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Evangelical Chaplains growing force in US Military


Here's an article from today's New York Times about the chaplain corps in the US military:

Evangelicals Are a Growing Force in the Military Chaplain Corps

COLORADO SPRINGS - There were personal testimonies about Jesus from the stage, a comedian quoting Scripture and a five-piece band performing contemporary Christian praise songs. Then hundreds of Air Force chaplains stood and sang, many with palms upturned, in a service with a distinctively evangelical tone.

It was the opening ceremony of a four-day Spiritual Fitness Conference at a Hilton hotel here last month organized and paid for by the Air Force for many of its United States-based chaplains and their families, at a cost of $300,000. The chaplains, who pledge when they enter the military to minister to everyone, Methodist, Mormon or Muslim, attended workshops on "The Purpose Driven Life," the best seller by the megachurch pastor Rick Warren, and on how to improve their worship services. In the hotel hallways, vendors from Focus on the Family and other evangelical organizations promoted materials for the chaplains to use in their work.Read more... )

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Z Magazine has an article about the NYC conference about the Christian Right:

Taking on the Christian Right
By Susan Chenelle

Less than a week after religious conservatives held “Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” a nationally televised rally featuring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in Louisville, Kentucky, more than 500 activists, academics, clergy, journalists and other concerned individuals gathered in New York for a conference called “Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right.” Read more... )

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News Roundup


The Washington Post has some very interesting articles today:

Taking Vacations Religiously talks about missionaries at resorts and beaches, and touches upon the problem of the deceptive tactic of 'bait and switch' events:

Some religious groups try to appeal to tourists by offering programs that at first seem entirely secular.

On a recent Saturday night, about 100 teenagers and young adults showed up for a film on the beach advertised on signs throughout town that said only: "Free! SURF MOVIE 8:00 PM." Most attendees were surprised when they realized that the main film featured evangelical surfers talking about their relationship with Jesus. Tables on the boardwalk offered free suntan lotion, "JESUS LOVES ME!" stickers and a "Surfers Bible New Testament."

Tom Clarke, a founder of Florida-based Everlasting Rock Ministries, which organized the event, said he didn't want to scare people off with an overtly religious message in the ads.

"I don't want anyone to think that we're the Jesus freaks," said Clarke, 39, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., as he sat on the boardwalk. "We're not trying to shove religion down anyone's throat. We're just trying to encourage a positive lifestyle."

Matt Tiberi, 15, from Middletown, Del., said he considers himself a Christian but almost never goes to church. But after watching the movie during a day trip to Ocean City, Matt said he felt moved to become more religious.

"It tells you how God helps you out whatever you're doing," he said.

Some groups criticize such advertising as deceptive. "They are using stealth strategies to try and suck people in," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics. "They know if they advertise religion, then people won't go. You really do have to question the ethics here of what they are doing."

We knew this would happen, and it is: Evangelicals are flocking into Iraq and the Middle East.

BAGHDAD -- With arms outstretched, the congregation at National Evangelical Baptist Church belted out a praise hymn backed up by drums, electric guitar and keyboard. In the corner, slide images of Jesus filled a large screen. A simple white cross of wood adorned the stage, and worshipers sprinkled the pastor's Bible-based sermon with approving shouts of "Ameen!"

National is Iraq's first Baptist congregation and one of at least seven new Christian evangelical churches established in Baghdad in the past two years. Its Sunday afternoon service, in a building behind a house on a quiet street, draws a couple of hundred worshipers who like the lively music and focus on the Bible.

"I'm thirsty for this kind of church," Suhaila Tawfik, a veterinarian who was raised Catholic, said at a recent service. "I want to go deep in understanding the Bible."

Tawfik is not alone. The U.S.-led toppling of Saddam Hussein, who limited the establishment of new denominations, has altered the religious landscape of predominantly Muslim Iraq. A newly energized Christian evangelical activism here, supported by Western and other foreign evangelicals, is now challenging the dominance of Iraq's long-established Christian denominations and drawing complaints from Muslim and Christian religious leaders about a threat to the status quo.

The evangelicals' numbers are not large -- perhaps a few thousand -- in the context of Iraq's estimated 800,000 Christians. But they are emerging at a time when the country's traditional churches have lost their privileged Hussein-era status and have experienced massive depletions of their flocks because of decades-long emigration. Now, traditional church leaders see the new evangelical churches filling up, not so much with Muslim converts but with Christians like Tawfik seeking a new kind of worship experience.

"The way the preachers arrived here . . . with soldiers . . . was not a good thing," said Baghdad's Roman Catholic archbishop, Jean Sleiman. "I think they had the intention that they could convert Muslims, though Christians didn't do it here for 2,000 years."

And here's columnist Art Buchwald putting a cheeky spin on the evangelicals in the USAF Academy.

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Some light amidst the blight


From AlterNet: Even conservative Christian Republicans are alarmed at the triumphalism of the Dominionists.

The Wages of Intolerance
By Marci Hamilton, AlterNet

Posted on July 12, 2005, Printed on July 12, 2005

The immediate reaction to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation was so strident from both sides that the President has asked everyone to tone it down. Senate leaders are also asking groups to be more cordial. The problem with silence, though, is that we need to know what agendas are out there, and one of the cardinal problems in American politics is that too many times religious political pressure happens behind closed doors.

Before the calls for civility, though, plenty of groups were able to show their hands in this emotional debate over who to choose to replace Justice O'Connor, a moderate Goldwater Republican. Litmus tests abound, with conservative evangelical Christians claiming an entitlement to have a Supreme Court appointee who reflects their singular religious values. In the end, the President simply cannot choose a Justice based on their religious criteria.Read more... )

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View from elsewhere in the religious landscape

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]hummingwolf)

A pair of Supreme Court rulings dealing with the display of the Ten Commandments on public property are only the most recent illustration of the power of the Decalogue (from the Greek, meaning ten words) to illuminate philosophical, religious, and cultural fault lines. For two thousand years, it has served as a potent symbol of the clash between moral cultures.

The identity of the cultures has changed, but this most familiar of all biblical law codes has remained the ultimate token of victory: He who controls the meaning of the Ten Commandments and the purpose to which they may be put, has won the culture war. Ancient Christians and Jews, 20th-century fascists, and 21st-century political liberals and conservatives have all understood the stakes in the tug-of-war over the Decalogue.

That this would prove to be the case wasn t necessarily obvious to the first people to hear the Ten Commandments....

New column from David Klinghoffer, author of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus.

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