Tag Archive for Religion News

Fasting and Praying for the Poor

Faced with an unjust rule of Persian king who threatened the very lives of her Jewish people, the Jewish heroine Queen Esther called on the faithful to fast and pray for their rulers to have a change of heart.
Taking their cue from Esther, a diverse coalition of religious leaders — from Bread for the World, World Vision, MercyCorps, Sojourners, the ONE Campaign and the Alliance to End Hunger — are calling on Americans of good faith to join them in fasting and prayer to
protest proposed budget cuts that would jeopardize the poor, sick and hungry at home and abroad.
“What we’re doing is humbling ourselves before God and saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore and I need your help and I’m not going to let go until you do something,”‘ said former U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall, head of the Alliance to End Hunger and co-convener of the fasting effort known as Hunger Fast.
Even before its official launch on Tuesday (March 29), at least 3,000 Sojourners activists had already signed on.
“I’m calling (God) in just like in Isaiah 58,” Hall said. “I’m calling (God’s) power in.”
He’s done it before. Back in 1993, then-Congressman Hall undertook a water-only fast for 22 days to protest similar budget cuts to aid programs for poor and other vulnerable Americans.
The proposed 2011 federal budget reductions include cuts to domestic spending of about $2.3 billion from affordable housing, $1.75 billion from job training, $1 billion from community health centers, $900 million from refugee programs and $390 million from low-income heating assistance.
The budget cuts, announced in mid-February to combat a staggering $1.3 trillion federal deficit, also call for slashing foreign aid by about $5 billion, including $450 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis Read more

Appreciating the Beauty of Religion

Since the beginning of the history of human civilization, religion has been used to justify war, intolerance, injustice, murder and torture. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the history of violence in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and 9/11 are just a few examples. This sordid past is one of the arguments that many atheists put forward in their critiques of religion.
On the other hand, religion has also provided millions of people with comfort in times of need, purpose in their lives and moral directions for their behavior Read more

Can Christians Survive the Threat of a MultiFaith World

You know Christians who respond to an increasingly interreligious world by building walls around themselves. They have only Christian friends, hold others at arm’s length and make sure what you know about “them” comes from reliable (read: Christian) sources. If you do get face to face with a Jew or Muslim, evangelize them, for that’s what God’s Word calls you to do.
In the comments, few HuffPost readers are likely to endorse this view as a model for one-on-one relations. But when it comes to Christian institutions, people’s response is more equivocal Read more

Is This About American Muslims Or America

c. 2011 Religion News Service
Lately, Congress appears to be obsessed with Muslims.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is holding hearings Tuesday (March 29) on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims,” and Chairman Peter King has announced a second set of hearings on “Radicalization in the American Muslim Community” in the House Homeland Security Committee, this set focusing on radicalization in prisons.
Although the word “Muslim” is the one getting the most media play, I believe these hearings are really about America, and whether we value the contributions of, and cooperation between, our many different communities.
Our founding fathers were emphatic on where they stood. When George Washington was asked about his preferred workers at Mount Vernon, he replied: “If they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa or Europe; they may be Mahometans (Muslims), Jews, Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.” For Washington, it wasn’t just about the principle of freedom, but the practicality that in a diverse nation, bigotry toward any community not only hurts that group, but weakens the nation.
As the leader of the Continental Army, the first truly national American institution, Washington took a strong stand against anti-Catholicism Read more

A Buddhist Approach To Recovery Turning It Over

A monthly exploration of addiction and recovery through the lens of Buddhism. Read about Step One and Step Two.
Step Three: Turning It Over
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.”
“Turning our will and our lives over to the care of God” is one of the most challenging, and for some, troubling, of the tasks that the Steps suggest. It sounds as if we are going to give up all control of our lives and throw ourselves at the mercy of some outside power.
That’s not exactly what happens.
Certainly the Steps are trying to get us to be less compulsively controlling Read more

This That and the Other Jesus

I can’t speak for all writers, but I can say I tend to be thin-skinned. Although I strive for healthier practice, I still often hear the one critical voice standing in an approving crowd. And when you write things that lovingly but honestly ask hard questions about religious beliefs and practices, there may, in fact, be more than one critical voice out there. Just ask Brian McLaren, or, of late, Rob Bell.
When you reject one idea of Jesus to suggest another one that seems more authentic to you, some people take it personally.
Of the criticisms I’ve been getting about my book The Other Jesus (and I’m not wading through anything like the abuse that Mr Read more

10 Reasons Why Im Fasting for a Better Budget

Because I am an evangelical Christian and the root of the word “evangelical” is found in the opening statement of Jesus in Luke 4, where Christ says he has come to bring “good news (the ‘evangel’) to the poor.” So to be an evangelical Christian is to try and bring good news to poor people.
Because some very bad news is happening to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Washington’s battle over the budget — both those at home and around the world.
Because budgets are moral documents — they reveal our priorities, who and what is important, and who and what are not. To address excessive deficits is also a moral issue — preventing our children and grandchildren from having crushing debt. But how you reduce a deficit is also a moral issue. We should reduce the deficit, but not at the expense of our poorest people.
Because it is simply wrong — morally and religiously — to focus our budget cuts on the people who are already hurting, and make them hurt more Read more

Does a Gay Fetus Have Any Rights

As I sit here typing away on this piece, I do so with full knowledge that I risk offending anyone who doesn’t believe in a supreme being. I am sure that some atheist will bash this article and me for even mentioning the possibility of a God. I also risk offending the people who believe in God. So just for grins, let’s not even debate that question Read more

The Smith Family Chronicles 5 Bettys Soliloquy

In The Smith Family Chronicles 1: Jane Smith Comes Out To Her Evangelical Father, Betty’s husband Bob kicked their daughter Jane out of their house. In The Smith Family Chronicles 2: “Is It Really God’s Will That I Live Alone?”, we saw that might not be the complete end of Jane’s life.)
In The Smith Family Chronicles 3: “You Will Not Take My Daughter From Me!” Betty shared with her husband how she felt about his reaction to Jane’s coming out (which compelled Bob to make a bold, if seriously erroneous assertion). In The Smith Family Chronicles 4: “Hello.

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Lift High the Cross Religion In Public Spaces

The European Court of Human Rights has just upheld Italy’s policy of displaying crucifixes in its public school classrooms. In Lautsi v. Italy, an atheistic mother of two public school children challenged this policy, in place since 1924. After losing in the Italian courts, she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the presence of these crucifixes in public schools violated her and her children’s rights to religious freedom and to a secular education guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights Read more

The Renewal of Religious Environmentalism

At least as far back as the publication in 1967 of the seminal but highly controversial essay, “The Historic Roots of Our Environmental Crisis,” by historian Lynn White, Jr., the relationship between religion and environmentalism has been a complicated issue. White argued that Christianity “not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.”
Many religiously affiliated individuals have taken even more extreme and far less nuanced positions. Consider, for example, the position staked out by John Shimkus, a Republican member of Congress from the 19th district in Illinois. He’s made it clear that we need not be concerned about environmental problems because God promised Noah that the earth won’t be destroyed again Read more

Apocalypse Now A Christian Understanding of the End Times

Sorry, Maya. Just when peculiar apocalyptic interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar were about to thrust you into the media frenzy sure to come in 2012, some knuckleheads cut in front of you by predicting the return of Jesus on May 21, 2011.
They insist the world will end a few months after that, unfortunately ruling out the possibility of my San Francisco Giants repeating as World Series champions.
Of course, Christians have been proclaiming the nearness of Jesus’ return ever since there have been Christians. The New Testament reflects this, even as it gives evidence of a growing acknowledgment, as the first century transitioned into the second, that the “imminence” of this hope need not imply its “immediacy.” The church learned it would be in it for the long haul.
Yet some of the more fringe members of the Christian family have never stopped casting out predictions of a specific day on which human history will dramatically change forever, usually accompanied by fire and brimstone Read more

Whats the Rush A Response to Our Cultures Crazy Pace

A colleague of mine was reciting the litany of his nonstop schedule: business meetings here, dinner parties there, small children at home. At one point he said flatly, “I’m just trying to squeeze in as much as I can.”
I doubt he thought of his statement as a mantra for our society. Yet it sums up the urgency that has ingrained itself like a primal drive in our society and our souls.
Why? Why are we trying to squeeze in as much as we can?
Surely, as Lynn Casteel Harper laid out in her recent post, our culture and our marketplace push us hard in that direction. We all know the evidence Read more

Ye Olde King James Version 400 Years and Counting

“Did you know,” a bright-eyed young woman breathlessly exclaimed to me, “that when King James wrote the Bible, he didn’t actually put everything in?!” I was riding the D.C. metro a few weeks ago when she sat down beside me with this information. Since people don’t normally talk on the train (unless it’s a first date or someone you work with), I might have suspected that the conversation would take an odd turn. King James did not, of course, write the Bible Read more

Three Religions One God

The three monotheist religious traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have more in common than in contention. All three believe God is one, unique, concerned with humanity’s condition. Each takes up the narrative of the others’ — Christianity and Islam carrying forward the story begun in the Hebrew scriptures of ancient Israel that define Judaism.
Christianity affirms the vocation of Israel after the flesh, and Islam affirms the validity of the antecedent monotheist revelations, regarding Muhammad as the seal of prophecy and the Quran as a work of God Read more

Are Synagogues Still Relevant

The recent release of a draft strategic plan for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is simply the latest indicator of the challenge facing non-Orthodox Judaism in the United States. The USCJ press release was accompanied by data showing that the movement has lost 14 percent of its affiliated families since 2001, and twice that percentage in the northeast region.
Several months ago the Union of Reform Judaism announced an 18-month think tank to include all the major arms of the Reform Movement. It came on the heels of significant cutbacks in their national staff and the near closure of one of the campuses of Hebrew Union College Read more

Should You Give up Social Networking or Church for Lent

Last year, I posted a rant about giving up Social Media for Lent. I think it still holds true this year and would love to hear what you think.
Oh the dreaded question that comes around every year as we Jesus-types start that time in our church life known as Lent.
Lent, 40ish days before Jesus begins his walk to the cross, is to be a time of repentance, reflection and humility all in preparation for Holy Week and Jesus’ walk to the cross, his death and resurrection.
As part of the traditional Lenten experience, many people give something up, symbolically, mentally and/or physically sacrificing something that keeps him/her separated from God. In this act of giving something up that in some ways has taken God’s place in our lives, we thus learn to fight temptation to forget God, we examine our own brokenness and we promise to God to chance our ways or “repent.”
One of the things that seems to be popular over the past few years is to give up social networking: Facebook, Twitter, etc Read more

Calling a New Generation of Prophets Any Takers

For decades, engaged Christians have espoused a prophetic politics that combines personal conversion and efforts to transform society. We have seen faith-based groups move from outreach-style charity or “service” to much more politically engaged forms of advocacy and organizing around social justice issues. The time has come for a new generation of prophets to rise up in America. These prophets will certainly be charitable and have a servant’s heart, but they will be engaged in a new kind of prophetic work: empowering communities to develop their potential as public problem solvers Read more

A Christian Stands Alone at the Creation Museum

The dichotomy presented in the museum between man’s knowledge and God’s knowledge made me angry with its complete wrong view of human knowledge. John Calvin wrote that God gives common grace to those who don’t believe. He gives them the grace to understand and investigate the world. Yes, man’s knowledge without God is wrong, but then, you might rightly ask, is it real knowledge in the first place?
Oddly enough, the museum contained very little about the theory of evolution Read more

Helping Children Spiritually Cope with Dying and Death

As children encounter illness, loss and grief — whether their own or someone close to them — they seek to understand those events and to make sense of their experiences. This inevitably is a spiritual process as they turn to their beliefs, faith narratives, rituals and practices. They may not yet have the cognitive capacity to reach conclusions, yet they yearn for an explanation of events that are sometimes difficult, if not impossible, for even adults to answer. Their questions may show innocence and naivet Read more

Who Wrote The Bible and Why It Matters

Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors — a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place. But is it possible that the problem is worse than that — that the Bible actually contains lies?
Most people wouldn’t put it that way, since the Bible is, after all, sacred Scripture for millions on our planet. But good Christian scholars of the Bible, including the top Protestant and Catholic scholars of America, will tell you that the Bible is full of lies, even if they refuse to use the term. And here is the truth: Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle — Peter, Paul or James — knowing full well they were someone else Read more

Why Have Faith Prayer and God Become American Jewish Taboos

Before I moved to Seattle I used to work in Las Vegas. I wasn’t a dealer at the Bellagio or doing weddings dressed as Elvis. I was working at one of the Conservative synagogues in the suburbs. It wasn’t on the strip but it was just as colorful Read more

Can Christians Support UN Intervention In Libya

As United States involvement in Libya continues, I find myself at odds with some on the left opposed to the United Nation’s intervention to prevent the slaughter of civilians.
As I wrote on my blog over the weekend, like many, I’m wary of U.S. military intervention in other nations. I opposed the war in Afghanistan early because, along with the church I served at the time, I felt that U.S. intervention there would be harmful to the civilian population and that the United States would leave Afghanistan in a position similar to that of the Soviet withdrawal, weakened and humbled, without achieving our legitimate goal of defeating the terrorists who attacked the U.S Read more

Why Throw Stones at the Crystal Cathedral

As the news of the financial woes of the Crystal Cathedral is heralded across the country and around the world, a host of critical voices have been raised, at times condemning the cost of building the Crystal Cathedral and even raising serious concerns over the message of its former pastor, Dr. Robert Schuller.
The most common attack has come from those who contend that the money spent on building the Crystal Cathedral was not justified. It has been said that the $20 million spent to construct the Crystal Cathedral would have been better spent on such missionary concerns as helping the poor and the oppressed of the world. Before considering the justification for that accusation, however, critics should consider the millions of people who have worshiped at the Crystal Cathedral, Sunday after Sunday, over the years Read more