Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote of President Obama’s discussion of his Christianity on Tuesday in Albuquerque:
“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”
Chinese Canadian Chris Tse won “Poetry Slam” in Vancouver, BC, in December 2009 with this performance.
Poetry Slam helps keep alive “blood, sweat, and tears poetry delivered live inches from your face,” as 2009 National Poetry Slam co-director Henry Sampson put it.
Whether Tse really speaks with blunt eloquence to “what makes young believers tick,” as Marty Duren argues, this is a fine work and more than worth the time spent listening to it.
Tim Collard, who is retired from the British foreign service and spent most of his diplomatic career in China and Germany, writes about the ongoing U.S. struggle with health reform for the London Telegraph:
You might argue that America is a Christian country too. Oh no it isn’t. You can’t serve both God and Mammon, the Man said, you have to choose one or the other, and the USA has made it admirably clear where it stands. And it flourishes. Yes, a few thousand lives are wrecked by the lack of access to healthcare. But that’s an acceptable price to pay for all the private jets and Manhattan super-apartments, surely? Let’s hope the Man was kidding when he said all that stuff about camels and the eyes of needles.
Read the entire blog here.
Analyzing of the criminal records and self-reported religious affiliations of 111 incarcerated sex offenders, researchers Donna Eshuys and Stephen Smallbone at Australia’s Griffith University found:
… that stayers (those who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood) had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims, than other groups. Results challenge assumptions that religious involvement should, as with other crime, serve to deter sexual offending behavior.
Another study found evidence that sexual predators consider churches an attractive environment. In 2003 one predator told a researcher [.pdf]:
I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people … I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.
Despite their limitations, these studies do suggest that predators who stay in church understand how to manipulate the environment in ways which permit them to continue their predatory careers.
Addendum: Part of the human price
A study funded by the USA National Institute of Drug Abuse [.pdf] found that "Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased likelihood of drug dependence, alcohol dependence, and psychiatric disorders. The associations are expressed as odds ratios: for example, women who experienced nongenital sexual abuse in childhood were 2.93 times more likely to suffer drug dependence as adults than were women who were not abused."
Historian Gary Ferngren writes in his book Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:
Christians of the first five centuries held views regarding the use of medicine and the healing of disease that did not differ appreciably from those that were widely taken for granted in the Graeco-Roman world.
Those views underlie Christians’ development of “the world’s first health-care system,” writes Rob Moll in his Christianity Today review of the book. That was a reflection of the Christian belief that love of God requires love of fellow man and that is reflected in charity.
As a result of these theological beliefs, Christians developed a robust system for caring for the poor, the ill, widows and orphans, and other members of society in need of care. When the plague struck, this system provided an opportunity for churches to quickly expand and care for those outside the church.
The best way to provide care to everyone in the country may be up for debate. We may argue over whether to prefer new regulation of insurers and health care providers or a government-run plan. The need to provide care for the poor, however, was settled centuries ago.
Read the entire review here.
From Compass Direct News:
Five months after the daughter of a member of Saudi Arabia’s religious police [Fatima Al-Mutairi] was killed for writing online about her faith in Christ, Saudi authorities have reportedly arrested a 28-year-old Christian man for describing his conversion and criticizing the kingdom’s judiciary on his Web site.
. . .
On his web site, which Saudi authorities have blocked, [Hamoud] Bin Saleh wrote that his journey to Christ began after witnessing the public beheading of three Pakistanis convicted of drug charges. Shaken, he began an extensive study of Islamic history and law, as well as Saudi justice. He became disillusioned with sharia (Islamic law) and dismayed that kingdom authorities only prosecuted poor Saudis and foreigners.
Read the rest here.
Egyptian judge, according to WordNet Daily, said:
A woman arrested at the Cairo airport because her identity card described her as a Christian has been threatened for her faith by the judge in her case, according to a new report.
. . .
The decision to grant her bail came Saturday in the hearing before Hashem after Makkar told the judge about her new Christian faith and her abandonment of Islam.
Tawfiq told Compass Direct “the judge then said, ‘I want to talk with Martha alone,’ so we all left the room, and he said to her, ‘Nobody changes from Muslim to Christian – you are a Muslim.’
Read it all here.
Refusing to work on Sunday can be an admirable matter of faith, unless twisted. Tom Steagld writes of his waitress daughter:
A group of six church-goers came in last night after their evening services and sat down, not in her area but in another server’s. When the girl came to greet them and take their drink order, one of them said, “We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because…”
Are you ready?
“…we do not believe in people working on Sunday.”
The rest is here
Seminary graduates will have no divine or other advantage in pursuing one of the three $400 prizes. Think of this as a theologian’s version of The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which makes wretched writing a hilarious art. This is satire amid which you may find a touch of heresy.
Consider for yourself some acid bits of Leslie Barnwell’s winning entry in last year’s Sermons you’d never hear in church contest:
When I was here last, you sat for me for a couple of hours. I drew and you talked. So I now know that you are close to my age, you’ve spent some serious time in a mental institution (bipolar disorder), and you’ve been let loose on your own since the facilities closed down. I know you live in a fourth-rate hotel room and can’t get, let alone keep, a job. You have practically no money and rarely get your medication right. You’ve been violent several times and have lost rights to various resources in the community, including a couple of churches, and have been in and out of jail.
Lately I’ve been getting this magazine called Geez and they had this off-the-wall-not-in-the-sanctuary sermon contest which is fairly bizarre in the first place. I thought, what would I write? To whom would I direct my words? To you? Well, I figure I’ve got nothing to say to you, Navita. Zero. Not for your enlightenment anyhow. What do you need to hear from me? That Jesus saves? That God has a wonderful plan for your life? Do you even need to know that a literal view of the Bible is a modern invention? How about a rehash of the Ten Commandments? Or maybe you need some clarity on how the message of holy scriptures jibes with the current eco-crisis. Sort of falling flat? I thought so.
It’s only $30 to enter (details here). That includes the price of a subscription, which you may event want.
Almost the Onion knelt for prayer, geez won ten Canadian Church Press prizes last year. You can taste their earnest irreverence by perusing their online previews. They’ve also launched (wait for it) … a blog.
They characterize the entire enterprise as “Adbusters for people of faith.”
Works for us.
Our first black president-elect, whose campaign was fraught with both false and real issues of religion, has created for his inauguration a faith collage of the culture wars which have racked the nation for four decades.
Together, the voices he has chosen to pray and preach compose the elements of needed and otherwise unlikely dialog toward reconciliation.
Those voices are gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Rick Warren, black United Methodist minister Dr. Joseph E. Lowery and Christian Church president Rev. Sharon Watkins.
Now that the table is set, it is clear that Warren’s inclusion created both dramatic contradictions and through them an opportunity for greater reconciliation.
Warren, then will be through his presence and in his two-minute prayer the anvil upon which is forged that reconciliation.