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Hope in a year of bad news

The WJLA Channel 7, the greater Washington DC area ABC affiliate, news anchors (L-R) Tim Brant, Gordon Peterson and Maureen Bunyan discuss the news while on the air, February 7, 2007 (Credit: Scott S via Flickr) The Wall Street Journal calls 2014 "a year of living on the brink."  Why?  "Liberia, ISIS, Ukraine, Hong Kong, a hospital fighting Ebola infections in Dallas, the year's stock-market gains obliterated, and I almost forgot—just last week Secretary of State John Kerry warned that climate change could end life as we know it."  It's hard to find good news in the news.

Economic turmoil continues as investors worry about the global economy and Europe's debt crisis.  Yesterday an Air France aircraft flying from Paris was grounded at its Madrid destination after one of its passengers began showing symptoms of Ebola.  A hospital in Connecticut stated yesterday that it is evaluating a patient with "Ebola-like symptoms."  As tensions between Russia and Ukraine persist, one Russian expert explains that "in Putin's mind, Ukraine is not a nation."

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Houston officials demand pastors turn over sermons

Mayor Annise Parker greets fellow HERO supporters at City Hall on Thursday before her address responding to a petition submitted for repeal of the anti-discrimination law. (Credit: HoustonPress/Susan Du) Houston officials have subpoenaed sermons preached by local pastors who oppose an equal rights ordinance. The ordinance would allow transgender people to file a discrimination complaint if barred from a restroom of their choice. Opponents leading a repeal initiative have sued the city for refusing to validate their petition. Several local pastors and religious leaders have been vocal in opposing the ordinance and supporting the petition. Now city attorneys have subpoenaed these pastors, seeking "all speeches, presentations, or sermons" related to this issue.

How should the pastors respond? Ethicist Russell Moore notes, "A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights." John Piper was a little more circumspect, suggesting that Houston pastors "maybe invite Mayor Parker to next Sunday's sermon on biblical sexuality."

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Are religious people more likely to seek online porn?

The availability and pervasiveness of internet pornography concept design using the word porn written in an internet search bar (Credit: Gajus via Fotolia)"Conservative states are more likely to search for sex and porn online."  So declares a recent headline in The Washington Post.  Is this true?

Cara C. MacInnis and Gordon Hodson are researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada.  They claim that people who live in more religious and more politically conservative states are more likely to look for sexual content online.  To make their case, they used Gallup surveys to identify states for religiosity and political conservatism.  Then they used Google Trends to see which states had the most Internet searches for "sex," "porn," and similar terms.  They concluded that the more conservative a state, the more likely its people are to conduct Google searches for sex terms.

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Did God cause second Ebola case in Dallas?

Emergency vehicles are at the apartment of a health worker, the first person to contract the virus inside the United States, who has tested positive for Ebola in Dallas, Texas, October 12, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Lisa Maria Garza) Last Sunday morning, the Ebola crisis became more personal for me.  As you know, a second Ebola patient was diagnosed in Dallas.  This is the first person infected in the United States, and it happened in my city. She is a nurse who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, our first Ebola patient.  Suddenly Ebola was more than a news story.

The good news is that none of Duncan's family or friends has developed the disease so far.  The bad news is that a professional health care worker, trained in proper protocols, was nevertheless infected.  The Centers for Disease Control director stated that a breach in these protocols led to the infection.  If it is difficult for health care workers in America to protect themselves, what of the doctors and military personnel being deployed in West Africa, where medical conditions are far more challenging?  Will the Ebola epidemic continue to spread despite the sacrificial efforts of those fighting it?

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'Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?'

Darwin Bedford handing out anti-Bush leaflets warning fellow peace activists of America's Religious Right agenda, Vancouver, March 20, 2004  (Credit: Darwin Bedford)Robert George is a Princeton professor with a law degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Oxford.  He recently warned that it is "Good Friday in America for Christians," declaring that Christians "are no longer tolerable by the intellectual and cultural elite."  Why would he make such a claim?

On Wednesday, a headline in The Week caught my eye: "Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?"  Damon Linker's article notes an essay in Slate by atheist Brian Palmer, complaining about missionary doctors who are risking their lives in West Africa and around the world.  Palmer: "It's great that these people are doing God's work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?"  He claims to speak for many others when he describes his "visceral discomfort with the mingling of religion and health care."

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