Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 9, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 9, 2010

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

In today's edition:

  • China Cracks Down on House Churches, Labels Them a "Cult"
  • Habitat Works to Put Foreclosed Homes with Needy Families
  • Britain: Almost Half Say Jesus Is 'Irrelevant' to Christmas
  • Korean-Americans See 'Awakening Moment' amid Fear

China Cracks Down on House Churches, Labels Them a "Cult"

ChinaAid is calling recently attacks on Chinese house churches a "grave and troubling setback" for the country's religious freedom. The human rights group reported that Chinese officials have begun calling the unregistered church network a "cult," indicating that a new crackdown is underway. According to classified information obtained by ChinaAid, the Chinese Communist Party launched "Operation Deterrence" on Dec. 1 and will continue through March 2011. A long "blacklist" of church leaders and influential believers reportedly has been drawn up, as the operation narrowly focuses on the church network. Recent government actions against Christians, including official harassment of influential house church leaders, the ordination of a Catholic bishop in defiance of the Vatican's wishes and even the cyberattacks that brought down ChinaAid's Chinese and English news websites, appear to have been a prelude signaling the advent of the crackdown.

Habitat Works to Put Foreclosed Homes with Needy Families

Habitat for Humanity is best known for building houses, but they are also in the business of buying them -- to sell at low cost to families in need. The ministry has bought homes in markets across the United States for about a year and a half. Mark Crozet, senior vice president of resource development for Habitat, said it's sometimes cheaper to get a family into a foreclosed home than to build them a new one. "In many new markets, we don't need to build new homes when there are existing housing there that may just be sitting empty or be sitting in foreclosure that we can help get back on the market and start re-populating communities," Crozet told The Christian Post. The organization has sometimes been able to buy properties close together, paving the way for revitalization of whole neighborhoods.

Britain: Almost Half Say Jesus Is 'Irrelevant' to Christmas

Almost half of Britain's adults don't find any need for Christ in Christmas, according to a new survey by theology think tank Theos. Christian Today reports that percent agreed with the statement that the birth of Jesus is "irrelevant" to their celebration of Christmas, while 51 percent said the event is still relevant to them. Only 36 percent, however, plan to attend a Christmas church service this year. Theos director Paul Woolley said, "It's clear that society is split right down the middle regarding the religious significance of Christmas." The study yielded other surprises, as young adults ages 18 to 24 were more likely than any other age group to disagree with the statement that Jesus's birth is irrelevant. "It will surprise people that young people are most likely to believe that Jesus is relevant to their Christmas."

Korean-Americans See 'Awakening Moment' amid Fear

Several Korean-American Baptists are calling for an "awakening moment" of prayer amid military tensions between North and South Korea. North Korea's recent shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in disputed waters killed four South Koreans, including two civilians, spiking tensions to their highest point since the Korean War, Baptist Press reports. "This crisis reminds us that the Korean Peninsula is always the kind of place where there is not just physical tension but a lot of spiritual conflict," said Park Se-yung (name changed), a Korean-American church mobilizer. "Remember, the North was once called the 'Jerusalem of the East.' A very powerful spiritual revival happened there a century ago. In the last half-century we have suffered this crisis of national separation." The North is supposedly launching military offensives to burnish the military credentials of its next leader and King Jong'il's son, Kim Jong-un.