As Americans face an increasing wave of pressure on religious liberty here at home, Christians around the world are enduring unprecedented levels of persecution.
According to We Stand With Them, a new group focused on “standing with those who stand with Jesus,” 100 million Christians were targeted for their faith in 2015, including a 136% increase over the previous year in believers who were killed for their faith. Last year was “the worst year for Christian persecution on record,” according to the group.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Catholic women religious who serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world, have been given a difficult choice: violate your conscience or pay $70 million a year in fines.
For the past few years the Obama administration has been attempting to force the Little Sisters — and other nonprofit religious organizations — to help provide their employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine whether the nuns will be given the right to continue with their ministry caring for the elderly poor and providing health benefits to their employees without having to violate their consciences.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Constance Veit, director of vocations for the Little Sisters of the Poor, explains why the requirement is a violation of their conscience:
As the author of a book titled The Roots of Coincidence, Arthur Koestler would appreciate the coinky dinks of the past week. First, I finished re-reading Koestler’s two nonfiction works of 20th century European madness, Dialogue with Death and Scum of the Earth. One details the author’s imprisonment by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and the other covers his incarceration by the French in the first months of World War II – and both are harrowing.
Second, last week I viewed Trumbo, Spartacus, and the Coen brothers’ latest cinematic opus, Hail, Caesar!Trumbois another Hollywood tale of how the Second Red Scare oppressed the creative caste of Tinsel Town, violated their First Amendment rights and ruined lives of people inherently better than you and I because of their entertainment industry connections or something. The title character of Trumbo was resurrected from Red-baiting ignominy by a screenwriting credit on the Stanley Kubrick sword-and-sandal epic Spartacus, which aired last week on Turner Classic Movies. Hail, Caesar! includes a subplot about bumbling communists in the final days of the Hollywood studio system. Oh, and back to Koestler: His first novel was 1939’s The Gladiators, which also told of the Roman slave revolt led by – readers already are way ahead of me here – Spartacus.
It’s been one of those weeks!
Let’s unpack this, shall we? Koestler noted in the 1965 reissue of The Gladiators that (more…)
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. recently stirred up a bit of hubbub over his endorsement of Donald Trump, praising the billionaire presidential candidate as a “servant leader” who “lives a life of helping others, as Jesus taught.”
For many evangelicals, the disconnect behind such a statement is more than a bit palpable. Thus, the critiques and dissents ensued, pointing mostly to the uncomfortable co-opting of Trump’s haphazard political proposals with Christian witness.
Richard Muow picks up on this same point over at First Things, noting that this “third temptation” has lured many Christians throughout church history, and was aptly warned against by Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch statesmen and theologian. (more…)
A new report shows that global indicators of economic and political freedom declined overall in 2015, with the most serious setbacks in the area of freedom of speech and rule of law. Freedom House, an “independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world,” released its Freedom in the World 2016 Report which included some disturbing statistics and worldwide trends, particulary as it concerns the progress made by women in some regions.
The beginning of the report summarizes the situation:
The world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These unsettling developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. [emphasis added]
Christians continually struggle to find the right approach, balance, and tone in their political witness, either co-opting the Gospel for the sake of political ends or retreating altogether out of fear of the same.
In their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics, Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo pave a fresh way forward. Though I haven’t quite finished it, thus far the book offers a refreshingly rich assessment of political ideology as it relates (or doesn’t) to the Gospel and Christian mission.
In a piece for Canon and Culture, Ashford whets our appetites on this same topic, providing a clear overview of how Christianity differs from conservatism and progressivism, as well as where and how we might engage or abandon each.
From my own experience, Christians seem to have an easier time discerning these distinctions with progressivism, most likely due to its overt rejection of or disregard for permanent truths. With conservatism, however, we tend to forget that without a particular focus on transcendence, conservatism languishes in its own shortsightedness and folly. (more…)