Weekly Review

Fighting for Life, Liberia’s New President, Coptic Christians Attacked, and Remembering T.S. Eliot


Warren Cole Smith

Semper Fi. J.J. Hanson was a Marine veteran with a wife and two young sons when he found out in 2014 he had terminal cancer. Doctors told him he had only three months to live. But it was when he faced death that he became a passionate advocate for life, using what little time he had left to fight assisted suicide. “I was depressed. I was going through difficulty at that point. I needed counseling, I needed care, not assisted suicide pills,” he told The Daily Signal. Hanson became active with a group called the Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes assisted suicide.  Alas, on December 30, Hanson succumbed to cancer, but—as the saying goes—“once a Marine, always a Marine.” Hanson was “ever faithful,” the Marine motto, and fought to the end. To see a short video about Hanson’s fight for life, click here.

Liberia Elects New President. Liberia is one of the poorest countries on earth. In recent years the West African nation of 4.5 million has faced a civil war—which ended in 2003—as well as a devastating outbreak of Ebola in 2014 and 2015. But things may be looking up. Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in office since 2006, has done much to stabilize the country and root out corruption. Last week, Liberia saw its first free and democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years, when Sirleaf gave way to George Weah. However, this could be a “good news, bad news” situation. Weah, a former international soccer star, was raised Christian, converted to Islam, and converted back to Christianity, but apparently of the prosperity gospel variety sweeping Africa. He defeated the country’s vice-president, Joseph Boakai, an evangelical Christian who had promised to continue Sirleaf’s reforms. Still, international observers say the election was fair and free, and it could be an important step forward in a part of the world that needs democratic reform.

Coptic Christians Attacked … Again. In what has become a distressingly familiar story, Coptic Christians in Egypt have again been targeted by the Islamic State. The most recent attack, on December 29, involved a lone gunman who killed at least eight people. The attacker first targeted a store owned by a Christian before moving quickly to a church. Police confronted him there, and one police officer and the gunman also died. According to WORLD, “Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, and Egyptian security forces have stepped up patrols around churches in anticipation of likely attacks.” Last April, suicide bombings at two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday killed at least 71 people.

Milestones. One of the great poets of the 20th century, T.S. Eliot, died this week (January 4) in 1965. His poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” powerfully captured modernist ennui at the beginning of the 20th century. But Eliot’s later, longer works—including “The Waste Land” and “Four Quartets”—are his lasting legacy, pointing modernists toward Christianity…. The late John Denver was born on December 31, 1943. To read about the singer-songwriter’s flirtations with Christianity, read my appreciation of him written for the 70th anniversary of his birth.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice-president for mission advancement.

Image: World News Group, YouTube


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