Monday, October 1, 2007

This Week's News

I'm doing my best to keep up with the news both here and at home. There's a lot going on right now - Monks in Myanmar, Maoists in Nepal, Ghandi's birthday, Notre Dame's season getting flushed down the toilet - but these are a few stories that have gotten me thinking.

Are Mega-Preachers Scandal-Prone?, Time Magazine
This interesting article explored the many scandals in the world of famous evangelists - divorce, abuse, homosexuality, etc. David Van Biema, a religion editor for Time, raised the seeming connection between these scandals and Pentecostalism. The underlying question seems to be: Are scandals hitting pentecostal preachers because of a theological disposition, or because it's the pentecostal preachers who are in the media, and all the other denominations' preachers are sinning unnoticed?

I've been running in non-pentecostal long enough to know that this happens across denominational lines, but I do think a lot of times it is a specific theological inclination that leads those in ministry down the path towards scandal much faster. Van Biema quoted the editor of Charisma magazine as saying, "There's a saying, 'Your anointing can take you to a place where your character cannot sustain you.' I'm hearing that a lot more often these days."

Well, let me explore that statement for a second. The article places the emphasis on the first part of the quote - identifying the problem with a belief in the "anointing." I think the editor touched on something much more pervasive with the following phrase: "where your character cannot sustain you."

I am a good girl who loves the Lord dearly and my character can't even sustain me from snapping at my husband or losing my patience with my son. I certainly can't trust my "character" to protect me from the world's most attractive temptations. When we place our trust in our "character" (as we ministers, church-goers, and other do-gooders often do), aren't we really asking for failure?

I'd also like to draw attention to another funny quote, this one by professor of religion Anthea Butler. She attempts to explain why pentecostal preachers can make such successful comebacks to ministry after a scandal. "Calvinism is [God's] grace, one time. This is grace after grace after grace. You can mess up a thousand times." I just feel the need to point out that, in my understanding of Calvinism, God's act of grace was a one-time event, in which Jesus' blood did away with our punishment once and for all. However, it is precisely because of the "once-for-all" nature of his grace, that we can experience His grace over and over again, as we can experience his forgiveness for every sin.

Ok, enough said on that. Please leave your comments and let me know how I've gotten it wrong.

Youth lynched by mob in Bihar, Times of India

I've read enough of the Times of India to be terrified of ever going to Bihar. It seems nothing good happens there, and there are a lot of lynchings, killings, suicides, etc. (Bihar, in northern India, is among the least developed states in the country.)

This article is particularly disturbing. It tells the story of how some idols had been stolen from a local temple. The villagers were upset and asked the local witch doctor to use his powers to identify the culprit. He indicated that the thief was a young man named Ramesh (I have no idea if anyone yet knows who actually stole the idols). The villagers went crazy with rage, and since they couldn't find Ramesh, they turned their anger towards a 28-year-old man named Rakesh, and beat him to death while he protested his innocence.

Why can't mothers be legal guardians, asks Supreme Court, Times of India

This is fascinating. While in America, mothers are almost always preferred guardians of their children, in India, women do not have equal rights when it comes to child custody. If I read this correctly, it seems as if divorced mothers are allowed custody of their children, but not guardianship, which I understand to mean mothers can do all the work but not make any decisions about the child's well-being or future.

Apparently, in 1956, mothers were recognized as natural guardians by the government, but some rulings (as is the case in this story), go by a law written in 1890. Why it took so long to recognize mothers as "natural guardians" is beyond me. Why there is still some confusion on that issue.... I have no words.

A disclaimer: I could be getting his all very confused - read it for yourself and let me know if I'm off base.

In a small victory for women's rights, however, check out this article:
HIV+ mother gets child's custody, Times of India
In this story, a woman was infected with HIV from her husband. After he died, her in-laws (the parents of the man who gave her this disease), kicked her out of the house, called her unfit to be a mother, and got custody of her child. On a technicality, the court's ruling was stayed, and there will soon be a hearing to re-evaluate her case. Thankfully, the ostracized woman now has human rights activists now working on her behalf.

Minors in flesh trade cause concern, Times of India
This is such a sad and maddening issue, but the worst part (edited out of the online version of this article for some reason), is that in this country (maybe in other places as well?) it is believed that having sex with a child will cure AIDS. So, people infected with HIV/AIDS are having sex with children on purpose in a misguided (or malicious) attempt to cure themselves. It's so sick and so sad.

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