Christianity Today Hot Topics's latest issues impacting your faith.
  1. Months late, new Secretary of State highlights ongoing genocide in Middle East.

    The US State Department kept its annual assessment of international religious freedom unusually short this year, reiterating the country’s commitment to the cause and calling out ISIS as perpetrators of genocide.

    Over the past five years, the executive summaries for the department’s annual religious freedom report have averaged more than 5,000 words. They typically detail problems such as North Korea’s religious prisoners, Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, and the instability caused by Islamic extremism in the Middle East.

    This year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson skipped the lengthy executive summary and laid out a preface of just 440 words, naming only a single concern in his written introduction: ISIS.

    “ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and death,” wrote the Trump administration appointee and former Exxon CEO. “The protection of these groups—and others who are targets of violent extremism—remains a human rights priority for the Trump administration.”

    The report was also a few months later than normal, released on August 15 rather than by May 1. In his remarks, Tillerson repeated the genocide designation for ISIS and also referenced the nomination of Governor Sam Brownback as the department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

    The annual report reviews the state of religious freedom in 199 countries. CT has highlighted six places where Christians continue to face significant barriers to worshiping freely: Iraq, Indonesia, India, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

    Deadly Terror in Iraq

    ISIS was responsible for half of all verified casualties (5,403) in Iraq during the first...

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  2. After seeing the new spy thriller, I still don't know what a female action hero looks like.

    Many moviegoers turn to the absurdities of comedy or the happy endings of romance when looking for an escape. I’m more of a guns and explosions kind of girl, so I’d been looking forward to Atomic Blonde, the Cold War espionage thriller starring Charlize Theron as MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton.

    Atomic Blonde is a highly stylized, spy-versus-spy picture based on a graphic novel. Though shot in color, the film relies on a restrained color palette and boasts carefully blocked frames and noir-inspired lighting. Set in the divided Berlin of 1989, the film also draws on an array of ’80s references, from shoulder-exposing sweatshirts and stiletto ankle boots to a soundtrack so full of beloved ’80s hits that licensing them all ranks as one of the film’s most impressive stunts.

    As if in tribute to the Soviet enemies of the Cold War, the film’s plot has taken the form of so many Russian nesting dolls: Each new layer of the tale opens up to reveal another hidden inside. The crisis that sends Agent Broughton to Berlin involves a murdered MI6 agent and a missing list of all the undercover intelligence operatives in the city. Both East and West are willing to kill for the list (and do), as it poses both a security threat to their operations and an opportunity to gain the upper hand. The list is also believed to reveal the identity of a Soviet double agent who has infiltrated MI6. While the Brits know codename “Satchel” exists, they’ve been unable to find and eliminate the traitor. In addition to the female lead, the characters involved in untangling the plot include Broughton’s fellow British spy, David Percival (played as a charming maniac by James McAvoy), a handful of East...

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  3. After five seasons, it’s high time the Underwoods’ crimes come home to roost.

    This article contains potential spoilers for House of Cards, Seasons 1–5.

    Netflix’s House of Cardsis now in danger of overstaying its welcome. At five seasons, the story feels bloated, its characters stretched thin. Despite its largely depleted resources, however, there remain a few slender elements that could salvage the show. Though I rolled my eyes at the final episode’s open-ended conclusion, I’ll reluctantly concede that another season of House of Cardsmight restore some of the show’s bite.

    With its muted color palette, finely crafted dialogue, and expert performances, House of Cards wears its prestige drama getup well, but that’s not enough. As the promising but lackluster Ozarkhas recently demonstrated, high production values don’t guarantee a story’s success, and House of Cardsseason 5 doesn’t quite convince us that what’s happening on its elaborate sets really matters.

    The series has always struggled with one major challenge: How do you make a static character interesting? Francis (Frank) Underwood arrives onscreen as a fully-formed monster. From his callous killing of a wounded dog in the show’s opening scenes to his gleefully blasphemous antics in an empty sanctuary, we know immediately that Frank’s insatiable appetite for power is matched only by his ruthless ambition—that he’ll do anything to get what he wants. We may be horrified at the lengths to which he’ll go to secure his wishes, but we’re certainly not surprised.

    Compare this to a show like Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, where we witness a moral transformation that’s as plausible as it is horrifying. (Gilligan pursues a similar trajectory in the stunning...

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