Top religious developments of 2010

What do you think were the major developments in the world of religion for 2010?  I think we can do better than the lists from religious journalists that I’ve seen.  Look not only for events but also for trends that came into view in the preceding year but that might have a longer lasting effect.

I’ll go first:

–With the election of Matthew Harrison to the presidency, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod made a U-turn in direction, from a church body that officially wanted to emulate the rest of American Christianity to a church body that other American Christians may want to emulate.  The new president stands on the Lutheran confessional distinctives without being insular, and pushing the denomination in a winsome, compassionate, internationally-engaged direction.

–Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral went bankrupt.  Other positive-thinking, prosperity gospel ministries and believers ran up against the economic collapse.   Does this herald the end of that particular heresy?  Does it herald the decline of the megachurch?

Someone I know has been martyred!

That American tourist who was murdered in Israel–I knew her!  Kristine Luken.  She worked for Patrick Henry College for awhile, helping us with accreditation issues.  (She had previously worked for the Department of Education as a liason with colleges.)  She became friends with my wife.  A Jewish convert to Christianity, Kristine began to feel a strong calling to go to England to work with a ministry there involved with evangelizing Jews.  That was surely a calling to her martyrdom.

Kristine was gentle, sensitive, and extremely devout.  One account I read said that police were investigating if she had any sinister dealings of any kind, and I can assure them that she most certainly did not.  I’d stake my life on that.

The first assumption was that she was killed by Muslim terrorists, but I’m not so sure.  Judging from the detail about the Star of David necklace, recounted by another woman who survived the attack, I’m thinking it sounds like the two assailants might have been Jewish radicals who attacked her for evangelizing Jews.  At any rate, I have no doubt that she was murdered for her Christian faith.

And I have no doubt she has joined this number:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

American Tourist Kristine Luken Killed in Israel, No Arrests Made, Say Police – Crimesider – CBS News.

Why don’t we protect Iraqi Christians?

World editor Mindy Belz raises a good question about U.S. policy in Iraq:

Three years ago I attended a meeting outside Washington with a NATO adviser recently returned from briefings with commanders of the war in Iraq. The question had been posed to them: If there should be a targeted massacre of Christians in Iraq (the word actually used was genocide), would the U.S. military respond? The answer from the commanders: No.

It was December 2007. Gen. David Petraeus had arrived in Baghdad 10 months earlier bearing orders to carry out his new counterinsurgency strategy with a thrust of 20,000 additional troops throughout the city. Until then, U.S. forces were bogged down in Iraq’s sectarian warfare—with civilian and military casualties sometimes topping 100 a day. That year U.S. casualties hit their all-time high, 904, but fell steadily after Petraeus’ arrival to a low of 59 (over 11 months) in 2010. Decades from now historians will study Petraeus-style warfare launched in 2007 and how it catapulted the U.S. military from its post-Vietnam malaise.

So it’s always been curious to me that the successful strategy to stamp out sectarian violence somehow did not extend to protecting Iraq’s minorities, particularly a Christian population that stretched back nearly 2 millennia and numbered up to 1.5 million under Saddam Hussein. By December 2007, church leaders estimated, that population had been halved through death and displacement to somewhere under 700,000. . . .

Leaving Christians out of the counterinsurgency equation has itself proved decisive. And the result of U.S. military and civilian leaders’ unwillingness to take a vocal and visible stand against targeted violence toward religious minorities continues to unfold—not only in Iraq but across the region.

Consider recent attacks in Iraq: the Oct. 31 assault on a church in Baghdad that killed 58; the Nov. 9 bombing of Christian homes in western Baghdad; Nov. 10 Islamic hits to more than a dozen homes with mortar fire and bombs, leaving four Christians dead and dozens wounded. Some of the homes were singled out because they belonged to mourners who attended funeral services for the Oct. 31 victims. On Nov. 15 in Mosul militants stormed two adjacent homes belonging to Christians, killing two men, then bombed others. On Nov. 16 a Christian father and his 6-year-old daughter were killed by a car bomb. As Elizabeth Kendal, writing for the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, pointed out, “This terror has led to a surge in Christians fleeing Iraq. They will join the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians struggling to survive as refugees in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. They no longer see any reason to risk their lives for a state where, even if they survive, they will be condemned to live as second class citizens (dhimmis).”

via WORLD Magazine | Left out | Mindy Belz | Dec 18, 10.

So why do we risk American lives for a state like that?

Atheists seeking market share

Get ready for a bunch of ads promoting atheism, funded by at least four different sects of atheists, each seeking market share.  From the New York Times:

Just in time for the holiday season, Americans are about to be hit with a spate of advertisements promoting the joy and wisdom of atheism.

Four separate and competing national organizations representing various streams of atheists, humanists and freethinkers will soon be spreading their gospel through advertisements on billboards, buses and trains, and in newspapers and magazines.

The latest, announced on Tuesday in Washington, is the first to include spots on television and cable. This campaign juxtaposes particularly primitive — even barbaric — passages from the Bible and the Koran with quotations from nonbelievers and humanists like Albert Einstein and Katharine Hepburn.

The godless groups say they are mounting this surge because they are aware that they have a large, untapped army of potential troops. The percentage of American adults who say they have no religion has doubled in the last two decades, to 15 percent, according to the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford and released in 2008. But the ranks of the various atheist organizations number only in the tens of thousands.

That is one reason for the multiple campaigns: the groups are competing with one another to gain market share, said Mark Silk, founding director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, which is also at Trinity College.

“There’s a competitive environment for ‘no religion,’ and they’re grabbing for all the constituents they can get,” Mr. Silk said. . . .

Several of the campaigns are pitched not just to nonbelievers, but also to liberal believers who might be alarmed about breaches in the wall of separation between church and state. The atheist groups believe that people who are religious and politically liberal have more in common with atheists and seculars than they do with religious conservatives.

“We must denounce politicians that contend U.S. law should be based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments,” said Todd Stiefel, a retired pharmaceutical company executive who is underwriting most of the ad campaign that cites alarming Scripture passages. “It has not been based on these and should never be. Our founding fathers created a secular democracy.”

The most expensive campaign is staged by the American Humanist Association. Mr. Stiefel’s foundation donated $150,000 — three-quarters of the cost, part of which goes for television and cable advertisements. That campaign plucks out bracing Scripture passages about women, homosexuality or the wrath of God, like this one from the Old Testament:

“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” (from Hosea 13:16, New International Version).

This is contrasted with a quote from Albert Einstein saying that he “cannot imagine” such a God.

The campaigns range from friendly to confrontational. On the confrontational end of the spectrum, American Atheists, which was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, will just before Thanksgiving put a billboard on the busy approach to the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey heading into New York.

It features a Nativity scene, and the words: “You Know it’s a Myth. This Season Celebrate Reason.”

David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said that the idea of the campaign is to reach people who might go to church but are just going through the motions. “We’re going after that market share,” he said.

The United Coalition of Reason, a group in Washington, is sponsoring billboards and ads on bus shelters in about 15 cities that say, “Don’t Believe In God? Join the Club.”

The ads by the Freedom From Religion Foundation take a more inviting approach, with big portraits of some famous and some workaday people, listing their hobbies and professions and giving a punchy, personal declaration of independence from religion. The group, which has been running advertisements on and off since 2007, has spent about $55,000 this year to put up 150 billboards in about a dozen cities.

via Atheists’ Holiday Message – Join Us – NYTimes.com.

Religion means "be careful"

In a discussion of how Roman Catholic church bureaucracy and the American Academy of Religion both try to keep the lid on supernatural experiences, the notable Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger cites some interesting etymology:

Sociologists who deal with religion often like to refer to the etymology of the Latin word religio. Supposedly it derives from the verb religare—to re-bind. If so, this points to a very valid insight, most fully formulated by the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim—namely, that religion provides the symbolic ligature that keeps a society together. I understand that Latinists reject this etymology for a different, and actually more interesting one: Religio derives from relegere—to be careful. In other words, the supernatural is a very dangerous reality—one has to approach it with great caution. This understanding was brilliantly formulated by Rudolf Otto, arguably one of the greatest twentieth-century historians of religion, in his book The Idea of the Holy. Religion is always based on an experience, on whatever level of intensity or sophistication, with a reality that is intensely dangerous. . . .

Otto coined the term “numinous” to refer to this experience. His German language too seems to break down, as he falls back on Latin to describe the numinous—it is a mysterium tremendum, both terrifying and alluring. It is totaliter aliter—totally other than the fabric of everyday life. Above all, it is extremely dangerous. This is why, in the Bible and in other sacred scriptures, the first words spoken by an angel to a human being is “Do not be afraid!”

via Defanging the Supernatural | Religion and Other Curiosities.

This, I think, is what is missing in so much of today’s Christianity:  the fear of God.  We have tamed our own religion.  We are no longer “careful,” and so we have lost the “numinous” and thus the sense of holiness.   I would argue that the historic liturgy and sacramental spirituality retain that sense, whereas so much of the trappings of contemporary Christianity, in its worship and art forms, have the effect of domesticating  the supernatural and rendering it banal.

Religion blocks consumerism

In another odd experiment, it seems as if religious people are less susceptible to buying things according to their brand, which to secularists is often a means of enhancing status and self-worth:

Prof. Ron Shachar of Tel Aviv University’s Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that a consumer’s religiosity has a large impact on his likelihood for choosing particular brands. Comsumers who are deeply religious are less likely to display an explicit preference for a particular brand, while more secular populations are more prone to define their self-worth through loyalty to corporate brands instead of religious denominations.

This research, in collaboration with Duke University and New York University scientists, recently appeared in the journal Marketing Science.

There is considerable statistical evidence that consumers buy particular brands to express who they are to the outside world, Prof. Shachar says. From clothing choices to cultural events, people communicate their personalities and values through their purchases.

Prof. Shachar and his fellow researchers decided to study the relationship between religiosity and brand reliance. . . .

Researchers discovered that those participants who wrote about their religion prior to the shopping experience were less likely to pick national brands when it came to products linked to appearance or self-expression — specifically, products which reflected status, such as fashion accessories and items of clothing. For people who weren’t deeply religious, corporate logos often took the place of religious symbols like a crucifix or Star of David, providing feelings of self-worth and well-being. According to Prof. Shachar, two additonal lab experiments done by this research team have demonstrated that like religiousity, consumers use brands to express their sense of self-worth.

via American Friends of Tel Aviv University: Shopping Religiously.

I suppose this simply proves that religious people are not as “worldly.”  It also suggests how pathetic it is to be “worldly,” having to turn to corporate logos as a substitute for religious symbols.

HT:  <a href=”http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/007649.html”>Future Pundit</a>


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X