Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Religion Stories of 2010

Each year, the Religion Newswriters Association conducts its Top Religion News Stories of the Year poll. This year, over 300 journalists specializing in reporting on religion were polled. Their Top 10 stories were:

1. The proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near the Ground Zero site.

2. The earthquake in Haiti that sparked relief efforts by many faith-based groups.

3. Pope Benedict XVI is accused of delaying church action against pedophile priests in Ireland, Germany and the United States.

4. The rise of the Tea Party movement, which is seen by some as a return to political prominence for the religious right.

5. President Obama signs the health-care reform bill which will impact many faith-based groups. Pro-life organizations are concerned that the legislation will provide funding for abortions.

6. The role of homosexual clergy among mainline congregations continued to be a hot topic in 2010. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA votes for the fourth time to lift the ban on noncelibate gay clergy. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America suffers scores of defections after its 2009 vote on the issue. The Episcopal Church is asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to take a lesser role in the Anglican Communion after a lesbian assistant bishop is ordained.

7. The economic slump was an ongoing challenge for churches and ministries. The Crystal Cathedral declares bankruptcy. The Lutheran publishing house, Augsburg Fortress, drops its pension plan. The Seventh-day Adventist publishing arm removes top executives.

8. Bullying draws attention with several suicides attributed to it. Religious groups strongly condemn it, but some see it as having religious roots, especially in regards to homosexuality.

9. The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey released by the Pew Forum offers some surprising findings, including that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons had the highest correct answers to general questions about religion.

10. Convening for the first time ever without a Protestant in its number (six Catholics and three Jews), the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of the Kansas church that loudly protests at funerals of servicemen. Earlier in the year, the Court allowed a cross to remain at least temporarily on National Park land in the Mojave Desert. For the complete list go to 2010 Religion Stories of the Year.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Crazy last 48 hours

I love Christmas Eve, but I'm kinda glad it comes just once a year!  I'm exhausted quite frankly.  Between snow blowing and shoveling, sermon writing, family time and many other things, I've barely had a moment to collect my thoughts these last two days.

I'm excited for what 2011 has in store.  I'm blessed to not have to preach the next two weeks with the more than capable Brenton Balvin filling in for me both weeks.  By the way, if you need someone for pulpit supply, I'll put you in touch with Brenton - he's very capable and widely available for preaching engagements.

Then in just under a week we have our 5 year wedding anniversary.  I think I have something planned my wife will really enjoy, I just hope it doesn't kill me!  If you don't hear from me on Facebook after December 31st, you'll know I met my tragic end bringing joy to my wife.

And while this is our son's 2nd Christmas, it's really the first one he's able to participate in.  Earlier tonight he got to open a few gifts, and has discovered he really enjoys that process.  Tomorrow should be fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More evidence of the tragic conditions on South Dakota reservations

From the Star Tribune (and the US Census):

The three places in the nation with the highest median household income are all in Virginia, according to census data released Tuesday, while those with the highest rates of poverty are in four American Indian reservations, all in South Dakota.

The Virginia counties of Fairfax and Loudoun and the city of Falls Church had the highest median income, the data said, which spans 2005 to 2009. Falls Church was the highest at $113,313, up by 17 percent from 2000. The lowest median income was in Owsley County, Ky., at $18,869.

Of the five counties with poverty rates higher than 39 percent, four contain or are in reservations in South Dakota. The fifth, Willacy County, Tex., is on the Gulf Coast.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What we tell our kids about Santa - by Mark Driscoll

By Mark Driscoll - from the Washington Post.

'Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.

When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.

Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don't feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.

Redeeming Santa

So, as the parents of five children, Grace and I have taken the third position to redeem Santa. We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.

We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Holiday Lights in Sioux Falls

The video below is from the day after Thanksgiving - filmed by a guy I went to college with - Christian Begeman. He really does an excellent job capturing some of the beauty of the day as Sioux Falls begins to celebrate the Christmas season. The music comes from another of the people I went to college with, the exceptionally gifted Liz Teel.

At the 1:47 mark you'll see a tree light up on the left hand side of the video (watch full screen!). That tree stands next to the Federal Building. Just a few days prior it stood in my parents' front lawn! That tree was planted by us in 1980, and concludes its life in a very beautiful way - as a reminder of CHRISTmas.

Holiday Lights from Christian Begeman on Vimeo.

A time lapse of two early holiday events in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that took place in late November, 2010

The original music was written and performed by my friend Liz Teel. The song is called "Gloria."

"Merry Christmas" is Preferred

A recent Rasmussen report found that a vast majority of Americans prefer to be greeted with "Merry Christmas" instead of the generic "Happy Holidays." Out of 1,000 surveyed, the poll found that 69 percent preferred the Christmas-specific greeting and only 24 percent preferred "Happy Holidays." [Liberty Counsel]

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Closed Abortion Centers

According to Operation Rescue, 31 abortion businesses closed in the last 12 months while 9 new abortion facilities opened. A total of 689 surgical abortion clinics remain in the U.S., down from a high of almost 2,200 in 1991. That means more than two-thirds of abortion centers have closed that were operating nearly 20 years ago. []