Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is Norway's mass murderer a 'Christian terrorist'?

The first time I saw Anders Behring Breivik referred to as a "Christian terrorist," I had two reactions:

Reaction No. 1. "Wha-?! This nutjob may have called himself a Christian, but Jesus said love, not slaughter your neighbor."

And reaction No. 2: "Hmmm. Now maybe more Christians will understand how Muslims feel when they see the term 'Islamic terrorist' applied to every fanatic or psycho who claims to kill in the name of Allah. True Islam doesn't condone killing innocent people, either."

I see little difference between Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooting suspect, and Breivik, Norway's alleged mass murderer. In resorting to cold-blooded killing -- as both are accused of doing -- they distorted and slandered the religions they claimed to be serving.

So this reporter says call them alleged terrorists -- without the religious modifier. Then explain that they professed to be acting in the name of Christianity or Islam -- religions that actually stand for the opposite of injuring others.

The debate over whether or not to call Breivik a "Christian" terrorist or a Christian at all continues to rage in the media and on the Internet.

Religion News Service did a good article that put the issues in some historical and theological perspective.

"On Faith," a Washington Post site, offers various points of view on the question.

Fox's Bill O'Reilly (see video below) loudly objected to the media calling Breivik a Christian. But, disappointingly, he is just fine with continuing to call suicide bombers "Islamic terrorists."

And "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart had some fun pointing out the inconsistencies -- and incomplete reporting -- from O'Reilly and others at Fox.

What do you think? (Thoughtful, not hateful, responses, please.)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Billy Graham's book on aging well due in October

Thanks for stopping by on Day 1 of my brand new blog. My plan is to post a few times a week: I'll tell you what I'm hearing, reading, and thinking faith-wise.

For my debut post: News about Billy Graham, author.

The Charlotte-born evangelist will turn 93 on Nov. 7. And a few weeks before that -- Oct. 18, to be exact -- the Thomas Nelson publishing house will release Graham's first new book in five years.

"Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well" will focus on how to live -- and how to prepare for -- those twilight years.

Or as Graham spokesman Larry Ross told me: The book will be about "what it means to grow older with grace and how to find the guidance to finish well" in this life.

It's a subject that's real to Graham, as I reported in 2008: "As a Christian, I know how to die, Graham has told family and friends, but nobody ever taught me how to grow old."

Ross offered a preview of some of the themes in "Nearing Home":
  • The time to prepare for our senior years is now -- no matter our age. While we often think of preparing financially for retirement, it's even more important to prepare spiritually and emotionally.
  • If we make into old age, it's because God still has a purpose for us. Find out what it is. Moses and other biblical heroes made their mark late in life.
  • Part of the joy and fulfillment in this late stage of life is discovering God's strength in sustaining us.
But I had to ask Ross: Given Graham's physical limitations -- his eyesight and hearing are fading or worse -- how does he write a book?

Mostly by coming up with the concepts and some examples himself and talking it through with staff, Ross said.

"Then one of his long-time associates helped to put it into manuscript form, drawing on those conversations as well as some of Mr. Graham's original writings and sermons on the subject," Ross said. "Then, as that was read back to him, he made significant changes. He was very involved in the process."

It's a process that took years -- it began in earnest in 2007, after Graham's wife, Ruth, died.

I also talked to Jean Ford, Graham's little sister, who lives in Charlotte.

She visited her brother three weeks ago. And she found him up to the task of authoring a book -- as long as he didn't have to do the physical writing.

"He can't see much. And he can't hear much. You have to yell at him to be heard. And he can't walk much. But his mind is very clear," she reported. "He was remarkable -- very engaging and interacting with us."

Ford said she reminded him of the times in the late-1930s and early 1940s when she used to look for his car coming down Park Road to the family dairy farm. In those days, she said, only four or five cars would drive down Park Road all day.

"I told him, 'I'd look for your car to come home.' And he told me, "That's the way I felt when you were coming to see me today,'" she said.