In the June 15 edition of the Weblog, we quoted The Washington Post as saying the Southern Baptist Convention's new Statement of Faith and Message "drops the concepts of 'the priesthood of the believer' and the 'soul's competency before God.'" The preamble to the proposed Statement of Faith and Message was in fact amended the day of the vote to include the concepts. The preamble says, "We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God."

House passes law aimed at protecting religious programming from FCC tinkering

The bill passed by the House of Representatives yesterday prohibits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from regulating the content of speech aired by noncommercial educational radio and television stations. The legislation comes after religious leaders attacked the FCC for ruling that some religious programming aired on noncommercial television stations is not sufficiently educational. (The FCC quickly backed down.) Though backers of the bill say it "defend[s] religion on the airwaves," detractors worry that "there will no longer ever again be a requirement that a public TV station must serve the educational needs of a community."

Massacre of Christians in Indonesia reportedly leaves more than 160 dead

Indonesian police have confirmed that 108 Christians and 8 Muslims died when an estimated 500 Muslims attacked the Christian village of Duma, on the island of Halmahera. Other reports put the number of Christians dead above 150. "It was a very quick attack. They had automatic rifles but the Christians only had homemade weapons," says Father Hadi, whom the Associated Press identifies as a Protestant clergyman. Military officials say they're outnumbered and there's nothing they can do to stop the violence.

Preparing for shari'a law, Nigeria's Kano State readies troops

When Kaduna State just to Kano's south instituted the Islamic legal system, riots left hundreds dead. But military troops and riot police think they can avoid a repeat of the violence when shari'a takes effect in the state today. Besides, they say, most of the Christians have already left for southern Nigeria and elsewhere. Weblog could swear the same line was quoted just before the Kaduna riots.

Christians "converting Hindus at gunpoint," says report by Hindu group in India

"This is all rubbish and the figment of their imagination," responds a Christian leader. Indeed.

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Billy Graham hospitalized for brain operation

The evangelist is at the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis for an operation to relieve fluid buildup around his brain. He will be undergoing "a number of diagnostic procedures" and resting in preparation for the Amsterdam 2000 conference of evangelists in late July.

By going more strict, Southern Baptists likely to get bigger, not smaller

Though a Gallup poll says Southern Baptists are "out of step with the significant majority" of religious Americans by banning woman pastors, Laurence Iannaccone (as filtered through The New York Times's "Economic Scene" department) says that going stricter is probably better in the long run for the denomination—and it doesn't mean the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole is necessarily getting more conservative. "High costs screen out 'free riders,' deadbeat members who would otherwise enjoy a church's benefits without contributing energy, time and money," summarizes Virginia Postrel. "If everyone in the group has to pay a visible price, free riders will not bother to join and a committed core will not end up doing all the work. The group may attract fewer members at first, but it will be stronger over time. Distinctiveness also gives people a reason for affiliation and a sense of camaraderie. Why join a religious group if it is identical to the rest of society? But a church cannot survive if the cost of membership is too great, especially if it wants to draw members from social groups that have other opportunities."

Speaking of strictness …

The multifaith Web site Beliefnet takes a look at codes of conduct at Christian colleges. Strict rules against drinking, smoking, dancing, and other behavior don't seem to hurt—enrollment at Council for Christian Colleges and Universities schools has jumped 24 percent in the last decade. Still, the dean of campus life at Abilene Christian University says student behavior is getting worse. And other colleges, like Westmont and Biola, are considering even more changes to their codes of conduct, recent abatements notwithstanding.

Are Left Behind books "only superficially Christian"?

That's what Michael G. Maudlin, executive director of editorial operations for Christianity Today incorporated (and supervisor of Weblog) says in a Slate "Book Club" discussion with Randall Balmer, American religion professor at Columbia University and author of several books on evangelical history. "Little holds together theologically in the Left Behind books," he writes. Meanwhile, Balmer submits a rather history of premillennialism that avoids discussion of the Tim LaHaye/Jerry Jenkins series. Though there is this interesting nugget: the writer and director of the Thief in the Night film series was Balmer's Sunday School teacher, and Balmer's father, who helped with the series' financing, had a bit part as the early evangelical pastor. The discussion will continue for the next few days.

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