Charisma News

A Falwell in St. Martin? Religious charities' aid gets little coverage in post-hurricane news

A Falwell in St. Martin? Religious charities' aid gets little coverage in post-hurricane news

As everyone from President Donald Trump to politicians of all stripes try to make sense of the mess that is Puerto Rico, I’ve noticed little has been written about all the religious groups heading down to the U.S. territory to help.

Why is this? Information about these efforts is all over the place on Twitter and in social media.

So, along with the city of Chicago sending some two dozen firefighters, paramedics and engineers to Puerto Rico, there’s a group of Chicago Catholics sending down supplies as well. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which uses its storage centers in Atlanta as a staging ground for emergency relief, is also sending folks to Puerto Rico.

Seventh-day Adventist students and professors from the Adventist-affiliated Andrews University in Michigan are likewise showing up. The Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I. is chipping in 10 grand. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams were finally given permission by FEMA to move in.

You may have heard about President Trump tossing towels at a Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, but here’s a story about a Calvary Chapel-affiliated church in California that’s trying to get supplies to their brethren some 3,500 miles away.

That story was from the NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo, but most of the stories I’ve seen are from the religious press. Case in point is this Charisma News post about everyone ranging from Paula White Ministries to Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse racing to get thousands of pounds of supplies to the island.

It does seem ironic that while so many have problems with Graham’s style or politics, there’s much less coverage when Samaritan’s Purse pours relief supplies into a devastated area.

Christianity Today also did an overview of which religious charities are doing what.

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Were many journalists right when they blamed 'white Christians' for Charlottesville riots?

Were many journalists right when they blamed 'white Christians' for Charlottesville riots?

On the face of it, the riots in Charlottesville didn’t have a religious component. Yes, there were pastors marching in protest against the white nationalists, but so were lots of other people.

Then, everything went very wrong very fast. What I saw next, mainly on Twitter, were people demanding that white clergy nationwide condemn the white nationalist protest in their Sunday sermons. I was fascinated by how some media – who wouldn’t be caught dead implicating certain other groups when one of them does an act of violence – decided that all white Christian clergy have to answer for the violence in Charlottesville.

Do you think I’m painting with too broad a brush? Read this NBC News opinion piece blaming all of Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan and – by extension – the events in Charlottesville. 

I saw a lot of lecturing at evangelical Protestants – who are reminded nonstop that 81 percent of them polled as voting for Trump last year – that they are responsible for what happened this past weekend. Much of this came in the form of opinion pieces ranging from an essay on Fox News’ site by a white Southern Baptist seminary professor to an essay in the Washington Post’s Acts of Faith section – written by a black clergyman – telling white pastors to speak up.

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Is Russia really going after missionaries? Few publications seem to care

Is Russia really going after missionaries? Few publications seem to care

Imagine if the U.S. Congress passed a law saying that you cannot talk about your faith in your own home or anywhere else besides a church building. You can’t even send an email to your friends telling them about your home Bible study. And if you are found guilty of, say, telling your kid about your beliefs, lighting a menorah candle or spreading out a prayer rug, you’re fined $780.

That may sound outlandish, but such is life in today’s Russia. In July, President Vladimir Putin signed an anti-terror law that even got a rebuke from Edward Snowden for its overreach. Human Rights Watch reported the law was “rammed through Russian Parliament.” 

What didn’t get as well reported was how the law could affect religious groups.

An English-language summation of the law is here. One outlet that’s jumped on it has been the Huffington Post, which realized quickly which group might be the most affected by these rules. It stated in July:

A new anti-terrorism law in Russia includes measures that will limit religious work in the country, calling into question the fate of Mormon missionaries currently serving there. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin formally signed the legislation into effect on Thursday, which will prohibit the door-to-door evangelizing Mormon missionaries commonly do. On Friday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement saying missionaries would remain in the country but will reevaluate their strategy. 

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Note to journalists: When reporting on charismatics, please try to get details right

Note to journalists: When reporting on charismatics, please try to get details right

Pentecostals and charismatics are the world’s fastest-growing form of Christianity. On a trip to India years ago, I was interviewing evangelical Protestant leaders when I asked them which churches were growing the fastest. Without hesitation, they all responded: Pentecostals. And they didn’t even agree theologically with those folks.

On this side of the pond, most denominations – which were initially opposed to charismatics (who are essentially Pentecostals who’ve stayed in mainline denominations), have made their piece with such groups. Not so with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Years ago, pastors who got caught up in the charismatic renewal got kicked out of their churches. More recently, the opposition was more subtle; in 2005 the SBC’s International Mission Board ruled that none of its missionaries could pray in tongues. That is, candidates would be asked when applying to be a missionary if they did so, even in their private prayers. An affirmative answer was an automatic disqualifier. The spiritual gift of tongues, mentioned in some detail in 1 Cor. 12-14, along with several mentions scattered through the book of Acts, is the most controversial of the gifts. But the Apostle Paul specifically said not to forbid it (at the end of 1 Cor. 14), so the Baptists’ decision in 2005 was a contested one, to say the least.

Which is why I did a double take when RNS broke this story announcing that after 10 years of  forbidding the gift of tongues, the IMB had done a 180 and was allowing its missionaries to do so. 

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