AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER – INTERNATIONAL NEWS 13th JANUARY 2014
- SECULARISM SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF CHRISTIANITY
- EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS ABORTION AS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT
- GENOCIDE LOOMS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- WHY HOLLYWOOD IS DUMPING EXPLICIT SEX SCENES
- AMERICAN STUDY SHOWS YOUTH GROUPS MAY BE DRIVING CHRISTIAN TEENS TO ABANDON FAITH
JEWISH HOSPITAL IN MONTREAL WILL NOT RESTRICT EMPLOYEES WEARING RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS
SECULARISM SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF CHRISTIANITY
When Pentecostals don’t speak in tongues and Baptists aren’t getting baptized, it signals a deeper issue of faith. What are we to make of these declines? The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world with 66 million members is disturbed by the issue. According to the denomination’s statistics, tongue speaking last year decreased by about 3% to less than 82,000. That’s the lowest rate since 1995. It is also despite the fact that Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing denominations within Christianity. “This is a long-developing phenomenon,” according to Harvey Cox, an expert in Pentecostalism and professor of religion at Harvard Divinity School.
Cox said “It’s not just the Pentecostals that are straying from the defining characteristics of their faith. The Baptists are also reporting a decline in Baptisms. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) reports water baptisms dipped 13% in 2012 to under 300,000. Al Gilbert of the NAMB said that’s the biggest drop in 62 years! “Maybe we’re not helping our teenagers and older children to understand how to publicly profess their faith,” Gilbert says. “Are we even making sure that they understood the claims of Christ and have declared that they’re publicly a follower of Christ?” So what does it mean for Christianity at large?
Secularism is attacking the foundations of Christianity and we’re seeing the fruit in two of the larger denominations in the body of Christ. In an age of interfaith marriages, some may be abandoning their religious roots to avoid offending their spouses. In a recent article entitled “Interfaith Unions: A Mixed Blessing,” Naomi Riley points out that before the 1960s, 20% of married couples were in interfaith unions; of couples married in this century’s first decade, 45% were. Riley also notes that secular Americans welcome the rise of interfaith unions as a sign of societal progress. But it’s not progress when you abandon the tenets of your faith in the name of compromise.
Secularism is creeping into churches. Some of the signs are blatantly obvious, such as teaching that Jesus is not the only way to God. But the Bible clearly states that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Approval of homosexual lifestyles is another obvious fruit of secularism in the church. But secularism isn’t always so blatant. There are subtle secularistic messages invading the church today . Messages that focus more on moralism than on Christ and the cross sound fine and good but morality without Christ is not Christianity.
Likewise, psychology-centred sermons can take our focus off Christ and distract us from our faith or turn it into steps or formulas that may actually contradict the Word. When we’re scared our faith will offend, we’re bowing to secularism. When we stop publicly baptizing we may also be bowing to the influence of secularism. And when we stop praying in tongues because we don’t want to scare off seekers, we have given in to secularism. It’s time for the righteous to rise up and declare the cross of Christ and get baptized according to our beliefs and build ourselves up in our most holy faith. Ultimately, secularism must bow the knee to the name of Jesus.
Source: Written by Jennifer LeClaire, News Editor at Charisma New
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS ABORTION AS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT
Pro-life lobbyists at the European Union declared a victory after the European Parliament rejected a resolution that would have declared abortion to be a ‘human right,’ and demanded that all EU countries legalize the practice. Members voting down the “Estrela Report” on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, sending it back to committee for “further study”. Three hundred and fifty-one MPs voted in favour of referring the resolution back to committee, with 319 against. Anthony Ozimic of the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said the vote demonstrates “that the pro-abortion lobby does not have it all its own way, even in the culture of death so prevalent in Europe.
Intelligent lobbying by pro-lifers can and does frustrate the designs of powerful anti-life forces,” Ozimic said. “Although the pro-abortion lobby has many times the funding of the pro-life movement, pro-lifers can punch above our weight because we have the truth with us. “The victory is won in terms of lives saved and families protected.” Sophia Kuby, head of European Dignity Watch (EDW), said after the vote that, “A referral back to committee will give time to investigate further the numerous problematic points of this report, especially the fact that it was co-written by the commercial abortion organisation International Planned Parenthood Federation in Brussels.”
The report, presented by Portuguese MP Edite Estrela from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats – demanded the legalisation of unrestricted abortion, calling it a “human right.” It called for the “re-education” of doctors and medical students to force them to promote abortion and contraception. EDW had warned that if adopted, the resolution would have effectively suppressed the rights of doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in abortion. Opponents of the report pointed out that there is no international consensus on the claim that abortion is a human right, but there are many international agreements protecting conscience rights.
The report also included a call for EU wide compulsory sex education in primary schools, “provided in a taboo-free interactive atmosphere between students and educators,” that, among other things, would convey a positive image of homosexuality. An analysis prepared for MPs by the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations (FAFCE) revealed that the sexual education programme would also have included information on “early childhood masturbation,” for children from 0-4 years old upwards. “A revelation,” they said, “that not only profoundly shocked families, but also the MPs who voted to refer the proposed text back to the Committee”.
Kuby said that the report had been launched in an effort to “politically neutralize” the successful international citizens’ initiative, the “One of Us” campaign, which recently surpassed its goal of 1 million signatures. The One of Us campaign calls for human embryos to be protected by the relevant legal instruments and international agreements from time of fertilisation. Pro-life MPs from Malta, one of the last EU member states with meaningful legal restrictions on abortion, were strongly opposed to the report. Roberta Metsola, Malta’s first female MP said the report was “not the first of its kind,” and that Maltese MPs had already opposed many of the items it included.
GENOCIDE LOOMS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Central African Republic (CAR) is around 76% Christian (mostly Protestant). In March 2013, Seleka — a coalition of local and foreign Arabic-speaking Islamic militias — seized control of the capital, Bangui. Seleka rapes, loots and kills Christians whilst sparing Muslims, causing traditional community trust to evaporate, and creating a sectarian tinderbox. Self-appointed president Michel Djotodia, a former CAR diplomat, admits that he does not know who all the fighters are because some are escaped criminals and most do not follow his orders. ‘It is hard for me to control them,’ says Djotodia, who maintains strong ties to Sudan.
After months of terror, an organised armed response is emerging out of the mostly Christian communities of northern CAR. Most villages have defence militias that protect residents from bandits. Known as anti-balaka (literally anti-machete) these groups, are out to avenge Seleka crimes. Armed with home-made weapons and adorned with occult charms, these anti-balaka militias have begun attacking not just Seleka, but local Muslims. Seleka might be responsible for turning CAR into a sectarian tinderbox, but by attacking local Muslims the anti-balaka militias are lighting the fire. In Ouham prefecture, some 170,000 people have been displaced.
Peter Bouckaert, from Human Rights Watch, writes: ‘Anti-balaka forces working with soldiers loyal to ousted president Bozizé recently carried out a series of brutal attacks on Seleka bases and Muslim communities around Bossangoa, killing dozens of Muslims.’ Muslims retaliated with reprisal attacks against Christians. By the time the violence had finished, at least 14 were dead and some 485 homes had been burnt. The roads around the capital Bossangoa, are littered with bundles of belongings dropped by those fleeing for their lives. In the bush the displaced people are stalked by infection and malaria. Those remaining in Bossangoa, live in desperate conditions.
The Catholic seminary and its spacious grounds have been taken over by displaced Christians.’ The UNHCR put the number sheltering in the Catholic Mission at 37,000. A further 2,700 are sheltering in the hospital and 728 Muslims are holed-up in a local school. Another 1000 Muslims are occupying the airstrip without access to shelter, water, food or sanitation. The cycle of inter-religious violence threatens to explode into all-out war between Christians and Muslims.’ UN Secretary-General’s Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has warned that, if there is no intervention, this will end with Christian communities, Muslim communities killing each other.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL —
* refine his Church, preserving the faithful and supplying their needs; pray the Church will grow in faith, solidarity, grace and numbers as people seek the Lord for peace and the healing of their land.
* intervene to end the dangerous cycle of sectarian violence; pray He raise up and empower peace-makers able to influence the anti-balaka militias to focus on defence and refrain from attacking local Muslims.
* Break the supply lines of the local and international fighters and inciters, and call wickedness in all its forms to account.
Source: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin by Elizabeth Kendal
WHY HOLLYWOOD IS DUMPING EXPLICIT SEX SCENES
New research commissioned by Warner Brothers, suggest women now tend to decide what films a couple see. These same women are uneasy with scenes which stray into the explicit, or exploitative in any way.” In other words, sex doesn’t really sell. Research shows that explicit sex is a death knell when it comes to attracting a general audience. Of course, R-rated sex movies can reach a limited audience, like R-rated horror movies can, but if you have a funny story of light romance that will reach a much wider audience, it makes business sense to leave out explicit sex. Studios are beginning to take note.
If a sex scene is part of the story, it makes more sense just to dump the explicit sex in favour of a scene that can be shown internationally. While many men may be hooked on pornography, most women usually don’t appreciate going to a movie with a guy who’s gawking at a naked woman on screen. Explicit sex is simply not popular with general audiences, especially family audiences who can sell four or more tickets instead of just one or two. Explicit sex tends to result in an R rating. So Hollywood moguls are finally learning that R ratings seriously reduce their box office returns. While still making many R-rated movies, their biggest budgets are reserved for PG and PG-13 movies.
The next lesson the major studios need to learn is about language. This year Disney leads all studios in average box office sales per movie by a wide margin. It has one movie with excessive foul language, The Fifth Estate. It made less than $3 million—a monumental bomb. Disney normally averages $181 million per movie. On the other hand 62% of Sony’s movies have excessive foul language and they average only $67 million per movie resulting in major losses in its movie division. Its biggest flop was White House Down, with 38 obscenities and 18 profanities. Disney seems to have learned this lesson. The other major studios in Hollywood must surely soon catch up.
No wonder each year annual box office results show that movies with no foul language make the most money! Hollywood has been hurt by declining DVD sales as well. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, many stories (including ones for mature audiences) were told well without a single vulgar word. That includes war movies, gangster movies and more. They did great business. Today, the famed director Steven Spielberg added vulgarity to the movie Lincoln that was not even used in the 1860s. No doubt this kept many people away from viewing the movie. You can make great movies without stooping to add explicit sex and foul language. You’ll make more money if you do.
AMERICAN STUDY SHOWS YOUTH GROUPS MAY BE DRIVING CHRISTIAN TEENS TO ABANDON FAITH
A new study might reveal why a majority of Christian teens abandon their faith after high school. Christian pollster George Barna has documented that 61% of today’s over 20’s who had been churched at one point during their teen years are now spiritually disengaged. They do not attend church, read their Bible nor pray. According to a new national survey sponsored by the National Centre for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem. Fifty-five percent of American Christians claim modern youth ministry is too shallow and too entertainment-focused whilst 36% of believers are convinced youth groups themselves are not even biblical.
Adam McManus, a spokesman for NCFIC, says “The inherent result of youth groups is that teenagers in the church are focused on their peers, not their parents or their pastors. It’s a foreign sociology that leads to immaturity, a greater likelihood of sexual activity, drug experimentation and a rejection of the authority of the Word of God. The result is that the youth stumble, they can’t see beyond their noses, and spiritual adolescence is prolonged well into adulthood. It’s crippling the body of Christ. It’s time to return to the biblical paradigm and throw out the youth group structure entirely.”
He continues, “Age segregation, especially during the teenage years, not only hasn’t worked, it’s been detrimental. But the good news is that practices in churches related to youth groups are changing dramatically. McManus believes that it is God’s will for the church to embrace the biblical model of families staying together in the service as the Word of God is preached. McManus added “The church needs to begin to equip Christian fathers to communicate the gospel to their families. Cameron Cole, youth director at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama agrees.
“There is a tendency in our culture to outsource the development of our children. For intellectual development, we send them to school, for athletic development, we put them into sport, and for spiritual formation, we send them to youth group. Parents must be made aware however, they are the primary disciplers of their children. The reality is that kids listen to their parents far more than to a youth pastor.” McManus concluded, “The father needs to read from and discuss the Bible, sing Christian songs and pray with his family. I’m not as concerned about what happens in Sunday school as I am with what happens in ‘Monday and Tuesday school’ at home with the family.”
Source: Charisma News
JEWISH HOSPITAL IN MONTREAL WILL NOT RESTRICT EMPLOYEES WEARING RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS
Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital (JGH) has indicated it will refuse to comply with the Quebec government’s new bill banning “ostentatious” religious symbols on public employees. The hospital has lambasted the so-called “Charter of Values” as “discriminatory and deeply insulting.” The tabled Bill gives public institutions five years to draft a policy to comply, but the hospital says they have no intention of complying with the bill. The hospital’s Executive Director, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg commented, “Contrary to statements in the bill, the JGH believes that neutrality in the delivery of healthcare services is not compromised by religious symbols on the clothing of employees.”