in this issue May/June 2000, Vol. 4 No. 3
- People Profile
- Agency Profile
- Resource Reviews
- News and Needs
- Web Site Review
In the Culture War:Her hair was frizzed and psychedelic, her body ornately tattooed. A bass beat hammered my chest while suggestive gyrations swayed her body. "Don't watch," I told my nine year old son. There was no retreat in the crowded airport waiting room. Full screen MTV was riveting the attention of head scarved Muslim women and chain smoking Indonesian men, who would have considered it indecent for me to hold my wife's hand in public.
How Should We Then Fight?
by Bruce T. Sidebotham
The war to preserve traditional values is not confined to America. In 1989 I watched the administration at a predominantly Muslim university discuss enforcing a dress code prohibiting women students from wearing jeans. Three years later, jeans were the female attire of choice.
While Americans struggle with promiscuity, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and AIDS, people of every tongue, tribe, and nation are embracing secular lifestyles and values. No world religious system is exempt. Practical atheism is pushing the moral convictions of all world religions to the margins of relevance with conquistador- like efficiency.
In these days of relativism, ethnic strife, and waning influence, how do Christians fight on the two fronts of defending the faith in historically Christian areas and advancing the gospel into locations where it is not known? First we must recognize that atheistic secular humanism is more than just a world view. It is a powerful idolatry undergirded by principalities and powers.
In this day of gender confusion, subtle bigotry, and deep seated ethnic hatreds, the new secular idolatry provides a sense of identity and results in intense loyalties. Nothing strikes closer to a person's self perception than his convictions about religion. How else can rabid anti bigots be so bigoted, and tolerance advocates be so intolerant?
In a world of rapid change, the secular belief system with all of its consumer trappings provides an irrational foundation for personal and community sanity. As a result, introducing a Christian world view is as threatening to personal safety and community stability as rooting for the wrong team on the wrong sideline of a football game.
Three Battle Grounds
I gave an Indonesian language New Testament to a Muslim barber named Soni. He read it. He said he believed what it said, but he said he could not become a Christian.
Discussions about truth and certainty for going to heaven fall on deaf ears when the issue is allegiance rather than salvation. Living for the approval of one's neighbor who can be seen is much more persuasive than living for a belief system which one cannot see; especially if one's old belief system is the basis for relationship with one's neighbor.
Faith, whether true or false, has three dimensions corresponding to Jesus as the way, truth, and life.Truth = Knowledge
Life = Character
Way = Behavior
Just as Jesus was the knowledge, character, and behavior of God in human form, so faith in him affects our behavior and character as well as our mind.
Jesus is the truth. Truth is the mental bedrock of our faith and the antidote to non-Biblical world views. The Scriptures teach us about the truth. With them we are taught, rebuked, and corrected (2 Timothy 3:16). With them we confront error and find wisdom and understanding.
But truth imbibed intellectually alone will not liberate us, our church or our culture from idolatry. Faith is more than what one knows in one's mind. It is also what one believes in one's heart and confesses with one's mouth (Romans 10:9).
Merely "knowing" the truth is not enough to make one free. Jesus said obedience was a prerequisite. (" If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32)
The secularism which is supplanting Biblical Christianity and nearly every other global religion has intellectual, emotional, and volitional foundations. In the public square, in our own lives, and in the church we must fight this new form of idolatry not only with truth but also with power, and faithfulness.
My friend Soni was finally convinced of the truth, but he did not have the will or the power to commit to it.
Jesus is the life. He defeated sin, Satan, and death. Jesus' life in us gives transforming power to do the same. (Galatians 2:20)
The life of Christ is the emotional motor of our faith. We are called to consider him who endured and overcame, so that we will not growweary or lose heart (Hebrews 12:3). Jesus said his followers would witness to the ends of the earth after the power of the Holy Spirit had come upon them (Acts 1:8).
Supernaturally living in love, peace, patience, joy, and self-control enables us to be free. Without spiritual power, our lifestyle is driven by factors like fear, jealousy, bitterness, addiction, compulsiveness, and dysfunctional family systems.
Personal faith in Jesus Christ will get one to heaven, but only communal faith with social significance impresses outsiders. Faith that doesn't work is a joke (James 2:17).
The cultural impact of the gospel has been manifest in fine architecture, great music, and political influence, but it is most persuasive in transformed lives and the character of the believing community. Jesus endorsed the power of community witness when he said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (Jn 13:35)
Right character ("Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" Romans 12:2), and right thinking ("but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" Romans 12:2), result from right commitment ("offer your bodies as living sacrifices." Romans 12:1).
Jesus is the way. Faithfulness is the volitional substance of our faith. Jesus Christ demands absolute allegiance to himself no matter what the cost. Exercising commitment and obedience through successive challenges leads to greater intimacy with Christ, more power of the Spirit in our lives, and more demonstration of the truth.
Luke wrote, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed any of his possessions as his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the Apostles continued to testify." (Acts 4:32-34) The lesson here is not communism. Rather the lesson is that right commitment leads to right behavior which results in powerful witness. The value of one's true allegiance shows up more in what one does than in what one says.
The truth of the gospel is most supremely illustrated in martyrdom. The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word for witness. Jesus said, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24)
The blood of the martyrs has been called "the seed of the church." Persecution showcases the truth of the gospel by revealing the character and commitment of its victims.
The point is not that we need persecution, but that we need to display the elements of faith which persecution brings out in our daily lives.
Fighting the culture war is more than an intellectual debate about truth. It is a struggle for allegiance in an environment as irrational and volatile as an interservice football game. People will give allegiance to Christ as they observe power in character and conviction in behavior, not as they are beaten down in argument. We must show them that character and conviction not just in our personal lives but in our social lives as well.
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Iran: The Nation of Medes and Persians Is Still Divided
The culture war between the secular values of practical atheism and the traditional morals of monotheism animates more than American presidential races. It fuels Islamic fundamentalism and ignites violent revolutionary movements around the world. Iran's 1979 revolution was a reaction to secularism. It gave political power to Muslim clergy resulting in strict enforcement of Sharia law. Since then, Iran has opposed the "Great Satan" by exporting fundamentalism and terrorism around the globe.
Because morality in Western culture tends to be personal, culture war battles over abortion, pornography, and homosexuality are fought by Christians with truth over issues of rights and privacy. A wide variety of behaviors based on differing sets of values can and does peacefully coexist.
But in Middle Eastern culture, morality is external and based upon appearances rather than upon motives. Sexual desires, for example, are not self controlled. Instead they are controlled by strict rules about how women dress and what they're allowed to do. Culture war battles are therefore fought by fundamentalists with raw power over issues of conformity.
Christians are severely persecuted in many Muslim countries not only because they are identified with the "immoral" West, but because they do not conform to external controls of ritual Muslim living.
The same atheistic secularism which plunges Western civilization into moral darkness and helps internal Christian morality to shine out more brightly threatens external Muslim morality with extinction. While fundamentalist Christians fight in the press and courtrooms for truth, fundamentalist Muslims fight in governments and streets for power. Fundamentalist Muslims are desperate. Terrorism is a weapon of desperation. As Christianity wanes in cultural influence, it still retains its moral integrity and authority. However, without social control through public rituals Islam is nothing.
Culture wars occurring within Islam are particularly hot in Algeria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Indonesia, but Iran, as the source of the fundamentalist revolution, showcases this phenomenon especially well. Over ninety-nine percent of Iran's sixty-nine million people are Muslim. Fifty percent of these are Persians speaking the official Farsi language. Minority ethnic groups compose the other half of the population. Of over 66,000 villages, only six have a Christian witness. Of 170 cities only thirty have Protestant churches. Of sixty-four minority languages, more than thirty-five have no Scriptures.
Generally, Muslims are unable to distinguish between Western secularism and Western Christianity. Iranian fundamentalism lashes out at both. Since 1979, at least ten Iranian pastors and lay leaders have been martyred. Last year at least twenty converts from Islam mysteriously disappeared.
However, Christianity among Iranians is growing. In 1990 there were about 16,000 Iranian Evangelical Christians worldwide. Today there are 50,000. Half of these are outside of Iran. Ninety percent of Iranian Evangelicals are from the Orthodox Assyrian and Armenian minorities, but the number of believers from Muslim backgrounds has gone from about 300 in 1979 to over 6000. Three million Iranians reside outside of Iran as expatriates or refugees where they have more access to the gospel. One million Iranians live in America.
The fundamentalist revolution in Iran is failing. Most Iranians are disillusioned with radical Islam. Abe Ghaffari of Iranian Christians International says that half the population would abandon Islam if they were free to do so. He points out that nearly half the population is under 35 years old, "turned off," and "ripe for something more." Tom White of Voice of the Martyrs says, "The ones shouting 'death to America' make up only two or three percent of the population."
In February elections to the 290 seat parliament, hardline supporters of the Islamic revolution lost all but seventy seats. In Tehran, supporters of President Mohammad Khatami, who wants to ease up on Islamic law and improve relations with the United States, took twenty-six of the thirty seats. Hardline fundamentalists still control the judiciary, and they are using the courts to shut down reform-oriented newspapers and harass moderate leaders.
Iran is just one place where the secular atheistic values which have made Western civilization post-Christian are putting the Muslim world into political turmoil and creating new opportunities for the gospel. Redemptive fruit from the culture war between secular and theistic values in the house of Islam is proving that "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." (Matthew 12:25)
Iranian Christian Organizations on www.farsinet.com Azeri Christian Resources 1-270-384-9069 ELAM Ministries 1-818-882-0586 Holy Spirit Ministry for Iranians and Persians 1-818-888-8875 Iranian Bible School 1-818-992-8320 Iranian Christian International, Inc. 1-719-596-0010 Iranian Christians of Central U.S., Inc. 1-918-794-7430 Persian World Outreach 1-818-992-8320 TALIM 1-303-338-1020
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World Medical Mission Unites Medical Professionals With Short Term OpportunitiesEvery person who Jesus healed died. Eternity, not just health, is the goal of ministry. Like Jesus, World Medical Mission preaches the gospel through healing ministry.
Unevangelized regions of the world desperately need physicians and dentists, medical equipment and supplies, and technical support. World Medical mission sends these along with beautiful feet. "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:15)
Before Samaritan's Purse started World Medical Mission in 1978, no mission organization would send doctors for mission work overseas for less than one year. With World Medical Mission doctors can spend their vacations treating patients on the mission field.
Doctors and dentists may serve in overseas clinics and hospitals or on disaster response teams for a few weeks up to a full year. Excellent opportunities exist for residents in their last year or two of training. World Medical Mission also needs physicians in academic medicine who are willing to teach.
Western world hospitals are continually upgrading equipment and discarding surplus supplies. World Medical Mission sends outdated equipment and unused consumables to hospitals where up to seventy percent of the equipment is broken and the most basic supplies are absent.
When poverty stricken hospitals receive donated equipment, they rarely have the expertise to install and maintain it. World Medical Mission technicians refurbish donated equipment and then travel to the field to train local staff to install, use, and maintain it.
Primitive areas present great challenges for repair and maintenance of facilities and utilities. World Medical Mission sends engineers, consultants, and qualified professionals to develop solutions to problems.
Through World Medical Mission, Samaritan's Purse doesn't just tell doctors what they ought to do but helps them to do it.
Their services include:
- placing according to need, interests, and abilities
- preparing volunteers for cross-cultural situations
- arranging travel
- assisting with visas
- coordinating field housing and transportation
- helping raise finances
To volunteer or learn more contact:
World Medical Mission
a ministry of Samaritan's Purse
P.O. Box 3000, 801 Bamboo Road
Boone, North Carolina 28607
phone: 1-828-262-1980, fax: 1-828-266-1055
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ACCTS Needs to Add to StaffIn order to expand outreach to foreign military students studying at service schools here in the U.S.A,, continue regional ministries to Military Christian Fellowships around the world, and initiate outreach into the "10/40" window, the ACCTS (Association for Christian Conferences Teaching and Service) is looking to add staff in Africa, Asia, South and Central America and at strategic military schools here in the U.S.A.
P.O. Box 27239
Denver, Colorado 80227-0239
phone: 1-303-985-808, fax: 1-303-986-4710
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Short Term Volunteers Are Wanted for Honduras, Nicaragua, or Resettling Refugees in the U.S.A.World Relief Hands On Teams help people whose lives have been touched by devastation. They are currently looking for short term volunteers to help in the following areas:
- Nicaragua - one to two weeks to help rebuild homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in Quilali, five hours north of the capital, Manaqua.
(estimated cost = $540 plus airfare)
- Honduras - one to two weeks partnering with Central American Mission and Shelter Now to rebuild homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch resource review
(estimated cost - $250 plus airfare)
- Refugee Resettlement - to help for one to two weeks with refugee resettlement in four locations: Atlanta, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Chicago.
Points of Contact:
1-914-268-4135 extension #12
1-914-268-4135 extension #41
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Caleb Project Offers Curriculum to Help Kids Love the NationsCaleb project has resources to help you give your children a heart for the world. The new Kids Around the World Teacher's Resource Kit is the latest in the fast-developing Kids Around the World series of mobilization resources.
The Kit contains five detailed lesson plans for thirty or sixty minute sessions with plenty of materials for additional lessons.
Five videos from the current Kids Around the World series have been recorded onto one videocassette. The kit also contains an audio cassette with theme songs accompanied by words and sheet music that can be photocopied and a large map of the world.
The teacher's resource kit is contained in an attractive and convenient three ring binder.
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House Approves Favored Trade Status For Chinaby Mark Albrecht, moderator of the Religious Liberty e-mail conference for the World Evangelical Fellowship
news and needs
To Join the conference contact MarkAlbrecht@xc.org.
The US House of Representatives passed the highly-contested US - China trade bill, which gives China permanent "most favored nation" (MFN) trading status without an annual review. In the past, the annual review focused on China's human rights and religious liberty record, and gave the US a way to pressure China on these issues publicly.
The controversial bill was passed by a comfortable margin, 237-197, in a vote that cut across party and ideological lines. Ratification by the Senate next month is considered only a formality.
Now that China has achieved permanent MFN status with the US, many religious liberty proponents say that China will disregard international standards on human rights - which it often does anyway - and that the US will no longer have any leverage to halt human rights abuses in China.
Nina Shea, a member of an independent panel commissioned by the U.S. to monitor religious freedom, said "In the shadow of all that [rising persecution of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong spiritual movement], the U.S. gives China permanent trade status, meaning it gives up its power for any meaningful review of human rights in China. It will be seen and touted by China as a reward, and it will be demoralizing for religious believers."
Joseph Kung, director of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a US-based monitoring group that lobbies for underground Catholics in China, agrees: "We pray for the best, but the evidence is pointing to the wrong direction," Kung told Newsroom. "I think this country has become very naive to think that China will improve human rights through a trade deal."
However, there was surprising diversity over sponsorship of the bill. Even the Dalai Lama weighed in favor of the legislation, saying that it was counter-productive to isolate China. Others argued along the same lines, noting that a further opening of China to free trade and the inevitable flood of western ideas and electronic communication would actually help to frustrate and undermine the totalitarian nature of the communist regime in Beijing. Only time will tell.
To counter the possible damage done to human rights in China, the bill does provide for the formation of a US government watchdog commission to monitor human rights and trade conduct by the Chinese and report its findings to Congress annually. It also grants an additional $99 million to Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America to broadcast pro-democracy programming into China.
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Turkmenistan Refuses to Register Bible Societyfrom Flash News from Compass Direct
news and needs
for an in depth analysis of conditions in Turkmenistan visit
The totalitarian government of Turkmenistan has rejected the application of local Christian churches to register their own Bible Society.
Turkmenistan is the only former Soviet republic with no legal Bible society or Bible bookstore.
In 1997, the neighboring Uzbek government seized a rail shipment of 25,000 Uzbek language New Testaments and threatened to close down the existing Bible Society. After a flood of international protest they released the shipment and granted higher status to the Bible Society of Uzbekistan as a national organization.
John Dean, a United Bible Societies consultant for Central Asia, is proposing that Bible Societies worldwide launch an international campaign to appeal Turkmenistan's refusal to allow its Christians to have access to the Bible.
During police raids of Christian churches and homes over the past 18 months, the authorities have seized all Bibles, hymn books, and tracts, whether in Turkmen or Russian language.
Firuz Kazemzadeh, a member of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom remarks that events in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where fundamentalist Islam prevails, have inspired the government to be afraid of losing control. All religions except for Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy are virtually banned.
There is a continuing crackdown on religious groups, including the actual bull-dozing of a church to the ground, deportation of peaceful missionaries, and arrests and incarceration of people because of their faith.
At a Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing Wayne Merry testified that of all the bad governments in Central Asia, Turkmenistan is the worst of the worst with a megalomaniac ruler comparable to men like Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, and Ceaucescu.
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www.Answering-Islam.orgThe web site "Answering-Islam" is a virtual one-stop shopping window for both Christians and Muslims who want to learn about and dialogue with one another.
Facilitates Invaluable Connections
web site review
Here are some samples of what is available.
- Articles summarizing the basic beliefs of Muslims and Christians
- Articles and links to sites by Muslims on how they view Christianity
- Articles on living under persecution in Muslim countries
- Articles and links to sites by both Christians and Muslims answering each others criticisms
- E-mail support groups for women dating or married to Muslim men, and for parents of children who have become Muslims
- Testimonies of Muslims who have converted to Christianity and testimonies of Christians who have converted to Islam
- Reviews and links to distributors of books and other resources in ministry to Muslims
- Articles on inter-cultural social issues like women, politics, and folk beliefs in Islam
- Opportunity to participate and electronically dialog with Muslims
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The Reveille Shofar
Volume 4, Number 3 - May/June 2000
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