This Christmas, is there increasingly "no room" for Jesus?
Every year one hears complaints that people are taking Christ out of Christmas and that the holiday is becoming increasingly secular. This year, however, the cries seem particularly frequent and strong.
Most notably, a family in Queens has filed a lawsuit over school holiday policies. "The display of secular holiday symbol decorations is permitted. Such symbols include, but are not limited to, Christmas trees, Menorahs, and the Star and Crescent," says a memo from the lawyer of the schools chancellor. A menorah and star and crescent are secular?
""I'm offended that we're some sort of second-class religion that would be satisfied with a tree," said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which is representing the Queens family. "All we're asking for the city of New York to do is to treat Catholics the same way they do Jews and Muslims. This is nothing but pure, unadulterated religious discrimination."
In nearby Yonkers, interim Superintendent Angelo Petrone is treating all religions equally—everything from trees to menorahs, and "all ornamentation with a message stronger than a generic 'happy holidays' or 'season's greetings' has been banned," reports The Journal News. Teachers weren't even allowed to teach students about Hannukah, Christmas, or other religious holidays.
"Anybody who heard it thought it was a joke at first; they couldn't believe it," said parent Amanda Pendleton. "Then they had to literally tear everything off the walls."
Students were allowed to decorate two Christmas trees, but afterwards they were hauled away.
"Unfortunately, these actions are overreactions that come out of confusion about what the First Amendment requires and the refusal by schools to address religion properly throughout the school year," the Freedom Forum's Charles Haynes told The Journal News. "Focusing on December is a losing game. Whatever they do is going to cause controversy."
It's not just a U.S. issue, either. A school superintendent in British Columbia told schools not to refer to Christmas in their winter concert promotions, reports The National Post. Even clothing store The Gap has ordered its employees not to greet its patrons with "Merry Christmas."
"The stripping away of America's heritage continues as certain legal and cultural relativists pursue their goal of transforming us into moral and spiritual 'Stepford wives' when we will see all ideas as mattering, or not mattering, and it not mattering whether that matters," complains syndicated columnist Cal Thomas.
World's Gene Edward Veith says such watering down misses the point. "Today, it is widely assumed that all religions are essentially the same," he writes. "Those who believe that way are looking at the forms of religion, while neglecting their content. All the religions of the world are indeed religions, which means that they all have ways of worship, a sense of the sacred, and some sense of right and wrong. From the outside, some of these practices may appear similar. The issue, though, is not what the various religions look like—or when their holidays fall—but what they mean. The purpose of Christian evangelism is to bring people into everlasting life. The purpose of Islamic evangelism is to bring more people and nations under Islamic law."
More commentary is available from National Review Online's Rod Dreher and The Rutherford Institute's John Whitehead.
Boston's Cardinal Law resigns
"I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Boston," Archbishop Bernard Law of Boston said in a statement from the Vatican today. "It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed. To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness."
In April, Pope John Paul II had rejected an offer to resign by Law, one of his closest American advisers. But ongoing—and increasingly disturbing—revelations since then have led even Law's supporters to call for his resignation.
"The 71-year-old Law will remain a cardinal, which means he could move into another church post and retains the right to vote in a papal election, until he turns 80," notes the Associated Press. "He also will not be freed from the litigation in Boston, and was subpoenaed last week to appear before a grand jury."
The Associated Press, Boston Globe, and others have reaction stories.
Law will be replaced, at least temporarily, by Bishop Richard Lennon.
More on the clergy sex abuse scandal:
- Cardinal sins | Law couldn't clean up his mess in Boston, so he's out (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)
- In church lawsuits, high bar for conviction | Diocese officials - not just priests - face growing threat, but making a case is hard. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Reilly says he has evidence of coverup by archdiocese (The Boston Globe)
- Grand jury subpoenas Law, others Mass. prosecutor claims abuse coverup (USA Today)
- Bipartisan furor builds over Lott's remarks | "Thoughtless, careless remarks like this can have a devastating impact" on evangelism efforts, says chairman of Franklin Graham Crusade (USA Today)
- Casting his Lott | Trent Lott should resign his leadership post rather than force the Republican Party to pay the political price for his "poor choice" of words (Nickolas Eicher, World)
- Sen. Lott defended Bob Jones University's race policy (Associated Press)
- Lott tried to assist college in '81 despite dating ban (The Washington Times)
Bush's faith-based plan:
- President Bush implements key elements of his faith-based initiative (White House)
- Bush will allow religious groups to receive U.S. aid | President Bush acted on Thursday to make it easier for religious organizations to receive federal money for social welfare programs. (The New York Times)
- Faith groups get boost in Bush order | Religious bias in hiring will not bar organizations from getting U.S. contracts; Congress' opposition sidestepped; President resurrects part of domestic agenda after long focus on terrorism (The Baltimore Sun)
- President eases way for religious charities | Seeks to promote contracts, grants (The Boston Globe)
- Bush proceeds with 'faith-based' plan | He said he wanted to "clear away a legacy of discrimination" against such organizations, even those that refuse to hire people of a different faith (Associated Press)
- Bush issues 'faith-based initiative' orders | Decrees would allow religious programs to get federal money, Contracts (The Washington Post)
- Bush rolls back 'secular' rules | "The days of discriminating against religious groups just because they are religious are coming to an end," Mr. Bush told a gathering of volunteers in Philadelphia (The Washington Times)
- Faith-based funding a top Ehrlich goal | But Maryland Gov.-elect may have trouble in the Democratic-majority General Assembly (The Washington Times)
- How faith-based groups find place in schools | Students say groups give them a way of practicing and understanding a faith that may be new to them (The State, S.C.)
- Study: Faith-based services viable | Diverse state laws and a Supreme Court ruling backing vouchers have complicated the faith-based policy debate, but religious welfare groups still have many ways to operate, according to a 50- state study (The Washington Times)
- Priest's daughter raped in church | She was allegedly raped and impregnated by a 46-year-old man who is a church elder and a close associate of the priest (City Press, South Africa)
- U.S. charges 6 more Abu Sayyaf members | Three of the new defendants are in custody in the Philippines (Associated Press)
- Pa. priest charged in row with leader | Dispute over the way social gatherings are organized at a Serbian Orthodox church apparently led to a confrontation between two church leaders, with a gun being brandished, a shot fired and an arrest warrant issued for the pastor (Associated Press)
- Tears flow as parishioners, friends mourn slain priest | A funeral Mass will be celebrated today (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Also: Cleveland priest's body returned to church | Congregation mourns murder victim Paul Gulas (Associated Press)
Persecution and religious violence:
- In the name of God, why are we fighting? | The politics of religion have become part of the politics of change (Martin Woollacott, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Police say group planned to blow up church | Indonesian police investigating the bombings of a McDonald's restaurant and a car dealership today said the group behind the blasts also planned to blow up a church over Christmas (Online.ie)
- The 'log' of Christian violence | Christian-supported violence makes Islam look peaceable by comparison (Peter Gathje, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- 'Bloodthirsty' priests attacked | Three Roman Catholic priests were assaulted and taken hostage for a night in southern Malawi by angry villagers who accused them of trying to steal their blood, a priest said on Thursday (City Press, South Africa)
- Dispute over leading prayer | Va. county biased against Wiccan, ACLU suit says (The Washington Post)
- Also: Suit seeks to allow Wiccan's invocation (The Washington Times)
- Religious-studies student files suit | A college student is suing the commonwealth of Kentucky for discontinuing his public scholarship after learning that he is pursuing a degree in religious studies (The Washington Times)
- Lawsuit: Navy favored Catholic chaplain | Navy officials designated a Roman Catholic priest who is not a doctor as a flight surgeon simply to give him a plum assignment, according to military records filed in a federal lawsuit (Associated Press)
- Bible mailing targets Muslims | Paul Bramsen said he and a fleet of volunteers sent the flier to 16,000 Americans with "Muslim or Arab names." Several have already returned coupons for the book, which bills itself as "a fresh look at the word of God, from the perspective of a Muslim reader" (Herald News, Passaic, N.J.)
- Natural evangelism | Christians who can't or won't share their faith with others may be in a crisis of faith of their own (Editorial, Christian Century)
- Bible club ruling may be fought in Stafford | Earlier this week, a U.S. District Court in Trenton ruled in favor of a proselytizing Christian evangelical group that wants to reach out to students—and through them, to evangelize parents (Asbury Park [N.J.] Press)
- Christian filmmakers strive to guide surfers to the faith | "The Outsiders" has attracted full houses at recent showings in the San Diego County beach towns of Encinitas and La Jolla, its producers say (Los Angeles Times)
Politics and law:
- Elliott Abrams back in capital fray at center of Mideast battle | Abrams's selection this week as President Bush's director of Middle Eastern affairs at the White House plunged him into one of the sharpest disputes in the nation's capital (The New York Times)
- American policies and presence under fire in South Korea | Buddhist monks and Christian groups have held hunger strikes near the hulking United States Embassy here all week, and while the riot police keep the demonstrators from the gates, they cannot stop the taxi drivers from honking their horns in protest (The New York Times)
- A monumental mistake | A judge rules: Pull down those Ten Commandments—soon. (Michael Novak, The Wall Street Journal)
William Jewell College proposes homosexual discrimination bill:
- William Jewell College Student Senate bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation | Some worry amendment would jeopardize funding from the Missouri Baptist Convention or allow student groups of gays and lesbians to start on campus (The Kansas City Star)
- Also: William Jewell debates adding homosexuals to bill of rights (Baptist Press)
- Also: Prof sees pattern toward acceptance of homosexuality at William Jewell (Baptist Press)
- Also: Baptist college debates antidiscrimination proposal (The Advocate)
- Christian group loses smacking appeal | Teachers and parents failed in a renewed court bid for the right of staff to smack pupils with parental consent. (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Pupils told we're living in 2002 'CE' | Teachers have abandoned the traditional Christian terms when writing dates (The Scotsman)
Family and children:
- What child is this? | I am amazed, when I talk with my fellow wives, how negative we Americans have become about babies (Maggie Gallagher)
- Try to connect holiday rituals | When preschoolers ask questions about God (''Where is God?''), they are looking for simple, concrete answers (Barbara Meltz, The Boston Globe)
- Call for ban on sex choice clinics | Three sex selection clinics were accused yesterday of encouraging Indian couples to seek boy children rather than girls (The Guardian, India)
- So far, we're losing | Moral relativism still dominates the abortion debate (Joel Belz, World)
- Jim Bakker planning TV talk show | The cafe where Jim Bakker plans to carry daily broadcasts has opened. Now, the fallen televangelist must persuade TV stations to carry his talk show. (Associated Press)
- PBS show to 'counter' perceptions of Islam | The two-hour documentary on the life of the prophet Muhammad is meant to help counter negative images of Muslims, according to its creators (The Washington Times)
- Also: U.S. filmmakers tread carefully in Mohammed biography (Reuters)
- Listening to song of Sixpence easier than playing it | Sixpence None the Richer is tiring of "Kiss Me" (Los Angeles Daily News)
- Musical lives | Amy Plantinga Pauw: An Indigo Girl and her dad (Christian Century)
- Pat Boone to be in Gospel Music Hall of Fame | With Amy Grant and the Blind Boys of Alabama (Associated Press)
- Christian crossover | Michael W. Smith brings spirit of Christmas to the Midlands (The State, South Carolina)
- CD series showcases Bruce Cockburn's journey | Rounder Records has just re-released six Cockburn albums, and with the exception of a live disc circa 1990, the albums are from his protean 1976-83 period, a time when he changed from an acoustic, bucolic, Christian, meditative poet to an electric, political, urban poet (Boston Herald)
- Metro Atlanta hits right note for publisher | Gospel Today magazine, the pre-eminent national magazine for black gospel music, has moved to metro Atlanta from Nashville (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Covering communities of faith | Tips for thinking about and covering religion (Robin Sloan, Poynter Institute)
Missions and ministry:
- Blanket ban needles church | Charities are hoping to get around a ban on handing out blankets to homeless people in Nottingham. (BBC)
- Monks are training dogs with spiritual touch | What started as a cottage industry to help pay the bills has become big business, and the monks have earned a nationwide reputation selling training videos and books (Reuters)
- Class fulfills a special need at church | Autistic children present challenge for Sunday school (Chicago Tribune)
- Evangelicals' direction after Graham is critical | The lack of a "next Billy Graham" actually speaks to the growing strength of the movement (William McKenzie, The Dallas Morning News)
- Couple works hard to promote national motto | Life has been good to Frank and Mary Ann Williamson. Good enough, in fact, that the Montgomery couple consider themselves blessed (The Magnolia [Tex.] Potpourri)
Prayer and spirituality:
- Taizé worship embraces silence | Chanting, candles are also part of the service that began in Franc (The Morning Call, Allentown, Penn.)
- The Bible calls us to love human beings in all their fallibility | When the Book of Genesis tells us about love, it plumbs not only the feeling, but its conversion into the daily routine. (William Wolff, The Times, London)
- Making it easier to sack clergy | In one of Dr Williams's first acts since he was confirmed in office last week, he has approved a working party that will examine "the clergy's historic right to freehold" (The Times, London)
- Clergy could lose right to 'job for life' (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- The new funday school | The Gospel According to Harry Potter is just the start as churches woo the Nickelodeon generation (Time)
- Wee Frees face shortage of ministers | A sex scandal and the indifference of the young to their native tongue have created a chronic shortage of Gaelic-speaking Wee Free ministers in the island heartland of the faith and language (The Scotsman)
- Iconoclastic bishop rapped | Theoklitos, Bishop of Ioannina, accused the Church of Greece of commercially exploiting the "paganistic, sick faith" of certain of its members by staging tours of icons and religious relics (Kathimerini, Athens)
- Immigrants flock to Russian Orthodox Church | Next week the Russian Orthodox Church of America will hold its semiannual meeting for the Western Diocese in Seattle (The Seattle Times)
- Bush shouldn't judge faith—Islam or any other one | If this president gets to declare Islam a religion of peace, what's to keep the next one from declaring Islam a religion of war? (David Waters, The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.)
- Former Catholic priests form breakaway church | The Catholic church has exposed the formation of a breakaway church by ex-priests to be financed by the Moonies and warned all Catholic followers to be alert (The Times of Zambia)
- Conflicting reports on conversion | Only three Dalits, not hundreds, really converted to Christianity (ChennaiOnline)
- Earlier: Police Arrest Indian Christians Over Dalit Conversion | Low-caste Indians reject Hinduism, turn to Christianity or Buddhism (Christianity Today, Dec. 6, 2002)
- 22 Christian families convert to Hinduism (The Times of India)
- The radical faith of Philip Berrigan | Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the late Philip Berrigan believed that suffering for one's beliefs was the best way to disarm enemies (Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady, The New York Times)
- Returning to childhood church to learn about a 'moral giant' | Who was this guy Berrigan? (Gregory Kane, The Baltimore Sun)
- Berrigan remembered as friend, protester of war and injustice | Mourners fill church for farewell to fighter in the peace movement (The Baltimore Sun)
Virgin of Guadalupe:
- Predawn procession begins day of honoring Virgin of Guadalupe | The faithful bear the image of Mexico's patron saint from old L.A. cathedral to new, where a Mass kicks off a variety of events (Los Angeles Times)
- In pictures: Virgin of Guadalupe honored (BBC)
- Honoring the Lady of Guadalupe | Thousands pack Mission Dolores in predawn celebration (San Francisco Chronicle)
Other stories of interest:
- Client telegrams sent to hereafter | Internet-based Afterlife Telegrams relies on terminally ill volunteers to carry clients' messages like ghostly carrier pigeons (The Washington Times)
- Oregon Rep. John R. Dellenback, 84, dies | Former head of Peace Corps, Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, and World Vision board member (The Washington Post)
- Corrections officer suspended for discourtesy | But Debra O'Brien says she's a devout Christian who doesn't curse (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)
- Russian city chooses Jesus for its flag | According to the legend, Ivan the Terrible stopped in Penza on a journey through central Russia and promised to present an icon of Jesus on his way back (The Moscow Times)
- 'Unluckiest church in the world' is found | The church was wrecked by two earthquakes, a flood, and a landslide - all of which happened while it was still being built (Ananova)
- Skating priest won Stanley Cup | Father Les Costello, who has died at the age of 74 after a fall during a hockey game, quit the Toronto Maple Leafs to join the priesthood (National Post)
- Mormon excommunication hearing postponed | The Mormon Church has indefinitely postponed a disciplinary hearing for a scholar who had expected to be excommunicated for publicly alleging racism in the Book of Mormon (Associated Press)
- Examining the spiritualists | Author Ira Rifkin looks at the impact and influence that 75 'spiritual innovators' had in the 20th century (The Baltimore Sun)
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