Calvary Chapel says Focus on the Family is inappropriate
KWVE, a California Christian radio station run by Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, has dropped Christian radio's most popular program, Focus on the Family, after 17 years. The broadcasts, hosted by James Dobson, "were not always reflecting the kind of content that fit with our primary purpose," the church board of directors explains on the radio station's website. The letter continues:

It all came to a head with a series of programs Focus broadcast earlier this year. The programs were called, "Women and Sexuality." In our opinion these three programs were not appropriate for our general audience. One of the programs was very verbally graphic concerning marital sex. In a portion of the program one of the women being interviewed declared, "We are not saying that a woman's experiencing of a physical orgasm is not important, but that can't be the total emphasis of the relationship." Dr. Dobson then asked, "But what about the use of vibrators in achieving an orgasm? From the aspect of a godly woman, does the Bible have anything to say about vibrators?"

It should be noted that the broadcasts began with a disclaimer that the content was not appropriate for young children, as Focus on the Family programs often do when discussing sexuality, abortion, or other potentially troubling topics. (But not always — today's broadcast, "A Message to Teens About Sex," doesn't have a warning, but is unlikely to raise any hackles.)

The letter also said, "The purpose of the station is not to promote Psychology as the answer to a person's problems, but to bring people into a deeper walk with God," but it's unclear from the context whether the church opposes Christian psychology — not uncommon among some evangelicals — or just doesn't think it fits with its station format.

Focus on the Family hasn't responded with a press release, but Paul Hetrick, the organization's vice president of media relations, told Charisma News Service that Focus was "shocked and surprised" by the decision.

The "Women and Sexuality" broadcasts, which aired in mid-February, are no longer available for free online, but if you're looking for the answer to Dobson's question, check out Christianity Today sister publication Marriage Partnership. "There is a vast array of possible sexual practices for married couples that are not mentioned at all in Scripture (we can find no reference to Internet pornography, vibrators, or videos)," says a Spring 2001 article by Louis and Melissa McBurney. "So, since we aren't likely to find a definitive answer, the best we can do is find the principles God has given us and apply them to the cultural setting we're living in." Marriage Partnership's "Real Sex" column, written by the McBurneys, is a good place to start.

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Gong Shengliang, other Chinese Christians sentenced to life in prison
As Weblog noted earlier, five leaders of the banned South China Church had their death sentences overturned and were given new trials. Now, instead of being charged for leading an "evil cult," Gong Shengliang was accused of rape and battery — charges that observers say are a fiction. Nevertheless, the court found Gong Shengliang guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. Two other church leaders were sentenced to life for battery, and another two were given 15-year sentences. (Four others who had been convicted earlier on the cult charges were freed completely, but The New York Times quotes relatives saying they "showed evidence of 'brutal mistreatment.'")

"The methods are diversifying away from cult legislation and toward economic and criminal prosecutions as a way of attacking such groups," Xiao Qing, Executive Director of New York-based Human Rights in China, told the Associated Press.

World magazine, sourcing Voice of the Martyrs, says female church members were beaten by Chinese authorities to force them to claim Gong raped them.

Pakistan's Islamic parties gain in election
Pakistani Christians had reasons to celebrate and mourn yesterday's elections. The good news was that it was the first election where they could vote for whoever they wanted to, regardless of the candidate's religion. Earlier, under what many called a "religious apartheid" system, Christians could only vote for Christian candidates — which kept them from being politically influential.

However, the main story coming out of yesterday's elections was not the triumph of Christians, but that of hardline Muslim parties. The New York Times says the vote "could complicate the American-led campaign against terrorism." But so far, Weblog hasn't seen any commentary on what the vote might mean for the war against terrorism in Pakistan itself, as militant Muslims have attacked Christians throughout the country. Keep an eye on Pakistan Christian Post for news related to the election.

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Persecution and violence:

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State Department and religious freedom:

  • A state of denial | If Saudi Arabia has no freedom of religion, and if punishment for those outside the Wahhabi fold includes arrest and credible reports of torture, why has the State Department not designated Saudi Arabia one of its "countries of particular concern"? (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Saudi Arabia faces blacklist | State department considers naming it a "country of particular concern" (UPI)

  • State Department blasted for lauding PA's 'religious tolerance' | Israel and the PA lumped together in a section titled "Israel and the occupied territories" were both lauded for generally respecting freedom of worship. But criticism of Israel took up most of the 15-page section (The Jerusalem Post)

War with Iraq:


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Courts and law:

Judaism and Israel:

  • Unorthodox alliance | Israeli and Jewish interests are better served by keeping a polite distance from the Christian right (Gershom Gorenberg, The Washington Post)

  • Evangelical argument over Israel | What's got so many folks upset is that the evangelicals support Israel for religious reasons. So? (Jonah Goldberg, The Washington Times)

Jerry Falwell:

  • Lights, camera, exploitation | Falwell says he "should have known" 60 Minutes' segment on Christians and Israel would be a hatchet job, but that is no excuse for shoddy, bigoted journalism (World)

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Life ethics:

Toumai skull:

Church life:

  • Survey finds many Christians don't understand worship | "There are many adults who go to church and don't know why they are there," says George Barna (Tribune-Herald, Waco, Texas)

  • Worship goes high-tech | There is a burgeoning use of original drama and multimedia and the tackling of such topics as workplace stress, modern relationships, premarital sex and once-taboo subjects such as homosexuality (Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY)

  • Charting America's religious landscape | The overall increase in religious affiliation did not keep pace with the rate of U.S. population growth (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Getting closer to a credible head count for congregations | There are lies, damn lies, and then there are church statistics (Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Pastor's departure brings national church struggle to local level | A local Methodist pastor's decision to leave his church and start a nondenominational congregation reflects a nationwide struggle over the direction of mainstream Protestant churches (Abilene [Tex.] Reporter-News)

  • Bishop threatens to take over parish | After getting tacit approval in a meeting this week from the Episcopal House of Bishops, a bishop involved in a battle with a Philadelphia priest said he will eventually win, even if it means taking over one of the most historic churches in his diocese (The Washington Times)
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  • House of love | Amy Grant and Vince Gill discuss faith, family and a long-postponed romance. (ABC News)

  • Some listeners seeing 'Red' over new McGraw single | The lyrics of "Red Rag Top" deal with an abortion and its emotional aftermath. (Billboard)

  • Girls of Grace | Point of Grace, an all-female contemporary Christian musical group, started the Girls of Grace conference to teach teenage girls that it's cool to be virgins (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)


  • Personal views of broken homes | Arthur Dong's Family Fundamentals is a clear-eyed, narrowly focused documentary about the painful, unbridgeable divide between three gay and lesbian adults and their religious parents, whether biological or surrogate (The New York Times)

  • Brothers changing movie business | Cloud Ten Pictures plays by a different set of rules making and marketing faith-based films, including this month's release of Left Behind II: Tribulation Force. (Los Angeles Daily News)

Outrage over cartoon:

Harry Potter:

  • Symbol has a ring to it | Harry Potter as Christian symbol? Yes, it's happening. (The Beacon Journal)

  • Churches recruit Harry Potter | A church booklet argues that the Harry Potter books can help illuminate themes such as the battle between good and evil. (The Daily Telegraph)

  • A spirited amen for 'Potter' | Churches Together in Britain and Ireland says the stories of the boy wizard "ask people to look again at the selfish material world and the presence within it of Christian values — truth, love and supremely, selfgiving and sacrifice." (New York Daily News)

Mother Teresa:

Sex abuse cases:

  • Vatican drafts abuse policy response | Several Vatican officials have told reporters that the Holy See may find it difficult to give a formal stamp of approval to the policy because of concern that several of the proposals may conflict with universal church law (Associated Press)

  • Church panel calls for abuse registry | Board releases 52-page final report calling for allegations to be turned over to law enforcement within a day. (The Boston Globe)
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