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Sky Angels Radio…Turn Your Speakers Up!!

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Isis Threat to Crucify Lebanon’s Christians as Islamic State Prepare to Cross …

by on Oct.01, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Lebanon

Christians in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley have begun arming themselves in preparation for an Isis (now known as the Islamic State) offensive as it seeks to expand its territorial control outside of Syria.

Up to 3,000 militants from the Islamic State and other jihadists occupy the mountain range between Lebanon and Syria near the Sunni town of Arsal.

As IS seek to grab land outside of the mountain caves and farms they currently control, Christian volunteers have now created village defence forces to protect against the Sunni militants who have taken up to 21 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage.

“We are a minority and we are under threat by the jihadists,” Rifaat Nasrallah, a commander of the volunteer guards in the Greek Catholic town of Ras Baalbek, said.

“It wasn’t the idea of anyone in particular,” Nasrallah says of the formation of defence units. “The whole village felt in danger so we all agreed it was necessary.”

“We don’t shoot if we see someone or something moving in the mountains,” said one of the watchmen. “We just call the Army and they investigate.”

Ras Baalbek has a population of 15,000 and is  separated from the flashpoint town of Arsal by a range of hills.

“Imagine if Islamic State makes it into Ras Baalbek and they crucify a Christian. It will set Lebanon alight,” a western diplomat in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times.

There are approximately 2.4m Chrisitans in Lebanon, 20pc of the total population.

The terror group has continued to crack down on religious freedom since the announcement of its Islamic “caliphate”, straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The Sunni jihadists have taken over Iraq’s largest Christian town of Qaraqosh causing thousands of residents to flee towards Kurdistan region.

They also issued an ultimatum to Christians in the city of Mosul to convert to their radical form of Islam or be forced to either pay a tax, leave the city or be harmed for refusal to convert.

The city is now reportedly empty of Christians as hundreds of families fled following the ultimatum of death or a historic contract ‒ known as “dhimma”‒ where non-Muslims can receive protection if they pay a fee known as a “jizya”.

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Vicar Of Baghdad Claims ‘Every Christian Wants To Leave’ Iraq As ISIS …

by on Oct.01, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Canon Andrew White has witnessed a dramatic decline in the Christian population of Iraq since the Islamic State began its nation-wide sweep.

Dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” White has warned through his Facebook page and in interviews that the militant group, which launched its reign of terror in northern Iraq, may be headed for the capital city next.

“ISIS appears to have been halted 5 miles from Baghdad,” White wrote on Tuesday.

White has good reason to fear the worst of the group’s approach. The Islamic State has systematically attacked Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups, in addition to making life miserable for Iraqi Muslims.

White told The Telegraph on Sunday that for the first time in 2,000 years all the churches in the ancient, northern Mesopotamian city of Ninevah have closed, and Christians are unable to celebrate communion.

“Many Christians here are very frightened about what has happened to their community up in the north. Some have relatives who have lost everything: their homes, furniture, cars. They have nothing left at all,” White told The Telegraph. “To be honest, every single Christian wants to leave.”

White’s claim may not be far off base. The Washington Post published an op-ed in September that argued “Christianity in Iraq is finished.” Correspondent Daniel Williams spent 10 days speaking with Christian refugees currently living in Irbil, the capital of the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan. Many expressed no desire to return to their homes in northern Iraq where their lifestyles have suffered since the onset of war in 2003.

A series of particularly vicious attacks by insurgents racked Mosul from 2005-2008, leaving Christian communities reeling. In October 2006, Orthodox priest Boulos Iskander was kidnapped for ransom and killed, followed two years later by the kidnapping and murder of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho.

As one Christian refugee told Williams: “We wanted Iraq. Iraq doesn’t want us.”

Government troops, aided by U.S.-led airstrikes, have managed to hold off the militants’ encroachment on Baghdad, offering White and his community some cause for hope. White wrote on Facebook:

“The latest news this morning appears to be that the further access of ISIS towards Baghdad appears to have been halted. How far they are from here varies according to who is providing the information but they appear to be 5-15 miles away and in the last 12 hours have not got closer. So we live in hope.”

Take a look at our infographic below to learn more about decline of Christianity in the Middle East:


Infographic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.

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Iraqi Christians’ Dilemma: Stay or Go?

by on Oct.01, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Fadwa Rabban stayed in Baghdad after the 2003 U.S. invasion, and after her husband died in 2005. She stayed after a nearby blast blew out the windows of her home, and after friends and relatives left as Christians like herself increasingly became the target of Islamic militants. One Sunday in 2010, she went to church for a morning service with her son and daughter. That evening, the church was attacked by Islamic militants, leaving 58 dead.

“After that, I couldn’t stay,” said Ms. Rabban, 49 years old. In late…

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Christian Brothers Automotive Franchise Expands Headquarters

by on Oct.01, 2014, under Christian News Articles

HOUSTON, TX–(Marketwired – Sep 30, 2014) – The Christian Brothers Automotive franchise is in the midst of a breakout year for franchise growth. The auto repair franchise has more than 130 stores nationwide, and about two dozen new franchisees have made plans to open locations this year. To ensure that all franchisees receive great support, Christian Brothers has been expanding its Houston headquarters.

Building a robust franchisee support staff
In 2007, the Christian Brothers Automotive corporate team consisted of 15 people working to support and shepherd 50 franchisees nationwide. Today, there are 56 team members devoted to serving Christian Brothers franchisees. The ratio of franchisee to headquarters support member has fallen from more than 3-to-1 to just over 2-to-1 — and it has made a difference.

Christian Brothers has not closed a franchise location in its 18-year history, but that’s just one measure of success. The brand also asks Franchise Business Review — an independent franchise information and research company — to conduct a poll of its franchisees each year to find areas where Christian Brothers can improve its support. The resulting franchisee satisfaction scores have made Christian Brothers the No. 1 recommended automotive franchise by Franchise Business Review.

And those numbers keep improving. Since 2008, when the first Franchise Business Review survey was conducted, the franchisee satisfaction score has increased every single year.

“We are committed to providing our franchisees great support,” says Josh Wall, vice president for franchise development. “Some people who see how fast we have grown might worry that our growth is outpacing our ability to provide great service to our franchisees, but the truth is that we have consistently reinvested in franchise support.”

Business model depends on franchisee success
Christian Brothers Automotive’s revenue structure depends on the success of franchisees. Unlike most franchise systems, which charge a royalty based on revenue generated by a franchisee’s business, Christian Brothers splits profits with franchisees. Until the franchisee is profitable and able to pay themselves a fair salary, Christian Brothers takes nothing. That gives the company a big financial incentive to provide great support to franchisees and help them become profitable as quickly as possible. 

To learn more, visit www.christianbrothersfranchise.com.

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Is the Rapture Biblical — and Will Non-Christians Really Be ‘Left Behind …

by on Sep.30, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Despite its popular presence in evangelical theology, some Christian scholars can’t help but wonder whether the rapture — the proposed theological event that says believers will be taken up to heaven by Jesus before the Earth’s final destruction — is actually rooted in scripture.

While proponents claim that the Bible backs the mass disappearance, others say that its advocates are confusing and misreading scripture to conjure up a phenomenon that simply isn’t in the cards.

And as the rapture debate forges on, the popular end-times theory is serving as the basis for Hollywood thrillers like “The Remaining,” released earlier this month, and “Left Behind,” which hits theaters Oct. 3. With these feature films emerging, it’s no surprise that the book of Revelation and biblical prophecy are gaining extra attention of late.

What Is the Rapture?

Audiences generally love apocalyptic story lines, which is what makes the rapture and the calamity prophesied to follow ripe for the Hollywood treatment. But what is it really all about?

The rapture is an event described and taught in many Christian circles in which all of the Christ-followers living at a specific time will simultaneously ascend and leave the Earth.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The non-believers will be left behind — hence the name of the feature film — to contend with what some theologians say will be a difficult and chaotic tribulation period before the second coming of Jesus Christ, as About.com highlights.

It’s unclear what exactly this would look like or when it would happen, but belief in this general paradigm is taught among many Christian circles and denominations. That said, even among those who believe in the rapture, there’s intense debate surrounding the finer details.

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As About.com’s Mary Fairchild notes, there are three main ideas governing how and when the event would unfold: pre-tribulation rapture theory, post-tribulation rapture theory and mid-tribulation rapture theory.

Of the three, the pre-tribulation timeline is the most rampantly taught. It contends the rapture will take place right before the tribulation period. Once Christians ascend to heaven to be with God, the Earth’s final seven years will then begin (i.e. the so-called tribulation period).

While non-believers can still become Christians during this time period, they will face extreme circumstances — and even brutal murder — on Earth as the Antichrist rises, Fairchild highlights.

Christians subscribing to a post-tribulation worldview, however, believe they will remain on Earth during the tribulation period until the end of its seven year time frame. According to this worldview, they will either be protected or removed from the chaos.

And as for those who embrace the mid-tribulation theory, they believe Christians will be taken from the Earth in the middle of the seven-year period.

Of course, the broader debate is over whether the rapture is even biblical to begin with.

Intense Debate Over the Rapture

While numerous scripture references point to an event or moment in which Jesus returns and Christians ascend to heaven, there’s a great deal of debate over the finer details, author and biblical expert Dr. Ron Rhodes told TheBlaze.

“You’ve got a lot of Christians who have different opinions on a lot of this … and so I think it’s a good thing to come to firm conclusions,” he said. “But I don’t think we need to have on a boxing gloves.”

While he acknowledged that there are pre, post and mid tribulation theories out there, Rhodes personally believes that the Bible backs the pre-tribulation paradigm — and that many of the events going on currently in the world are intertwined with biblical eschatology.

Middle East chaos — which is certainly not unique to contemporary times, but which continues to rage — is a factor that leads Rhodes to conclude that the end times could be approaching.

“First of all, I believe that the days we are living in, we are witnessing certain signs of the times. The time of the end is at least drawing near and among those signs of the times would include the rebirth of Israel, which took place in 1948,” he said. “But there’s other things we’ve witnessed — the escalation of apostasy in the church, there’s a move toward globalism, a continued move toward a cashless society.”

“Scripture says really quickly that Israel will be a thorn in the world in the end names … probably next on the schedule the rapture of the church,” he added. “There’s not a single prophecy that must be fulfilled before that happens.”

Rhodes spoke of a prophesy that is presented in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel — one in which a military alliance develops between what is believed to be Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey, with these nations attempting to invade Israel.

While he said that some Christians who don’t believe in a literal interpretation of the Old Testament scriptures on Israel would likely dismiss them, Rhodes takes a different view. He believes this invasion could take place before the rapture or during the seven-year tribulation period, though he favors the former view.

Rhodes said he believes the biblical figure known as the Antichrist, who will appear to have all the answers to the world’s problems, will sign a covenant with Israel. With so much chaos raging, Rhodes said that people will be looking for someone to trust.

“He will be an individual that people will look up to. People are crying out for an individual who can make sense of this world so I think the path is being prepared for that today,” he said. “By the middle of the tribulation period — that’s when things get bad. At that point the Antichrist sets up his headquarters at Jerusalem.”

After that, Rhodes said that Jesus will return, slay the forces of the Antichrist and set up a 1,000-year kingdom on Earth before the wicked are inevitably judged. Then a new heaven and new Earth will follow.

The theological theories are both heavy and complex, but you can read more about them here.

At this point, it’s important to differentiate between the rapture and the second coming. While the two are often confused and mistaken as the same biblical event, GotQuestions.org highlights the key differences:

The rapture is when Jesus Christ returns to remove the church (all believers in Christ) from the earth. The rapture is described in1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Believers who have died will have their bodies resurrected and, along with believers who are still living, will meet the Lord in the air. This will all occur in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. The second coming is when Jesus returns to defeat the Antichrist, destroy evil, and establish His millennial kingdom. The second coming is described in Revelation 19:11-16.

All this aside, Rhodes noted that some Christians reject his more literal view and take a more allegorical approach to prophecy. He specifically addressed Ezekiel 36, noting that the book covers the restoration of Israel — something that he said didn’t unfold until the 20th century.

“It’s interesting to me that the ancient prophet would say Israel [would be] born again as a nation after being dispersed for a long, long time,” he told TheBlaze, in reference to claims made in Ezekiel 36. “It’s never happened before 1948 — that’s when that began happening.”

Joel Rosenberg’s End-Times Views

Christian author Joel C. Rosenberg shares similar views to Rhodes, telling TheBlaze last year in detail what he thinks will happen during the end times. He focused mainly on the second coming of Christ, noting that Jesus spent a great deal of time speaking about his return.

“The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Would you give us one sign of the end times — when is this all coming to an end’ [Matthew 24]. Jesus could have said, ‘No comment. Next question,’ but he didn’t,” Rosenberg said. “He actually walked through a whole list of signs to watch for that will be indicators that will culminate in the second coming of Christ [Mark 13 Luke 21].”

He said Jesus noted dozens of times that he would be back again — something that was widely documented and explained by the apostles. The Bible’s elements of prophecy, Rosenberg argues, are intended to give believers some idea surrounding what might happen before Jesus returns.

“He does want us to be aware that he’s coming and [that] we’re getting close so that we’re ready … you don’t know when he’s coming, but he’ll come like a thief in the night,” he continued, while noting that not everyone buys into these contentions. “There’s obviously skeptics and critics.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The author further explained these elements, describing the notion that Jesus would come back “quickly” (found in the first chapter of Revelation). At the time, some interpreted this to mean that Christ’s return would be imminent, but that obviously wasn’t the case.

“And, yes, this was interpreted that he would come near to the end of the first century — it gave a sense of immanency,” Rosenberg said. “‘Quickly’ has been interpreted as soon — when he comes, he’s coming fast — he uses the expression of a flash of lightening.”

The author explains that this language was employed to urge people to be ready, as they would not know exactly when the Christian savior was returning. In what he called an “understandable disagreement,” some assumed that, since Christ didn’t return, that the so-called prophecies were actually not meant for the 20th and 21st centuries, but, instead, for people living in earlier centuries.

While Rosenberg explained that it is understandable why some would hold these views, once Israel was re-established as a state, the notion that the Bible wasn’t predicting what would come centuries after its contents were penned was turned on its head.

The rebirth of the state of Israel — predicted in the Book of Ezekiel — solidified this, he said, mirroring comments made by Rhodes.

“In the end times, the Bible describes that the Jews will be coming back to the land in Ezekiel 36 and 37,” he told TheBlaze. “For many, many, many centuries — basically for 19 centuries — even most of our church fathers … did not understand that God literally meant the physical, geopolitical birth of the state of Israel.”

The Rejection of Rapture Theology

Despite these claims, Christian philosopher William Lane Craig rejects much of what Rhodes and Rosenberg have to say about the rapture and the events as depicted in “Left Behind.” In fact, Craig has gone as far as to call the rapture unbiblical in recent interviews and proclamations.

“The rapture was made up by someone in the 1800s, and the story caught on among some groups who still believe it today,” he told Charisma News. “The simple truth is that it is not biblical, nor was it ever the historic position of the Christian church.”

Craig said that many people have simply grown up in Christian homes where the rapture has been taught as fact, leading many Bible-believers never to question the merits of the theological construct.

In fact, he argues that the idea came from a man named John Darby back in 1827 and that Darby’s take on the scriptures was simple inaccurate. Additionally, he said the theory was embedded in the Scofield Reference Bible, a popular study Bible — a fact that assisted in its prevalence in Christian circles.

While some believers look to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 when validating a rapture view, Craig said that they end up confusing the rapture with the second coming of Christ.

Nothing in the text, the philosopher maintains, backs the notion that Paul is speaking about anything other than this latter event, according to Charisma’s interview with Craig.

“Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff, a noted Bible expert, shares in Craig’s dismissal of the rapture. In a phone interview with TheBlaze last year, he rejected the notion that Revelation and other alleged predictions apply to today’s world, though he, like Craig, embraces the notion of a second coming.

As for the rapture as embraced by Rhodes, among others, he said it isn’t found in the Bible, proclaiming in an episode of his radio show last year: ”There’s not a rapture in the sense of a pre-tribulation rapture.”

Hanegraaff said that he believes wholeheartedly that Jesus is returning, but dismissed the notion that Christ would come back for a rapture, then reverse course only to return again later during the second coming.

“Well, the Bible says … that Jesus is going to appear a second time,” he said. “Those who have lived on the planet … Jesus said, do not be amazed by this … there will be the ultimate judgement that takes place, which those who have a relationship with God in this time-space continuum are given that relationship in eternity and those who did not want a relationship will have that validated in eternity as well.”

When it comes to prophecy, Hanegraaff simply doesn’t believe that the Bible’s writers were looking so fervently into the future. In fact, he contends that they were speaking about events that would unfold in the immediate and that have already come to pass.

For instance, in Revelation, Hanegraaff argued that John wasn’t speaking about the 21st century.

“When Jesus says that the apocalypse will soon take place and that the time is near … his words are meant to convey the events in the future,” he said. “If he wanted to say that 2,000 years later he could easily do that, but instead, he said the time is soon and the time is near so it has to do what is happening to the Seven Churches that God is circulating the letters to” (here’s more on the Seven Churches).

These literal churches, Hanegraaff contends, are being told by John what they will face — “an apocalypse of unparalleled proportions.” Through Revelation, he argues that John is telling the churches to be faithful and that their vindication would be eternal.

“I think the point we have to probably recognize is that all of the Bible was written for us, but none of it was written to us,” he contended. “This book of Revelation was written to seven churches.”

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

As for Rhodes, he said it’s best for Christians, despite their disagreement over the rapture, to “focus on the agreement that we have” — mainly, the belief that Jesus Christ is eventually coming back during the so-called second coming.

“Our agreements far outweigh our disagreements,” he said.

The debate over the rapture and second coming is certainly a fascinating one, with biblical scholars many times embracing divergent views.

As for the public, a Pew Research Center poll found in 2010 that 48 percent of American Christians believe Jesus will probably or definitely return within the next 40 years, showing that there’s a profound interest — at the least — in the general teaching that the Christian savior will one day return.

A majority of evangelical leaders (61 percent) have, more specifically, said that they believe in the rapture, according to past research.

Front page image via Shutterstock

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It is Time for Peaceful Christians to Speak Up for Coexistence

by on Sep.30, 2014, under Christian News Articles

ted cruz sarah palin
According to the Religious Right, Islam is the enemy, and ISIL, or ISIS as it is often called, is a manifestation of all the hate and intolerance inherent in the world’s second largest religion. When President Obama says that ISIL is not Islam, the Religious Right quakes in outrage. Islam is the enemy! Sarah Palin thunders as she tries to remember which state she is in.

But while Religious Right figures are quick to assign religion and religious bigotry to ISIL, they are blind to their own. And while they lambast the Qur’an as the source of much of this intolerance, they ignore the cries of their own god to smite the unbeliever.

Historian Ramsay MacMullen pointed out, in speaking of the later Roman Empire, “Christian readiness for action carried to no matter what extremes has not always received the acknowledgment it deserves in modern accounts of the period.”[1]

It is interesting that people should have so difficult a time imagining a repressive and intolerance Christianity when there are so many examples of it in our own time. I am speaking not only of the largely Protestant Religious Right, but of the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI, who said “truth” trumps tolerance.

Brigitte Gabriel told the Values Voter Summit that “millions of Muslims are aspiring suicide bombers.” Rick Santorum is very forgiving of the Christian holy war against Islam and warns us not to hate on the Crusades, but is quick to condemn Isalmic Jihad, telling us that “you don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.”

But that’s a matter of degree. Words, not only bombs, can be a form of violence.

Santorum told the Daily Beast the other day that Christianity has set aside the whole conversion “by the sword” routine and discovered that “religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and that persuasion is the way to spread the faith.”

But this is the same Rick Santorum who doesn’t believe in separation of church and state, who attended an event that told non-Christians to get out of America and who told Puerto Ricans that they must speak English if they want to be Americans.

The Baptist may not be holding a bomb or a gun, but he is more than happy to deprive non-Christians, and even non-Baptists, of their religious freedom, and Santorum himself has said that mainline Protestants are not really Christians at all.

“Saint” Augustine was one of the leading voices against religious tolerance in Late Antiquity, a leading proponent of coercion. Needless to say, Augustine’s “City of God” contained only Christians, and that the same must be said of the later Shining City on the Hill.

For Augustine, Peter Brown relates,

It was a prophetic truth that the church should be diffused among all nations…it was a prophetic truth on exactly the same level that the kings of the Earth should serve Christ in fear and trembling; that the gods of the Nations should be uprooted from the face of the Earth, and that what had been sung, centuries before by King David, should now become manifest, as a public command, in the repression of pagans, Jews and heretics throughout the Roman Empire.[2]

He had justification from no less than another saint, Paul of Tarsus, who wrote in Rom. 1:18-32 says that Pagans are guilty for violating what they know to be true of God. As Ramsay MacMullen has duly noted, “The urge to destroy paganism physically was not a post-Constantinian development.”[3] The urge to destroy Islam dates from its own inception in the seventh century.

Even the language of Christianity reflected this hostility, and from the very earliest days, referring to pagan deities as idols and as daimones (demons) and not as gods at all. Augustine was as bloodthirsty as the rest of his ilk: “God who speaks truth has both predicted that the images of the many, the false gods, are to be overthrown, and commands that it be done.”[4]

And Augustine was right: the Old Testament commands precisely that.

The ways “in which Christianity differed from the general context of opinion around it,” MacMullen says, “was the antagonism inherent in the antagonism of God toward all other supernatural powers, of God toward every man or woman who refused allegiance, and…of those who granted their allegiance toward all the remaining stubborn unbelievers.”[5]

As Arnaldo Momigliano notes, “if there were men who recommended tolerance and peaceful coexistence of Christians and pagans, they were rapidly crowded out.”[6] Certainly, by 384 when the Pagan senator Symmachus directed just this appeal to St. Jerome, it was refused. As MacMullen observes, by that point “it was really too late to speak of toleration.”[7]

We know this with a certainty because Origen admits that Celsus remarked on it, how the Pagan scholar expressed the amazement of polytheists at the “murderous intolerance” of Christianity.[8] This is a murderous intolerance we have seen for ourselves, and are exposed to daily, even as Religious Right figures complain they are being presented as hate peddlers and extremists.

But what is more extreme than religious intolerance unless it is murder in a god’s name?

Thomas Jefferson was pointing toward centuries of Christian intolerance when he wrote, “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.”[9]

According to one scholar, Christian intolerance has consumed “at least a million people per century” over the past two millennia.[10] This is a staggering bill to have been paid by not only the world’s other religions, but by fellow Christians, who were as often as not victims of their own religion.

But Islam, we are told, is the enemy. From a historical perspective, this claim does not hold water unless all religions which hold claim to some capital-T Truth are also held accountable. And yes, I am looking at Christianity.

Moderate Christians can say the Religious Right does not speak for them, and that it is not, in any case, really Christianity at all. But if the Religious Right is not really Christianity, then it is up to the real Christians to do more than remain silent on the matter, as has so often happened in history when the silent (and peaceful) majority is confronted by a hateful and violent minority.

As Momigliano said, “if there were men who recommended tolerance and peaceful coexistence of Christians and pagans, they [are] rapidly crowded out.” This, while the opportunity still exists, would be a good time for those peaceful Christians to speak up.

Notes:

[1] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 15.
[2] Peter Brown, “St. Augustine’s Attitude to Religious Coercion,” JRS 54 (1964), 110.
[3] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 159 n. 6.
[4] Augustine, Ep. 91.3.
[5] MacMullen (1984), 19.
[6] Arnaldo Momigliano, “Pagan and Christian Historiography in the Fourth Century A.D.” in A. Momigliano (ed), The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century (Oxford, 1963), 80.
[7] MacMullen (1997), 12.
[8] Origen, C. Cel. 3.10 and 12. See also Ammianus 22.5.4.
[9] Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on Virginia, Query XVII, The Different Religions Received into the State” The Works of Thomas Jeffersion, Paul L. Ford, ed. (NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. IV: 296.
[10] Gerd Lüdemann, The Acts of the Apostles, 383.

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Israeli Greek Orthodox Church denounces Aramaic Christian nationality

by on Sep.30, 2014, under Christian News Articles

The Greek Orthodox Christian Patriarchate in east Jerusalem has expressed its disdain for the Israeli law that considers Aramaic Christians as a nationality; stating Israel is attempting to divide the Palestinian minority.

While many Israeli Christians agree with this new law, the Greek Orthodox Church believes the law further divides minorities living within Israel, by separating Christians from the Arabs.The Church further believes that this division weakens Palestinians.

Christian Orthodox Church spokesman Father Issa Musleh warned the draft law to recruit Arab Palestinian Christians to join the Israeli Defense Forces is part of a ploy to foster internal divisions and tensions among Palestinian Christians, as well as between Muslims, Palestinians and Christian Arabs.

Father Musleh also stated that Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus the Third issued instructions to counter attempts to recruit Christians to the Israeli army.

“Palestinian Christians are an important part of the Arab and Palestinian nations; we are proud of the Aramaic identity as it reflects history and culture shaped by Arab Muslims and Christians,” Father Musleh said. “Our roots as Palestinian Christians are deeply engraved in history, no one and no group can erase them.”

The law in question, which was passed on September 18, decreed that there is a difference between Christians and Arab Muslims living in Israel, thus creating a separate Christian minority group. Interior Minister Gideon Saar ordered that the population registry recognize Christians as Aramean. This move gives Christians their own representation on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in Employment Commission.

At the time the bill was passed, MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said “I don’t try to change the reality; the reality is there. There is a big difference between Christians and Muslims, and they deserve recognition and separate representation.”

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Christian Bautista wants his love life to be more private

by on Sep.30, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Christian Bautista seemed to have shed some weight as PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) noticed when he graced an event spearheaded by a fast-food chain to honor model families.

There was an explanation,  “I had a slipped disk a few months ago,” Christian revealed.

“I really had to recover from that through lots of physical therapy, so medyo hindi ako naka-gym,” he told PEP and Cinema News at the 4th Jollibee Family Values Awards Gabi ng Parangal sa Pamilyang Pilipino, held in PICC Reception Hall on September 25, Thursday. 

But his situation has improved and he may be getting back into the hang of things soon.

“I’m getting better now. Maybe I can start working out in the next few weeks.

“I just thank God na medyo gumagaling na,” he said. 

Being a good friend of the couple, he grinned ear to ear when asked about the public wedding proposal of his good friend, John Prats, to Isabel Oli last Wednesday, September 24, at Eastwood Citywalk, Quezon City.

Read: John Prats organizes a flash mob to propose to girlfriend Isabel Oli

 

Inevitably, Christian was also asked, is he in a relationship?

“Wala pa sa ngayon,” he replied. “I’m sorry, but I have to say the [common] excuse na trabaho muna, kasi wala pa talaga.”

Is he dating someone?

“No serious dating, just meeting fiends and going out and relaxing. Pero wala pang serious na ina-eye or relationship,” he continued.

Photo by Bernie V. Franco

Does this mean he is setting aside his love life to give way to his career?

“Hindi naman set aside, parang pag dumating, you’ll be the first to know, parang ganon.

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Clash between Christians and Muslims in Middle Ages often not about religion

by on Sep.29, 2014, under Christian News Articles

Atrocities committed during the Crusades are said to fuel the anger today of many Muslims throughout the world, some of whom are resorting to murderous acts steeped in revenge for the Crusades and that have people fearful of even more barbaric attacks.

Past and present brutal behavior, Crusade and jihad, all in the name of religion. But is religious warfare a full account of what went on in the Mediterranean world of 1050-1200 C.E.? Were Muslims reclaiming holy sites because of their staunchly held beliefs, and Christians because of theirs, or were there other factors that can account for the carnage?

Brian Catlos, professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado and author of several books on Muslims and Christians in the Middle Ages, unfolds a detailed history of power, politics and religion in the Middle East. Focusing on the 11th through the late 12th centuries, Catlos contends that religion was neither the sole nor overriding factor in Christian-Muslim battles. Yet the aftermath of those hostilities has clear and disturbing ramifications in today’s turbulent events in the Middle East.

Catlos begins not by focusing on a mostly Christian Europe or a predominantly Islamic Middle East; rather, he presents a broader picture of the post-Roman Empire period in Europe, Africa and Western Asia in which people shared traditions, customs and habits and engaged in commerce despite their religious and ethnic differences.

“Each individual belonged to a variety of formal and informal communities simultaneously, and the boundaries of these communities often crossed religious and ethnic lines,” he says.

So, what ignited the passions that led to rampaging armies of seemingly religious zealots seeking to conquer a city or region? For the most part, it was not religion that triggered the assaults, says Catlos, but the same enticements that have lured people in every age to extremist actions: power and wealth.

Catlos traces the relationships, tensions and feuds that were common both within and between Christian and Muslim tribes and families of that time. “In fact, the greatest tensions and the worst violence tended to take place among people of the same faith,” he says.

While leaders of any group sought power and wealth, they also realized “they had to grant significant liberties and privileges to the minorities among their subjects.” As long as the vanquished recognized the dominant group’s rules and customs, they usually could live in peace.

The most diabolical and well-known attack was the First Crusade when Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099. The traditional account usually begins with the Council of Clermont, an assembly of bishops called by Pope Urban II in 1095. The council’s agenda was to push for reform regarding the moral integrity and independence of the clergy and to standardize church ritual. Near the end of the council, Urban II called on the faithful to go to the aid of their brethren in the East who were suffering under the yoke of the Turks (Muslims) after a fateful battle in 1071. Historians believe that Urban’s appeal was the impetus for what would become the ill-fated First Crusade.

The aftermath resulted in a popular movement, a People’s Crusade, that set out across Europe “with no clear idea of where they were going, no maps, and no sense of what awaited them.”

Most were landless vagrants, recently freed from the breakdown of the feudal system and with no sense of purpose. Led by charismatic figures, they were told that God was calling them to this crusade. Following on their heels were knights, warriors from different ethnic groups, who were seeking fortune and glory sometimes under the guise of religious devotion.

Eventually a force made it to Jerusalem where a prolonged siege of the city began. Finally, on July 15, 1099, the walls were breached and a massacre ensued, “a deliberate act of genocide.”

Raymond of Aguillers, a monk who took part in the slaughter of Muslim men, women and children, recorded the stomach-churning account of a city “filled with corpses and blood.” “Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God,” Raymond declared, “that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies.”

But did all the Crusaders believe as Raymond did that they were on a mission from God? Was their motivation to defend the church and their way of life against unbelievers? Catlos acknowledges that historians disagree on the nature and significance of the Crusades, but they generally agree that they were an anomaly, “having no precedent in the history of either Europe or the Middle East.” What Catlos debunks is the popular belief that every campaign, every battle, every interaction in the Middle Ages between people of different religions was always motivated by a commitment to religious purity. No simple template of Christian versus Muslim can begin to explain the complexities of the time, he asserts. Even after seven more crusades, commerce and alliances between different groups of Christians and Muslims continued, demonstrating that realpolitik can trump religious separatism.

What remains unchanged is that the quest for power, wealth and glory, endemic to the Middle East in the Middle Ages, is in many respects still a major driver today. But in spite of that, says Catlos, the peaceful interaction between peoples of different religions offers a glimmer of hope today for the region and for the rest of the world drawn in to its unstable history.

As Catlos sees it, “conflict among different peoples is not inevitable, as long as we are willing to make compromises as individuals and communities, and to regard one another as fundamentally well-intentioned, and as sharing the same basic goals.”

Well and good. But more than 900 years after the Crusades, that hope, diminished by centuries of mistrust and ongoing violence, is still as elusive as a desert mirage.

Tom Schaefer is a former columnist and religion editor for The Eagle. He lives in Wichita.

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Christians discuss life in ‘unchurched’ Northwest

by on Sep.29, 2014, under Christian News Articles

In the shadow of the Space Needle, a symbol of the Pacific Northwest, 250 Christian leaders and scholars took the weekend to discuss how to live in this region — a region often thought to be “unchurched.”

In the Pacific Northwest, settled by entrepreneurs and gold miners who wanted to strike it rich, religion has often taken a back seat. That economic drive still plays a large role in the home of companies like Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft, said Matthew Kaemingk, director of the Fuller Institute for Theology and Northwest Culture and organizer of the Christ Cascadia Conference held Friday and Saturday in Seattle.

“People come here for a job. It is a culture based off the American financial dream,” he said. “It is not like the Baptists settling in the South or the Lutherans in the Midwest.”

Fuller Theological Seminary formed its Institute for Northwest Culture 11 months ago, and the Christ Cascadia Conference, held at Seattle’s First Church, is to be the first of many such planned events. Kaemingk said he wants all branches of Christianity to unite to explore the major cultural questions, challenges and opportunities for the church in this region.

The goal, however, is not to answer the questions, but to spark conversation about living in the Pacific Northwest, he said.

The main challenge facing Christianity in this region is attracting people who do not identify with a church but instead focus more on alternative spirituality.

“Just as they prefer to make their own software, airplanes, music, organic food and political movements, Cascadians also prefer to make their own religion,” Kaemingk said during a session Saturday.

As a first step to better understanding religious, spiritual and nonreligious communities in the Pacific Northwest, Christians of varying denominations — from conservative evangelicals to more-progressive Protestants — bounced from panel to panel discussing topics ranging from Intergenerational Ministry in an Asian-American Context to Faith and the Environment.

The theme of this conference was “to know and love this place,” and the best way to do that, said Mason Rutledge, senior director for the Western Washington region of Young Life, is to connect with other people in the Pacific Northwest Christian community to understand what they are doing and how they can work together.

“We all live in silos — every church and every community in a different one,” said Rutledge, who drove down from Everett. “We all get caught up doing our own things and don’t know what everyone else is doing.”

What scholars have found, Kaemingk said, is that Pacific Northwesterners are described as freethinking, anti-institution and individualists, making them more inclined to participate in a yoga class, hike a mountain or even attend a Seahawks game to find spirituality, rather than step inside a church.

With so many cultural, political, theological and sexual differences in the same place, Kaemingk said, churches need to reexamine some traditions to appeal to the broader community.

“People don’t like churches, so how important is the building, really?” he said.

Though Kaemingk and the attendees did not leave Saturday’s conference with a list of tasks to accomplish, what they hope will happen next is a continued conversation about Christianity in the Pacific Northwest.

“It was important to help people think about how the world is changing and how we need to change for the changing environment,” said Christine Sine, a doctor and organic gardener who created Mustard Seed Associates, an organization to assist churches and Christian organizations to engage the challenges of the 21st century. Sine was a panelist for one of the sessions.

The conference will continue every other year, with a topical conference in the off years.

Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or cgarnick@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @coralgarnick

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