The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, November 17, 2011

TRUE, FALSE, OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN? “The Persecution of Religion Has Begun.”

Don’t think I’m making the wild-eyed claim that this new persecution either is or ever is likely to become a bloody one resembling the purges of the French and Mexican Revolutions or the Communist war on religion—eruptions of violence in which thousands of clergy, religious, and lay faithful were killed. It won’t be a repetition of the Spanish civil war, just 75 years ago, when death squads of the anticlerical left executed the incredible total of 12 bishops, 283 religious women, 4,184 priests, 2,365 religious men, and an unknown number of laity whose only crime was being faithful Catholics.

No, the persecution of religion in the United States won’t be like that. It will be a tight-lipped campaign of secularist inspiration in which the coercive power of the state is brought to bear on church-related institutions to act against conscience or go out of business.


1 PETER 3:15 WATCH: “Why Do Christians Leave the Faith? The Surprising Importance of Apologetics.”

Turning to deconstructionism for a moment, I realize that some of the writers might have turned to theological issues as a way of “rationally” explaining their leaving the faith, when in fact, maybe there were more person, idiosyncratic reasons. Even if that’s the case, that people sometimes hide their real issues behind theological questions, addressing these questions would help people to see beyond them and address underlying issues.

For many writers, however, I think that these cognitive issues swayed them from the faith. We live in a highly-educated, rational society, and so these issues are defined as very important.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT OTHERS: “Defamation Claims against Churches.”

This ruling deviates from the general rule that the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom bars the civil courts from resolving employment disputes between churches and clergy. While many courts would reject this court’s reasoning, the case will provide ministers with a precedent, making a defamation claim more viable. Tubra v. Cooke, 225 P.3d 862 (Or. App. 2010).


FIRST AMENDMENT WATCH: “Separation of Church and State News Round-up.”

Stewart said he would have preferred that the county simply remove the Ten Commandments plaque, but he hopes that this case will deter other counties from adopting a public forum as a way to display Christian religious texts.

“The concept that government should not be promoting a religion is such a really cool idea that we came up with, and they just don’t seem to grasp that,” Stewart said of local political leaders.


THE BIBLE: “How to Restore Culture in One Easy Step.”

In June I explained how to destroy a culture in five easy steps. On reflection I realize that I was making the issue more complicated than was necessary since the task can be completed in one simple step. As science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” While this is certainly true, the genre of books that people stop reading matters considerably. In fact, one genre matters most of all…


FIRST AMENDMENT GONE WILD: “Child Sexual Abuse and the Supreme Court.”

Having thus invited the Free Speech Coalition’s challenge to the Child Pornography Prevention Act, the Court continued down this same path in its 2002 ruling in the resulting case, Free Speech Coalition v. Ashcroft. So long as it is produced without sexually exploiting any actual children, the Court claimed, even child pornography is not necessarily obscenity. That is, even child pornography may have socially redeeming value and is therefore entitled to the protection of the First Amendment.

By this ruling, the Court contributed to a public culture that encourages the sexual exploitation of children. Most obviously, it gave constitutional protection to material that feeds and strengthens the desires of pedophiles and thereby makes it more likely that some of them will act them out. More subtly, by preventing efforts to prohibit such material, the Court helped create a culture that undermines the pedophile’s own sense that his desires are wrong and to be resisted. A pedophile without access to child pornography is simply alone with his perverted thoughts and is therefore unlikely to forget that society condemns his desires in the strongest possible terms. But a pedophile with legitimate access to child pornography, even if it relies on “virtual” images, is taught that there are others—indeed, lawful businesses and even parts of whole industries—that sympathize with his desires and will cater to them, and that in doing so they are even exercising a constitutional right. Human beings are naturally sociable creatures. They tend to think, feel, approve or disapprove, praise or condemn, in groups. Accordingly, the very existence of child pornography, especially if it is lawfully produced, cannot help but encourage pedophiles to believe that their appetites are morally legitimate, because shared and approved by others, and thereby push some of them to violate the law by sexually exploiting actual children.


THE POWER OF SOCIAL CUES:“Distrust Feeds Anti-Atheist Prejudice.”

So why are atheists “among the least liked people … in most of the world,” in the words of a research team led by University of British Columbia psychologist Will Gervais? In a newly published paper, he and his colleagues provide evidence supporting a plausible explanation.

Atheists, they argue, are widely viewed as people you cannot trust.


NO: “Should Churches Perform Altar Calls?”

So why wouldn’t I give an altar call? In short, I believe that this particular man-made practice, this 19th-century innovation, has produced more bad than good for Christian churches in the West. The altar call relies on the powers of emotion, rhetorical persuasion, and social pressure to induce people to make a hasty and premature decision. And producing professions is not the same thing as making disciples. Surely a number of factors are responsible for the many nominal Christians that typify Christianity in the West, but I believe that the altar call is one of them.

My opinion? Not all innovations are bad. And altar calls can be useful, as long as they are an initial step in calling people to a life of repentance, not the exclusive step.

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