For many African churches, the all-night vigil is a centerpiece of devotion and is not limited to any particular season. The event commonly begins at 9 or 10 p.m., usually on a Friday, and runs until four or five the following morning. Particularly among the independent or African-instituted churches, prayer is accompanied by acts of healing and exorcism. These services commonly draw thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of people. Night vigils also flourish among the booming evangelical and Pentecostal churches of South Korea, where hundreds of thousands pass their Friday nights in prayer and praise. In terms of timing, endurance and mass appeal, the closest Western parallels to these Christian celebrations would be found in dance clubs and rave parties in major cities.
Apart from Billy Graham, who is sidelined by age, the most influential evangelical Christian in the U.S. these days is probably author and pastor Rick Warren. His best sellers on the “purpose-driven church” and the “purpose-driven life” have reached millions in both evangelical and mainline circles. His casual, unbuttoned demeanor captures the modern evangelical style.
Shortly before Christmas, while defending his plan to give federal aid to the collapsing U.S. automakers, President Bush remarked, “I have abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”
Christians persecuted in Iraq . . . Christian clergy murdered in Indonesia . . . churches destroyed in the Sudan. Around the world, stories of anti-Christian abuse and violence mount up, and are usually presented as irrefutable evidence of the violence of Islam.
Countless times over the past two decades, when this magazine had an especially important theological book to review or topic to explore, we contacted William C. Placher, one of our editors at large. And since he could not write all the articles we suggested, we would often have to move to the next thought: Who can write almost as well as Bill?
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had his brother hand deliver a check for $400,000 last month to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital with the message that “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.” In September Rouhani’s administration had issued a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world. Though some question Rouhani’s motives, his behavior is a refreshing contrast to that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a Holocaust denier (New York Times, February 6).