John Longhurst

  • Theologian's awful new legacy

    Four years ago, while visiting Elkhart, Ind., on business, my hosts decided to take me on a tour. We saw historic downtown buildings, the river walk, gardens and magnificent old houses. The tour concluded with a visit to the grave of Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder. It wasn't surprising that they wanted to take me there; Yoder, who died in 1997, was possibly the most prominent North American Mennonite theologian of the 20th century. He was best known for his book The Politics of Jesus, for decades a standard text in many seminaries and Christian universities.
  • Twelve days of secret messages

    It's finally the 12 days of Christmas. It's a time many people mistake as coming before Christmas Day, when we are subjected to countless rounds of that old song about lords leaping and maids milking. In fact, the 12 days of Christmas come after Dec. 25. They are a lead-up to Epiphany, on Jan. 6, the time Christians commemorate the visit of the Magi to the Christ child and celebrate the revelation of God as a human being in Christ.
  • Happy Christmas — war is over

    It's that time of year again. Time for Christmas trees, decorations, carols, stockings, presents, eggnog -- and my Facebook news feed filling up with messages complaining about how society today has taken Christ out of Christmas. I don't know about you, but I'm growing weary of all those posts about the war on Christmas and how Christians need to take it back.
  • Terrorism has poisoned religion's good name

    A friend of mine was in a Winnipeg hospital recently and passed by the chapel. In it, he saw a Christian on her knees praying. Beside her was a Muslim, prostrate on the floor, also praying. "Wonderful stuff," he wrote. "The world needs to see more of this."
  • Holding open a door to equality

    For a long time, women in my denomination could not serve as leaders in the church. Like many other conservative theological groups, my denomination believed that women could do many things in the church -- just not serve as senior pastor.
  • The biggest decision of your life

    The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether physician-assisted suicide should be legal in Canada. For most people, it's a mostly academic debate. We aren't ill, in chronic pain or diagnosed with a terminal condition. If we want the option, we only want it someday -- far in the future.
  • Religion and human rights can co-exist

    The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is finally open. It's a magnificent building for a magnificent mission: to promote the idea that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. One of those rights is the right to religion. According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the freedom to change religion or belief, and the freedom to worship, believe, teach or practise religion any way they want.
  • Not-so-faithful representation

    All the clergy I know live pretty ordinary lives. None of them save the world from vampires, as the main character does in the 2011 movie Priest. I don't know any who have encountered extraterrestrials, as in the movie Signs. And they aren't solving crime on a weekly basis like Father Brown of BBC fame. Or, if they are doing any of those things, they haven't told me.
  • Religious version of a pub crawl

    I've heard about pub crawls. But what about a church crawl? That's a new one for me. But I recently learned about two ways people are "crawling" from church to church. The first was what students at the University of Ottawa do each September during orientation week.
  • Film follows Bell's musical path

    What would you do if someone wanted to make a movie about your life? That was the question posed to singer-songwriter Steve Bell a couple of years ago. Bell didn't take it seriously. He was sure there was nothing interesting to tell. But the person posing the question -- Winnipeg filmmaker Andrew Wall -- was persistent.
  • Lessons from a 'blasphemy'

    In 1972, the musical Godspell came to Toronto. Some Christians welcomed it, but many did not. On opening night, hundreds of people came out to protest. Far from being angered by the protests, John Michael Tebelek, who wrote the book on which the musical was based, was delighted. He came outside the theatre and offered free tickets to the protesters.
  • Muslims share fears of extremism

    Do you ever wonder what Muslims around the world think of terrorist groups like al-Qaida and Boko Haram? It turns out that most are just as worried about those groups as everyone else. That's the finding of a new Pew Research Center survey of people in 14 countries with large Muslim populations. The survey, which polled 14,000 Muslims in April; and May, asked respondents what they thought of al-Qaida, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Hezbollah and Hamas. It found almost universal negative opinions for all of the groups. Al-Qaida, one of the most notorious of the terrorist groups, was viewed negatively by strong majorities in all 14 countries.
  • Canadians show more apathy than hostility toward organized religion

    What do non-churchgoers think of organized religion in Canada? That's what staff at the United Church Observer wanted to know. To find out, the magazine contracted a research firm to poll 3,000 English-speaking Canadians on how they view organized religion in Canada -- Christianity, in particular.
  • No shortage of devotion at the World Cup

    Millions of Canadians -- and hundreds of millions more around the world -- will be glued to their TV sets, watching the World Cup final Sunday. Some will cheer for their favourite team, others will cheer for a good game. And if previous matches are anything to go by, more than a few will be praying, too.
  • Nigerian congregation living in fear

    A few items from my files this week... The world was horrified by April's kidnapping of more than 200 Christian girls in Nigeria by the radical militant group Boko Haram.
  • Religious vote swings away from Liberals

    "If the Conservatives get a majority on May 2, they may thank God — and Roman Catholic voters across the country.” That's what I wrote in this newspaper in 2011, before the federal election in which the Conservatives did, in fact, win a majority.
  • The Word in the digital world

    IF you are reading this column in the printed version of the Free Press, enjoy it while you can -- in seven years, it will be gone. So says the Newspaper Extinction Timeline, which has published its predictions for when the world's newspapers, in their current form, will no longer be viable.
  • The emergence of 'Emergents'

    When she was in Winnipeg in 2009, Phyllis Tickle talked about the Great Emergence, a "monumental" shift in Christianity that is changing the church in Europe and North America. Based on her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, she said it was part of a 500-year cycle that included bringing the church out of the dark ages, the Great Schism between Eastern and Western churches and, most recently, the Protestant Reformation.
  • Why so much hunger, war, injustice in religious world?

    Ever wonder how many Christians there are in the world? What about Muslims? Hindus? Jews? Or how many people belong to religious groups? Answers to those questions are now available, thanks to The Global Religious Landscape, a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
  • Yes I'm a pacifist — and yes I wear a poppy

    Can a pacifist wear a poppy? The answer is yes -- I'm a pacifist, and I wear one. A few others I know do, too. But many people who oppose war have ambivalent feelings about poppies. I think they're afraid wearing one will suggest they are, tacitly or otherwise, supporting war and militarism.
  • From the moon to the Twitterverse

    The passing of Neil Armstrong, Pussy Riot protests, Twitter-friendly religion -- these are some of the things on my mind in these last dog days of summer.  
  • Recognize yoga's Hindu roots

    When it comes to yoga, there are lots of different kinds being practised by North Americans these days -- hot yoga, power yoga, prenatal yoga, Catholic yoga, restorative yoga, Christian yoga, Jewish yoga, and even naked yoga, to name just a few. One thing you don't find is Hindu yoga -- which is strange, since yoga originated with that 6,000-year-old religion.
  • New KAIROS leader has Manitoba roots

    The last time KAIROS made a splash in the news, it was almost a year ago during the infamous "not" affair. You may recall the story: In 2009, the church-based social justice organization learned its application for $7 million from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) had mysteriously been denied -- despite initially being approved by senior CIDA officials.
  • 'We have a deep faith in God'

    If you want to get a sanctuary seat for mass at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, you better come early. Twenty minutes before the start of last Saturday's evening mass, the church was half-full. By start time, the sanctuary and three overflow rooms were packed. And not just with older people -- there were lots of youth, children and entire families.
  • Preaching helped fuel War of 1812

    When it comes to war, religion is often one of the first to enlist -- or be conscripted. That was certainly true 200 years ago, during the War of 1812. That war, which ended with both sides claiming victory, will be the focus of many commemorations, conferences, re-enactments and other events during this, its 200th anniversary.


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