The World Wide Religious Web for Monday, February 6, 2012

OSLO, 1993–2012(?): The Peace Process Is Formally Buried.

The talk of Hamas changing from an Islamist terrorist group committed to Israel’s destruction and the murder of its Jewish population into a non-violent political group is as genuine as the similar rationalizations that were put forward in the 1990s for Arafat. Bringing Hamas into the PA government means an end to all pretense of hope for peace. There were, after all, never any real differences between the two on the ultimate objective of eliminating Israel. Fatah was no more capable of signing a peace deal that recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn, than Hamas. The influence of the Islamists will now spread from Gaza to the West Bank, renewing the threat of terrorism from that region that Israel’s security fence had largely eliminated.

ARAB SPRING, CHRISTIAN WINTER? State of Fear: Syria’s Christians Face the Specter of Civil War and Sectarian Violence.

In light of this poisoned atmosphere, we do know for certain that many of Syria’s Christians are simply terrified. Part of this is a fear shared by many Syrians together, of a quickly growing threat of unrestrained civil war. Part of this is also reserved for the potential of sectarian retaliation, in the wake of civil war and a breakdown of order: will Sunni militias (not average Sunni townsfolk, who are most interested in surviving and protecting their loved ones as well) seek to exact revenge on Asad’s Alawi community and their perceived allies, such as Christians? And if the regime falls, will Islamists—an unknown quantity in the equation at the moment, but a likely part of a post-Asad Syria—move to strip non-Muslims of their long-held religious freedoms? Both of these scenarios are deeply troubling to many of the nation’s Christians.

A DIFFICULT QUESTION: What To Do about Violent Biblical Texts?

Yes, the bloody scriptures continue to exist, and in some circumstances, in certain conditions of social and political breakdown, extremists will cite them to provide a spiritual aura to violent and revolting acts that they were going to commit anyway. But that does not mean that we should hold the scriptures themselves responsible, or imagine that the faith as such is irrevocably tainted. Religions develop and mature over time, and it is lunatic to condemn a whole faith on the basis of its ancient horrors. That’s true for Christians, Jews — and Muslims.

THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD/KOMEN DEBACLE: The Pink Ribbon and the Dollar Sign.

In all of this, though, we can gain an opportunity to see what the abortion culture is all about: cash. Planned Parenthood and their allies use the thoroughly American language of freedom of choice and women’s empowerment, but what’s at stake, as seen here, are billions of dollars. That’s why, despite their talk about adoption as a “choice,” Planned Parenthood and others hardly ever lead women through an adoption process relative to how often they promise them the “fix” of a “terminated pregnancy.” There’s a profit motive involved in every abortion.

CONSCIENCE EXCEPTION: Evangelicals Mounting Concerns Over Obama Administration’s Contraception Mandate.

The NAE was among several evangelicals groups “in solidarity but separately” from Catholic groups that requested a stronger religious exemption after Health and Human Services ruled in August that insurance plans must provide contraception with no copayment. In January, however, federal officials reaffirmed its position, saying the government would give church-affiliated organizations an extra year to adapt to the requirement.

RELATED: NAE, Assemblies of God agree with Catholics’ objection.

WHO PAYS THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE: Army Silenced Chaplains Last Sunday.

In Catholic churches across the country, parishioners were read letters from the pulpit this weekend from bishops in their diocese about the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services giving Catholics a year before they’ll be required to start violating their consciences on insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But not in the Army. 

THE TITHE TABOO: The Real Taboo: Forget Sex, Let’s Talk About Monday (and How Much We’re Not Giving).

…a lot of American Christians don’t follow any rudimentary pattern of giving. This became evident to me a few years ago when I read Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money . Using surveys and interviews, and a review of statements by major denominations, sociologists Christian Smith, Michael Emerson and Patricia Snell unpack a bevy of astounding statistics and patterns of thought and action that may make some readers scratch their chins, and others cringe, and still others jump out of their seats and say “I knew it!” For starters, regular church attenders (those who report attending church twice a month or more) earned $2 trillion in 2005 (p.12). Smith et al. point out that after-tax tithing at 10% would have amounted to $46 billion per year (p.13), enough money to address a whole slew of needs facing millions both stateside and abroad (pp.13-18).

AMBIVALENCE ABOUT THE FOUNDERS: Slavery: America’s Original Sin?

Our veneration for the Founders is deserved. In them we find, with apologies to Tom Brokaw, another “greatest generation,” with political genius and courage that puts us to shame today. They created the world’s longest-lasting constitutional republic. They articulated the dynamic principle that “all men are created equal,” a belief that undergirded all of America’s great moral reform movements, from abolitionism to civil rights.

Nevertheless, we are also obligated to recognize slave owning as an immoral practice that stained America’s founding. The Founders were flawed people—as are we all. They were inspired political leaders, but not saints or apostles. Two and a half centuries of retrospection tends to put a people’s moral failings in sharp relief. Should our nation endure, we might expect Americans of the twenty-third century to gawk at today’s manifest moral failings as well.

FAMOUS DAD OR NO DAD AT ALL: Presidential Fathers and Sons.

Voters this year look set to continue an odd pattern that’s prevailed in presidential politics for a quarter century. They will elect either a candidate with a famous father or with no father.

IT’S THE CULTURE, STUPID! Conservative Poverty Fighting.

The critical questions for Mead are these: What do the poor really need? How can we effectively meet that need? Money comes second to what Mead argues the poor truly deserve: a lifestyle transformation. “Progress against poverty,” he insists, “requires programs with the capacity to redirect lives, not just transfer resources.” In reaching that goal, he adds, “recent conservative policies are more effective than what came before, and it would be a mistake to abandon them.”

GOD’S OWN PARTY? Why I Am a Christian Republican.

In short, when it comes to the way goods are created and distributed within a society, we ought to err on the side of those entities that are not given coercive authority by God: business, social services, the Church and a variety of other existing bodies. They aren’t perfect, and never will be. But for all the deception and sin that goes on within them, they lack the authority to coerce—and that is an important limitation. 

Genuine liberty entails the responsibility of each to not only pursue his own welfare, but to recognize and respond to the needs of his neighbor, without the state having to tap him on the shoulder. My concern is simply that when the government becomes the solution to the erosion of our virtues, it will crowd out businesses that provide jobs and charities that provide both spiritual and material support. And in doing so, the remedy will prove more devastating than the disease.

One thought on “The World Wide Religious Web for Monday, February 6, 2012

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  1. Greetings George,
    Thanks so much, for this serious intellectual fare. I appreciate it. I am an AG missionary to the Jewish people and have been a COMMENTARY Magazine reader for years. Most Jews are liberals, but COMMENTARY and its editors (and most readers) are conservative Jews, and as such, some of the best and most probing and lucid of all conservatives. Thanks again, Bill Bjoraker, Pasadena, CA

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