The World Wide Religious Web for Friday, January 6, 2012

HAPPY EPIPHANY! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start with this Wikipedia article.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WATCH: Iranian Intelligence Agency raids Assembly of God church.

During the Christmas service on the morning of Friday, December 23, at the Assembly of God church in Ahvaz (also known as Ahwaz), Iran, multiple news agencies have reported that the Iranian Intelligence Agency raided the church. Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, his wife, Shahnaz Jizani, and the entire congregation – children included – were arrested, loaded on buses and taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation.

Mohabat News says that after several hours of interrogation, the detainees were released, with the exception of Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, his wife and two other members – Naser Zamen-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani. Currently, the location, treatment and condition of the four remain unknown.

“We have spoken to our area directors and leaders in the region and have confirmed that this action did indeed take place,” states AG General Superintendent George O. Wood. “Although direct communication into Iran is very difficult and some of the details of the arrest remain unclear, what is clear is that our brothers and sisters in Iran need our prayers for supernatural endurance, wisdom and protection.”

According to the Christian Today Australia, this is not the first time that Christmas celebrations in Iranian churches have been raided in this way. Similar raids and detentions during the Christmas season have occurred in Iran for the last three years.

EVANGELICAL POLITICS: The Religious Vote in Iowa and Beyond. “The question, which I can’t answer with any confidence, is whether the ‘political maturity’ that evangelicals evinced in Iowa works in Romney’s favor down the road. Another way of cutting the evangelical electorate is to say that 86% supported someone other than Romney and 85% didn’t choose a Mormon. When the field is less fractured, what happens? Do identity and/or social conservatism matter more, or do people start thinking seriously about who has the best shot of winning in November? In Iowa, Romney did slightly better among the 47% of the voters who stressed the ability to beat Obama (31%) or having the right experience (16%) than did Santorum among the 49% of the voters who emphasized ‘true conservatism’ (25%) or ‘strong moral character’ (24%). I should add that Romney’s advantage over Santorum in his two criteria is almost as pronounced as Santorum’s in his.”

HEH: Is NH too white, too old, too godless? “After a season in which political observers asked whether Iowa was too white, too old, and too evangelical to wield such political clout, will anyone ask such fundamental questions about the Granite State?” On the other hand, see God and Man in New Hampshire.

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL: Partisan Politics and Vicious Assaults. “[I]t tells you something about the culture in which we live that in some quarters those who routinely champion abortion, even partial-birth abortion, are viewed as enlightened and morally sophisticated while those grieving the loss of their son, whom they took home for a night before burying, are mercilessly mocked.”

NO. HE. DIDN’T. Rick Santorum Wins Over Evangelicals By Breaking With His Own Catholic Creed. The Creed doesn’t mention Intelligent Design or climate change, and the Pope’s writings on these topics do not necessarily set Catholic doctrine.

THE FAITH OF A PRESIDENT: Jimmy Carter Interview: Real Story Behind Egypt Israeli Peace Deal. The headline oversells the interview, but the interview has its interesting moments. Question: “What would you say to those people who say that religion divides?” Answer: “I don’t think there is any doubt about that. If you go back to the Crusades, and even before, there was division between Muslims and Christians struggling over the Holy Land — and of course that is still a divisive element. But the potential for the great religions is to bring us together. All three religions have the same basic tenets of peace, caring for those in need or afflicted and caring for one another’s visitors. But it is the radical approach to Christianity, Islam and now even Judaism, which causes the conflict. The basic premise of all three religions is the same.” Somebody needs to read God Is Not One.

THE “SO WHAT” GENERATION: For many, “Losing My Religion” isn’t a song: It’s a way of life.

Only now, however, are they turning up in the statistical stream. Researchers have begun asking the kind of nuanced questions that reveal just how big the “So What” set might be:

—44 percent told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19 percent said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

—46 percent told a 2011 survey by Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research that they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

—28 percent told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18 percent scoffed at the idea that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.

—6.3 percent of Americans turned up on Pew Forum’s 2007 Religious Landscape Survey as totally secular—unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives.

EVANGELICAL MARRIAGE WARS: Q&A: Mark and Grace Driscoll on Sex for the 21st-Century Christian. For a trenchant critique the Driscolls, see Driscoll, “Real Marriage,” and Why Being a Pastor Doesn’t Automatically Make You a Sex Therapist.

THE WILL OF GOD FOR YOUR LIFE: Love God and Do What You Will: Avoiding Over-Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Discernment. “The Christian ought to make major life decisions as he ought to make all decisions: by evaluating how he can serve God, by choosing a course of action accordingly, and by having the courage to follow through and do it. As Pope Benedict XVI writes, ‘If I listen to [God] and walk with Him, I become truly myself. What counts is not the fulfillment of my desires, but of his will. In this way life becomes authentic.’ May we each have the courage to live such an authentic life, free from the unnecessary burdens we impose on ourselves by becoming too preoccupied with what one of my friends refers to as ‘an over-devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Discernment.’”

SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION: Top 11 from ’11: Religion Research Studies in Sociology. The picks are at the bottom of the post. The studies on lynching (#2), corporal punishment (#5), infant care (#6), and hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims (#9) piqued my interest. The study on pastoral power (#8) lost me at Foucault.

GOOD FOR TARGET AND NORDSTROM! America’s next top model: a little boy with Down syndrome.

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