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Christianity Today 

What happens when a savior chooses not a cross but a sword?

Faith and power clash at the core of Dune: Part Two. The film is the second of a trilogy adaptation of the beloved novels by Frank Herbert, a mystical tale of wars between noble families in the vastness of space and the rise of a messianic figure named Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet).

This middle film picks up the story after a brutal massacre of Paul’s family line. Heir of a noble house and the subject of prophecies, Paul wrestles with his apparent destiny as savior and leader. His mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a clairvoyant priestess of the matriarchal religious order Bene Gesserit, tries to maneuver him toward that destiny. But his love, Chani (Zendaya), wants only a simple life together. Amid this relational drama, Paul leads a desert tribe in guerrilla warfare against brutal imperial forces who want to hoard his planet’s precious element called spice.

Dune: Part Two is a lush adaptation of dense source material. It’s a busy 2 hours and 46 minutes, packed with plot and subplots and the constant threat of ravenous, man-eating sandworms. The space battles are an impressive mix of tension and spectacle, and the desert sand is almost its own character, functioning as both shield and weapon for the warriors Paul leads. Though combatants are armed with spacecraft and atomic weapons, many fights come down to hand-to-hand combat with swords, choreographed to be quick, powerful, and exciting.

These elements make for a fun and engaging adaptation, with solid performances and beautiful cinematography. But Dune: Part Two owes its intellectual interest to Herbert’s books. Is faith merely another resource to be exploited in the quest for power? Is it another drug, like spice, that the powerful ...

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Abigail Shrier’s critique of childhood therapy mixes a needful corrective with ideological hyperbole.

One of my four-year-old twins has a thing where he pretends he can’t do something he’s done many times before. “I can’t find my sweater,” he says of the sweater on the floor in front of him—the sweater he does not want to wear. “I have no sweater. I don’t know how to put it on. My arms don’t work. Ugh! Ugh! I can’t pick it up with my arms!”

The other twin is in a whiny era. He responds to minor setbacks—difficulty snapping his jeans, getting the wrong jam on his toast, inability to find his water bottle after approximately 1.25 seconds of looking—with loud, tearful cry-whines. His life is over, you understand. The bottle is gone forever.

There is nothing wrong with either twin, and I wouldn’t share these stories if I thought there were (or if there weren’t two of them, giving both plausible deniability). This phase they’re in is deeply annoying, but it’s not diagnosable. It’s nothing that won’t go away with a little discipline and time. They will mature. They will learn to like sweaters and find bottles. They will grow up.

But too many American children “aren’t growing up,” as journalist Abigail Shrier says in the subtitle of her new book. Bad Therapy argues that several factors have combined to ruin American childhood: overhasty diagnosis and medicalization of normal growing pains, the decline and abdication of parental authority, expert and institutional overreach, and—of course—smartphones.

As has become widely recognized in the last half decade or so, children, teenagers, and young adults are growing more anxious, unhappy, lonely, and afraid to pursue what were once commonplace marks ...

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Darlene Cunningham: “We have not seen a tragedy of this magnitude in all of [our] history … [leaders’] deaths create a massive vacuum” for Youth With a Mission.”

Days after a bus accident claimed 11 of its missionaries in Tanzania, leaders of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) are “devastated” but rallying prayer and support to aid medical evacuations, repatriations, and funeral arrangements expected to total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Christian missionaries, seven of whom were from other countries, including one from the United States, died in the Ngaramtoni area near the city of Arusha in the eastern African country’s north.

Authorities say a construction truck hit one of two mini-buses carrying the missionaries. The participants in an “Executive Masters in Leadership” course were returning from a field trip in Maasai land when the truck lost its brakes, smashing into the bus.

“We have not seen a tragedy of this magnitude in all of YWAM’s history and we are all devastated,” stated YWAM cofounder Darlene Cunningham in a letter dated February 26. She explained:

The individuals involved in running the Executive Masters were key YWAM leaders in the region—some leading flourishing YWAM bases; others giving leadership in the field of education and other spheres; others ministering in restricted-access locations where no one else would dare to go—and seeing the hand of God upon their ministries in amazing ways. The students attracted to the Executive Masters were the same caliber of people—life-long committed YWAM missionary pioneers. So their deaths create a massive vacuum in this part of the world for YWAM as a missionary movement.

On Wednesday (Feb. 28), members of YWAM in the region held prayers and send-off services for their departed colleagues.

“The mood is very sad,” Bernard Ojiwa, an official of YWAM ...

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Drawing from their long experience in the Islamic world, evangelical novelists pen fiction to help Muslims and Americans better see Jesus.

Can you imagine if Dune took place in the ocean instead of the desert? One Christian novel does.

With Dune: Part Two now in theaters, moviegoers are once again treated to the cinematic spectacle of Frank Herbert’s popular sci-fi epic. Less known is how his 1965 novel bears witness to the influence of Muhammad.

And even less known are the efforts of Christians to translate their Muslim world experience into novels that communicate the gospel.

“We tend … not to recognize how much Islam has contributed to our culture,” stated Herbert in a 1976 radio interview. “But we owe Islam enormous debts of gratitude.”

The American author blended many religious themes into his six-volume series but deliberately filled his sand-infused apocalyptic landscape with tribal conflicts, Shiite concepts, and Bedouin-inspired characters. Hero Paul Atreides becomes the Mahdi, mirroring the Muslim messiah-like figure anticipated at the end of the world. And as he wins acceptance among the nomadic Fremen people, he takes the name Muad’Dib, adapted from an Arabic word for “teacher.”

Their desert religion is called Zensunni , mixing Islam with the Buddhism Herbert eventually adopted.

Dune is often credited as an inspiration for Star Wars and its Eastern cosmology. But there’s similar world-creating literature by three Muslim-world Christian workers writing in the genres of sci-fi, contemporary thriller, and young adult fiction.

Each bears witness to the love of Jesus.

“As far as I am aware, this is the first time that violent Islamists, followers of Jesus from Muslim backgrounds, and science fiction have been combined,” said Steve Holloway, author of Pelagia. “Conveying an Islamic ...

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Journalist Jason Kirk discusses his new novel, turn-of-the-century evangelicalism, and deconstruction.

Jason Kirk’s newly released novel Hell Is a World Without You is not my usual reading fare. Nor is his book CT’s usual coverage fare. As you’ll gather from our conversation below, Kirk has left evangelicalism behind and is reflecting on the church of his youth with a critical, if somewhat sympathetic, eye.

I was too shy a teenager to really embrace early 2000s youth group life, but Kirk’s childhood church setting—which serves as the backdrop of his book—was basically the setting of my childhood too. Many evangelical-exvangelical conversations of today, which can be charged, if they happen at all, also arise from this setting; so I was intrigued at the prospect of a writer not only willing but eager to talk about that divide. I reached out to Kirk, a sports journalist at The Athletic, to discuss his experience and depiction of evangelicalism, exvangelicalism, deconstruction, and more.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Let’s start with the basics: Tell me a bit about yourself, the book, and how you came to write it.

I was raised Southern Baptist in Atlanta and grew up attending church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night—the whole thing, all the way until early college. I had the entire evangelical kid career.

As a teenager, I started having the vague, gnawing, constant sense that I didn’t fit in with high-control, conservative religion, even though it’s where all my friends were and where we experienced all the fun and joy and music and hugs and laughs and pizza. That disconnect involved a mix of emotions, politics, social stuff, philosophies, events I witnessed, and more—as is the case for just about any major shift in anybody’s life.

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Evangelical leader: Ministers’ testimonies were never intended to be the “make-or-break” factor in judging asylum applications.

A chemical attack that injured a dozen people in the South London suburb of Clapham a month ago has sparked the resurgence of a national debate over the UK’s asylum system and the church’s involvement with migrant converts.

The suspected perpetrator, Abdul Ezedi, was an Afghan refugee who came to Britain illegally in 2016 and was granted asylum in 2020 on appeal after his two previous applications had been denied. He won his appeal even though he had been convicted of a sex offense in 2018.

At his tribunal, he claimed he had converted from Islam to Christianity and would face persecution from the Taliban if he was returned to Afghanistan. A member of the clergy vouched for the sincerity of Ezedi’s religious belief. A tribunal judge was convinced by the plea and granted Ezedi asylum status.

The uproar grew as the details of Ezedi’s case became clearer and doubt was cast on the sincerity of his conversion. (Metropolitan Police confirmed last week that they found his body in the River Thames, where he had likely drowned.)

Suella Braverman, a member of the UK Parliament who has formerly served as Home Secretary (a top cabinet position in the British government with responsibilities including immigration issues), wrote in The Telegraph that “churches around the country [are] facilitating industrial-scale bogus asylum claims.”

Braverman charged that, at some churches, migrants can simply “attend Mass once a week for a few months, befriend the vicar, get your baptism date in the diary and, bingo, you’ll be signed off by a member of the clergy that you’re now a God-fearing Christian who will face certain persecution if removed to your Islamic country of origin.”

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The historic and well-funded organization has seen two years of turmoil: five CEOs, money fumbles, and a pullback from global work. It is searching for a fresh start.

The 208-year-old American Bible Society (ABS) used to have a simple mission: print and distribute Bibles in the US. At its peak in 1979, it was giving away 108 million a year.

Once Americans had access to Bibles, ABS’s challenge became getting people to read them. In the early 2000s, the organization shifted to a mission of “Scripture engagement.” That is not as clear-cut as the number of Bibles printed, and in the years since, people in ABS circles have disagreed on what to do with a large legacy organization’s resources. A new Bible museum? A Bible app for military members? Curriculum on trauma healing through Scripture?

And how much should an organization that partners with Bible societies around the globe focus on the “American” part of its mission?

This 21st-century identity crisis has sharpened in the last two years with the quick turnover of five executives in a row, tens of millions of dollars in financial shortfalls, and the loss of a major donor. Sources said that about 30 staff were laid off late last year, which amounts to about 20 percent of employees.

Amid all the issues, ABS is changing its priorities. But it’s not clear whether the organizational messes are driving those decisions or if the messes are part of the pains of changing strategy. CT heard from ABS staff, former staff, donors, and other stakeholders, all with different ideas of what is causing the problems at ABS.

The stakes are high because ABS has a roughly $100 million-a-year budget and a $600 million endowment, which puts it in the top 1 percent of Christian organizations in Ministry Watch’s database by assets. Bible societies around the world rely on its support. Over the last two years of turmoil, ...

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Survey: Even with growing concerns over the past two years, most still favor immigration reform and say the church has a responsibility to help.

American evangelicals have complex perspectives on immigration and want a nuanced political response, but most want Congress to act soon.

A Lifeway Research study sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table found evangelicals are increasingly concerned about the number of recent immigrants to the US but still believe Christians have a responsibility to care for those who are in the country illegally. While most want to secure the border to prevent additional illegal immigration, evangelicals also advocate for a path to citizenship for those already in the country.

“While many evangelicals fear that our nation is harmed by the volume of recent immigrants, more feel responsible to show compassion,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “The urgency continues to grow among evangelicals for Congress to act this year to improve laws around immigration.”

Many evangelicals have a negative perception of the recent number of immigrants to the United States. Half (50%) say they are a drain on economic resources. More than a third see the number as a threat to the safety of citizens (37%) and a threat to law and order (37%), while 28 percent say they are a threat to traditional American customs and culture.

Yet, a large percentage of evangelicals see the number coming to the country as an opportunity or even an improvement. Two in 5 evangelicals say the number of immigrants presents an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ (40%) and to show them love (39%). Around a quarter (26%) believe immigrants represent an improvement to America’s cultural diversity, and 14 percent say they’re a boost to entrepreneurial activity.

“It is not surprising ...

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Local and international activists discuss Voice of the Martyrs escalating the country’s religious freedom status to “restricted nation.”

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has placed India in its highest persecution tier in its latest global prayer guide, bumping the country up from “hostile area” to “restricted nation.”

VOM’s mid-tier “hostile area” category identifies nations or large areas of nations where, despite government attempt to provide protection, the Christian population remains persecuted by family, friends, neighbors, or political groups because of their witness. Indian believers have largely faced this type of violence, including last year’s Manipur attacks, which killed more than 100.

In contrast, “restricted nation” describes countries where government-sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws lead to the harassment of Christians or the loss of their civil liberties. It can also include government policies or practices preventing Christians from obtaining Bibles or other Christian literature. (Christians in restricted nations often also experience persecution from family, community members, and/or political groups.)

Although Indian Christians largely face persecution that reflects VOM’s mid-tier categorization, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a key player in recent years in driving public opinion against non-Hindu Indians.

“The rise of Hindutva ideology—and the open and enthusiastic embrace of this ideology by Modi and other government leaders—has had the effect of making India’s national government an overt persecutor of the church rather than a protector of religious minorities and religious freedom,” said VOM spokesperson Todd Nettleton.

“This emphasis—backed by the power of the federal government as well ...

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He was tortured for his faith but remained steadfast through the Cultural Revolution.

Westminster Abbey in London, the exclusive chapel of the British royal family, has served as the site for the coronation of generations of kings, royal weddings, funerals, and other significant events. Today it functions as the final resting place for many renowned British nobles, poets, generals, scientists, and writers, such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dickens.

Since 1998, ten statues of 20th-century Christian martyrs from around the globe have graced the Great West Door of the abbey, including Maximilian Kolbe, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Also among these revered figures, however, is a less widely known martyr from China: Wang Zhiming (王志明, 1907–1973), a Miao pastor from Wuding County, Yunnan Province, who was persecuted during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and executed after a violent denunciation rally in 1973.

The Miao people of China first encountered the gospel when Catholicism was introduced to the Guizhou and Sichuan provinces around 1798. One hundred years later (in 1906), Protestant missionaries Arthur Nicholls (葛秀峰) and William Theophilus Simpkin (师明庆) of the China Inland Mission (CIM) journeyed for several days from Kunming to reach the Miao tribes, who were still practicing slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting.

The foreign Protestant missionaries brought not only the Bible and the gospel but also health education measures, transforming the Miao people’s old customs of ghost worship and cohabitation with animals and treating epidemics such as plague and typhoid. Samuel Pollard (伯格里), a British Methodist missionary who had come to this area before Nicholls and Simpkin, created the Miao script, translated the Bible into the Miao language, and implemented social ...

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