Religion Today Summaries, March 18, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 18, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Church Focuses on 'Loved Ones in Iraq'
  • Evangelical Group in Britain Warns About `Prosperity Gospel'
  • Christians Outraged by Surveys in India’s Gujarat State
  • Religious Conflict Invades Education in Nigeria

Church Focuses on 'Loved Ones in Iraq'

(Charisma News Service) With the threat of war looming, a Minnesota church Sunday focused on military personnel from the congregation serving in Iraq, as well as family members and friends struggling without them. During each one-hour service, Cross of Christ Church in Lakeville showed videos of relatives talking about "loved ones serving in Iraq," "The Minneapolis Star Tribune" reported. In his sermon, Rich Breu, a Vietnam veteran who is pastor of the Baptist congregation, said the "popular message of the church is love and peace. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's a good message," he said. "But it's not the whole message. You are reading [the Bible] with a blind eye if you don't know that God directed Israel to war against other nations." Breu called on his 700-member congregation to "open your hearts and minds." "I don't care what position you take" on the war, he said on a stage bedecked with red, white and blue bunting, the "Star Tribune" reported. "I do care about how we treat those over there, in Iraq, and those they leave behind."

Evangelical Group in Britain Warns About `Prosperity Gospel'
Al Webb

(RNS) An evangelical organization in Britain warns that thousands of Christians are being taken in by a new style of preaching from a so-called "prosperity gospel" that promises untold wealth to believers. The study produced by the Evangelical Alliance, an umbrella organization for Britain's evangelical churches, said the teachings in what some critics call the "blab it and grab it gospel" encourage worshippers to pray for material wealth. The prosperity gospel, the "Faith, Health and Prosperity" report said, claims that any money believers give to their preacher will be multiplied by God hundreds of times or more in favor of the giver. The danger, it said, is that "prosperous, charismatic preachers" could replace Jesus as the object of admiration and adulation. "Some preachers teach that material blessings, along with physical wealth, are confirmation from God of a righteous and holy lifestyle," she said. The study said the movement "has been an unabashed advocate of material prosperity, and this has naturally invited the charge that it promotes a lifestyle and ethos fundamentally at odds with the values of the kingdom of God." The report said analyses of the "blab it and grab it" movement "abound with anecdotes about luxury cars and Rolex watches."

Christians Outraged by Surveys in India’s Gujarat State
Abhijeet Prabhu
(Compass) The Christian community in western India’s Gujarat state has been the target of three government surveys conducted through the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) apparently in preparation for an anti-conversion bill to be considered by the state legislature at the end of March. Sources told Compass that the three surveys were aimed at amassing information to use against the Christian community and ensure passage of the bill. However, the Gujarat High Court has ordered a halt to the surveys while it awaits an explanation from government officials as to the reason for the surveys. The pro-Hindu Indian People’s Party, which won election in Gujarat on a Hindu supremacist plank, ordered three different surveys beginning in February seeking details of conversions and finances. Christians are both terrified and outraged by the surveys. “Are we criminals that the state has to order the CID to conduct surveys on our communities and activities? This is precisely what they did to the Muslims before their pogroms against them last year. This is precisely what the Nazis did to the Jews. They are literally marking our homes with swastikas using yellow chalk,” the Rev. Dev Oza, a Church of North India (CNI) pastor, told Compass.

Religious Conflict Invades Education in Nigeria

(Compass) Religious tension between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria has moved to yet another social arena: education. Last month, Muslim extremists attacked Christian mission schools in the city of Ibadan, injuring hundreds of students and teachers.  The violence spread across the city, bringing commercial activities to a standstill for hours before police intervened to restore order. The National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations of Nigeria organized the attacks, saying in a press statement that the objective was to press administrators to require female students to wear the Hijap, a Muslim head covering.  Police arrested 51 of the assailants.  In another development, Muslim teachers in Ondo state rejected calls by churches to return to them all Christian mission schools seized without compensation in 1977 by the government. The teachers argued that returning the confiscated schools would amount to “privatization and commercialization of education.”