Today's Top Five

1. Will K.A. Paul face more scrutiny after moment in spotlight? Or will his platform grow?
You won't find much about K.A. Paul on the Christianity Today site. Every reference to the Indian preacher is from a Weblog, mostly from outlets raising questions about his ministry. (One exception: The New Republic was mildly positive, apparently because he talks about poverty more than he does about abortion.) We didn't report on his expulsion from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability over oversight and financial transparency concerns. We didn't report on the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention taking the unprecedented step of issuing a vote of no confidence in his ministry, or of the Assemblies of God leadership similarly criticizing his work. We haven't followed up on reports that his orphanage ministry spends more on jet fuel for Paul's plane than on actual orphans, nor that he has taken credit for other people's work. We have no plans to report his recent claims that the Republican Party is delaying the Second Coming of Christ and that the Iraq war is "genocide." Quite honestly, we haven't covered him because there are many self-promotional ministers out there with grossly exaggerated claims, outrageous statements, and problematic finances. Paul has had more success in getting himself into The New Yorker and other publications, but getting such clips seems to be his ministry's real focus. So why give him more attention?

Well, he's certainly getting attention this week. Amid the Mark Foley scandal, Paul scored a meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert at the speaker's home. What's more, Paul claims that Hastert promised him he'd resign. He told Mother Jones, "God convinced him through me in prayer." Paul claims Hastert said, "God gave me this position that I don't deserve. For the good of the people, I will do it." The Mother Jones story is full of other … eccentricities. (Example: Paul says he knew Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "when he was nobody.")

Hastert's office told the Chicago Sun-Times that the meeting was a mistake, that Hastert thought the hastily scheduled meeting was with a constituent of his district, and that the Speaker will not resign.

The thing is, this meeting is the buzz of Washington right now and raises his profile. It might raise Paul's reputation as a publicity hound, the "craziest preacher ever," and a "nut job," but that hasn't stopped the press corps from quoting every crazy thing Pat Robertson says. Is Paul going to be the new media darling for reporters looking for a juicy religious quote? Don't bet on it: His political views are probably too unpredictable for "fill-in-the-blank" reporting.

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2. The New York Times: "American religious organizations benefit from an increasingly accommodating government"
Much of The New York Times series can be summarized (no surprise) at the end of its final article:

[T]ax and regulatory exemptions that have become available to religious organizations in America … benefit religion in ways that some critics say go beyond the limits of the Constitution.
Until several years ago, "it was inconceivable for most to think that religion might well be aggressively expanding its power in a way that is harmful to the public good," said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor. … But now, Professor Hamilton said, the power of religious entities "is at its apex."
Defenders of these exemptions deny that they raise any questions of excessive power or constitutional violations.

That or is important. It's not just about the limits of the Constitution. It's about people worrying about religious influence (or, if you will, power).

3. The Boston Globe looks at religious involvement in foreign aid
While The New York Times is getting attention for its look at religious tax and regulatory exemptions within the U.S., The Boston Globe has more quietly been examining how international Christian groups get funding from the U.S. government's foreign aid budget. "Many of these groups do excellent work, and the government has been relying on them for decades, especially during emergencies," the Globe says in a roundup editorial. "But all have an overriding purpose—to convert people to Christianity—and the government needs to distribute the money with a skeptical eye … [T]he U.S. government should not subsidize their work unless it comes without religious content." The Globe is going a bit further than the usual (and important) keep-the-money-separate argument. The paper instead argues that the only religious groups that should get funding are secular ones.

4. The Denver Post: Watch out for Dennis Leonard
At least we at Christianity Today had heard of K.A. Paul. Who is Dennis Leonard? Apparently, he's a hugely popular prosperity gospel preacher in Colorado. His Heritage Christian Center "is a Pentecostal congregation with weekend attendance of about 7,000 - roughly 40 percent black, 40 percent white and 20 percent Latino and other races," church officials told The Denver Post. The paper examines Leonard, his theology, and his money in a special report that's worth reading, even if you've never heard of him. (What's up with this week and special reports on religion?)

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5. Did the Amish forgive too quickly?
While several newspapers are doing in-depth special reports on religion, the religion story getting the widest attention this week is still the Amish. But this week, it's less about the school shooting per se and more about the Amish reaction to it. Op-ed writers and columnists around the country are astounded at speed and extent to which the Amish community—including some immediate family members of the victims—forgave shooter Charles Roberts. It was "religion in its best light," said Bruce Kluger of USA Today. "I don't know about you, but that kind of faith is beyond comprehension," Rod Dreher wrote in a widely reprinted Dallas Morning News column. "I'm the kind of guy who will curse under my breath at the jerk who cuts me off in traffic on the way home from church. And look at those humble farmers, putting Christians like me to shame." (Former "Professional Catholic" Dreher, by the way, "came out" as a communicant of the Orthodox Church today, though The Washington Post mentioned as much a few months ago and he earlier said he was "considering Orthodoxy.")

Other op-ed writers are wondering about the lessons to be drawn. "Hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved," Jeff Jacoby wrote in The Boston Globe. "I admire the Amish villagers' resolve to live up to their Christian ideals even amid heartbreak, but how many of us would really want to live in a society in which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered? In which even the most horrific acts of cruelty were always and instantly forgiven? There is a time to love and a time to hate, Ecclesiastes teaches. If anything deserves to be hated, surely it is the pitiless murder of innocents."

Quote of the day
"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy.'"

—David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and author of the forthcoming book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. According to early reports, Kuo's book alleges that the faith-based initiatives office was "used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities."

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More articles

New York Times series on religious organizations | Boston Globe series on faith-based organizations abroad | Denver Post on Dennis Leonard | Amish school shooting | Amish and forgiveness | Philippine killings | Indonesia | War and violence | Australia stabbing over conversion | Crime (non-U.S.) | Crime (U.S.) | Abuse | Foley scandal | K.A. Paul and Denny Hastert | Sexual ethics | Ex-gay ministries | Family | Politics | Mitt Romney | Environment | Abortion | Church and state (U.S.) | Requiring immunizations | Church and state (non-U.S.) | Education | Evolution | Higher education | Church buildings | Church life | Catholicism | Pope and Islam | Europe's culture clash | China | People | Billy Graham's grandson holds crusade | Other Grahams | Media | New York Hell House | Music | Film | Youth | Missions and ministry | Money, business, and giving | Israel | History | Atheism | Other stories of interest

New York Times series on religious organizations:

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Boston Globe series on faith-based organizations abroad:

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  • Past foes of church-state ties turn supporters | New Hope Baptist Church of Danbury is seeking tax dollars for a church-affiliated building (The Boston Globe)

  • A US boost to Graham's quest for converts | The Rev. Franklin Graham came to Lubango in triumph, to dedicate a $5 million medical center, which he is building with private donations and US government funds. He stayed a week and led 13,496 souls -- including about 6,000 children -- to Jesus (The Boston Globe)

  • Bush brings faith to foreign aid | As funding rises, Christian groups deliver help -- with a message (The Boston Globe)

  • Together, but worlds apart | Christian aid groups raise suspicion in strongholds of Islam (The Boston Globe)

  • For those excluded, loan program is no success | Partners Worldwide has been hailed by the White House as a model for international assistance, but it only helps Christians (The Boston Globe)

  • Healing the body to reach the soul | Evangelicals add converts through medical trips (The Boston Globe)

  • A piece of Hollywood is converted into a call to Christianity | Propelled by missionaries who have made it a central part of their conversion efforts, "The Jesus Film" has become the most-watched movie of all time, shown in 235 countries, translated into nearly 950 languages, and viewed by a worldwide audience of perhaps 3 billion (The Boston Globe)

  • Is foreign aid Christian? | The United States should be exporting its historic insistence on the separation of church and state, rather than allowing them to be intermingled far from home (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

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Denver Post on Dennis Leonard:

  • Sold on the spirit | Bishop Dennis Leonard has build a booming church by bringing hope to a needy world. But his ministry has its critics, calling him ruthless, controlling and unaccountable (The Denver Post)

  • The gospel of prosperity | Bishop Dennis Leonard has created a multimillion-dollar enterprise fed by devoted followers, some with little to spare (The Denver Post)

  • Bank on God: storing up riches on earth | Do Leonard's prosperity gospel claims bear fruit? (The Denver Post)

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Amish school shooting:

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  • Dozens of Amish mourn schoolhouse killer | Dozens of Amish neighbors came out Saturday to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a brief, unfathomable rampage (Associated Press)

  • Murder visits an Amish school house | An overview of the shooting (Associated Press)

  • Not fit to print for Amish | The community may grieve its slain children, but its newspaper will focus, as it always has, on ripening apples, shifting families—renewal (Los Angeles Times)

  • Tragedy scene: What to do? | Some Amish would burn the school. It's a familiar issue (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Gifts to grieving Amish community soar | The Amish community grieving the loss of five girls shot in a schoolhouse say they have been overwhelmed by gifts from the outside world — about $700,000 in donations so far (Associated Press)

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Amish and forgiveness:

  • Undeserved forgiveness | Hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved. I admire the Amish villagers' resolve to live up to their Christian ideals even amid heartbreak, but how many of us would really want to live in a society in which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered? (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)

  • most demanding virtue (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune)

  • Forgiveness and repentance | For our culture, Christian and otherwise, to consistently hold up as praiseworthy the notion that those who have had terrible crimes committed against them, crimes that end or should end a relationship, that they must extend unilateral forgiveness and wipe the moral slate clean — or at least that to do so is inherently virtuous — well, that should naturally and rightly offend the person wronged (Betsy Hart, Scripps Howard News Service)

  • Everyday forgiveness | Living without electricity, automobiles and televisions is a small price, perhaps, for the peace that no individualistic and schismatic American denomination can truly promise its members - the peace that the world cannot give (Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • The amazing virtue of forgiveness | Two news stories offer contrasting, yet similarly illuminating, lessons in the value of that A glimpse of grace | The swift blur of tragedy that struck the Amish community last week should provide a moment of clarity for the rest of us. For a change, what we saw was religion in its best light (Bruce Kluger, USA Today)

  • Amish set an enviable example of forgiveness | They did exactly what Christians know Jesus would have done, exactly what we are quick to say we can't do. They forgave. Not just with words, but with deeds (Merlene Davis, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

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  • Reject vengeance in death penalty vote | In contemporary America, where the biblical requirement to forgive has been all but lost in a rush to lay blame and to punish, the Amish way is, for most non-Amish, so archaic as to be incomprehensible (John Nichols, The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.)

  • Lancaster Amish have powerful weapons of mass forgiveness | We should have immediately forgiven the 9/11 terrorists (Russ Eanes, The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.)

  • 'If necessary, use words' | The Amish people have shown the public through this terrible incident that forgiveness is what a person should be doing when someone hurts or kills our loved ones (Dean Koldenhoven, Daily Southtown, Chicago)

  • The Amish culture of forgiveness | The brutal shooting last week in a rural Pennsylvania schoolhouse met not with cries of anger, but with forgiveness from the Amish community. In an op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Donald Kraybill writes that forgiveness is woven into the very life of the Amish; and is more than just a gesture (Talk of the Nation, NPR)

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Philippine killings:

  • Ramento slay sends chill through int'l Christian community | Church leaders comment (The Philippine Inquirer)

  • Death of a bishop | The killing of Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente [Philippine Independent Church], or IFI, delivers a strong shock to state-church relations (Editorial, The Philippine Inquirer)

  • Killer 'toyed' with Ramento, says fact-finding mission | Scenario made to 'look like robbery' (The Philippine Inquirer)

  • 2nd Aglipayan cleric shot dead | A priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also known as the Aglipayan Church, was shot and stabbed dead inside his home in Surigao del Sur last Sunday, less than a week after an Aglipayan bishop was killed by suspected robbers in a convent in Tarlac City (The Philippine Star)

  • 5 Aglipayan priests fear they're next | Five more priests belonging to the church of slain Bishop Alberto Ramento expressed fears they were next in line in the spate of extra-judicial killings believed to be orchestrated by the military (The Philippine Inquirer)

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  • Two killed in Indonesia over Christians' execution | Two Muslim men were killed by a crowd angered by last month's execution of three Christian militants in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, police said on Monday (Reuters)

  • Police make arrests over Poso deaths | Two Muslim men were allegedly slain by a crowd angered by last month's execution of three Christian militants in Central Sulawesi province, police said Monday, while a small explosion shook Poso on Sunday (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

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War and violence:

  • Over 35,000 Christians have fled Iraq | According to Emmanuel Khoshaba, the Syrian head of the Assyrian and Democratic Movement (Associated Press)

  • Also: Iraq's forgotten Christians | As the battle for peace and security wages on in Iraq, the nations small but ancient Christian community is witnessing devastating attacks on some of its' leaders and women (Vatican Radio)

  • Treason suspect once on spiritual quest | At one point he dabbled with demonic heavy metal music and later studied Christianity (Associated Press)

  • Plea from churches for Hicks | Australia's two most senior church leaders have condemned the treatment of David Hicks and called on the Federal Government to ensure he is given a fair trial as quickly as possible (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Class-action suit seeks release of detainees | ACLU says U.S. agency is ignoring a Supreme Court ruling against holding immigrants awaiting deportation for more than six months (Los Angeles Times)

  • Sudan 'kills hundreds in Darfur' | Hundreds of Sudanese have been killed in attacks in Darfur, with the apparent knowledge and support of the government, a UN report says (BBC)

  • Somali Islamists declare "jihad" on Ethiopia | Somalia's powerful Islamists on Monday declared holy war against Horn of Africa rival Ethiopia, which they accused of invading Somalia to help the government briefly seize a town controlled by pro-Islamist fighters (Reuters)

  • Judge: Doctor a conscientious objector | Coptic Orthodox Christian says her religious feelings rekindled after the death of her father, a former Egyptian military officer, in 2003 (Associated Press)

  • Sectarian rivals optimistic after Belfast talks | Even more unusual than the meeting itself, perhaps, was that each side seemed cheerful, almost optimistic, afterward (The New York Times)

  • Torture, corruption, and religion | Christians should be particularly sensitive to torture (John Dijoseph, The Washington Times)

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Australia stabbing over conversion:

  • Muslim religion blamed for fatal stabbing | Police are investigating suggestions the violence erupted after the 17-year-old girl told her father she wanted to opt out of the Islamic faith and convert to Christianity (The Courier-Mail, Qld., Australia)

  • Islamic leader condemns conversion death | A Muslim leader has condemned the death of a woman in a Gold Coast family's domestic dispute, believed to have been sparked by a daughter's wish to convert from Islam to Christianity (AAP, Australia)

  • School death link | Friends of the Muslim mother stabbed to death in her Southport unit say she fought to enrol her daughter in a prestigious Christian school which her father blamed for 'brainwashing' her into converting from the family's devout faith (The Bulletin, Australia)

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Crime (non-U.S.):

  • Youth gets 18 years for killing priest | A Turkish court sentenced a teenager to 18 years and 10 months in prison for shooting to death an Italian Roman Catholic priest as he knelt in prayer inside his church, his lawyer said (Associated Press)

  • Plane hijacking probe said to take years | A prosecutor investigating the hijacking of a Turkish airliner to Italy said Tuesday that it will take about two years to complete the inquiry and start the trial of the suspected hijacker (Associated Press)

  • Church split on amnesty | The Catholic Church is divided on whether to have those who plundered public resources prosecuted (The East African Standard, Kenya)

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Crime (U.S.):

  • Church is in a bind after brawl at party | With few attendees, the church balanced its $85,000-a-year budget by renting out the basement for parties -- $150 for a small event and up to $700 for something bigger (The Record, N.J.)

  • Also: Stabbings injure 6 in church hall brawl | Neighbors said the church has become a popular destination for weekend parties, gatherings that can feature loud music and rowdy crowds. (The Record, N.J.)

  • Hunt for icon peers into black market | In the dark world of art theft, religious items are some of the hottest commodities — driven partly by the same, insatiable interest in mysteries of faith that catapulted "The Da Vinci Code" to international fame and created a sensation around the recent "Gospel of Judas." (Associated Press)

  • Threats of violence as homes for sex offenders cluster in Suffolk | As laws radically restrict where sex offenders can live, residents of Suffolk County object, sometimes violently, to the ex-convicts living in their communities (The New York Times)

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  • Insurer sues to escape abuse claims | Firm denies liability for possible damages in 22 pending cases (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Diocese in Iowa files for bankruptcy | After paying out more than $10.5 million to resolve dozens of sex abuse claims and now facing a new set of lawsuits, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Associated Press)

  • Also: Bankruptcy last choice for dioceses | Roman Catholic dioceses facing clergy abuse claims once avoided seeking Chapter 11 protection, but now a fourth American diocese has brought its case to bankruptcy court (Associated Press)

  • Report: Mexican priest to stand trial | A judge in the central Mexico state of Puebla ordered a Roman Catholic priest to stand trial in the rape of a 9-year-old boy in 1999, Mexican daily Reforma reported Saturday (Associated Press)

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Foley scandal:

  • Evangelicals blame Foley, not Republican Party | Evangelical Christians interviewed in Virginia insisted the Mark Foley episode would have little impact on their intentions to vote (The New York Times)

  • Conservatives fear Foley scandal will cost votes | Some conservatives said they expected the Congressional page scandal to prove costly for Republicans in November (The New York Times)

  • Page scandal exposes GOP's gay identity crisis | "Has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members or staffers?" Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote in an e-mail message to the organization's activists this week. In an interview, Perkins says that while he has not drawn any conclusions, "these are questions that need to be resolved." (USA Today)

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  • Victim advocates, Fla. diocese urge Foley to name alleged abuser | Alexis Walkenstein, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach diocese, said Foley has not reported the abuse to local Catholic Church officials, either (The Washington Post)

  • 'Values' choice for the GOP | It's possible that the Mark Foley scandal could finally end the phony, trumped-up "culture war" that the Republican Party has so expertly exploited all these years -- possible, but not likely. I'm afraid the Foley episode will be remembered as just another bloody battle, one with lots of collateral damage (Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post)

  • For the faithful, a trying time | There may not be much Good News in the pews for the GOP. The tawdry parable of Mark Foley is only one reason (Howard Fineman, Newsweek)

  • Related?: Former city councilor is arrested on sex charge | Charged with trying to entice a minor (The Boston Globe)

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K.A. Paul and Denny Hastert:

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Sexual ethics:

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Ex-gay ministries:

  • Online students fight anti-gay Christian course | Students nationwide have joined an online protest against a campus based Christian course which encourages gay students to suppress their homosexuality (The Times, London)

  • 'Straight to Jesus' and the Christian ex-gay movement | Tanya Erzen is the author of the new book, Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement. It's about New Hope Ministry, a residential program for evangelical Christian men in the San Francisco Bay area who are struggling with homosexuality. It's part of a larger movement to convert gays to the straight Christian life (Fresh Air, NPR)

  • Group says it leads gay men to the straight life | Alan Chambers is the president of Exodus, the largest evangelical group devoted to converting homosexuals to heterosexuals. He himself was a gay teen and young adult before the church helped him overcome his homosexuality (Fresh Air, NPR)

  • One Christian man's journey through sexuality | Shawn O'Donnell is a former ex-gay and a Christian. He was involved with Exodus for many years, before he left the program and to live as gay man. His story was part of the documentary Fish Can't Fly (Fresh Air, NPR)

  • "Ex-gay" lies and God's love | Like Kyle Rice ("I hate being gay"), this author grew up fundamentalist and gay. As a monitor of "ex-gay" ministries, he knows their lies. As a Christian, he knows God's acceptance (Timothy Kincaid, The Advocate, gay newspaper)

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  • Earlier: I hate being gay | This Washington State teen faces a daily battle between the sexual attraction he feels for other men and his religious convictions that tell him being gay is against God's word (Kyle Rice, The Advocate, gay newspaper)

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  • Cohabitation laws dwell | Today, just seven states still criminalize cohabitation and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is eager to reduce that number to zero (The Washington Times)

  • Church backs co-habiting rights | The Church of England has backed proposals to give thousands of co-habiting couples similar legal rights to married people (BBC)

  • Also: Church backs legal rights for parents who live in sin | Risking accusations that it was undermining marriage, the Church said that cohabiting couples with children should be granted significant legal protection if they split up (The Telegraph, London)

  • Also: Marriage is more than a tax break The creation of marriage is much, much more than a tax break or a source of benefits for the children. It is a glorious image of the love of a Trinitarian God—three in one, as marriage is two in one. If only our spiritual leaders had the courage to celebrate it (Anne Atkins, The Telegraph, London)

  • Bucking norm, some relish big families | The families involved cut across economic lines, though a sizable part of the increase is attributed to a baby boom in affluent suburbs, with more upper-middle-class couples deciding that a three- or four-child household can be both affordable and fun (Associated Press)

  • Pope urges couples to back family values | Pope Benedict XVI spoke in support of Christian marriage and traditional family values on Sunday, urging couples to resist modern cultural currents inspired only by a search for happiness and pleasure. (Associated Press)

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  • Exclusive: Book says Bush just using Christians | Tempting Faith author David Kuo worked for Bush from 2001 to 2003 (MSNBC, video)

  • Poll: trust in the administration is dropping | 66% of white born-again or evangelical Christians felt that President Bush was truthful and honest with regard to the Iraq war. (Time)

  • Black churches always at center of politics | When a group of Columbus ministers complained to the Internal Revenue Service that two central Ohio evangelical megachurches were engaged in unlawful political activity, the pastors of those churches countered with a simple question: What's the difference between what we're doing and what black churches across America have done for decades? (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

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  • 'Values' decline as issue in Ohio | Economic woes boost Democrats (The Washington Post)

  • For Ohio's GOP, a slate of foreboding | While Blackwell leads among evangelical Protestants who attend church weekly (52 percent to 26 percent for Democrat Ted Strickland), he lags in every other religious grouping (Akron Beacon Journal, Oh.)

  • A balancing act in the upper South | Hopeful Democrats tread warily on social issues (The Washington Post)

  • Harris meets with Jewish group about 'legislating sin' comment | Whether the meeting solved anything wasn't immediately clear (Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)

  • Fight crime, not souls | Our attorney general has become a national figure within the Christian conservative community (Steve Rose, The Johnson County Sun, Kan.)

  • Different bridges | Mr. Danforth's goals are well intentioned and achievable on a limited basis, but current political dynamics probably preclude long-term change in the direction he seeks (Claude R. Marx, The Washington Times)

  • Liberal paranoia | A magnifying trick that goes beyond Christophobia (Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online)

  • The Religious Right's crusade for 'decency' | The Christian right has done its best to keep America obsessed with clean, friendly family values. But what constitutes 'decency' -- and where does the Foley scandal fit in? (Celina R. De Leon, AlterNet)

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Mitt Romney:

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Church and state:

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Requiring immunizations:

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Church and state (non-U.S.):

  • A hundred thousand Dalits gather in Maharashtra to burn anti-conversion laws | "World Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion Day" will be held on October 14 in Nagpur. People will be able to forsake India's caste system by making a written statement (, Catholic site)

  • Finnish Lutheran church is doing fine financially | The Church's tax revenues have been growing over the past four years because of higher taxable incomes following pay rises and the good financial results of businesses (Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki, Finland)

  • Government to formulate policy on religion | The Government is to design a national policy on religion. Ethics state minister Dr. Nsaba Buturo said the policy aims at streamlining government support to religious institutions (The New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)

  • Law should treat all religions uniformly | How can a nation that allows the nation's churches to deny equal opportunity to women assert that gender equity is a fundamental Aussie value? (Leslie Cannold, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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  • Parent gains right to dispute school ban of religious music | A federal appeals court has revived a parent's court challenge of a 2004 decision by a New Jersey school district to ban music with religious overtones from its holiday programs (The New York Times)

  • Also: 3rd Circuit lets suit proceed on religious music in school | A lawsuit challenging a restriction on religious music in a New Jersey public school district can continue, a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel decided Oct. 5 (First Amendment Center)

  • Religion drama plays out in St. Lucie schools | The same week Principal Bernadette Floyd axed a penguin Christmas play she deemed religious, 200 public high school students from three counties sang about Jesus in an honors choir in Fort Pierce — a dichotomy some say proves the St. Lucie County School District needs a countywide policy on religion in the schools (Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

  • Prayer rally to protest ACLU suit | Mt. Juliet official wants religion to be part of school (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • Debt of thanks to church schools | I can't help thinking that ideas about church schools have been turned on their heads. It is as if all money magically originates with the state, which then kindly hands out largesse for the benefit of religious believers (Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, London)

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Higher education:

  • Not so godless after all | Professors may be more skeptical of God and religion than Americans on average, but academic views and practices on religion are diverse, believers outnumber atheists and agnostics, and plenty of professors can be found regularly attending religious services (Inside Higher Ed)

  • Also: A majority of believers | While less religious than most Americans, professors are more religious than might be commonly assumed, according to a new survey. Only 10 percent of professors surveyed said they did not believe in God (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • Working paper: How Religious Are America's College and University Professors? (Neil Gross and Solon Simmons)

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Church buildings:

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Church life:

  • Terry Waite joins Quakers to escape 'chirpy' vicars | Terry Waite, one of the world's best-known Anglicans, has taken to attending the simple prayer meetings of the Quakers because he is fed up with the antics of Church of England services in which vicars act like "television hosts" (The Times, London)

  • Carey notes signs of schism, hope | Former Archbishop of Canterbury on the state of the Anglican Communion today, peace in the Middle East and his reaction to Pope Benedict XVI's recent citation of a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who described the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman" (The Press-Register, Mobile, Ala.)

  • Anglican Church 'hung up on sex' | The Anglican Church is preoccupied with sex and in need of "spiritual therapy" to restore its sense of priorities, the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Roger Herft, will tell his diocese's annual synod today (The Australian)

  • Church's challenge: Curb that criticism | A pastor uses purple bracelets to get his congregation to cut back on complaining (The Kansas City Star)

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  • Pope set to ease Latin Mass restrictions | Pope Benedict XVI has decided to loosen restrictions on use of the old Latin Mass, making a major concession to ultraconservatives who split with the Vatican to protest liberalizing reforms, a Vatican official said Wednesday (Associated Press)

  • Pope keeps limbo in limbo, for now | The media reports had said the Pope would formally cancel limbo on Friday but a key participant, Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, said the 30-member commission were still fine-tuning their document (Reuters)

  • How can limbo just be abolished? | The Pope may be about to abolish the notion of limbo, the halfway house between heaven and hell, inhabited by unbaptised infants. Is it really that simple? (BBC)

  • Everybody limbo | If you feel a commotion beneath your feet today, that'll be gazillions of unbaptised children moving out of Limbo (Stuart Jeffries. The Guardian, London)

  • Pope condemns use of religion for hate | Pope Benedict XVI met Thursday a delegation of the Anti-Defamation League and said that religion should never be used to justify hatred and violence (Associated Press)

  • Keeler injured in auto accident | Car crash in Italy kills Pa. priest on vacation with Baltimore cardinal (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Collection for abusers angers victim advocates | Money is for priests removed from ministry (Concord Monitor, N.H.)

  • Earlier: Priests asked to give $1,000 | A dozen Roman Catholic clergy are reaching out to fellow priests who are sick, retired or were stripped of their ministry for sexually abusing minors, offering support and financial aid to any who need it. (The Manchester Union Leader, N.H.)

  • Activists shun married archbishop | It would seem that Roman Catholics challenging the ban on married priests have found a leader (Associated Press)

  • Vatican okays resignation of Iowa bishop | The Vatican announced the bishop of Davenport's retirement Thursday, two days after the Roman Catholic diocese filed for bankruptcy amid dozens of lawsuits alleging priest sex abuse (Associated Press)

  • Woman dedicates her virginity to Jesus | Saturday's rare Catholic ceremony, one her own pastor didn't know existed, turned the 42-year-old into a "consecrated virgin." Fewer than 200 women in the United States and 2,000 worldwide have declared their perpetual virginity this way, according to U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins. (Associated Press)

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Pope and Islam:

  • No dilution of Christian identity in dialogue: Pope | Pope Benedict said on Wednesday Christians could not allow their beliefs and identity to be diluted for the sake of dialogue with other religions (Reuters)

  • Pope makes additions to text on Islam | Pope Benedict XVI has taken another step to placate anger in the Islamic world over his remarks on holy war, making additions to his original text affirming that a quotation from a 14th century Byzantine emperor was not his personal opinion (Associated Press)

  • Also: Vatican 'clarifies' Pope speech | The Vatican has released a final version of an address by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany last month, which angered Muslims around the world (BBC)

  • Also: Wouldn't you like to join our sinking ship? | Muslims may see the Pope's offer for what it is: an invitation to the demise of their faith (Andrew Potter, Macleans, Canada)

  • 'Bravo Papa!' | The pontiff is neither naive nor a fool (Isi Leibler, The Jerusalem Post)

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Europe's culture clash:

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  • Dude, where's my cross? | Stephen Baldwin preaches to teens that Bono is in league with Satan. Don't laugh, the born-again actor is a cultural advisor to Bush and one of the most popular new evangelists in the country (Lauren Sandler,

  • Rev'd up | Archbishop Desmond Tutu looks back, definitely not in anger (The Washington Post)

  • Al Antczak dies at 84 | Former editor of archdiocese newspaper the Tidings (Los Angeles Times)

  • NCC leader won't seek third term | Former lawmaker raised council profile (Religion News Service)

  • Alba: Sweatsuits yes, nudity no | Actress tells Elle she left her church after being accused of dressing provocatively (

  • Mr. T is back -- and looking for trouble | It was the chance to do good that lured Mr. T, a devout Christian, into the show and back into the public spotlight (Reuters)

  • Please work a miracle Marvin | Faith healer's hospital dash to save dying cancer dad (Daily Record, Scotland)

  • Travelling in search of radical holiness | The new leader of world Methodism is looking East and to Africa to reclaim the Church's mission (The Times, London)

  • Churched up via eBay, he repaid in discussion | Getting churched up burst some of the preconceived images Mehta had of Christian services (The Journal Times, Racine, Wis.)

  • Church set up by former medium | James Byrne says his decision to ditch spiritualism and turn to Christianity was finally made for him a year ago following a chilling taped reading for a regular client in Wigan (Chorley Citizen, U.K.)

  • Russian judge shows compassion after God enters her life | Belenkaya spoke to the audience through an interpreter, Nikolai Panknatz, who helped her explain that her conversion to Christianity came in 1998 when she was in a serious car accident that should have killed her and her daughter (The Dickson Herald, Tenn.)

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Billy Graham's grandson holds crusade:

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Other Grahams:

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New York Hell House:

  • An evangelical haunted house | The irony in Les Freres Corbusier's re-creation of a Christian fundamentalist "Hell House" is apparent from the start (Associated Press)

  • A 'Hell' of an act | Brooklyn theatrical haunt stages a Halloween horror (Howard Kissel, New York Daily News)

  • This show gives 'em 'Hell' | "'Hell House' has had many opponents over the years," says creator Keenan Roberts. "This is about creating an audience for the message, and we're just messengers. I never had any question that it would survive. God will have the last word. This is his deal; it's not my deal." (Newsday)

  • Review: Hell House | For all the shrieks, howls and blood-letting that assault the sensibilities of its captive audiences, this quickie tour of Hell and its earthly antechambers isn't frightening enough to win converts to the evangelical Christian faith of the minister who devised the official playbook for its presentation. Nor is this "Hell House" funny, in the ironic fashion one might expect from the avant-garde creatives of Les Freres Corbusier (Variety)

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  • Pirating songs of praise | Some Christian music fans believe digital downloading is a way to spread the Word. Other voices tell them: Thou shalt not steal (Los Angeles Times)

  • Christian rock band Skillet eyes mainstream fans | "Skillet has paid their dues, and I think the time is now." (Reuters/Billboard)

  • Cows tip their music for God | Although the Harsh Cows enjoy performing for Christians and believers, they would prefer to play for "sinners and Pharisees." (Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.)

  • Amy Grant bringing it back home with live CD/DVD | Few artists' names are more synonymous with a specific genre of music than Amy Grant (Reuters)

  • Angry Christians force Slayer album out of India | U.S. heavy metal band Slayer's latest album has been recalled from music stores across India after the country's small Christian community said the cover depicting Christ with amputated arms and a missing eye was insulting (Reuters)

  • The Narnia of Prog | Glass Hammer brings a musical army to the Tivoli (The Pulse, Chattanooga, Tenn.)

  • It's hip to be uncool | Mining emotionally difficult ground, Mindy Smith has risen in alt-country-folk esteem. Now comes a new CD (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Evangelicals try to get youths back on track | Ron Luce goes to Colorado (The Denver Post)

  • U.S. "disciple generation" skateboards for Jesus | Whether they are playing heavy metal music or pulling stunts on skateboards, they are doing it for Jesus, author Lauren Sandler says in a book about a new generation of evangelicals that aims to reshape public policy along Christian lines (Reuters)

  • Youth preaching scripture and politics | New breed of 'hippies' sweeping across America (Daily News, South Africa)

  • What's wrong with young people today? | They tune into Christian rock stations and kneel in church devoting themselves to Jesus (Lionel Shriver, The Guardian, London)

  • Mixed signals on teen evangelicals | Some experts claim that Christian evangelicals, seemingly at the height of their political power on the national scene, are praying they aren't simultaneously on the precipice of extinction, as church leaders fear an apocalyptic prediction is coming true (Bonnie Erbe, Scripps Howard News Service)

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Missions and ministry:

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Money, business, and giving:

  • Managing by the (Good) Book | Bosses at public, private firms mix business with their faith; it can discomfit some workers (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Debt, a 3-way loser | For the past several weeks, I've been spending my Wednesday evenings taking a class at my church called "Financial Freedom." Among other things, the class aims to teach how debt can put you in bondage (Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post)

  • Call centres are blamed for a rise in loose living among India's affluent new elite | Why does it take so long to get through to an Indian call centre? Because everyone is too busy chatting up their colleagues—and more—if the Catholic Church is to be believed. (The Telegraph, London)

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  • Evangelicals invest $40m. in aliya | A Jerusalem-based Evangelical Christian organization announced Tuesday that it had assisted 100,000 Jewish immigrants to move to Israel over the last decade and a half (The Jerusalem Post)

  • 1/3 of US tourists Evangelicals | One in every three American tourists is an Evangelical Christian, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said Sunday (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Thousands attend J'lem Succot march | The colorful event was attended by five thousand Evangelical Christians from eighty different countries for the Feast of the Tabernacles celebration (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Devout Christians march for Zionism in Jerusalem | More than 5,000 evangelical Christians, including believers from as far afield as Congo and New Zealand, marched through Jerusalem on Tuesday to voice their support for Zionism and the state of Israel (Reuters)

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  • Newly unveiled necropolis at Vatican soon open to visitors | Visitors to the Vatican will soon be able to descend into an ancient world of the dead, a newly unveiled necropolis that was a burial place for the rich and not-so-affluent during Roman imperial rule (USA Today)

  • Also: Unveiled necropolis at Vatican opens | Visitors to the Vatican soon will be able to descend into an ancient world of the dead, a newly unveiled necropolis that was a burial place for the rich and not-so-affluent during Roman imperial rule (Associated Press)

  • Antique false teeth go on display | The 18th Century teeth, which belonged to the Archbishop of Narbonne, who died in 1806, were found in his coffin after an archaeologists' dig in London (BBC)

  • Also: The playboy bishop's priceless false teeth | The two-hundred -year-old false teeth of a wealthy archbishop with a host of mistresses have been discovered on the site of London's new Channel Tunnel station at St Pancras (The Evening Standard, London)

  • Archive to open on 'Black Bishop' | Austrian prelate thought to have helped Nazis escape trial (ANSA, Italy)

  • Monastery wins World Heritage bid | The twin Anglo-Saxon monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow has been named as the UK's nomination for World Heritage Site status in 2009 (BBC)

  • Historic stone saved for future | One of Scotland's finest carved grave slabs has been saved for future generations at a medieval abbey (BBC)

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  • Atheist kicks up storm about act | If you believe in God, knowing that Union attorney Edwin Kagin opposes something might make you support it (Kevin Eigelbach, The Cincinnati Post)

  • Gospel of spaghetti monster | Ludicrous, but no more ludicrous than a white-bearded man sitting in a throne behind pearly gates who creates a paradise called Eden from which he promptly ejects its two sole human occupants because they ate an apple and thus condemned humankind to eternal suffering (Sarah Carey, The Times, London)

  • A pair of atheists agree: Time to let go of God | Emily Bobrow reviews The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (New York Observer)

  • The need to believe | In his new book, Richard Dawkins argues that God is a delusion. But, asks Rod Liddle, isn't 'evangelical atheism' an article of faith in itself? (The Times, London)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Practicing moral hygiene | Study links guilt and the urge for clean hands. (Now, pass the towelettes, please.) (The Washington Post)

  • 'Renewalist' impact grows | Pentecostals and charismatics, one-quarter of the world's Christians, will shape politics and culture (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Shortcuts: How to achieve inner peace | We all crave inner peace but the path -- cruelly -- is never easy. As Homer Simpson so succinctly put it: "This inner peace stuff is a tough on the ol' coconut." (CNN)

  • The last word on the last breath | Who decides whether to resuscitate a dying patient? The doctor? The family? The law is often unclear (The New York Times)

  • Rest: It's required | Adequate sleep is as crucial to a healthy life as diet and exercise, researchers are finding (Los Angeles Times)

  • Not every misfortune can be prevented | Amid all the agonizing and political post-9/11 posturing over whether we are safer than we were five years ago I found myself thinking of the fifth-century monk, Pelagius, and the heresy that bears his name (H.D.S. Greenway, The Boston Globe)

  • Getting religion | Naomi Harris Rosenblatt reviews The Faith Club (The Washington Post)

  • Temptation, the priest, the youth and his mother | Edmund De Santis has written a clever comic drama with satisfyingly acidic attitude, considerable passion and a killer ending (The New York Times)

  • Religion news in brief | Leaders of America's Orthodox Christian churches meet, and other stories (Associated Press)

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What is Weblog?

See our past Weblog updates:

October 6 | 5 | 4
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

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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