Ten missing as mudslides sweep through church camp
This fall's California fires are still claiming victims. The devastation coupled with yesterday's rains led to horrific mudslides in San Bernardino County yesterday, trapping and sweeping away campers at the Greek Orthodox Saint Sophia Camp in Waterman Canyon. (The Orthodox don't celebrate Christmas until January 6.)

As of late yesterday, fourteen campers had been rescued, but ten others (and perhaps more) are reported missing. Of the 14, four required treatment and were released from St. Bernadine Medical Center in San Bernardino.

"They were obviously very shaken up," hospital spokeswoman Kimberly VandenBosch told reporters. "One man came in with a little child and said he had just watched his wife and little daughter wash away. … Obviously, to see a wall of mud and water come at them was unlike anything they had ever experienced."

One of the campers "was trapped up to his waist in debris and we had to use chain saws to get him out," Tracy Martinez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, told the Los Angeles Times.

"There are people of all ages still missing," San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Peter Brierty said. "It will be a horrible tragedy if these people can't be found."

But the rescue itself is having trouble, as the mudslides have blocked bridges and other ways to the church camp. "We can't get into these areas either with either mechanical equipment rescue vehicles, fire engines and even on foot it's extremely difficult, extremely treacherous terrain," San Bernardino County Fire Marshall Peter Brierty said on the CBS Early Show today. He told the Times, "It's extremely difficult terrain. People are sinking in mud up to their hips. But we are going to keep searching."

Dean: I'm religious, too!
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says he's going to start talking more about his belief in Jesus as he campaigns in the South, The Boston Globe reported yesterday. Here's how he summarizes his view of Jesus: "''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind. He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything … He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''

Well, he's not running for theologian-in-chief, but many people to whom Dean is trying to appeal by talking about his faith may be put off by "extraordinary example" language—especially on Christmas. After all, yesterday was about Jesus as God incarnate.

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He seemed to reiterate his views that Jesus was not God at a black church in Columbia, South Carolina, where he also suggested very strongly that the church needs to stay out of politics. The Globe reports him saying at that service, "In this house of the Lord, we know that the power rests in God's hands and in Jesus' hands for helping us. But the power also is on this, God's earth—Remember Jesus said, 'Render unto God those things that are God's but unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's.'" (The Globe says it's "a reference to Jesus's admonition that the secular and religious remain separate." Oh is that what Jesus preached? Phew: Weblog's sure glad that Jesus doesn't want our religious views to have secular implications. That makes things a whole lot easier.)

There's a reason Dean may be unclear about his theology. "'My father used to tell us how much strength he got from religion, but we didn't have Bible readings," he said. "There are traditions where people do that. We didn't."

Dean, whose wife and children are Jewish, left the Episcopal Church USA in the early 1980s when his parish opposed transferring private property to a bike path. ''Churches are institutions that are about doing the work of God on earth, and I didn't think [opposing the bike path] was very godlike and thought it was hypocritical of me to be a member of such an institution,'' he said. (Conservative pundits, including Mark Steyn, Jay Nordlinger, and James Taranto, mocked Dean when he talked about his Episcopal exit on CNN earlier this month.)

Dean now considers himself a Congregationalist because "there is almost no centralized authority structure," but doesn't regularly attend services.

Earlier this week, one of Dean's Democratic opponents, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, made comments seen as critical of Dean's religious views.

"I know that some people believe that faith has no place in the so-called public square," he said. "They forget that the constitutional separation of church and state, which I strongly support, promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Some people forget that faith was central to our founding and remains central to our national purpose and our individual lives."

John Stott suffers mild stroke
A press release from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship brings sad news about one of the great theologians of our day: "Dr. John Stott was admitted to the hospital four nights before Christmas. While there, his MRI scan revealed that he had had a minor stroke, which is now being investigated and evaluated. The doctors are optimistic for a reasonable recovery. He is now convalescing with relatives." Stott was due to address students at IVCF's Urbana conference this week.

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The Grand Canyon as metaphor
The debate over Scripture references at the Grand Canyon continues. Liberal pundits aren't just complaining about the National Park Service's reinstallation of three plaques that quote Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 at the canyon. They're also furious that a creationist volume, The Grand Canyon: a Different View, is now available at the Grand Canyon bookstore. Add to that the debate over a video at the Lincoln Memorial (which is also overseen by the Park Service) that suggests that the 16th president would have sided with homosexual and abortion activists, and the NPS is becoming a major battleground in the culture wars.

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