Bob Jones University: Don't call us fundamentalists
In his latest "President's Corner," Bob Jones University head Bob Jones III says the word fundamentalist has become co-opted. "Bob Jones University is unashamedly Fundamentalist, but the term is beginning to carry an onerous connotation with the world at large because of the media's penchant for lumping Christian Fundamentalists in the same heap as Islamic Fundamentalists," he writes.

Instead of Fundamentalism defining us as steadfast Bible believers, the term now carries overtones of radicalism and terrorism. Fundamentalist evokes fear, suspicion, and other repulsive connotations in its current usage. Many of us who are separated unto Christ feel it is appropriate to find a new label that will define us more positively and appropriately. It is too early in the process to know what term may ultimately be embraced by the majority, but I like Preservationist.

This may prove to be an important split. To quickly sum up (and oversimplify) the last 125 years or so of conservative Christianity: battles over biblical inerrancy and other important theological flashpoints formed a split between "Modernists" and "Fundamentalists." This latter group was named largely after the publication of The Fundamentals, a series of 12 booklets published between 1910 and 1915 that outlined core conservative doctrines. After World War II, leaders like Billy Graham still wanted to affirm these doctrines, but believed Christian fundamentalism had become too isolationist. In a recent Christian History profile of Graham, biographer William Martin wrote,

The enduring break with hard-line fundamentalism came in 1957, when, after accepting an invitation from the Protestant Council of New York to hold a crusade in Madison Square Garden, Graham announced, "I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ, if there are no strings attached to my message. … The one badge of Christian discipleship is not orthodoxy but love. Christians are not limited to any church. The only question is: are you committed to Christ?"

Fundamentalists attacked Graham as assisting liberals, and the split has never really healed. This, of course, is a very quick summary. For more, check out Christian History's issue on early fundamentalism and Joel Carpenter's Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (CT review | purchase). In fairness, Jones paints a slightly different history:

Until the late 1940s, the strongest Bible believing Christians distinguished themselves from religious liberals by the term Evangelicals. When the strongest Evangelical group of the day, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), slowly began a leftward turn, which has accelerated unto the present day, those who wished to be more steadfast and less ecumenical began identifying themselves as Fundamentalists.
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In any case, since the fundamentalist-evangelical split, fundamentalists like Jones have tended to wear the label with pride. "In recent years," says the Associated Press Stylebook, "fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians. In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the work to itself." Until now, Bob Jones University was one of those. But now with the most prominent of the fundamentalist institutions seeking to abandon the term (there are still churches that wear the label with pride, but few institutions remain willing to do so), it may be time to retire the word for good.

Maundy Tuesday?
Unless you have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, you won't be able to read its fascinating piece on changing Holy Week schedules. "Call it flexible praying," writes Nancy Ann Jeffrey.

With spring's main religious celebrations coming up, a small but growing number of churches and synagogues are taking the unusual tack of rejiggering worship schedules for busy congregants. They're moving the pre-Easter "Maundy" service from the traditional Thursday to Tuesday (for less-hectic Easter weekends), holding Passover seders on the obscure third and fourth nights of the holiday week, and in some cases closing their doors on Sunday. The United Methodist Church alone says 30% of its 35,000 U.S. congregations now celebrate some part of the Easter service at an untraditional time, double the number in 1997.

Traditionalists—actually, lots of folks—think it's crazy. "This is just playing fast and loose with the Christian calendar," says Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) spokesman Jerry Van Marter, who has never exactly been known as Mr. Traditional Values. "Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. Why … would you have it on Tuesday?"

Not St. Patrick
Sure, make the interesting religion article unavailable, but run an incorrect one for free. The Wall Street Journal does offer "The real St. Patrick" by Julia Vitullo-Martin on its free site, but don't bother. In an effort to reclaim St. Patrick's Day from the drunken revelers, Vitullo-Martin writes that the former slave "borrowed the Druid shamrock to explain the Trinity and approved of bonfires, lit by the Irish in homage to their gods, in Easter celebrations. He created the Celtic cross by centering a pagan sun on a Christian cross." Uh, no, no, no, and no.

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Life ethics:


  • Bad faith | In his NRB speech, Ashcroft encapsulated everything that is admirable, and everything that is awful, about the Bush administration's understanding of religion in the United States (Peter Beinart, The New Republic)

  • Helms pow wows with celebrity set over Africa's AIDS epidemic | Senator buddies with Chris Tucker, Bono (Fox News)

  • Lutheran leader says Bush should create 'axis of love' | Lutheran World Federation bishop criticizes attempt "to divide the world so easily into good and bad guys." (Religion News Service)

  • Blair's faith much misunderstood | Prime Minister's theology is liberal, ecumenical and centered on the historical reality of the person of Jesus rather than the literal truth of the Old Testament. (John Rentoul, The London Independent)

  • Pickering's nomination derailed | Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination 10-9 in three party-line votes after the most bitter, partisan Senate fight since the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft. (The Washington Times)

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Church & state:



Sex & marriage:

  • Scouts lose United Way funds over gay ban | At least 39 United Way affiliates around the country have stopped direct community funding of the Boy Scouts to protest the Scouts' ban on homosexual leaders (The Washington Times)

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Priest, parishioner shot in Long Island:


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Templeton Prize winner

Missions & ministry:

  • Star Trek chaplains? | If humans set out to colonize the universe, what will happen to their faith? (UPI)

  • Finding the way | Little has been said of the gargantuan leaps the "Lost Boys of Sudan" have made from lives as children of primitive cattle herders to 21st-century residents of the world's most powerful city. (The Washington Times)

  • Students take faith to new level | Teens look for deeper relationship with God (News-Press, Ft. Myers, Fla.)


Church life:

  • Mexican bishop plans biggest Mass | The idea is to pave over a dry lake bed, bus in 5 million people and hold the open-air Mass on July 30 — the middle of thunderstorm season. (Associated Press)

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  • Don't insult Mother Teresa, say Christians | Christians in Calcutta are begging the mayor not to rename a street housing nightclubs, bars and pubs after Mother Teresa. (Ananova)

  • Thomas Kinkade: Profit of light | Besides the publication of his first novel and the recent opening of a housing complex whose $400,000-plus homes were "inspired" by his art, Kinkade has plans to take on the Goliaths of his métier. (USA Today)

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Pop culture:

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