of physical abuse and malnutrition, which were thought to have contributed to her death. Court documents indicated that the parents used to lock Hana in a closet and “played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside,” KOMO explains.

The couple, who are parents to seven other children, reportedly followed advice from controversial book, “To Train Up A Child,” which indicates it’s acceptable to spank children with objects, leave them outdoors in the cold, and withhold food as forms of punishment, KOMO reports. The book, written by evangelist Micheal Pearl and his wife Debi, reportedly encourages the use of objects to spank children. Prosecutors said the couple used a flexible plumbing tube, the Toronto Sun points out.

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HELL HOUSE: “Christian Haunted Houses: Scaring the ‘Hell’ Out of Teens?”

Christian haunted houses are an odd form of attractional ministry. While many church youth programs seek to draw in teens with video games, junk food, and paintball, these “hell houses” attempt to attract adolescents with promises of gore, violence, and Halloween scares. But it’s only once participants get in the door that some discover it’s all been a bait-and-switch. The goal is not just to scare them, but to evangelize them.

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BREAKING NEWS FROM A.D. 30: “Paul Did Not ‘Invent’ Christianity.”

It’s not rare to encounter people who claim that Paul “invented” Christianity. The basic idea is that Jesus taught a pure and ethical form of Judaism that focused on God and gracious living, while Paul developed a religion that worshiped Jesus rather than God. Though this idea literally makes no sense historically, it’s gotten a lot of run. Even the occasional serious academic book “blames” Paul for perverting Jesus’ message in inventing Christianity.

However, every bit of evidence we possess demonstrates that Paul did not, in fact, invent Christianity. Let’s begin with how Paul came to follow Jesus in the first place. The book of Acts claims that Paul, having already persecuted some believers in Jesus, has a visionary encounter with the risen Christ. Paul himself describes that encounter as an “apocalypse,” or a revelation. In any event, Acts agrees with Paul that the new apostle turned for support to a community of believers that already resided in Damascus.

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TO DO OR NOT TO DO: “Weird Weddings; Funny Funerals.”

There are limits, of course. I will not give wedding vows while skydiving, snorkeling, or riding shotgun in a NASCAR pace car. I have never been asked to do any of those things, but I just want everyone to know up front that there is a line I simply will not cross. Other than that, if all we are talking about is bad taste with no real impairment to the proclamation of the gospel, sure. Though “other than that” sometimes does open a pastor up to some remarkably goofy stuff.

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AMISH-ON-AMISH VIOLENCE: “FBI investigating Amish beard-cutting attacks.”

I don’t know which aspect of this story is more bizarre: the beard-cutting or the FBI’s involvement.

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