Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 22, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 22, 2010

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Survey: Family Trumps Jesus in Christmas Celebrations
  • Indonesian Churches Wary of Islamist Offer of 'Protection'
  • Second Christian Preacher Awarded Damages for Wrongful Arrest
  • Pakistan's Controversial Blasphemy Law Used Yet Again

Survey: Family Trumps Jesus in Christmas Celebrations

Family is the "reason for the season" for 81 percent of people who celebrate Christmas in America, according to a Lifeway Research survey. The study found that nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) personally celebrate Christmas and those aren't all self-identified Christians. A majority of agnostics or those claiming no preference (89 percent), individuals claiming other religions (62 percent), and even atheists (55 percent) celebrate Christmas along with 97 percent of Christians. But even among Christians, Christ's birth tends to get lost among other traditions. "[A] closer look at how they celebrate reveals that it typically revolves around family and that Christ-centered elements are not as common," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "For many in our culture, the season is disconnected from the reason. For many of those, family is the reason for the season."

Indonesian Churches Wary of Islamist Offer of 'Protection'

In the wake of several attacks on worship services by Indonesia's notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), several Jakarta area church leaders rejected an offer to help protect them over Christmas. Compass Direct News reports that FPI leader Rizieq Shihab made the offer last week, saying he was working in cooperation with the Indonesian Communion of Churches and the Indonesian Bishops Conference. But several churches publicly rejected the offer, comparing the offered protection to "foxes protecting a chicken coop." Jakarta's police chief reportedly promised protection for every "registered" church in the area. Many Indonesian churches are unregistered, however, since they fail to meet the strict conditions governing places of worship. The Indonesian public has harshly criticized FPI members for their role in multiple church attacks over the past year and faulted police and politicians for failing to intervene.

Second Christian Preacher Awarded Damages for Wrongful Arrest

Another Christian street preacher who was arrested for stating that homosexuality is a sin will receive more than US $10,000 in damages. Christian Today reports that Dale Mcalpine's comments, made in a one-on-one exchange with passerby in Cumbria, England, led to his arrest for a "racially aggravated" offense. All charges against him were later dropped. The arrest sparked fears for freedom of speech among Christians and was even criticized by prominent gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Responding to the settlement, he said, "I forgive the police for how they treated me and I hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else. Despite my experience I still respect the police. I will pray for them because they have a difficult and sometimes dangerous job."

Pakistan's Controversial Blasphemy Law Used Yet Again

ASSIST News Service reports that Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws have been used yet again, but against a member of a Muslim sect. Naushad Walyani, a doctor, is in prison for an apparently small incident. A pharmaceutical salesman, Muhammed Faizan, visited him on Dec. 9. The doctor "after taking the business card of the sales representative threw it in the trash" Asia News said a local newspaper wrote. Apparently annoyed by the action, Faizan returned later with some colleagues to "teach the doctor a lesson." Asia News said "a violent quarrel" ensued between the two, and the doctor was told he would be reported for blasphemy as he was not respecting the sacred name engraved on the business card. Faizan's colleagues attacked the doctor, who, following a complaint to police under the Blasphemy Act was arrested and is now awaiting trial.