Unspeakable Tragedy': U.S. Abortions Top 47 Million in 2005

In what can only be described as tragic, the United States likely experienced its 47 millionth legal abortion at some point in 2005, more than three decades after the Supreme Court issued its infamous 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision legalizing the killing of the unborn.

The statistic is based on data since 1973 gathered by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute and on estimates by the National Right to Life Committee. In the first full year of abortion legalization nationwide (1974), Guttmacher counted 898,600 abortions. That number reached a peak of 1,608,600 in 1990, before falling to 1,293,000 in 2002.

Since 1975, the United States has witnessed more than 1 million abortions each year. Unless the nation's laws are changed, the number of abortions post-Roe will pass 50 million in 2008.

"It's an unspeakable tragedy," Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research at National Right to Life, told Baptist Press. "That [47 million] is higher than the population of some countries. That would be wiping out a number of whole states. The world was appropriately horrified and shocked when we lost about a couple thousand people on Sept. 11.... What we're talking about here is that sort of loss multiplied dramatically."

Baptist Press

Catholics Consider Abolishing Limbo

A Roman Catholic tradition that has been around since the Middle Ages may soon be no more. Limbo, the place somewhere between heaven and hell reserved for unbaptized babies, was discussed among 30 top theologians recently at the Vatican and, because it has never been an official church doctrine, could eventually be tossed aside.

The controversy over limbo began with St. Augustine, who believed baptism was essential for salvation and that unbaptized babies would go to a mild level of hell, according to a report by the New York Times Dec. 28. Later, in the Middle Ages, theologians devised a place called limbo, where infants would be in neither heaven nor hell but would enjoy eternal happiness. "Children who die without baptism go into limbo, where they do not enjoy God, but they do not suffer either," Pope Pius X declared in 1905.

But limbo, which has no scriptural basis, has long been considered by many within the Catholic Church to be unnecessarily harsh, the Times said, and even before he was pope, Benedict XVI said he would be in favor of discarding it as a church tradition.

The issue is particularly sensitive when connected with abortion, the Times noted, because if unborn babies are humans, then their souls must go somewhere once they're killed. And as the Catholic Church grows in popularity in regions of the world such as Africa and Asia where the infant mortality rate is high, limbo becomes an increasingly unpopular idea.

Baptist Press

"World's Deadliest Humanitarian Crisis"

A story in the Christian Post, citing a study published by Britain's leading medical journal, indicates that the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has suffered from back-to-back wars and years of corruption, is home to the world's deadliest humanitarian crisis. The study shows that nearly 4 million people died from 1998 to 2004 with 38,000 people dying each month-a rate 40% higher than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of deaths result from preventable diseases rather than directly from war violence. "Less than 2% of the deaths were directly due to violence," said Rick Brennan, health director of the International Rescue Committee. "However, if the effects of violence-such as the insecurity that limits access to healthcare facilities-were removed, mortality rates would fall to almost normal levels. It's a sad indictment of us all that seven years into this crisis, ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal."

Religion Today via MissionNet

Openness to Gospel Follows Tsunami

A year after the devastating tsunami hit the shores of the Indian Ocean Dec. 26, 2004, leaving an estimated 200,000 dead and thousands more injured and homeless, Christian groups are finding unprecedented openness to the gospel.

Strategic World Impact's Kevin Turner says the outreach set up a Life Center in the days following the first wave of relief in Indonesia. "This center is completely run by the Indonesian Christians, and they continue to do job training, computer training, Internet services, copying centers, and trauma counseling," he said. "Muslim seekers who have always wanted to know and now have the opportunity and have come to Christ through hearing the gospel, a clear presentation. . . . Many Muslims have had exposure to the true gospel, what it really is, for the first time."

John Frick of Food for the Hungry added that prior to the tsunami, Indonesian Christians were leery of going into the Aceh Province because of persecution. But Frick says the organization is now looking at this as a mission field. "We are entrenching a group of Indonesian believers into the mix of everything that we're doing there," he said.

In India, Gospel for Asia is working in areas where the mission was previously unwelcome. "When our people previously went there with the gospel, they were thrown out of those places," said GFA President K. P. Yohannan. "But after the tsunami...the very people who opposed our brothers and beat them up are the very people who received them and became believers and they are part of the church." There are now 150 to 200 places "where people are gathering for worship as a result of ministering among these tsunami victims," he said.

Mission Network News/BBC

Pornography Poses Threat to Churches

Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, says the availability of pornography on modern technological devices such as iPODs, MPDs and PDAs is an increasing threat to today's churches. "We are all continually amazed at the newest and greatest electronic devices that come out on the market," he said in a statement released Dec. 21. "One of the latest innovations is wireless handheld devices with video capabilities. What you may not know is that all the pornography on the Internet may be available on these devices without effective monitoring or filtering options. Our already sexualized culture is about to be inundated with yet another avenue for corrupting the innocent and ensnaring our children to the bonds of pornography. We need to do something. The technology itself is wonderful but until the appropriate safeguards can be implemented we need to educate and inform evangelicals of the dangers to which they may be unknowingly exposing their young people."

Assist News Service via MissionNet

Astrologers, Clairvoyants Missed Again in 2005

Astrologers and clairvoyants had another poor year in 2005 in terms of predictions coming true. Mathematician Klaus Kunkel of the Society for Scientific Research of Para-Sciences in Rossdorf, Germany, examined the predictions of 27 astrologers and clairvoyants. Almost none of them came true. Astrologer Monika Transier of Berlin, for example, erroneously predicted the deaths of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, actress Doris Day and Prince Philip, and claimed there would be an assassination attempt on U.S. President George W. Bush. Clairvoyant Martin Schmid accurately foretold the death of Pope John Paul II, but the pontiff was already weak and couldn't speak when he made the prediction in February. The pope died in April-one month earlier than Schmid predicted. German astrologer Patricia Bahrani predicted a landslide victory for the Christian Democrats in Germany. Elke Regendoerp, on the other hand, saw an alliance of Social Democrats and Post-Communists take over in Berlin. In truth, the close election outcome resulted in a coalition of Christian and Social Democrats.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

Christian College Rolls Up 70% Since 1990

Enrollment at the 102 evangelical schools belonging to the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities has increased 70% since 1990, moving to 230,000 from 135,000, reported USA Today. During the same period, enrollments at public colleges increased by 12.8% and private colleges by 28%. Alexander Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the growth marks a turnaround from the 1960s and 70s when religious colleges struggled to attract students, with about 120 religious colleges closing between 1960 and 1979.

Today's students are drawn to the smaller Christian schools because they provide opportunities to develop deep, meaningful relationships with peers, and religious students often prefer to study in an environment where their beliefs will be respected rather than criticized or challenged, he said. There is also a sense that faculties at secular universities have an "antipathy toward traditional religion," said Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America.

Religion Today/Baptist Press
via MissionNet

"Trends Are Reshaping Churches in America"

Saying church attendance is "grossly overrated as a measure of anything that is spiritually significant," researcher George Barna pointed to four trends that are "indicative of the reshaping of the church in the U.S." The first trend is that local churches tend to give lower priority to three critical spiritual dimensions: ministry to children, ministry to families, and prayer. A second trend defined by Barna is that congregations are rapidly incorporating new technologies into their activities. Among the fastest-growing adoptions are big-screen projection systems, Websites, and e-mail blasts to congregants.

Barna also pointed to the slow demise of the African American church with the decline in church attendance, Bible knowledge, faith prioritization, and reliance upon the faith community for support and relationships. The fourth trend which Barna labeled as somewhat "invisible yet significant" is the "changing of the guard among the leaders of the leaders." Where the media, general public and pastors had previously perceived Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Falwell, John MacArthur, Pat Robertson, Robert Schuller, and Charles Stanley to be the leading spokespersons for Christianity in the U.S., today's leading representatives include Rick Warren and T. D. Jakes.

Religion Today/Barna Group
via MisssionNet

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