The 50 top persecutors of Christians

Take a look at this list of the top 50 countries that persecute Christians:  World Watch List Countries | World Watch List.

By my count, 37 of them are Islamic.  8 are Communist or recently-Communist that have kept their persecuting habits.  3 are Buddhist.  1 is Hindu.

The worst is North Korea.  The next worse is our client state of Afghanistan.  Then our close personal friend Saudi Arabia.  Then Somalia.  Then Iran.

Just about all of the Muslim states are somewhere on the list.  I can’t think of a single Muslim nation that doesn’t persecute Christians to some extent.  That includes Turkey, which comes in at #31.

No predominantly Christian society persecutes Christians of different persuasions, with the possible exception of Belarus, where the Orthodox Church is the only one permitted, though I chalk this one up to former Communist habits.

In some of the countries, such as India (#32), the persecution is not legally sanctioned but happens from mobs and cultural practices.

Can you draw any other conclusions from this list?

HT:   Doug Bandow, one of my writers in my old editing days at WORLD, who offers some good discussion of the list at the American Spectator.

New Agers get ready for the end on Dec. 21

Harold Camping has repented of his dating of doomsday, but Christian types are not the only ones who fall for end times predictions.  The Mayan calendar runs out on December 21, 2012.  So quite a few people think that will be the end of time.  (I’m not sure why they think the ancient Mayans would know that information.)  In France, people are already gathering at a mysterious mountain where they believe they will be saved when time runs out:

A mountain looming over a French commune with a population of just 200 is being touted as a modern Noah’s Ark when doomsday arrives – supposedly less than nine months from now.

A rapidly increasing stream of New Age believers – or esoterics, as locals call them – have descended in their camper van-loads on the usually picturesque and tranquil Pyrenean village of Bugarach. They believe that when apocalypse strikes on 21 December this year, the aliens waiting in their spacecraft inside Pic de Bugarach will save all the humans near by and beam them off to the next age.

As the cataclysmic date – which, according to eschatological beliefs and predicted astrological alignments, concludes a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar – nears, the goings-on around the peak have become more bizarre and ritualistic.

For decades, there has been a belief that Pic de Bugarach, which, at 1,230 metres, is the highest in the Corbières mountain range, possesses an eery power. Often called the “upside-down mountain” – geologists think that it exploded after its formation and the top landed the wrong way up – it is thought to have inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since the 1960s, it has attracted New Agers, who insist that it emits special magnetic waves.

Further, rumours persist that the country’s late president François Mitterrand was transported by helicopter on to the peak, while the Nazis, and, later, Israel’s Mossad, performed mysterious digs there. Now the nearby village is awash with New Agers, who have boosted the local economy, though their naked group climbs up to the peak have raised concerns as well as eyebrows. Among other oddities, some hikers have been spotted scaling the mountain carrying a ball with a golden ring, strung together by a single thread. . . .

Upwards of 100,000 people are thought to be planning a trip to the mountain, 30 miles west of Perpignan, in time for 21 December, and opportunistic entrepreneurs are shamelessly cashing in on the phenomenon. While American travel agents have been offering special, one-way deals to witness the end of the world, a neighbouring village, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, has produced a wine to celebrate the occasion.

via Hippies head for Noah’s Ark: Queue here for rescue aboard alien spaceship – Europe – World – The Independent.

Another bad day for Obamacare

In today’s final arguments over Obamacare, the Supreme Court considered whether striking down the individual mandate should mean throwing out the whole health care law.  It sounded like getting rid of the requirement that people buy insurance were a foregone conclusion.  And a majority seemed to favor scrapping the whole law.  We’ll know in June when the ruling will be announced.  From the Los Angeles Times:

The Supreme Court’s conservative justices said Wednesday they are prepared to strike down President Obama’s healthcare law entirely.

Picking up where they left off Tuesday, the conservatives said they thought a decision striking down the law’s controversial individual mandate to purchase health insurance means the whole statute should fall with it.

The court’s conservatives sounded as though they had determined for themselves that the 2,700-page measure must be declared unconstitutional.

“One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.

Agreeing, Justice Anthony Kennedy said it would be an “extreme proposition” to allow the various insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down.

Meanwhile, the court’s liberal justices argued for restraint. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court should do a “salvage job,” not undertake a “wrecking operation.” But she looked to be out-voted.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or fall in total. Along with Justice Clarence Thomas, they would have a majority to strike down the entire statute as unconstitutional.

via Justices poised to strike down entire healthcare law –

Cultural engagement requires the Sacrament

Peter Leithhart, a Reformed pastor and theologian, says that what evangelicals need if they are going to respond effectively to our time is to recover Holy Communion:

Evangelicals will be incapable of responding to the specific challenges of our time with any steadiness or effect until the Eucharist becomes the criterion of all Christian cultural thinking and the source from which all genuinely Christian cultural engagement springs.

The church is called to keep our Lord Jesus, his death and resurrection, as the focal point of worship, witness, service, and mission. How do we protect ourselves from darting off after each fresh fad? Jesus didn’t think Christ-centered preaching would be enough. He left his church not only a gospel to preach, but rites of water, bread, and wine to practice. It’s difficult to forget Christ and his cross when we proclaim his death in the breaking of bread at the climax of every week’s worship. When the Sign seals the Word, the church becomes a communion of martyrs ready to bear the cross because they have consumed the cross. . . .

Sharing the Supper forges us into a corporate body that participates in Christ through the Spirit. By the Spirit, we become what we receive: “We are one body because we partake of one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). In practice, Evangelicals don’t partake, and so we aren’t a body. When we do partake, we don’t partake together. We aren’t a body with many members so much as an aggregation of individuals. There’s little point in asking what “message” the “church” needs to proclaim unless we can speak of a church with something resembling a message.

In addition to the ecclesial, the political consequences of our Eucharistic neglect are almost beyond calculation. The great French Catholic Henri de Lubac traced in intricate detail how the sacredness of the table slowly migrated first to consecrate the institutional church and then to sanctify the state. Evangelicals are intensely protective of the “sanctity” of the flag, but many would be puzzled at the classic Eucharistic announcement, “Holy things for holy people.” Lacking a rightly ordered Supper, modern Christians wrap nationalism in a veil of sanctity, with sometimes-horrific results. In the U.S., Christians are frequently urged to give political support to this or that variation of Americanism. There is no genuinely Christian alternative because the church has no defined public shape with the resilience to withstand the political forces that press in on us.

As it is in politics, so is it in economics. Because we don’t take our bearings from the table, the growing debate among Evangelicals about how to constitute a just economy lists awkwardly from hedonism to asceticism and back. The Supper ritualizes a Christian vision of production and distribution as it catches up our economics into the economy of God. By the Spirit, bread and wine, products of human labor, become vehicles for communion with Christ.

As the Russian Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann pointed out long ago, the Supper discloses the purpose and destiny of all creation. Not only this bread, but all bread, all products of human work, can be means of fellowship with God and one another. Further, we receive these products of human labor, with thanks; as a gift of God. Thus the table discloses the mystery of the creature’s participation in the Creator’s creativity, and this participation produces goods that are ours only as gifts received, goods to be shared and enjoyed in communion.

The Supper closes the gap between joy in creation and pious devotion to God. At the table, delight in the taste of bread and the tang of wine is delight in God, though this double delight is not unique to this meal. Every meal and every moment, every encounter and every project burst with the promise of communion with God. This world, Schmemann said, is the matter of God’s kingdom.

Evangelicals move away to Constantinople or Rome at an alarming rate, often because they lose hope of finding even a glimmer of liturgical piety in Evangelical churches. They’re hungry, and they believe they have found where the banquet is happening. Luther and Calvin would be aghast, for in their eyes the Reformation was an effort to restore priestly food to all of God’s priests as well as an effort to recover the gospel of grace.

All the cultural and political challenges that Evangelicals face come back to the Supper. It’s important to do it right, but it’s more important to do it and to do it together. Until we do, most of our cultural chatter will continue to glance harmlessly off our targets. Until we do, Evangelicals will flop and flounder with every cultural wind and wave.

via Do This | First Things.

As a Lutheran, I appreciate this call to recover a spirituality centered in the Sacrament.  (And, I would add, evangelicals looking for this in Rome or Constantinople would do well to first see it closer to home in Wittenberg, where they would find that they wouldn’t have to cease being evangelicals in order to be sacramental.)  I know some Calvinists are being accused in their circle of crypto-Lutheranism.  But is this particular view of the Sacrament, however “high” it seems and for all of its presence talk, all that Lutheran?  Amidst all of the talk of identifying the church and engaging the culture and reforming the economy, where is the “given for you for the remission of all of your sins”?  Or could these other benefits become ancillary effects?

A second abortion mandate in Obamacare

National Review has uncovered a second abortion mandate in Obamacare:

Finalized on March 12, 2012 (and set to go into effect with the 2014 exchanges), the new HHS rule implements Section 1303 of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The new rule imposes mandates on every single enrollee in a qualified health plan that happens to include abortion coverage. In particular, federal law will soon mandate that every single individual enrolled in such a plan make payments to a private fund designated solely to the payment of abortion. This scheme allows Obamacare to get around the controversial issue of government-funded abortions with a new funding source: mandatory private payments by you, the insured.

Here’s how it works. The new rule authorizes issuers to offer abortion coverage as part of their plans in the government-subsidized exchanges. For issuers that voluntarily include abortion coverage as part of their health plans, the new HHS rule mandates the private insurer to compel all enrollees to directly pay a separate abortion premium “without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex or family status.” Not surprisingly, the abortion premium also must be paid without regard to whether the individual has a religious or moral objection to funding other people’s abortions.

The new rule specifies that the abortion premium must be separately itemized on each enrollee’s bill or payroll deduction. The Obama administration’s new rule then directs the issuer to place the abortion premiums into “allocation accounts” to be used “exclusively” to pay for other people’s elective abortion. It’s astounding. It’s also a violation of religious liberty for the reasons set forth in the friend-of-the-court brief that we recently filed to aid the Supreme Court in its review of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

So, if you want to avoid abortion premiums, you can simply pick an abortion-free plan, right? Well, the new HHS rule seems deliberately designed to foil that option. With an audacious snub of the concept of consumer transparency, the HHS rule expressly instructs the issuer to hide the abortion coverage and the mandated separate abortion-premium payment from any advertising or information listings in the state exchanges.

According to the rule: “A [qualified health plan] that provides for coverage of [elective abortion] must provide a notice to enrollees, only . . . at the time of enrollment.” It goes on to provide that the issuer’s advertising in the exchange must provide information “only with respect to the total amount of the combined payments” (without the need to put consumers on notice by breaking out the abortion amount to be billed separately). Thus consumers picking plans will likely have no idea about which ones come with the abortion premium mandate.

Who will end up in these plans? First, many people will accidentally walk into the rule’s trap and buy a policy under which the federal government will force them to make monthly abortion-premium payments — something they would not do if the government mandated transparency (or at least permitted transparency!) about the abortion-premium mandates. Second, many people will end up in these plans if it is the plan chosen by their employers. Third, many people may be forced to select these plans if available alternatives do not have the coverage or doctor networks their families need.

One way or another, millions of Americans will soon find themselves in plans that require these separate abortion payments as a matter of federal law.

via What Rules Us – By Dorinda C. Bordlee & Nikolas T. Nikas & Mark Rienzi – Bench Memos – National Review Online.

HT:  Leroy Huizenga

A bad day for Obama at the Supreme Court

On the second day of oral arguments on Obamacare at the Supreme Court, the majority of the justices were  shooting holes in the administration’s arguments.  Justice Kennedy, usually a key swing voter, expressed skepticism that the government has the constitutional power to force citizens to buy something.  So, surprisingly, did Obama appointee Justice Sotomayor, at least at one point, though at other times she seemed to be in sync with the other three liberals in throwing softball questions.  Not that you can reliably tell the final outcome from judges’ interrogations, but supporters of the law are not feeling good about the day.

There will be one more day of arguments.  The ruling isn’t expected until June.