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CULTURE DIGEST: Rumblings of revival begin on college campus; offensive cartoons threaten Iraqi Christians

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A massive movement of prayer on a college campus has led to an extended time of corporate worship that had some students staying in the school’s chapel as long as 11 hours, and a Southern Baptist evangelism leader hopes it could be one of the spots where revival breaks out among a new generation.

At Asbury College, a Christian liberal arts college with more than 1,200 students in Wilmore, Ky., near Lexington, the student body gathered for a regularly scheduled chapel service at 10 a.m. Feb. 6, but some ended up staying for hours, according to a news release by the school.

“Following the morning chapel the altar was crowded with students seeking the Lord — two and three deep, with people praying in groups around the auditorium,” Asbury President Paul Rader said. “Throughout the day there has been a beautiful awareness of the holiness of God. Many students took off their shoes with a sense of standing on holy ground.

“God is answering the passionate and persistent prayers of committed students who have been fasting and praying for weeks for this kind of spiritual breakthrough. We are all rejoicing in it,” he said.

In hopes that God would have His way in lives across their campus and community, Asbury students have individually committed to interceding for their peers and have collectively signed up for more than 40 hours of prayer for their school each week.

John Avant, vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, expressed excitement about what is going on at Asbury, especially in light of similar explosions of enthusiasm among Christians in Missouri and Alaska.

“The last two weeks have been the first fresh movements of God on campuses that I have heard about since the mid-‘90s,” Avant said in remarks to Baptist Press.

Revival broke out at Asbury College in 1970 and again in 1995, and many hope to see such commitment to God resurface so that many more lives can be changed.

News of the extended chapel service spread throughout the surrounding areas, high schools and other local colleges, the school said, and hundreds of students, faculty and staff and members of the community joined in for praise, worship and prayer in the chapel.

When one group of students would tire of leading in worship, another group would move into their place, and a local grocery store sent food and water for those who chose to remain in the service for hours. The school noted that the service was not planned to last so long; it was simply an answer to prayer.

“I didn’t want to leave until I felt the Lord was in me the way He needed to be,” Michael Spann, a freshman at Asbury, said.

The student body at Asbury includes people from 47 states and 11 countries, and the school is currently ranked fourth by U.S. News & World Report among comprehensive colleges in the South.

“When God moves, you have to respond. There’s nothing else you can do when you meet your Creator face to face like we did yesterday,” Ben Greenhoe, a sophomore at Asbury, said. “There’s nothing else that could bring that many people together from so many different backgrounds.”

MORE TEENS DABBLING IN WITCHCRAFT — Three-quarters of America’s youth have participated in at least one kind of psychic or witchcraft-related activity beyond watching a television show about it or reading their horoscopes, according to a study by The Barna Group that reveals a new level of teen involvement in the supernatural.

With many churches failing to address the subject of the supernatural often enough or with adequate relevance, Barna said, lots of teenagers are picking up knowledge through movies such as “Underworld” and “The Sixth Sense,” and through television shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the “Harry Potter” book series.

Most commonly, youth are experimenting with Ouiji boards and reading books about witchcraft or Wicca, which has gone on for generations but now is prevalent among more than one-third of today’s teens, Barna said.

Among the stats:

— More than one-quarter of teens have played a game featuring sorcery or witchcraft elements.

— One-tenth have participated in a séance.

— One out of 12 have attempted to cast a spell or mix a magic potion.

— More than one-fourth have had their palm read or their fortune told.

— 9 percent of teens have consulted a psychic.

— Four out of five have read their horoscopes before, and only a minority believes they are not at all accurate and should be avoided, Barna said.

“Teens give the supernatural world the same treatment as any other aspect of their lives,” David Kinnaman, author of the report and vice president of The Barna Group, said. “They cut and paste supernatural experiences and perspectives from a variety of sources — from the movies and books they read, from their experiences, from the Internet, from their peers and families, from any place they’re comfortable with.

“Most of all, they are motivated by their desire to find out what works for them and what feels right,” Kinnaman said. “This makes it difficult to minister to them, because most teens today do not process or interpret input in the same way adults do.”

For a closer look at the study, visit www.barna.org.

OFFENSIVE CARTOONS THREATEN IRAQI CHRISTIANS — As the deadly protests continue in response to offensive drawings of the Prophet Mohammad, some Christians in Iraq are reportedly fearful that they have already been and will again be the target of anger over the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper and were reprinted throughout Europe.

“Innocent people were killed because of these cartoons … this is terror,” Louis Sako, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, told Reuters.

Sako said car bombings at several churches in Iraq last month that killed three people and wounded 17 could be linked to the outrage in the Muslim world over the depictions, one of which included Mohammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

Christians throughout Iraq are even more on edge now, he said, because the recent violent protests in neighboring Iran and Afghanistan have added to the already tenuous conditions brought on by the liberation of Iraq and subsequent insurgent attacks. Churchgoers fear for their lives, Sako said, and the Christian population in Iraq has fallen from 1 million to less than 800,000 as individuals have fled violence in the past two years, Reuters reported.

“Caricatures offensive to Muslims gave a pretext for terrorists to blow up churches and kill innocents,” Ashur Yalda, a teacher in Kirkuk, told Reuters. “Today I’m afraid to walk the streets, because I’m Christian.”

President Bush welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah to the White House Feb. 8 and expressed his displeasure with the tactics many Muslims are using to protest the cartoons, which include setting embassies ablaze.

“I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence, to be respectful, to protect property, protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas,” Bush said.

Abdullah said he echoes Bush’s sentiments and added that he hopes good can come of the situation.

“I hope that lessons can be learned from this dreadful issue, that we can move forward as humanity, and truly try to strive together, as friends and as neighbors, to bring a better world to all,” he said.

Meanwhile, someone else in the Arab world is trying to use cartoons to bring good rather than harm to his region. Naif al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti educated at Columbia University who now lives in the Middle East, told The New York Times he is developing a new line of superheroes who display Muslim virtues and focus on saving the Arab world.

“The 99,” scheduled to debut in September, will personify the 99 attributes Muslims believe God possesses, The Times reported Jan. 21, and are intended to break the mold currently filled by American superheroes like Superman, Spiderman and the Power Rangers.

Mutawa’s goal, he said, is to bridge the cultural divide that young Arabs face between the values of the East and the entertainment of the West by giving them something inspirational that embodies the key qualities of Islam.

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry Roach