Saturday, July 30, 2005

Conservative Episcopal Church Seized—Update

Here's an update from today's Bristol Press on the situation at St. John's Church in Bristol, Connecticut, that I had posted about earlier today.

The article reports: . . .

The Bristol priest whom Connecticut's Episcopal bishop suspended July 13 formally denied Bishop Andrew D. Smith's inhibition charges Friday, issuing a "good faith denial" that he has abandoned communion with the church.

The denial by the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's Church, a member of what has become known as the "Connecticut Six," came with no additional direct comment.

But a press release issued on Hansen's behalf said that church law provides that if the bishop is "reasonably satisfied" that a priest has issued a good-faith denial, the bishop shall withdraw his notice of inhibition "and the inhibition shall expire."

"Given the fact that the bishop has failed to provide evidence to corroborate his charges, and in light of Father Hansen's, it is hoped that Bishop Smith will immediately lift the inhibition," the press release said.


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Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?

By Alexander Samuels

This is one of those times in history when the church feels most keenly the pressures of the surrounding culture. In his book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance (Baker Books), Os Guinness writes, "Whereas our grandfathers and grandmothers lived as if they had swallowed gyroscopes, we think and act as if we have swallowed Gallup polls."

The result of these cultural pressures has . . . diminished thinking in the secular world to "political correctness." The church, in turn, has developed its own "theological correctness," which is far from correct in the sense of Biblical theology. Just as one of the driving forces in the secular world is the need for approval, the people of the church now long for the approval of "the many" as opposed to the approval of "the One."

In our hurry to gain the approval of "the many," the modern church has discarded its past. As Guinness points out:

Everything Christian from worship to evangelism must be fresh, new, up-to-date, attuned, appealing, seeker-sensitive, audience-friendly, and relentlessly relevant. . . .

Evangelicals were once known as "the serious people." It is sad to note that today many evangelicals are the most superficial of religious believers—lightweight in thinking, gossamer-thin in theology, and avid proponents of spirituality-lite in terms of preaching and responses to life.

Dean Inge once remarked, "He who marries the spirit of the age soon becomes a widower." The church was called to be the "bride of Christ" and to answer to a higher, eternal calling. Only failure awaits compromise with the temporary trends of today. The desire to be hailed as "progressive" has slowly eroded the church's moral authority. As Charles Peguy once wrote, "It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking sufficiently progressive."

If you like short Christian books (only 119 pages) that require you to think about serious issues, you will enjoy Os Guinness' Prophetic Untimeliness.

(Note: Prophetic Untimeliness will be available as a trade paperback in mid-August.)


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Mike Adams' Philosophy of Life

The other morning I was feeling a bit discouraged about the world around me and how I was dealing with it, but as I was perusing the opinion columns at Townhall.com, I ran across Mike Adams' three-part series, "Life and how to live it" (Part I, Part II and Part III), and immediately I felt better . . . and even a bit inspired.

Adams, a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a former liberal atheist, says he has a simple philosophy of life "that guarantees both peace of mind and success in any important endeavor."

Here's a sampling of his suggestions:

No one can call himself educated if he has not read the Bible at least once. Even after several readings of the Bible some things will remain unclear. Some questions will remain unanswered. Nonetheless, upon every reading of the Bible, greater wisdom is gained. After all, life is a journey. It is not a destination. . . .

One of my favorite verses of the Bible is James 4:17. It states that "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." That verse reminds us that we don't have to actually do something to be morally culpable. In other words, there is such a thing as a sin of omission.

It can often be tough to step up and combat evil when one may be risking, for example, one's job. We humans are so weak and frail that it is often tough to stand up for what is right even when the consequences are merely ostracism or momentary ridicule. In those times, the following verse (Hebrews 13:5) helps: ". . . For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Remember when you read that verse that, quite literally, nothing else in life matters. . . .

Just remember that Jesus didn't die on the cross for you to run from what is right. And war heroes didn't die on the battlefield for you to cower away while this country is destroyed. . . .

If you do not do that which you know is right, you will never know what kind of happiness and peace of mind you might have attained in this life.

To read all three of his columns in their entirety, which I recommend you do, here are the links: Part I, Part II and Part III.
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Conservative Episcopal Church Seized

For the past 25 years, Bristol, Connecticut—at least for all us sports fans—has been known as the home of ESPN. In the past few weeks, those same letters have taken on a whole new meaning in this New England town: Episcopal Seized Parish News.

Edward E. Plowman's article in World Magazine describes what happened: . . .

At 9:30 a.m. on July 13 liberal Episcopal bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut, several of his administrators, a pro-gay feminist priest, a locksmith, and a computer technician swooped into conservative, 200-congregant St. John's Episcopal Church in Bristol, Conn.

They pried open the locked pastor's office, confiscated pastoral and church records, took down the church's website and redirected traffic to the diocese's website, changed the locks on all the doors, and announced to protesting church leaders and members that the diocese had taken over St. John's. Bishop Smith said he had suspended Rev. Mark Hansen from ministry, and Rev. Susan McCone was now in charge.

Rev. Hansen is one of the six priests in the state who said Bishop Smith was welcome to visit their churches but not to preach or administer the sacraments ("A good Friday," May 7). Because he had voted to approve the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA), they asked him to appoint a theologically conservative bishop to provide alternate oversight for them, as ECUSA policy allows. When the bishop refused, the six churches began withholding dues from the diocese. In March, he suspended them from ministry, declaring they had "abandoned the communion." They rejected the charge and refused to budge.

In an Agape Press article Thursday, Jim Brown reports on the reaction to the takeover of the church by Bishop Smith:
Canon David Anderson of the American Anglican Council says he has never seen anything like this in his 35 years of ministry. "It appears the bishop has broken perhaps federal law," he observes, and "certainly has gotten into very questionable area in state law. The congregation are what's called 'tenants in possession,' and it appears that the bishop had absolutely no legal right to come in and do what he did."

Anderson believes Smith has ignored or broken numerous church laws as well. The canon points out that the abrupt takeover of St. John's is already generating controversy within the already divided worldwide Anglican Communion. The incident seems to be inspiring outrage among many conservative Episcopal leaders and possibly cautious admiration among some radical liberals in the church.

"And I had hoped it wouldn't happen," Anderson says, "but I have to say that we've heard from liberal revisionist bishops that they're taking careful note of what Smith gets away with. And I think that if he gets away with [this illegal seizure of a dissenting church], it will be spreading all over the country very quickly."

And then yesterday, in an Associated Press report, via Agape Press, comes news of support for Rev. Mark Hansen:
Nine conservative Episcopal bishops say they'll take Connecticut's bishop to religious court over his suspension of one priest and threat to remove five others. . . . In a letter to Smith, the nine bishops say they plan to intervene in the case and are prepared to do the same if the five other priests are suspended.

The ECUSA is already at odds with the worldwide Anglican Communion over the consecration of openly homosexual bishop V. Gene Robinson. The Anglican Church of Canada finds itself in a similar state over the blessing of same-sex unions. The Anglican Communion's chief bishops have already suspended these North American churches from participating in the Anglican Consultative Council for failing to "repent" from these activities. The suspensions last until 2008, at which time the two church bodies can be expelled if they continue to refuse to repent. According to the World Magazine article, the conservative churches, such as St. John's in Bristol, could then become "the officially recognized Anglican presence in North America."

Plowman's article concludes:
William Witt, a St. John's member who holds a Ph.D. in theology from Notre Dame and witnessed the July 13 takeover, said Bishop Smith's actions are part of this bigger picture: "We are loyal Anglicans, and the Anglican Communion has made clear that it will support us. . . . ECUSA is choosing to walk away from that communion, and Bishop Smith has today helped to hasten its breakup."

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PC(USA): Unity vs. Purity and Truth

A task force representing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is calling for unity in the church despite major differences within the denomination concerning basic doctrine. The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church was formed four years ago to address divisive issues in the church, such as homosexuality and the person and work of Jesus Christ, and will release its final report in August.

Pastor Parker T. Williamson, editor in chief of the Presbyterian Layman, was interviewed for an article about the task force and its report by Agape Press: . . .

"They took an interesting tack," he states. "What they finally concluded was -- 'There's no way we're going to be able to come out with one statement on anything like Jesus Christ, the authority of scripture, or homosexual relations. So instead of doing that, let's just see if we can learn to love each other.' So for four years they've had this big love-in."

According to Williamson, because the reports include "fuzzy language" and "vague wording," both orthodox and liberal Presbyterians will use it to justify their positions.

"It didn't solve anything," he laments, "but it will give people who hold convictions that are clearly contrary to scripture some feeling that their position has been legitimized -- and that's where the danger, of course, comes."

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Methodist Minister in Virginia Suspended—Update

Three weeks ago I posted a link to an Agape Press report on Edward Johnson, a Methodist minister in South Hill, Virginia, who had been suspended for a year by his bishop, Charlene Kammerer, for refusing to allow a self-avowed, practicing homosexual to become a member of his church.

An Associated Press report, via Agape Press yesterday, states: . . .

Leaders of Good News -- an evangelical renewal ministry within the United Methodist Church -- are denouncing [the suspension] as "a serious error." Good News' chairman, Rev. Tom Lambrecht, asks, "Does the pastor of a local church no longer have the freedom to be discerning about who is ready to be received into membership in the United Methodist Church?"

Earlier this week, Good News issued a press release stating:
"I have received numerous emails and phone calls from pastors across the United States who have learned about this egregious action," said the Rev. James V. Heidinger II, President and Publisher of Good News. "They are deeply distressed, as are we, that a faithful pastor who was seeking to enforce the policies of our Book of Discipline was summarily removed from his church and left with no appointment and no pay. The matter screams with injustice," Heidinger added. . . .

The Good News leaders see a series of negative consequences from this action: A seasoned pastor has been suddenly removed from his congregation and from an appointment for upholding the
Discipline; a congregation is angry at the sudden and unjust removal of its pastor; a practicing homosexual is feeling justified in his sinful behavior; other United Methodist clergy feel threatened by possible, similar action; and the unity of the denomination has been made even more fragile as a result of this unjustifiable action.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Polygamy, Anyone?

By Alexander Samuels

Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, is on record as saying that her organization has "defended the right of individuals to engage in polygamy." This statement was reported last month in an Agape Press article by James L. Lambert, "ACLU Now Defends Polygamy, Further Eroding Traditional Marriage."

Strossen's comments, which were made during a speech at Yale University earlier this year, did not receive . . . much coverage in the mainstream press. However, the Yale Daily News reported that she made the statement in response to a student's question. According to the article, Strossen implied that polygamy was a "fundamental right" for mature, consenting adults.

In the United States, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, first secretly promoted the concept of polygamy during the 1830s, advocating the marriage of one man to a number of wives. It was not until 1852, eight years after Smith's death, that the church publicly acknowledged the practice of polygamy.

In 1862, the Mormon practice of polygamy was criminalized by the federal Morrill Anti-Bigamy Law, which President Abraham Lincoln signed into law on July 8, 1862. In an 1874 test case, George Reynolds, secretary to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, volunteered to be charged under the Morrill Act. The Church had claimed that the federal government had no jurisdiction to regulate marriage and other internal church practices and that the act was a violation of a Mormon's First Amendment rights. Reynolds was found guilty, given a two-year jail sentence and ordered to pay a $500 fine. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1879 upheld Reynolds' conviction, declaring that the Morrill Act was constitutional, that the U.S. government had a right to enforce marital standards and that polygamy was a barbarous practice.

The ACLU, however, is obviously dedicating itself to destroying traditional marriage and restoring "barbarous practices." According to the Bible, marriage, as ordained by God, involves one man and one woman, not multiple women (Genesis 2:24). "The two will become one flesh," said Jesus (Matthew 19:5). Marriage is monogamous, and God was not pleased with polygamy (Mark 10:2, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12, Titus 1:6). We are taught to obey civil laws when they do not collide with God's laws (Romans 13:1-7, Acts 5:29). As a rule, all governments have laws relative to marriage. Christians should support marriage laws that do not contradict God's Word. The ACLU and Nadine Strossen seem to be willing to use any cause to uproot the foundations of Christian influence in this country.

On the lighter side, although I do not know whether Strossen is an atheist, she would do well to heed the advice of our country's patron saint of atheism, Mark Twain. A Mormon once challenged him to cite any passage of Scripture forbidding polygamy. "Nothing easier," replied Twain. "No man can serve two masters."

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dividing the House of God

By Alexander Samuels

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, will hold its Churchwide Assembly next month (August 8-14) in Orlando, Florida. During this gathering, proposals are expected to be put forward to allow for the ordination of . . . gays and lesbians involved in same-sex unions and the blessing of such relationships.

An article titled "Conservative Lutherans Tell ELCA 'Not to Divide Our House'" posted at ReligionJournal.com last week reports that leaders of Solid Rock Lutherans Inc., a group within the ELCA, are standing in opposition to these proposals. In fact, the group was created two years ago to oppose such changes in the denomination's doctrine on sexuality and is dedicated to upholding current Biblical and Lutheran confessional standards on sexual conduct and ordination.

Although I am not a Lutheran, it is definitely with the Solid Rock I stand. I simply do not understand why people want to call themselves Christians when they don't believe in the clear teaching of the Bible. Perhaps it is some inner need to feel spiritual—not realizing they are representing the spirit of Satan.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Scientology's Free Pass

In his column this week, Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media discusses how actor Tom Cruise used his recent media blitz to promote not only his new film War of the Worlds, but his "religion," Scientology, as well.

Kincaid writes: . . .

Can you imagine Mel Gibson being given these opportunities to promote his own brand of conservative Catholicism? Gibson is such a pariah in Hollywood that he had to finance the production of his own film on Christ. And can you imagine if Gibson had announced he was marrying a young actress - 16 years younger - and that she was leaving her religion to join his? Hollywood and much of the rest of the liberal media would be in an uproar.

Of course, Scientology has a lot of Hollywood under its spell, but it also has had some powerful influence in Washington. Kincaid reports that it was under President Bill Clinton's watch that Scientologists finally succeeded, after many years of trying, in persuading the IRS to recognize their group as an official religion. One possible reason: President Clinton was the recipient of many donations from Tinseltown. But Kincaid offers this additional tidbit:
Now it gets more interesting: Clinton helped the Church of Scientology in return for John Travolta, a member of Scientology, softening up his portrayal of the Clinton character in Primary Colors! Clinton and Travolta cut a deal. Travolta agreed to go easy on Clinton in the movie Primary Colors and Clinton reportedly agreed to use his influence to get the German government to leave Scientology alone.

OK, that explains Scientology's hold over Hollywood and Hope, Arkansas' favorite son, but why does the media give this group such good press, especially in comparison to how it portrays Christians and Christianity? Kincaid offers:
One ex-Scientologist told me, "The reason the press treats them better than Christians is because Scientology will sue at the drop of a pejorative and they don't care if they lose the suit. They do it to punish detractors with the hassle of going through a lawsuit. The media knows this. Christians don't sue, so they are fair game."

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Cured by Faith Alone?

By Alexander Samuels

I was listening to a Christian radio show recently where the host was interviewing a pastor who believed that medications for mental disorders, depression or ADHD were totally unnecessary for Christian believers. He went on to say that he believed these medications were harmful, and that faith, prayer and the Bible are all that any Christian needs to be cured from these problems of the mind.

I have to say that I was somewhat reminded of . . . Tom Cruise and his recently televised drivel on this topic from the Scientology point of view. Unfortunately, the pastor on the radio is not the only Christian who echoes such skewed thinking. Some Christians are even made to feel "weak-minded" by other Christians if they are taking medication for any emotional problems.

I believe that God can heal any disease. But I leave that decision up to God. At the same time, I do believe that God uses doctors and medicines to heal us. I also know that some problems of the mind are spiritual in nature (see D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book Spiritual Depression) and need to be cured by prayer, meditating on the Scriptures and faith in God. However, there are also problems caused by chemical imbalances in the body.

In his latest book, God Is Closer Than You Think, John Ortberg shares how an acquaintance of his dealt with such a problem:

Lewis Smedes was a teacher of mine in seminary, one of the best writers and preachers I have ever known. Even though he was brilliant and accomplished and devoted to God, he suffered from a sense of inadequacy that at times grew into deep depression. At one point in his life he stopped preaching because he felt unqualified. God came to him through two avenues. One was a three-week experience of utter solitude, where he heard God promise to hold him up so vividly that, as he put it, he felt lifted from a black pit straight up into joy. The other avenue he describes this way:

"I have not been neurotically depressed since that day, though I must, to be honest, tell you that God also comes to me each morning and offers me a 20 milligram capsule of Prozac. He clears the garbage that accumulates in the canals of my brain overnight and gives me a chance to get a fresh morning start. I swallow every capsule with gratitude to God."

I love the picture that Lew paints. I used to think that taking Prozac would be a sign of weak faith in God. But what if Prozac might be, not a substitute for God, but His gift? What if refusing might be spurning His hand because of pride? Maybe God is present in wise doctors and medication that makes synapses and neurotransmitters work right. Maybe weakness is really refusing—out of our own blindness and stubbornness—the help that God is offering.

As a Christian, I believe that we should always pray for the healing of the sick but we should not limit the means God chooses to use. Do you really believe that after Luke became a Christian he never practiced medicine again? Would it surprise you to know that one of the greatest preachers of all time, Charles Spurgeon, suffered from chronic depression for weeks at a time all his life? Would you dare say he was less spiritual because of it?

I'll save my opinions on ADD and ADHD for another time.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Elementary School Video Rejected

By Alexander Samuels

A school district in Florida has rejected a video produced by the We Are Family Foundation that features popular cartoon characters promoting tolerance to elementary-school-age children. The video, which has been sent out to more than 60,000 schools nationwide, was voted down 10 to 7 by the Broward County School District's Diversity Committee.

An article posted by Agape Press yesterday reports: . . .

Local conservative radio talk show host Steve Kane has been a member of the Broward County School District's Diversity Committee for three years. He believes the We Are Family Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are using the video to get their foot in the door of school systems and to push a pro-homosexual agenda.

"Once they've established that liaison -- that acceptance -- with the school system," Kane asserts, "the next step is to try to go for a partnership arrangement with the school system. Then, of course, what you have to concern yourself [with] is the videos that come afterwards, which will become increasingly more 'pro' the lifestyle they are promoting."

Parents everywhere should be applauding this decision in Florida. The folks in Broward County were under a lot of pressure by gay lobbying efforts. Don't think that your community is immune from politics like this in your schools. Your school board will be facing these decisions soon enough. They may have already caved in to the pressure without sharing that information with the public.

But why, you may ask, should we object to cartoon characters, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, teaching little children not to bully or harass one another because of the makeup of their families? No one objects to that. All schools have rules dealing with bullying and harassment. The problem with this video is the subtle introduction to elementary-school-age children of the idea that the "gay lifestyle" is acceptable behavior for everyone. As Steve Kane said in the article, "What you have to concern yourself [with] is the videos that come afterwards."

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," Samuel Johnson is often credited with saying. And maybe this group has the best of intentions in its efforts, but do you wonder whether all this interest in the public schools will ultimately lead to the subtle recruitment of our children to the "gay lifestyle"?
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Rare Scrolls Identified

Through the use of the latest space-age technology, three ancient scrolls have been identified as containing verses from the Old Testament.

According to an article from Discovery News posted on DiscoveryChannel.com, two fragments from a 2,000-year-old parchment scroll found in the Judean Desert contain verses from . . . the book of Leviticus.

It was also revealed that two silver scrolls, which were found in a cave near Jerusalem in 1979, have been examined by using these new processes and were found to have printed on them Numbers 6:24-26, a commonly used benediction: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."

These silver scrolls, which were likely worn around the neck as amulets, date back to the seventh century B.C., making them the earliest known items in existence to quote Bible verses. They are 400 years older than any of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Hat tip to News! For Christians.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Flip Flop Flap

I haven't heard so much about flip-flops in the news since the 2004 presidential election. As most of you are aware, the Northwestern University women's national champion lacrosse team has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately because of the footwear choices several of them made for their recent visit to see President Bush at the White House. A few of these LAX gals dared to wear thongs . . . on their feet (no, not the Monica Lewinsky type).

The uproar over these flip-flops, however, hasn't come from the West Wing; it's been the mainstream press making most of the fuss. (I keep expecting the ever-diligent White House press corps to start grilling White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan over it: "Scott," asks Helen Thomas, "is it true that the president admits to a foot fetish, and that the first lady owns at least two pair of designer flops?") Even Leonard Pitts Jr. took on the topic in his column today, which was carried by our own Greensboro News & Record and is available online through The Miami Herald (free registration required).

Pitts remarks:

. . . Even I know you don't wear flip-flops at the White House.

That a perfectly decent group of young women does not kind of says it all about the informality of the age. We have elevated personal comfort to virtually the status of a constitutional right. But in the process, maybe we have lost the capacity for a sense of moment, a sense of occasion, a sense that there are things you respect. And that one of the ways you show respect is by dressing up.

Pitts has a point. People today dress down for everything from job interviews to weddings and funerals to Sunday worship services. To me that can convey a lack of respect for your potential employer, the betrothed, the deceased and God.

I know, the times are a-changing, and maybe I'm just bit jealous of all you casual types because my boss requires me to wear a tie every day, but have we gone too far? Frankly, I don't mind "dress" casual so much, but many have seen the acceptance of casual attire in formal settings, especially at church, as a license to be just plain sloppy: T-shirts with slogans (some very inappropriate for Sunday worship), shirttails hanging out, frayed and faded pants, ratty old tennis shoes, etc. Sometimes I think these folks dress better to go to Target on Saturday afternoon (or at least to dinner out on Saturday night) than they do for church on Sunday morning.

So what do you think? Should we have a "sense of occasion" and wear our Sunday best to honor God on Sunday morning? Or should we chuck all our neckties and neatly pressed clothes and go casual, or even sloppy, because we think God doesn't care how we look when we worship Him?
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Free mp3 Download

One of my favorite radio shows is "The White Horse Inn," an excellent roundtable talk fest on theology and cultural issues hosted by Reformed theologian Michael Horton. (It airs in the Greensboro area at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WTRU 830 AM, and can be heard throughout the week online at "The White Horse Inn" Web site.) Every time I listen to this show, I feel like I'm sitting at some coffee shop listening in on . . . a conversation among several esteemed professors from a Reformed seminary. It truly is an education.

To help spread the word about the program, "The White Horse Inn" is giving away, for a limited time, a free mp3 download of a show broadcast earlier this year on the Emergent Church movement. According to their Web site, it is one of the most popular shows they've ever produced. All they ask in return for this freebie is for you to spread the word about the program to family and friends.

An mp3 download of the second part of this two-part Emergent Church series is available for purchase here (look for the program dated March 13, 2005) for $2.95. Part 2 features an interview with Emergent Church proponent Brian McLaren. Last week's program, which also covered this topic and was titled "The Emergent Church: A Roundtable Discussion," can be purchased here for $2.95, as well (look for the program dated July 17, 2005).

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Faith Night at the Ballpark—Update

A week and a half ago, I posted a link to a Beliefnet.com article about the growing popularity of Faith Nights at minor league ballparks this summer. Yesterday, it was the topic of USA Today's front page "Cover Story": "If you billed it around faith, they will certainly come." The USA Today article goes into a bit more detail about . . . how many of the Faith Night activities are held in areas away from the field of play, in an effort to make them unobtrusive and inoffensive to those desiring a "religion-free" baseball experience.
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N&R on Ann Coulter

While I was mowing the lawn this morning, I was thinking about the editorial cartoon the Greensboro News & Record chose to run on its editorial page yesterday lampooning conservative columnist Ann Coulter and her opinion on Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts. I don't mind anyone, including the left-wing cartoonist Danziger, poking fun at Coulter—she dishes it out and should expect flack in return—but the News & Record shouldn't . . . be a party to such criticism out of context. If they are going to run the cartoon, they ought to be running her column. My 82-year-old dad, who follows politics closely but doesn't have Internet access and therefore can't surf over to AnnCoulter.com, would have no idea why the N&R was portraying her this way. (For the record, although I thought Ann had some good points in her column this week, I don't fully agree with her in her opposition to Judge Roberts.)
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Passion

By Alexander Samuels

In the conversations that take place here at Carolina Christian Conservative, you often read the words "passion" or "passionate." Many of those individuals who express their opinions are passionate about what they believe. Their passion about particular topics actually drives them to respond because of their intense feelings concerning the issue. Passion will sometimes lead to . . . disagreement, which it often does here. Passion, however, motivates people to take a stand in defense of what they believe. Not only this, but passion motivates people to spread the news about what they believe.

How often I find myself wishing that we Christians were more passionate for Jesus. God has a plan for you, but your passion determines how far you will go. Passion is your first step toward sanctification, which is the process of becoming more like Jesus. In the Christian life, your passion will determine your potential.

Passion increases your desire to obey Christ. Christ desires your obedience. Those who obey Him will inherit a kingdom. Think of the emotion you would stir up within yourself if you knew you were inheriting an earthly kingdom. All earthly kingdoms, however, eventually begin to crumble and fall. How passionate should you be concerning the promise of a heavenly kingdom that is eternal?

Christian, if you find it difficult to stir up passion within yourself, think of the sins that once dominated every detail of your life. Think of the weight on your shoulders that has now been lifted since Christ took the burden of your sins away. Surely you know by now that Jesus abides with you and you are His precious temple.

How often do we wish to hear the call of God upon our lives only to be frustrated by the silence of heaven? But there is a call you often do not hear. It is the call of God as He prepares a task specifically for you to accomplish. It is a task too hard for human hands. Do you have the passion to hear and accomplish God's will?

Maybe you don't. The natural man or women doesn't even have the passion required to make it through this day. You don't have passion because you have not gone to the source. He is the one who Christ sent to minister to us. He is the author of passion. He is the one who gives us the power to be a witness of Jesus and with this power comes the passion to storm the gates of hell if it will glorify our God. He is the Holy Spirit.

How long has it been since you prayed to God to fill you with His Holy Spirit? How long has it been since you asked the Holy Spirit to fill you with His power and passion so that you might serve God and bring glory to Him in your life? God has called us to live passionately in our love for Him. Living passionately for Him, we will enjoy Him forever. Why not ask the Holy Spirit for this blessing right now? Ask the Holy Spirit for the passion to exalt God's name.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Oh Canada

The other day, a commentator on Canada's CBC Radio, our northern neighbor's equivalent to NPR, made a case for government control over religion in the land of maple leafs, back bacon, hockey and gay marriage. According to an article posted Tuesday at LifeSiteNews.com (hat tip to ReligionJournal.com), Bob Ferguson, a retired professor from the Royal Military College, strongly believes religion needs to be regulated, particularly Catholicism.

The article reports: . . .

"Given the inertia of the Catholic Church, perhaps we could encourage reform by changing the environment in which all religions operate," Ferguson began his commentary in measured tones yesterday. "Couldn't we insist that human rights, employment and consumer legislation apply to them as it does other organizations? Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood. "

Ferguson continued, "Of course the Vatican wouldn't like the changes, but they would come to accept them in time as a fact of life in Canada. Indeed I suspect many clergy would welcome the external pressure."

The former professor pitched his idea as a boon to religious freedom. "We could also help the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions," he said. "They will never achieve unity so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?"

Meanwhile, in the wake of Canada's homosexual marriage bill becoming law this week, evangelicals in the country will continue to advocate for tradional marriage.

According to an article from CNSNews.com (hat tip to News! For Christians):
Evangelical Christians in Canada will not affirm the newly legalized definition of marriage to include same-sex unions, despite a bill signed into law Wednesday giving homosexual and lesbian couples the same civil marriage rights as those enjoyed by heterosexuals.

"The unique, distinct nature of heterosexual marriage is no longer recognized in our law and public policy, but we will continue to promote and teach the biblical understanding of marriage in our families and churches," Evangelical Fellowship of Canada President Bruce Clemenger said.

"Evangelical pastors and congregations will continue to celebrate and promote marriage as the exclusive and enduring union of one man and one woman," he said.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Christians Losing Jobs

By Alexander Samuels

We don't often think about Christians being persecuted or discriminated against in the workplace, but the experience is all too real for many people. An article posted yesterday by The American Enterprise Online ("Christians Need Not Apply," by Patrick J. Ashby) cites several examples.

Let's take the case of . . . James Patterson. He had been an editorial writer for The Indianapolis Star for over 16 years when he was fired for expressing his beliefs. In 2003, The Star was purchased by Gannett, which owns USA Today, and Dennis Ryerson was named the paper's new executive editor.

After Patterson wrote an editorial in which he encouraged his readers to "pray for the safety of our soldiers," Ryerson gave Patterson a low performance rating and required him to get pre-approval for future editorials. Eventually, Patterson was fired. Please note that Patterson did not ask people to pray to a particular god or in a specific manner.

Another editorial writer, Lisa Coffey, who worked for The Star was demoted to the copy desk after Ryerson refused to run a series she had written on the dangers of sodomy. Coffey resigned after an argument with Ryerson over Christianity. Patterson and Coffey filed a lawsuit in June against The Star for religious discrimination.

Albert Buonanno was an employee at AT&T. In 2001, he was fired for refusing to sign a certificate that stated he would "respect and value the differences among all of us." Buonanno believed, because of his Christian faith, that he could not respect or value homosexuality. He sued AT&T and won. The judge decided that AT&T should have respected Buonanno's beliefs in accordance with the Civil Rights Act.

Phil Mitchell, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, may not be invited back to teach next fall after 20 years. An evangelical Christian, he was named "Teacher of the Year" in 1998. It seems his colleagues on the university staff have objected to his required reading of Charles Sheldon's In His Steps (1897). Professor Mitchell's reasoning for assigning the book is that it reveals "Protestant liberal values at the turn of the century."

Patrick Cubbage, an honor guard at a New Jersey veterans cemetery, was fired for saying "God bless you and your family" to a widow when he handed her the folded U.S. flag. State officials ordered Cubbage reinstated but he had to reapply as a rookie and promise not to offer blessings at the ceremonies again.

Christians should beware of employers who tend to overreact negatively to any expression of our faith. Anti-Christian liberals have made an impact in convincing the public that all expressions of free speech that may be linked to Christianity are offensive. As a matter of fact, many Christians have come to wrongly believe they should not use the language of their religion at all in the secular world.

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Judge Roberts' Faith

In case you have been wondering about the faith practices of President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, The New York Times has published an extensive profile of the man in today's editions titled "Court Nominee's Life Is Rooted in Faith and Respect for Law" (free registration required). It's interesting, considering the emphasis on the word "faith" in the headline, that the article doesn't touch much on this aspect of Roberts' life until very late in this lengthy piece.

To cut to the chase, here's what The Times has to report on Judge Roberts' faith: . . .

Friends of Judge Roberts and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, say they share a strong faith. "They are deeply religious," said Fred F. Fielding, the former White House counsel for President Reagan, "but they don't wear it on their sleeves at all."

The couple are members of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., a Catholic congregation that includes about 1,500 families. Like many Washington-area churches, its members have included prominent political figures. Thomas O'Neill, the former speaker of the House known as Tip, as well as Edmund Muskie, the former United States senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate, once attended, said Gary R. Davies, a church deacon. More recently, L. Paul Bremer III, who served as the United States' administrator in Iraq, was a member.

The church, Mr. Davies said, is not particularly political, though it does organize two or so busloads of members each year to participate in an anti-abortion rally marking the Roe v. Wade decision. "I have never heard anyone talk about politics," Mr. Davies said. "It just does not belong."

Some who know Judge Roberts say he does not let his personal beliefs affect his legal views. "He's not going to allow political or theological interference with his opinions," said Mark Touhey, a partner in the Texas law firm of Vinson & Elkins.

Shannen W. Coffin, a friend of Judge Roberts and a former Justice Department lawyer, said: "John's faith is his faith, and his approach to the law is a separate issue. If it has any effect, it is in the sense of restraint, that he is not and the role of the judge is not to be the center of the universe. It stems from the sort of humility of a faithful person."

The Robertses frequently attend events at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass. Jane Roberts is a graduate of the school and has been a trustee for the last four years.

"They are devout Catholics," said the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, the college president. "They are not the kind of people who would be in your face," he added. Their religion "would affect their personal lives, but they are very professional in their work."

Here's an interesting fact gleaned from the article: Judge Roberts' mother is named Rosemary Roberts. I wonder if that fact will make his nomination any more acceptable to the News & Record 's resident liberal op-ed columnist of the same name.
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Bumper Sticker Etiquette

By Alexander Samuels

Now before you accuse me of attacking this bastion of free speech, please take a moment to read what I have to say. Quite frankly, I don't like bumper stickers. They are usually too messy to get off the car when I am tired of them.

I realize, however, that many of you like to . . . put bumper stickers on your cars because I see so many of them as I travel around town. Freedom of speech aside, don't you think there ought to be rules of etiquette for anyone putting a bumper sticker on his or her car?

For example:

  1. Don't apply so many bumper stickers to your car that they all can't be read while someone is sitting behind you at a stoplight.

  2. All political bumper stickers should be removed within one month after an election. I'm tired of still seeing Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers on cars. The election is over.

  3. Take your bumper sticker off your car if the ink has worn off.

  4. Christians: The fish swims to your left when you put it on, not to the right.

  5. Don't you hear enough profanity from TV, movies or the people around you? Do you have to display a bumper sticker that uses profanity, too?

  6. If you support a social, political or environmental cause, you only need one bumper sticker to state your case. People will get the point.

  7. When selecting a bumper sticker, make sure the print is large enough for others to read it.

  8. Use bumper stickers wisely. There is enough road rage as it is.

If you have any ideas for further suggestions, please feel free to add them in our "comments" section.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Podcasting for Christ

Last weekend, Greg Laurie and Harvest Christian Fellowship held a Harvest Crusade in Southern California that, according to an article posted by ReligionJournal.com, drew 100,000 people over three nights to Angel Stadium in Anaheim. The crusade and its message of hope, however, reached well beyond the stadium walls, thanks to new technology, as the article reports: . . .

In addition to those attending the crusade in-person, more than 50,000 people watched and listened via live Internet broadcasts and, for the first time, via podcasting technology. During the weekend, more than 28,649 people from 61 countries, totaling over 3,767 hours of streaming, logged on to watch the crusade live on the Internet. "Hits" per night averaged 2 million. And during the past week, there were 22,581 requests for Harvest's podcast feeds.

The article also points out that many at the stadium as well as some listening and watching online made professions of faith over the weekend as Pastor Greg offered this live-changing message:
"God loves you more than any person has ever loved you, and His plans for you are better than anything you could imagine for yourself," said Laurie during his Sunday evening talk. "You don't have to be a good person to become a Christian, you have to be a person with a hole in your heart who is searching for something more."

Hat tip to Townhall.com.
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Monday, July 18, 2005

Christian Acceptance of Harry Potter

The Christian Post has an interesting article online about how many Christians are now making peace with J.K. Rowling's series of Harry Potter books (hat tip to News! For Christians). World Magazine Blog also has some interesting commentary today in two separate posts ("The New Harry Potter" and "World's Review of the New Harry") on the subject, as well.

I've never read the books nor have I seen the movies, and my 9-year-old daughter has not shown any interest in either, so I don't . . . have an informed opinion of whether it conflicts with a Christian worldview, or whether it's appropriate literature for young children. However, I was interested to read the following statements by Deirdre Donahue in her review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in today's USA Today: . . .

There is really only one flaw in the sixth installment of J.K. Rowling's series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: It is not a kids' book.

. . .
The Half-Blood Prince is . . . a fine if slow-paced novel for the over-12 crowd who can handle the death of a beloved main character (whose identity will not be revealed here), pregnant women being abandoned and the word "slut." Not to mention the reality of teen hormones as expressed by references to "hooking up" and "snogging."

Little kids, entranced by the early Harry Potter novels set in that magical world of wands, wise wizards and dragons, truly need to grow into the later titles of the
Harry Potter series.

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United Methodists Continue to Stray

As a former member of the United Methodist Church, it troubles me to see how the church continues to stray from the teachings from the Word of God. The most recent example is the denomination's decision to allow a group that advocates stances that go against basic church teachings, including its definition of marriage, to use its Southeastern Jurisdiction conference and retreat center for an event in early September.

An article from Agape Press reports: . . .

The Labor Day weekend conference at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina will focus on how to lobby to overturn the church's teachings on marriage and sex, and lobby for the acceptance of same-sex "marriage" and practicing homosexual clergy. Called "Hearts of Fire," the conference is being organized by the pro-homosexual Methodist group Reconciling Congregations. According to that group's website, one forum will "explore the development of transgender and gender queer spirituality" as well as the "sources of gendering." Participants are encouraged to "come with a robust interest in all things gender, whether or not they themselves are gender non-normative."

. . . Among the seven liberal bishops scheduled to speak at the event is Joe Sprague of Illinois, who has publicly denied the virgin birth, blood atonement, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also expected to speak is Beth Stroud, an openly lesbian Methodist minister from Philadelphia who was recently defrocked. Musical entertainment on the last evening of the four-day rally is to be provided by Jason & deMarco, two "spirit pop artists" who were featured in a July 2004 homosexual magazine article entitled "Singing for God and Gays."

According to the article, Mark Tooley, who heads the United Methodist Action program at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, is urging United Methodists, especially those in the Southeast, to express their displeasure with the retreat and conference center. Here's a link to Lake Junaluska's contact information.
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Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Significance of Reading

By Alexander Samuels

Those of you who frequent this blog know that I am a great fan of reading. I often recommend books that I hope you will consider reading. The majority of these books are, of course, Christian because I am interested in . . . deepening your relationship with Christ. Developing good reading skills is a lifelong process. My hope is that by familiarizing ourselves with various Christian writers, we become more knowledgeable in our reading of the Scriptures. One of the greatest problems in our churches is the "dumbing down" of Christianity because so many adults lack the reading skills to properly understand what the Bible is saying. Too many of our church members are put to sleep while reading its contents. John Piper recently wrote an excellent article titled "A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind."

Don't let the title frighten you. The article is only about a page and a half, so it is quick reading but a very compelling argument for the lifelong development of reading skills. Seriously, take a moment to click this link and read something that will challenge you in your Christian walk.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

UNC's Reputation Is at Stake!

Attention Tar Heels (as well as our Wuffie colleagues): I just received the following e-mail from my friend BobLee Swagger of SwaggerSays.com: . . .

From: BobLee Swagger
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 10:32:19 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
To: TheGuys@swaggersays.com
Subject: Our reputation is at stake!

Fellow Tar Heels:

Dem no account rednecks in West Rawlee have gone and done it now. Getting world-wide publicity for spawning a real-live terrorist bomber. Here we UNCers have spent a century establishing UNC as Kooks Korner of The Triangle and these clodhoppers think they can just step in and take over.

I have notified all my Lupine associates (see below) that I'm not sitting still for this. I suggest you do likewise. Stealing a recruit or two is one thing, but stealing our hard-earned reputation for bald-faced academic lunacy is SERIOUS.

BL Swagger


-------Original Message-------

From: BobLee Swagger
Date: 07/15/05 10:11:21
To: TheGuys@swaggersays.com
Subject: Back off Wuffs ...


You guys beat all ... you know that!

several years ago in that Durham murder trial it was "Brad, the NC State student and gay escort ..."

now its "NC State educated terrorist bomber ..."

Don't you Wuffies Come Lately know that UNC-Chapel Hill is THE Triangle home for aberrant social behavior and rabid anti-American sentiment. We've spent 100+ years establishing OUR campus as Kooks Korner and don't think for a second we plan to abdicate that title any time soon.

You might think you once were known as "a basketball school" and you might want to delusionally dream of being known as "a football school" ... but you Skoal dipping rednecks are waaay outta your league trying to be an "academic lunatic asylum" ...

BACK OFF! ...

BL Swagger

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Sunday School Changes

By Alexander Samuels

According to a new survey by The Barna Group, Sunday school in Protestant churches is changing. This was recently reported in an article titled "Sunday School Changing in Significant Ways" posted on The Christian Post Web site (hat tip to News! For Christians).

The Barna Group survey found that there were fewer pastors whose number one priority was Sunday school. I hope that this is because more pastors are making . . . the preaching of God's Word their number one priority, but Sunday school should follow a close second even though it is a relatively recent addition to church history.

Traditionally, Robert Raikes (1735–1811) is credited with pioneering Sunday schools in the 1780s, but teaching Bible reading and basic skills on a Sunday was an established activity in a number of 18th century Puritan and evangelical congregations. The first adult Sunday school is said to have begun in Nottingham, England, in 1798 to meet the needs of young women. It was independent of any other organization and was run by William Singleton (a Methodist) and Samuel Fox (a Quaker).

Even though the history of Sunday schools is relatively recent, it has played an important role in the teaching of the Scriptures, in addition to the preaching from the pulpit. Most churches have supported it because it provides more opportunities for structured community study and participation in smaller groups. Belonging to a Sunday school class not only helps to encourage the spiritual growth of the church member, but increases opportunities to deepen one's sense of belonging through meeting people in a smaller church setting. According to The Barna Group, almost 45 million adults attend religious training in a classroom setting each weekend.

Some churches have tried to replace the traditional adult Sunday school program with small group ministries. These are typically made up of a certain number of church members who usually meet in homes or in other settings away from church. Schedules differ, and they may be held on any day of the week. Usually, the group decides. These groups provide opportunities for members to minister to one another, pray and study the Word of God.

The most consistently successful enterprise I have seen in small groups is their members' ministry to one another and the sense of belonging that is developed. This is, however, often difficult to duplicate in every group. It can be difficult to find enough people with the leadership qualities necessary to lead these groups. The Bible studies, too, are often inconsistent among groups. It is more difficult to oversee the content and reaction to instruction in small groups than it is to oversee what is actually taking place in a Sunday school program.

I do not want to be perceived as being negative toward small groups. I do support the concept of small group ministries. Actual attendance records of each meeting should be kept and reported to church leaders—just like Sunday school—which would help the church better evaluate the needs of the congregation. Small groups can serve as one of many important arms of church ministry to the congregation. Small groups will not, however, replace the adult Sunday school teaching arm of church ministry. Of course, effective adult Sunday school teachers are often difficult to find as well, even if the church is providing a "canned" program (videotapes, study guides, etc.). Can you see how even more difficult the teaching component of small group ministries is when you are hoping to develop many more small groups than you have adult Sunday school classes? I simply think that small group ministries would be more effective with a structured setting that would include a brief church-assigned Scripture reading, followed by a question or two with discussion, then prayer and ministry to one another, and finally fellowship.

In more recent years, according to The Barna Group survey, fewer churches are providing Sunday school programs for children under 6 and teens. Vacation Bible school and midweek programs for children are also being dropped. Unfortunately, this may be because it is more difficult to get volunteers in these areas. Modern Christians are becoming more dependent on the church to hire workers or professionals to provide these ministries. As in most organizations, the modern church is a place where we rely on the same few volunteers to do almost everything. The average Christian does not want to serve in these areas. You often hear the excuse "I'm not called to work with children." But they are not serving anywhere else. If they would just step out in faith, they would probably be surprised by the joy they would experience.

I believe it was the Jesuits who said they could shape a person's moral foundation by the time they were 8 years old. I think there are developmental strategies for teaching a child about Christ at almost any age under 6. It is disappointing to hear that Christian instruction is fading out for this age group. Too many people seem to see this as just the "baby-sitting hour."

Ministry-wise, the teens can be a difficult group. Yet, I believe that this group is too important to ignore. There is too much evidence that once our young people age out of the teen/youth group, a large percentage fail to maintain regular church attendance. This is as true of evangelical churches as it is in mainstream denominations. Many churches hire youth ministers to provide the oversight for this program. Unfortunately, many who hold this position see it as a transitional step to another job in ministry. Some burn out in three or four years. Consistency is very important to this age group. Volunteers are difficult to find. Yet, this may be the last opportunity to minister to this group.

I guess you could legitimately say that after "good preaching," I am definitely biased in favor of building a good Sunday school program for all ages. Part of Jesus' mandate to the church is "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). Preaching and teaching are important and like every aspect of ministry must be done to the glory of God.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

From One Extreme to the Other

Thanks to two of my main sources for op-ed opinion pieces, the Greensboro News & Record and Townhall.com, I was able to read today two extremely divergent takes on the Joseph C. Wilson IV–Valerie Plame–Karl Rove situation.

First we have . . . liberal Robert Scheer's "The Real Rove Scandal," published in today's News & Record (originally appearing in the Los Angeles Times), followed by conservative Ann Coulter's "Mission Implausible," courtesy of Townhall.com.

We link, you decide.

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Good Golly, Miss Molly

In her column this week, Molly Ivins, who along with our local liberal, Rosemary Roberts, drives many a conservative to write a letter to the editor of Greensboro's News & Record, has issued an apology to her readers: . . .

This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. WRONG. Really, really wrong.

The only problem is figuring out by how large a factor I was wrong. . . .

There have been estimates as high as 1 million civilians killed by Saddam, though most agree on the 300,000 to 400,000 range, making my comparison to 20,000 civilian dead in this war pathetically wrong.

I was certainly under no illusions regarding Saddam Hussein, whom I have opposed through human rights work for decades. My sincere apologies. It is unforgivable of me not have checked. I am so sorry.

I admire her for her willingness to publicly admit her mistake.

Hat tip to Matt Drudge at Drudge Report via Susan OIasky at World Magazine Blog.
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Greetings for Seventh Commandment Breakers

The Baltimore Sun featured an article last week on a new line of greeting cards designed to reach a perceived "untapped market": those who are committing adultery.

The Sun reported: . . .

[Cathy] Gallagher says her Secret Lover Collection of 24 cards is the first line exclusively for people having affairs, and she expects hot sales. She says half of married people have had affairs (though some studies show the figure to be far less - more like 15 percent of married women and 22 percent of married men, according to the University of Chicago). From former President Bill Clinton's relationship with "that woman" to shenanigans on TV shows like Desperate Housewives, affairs are out in the open.

"Look at the soap operas. It's all about forbidden love," Gallagher says in her Bethesda office, where the walls are painted red and pink. "Look at how many people on soap operas are having affairs. That's real. And I think that's why this is so scary - these cards are real, and for a lot of people it hits very close to home."

Here's a sampling of some of the verses found in the cards:
"All my life I have had this emptiness inside, like a part of me was missing and I was incomplete. . . ."

"And now I can't imagine my life without you . . . Even if I have to share you."

"Let's live our lives together and finally be one. I can't imagine not having you in my life. Let's start living our lives for 'us.'"

According to The Sun, Gallagher has worked 20 years in advertising and marketing, has two children, and never has cheated on her husband of 15 years.

"People make choices," she told The Sun. "I'm not making a choice for them. People make choices. And by the time they buy this greeting card, they're already involved deeply in the affair. . . . This is an entrepreneurial venture. And this is an untapped market. That's the bottom line."

I'm all for free enterprise and finding your niche in the marketplace, but I find this to be a sad way to make a buck.

Hat tip to Lynn Vincent at World Magazine Blog.
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Bible-believing Liberals

In an article in the latest World Magazine, Gene Edward Veith compares and contrasts the terms "liberal," "progressive" and "conservative." He also defines the various liberal-conservative hybrids found in our society and how many people who consider themselves "Christian conservatives" could be classified as "left of center" in a vital area of their lives.

Veith writes: . . .

Todd Wilken, the Lutheran talk-show host, has identified another kind of liberal conservative. In an article titled "Bible-believing Liberals" in Issues, Etc. Journal, he observes that many Christians are conservative politically, economically, culturally, and in every other way except one: They are liberal/progressives when it comes to church.

"While they believe that the culture needs to return to its historic traditions, they think the church needs to abandon hers," Mr. Wilken writes. "While they believe men and women have defined roles in marriage and family, they don't see why a woman can't replace a man in the pulpit. . . . They want the Ten Commandments in the public square, but are unconcerned when those commandments are replaced with 'principles for living' from the pulpit. To the Bible-believing liberal, ceremonies of a presidential inauguration are meaningful and inspiring, but the Sunday morning liturgy is boring. For the Bible-believing liberal, the differences between political parties are serious, but the differences between Christian denominations are petty. While they insist on a strict literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, they play fast and loose with the Bible and its theology, even while maintaining its inerrancy and inspiration. These are the Bible-believing liberals."

Hat tip to Townhall.com.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Faith Night at the Ballpark

Beliefnet.com reports this week on the popularity of "Faith Night" promotions at minor-league baseball games this summer. Third Coast Sports introduced the concept at games in Nashville, Tennessee, last year and is staging events in 10 other cities this year.

The article reports: . . .

With Moses, Samson and Noah bobbleheads and promotions such as New Testament giveaways, the [Nashville] Sounds drew more than 550 church groups to seven such events in 2004.

Attendance at the Sounds' Faith Nights averaged 9,800 -- more than 3,500 better than the season average, team officials said.

Each event features appearances by characters from the Christian animated series "VeggieTales," a giveaway of 2,000 Bob the Tomato "VeggieTales" baseballs, a Christian concert and testimonies given by the players.

Upcoming Faith Nights are scheduled for Hagerstown, Maryland (July 15); Jackson, Tennessee (July 15 and Aug. 19); Mobile, Alabama (July 15 and Aug. 12); Fort Worth, Texas (July 22 and Aug. 6); Tulsa, Oklahoma (Aug. 5 and Sept. 2); Columbus, Georgia (Aug. 19); Johnson City, Tennessee (Aug. 20); and Birmingham, Alabama (Sept. 3). For more details, visit Third Coast Sports' Web site.

It would be nice if our own Greensboro Grasshoppers would consider hosting a Faith Night at First Horizon Park sometime in the near future.

Hat tip to News! For Christians.
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An Evolving Position on Evolution

Neo-Darwinists have long thought that they had an ally in the Roman Catholic Church when it came to accepting the theory of evolution. However, last week in an op-ed piece in The New York Times (free registration required), Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and a close confidant to Pope Benedict XVI, attempted to clarify the position of the church: . . .

The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

The op-ed piece became news in itself, as The Times followed up with a front-page article (free registration required) about it two days later, pointing out, "Opponents of Darwinian evolution said they were gratified by Cardinal Schönborn's essay. But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their faiths."

In a Breakpoint Commentary yesterday, Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley said that the headline for The Times article should have read: "Catholics Mean It When They Recite the Nicene Creed on Sunday." He added:
After all, the Cardinal simply said that a Christian cannot consistently believe in God, the Creator of "all that is, seen and unseen," while also believing that life is the result of "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection."

Note that I said "Christian" and not just "Catholic." The incompatibility Schönborn described is just as true for Protestants as Catholics. What's more, the piece was the product of unprecedented cooperation between Cardinal Schönborn and the largely evangelical Discovery Institute. Discovery's vice-president, Mark Ryland, "urged" Cardinal Schönborn to write the piece, and it was placed with the help of Discovery's public relations firm.

Commenting in a post on his blog the other day, Albert Mohler wrote, "This controversy is yet another reminder that irreconcilable worldviews cannot be bridged by accommodationist theories. The dominant evolutionary model denies the possibility of divine design within the process of evolution. This model cannot be reconciled with the Bible and the Christian truth claim."
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The Pope on Harry Potter

For more than two years now, it has been widely assumed that the Vatican had put its stamp of approval on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. However, LifeSiteNews.com reports today that it has evidence that disputes that claim in the form of two letters from 2003 sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to German author Gabriele Kuby.

LifeSiteNews.com reports: . . .

As the sixth issue of Rowling's Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - is about to be released, the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed serious reservations about the novels is now finally being revealed to the English-speaking world still under the impression the Vatican approves the Potter novels.

In a letter dated March 7, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger thanked Kuby for her "instructive" book
Harry Potter - gut oder böse (Harry Potter- good or evil?), in which Kuby says the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy.

"It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly," wrote Cardinal Ratzinger.

LifeSiteNews.com goes on to quote Potter critic and Catholic novelist and painter Michael O'Brien: "This discernment on the part of Benedict XVI reveals the Holy Father's depth and wide ranging gifts of spiritual discernment. . . . It is consistent with many of the statements he's been making since his election to the Chair of Peter, indeed for the past 20 years—a probing accurate read of the massing spiritual warfare that is moving to a new level of struggle in Western civilization. He is a man in whom a prodigious intellect is integrated with great spiritual gifts. He is the father of the universal church and we would do well to listen to him."

Hat tip to Matt Drudge.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Evangelical Military Chaplains

In a front page article today (free registration required), The New York Times reports on the "problem" of the growing number of evangelical and conservative Christian chaplains in the U.S. military: . . .

Figures provided by the Air Force show that from 1994 to 2005 the number of chaplains from many evangelical and Pentecostal churches rose, some doubling. For example, chaplains from the Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministries International increased to 10 from none. The Church of the Nazarene rose to 12 from 6.

At the same time, the number of chaplains from the Roman Catholic Church declined to 94 from 167, and there were declines in more liberal, mainline Protestant churches: the United Church of Christ to 3 from 11, the United Methodist Church to 50 from 64.

Other branches of the military did not make available similar statistics, but officials say they are seeing the same trend.

However, the article also points out:
The churches that once supplied most of the chaplains say they are now having trouble recruiting for a variety of reasons. Many members of their clergy are now women, who are less likely to seek positions as military chaplains or who entered the ministry as a second career and are too old to qualify. The Catholic Church often does not have enough priests to serve its parishes, let alone send them to the military.

There are also political reasons. Anne C. Loveland, a retired professor of American history at Louisiana State University and the author of "American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 1942-1993," said the foundation for the change in the chaplaincy was laid during the Vietnam War.

"Evangelical denominations were very supportive of the war, and mainline liberal denominations were very much against it," Ms. Loveland said. "That cemented this growing relationship between the military and the evangelicals."

Hat tip to Ed Veith at World Magazine Blog.
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Christian Churches in Iraq

With all of the dark and foreboding news coming out of Iraq, it's encouraging to hear word of the light of Christ beginning to shine in the country. A Compass Direct article from last week reports: . . .

In the northeast, Iraqi Kurdistan offers a haven for Christian activity as the two rival Kurdish governments grow in their toleration of Muslims becoming Christians. In the south, the evangelical church is growing rapidly.

In Baghdad, a total of 15 evangelical congregations have started since the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. Officially, only two evangelical churches -- both Presbyterian and led by Egyptian nationals -- existed in the capital during Hussein's rule. Now there are Baptists, Methodists and Christian and Missionary Alliance congregations, all led by local Iraqi pastors.

"The people are open like never before," said Ghassan Thomas, pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church in Baghdad. "It is because we have no peace. This is how we connect our message to the nation: I preach on the topic, 'How do we get peace?' and everyone listens, especially when I talk about the deeper peace that Christ brings."

Hat tip to ReligionJournal.com via Townhall.com.
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Bono's Confession of Faith

Jeffrey Overstreet posts on his blog, Looking Closer Journal, an excerpt from a new book, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. In the chapter Overstreet quotes from, Assayas challenges the frontman for the band U2 on what he believes: . . .

Assayas: The son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says:
Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled... It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.

Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?

Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says,
No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no, I know you're expecting me to come back with an army and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that's farfetched...

Hat tip to Bunnie Diehl: If you don't like it, just go away via World Magazine Blog.
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Blogger Canned for Comments

A Christian brother in Dayton, Ohio, lost his job last week as an assistant prosecutor with the Montgomery County prosecutor's office because of . . . a post on his blog. Lance Salyers, who, prior to his firing, had never identified on his blog (Ragged Edges) where he worked or what he did for a living, had posted an extremely general account (" I Hate Cowardice") of something that had taken place at work that angered him. No one was identified and no specific details were given as to what had happened. It was merely a rant about an incident involving a fear of failure that reminded him of Jesus' parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). However, someone in the prosecutor's office apparently read the post, recognized his or herself as the target of his tirade and saw to it that Salyers was shown the door.

Salyers has handled the situation with a lot of class and conviction (you can read all the details on his blog). In his post that announced his firing to his blog readers, he wrote:

This has not destroyed my faith in God's providential hand over my life, but has tempered it as fire to steel, making it stronger than ever. I have no doubts that though some meant this for evil, God will use it for good.

Hang in there Lance. We're praying for you.
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Monday, July 11, 2005

Culture War in Europe

By Alexander Samuels

Mike Thompson's article, "Opening Shot of 'The Ultimate Culture War,'" posted last week on Human Events Online, is rather disturbing in many ways. And if you are on this blog to discuss religion or politics: This is an explosive topic. I strongly encourage you to click this link and read the entire article.

Thompson opens his article with: . . .

The fatal flaw of Britain's and Europe's establishment today is not just its shameless worship at the altar of statism; rather, it is its failure to defend the region's historic, Christian-nurtured culture (the West) against Islamic-nurtured culture (the East). By liberally and uncritically opening its borders to millions of fanatical immigrant religionists, all Europe (including the insular Brits) flirts with actual cultural suicide.

He goes on to say:
The advance of Islam into the heart of Europe (and England as well) is not because of Muslims' strategic skills or Islam's "irresistible" appeal to Westerners. Instead, it is because Christian institutions have been hollowed out--corrupted by western liberals who demand a merry passage to self-fulfillment without the need for heavy lifting, hewing not to faith and its doctrine for good, but to secularism and its blindness to evil.

As a result of watered-down tradition and values, most of Europe's churches today are as empty as the lives of their wandering and wondering "sheep." Britain's mosques, it is estimated, now host more worshipers than does the Church of England. Furthermore, is there any sight (or site) more pathetic than a former rock-solid Presbyterian church in Edinburgh now converted to a thumping techno nightclub?

After discussing the dangers of immigration in Europe, predictions of more terrorism when a country's population hits 10 percent Muslims, and the workings of "hit squads" and "sleeper cells," Thompson writes:
There is a striking difference, however, between the Islamic immigrants in America and those in Great Britain and the Continent, according to [American authority on immigration and national-security matters Robert S.] Leiken. U.S. Muslims have assimilated much better than their European counterparts (probably because 1] U.S. Muslims are not as numerous, and 2] most of them have prospered in America's traditionally dynamic and non-discriminating economy). The EU's Islamic population is more culturally alienated, socially marginalized, unemployable, and likely to rage in the forms of gang rape, anti-Jewish attacks, anti-American violence and, of course, both spontaneous and carefully orchestrated acts of terrorism in their hated new EU homeland.

Throughout the West, most conservatives in their hearts believe that there always should be "room for one more," provided that the person, regardless of color or creed, is running from horrible injustice and sincerely needs a helping hand to survive. Yet, private and public charity for a truly threatened alien in search of sanctuary must not be confused with a nation's immigration policy, especially if it perpetually opens a gate to welcome emissaries from the hottest corners of Hell.

Much of the information in this article I've heard before on the evening news. However, some of the facts Thompson presented were news to me. For instance, I did not know that Muslim worshippers in England now outnumber those attending Church of England services, although I had heard that in one survey more Brits claim to be Wiccans than Christians. If Mike Thompson's information and opinions are true, European culture and political foundations are soon to suffer change. Will population growth or violence be the deciding factor?

On the religious side: I hope that Christians in America will not lose the moral influence that Christians in Europe obviously have. We must seek to be witnesses to all our neighbors, both secular Americans and religious immigrants. We often only think of Third World countries when it comes to missions. Europe is in need, too.

I would appreciate your comments—opinions or facts—on what Mike Thompson has written in this article.
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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Heaven on Earth?

By Alexander Samuels

I really hated doing book reports in school. I loved reading the books but I did not want to write about them. I always felt that in some way I just could not do justice to the book or the author in my report. I always felt that I was lacking some very important insight that I was sure the teacher was expecting to see in my work. I often feel that way today when I come across a book that really touches my soul, my emotions and my intellect. Such a book is . . . Searching for Heaven on Earth: How to Find What Really Matters in Life, by David Jeremiah (Integrity Publishers, 2004). I have read it twice now and will read it again in a few months.

Searching for Heaven on Earth is about, of all things, the book of Ecclesiastes. You remember that book, don't you? It is located between Proverbs and Song of Songs in my Bible. When was the last time you heard a sermon preached on Ecclesiastes? It was written thousands of years ago by King Solomon. Maybe you remember him? It was said that Solomon was the wisest man on earth. Although, as you read about the latter part of his life, you wonder at his admissions of failure.

I don't know whether to call this book a "commentary" or a "devotional." It has elements of both. Apparently the publisher didn't know exactly how to classify the book for bookstores, either. On the back cover it says, "Christian Living/Spiritual Growth/General."

In his preface to the book, Dr. Jeremiah says that you are likely to be startled by this book's modern insights into the human condition. I believe it. I was startled by what it told me about myself. There were times while reading the book that I could almost hear Solomon saying, "Got ya! You didn't know that I knew that about you, did you?"

Do you ever think that life is empty of hope? I think Solomon seriously considered this only to discover that he had been looking in all the wrong places. Searching for Heaven on Earth is another book on my "highly recommended" list. I suggest you order a copy now before you forget.


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Bethlehem Baptist Church and Homosexuality

By Alexander Samuels

In light of Mickey's earlier post, "Methodist Minister in Virginia Suspended," I thought it would be appropriate to share a Biblical position on homosexuality that one church has taken. Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, pastored by John Piper, adopted a . . . position statement on homosexuality in 1992, which was drafted by Piper and Joe Hallet, who, as Piper shares, "came out of the homosexual life by the power of Christ and lived faithfully with AIDS, and eventually with his wife, until his death in 1997." (To read Hallet's testimony, click here.) In order to have a better understanding of a Biblical perspective on this issue, I strongly encourage you to click on this link and read the entire statement.
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Methodist Minister in Virginia Suspended

An Agape Press article this week reports that a Methodist minister in South Hill, Virginia, has been suspended by his bishop for refusing to allow a self-avowed, practicing homosexual to become a member of his church.

According to the article: . . .

Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the United Methodist Church (UMC) Virginia Annual Conference intervened in the case and declared that Pastor Edward Johnson was obligated to accept a homosexual man as a member of South Hill Methodist Church. After Johnson declined, Kammerer placed him on an involuntary leave of absence until he complies with her request.

Mark Tooley, director of the United Methodist Action Committee for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, says the suspension is disturbing on several levels.

"Most obviously she was compromising the ability of local clergy to make their own decisions as to whether or not someone is prepared to join the church," Tooley asserts. "And United Methodist teachings do say that when you join the church, you are expected to uphold the beliefs of the church and to show repentance in your life."

. . . According to Tooley, the homosexual man involved is proud and unrepentant of his sinful lifestyle, and seemingly wants to make himself a test case against the church's teachings. That being the case, the IRD spokesman says Pastor Johnson was justified in denying the man membership.

In an article from the South Hill Enterprise, church member Gary Creamer said, "I feel Rev. Johnson was holding to Biblical principle in denying membership to that individual. I feel extremely sad and grieved. I feel a terrible injustice was done."

Creamer told the local paper that church members were never consulted in the matter: "I just feel like the congregation as a whole was ignored. I don't think anyone had any idea of the gravity of what was going on."

The Agape Press article also points out that Bishop Kammerer chairs a committee that oversees the denomination's Lake Junaluska conference and retreat facility in North Carolina. According to the IRD's Mark Tooley, Lake Junaluska will be the site of a pro-homosexual rally over the Labor Day weekend organized by a Methodist group known as Reconciling Congregations. Tooley says this group is committed to overturning the Methodist Church's teachings on marriage and sexual ethics.
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