John Longhurst

  • 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.
  • Being liberal, or Liberal

    Last month, as I followed the Liberal party convention, I took note of the challenges facing that party -- things like declining membership, lack of funds, the need to attract more youth, how to reach out to new followers. At some point in the proceedings, it suddenly occurred to me: I've heard all this before. Where? In the church press, that's where. In fact, if you replace the words "Liberal party" with the name of almost any Canadian mainline denomination, you'd pretty much have the same discussion.
  • Church groups offer guidelines for evangelizing

    As attempts at conversion go, Robert Fowler's experience was one of the worst. In December 2008, Fowler was one of two Canadian diplomats kidnapped by Islamic militants in the African country of Niger. For four months, they suffered various deprivations, including poor living conditions, constant anxiety and lack of decent food. They never knew from one day to the next if it would be their last.
  • Some New Year's resolutions worth considering

    Did you make a New Year's resolution last weekend? If you did, you're not alone. In a survey of 12,000 of its readers, the Globe and Mail found that 73 per cent resolved to do something different in 2012. Of those who made a resolution, 26 per cent want to lose weight, 16 per cent want to save more money, 12 per cent want a better sex life, 10 per cent want to be nicer, and nine per cent want to get a better job.
  • Updated carols call for justice in a troubled world

    2That was the comment a Facebook friend posted a week ago. He was complaining about being subjected to White Christmas and Little Drummer Boy and other hoary old Christmas tunes again and again in malls. "I've had just about enough!" he exclaimed in frustration. I'm sure he's not the only one to feel this way. There are times when I want to tell that drummer boy to get the baby a new gift -- a book, video game or stuffed toy--anything but that drum!
  • The role of religion in prison reform

    Don't like the government's proposed crime bill? Blame the Quakers. Well, not literally. But the roots of our modern prison system go back to 19th-century efforts by that peaceful group, otherwise known as the Religious Society of Friends, to reform U.S. and British prisons.
  • Religion and politics mix, so get used to it: author

    Faith and politics was in the news earlier this month when Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro questioned the sincerity of Liberal MP Justin Trudeau's Catholic beliefs. "For someone to start questioning my own faith and accusing me of being a bad Catholic is something that I really take issue with," Trudeau stated. "My own personal faith is an extremely important part of who I am and the values that I try to lead with."
  • Pastor's book heats up debate over heaven, hell

    Is Mahatma Gandhi in hell? That's the question that helped start one of the year's biggest controversies in the evangelical Christian world.
  • Make God focus of funerals

    It's not often that a whole nation is talking about funerals. But that's what happened last week, when Jack Layton received his final send-off. According to Brent Hawkes, the minister who presided over the service, he and Layton began talking about the service in July. Layton, he said, was very clear that he didn't want a traditional service. He wanted it to be upbeat, and for music to play a prominent role.
  • Surprise! Sometimes things do go right

    As I read the article about stolen aid in Somalia in Tuesday's Free Press (Food aid for Somalis stolen, sold at markets), I thought: "Yep -- right on schedule." And what schedule is that? Just as there are stages to a natural disaster, there are stages to how the media report about it.
  • The world's poor know there's no sure thing

    In Canada, we're pretty proud of our quality of life, our high standard of living, universal health care and excellent life expectancy -- at 81 years, we are 12th-highest in the world. We also like it when others recognize how good we have it. In May, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported Canada has the second-highest quality of life on the planet (Australia is first).

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