Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Does Secular Music in the Church Endanger Sacredness?
- Israel to Keep U.S. in the Dark on Possible Iran Strike
- What's Next for China's House Churches?
- BBC Director General Admits Christianity Gets Tougher Media Treatment
Does Secular Music in the Church Endanger Sacredness?
A New Jersey megachurch's latest effort to engage the culture by using pop songs in its worship services has drawn some criticism and reignited a debate about whether secular music should be used in churches, the Christian Post reports. Liquid Church's worship team led the congregation in songs like Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and Bruno Mars' "Grenade" as part of its "Pop God" sermon series in February, a move that some said endangered the sacredness of the church. Rich Birch, Liquid's spokesman, said the church was trying to "redeem the culture" through those songs, but Dr. John Hardin of the ministry 9Marks cautioned that "the sacred ceases to be that which is set apart when it is framed in that which is perhaps all too near." Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church & Cool Collide, said he believed such initiatives stemmed from the fact that many churches felt pressure because young people are departing in record numbers, but cautioned that when you attract people with "gimmicky things," there has to be something substantial in terms of discipleship to keep them engaged. "As Christians, we should focus on quality songs that are well-crafted and honest in their lyrics, and theologically rich," he said.
Israel to Keep U.S. in the Dark on Possible Iran Strike
According to a U.S. intelligence official, Israel does not plan to alert the U.S. ahead of time if it decides to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, CBN News reports. Israeli officials said the move was intended to protect the United States from being held responsible for failing to stop an attack, but some suggest the move also reflects the Jewish state's frustration with the Obama administration. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who recently met with Israel's prime minister and defense minister, said: "I got the sense that Israel is incredibly serious about a strike on [Iran's] nuclear weapons program. It's their calculus that the [Obama] administration ... is not serious about a real military consequence to Iran moving forward. They believe they're going to have to make a decision on their own, giving the current posture of the United States." American officials have been continually trying to convince Israel an attack on Iran's nuclear program would only be a temporary setback.
What's Next for China's House Churches?
According to ChinaAid, there is an increasing amount of visible evidence that the Chinese house church movement is growing both in number and influence. Most house churches are small, with typically 30 to 40 worshippers, though some draw as many as 300 at one time. A vast majority of underground churches in China are small and fragmented, due to security purposes and attempts to avoid being infiltrated by the secret police, but in some of China's largest cities it is not uncommon to find church leaders who serve as many as 200 church units at once -- influential "mega-pastors" whose goals are to reach and train all believers. The major emphasis in China's house churches is the discipleship of believers and the training of the next generation of leaders -- proof in itself of the growth of Christianity all across the country. But "even as Christianity in China seems to be growing in strength, the key leaders see a time of uncertainty and possibly even a violent spike-up in crackdowns against the house churches in the very near future," says ChinaAid worker Brother Luke.
BBC Director General Admits Christianity Gets Tougher Media Treatment
In a recent interview about faith and broadcasting, BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, disclosed that Christianity was treated with less sensitivity than other religions because it had "pretty broad shoulders," The Telegraph reports. He suggested other faiths had "very close identity with ethnic minorities" and thus were covered in a more careful way, and said producers were faced with the possibilities of "violent threats" instead of normal complaints if they broadcast certain types of satire. In response to criticism of the BBC for screening a broadcast irreverent toward Christianity -- and subsequent comments that no one would have thought of making fun of Islam in such a way -- Thompson said Islam was a religion "almost entirely" practiced by people who already felt "prejudiced against" and who would consider an attack on their religion "racism by other means." He added: "One of the mistakes secularists make is not to understand the character of what blasphemy feels like to someone who is a realist in their religious belief. ... The idea [that] you might want to ... think quite carefully about whether something done ... in the name of freedom of expression might to the Jew, or the Sikh, or the Hindu, or the Muslim, who receives it, feel threatening, isolating and so forth -- I think those are meaningful considerations."
Publication date: March 1, 2012