David Brooks: We need another Niebuhr
Fresh off an ingenious Weekly Standard cover story on the new suburban "Sprinkler Cities," David Brooks examines Reinhold Niebuhr for The Atlantic Monthly. The American theologian has been dead for 31 years, but is more relevant than ever, Brooks says, especially his core idea "that reform had to be conducted by people who were acutely aware of the limits of human capabilities and the intractability of sin."

No doubt Niebuhr would have supported the war against terrorism—but not all of Bush's efforts in it. "We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power," he wrote. "But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."

It's on this final point that Brooks issues his disagreement. "People need to have their hopes fired and their passions engaged. … Slavery would not have ended without the zeal of the abolitionists." In fact, Brooks argues, today's problem is too little zeal, not too much.

Still, Brooks concludes, "It would be helpful to have more thinkers of his sort, or at least one—a thinker who simultaneously believes in using power and is keenly aware that its use is inevitably corrupting."

Brooks laments that "a Nexis search on Niebuhr turns up only a handful of references to him over the past year." (Brooks mentions a First Things article by Wilfred M. McClay, but a Wall Street Journal article by Joe Loconte certainly deserves a nod as well.) Indeed, if there's a theologian getting attention since 9/11 it seems to be the anti-Niebuhr Stanley Hauerwas, who argues against American interventionism. Kathy Shaidle over at the Relapsed Catholic weblog has been compiling other bloggers' comments on the Duke theologian (more here, here, here, and here), most based on an article in the National Catholic Reporter, and most overwhelmingly negative. First Things has a take on Hauerwas, too. And here's Wabash College theologian Stephen Webb's Theoblogy Seminar item on how Hauerwas and Niebuhr have more in common than one might think.

Franklin Graham: Muslims should pay up
Franklin Graham, promoting a new book, continues to rile folks with his statements on Islam. "I'm certainly not preaching against Muslim people," he said on WBT, a Charlotte, North Carolina, radio station. "I am concerned about our nation, and on Sept. 11 last year, we were attacked by followers of Islam, claiming to do this in the name of Islam." He says Muslim clerics around the world have been too silent, haven't apologized, and should help rebuild New York or compensate the families of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. The story is widely carried today, including a piece in The New York Times, but it's really nothing he hasn't said before.

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Church and state:

  • Do faith-based services work? | As government has become involved in funding faith-based social programs, little attention is paid to tracking their effectiveness (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Faith-based programs get help applying for funding | Since November, the .S. Department of Education has been holding workshops across the country to guide faith-based and community organizations through the application process (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Protecting religious institutions' right to political speech | Why the House Of Worship Political Speech Protection Act should be enacted (Marci Hamilton, FindLaw.com)

  • Ark. vaccination waiver overruled | Exemption, granted only to members of "recognized churches," violates the First Amendment, says judge (Associated Press)

  • Crown and cross stay on police badge | Plans to allow non-Christian officers to wear a badge without the traditional crown and cross insignia have been dropped by the Metropolitan Police (BBC)

  • 'Under God' stays in pledge | Florida school board rejects objection to religious reference (Associated Press)

  • Attorney asks judge to ban lawyer's Bible | A judge should forbid the 18-year-old from "displaying a Bible in front of the jury" because of the "possibility that jurors may consider this as character evidence," according to documents filed by prosecutors Monday at the Manatee County Courthouse (The Bradenton [Fla.] Herald)

  • Alternative police badge for Muslims | London's Metropolitan Police Force is to drop the crown and cross from its insignia for non-Christian officers because of objections from a Muslim recruit (BBC)


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  • The church and foreign policy in US | American Catholicism's confrontation with its own flawed character can mitigate a broader American self-righteousness to the benefit of the world (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)

  • Bush defies belief | President preaches to converted while Fed grapples with the real problems (The Guardian, London)


Life ethics:

  • Bill to bar abortion rollback | The California state Assembly is expected to pass a bill forbidding the state from outlawing abortion should the Supreme Court ever overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (The Washington Times)

  • Bankruptcy and abortion -- II | Republicans shouldn't swallow Sen. Schumer's poison pill (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Abortion upon official demand | During a March 2001 orientation class for D.C. emergency medical technician trainees, interim Emergency Medical Services operations chief Samanthia Robinson told the class members that their employment could be terminated if they became pregnant in their first year on the job (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • First peek at fetus is no longer a blur | Prolife advocates love the new generation of scanning technology (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Anti-abortion group gets tough | Georgia Right to Life backs those who reject rape, incest exceptions (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Religion and the media:

  • Town, church feud over radio station | It seems obvious now, plainer every time a new brief is filed in the county courthouse up the road, that the Enfield Zoning Board never should have taken on Elmer Murray and the Living Waters Bible Church (The Boston Globe)
  • Mixed blessings | Religious radio stations have loyal followings, but high ratings are a different story (The Fresno Bee)

  • Atheists get equal time on BBC | Richard Dawkins gets experimental slot after protest (Associated Press)

  • Also: Sparing a thought for today | Thought for the Day, BBC Radio 4's daily religious ponder, has again secured its position as one of broadcasting's most controversial spots. Could the latest quarrel point to a larger debate in society? (BBC)

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  • Is physics watching over us? | Our Universe is so unlikely that we must be missing something. (Philip Ball, Nature)

  • Believing scientists and peace | More than 100 scientists from around the world -- all believing Christians, Jews or Muslims -- will apply their methods of dialogue to seek answers to today's political, moral and social issues ranging from peace to stem cell research and euthanasia (UPI)

Sex, marriage, and family:

Pop culture:

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Missions & ministry:

  • Christian fest hopes to skate into kids' lives | About 40 area teenage volunteers are building a 10,000-square-foot skate park for the Puget Sound Festival with Luis Palau (The Seattle Times)

  • Also: Evangelist Luis Palau is coming | Think of a Billy Graham crusade with a hip skateboarders' park and you've got Luis Palau, one of the most popular evangelical ministers in the world (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Habitat for Humanity starts new project | Unlike most Habitat for Humanity homes, these won't house families. They will be part of a project called "The Global Village and Museum." (Voice of America)

  • Earlier: How to Build Homes Without Putting Up Walls | Habitat for Humanity strives to keep its Christian identity—a tricky task, when everybody wants to join (Christianity Today, May 31, 2002)

Church disputes:

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  • Pope, again, heads home and, again, rumors fly | Is the 82-year-old pope on the verge of retirement, with a covert plan to announce it among his beloved countrymen? Will he steal away to a Polish villa, and never return to the Vatican? (The New York Times)

  • Trickster cons 4,000 hoping to see Pope | In an elaborate scam, the trickster signed a contract with the state railways to lay on four chartered trains from the northern port city of Gdansk. He even persuaded organizers of the Papal visit to issue him tickets to Sunday's mass. (Reuters)

  • Mexicans celebrate the Last Supper | Some 320,000 faithful crowded in and around a Guadalajara church Wednesday for a re-enactment of the Last Supper and to mourn 41 of the pilgrims who died in two bus crashes (Associated Press)

Theology in Africa:

Other stories of interest:

  • Flames of infamy | Sati, the gory ritual, makes a comeback (The Week, India)

  • Faith by numbers | World Christian Encyclopedia to go electronic (The Washington Times)

  • Overriding a good conscience | Like many a Catholic, I seldom consult the Bible (Chris Hardwick, The Guardian)

  • A Christian symbol that looms large | Nation's biggest cross stretches 198 feet up (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Mom of Ala. church bomb victim dies | Alpha Robertson was the mother of Carole Robertson, 14, who was among four black girls killed when a bomb went off at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963 (Associated Press)

  • Town council calls in shaman | Christopher Beaver conducted a "smudging ceremony" in the Telluride Town Council chambers earlier this summer after he declared the basement room full of negative — even violent — energy (Associated Press)

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