Sympathy for the Devil Worshipers

November 6, 2013

 

It’s easy enough to be in favor of a “nonsectarian” prayer before a legislative session — some invocation of a higher power that theoretically doesn’t exclude anyone (besides atheists, that is) — but what exactly does such a prayer sound like?

That was Justice Samuel Alito’s question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court Wednesday morning in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, and it got to the heart of the court’s basic discomfort with cases asking it to decide whether specific government-sponsored prayers cross the constitutional line and “establish” religion in violation of the First Amendment.

In Greece, a town of just under 100,000 in western New York, town officials invite local clergy to offer a prayer before monthly town board meetings. The prayers may technically be given by anyone, but for nine years they were exclusively Christian, many using language such as “in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.” Two residents sued the town under the First Amendment.

Standing before the court, the residents’ lawyer, Douglas Laycock, suggested that a nonsectarian prayer would be satisfactory. Justice Alito wasn’t so sure.

“How could you do it?” Justice Alito asked. “Give me an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … Wiccans, Baha’i.”

“And atheists,” Justice Antonin Scalia added. “Throw in atheists, too.”

And so it went, the justices trying in vain to determine what sort of prayer, if any, would be sufficiently nonsectarian, and who should be responsible for making that determination. None of them seemed to relish the idea of playing at prayer editor.

As the argument progressed it was increasingly difficult to discern any grounds on which to justify legislative prayer other than the fact that it’s something we’ve always done — which was the basis for the court’s ruling upholding such a prayer in the Nebraska legislature in 1983, when it last considered the question.

 

New York Times: http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/sympathy-for-the-devil-worshippers/

Numbers of Muslims, Mormons rising sharply: report

(Reuters) – American Muslims grew in number over the past decade, outnumbering Jews for the first time in most of the Midwest and part of the South, while most mainline churches lost adherents, according to a census of American religions released on Tuesday.

The number of Muslim adherents rose to 2.6 million in 2010 from 1 million in 2000, fueled by immigration and conversions, said Dale Jones, a researcher who worked on the study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

“Christians are the largest group in every state, but some of the things we found interesting was the growth of the Mormons, who reported the largest numerical gain in 26 states,” said Jones, who presented the report to a conference in Chicago.

The number of Mormons, whose Utah-based church’s formal name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, grew by 45 percent to 6.1 million in 2010, according to the census, which asked 236 religions to count their own adherents. Family members of adherents were generally included in the numbers.

Why Evangelicals Must Defend Muslims

Some Christians get excited when they discover that I’m half Indian or that I studied Islam in college. They’ll sometimes ask me to talk about how Christianity compares to other faiths. But I’ve learned that what they mean to say is: “Great, you’ve read books I’d never own so you can tell us how awful those other religions are, and you’re brown so you won’t be called a bigot!”

That’s pretty much what happened a few weeks after 9/11 when I spoke to a college group at a church. When the pastor learned about my background he said he’d like to throw me a few “softball” questions about Islam at the end of my teaching time. His softball turned out to be a curve ball. He asked me, “Islam is essentially a religion of violence, right?”

“No,” I responded. “Islam advocates peace, and most Muslims are very kind, peaceful people.”
The pastor looked annoyed from the back of the room. He tried again. “But doesn’t the Quran advocate killing Christians and Jews?”

I will continue to speak out in defense of my Muslim neighbors, and I will not stop calling the church to love them rather than fear them. Followers of Christ, perhaps more than any others, should advocate that all people be free to believe, worship, think and preach without fear of persecution. Because where this freedom exists not only are religious communities more likely to coexist in peace, but I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more likely to thrive.

As Christians, we cannot, and should not, demand that everyone share our beliefs. But we can, and should, demand that everyone share our freedom. For where this freedom exists, we can be sure that Christ will be lifted up and draw people to himself.

Man Invokes Allah During Amsterdam Concert Disturbance

4 September 2011

 

A concert attended by Dutch Queen Beatrix was interrupted by a man who walked on stage to announce “I’m sorry. In the name of Allah the merciful. I’m sorry. This is not the way.” He then announced that he was Jesus Christ, assured the audience he did not have a bomb, and called upon those present to convert to Islam. The Queen remained seated throughout the disturbance while security escorted the man from the stage. An Amsterdam resident, he is well-known to the police for causing disturbances at several public gatherings. 

Muslim writer denied German award after criticizing crucifix

A Cologne-based Muslim writer has been dropped from a list of recipients for a major German culture prize after an article he wrote on the imagery of crucifixion ruffled feathers among Christian leaders.

The award was supposed to jointly go to four men from four different world religions – to a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Muslim and a Jew. But now, Muslim author Navid Kermani has been dropped from the quartet after a controversial article has upset the two Christian candidates. Catholic Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz and Peter Steinacker, the former head of the Lutheran church of Hesse and Nassau have objected to sharing the prize with Kermani, a Cologne-based writer who was born in Iran.

In March, Kermani penned an article for Switzerland’s Neue Zuercher Zeitung about a recent trip to Rome, where he went to see a 17th century painting by Guido Reni depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Kermani’s piece is an analysis of the painting and leads to a philosophical discussion of the crucifix as a religious symbol. “I’d express my personal rejection of the theology of the cross frankly with ‘blasphemy and idolatry’.” “Not that I respect people who pray before the cross any less than other people at prayer. This isn’t an accusation. It’s a rejection,” he wrote. This did not go down too well with Cardinal Lehmann and Peter Steinacker, who formally complained to the Cultural Committee of the state of Hesse. Giving in to the pressure, the committee has responded by withdrawing the prize from Kermani. The fourth recipient is Salomon Korn of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Muslim group stages events to promote religious dialogue

The UCOII, Italy’s largest Muslim group, is organizing a series of meetings in several cities in Italy in order to promote inter-religious dialogue. Meetings are planned to take place in the eastern city of Ancona, Milan, Florence, and Venice. The series is called Coexistence: A Comparison of Accounts. The Muslim faithful, believe, together with their monotheistic brethren, in a single God. We share with our Christian brothers in particular two convictions: belief in Jesus Christ and in the pureness of the Madonna,” said a statement by the UCOII.