Ryan Bell, an ex-pastor who quit his faith in God for a year following his resignation from the Hollywood Adventist Church and a divorce from his wife of 17 years, is set to decide New Year's Day whether he will remain a believer or become an atheist. While he has distanced himself from zealous atheists, Bell expressed a desire to be "good" without submitting to boundaries.
Nearing the end of his yearlong embrace of non-theism, Bell told the LA Times that leaving the faith has allowed him to see "both sides of the coin." The former Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University teacher has consorted with several atheist groups as a public speaker, sharing his experiences of walking away from church life. "Being with atheists, they can have the same sort of obnoxious certainty that some Christians have," he said of his experiences. "I don't want to be part of that. It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to be for something good, but I don't want boundaries, and religion just feels like a very bounded thing."
As he nears a self-imposed January 1 deadline to decide between atheism and faith, Bell told the LA Times, "The question I am asking right now [is] why do I need religion to love?" more >>
These days, I think the song "Jingle Bells" might start like this:
"Dashing through the snow with a high-def touchscreen display, all the fields we go, tweeting and texting all the way. Bells on smartphones ring, making bandwidth bright, what fun it is to stare and cling to a virtual world tonight..."
Silver bells, tinsel and mistletoe are being replaced with smartphones, tablets, computers and social media. Our youth are catching on to the technology-driven era at younger and younger ages. They pay more attention to screens than people. In fact, one toy maker is even rolling out a bouncy seat for infants with a built-in iPad holder. My co-worker told me his 2-year-old daughter toddled up to the TV to try and swipe it like an iPad. Another father in my office said his 18-month daughter knows how to unlock and navigate his smartphone. more >>
Conservative politician Bishop E.W. Jackson, president of STAND, said he believes that police in the U.S. are not targeting black men, as some believe, and is calling for a prayer campaign in support of the country's law enforcement officers.
"I have been saying that this lie that police are out hunting down black men has got to stop," stated Jackson, who is the president of STAND (Staying True to America's National Destiny). "We now have two cops murdered in cold blood. It's time for Americans to express our gratitude to our police officers."
Officials with STAND say that in light of protests against the police since the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Bishop Jackson is distributing prayer cards to police stations around the country as part of his Prayer For Police Campaign. more >>
Pastor Ron Edmondson of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, has a confession to make — he shops with his wife. To that end, he recently decided that in an effort to improve and strengthen marriages, he would write down seven tips for wives to get their husbands to shop with them.
"I shop with my wife," Edmondson writes in his blog. "There. I said it. I'm sorry guys. Do I lose my man card?"
Edmondson states that he often gets criticized by other men who say he's put pressure on them to live up to his standard with their own wives. He apologizes and then explains that "a shopping mall is not necessarily my preferred place to be on a Saturday, but I love my wife and I love spending time with her." more >>
Editor's note: This article is tied to a report on Yazidi immigrant Murad Ismael and NYC Pastor William Devlin's humanitarian trip to Erbil, Iraq. Read that report here: US Pastor Who Supported Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan Heads to Iraq With Yazidi Activist; Says Christians Can Pray, Give Money But Should Put Their Bodies on the Line. Also, read Ismael's account of the atrocities unfolding in Iraq under the Islamic State here: US Yazidi Returning to Iraq Amid ISIS Persecution Calls for People of All Faiths to Act.
NEW YORK — A New York City pastor traveling with a U.S. Yazidi leader to offer humanitarian assistance to religious minorities targeted by the Islamic State in Iraq believes Christians in America should do more to encourage believers living in some of the world's most persecuted countries.
The Rev. William Devlin, co-pastor of Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx borough of New York City and a former politician, is as much of an activist as he is a missionary. When the City of New York banned churches and other religious groups in 2011 from renting public schools for worship gatherings, Devlin embarked on a 42-day fast, was arrested in an act of civil disobedience, and publicly confronted then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg during an interfaith breakfast about the city's decision (which the current mayor has vowed to reverse). more >>
There's no question that the Internet has brought Christianity many wonderful things. Today we have online education available to virtually everyone, social media that encourages people to support great causes, and online communication tools that allow us to connect from the four corners of the earth. But it's also created something I believe is tearing at the very fabric of our faith. It's created a culture of attack.
Rarely does a day go by that Christian news sites, social media streams, and other web platforms feature some Christian "correcting" another Christian – and calling them out by name. It can range from arguments over worship music, to theological squabbles, to disagreements over ministry styles, to charges of outright heresy, and the barrage of criticism has grown exponentially. While there are qualified theologians, pastors, and other leaders we should respect and listen to, there's also a tsunami of armchair theologians, angry ex-church members, and wannabes who are convinced their criticism du jour needs to be shared.
Aside from feeling comfortable "correcting" a brother or sister publicly when we've never met the person, or know little about the background of what we're criticizing, a significant culprit is the technology itself. With 24/7 news, and a constant barrage of blogs and social media, the Internet is bombarding us with information overload, and what may be worse – the ease of responding. As soon as we read something we don't like, all it takes is a click to send an angry reply, post a heated comment, or write an op-ed piece. more >>