Update on Dr. Meriam Ibrahim Yahia of Sudan
Monday, June 9, 2014, 3:50 PM

On these pages, I have recently written about the plight of Meriam Ibrahim Yahia, who was sentenced by a court in Sudan to death by hanging for “apostasy” and for 100 lashes for her “adultery.”  Unlike most definitions of adultery, the Sudanese court found her to be an adulteress for having married a Christian husband, who is also an American citizen.  In recent weeks, with her ankles shackled in chains, Meriam gave birth to a little girl, Maya.

Meriam’s ordeal began last year when members of her biological father’s family, people she hadn’t seen in many years, tracked her down, and accused her of adultery and apostasy.  Although she produced a marriage certificate to a Christian man, the court found her marriage invalid since her biological father was a Moslem.  However, Meriam’s father had abandoned her and her mother when she was a young child.  She had been raised as a Christian, and never practiced Islam.  However, under Sharia law, a daughter of a Moslem is a Moslem by birth and may not marry a Christian man, despite her upbringing or her personal convictions as an adult.  Further, under Sharia law, Moslem men are free to marry Christian women, though the opposite is not true for women.  Meriam Ibrahim, a successful businesswoman, is a physician.  It was reported that her biological father’s family only found her after hearing about her success.  By filing these complaints against her, her father’s family believes they can secure her assets, business, and children after she is hung.

During this nightmare, she was asked to deny her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ three times, and three times she has refused.  Now, Meriam, Martin, her toddler American son, and Maya, her newborn American daughter, lie in a bug and filth-infested Sudanese prison cell, a victim in the real Islamic war on women.  Section 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Sudan guarantees “every person . . . the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same . . . no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in.”  Even under Sudanese law, the national constitution trumps other enacted laws, such as the Criminal Code, under which Meriam was convicted.  Further, Sudan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”).  The ICCPR is a major treaty on human rights, and not merely a suggestion.  Article 18(1) of the ICCPR provides, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice . . .”  Despite these laws, the Honorable Judge Abbas al Khalifa found a “legal basis” to convict Meriam for adultery and apostasy, based on her proclamation of her Christian faith.  Although pressured during her court hearings to recant Christianity, Meriam stood firm in her faith and has refused to do so.

As you can well imagine, Meriam’s American husband, Daniel, is distraught over the situation, and is not allowed custody of his children because under Sharia law, the children are considered to be Moslems.  Daniel, an American citizen, confers U.S. citizenship to his children at birth.  However, last week when Daniel again visited to the U.S. consulate in Khartoum to obtain that recognition, in a reprehensible display of obstruction and contrary to mandates of U.S. immigration law, American consular officials demanded that Daniel present the results of a DNA test.  (Of course, getting blood samples from the children sitting in prison pose their own practical problems to comply with the consulate’s edict.)   So now two American children are in a Sudanese prison with their “apostate” mother, and the American consulate is demanding that DNA test be conducted.  (Just begin to imagine the umbrage to an American policy demanding DNA tests for the children of all illegal aliens or persons applying for legal immigration status before any government benefits be provided?)  Please use your voice to demand that your Congressman and Senators call the Department of State to protest this outrageous requirement and issue the U.S. passports to these two U.S. citizen children.  The U.S. consulate should also immediately issue to Meriam an emergency travel document known as “Significant Public Benefit Parole” so that upon her release, she can immediately board a flight out of Sudan.  In addition to writing to our government officials to demand justice for Meriam and her family, please write to Meriam at the following address:

Dr. Meriam Yahia
Omdurman Prison for Women
P.O. Box 65
Omdurman, Republic of Sudan

In your letter or card, please assure Meriam of your prayers and support, congratulate her on Maya’s birth, and praise her for her courage and testimony for Christ.  I am certain that Meriam will be greatly encouraged to know that Christians everywhere are praying for her.  In Hebrews 13:3, we read, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

Mere Links 06.09.14
Monday, June 9, 2014, 10:00 AM

In Sickness And In Health … When I Feel Like It
D.C. McAllister, The Federalist

Sadly, many people run from suffering and sickness because they want a “happy” life, not a joyful one. They do this not only with mental illness but physical illness as well.

9 Things You Should Know About Surrogacy
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last week, the issue of surrogacy returned to the news when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation allowing for legal surrogacy births. Here are nine things you should know about surrogacy.

Should Christian Leaders Defend Islam?
William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine

Is there such a thing as bad religion? Or is religion by its very nature a good thing? Throughout most of history, most people wouldn’t have hesitated to label some religions as bad.

In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins
Frank Newport, Gallup

More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process. However, the percentage who say God was not involved is rising.

Vespers of Pentecost
Sunday, June 8, 2014, 7:00 AM

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit)
Hildegarde of Bingen

1. Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

2. Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas
et spiritalis unctio.

3. Tu septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae
tu rite promissum Patris
sermone ditans guttura.

4. Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,
infirma nostri corporis,
virtute firmans perpeti.

5. Hostem repellas longius
pacemque dones protinus;
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

6. Per te sciamus da Patrem
noscamus atque Filium,
te utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

7. Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.

Chanted by the Anonymous 4 and rdcorded on The Origin Of Fire, Harmonia Mundi, 2005

Mere Links 06.06.14
Friday, June 6, 2014, 10:00 AM

How to Form a Real Conscience
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

It is also impossible to admit your need for a master if you won’t accept a truth unless it can be expressed so as to satisfy your intellect, here, now. What seems to be a paradox is easy to resolve once we consider the difference between nobility and what Max Scheler called ressentiment, in his remarkable book of that name.

Troubled Waters
Timothy George, First Things

For some years now, annual church statistics have shown that the SBC is losing members. Although there are still more than 46,000 congregations affiliated with the SBC, total membership has fallen by upwards of one million since 2005—from 16.6 million members in that year to 15.7 million members in 2013.

Atheists lose latest legal fight over ‘In God We Trust’
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Atheists lost their case against the “In God We Trust” motto on the nation’s currency Wednesday (May 28). It’s a battle they have lost several times before, as court after court has affirmed that printing and engraving the country’s motto on its money does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Southern Baptist membership declines for 7th year
Associated Press

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination saw membership decline for the seventh straight year in 2013, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

While You Were Sleeping
Friday, June 6, 2014, 8:10 AM

In recent days, my American readers have been focused on the abysmal care to our military veterans at a number of government hospitals, the mystery surrounding the prisoner swap with the Taliban and Sgt. Bergdahl, and the deepening concerns about the Mr. Obama’s foreign policy setbacks in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  But mostly unnoticed was a small item in which the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) reversed a long-standing ban on gender reassignment surgery paid for by Medicare.  (Yes, really!)  Gender reassignment surgery is commonly referred to as a sex change operation.  Thus, taxpayer-paid sex change surgeries are now available for the elderly and disabled.

HHS has determined that it is “no longer reasonable” to expect older and disabled Americans to pay for their own sex change operations.  Instead, HHS now recognizes the surgery as “medically necessary” and “effective” treatment for people who cannot deal effectively with their own biological gender.  Mr./Ms. Denee Mallon, a 74-year-old Army veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the driving force behind the change in HHS policy, after he/she sued HHS for this special benefit.  In an emailed statement reported by ABC News, Mallon wrote:

Sometimes I am asked aren’t I too old to have surgery.  My answer is how old is too old?  When     people ask if I am too old, it feels like they are implying that it’s a “waste of money” to operate     at my age.  But I could have an active life ahead of me for another 20 years.  And I want to spend     those years in congruence and not distress.

(I wonder why he/she didn’t simply go to the Veterans Administration for the sex change operation?  After all, taxpayers we have been paying for sex change operations for military traitors and illegal immigrants throughout the Obama years.)  Each gender reassignment surgery can cost $50,000 or more.  Fortunately, Medicare has plenty of money to take care of the 10,000 seniors now retiring each day.  Gary Gates, a demographer with The Williams Institute, a think tank on LGBT issues at the University of California at Los Angeles, estimates that people who self-identify as “transgender” make up 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population.  With over 49 million Americans now enrolled in Medicare, if Mr. Gates’ numbers are somewhat accurate, I would think that sex change operations for senior citizens and the disabled should not amount to more than 150,000 surgeries.  Thus, the new HHS policy clearly recognizes that it is a taxpayer responsibility to cover an elective body modification that reduces the mental, psychological, and physical risk arising from those suffering from gender confusion and dysphoria.

Technically, the HHS decision does not yet apply to Medicaid, which provides health coverage for individuals and families with low-incomes.  Although some states do not pay for sex change surgeries and the cost of sex hormones that transgendered people commonly take during their “transition,” other states evaluate such claims on a case-by-case basis.  However, as private health insurance companies and Medicaid programs often follow the federal government on what is considered medically necessary, this decision is likely to lead to sex change surgeries as a routinely covered insurance benefit.  After the HHS decision, Mallon said in a statement, “This decision means so much to me and to many other transgender people.  I am relieved to know that my doctor and I can now address my medical needs, just as other patients and doctors do.”  I am reminded of Mr. Obama’s response to a question at a town-hall meeting about one’s 100-year-old grandmother who received a pacemaker.  This was during the run-up to passage of Obamacare.  The questioner pointed out to Mr. Obama that her grandmother had badly needed a pacemaker, but had been turned down by a doctor because of her age.  A second doctor, noting the patient’s alertness, zest for life, and generally youthful “spirit,” inserted the pacemaker despite her advanced age.  Her symptoms, having been resolved, Grandma was doing well five years later.  The question for Mr. Obama was, “Under the Obama healthcare system, will an elderly person’s general state of health, and her “spirit,” be taken into account when making medical decisions – or will these decisions be made according to age only?”  Mr. Obama’s famous answer was clear: “it is really not feasible to take ‘spirit’ into account.  We are going to make medical decisions based on objective evidence, and not subjective impressions.  . . . Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking a pill.”  I guess he has now “evolved” on this as well.  I am glad that Mr./Ms. Mallon won’t have to just take a pill to deal with his dysphoria, or that he won’t have to pay for it either as those expenses are now foisted on taxpayers.  But as Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council observed, “While President Obama is busy financing senior sex changes, wounded veterans are dying for lack of medical care.”

Mere Links 06.05.14
Thursday, June 5, 2014, 10:00 AM

Can Science Tell Us When Life Begins?
Mathew Lu, Public Discourse

“Science” can tell us when life begins, provided that we already know what to look for. Empirical biology alone cannot tell us what that is. Once we establish a metaphysical account of life, then empirical embryology can tell us whether the relevant conditions are met.

Neo-Jim Crow in the Middle East
Gary Bauer, Washington Times

Sadly, a version of Jim Crow has been resurrected — but this time, his targets are the ancient Christian populations of the Middle East.

Baptist Missionary Sentenced to Life in Hard Labor by North Korea
Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times

The missionary, Kim Jong-uk, was also convicted of spying and other various “anti-state” crimes during a trial in Pyongyang on Friday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Saturday. A large crowd attended Mr. Kim’s trial, the report said.

After 5 Months of Sales, Colorado Sees the Downside of a Legal High
Jack Healy, New York Times

Five months after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, the battle over legalization is still raging.

Mere Links 06.04.14
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 10:00 AM

Church-State Clash in China Coalesces Around a Toppled Spire
Ian Johnson, New York Times

“People are stunned,” said one member of the congregation, who asked that she be identified only by her English name, Mabel, out of fear of government reprisals. “They have completely lost faith in the local religious authorities.”

Building Strong Marriages, One at a Time
Rachel Sheffield, Public Discourse

If healthy marriage is the basis of a strong society, it is worth every effort to strengthen it. Marriage education should supplement other efforts to address social problems.

Starvation as the New “Death With Dignity”
Wesley J. Smith, First Things

Self-starvation has become the latest craze among the “death with dignity” crowd. This has been coming on for some time. Removing feeding tubes from cognitively disabled people who can’t swallow has been allowed for decades, under the right to refuse unwanted “medical treatment.” But what about people who can eat and drink by mouth? Assisted suicide advocates argue that it isn’t fair that they can’t die too.

Without Gloss: Francis of Assisi and Western Catholicism
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Crisis Magazine

Scripture tells us that God is utterly different from us, vastly higher than us. Then it tells us to become like him. Therein lies the paradox. The task seems impossible. And yet we know it to be possible.

Mere Links 06.03.14
Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 10:00 AM

Prisoners of Sex
Ross Douthat, New York Times

The culture’s attitude is Hefnerism, basically, if less baldly chauvinistic than the original Playboy philosophy. Sexual fulfillment is treated as the source and summit of a life well lived, the thing without which nobody (from a carefree college student to a Cialis-taking senior) can be truly happy, enviable or free.

Christian Leaders May Return to Nicaea: What Does It Mean?
Emma Green, The Atlantic

In 2025, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians could go back to the place where early followers of Jesus tried to create a consensus among all of Christendom.

Who, What, Why: What language would Jesus have spoken?

Israel’s prime minister has verbally sparred with the Pope over which language Christ might have spoken. Several languages were used in the places where Jesus lived – so which would he have known, asks Tom de Castella.

25 years after Tiananmen Square, China tightens grip on religious freedom
William McKenzie, CNN

Twenty-five years after Tiananmen Square – where on June 4, 1989, Chinese soldiers turned their guns on protesting students and activists – freedom remains elusive.

Mere Links 06.02.14
Monday, June 2, 2014, 10:00 AM

Medicare to Now Cover Sex-Change Surgery
Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times

Medicare may no longer exclude sex-reassignment surgery from coverage, a government appeals board ruled Friday. It said the current exclusion was “no longer reasonable” because the surgery is safe and effective and can no longer be considered experimental.

Are Millennials Really Leaving the Church? Yes — but Mostly White Millennials
Bob Smietana, OnFaith

All the hand-wringing stories about young adults leaving religion overlooks the vibrancy and growth of multiethnic churches.

Pope Francis’s rollicking plane ride home: Rule of celibate priests ‘always open’ to change
Terrence McCoy, Washington Post

Priestly celibacy “is not a dogma of faith.” Last week, the pope got a letter. It was from a group of priests’ girlfriends. They pleaded with him to strike down rules prohibiting priests from marriage and sex. “Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with,” the women wrote in the letter.

Drive-thru at church: The easy-pray lane
Terri Akman, Philadelphia Inquirer

In an age when convenience is king and religion is often ridiculed, some churches looking to widen their outreach efforts are embracing what community banks and pharmacies have utilized for decades: the drive-through.

Mere Links 05.30.14
Friday, May 30, 2014, 10:00 AM

Conservative Christianity and the transgender question
Russell D. Moore, OnFaith

As a conservative evangelical Christian, I believe the so-called transgender question will require a church with a strong theological grounding, and a winsome pastoral footing.

The Southern Baptist Convention: An Introduction

The SBC is made up of more than 16 million members who hold membership in 44,848 autonomous, local churches. By calling the churches autonomous, we mean that they make their own decisions on staffing, budget, and program. No one outside the churches holds this authority.

Amicable breakup of UMC needed, pastor group says
Sam Hodges, United Methodist Reporter

A group of United Methodist pastors and theologians is calling for an amicable split of the denomination, saying differences over homosexuality and other issues are irreconcilable.

For Middle East, Region of Religious Conflict, Pope Suggests a Respite in Prayer
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times

The meeting is not going to produce a treaty, of course. But could it at least bring the sides back to the negotiating table?

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