Religion Today Summaries, December 5, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, December 5, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • Criticism Continues over Bush Characterization of Islam as Peaceful and Loving
  • Police Chaplin Retains Job Despite Uproar over Calling Homosexuality a Sin
  • Voice of the Martyrs Launches Legal Defense Fund
  • Bethlehem Planning Christmas Celebrations Despite Military Curfew

Criticism Continues over Bush Characterization of Islam as Peaceful and Loving

(Intercessors for America) President Bush finds himself in a rare disagreement with conservatives in his party over his efforts to portray Islam as a peaceful religion that is not responsible for anti-American terrorism.  In a score of speeches since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the president has called for tolerance of Muslims, describing Islam as “a faith based upon peace and love and compassion” and a religion committed to “morality and learning and tolerance.”  But a large number of foreign policy hawks — some of them with advisory roles in the Bush administration — have joined religious conservatives in taking issue with Bush’s characterizations.  While most of them understand the political rationale for Bush’s statements they say the claim is dishonest and destined to fail.  The administration, and moderate governments in Arab and Muslim nations, are struggling to prevent the war on terrorism from becoming what Osama bin Laden wants: a war of civilization between the Judeo-Christian West and a resentful and impoverished Muslim world.  Calling Islam a peaceful religion “is an increasingly hard argument to make,” said Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan official who serves on the Bush Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board.  “The more you examine the religion, the more militaristic it seems.  After all, its founder, Mohammed, was a warrior, not a peace advocate like Jesus.”  Adelman agreed that describing Islam as peaceful “is the right political argument, but it’s a harder intellectual argument to make.”

Police Chaplin Retains Job Despite Uproar over Calling Homosexuality a Sin

(Charisma News) Officials in a Michigan community have decided not to fire a volunteer police chaplain for saying homosexuality is a sin, but ordered the police chief to bring in more chaplains to represent a wider religious viewpoint.  Tom Hansen, who has been the Ferndale Police Department's lone chaplain for several years, has been under fire for comments he made earlier this year while opposing Motor City Pride, a gay pride event in the city located near Detroit, "The Royal Oak Daily Tribune" reported.  In addition to characterizing homosexuality as sin, the pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church said the gay lifestyle was an "abomination to the Lord."  The city received more than 100 letters about Hansen's remarks after Soulforce took on the issue in July, when members of the pro-gay religious group met several times with Hansen, asking him to retract his statements, apologize or resign.  Hansen refused.   Several clergy members defended Hansen's right to speak out on issues, but some disagreed with his biblical interpretation that homosexuality is a sin.  The Ferndale City Council recently passed a resolution that said Hansen's anti-gay remarks were "callous, outdated and hostile" and an affront to its gay community.

Voice of the Martyrs Launches Legal Defense Fund

A year ago, 17 members of the South China Church (an unregistered denomination in mainland China), including the church’s founder Gong Shengliang, were put on trial for various false charges, including rape, assault and for being members of an illegal cult.  For each of the families of the 17 who are originally arrested, the cost of their legal defense has forced them and, in many cases, their close relatives, into financial bankruptcy. All their houses were demolished by Chinese authorities, church offerings were confiscated and all their useful assets were taken away by the local authorities.  Situations like this are not uncommon in nations where Christians are persecuted for their faith.  In many cases, Christians languish in prison simply because their families cannot afford decent legal representation.  Faced with this ever-increasing need, The Voice of the Martyrs has started a Legal Defense Fund to help insure that some of these courageous believers receive the best legal assistance possible under the circumstances.  In this way, Christians from around the world can practically “remember those in prison” (Hebrews 13:3), letting them know that they have not been forgotten.  Visit the Voice of the Martyrs website for more information.

Bethlehem Planning Christmas Celebrations Despite Military Curfew
Julie Stahl
( Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is hoping to celebrate a traditional Christmas, despite the fact that Israeli troops now have the Palestinian city under curfew, the city's mayor said on Tuesday.  Israel scrapped a Bethlehem-Gaza first agreement, whereby security in Bethlehem was returned to the Palestinian Authority.  The deal fell apart after a suicide bomber from the area blew up a bus in Jerusalem, killing eleven people.  Israeli troops entered Bethlehem and neighboring Beit Jala and Beit Sahour nearly two weeks ago in the hunt for terrorist operatives; they have described the area as a closed military zone.  Media reports this week suggested that the army intended to pull its troops out of Bethlehem before Christmas, but Israeli army chief-of-staff Lt.-General Moshe Ya'alon said that the timing of the army withdrawal would depend on the situation on the ground.  "The city is still under security restriction. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, our forces will pull back from the city," Ya'alon said.  Nevertheless, Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser remained hopeful that the city, which has the largest Christian population of any city in the West Bank, would celebrate Christmas.