Posts tagged with: Religion/Belief

persecuted church2014 was a terrible year for persecution of Christians. In Syria, North Korea and Somalia, Christians are routinely imprisoned and killed. In Iraq, 2014 saw the passage of a law requiring Christians to convert or pay an exorbitant tax. The other choice for Iraqi Christians is to flee.

Open Doors has been tracking persecution of Christians around the world for 60 years. They have just released their latest report, and it makes a grim prediction: 2015 may very well be the worst year for Christians since Open Doors began its work. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors, explains:

Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence. The 2015 World Watch List reveals that a staggering number of Christians are becoming victims of intolerance and violence because of their faith. They are being forced to be more secretive about their faith.

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John Couretas’s link today to the recent Christianity Today article on how Russian evangelicals “thank God for Putin,” reminded me of this excellent post last month from Joseph Pearce on the complexities of religious tribalism in the Ukraine crisis. As ought to be expected, despite the Cold War posturing of both Western and Eastern media, the situation is not as simple as East vs. West or, for that matter, good vs. evil:

Regardless of the relative merits of each side’s claims in the Ukraine, it struck me as unfair to blame the Catholic Church for the actions of western Ukrainian forces. It is true, of course, that the people of western Ukraine are mainly Catholic whereas those in the east are mainly Orthodox. In this sense, it can be conceded that the war is “ethnic,” in the sense that two different cultures are struggling for dominance or for separation. It is, however, not fair to categorize the war as “religious.” It would be much more accurate to describe it as political in the sense that it is a clash of nationalities: ethnic Ukrainians in the west and ethnic Russians in the east. The western Ukrainians blame their eastern neighbors for their suffering under the Soviet system; the eastern Ukrainians blame their western neighbors for their collaboration with the Nazis and the hated SS during the second world war. There are communist “conservatives” in eastern Ukraine who long for the patriotic “glories” of Soviet imperialism, and there are many neo-Nazis in positions of power in the western Ukrainian government.

It is, however, not fair or accurate to describe the struggle between the two warring parties as religious, except in the decidedly irreligious sense of its being a sectarian struggle in which religious affiliation is little more than a badge worn in the service of tribalism.

I happen to be particularly sensitive to this crucial distinction between that which is genuinely religious and that which is merely tribal. Many years ago, back in the 1970s and 1980s, I was heavily involved in the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland between the so-called Catholics and the so-called Protestants. In those days, long before my conversion to Catholicism, I was on the side of the Protestants, even though I had no religion. I was technically, I suppose, an agnostic. I was not an atheist because God was not important enough to me. Frankly I did not care whether He existed or not. I was a Protestant, not because I cared about the way that Luther or Calvin differed from the Catholic Church but because I hated the IRA.

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china-christiansFor the past three decades China has been the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10 percent a year for 30 years. As Brian J. Grim, founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, notes, there are many reasons for the growth, such as market mechanisms, modern technology and Western management practices. But one factor that is often overlooked is the role of Christianity:
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 2, 2015
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42474223_abbfd18c5cWhat should Westerners make of Vladimir Putin?

Some view the Russian president as a type of Western democratic politician while others think he is shaped by Chekism, the idea that the secret political police control (or should control) everything in society. But John R. Schindler, an Orthodox Christian, thinks the West may be underestimating the influence of militant Russian Orthodoxy on Putin’s worldview:
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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Every Wednesday we publish the Acton Commentary, a weekly article that covers topics related to Acton’s mission. As 2014 comes to a close I thought it would be worth highlighting the superb commentaries that have been produced by Acton Institute staffers over the past year.
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Koehler Urges Higher Gas PricesU.S. households are projected to save an estimated average $550 on gasoline in 2015. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short Term Energy Outlook, “The average household will spend about $1,962 on gasoline in 2015, the first time that average will have fallen below $2,000 in five years.” Readers as well may assume the likelihood that falling fuel prices will exert some type of downward pressure on food and other commodity prices, which will be cheaper to bring to market.

By any realistic measure, this is great news for the United States in general and for the struggling lower middle class and poverty-stricken specifically. To those for whom reality is somewhat more elusive, however, it’s a travesty. Unfortunately, some of these individuals are advocating against the use of fossil fuels at cross purposes with their religious vocations. For example, nine bishops representing The Latin American Bishops Conference, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences and the French and Brazilian bishop’s conferences called for ceasing the use of fossil fuels: “We express an answer to what is considered God’s appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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Political-Corruption-Bigger-Threat-than-TerrorismPolitical corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. While it isn’t as endemic in the U.S. as it is in some countries (Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan being the most corrupt), the problem still exists. According to the Justice Department, in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.

But measuring corruption based on convictions can be tricky for a variety of reasons, ranging from inadequate data to partisan bias. One alternative measure is to use perceptions, especially of state and local governments. Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston surveyed the news reporters covering state politics in addition to the investigative reporters covering issues related to corruption during the first half of 2014 to gauge their perception of state corruption:

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91mfLQ4itBL._SL1500_At The Gospel Coalition, Hunter Baker reviews Abraham Kuyper’s Scholarship: Two Convocations on University Life and highlights the significance of the Acton Institute:

The Acton Institute does the kind of work that would have been almost unimaginable in a single organization two or three decades ago. Here we have a think tank that teaches economics and political theory to seminarians and other students of religion, maintains an office near the Vatican, and publishes translations of the works of Abraham Kuyper, one of the most illustrious Reformed thinkers in Christian history. If one ever needed evidence of positive rapprochement for the church in the wake of the Reformation, Acton provides a giant serving.

While Acton has published—through the Christian’s Library Press—some contemporary authors (including yours truly), the big headliner is Kuyper and his translated works. Many American Christians have read his Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton, but most of his output has remained inaccessible. Acton is changing that.

Read more . . .

To provide a synthesis of Pope Francis’s thinking on the economy is both difficult and easy, says Oskari Juurikkala in this week’s Acton Commentary. “It is difficult, because he has never offered extensive and systematic reflections on such questions; his pronouncements are found here and there, inseparable from a broader moral and spiritual message.”

At the same time, he has said quite a few things about economic questions, and he is deeply interested in economic values and outcomes. Of course, he views them not as isolated technical questions, but as something that also touches upon a Christian pastor of souls. That is what makes my task relatively easy.

Francis’s thinking can only be understood within the context of his moral and spiritual principles. These, in turn, are inseparable from his simple and straightforward personality. I will leave it to others to study specific texts in detail; I will simply summarize the Pope’s message around the notion of Christian poverty. Perhaps we could almost say that Francis is a prophet of Christian poverty, and his papal name is no accident in this respect.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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Today over at Think Christian I explore how Christmas relates to material goods, and specifically how we are to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).

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