The pogrom problem
Weblog has seen far too many articles about whether Mel Gibson's The Passion is anti-Semitic, but comments appearing in today's Washington Times go way beyond reason. About two dozen Jewish demonstrators and New York lawmakers yesterday protested the film outside Fox News Corp. They hadn't seen the film, of course. Just a seven-minute clip, which the protesters say is anti-Semitic itself because it shows a Jewish mob calling for Jesus' crucifixion.

"It will result in anti-Semitism and bigotry," Assemblyman Dov Hikind promised. "It really takes us back to the Dark Ages … the Inquisition, the Crusades, all for the so-called sin of the Crucifixion of Jesus."

The Jewish demonstrators carried signs that said, "The Passion is a lethal weapon against Jews"—a slogan they also chanted.

Malka Moskowitz, who says she's a Holocaust survivor, suggested that the film will lead to genocide. With her voice breaking, she told the Times, "This is the way it started."

William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League, was present to offer reporters and others an alternative view. "How anybody could watch this movie and come out with hatred toward Jews, that person belongs in Bellevue Hospital," he said.

But a rabbi from Brooklyn claimed that by making such a comment, Donohue himself "would be responsible if violence broke out."

Let's put aside the fact that it was completely pointless to protest outside Fox News Corp., since that company has absolutely no connection to The Passion apart from having first rights to distribution (which the company says it has refused). These comments are utterly off the wall. First, they say that Gibson's film itself is a form of violence against Jews. By extension, that would mean that every church in America that does a Holy Week play on the life of Christ is engaged in an annual pogrom. Has any film on the life of Christ, in any place around the world, ever, led to such violence? There have been dozens upon dozens of Jesus movies, most of which were far less careful in their efforts not to suggest all Jews are responsible for the crucifixion. The Jesus film is the most widely seen film in history, and there has never been a recorded case of it promoting anti-Jewish violence. In another case, a new movie shows the entirety of the Gospel of John, word for word, which means that narrated references to "the Jews" will abound. So far, Weblog has heard not a peep of concern (as it should be).

Let's be clear: The film does not depict Jesus' death (which Christians see as a good thing) as a kind of Christ vs. "the Jews" battle. The only people who are tying the film to anti-Semitism—the only people who are suggesting that "the Jews" were responsible for killing Jesus—are these Jewish protesters. If they'd just be quiet, any debate over the film would center on its biblical faithfulness, its historicity, and on Christian theological issues. But by making Jews vs. Jesus the center of the film, Passion critics may in fact be encouraging anti-Jewish feelings.

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Newspapers need to read the news
Regular Weblog readers may notice that there are no more links to The Times of London, which used to be a staple of this feature not too long ago. That's because The Times has closed off access to its site except for paying subscribers. But via the BBC today, Weblog came across this link: "Death of a sacrificial lamb: An autistic boy was suffocated during a faith-healing service in Milwaukee, but the minister will not be charged with his death."

The article appears to have run within the last 24 hours, which is problematic: Ray Hemphill, the minister who oversaw this service was charged with felony abuseon Tuesday. But what's with that headline: Death of a sacrificial lamb? Folks are welcome to disagree over whether 8-year-old autistic boy Terrance Cottrell Jr. should have been the subject of a two-hour deliverance service. And certainly something went wrong during that service. (Not much is known about what happened. The Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith says the boy's mother didn't tell anyone that the boy had just taken medication. Hemphill reportedly sat on the boy's chest for much of the service.) This is clearly a very sad story.

But a headline suggesting that Cottrell was sacrificed is inexcusable. It's pure bigotry. And, unfortunately, it puts many of us who want to discuss the dangers of these deliverance services in the position of defending this church's beliefs and practices.

Yeah, as you can see, Weblog is a bit more on edge today. That's probably less because of the news than because today is the last day that Todd Hertz, Christianity Today's online assistant editor, will be working for us. Regular visitors to the site will remember his many, many articles, including his popular evangelistic interview with the Austin Powers IM bot.

Todd is leaving CT, but he's staying in the company: Starting Tuesday, he'll be the new associate editor for sister publication Campus Life, a magazine for teens. We wish him all the best, and are glad he'll still be around the building, and his byline will appear on the Campus Life channel of (which, it should be noted, is the corporate website of Christianity Today International, which includes Christianity Today's website and that of our 10 other magazines.)

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And for you journalists reading this, it means there's an opening. Apply here—quickly.

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Ten Commandments:

Alabama tax reform:

  • Poor in spirit? | If Riley loses, we'll have pretty convincing proof that for all the moral high ground Christians claim, in a showdown they open themselves to criticism that they hate taxes more than they love Jesus (Neal Peirce, Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

  • What would Jesus tax? | We're not sure where the Bible comes down on tax-and-spend politicians, but we have a pretty good idea of what it says about people who break their word (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

Aftermath of Episcopal gay bishop vote:

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  • Religion news in brief | Episcopal Church head defends Robinson vote, Nebraska court upholds dismissal of Lord's Prayer lawsuit, and other stories (Associated Press)

Gay marriage:

  • Marriage represents a history of change | What marriage means to society and to individuals has long been debated in this country (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Feds seeks to stop gay marriage appeal | Religious coalition not a party in case, justice brief says (The Ottawa Citizen)

  • Gay Americans go north to take the plunge | U.S. couples unable to marry cross Niagara to make the most of Canada's liberal laws (The Guardian, London)

  • Gay nuptials causing rift in Canada | In a country where morality is rarely the subject of public debate and where religious leaders seldom take political stands, onlookers have been surprised by the passionate bolts of denunciation hurled from Roman Catholic cathedrals and conservative Protestant pulpits at Chretien's pledge to rewrite the country's legal definition of marriage from the "lawful union of one man and one woman" to the union of "two persons" (The Boston Globe)

  • South Africa could recognize gay marriage | South African Law Reform Commission. has made seven proposals, addressing both homosexual and heterosexual relationships, which are open for public comment (The Star, South Africa)

  • Also: State gay laws a first | The last state in Australia to decriminalize homosexuality has become the first to institute a registry for same-sex couples and others in significant relationships (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Sexual ethics:

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  • Unfaithful priest fired | A vicar in Florø, Norway, was fired on Monday after having an affair with a female member of the congregation when being married to another woman (Nettavisen, Norway)


  • Clergy speak out | According to a delegation of Zimbabwean pastors who are in Botswana "to seek solidarity" with their brothers and sisters, President Robert Mugabe's government has become so paranoid that church ministers are monitored on a 24-hour basis by security intelligence (Gregory Kelebonye, The Daily News, Harare, Zimbabwe)

  • Verdict postponed for Canadian accused by Beirut | The verdict in the Bruce Balfour case, expected Wednesday, was postponed until Sept. 1 to give the prosecution more time to summon witnesses and study new documents received by the court (Associated Press)

  • A painful separation ends | Prem Awaes, a Christian Pakistani refugee, reunites with son, Julius (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)


Missions and ministry:

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Bible and theology:

  • Ikea bigger than the Bible | More copies of its catalogue are printed worldwide (Nettavisen, Norway)

  • Pop goes the Bible | The New Testament meets Cosmo, as pop culture and religion intersect (

  • On language: Bible | Eponymous phrases based on biblical names have been increasing. Unfortunately, Bible mistakes are also multiplying (Jeffrey McQuain, The New York Times Magazine)

  • Bible might be the most subversive book | Attorney General John Ashcroft uses personal reading lists to identify dangerous people. He should know better. His favorite book is radically subversive (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post)

  • All equal under God, but submission for women? | Evangelical group challenges claim of a biblical basis for male leadership (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Column by priest fires church row | A Sunshine Coast Catholic priest has been accused of undermining church teachings by saying the crucifix should never have become the symbol of Christianity and that Jesus would have been crucified naked (The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia)

Life ethics:

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  • Russia begins to reconsider wide use of abortion | Though the abortion rate has almost halved since the USSR collapsed and other forms of birth control became available, Russia still has one of the world's highest rates. For every baby born, two are aborted, according to official statistics (The Christian Science Monitor)

Public prayer:

  • Appeal planned for ruling on prayer | Town Attorney Brian Gibbons said Monday plans are under way to appeal a recent decision that bars the Great Falls Town Council from mentioning Jesus Christ in pre-meeting prayers (The Rock Hill, S.C.)

  • Jesus' name barred from prayers at S.C. town council meetings | Federal judge sides with Wiccan high priestess who challenged officials' prayers; mayor says town will appeal (Associated Press)

  • There is still prayer at The Citadel | School's response to ruling was to replace the cadet-led prayers in the mess hall with a moment of silence that will give each cadet the opportunity to individually pray or express his or her own beliefs (Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, The General's Journal, The Citadel, via Presbyweb)

Church and state:

  • Lights must dim for Ventura cross | To avoid a legal battle, the City Council has added a clause in the site's deed that, after its sale, the icon can be illuminated only by muted ground bulbs (Los Angeles Times)

  • Texas woman wants Bible out of courthouse monument | 'We have this insane rush to eliminate every Christian tradition and symbol from our culture,' says judge who made refurbishing tribute his 'personal cause' (Associated Press)

Discrimination suits:


  • College spirit | Students who are serious about their religion — or exploring spiritual issues — don't have to struggle alone (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Debating homosexuality in schools: Censorship doesn't work | Trying to stifle speech for or against homosexuality rides on false hope that harmony, tolerance will prevail if no one is allowed to say anything that might offend anyone (Charles Haynes, First Amendment Center)

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  • Plan calls for home-schooler testing | Policy would help confirm students' work when entering district (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • Cross lowered, seeks new place to rise | Caltech, known for its scientific studies of the heavens above, launched a successful earthly operation Thursday when a pair of cranes tugged a towering cross off the dome of the school's latest real estate acquisition (Los Angeles Times)

Geoghan murder:

  • The murder of John Geoghan | In death, Catholics finally began to speak the language they should have been speaking about the scandal of priestly sexual abuse (Raymond J. De Souza, National Post, Canada)

  • Prisoners of hate | John J. Geoghan's murder should offend every citizen's sense of justice. We do not leave it for prisoners to pass sentences and carry them out (Ted Conover, The New York Times)

  • Predator becomes prey | Saturday's prison murder laid bare flaws of yet another powerful institution — a prison system (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Prison policy put priest in unit with his killer, experts say | The Massachusetts Department of Correction has long shunned using protective housing for vulnerable inmates and has only two such units for its 9,500 prisoners (The New York Times)

Clergy sex abuse:

  • Vatican memo cited in sex abuse cases | Significance of 1962 secrecy order disputed (The Washington Post)

  • Boston church officials may face charges | The chief federal prosecutor in Boston said Tuesday he is weighing whether to bring charges against officials of the Boston Archdiocese for covering up the sexual 7abuse of children for more than 60 years (Associated Press)

  • Former pastor admits sex abuse; gets probation | Andrew Jay Goffinet, former senior pastor of First Evangelical Free Church of Moline, pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, but won't spend any time in jail (The Dispatch, Moline, Ill.)

  • Devil made me do it—pastor | The devil apparently took over when a Pretoria youth pastor started touching a teenager on a bed a few of them had made on the floor (Beeld, South Africa)


  • Financial scandals test trust in churches | Places of worship and their members can protect themselves, and locally they are shoring up their financial policies and demanding accountability. What is at stake goes to the heart of the church: its integrity (The Kansas City Star, Mo.)

  • Small-town church led by sex offender | 25-member congregation knows about his past (Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.)

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Church life:



TV and film:

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  • The final serve | Michael Chang is retiring from professional tennis, but that just means more time for his first passion—serving up the gospel (Christian Reader)

  • Death and deception | The murder of basketball player Patrick Dennehy has exposed a lying coach, a cheating program, and an attempted cover-up at Baylor University (The New York Times)

Money and business:

  • Christian value | Conservative Christians are getting into everything these days, from restaurants to theme parks (The Early Show, CBS)

  • Businesses put their faith where their money is | Many people appreciate this a -based approach among businesses, and they patronize certain businesses because of it (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.)

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  • Baylor U. president's future debated | The faculty senate may take up a no-confidence vote on Sloan when it meets Sept. 9, and at least one major newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, has called for his resignation, saying he "failed dramatically" in his duty to ensure that Baylor ran an upright program (Associated Press)

  • Massive scheme to boost Church schools | The Church of England is considering plans to spend millions of pounds expanding its network of church schools in a bid to revitalize the Christian faith (The Observer, London)

  • College wants to be in vanguard of bringing feminism to church | University in Costa Mesa plans to offer a minor in women's studies, a rarity for Christian schools. 'It can't be extreme,' says one student (Los Angeles Times)

Politics and law:

  • Tax breaks urged to spur giving to religious charities | Entering the contentious area of church-state relations, Republican congressional leaders intend next month to take up legislation to encourage individual donations to religious charities, promoted by an $11.5 billion tax cut (The Sacramento Bee)

  • Stopping prison rape | The greater significance of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is the unanimous recognition in both houses of Congress that prison rape is a problem that can no longer be ignored (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Bush's 'compassion' agenda: A liability in 2004? | Some supporters admit that the president's "compassionate conservative" agenda has fallen so far short that he could be vulnerable on the issue in 2004 (The New York Times)

  • Conservative lament | The conservative movement has scored historic gains but has yet to achieve several of its basic goals (The Washington Times)

  • Growing churches using law to fight local governments | Dozens of cases have been filed by churches and other religious institutions across the country in the three years since Congress passed a law designed to give them the upper hand in zoning disputes (Scripps Howard News Service)

  • Lobbyists line up on D.C. school vouchers | On Sept. 4, the full House is expected to take up D.C. appropriations legislation that Republicans plan to amend to provide $15 million to create a school voucher program for the District. School voucher legislation has been stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee (The Washington Post)

  • Downer chides church leaders | Some Australian church leaders were headline seekers who were ignoring their pastoral obligations, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said yesterday (Sydney Morning Herald)

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  • Welfare groups 'exploited' | Victoria's Christians are being asked to top up the state's welfare budget, church groups say (The Age, Melbourne, Austrralia)

  • Law no threat to charities, as long as they are charitable | It is up to donors to take a hard look at what such charities are doing with their money (Padraic P. McGuinness, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • A judge prejudged | Pryor takes it from both sides (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)

  • U.S. ends funds for African AIDS program | A state department official said yesterday that US law prohibited the funding of organizations that support China's repressive population policy—a definition sufficiently elastic to include Marie Stopes International (The Guardian)

California Recall:

Christian Europe:

God and country:

  • Controversy follows the Rev. Boyle | When the Rev. Frederick Boyle traveled to Iraq last February to protest the war, many parishioners in his United Methodist Church in North Jersey saw it as an anti-American act. (The Times, Trenton, N.J.)

  • Perplexities of loyalty: Which kingdom to serve? | Some American citizens feel torn between allegiance to God and to their country — or even to another country. (Jack Perry, The Charlotte Observer)

  • See Constitution for civics refresher | The United States is not a Christian nation. It seems sensible to begin there, since it's the crux of the dispute (Leonard Pitts, The Miami Herald)

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  • Are we God's country, or not? | Judge Moore's defiance exposed to all Americans the naked hostility of the Supreme Court to any official expression of belief that we are still a nation under God (Patrick J. Buchanan, The Washington Times)


  • Curse of Dracula? | Romania embraces the fictional vampire and his real-life namesake. A theme park, though — that may be going too far (Los Angeles Times)

  • Ancient monastic island turns back pleasure-seekers | One of France's oldest monastic communities, on an island less than a mile off Cannes on the Côte d'Azur, has barricaded its land against a tide of tourists (The Daily Telegraph, London)

Other religions:


  • A border crossing of the spirit | Traditionally Roman Catholic, Latinos in the Pacific Northwest are seeking out other branches of Christianity (Associated Press)

  • Conservative U.S. Catholics plan summit | Forty conservative Catholic leaders are planning a Sept. 8 summit with several U.S. bishops to discuss their vision for the future of the church in the United States (The Washington Times)

  • Pope to make key appointments | He needs to find a replacement for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and other compulsory retirements (Roland Flamini, UPI)

  • One region, many faiths | Can't remember who believes what? You need a primer (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

  • Bishops' chief stands firm on celibacy rule | The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in an interview yesterday that the American bishops were unlikely to be receptive to a recent request from priests in Milwaukee to discuss opening the priesthood to married men (The New York Times)

  • Vatican's stargazers place faith in science | The priests at the pope's observatory near Rome try to correct a Galileo- linked perception about the Roman Catholic Church (Associated Press)


  • Marketers turn monks into product pitchmen | The men in hoods and robes are marketers' darlings, having starred lately in campaigns for America Online's broadband service, General Mills' Oatmeal Crisp Fruit 'n Cereal Bars and PepsiCo's Pepsi Blue brand. These followed appearances in commercials for companies like I.B.M., Nintendo and Sony (The New York Times)

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  • Bibles with advertising was con | Norwegian media were all tricked when protest group Adbusters Norway launched the 'news' that bibles sponsored by advertising were to be offered to school children all over Norway (Nettavisen, Norway)

Other stories of interest:

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