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Christian Population Drops in the Middle East
For thousands of years Christians were a vital force in the Middle East. They dominated some of the best job positions in the area, were wealthy and attended universities. Today the Christians are the dwindling and threatened. The Christian population that was 20 percent of the population is now less than 5 percent and dropping. Most of this change is driven by emigration because of political violence, lack of economic opportunity and the rise of radical Islam. The Middle East is now Muslim. Except for Israel, with its six million Jews, there is no other country where Islam does not prevail. This includes Lebanon, where Christians now amount to a quarter of the population, and the non-Arab countries of Iran and Turkey. The Islamic culture, especially in its more fundamental form, often defines itself in contrast to the West; Christianity has in some places been relegated to an enemy or least a foreign culture. The West Bank Palestinian leadership, more secular, tries to include Christians to ward off separatist sentiments and stop the population decline. This has been a losing battle. In 1948, Jerusalem was about one-fifth Christian. Today it is 2 percent.
Christian Heads NIHDr. Francis Collins was selected to head the National Institute of Health. He has praised by some and criticized by others. The N.I.H. one of the largest sources for research money will have many who will watch how the new head selects recipients. While Dr. Collins is considered a extraordinary scientist others are uncomfortable with his selection. One of basic objections is strong belief in God. The doctor has wrote a book called “The Language of God”
Praise for Dr. Collins was not universal or entirely enthusiastic. There are two basic objections to Dr. Collins. The first is his embrace of religion. He wrote a book called “The Language of God,” and he has given many talks and interviews in which he described his conversion to Christianity. Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism.
The other objection stems from his leadership of the Human Genome Project, which is part of the N.I.H. Although Dr. Collins was widely praised in 2003 when the effort succeeded, the hopes that this discovery would yield an array of promising medical interventions have greatly dimmed, discouraging many.
Dr. Collins’s confirmation by the Senate is all but certain. He has long cultivated good relations on Capitol Hill. And since the administration finalized rules for broader use of stem cells in federal research before nominating him, anti-abortion forces will have a harder time using that issue to stop him from being confirmed.
Church is More than a BuildingAfter a fire that destroyed the Maspeth United Methodist Church in Queens, NY five days earlier, the members were back together for Sunday service. They were arranged on lawn chairs around the charred remains of the church. One member noted that she always thought you are connected with the building but when it burns down you find it's much more than a building.
The church is a community brought about by Jesus Christ. The church membership is small but not the activities that range from AA meetings, yoga classes, Girl Scouts, after-school programs, and a toddler playgroup. The members have taken bricks from the old church in hope that they can be incorporated in the new church building some day. A member grabbed some bricks from the foundation, in the hope that something of the old church might be incorporated into a new one.
While the service on Sunday at times resembled a wake, there was evidence that the community would continue despite the fire.
Buried TreasuresOne of the common activities of many churches is a rummage sale. Like garage sales the image brings up thoughts of sifting through “stuff” and find the buried treasure. One sale that is held by the United Methodist Women is found in New Jersey. The church has raised over $60,000 that is given back to missions locally and world wide. The Morrow Church Turnover Sale has a 76 year history and has the support of many communities and religious backgrounds. Check it out here.
Guns in ChurchIn Kentucky there is a church that is having a church event that is a little bit different. It’s bring you gun to church day. This may not be found in New York City where gun laws are much more restrictive but not in Kentucky. At the New Bethel Church people will be wearing or carrying their firearms into the sanctuary. This is because you don’t need a license or permit to buy or carry a rifle or shotgun and you can buy and carry a handgun with a simple permit if you are over 21. This is part of the gun culture history of Kentucky with an image of mountaineers with moonshine and a rifle. Some people in the state don’t like the image but that is just one of the many cultures of the state.
iPOD pod casting or God castingSo you have missed services today...what to do? Kyle Lewis listened to the sermon at the gym on his iPod. The church has over 10,000 listeners!
The hour long recordings are found on www.theaterchruch.com has brought new people to his church. There have been radio and television and now there is Podcasting. As the pastor states, "We're orthodox in belief but unorthodox in practice." Radio has been used back in the 1930’s, after that came empires like the Christian Broadcasting Network of Pat Robertson and the Trinity Broadcast Network. Podcasting is a update to the mission and may have the same impact as first Bibles printed in the 15th century. Check out www.godcast.org for more information.