Oct. 4 at @Baylor - Drumwright Family Lecture featuring Robert P. George (Princeton University) and Shaykh Hamza Yu… https://t.co/O7bMBCYyzC
The Paradox of American Religion and American Secularism https://t.co/EvX1oJiquR Thomas Kidd @TGC
China on My Mind: Why We All Must Care about Our Suffering Brothers and Sisters https://t.co/fgTn4d3pug via @CTmagazine @edstetzer
Oliver O’Donovan lecture tonight at #Baylor https://t.co/FSGtGylVhM
Art, Liturgy, and Eternity https://t.co/tYtQ87DxPM Philip Jenkins via @anxious_bench @PatheosEvang
Social Justice in the Shadows https://t.co/XO6bxLzEva @clayroutledge via @QuilletteM
The Common Good – Does it Amount to a Political Programme? - Oliver O'Donovan lecture at #Baylor Sept. 17 https://t.co/lWQngn5K6t
Charles Edmondson Historical Lecture Series Highlights ‘The Culture Wars in American History’ | @RMarieGriffith to… https://t.co/E12q4jAKCG

Levin’s book, “Religion and the Social Sciences” featured in ReligionWatch

The new book Religion and the Social Sciences (Templeton Foundation Press, $24.47) brings together contributors to account for the place of religion in their respective disciplines—from criminology and family psychology to outliers like epidemiology and gerontology (although the latter discipline has dealt with religious topics for over a century). Editor Jeff Levin of Baylor University writes that while sociology is the most active field in researching religious subjects, writing and research on religion has grown in most disciplines. But until recently, those doing research in these fields tended to be a “beleaguered lot,” often bringing these scholars together to make common cause. In his chapter on political science, Anthony Gill writes that there has been a “great awakening” in the field of political science since 2001 and the growth of religious terrorism. He notes that not only do many political scientists recognize that believers may bring their values to bear on political actions, but that “now we are open to approaches that see religious actors and organizations influenced by a whole host of incentive structures, many of which have commonalities with other political phenomena….”

Much of the recent growth in religious research in social science has taken place in economics, but Charles North notes that much more work needs to be done on the theoretical level. Along with several chapters on the growing body of research showing correlations between religious faith and physical, psychological, and family health and wellbeing, as well as the preventative role faith-based efforts seem to play regarding criminal behavior, Levin concludes the book with an overview of the new field of the epidemiology of religion. This study of population-wide patterns and causes of health and mortality has focused more on the preventative roles of religion and less on the clinical outcomes, but Levin writes that approaches that also include populations suffering from particular health challenges, as well as ones that study more diverse religious groups (other than Christian), represent the next frontier of this discipline.


Kidd quoted in the New Yorker– Franklin Graham’s Uneasy Alliance with Donald Trump

In early August, Spokane felt on the verge of apocalypse. A hundred-and-six-degree wind buffeted the valley. The air was choked with ash and smoke from two duelling forest fires. Yet, in the windowless hotel conference room where I was to meet the controversial pastor Franklin Graham, the frigid air made it possible to ignore impending calamity. Graham is the eldest son of Billy Graham, the most influential evangelical leader in twentieth-century America, who died this past February. He leads a seven-hundred-and-sixty-five-million-dollar evangelical empire, which includes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and also his international Christian relief effort, Samaritan’s Purse. But, since 2016, Graham has become known, above all, as the most vociferous evangelical ally of Donald Trump. This summer, in response to Walmart’s sale of “IMPEACH 45” T-shirts, Graham manufactured his own merch: a hundred-per-cent-cotton “PRAY FOR 45” T-shirt, which sells at the Billy Graham bookstore for $15.99.

When I met with Graham in Spokane, he was on the West Coast leg of his “Decision America” tour, which has taken him to all fifty states since 2016. Graham casts the events as “prayer and evangelism,” in the tradition of his father’s crusades. But the tour is, in fact, much more akin to a political rally than a religious revival, and Graham benefits from blending the two in order to turn out like-minded crowds of hard-line conservatives. To the initiated, the word “decision” is a double-entendre: it means both to make a decision to follow Christ, or to be born again, and also to make a decision at the ballot box. Graham is careful to stress that he tells people only to “vote Biblically,” but this is a code his followers understand. “He didn’t say who to vote for,” Tom Phillips, a senior member of Graham’s staff, said in Spokane. “He didn’t have to.” (A spokesperson for Graham stressed that “Franklin never endorsed any candidate and said often during the tour that he didn’t have faith in the Republicans or Democrats, and that only God could save our country.”)

Billy Graham, a lifelong Democrat who supported both Democratic and Republican Presidents, promoted a message of religious and political unity. As far back as the nineteen-fifties, he attempted to desegregate his crusades, inviting Martin Luther King, Jr., to stand onstage alongside him. “Billy Graham’s style was openhanded invitation,” Robert P. Jones, of the Public Religion Research Institute, said. “He didn’t shy away from talking about sin, but it didn’t feel like an assault.” Franklin Graham, by contrast, possesses little of his father’s charisma. Personally and politically, he is far more divisive. After September 11th, he famously called Islam “a very evil and very wicked religion,” a position that put him on a public trajectory toward the hard-right wing of the Republican Party. “This was the key political turning point that set the stage for his prominence with Fox News and with Donald Trump,” Thomas Kidd, a professor at Baylor University, told me. Since 2012, the Trump Foundation has donated at least a hundred thousand dollars to Graham’s organizations, contributing to hurricane-relief efforts and to his 2015 campaign in support of “Biblical candidates.” That year, Graham supported Trump’s bid for a total ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. Graham is planning a trip to Blackpool, England, which, like Trump’s recent trip to the U.K., has faced public opposition from critics who argue that his preaching constitutes hate speech.

I first met Graham in 2003, when I travelled with him to Sudan. Samaritan’s Purse had been working in the south of the country for decades, but Graham had never been to the north, where he was going to meet the Sudanese dictator, Omar al-Bashir, who was waging war against his own people in Darfur and in southern Sudan. When the two men sat down in Bashir’s marble palace, Graham mentioned the hospital he ran in the south. Bashir turned to his aide and asked, in English, “Isn’t that the hospital we bombed?” To which Graham replied, “Twice, and you missed.” Graham then handed Bashir a George W. Bush reëlection campaign button that he’d taken from the desk of Karl Rove’s secretary.

After I returned from the trip, which I wrote about in my book “The Tenth Parallel,” Graham sent me a red-letter Bible, in which Jesus’s words are printed in red ink. That same year, he invited me to visit him in Boone, North Carolina, where we had dinner with his daughter, Cissie, and his wife, Jane Austin Cunningham, who scolded Graham for sneaking food to the dog under the table. Afterward, he gently warned me about the dangers of practicing yoga: its chants were demonic. Graham allowed me to poke around his home and office, which included a garage full of Harley-Davidsons and a gun safe. The walls of his office were decorated with a nail from ancient Rome—like the one used to nail Jesus to the cross, a caption said—and letters from Presidents. One, from George W. Bush, read, “We are doing all the right things in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

I next saw Graham on TV at Trump’s Inauguration. “Mr. President,” Graham said, turning to Trump, “in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. And it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform. And it’s my prayer that God will bless you, your family, your Administration, and may He bless America.” He continued with a prayer from I Timothy: “For kings and for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

In Spokane, Graham’s frailty startled me. At sixty-six, he looked much older and more worn than he had even two years ago. He took a seat in a ballroom chair, his large frame bent slightly forward in order to hear. I wondered if his tour was wearing him down. He’d returned to the Pacific Northwest “to penetrate the blue wall, ” as he’d said at one event. “Let’s go penetrate that blue wall, not for politics but for Jesus!”

Salvation, Graham stressed repeatedly, was his core message. “I speak about this issue of politics for five minutes, maybe four,” he assured me. Graham is well aware of the critique often levelled against him: that he’s more politically and spiritually partisan than his father. Billy Graham met every President from Truman to Trump, but he was particularly close to Richard Nixon, an intimacy he came to regret when the Watergate tapes became public and Nixon was heard repeating anti-Semitic remarks that Billy had made to him. In 2011, Billy Graham admitted that this closeness was an error. “Looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now,” he told the magazine Christianity Today.

When I asked Graham if there was a lesson in his father’s regrets, he brushed off the question, and told me the story of his dad’s reaction to Nixon instead. “He was hurt by President Nixon, and things that Nixon said, when, like the Watergate tapes, he never heard President Nixon cuss, use profanity—so that was a shock to him, and he felt a little bit betrayed by that.”

Billy Graham still went to the White House, Franklin reminded me, spending time with Clinton and George W. Bush. “But my father did not go out and campaign for people,” he said. “I don’t do that.” There were other ways to tip the political scale. His father invited George W. Bush to meet with him on the Sunday before the 2000 election. “Now, that was probably worth a few votes in Florida,” Graham told me.

The younger Graham said he did his best to avoid Beltway politics. “I stay out of Washington as much as I can,” he added. “I try to keep my distance.” That’s not easy under Trump, who, as we have seen, demands a display of total loyalty from his allies. Two weeks later, Graham flew to Washington, D.C., to attend a White House dinner for about a hundred evangelical leaders. Trump greeted Graham by name in his introductory remarks, and then he touted the work that he’d done on behalf of conservative Christians: he’d been the first President to address the March for Life from the Rose Garden; he’d spoken out against the persecution of Christians; he’d brought home hostages from North Korea and was fighting for the release of a pastor from Turkey; he’d reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which blocks federal funding for foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide abortions.

Later, with Graham seated next to him, Trump warned of the stakes for Christians if Republicans lost in the midterms. “They will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they will do it quickly and violently,” he said. Later, by phone, I asked Graham what he thought of this rhetoric about “violence” from the left—didn’t it seem far-fetched to him? Graham defended Trump, invoking the Cold War era, when Christians faced persecution in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. “I do agree, to some degree,” he said. “The Democratic Party is moving very quickly toward socialism, and I know what socialism does to the church.”

Graham doesn’t need to go to Washington to enter the political fray: he has 1.75 million followers on Twitter and another seven million on Facebook, where he often defends the President or Christian conservatives like Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who is back in the news for refusing to bake a cake that honors a woman’s gender transition. “Thank you Jack for your courage and perseverance in standing up for your beliefs,” Graham wrote in a recent post. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, he posted an open letter on Facebook that began, “Listen up—Blacks, Whites, Latinos and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience.” The screed earned him ire from fellow religious leaders and from people of color, who are an increasingly powerful demographic in the Church. I asked Graham if growing diversity among believers called for a new approach. “I don’t worry about that,” he replied. “I believe in preaching the word of God, ’cause his standards don’t change.”

Graham has also been criticized for his relationship with Vladimir Putin, which began before Trump took office. Putin’s anti-gay legislation aligns with Graham’s views, and, in 2014, Graham wrote, “In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.” In 2015, Graham spent forty-five minutes with Putin in Moscow, discussing the persecution of Christians and what evangelical Christianity actually entails, Graham told me. He asked for Putin’s help in securing the freedom of Saeed Abedini, a pastor imprisoned in Iran. Abedini was released in 2016. Since then, Graham has often defended Trump for his approach on Russia, tweeting before their July 16, 2018, meeting, “Let’s pray for @POTUS @realDonaldTrump in these key meetings.” When Trump came under fire afterward for denying Russian interference in the U.S. election, Graham defended him for “pursuing peace above politics.”

Graham stood by his comments, even after Trump walked back his own. He told me that he didn’t think Trump should have gotten “more aggressive” with Putin. “I don’t think that’s the way you get things done,” he told me. Graham has repeatedly denied the possibility that Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election, and is only slightly more circumspect on the issue of Russian interference. When pressed on the issue, he said, “I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know. But I do know that the United States has interfered in many countries’ elections. We’ve interfered in Iran, with the Shah. We interfered in Vietnam and put our own people in. We did this in Korea. And President Obama did this in Israel.” Graham, who is also a strong supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu, was speaking about President Obama’s alleged support for the more liberal Israeli opposition during the 2015 election. This is one of the many conspiratorial half-truths that Graham has levelled as criticism against Obama. He has also supported outright lies, including the spurious accusation that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

It was harder for Graham to deny recent evidence of Russia’s attempt to penetrate conservative evangelical circles. Through the Department of Justice’s indictment of the Russian operative Maria Butina, it has come to light that she targeted the National Prayer Breakfast, which Billy Graham helped launch, in 1953. “The Russians may have used this, of course,” Graham said. “I can tell you right now, everybody in that room has the same agenda. They’re wanting to be able to rub elbows with somebody that they normally couldn’t rub elbows with.”

Seeking influence wasn’t a crime, he said. That was politics. “Listen, the gays, they do everything they can to get their politicians into office, and they have every right to do that. And I’m just saying, we, as Christians, we have every right to have the Christian voice in office.”

This, Graham has said, is why he stands by Trump, who has defended the cultural conservatism that Graham identifies as “Christian.” And Trump’s moral failings are old news, he told me. “Well, you take American Presidents in the past. Bill Clinton wasn’t the first man to have an affair in the White House,” Graham said. “We’re all flawed, and the Bible says we’re all sinners. And the Bible tells us that God sent his son to take our sins, to die for our sins. And America needs a heart transplant. And we need to put our heart and faith and trust in Jesus Christ, because every politician—I don’t care who they are, what party you put in there—they’re flawed men or flawed women.”

“Do you think that President Trump really wants to turn the nation to God?” I asked.

“No,” Graham told me. “No. That’s not what he’s trying to do, no.”

The extreme heat in Spokane was enough to cancel public events, but Graham’s crusade went on as scheduled. The Spokane County Fair and Expo Center is a fifteen-minute drive from downtown, and only a few blocks away from Smokane and Lovely Buds, two legalized-marijuana dispensers. Graham’s event was sharing the fairground’s sandy lot with a large R.V. show. The revival kicked off at 5 P.M., with a reception for V.I.P.s and Billy Graham’s supporters.

As cars turned into the entrance, an anti-abortion protester jabbed a placard toward the sky—on it, the disturbing image of an unborn child’s seemingly severed head. Inside an air-conditioned outbuilding, Graham’s employees had set up folding tables with offerings of cheese cubes and chicken satays. Three of Graham’s young grandchildren, two polite sandy-haired girls in smocked sundresses and a boy in a blue blazer, stood by large coolers of water and iced tea, filling glasses. In a crowd of several hundred, there were only a handful of others under the age of sixty. Many were pushing walkers, and several I spoke to had been involved in Billy Graham’s Spokane crusades.

Standing on the dais, Graham invoked his late father, reassuring Billy’s followers that they were in for more of the same. He recalled that his father once told him, “Don’t you monkey with my crusades!” The crowd laughed and applauded. “We’re not changing nothing,” Graham said. The world was changing, however, and Graham described the role that the Internet played in evangelizing—bringing a new Christian into the faith “every twenty-one seconds,” he claimed. Graham said that he purchased words and phrases from Google, such as “does God love me,” to drive seekers to his site. Online, he could evangelize in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran, where it was illegal.

“If I went into some of those countries, they’d cut my head off,” he said. Even for his upcoming trip to England, he said, “We’ve got a lot of opposition from Muslims and gays.” Graham asked for prayers for the trip and a wide range of other programs, including Operation Heal Our Patriots, which takes wounded veterans and their husbands and wives to Alaska for counselling. Often, veterans ended up getting baptized in a freezing lake. In Iraq, Samaritan’s Purse ran a hospital near Mosul, seven miles from the ISIS front line. “We had Muslims who gave their lives to Christ,” he said. “We don’t talk a lot about it because we want to be able to go back.” (Graham has publicly said, “Islam has declared war on the world.”)

After the reception, Graham ducked into a forest-green “Decision America” tour bus, for a respite from the heat. The bus had marble floors, and two bags of Tate’s Bake Shop cookies sat by the sink, next to a jar of salted peanuts. Graham seemed tired, fed up with political questions. They had nothing to do with the salvation he’d come to preach, he said, pouring himself an iced tea. “People think I’m closer to Donald Trump than I actually am, ” Graham said. “I haven’t seen Trump since my father’s funeral.” He didn’t want to go to the White House dinner, he told me, preferring to spend time with his family. “But people told me if I didn’t go it would look like a snub.”

The main event took place in the evening, outside on a steamy knoll. By 6 P.M., the grass was filling with nearly fifteen thousand people toting coolers and portable stadium chairs. By the time the lights on the stage came up, just after 7 P.M., the heat had eased by a few degrees. A drone buzzed in the smoky air, collecting video footage. I spotted two dozen leather-skinned men with graying ponytails and motorcycle jackets adorned with patches that read “Soul Patrol” and “Bikers for Christ.” One man with thinning long blond hair had the letters “IXOYE” on his jacket. “It’s the word early Christians used as a code for where they were meeting,” he told me. His name was Alexander Evan, but he went by Ace, he said, handing me a business card that read “Sons Redeemed Ministry.” He ministered by evangelizing to “misfits” like himself—many belonged to the one per cent, he told me, a term which confused me until he explained that it referred to outlaw motorcycle clubs.

I asked him why he’d come and he pointed to his friend Skip Sanford, who goes by Joker, a member of Bikers for Christ. Graham had called their head pastor, Joker said, and asked them to come out as a show of support. The men didn’t know Franklin well; they were more familiar with Billy, and neither was politically minded. “Trump’s an average guy coming into a position he doesn’t deserve,” Ace said.

“Know who Trump reminds me of?” Joker asked. “Saul.” In the Bible, Saul persecutes Christians before he has a conversion experience on the road to Damascus and becomes the apostle Paul. “He’s not Paul, though,” Joker said with a laugh.

Graham took the stage, leading his followers in a prayer from I Timothy 2: “For kings and for all those in authority”—the same intercession he’d offered at Trump’s Inauguration. This wasn’t only a call to high political office. “Can you imagine if the majority of the school board were controlled by God-fearing Christians?” he asked, continuing with a treatise on how secularism was no different from Communism, how abortion was murder, and how same-sex marriage was a sin against God. He was trying to rile the crowd, but many people looked sleepy and distracted. Maybe it was the heat.

As he drew his half-hour sermon toward its intended crescendo, Graham offered an invitation to those who were in need of salvation to stand. Some did, perhaps fewer than a hundred, while workers holding stacks of Bibles looked on. He asked them to pray, “Dear God, I am a sinner.” Then Jeremy Camp, a well-known Christian singer, played, while people folded up chairs and dumped ice out of coolers, hoping to beat the flock of cars out of the fairground lot.

Following the crowd to my rental car, I spied a blond and darkly tanned family still sitting on a picnic blanket, eating chicken and grapes. Kristina and Dave Bolich had come from their ranch, a thirty-minute drive from Spokane, so that their four daughters, aged sixteen to twenty-one, could listen to Graham. Kristina homeschooled them, in part to keep them out of a secular school system that taught things, like evolution, in which she didn’t believe. Now that they were older, headed into the world on their own, she wanted them to see that being a Christian was still possible and relevant. “They think no one’s like this anymore,” Kristina told me, glancing around at the crowd. No one was doing drugs, she said, no same-sex couples were kissing. The environment was a relief, she noted, but Graham had been a disappointment. “He’s a lot different than his dad,” she said. “If it were Billy, everyone would be enthralled.”


Philip Jenkins in Notes of the Global Church, Christian Century

The story of one Ethiopian woman—and of Christianity’s encounter with modernity

Yetemegnu Mekonnen lived faithfully in turbulent times.

August 23, 2018

As home to one of the world’s oldest Christian cultures, Ethi­opia preserves many practices and beliefs dating back to ancient times. But far from being a museum relic, Ethiopian Christianity is a vibrant faith in a land that has some 66 million believers. A splendid biography now gives a flavor of this faith and makes us appreciate its recent struggles.

In The Wife’s Tale (HarperCollins), British-based journalist Aida Edemariam describes the epic life of her pious grandmother, Yetemegnu Mekonnen, who lived from (roughly) 1916 to 2013. Born in the mighty imperial city of Gondar, at age eight Yetemegnu married the priest Tsega, who later rose to political prominence under emperor Haile Selassie. Through the life of this one astonishing woman we can trace the story of Ethiopia’s Christian elites in incidents that sound as if they could have come from centuries before. When the emperor is crowned in 1930, priests chant for seven days and deacons dance before the king, “sistra clashing, drums beating, bare feet stepping.” Court gatherings are blessed by “ranks of clergy in high white turbans and glowing white shemmas [shawls].”

No less medieval in feel are the political hazards faced by high churchmen at the imperial court. Political missteps lead Tsega into disgrace, forcing his wife to struggle for decades to restore the family’s lands and fortunes. Scarcely re­marked amid these great events are the slaves who do the menial work, which is the foundation of the leisured world of glittering aristocrats and prelates. Those same elites prosper from the heavy tithes exacted from the peasantry.

Slaves aside, this sounds like the world of Chaucer, an impression reinforced by the book’s title. Yet in the midst of this seemingly medieval world, modernity arrives suddenly in the hide­ous form of bombing raids launched by Italian invaders in the 1930s, targeting churches and slaughtering monks. Yete­megnu lives long enough to witness both of the crises that came close to destroying her church altogether: the Italian fascist occupation and the monstrous communist dictatorship of the Derg, which ruled from 1974 to 1991.

The Derg were hardly less vicious than their better-known contemporaries, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. For Ethio­pia’s Christians, the worst period was the Red Terror that raged through the late 1970s, followed by a state-induced famine in the mid-1980s that killed a million. Yetemegnu hears frequent news of murders and death squads, disappearances and massacres. Most traumatic was the 1979 murder of the holy Abune [Patriarch] Theophilos, falsely accused of hoarding food and of immoral behavior with women, and then strangled. When the Derg fell, Theo­philos was proclaimed a martyr and canonized. It’s a reminder of how frequently persecution has threatened modern-day Christians. Yete­megnu’s firsthand experiences are harrowing.

Quite apart from that political story, the book is richly informative about the everyday assumptions of those African Christians whose thought-worlds so often resemble the European Middle Ages and of the ancient Mediterranean before that. Like all her contemporaries, Yetemegnu pays close attention to messages received in dreams and understands the workings of spells and spirits and the evil eye. She knows the lore of the zars, those ubiquitous spirits descended from the 30 children born to Eve. Among many other legends, Yete­megnu knows that when it rains on St. Raphael’s Day, all water is holy and children must be allowed to bathe in it freely. A rainbow appearing on that blessed day is “as though Mary’s sash had been thrown across the sky.” Devo­tion to Mary is the foundation for her life, and she chants prayers and litanies through every moment of crisis and change, notably during her many pregnancies.

Like medieval Europeans, Ethi­opians draw on literary resources well beyond the canonical scriptures, including the apocryphal legends of Mary’s childhood drawn from the Pro­t­evangelium, and the Homilies of Raphael. And Ethiopians believe that Yetemegnu’s birthplace at Gondar is the present site of the Holy of Holies from the Jerusalem Temple. In her eighties, Yetemegnu finally made her pilgrimage to Jerusalem itself.

In many ways Ethiopian faith was, and is, rooted in African soil. Dances of various kinds form a major part of native Christianity, commonly justified with reference to Old Testament precedent. Clergy dance regularly and frequently, usually barefoot. The Easter fast ends “with drumbeats and ululation” as sheep are slaughtered for the feast and the mead flows freely. At one point, Yetemegnu “is having her hair buttered and braided for Epiphany.” The Trans­figuration is “a festival of flames and torchlight.”

Though the customs described are unfamiliar, the book never lets readers forget that Christianity is the air that people breathe. It structures the seasons of the year and the hours of the day. The Wife’s Tale gives Westerners an intriguing glimpse into that world.

A version of this article appears in the print edition under the title  “An ancient, 20th-century world.”


Jenkin’s “Mystics and Messiahs” Five Best: Jeff Guinn on Books About Cults

Five Best: Jeff Guinn on Books About Cults
The author, most recently, of “The Road to Jonestown” recommends works about true believers and troubled times.
Jeff Guinn
Aug. 23, 2018 5:36 p.m. ET

The Ashes of Waco
By Dick J. Reavis (1995)
1 Branch Davidians believed that their leader, David Koresh, was a prophet whose presence would usher in the initial battles of the End of Days. On April 19, 1993, a 51-day siege of the cult’s compound in Waco, Texas, by federal agents ended with 74 followers perishing. Lawmen believed—improbably, according to Dick Reavis—that the cultists were dealing drugs, manufacturing illegal arms and committing indecent acts with children. Koresh had indeed engaged in sex with underage girls. But what the agents failed to realize was that their full-scale assault fit perfectly into Davidian beliefs. One survivor told Mr. Reavis they believed “prophecy was being fulfilled. . . . That thought can be quite elating.” The author brings readers into the middle of it all; horrific as the chapters become, it’s impossible to skip a page.

The Allure of Immortality
By Lyn Millner (2015)
2 Here’s how a bizarre cult winnowed its way into an otherwise conservative Florida community in the late 1800s. As taught by their leader, Cyrus Teed, the Koreshans—Teed’s name is Koresh in Hebrew—believed that the universe existed inside a huge, hollow earth, and that their sacred destiny was to build a socialist utopia near swampy Fort Myers. Their peaceful attitude and humor made them (mostly) welcome neighbors. “We Live Inside” became the cult’s theme—one printed on fliers and buttons along with the droll invitation “Drop In and See Us.” Many outsiders did, including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. More than 200 Koreshans sustained a Florida settlement for decades; it’s now preserved as a state historic site.

Going Clear
By Lawrence Wright (2013)
3 Scientology promises adherents that they will learn how to move beyond the bad memories and experiences of past and present lives and emerge as free, joyful spirits. All sorts of complex activities are involved, among them “eight dynamics,” “tone scale” and “going clear.” Lawrence Wright points out that labyrinthian terms and teachings (which Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard called “a mystery sandwich”) are a deliberate means to keep members too occupied to question what they’re told. Scientologists, Mr. Wright concludes, “are made to strive for a condition of perfection that is unattainable.” One of the book’s most compelling sections focuses on Scientology’s relentless recruitment of celebrities—a way of winning more adherents in a culture obsessed with fame. Tom Cruise and John Travolta are the best-known members but, Mr. Wright notes, many other stars, including Leonard Cohen and Christopher Reeve, have had at least some peripheral connection. Hubbard himself was, in addition to all else, a writer of best-selling fiction, albeit in yarns as seemingly endless and dense as Scientology itself. No less a connoisseur than Mitt Romney once cited “Battlefield Earth,” Hubbard’s clunky 1,000-page sci-fi epic, as his favorite novel. Mr. Wright’s nonfiction book is its polar opposite. Brilliantly constructed and exhaustively researched, “Going Clear” is a masterwork.

The Cult at the
End of the World
By David E. Kaplan & Andrew Marshall (1996)
4 The infamous cult Aum Shinrikyo, which in 1995 launched a poison-gas attack on Tokyo’s subways, attracted “not just the curious and alienated,” David Kaplan and Andrew Marshall write, but also “some of the finest young minds in all Japan—chemists, biologists, doctors, computer programmers.” They were drawn to the cult in part because, the authors write, Japanese society “crushed individualism.” Leader Shoko Asahara ingrained in his followers a belief that killing the less-enlightened “helped send their victims to a higher plane.” The authorities were ill prepared to respond, having vastly underestimated Asahara’s followers. As a result, 13 victims perished and almost 6,000 were sickened in the subway attack. It’s a story that supports the chilling suspicion that socially frustrated “hi-tech children,” weaned on sci-fi comics, films and video games, are susceptible to “dramatic claims to supernatural power . . . [and] warnings of an apocalyptic future.” This history also underscores another truth—cults aren’t invariably made up of religious fanatics or people of low intellectual capacity.

Mystics and Messiahs
By Philip Jenkins (2000)
5 For an understanding of cults in America, this is a vital guide. “Extreme and bizarre religious ideas are so commonplace in American history,” Philip Jenkins explains, “that it is difficult to speak of them as fringe at all.” We learn the variety of ways cults appeal to followers. They may address their audience through the media or focus on individual contact. Others are established as movements with formal membership and meetings, its believers leaving their old lives behind to take up new ones as cult members. Mr. Jenkins allows that cults can certainly be “baneful.” But he also notes that every widely accepted modern-day faith was initially identified as bizarre. Christianity, he observes, was once “believed to include incest, orgies, child murder, and cannibalism.” Rich in anecdotes, this sober and instructive book succeeds in being entertaining as well.


Dr. Alex Pruss of BBCP named Wilde Lecturer Summer 2019

We are proud to announce that Dr. Alex Pruss has accepted a wonderful invitation to give the highly regarded Wilde Lectures at Oxford University next Summer.

The lectures have been hosted at Oxford since 1911 and are rightly regarded as the most prestigious available to philosophers and theologians. Former lecturers include Robert M. Adams, Alvin Plantinga, Eleonore Stump, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Linda Zagzebski, Sir Anthony Kenny and many others among the very best in the discipline.

The Wilde Lecturer will give one or two a week, totaling to four or eight. This incredibly prestigious Lectureship is a well-deserved recognition to Dr. Alex Pruss.

Currently, Dr. Pruss is preparing to give about five talks on arguments for the existence of God that have not received ample attention in contemporary philosophy. He will likely begin with an introductory talk on why it is important to study arguments for the existence of God and why there is nothing wrong with “God of the gaps” reasoning. If God exists, then he is behind everything and thus we would expect the world to be full of signs of God.

Steve Evans book, Natural Signs and Knowledge of God, develops this point: we could expect that if we examine any truth deeply enough, we will find God at the heart of it.

Specifically, Dr. Pruss would like to discuss the following arguments:

1. The argument from beauty
2. The argument from human fulfillment
3. The argument from apparently arbitrary boundaries and constants in physics, ethics, semantics and epistemology (on the physics side, this argument goes back to the French polymath Marin Mersenne in the 17th century; it is related to, but different from, the fine-tuning argument that is commonly discussed these days).
4. The argument from knowledge and the falsity of skepticism.

Overall, Alex’s project for the Wilde Lectures will examine features of nature or human experience deeply and argue that God is at the center of these phenomena.

This is a very high honor if you would join us in congratulating our friend, colleague and mentor, Dr. Alex Pruss.


Philip Jenkins interviewed by Italian news: It’s a mistake just to identify migration and religion – the reality is much more complex

“The British historian is one of the most anticipated speakers at the Rimini meeting, and he puts out a warning: Europe needs bridges but it dreams of walls! It can no longer live behind those.”

by Alessandro Zaccuri August 11, 2018

1.Eleven years after God’s Continent the role of religion is more relevant than ever in
the European scenario: a great part of populist propaganda is based on the idea of
Christianity as the religion of West in contrast to Islam and president Trump has a
similar position in USA. Which are the main causes of this evolution?
The great difference in European affairs came with the crises that developed in Syria and
Libya after 2011, and the major surges in refugees. A decade ago, I projected the growth of
Muslim populations in Europe, and suggested they would not be as high as many people
thought or feared. But the refugee crises really tore up those projections, and raised concern
that tens of millions more people might arrive very suddenly, far too quickly to be absorbed
and integrated. That has naturally aroused fears of very swift social change.
But religion has often become a symbol for race and ethnicity, for culture and identity. When
white Europeans denounce Muslims, they are rarely complaining about a rival theology, nor
do they even know if their neighbors hold religious views. They are speaking of people who
come from countries where Islam is the standard or default religion. In some British cities,
for instance, people draw a division between “Muslims” and “whites.” Whites, not
Christians. Is this really a struggle of religions?
Matters are very different in the United States, because most of the immigration issue
concerns Christians rather than non-Christians. Most of the US debate concerns Latino
people, who are mainly Catholic, but with a Protestant minority. Some Americans hate and
fear Muslims, but Muslims in the US are a tiny proportion of the population, perhaps one
percent in all. A great many Arab-Americans are Christians. Hence, the issue of “defending
Christianity” is really not part of populist debate in the US, except in terms of resisting
secularism. In the past, nativism and populism might have been anti-Catholic, but that is no
longer true. When President Trump has tried to restrict immigration from Islamic countries,
that has had the effect of excluding many Christian refugees.
2.The debate is not only historical, but truly political: there are two different projects
of society involved, we could say an “open” one (more compassionate, welcoming
etc.) and a “closed ” one. Bridges and walls, to state Pope John Paul II. How
happened that walls have become more Christian than bridges?
Again, this is often because people are often confusing religion with race or ethnicity, and
fear of change is at the heart of the matter. Here is the problem: in order to survive, Europe
needs bridges; but those bridges would cause so many changes that people demand walls.
That is a fundamental paradox.
Real social trends are at work, especially driven by changes in family size, in the number of
children, and in aging. Since the 1970s, Europe has become a very low fertility society. That
means it has become a much older community, a trend reinforced by medical advances and
general prosperity. As people lived much longer, so the median age of societies grew steeply.
Most West European societies have a median age in the early forties, in contrast to an
African figure of sixteen or so. Around a third of Italians are aged over 55, compared to just
seven percent in fertile Nigeria.
That age structure poses real problems about the long-term sustainability of that continent
and its social order. At a minimum, the situation demands a steady influx of immigrants
from more prolific societies outside Europe, who are essential in order to undertake the jobs
and pay the taxes needed so that society can function. Older and newer populations are of
course multiply divided, by ethnicity and often religion, and the resulting conflicts are now
endemic. The age schism was a critical element in Britain’s BREXIT vote to leave the
European Union in 2016, a debate that centrally involved immigration policy.
Across Europe, shifting demographics spawned an apocalyptic literature about the coming
extinction of the old nations, about “why the Germans are dying out” (to cite the title of a
book by Günter Grass). More generally, about how Europe would be swamped or overrun
by teeming masses of migrants. Initially those fears were strongly racial in tone, but
increasingly the nightmares became more specifically religious: Christian Europe would be
conquered and then supplanted by an Islamic “Eurabia.”
That is a world that calls for walls, but cannot understand that it cannot survive behind such
3.Refugees and migrants are a worldwide phenomenon and are now part of the
global agenda: it is a real complex problem and the temptation for easy solutions is
strong. How can a real awareness of the role of religion in public space help?
Again, this is a matter of demography, and demographic shifts. In 1900, there were three
Europeans for every African, but by 2050, there will be three Africans for every European.
If even a small proportion of those people migrate – for instance, because of climate change
or war – then that would transform Europe. The migrations will happen and really nothing
can prevent them. The question then is how societies respond, especially in Europe. The
first priority is to remove religious conflict from the equation. Even if every new African or
Middle Eastern arrival in Europe was a faithful Christian (as many of them are), then the
cultural and ethnic issues would still be present. Because of its global role, the Church has a
unique role in spreading awareness of these trends and pressures.
4.If not yet in the Church itself, Pope Francis brought a revolution in the imagine of
the Catholic Church: he is the first Pope who is not European but American, and not
Northern American but Latin, and he is a Jesuit. Which are the political
consequences of these novelties, at least in terms of empowerment?
Pope Francis has had an enormous impact in North America, as much in terms of his
personality as any part of his background. He gives a sense of being so humble, and willing
to listen to different ideas. This has had a great impact on may people who were very critical
of the Church.
In terms of his Latin origin, the coming of Francis sent a powerful message about the
directions in which the Church is moving, and the numbers are amazing. A century ago, the
European continent accounted for almost two-thirds of the world’s Catholics, but by 2050,
that proportion will fall to perhaps one-sixth. In that not-too-far future year, the church’s
greatest bastions will be in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, which together will make up 77
percent of all Catholics. Actually, those numbers understate the Southern predominance,
because a sizable number of Catholics living in Europe or North America will themselves be
of migrant stock – Nigerians or Congolese or Filipinos in Europe, or Mexicans in the United
With all respect to Francis, I am waiting for the epic moment when the Church chooses an
African pope. In 1900, there were two million African Catholics, today there are almost 200
million, and by the 2040s, there will be some 460 million. That number would be greater
than the total world population of Catholics as it stood in 1950.
5.Usa and Europe have different traditions about the separation of State and Church:
do you think that the American solution is going to prevale or a mixed, in a way
milder system is possibile?
The American system has worked very well in most ways, in that excluding religion from
schools (for instance) has not prevented the churches from flourishing. Also, despite the
legal separation, religion is still very present in public life. See for instance the use of religious
language in political speeches – especially by President Clinton, but then by Bush, and
Obama. Laws about separation are one factor, but only one, in the health of religion in a
particular country. This is already much milder than something like the French laïcité.
6.Sometimes the debate about religion involve symbols: the compulsoriness of the
Cross in some European countries (e.g. Hungary, but similar laws are on discussion
in Bavaria and Italy itself), the ban of Islamic veil in others (French laïcité) and so
on. But can religious symbols be considered as just symbols? How can we deal with
Much might be learned from looking at the history of the US, which dealt with very similar
issues of mass migration and religious conflict a century or more ago. A hundred years ago,
the US faced the nightmare of these terrible immigrants with their strange ways and bad
religious practices – but of course, the immigrants then were usually Catholic, and they were
Italians, or Poles, or Germans.
American Protestants organized to fight immigration and Catholicism, through groups like
the Ku Klux Klan. The movement in the 1920s had five million members, pledged to fight
against Catholics. Then too, many states passed symbolic laws to fight immigration, insisting
for instance that schools had Protestant Bibles, and that no public body supported religious
(ie Catholic) schools. The same issues arose then as now, but the targets were quite different.
Every word that is today said about Muslim migrants as then said about Catholics and Jews.
Today, those ideas and laws look dreadful and incomprehensible.
There was a fine American sociologist called Joseph Gusfield, who studied these religious
conflicts and their impact on policy, and he invented the idea of the Symbolic Crusade. When
for instance American Protestants were fighting alcohol and demanding Prohibition, they
did so as a symbolic way of showing that they were still masters, and they could pass laws
that Catholics would dislike. They passed the laws because they could, as a declaration of
status, and above all of power. It had little to do with the specific content or purpose of the
individual laws themselves. There are many analogies between those symbolic crusades and
modern day laws about the public expression of religion.
But it helps to remember that once upon a time, Catholics were the targets of these
“crusades” – in this historical case, they were the victims, not the crusaders.
7.In Africa and Asia Christians are heavily persecuted, but this Church of martyrs
risks to remain invisibile in our countries: poor news, lack a global vision etc. How
can we help? And what can be learn from this tragedy?
Race determines so many media attitudes, and especially a dangerous sense that other
countries are naturally primitive and violent. A terrorist killing of two white people will make
a far greater impact in the news than the murder of two hundred Africans. There is often a
sense that such violence in countries like Nigeria or Sudan is just a natural part of their life.
Obviously, that is a dreadful approach, but I do not know how to change it. Many American
Christians are working hard to encourage the sense of Christians in Africa or Asia being
fellow-Christians, who demand all attention and respect.
Many Jews and Jewish groups in the US work hard to encourage awareness of Christian
sufferings worldwide. They know that religious persecution is indivisible and cannot be



ISR’s Philip Jenkins “Analysis: The religious world changed in 1968, but not in the ways we think” in Baptist Standard

Philip Jenkins / Baylor University

In recent months I have been lecturing and teaching quite a bit on key anniversaries — on the centennial of the end of First World War, but also on that other tumultuous year, 1968.

The religious aspects of 1968 are not quite as legendary as other events and trends of that year, but they are extraordinarily significant.

Re-examining them today, what is perhaps most striking is the gulf that separates contemporary perceptions of key trends from later views. What we see at the time is very different from what later generations will recognize as the truly important developments.

That should be a powerful warning for us today. What currents or trends might we be missing?

The secular developments of 1968 have received plenty of attention in recent months: the assassinations and racial unrest in the United States; the popular youth movements around the world; violence in Paris and Mexico City; the continuing war in Vietnam; the Chinese Cultural Revolution; the first stirrings of global terrorism; and so on.

The world seemed to be in a period of grave crisis, even on an apocalyptic scale.

Each of these events, in different ways, discredited some long-accepted source of authority. Western liberal democracy encountered many critics and challenges, but so did the familiar alternative of Communism: the Czech invasion of August 1968 closed that alternative for anyone with a sense of moral decency.

But what were the religious responses? Assume you were following mainstream media through the year, what were the key stories illustrating the likely development of the world’s faiths to the crisis? The following is impressionistic, but I think it accurately reflects the tone of debate.

Continue reading this article at ABC Religion & Ethics.

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, and Co-Director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.



ISR’s Paul Marshall in Hudson Institute: “Conflicts in Indonesian Islam”

Paul Marshall, Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University

In the three years following the 1998 economic crisis and the fall of President Soeharto, Indonesia endured economic dislocation, political turmoil, and religious violence that claimed thousands of lives. However, since this period of upheaval the country has been on a broadly upward path both politically and economically. Religious violence has tended to be sporadic and local, aside from the Bali bombings of 2002. Indonesia now has the largest economy in Southeast Asia and among the countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. At 260 million people, the country, which has now had nearly two decades of largely free elections, is the third-largest democracy in the world. Some 88 percent of its population are Muslims, making it the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.

Despite these positive political and economic trends, in recent years, Islamist movements have flourished in Indonesia. Indeed, their pressure was a major factor leading to the imprisonment of the Christian governor of Jakarta on charges of blasphemy in 2017. The moderate forms of Islam that have historically been hegemonic in Indonesia may now be under threat.1

Trends Since Soeharto’s Fall

After Soeharto’s rule (1968–1998), successive presidents encouraged tolerant and moderate forms of Islam. This was especially true of former president and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Abdurrahman Wahid (r. 1999–2001). However, during the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) (r. 2004–2014), more radical currents of Islam grew in influence, often with the president’s explicit or tacit encouragement.2

Under SBY, the authority of the Indonesian Ulama Council, Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), was enhanced. The MUI was created by Soeharto in 1975 to provide halal certification and issue fatwas on current matters of concern. Its membership is drawn from large Sunni organizations like NU and Muhammadiyah as well as numerous smaller groups. Shiites and Ahmadis, however, are excluded. Although the government appoints its members and funds it, the Council makes its decisions independently, its fatwas are not legally binding, and they do not necessarily reflect government policy. This semi-official status creates widespread confusion about its authority, especially since the MUI has become more extreme and has sought to expand its powers, as evidenced by the wider range of subjects upon which it issues fatwas. In 2016, after police started to enforce some MUI fatwas, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had to warn them that MUI edicts were not government laws or regulations and that therefore the police had no authority to enforce them.3

In 2005, while SBY was president, he spoke to the MUI’s National Congress and promised to increase its authority to define what constituted proper Islam. Shortly thereafter, the MUI issued fatwas prohibiting interfaith prayer, mixed marriages, interfaith inheritance, religious pluralism, liberalism, and secularism.4 SBY’s government also issued a “Joint Regulation on Houses of Worship” in 2006, which has been used widely to restrict minorities. Two years later, the government issued a specifically anti-Ahmadiyya decree.

President Jokowi, in office since 2014, has been critical of more restrictive forms of Islam, stressed religious toleration, and emphasized that the MUI does not make government policy. Despite these changes, the radicalization that took hold during SBY’s presidency has continued, resulting in increased incidents of religious violence and other forms of intolerance, such as blasphemy charges.5 Islamist groups are outmaneuvering and outperforming the massive but unwieldly NU and Muhamadiyyah organizations.

Traditional Indonesian Islam

Islam initially spread throughout Indonesia via merchants and missionaries, several of whom had Chinese or Central Asian ancestry. 6 The largely peaceful spread of Islam has led to a variety of co-existing, independent Islamic organizations, which have formed the basis for a robust civil society. The country is home to the world’s largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which have perhaps fifty million and forty million followers, respectively. NU’s base is in villages and towns, where it operates a massive network of thousands of Islamic schools (pesantren) serving millions of students. NU also runs twenty-two universities, owns many magazines, and engages in expansive charitable and social work. Similarly, Muhammadiyah runs twenty-nine universities. Its focus, however, is somewhat different from NU’s: It stresses the importance of a modern and pure Islam, freed from cultural accretions, and gives particular attention to influencing and educating people in the professions and in higher education.

Both NU and Muhammadiyah, along with other organizations and Muslim scholars, refer to a particular kind of Indonesian Islam: Islam of the archipelago (Islam Nusantara), or the Islam of the islands.7 Some scholars have described Islam Nusantara as syncretism rather than Islam. For example, eminent cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz called his landmark study The Religion of Java rather than a study of Islam in Java.8 Other scholars, however, simply describe Islam Nusantara as Sunni Islam. Historian Azyumardi Azra describes the Islam of Indonesia not as an amalgam with Hindu-Buddhism, but as Sunni Islam based on three pillars: Ash’arite theology, Ghazalian Sufism, and the Shafi’i Madhab. According to Azra, it is an Islam of moderation (moderasi), a middle path (wasatiyyah Islam), which seeks to balance sacred revelation and human reason.9 In Indonesian, the word ‘moderasi’ has quasi-Aristotelian undertones of balance and harmony.

In Islam Nusantara there is an emphasis on Indonesia and Indonesians as a country and people shaped by islands, coasts, ports, trade, and travel, as distinct from more restrictive desert cultures. Within this culture of the islands, Islam developed into the dominant religion, but coexisted alongside other belief systems. The concept of Islam Nusantara reinforces understandings of Islam that reject an Islamic state in favor of a state founded on the recognition of Indonesia’s religious pluralism. While recognizing that geography has influenced Indonesian Islam, Muslim scholars of the country tend to strenuously resist the allegation that their beliefs are simply accidents of that geography and that their practices are fit only for anthropological inquiry but not for theological and legal insight.10

Surveys by the Pew Research Center indicate that Indonesian Muslims tend to be more pious than those in the Middle East.11 This is one reason that NU and Muhammadiyah scholars have in recent years grown more confident in challenging radical views imported from the Arabian Peninsula.12 They emphasize that, as NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj has said, Islam should be propagated by “respecting local cultures, not eradicating them.”13

Wahhabism and the Growth of Radicalism

Notwithstanding the widespread concept of Islam Nusantara, Indonesia has long had indigenous Islamist currents. At independence, such currents sprang from within the Hadhrami (Arab) community. Darul Islam, an Islamist group seeking the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia, was particularly influential in the early years after independence.14 The Masyumi Party was a major early Islamic political party. In 1945, in preparation for independence, there was a strong push these organizations and some other Islamic groups to incorporate a particular clause regarding sharia into the Jakarta Charter. The clause, which read, “the obligation to abide by Islamic law for adherents of Islam” (dengan kewajiban menjalankan syariat Islam bagi pemeluknya), would have opened the way to state-enforced sharia.15 It was ultimately rejected in the name of national unity, but there have been periodic calls since then to incorporate it into the constitution.

There have also been ongoing Wahhabi influences, which have often been strenuously resisted. Indeed, Islam in Indonesia has been shaped in no small measure by opposition to Wahhabism.16 There were tensions between Indonesian Muslims and Wahhabis in the eighteenth century, but the first major conflicts arose in the early nineteenth century in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra.17 In 1803, after Wahhabis had again taken control of Mecca and Medina, their ideology began to influence many Indonesian students and scholars studying or on hajj in the Hejaz. When these Indonesians returned home, they denounced the prevailing Islam in their homelands as syncretic and even apostate. Many locals who had not been abroad sharply rejected what they considered foreign, upstart notions of Islam. Conflict between Muslims inspired by Wahhabism and those in favor of preserving the status quo eventually led to all-out war. In 1815, the returnees from Arabia and their followers, known as Padris, killed most of the Minangkabau royal family. Facing defeat, the Minangkabau nobility sought assistance from the Dutch in Padang, who after years of fighting, defeated the Padris in 1838 and took control of West Sumatra.

The war was, to be sure, about more than rival interpretations of Islam.18 Local merchants, for example, hoped that they might enjoy greater opportunities under Padri-inspired sharia than under the rule of powerful families. Opposition to Dutch colonialism also played a role. Nevertheless, attempts to impose what were considered foreign and more austere forms of Islam on those Muslims comfortable with their local inheritance certainly triggered the war.

Like the Wahhabis, Muhammadiyah, which was founded in 1912, sought a purer Islam, one freed from cultural accretion. Its leaders, however, advocated for an Islam that was reformed but also modern. Rather than look to the Saudis for inspiration, therefore, they turned to Mohammad Abduh and similar modern reformers. In 1926, the NU was founded, partly in response to the Saudi destruction of tombs and other holy places in Mecca and Medina, and to rumors that they intended to destroy the Prophet’s tomb. NU’s founders saw this as a threat to true Islam as embodied in Indonesian beliefs and practices.19 When I attended NU’s five-year Congress in 2015, I was particularly struck by the sale of reprints of the 1922 work Menolak Wahhabi (Wahhabism Rejected) by Muhammad Faqih Maskumambang, one of the organization’s founders. The 2016 NU-hosted International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL) warned that “various governments in the Middle East have exploited religious differences, and a history of enmity between sects, without regard to the consequences thereof for humanity at large…. These sectarian propaganda campaigns have deliberately nurtured religious extremism, and stimulated the spread of terrorism throughout the world.”20

Nevertheless, the Saudi influence in Indonesia is evident. Saudi Arabia has now established more than 150 mosques in the country, providing schoolbooks, preachers, and teachers, and disbursing thousands of scholarships for graduate study in Saudi Arabia.21 A key center of this program is the Institute for the Study of Islam and Arabic (LIPIA), a completely Saudi-funded university in South Jakarta. LIPIA opened in 1980, ostensibly with the purpose of teaching Arabic, and no Indonesian is spoken on the campus. Tuition is free and music, television, and loud laughter are forbidden. Men and women are segregated. The Ministry of Religious Affairs accredited LIPIA in 2015 but has voiced concerns over whether it will uphold moderate Islam and Indonesia’s state philosophy of Pancasila, which stresses belief in one God rather than any specific Islamic reference. After King Salman’s visit to Indonesia in March 2017, the Saudis expressed an interest in opening two or three more similar institutes.


Growing radicalism in Indonesia certainly poses a threat to the status quo. Terrorism, however, has not reached the same scale as in the Philippines. The single deadliest act of terror was the 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali, which resulted in 202 deaths. Attacks since then have included the 2003 J. W. Marriott Hotel bombings in Jakarta, which killed twelve people; a 2004 car bombing outside the Australian Embassy, which killed ten people; bombings in Bali in 2005, which killed twenty-six people; and the bombings of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Jakarta in 2009, which killed at least nine people. The most recent larger attack occurred in January 2016, when multiple explosions went off near the Sarinah shopping mall in Jakarta. Many were injured in this attack, but of the eight people killed, half were the terrorists themselves. This failure to cause greater mayhem is a welcome sign of the terrorists’ incompetence.22

In recent years, some Islamist movement followers may have begun affiliating with ISIS.23 This most recent attack was also the first one claimed by ISIS. Several smaller-scale bombings have also been linked to the organization, such as the November 2016 attack on a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, where three home-made bombs were detonated, killing one child and injuring three others. Initially, this was considered a “lone-wolf” attack, but the perpetrators were subsequently linked to an ISIS-related group called Jamaah Anshorud Daulah (JAD), which appears to be the largest ISIS-related network in Indonesia and has had cells in several parts of the country.24 JAD has been linked to ISIS through Indonesian national Salim Mubarok Attamimi (Abu Jandal), who has close ties with the ISIS central leadership and who leads an Indonesian splinter unit called Forces of the East (Katibah Masyaari).25

A combination of factors has effectively limited the success of these terrorists. The major anti-terrorism unit, Special Detachment 88 (Detasemen Khusus 88, Densus 88), which was formed in 2002 in the wake of the Bali bombings and received American and Australian training, has had a significant impact. The unit is aggressive on both the intelligence-gathering and operational fronts.26 Another factor has been the response of Muslims adhering to dominant local forms of Islam, who have rejected radicalism and terrorism. Their response has limited the size of the ISIS recruiting pool and has isolated those already recruited. According to certain statistics, a Muslim from Indonesia is about seventy times less likely to join ISIS than a Muslim from the UK or several other European countries.27

Saudi influence, however, has been unyielding. In 1972, Saudi money helped found the “Ivy League” of jihadist pesantren, the Al-Mukmin school in Ngruki, Central Java. The four Bali bombers graduated from that school, as have other militants. The school was co-founded by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the “spiritual leader” of the Bali bombers. Although he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in 2011, he continues to heavily influence the school. Additionally, Umar Faruq, a senior member of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, who was arrested in 2002, told the Central Intelligence Agency that Saudi charity al-Haramain provided money to his group.28 Jafar Umar Thalib, the leader of Laskar Jihad, a militia that slaughtered Christians in Maluku, graduated from LIPIA. Meanwhile, supporters of Wahhabi and other radical ideologies have been prominent on social media, including a radical “Muslim Cyber Army,” inundating their moderate counterparts.29

The Imprisonment of Ahok

The trial and conviction for blasphemy of the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), was a watershed in this trend toward radicalization. Ahok is both ethnic Chinese in a society with strong anti-Chinese sentiments, and Christian in a country that is 88 percent Muslim. Ahok, however, was an energetic and efficient governor with a 70 percent approval rating.

While campaigning for election in September 2016, Ahok remarked that the Koranic verse al-Maidah 51, warning Muslims against taking Jews or Christians as allies, was being misused by some clerics to argue that Muslims must not vote for a Christian. Several days later, a video of his remarks that had been deceptively edited by Buni Yani, a communications lecturer, went viral. The MUI responded with a fatwa accusing him of blasphemy. The radical Islamic Defenders’ Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI), which has violently attacked Muslim minorities, churches, and nightclubs, joined with the newly formed National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPFMUI). Together, they called for demonstrations demanding that Ahok be tried and imprisoned. Other Islamist groups, such as the Forum Umat Islam (FUI), the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), Forum Ulama Umat Indonesia (FUUI), Aliansi Nasional Anti Syiah (ANNAS), and the Jamaat Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), also joined the movement. On November 4 and December 2 there were massive, largely peaceful demonstrations against blasphemy, one of which drew half a million people. This was an unusual display of strength for the hitherto marginal FPI.

NU and Muhammadiyah leaders, for their part, counseled calm and advised their members to avoid demonstrations and simply vote for those candidates they believed would contribute most to the public good. Despite these pleas, some senior members of these two organizations joined in the accusations against Ahok. In the end, the moderate NU and Muhammadiyah were outflanked by the radicals.

Ahok was ultimately arrested and tried for blasphemy, and on May 9, 2017, he was sentenced to two years in prison. Further, three of the five trial judges were promoted by the Indonesian Supreme Court the following day.30 Senior politicians, the military, and other elites had managed to manipulate sincere religious grievances for political purposes. These actors also likely helped fund the massive demonstrations—the thousands of buses, lunch boxes, and neatly printed signs and T-shirts.

The 2016 election had echoes of the 2014 presidential election, when Jokowi defeated Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of the last dictator, Soeharto, and a former special forces general suspected of human rights abuses. Jokowi is the first Indonesian president from outside the military and political establishment. He and Ahok campaigned together in 2014, and both won their respective offices. Prabowo is widely suspected of seeking revenge in 2016 for his loss in 2014. His machinations may have also been aimed at influencing the 2019 presidential election. There had been rumors that Jokowi might be considering Ahok as his vice-presidential running mate. Prabowo and some of Suharto’s children are thought to be planning another presidential run, and they may be hoping that current unrest will increase demand for expanded security services and a firm political hand.

The Ahok verdict split the country. It also created tensions between the president and the military and the police and the military, who have tended to take different sides in the Ahok affair. Gatot Nurmantyo, then chief of the Indonesian Military (TNI), publicly contradicted the national police chief, General Tito Karnavian, a Jokowi ally, about whether there was anything treasonous in the anti-Ahok demonstrations.

A Political Counterattack on Radicalism

The Ahok incident points to growing radicalization, especially among university students (with the exception of the state Islamic universities, which are usually sites of moderation). Ahok’s conviction, however, may have salutary effects. Many Indonesians, including those in the government, have now acknowledged the increase in radicalism. This realization has led to a counterattack.

On November 17, 2017, Buni Yani, who had created and promulgated the tampered video of Ahok’s talk, was himself sentenced to one and a half years in prison for spreading hate speech.31 Then, Rizieq Shihab, leader of the FPI and a leading instigator of the demonstrations, was investigated for blasphemy after reports that he made denigrating remarks about the Holy Trinity. He was then questioned concerning an alleged insult to the official state ideology of Pancasila. Finally, the police interrogated him about insulting Soekarno, Indonesia’s revered first president. He was again summoned to answer accusations that he had insulted the new banknotes, saying they featured Communist symbols. On May 30, 2017, he was charged under the pornography law for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to Firza Husein, who herself has been arrested for treason for her role in organizing the mass demonstrations. Rizieq, a graduate of King Saud University, fled to Saudi Arabia, where he remains today.32 His lawyer claims he is a guest of the government of Saudi Arabia, which is covering all his expenses, because he is a descendent of the Prophet. The Saudi government has not commented on the matter.33 The ongoing legal folderol suggests the police are using multiple vague accusations to keep troublesome people in line. After all, few Indonesians actually face charges for insulting the Trinity, Pancasila, a former president, or banknotes, not to mention engaging in pornography and consorting with a treason suspect.34

The counterattack has also involved new policy initiatives aimed at further cracking down on radical organizations. In July 2017, an administrative decree, Perppu n. 2/2017, banned Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) because its call for the restoration of the caliphate violates Pancasila, Indonesia’s official state ideology. The Constitutional Court has upheld the decree.35 Additionally, on October 24, 2017, the parliament passed a law allowing the government to ban organizations opposed to Pancasila.36 Furthermore, President Jokowi has made multiple speeches emphasizing the importance of diversity and national unity and has appointed a special committee to advise him on how best to promote the official ideology of Indonesia.

On November 7, 2017, the Constitutional Court unanimously held unconstitutional the existing legal requirement that Indonesians identify only as Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, or Confucian on their national identification cards. The case concerned the religious status of “tribal religions” (loran kepercayaan), which had not previously been regarded as real religions but as “cultural belief systems.” There are about 1,200 such groups with a total of at least twelve million followers.37 The court held that loran kepercayaan must be treated equally and recommended that identity cards include a seventh category, “Believers of the Faith.”

A Doctrinal Counterattack on Radicalism

While Ahok’s imprisonment has given more urgency to governmental efforts to counter radical Islam, members of moderate Muslim organizations, especially NU, have been advocating for their own reformist agenda for several years. In May 2017, NU’s five-million-member-strong youth movement, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor, convened more than 300 international religious scholars to consider the “obsolete tenets of classical Islamic law” that call for “perpetual conflict with those who do not embrace or submit to Islam.” At this gathering, the Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam was drafted, which builds on the May 16, 2016, NU-hosted International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders.

This declaration is far more self-critical than the much more famous 2016 Marrakesh Declaration “The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Lands,” propagated under the auspices of the Moroccan and Emirati governments, and argues that there are elements within classical Islam that are problematic and need to be changed. It states:

If Muslims do not address the key tenets of Islamic orthodoxy that authorize and explicitly enjoin … violence, anyone—at any time—may harness the orthodox teachings of Islam to defy what they claim to be the illegitimate laws and authority of an infidel state and butcher their fellow citizens, regardless of whether they live in the Islamic world or the West. This is the bloody thread that links so many current events, from Egypt, Syria and Yemen to the streets of Mumbai, Jakarta, Berlin, Nice, Stockholm and Westminster.

At the press conference announcing the declaration, Ansor chairman Yaqut Qoumas stated, “It is false and counterproductive to claim that the actions of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and other such groups have nothing to do with Islam, or merely represent a perversion of Islamic teachings. They are, in fact, outgrowths of Wahhabism and other fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam.”38

Yahya Cholil Staquf, head of Ansor and general secretary of the NU Supreme Council, reemphasized these themes in a July 18, 2017, address to the Council of the European Union Terrorism Working Party, many of whose members may well have accused the speaker of Islamophobia had he been anyone else.39

While the NU organization as a whole has not endorsed the declaration, Yahya says it is being discussed and that he has had surprisingly little pushback either in Indonesia or internationally for his remarks. He believes his critics are boxed in: they must say either that classical Islam does not teach what he says it does, which would be exegetically difficult, or that it does teach such things and Muslims should follow them.40

It remains to be seen what influence this initiative might have, especially in the Middle East, which is often aloof from ideas and arguments offered in more distant areas. Regardless, this is a striking initiative.

Toward the 2019 Election

The tactics used against Ahok in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election are already being employed in anticipation of the 2018 presidential election. In anonymous leaflets, Jokowi is accused of being a secret Christian and is simultaneously being linked with the disbanded Indonesian Communist Party. Islamists using the name Alumni 212, referring to the December 2 date of the biggest anti-Ahok demonstration, staged a reunion in Jakarta in which speakers declared that Jokowi had criminalized the MUI and was selling Indonesia to Chinese tycoons and foreigners. To counter these allegations, Jokowi has distanced himself from Ahok, stressed the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims, come to the defense of persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and is developing stronger ties with the NU and Muhammadiyah as well as the military. 41

In the short term, two tests will indicate what Islam’s future is in Indonesia. First, will the government circumscribe the authority of the MUI, and second, will it implement the recent Constitutional Court ruling concerning the loran kepercayaan. These will be bellwethers for whether Indonesia strengthens its tolerant traditions or slides into radicalism.

Paul Marshall is Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University and a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and the Religious Freedom Institute.

1 See Martin van Bruinessen, ed., Contemporary Developments in Indonesian Islam: Explaining the “Conservative Turn” (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013).
2 Martin van Bruinessen, “Genealogies of Islamic Radicalism in Post-Suharto Indonesia,” in Islam in Southeast Asia: Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies, vol. 4, The Myth of the “Second Front”: Muslim Southeast Asia and the War on Terror, ed. Joseph Liow and Nadirsyah Hosen (London: Routledge, 2009), 35–66.
3 Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Haeril Halim, “Police Told to Resist Undue Influence of MUI,” Jakarta Post, December 20, 2016, accessed December 21, 2017, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/12/20/police-told-to-resist-undue-influence–of-mui.html.
4 Tony Blair Faith Foundation, “Country Profile: Indonesia,” July 24, 2014, accessed December 21, 2017, http://www.tonyblairfaithfoundationus.org/religion-geopolitics/country-profiles/indonesia/situation-report. The MUI maintains an English language website at http://www.halalmui.org/mui14/index.php/main/changelang/2/1/30.
5 Setara Institute, “Kebebasan Beragama/Berkeyakinan di Indonesia 2016,” January 29, 2017, accessed December 21, 2017, http://setara-institute.org/kebebasan-beragamaberkeyakinan-di-indonesia-2016; Wahid Foundation, “Ringkasan Kebijakan Kebebasan Beragama dan Berkeyakinan (KBB) di Indonesia dan Perlindungan Negara,” January 2017, accessed December 21, 2017, http://wahidfoundation.org/index.php/publication/detail/Ringkasan-Kebijakan-Kebebasan-Beragama-dan-Berkeyakinan-KBB-di-Indonesia-dan-Perlindungan-Negara; Wahid Foundation, “National Survey 2016 Wahid Foundation,” October 2017, accessed December 21, 2017, http://wahidfoundation.org/index.php/publication/detail/National-Survey-2016-Wahid-Foundation-LSI; Amnesty International, Prosecuting Beliefs: Indonesia’s Blasphemy Laws, November 2014, https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/_index-_asa_210182014.pdf; Dicky Sofjan, “Religious Diversity and Politico-Religious Intolerance in Indonesia and Malaysia,” Review of Faith and International Affairs 14, no. 4 (Winter 2016): 53–65, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15570274.
6 On Indonesian “traditional Islam,” see Robin Bush, Nahdlatul Ulama and the Struggle for Power within Islam and Politics in Indonesia (Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009), 29–33.
7 In this, as in much else, the province of Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, is distinct: it has long fought for independence or autonomy and, as part of a 2001 peace settlement with the rest of Indonesia, is the only province that now has sharia criminal law.
8 Clifford Geertz, The Religion of Java (Glencoe: Free Press, 1960).
9 Azyumardi Azra, “Sustainable Indonesian Islam, A Blessing for the Universe,” Indonesia Nederland Society, August 3, 2015, originally published in the Indonesian daily Kompas, August 3, 2015, http://indonesia-nederland.org/events/azyumardi-azra-sustainable-indonesian-islam-a-blessing-for-the-universe/.
10 Hefner, Riddell, and many others stress that Islam forms an obvious layer of Indonesian cultures. See Robert W. Hefner, Hindu Javanese: Tengger Tradition and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985) and Peter Riddell, Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World: Transmission and Responses (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001).
11 See “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity,” Pew Research Center, August 9, 2012, http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2012/08/the-worlds-muslims-full-report.pdf
12 Martin van Bruinessen, “Ghazwul fikri or Arabization? Indonesian Muslim Responses to Globalization,” in Southeast Asian Muslims in the Era of Globalization, ed. Ken Miichi and Omar Farouk (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 61–85.
13 “Raison d’etre of Islam Nusantara,” Jakarta Post, August 6, 2015, www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/08/06/raison-d-etre-islam-nusantara.html
14 Cornelis van Dijk, Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: The Darul Islam in Indonesia (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1981); Quinton Temby, “Imagining an Islamic State in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to Jemaah Islamiyah,” Indonesia 89 (April 2010): 1–36; Martin van Bruinessen, “Indonesian Muslims and Their Place in the Wider World of Islam,” in Indonesia Rising: The Repositioning of Asia’s Third Giant, ed. Anthony Reid (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012), 117–140.
15 R. E. Elson, “Another Look at the Jakarta Charter Controversy of 1945,”Indonesia 88 (October 2009): 105–130.
16 This section draws on my “Saudi Influence and Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia: How Can They Be Countered after Ahok’s Imprisonment?,” Lausanne Global Analysis 6, no. 5 (September 2017), https://www.lausanne.org/content/lga/2017-09/saudi-influence-islamic-radicalization-indonesia.
17 For a succinct overview, see M. C. Ricklefs, A History of Modern Indonesia Since C. 1200 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), 172–175.
18 For caution as to how much Wahhabism was a factor, see Carool Kersten, A History of Islam in Indonesia: Unity in Diversity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017) 56–57.
19 For an overview, see Jeremy Menchik, Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 48–51.
21 See Krithika Varagur, “Saudi Arabia Is Redefining Islam for the World’s Largest Muslim Nation,” Atlantic, March 2, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/saudi-arabia-salman-visit-indonesia/518310/.
22 Because larger attacks have failed, there seems to be a trend toward knife attacks. Krithika Varagur, “Indonesia’s Sectarian Tensions Likely to Worsen in Election Season,” Voice of America, February 16, 2018, https://www.voanews.com/a/sword-attack-indonesian-church-sectarian-tensions/4257313.html. ISIS has also claimed that it was behind the May 8, 2018, riot at the maximum-security Mako Brimob prison facility in South Jakarta in which five guards and one prisoner were killed, but at the time of writing this was not confirmed.
23 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Extremists in Bandung: Darul Islam to ISIS—And Back Again?, Report No. 42, February 12, 2018, http://file.understandingconflict.org/file/2018/02/Report_42Final.pdf.
24 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Extremists in Bandung: Darul Islam to ISIS—And Back Again?, Report No. 42, February 12, 2018, http://file.understandingconflict.org/file/2018/02/Report_42Final.pdf.
25 Krithika Varagur, “Deep Extremist Networks behind ‘Lone Wolf’ Samarinda Church Attacker,” Voice of America, November 18, 2016, https://www.voanews.com/a/deep-extremist-networks-behind-lone-wolf-samarinda-church-attacker/3602202.html.
26 Critics argue that the unit is too aggressive, since several prisoners have died in its custody.
27 The United Kingdom, with three million Muslims, has had approximately 760 of its young people join ISIS. Indonesia, with 220 million Muslims, has had only about 700 ISIS recruits. These are figures from early 2016. Efraim Benmelech and Esteban F. Klor, “What Explains the Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS?,” NBER Working Paper No. 22190, National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2016, https://www.nber.org/papers/w22190.pdf.
28 Jane Perlez, “Saudis Quietly Promote Strict Islam in Indonesia,” New York Times, July 5, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/05/world/saudis-quietly-promote-strict-islam-in-indonesia.html.
29 See Krithika Varagur, “Saudi Arabia Is Redefining Islam for the World’s Largest Muslim Nation,” Atlantic, March 2, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/saudi-arabia-salman-visit-indonesia/518310/. On March 1, 2018, police arrested fourteen members of a network called the Muslim Cyber Army, which they say has used hacking, misinformation, and hate speech to push radicalism. Vincent Bevins, “Indonesian Police Arrest 14 Suspected Members of Radical Islamist Cyber Network,” Washington Post, March 1, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/indonesia-police-break-up-islamist-cyber-network-promoting-extremism/2018/03/01/ff575b00-1cd8-11e8-98f5-ceecfa8741b6_story.html?utm_term=.3f2386dc92ce.
30 On February 26, 2018, Ahok appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court. The presiding judge in the appeal was the same judge who had presided over the conviction. “Lawyer: Judges Made Mistake in Ahok’s Case,” Star, February 28, 2018, https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2018/02/28/lawyer-judges-made-mistake-in-ahoks-case/#DdjKE4rTJ831AdgE.99.
31 Arya Dipa, “Buni Yani Gets 1.5 Years in Jail,” Jakarta Post, November 14, 2017, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/11/14/buni-yani-gets-1-5-years-in-jail.html.
32 “Eggi: Rizieq Pilih di Arab daripada Ditangkap,” Berita Satu, September 14, 2017, http://www.beritasatu.com/nasional/452644-eggi-rizieq-pilih-di-arab-daripada-ditangkap.html#.Wbqln5MBcVc.twitter.
33 “Fugitive FPI Leader Rizieq’s Expenses Being Paid by Saudi Government Since He’s a Descendant of the Prophet: Lawyer,” Coconuts Jakarta, October 12, 2017, https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/fugitive-fpi-leader-rizieqs-expenses-paid-saudi-govt-since-hes-descendent-prophet-lawyer/.
34 The investigation into the accusations of insulting pancasila and Soekarno was dropped in early 2018.
35 “Disahkan jadi UU, gugatan Perppu ditolak MK,” CNN Indonesia, December 12, 2017, accessed January 17, 2018, https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20171212162704-12-261871/disahkan-jadi-uu-gugatan-perppu-ormas-ditolak-mk. Following independence in 1945, under President Sukarno, the country embraced the broad state ideology of Pancasila, which was enshrined in the preamble to the 1945 constitution. It proclaims five principles, some of which can be difficult to render into English: “One Lordship, just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy guided by the wisdom of deliberations of representatives, and social justice for all the Indonesian people.”
36 Mathias Hariyadi, “Jakarta Approves Law against Islamist Organizations,” AsiaNews, October 28, 2017, http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Jakarta-approves-law-against-Islamist-organizations-42176.html.
37 See Paul Marshall, “Indonesia’s Constitutional Court Strikes Major Blow Defending Religious Freedom,” Providence, November 7, 2017, https://providencemag.com/2017/11/indonesia-constitutional-court-religious-freedom/ and Paul Marshall, “Indonesia’s Religious Freedom, Constitutional Court, and Ulama Council,” Providence, December 5, 2017, https://providencemag.com/2017/12/indonesia-religious-freedom-constitutional-court-ulama-council/.
38 “Humanitarian Islam Movement Begins in East Java,” Jakarta Post, May 25, 2017, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/25/humanitarian-islam-movement-begins-in-east-java.html.
39 The presentation may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTtfGkYLv1Y. See also an interview with Yahya, “Terrorism and Islam are Intimately Connected,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 19, 2017, http://www.baytarrahmah.org/media/2017/FAZ_A-Conversation-with-Kyai-Haji-Yahya-Cholil-Staquf_08-19-17.pdf.
40 Interview with Paul Marshall, Jakarta, November 30, 2017.
41 Erwida Maulia, “Indonesia’s Islamists Create Re-election Minefield for Widodo,” Nikkei Asian Review, December 27, 2017, https://asia.nikkei.com/Features/Asia-Insight/Indonesia-s-Islamists-create-re-election-minefield-for-Widodo?page=2; Karlis Salna and Untung Sumarwan, “Jokowi Boosts Ties with Indonesia Military in Power Shift,” Bloomberg, February 15, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-14/jokowi-cements-ties-with-indonesia-military-in-political-shift.

ISR’s Paul Marshall: Canada’s Supreme Court Ruling Is a Grave Blow to Religious Freedom—and Not Only in Canada

In a case concerning a Christian university, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling on June 15 that is a major blow to religious freedom. The decision will affect not only Canada but also America, and may well be an indicator of future trends in the United States.

The case concerns Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia, the largest private Christian university in the country which in 2012 had proposed starting a law school. The court ruled that because TWU upheld a traditional Christian view of marriage its law school graduates may be barred from legal practice.

At its founding in 1962, the university, like many other Christian institutions in Canada and the US, adopted a “community covenant,” a code of conduct for its faculty, staff, and students. Part of the covenant states that members of the community must “voluntarily abstain from the following actions…[including] sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

This led to problems earlier when TWU wanted to begin a teacher training program. The British Columbia College of Teachers refused to accredit the program because of the covenant. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in 2001 decided 8-to-1 that the British Columbia College of Teachers could not simply consider “equality rights” without regard to religious freedom. It stated that “British Columbia’s human rights legislation accommodates religious freedoms…by allowing religious institutions to discriminate in their admissions policies on the basis of religion.” The court also added that “it is difficult to see how the same logic would not result in the denial of accreditation to members of a particular church. The diversity of Canadian society is partly reflected in the multiple religious organizations that mark the societal landscape and this diversity of views should be respected.”

Despite this clear and sweeping precedent, when the university announced it would like to form a law school, there was an outcry and a concerted campaign to block the effort.[1] In June 2012, TWU filed its proposal with the Federation of the Law Societies of Canada (for Americans, these are analogous to state bar associations). The Council of Canadian Law Deans, the heads of law schools, then wrote a letter to the federation stating that TWU discriminates against gays and others and that the proposal needed to be carefully vetted. The federation then appointed a special committee to review the implications of any TWU law school. After the committee found in the university’s favor, holding that there was “no public interest reason to exclude future graduates of the program from law society bar admission programs,” the Federation of Law Societies gave its approval to TWU’s proposal.

With this verdict, most of the provincial law societies across Canada approved accreditation of graduates from the proposed law school. However, the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario) and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Association said it would not accept such graduates. Subsequently, the Law Society of British Columbia voted to reverse its earlier decision to grant accreditation and requested that the British Columbia government revoke the law school’s accreditation on the grounds that TWU discriminated against unmarried couples and homosexuals. The government then revoked its prior approval pending the outcome of court cases.

There were conflicting decisions by the supreme courts in the provinces, so the matter again ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada. Despite its 8-to-1 decision in 2001 in a remarkably similar case involving TWU, the court abandoned this strong precedent and instead held that the decision to deny accreditation to TWU law school graduates was reasonable because promoting equality required equal access to the legal profession, and that supporting diversity within the bar and preventing harm to LGBTQ law students were valid means to pursue the public interest.

The majority also held that the covenant necessarily restricts gays who feel they have no choice but to attend TWU’s law school, and that such people would have to deny who they are while in the school. “Being required by someone else’s religious beliefs to behave contrary to one’s sexual identity is degrading and disrespectful.”

The majority also stated that the Law Society of British Columbia’s decision to reject TWU’s application did not limit religious freedom to a significant extent because the covenant was not absolutely required to study law in a Christian environment. They deemed that studying law in an environment infused with the community’s religious beliefs was merely a preference, not a necessity.

Apparently, for the court, despite the fact that there are 18 secular English common law schools in Canada with no faith-based alternative, a decision by a gay person to attend Canada’s only committed Christian law school could be a necessity, whereas maintaining a Christian code of conduct in that law school would merely be a preference. The law school must therefore be required to conform to the views of those who may wish to attend.

This decision can have far-reaching effects. The court’s principles, if they may be given such a description, could also be applied to TWU’s teacher training programs and, indeed, eventually to any program that requires external professional accreditation. Then it will be a short step to apply it to undergraduate programs, with the result that TWU must abandon its covenant or suffer de-accreditation. This could also be applied to other similar institutions, Christian or otherwise.

This decision has effects that go beyond Canada. In the arguments among the conflicting bar associations, it was pointed out that, if law graduates from TWU were not acceptable, then graduates from American universities such as Baylor and Brigham Young may not be either. If these institutions adhere to principles analogous to TWU, then their graduates could also be restricted from Canadian professions. American Christian (and Muslim, and other) universities need quickly to examine these issues before they are blindsided when their students’ accreditations are challenged.

There could be many other effects besides these US spillovers. The decision indicates the view of the human person underlying current liberal legal trends and could be a harbinger of similar developments in the US. With the introduction of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 under then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canadian legal patterns have become more like those in America. The courts have taken on an increasing role as the principal arbiters of central political issues, particularly those concerning social and moral questions, and Canada’s more liberal caste has taken them in a more liberal direction. Recent Canadian events may reveal something about our possible future.

Paul Marshall is Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the Religious Freedom Institute, and a contributing editor of Providence.


Thomas Kidd-“Why Southern Baptists giving Mike Pence a platform is so controversial” – The Washington Post

June 13 at 6:00 AM

When Vice President Pence late Wednesday morning addresses one of the country’s biggest Christian gatherings —
the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting — he’ll be following a decades-long line of White House
Republicans who have come to speak to the right-leaning group.
Which is why experts on conservative Christianity were wowed by the sight Tuesday of multiple Southern Baptist
pastors trying — through the meeting’s formal procedures — to block Pence’s talk, or at least to pass a ban on inviting
politicians to future annual meetings. Video of the Dallas convention hall showed many hundreds of hands holding
yellow ballots go up when a Virginia pastor argued that hosting a Trump administration official hurts Southern Baptists
of color and endangers soul-saving in general.










Vice President Pence waves after speaking at a reception at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on June 4. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

None of the four separate measures passed (a few were referred for consideration in the coming year). But historians
say the effort was the first real controversy in the convention about a GOP speaker since the evangelist Billy Graham
pushed for the invite of President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 and reveals the significant upheaval among conservative
evangelicals about President Trump and the mixing of partisan politics and religion.

“For 35 years you could expect the Southern Baptist Convention to be pro-Republican in a nearly unanimous way. But
2016 means the relationship with the Republican Party for the Southern Baptist Convention has become
problematic,” said Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University who has written books about American
The convention is a major force in conservative evangelicalism and is the largest Protestant denomination in the
Specifically what this development means, Kidd said, “is hard to say. But it signals that business as usual as far as

[giving a platform to] Republican politicians — there will be pushback against that in a way there wasn’t.”
The question is whether the divide within evangelicalism will lead to different religious affiliation patterns, or different
voting patterns, or something else — or nothing.

“What makes this unique is the amount of turmoil around the present administration, which has heightened all the
fault lines so many of us feel, around racial reconciliation, and clarity about what Christians are about, which is Jesus
and him dying for sinners,” said Garrett Kell, of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va.
Kell proposed a measure Tuesday morning that didn’t pass that would have replaced Pence on the agenda with a time
of prayer. No vote count was taken, but many in the convention hall estimated just by looking that 30 to 40 percent of
attendees had voted for Kell’s measure.
Southern Baptists have been happily hosting GOP leaders for deca… https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/06/…2

“For many years we have been talking about loving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters. This invitation does nothing to suggest that we are actually listening,” Kell’s measure reads. It also talked about the need for “clarity of the gospel” and for protecting the reputation of Southern Baptists.

“What binds this convention together is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of that, this convention ought to be marked by things we share in common, not things about which faithful Christians can disagree,” he wrote. “We must do all we can to preserve the purity of the Gospel, and this invitation works against it.”

Polls have shown for years that one of the primary reasons young American Christians cite for leaving evangelicalism is because of their perception that the church has become overly politicized — and owned by the GOP. But experts said the scene of as many of a third of Southern Baptist delegates waving yellow voting cards against the vice president has a lot to do with Trump specifically. Pence, who grew up Catholic and later joined nondenominational evangelical churches, would likely not have been controversial on his own, they said.

With most Southern Baptists at the convention in support of Pence’s brief address — which reportedly was initiated by the vice president’s office — no further measures about him were expected to appear this week. However, some said they would skip Pence’s address and instead hold prayer sessions elsewhere in the building.

A fifth pastor Tuesday put forward a measure to replace Pence’s speech with a sermon by black Southern Baptist pastor H.B. Charles Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla. That motion was ruled out of order.

The split about Pence, like many splits among conservative evangelicals and in the convention, is pretty generational. It has to do with evangelical concepts of patriotism, America, and therefore high government officials, said Trevin Wax, director of Bibles and reference at LifeWay, the publishing and research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Older Southern Baptists see the U.S. as “Israel,” Wax said, a land with which God has a special relationship. Younger ones see America as “Babylon” — a place of potential corruption, a land where conservative Christians “should expect to be a minority, morally,” he said, and should focus on pastoral strategies and needs for what they see as cultural problems rather than fixating on political attempts to turn back that challenge.

In other words, younger Southern Baptists would see their role as a prophetic minority who can reach out to everyone, not partisan political power players, Wax said.

“It would be overstating it if we were to say there has been a wholesale change in regard to Southern Baptist political views from the older to the younger. What we’re seeing primarily is a change in posture related to our engagement,” he said. “Most of our divides aren’t theological but cultural. The posture is where the story is. That’s where the fault line is.”

Gerald Ford was the first U.S. president to speak to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting, in 1976, said Brian Kaylor, a Baptist pastor with a PhD in political communications who writes books on religion and politics. That was an era before conservatives had taken control of the convention — the country’s largest Protestant group — and the appearance of a Republican president was an effort to provide some political balance. Many of the convention leaders at the time were close to Jimmy Carter — who was a Southern Baptist.

Since then, among the GOP White House officials to speak, Kaylor said, were George H.W. and George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Dan Quayle. Ronald Reagan spoke to a key meeting of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals in 1980, telling them, famously, “I know you can’t endorse me, but I endorse you.”

Ironically the official initiation of partisan speechmaking to the Southern Baptists came from a man many consider above politicking — Billy Graham. But historian Kidd said Graham had pushed to invite Nixon, with whom he was very close, as far back as the 1950s, to speak with Southern Baptists because he felt it was essential for white evangelicals to come to the GOP over the issue of communism. Nixon declined the invite to the convention, Kidd said, because of the controversy about a political speaker.

Kaylor said the convention never heard from White House officials who were Southern Baptist — because they were Democrats, including Carter, Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Nate Templin, an attendee from Colorado, said he believes the discomfort among some young attendees about Pence’s invitation indicates a desire to move away from a more traditional image of Southern Baptists — older, white, conservative, Republican.

“The younger generation, they’re saying it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you stand on if you love Jesus and you love people,” Templin told The Post.

However, the defeated measure to block Pence reflected that many Southern Baptists were fully supportive of the vice president speaking at the gathering.

“I wanted to tell that guy to shut up,” Lillian Bohannan said after listening to Kell’s motion to have a time of prayer instead of Pence’s speech. Bohannan, 73, was attending her first Southern Baptist Convention meeting.

“Mr. Pence is a good guy. He was invited to speak as a Christian to a Christian group. We’re supposed to respect those in authority over us. That’s one way to do it,” she said.

Others said they believed those opposed to Pence speaking were more concerned about the image of Southern Baptists being tied to the Trump administration, than about the actual invitation to the vice president.

“We live in a culture, we live in a day, where everybody’s hypersensitive about everything,” said Joe Donahue of First Baptist Church in Lavaca, Ark. “I think you would find probably 99.9 percent of people here support the president. Just as we supported Obama: through prayer.”

Washington Post staff writer Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.

Thomas Kidd-“Why Southern Baptists giving Mike Pence a platform is so controversial” – The Washington Post