Have Shelter Now workers endangered other missionaries and aid workers?
Now that they have been welcomed back to the United States as heroes, Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry are already being removed from their pedestals. Several publications seem eager to issue a verdict in the trial the Taliban never finished: did the Shelter Now workers illegally engage in evangelism?
"Now that Curry and Mercer and the six other Shelter Now relief workers are safe, a different story can be told," says Beliefnet's Deborah Caldwell. "The Taliban was partly right. Curry and Mercer did spend time in Afghanistan evangelizing—in violation of Afghani law. More significantly, they are part of a widespread and rapidly growing effort among American Christians to convert Muslims around the world. They are warriors, in other words, in what can fairly be described as a Christian jihad against Islam."
A Christian jihad against Islam? Is Caldwell serious? Personally, Weblog likes the phrasing of Matthew 28:19 better.
Curry, by the way, is nuancing their activities "We weren't trying to convert them, we were just sharing our faith," she said on NBC's Today show.
The Washington Post reports that the Shelter Now workers' story is expected to motivate a new generation of missionaries. "Their story is extremely inspiring, and Christian college students will look to their experience as something to follow," says Nathan Dunn, communications director for Campus Crusade for Christ. (Wait. Campus Crusade? Gosh, maybe this is a jihad against Islam.)
The problem, reports the Post, Beliefnet, and several other media outlets, is that their story also endangers aid and missionary work. Fuller Seminary professor J. Dudley Woodberry says Muslim governments will probably be more wary of letting Christian aid workers into their countries as a result of the Shelter Now case. "Our integrity is part of God's law," he said. "A lot rides on what we agreed to do or not to do." Woodberry argues that Christian aid workers like Mercer and Curry should, in the Post's words, "be respectful of local laws and abide by agreements they have made to enter the country."
The National Post hears a similar comment from Dave Toycen, president of World Vision Canada: "There is heightened tension in other Muslim countries where aid groups are. Our expatriate staff have been hassled more, seen as symbols of the Western, Christian world."
Beliefnet, meanwhile, can't find any evangelicals to raise their eyebrows, so it turns to Donna Derr of mainline Church World Service. "The reality is that situations like this cause increased scrutiny to any organization understood to be faith-based," she says, making sure that Beliefnet understands that "her group doesn't proselytize and that the new wave of evangelical missionaries 'sometimes makes it a little more difficult for those of us who don't share that agenda.'"
But for Heather and Dayna themselves, right now the most pressing controversy seems to be getting their families to understand why they want to return to Afghanistan. "It's a really hard position to be in, especially when you love your parents with your whole heart and want to honor them and want to please them," Mercer tells The Washington Post. "But in the end, when Christ touches your life and you experience His life and love, you can't turn back from it. You can't give it up."
World Relief worker killed in her home
Though some readers may disagree on strict semantic terms, Weblog suggests that Wanda Faye Frye be considered a martyr. The World Relief employee has been working with refugees for the past 11 years, and was killed by one of them Wednesday. Frye helped Jasim Muhamed Aldawsari when he came from Iraq nine years ago, but he soon pursued a romantic relationship with her. After apparent repeated spurnings from Frye, Aldawsari shot her. "''Faye was one of those extraordinary people who lived and died for what she really believed in," says World Relief president Clive Calver. "She loved and served both God and her fellow human beings at great personal cost. None of us who were privileged to be her colleagues could ever have imagined how big a sacrifice she was going to be called on to make." (World Relief supposedly has a related article amongst its news releases, but this morning it wasn't working.)
Miroslav Volf wins $200,000 prize
Yale theologian Miroslav Volf won the $200,000 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. More information about the prize, awarded by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville, is available at the official Grawemeyer site.
Christianity after September 11:
- As attacks' impact recedes, a return to religion as usual | Church attendance back to normal after terror attacks (The New York Times)
- The going is tough, so they're going my way | In response to an attack on our country that was perpetrated partly in the name of religion, people have been turning to religion in droves (Henry G. Brinton, The Washington Post)
- 3,700 voices, 1 prayer: God bless America | Baptists and Pentecostals, Catholics and Episcopalians, black, white and Hispanic, sang and prayed for a divine answer to terrorism. (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Apocalyptic theology revitalized by attacks | Those who embrace biblical prophecy have linked the terrorist attacks to both complicated interpretations of Scripture and to a number of specific biblical references (The New York Times)
- How America's faith has changed since 9-11 | Social analysts point out that people turn to religion in times of crisis and instability. (Barna)
Christian responses to tragedy:
- Widow of September 11 hero carries on | Terrorists took Lisa Beamer's husband from her, but she refuses to forfeit her zest for life or faith in God. (USA Today)
- For Thanksgiving, they'll be dusting | Baptists to clean N.Y. homes hit by debris (The Tennessean)
- Prayer service unites two communities shattered by plane crash | Mourners gathered on Sunday to grieve for the victims of American Airlines Flight 587 (CNN)
- A tiny church vows to rebuild | Destroyed when Trade Center fell, St. Nicholas starts over as a shrine (USA Today)
- Graham termed too busy to meet with Muslims | Meeting sought over labeling Islam `an evil and wicked religion' (The Charlotte Observer)
- Franklin Graham is no Billy, and that suits him just fine | Attacking Islam as "evil" and moving headquarters out of Minneapolis is just the beginning of the Franklin era (Associated Press)
- Franklin Graham had to persuade father to make move | Approval came, but with caution (Scripps Howard News Service)
- Graham hopes displaced workers will stay with organization | Evangelist Franklin Graham assured employees of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association that they were welcome to move with the corporate headquarters (Associated Press)
- Taking a germ bullet | From 1954 to 1973 during Operation Whitecoat, the Army exposed hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists to diseases to learn about possible bioweaponry. (Los Angeles Times)
- Fugitive abortion foe: I sent anthrax threats | Clayton Waagner makes visit to Web site operator (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Politics & law:
- Supreme Court turns away Utah census appeal | Overseas missionaries won't be counted (Associated Press)
- Expanded N.Y. abortion-clinic buffer zones struck down | But buffer zone provisions upheld (Associated Press)
- Court: No civil liability for clergy | Parishioners can't sue if pastor disclosing confidential information (Associated Press)
- Tony Blair faces religious education rebellion | Labor MPs fight plans to allow more faith-based state schools to be created under the Education Bill (The Independent, London)
- Ashcroft faulted over civil liberties | Attorney general careless of rights, his critics say (The Baltimore Sun)
- Salvation Army give a lump of coal to gays | "Sharing is caring," apparently, only to a point (Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times)
- Advantage: God | Why the Salvation Army beats the Red Cross. (Marvin Olasky, The Wall Street Journal)
Freedom of religious speech:
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