Today's top five

1.Ron Luce makes The New York Times front page
Just as Jesus Camp and Righteous are provoking fear nationwide that a bunch of freaky theocrat kids are being trained to take over the country, along comes a New York Times front page story covering Ron Luce and his claim that "Christianity in America won't survive another decade." (Actually, that quote doesn't appear in the Times, but it's the bold print in Luce's ads, which bear the National Association of Evangelicals' imprimatur. Haven't seen the ads? Subscribe to CT, you naughty freeloader.)

"I'm looking at the data," Luce tells the paper, "and we've become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We've been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we're losing."

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Luce's "data" is his much quoted claim that only 4 percent of teenagers will be "Bible-believing Christians" (or, in his ads, "evangelical believers") as adults. The Times rightly calls the claim, first promoted by Barna Research, "highly suspect" and notes that it has been questioned by Group magazine and others. Among them, Christian Smith, whose landmark book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers won a Christianity Todaybook award this year.

"A lot of the goals [of the new evangelical youth campaign] I'm very supportive of," Smith said, "but it just kills me that it's framed in such apocalyptic terms that couldn't possibly hold up under half a second of scrutiny. It's just self-defeating."

We wish we could hear the reaction to the article at the National Youth Workers Convention in Austin this week. But some bloggers involved in youth ministry are criticizing Luce as a fearmonger. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington isn't so sure and has his own critiques of contemporary youth ministry.

One of the more interesting observations comes from Evan Derkacz at the liberal site Alternet. He remembered the 4 percent figure from another recent context: It's the percentage of Muslims James Dobson suggested want to kill "us." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Dobson told the September 20 Stand for the Family rally:

"We are at war in this country with an enemy who wants to destroy us," he said. He stressed that only a small minority of Muslims believe that their faith justifies violence, "but let's say 4 percent of Muslims want to kill us. … That's 48 million people who want to bring us to our knees."
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"To hear the Religious Right properly, then," Derkacz said, taking a bit of license, "we're headed for a battle in which 4 percent of 'Bible-believing' Christians do battle with 4 percent of murderous Muslims. Sounds like a fair fight."

Anyway, Christianity Today thinks Christianity in America will survive another decade. We remember hearing something about the gates of hell not prevailing something something. We're so confident, in fact, that we asked a bunch of people about the next 50 years of youth ministry. Interestingly enough, Luce was among those we talked to for that piece, and while he was in alarmist mode, he still figured that American youth ministry would be around in a half century.

2.Evangelicals still like GOP, but no longer like like GOP
Let's keep playing with that 4 percent number for a second. The Washington Post notes today that a poll from the left-leaning People for the American Way Foundation found that support for Democrats is up 4 percentage points among frequent churchgoers. That, the Post suggests, is not a very high number, especially when you consider that the same poll found support for Republicans down 14 percentage points. As Michael Cromartie told the paper, "Erosion for evangelicals doesn't necessarily lead to Democratic voting. It leads to nonvoting."

The erosion is real—a new Pew Research Center poll, the Post's Alan Cooperman reports, "found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base."

3. Political Pentecostals
Speaking of Pew Research Center polls, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's new 10-country survey on Pentecostals and charismatics is getting a fair bit of attention today. While the bulk of the survey looks at such things as whether these believers have experienced divine healings and what their religious beliefs are, one of the survey's four sections looks at political attitudes. The New York Times's Laurie Goodstein summarizes:

In the past, Pentecostals had been known as rather apolitical, being more inclined toward "supernatural" and "other worldly" solutions to their problems, Mr. Lugo said. But the survey found that Pentecostals and charismatics were likely to say that religious groups should be involved in politics, and that it was important for political leaders to be religious. They are also highly concerned about what they see as moral decline.
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John C. Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum, said, "This is a group much more interested in politics and public affairs than we anticipated."

We'll be looking at the survey in closer detail. In the meantime, be sure to read Religion News Service's coverage of what the survey found about speaking in tongues.

4.Wacky conspiracy theory of the day
You have to love the theory that Bush's comments that the Iraq war will be seen as "just a comma" is somehow code to the Religious Right. The Washington Post reports: "A lively Internet debate has broken out about the origins of the phrase, with some speculating that Bush means it as a coded message to religious supporters, evoking the aphorism 'Never put a period where God has put a comma.'" That aphorism, coined by comedian Gracie Allen, is at the heart of a marketing campaign by the United Church of Christ—which tends to be politically liberal and is not, by any stretch, part of the Religious Right. Among those who think that Bush is trying to ride the UCC's coattails is UCC marketer Ron Buford, who launched the comma campaign. "It's ironic that, as savvy as they are about using these quotes to strengthen their base, that he would use a quote that we've been using lately," he told the Post. Not that Bush actually used the Gracie Allen line. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "It's ironic that both Bush and the UCC believe that punctuation can rally people."

5.What Ethiopia clash?
Last week, Muslims and Christians clashed in the remote Ethiopian town of Dembi. That's about all we know. The Islamic Affairs Supreme Council of Ethiopia says about nine Muslims have been killed, and that "some Christians have also been killed," but they didn't know how many. Government and Orthodox church sources say there were at least four deaths, two churches were destroyed, and the violence started when Muslims objected to preparations for the annual Meskel festival (which celebrates the reported discovery of the True Cross).

Honestly, we don't know where Dembi is. MSN's atlas lists 10 different Ethiopian locations named Dembi, Google Maps lists two, and news sources say it's 305 miles (AFP), 273 miles (AP), and 215 miles (Reuters) west of Addis Ababa. We do hope, however, that news agencies are able to overcome the problems caused by Dembi's remoteness and can inform the world of what happened there.

Quote of the day
"Shoot me first."

—The reported request from Marian Fisher, 13, the oldest of the five girls shot at West Nickel Mines Amish School on Monday. Her 11-year-old sister, Barbie, then added, "Shoot me second," according to midwife Rita Rhoads. Both girls were shot; Barbie survived. Rhoads also said that attacker Charles Roberts's final words were "Pray for me." "That's kind of interesting because he said he hated God," she told ABC News. "He must have recognized the faith in them, God in them."

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More articles

Missions and evangelism | Jesus Camp | Other films | Art and entertainment | Books | Politics (U.S.) | Politics (Australia) | Poverty | Environment | Church and state | SLU suit | Education | Foley accusations | Foley scandal | Homosexuality | Abuse | Home-schooled teacher gets two-years | Crime | Amish shooting | Christian hijacker | Ground Zero cross | War and violence | Darfur | Islam | Catholicism | Church life | Pentecostal survey | Spirituality | Other stories of interest

Missions and evangelism:

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Jesus Camp:

  • No voice of God | A conversation with 'Jesus Camp' creators Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Stranger, Seattle)

  • Camp fires | The incendiary documentary 'Jesus Camp' reflects a nation's political and religious divide (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Film fosters dialogue among the devout | Some area religious leaders expressed shock at the world the movie presents (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Documentary 'Jesus Camp' goes to extremes | If we are in the midst of a culture war, as many people proclaim in "Jesus Camp," then the left should be concerned. The right's Christian soldiers appear to be extremely well trained (Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe)

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  • Life in the zeal world | I suspect Jesus would have harsh words for Becky Fischer (Mike Russel, The Oregonian)

  • Kids in 'Jesus Camp' are spiritually scarred | Children aren't warriors. They're children. Let them have their few innocent years before sending them off to battle, please. Their parents can do the fighting until they're old enough to decide whether to enlist or conscientiously object. (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times)

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Other films:

  • Pedophile priest recounts years of abuse | The defrocked priest is by turns remorseful and flippant as he recounts in graphic detail a lifetime of sexually abusing children. Then, near the end of "the most honest confession of my life," he turns to the movie camera to wink and smile at his victims (Associated Press)

  • Lose this movie but keep the faith | A new "Movies for Christians" banner from the Fox Empire, Fox Faith, makes a less-than-auspicious debut with Love's Abiding Joy, a humorless dry-eyed tear-jerker with no drama and precious little of anything else going for it (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Love's Abiding Joy | The film just panders to Christians with something that has no business being on the big screen (The Arizona Republic)

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Art and entertainment:

  • Shostakovich is scaled down after protests from church | A Pushkin tale, with music by Shostakovich, is bowdlerized after the Russian clergy objects to the opera's depiction of a greedy priest (The New York Times)

  • Faith in modern art | Gloucester artist at home in show tackling religious themes (The Boston Globe)

  • Poor air degrades church artwork | Lighting a candle in church may bring you inner peace, but it does not do the paintings much good (BBC)

  • Mines seeks mass appeal, not just Christian fans | "Hopefully, (the ideas) are bigger. It's much more foundational than that. This whole idea of there's a human condition. There's a human kind of longing and recognition" (The Grand Rapids Press)

  • Third Day emerging from pain | Christian rock group's latest album reflects tough times felt by the band, family, friends (News-Leader, Springfield, Mo.)

  • Christians spread "the word" via computer game | Some fundamentalist Christians are using technology and computes to spread their message. A new video game based on the successful "Left Behind" books is about to go on sale. In this game, you lose for killing, and win for converting (KFMB, San Diego)

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Politics (U.S.):

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Politics (Australia):

  • Towards a state of grace | Kevin Rudd's call for Christians to make a stronger contribution to domestic politics is welcome (Peter Jensen, The Australian)

  • Respond to Rudd, archbishop tells Libs | Writing in The Australian in reaction to Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd's essay Faith in Politics, which sets out what Christians should find attractive in Labor's platform, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen challenges the conservatives to step up to the mark (The Australian)

  • Kev hasn't a prayer | Federal Labor has a problem in church that's just like the problem it has in our other temples of culture (Andrew Bolt, Herald-Sun, Australia)

  • Rudd's unholy row | When Labor's foreign affairs spokesman begins a debate on church and state relations, he can expect to provoke a sharp response (Jill Rowbotham, The Australian)

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  • Play for God and country | Is the Hawke-Keating corporate version of big government, big unions and big business intrinsically morally preferable as an aggregation of power at the expense of the weak? If there's a good scriptural case, Rudd has yet to make it (Christopher Pearson, The Australian)

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Church and state:

  • Berkley City Council may evict baby Jesus | The baby Jesus may get booted from his home outside City Hall under a proposal being considered that would have the holy infant and creche become a traveling display at local churches (The Detroit News)

  • Pastor's jury-pool dismissal is upheld | The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a decision that an Allen County prosecutor did not violate a defendant's rights by dismissing a potential juror because he was a pastor (The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

  • Religious garb spurs lawsuit | A Muslim correction officer should be allowed to wear his skullcap while on duty at a state work-release residence, the New York Civil Liberties Union argued yesterday (The New York Times)

  • Not separate, but ecumenical | How do you ensure religious fairness in the military? Not by calling on Congress (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • Forum fallacy | Notorious court says library can bar a church from its public meeting room (Stewart Rutledge, World)

  • For God's sake | How the courts have forsaken both God and the Constitution (Avi Schick and Shaifali Puri, Slate)

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SLU suit:

  • Tangipahoa board settles prayer lawsuit | A lawsuit filed on behalf of a former student teacher against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and Southeastern Louisiana University charging she was penalized for reporting instances of school prayer has been settled before trial and with no award of monetary damages to the plaintiff, officials confirmed Tuesday (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

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  • Update: SLU president challenges ACLU assertions | President Randy Moffett challenged on Wednesday ACLU assertions about a student teacher whose federal retaliation lawsuit the two parties and others have just settled (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

  • Resolving a dispute over prayer | A student teacher who said she was flunked because she had reported class prayers and Bible studies at her assigned public elementary school has reached a settlement with Southeastern Louisiana University and a local school district, the American Civil Liberties Union announced on Tuesday (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

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  • Seminary stays shut as Turkey bucks EU pressure | Turkey argues it cannot reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary without letting Islamist groups launch their own schools that could radicalize local Muslims (Reuters)

  • Sale to ease financial woes puts heritage on line | A tug of war between a bishop, a benefactor, enraged parents and the Presbyterian Church over the future of 280 girls has shaken the tranquil campus of one of Australia's oldest schools (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Minister's wife is accused of school threat | Susan Cram is a minister's wife, a respected community member, and now a suspect in a threat to her son's freshman high school football team that put her town on edge (The Boston Globe)

  • Harvard mulls course changes | Harvard University, founded 370 years ago to train Puritan ministers, should again require all undergraduates to study religion, along with U.S. history and ethics, a faculty committee is recommending (Associated Press)

  • Also: As world changes, so may Harvard | Task force urges curriculum shift (The Boston Globe)

  • UW, faith group go to court | Student organization wants to restrict leaders (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • Singled out | Universities go after popular evangelical groups (World)

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Foley accusations:

  • Assertion by Foley angers victims of abuse by clergymen | If Former Representative Mark Foley was abused, they said, he has a responsibility to report his abuser to the police immediately and to identify the cleric publicly (The New York Times)

  • Victims say Foley should name abuser | Former Rep. Mark Foley's refusal to identify the clergyman he says molested him as a boy is reckless and could put other children at risk, say victims' advocates and a former priest who knows the ex-congressman (Associated Press)

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Foley scandal:

  • Republicans lash out at media over Foley scandal | "I would suspect that there are those within, say, the more separatist wing of the big umbrella of Evangelicalism among the fundamentalists, that is, who might be turned off by this, but I still think that's a small percentage," says Richard Cizik (The World Today, ABC, Australia)

  • Foley fallout: Will evangelicals bolt from GOP? | Democrats see an opening in the Mark Foley scandal to make gains among the white evangelical Christians who broke for George W. Bush over John Kerry by nearly 4 to 1 in 2004. But leaders in the evangelical community aren't so sure (U.S. News & World Report)

  • Democrat Christian radio ad slams Foley | A Democratic candidate accuses her Republican rival of not doing enough to stop disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley and his cybersex exchanges with teenage males in an ad for Christian radio stations (Associated Press)

  • The gay issue | GOP split between those who see homosexuality as a sin and those who want party to make room for all (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Path is risky for gay GOP politicians | Gays hold many prominent positions in government and business in Washington. But in the GOP ranks, homosexuality is still politically risky (Los Angeles Times)

  • Real scandals, and fake ones | There's reason to worry that the Foley scandal could tempt Republican politicians and their defenders to try to turn it into an anti-gay witch hunt in the Capitol (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Courtesy of GOP, voters finally get 'it' | The self-proclaimed party of moral values can't keep its own House in order (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

  • A tear in our fabric | The party that benefits from events like the Mark Foley scandal will be the party that defines the core threats to the social fabric (David Brooks, The New York Times)

  • What goeth before the fall | Elmer Gantry meets Mark Foley (George W. Fill, The Washington Post)

  • The gay problem in the GOP | The tragic opera of former congressman Mark Foley is the revenge of don't ask, don't tell (David Link, The Boston Globe)

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  • GOP bigotry that backfired | Let's deal with the circumstance that dares not speak its name: How much of the Mark Foley scandal's impact is due to the fact that he's a gay man who preyed on young boys? (Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post)

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  • Former Thousand Oaks pastor held in molestation | William Alan Malgren was arrested in Idaho this week on suspicion of molesting a young student at Thousand Oaks Baptist School between 1983 and 1989 (Los Angeles Times)

  • Mexico begins to suspect men of cloth of covering up sex abuse | The pedophile priest scandals that roiled the Roman Catholic Church in Dallas, Boston and Los Angeles were seen in Mexico as mostly a U.S. problem, but that's rapidly changing as parish priests and even a cardinal face new legal battles, analysts and victims' advocates say (The Dallas Morning News)

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Home-schooled teacher gets two-years:

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Amish shooting:

  • 'Shoot me first,' Amish girl said to ask | Friend of the victims' families says girl tried to divert killer from classmates; killer allegedly said, 'pray for me (ABC News)

  • Amish bury schoolhouse shooting victims | Mourners prepared Friday to bury a fifth Amish girl who was gunned down in a schoolhouse classroom and faced the possibility that at least one of five other girls wounded in the shooting could die (Associated Press)

  • Amish reluctantly accept donations | The deadly attack in a one-room Amish schoolhouse has fueled an outpouring of sympathy and offers of financial assistance for the community that generally rejects help from outsiders (Associated Press)

  • A plain and profound farewell | Pennsylvania Amish community buries girls killed by neighbor in schoolhouse shooting (The Washington Post)

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Christian hijacker:

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Ground Zero cross:

  • Brief journey for an icon of the attack on New York | The cross-shaped beams discovered on Sept. 13, 2001, amid the ruins of 6 World Trade Center are being moved to make way for construction on the east side of the trade center site (The New York Times)

  • WTC steel cross moves to nearby church | A cross-shaped steel beam that survived the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack to become a symbol of hope amid the ruins was moved Thursday from ground zero to a nearby church, accompanied by a procession of victims' families, clergy and construction workers (Associated Press)

  • The WTC Cross unites us all | The beam is a sign that God never abandoned us during and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks (Brian Jordan, New York Daily News)

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War and violence:

  • 'Just a comma' becomes part of Iraq debate | Opponents See Bush's Words on War as Insensitive or as Code for Religious Right (The Washington Post)

  • 'In 20 years, there will be no more Christians in Iraq' | Three years after the invasion of Iraq, it is believed that half the Christians in the country have fled, driven out by bomb attacks, assassinations and death threats. So why haven't the coalition forces done more to protect them? (The Guardian, London)

  • Commission says IRA has halted terror activity | The positive report potentially removes a major obstacle to the restoration of Northern Ireland's legislature, which was suspended in 2003 (The New York Times)

  • After narrow escape, minister speaks out | A Roxbury minister who is working to help defuse gang tensions and teach job skills to inner-city men was under 24-hour police guard yesterday after someone fired at least five shots at the parked car in which he was sitting (The Boston Globe)

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  • Torturous question | Voices of experience, even a silent one, have much to offer on prisoner treatment (Joel Belz, World)

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  • Annan sounds alarm over crisis in Darfur | Darfur is creeping ever closer to catastrophe, with rape and violence on the rise, the U.N. chief said in a report Thursday, as Sudan warned that any nation offering troops for a future peacekeeping force in its vast western region would be committing a "hostile act." (Associated Press)

  • Sudan's Darfur threat condemned | UN Security Council members have branded "offensive" a letter sent by Sudan warning African and Arab nations not to send peacekeepers to Darfur (BBC)

  • Breaking the Darfur impasse | Diplomats placing fragile hope in plans for extended African Union mission, with logistical and financial support from UN (Institute for War & Peace Reporting)

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  • Straw 'opposes all Muslim veils' | Cabinet Minister Jack Straw has said he would prefer Muslim women not to wear veils at all (BBC)

  • Also: Straw's veil comments | BBC News home editor Mark Easton examines the implications for the debate on British multiculturalism (BBC)

  • Vatican-Muslim dialogue back to square one: cardinal | Cardinal Karl Lehmann, head of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, accused Muslim critics of running a campaign against the Pope and said the Pontiff had nothing to apologize for (Reuters)

  • Ottoman fort battles again -- pop vs prayer | A 15th century Ottoman fort built by Mehmet the Conquerer to attack Christian Constantinople is again in battle -- this time over whether its grounds should be used to rebuild a mosque or be kept for summer concerts (Reuters)

  • Can Muslims learn restraint from Christians? | The new director of Milli Görüs Nederland, the umbrella organisation of Turkish mosques in the Netherlands, says Muslims can learn from Christians how to react calmly to offensive matters (Radio Netherlands)

  • Revealed: the diversity that defines a nation | The most detailed map of ethnic and religious diversity in Britain has been published, showing where different groups live - and how Muslim minorities in particular are at a disadvantage (The Independent, London)

  • 1391 and all that | A Q&A on the context of the Pope's remarks (Geoffrey Alderman, The Jerusalem Post)

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Church life:

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Pentecostal survey:

  • Pentecostal and charismatic groups growing | A survey of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians shows they are gaining converts and are more politically engaged than experts had thought. (The New York Times)

  • Poll: Pentecostals widening influence | A new 10-nation survey of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, considered the fastest-growing stream of Christianity worldwide, shows they are deeply influencing the Roman Catholic and mainstream Protestant churches and are poised to make a big impact on global affairs (Associated Press)

  • Pentecostals okay religion in politics | In the United States, 79 percent of Pentecostals supported religious expression about social and political issues, compared with 61 percent of all Americans (The Washington Times)

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  • Traditional living takes modern spin | It's not out of the ordinary to see Muslim women in veils or chador, or Orthodox Jewish women wearing long skirts, long sleeves and wigs to cover their hair. But it is unusual to see an American Christian woman covering her hair or adopting a distinctly modest style of dress that defines her as a person of faith in a secular society (USA Today)

  • Holy Yoga adds Christian aspect | "The only difference is the spiritual component is Christian in nature," Holy Yoga instructor Dawn Rutledge said. "The meditation and the prayer and the music are all centered around Christianity. We use worship music and it's led by scripture, and the prayer and meditation will center around the scripture that's been chosen for that particular day." (The Arizona Republic)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Working out of a 'third place' | An estimated 30 million Americans, or roughly one-fifth of the nation's workforce, are part of the so-called Kinko's generation, employees who spend significant hours each month working outside of a traditional office (USA Today)

  • Religion news in brief | USCCB proposes budget reduction; Britain's Canterbury Cathedral appeals for funds for repairs; Episcopal leader urges patience during church turmoil; other stories (Associated Press)

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September 21 | 15b | 15a | 14
September 6 | 1 | August 29
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August 15 | 11 | 10
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July 28 | 27 | 26
July 21 | 19

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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