Archive for the 'World Religions' Category

01
Feb
17

Most dangerous?

Two disturbing articles, especially when considered TOGETHER keeping in mind the implication of the second one in which Bannon is portrayed as being a Judeo-Christian traditionalist. The articles show how increasingly Christians are being thrown into the Trump (Bannon?) camp whether we want to be or not.

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From article one “Steve Bannon is calling the shots in the White House. That’s terrifying“:

“Bannon is not the president’s servant. The president is his tool. For years, Bannon cast about for the proper vehicle to carry the fight forward. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry –they were considered possible material. Now in Donald Trump he has found adequate if imperfect stuff. Both are workaholics. Both share a protectionist mindset. Both are combative.

But Bannon, in contrast to the president, is not easily distracted. He is intelligent, articulate, focused in his ideology and dedicated to the struggle. And he has now been catapulted by an undisciplined president to the inner precincts of the National Security Council and its principals’ committee, assuming a position senior to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

Unvetted, unconfirmed but immensely powerful, Bannon may just be the most dangerous man in America.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/31/steve-bannon-most-dangerous-man-in-america

And article two “Why Steve Bannon wants to destroy secularism” :

“Just what does Steve Bannon believe? For some, his thinking can be boiled down to racism. For others, he is merely a sinister opportunist taking advantage of Trump and the “alt-right”, a far-right movement in the US, for economic gain and fame. But what if he is fundamentally driven by something else? Like: religion.”

And

“The most bothersome feature of Bannon’s talk is the fact that a Catholic group at the Vatican responded to it with enthusiasm. Their questions demonstrate that they knew Bannon’s desire to make his message receptive to rightwing populist parties. Excitement over his idea of a renewed Judeo-Christian Europe seemingly trumped such concerns. This is same political ideology that galvanized evangelicals to vote for Trump.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/07/why-steve-bannon-wants-to-destroy-secularism

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I find it disturbing that THIS is the way that Christians, Christianity and Christian interests are being portrayed to the wider world.

In an email exchange with a friend we discussed the current Trump (Bannon?) response to Syrian refugees.
My friend said:

Can you feel the whole world polarising? Mild-mannered Muslims are realising that they are the enemy after all. Trump also is allowing Syrians in if they are “Christians”. That is like having a gold-letter reference from Jack the Ripper. Now those mild-mannered Muslims know who the actual enemy really is. “Christians” like Trump.
In their eyes, you and me.

I replied:

Yes, when they started to speak of favouring Syrian Christians, I thought of the target being put on their back – making them even MORE prone to severe persecution; subjecting them to a darker equivalent of Trump’s “extreme vetting” (as if anything Trump does isn’t dark enough in its own right).

And as western society increases its protest against Trump’s dictatorial mania, his perceived favouring of Christians puts that target on our backs too.

The “target on the back” of western Christians that I mentioned to my friend firstly relates to an increased hostility towards followers of Jesus by wider western society when genuine believers become increasingly painted with the same brush as the “evangelicals” whose support helped Trump to the Presidency.

Secondly it will relate to an increased hostility from the Trump camp towards those Christians who saw through the Trump camp’s “alternative facts” and opposed him.

_______________________

A disturbing image linking Trump, money and the cross. The latter associating Trump wrongly (but understandably) to Christianity via traditional symbolism.

trump

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2017/jan/31/signs-of-the-times-the-best-anti-trump-placards-from-across-the-uk-in-pictures#img-15

24
Jan
17

In the Land of Blue Burqas (updated)

burqasIn the Land of the Blue Burqas by Kate McCord gives a fascinating insight into the people of Afghanistan, particularly the women, and how Islam affects their lives and relationships.

While Islam and Christianity embrace very different views of God, McCord makes use of a few common areas of belief to build a bridge to share the gospel.

McCord writes of how “Afghans almost universally believe in the concept of kismet, fate. Whatever happens happens because Allah wills it, no matter whose hand has accomplished the thing”.

She addresses this with a group of Afghan women while discussing a deadly car bombing in Kabul that destroyed a bus and killed many including a young mother:

“God told us not to kill. We cannot disobey God in the name of God. That is a lie. God told us to love Him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. Then He told us to love our neighbours. If a man kills his neighbour, he is disobeying God. This man who blew up the bus and killed that mother did not do the will of God. He did the work of Satan. God will judge him”

One woman in the room responded by sharing another story.

“Our town was at peace. We didn’t know war. We were happy. One day my cousins and aunts were gathered in the house preparing [food] for a wedding party. A bomb fell. We found pieces of dough, bundles of meat, hair ties, scarves, and scraps of bloody fabric. Even the part of the ceiling that didn’t fall was covered with blood and pieces of bodies”

… we all looked at the swirling red carpet . Each woman muttered “Tobah” repent.

After a long pause I restated what I absolutely believe to be the truth: “That was not the will of God, either”
“No,” the women agreed. “That is not the will of God.”

McCord gives the Christian reader a lot of food for thought.
She writes:

“For many Westerners, the question of who God is and what He wants for and from us is simply not relevant. We are, after all, wealthy and busy. For Afghans, it may be the most important question of all.”

And she confesses to something that I think affects most western Christians to one degree or another:

“Sometimes I forget to differentiate between what I believe as an American woman and what I believe the Bible teaches. America is my culture, and Jesus is my Saviour and Lord. Sometimes it’s hard to untangle the two. Afghans challenged me to try.

McCord compares various aspects of her Christians beliefs with those of her Afghan neighbours to show how the vastly different cultural beliefs affect Afghan views of God and as a result their society.

One example she describes is the Afghan view of temptation and sin.

I learned that in Afghanistan, the influences that cause or encourage a person to do what the society defines as wrong are the real sin, not the person who actually does the wrong. People are weak and must be protected. The society provides that protection. Any influence that tempts a member of the community must be eradicated, silenced, or walled out.

McCord also found that her time in Afghanistan gave her a new perspective on some very familiar parts of scripture.

Afghans helped me understand the teachings of Jesus more completely. The culture of Afghanistan today is much more similar to the first century Judea of Jesus’ day than my own Western culture is…

As an example of this, she writes:

I was often amazed when an Afghan heard a Jesus story for the first time and then told me what it means. Jesus spoke to a woman at a well, a woman who had had several husbands and was not married to her current partner. My Afghan women friends immediately saw the woman’s shame. No woman in Afghanistan can arrange her own marriage. The woman at the well had been used by five men, and the last didn’t even have the decency to marry her.

I found the book to be a an effective eye-opener, not only to an unbelievably foreign culture and religion, but also to the unbelievably naïve view that Western Christians have developed concerning the life and teachings of Jesus and how we’ve been taught to view them.

19
Jan
17

In the Land of the Blue Burqas

burqas

After finishing this book, I’ve written an updated version of the article/review that I’d posted here earlier.

See https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/in-the-land-of-blue-burqas-updated/

17
Aug
16

Extremist Secular Fundamentalism

Almost a month ago I started a post with the following statement:

While one cannot live by “likes” alone, the number of likes against an article or a comment – or their absence – can be a telling indicator of a readership’s attitude.

(https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/plebiscite-on-same-sex-marriage/)

After posting those thoughts I’ve seen something even more blatant than the situation that led me to write that article.

On the same newspaper website, I’ve seen comments ridiculing and belittling those who believe in (a) God have been getting “likes” in the hundreds. Previously it had seemed that 20 “likes” awarded to a comment was significant.

I’ve had varying degrees of involvement with Christianity and church during the past 40 years, and I’ve come across different kinds of hostile attitudes towards myself and other believers, but generally the hostility came from a small number.

This is the first time that I’ve seen such a popular opposition to those professing some kind of religious faith.
The cases I refer to above were actually responding to articles about Moslems, not Christians, but those replies were broadly aimed at a more general belief in God, not at any particular form of belief, or belief in any particular deity.

Examples:

Most people with any degree of individual thought have abandoned the idea of religion.just as nobody believes in fairies or the Loch Ness monster.
This goes for Christians and any other believers in mumbo jumbo. [161 likes]

And

Sorry, but I read the words bible and Koran and just switched off. I just can’t believe that in the 21st century people base their lives on, and excuse their actions because of, works of fiction which are centuries old [50 likes]

And

I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry anyone who is devoutly religious [108 likes ]

Most of the more extreme views some with “likes” in the multiple hundreds, were specifically targeted at Islam. While I have no agreement at all with Islamic beliefs, what I found disturbing about the comments and the fact that so many agreed with them, is that the degree of hostility directed towards people for having religious beliefs, and for actually living their lives according to those beliefs.

One example relates to a current news story about French resort towns banning the “Burkini” from their beaches. Commenters practically demand that Muslim women should conform to Western society’s standards and fit in with the world around them instead of making themselves separate from society by the way they dress.

People in Europe believe that muslims are not doing enough to assimilate properly, so why wear this religious garment? Why not try and adopt your new home`s customs and become progressive rather than regressive? [130 likes]

The point, m’lady, is not your decision to wear the all in one burkini. Knock yourself out.
It’s the ideology that claims you can’t wear a swimsuit that irritates us. [307 likes]

it’s, an ostentatious display of religious identity, and that isn’t something that should be welcome in secular liberal western countries.[50 likes]

The burkini is part of a ridiculous mindset that says that strongly held religious beliefs somehow have intellectual merit.[ 103 likes]

While most of these comments are addressed to an issue related to Muslims (women in particular) – I think they are no less hostile to anyone who takes their faith seriously enough to think their lifestyle should be shaped by something (Someone) other than society’s ever changing standards of morality.

It seems that secularity is becoming much more than an absence of religion, or a separation from religion; it is increasingly becoming anti-religion and is itself adopting the very worst traits of dogmatic extremism

19
Jul
16

The Myth of Religious Violence

William CavanaughA very interesting 14 minute interview about the claimed link between religion and violence.

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2016/07/rer_20160706_1750.mp3

From this site:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/religionandethicsreport/is-religious-violence-a-scrap-in-backyard-compared-to-secular-v/7574124

09
Sep
15

Refugee Flood: a few more thoughts.

Who is in Control of National Borders?

Here’s an interesting section of scripture that I believe has some relevance to the current refugee crisis.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him

Acts 17 26-27

To me it shows that God, not man, is in control of national boundaries. And he will change those boundaries to suit the purposes of His Kingdom and to create conditions conducive to people seeking and potentially finding Him.

That could work in multiple ways including:

1) Moving believers to unbelieving areas to take the gospel where it hasn’t been heard before.

2) Moving unbelievers into an area where they have more chance of hearing the gospel.

3) Moving hostile unbelievers into a lukewarm area where the gospel used to mean something, but doesn’t any more, where what is left of Christian faith will be tested and refined by the influx of those hostile unbelievers.

 

One of the clearest examples of the changing of boundaries and movement of peoples has been seen over the last century in the Middle East, relating to the Promised Land and the surrounding nations. The significance of those changes (and how recent they are) became one of the biggest discoveries I made in my reading about WWI. As a result of that war, centuries of Ottoman (Moslem) rule was ended in “Palestine”, and the whole map of the surrounding changed, not only making way for Israel to return to the Promised Land, but also making sure that their stay wouldn’t be an easy one.

The effects of tensions in that area continue to be felt not only by Israel, but also worldwide, and are at the centre of today’s refugee situation.

Psalm_2

Which of the three scenarios listed above most closely matches today’s situation?

I suggest that while there is an opportunity for taking advantage of option two (especially considering the failure of the richer Moslem nations to take in refugees – see previous post), the third option may be the most likely.

 

So called “Christian” nations in the west are increasingly Godless, even the churched have little idea of who God is or what He’s like.
In the “War on Terror”, the western governments involved have bent over backwards to reassure us that Islam is a religion of peace, and that those at the heart of the “terrorism” are fundamentalist extremists who are NOT genuine Moslems. [note the term “fundamentalist” a term that has so often also been applied to Christians who take their faith seriously].

While Western governments try to be more accommodating to their Moslem citizens, only recently we’ve seen an American Christian jailed for refusing to issue marriage licences to homosexuals. That case will probably be the first drop in a growing flood of anti-Christian discrimination focused on the recent political rush to make homosexuality more accepted in society.

I have to wonder what would have happened if it had been a Moslem who had been refusing to issue those marriage documents.

A decade and a half ago David Pawson gave a series of talks about the growth of Islam in Britain. He had concluded that Britain was on the way to becoming a Moslem nation; not by accident, but as a judgement. That series is well worth listening to, especially the first part, “Britain’s Spiritual Vacuum”:

davidpawson.org/resources/series/the-challenge-of-islam-to-christians

Maybe the mass Moslem movement across Europe is quite possibly the reaping of what the West sowed in wars against Moslem nations in the name of the “War on Terror”.
Western involvement, initially behind the scenes – such as the US in Afghanistan after the Russian invasion helping to train and establish those who became Al Qaeda, followed by the Western invasion of Afghanistan with Al Qaeda now as the enemy.
And we can’t ignore the two Bush family wars against Irag that destabilised that area enough to open the door for a group like ISIS, from whom the flood of people into Europe are fleeing.

And where was the “Christian” church when national governments were throwing their resources into attacking the weaker Moslem nations? Were they part of the cheer squad, confusing national patriotism with Christian faith?

I’ll let you consider what they were doing in your own nations.

09
Sep
15

Refugee Flood part 2

How many Syrian refugees have the Arab world’s six wealthiest nations resettled?
Close to zero

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/how-many-syrian-refugees-have-the-arab-worlds-six-wealthiest-nations-resettled-close-to-zero

While Australia maintains one of the most generous resettlement programs in the world, and countries such as Germany propose taking hundreds of thousands of refugees themselves, the five richest Gulf states have taken a grand total of zero refugees from the Syrian conflict.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/saudi-arabia-must-step-up-and-help-refugees/story-fni0cwl5-1227518263213




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