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The Colonists New Religious Mystery

Sorry, Pilgrims: Jamestowns spiritual life is suddenly much more fascinating.

When the English settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, sailed into Chesapeake Bay in 1607, the first thing they did was plant a cross on the shore. They may not have had the same kind of focused religious mission as the Puritans of New England, but Virginians cared about things of the spirit.

As typical English people, the Virginia colonists were stridently Protestant. They were products of the warring worlds of the Reformation. Roman Catholics were the great imperial and religious enemy to most English Protestants. But the recent discovery of a Catholic reliquary (devotional box) in the grave of an early Virginia leader suggests that the colony’s religious story may have been more complicated than we knew.

The site of the Jamestown colony has become arguably the most exciting archaeological dig in America over the past couple of decades. Scholars once assumed that the James River had long since covered over the site of the original Jamestown fort. But in the 1990s, renewed excavations revealed that the fort’s remains were still on land, just waiting to be dug up. The new dig has produced stunning and tantalizing evidence about life at Jamestown.

In 2011, Jamestown announced that it had discovered the foundations of the fort’s church, likely the first Protestant church ever built in America. That church also hosted the most famous wedding of the American colonial era, between John Rolfe and Pocahontas.

Now excavators have unearthed the graves of several of the earliest colonists, including the Reverend Robert Hunt, who probably performed the first Anglican Communion service in America in 1607. More controversially, the grave of Captain Gabriel Archer, one of the colony’s early leaders, yielded ...

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News: Protestants Follow Catholics' Lead on Martyr Tourism as Pope Francis Visits Uganda

A swampy site that draws millions across East Africa symbolizes religious freedom. One day it may prove better than gorillas for the economy.

Pilgrims walk hundreds of miles to swat at mosquitoes and dip their jugs, body parts, and even their babies into the murky water of a rectangular lake here on the northeast outskirts of Uganda’s capital city.

Millions of faithful Catholics show up in Kampala on “Martyrs Day” every June 3 from all over East Africa. They commemorate 45 young men—23 Catholics and 22 Anglicans—who died for their faith in the late 1800s as Ugandan political winds shifted. For this year’s observance, 500 pilgrims from Kenya spent more than a month walking 300 miles on foot to reach the Martyrs’ Shrine in Namugongo, according to the Vatican.

“What did you know at age 15?” said Jane Frances, a nun with the Comboni Missionary Sisters in Uganda, while on a recent flight from Kampala to Ethiopia. “At that young age, they were so brave. They were burned to death.” She attends the remembrance every year if she is not traveling.

On his first trip to Africa this week, Pope Francis will visit all three of Kampala’s martyrs shrines, dedicated to a group of young men who stood up to an unjust king and, in so doing, shook the conscience of the country toward religious freedom.

First, on Friday (November 27) Francis will stop at the Munyonyo Martyrs’ Shrine that honors the first three young men killed in 1886. Then on Saturday (November 28), he will visit two other shrines that honor more victims: the Nakiyanja Protestant Martyrs’ Shrine and the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs’ Shrine, where he'll hold a mass involving up to 3,000 Catholic priests and bishops.

Ahead of the mass, millions of pilgrims may visit the shrine. Catholics have heralded the site and ...

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How Paris Affected American Attitudes on Helping Syrian Refugees

World Vision poll suggests terrorism didn't change compassion. Other polls highlight fears.

Nearly 3 out of 4 American adults (72%) say they are willing to help Syrian refugees after the Paris terrorism attacks, according to an Ipsos Public Affairs poll sponsored by World Vision.

The number is virtually unchanged (71%) from when Ipsos/World Vision asked the same question in October, before the City of Lights experienced tragedy and American politicians began debating state bans on Syrian refugees in response.

Of poll respondents who said they were unwilling to help, 7 in 10 (69%) said they thought Americans should help people in the US first, up from 6 in 10 (58%) in October. And 41 percent said they feared Syrian refugees are potential terrorists, up sharply from 25 percent in October.

The World Vision study, which sampled 1,006 adults between November 18–19, found a more positive response to the Syrian refugee crisis than other recent polls, including an Ipsos/Reuters poll taken the weekend after the Paris attacks. In that survey, more than half of Americans (52%) said that countries accepting Syrian refugees were less safe.

Respondents were almost equally split on how to respond to that risk: 40 percent said that countries should continue to accept refugees because they are fleeing terrorism, while 41 percent said countries should close their borders to refugees because they might be dangerous.

In the pre-Paris poll conducted by Ipsos/World Vision among 1,004 adults between October 6–7, about three-quarters of self-identified "committed Christians" (76%) said they were willing to take future action to help Syrian refugees. However, only 37 percent of Americans overall and 44 percent of committed Christians said they had helped Syrian refugees already.

About a quarter of committed ...

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Thanking Our Immigrant Parents

How Master of None points to the joy, not the guilt, of Honor your father and mother.

Our relationships with our parents are so important that they make it into the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:12 instructs us to “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

I’ll admit, that verse has always made me uncomfortable. How do we honor our parents as adults? When we disagree with them? When we have a different cultural reality or worldview? I’ve struggled most of my life to understand how to live out this particular commandment, especially when it comes to my Korean-born mother, who emigrated to the United States in the 1980s.

My discomfort came up again watching the “Parents” episode of the new, lauded Netflix comedy series, Master of None. The show’s co-creator, Aziz Ansari, stars as Dev Shah, a second-generation Indian American trying to figure out his future and working out relationships with his friends, lovers, and parents. In an early scene, Dev’s dad (played by Ansari’s father) asks for help fixing his iPad calendar. Dev responds with a string of excuses, finally ending with, “I’m not your personal computer guy!”

We flashback to scenes throughout his dad’s life: his poor upbringing in India, the struggle to become a doctor, racism during his early years in America, and an understatedly ironic and touching moment where he gives his young son a computer as a gift. Back in the present, Dev’s final refusal echoes, and his father wearily accedes.

Meanwhile, Dev’s Taiwanese-American friend, Brian, has a similar exchange with his father after he asks a favor. We see moments from Brian’s dad’s upbringing and his dream for his son to have a ...

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Review: The Good Dinosaur

Possibly the most generic Pixar movie ever.

mpaa rating:PG (For peril, action and thematic elements.)Genre:AnimatedTheatre Release:November 25, 2015 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Parents at the multiplex who are looking for a movie the whole family will like probably can’t do better than The Good Dinosaur—especially given the other films opening on Thanksgiving weekend (The Danish Girl; Creed; Janis: Little Girl Blue; Victor Frankenstein) and those already playing in theaters (The Hunger Games, The Night Before, Love the Coopers, Goosebumps).

But they’ll mostly be settling. Compared to other Pixar films, The Good Dinosaur is not particularly clever in its storytelling, nor does it pack as powerful an emotional punch.

The “good dinosaur” of the title is Arlo, the youngest of three sibling dinosaurs. From the moment he is hatched, Arlo is a fearful little guy. At first Momma and Poppa (even the names are generic) think his egg is empty. Only after they tip it over and peer inside do they spot the undersized runt of the family, pressing vainly against the bottom of the shell to avoid entering the world.

Poppa is confident that Arlo just needs a little more time to “make his mark”—but clearly, he finds his son’s cowardice consternating. In a last effort, Poppa sets up a rope trap to catch a critter. All Arlo needs to do to prove his manhood is kill whatever creature is caught in the trap. That ends up being Spot, a human(ish) boy whom Arlo pities enough that cuts him loose, rather than beating his brains in.

Now the thematic stakes are set. Arlo gets separated from his family by a storm. He meets up with Spot and they form a sort of family of their own in an effort to find and return to their real families. The ensuing journey riffs on Monsters, Inc. (big scary monster scared of tiny human child) and Disney’s The Lion King (male child ...

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Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

If we walk away from 'The Hunger Games' thinking about big, important cultural questions, then we're better for it.

mpaa rating:PG-13 (For intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.)Genre:Drama, Fantasy, TeenTheatre Release:November 20, 2015 by Lionsgate

2015 has been a bit of a banner year for films about women in violent situations. Whatever your thoughts on action movie tropes are, the fact that we have tropes at all indicates that historically women in action movies don’t get a lot of nuance.

This year, genre conventions have been subtly but effectively challenged by films like Mad Max: Fury Road (check out this fantastic piece by a friend of mine dissecting Furiosa and Co.’s femininity vs. Supergirl’s), Sicario (our review highlights how the film handles women’s disempowerment in war zones), and Ex Machina (the parallel is less stark given that the lead is a female robot, but the film produced a lot of controversy over its proposal that women have to violently remove themselves from objectification).

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part Two joins the lineup in an unexpectedly satisfying way. It conveys the horribly significant consequences of war on individual and social levels in a genre notorious for its heavy-handed disregard for collateral damage. It’s a movie about the effects of war, not war itself, and in particular the effects of war on a young woman.

The first shot of the film shows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) having a neck brace removed and struggling to speak after being attacked by her former lover, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), at the end of Mockingjay - Part One. This shot establishes how director Francis Lawrence approaches all of the violence in the film: frankly, humanly, without spectacle or exploitation.

As Katniss recovers, the Districts’ rebellion against the Capitol is in full swing. They’ve taken ground all the way into District 2, the last stronghold of support for the Capitol. President Coin (Julianne ...

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College Can Kill Our Colorblindness (If We Let It)

I used to be the white girl who didn't get it.

Earlier this month, protests about race erupted at several American colleges. The uproar began at the University of Missouri, where the chancellor and president resigned over their responses to racially charged harassment.

Meanwhile at Yale, an official email about avoiding racist Halloween costumes, such as blackface, inspired one faculty member’s response asking for “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense.”

The initial upheaval in Columbia and New Haven sparked tensions elsewhere. Someone posted anonymous online threats towards students at historically black Howard University, and protests followed last week on campuses at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and nearly two dozen others.

These protests reflect the recent grassroots activism around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but the racial tensions they attempt to address are nothing new. For decades, white administrators and students themselves have ignored or downplayed the concerns of people of color regarding the racial climate on campus.

I know because I was one of them.

Like many white students, I hadn’t experienced real diversity until I went to college. The idea of diversity seemed nice before I arrived on campus. But once I started my freshman year at Rice University back in 1996, I found myself poorly prepared to live in community with black students, even fellow Christians.

When I began looking for a church in the area, I asked Tanisha, the only Christian upperclassman I knew, if I could go with her. We pulled up in front of Tanisha’s church, and I realized I’d be the only white person there. I thought I was being “colorblind” by overlooking race, when really I blithely assumed she’d ...

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Who Do You Hang Out With?

Church leaders must consider who Jesus spent time with and seek to follow his lead.

Remember how moms, for years, have been saying, “You are the company you keep?" I get their point, but I think, while that has some merit, there is a missional impulse that calls us to invest in and help influence gospel change in others – rather than just be the object of their influence. The problem is, too often, as church planters, pastors and leaders we think of our responsibility to influence and change others in almost exclusively corporate terms. In other words, “How do I influence the church?” I would push back and encourage you to think about multiplication through a personal, rather than corporate, lens.

In other words, “How can I influence one person to be a disciple?” In fact, I think disciple making is most effective when one disciple helps disciple another, who helps disciple another, and so on. It’s arguable that this never happens in a large group format. Disciples aren’t made in crowds; they’re made in community.

So what does that have to do with the kind of people we, as leaders, hang out with? If we are going to personally make disciples then we need a strategy for making those disciples. And if we are going to have a strategy for making disciples, it probably ought to look like Jesus’ strategy. When I look at Jesus’ life and ministry, I notice that he persistently spent his time with two often-overlapping groups of people; those with leadership potential and the marginalized. He didn’t necessarily pick people who were in significant leadership positions; he chose men and women who had the potential to be strong leaders and he invested his time with them. What’s more, his ministry was marked by a commitment to marginalized ...

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To Be Human Is to Be Homesick

God hardwired us for home, but were living in exile.

Carolina first left the Gaza Strip to study journalism in Toronto. At age 20, she arrived newly pregnant and, as a result, lost her scholarship—though not her valuable student visa. Without educational opportunity, she eventually went back home.

Carolina returned to Canada this March. This time, with a toddler in tow and another on the way, her travels included hungry hours on a hot bus and repeated attempts to cross the border into Egypt, where she and her child finally boarded a 12-hour flight to North America.

Carolina was fleeing hopelessness for the sliver of light that is this New World.

“In Gaza, there is no work. There is no dignity. Any day, you can die.” She pauses. “But it is difficult here. Very difficult.” Her immigration status hangs in the balance. She cannot know when—or if—her husband will join her.

Like the stories of the millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea, and Nigeria, Carolina’s story is the Christmas story, although not in the ways we usually think. The immutable “I AM that I AM” entered a womb and took up a body. But these were not his only vulnerable acts. Jesus of Nazareth also claimed an earthly home, which, as Carolina and many others know, is less a promise of permanence and more a risk of grief. When mobility, death, divorce, ecological crisis, and war reign, there is nothing certain in life, not least a home.

“To have a home is to become vulnerable,” writes James Wood in an essay for The London Review of Books. “Not just to the attacks of others, but to our own adventures in alienation.” Wood recalls that the battle prowess of the Scythians was often attributed to the ...

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Interview: Hating the Way Jesus Hates

Why more believers need the courage to get angry at sin.

As a young woman, Sarah Sumner never allowed herself to be angry, until her parents divorced when she was 22. The experience was one inspiration behind her doctoral dissertation (at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on godly anger, which has blossomed into a book, Angry Like Jesus: Using His Example to Spark Your Moral Courage (Fortress Press). San Francisco–based Her.meneutics writer Dorcas Cheng-Tozun spoke with Sumner, former dean of A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, about bringing a healthy dose of righteous anger to today’s church.

Why is the topic of godly anger so significant to you?

Over the years, working in Christian organizations, I have seen fudging and compromise and blatant refusals to do things in a Christian way. And then people want to cover it up. That makes me angry. I don’t mean blustery anger, where I want to slam the door. It motivates me to try righting wrongs in a structured, strategic way.

What’s the difference between sinful and godly anger?

Sinful anger does not trust God, while godly anger does. Sinful anger is prideful, while godly anger flows from humility. Sinful anger participates in evil, while godly anger abhors evil. But the main difference is that godly anger is loving. It’s not about feeling self-righteous.

In the book, you connect godly anger with virtues such as faith, love, and hope. How can anger express such qualities?

You can’t have godly anger without faith, in part because it’s risky. Showing godly anger is bound to displease certain people. You need to have faith that God will sustain you through any backlash.

Godly anger is the guardian of love. Psalm 7:11 says that God is a righteous judge who “displays his wrath ...

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