An ultimatum reportedly issued by rebels aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has sparked a mass exodus of Iraqi Christians from the rebel-controlled city of Mosul, where they were advised to convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or prepare for death, BBC News said.

An al Qaeda offshoot, ISIS captured large pieces of northern Iraq in June, declared the area to be an Islamic Caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State.

The Sunni extremist group made the threat Thursday night over mosque loudspeakers and from cars driving through the streets of Mosul, the capital of the Nineveh province, about 250 miles northwest of Baghdad, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ultimatum came just about six weeks after the group seized control of the city.

“We offer them [Christians] three choices. Islam, the dhimma contract — involving payment of jizya — if they refuse this, they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement reportedly said, with a deadline set for Saturday afternoon.

The concept of dhimma, established in the 7th century, deals with governing non-Muslims living under an Islamic rule and requires them to pay a jizya, or protection money. This practice was abolished during Ottoman Empire reforms of the 19th century.

Patriarch Louis Sako, a senior cleric in Iraq, told Agence France-Presse that Christian families were fleeing to Dohuk and Arbil in the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” he said.

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Dr. Bryan E. Galloway:

We need to pray for the Christians in Iraq…

Originally posted on Gregory C. Cochran:

Christian persecution Iraq Maybe you have seen this little wine-cup looking symbol on your friend’s Facebook page and wondered what it means.  It means Christians are being targeted for death in Mosul, Iraq.  I am so thankful that someone thought to create symbol sent through Social Media to call attention to the plight of Christians suffering genocide in Iraq.

The symbol apparently started circulating in Lebanon and has caught on around the world. The symbol is actually an Arabic “n,” which is what ISIS soldiers in Mosul have used to abbreviate Nazara, a term for Christians in the Middle East.  Basically, those whose homes are thus marked are subject to death, unless they (a) convert to Islam or (b) pay an oppressive tax to stay alive (all explained here).  Here is how one report details the horror:

On Monday, which was normally pay day for municipal workers in Mosul, state workers…

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Bain Boehlke to retire as Jungle Theater’s artistic director

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 21, 2014 -

Jungle Theater’s influential founder and artistic director for 25 years is retiring in 2015.

Bain Boehlke, a fixture in the Twin Cities theater scene for more than 50 years, will retire as artistic director of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis next June. Although he is stepping down, Boehlke will remain active in the Jungle by directing one or two shows a year as emeritus artistic director.

Photo: Jerry Holt •

Saying “all things are possible for the young at heart,” Bain Boehlke, 75, announced Monday that he will retire next year from the Jungle Theater.

Boehlke founded and has led the Minneapolis theater for 25 years. Including his years at Children’s Theatre Company, he’s been a fixture in the Twin Cities theater scene for more than half a century.

Although he will retire as artistic director next June, he is not heading for his rocking chair.

“It feels perfect, like I’m riding a surfboard onto the beach and now I’m going out to catch the next wave,” said Boehlke, whom many still remember for his decades-ago role as the stepmother in “Cinderella” at Children’s Theatre.

He hinted at several possible futures and did not shut out the possibility of starting yet another theater company.

Boehlke will become emeritus artistic director at the Jungle and direct one or two shows a year.

His departure from the day-to-day operation of the Jungle (managing director Margo Gisselman will stay on) marks an important milestone. Boehlke founded the theater in a south Minneapolis storefront in 1991. In 2000, the Jungle constructed a 150-seat jewel box theater at the same intersection of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue S. The theater found success, financially and critically. It also triggered a neighborhood renaissance.

“The Jungle’s contributions have long supported healthy community development along Lake Street,” said McKnight Foundation President Kate Wofford when the organization honored Boehlke as its distinguished artist in 2009.

The Jungle is frequently mentioned in national assessments of the Twin Cities scene, and the company has received many Ivey Awards for excellence. Boehlke received the Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, recognizing a career that reaches back to 1960. Boehlke, Wendy Lehr, John Clark Donahue and other artists launched Children’s Theatre Company to national prominence in the 1960s and ’70s.

The Jungle mixes theater classics with contemporary work — a good example being recent productions of the edgy 2010 comic drama “Detroit” and the 1948 parlor drama “The Heiress.”

Boehlke, eccentric and voluble, is a true theatrical auteur — creating his own set designs and implementing comprehensive visions for his productions. His modern-day “Hamlet” used video technology and iPads. “Shirley Valentine” featured a set reminiscent of cartoon drawings. In “Speed-the-Plow” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Boehlke drew full, rich performances from actors — even if his rehearsals could be frustrating.

“Everybody had said, ‘He’ll drive you crazy,’ ” said Michelle Barber, who played Martha in “Virginia Woolf” several years ago. “And then on my first line of the play, he had me say it about 15 times over and I thought, ‘Oh, my God.’ ” But Barber came to respect the results and worked again with Boehlke in “Hamlet.”

As an actor at the Jungle, Boehlke has played the lead in “The House of Blue Leaves” at least twice, and he and Lehr acted in “The Gin Game” in 2008.

“I’m on top of my game, and I feel really good leaving when the theater is so successful,” Boehlke said. “We always talk about the whole notion of succession, and we felt the 25-year mark was a good time to move on.

“The neighborhood is thriving; we just renewed the lobby, put in new seats, and we’ll put up a new marquee by the end of summer. We need a bigger parking lot, but that will be someone else’s job.”

In addition to stage work, Boehlke produced the 1982 documentary “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Memories and Perspectives…

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“Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life. ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink’ (Romans 12:20). In the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?”


“Do not worry! Earthly goods deceive the human heart into believing that they give it security and freedom from worry. But in truth, they are what cause anxiety. The heart which clings to goods receives with them the choking burden of worry. Worry collects treasures, and treasures produce more worries. We desire to secure our lives with earthly goods; we want our worrying to make us worry-free, but the truth is the opposite. The chains which bind us to earthly goods, the clutches which hold the goods tight, are themselves worries.”





BaptistWay: 14 Habits of Highly Successful Disciples: Obedience

• The BaptistWay lesson for July 13 focuses on 1 Samuel 15:1-35.

This week’s text is difficult for many reasons, the greatest perhaps being the task Saul is given from God—to completely wipe out the Amalekites. Part of me never will be comfortable with this.

You’ve likely heard the reasons used to soften its offense to our sensibilities: 1) God was using violent means within a violent culture; 2) God was taking measures to preserve his people from impurity; 3) God was doing what was necessary, but did not necessarily take joy in it. While these points are true and worth stating, they do not detract from God explicitly commanding Saul to commit genocide. In spite of his long-term plan, the evil of the people or his particular disposition, I will never be 100 percent at ease with this section in the Bible.

That it makes most people uncomfortable demonstrates the potential it has to teach some important things about obedience. As we draw lessons from it, we must be careful of making an exact, one-to-one comparison between our situation and Saul’s. Saul’s situation was unique, so unique it is unlikely anyone will find himself or herself in a similar one.

We must not use this text to justify breaking the law or engaging in immoral activity simply because “God told us to do it.” Rather, we must use it as a general guide to help understand how obedience functions under God’s authority.

Be sure of God’s command

For Saul, there was no question what God was commanding him to do. He received God’s message from Samuel, who was considered a prophet and God’s mouthpiece (vv. 1-3). While prophecy is mentioned as a spiritual gift in the New Testament, there is no position today that carries the weight and authority as the one Samuel had as both a prophet and an adviser to the king. During this period, this was God’s primary way of speaking to people and unveiling his will. Considering this, it is astounding Saul even considered disobedience.

On the other hand, Saul was a person with his own wishes, will and desires. That is something to which we certainly can relate. While God does not speak through anointed prophets in the same way he did in Saul’s day, we all have felt the conflict that comes with discerning the difference between obeying God and our own desires. In his biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, Eric Metaxes quotes a portion of Bonhoeffer’s diary from 1928 that demonstrates the tension he experienced between obedience and his own desires: “I myself find the way such a decision comes about to be problematic.

One thing is clear to me, however, that one personally—that is, consciously—has very little control over the ultimate yes or no, but rather that time decides everything. Maybe not with everybody, but in any event with me. Recently, I have noticed again and again that all the decisions I had to make were not really my own decisions.”

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When Karl Barth finally finished his formal education in the first decade of the 20th century, he, like many other rookie theologians, had trouble finding an academic post (some things never change). Unsurprisingly, Barth was in the upper echelon of the Western European liberal theological community, yet still struggled to find a teaching gig. Although he was Swiss, Barth was trained in German Protestant liberalism and was positioned to be the next big thing in the scholastic movement. That is, until he graduated.

As Barth backed away from high philosophies and high theorizing, he let the Word loose, changing him and his congregation forever.

Upon completing his training, Barth took his academic achievements into a job that was available: he became a pastor at a rural Reformed church in the village of Safenwil, in Switzerland. He began the regular pastoral duties of preaching and teaching in this small, simple congregation. He philosophized and theologized with grandiose word pictures and complicated strands of thought each Sunday only to watch his congregation’s eyes glaze over. All of the theology that seemed to work in the academic world of Germany seemed to fall flat in rural Switzerland. He could not connect the word of God to the villagers. What was he doing wrong?

It was only in Barth’s preaching through the book of Romans that he began to discover just how far he had been led astray while in school. Barth became somewhat famous for disagreeing with most of his academic mentors back in Germany as he began to watch the simplicity and power of the gospel take hold of his congregation through Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. As Barth backed away from high philosophies and high theorizing, he let the Word loose, changing him and his congregation forever.

About 15-20 years later, as Barth moved on and became a professor, he also turned into an academic idol for a young Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who had just accepted a Sloan Fellowship to study theology at New York’s Union Theological Seminary. In New York, Bonhoeffer would encounter a similar struggle as Barth in American pastors. Much like Barth, they couldn’t seem to get the power of the gospel on the ground to their congregations. Bonhoeffer became bitterly disappointed in the churches in New York for their theological gymnastics that ended far outside of gospel of Jesus. “In New York,” Bonhoeffer famously said, “they preach about virtually everything except … the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

As highlighted in Charles Marsh’s excellent new biography on the man, it wasn’t until Bonhoeffer joined Abyssinian Baptist Church in the ghetto of Harlem that he would say he “heard the gospel preached” for the first time. All through the large, well-known churches of New York City, there was little good news being proclaimed. From Bonhoeffer’s view, it was in the “Negro churches” of the ghettos and the poor rural landscapes in the great American South that the gospel was alive and well. He was transfixed by the preaching in the black churches during the struggle for civil rights and often wrote about the “ecstatic joy ‘in the soul of the Negro.’” Bonhoeffer found the joy of the gospel of Jesus, but only in what he called, “the church of the outcasts in America.”

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Extra-time goal gives Germany World Cup title over Argentina 

Germany's Mario Goetze (19) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)Germany’s Mario Goetze (19) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup final soccer match between Germanyand Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de JaneiroBrazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Mario Goetze produced the piece of individual skill that Lionel Messi couldn’t muster.

With two quick, deft touches, Goetze ended Germany’s 24-year wait for another World Cup title — and denied Messi the one title he needs to forever take his place among the game’s all-time greats.

Goetze scored the winning goal in extra time to give Germany a 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday in a tight and tense World Cup final that was decided by one moment of brilliance.

Goetze, who wasn’t born when West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final, controlled a cross with his chest in the 113th minute and in one fluid motion volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Romero and inside the far post from five yards out.

It was a goal that gave Germany its fourth World Cup title, equal second with Italy on the list of all-time champions and just behind Brazil’s five.

Argentina's Lionel Messi walks past as German players celebrate their 1-0 World Cup victory in extra time during the final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Argentina’s Lionel Messi walks past as German players celebrate their 1-0 World …more >

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. You just shoot that goal in, you don’t really know what’s happening,” Goetzesaid. “And then at the end of the match, having a party with the team, the whole country … it is for us, a dream come true.”

At the final whistle, Germanyplayers fell into a pile in the middle of the pitch in celebration. Messiwalked past them with his hands on his hips — still in the shadow of his compatriot Diego Maradona, who led his country to the 1986 title.

Goetze went on as a substitute for Miroslav Klose toward the end of regulation time and his fresh legs made the difference.

Andre Schuerrle broke down the left flank, sending his cross into the area, and the Bayern Munich midfielder did the rest with a clinical finish. The goal echoed that of Andres Iniesta four years ago, when the midfielder scored in similar fashion but from the other side of the area to give Spain a 1-0 extra-time win over the Netherlands.

According to Germany coach Joachim Loew, it was exactly as he’d planned when he made the substitution.

“I said to Mario Goetze, ‘OK, show to the world that you’re better thanMessi and you can decide the World Cup. You have all the possibilities to do that,’” Loew said. “I had a good feeling with him.”

Germany became the first European team to win a World Cup in the Americas, and the victory ends a string of near misses since winning its last major title at the 1996 European Championship. The team lost the 2002 World Cup final to Brazil, the Euro 2008 final to Spain and was eliminated in the semifinals in both 2006 and 2010.

Argentina had not been back in the final since that 1990 loss, and has now been beaten by Germany in the last three World Cups.

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This is really getting weird…

Gordon College Expels Dietrich Bonhoeffer Because He’s Gay — Christianity Today Magazine Won’t Hire Him Either…

“Gordon College Expels Dietrich Bonhoeffer Because He’s Gay – Christianity Today Magazine Won’t Hire Him Either!” is a headline that would have been insane but understandable in Germany in 1939. Does it make sense in America of 2014?

A few weeks ago I met the president of Gordon College. We both happened to be attendinga reading by Charles Marsh (Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia) from his new book Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The event took place in the glorious Trinity Church of Boston.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and anti-Hitler conspirator, is one of the most inspiring Christian thinkers of all time. His death at the hands of Hitler raised him to a level of a credible witness to the Christian faith like almost no other modern religious figure.

As noted in the Christianity Today review of Marsh’s monumental, definitive (and wonderfully readable) biography of the Protestant saint, the book proves that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was gay.

As the CT reviewer wryly notes: “Marsh makes a convincing case that Bonhoeffer harbored feelings for Bethge that extended beyond friendship…”

A few weeks after the reading the news broke that Gordon’s president D. Michael Lindsay, had co-signed a letter along with the editor of Christianity Today asking the Obama administration to grant Gordon and Christianity Today Magazine and others a “religious exemption” in order that they could legally discriminate against gay men and women… people just like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

As noted by the Boston Globe:

The president of Gordon College is defending his support for a religious exemption to forthcoming federal regulations banning antigay discrimination, saying his “sole intention” was to affirm the Christian school’s support for religious liberty.

D. Michael Lindsay said he joined other religious leaders in calling for the exemption in order to affirm the “right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith.”

“Signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community,” Lindsay wrote in a statement posted Monday on the Wenham college’s website.

The German church that abandoned Dietrich Bonhoeffer and backed Hitler was ready to work with the Nazis because they believed that the Nazis were upholding Christian morality.

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