Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn To Faith
Constantine's decision to cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a turning point for early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian shift. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship. The emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent for the position of the Christian emperor within the Church and raised the notions of orthodoxy, Christendom, ecumenical councils, and the state church of the Roman Empire declared by edict in 380. He is revered as a saint and isapostolos in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and various Eastern Catholic Churches for his example as a Christian monarch.
Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn to Faith
About the time of the midday sun, when the day was just turning, he said he saw with his own eyes up in the sky and resting over the sun, a cross-shaped trophy formed from light, and a text attached to it which said, "By this conquer." (τούτῳ νίκα) Amazement at the spectacle seized both him and the whole company of soldiers which was then accompanying him on a campaign he was conducting somewhere, and witnessed the miracle.
The accession of Constantine was a turning point for early Christianity. After his victory, Constantine took over the role of patron of the Christian faith. He supported the Church financially, had a number of basilicas built, granted privileges (e.g., exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to high-ranking offices, returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian, and endowed the church with land and other wealth. Between 324 and 330, Constantine built a new city, New Rome, at Byzantium on the Bosporos, which would be named Constantinople for him. Unlike "old" Rome, the city began to employ overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls, and had no pre-existing temples from other religions.
Faith can do amazing things to a person. Even the worst villain can redeem themselves after gaining a little bit of faith in God. A Heel–Faith Turn is a situation where a villain turns good because of a deep religious experience, possibly preceded by a My God, What Have I Done? moment or a Heel Realization. As a result, the former villain often becomes a Good Shepherd and/or Badass Preacher and an Atoner.
I must confess that writing posts on Hollywood conversions can be terrifying. We Catholics tend to get excited when an actor says something about the faith. Sometimes we are even quick to elevate them to the status of models of the Christian life. Soon after, they come around and start spouting out rubbish and, naturally, we feel disappointed. I am going to be clear then, that with this post, it seems that Wahlberg is a sincere Catholic, and has been for some time. He gives a very positive testimony of his faith and it is great to see him sharing it so openly.
Converts to Islam also have a tough time. Black Muslims are actually somewhat more likely to return to prison than other ex-inmates, says researcher Fareed Nu'man of the American Muslim Council. In contrast, 20 years ago, Muslims hardly ever went back to jail, he says. But there were more extensive support programs then.
3. For our identity. Perhaps you are not in a crisis of faith, but you have taken your identity in Christ for granted. When we are converted we become more fundamentally Christian than anything else we might have in common. Meditate on this amazing truth. And remember: Biblical assurance is not based merely upon an examination of our conversion, but also upon an examination of our life from that moment on.
Like Americans in many other religious groups, a substantial share of adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as members of the faith. But, unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses.
63. The Catholic faith of many peoples is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism while others seem to propose a spirituality without God. This is, on the one hand, a human reaction to a materialistic, consumerist and individualistic society, but it is also a means of exploiting the weaknesses of people living in poverty and on the fringes of society, people who make ends meet amid great human suffering and are looking for immediate solutions to their needs. These religious movements, not without a certain shrewdness, come to fill, within a predominantly individualistic culture, a vacuum left by secularist rationalism. We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.
260. In this final chapter, I do not intend to offer a synthesis of Christian spirituality, or to explore great themes like prayer, Eucharistic adoration or the liturgical celebration of the faith. For all these we already have valuable texts of the magisterium and celebrated writings by great authors. I do not claim to replace or improve upon these treasures. I simply wish to offer some thoughts about the spirit of the new evangelization.
"People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assert that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men often are pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. Aligned with the American Psychological Association's (1997) position, NCLGB [NASW's National Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues] believes that such treatment potentially can lead to severe emotional damage. Specifically, transformational ministries are fueled by stigmatization of lesbians and gay men, which in turn produces the social climate that pressures some people to seek change in sexual orientation. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful."Position Statement, "Reparative" and "Conversion" Therapies.
You have given us a great gift in Your Church. But some people choose to turn away from Your friendship and to leave the fold of Your Church. Those who have left Your Catholic Church to follow another sect of Christianity are in need of the grace of conversion.
There are many ways that we all fall short during our lives and many opportunities for sin. But some of Your people have specifically chosen to turn from You to pursue a pagan life in direct opposition to You.
Some scholars have questioned whether the term conversion is appropriate for what happened to Paul when he became a follower of Jesus. The terms convert and conversion are usually used to describe how a person turns from one religion to another, or from being non-religious to religious. Scholars who object to using this term for Paul emphasized that Paul did not think that following Jesus meant abandoning Judaism for some other religion, a brand-new thing called Christianity that contrasted with Judaism.
Conversion involves both turning away from a past life and turning toward God, resulting in an interior transformation of the person. Conversion can mean turning from sin to repentance, from laxity to fervor, from unbelief to faith, from error to truth. It includes the initial turning toward God away from atheism, turning toward moral virtue from vice, and turning toward belief in Christ from non-Christian religions.
Remember, though, that Judaism is a faith of good deeds [and other ritual observances], not forced creeds. There is more concern in Judaism that you act morally than that you have specific beliefs [at least among liberal Jews]. All Jews share a passion to make the world a better place. It is difficult to provide a brief summary of basic Judaism. To get you started, though, here are some general Jewish beliefs that are widely held among Jews:
Nineteenth century America contained a bewildering array ofProtestant sects and denominations, with different doctrines, practices, and organizational forms. But by the 1830salmost all of these bodies had a deep evangelical emphasis incommon. Protestantism has always contained an importantevangelical strain, but it was in the nineteenth century that aparticular style of evangelicalism became the dominant form ofspiritual expression. What above all else characterized thisevangelicalism was its dynamism, the pervasive sense of activistenergy it released. As Charles Grandison Finney, the leadingevangelical of mid-nineteenth century America, put it: "religionis the work of man, it is something for man to do." Thisevangelical activism involved an important doctrinal shift awayfrom the predominately Calvinist orientation that hadcharacterized much of eighteenth-century American Christianity. Eighteenth-century Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield hadstressed the sinful nature of humans and their utter incapacityto overcome this nature without the direct action of the grace ofGod working through the Holy Spirit. Salvation was purely inGod's hands, something he dispensed as he saw fit for his ownreasons. Nineteenth-century evangelicals like Finney, or LymanBeecher, or Francis Asbury, were no less unrelenting in theiremphasis on the terrible sinfulness of humans. But they focusedon sin as human action. For all they preached hellfire anddamnation, they nonetheless harbored an unshakable practicalbelief in the capacity of humans for moral action, inthe ability of humans to turn away from sinfulbehavior and embrace moral action. Whatever their particulardoctrinal stance, most nineteenth-century evangelicals preached akind of practical Arminianism which emphasized the duty andability of sinners to repent and desist from sin. ConversionThe core of nineteenth-century evangelicalism was theexperience of conversion. Conversion was compelled by a set ofclear ideas about the innate sinfulness of humans after Adam'sfall, the omnipotence of God--his awful power and his mercy--and,finally, the promise of salvation for fallen humankindthrough Christ's death on the cross as the atonement forhuman sin. But what students need to understand is thatconversion was an experience. It was not simply something thatpeople believed--though belief or faith was essential to it--but something that happened to them, a real, intensely emotionalevent they went through and experienced as a profoundpsychological transformation left them with a fundamentallyaltered sense of self, an identity as a new kind of Christian. As they interpreted it, they had undergone spiritual rebirth, thedeath of an old self and the birth of a new one thatfundamentally transformed their sense of their relationship to the world. Conversion consisted of a sequence of clearly mapped-outsteps, each of which was accompanied by a powerful emotion that led the penitent from the terror ofeternal damnation through redemption to the promise of heavenlysalvation. The process of conversion characteristically began ina state of "concern" about the state of one's soul and "inquiry"into what were called the doctrines of salvation propelled by thequestion "what can I do to be saved?" This led to a state ofacute spiritual "anxiety," marked by deep fear over the prospectof eternal damnation, which in turn grew into an unmistakablesense of "conviction," the heartfelt realization that one stoodjustly condemned for one's sins and deserved eternal damnation. Conviction was the terrifying point of recognition that no matterhow much one might desire it, there was absolutelynothing one could do to earn salvation. But there wassomething the penitent could do, indeed, was bound to do. Thatwas to fully repent and surrender unconditionally toGod's will to do with as he saw fit and to serve him fully. Itwas this act of repentance, surrender, and dedication to servinghis will that Finney meant when in his most famous sermon heinsisted that "sinners [are] bound to change their own hearts." This moment of renunciation of sin and the abject surrender tothe will to God was the moment of conversion, if it was to come,the moment at which, through the promise of Christ's atonementfor human sin, a merciful God would bestow his grace upon therepentant sinner. Guiding Student DiscussionIt is important to stress to your students the importance of theemotional state that signaled that one had receiveddivine grace and was a converted Christian. People recognized thefact of conversion by the power and character of the emotionsthat accompanied it, that made it an emotional catharsis, aheartfelt rebirth. Most characteristically, conversion, oftenaccompanied by tears, provoked a deep sense of humility and peacemarked by an overwhelming sense of love toward God, a sense thatone had entered a wholly new state of being--defined as a stateof regeneration--that was the utter opposite of the state ofwillfulness, torment, and anxiety that had accompaniedunregeneracy. The convert entered a new spiritual state referredto as regeneracy and sanctification in which the paramount desirewas to do God's will, a desire expressed almost immediately inactive concern for the conversion of family, friends, and evenstrangers who remained unconverted. Indeed, the most importantsign of sanctification was the degree of one's willingness toenlist in the ongoing evangelical campaign to convert the world.(For further discussion of the evangelical convert's role in the world see under Nineteenth Century, Evangelicalism as a Social Movement.)Revivalism and the Second Great AwakeningA second distinguishing feature of nineteenth-centuryevangelicalism was its approach to religious revivals. Thephrase "religious revival" was originally coined in theeighteenth century to describe a new phenomenon in which churches experienced an unexpected "awakening" of spiritual concern, occasioned by a special and mysteriousoutpouring of God's saving grace, which led to unprecedentednumbers of intense and "surprising conversions" that "revived"the piety and power of the churches. In the early nineteenthcentury, however, as "the revival" became a central instrumentfor provoking conversions, it became as much a human as a divineevent. In the terms of Charles Grandison Finney, a revival wassomething preachers and communicants did. It was a deliberately orchestrated event that deployed a variety of spiritual practices to provoke conversionsespecially among the unconverted "youth" (men and women between15 and 30) in the community. The new, self-consciously wrought revivals took severalforms. They first emerged at the turn of theeighteenth century with the invention of the camp meeting inwestern Virginia and North Carolina and on the Kentucky and Ohiofrontier by Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. At thesemeetings, the most famous (or notorious) of which took place atCane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people would gather from miles around in awilderness encampment for four days to a week. There they engaged in an unrelenting series of intense spiritual exercises,punctuated with cries of religious agony and ecstasy, alldesigned to promote religious fervor and conversions. Theseexercises ranged from the singing of hymns addressed to each ofthe spiritual stages that marked the journey to conversion,public confessions and renunciations of sin and personal witnessto the workings of the spirit, collective prayer, all of whichwere surrounded by sermons delivered by clergymen especiallynoted for their powerful "plain-speaking" preaching. Thesecond, major variant of the new revivalism consisted of the"protracted meetings" most often associated with the "newmeasures" revivalism of Finney but which by the late l820s hadbecome the characteristic form of most northern and westernrevivalism. "Protracted meetings," ordinarily conducted once ayear at a time when they would be less disruptive of ordinarylife, usually lasted two to three weeks, during which time therewould be preaching two or three times each day, addressedespecially to the anxious penitents who would gather on an "anxiousbench" at the front of the church to be prayed for by thecongregation, and prayer and counseling visits by newlyconverted Christians to the concerned and anxious. Once a personhad gone through the experience of conversion and rebirth, he orshe would join the ranks of visitors and exhorters, themselvesbecoming evangelists for the still unconverted around them.One important result of the new revivalism was a furthererosion of older Calvinist beliefs, especially the doctrine ofpredestination. (For information on Calvinism and predestinationsee under Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Puritanism and Predestination.) Although some evangelical clergymen did notabandon the idea of predestination entirely (the idea that Godhad preordained who would be saved and who would not was, afterall, a logical extension of the conception of God as an eternal,omniscient, and omnipotent being), in practical terms they held outwhat amounted to an idea of universal salvation. Most Methodistclergymen came pretty close to embracing the idea of universalismwhich held that Christ's atonement was potentially universal,available without restriction to all who would repent andsurrender to God. Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Churchof Christ, made universalism the hallmark of his doctrinalsystem. This new style of evangelicalism consisted of more than adoctrinal and devotional emphasis and a set of proselytizingstrategies. It has to be understood as a vast and powerfulreligious movement. By the l820s evangelicalism had become oneof the most dynamic and important cultural forces in Americanlife. It is here that another important term comesinto play--the Second Great Awakening--the term evangelicalleaders adopted to talk of the revivalism and evangelical fervorthey found themselves in the midst of. The label sought todescribe a broad religious phenomenon that transcended sectarian and denominational boundaries. Mostclergymen (and communicants as well) had specific denominationalaffiliations. But just as the seventeenth-century Puritanssaw their Massachusetts Bay experiment as the spearhead of abroader movement to reform Protestantism itself, so too did nineteenth-century evangelicals consider themselves participants in a much broader spiritual movement toevangelize the nation and world. Secondly, they used the idea ofa Second Great Awakening to signify their participation in an extraordinary religious phenomenon. The label linked them directly to a special heroic history, namely the greateighteenth-century spiritual outpouring (which they themselvesfirst designated the original or First Great Awakening)associated with such figures as Jonathan Edwards, GeorgeWhitefield, and the Tennants. Theirs, too, seemed a period markedby a special and extraordinary outpouring of God's Saving Grace,a period that placed a special burden of responsibility onministers of God and saved Christians alike to enlist themselveswholeheartedly in the work of extending God's Kingdom. Finally,this sense of participation in and responsibility for the vast outpouring of Saving Grace promoted a sense ofdirect connection to the ul