Christians

Image via RNS/Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Pope Francis has called for prayers for the Rohingya, the Muslim minority group forced to flee violence and persecution in Myanmar.

 

Image Via Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

In other comments published Monday, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad also said Trump’s policy of preferential immigration for Christians was a “trap” and would “create and feed” tensions with Muslims. 

LAST SUMMER, THE FUTURE of for-profit prisons seemed bleak. The U.S. Department of Justice announced it would begin phasing out its use of privately run prisons and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security quickly followed suit, declaring that it would reconsider its use of privately run detention centers. Stocks for companies that ran for-profit prisons plunged.

But then Donald Trump was elected president, and private prison stocks immediately soared. The nation’s largest prison company, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), reported a boost of more than 40 percent in the value of its shares. Given Trump’s promises to “create a new special deportation task force,” investors bet that privately run detention centers will play a key role.

And the investors may be right. Every year, DHS detains about 400,000 undocumented immigrants in 250 centers nationwide, and 62 percent of the beds in these centers are operated by for-profit corporations.

According to Maria-José Soerens, a licensed mental-health counselor serving undocumented immigrants in Seattle, there are two major problems with for-profit detention centers. First, for-profit centers are not held accountable to the standards that govern federally run centers. In her work in these centers, Soerens has heard complaints ranging from a lack of medical attention to inadequate opportunities for parent-child visitation; one young woman who was having suicidal thoughts was kept in solitary confinement until she told guards she was “better.”

But the deepest problem, explains Soerens, is that most detention centers only exist because corporations saw a “business opportunity.” Beginning in the early 2000s, for-profit prison companies successfully lobbied Congress to expand drastically the number of beds in the immigration detention system—a move that doubled the revenue of the two largest for-profit prison companies. In 1998, there were 14,000 beds available for immigrant detention; today, there are 34,000.

Hussein Rashid 1-25-2017

RELIGION IS AN EASY language for people to use to define conflict. The people most willing to speak about what religion demands are the ones least likely to be invested in the sacrifices religion requires. They want the power that they believe they can claim through religion.

Those same voices who engage in this idle worship now hold the reins of power in the U.S. government. And they seek to exterminate Muslims. There are concerns of a Muslim registry and internment camps. More extreme fears consider other types of camps, imagining a return of the Holocaust. These fears are not unfounded, nor are they out of character with what President Trump’s advisers and appointees have said.

Yet these parallels are so powerful that I think it may be difficult for them to be realized. What I think is more likely in the near term is a different historical parallel. At the waning of another empire, the Colosseum became a space where individuals were martyred for what they believed, for entertainment.

An individual loss may be horrible, but the individual’s community may still believe it is safe. But death can come by a thousand cuts. The lion that chooses one life at a time remains a ravenous beast—the whole community will be vilified and will eventually die, just not quickly. And that beast will need a new food source.

The mayor of New York announced a 35-percent increase in hate crimes in the city in the month following the election. During that time there were 43 hate crimes documented. In December, a Muslim Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker wearing her uniform and a hijab was pushed down a flight of stairs at Grand Central station, and a Muslim police officer was threatened, in front of her teenage son, with having her throat slit. In August, two Muslim leaders were shot to death after leaving prayers at their mosque. For years, the New York police department has spied on Muslims where we pray.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

“This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this ‘Amazing Grace’ calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness, for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.”

Image via RNS/Tom Heneghan

All was apparently going fine until Micha Brumlik, a retired Frankfurt University education professor and respected Jewish commentator, wrote last June that the popular toy was “anti-Jewish, if not even anti-Semitic.”

The problem, he said, was the inscription on the open pages of the Bible that the Playmobil Luther holds. On the left is written in German: “Books of the Old Testament. END,” while the right page says “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

The United States Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.

Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening on Jan. 3 describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members serving from 1961 to 1962, according to congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call and analyzed by Pew.

Image via RNS/Adelle Banks

When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.

But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

Image via RNS/Rev. Tuhina Verma Rasche and the Rev. Jason Chestnut

For many Christians who observe the liturgical season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, an Advent devotional is a beloved companion.

Such devotionals typically include a short Scripture reading and reflection on the birth of Jesus.

But most are “crap,” according to the Rev. Jason Chesnut of Baltimore.

Da'Shawn Mosley 12-01-2016

It’s safe to say that no Christian community I've been a part of has ever brought up the U.S. domestic crisis of HIV/AIDS. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing an American Christian even utter the words. 

And in conversation with others, I know that too many have only heard about it from pastors who preach that homosexuality is an unforgiveable sin and that HIV/AIDS is God’s wrath at work — despite the fact that HIV/AIDS affects people of many ethnicities and sexual orientations, and that the infection is often transmitted in ways other than sexual intercourse. Hearing Christians speak seriously and nonjudgmentally about HIV/AIDS, with the intent of acting to help eradicate the illness and protect the lives of those whom the illness has affected, is too rare.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Dave Kaup

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. believes that Donald Trump “will become America’s greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

But that wasn’t enough to persuade him to accept Trump’s offer to become secretary of education, he said.

Falwell told Religion News Service the decision was due to concerns for the health of his family and the university he leads.

Image via Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikimedia Commons

Fuller Theological Seminary has joined a growing list of schools where administrators are being pressed by students, alumni, and faculty for designation as a sanctuary campus.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president, some campuses are considering the moniker “sanctuary campus,” which generally means that the university will not willingly give the government information about their students, staff, or faculty who are undocumented immigrants.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Nancy Wiechec

In the aftermath of this presidential election, I can’t help but see striking similarities between what happened inside the religious cult of my childhood and what played out for us, in the political cult of personality.

Here was the larger-than-life leader drawing followers to himself, despite the facts of his poor character, lack of experience, and even despite the fact that media, pundits, and pollsters claimed he wouldn’t — couldn’t — win.

Gay Clark Jennings 11-15-2016

Image via RNS/Reuters/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

I fear now, as I have feared for months, the impact of his presidency on vulnerable people — including the white and working-class voters in places like my home state of Ohio who lent him their support.

Christians always have disagreements about policy proposals or party platforms during election seasons. But this year, I wonder how white Christians who read the same Scriptures and hold many of the same beliefs that I do could support a man who in word and deed has flaunted the core teachings of our faith.

John Fea 11-10-2016

Image via RNS/Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

I am upset by the results of the election, and I am particularly saddened that 81 percent of white American evangelicals got into bed with a monster on Nov. 8. But I am also encouraged and have not lost hope.

Here’s why:

Around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, my 15-year-old daughter, frustrated by all she was seeing on the television, stormed out of the room and announced: “Dad, I am going to bed. I am embarrassed for my country.”

David Gushee 11-07-2016

Image via RNS/Reuters/Kevin Kolczynski

People need to believe in something, or someone, or Someone.

This human need to believe is a very powerful force. It can overcome a great deal of countervailing evidence. One place this is obvious is in politics.

Image via RNS/Election Day Communion 2016

The idea for an Election Day church service came to the pastor as he was pouring juice into little plastic cups.

Mark Schloneger was preparing for Communion that day in 2008, in the kitchen of Waynesboro Mennonite Church in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The phone rang. It was a robocall from Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee that year. She was imploring Christians to go to the polls, vote for her party, and take back the country.

Image via RNS/Order of Preachers, via Facebook

We write to you on All Saints Day to update you on the situation in Iraq. Remembering the Christians who were killed in 2009 while attending Mass at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad. That was the beginning of harder times to all Christians in Iraq.

It has been two years and four months since we left Nineveh Plain. It has been long time of displacement, of humiliation, of exile. However, people always lived in hope of God’s mercy to return and go back home. We believed that God will not fail us.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Osservatore Romano

Even by this pope’s standards it was a bold move.

Francis, the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics across the globe, this week traveled to Sweden, one of the most secularized countries in Europe, to take part in events marking 500 years since Martin Luther kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.

Image via RNS/Smithsonian

The exhibit is not intended as commentary on today’s politics, its organizers said. Work started on the project six years ago, before sharp rises in Islamophobic rhetoric and violence in the U.S. and Europe, and before Muslim immigration and culture became a flashpoint in American and European politics.

But the Smithsonian is not sorry for the timing, and hopes the exhibit can help quell fears of Islam and its followers.

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