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What a Christian Ethic Looks Like Outside

Beauty for the many: Why I side with conservationists over nature mystics.

As I write, my eldest daughter and her family are having a wonderful vacation at an Arizona mountain cabin. This cabin rests on land that my father bought more than 50 years ago from a retired missionary in our church.

The private property is surrounded by public lands. They were originally created as part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s larger effort to preserve America’s most beautiful countryside for the benefit of all its citizens. During his presidency (1901–08), Roosevelt set aside 230 million acres for public use—5 national parks, 150 national forests, 18 new national monuments, 51 bird reserves, and 4 game preserves. He also established the U.S. Forest Service, headed by his good friend Gifford Pinchot, the first American to make forestry his profession.

As real outdoorsmen, Roosevelt and Pinchot hated to see the wilderness despoiled by business interests that did not comprehend the fragility of the forests. Roosevelt, an avid hunter, grew concerned that efficiently organized commercial hunters were driving a number of game species toward extinction. This led him to commit to the conservation movement.

Roosevelt and Pinchot fought battles on two fronts. Railroad and lumber interests controlled Congress, which resisted funding Roosevelt’s Forest Service and setting aside lands for public use. When Roosevelt founded the Bull Moose Party, its 1912 platform reflected this struggle: “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship ...

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We Are More Than '21'

The '21' showed us that despite our differences, we are one family in Christ.

*Please note that the video referenced in the article is extremely violent, and should only be viewed by adults.*

Last week I saw something gruesome, but then something beautiful.

I forced myself to watch the execution of 21 Coptic men by ISIS members in Libya. It was one of the most nightmarish things I have ever witnessed. I did not do this because I relish violence in any way, but because I felt it was important to be reminded of what true persecution is. Contrary to the conception that I often hold, persecution is not when someone scoffs at my beliefs or smirks when I pray before a meal. That is “aggravation.” “Persecution” is someone pressing a knife to your throat because you follow Christ. And as much as it hurt my soul to watch that video, I needed that reminder.

But over the week that followed, I witnessed something truly beautiful take place. First, the Coptic church stood quickly in solidarity with their fallen sons. The men were officially canonized by the church as martyrs. One slain man’s brother thanked ISIS for including their final cries to Jesus in the video, saying that by doing so, ISIS had inadvertently “strengthened our faith.”

But these tributes were not limited to the Coptic church. From all around the world, Christians from diverse traditions stood in solidarity with those 21 men. Facebook and Twitter profile pictures were changed to the number “21,” honoring the 21 lives that were lost. Many Western evangelicals voiced their support, including Russell Moore and Ed Stetzer. Ann Voskamp wrote a powerful tribute and initiated a prayer campaign for persecuted Christians around the world. And Pope Francis gave this stirring statement:

“The ...

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News: Ministry After Mary Jane

Legalized marijuana is a gold mine for Colorado revenue—and what else? Ask the churches.

On January 1, Colorado stores selling recreational marijuana opened their doors. Within a week, The Denver Post reported, nearly 100,000 people—about 30 percent of them from out of state—had bought the drug.

Until New Year's Day, marijuana dispensaries could sell only to customers with a doctor's recommendation and a state-issued medical marijuana card. Now, any Colorado resident 21 and over can purchase marijuana.

Many Coloradans celebrate the legalization as a landmark victory in the war on drugs. The courts won't be clogged with recreational users, and sales will generate an estimated $27.5 million per year for schools. With both a 25 percent state tax and 2.9 percent sales tax, state officials expect to yield a total of $67 million a year and total sales of nearly $580 million in revenues.

The buying spree may have slowed since its first week, but the church is thinking about how to respond to the new multimillion-dollar industry.

Jason Malec, founding pastor of New Denver Church and an American Bible Society executive, said it's too early to discern a cultural shift among Colorado Christians.

"No one has come to me saying, 'Because pot is legal at the state level, is it okay for us?' That probably will happen, but it's too new for us," he said. "Most Christians I know just shrug their shoulders. Rarely do I hear people talking about it."

But Jared Mackey, a pastor at the Next Level Church in Englewood, said the legalization has caught the attention of his church, which includes both recovering alcoholics and brewers. They are having deep discussion "about substance use and abuse" and "issues of the heart, rather than focusing merely ...

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Turkish and Armenian Christians Reconcile on Genocide Anniversary

Televised prayers at Yerevan memorial cap an unprecedented effort at forgiveness.

(WWM) “We came to share your pain,” Turkish Christians declared in early April, standing before TV cameras at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan.

“We have come here to apologize for what our ancestors did, to ask for your forgiveness,” two spokesmen for the Turks went on to say.

Shocked viewers across Armenia watching the Azdarar TV news channel on April 11 could hardly believe their eyes and ears.

Turks, claiming to be Christian? And laying wreaths at the nation’s genocide memorial? How could Turks, of all people, come to Armenia to honor the memory of more than a million Armenian Christians who had been slaughtered 100 years ago by their own forefathers, the Ottoman Turks?

Gathered around the monument’s eternal flame, the more than twenty Turkish citizens spoke out simply, and repeatedly: “We plead with you, if you can, to forgive us and the crimes of our forefathers.”

Significantly, the Turks were joined by a number of local Armenian Christians who formed a huge circle, holding hands together around the memorial as they prayed aloud in Turkish and Armenian for their nations and peoples.

“You wrote history here in Yerevan today,” one Armenian pastor declared. It was the first time, he thought, that prayers in Turkish and Armenian had ever been voiced together before the somber memorial.

The Turkish Christians’ April visit to Armenia was the latest step in an unprecedented reconciliation initiative between Turkish Protestants and Armenian evangelicals during the past year.

Organized informally by several Turkish pastors from Muslim backgrounds, the gatherings first began with diaspora Armenians in California and New Jersey, followed ...

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News: Compassion Forum Clings to Religion

Obama and Clinton face more questions on beliefs, personal piety at Messiah College event.

Well, at least this time CNN didn't ask the presidential candidates to disclose the biggest sin they've committed.

But while Soledad O'Brien's infamous question from the June 2007 Sojourners Presidential Forum didn't make an appearance, much of tonight's "Compassion Forum" at Messiah College had the same vibe as that event: questions about policy and decision-making were overshadowed by the journalists' odd stabs at what they thought religious folks really wanted to know. As at the Sojourners event, for example, the moderator asked about literal seven-day creationism.

Faith in Public Life, the group that organized and sponsored the forum, had billed it as "probing discussions of policies related to pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides now more than ever, including poverty, global AIDS, climate change and human rights."

Discussions of policies weren't probed very far, however. Instead, on the Global Day for Darfur, co-moderator Jon Meacham asked Sen. Hillary Clinton, "Many people here are concerned about Darfur and a number of other humanitarian issues. Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?"

"You know, that is the subject of generations of commentary and debate," Clinton responded. "And I don't know. I can't wait to ask him. … [But] there is no doubt in my mind that God calls us to respond. … For whatever reason it exists, its very existence is a call to action."

Call to action: AIDS

While sparks flew between the two candidates over Obama's recent remarks about "bitter" Americans "clinging to guns and religion," both candidates somewhat surprisingly praised President Bush, particularly for his anti-AIDS program in Africa.

"I commend President Bush for his PEPFAR ...

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