The Status of Christians In Iran

A report from Ecumenical News International on the status of Christians and other religious minorities in Iran….

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
27 February 2006 

US watchdog group decries status of religious minorities in Iran


By Chris Herlinger   
New York, 27 February (ENI)–A US religious freedom watchdog
commission says it is “deeply concerned” about what it calls a
worsening situation for religious minorities in Iran.   

“A consistent stream of virulent and inflammatory statements by
political and religious leaders and an increase of harassment,
imprisonment, and physical attacks against these groups is clear
evidence of a disturbing, renewed pattern of oppression,” the US
Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a

The commission, created in 1998 by the US Congress to monitor the
status of freedom of thought and of religious practice outside
the United States, provides independent policy recommendations to
the US government. 

Michael Cromartie, the chairman of the commission, said the
pattern of rhetoric in Iran appeared to be similar to that during
the early years of the Iranian revolution which, he said,
preceded years of severe human rights violations against members
of non-Islamic religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i

Cromartie said that in recent months members of Iran’s Baha’i
community have again been harassed, physically attacked, arrested
and detained.   

“Christians in Iran increasingly have been subject to harassment,
arrests, close surveillance, and imprisonment,” says the
statement carried on the US commission’s Web site on 27 February.
“Over the past year, there have been several incidents of Iranian
authorities raiding church services, detaining worshippers and
church leaders, and harassing and threatening church members.” It
cited an evangelical pastor who remained in prison even after
being acquitted by an Islamic court on charges of apostasy, or
rejection of faith. 

Conditions for religious minorities were already severe before
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed office in August
but have since worsened, Cromartie said.   

Ahmadinejad and other leading Iranian government officials have
triggered international condemnation during their first six
months in office for public remarks either casting doubt or
denying the Holocaust against European Jews during the period of
the Second World War.   

The commission urged the US government to accelerate efforts to
address the human rights situation in Iran, though it
acknowledged there are few available policy options because the
United States does not have direct diplomatic relations with
Iran. [366 words] 

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26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor

26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor

by Dan Phillips on the Pyromanics blog

Unusually emphatic disclaimer: This is satire (săt’īr’
– “A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through
irony, derision, or wit”). One hopes that every item is ponderable; the
only thing I don’t mean at all is the title — and I really, really don’t mean the title. All clear? Tongues in cheek, then. Here goes:

For the most part:

1. People come to you for help — instead of assuming that, if you really
knew your job, you would intuitively know they needed help, and come to
them without being asked.

 Everyone immediately tells you, to the best of his ability, what his or her actual issue is.

 Everyone who asks you a question really wants to hear the answer.

 Everyone who asks you for help really wants to he helped.

5. Everyone who calls you really does want his/her computer to work the very best it can.

6. You and your callers agree that computer bugs and problems are bad, and should be done away with.

7. When you identify viruses, spyware, unwanted popups, and crashes as
“bad,” and target them for elimination, the folks you help don’t accuse
you of being harsh and judgmental.

8. Nobody who calls you is actually in love with the computer problems and misbehaviors they’re experiencing.

9. When you identify a computer malady you want to eradicate, nobody can wave a book or point to a Big Name who argues that it is actually the
latest, greatest “thing” in computers, and should be earnestly sought
after, cherished, cultivated, and spread abroad.

10. Nobody who calls you for help thinks that he’s hearing a little voice
in his heart telling him that what you’re saying is just so much smelly

11. Everyone to whom you give sensible counsel will hear, heed, remember, and follow that counsel — they won’t insist on “feeling an inner peace” before doing it.

. Everyone thinks you do crucial, important, and respectable work; nobody assumes that it is because you can’t get a “real job.”

13. Everyone assumes you’re well-trained, know what you’re doing, and know at least some things they do not already know.

. While you are expected to be knowledgeable and competent at what you do, you are not expected to be perfect.

. Most times, you know immediately when you’ve helped someone; you don’t have to wait six months, six years, or six decades, to see whether your
fix has “taken” or not.

. On the worst day, if you do even a half-decent job, you can go home
knowing for certain that you’ve really helped 5, 10, 15, 20 or more

. If you don’t know the answer, it’s probably on Google. Somewhere.

. When you discover a new, better, more effective way to accomplish the
goals you share with the folks you help, they’re happy — not angry at
you because it’s different from “the way we’ve always done it.”

. The people you help don’t care how you’re dressed.

. The people you help don’t care how many committees your wife does or doesn’t head up.

. The people you help don’t hold your children to standards their children couldn’t even spell.

22. The people you help don’t periodically form secret committees and whisper-campaigns to get you ousted.

. The people you help don’t all assume they know how to do your job
better than you do, while actually knowing next to nothing about it.

. Everyone is fairly clear on what your job actually is: fix their computer so they can get back to work, or work better.

. The people you help evaluate you by whether you do or do not do your
actual and well-defined job effectively — not by how you “make” them

. The people you help aren’t judging you as inferior to a beloved support technician who died ten years ago.

Pat’s Ponderings: On Idolatry Among Monotheists

Father Patrick Reardon, an Orthodox priest, offers helpful insight into the problem that tempts Christians. There is a notion out and about that truly one can only discuss idolatry in the context of polytheism, but a person who is a “monotheist” and that is commonly how Judaism, Christianity and Islam is understood, may not necessarily said to be an idolater, since all three religions worship the same God, or so it goes. Let’s read what Father Pat has to say about that . . .

March 5, 2006

Father Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings

There is a glaring fallacy in the contemporary presumption that idolatry is found only in polytheism. I admit, of course, that all polytheism is necessarily idolatrous, but it seems not to have occurred to most folks that the confession of one false god is just as idolatrous as the confession of several. Monotheism is no defense against idolatry.

This modern misunderstanding about idolatry, moreover, is the twin and steady companion of another, the strange fancy that all monotheists necessarily confess the same divinity.

Arguably the clearest spokesman for the latter fallacy may be that C. S. Lewis character who forthrightly declared, “Tash is another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That’s why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.” 

The telltale line in that discourse, I submit, is “We know better now.” On matters respecting God, I can’t think of anything we know better now.

The character that made that proclamation was, of course, the Ape in Lewis’s The Last Battle, and it really was an apish thing to say. Although I have heard his thesis proclaimed times out of mind (and even alas, by those who call themselves Orthodox Christians), it cannot stand up to two seconds of critical reflection.

Let us recall that monotheism made its appearance in this world in the same voice that identified the one God’s essence with His existence, “I am the One Who Is.” When Moses heard that auto-identification, perhaps he did not have a clear idea, at first, what it meant (and modern biblical scholars still argue about it!), but he faithfully recorded the words, and the faithful have been thinking about them seriously ever since.

Typical of the faithful in this respect was St. Gregory of Nyssa, who interpreted the words to mean that God revealed Himself as “the Existent One” (Against Eunomius 2.4). The same writer reflected further, “all things depend on Him Who is, nor can there be anything that does not owe its existence to Him Who is” (The Great Catechism 25). 

Gregory asserts two things in these texts. First, it is of God’s very being that He exists, which is to say that God exists of Himself. Latin terminology calls this the aseity of God (a se=”of Himself”), meaning that He exists by reason of Himself. Second, this aseity pertains to no other being. Whatever exists, besides God, exists only because of God.

This twofold thesis enunciated by St. Gregory of Nyssa (chosen at random, really, because all the Church Fathers that spoke on the subject said the same thing) indicates two reflective approaches to the true God, both of them unique to the biblical revelation.

Let us observe, moreover, that Christian thinkers have converted both of these theological considerations into apologetic arguments for the existence of God.

First, there is God as Being in Himself. Now it is a fact that no pagan philosopher ever thought to identify God as Being. This historical fact is perhaps difficult for us to appreciate, because the history of Christian reflection has so accustomed us to a proposition unknown to ancient pagan thought.

After about a thousand years of pondering this thesis, some Christian philosophers were ready to convert it into an argument for God’s existence. It is a deductive, a priori argument that begins with identifying God as the One Who, if He exists, must exist. Put in its simplest form, the argument runs something like this: If He Who must exist can exist, He does exist. This is called the Ontological Argument, which reasons from the idea of God to the existence of God.

Leaving aside the question of its validity, the striking fact about this argument is that it never occurred to anyone outside of the data of biblical revelation. Some pagan thinkers adopted it afterwards (the recently lamented Charles Hartshorne being a notable example), but it was Bible-believers, significantly, who thought of the argument first. Nor is there is any reason to believe it would have entered anyone’s mind except for that voice on Sinai.

Second, there is God as the cause of all that is not God. This approach to God is more developed in Holy Scripture, which teaches in many places that He is the Maker of all things.

This thesis, too, provided an argument for God’s existence, an inductive, a posteriori case known as the Cosmological Argument. This line of reasoning, which is found explicitly in Holy Scripture itself, endeavors to discover an explanation (or efficient cause) for the existence of those things that do, in fact, exist. The existence of these non-necessary things (things that don’t have to exist) is sought in some Maker that caused them to exist, and this Maker we call God. We find this argument briefly elaborated in Wisdom 13 and Romans 1.

Both of these approaches to the existence of God are based in the voice from Sinai, which in which God identified Himself as the Existing One, the One Who, needing nothing from us, nonetheless decided to talk to us.

Slavish, or Lavish, Liturgical Preaching?

The recent post of a sermon by Pastor Cwirla elicited a criticism from a fine Lutheran pastor. You can read the comment he made by going to Pastor Cwirla’s sermon. The pastor was questioning why we it seems we must always have a “slavish” reference to the liturgy in every sermon it seems from Pastor Cwirla. Well, count me “guilty” of the same “slavishness.” I can’t help but mention the means of grace when I preach, for, as Pastor Cwirla observes in a response, how can we avoid mentioning precisely how this is all “for you”? Update: The pastor who posted the “criticism” of Pastor Cwirla was in fact doing so in jest! The joke’s on me for sure. But…I think it is a good conversation to have for I do know that some among us raise this criticism from time-to-time. The issue is this: is preaching the means of grace a slavish liturgical preaching, or … is it lavish preaching of the giftts of Christ?

Pastor Cwirla dug up a quote from another Lutheran preacher who had these remarks to make when he was preaching on the healing of the Paralytic.

“It is also the evil spirit’s doing that we find ourselves dead in the water spiritually; otherwise our hearts would be joyful and comforted.  For think what it would mean if we rightly and truly believed that what Christ here says to the man sick with palsy, he is saying to you and to me every day in baptism, in absolution, and in public preaching, that I must not mistakenly think that God is angry and ungracious toward me.  Shouldn’t that cause me to stand on my head with joy?  Wouldn’t that make everything sweet as sugar, pure as gold, sheer everlasting life?  The fact that this doesn’t happen for us proves that the “old Adam” and the devil drag us away from faith and the Word.”  (Martin Luther, Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Trinity) quoted from “The House Postils,” Eugene Klug, tr. (Baker, 1996), vol 3, p. 82

Pastor Cwirla then observes:

Luther here makes the same point.  What Christ did for the paralyzed man, He does for us through Baptism and Absolution.  In fact, you might say that every miracle of Christ, including resurrection from the dead, is worked for us through the Word and the Sacraments.

What say you friends??? Is it possible that in an over-reaction to preachers who do in fact follow a slavish formulaic pattern of always finally making the whole point of the sermon the reception of the Lord’s Supper we are in danger of neglecting truly quality means of grace preaching? For fear of being one of those who finds the Lord’s Supper in every reference to bread in the New Testament, are we neglecting proper pointing of our folks precisely to those means by which the Holy Spirit creates faith in those whom He will, with the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, as we confess in our Augustana, Article V? Are we perhaps tempted to “de-flesh” the Word made Flesh and avoid referencing precisely where it is, and how it is, that He comes to us today with grace and mercy, through those very humble, concrete means He has given? Is that “slavish liturgical preaching”? My concern is that when we preach a “means free” sermon we are reducing the Faith to a concept, a pious wish, a fine idea, a noble truth, but not what it is: flesh and blood reality, or rather Flesh and Blood reality.

Clearly what is incorrect liturgical preaching is making the point of every sermon nothing *other* than talking about taking Holy Communion. That lack of balance is wrong. I’ve read too many sermons like that, that seem to fall over themselves, skimping on real Law and neglecting the Gospel, thinking that by speaking only of taking Communion they are somehow covering the Redemption of Christ….yes, yes…that is not good. Nor is there any place for sermons that shy away from preaching sanctifcation. I’ve said plenty there. But….we need also to guard against “means free” preaching.

Your thoughts?

Homosexuality and the World Council of Churches

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
22 February 2006 

Openly homosexual church leaders urge inclusive Christianity

By Maurice Malanes 

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 22 February (ENI)–A group of openly
homosexual church leaders meeting during the assembly of the
World Council of Churches have advocated a more inclusive
Christian faith that embraces people of all sexual orientations.

“We are here, because we do not wish to be segregated or
isolated,” said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator of the US-based
Metropolitan Community Churches. “And we are here to encourage
the churches to do justice within their own communions when it
comes to people with HIV/AIDS; and those who are lesbian, gay,
bisexual or transgendered.” 

She was delivering a message during a 20 February service at the
chapel of the Pontifical University of Rio de Grande do Sul in
Porto Alegre, Brazil while speakers in another venue at the ninth
assembly of the World Council of Churches were debating church

The Metropolitan Community Churches was launched in 1968 to
minister to ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. It
has since grown to include 43 000 adherents in almost 300
congregations in 22 countries. 

“We come to the WCC as a denomination and movement of people who
have been healed and transformed by the powerful touch of a
living Saviour, whose mercy and love have reached where the
institutional church would and could not reach,” said Wilson. 

Also as the service was held, South African Anglican Archbishop
Desmond Tutu was delivering an address to the main session of the
assembly in which he stated that “gay, lesbian, so-called
straight, all belong and are loved” by God. 

“I struggled against racism because it sought to prejudice
someone because of something about which they could do nothing,
their skin colour,” Tutu later told journalists. “I could not
keep quiet so long as people were being penalised about something
which they could do nothing about * their sexual orientation.” 

In her message at the service of the Metropolitan Community
Churches, Wilson said she and others in the denomination could
empathise with the persecution experienced by Christian Dalits,
once called untouchables, in India, who also brought their
stories to the WCC assembly. 

Wilson also highlighted the murder in the last 18 months of 12
gay men in Jamaica, some of whom were HIV/AIDS workers and
community organizers and lamented that “no one in the government,
university or the churches is speaking up, offering support or
shelter or help”. 

She stressed that the Metropolitan Community Churches was at the
WCC gathering “to publicly call on the WCC and its member
churches to repudiate violence against people for their sexuality
or their HIV status.” But she added, “We came, even more, because
we have so much to offer to the wider church and community * and
because the Lord is upon us.” [465 words] 

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
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