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Some Final Notes on "Left Behind"

Responding to some of the responses, and drawing lines in the sand.

Last week we published our review of Left Behind, written (contrary to some assertions) by one of our regular critics. It took the film, and its source material, to task for a few things: not being at all entertaining, being outright offensive in its portrayal of a number of characters both Christian and not, and pursuing the minimum “Christian” content to be marketed at Christians while not embodying or exploring any particularly Christian traits or concerns.

So I’d like to respond to some of these concerns, referring to Jack’s piece throughout.

I do know that one could argue that a film in which the Rapture occurs is embodying a Christian concern; unfortunately, the Rapture also occurred in the HBO show The Leftovers and that raunchy Judd Apatow movie This Is the End and a few other properties just in the last year, so that doesn't really hold water. Nor does the portrayal of a Christian character make it Christian.

The thing that makes a movie “Christian,” in today's movie climate, is that it either explores important questions rooted in and resonating with the Christian faith (I think of This is Martin Bonner, or Calvary, or Tree of Life, or any number of films), or it is made for the Christian “market” and will be primarily watched by that market, like God’s Not Dead. Or, sometimes, both.

Jack's argument is that in his view, the property does none of those things well, settling more to be a “Jesus juke” of other popular genres. They are, in other words, copies of things that already exist, with “Christian” stuff stapled on in order to make them more palatable to a particular market segment with money to spend. (As Jack ...

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Interview: Nancy Writebol: Ebola Is a Spiritual Battle

The missionary nurse who survived the deadly virus says medicine alone won't cure West Africa.

Since the Ebola outbreak began this spring, nearly 10,000 instances of the virus have been recorded—and that number could grow to 1.4 million, says the Centers for Disease Control. (The World Health Organization offers a much more conservative estimate of 151,000.) The threat barely registered on Americans’ radar until SIM nurse Nancy Writebol and Samaritan’s Purse doctor Kent Brantly were both diagnosed in July. This week, the first person diagnosed with Ebola inside the United States died, and five U.S. airports announced they are instating screening procedures for travelers arriving from West Africa.

Writebol, who has previous experience working in Ecuador and Zambia, moved to Liberia with her husband, David, in 2013. Nearly a month into treating infected patients, Writebol learned she herself had contracted Ebola. After she and Brantly failed to improve in West Africa, they were flown back to the United States, where they both were treated with the experimental and controversial ZMapp antibodies. Both recovered fully.

Writebol and David, currently based in North Carolina, spoke with CT editorial resident Morgan Lee about treating Ebola, where God went during her illness, and her thoughts about those who protested her return to the States.

What is a Liberian hospital like during an epidemic?

In many of the hospitals, there was no protective gear, and nurses were working without gloves and masks. We [SIM] had the advantage of being partnered with Samaritan’s Purse, which had flown in everything we needed to protect our healthcare workers. But still there was fear of being in an isolation unit and working with people. It took time before nurses could see that, yes, they could be protected ...

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Gordon College Studies Same-Sex Behavior Ban Amid Accreditation Questions

School says "period of discernment" focused on pastoral response, not changing conduct policy.

Gordon College will spend the next year studying current campus policies on same-sex behavior, the college and its regional accreditation board announced.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) discussed whether Gordon’s prohibition on "homosexual practice" conflicts with its accreditation standards at its September meeting, and has agreed to give the school time to examine its policy. Gordon had already announced the formation of a working group after recently losing partnerships with nearby Lynn Public School District.

Gordon president Michael Lindsay submitted information on Gordon’s mission, evangelical Christian identity, and “history of respectful self-critique and of dialogue with individuals of diverse backgrounds” to the board. The college’s information was “thoughtful and pertinent,” the NEASC announced in a joint statement with Gordon, noting:

The Commission has asked the College to submit a report for consideration at the Commission’s September 2015 meeting describing the process and its outcomes, to ensure that the College’s policies and processes are non-discriminatory and that it ensures its ability to foster an atmosphere that respects and supports people of diverse characteristics and backgrounds, consistent with the Commission’s Standards for Accreditation.

Lindsay’s announcement that the college would enter a 12- to 18-month “period of discernment” was a “thoughtful way for the college to proceed,” Barbara Brittingham, president of the NEASC's higher education commission, told the Boston Business Journal.

Brittingham also said the school’s current Life and Conduct ...

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News: Facing ISIS, Middle Eastern Evangelicals Exchange Strategies

Christians meet with Sunni Islam's top leader, test other responses to extremists.

Fawzi Khalil recalls what he saw on a recent visit to Dohuk, Iraq. Refugees slept on streets and under bridges, fleeing the wrath of ISIS.

“It is very hard to coordinate with Muslims,” said the Egyptian pastor back at his Cairo church. “Everyone here is against everyone else.”

Khalil is the director of relief ministries at Kasr el-Dobara, the largest Protestant church in the Middle East. Since the fall of Mosul and the eviction of its historic Christian community, the Egyptian megachurch has distributed over 2,500 mattresses to both Iraqi Muslims and Christians. More than $300,000 has been raised—primarily from Egyptian Christians—to provide 2,200 families with medicine, a portable stove, and an emergency food package. The church sends a delegation to Iraq every two weeks.

“God is allowing ISIS to expose Islam,” said Khalil’s fellow pastor, Atef Samy. “They are its true face, showing what Islam is like whenever it comes to power.”

But the savagery of ISIS, which has overwhelmed Kurdistan with more than 850,000 refugees, has prompted other Middle Eastern Christians to embrace their Muslim neighbors. This theme was heard often from members of the Fellowship of Middle Eastern Evangelical Churches (FMEEC), who met in Cairo last month for a conference on the dwindling Christian presence in the region.

“We must be a voice for Islam,” said Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. “We must not allow the West to see ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, or others like them as the face of Islam.”

Others were more reflective of the diversity among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

“If you ...

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The Boomerang Effect

The generation of the 'silent exodus' has now started coming back.

Twenty years ago, Asian North American churches were experiencing a trend that became known as the “Silent Exodus.” The phrase described the movement of second- and other next-generation Asian North Americans away from their Asian immigrant churches as they grew up. But an interesting countertrend has begun to emerge, one that Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor Peter Cha terms “the boomerang effect”: many of these Asian North Americans have decided to return.

Cha’s own younger brother John is one case in point. Thirty years ago, a small group of first-generation Korean immigrants (led by the Chas' father) launched Korean Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Today, this Herndon-based congregation is now named Open Door Presbyterian Church, serving nearly 2,000 Korean-language speakers with another 540 in the English-speaking congregation, which meets at the same church campus as the Korean congregation. Their pastor is John Cha. “This was the church where I grew up," he says, "and I wanted to grow old with the people here.”

John Cha notes that the church leaders have worked hard to preserve an intergenerational and interdependent culture. “For many second-generation Korean Americans, the relationship between themselves and the first generation has become a source of disillusionment and pain. But at Open Door, we have worked hard to establish peace between the first and second generations.”

Disillusionment is exactly what Yong Kim felt when he was a young adult attending his home Korean immigrant church outside of Toronto, The Light Presbyterian Church. After more than a decade of service to the church but little ...

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