Overheard: June 2016

 
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“Believers are feeling significant pressure. There is a shared sense that the cultural tide is turning against religious conviction, and people of faith are starting to feel the effects of this growing antagonism in tangible ways. [But] it’s encouraging to see how many Christians still feel optimistic about the positive role their faith can play in society today.”

David Kinnaman, president of research company, Barna Group, and the lead designer and analyst on a study that discovered while large numbers of Christians believe they are misunderstood, persecuted and marginalised, most feel as though their faith is not only essential, but a force for good in today’s world.—Barna (US)


“It’s really a bigger picture. It’s not about a marginalisation of Christianity, but it’s a recognition that when we talk about religion, and that includes Christianity today, we’re talking about a complex and pluralistic picture.”

Oxford University’s theology faculty’s board chairman, Johannes Zachhuber, defending the educational institution’s decision to overturn an 800-year-old tradition where theology students have to study Christianity throughout their course.—Daily Mail (UK)


“People in the West sometimes forget we are all sons and daughters, in some way, of Middle Eastern Christians. Christianity came to us, in the West, first and foremost through the Middle East, through the early Church. The world owes Middle Eastern Christianity for the passing on of the faith, before it became a global community and global faith.”

Kristy Evans, executive director of Middle East Christians advocacy group, In Defense of Christians, on why the destruction of ancient Christian communities at the hands of Islamist forces, such as ISIS, should be a concern for the West.—Breitbart (US)


“Truth be told, we have often transformed a faith that should revel in saying yes into a religion that cries no. Its Founder died so that we would change the world but many of His followers fight to defend the establishment, link Jesus to nationalism and military force, and dismiss those who campaign for social change as radical and even godless.”

Author and journalist Michael Coren, reflecting on why “the purest, most supremely liberating philosophy and theology in all history is now seen by so many non-Christians as an intolerant, legalistic and even irrelevant religion embraced only by the gullible and the judgemental.”—The Star (Canada)


“Christianity was a very positive thing, because we were fighting with each other—different islands, different clans. When Christianity came, it made us unite, it made us come together, be more peaceful and kind of move forward.”

John Morseu, current Indigenous graduate working at the National Library of Australia, after reading British explorer Alfred Cort Haddon’s journals on the Torres Straits, which document his ancestors’ shift from a head-hunting culture to a profoundly Christian one.
—The Canberra Times (Australia)


“The Church may have lost its former place of speaking from the centre of society, but the margins may be a safer place for the Church to be. Perhaps the Church ought to be the prophet at the gate, not chaplain to the nation. The social prestige of the Church in the West posed spiritual dangers of coerciveness, complacency and conformism to which Christians too often succumbed. The Church can now get on with the business of being church, of bearing witness to the love of God through Christ in ways that make sense to the culture around it.”

Despite the statistical decline of Christianity in New Zealand, Tim Cooper, associate professor of church history in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Otago, believes there is also encouragement.—Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)