On Dec 10th, The Globe and Mail reported that the gay-bashing, hell-preaching Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas is protesting a Canadian high school drama in the small town of Uxbridge, northeast of Toronto. This 5-member church, which specializes in hate-mongering, is headed by “Pastor” Fred Phelps. They will raise placards that read “God Hates Canada”, “Fear God” and “Hell is real”. The protest is in response to a performance of The Laramie Project based on a story of the slaying of a gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998. The Kansas group also picketed the Shepard funeral ten years ago. It seems this little group gets publicity all over the world. Recently I saw articles in Scandinavian newspapers where they had found an occasion to protest some event or another in those countries.
Former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, acknowledged in his October congressional hearing that he didn’t have the answers or explanations for the current global financial crisis. That was a startling statement from the man many consider the world’s top financial advisor, and a striking illustration of the limitations of human wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:17-25].
Remember Phil, who I introduced a couple of months ago. Well Phil copied me a letter he wrote to someone concerned about demonic powers operating in their lives. This issue seems to pop up with a certain regularity. Born-again Christians seem to think they are caught up in a gigantic battle in the heavenlies. I think it was novelist Frank Peretti who got all this started with his “Darkness” books. Or it could have been one of many other authors. One thing is for sure, the spiritual warfare craze is not found in the Book of Acts.
Any how, here are Phil’s thoughts:
The last few weeks have brought to light the limited abilities and powers of politicians; no government seems to have fully anticipated the financial turmoil. For years the markets have been given a free hand, resulting in common sense being thrown out the window in the name of greed. Politicians passed laws that enabled and at times drove lenders to give money to people, who really had no business to get into debt. Banks took the cues and drove up the debts to unimaginable proportions.
If you checked Focus on the Family’s website a few weeks ago you would have found a video with a call for prayer. This was a prayer request that a torrential rain storm would drown out Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, at his rally at Invesco Field in Denver. Once the media got a hold of this, pressure mounted, and Focus on the Family apologetically withdrew the video. Ok, so we all make mistakes. I suppose even those who believe that such a prayer would be God’s will realize how ridiculous this looked. The person who produced the video stated that he believed God would show His divine disfavor towards Obama, by a torrential downpour beginning the very minute the program started. Of course, this would only happen if born-again believers prayed hard enough.
The most famous dissident of the Soviet era, Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, passed away last week at the age of ninety. To my way of thinking, he was a giant, not because I agree with everything he said or wrote, but because he exhibited a rare quality. Solzhenitsyn believed in something beyond his own personal wellbeing and convenience, which is probably a common human trait, but here is what stands out: he dared to give voice to what he believed, no matter what the consequences. Now granted, most of us live in societies where we can believe and say whatever we desire and there are no negative repercussions. We can think, say and write whatever we want about political and religious leaders; our television networks produce comedy shows that mock anyone who is in the public’s eye; we can picket, demonstrate and shout obscenities without fear of any real consequence. Sure, someone may be detained for a couple of hours but no one is going to jail long-term and certainly no one is going to be shot in a back alley for voicing an opinion.
Most gospel believers were appalled when the news media ran clips recorded at a Sunday morning service in September 2001 when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright declared, “God Damn America.” Reactions to the pastor’s outburst ranged from amazement to outrage. Rev. Wright is the retired pastor of the South Chicago church where Presidential nominee, Barack Obama worshipped for more than 20 years.
In his book, Whistling In The Dark, Frederick Buechner writes, “There is perhaps no better proof of the existence of God, than the fact that year after year he survives the way his professional friends promote Him. If there are people who remain unconvinced let them tune into their TV’s for almost any of the big time pulpit pounders almost any Sunday morning of the year.”
Two weeks ago the Vatican reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world. According to the Vatican 2008 yearbook, Muslims make us 19.2% of the world’s population, compared with Catholics at 17.4%. Roman Catholic statistician Monsignor Vittorio Formentti said, “For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us”