Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2018

A Sad Day for Christianity in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada had an entirely different view on dealing with religious or theological matters in 2004 than what was announced yesterday. [Source: ]

CBC News:

Trinity Western loses fight for Christian law school as court rules limits on religious freedom ‘reasonable’

Supreme Court of Canada says 7-2 decision will ensure open access for LGBT students

A B.C.-based evangelical Christian university has lost its legal battle over accreditation for a planned new law school, with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling today saying it’s “proportionate and reasonable” to limit religious rights in order to ensure open access for LGBT students.

In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the majority of justices found the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario have the power to refuse accreditation based on Trinity Western University’s so-called community covenant.

The mandatory covenant binds students to a strict code of conduct that includes abstinence from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

The majority judgment said the covenant would deter LGBT students from attending the proposed law school, and those who did attend would be at risk of significant harm.

It found the public interest of the law profession gives it the right to promote equality by ensuring equal access, support diversity within the bar and prevent harm to LGBT students.

In the court’s view, the law societies were acting within their mandate in considering TWU’s admission policies in the accreditation process…

…there’s much more, continue reading here. CBC also mentioned:

Other professional programs at the university, such as the teaching and nursing programs, have been operating successfully for years, turning out graduates who are well-respected in the community, [TWU Professor Janet Epp] Buckingham said. She said she does not anticipate any challenges to those programs, whose students are also required to sign the covenant…

…But Andrew Bennett, director of the religious freedom institute at the Christian-based think tank Cardus, said the ruling could have broader implications for other professions such as medicine, and for other religious schools…

The Catholic Register reported:

…Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, whose diocese includes Langley, B.C., where TWU is located, said he was “saddened” by the decision “with its potential to undermine freedom of religion, conscience and association in Canada.”

“The decision runs counter to Canada’s tradition of balancing rights and freedoms, and the implications of this decision for constitutional freedoms in Canada are severe,” Miller said. The Archdiocese of Vancouver intervened in the TWU case jointly with the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and the Faith and Freedom Alliance.

“With this decision, the court has moved away from our historic tradition of reconciling competing rights, and closer to a prioritization of rights, essentially ruling some are more important than others,” Miller said.

The CCRL said the decision could have ripple effect. “The broader implications of the SCC’s decision will cast a pall on the future interface between religious viewpoints and state engagements in the public square,” said the League in a news release. “Questions will now be raised on continued or future access to state benefits, public funding or government approvals of available programs.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible decision,” said constitutional lawyer Iain Benson, who now teaches law in Australia. “It’s a very dark day in Canadian legal history.”

According to the majority view on the Supreme Court, “the standard religious position on sexual morality no longer accords with a reading of public interest,” Benson said.

“That is extraordinarily serious,” he said. “It has the potential to open up whole swathes of Canadian culture to scrutiny under so-called ‘charter values.’”

…read their entire report; continue reading here.

Peter Vogel of the Christian Heritage Party wrote,

This case has very serious implications for future decisions of the courts. Why? Because judges at every level, including the Supreme Court, are selected from the ranks of experienced lawyers. By making it more difficult for young Christians to pursue the study of law at an institution that honours their beliefs, this judgment has effectively closed the doors to many future Christian judges. The inevitable result will be courtroom decisions that ignore, not only Christian moral values but, the rule of law. Without the rule of law, justice and freedom will eventually disappear.

…for his entire column, continue reading here

There was also an interesting graphic on CBC News quoting the Supreme Court decision:

But one could argue the decision restricts access to legal education of Evangelical Christians. In another time, another place, the statement might just as easily read:

Realistically, it’s more in line with how things stand today. Further, the percentage of people in the general Canadian population identifying as “Christian” or “Catholic” is much larger than those who identify as LGBTQ. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, I suppose. 

In context, this decision comes just weeks after another event which has riled Canadian Christians from coast to coast: Federal funds for summer job grants were denied to religious institutions and Christians charities which refused to sign a statement saying that “anti abortion” wasn’t part of their “core mandate.” This, plus the legalization of marijuana, just weeks away, is seen as an attack on the values of Canadian Christians.  

Certainly, 2018 will see Canada’s attitudes on Christian values end much differently than the country started the year, leaving many Catholics, Evangelicals and even Mainline Protestants asking, ‘What’s next?’


Some comments on Twitter yesterday:


The school posted this video yesterday, although it doesn’t really address any of the issues:

Advertisements

May 7, 2018

When Tragedy Strikes Your City

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

I spent the first 33 years of my life in Toronto, so when NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt led off with the story of a van driving down a 1 mile (2.2 km) stretch of a major street killing people, I immediately thought the stores in the background the design of the traffic lights looked familiar.

Sure enough, on April 23rd, a city outside the United States opened that newscast. I knew the area of Yonge (pronounced Young) Street and Finch Avenue well. It was stomping ground for my late-teen and early twenty-something years, and furthermore, our son currently lives just a few miles north, at Yonge and Steeles. The event is not being regarded as an act of terrorism.

Saturday night after attending a concert for which tickets had been purchased several weeks in advance at, yes, the same Yonge and Finch, I said, “Let’s go for a walk up the street as an act of defiance.” Defiance in the sense of taking the street back from those who would render it a soft target. Defiance in the sense of not allowing fear to overtake us as we walk. Defiance in the sense of supporting the local merchants by buying a slice of pizza. Defiance in the sense of supporting the other people doing the same.

But it only took less than one block to come across the first memorial.

A group of people were busy repairing that one from damage incurred by a major windstorm on Friday night. The bouquets of flowers and memorial candles were being held in place by sandbags.

This was real.

This was everything I’ve seen on programs just like NBC Nightly News only this time it was our family which was standing at the memorial, about which the only positive thing that can be said was the beautiful aroma of the flowers themselves.

Otherwise, we were looking into the aftermath of tragedy. Ten lives, needlessly taken. All I could think was, “These people shouldn’t be dead right now.”

One man commented about the victims “having peace wherever they are.”

I wanted to talk to him about that. To get him to expand on what he meant. To — yes, forgive me — turn it into an evangelistic moment.

That’s what I do. I love striking up conversations.

But (a) I wasn’t alone, and (b) we were facing a 90-minute ride home. I don’t live in Toronto now, but I do believe the ministry opportunities in an environment like this abound, if someone is there to see and hear them and know how to gently respond with grace and hope.

There are many, many people in Toronto very broken by the experience. I don’t want to see their grief exploited, but I think this is the very place Jesus would be and should be. It doesn’t mean handing out tracts and seeking immediate conversions, but it does mean bringing Christ into the conversation and being his very presence in that location.

Had only one person or even two died, there might not be this outpouring of grief and tribute. But when it’s ten, it attracts greater attention. I looked at some of the pictures of the victims and the notes and comments about them and wondered aloud if they could see the enormity of the response their deaths had brought. Locally. Regionally. Nationally. Worldwide.

Then I quickly backed away from such conjecture. Perhaps they would be embarrassed at the attention being paid. Conversely, they might feel vindicated that their dying was not for nothing. Toronto now joins the ranks of many cities where barriers are being placed to control access to pedestrian walkways.

At one point someone had laid a hockey stick on the flowers, conflating this tragedy with the other Canadian tragedy just days earlier, the deaths of 15 aboard a hockey team’s bus in Saskatchewan.

It was later, but as we drove north on Yonge, we saw a larger memorial. I had to stop.  I just couldn’t drive by. We revisited the process of slowly, reverently circling this cluster of flowers and signs and candles. Something compelled me to see this one as well, despite having seen the other. It was an event in the city’s history, that will never be forgotten. I asked my son if he remembered us visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington as something struck me about the similarity.

One cardboard sign quoted Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

My desire is that both immediate families, complete strangers, and everyone in between would know the reality of that.

 

 

March 6, 2018

“Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”

At least one reader took me to task last week for wading into the gun control debate. Truly, I try to keep the blog’s “faith focus” mandate top of mind as I choose topics for articles here. But at risk of offending others, here we go again.

The topic is the state of Iowa’s “Heartbeat Bill” which would ban abortion if there is a beating heart. I’ll just let the story tell itself, from LifeSiteNews:

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate passed landmark pro-life legislation known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” which if put into law would outlaw aborting babies with detectable heartbeats.

Pre-born babies’ hearts begin to form around 21 days into pregnancy, and are detected on ultrasounds just a few weeks later.

Iowa’s Republican-controlled upper chamber approved the bill in a 30-20 vote along party lines.

The legislation which now awaits a vote by the state’s lower chamber – also controlled by a Republican majority – would make it a felony for doctors to commit abortions after detecting a fetal heartbeat.

The only exception would be for pregnancies that threaten a mother’s life.

“This bill is the logical beginning point for all of civil governance,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, adding that it strikes “at the very heart and soul of what it means to be an American, what it means to be a person.”  …

…Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who served on the subcommittee which produced the legislation, said he believes culture has been moving towards a pro-life view for decades – a view that has become repulsed by a “holocaust of death” related to abortion.

“This may be what our culture is ready for,” Schultz continued. “Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”

But the bill faces opposition, including from one very pro-life group you would expect to be in its corner, the Iowa Catholic Conference. They see it opening up a constitutional challenge that could result in greater access to abortion, not less.

We acknowledge the efforts of legislators and groups who challenge the current legal precedents to abortion.

We respect the fact that legislation often involves judgments about the most effective and timely means for advancing the protection of unborn children.

At the same time, we should take into account that this bill is likely to be found unconstitutional. We should consider the unintended long-term consequences that could result from a court finding a robust right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution, which could include the elimination of some of the limitations on abortion we already have in Iowa. Therefore, the Iowa Catholic Conference is registered as neutral on the legislation.

The same thing happened in Tennessee:

When a similar Heartbeat Bill was introduced in Tennessee last year, Tennessee Right to Life opposed it. The organization’s president, Brian Harris, was as far as to testify against the legislation, saying that his group wants to support measures that stand a stronger chance of holding up in court.

Read the full story at LifeSiteNews.

I guess they don’t want to pick a fight they can’t totally win. But there’s no escaping the logic of the statement:

“Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”


Related: In a more recent story from the UK, there is a movement to lower the abortion limit from its current 24 weeks. (A full term is 39 weeks.) “Maria Caulfield MP said that the current limit was introduced ‘at a time when babies were really not viable at 24 weeks’.” She also noted, “We’ve got one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world.”


I don’t know how sensationalist this video animation of an abortion is, but I suspect there’s more truth in this than people would want to realize. Again, this blog doesn’t get into this issue much, and neither do I on Twitter, but I felt this was worth sharing. Warning, content is graphic and disturbing.

February 26, 2018

Guns: The Road to Beating Swords into Plowshares

Today we move away from our usual faith-focused writing to something being discussed in the broader culture which, especially if you follow my Twitter feed, is a topic that’s been inescapable, even when writing one country away. That’s not to say that social justice issues should not be front-and-center for the Christ follower…

Another way is possible. I firmly believe that. But I will be accused of not being entirely realistic. Right now, the choke-hold the NRA has on the American public seems unchangeable. I’d like to give you some hope with two examples. You don’t have to buy in on both of them, just pick the one you like the best.


The Bell Telephone Breakup of 1984

In short, the U.S. government broke up a very, very large corporation because it was deemed in the public interest to do so.

At the time of the Bell system breakup in 1984, the monopoly advantages enjoyed by the company (which were wrongly attributed to the free market, not government favoritism) had created an economic behemoth with $150 billion in assets, $70 billion in revenues, and a million employees. The Justice Department had determined that the company had grown too big, however, and filed suit under the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1974. The case, United States v. AT&T, was settled by a consent decree in January 1982, under which the company agreed to give up its 22 local exchange service companies, but keep its interests in Bell Labs and Western Electric. The 22 companies were divided into seven independent Regional Bell Operating Companies, RBOCs, or “Baby Bells.” AT&T continued to operate its long-distance services.

…But the competition that AT&T had been successfully avoiding for so many years very quickly took its toll on a company not used to competition. AT&T’s Computer Systems venture failed; its purchase of NCR was a notable failure as well; and Bell Labs and Western Electric were sold to Lucent. The Western Electric manufacturing plant was eventually closed in the face of foreign competition. AT&T wound up being purchased by one of the RBOCs, Southwestern Bell, now SBC Communications, in 2005.

In the midst of “Ma Bell’s” troubles came the Telecommunications Act (TCA) of 1996, which was designed to open up the long-distance telephone service markets that had been closed to competitors since the consent decree. The act also forced incumbents to allow newcomers to enter their markets by giving them access to their own infrastructure, which was meant to allow competition. But the TCA didn’t lead to multiple companies working to improve existing long-distance service. What the TCA did, instead, was allow the free market to provide lower rates and better service to customers while resulting in the consolidation of the seven Baby Bells to the point now where there are essentially only two competing companies providing traditional hard-wire, plain old telephone service (POTS): AT&T and Verizon.

-Bob Adelmann writing in The New American, May, 2010

It’s worth adding that this was a business, whereas the NRA is a non-profit. Despite its status, the government stepped in to undo the monopoly market.


The Abolition of Slavery

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery:
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”.

-from archives.gov

Let’s not miss that this radical change in the social order involved a change to the — now treated as sacrosanct; untouchable — Constitution of the United States.

There’s another parallel as well; a National Geographic page on the history of Slavery invites readers to:

Browse through a timeline of America’s ‘peculiar institution’

in other words, while slavery existed and continues to persist in other parts of the world, the situation was unique to the United States and was eventually deemed untenable.

Sound familiar? 

Wikipedia adds another parallel:

Since the American Revolution, states had divided into states that allowed and states that prohibited slavery. 

in other words, like the situation today, much was state regulated but was overturned by a federal act.

See the similarities?


I know statistically that in this blog’s dominantly U.S. readership there are people who are opposed to gun reform and people who don’t see what’s wrong with the status quo. I really despair being drawn into the vortex of this discussion.

But for those who long for a different day — long for the realization of the dream of ‘beating swords into plowshares*– I wanted to provide some hope.


*Found in two passages:

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.
-Isaiah 2:4 (NLT)

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
-Micah 4:3 (NIV)

February 19, 2018

When the Cries Bring About Change

Heather Booth is a professional book editor. On the weekend, she tweeted out a rather remarkable story and I quickly sent the link to several people I know who are connected to major media because I wanted to help “get this story out there.” Then, on Sunday morning it occurred to me that Thinking Out Loud is also media, maybe not major media, but instead of asking others to share this story, I could be part of making it happen.

I have a thing to say about growing up after tragedy. When I was a senior in high school, seven of my classmates were killed and 24 injured. It was an awful day full of fear, confusion, and pain. Press swarmed. News helicopters hovered overhead all day filming footage of the carnage.

Nothing made sense. Over the days and weeks that followed, we went to vigils, wakes, and funerals. We openly wept in the hallways. People who had never spoken before embraced, clinging to each other. We felt broken.

People said the things that are being said now. “I put him on the bus and sent him to school. He was supposed to be safe.” Classrooms were rearranged so the empty desks weren’t a constant reminder.

Time passed. We started living with loss, but we still startled at the noises that reminded us of that day. We were now people that THIS had happened to.

More time passed. I did the memorial layout in the yearbook. By then, our shock and raw pain had changed to anger and questioning. Why did this happen? What went wrong? Whose fault is it? Investigations, we learned, were ongoing.

A federal official said, “The thing that upsets me most–we teach our kids to learn the importance of accountability. In this, there was a failure of accountability by a number of organizations.”

And then, things changed.

29 recommendations were made by the NTSB and implemented from the local to federal level. Because this wasn’t a shooting. It was a train hitting a school bus. One train. One bus. Seven deaths. 24 injured. One year. 29 changes for 16 organizations.

And as kids, here’s what this meant: we saw something awful happen, then we saw adults support us, then we saw them make change happen to keep that awful thing from ever happening again. Now, I’m an adult who grew up having seen adults fix things.

Think about the worldview we create for youth when their awful experiences result in nothing but hand wringing and despair. Thoughts and prayers. When a tragedy hits that’s far more deadly and far less accidental than what Cary-Grove High School experienced in 1995 and nothing changes?

What kind of lifelong scars do we inflict on youth when the adults who are there to protect them don’t force change in the wake of preventable tragedy? What kind of foundation do we lay when their world breaks and no one fixes it?

I don’t care which avenue you pursue to change the scourge of gun violence against youth. There are plenty. Pick one. Do something. Call your reps. Donate. March. Volunteer. Vote. Force the issue. Empower teens. Don’t let them down. Make change happen.


Story reference:

Chicago Tribune: October 30, 1996.

To repeat, “One year. 29 changes for 16 organizations.” Changes were made to ensure that this type of thing would never happen again. Adults responded to protect children. Need we say more?

I am not aware if Heather has a particular faith-connection or if she does not. I felt this was worth sharing today irrespective of our usual considerations.

February 15, 2018

To Our American Friends, Again

You can’t fix this.

I’m sorry, but the intricacies of your political system have painted you into a corner and now you are trapped and can’t get out.

You will never fix this.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but try to imagine a scenario or series of scenarios that would result in enacting, for example, a repeal of the 2nd Amendment. It’s just not possible.

You, as a nation, don’t have the political will to fix this.

The system is broken and all your politicians know this. It’s a given that is whispered in hushed corridors of power, while the external message is, “Thoughts and prayers.”

…Just over five years ago, in December of 2012, I wrote the first “To Our American Friends” article. At that time I earnestly believed with all my heart that the U.S. had had a wake-up call and would start the conversation that would result in social and constitutional change. I wrote:

…Please accept our heartfelt sympathies.

Even though we’re close neighbors, we don’t fully understand the U.S. gun culture that is part of the DNA of those with whom we share this continent. And before we start to sound judgmental, we don’t always get it right up here, either; neither have we been immune to gun violence.

But we don’t think the framers of the U.S. constitution had yesterday in mind when they drafted the 2nd Amendment. Rather, I think they would be appalled, provided they were not completely bewildered trying to process where things presently stand.

This is only going to get worse. And worse and worse…

In June of 2015, I quoted President Obama:

“But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.” – President Obama

Does he really believe “it’s in our power to do something?” By October of the same year, the President’s tone had changed. It was more a lament. I wrote at the time,

President Obama went on television for the 16th time in his presidency and said, “Somehow, this is becoming routine.”

Gun advocates say that people need to have guns to defend themselves, but where are the headlines where a mass shooting was aborted because some civilian took out the shooter?

Again, it’s not my place to comment on the laws of another country. But know this: To those of us outside what Pope Francis reminded Americans is called “The land of the free,” we don’t believe the authors of the U.S. Constitution had days like these in view. Not for a moment.

It certainly is “The home of the brave.” You’d have to be brave, to leave your house in the morning not knowing if you’ll be having supper with your family at night.

Today, I have a different message.

You need to get out.

You need to get out before you’re next.

If traveling through Europe last summer taught us anything, it taught us that geography or place of birth need no longer limit the trajectory of a person’s life. Especially our last two days, as we got to know Prague in the Czech Republic, we remarked a few times, “We could live here.” We could easily envision ourselves uprooting from friends and family and starting an entirely new life in an entirely new place.

And so could you.

English is widely spoken. You’d want to learn the local language, but you would be amazed at how much you can get by in the world with English.

The places are sophisticated. Many have innovations in education, medical services and consumer technology that have not yet become commonplace in the United States.

Your skills as a teacher, mechanic, IT worker, nurse, editor, contractor, dietician, etc. are transferable.

Think about it.

Book a trip. Book it now, before summer while the rates are lower.

If you have a passport in a country that is part of the British Commonwealth, consider England, Australia, or New Zealand. Otherwise, start subscribing to website bulletins posting jobs in Europe. If you speak a foreign language, all the better. You won’t be 100% safe; some of these countries have issues with terrorism, but you will be safer. So will your kids.

You need to get out.

There’s no other solution.

I’m sorry.

 

 

February 2, 2018

Life Lessons: Ethics

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

There are five teenage boys, out riding their bicycles by the elementary school after supper.

“Look over there;” says one, “The janitor left one of the classroom windows open.”

“We could squeeze through there,” says another; “You’d just need to use your bicycle to prop yourself up.”

“We gotta do this;” says the third, “We can leave a note on the blackboard that we were in.”

The fourth boy also weighs in, but the fifth boy has different ideas, saying things like, “I think that would still be breaking and entering;” and “We could get in a lot of trouble;” and “Aren’t there cameras around here somewhere?”

You expect that, right? You expect at least one of the boys to be the voice of reason, though he might succumb to peer pressure and give in and squeeze through the window as well. You expect someone to vote for making a different choice.

What’s this about?

It’s a story that came to mind when news was released that five of Canada’s major grocery stores colluded and manipulated the price of bread. For 14 years.

At first Canadians were told it was one large grocery chain. Then we learned there were five and then seven.

It was price fixing, plain and simple. Market manipulation.

And it’s not wrong to this, provided you have no ethics.

If your brain can’t process the idea of wrongdoing, then you don’t see a problem. If there isn’t — as in our  opening story — a 5th kid on a bicycle asking, “Couldn’t we get in a lot of trouble for doing this?” then you probably proceed with presumed impunity.

Increasingly, this is the way our society is headed. In 2013 a Texas teen was given a reduced sentence on the grounds he had “affluenza.” (There is no such medical condition.) ABC-TV reported, “The term ‘affluenza’ hit pop culture after the infamous 2013 manslaughter trial of Ethan Couch, whose defense included a witness saying the teen was a product of ‘profoundly dysfunctional’ parents who gave him too much and never taught him the consequences of his actions.”

Watch the video linked in the above paragraph.

Far more serious than the price of bread, but remember the driver had minimal sentencing because of the uniqueness of the legal defence.

This is what happens when nothing is wrong and when actions don’t have consequences.

January 14, 2018

China: Freedom of Religion in Theory, Not in Practice

From The Independent (UK):

Chinese authorities blow up Christian megachurch with dynamite

Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions.

The church had faced “repeated persecution” by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand… But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common…

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying. Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes…

Read the full story at The Independent

In this image taken from video shot Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, by China Aid and provided to the Associated Press, people watch the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen in northern China’s Shanxi province. Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary troops known as the People’s Armed Police used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, a Christian mega-church that clashed with the government.

This was the second of two recent demolitions. The Express (UK) reports,

China demolishes second church as fears of crackdown against Christianity grow

…A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened.

China guarantees freedom of religion but authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious practice…

…According to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organisations, congregation members were beaten by 400 officials during an incident in September 2009 which resulted in church leaders receiving lengthy prison sentences on charges such as assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic and illegally occupying agricultural land.

Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, said: “I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one.

“It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February.”

Chinese authorities have taken a harder line against practicing Christianity since 2013.

Officials launched a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists…

…A pastor at a nearby church, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals said there were “more police than I could count” preventing a crowd on onlookers and worshipers from approaching the site.

He said: “My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own.

“This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”


Upper Image: Independent (appears elsewhere credited to Andy Wong/Associated Press)
Lower Image: Religion News Service (China Aid via Associated Press)

December 9, 2017

Armageddon Preview: California Wildfires

Admittedly the person who posted this on Twitter retouched the sign, but everything else in this image is real.

Long before there was the Left Behind books and music, there were the Russell Doughten films. Growing up Evangelical in the ’70s and ’80s meant your church probably had showings of:

While studies have shown that guilt- and fear-induced decisions tend not to produce lifelong disciples, there are no doubt some reading this who were “scared into the kingdom” by movies such as this and live productions such Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

Looking at the images from Southern California this week, it was difficult not to imagine that we were viewing a film producer’s vision of the end times. The people who had to drive through those scenes in order to escape will simply never be able to erase those images. The future PTSD issues related to the past week will endure as long as many of these people are living.

The losses are staggering. But beyond the personal tragedy is the loss of a rather unique part of the world, every bit as special to me as Venice is to others.

I took six trips to So. Cal., staying at least two weeks for each, and renting a car each time. My favorite memories are of driving north of Los Angeles at night with the radio cranked on KFI or KKHR and capturing the image in my mind of the homes lining the Hollywood Hills, not unlike the view you get looking down on a city or town at night from an airplane, but with the perspective reversed by the fact you’re at the lowest altitude and the porch lights and street lights are displayed in a panorama above you.

When the lights go down in the California town
People are in for the evening
I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar
My heart beatin’ time with my breathin’

After finding something that totally awed me, I would then take the first exit, loop around and drive the opposite way to see it all again. Gas was cheaper then, I suppose. I can’t describe to you the beauty of the lights twinkling up the hills. It was another world.

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
Than moonshine

To think of so much of that being simply gone is unimaginable. You see the video footage of burned out properties, but I think about what they were; what will take at least a generation to rebuild if not longer.

When you think of the dangers of living in So. Cal., you think earthquakes. Not any longer. As one responder said yesterday, “Fire season is now all year.”

In the end, condition “red” was not enough. They had to create a new level “purple” for “extreme” danger.

…I don’t know if any filmmakers were mercenary enough to go out and shoot stock footage in the middle of this, but it certainly raises the possibilities of what Armageddon could look like; metaphorically of course, because the prophesied battle takes place on the other side of the world.

But The Tribulation, perhaps? Definitely. Nuclear aftermath? For sure.

 

 

December 4, 2017

The Ravi Story

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:56 am

Last week we ran a series called Short Takes which meant I did not have an opportunity to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, nor do I feel that every blogger needs to pontificate on every breaking story. (See the first two items in Wednesday’s Link List if you’re not familiar with what was reported.)

Today however, I have the luxury of having had a week to consider the impact of the reports as well as — a full week later — the first direct reply from Ravi himself.

I think the first question to be answered, if not today over the long haul, is that as scandals go, was this the real deal or a bit of a tempest in a teapot? I would argue that Ravi Zacharias will survive this with his ministry reputation more or less intact.

Academic credentials do matter. Last summer (2016) we took some fun pictures of me “lecturing” at Trent University and in the chapel at Tyndale College and Seminary and a few other places. It was a lot of fun standing behind the podium and “speaking” at those fine institutions. Truth is, both were taken on Saturdays and there was no one in the audience. We’d all like to think our accomplishments are larger than they are. (We never did anything with those photos.) So saying that you were granted “visiting scholar” privileges at a prestigious UK school is probably legit if someone did indeed arrange for you to attend lectures there. But it gets dicey if you know that “visiting scholar” is actually a very specific title; the word itself implies the granting of a scholarship.

Furthermore, the relationship between affiliated schools — a key factor in a couple of elements of Ravi’s [former] biography can often be complicated. For example, my undergraduate degree is from the University of Toronto, but it is a federation of colleges; mine was Victoria University. If I had returned to graduate work at Wycliffe College to work on a masters degree, I would also have been part of the Toronto School of Theology which is the federation of theological colleges (including Trinity, St. Michaels, Knox, etc.) all of which are located — wait for it — at the University of Toronto. (And even that sentence is ambiguous; it begins “if I had returned” when in fact I mean returned to the campus overall; if you check, Wycliffe has no record of me.) If I really want to stretch things, I also attended Oxford in England and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, but my time there was quite limited due to the tour bus idling in the parking lot.

It’s easy to embellish one’s record. Or even to want to do so. The first rule of human resources interviewing is to look at the resumé and determine if the prospective employee exaggerated any of their employment or educational claims. True Christian humility would be to downplay any degrees, but in the field of apologetics, some type of academic clout is expected. Years ago, I wrote a bullet-point list of all the things I had done, but probably only about one in ten of those would be elements of a resumé. Those experiences were significant to who I am and what I have to offer, but many of them were unique opportunities that are harder to quantify or document.

As to the sexting part of last week’s story, there are two very contradictory elements which may get forgotten. One is the report that the legal action connected to this originated with Ravi, not with the woman. There is an admission of some type of settlement, but so far, the statement stands that no funds from RZIM were involved. Yes, it’s confusion.

But there’s also that email that had been posted earlier by Julie at Spiritual Sounding Board which quoted Ravi as saying that as a result of the devastation the story could bring he might need to “bid this world goodbye.” I’d like to know more about that one, please; but we probably should just consign that one to the category of your teenage daughter saying, “If anyone sees my hair like this I’m going to have to kill myself.”

…All in all a bit of a mess, but hopefully not a fatal one. To the atheist blogger who did the tireless research which broke the story, I would in all seriousness say ‘Thank you. As Christians we place a high value on transparency and accountability, even when it hurts.’

But to the same blogger I would say, ‘Know this: The thoroughness of your research does not negate the thoroughness of Ravi Zacaharias’ research when he argues the deity of Christ and the proofs for Christ’s resurrection from the dead. If you take down the man, you don’t logically or necessarily take down the truth of his message. There are more of us. There are even some of you who know that the proofs for the resurrection are undeniable. We are human. We are fallible. We fall down. We get back up again.’


Links: Rather than place links at various stages of this article, at present you can get everything you need at the bottom of this article at Spiritual Sounding Board. Then click that website’s header to see the most recent posts. The response from Ravi is summarized at this article posted mid-afternoon Sunday (12/3/17) at Christianity Today.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.