You are currently viewing archive for January 2008
Posted by: an okie gardener
The things people say when they are confident no one will behead them or blow up their building.

Gateway Pundit has the story, and video links, of comments made on The View by Joy Behar to the effect that the Saints of the Church all were psychotics who heard voices. Today we have no saints, she said, because of medications. From the transcript:

JOY BEHAR: Iím going to get in trouble for this, but you know what? I have a theory that you canít find any saints any more because of psycho-tropic medication. I think that the old days the saints were hearing voices and they didnít have any thorazine to calm them down. [laughter] Now that we have all of this medication available to us, you canít find a saint any more.

In the same post Gateway Pundit has information on another anti-Christian attack, this time against evangelicals and Huckabee that aired on an NPR station.

But, did Joy Behar have a point? I think she did, though not in the way she thought. I do not believe that all the Saints were psychotic, but, I do believe that their lifestyles and beliefs would today get them diagnosed as pyschotic or neurotic, and perhaps even committed or medicated.

Take Saint Francis, since he is familiar to most people. At a fairly young age he renounced the considerable wealth of his family, turned to a celibate lifestyle, and left home with no clear plan. St. Francis lived an essentially homeless life, begged for food, repaired chapels and churches, and taught. All free of charge. It is not hard to imagine that a wealthy family today could get a son committed for behaving this way. Or, to imagine the family calling their pastor to "talk to the boy."

Other saints had visions, most lived without regard for their own safety or comfort, many voluntarily withdrew into the desert or forest as hermits--no saint conformed to accepted social norms.

Perhaps we do have fewer saints today because we confine or medicate them. But that does not mean it is they who are insane.

The post-election violence in Kenya is being explained by the media as tribal conflict, an explanation undoubtable correct at least in part.

For example, Fox News and the New York Times.

From the NYT:

The violence -- which has erupted from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast -- has exposed tribal resentments that have long festered in Kenya. Kibaki's Kikuyu people, Kenya's largest ethnic group, are accused of turning their dominance of politics and business to the detriment of others.

But is religion involved? During the campaign it was reported that the opposition leader Raila Odinga promised Muslims that he would introduce Sharia (Islamic Law) as the law of the land in Kenya if he won. That report generated controversy in Kenya.

Odinga has denied the report. And certainly, since Muslims are a minority in Kenya, such a promise would not make political sense.

At the least, religion has been a factor in the Kenyan election, as testified to by Bertil Mketu in Kenya Magazine

On the religious front, the country is awash with crusades and other similar religious functions that are usually well attended. Parliamentary aspirants all over the country are known to be determined in their attendance of church functions and their conduct of fund raising activities for religious causes, especially right before elections are called. With the growth of the prominence of Kenyan Islam and the Pentecostal churches, these particular constituencies have become more important in the calculations of the major presidential candidates. While tribe may win you the backing of one district, getting the support of a religious leader with a large following opens doors across the country and makes millions more receptive to your message.

Again, while others rebuffed this approach to national politics, the Lang'ata MP was not so squeamish. Instead he was quick to woo Muslim leaders who were disillusioned with the government, even as the political parties allied with the Government ignored their overtures. Later after the revelation that Raila had met the Muslims and sealed some form of a deal became public, a panic-stricken Government realised its folly and started playing catch-up fully aware it seems of the value of this constituency. In a testament to just how central to our politics, and just how passion-inducing religion can be, Raila's Memorandum of Understanding with the NAMLEF has remained one of the hottest and most prominent political topics of the campaign period.

And it is not just this constituency that the ODM has been courting. When American televangelist TD Jakes visited the country in October 2005, Raila Odinga was among the political leaders who attended the crusade at Uhuru Park. In addition local Christian church leaders like Pastor Brawan of Nakuru and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of Jesus Is Alive Ministries have both been prominent in the rallies of Raila and have been nominated to vie for parliamentary seats on the party's ticket. During the Thunder Rally, Pastor Brawan had a band that entertained the gathered crowd contrasting with the P-Unit and DNA team that had been assembled to play at the Nyayo Stadium rally of President Kibaki a week earlier. This association with religious groups extends beyond political association. The main parties have made a point of opening religious meetings with prayers. President Kibaki's campaign rally at Nyayo Stadium for example, featured Islamic, Hindu, Christian and traditional religious prayers.

An interesting aside, is the fact of the Presidential Candidates' names. Mwai Kibaki has not used his Christian names prominently, so much so that if one was to call the Roman Catholic Kibaki using the names Emilio Stanley, few people would know who was being spoken of. The ODM candidate has on his part had fend off claims that he is not Christian for among other reason his lack of a Christian Western name. Kalonzo Musyoka, the ODM-K candidate has made more pronounced use of his Christianity, using both his name Stephen more prominently and also confessing to being a born again Christian. His rally at Uhuru Park was reportedly preceded by a church service and he has sought to inject a quasi-religious bent to his campaign, speaking prophetically. He has promised miracles and made no small point of his eschewal of corruption. The ODM-K candidate's stance is not new either; he has previously chaired the Prayer Group of the national Assembly and was involved in the first National Prayer Breakfast.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Americans are a strange people: we claim to be religious, mostly Christian, yet few people can name the four gospels in order, tell at least 3 of the parables of Jesus, describe at least 3 miracles of Jesus, list more than a few of the 10 Commandments, distinguish between Paul and Peter, or sketch a brief biography of Moses, David, and Elijah.

Here is the transcript of a talk given by Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know-And Doesn't. (You will learn more about the problem than about what we need to know.)

For fun, take his quiz on basic religious information (covers more than Christianity). Here. Adobe Reader required.
A bit ago I posted Time magazine's list of top religion news stories in 2007.

Their list:
1. Release of Mother Teresa's letters.
2. Democrats embrace religion and Mitt Romney Channels JFK.
3. Jerry Falwell Dies
4. The Pope's Moto Proprio
5. The Episcopal Church at Odds over Gays
6. The Greening of Evangelicalism
7. The Roar of Atheist Books
8. The Trials of New Life Church
9. The Creation Museum Opens
10. South Korean Christian Missionaries Kidnapped in Afghanistan

Now Christianity Today has released their list of the top ten religion news stories of 2007:
1. Taliban kidnaps South Korean mission team.
2. Books advocating atheism top U.S. charts.
3. Campaign 2008 and faith.
4. Death of Ruth Graham.
5. Anglican Communion dividing over homosexuality.
6. Three Christians killed in Turkey.
7. Deaths of Falwell and James Kennedy.
8. President of Evangelical Theological Society returns to Roman Catholicism.
9. Attempt by Dobson et al to oust current president of the National Association of Evangelicals fails.
10. U.S. Supreme Court upholds partial-birth abortion ban.

My own list, done in response to Time, also explains my divergences with Christianity Today.

As usual, I beg to disagree. I really do not think their number one story will matter much in 100 years, except to scholars. I think Falwell's death is rated too high: his national influence was highest in the 1980s. The papal permission to celebrate the Latin Mass without a bishop's permission is ranked too high. And, though indicative of the continuing strength of Fundamentalism in the U.S., the opening of the Creation Museum does not deserve a top ten.

My list.

1. The continuing Islamic jihad against the rest of the world. We are in another hot spell of the nearly 1400 year-long war between Islam and everyone else.
2. The continued decline of Christianity in Europe, and growth of Islam.
3. The continuing consolidation of power in Russia under Putin, a practicing Russian Orthodox Christianwho seems to be trying to bring back the situation of the Czars, including a close relationship between the Church and the State.
4. The issues of religion in the U.S. Presidential primaries.
5. Pope Benedict XVI's conservative pontificate, which coming after Pope John Paul II, moves the Roman Catholic Church away from any liberalizing trends Vatican II may have engendered.
6. Troubles in the Anglican Communion caused by the U.S. Episcopal Church's positions regarding same-sex practice.
7. Related to number 1, but deserving its own space, the moves into international power by Iran; the government of which is propeled by apocalyptic expectation.
8. The continuing suppression of Tibetan religion and culture by the Chinese government, as well as the continued persecution of Falun Gong.
9. The growth of underground Christianity in Iran.
10. The "Quiet Revival" of conservative Christianity in the Boston area.

I will toot my own horn and point out that I did my list, including number 3, before Time's Man of the Year was Putin. Time did mention his religion, but did not make enough of it, I think.