Mere Links 11.05.14
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 10:00 AM

Jesus of the Housetops
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

If we reflected on it more closely, perhaps we would observe something curious, even surprising, in the Gospel stories about Jesus after his Resurrection; namely, what I venture to call a quality of restraint.

Surrogacy and Christian Compassion
Kristin Larson, Juicy Ecumenism

Despite appearing to be “pro-life,” surrogacy commodifies human life by using a woman’s body to create and carry a child that she is legally obligated to give away.

What is the Church’s Political Role?
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

For more than 1500 years the Church was a major influence on Western politics. That is how it should be. Ultimate standards matter, and if the Church doesn’t explain what they are and how to apply them someone else will.

Vatican ethicist: No dignity in Brittany Maynard’s physician-assisted death
Josephine Mckenna, Religion News Service

The Vatican’s top ethicist condemned Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life, saying there was no dignity in her physician-assisted death.

Mere Links 11.04.14
Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 10:00 AM

Cracks in the atheist edifice
The Economist

The rapid spread of Christianity in China is forcing an official rethink on religion

The Government Should Stop Waging War on Those Against Same-Sex Marriage
Ryan T. Anderson, The Daily Signal

It’s hard to imagine a more bedrock American right than being free to live according to your religious convictions. The very idea of being forced to violate your beliefs seems unthinkable.

Rogue pastors endorse candidates, but IRS looks away
Rachel Bade, Politico

A record number of rogue Christian pastors are endorsing candidates from the pulpit this election cycle, using Sunday sermons to defiantly flout tax rules. Their message to the IRS: Sue me.

In Malaysia, ‘Allah’ Is Reserved for Muslims Only
Thomas Fuller, New York Times

As the students knelt in a circle at a Christian kindergarten near the shores of the South China Sea, a 6-year-old girl in pigtails read out a chapter from a children’s Bible: “Sepuluh hukum dari Allah” – God’s Ten Commandments. Technically, she broke the law.

Get Out and Vote!
Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 9:00 AM

Head to your polling place—take a sick-bag with you, if necessary—and vote. If you don’t have the opportunity to vote for your own cause, then at least vote against the Devil’s cause—don’t let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good.

It is true that silence gives consent. Do you really want your own inaction to contribute to the furtherance of public policies with which you vehemently disagree?


Mere Links 10.01.14
Monday, November 3, 2014, 10:00 AM

Why Nigerian Health Officials Turned to a Megachurch Pastor When Ebola Struck
Sunday Oguntola and Ruth Moon, Christianity Today

Outbreak highlights African views about God’s healing power.

Segregated Surveys: How Politics Keeps Evangelicals White
Ruth Moon, Christianity Today

You can disbelieve in God, never go to church, and still identify as “evangelical” in most polls. But if you’re black and evangelical, you literally don’t count.

Learning about Love: How Sex Ed Programs Undermine Happy Marriages
Cassandra Hough, Public Discourse

Contemporary sex education prepares young men and women not for the fullness of friendship, intimacy and love, but for casual relationships and recreational sex.

Does purgatory have a prayer with Protestants?
David Gibson, Religion News Service

Most Protestant traditions forcefully rejected the “Romish doctrine” of purgatory after the Reformation nearly 500 years ago. The Protestant discomfort with purgatory hasn’t eased much since: You still can’t find the word in the Bible, critics say, and the idea that you can pray anyone who has died into paradise smacks of salvation by good works.

Lagniappe – Mahalia Jackson
Sunday, November 2, 2014, 7:00 AM

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! ~ Psalm 118:24

The great Mahalia Jackson:

How Great Thou Art

O mighty God, when I behold the wonder
Of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thine,
And how thou leadest all from realms up yonder,
Sustaining earthly life with love benign,

With rapture filled, my soul thy name would laud,
O mighty God! O mighty God! (repeat)

When I behold the heavens in their vastness,
Where golden ships in azure issue forth,
Where sun and moon keep watch upon the fastness
Of changing seasons and of time on earth.

When crushed by guilt of sin before thee kneeling,
I plead for mercy and for grace and peace,
I feel thy balm and, all my bruises healing,
My soul is filled, my heart is set at ease.

And when at last the mists of time have vanished
And I in truth my faith confirmed shall see,
Upon the shores where earthly ills are banished
I’ll enter Lord, to dwell in peace with thee.

Election Day 2014
Friday, October 31, 2014, 1:33 PM

Next Tuesday, November 4, 2014, will be Election Day in the United States.  Although there are many local and state-wide offices being contested, for many, the election for the new Senate is drawing the most attention.  My friends who live in states where there are hotly-contested senatorial elections, such as in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Kentucky, are overwhelmed with the number of political advertisements they face daily.  The cost of these campaigns will ultimately be in the billions of dollars, and yesterday, Senator Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) literally “begged” me to send money.  He wrote, “I’m begging for your help to close the [financial] gap IMMEDIATELY.”  (Emphasis in the original.)

I recently read an excerpt from Rev. Israel Evans’ 1791 sermon that was delivered to the Grand Court of New Hampshire (the State’s House and Senate).  You can read his sermon in a two-volume jewel of a book compiled by Ellis Sandoz, entitled Political Sermons of the Founding Era: 1730-1805, available here.  Rev. Evans preached the following in his sermon:

Religious liberty is a divine right, immediately derived from the Supreme Being, without the intervention of any created authority. It is the natural privilege of worshipping God in that manner which, according to the judgment of men, is most agreeable and pleasing to the divine character. As the conscience of man is the image and representative of God in the human soul; so to him alone it is responsible. In justice, therefore, the feelings and sentiments of conscience, and the moral practice of religion, must be independent of all finite beings. Nor hath the all-wise Creator invested any order of men with the right of judging for their fellow-creatures in the great concerns of religion.

As Christian citizens, we have a particular and shared responsibility in our modern American republic.  Consistent with being “salt” and “light,” Christians must choose our national and local leaders with values and integrity consistent with God’s Holy Word.  On some occasions, electoral races involve candidates of high quality and high integrity.  The candidates conduct a tough but fair campaign about the issues.  Voters in those electoral races, although they may have a difficult choice, can know that no matter who is elected they will be well represented by someone who won’t embarrass their community.  Sadly, such is not always so.  Our founders fought and died to establish and preserve our liberties, including the freedom to choose our own leaders.  However, the Church has had a poor voting record.  It may be due to apathy or sad ignorance, or perhaps a lack of gratitude for the privilege that Christians have been given by God for the privilege to live as citizens in this country.  Yet when we have the opportunity to help guide our nation by selecting men and women of righteousness, many Christians do not vote.  I was always deeply troubled by the fact, for instance, that of the more than 80 million American evangelicals eligible to vote in 2012, fewer than 32 million actually voted.  I believe that Christians fail to love our neighbors and our nation when we fail to vote, and then we fail our neighbors when we do not vote for men and women who will uphold righteous and just laws.  This coming Tuesday, I urge my readers to prayerfully and thoughtfully study the issues and to vote for the best candidate.  I remind you that all candidates are flawed men and women, but as we learn in Exodus 18:21, we must use our vote to elect “capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.”  Amen!

Mere Links 10.31.14
Friday, October 31, 2014, 10:00 AM

On The Failures of “General” Christology
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

When the Church in times past- in 451 at Chalcedon, for instance, and at Constantinople in 670-was obliged to deal with a “duality” in Christ, the questions in dispute were resolved by applying the distinction between his divine and human natures.

Pope Francis praises exorcists for combating ‘the Devil’s works’
Nick Squires, The Telegraph

Catholic Church warns of a rise in Satanism and the occult as Pope Francis sends message to Rome convention of international exorcists.

On God’s Responsibility for Atheism
Joseph G. Trabbic, Crisis Magazine

In spite of themselves, atheists can help to remind us of an important truth about God, that is, that he radically transcends the universe. It is God’s very transcendence that makes atheism possible, or at least more likely.

What Is Reformation Day All About?
Robert Rothwell, Ligonier Ministries

On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31.

Mere Links 10.30.14
Thursday, October 30, 2014, 10:00 AM

Why I Am A Catholic
Ross Douthat, New York Times

I am a Catholic for various contingent reasons (this is as true of converts as of anyone else), but on a conscious level it’s because I am a mostly-faithful Christian who is mostly convinced that Roman Catholicism is the expression of Christianity that has kept faith most fully with the early church and the words of Jesus of Nazareth himself.

The Church Vanishes, Part Deux
Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench

If we extrapolate that rate into the not-too-distant future, then the number of people attending Episcopal churches on a typical Sunday will be negligible by mid-century, typical of a tiny sect rather than a great church or denomination.

Marriage Sounds Great—But How On Earth Do I Get There?
Edward Amsden, The Federalist

When everyone’s having sex before marriage, people who choose to remain celibate have an awful hard time finding people with similar beliefs and virtues to marry. Conservatives should help.

In new video, Francis urges Catholics and Protestants to work together
Austen Ivereigh, Crux

Catholics and Evangelicals should not wait for theologians to reach agreement before praying and working together, Pope Francis recently told a group of Pentecostal Anglican bishops in Rome.

Mere Links 10.29.14
Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Death of the Parish
David T. Koyzis, First Things

Beginning just over a century ago, all this changed. Catholics and Protestants alike have now embraced a new ecclesiology based on the consumer model. Adam Graber tells us that this huge shift was sparked by the invention of the automobile: “How Cars Created the Megachurch and put churchgoers in the driver’s seat.”

Secularism grows as more U.S. Christians turn ‘churchless’
Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself. How does 38 percent sound?

The Hidden Costs of Legalized Suicide: What We Can Learn from Brittany Maynard
Adam J. MacLeod, Public Discourse

We ought to demonstrate compassion for Brittany Maynard, but we must not allow our compassion to obscure the nature of her choice—or the consequences that legal acceptance of a legal right to kill has for those left behind.

The Defense of Marriage Isn’t Over
Ryan T. Anderson, Crisis Magazine

The Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear lower court cases over marriage is, as I noted elsewhere, a setback for sound constitutional self-government and a setback for a healthy marriage culture.

Is Religious Freedom Flourishing in Cuba?
Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 2:52 PM

A number of years ago, I spoke on a panel at a large church near Chicago regarding the persecution of Christians in other countries.  Seated to my right was a young pastor from Cuba, a refugee to the United States, who had been imprisoned for “abusing religious freedom” in the socialist paradise.  He spoke powerfully about the tortures many Christians faced on the island prison of Cuba.  Today, more than 55 years since the establishment of the Western Hemisphere’s first revolutionary socialist state, religious freedom remains deeply suppressed in Cuba.  After Fidel Castro, Cuba’s dictator, seized power in 1959, all Christian broadcasts were canceled.  The next year, all Christian publications were halted, and all Christian schools, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, or non-denominational, were closed.  Ordinary Christians and their leaders were labeled “social scum” and jailed in Cuba’s notorious labor camps.  Even Christmas and Easter were abolished, with Christmas replaced with a secular holiday.  Even as late as December 1995, regulations were enacted that forbid the sale of paper, ink, typewriters, computers, and mechanical parts for photocopiers and printing presses to religious organizations.  Technicians who helped churches repair their machinery risked losing their jobs.  And yet, in spite of all the imprisonment, regulation, and persecution, today the churches in Cuba are flourishing, and are filled to overflowing.  At the International book Fair in Havana in recent years, the Bible has been the best-selling book by far.

In advance of St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998, relations between the officially atheist government and the Roman Catholic Church began to improve slightly.  The government revived observance of Christmas (which was always celebrated by the people), and in fact, Castro allowed masses and homilies to be broadcast on Cuban state media.  The Cuban Communist Party also dropped a ban on church membership for its members that had been adopted after the 1959 revolution.  However, the new relative “freedom” did not extend to non-Roman Catholic churches.

On Monday, Cuban government authorities announced that they would allow the construction of the country’s first new Roman Catholic church in 55 years.  The new church, funded by donations from Roman Catholics in Tampa, Florida, will be built in Sandino, a small town in the western province of Pinar del Rio.  It is expected to hold 200 people.  Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor of the history of religions at the University of Havana, was quoted, “The construction of a church is a clear demonstration of a new phase, of an improvement, in relations between the church and the state.”  Of course, it is a small positive step.  But I thought about the many militant non-Christians who complain about the pervasive nature of Christian thought and expression in the United States.  I wonder how much happier they might be living in a revolutionary socialist workers paradise of Cuba.  For me, I continue to support an embargo on Cuba until all of its people, including all Christians, are truly free.

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