Today's Top Five

1. "These high gas prices, Lord, bring them down, oh Father"
Okay, I'll admit it: I've asked God to give me gas. It was late by the time I'd decided to head home, the gas station in the small town I was visiting had closed, I was 35 miles from the next station, and the light had already been on for a bit. I didn't want to break down on the interstate, so I prayed.

Yesterday, nine members of a California group called Pray Live gathered by a Hollywood Chevron station to pray that God would make gas cheaper. "This will be a testament to all of the people who don't believe in the power of prayer," organizer Wenda Royster explained. Los Angeles Daily News reporter Brad Greenberg was there, and he followed up with some theological questions.

2. "The Christian Right is moving Left"
Amy Sullivan argues in The New Republic that (to quote the headline, which she probably didn't write) "the Christian Right is moving Left." Her case study: Pennsylvania's Casey-Santorum race, where "global warming is the deciding issue for some evangelicals" since both candidates oppose abortion. But wait: is the unusual aspect in that race that evangelicals are interested in social issues like the environment? Or is it that the Democrats are actually supporting a pro-life candidate? The reality is that the Pennsylvania race is less a test case for evangelical social concern and more an issue of whether opposing abortion will become widely acceptable in the Democratic Party. The question isn't whether evangelicals believe they can in good conscience vote for a Democrat. It's whether Democrats believe they can, in good conscience, vote for anti-abortion laws. If Democrats want to attract moderate evangelicals, the answer isn't to champion their environmental record. The answer is to treat abortion as an inhuman horror.

3. "If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms"
Pat Robertson went out on a limb and predicted coastal storms sometime in the next seven months. Considering there are coastal storms every year, that's not a bad bet. Heck, AccuWeather chief forecaster Joe Bastardi got more specific this week when he predicted five hurricanes—three major ones—will hit the U.S. coasts this year: "Early in the season the Texas Gulf Coast faces the highest likelihood of a hurricane strike, possibly putting Gulf energy production in the line of fire," said Bastardi. "As early as July, and through much of the rest of the season, the highest level of risk shifts to the Carolinas."

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There really is news in Robertson's prophecy, but it has little to do with meteorology. Robertson has made many dramatic prophecies in the past: That Russia would invade Israel in 1982, that the world economy would collapse in 1985, that he'd win the presidency in 1988, that Jay Rockefeller would win it in 1996, that terrorists would attack Detroit and San Francisco in 2002 …

Here was Robertson's prophecy for 2005:

The Lord has some very encouraging news for George Bush … What I heard is that Bush is now positioned to have victory after victory and that his second term is going to be one of triumph, which is pretty strong stuff. … He'll have Social Security reform passed. He'll have tax reform passed. He'll have conservative judges on the courts. And that basically he is positioned for a series of dramatic victories which I hope will hearten him and his advisers. They don't have to be timid in this matter because the wind is blowing at his back, and he can move forward boldly and get results.

So the news story isn't that Robertson's making prophecies—he's always done that, despite frequenty being wrong (or, in biblical language, false). What's news is that he's now being so timid.

4. George Will on "the semantic vanity of the phrase values voters"
In today's column George Will rightly notes that there is no other kind of voter than a "values voter." The only question is what values you give priority. Liberals, he notes, "may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values" The phrase values voter, he says "subtracts from social comity by suggesting that one group has cornered the market on moral seriousness." And, he says, those who use it to describe themselves or their movement—he mentions Vision America and the Family Research Council—are being "arrogant."

5. Sonny Sandoval sparks a revolution
In 2000, Sonny Sandoval of the Christian rapcore group P.O.D. appeared on MTV to introduce his daughter, Nevaeh. "Heaven spelled backwards," he explained. The previous year, only eight girls born in the U.S. were given that name. Now it's the 70th most popular name, The New York Times reports, making Nevaeh "the fastest climb among all names in more than a century. … It has risen most quickly among blacks but is also popular with evangelical Christians, who have helped propel other religious names like Grace (ranked 14th) up the charts, experts say." It's worth noting that the Times author has one of the most famous and unique names in journalism: Jennifer 8. Lee.

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Quote of the day
"Well, I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying 'This is fiction.' I mean, walking on water, it takes an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie. Not that it's true, not that it's factual, but that it's a jolly good story. And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing after they've seen it."

Da Vinci Code actor Ian McKellen, on NBC's Today show, in response to how he'd feel if the film had a disclaimer at the beginning of it. Orlando Sentinel movie critic Roger Moore called the comment "pretty gutsy, in a nation that's never been closer to a theocracy."

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Spirituality | Da Vinci Code responses | Da Vinci Code reviews | More on The Da Vinci Code | Pat Robertson | Politics | Giuliani campaigns for Reed | Church, state, and religious liberty | Sudan | Abortion | Education and evolution | Sexual ethics | Catholicism | Church life | Other stories of interest


  1. 'Heaven help us' | Christians pray for lower gas prices (Los Angeles Daily News)

  2. And if it's a boy, will it be Lleh? | Nevaeh, which is Heaven spelled backward, is now a more popular name for baby girls than Sara and Vanessa (The New York Times)

  3. Are you praying on my team, or not? | Since I converted to Islam, some Christians react as if I lost faith completely (Patricia Dunn, The Christian Science Monitor)

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Da Vinci Code responses:

  1. No teasers | Cineplex Odeon theatres cancelled a planned theatre advertisement by Campus Crusade for Christ yesterday. The $60,000 worth of 10-second teasers prompted Da Vinci Code audiences to visit to explore questions raised by the film (24 Hours, Canada)

  2. China church urges boycott of Da Vinci | China's official Catholic church urged its followers to boycott The Da Vinci Code, and bishops in India demanded the movie be shown with a disclaimer Thursday as viewers across Asia got a first glimpse of the controversial film (Associated Press)

  3. India vets Da Vinci amid protests | Indian officials have held a special screening of controversial Hollywood blockbuster The Da Vinci Code after protests by Christians (BBC)

  4. Jensen won't flagellate the Code | There was a distinct—possibly ominous—lack of indignation from one of Australia's top Anglicans, given it is controversy that has fed the public appetite for Dan Brown's wildly successful novel about the "true" story of Jesus (The Australian)

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  1. Paranoia on Main Street | The Da Vinci Code befuddles the culture warriors (Jesse Walker, Reason)

  2. The passion about the 'Code' may be misplaced | If a powerful movie such as The Passion of the Christ doesn't lead to conversions, there's no reason to expect the opposite from The Da Vinci Code (Paul K. Harral, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  3. Boycotting Da Vinci is an own goal | Christians and Jews must show they are robust enough to take a bit of ill-informed criticism (Tony Bayfield, The Guardian, London)

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Da Vinci Code reviews:

  1. Review: The Da Vinci Code | Conservative critics have bemoaned "The Da Vinci Code" as a subversive attack on moral decency and a shocking challenge to religious tradition. If only. (Stephanie Zacharek,

  2. 'Da Vinci' on the big screen | Many religious leaders using movie to spark conversation on biblical history (Editorial, The Tennessean, Nashville)

  3. Even Mona Lisa would frown | Da Vinci Code long, boring (Chicago Tribune)

  4. Faithful filmmakers unable to crack the 'Code' for thrills | A need to guard the franchise at all costs has seeped into the very bones of this project, into everything from script to casting, and robbed it of the excitement that a willingness to consider creative risks might have given it (Los Angeles Times)

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More on The Da Vinci Code:

  1. 'Da Vinci Code' spurs religion coverage  | The film version of Dan Brown's book is the best thing to happen to newspaper religion reporting so far this year. Controversy has spawned widespread religion coverage in mainstream newspapers across the country (Editor & Publisher)

  2. Sir Ian comes out … again | McKellen's calling the Bible fiction is gutsy, in a nation that's never been closer to a theocracy (Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel)

  3. Will Catholics flock to see Da Vinci Code? | One in three definitely plan to see the movie; three-quarters considering it (Gallup News Service)

  4. Book's fans to decide if 'Da Vinci' is dud 'Vinci' | Now the debate is raging in Hollywood over whether the film is essentially "review-proof" — as they say in the industry — or whether the critics' reaction will damage the box office (Los Angeles Times)

  5. Peddling pagan temptations | The old pagan temptations never entirely fade away, and it is to those longings for a more complicated, more fantastic, more spectacular, religion that Mr. Brown's novel is aimed (Raymond J. de Souza, National Post)

  6. Dan Brown has resurrected a heresy that rattles the Church | The reason this piffle is such a howling hit is that it resurrects the great unspoken doubt in the minds of all Christians, that has existed ever since the doctrine of the Incarnation. It is about whether Christ can really be man and God at once (Boris Johnson, The Telegraph, London)

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Pat Robertson:

  1. God warns of coastal storms, possible tsunami, Robertson says | Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson is warning that, according to God, storms and possibly a tidal wave will pound America this year (The Virginian-Pilot, Virginia Beach)

  2. Robertson says God told him about storms | In another in a series of notable pronouncements, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says God told him storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America's coastline this year (Associated Press)

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  1. Clergy leaders try to counter religious right | Group emphasizes housing, education instead of abortion and gay marriage (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  2. Event could put Crist in bind | Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist may not go to an Orlando fundraiser for a conservative Christian group whose leader endorsed his Republican opponent in the governor's race (The Miami Herald)

  3. The real reason Karl Rove is scared | The Christian right is moving left (Amy Sullivan, The New Republic)

  4. Who isn't a 'values voter'? | This phrase is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values (George F. Will, The Washington Post)

  5. Saint Hugo | The Religious Left begins its embrace of Hugo Chávez (Mark D. Tooley, The Weekly Standard)

  6. All the president's truths | A bit more religious modesty would help put U.S. foreign policy back on more solid ground. (Stanley R. Sloan, International Herald Tribune)

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Giuliani campaigns for Reed:

  1. Giuliani visit puts Reed's campaign in the spotlight | Until last week, the only appearance advertised on Ralph Reed's campaign Web site was a November 2005 fund-raiser featuring Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  2. Rudy makes right turn | They make for an odd couple: Rudy Giuliani, the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights former mayor of New York, and Ralph Reed, the ex-head of the Christian Coalition (New York Daily News)

  3. Giuliani headlines Ralph Reed fundraiser | The two politicians were effusive in their praise for one another as they entered the Atlanta fundraiser just before noon (Associated Press)

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Church, state, and religious liberty:

  1. Mayor says pastor should apologize for words on gays | Mayor Anthony A. Williams threatened yesterday to remove a prominent minister from his interfaith council if the minister does not issue a public apology for derogatory remarks he made about gay men during a Palm Sunday sermon last month (The Washington Post)

  2. Also: Bishop Owens responds | It was not my purpose to wound anyone or discriminate against any group, and I apologize for any offense. … However, I will not submit my sermons through political filters for fear of recrimination by political or social groups. (Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr., The Washington Post)

  3. Utah couple claim peyote a religious right | The leader of an American Indian church and his wife claim in a lawsuit that authorities tried to prevent them from practicing their religion by prosecuting the couple for consuming and distributing peyote (Associated Press)

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  1. Helping Darfur from afar | Local and national groups must persist in lobbying our government not to slacken on the pressure it applies over Sudan's rulers (Pius Kamau, The Denver Post)

  2. Action, not symbolism, on Darfur | This would certainly be worth getting arrested over if getting arrested offered even the most remote prospect of throwing the smallest wrench into the gyro of death. But it doesn't (Rick Esenberg, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

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  1. FDA unclear on abortion pill risk | Federal regulators don't know if the abortion pill increases the likelihood of infection by a rare but deadly bacterium that killed four California women, a health official said Wednesday at a congressional hearing convened by RU-486 opponents (Associated Press)

  2. FDA defends handling of RU-486 abortion pill | A top U.S. Food and Drug Administration official on Wednesday defended its handling of the RU-486 abortion pill despite recent reports of deaths from rare infections in a handful of women who took the drug (Reuters)

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Education and evolution:

  1. Students who pray may have to do so at school | Policy would affect observant Muslims (The Washington Post)

  2. Dover trial witnesses treated 'like royalty' | A movie about the intelligent design issue nearly sold out at Tribeca Film Festival (York Daily Record, Pa.)

  3. Creationism debate moves to Britain | The debate over creationism in schools was an American problem. But now the controversy is taking root in Britain (The Independent, London)

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Sexual ethics:

  1. Tactics honed as debate nears on banning gay marriage | On both sides, activists prepare (The Boston Globe)

  2. Bush urged to push marriage amendment | Social conservatives say President Bush must work harder before next month's scheduled Senate vote to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, and some even say the White House is sending all the wrong signals on the issue (The Washington Times)

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  1. Study sees church rebounding from scandal | A study found that the sexual abuse scandal has not caused American Catholics to leave the Roman Catholic Church, or to stop attending Mass and donating to parishes (The New York Times)

  2. Russia: Orthodox official to meet Pope | A senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kirill, is to meet Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican today in the latest of a series of steps signaling a warming of relations with the Roman Catholic Church (The New York Times)

  3. Roman Catholic priest resigns amid probe | A Roman Catholic priest resigned amid suspicions of financial wrongdoing and questions about his "suitability for priestly ministry," church officials said Wednesday (Associated Press)

  4. Still slaying dragons after all these years | From anti-abortion to anti-Muslim to Catholic convert (National Catholic Register)

  5. Also: Q&A: From Operation Rescue to Operation Convert | An interview with Randall Terry (National Catholic Register)

  6. Idle speculation | AIDS, condoms, and the Catholic Church (Thomas D. Williams, National Review Online)

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Church life:

  1. Germantown Baptist drama goes on | Staff resignations, pastor's home sale fuel speculation (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.)

  2. 'Godcasting:' Love that new-time religion | For some churches in the US, godcasting is a powerful, fairly inexpensive tool to draw in the under-30 crowd, who are comfortable with technology. But showing an image instead of presenting a real person can alienate some older churchgoers, experts say. The trend also raises questions about pastoral accountability, and whether this new model fits the biblical concept of a local church (The Christian Science Monitor)

  3. Religion Today: Episcopalian blood sport | The emotion of the moment is visible in the explosion of blogs since the convention three years ago, when delegates voted to confirm Robinson's election (Associated Press)

  4. Church switches denominations | Groups aim to avoid rancor in move by Third Presbyterian (Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Ia.)

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  1. Church borrows for child-sex payout | South Australia's Anglican Church would have to borrow money to pay $4 million in compensation to sexual abuse victims of a former youth worker, it said today (AAP, Australia)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. A scholar's view | Experts weigh in on pastor in alleged beating (The Courier News, Elgin, Ill.)

  2. Where AIDS galloped, lessons in applying the reins | Researchers hope studying Kenya, where the spread of AIDS is slowing, will provide strategies for controlling the disease elsewhere in Africa (The New York Times)

  3. 80 years ago today: Sister Aimee vanishes | The pioneering 35-year-old evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanished while swimming off the beach in Venice, California. Out of the ensuing medley of scandal, religion, and ballyhoo was born a mystery that endures to this day (American Heritage)

  4. Bible study hosts sued by guest | Theresa Hunt is suing the hosts of a Bible study group for injuries she sustained after tripping on raised pavement in their driveway (The Madison Record, Ill.)

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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.
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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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