Every Christmas and Easter, as the pews pack in with dozens of unfamiliar faces, Weblog gets nervous. For while this is the holiest of seasons, it's also the time that the major national newsweeklies start thinking about religion-oriented cover stories. And all too often, that means another piece hyping the Jesus Seminar or some other minimalist hullabaloo that amounts to "scholars say orthodox belief is wrong."

This year, things seem to be different. First, this isn't the slow news time that Holy Week often falls into. The U.S.-China spy plane conflict beat out Newsweek's religion piece for the cover story. Second, the newsweeklies each reported on something less than predictable. Not totally unique, mind you—Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and Christian History magazines have all dealt with the subjects of this week's stories in depth—but better than usual.

U.S. News: Why did Christianity succeed?U.S. News & World Report gets the closest to the old standard "Who was Jesus?" cover story by scooting forward a few centuries and asking why Christianity succeeded. "As the movement expanded during the second and third centuries, it proved to be anything but simple," writes Jeffery Sheler. "The nascent Christian church was torn by persecution and internal division as Christians struggled to understand and apply the meaning of Jesus's life, death, and Resurrection in the roiling religious caldron of the Roman Empire. Perhaps even more than the seminal events of the first century, those later conflicts and controversies would forge Christianity's future-shaping its creeds and canon and transforming a renegade Jewish sect into a powerful world religion." In a mere 3,000 words, Sheler describes how the fall of Jerusalem, persecution, ...

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