Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Joint Statement from Five Mainline Protestant Leaders
Religion News Service
Under the heading, “Congress Should Defeat Budget Reconciliation Once and for All,” five leaders of mainline protestant denominations have released the following [edited for space] statement: “Christians have begun the Advent Season in which we prepare to celebrate our Savior’s birth – the Savior who began his public ministry by proclaiming that God had anointed him ‘to bring good news to the poor.’ We view this as a time for purposeful reflection, recognizing that we live in a fractured and fearful world, but seeking to find hope for ourselves and to give hope to those without hope. Throughout this year we have asked that the Federal Budget be recognized as a concrete statement of our nation’s values, and as such that it ‘bring good news to the poor.’ We have viewed the budget through the lens of faith and found the FY ’06 Federal Budget wanting. Now we ask that it be defeated once and for all. The traumatic events of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed the nation and the world the faces of poverty in this country. The statistics from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report on poverty presented hard numbers of 36 million Americans living below the poverty line. Yet Congress continues to make decisions which benefit the rich but are paid for by the most vulnerable in our land. We pray that Congress will use this Advent season for purposeful reflection and in so doing conclude that the compromises required are unfair and will only cause greater hardship and suffering. Then, Congress and the President should come together to present a budget that brings ‘good news to the poor,’ reflecting our nation’s historic concern for justice and the least among us.” Signing the document were: the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; The Reverend Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Reverend Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.); The Reverend John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Mr. James Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church.
Militants in India Attack Churches, Force Christians into Hindu Temple
Two militant Hindu groups struck churches in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh states on Sunday (December 4). At least 25 members of the Hindu extremist group Dharma Sena attacked a church in Raipur, Chattisgarh state, severely beating five Christians. After beating four Christians in the church, the attackers took them and a pastor from another area church into a Hindu temple, where they tried to force them to bow down to idols. Also on Sunday, a group of 15 extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked a pastor in Jhabua district of the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh. Police declined to arrest any of the militant Hindus but rather detained the pastor, Anil Mehra of Indian Evangelical Team, for more than 10 hours for “disrupting public peace.”
One in Three Scottish Clergy Believe in Literal Hell
Even though the concept of Hell as a literal place has declined in an increasingly secular world, more than a third of Scotland's clergy still believe in the literal existence of Hell as a place, according to a new survey. 'Hell in Scotland: A Survey of Where the Nation's Clergy Think Some Might Be Heading', was conducted by Dr Eric Stoddart of St. Andrews University. Stoddart, a former Baptist minister who says he no longer believes in Hell in the sense of a future destination, canvassed 750 clergy from a wide variety of denominations to find out what constituted a modern Hell. The ministers were convinced that lost souls will still suffer eternal mental anguish after death, with some holding out the prospect of eternal physical punishment as an added punishment. Judgment Day, whether it ends in being sent to Hell or not, is also a strong belief, the survey found, with more than half of Scottish ministers in no doubt that humanity shall be divided into the saved and the damned. As in America, the survey showed belief in Hell appears to follow geographical boundaries. Social commentators said the continuing strength of the literal belief among ministers in modern Scotland reflected the rise of religious fundamentalism across the world. A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: "The Catholic Church affirms the existence of Hell, understood as eternal separation from God. However, the Church has never formally defined who, if anyone, is in Hell." Stoddart commented on his findings: "I can understand that after death there might be some who think there are others who won't get into Heaven. They just won't exist. But for others to think there is really mental and physical torment came as a shock to me."
Narnia's Lion Really Is Jesus
The literary adviser to the C.S. Lewis estate has located a previously-unpublished letter that Lewis sent to a child fan in 1961, in which the author states, “The whole Narnian story is about Christ.” The letter, which is to be published in a volume of Lewis letters next year, was written from Magdalene College, Cambridge. It goes on to say: “Supposing there really was a world like Narnia… and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened? The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of talking beasts, I thought He would become a talking beast there as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; b) Christ is called ‘the lion of Judah’ in the Bible.” The newfound letter is conclusive proof of the Christian message in the Narnia stories. The upcoming film has been at the center of a tug of war between Christians and secularists. On one side church groups are promoting the story’s message as Christian, while others say it is just an adventure story that draws on a variety of sources. Even Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, said recently: “Churches in Britain and America are promoting the film as a Christian film, but it’s not… and the Narnia books aren’t Christian novels.”