Christian

Jack Palmer 2-15-2012

Two new polls have been released this week that have caught the eye – one from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the second from Rasmussen. Both show shifts in the number of people supporting GOP Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and some rather large shifts at that.

Caroline Langston 2-15-2012

According to davidcassidyfansite.com, the teen heart-throb appeared in episode #1921,"In A Quiet Place" in 1970.

The little daughter, though, is as enchanted by the white boy as much as he is as annoyed by her, and speaks to him cheerfully despite his laconic responses.

It is she who is the catalyst for the plot’s action: Just as the boy is being ever more sucked into bad company and down the wrong road, something happens to the little girl. Either she’s hit by a car, or threatened by the (white) thugs he’s been hanging out with—of this, I have no memory.

What I do remember is, at the moment the little girl is hurt, the dormant moral impulses of the white boy spring into action. Finally, he sees in the girl a fellow human being, and in that moment becomes one himself.

He holds her in a stark reverse pietà that is burned into my memory: when the girl is saved, he, too is saved, and he and she both return home, to the home that is now, in spiritual truth, both theirs.

I’ve scoured this story in my memory for years—is it just another representative of a “Magic Negro” narrative? Yes—but even by dint of sophisticated analysis, the story continues to yield up its power to me. It made me want the racial chasm all around me to be healed, but even more (I identified, you see, with that angry white teenaged boy), it convinced me of the reality of sin, my need to be redeemed.

And it also convinced me of the reality of mysterious, unexpected grace.

Unexpected grace was exactly what I found when at last, at the age of 43, I decided to go searching for that program, and that episode.

Cathleen Falsani 2-14-2012
"Get Together in the Village." Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/z9esUG.

"Get Together in the Village." Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/z9esUG.

"You and I have the power to change someone’s day. And so I am going to challenge you, on this Valentine’s Day, to not only tell family members you love them, but also others whom you care for. 

"In a world where people are beat up and put down, God gives us the ability to completely turn negativity, criticism and rude opinions around. “Encourage one another and build each other up,” says 1 Thessalonians 5;11. That is one of the most significant verses in all the Bible because when we do this it sets off a chain reaction of blessing.” You become the voice of God’s mercy and grace in the lives of others."

Barry Carter 2-14-2012

Whitney Houston sings at a 2011 pre-Grammy Awards event. Photo via Getty Images.

Everybody has a favorite Whitney Houston song, a memory that makes them stand still and think about how this soulful pop superstar made them feel when they heard her sing.
   
Remember the chill when she sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, or how "I'm Every Woman" empowered women, providing confidence and inspiration?
   
But anyone who knew Houston understands that her talent came from one place, the God she served at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. This is where it all started for its daughter, where she was the darling of the choir as a child who left people speechless, belting out gospel songs and hymns.
   
What she did through song on Sunday mornings, the members of her home church returned the favor on Sunday (Feb. 12) the only way they know how. They prayed.
   
They prayed for Emily Cissy Houston, Houston's mother, the minister of music for 54 years at the church.

Elizabeth Crisp 2-14-2012
RNS photo by Mandi Wright/USAToday

Pastor Steve Bentley of "The Bridge" church in Flint, Mich., has a Jesus tattoo on his back. RNS photo by Mandi Wright/USAToday

Ron Williams is the pastor of Church at the GYM in Sanford, Fla. As the Baptist church's name implies, Williams' congregation meets, well, in a gym.
   
Williams said the goal is to remove the "stained-glass barriers" for people who might not be comfortable in traditional church settings.
   
"I think all the trappings of traditional religion can make it difficult for people to start coming," he said. "You can invite someone, and they will say, 'I don't have any clothes to wear to church.'"
   
To make people feel more comfortable, Williams wears jeans. In the warm Florida climate, some members wear shorts. Other clothing types, from urban wear to biker gear, also are welcome.
   
Sanford native Sandy Adcox, 38, had not been to church in 18 years before she attended Church at the GYM last March. She hasn't missed a service since.
   
"I've never in my life felt more comfortable in a church," she said. "It's so warm and welcoming."

Kevin Eckstrom 2-12-2012
Birth control pills. Image via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/z6otrO.

Birth control pills. Image via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/z6otrO.

President Obama on Friday said that all insurers — not all religious institutionswill be required to offer free contraceptive services to women.

Here's what people are saying about it:

President Obama:

"We’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution.  As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction. We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”

Family Research Council:

"Liberals say keep your morals out of the bedroom, yet the President's plan forces everyone to pay the cost for someone else's contraceptive use in the bedroom. That's not freedom, it's a mandate."

Martin Long 2-10-2012
Gov. Haley Barbour. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/zzEQH5.

Gov. Haley Barbour. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/zzEQH5.

Suppose there are two inmates convicted of similar crimes. Both appear to be equally contrite and rehabilitated. One is black, the other white. The white one gets pardoned by the governor, the black one does not. Is this fair? 

What if one was rich, the other poor? If one had political donors for friends, but not the other?  And what if most of those pardoned by this same governor were white, rich, politically connected, or they were convicted of quite violent crimes?

Judging by the reactions to former Governor Haley Barbour's granting pardons or clemency to 200 or so felons on his last day as governor of Mississippi in January 2012, this seem to be the point at which many raise their hands, asking, "what is going on here?" 

To my eyes, Gov. Barbour unfairly (and illegally?) predetermined who was eligible to be pardoned based upon their professing the adoption of his religion.

the Web Editors 2-10-2012
Photo by Getty Images.

Photo by Getty Images.

Nuns vs. strippers. Oprah and Hasidim. A Christian TMZ.com? Muslim tweeter is in trouble. Female backlash against the GOP. Catholic television network EWTN files a lawsuit against the contraception mandate. Santorum says the contraception fight has "nothing to do with women's rights." Did Cardinal Bevilacqua die of foul play? A plot to kill the pope. Drive-thru funerals and more...inside the blog.

Matthew Soerens 2-08-2012
Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post via Getty Images.

Immigrant families are fleeing Alabama in the wake of the new law. Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post via Getty Images.

Whenever possible, I plan my Saturday errands such that I’ll be able catch part of “This American Life” on public radio as I drive and I’ve often found myself sitting in the grocery store parking lot to hear the end of a story. 

One recent Saturday, the show’s theme — which ties together each of its non-fiction stories — was the biblical truism that “you reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7), and most of the program was dedicated to examining the consequences — intended and otherwise — of Alabama’s controversial, toughest-in-the-nation immigration law, HB 56, which passed last June. 

Whether what is happening in Alabama as a result of this law — and, as the program reveals, a great deal is happening, even if most of us outside of the state aren’t paying attention — was the intention of the bill’s authors and supporters is not entirely clear. What is clear, from a Christian perspective, is that the effects are devastating. 

What most saddened me in the program was the statement of a young undocumented woman named Gabriella that, since the passage of HB 56, she finds herself unwelcome everywhere. “Even in the church,” she says, “you find people that… don't want to talk at you. And they don't want to give the peace to you.”

Alec Hill 2-08-2012
Alec Hill. Image via InterVarsity.org.

Alec Hill. Image via InterVarsity.org.

A letter from Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA to Intervarsity Staff

I’m upset.

Last month, the Federal government mandated that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities must provide – and pay for – contraceptives to their employees and students. The mandate may also — depending upon interpretation – include the provision of sterilization services and the morning-after pill. (There appears to be some disagreement amongst scholars regarding the potential scope of the new Health and Human Service mandate.)

Why should I care? I am not Catholic. Nor do I agree with Catholic teaching on contraception, though I do have grave concerns about the morning-after pill.

Politically, I am a moderate and hence not prone to condemn every governmental edict.

I care because this matter touches upon the religious freedom of us all. I care because InterVarsity is engaged in a parallel struggle. Over the past 18 months, our status as a recognized student organization has been challenged on 41 campuses.

An empty contraceptive pill container. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/AEEpk5.

An empty contraceptive pill container. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/AEEpk5.

A majority of Americans — including Catholics — believe that employers should be required to provide employee health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost, according to a new survey.

But the research by the Public Religion Polling Institute shows that when it comes to providing religious exemptions from free contraceptive coverage – something the White House is sharply criticized for failing to do – the public is much more divided.

The Catholic bishops have slammed the Obama administration in recent weeks, urging priests to read letters from the pulpit blasting a new Health & Human Services rule that will require some Catholic institutions, such as universities, to cover employees' contraceptive costs. 

On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued "Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate." Included on the list was, "Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate."

The survey released today, however, paints a more nuanced picture.

Christian Piatt 2-07-2012

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for stories about the malleability of human morality. From the mob movies, where a guy can whack his cousin but better not show his Patron any “disrespect,” to justice-seeking serial killers like “Dexter,” there’s plenty of justified violence to be found.

Where do such seemingly contradictory value systems come from? And do they actually happen in the real world today?

How about the politician who claims a platform that values a respect for “all life,” while justifying war and advocating for capital punishment? Or those who celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? And the list goes on.

It’s common in western culture to objectify the Islamic faith, cherry-picking texts from their scripture and plucking choice sound-bytes from extremist leaders, to portray the whole of the religion as inherently violent. This, in turn, is employed to justify violence in-kind, or worse, preemptive violence, as in the case of our invasion of Iraq.

I call this “Dexter” theology.

the Web Editors 2-07-2012

 LONDON — Britain's powerful media advertising watchdog has banned a Christian group from claiming on its website and brochures that God's cure-all powers can heal a string of medical ailments.

The Advertising Standards Authority, the independent regulator of advertising in all British media, ruled that the ads generated by the group Healing on the Streets are irresponsible and misleading.

The ASA, whose tight rules are considered among the world's most stringent, cites a leaflet produced by the group from its center in the spa town of Bath, England, claiming that God "can heal you from any sickness."

Debra Rubin 2-07-2012
Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell mourns a fallen soldie. RNS photo via Odell.

Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell mourns a fallen soldier in Afghanistan. RNS photo courtesy Joseph Odell.

Growing up in Kuwait, Asif Balbale thought he wanted to become a chemical engineer. He never imagined enlisting in the U.S. Navy, much less becoming an imam.

Balbale got his engineering degree after immigrating to the U.S. at age 21. With jobs hard to come by, he tried to enlist in the Army, but didn't weigh enough. Instead, he met the Navy's minimum requirements.

He was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in 2005 while deployed aboard the USS Boxer. Intending to apply for an officer program, Balbale, 31, mistakenly emailed a recruiter for the chaplain corps.

"God, I think, had better plans for me," Balbale said, looking back.

And so it is for a number of military chaplains who, by twists of fate or perhaps divine Providence, found their calling to become chaplains while on active duty.

Kevin Eckstrom 2-05-2012

http://youtu.be/aoAZ6LAwYjY

Atlanta-area megachurch pastor Eddie Long has had his share of headlines, many of them not good. Now he's making news — and raising eyebrows — again with a "kingship" ceremony that can only be described as bizarre.

Jewish groups say the ceremony -- in which Long was shrouded by a Torah scroll (allegedly saved from Auschwitz) and then paraded around on a chair — was the height of disrespect. And it's not just Jews who were offended.

Christian Piatt 2-03-2012
Eric James Borges via Facebook.

Eric James Borges via Facebook.

Eric James Borges was teased his entire life for being different. Though he didn’t come out publicly until his sophomore year of college, he recalls emotional and physical abuse as far back as kindergarten for his differences. And though most children undergo some degree of hazing from time to time, the seeming indifference of the adults in his life made matters dramatically worse.

In a video recorded for the “It Gets Better” Project, an LGBT advocacy group focused on offering hope and community to LGBT people on the margins, Borges, 19, recalls being physically assaulted in a full high school classroom while his teacher stood by and watched.

The distressed teen had nowhere to turn at home either. His Christian parents decided to perform a ritual exorcism on him with the hope of “curing” him of his orientation. When that failed, they kicked him out of the house.

Though Borges went on to advocate for LGBT rights through the “It Gets Better” Project and his work with The Trevor Project (a group committed to preventing suicide among LGBT teens), the demons of his past still lingered. Despite finding a community that affirmed and embraced who he was, the damage had already been done.

He killed himself on Jan 11.

Cathleen Falsani 2-02-2012
Tebow on the sidelines (Broncos v Patriots) 1/12/12. Getty Images.

Tebow on the sidelines at the Divisional Playoffs (Broncos v Patriots) 1/12/12. Getty Images.

"The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'"

~ I Sam 16:7 (NRSV)


Now, this may come as a great disappointment to a few Tim Tebow fans out there, but apparently the star quarterback of the Denver Broncos will not, we repeat, will NOT be stripping down to his skivvies for one of those famous (or infamous, depending on your tastes) Jockey undewear ads.

Tebow is the new spokesman for Jockey. But unlike '70s baseball heartthrob Jim Palmer (the relatively hirsute gentleman in the white Jockey briefs to your right) or soccer god (and father of four) David Beckham in his smoldering Emporio Armani undergarment spreads, the quarterback known as much for his Christian faith as his agility on the grid iron will not be posing in his underwear for the, well, underwear company.

President Obama connected his faith with his policies toward the poor at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday (2/2/12), a subtle but sharp contrast to remarks made by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney the day before. 

"Living by the principle that we are our brother's keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need," Obama said before an audience of about 3,000 at the Washington Hilton. These values, he said, "they're the ones that have defined my own faith journey."
   
Specifically, Obama said, they translate to policies that support research to fight disease and support foreign aid. His faith, he continued, inspires him "to give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy."

Mark Silk 2-02-2012
Over easy. Image via http://bit.ly/xaNg0h.

Over easy. Image via http://bit.ly/xaNg0h.

At this morning's National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made clear just how pure a postmillennialist Midwestern mainline Protestant he is.

He spoke of how we as individuals acting in community "help bring His kingdom to Earth." And he emphasized the connection between his piety and his public efforts to to make that kingdom a reality.

Jeremy John 1-30-2012
Scene from "Braveheart" is projected at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast.

Scene from "Braveheart" is projected at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Photo via Getty Images.

What does it mean to be a Christian when organizations such as The Family create a Jesus that does not hear the prayers of the poor? An organization that prays to the powerful in place of God? That participates in the global crucifixion of the poor by turning Jesus' cross into a social ladder for politicians to climb upwards, past the broken body of Christ? To cultivate relationships with dictators?

To cultivate the most powerful for political influence, to create an elite society for the elite, is that listening to the prayers of the people?

I ask you, was Jesus a political networker? Did he hobnob with the most powerful? Did he cultivate relationships with the dictators of his time, Herod and Pilate?

Our political class does not hear the prayers of the poor, they hear the "prayers" of corporate lobbyists who fund their campaigns. And they hear the prayers of Christians such as Doug Coe and The Family at the National Prayer Breakfast, because they offer connections, votes, and money.

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