We still like Harry Potter—and we're getting tired of being asked why we hate it
Yesterday, Weblog got a call from MSNBC's Buchanan and Press show. They were putting together a segment on Christians' response to the Harry Potter books since the fifth book in the series is being released Saturday. The booking producer had heard that Christianity Today had published some articles about the books. Would we be interested in talking about them?
Certainly, Weblog said, and directed the producer to this page, which has all of our Harry Potter coverage (as well as articles from our sister publications) neatly arranged in chronological order. I summarized our point of view: we like the Potter series because …
Sorry, she interrupted. We're looking for someone who opposes the books. That's not you, huh?
No. That's not us. It's not much of anyone—as we've repeatedly explained, criticism of Harry Potter is coming (indeed, has always come) from individual parents. There's no organizational opposition to Potter—even from groups that comment on just about every issue under the sun.
"The evil Lord Voldemort may still have it in for the boy wizard, but the lawyers, preachers and family groups seem ready to give it a rest," writes Broward Liston, who usually reports on space matters. In fact, he notes, "many conservative Christians have come to embrace the books, in part drawn by a portrayal of evil that has grown increasingly sophisticated, almost Biblical, with each book."
Even former critics of the book are silent this time around. "I've moved on. I have other things to do," says Richard Abanes, author of Harry Potter and the Bible. "Within the Christian media and the Christian community, there is much less vocal response to this new book. I don't particularly think we're going to see any more huge book burnings and demonstrations and lawsuits and things like this. I think everybody already knows where they stand on Harry Potter."
That's not to say that there aren't evangelicals who aren't concerned about whether the Potter books will encourage kids to try witchcraft—especially with articles like this claiming that the books are, at least in part, responsible for a surge in paganism in the U.K. But if shows like Buchanan and Press send camera crews to show book burnings Saturday night, they'll be very lonely.
Nightline examines preaching evangelical teens
Okay, having let off some steam about television news, it's time for Weblog to calm down and praise ABC's Nightline, which daily demonstrates that serious reporting can be done for television. In a two-night Nightline series called "The Messengers," the network returns to a subject it hasn't done much with since it laid off religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer two years ago
The program, which begins tonight, follows the American Association of Christian Schools preaching competition at Bob Jones University, and by all accounts it's very good.
"What makes this story such an inspired choice for Nightline is the window it gives into what is not just a belief system for tens of millions of Americans, but a way of life," says the Kansas City Star's Aaron Barnhart. "These young men embody a dilemma faced by evangelicals. They want to follow a godly path in a society that has a very different idea of success."
That was the whole point, says executive producer Leroy Sievers. "Our goal with this series is not only to tell a great story but to begin to pay more attention to a large community in this country that often goes uncovered," the Rocky Mountain News quotes him saying.
They succeed in that goal, says the Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson. "Religion in general and evangelical Christianity in particular are rarely covered in mass media, unless somebody has been caught in an act of blatant hypocrisy," he writes. "Nightline's achievement here is to take us into this world when it is behaving in a fashion closer to the norm. … Nightline's hard-bitten Washington insiders paint their portrait of these teens and their backgrounds with compassion, with an honest search for understanding and, yes, with grace."
Perhaps Nightline's smartest decision was to avoid narration, says Elizabeth Jensen of the Los Angeles Times. "It's a world some viewers are sure to find intriguing and others will find controversial—some of the subjects in the report say so themselves—but what we don't hear is any kind of judgment, outside commentary or even basic journalistic 'here's what critics think' questioning about the boys and their calling."
Some articles make it clear that television is hurting from the lack of religion reporters like Wehmeyer, whose job it would be to find compelling stories like this. The idea for this series didn't come from anyone at ABC News, but from commercial producer Matthew Kaufman, who attended the preaching competition in 2001.
"It's high time we started doing more" reports on the evangelical community, Sievers told the Los Angeles Times. Maybe this will be the start of it, says The Baltimore Sun, noting that observers think religion coverage is improving in public broadcasting and the print media. "There have been great strides in the complexity and diversity of the kinds of coverage," Religion Newswriters Association Executive Director Debra L. Mason tells the paper.
Ugandan rebels ordered to kill Catholics:
- Church fears Uganda rebel threat | After attempts by church leaders to mediate a ceasefire between the rebels and the government, LRA leader Joseph Kony is reported to have ordered Catholic missions to be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed and nuns beaten up (BBC | audio1 | audio2)
- Ugandan rebels ordered to attack Catholic missions (UN-IRIN)
- Why kill the messenger? | It is not the first time that the LRA have issued such threats. The difference this time round is that the credibility of the report has been strengthened by the use of the Catholic Church's own local radio network (Editorial, The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)
Persecution in China:
- China arrests eight underground Christians | Police in southwestern China have arrested eight members of an underground Christian church on charges of spreading "feudalistic superstition," the local religious administration said on Thursday (Reuters)
- Chinese Christians arrested | The authorities in China have arrested 12 members of an underground Christian church, officials said on Thursday (BBC)
Gay marriage in Canada:
- U.S. gays who marry in Canada face hurdles | Gay Americans who visit Canada to marry will come home to a confusing patchwork of overlapping jurisdictions and competing laws (The New York Times)
- Canada's celebration of marriage | Same-sex couples married in Canada should be treated as legally married people in the United States (Editorial, The New York Times)
- Gay marriage plan: Sign of sweeping change in Canada | Increasingly, Canada has been on a social policy course pursued by many Western European and Scandinavian countries (The New York Times)
- It's over? | There are battles ahead too over adoption, over new reproductive technologies, even over language (David Frum, National Review Online)
- Not leading the world but following it | Disparities in the legal treatment of lesbians and gay men in the United States and their treatment in the rest of the world are becoming more pronounced (Laurence R. Helfer, The New York Times)
Anglican splits over gay bishops:
- Issue of the gay bishop splits church | Secret views and private conversations run through hierarchy as most bishops refuse to take public stand (The Guardian, London)
- Dioceses divided by the issue that won't go away | 44 Bishops: 5 for, 9 against, 30 no comment (The Guardian, London)
- Gay bishop vows 'We will stay together' | Plea for same-sex blessings and end to celibacy brings church turmoil (The Times, London)
- The gay bishop: my partner and I are together, our love is for life | Conservatives in the Church of England are demanding that Dr Jeffrey John should not become bishop of Reading. In his first interview, he tells our religion correspondent that he is still with his lover but their relationship is no longer physical (The Times, London)
- Gay bishop defends 27 year relationship (BBC)
- Sins of the flesh | It is one thing to be a sinner, quite another to preach that a particular sin should not be regarded as such, but rather as an occasion for congratulation (Editorial, The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Stand up for Dr. John | The church must face up to its sects (Editorial, The Guardian, London)
- A new communion | Biblical beliefs divide Anglicans (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- Mysterious ways | A challenge from the new Bishop of Reading (Editorial, The Times, London)
- Gay bishop says he is symbol of hope | Jeffrey John, recently named as the new Bishop of Reading, also said he would remain with his male partner of 27 years, although he insisted the relationship was now celibate (Associated Press)
Another Anglican battle—this time, in Australia
- The new Reformation | A fierce battle is under way for the soul of Australia's Anglican Church (Insight, Special Broadcasting Service, Australia)
- NSW dioceses send message to Sydney | It is not the evangelical emphasis in Sydney and Armidale which offends Anglicans in other dioceses but the impression given that those others are inferior Christian (The Canberra Times, Australia)
Church abuse scandal:
- U.S. Catholic bishops meeting face shocks | U.S. bishops had hoped their three-day session starting Thursday would mark a return to the routine after 18 tumultuous months of clerical sex abuse scandals. Instead, the credibility of church leaders is under intense scrutiny again (Associated Press)
- Bishops gather under double cloud | 2 resignations shatter hopes for calm during St. Louis talks (Chicago Tribune)
- As bishops meet, uneven progress | Catholic leaders, meeting in St. Louis, continue to be dogged with questions about the handling of abuse cases (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Catholic bishops look for leadership | Abuse scandal reshaping hierarchy (The Washington Post)
- Priest's rape trial ends with hung jury | A judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the case against Cyriacus Udegbulem (Associated Press)
- A few bad shepherds | The issue is deeper than sex and abuse of power, as radicals are using the weakened authority of the hierarchy to further their agenda for leftist reform in the church (Editorial, The Washington Times)
- Finding hope in my faith | I remain optimistic that the church—my church—will ultimately protect the innocent and enforce the zero-tolerance charter against child sexual abuse (Frank Keating, The New York Times)
- 'Unraveled' by sex abuse crisis in diocese, Phoenix bishop quits | Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien succumbed to a year of turmoil over the sexual abuse crisis in the church and the more personal disgrace of being arrested in a hit-and-run accident (The New York Times)
- Embattled Phoenix bishop resigns | O'Brien's departure follows fatal accident, abuse scandal (The Washington Post)
- The bishops bungle another power play | Given the image the bishops have created for themselves, the Keating affair looks like one more dumb move by men determined to hold on to their illusion of power no matter what the cost to their credibility (Andrew Greeley, New York Daily News)
- Black & white collar crime | Jesus was a carpenter, and so was Jim Reed, the 43-year-old father of two mowed down by the "hit- and-run bishop" in Phoenix (Ellis Henican, Newsday)
- Roe asks federal court to void abortion ruling | In an affidavit she filed with her motion, McCorvey accuses her attorney in Roe v. Wade, Sarah Weddington, of failing to fully inform her about the possible consequences of the lawsuit (Houston Chronicle)
- Also: Abortion winner wants law repealed (The Times, London)
- From one who has experienced abortion: "nobody needs to feel this way" | Beyond the physical trauma, the emotional and psychological trauma didn't have a tremendous effect on her day-to-day life until many years later when the seemingly innocuous encounter of seeing a newborn infant sparked something in her memory (Elizabethton Star, Tenn.)
- British 'designer' baby born to save ill brother | Couple flew to U.S., where genetic selection is allowed (The Times, London)
- Also: Designer baby for British couple (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Also: 'Designer baby' birth makes papers (BBC)
- Stem cell research a step closer in NSW | In the second free vote inside four weeks, the Legislative Council voted 68 to 21 to allow research involving embryonic stem cells (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Plea to stop IVF bill fails to sway MPs | A NSW Labor MP has spoken emotionally about the difficult process of bearing four children, "not one of whom is biologically mine", urging State Parliament to regulate how many eggs can be fertilized at one time during the IVF process (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Abortion shapes race for Maryland House leadership | Md. delegate's stand criticized in GOP caucus (The Baltimore Sun)
- The great compromise of 2003 | Pre-persons and the law (Ned Rice, National Review Online)
- Financial aid: When church meets state | By awarding a grant to Old North Church, is the federal government preserving history or subsidizing religion? (Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune)
- Federal aid for historic church | Churches that are open to all and have played a major role in America's history shouldn't be excluded from consideration (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)
- Saving the nation's religious treasures | National Trust aims to help preserve urban houses of worship (The Washington Post)
- California missions crumble—and wait | After months of unexpected delay for legislation that has virtually unanimous support among California's powerful delegation, Congress is about to go to work on a rescue package for the state's 21 historic missions, some of which are in grave condition (The Sacramento Bee, Calif.)
Church land disputes:
- Don't sell land, priests warned | Central Buganda diocese has warned priests engaged in selling and lending church land, saying the act is illegal (New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)
- Meeks' church wins test for new site | In the battle between expansion and preservation in the historic Pullman neighborhood, the score is Rev. James Meeks 1, residents 0 (Chicago Tribune)
- Hallandale Beach bans churches on S. Federal Highway | City commissioners said the mile-long corridor is ripe for offices and hotels that will increase tax revenues (The Miami Herald)
- Jury favors city in church lawsuit | The city did not violate a church's religious rights when it denied a zoning variance that would have allowed the local congregation to build a day-care center, a federal jury decided Tuesday (Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)
- State officials face challenge of maintaining absolutes of faith in a world of compromise | "The bright white lines aren't there as much as you'd like them to be," said Raymond Jetson, who served in the Legislature for 16 years (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)
- Bill would allow religious Head Start centers to base hiring on faith | The School Readiness Act (H.R. 2210) would give eight states—not all 50, as the Bush administration wanted—greater control over how they run the nation's preschool program for the poor (Associated Press)
- Alaska's Lt. Gov. names faith-based social services panel | With budgets shrinking, Begich asks religious leaders for help (Anchorage Daily News)
- What would Jesus do on death row? | Christian organizations should be fighting the death penalty (Sean Gonsalves, Cape Cod Times/WorkingforChange.com)
- Don't sidestep free speech | Salt Lake City officials may think they were clever last week in dodging a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld free speech on a downtown block sold to the Mormon Church, but the legal contortions involved give us serious pause (Editorial, Denver Post)
- A Christian Coalition? | Why does the Christian Coalition of Alabama apparently oppose Governor Bob Riley's tax reform efforts that would actually lower taxes for the least among us—the poor that a Christian organization should want to help? (Editorial, The Eufaula Tribune, Ala.)
- Not making ends meet | From ignoring the welfare poor to ignoring the working poor (Ellen Goodman, WorkingforChange.com)
- Christians pray for Zimbabwe | It was an emotional affair at 7 Arts Theatre when Christians from across the denominational divide last Friday converged to pray for the country (The Herald, Harare, Zimbabwe)
- Kenya's Christians fear Shari'ah will undermine tolerance | The demand for Islamic law heightened during the National Constitutional Conference, which adjourned in Nairobi on Jun. 6 (Inter Press Service)
- Church, state collide in Mexico | Clergy accused of campaigning (Newsday)
- President of Philippines to church groups: Use pulpit in anti-drug war | Meeting was attended by representatives from "the five major anchor faiths—Catholics, Muslims, evangelical (Christians), Protestants, and the Iglesia ni Cristo (INQ7.net)
Church & State:
- Suit challenges firefighter-chaplains | Federal court in L.A. will hear case that alleges improper insertion of religion into workplace (Los Angeles Times)
- Render unto Caesar | The appeals panel in Alabama considering Roy Moore's Ten Commandments case needs to make it clear that this nation has endured because of its religious tolerance and secularism, not in spite of it (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
- School Board will keep meeting prayer | For the first time since a parent objected to the prayer last month, one of the five board members Monday broached the subject of moving to a more inclusive prayer. But there wasn't enough support from the rest of the board to make the change. (The Herald Tribune, Sarasota, Fla.)
- Call for Queen to lose title as head of Church | The Queen should be stripped of her title as Supreme Governor of the Church of England so that the royal family better reflects the religious and ethnic diversity of the United Kingdom, according to a major report on the monarchy (The Observer, London)
- Lights, camera … prayer | An Orlando architecture firm has begun designing churches to accommodate services that feature 18-piece rock bands, dramatic skits and ministers' messages illustrated on electronic screens with clips from movies and TV shows (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Church gives dads royal treatment | Fathers get special seats at two Evangelical Free services on Sunday (The Independent, Grand Island, Neb.)
- Sometimes the news is sinfully good copy | Some transgressions are of such biblical proportions they just can't be ignored (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)
- Clergyman, wife sue TV station | David and Sonya Moore object to reporting aired when he left a large church in Indian Wells (The Press-Enterprise, inland Southern California)
- Central pastor agrees to retire | 'Improper' situation doomed Dr. Latimer (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- Growth of church reflects burgeoning Ethiopian influence | Worshipers pack second Presbyterian site (The Washington Post)
- Rural churches struggle to fill holes | Whether Sunday morning finds 12 in the pews or 200, rural churches face a variety of challenges—from a lack of finances to a shortage of candidates for the pulpit—and they've found many ways to adapt (The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY)
- Latino churches rise up to shepherd economic programs |Local congregations are learning to invest in their neighborhoods and create jobs (Los Angeles Times)
- The words of Jesus | 'It was Christ's language and the language of the disciples. Christ gave us the Lord's praise in Aramaic, so that is the language we use to give him praise,' says a member of a new Syrian Orthodox congregation in Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Tex.)
- Landmark? Just wait till it's finished | The news for most New Yorkers will probably be that as this day began, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine was not a landmark (The New York Times)
Southern Baptist meeting ends:
- Evangelism takes center stage | Messengers okay resolutions focusing on family values, avoid controversy (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
- Ministers spread message of unity | Factions gather together; task force created to reach out to homosexuals (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
- Group's funding cut as dispute lingers | Funding for the Baptist World Alliance was cut by $125,000 to $300,000 (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
- Southern Baptists denounced same-sex marriage | The nation's largest Protestant denomination also spent much of the gathering that ended Wednesday defending the right of evangelicals to proclaim their religion the only path to salvation (Associated Press)
- Ministers spread message of unity | Factions gather together; task force created to reach out to homosexuals (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
- Reaction mixed to Southern Baptists' gay stance | Several Amarillo Baptist leaders say an initiative aimed at befriending gays to liberate them is not a new approach, but one Amarillo lesbian says the move comes too late (Amarillo Globe-News, Tex.)
- Ecumenical Patriarch praises John Paul, urges Christian unity | Bartholomew commended, in particular, John Paul's efforts to establish contact with other Christians, Jews and Muslims (Associated Press)
- In apparent stigmata, a question of belief | Despite little publicity, professed stigmatic Lilian Bernas draws crowds at her church appearances (The Buffalo News)
- The shrinking sisterhood | In the community of nuns, it's becoming harder to find ones who are young (Chicago Tribune)
- Virgin Mary 'seen in US hospital' | More than 25,000 people visited the Milton Hospital near Boston, Massachusetts, at the weekend as word of the likeness began to spread (BBC)
- Cherie Blair attacks Rome over status of women | The Prime Minister's wife voiced her disappointment that, although the Pope talked about acknowledging women, she noticed little feminine influence in the Vatican when she visited Rome this year with her husband (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Sick kids, families drawn to Lourdes | Chicago-area children are among 4,000 from 22 nations embarking on a journey to Catholic shrine in France in search of healing (Chicago Tribune)
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