Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Morning Prayer for Sunday, January 13, 2019 — I pray that I may always call on God’s strength

January 13, 2019

Before we came to the fellowship, we were living an unnatural life physically and mentally. We were punishing our bodies by loading them with alcohol. We didn’t eat enough and we ate the wrong things. We didn’t get enough sleep or the right kind of rest. We were ruining ourselves physically. We had an alcoholic obsession and we couldn’t imagine life without alcohol. We kept imagining all kinds of crazy things about ourselves and about other people. We were ruining ourselves mentally. Since I came into the fellowship, am I getting better physically and mentally?

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Meditation for the Day

I believe that my life is being refined like gold in a crucible. Gold does not stay in the crucible, only until it is refined. I will never despair or be despondent. I now have friends who long for me to conquer. If I should err or fail, it would cause pain and disappointment to them. I will keep trying to live a better life.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may always call on God’s strength, while the gold of my life is being refined. I pray that I may see it through, with God’s help.

From Twenty Four Hours a Day

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There are our “top overnight reads” at Peace and Freedom:

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What Drives This Alcoholic: A Life Mission

After 16 years of sobriety, my friend relapsed and started to drink again.

When I asked him how it happened, he said, “The alcohol just jumped into my mouth.”

When I asked him what was it that made him get out of bed in the morning, what was his mission, and what gave his life meaning, there was a long, uncomfortable silence.

I need to thank God continuously for the great gift of sobriety.

For me, a Christian in Alcoholics Anonymous, AA and my faith are in complete and perfect symmetry. I cannot imagine one without the other. I need both to sustain me.

I need meaning in my life. And I need interior peace — because that’s where I’ll hear God. I need to meditate.

A.A. is the beginning and not the end. Without true meaning in life, without a real mission, this particular alcoholic would be forever adrift and in danger.

I need friends, family, community and support. I need my sponsor and my wife sometimes equally and sometimes one more than the other.

But as a Christian, I also need Jesus. I need to seek him out and find him. I need to knock.

I need the hope of eternal life.

Nothing in this world can fill my need anymore. Once sober in A.A., we discover our spirituality — our spiritual nature and our spiritual life.

Truly now I am a spiritual being having what I hope is a temporary physical experience. I am no longer wedded only to this world. I am pointed toward the next.

For me, this is the goal of A.A. To give us a greater meaning, and greater goals. Selfless service to others is one of the best ways to stay sober and stay spiritually fit. So I must do that.

“Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps” is the goal. I must stay sober to keep my future shot of eternal life alive. If I don’t my spiritual life will end. I must live by the principles of the program and the teachings of the Christian life to have a shot.

All this is why many in A.A. with long-term sobriety are much better people than they were before. Now that we have tools, principles, fellowship and mission, we do better.  With real life tools and goals, we have a chance at eternal life.

And the joy of life and giving back every day.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

  • Honesty. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Hope. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Faith. …
  • Courage. …
  • Integrity. …
  • Willingness. …
  • Humility. …
  • Brotherly Love.
Here’s the pathway to a better life:
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Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly
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The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
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  • Prayer and Meditation Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life.
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”

Interestingly, Alcoholics Anonymous teaches the same four characteristics:

— Prayer and Meditation
— Study
— Service to others
— Twelve Step Work (Evangelization)

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Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Lord, I ask your pardon, I have sinned again

Lord, I ask your pardon, I have sinned again. This, alas, is what I am capable of doing on my own! But I abandon myself with confidence to your mercy and your pardon, I thank you for not allowing me to sin even more grievously. I abandon myself to You with confidence because I know that one day you will heal me completely and, in the meantime, I ask you that the experience of my misery would cause me to be more humble, more considerate of others, more conscious that I can do nothing by myself, but that I must rely solely on your love and your mercy. Amen.

By Jacques Philippe

Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence

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What is unique about Christianity?  Faith in the incarnation or the resurrection is not peculiar to the Christian Faith.  Other religions also believe in some form of incarnation of gods, and even resurrection.   Perhaps, what makes Christianity different from other religions is that we believe in the doctrine of grace.   In other words, salvation is purely the grace of God; not the work of man.  Grace is given to us irrespective of what we have done in life.  We cannot earn merits before God but we are called to receive His love, mercy and salvation graciously.

In most religions, there is always a belief in some form of Karma, the effects of what we do in life, good or evil.  If we do evil, we will be punished.  If we do good, we will be rewarded.  In other words, what we sow is what we reap.  Even St Paul appeared to affirm this principle.  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  (Gal 6:7f)  However, the context of St Paul’s saying is that bad consequences will happen to us when we reject the grace of God.

This grace is given to us through Jesus Christ.  It is said that the word, “GRACE” is the acronym for “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”  Through Christ, we are given the grace of salvation freely and without reservation.  This is what the second reading from Titus tells us.  “When the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.”

Baptism, therefore, is the expression of this grace of God given to us freely for our salvation.  There are no conditions for baptism except faith in His grace alone.  We are justified through faith in Jesus Christ who wrought for us the grace of reconciliation. St Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.”  (Rom 3:22-25)

The baptism of children is a clear example of grace, when they are made sons and daughters of God, heirs of Christ without any merit of their own to show.   St Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Eph 2:8-10)  They are given a new life in Christ and assured of eternal life.  All who are baptized are given a new dignity as adopted sons and daughters of God through the forgiveness of sins and the bestowing of the Holy Spirit.  Our sins are what cause us to lose our sonship and daughtership.  With our sins taken away by Christ and the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, we are now able to live out our sonship and daughtership in the power of the Holy Spirit.   Only in the Holy Spirit, can we live out our sonship.  From now on, even if we do good, it is not something that we can boast about except that the grace of God enables us to do good.  St Paul wrote, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor 12:9f)

We can do good also because of the example that Christ has set for us to follow.  He has taught us how to love and how to be good.  “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions.  He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.”  Indeed, Christ has revealed to us our destiny in life, which is to share in the fullness of life with God.  We are called to die to ourselves with Him in baptism so that our lives will be reflective of our sonship in Him.

Hence, today as we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, we are reminded to be grateful for our own baptism.  Being baptized is not just for our own salvation but baptism also means that we are given a mission as well to bring others to Christ.  The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of His mission.  Whereas the feasts of Christmas and Epiphany celebrate the human face of God in Jesus, the feast of baptism reveals the divine face of man by showing our real identity as God’s sons and daughters.   This is who we are.  Necessarily, baptism obliges us to live out our sonship and daughtership seriously so that others will come to see the human face of God in us and the divine face in man.  St Paul urges us, “we must be self restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus.”

Thus, baptism imposes on us the duty of witnessing to the Lord and to be apostles of Christ.  The command of the Lord before He ascended into heaven was this, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Mt 28:19f)  Like John the Baptist and the prophet Isaiah, we are to be joyful messengers of the Lord.  “Shout without fear, say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’  Here is the Lord coming with power, his arm subduing all things to him. The prize of his victory is with him, his trophies all go before him.  He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.”

We are called to clear the path for people to accept the Lord into their lives by helping them to remove all the obstacles that prevent them from coming to the Lord because of pride, fear, selfishness and brokenness.  This is what the Suffering Servant said, “Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  Many people today are too wounded to be able to see the face of God because of the injustices they suffered or their pride of intellect, thinking they can solve all problems of life and find happiness in pleasure, power and success.  To such people, we bring the Good News, words of consolation and encouragement.  “Console my people, console them. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for.”  Jesus began His mission thus, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4:18f)

This mission is possible only when we become conscious of the dignity of our sonship and daughtership in Christ.   We read, “While Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove.  And a voice came from the heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests with you.’”  To regain our sonship, like Jesus, we need to enter into prayer and intimacy with the Father so that the Spirit of God can rest upon us anew and reinforce our consciousness that we are sons and daughters of God so that we can live accordingly in the power of His Spirit.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Christianity isn’t catching on with Generation Z

January 1, 2019

If you attended a Christmas Eve church service last week, you may have noticed one group was all but missing from the pews. According to research from Barna Group, atheism among Generation Z is double that of the rest of the country (13 percent versus 6 percent), and just about 60 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds are some kind of Christian. More than a third are “nones,” which means they identify as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.”

Interestingly enough, the most common barrier to faith among non-Christian Gen Zers is the belief that Christians are hypocrites. Could it be that the wishy-washy “I believe in the Bible, but I also believe in social justice” mentality of modern-day Christianity has confused and distanced young would-be Christians from the faith? Or is it that many of today’s Christians seem to have a bigger heart for Muslim refugees than for their fellow Christians who are persecuted on a daily basis in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world?

By Brendan Pringle
Washington Examiner

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Progressive Christians would likely argue that youth are turned off by the “judgmental” nature of some Christian churches, but Barna Group actually found that teens overall are “somewhat less inclined than U.S. adults” to strongly agree that “religious people are judgmental” (17 percent vs. 24 percent of all adults). Also, plenty of progressive Christian churches exist, yet Gen Zers aren’t flocking to them; they’re just abandoning religion altogether.

Perhaps the biggest culprit is the lack of moral guidance that this generation seems to have.

Almost a quarter of Gen Z (24 percent) strongly believes that “what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society.” By comparison, 12 percent of Baby Boomers and 18 percent of Gen Xers felt the same way. About 34 percent of Gen Z strongly believes lying is immoral, compared to 61 percent of the eldest generation.

As would be expected, engaged Christian teens (not just attending services but truly practicing) were much more likely to hold a conservative stance on moral issues, but these kids don’t exactly have much strength in numbers when their peers are running away from the church. Unfortunately, the more Gen Zers identify as “none,” the more peer support they have in this sad spiritual state.

Years ago, religious groups and social critics were complaining that millennials were the least religious generation. More hipster churches sprouted up, churches altered their beliefs to be more progressive and in line with today’s culture, and … nothing changed. Now, they are decrying that Generation Z is even worse, and if the tactics of the faithful don’t change, we’ll lose this generation as well.

Church attendance is a start, but an hour or so of hymns and sermons is not enough. Parents and other potential mentors need to help armor young people against the idea of relativism, which can be so convincing at a time when the idea of truth has become so subjective. Only then will young people once again turn to faith.

Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is writer from California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America’s Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.

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The Return of Paganism

December 13, 2018

Maybe there actually is a genuinely post-Christian future for America.

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

Here are some generally agreed-upon facts about religious trends in the United States. Institutional Christianity has weakened drastically since the 1960s. Lots of people who once would have been lukewarm Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers now identify as having “no religion” or being “spiritual but not religious.” The mainline-Protestant establishment is an establishment no more. Religious belief and practice now polarizes our politics in a way they didn’t a few generations back.

What kind of general religious reality should be discerned from all these facts, though, is much more uncertain, and there are various plausible stories about what early-21st century Americans increasingly believe. The simplest of these is the secularization story — in which modern societies inevitably put away religious ideas as they advance in wealth and science and reason, and the decline of institutional religion is just a predictable feature of a general late-modern turn away from supernatural belief.

People gathering at Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice on Thursday where the sun rose at 4.52am

People gathering at Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice on Thursday where the sun rose at 4.52am

But the secularization narrative is insufficient, because even with America’s churches in decline, the religious impulse has hardly disappeared. In the early 2000s, over 40 percent of Americans answered with an emphatic “yes” when Gallup asked them if “a profound religious experience or awakening” had redirected their lives; that number had doubled since the 1960s, when institutional religion was more vigorous. A recent Pew survey on secularization likewise found increases in the share of Americans who have regular feelings of “spiritual peace and well-being.” And the resilience of religious impulses and rhetoric in contemporary political movements, even (or especially) on the officially secular left, is an obvious feature of our politics.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue, New York, Stained Glass Windows, Gothic

So perhaps instead of secularization it makes sense to talk about the fragmentation and personalization of Christianity — to describe America as a nation of Christian heretics, if you will, in which traditional churches have been supplanted by self-help gurus and spiritual-political entrepreneurs. These figures cobble together pieces of the old orthodoxies, take out the inconvenient bits and pitch them to mass audiences that want part of the old-time religion but nothing too unsettling or challenging or ascetic. The result is a nation where Protestant awakenings have given way to post-Protestant wokeness, where Reinhold Niebuhr and Fulton Sheen have ceded pulpits to Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey, where the prosperity gospel and Christian nationalism rule the right and a social gospel denuded of theological content rules the left.

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Modern day pagans plan to build Iceland’s first Norse temple in 1,000 years

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/modern-day-pagans-plan-build-icelands-first-norse-temple-1000-years

I wrote a whole book on this theme, but in the years since it came out I’ve wondered if it, too, was incomplete. There has to come a point at which a heresy becomes simply post-Christian, a moment when you should just believe people who claim they have left the biblical world-picture behind, a context where the new spiritualities add up to a new religion.

Institutional Christianity has weakened drastically since the 1960s . Credit Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Which is why lately I’ve become interested in books and arguments that suggest that there actually is, or might be, a genuinely post-Christian future for America — and that the term “paganism” might be reasonably revived to describe the new American religion, currently struggling to be born.

Call me a pagan, but the idea of a divine that pervades the universe strikes me as much more meaningful and profound than the notion that this is all the result of the snap some celestial magician’s fingers. If we don’t seek the divine within us and all things, we’ll never find the divine without. Relying on an external divinity, though, leads inevitably to the widespread practice of what Niebuhr called “bad religion” — religion that reserves the ultimate sanction for itself. That road starts with the Crusades and leads remorselessly to 9/11.

A fascinating version of this argument is put forward by Steven D. Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego, in his new book, “Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars From the Tiber to the Potomac.” Smith argues that much of what we understand as the march of secularism is something of an illusion, and that behind the scenes what’s actually happening in the modern culture war is the return of a pagan religious conception, which was half-buried (though never fully so) by the rise of Christianity.

What is that conception? Simply this: that divinity is fundamentally inside the world rather than outside it, that God or the gods or Being are ultimately part of nature rather than an external creator, and that meaning and morality and metaphysical experience are to be sought in a fuller communion with the immanent world rather than a leap toward the transcendent.

This paganism is not materialist or atheistic; it allows for belief in spiritual and supernatural realities. It even accepts the possibility of an afterlife. But it is deliberately agnostic about final things, what awaits beyond the shores of this world, and it is skeptical of the idea that there exists some ascetic, world-denying moral standard to which we should aspire. Instead, it sees the purpose of religion and spirituality as more therapeutic, a means of seeking harmony with nature and happiness in the everyday — while unlike atheism, it insists that this everyday is divinely endowed and shaped, meaningful and not random, a place where we can truly hope to be at home.

In popular religious practice there isn’t always a clean line between this “immanent” religion and the transcendent alternative offered by Christianity and Judaism. But clearly religious cultures can tend toward one option or the other, and you can build a plausible case for a “pagan” (by Smith’s definition) tradition in Western and American religion, which in his account takes two major forms.

First, there is a tradition of intellectual and aesthetic pantheism that includes figures like Spinoza, Nietzsche, Emerson and Whitman, and that’s manifest in certain highbrow spiritual-but-not-religious writers today. Smith recruits Sam Harris, Barbara Ehrenreich and even Ronald Dworkin to this club; he notes that we even have an explicit framing of this tradition as paganism, in the former Yale Law School dean Anthony Kronman’s rich 2016 work “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan.”

Hundreds of druids, pagans and revelers gathered in June at the Avebury Neolithic henge monument in England for sunset and sunrise during the summer solstice. Credit Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe

Second, there is a civic religion that like the civic paganism of old makes religious and political duties identical, and treats the city of man as the city of God (or the gods), the place where we make heaven ourselves instead of waiting for the next life or the apocalypse. This immanent civic religion, Smith argues, is gradually replacing the more biblical form of civil religion that stamped American history down to the Protestant-Catholic-Jew 1950s. Whether in the social-justice theology of contemporary progressive politics or the transhumanist projects of Silicon Valley, we are watching attempts to revive a religion of this-world, a new-model paganism, to “reclaim the city that Christianity wrested away from it centuries ago.”

These descriptions are debatable, but suppose Smith is right. Is the combination of intellectual pantheism and a this-world-focused civil religion enough to declare the rebirth of paganism as a faith unto itself, rather than just a cultural tendency within a still-Christian order?

It seems to me that the answer is not quite, because this new religion would lack a clear cultic aspect, a set of popular devotions, a practice of ritual and prayer of the kind that the paganism of antiquity offered in abundance. And that absence points to the essential weakness of a purely intellectualized pantheism: It invites its adherents to commune with a universe that offers suffering and misery in abundance, which means that it has a strong appeal to the privileged but a much weaker appeal to people who need not only sense of wonder from their spiritual lives but also, well, help.

However, there are forms of modern paganism that do promise this help, that do offer ritual and observance, augury and prayer, that do promise that in some form gods or spirits really might exist and might offer succor or help if appropriately invoked. I have in mind the countless New Age practices that promise health and well-being and good fortune, the psychics and mediums who promise communication with the spirit world, and also the world of explicit neo-paganism, Wiccan and otherwise. Its adherents may not all be equally convinced of the realities that they’re trying to appeal to and manipulate (I don’t know how many of the witches who publicly hexed Brett Kavanaugh really expected it to work), but their numbers are growing rapidly; there may soon be more witches in the United States than members of the United Church of Christ.

What ancient paganism did successfully was to unite this kind of popular supernaturalism with its own forms of highbrow pantheism and civil-religiosity. Thus the elites of ancient Rome might reject the myths about their pantheon of deities as just crude stories, but they would join enthusiastically in public rituals that assumed that gods or spirits could be appealed to, propitiated, honored, worshiped.

To get a fully revived paganism in contemporary America, that’s what would have to happen again — the philosophers of pantheism and civil religion would need to build a religious bridge to the New Agers and neo-pagans, and together they would need to create a more fully realized cult of the immanent divine, an actual way to worship, not just to appreciate, the pantheistic order they discern.

It seems like we’re some distance from that happening — from the intellectuals whom Smith describes as pagan actually donning druidic robes, or from Jeff Bezos playing pontifex maximus for a post-Christian civic cult. The 1970s, when a D.C. establishment figure like Sally Quinn was hexing her enemies, were a high-water mark for those kinds of experiments among elites. Now, occasional experiments in woke witchcraft and astrology notwithstanding, there’s a more elite embarrassment about the popular side of post-Christian spirituality.

That embarrassment may not last forever; perhaps a prophet of a new harmonized paganism is waiting in the wings. Until then, those of us who still believe in a divine that made the universe rather than just pervadingit — and who have a certain fear of what more immanent spirits have to offer us — should be able to recognize the outlines of a possible successor to our world-picture, while taking comfort that it is not yet fully formed.

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Morning Prayer for Sunday, December 9, 2018 — “Our Heart is Restless Until It Rests in You.”

December 9, 2018

A hermit’s life is not a normal or natural one. We all need to be by ourselves at times, but we cannot really live without the companionship and fellowship of others. Our natures demand it. Our lives depend largely upon it. Do I fully appreciate the fellowship — and what it means to me?

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Meditation for the Day

We are all seeking something, but many do not know what they want in life. They are seeking something because they are restless and dissatisfied, without realizing that faith in God can give an objective and a purpose to their lives. Many of us are at least subconsciously seeking for a Power greater than ourselves because that would give a meaning to our existence. If you have found that Higher Power, you can be the means of leading others aright, by showing them that their search for a meaning to life will end when they find faith and trust in God as the answer.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that my soul will lose its restlessness by finding rest in God. I pray that I may find peace of mind in the thought of God and His purpose for my life.

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“Our Heart is Restless Until It Rests in You.”

St. Augustine is speaking of three types of restlessness: “the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.” This restlessness, whether we recognize it or not, is a desire to know God and to have a deeper relationship with Him. None of this is easy, but God is always there for us. He is waiting with open arms, just as he waited for Augustine in his conversion to Christianity, so that we might rest in Him.

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See also:

https://www.catholicapostolatecenter.org/blog/lessons-from-st-augustine

and

Restless, Irritable and Discontent

https://www.emergingfrombroken.com/restless-irritable-and-discontent/

and

Dealing With General Discontent

https://www.mentalhelp.net/advice/dealing-with-general-discontent/

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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Nada Te Turbe (Let nothing disturb you)
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Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.— St. Teresa of Avila
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Peace Prayers

https://wsfpeacecoalition.wordpress.com/resources/peace-prayers/

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 6, 2018 — The Foundation of Humanity

December 6, 2018

The LORD is an eternal Rock — Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Image result for the wise man builds his house on rock, pictures

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock

Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 178

Reading 1 IS 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

R. (26a) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia IS 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image result for house built on sand, photos

Gospel  MT 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 DECEMBER, 2018, Thursday, 1st Week, Advent

BUILDING A HUMANITY WITHOUT FOUNDATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [IS 26:1-6PS 118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27MT 7:21,24-27  ]

The world is in such a confused state.  Leaders no longer lead but obey the sheep.  This is what democracy is all about –  do what the people say, not what is good for the future of the country or the organization.  Give them what they want, even though it might hurt them in the long run.  But then we do not have to worry because we will no longer be leaders by then.   Then again, we cannot blame the leaders of the day entirely because the world has been bought over by this ideology which we call ‘relativism’.  This philosophy claims that everything is relative except, of course, relativism itself.

The dictatorship of relativism is the cause of much confusion in the world today. With relativism, nothing has any real foundation or ground to support.  There is no truth by which we all can agree on.  It all depends on who speaks the loudest and makes the most noise so that others will buy into their ideas or ideology.  Relativism is fueled also by mass media and digital technology.  Ideas and views spread widely.  As a result, we have an overload of information.  Much of the information is fake news and they are often innocently passed around without verification.

With a diarrhea of information available, not all of which can easily be verified, it is no wonder why pragmatism has become the order of the day.  Since we are paralyzed by so much information and choices, and lacking the time to weigh all the available data, we just have to choose at random according to our personal preferences and liking.  Choices are made not based on whether it is right or true but whether it satisfies one’s needs and desires, even if they are detrimental to our future or when they infringe the rights of others.

Indeed, when we examine some of the trends of society, we cannot but lament the shortsightedness of those who formulated the policies.  They are more concerned with fixing the problem now than being far-sighted to see whether the solution they propose will cause greater problems in the future.  This is true in terms of population control.  Many countries forced their people to stop at one or two children.  Now these countries are facing depopulation and an aging demographic.  The first world countries are now importing citizens and workers from so-called over-crowded countries in the third world.  Has the world seriously considered the long-term implications of legalizing same-sex union, adoption of children by same-sex couples, euthanasia, cloning, etc?  But leaders are desperate to please the people, notwithstanding the fact that such choices are often engineered through publicity and aggressive marketing.

Jesus warns us in today’s gospel that if our house is not built on solid foundation, then it will crash and it will be disastrous.  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!”   Indeed, today, we are called to examine the fundamental principles that can help humanity and grow the country. If what we build is not based on lasting principles, then we will find ourselves having to keep changing our goal post to suit us.  We will just go where the wind blows.  We change with the tide and we are swept along by societal trends.  Instead of molding and steering society, we allow society, which is blind, to lead us.  We have no direction in life.  We have no focus and without any shared values there is nothing that can bring everyone together.  But values must be true and good, otherwise they cannot be valued.

So we might be doing many things and yet not achieving anything that is really good.  That is why Jesus warned us about self-deception.  He said, “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  Just praying and calling ourselves Catholic will not lead us to heaven.  Just saying that we are not justified by good works but by faith alone will not lead us to happiness.  Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”  (Mt 7:22f)   Indeed, we can be doing many things, but without focus or direction, such works will do us no good.  This is what many are doing even in Church.  They are involved in all kinds of activity but they do not pray, they are not conscious of their roles and responsibilities, their alignment with the parish and the diocesan vision; their objectives in the work they do.  So we have many do-gooders but they are blind.  They just do what they have been told but they are not motivated by a higher vision and goal.

As Christians, we are focused in all that we do.  Our foundational principles are clear.  We know who we are, what we are called to do and where our final destiny lies.  We know that God is the Ultimate Ground of life.  We know that God has revealed Himself to us through His Son in the Holy Spirit.  We know that we are called to be sons and daughters of God to share in the divine life.  “But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  (Phil 3:20)  Until then, we must fight the good fight.   “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”  (Tit 2:11-14)

Indeed, our values are founded on Eternal truths because they come from Christ who is the Word of God in person.  He is our rock.  Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.”   He said these concluding words at His Sermon on the Mount.  In other words, Jesus is inviting us to place our total trust in His Word, the values that He preached.   The fundamental values of life are beautifully summed up in the Beatitudes, which is the preface to the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount.  The beatitudes are the keys to a blessed life.  Some of these foundational values taught by the Lord are humility and poverty of spirit, holiness and purity of life, mercy and compassion, charity and justice, love and forgiveness, peacemaking and prophets for truth.  These are the principles that Christians live by.

Not only is Jesus our rock, He is our fortress as well.  The prophet said, “We have a strong city; to guard us he has set wall and rampart about us.”   The wall of Jesus, which is His word, shields us from the attack of our enemies, especially in the face of attack and false doctrines and undesirable values that come into our lives.  St Paul wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)  He also reminded the Christians that “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, (is) the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”  (1 Tim 3:15) Besides being the wall of defence, God is the one that gives us an overview and fuller perspective of life.  This is what it means to say that God is our rampart, which is that part on top of the wall of a castle where there is a walkway for the soldiers to see from afar anyone who is approaching the city.   In this way, we will have the foresight to see far and near the outcome of the policies that we formulate for our people.

The psalmist invites us, let us place our entire trust and confidence in Jesus, our rock and fortress, “Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord is the everlasting Rock; he has brought low those who lived high up in the steep citadel; brings it down, brings it down to the ground, flings it down in the dust: the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor trample on it.”   Indeed, because Christ is our rock and fortress, we are called to build our lives on Him.   Only by trusting in Him, can we win victory.

So today, let us delay no longer.  With the psalmist we pray, “Open to me the gates of holiness: I will enter and give thanks. This is the Lord’s own gate where the just may enter. I will thank you for you have answered and you are my saviour.”  If our minds are focused on the Lord, our hearts will be at rest because we know He will help us to fight this battle.  With upright heart and upright life, we march on with confidence and peace.   Putting into practice what the Lord teaches us is what ultimately matters. “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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“Christianity established a a rule and order and the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”

— G. K. Chesterton (In his book “Orthodoxy”)

“He is the second most-quoted author in the English language, the most prolific writer in the 20th Century,” said Dr. Benson, adding:

“He was blackballed in his own time because he was a Christian in a secular world.” As such, Chesterton took on the free thinkers and turn-of-century radicals, even coming to America to debate, and ultimately defeat, Clarence Darrow who was fresh from his triumphant oratory in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

“Chesterton had set out to found his own church but the philosopher came to the conclusion that Christianity held the answer and his Christian orthodoxy led him to convert to Roman Catholicism.

http://blog.nola.com/ponchatoulatimes/2008/05/times_unveils_major_new_downto.html

“America has strayed from its Christian principles” — Local extensions of Trump run for election

November 4, 2018

In a party that belongs to Trump, Republican candidates in the midterm elections are ultimately just sideshows — even those that mimic the president. Michael Knigge reports from Virginia.

    
USA Wahlkampf Corey Stewart in Virginia (DW/M. Knigge)

Days before the US midterm elections, an evening with a Republican Senate candidate in rural Virginia showed how nationalized and centered on US President Donald Trump these elections are. Just four years after entering the national political stage, he has made the Republican Party his own and has firmly ensconced himself as the point around which the rest of the right rotates.

A rally for Republican candidate for Senate Corey Stewart this week in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, three hours from Washington, proved that point.

In front of an all white, mostly middle-aged-and-up group of about 100, Stewart, flanked by banners bearing his name below a red emblazoned “Support Trump” slogan, entered the room in the Augusta County government building to the “USA, USA” chants that have become a staple of Trump rallies.

Read moreWhy the US midterm elections matter for America and the world

All about immigration

Like his party’s leader, Stewart hammered home the president’s central campaign theme of illegal immigration.

Trump gesturing while giving a speech (ORF)Trump said Republican voters should pretend his name is on the ballot

Whether he applied it to undocumented immigration, human trafficking, gang violence, the opioid epidemic or what he called depressed wages for blue collar workers, the audience approved Stewart’s oft-repeated refrain, “We must build the wall.”

Corey Stewart

@CoreyStewartVA

US Senate candidate, VA

We are just 1 vote short of building the whole wall. After Tuesday, Kaine’s “no” will become Stewart’s “yes” to building the wall! https://www.foxnews.com/us/145m-border-wall-project-in-texas-awarded-customs-and-border-protection-says 

$145M Texas border wall project awarded, Customs and Border Protection says

A $145 million construction project was awarded Wednesday to build roughly six miles of border wall in Texas, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Friday.

foxnews.com

Stewart — who once called himself “Trump before Trump” for the hard line he took on immigration, and was endorsed by the president after winning a bruising primary battle against Virginia’s Republican establishment candidate — went on to echo Trump in other ways as well: blaming of Democrats for standing in the way of curbing undocumented immigration, attacking liberal billionaire George Soros for funding so-called left protesters, praising divisive Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, castigating of Democrats for allegedly trying to exploit the tragedy of the recent synagogue shooting, and calling for more armed guards at like schools and houses of worship.

The “mini-Trumps”

While Stewart’s earlier campaigns for state-wide office fizzled and he currently trails in the polls behind Democratic Party candidate and 2016 candidate for vice president Tim Kaine, Trump’s ascent buoyed Stewart, which is especially remarkable in a swing state like Virginia that has traditionally elected moderate Democrats or Republicans with broad appeal, such as longtime Republican Senator John Warner.

USA Wahlkampf Corey Stewart in Virginia (DW/M. Knigge)Martha Waltz supports Trump despite his tweets

But at least for now — in 2018 — in Virginia and in other parts of the country, a different cast of Republicans, sometimes called the “mini-Trumps” for their efforts to mimic the original, represent the new face of the GOP. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 89 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance, only two points below his all-time high of 91 in the same survey.

Choosing Trump a no-brainer

“We could all do with less tweets, we could all do with less outspoken crude, coarse comments, but I think he is a man who is willing to listen and willing to adjust,” said Martha Waltz, a retired educator from Augusta County who attended the Stewart rally. “I was completely against Trump in the beginning, but when it came down to him being the candidate for the Republicans or when it came to a choice between Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, it was a no-brainer.”

Many gathered on this Thursday night don’t condone everything Trump says or does, but are willing to look the other way because they are convinced he is putting the country back on the right course.

USA Wahlkampf Corey Stewart in Virginia (DW/M. Knigge)The country has strayed from its Christian principles, said Jesse Hancock

“The Democrats are becoming a mob,” said Jesse Hancock, a soft-spoken retired electrical engineer. “They are fighting authority. It doesn’t work in this country.”

While he acknowledges that Trump is “sort of controversial figure,” he said he thinks Trump will restore the United States to being the great nation it was when Hancock, now 83, grew up, “I think the country was founded on Christian beliefs and over time we strayed from those.”

“Judeo-Christian principles”

What are commonly called Christian values are also a key reason why Sharon Griffin, a retired educator, backs Trump and the Republicans.

Read moreDonald Trump’s license to kill

“We are pro-life, we want reasonable immigration, not this insanity at the border and are pro-religious liberty,” she said. “Under Obama things really went downhill, and there was hostility towards religion, particular towards Christianity. And that’s not right. Our country was founded on principles of the Judeo-Christian world and it’s the end of our country if we abandon that.”

USA Wahlkampf Corey Stewart in Virginia (DW/M. Knigge)If Congress shifts, Trump can’t anything done, thinks Sharon Griffin

If Stewart, who originally hails from the Midwest state of Minnesota, does not feature prominently in the minds of rally-goers, it is for a simple reason. He has portrayed himself as a local extension of Trump. It’s a move the president himself approved of, recently telling Republican voters to pretend he was on the ballot.

“I think Corey and other Republicans that I know in our area are supporting Trump’s effort to restore the country,” said Hancock.

“The scary thing is, if Congress shifts,” said Griffin, “Trump can’t get anything done. And the truth is he has been getting things done like a bulldozer. It’s amazing.”

https://www.dw.com/en/republican-mini-trumps-echo-us-president-to-woo-midterm-voters/a-46146643

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The mass shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh recently made many people think again about the role of religion in American life.

Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow said after the synagogue killings:

“We will not let the few evil people dominate our society.”

“As a society we are becoming courser, and meaner and cruder.”

“When God is removed from our society, this is the result.”

 

See also:

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Virtually all of the American Founders were devout, orthodox Christians who consciously drew from their religious convictions to answer most political questions.

See:

Did America Have a Christian Founding?

Source:https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/did-america-have-christian-founding

Nigeria Reports Successful Strikes Against Boko Haram, But Many Believe U.S. and Nigeria Should Do More

October 27, 2018

The attack occurred on Thursday night at Kasasewa check point, and two insurgents were killed, while rifles and ammunition were recovered from the terrorists.

Troops of the 122 Battalion have intercepted Boko Haram terrorists at a checkpoint in Borno.

The attack occurred on Thursday night at Kasasewa check point, and two insurgents were killed while rifles and ammunition were recovered from the terrorists.

Clothing items found with them were also destroyed.

Image result for Boko Haram, Nigerian Military, photos

FILE photo — Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun/File Photo

According to a statement by the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Bulama Biu of the GOC 7 Division commended the troops and urged them to remain vigilant at all times.

The statement read: “Troops of 122 Battalion eliminate BHTs. Vigilant troops of 122 Batallion Gwoza on Surveillance Patrol intercepted elements of BHT at Kasasewa check point in Borno State on 25 October 2018 at about 2200 hours.

“At the end of the encounter 2 BHTs were neutralised while others escaped with gunshot wounds. Equipment captured include three AK47 rifles with Registration Numbers 07042452, 56-35205749, 692530, 3 Magazines, 6 Improvised 7.62 MM (SPECIAL) rounds as well as clothing items which were destroyed.

“Further exploitation of the general area is ongoing. The GOC 7 Division Brig Gen Bulama Biu has commended the troops and urged them to remain vigilant at all times.”

http://saharareporters.com/2018/10/26/troops-kill-two-boko-haram-insurgents-borno-checkpoint

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Image result for Alpha Jet aircraft, nigeria, photos

Air Force destroys Boko Haram logistics base, vehicles in Borno

By Joseph Erunke

ABUJA- The Nigerian Air Force, NAF,Thursday morning, said its Air Task Force, ATF, of Operation Lafiya Dole, last Tuesday, destroyed Boko Haram terrorists’ logistics base, along with some vehicles, at Tumbun Sale in Northern Borno State.

The service,in a statement by its spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said “the operation was conducted on 23 October 2018 after Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions revealed the presence of some Boko Haram terrorists’ vehicles and several fighters camouflaged under thick vegetation within the area, where the Boko Haram terrorists had converged in order to launch attacks against own troops’ positions. ”

“Accordingly, the ATF scrambled two Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet aircraft, supported by an ISR platform, to attack the target area in multiple waves. “The first wave of attacks recorded direct hits on a suspected Boko Haram terrorists’ ammunition/fuel dump, sending it up in flames.

“Subsequent strikes also resulted in the destruction of some vehicles and neutralization of several Boko Haram terrorists. The few surviving Boko that were seen fleeing the area, were mopped-up in follow-on attacks,” the statement said. It added:”

The NAF, working in concert with surface forces, will sustain the tempo of operations with a view to destroying all remnants of the terrorists on the fringes of Lake Chad and other areas in Northern Borno.”

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/10/air-force-destroys-boko-haram-logistics-base-vehicles-in-borno/

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Image result for Christian children pray during a protest in Makurdi, Nigeria, photos

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Boko Haram Put a Bounty on My Head

Nigeria’s president plays down the jihad against Christians as an ethnic ‘clash.’

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Christian children pray during a protest in Makurdi, Nigeria, April 29.
Christian children pray during a protest in Makurdi, Nigeria, April 29. PHOTO: EMMY IBU/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Jos, Nigeria

I received a phone call several years ago saying that someone had found my wallet, and I could pick it up at an abandoned racetrack. I don’t carry a wallet. Shortly thereafter, while investigating a story about a massacre of Christians in the Middle Belt of Nigeria, I saw a charcoal message emblazoned on a wall: “Hassan, we know about you and will meet you one day.” A Muslim friend confirmed that Boko Haram had put a bounty of $700 on my head. Such is life for a pastor in modern Nigeria.

Nigerian Christianity is under siege from radical Islam. The country’s importance to Africa, and to Christianity as a whole, makes this siege particularly noteworthy. With a population of nearly 200 million—about 50% Christian, 40% Muslim and 10% animist—by 2050 Nigeria will become the third most populous country in the world, the United Nations estimates. No wonder Nigeria has been a strategic target for radical Islamists for several decades.

Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden,” has ramped up attacks on Christians this year. Since 2009 when Boko Haram began its rampage, about 20,000 Nigerians have been hacked with machetes or shot. Two million have been displaced. Pastors and their families have been specifically targeted for death.

The government’s response has deepened Christian frustrations. President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, describes the violence as “clashes” between Fulani tribesmen and farmers, who are mostly Christian. But many Christians, who often become refugees, believe the government is telling the world what it wants to hear, that this has nothing to do with religion. Yet why are all the attackers Boko Haram? And why do they target Christians? We sense that Muslims generally are killed as collateral damage, not as primary targets.

In 2010 I started reporting about these attacks for a popular radio show in Nigeria and then for CNN. By 2012 people started calling me whenever there was an attack around Jos, a city in the Middle Belt, the region where the majority of attacks were occurring. I am often the first reporter on the scene of an attack. I have come to the scene of over 100 massacres, one time finding 500 mutilated bodies.

Pastors in northern and central Nigeria face daunting pressures. Some conduct funerals almost every week for victims, often in mass burials. They struggle to answer their parishioners’ questions about God’s love and justice. They hear powerful voices dismiss this as an ethnic clash, but they understand it is a strategic scorched-earth war, a jihad against Christianity.

Because of this desperate situation, I have organized apologetics seminars for pastors. We meet secretly. Our meetings are announced by cellphone only an hour before, lest our venue be discovered by secret police. To protect against informers, we invite only those pastors who are recommended by another reliable pastor. Twice we have had to cancel at the last minute because of a suicide bomber. Boko Haram has used dozens of young girls as suicide bombers. How can we make sense of this to our flocks?

We use five approaches to talk about God and evil. First, we explain that God made us free to love or hate him. Without that freedom there would be no love. Second, life does not end on this earth. Third, God is just. Someday there will be judgment, and no evildoer will get away with the evil he has done. Fourth, God is love. That can be hard to believe in this evil time unless we look at Jesus’ cross. There God himself suffered at the hands of evil men, and because of it love was released for the whole world. Fifth, we listen to testimonies of pastors and other Christians who saw the manifest presence of God in the midst of suffering and were transformed.

President Trump Welcomes Nigerian President Buhari To The White House,  April 30, 2018

Our seminars have gone well, energizing those who attend and giving many the confidence to die for their faith. But they shouldn’t have to. The Nigerian government should better use its military and police to protect the lives of all citizens. It should see that Nigeria’s courts give speedy justice to the victims of these massacres. And they should be guaranteed safe return to their ruined homes to rebuild their lives. Americans can help by asking Congress and President Trump to pressure President Buhari to do better.

Mr. John is an Anglican priest and journalist.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/boko-haram-put-a-bounty-on-my-head-1540507593

“It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ” — Andrew Brunson

October 17, 2018

In October of 2016, as part of the paranoia following a failed coup attempt, the Turkish government arrested American pastor Andrew Brunson and charged him with espionage and aiding Turkey’s enemies. Pastor Brunson, a Presbyterian minister and Wheaton College graduate, had led a Christian congregation in the overwhelmingly Islamic nation for more than 20 years.

To say the charges were bogus is to understate what was obvious to just about everyone except Turkish authorities. In reality, Brunson became a hostage in Turkey’s steady march toward a more radical Islamism. Not only was he threatened with life imprisonment, but was used as a political pawn. Turkey demanded that in exchange for Brunson, the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who now lives in Pennsylvania, and whom Turkish President Erdogan claims was behind the failed military coup in 2016.

Related image

US pastor Andrew Brunson prays for US President Donald Trump as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, October 13, 2018. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

“We pray for you often, as a family,” Brunson told the president as he asked if he and his wife, Norine, could pray with him. “My wife and I pray for you.”

But President Trump and his administration weren’t interested in bargaining. Instead, the U.S. slapped sanctions on Turkey, a member of NATO, which was a move the BBC called “unprecedented.” As Turkish-U.S. relations soured, again, as the BBC reports, the sanctions and looming tariffs took their toll on the Turkish lira, stoked inflation, and brought the Turkish economy to the brink of an economic crisis.

Realizing that improved relations with the U.S. might be a good thing, Turkey released Pastor Brunson from confinement on Friday, citing “good behavior” and time served as an excuse to let him go without finding him “not guilty.”

Throughout the ordeal, Pastor Brunson maintained his innocence. “Let it be clear,” he wrote, “I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am—a Christian pastor.”

“I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet I believe this to be true: It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me. My deepest thanks for all those around the world who are standing with and praying for me.”

Thanks be to God, who has heard the prayers of His people.

This is another way in which President Trump has been delivering on a promise to promote religious freedom abroad and here at home.

As Ed and I mentioned, we were initially skeptical back in 2017 when the president issued his first executive order on religious freedom. Short on specifics, it seemed like what many called “a nothing burger” at the time. But it’s clear now that it was a small first step in promoting religious freedom.

At the very least, we can say that this administration has very different domestic and foreign policy priorities than the previous administration did. From the HHS mandate to the elevation of LGBT rights as a top foreign policy priority, to the ordeal of Christian Pastor Saeed in Iran, it’s clear that religious freedom was not a top priority for the previous administration.

On the other hand, the appointment of Sam Brownback as U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at HHS, the State Department’s first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, and now clear and courageous action when other nations—even military allies—blatantly violate human rights… show that this administration is compiling quite a track record on religious freedom.

Of course, things change swiftly in Washington. Administrations come, and administrations go. We must remember that our freedom depends solely on the Giver of freedom, and that our call may one day be to face discrimination, suffering, and even persecution. If that is our lot, may we face it with the sort of courage and conviction as did Pastor Brunson.

Of course, Christians around the globe are facing persecution like never before. And so, we rejoice that Pastor Brunson’s suffering is now ended. Thanks be to God.

Originally posted at breakpoint.org

https://www.christianpost.com/voice/pastor-andrew-brunson-is-home.html

Three weeks before election day, Democrats bare their fangs

October 16, 2018

If love of God and country aren’t completely incompatible with being a Democrat, they are at least “problematic.”

Mark Salvas, the executive director of the county Democratic party in Pittsburgh, Pa., lost his job last week. The reason? Long before he was hired, the Gulf War veteran and loyal Democrat had posted a picture of himself and his wife on Facebook, with two phrases superimposed: “ I stand for the Flag,” and “I kneel at the cross.”

Washington Examiner
Editorial

Image result for Democratic party, pictures

Democrats came across this old post and decided it was “insensitive.” Even though Salvas believes that NFL players should be allowed to kneel in protest if they like, his expression of what he does is offensive.

And his wife had done something even worse. One of her Facebook posts asked for help for family friends — the family of a police officer accused of shooting a 17-year-old who fled a traffic stop after participating in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier.

Salvas’ firing sums up the state of today’s Democratic Party better than any polling analysis could. And it should serve as a warning to anyone who is thinking of voting Democratic as a protest against President Trump.

Salvas rightly refuses to apologize for the flag and cross meme, and expresses no regrets. And it isn’t his fault that respect for national symbols and faith in God are not only viewed as backward in today’s Democratic Party, but “insensitive” and even offensive.

The party that so many patriotic middle-class ethnic Americans fled in the 1970s is finally backing up the truck over patriotism and Christianity. If love of God and country aren’t completely incompatible with being a Democrat, they are at least “problematic.”

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People like Salvas, who revere the country they served honorably, are being purged, to make room for the sensitivities of young activists bred in the intellectually toxic environs of college campuses.

This is why elected Democrats openly sneer at the concept of religious freedom. Not long ago, they just disparaged faithful Christians behind closed doors as “bitter clingers.” Today, they publicly decry the moral tenets of their faith as a mere excuse for bigotry.

Democrats are in the midst of asking to the electorate to give them power in the election three weeks from today. They fancy themselves an antidote to the Trump presidency. But instead of appealing to voters, they are going out of their way to alienate them.

In 2006, Democrats won majorities in Congress by winning the center of the electorate. This year, they are doing the opposite. With just a few days left to make their case, they are baring the fangs of their extremism. Their leaders, not just crazy protestors, are promising that there will be no civility unless they win. The protestors, meanwhile, are truly behaving like angry mobs.

Democrats are nominating extremists who loudly and proudly embrace the failed ideology of socialism. They are calling for abolition of the immigration enforcement agency ICE. They denounce anyone who believes in an orderly immigration system, or in the common-sense deportation of convicted criminals, as a racist.

Protesters who oppose U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement demonstrated before the freeholder meeting in Hudson County, N.J., last week.

Matt Katz/WNYC

And it gets worse. For even as leftists accuse Trump of tearing down American institutions, they openly try to do just that. As it becomes clearer that Democrats will not win Senate control, they begin to talk about abolishing the Senate. When they perceive the Supreme Court wriggling free of left-wing control, they start discussing abolishing the Supreme Court.

Speaking of which, Democrats’ treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh last month set a new modern low for the judicial confirmation process. So atrocious was their behavior in this affair that Republicans who had refused to vote for President Trump in 2016 are now wondering whether they can even afford to vote against him in 2020, and risk giving power to these unhinged Bolsheviks.

It is far less distressing, but equally telling, that Democrats are advocating extremist policies like “Medicare for all.” That scheme is estimated, in an unrealistically optimistic best-case scenario, to cost an absurd $32 trillion over ten years.

Back when Democrats still had some common sense — just a couple of years ago — they rightly pointed out the impracticality of such schemes. But common sense is not so common anymore. Or at least, those possessing it are being purged from a party that should not be allowed anywhere near the levers of power, at least not until it’s spent a few years sobering up.

[Related: Trump: ‘The centrist Democratic Party is dead’]

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/three-weeks-before-election-day-democrats-bare-their-fangs

It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God

October 14, 2018

The decline in our spiritual vocabulary has many real-world consequences.

By Jonathan Merritt

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Mr. Merritt writes about the intersection of religion, culture and politics.

Credit Jeff Rogers

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people say that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

During the Great Depression, the playwright Thornton Wilder remarked, “The revival in religion will be a rhetorical problem — new persuasive words for defaced or degraded ones.” Wilder knew that during times of rapid social change, God-talk is often difficult to muster.

We may have traded 1930s-level poverty and hunger for a resurgence in racism, sexism and environmental cataclysm, but our problems are no less serious — or spiritually disorienting. While many of our most visible leaders claim to be religious, their moral frameworks seem unrecognizable to masses of other believers. How do we speak about God in times like these when God is hard to spot?

As a student of American Christianity and the son of a prominent megachurch pastor, I’ve been sensing for some time that sacred speech and spiritual conversation are in decline. But this was only a hunch I had formed in response to anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I lacked the quantitative data needed to say for sure.

So last year, I enlisted the Barna Group, a social research firm focused on religion and public life, to conduct a survey of 1,000 American adults. This study revealed that most Americans — more than three-quarters, actually — do not often have spiritual or religious conversations.

More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation around once a week.

For those who practice Christianity, such trends are confounding. It is a religion that has always produced progeny through the combination of spiritual speech and good deeds. Nearly every New Testament author speaks about the power of spiritual speech, and Jesus final command to his disciples was to go into the world and spread his teachings. You cannot be a Christian in a vacuum.

And yet even someone like me who has spent his entire life using God-talk knows how hard it has become. Five years ago, I moved from the Bible Belt to New York City and ran headfirst into an unexpected language barrier. Sure, I could still speak English as well as I always had. But I could no longer “speak God.”

By this I mean that spiritual conversations, once a natural part of each day for me, suddenly became a struggle. Whether I spoke to a stranger or a friend, the exchange flowed freely so long as I stuck to small talk. But conversations stalled out the moment the subject turned spiritual.

Before relocating, I worked as a part-time minister at a suburban congregation outside of Atlanta. Before that, I had attended a Christian college and seminary. All my life, I used religious language daily in my home and community, rarely pausing to think about the meaning of my words. But I was not in Georgia anymore.

Whenever I used religious terms I considered common — like “gospel” and “saved” — my conversation partner often stopped me mid-thought to ask for a definition, please. I’d try to rephrase those words in ordinary vernacular, but I couldn’t seem to articulate their meanings. Some words, like “sin,” now felt so negative that they lodged in my throat. Others, like “grace,” I’d spoken so often that I no longer knew what they meant.

In New York — as in much of America, increasingly — religious fluency is not assumed. Work often takes precedence over worship, social lives are prioritized over spiritual disciplines and most people save their Sunday-best clothing for Monday through Friday. In pluralistic contexts, our neighbors don’t read from the same script or draw from a common spiritual vocabulary.

According to my survey, a range of internal conflicts is driving Americans from God-talk. Some said these types of conversations create tension or arguments (28 percent); others feel put off by how religion has been politicized (17 percent); others still report not wanting to appear religious (7 percent), sound weird (6 percent) or seem extremist (5 percent). Whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.

A deeper look reveals that the decline in sacred speech is not a recent trend, though we are only now becoming fully aware of it. By searching the Google Ngram corpus — a collection of millions of books, newspapers, webpages and speeches published between 1500 and 2008 — we can now determine the frequency of word usage over the centuries. This data shows that most religious and spiritual words have been declining in the English-speaking world since the early 20th century.

One might expect a meaty theological term like “salvation” to fade, but basic moral and religious words are also falling out of use. A study in The Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed 50 terms associated with moral virtue. Language about the virtues Christians call the fruit of the spirit — words like “love,” “patience,” “gentleness” and “faithfulness” — has become much rarer. Humility words, like “modesty,” fell by 52 percent. Compassion words, like “kindness,” dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words, like “thankfulness,” declined by 49 percent.

 

A decline in religious language and a decrease in spiritual conversations does not necessarily mean that we are in crisis, of course. But when you combine the data about the decline in religious rhetoric with an emerging body of research that reveals how much our linguistic landscape both reflects and affects our views, it provides ample cause for alarm.

There is also a practical reason we need a revival in God-talk, specifically at this time in American history. Many people now avoid religious and spiritual language because they don’t like the way it has been used, misused and abused by others. But when people stop speaking God because they don’t like what these words have come to mean and the way they’ve been used, those who are causing the problem get to hog the microphone.

That toothy televangelist keeps using spiritual language to call for donations to buy a second jet. The politician keeps using spiritual language to push unjust legislation. The street preacher keeps using spiritual language to peddle the fear of a fiery hell. They can dominate the conversation because we’ve stopped speaking God. In our effort to avoid contributing to the problem, we can actually worsen it.

Christians in 21st-century America now face our own serious “rhetorical problem.” We must work together to revive sacred speech and rekindle confidence in the vocabulary of faith. If we cannot rise to this occasion, sacred speech will continue its rapid decline — and the worst among us will continue to define what the word “Christian” means.

Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of “Learning to Speak God From Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing — And How We Can Revive Them.”

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR6 of the New York edition with the headline: We Need to Talk About God.