Stories of interest to Arkansas Baptists ...


Cochran lawsuit against City of Atlanta to proceed

DULUTH, Ga. (BP) -- The Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit filed on behalf of former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran will proceed against the city following a ruling by a federal court.

The Atlanta Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed some claims but allowed the suit to go forward on Cochran's primary claims of "retaliation, discrimination based on his viewpoint, and the violation of his constitutionally protected freedom of religion, association, and due process (firing without following proper procedure)," according to the ADF.

Cochran, a deacon at 19,000-member Elizabeth Baptist Church affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, was terminated on Jan. 6 due to his personal statements on the gay lifestyle. He was unable to comment on the court's ruling.

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How secular Americans are reshaping funeral rituals

Before his death a few years ago, Jim Underdown’s father, James, requested that he be cremated — becoming the first in his family to do so. A month later, the family had a memorial luncheon in Chicago. In accordance with his wishes, his cremated remains were scattered in a favorite wooded area in Wisconsin.

The decision to forgo traditional burial was in line with his father’s rejection of religion, Jim Underdown said. “He certainly didn’t want any churchiness surrounding his death.”

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Faith Equality Index releases key ratings for Christmas travelers

RALEIGH, N.C. – 400 major brands have been for compatibility with Faith-driven consumers who will be traveling during the Christmas holidays.

Faith Driven Consumer (FDC), which represents 41 million Americans who spend $2 trillion annually, has added gas stations, theme parks, and additional fast food chains to the ratings due to demand from the FDC community, according to a press release from the organization. 

With gas prices at new lows, many families are hitting the road this Christmas season and will be looking for the most faith-compatible shopping options along the way, the release states. In-N-Out Burger, rated 57, earns the distinction as a "Best Place to Shop and Work for Faith Equality and Inclusion," according to FDC.

“As families vacation during the Christmas holiday, they have numerous options for commodities such as gas, food, and hotels. When brands are largely indistinguishable, the difference maker is the Faith Equality Index (FEI). 41 million consumers with $30 billion to spend this Christmas will decide where to gas up, to eat, and to stay based on each brands’ FEI score,” said Chris Stone, Certified Brand Strategist and founder of Faith Driven Consumer. 

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Church tent noise level now a religious liberty test

METAIRIE, La. (BP) – Vintage Church, a Louisiana Baptist congregation, has filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and Jefferson Parish in a dispute over sound levels during Sunday worship services in a tent serving as the congregation's temporary meeting area.

The tent, erected in August, is intended to be a short-term arrangement while the church expands attendance capacity in its permanent building -- a project estimated for completion in nine or 10 months.

The petition filed jointly by local attorney Roy Bowes and the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm which focuses on religious liberty issues, accuses Sheriff Newell Normand and his officers of intimidation tactics in attempting to essentially shut down Vintage Church's weekly worship services because of noise complaints by a single individual. The suit also describes the noise level ordinances as flawed.

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‘Star Wars’ book written by SBTS professor to be re-released this week

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With the highly anticipated film *Star Wars: The Force Awakens* opening in theaters Friday, Waterbrook Multnomah is set this week to re-release Timothy Paul Jones’ book *Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away*.

As the new movie is the seventh in the *Star Wars *saga, Jones’ book explores a Christian experience of the previously released six films. The book, originally published in 2003, will feature a redesigned layout and a new cover.

Jones, C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the book begins by exploring the awe*Star Wars *inspires and ends pointing to the gospel as the “consummate fulfillment” of that awe.

“At the heart of George Lucas’ space opera is a world that is full of wonders,” he said in an interview. “In a world that is glutted with glitz, gorged with superficial pleasures, and yet starving for authentic awe, sagas of this sort stimulate the imagination anew. These stories seize the space in every human soul that still longs to see exceptional beauty and power even in the most improbable places.”

*Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away *is the result of Jones’ own *Star Wars *fandom, which began when he saw the first film as a 5-year-old. “What captured my imagination at that drive-in theater in southern Missouri was the sheer vastness of the universe that the movie portrayed,” he said. “To this day, I vividly recall the awe I felt when I saw that Star Destroyer and Rebel Blockade Runner roll across the screen in the opening scene.”

The book offers an extensive treatment of how believers should think through the religious implications of *Star Wars *from a Christian worldview. Jones suggests Christians should interpret all films through the lens of the Bible’s storyline — Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation — and that *Star Wars *is ripe for theological reflection. Although the spirituality in*Star Wars *is heavily influenced by Eastern mysticism, many of its redemptive themes are borrowed from Christianity.

“Eastern religious ideas are woven throughout Star Wars,” he said. “That provides us with a good opportunity to help our children to see the contrast between the personal God of Scripture and the false gods of pantheism and do-it-yourself spirituality. At the same time, some of the most powerful aspects of the Star Wars storyline are more Judeo-Christian than Eastern: good triumphs through Luke Skywalker's willingness to sacrifice his own life to redeem his father, and Darth Vader turns from darkness and experiences reconciliation.”

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