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News and Reporting

News and Reporting is a section of Christianity Today that compiles the most urgent and interesting news from around the world that you need to know.
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The fruit of the Spirit is No. 1 at Bible Gateway—in both English and Spanish queries.Of the 920 million readers who visited the world’s top Bible website last year, most are literally searching for love more than anything else.Only 3 of the other 9 fruits of the Spirit joined love among Bible Gateway’s top searches of 2018: peace (No. 2), faith (No. 3), and joy (No. 4). The pattern holds true in Spanish-language searches, though gozo (joy) ranks 12 slots lower [full lists below].Love has been the most popular topic at Bible Gateway, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year by reaching more than 14 billion views, ever since the site’s inception in 1993. Such searches perennially spike on Valentine’s Day.“This may be the time of year that we talk most loudly about love, but [our] usage statistics show us that we long to understand and experience love throughout the year,” stated Andy Rau, Bible Gateway’s then-senior manager for content, in a 2017 post.In 2014, when the site first offered more detailed stats, CT reported how “the word never fell out of the top 10 searches, and was the top searched word more than 200 days of the year.”In contrast, searches for lust only came close to love on one day: September 30, 2015.Overall, searches for heart, pray, and spirit rose the most from 2016 to 2018. All rose in rank by double digits. (CT analyzed the top 2018 verses of Bible Gateway vs. YouVersion in December.)Among CT’s coverage of Valentine’s Day, last year—on the first VaLENTine’s Day since WWII—CT noted how Twitter suggested chocolate and alcohol would be absent from many dates, while Tish Harrison Warren reflected on God’s message on “Ash Valentine’s Day.”Bible Gateway’s top 25 topic searches ...Continue reading...
Leak of “highly inappropriate” comments by founding pastor of Chicago-area megachurch caps months-long clash with critics.In the midst of efforts to reconcile with longtime critics, Harvest Bible Chapel fired its founder and senior pastor James MacDonald for “engaging in conduct … contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church.”Harvest elders announced this morning that they were forced to take “immediate action” on Tuesday to end his 30-year tenure.“Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported,” they wrote.“This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.”MacDonald took an “indefinite sabbatical” in January, following a tumultuous few months defending Harvest in a defamation lawsuit against its critics and in the aftermath of a World magazine investigation into mismanagement at the church.The public scrutiny continued with pushback against MacDonald’s decision to preach at a Harvest affiliate in Florida during his sabbatical. Then, a famous friend of his, Chicago shock jock Mancow Muller, spoke out in a local newspaper against the manipulation and ego he observed around MacDonald’s “cult of personality” at Harvest. On his radio show, Muller later aired what sounded like clips of MacDonald making harsh comments toward media who had covered the story.Now, the church has decided its longtime leader won’t be coming back.Muller had prematurely announced the ...Continue reading...
Mass crowds celebrate 1979 uprising as Christian watchdogs lament surge in arrests.Hundreds of thousands of Iranians flooded streets nationwide on Monday, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.Not present were dozens of Christians with no freedom of movement.“For 40 years, the Iranian government has harbored an intolerant view towards Christianity,” said Mansour Borji, advocacy director at Article18, a Christian human rights organization focused on Iran.“Administrations have changed and the methods have varied, but the objective remains the same: to restrict Christians’ influence on all spheres of Iranian life.”An in-depth report on violations against Iranian Christians in 2018 was jointly released last month by Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Article18. It was a first-time collaboration for the groups—in order to amplify their voice, Borji said.The report stated that according to public records, 29 Christians were held in detention in 2018 for terms of 6 months to 10 years (if formally sentenced at all). Eight were released.The report emphasized that many more detentions of Christians remained undocumented.Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the freedom of religion, including the right to adopt a faith of one’s choice and to publicly practice and teach it.Iran ratified the ICCPR in 1975, prior to the 1979 revolution which ended 2,500 years of monarchy.But Christians are not the only victims.The latest annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) states that in Iran dozens of Sufis—Muslims with mystical practices—have been imprisoned, fined, or flogged; 90 Baha’is—an offshoot of Islam that ...Continue reading...
The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News collect 380 allegations spanning 20 states in an unprecedented look at sexual misconduct across the denomination.A landmark investigation into hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches opened with a collage of pictures of the offenders, row after row of headshots and mugshots of men who had been accused of abusing a total of 700 victims over the past 20 years.In Sunday’s report, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News were able to do what victims say the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has failed to for years: provide a picture of the extent of the abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention and a database of those found guilty of their crimes.With allegations against 380 church leaders in 20 states (a majority of whom were convicted or took plea deals), it’s believed to be the biggest report on sexual abuse among Southern Baptists in the movement’s history. The report confronts the longstanding defense that the organization can only do so much to monitor abuse since affiliated congregations operate autonomously.Another set of pictures captures a sense of the impact of abusers in Southern Baptist congregations. In response to the investigation, Southern Baptist women and fellow Christians shared childhood photos on Twitter from the age when they first suffered abuse.Dozens joined a thread started by Living Proof Ministries founder and popular Bible teacher Beth Moore, including advocate and abuse survivor Jules Woodson and other ministry leaders.Over the past couple years, the #MeToo campaign has raised awareness about abuse within the SBC and galvanized official efforts to improve the denomination’s response. Last December, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram rounded up more than 400 allegations among independent Baptists, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission ...Continue reading...
Many Christians affirm evolution once researchers leave room for God's role in it.Most Christians today agree that human evolution is real—and that God had a hand in it. The findings are part of a new study released this month by the Pew Research Center, which surveyed more than 2,500 Americans.Fifty-eight percent of white evangelical Protestants and 66 percent of black Protestants selected “Humans have evolved over time due to processes that were guided or allowed by God” when asked, “Which statement comes closest to your view?”Only four percent of white evangelical Protestants and six percent of black Protestants said that natural selection is real but God had no role. The remaining 38 percent of white Protestants and 27 percent of black Protestants said humans have always existed in their present form.But when asked the same question differently, the results varied. When forced to choose between evolution or creationism, 66 percent of white evangelical Protestants select the creationist stance. Fifty-nine percent of black Protestants chose creationism too.According to Pew, the results show that, perhaps, we have been posing the evolution question all wrong. When given the opportunity to say that God played a role in evolution, many Christians will reject the classic creationist viewpoint. Pew adds that people should not be forced to “choose between science and religion” but encouraged to share their beliefs on both science and God’s role in it.Similarly, in a 2013 study by Jonathan Hill, a sociology professor at Calvin College, a third of creationists said that being correct about the creationism theory wasn’t important.“The way you ask someone about human origins will play a substantial role in the type of response you receive,” said ...Continue reading...
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Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our December issue).Democratic Republic of the Congo: Christian doctor awarded Nobel Peace PrizeCongolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work bringing physical and spiritual healing to tens of thousands of women raped by militants in the country’s civil war and ongoing conflict. At the Pentecostal-run Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, he provides holistic care for women, starting with a specialized procedure to address fistulas and other injuries from rape. Mukwege has led a crusade against sexual and gender-based violence, saying to fellow Christians, “It is up to us … through God’s Word, to exorcise all the macho demons possessing the world so that women who are victims of male barbarity can experience the reign of God.”Northern Ireland: Christian bakers win gay cake caseThe highest court in the United Kingdom ruled that the evangelical owners of Ashers Baking Company in Belfast could not be compelled to decorate a cake to say “Support Gay Marriage” in violation of their own beliefs. The five UK Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed with the bakers that declining a cake based on a message is different from discriminating against a client because of their LGBT identity or stance. The case was similar to Jack Phillips’s recent Masterpiece Cakeshop win before the US Supreme Court but resulted in a much broader victory for free speech protections.Nigeria: Boko Haram keeps Leah Sharibu as a slaveThe teen celebrated across West African churches as an inspiration will be kept as a “slave for life” by Boko Haram rather than executed. The Nigerian terrorist group’s ISIS-affiliated faction had earlier threatened her with death. Leah ...Continue reading...
Asia Bibi's acquittal may model how to persuade Muslims of religious freedom.Christians breathed a sigh of relief last October when Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five on death row, of blasphemy charges against Islam. What many might not have noticed was the Islamic rationale.Whether or not she spoke against Muhammad, Bibi was insulted first as a Christian, wrote the judge. And on this, the Qur‘an is clear: Do not insult those that invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge.The verdict also quoted Islam’s prophet himself: “Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights … I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”And finally, it referenced an ancient treaty that Muhammad signed with the monks of Mount Sinai: “Christians are my citizens, and by God, I hold out against anything that displeases them.… No one of the Muslims is to disobey this covenant till the Last Day.”Today it can seem like Muslims violate this covenant the world over. But does the Bibi decision validate those who insist that Islam rightly practiced is a religion of peace? And should Christians join Muslims to share verses that comprise the Islamic case for religious freedom?CT surveyed more than a dozen evangelical experts engaged with Muslims or scholarship on Islam who reflected on three key questions when considering interpretations of Islam that favor religious freedom.Is It True?Pakistan’s verdict relied on three sources that inform Islam: the Qur‘an, the Hadith, and covenants.The Qur‘an is the foundational text, considered to be dictated by Allah. The traditions, or Hadith, were collected by men, are subject to critical review, and have become ...Continue reading...
Across 25 countries, active religious participation is linked with habits like nonsmoking, community involvement, and voting.During his sabbatical at the end of last year, Chance the Rapper quit smoking while studying Scripture. “I feel really good right now, thank u Father,” he wrote on Instagram, where he shared passages of Scripture and counted days gone by without another cigarette.The Chicago native, who has become outspoken about his walk with Christ in his music and public life, is one example of a trend researchers found among the faithful: Believers who are active in their faith tend to make healthier choices and live happier lives.Religious habits make a major difference for smoking status in particular, according to a Pew Research Center report released today on religion and well-being.Among Americans who identify as Christian or another religious tradition and attend services at least once a month, 85 percent don’t smoke, compared to 74 percent of the religiously unaffiliated and 72 percent of those who attend services less often.The trend holds up around the world, where regular worshipers are less likely to smoke by a significant margin in 16 of 19 countries surveyed. (In most of those places, the active religious also drank less, but not by as wide a margin.)Smoking and drinking were among several measures of wellbeing analyzed in the new report, based on data from the World Values Survey (2010–2014), the International Social Survey Programme, and Pew surveys.Religious attendance—rather than religious affiliation—consistently linked to higher levels of happiness than the growing population of people around the globe who claim no faith. The report said:Whatever the explanation may be, more than one-third describe themselves as very happy, compared with just a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated ...Continue reading...
How African Americans outpaced the country in Scripture-savvy—and why ministry leaders expect even more from them.African Americans have held tight to their Bibles over the years. Amid cultural shifts in beliefs and reading habits, their demographic consistently outranks other racial groups for their reliance on the Word. Last year, the American Bible Society (ABS) once again named African Americans “the most Bible engaged in the US.”They are more likely to own a Bible—93 percent of African Americans do, versus 82 percent of Americans overall—and more than twice as likely to say Bible reading is crucial to their daily routine, according to the society’s 2018 State of the Bible report.“Generally, African Americans are deeply spiritual people. In my generation, many of those that were not church attendees, or even Christian, still had a great respect for the Bible,” said Mark Croston, national director of black church partnerships for LifeWay Christian Resources. “Black people love to quote and tote the Bible.”Their tight relationship with Scripture grows out of a rich spiritual tradition and can carry on even when other markers of faith fade away. African Americans know biblical narratives on suffering and deliverance because they have lived them and experienced God’s fulfilled promises for themselves, African American church leaders say.The latest statistics touting African Americans’ engagement with the Good Book present an opportunity to build on the legacy of the black church and bring deeper understanding.“The results of the survey are encouraging, but they also serve as a core motivation to continue the great legacy of orthodoxy and orthopraxy,” said Earon James, lead pastor at Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida, and pastor-in-residence at The Witness—A ...Continue reading...
NAE president: “It's important to speak biblically and thoughtfully when so many are shouting for attention.”As National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president Leith Anderson announces his retirement after 13 years at the helm of the organization, the outgoing leader cautioned against politics taking over perceptions of the movement.“Bringing together evangelicals based on our shared faith in the Bible and Jesus Christ is my greatest joy at NAE,” said Anderson, who will step down from the NAE, which represents 40,000 churches and millions of believers, at the end of 2019. “Some try to define evangelicals by politics. That is a big mistake. We are defined by our faith.”In recent years, the NAE president spoke up in new debates that arose during President Donald Trump’s campaign over the use of the label evangelical that has defined the organization throughout its history.“Recognizing the divisive polarization in current culture, NAE has focused on the design of our founders 75 years ago,” he told CT. “We were started to be a biblical voice between those on extremes. It’s important to speak biblically and thoughtfully when so many are shouting for attention.”During his tenure, Anderson led efforts to engage American evangelicals around poverty relief, prison reform, and immigration, among other issues, bringing together leaders from 40 denominations and top evangelical institutions across the board around their shared convictions.“It isn’t easy to lead evangelicals, and it is impossible over the long haul unless that leader is a servant leader,” said Johnnie Moore, founder of the Kairos Company and a member of the NAE’s board of directors.“I’ve watched for more than a decade how Leith Anderson has served every end of evangelicalism ...Continue reading...
Baylor researcher: “If you believe in a harsher form of hell, you're pretty sure you're not going there.”“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession.Can belief in hell be considered a pathological fear?Consider the stakes for many believers. With the prospect of an eternity of torture and other forms of suffering, one might say a crippling fear of hell would be warranted.With those questions in mind, a team of researchers from Baylor University developed a series of measures on “hell anxiety” and tested them in what they say is the first systematic examination of the psychological consequences of belief in hell.What they found was that individual belief in hell was not in itself connected to any neuroses, and that most people did not display an unhealthy focus on the possibility of eternal damnation.The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included: The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety. Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism. Free will, or the idea individuals have control over where they will spend their afterlife, was a key element in reducing hell anxiety.That does not mean belief in hell may not have a dark side when other mediators are involved.The study found those who viewed God primarily with fear, those who believed they were likely to go hell, and those with a sense outside forces could decide their fate, were more likely to experience greater hell anxiety and death anxiety.Overall, the results suggested belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs, researchers concluded.Not for meHell matters to a lot ...Continue reading...
Religious freedom on the agenda as pope leads largest-ever Christian gathering in the heart of Islam.Pope Francis must love creating cognitive dissonance.This week, he became the first Catholic pontiff to ever visit the Arabian Peninsula, the heart of Islam, where conversion to Christianity is illegal. Francis lauded his hosts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), saying they “strive to be a model for coexistence.”The Gulf nation’s crown prince received him with a 21-gun salute. Francis then railed against the “miserable crudeness” of war.Human rights groups pressed him to address migrant worker issues. Francis rejoiced in “a diversity that the Holy Spirit loves and wants to harmonize ever more, in order to make a symphony.”The mere existence of a Christian community to visit in the Gulf states may surprise many. In 2015, CT visited the Emirates and reported on its “thriving” church, populated by more than a million Christians—primarily economic migrants from Asian nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines.The Pew Research Center counts them as 13 percent of the population. They worship in over 40 churches, served by over 700 Christian ministries.And in a region where the Vatican cited a decline of Christians from 20 percent to 4 percent of the Middle East population in the last 100 years, the Emirati government provided a day off and 1,000 buses to bring Catholics to mass.Attendance reached 135,000, billed as the largest Christian gathering ever held in the Arabian Peninsula.If the pope does enjoy sparking controversy, he succeeded also among local evangelical leaders.“The mass was amazing. I never believed I would witness anything like that in the UAE,” said Jim Burgess, pastor of Fellowship Church and member of the Gulf Churches Fellowship, where ...Continue reading...
Survey finds young believers want others to know about Jesus. They just don't want to speak up about it.Millennials used to be the group that churches and ministries were angling to evangelize. Now, all grown up and poised to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest generation, they’re the ones doing the evangelizing.At least they should be.But new research from Barna Group and the creators of the Alpha course offers some disappointing news regarding the 20-somethings and 30-somethings now on deck to carry on the faith: nearly half (47%) of practicing Christian millennials—churchgoers who consider religion an important part of their lives—believe that evangelism is wrong.They’re more than twice as likely as their parents and grandparents—Boomers and Elders, respectively—to say that it’s “wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”While this statistic could easily bolster stereotypes of a lazy, distracted, and increasingly unaffiliated generation, the minority of millennials who have stayed active in their churches also show higher markers of commitment in other areas, as well as a savvier sense of the religious pluralism and diversity they were raised around.The recent Barna release found that, despite the reticence around the practice, millennials consider themselves good evangelists and still see themselves as representatives for their faith.Nearly all practicing Christian millennials (96%) said witnessing for Jesus is part of being a Christian, and they were more likely than any other generation to say they were gifted at sharing their faith (73%).And Barna previously found that millennials who identify as born-again were the most likely age group to share their faith—and that ...Continue reading...
Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews overcame longstanding tensions and brought in $140 million a year for Holy Land projects.Evangelicals have lost a major partner and friend from the Jewish community, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who died suddenly today at his home in Jerusalem. He was 67.Inspired by God’s promise in Genesis 12:3 to bless those who bless Israel, Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) worked for decades to improve relationships between the two faiths and raise more than $1.4 billion for projects in the Holy Land, mostly from evangelical donors.“His impact on the state of Israel and on bringing Jews and Christians together will be felt for generations,” said John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel and one of the biggest voices for Christian Zionism in the US, in a statement to The Times of Israel. “I pray God brings comfort to the Rabbi’s family during this very difficult time, and I know that his memory will be a blessing to us all.”Eckstein engaged more than 6,600 US churches, with more than a half-million people, around understanding and advocating for Israel and its people. Because of IFCJ, more than 730,000 Jews moved back to Israel, including Eckstein himself, who moved to Jerusalem in 2002.“Undeniably through IFCJ, Eckstein has constructed a bridge linking evangelicals, Jews, and Israel,” CT wrote in a 2009 profile of Eckstein, nicknamed “The Ultimate Kibitzer.”“He has been a trailblazer on an uncharted path of showing ways the two faiths can cooperate on behalf of shared biblical concerns. He has brought evangelical and Jewish politicians together in Washington, D.C. He has spoken out against religious persecution abroad and has traveled to China on behalf of imprisoned Christian pastors.”Eckstein founded IFCJ ...Continue reading...
Supreme Court rejects petition to review acquittal of her blasphemy death sentence.Today the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld its decision to acquit Asia Bibi.In one of the most high-profile Christian persecution cases in the past decade, Bibi spent eight years in prison convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad—which is a crime punishable by death in the Islamic Republic—until the Supreme Court rejected her conviction last October.The acquittal stated that while “blasphemy is a serious offense,” truth tainted with “falsehood” could not be the basis for her conviction in a lower trial court. A review petition was filed the next day by the local cleric who levied the allegations against Bibi in the first place, Muhammad Salaam, demanding the three judges look at the case again and challenging Bibi’s freedom.“Based on merit, this petition is dismissed,” stated Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who heard the case in Islamabad today along with Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.Akmal Bhatti, a Christian lawyer and chairman of Minorities Alliance Pakistan, attended the hearing and told CT that the judges observed that Salaam’s lawyer, Ghulam Ikram, failed to present any new facts or identify any mistake in the earlier decision in Bibi’s favor.Ikram “made it a case of religious sentiment, while the judges required their counsel present any legal lacuna in the judgment,” said Bhatti.“The verdict was given on the basis of testimonies,” the chief justice asked Ikram. “Does Islam say that one should be punished even if they are found not guilty?”The lawyer admitted that “burden of proof” was on the petitioner, so Khosa asked if he disagreed with the basic legal rule of ...Continue reading...
How African Americans outpaced the country in Scripture-savvy—and why ministry leaders expect even more from them.African Americans have held tight to their Bibles over the years. Amid cultural shifts in beliefs and reading habits, their demographic consistently outranks other racial groups for their reliance on the Word. Last year, the American Bible Society (ABS) once again named African Americans “the most Bible engaged in the US.”They are more likely to own a Bible—93 percent of African Americans do, versus 82 percent of Americans overall—and more than twice as likely to say Bible reading is crucial to their daily routine, according to the society’s 2018 State of the Bible report.“Generally, African Americans are deeply spiritual people. In my generation, many of those that were not church attendees, or even Christian, still had a great respect for the Bible,” said Mark Croston, national director of black church partnerships for LifeWay Christian Resources. “Black people love to quote and tote the Bible.”Their tight relationship with Scripture grows out of a rich spiritual tradition and can carry on even when other markers of faith fade away. African Americans know biblical narratives on suffering and deliverance because they have lived them and experienced God’s fulfilled promises for themselves, African American church leaders say.The latest statistics touting African Americans’ engagement with the Good Book present an opportunity to build on the legacy of the black church and bring deeper understanding.“The results of the survey are encouraging, but they also serve as a core motivation to continue the great legacy of orthodoxy and orthopraxy,” said Earon James, lead pastor at Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida, and pastor-in-residence at The Witness—A ...Continue reading...
NAE president: “It's important to speak biblically and thoughtfully when so many are shouting for attention.”As National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president Leith Anderson announces his retirement after 13 years at the helm of the organization, the outgoing leader cautioned against politics taking over perceptions of the movement.“Bringing together evangelicals based on our shared faith in the Bible and Jesus Christ is my greatest joy at NAE,” said Anderson, who will step down from the NAE, which represents 40,000 churches and millions of believers, at the end of 2019. “Some try to define evangelicals by politics. That is a big mistake. We are defined by our faith.”In recent years, the NAE president spoke up in new debates that arose during President Donald Trump’s campaign over the use of the label evangelical that has defined the organization throughout its history.“Recognizing the divisive polarization in current culture, NAE has focused on the design of our founders 75 years ago,” he told CT. “We were started to be a biblical voice between those on extremes. It’s important to speak biblically and thoughtfully when so many are shouting for attention.”During his tenure, Anderson led efforts to engage American evangelicals around poverty relief, prison reform, and immigration, among other issues, bringing together leaders from 40 denominations and top evangelical institutions across the board around their shared convictions.“It isn’t easy to lead evangelicals, and it is impossible over the long haul unless that leader is a servant leader,” said Johnnie Moore, founder of the Kairos Company and a member of the NAE’s board of directors.“I’ve watched for more than a decade how Leith Anderson has served every end of evangelicalism ...Continue reading...
Asia Bibi's acquittal may model how to persuade Muslims of religious freedom.Christians breathed a sigh of relief last October when Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five on death row, of blasphemy charges against Islam. What many might not have noticed was the Islamic rationale.Whether or not she spoke against Muhammad, Bibi was insulted first as a Christian, wrote the judge. And on this, the Qur‘an is clear: Do not insult those that invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge.The verdict also quoted Islam’s prophet himself: “Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights … I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”And finally, it referenced an ancient treaty that Muhammad signed with the monks of Mount Sinai: “Christians are my citizens, and by God, I hold out against anything that displeases them.… No one of the Muslims is to disobey this covenant till the Last Day.”Today it can seem like Muslims violate this covenant the world over. But does the Bibi decision validate those who insist that Islam rightly practiced is a religion of peace? And should Christians join Muslims to share verses that comprise the Islamic case for religious freedom?CT surveyed more than a dozen evangelical experts engaged with Muslims or scholarship on Islam who reflected on three key questions when considering interpretations of Islam that favor religious freedom.Is It True?Pakistan’s verdict relied on three sources that inform Islam: the Qur‘an, the Hadith, and covenants.The Qur‘an is the foundational text, considered to be dictated by Allah. The traditions, or Hadith, were collected by men, are subject to critical review, and have become ...Continue reading...
Across 25 countries, active religious participation is linked with habits like nonsmoking, community involvement, and voting.During his sabbatical at the end of last year, Chance the Rapper quit smoking while studying Scripture. “I feel really good right now, thank u Father,” he wrote on Instagram, where he shared passages of Scripture and counted days gone by without another cigarette.The Chicago native, who has become outspoken about his walk with Christ in his music and public life, is one example of a trend researchers found among the faithful: Believers who are active in their faith tend to make healthier choices and live happier lives.Religious habits make a major difference for smoking status in particular, according to a Pew Research Center report released today on religion and well-being.Among Americans who identify as Christian or another religious tradition and attend services at least once a month, 85 percent don’t smoke, compared to 74 percent of the religiously unaffiliated and 72 percent of those who attend services less often.The trend holds up around the world, where regular worshipers are less likely to smoke by a significant margin in 16 of 19 countries surveyed. (In most of those places, the active religious also drank less, but not by as wide a margin.)Smoking and drinking were among several measures of wellbeing analyzed in the new report, based on data from the World Values Survey (2010–2014), the International Social Survey Programme, and Pew surveys.Religious attendance—rather than religious affiliation—consistently linked to higher levels of happiness than the growing population of people around the globe who claim no faith. The report said:Whatever the explanation may be, more than one-third describe themselves as very happy, compared with just a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated ...Continue reading...
Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our December issue).Democratic Republic of the Congo: Christian doctor awarded Nobel Peace PrizeCongolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work bringing physical and spiritual healing to tens of thousands of women raped by militants in the country’s civil war and ongoing conflict. At the Pentecostal-run Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, he provides holistic care for women, starting with a specialized procedure to address fistulas and other injuries from rape. Mukwege has led a crusade against sexual and gender-based violence, saying to fellow Christians, “It is up to us … through God’s Word, to exorcise all the macho demons possessing the world so that women who are victims of male barbarity can experience the reign of God.”Northern Ireland: Christian bakers win gay cake caseThe highest court in the United Kingdom ruled that the evangelical owners of Ashers Baking Company in Belfast could not be compelled to decorate a cake to say “Support Gay Marriage” in violation of their own beliefs. The five UK Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed with the bakers that declining a cake based on a message is different from discriminating against a client because of their LGBT identity or stance. The case was similar to Jack Phillips’s recent Masterpiece Cakeshop win before the US Supreme Court but resulted in a much broader victory for free speech protections.Nigeria: Boko Haram keeps Leah Sharibu as a slaveThe teen celebrated across West African churches as an inspiration will be kept as a “slave for life” by Boko Haram rather than executed. The Nigerian terrorist group’s ISIS-affiliated faction had earlier threatened her with death. Leah ...Continue reading...
Cathedral attack injures 100 on the island of Jolo, home to Abu Sayyaf terrorists.Filipino Christians are mourning at least 20 churchgoers and soldiers as martyrs after terrorists attacked a Catholic cathedral during Sunday mass in a heavily Muslim island in the southern Philippines.Two bombs went off at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo within minutes, the first blasting through rows of pews and the second shooting from the entrance to kill scrambling parishioners as well as the guards positioned outside to protect the church week after week.Mount Carmel’s iconic blue-windowed façade, facing the provincial capital’s town square, was shattered and the streets quiet as officials warned residents against large gatherings in the wake of the bombing. In a region plagued by Islamist violence, it’s not the first attack on the cathedral—but it is the deadliest.Sunday’s tragedy comes less than week after surrounding islands voted to form an autonomous region among the Muslim strongholds in an effort to end ongoing clashes between Philippine forces and separatists. Muslims in Jolo largely opposed the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM), but were voted into it anyway.The terrorists killed at least 15 civilians and wounded at least 90 inside the Jolo church, in addition to the 5 soldiers guarding the service who died. A local priest described the victims as regulars at the 8 a.m. mass.“They bravely stayed in Jolo in spite of the threats and insecurities. I believe they have died for their Christian faith,” said Romeo Saniel, the city’s apostolic administrator, who noted that personal friends as well as congregational leaders, including the former head of the Parish Pastoral Council, were among the list of those confirmed dead so far.“No ...Continue reading...
Supreme Court rejects petition to review acquittal of her blasphemy death sentence.Today the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld its decision to acquit Asia Bibi.In one of the most high-profile Christian persecution cases in the past decade, Bibi spent eight years in prison convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad—which is a crime punishable by death in the Islamic Republic—until the Supreme Court rejected her conviction last October.The acquittal stated that while “blasphemy is a serious offense,” truth tainted with “falsehood” could not be the basis for her conviction in a lower trial court. A review petition was filed the next day by the local cleric who levied the allegations against Bibi in the first place, Muhammad Salaam, demanding the three judges look at the case again and challenging Bibi’s freedom.“Based on merit, this petition is dismissed,” stated Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who heard the case in Islamabad today along with Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.Akmal Bhatti, a Christian lawyer and chairman of Minorities Alliance Pakistan, attended the hearing and told CT that the judges observed that Salaam’s lawyer, Ghulam Ikram, failed to present any new facts or identify any mistake in the earlier decision in Bibi’s favor.Ikram “made it a case of religious sentiment, while the judges required their counsel present any legal lacuna in the judgment,” said Bhatti.“The verdict was given on the basis of testimonies,” the chief justice asked Ikram. “Does Islam say that one should be punished even if they are found not guilty?”The lawyer admitted that “burden of proof” was on the petitioner, so Khosa asked if he disagreed with the basic legal rule of ...Continue reading...
The South American rainforest is home to a majority of the uncontacted indigenous groups left on earth.An American missionary in Brazil is under investigation and possibly faces charges of genocide for entering protected lands inhabited by an isolated tribe in the Amazon.Unlike John Allen Chau—an American missionary who was killed last year during one of his initial encounters with a remote tribe halfway around the world—Steve Campbell and his family have lived among indigenous people in northwest Brazil for more than 50 years.Campbell, a second-generation missionary with Baptist Bible Fellowship International, is accused of venturing outside of his longtime home among the Jamamadí people onto territory belonging to the Himarimã, the only isolated tribe among eight ethnic groups in the area, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.He claimed that he crossed the neighboring land while teaching the Jamamadís how to use GPS to map the boundaries of their own land, and promised not to re-enter. The head of the government’s indigenous protection agency, Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), has enlisted the prosecutor’s office and federal police to determine whether Campbell violated the law and put the tribe at risk.“If it is configured, in the investigation, that there was interest to make contact, to use his relationship with other Indians to approach the isolated ones, he can be accused of a crime of genocide by deliberately exposing the safety and life of the Himarimã,” said Bruno Pereira, FUNAI coordinator. The tribe is estimated at just 100 people.In response to Campbell’s investigation, indigenous rights groups have condemned his presence in the area and raised concerns of the possible spread of disease killing ...Continue reading...
A conversation with the author of ‘Taste and See: Discovering God among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers.'Margaret Feinberg longs to see Christians awaken to the culinary themes in Scripture. “Once you start looking for food in the Bible,” she says, “you discover that it pops and sizzles on nearly every page.”Her spiritual-gastronomic journey began a decade ago, as she researched her book Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. Through conversations with a vintner, a shepherd, and a beekeeper, Feinberg found that their close connection with these agrarian products transformed the ways they understood certain passages in the Bible. Their responses, in turn, brought new depth to her own reading, too.Sensing that her work with food was not yet finished, Feinberg probed Scripture for more edible themes. She learned about salt and figs, olives and 18-minute matzoh. Feinberg recently spoke with Christianity Today about her most recent book, Taste and See: Discovering God among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers and the travels she took to research it.Give us a quick overview of your research process. Where all did you travel in your research?I went 410 feet down into a salt mine, harvested olives on the coast of Croatia, spent time with one of the world’s premier fig farmers, fished on the Sea of Galilee, and traveled to Yale University to bake matzoh with an expert in ancient grains. With each of these individuals, I opened up the Bible and asked, “How do you read passages related to the food that you plant or procure or process or prepare, not as theologians, but in light of what you do every day?”Each of these adventures was both a spiritual and a culinary adventure. I got to know the foods—more about their history, more about how they are planted ...Continue reading...

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