You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2014.

The Hobby Lobby Decision: A Big Win for Religious Liberty — and a Very Revealing Divide on the Court

MONDAY • June 30, 2014

178034180

Today’s decision in theHobby Lobby case represents a huge win for religious liberty in America, and the 5-4 decision will now stand as a landmark case that will reshape the religious liberty debate for generations to come. At the same time, the deeply divided court also revealed in startling clarity its own internal debates over religious liberty — and that division of understanding at the nation’s highest court is very disturbing indeed.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito declared that the Obama Administration had profoundly failed to meet the demands of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] and, more importantly, the demands of the U. S. Constitution. By mandating that corporations provide all forms of contraception or birth control for all female employees at no cost, the government had burdened the consciences of the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby, Mardel, and Conestoga Wood, the three corporations involved in the decision.

The Court restricted its decision to “closely held” private corporations. Hobby Lobby and Mardel are owned and operated by the family of David Green, who with his wife Barbara, began the company in their own home. Though much smaller than Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood is also a privately held corporation. The Green family is a bulwark of evangelical Christian conviction and generosity. The company pays its employees about twice the minimum wage, closes on Sundays, and references the Christian gospel in advertising. All along the way, the Green family makes clear that they are driven by Christian convictions in their corporate policies.

Similarly, Conestoga Wood Specialties operates on the same convictions. The Pennsylvania company is known for its quality wood products. It was founded by a deeply committed Mennonite couple, Norman and Elizabeth Hahn, who continue to operate the business with their three sons.

Both companies sued the Obama Administration over the contraception mandate authorized under the Affordable Care Act — a mandate that required them to provide and pay for birth control coverage that would have included four specific forms of birth control that may cause early abortions. Neither company sought a complete escape from the contraception mandate.

As the majority opinion in the case made clear today, one of the largest questions hanging over the decision is this: Why is the Obama Administration so deliberate in attempting to violate the religious convictions of Americans on the contraception and birth control issue?

Today’s decision is yet another repudiation of the heavy-handed and blatantly unconstitutional overreach of President Barack Obama and his administration. The President could have covered contraception and birth control under any number of other means which would not have specifically targeted religious liberty. Instead, the Obama Administration appeared to take the route most likely to trample upon religious liberty and offend Christian conscience. Today’s decision is another rebuke of the President and his approach, coming just days after a set of cases in which his arguments were repudiated by the same court in 9-0 decisions.

Furthermore, the President faces the looming threat of even greater rebukes to come.

For the rest of the post…

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Brooks Kraft/Corbis for TIME

Since childhood, the former Secretary of State’s Methodist beliefs have inspired public service and private devotion

Hillary Clinton once described her faith as the background music of her life. Whether she hears it as Chopin, Bach or even U2, she did not say, but the tune, she said, never fades away. “It’s there all the time. It’s not something you have to think about, you believe it,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “You have a faith center out of which the rest flows.”

It can be easy to tune out background music, especially amid the political cacophony that has so often dominated Clinton’s public life. But the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady is, and has always been, a Methodist. Her faith is at once public yet personal, quiet yet bold. She is part of the second-largest Protestant group in the country, but her brand of faith has never been mainstream: Methodists make up about 6% of the total U.S. adult population, according to the Pew Research Center.

If Methodists are known for one thing, it is, as the old church saying goes, that they are always looking for a mission. Clinton is no exception. Her sense of purpose has guided her from Wellesley to Washington, and may push her to seek the White House again come 2016. Certainly political aspirations have motivated her career. But her faith has also driven her, if not equally, at least consistently, to give her life to the pursuit of a higher calling.

Step By Step

Methodism knew Clinton even before she was born. Family lore has it that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, converted her great-great-grandparents in the coal-mining villages of Newcastle, in northeast England, in the 19th century. Clinton grew up attending First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge in Chicago, where she was confirmed in sixth grade. Her mother taught Sunday school, and Clinton was active in youth group, Bible studies and altar guild. On Saturdays during Illinois’s harvest season, she and others from her youth group would babysit children of nearby migrant workers. As the Wesleyan mantra instructed them, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

One man in particular had a strong influence on her young faith: Donald Jones, who came to Park Ridge as the new youth minister when Clinton was a high school freshman. A Drew University Seminary graduate, Jones’s own theology had the imprint of theological heavyweights like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr, and he made it his mission to give the youth a strong and broad theological training.

For the rest of the post… 

Five Timeless Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Who’s the most quotable Christian writer you’ve encountered? Last year, I nominated C.S. Lewis and Charles Spurgeon as candidates and shared five memorable quotes from each as evidence.But since then, I’ve been forced to acknowledge another candidate: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous World War 2 pastor and martyr. Bonhoeffers’ writing style doesn’t lend itself to punchy quips like those of Lewis and Spurgeon, but he had a remarkable gift drawing practical advice out of complex or potentially vague subjects.

Here are five of my favorite Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes, drawn from the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoefferdevotional.

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Discipleship

“Those who follow Jesus’ commandment entirely, who let Jesus’ yoke rest on them without resistance, will find the burden they must bear to be light. In the gentle pressure of this yoke they will receive the strength to walk the right path without becoming weary.…Where will the call to discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path full of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy.”

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Intercessory Prayer

“A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.”

3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Virtue of Listening

“We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to ‘offer’ something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening.”

4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Worry

“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.”

For the rest of the post…

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim and The First World Problem of “Religious Persecution”

Recently, a Sudanese court imposed the death penalty on 27 year old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, who at the time was pregnant. Ibrahim, a Christian, was legally considered a Muslim though she had been raised a Christian. Ibrahim was given the opportunity to officially reject her Christian faith prior to sentencing, but refused. As a result, she was sentence to 100 lashes plus death by hanging.

Thanks to an international outcry on the part of governments, world leaders, and human rights organizations, Ibrahim had her sentence overturned and was subsequently set free– for a time.

Yesterday news reports broke that she was re-arrested while she and her family were attempting to leave the country. One could almost hear a collective gulp of shock reverberate across the entire internet, as all those who had hoped, prayed and advocated for her release began to let the news sink in. With her own brother denouncing her release and calling for vengeance to restore the family’s honor, there was simply no telling what would happen. Thankfully, within a few hours of her arrest, news broke that she had been freed from custody and would be allowed to depart Sudan for the United States, where she will have complete freedom to practice her religion without fear of death or detainment.

Meanwhile in the United States, we’re going about our daily lives panicking with cries of religious persecution as well… although, they’re not the cries one would think. Instead of a collective focus on wide-spread human rights abuses and religious persecution in places like Sudan, North Korea where an estimated 33,000 Christians have been incarcerated in prison camps, or the estimated thousands who actually die for their religious faith each year, we’re focused on a first world version of persecution that’s not really persecution at all.

When A&E temporarily made the decision to disassociate with Phil from Duck Dynasty over anti-gay comments he made in the media, it was labeled as “persecution”.

For the rest of the post…

 |  NCR Today

It is hard to imagine a more perfect contemporary personification of human evil than the Italian mafia Camorra scattering carcinogenic trash throughout Naples or the ‘Ndrangheta, whose high-placed and diversified criminal activities did not put it above assassinating a 3-year-old in January.

This weekend, Pope Francis found a gesture to rival these mafia organizations’ power, declaring them excommunicated. His prophetic action set off a range of speculations.

Some fear the pope has placed himself in danger. Similar worries began circulating last year, when Calabrian state prosecutor Nicola Gratteri warned that “if the godfathers can find a way to stop” the pope from condemning corruption and reforming Vatican finances, “they will seriously consider it.” At that time, mafia expert John Dickie was more skeptical: “Even a rudimentary projection of the likely consequences of a hit on the head of the Catholic Church,” he said, “would show it to be catastrophic” to the mafia itself.

The excommunication has revived these rumors while also casting light on an equally surprising but underreported statement Francis made two weeks ago, expressing sympathy for “poor Pius XII.” Some believe Pius said little during the Holocaust because he didn’t want to draw Nazi attention to the many Italian Catholics sheltering Jews; others believe his silence had more to do with cowardice or indifference. Significantly, we now know that Francis’s personal sympathy for Pius cannot be construed as a broad endorsement of the strategy of tactful silence in the face of enormous evil.

Yet the Pius debate raises a second question: not whether Francis has made himself more vulnerable, but whether he has placed ordinary Italian Catholics in harm’s way. In 1993, after John Paul II warned that the Sicilian mafia would “face the judgment of God,” the Casa Nostra bombed the Roman churches of St. John Lateran and San Giorgio in Velabro, perhaps in retaliation. More recently, violence convulsed Iraq and Palestine and a nun was assassinated in Somalia following Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial and misunderstood remarks about Islam in 2006.

Take a sneak peak at our Global Faith special section. This content is only available in the print newspaper and Kindle edition, so subscribe today!

Could Francis’ decision create new martyrs? Already, Nazi-era Christian prophets like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bernhard Lichtenberg, Clemens August von Galen, and Franz Jägerstätter have found their counterparts in murdered mafia opponents like Giuseppe Diana and the recently beatified Pino Puglisi.

To ask the question is certainly not to judge the pope’s character.

For the rest of the article…

Scripture remains as vital and useful today as ever

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014 

I’ve finally gotten around to the new Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas. And while reading this amazing book, I’ve reflected often on the importance of ideas and how essential is truth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a hero to many for his bold, uncompromising stand against Hitler and the Nazi regime in 1930s and early 40s Germany. He is a champion for others because of his commitment to and passion for quality Christian community. Foundational to Bonhoeffer’s character and values was his insight into the Bible and dedication to the Word of God. At a time when most leaders were acquiescing to evil that would destroy their nation, Bonhoeffer stood boldly against the tide. He raised his voice on behalf of weak and vulnerable who the regime plotted to destroy. He called evil by its name and resisted it for all he was worth.

Not all ideas are of equal value. Some are so noble and beneficent, we are almost sure they come from the heart of God. Others are so destructive, treacherous and merciless we wonder if they were born in the pit of hell. The great majority of ideas are stuck somewhere between the extremes and only great wisdom will be able to forecast their outcomes or discover their direction. Bonhoeffer knew painfully, that he dare not trust contemporary social morality to guide his mind. He needed a higher touchstone to measure thought and theory and he believed he had it in the scriptures. His unpopular stand against the ideals of Nazism was founded, informed and energized by the truth he found within the pages of the Bible. Bonhoeffer wrote the following to a brother-in-law who saw little value in scripture.

“First of all I will confess quite simply – I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the bible God speaks to us…

“And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way – and this has not been for so very long – it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.”

– Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Metaxas, Eric, 2010, p 136-37.

For the rest of the post…

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Father in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night
 

Dietrich BonhoefferA prayer written in Tegel prison, Berlin

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

On the influential preacher’s 180th birthday, some of his most profound sayings.

Obviously, there’s no sure way to quantify any preacher’s impact, but the numbers for Charles Spurgeon are telling.

Known as the “Prince of Preachers,” the British Baptist pastor is estimated to have preached 3,500 sermons to about 10 million people, a staggering number in pre-Internet days. He published 49 volumes of commentaries, anecdotes and devotionals during his lifetime, and the complete collection of his sermons fills 63 volumes, making it the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.

A pastor in London for almost 40 years, Spurgeon was one of the most well-known pastors of his day. And even now, more than 120 years after his death, he continues to be an important and influential voice across denominations in the Church.

Perhaps one reason for Spurgeon’s continuing legacy is his ability to speak plainly and clearly. He is immensely quotable. So, in honor of Spurgeon’s 180th Birthday, here is a collection of some of his most profound quotes.

“God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God”

“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”

“The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.”

“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.”

“All the flowers of the field, and many of the beasts of the plain, and now the very orbs of heaven, are turned into metaphors and symbols by which the glory of Jesus may be manifested to us. Where God takes such pains to teach, we ought to be at pains to learn.”

“A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.”

“None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves.”

“Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.”

“Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.”

For the rest of the post…

June 2014
S M T W T F S
« May   Jul »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.