Friday, April 29, 2005

Why I got a copy of the Koran

I did a crazy, rash thing last week. In fact, it's not that crazy but if the old me could see me now... gee.

Last year I started reading history in earnest. Not just Christian history, history full stop. I believe you can only really understand the present when you understand at least some of the past.

So while I was reading history, and pondering how the west has largely gone "post-Christian" while Islamic fundamentalism has remained strong, even revived, I thought "Y'know, it'd be good to read the Koran for itself sometime."

Last Saturday the chance came. I was idly channel surfing early on a Saturday morning, and started watching Voice of Islam.

I was puzzled, because a woman was teaching a group of guys. That makes you sit up and notice, particularly given the image we're often given of Islam around the world.

Then there was a documentary about the Nazis of all things, linking their ideology with that of Darwin, Marx and Engels. I see where they're coming from, and I think most Christians would've been able to agree with this doco.

Meanwhile, across the bottom of the screen, a message said if you want a free copy of the Koran in English, email this address. So I did!

And on Wednesday it arrived, along with several other books presumably aimed towards Christians or those raised in a Christian household.

Turns out the man behind Voice of Islam was raised Catholic and became a Muslim after a long search, disillusioned by the hypocrisy he found in institutional Christianity.

It just made me think we really are so much more influenced by what we see in someone's life than what they say. The Muslims this man met were sincere people, and he could see them living out their beliefs.

So am I likely to become a Muslim? No. There's no other belief system like Christianity that deals with the problem of sin.

But I did appreciate the opportunity to hear what Islam is about from a Muslim. I've read about Islam from a Christian perspective and heard a little bit about it from a Jew (the day after 9/11, in fact, which was when I first became interested in Islam). But each belief deserves to be explained by someone who really believes it.

Otherwise, we fall into the trap of creating an indefensible argument - a straw man, as they say - and setting ourselves up for a surprise when we hear the more plausible version that is believed by many around the world.

I like how Roy H Williams describes it: If you can explain your opponent's ideology in a way that they can agree with, you've really understood it, and they're more likely to listen - really listen - to your point of view.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Ministry of Silly Talks

The Ministry of Silly Talks

I wondered where British Israelitism came from ... didn't know it was as simple as this:

From Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen: Writing to Save the Day

Writing can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write.

Quite often a difficult, painful, or frustrating day can be "redeemed" by writing about it. By writing we can claim what we have lived and thus integrate it more fully into our journeys. Then writing can become lifesaving for us and sometimes for others too.

I so relate to what this guy says sometimes. Most times actually.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Great Peter Drucker quote

On Chuck Missler's 66/40 this morning he had a great quote from management thinker Peter Drucker:

"If people ask me if I'm a Christian I say, 'you tell me'"


What the new pope and evangelicals have in common

(Just the question I was asking, in fact - SY)

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ratzinger and Protestants Share Concern about Growing Secularism

By Wolfgang Polzer
Special to ASSIST News Service

VATICAN (ANS) -- Irrespective of basic theological differences evangelicals and the new Pope Benedict XVI also share areas of common concern. On ethical issues such as abortion or homosexuality conservative Protestants are in agreement with former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The 78-year-old German theologian was elected to succeed the late Pope John Paul II., April 19. In the forth ballot more than two thirds of the 115 cardinals in the conclave opted for the former head of the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

Ratzinger shares the concern for the effects of spreading secularism in Europe. God is being pushed to the sidelines, he commented in an interview with the German daily “Die Welt” in November.

As one example for the repressive nature of modern secularism Ratzinger mentioned the case of a Pentecostal pastor in Sweden, who was sent to jail because he preached from the Bible about homosexuality. “A society without God will eventually destroy itself”, said Ratzinger.

He also sent greetings to the Ecumenical Confessional Convention, which took place in Freudenstadt, Germany, in October. Ratzinger emphasized the need for Christian cooperation in the face of attempts to marginalize the Christian faith. The convention was organized by evangelical missiologist Prof Peter Beyerhaus, a former University colleague of Ratzinger.

The leader of the mainline Protestant Churches in Germany, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Berlin, wished the new Pope “God’s blessings in all his decisions, actions and his leadership”. Ratzinger has a clear theological profile and knows the ecumenical dialogue in the land of the reformation well, said Huber.

According to the Bishop the future of Christianity can only be an ecumenical one. Huber also expressed hope for Holy Communion with Protestants. Ratzinger surprised the world when he handed communion to Roger Schutz – the Protestant founder of the TaizĂ© community in France - at the funeral service for Pope John Paul II.
Wolfgang Polzer (54), is senior news editor of the Evangelical News Agency idea, Wetzlar (Germany), which he joined in 1981. His previous work included four years in the editorial department of the Salvation Army in Germany. In all, he has spent 27 years in Christian media. Wolfgang can be contacted by e-mail at:

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Papua, Indonesia: Covert genocide of a Christian People

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005


By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Eastern Indonesia, is the western part of the island of New Guinea. The indigenous Papuans are Melanesians, and according to Operation World, more than 90% of them are officially reckoned as Christian, mostly Protestant. This is quite amazing, considering Papuans were animists and headhunters only 50 years ago. Many people worldwide have not even heard of Papua, or confuse it with the independent nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG), in the eastern part of New Guinea. Papua (as Irian Jaya) has been memorably highlighted in Don Richardson's well known missionary tales 'Peace Child' (also available as a film) and 'Lords of the Earth'.

Before World War Two, Papua was part of the Dutch East Indies, although it remained virtually untouched. After WW2, the Dutch East Indies became part of Indonesia (1949). However, the Dutch held on in Papua, arguing that as Papua is inhabited by Melanesians, it should be independent. The Indonesians did not agree. But the Dutch defied Indonesia, ceded independence to 'West Papua', and on 1 December 1961, hoisted the new Papuan Morning Star flag. Then on the night of 20 December 1961, Indonesia sent in paratroopers. Papua was conquered and annexed. In 1969 Indonesia held a rigged plebiscite in Papua. Indonesian authorities hand-picked 1,025 Papuans, who then voted unanimously, under duress, for integration with Indonesia. The Indonesians and the UN call this 'The Act of Free Choice', but the Papuans call it 'The Act of No Choice'.

Since that day, Papua has had a history of violent oppression by the Indonesian military (TNI), with demographic dilution through a government programme of massive transmigration of Javanese Muslims. Papuans are politically marginalised, racial tension and religious intolerance have flourished, and Islamic Indonesian culture dominates. Of utmost concern is systematic 'ethnic cleansing' by military operations, and the (possibly deliberate) introduction of AIDS and infected pigs. (Melanesian Papuans eat pigs but Indonesian Muslims do not.) Officially, some 100,000 Papuans have been killed directly due to Indonesian occupation, but the unofficial figure is 800,000.

The Indonesians do all this for economic gain. They want Papua so they can exploit its timber and mineral resources. The notorious and systemically corrupt TNI also profits from 'business' in Papua. Meanwhile the UN and various Western governments turn a blind eye for political gain. They want Indonesia as an ally.

The Christian Papuans desperately need our support and prayers. Papuans, often Christian leaders, are frequently killed by the TNI, who are constantly trying to provoke retaliation that could be claimed to justify a full scale massacre against the 'separatist threat'. The TNI terrorises Papuans from helicopters, shooting civilians, burning villages and churches, and forcing thousands to flee their homes and hide in the jungle where they die of starvation, illness or injury. The TNI's allies, the pro-Indonesian militias and the Laskar Jihad (Islamic warriors), are armed ready for a major ethnic cleansing campaign.

Papua, as part of Indonesia and the 'dar al-Islam' (land of Islam), is being 'Indonesianised' and Islamised. The Papuans are facing genocide while those with worldly power turn away. But as one Papuan Christian leader recently said to me (EK), 'We are not alone. We have our Lord, Jesus Christ. He created us and put us here in this land of Papua. It is his will that we are here. We have his Spirit. And we have you, our brothers and sisters who support us and pray for us. We are not alone, we are together.'

  • God to protect his children in Papua, surrounding them with his presence (Psalm 125:2), and frustrating the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9).

  • a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit through the young Papuan Church, drawing all Papuans to humble God-dependent prayer, and empowering believers with holiness, gifts and faith.

  • divine wisdom and leadership so the Church may grow through the present struggles, for the glory and victory of God.

  • the God of peace, justice and righteousness to turn away disaster from his children, by using advocates, speakers and writers to awaken the world to this developing secret genocide.
'Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.' (Psalm 50:15)

Elizabeth Kendal is the Principal Researcher and Writer for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) This article was initially written for the WEA RLP(Religious Liberty Prayer) mailing list

Elizabeth can be contacted by e-mail at

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"Out of Church" movement growing


"TREND: Significant increase in out-of-church Christianity"

A nationwide survey conducted by the USA based Barna Research
Group indicates that the number of unchurched adults in America
continues to grow by nearly a million people annually. Interestingly,
many of these unchurched people are spiritually active. One out of
every five reads the Bible in a typical week; six out of ten pray to
God each week; and nearly one million unchurched adults tithe
their income - that is, donate at least 10% of their annual household
revenue to non-profit entities.

The religious media play a part in their spiritual life, too, with four
out of ten absorbing Christian content through television, radio,
magazines or faith-based websites during a typical month. In
addition, one-quarter of them have conversations with one or more
friends who held them accountable for carrying out their faith principles.

Having studied church attendance patterns for more than twenty
years, researcher George Barna suggests that the consistent
resistance to church life in recent years is indicative of a historic
shift in the nation's spiritual vision. "A large and growing number
of Americans who avoid congregational contact are not rejecting
Christianity as much as they are shifting how they interact with
God and people in a strategic effort to have a more fulfilling
spiritual life. This suggests that we are on the precipice of a new
era of spiritual experience and expression."

Barna expects the percentage of adults who are unchurched to
grow during the coming decade. "However, the emergence of a
national body of spiritual leaders who are assisting unchurched
people in their quest for spiritual depth through means and
relationships that are outside the usual institutional vehicles is
significant. We anticipate substantial growth in the number of
people who are not connected to a congregational church but who
are committed to God and to their faith."

See the BARNA website-

Monday, April 04, 2005

This is hilarious

L.A. Daily News - News: "As for re-creating the images of religious figures and regarding them as sacred rather than the typical toy tossed on the bedroom floor, Tamberg said he believes the dolls likely will be attractive to families who will teach their children the difference.

'One would expect that their kids will be told that they are giving them something special,' Tamberg said. 'Hopefully, they will explain it to them.'"

Yeah right. Kids won't be able to tell the difference. It'll be Jesus and Buzz Lightyear against... I dunno, who are the bad guys these days?

But remembering my childhood days and the power of cult brands over my nascent imagination (Popeye, Smurfs, Star Wars) I don't think these dolls are an entirely bad idea. But they do probably further convince skeptics that Christians are entirely loony.