Fields of Faith Day
Thursday, October 9, 2014, 8:52 AM

Yesterday, October 8, 2014, was “Fields of Faith” day, in which students and teachers participated in an annual, student-organized, and student-led gathering at school athletic fields at the end of their school day.  At the Fields of Faith, students read the Holy Bible together, heard Christian testimonies, worshipped together, and prayed for one another.  A school athletic field is used because it provides a neutral place where an entire community can come together.  First organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2004, it is beautiful to see many young people boldly proclaim their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  You can watch a promotional video here.  Hundreds of Fields of Faith events took place throughout the United States.  For information on the rallies near you, please go to

Since the first Field of Faith, however, some government school officials have sought to unconstitutionally keep teachers and students from sharing about and participating in the event.  This was usually done under the pretense that schools were prohibited from holding such events by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  In actual fact, the opposite is true.  Student groups have the constitutionally protected freedom to participate in Fields of Faith prayer and worship activities, and to inform their fellow students about the event to the same extent that other student groups are allowed to promote, participate, and use school facilities for other types of activities and events.  Importantly, coaches, teachers, and yes, even school administrators can participate in the event as private citizens.  Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”), a major civil liberties law organization with thousands of allied attorneys throughout the United States, has published a legal memorandum to support the rights of students to gather for such an event.  (It is also an excellent summation of the constitutional rights of religious students beyond Fields of Faith.)  The law memorandum is available here.  The ADF memorandum states in part:

The Supreme Court has squarely stated that a student’s free speech rights apply ”when [they are] in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or on the campus during the authorized hours.” . . . This includes prayer: “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday.”

The memorandum also notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “religious speech is protected by the First Amendment and may not be singled out for discrimination.”  It is truly astounding to me that so many government school administrators and teachers do not understand these simple and well-established principles of American jurisprudence. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco recently stated, “Christians don’t abandon their constitutional freedoms at the schoolhouse gate.  Their freedom to peacefully express their beliefs extends to after-school events, and that certainly includes activities like those at Fields of Faith.”

Let us join together to pray for the powerful witness of so many young people who gather to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.  For there is no legitimate basis for government school officials to prohibit or impede students and teachers from engaging in the activities for Fields of Faith.  Students, may God bless you and your schools richly.  I sure would have liked this event when I was in school.

Mere Links 10.08.14
Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 10:00 AM

Divine Acquisition
Meara Sharma interviews Anthony Pinn, Guernica

The scholar of African-American religion on black megachurches and the marketability of the American Dream.

How the Russian Orthodox Church answers Putin’s prayers in Ukraine
Gabriela Baczynska and Tom Heneghan, Reuters

Under Putin, the ROC gets support from the state and powerful oligarchs allied to the Kremlin, while Moscow benefits from its public blessing. A recent poll showed 75 percent of Russians approve of the ROC and more than half value its close ties with the state.

Pope Francis: Vatican begins landmark synod to discuss family life
James Reynolds, BBC

Pope Francis has opened a gathering of more than 200 senior Roman Catholic bishops by urging them not to impose what he called “intolerable moral burdens” on believers.

Why you should care about a Muslim inmate’s beard
Emily Hardman, CNN

I’m not a Muslim. I’ve never been imprisoned. And I don’t want to grow a beard. But I’m defending the rights of someone who is and does.

Mere Links 10.07.14
Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 10:00 AM

Pagans and Christians
Ross Douthat, New York Times

Occasionally in the debates about Christianity’s weakened position in American culture, you’ll hear traditionalists and conservatives analogize the Christian situation, now or soon, to the environment the faith faced in its earliest centuries, as an embattled minority in a hostile pagan empire.

The Political God is the Buffoon King
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

The account of Esther commences with an emperor and his empire. This emperor’s original-Persian-name was Xsayarsa.

Same-Sex Marriage and the Supreme Court: What Now for the Church?
Russell Moore, Moore to the Point

The Supreme Court has declined to take up appeals from states in which the courts have found same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right. This paves the way for same-sex marriage in many, perhaps most, places in the United States. Many Christians may be unaware of how momentous this is, since the denial of cases doesn’t come with quite the shock and awe of a ruling handed down. The effect though is wide-ranging. So what should our response be as the church of Jesus Christ?

Denying Review, Justices Clear Way for Gay Marriage in 5 States
Adam Liptak, New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday denied review in all five pending same-sex marriage cases, clearing the way for such marriages to proceed in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Mere Links 10.06.14
Monday, October 6, 2014, 10:00 AM

Where Have All The Irish Priests Gone?
Greg Daly, Aleteia

As the number of clergy in Ireland continues to fall, practical priests look to build a culture of vocation.

When Jews are bigoted against Conservative Christians
Dennis Prager, Jewish Journal

Over the last 20 years, I have probably spent as much time with Evangelical Christians as with fellow Jews — in private settings, speaking at churches, on listener cruises, in my home and in their homes. I have come to admire and in many cases love these people.

Guardian angels exist, pope says

Pope Francis said on Thursday that guardian angels exist and people who listen to their advice are less likely to make the wrong decisions. Read more:

The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week

We no longer talk of “unfit” children, but we’ll still destroy them in the name of quality of life.

Feast of St. Francis
Sunday, October 5, 2014, 7:00 AM

Seigneur, je vous en prie

~Francis Poulenc (1948)

Lord, I beg Thee, let the burning and gentle force of Thy love pervade my soul
and withdraw it from all that is beneath Heaven,
that I might die through love of Thy love,
since Thou didst deign to die through love of my love.

For the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Sacred Music – Part Two
Saturday, October 4, 2014, 12:00 PM

The second of a four-part series on Sacred Music presented by the BBC: Palestrina and the Popes.

Mere Links 10.03.14
Friday, October 3, 2014, 10:00 AM

What is Domestic Violence?
Justin S. Holcomb, Reformation 21

The month of October has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to raise public awareness about domestic violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to recognize, prevent, and respond to domestic violence.

Iraq crisis: ‘Every single Christian wants to leave’
Jessica Winch, The Telegraph

Christians in northern Iraq are unable to celebrate communion for the first time in two millennia after Islamic State captured the area, says vicar.

Polygamy: Coming to America?
Rev. Paul Sullins, Aleteia

Our society may be about to take another step in the process of denying these wise words of Jesus on human sexual relations. With widespread divorce, we have long ago moved past the conviction that the two become one flesh.

Whatever happened to the National Council of Churches?

Read more:
Gene Veith, Cranach

The ecumenical organization of liberal mainline Protestants (plus the Orthodox, which I never understood) known as the National Council of Churches used to be enormously influential. But now it has dwindled to insignificance.

Please Pray for Ebola Victims, Here and Abroad
Friday, October 3, 2014, 9:56 AM

In recent days, the Ebola virus has come to the United States.  Thomas Eric Duncan is the first person who was confirmed to contract Ebola virus during his recent visit to Liberia.  He is being treated under intensive care in a hospital in Dallas, Texas.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has been caught somewhat flat-footed from the arrival of Ebola in the United States.  As one example, in a recent interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director, intended to reassure the American people that it is very difficult to contract Ebola.  However, his comments were quite unsettling as there was troubling debate over the definition of “contact” with an Ebola victim.  You can view the short interview here.  However, a person with Ebola will rapidly contaminate others through touching surfaces with body fluids.  It is believed that Mr. Duncan had contact with a number of children as well, and schools are among the most germ-laden places.  According to studies conducted by Dr. Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist and a leading expert in infectious disease, he found that classroom surfaces in kindergarten through fifth grades, in particular, are germ-laden.  Desktops, computer keyboards, mice and touchpads, pencil sharpeners, water fountains, and restrooms are surfaces where germs thrive.  In one study, Dr. Gerba found that school teachers had the most germs in their offices by a factor of 20 times compared to other professions.  (Interestingly, the average desktop at work has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.)  So notwithstanding the assertions of Dr. Frieden, I fear that we can expect a rapid spread of Ebola in the United States.  Although Mr. Obama is sending 3,000 American soldiers to Liberia to provide logistical and engineering support to suppress the Ebola outbreak, Americans are also likely to require help from Ebola outbreaks in the coming few weeks.  Senator Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky who is trained as a medical doctor, expressed concerns about what happens when our troops go back on their ship.  In an interview with CNN on Wednesday evening, Senator Paul said, “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”  Indeed.

A dear friend from Liberia wrote to me in recent days.  Although she lives in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, and is in a medical field, she and her family have been spared illness.  She simply attributed this to God’s grace and to God’s promises in Psalm 91.  However, she did ask for us to pray for an end of Ebola in West Africa, and for the victims and their families.  She also made two interesting observations: First, she asked for prayer as food supplies grow scarcer in Liberia because quarantines and border closures have disrupted farmers.  Further, Liberia now requires additional food imports.  In a recent interview with the British newspaper, The Guardian, Axel Addy, Liberia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said that the agricultural sector has been hardest hit by Ebola as it has crippled domestic rice production, the nation’s staple food.  Second, my friend further stated that with the arrival of Ebola in the United States, Liberian Christians are praying for the United States and its Ebola victims, and for an end to the Ebola crisis here.  She indicated that given the desperate poverty in Liberia and that nation’s high unemployment, Liberians rely heavily upon remittances from family members and friends in the United States to survive.  (According to World Bank data, the average per capita GDP in Liberia is $414 in 2012, and we can expect significant reductions since then.)  Please continue to pray for the African victims of Ebola and their families, and for the quick end to an Ebola outbreak in the United States, and for the safety for the 3,000 American troops going to Liberia.  May God have mercy on us all.

Mere Links 10.02.14
Thursday, October 2, 2014, 10:00 AM

Are You Greek?
Andrew Stephen Damick, First Things

Are you Greek?” This is the question I get asked the most when I tell someone that I am an Orthodox Christian. At first, this question rankled, because I am not Greek. (I am, among other things, Lithuanian.) Mind you, I would have no problem being Greek. It’s a wonderful, ancient culture with much to recommend it. But what rankled was the sense that being Orthodox means being Greek.

The World Alexander Made
Philip Jenkins, Aleteia

Early Christianity emerged in a thoroughly Hellenistic context.

California Approves Controversial ‘Yes Means Yes’ Consent Law For College Campuses
Associated Press

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he has signed a bill that makes California the first in the nation to define when “yes means yes” and adopt requirements for colleges to follow when investigating sexual assault reports.

Natural Morality, American Exceptionalism, and Race Relations
S. Adam Seagrave , Public Discourse

The anti-slavery arguments of American abolitionists demonstrate the way in which Lockean natural rights and Thomistic natural law can be reconciled.

Second Anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s Imprisonment
Wednesday, October 1, 2014, 10:27 AM

pastor27n 1 web 300x223 Second Anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s ImprisonmentOn these pages, I have written numerous times about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned for his faith in Iran.  Pastor Abedini is serving a virtual death sentence of eight years in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons.  The second anniversary of his imprisonment was September 26, 2014.  Pastor Abedini has faced repeated beatings, malnourishment, lack of proper medical treatment, and death threats from other prisoners as well as from Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Saeed Abedini grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20.  He later traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the United States to meet other members of his family and for Christian relief work.  During one such trip in 2009, Pastor Abedini was detained by the Iranian mullahs and interrogated about his Christian conversion.  While he was released with a warning against engaging in underground church activities, he was once again arrested in 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.

Pastor Abedini and his wife, Naghmeh, have two beautiful children.  His daughter, Rebekkah Grace, turned 8 on September 12.  Pastor Abedini was able to write a letter to her for her birthday.  In his letter to her, made available by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Pastor Abedini and his family in the United States, he wrote the following:

You are growing so fast and becoming more beautiful every day.  I praise God for His faithfulness to me every day as I watch from a distance through the prison walls and see pictures and hear stories of how you are growing both spiritually and physically.  I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet.  Now there is a big why in your mind you are asking: why Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family?  The answer to the why is who.  Who is control?  Lord Jesus Christ is in control.  God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good.  People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder why?  But you should know the answer of why is who.  It is for Jesus …But if not, we will still sing together as Habakkuk did “Hallelujah,” either separated by prison walls or together at home.  So, let Daddy hear you sing a loud Hallelujah that I can hear all the way here in the prison!  I am so proud of you, my sweet courageous daughter.  Glory to God forever, Amen.

Last week, more than 500 prayer vigils were held in 33 countries and territories, calling on people to pray for Pastor Abedini’s safe release and to urge their respective governments to act on his behalf.  In a speech this past weekend, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, referred to the plight of Pastor Abedini.  He said in pertinent part:

[Tomorrow night] you will hear from Naghmeh, his wife, who I visited with several times.  A woman of incredible faith.  She is an American.  Her husband is an American.  Their two little kids are American children living in Idaho. . . . Today is the two-year anniversary of the Republican Guard showing up and throwing Pastor Saeed in prison for professing his Christian faith.  Two years!  You know one of the incredible things talking to Naghmeh is hearing the story, that Pastor Saeed, while in an Iranian prison, has led dozens of fellow prisoners and their jailers to Christ. . . . Just as with Paul and Silas, the jailers are turning to pastor Saeed and saying what must I do to be saved?  God is present in the darkest corners. And we are standing on the promise of the Word.  You know right now this week the government of Iran is sitting down with the United States government, swilling chardonnay in New York City, to discuss what Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly describes as an historic mistake, a very, very bad deal, that tragically is setting the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapon capability.  We so desperately need a president who will stand up and say, these discussions do not even begin until you release Pastor Saeed and send him home.

Emphasis added.  Please continue to pray for Pastor Abedini and his family, and also for the host of new Christian believers who sit in jail with him.

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