Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 11, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 11, 2009

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Sense of Humor a Spiritual Gift? Many Think So, Survey Finds
  • Zimbabwe's Spillover Tests Neighboring Zambia's Goodwill
  • China Denies Censorship, Persecution of Activists
  • Church to Shut Down for a Month to Save Money

Sense of Humor a Spiritual Gift? Many Think So, Survey Finds

A third of Americans who identify themselves as Christians have never heard of spiritual gifts, a new Barna Group survey finds. Perhaps even more startling, 21 percent of those who say they understand spiritual gifts claim to have gifts that the Bible never mentions – such as a sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, compromise, premonition and creativity. The survey concluded, "Between those who do not know their gift (15%), those who say they don’t have one (28%) and those who claimed gifts that are not biblical (20%), nearly two-thirds of the self-identified Christian population who claim to have heard about spiritual gifts have not been able to accurately apply whatever they have heard or what the Bible teaches on the subject to their lives."

Zimbabwe's Spillover Tests Neighboring Zambia's Goodwill

Mission News Network reports that Zimbabwean refugees continue to leave their country by the thousands, bringing economic troubles to their neighbors, who have been overwhelmed these refugees. "[I]t is very hard to contain the problem in Zimbabwe. It is spreading, and it is causing the evangelical church to reach out to the refugees. It's also creating turmoil within the evangelical church," said Rody Rodeheaver with IN Network. Many Zambian farmers have seen their land overrun or even given away to Zimbabwean refugee farmers by the Zambian government. With their own livelihood taken away, resentment threatens to creep in and further destabilize the situation, even among church members. Zimbabwe's economy, train-wrecked by President Robert Mugabe's policies, has increasingly burdened neighboring countries.

China Denies Censorship, Persecution of Activists

The Associated Press reports that Chinese officials continue to insist that their government upholds human rights and freedom of speech despite wide evidence to the contrary. Officials told the U.N. Human Rights Council Monday that "China's law guarantees citizens freedom of speech and expression," Li Wufeng of China's State Council Information Office said. Li nevertheless acknowledged that China closely monitors Internet usage and blocks many websites, saying the Internet must not be used for "creating rumors or instigating the subversion of government or splitting national territory." China's government cracked down on "subversive" activities in 2008 in preparation for the Olympic Games, according to ChinaAid Association. Those targeted included Christians and dissenting journalists.

Church to Shut Down for a Month to Save Money

Religion News Service reports that one mainline church is taking strict measures to save money: First Unitarian Church in Portland, Ore., will close for the month of July. The decision has prompted some to wonder if it's appropriate for a church to shut its doors during tough times. The Rev. Marilyn Sewell, senior pastor, says the church will save about $100,000 in staff pay by closing during the slow month. This would help alleviate some of the stress from a projected $185,000 deficit without having to eliminate employees. "The congregation needs to own the problems and understand the consequences," said Sewell, who announced the decision during services on Jan. 25 and then sent a letter to the church's 1,500 members. The closure will mean no worship services, no adult or children's education and no programming for the month.