heresy

Weaponized Calvinism? Accused shooter said his salvation was assured, no matter what

Weaponized Calvinism? Accused shooter said his salvation was assured, no matter what

At this point, I think reporters have no choice but to dig into the Calvinist themes in the manifesto published by John Earnest, the accused shooter at Chabad of Poway.

It’s crucial to find out, of course, what he learned during his many hours in the pews at Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It would appear that Earnest then blended pieces of Calvinist theology into the white supremacist beliefs that he says that he learned elsewhere.

Here is the key question at this point, as I see it: Was there an online website (a specific writer, even) that twisted Calvinist doctrines into the form that Earnest blended into a radicalized, violent white nationalism that embraced some things that he heard at church, while rejecting others?

Let’s take this one step at a time, starting with the following, from my first GetReligion post on this subject:

Yes, reporters … need to note that Earnest said, in that same manifesto, that he didn’t soak up this twisted version of Christianity while frequenting church pews with his family. His hateful, deadly heresies grew out of a private, secret life online, listening to true radicals. Church members tried to talk to him, but he turned away.

Nevertheless, there is no question that reporters will have to deal with two clashing versions of Christianity when covering this story — that white supremacist brand proclaimed in this digital testimony and the Orthodox Presbyterian — uppercase “O” is part of the name — faith taught in his family’s congregation. In this case, the accused gunman did everything that he could to put the word “Christian” into play.

This brings us to two Washington Post stories that can — by savvy readers — be read together. They cover two parts of the same equation.

Here’s the headline on the first one I’d like readers to study: “Ancient hatreds, modern methods: How social media and political division feed attacks on sacred spaces.” And here is the overture, which covers the crucial ground:

Inspired by the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and enabled by the largely unchecked freedoms of social media, individual extremists have launched a steady series of assaults on religious institutions around the world, the latest at a California synagogue. …

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Heresy in headlines: Raising questions about our social-media addiction and online buzz

Heresy in headlines: Raising questions about our social-media addiction and online buzz

They say most American Christians have little interest in doctrine. Perhaps the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will briefly change that. Yet theological debates can produce lively news stories, and lately heresy has been in the headlines.

Emily McFarlan Miller, a Protestant-beat specialist with Religion News Service, proposed the “Top 5 ‘heresies’ of 2016” in an interesting December 29 piece. Then a January 3 Washington Post article by theologian Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary-California associated the H-word with President-elect Donald Trump because he favors Paula White and other “prosperity evangelists who cheerfully attack basic Christian doctrines.”

Miller’s list has two items that got considerable mainstream media ink:( 1) The ruckus over ousted Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins and whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. (2) Contentions that an ambiguous 2016 decree from Pope Francis means Catholics who remarry without annulments can receive Communion.

The other three debates were mostly limited to evangelical Protestant circles. Philadelphia Pastor Liam Goligher accused theologian Wayne Grudem and other “complementarians” who see wives as subordinate to husbands of heresy in also subordinating Jesus the divine Son to God the Father. The two other disputes involve Georgia Southern Baptist Andy Stanley, said to undercut the Bible’s unique authority and the centrality of Jesus’ Virgin Birth.

Horton spurns the “word of faith” or “prosperity gospel” movement as a merger between the “new thought” typified by Christian Science and Norman Vincent Peale’s “positive thinking.” In addition to White, Horton targets Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen. (White, who will pray at Trump’s inauguration -- see this recent Julia Duin post here at GetReligion -- rejects the “prosperity” label for herself.)

This theological news causes the Religion Guy to contemplate our omnipresent social media.

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Christians and persecution: So the 4th Century meets the 21st Century?

Christians and persecution: So the 4th Century meets the 21st Century?

In interpreting 21st Century religious conflict, newswriters might gain perspective from the bitter Christian schism by the 4th Century “Donatists.” These hardliners refused to recognize the validity of bishops who compromised in order to escape execution during the last wave of vicious persecution by the Roman Empire. That scourge lasted from A.D. 303 until Constantine became emperor of the West (312) and ordered religious toleration in the Edict of Milan (313).    
Today, Christians are likewise debating what to do amid the killing, rape, kidnapping, torture and thievery aimed at them -- and others -- by a radical faction within world Islam. Muslim traditionalists insist this mayhem violates teachings of the Quran and of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Mideast dominates the sorrow and the news coverage, but Christianity Today correspondents Jayson Casper in Cairo and Tom Osanjo in Nairobi draw our attention to the African continent.

Case study: During  those repellent beachfront beheadings, a Muslim advised a Christian friend named Osama Mansour to escape Libya by growing a beard, carrying a prayer rug and covering a Coptic tattoo on his wrist with a fake cast. Azar Ajaj of Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary said pretending to be Muslim was an ethical tactic because Mansour did not lie outright or deny his faith in Christ.

East Africa’s  al-Shabaab gunmen have allowed people to escape death if they can prove they are Muslims by recitations  in Arabic or answering such questions as the name of Muhammad’s mother. Since the Westgate Mall massacre at Nairobi,  Kenya’s Christians have been boning up on Muslim trivia and sharing online tips about pretending to be Muslim in life-or-death emergencies.

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