February News

Group Questions Tendency to ‘Tiptoe Around Islam’

A Christian research organization, the UK-based Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity (ISIC), has decried what it called the “disturbing trend” of media and politicians to blame those who arouse Muslim violence, rather than those who actually carry out that violence. The ISIC recalled that when the Taliban in Afghanistan threatened Western missionaries with a death sentence in August, 2001, for sharing their faith with Muslims, the Christians were themselves blamed by many journalists for “not being more sensitive to local culture.” Likewise, after Evangelist Jerry Falwell last fall called Muhammad a “terrorist” and a “man of war,” Muslim riots in India left eight people dead. Once again the overwhelming sense given by the media and political and church leaders was that responsibility for this lay with Falwell, not with those who rioted. “It is not the responsibility of political and religious leaders to tiptoe around issues involving Islam, afraid of causing offense for fear this could trigger violence,” said the ISIC. “No such considerations are made for the sensitivities of other religious groups.”

CNSNews.com via

Religion Today Summaries

Secret Training Helps Vietnam Churches

“In 1975, when the Communists came to power in Vietnam, church activities were censored, and completely forbidden in some areas,” reports a Vietnamese church leader. “We began to teach new believers in secret Bible study groups, to strengthen their faith and prepare them to endure persecution. When we started offering training programs for Christians, we started to see rapid church growth. Every Bible school in the region had been closed, so we needed an alternative, so (we) started teaching centers. The participants in the training courses themselves trained hundreds of people in their own churches. Many new churches were planted that way—83 in my region alone, with 8,020 members. They met in people’s homes. In some places, they had to change their meeting place regularly to avoid police repression or arrest.”

Friday Fax via MissionNet

Court to Rule on Texas Sodomy Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted a case challenging a Texas law prohibiting homosexual sex, raising the possibility it might be prepared to reverse itself less than two decades after upholding a ban on sodomy.  A ruling is expected by next summer.

By agreeing to hear the case, the court is revisiting an issue it decided in 1986. The justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that year that a Georgia law barring homosexual sex was constitutional. There is no fundamental right in the Constitution for homosexuals to participate in sodomy, the court said in Bowers v. Hardwick. Much has changed on the high court and in the states since then, however. Only three justices—Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O’Connor—remain on the high court. In the 1986 opinion, Rehnquist and O’Connor voted to uphold the sodomy law, while Stevens dissented.

Since that ruling, the number of state sodomy laws has decreased from 28 to 13, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest homosexual political organization. In addition to Texas, the states that still have sodomy laws are Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Baptist Press

Nigerian Pastor Decries Attacks

Preaching from the ruins of the Ramhama English Baptist Church, J. J. Hayab noted the difference between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims. “Ours is a God of mercy,” he told the New York Times. “Theirs is a God of violence.” Hayab, pastor of the church in Kaduna, Nigeria, and Kaduna State secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, tried to contain his rage at the individuals who attacked the church and its members during rioting that resulted in about 200 deaths. At least 58 churches in Kaduna suffered damage in the attacks. Despite the damage, Hayab held services in the building. “The Muslims in Kaduna State have taken the patience of Christians for granted,” he told the Times. The rioting stemmed from an article written by Isioma Daniel that was seen as insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

Baptist Press via

Religion Today Summaries

“Free Speech” Advocate Loses Censorship Lawsuit

A small Phoenix-based apologetics ministry has won its lawsuit against a liberal free speech advocate. Barry Lynn, who has claimed that the First Amendment protects the distribution of X-rated movies, agreed recently to stop censoring distribution of an Alpha and Omega Ministries’ (AOM) videotape in which he debated the director of the ministry last May over the question, “Is Homosexuality Compatible With Authentic Christianity?” Lynn filed the suit in April, but AOM officials said he had agreed before the debate to the video’s reproduction and distribution. “The irony was thick enough to cut,” said Benjamin Bull, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund Law Center, which represented AOM. “Lynn has argued that even child pornography is protected by the First Amendment. But then he wanted to censor a videotape in which he discusses the compatibility of homosexual behavior and Christianity.”

Charisma News Service via

Religion Today Summaries

Untouchables’ Mass Conversion Is Obstructed

Indian police have obstructed the mass conversions of an expected 10,000 Dalits—people outside of India’s caste system—by beating up believers and blocking roads. A mass conversion event had been planned for early December in Chennai (formerly called Madras), but authorities in Tamil Nadu state took harsh measures to stop it. Police harassed and threatened Dalit pastor Victor Dharmaraj, the owner of the land planned for the event, and later returned to remove 1,000 chairs and ejected the volunteer workers. Eight of the volunteers were arrested, taken in for questioning and beaten up. All the roads leading to Chennai were blocked, and 60 truckloads of Dalits were stopped from coming in. “This is very horrible,” said Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council. “It is a clear violation of our constitution as well as the fundamental rights and religious freedom of the Dalits.” The Dalits planned to publicly convert from the Hindu faith to Buddhism or Christianity in a bid to free themselves from the caste system.

The BBC reported that up to 500 Dalits managed to reach the area where the event was due to be held and made symbolic conversions to both faiths. Conversion events also took place outside of Chennai.

HCJB World Radio

Modern-Day “Leprosy” Rages Quietly in India

AIDS, heretofore largely officially ignored in India, is now predicted to infect 20 to 25 million by 2010—the highest estimate for any nation. A report recently released by the National Intelligence Council also predicts that by 2010 the number of infected persons in China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, and Russia will grow to an estimated 50 to 75 million—up from the current estimate of 14 to 23 million.

The National AIDS Commission of India says HIV represents the most serious public health problem in India. They say it is spreading from urban to rural areas (India is 75% rural), through heterosexual transmission, intravenous drug use, and migration of labor. A low level of literacy and low awareness of the disease’s seriousness and how it is spread contribute to the problem.

World Pulse

Cowboy Church Trend

“Church planter Ron Nolen threw his lasso, and a cowboy church was started—the Cowboy Church of Ellis County,” reports the Baptist Standard. “There is an enormous number of ‘Old West Culture’ people here, who hold true to good old Western values: ‘a man keeps his word’ and so on,” said Nolen. “This group, mostly working class, was largely ignored.” But Old West Culture people are to be found everywhere. Country music is one of the key signs. They don’t necessarily own horses, but their values and culture unite them: family, a home, commitment. There are 2,186 country radio stations in the U.S.—almost twice as many as the 1,128 pop stations.

 Over 300 people attended the first service at the Cowboy Church on Resurrection Day 2000. Typically, 500 attend a service. “The people have always been there, but nobody saw them as a target for the gospel,” said Nolen. The Cowboy Church services include cowboy bands, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans songs, and end with a “Happy Trails” at the end of the service. “But we also disciple the people in home groups,” Nolen added.

Friday Fax

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The World We Live in
Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisor Says Jesus Was Pro-Abortion

In a Nov. 22 letter Mark Bigelow, a clergy advisor for Planned Parenthood wrote the following to Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Network: “…One thing I know from the Bible is that Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy…. Jesus was for peace on earth, justice on earth, compassion on earth, mercy on earth, and choice on earth.” Bigelow pastors the Congregational Church of Huntington, United Church of Christ Centerport, New York.

Ed Szymkowiak, national director of STOPP International (a project of American Life League), characterized Bigelow’s comments as blasphemous. “I defy either Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt or her clergy advisory board member, Mark Bigelow, to cite chapter and verse to support [his] perverse claim that the Bible indicates ‘that Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy.’ Planned Parenthood has publicly indicated its religion is ‘choice,’ and its sacrament is abortion.”

CNSNews.com via

Religion Today Summaries

And this just in:

A recent George Barna poll quizzing non-Christians found that, in general, non-Christians have a higher favorable opinion of both lesbians and lawyers than of evangelicals.

Religion Today Summaries