Saturday, March 31, 2012

No Christian rises higher than their prayer life -2-



Salome:  A Place of Rebuke

The second person I want us to consider is Salome.  She was Mary’s sister, the Mother of James and John, and the wife of Zebedee.  We remember her as the woman who came to Jesus with her sons, asking Him to let them be enthroned on his right hand and His left hand in His Kingdom.  (Matt 20: 20-28)

If we asked Salome what the cross meant to her, I think she could have replied, ‘The Cross to me is a place of rebuke’.  I stand here rebuked because of my selfishness.  I wanted my two sons to have the place of honour.  And yet I stand here seeing Jesus on a cross, not on a throne, and I’m ashamed of myself for praying as I did.’

Salome wanted something grand and glorious for her sons, but she didn’t consider what the answer to her prayer would cost them and her.  Her prayer was born of pride and arrogance, not of humility.  She was concerned only about her sons, not about the glory of the Lord.

Thrones are something we have to deserve, and for Jesus, the way to the throne was through the cross.  First the suffering, then the glory...  Salome had forgotten the cost of reigning with Jesus:  ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him’ (2 Tim 2:12)  If we want to wear the crown, we must be willing to drink the cup.

No Christian rises any higher than his or her prayer life, and sometimes the selfish things we do come from selfish praying.  How can we pray selfishly in the light of the cross?  How can we ask for easy lives when Jesus had to endure so much?  

God delights to honour His servants, and one day we will share in His glory.  But before the glory there must come the suffering.  ‘But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered for a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.’  (1 Pet 5:10)

Major Glad Ljungholm

Friday, March 30, 2012

How close would you come?


If you and I had been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, how near to His cross would we have stood?  It’s one thing to be able to sing in church ‘Jesus, keep me near the cross’, but something else to actually do it.  After all, Jesus was ‘despised and rejected of men’, and it would have taken a great deal of courage and love to stand by His cross.

The Roman Soldiers were standing near the cross because they had to be there; it was their duty.  Four women were there, because they all loved Jesus.  They were there out of devotion, not duty.  They wanted to be with Jesus and so did John, the beloved disciple.

Today, we use the phrase ‘near the cross’ to announce our dedication and devotion to Jesus.  Perhaps there have been times when we have prayed and sung:  ‘Lord, keep me near the cross’, without stopping to think what we are really praying for and whether we are willing to pay the price if that prayer were answered.  The Lord could say to us as He said to James and John, ‘You don’t know what you ask.’  (Mat. 20:22)

Obviously, being near the cross isn’t a matter of physical proximity, but it is a spiritual position, a special relationship to Jesus Christ; a intimate and committed relationship.  To be near the cross means to identify with Christ in His suffering and shame.  It’s what Paul called ‘the fellowship of His sufferings.’  (Phil. 3:10)

This 2012 Easter season I want us to consider again what it means for us to be near the cross and by doing so, look at Mary Magdalene, Salome, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the Apostle John.

Mary Magdalene – A Place of Redemption


If we were to have walked up to Mary Magdalene that afternoon and asked:  ‘Mary Magdalene, what does it mean to you to be standing near the cross of Jesus?’  I think she would have answered, ‘To me this is a place of redemption.’

Jesus had redeemed Mary Magdalene and set her free from the terrible bondage of demonism.  According to Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9, she had been delivered from seven demons.

When we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ we go from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God.  God begins to control and use our lives.  We go from guilt to forgiveness, and from poverty to wealth as an heir of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  This is what Jesus did for Mary Magdalene.

The miracle of redemption is a costly thing.  When Jesus delivered Mary Magdalene from the power of Satan, it cost Him His life.  Standing there at the cross, Mary watched Jesus pay the price of her redemption.

Jesus had to die that we might be set free.  For us to move from the darkness into the light, He had to move from light into the darkness.  For us to be delivered from guilt to forgiveness, Jesus had to be made sin for us.  For Him to make us rich, He had to become the poorest of the poor.

No wonder Mary was standing at the cross!  And that’s not all.  She was at the tomb when Jesus was buried and she was at the tomb early on the resurrection morning.  Mary Magdalene had experienced redemption, and Jesus was precious to her.  As she stood near the cross she could sincerely say, ‘The cross to me is a place of redemption’.

Let us ask ourselves; ‘Is the cross a place of redemption for us?’  ‘Is the cross a place of redemption for you?’

Major Glad Ljungholm

Thursday, March 29, 2012

MY REDEMPTION WAS ACHIEVED THROUGH OUTSOURCING


Some thirty years ago, or more, I read a short article in a British newspaper while in the UK on business.


A man entered a high-street jewelers with the intent of buying his daughter an Easter present. He asked the clerk what he might deem appropriate, thinking a simple trinket with a bunny might serve the purpose. The attendant immediately brought out a tray displaying small crosses, some in gold, others in silver and still more with diamonds or other precious stones.

After carefully examining the dozens of crosses on offer the man asked, “Is there a great difference in the price of the empty crosses compared to those with a little man on them”?

Perhaps it was not a very significant price difference to the shop’s customer but then he doesn’t, unlike you and I, need to think beyond the ‘cost’, to the ‘loss’ represented by that little man.

From my lecture notes, from the period while teaching international marketing in MBA courses in the USA; “In purchasing a product, technically, there is no loss involved; simply an exchange, at an agreed upon price: a fair and free exchange. The price (in money plus urgency) is equal to the product value at the moment of the trade.”

During my research into global exchange and outsourcing I, with a noted professor from a Midwest university, developed exchange theories based on ‘services’, i.e. not 'products', but on a service that's provided, and there the fairness doctrine can easily be confused or even lost. When one buys a product, technically there is no loss involved nor is one’s attitude involved if the exchange is considered fair.

The value of a service however, is not always immediately recognized or appreciated; the appreciation of its value might be immediate (an airline journey) or may require a lengthy wait (life insurance). And the ROI (return on investment) on a service is often questioned (auto repair or the hair dresser’s proficiency).

Offered as it was, a service to satisfy the forgiveness of our sin, Christ's death, was the most expensive and costly exchange transaction in the history of the universe. It was not simply  "priceless," it was infinitely costly. There was a "price" to be paid for sin and Christ was made the recipient of those wages, the 'outsourced' exchange.
Do we gain an insight by separating the concept of "loss" from "cost." God lost nothing when Christ died. But it certainly cost something, in the sense of an exchange.
Christ's substitutionary death (outsourced service) on the cross stands at the heart of all Salvation Army truths as revealed in the Bible. ‘He took my place, His life He freely gave.’ He took our place in suffering the penalty for sin and it was fully satisfied by His voluntary acceptance of our punishment. He could have saved Himself from the pain of the thorns and the nails, but instead He "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
__________________________
George Bennard joined the Salvation Army in Lucas, Iowa where he initially served alone and then, after his marriage, with his wife. Both Bennard and his wife served as officers until he felt the call to move on into a different area of ministry. He became a traveling evangelist and as such conducted revival campaigns in Canada and in the northern and central United States.

One time, after an especially difficult experience in a New York campaign, Bennard returned to one of his earliest appointments in Michigan. There he reflected on the meaning of the cross in the life of a believer from Galatians 6:14 in which the Apostle Paul states: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."  Meditating on the words, "the old rugged cross," the notes of a melody ran through his head and they were quickly written down.

Then he spent several weeks struggling to compose words to fit the tune. ‘Finally, after a period of prayer, the poetry of the verses began to flow from his pen almost unbidden.’ After completing the four verses he took them to his friends, and sang if for them. He concluded his presentation with the question, "Will it do?"

"The Old Rugged Cross" was published in 1915, and all expenses paid by the Reverend and Mrs. L.O. Bostwick. In 1958, at the age of eighty-five, Bennard "exchanged his cross for a crown. 

Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above,

To bear it to dark Calvary.

For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.

So I'll cherish the rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down'

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it some day for a crown.


Sven Ljungholm



Wednesday, March 28, 2012


After a brief eighteen months in ministry a pastor went to his filing cabinet to pull out the file marked ‘Love’, but he discovered he didn’t have one. Impossible! It must be misfiled, and so he began to search. He searched among the files marked Faith and Fasting, and then between Healing and Heaven, but no Love. Perhaps it was sandwiched between Christology and Christian Education. After all, these are concerned with Love aren’t they?

But it wasn’t there. Nor was it found after Money or ahead of Missions. When he stopped to reflect, the Holy Spirit solved the mystery for him. The Love file was not misfiled; it was actually scattered throughout his files.

Parts of it were found under Patience, Kindness, Humility, Trust, Hope, Loyalty, and Perseverance. But the pastor found the greatest part of the Love file squarely- centred and deeply-seated in Forgiveness. *

Forgiveness demonstrates true love as an offender is pardoned and set free from guilt or blame, and this is what Jesus demonstrated as He lay dying upon the cruel cross on Easter Friday.

Firstly, He asked God, the Father, to forgive His executioners: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Then Jesus forgave one of the two criminals that were crucified with him. These guilty men hung on their own cross, one on either side of Jesus.

Physically, they were equally separated from Jesus and spiritually, they were equally separated from God. However, one criminal chose eternal life and freedom from the guilt of his sins by asking Jesus to bridge the gap between him and death.

The exchange of words between Jesus and the forgiven criminal clearly spells out the steps to salvation through the forgiveness that is freely available in Jesus.

This criminal acknowledged that Jesus was innocent, whereas he was a sinful man who deserved to die for what he had done.

When the other criminal hanging beside Jesus scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

The first criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”

His words show a clear recognition of the authority of God. Then with a repentant heart he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

He trusted in the saving power of Jesus. This penitent man realised that because of Jesus, death would not be the end of everything for him. Jesus accepted his confession of sin by replying, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Our sins separate us from God, and Jesus is the only way to restore our broken relationship with God.

Jesus was an innocent man who died to pay the penalty of death for our sins. He died on our behalf so that we might be reconciled to God and be forgiven for our failure to obey God and live in His ways.

It is the prayer of the FSAOF that this Easter many people will hear the Gospel story and recognise the authority of God and their own sinfulness, and they will be led into a life-saving experience through the unconditional love of Jesus for all mankind.

·       Adapted from James S Hewett, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Illinois, p. 224

Tomorrow the FSAOF will look into the meaning of the Cross by three of the 20th century’s  most celebrated Christian hymn writers and composers; Erik Ball, Sidney Cox and George Bennard, all former Salvation Army officers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Division is tragic... Unity is a gift.

March 2012 
Dear Friends:
The other evening I watched a short DVD about the song-writer Fanny Crosby. The narration was interspersed with the singing of some of her songs. As a very young child, she lost her sight because of the incompetence of one posing as a doctor. Though she never regained her physical sight, the Lord opened her spiritual eyes to see life from his perspective. Songs like 'Blessed Assurance', 'To God be the Glory', 'He Hideth my Soul' and 'All the Way my Saviour Leads Me', express this deep faith, resilience and incomparable hope. She has opened our eyes to see the richness of his grace.

Sometimes we are limited by what we see around us. The media keeps us informed on a daily basis of all the events and issues that would cause us to despair. Add to this our own circumstances that often can paint a gloomy picture, and perhaps even our own failures would rob us of any positive perspective about the future. In the healing of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the probing question of Jesus, 'What do you want me to do for you?' forces us to think soberly about our deepest need. Bartimaeus responded, 'I want to see'. Yes, he was talking about physical sight, but it is a great response for all of us, is it not? 'Lord, I want to see people as you see them; I want to see the world from your point of view; I want to see life realistically but also optimistically; I want to see where you are working in this world and celebrate it; I want to see with eyes of faith, hope and love.'

During recent travels, God opened my eyes many times. In the Norway, Iceland and The Færoes Territory I saw officers and Salvationists, who have a stirring vision of a vibrant, engaged Army, giving exceptional service to their communities. I visited India South Western and India South Eastern Territories in February. My physical sight took in the amazing crowds attending the events, the moving moments as many knelt at the mercy seat, the Army programmes that minister in children's homes, hospitals, to the marginalised women. I saw how important it is to see the individual in the context of thousands of Salvationists milling around you.

Then just recently we held a Zonal Conference in New Zealand for Army leaders in the South Pacific and East Asia area. The most internationally diverse of all the zones, I looked out on officers representing Salvationists in Korea, Japan, The Philippines, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Macau. Yet we have to see this international Army with our spiritual sight. We talked a lot about our different cultures, wore different uniforms, needed translation to understand and to be understood, and gave witness to our own unique backgrounds. Yet here we were, Salvationists from all over the world, proclaiming the name of Jesus, kneeling together in prayer, serving with hearts for the lost, desiring to be the people God raised us up to be and committed to fulfilling his mission. We were one.

I have no idea of the particular situation of everyone who receives this letter and I certainly don't have personal knowledge of where you worship. But I know I am writing to a majority of Salvationists. When I share this global vision, I am conscious that it must also work on a personal and local level. Diversity is great. Division is tragic. Uniformity is impossible. Unity is a gift. 

So wherever you find yourself today, may your eyes be wide open to what you, (and your corps, church)  can do when we move forward together into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means, with the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life.

God bless you richly,
Linda Bond
General

Saturday, March 24, 2012

TODAY IS MY SADDEST BIRTHDAY EVER!



WE HAVE TOO MANY MEMBERS IN OUR FELLOWSHIP!

This week nine additional persons asked to join our fellowship, the largest one-week increase in members in recent months. Ours is a fellowship where even one new member a week is too many! And, speaking for the majority of our members; “before giving thought to coming onboard, consider the options and God’s leading before taking that final step that qualifies you for membership”. Many of us wish we had…
 
And, no less sad is that a few days ago I was asked if 'we' couldn’t have a Spanish language site and invite persons to join with us and consolidate our ministry. My mind immediately went to an old Swedish SA chorus that translates roughly; ‘though miles and language separate us, we will join with each other at the Mercy Seat’. I’m told the chorus was sung when Swedish SA missionaries were fare-welled and sent to distant lands. My grandparents were a part of that special band of servants. 


The word “policy” has been tossed around recently with regard to a question I posed relative to the Single Spouse Officer provision. I was informed that "policy" doesn't allow for me to know such private info! If challenged, I believe certain persons will be scrambling to uncover a ‘policy’ from a cobwebbed HQ basement to lend credence to their stand. For the record, I found the stats in a recently discarded Dispo and with "a little help from my friends" and shared them.- (sorry, but we live only a stone's throw from Penny Lane and at 5:14 AM I couldn't control the temptation.) 

Well here’s a policy statement over a century old, but I wonder how many have ever seen it? Or better yet, accept and honour the founder's sentiment. What incredible foresight God gave him...


"The (former) ex-officer, no matter what was the cause that resulted in his loss to our fighting forces, is still a child of the Army. He entered the sacred circle. He became one of us, sharing our joys and sorrows, losses and crosses. He received the commission of a divinely-appointed authority to proclaim Salvation, build up men and women in their most holy faith, and help to win someone to God. He received the spirit of officership, whereby he mingled amongst us, for a season, as one of us, and go where he likes, and do what he likes, the imprint of the life he lived will remain. Time will not efface it; sin even will not blot it out. So that in a sense which we ought ever to remember, the ex-Officer still belongs to The Salvation Army".
Field Officer (December 1900) pp. 453-4.


I wonder how many are familiar with the Founder’s definition of former officers? And am I naïve to believe that one day we might be asked how we treated those he considered family… What a wonderful claim of assurance we have- those who once served under the same tri-colour remain members of TSA family. 
Our fellowship is not a secret one. More than 83,000 persons, mostly Salvationist have found our blog site – ranging from 70 – 120 visitors per day. Here’s how one SA leader describes our blog;
“As a retired TSA officer, in some ways I feel like a former officer. And as a retired Commissioner, I probably get a little more respect than others, but believe me there are a lot of similarities between “former” and “sent out to pasture.” I’ll not bore you with the parallels, except to say that since being “pasturized”my understanding and empathy has increased greatly.
This said to plug a blog site for former Salvation Army officers,www.fsaof.blogspot.com. I drop in periodically becausethe well-written posts and discussion following helps me keep everything in perspective. I would recommend the same for every not yet “pasturized” leader because your day is coming soon (considering the age at which most top leaders are appointed), but more importantly because the insight gained there will provide balance to your personnel related decision making during the interim.”
Joe Noland, Commissioner
*********
How many SA leaders have read our almost 1,000 articles? From comments heard it's clear that our presence is known, but our purpose has been badly distorted.
--------------
And this from another visitor;
I enjoy your blog so much!
It is the best unofficial Army blog I've seen on the internet yet! It always has such good, in-depth and timely articles. Most of the others almost all have a pentecostal flair to them with a skewered sense of SA history and the writing isn't all that great either.
Journalist, Chicago
*********
We have good reasons for having members. Among them; assisting them to no longer qualify. And we rejoice that in the last few weeks several have been disqualified, with our help, and have returned to their first Love serving as SA officers.

My wife, a SA officer in the UKT, is regularly approached by active officers on learning her surname, who share that it was the support and healing ministry of the FSAOF that moved them to rethink and seek reinstatement to substantive rank. The very same sentiments have been received via email and telephone calls from Australia, the USA and UK.


Most in our fellowship feel excluded and alienated and to at least a degree, and some for good reason. And many of us have no doubt made ourselves deserving of SA leaders’ and comrades’ disdain. The question then: who ought to take that first step? It’s a question Jesus wants a direct answer to! 


Could our fellowship possibly have done any more than we’ve already done in proffering dialogue and reconciliation? What is it that makes TSA so standoffish to our offer to assist in stemming the flow of officer losses?


I'm going to open my birthday cards now - but hoping there'll be an email or two during the day telling me that; 'we're considering a return'. That would truly make my day!

 Sven Ljungholm
0151-733-7378

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Catching the Tribe Vibe


Stuart Rivers, Sorted Magazine March/April 2012



Tribal behaviour is in our DNA. We were born to tribe. We were created to live in communities of like-minded people who hold to a shared set of values. This behaviour has existed since the beginning of time, but it is now developing as an intentional practice in successful organisations.

In business a new leadership culture is emerging – tribal leadership. This culture has been developing quietly for decades in organisations around the world even though it may have gone unnoticed by many.

Big ideas – even world-changing ideas – are being conceived because an individual or group decides to share their idea with others. They champion the idea and tribal behaviour emerges. Good ideas with tribal following are experiencing accelerated success, and you can learn a lot from some of these organisations.

World-Changing Tribes

From a Biblical perspective, tribes and tribal leadership are constant themes of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus himself exhibited tribal leadership characteristics. He first went out to build a tribe (of twelve disciples) to which he introduced a number of world-changing ideas. Then he sent out the twelve (Luke 9:1-6), and the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-20), and the results were remarkable. Then Jesus gives the Great Commission to all believers: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20). 2000 years later there are millions of tribes (communities of believers) all over the world. Jesus had ideas that he shared with people, who shared with other people, who shared with yet more people. And Jesus changed the world.

According to Seth Godin (Tribes, 2008), tribes go back 50,000 years. Put simply, it’s a concept of connecting people and ideas, establishing what is important to the tribe and then taking action to make the idea a reality. Today tribes can be seen in churches and communities, businesses and workplaces, both physically and virtually. Tribal leaders are connecting people with technological, ecological, ideological, political and spiritual ideas, and they’re starting to change the world.

Modern day tribes are based on the ideas of Apple, TED, Huffington Post, Stop the Traffik, 24-7 Prayer and thousands of other organisations. All have developed a tribal following that is gathered around an idea or an ideology. They are likely to be championed by a charismatic tribal leader, who lives and breathes the idea that gave birth to the tribe. The leader is likely to have a core team of people, just as committed to the idea, who help build the tribe.

Apple has developed its products into an eco-system that drives multiple income streams and locks the customer into a long term (tribal) relationship. TED fosters the spread of great ideas, so that millions of people can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world. TED has tribe-like characteristics and a passionate following through its TED Conversations concept that gives people a platform for ideas, questions and debate. Huffington Post has developed an aggregated news service that has attracted significant investment – and a tribal following.

Stop the Traffik has built a tribe of tribes by championing the idea that people should not be bought and sold. 24-7 Prayer has built prayer communities (tribes) in over a hundred countries in just ten years, because a group of young people decided to see what would happen if they prayed non-stop for a month. They had the big idea that prayer transforms communities.

Tribal Contagion

Today’s tribal leaders are changing our world, our politics, our society, our culture, by aligning groups of people with an idea that is world-changing. Disillusioned or disconnected people are looking for someone to lead them. They are looking for someone to follow so that they can belong to a tribe that is aligned with their values. People want someone to say, ‘follow me,’ because they want to belong and they want to be part of the next big world-changing idea. Tribal leadership is exactly about connecting those people with that idea. And it’s happening now. Just sense the rhetoric in these questions.

How did a group of people camped outside Wall Street have global impact in a matter of weeks? From a single protest in New York, Occupy spread to 95 cities in 82 countries within two months. How did they do that?

Who would have thought that a month-long prayer meeting in Chichester could start a global movement with a tribal following of 2 million people in 113 countries? Why did that happen?

Who, least of all Google, would have predicted that Facebook and other social networks would drive Google’s search monopoly down from 95% to 55%?

The reality is that you only need a hundred true supporters who care enough about the idea to get you another thousand, who care enough to get you thousands more… and so on. This is tribal contagion! And if you can understand how and why they’re ‘tribing’ you’ve a good chance of building a sustainable business by adopting tribal leadership behaviour. Over the coming months I’ll be exploring tribal behaviour to discover how this culture can help organisations succeed, what it really means to be a tribal leader, and why tribal contagion is the new viral imperative.

For now, just think about how you can connect people with your idea and ponder how tribal culture might accelerate your business success.

Stuart Rivers
Former Officer
UKT



Executive Director of Enterprise

Stuart previously spent 15 years at Ericsson, developing international business, before being appointed as Global Contracts Director with Ericsson Enterprise in Sweden. He subsequently worked for the Salvation Army where, after two years as Community Programme Director in Worthing, he trained to become a Salvation Army Officer. Stuart is married to Carey, and they have six children and one grandchild.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SSO- From where do we draw our non-officer spouses?


Major Stephen Poxon shared recently in his Comment section of the Salvationist, ”I think of a cartoon in my office, showing a man in a hospital bed whose wife is explaining to the chaplain: ‘I’m sorry, Minister. He’s changed his mind and he’s asking for Richard Dawkins.’

Jokes tend to work best when they contain at least a grain of truth. This cartoon is no exception – it’s the easiest thing in the world for an intellectual fad to challenge faith.”

On which side of the debate does the patient, if still kicking, stand today on hearing that Professor Richard Dawkins, described as the world’s most notorious atheist, on Feb 28, 2012, dismissed his hard-earned reputation as a militant atheist - admitting that he is actually agnostic as he can't prove God doesn't exist.The country's foremost champion of the Darwinist evolution, who wrote The God Delusion, stunned audience members when he made the confession during a lively debate on the origins of the universe with the Archbishop of Canterbury.” The Daily Mail

Just how far has this fad taken a naïve, apathetic, faith-challenged society?

A 12 week module was recently introduced in Leeds offering students a course on how to lose faith in religion while learning to believe in a new atheism and humanism. Similar courses are popping up on college curriculum offerings from Oxford, to San Diego.…both (new) atheism and non-religion are significant (and increasing) aspects of global socio-religious culture. For example, one recent, conservative estimate suggests that there are between 500 and 750 million 'atheists, agnostics, and non-believers in God' worldwide.” Centre for
(Philosophical and Religious Studies - Department of Theology and Religious Studies - University of Leeds)*

If these statistics are true one can then deduce that there are:
·      Fifty eight times as many atheists as there are Mormons
·      Forty one times as many atheists as there are Sikhs
·      Two times as many atheists as there are Buddhists.
·      Seven hundred times as many atheist as Salvationists

Nonbelievers in God as a group come in fourth place after Christianity (2 billion), Islam (1.2 billion), and Hinduism (900 million) in terms of global ranking of commonly held belief systems. (Zuckerman 2007: 55)

Closer to home, the 2008 British Social Attitudes Survey reported that fully 43% of the population consider themselves as belonging to 'no religion' (a figure only 7% less than all the Christian categories combined). When asked if they believe in God, 18% replied that they did not, with a further 19% answering that they did not know if there was a God or not, and know no way of finding out. That so many people do not believe in God, and do not consider themselves to be religious, should surely be of interest to students of religion(s)—as too, therefore, should their reasons, motivations, other belief and attitudes, and demographic characteristics. (In precisely the same way, political scientists take a great deal of interest in those who have no interest in politics, and/or who do not participate in elections.) Related to this, is the fact that popular and media discourse surrounding atheism and unbelief tends to be overly simplistic and unhelpful, often focusing on the perceived 'arrogance' or 'aggressiveness' of unbelievers (depicted as a homogeneous group).

Recent research from the United States, moreover, suggests that atheists are the country's least trusted social grouping, and are subject to various forms of discrimination (Edgell et al. 2006; Cragun, forthcoming).

Mats Selander, a teacher at the CredoAcademy, an apologetic study center in Stockholm, Sweden, and renowned expert on the New Atheist movement, wrote in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet - "The outspoken men like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and in our country Christer Sturmark have for a decade been a powerful voice in the public debate about faith and religion; powerful, but also surprisingly aggressive. A study of these central spokesmen clearly shows that the modern atheists’ foremost representatives had adopted an astoundingly intolerant, sometimes it's (even a) more totalitarian approach.
Lt. Peter Baronowsky, SA Regional Commander, Latvia, shared in his widely read blog today that; “Earlier this week I was in Stockholm’s Clapham Institute attending the combined Board and Annual meeting. 
Claphaminstitutet is an institute for Christian advocacy… We are a think tank and research institute that researches, writes, and publishes materials in the form of reports, articles and books… 

The Clapham Institutes’ annual meeting was honored by the visit of Lars Adaktusson, and his subject was "Christian advocacy". In the presentation he pointed out that advocacy takes time. There is a lengthy process of creating public opinion. Who the message’s exponent is factors greatly into how the message is received. A prerequisite in being successful opinion leaders is to have a message that you believe worthy of arguing and even fighting for.”

One of the core New Atheist assertions, endlessly and uncritically repeated on New Atheist websites, is Richard Dawkins's dogmatic statement that faith is "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence."

Blind faith is generally defined as: belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination. For Dawkins, this means that faith counts as a "form of mental illness." This nasty intellectual perversion is limited to religious people. "Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion."
At least four fundamentally important viewpoints can be gleaned from the above:

·      The new atheists’ message is found appealing to a large and growing percentage of the population crossing cultural and societal lines
·      Many Christian and non-believers waver because their belief lacks true understanding, perception, or discrimination and they are susceptible to ‘new’, dogmatic and critical outcries.
·      The new atheist and humanist representatives employ an astoundingly intolerant, (even a) totalitarian effective approach.
·      This fad has moved society into a gray area of non-belief where mass indifference rules; a type of  "societal collapse", and with it, the disappearance of the cohesiveness a theist society and culture represent as a civil institution.
Are people moving away from the church because of the convincing arguments based on scientific insights? Are the loud voices of humanists and atheists drawing followers from those rejecting weak Christianity? 
We are at the stage where history more than ever is divided between two great religious communities; the City of God and the city of man. The latter relish in a cyclical pattern of growth while the City of God prays for a cyclical revival.

What's our next step?


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Birkenhead Corps
UK