PODCAST: American pastor Johnnie Moore sanctioned by China for religious freedom advocacy (ICH 05.29.21)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to Newsweek, Reverend Johnnie Moore, a former commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), was sanctioned by China for “promoting cults” on Wednesday. The move was done as apparent retaliation after the U.S. recently sanctioned a Chinese official for religious issues. Moore, however, welcomed the news. On his official Twitter account, he wrote: “It is an honor to be sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party for giving my voice to the Uyghur Muslims, Christians (including Jimmy Lai), Tibetan Buddhists & countless others the CCP tries to silence every day—a privilege of living in the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave.” His comments continued, reading: “The CCP doesn’t understand the difference between ‘the truth’ and a ‘lie’ but here’s some truth we know: They are weaker than they want us to believe that they are. A global coalition is building to hold them to account and it transcends political parties and U.S. administrations. This Great Wall of Collaboration is a promise to future generations that we will not hand our world to the CCP to victimize the innocent as they please.” Moore also noted in his messages that his role as commissioner for USCIRF ended two weeks ago, thus the Chinese Communist Party “is sanctioning a private U.S. citizen.”

According to Christianity Today, A new plaque honoring Wheaton College alumni Jim Elliot and Ed McCully and their fellow slain missionaries will no longer refer to the Waorani as “savage indians” and, at double the word count of the original 1957 inscription, offer a more detailed account of their engagement with the people who killed them. Wheaton released the updated wording on Monday. The new inscription describes how the missionaries sensed God calling them to reach the Waorani, “a people who had never heard the gospel message. Known for their violence to encroaching outsiders and for internal cycles of vengeance killing, they were among the most feared indigenous peoples in South America at the time.” The task force who reviewed and revised the plaque wording aimed to move the story—now one of the highest-profile accounts of missionary martyrdom in the 20th century—beyond the events of January 8, 1956. “Their actions took place at a certain point in time, but we don’t want to leave them there,” said Kathryn Long, professor of history emerita at Wheaton. The evangelical college pulled the original plaque from Erdman Chapel in March, citing concerns from students and community members over its characterization of the Ecuador tribe. A task force was appointed to review and revise the language for the plaque, which honors the two alumni along with Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming.

According to Religion News Service, A new survey suggests a younger, more diverse generation of evangelical Christians is undergoing a marked shift regarding their views on politics and Israel. Among the poll’s findings: a seemingly rapid turn away from support for Israel, raising questions about whether the country’s leaders can maintain long-term support within a key religious constituency in the U.S. According to a poll conducted March 22-April 2 and overseen by the social research firm Barna Group and scholars at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, 42% of self-identified evangelical and born-again Christians age 18-29 said they supported neither Israel nor Palestinians regarding conflict in the region. Among those who picked a side, 24.3% said they supported, leaned toward or very strongly supported Palestinians, whereas 33.6% expressed the same sentiment for Israel. UNCP professors Motti Inbari and Kirill Bumin, who oversaw the survey and teach about religion and political science, respectively, told Religion News Service those numbers differed sharply from a poll they conducted in 2018. In that survey, nearly 69% of young evangelicals supported or leaned toward support for Israel, with only 5.4% saying the same about Palestinians living in the occupied territories. At the time, around 26% of those polled said they supported neither. In 2018, nearly 75% of evangelicals overall supported or leaned toward support for Israel, with only 2.7% saying the same about Palestinians and 22% saying they supported neither.

According to Baptist Press, In the silence since the May 20 ceasefire between Israel and Gaza ended 11 days of violence, Baptist workers among Israeli and Palestinians urge churches to look past the politics and see people in need of Jesus. “We don’t have to choose sides,” says Ben Martin*, a worker in Israel. “This is really about people who need Jesus. “When people are killed, unless Jesus has changed their hearts, they die and will spend eternity apart from Him.” While Baptist workers in the region are safe, many have felt the effects and fear that resulted from the 11 days of targeted attacks – another chapter in a long history of conflict – and they grieve with their friends and neighbors. Martin says it is a complex and complicated situation and that he hopes churches can take a spiritual posture that is consistent with the Gospel – love for all people. He says if Christians don’t guard themselves, “we can begin to hate, and hate is not of God.” The need for believers to align their hearts with that of God is true for people on both sides of the Gaza strip, echoes Andrew Weir*, who serves among Palestinians.

According to MarketWatch, Pope Francis has kissed the tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor during a general audience on Wednesday. Lidia Maksymowicz, a Polish citizen who was deported to Auschwitz from her native Belarus by the age of 3, showed the pope the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis, and Francis leaned over and kissed it. Maksymowicz told Vatican News that she didn’t exchange words with the pope. “We understood each other with a glance,” she said. Maksymowicz has participated in events sponsored by Sant’Egidio aimed at educating youth about the Holocaust. She spent three years in the children’s area of the camp, and was subjected to experiences by Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death.” When the camp was freed, she was taken in by a Polish family.

According to Religion News Service, Jesuit Father Stephen Chow, the newly appointed bishop of Hong Kong, did not at first think he was the right man for the job. “It took months of discernment, consultation and prayer for me to accept this appointment,” Chow, 61, told Religion News Service in an email on Monday (May 24). As a Jesuit religious, he is not assigned to a specific community or region, and he believed a diocesan priest would be more qualified. “Also, I did not feel the call,” he said. But after receiving a hand-written note from Pope Francis, a fellow Jesuit, Chow “discussed and discerned” with his father general in Rome and accepted the appointment. “The decision is not mine,” he said. “At the end — as a Jesuit, I owe my obedience to the Holy Father.” Pope Francis officially announced Chow’s appointment as bishop on May 17. The auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon will continue in his role of apostolic administrator of the diocese until Chow’s consecration as bishop on Dec. 4.

According to Christianity Today, Eilat Mazar, a nonreligious archaeologist who embraced the unfashionable idea of digging with a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other, died Tuesday at 64. In her five decades excavating the Holy Land, Mazar discovered the remains of a palace believed to belong to King David, a gate identified with King Solomon, a wall thought to have been built by Nehemiah, two clay seals that name the captors of the prophet Jeremiah, seals that name King Hezekiah, and a seal that may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah. Once called the “queen of Jerusalem archaeology,” Mazar took the Bible seriously as a historical text and quarreled with scholars who thought it was unscientific to pay too much attention to Scripture. “Look,” she told Christianity Today in 2011, “when I’m excavating Jerusalem, and when I’m excavating at the city of David, and when I’m excavating near the Kidron Valley and near the Gihon Spring and at the Ophel—these are all biblical terms. So it’s not like I’m here because it’s some anonymous place. This is Jerusalem, which we know best from the Bible.” Mazar said she was not religious but would pore over the Bible, reading it repeatedly, “for it contains within it descriptions of genuine historical reality.” Mazar sometimes literally took directions from the sacred text. In 1997, she wrote about how 2 Samuel 5:17 describes David going down from his palace to a fortification. Assuming that was an accurate description and looking at the topography of Jerusalem, she identified the place where David’s palace should be. In 2005, she was able to start excavation at the site, and almost immediately discovered evidence she was right—and so was the Book of Samuel.

In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!