Obama as Messiah

The cult of Obama is back.  A big-selling (but non-official) calendar at the Democratic National Convention includes this photo of President Obama’s birth certificate, along with the title “Heaven Sent.”  Then it applies John 3:16 as if it were referring to Barack Obama!

photo (13)

From Slate:  DNC 2012: Still Kitschin’.

Compare with the divinization of  Obama in his first campaign.

I’m not blaming the president for this.  It’s just a stark example of how people with a religious void will sometimes turn to charismatic human beings to fill it.   Consider the religious devotion–the shrines, the reliquaries, the pilgrimages, the raptures–that some people have for Elvis Presley.   But to divinize a ruler is especially dangerous since the worshiper accepts the unlimited power and the immunity from moral limits in the adoration of this earthly god.  Christians were persecuted in the early church precisely for refusing to burn incense to the divinized emperor.  Don’t be surprised if that becomes an issue again.  Cultures can’t stay godless for long, but the god they turn to, by nature, will tend to be a cultural god.

Rev. Moon dies

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon died at age 92 in Seoul, Korea.  He founded the Unification Church, a cult that taught that Jesus Christ did not finish his work, due to his unfortunate crucifixion, but that a new Messiah from Korea would, about this time, be raised up–the implication being himself–to complete his mission.  Rev. Moon also established a financial empire, including a number of conservative institutions, such as the Washington Times newspaper.  See Rev. Moon, religious and political leader, dies in South Korea at 92 – CNN.com.

I remember back when I was in college, the so-called “Moonies” would host interesting-sounding seminars on topics like world peace and if you were sitting by yourself they would start conversations with you.  They would then invite you to a camp out in the country for more instruction, which led for many people to an initiation into the religion.  That meant raising money for the cause–selling flowers at intersections was a big fund-raiser–but eventually the Rev. Moon would, if you were blessed, pick out a spouse for you, someone you had never met before but you would be married in a mass wedding with hundreds of other couples.

Parents used to hire people to kidnap their children from the Unification Church to “deprogram” them out of the cult.  Now, it seems like it has become more socially acceptable.

Did any of you get sucked into any of this?

Mitt Romney, when he was a pastor

Mormons do not have ordained clergy, as such, but lay people step into that role in local congregations and church hierarchies.  Mitt Romney shepherded his local flock and was over the other Mormon congregations in the Boston area, serving as “bishop” and “stake president.”

The Washington Post has an interesting and surprisingly sympathetic account of when Romney was, in effect, a pastor.  He comes across as being staunchly orthodox (in the Mormon sense) while also “pastoral,” helping some of his people get around some of the church’s regulations and trying to help the poor.  At the same time, the piece gives us an inside view of the Mormon religion that is rather unsettling from a Christian perspective.

See Mitt Romney, as a leader in Mormon church, became a master of many keys – The Washington Post.

Christian pastors, how much of what this article describes resonates with what you have to do?  What are the differences in how you exercise your office and what Romney did?

Atheists’ sexual harassment problem

A controversy roiling in the atheist community is the prevalence of sexual harassment and its leadership’s indifference to the problem:

As skeptics, atheists and humanists prepare to gather for their largest meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, attendance by women is expected to be down significantly.

Officials for The Amazing Meeting, or TAM, said Wednesday (July 11) that women would make up 31 percent of the 1,200 conference attendees, down from 40 percent the year before. A month before the conference, pre-registration was only 18 percent women, organizers said.

The explanations are many — the bad economy, that women, as caregivers, are less able to get away, and that more men than women identify as skeptics, whose worldview rejects the supernatural and focuses on science and rationality.

But in the weeks preceding TAM, another possible explanation has roiled the nontheist community. Online forums have crackled with charges of sexism in TAM’s leadership and calls for the ouster of D.J. Grothe, the male president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, TAM’s organizer. In June, Rebecca Watson, a skeptic blogger and speaker, canceled her TAM appearance because, she said on her blog, she does “not feel welcome or safe.”

Other nontheists — both male and female — have shared stories of unwanted sexual attention at nontheist gatherings, including propositions for sex and unwelcome touching. Chatter has ranged from calls for more women to attend nontheist events to personal attacks on prominent female skeptics for discussing harassment. Meanwhile, two more skeptic/feminist bloggers announced they will not attend TAM. . . .

Last year, at another skeptic conference, Watson said she was approached late at night in an elevator by a man she believed was seeking sex. When she blogged about it, the “atheosphere” erupted in comments, both supportive and negative. British biologist Richard Dawkins, the best-selling author of “The God Delusion,” wrote that Watson should “stop whining” and “grow a thicker skin.”

The current hullabaloo can be traced to May’s Women in Secularism Conference, a first-of-its-kind gathering about nontheist women. On a panel examining feminism and nontheism, Jennifer McCreight, an atheist blogger, said women speakers at nontheist events warn each other privately about male speakers who make unwanted sexual advances.

via Religion News Service | Culture | Gender & Sexuality | Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?.

Why might this be?

Religious retention rates

A study of religious retention rates–that is, what percentage of people raised in a particular church or religion stay with it when they are grown–is quite interesting.  Lutherans are in second place among Protestants (58%),  just after the Baptists (60%).  The group with the worst performance in transmitting their beliefs to their young people is atheists (30%).

 

Did you know that Atheists have the lowest retention rate of any “religious” group? Some interesting Data from CARA | Archdiocese of Washington.

 

HT:  Joe Carter

The latest mission strategy: “Insider Movements”

We’ve blogged about those translations of the Bible for Muslims that avoid little terms like “Son of God” in order, supposedly, to attract followers of Islam.  It turns out that such Bible translations are only one strategy in a whole new approach to mission work, one that encourages Christian converts to continue as members of their old religion!  Bill Nikides explains in Modern Reformation:

The most explosive issue in global missions within the evangelical church today is something called “Insider Movements.” . . .

It has become a go-to option for all sorts of traditional evangelicals working with ostensibly reputable missions organizations such as Navigators, Frontiers, Summer Institute of Linguistics (a branch of Wycliffe), Global Partners for Development, and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some embrace the Insider Movement label and identity; others prefer to remain low key. In many cases entire organizations—while in others, only some individual members—are committed to its core principles. Even worse, it appears that some missionaries and agencies are guilty of dissembling so as to maintain plausible deniability. . . .

Here are a couple of stock definitions to get us on our way. Insider Movements (IM) are variously defined as “popular movements to Christ that bypass both formal and explicit expressions of Christian religion” (Kevin Higgins, “The Key to Insider Movements,” Internal Journal of Frontier Missiology, Winter 2004). Another definition Higgins offers is that they are “movements to Jesus that remain to varying degrees inside the social fabric of Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, or other people groups.” In other words, as John Ridgeway of the Navigators relates, Insider Movements advocate “becoming faithful disciples of Jesus within the culture of their people group, including religious culture.”

Fundamentally, Insiders are those who profess faith in Christ but remain members of their original religious communities; Muslims remain Muslims, Hindus remain Hindus, and Buddhists remain Buddhists. In the Muslim world that means they must acknowledge one exclusive God, Allah, and that Mohammed is his final and greatest messenger. They remain members of the mosque, practice the five pillars of Islam, live openly in their cultures as Muslims, participate in Muslim sacrifices and feasts, and identify themselves as Muslims. In many cases, I’m familiar with baptized Christians who are persuaded to re-enter the mosque after renouncing their Christian identities. . . .

There are, of course, major problems with such an approach to missions and evangelism. First, Insiders make the unbiblical assumption that such biblical passages teach that true believers can have a purely inward faith that can be manifested inside any faith system, including that of other non-Christian religions.

Second, practitioners and Insider missiologists (or scholars of the theology of missions) ignore the fact that the Bible is loaded with texts, even entire books, devoted to distinguishing truth from error and true religion from false religion. In other words, doctrine matters and has to be central in our theology of missions. Unfortunately, doctrine is surprisingly absent from much Insider literature, and rarely do their proponents address the twin topics of idolatry and false religion. Instead, Insiders suppose that religions are relatively harmless cultural creations, that they are man-made and therefore disposable. Even Christian articles of faith, such as the church and the sacraments, can be said to be cultural creations that can simply be replaced with other things in Muslim cultures.

via Modern Reformation – Articles [subscription required].

Never mind about what the Bible says about syncretism, idolatry, having no other Gods, Church, etc., etc.  But this approach helps missionaries rack up bigger numbers of converts!

Here is an objective, fair and balanced Wikipedia account that  confirms that description.

This is an example of the mindset that I’m seeing more and more that is at the root of a lot of church issues today:  Christianity is just about becoming a Christian–having a conversion in which a person “accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”–whereupon, since “once saved, always saved,” the Church and the Christian life don’t matter!

HT:  Jim Rademaker


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