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Category Archives: Faith and the Public Square

Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?

The cover article in the November issue of Christianity Today written by church historian Philip Jenkins was entitled “Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?” After traveling through that part of the world for two and half weeks last month, I found this article particularly helpful and insightful. If you haven’t read the article yet, you should. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite.

For Christians in the Middle East, 2014 has been a catastrophe. The most wrenching stories have come from Iraq, where the nascent Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL in news reports) has savagely persecuted ancient Christian communities, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox. Iraqi Christians have declined rapidly in number since the first Gulf War in 1991, but survivors long believed they could maintain a foothold around Mosul.

This past summer, that hope collapsed. In a ghastly reminder of Nazi savagery against Jews, Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter ن for Nazarenes—Christ followers—or R for Rwafidh, a term for Protestants, and inhabitants were targets for abuse or murder. Islamist militants have controlled Mosul since June 10. Even if the total extermination of each and every believer is not the goal, those ancient communities and churches face the prospect of utter ruin. To that extent, the end of Christianity in Iraq is within sight…

Matters changed swiftly during World War I. Massacres and expulsions all but removed the once very large Armenian and Greek communities in Anatolia (now Turkey). Counting Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks together, murder and starvation killed more than two million Christians between 1915 and 1922.

Emerging Arab nations also targeted Christians. Iraq’s slaughter of Assyrians in 1933 gave lawyer Raphael Lemkin a basis upon which he defined the concept of genocide. The partition of Palestine and subsequent crises in the region massively shrunk other ancient Christian groups. The modern story of the Christian Middle East is one of contraction and collapse.

By the end of the past century, Christianity in the Middle East had two great centers: Coptic Egypt, and the closely interrelated lands of Syria and Lebanon. They are now home to many refugee churches.

Today, Syria’s continuing civil war threatens to extend Islamist power still further. Islamic State flags have appeared in Lebanon. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt has warned that both Christians and his own Druze people stand “on the edge of extinction.”

Read the entire article online here.

[For articles on similar themes, read “Christian Persecution in Iraq“; “Christian Flight from Syria“; and “Who Will Defend Mideast Christians?”]

 

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If You Could Draw a Picture of God…

This brief video opens a huge conversation. What do you think?

 

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Christian Persecution in Iraq

iraqi-refugeesNBC World News had a recent feature on the impact of the Iraq war and subsequent instability on the Christian community in Iraq (“‘People turned on Christians': Persecuted Iraqi minority reflects on life after Saddam”). This reminded me of a time about two and a half years ago when I was at a gathering in the Middle East with a variety of Christian leaders. One of the men was an Iraqi church leader who bemoaned the reality that Christians were fleeing the country in record numbers.

Read more on these topics:

We must stand with our brothers and sisters.

Here are some key quotes from the article: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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A Response to the Connecticut Tragedy

DownloadedFileThis weekend at Eastbrook Church, I set aside the sermon I had prepared in order to speak to the tragedy that struck Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. My desire was to address both how we are to understand a shocking event like this and how we should respond to it as Christians.

You can listen to the message here.

You can read the manuscript that I preached from below. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Eastbrook, Faith and the Public Square

 

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Cardinal Dolan’s Response to Obama’s Election

Religion New Service reported Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Response to the re-election of President Barack Obama. Those who follow the news and public policy know that Dolan has taken a tough line with the President’s policies, particularly the health care reform.

What do you think about Cardinal Dolan’s letter below?

Dear President Obama,

In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.

In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant.We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.

May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Faith and the Public Square

 

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Four Recommendations on Election Day

Here are four recommendations I’d like to make for followers of Jesus on Election Day here in the US.

  1. Pray – We know as believers that God works through prayer (James 5:16). We know that our calling includes praying for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We know that our nation has a great need of turning back to God at numerous levels. Because of these things, we should pray that our nation will be awakened with a need for God, that the elections will be guided by God, and that all the candidates up for public office will be strengthened by God regardless of their political party.
  2. Think Biblically – As followers of Christ we must always filter our actions through the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures. We must let the truth of God both correct and encourage us, even as it renews our minds (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 12:1-2). We must remember that Jesus is our king and our allegiance is first and foremost to His kingdom. The kingdom of God is bigger than any political party. The kingdom calls for value of human life as made in the image of God from before birth through the end of our days. The kingdom of God calls for stewardship of the environment as created by God and stewardship of finances as a gift from God. The kingdom of God calls for care for the forgotten, those in prison, widows, orphans, and foreigners in our midst. The kingdom of God is marked by truth, integrity, righteousness and justice. We must struggle to think biblically about the issues.
  3. Vote – It is a huge privilege in our country to have a voice in the political process. So many others that I have spent time with around the world do not have this privilege. The first century church did not experience anything like this. An outflow of Paul’s instructions about our relationship to governing authorities in Romans 13 is to exercise our right to vote. I encourage every follower of Jesus to take up this privilege.
  4. Love One Another – The Bible affirms again and again that we are called as followers of Christ to love one another and stand in unity (1 John 4:11; Philippians 4:1-2). Jesus Himself said that people would know we are His disciples if we love one another (John 13:34-35). Over all these things, we must stand together as one in ways that those around us, divided by so many different political philosophies and party allegiances, cannot. We must uphold the unity as brothers and sisters forged through the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus Christ.
 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Faith and the Public Square

 

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The Changing Ministry with Single Adults?

At the end of August, I posted about an article in The Economist looking at the increase of single adults internationally entitled “Singletons: the attraction of solitude.” There was a lot of great dialogue around that post which, if you missed it, was really enlightening about church ministry to singles.

Just yesterday, I came across another article from Leadership on this topic entitled “What Happened to Singles Ministry?” The author, a staff member of a church in San Diego, writes about the changing face of ministry to single adults in church settings.

Here are some major premises shared in the article:

  • Singles don’t actually want to be part of a singles ministry.
  • “Singles’ needs are best addressed in a segregated setting” is a faulty premise.
  • Singles ministries that focus primarily on the needs of singles emotionally destabilize the group.
  • Segregated singles ministries are more susceptible to becoming emotionally toxic Read the rest of this entry »
 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Faith and the Public Square

 

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