U.S. News and World Report religion writer Jeff Sheler looks at Christianity's changing understanding of hell throughout history. Among his findings are that more Americans believe in hell than did in the 1950s or in 1990. But most today think of hell as a state of existence than a literal place. Christianity Today's recent article, " Can We Be Good Without Hell?" is quoted in a discussion of how the notion of hell influences moral behavior.
Grand Canyon University leaves Arizona Southern Baptist Convention
A Southern Baptist leader attributes the university's leave to Baylor University's prominent split from the denomination 10 years ago. The university president says he did it to protect the school's accreditation.
Egyptian president blames foreigners for Muslim-Christian violence
"President Hosni Mubarak said the culprits behind the clashes that killed 23 and injured 34 on Jan. 2 were 'pushed from abroad' to destabilize Egypt," reports the Associated Press.
United Church of Christ congregation leaves over denomination's homosexuality stands
"We no longer want the United Church of Christ speaking for us, taking stands for us that we don't agree with," Pastor Darrell Coons of Hope United Church of Christ (now Hope Church) told the Associated Press. Coons says the UCC president's signing of a declaration calling for churches to bless same-sex couples and allow openly gay ministers was "the last straw."
dc Talk singer leads Dove Award nominations
Toby McKeehan of the band dc Talk garnered 10 nominations—six for solo work, four for the band—for the Gospel Music Association awards, to be awarded April 20. Steven Curtis Chapman was nominated nine times, Michael W. Smith eight times, and Kirk Franklin six times. (See a full list of nominees here.)
According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which monitors persecution of Roman Catholics in China, authorities in Hebei Province (in northern China) arrested five members of the underground Roman Catholic church—a bishop three priests, and a layperson. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and other news organizations.
"It's hard to imagine Walt making a movie so likely to enrage Catholics." So says the New York Post of Blessed Art Thou, the first feature film of Tim Disney (son of Roy E. Disney and grandnephew of Walt). According to reviewer Jonathan Foreman, the film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, "targets the Catholic Church as a bad institution at odds with 'real' spiritual values."
National police chief Peter Orban is distributing 42,000 copies of a video about the life of Christ to his subordinates, reports Agence France-Presse. "It is important for power to know who Jesus is," said an officer from the GNN International Visual Bible Society, which provided the videos. Police are free to turn down the gift.
On one hand, says Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, "many of their positions are now routinely adopted by Republican presidential candidates, and their role in Republican politics is as normal and as thoroughly accepted as the influence of union members on the Democrats." On the other hand, they are "yearning for a strength of commitment and purity of purpose that is often missing in conventional politics—and a growing impatience with settling for less."
In his column, the ex-Christian novelist and biographer praises the pope—indeed, the whole of Roman Catholicism—for being a "Rock of Stumbling—in Greek, a Scandal, something you constantly bump into and stub your toe against. That is what I—sensual and unbelieving as I am—want the church to be. I don't want bishops with sensible views on contraception or on miracles, come to that. I want to have an institution which still proclaims, as very truth, the fantastical miracle of the Mass—that God himself comes down to His altars, as He did in the ages of Faith. I want, moreover, my smug, comfortable, ill-thought-out tolerance of all forms of human behaviour, however sordid, to be challenged and shaken up by difficult, cussed bigots. No one is more difficult or more cussed than Wojtyla, which is why I have come, not merely to revere him, but to love him." (Read a conversation with A.N Wilson in the September/October issue of our sister publication Books & Culture.)
"With the many questions swirling around her separation this week from media mogul Ted Turner, it's increasingly clear that spirituality is playing an increasing part in Jane Fonda's life," reports staff writer Jill Vejnoska. But she notes Fonda hasn't said anything, nor have her closest associates. More importantly, Vejnoska points out the dubitable reliability of the Internet source that broke the story.
Copyright © 2000 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.