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Friday’s religion wrap

The Journey team selects stories that got us talking this week. 

The (don)key to understanding the cross  

ABC News explores the religious significance of the cross which appears on all donkeys, running down the spine and across the shoulders. A popular figure in fiction such as Winnie the Pooh and Shrek, the donkey is often portrayed as a hardworking and loyal animal and in Israel it is described as the first town planner. But the cross visible on the animal, regardless of breed, is something that carries religious significance for many.  

“Apparently when Jesus was carrying his cross to the mount, a little donkey tried to help him but couldn’t get through the crowd,” explains Australia Donkey Society President Dawn Malton. “When the crowd dispersed, the little donkey went up to Jesus, and he stood behind the cross and as the sun went down, the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey, and now every donkey has the cross.”  

There may be a more scientific reason behind the marking however: researchers believe the cross may relate to camouflaging genes in the species.  

High stakes over gay marriage cakes 

The New York Times reports on yet another legal battle involving a bakery and their refusal to bake a cake in support of same-sex marriage. This time the case involved a bakery in Belfast and the battle reached Britain’s Supreme Court who ruled that the Christian owners “could not be compelled to reproduce a message contrary to their beliefs”.  

The judgement said, “There was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation,” and the bakery owners’ refusal was motivated by their faith-based opposition to gay marriage and not the sexual orientation of the peson requesting the cake.  

“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics,” said the judgement. “But that is not what happened in this case and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope.” 

Majority of pastors think Trump ain’t a disaster  

Christianity Today breaks down the numbers and finds the majority of pastors in America approve of President Trump’s work in the White House. LifeWay Research asked Protestant senior pastors about Trump’s performance in the nation’s top job and 51 per cent approved of his work while 25 per cent strongly approved.  

It wasn’t all good data for the president: 28 per cent disapprove and 20 percent aren’t sure. But the numbers are broadly more positive than Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama; LifeWay conducted a similar survey on President Obama’s job performance in 2010 and only 30 per cent approved with 61 per cent disapproving. 

Right to prayer in army’s crosshairs  

UCA News reports that Christians in Myanmar are being forced to sign pledges with restrictions on worship including a guarantee that prayers will only be conducted in private homes and not in churches. According to a Lahu Baptist, around 100 Wa Christians were released after signing the documents handed to them by militia groups but 92 ethnic Lahu Christians were still being detained.  

“Christians will face more restrictions and be closely monitored by the United Wa State Army, so the situation is worrisome,” said Rev Lazarus, General Secretary of the Lahu Baptist Convention. 

This is just the latest development in an alarming trend which has seen a ban on construction of new churches and foreign priests and workers. 

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