Gerson: Bush doesn't claim he's God's instrument
Chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson spoke to about 20 reporters last week at a conference organized by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The talk was off the record, but The Washington Post got permission to hit many of Gerson's points in a Sunday article, which is worth reading all the way through. It begins:

Like many evangelical Christians, President Bush believes that God is at work in his life. But he has avoided claiming that God is behind his presidency or U.S. foreign policy, his chief speechwriter said.
"The important theological principle here, I believe, is to avoid identifying the purposes of an individual or a nation with the purposes of God," Michael Gerson said. "That seems a presumption to me, and we've done our best to avoid the temptation."

Among Gerson's points: Bush, not he, wrote the line, "Freedom is not America's gift to the world, it's the almighty God's gift to all humanity." Gerson says the line proves that Bush doesn't believe that the U.S. is God's special instrument. And, Gerson made clear, "The President is not reading Tim LaHaye for his Middle East policy."

Also, Gerson said, there's no secret code Bush has used to speak to evangelicals. Religious and biblical references, he said, are "not code words; they're our culture. It's not a code word when I put a reference to T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets' in our Whitehall speech [in London on Nov. 19, 2003]; it's a literary reference. Just because some people don't get it doesn't mean it's a plot or a secret."

The bottom line: Bush's religious language really isn't anything special.

It's true that Bush's "zealotry" has been overblown in the media, and that accusations that his foreign policy is driven by premillennial dispensationalism are spurious. But aspects of Bush's public faith are unlike those of his predecessors. Case in point: This year's Christmas card is reportedly the second presidential Christmas card in history to include a Bible verse. And what a verse Psalm 95:2 is: "Let us come before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." It's worth noting, however, that the First Lady is chiefly responsible for choosing the annual card. The first White House Christmas card with a Bible verse? Bush's 2001 card, which said, ""Thy face, Lord, do I seek: I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!"

U.S. News covers prayer
The cover of this week's U.S. News & World Report is "The Power of Prayer," led off by a surprisingly short article by Jeff Sheler. He's a very good religion reporter—he's even president of the Religion Newswriters Association—but the article is shockingly short on news.

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A second article on what we pray for hits the big prayer story that's all over the news right now: the debate over a Journal of Reproductive Medicine article that said prayers (even those of strangers) could double the success rate of in vitro fertilization pregnancies. (See the second item here for the Journal's most recent take. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece on the controversy today, but the article is only available to subscribers. The Orange County Register recently summarized the news in a piece that was widely published over the weekend. The news is also in Time this week, in a column by Leon Jaroff.)

But there's other prayer news this week, too, but it doesn't make the magazine. Canada just had to change its rules on prayer in the military, the debate over town council prayers is heating up nationwide and may soon go to the Supreme Court, atheist Antony Flew was revealed to have accepted a belief in God, but not one you can pray to, Bush just prayed at a Menorah lighting, and prayer has become protest in Boston and Columbia, S.C. There's even a new documentary film out about prayer.

If U.S. News wanted to just concentrate on whether prayer works, there's big news there, too. Jeanna Giese just became the first person ever recorded to survive rabies without a vaccine—her family credits worldwide prayer. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star reports that prayers for the Chiefs aren't working. Out in a British town, police are hoping prayer can reduce crime.

But none of this news appears in U.S. News & World Report. Instead, we're told that people pray, they pray for a lot of different things, and that they've been doing so for a long time. Even its survey results are worthless, since they're the result of an unscientific online poll. Oh well, at least it's not an attack on core doctrines of the faith.

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Science | Evolution | Education | Sex ed. | Same-sex marriage | Abortion | War, Terrorism, and Security | 'Moral values' | Religious Right | Politics | Church & State | Buttiglione in America | Religious Freedom | Persecution | Britain | Beckham nativity | Christmas | December Dilemma | Salvation Army | Missions & Ministry | UCC Ad | Church Life | Protestant vs. Catholic Images | Church Buildings | Catholicism | Mormonism | Other Religions | Abuse | Money & Business | The Passion | Media and Pop Culture | History | Other Articles
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  • The behavior of genes | Recent genetic studies go a long way toward resolving the nature-versus-nurture debate (Gene Robinson, The New York Times)

  • Keeping the faith in my doubt | My main objection to all these anti-religion, pro-science groups is that they aren't addressing our basic problem, which is ideological self-righteousness of any kind (John Horgan, The New York Times)

  • The troubling prospect of genetic manipulation | David Brown's Dec. 4 front-page article, "2 Stem Cell Options Presented," should be an eye-opener to those who believe in the separation of church and state. (Robert Lanza, The Washington Post)

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Creation & evolution:

  • Teachers push for evolution alternative | Two Gull Lake science teachers are protesting the district's moratorium on teaching "intelligent design," a spin-off of creationism that aims to debunk evolution and credits the origin of life to an unnamed "intelligent designer" (Kalamazoo Gazette, Mi.)

  • Anti-Darwinians step up challenge in school crusade | Evangelicals take evolution fight to Supreme Court (The Observer, London)

  • Science fiction | Cobb County's biology-textbook stickers are scientifically illiterate (Gregg Easterbrook, The New Republic)

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Sexual education & abstinence:

  • Blanco defends abstinence Web site | Governor, ACLU at odds on using religious content (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)

  • More U.S. teens delay having sex, study finds | American teenagers are waiting longer before first engaging in sexual intercourse, and an overwhelming majority of those who are sexually active report using contraception, according to a comprehensive, well-respected government survey released yesterday (The Washington Post)

  • Teens delaying sexual activity | Teen sexual activity has dropped significantly since 1995 — primarily, teens say, because it is against their religious or moral values, says a new federal study regarded by many as the "gold standard" for family statistics (The Washington Times)

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  • AMA revises sex-ed policy | The nation's top medical group this week updated its sex-education policy to oppose federal funding of any unproven programs, but abstinence educators still believe it targets only them (The Washington Times)

  • Teenage confidential | There was outrage last week when schools decided to use teen magazines in sex lessons. Anushka Asthana met editors, their critics and pupils to discover if advice from the press will really hit home (The Observer, London)

  • Virgins rally to promote abstinence | Hundreds of virgins gathered in the Ugandan capital Friday to meet the country's first lady and renew their pledges to abstain from premarital sex (Reuters)

  • They'll abstain if they're given good reasons | If 30 years of experience in this field has taught me one thing, it is that when talking with our children about sex, we need to make sure that we educate rather than dictate and that our approach is based on scientific evidence (Deborah M. Roffman, The Washington Post)

  • Sex education fails if it shuts out parents | Your editorial said that abstinence-only sex education "isn't effective." But you didn't answer the question, "Compared to what?" (Jonathan Law, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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Same-sex marriage:

  • Gay rights activists split over taking softer course | Supporters of Cheryl Jacques say she was forced out as head of the Human Rights Campaign because she wanted to push for full marriage rights for gays and lesbians after the Nov. 2 election and ran into opposition from activists who wanted to pursue a more moderate course (The Boston Globe)

  • Gay divorces follow marriages in Mass. | Less than seven months after same-sex couples began tying the knot in Massachusetts, the state is seeing its first gay divorces (Associated Press)

  • France ready to change civil pact | As France celebrates the fifth anniversary of its "Pacte Civil de Solidarite" (PaCS for short; in English, Civil Solidarity Pact) — a law that gives same-sex couples certain social, legal and financial benefits — the government is preparing changes to satisfy additional demands of homosexuals without opening the debate they seek regarding homosexual "marriage," still illegal in France (The Washington Times)

  • S. Africa churches urge referendum on gay marriage | South Africa's leading churches urged President Thabo Mbeki on Saturday to call a referendum on gay marriages, saying a recent court ruling in favor of the unions ignored overwhelming public opposition (Reuters)

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  • Let's think before jumping into marriage debate | The real moral issue at stake in banning civil unions is the state's unconscionable discrimination against a minority of its citizens (Frederick Heard, Amarillo Globe-News, Tex.)]

  • Marriage rites and wrongs | The church has no interest in joint filings, and the state no interest in declarations of love or religious affiliation (William Raspberry, The Washington Post)

  • A gay marriage success story | The speed with which the idea took hold should please us. And scare us (Michael Kinsley, Los Angeles Times)

  • Antigay bigotry is tainting the GOP | Gender arrangements, traditional and modern, are a complex issue on which intelligent, honest, and nonbigoted people can disagree. But there's also a lot of outright, unmistakable hate and bigotry out there, and it must be recognized and confronted (Cathy Young, The Boston Globe)

Rally in Atlanta:

  • March pushes moral agenda | Thousands of Christian soldiers marched through one of Atlanta's most storied neighborhoods Saturday, opposing gay marriage and promoting what they see as a moral agenda for the country — especially African-Americans (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • March clouded by stand on gay unions | Organizers Bishop Eddie Long and Bernice King, the civil-rights leader's daughter, say the event's aim is to establish a unified black voice (Los Angeles Times)

  • Long doesn't run from controversy | Eddie Long has always been able to deliver a message (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Counter-demonstrators say they got their message out | Their numbers were small by comparison, but demonstrators in favor of gay marriage say they got their message out Saturday: God is for everyone (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Canadian same-sex marriage:

  • Canadian PM cool to gay union referendum | Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was cool Sunday to the idea of a national referendum on gay marriage and said Parliament should decide the issue (Associated Press)

  • 'You cannot have two classes of citizen' | In considering gay marriage, Canada's prime minister fought a personal battle between his belief in both religious tradition and equal rights (Anne McIlroy, The Guardian, London)

  • What gay marriage ruling didn't say | The Supreme Court's advisory opinion is remarkable as much for what it didn't say as for what it did (Tonda MacCharles, The Toronto Star)

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  • Anxiety over abortion | Pro-choice Democrats eye a more restrictive approach to abortion as one way to gain ground at the polls (Newsweek)

  • Abortion foes plan 40-day vigil at clinic | Dallas center seeks to qualify to perform later-term procedure (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Planned Parenthood replays legal battle | St. Charles County businessman Daniel Shipley will finally square off in court Monday against the Missouri Health Department and the state's two Planned Parenthood operations (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Chinese abortion outcry saves life of prisoner | A Chinese drug smuggler who was forced to have an abortion has been spared the death penalty after an unprecedented campaign against the abuse of state power (The Times, London, sub. req'd.)

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War, terrorism, and security:

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'Moral values':

  • Pushing poverty into 'moral-values' debate | Some religious leaders trying to broaden discussion beyond abortion and marriage (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Hidden in plain sight | Polling data show moral values aren't a new factor (Christopher Muste, The Washington Post)

  • When worlds collide | As the dust settles in the aftermath of his decisive victory, people are still talking about the so-called moral divide in America. Were the polls flawed? Does it matter? (La Shawn Barber, The Washington Times)

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Religious right:

  • Constitution Party seeks change in national political landscape | They say the war in Iraq is unconstitutional, they oppose the Patriot Act, gay marriage and the income tax, and they want to see ''true'' pro-life judges appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • Falwell invigorated by 2004 election | Falwell said the movement must now fight complacency (Fox News)

  • Mostly Christian Alabama defeated tax plan for poor | Supporter blames 2003 defeat on greed (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • A soldier for the cause of Christ | Gary Cass is the new executive director of Fort Lauderdale-based Center for Reclaiming America, a grass-roots force in the cultural war against abortion and gay rights (The Miami Herald)

  • Inside Bakersfield's Bible beltway | Republicans cast a wide net in Kern County and its biggest city (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • The Bible tells me so | Religion in the Heartland is more complex than those of us in the blue states sometimes think (Vicki Haddock, San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Onward Christian soldiers! | For many religious conservatives, re-electing President Bush wasn't enough. They have a much bigger goal in mind. They won't be happy until they tear down the wall of separation between church and state, get rid of any nonbelievers, make Christianity the official state religion and declare the United States a Christian nation (Bill Press)

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  • Democratic providentialism | Is promoting democracy God's work? (Michael Ignatieff, The New York Times Magazine)

  • To stay afloat, Maryland Democrats better swim in the mainstream | Democratic leaders now are trying to become more fluent with the "language of faith," as if all that was needed was a religious Berlitz course (Tim Maloney, The Washington Post)

  • Pen commandments | Nothing gets cartoonists more self-righteous mail than when we mix religion and politics (Joel Pett, Los Angeles Times)

  • How I started Family First | I've recently discovered that I'm personally responsible for the Family First Party (Phillip Adams, The Australian)

  • How Jesus' message is blatantly subverted | There is a tendency among persons high in the favour of the George W. Bush administration to exalt their own faith by demonizing the religion of others (Javed Akbar, The Toronto Star)

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Church & state:

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Buttiglione in America:

  • Buttiglione cites 'anti-Christian' fad | Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione, a conservative Catholic and confidant of Pope John Paul II who was recently denied a position in the European Union's Cabinet for having called homosexuality a sin, found a receptive audience in Washington last week (The Washington Times)

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  • White House snubs European friend | The re-elected president is offering a hand in friendship to ''Old Europe,'' at the cost of alienating the traditional Catholic constituency so avidly courted the past four years (Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times)

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Religious freedom:

  • Officials say arson was cause of fire in Springfield mosque | Investigators probing a fire Wednesday night that severely damaged a Springfield mosque have concluded that it was arson, but have not yet been able to determine whether the blaze was a hate crime, a fire official said yesterday (The Boston Globe)

  • 'No one is convinced' | Christian claims of forced conversions in Assiut and Al-Beheira catalyse angry protests in Cairo. Reem Nafie sifts through the evidence in Assiut (Al-Ahram, Cairo)

  • 21st century tribes | All religious hatred — whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or other — speaks the language of tribe and clan (David Ronfeldt, Los Angeles Times)

  • Mail room supervisor unable to aid carrier | former supervisor at Fargo's Prairiewood Post Office told a jury Friday that the best advice he could give an employee complaining about harassment was to "pray and wear headphones" (The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

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Britain's religious freedom bill:

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  • Censor and sensibility | Freedom to criticize religion is not freedom to express hatred and incite violence (Nick Cohen, The Observer, London)

  • Ha ha! You can't insult Islam but I can | One of the two statements below may soon be illegal; the other will still be within the law. You have to decide which is which and explain, with the aid of a diagram, the logic behind the new provision. a) Stoning women to death for adultery is barbaric. b) People who believe it is right to stone women to death for adultery are barbaric (Rod Liddle, The Times, London)

  • New law won't stop me speaking out | A controversial preacher today vowed not to be muzzled by new legislation outlawing "incitement to religious hatred" (Evening News, Norwich, England)

  • No action on 'gay Jesus'—police | Police investigating a controversial theatre production which depicts Jesus as homosexual have said they will be taking no further action at the moment (BBC)

How Christian is Britain?:

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Beckham nativity:

  • Man damages controversial nativity scene | A waxwork nativity scene that features soccer star David Beckham and his pop star wife, Victoria, as the parents of Jesus has been damaged in an attack, Madame Tussauds museum said Monday (Associated Press)

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  • Wax Beckhams damaged in attack | Waxworks of Victoria and David Beckham dressed as Mary and Joseph in a nativity scene at Madame Tussauds have been damaged in an attack (BBC)

  • Cardinal brands nativity scene with Posh and Becks 'tasteless' | Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, said that the scene in the Madame Tussauds waxwork museum was "disrespectful" and caused "damage to the culture of this country" (The Telegraph, London)

  • 'Tasteless' Christmas attacked | Christian symbols are being denigrated over the Christmas period, according to the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales (BBC)

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  • Christmas comeback | Christmas, much deplored as swamped by commercialism, is making a comeback, in its original religious character (Scotland on Sunday)

  • So this is Christmas? | From Posh and Becks as Mary and Joseph to politically correct councils banning the word Christ, the traditional Christmas is under attack. But the first signs of a spiritual fightback are emerging (Scotland on Sunday)

  • Revealed: the real Santa, a saint with a broken nose | Scientists have reconstructed the face of Santa Claus. The three-dimensional image of St Nicholas, the 4th century Turkish saint who became Father Christmas, has been produced by an anthropologist at Manchester University who is more used to reconstructing the faces of murder victims (The Times, London)

  • Could a virgin give birth? | Whether fiction or not, scholars say, accounts of miraculous births are plentiful throughout history (Kalamazoo Gazette, Mi.)

  • Campaigns to put the Christ back into Christmas are misguided | What we need is a shorter, saner Yuletide (Tom Shields, Sunday Herald, Glasgow)

  • Believing in the spirit of Christmas | It doesn't matter if you're a Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist, the birth of Christ is a historical event that has made a lasting impact on the world (Jennifer Horn, Nashua Telegraph, N.H.)

  • A crush of crèches | At the University of Dayton, an exhibition of crèches from around the world shows the ways that different cultures imagine Jesus' birth (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • Nativity collecting is a scene all its own | From Renaissance Italy to modern America, there have also been those gripped by a sort of "crechemania" (The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, Va.)

  • Lighting the holiday spirit | Religious displays are Glenview's first in 20 years (Chicago Tribune)

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  • Hit or myth does Christmas still have a true meaning | The festive season is a good thing, and writer Stephen Law says he has the philosophy to prove it (Daily Post, Liverpool, England)

  • Christmas gives boost to Hanukkah | Many parents emphasize the holiday because Santa Claus is everywhere (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)

  • Christmas is about Christ | Nearly 90 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian, yet when the month of December arrives we shrink from objecting when the politically correct crowd runs roughshod over our Christian celebration of Christmas by injecting the phrase "happy holidays" into Christmas activities as a substitute verbal expression for the real thing (Mary Traeger, The News-Leader, Springfield, Mo.)

  • Waiting is key part of the Advent season | This waiting Christians do in Advent is an active, tip-toe kind of waiting (Tom Jacobs, Centre Daily, State College, Pa.)

  • Advent is more than countdown | For most Christians, this time of the year is called Advent. The four weeks before Christmas direct our impatient foot-tappings and self-centered cravings to think about something -- Someone, to be more precise -- greater than ourselves. (Tom Schaefer, Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio)

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December dilemma:

  • Christmas in schools frequently a conflict | This year, several groups have gotten involved in the fray, making announcements and launching campaigns to combat what they see as the secularization of Christmas (The Shreveport Times, La.)

  • Pastor promotes Christian symbols | If you're going to have Santa, you can talk about Jesus, Jerry Prevo says (Anchorage Daily News)

  • Nativity scene ruling awaited | A Bay Harbor Islands resident who wants the town to include a Nativity scene in its holiday decorations is awaiting a decision from a U.S. District Court judge, which may come early this week (The Miami Herald)

  • Protesters gather at Broward malls to criticize lack of Nativity scenes | If malls display Jewish menorahs, they should also display Christian Nativity scenes, protesters at the Broward and Fashion malls said Sunday (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • No room at the inn | Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have criticised as "political correctness gone mad" the lack of a Melbourne Council-sponsored nativity scene in the city (Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Pope defends nativity scenes | Pope John Paul, battling to keep Christ in Christmas, has defended nativity scenes that are being stripped from holiday celebrations in some Italian schools to avoid offending non-Christians (Reuters)

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  • Church bosses blast BNP | Church bosses have accused the far-tight British National Party of stirring up racial tensions with a 'Campaign For A Real Christmas' (

  • What's next: Festivus? | Every year, the secularization of Christmas gets worse, as do the alleged thought processes of the people who are determined to strip the season of every last suggestion of religious meaning (Editorial, New York Daily News)

  • Should public schools prohibit religious references during holidays of religious origin? | A debate (Shaunti Feldhahn and Diane Glass, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Singers serve up winter pablum | After sitting through a school winter concert last week, you'd imagine the mere arrival of cold weather warranted a burst of merrymaking, feasting and gift giving (Jim Thorner, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Christmas haters have an agenda | Once again, Christmas is under siege by the growing forces of secularism (Bill O'Reilly, New York Daily News)

  • Are we losing Christmas? | No ban on the Christian holiday, no matter what the PC may say (Jill Stewart, Los Angeles Daily News)

  • Dickens, the man who put the Christmas into Christmas | The banishment of a nativity scene from the suburban shopping mall near where I live has convulsed Sydney in a debate about Christmas. Should the public celebration of Christmas be overtly Christian, or politely multicultural? (Imre Salusinszky, The Australian)

  • Taking the kiss out of Christmas | Are you planning a politically correct festive season? Well that's the mistletoe out for a start … oh, and no carol singers, or Nativity plays. In fact, maybe you should just forget about Jesus Christ as well, in case you hurt someone's feelings (Iain S Bruce, Sunday Herald, Glasgow)

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Salvation Army:

  • Paper or plastic? | Concerned about dwindling donations, The Salvation Army is putting hand-held credit card or debit card machines alongside the traditional red kettles outside several stores around Phoenix (The Washington Post)

  • Target puts halt to holiday bell ringers | Retail giant told charity of solicitation ban in January, but Salvation Army still fighting for spots outside stores (The Burbank Leader, Ca.)

  • Salvation Army sees donation totals down | Christmas may be the season for giving, but the Lancaster Salvation Army will not be receiving as much in donations as in past years (Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Pa.)

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Missions & ministry:

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UCC ad:

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  • Flap over UCC ad can teach lesson about differences among churches | Transforming churches open their doors to everyone, but show congregants that the power of Christ's love won't leave them where they are. Instead, they preach that such love will bring them to a place of redemption, transforming them into the people God intends them to be (M.D. Harmon, Portland Press Herald, Me.)

  • It's not ad that's objectionable | The denomination's inclusive message is the perfect counter-balance to the homophobic message of exclusion heard by millions of Christians in their churches, a message that has hindered the civil rights of millions of gay Americans (William Butte, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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Church life:

  • Southern Baptist membership in decline, study says | A recent church growth study pointing to declining membership numbers has sounded ''a wake-up call'' among Southern Baptists (Jackson Sun, Tenn.)

  • Blurring religious lines | Some who believe in the divinity of Jesus practice Jewish customs and traditions (Daytona News-Journal, Fla.)

  • 'I really do want to use my tenure to reach out' | An interview with Hershael York, the new president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

  • Prayer power | Susan's speed dialling Heaven (Thane Burnett, Toronto Sun)

  • Worship begins and ends at home new move | Christianity is rooted in in-home worship (Republican-American, Waterbury, Ct.)

  • A true sense of Communion | Something was different this summer at the Chautauqua retreat (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  • Concert celebrates ministry | Rudy Herbrich, retiring pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, was presented a unique gift at a November reception celebrating his 35 years of ministry and 15 years at Grace Lutheran. Basically, the church members gave him Michael Card, his favorite Christian singer (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • An English service with loyal Koreans | Whereas an English worship in Korea often finds itself limited by a transient expatriate community and language students who tend to filter in and out, the majority of Daerim Methodist Church's mostly-Korean parishioners have been loyally attending since the program began (JoongAng Daily, South Korea)

  • Orthodox Church seeks virtual saint | The Orthodox clergy says the time has come to designate an Orthodox Church saint to serve as spiritual guide to internet users (BBC)

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Protestant vs. Catholic images:

  • Methodist church stirs controversy with statue | When some members of Amor de Dios United Methodist Church in Little Village elected to move a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe into the sanctuary last year, the icon spawned an exodus (Chicago Tribune)

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Church buildings:

  • Maui church prevails in battle over land use | A Maui church concluded its settlement with Maui County yesterday, collecting a check for $700,000 along with a permit allowing members to gather on their Pukalani property for worship (Honolulu Advertiser)

  • Maui, church settle suits | Hale O Kaula says the $700,000 deal does not cover its costs and stress (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

  • Hillsong prays for the miracle of the 500 inner-city parking places | Not even God has special parking privileges in the City of Sydney. A proposed expansion of the Hillsong Church's Waterloo site is set to be blocked because of a lack of car parking (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Worshipers end wandering | After 30 years of fundraising, a small Armenian congregation in the Coachella Valley is about to complete its own church (Los Angeles Times)

  • Commission endorses church expansion | Recommendation is contingent upon 23 operating conditions St. Andrew's must abide by, planners say (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

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  • Signs of faith, determination | Call it divine intervention or just plain dumb luck. Parishioners at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Scituate don't care what it was; they're just glad that one door remained accessible after the Archdiocese of Boston changed the locks (The Boston Globe)

  • 'Bishop of the heart' bids adieu | Illinois diocese's faithful gather in tearful tribute (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Mormon author 'disfellowshipped':

  • LDS author disfellowshipped | Palmer calls the six-hour trial fair, but exhausting (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Mormon church disciplines author for book | Grant Palmer, 64, who wrote "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins," could have been excommunicated. Instead, he said the church "disfellowshipped" him at a hearing, which means he will retain his membership but lose certain privileges (Associated Press)

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Other religions:

  • A Hindu's perspective on Christ and Christianity | A new book compiled from the works of a guru who died 52 years ago offers thoughts on Jesus' teachings and their unity with yoga (Los Angeles Times)

  • A rabbi in Tijuana? | Carlos Samuel Salas' long journey took him back to his surprising spiritual roots. He has quietly built a flourishing Jewish congregation of converted Catholics (Vince Beiser, Los Angeles Times Magazine)

  • Beyond belief | With the likes of Madonna and Guy Ritchie giving celeb cred to Kabbalah, cults have never been more fashionable, nor more contentious. Nick Johnstone meets US cultbuster Rick Ross who, for a fee of $5,000, offers to deprogram 'victims' and return them to their families (The Observer, London)

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  • Pastor is given four-year sentence for molestation | A Skagit County judge, facing a courtroom full of about 50 family members and supporters of a pastor convicted of molesting two young girls, said he had to consider accounts of the defendant's good works in handing down a sentence (Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wa.)

  • Orange County bishop praised over deal | When Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown agreed to a record $100 million clergy abuse settlement, even some of his toughest critics praised him as a moral champion of the church (Associated Press)

  • Diocese suits to be heard in Orange County | Judicial Council in San Francisco will now decide which judge will hear the three church cases (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Shepherds finessing their flock | The American Roman Catholic bishops have made a wrongheaded decision by cutting back their audits of child protection measures on the local level (Editorial, The New York Times)

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  • Va. priest admits to misconduct | Father Jim Gallagher resigned as pastor of Harrisonburg's Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church after admitting "sexual misconduct with an adult woman," the Catholic Diocese of Richmond said yesterday (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.)

  • Pedophile priest may face more charges | A decision is expected this week on whether pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale will face more sex abuse charges relating to a further nine people (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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Money & business:

  • Forgive us our debts | A growing movement among faith groups, particularly conservative Christians, advocates a debt-free lifestyle (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Marketing the faith | Valley businesses stock shelves with religious items (The Brownsville Herald, Tex.)

  • Churches learn from businesses | Houses of worship use technology, market research and new sources of income to lead people to God (Rockford Register Star, Ill.)

  • The chasm between private and corporate morality | Why is it that executives can, as many of those involved in corporate scandals often are, be moral, intelligent principled human beings in their private lives but feel it is acceptable to act immorally, even illegally, in their roles as corporate officers? (Stephen Bartholomeusz, The Sydney Morning Herald)

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The Passion:

  • The crucifixion that also cures epilepsy | Dario D'Ambrosi, who portrayed the Roman soldier who flogs Jesus in Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," is staging his own version of the story (The New York Times)

  • Catholic-Jewish panel hits Gibson movie | Ten months after Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" reached blockbuster status, an interfaith group of Catholics and Jews is still finding fault with the film, calling it a "notorious" reminder of Europe's anti-Semitic past (The Washington Times)

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Media and pop culture:

  • 10 questions for Kanye West | "One song is, I love God, and the next song is, Can you come over? That's how I feel. Sometimes you're in church, and you're looking at the girl's dress right next to you." (Time)

  • Two women in Jesus' life are still on different paths | "The Two Marys: The Madonna and the Magdalene," a production of "CNN Presents" is the latest documentary to use Mr. Brown's unstoppable "Da Vinci Code" as an occasion to look at the state of the folk stories derived from what used to be called high-church Christianity (The New York Times)

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  • Davey & Goliath back to teach new lessons | The Lutheran church is reviving the 1960s-era animated series for a holiday special, "Davey & Goliath's Snowboard Christmas," on the Hallmark Channel Dec. 19. It airs at noon, and will be repeated the same time on the day after Christmas (Associated Press)

  • Children's Bible stories | Travels through holy lands, stories from the manger, a whale of a tale and some beautiful music (The Washington Post)

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  • Holy smoke | What were the Crusades really about? (Joan Acocella, The New Yorker)

  • Something new under the sun | The King James Bible, published in the seventeenth century, had an immense impact on Modern English, expanding the breadth and depth of the language. Enter the Hebrew idiom (Alister McGrath, Science & Spirit)

  • Devilish plot of Hitler's horoscope | British intelligence hatched a plot during the second world war to flood the world of astrology with fake horoscopes in an attempt to influence Hitler (The Times, London)

  • The Gail Walker interview: Bingham … saints and sinners I have known | Derick Bingham, 58, is Northern Ireland's best-known evangelical preacher, and lives in Belfast with wife Margaret and their three grown-up daughters, twins Kerrie and Claire, and Kathryn. Derick has just published a biography of the Ulster-born writer, C S Lewis, creator of the world-famous Narnia tales, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis was born in east Belfast in 1898, went on to become an Oxford Don and Cambridge Professor and died in 1963 (The Belfast Telegraph)

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Other articles of interest:

  • Federal judge sentences Martin Frankel | Each month, Frankel and his associates drew up phony statements showing company investments paying off. He hid his involvement, setting up a bogus Roman Catholic charity, the Saint Francis of Assisi Foundation, to own the insurance companies (Associated Press)

  • The feminization of AIDS | The root causes of the soaring AIDS rates among younger women lie in the pervasive gender inequality of many developing nations (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Even good Christians can have bad theology | High school football game reveals flaw of unintended egotism (Mike Macdonald, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)

  • Year of Jesus … but which one and what beliefs? | Call 2004 the Year of Our Lord. This was the year Jesus imprinted his record-smashing image on pop culture and politics, the year Americans confirmed again how their deeply held beliefs define personal identities and national divisions (Ray Waddle, The Tennessean, Nashville)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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