Mere Links 03.31.14
Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:00 AM

Court Panel Upholds Texas Law on Abortion
Erick Eckholm, New York Times

A federal appeals panel on Thursday upheld a Texas law that has forced several abortion clinics in the state to shut down, saying the law did not pose an “undue burden” on women’s rights.

For Religious Liberty, Desperate Times; Faithful Measures
Matthew Cochran, The Federalist

As a Christian, I am used to speaking about faith in a very specific sense—a trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ through which we receive God’s promises. Though this is not primarily an activity of the intellect, faith manifests itself in the intellect inasmuch as a person possesses one.

The Christian Penumbra
Ross Douthat, New York Times

n the Christian penumbra, certain religious expectations could endure (a bias toward early marriage, for instance) without support networks for people struggling to live up to them.

The Repristinator: A Review of Noah
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Ignore the controversy—this movie simply isn’t worthy of the heated debate that has grown up around it.



Just Another Day in Lahore, Pakistan
Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:20 AM

The New York Times reported late last week that a court in Lahore, Pakistan, found a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan Masih, 35, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.  This case began in March 2013, when during an argument with a Moslem “friend,” Mr. Masih was alleged to have insulted Mohammed, which, under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law 295(c), is a capital crime.  The New York Times, the newspaper of record, intoned that “it has often taken little more than the rumors of insults to Islam to incite lynchings and other violence.”  As if on cue, following the mere accusation against Mr. Masih, enraged mobs swept through the Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in the city of Lahore, setting more than 170 houses and two churches on fire.  The riots caused great panic and fear among the city’s Christians, most of whom are desperately poor and do menial labor.  Hundreds of Christians fled the area.

A lawyer for Mr. Masih said that he would appeal the case to the Lahore High Court.  In a statement following the verdict, Mr. Masih insisted that he had been falsely charged as part of a plot by businessmen to use blasphemy allegations to drive Christians from the land in Joseph Colony so that it could be seized for industrial use.  “They hatched a conspiracy to push out the residents of the colony,” the statement said. “They contrived a case and got it filed by a person who was close to me.  I am innocent.”  Such things have happened all too often.  Human rights groups have long observed how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores and to persecute religious minorities.  Sadly, many accused never go to trial, but are killed by vigilantes instead.  The vigilantes are almost never arrested, and if arrested, are never prosecuted.  As I have written on these pages, in 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the provincial governor of Punjab, was killed by one of his body guards after campaigning to have the blasphemy laws repealed.  Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet member, who also criticized the blasphemy laws, was assassinated in Islamabad.

I don’t know about you, but I have a gnawing sense that many politicians are lying to me when they say that Islam is a “Religion of Peace.”  We are told that we cannot blame an entire religion for the actions of a few.  (Have you ever wondered why that same rule doesn’t apply to gun owners?)  As I am getting ready to send in another regular annual contribution to our Internal Revenue Service, I am disgusted about how billions of dollars of U.S.-taxpayer “aid” are sent annually to Pakistan and other Islamic countries that persecute Christians.  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments know that almost every day we read stories of Moslem men killing their sisters, wives, and daughters for the sake of their family’s “honor.”  We hear of Moslems rioting, as in this case, over some unproven offense; of Moslems murdering Christian and Jews (and frankly, plenty of other Moslems) because they aren’t “believers,” or are not “believers enough.”  We hear of Moslems burning schools for girls, and stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery.”  We hear of Moslems regularly performing female genital mutilation.  And all of this is done because the Koran and Sharia laws say that it must be done this way.  Let’s see whether Messrs. Obama and Kerry will say anything about the injustice against Mr. Masih.  But somehow I doubt it.  I was even surprised that it was reported in the New York Times.  At least, that is one man’s view.  Please pray for Mr. Masih and his lawyers as he now sits on death row.



Preview: The May/June 2014 Issue of Touchstone
Friday, March 28, 2014, 11:12 AM

Mere Links 03.28.14
Friday, March 28, 2014, 10:00 AM

God Used Me to Stop a School Shooter
Interview by Caryn Rivadeneira, Christianity Today

Antoinette Tuff, the steady voice who famously talked down an armed intruder, speaks out about her faith.

Rebuilding Catholic Society
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

The Church is not part of the State. Nor is she simply a part of civil society set up by her members to advance their public and private goals. She is an independent society established by God to be a light to the world. As such, she has her own principles of existence, authority, and action.

Searching for Clarity in Vocational Discernment
Fr. Bryce Sibley, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

The call of the Lord usually comes to us in a more subtle and indirect manner … left up to us, with the assistance of divine grace, to discern whether we are being called to the priesthood or consecrated life.

9 Things You Should Know about the Story of Noah
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Darren’s Aronofksy’s new film Noah, which opens in theaters today has been criticized for not being faithful to the biblical narrative. But how much of the story do most people remember? Here are nine things you should know about the story of Noah.



Mere Links 03.27.14
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 10:00 AM

World Vision Reverses Decision To Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages
Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today

President Richard Stearns: ‘Certain beliefs are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs.’

The Benedict Option: What Does It Really Mean?
R. Jared Staudt, Crisis Magazine

The Benedict Option—what does it really mean? In my mind, it is quite simple: taking St. Benedict and his Rule as a model for the Christian life within the context of our culture.

Hopes high for Obama meeting with Pope Francis at Vatican
Meredith Somers, Washington Times

Gay marriage. Abortion. Stem cell research. There’s plenty for President Obama and Pope Francis to discuss when they meet Thursday at the Vatican.

Why Catholics Love Evolution and the Big Bang
Daniel McInerny, Aletia

FOX’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series may not be everything we would like it to be, but not for the reason you might think.



World Vision US Causes a Mild Ruckus
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:37 AM

Several days ago, the US-arm of World Vision, the international Christian relief agency, announced that it would hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  Prior to this change in policy, World Vision had an employee policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees, and faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.  Following the announcement by World Vision, as you can readily imagine, many Christian leaders and lay persons, and churches, responded with shock and great dismay over its decision to embrace an unbiblical practice.  Reasonably, I am thinking that at least some Christians wondered whether they could continue supporting World Vision’s popular child sponsorship program.  (My wife and I have sponsored children through World Vision for decades, and had this policy been left in place, I am certain that we would have terminated our child sponsorship support.  I suspect that other child sponsors would have as well.)  Although World Vision has annual revenues approaching $3 billion dollars, a policy change of this nature could have a potentially devastating impact on its operations.

However, late yesterday afternoon, World Vision US released a statement confirming that it had reversed its decision to hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  In its statement, the board of World Vision acknowledged that “it made a mistake . . . We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”  As we know from Holy Scripture, marriage is exclusively the legal union of one man and one woman.  (Titus 1:6.)  Further, as unfashionable as it might be among some in Western Europe and the United States, biblically legitimate sexual relations are exercised solely within a heterosexual marriage, as we see in I Corinthians 6:9-10, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27.  As shocking as it may sound to some modern, secularized ears, even the notion of homosexual “marriage” is sinful and incompatible with biblical, Christian behavior.  I commend the Board of World Vision for promptly recognizing their error, and for reversing their policy.  Robert Pierce, World Vision’s founder, would have been mortified at this policy, but gratified that World Vision’s board reversed it so quickly.  As has been noted by many, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.



Mere Links 03.26.14
Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Quaker Exemption and Religious Liberty Today
Thomas Kidd, ERLC

As oral arguments begin in Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the HHS abortifacient mandate, we might ask what the Founders would think about this case?

Antiochian Orthodox leader recalled as man with vision
Mark Zaborney, Toledo Blade

“As long as we are fragmented and known by Antiochians and Greeks and Serbians and Bulgarians and Russians, we will have no impact as a church on this country,” Metropolitan Philip told The Blade in 2003.

Conscience as Sacred Property
Jeremiah G. Dys, Canon & Culture

Caesar has provided us with a lamentable choice. Today, it is not the coliseum, nor are Christians being driven to the catacombs under totalitarian persecution. The choice presented to us, however, is no less unjust.

Why Hobby Lobby’s HHS Lawsuit Matters
The Editors, National Catholic Register

Now, more than ever, Catholics need to support efforts to bolster religious freedom and explain why our experiment in ordered liberty requires robust protections for churches and individual believers. But it’s also important to remember that the fight for the “first freedom” is not an end in itself and is linked to a deeper truth.



Mere Links 03.25.14
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

Western Ignorance of the ‘Conditions of Omar’
Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media

Syrian Christians are being forced to convert, subjugate themselves, or face death.

Shift in support for same-sex marriage greatest among black Protestants
Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News

The acceptance of same-sex marriage by black American Protestants has risen by about a third in the past year, data from the Pew Research Center revealed this week.

World Vision and Why We Grieve For the Children
Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition

World Vision has announced that its American branch will adjust its employee code of conduct to allow same-sex couples who are legally “married.”

Religious Exemptions Are Vital for Religious Liberty
Robert P. George and Hamza Yusuf, Wall Street Journal

The Hobby Lobby case is about far more than a federal rule mandating insurance coverage for contraception.



Please Pray for Today’s Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 9:18 AM

Do people who own businesses have a right to shape their businesses according to their consciences and religious beliefs?  This is the question that will be heard in oral arguments today at the Supreme Court in two cases: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.  In both cases, the Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) when it threatened religious owners of for-profit corporations with multimillion dollar fines if they did not pay for insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that the business owners believe terminate human life.  (Incidentally, RFRA is the original, federal version of the Arizona law, amendments to which Governor Brewer recently vetoed.)  With ironic timing, Mr. Obama will travel to Rome with his 900-strong posse, three airplanes, and 45 cars to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on Thursday.  (I hope they eat some boiled whitefish and carrots together at the Casa Santa Marta.)  In a prelude to a potentially frosty meeting, the Vatican’s chief justice, Raymond Cardinal Burke, said in a recent magazine interview that Mr. Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians.  Cardinal Burke said that:

The policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies. Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship; that is, he holds that one is  free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship, but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions.

Well said, and quite on point, Cardinal Burke.  It seems that way to many of us here as well.  Please pray for today’s oral argument in the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Mandate cases.  The stakes are very high as these cases test whether the United States will remain a pluralistic society that supports a strong religious liberty for Americans of all faiths.  I have linked to an important 11 minute video from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (available here) that shows why the HHS Mandate cases protect all people with sincerely held religious beliefs.  Please pray for each of the nine Supreme Court Justices as they deliberate on these cases, and for Paul Clement, the former solicitor general of the United States, who is arguing the cases for the owners and their companies.  Please also pray for the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Bookstores, and the Hahn family, who owns Conestoga Wood Specialties, who are challenging the HHS Mandate.  For as we have learned in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  And oh, how dark and wicked these high places are.



Mere Links 03.24.14
Monday, March 24, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Gospel of Interracial Marriage
Trillia Newbell, Christianity Today

How unity in Christ should overcome our segregated pews and segregated dating lives.

Pope Francis: Without work, human dignity is “wounded”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

If it seems odd to root for reduced opportunity in favor of government subsidies, then this message today from Pope Francis will resonate.

Six parishioners shot dead while worshipping at Kenyan church
ABC

Two gunmen have stormed a church near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa and opened fire on worshippers, killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others, in what police are labelling a terrorist attack.

If the contraceptive mandate passes, it will ruin a core U.S. ideology
Rick Warren, Washington Post

Does our Constitution guarantee the freedom of religion, or does it merely allow a more limited freedom to worship? The difference is profound. Worship is an event. Religion is a way of life.


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »