Southern Religion

Help now, debate later

Fourteen groups associated with atheism have joined together to provide relief for earthquake victims in Haiti through “Non-Believers Giving Aid.”

An announcement about the effort on Richard Dawkins’ web site says that in addition to helping the Haitians, people who donate will be “helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans.”

An article in the Christian Post presents a Christian view of the atheists’ program.

Such debate is better left for another day. Meanwhile, an atheist’s dollar will provide just as much relief as a religious one.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Religion | , , | Comments Off on Help now, debate later

Evangelism through the eye of a needle

Christians who use the “Camel Method” in an attempt to evangelize Muslims refer to God as Allah, a practice that has caused a great deal of controversy, but that’s not the only reason some oppose it.

The strategy, in which a Christian uses the Quran to talk to a Muslim about Jesus, was highlighted in a June 2007 article in the Christian Index, the state Baptist newspaper in Georgia. Jerry Rankin, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention‘s International Mission Board, talked about the Camel Method, which his organization promotes.

The Index article mentions several objections to the method, including Christians using the name Allah for God. Some think that using that term means that missionaries are affirming the Muslim view of Allah, according to the article.

Rankin calls that notion preposterous.

“In a cross-cultural witness you use the language of the people and you use whatever terminology they have for God.”

Some Muslims take great offense at Christians using Allah to refer to God. Violence broke out in Malaysia when a judge ruled that Christians there could continue the practice.

Another criticism of the Camel Method is that it does not require Muslims who become Christians to renounce their Muslim identity, suggesting that they continue to view God and Christ through a Muslim worldview.

“The Camel Method does not advocate that, but advocates being Christian while retaining your ethnic identity in that Muslim culture,” Rankin said.

The Index article prompted a letter from David Mills, assistant professor of evangelism and associate dean for applied ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mills compared the Camel Method to how he said Mormons use the Bible when talking with their neighbors.

“The Mormon does not believe it, but he knows the neighbor does, so he portrays himself as a Bible believer.”

Mills encouraged missionaries to forgo the Camel Method and instead “use some of the superior methods of Muslim evangelism our seminaries offer.”

Mills’ letter led to a “clarification” from IMB executive vice president Clyde Meador.

“Helping a Muslim to see that his own book tells him that he should be interested in Christ is often an effective way of opening the door to a gospel witness. It is a proven method that has opened the door to Truth to untold numbers of Muslims in many parts of the world, and continues to do so today.”

Mike Morris, a Baptist blogger in Tennessee, used the Camel Method in a conversation with a Muslim imam, who is an Islamic leader. The imam, who obviously knew his religion, didn’t respond as literature for the evangelism strategy suggested a Muslim might.

For example, the Camel Method suggests talking about a Muslim festival Korbani Eid, which includes a sacrifice as a way of beginning a conversation about the New Testament concept of salvation. The imam said, however, that the festival was about obedience rather than a transfer of guilt.

“For solid, well-trained Muslims such as the imam, the festival cannot be utilized as a bridge to the Christian understanding of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross,” Morris said.

Bart Barber, another Baptist blogger, has written a number of posts that deal with the Camel Method. (A list can be found here.) Barber believes the strategy violates the IMB’s own guidelines.

In the Christian Index article, Rankin reveals the Camel Method’s origin.

“This is not a method of witness that we have contrived in order to reach Muslims. It is something that Muslim-background believers were using effectively to share their faith within their Muslim communities.”

But a strategy that works well for former Muslims with an established level of trust can seem downright deceitful when practiced by Christians without that background.

The Camel Method’s web site has four endorsements of the strategy, including one from David Garrison, who edited a workshop based on the method:

Every great work of God provokes a predictable backlash from Satan, as his domain is threatened. The Camel method has been no exception.

Neither the Camel Method’s supporters nor its detractors have acted in a manner that indicates they’re in league with the devil. But the method itself is the wrong way to accomplish what well-meaning people believe is the right thing.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Evangelism through the eye of a needle

Pope Benedict provokes protest in Belgium

Showing again that he is as conservative as he seems when not calming the waters after a controversial action, Pope Benedict has appointed André-Mutien Léonard archbishop of Brussels.

Léonard is sometimes called “the Belgian Ratzinger” for his conservative views. According to Reuters:

Léonard has beene a controversial figure in Belgium for his critical stands on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and condom use. He has been an outspoken opponent of abortion and euthanasia, both of which are legal in Belgium, and criticised the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain for their research into assisted reproduction and embryonic stem cells.

CNA reports that in July, his statements in an interview that homosexuals were “abnormal” led Belgian homosexual activists to pursue (unsuccessfully) charges against him for homophobia — “a criminal offense in Belgium since the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2003.”

Public officials protested the appointment as disruptive. According to Reuters, most outspoken was Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx, who is the country’s health minister. In a radio interview, Onkelinx said:

Church and State are separate in Belgium, but when there are problems in our society, all the social partners sit down around a table, including representatives of secularism and of religion. Cardinal Danneels was a man of openness, of tolerance and was able to fit in there. Archbishop Léonard has already regularly challenged decisions made by our parliament.

. . .

Concerning AIDS, he’s against the use of condoms even while people are dying from it every day. He is against abortion and euthanasia [legal in Belgium] … The pope’s choice could undermine the compromise that allows us to live together with respect for everyone.

Although the controversy is not as intense as over the eventually withdrawn appointment of pastor Gerhard Maria Wagner in Austria last year, Pope Benedict used the same selection process. He ignored the local Catholic hierarchy and chose someone he was confident would be loyal to him.

The editor of the Belgian Catholic weekly KERK&leven (Church and Life), said the choice of Léonard “is clearly a conscious choice for a totally different style and approach: for more radical decisiveness rather than quiet diplomacy, for more confrontation with the secular society instead of dialogue … .”

Disruptive, pushing toward the political right, as Beligian public officials suggested. And look for more of that.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope Benedict provokes protest in Belgium

Satan to Robertson: ‘Great work, Pat’ [Update]

Via adroit wordsmith Lily Coyle in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Letter of the day column, Satan says:

Dear Pat Robertson, I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating.

You have of course heard that Robertson blamed both the earthquake and Haiti’s long-standing poverty on a pact with the devil, ignoring both the Enriquilla-Plantain Garden geological fault rupture and the determining impact of history since Haiti’s slaves rose up and threw off their chains.

Ms. Coyle, with whom we are not acquainted, understood immediately how contrary Haiti’s predicament is to popular legend. Thus Ms. Coyle’s Satan protests:

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll.

She closes on a satisfying series of zingers, you can read here.


Ms. Coyle’s Satan did not address himself to Southern Baptist pastor and birther Wiley Drake, who half-joined the Robertson chorus, according to The Orange County [Calif.] Register:

“I don’t know that God brought that earthquake or not,” Drake said. However, the misfortunes of the country – including its extreme poverty, ongoing political turmoil and frequent natural disasters – could be repercussions of the alleged deal with Satan, he said.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Satan to Robertson: ‘Great work, Pat’ [Update]

Update: ‘Irish anti-clericalism’ arson ruled out

The London Telegraph’s Will Heaven was apparently first among the bloggers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) to react to the St Mel’s Cathedral fire with lurid fantasies of “Irish anti-clericalism” gone to arson. And as lurid fantasies often do, it is coming to nothing that one has come to notning:

Longford Gardai have confirmed that they are no longer treating the fire at St Mel’s Cathedral as arson.

Chief investigation officer Inspector Joe McLoughlin told that the Garda Technical team completed the technical examination of the Cathedral today.

“We are no longer treating the fire as suspicious,” Inspector McLoughlin stated. However he added that Gardai were not in a position to confirm what caused the fire which destroyed the Cathedral on Christmas morning but the Garda Forensic Team is expected to furnish a report on the fire soon.

Yet Christmas season insinuations of arson were directed at the victims of abuse. For example, Heaven wrote:

Given the recent resignation of a second Irish bishop after a report revealed the cover-up of child sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese, it could be that this was a deliberate attack on the Irish Catholic Church. If so, it marks a new chapter of anti-clericalism in Ireland.

There was no supporting rich history of the victims of clerical sex abuse torching church facilities.

Thus the cry of “deliberate attack on the Irish Catholic Church” was a groundless allegation which tended to tar the victims of other crimes.

It was despicable and now that it is proven false, corrections and apologies are owed by all who made the claim.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Crime | , , , , | Comments Off on Update: ‘Irish anti-clericalism’ arson ruled out