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Posts Tagged ‘news’

This discussion forum found at BBC.com caught my eye this morning.  The question on the BBC front page leading into this forum asked, “Has the world lost faith in the U.S.?”  Word choice is important, and this particular phrasing piqued my interest.  I live within the borders of a world superpower in the midst of a changing world climate.  My country has been a leader in world affairs for many years, and that power might be waning.  The world has looked to the United States for leadership and placed “faith” in our ideals and certain aspects of our vision.  In global politics this makes some sense as ideological battles have been waged between communism and democracy, World Wars have been fought as a result of the clash between freedom and fascism, and industrialization and technology have changed the world economic climate.  The U.S. has had much to say on each of these matters.

As a Christian, the object of my faith is Jesus Christ.  With that being the case, the formulation of the question above was a bit jarring.  Here’s the information spurring the BBC forum.  Feel free to visit the forum and chime in.

US economic, military and political dominance is likely to decline over the next two decades, according to American intelligence agencies. Who will be the next world leader? 

According to the National Intelligence Council (NIC) China and India will grow more powerful in the coming decades as the US weakens. They also predict that the US dollar will no longer be the world’s major currency and food and water scarcities will fuel conflict.

The NIC prepares a global trends report every four years in time for the next presidential term. This report also claims that a world with more power centres will be less stable than one with one or two superpowers, causing a greater potential for conflict.

The report will make sombre reading for Mr Obama, says the BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Washington, as it paints a bleak picture of the future of US influence and power. 

Do you think the USA is losing its influence in world affairs? Which countries will take on the title of the next ‘superpower’? What can they do to regain their position of dominance in the world order? Do you agree with the NIC that this change could lead to a greater potential for conflict? 

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This article from the BBC notes that a lawsuit filed in the state of Nebraska against God has been dropped.  Here is an excerpt:

A US judge has thrown out a case against God, ruling that because the defendant has no address, legal papers cannot be served.

The suit was launched by Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers, who said he might appeal against the ruling.

He sought a permanent injunction to prevent the “death, destruction and terrorisation” caused by God.

Judge Marlon Polk said in his ruling that a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a case to proceed.

“Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice,” Judge Polk wrote in his ruling.

This isn’t the first time God has been called to the courtroom…for an example, read the book of Job.  

Chambers’ case is interesting.  I’m wondering where, specifically, he got this idea:

 He said God had threatened him and the people of Nebraska and had inflicted “widespread death, destruction and terrorisation [sic] of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants”.

I think this is an example of how widespread litigation has become as an avenue for those seeking justice.  In a world without a common, agreed upon morality, all we have is the courts.

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In Stuart Scott’s ESPN the Mag column “Two Way,” this exchange takes place:

Question from Jerrod [Syracuse, N.Y.]: What do you think about the coverage given to a story like A-Rod and Madonna’s?  Is this newsworthy?  Why are we hearing about this?

Answer from Stuart Scott [ESPN]: Great question, complicated answer.  Personally, I couldn’t care less about A-Rod and Madonna.  People get divorced all the time.  But for two days, this story was the most-talked-about item on ESPN.com.  I played big on MSNBC, too.  So even though I don’t think it’s a story, obviously a whole lot of people do.  That makes it news.

Such an exchange leads me to ask, “What makes the news the news?”

Thus is the state of our public discourse.

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This story from FoxNews reports that a group of Christians holding a pre-tribulation, premillenial doctrinal understanding of eschatology (or “last things”) have launched a website which will alert friends and loved ones if the “Rapture” has occurred.  According to this report, “Final e-mails from vanished subscribers will be triggered when three of the site’s five Christian staffers fail to log in for six days in a row.”  Those persons administering the site seem quite certain they will be among those taken up in to heaven when the final trumpet sounds.

The site, http://www.youvebeenleftbehind.com/, will alert up to 62 loved ones of your departure via an email message if the above criteria are met.  This form of premillenialism has led the site administrators to also facilitate storage of financial account information.  This is so you might pass your assets on to family before the conclusion of the tribulation, which according to this strand of theology is a period lasting 7 years.

This story does include one bit of poor journalism, stating, “According to Christian theology, after the Rapture, Satan will rule a global government that will torment doubters with seven years of Tribulation”(emphasis mine).  Such broad statements about Christian theology fall short of the truth, as eschatology is but one of many historic doctrines which exhibit broad diversity between different Christian communities.  This reporter could have done a better job by indicating the strand of theology from which this perspective comes, rather than making a blanket statement that doesn’t do justice to the tradition.  Some Christians will no doubt be offended by this generalization, as they would claim that the particular eschatology which gave birth to this website is not only errant, but dangerous.

Dispensationalism (what we’re talking about here) can trace its roots to John Nelson Darby, a Christian leader during the 1800s.  His teaching became largely popularlized through the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible.  I know all about it–I went to seminary at a place that holds dispensationalism as a key doctrine.  I’ve had my fair share of conversations about premillenialism, postmillenialism, and amillenialism.  I’ve read books on the topic.  I’ve sat around discussions concerning the specifics of the “tribulation,” asking if the rapture will occur pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib. I’ve also been around persons who do their very best to match current events with what they understand as relevant biblical passages so that they might speculate on the timing of Jesus’s return.  I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about these matters myself, continuing to study the different eschatological frameworks and measuring them against the biblical evidence so that I might arrive at a well-reasoned faith. 

We all know that dispensationalism has been popularized in recent years in the publication of the Left Behind series of Christian fiction.  LaHaye and Jenkins (and friends) have not only published books, but guides for Bible studies, a video game, and other forms of media to increase their following.  This particular product is quite interesting, to put it mildly.

For church leaders and preachers out there who don’t like premillenial dispensationalism, what is your response?  Clearly there is one particular form of eschatology that dominates the American landscape.  Aside from premillenial dispensationalism, are there any other options, and if so, are we teaching them?  If we are teaching them, do our people have the ability to clearly articulate the grounds upon which they might hold an amillenial or postmillenial viewpoint?  Can they make clear statements about the nature of God’s actions in history, and what Christians claim concerning Jesus’s awaited return?  Or are they pan-millenialists, asserting they are not worried about particulars, simply confident it will “all pan out in the end.”

Stories such as these present a challenge to church leaders across America, particularly those persons who exist in church traditions that believe dispensationalism is not our best option.  We do have other perspectives which have a rich historical and theological heritage, but are we teaching them?  How well are the people in the pews instructed concerning our belief in last things?

For some persons the response might be, “well, I’ll preach and teach about how dispensationalism is wrong.”  I say unto you, “OK, but are you going to construct a theology in its place that is historically and theologically well grounded?”  If you go about blasting away what you believe are misconceptions, you have to go about the work of construction.  You have to tell a narrative that makes sense.  Eschatology is about hope.  The doctrine which you teach on this aspect of theology is critical for your ministry.

I hope that pastors, church leaders, and Bible teachers who take this stuff seriously will consider how they might address eschatology. It is one of the essential pillars in building a systematic theology.  It deserves our reflection, our esteem, and our best efforts at teaching people in our congregations in a way that they might understand.  Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection are all events that in themselves are eschatological.  The world hasn’t been the same since God took on the flesh, died on the cross, and rose three days later.  Now, we await the culmination or full measure of the Kingdom of God to be brought about as we exist in the time between the times.  Until Jesus returns, what is our hope? 

That, my friends, is a question I hope we can stand to answer.

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This article from FoxNews has announced that Barack Obama is leaving Trinity United Church of Christ because of distractions to his campaign resulting from controversial sermons preached by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Rev. Michael Pfleger.  If you’ve been paying attention to the campaign, you know what I’m talking about.  Pfleger, the cause of the most recent distraction, preached at Trinity UCC as a guest and mocked Obama’s opponent Hilary Clinton, accusing her of white entitlement and feigning emotion.

What does this say about American politics?  Obama has not announced his decision to join another church.  If it weren’t for his political aspirations, would Obama remain as part of this congregation, or is his decision to depart mainly based upon political expediency?  I understand if Obama is disappointed with comments made from Trinity UCC’s pulpit.  I am disappointed myself.  However, Obama will likely not be the last presidential candidate to rise from a religious community with a controversial pulpiteer, so I ask, is this good for the church, for politics, and for American political discourse? 

Will future political candidates choose churches that are more innocuous to American culture?  No doubt some candidates have done so in the past–choosing their faith communities based on the measure of influence they could garner from the congregation/denomination/etc.  As a final question, has anything similar to Obama’s plight taken place with other persons striving to take hold of public office in a way that it has become newsworthy?

Religious conviction has shown itself important to the American public when choosing a president.  I have to wonder how this controversy will shape the future of American politics and religion, for good or for ill.

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