Signs of the Times

Most U.S. Christians Don”t Believe Satan, Holy Spirit, Exists

U.K.-based Christian Today reports that six out of 10 American Christians believe Satan is a “symbol of evil” rather than actual “living being,” a new Barna study found. Only 35 percent said they believe that Satan is a living and real force of evil. Similar numbers said the Holy Spirit is a “symbol of God’s power and presence” but not a “living entity.” “Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world,” said George Barna, founder of The Barna Group. “Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are,” he said. “It’s hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces.”

  • It’s  getting quite scary and discouraging to see how many supposed Christians are making up their own beliefs instead of adhering to God’s Word.

Drug Violence Halts Church Trips to U.S.-Mexico Border

Christianity Today reports that short-term mission trips to a once-popular destination have begun to dry up. Trip coordinators for Juarez, Mexico — just two miles south of El Paso, Texas — have canceled planned trips due to the sharp spike in violence from a drug-cartel war. More than 1,800 people in the city of 1.6 million have been killed since January 2008, some in public shootouts, and thousands more have been threatened. “Ministry partners have experienced threats of extortion,” said YouthWorks regional director Jason Atkinson in a memo. “Our own staff were victims of armed robbery and carjacking.” Peggy Kulesz of First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said her church has been sending members to the city for 30 years, but cancelled this year’s trip. “When you feel a real sense of calling and then the door is shut, you… wonder what God has in store and how he is going to work in this time of crisis with Christians in the area.”

Buddhist Mobs Attack Sri Lankan Churches

Compass Direct News reports that Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota. On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The men phoned Kumara with direct threats later that day, and appeared outside his house again that night. “My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.” Earlier, on Palm Sunday (April 5), another group of men broke into the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo after congregants concluded an Easter procession. Witnesses said they saw them load valuable goods into a white van parked. “They removed everything,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

Violence Hits India’s Poll Stations

The Christian Post reports that India’s monthlong elections have begun in violence. Maoist rebels attacked 14 polling stations, killing 17 civilians and security personnel. In spite of threats of violence, over half of people eligible to vote risked the polls, while 90 percent of the 3,000 Christians in a Kandhamal relief camp voted. Officials temporarily left recovery and rebuilding efforts in terrorized areas of Orissa state, the Christian Post said, to provide better polling station security. “I think they [anti-Christian politicians] are going to hear the voice of people that they’re not in favor of this kind of abuse and hurting the minorities, especially the Christians. This election is going to bring some changes to the state of Orissa, and we’re praying for that,” said KP Yohannan, founder of Gospel For Asia.

Concerns Raised on Pace of Stimulus

The federal government has only committed $60 billion so far for projects from the $787 billion economic stimulus package President Obama signed two months ago, prompting concerns that the money isn’t moving fast enough to halt the deepening recession. The money — nearly $1 billion a day — has gone mainly toward highway repairs, financial aid for states, nuclear waste cleanup and other public works, the reports show. The government wants most stimulus aid to be spent by September 2010. The Obama administration has emphasized the need to move quickly.

Homeland Security Leaders Defend Memo on Veterans

Top Department of Homeland Security officials on Sunday defended an agency intelligence assessment warning that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be susceptible to recruitment by right-wing extremists, though one said it should have been “more tightly written and presented.” Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said on CNN’s State of the Union that she regrets that some people took offense over the report, but added that “a number of groups far too numerous to mention” were targeting returning veterans to carry out domestic terrorism attacks. The report cited Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh, a decorated Army veteran convicted of detonating an explosives-laden truck in front of the federal building, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds. McVeigh was executed in 2001, and his former Army buddy Terry Nichols is serving multiple life prison terms for his role in the attack.

U.N. Racism Meeting to Open Without U.S., Others

The United Nations opens its first global racism conference in eight years on Monday with the U.S. and at least five other countries boycotting the event out of concern that Islamic countries will demand that in denounce Israel and ban criticism of Islam. The administration of President Barack Obama announced Saturday that it would boycott “with regret” the week-long meeting in Geneva, which already is experiencing much of the bickering and political infighting that marred the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa. But he said the language of the U.N.’s draft declaration “raised a whole set of objectionable provisions” and risked a reprise Durban, “which became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were often times completely hypocritical and counterproductive.”

The opening of a United Nations conference in Switzerland on anti-racism was marred by chaotic scenes Monday as protests and a walkout by delegates disrupted a controversial address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dozens of delegates walked out of the chamber as Ahmadinejad accused Israel and the West of making “an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering … in order to establish a totally racist government.” He said Zionism, the Jewish national movement, “personifies racism,” and accused Zionists of wielding economic and political resources to silence opponents. He also blasted the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan. Ahmadinejad has also said that the Holocaust is a myth.

Obama Reaches Out to U.S. Antagonists

President Obama wrapped up a weekend summit with Latin American leaders Sunday by offering olive branches to adversaries from Cuba to Venezuela — a signal of U.S. courtesy, he said, not capitulation. The gathering of 34 elected leaders from the Western Hemisphere at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, took on extra meaning after Obama’s overture to a former member, Cuba. Obama went a symbolic step further over the weekend by shaking hands and grinning with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who once likened George W. Bush to the devil. And he met with Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Bolivia’s Evo Morales as part of his outreach effort. At a news conference Sunday before returning home, Obama defended his willingness to talk to anti-American leaders — a pledge he extended to Iran in last year’s presidential campaign.

The president also objections to his hearty handshake with Chávez. Before the weekend was out, the fiery Venezuelan leader told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he will reinstate his country’s ambassador to the United States. “It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chávez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States,” Obama said.

  • It remains to be seen how our country’s enemies perceive such politeness. Of course, Obama has more in common with socialist/communist leaders since he leans in that direction himself.

Bin Laden Deputy Slams Obama Plan for Afghanistan

Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader has ridiculed President Barack Obama’s plan to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan in a new Internet audio recording released Monday. Al-Zawahri’s comments were posted on a militant website Monday and came as the Obama administration plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and start withdrawing forces from Iraq. Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant also criticized Pakistan’s U.S.-allied government for its attempts to make deals with Muslim fundamentalists along its border with Afghanistan in hopes of draining support for extremists. He accused Obama of encouraging Pakistan’s government to make such deals, calling the strategy “a delusion.”

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