The World Wide Religious Web for Friday, January 13, 2012


HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH! Do you suffer friggatriskaidekaphobia (aka, paraskevidekatriaphobia)?

LAW OR GOSPEL? Why the Bible Is Not a Book of Laws.

But I don’t believe the Bible is fundamentally a moral power tool. The Bible is not a law book as much as it is a gift book, not so much about living right as about being right with God because of what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.

ABOUT THAT “WHY I HATE RELIGION BUT LOVE JESUS” SPOKEN WORD VIDEO: Jesus Was Religious.

So, again: Jefferson Bethke is on to something good and right. But we are on to something good and right to make the right distinctions, lest we put ourselves in the Pharisaical place of saying “I thank you God I’m not like those religious people.”

AN OPEN LETTER: Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists. These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil “marriage” is redefined in additional jurisdictions. For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm. Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens

WHERE TO BEGIN… The Trouble with Ed Young’s Rooftop Sexperiment.

Such “over the top” moments—and was there ever a more apt time for the description?—are troubling indicators of our woefully deficient discipleship patterns on matters of marriage and sexuality. The problems that the Youngs are trying to address are, alas, very real. Yet as is often the case, their solution is at best incomplete.

THOUGHTS ABOUT HAITI RELIEF: When “Effectiveness” Is Not Effective.

As the months and years wind on, we must continue this work of love and care, work that often seems—earthly-speaking—to accomplish too little. Perhaps now more than ever, we must remain faithful to our work there; now that the news cameras have left and the initial wave of relief teams has gone home. We must continue working hard to bring effective and efficient solutions to the problems Haitians face—designing effective programs, monitoring them well, and holding ourselves accountable to bringing results that are in our power to bring, and praying fervently for this troubled country. And we must also be willing to be reckless in offering the eternal things of love, gratitude, and kindness.

Meanwhile, why not give to Convoy of Hope?

SCARY, BUT TRUE: Justin Bieber’s Ecce Home.

It is entirely possible that Justin has more of an influence in the young-person-you-love’s life than any clergyperson — living or dead — does. That sounds scandalous, I know, but it’s true.

FAITH & POLITICS: “An Awakening of Conservative Christians”: Rick Santorum on Faith and Politics.

FORTY PERCENT: Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S.

FINALLY: Kardashians no longer sought-after celebrities, insiders say.

HEH: My Faulty Moral Standards (Which I’d Like to Think are Better than Yours).

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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.

The World Wide Religious Web for Thursday, January 5, 2012


EVANGELICALS, MORMONS, & POLITICS: Why Obama Wins. “So many evangelicals grew up being told that the pope is the anti-Christ and that the LDS Church is satanic, that it is deeply ingrained in them.  I’m not saying that they’ll campaign against Romney or Santorum, just that their antipathy to their religions will leave evangelical voters totally unmotivated.” See also Romney’s Evangelical Problem Starts with Theology. “The good news for Mitt Romney: he won the Iowa caucuses. The bad news for Romney: evangelicals remain reluctant to support him.” And finally, Romney’s religion still a sticking point. But if you read all the way to the end of the article, you read that Phil and Karen Poe (who attend an Assemblies of God church in Des Moines) got over their suspicions of Romney pretty quickly. “Beating Obama is my bottom line,” Karen said. My guess is that that’s the bottom line for many evangelical voters, not the candidate’s theology. See also Evangelicals and Santorum, where R. R. Reno shares the same intuition as I do.

MICHELLE BACHMANN: A Divine Call Won’t Get You Votes.

RON PAUL: Theonomists, Reconstructionists, and Dominionists. Oh My! “So I think we should applaud Goldberg for taking into consideration the religious viewpoints and influences of candidates like Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachmann, but we should also take her to task for not being a bit more sensitive to the complicated theological landscape. Christian Reconstructionists are a vocal minority, a “fringe” as Goldberg calls them, among politically conservative Christians, but their specific views about biblical laws and punishments are simply not attributable to every evangelical candidate.”

THE HIGH PRIEST OF OUR CIVIL RELIGION: Commander and Chaplain: The Faith of Presidents. “In the absence of a national chaplain, the President sometimes has functioned in that role, partly because of the expectations of the American people. When we have a crisis, whether it is a war or a tragedy—like the shootings in Tucson or a space disaster—we expect the President to function almost as our civic priest. We want him to give us assurance that God is still in control and that the people who have died have died for a good cause and that they’re going to be eternally blessed.”

MARRIAGE MATTERS: Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage? “There is, then, a further vital reason why same-sex marriage must be vigorously contested, namely, that no peace is to be had by capitulation. Like it or not, the great struggle is under way. Marriage, if you please, is the Sudetenland, and its concession is the precursor to a cultural Blitzkrieg.” I largely agree with this article, but why must the author use a Nazi analogy? By doing so, doesn’t he risk violating Godwin’s law? Regardless, if you think this author is just wildly speculating, read this.

MEAN ATHEISTS: Ill will toward men. “Seen on Answerblog.com: ‘How do atheists express their love for the rest of humanity?’ Answer: ‘You don’t need religion to express love, you complete idiot. Why are all your questions so ignorant?’ Genuinely warmhearted atheists exist, but warmheartedness is not the first descriptive quality that comes to mind. The more vocal ones betray themselves sooner or later: To reject God is almost always to despise people.” This makes logical sense. After all, atheists teach that God is a mere projection of humanity. If God is a delusion (Dawkins), then his human creators are ignorant and deluded. If religion poisons everything (Hitchens), then humans are the poisoners. Calling the vast swath of humanity stupid and wicked is the essence of misanthropy.

LEGO ATHEIST: The Brick Bible’s Case against Faith. “In all, the book—with its skewed perspective on matters of faith and its wry commentary on Old Testament stories—makes a pretty good case against faith. Since that’s not the objective of most parents, I’d suggest looking elsewhere for a good Bible storybook for your children.”

AGES OF ROCKS & THE ROCK OF AGES: Why Geology Matters. “But more specifically, it is clear that all Christian high school and Christian college students ought to gain substantial knowledge about the structure, composition, behavior, and history of their God-given home, planet Earth. The current situation, in which the geosciences are ignored totally, woefully underemphasized, or grossly distorted in Christian high schools and Christian liberal arts colleges, is inexcusable and must be radically changed. MacDougall’s book amounts to a wake-up call for a much larger place for geoscience education. Why Geology Matters should be mandatory reading for all scientists, school board members, and academic deans and presidents, but especially pastors, theologians, Christian school board members, and Christian college leaders.”

TOO MUCH POLITICAL SPEECH? Iowa: The Gray Lady Freaks Out. “So let’s sum up: The Times is concerned that 1) there is more political speech than there would be if not for the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and the appeals-court decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC; 2) groups of citizens are running their own ads, rather than relying solely on the candidates to run ads; 3) the ads are saying awful things, accusing candidates of “being too liberal on immigration,” or having “ethics baggage,” something the Times would never discuss, except in its news stories on Newt Gingrich’s “ethics” “baggage” on November 28, December 8, December 9, December 14, and December 31; 4) stories about a candidate’s ethics or positions on immigration should be off limits in an “accountable” campaign; and 5) all this citizen speech informing voters about various candidates’ positions, ethics, and endorsements, coming not only from the candidates but from other sources, can be blamed on Citizens United and SpeechNow.org.”

NO: Does Islam Forbid Even Studying Evolution? “Muslims everywhere must open their minds to all new ideas. They must be confident that their faith and worldview are robust enough to deal with modernity in its various facets; indeed, new viewpoints can help fine-tune beliefs and worldviews. Islam not only does not forbid studying evolution or any other theory; it welcomes new knowledge and deals with it objectively. Muslims are called upon to engage with science, philosophy, and art with confidence and open minds.”

CHURCH LAW & TAX: The Top 10 Church Law Articles from 2011.

BUILDING CHURCH LEADERS: Our Top 10 Resources in 2011.

The World Wide Religious Web for Tuesday, January 3, 2012


LOVE WINS? “2011: The Year of the Hell Debate.”

I AGREE WITH THIS LETTER: “All American Muslim: An Open Letter.” “In our view, it is fundamentally unjust to tar all or most Muslims with the brush of extremism; and, as Christians and Americans, we must never countenance injustice. Moreover, effectively countering the threats posed by genuine extremists requires us to welcome as friends and allies Muslims who share our opposition to radicalism and violence, who value their American citizenship and American freedom just as we do, and who contribute constructively to their communities and the larger society. When we treat our Muslim fellow citizens justly, and when we welcome them as partners in our efforts on behalf of life, liberty, and human dignity, we are being true both to our Christian faith and to our American heritage.”

SANTA CLAUS IN TURKEY: “Is Santa the Canary in the Coal Mine?” I’m not sure what to make of this post, but there’s something funny in a Jew writing about a Muslim’s view of a Christian saint.

EVANGELICALS FOR MITT? “An Open Letter to the Romney Skeptics.”

COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM? “Santorum’s evangelical surge is about more than Christian Right.”

NUTTY POLITICS, BUT NICE GUY? “The Compassion of Dr. Ron Paul.”

COLLATERAL DAMAGE: “Divorce Rate Among Afghanistan, Iraq War Vets Increases by 42 Percent.”

BUT THE INTELLIGENT DESIGNER ISN’T: “Intelligent Design Is Dead: A Christian Perspective.”

INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: “Was Arminius an inclusivist? Continuing a conversation.”

THE CHALLENGE OF EVANGELICAL AESTHETICS: “Art, Conscience, and Theological McCarthyism.”

RELIGION & POP CULTURE: “Let Lennon be Lennon and forget Cee Lo Green.”

LET THE JOKES BEGIN: Ted Haggard to appear on “Celebrity Wife Swap.”

FIFTY PERCENT: “Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Church.”

HOMILETICS MASTER CLASS: “Preaching when parched.”

INFOGRAPHIC: “How the Bible Feels.”

OBVIOUSLY, IT’S A SLOW NEWS DAY: “Tintin’s Politics.”

INSIDE JOKE FOR PHILOSOPHERS OF RELIGION: “Transworld Irony.” “It is possible that in every possible world there exists at a college named after John Calvin a philosophy professor who offers a free will defense for the problem of evil.”

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