12 Beirut Ministries Respond to Lebanon Explosion

Evangelical leaders describe the damage, how Christians are helping, and the need for a hope beyond politics.

One hour later at work, and Sarah Chetti might have been one of thousands in a Beirut hospital.

Director of the INSAAF migrant worker ministry in Lebanon, Chetti’s colleagues described shards of broken glass flying through the air, and the metal frames of doors ripped from their hinges.

It was a similar experience for the one staff member inside the Youth for Christ youth center not far from the blast. To avoid the “colossal damage,” he ducked to the floor. Re-welding was necessary just to lock up the next day.

Peter Ford was fortunate. Working quietly in his faculty office at the Near East School of Theology near downtown Beirut, the first small reverberations stirred his curiosity to investigate the problem.

Moments later, the huge blast blew in his window and spewed the glass across his desk.

Miraculously, the dozen evangelical churches and ministries in Lebanon contacted by CT reported no deaths and few serious injuries caused by the massive explosion. The official national tally is now over 100 dead, with over 5,000 injured.

If they had, there would be nowhere for the bodies to go.

Habib Badr of the historic National Evangelical Church was forced to conduct the burial of two elderly members (whose deaths were unrelated to the explosion) as Beirut’s hospitals and morgues were all full.

Two Filipinos, however, were killed in the blast. And amid the ongoing economic suffering of Lebanon, several migrant domestic workers have been abandoned by families no longer able to pay for their services.

“They are distraught, worried, and scared,” said Chetti. “Problems are piling up one after the other. I’m reaching out to each one individually and praying for them, ...

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Lebanon Was Already in Turmoil. Then Came the Blast.

An evangelical Christian leader’s grief over a divided—and now devastated—country.

The massive explosion that rocked Beirut on Monday evening has left dozens dead, hundreds injured, and more than 300,000 displaced from their homes.

Millions around the world watched in horror as the detonation of 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate laid waste to the Mediterranean port and surrounding neighborhoods. The equivalent of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake was felt deep into the coastal mountains of Lebanon and as far away as Cyprus.

The images of destruction reminded many of the small Middle Eastern nation’s 15-year civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990.

In addition to interviewing leaders from 12 evangelical ministries in Beirut, Christianity Today also spoke with Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon. Based in Beirut but born in Aleppo, Syria, Kassab reflected on the damage suffered in Christian neighborhoods, early efforts to assist the suffering, and hope for what this tragedy might produce in the Lebanese church.

These are very difficult days in Lebanon. What happened, and how bad is it?

It is very bad. I’ve been in Lebanon since 1984, experiencing the civil war. This is the first time that one single explosion caused such damage. People were terrified.

Until now, there is no agreement on the explanation, with many speaking according to their political point of view. Some say it was an electrical problem. Some say it was arson. Others assure that they heard jet fighters. We have to wait, hoping that the coming days will provide an answer.

This explosion destroyed so much of Beirut, across sectarian lines. What is the impact on the Christian community?

The areas nearest the port in East Beirut are primarily Christian neighborhoods, and generally ...

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An Attack on Faith-Based Exemptions Is an Attack on the Founders’ Vision

A historian’s “intentionally provocative” account of religious liberty in America leaves too little room for claims of conscientious dissent.

American religious-liberty watchers are likely familiar with the case of Barronelle Stutzman. A grandmother from Washington State, Stutzman has worked as a florist for most of her professional life. For more than nine years, she willingly served Robert Ingersoll and his same-sex partner. She created numerous floral arrangements to help them celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and other special events.

In 2012, an employee told Stutzman that Ingersoll was going to ask her to provide flowers for his wedding ceremony. She talked it over with her husband and concluded: “My faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman. Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, as Christ is to the church. To create and design something from my heart that helps celebrate their marriage would be dishonoring to God, and my convictions.”

When Ingersoll came to Stutzman’s store with his request, she gently told him no, gave him a hug, and referred him to a florist who had no such objections. Washington State’s attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union responded with ruinous lawsuits that may drive her out of business. Attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom representing Stutzman contend that religious-freedom guarantees in both the state and federal constitutions protect her decision. Do they?

Historian Jack N. Rakove considers such questions in Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience: The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion. The book, an account of religious liberty in America that Rakove calls “intentionally provocative,” is serviceable as a work of history. But as a polemic it represents yet another assault on the ability of some citizens to act on ...

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White Fragility: George Yancey Points a Different Way on Race

A summary of George Yancey's academic critique on 'White Fragility'

In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo sought to explain and combat the anger and defensiveness that many white people allegedly have when discussing race and racism in order to uplift the voices of people of color. Has she achieved this goal? George Yancey considers the issue to have been made worse by DiAngelo’s work and other similar rhetoric.

As Yancey writes:

“Bottling up the expressions of whites is not the path towards addressing the racial alienation that troubles our society. Rather it is the path to guarantee that efforts to deal with the historical and contemporary effects of racism will have a strong constituency that will fight against it.”

Instead of easing the discomfort in conversations surrounding race, DiAngelo has forced white people to either disengage or become threatened by any mention of race or racism. While Yancey may disagree with DiAngelo’s conceptualization of white fragility, he is not at complete odds with DiAngelo.

In fact, Yancey agrees several of her basic assumptions:

“Okay I believe in institutional racism. I believe that many whites would prefer to deny the existence of such racism. I believe that many whites are defensive and do not want to confront the reality of our racist past and the current manifestations of that past. To this end some of DiAngelo’s statements I support.”

Both Yancey and DiAngelo agree that institutional racism exists and that it is a reality many white people would prefer to ignore. This leads many whites to suppress, often not maliciously, the truth about racism in its past and present forms.

While they may agree on these basic tenants, Yancey would shy away from the far-reaching, possibly alienating claims that DiAngelo makes. Yancey’s ...

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White Fragility: Why this Book is Important for Evangelicals

DiAngelo’s book serves as a reminder that when Christians fail to address issues of individual and systemic sin like white supremacy, the world will address it.

In the beginning of Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility, she explains that she wrote the book for white progressives. Her emphasis on this group of people is understandable, given a common mindset among progressives that points to engagement in social justice as a way to pardon oneself from being racist. However, I also believe this book can apply to any white person—progressive, conservative, Christian, non-Christian—who is interested in moving toward racial healing and justice in our country.

I think this book is important for evangelical Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians (both people who would identify as progressive, conservative or a combination of the two), because it speaks a language that has been almost completely missing within the white evangelical church throughout its history: a language to identify, name, and describe white supremacy and the difficulty and refusal of white people to speak this language and move toward healing. This language is one that black scholars and leaders have been speaking for many years, however, the white Christian church has not only failed to listen, learn, and change, but often has attempted to eradicate the language from our culture. The irony of this failure is that this language was necessitated largely because of the actions of white Christians and the white Christian church for centuries. Few white Christians I know have an understanding of this history. In this short reflection, I do not have time to do justice to this history, however, I will provide two examples here.

White European Christians originally enslaved black bodies for economic gain but justified their greed by framing slavery as a Christian act: evangelization (Kendi, ...

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Christians Worry Hong Kong’s New Law Will Hamper Missions

Recent Chinese regulations on foreign interference extend into the diaspora and raise questions for longstanding ministries.

For Christians outside of China who have connections in Hong Kong, or for international ministries with offices there, a new Beijing-imposed security law prompts a raft of troubling questions and unknowns.

The law—which broadly criminalizes any act of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces in the Chinese Special Administrative Region—went into effect late on June 30. The first 10 people arrested included a 15-year-old girl and a man who unfurled a Hong Kong independence flag during a demonstration. An additional 360 protesters were also detained in the first 24 hours.

Written in secret by Chinese officials and only made public after it had been passed, the law reclassifies what were previously considered minor infractions as serious crimes, punishable by a life sentence. Damaging public transport facilities, for example, a tactic frequently used by pro-democracy activists in the past year, is now considered an act of terrorism. The law also circumvents Hong Kong’s well-established judicial processes, allowing for warrantless wire-tapping, extradition to the mainland, and closed criminal proceedings.

But Hong Kong residents are not the only ones who should be wary. Buried within the law’s 7,000 words is one statement that seems to extend the reach of the decree far outside of China’s borders: “The law applies to persons who do not have permanent resident status in Hong Kong and commit crimes under this law outside Hong Kong,” reads Article 38.

In other words, anyone in the world could be held accountable for acts of subversion against the Chinese government.

As extraordinary as this provision may sound, it is not unusual for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ...

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Have Your Political Views Become An Idol?

As followers of Christ who are engaging in this process, are we starting to cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed?

Are your political views and convictions growing in intensity? Are you finding yourself feeling angrier than you used to be about a variety of political issues? Are people in your extended family, community, or church becoming angrier?

In addition to being in the midst of a global pandemic, widespread demonstrations about racial injustices, and an election year, we live in a media saturated environment where hate and division trigger wider viewership, larger ratings, and significantly higher advertising revenue.

In such an environment, how can we as individual Christians, or as pastors or ministry leaders tasked with leading others, know when we are getting sidetracked, especially when “believing you’re right and that others are wrong” triggers intense and addictive feelings?

Media outlets on both the left and right are using language and tactics to inflame anger, alienate, and disparage whomever ‘the other’ might be and, as a result, there are growing levels of disrespect and hatred towards people who hold different political views.

As followers of Christ who are engaging in this process, are we starting to cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed? And, if we are, how can we know when this is happening, and what are the costs?

Signs of political idolatry

Idolatry comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not limited to people who put a metal or wooden statue on an altar and light incense to it. Although this happens in many parts of the world, idolatry is a deeper issue. Here are a few questions to discern if it is at work in our hearts.

Who or what am I trusting to provide for my future?

People enter into idolatry because they feel the need for safety and security. Life can be hard and even if we are ...

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Why Many Christians Want to Leave Palestine. And Why Most Won’t.

Survey of a thousand local believers finds majority desire a one-state solution, while few complain about religious freedom.

In Bethlehem—the little town of Jesus’ birth—only 1 in 5 residents today are Christians (22%). A decade earlier, more than 4 in 5 were believers (84%).

The steep decline is reflected in other traditional Christian cities in the Holy Land. In Beit Jala, the Christian majority has fallen from 99 percent to 61 percent. In Beit Sahour, it has fallen from 81 percent to 65 percent.

When the Ottoman era ended in 1922, Christians were 11 percent of the population of Palestine—about 70,000 people. According to the 2017 census by the Palestinian Authority (PA), they now number 47,000—barely 1 percent.

There are competing explanations of what—or who—is to blame. Some identify the Israeli occupation. Others describe Muslim chauvinism.

The overwhelming answer, according to a new survey of local Christians by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), is economics.

Nearly 6 in 10 respondents identified this as the main reason they consider emigration (59%).

The poll, commissioned by the Philos Project, a US-based initiative promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East, surveyed 995 Christians in 98 Palestinian locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip in January and February.

Compared to the economy, other cited reasons paled in significance.

Security conditions were named by 7 percent. Another 7 percent cited better education. And another 7 percent blamed the political situation.

Only 4 percent blamed corruption, while 3 percent gave a religious explanation.

But this particular question measured the primary driver of desire to leave the Holy Land. What secondary factors might be involved?

Philos “affirms the right of all Christians to live and flourish as ...

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US Capitol to Install Billy Graham Statue in 2021

After five years of planning, the Bible-wielding preacher will replace a white supremacist North Carolina governor in the national collection.

A life-sized statue of Billy Graham will be installed in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall collection sometime next year, replacing a statue of a white supremacist that both the state of North Carolina and the US House want removed.

Last week, a North Carolina legislative committee approved a 2-foot model of the statue depicting the famous evangelist who died in 2018.

The sculptor, Chas Fagan, will now begin working on a life-sized model that will have to be approved by a congressional committee. Fagan has previously created several statues of religious figures, including St. John Paul II for Washington’s Saint John Paul II National Shrine, as well as Mother Teresa for the Washington National Cathedral.

The US Capitol, Statuary Hall collection consists of 100 statues of prominent people—two from each state. Graham, a North Carolina native who was born on a dairy farm in Charlotte, will take the place of Charles Aycock (1859–1912), a former governor.

Aycock was one of the masterminds of the 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina, race riot and coup, in which a local government made up of black Americans was overthrown and replaced by white officials. North Carolina’s other statue is of Zebulon Vance (1830–1894), a former governor and US senator who was also a Confederate military officer.

With statues to white supremacists and Confederate leaders toppling across the nation, North Carolina’s reconsideration might seem timely. But in fact, installing a statue of Graham at the US Capitol had widespread support long before the most recent reckoning on race.

Former North Carolina State Sen. Dan Soucek pushed for the new statue in 2015 while Graham was still living. Soon after ...

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White Fragility: A Conversation on Race and Racism

Introducing a new series discussing ‘White Fragility’ with perspectives from various Christian leaders.

What comes to mind when you hear the term "White Fragility?"

The term is striking, unnerving to some degree. Maybe intimidating. What response does such a term stir? Anger, defensiveness, denial?

This is what inspired Robin DiAngelo, who wrote the book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She is a scholar who has studied diversity and racism for many years, but has more recently become influential in evangelical circles and that is part of why we are hosting this conversation.

White Fragility has to do with how quickly white people respond with anger and defensiveness in conversations about race. DiAngelo has found in years of diversity training and research that white people respond to these discussions with strikingly similar responses, like the white man who pounded his fist at one seminar, exclaiming out loud, "A white person can't get a job anymore!" (p. 1). Yet, he is completely oblivious to the fact that 38 of the 40 employees gathered were white. “Why,” DiAngelo asks, “is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why doesn’t he notice the effect this outburst is having on the people of color in the room?” (p. 1)

From the author's introduction--a perspective on history:

"The United States was founded on the principle that all people are created equal. Yet the nation began with the attempted genocide of Indigenous people and the theft of their land. American wealth was built on the labor of kidnapped and enslaved Africans and their descendants. Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, and black women were denied access ...

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