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Pope rebukes pastors who 'become princes'

Credit: Scavuzzo/AGF/REX/Shutterstock via AP"Jesus was not a prince," Pope Francis stated yesterday during his General Audience. "It is awful for the church when pastors become princes, far from the people, far from the poorest people. That is not the spirit of Jesus."

According to the pope, true followers of Jesus take up his yoke to receive and welcome the revelation of God's mercy, bringing salvation to the poor and the oppressed. He called us to learn from Jesus "what it means to live in mercy in order to be instruments of mercy."

The fact that the pope's call for servant leaders is resounding in today's news says as much about the culture as it does about the church. Clearly, Christian leaders need to be reminded regularly that we serve Jesus when we serve those in need (Matthew 25:40). Our Lord came "not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28) and called us to imitate his sacrifice in loving and serving others (John 13:15).

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The Chinese struggle to define homosexuality

Credit: An xin via AP

Is homosexuality a mental disorder? It is according to commonly used psychology textbooks in China. However, that doesn't sit well with one university student who has spent much of the past three years fighting to have that assessment changed. The young woman, who goes by the pseudonym Qiu Bai, first discovered the issue while looking for answers regarding her sexual orientation in medical textbooks as a freshman. What she found instead were descriptions of how therapy, including the use of shock treatments and the inducement of nausea, can help cure homosexuality.

As Julia Zhou of NBC News reports, part of the reason that such suggestions surprised and worried Bai was that the "Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders back in 2001." Roughly forty percent of textbooks published since that date, however, still classify homosexuality as a mental disorder. That hypocrisy gave Bai grounds on which to launch her crusade, and her lawsuit against China's national education department has a hearing in Beijing this week.

While the department doesn't appear to be terribly worried about the case—BBC's Stephen McDonell reports that they "didn't even bother to retain legal counsel"—every chance Bai gets to take her case one more rung up the ladder increases the issue's exposure, both in China and around the world. That exposure, and the global sympathy it might generate, are likely her best chance of seeing real change. So, while she'll be disheartened if the case is once again rejected, it will simply mark the next stop on her journey.

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What Hillary Clinton's health controversy says about us

Andrew Harnik via APAbout three million Americans are diagnosed with pneumonia each year. Only one of them is running for president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton's pneumonia continues to generate headlines this morning. According to her physician, she was diagnosed last Friday and put on antibiotics. After she collapsed Sunday morning, she was taken to her daughter's New York City apartment. She exited the building ninety minutes later and told the press she was "feeling great." A few hours later, her campaign announced that she has pneumonia and is recovering.

Her campaign is now working with her doctor to release "additional medical information," according to her press secretary. He assured the public that "there is no other undisclosed condition." However, many are skeptical. As Damon Linker notes in The Week, "Political trust is a fragile thing. Once it's gone, it's exceedingly difficult to get back."

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NCAA to move 7 events from North Carolina, cites bathroom law

Credit: Chuck Burton via APNorth Carolina adopted legislation in March 2016 which mandates that in government buildings, individuals may use only restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. Gov. Pat McCrory defends the law as a way to protect young girls from potential predators.

The National Basketball Association and other groups are already boycotting the state because of this law. According to today's Wall Street Journal, the NCAA has announced that it is pulling seven tournament games from the state for the same reason. This after attempts were made over the summer in California to remove funding from religious universities that defend biblical sexuality and marriage.

As ethicist David Gushee warns, "On LGBT equality, middle ground is disappearing." Gushee is himself a convert to the LGBT cause and advocate for same-sex marriage. While I disagree strongly with his reasoning, I agree that discrimination against Christians who "discriminate" against the LGBT community will continue to escalate.

As with all challenges, the time to decide we will act with courage is before courage is required. Case in point: "Sully" Sullenberger and the "Miracle on the Hudson."

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'Sully' and why we tear down those we should lift up

Credit: Universal PicturesSully, the latest film from director Clint Eastwood, stars Tom Hanks as the titular captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and depicts the miraculous landing of his disabled passenger jet on the Hudson River back in January of 2009. One hundred and fifty souls were on board that ill-fated flight, and Sully, along with co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) and the crew, saved every one of them from near certain death after a flock of birds flew into both engines, disabling the plane just three minutes after take-off.

While that unprecedented water landing serves as the focal point of the film, much of the movie's tight hour and a half runtime is spent portraying the trials Sully faced after everyone was safely back on dry land. The pilot is plagued by recurring visions of how things might have gone differently as he stares out across New York's sky-line, only to see his plane crashing into buildings and homes. It's impossible to see the movie and not think of the 9/11 tragedy that previously rocked the metropolis, especially as we remembered the 15 year anniversary of that horrific attack earlier this week.

Sully's nightmares are exacerbated by the National Transportation Safety Board's inquiry, in which the panel of experts often seem more determined to find someone to blame than the truth of what actually happened following the accident. As IGN's Simon Thompson noted, the depiction of the panel is, in many ways, Eastwood "holding a mirror up and asking why we can't resist tearing down the ones we should be holding up, the ones whose actions give us hope." It's a question that deserves further reflection.

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I Was Wrong About Terrance Williams

Credit: Michael Ainsworth via APLike Dallas Cowboys fans around the world, I was yelling at the television yesterday. As you know if you follow NFL football at all, Cowboys wide receiver Terrence Williams caught a pass from Dak Prescott with time running out. If he had cut right and gone out of bounds, he would have stopped the clock in time for Dan Bailey to try a game-winning field goal. But he cut left, was tackled, and the game ended.

I told my wife that I'd never seen a more bone-headed play. Junior high football players know better, I ranted. How could he possibly not know to get out of bounds? Dez Bryant was standing in front of him, pointing at the sideline as he turned back into the field. I was there with him in spirit.

The social media universe has been even harsher than I was. I won't repeat what is being said about the beleaguered wide receiver today.

But here's the problem: none of us listened to Williams's explanation before we rendered our verdict. And it turns out, he was trying to do the right thing under the circumstances.

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New Miss America is a Christian

Credit: Noah K. Murray via APThere is much we could discuss in today's news. Hillary Clinton is being treated for pneumonia after her sudden exit from a 9/11 ceremony in New York City. North Korea's recent nuclear test is still making headlines. "Sully" was the winner at the North American box office over the weekend. The NFL's first full Sunday of action produced several surprises (Dallas Cowboys fans are still frustrated this morning by our loss, but that's another subject).

However, I'd like to focus for a moment on Savvy Shields, who was named Miss America 2017 last night. She is an art major at the University of Arkansas and won the talent competition with her jazz dance. And she is a Christian. She prayed for her fellow contestants before the competition and noted on her Instagram, "God is so much greater than we can imagine."

It is encouraging when people with beauty, talent, and charisma make their faith public. But here's the downside: we can mistakenly think we must be successful to be useful to God. Our challenges and failures can discourage us from serving Jesus.

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Iconic 9/11 flag returned to NYC

Bebeto Matthews via APRemember the three firefighters who raised the American flag over the rubble of Ground Zero on September 11, 2001? The flag had been taken from a yacht moored in lower Manhattan. Shortly after its iconic photograph was taken, however, it disappeared.

Somehow it made its way to Washington State. In 2014, a man gave it to a local fire station; police determined its authenticity and returned it to its original owners. They later donated it to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, where it was unveiled yesterday.

The flag symbolizes the resolve of the American people in responding to the worst terrorist attack in our history. This Sunday will mark fifteen years since 2,996 people were killed and more than 6,000 were injured. Like me, you will never forget where you were on that horrific day. You may have wondered across the years what you can do to honor those who died and to prevent future attacks on our nation.

Let's consider the second question first. Since 9/11, we have seen the rise of ISIS and multiple other radical Islamist groups across the world. They threaten our lives and our way of life. We must respond with our best military, economic, political, and cultural resources.

At the same time, this is ultimately a spiritual conflict with enemies who are motivated by an apocalyptic spiritual vision. That's why it is imperative that God's people pray for God's Spirit to reveal God's Son to Muslims the world over. In response to such visions and dreams, more Muslims than ever before are coming to faith in Jesus. We must increase our intercession as we fight this battle on our knees.

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Obama brushes aside Filipino president's insult

Credit: Carolyn Kaster via AP

President Obama's trip through southeast Asia was supposed to be a time of peace and collaboration with America's allies. Perhaps that can still be the ultimate outcome, as the regional meeting in Laos could certainly benefit relations between the various countries in attendance. However, the conference quickly became secondary to Obama's meeting with Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte after, on Monday, the latter called the US leader a "son of a whore."

President Obama, however, is not the first public figure to feel Duterte's verbal wrath. The Filipino president issued the same insult to the US ambassador last month and to Pope Francis when he visited the country earlier this year. To his credit, Obama brushed off the slur by saying "Clearly, he's a colorful guy."

The comment came after Duterte—who has been compared to a Filipino Donald Trump for his tendency to say what's on his mind with little regard to the repercussions—was asked by a reporter how he would explain the extrajudicial killings of over two thousand suspected drug dealers since he took office on June 30. Putting an end to drug trafficking and crime was a major part of Duterte's platform while seeking election, when he promised his people that he would end all crime and corruption in six months while offering his support for police to use deadly force.

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What is Aleppo? Where is the grace?

Credit: Sputnik via APShakespeare thought "To be or not to be?" was the question, but Gary Johnson had a different question. The Libertarian presidential candidate was visibly stumped Thursday morning on an open-ended question about the Syrian civil war. Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" what he would do about Aleppo—the major Syrian city that has been a stronghold for opposition forces and under siege by Bashar Assad's government—Johnson responded: "And what is Aleppo?"

Journalist Mike Barnicle responded, "You're kidding." Johnson was not. "Aleppo is in Syria. … It's the epicenter of the refugee crisis," Barnicle responded. "Okay, got it," Johnson said, and went on to call Syria a "mess."

Following the interview, the Johnson campaign responded, saying: "This morning, I began my day by setting aside any doubt that I'm human. Yes, I understand the dynamics of the Syrian conflict — I talk about them every day." Continuing, Johnson noted: "But hit with 'What about Aleppo?' I immediately was thinking about an acronym, not the Syrian conflict. I blanked. It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign."

Johnson has been rising in the polls as of late. Former Republican candidate Mitt Romney just yesterday called for Johnson and his vice presidential candidate Bill Weld to be included in the fall debates. To qualify, they need to be polling at fifteen percent. Currently they are at ten.

Seeking to reassure voters and potential supporters, Johnson concluded: "Can I name every city in Syria? No. Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes," he said.

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