Posts Tagged ‘ISIS’

About Bishop Carcano’s statement in the wake of Orlando

June 13, 2016

In response to yesterday’s public statement by United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano, of the rapidly shrinking California-Pacific Conference, I affirm every word of this Mark Tooley blog post:

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano of the California-Pacific Conference responded to the Orlando gay nightclub mass murders by a reported pro-ISIS Islamist with the suggestion that her denomination’s traditional marriage teaching is to blame:

As I have prayed for the victims of this latest shooting, for the shooter and his family, for the people of Orlando, and for us, I have been struck by a concern that has penetrated my heart. Is it possible that we United Methodists with such a negative attitude and position against LGBTQI persons contribute to such a crime? When we say that those who are of a homosexual gender identity are living lives that are incompatible with Christian teaching, that they are not to be included in our ordained leadership, and that they are not important enough for us to invest resources of the Church in advocating for their well-being, in essence when we say that our LGBTQI brothers and sisters are not worthy of the fullness of life that Christ offers us all, are we not contributing to the kind of thinking that promotes doing harm to these our brothers and sisters, our children, the sacred children of God?

United Methodism’s definition of marriage as the union of man and woman is unexceptionably the official and historic stance of about 99% of organized Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and nearly every Protestant tradition except a handful of shrinking denominations in northwestern Europe and North America.

The Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, was the son of a pro-Taliban Afghan immigrant.  It’s unlikely he ever heard of United Methodism.  To the extent that he had any views about Christianity they were almost certainly hostile.  Since he professed support for ISIS he likely supported ISIS persecution and murder of Christians.  ISIS practices traditional Islamic law, which requires death for homosexuals.  Several Islamic regimes stipulate death penalties for homosexuals, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.  Bishop Carcano in her blog about Orlando never mentions the killer or his ISIS or Islamist connection. She only faults the United Methodist Church.

There is a myopic vein of Western multiculturalism popular within liberal Protestantism that assumes the world is safe and beautiful but for the crimes of Western Civilization and Christianity.  There are indeed many crimes attributable to denizens of both, but neither invented nor has a monopoly on crime, which has always been endemic to the human experience. This vein of multiculturalism is typically incapable of admitting sins within other cultures and religions, preferring to see them only as victims.

In 2004 I submitted a series of resolutions to the United Methodist General critiqueing some of the world’s worst human rights abusers according to groups like Amnesty International, such as North Korea, China, Iran, Cuba, among others. They were all defeated in the Church and Society legislative committee.  One critic complained I was targeting anti-American regimes.  But I included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan, which are traditional U.S. strategic allies. My resolutions cited harsh penalties for homosexuals by both Islamic and communist regimes.  Yet there was no interest even by United Methodist activists who profess to support gay rights.

In this vein, a prominent pro-LGBTQ delegate from last month’s United Methodist General Conference named Dorothee Benz has been tweeting in support of Bishop Carcano’s blog blaming United Methodism and Christianity for Orlando, plus expressing  solidarity with Muslims, without citing radical Islam.  No criticism or mention of the killer or his professed Islamist motivation.

Written hours after the ugly news from Orlando, Bishop Carcano’s blog was maybe composed hastily. I hope she edits or deletes it.  I also hope that some day within official United Methodism, among other places in our culture, there is a more grounded and universal perspective about human evil, embodied by ISIS and the Orlando killer.

Meanwhile, here’s a heartfelt response to the Orlando horror by Upper New York United Methodist Bishop Mark Webb, who concludes:

Lord, in your mercy allow goodness to overcome evil and light to pierce the darkness, comfort those who mourn, touch those who need your healing and provide peace in the midst of fear. Lord, in your mercy allow goodness to overcome evil and light to pierce the darkness.

Adam Hamilton, you’re not helping!

November 20, 2015


I complained in my previous post—just a  few hours ago—that we often risk missing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the four Gospels. I said that we turn scripture passages such as the Good Samaritan and the Sheep and the Goats (which I’m preaching on this Sunday) into messages of works righteousness. The message is “try harder or else!”—or why mince words? “Try harder or be damned for eternity!”

Was I exaggerating? Consider today’s blog post from Adam Hamilton, which is an appeal for us Christians in America to support the immigration of Syrian refugees. Much of what he says is reasonable. But then, like many fellow pastors this week, he badly mishandles the parable of the Sheep and the Goats from Matthew 25:31-46. He writes, “In the parable it appears that the goats thought of themselves as religious.” [Probably true.] “They were therefore surprised when, at the last judgment, they were turned away.” [Definitely true.] He continues (emphasis his):

So, why did the goats turn people away who were in need? I think it was because they were afraid and they allowed their fear to override their compassion and humanity. And the sheep? They found the courage to overcome their fears and to act with compassion and love.

I’m sure the “goats” failed for a host of reasons, which likely included fear, but that’s beside the point. Here’s my problem: Jesus’ words here are about nothing less than Final Judgment, salvation or damnation, heaven or hell. Does Hamilton really mean to say that the difference between those who are saved and those who are lost comes down to our ability to “find the courage to overcome our fears” or not?

Do you see the problem? It’s downright Pelagian! Without qualifying his words, Hamilton is implying that we’re saved or lost based on what we do! This isn’t the gospel of grace; it’s the gospel of good works! It’s the gospel of “try harder or be damned.”

I’m guessing Hamilton doesn’t mean to imply this. After all, like me, Hamilton is a Wesleyan-Arminian. He’s supposed to know as well as I do that while we cooperate with the Holy Spirit (theologically, we’re synergists, not monergists), even our cooperation is made possible by grace, such that none of our good works contributes anything to our salvation.

But if Hamilton isn’t talking about salvation, why does he use this particular parable, in which nothing less than salvation is at stake?

Where’s the gospel? Where’s grace?

As I said in my previous post, if we rely on the gospel of good works, we’re all in trouble. Maybe in the instance of Syrian refugees, Adam Hamilton and others are “overcoming their fear” through their advocacy. But aren’t there plenty of other times in his life when he fails to “overcome his fear”? Aren’t there at least thousands of times in his life when he “did it not to one of the least of these”? Will he be condemned to hell for these failures?

Of course not! Why? Because we’re saved not because of what we either do or fail to do, but because of what Christ has done for us!

Otherwise, we’re doomed. Hamilton knows this. I just wish he would say it!

When we pastors use this parable to say something about works of mercy, which is perfectly appropriate, we need to also say that these works are a sign of salvation, which comes to us as a free gift from God by grace through faith alone.

By all means, there’s a warning here: Saving faith will include good works. And if we’re not doing these things regularly, in spite of our many failures, then it may be a sign that we haven’t truly trusted in Christ. The apostle James makes this point repeatedly.

But this isn’t Hamilton’s point here. Like many others, he’s preaching the gospel of “try harder or else.” And that gospel can’t save us.

Sermon 11-15-15: “Jesus the Good Samaritan”

November 17, 2015


Have you ever noticed that in today’s scripture, Luke 10:25-37, Jesus doesn’t answer the lawyer’s original question? The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told a parable that answered a different question: “Who proved to be a neighbor to this injured victim?” This sermon explores the meaning of this difference. I also relate this scripture to tragic events in Paris last Friday.

Sermon Text: Luke 10:25-37

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Last Friday night at 9:30, in Paris, several terrorists entered a popular concert venue where an American rock band was playing, and they began shooting. At least eighty people were killed. Shortly after that, more terrorists entered a nearby Paris restaurant and killed at least 18. Shortly after that, still more terrorists entered another nearby restaurant and killed at least 14 more. Several other Parisians were killed in the streets. Across town, at least two bombs exploded near a soccer stadium, during a match between Germany and France—which the president of France was attending. The stadium was evacuated.

When we hear about this kind of deadly violence, it’s very easy to identify with its victims—because they’re like us in so many ways. Just in the past week, literally the last nine days, I’ve been to a rock concert with my son. Just last Thursday night, I went to a sporting event at a large stadium in a big city with two of my children. On a few occasions over the past week, I’ve been to restaurants with my family or my wife, Lisa. To think that we could just be going about our business—our normal routines—and have our lives, or the lives of our loved ones, come to a sudden, violent end—just like that… We are so vulnerable. There is so much evil in the world.

What can we do as Christians? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-22-15: “King, Crown & Cross, Part 5: Passover Lamb”

March 31, 2015


During his Last Supper, Jesus used the Passover to help communicate the meaning of his death. Apart from Christ’s atoning death, all of us sinners deserve the deadly judgment that came upon the Egyptians—and worse, hell itself. The good news is that God sent his very self—Jesus, God the Son—to be our substitutionary sacrifice—our Passover lamb.

Sermon Text: Mark 14:22-31

[If you want to listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

I was at home last Thursday afternoon when my son Townshend rushed in to tell me that Georgia State was making a game of it against the heavily favored Baylor in the opening round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. How is that possible? A 14-seed versus a three-seed? As you probably heard, Georgia State won the game. They were down by two with seconds left, when R.J. Hunter sank a very long three-pointer to put GSU over the top. A big upset! And the upsets continue. Yesterday, I saw the eight-seed N.C. State defeat number-one seed Villanova.


And this is why we love March Madness—because unexpected, even shocking victories can take place.

In today’s scripture, on this night of Jesus’ arrest by the temple guard, hours before he’s handed over to the Romans for his trial, his beating, his scourging, his mocking, followed by his crucifixion, Jesus is working on the biggest upset victory in history—a victory no one would have predicted. Everyone, including his closest friends and disciples, were caught off guard—first by Good Friday and then, especially, by Easter Sunday.

And in today’s scripture they were caught off guard—shocked, even—by Jesus’ words during this Passover meal, when he held up the bread and said, “This is my body.” And when he held up the wine and said, “This is my blood.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ash Wednesday Sermon 2015: “To Dust You Shall Return”

February 19, 2015

ISIS terrorists lead 21 Coptic Christians to their deaths in Libya.

Ash Wednesday gives us an opportunity to confront a truth we so often don’t want to face: that we all are dying; that our time on earth is running out; that none of us is going to have all the time in the world to sort out our priorities, to get our lives right with God, to make amends for the ways we’ve hurt each other, to become the kind of people we know God wants us to become, to love and serve and bear witness for Jesus.

Ash Wednesday reminds us to live life with urgency, to make Jesus Christ—and nothing or no one else—the center of our lives. Then we can say, along with Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

I believe this is the best Ash Wednesday sermon I’ve ever preached.

Sermon Text: Philippians 1:18b-26

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Like all of you who heard about it, I was deeply troubled by news from last Sunday about the ISIS terrorists who beheaded 21 Christians on a beach in Libya—just because they were Christians. From what I’ve read, they posted the executions on the internet for all the world to see. The terrorists said, “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.” Crusaders! As if the church in Egypt isn’t among the most ancient in the world—as if the church in Egypt doesn’t predate the rise and spread of Islam by hundreds of years!

Whatever! I don’t expect terrorists to be good at history. It angers me. I pray that God will use peace-loving nations of the world to put an end to their evil once and for all.

I admire the courage of these 21 Christians who gave the last full measure of devotion to our Lord. And it challenges me because as a Christian, I can’t help but imagine myself in the place of these martyrs. What would that be like? What would I be thinking? Read the rest of this entry »