Imagine you’re a 21st century Christian missionary: Where on this vast earth would you go to bring the word of Christ? For Pastor Mike Goodyear of Pathways Church in Fair Oaks, California and his congregation, the answer is simply 10-40 degrees latitude. Within these geographical latitudes is drawn a rectangle from longitude 15 degrees west of the meridian at Greenwich England to 120 degrees east of the meridian. What lies within this rectangle is the African continent’s northern half, the middle east, along with southwest and southeast Asia and much of China. As Pastor Mike, as he is affectionately known points out, this area was chosen because we wanted “to go where the need is greatest.” He explains that about 2 billion people live within this rectangle area who “don’t know Jesus.”
Religious extremism is nothing new to our world. Many extremist individuals and groups have branched out from major religions in many regions. In recent decades the most notable of religious extremism arguably has been in the form of radical Islam. While radical Islamists are by no means the only religious extremists in our world today, they have been responsible for some of the widest scale terrorist acts of recent years and even recent days – particularly 9/11; attacks in Africa, Europe, and the MidEast; and most recently in San Bernadino. However, some people both within and outside Islam, take issue with associating this religion with this particular brand of extremism. They argue that the violence of groups like ISIS is not condoned by Muslims more broadly and thus should not be associated with Islam. I agree with this argument as much as I agree that as a Christian I wouldn’t want Christianity associated with extremists who pursue violence in the name of Christianity and do not actually reflect the religion. However, the reticence to identify a specific form of extremism because of a religious reference seems short-sighted in the broader effort to address the resulting violence and terrorism. What we need to recognize is that fighting religious extremism is not fighting religion.
Since launching G.L.O.B.A.L Justice in September 2014, I am even more certain that awareness of global concerns is of tremendous importance in our current and future eras. International issues have been central in news stories throughout 2014 and have had an increasing impact on our communities, our country, and our world. While there are justice concerns in every region of the globe and many significant events from the past year, I highlight the following “Top 10” news stories for their impact during 2014 as well as their implications for 2015:
I recently read a series of articles that promote the idea that Christians should adopt a pluralistic approach in order to be relevant in present times. Pluralism can be defined as a system in which two or more states, groups, principles, or sources of authority co-exist. In the post-modern era (or by some accounts post-post modern era), pluralism seems to have growing appeal in our society – both in religious and secular circles. It fits the post-modern approach that assumes no common understanding in pursuit of a broader range of perspectives. Some aspects of this post-modern/pluralistic idea are compelling, and certainly some changes in views and approaches may be warranted. However, just like post-modernism itself, pluralism as a theory has several weaknesses, and as a practice even more so.
This week several news stories have covered a uniquely problematic situation in Houston, TX. Houston’s city officials subpoenaed sermons of local pastors who oppose an ordinance that provides certain protections for LGBT community members. The ordinance would ban discrimination against LGBT by businesses serving the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting – including provision for transgender people who are denied access to a particular restroom to be able to file a discrimination complaint. The ordinance passed in May 2014 but is not yet implemented because of various legal matters. And, opponents are actively seeking to repeal the ordinance through a ballot measure. While this presents a range of legislative issues – the problem in Houston is much bigger than legislative discord.