In no way am I disregarding, demeaning, or belittling the death of the nine people murdered in a church in Charleston, S.C. Their lives are not insignificant. And grief, sorrow, anger, and desire for justice are all right and healthy responses. But the response to these murders makes obvious two alarming realities about American Christians.
It's astounding and disturbing to observe selective displays of public grief and prayer in America. What does it take to be publicly mourned by Christians—to be shot in church?
When and where was Christian "solidarity" displayed over Memorial Day weekend after 56 people were shot in Chicago, of whom 12 died including a 4 year-old girl and three teenagers? Where was the public display of Christian prayer and hand ringing after 23 people in New York City or 28 in Baltimore were shot, including 9 killed, over the same weekend? more >>
As a white, Jewish American (and committed follower of Jesus), I have learned much from my black brothers and sisters, among whom are some dear friends and colleagues, while some of my fondest memories of worship and ministry are in the context of black church services.
When I do a rally for my radio listeners in a major city, I'm always delighted to see the ethnic mix, with a strong percentage of my listeners being black, and they bring something special to our gatherings.
Of course I recognize that every culture and ethnicity has particular strengths and weaknesses, and I realize that all generalizations are flawed, but in the aftermath of the massacre in Charleston, I feel it is important to give honor by sharing these thoughts. They simply represent my own perspective, and I welcome either confirmation or constructive criticism. more >>
One of the pastors counseling South Carolina gunman Dylann Storm Roof's family believes the white 21-year-old's confessed race-based massacre of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston indicates that the United States needs to "address the deep serious issue of racism in our society."
"We've got to work to build bridges among our congregations," the Rev. Herman R. Yoos of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Columbia told NBC News.
"We need (to) confront the reality of racism and work together to build honest communications, honest dialogue, prayerful conversations that help this be a turning point for our state," added Yoos, who's also bishop of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. more >>
As the country awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex couples to marry, anxiety escalates among many religious believers, especially conservative Christians. Just last week, South Baptist Convention (SBC) president Ronnie Floyd and 15 other past SBC presidents issued a letter urging all pastors, educators, and other church leaders "to openly reject any mandated legal definition of marriage" that violates biblical standards. Yet a call for civil disobedience is not necessary. The Court will decide what the Constitution requires states to do–not what church leaders must do.
Religious leaders will still have the ability to choose the couples they marry. For example, some ministers currently refuse to marry couples who have not completed premarital counseling, while others opt only to marry couples who are members of their congregations. Even if the Supreme Court requires states to legally permit same-sex couples to wed, religious leaders will retain the right to determine which ceremonies they perform. The Constitution requires the government to be agnostic on such things; the Court's ruling will not change how churches function.
What might change, though, is how marriage operates as a legal and civil institution. In states that permit same-sex unions, homosexual couples enjoy the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities of heterosexual couples. They can adopt and raise children together, jointly own property, receive special tax and pension benefits reserved for spouses and families, and make medical decisions for one another in times of crisis. The government bestows these benefits–not churches. more >>
A Roman Catholic bishop in Jerusalem says he's afraid that Jewish extremists are now posing an increasing threat to Christians in the Holy Land after an arson attack last Thursday at a local church in Tabgha, an area believed to be where Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.
The warning "all idols will be smashed" — an extract from a Jewish prayer — was also sprayed in red paint on a wall outside the church, according to a report from Aid to the Church in Need.
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem told Aid to the Church in Need that the attack on the Catholic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves near the Sea of Galilee, which left a Benedictine monk and visitor with smoke inhalation, has heightened his concern that extremists are targeting other faith groups, particularly Christians. more >>
This weekend I was in Charleston for the first service at Emanuel AME Church after the brutal white supremacist terrorist attack of this past week. Walking around downtown, I was struck by the unity of the city.
People stood before the church, singing. The town's churches displayed signs of solidarity and rang their bells together in unison. And the one thing I heard talked about more than anything else was forgiveness, specifically the way the families of the victims said they forgave the terrorist even after the murder of their loved ones. Some saw this as commendable; others were taken aback.
On the one hand, this sort of forgiveness is the reaction most people would hope they would have to evil. At the same time, most of the people who talked about this with me said they couldn't imagine that they could forgive such a thing. Some even wondered if the note of forgiveness was morally right. After all, they reasoned, this is a murderer who should be brought to justice. more >>