Author Topic: Christian family - family and home topics  (Read 435779 times)

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[Cfamily]Tied Up in Thailand
« Reply #80 on: March 24, 2016, 01:01:35 AM »

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Tied Up in Thailand

Nearly four years after refugees from Pakistan began showing up at evangelical churches in Thailand, church members were overwhelmed. What started as a handful of families asking for money at Bangkok services had become hundreds.

Today, nearly 10,000 Pakistani refugees are living in Thailand. An estimated half of them are Christians. It is easy and inexpensive (compared with neighboring countries) for Pakistanis to obtain 30-day tourist visas to Thailand. Further, the majority Buddhist nation has lost more than 6,000 people to Islamist extremism since 2004, leading Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution to believe the country will be sympathetic to their plight, says Jeffrey Imm, an advocate for such refugees. (Jubilee Campaign’s in-depth report can be found here.)

Even so, after the tourist visa expires, Thailand considers all refugees to be illegal immigrants. Most left Pakistan not knowing that Thailand has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, a treaty that protects refugees’ rights. Without legal status, many families fear that they will be arrested and forced to endure harsh conditions in immigration detention centers until they’re bailed out, can pay for a return flight, or are resettled.

“It’s a very dire situation,” said Imm, founder of REAL (Responsible for Equality and Liberty). “They can’t work. They have to run and hide every day. They can’t earn a living. They can’t put food on the table or a roof over their heads. They can’t get medicine. Everything in life essentially needs to be given to them.”

It’s worst for Pakistani Christians, already stigmatized in their majority-Muslim home country. They face blasphemy laws that regularly scapegoat Christians, and suicide bombers have killed about 100 people in church attacks since 2013. In Thailand, they remain a minority at risk; today, Thai monks are campaigning to make Buddhism the official state religion, influenced in part by the success of Buddhist extremists in neighboring Myanmar.

But such news takes time to travel back to Pakistan, and refugees now in Thailand are reluctant to tell those back home of their dire situation.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s refugee response has become a victim of its own success.

Before the number of Pakistani refugees spiked in 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) processed claims within months. At the time, Thai nonprofits and churches were able to meet most physical needs while refugees waited, said one local advocate who requested anonymity. Such efficiency encouraged others to follow; now refugees face a years-long resettlement backlog.

Bangkok’s international churches are popular destinations for refugees; their leaders speak English and their mostly Western and Asian makeup is perceived as wealthy. Early on, the large churches in the capital city assisted by providing food and cash assistance.

“It soon became too large to manage for ourselves,” said one pastor. “We would have weeks when 75 new families would come looking for assistance. We soon realized that the work was more than what volunteers could provide. It was going to be full-time work.”

Handing out bags of groceries wouldn’t go far enough, he said. “Were we going to become more of a refugee organization than a church?”

At the risk of burning out church members—many of whom only live in Bangkok for two to three years—the church halted direct aid and began helping Pakistanis through a local NGO whose sole focus is on serving refugees. The group runs two schools for refugees, who can access church funds only if they have a personal relationship with someone who attends a partnering church.

Source: Tied Up in Thailand

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[Cfamily]From Dumpster Diving to the American Dream
« Reply #81 on: March 25, 2016, 01:28:53 AM »
From Dumpster Diving to the American Dream

My husband and I are unintentionally living our version of the American dream.

Our home and family probably look normal to everyone else, but it’s far from what I imagined back in college. As part of a “Claiborne-again” intentional community that eschewed individualism and excess, I learned to live extremely simply then. My housemates and I sat together on the floor (no couches or tables for us!) and ate food salvaged from the almost-spoiled discount rack. We shared clothing. We found ways to creatively use everything.

But after college, instead of giving away our last penny and living with the poor in some remote corner of the world, my husband and I did what most people do: we got jobs. We started accumulating wealth. While others got laid off in the recession, my husband stayed on, receiving generous raises as his company recovered. We didn’t feel God calling us anywhere else, so we stayed. It made economic sense to buy a condo instead of rent, so we did. Then, when we had a baby and outgrew our condo, we bought a house further out in the suburbs.

So here I am, the college kid that dumpster-dived and lived in a commune, paying the mortgage on a five-bedroom house and wringing my hands over a steady stream of disposable income and growing net worth. I’m rich (relatively speaking), and I’m really uncomfortable with my new status.

I look back at my old self with nostalgia and incredulity. Following Jesus was built into my lifestyle when I was living simply, sharing everything, and willing to go to the ends of the earth for him. What does it look like for me now?

Like many in the millennial generation, I remain passionate about social justice. And yet, I find myself on the advantaged end of an unjust social system. While my friends who are undocumented immigrants labor overtime without benefits for measly wages, we enjoy my husband’s health insurance, three weeks of paid vacation, and more-than-enough paycheck. While working-class families have their homes foreclosed and wages garnished when they can’t make payments, we know we have well-off family members we can rely on, not to mention a cushy bank account. Sure, we’ve worked hard to get where we are, but others have worked harder and gotten nowhere.

On the one hand, I am grateful. I’m glad we don’t have to fret over paying bills and that we can take an international vacation without penny-pinching for years. On the other hand, I feel embarrassed and guilty. Our enclosed suburban life seems a far cry from the account of the early church in Acts 2, where “all who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” It feels wrong to enjoy more than I need while knowing that others near and far lack so much.

Source: From Dumpster Diving to the American Dream

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Re: Christian family - family and home topics
« Reply #82 on: March 25, 2016, 09:33:36 AM »
Hhmmmmmmmm sometimes being comfortably off financially can be a challenge to faith. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it is wrong and I am sure being not so well off could be a challenge to ones faith too. I suspect a lot of things can challenge our faith.

Gratify the things of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16 'I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.'

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Re: Christian family - family and home topics
« Reply #83 on: March 25, 2016, 10:19:27 AM »
Proverbs 30: 7-9

"Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ?Who is the Lord??

Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."


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Why Five Christian Colleges and Southern Baptists Really Missed Scalia Today

The US Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether the Little Sisters of the Poor will be required to offer birth control to employees on its health insurance plan.

The court took up the case after a string of decisions by lower appeals courts supporting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate was broken. In September, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Dordt College in Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan could not be penalized for refusing to accept the mandate.

If the court splits in a 4–4 vote, as many are predicting after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, no national precedent would be set. The lower court decisions would stand, which means the Catholic nuns would lose their case.

But there’s much at stake for many American evangelicals as well.

The Little Sisters were grouped with similar cases, including GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and five members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU): Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, Geneva College, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Southern Nazarene University. Many evangelical groups filed amici briefs in their favor.

Should the Supreme Court split and the appeals court decisions stand, all of these organizations would lose.

“The Little Sisters of the Poor … face a dilemma,” attorney Paul Clement told the court this morning, according to The Baltimore Sun. “They can adhere to their religious beliefs and pay millions of dollars in penalties, or they can take steps that they believe to be religiously and morally objectionable.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters along with Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone, reported on some of the reaction from the bench:

At the hearing, the justices pressed the government with hard questions on why it is trying to force the Sisters to violate their religious beliefs when it has chosen to exempt so many other employers from the mandate. Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg noted that “no one doubts for a moment” the sincerity of the Little Sisters’ beliefs. And other justices expressed concern the government was, in fact, “hijacking” the Little Sisters’ health plan and making them “subsidiz[e] conduct which they believe to be immoral.”

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that “women have a real need for contraception,” according to the Sun. And Ginsburg said “there has to be an accommodation, and that's what the government tried to do."

In 2014, when Obamacare came before the Supreme Court via the Hobby Lobby case, the court ruled 5–4 that employers who objected to the contraceptive mandate on religious grounds didn’t have to offer birth control directly to female employees. (Scalia ruled with the majority.)

The decision hinged on a sentence from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA): “Governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.”

The government’s first pass at the contraceptive mandate was a substantial burden, according to the CCCU.

“The first iteration of the mandate in 2011 created an onerous burden for institutions that conscientiously object to providing contraceptives and/or abortifacients for religious reasons, as it contained only a very narrow exemption that applied to a small number of churches,” stated the council. “All other faith-based institutions were subjected to the mandate with no regard for their religious beliefs.”

After several adjustments, the government now allows insurers to pay for FDA-approved contraceptives that employers object to.

“Some institutions still argue the final version continues to interfere with their right to have their conscience unencumbered by federal law because it does not relieve them from the burden of providing these services altogether,” stated the CCCU. Nineteen member schools have sued over the matter, including the five in the Little Sisters case. Other schools have found other ways forward. Wheaton College, for example, dropped its student health coverage.

But University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock explained why, for the first time, he was siding with the government on a religious freedom case.

“[The plaintiff’s] real objection is to what their secular insurers are required to do,” he wrote for The Washington Post. “The religious objectors demand a right to control how the government regulates insurance companies.”

The religious groups’ reasons—that only they can identify a substantial burden on their exercise of religion and that the government needs to exempt the insurers of conscientious objectors along with churches and their auxiliaries—actually harm religious liberty, he argued.

Another unexpected voice in favor of the government: The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), with along with Laycock has worked for decades to “enact, implement and defend” RFRA legislation.

“It is unusual, to say the least, for us to file for the government in a free exercise case,” wrote BJC general counsel Holly Hollman in an op-ed for Religion News Service. “Religious liberty is often threatened by government indifference or oversight. As this case demonstrates, it can also be endangered by exaggerated claims and overreaching.”

“These religious employers make far-reaching arguments against the exemption designed for them,” she argued. “In doing so, they threaten to take religious freedom law down with it.”

The Supreme Court’s decision will be handed down in June.

[Cartoon courtesy of Little Sisters of the Poor website.]

Source: Why Five Christian Colleges and Southern Baptists Really Missed Scalia Today

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[Cfamily]Dispatch from SXSW: The Liberators and Everybody Wants Some!!
« Reply #85 on: March 27, 2016, 02:10:26 AM »
Dispatch from SXSW: The Liberators and Everybody Wants Some!!

There is a locker room scene in the middle of Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, where freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) is tricked into lifting his face into another player’s exposed butt cheeks. Jake has a quick flash of anger at the sophomoric prank and then lobs an insult at one of the perpetrators before then trying to replicate the humiliating trick with one of his teammates as the victim.

This scene is not particularly crucial to the film’s story. Like much of Linklater’s work, Everybody relies more on setting and observational detail than narrative. Nor is it a given that everyone watching it will immediately recall accounts of a recently retired NFL quarterback whose own locker room conduct led to a sexual assault complaint. But for those who do, the film invites us to compare the cultural mores and attitudes of the current moment with those of the not so distant past. The gulf between the amount of approbation we feel towards some behaviors and the relative lack of outrage the society of the time felt is a measure of how quickly our sensibilities change.

Let me be clear, though. It isn’t as though Linklater nostalgically defends the early ’80s. The casual drug use, the objectification of women (co-ed mud wrestling!), and the gratuitous flashes of breasts and buttocks are no more cheerfully celebrated than prudishly censured. To the extent the film anticipates an emotional response from our (perhaps) more politically correct culture, it shrugs rather than bristles. This is who we were, it says. This is what we did.

Had Everybody Wants Some!! arrived at a different cultural moment, its unwillingness to censure the lax social standards of the ’80s might have resonated more deeply. Certainly the relative success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign—complete with swearing, lewd commentary, and men-will-be-boys backlash against propriety—has revealed that a not-insignificant portion of the population feels that political correctness has gone too far. It is still hard, though, for Christian viewers (at least this one) to yearn for an age (or a period in our lives) when women not only accepted their roles as sexual trophies but dressed up as dominatrixes and little girls because it was their job to pander to men’s adolescent fantasies.

Everybody Wants Some!! covers the span of about three days at a fictional Texas university before classes start. Much like Before Midnight (and to some extent, the end of Boyhood), it is a film about holding off adulthood and its dreary responsibilities for as long as possible. The final 15 minutes of the film show that Jake is not totally unequipped intellectually or educationally to enter into adulthood. Emotionally and socially? That’s a different matter. And the final shots as Jake eventually enters into the classroom (with all its attendant symbolism) may cause us to question how serious he is about the life philosophy he just espoused to his would-be girlfriend. The film isn’t so much about the godless university stripping the innocent of their moral compass. It’s not God’s (Not) Dead. It’s more about loosely held cultural assumptions crumbling in the face of actual life experience.

Few historical events complicate our moral decision making like war, and Cassie Bryant’s documentary, The Liberators, gives us a documentary version of a culture wrestling with its evolving notions of what constitutes civilized behavior.

Source: Dispatch from SXSW: The Liberators and Everybody Wants Some!!

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[Cfamily]China Frees Lawyer Who Defended 100 Church Crosses
« Reply #86 on: March 28, 2016, 02:16:20 AM »
China Frees Lawyer Who Defended 100 Church Crosses

One of the leading legal defenders of China’s churches, Zhang Kai, was released from jail on Wednesday after being arrested in August 2015. China Aid confirmed his release with relatives.

Zhang wrote on social media that he has returned to his home in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China. The human rights attorney, who had defended some 100 churches damaged by a campaign to demolish crosses in Zhejiang province, was arrested just before a meeting with the US ambassador for international religious freedom, David Saperstein.

Terms of his release were uncertain. Zhang had been sentenced to six months of residential surveillance at a “black jail,” where prisoners are held incommunicado at a secret location. On February 25, he appeared on state television stating a “confession” that he had disrupted social order and endangering state security. Many believe the confession was coerced.

Zhejiang authorities subsequently charged him with “endangering state secrets” and “gathering a crowd to disturb the public,” and criminally detained him, according to China Aid.

“I have already safely arrived home in Inner Mongolia,” Zhang said in his message, according to China Aid. “I am thankful for all friends who were concerned about me during this time and who looked after and comforted my family members.”

Zhang Kai (center) helps carry a wooden cross at Xialing Church, hours before his arrest.

Zhang Kai (center) helps carry a wooden cross at Xialing Church, hours before his arrest.

China Aid head Bob Fu said he was a close friend of Zhang.

“Zhang Kai is a bold human rights lawyer and a defender of the rule of law and religious freedom, and is completely innocent,” stated Fu in a press release. “I appeal to Chinese authorities to release other arbitrarily imprisoned religious leaders, human rights lawyers and defenders, such as those arrested in July of 2015, including, attorneys Li Heping and Wang Yu, church leader Hu Shigen, and pastors Li Guozhi (Yang Hua), Bao Guohua and Gu Yuese.”

China has been increasingly cracking down on official government churches and on human rights attorneys.

Pastor Bao Guohua of Holy Love Christian Church in Jinhua received a sentence of 14 years in prison, and his wife Xing Wenxiang 12 years, after they were convicted of “corruption, financial crimes and gathering people to disturb social order,” according to The New York Times, citing the February 26 Zhejiang Daily, the province’s official newspaper. Their son, Bao Chenxing, was handed a three-year prison sentence.

The three were arrested last August after they publicly criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy of demolishing crosses on churches in Zhejiang; local Christians believe they are being persecuted for their protests. The court also reportedly ordered 600,000 renminbi (US$92,000) be confiscated from Bao, and that he pay a fine of $15,300; confiscation of $92,000 from his wife, and a fine of nearly $14,000, were also ordered.

Nine other members of the church staff were also reportedly convicted and received lesser sentences. The previous week, authorities detained 16 pastors in the greater Wenzhou area over the removal of crosses.

Bao is one of eight pastors of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches detained. On January 27, Gu Yuese, an official with the China Christian Council (CCC) and pastor of China’s largest TSPM church, was arrested and is reportedly detained in a “black jail” on charges of corruption. Pastor of Chongyi Church in Zhejiang’s capital of Hangzhou, Gu was detained after criticizing CCP policy in Zhejiang, where the government has demolished the crosses of some 1,800 churches.

The government has replaced the leadership at Chongyi Church.

On January 29, authorities also arrested on “corruption” charges CCC Chairman Li Guanzhong in Pujiang County, Zhejiang, who served as senior pastor of Puyang Christian Church in Jinhua. Li and his wife, Zhang Shuzhen, are also reportedly being held in a “black jail,” where they have no access to legal representation. Li also had protested CCP demolition of crosses in the province, including his own church’s, and had objected to TSPM churches flying the Chinese flag.

The government has also brought formal charges against nearly 20 human rights lawyers who had worked against the demolitions in the province, and authorities have broadcast coerced “confessions” from several of them.

Regarding Zhang’s case, Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas said his advocacy group welcomed the release and restated its call to “allow Zhang his freedom without condition, upholding his right to freedom of movement and association, and all the rights and freedoms guaranteed under international and Chinese law.”

He reiterated concern that other human rights lawyers, along with Zhejiang pastors, remain in detention.

“We urge the Chinese government to protect the rights and safety of those who defend freedom of religion of belief and other human rights in China,” he said.

CT reported the arrests of Zhang Kai and Gu Yuese, among regular coverage of the cross-demolition campaign in Zheijang and the counter-campaign by local Christians to return crosses to public display.

In 2006, CT published China’s New Legal Eagles, a feature about evangelical lawyers in that country. It has also covered the case of renowned Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng, who was released last year after serving prison time for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Source: China Frees Lawyer Who Defended 100 Church Crosses

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[Cfamily]When I Didn’t Love My Adopted Child
« Reply #87 on: March 29, 2016, 07:00:35 AM »
When I Didn’t Love My Adopted Child

When we prepared to bring home our daughter from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I thought I’d be dealing with Nora’s adjustment into our family. Turns out, the harder part was dealing with my adjustments to her.

At first, I was surprised I lacked natural affection for my new 18 month-old and found myself getting frustrated with her over petty things. I read defiance and rebellion into what were obviously her normal toddler struggles, like her demanding appetite or how she wouldn’t pay attention when I was trying to interact with her. I never got angry with our biological daughter of the same age in that way. I was appalled at how my heart was feeling toward the daughter we had labored to bring home and looked forward to meeting for years.

And perhaps that was part of the problem. As adoptive parents, we spend so much time building up a vision of our lives with a new addition, and if we already have biological children, we expect many of the same joys we’ve experienced with our other children to happen again. When life with the child we’ve adopted is hard, for days and weeks and months, we have to adjust those expectations. Adoption, like marriage, is a beautiful gift with the unexpected bonus of exposing some of our darkest sins.

The struggle to love an adopted child is more typical than we think; in fact, I’d say many if not most adoptive parents have found themselves in this position (as confounding or impossible as it might seem). Even the most loving parents have hearts that resist constantly serving another—especially when that person cannot yet show the slightest gratitude for your efforts. That maternal instinct God gives mothers is an incredible force for good—and something I didn’t have with our adopted daughter like I have with my other kids.

My biological daughter, who was a strong-willed little lady, often acted out, but I never took it personally. I knew her well enough to recognize some of her triggers like, “Oh, she must be overtired right now.” But when Nora would shut down emotionally and withdraw from me, I had no ready explanation except the feeling that she must be rejecting me. It was hard not to take that personally. We didn’t yet have an understanding of each other to help explain her harsh or hurtful actions.

When Nora joined our family, I expected to have hard days… I just didn’t expect months of them back-to-back. My heart got ugly. I went from disappointed to barely surviving to bitter and defeated. I found myself thinking “Why can’t I overcome these awful feelings and just love my daughter like I’m supposed to? And whose fault is it? Am I just a terrible person or is this somehow her fault for being so difficult?” My sinful response to adoption was shocking, most of all to myself. I never expected to struggle with such anger and frustration.

Source: When I Didn’t Love My Adopted Child

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