The rapid rise and threat of the jihadist group Islamic State has confounded the secularist West. The idea that their motivations could truly be driven by religious ideology simply fails to register with those who view religion as an individualistic, private affair.
Rev. Robert Sirico ponders the economic and theological links between Pope Francis and Oscar Romero today at RealClear Religion. Sirico says that these “two prominent churchmen of our era … expose the difference between a ‘preferential option for the poor’ and a preferential option for the state.”
Both men have been linked heavily to Liberation Theology, but Sirico points out that this is a misguided understanding of the thoughts and works of both Pope Francis and Archbishop Romero.
For whatever form of Liberation Theology (and there are several) either Romero or Francis represent, it is certainly not the variety most popularly espoused in the Latin America of the 1980s and condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ascendant form of Liberation Theology of that era emerged from a Christian encounter with Marxism as seen largely in the work of Gustavo Gutierrez (Peruvian), Leonardo Boff (Brazilian), Juan Luis Segundo (Uruguayan), Jon Sobrino (Spanish) and Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaraguan). (more…)
In both Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is literally hunting and killing Assyrian Christians. Just this week, dozens of these Christians in Syria were captured by the Islamic State; their fate remains unknown. Who are these people facing persecution?
Michael Holtz, at The Christian Science Monitor, examines the long history of these Christians.
Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilizations in the ancient world. (more…)
Pew Research does an admirable job tracking global changes in religious practices and restrictions. In their latest report, they note that religious hostility has declined slightly, but Jews are suffering more than they have in years.
[T]here has been a marked increase in the number of countries where Jews were harassed. In 2013, harassment of Jews, either by government or social groups, was found in 77 countries (39%) – a seven-year high. Jews are much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments. In Europe, for example, Jews were harassed by individuals or social groups in 34 of the region’s 45 countries (76%).
Each year the International Bulletin of Missionary Research lays out in summary form an annual update of significant religious statistics. Here are seven sets of figures based on their latest report:
1. Global population by religion: Christians – 2.38 billion; Muslims – 1.7 billion; Hindu – 1 billion; atheists – 136 million; Jews – 14 million.
2. Membership by 6 ecclesiastical megablocs: Catholics – 1.2 billion; Protestants – 441 million; Independents – 407 million; Orthodox – 280 million; Anglicans – 92 million; Unaffiliated Christians – 110 million.
3. Number of Christians by 6 continents, 21 UN regions: Africa (5 regions) – 520 million; Asia (4 regions) – 368 million; Europe (including Russia; 4 regions) – 561 million; Latin America (3 regions) – 562 million; Northern America (1 region) – 229 million; Oceania (4 regions) – 25 million.
4. Christian organizations: Denominations – 45,000; Congregations – 4.7 million; Service agencies – 30,000; Foreign-mission sending agencies – 5,000.
5. Christian finance (in US$, per year): Personal income of church members – $35 trillion; Giving to Christian causes – $626 billion; Churches’ income – $249 billion; Parachurch and institutional income – $377 billion.
6. Scripture distribution (all sources, per year): Bibles – 80 million; Scriptures including gospels, selections – 5 billion; Bible density (copies in place) – 1.8 billion.
7. World evangelization: Unevangelized population – 2.1 billion; Unevangelized as % of world: 29.2 percent.
Liberty Institute, a legal organization in Plano, Texas, has released the report, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2014 Edition,” featuring more than 1,300 cases of religious hostility, persecution and/or Constitutional violations of rights in the United States.
Hostility to religion in America is still growing. Because religion is so vital to a free and well-ordered society, our goal is to expose and document this growing hostility to help Americans confront and reverse it. The hostility is growing in the “Public Arena” of public places, government, and the workplace. it is growing in the “Schoolhouse” of education, from K-12 through higher academia. it is growing in the sector of “Churches and Ministries” where one might expect it to be safest. And it is growing in the areas of society that encompass the “Military,” which includes our veterans. The growth of hostility is undeniable and it is dangerous.
Bohdan Solchanyk was not a materialistic young man. He did not seek worldly pleasures, but rather took delight in his studies, his fiancee, his faith. What Bohdan wanted -what they both wanted – was live in the Ukraine with dignity and freedom.
Bohdan’s dream died last week at a peaceful protest against the government, where he and 80 others were “brutally shot and killed by government snipers in the central square of the capital of Ukraine, as the world’s TV cameras showed the slaughter live.”
Eleven years ago this week, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Locke v. Davey that continues to have a detrimental impact on religious liberty. But the seeds for that ruling were planted 140 years ago, in another attempt to curb religious liberty.
When James Blaine introduced his ill-fated constitutional amendment in 1875, he probably never would have imagined the unintended consequences it would have over a hundred years later. Blaine wanted to prohibit the use of state funds at “sectarian” schools (a code word for Catholic parochial schools) in order to inhibit immigration. Since the public schools instilled a Protestant Christian view upon its students, public education was viewed as a way to stem the tide of Catholic influence.
While the amendment passed by a large majority (180-7) in the House, it failed by a tiny margin (4 votes) in the Senate. Supporters of the amendment, however, pressed the issue at the state level, often making it a prerequisite for statehood. The measure finally found its way into 37 state constitutions, including Washington State.
Fast-forward to 1999, where a Washington high school student Joshua Davey applies for the state sponsored “Promise Scholarships.” According to a press report in 2004:
Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon on Tuesday to discuss the interesting public relations dilemma of Pope Francis: on the one hand, it is alleged that faithful Catholics may be “checking out” of his papacy due to his perceived liberalism on economic and social issues. On the other hand, the honeymoon period that Francis enjoyed with the media and left-leaning Catholics may be coming to an end as it becomes apparent that he will not be making major changes to longstanding teachings of the Catholic Church.
To listen to the full interview, use the audio player below.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has published a new report on Orthodox Monastic Communities in the United States (here). The report contains a lot of great information (“great” for nerds like me, anyway), including a whole section entitled, “‘Monastic Economy:’ Ownership of Property and Sources of Income in US Orthodox Monasteries.”
According to the report,
In summary, the three most common sources of income in US Orthodox monasteries are:
Occasional private donations including bequests and offerings for performed sacraments (87% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income);
Sale of religious items (except candles) that are not produced by monastery (52% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income);
Production and sales of candles (24% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income).
Thus, after private donations, the top two sources of income are through commerce: 52% sales of items not produced by the monastery and 24% candles produced by the monastery. Income from other items produced by monasteries, such as books, devotional items, and food items, was also significant. Our Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery in Washington state, for example, lists sales of their “monastery blend” coffee as their primary source of income.
This does not come as a surprise to me.
The most recent volume (vol. 8, 2014) published by the Sophia Institute, of which I am a fellow, includes a paper by me entitled, “Markets and Monasticism: A Survey & Appraisal of Eastern Christian Monastic Enterprise.” While my paper is not a comprehensive history, it does include a section on modern Orthodox monasteries in the United States.
I write, (more…)