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Introduction:

 

Tolerance is the buzz word ricocheting around politically correct circles over the past few years. What that really means is that all political, philosophical and theologically correct viewpoints must be tolerated, and any other viewpoints must be mercilessly squelched. The bottom line of this whole rhetoric is that the Christian viewpoint is hateful and must be silenced.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]

 

 

**ENEWS ARTICLES**
 Bible Literacy and Home Bible Studies July 16, 2013

Understanding the Emergent Church March 26, 2013

As Bound With The Persecuted Church February 19, 2013

The Last Pope February 12, 2013

Epiphany and the Magi January 01, 2013


**K-HOUSE ARTICLES**
Exo-Vaticana The Vatican’s Savior? by Thomas Horn

The Last Pope? by Steve Elwart

The Lure of the Occult by Chuck Missler

Global Religion: Spirit Guides: Coming to a Church Near You? by Leisa Garcia, Director of Issachar Studies

Strategic Trends Update: Coming to America: Tony Blair Faith Foundation by Leisa Garcia, IDB Folio Specialist

 


**ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS AND LINKS**
Note: These links are provided for your further research and education. Koinonia House does not necessarily agree with the information on these sites or support the specific organizations.

Documents

Who stole Harry Potter's phoenix? -

Related Sites

Message To Buddhists For The Feast Of Vesakh 2001 - An example of efforts to bring Buddhists and Christians together.
Earth Charter Completed--Global Religion Not Far Away -
Bah' Faith - The second most global religion -
Eagle Forum - Keep up to date with education in politics
Voice of the Martyrs - Updates on persecuted Christians worldwide.

News Sources

 
Pope Francis reaches out to atheists and agnostics - The Pope has struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone towards atheists and agnostics, saying that God will “forgive” them as long as they behave morally and live according to their consciences. The unprecedented gesture came as his incoming number two, the Vatican’s newly-nominated secretary of state, said that the rule that priests should be celibate was not “a dogma of the Church” and could be open for discussion.
Pope Admits ‘Gay Lobby’ Exists in Vatican - Pope Francis has acknowledged the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and says he is consulting advisers on what to do about it. Speaking informally to a confederation of religious groups from Latin America and the Caribbean, he said: “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people.” But, he added: “There also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do.”
Successor of the Apostle Peter - Pope Francis became absorbed in prayer and repeated with a loud voice the three professions of Peter: “Lord, You are the Christ, Son of the Living God”; “Lord, to whom do we go? You have the words of eternal life”; “Lord, You know all things! You know that I love you!” At that moment, we had the distinct impression that the life of Peter rose out of centuries past and became present and living in the current Successor of the Apostle Peter.
Pope Benedict Will Live Last Years At Vatican - Pope Benedict's decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say. In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year.
Pastor Imprisoned in Iran Needs Support - The American pastor sentenced to eight years in Iran's Evin Prison after being persecuted for his faith questions whether enough is being done to help free him. Saeed Abedini mentioned his doubt during a visit with relatives on Monday. It was a second time he was allowed to see members of his extended family since he was convicted. Abedini expressed apprehension and concern to his relatives about his fate and openly asked if there were international efforts to secure his freedom, according to advocacy group American Center for Law and Justice. It is believed that Abedini's downtrodden spirit is due to abuse and brain-washing techniques used by officials at Evin Prison. Please pray for his freedom and for God's power and love to work in him and his fellow prisoners during his time at Evin.

View the Complete Library of Links
 

TRUE RELIGION

 

 

    

 

Alone Yet Not Alone (Song) Performed by Joni Eareckson Tada

 

 

 

Chapel: Joni Eareckson-Tada, Jan. 14, 2013

 

 

Hal Lindsey Report: 2/14/2014
2/14/2014 | 27.30

Goodwill And Warships

Terror at Home.

Alone yet not Alone

 

 

***Brand New Release***

 

Beginning of Wisdom

by

 Dr. Chuck Missler

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10

But how do we balance the awesome majesty due to the Creator and Ruler of the universe with the gracious family intimacy that is now available to us through the completed work of Christ?

What does His Holiness demand of us, personally?

What are the hazards of failing to render the Almighty His due, while availing ourselves the riches committed to us of the precious promises in His Word?

How do we deal with these paramount issues facing us daily in practical challenges?

Chuck Missler grapples with these wildly misunderstood tensions with down-to-earth frankness and Biblically-based candor.
 

Price R 179

 
 

NEW BRIEFING PACKAGE

The Fulcrum of the Entire Universe

 

 

Price R 179.00

 

 

Isaiah 53 describes the astonishing personal sacrifice that is the fulcrum—the pivot—of the entire cosmic drama. However, it is the personal aspect of this passage that grips our soul.

The Fulcrum of the Universe. The Pivot of All History. These sound like rather fanciful labels, don’t they? We are talking about Isaiah 53, often called the “Holy of Holies of the Old Testament.” In just 12 verses, it summarizes the entire New Testament as the clarion of the Old.

 

The Scope of the Passage

 

The surprising scope of this passage includes the entire universe. The Crucifixion of Christ involved more than just our personal redemption: it involved the entire creation. This shouldn’t surprise us: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows His handiwork.

 

However, “the creation was subjected to entropy, not by consent, but on account of the one who subjected it so as to involve hope.” Paul’s epistle goes on to remind us, “Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption [entropy] into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”3 This is a result of God’s declaration of war in Genesis 3.

So this is the Divine Conflict: We know that Satan fell and took a host of angels with him. History’s primary plot is Satan’s opposition to God. Amazingly, the central role in the divine conflict is humankind’s. Notice the universal language with which God’s specific covenant with Israel is recorded:

For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?5

This covenant is unique to the Earth, exclusive to humans, and universally unprecedented. It follows that the incarnation of Jesus Christ as our Savior, delivered via Israel, is also universal. The most compelling argument for the uniqueness of terrestrial life on the Planet Earth is the Incarnation of the Creator Himself,6 who became an everlasting member of the human race.

 

The Frustration of Astrobiology

 

Incidentally, there continues to be nothing but bad news for the “astrobiologists.” Science is the study of evidence; however, astrobiology hasn’t found any evidence to study. Despite extensive searching, there is no evidence of life beyond the Earth. (Don’t confuse wishful thinking with evidence. And don’t be surprised if astrobiology also develops the same ethics as has characterized paleontology or climatology.) This “science” has yet to demonstrate that its subject matter exists. (To even pursue its search is a denial of the conspicuous mathematical requirements for life to exist.) This isn’t science: it is priesthood.

The “Anthropic Principle” has catalogued over 140 quantifiable characteristics, each of which must fall within extremely narrow ranges for physical life to exist. There are over 400 quantifiable characteristics for advanced life to exist.8 When you recognize that many of these factors individually require a precision of less than one part per million, their composite effect constitutes a very good definition of a “miracle.”

 

This Pivotal Passage

 

Isaiah 53 describes the astonishing personal sacrifice that is the fulcrum—the pivot—of the entire cosmic drama. This passage was so disturbing to the Ashkenazi Jews that they took it out of their Bible. (However, the Sephardic Jews kept it in theirs.) The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 included a complete copy of Isaiah, and there was Chapter 53, right there in the middle.

The Book of Isaiah is in 66 chapters, in two groups: Chapters 1 though 39, and Chapters 40 through 66. Both the style and the theme are demonstrably intensified in the second section, and Isaiah 53 is precisely in the middle: 13 chapters on either side. Written in 700 B.C., Isaiah 53 is mentioned in all four gospels.10 (Those who don’t know that the same Isaiah wrote the entire book haven’t read John 12. The “same Isaiah” quotes from Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53.11 That insight can save a student many hours of boring library research chasing erroneous speculations.)

It was this very passage that had the Ethiopian Treasurer confused on his way home, and which the Lord had Philip (supernaturally) clarify for him. The passage details the Crucifixion, which is particularly remarkable since this was recorded seven centuries before crucifixion was invented: the official form of execution in the Old Testament was stoning—not crucifixion.13

The rabbis say when the Messiah comes He will interpret the words, the letters… even the spaces between the letters! And there are some astonishing surprises hidden in this text.

However, it is the personal aspect of this passage that grips our soul: it is the substitutionary emphasis that is the very centroid of the Messianic achievement:

  • He was born of a woman so that we could be born of God;
  • He humbled Himself so that we could be lifted up;
  • He became a servant so we could be made joint heirs with Him!
  • He suffered rejection so that we could become His friends;
  • He denied Himself so that we could freely receive all things;
  • He gave Himself so that He could bless us in every way.

The Eschatological Rebuttal

 

The Second Coming itself is a rebuttal to any eschatological role for any life beyond the Planet Earth. (There is even a real sense in which Isaiah 53 is predictive of events which have yet to happen when Israel ultimately recognizes her Messiah.)

There are critics who will argue that we have exaggerated the scope of this passage to include the entire creation. However, there is now forthcoming a grand cosmic delusion in the offing that Jesus (and Paul) warned us about.14 So effective that if it were possible it would deceive the very elect. That specific (gigantic, elegant) lie may now be emerging on our near horizon: Why is the Vatican preparing to receive an “alien” visitor? That’s a subject for another article… Stay tuned…

Isaiah 53 is, of course, a key element of our Expositional Commentary on Isaiah, but we are also publishing our exploration of Chapter 53 as a separate two-part product: Part 1 is devotional; Part 2 focuses on it as an apologetic. (There are aspects that are demonstrably supernatural.)

 

The Great Commission

by Ron Matsen

 

DVD

 

Price R 179.00

 

 

Description


The last commandment of Jesus before His ascension was for His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The apostle Paul tells us, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

• How seriously should we personally take this command today?
• Is this command somehow only limited to those who feel they have the gift of evangelism?
• What needs to be said, understood, and believed for a person to be born-again?

Join Ron Matsen in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand as he explores the subject of “The Great Commission” and gives practical insight into this calling to every Christian. After all, it’s a matter of LIFE and DEATH to those waiting to hear your message of reconciliation.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:
•1 Disc
•2 M4A Files
•1 PDF Notes File
•Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region 0 encoding (.This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

 

 

Homosexuality

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

 

All Your Queeries from Wikipedia

 

 

IN STOCK

 

Drawing upon over forty years of collecting, Chuck highlights in this study many of the precious nuggets that have become characteristic of his popular Bible studies around the world.

 

Price R179.00

DVD

 

For the novice as well as the sophisticate, this DVD is full of surprises. It includes subtle discoveries lying just “beneath” the text -- hidden messages, encryptions, deliberate misspellings and other amendments to the text -- that present implications beyond the immediate context, demonstrating a skillful design that has its origin from outside our space and time. Drawing upon over forty years of collecting, Chuck highlights in this study many of the precious nuggets that have become characteristic of his popular Bible studies around the world.
It is guaranteed to stimulate, prove, and, hopefully, disturb. It will confound the skeptic and encourage the believer. It is a "must" for every thinking seeker of truth and serious inquirer of reality.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

  • 1 Disc
  • 2 M4A Files
  • 1 PDF Notes File
  • Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.

***Brand New Release ***

 

 

Price R159.00

 

 

 

Redesigning the Church for the Age to Come;

 is a charge to believing Christians to reignite their passion for serving Jesus.

Many know the truth of the Scriptures but the power of God resides in the application of these truths.

Living in an age where it is growing more and more dark, we, as Believers, must trim our wicks and brighten our intensity in order to illuminate the world by letting our lights so shine! I believe there will be one last great revival and it will be led by everyday Believers who are following as close to Jesus as they possible can! Join with those who once again want the Church to have the reputation as "those who are turning the world upside down!"

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc

2 M4A Files

Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

M4A Audio Download With Embedded Slideshow:

2 M4A Files

2 MP3 Files

PDF Notes File

Files play in itunes and any IOS player (iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch)

Audio will play on most digital audio players and many MP3 players

Includes embedded slideshow Presentations and 1 PDF Notes file

 

***Brand New Release ***

 

 

 

Price R159.00

 

Description

Just who is Jesus Christ? What did Jesus actually accomplish? Jesus Christ is not “a concept,” an “idea,” or a “useful traditional value.” He is an actual living person who
came to accomplish a specific purpose that prevails over everything else: His achievement continues to impact you and me, and determines our eternal destiny.

He is the fulfillment of a pervasive promise made before the foundation of the world and the very standard by which the entire universe, and everything in it, will be judged!

Join Dr. Chuck Missler from the Executive Briefing Room of The River Lodge,
New Zealand as he explores who Jesus really is.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc

2 M4A Files

Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, All Region encoding  This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

M4A  With Embedded Slideshow:

2 M4A Files

2 MP3 Files

PDF Notes File

Files play in itunes and any IOS player (iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch)

Audio will play on most digital audio players and many MP3 players

Includes embedded slideshow

 

*** IN STOCK***

 

DVD

Price R 159.00

 

 

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding .This DVD will be viewable in other countries.
 

***IN STOCK***

 

DVD

Price R 159.00

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding .This DVD will be viewable in other countries.
 

 

Description


What are Christians called to do during these turbulent times? How can you make a difference in your family, among your friends, and within your community?

This follows the wonderful success of the “Weathering the Coming Storm” series where Dr. Chuck Missler and Ron Matsen dealt with global, national, and personal issues impacting all of our lives today. “Church in the End Times” serves as the NEXT STEP in equipping ourselves with the tools and insights we need to be a guiding light to a world coping in the Last Days darkness of chaos and deceit.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler as he explores this timely topic.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding .This DVD will be viewable in other countries.
 

 

Beth Croft - Kingdom Come (acoustic version)

 

 

 DVD Bible Commentary

 

Price R 799.00

 

 

Description


"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

Because of its emphasis on "the Love of God" and Jesus' being the incarnation of that Love, many believe this gospel is the most important for new and old Christians alike to take to heart. Written by the "disciple whom Jesus loved", the book of John is organized around seven miracles, seven discourses and seven "I AM" statements. This study is so deep "an elephant can bathe in it, and yet an infant can wade in it."

This study contains 20 hours of verse by verse teachings


Available in the following formats:

DVD:

10 DVD Set
1 CD-Rom with 20 MP3 files and 1 PDF Notes file
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)
 

 

Marx, Engels and Francis

‎29 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎10:28:02 PM | -NO AUTHOR-Go to full article

'I will curse those who curse thee'

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:50:17 AM | Focus on IsraelGo to full article
“Historically, peoples and nations that fought and opposed the people and land of Israel were destroyed. Tyrants like Hitler or Stalin and others came to terrible ends!” states Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, president of Azamra in Jerusalem.

In Genesis 12:3, God states his blessing for those who bless His people and His land as well as the curse for those who go against His people. This curse has played out through time from the extinct Philistines to the destruction of Nazi Germany.

Focus on Israel asks, if America demands Israel give up land for peace, will it suffer the same curse as previous empires who have done so?

In this revealing episode, host Laurie Cardoza-Moore dissects the powerful “Genesis Curse” through ancient history to today. Is it mere coincidence that some of the most horrific disasters in U.S. history – such as the “Perfect Storm” of 1991, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the deadly tornados of 2011 – occurred as American foreign policy turned against Israel? By pushing Israel toward a suicidal “two-state solution,” America has betrayed Israel and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum comments from Jerusalem, “In the book of Genesis, God is teaching humanity that those who are associated with the mission of Abraham to bring the knowledge of God to all humanity through the ways of peace and hospitality and loving kindness will receive the blessing of Abraham. And those who don’t will be in a dark place.”

Mike Moore a successful international businessman further states, “If there’s a God in heaven that actually controls life on this planet, He has made some pretty bold statements about His people! God is not finished with the nation of Israel. God made some promises to them.”

As individuals, we are also given the choice to curse or bless Israel and the Jewish people. Learn more about the “The Genesis Curse” in this episode:

 

Israel and America historically tied

 
‎24 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎07:13:29 AM | Focus on IsraelGo to full article
“Israel is the embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization,” said Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States.

In this episode of Focus on Israel, host Laurie Cardoza-Moore sheds light on America and Israel’s shared Judeo-Christian values and relationship. Additionally, this episode highlights Israel’s unparalleled pro-American voting support at the United Nations and parallel foreign policy in the war on terror.

This episode includes interviews with experts such as Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli ambassador, and Arieh Eldad, former Knesset member.

“Israelis are knee-jerk pro-American! We realize that that which unites us with the U.S. is unparalleled to any other relationship in the world. And Israel is a reliable and stable and capable and non-conditional ally of America,” comments Yoram Ettinger.

Ettinger also quotes Alexander Haig, former secretary of State, who said, “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier which does not require a single American person on board, which can never be sunk, which is the most battle tested, the most cost-effective, and is deployed station permanently in a very critical area for dire American economic and national security interests.”

Arieh Eldad states, “Politics is more than sheer interests; it must be based on moral issues, on shared values. It’s not to work only on immediate political interests, but something that will be more deeply rooted on the moral basis of decision. You cannot run your political decisions based on tomorrow’s interests, but you must do it according to the moral basis of a nation like the American nation.”

In this episode, you will be surprised to learn some of the unique and unfamiliar historical connections between America and Israel:

 

 

 

How to Clean a Rabbit Hutch

 

Religion News Headlines - Yahoo! News
 
 

Atheist national conference aims at Mormon church

 
‎19 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:26:22 AMGo to full article
David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, addresses the American Atheists National Convention in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 18, 2014. In an effort to raise awareness and attract new members, the organization is holding their national conference over Easter weekend in the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Leaders of a national atheist group say the best spot to find a nonbeliever is in a place of faith.
 
 

Pensive pope at Good Friday Colosseum procession

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:43:16 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis lays prostrate on the floor in prayer before presiding over a Good Friday Passion service, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Stefano Rellandini, Pool)ROME (AP) — Desperate migrants, suicidal failed business owners, battered women, torture victims and all people suffering in the world were remembered at a torch-lit Good Friday Way of the Cross procession presided over by Pope Francis at the Colosseum.
 
 

Pope Good Friday service underscores plight of the suffering

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:27:34 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis prays during the Celebration of the Lord's Passion in Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanBy Philip Pullella ROME (Reuters) - The plight of immigrants, the poor, the sick, the elderly, unemployed and prisoners dominated Pope Francis' Good Friday service at Rome's Colosseum as he led Catholics around the world in commemorating the day Jesus died. "Behind every evil in our society is money, or at least in part," Cantalamessa said at the solemn service that included chanting by priests recounting the last hours of Jesus' life.
 
 

Social prayers at Pope Francis ceremony for Good Friday

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:56:47 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis attends the Celebration of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday on April 18, 2014 at the Colosseum in RomePope Francis attended an emotional night of prayers for hot-button social issues including domestic abuse, prison overcrowding and unemployment to mark the Good Friday before Easter. The prayers read out at each of the 14 stops along the way were written by Italian bishop Giancarlo Bregantini, known for his outspoken condemnation of the mafia. A particularly potent prayer recited on Friday was about the economic crisis -- an issue close to Francis from his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires at the height of the economic collapse in Argentina.
 
 

Pope leads torch-lit Good Friday procession

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:38:34 PMGo to full article
Faithful attend the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession celebrated by Pope Francis in front of the Colosseum on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)ROME (AP) — Pope Francis is presiding over a torch-lit Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum marking Good Friday in Rome.
 
 

Filipinos nailed to cross in Easter ritual frowned on by church

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:12:50 PMGo to full article
Penitents hang on wooden crosses during the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Fernando, PampangaBy Erik de Castro CUTUD, Philippines (Reuters) - Nearly 20 Filipinos and a Danish filmmaker were nailed to crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, a practice the Roman Catholic Church frowns upon as a distortion of the Easter message. The annual Philippine ritual draws thousands of spectators to San Fernando, 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, to see penitents flagellate themselves and a series of crucifixions in a recreation of Christ's death on the cross. "It was a great experience between me and God," 48-year-old Danish film director and stunt coordinator Lasse Spang Olsen, who stayed on the cross for more than 10 minutes, told Reuters before being treated for his wounds. Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ died on the cross on Good Friday and rose from the dead two days later, on Easter Sunday.
 
 

Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:00:00 AMGo to full article
Can atheism explain self-sacrifice?But that doesn't mean that atheism has the upper hand. As Exhibit 653, I give you Jerry Coyne's latest diatribe in The New Republic, which amounts to a little more than an inadvertent confession that he's incapable of following a philosophical argument.
 
 

Christian broadcaster wins health care injunction

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:21:11 AMGo to full article
Christian radio broadcaster James Dobson has won a temporary injunction preventing the federal government from requiring his ministry to include the morning-after pill and other emergency contraception ...
 

Pope washes feet of disabled, including elderly Muslim

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:29:54 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis (C) performs the traditional "Washing of the feet" during a visit at a center for disabled people in Rome as part of Holy Thursday during Holy Week on April 17, 2014Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen elderly and disabled people including a Libyan Muslim during an Easter ritual in Rome on Thursday imitating Jesus Christ's humility. The 77-year-old bent down with difficulty to wash and kiss the feet of the nine Italians and three foreigners aged between 16 and 86 years old at the Don Carlo Gnocchi foundation's Santa Maria della Provvidenza centre.
 
 

Pope washes feet of elderly, disabled in rite

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:17:41 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis kneels to wash the foot of a man at the Don Gnocchi Foundation Center in Rome, Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Pontiff has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people — women and non-Catholics among them — in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve like a "slave." Francis' decision in 2013 to perform the Holy Thursday ritual on women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center just two weeks after his election helped define his rule-breaking papacy. It riled traditionalist Catholics, who pointed to the Vatican's own regulations that the ritual be performed only on men since Jesus' 12 apostles were men. The 2014 edition brought Francis to a center for the elderly and disabled Thursday. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs. He said the ritual is a gesture of "a slave's service." (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)ROME (AP) — Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people Thursday — women and non-Catholics among them — in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve others like a "slave."
 
 

Church must be open to sick, homeless, pope says on Holy Thursday

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:12:03 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis blows on blessed Chrism oil as he celebrates the Chrism Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, starting four packed days culminating in Easter, said the Catholic Church must always be a refuge for the needy and later washed the feet of 12 disabled people at a traditional Holy Thursday ceremony. In the morning, Francis, who regularly urges priests to shun material comforts or the desire to climb clerical career ladders, led the first of two solemn services on the day that Christians commemorate the founding of the priesthood by Jesus. In the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, he celebrated a "Mass of the Chrism" during which he and priests renewed the vows they took on the day of their ordination and he blessed oils to be used in administering sacraments during the year.
 
 

The Hallmark Channel Offended Christian Viewers by Not Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:30:43 PMGo to full article
The Hallmark Channel Offended Christian Viewers by Not Taking the Lord's Name in VainThe Hallmark Channel's Facebook page is usually a magical place, filled with requests for marathons of The Waltons, technical questions, and praise for the channel's non-stop parade of "inspirational" programming. "Why does Hallmark hate GOD????" one user posted on the Hallmark Channel's wall after an airing of It Could Happen to You. "Would you delete Allah???" another user asked. "REALLY HALLMARK!!!! BLEEPING OUT THE WORD GOD!!!! HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THAT YOU USED TO BE A CHRISTIAN NETWORK!!! WTH!!! HOW ABOUT NOT OFFENDING CHRISTIANS!!!!," said a third outraged viewer. Others promised to start a boycott of the channel, which starts a solid two months of Christmas programming in November. Here's a statement from Hallmark, left in response to several of the angry comments on their wall (emphasis ours):  As the leader of family programming, Hallmark Channel strives to provide quality programming with a balance that includes both current and contemporary shows.
 
 

Christian 'Biblical Patriarchy' Leader Sued for 'Inappropriate' Sexual Acts

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:12:40 PMGo to full article
Christian 'Biblical Patriarchy' Leader Sued for 'Inappropriate' Sexual ActsFormer Vision Forum leader Douglas Phillips resigned from his ministry last year, but it looks like the once-popular leader in the "biblical patriarchy" and Christian homeschooling movement isn't out of trouble yet. At the time, however, he said that he and his unnamed paramour "did not 'know' each other in a Biblical sense," but that the relationship "was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate." Lourdes Torres, who brought the suit against Phillips, says that she is the woman to whom the Christian leader is referring. In the family structure advocated by Phillips's Vision Forum, the man is the spiritual and hierarchical leader of the family, to whom his wife and children are expected to defer. It's an idea practiced by, among other families, the Duggars, along with many other large "Quiverfull" Christian families — Phillips himself has eight children with his wife. The lawsuit explains that " Ms. Torres would have felt compelled to submit to Douglas Phillips," but that "the purity culture would have meant at the same time, her submission made her ‘damaged goods’ in her eyes, the eyes of her family, and her community" Torres's suit continues: 
 
 

Pope struggles to keep fellow Latin Americans in Catholic fold: Poll

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:12:09 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis leaves at the end of his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanDespite a high-profile first year as the head of the Vatican, Pope Francis has not been able to stem the tide of fellow Latin Americans turning away from Catholicism and toward Evangelicalism, or secularism in more prosperous countries. The number of Roman Catholics in Latin America, a historical stronghold, dropped to 67 percent in 2013, from 80 percent in 1995, a survey by Chile-based pollster Latinobarometro showed on Wednesday. "In the recent data we don't see an impact in the number of Catholics following the arrival of Pope Francis at the head of the Church," Latinobarometro said, but added it was still too early to fully gauge the impact of the Argentine Pope elected in March of last year. Around 78 percent of Catholic Latin Americans said they trusted the Church last year, up from 69 percent in 2011, although the jump in confidence for Evangelical Christians was even higher.
 
 

Pope gives a lift to 2 kids in St. Peter's Square

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:42:26 PMGo to full article
Photos of the day - April 16, 2014VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has given a lift to two lucky kids during his general audience in St. Peter's Square.
 
 

Vatican responds to next round of UN abuse inquiry

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:39 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has responded to the latest round of U.N. sex abuse inquiries by suggesting it is only responsible for implementing a U.N. treaty against torture within the confines of the tiny Vatican City State.
 

Syria troops retake Christian town of Maalula

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:59:27 AMGo to full article
A general view taken on April 14, 2014 shows the Mar Takla Greek Orthodox monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maalula, northeast of DamascusMaalula (Syria) (AFP) - Syrian troops retook the ancient Christian town of Maalula from rebels Monday, a day after President Bashar al-Assad said the three-year old civil war was turning in his favour. During the operation, Al-Manar television, the broadcaster of Assad's close Lebanese ally Hezbollah, said three of its staffers were killed. "The army has taken full control of Maalula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in Qalamun," a security official said.
 
 

Obama: religious violence has no place in US

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:38:45 AMGo to full article
US President Barack Obama pauses for a moment as he speaks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House in Washington, DC on April 14, 2014President Barack Obama warned Monday that religious violence had no place in US society after a gunman with alleged anti-Semitic ties killed three people at a Jewish center and retirement home. No one should have to fear for their safety when they go to prayer," Obama said at the White House, a day after the shooting in Kansas. Alleged gunman Frazier Glenn Cross, now in custody, was a former Ku Klux Klan leader and had a history of anti-Semitism, said the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups. He reportedly yelled "Heil Hitler" as police escorted him away in Kansas City on Sunday.
 
 

Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanon border

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:17:04 AMGo to full article
A view of a part of Maloula village, northeast of DamascusBy Firas Makdesi MAALOULA, Syria (Reuters) - Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels' supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon. Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner-exchange deal. Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus toward central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean.
 
 

UN to grill Vatican again on clergy sex abuse

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:18:15 PMGo to full article
NEW YORK (AP) — A second U.N. committee plans to question Vatican officials on failures to stop clergy sex abuse.
 

Hezbollah-owned TV channel says 3 of its journalists killed in attack in Christian Syria town

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:10:43 PMGo to full article
Hezbollah-owned TV channel says 3 of its journalists killed in attack in Christian Syria town.
 

Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanese border

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:09:25 PMGo to full article
Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured on Monday the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, military sources and state television said, closing off more of the rebel supply route through the Qalamoun mountains near Lebanon. Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, took over a quarter of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive. "Units from the army and armed forces restores security and stability in the town of Maaloula," state news agency SANA said. In recent months, government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns, closing off rebel supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean.
 

Somber, tired-looking pope presides at Palm Sunday services

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:06:01 AMGo to full article
Pope Francis leads the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A tired and somber-looking Pope Francis led a Palm Sunday service before more than 100,000 people, opening two packed weeks of activities including Easter and the canonization of two popes. The faithful waved palm and olive branches as the 77-year-old Argentine pope, whose pontificate is 13 months old, rode into the square on a white jeep and stopped at the center of the square to bless palm and olive branches. Palm Sunday marks the day that the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds the week before Christian believe he rose from the dead.
 
 

'Good Pope John' hometown celebrates sainthood

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:45:27 AMGo to full article
John XXIII, shown in 1963 at the Vatican, is known the Catholics worldwide as the pope who called Vatican II, a meeting of church leaders that led to major reforms, such as using local languages during the Mass rather than LatinSOTTO IL MONTE GIOVANNI XXIII (Italy) (AFP) - While he may not be widely known internationally, Pope John XXIII holds a special place in the heart of many Italians and nowhere more so than in his homeland of Bergamo where he was born into a farming family. But locals say the man nicknamed "Good Pope John" for his down-to-earth personality -- similar to that of Pope Francis -- should be remembered as a driving force behind reforms in Catholicism still relevant today. Born in Sotto il Monte in the foothills of the Alps in 1881, Angelo Roncalli was elected pope in 1958 and reigned as John XXIII until his death in 1963. The loyalty here is so strong the town of 4,000 people changed its name to "Sotto Il Monte Giovanni XXIII".
 
 

Argentine club named for Pope Francis opens play

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:45:04 AMGo to full article
Soccer players from the new team "Papa Francisco," or Pope Francis, get ready for a game in their locker room decorated with an image of Our Lady of Lujan, Argentina's Patron Saint in Lujan, Argentina, Saturday, April 12, 2014. The new semiprofessional team named their team in honor of the pontiff from Argentina. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)LUJAN, Argentina (AP) — A new Argentine football team named after Pope Francis and meant to promote nonviolence has played it first official match in a regional league — a 2-2 draw that saw four players sent off.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Vatican, Holy Land mark Palm Sunday

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:03:40 PMGo to full article
Egyptians celebrate Palm Sunday during a service in the Samaan el-Kharaz Church in the Mokattam district of Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, April 13, 2014. For Christians worldwide, Palm Sunday marks Jesus Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, when his followers laid palm branches in his path, prior to his crucifixion. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk) EGYPT OUTAround the world, Christians are marking Palm Sunday with waving fronds, processions and prayer.
 
 

Pope poses for 'selfies' after Palm Sunday homily

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:12:45 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis poses for pictures with faithful at the end of a Palm Sunday service in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Pope Francis, marking Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square, ignored his prepared homily and spoke entirely off-the-cuff in a remarkable departure from practice. Later, he hopped off his popemobile to pose for "selfies" with young people in the crowd. In his homily, Francis called on people, himself included, to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis, marking Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square, ignored his prepared homily and spoke entirely off-the-cuff in a remarkable departure from practice. Later, he continued to stray from the script by hopping off his popemobile to pose for "selfies" with young people and also sipping tea passed to him from the crowd.
 
 

Pope kicks off Easter week with Palm Sunday mass

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:24 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis leads the Palm Sunday celebrations at St Peter's square on April 13, 2014 at the VaticanPope Francis kicked off weeklong observances leading up to Easter by celebrating Palm Sunday mass with some 100,000 pilgrims in a sun-drenched St Peter's Square on Sunday. For the observance recalling Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly before his crucifixion and resurrection, worshippers carry palm and olive branches, which the Gospels says were used to greet Jesus when he entered Jerusalem.
 
 

Sombre, tired-looking pope presides at Palm Sunday services

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:16:01 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis leads the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A tired and sombre-looking Pope Francis led a Palm Sunday service before more than 100,000 people, opening two packed weeks of activities including Easter and the canonization of two popes. The faithful waved palm and olive branches as the 77-year-old Argentine pope, whose pontificate is 13 months old, rode into the square on a white jeep and stopped at the centre of the square to bless palm and olive branches. Palm Sunday marks the day that the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds the week before Christian believe he rose from the dead.
 
 

Pope leads Palm Sunday procession at Vatican

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:39:22 AMGo to full article
Pope Francis, background center, walks in procession as he celebrates a Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of Romans, tourists and pilgrims have joined Pope Francis in a solemn Palm Sunday service in St. Peter's Square.
 
 

Catholic diocese says late bishop guilty of abuse

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:17:07 PMGo to full article
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A former Dutch Catholic bishop, who died last year, was guilty of sexual abuse decades ago when he was a chaplain and teacher in the southern Netherlands, his diocese has acknowledged, in the latest abuse scandal to hit the church.
 

Deceased Dutch Catholic bishop was child molester: commission

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:18:03 PMGo to full article
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor PARIS (Reuters) - The Dutch Catholic Church, in a rare admission of guilt among senior clergy, has confirmed that a bishop who died last year had sexually abused two boys decades earlier. The diocese of Roermond said a Church commission had found that accusations against former bishop Johannes Gijsen, dating back to his time as chaplain at a minor seminary from 1958 to 1961, were "well founded". Mea Culpa, a Dutch group supporting abuse victims, welcomed the Roermond statement. Bishop Frans Wiertz, current head of Roermond diocese, said he accepted the commission's findings and "regrets the abuse and suffering inflicted on the victims".
 

Pope names British woman to head academy

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:42:55 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has named a British sociologist to run a pontifical academy, marking the highest-ranking appointment of a woman in his papacy.
 

Christian vigilantes trap 14,000 Muslims in C.Africa town

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:47:13 AMGo to full article
French soldiers from the 13th Alpine Hunters Battalion (13th BCA) control anti-balaka members as they patrol near the northwestern Central African Republic city of Boda on April 7, 2014Boda (Central African Republic) (AFP) - Stifled by the heat inside a barn in the Central African Republic town of Boda, dozens of emaciated and often sick displaced people subsist in fear of the vigilantes who surround them. The group, members of an extended family, fled to Boda from the village of Danga 25 kilometres (15 miles) away, seeking shelter from the anti-balaka -- or "anti-machete", mainly-Christian militia groups that have been hunting and killing members of the crisis-torn country's Muslim minority. But days after the family arrived in Boda, fierce clashes broke out between the anti-balaka and local Muslims, ending with the Christian militia forces encircling the southwestern diamond-mining town. More than 14,000 Muslims, including the displaced family from Danga, are now trapped inside with no way out and very limited supplies.
 
 

Vatican clears Puerto Rico bishop in abuse case

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:25:10 AMGo to full article
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Apostolic Delegation of Puerto Rico announced Friday that the Vatican found no basis for sexual abuse accusations made against a well-known bishop in the U.S. territory.
 

India election chief bans rallies by Modi aide over religious hatred

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:31:19 PMGo to full article
Shah, a leader of India's main opposition BJP attends his party's national council meeting in New DelhiBy Frank Jack Daniel NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Narendra Modi, widely tipped to become India's next prime minister, suffered a setback on Friday when his closest aide was banned from election rallies and meetings after a series of speeches deemed to have stoked tensions with Muslims. Modi, 63, a pro-business Hindu nationalist, is the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which hopes to oust the ruling Congress Party of Rahul Gandhi with its promises of jobs and new infrastructure. The aide, Amit Shah, who faces murder charges dating to his time serving under Modi in the state government of Gujarat, runs Modi's campaign in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which has a population larger than Brazil's and holds the keys to national power. It was not immediately clear what impact a possibly disruptive ban on meetings in Uttar Pradesh by such a high profile figure would have on Modi's campaign in the state.
 
 

Chicago archbishop: Church to seek successor

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:15:04 PMGo to full article
Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during a news conference Friday, April 11, 2013, in Chicago. The 77-year-old spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago's more than 2 million Roman Catholics Chicago's said the Roman Catholic Church has told him it will begin searching for his successor because of his "uncertain" health as he undergoes chemotherapy. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)CHICAGO (AP) — Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago who is being treated for cancer, said Friday that the Roman Catholic Church has agreed to begin formally searching for his successor as head of the nation's third-largest diocese.
 
 

Chicago's archbishop: Church seeking successor

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:13 PMGo to full article
Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during a news conference Friday, April 11, 2013, in Chicago. The 77-year-old spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago's more than 2 million Roman Catholics Chicago's said the Roman Catholic Church has told him it will begin searching for his successor because of his "uncertain" health as he undergoes chemotherapy. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)CHICAGO (AP) — Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago who is being treated for cancer, said Friday that the search process is underway for his successor as leader of the nation's third-largest archdiocese.
 
 

Pope assumes responsibility for priest sex abuse

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:19:39 PMGo to full article
In this photo released by Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers his blessing during a meeting with the Italian pro-life movement, at the Vatican Friday, April 11, 2014. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis said Friday he took personal responsibility for the "evil" of priests who raped and molested children, asking forgiveness from victims and saying the church must be even bolder in its efforts to protect the young. It was the first time a pope has taken personal responsibility for the sex crimes of his priests and begged forgiveness.
 
 

Pope asks forgiveness for 'evil' of child abuse by priests

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:04:29 PMGo to full article
By Naomi O'Leary VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness on Friday for the "evil" committed by priests who molested children, using some of his strongest words yet on the Roman Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis. The Argentine-born pontiff said the Church, which last month named a high-level group on the scandal including an abuse victim, had to take an stronger stand on a scandal that has haunted it for more than two decades, and indicated there would be repercussions for perpetrators. "I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests - quite a few in number, (although) obviously not compared to the number of all priests - to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau. Because you cannot interfere with children," Francis said in unscripted comments as he addressed the children's rights body.
 

Pope asks forgiveness for child sex abuse by priests

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:06:55 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis speaks during a meeting with the Pontifical Gregorian University at Paul VI audience hall on April 10, 2014 at the VaticanPope Francis on Friday personally asked forgiveness for thousands of child sex abuses carried out by priests and promised more action following accusations of cover-ups and excessive leniency by the Vatican. "I feel compelled... to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," the pope said at a meeting with members of a children's charity, Vatican Radio reported. Francis was meeting with members of International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), which works to protect the rights and dignity of children worldwide. Thousands of cases of abuse by priests have come to light over the past decade and the Catholic Church is regularly accused of trying to cover up the crimes.
 
 

Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness For Catholic Clergy Child Abuse

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:55:55 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness For Catholic Clergy Child AbusePope Francis gave some unusually direct comments on the Catholic Church's decades-long clergy abuse epidemic on Friday. Francis "personally ask[ed] for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children" in a short speech on Friday to a Catholic children's NGO. The remarks, according to the Vatican Radio write-up, were at least partially off script.  Although he has taken some steps to address the scandal, and the calls for church reform that it created, Francis has faced criticism from victim advocates for failing to fully address the child abuse epidemic in his first year as pope.
 
 

Polish pope still a rock star, not just at home

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:22:29 PMGo to full article
Pope John Paul II blesses on October 6, 1986 a baby in Ars, FranceBefore selfie-snapping Francis, there was John Paul II, the charismatic Polish pope who made a name for himself by circling the globe and talking to anyone and everyone. He sometimes wandered off when he felt like it," Warsaw sociologist Pawel Boryszewski said of the soon-to-be saint who died in 2005. Over the years the former Karol Wojtyla built up a loyal following that is still alive and kicking, first and foremost at home but also in other Catholic countries where fans are finding special ways to mark his canonisation. A Polish marathoner is running to Rome in time for the April 27 mass that will make saints of John Paul II and John XXIII, an event expected to draw up to five million people from across the world.
 
 

Pope asks pardon for sex abuse by priests

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:31:28 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis asked for forgiveness Friday from people who were sexually abused by priests, and vowed that there will be no going back in the church's fight to protect children.
 

Catholicism, George W. Bush, and the cluelessness of the religious right

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:09:00 AMGo to full article
An alliance that has seen better days.It went something like this: From the time of the Puritans all the way down to the early 1970s, American public life was decisively shaped by the moral and spiritual witness of the Protestant Mainline's leading churches: The Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Episcopalians. This was a potentially disastrous development, depriving America of the theologically grounded public philosophy that it needs in order to thrive. But as luck — or providence — would have it, the decline of the Mainline churches set in at the precise moment when two other monumental cultural and religious developments unfolded: The rise of a politicized form of Protestant evangelicalism and a revival of intellectual and spiritual energy in the Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II. The time was ripe for evangelicals and Catholics to come together to form a successor to the Mainline churches. The public philosophy promulgated by this new-fangled amalgam of evangelicalism and Catholicism (with the former supplying the foot soldiers and the latter providing the ideas) would be staunchly opposed to abortion and euthanasia.
 
 

Pope Francis urges on Venezuelan crisis talks

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:49:10 AMGo to full article
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, top center, looks toward leaders of the opposition at the start of a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 10, 2014. The Vatican is sponsoring the first talks aimed at reconciliation since protests began in early February. Maduro's opponents blame his government for destroying the oil-rich economy and stamping out dissent, while Maduro claims he's the target of U.S.-backed coup attempt. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Pope Francis is urging Venezuelans on both sides to put aside their political differences and demonstrate the necessary courage to reach an agreement that avoids more bloodshed after weeks of violent protests.
 
 

Ethiopia Christian group to stage anti-gay demo

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:08:17 PMGo to full article
Ethiopian Christians during a festival in Gondar on January 19, 2014An Ethiopian religious group on Thursday announced plans to stage an anti-gay rally this month to protest what it called "rising incidents" of homosexuality in the conservative Horn of Africa nation. The initiative comes after Uganda and Nigeria recently passed tough anti-gay laws, although Ethiopian authorities said they were "indifferent" to the demonstration. "The country has seen an increase in gay-related activities and this has reached an alarming stage," said Dereje Negash, the head of a Christian Association, Woyniye Abune Teklehaimanot. The demonstration is set to take place in the Ethiopian capital on April 26, the first mass rally against homosexual rights in the country.
 
 

Vatican leads fight against human trafficking 'scourge'

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:36:03 PMGo to full article
This handout picture released on April 10, 21014 by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis during a meeting with the community of the Pontifical Gregorian University, at Paul VI audience hall on April 10, 2014 at the VaticanPolice chiefs and clergymen from over a dozen countries agreed Thursday to set up a global task group to fight human trafficking, a scourge Pope Francis called a "crime against humanity". At the end of two-day conference hosted by the pontiff, London's Metropolitan police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said attendees, including top cops from the FBI and Interpol, had agreed to meet regularly to fight the ravages of modern slavery. Human trafficking is a broad term covering the sex trade in women and children, but also illegal immigration networks, sweatshops and forced domestic labour. At the meeting, Francis said the church and police must work hand-in-hand to fight "this crime against humanity": the police to offer the "rigour of the law" and the clergy to provide "compassion".
 
 

Murdoch editor 'a man I would trust', ex-archbishop tells UK hacking trial

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:58:43 PMGo to full article
Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor of the News of the World arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in LondonA former Archbishop of Canterbury took to the witness stand in Britain's phone-hacking trial on Thursday to tell a jury the ex-managing editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid was "a man I would trust". George Carey, the head of the Anglican church for 11 years until 2002, appeared as a character witness at London's Old Bailey court and said Stuart Kuttner was a man of integrity. Kuttner, 74, who was managing editor of the downmarket weekly tabloid for 22 years until 2009, is on trial with the paper's former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson accused of conspiracy to intercept voicemails on mobile phones. Brooks, Coulson and the News of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman, also face charges over illegal payments to public officials, which they deny.
 
 

John Paul II: beloved pope who left reformists cold

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:11:42 PMGo to full article
Pope John Paul II kisses the ground upon his arrival in Auckland on November 22, 1986Vatican City (AFP) - Pope John Paul II, who will be made a saint on April 27 along with John XXIII, was an inspirational figure who helped topple communism but alienated many with his conservative views.
 

 

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Review: Heaven Is for Real

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:15:14 PM | Kenneth R. MorefieldGo to full article

A toddler’s report that he has visited heaven is met with skepticism from everyone but his father.

mpaa rating:PG

Genre:Drama

Directed By: Randall Wallace

Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Cast: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum, Margo Martindale

Theatre Release:April 16, 2014 by For thematic material including some medical situations.

I believe heaven is for real. Allow me to get that out of the way up front. About the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, I am as confident as I can be regarding any doctrine that is ultimately an article of faith.

But about Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo's book chronicling his son Colton's emergency appendectomy and subsequent claim that he had visited heaven, I am a skeptic. It's awkward but necessary that I tell you that before I explain the ways in which I thought Randall Wallace's adaptation of Burpo's book improves upon its source material, and where, perhaps, the film may frustrate readers expecting less ambiguity and more vindication.

The film depicts many events from Burpo's book, though it obscures the timeline between Colton's operation and the first time he mentions to his father that he visited heaven. Gradually, under increasingly leading interrogations from his father, Colton reports having sat on Jesus's lap, seeing many animals, having angels sing to him, meeting Todd's grandfather, and, finally, meeting his own unborn sister, of whom he purportedly had no previous knowledge.

This compression is important because regardless of the content of Colton's memory, his level of recall seems contrary to the way most research demonstrates human memory actually operates. (For a good summary of social-science research on memory, see chapter three of Chabris's and Simon's The Invisible Gorilla).

Once Colton begins sharing his experience, the film deviates from the book more in tone than in substance. In his book, any doubts Todd has about the authenticity of Colton's experience are minimized. "By the time we rolled across the South Dakota ...

Continue reading...

 

Church Signs of the Week: April 18, 2014

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:40:44 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

Silly Rabbit; Come Hear Our Pastor; House Church

We get many of these sent in every year, and it's creepy, but classic at the same time.

Well this is not a very nice way to talk about your pastor...

United Pentecostal Church says all of your "house churches" are weak imitations.

Thanks to Glen Cantrell, Greg Hudson, and J. I. Dickens for sending these in. As always, send me your signs via Twitter to @EdStetzer.

Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today's Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups in your inbox.

I am a big fan of Frozen, in case you didn't know. Hands-down the best video I found on the Internet this week. Let It Goat.

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Review: Bears

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:34:48 PM | Mark MoringGo to full article

A gorgeous film about Alaska’s brown bears, but the background scenery almost steals the show.

mpaa rating:G

Genre:Documentary

Directed By: Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey

Cast: John C. Reilly

Theatre Release:April 18, 2014 by Disneynature

There are three great reasons to watch Bears, the latest documentary in a series of theatrical releases from Disneynature.

Reason No. 1: The Title Characters

Who doesn't love bears?

This is a beautifully shot film about Alaska's brown bears, particularly focusing on a family of three—a momma bear named Sky and her cubs, Scout and Amber. They're just arbitrary names that the filmmakers assigned to the creatures for the sake of telling a kid-friendly story. The movie follows our ursine friends on a nearly year-long adventure, starting with some how-did-they-do-that footage of the cubs' birth while still in their den.

We see their ridiculously cute first wobbly steps as they emerge from the den at the verge of spring. We see them trying to keep up with Sky as she leads them down the mountain slopes—dodging an avalanche along the way!—to a verdant meadow, where they feed on grass with other bear families. We meet the massive Magnus, a half-ton alpha male who strikes fear into all the other bears, and his rival Chinook, an outcast who apparently won't hesitate to gobble up one of the cubs. (He doesn't, but these films always include perils—some quite real, some concocted—to keep the story moving along. Our protagonists need to face some sense of danger, right?)

We learn that Scout is a rambunctious, fearless rascal who sometimes wanders away and gets himself into trouble. We learn that Amber is more of a momma's girl, staying close to Sky while taking it all in. And we learn that Sky is a mostly competent mom willing to do anything for her children—including fight off intruders who regard them as a potential meal. It's a joy to watch her lead the ...

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We Wish You a Busy Easter

 
‎18 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:13:08 PM | Anna BroadwayGo to full article

Why the extra services and special meals of Holy Week are good for us.

As a child, I'm not sure I would have told you Easter was a holiday. Christmas prompted weeks of preparation on a church musical; commandeered displays at every store; and mustered a parade of boxes in the mail bearing presents from far-off relatives. In comparison, Easter seemed like just another Sunday.

Except for a few special songs at church, little girls' new Sunday dresses, and my parents' goofy jelly bean hunt in the living room, little marked Easter Sunday as the other high, holy holiday of the Christian calendar.

As an adult, I didn't see Easter much differently until a few years ago. Compared to the mad social jockeying of December, with everyone competing for precious weekend slots to host their holiday dinners, carol sings, and white elephant gift exchanges, Easter made few demands on my calendar.

Then I joined a Protestant church that observed the liturgical calendar. We hold an Ash Wednesday service and go on to speak of the Lenten season as we do advent in December. Even our corporate singing changes: Where advent brings carols, Lent means more contemplative songs and a particular emphasis on repentance.

One year I learned we were also following the ancient practice of not singing any "hallelujahs" during Lent. A Chicago pastor explains that his church practices this "communal fast" as a way to "remember the already and not yet nature of the Kingdom of God. In recent years, my church's worship pastor has also added a weekly penitential refrain based on Psalm 51 that the congregation sings during Lent.

Holy Week brings the biggest change of all. While church services usually take up no more than 75 minutes on a Sunday, this week they also claim my free ...

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The Song Jesus Sang on the Cross

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:35:32 PM | Amy Julia BeckerGo to full article

Jesus' final words communicated both despair and hope

Just before Jesus died, according to Matthew and Mark, he cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It's a question that has rung out ever since, as Jesus' followers continue to wonder exactly why he uttered this "cry of dereliction" among his final words.

It could be that he was expressing the agony of his physical suffering. It could be that the agony of emotional and spiritual separation from God had pressed in upon him so severely that he needed to cry out. It could be the ultimate indication of his humanity, and of his willingness to bear the sin of the world on our behalf.

Or it could be that he was singing.

For Jewish people like Jesus, who knew the Hebrew Scriptures and who used the Psalms as a songbook, the opening line of any Psalm served as a reference to the whole. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is the opening line of Psalm 22.

Imagine for a moment, if I were to walk into almost any room in America and sing out, "Let it go!" Those three words alone would probably conjure up the rest of the chorus of this banner anthem from Disney's Frozen, but certainly, "Let it go, let it go, I can't hold back any more," would get every small child and most of their parents singing. Whether those lines provoke a roll of the eyes (as they do with my son William) or a heartfelt declaration (as they do with my daughters Penny and Marilee), all it takes is the initial line for people to receive the message. Those three words signal much more than the words themselves-- the scenes and images that accompany this song in the movie, and perhaps even the larger context of the song within the film itself.

Similarly, ...

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Watch and Wait

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:35:32 PM | Evelyn BenceGo to full article

Tarrying with Christ and the fearful dying.

For years and for complicated reasons, my friend of solitary temperament suffered privately with cancer and its harsh remediations. Pride, pain, denial, fatigue—all contributed to her debilitation—and fear, toward the end, once the medical professionals assaulted her denial and spoke only of comfort.

She said she wasn't afraid of death but of dying, not of meeting her Maker but of traversing the valley, crossing the bar. She had come to the end of her human resources and knew she had to throw herself toward the mercy of God, or maybe it was a more passive letting herself fall into the abyss of grace.

In an attempt to alleviate her fear, I left home somewhat impulsively at 7:30 in the morning to visit her, newly embedded in a residential hospice. She was heavily medicated, not speaking or eating, and hardly drinking, receiving no tubal hydration. I expected to return home within the hour, but when I found her alone, I stayed until early afternoon, when her family arrived.

I sang hymns and gospel songs that I had memorized as a child, sometimes improvising new lines. Though it was Lent, I sang the off-season Gloria and the all-season Sanctus: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord." In an alcove, I found coffee refills. I hadn't thought to eat breakfast, and by 10:30 a.m., I was hungry. In silences between songs, I carried on a conversation with myself.

Just go out and find a snack.

No. Remember Jesus' Gethsemane line: "Can you not watch with me for one hour?" Or with a dying friend for one morning?

I held off, claiming the consciously chosen hunger as a form of discipline, though I wasn't sure why my discomfort held any meaning beyond my body's chemistry.

I've fasted only ...

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Mourning the Death of a Church

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:35:32 PM | Angie Mabry-NautaGo to full article

How our congregation found resurrection and hope at the end of its life.

I read that by some estimates, every day in the United States, nine churches shut their doors forever. On January 26, 2014, my church—the Reformed Church in Plano (RCP)—was one of them.

After hearing the news late last year, I cried during every worship service for six weeks straight. The music, a prayer, a line during the sermon, or a simple look around would trigger me, and the memories and tears would flow.

I wasn't the only one. After-church hugs and chats lingered a bit longer each Sunday, as everyone comforted and supported one another.

"I still can't believe this is happening," someone would say. "Can't we figure out a way to save our church?" said another. "I'm sorry, but I really think that (fill in person or circumstance here) is a lot to blame for this," several people remarked. "What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?"

God's hand laid heavily upon my and my husband's heart to remain with our church until it died. This was the first time that I stayed fully present—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—through the end of something. With every other end or loss in my life, I've separated myself, especially my emotions, well before the final day arrived. I protect myself this way, thinking if I keep myself from feeling, the loss won't hurt as much.

The Lord reminded me of the summer I spent as a hospital chaplain intern while in seminary. Amongst other things we chaplains were charged with speaking to families about end-of-life decisions. The theological viewpoint of medicine, we were told, is to aid life through health and healing, not to extend it when all vital signs are not present. ...

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Tim Keller on Enduring Suffering Without Losing Hope

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:35:32 PM | Gerald L. SittserGo to full article

Why Christianity has the best answer to the pain that life brings.

Suffering can make even secure and mature Christians wonder: How can I believe that God is good, that he is with me and for me? It is by no means certain that suffering people will find comfort in Christianity. Some Christians even choose to reject their faith after they have suffered. Having experienced severe losses myself and written about them at length, I was curious to learn how Timothy Keller's latest book would handle this difficult subject.

As it turns out, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Dutton) adopts a surprisingly broad perspective. The book is at turns apologetic, theological, and pastoral. As an apologist, Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, explains how other religions and philosophies address and answer the problem of evil and suffering. After exploring these options (Stoicism, Buddhism, and several others), he demonstrates convincingly that the Christian answer is both more intellectually satisfying and personally helpful. But, he adds, it must be the genuine Christian answer rather than some insipid and superficial expression of Christianity.

It is only in the past 200 years, Keller argues, that Westerners have used evil and suffering as an argument against the existence (or goodness) of God. He is especially critical of the modern and secular view of suffering, which places all confidence in human reason and assumes that God, if he exists at all, exists solely to make us happy. This view helps explain why so many people avoid suffering at all costs, do their best to manage and minimize it once it interrupts their lives, and often yield to utter hopelessness when it persists. In the end, a secular view leaves us empty and alone, stripped of answers, ...

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The Epic Jesus Follower Fail

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:10:13 PM | Tish Harrison Warren, guest writerGo to full article

The cringe-worthy subplot of Holy Week underscores the truth of the gospel.

On the Internet and in our culture, there's a lot of bluster, often warranted, about the failures of the church. We wince as another pastor is involved in scandal; another popular Christian leader says something unhelpful, insensitive, or heretical; another Christian blogger gang war erupts over the controversy du jour.

Every so often, someone pens a post breathlessly announcing the imminent doom of the church because of what a mess we Christians are. And then people like me talk about it. And tweet about it. And blog about it. And bicker about it. Again and again and again.

It's true. We are a mess and need to be quick to repent--doctrinal and moral failure among believers is serious and grievous. But from its earliest days, God has pursued and propelled the church in spite of our bumbling and failure.

And this week, Holy Week, we notice that in the midst of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, we also find an embarrassingly painful display of the weakness, confusion, even imbecility of his earliest followers.

In each unfolding event of the week, the apostles disappoint. During the Last Supper, Jesus tells his friends that one of them will betray him and that they'll all abandon him. They respond by telling Jesus that he's underestimated them and arguing about who is the greatest, the most loyal disciple.

Then, they fall asleep, more than once, in Gethsemene, too weak to be a friend to Jesus when he is most desperate for one. Then, they panic and draw swords against those who arrested Jesus. Next, in a scene recounted with cringe-worthy detail, Peter swears up and down that he doesn't know Jesus even though it's pretty obvious to everyone around him that he does.

A damning ...

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Lent Isn't Just About You

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:28:38 PM | Interview by Sarah Pulliam BaileyGo to full article

Why one Catholic writer went on a mission to do more than self-improve.

In recent years, Lent has become more than an opportunity to give up chocolate, as Christians explore ways to use the 40-day period to engage social justice issues, such as hunger, clean water, and poverty.

Bridging spiritual disciplines with mercy ministry, 31-year-old Kerry Weber took up the New Testament call to tend the physical, bodily needs of people around her in New York City. She spent the months leading up to Easter doing one act of mercy a week, living out the belief that Lent wasn't just about her self-improvement, but about God's justice and love toward her community and her church.

The managing editor of the Catholic magazine America, Weber shares her Lenten project and wrestles with the practical ways to pursue justice in her new book Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job. She spoke with Religion News Service national correspondent Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

How did you decide to embark on your mercy project during Lent?

Setting a deadline of doing these things within a certain limit forced me to really start doing mercy. Then from there, I figured out what I felt called to continue after Lent and viewed the experiment as more of a discernment process. Lent was a good time for that kind of self-reflection, answering questions like, "Where are you in your relationship toward your community. Where are you in your relationship to God? What things do you need to do to improve both of those things?" It seemed like the perfect time to do that.

For your project, you set out to complete the "seven corporal works of mercy," which you'll have to explain to most Protestants.

You'll have to explain ...

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What Happens When we Turn (For Real) To God

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:00:42 PM | Amy Julia BeckerGo to full article

This Lent, I've learned again that He runs to meet us and welcome us home

Repent sounds like such a religious word, like street preachers shouting, like moralists wagging fingers. But I learned a long time ago that the literal translation of "repent" is to turn around. "Hey, buddy, you're headed in the wrong direction"—that sounds like a helpful, kind word, not a scathing correction. I think it's this type of encouraging word that Jesus himself offers when he begins his ministry with a proclamation: "The kingdom of God is among you. Repent, and believe the good news."

If to repent is to turn around, to turn towards God and start walking with God instead of on my own away from God, then confession is a starting point on the road to the kingdom.

Confession is the starting point on the road to the kingdom.

Try to envision it with me—imagine yourself walking towards something you want, even though you have a nagging sense that the something you want might not be good for you, might not be best for you, might even hurt someone else. That something might be very obvious, like you decide to emulate Walter White (of Breaking Bad fame) and become a crystal-meth kingpin. Or it might be more domestic in nature, like you find yourself snapping at your kids and feeling gross about your body and saying something mean about your sister to your other sister and drinking three glasses of wine that night and knowing that you wish everything didn't feel quite so saturated with self-pity and complaints.

On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten anticipation of Easter, I decide to reflect on each day and confess one thing. One of the many things I've realized over the course of the past few weeks of confession is that when I pay attention to ...

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Four Powerful Ways to Solve the Crisis in Orphan Care

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:51 PM | Timothy C. MorganGo to full article

Despite fraud and scandal, resourceful evangelicals are meeting an urgent need.

Journalist Kathryn Joyce caused a stir this year with her book The Child Catchers, a sweeping indictment of the evangelical overseas adoption movement. Joyce claimed that much faith-based adoption is corrupted by trafficking, patriarchy, and bad theology. On top of her report, covered on The New York Times's front page, the number of adoptions by Americans has declined by 62 percent since 2004, even while UNICEF reports there are still at least 13 million children worldwide who have lost both parents.

Evangelical Christians are an adoption-happy bunch, because we were adopted once too. A family that welcomes needy children into a loving home provides a potent symbol of the in-grafting gospel. Yet we know all too well the gap between how things should be and how things are. Orphanage horror stories are sickeningly common. In 2010, 10 U.S. missionaries were charged with trafficking 33 Haitian children into the Dominican Republic. One of the world's largest sex abuse scandals took place at a Canadian orphanage run by the Christian Brothers until the late 1980s. Then there's the case of the vanishing orphanage: In a Kenyan village, a Christian orphanage hosted church leaders from Colorado. On an unannounced follow-up visit, one leader discovered the orphanage was a "highly sophisticated web of lies" that used fake staff and "rented" children.

Further, some government leaders and researchers believe orphanages don't address the systemic issues underlying orphan care. Rwanda, for example, had one of the largest concentrations of orphans—about 1 million—after the 1994 genocide. Since then, tens of thousands of Rwandan children have successfully moved into extended family and foster ...

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March Madness Won't End Monday, Thanks to Lent

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:51 PM | Kevin P. EmmertGo to full article

Saints facing single-elimination in Lent Madness tournament include many names evangelicals will recognize.

March Madness may be coming to a close. But single-elimination competition won't end with Monday's NCAA men's national championship—thanks to Lent.

Or rather, Lent Madness. Launched in 2010 by a Massachusetts pastor, Tim Schenck, the bracket offers a unique Lenten devotion that combines his love for church history and sports.

"We put 32 saints in a basketball-type bracket, and they go at it," said Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, told NPR. Each day's match-up features two saints, and readers vote for their favorite to determine who advances to the next round.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get more interesting in the subsequent rounds as the bloggers expose quirks, explore legends, and even "move into the area of saintly kitsch." On April 16, a winner will be declared and crowned with the coveted Golden Halo.

The 2014 bracket includes several names many evangelicals will recognize: Joseph of Arimathaea, brothers John and Charles Wesley, composer J. S. Bach, and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Other names some evangelicals may recognize are Lydia of Thyatira, Antony of the Desert, Basil the Great, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena, and Thomas Merton.

Still, others—like Phillips Brooks, Harriet Bedell, and Alfred the Great—are more likely to be recognized by Christians from mainline traditions or Roman Catholicism.

Schenck wants to make church history, particularly hagiography (the biographies of saints), fun and engaging for ordinary people. And he wants these saints to come alive in readers' imaginations.

"So often we stick saints in stained glass ...

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Morning Roundup 3/18/14

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:51 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

Mormons in the American Mind; Church Absence; Diocese Guilty of Antigay Bias

Mormons in the American MindNeil J. Young

Fascinating article on how Mormons are perceived. I've written on Mormonism before, pointing out that it is seeking to be seen more like a denomination, but is seen by pastors as a different religion (distinct from biblical Christianity) (here, here, here, and here).

Why don't people go to church?Selma Wilson

Selma Wilson has a great article about church. I opined a bit on this after Donald Miller indicated he was not going to church.

Worcester Diocese is guilty of antigay bias, Coakley saysLisa Wangsness

Once again, the legal issues on gay marriage surface. LifeWay Research did some research on this recently.

Jenni Catron joined me in studio to discuss leadership principles from her book Clout.

Most recently she served for nine years as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn., where she led the staff and oversaw the ministry of its five campuses. Prior to joining the staff of Cross Point, she worked in Artist Development in the Christian music industry. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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Obamacare's Bump: More Christians Now Sharing Health Care Costs

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:31:52 PM | Kate Shellnutt and Kate TracyGo to full article

Christian alternatives to traditional insurance see surge in enrollments.

The Obama administration's health care push didn't just lead 7.1 million Americans to sign up for insurance coverage through government-run exchanges. Christian cost-sharing ministries—exempt from Affordable Care Act requirements—also saw a bump in enrollments.

In the months leading up to the March 31 deadline, tens of thousands of Christians opted for faith-based insurance alternatives, where believers contribute a monthly share toward paying for each others' health care costs.

Month-over-month enrollments doubled and tripled throughout the year at Samaritan Ministries—one of the country's biggest health care sharing ministries, which now has about 113,000 members, 43 percent more than it did a year ago.

Another major program, Medi-Share, reported an average of 500 inquiries a day over the open enrollment period starting in October. Medi-Share saw membership jump to more than 82,000 members nationwide, with a 7 percent increase in March alone.

Last month, Katie Lamb, a self-employed photographer in Houston, ditched her traditional insurance plan for a cost-sharing program through Christian Healthcare Ministries. At 28, Lamb didn't have regular medical bills to pay but liked the idea of having insurance just in case.

By choosing Christian Healthcare Ministries, Lamb said, the money she'd usually pay to an insurance company now goes to helping the body of Christ. "I love that they send out newsletters of other members to pray for and also to give an opportunity to send additional money to these people in great need if you feel called to do so."

This unique structure, which relies on the faith and funds of fellow believers, allows medical cost-sharing ministries ...

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Israel Separates Christian and Muslim Arabs (Legally) for the First Time

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:31:52 PM | Dale Gavlak and Kate TracyGo to full article

(UPDATED) But Israeli Baptist leader says most Arab Christians will refuse unprecedented offer of special minority representation.

Update (Feb. 27): Arab Christians will largely disregard the unprecedented special minority representation granted them by Israel's legislature, predicts the chairman of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel.

"I believe most Arabs will refuse this decision," Munther Na'um told CT of the controversial bill passed earlier this week. It distinguishes between Israel's Muslim and Christian Arab communities for the first time and recognizes Christians as a separate minority.

"It's meant to separate the whole family [Israeli Arabs] in political decisions," Na'um said, speaking from his base in the northern Israeli town of Shafr Amr. Palestinians living in Israel are referred to as Israeli Arabs.

"It's not good for Arabs, whether Christians or Muslims, or the Jews," he said. Na'um believes that some Israeli politicians are "trying to separate us by religious status and create a political situation from that."

"It will not be effective," he added.

The bill was approved by a 31-6 vote in its third and final reading in the Knesset Monday. The legislation will also increase employment representation for Christian Arabs in Israel's government by adding an Israeli Christian Arab to the panel of the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity.

The evanglical leader downplayed the move by Israeli politicians in the Knesset which has angered fellow Arab lawmakers.

...

"We are in the villages and cities in Israel and in these same places you also find Muslims and Druze. They are making more and more tension between people in these places."

...

"It's a political issue to serve in the Israeli army and we cannot agree ...

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Can Churches Separate Mental Illness and Shame?

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎08:15:18 PM | Christine A. SchellerGo to full article

Rick Warren confronts one more "last taboo."

The thing about a conference called "The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church" is that most people there have been touched by mental illness. And most people at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, on March 28, probably felt like they were hearing their family's story preached from the pulpit.

I just didn't expect to hear my family's story literally discussed.

The conference was held on the sixth anniversary of my son Gabriel's death by suicide. One of its key speakers was Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Calfiornia, Irvine. He had delivered a beautiful, hope-filled homily at Gabriel's funeral in 2008 and dedicated his 2013 book, The Catholic Guide to Depression, to Gabe.

Hearing him mention that history in his plenary talk in front of a 3,300-person live audience, with another 6,000 watching via webcast, was surprising. But I also didn't envision my surviving son, whose church experiences have been marred by pain, would drive from the Pacific Northwest to sit through hours of talks about mental illness. Anticipating the day, I was filled with a mixture of hope and dread.

Faith-filled and Free

"I'm not okay, you're not okay, but that's okay because God's okay," said Rick Warren, Saddleback's senior pastor and founder in the opening plenary. Warren admitted having suffered a debilitating, year-long depression soon after he and his wife, Kay, launched Saddleback.

Like HIV/AIDS and orphan care, mental health is now one of the Saddleback's signature issues, said Warren. "We're going to be known for this whether or not anybody else does it," he said.

Kevin Vann, bishop ...

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News: The Second Coming Christ Controversy: Company with Ties to David Jang Buys 'Newsweek'

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:57 PM | Ted OlsenGo to full article

Media group that bought the weekly took part in regular Internet chats with Jang to discuss business.

Journalism websites are abuzz today with news that IAC/InterActiveCorp sold the once-iconic Newsweek title to IBT Media, publisher of the website International Business Times. Most media coverage focuses on the history of the magazine, including the death of its print publication in December and IAC chairman Barry Diller's comment that his buying it had been a "mistake."

But few sites are noting that IBT has significant ties to David Jang, the Korean pastor hailed by some of his followers as a messianic figure, a "Second Coming Christ."

Christianity Today published two major articles on Jang last year, quoting multiple sources who described an international network with Jang as its spiritual—and sometimes even operational—leader.

Jang has been a controversial figure in Asia since 2008, when a committee of Hong Kong theologians and church leaders "unanimously expressed its serious apprehensions and concerns." His views and influence continue to be debated in South Korea and in the U.S. And last year, the National Association of Evangelicals appointed a committee to determine "theological compatibility" between the Jang-founded Olivet University and the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources. The findings of that committee have not been publicly released, but after reviewing the committee's report LifeWay officials withdrew from plans to sell a 2,100-acre New Mexico conference center to the school.

IBTimes has no public or formal ties to Jang. According to CT sources, IBTimes CEO Etienne Uzac owns 55 percent of the company and chief content officer Johnathan Davis owns 45 percent. Jang does not appear on the company's "leadership" ...

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Moving to Missional Part II: Why Structure is Essential

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:57 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

Having a simple structure in your church can aid the development of a missional culture.

Previously, we talked about the three steps needed to develop a missional culture. But that is not all you need. Culture can be a motivating factor, but if the structure you have in place doesn't affirm and encourage your culture, you may be stuck trying to restart the culture again down the road.

I've written before about how church planting movements benefit from a simple structure that encourages reproducibility. This follows in the structural model Paul set up for the churches he planted. The goal and culture of church planting is one of reproducing the next generation of churches, pastors and planters. To accomplish this, churches and organizations must be intentional to establish structures that mesh with the culture.

The structure you have in place should be an aid to the culture you are trying to produce, not a hindrance. So, how can that happen in your church? How can you implement a structure that affirms the missional culture you want to establish? Look to provide a simple way for people to progress to the next step of service.

The Simple Structure of the Purpose Driven Church

At one point in American history, one out of every 10 churches identified themselves as Purpose Driven by participating as part of that network.

Despite there being fewer "Purpose Driven churches," they provided us with a brilliant, but simple idea. They created the baseball diamond to show there are four things that every Christian should know: evangelism, fellowship, discipleship and ministry. It was an easy and effective way to demonstrate the sequential process of discipleship. At our church we talk about begin, connect, thrive, and engage. The names have changed and perhaps the way it is applied, but the ...

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Christian Baseball Star Relinquishes Right to 'Play Hard, Pray Harder'

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:57 PM | Abby StockerGo to full article

Josh Hamilton 'turns the other cheek' in lawsuit from Christian sports-apparel start-up over shared slogan.

In somewhat of a David vs. Goliath scenario, a small Christian clothing company took Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton to court over a slogan used by both parties on sports apparel.

Josh Eckel and Tyler Mileger, founders of Dallas-based Play Hard Pray Harder (also known as P2), filed suit after discovering that Hamilton had also been promoting the "Play Hard Pray Harder" slogan on clothing sold by Scripture Art, co-founded by the baseball giant's wife.

Hamilton, who has publicly acknowledged his reliance on his Christian faith in struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, used the phrase on clothing as early as April 2012. P2 formed the previous January.

The suit was ultimately settled in P2's favor because the small start-up sold merchandise across state lines before Hamilton, who agreed not to pursue trademark rights in the future.

"For something like this to work, I couldn't just give half my effort, I knew I needed to give all of my effort and so that meant all my savings, and all the energy, and all the free time that I had," Eckel told KDFW Fox 4. The company's lawyer later told the Associated Press that his clients "were extremely disappointed that the issue had to be extensively litigated for Hamilton to do the right thing."

Hamilton stated he was "happy to have this distraction resolved," citing Matthew 5:39-40: "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

CT profiled Hamilton during his recovery from addiction and rise to baseball stardom. CT has also covered other ...

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Vietnam Is Getting Better, and Worse

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎08:17:58 PM | Sarah Eekhoff ZylstraGo to full article

Some see small signs of freedom even as the country moves up the list of top persecutors.

Secretary of State John Kerry's December trip to Vietnam was meant to improve relations and urge greater protection of human rights in a country that climbed three spots on a list of the world's worst persecutors of Christians.

Kerry attended Mass in Ho Chi Minh City, a move faith-based adviser Shaun Casey called a step "beyond rhetoric to highlight religious freedom."

Life Without Limbs evangelist Nick Vujicic's visit seven months earlier was even more notable, said Reg Reimer, former missionary and longtime advocate for religious freedom in Vietnam.

Vujicic took the stage before more than 60,000 Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, sparking hope that the Communist country may be easing its religious restrictions.

"Nick's visit was a bright spot in Vietnam's long, dreary, turn toward a better way of treating religions," Reimer said.

The visit indicated that some in the Vietnamese government are comfortable with foreigners publicly sharing their faith, said Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) president Chris Seiple. "It is also in Vietnam's self-interest to be known as open to such things."

It is encouragement sorely needed. Vietnam's Decree 92, which went into effect in January 2013 and was meant to clarify earlier laws, allows religious groups to legally register. But before they can preach, perform sacraments, or choose their own leaders, they must have worshiped for 20 years without disturbing the government.

The 2014 World Watch List, a ranking from Open Doors of the countries that most persecute Christians, put Vietnam at No. 18, up from No. 21 last year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again ...

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Review: Noah

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:07:02 PM | Alissa WilkinsonGo to full article

After a flood of reviews and controversy, it's finally here. So should you see it?

mpaa rating:PG-13 (For violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.)

Genre:Epics

Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Russell Crowe

Theatre Release:March 28, 2014 by Paramount Pictures

Here's my take: Christianity Today reader, you should see Noah.

I can't promise you'll like Noah. Nor would I suggest that if you don't, it indicates that something is necessarily wrong with you.

But as I struggled to write about this film this week—in the wake of dozens of other excellent pieces from both mainstream and Christian sources—that's what it all came down to. So yes, if you're wondering: Noah is worth your time and your ticket price.

Reason 1: Noah is a good movie made by good filmmakers who pursue important questions and think of movies as art.

Darren Aronofsky directed the film (read our interview with him and co-writer Ari Handel), and what ties Aronofsky's body of work together is a deep concern for and interest in the most basic building blocks of human-ness.

His films stylistically swing between the mind-bendingly surreal and the uncomfortably, grittily real, but this is at the core of each one. Requiem for a Dream looked at humans as the kinds of beings who are driven by a desire for fulfillment and the good life, no matter how delusional. The Wrestler and Black Swan both explored embodiment, and painfully, graphically exposed what happens when we objectify and abstract bodies (male and female) from their connection to the rest of the human. The Fountain grappled with death and life after death.

I generally like Aronofsky's films, but I was especially captured by the weird, moody, enigmatic Fountain, which starred Hugh Jackman as, by turns, some kind of ancient wanderer, a doctor, and a futuristic enlightened consciousness, all in three stories that spanned a millennium. Lots of people didn't like the movie, which I understand. But I thought ...

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They Will Know Us By Our Angry Blogs

 
‎31 ‎May ‎2013, ‏‎04:30:00 PM | Karen Swallow PriorGo to full article

It’s time for Christians to tone down the controversy and show some love.

It's hard to believe that not so long ago, I didn't know my Mark Driscoll from my Donald Miller, had never heard of Rachel Held Evans, and didn't know what a Patheos was. Tucked snugly within the ivory tower, I had never set virtual foot inside the Christian blogosphere. But all that has changed and because of the online realm of Christian blogging, my world has been made bigger, and for the most part, richer.

Despite the connections made and lessons learned online, controversy remains the lifeblood of the blogosphere. Indeed, polemics have a long, grand tradition within church history. But when Martin Luther called heretics "asses," his motive of upholding doctrine wasn't mingled with the side benefit of driving traffic to his site through sensationalist headlines and reader outrage.

Now, centuries after Luther, the disembodied, instantaneous nature of today's Internet communication cultivates and rewards acrimony where there should be love. To this point, Alastair Roberts observed in response to a recent blogosphere brush-up an "almost pathological need to take offence" that prevails. Compound such a pathology with the celebrity culture (yes, even among Christians) and the tribalism that dominate our media-saturated world, and there's no wonder that something as quiet as love gets left in the virtual dust.

Not that love means lack of disagreement. To the contrary, the biblical admonition to speak the truth in love assumes error and therefore disagreement. Yet, despite these disagreements, I remember it being said somewhere that the world will know we are Christians, not by being right, but by our love for one another.

I love that I learn so much from my brothers and ...

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Lady Gaga Portrayed as Fallen Angel, Resurrects Jesus in Music Video

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:15:04 PMGo to full article
Lady Gaga’s new music video for single “G.U.Y.” has Christians calling blasphemy.
 

Jews Ordered to 'Register' in East Ukraine

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:18:22 PMGo to full article
Jewish people in eastern Ukraine are being told they need to “register” with the separatist forces.
 

Burpo Family Responds to "Heaven is for Real" Critics

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:06:06 PMGo to full article
Heaven Is for Real is the true story of four-year old Colton Burpo who slips from consciousness and enters heaven. Some critics have had harsh reactions to the film.
 

Ferry Captain Among First to Abandon Ship

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:02:35 PMGo to full article
The captain of the sunken ferry is receiving harsh criticism for being among the first to evacuate the ship.
 

Judge Overturns North Dakota 'Heartbeat' Abortion Law

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:14:24 PMGo to full article
A U.S. District judge rejected North Dakota’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion law Wednesday.
 

Hobby Lobby President Launches Bible Curriculum in OK Public School

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:49:47 PMGo to full article
Hobby Lobby's Steve Green is set to launch a new high school curriculum centered around the Bible, emphasizing the historical elements and impact the book has had in society.
 

Pastor Robert McKeehan Commits Suicide, Congregation Grieves

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:06:30 PMGo to full article
Robert McKeehan, pastor of the Community Bible Church in High Point, N.C., died Friday after hanging himself in his home.
 

At Least 100 Nigerian Schoolgirls Abducted

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:03:52 PMGo to full article
Various news outlets report Muslim terrorists abducted at least 100 Nigerian schoolgirls on Monday at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok.
 

Cult in Mexico Accused of Illegally Adopting and Brainwashing Children

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:32:39 PMGo to full article
The Mexican cult Iglesia Christiana Restaurada (Restored Christian Church) is accused of kidnapping and brainwashing 15 children.
 

Cult in Mexico Accused of Illegally Adopting and Brainwashing Children

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:32:39 PMGo to full article
The Mexican cult Iglesia Christiana Restaurada (Restored Christian Church) is accused of kidnapping and brainwashing 15 children.
 

'Blood Moon' Sets Off Apocalyptic Debate Among Some Christians

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:08:54 PMGo to full article
Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.
 

Tensions Rise as Ukrainian Elite Troops Defer to Russian

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:49:35 PMGo to full article
Elite military units are deferring to the pro-Russian side in Ukraine causing more tension in the area.
 

South Korean Ferry Sinks, Leaves 4 Dead and 294 Missing

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:33:17 PMGo to full article
Four people are confirmed dead and nearly 300 remain missing after a ferry sank off the coast of South Korea.
 
 

Bryan College Determines Whether to Support 'Biblical Evolution'

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:14:22 PMGo to full article
The board of trustees meets over the controversy surrounding the school’s statement of faith.
 

From Shunned Sportscaster to Religious Freedom Fighter

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:41:43 PMGo to full article
Craig James, a football analyst fired by Fox Sports for saying homosexuality is immoral, has taken a job at the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian advocacy group.
 

75-Year-Old Priest Murdered in Syria

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:01:14 PMGo to full article
A 75-year-old priest was murdered in Syria Monday. Masked assassins shot Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt in the head as he entered his garden in Homs.
 

Baptist Church Leaders Spark Revitalization Movement in Response to Decline

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:28:52 PMGo to full article
South Baptist church leaders are coming together to organize a revitalization movement in response to the large numbers of Baptist congregations that are closing their doors.
 

Russian Military Jet Taunts US Navy Destroyer

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:21:38 PMGo to full article
A Russian jet repeatedly flew over a United States Navy warship at extremely low altitudes on Monday, in a seemingly provoking gesture.
 

Judge Orders Ohio to Recognize Out-of-State Gay Marriages

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:27:51 PMGo to full article
A U.S. District Judge ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of state limits, despite a 2004 citizen vote defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
 

Renowned Mathematician Releases New Book: “Why Science Does Not Disprove God”

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:00:34 PMGo to full article
In his newly released book, Dr. Amir Aczel argues that science does not disprove the existence of God and that atheists’ anti-God arguments are fundamentally flawed.
 

6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:37:01 AMGo to full article
 

 

world

 

Forgiving the unforgivable in Rwanda

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:52:24 AMGo to full article
 
 
 
 

UK churches pray for peace in Ukraine

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:40:47 AMGo to full article
 
 
 
 
 

Humanitarian crisis in Nigeria

 
‎15 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:41:17 AMGo to full article
 

 

 

persecution

 
 
 

4 Pakistani Christians now on death row

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:44:18 AMGo to full article
 
 

Chinese Christians Form Human Shield to Protect Church

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:25:52 PMGo to full article
Thousands of Chinese Christians have camped in and around Sanjiang Christian Church in eastern China to prevent it from being demolished under a provincial campaign to curb the spread of Christianity.
 

United Nations Releases Report on Human Rights Abuses in Iran

 
‎20 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:00:00 PMGo to full article
"The situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of serious concern.”

 

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Top 25 Topics

 

 

The Beautiful Side of Evil -

Johanna Michaelsen

 


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history

 

Easter Hope -- Based on Facts of History

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:40:13 PMGo to full article
Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday changed the day of worship for the church, and established it as a day of rest. Each Sunday through much of the world now serves as a weekly reminder of that resurrection.
 

It’s Back — The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and the State of Modern Scholarship

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:20 PMGo to full article
The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is back in the news and back in public conversation.
 

It’s Back — The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and the State of Modern Scholarship

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:20 PMGo to full article
The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is back in the news and back in public conversation.
 

How to Date Jesus' Wife

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:03:15 AMGo to full article
 
 

Does Archaeology Disprove the Bible?

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:38:10 PMGo to full article
Archaeological finds that claim to de-bunk the Bible are sure to make headlines. But what about all the other archaeological evidence? Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

Christian Martyrs Found in Mass Grave?

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎04:57:18 AMGo to full article
 
 

Near St. Peter’s, An Ancient Burial Site Opens to the Public

 
‎30 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎06:10:13 PMGo to full article
In the first century B.C., a grassy hillside just north of what is now St. Peter’s Square was used as a burial place for local Romans.
 

 

 

gay marriage  Alter Boys to Girls

 

Maundy Thursday and the Marriage Battle

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:17:04 PMGo to full article
I keep hearing that if we stand for truth, we risk alienating people from the Gospel. But we don’t need to choose between truth and love. I’ll explain next, on BreakPoint!
 

Judge Orders Ohio to Recognize Out-of-State Gay Marriages

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:27:51 PMGo to full article
A U.S. District Judge ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of state limits, despite a 2004 citizen vote defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
 

After World Vision, Evangelicals Debate Boundaries Over Sexuality

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:39:34 PMGo to full article
At its core, the World Vision decision and reversal raised a stark question: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?
 

Nobody Expects the Rainbow Inquisition

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
When a high-tech CEO was forced to resign because he supported traditional marriage, there was a backlash. But not from the folks you would have expected.
 

Ohio Representative Moves to Impeach Judge for Pro-Gay Rulings

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:12:45 PMGo to full article
Representative John Becker of Ohio has called to impeach a federal judge due to his recent rulings involving gay marriage.
 

Supreme Court Opts Not to Hear Gay Wedding Photography Case

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:13:02 PMGo to full article
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a New Mexico photographer’s case where studio owners refused to provide services for a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony.
 

World Vision Board Member Resigns in Response to Organization's Gay Policy

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:53:06 PMGo to full article
Jacquelline Fuller, member of the World Vision board, has resigned after the policy changes that occurred within the organization last week.
 

Mozilla CEO Steps Down After Employees Attack Traditional Marriage Beliefs

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:53:57 PMGo to full article
Co-founder of Mozilla Brendan Eich has stepped down from his position as CEO. Eich was attacked by employees of the company for his personal views on gay marriage.
 

World Vision President Deals with Aftermath of Same-Sex Marriage Decisions

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:14:35 PMGo to full article
World Vision went back and forth last week about hiring gay, married Christians. President Rich Stearns speaks out about the organization's final decision.
 

How Will Your Church Deal with Same-Sex Marriage

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:44:29 PMGo to full article
Can we learn anything from last week’s drama surrounding World Vision and same-sex marriage? I think so. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

Critics Urge Grace After World Vision Reversal

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:09 PMGo to full article
Christians expressed confusion and concerns over the judgment of World Vision's leaders in the wake of the decision, but should be willing to take an apology.
 

World Vision's Gay Marriage Flip-Flop Reflects Evangelical Angst as Culture Shifts

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎07:51:19 PMGo to full article
The evangelical relief group World Vision announced this week that it would allow employees who are in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course.
 

World Vision Reverses Decision to Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎10:36:56 PMGo to full article
Two days after the announcement that Christians in same-sex marriages could be hired at World Vision, the Christian relief organization reversed its decision.
 

World Vision to Recognize Employees' Same-Sex Marriages

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:51:26 PMGo to full article
Christian relief organization World Vision will now recognize same-sex marriage as being within the norms of “abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage.”
 

 

sex trafficking

 

Mrs. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Ending Sex Trafficking in Canada

 
‎25 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:41:16 PMGo to full article
A Christian legislator is committed to ending sex slavery in Canada. To hear more about this modern-day William Wilberforce, Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

What Would You Do If Someone Tried to Sell You His Baby?

 
‎27 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎05:50:10 PMGo to full article
Today is "Shine a Light on Slavery Day" in America. What can we do to help?
 

What It Takes to Free a Sex Slave

 
‎03 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎06:20:25 AMGo to full article
 
 

Things You May Not Know about the Super Bowl

 
‎31 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎08:10:00 AMGo to full article
Some facts related to the big game are fun. Others are more troubling.
 

Could Your Daughter Be Trafficked?

 
‎30 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎08:52:09 PMGo to full article
 
 

What You Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking at the Super Bowl and Beyond

 
‎29 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎10:55:52 PMGo to full article
Though it might seem like a social issue too large to solve, there’s a lot you can do to stop trafficking. Here are just a few ideas.
 

Chinese Doctor Guilty of Selling Babies to Human Traffickers

 
‎15 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎04:31:15 PMGo to full article
A Chinese obstetrician has been found guilty of lying to parents and selling babies to human traffickers.
 

 

 

iBelieve.com

 

Girl Is Not A Dirty Word

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:11:29 PMGo to full article
Regardless of what Google, YouTube and social media #hashtags tell us, girl is not a dirty word. It is a word to be grateful for. It is a word to be admired, celebrated and cherished. So, friends, let’s reclaim it.
 

The Pros and Cons of Cross-Cultural Living

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:53:15 PMGo to full article
The Pros and Cons of Cross-Cultural Living
 

Giving God the Last Word

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:00:00 AMGo to full article
Encouragement for those facing infertility
 

Overcoming Depression and Anxiety {Part 2 - Thoughts}

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
Not every thought we think is true.
 

Seems Like Jesus Had Alot to Say About Equality...

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
Seems Like Jesus Had Alot to Say About Equality...
 

The Gospel According to Little Boys

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:30:22 AMGo to full article
Learn how I journeyed from playground mortification to finding an Easter message that will enrich us ALL, courtesy of my little boy.
 

Quit Flintstonin', Start Invisionin'.

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:32:23 AMGo to full article
Sometimes people won't understand or support or believe in the vision you have for your life. But that's okay. They don't have to! It's your vision for a reason. Your hand holds the paintbrush and you are responsible for the canvas you create. Don't you want to be a person who is willing to sacrifice the opinion of the crowd in order to please the Master?
 

Scripture to Combat Depression

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:55:02 PMGo to full article
Do you or someone you know struggle with depression? Go to God's word!!
 

A Holy Fear

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:00:00 PMGo to full article
The fear of God is a good fear. A holy fear.
 

Beauty In Unexpected Places {Brokenness}

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:06:28 AMGo to full article
When you find it hard to accept the journey ahead... God treasures of faith in vulnerability.
 

Balancing a Busy Life

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
Learn to have fun, embrace the busyness, and quiet the noise, even in the midst of chaos.
 

Grace for the worst parts of me

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
A friend of mine recently started hanging out with homeless people. He isn’t just spending a few hours with them; he’s sleeping on the street with them. Once a week he takes a cardboard box and a sleeping bag and unrolls it on the streets to sleep with those who have no home.
 

The Unengaged Marriage

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:59:21 PMGo to full article
Encouragement for those who feel emotionally disconnected from their spouse
 

She's Safest in Her Father's Arms

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:20:48 PMGo to full article
And then my mind did something I'm finding a little too familiar these days. It skipped passed the good parts to the bad parts. As beautiful as this world is, it will crush her someday. Or at least try to.
 

How to Be Content Where You Are

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:55:57 PMGo to full article
Don't be anxious for anything. Instead let God be God while you learn how to be content in every state. Grow today in this area. Don't miss this week's post!
 

Shadowed by Grace - A Review

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:44:35 PMGo to full article
Review of the book, Shadowed by Grace, by Cara Putman

 

Worthy Christian News

 

Abedini: God has chosen us for this ordeal

 
‎17 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:00:21 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

iran-christianTEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)– The wife of an American pastor serving eight years in Iran for his Christian faith said God had chosen their family for this ordeal to reach people in despair.

"The Lord has counted our family worthy enough to send Saeed to a dark place that he would be able to share with people who are in complete despair," Naghmeh Abedini told International Christian Concern.

Saeed Abedini was arrested in Iran back on July 2012 while working on an orphanage project; he was later tried and sentenced for threatening Iran's national security.

Naghmeh has called upon the international community to press the Islamic Republic for her husband's release.

"My new reality forced me out of my self-consumed life," she said. "I realized I had a right to speak out for those who are being silenced, to speak for the Christians, for the Jews, for the Baha'i, and other fellow human beings who are being imprisoned simply because of their beliefs."

According to ICC, Saeed was a devout Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000; he later became an evangelist, establishing house churches throughout Iran when he was detainment in 2009. Saeed was again arrested in 2012 for "threatening national security" because Iranian authorities considered his establishment of a network of Iranian house churches the same as waging "soft" warfare against the Islamic Republic.

"You know, my ultimate hope is in God," Naghmeh told the Christian Post last September. "God has given me continued hope to take it a day at a time. I know that with so many praying. I am grateful for all the people signing the petitions, ultimately the time Saeed is in that prison is not decided by the Iranian government. But it's appointed by God.

"I am very optimistic and hopeful that he will be freed soon. My prayer is that Jesus will be glorified from all of it, and people will know that it is God who has delivered Saeed. At this point there are no more options with the legal system in Iran – at this time, it has to be a miracle."

 

Malaysia: Christians Want Confiscated Bibles Returned

 
‎16 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:35:37 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

malaysiaKUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (Worthy News)– Malaysia's Christian Federation and Bible Society are both appealing Selangor's administrative authorities to return more than 300 Bibles confiscated months ago in raids by the Islamic Department, according to International Christian Concern.

Passing the proverbial buck, the Selangor authorities advised both organizations to appeal the Attorney General for restitution from the Islamic Department, an independent branch of local Malaysian administration that actually led the raids that confiscated the Bibles.

During the raids, 321 bibles were seized and two Christian leaders were arrested and then released on bail.

The raids stemmed from a controversial ruling by an appeals court last October banning the Malaysian Catholic Herald from using the name "Allah". Following the ruling, officials at the Ministry of Interior seized 2,000 copies of the Herald at the airport in Kota Kinabalue in order to verify whether there was an unlawful use of the word "Allah" by the publication.

"Allah" has been used for centuries to denote deity in Malay language Bibles, but after the appeals court ruling, Malaysia is now the only Islamic majority state to ban the use of that name by non-Muslims.

 

Pastors in Bhutan jailed without charges

 
‎15 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:40:02 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

bhutanTHIMPHU, BHUTAN (Worthy News)– Two pastors in southern Bhutan have spent more than a month in jail without being formally charged, according to Morning Star News.

Police arrested M.B. Thapa and Tandin Wangyal in Khapdani village back on March 5. According to the minister of cultural affairs, Damcho Dorji, the two pastors were trying to coercively "proselytize". But Officer in Charge Pema Wangdi said the only basis for their arrest was an alleged failure to procure prior approval to conduct a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new house on March 4.

"The constitution gives the freedom to practice your own religion, but bars anybody from forcefully converting others," Dorji said. "They had not obtained permission from local authorities. This is a crime under the penal code amendment … if you have violated this provision, it does not matter whether you are Buddhist, Hindu or Christian … the law will take its own course."

Bhutan, a Bhuddist-majority nation of over 700,000 people, transitioned to a constitutional democratic monarchy in 2008 after a century of absolute monarchy. Bhutan's constitution does provide for religious freedom: Section 4, Article 7 states that citizens shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and that no one "shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement".

However, Christians are not legally recognized by Bhutan and Buddhists who convert to Christianity are looked upon with suspicion.

 

Sectarian violence continues in CAR

 
‎14 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:44:31 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

central-africa-republicBANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (Worthy News)– As sectarian killings continue in the Central African Republic, the country's churches held a month of prayer, according to Barnabas Aid.

On March 30, members of CAR's two opposing factions — the Seleka and anti-balaka militias — gathered together in a sports stadium to demonstrate their reconciliation through a symbolic act of "burying the hatchet".

The conflict in CAR began in November 2012 when the militant Islamists of Seleka launched an uprising against the country's Christian majority. Within months, anti-balaka militias were formed in response to the looting, raping and murders by Seleka Islamists after they seized control of the country in March 2013. Since then, anti-balaka militias have launched retaliatory attacks and massacres that mostly targeted Muslims.

While many of the anti-balaka claim to be Christian, they are so only in a nominal sense: many are ethnic Christians who, although they attend church, practice traditional African animism. But that didn't stop the media from reporting the conflict in CAR as a Christian versus Muslim sectarian war.

Churches in CAR have repeatedly distanced themselves from the anti-balaka by calling on true Christians to pursue peace, reconciliation and healing.

Currently in CAR, 6,000 African Union and 2,000 French peacekeeping troops struggle to contain a conflict that has has left thousands dead and displaced nearly a million more.

 

Florida AFB Removes Controversial 'Missing Man Table'

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

american-christianityWASHINGTON, D.C. (Worthy News)– Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Fla., has recently removed a display honoring missing airmen from a base dining facility, according to International Christian Concern.

The "Missing Man Table" was intended to honor service personnel who didn't return from combat. The table displayed an inverted glass, a single red rose, a yellow ribbon, a candle, a plate with lemon and salt and a Bible.

According to the Air Force Chiefs website, the presence of the Bible was to represent "the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God". But according to Florida Today, a controversy about including a Bible in the display at the base's Riverside Dining Facility led to the removal of the entire table.

In a prepared statement, base authorities told Today that the table would return to the dining facility, but it was unclear if the Bible would still be part of the display.

"The 45th Space Wing deeply desires to honor America's Prisoners and War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) personnel. Unfortunately, the Bible's presence or absence on the table at the Riverside Dining Facility ignited controversy and division, distracting from the table's primary purpose of honoring POWs/MIAs.

"Consequently, we temporarily replaced the table with the POW/MIA flag in an effort to show our continued support of these heroes while seeking an acceptable solution to the controversy. After consultation with several relevant organizations, we now intend to re-introduce the POW/MIA table in a manner inclusive of all POWs/MIAs as well as Americans everywhere."

Although the "several relevant organizations" aren't identified, the inference that the presence of the Bible is contrary to inclusivity leaves little doubt as to who is behind this latest controversy.

 

Accord Formally Ends Conflict in Philippines

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:24:12 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

philippines-mapMANILA, PHILIPPINES (Worthy News)– The Philippine government signed a peace accord with that country's largest Islamist group in the hopes of ending decades of violence that killed more than 120,000, according to International Christian Concern.

More than 1,000 Filipinos had gathered at Manila's presidential palace to witness the signing of a comprehensive agreement between government negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. During the signing ceremony, President Benigno Aquino hailed the agreement as a "path that can lead to a permanent change in Muslim Mindanao."

"This agreement stands as a testament to how far trust and earnestness can move humanity forward," he said. "It shows how righteousness, reason and goodwill are the mightiest of instruments in ending conflict … those who wish to sow divisiveness for self-interest and those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas — so many people have suffered for so long, so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point: I will not let peace be snatched from my people."

Aquino's remark about "those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas" was a thinly veiled reference to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an MILF splinter cell that has rejected the accord.

MILF pledged to give up its weapons in exchange for greater political autonomy in the mainly Muslim areas of the southern Mindanao region.

 

Russian Authorities Target Christian-Run Projects

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:15:53 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

russia-mapPETERSBURG, RUSSIA (Worthy News)– Christian organizations in Russia that teach secular education may face harassment from government officials, according to Barnabas Aid.

Last month, Russia's Supreme Court upheld a previous ruling that determined the St. Petersburg's Harvest Pentecostal Church wasn't licensed to teach non-religious education. The decision meant that the church had lost the right to own or rent property, but it intends to appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights.

Charges were first brought against Harvest Pentecostal because its building contained classrooms with desks. The St. Petersburg City Court later ruled that the church was running an eksternat: an external home schooling program.

However, the church claimed that it merely allowed its building to be used as an eksternat and that it wasn't involved in any instruction given by a children's pastor and her assistant on their own time.

 

Egypt: Killed for a Cross

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:15:13 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

egypt_mapCAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)– On a Friday afternoon late last month, a young woman was killed over a cross after she drove to the Ain Shams neighborhood of Cairo to deliver food and medicine to the elderly, according to International Christian Concern.

Mary Sameh George — a 24-year-old lawyer who was to be engaged in May — was one of four people killed by Muslim protestors in Ain Shams on March 28.

According to ICC sources, the Muslim Brotherhood holds a weekly protest march in Ain Shams every Friday after prayers, but on this particular afternoon, Brotherhood supporters clashed with Egyptian security forces because 529 supporters of the Brotherhood had all been given death sentences for their participation in widespread violence across Egypt.

George had parked within sight of the Brotherhood demonstration and when its supporters saw a cross hanging in her car they violently removed her from the vehicle and viciously attacked her while shouting "Allahu Akbar".

After killing George, they set her car on fire, but this violence has become commonplace in Ain Shams.

"Here in Ain Shams, we know that every Friday is a day of death," a local told Coptic Solidarity.

George Farid, a lawyer for the George family, told MidEast Christian News that although relatives have filed a police report, no one has been arrested for Mary's murder.

 

Chinese Christians Form Human Shield to Protect Church

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:49:12 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

china map christiansBEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)– Thousands of Christians formed a human shield around the newly-constructed Sanjiang Christian Church in Zhejiang Province after several hundred police officers with bulldozers threatened to demolish it, according to International Christian Concern.

The standoff at the church reportedly began after a visiting Communist Party secretary said the church was too large.

"When the Party secretary Xia Baolong visited the local areas, he found the cross on top of the church very conspicuous. So he ordered that it be demolished," church leader Zheng Leguo told ChinaAid.

The standoff was unusual in that Sanjiang Church is part of China's Three-Self Patriotic Movement and that its congregation was officially sanctioned by the Communist state.

"We call on the authorities in Zhejiang Province to immediately rescind their orders for the demolition of Sanjiang Christian Church," said Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for East Asia. "This church was legally constructed and has every right to exist in a nation which strongly claims, at least in the international community, to respect the religious freedom of its citizens. No one of any faith should have to place their life between a bulldozer and their house of worship. ICC stands with the Christians of Zhejiang Province as they take this courageous stand to protect their rights."

 

Pakistani Christian Couple Sentenced to Death for 'Blasphemy'

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:44:23 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro

pakistan-map2ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– A Christian couple in Pakistan's Punjab Province was sentenced to death Friday for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, according to Morning Star News.

The sentencing of Shafqat and Shugufta Emmanuel came only one week after a court in Lahore had sentenced Sawan Masih to death for allegedly insulting Islam's prophet during a drunken conversation with a Muslim friend. All three Christians join Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who was sentenced to death for an alleged blasphemy back in November 2010, yet still remains on death row.

Emmanuel and his wife were both accused of sending blasphemous text messages last June from a number allegedly registered in his name. The Gojra City Police in Punjab charged the couple with blasphemy under Sections 295-B: insulting the Koran, which is punishable by life imprisonment and 295-C: insulting Muhammad, which is punishable by death.

The Emmanuel's lawyer, Nadeem Hassan, said that in order to appease the mobs led by Islamist clerics, police forced Shafqat Emmanuel — who is confined to a wheelchair from a spinal injury — to confess to having sentt the blasphemous messages.

"The police tortured Shafqat to confess before a judicial magistrate, but the crippled man retracted his statement when we requested the session judge to record his statement again," he said.

Hassan — who had told the court that his clients couldn't possibly have written the alleged texts written in Roman Urdu as they couldn't read or write proper Urdu — said he would challenge the verdict in High Court.

Farrukh Harrison, of the Christian advocacy group World Vision in Progress, told Morning Star News that his group had protested the court’s bias from the trial's beginning.

"Judge Habib simply refused to accept our submissions regarding insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution," Harrison said.

Harrison also questioned why the judge had given the death sentence to both the husband and wife even though they had forced a confession from only Shafqat.

 

Use of blasphemy laws increases

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:32:28 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

islamic-statesWASHINGTON D.C. (Worthy News)– An increasing number of Muslim majority nations are strictly enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws in order to penalize Christians and other religious minorities, according to Barnabas Aid.

All blasphemy laws are incompatible with international human rights standards, according to a recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"This trend of greater usage of blasphemy laws will surely lead to increased violations of the freedoms of religion and expression," said Knox Thames, USCIRF director of policy and research. "Governments will jail people and extremists may kill others in the defense of undefined notions of religious sentiment."

The USCIRF report revealed that wherever authoritarian governments supported official religious creeds, blasphemy accusations were used to silence its critics and any political rivals, all under the guise of piety.

Pakistan was cited as the most egregious example of the increasing misuse of blasphemy laws: 14 Pakistanis are currently on death row and 19 others are serving life sentences. There was a similar increase in Egypt after the Arab Spring. From 2011 to 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recorded a total of 36 blasphemy cases involving 63 people; of these, 59 percent were lodged against Muslims and 41 percent against Christians who comprise less than 10 percent of Egypt's population.

Other countries that misuse blasphemy laws include: Indonesia, where more than 120 people have been detained since 2003; Iran, where any criticism of the Islamic republic is an offence; Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that can lodge blasphemy charges against any of its subjects who dare to advocate social reforms and Sudan, where blasphemy accusations are used against anyone opposing the current regime.

Since 1998, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — composed of 57 nations with large Muslim populations — had unsuccessfully lobbied the UN for an international blasphemy law. But in 2011, a general resolution prohibiting religious intolerance was passed unanimously.

 

Islamic Nigerian Militants Kill 1,500 this Year

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:14:21 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

nigeriaABUJA, NIGERIA (Worthy News)– Islamic uprisings in Nigeria have caused at least 1,500 deaths this year alone as attacks on unarmed civilians become more commonplace, according to CBN News.

"The international community cannot continue to look the other way in the face of extra-judicial executions, attacks on civilians, and other crimes under international law being committed on a mass scale," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International director for Africa.

The Associated Press reported that the number of killings since the start of 2014 equaled the total killed from 2010 to the middle of 2013. The latest attack killed three police officers and two soldiers as Islamists burned military barracks to the ground and destroyed a cell tower in Yobe state Sunday.

Residents fled the area on the following morning.

 

Pakistan: Rights Groups Decry Death Sentence for Christian

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:33:12 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

pakistan-map2ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– Rights groups have decried the death sentence handed down to one Christian man after more than 100 Muslims who destroyed his neighborhood were freed on bail.

Sawan Masih was sentenced Thursday for blasphemy by the Lahore District Judge at the Kot Lakhpath Jail. Initial Islamic outrage against Masih's alleged blasphemy resulted in the destruction of 180 Christian-owned homes and shops in Lahore's Joseph Colony in March 2013, but a court later freed 133 Muslim suspects despite damning video evidence against them, according to Morning Star News.

Masih, a father of three, was accused of insulting Islam's prophet during a drunken conversation with a Muslim friend in the Colony back on March 8, 2013. Pakistan's Statute 295-C forbids defaming Muhammad, which is punishable by death and/or a fine, but the First Information Report initially didn't include any blasphemous remarks made by Masih, according to Naeem Shakir, Masih's lead counsel. The blasphemy accusation was added through a supplementary statement by the complainant eight days after the FIR was registered.

Tahir Bashir, another lawyer on Masih's defense team, told Morning Star News that he believed the court had convicted his client under immense pressure from local Muslim political and religious groups.

"In most cases involving blasphemy, it has been observed that the trial court judges are pressured by religious zealots to hand the maximum sentence to an accused," he said.

In his court statement, Masih said he didn't commit blasphemy and accused Shahid Imran, the complainant, of involving him in a fake case as part of a plot by local businessmen to drive Christians from Joseph Colony so that they could seize the property for industrial use.

"They hatched a conspiracy to push out the residents of the colony," Masih told the court. "They contrived a case and got it filed by a person who was close to me. I am innocent."

On March 9, 2013, hundreds of protesters attacked the Joseph Colony, setting two church buildings ablaze along with shops and homes. An FIR under the Anti-Terrorism Act was registered against 83 protestors accused of arson and a supplementary statement named 50 more. The case is still pending while most of the accused have been freed on bail.

"Why haven't the courts moved against the people involved in burning down Joseph Colony and desecrating the churches with the same vigor displayed while deciding Sawan Masih's fate?" Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi told Morning Star News.

Amnesty International said Pakistan should immediately release Masih and reverse his conviction.

"This is a travesty of justice," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director. "There are serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, and an argument between two friends is not a basis for sending anyone to the gallows. Sawan Masih must be released immediately and unconditionally."

 

Syrian Islamists Kill 80 Christians, Displace Thousands More

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:55:50 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

syriaDAMASCUS, SYRIA (Worthy News)– Eighty Christians were killed and thousands more displaced after Islamic militants attacked the strategic Syrian town of Kessab near the Turkish border on March 21, according to Barnabas Aid.

About 2,000 Armenian Christians fled Kessab as their homes were looted and their churches desecrated. Barnabas Aid partners are providing food, clothing and other essentials since many hurriedly left their homes empty-handed.

Following the Islamist takeover of the town, Syria launched a counter-offensive to regain control of the region. But national tensions increased after the Turkish military shot down a Syrian jet that had strayed over the border during a mission over Kessab.

Turkey has sided with the Islamist rebels in the Syrian civil war, providing them with supplies and allowing hundreds of rebels to freely cross its borders.

The Armenian National Committee of America has written President Barack Obama calling on him to stop Turkey — a member of NATO — from facilitating attacks by foreign fighters associated with US-designated terrorist groups.

The ANCA said Turkey's actions were a bitter reminder of the Armenian genocide (1894 to 1923) when Turks killed more than 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians.

 
 

Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:18:20 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

iran-christianGENEVA, SWITZERLAND (Worthy News)– During a press conference in Geneva this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran released his latest report, according to Barnabas Aid.

"I report with deep regret that despite overtures and announcements emanating from the newly elected Iranian government, and perhaps even in spite of modest attempts to take steps towards reform, the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of serious concern," said Ahmed Shaheed.

According to the report, at least 49 Iranian Christians were detained in 2013; at least 42 were arrested and of those, 35 were given from one to 10 years' imprisonment for their participation in house churches and other Christian activities. The Christians most prosecuted were converts from Islam and those who evangelized, or otherwise ministered to Iranian Muslims.

The report was also critical of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's proposed charter of citizens' rights that has failed to address laws that discriminate against religious minorities. Rouhani's charter also failed to curb the use of cruel and inhumane punishments, including flogging, hanging, stoning and amputation as well as the use of capital punishment.

After his election in 2013, Rouhani promised to uphold justice and civil rights and to release political prisoners. Although 80 such prisoners were freed prior to his address at the UN General Assembly in September, hundreds more continue to languish in Iranian jails.

 

Four Killed in Attack on Kenyan Church

 
‎25 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:58:37 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

kenyaLIKONI, KENYA (Worthy News)– During Sunday morning service, two gunmen fired into the crowded congregation of Joy Jesus Church in Likoni, Kenya, killing two parishioners, according to International Christian Concern.

Another two parishioners later died from gunshot wounds while 17 others remain hospitalized, most in need of blood transfusions, according to the Kenyan Red Cross.

Likoni Police Chief Robert Mureithi told Reuters that the large amount of spent cartridges recovered from the scene indicated that the gunmen were armed with automatic weapons.

"This has all the indicators of a terrorist attack," said Mureithi, "because the attackers did not steal anything and appeared focused on killing."

After th