Today's Top Five

1. Amish again in spotlight after school shooting
After Monday's murder of five students at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, media outlets are full of articles about how different the Amish are. The op-ed pages, meanwhile, are full of comments about much this shooting makes the Amish just like the rest of us. ("The Amish 9/11" is a phrase we're starting to see, but this also ties into the other two fatal school shootings this week.) It's good to see so many articles on Amish belief and culture that truly try to understand what happens in a religious community and why. Of course, in this situation, "why" answers are often hard to come by. Take the shooter, Charles Roberts, for example. Reports say he was tormented by his molestation of two young relatives two decades ago (when he was about 12). And his suicide note suggests that he was also tormented by the death, nine years ago, of a daughter who lived for only 20 minutes.

"It changed my life forever," he wrote. "I haven't been the same since it affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself hate, towards God, and unimaginable emptiness. It seems like everytime we do something fun, I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us, and I go right back to anger."

"He was angry at life and angry at God," Pennsylvania state police commissioner Jeffrey Miller told reporters in a widely quoted comment.

"The man who did this today is not the Charlie that I've been married to for almost 10 years," said Marie Roberts, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer says is "involved in Christian groups," in a written statement. "He was an exceptional father. … Please pray, especially for the families who lost children. And please pray, too, for our family and children."

2. What's the Foley scandal really about?
There are any number of "Foley stories" right now. One is purely political. Here's how The New York Times phrases it: "A growing number of Republicans and conservative advocates fear the Foley scandal will cause many of the party's most conservative supporters to stay home on election day."

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, is one of those conservative advocates. "I think this is a real problem for the Republicans as they, right or wrong, are seen as the guardians of values," he told CNN (quoted by The New York Sun). "This is going to be, I think, very harmful for Republican turnout across the country."

But religious conservative leaders aren't going to have to shift much. Their speeches in recent days have been critical of the Republican leadership, but more critical of Democratic values. "I have flat-out been ticked at Republicans for the past two years," Focus on the Family Action's James Dobson said at the September 20 Stand for the Family rally in Pittsburgh. "[But] this country is at a crisis point. Whether or not the Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening."

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Speaking on Laura Ingraham's radio program yesterday (again quoted by the Sun), Dobson didn't have to change that message. "Who can overlook what Foley has done? I mean, that is breathtaking," he said. The Sun paraphrases him saying that voters might forget about Foley by Election Day, but they don't forget that Republicans have sat on measures of interest to religious conservatives. Still, Dobson said, "I don't think we can afford to teach the Republicans a lesson that I wish they would learn on their own."

Gary Bauer makes a similar argument in an interview with the American Family Association's Agape Press:

"Both parties are full of sinners. Our faith teaches us that it's a fallen world," [he said.]
But Bauer says when it comes to voting, the GOP platform supports the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, while liberal Democrats support same-sex "marriage" and abortion on demand. "Those differences remain the same," he points out, "and in view of that, I would hope that the obvious disgusting behavior by this one Republican congressman would not affect turnout on election day."

Bauer alleges that the timing of the revelations is "an attempt to discourage Christian conservative voters and to get some percentage of them to stay home so that the Left can retake the United States Senate and the United States House."

Whether it's Hastert or a politically motivated media, "at this stage, all we know is that it appears that someone knew something and kept quiet temporarily for reasons of their own," Gina Dalfonzo writes on The Point, the new blog of Charles Colson's Breakpoint. She continues:

Until everything comes out—and in this politically charged climate, maybe it never will—should we say anything at all? Maybe not much, but I think there's at least one thing we can and should say with certainty. It used to go without saying among grown-ups that the exploitation of children and teenagers for any reason—including wanting to retain power or wanting to overthrow those in power—is a complete and utter disgrace. Apparently, it no longer does go without saying. Because whoever knew and withheld this information for their own purposes is morally just as guilty as Mark Foley.
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Meanwhile, several religious conservative groups are less interested in the Hastert angle than in the gay angle.

"We are all shocked by this spectacle of aberrant sexual behavior, but we shouldn't be," Perkins said in a press release. "This is the end result of a society that rejects sexual restraints in the name of diversity."

"Okay, so let me get this straight," responds conservative columnist Rod Dreher in his Crunchy Con blog "The fact that the Republican Party leadership in the House was rather less than aggressive in looking into a matter of a scumbag gay Congressman chasing a teenage boy is … society's fault? Is the fault of gay people asking for tolerance? … If NOW had blamed society for Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, we'd have all hooted them out of the room, and deservedly so."

Elsewhere, Perkins says that "the real issue" in the Foley case "is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse."

Link? Apparently there's an equivalence in the mind of Concerned Women for America, which says that "Congressman Foley's sexual orientation was no secret in Washington, D.C. [Peter] LaBarbera uncovered this news for CWA in 2003." LaBarbera's 2003 article outing Foley as gay made no mention of a predilection for teens, which might make one wonder if CWA understands what the scandal here is.

Actually, a statement from CWA president Wendy Wright does repeatedly note that the problem is that Foley tried "to take sexual advantage of minors." "Americans know that some lifestyles, such as aberrant sexual behavior, are just too damaging and dangerous to individuals, and that society and children especially should be protected from them," Wright says.

Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery doesn't mention homosexuality. He calls the case "yet another sad example of our society's oversexualization, especially as it affects the Internet, and the damage it does to all who get caught in its grasp." He adds, "This is not a time to be talking about politics, but about the well-being of those boys who appear to have been victimized by Rep. Foley."

3. Lebanon's Christians rally
It's hard to tell how much religious fervor was behind Beirut's rally of tens of thousands of anti-Hezbollah Lebanese on Sunday. And it's hard to get too excited about the Lebanese Christian opposition to the militant group when it manifests itself as a rally to support militant leader Samir Geagea, former leader of the Lebanese Forces. And it's frustrating that the anti-Hezbollah demonstration was only a fraction the size of a pro-Hezbollah demonstration two days earlier. But it's still good to see Lebanese criticism of Hezbollah.

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4. Christian Coalition's new president
"The selection of the Rev. Joel Hunter" as the new president of the Christian Coalition "may not placate evangelicals who claim the conservative political-advocacy group has become too liberal and its agenda too broad," reports The Orlando Sentinel. "If anything, his appointment cements those trends."

Well, it's not like they appointed John Danforth or Welton Gaddy. He's solidly conservative. He's just not the Religious Right. In fact, he just published a book, Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly With Most Conservative Christians.

"There ought to be more than just gay marriage and pro-life issues, because the Bible is concerned with all of life," Hunter wrote in that book. "We need to do everything we can to relieve poverty, to heal the sick and to protect the Earth."

Hunter says pastoring his multi-site Florida church remains his priority. "God called me to be a pastor," he said at Sunday's services. "He didn't call me to go out and get my face in the media. … You're not going to hear me talk, sermon after sermon, about political issues."

One thing that might help keep his priorities in check: The Christian Coalition presidency doesn't pay anything, and the Christian Coalition doesn't really exist right now except as a post office box and a mailing list.

5. Murder mystery in Philippines
Alberto Ramento, bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, was stabbed to death inside his convent Tuesday morning. Police called the attack a robbery gone awry with no signs of political motives, but the fact that Ramento was a strong critic of the Philippine government has many people asking questions. Actually, more than that: It has the opposition party making accusations.

Quote of the day
"I still think Iraq is one of the more noble things we've done."

—Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in an interview with the Associated Press. "It would be foolish to say anybody's pleased" with the war, Land said. "I don't think the President's pleased with the progress of the war. Clearly, he would have wished things would have gone better. So do I. … [But] we went there to try to restore freedom and to bring freedom to the Middle East."

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More articles

Killings | Missionaries attacked in Solomon Islands | International religious freedom | Indonesia | Darfur | Lebanon | Iraq | Military | Life ethics | Contraceptives | Abortion | Phill Kline | Politics | Church and state | Church discipline case at Tex. Supreme Court | All Saints vs. IRS | A bunch of bills | Christian Coalition(s) | Values Voters convention | Backlash against Religious Right | Immigration and refugees | Religion and politics in Australia | Religion and politics books | Books | Books about Christian youth | Jesus Camp | VeggieTales on NBC | Theater | Entertainment and media | Money and business | Giving | Priest shortage? Pulpit shortage? | Church life | People | Crime | Missions & ministry | Priests allegedly stole $8.6M | More thefts | Abuse | BBC says Pope Benedict XVI covered up abuse | Catholicism | Supreme Court mass | Emmanuel Milingo excommunicated | Pope Benedict XVI and Islam | Islam | Judaism for non-Jews | Eastern Orthodox | Anglicanism | Homosexuality | More marriage | Education | Education (U.K.) | Bible and schools | Evolution | Higher education | Georgetown University | Devil | Other stories of interest


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Missionaries attacked in Solomon Islands:

  • Injured Solomons minister stays | A former Tasmanian minister injured by a mob of armed men at his mission in the Solomon Islands has no plans to return to Australia despite being told by his attackers "Australians were unwelcome", his son says (The Mercury, Tasmania, Australia)

  • Aussie church mission attacked | An Australian church mission in the Solomon Islands has been attacked and looted by a mob of armed men (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Also: Missionaries attacked by machete gangs (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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International religious freedom:

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  • Group attacks Indonesia police station | Christians angered by last week's executions of three Roman Catholic militants set fire to a police station Friday and hurled rocks at a helicopter carrying a police chief, the state news agency Antara reported (Associated Press)

  • Earlier: Executions spark violence in Indonesia | Christians angered by Friday's executions of three Roman Catholic militants in the world's most populous Muslim country torched cars and government buildings, looted shops and attacked a jail, freeing hundreds of inmates (Associated Press, Sept. 22)

  • Security tight after violence flares in Poso | Assailants stopped bus, stabbed Christian (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

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  • Moves to resolve Darfur impasse | Diplomatic efforts are being stepped up to try and improve security in the troubled western region of Darfur (BBC)

  • International inaction | What's keeping the United Nations from intervening in Darfur (George Packer, The New Yorker)

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  • Lebanese Christians protest Hezbollah | An anti-Syrian Christian leader dismissed Hezbollah's claims of victory in its war with Israel as tens of thousands of his supporters rallied Sunday in a show of strength that highlighted Lebanon's sharp divisions (Associated Press)

  • Lebanese Christian leader raps Hizbollah | A Lebanese Christian leader said on Sunday Hizbollah's war with Israel was a disaster for Lebanon and rapped the Shi'ite Muslim group for rejecting calls to lay down its arms (Reuters)

  • Related: The forgotten Christian | The pope's dictum about Islam and the inevitable follow up — demonstrations, church burnings, assassinations, and the expected apology — are part of a wider scene: the precarious position of Christian communities in the Middle East as a result of a radicalized Islam (Amnon Rubinstein, The New York Sun)

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  • Iraq Sadr City residents insulted by 'Buddy Jesus' | Iraqi Shiite residents of Baghdad's Sadr City have expressed anger on over a picture of a grinning Jesus they mistook for a Shiite holy figure that appeared in the area after a joint US-Iraqi operation (AFP)

  • Pope prays for peace in Iraq | Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday encouraged Christians and Muslims in Iraq to continue their centuries-old brotherly ties as he prayed for peace and harmony in the violence-wracked country (Associated Press)

  • Also: Pope, Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad meet | The meeting with Patriarch Emmanuel Delly took place at the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, on the hills south of Rome, and the Vatican did not release any details (Associated Press)

  • Where's religious right's outrage now? | On the defining moral issues of our day, the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's use of torture against those it has designated as "enemy combatants," these "voices of morality" are strangely silent (Randall Balmer, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Life ethics:

  • Researchers report growing stem cells from dead embryos | Researchers reported Thursday that they had cultivated a colony of human embryonic stem cells from an apparently dead embryo, a strategy some have suggested might be less controversial than conventional approaches that require the destruction of living embryos (The Washington Post)

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  • New light shone on Schiavo case | For those of us who fought for Terri, the successful treatment of those in a persistent vegetative state using Zolpidem can only be compared to the discovery of evidence exonerating an executed man (Scott Kirwin, The Washington Times)

  • War and embryos | Bush's faulty logic about stem-cell research (Michael Kinsley, Slate)

  • Fundamentalists? We? | Bad science, worse philosophy, and McCarthyite tactitics in the human-embyro debate (Patrick Lee & Robert P. George, National Review Online)

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  • Should abortion be prevented? | Why the case for abortion rights must include a call for responsibility toward the creation of life (Frances Kissling,

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Phill Kline:

  • Kan. AG alarms abortion-rights groups | Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has emerged as one of the nation's foremost foes of abortion by tangling with abortion clinics and health care providers in this heartland state, where is now running for a second term (Associated Press)

  • Churches are target of candidate's memo | Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline has told his staff to get him in front of as many congregations as possible this election season — with an eye toward raising money and securing votes by sharing his faith with the faithful (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Evangelical voters more jaded in 2006 | There is an undercurrent of concern that some evangelicals, unhappy that the GOP-led Congress and President Bush haven't paid more attention to gay marriage and other "values" issues, may stay home on Election Day or even vote Democratic (Associated Press)

  • Evangelical voter turnout in doubt | Leaders see energy diminished since '04 (Chicago Tribune)

  • Pastors guiding voters to GOP | The Christian right seeks out members who might not go to the polls. The focus is issues, but some leaders don't oppose endorsement (Los Angeles Times)

  • Religious leaders use bully pulpit for change | As the Nov. 7 elections approach, religious groups across the nation prepare to issue voters guides to churches detailing candidates and their positions (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Evangelical Christian lobbyist pushes environment | With his pin-stripe suit and media-ready manner, the Rev. Richard Cizik looks like a typical Washington lobbyist, but his is a mission with a difference: persuading evangelical Christians to care about global warming (Reuters)

  • Keep religion out of politics | The intrusion of religion into our political lives, in my opinion, should be rejected in the same fashion that we constitutionally guarantee government will not interfere with religion (Lou Dobbs, CNN)

  • Indifferent no more | People of faith mobilize to end prison rape (Pat Nolan & Marguerite Telford, Journal of Legislation)

  • Things fall apart | The right-wing coalition that has spent 40 years climbing to its current position of political dominance may be cracking up (Paul Krugman, The New York Times)

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  • Brazil's evangelical movement has become a major social, political force | Brazil's evangelical movement, which U.S. churches started a century ago, has exploded in this traditionally Roman Catholic country, nearly doubling during the 1990s to some 26.2 million people, or about 15 percent of the population, according to the most recent census, taken in 2000. (Jack Chang, McClatchy Newspapers)

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Church and state:

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Church discipline case at Tex. Supreme Court:

  • Justices hear arguments in suit against pastor | If a Fort Worth pastor can be sued for divulging the details of a congregant's marital difficulties for the purpose of administering church-sanctioned public discipline, it would undermine the separation of church and state, the minister's attorney told the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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All Saints vs. IRS:

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A bunch of bills:

  • Bill would shield tithing from bankruptcy | The Senate passes the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Hatch, unanimously; to become law it must still pass the House and get Bush's signature (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • House okays bill on religious expression | House Republicans, carrying out their election-year values agenda, on Tuesday pushed through legislation cutting off financial awards for lawsuits successfully filed against expressions of religion such as Christmas displays on government grounds. There is no companion Senate bill and little chance the Senate would consider it in the waning days of this session (Associated Press)

  • House passes measure on religion suits | The House passed a bill yesterday that would bar judges from awarding legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups that sue municipalities for violating the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion (The Washington Post)

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Christian Coalition(s):

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Values Voters convention:

  • 'Values voters' told to know the enemy | Dobson says "values" voters they shouldn't shy away from the fact that the country is in a war with Muslims who want to kill Americans (The Washington Times)

  • Tactic uses pulpits to power the GOP | Evangelical leaders, on the first day of a rally, ask pastors to advocate for a social conservative agenda despite recent IRS investigations (Los Angeles Times)

  • With the party of Dobson | At the unofficial GOP midterm convention, Focus on the Family delivered election-day marching orders to the faithful, praising GOP hopefuls and hurling jeremiads against liberals, "faggots" and Fallujans (Max Blumenthal, The Nation)

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Backlash against Religious Right:

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Immigration and refugees:

  • Immigration activist defying ruling | An immigration activist who took refuge in a church after the government ordered her deported to Mexico said Saturday she will remain holed up there, even though a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed on her behalf. (Associated Press)

  • From fear to faith | Pastor looks at immigration from new perspective (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Apart from the flock | How can such a politically astute, pro-immigrant church be so tone deaf when it comes to its episcopal appointments? (David Alire Garcia, San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Punishing refugees twice | The Patriot Act and its sister Real ID provision have inadvertently damaged America's excellent record of giving refuge to the persecuted (Editorial, The New York Times)

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Religion and politics in Australia:

  • Christians 'skewed' God and government survey | The Australian Democrats are refusing to publish an online survey about God and government after a campaign by Christian groups "skewed" the results (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Christians should get their say in politics: Rudd | Christian leaders have endorsed a campaign by Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd to ensure the Labor Party is seen as having something to offer religious voters (The Australian)

  • Rudd seeks church role in politics | The prominent federal Labor frontbencher Kevin Rudd has issued a clarion call for Christians and the churches to take a bigger role in national politics (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • It's time to fight for the true Christian principle of compassion | Christians are as entitled as anybody else to advance their views, so long as their views are tempered by reason, to the secular forum that is Parliament. My concern is that in recent years we've only been hearing one set of Christian views on politics - and that has been an overwhelmingly conservative one. (Kevin Rudd, The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Religion and politics books:

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  • Church as state | Damon Linker studies the power wielded by a group of Catholic conservatives. Adrian Wooldridge reviews The Theocons (The New York Times Book Review)

  • Church and statesmanship | A theologian calls for a more activist form of Christianity Jon Meacham reviews The Politics of Jesus by Obery M. Hendricks Jr. (The Washington Post)

  • Taking on Christians' gospel truth | Jean E. Barker reviews Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Oh, dear God — it's him again | Atheist Sam Harris pens a 'Letter' to the faithful (Los Angeles Times)

  • Shaking things up | A Twin Cities preacher's new book asserting that politics has no place in the church has fanned a nationwide debate among evangelicals (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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  • Rare Kierkegaard book to be auctioned | The Either/Or second edition from 1849 dedicated to Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, was offered to the Copenhagen-based Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers of Fine Art by an unidentified Danish family earlier this year (Associated Press)

  • Sue Monk Kidd has new book, TV film | A new book, "Firstlight," a compilation of her earliest inspirational writings, will be published next month (Associated Press)

  • Cooking up a storm from The Bible | The fact that the Bible really has only one recipe -- for bread -- did not deter Anthony Chiffolo and New York priest Rayner Hesse Jr. with their 386-page book offering 18 meals mixing in scriptural text and history lessons (Reuters)

  • Religion and comic books: Where did Superman's theology come from? | A volume by Rabbi Simcha Weinstein contends that writer-artists of the classic comics, many of them Jewish, were influenced by their religious heritage in devising characters and plots (The New York Times)

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Books about Christian youth:

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Jesus Camp:

  • Tongues of fire | 'Jesus Camp' illuminates the political and religious education of evangelical Christian children (The Washington Post)

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VeggieTales on NBC:

  • Talking veggies stir controversy at NBC | Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber always had a moral message in their long-running "VeggieTales" video series. But now that the vegetable stars have hit network television, they can't speak as freely as they once did, and that's got the Parents Television Council steamed (Associated Press)

  • NBC draws protests from conservatives | In a Madonna concert that includes a crucifixion scene and the exclusion of religious references from "VeggieTales," critics see a double standard (The New York Times)

  • NBC issues new explanation for 'VeggieTales' cuts | After first blaming time constraints, the network says some references to God were edited out of the kids' series to avoid advocating any religion (Los Angeles Times)

  • Earlier: Steamed over 'VeggieTales' cuts | A watchdog group slams NBC for editing out some references to God in the children's series (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Roll on!': In praise of fervent gospel songs | Audiences well versed in the Bible had the advantage at "Roll On!," the gospel production that played the Lincoln Theatre over the weekend (The Washington Post)

  • Mind the flames | Cautionary theatre event, 'Hell House', gets Brooklyn run (Playbill)

  • Also: "Hell House" pastor hopes N.Y. gets point | Keenan Roberts knows the Big Apple theater crowd will be a far cry from the friendly, fundamentalist crowds who have helped spawn 3,000 "Hell House" copycats at churches worldwide (The Denver Post)

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Entertainment and media:

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  • Also: Christians are bidders too | The state has no business overturning the legitimate sale of a TV station to televangelists (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • How sweet the sound | Five area gospel choirs that hit all the right notes (The Washington Post)

  • Reveling in a wrathful exodus, plagues and all | Over the weekend the British town of Margate re-enacted the Bible story of the Exodus in modern terms, with a cast of several thousand local people and a phalanx of film crews (The New York Times)

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Money and business:

  • Bishops push for higher farm wages | The Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined a growing number of religious groups calling on McDonald's Corp. to push for higher wages for workers who pick tomatoes for the fast-food giant (Associated Press)

  • Sales & service | Christian retailers offering atmosphere in addition to consumer products (Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.)

  • Cafe perks up born-agains | Praising Lord, passing cappuccino (New York Daily News)

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Priest shortage? Pulpit shortage?:

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Church life:

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  • FAA fines Victoria Osteen $3,000 | Pastor's wife is also being sued by a flight attendant claiming assault (Houston Chronicle)

  • John W. Peterson, writer of hymns, dies at 84 | Former president of Singspiration authored more than 1,000 gospel hymns (Associated Press)

  • Artist Thomas Kinkade paints Elvis home | Known for his paintings of cozy cottages, country gardens and churches, artist Thomas Kinkade has created a similar tranquil scene in his painting of Elvis Presley's famous home (Associated Press)

  • Purpose-Driven country | Pastor Rick Warren's movement has spawned wildly popular books and a worldwide following with a simple message that asks the faithful to put God into everyday life. When it comes to development work, it means making churchgoers -- whatever their denomination -- equal partners with business and government (The Ottawa Citizen)

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  • Baptist group execs sentenced for fraud | Former Baptist Foundation of Arizona president William Crotts, 61, was sentenced to eight years in prison and former general counsel Thomas Grabinski, 46, was sentenced to six years in prison on fraud and racketeering charges. They were both ordered to repay hundreds of millions of dollars for defrauding investors in a botched financial scheme that bankrupted the non-profit organization (Associated Press)

  • Also: 2 given prison for fraud involving Baptist group (The Arizona Republic)

  • Also: Executives sentenced in church fraud | Investors lost millions to Southern Baptist foundation scheme in Arizona (The Washington Post)

  • Church founder's sex suit set for '07 | A sexual misconduct lawsuit against megachurch founder Bishop Earl Paulk will be heard next year, a DeKalb Superior Court judge said Monday (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • No mercy for priest with parking ticket | Cletus Forson got a $115 ticket for parking in an ambulance zone while ministering to an ailing hospital patient (Associated Press)

  • Suspended priest again arrested in alleged assault of family | A suspended priest who was arrested earlier this year after allegedly assaulting his mother and sister has been arrested again on similar charges (Associated Press)

  • Hillsong Church member accused of fraud | A Hillsong Church member swindled fellow parishioners out of millions of dollars and used some of the money to fund his own lavish lifestyle, a court was told yesterday (The Daily Telegraph, NSW, Australia)

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Missions & ministry:

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  • Port of calling | As seafarers' chaplain, he offers practical help, spiritual comfort, and trips to the mall (The Boston Globe)

  • 'Miracles' boost Indian Christians | More than 100 years after the first waves of a great Welsh religious revival reached faraway north-eastern India, Christian church leaders are claiming a religious reawakening in the region (BBC)

  • Less soccer, more prayer in Nigerian stadium | Nigeria's under-20 soccer team have lost out to an all-night prayer vigil and been forced to move a key match to a provincial stadium (Reuters)

  • Ex-convict seeks creation of refuge for sex offenders | He says Prop. 83 could force many to 'go underground or go homeless.' Measure's sponsor says the intent isn't to uproot people (Los Angeles Times)

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Priests allegedly stole $8.6M:

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More thefts:

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  • Revered icon returned to Greek monastery | Police last week recovered the revered icon of the Virgin Mary, which has been credited with healing powers and miracles and was stolen Aug. 18 from the clifftop convent of Elonas, near the town of Leonidio, some 185 miles southwest of Athens (Associated Press)

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  • Church sued over firing of worker | A former church employee who testified against Terry Hornbuckle during his sexual assault trial filed a federal job discrimination lawsuit against Agape Christian Fellowship on Friday (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Women testify against pastor | A leader of a church community is accused of pressuring them into sex when they were minors (The Kansas City Star, Mo.)

  • Also: Judge takes testimony under advisement | After more than two hours of testimony from two alleged victims, a Newton County judge has taken the case against two McDonald County church leaders accused of child sexual abuse under advisement (Neosho Daily News, Mo.)

  • Also: Charges amended in church abuse case | The child-sex charges against two of five church leaders accused of abusing young girls from their congregations have been replaced with fewer charges because a statute of limitations has expired (Associated Press)

  • Court: Don't reveal abuse victims' names | Attorneys do not have to give prosecutors the names of people who say they were sexually abused by priests in northern Kentucky until a full hearing on the issue, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled (Associated Press)

  • Archdiocese may sign abuse settlement | The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese could sign a $60 million settlement with dozens of alleged victims of clergy abuse within days, several attorneys said (Associated Press)

  • Broward ex-priest accused of abuse presses for reinstatement | A lawsuit against a former Catholic priest accused of sexually molesting two Broward parishioners almost a decade ago has been dismissed. He wants to be reinstated by the church (The Miami Herald)

  • Also: Attorney wants Broward priest reinstated after dropping of sexual misconduct lawsuit (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Church lays the blame | Adelaide Anglican Archbishop Jeffrey Driver has blamed pedophiles within the church and officials who failed to act on child sexual abuse for widespread financial cutbacks (The Advertiser, Adelaide, Australia)

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  • Also: Church plan to pay for past sins | The cash-strapped Anglican Church wants its Adelaide parishes to pay a special levy to help fund child sexual abuse compensation claims (The Advertiser, Adelaide, Australia)

  • Mexican police search for accused priest | Rev. Nicolas Aguilar, charged in California with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child, was reportedly was in a small village in Puebla earlier this month (Associated Press)

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BBC says Pope Benedict XVI covered up abuse:

  • Bishops condemn BBC abuse claim | The Catholic Church in England and Wales has said a BBC documentary, which said Pope Benedict XVI supported a child sex abuse cover-up, was "false" (BBC)

  • Bishops round on Panorama's claims of abuse cover-ups | Catholic bishops in England and Wales yesterday launched a retaliatory strike against the BBC's Panorama series, claiming that a programme due to be shown last night highlighting the cover-up of alleged child sexual abuse by priests was unwarranted and misleading (The Guardian, London)

  • Protest at BBC 'attack' on Pope | The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is to make a formal complaint to the BBC over a documentary which accused the Pope of covering up child abuse by priests (The Telegraph, London)

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Supreme Court mass:

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  • High court justices attend pre-term mass | An audience that included four of the Supreme Court's Roman Catholics heard Washington's new archbishop on Sunday describe how religion has been a guiding principle in American history (Associated Press)

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Emmanuel Milingo excommunicated:

  • Vatican excommunicates Zambia archbishop | Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the charismatic Zambian prelate who defied the Holy See by getting married in 2001, has been excommunicated after installing four married men as bishops, the Vatican said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Church excommunicates Zambian archbishop who married | Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, 76, had installed four married men as bishops in a breakaway Catholic sect (The New York Times)

  • Pope excommunicates African prelate with history of defiance | Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has ordained four married men as bishops. He also once broke with the church to wed in 2001 (Los Angeles Times)

  • Zambia's controversial archbishop | I first met Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo when he was suddenly sacked by the Pope and summoned to Rome in 1983 (David Willey, BBC)

  • Archbishop repudiates expulsion | A Roman Catholic archbishop dismissed from the Church on Tuesday for consecrating four married men as bishops said yesterday that he does not accept his excommunication and will work to have the Vatican lift its requirement that priests be celibate (The Washington Post)

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Pope Benedict XVI and Islam:

  • What the pope has said -- and why | Did the leader of a billion Roman Catholics knock the faith of a billion Muslims? (Associated Press)

  • Pope: Tolerance must be based on respect | Pope Benedict XVI, who has been harshly criticized by Muslims for remarks about Islam, said Thursday that true tolerance must be based on respect and the Catholic Church is not trying to forcibly instill its message (Associated Press)

  • Pope invites new look at Catholicism | Pope Benedict XVI's reference to dark aspects in Islam's history also has opened up another type of backlash for his church: fresh examinations of its past as conqueror, inquisitor and patron of missionaries whose zeal sometimes led to conflict with other faiths (Associated Press)

  • Vatican: Extremists undermining religion | The Vatican's foreign minister said Wednesday that misunderstanding between cultures is breeding a "new barbarism" and expressed hope that reason and dialogue would stop those who use their faith as a pretext for attacks (Associated Press)

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  • Vatican envoys urged to work for freedom | The Vatican's new secretary of state urged diplomats Friday to work for religious freedom everywhere, touching on a sensitive issue between the Holy See and some countries, including Muslim ones, where people are not allowed to worship freely (Associated Press)

  • A coming papal visit focuses anger among the Turks | Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey in late November is likely to be a flash point for a surprisingly broad array of issues (The New York Times)

  • Believe it or not | Disputes between the pope and some Muslims mask a deeper fault line — Europe is struggling to determine whether its future will be guided by religious values or secular institutions (Time Europe)

  • Pope posed tough questions that the world must answer | What exactly was the pope saying, and why did he say it? (George Weigel, USA Today)

  • Pope Benedict's hierarchy of truth, faith | Benedict is defending a hierarchy of truth. Faith is superior to reason. Christian faith is superior to other faiths (especially Islam). Roman Catholicism is superior to other Christian faiths. And the pope is supreme among Catholics. He does not mean to insult when he defends this schema, yet seems ignorant of how inevitably insulting it is. Nor does the pope understand that, today, such narcissism of power comes attached to a fuse (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)

  • Muslims' complicity with violence | Unless it clamps down vigorously on fanaticism, the Islamic world risks validating its worst caricatures (Max Boot, Los Angeles Times)

  • Now what? | Islam needs a central authority — such as a pontiff (Jonah Goldberg, USA Today)

  • Dept. of strange bedfellows | The former Archbishop of Canterbury stands up for the Pope (Mark D. Tooley, The Weekly Standard)

  • Paleologus and us | What Benedict really said (David Nirenberg, The New Republic)

  • Islam and the Pope | What is needed now is an honest dialogue between Muslims and Muslims (Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times)

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  • The reality of religion | Putting things in context (Michael Ledeen, National Review Online)

  • Tolerance: A two-way street | In today's world, religious sensitivity is a one-way street. The rules of the road are enforced by Islamic mobs and abjectly followed by Western media, politicians and religious leaders (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)

  • Islamofascism | Careful on how we name the enemy (William Safire, The New York Times Magazine)

  • Also: 'Islamo-fascism' had its moment | President Bush uttered it. The world noticed. But where has it gone? (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times)

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Judaism for non-Jews:

  • So the Torah is a parenting guide? | Enough with the overparenting. Wendy Mogel is a child psychologist who says that the key to properly raised kids is Jewish law. And Jews aren't the only ones listening (The New York Times Magazine)

  • The case for what 'comes as a shock to most Jews and Christians alike' | Jon D. Levenson, professor of Jewish studies at Harvard, argues that in classical Judaism, resurrection of the dead was a central belief (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)

  • Introspection would serve us all | The Mel Gibson tirade touched sore spots in religious communities. It didn't have to be that way. As the Jewish people mark Yom Kippur, perhaps all of us — those of all faiths or none — should take moral inventories of our lives and see what the world could be. (Irwin Kula, USA Today)

  • Sin offerings | How Jews and Christians can improve on Yom Kippur (Mark Oppenheimer, Slate)

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Eastern Orthodox:

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  • Anglican conservatives to snub female | The first woman leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church will be snubbed by conservatives at the next global Anglican Communion gathering to protest her support for gay clergy, a bloc of tradition-minded clergymen said Friday (Associated Press)

  • Gay priest not picked as N.J. bishop | Avoiding further controversy in the worldwide Anglican family, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark on Saturday chose a Massachusetts priest as their new bishop, rather than an openly gay candidate on the ballot (Associated Press)

  • Episcopal Church head says split would cause chaos | suggestion by African, Asian and Latin American Anglican bishops that the Episcopal Church be turned into two churches because of disputes over gay issues would lead to chaos, the head of the U.S. church said on Thursday (Reuters)

  • Tutu expresses shame at Anglican church | Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the first authorized biography of the Nobel peace laureate, said he was ashamed of his Anglican Church's conservative position that rejected gay priests (Associated Press)

  • Lawsuit is filed over Fallbrook church | In what could be the first salvo of a wider legal battle over ownership issues, officers of St. John's Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego are suing for possession of what is now St. John's Anglican Church in Fallbrook (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Anglican leaders prepare for showdown | They propose new U.S. church structure and new oversight (Houston Chronicle)

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  • Anti-gay leaflets charge dropped | Christian Voice national director Stephen Green said he may take legal action after a court case against him was dropped for lack of evidence (BBC)

  • Mayor's welcome letter wasn't welcome news | Palm Springs residents were enraged to learn their gay mayor said he was 'pleased' to have an anti-homosexual group hold an event (Los Angeles Times)

  • Christian conservatives look to re-energize base | Several organizers said they were talking up the argument that recognizing same-sex marriage could also limit religious freedom (The New York Times)

  • Wisconsin a gay marriage battleground | When it comes to statewide votes on gay marriage, the score so far is 20-0 in favor of keeping it a one-man, one-woman institution (Associated Press)

  • Also: Some state campaigns on gay marriage | In addition to Wisconsin, three other states — Arizona, Colorado and Virginia — are viewed by gay-rights strategists as having closely contested campaigns this fall over proposed constitutional amendments that would ban gay marriage and civil unions (Associated Press)

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  • Va. ban's reach is at center of fight | Same-sex marriage on November ballot (The Washington Post)

  • Judge: Gay R.I. couple can wed in Mass. | A gay couple from Rhode Island has the right to marry in Massachusetts because laws in their home state do not expressly prohibit same-sex marriage, a judge ruled Friday (Associated Press)

  • Amend constitution, ban gays: Churches | An association of Christian churches has formally asked for amendments to the Bill of Rights in the Constitution that bars discrimination against sexual orientation (Fiji Times)

  • Religious group targets DFLer over gay marriage | It's lunch time at a senior housing complex and the Rev. George Marin is sermonizing against same-sex marriage. At his church in Albert Lea, Marin is known as "Pastor G." On the campaign trail in southeastern Minnesota, he is the Republican-endorsed candidate for state Senate in a swing district where religion and morality have joined health care and jobs as central issues (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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More marriage:

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  • Appeal on school's lesson in Muslim culture is rejected | The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by evangelical Christian students and their parents who said a Contra Costa County school district engaged in unconstitutional religious indoctrination when it taught students about Islam by having them recite language from prayers (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Education (U.K.):

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Bible and schools:

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  • Wilhoit targets intelligent design | School official against theory in classroom (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Waging war on evolution | Proponents of "intelligent design" in the United States are waging a war against teaching science as scientists understand it (Paul A. Hanle, The Washington Post)

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Higher education:

  • Bless U. | Caring for students' souls -- and dorm rooms (The Washington Post)

  • Baptists sue Belmont | Denomination wants $58M repaid in dispute over university's control (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • Univ. of Phoenix facing EEOC suit | The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued the University of Phoenix, alleging religious discrimination against non-Mormon enrollment counselors (The Arizona Republic)

  • The Left's seminaries | How times change (David French, National Review Online)

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Georgetown University:

  • Georgetown University chaplain quits amid campus ministry woes | The Rev. Derrick Harkins said the Campus Ministry staff was now too small for its needs and that the decision to rescind was "very strong-handed" (The Washington Post, second item)

  • Chaplain resigns to protest ministry | A part-time chaplain in the Office of Protestant Ministry resigned last week after just five weeks on the job over the university's decision last month to bar several affiliated Protestant ministries from campus (The Hoya, Georgetown U.)

  • Georgetown chaplain resigns | A Protestant chaplain at Georgetown University has resigned amid fallout from the school barring outside evangelical groups from having an official presence on campus (The Washington Times)

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  • America's got devil fever | Beelzebub, the Deuce, Old Bendy, call him what you will, but we've got the line on this summer's hottest star (Los Angeles Times)

  • Falwell acknowledges Clinton comment | Falwell said in a telephone interview that his comments to several hundred pastors and religious activists at the "Value Voter Summit" conference were "totally tongue-in-cheek" (Associated Press)

  • The smell of hell | Does Satan reek of rotten eggs? (Slate)

  • The devil made them do it | Have you noticed that when we talk about demonizing our enemies, it's getting awfully literal? (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Ugandan rebels boycott peace talks | Army rebels said they were boycotting the talks with the government because of a heavy military buildup by the Ugandan army, a senior rebel leader said (Associated Press)

  • Binge drinking - the Benedictine connection | A sleepy community of Benedictine monks in south Devon is the latest, and perhaps most unlikely, target in the battle against binge drinking (BBC)

  • Religion news in brief | Religious leaders call for U.S. talks with Iran; House bill would deny fees in church-state cases; U.S. Orthodox leaders seek stronger ties; and other stories (The Washington Post)

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  • Religion news in brief | Serbian Christian leaders meet for the first time in six years; Mexican president to thank Virgin of Guadalupe for allowing him to govern; Eastern University to offer courses to Penn State students; Fla.'s Charlie Crist drops Broward County pastor from advisory panel over Islam comment; and other stories (Associated Press)

  • New exhibit covers biblical stories | It blends biblical stories with historic artifacts, taking visitors on a walk through the birth of Judaism and Christianity. But organizers say what makes "From Abraham to Jesus" stand out the most is that it doesn't do it in a preachy way (Associated Press)

  • God is back! | A new study reveals the patterns of religious belief in America (Mark D. Tooley, The Weekly Standard)

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What is Weblog?

See our past Weblog updates:

September 21 | 15b | 15a | 14
September 6 | 1 | August 29
August 25 | 24 | 23
August 15 | 11 | 10
August 4 | 1
July 28 | 27 | 26
July 21 | 19
July 14 | 13 | 12b | 12a | 10

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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