Another Historic First at The National Cathedral
Monday, November 17, 2014, 9:36 AM

Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Another Historic First at The National CathedralLast June, on these pages, I wrote about an historic first at Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral when the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, became the first openly transgendered priest to preach from the Canterbury Pulpit at the cathedral.  The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop, presided at that service, which was part of the cathedral’s celebration of LGBTQ pride month.  The service included readings and prayers from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.  The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the cathedral, said that he hoped that Rev. Dr. Partridge’s participation would “send a symbolic message in support of greater equality for the transgender community.”  The National Cathedral, which is officially The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, boasts an important image both in the United States and around the world.

This past Friday, there was another historic first at the National Cathedral when several hundred Moslem worshipers gathered for the first recitation of weekly Moslem prayers to Allah at the cathedral.  The National Cathedral was, in effect, turned into a mosque, and the Moslem worshipers were called to worship by the Arabic call to prayer, and they bowed toward Mecca, while shielding their eyes from Christian crosses.  Prayer carpets were arranged diagonally so Islamic worshipers could face the direction of Mecca without seeing any of the crosses or other Christian symbols.  Apparently, this is because Moslems are not to pray in view of non-Islamic sacred symbols.  So now, the National Cathedral has become the first church in America to host a Moslem-led prayer service.  Among the sponsors of this event were the infamous Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and the Islamic Society of North America, also known as ISNA.  Both CAIR and ISNA are known front groups for the Moslem Brotherhood, which has long had strong ties to senior figures in the Obama Administration.  (The two groups were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the 2009 Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism funding trial in U.S history.  CAIR and ISNA were directly involved in laundering money through fake charities to fund Hamas operations.)  Friday’s Islamic sermon was preached by His Excellency, Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, described as a Moslem “scholar,” who is the ambassador from South Africa to the United States.  In his remarks, Ambassador Rasool called on Moslems, Christians, and others to come together and make “common cause” in the fight against extremists who appropriate Islam.  In his remarks, Ambassador Rasool said:

We come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world.  The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.

The Islamic prayer service was closed to the public, and media reports indicate that there was heavy security, with police checking every name and bag.  (I suppose the organizers feared that a Christian suicide bomber might set off a bomb, or send one or more Christian children wearing a bomb-vest.)  Organizers said there had been concerns about security and threats after the event was publicized, and the organizers and cathedral officials wanted to limit it to a small and select group.  However, as an imam was about to give the call to prayer, a Christian woman stood up, pointed to the cross, and proclaimed:

Jesus Christ died on that cross.  He is the reason we are to worship only Him.  Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.  We have built enough of your mosques in this country.  Why don’t you worship in your mosques and leave our churches alone?  America was founded on Christian principles.  Leave our church alone!

Indeed.  She was immediately taken into custody and forcibly removed from the cathedral by two men whereupon she was beheaded.  (OK, that didn’t really happen, or at least not yet in the United States, but it could have happened that way in many other countries.)  Our unidentified Christian sister’s interruption of the travesty was captured on video and posted online at

Of course, in Islam, Jesus Christ is not the Son of God.  The Koran 4:171 declares in part:

O People of the Scripture!  Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth.  The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a soul from Him.  So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease!  [It is] better for you!  Indeed, Allah is only One Allah.  Exalted is He above having a son.

Moreover, as Christians who recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s Holy Son, Islam teaches we are accursed and worthy of destruction.  The Koran 9:30 declares in pertinent part:

[T]he Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.”  That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved.  May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?

The leaders of the National Cathedral have now permitted a grave blasphemy in this church.  But now, I will look forward, in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect that was promised by this event, that this coming Christmas, we can celebrate the Feast of the Nativity at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and then, at Easter, celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Kaaba in Mecca.  In light of the Moslem persecution of Christians worldwide, it seems to me that it would be far more appropriate to promote love and respect by having Christian prayers in a mosque.  But don’t hold your breath.

Saint John Chrysostom
Sunday, November 16, 2014, 7:00 AM

In honor of his feast day, November 13, which I neglected last week.

A good documentary on St John Chrysostom–the Golden-Tongued–Doctor of the Church and author of the Orthodox liturgy, which has taken place every Sunday in every Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Catholic church—regardless of country, regardless of language—for the last 1500 years. It is a condensed version of the Liturgy of St Basil and is composed almost entirely of text directly from the Bible. The music varies depending on local tastes, but the text remains identical.

Here’s a shortened version of St John’s Liturgy by Tchaikovsky to give you a taste (the actual liturgy takes a couple of hours):

St John is also known for his tender and stirring Paschal Homily, read at every Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter) celebration.

Mere Links 11.14.14
Friday, November 14, 2014, 10:00 AM

Religion in Latin America
Pew Research

Latin America is home to more than 425 million Catholics – nearly 40% of the world’s total Catholic population – and the Roman Catholic Church now has a Latin American pope for the first time in its history. Yet identification with Catholicism has declined throughout the region, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey that examines religious affiliations, beliefs and practices in 18 countries and one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico) across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Pope Francis to build showers for homeless in St. Peter’s Square
Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service

In his latest bid to ease the suffering of the poor — and upend the expectations of the papacy — Pope Francis plans to build showers for the homeless under the sweeping white colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

Why Do Pastors Receive a Tax Exemption for Housing?
Joe Carter, Acton Institute

Aside from the question of constitutionality, the clergy exemption raises a question that many people — whether religious or not — are likely to be wondering: Why exactly do ministers receive a tax exemption for their housing allowance?

Not That Kind of Homosexuality?
Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition

The Bible has nothing good to say about homosexual practice. That may sound like a harsh conclusion, but it’s not all that controversial.

Mere Links 11.13.14
Thursday, November 13, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Pornographic Double-Bind
Mark Regnerus, First Things

Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, women have the right to be annoyed or upset by porn. It’s not a good thing. It’s spiritually draining. But we often overlook another casualty of pornography (and the human reaction to it): relationships that fail to launch

U.S. Bishops Struggle to Follow Lead of Francis
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times

It was a hail and farewell moment at a tumultuous time for the Roman Catholic Church. More than 200 bishops rose to their feet Monday and gave a protracted standing ovation to Cardinal Francis George, a former president of the bishops’ conference, who will step down next week as the archbishop of Chicago.

Are We Seeing Another Global Great Awakening?
Donald Devine, The Federalist

A series of books have explored varying reasons why belief in God is high across the globe. Except for a few holdouts.

The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols
Andrew Wilson, Think Theology

For many years, I was taught that idolatry was sinful. As a good Christian, I fought the desire to commit idolatry, and repented when I got it wrong. But the desire to worship idols never went away.

Mere Links 11.12.14
Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 10:00 AM

Designing a Church for the Poor
Duncan G. Stroik, Crisis Magazine

We all know that the poor need food and clothing, decent education and good jobs. But what about their spiritual and cultural needs?

2 Pastors, 90-Year-Old Man Charged With Feeding Homeless
Assoctiated Press

To Arnold Abbott, feeding the homeless in a public park in South Florida was an act of charity. To the city of Fort Lauderdale, the 90-year-old man in white chef’s apron serving up gourmet-styled meals was committing a crime.

Germany’s Pay to Pray Scheme
Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

In Germany, as in a number of other European countries, if you are a member of a church or mainstream religion, you have to pay a pretty significant tax to the government, which distributes the money to the churches.

Why Christian Groups Lead the Biggest Relief Efforts in the World
Christopher Hale, OnFaith

Organizations like World Vision give the lie to negative stereotypes about Christian work in the world.

Mere Links 11.11.14
Tuesday, November 11, 2014, 10:00 AM

Why Pro-Family Groups are Losing the Marriage Debate
Austin Ruse, Crisis Magazine

In a recent column published on his website, Camenker offers no quarter to the national pro-family groups that he says have botched the fight against same-sex “marriage.” In fact, he says “the pro-family movement helped spread ‘gay marriage’ across America.”

Stuff First-Century Christians Fought About
Derwin L. Gray, Christianity Today

What we can learn about multiethnic church planting from the first church dispute.

What the Pope could do to defend religious freedom
John L. Allen Jr., Crux

Just by reading the news, one has the impression that religious freedom is under threat today. From the carnage unleashed by the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to church/state tensions across the West, the picture seems to grow murkier and grimmer by the day.

The fastest-growing new religious movement
Gene Veith, Cranach

One expert says that worship of “Holy Death” is “the fastest-growing new religious movement.” I suppose it is fitting that a culture of death has a religion of death.

Mere Links 11.10.14
Monday, November 10, 2014, 10:00 AM

Who Will Rescue the Lost Sheep of the Lonely Revolution?
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

We do not have Pharisees who preen themselves for having followed the letter of the law and missed its soul. We have Pharisees who preen themselves for disobeying the law, even the most serious admonitions of the law, even your own clear words on marriage and divorce, while presuming to have discovered a soul-of-the-law whose existence has eluded two thousand years of martyrs, saints, popes, bishops, and theologians.

A Christian Tightrope Walker?
David Murray,

Can you be a “Christian Tightrope Walker.” Is tightrope-walking a legitimate Christian vocation? Does repeatedly mentioning God sanctify whatever job we do?

Pastors Don’t Need To Enter Politics—They’re Already In It
Peter J. Leithart, First Things

As pastors, pastors command unfathomable spiritual resources, the only resources with potential to transform the world. What Samuel Wells has said about the Church applies to pastors in particular: God gives “boundless gifts,” supplies “everything they need.”

One-fifth of Americans share religious experience online
Sarah Parvini, L.A. Times

One in five Americans share their religious thoughts and experiences on social networks, and nearly half said they saw someone else post “something about their religious faith” on the Internet, according to a Pew Research Center study on religion and electronic media.

Jeremy Begbie: Theology through the arts
Saturday, November 8, 2014, 10:10 AM

Fascinating insights from a Theologian/Musician

Homosexual “Marriage” Heading Back to the Supreme Court
Friday, November 7, 2014, 2:17 PM

As much as the Supreme Court sought to avoid this result, the question of homosexual “marriage” will now inevitably return to the Supreme Court.  This is because there are now polar-opposite decisions in the courts of appeal, and therefore, a dispositive decision regarding the right of states to make their own decision regarding homosexual “marriage” will need to be decided by the Supreme Court.  Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has federal law jurisdiction over the states of Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee, overruled lower court decisions that struck down state constitutional amendments passed by popular vote that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states have the right to set rules for marriage, and that changing a definition of marriage that dates to “the earliest days of human history” is better done through the political process, and not the courts.  Its decision breaks ranks with the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, the 10th Circuit in Denver, the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, and the 7th Circuit in Chicago, that have all overturned homosexual “marriage” bans in the West, South, and Midwest since this past summer.  The 6th Circuit’s appellate decision follows reasoning used to affirm traditional marriage in Puerto Rico by a federal judge.  On these pages, I recently wrote about the federal court ruling last month in Puerto Rico that concluded that there is no Supreme Court precedent that requires the federal judicial redefinition of marriage.  Moreover, both the court in Puerto Rico and the 6th Circuit appellate court found that the Supreme Court’s ruling last June on the federal Defense of Marriage Act case supports the authority of each state to make marriage policy.

Although the appellate court’s full decision is available here, there are some excerpts that merit the attention of my readers.  One of the stunning hallmarks of this decision is the judicial humility and the respect for the decisions of our citizens.  Although often forgotten today, our nation’s founders believed in the ability of virtuous, moral, and reasonable persons to govern themselves, and that a society could be built on limited government and great personal freedom.  In the first excerpt from the appellate court decision, it observed:

Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three judges on this panel, or for that matter all federal judges, about whether gay marriage is a good idea. Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us – just two of us in truth – to make such a vital policy call for the thirty-two million citizens who live within the four States of the Sixth Circuit.”

Emphasis added.  Then, at pages 19-21, the opinion states:

A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States . . . One starts from the premise that governments got into the business of defining marriage, and remain in the business of defining marriage, not to regulate love but to regulate sex, most especially the intended and unintended effects of male-female intercourse.  Imagine a society without marriage.  It does not take long to envision problems that might result from an absence of rules about how to handle the natural effects of male-female intercourse: children. . . . Once one accepts a need to establish such ground rules, and most especially a need to create stable family units for the planned and unplanned creation of children, one can well appreciate why the citizenry would think that a reasonable first concern of any society is the need to regulate male-female relationships and the unique procreative possibilities of them…. People may not need the government’s encouragement to have sex.  And they may not need the government’s encouragement to propagate the species.  But they may well need the government’s encouragement to create and maintain stable relationships within which children may flourish.  It is not society’s laws or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws (that men and women complement each other biologically), that created the policy imperative. And governments typically are not second-guessed under the Constitution for prioritizing how they tackle such issues.

Emphasis added.  Finally, at page 21, the appellate court held:

What we are left with is this: By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g., with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring.  That does not convict the States of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring.  That explanation, still relevant today, suffices to allow the States to retain authority over an issue they have regulated from the beginning.

Much will be written in the coming weeks about the wisdom of this decision, but I was struck by the comment of Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Byron Babione regarding this decision.  Mr. Babione stated:

The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.  As the 6th Circuit rightly concluded, the Constitution does not demand that one irreversible view of marriage be judicially imposed on everyone.  The 6th Circuit’s decision is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s acknowledgement in Windsor that marriage law is the business of the states.

As old-fashioned as it might seem to some, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Federal District Court Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez of Puerto Rico may well have gotten this decision right: let the people decide, and not unelected federal judges.

Mere Links 11.07.14
Friday, November 7, 2014, 10:00 AM

A Catholic philosopher’s spellbinding fight against Hitler
Kate Veik, Catholic News Agency

“Very, very few people in Germany in 1920-1921 already realized that Nazism was a poison,” von Hildebrand’s wife, Alice, explained. “People closed their eyes and did not want to see. (Dietrich) saw the danger and he warned people. Many people would call him a pessimist, but unfortunately he was right.”

Why Mars Hill’s Breakup Is a Warning for Megastar Pastors
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Pastors with megabrands are raising new issues for fast-growing churches.

Not Sentiment, Prejudice, or Tradition: Exploring the Nature of Marriage
Francis J. Beckwith, Public Discourse

Patrick Lee and Robert P. George’s new book clearly establishes that the case for conjugal marriage is not based on irrational prejudice or sentimental appeal to tradition. It is based on a series of sophisticated arguments that deserve to be answered.

Are Americans Afraid to Talk About Their Faith Online?
Emma Green, The Atlantic

On social networks like Twitter and Facebook, few regularly mention their religious beliefs.

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