Mere Links 09.22.14
Monday, September 22, 2014, 10:00 AM

Yale chaplain’s resignation reflects larger mainline tensions over Israel
Religion News Service

When an Episcopal chaplain at Yale University seemed to suggest that Jews were culpable for Israel’s actions against Palestinians and a related rise in global anti-Semitism, his comments not only led to his resignation but rekindled a debate within mainline Protestant churches about how to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Are We Catholics First or Americans First?
Heather King, Aleteia

The law of the land and the Higher Law.

How Obamacare Forces You to Subsidize Plans That Cover Elective Abortion
Sarah Torre, The Daily Signal

Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms that’s just another broken promise. Here are three things you need to know about abortion and Obamacare.

Satanists want to give out materials in Orange schools
Lauren Roth, Orlando Sentinel

A religious group called The Satanic Temple is making plans to hand out literature in Orange County Public Schools later this school year, following distributions by atheist and evangelical Christian groups.

Lagniappe – Sunday Mass in Old Jaffa City
Sunday, September 21, 2014, 7:00 AM

Longtime Touchstone supporter, Gina Danaher, visited Israel this June with a varied group of Christians, among whom was her Roman Catholic friend, Maureen. One Sunday the two set out to find a local Catholic Mass for Maureen and were shocked to discover that many churches in the city have moved their celebrations to Saturday, in conformance with prevailing local custom—they were empty. Gina was undeterred:

“At this point we had failed to locate a Catholic Church in our area of Tel Aviv, so I thought maybe we would find a Mass at St. Peter’s in Jaffa. Maureen didn’t want to trouble me, but at least I wanted to see this old church… since this church was built to commemorate Peter’s vision at Cornelius’ house in the Book of Acts. By this time Maureen had given up on a Sunday Mass, but when I went into the church, a mass was being served by a Korean priest and a Korean deacon to about 23 South Korean deacons-in-training.”

“Their worship songs were sung beautifully and accompanied by one of the young men on a small size, travel guitar. They sang “All in All”, just as we do at Grace Fellowship, but in Korean. This brought tears to my eyes as I filmed them.

As we talked to these young men after the Mass, we learned that they were completing their training as deacons and were visiting the Holy Land as a part of that training. They would then proceed to Rome. Their tender love of Christ was humbling.”

Thanks, Gina.

Mere Links 09.19.14
Friday, September 19, 2014, 10:00 AM

A Tale of Two Churches
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Aleteia

What happens when the State establishes itself as a rival religion through administrative coercion?

The Arab Christian Dilemma
Luma Simms, The Federalist

Arab Christians perceive themselves as caught between radical Islam on one side and Israel on the other. I know. I am one.

Christianity Is Not Going Away
Mark Tooley, On Faith

Over the last decade, ostensibly secular New York City has seen increased church attendance and increased numbers of “born-again” believers.

We’re Winning the War on Global Hunger
Joe Carter, Acton Institute

One of the most underreported stories of the last decade is about good news: we’re winning the struggle against chronic hunger around the globe.

Air Force Surrenders at First Whiff of Grapeshot
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 1:42 PM

It was on this date, September 18, 1947, that the United States Air Force became an independent branch of the military.  Although the beginnings of the Air Force go back to 1907, it was only in 1909 that the Army bought its first airplane.  By the start of World War I, the Army owned five airplanes.  From the humble beginnings, at its height in World War II, the Army Air Corps, as it was known then, had as many as 80,000 airplanes.  Today, the Air Force has approximately 5,600 active airplanes.

On these pages, I wrote earlier this week about the unnamed atheist airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, who the Air Force was not allowing to re-enlist because he refused to conclude his oath with “so help me God.”  Although the “so help me God” language has long been included in the enlistment oath by federal statute, until October 2013, an airman could opt for an alternate phrase and omit the “so help me God” language.  Because he was not being allowed to re-enlist, the airman threatened to sue the government with assistance from American Humanist Association attorneys.

However, at the first whiff of grapeshot over this matter, the Air Force has surrendered.  Effective September 17, 2014, both enlisted members and officers may omit the words, “so help me God” from their oaths if they so choose.  The Air Force made this change based upon a legal opinion from the Department of Defense General Counsel (an Obama appointee).  According to the legal opinion, an individual may strike or omit these words if preferred.  So again, under the Obama Regime, a long-established federal law only means what he wants it to mean.  Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James (also an Obama appointee) stated, “We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously.  We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”  I suppose that the rights of Christian Air Force Academy cadets aren’t included.  A copy of the Air Force press release is available here.  Please continue to pray for our soldiers and airmen, particularly for those who serve in harm’s way.  Or should we no longer care?

Mere Links 09.18.14
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Might of Moral Obligation

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

The invisible and extremely mysterious activity of the hidden God in the Book of Esther is profitably contrasted to His clear, open, and miraculous intrusions into history in the Book of Daniel.

Finding Hope: Protecting Religious Freedom In Prison
Elise Hilton, Acton Institute

“Prison is a hopeless place.” That’s how one former inmate describes it. What can give hope? The freedom to practice one’s faith, even behind bars and barbed wire.

San Francisco Moves to Enshrine Right to Sex-Selective Abortions
Rachel Lu, Aleteia

The city takes a stand against bans on sex-selective abortions—even though the practice is still legal in California and 41 other states.

Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis
Albert Mohler

Western society is currently experiencing what can only be described as a moral revolution. Our society’s moral code and collective ethical evaluation on a particular issue has undergone not small adjustments but a complete reversal. That which was once condemned is now celebrated, and the refusal to celebrate is now condemned.

Mere Links 09.17.14
Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

The New Progressive Argument: For Kids, Marriage Per Se Doesn’t Matter
W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies

Can the salutary effects of an intact, married family for kids be achieved without the marriage? Not likely.

The Heart of the Gendercide Problem
Elizabeth Gerhardt, Christianity Today

What the church can do to address the issues underlying global violence against women.

A Tale of Two Churches
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.,

Once upon a time there was a church founded on God’s entering into human history in order to give humanity a path to eternal life and happiness with him. The Savior that God sent, his only-begotten Son, did not write a book but founded a community, a church, upon the witness and ministry of twelve apostles.

Incest and Pornography: More Similar Than We Think
Christopher O. Tollefsen , Public Discourse

Although we uphold the cultural taboo on incest, we accept something with precisely the same negative effect on integrity, marriage, and family: pornography.

Mere Links 09.16.14
Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Church’s Unique Gift
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

Christ’s greatest gift to the Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit; this gift is, moreover, original, unique, and exclusive.

Update on the Ministers’ Housing Allowance
Thom S. Rainer

Will the housing allowance for ministers still be available in the near future? Though we can never predict a court ruling with certainty, there are indicators that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will dismiss the case that is attempting to eliminate housing allowances completely. Simply stated, there seems to be a good probability that ministers will be able to continue to take the benefits of the housing allowance.

The Coming Reformation of Black Churches
Thabiti Anyabwile, The Front Porch

I think we’re beginning to ride a spiritual wave that will wash over African-American communities and churches. There’s a reformation (or, if you prefer, a revival) on the way. I think it’ll crash against the banks of Black life with the tidal force of a tsunami.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Prompts A Deeper Look at Stem Cell Research
Gene Tarne, Aleteia

You’d be amazed at the progress to date in treating patients using adult stem cells vs. nada from embryonic.

Mere Links 09.15.14
Monday, September 15, 2014, 10:00 AM

World May Be in Beginnings of World War III, Pope Suggests

Praying for war dead at Italian WWI Memorial, Francis condemns apathy toward ongoing conflict.

Surprise! One of the Church’s family issues is polygamy
John L. Allen Jr., Crux

Discussion of polygamy is likely to surface at the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family in the Vatican, and could be a factor in the politics of an expected debate over whether the church’s ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion ought to be revised.

The elderly, infertility: Any similarity to same-sex couples?
Russell D. Moore & Andrew Walker, Baptist Press

The argument goes something like this: If marriage is predicated on the possibility of children springing forth from sexual unions, those who cannot procreate — such as the elderly or infertile couples, not just same-sex couples — should not be allowed to marry. Such an argument, however, sidesteps the underlying principles of marriage’s intrinsic purposes.

She Announced Her Pregnancy Way Before 12 Weeks. Why More Women Should Consider Doing the Same.
Ericka Andersen, The Daily Signal

Fans of the hit TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” were excited to watch daughter Jill Duggar get married in June–but they weren’t expecting to hear she was pregnant just two months later.

Atheist Airman Denied Re-Enlistment For Refusing to Say “So Help Me God”
Monday, September 15, 2014, 9:57 AM

In October 2013, the United States Air Force adopted policy AFI 36-2606 (available here) that required enlistees and re-enlistees to conclude their enlistment oath with “so help me God.”  Prior to that time, an airman could opt for an alternative phrase and omit the “so help me God” language.  The “so help me God” language has long been included in the enlistment oath by a 1962 federal statute, 10 USC Section 502.

In recent days, an atheist airman was told by the Air Force that either he will have to take the oath concluding with “so help me God,” or he will be denied his request to re-enlist.  As one can expect, the unnamed airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is now poised to take the military to court over this requirement.  He is represented by Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association, an organization about which I have written on these pages over the years.  Ms. Miller has stated, “The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being.”  Then, in his usual bombastic rhetorical style, Mikey Weinstein, Esq., founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote the following in a letter to Secretary of Defense Hagel regarding this matter:

In a time of increasingly polarized fundamentalist theocratic hostility, what good will be accomplished by deliberately leaning the singular most lethal organization ever to exist on this planet towards a reflection of ISIS? . . . . Any efforts to do so are a disingenuous and disgraceful interpretation of the law, serving and pandering to what is nothing more than a pathetically partisan, conservative theocratic agenda. . . . With a single command directive, Mr. Secretary, you can immediately remediate this bigoted issue and prevent any valuable airmen from being wrongfully discharged from the military for failing a BLATANTLY unlawful religious test.

Emphasis in the original.  Other branches of the United States military do not require the reference to God in the oaths, and make the phrase optional.  Of course, if I had some healthy cynicism, I could think that the Obama Pentagon mandated the “so help me God” requirement in late 2013 to get it challenged in federal court where a friendly judge would find the requirement unconstitutional, thereby creating a precedent for other courts to follow.  An argument could be made that the Article 6, Section 3, of the Constitution bars religious tests to hold office.  Specifically, that provision provides:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Emphasis added.  So could this provision apply to the military?  And should it apply?  After all, the military is subject to its own Code of Military Justice, and has special courts to hear military cases.  While this provision would apply to the Secretary of Defense as a federal executive officer, nothing is stated here regarding its application to members of our nation’s military.  Our understanding of the meaning of this provision is quite different from the view of our nation’s Founders.  Most Americans do not know that many of the original 13 states had “state” churches.  The South was traditionally Anglican, but had a growing Methodist and Baptist population.  New England was traditionally Congregationalist.  Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams, a Baptist, as a refuge from the Massachusetts Congregationalists.  The middle colonies mixed Catholics in Maryland, Presbyterians and Quakers.  Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and South Carolina paid churches out of the public treasury well into the 19th century.  The First Amendment so-called “Establishment Clause,” which has now mutated into meanings unimaginable to our Founders, simply precluded Congress from establishing the Church of the United States as England had done with the Church of England.  Further, the purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the power of the federal government to advance, for example, Roman Catholic or Anglican doctrines over Baptist ones.  Fundamentally, the religious oath provision prohibited a person elected to Congress or to a state legislature from being denied his seat merely for his religious views.

We will see whether Secretary Hagel will issue his directive.  But with Mr. Obama’s recent declaration to use American airpower against the Sunni terrorists in the Islamic State to bail out Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist groups, our airmen will truly need to ask “so help me God” in their daily responsibilities.  Please continue to pray for our soldiers and airmen, particularly for those who serve in harm’s way.

Feast : Exaltation of the Cross
Sunday, September 14, 2014, 7:00 AM

… it behooves us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: by whom we are saved, and delivered. — (Ps. 66. 2).

When I Survey Thy Wondrous Cross

– Isaac Watts, 1707.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride. (more…)

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