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Stunning Revelations About Bible-Believers Should ‘Send Shockwaves’ Through …

by on Oct.25, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Author and Christian leader Lance Ford believes that there are some major perception problems facing evangelicals, claiming that believers today have become more known for what they oppose than for what they actually stand for.

But rather than frame Christians as mere victims, Ford, whose new book “Revangelical,” focuses on this very subject, said that Bible-believers, themselves, bear part of the blame for the negative stereotypes that surround modern-day evangelicalism.

“Although I believe there are many more evangelicals that are gentle, forgiving, and gracious than those who are not, there are a lot of folks in our camp that seem to have missed the essence and m.o. of Jesus and his gospel,” he recently told TheBlaze. “We have become identified with political agendas, culture wars, and religious-centered demands that leave non-Christians shaking their heads and dismissing Christianity altogether.”

Ford said that many nonbelievers see Christians as lacking compassion and understanding, citing both research and recent articles that he says prove that evangelicals are many times viewed as ”harsh, judgmental, compassionless [and] homophobic.”

He argued that stunning statistics — among them the notion that only 3 percent of non-Christian 20-30-year-old Americans hold a favorable view of evangelicals — should “send shockwaves through the leadership community of our churches.”

But perception isn’t the only challenge facing evangelicals today. Ford believes that the faithful need to realize that “Christendom is over in America” and that believers “don’t hold home field advantage anymore,” as the nation has diversified on both the religion and culture fronts.

“Theologically speaking, this means the church is in more of an exile state than an empire state. The church doesn’t get to set the rules for culture in America anymore” he said. “Blue laws are gone. Prime time television is filled with images, ideas, and language that would never reach the airwaves just a couple of decades ago.”

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Secularism grows as more US Christians turn ‘churchless’

by on Oct.25, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.

The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God, Jesus and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, once called nominals — people attached by name only — “survey Christians.” They don’t want to cut ties with their parents or go all the way to atheism, Stetzer said, “so they just say ‘Christian’ since it is the default category from their heritage.”

Kinnaman now has the numbers to back that up.

“We are far from becoming an atheist nation,” he said. “There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship.”

How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview “is becoming its own social force.”

When political scientists burrow into election results, they may find that church attendance is less and less useful for predicting or evaluating political, social and cultural attitudes. If you are not around people of strong belief, there’s not a lot of spillover impact. 

Stephen Mockabee, an associate professor of political science at University of Cincinnati, has compared church attendance to medication: “It’s not only the drug but also the dose that matters.”

The churchless come in several tribes, according to Kinnaman. 

About a third (32 percent) still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.”

That might include Katie West of Mount Sterling, Ky., or Mike Wilson of Webster City, Iowa.

 

 

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In Israel, priest draws fire for preaching Christians are not Arabs

by on Oct.25, 2014, under Christian News Articles

A Greek Orthodox priest who has advocated a non-Arab identity for members of Israel’s Christian community is being alternately vilified and praised for spearheading a government campaign to drive a wedge between Christian and Muslim Israelis.

Two years ago, few people beyond his church in Yefia, near the mixed Muslim and Christian city of Nazareth, had heard of Father Gabriel Naddaf. Today he is Israel’s most talked about Christian clergyman.

Father Naddaf’s influence is on the rise after receiving, in recent weeks, greater government backing for his agenda of breaking off Christians from the rest of Israel’s Arab minority, infusing them with a new-old national identity, and aligning with the Jewish majority, including by serving in the army.

“I would have to say that miracles are happening,” Naddaf says in an interview at a cafe in Jewish Upper Nazareth, an area where he feels more comfortable – and safer – than around his apartment in the adjacent Arab town of Nazareth.

Naddaf’s virtues are very much in the eye of the beholder. To Arab nationalists, both Muslim and Christian, he is a “traitor” and a serious threat to the cohesion of the Arab minority. To his admirers on the Israeli right, he is a courageous friend of Israel and an emerging point man for realizing their growing ambition of splitting off the Christians from what is seen as a hostile Muslim population.

The Christians, many of whom have played key roles in Arab and Palestinian nationalism, are a minority within a minority. Arabs make up about one fifth of Israel’s population, and roughly 10 percent of them are Christians, who are on the whole more urban and better educated. While the political identities of Israel’s Christians and Muslims have historically been close, in recent years Christians have felt increasingly pressured by the growth of radical Islam at home and in the region.

Naddaf says God is acting in his life, giving him the strength to endure enmity to his efforts and persist. The most recent miracle, in his view, was the government’s decision last month to recognize the ancient nationality of “Aramean” in the population registry.

Naddaf, who was among those to press for the change, stresses that this will give Christians an opportunity for the first time to define themselves, officially, according to what he maintains was their original identity before the Arab and Islamic conquest of the 7th century led to the “erasure” of the Aramean language and culture.

“I’m certain the Christians are not Arab and don’t belong to the Arab nation,” says Naddaf, 40, who wants to see Aramean heritage and language taught in schools.

His statements have been seized upon by Israeli government officials. Yariv Levin, the coalition chairman from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, uses similar language to Naddaf’s in talking about the need to split Christians from Muslims.

“They are not really Arabs. We will turn them into our allies,” said Mr. Levin in an interview with the Maariv newspaper early this year.

“Between us and the Christians, there is much in common. They are a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within. The Christians are also worried about extremist Islam. If we know how to give proper treatment to their population, they will join the army.”

Naddaf’s views, however, are very much in the minority among Christian Israeli Arabs, and are vehemently dismissed by clergy in the West Bank.

“To go back thousands of years and say we are Arameans is a denial of our own identity and mission as Christians living in this land,” says Father Jamal Khader, rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. “We are Arabs, we speak Arabic, that’s our culture and identity and that’s how we can witness and live our faith in this community.”

“We are called to witness our faith now, today, and not isolate ourselves in a fictional identity to say we are different from the others, which is nonsense,” he says.

The Aramean identity some want to see revived is based largely on a connection to the Aramean language, Aramaic, as the language of the early church fathers, according to Steven Fassberg, a specialist in ancient Semitic languages at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Aramaic, which dates back in the archeological record to the 10th century BC, was spoken in Syria, Israel and Turkey and was the lingua franca of the area that is today the Middle East from the 6th century BC to the Arab conquest. It remains spoken in tiny pockets of the region, and is present in Christian and Jewish liturgies.

Although Yitzhak Reiter, a Hebrew University scholar of Israel’s Arab minority and former deputy government adviser on Arab affairs, estimates that only a few dozen Israeli Christians self identify as Aramean, Naddaf can hardly be dismissed as a quack. His unprecedented call two years ago for Christians to enlist in the Israeli army was strongly backed by the prime minister’s office. It is this government support that is making him an important factor in discussions of Israel’s policy toward its Christian Arab citizens.

Naddaf says he sees serving in the army, from which Arabs have traditionally been exempt, as the only way to integrate in Israeli society. “You can’t prove your loyalty and be an ally of the others unless you serve in the army.” he says. Naddaf’s son was assaulted and badly beaten last year for these views, but the priest says that the 18-year-old is now about to join the army.

Netanyahu welcomed Naddaf warmly in his office last year and assigned a deputy minister, Ofir Akunes, to work on advancing Christian army enlistment.

In the view of Father Khader, of the Latin seminary, however, serving in the army violates the gospels since it means enforcing the occupation in the West Bank. “It means using violence against Palestinians, contributing to the oppression of the Palestinians.”

And Basel Ghattas, a Christian member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, from the Arab nationalist Balad party, says Naddaf’s assertion that the Christians are not Arabs makes him a “’traitor to his nationality and people.”

“’Of course his activities pose a threat because the whole intention is divide and rule,” says Mr. Ghattas.

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Christian group fights for identity against Cal State policy

by on Oct.25, 2014, under Christian News Articles

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship members say they just want to spread the word, to provide a welcoming space for believers and non-believers alike on college campuses that sometimes can seem cold and isolating.

But because it requires its leaders to hold Christian beliefs, the evangelical student group said, it now is fighting to preserve its religious soul and very existence.

Chapters of InterVarsity and some other Christian groups were stripped of recognition at California State University campuses this fall because they refused to sign a non-discrimination policy requiring clubs and organizations to open their memberships and leadership to all students. (Fraternities and sororities still can limit membership by gender.)

lRelated Cal State awarded $60 million in federal grants to help diversify biomedical research
L.A. NowCal State awarded $60 million in federal grants to help diversify biomedical researchSee all related

Efforts at Cal State and other universities across the country to vigorously enforce anti-bias policies have sparked a debate over how far administrators should go to ensure religious freedom — and whether religious groups on publicly financed campuses should be held to the same standards as everyone else.

There also are concerns that well-intentioned directives have had the unintended consequence of stifling the freedom of expression and diversity of ideas that should be hallmarks in a university setting.

InterVarsity maintains that membership is open to everyone. But Scripture holds that leaders — who preside over Bible study and prayers — should affirm the faith, said Gregory L. Jao, a national field director for the campus ministry.

A leader’s religious belief is as central a part of his or her identity as gender is for a fraternity or sorority member, he said, suggesting that the Cal State system itself was discriminating on religious grounds.

“It’s an irony for us that, in the name of inclusion, they’re eliminating religious groups because of their religious beliefs,” Jao said. “My understanding of an inclusive, welcoming university is to accept people based on their own beliefs. I’m inviting Cal State to live up to its best goals.”

But the nation’s largest university system, with 450,000 students, is not alone in dealing with this issue.

In the wake of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of a California law school to deny recognition to a Christian student group that excluded gays, InterVarsity and other Christian groups have lost official status at Vanderbilt, Tufts and other universities for refusing to amend their bylaws.

But Cal State’s position is especially vexing for InterVarsity because it has hundreds of members on nearly all 23 system campuses.

It appears that trouble also may be looming for its University of California chapters. UC spokeswoman Shelly Meron said the system — which now does not specify that leadership positions must be open to all — is reevaluating the language it uses to charter campus organizations.

Some legal scholars say the university actions reflect a broader move in this country to water down differences and, particularly, to delegitimize religious thought.

“Prior to the [Supreme Court] ruling, everyone would recognize that it’s absurd to tell college Democrats they have to accept leaders who aren’t Democrats … and would recognize the core value of freedom of association and the ability of groups to have their own standards and leaders within broad bounds,” said Edward Whelan, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, which describes itself as being “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

“What we’re seeing more broadly is part of an assault of secular progressivism on the classical liberal understanding of American society,” Whelan said.

Other legal experts, however, said the Cal State system was on solid ground as long as it applies standards evenly.

“These groups aren’t just claiming a right to discriminate when selecting leaders, they’re insisting on a right to do so with government money and support. So it’s not simply their right to exist on campus,” said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s program on freedom of religion and belief.

Some schools such as the University of Texas and Ohio State University have been able to create exemptions for religious groups in their anti-discrimination policies because lawmakers in their states passed legislation.

Cal State officials said they were bound by long-standing university policy as well as state law, which prohibits discrimination in any program funded by the state. The Legislature could carve out an exemption but hasn’t done so, said Susan Westover, an attorney for the Cal State system.

It wasn’t until last fall, when groups were given a year to change their charters to comply with Cal State policy, that InterVarsity began requiring leaders to sign a statement of faith, Westover said.

“We had groups that purposely used that time to get their constitutions out of compliance,” she said. Jao disputed that assertion, though he acknowledged that some chapters may have worded their charters differently.

Even with the open-leadership requirement, campus organizations can set rules that reflect their core missions: They can require a potential officer to show a deep knowledge of the Bible or, in the case of the guitar club, a certain level of musical ability.

No records exist of any kind of a “takeover attempt” of a religious club, Westover said.

Some other Cal State student groups have objected to the open-leadership policy — a few Democratic clubs wanted to keep Republicans out and vice versa, and a veterans group wanted to restrict membership to those who had served. But most of the hundreds of campus organizations have accepted the changes.

Kevin Gobuty, coordinator of student life for Hillel 818, a registered Jewish group on the Northridge campus, said it has a policy of religious pluralism and tolerance that extends to its leaders.

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Egypt’s Christians, attacked for supporting Sisi, patiently await payback (+video)

by on Oct.24, 2014, under Christian News Articles

At the Amir Tadros Church in Minya, worshipers pray in what amounts to a building site. Nestled among the scaffolding, a bright blue sign proclaims that work will be completed by June. Last June.

The church in this Upper Egyptian city of a quarter million people, home to one of the largest concentrations of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, was one of dozens of Christian properties and places of worship destroyed across Egypt on Aug. 14 last year.

In Minya, mobs chanting Islamist slogans led the charge, looting and burning in response to a state-led massacre unfolding 150-miles away in Cairo, where Muslim Brotherhood-backed demonstrators were protesting the military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt’s Christian community, about 10 per cent of the country’s 84 million people, usually defers to the authority of the leader of the day, wary of rocking the boat and marginalizing itself further.

And the Coptic Church, representing the majority of Egypt’s Christians, threw its weight behind Morsi’s overthrow. Pope Tadros even stood behind Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, then the army chief and now president, as he announced the military’s takeover in a televised address.

By sunrise that Aug. 15, the Amir Tadros church had been reduced to four scorched walls, encasing only rubble and ash. Although Egypt’s Army has promised to rebuild this and other churches, there’s been little progress. By some estimates, only 10 percent of the work has been completed nationwide.

In Minya, many Christians say they have felt more secure since Mr. Sisi led the coup against Mr. Morsi’s government.

But the muted state response to the destruction that followed is a reminder that, no matter who is in power, Egypt has a history of failing to protect Christians or bring their attackers to justice.

In recent comments to state media, Bishop Makarios of Minya has affirmed that the rebuilding is ongoing and asked for more security around church buildings. Monitor calls to the Egyptian Defense Ministry in recent days have elicited no response.

A walk through downtown Minya reveals the haphazard nature of the rebuilding plan. On one street stands a Christian-owned orphanage, its grounds and interior still gutted. Up the road, children’s laughter echoes from the playground of the newly rebuilt Sisters of St. Joseph school.

“There’s no transparency,” says Nady Khalil, general coordinator at a Catholic development organization in Minya. “From time to time we hear the Army will rebuild something else, but no one explains when it will happen or how it will be funded.”

The Defense Ministry’s budget is shrouded in secrecy. Egypt’s new constitution, passed with overwhelming public support in January, protects army spending from civilian oversight. Although the reconstruction was meant to be completed in phases, the second phase has been delayed for undeclared reasons.

Privately owned Christian properties are faring better, but most have been rebuilt with local money. Shop owners say they did not expect help from the state, but were disappointed when their insurance companies did not pay out.

“We had to turn to the people,” says restaurant owner Maged Amin. “It was a very difficult time.” Flames had eaten away at his restaurant’s foundations, costing his family 25,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,500) to rebuild.

“I’m just thankful they’re rebuilding our churches, no matter how slow the pace” says Mr. Amin. “Last winter, we had to pray in a school – I could not imagine back then that this was my country.”

To date Egyptian Christians’ loyalty has not brought a significant improvement in their day-to-day lives. Sectarian attacks – often attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood – continue, and the security services maintain a poor record when it comes to preventing violence against Christians.

According to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a Cairo-based monitoring group, at least 18 Christians were killed because of their religious identity between June 30, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014. A further 165 Christian-owned houses were vandalized or burnt down.

And crimes against Christians have long gone routinely unpunished, whether under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, Morsi, or Sisi. While a Minya judge sentenced hundreds of local residents to death over the killing of two policemen on Aug. 14 last year, not a single person has been prosecuted for the burning of the churches. Minya’s attorney general declined to discuss the matter.

Many of Minya’s Christian residents say they are not in a position to ask for more. “We have to be satisfied with this – minority communities can only expect so much,” says Marco Adel, a young political activist.

The cafe he is now sitting in was inaccessible last August. A sit-in by Morsi supporters engulfed Minya’s nearby central square, and Mr. Adel says Christians were prevented from entering.

As an opposition activist, he also received a number of threats during Morsi’s year in power.

“Of course I’m not entirely happy with the government’s efforts, but you have to understand, the current situation is a lot better than it was under Morsi,” he says. “Egypt is now a country that Christians believe they can live in.”

The Catholic development organization’s Mr. Khalil takes a longer and broader view.

“The problems have been the same under Mubarak, Morsi and Sisi,” he says. “There is no hope for Egypt if we just rebuild the churches. Unless we invest in people and their institutions, nothing will ever change.”

Mohamed Ezz contributed to this report.

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Kirk Cameron Says Christians Invented Halloween And It’s Meant To Mock The …

by on Oct.24, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Kirk Cameron sees what you're doing with that award, Sybill, and so does Jesus.

Getty Image

Kirk Cameron sees what you’re doing with that award, Sybill, and so does Jesus.

Fundamentalists seem to have conflicting feelings about Halloween – wanting to take credit for what they see as the Christmas Eve for All Saints’ Day, a religious holiday, while simultaneously distancing themselves from possible Satanism and the gays’ favorite holiday (not to mention open season for promiscuous fornicators in Sexy Anne Frank costumes or whatever). Luckily, they have Kirk Cameron, the man who saved Christmas from Muslim hackers and beat the porn out of his computer with a baseball bat, around to simplify things for them. Kirk, in a new interview with the Christian Post, says Christians shouldn’t shy away from Halloween, and in fact should all throw a big ass Halloween party because Halloween is a celebration of Christians’ defeat of death. And also… uh… Obama?

“When you go out on Halloween and see all people dressed in costumes and see someone in a great big bobble head Obama costume with great big ears and an Obama face, are they honoring him or poking fun?” Cameron asked.

Hmm, that depends, is the Obama head next to “yes we can” or is it next to a banana and the word “socialist?” That’s usually a good way to tell. Oh, I’m sorry, that was supposed to be a rhetorical question? Mi scuzi.

“They are poking fun at him,” the actor said.

Phew! For a second there I was worried all this burnt cork would go to waste.

“Early on, Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ,” Cameron continued. “The costumes poke fun at the fact that the devil and other evils were publicly humiliated by Christ at His resurrection. That’s what the Scriptures say, that He publicly humiliated the devil when He triumphed over power and principality and put them under his feet. Over time you get some pagans who want to go this is our day, high holy day of Satanic church, that this is all about death, but Christians have always known since the first century that death was defeated, that the grave was overwhelmed, that ghosts, goblins, devils are foolish has-beens who used to be in power but not anymore. That’s the perspective Christians should have.”

So if I’ve got this right, God kicked Satan out of Heaven, turned him into a snake, and forced him to live next to burning stones and a foul, sulfurous lake for all eternity, and we still have a holiday dedicated to mocking him with cruel costumes and laughing at his pathetic, irredeemable fate while we eat candy? I’ll admit I haven’t been to church in a while, but to hear Kirk Cameron tell it, Christians seem like terrible winners. Worse than Yankee fans, or USC.

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What kind of Christian are you?

by on Oct.24, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” One of my favorite questions to ask is: “Why are you a Christian?” As you might imagine, the responses are usually all over the place. “I’m a Christian because I was born into a Christian family. I’m a Christian because that’s what good people do. I’m a Christian because Jesus died for my sins. I’m a Christian because I care about other people. I’m a Christian because I want to go to heaven one day when I die.”

None of these answers are necessarily wrong. We should all wrestle with this important question in a culture where many people are Christians simply because they feel that’s what’s expected. Biblical scholar Marcus Borg recently published a book called “Convictions,” and in the first chapter of that book, he talks about 5 basic categories of Christians in American culture:

Conservative Christians believe that the Bible is the literal, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Conservative Christians believe that how we live here and now will determine where we spend eternity, that Jesus died to pay for our sins, and that the only way to heaven is to believe in Jesus Christ. Conservative Christians are often very interested in moral issues like abortion, issues of sexuality and living the moral life. Often things like drinking, smoking and gambling are concerns of many conservative Christians. Fundamentalism is often associated with conservative Christianity although not all conservative Christians are fundamentalists.

Conventional Christians represent the Christian middle today. Conventional Christians have often been Christians their entire lives. They are not as committed to biblical innerancy and doctrinal orthodoxy as Conservative Christians, but they are certainly very familiar with church language and traditions.

Uncertain Christians. These folks are unsure what to make of certain conventional and conservative Christian teachings. They ask questions like: Is the Bible the literal word of God and is it inerrant? Was Jesus really born of a virgin? Did he really perform all the miracles we find in the gospels? Did Jesus have to die for our sins? Is Christianity the only way to salvation? But despite asking these questions and sometimes not knowing the answers, uncertain Christians continue to be a part of the church.

Former Christians. These are people who have left the church for whatever reason. This group often considers themselves spiritual but not religious. Many of them have left the church because the version of Christianity that they learned growing up is no longer convincing, but many still hang on to the periphery of the church especially around high holy days like Christmas and Easter.

Progressive Christians. Generally speaking, Progressive Christians reject the concept of biblical inerrancy and literal interpretation but still believe that the Bible speaks God’s truth. Salvation is primarily about transformation in this world and not just life after death. Jesus is the decisive revelation of God, God in human form. Believing is not as important as transformation. Many progressive Christians are found in mainline denominations.

Which category describes your faith? It may be difficult to pick just one. Just as there are all different kinds of churches in a town like Nashville, there are also all different kinds of Christians. I’ve come to believe that perhaps we place far too much emphasis on our particular type of Christianity rather than focusing on whether or not we take our faith seriously or just culturally. At the end of the day, the category we choose is not nearly as important as whether or not our faith is authentic, transforming our life, words and actions.

The Rev. Clay Stauffer is senior minister of Woodmont Christian Church.

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Christian Bale to Play Steve Jobs in Aaron Sorkin's Jobs Biopic

by on Oct.24, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Stay hungry, Christian Bale, stay foolish. The American Hustle actor just booked a new big gig.

Bale, 40, will play the late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin confirmed to Bloomberg on Thursday, Oct. 23. 

PHOTOS: Christian Bale in American Hustle

“What we needed was the best actor,” Sorkin explained. “It’s like the NFL draft. There are some people who make a science out of exactly the guys [they need] to draft a middle, inside linebacker who can do this… and other teams say, ‘Who’s the best athlete on the board.’ We needed the best actor on the board in a certain age range, and that’s Chris Bale.”

PHOTOS: Best and Worst Movie Remakes

Bale, whose credits include his turn as Batman in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, as well as his Oscar-winning role in 2010’s The Fighter, has been rumored for the role in Sorkin’s movie for months. The Social Network director David Fincher was originally attached to the upcoming film, but he was later replaced by Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire

PHOTOS: Stars Gone Too Soon

Jobs, who passed away in October 2011 at the age of 56, was previously brought to life on the big screen by Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher played the acclaimed innovator in 2013’s Jobs, which opened to mixed reviews from critics and less-than-stellar box office numbers. 

“I couldn’t be more excited about him,” Sorkin continued of Bale. “He really is a phenomenal actor… he didn’t have to audition… It’s an extremely difficult part and he’s gonna crush it.” 

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Egypt’s Christians, attacked for supporting Sisi, patiently await payback

by on Oct.23, 2014, under Christian News Articles

At the Amir Tadros Church in Minya, worshipers pray in what amounts to a building site. Nestled among the scaffolding, a bright blue sign proclaims that work will be completed by June. Last June.

The church in this Upper Egyptian city of a quarter million people, home to one of the largest concentrations of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, was one of dozens of Christian properties and places of worship destroyed across Egypt on Aug. 14 last year.

In Minya, mobs chanting Islamist slogans led the charge, looting and burning in response to a state-led massacre unfolding 150-miles away in Cairo, where Muslim Brotherhood-backed demonstrators were protesting the military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt’s Christian community, about 10 per cent of the country’s 84 million people, usually defers to the authority of the leader of the day, wary of rocking the boat and marginalizing itself further.

And the Coptic Church, representing the majority of Egypt’s Christians, threw its weight behind Morsi’s overthrow. Pope Tadros even stood behind Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, then the army chief and now president, as he announced the military’s takeover in a televised address.

By sunrise that Aug. 15, the Amir Tadros church had been reduced to four scorched walls, encasing only rubble and ash. Although Egypt’s Army has promised to rebuild this and other churches, there’s been little progress. By some estimates, only 10 percent of the work has been completed nationwide.

In Minya, many Christians say they have felt more secure since Mr. Sisi led the coup against Mr. Morsi’s government.

But the muted state response to the destruction that followed is a reminder that, no matter who is in power, Egypt has a history of failing to protect Christians or bring their attackers to justice.

In recent comments to state media, Bishop Makarios of Minya has affirmed that the rebuilding is ongoing and asked for more security around church buildings. Monitor calls to the Egyptian Defense Ministry in recent days have elicited no response.

A walk through downtown Minya reveals the haphazard nature of the rebuilding plan. On one street stands a Christian-owned orphanage, its grounds and interior still gutted. Up the road, children’s laughter echoes from the playground of the newly rebuilt Sisters of St. Joseph school.

“There’s no transparency,” says Nady Khalil, general coordinator at a Catholic development organization in Minya. “From time to time we hear the Army will rebuild something else, but no one explains when it will happen or how it will be funded.”

The Defense Ministry’s budget is shrouded in secrecy. Egypt’s new constitution, passed with overwhelming public support in January, protects army spending from civilian oversight. Although the reconstruction was meant to be completed in phases, the second phase has been delayed for undeclared reasons.

Privately owned Christian properties are faring better, but most have been rebuilt with local money. Shop owners say they did not expect help from the state, but were disappointed when their insurance companies did not pay out.

“We had to turn to the people,” says restaurant owner Maged Amin. “It was a very difficult time.” Flames had eaten away at his restaurant’s foundations, costing his family 25,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,500) to rebuild.

“I’m just thankful they’re rebuilding our churches, no matter how slow the pace” says Mr. Amin. “Last winter, we had to pray in a school – I could not imagine back then that this was my country.”

To date Egyptian Christians’ loyalty has not brought a significant improvement in their day-to-day lives. Sectarian attacks – often attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood – continue, and the security services maintain a poor record when it comes to preventing violence against Christians.

According to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a Cairo-based monitoring group, at least 18 Christians were killed because of their religious identity between June 30, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014. A further 165 Christian-owned houses were vandalized or burnt down.

And crimes against Christians have long gone routinely unpunished, whether under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, Morsi, or Sisi. While a Minya judge sentenced hundreds of local residents to death over the killing of two policemen on Aug. 14 last year, not a single person has been prosecuted for the burning of the churches. Minya’s attorney general declined to discuss the matter.

Many of Minya’s Christian residents say they are not in a position to ask for more. “We have to be satisfied with this – minority communities can only expect so much,” says Marco Adel, a young political activist.

The cafe he is now sitting in was inaccessible last August. A sit-in by Morsi supporters engulfed Minya’s nearby central square, and Mr. Adel says Christians were prevented from entering.

As an opposition activist, he also received a number of threats during Morsi’s year in power.

“Of course I’m not entirely happy with the government’s efforts, but you have to understand, the current situation is a lot better than it was under Morsi,” he says. “Egypt is now a country that Christians believe they can live in.”

The Catholic development organization’s Mr. Khalil takes a longer and broader view.

“The problems have been the same under Mubarak, Morsi and Sisi,” he says. “There is no hope for Egypt if we just rebuild the churches. Unless we invest in people and their institutions, nothing will ever change.”

Mohamed Ezz contributed to this report.

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Kirk Cameron Urges Christians To Celebrate Halloween By Sharing The Gospel

by on Oct.23, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Actor Kirk Cameron is urging Christians to celebrate a holiday many fundamentalists shun: Halloween.

When you go out on Halloween and see all people dressed in costumes and see someone in a great big bobble-head Obama costume with great big ears and an Obama face, are they honoring him or poking fun?” the former “Growing Pains” star asked the Christian Post.

“They are poking fun at him,” he said. Then, he added:

“Early on, Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ. The costumes poke fun at the fact that the devil and other evils were publicly humiliated by Christ at His resurrection.”

Cameron said the “real origins” of Halloween were related to All Saints Day and All Hallows Eve. However, according to anthropologists, the true origins of Halloween go back about 2,000 years to the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which celebrated the end of the harvest season.

Ancient Celts believed the day marked the beginning of winter, a time of year when ghosts returned to earth to wreak havoc on their crops and possess the living. To combat this, the Celts would don animal heads and skins as part of their interaction with the spirit world.

But Cameron claims Halloween is not about death, as often depicted these days, but about life, and he urges Christians to throw “the biggest party on your block” as a way to convert the masses.

“Halloween gives you a great opportunity to show how Christians celebrate the day that death was defeated, and you can give them Gospel tracts and tell the story of how every ghost, goblin, witch and demon was trounced the day Jesus rose from the grave. Clearly no Christians ought to be glorifying death, because death was defeated, and that was the point of All Hallows Eve.”

Halloween isn’t the only holiday on Cameron’s radar. Next month, he’s releasing a film called “Saving Christmas,” aimed at restoring religion to the holiday.

(h/t Raw Story)

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