In Times of Turmoil, Religious Struggles Fan Confusion and Thwart Solutions
In the global struggle for political harmony, economic viability and cultural happiness, religion has become the weapon of choice. But if the pursuit of happiness and prosperity is the goal, then using religion as the means to achieve that ideal will do anything but, says businessman philosopher James W. Peterson.
Nonetheless, that’s exactly the road societies are traveling as our economic and political problems deepen. Noting the fundamentalist tone taken as America moves toward the 2012 election and secular nations continue to clash with religious extremists, Peterson advises that adhering to any religious ideology will only bring more of the problems nations are trying to overcome.
"The more we use religion and its supernatural interpretation of the punitive power of God as an emotional wedge to secure HIS future, the less likely we’ll reach the real world solutions WE are seeking," says Peterson, author of the book God and the Philosophy of Explanation (www.jwpeterson.com). "If we want to return to the Founding Fathers’ original ideals – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – then using religion as the vehicle is entirely the wrong way to go."
Instead, what’s needed is a focus on intellectual development thus empowering people to see their own happiness – economic, personal and spiritual – on their own terms, Peterson argues. But the current climate of both American religious conservatives, Islamic extremism and a deepening worldwide spiritual morass is providing anything but a greater understanding as to what real world human happiness is and depends upon.
Peterson, a retired engineer, has pursued an examination of religious and spiritual thought that comes from his own personal struggles to make sense of a deep, personal tragedy. The death of his daughter Kristin at the age of 10 ½ from heart failure set him on a 20-year long journey to understand the interplay of religious beliefs in the face of loss and tragedy.
Through a dissecting of religious thought, philosophical theories and thus gaining a deeper understanding of what motivates people to embrace religion, Peterson has come to understand that it’s the ability to intellectually cope with downturns and solve real world problems that leads people to feeling empowered, happy and productive.
"Intellectual happiness is the fundamental consequence of personal production," Peterson says. "It is the understood existence of one’s self that is the standard of one’s happiness."
"Think of how we gauge our well-being as a people: consumer confidence, social stability and political harmony," Peterson adds. "It’s all right here in our grasp, yet we continue to dissolve into these religious and cultural beliefs that only exacerbate our dissatisfaction with the world and each other. We need to stop believing long enough to understand we have the tools to return to happiness; we just have to put our rational, intellectual minds to work."
James W. Peterson’s, a mechanical engineer for GMC and real estate executive, journey as an everyman philosopher began with the death of his daughter and a 20-year quest to understand the depths of his grief and anger. Now retired with his wife of 45 years, JoAnn, in Okemos, Michigan, Peterson has two grown children and two grandchildren.
Is America the Home of Religious Freedom?
Not So Much, According to Poll
According to a new survey from the First Amendment Center, roughly one-third of Americans believe that religious liberty should not apply to all religions.
The survey, which polled 1,006 Americans on a variety of questions about their take on the role of religion and government, also revealed that more than a quarter of Americans believe there should be no separation between church and state. When asked whether “the freedom to worship as one chooses applies to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme their views are, or whether it was never meant to apply to religious groups that most people would consider extreme or fringe?” 28 percent agreed with the second statement.
“When so many Americans believe that religion should play a role in government and that the government shouldn’t allow some people to even practice their religion, I see it as a crisis of reason,” said James Peterson, author of God and the Philosophy of Explanation (www.jwpeterson.com). “Moreover, the idea that more than a quarter of Americans think that there should be no separation between church and state means that there are a lot of people out there who need a history lesson as well.”
Peterson, a mechanical engineer and father of three, lost his daughter to heart failure when she was only 10 ½-years old. It was then that the longtime GM employee and member in good standing of his local Methodist church began to reexamine the role of religion, not only in his life, but in the lives of Americans.
“Those who identify as religious people do so because they have a faith in something that cannot be measured by scientific principles or conclusive physical evidence” Peterson said. “That’s why they call it faith. While none of us can empirically prove we have seen or spoken to God, or that any of the figures in their religions have actually been messiahs, they still believe in their existence and their power. While that is perfectly valid for them and their lives, our government was set up to provide for the people of our country, based on the power and philosophy of reason. Congress would not likely dedicate a significant amount of tax dollars to build a new weapons system to defend our country, unless there was sufficient research and evidence to prove that the system would be effective in defending our nation. Embedding an element of faith in that matrix would subvert our government and the services and protections it provides us.”
Further, Peterson believes that America would get into more trouble when it delved into the question of which religion would have purview in our government.
“For the sake of argument, let’s say that Congress decided to abolish any separation of church and state,” Peterson added. “Which religion do we let in? There are dozens of religions practiced in America. The Christians will argue that since they represent the majority of the faithful in America, they should take the lead, because in a democracy, the majority rules. However, the majority of Americans in this survey, 67 percent of them, declared that there should be a separation of church and state. I’m sure the majority of those people were Christians, statistically, so we know that even the majority of the faithful believe government should be free from the influence of faith. At the end of the day, mixing faith and government is a bad formula for America and Americans.”
About James Peterson
James Peterson is a retired manufacturing engineer for GMC in Lansing, MI, prior to his retirement. He is the father of three children, one of whom died of heart failure in August of 1980 at the age of 10 ½. Experiencing her death changed his outlook on life and faith. He is the author of God and the Philosophy of Explanation.
The secret to a great marriage
Rev. James L. Snyder
This week the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and Yours Truly, celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. This week as I pondered our life together it occurred to me, I might be taking some things for granted. Doing this, especially when it involves another person, is dangerous. I decided to take a little stock of myself and my relationship with the Mistress of the parsonage. What makes our marriage so great?
The first thing I had to do was check with her to make sure our marriage was indeed great. Much to my relief, she too agreed with my conclusion. This borders on the miraculous. Whenever we agree 100 percent on anything, watch out!
A recent Hollywood wedding got me thinking. According to the reports I have seen, that wedding cost more than one million dollars! Only in Hollywood! Given the way such things go in the west coast marital Mecca, it amounts to about $100,000 a month of married life.
Our wedding, 40 years ago, cost $97.73. It took us all summer to scrape and save for our nuptial extravaganza.
So far, our marriage has cost us 20 cents per month. The best 20 cents we ever invested. The amazing thing about this is, each month the cost goes down but the value goes up.
The question I wanted to answer, at least in my own mind was what made our marriage so great? What is the secret of our marriage?
As far as I can assess, there are four things about our marriage that has made it the great success it is today.
The first is FORGIVE AND FORGET. She forgives me my mistakes and I never forget to thank her for it.
Some couples carry grudges for years. Thanks to my memory-challenged mind, I cannot remember what I had for lunch yesterday much less a disagreement several years old. It takes an enormous amount of energy to REMEMBER things that happened years ago. I prefer spending that energy creating new memories.
Another key to our marital bliss is TOSS AND TURN. She tosses everything out and I turn the house upside down trying to find it. This has been the most difficult for me.
I would not admit being a pack-rat, but each year they invite me to be their keynote speaker at their convention. I would go but each year my good wife tosses the letter out before I can respond.
My wife believes that tossing away yesterday’s baggage and turning over a new leaf each day is crucial. As my wife is fond of saying, “Today it the first day of the rest of your life.” Sometimes she says it with a twinkle of menace in her left eye.
There is also, GIVE AND TAKE. This has proven beneficial over the years. She gives me a piece of her mind and I usually take it. My concern is, of all the pieces of her mind she has given me throughout the years, how can she have anything left?
Decision-making is not a one-way street in a marriage relationship. Thank God it isn’t. In every dilemma at least two sides need considering. When you find yourself in a dilemma, do what my wife does, go for de lemonade.
When only one person makes the decision in the marriage, the whole relationship takes on a lopsided demeanor. There is nothing meaner than a one-sided decision.
One last thing that makes our marriage great is PROFIT AND LOSS. This has taken a little more time to take root in my mind. Taking root in a vacuum is hard for anything.
I have discovered that a marriage runs in decades. For instance, the first 10-year period focuses on establishing the relationship. This is discovering who you are as a couple, but by the time this happens, tiny footsteps are heard in the hallway at night coming toward your bedroom.
The second decade centers on trying to raise those children and keep from going insane in the process. If I have any insanity, it is because I have inherited it from my children.
The third decade is the most important. Not many couples get this far. The third decade is devoted to rediscovering who you are as a couple.
No longer are we Rachael’s mom or Jason’s dad or Sarah’s parents. We are discovering our own identity as a couple. And let me say, it sure is the best part of the wedding cake and we are eating it up.
The fourth decade, where we are right now, is relishing all those memories made in the first three decades.
In this PROFIT AND LOSS stage, I have discovered that I profit greatly if I cause my significant other no loss of face. It is amazing how many single people are married and even live in the same house but go in separate directions and lead separate lives. Becoming a couple is a marvelous process taking years to mature.
My wife and I have found the key to all of this. It is simply SUBMISSION. The Bible plainly states, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21 KJV).
We can do this because we independently anchor our lives to that “rock that is higher than I” (Psalms 61:2 KJV). As a couple, we build our lives upon a common foundation — Jesus Christ.
To my wife: A happy anniversary to the best Mistress to adorn my parsonage.
The Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives with his wife, Martha, in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 352-687-4240 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.com.
Is The Human Spirit Essential in Business Strategic Planning?
Corporate Coach Reveals How Spirit Drives Creativity, Innovation and Success
Terry Murray thinks the difference between a company that’s surviving to one that’s thriving isn’t buried in their bottom line, but rather, it’s hidden in their hearts.
Murray, an executive coach for Fortune 1000 companies, entrepreneurs and startups believes that companies that are driven by inspiration and positive emotions become inherently more successful than companies that focus exclusively on the profit-loss statements.
"Business and the human spirit are not mutually exclusive,” said Murray, author of The Transformational Entrepreneur – Engaging the Mind, Heart, & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success (www.yourbizstartup.com). “In fact, the integration and alignment of taking a mindful approach to business is an accelerant towards success in today’s volatile marketplace. It cultivates authentic presence, positive communication, full engagement, adaptability, and taps into the creativity of human beings.”
Murray’s view is that the human element is oftentimes the spark that separates good companies from great companies.
“The competitive dynamics of business have changed,” he said. “Today and in the future, the source of value creation for companies is, and will continue to be, the efficient commercialization of intellectual property. Because of this, human beings, and their creative input and adaptability, are more important than ever. Fully cultivating and leveraging human talent requires engagement on an entirely new level – of engaging the mind, heart, and spirit. Research from Applied Behavioral Economics also reveals the importance of engaging customers emotionally and cognitively. Doing so requires a new level of consciousness to emerge in business, one that authentically aligns and integrates leadership, strategy, and culture.”
Moreover, research is showing more and more that creativity in corporations – where the next big ideas come from – is linked to how good employees and managers feel about working there.
“The competitive parameters of global markets are also changing rapidly and in unprecedented ways,” he added. “This demands adaptive change and creative solutions to maintain competitive advantage. As an example, the 2010 IBM CEO survey indicated the single most important attribute CEOs are looking for in future leaders is creativity and the ability to cultivate creativity throughout the organization. Yet they continue to lead and manage in very traditional ways that disengage associates. Gallup’s study on employee disengagement showed that 73 percent of employees are disengaged or activity disengaged with their employers and only 27 percent show up with any passion or excitement. Some managers might say, ‘So what?’ Well, in a study conducted by Gallup and published in the Harvard Business Review, companies that engage both their employees and their customers on an emotional level enjoy a 240 percent improvement in financial performance. So, making your staff feel good about their work is clearly very good for your bottom line.”
About Terry Murray
Terry Murray is an author, speaker, professional coach, and business executive with more than 20 years of progressive experience in real-world strategic development, leadership, and business execution. His leadership in strategic development and execution for Fortune 1000 and start-up companies has directly contributed more than $1 billion in market capitalization growth throughout his career.
Midtown Church Hosts Escape to Tranquility Monthly Spa Retreats Starting June 18, 2011
Sacramento, CA.- The House Christian Church and Zeal Fitness Ministry is hosting a series of monthly spa retreats to help relieve the stresses and anxiety of daily living. The series titled, Escape to Tranquility will kick off its first morning retreat on Saturday, June 18, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The House Christian Church, 1901 Broadway, 18th and X street entrance, in Midtown Sacramento.
Attendees will experience a time of relaxation and renewal that includes Christian meditation, Christian yoga, relaxation techniques, and self care topics to pamper the spirit and nurture the soul. The June 18th theme, “Creating Greater Space for God,” taught by Rhonda Jones, will teach participants how quieting the mind and becoming still will help them to build intimacy with God and enhance their spiritual awareness. Jones is the local author of Detox Your Life and Awaken Your Inner Spirit and creator of a series of Christ-centered meditation CDs.
Subsequent retreats will be held the first Saturday of each month beginning in July 2nd through December 3, 2011. Upcoming topics include “Eating for Health,” “Detox Your Mind,” “Releasing the Past,” “Surrendering All to God,” “Too Busy to Live,” and “Clearing Away Clutter.”
Cost of the event is $15.00 in advance and $20.00 at the door and includes a smoothie from the smoothie bar and prizes. For additional information or to register online visit, http://www.secretplacemeditation.com or email email@example.com.
The House Christian Church Zeal Fitness Program also offers weekly low cost Zumba, Yoga, and other fitness classes, Zumba from 7:00-8:00 p.m every Tuesday and Yoga from 6:30-7:30p.m. every Thursday. Cost is $2.00 per class and $2.00 for childcare. Please use the 19th and X street location at 1901 Broadway.
Thunder Road Church Launch
By Johnny Lujan
Well its here. The launch of Thunder Road Church is taking place on Thursday June 2nd 2011 at 7pm. Yup that's this Thursday. We have been meeting and praying for direction and discernment for 8 months. We have counseled with local pastors and leaders for about the same amount of time. We have held two bike night gatherings with good support and encouragement. We are eager to serve the community in what ever capacity we are led to serve.
Our intentions are to reach the unreachable. Our focused community of people we will be reaching is the motorcycle community. In the motorcycle community and the lifestyle it brings we are eager to reach out to lost and downtrodden. We will be a vital resource for the local community and set up referrals to other churches, programs and centers where physical, emotional and economical help can be found. We are focused on their spiritual help and direction.
As most of you know, the biker community is rarely seen in "church" because of many reasons. Until the see the real purpose in their life and the reasons to actually come and give of themselves i am not sure they will ever step foot in. We have decided to reach them where they are. We will be there for the one or for the thousand. We believe they will come to listen in a comfortable atmosphere they are used to. Our prayers is they leave changed and in time transformed to be followers of the king.
Please join us in our quest to "Reach the Unreachable". We appreciate your prayer support as well as your financial support. If you are wondering how you can support the church and help us build Gods church to this community of people, we are holding our very first "Flapjack Fundraiser" on Saturday June 18th 2011 at Applebees in Gold River (Rancho Cordova). For a $10.00 dollar donation you will receive a full pancake breakfast with bacon, potato's, coffee or juice and all the fixins. I will be more than happy to come buy your home, office, group or organization and share the vision and deliver tickets in advance. There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door but they are going fast so please call and be a part of this monumental event...... You will see some really cool choppers and be a part of something unique in the area.
Please go to our web site www.thunderroadchurch.com and check out our bike nights and service times.
Luke 4:18 - Jesus goes to Nazareth and is handed a scroll that reads "The spirit of the lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come". He sat down and said "The scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!" (NLT)
We are compelled to share this message with a lost world of bikers. Yes it is dark, Yes it is scary at times, Yes is is humbling and Yes it is unpredictable, but we realize there are a few million people (Bikers) not being strategically reached for the gospel and Thunder Road Church will be a place where they will feel welcomed and encouraged to hear the good news and have the opportunity to be set free from their bondage.
Marlys Johnsen Norris
(Life Message Workshops) Marlys Johnsen Norris believes strongly that every person has a Legacy worthy of writing and she has held workshops during 2006 to help people write them. Marlys is a published author of five books, one of which won Best Christian book from Northern California Publishers and Authors for 2003-2004.
Jesus is Coming Again
The prophetic words of the Scriptures are recorded in Isaiah 53 telling mankind about the first coming of Jesus Christ. These now fulfilled, we are now awaiting the events of recorded Scriptures pertaining to His second coming. Many Biblical scholars tell us all indications suggest that it can happen at any time. Is the bride/church ready?
The question remains for each individual, are we ready? Our focus and affections should be so much on Christ and his sacrifice and provision for us--we can easily let loose of all earthly possessions. But can we? Have we become so materialistic we have also lost sight of our “first love” and our personal relationship with Him
We mistakenly live in the scope of the temporal and rarely think about the things that are eternal. As we approach the near time when Christ will return, we need to be diligent and ready ourselves for His coming and think more about the eternal. God’s word clearly tells us the “build-up our treasures in heaven” and that certainly does not mean the material things of this world. We build up treasures in heaven by the good deeds done to help and build-up others in their journey to know and love God with their heart and soul. We do not brag about our efforts but give God all the glory for what-ever happens.
Jesus can return at any time. In fact the Word of God tells us-- it will be “in a twinkling of an eye”--but in the meantime, we are to persevere and wait patiently. It is important to know exactly what we believe and live by those convictions with expectations, ready for His Second Coming.
Let Joy, Peae and Freedom Reign
When one lives without overcoming past hurts of an offended heart, every relationship they have is affected, including their personal relationship with God. Reliving and working up those offenses by gossiping about them add stress to ones life. Until a person has worked through them, reactions to those closest are often handled with angry attitudes that are off-base. It is important to put these hurts to rest. Scripture says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverb 18:21)
When we are offended by someone and they know it, the words we desperately want to hear is, “I am sorry”. However it is often omitted from the offender’s vocabulary or possibly they do not know how to humbly implement this attitude. Holding on to these hurts opens ones heart for attacks of the enemy of our souls. He causes resentment to grow and give one a critical spirit when one has not yielded hurts into the care of Almighty God and let them go. So then, how can we overcome feelings and put these things in proper prospective in our lives?
If we desire to experience relief, renewed joy, peace and freedom; God’s Word tells us “to the measure we forgive others, we also will be forgiven”. Another place it says, “A man’s wisdom give him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverb 19:ll). Oh yes, this is a huge recipe for anyone and forgiveness is always a decision we must make to be in right relationship with God. And isn’t it a better way and more important to have our relationship with God restored by following the precepts He has set before us, than to hold onto those hurts? Let joy, peace and freedom reign in your heart!
Marlys Johnsen Norris
LIFE MESSAGE WORKSHOPS
“Intimacy Begins Going God’s Way”
Pastor Ray Dare
God’s Gift For You This Christmas
When the angel announced the birth of Christ he said, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for everyone!” Luke 2:10.
Wow, what a promise - Great joy for everyone. That includes you. But is that possible? Is it possible for “everyone” to be joyful? Yes it is. And the Bible gives us three secrets.
Resist Comparing Yourself. “I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have…” Philippians 4:11. That can only happen when you don’t compare yourself. The moment you start comparing what you have to what others have you’re doomed! Your joy is gone! There will always be someone who’s smarter than you are, makes more money than you, has a bigger house, nicer car, has more, whatever. Our problem is we live with this myth that says, ‘I must have what others have to be happy.’ That’s the myth behind all the ads you’ll see this shopping season. “Everybody else has one, so you need one too.” No, you don’t! Paul said, “I’ve learned to be satisfied with what I have.”
Rejoice In What You Have. Happiness is not getting what you want. Happiness is enjoying what you have. “It is better to have only a little with peace of mind than to be busy all the time.” Ecclesiastes 4:6. You need to ask yourself a very frank question: “Will having more make me happier?” The answer is NO. You cannot buy happiness. If you don’t understand this principle of rejoicing in what you have you will fall into the trap of ‘when and then’ thinking. “When I get this, when this happens, then I’ll be happy.” Let me ask you a very personal question: What are you waiting on to be happy? The truth is this, you’re as happy - you’re as joyful- as you choose to be.
Realize The Source Of True Joy. There are things in life that keep us from believing that living joyfully is a possibility; things that we face on a daily basis. Like the bad that shouldn’t happen, and the good that doesn’t happen. And we lose our joy. The problem is we have a misconception of happiness. We tend to think, “If I could just get rid of all my problems, then I’ll be happy!” Well duh! The only problem is there’s no such thing as a problem free life. You must learn to be joyful in the situation, in the circumstance. That is a sign of spiritual maturity. My joy is not determined or controlled by the circumstances around me. Do you want to know how spiritually mature you are? Check your joy level. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit within you. “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us … joy…” Galatians 5:22 (NLT) If your joy is based on your circumstances, guess what? You’re going to be miserable most of your life. True joy is independent of your circumstances because it comes from God – it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit. That’s what God wants to give you this Christmas season as you open the door of your life and invite Him in.
Calvin and Lisa Wulf
Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, "It's no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them." Jeremiah 2:25 (NIV)
The alarm clock rings, "Time to get up."
The grandfather clock chimes, "Time to go to work."
The computer beeps, "Time for your next appointment."
The time clock punches, "Time to go home."
The microwave dings, "Time for dinner."
The cuckoo clock sings, "Time for bed."
We live on the clock. It tells us when to go out and when to come in. We either try to beat the clock or kill time. So the pressure mounts. We juggle our lives to keep as many clocks in the air as possible. If one should fall, the whole system shatters
Ever notice that the clock is often the focal point of a room? It's given an honored place on the mantel. Even churches aren't immune. The cross used to be center stage. Today many sanctuaries have no cross but there's a clock in the back so the preacher can get us out on time.
Jesus never said, "Hurriest thou for we are late!" We don't see him rushing around. Yet he accomplished everything that was necessary. That's because he fixed his eyes on the Father, his compass, and not on the clock. Let's get real. Time consciousness fuels our modern world so we can’t eliminate clock tyranny altogether. But we can make better use of our compass. God gives us all the time we need to do what he has for us. Want to stop dividing life into seconds and minutes? Here's how:
- Try an experiment. Take off your watch for a bit.
- Evaluate your schedule. Do you need so many timetables?
- Follow God's clock. It runs on eternal time.
Does your wristwatch have you by the throat? Perhaps now is the time to stop juggling and let your timepieces fall to the ground. Don't let clock worship eclipse God's plan for your life. Free up your hands and eyes to follow the one true compass.
Living for God (TM) offers resources on Christian living. Check them out at www.livingforgod.net or call (719) 578-8837.
© 2008 Calvin R. Wulf and Lisa Are Wulf
More Church News
New Bible Study Helps Christians Live Abundant Lives
Christian Newswire -- Kohath Ministries announced today the launch of its new Bible-study series, "REAL LIFE: Living in Abundance." Contrasting all the daily messages of uncertainty in the world, this study teaches Christians to look past their circumstances and make biblical choices that improve their lives
The basis for the "REAL LIFE" series lies in John 10:10, in which Jesus said, "I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)."(AMP)
Jack Cohen, pastor and co-founder of Kohath Ministries, said, "You don't have to look far today to find people living less than full and abundant lives. Just dealing with the issues of each day can steal our joy and rob us of peace. But this passage in John is clear. Jesus came to free us from our burdens and give us abundant life here and now. That's what 'REAL LIFE' is all about."
The study is made up of a series of topics that people deal with every day - love, fear, pain, failure, trust. Participants spend four weeks exploring each topic, not only in the reference to the Bible but also in how those topics play out in their own lives. "So many Bible studies focus on teaching you something," said Jill Cohen, co-founder of Kohath Ministries, "but the purpose of 'REAL LIFE' is more than that. This study is designed to not only teach participants but also to enable them to experience something meaningful - the life-changing power of God."
The first two topics in the series have already been released, and more topics are to be available soon. Topic No. 1, "Life Is A Pain," deals with the realities of pain in life and the keys to finding joy and peace in the midst of it. Topic No. 2, "Love Life," redefines love and seeks to improve human love relationships with God and others.
"The Bible says God has a plan for each of our lives, but when the daily distractions of life come in, they can prevent us from seeing it," said Jack Cohen. "It is our prayer that this study series will help people break the barriers that hold them back and enable them to experience the 'REAL LIFE' that God intends."
For more information, visit Amazon.com (search for "Kohath Ministries") or call 302-438-2473.
Kohath Ministries Incorporated is headquartered in Hockessin, Del., and led by Jack Cohen and Jill Cohen, brother and sister founders.
The Incomparable One
by Joe Sobran
Jesus was far from being an old man when his earthly life ended. He was probably well under 40, roughly the age of Mozart, who died at 35, as his genius was still approaching its unimaginable peak.
By contrast, nobody thinks of Jesus as having died prematurely, as if he had been killed before his teaching had been fully developed, and as if it might have ripened into something more profound and interesting had his life span been longer. There is about his life a sense of completeness; he had done what he had come to achieve. At the very end, he said, “It is consummated.” He had foretold his own death and resurrection.
The Jesus Seminar, a liberal group that includes theologians as well as the director of Robocop, has tried to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic sayings of Jesus in the four Gospels; but nobody has ventured to suggest what he might have said if only he had survived another 10 years or so. Those Gospels do seem to indicate the fulfillment of a mission, don’t they?
It is, of course, impossible for anyone to invent a single saying worthy of Jesus. Much easier to coin a phrase worthy of a human genius like Shakespeare! “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” Jesus said, “but my words shall not pass away.” Once we have heard those words, they become part of us. They seem so familiar that we may think they are trite, but they are not. They are eternally new, even when we have heard them all our lives, and they always reward meditation on them.
Some day when you have nothing better to do, try improving on the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Don’t all religions agree on that? No. In most religions -- see the Iliad, the Koran, and the Psalms, for example -- it is normal to pray for revenge. Forgiving and praying for one’s enemies are among the hardest duties of a Christian. Being “nice” is far from the same thing as being a Christian; after all, Jesus was not tortured to death for urging good manners on his disciples.
But he did recommend good manners. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, the assertion that the meek shall inherit the earth is not at all a meek statement. “Meek” does not mean cowardly or timid; it means polite and unassuming.
If you want to contend that the Gospels are packs of lies and that Jesus never said all those things or performed all those wonders, you should at least admit that Christianity is the most brilliant hoax of all time. Everything fits so well. How could a few unlearned and provincial Jews invent such a supremely memorable character, endow him with the ability to speak immortal words on all occasions, then make virtually all the details of his story cohere so well, tallying even with Old Testament prophecy?
A cliche of literary criticism tell us that evil characters are more interesting than good ones. If so, why is this best of all characters -- indeed, he is sinless -- so fascinating? And how could four unpracticed amateur writers create the most vividly virtuous personality in all literature? And why does he sound like the same utterly unique man in all of their accounts of him?
In Jesus, goodness is not at all bland; it normally inspires, but it can also be disturbing, challenging, even frightening. He is incomparable; he never reminds us of anyone else. He spiritually dwarfs even the charismatic John the Baptist.
It has been said (again, by Chesterton) that whereas the death of Socrates seems to come as a rather arbitrary interruption of a conversation that might have gone on forever, Jesus’ death is the center of his story. Even during his infancy, his mother received intimations of his agonizing destiny. And he knew when his fatal hour had come.
Unbelievers have made it their never-ending task to explain Jesus away. Some have even suggested that he never existed at all! That degree of unbelief is itself unbelievable. Such daft doubts remind us that atheism is the extreme form of wishful thinking.
But there will be no wishful thinking in hell, where all comforting fantasies end forever.
The Reactionary Utopian by Joe Sobran is copyright (c) 2009 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, http://www.fgfBooks.com, P.O. Box 1383, Vienna, VA 22183. All rights reserved. Editors may print this column if this copyright information is included.
New Pew Forum Poll Explores Why Americans Change Religious Affiliation
Diverse Reasons, but Distinct Patterns Emerge
Christian Newswire -- A new survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Americans change their religious affiliation early and often, and the reasons they give for changing - or leaving religion altogether - differ widely depending on the origin and destination of the convert.
"Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S." is a follow-up to the "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey," conducted by the Pew Forum in 2007 and released in 2008, and is based on over 2,800 callback interviews with members of the largest segments of the population that have changed religious affiliation.
The poll results offer a fuller picture of the "churn" within religion in America, where about half of adults have changed religious affiliation at least once in their life.
- Most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and many of those who change religion do so more than once.
- Many people who have left a religion to become unaffiliated, the group that has grown the most from religious switching, say they did so in part because they stopped believing in the teachings of their childhood faith. Many also cite disillusionment with religious people and institutions as reasons for becoming unaffiliated.
- Many people who have left the Catholic Church say they did so because they stopped believing in Catholic teachings. This is true for half of Catholics who have become Protestant as well as two-thirds of Catholics who have become unaffiliated. Many fewer say they left because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
- In contrast with other groups, Americans who have switched from one Protestant denominational family (e.g., Baptist, Methodist) to another tend to do so because of changes in life circumstances, such as marriage or moving to a new community.
The report, including a detailed executive summary, methodology and topline questionnaire, is available online (pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=409). For the original "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey," visit religions.pewforum.org.
If you are interested in arranging an interview with a Pew Forum researcher or need more information, please contact Loralei Coyle at 202.419.4556 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Robbie Mills at 202.419.4564 or email@example.com.
The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life delivers timely, impartial information on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Pew Forum is a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization and does not take positions on policy debates. Based in Washington, D.C., the Pew Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Recession is Not the Only Thing Hitting Seniors Hard
Christian Newswire -- Tightening budgets in states across the nation and drops in charitable giving are leaving American seniors particularly vulnerable in this economic crisis. In recent years, caregivers for the elderly have experienced a greater demand for services. Hospitals are experiencing longer wait times in the ER and an increased number of medical visits by those over the age of 65. As more elderly Americans face these increasing fears and challenges, tending to their Spiritual needs can bring hope and encouragement and help them to rediscover God's purpose in their lives.
Mature Hearts, Scriptural Promises for our Beloved Seniors, is a one of a kind program that grew out of a need to bring encouragement to the seniors who are not able to participate in traditional bible study programs. It is available on DVD and is a convenient way to bring a Spiritual program to those who could benefit from some encouragement and a sense of continued purpose during these difficult times. Because of the unique recorded format, the program can be utilized for those seniors that may be living alone, in the hospital, in assisted living or in a nursing home. The program is adaptable to group study sessions within these settings or it can be used individually with personal DVD players.
Throughout the DVD, Sandy Dunbar, educator and Christian retreat leader from Hickory, NC speaks from her heart and shares her passion for the Word of God. Mature Hearts combines Dunbar's excellent teaching with Scripture, uplifting music and heartwarming imagery to share four lessons entitled: Hope, Grace, Assurance in Christ and Jesus Loves Me. Each is filled with encouragement, comfort and hope to Seniors everywhere. Mature Hearts is truly a timeless message worth sharing.
For additional information or to schedule an interview with Sandy Dunbar, please visit www.maturehearts.com or call (828) 465-4446.
About Sandy Dunbar and Mature Hearts: Sandy Dunbar is a former Speech Pathologist and Christian retreat leader in Hickory, NC. She serves as a board member of the Cooperative Christian Ministries and the Safe Harbor Rescue Mission for Women. Mature Hearts: Scriptural Promises for our Beloved Seniors was released by Casscom Media on November 19, 2008. It has a total run time of 76 minutes but can also be viewed in four shorter lessons. It is available for purchase at Amazon.com, Target.com and other retailers.
Recent Poll Shows Christians Believe Religious Freedom is Crucial to Foreign Policy Issue
May 2008 poll commissioned by Open Doors shows presidential candidates must address religious liberty as key foreign policy topic
Christian Newswire-- More than half of Christians in America believe religious freedom should be a high priority in crafting U.S. foreign policy, according to a recent Wilson Research Strategies survey commissioned by Open Doors USA.
"The persecution of Christians in the world today is on the rise, with an estimated 100 million suffering some sort of repression and even death for their faith," said Carl Moeller, president and chief executive officer of Open Doors USA, a Christian ministry that has served persecuted Christians around the world for more than 50 years. "Open Doors commissioned this study to try to understand what Christians in America feel about religious freedom. Clearly, it is a priority."
Fifty-four percent of U.S. Christians polled consider religious freedom an important issue in making U.S. foreign policy, according to the survey. This is an especially high priority with those who attend church most frequently (60 percent), compared with those Christians who never attend (40 percent).
The study shows that 96 percent of respondents believe strongly that religious freedom is a basic human right, and that more than eight in 10 believe it is a very important basic right. Those who feel most strongly about the issue are women who frequently attend church. Ninety-one percent believe it is a very important issue.
Respondents did not believe that direct intervention should form our religious freedom foreign policy. Instead, they favored the U.S. using more indirect policies, such as economic sanctions (20 percent) and diplomatic measures to pressure persecuting regimes rather than having the U.S. directly intervene.
"The findings of this study demonstrate that senators McCain and Obama must address the issue of religious freedom in their foreign policy positions if they are intent on winning the vote of faithful Christians," said Moeller.
Geographically, the weakest support for religious freedom as a basic human right is in New England, with only 76 percent of respondents ranking it as very important, compared with Mountain States, where 9 out of 10 say it is very important.
Among Christian groups, the strongest support came from Baptists, non denominational/independent churches, Lutherans and charismatics. The weakest group support came from Catholics, Presbyterians and Episcopalians.
Of special interest is the finding that 98 percent of frequent listeners to Christian radio believe strongly that religious freedom is a basic human right.
Wilson Research Strategies was commissioned to conduct a research study of 1,000 Christian adults nationwide. A sample of 1,000 has a margin of error of ±3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The study was conducted by telephone May 27-29, 2008. This sampling represents 72 percent of the United States population, which is equal to roughly 150.5 million people who call themselves Christians. Christians in this study were defined as people who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that by believing that He died for their sins they have eternal life. All respondents were contacted via Random Digit Dialing methodology. The sample was stratified by key demographics, including age, gender and area in order to representatively measure the United States' Christian population at large.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to their website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
New Book Helps Catholics Nail Down the Facts of Their Faith
A lawmaker in Colorado who challenged the authors of SB200, a new law that bans discrimination based on the "perception" of gender, contends it was written to give a wide open door to anyone who wants to banish Christian beliefs or the Bible.
"This is so loaded. It's written in an open-ended fashion that anybody can take just about any part of it and grow it into a huge monstrosity," state Rep. Kevin Lundberg told WND today. "It was written with intentional [vagueness]."
This highly practical book is developed around a construction theme, making it accessible to all readers. Following the structure of the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Joe takes otherwise difficult topics about the Catholic faith and makes them relevant to the lives of average Catholics without compromising the rich depth of Catholic teaching and tradition.
"Can you imagine your pastor asking you to represent him at a meeting of non-Catholics who wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith?" asks Paprocki. "I've asked this question to numerous groups of Catholics, especially catechists, and the number of people who feel they would have the right tools to represent the Catholic faith properly is extremely low."
A Well-Built Faith serves a broad audience of individuals who want to deepen their own knowledge of the Catholic faith. It can be used effectively with RCIA candidates, catechists, parents, adult faith- formation groups, pastoral council members, and anyone else who is eager to learn more about their faith.
Joe has been a catechetical leader and religious educator in the Chicago area for more than 20 years. His books include The Catechist's Toolbox, God's Library, and Living the Mass (Loyola Press). He is the managing editor of parish life resources at Loyola Press.
To interview Joe Paprocki or for a review copy, please contact Carrie Freyer (contact info above). Visit www.loyolapress.com/wellbuiltfaith for more information.
Legislator: Law Allows Banishment of Bible
Faith Under Fire
'This is written so anybody can take any part and grow it into monstrosity'
By Bob Unruh
A lawmaker in Colorado who challenged the authors of SB200, a new law that bans discrimination based on the "perception" of gender, contends it was written to give a wide open door to anyone who wants to banish Christian beliefs or the Bible.
"This is so loaded. It's written in an open-ended fashion that anybody can take just about any part of it and grow it into a huge monstrosity," state Rep. Kevin Lundberg told WND today. "It was written with intentional [vagueness]."
He spoke with WND after a news conference at which a number of groups and organizations announced plans to challenge the law. Among those promising to dispute the new limitations on speech and actions was Liberty Counsel, which is reviewing the situation now in preparation for a legal challenge.
"Section 8 of Senate Bill 200 is a wide open door for any judge to censor anything that condemns homosexuality, including Scripture," Lundberg said at the news conference. Section 8 is headlined, "Publishing of discriminative matter forbidden."
"I do believe that the Bible is banned, under the plain language of this new statute," said Steve Crampton, general counsel of Liberty Counsel.
Others represented at the news conference were WND columnist and national syndicated talk show host Janet Folger, who wrote "The Criminalization of Christianity;" Steve Curtis, president of the American Right To Life Action and former chairman of the Colorado GOP; Kevin Swanson of Christian Home Educators of Colorado; Mark Hotaling of Christian Family Alliance and Colorado for Family Values.
Lundberg told WND the statute includes some "very troubling" provisions "that can be used in fairly heavy-handed ways. It goes so far and it goes so broad … the more I read it the more troubled I get."
He said Section 8, for example, regarding the publication of discriminatory material.
""When it was on the floor of the house and we were debating it I discounted the overall effect, thinking it applied to the posting of rules for hotels and lodging," he said. "When I more seriously looked at all the particulars, then it starts to encompass a prohibition on anything of a printed nature that's distributed or sold or shared for virtually any purpose."
Curtis told WND that the legal challenge will be launched soon by Liberty Counsel, and participants deliberately violated the law with a display of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, provided by the Denver Tech Center Marriott where the news conference was held at the same time as a pastors' conference at which former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was a speaker.
"We questioned whether the Marriott Corp. was in violation for distributing [the books] to us," he said. "We displayed them, which is a violation, we sold Janet Folger's book, which is a violation. We gave it away, which is a violation.
"We will go ahead and continue to violate [the law]," he said. "Our challenge to the governor is go ahead and issue the citation, arrest us, do whatever you want."
Lundberg said it's clear the Bible could be targeted by those using the vague definitions in the law.
"If you're going to be distributing Scriptures, there are clear passages that someone of a homosexual orientation could easily find offensive," he said.
He said not only did Colorado lawmakers create an open-ended document, "any court could take it to whatever direction they wanted to take it, and they would have the authority of the statute to fall back onto."
The lawmaker said there is an exemption for churches, mosques and synagogues in Section 6 of the law, dealing with public accommodations. But that definition is only for Section 6 and doesn't apply to Section 8, restricting printed material, he said.
And he said the new burden for business owners will force Christians quickly to abandon their principles, or their business.
"When you read all of the particulars, you discover it is much more inclusive of any type of commerce," he said of the rules. "When I confronted the House sponsor [Rep. Joel Judd] in debate on a photographer who found it morally unacceptable to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony, the answer was, 'If you choose to do commerce in Colorado you have to abide by these rules.'"
There are two other important factors, he noted, including the law itself which includes not just civil, but criminal penalties of up to a year in jail, for violations. And the other is the fact the legislature included a "safety" clause in the law, specifying that the law is necessary for the safety of the state, which means voters cannot take the law and put it to a vote.
"The reason I consider this to be a big deal … to my knowledge people were going to exercise their rights with a citizens referendum, before [that right] was stripped away from them by the legislature," he said.
Curtis said his organization, American RTL Action, is a political 527 group headquarter half a block from where the legislature meets.
"We're not going to hire someone cohabitating outside of marriage," he said. "We will also violate SB200's prohibition on publishing certain biblical teachings on homosexuality."
WND reported earlier that one of the supporters of the bill, Cathryn Hazouri of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the state House Judiciary Committee: "One may practice one's religion in private; however, once a religious person comes into the public arena, there are limitations in how the expression of their religion impacts others."
The Christian publishing house Focus on the Family has called it a payback by the Democrat-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter to homosexual activists such as millionaire Tim Gill, who has donated widely to pro-homosexual political candidates.
The Focus analysis of the plan, according to spokesman Bruce Hausknecht, shows that besides the obvious impacts of opening restrooms and locker rooms statewide to members of either sex, depending on a perception of their gender, "the biggest danger this law poses is to the religious or moral consciences of small business owners who may object to doing business with people whose lifestyle they do not want to promote."
"Who would have believed that the Colorado state legislature and its governor would have made it fully legal for men to enter and use women's restrooms and locker-room facilities without notice or explanation?" Focus founder James Dobson said. "Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence."
A WND reader also expressed horror at the implications of the law.
"Now, as I stand outside of a movie theater bathroom or a swimming pool shower room door and guard the most precious thing in my life: my wife and daughter's safety, modesty and privacy, I can no longer stop a man from entering a woman's domain," wrote a concern resident whose name was withheld. "(I will anyway, that's why I'm a criminal!)"
"An act that once was criminal is now legitimate, and what was taught to me as a virtue is now a vice. Not only am I liable for civil penalties but criminal, as I can be sentenced for up to a year in jail," he wrote.
"Will SB200 be the end of it? No. Next, hate crime legislation must be passed so that it is illegal for me to write this letter (as it is now illegal in Canada); then enforced homosexual/transsexual indoctrination of our children in the public educational system; finally, all other alternative forms of education must be outlawed. Impossible, you say? It's already happened in California," he said. "As I'm being forced into this 'shotgun wedding' with the radical homosexual agenda, I hope it's not too late to 'speak now, or forever hold my peace.' What is it called when you are forced, against your will, to participate in a sexual lifestyle that you find objectionable? I believe that is called 'rape.' My state legislature has 'violated' me and charged me with the crime."
Tom Minnery, the senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus, said every Christian, Jewish or Muslim business owner now is under a threat.
"We've seen … charges brought by homosexuals against a video reproduction business in Virginia, a medical clinic in California, an adoption service in Arizona and a church in New Jersey," he continued. "Colorado tops them all on the potential outrage meter, however, because in addition to civil fines and penalties, small-business owners can be prosecuted under the criminal laws of Colorado and spend up to one year in jail for trying to live according to their faith."
Giving is on the Decline in America's Churches: Want to Know Why?
New Book Provides the Answer
MEDIA ADVISORY, June 30 /Christian Newswire/ -- Dr. McSwain's revealing book, The Giving Myths, is a must-read for every church leader in America. It answers the question, "Why is giving in decline?" It is not just because the economy is down. Giving has never been up. The economy only highlights the problem every church faces in teaching members how to be generous in giving and living.
Filled with stories of real people who are learning the joy of giving, you'll laugh at its humor, cry at its warmth, and cringe at its frankness as Dr. McSwain boldly confronts the 7 most common myths about giving in the church today. These widely-held myths keep people trapped in the madness of materialism and in self-defeating lifestyles. And, they are the principle reason for the decline in giving churches today struggle to overcome and, especially, in today's economy. Learning, however, the secrets contained in this book will unlock the mystery to life's meaning and propel you and your church onto the pathway toward a life of generosity--the life you were Divinely-designed to live.
If you are a church leader, or in philanthropic work of any kind, you must read this book. It will help you to understand the cultural myths about giving held by church members and potential donors. These myths prevent people from becoming self-less and generous and from finding and living a genuinely fulfilling life. Dr. McSwain says, "I've observed these myths at work in my own life and scores of other people. I've written this book, not only to expose them, but to help free people from them. As people are freed from them, then they have the potential of living the life they've really always wanted. The church will see greater revenues as well."
Packed with real-life stories, this book will help you understand the myths that keep members from giving and to develop strategies for positively changing the present giving culture of your church. After reading this book, a pastor in one of the largest churches in America said, "This book is so important, I'm going to see to it that a copy gets into every household in our church."
For more than a decade, Dr. McSwain has crisscrossed America speaking to thousands of people each year and consulting with hundreds of churches and parishes representing virtually every Christian communion in America. In this book, Dr. McSwain shares from his own experience and the experience of others who are discovering the meaning of life and are living the life they've always wanted. If you're looking for answers as to why giving is poor in your church, or, if you are simply looking for happiness or feel discontented about the life you're currently living, this book is a "must read."
To speak with Dr. McSwain personally, call him at 502- 777-9426. To schedule a consult with him, contact Cargill Associates, Inc., at 800-433-2233. Or, to book him for a speaking engagement, contact Jim Rittenhouse @ www.mckinneyspeakers.com or call Mr. Rittenhouse at 502-583-8222.
To order THE GIVING MYTHS, visit any of the on-line retail bookstore outlets or, for bulk orders for group study, order directly from the publisher at Smyth & Helwys, Publishing at http://www.helwys.com/books/giving_myths.html.
I Stand with Pastor John Hagee
OPINION, June 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- Pastor John Hagee is a towering leader in the Evangelical Church who has dedicated a great part of his enormously successful ministry to reaching out in love and loving-kindness to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He has admirably defended our right to our historic homeland even when our enemies have attempted to disgorge us from our homes and drive us into the sea; he has praised the Lord for having imbued us, the "post- Holocaust dry bones of Ezekiel," with renewed life and vigor even when our arch-enemy and the arch-enemy of the free world has called us a "stinking corpse." He has organized Christian lobby groups for the only true democracy in the Middle East across the length and breadth of the United States even when a former American President and professors from Harvard and Chicago Universities have denounced our own lobbying efforts as un-American and anti-Democratic.
Pastor Hagee has expressed his profound affection for us even when it has been most unpopular to do so. Can we, the recipients of his heart and goodwill, dare be silent now, when the political frenzy of primary elections hysterically seeks to defame and discredit one of the greatest voices on behalf of Christian- Jewish healing and cooperation? No, for the sake of Jerusalem and for the sake of the God of love and peace we must raise our voices in support of and friendship for the very individual who has never faltered in his support and friendship for us!
Does this mean that I must necessarily agree with all of the theological positions taken by Pastor Hagee? Not at all! True friendship means that I continue to love and even partner with my friend, despite disagreeing with him on even fundamental positions of theology and ideology - as long as his views do not threaten the life or limb of innocent human beings. And in fact in subsequent articles I hope to express my own theological position about God and the existence of evil, Jewish history and the place of Hitler (may his very name be blotted out). But if I can only love those with whom I agree completely, then I cannot even love myself - because I may very well come to disagree tomorrow with whatever I may have thought and said today! As Pastor Hagee himself has remarked, if I am completely in accord with whatever you think and say, then one of us becomes superfluous.
We are living in a world divided between those who believe in a God of love and peace, and those who believe in a Satan of Jihad and suicide bombers. Any attempt to marginalize and slander leaders of the camp of the former will only serve to strengthen the camp of the latter, with the future existence of the free world perilously hanging in the balance. And so I continue to proudly shout from the rooftops that this rabbi in Israel stands firmly alongside -his beloved friend, a true friend of Israel and the free world, Pastor John Hagee.
Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Israel
Founder: Ohr Torah Stone Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation
Pope Benedict on Marriage:
Key to 'World Peace'?
PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new analysis entitled "Pope Benedict XVI on Marriage: A Compendium" and published by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy on the eve of Benedict's historic U.S. visit, finds that in the first three years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken publicly about marriage on 111 occasions, connecting marriage to such overarching themes as human rights, world peace, and the conversation between faith and reason.
"Over and over again he has made it clear that the marriage and family debate is central - not peripheral - to understanding the human person, and defending our human dignity," says Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
For example, when receiving the credentials of the new U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for America's recognition of the importance of a dialogue of faith and faiths in the public square and linked this to respect not only for religious freedom but for marriage as the union of husband and wife:
I cannot fail to note with gratitude the importance which the United States has attributed to interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. . . . The American people's historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues-a role at times contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse-is reflected in the efforts of so many of your fellow-citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death, and the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family.
Pope Benedict devoted about half of his message for the January 1 World Day of Peace to the significance of marriage in developing a culture of peace:
Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.
Marriage essential to world peace? This may strike American ears as an oddity. If so, Benedict has made clear it is not an unintentional one. On September 21, 2007, in an address to participants in a conference of the Executive Committee of Centrist Democratic International, Pope Benedict prefigured the same theme:
There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity. There are some who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages. Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family, which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman. Experience has shown that when the truth about man is subverted or the foundation of the family undermined, peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.
"The short pontificate of Benedict XVI is already a standing rebuke to those voices of our time who seek to make us ashamed or embarrassed of caring about marriage and sexual issues, who try to get us to view the contemporary marriage debate as merely a distraction from more important issues," notes Gallagher, "Pope Benedict clearly connects life and marriage, the human person in the human family, with the most fundamental international issues of peace and human rights facing our times."
Download the full report at www.marriagedebate.com.
Source: Institute of Marriage and Public Policy
CONTACT: Maggie Gallagher of the Institute for Marriage and PublicPolicy, 1-914-522-5310, firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Site: http://www.marriagedebate.com/