The Jerusalem Post

Taking the perennial creation debate beyond those familiar evangelicals and fundamentalists

Taking the perennial creation debate beyond those familiar evangelicals and fundamentalists

U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists have vigorously debated when to date the origin of planet Earth and of the human species, whether God as Creator employed Darwin-type evolution and, more recently, whether the Bible requires belief in a literal Adam and Eve.

Reporters should be acquainted with Ken Ham’s strict “young earth”  creationists, Hugh Ross’s “old earth” creationists, pro-evolution evangelicals at BioLogos (founded by Francis Collins, an evangelical and world-class geneticist), the Intelligent Design researchers at the Discovery Institute and discussions within the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of Bible-believing  professionals in science.

Though conservative Protestants have dominated news coverage, there’s a good  story angle in other religious groups that likewise struggle over evolution. In recent weeks, both Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. LDS or Mormon) have won some media attention on themes other writers could explore in further depth.

Islam’s creation account in the Koran parallels the longer version in the Jewish and Christian Bible. On scriptural grounds, Muslim authorities insist on a literal Adam and Eve (the latter is unnamed in the Koran but cited in recognized Hadith texts).

More broadly, “The Oxford Dictionary of Islam,” edited by Georgetown University expert John Esposito, states that evolution “is denounced by most Muslim scholars” as “a refutation of Koranic theories of creation.” Evolutionary ideas are excluded from school textbooks in nations like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. However, a recent beliefnet.com column by Stephanie Hertzenberg sketches a more complicated, three-sided debate.  

First, many Muslims do believe any form of evolution is incompatible with their faith, a la Protestant creationists. Hertzenberg notes that in such traditional  interpretations of the Quran, Adam “had no parents and was a fully formed human being” when created, and other species also stem from the “sudden creation of complete modern organisms” without evolution. A prominent exponent of this stance is Turkish neurosurgeon Oktar Babuna, who has taught at three U.S. universities.

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Christian Zionist gathering during Sukkot takes on international tone, says The Atlantic

Christian Zionist gathering during Sukkot takes on international tone, says The Atlantic

Only religion-beat professionals used to know about the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Israel that was more Christian than Jewish and involved all sorts of odd folks waving Israeli flags on the streets of Jerusalem.

Fortunately, the Atlantic sent Emma Green to cover the 2017 version of this Sukkot festival with the angle that these days it’s not just American evangelicals populating the place -- 90 percent of the crowd is made up of internationals. And that the local Jewish population is truly OK with them being there.

From the front lines of a conference center in Jerusalem, here's what she wrote:

JERUSALEM -- The scene was like a contemporary Christian music concert, but with a lot more Jewish swag. European pilgrims wore Star of David jewelry as they swayed among the palm trees of Ein Gedi, an oasis in the Judean desert. Spanish delegates sported matching “España loves Israel” T-shirts. A tiny woman from China jogged around waving a person-sized flag bearing a Hebrew word for God, while another Chinese woman periodically blew a giant shofar, the ram’s horn that is sacred in Judaism. The crowd sang songs from the Psalms, following transliterated Hebrew on giant television screens. As night fell, their chorus of “holy, holy, worthy, worthy” seemed to fill the desert.
This was the opening ceremony for the 2017 Feast of the Tabernacles, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s annual celebration held during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. More than 6,000 Christians from all over the world had come to show their love for Israel, and I tagged along with ICEJ spokesperson David Parsons and his wife, Josepha. “It’s like a pre-celebration before Moshiach comes,” she explained, using the Hebrew word for messiah.

I remember interviewing Parsons 17 years ago when some of us came to Jerusalem in the closing days of 1999 to record what a new millennium looked like from the Mount of Olives and to write news stories about some of the crazies who thought the Second Coming was imminent.

Christian Zionism typically involves a belief that Jews must return to Israel in order to fulfill biblical prophecy. While the movement long predates the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, it got new energy from the American religious right in the 1980s. Now, according to Daniel Hummel, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the movement is undergoing a transformation, both theologically and geographically.

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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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If it's an imam trashing Jews, not all editors agree that his words are hate speech

If it's an imam trashing Jews, not all editors agree that his words are hate speech

A California imam has made some waves in recent days by suggesting all Jews be killed in an apocalyptic battle in some future time.

Needless to say, this did not go over well with some of those who viewed a video of the speech -- but its combustible content got no national coverage.

Even coverage within California was limited, causing some to wonder that had the roles been reversed -- with the speaker a rabbi or a Christian preacher, attacking Muslims -- news media professionals would have been all over the story.

The Sacramento Bee had the clearest account of the sermon with a bit of theological punch:

A Davis imam is under fire after giving a sermon last week that combined end-of-days prophecy with the current religious conflict over a Jerusalem holy site, causing critics to condemn him as anti-Semitic.
Imam Ammar Shahin on Friday gave a nearly hour-long sermon to worshippers at the Islamic Center of Davis calling for congregants to oppose restrictions placed by Israel on the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and citing Islamic texts about an end-times battle predicted by the prophet Muhammad.
The sermon included a prayer to Allah to “destroy those who closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to the translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which first posted an edited clip of the sermon.
Shahin’s prayer continued, “count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one.”

After the Islamic Center claimed that MEMRI had misconstrued the remarks, the Bee got its own translator who sided mostly with the Center, but said the imam was unwise at best to give such a sermon.

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Hello? Hello? Mindy Finn is a Jewish vice presidential candidate, so where's the ink?

Hello? Hello? Mindy Finn is a Jewish vice presidential candidate, so where's the ink?

Evan McMullin, a third-party candidate for president based out of Utah, is a Mormon and he's chosen a very interesting vice presidential candidate: Mindy Finn, a businesswoman and tech entrepreneur living in DC. She's an interesting pick, not the least because she's conservative and Jewish.

But don't expect any decent take-outs about her faith. Even though it's been two weeks since she was announced as McMullin's running mate, there's been very little done about her and especially her beliefs. I can excuse the secular media not getting too worked up over Mindy Finn’s faith as she and her running mate are long shots at making a dent in this election. But Jewish media should be ahead of the game on this one.

Typical of the coverage-lite out there is this piece from the Forward

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin announced a Jewish running mate last weekend: Mindy Finn.
 
Finn is a veteran GOP strategist who runs a feminist non-profit. She and McMullin, a former CIA agent, see their independent candidacy as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump.
With their religious makeup — a Mormon and a Jew — and their outspokenness, the McMullin/Finn ticket has been gaining traction lately. Following Donald Trump’s struggles after the release of a tape on which he makes lewd comments about women, they might win Mormon-heavy Utah, where McMullin is now statistically tied with both Trump and Clinton.
Their candidacy is a long shot — they are not even on the ballot in all states — but there technically is a way how it could work. If they manage to win one state and then both Trump and Clinton fail to get the 270 electoral votes necessary to become president, the House gets to decide the election.
More realistically, Finn sees their campaign as the start of a new conservative movement. “We are a glimmer of light in what many have seen as a sea of darkness in this election,” she told Glamour.

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Israelis back Donald Trump because of his anti-Muslim talk, right? Well, actually...

Israelis back Donald Trump because of his anti-Muslim talk, right? Well, actually...

There's an assumption circulating among some in the news media, some American Jews, both on the right and left, and among political-geeks in general that Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump is favored by Israelis over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The assumption is rooted in the belief that Trump -- based on his rhetoric (but ignoring his many contradictions) -- will be a more full-throated supporter of Israel than Clinton will be, and so of course Israelis back him over her.

How could they not? The United States is Israeli's most important international protector, so of course Israelis must want the toughest talking candidate.

As a #NeverTrump guy, I think this belief is very wrong. But this post isn't about who Israelis SHOULD support for president of the United States, but who they DO support. (Unless I state otherwise, when I refer to Israelis I'm referring in the main to Jewish Israelis. Israeli Arabs, or Israeli Palestinians, as many prefer to be called, have their own complicated political equations, be they Christian or Muslim.)

So who do Israelis prefer?

Here's a link from May to a Jerusalem Post story reporting on a survey that shows an Israeli preference for Clinton. Note that non-Jewish Israelis are included in this survey. And here's a CNBC analysis, also from May, that puts some meat on the bare-bones Post news report. 

Two salient CNBC paragraphs follow:

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Palestinian Christians: Why so little coverage outside of Easter and Christmas?

Palestinian Christians: Why so little coverage outside of Easter and Christmas?

Mainstream news coverage of the persecution of Middle East Christians -- including the lack of such coverage -- receives lots of attention here at GetReligion. Here's a sample in the form of one of our "Crossroads" podcasts.

Elsewhere, the level of coverage tends to ebb and flow with the degree of brutality accompanying the persecution. When a large number of Christians are murdered -- say, by the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq -- the coverage spikes. When the discrimination is merely pervasive but not violent in a spectacular way -- such as that endured by Egypt's Copts -- the coverage recedes.

Here are two examples of journalistic attention to the issue.

One is an editorial from Britain's The Guardian. The other is a news piece from Fox News.

Note that the latter underscores the possibility of the eradication of the Middle East's ancient churches from the lands that birthed them. (More recently arrived Protestant churches also are under assault, of course.)

What you generally hear less about is the plight of the Christian minorities living under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza. And when you do see a story it's likely to be timed to Christmas or Easter, when Palestinian Christians are most visible to the international media and a Holy Land dateline is a beloved trade hallmark, even if that means ignoring the fact that many Christians in this region are using the older Julian calendar and, thus, celebrate Christmas and Pascha later than the churches of the West.

Here's one Christmas piece published a few years back on the Wall Street Journal website. And here's 2015 Christmas story in The New York Times.

Why do Palestinian Christians living under Palestinian rule get so much less attention?

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