Category Archives: world religions

Psalm 46

What’s Alpha?

Today I checked out Alpha, a program a nearby church is hosting. I’ve been reading a year-long Bible plan by Nicky Gumbel and throughout the plan Gumbel mentioned Alpha. Now I’ve seen what it’s about. Basically, the program wherever it’s held consists of sharing a meal and chatting with the people at your table, watching a video like this first one and then breaking into small groups to discuss impressions and beliefs.

Take a look.

How to Host a Seder

Passover starts tomorrow and I’m going to a Seder meal on Tuesday. I thought I’d watch this and share it with my students.

There’s a website that will help tech savvy people design their own Haggadah.

Of Gods and Men

The Award-winning Of Gods and Men is powerful. I won’t soon forget this film based on a true story. Set in Algeria, the film depicts a small Trappist monastery in an area plagued by Islamic terrorists who slowly encroach on the monks’ quiet life.

Much of the film revolves around the question of whether the monks should leave. Should they go back to France? To another monastery in a safer place? The film focuses on the monks’ life and place in the community where they humbly and respectfully provide medical services and companionship to their neighbors.

A very compelling film. A must-see.

Christians in Indonesia

I lived in Makassar Indonesia from 2007 – 2008 and admire Christians living there because they face discrimination and violence all the time. When I first arrived, I asked my supervisor where the Catholic church was. She said there was one not far from school, but it had been burned down. They still had mass on the site. There was also a cathedral in town.

Needless to say I attended the cathedral just to be safe.

The Indonesian constitution does provide for freedom of worship, but life is still hard for minority religions. Even when I wanted to open a bank account, I was asked to state my religion. It’s illegal to marry someone of a different faith there and to build a church you have to get 90% of the neighbors to sign a statement saying it’s okay with them. Considering that the country is 90% Muslim this poses a big obstacle.

In the U.S. Christians don’t face this level of threat. I will say I was profoundly disappointed that when I wrote to three churches I have attended in the U.S. asking for donations for the Catholic church to be rebuilt in Makassar not one of the pastors responded to my letter. Alas, Indonesia just doesn’t register since few Americans know much about it. Still I hoped for more.

My Belief-o-matic Results

How my beliefs compare according to a quiz.

1. Orthodox Quaker (100%)
2. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (86%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (86%)
4. Seventh Day Adventist (85%)
5. Eastern Orthodox (84%)
6. Roman Catholic (84%)
7. Liberal Quakers (65%)
8. Hinduism (63%)
9. Unitarian Universalism (61%)
10. Theravada Buddhism (51%)
11. Mahayana Buddhism (50%)

Chinese Christians Rally Around Underground Church

Published: May 12, 2011

BEIJING — More than a dozen Christian leaders in China have thrown their support behind an embattled underground church, calling for the government to end its persecution and for broader religious freedoms as well.

In early April, members of the Shouwang church gathered for prayer in office space in Beijing.
Their petition, a rare public gesture for religious figures, who are often wary of wading into politics, raises the stakes in a standoff that has drawn concern from Christian groups outside China and prompted a separate petition campaign in the United States and Canada.

Nineteen pastors signed the petition, delivered Wednesday to the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, and posted on the Internet. It calls for legal protections for so-called house churches, which operate illicitly outside the government-run religious system.

The petition also calls on the legislature to investigate the crackdown on one such church, Shouwang, an evangelical Protestant congregation whose leaders have been under house arrest for more than a month.

The church and its 1,000 members became homeless in early April after the landlord, under pressure from the authorities, canceled its lease. Since then, the parishioners have tried to pray outdoors each Sunday, prompting a predictable cat-and-mouse game with the police, who prevent some members from leaving their homes and round up those who manage to reach the predetermined place of worship.

Carsten Vala, an expert on Chinese Christianity at Loyola University Maryland, said the petition ratcheted up pressure on the ruling Communist Party at a time when it was increasingly nervous about perceived challenges to its authority. “This shows there is national attention to what’s happening to Shouwang and that there is connection among urban house churches across the country,” he said.

The petition blames an “outdated system of religion management” for a crisis that is stirring up the tens of millions of Chinese believers who have come to place more faith in Christianity than in the atheist Communist Party. It also suggests that such policies will invariably lead to more social strife, the very thing Chinese leaders are so eager to avoid.

“We hope that by setting up a special investigation commission, the government will be able to handle the Shouwang incident in a rational and wise manner on basis of the principles of ‘putting people first and ruling the country by law’ and in the gracious spirit of serving the citizens, so as to avoid the escalation of the conflict between state and church,” the petition says, quoting a common slogan of the current leadership.

The document was written by Xie Moshan and Li Tianen, patriarchs of the house church movement, who have each spent more than a decade in Chinese prisons.

The persecution of Shouwang and a number of other unregistered churches coincides with a wider clampdown in China, fueled by unrest in the Arab world, which has led to the detention of scores of dissidents, rights lawyers and other perceived critics.

Like many unofficial churches, Shouwang started out in a private home, but in recent years it has become one of the capital’s largest and most affluent congregations. In 2009, after a previous eviction forced the church to worship in a park, parishioners donated more than $4 million to purchase a space of their own. But despite having a deed in hand, the church has not been permitted by the government to occupy the space, a conflict that led to the current crisis.

At a regular news conference on Thursday, Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, defended the campaign against Shouwang, saying that congregants had tried repeatedly to “gather illegally in the streets,” according to Reuters.

“To maintain public order and security, the public security departments have taken the appropriate measures,” she said.