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UNITED STATES — As November looms ever closer, Americans continue to grapple with the many issues and the rheteroic surrounding the 2016 Presidential election process. The national conventions for the Democratic and Republican parties are now over, and candidates officially declared. At the same time, the smaller Libertarian and Green parties have also declared candidates. To date, this race has been one of the most contentious, and only promises to continue in that vein.
One of the most critical issues for Pagans, Heathens and polytheists is a candidate’s position on religious freedom and the protections granted by the First Amendment. The Pew Research Centerrecently published an overview of “Religion and the 2016 Election.” Where do various religious communities fall within candidate support? According to the June polls, GOP candidate Donald Trump finds his biggest support among white Evangelical Protestants. “Roughly eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestant voters (78%) say they would support Trump if the election were held today.” That percentage is up slightly from 2012.
On the other hand, black Protestants strongly favor Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “Nine-in-ten black Protestants who are registered to vote say they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today (89%), as would two-thirds of those with no religious affiliation.” The unaffiliated is defined as the ‘nones,’ or those not connected with any religion.
Our confidence in the gospel spurs us to serve our communities, not to shrink back when they decide they no longer need us.
As the Catholic writer Joseph Bottum has observed, we live in an anxious age.
In an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing culture, some people are anxious about shifting cultural norms, civil rights, and religious liberty. The past decade has seen a rapid transformation in public opinion and legal norms around sexuality, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and religion in the public square—changes that have caused anxiety for a great number of traditional religious believers, including Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews.
Socioeconomic disparities create other anxieties. Some people have been left jobless or underemployed by the global economy. Others confront inadequacies in housing, education, and health care in impoverished and often segregated neighborhoods and communities. And people wonder why those with greater means are indifferent to the financial burdens of the lower and middle classes.
There is, of course, an even more dire anxiety that emerges when some people prove incapable of living with our differences. In the past few years, violent men have taken innocent lives in places including a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the apartment of a Muslim family in North Carolina, a black church in Charleston, and just last week, a gay nightclub in Florida. In each of these instances, vulnerable communities became the intentional targets of mass violence, leaving others in those communities wondering about their own safety and sense of belonging in this country.
The recent atrocity in Orlando has prompted Andrew McCarthy to attribute Omar Mateen’s motivations to an adherence to what he calls “Shariah Supremacy.” This is as handy a term as any to characterize the jihadist ideology; it seems to me that the incident points the way to a strategic conclusion which McCarthy does not make, but which may be crucial if we are to win this first ideological conflict of the 21st century.
One thing that has become clear about Omar Mateen over the last few days is that, along with his apparent attendance at a problematic mosque and apparent enrollment in an online jihadi indoctrination course, he exhibited behaviors which are far from characteristic of the teachings of orthodox Islam.
Several patrons of Pulse, the establishment which he shot up, have reported that he was a frequent visitor to the homosexual hang-out, and noted his propensity for getting obnoxiously drunk while there, too; several also recognized him from a dating app aimed at men seeking men, and even recalled chatting with him on the app.
The consummation of homosexual relations is strictly forbidden in Islam, and is so stated in at least four places in the Quran (cf. verses 7:80-84, 26:165-166, 11:69-83, 29:28-35), as well as in later jurisprudence. In this, Islam is no different than Judaism (cf. Leviticus XVIII, 22 and Sanhedrin 54b, Yevamoth 83b, and Gittin 85a) and Christianity which, in addition to the verse in Leviticus, also has Romans I, 26-27, I Corinthians VI, 9-10, and I Timothy I, 9-10.
The viral image catches in my Facebook feed like a chicken bone in my throat. I can’t help but stop and clench. A forlorn human, nameless, androgynous, casts weary eyes at the camera, begging me to take seriously the words on the sign she holds: “MY GENITALS DO NOT DEFINE MY GENDER.”
I almost laugh when I see it. This sincere but misbegotten crime against language is its own best parody. Attempts to mock it with a rejoinder such as “my years of existence do not define my age” seem tame by comparison. Surely, my inner voice assures me, anyone who has ever watched a nature documentary, taken health class or spoken the English language knows that genitals are pretty much the centerpiece of what is meant by male and female.
Or at least, everyone knew this fact until last Tuesday at tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter, when the fickle zeitgeist of the 21st century suddenly and explosively shed objective gender. While the candles of our happy unbirthdays burned, our ruling class tore down the wall between the men’s room and women’s room and decreed that the privacy we had assumed was civilization’s sacred duty to the fairer sex was now an act of rebellion. What was once just the plain simple view of things has been discarded with a slur: binary-gendered. And those who were once just men and women have been given a pejorative—cisgendered—on par with the shame-inducing labels “white privilege” and “man’s world.”
This is why I almost laugh, but don’t.
You see, while American school children are divining which bathrooms to use, and while families are making headlines for encouraging their offspring to determine their own genders, I have a daughter who is just months away from tumbling out of her mother’s womb and landing in this topsy-turvy Wonderland.
I want to break her fall. My paternal instinct compels me to catch her delicate petals before they tear on the jagged shards of our collapsing western world. But there’s a problem.
Central to the claim that science was born of Christianity is the flip side of the coin that modern science did not emerge in any other culture. Why? The short answer is that all the other cultures were influenced by pantheism. The explanation takes more ink though.
Definition first. The word “pantheism” is borrowed from Latin. “Pan” refers to the whole universe and mankind. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “pantheism” is a belief that God is immanent in (existing within) or identical with the universe. It is the doctrine that God is everything and everything is God. Pantheism is essentially nature worship.
Shouldn’t nature worship be conducive to science? Pantheism is, after all, a reasonable conclusion based on observation of nature. As people searched for God, they noticed the cyclical regularity in nature, the days and nights, the moon, sun and stars, the seasons, the rhythms in life such as hearts beating, sleeping and waking, reproduction, and the birth and life cycles of plants, animals, and humanity. Ancient cultures reasonably concluded, in various ways, that the universe is one big eternally cycling organism. Except for the Hebrew culture of the Old Testament, which we will return to later, all of the major ancient religions espoused a form of pantheism. Let’s look at some examples.
The Hindus held the doctrine of the âtman. This is the Indian expression for the “cosmic person” or the “cosmic powers” of the “primeval Self”. The âtman bred and “bethought” himself (Thirteen Principal Upanishads, 294). The doctrine of the âtman represents the supreme principle of life in the universe, a perception of an eternal unity which underlies the phenomenon of ultimate nature, also called the Brahman, the highest Reality (Philosophy of the Upanishads, 85). The beginning of the Aitareya Upanishad (texts about the nature of reality) describes how the âtman is an endless cycle of births and decays: his mouth, nostrils, eyes, and ears become fire, winds, light, and the heavens; his skin and hair become the plants and trees; his heart the moon; and his semen becomes the water with his navel exuding corruption. The goal of the individual self was to lay hold of the cosmic Self. Notice how pantheism did not turn people to the physical realm, but away from it.
A growing number of Muslims are turning to Christianity in the Sunni Islamic state of Saudi Arabia, a Christian non-profit organization said.
Open Doors, a non-profit organization that works for persecuted Christians in 60 countries for more than 60 years, has ranked Saudi Arabia as 14th in its list of countries with highest incidences of Christian persecution.
On the other hand, the organization also reports that there is an increasing number of citizens converting from Islam to Christianity “along with their boldness in sharing their new faith.” Open Doors describes the country’s population as largely young, majority of which is under thirty, and growing with social discontent.
In Saudi Arabia’s 30 million population, Open Doors records 1.2 million Christians in an environment where religious persecution is categorized as “severe” brought about by Islamic extremism.
Muslim Refugees in Europe Embracing Christianity at Unprecedented Rate: ‘In Islam, We Lived in Fear, But Christ is a God of Love’ | Gospelherald.com
Muslims disillusioned by the violence and unrest in the Middle East are embracing Christianity at an unprecedented rate after experiencing the love of Christ and hearing the truth of the Gospel.
The Guardian reveals that over the past few months, an astounding number of Muslim refugees in Europe are converting to Christianity according to churches, which have conducted mass baptisms in some places.
“I’ve been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found it,” Shima, an Iranian refugee, told Stern magazine. “To be a Christian means happiness to me.”
“In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. However, Christ is a God of love,” another Iranian refugee, Solmaz, told the German daily, according to RT.
Last year alone some 1.8 million asylum-seekers entered the European Union, fleeing war and poverty in Middle-Eastern countries, according to data from the European Union border agency Frontex. Around 1.1 million refugees came to Germany in 2015.
Human exceptionalism was once considered a self-evident truth. No longer. For years, advocates for radical animal-rights agendas have sought to undermine the view of man as a species set apart.
This isn’t really news. But some may be surprised to hear that many who work within the life sciences also hope to knock us off our pedestal. For example, the noted primatologist Frans de Waal revealed his position in a New York Times opinion column attacking human exceptionalism: “In our haste to argue that animals are not people, we have forgotten that people are animals, too.”
In a biological sense, that is absolutely true. But the most important distinction between animals and humans is a moral delineation. That is the distinction that human unexceptionalists (if you will) seek to erase.
The 2016 election is transforming the religious landscape of American politics.
It’s hard to imagine a Democratic presidential candidate receiving a mid-campaign invitation to speak at the Vatican.
But this week Sen. Bernie Sanders will attend a gathering of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Both Sanders and Hillary Clinton, his front-running rival, have regularly praised Pope Francis.
And last week Francis released The Joy of Love. The groundbreaking document signaled what can fairly be called a more liberal attitude toward sexuality and the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics.
The pope didn’t change church doctrine on gay marriage but was offering another sign that he’s pushing the church away from cultural warfare and toward a focus on poverty, economic injustice, immigration and the plight of refugees.
On the Republican side, the conservative evangelical movement is divided over Donald Trump’s candidacy. Many of its leaders have denounced him in uncompromising terms they usually reserve for liberal politicians.
A Nebraska inmate who has professed his allegiance to the divine Flying Spaghetti Monster lost his bid demanding that prison officials accommodate his Pastafarianism faith.
A federal judge dismissed the suit (PDF) Tuesday brought by Stephen Cavanaugh, who is serving a 4- to 8-year term on assault and weapons charges at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. US District Judge John Gerrard ruled that “FSMism” isn’t a religion like the ones protected under the Constitution.
“The Court finds that FSMism is not a ‘religion’ within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence. It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education. Those are important issues, and FSMism contains a serious argument—but that does not mean that the trappings of the satire used to make that argument are entitled to protection as a ‘religion,'” the judge ruled. (PDF)