Kristof to evangelicals: Stop caricaturing Islam as violent
Remember New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof? He praised evangelicals as "the new internationalists" in a May 21 piece. In yesterday's Times, however, Kristof takes aim at evangelicals—specifically Paul Weyrich, Franklin Graham, and Jerry Vines—for "bigotry" against Islam.

"It's a cheap shot for us to scold Arabs for acquiescing in religious hatred unless we try vigorously to uproot our own religious bigotry," he said. "If we want Saudi princes to confront their society's hate-mongers, our own leaders should confront ours."

In fact, Kristof says, Christians should recognize what's so great about Islam:

If Islam were really just the caricature that it is often reduced to, then how would it be so appealing as to become the world's fastest-growing religion? Islam already has 1.3 billion adherents and is spreading rapidly, particularly in Africa, partly because it also has admirable qualities that anyone who has lived in the Muslim world observes: a profound egalitarianism and a lack of hierarchy that confer dignity and self-respect among believers; greater hospitality than in other societies; an institutionalized system of charity, zakat, to provide for the poor. Many West Africans, for example, see Christianity as corrupt and hierarchical and flock to Islam, which they view as democratic and inclusive.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, a 20-year-old Aliyu Ibrahim is asking an Islamic court for a death sentence because he blasphemed against the prophet Muhammad (not only is that the official sentence for blasphemy where he lives, but Ibrahim says he can't live with himself now). And the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera says Muslim militants planned to attack the Vatican, but called off the offensive two months before last year's terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Pastors arrested for beating 11-year-old
Two pastors of Capitol City Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, were arrested Tuesday for allegedly beating an 11-year-old at a summer camp for Spanish speaking children. According to police, 22-year-old pastor Joshua Thompson beat Louie Guerrero for an hour. Joshua's twin brother, Caleb, held the child down, though Guerrero was permitted a bathroom break. Guerrero went into the intensive care for five days. His kidneys failed, and he required a blood transfusion. The reason for the beating? Guerrero cheated on a Bible quiz.

"He gets me angry, so angry because he didn't have no right to hold him down, and the other one to beat him," the child's mother told News 8 Austin (video available). "They don't have a heart."

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The boys' father, Hank Thompson, is pastor of the independent fundamentalist Capitol City Baptist Church, which has 300 members. "I believe they are sorry with all their hearts that they ever did it too, thinking they were doing good," he said (video). "They will pay the price they have to pay with dignity and with respect to the law, but I don't believe we're guilty in any major manner. I believe, I think what they are being accused of, when the truth comes out, my boys will be exonerated."

They face a life sentence.

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Politics and religion:
  • For Catholics, a video Bush must suffice | Does President Bush like to be seen with leaders of religious charities? Is the pope Catholic? (The Washington Post)
  • Ashcroft's faith, persona inspire split sentiments | Attorney general draws on religion, upbringing to guide his political life (The Baltimore Sun)
  • Evolution of words that aren't there | How did the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment, barring Congress from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," become equated with language that appears nowhere in the Constitution: "separation of church and state"? (The New York Times)
  • Religion and politics are an odd mix | Within the confines of a single generation, something bitter, insidious, and corrosively divisive has effectively vanished from political life in Australia: overt religious bigotry (Norman Abjorenson, The Canberra Times, Australia)
  • Christian party targets Labor seats | Christian People's Alliance, which models itself on Christian-based parties in Europe, claims to combine pro-family and anti-abortion policies with a social justice agenda (The Times, London)
Life ethics:
  • Abortion access to be made easier | Abortion pill to be made available at some British family planning centers (BBC)
  • Also: Abortion plans 'irresponsible' | Pro-life campaigners have accused the government of increasing pressure on women to have abortions (BBC)
  • Abortion foes get liberal help | Actor-activist Martin Sheen, Martin Luther King III's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, anti-war activist Kathy Kelly, and the usual liberal suspects are lobbying the U.S. Supreme Court on the next big abortion case (Chicago Sun-Times)
Christian pop culture:
  • 'Greatest story that will happen' | The 10th book in the Left Behind series, "The Remnant," was released July 2. Now No. 3 on the sales rankings with a printing run of 2.75 million, it describes how newly converted Israeli Christians take refuge in the Jordanian desert fortress of Petra (The Washington Times)
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