3 - Christian leaders prepare for iPledge Sunday
The Faith and Freedom Coalition reports that 17 million evangelicals sat out the 2008 Presidential election.
If Christians vote their values, it can make a significant difference in the outcome of elections.
With that concept in mind, the Family Research Council and American Family Association have teamed up to present an impressive lineup of faith leaders in the iPledge Sunday event, originating from First Baptist Church of Charlotte on Sunday night. Speakers including Tony Perkins, former Senator Rick Santorum, Bishop Harry Jackson, Kirk Cameron and other key Christian leaders are participating in a 90-minute event celebrating Christian citizenship and exhorting Christians to rise up on Election Day to make their voices heard. Hundreds of churches have signed up to be simulcast sites.
The goal is to mobilize Christians across America to pledge to:
Pray for the upcoming election.
Prepare by registering themselves and others.
Participate by voting on November 6.
For more information, you can go to www.IPledgeSunday.org. The website contains links to resources that can help encourage congregation members to get involved. And, there's a link to a website called, www.IVoteValues.org, which offers information on conducting a voter registration drive in your church.
There is also a voter registration site, which is a joint effort of a number of Christian public policy organizations - it's www.commit2vote2012.com.
2 - God, Jerusalem debated at Democratic convention; other faith elements present
The Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte had some significant moments for pro-life and pro-traditional marriage Christians, as a litany of speakers affirmed their support for abortion and so-called "women's rights". This really is a departure from the prevailing attitude of the administration of former President Clinton, who declared that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare". And, with the newly declared support of same-sex marriage by the Democratic standardbearer and the inclusion of that support for the very first time in the party platform, the national party and its supporters have made an intentional shift.
On top of those instances, the party platform no longer contained the name of God, as it had in years past. Party leaders attempted to rectify that by including language about "God-given potential". And, in the same resolution, language recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was inserted in to the platform. When the vote was taken, even though audio and video indicated that the numbers were fairly evenly split between those favoring the changes and those not in favor, the person in charge, the mayor of Los Angeles, determined that a two-thirds majority had been gathered in approval.
The Christian Post headline read, "DNC: Christian Leaders Comment on Night 'Dems Booed God".
Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries, is quoted in the article as saying that his first reaction was "shock", and went on to say:
"I have many Democrat friends who believe in God and I guess it was a big wakeup call that the leadership of the party, those selected to be its representatives at the national level, are so anti-God...It answers a lot of questions about why faith-based organizations are receiving such hostility from the administration. People are policy."LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer was also quoted:
"Democrats are often seen as anti-faith – the 'God gap' has been widely polled and reported...That DNC floor moment did not help, particularly if the campaign desires to reach out to the evangelical community. They were very aggressive in reaching out to evangelicals in 2008 but much less so now – and this will make it harder."Stetzer felt it was important to note that the vote to reinstate the position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel should not be confused with adding the phrase "God-given" back into the text of the Democrats' party platform.
In other news concerning the DNC, the convention concluded with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is regarded as perhaps the nation's highest-ranking Catholic, bringing the closing prayer, as he had done at the Republican Convention. And, he included language on the sanctity of life and religious liberty. He said, “Grant us the courage to defend life…waiting to be born, welcomed & protected." He also prayed that God would, “Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty, the first, most cherished freedom."
Prior to the convention, there was a major faith event in Charlotte, organized by area church leaders. Some 9,000 people gathered for "Charlotte 7:14", which was intended to call people together to pray for our nation.
1 - Religious freedom victories: Iranian pastor, Pakistani teen released
Some major news out of the Middle East regarding religious freedom this week: Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had been in prison approximately 1000 days for refusing to renounce his Christian faith, was released over the weekend. According to WORLD Magazine, quoting the American Center for Law and Justice, the pastor was suddenly acquitted of apostasy charges.
The ACLJ reported that the pastor had appeared in an Iranian court on Saturday for an almost 6-hour hearing on the charges brought against him. In the end, his charges were reduced to evangelizing Muslims, and he was released with time served. There had been a report that new charges might be brought against the pastor, but this weekend's events represent a sudden and welcome change of direction, the answer to thousands of prayers from around the world on Pastor Youcef's behalf and a possible response to international pressure calling for the pastor's release. For whatever reason, he is now a free man, and there is celebration around the world.
And, there is celebration for the release of a young Pakistani girl who had been imprisoned under Pakistan's blasphemy laws because she had allegedly defaced an Islamic holy book, perhaps a Koran. Unfortunately, she was released on bail, not unconditionally set free - her bail of over $10,000 in U.S. dollars was paid by a Pakistani advocacy group. This past week, it was announced that the teenager, who has some sort of mental impairment, was allegedly framed by a local iman, who himself was arrested under the blasphemy laws.
These laws have been roundly criticized by other world governments, saying that they inhibit religious freedom. Reuters reports that the laws have led to unrest, and even the death of opponents:
Last year, Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his bodyguard for suggesting the law be reformed. Taseer had been defending a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was jailed on blasphemy charges. She is still in jail on death row.
Two months after Taseer's murder, Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was killed by the Taliban for demanding changes to the law.
In 2009, 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by a mob of 1,000 Muslims in the town of Gojra, in Punjab province. At least seven Christians were burned to death. The attacks were triggered by reports of the desecration of the Koran.
Two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous letter against the Prophet Mohammad were gunned down outside a court in the eastern city of Faisalabad in July of 2010.
These instances underscore the atmosphere that has apparently been created by the enactment of these laws. But, the events of this week should provide Christians with motivation to be in prayer for those who are facing persecution, and should provide reinforcement for governmental leaders who have been speaking out in favor of religious freedom around the world.