The abuse of abuse
Militant Hindus in India are taking a page from the Chinese government: if you can't attack someone purely on the basis of religion alone, make up sexual abuse clams against them.
Inside the Jinzhou Prison in Hubei Province, Pastor Gong Shengliang, head of the South China Church, is bleeding internally, has lost his hearing, and is experiencing regular beatings. Chinese officials regularly harassed him simply for leading an illegal church, then created false charges of rape and assault—which all international observers agree are wholly bogus.
In 1999, a Hindu mob attacked the jeep where Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were sleeping. The three were burned alive as the Hindus shouted anti-Christian slogans.
Now 17 men are standing trial for the murders. The proceedings have been marked by several outrageous claims by the defense, but yesterday it took a particularly evil turn. Hemalata Karua, a 32-year-old woman from Machhagar, Keonjhar, testified yesterday that Staines tried to molest her when she and her husband attended an evangelistic "jungle camp" in Manoharpur.
"He entered and asked me to close my eyes and meditate," Karua said. "As I was meditating he laid his hands on my body, I protested but he continued to persuade me, saying physical relationship with him would benefit me." When she screamed, Karua said, Graham fled. Twenty days later, she claims, Staines's wife, Gladys (who is still working in the country) approached her to express regret and to ask that she not tell anyone about the incident.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Gladys Staines said the claim was "completely baseless and false."
"Mr. Graham Staines was a morally upright man," she said. "He was totally against sexual relations outside of marriage and he was careful in his actions so he would not be falsely be accused of such. He never visited women in their home as accused by Ms Hemalata Karua. I have never met Hemalata Karua and neither Mr Staines nor myself have visited her village or tried to convert her to Christianity as she has alleged."
The Indian woman's testimony is suspect on several other fronts as well. She claims that Staines told her to convert to Christianity "to avoid financial difficulty" (though she says she was never offered money to convert) and that Staines ordered her to eat meat as part of her conversion process. Both of these claims are clearly bogus, but they'll surely enrage militant Hindus who read them.
Let's be clear: there is plenty of abuse going on in India—but Christians are the target, not the perpetrators. "At least 50 instances of attacks or atrocities against Christians have been reported in Karnataka in the past six months, and the 'relentless persecution of Christians' has assumed alarming proportions," The Hindu, a national Indian newspaper, reports today. (The All India Christian Council website has more information on these attacks.)
Likewise, Christians in Gujarat are being besieged by so-called "surveys," despite promises from the government to keep such harassments at bay.
India is becoming one place in the world where Christians and Muslims can agree on issues of religious freedom. An Associated Press report notes that both faiths agree that militant Hindus are terrorizing them, and that the National Minorities Commission isn't doing much about it.
Give us back our atheist pastor, says church
Remember Thorkild Grosboel, the Lutheran pastor from Taarbaek, Denmark, who was suspended for saying in a magazine interview, "There is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection"?
The story gets even stranger—now hundreds of his church members have gathered to protest his suspension. "If there is no place for our pastor in this Church, then there is no place for many of us either," the head of the parish council, Lars Heilesen, said, according the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Another group, which the ABC only identifies as "fighting corruption and abuse of power in Denmark" has filed a police complaint against the Lutheran Church, saying it violated the Danish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights in suspending Grosboel.
But the saddest news of all comes from a study in the religious newspaper Kristelig Dagbladet, which says that 90 percent of Danish pastors agree that God does not exist. Weblog has its doubts about the research methodology, but given how wacky this story is becoming, it's not wholly out of the question.
Persecution and violence:
- Death toll rises to 15 in northeast religious riots | Violence first broke out in the predominantly Christian town of Numan on Sunday after an itinerant Hausa-speaking Muslim trader with origins in the northwest, stabbed a Christian woman to death over a dispute. Now the violence is spreading (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)
- Pastor wanted to find abuses | A St. Paul pastor detained last week in Laos wanted to investigate and draw world attention to religious persecution of his fellow Hmong in their native land (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
Politics and law:
- Evangelical Christians lobby for AIDS funds | Groups endorse Bush's $15 billion program (The Washington Post)
- Churches lobby White House, Congress on poverty issues | As the Bush administration scrambled to restore to its $350 billion tax cut package a provision whose elimination excluded nearly 12 million low-income children from an increased child tax credit, church leaders gathered in Washington to pressure the president and Congress to do more to help the nation's poorest families (Religion News Service)
- Candidate's faith not determining factor for voters | President Bush and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman are open about the influence of their religious faith on their politics. But that faith isn't likely to make much of a difference to voters, a new poll found (The Hartford Courant, Conn.)
- Spam fight unites liberal, conservatives | Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York liberal who supports gay and abortion rights, is teaming up with an unlikely ally as he takes on annoying spam e-mails—the Christian Coalition. (Associated Press)
- IGC to carry on Christianity debate | The wording of the preamble for the EU's Constitution, has been already changed twice, and is still causing hot debate among several members of the European Convention—mainly due to the question of religion (EU Observer)
- Woman claims she was booted from bus for distributing Bible | Gail Anderson's attorneys say policy banning distribution of literature on Milwaukee County buses gives drivers unfettered discretion to determine what may be handed out (Associated Press)
- Antiabortion group, college settle dispute over free-speech policy | University of Houston agrees to pay $93,000 in attorney's fees, rewrite its campus protest guidelines (Associated Press)
- Federal court weighs religion in public schools | An elementary school teacher in Sioux Falls, S.D., sues the local school district for the right to lead an after-school evangelical club on school grounds. School officials say allowing the move would make it appear that the school district favors a particular religion. The case is now before a federal court (All Things Considered, NPR)
- Utah ACLU: Suit possible over sidewalk | The American Civil Liberties Union in Utah says people are volunteering to sue the city over a decision to give up a sidewalk area through the Mormon church-owned downtown plaza in exchange for a community center in a low-income area (Associated Press)
- Also: Salt Lake council OKs deal to give up plaza easement | If it survives expected court challenge, plan would allow Mormon church to control access, behavior on downtown block of Main Street (Associated Press)
More church and state issues:
- Belarus, Orthodox Church sign deal boosting church's standing | Coming on the heels of what many critics call the most restrictive religion law in Europe, the agreement appeared intended to bring the nation's majority church and the state closer together while driving other denominations to the margins - if not underground (The Russia Journal)
- Cathedral or Communist mausoleum? Romanians wrangle | Plans by the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate to build a huge cathedral in place of a mausoleum have ignited the country's hottest church-versus-state debate since the 1989 collapse of communism (Reuters)
- Protesters gather to save historic cross | Mostly Christian group says the 91-year-old religious symbol plays a role in Ventura's culture and should remain on public land (Los Angeles Times)
- Conservative asserts views would stay off the bench | William H. Pryor, Alabama's attorney general, said that his personal views would have no bearing on his performance if he is confirmed as a federal judge (The New York Times)
- Iraq's Christians uncertain about their future | Community is divided in its stance on Saddam Hussein (Radio Free Europe)
- Evangelists say Iraqis embrace message | Some say missionaries must just help needy; they say people have right to hear of Jesus (Austin American-Statesman, Tex.)
Interfaith relations, evangelism, and other religions:
- 'Terror threats' put Jews on street | A Manhattan church that rented space to a messianic synagogue tossed its tenants into the street and locked the doors yesterday in a tenant-landlord dispute allegedly prompted by terroristic threats against the Jewish worshippers (New York Post)
- Also: Jews for Jesus barred from rented N.Y. church | Cited terrorist threats delivered by an "Arab-looking man" (The Jerusalem Post)
- Update: Outrage over Gotham 'synagogue' | Messianic Jews aren't Jews (Michael S. Miller, New York Post)
- Preaching to the converted | An increasing number of people around the world are changing their religion—but finding that such a decision has a major impact on their relationship with their family and friends (BBC)
- Courses attract Christians | Educational courses about Judaism were, for some, a prime attraction at a massive Christian gathering in Germany (Forward)
- Common ground with Muslims? | In this shrinking world, where Jews, Christians and Muslims intermingle more than ever before in history, neither the right-wing nor the left-wing approach to dialoguing with Islam seems to hold much promise anymore (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)
- What is the role of Christian missionaries in Muslim nations? | Some Christian groups, such as Catholic Relief and World Vision, simply offer humanitarian help. Others, such as Samaritan's Purse run by Franklin Graham, provide help as an avenue to share their faith. (Bob Thomas, Daily Journal, Kankakee, Ill.)
- Giving God a break | The president should join the evangelical leadership in repudiating remarks by zealots who preach contempt for other religions (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)
- Somali who switched to Christianity: 'Christ just made sense' | Ahmed Mohamed, 38, is one of a few Somalis in Minnesota—and the world for that matter—who have converted from Islam to Christianity (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- A debating society | If we can't have open and honest debate here, why expect it elsewhere? (Joel Belz, World)
- Keep taboo on conversion to Christianity | What we are dealing with here is an inborn emotional trigger (David Klinghoffer, Forward)
- 'The Lord spoke to me' | The Rev. Billy Graham offered thousands of Oklahomans a chance to experience the peace of God as he delivered his first sermon Thursday night during Mission Oklahoma City. (The Oklahoman)
- Also: Crowd arrives hours early | The line wound around the building, and covered at least two city blocks (The Oklahoman)
- Church ministers to community spirit | The McDonald's restaurant on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue was filled with gospel music as church members held "Spirit Night" (The Washington Post)
Sex and marriage:
- Sparks fly in Canada Parliament over gay marriages | After an emotional debate, the House of Commons justice committee narrowly backed the decision the court made on Tuesday, under which gay couples have already tied the knot (Reuters)
- Also: Oh, Canada | Christians must not fall into the sentiment trap, nor can we simply quote Scripture to deny homosexual unions. We need well-reasoned arguments based on a biblical worldview (Charles Colson, Breakpoint)
- The 'nontraditional family' is not served by statements that everything is okay | Divorce, cohabitation and single parenthood are not equal to the family maintained by a loving father and mother, married and living together (Nancy Cochran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Sexually active girls' lament: Why didn't I wait? | Savvy girls know about avoiding pregnancy and diseases, but many have no idea of the emotional minefield they are stumbling into (Laura Vanderkam, USA Today)
- Blessing stirs talk of crisis | Orthodox Anglicans are using the "C" word again—crisis—when talking about their church (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)
- Also: Bishops plan to vote against gay priest | Anglican community fears rift, division (Houston Chronicle)
- Also: Episcopal bishop backs gay's election | The leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma said he will support the election of the church's first openly gay bishop (The Oklahoman)
- Bishops urged to prevent gay canon's consecration | Church of England Evangelical Council will write to all the Church's bishops today, warning them of "far-reaching consequences for the unity of the Anglican Church, both locally and further afield" (The Times, London)
- Also: 'Gay' bishop is resolute in face of calls for resignation | The new Bishop of Reading is coming under increasing pressure to quit the job——even before he carries out his first engagement (icBerkshire.co.uk)
- White House sends mixed signals to gay community | On the one hand, the President talks about family values and pushes a conservative agenda; on the other, leading Republicans and White House officials have reached out to homosexual groups. Is this a case of deft political balancing? Or is it something that ultimately will alienate both sides? (All Things Considered, NPR)
- Gay Boy Scout ousted by Pa. council | Philadelphia's Boy Scout council, which defied the national organization last month by promising not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, has ousted a Scout for publicly announcing he is gay (Associated Press)
- God's houses | People of many different faiths refer to their churches or temples as the house of God. Visitors from another planet, taking this literally, but noticing that God is seldom visible in his designated dwellings, might well attempt to discover his nature from an examination of these dwellings. It would soon be clear to them that the divinity takes many different forms (Alison Lurie, New York Review of Books)
- Southern Baptist membership lags in state | Conservative church to step up recruitment (The Arizona Republic)
- Congregation divided over design—but not the divine | Some parishioners at a Catholic church in North Hollywood fear that remodeling plans could be too extreme for their taste (Los Angeles Times)
- Never on a Sunday ends in the islands | Council repeals blanket ban on sabbath entertainment (The Herald, Glasgow, Scotland)
- Also: Sabbath ban decision delayed | Western Isles Council has delayed a decision on whether to scrap a ban on Sunday public entertainments licences (BBC)
- Scottish church backs female bishops | The first female Anglican bishop in Britain and Ireland could be in place as early as next year after a landmark vote by bishops in Scotland (BBC)
- Also: Church votes for women bishops | Episcopalians shatter the 'stained-glass ceiling' (The Herald, Glasgow, Scotland)
- Also: Episcopal Church opens door to women bishops (The Scotsman)
History and artifacts:
- Support for authenticity of book of Matthew comes from an unlikely place | Buried in ancient texts of Jewish historical works are fragments of evidence that appear to show the first book of the New Testament actually was written by one of Jesus' apostles (Kansas City Star)
- Wesley at 300 | Anniversary of founder's birth gives Methodists cause to reflect (The Dallas Morning News)
- Skeleton holds key to Holy Roman cathedral | The discovery of a dusty skeleton has revealed one of the most important churches in medieval history: a cathedral built by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great in the 10th century (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- A relic of the Age of Reason | John Wesley's chapel in London is an atmospheric reminder of a momentous period of history (Anne Campbell-Dixon, The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Rowers recreate saintly voyage | A team of rowers is to begin a sea voyage from Ireland to Scotland along the route taken by Saint Columba in the sixth century (BBC)
- 'Missing link' of evolution found in Africa | Scientists say Ethiopia skulls push back the origins of our species by at least 30,000 years and filling a missing link in evolutionary history (The Times, London)
- Sharp-eyed dad turns in daughter in theft from church | When 20-year-old Karyn Grubbs' father saw a tarp-covered stash of electronic equipment in the back of his daughter's pickup Friday, he thought the stuff looked a lot like equipment he had sold to a Canby church (The Oregonian)
- Woman faces charges for $100,000 theft from church | Church also victim of recent burglary (KMBC, Kansas City)
- Missing abortion foe faces arrest on sex charges | John Burt wanted on sexual misconduct charges (Pensacola News Journal)
- Is bomber suspect Christian terrorist? | It's clear that we don't have the knee-jerk urge to call Rudolph a Christian terrorist because we count Christians among friends, families and acquaintances (O. Richardo Pimentel, The Arizona Republic)
- Nun is preparing for prison after breaking into nuclear-missile site | Sister Jackie Hudson of Bremerton and two other nuns have been found guilty of damaging government property in a symbolic act against nuclear weapons (The Seattle Times)
- A Harvard divinity student seeks Russian justice | Smuggling charges provoke outcry from legislators (The Boston Globe)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Religion Today: Bishops reluctant to address abuse | America's Roman Catholic bishops will meet next week, and a glance at the agenda shows the prelates are in no mood to talk publicly about the problem still tormenting the church—molesters in the priesthood (Associated Press)
- Bishops uneasy on whom to protect | On the eve of their semiannual meeting, many bishops appear torn by their promises to resolve the sex abuse scandal with transparency (The New York Times)
- L.A. cardinal says he's aiding abuse study | Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said yesterday he is cooperating with a study of the extent of child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church even though he believes the research is "deficient in its assumptions, its design and its methodology" (The Washington Post)
- Hundreds defend Commandments | But after about five hours, deputies moved in and cleared the demonstrators out, and the massive tablets were hauled away by a crane (The Cincinnati Post)
- Also: Ten Commandments removed from Ohio school (Associated Press)
- Rules, but with a dash of mysticism | The Ten Commandments can be seen as a covenant with God and as rules for living a healthy life (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)
- Christiansburg Bible College to close doors after next year | L.I.F.E. Bible College East will graduate seniors (The Roanoke Times)
- B.C. school board to decide if same-sex books can be used in curriculum | After almost seven years of controversy and a bitter legal fight, parents in suburban Surrey will have to wait until Thursday at least to learn if their kids can read about same-sex parents in school (Canadian Press)
- Lutheran synods to salute common root | Banquet to celebrate 100 years of education (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Church volunteers to pay property tax | Money to show support for public education (Tuscaloosa News, Ala.)
- Court: Prep sports must consider religion | Oregon education officials must reasonably accommodate the religious practices of students when scheduling prep sports tournaments, the state appeals court said Thursday (Associated Press)
- First witness called in Grace United trial over proposed day care | Church says city is discriminating against religion, but city says issue is day care, not religion (Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)
- Indonesia's religious schools row | The National Education Systems Bill contains a clause about the teaching of religion in schools has been criticized by opponents who say it discriminates against and interferes in Christian schools (BBC)
- Forgive, Pope says, but Croats find it hard | Pope John Paul II, on the third day of a five-day visit to Croatia, spoke of forgiveness during a lengthy outdoor Mass on Saturday (The New York Times)
- Orange County Vietnamese hail priest's ordination | Dominic Luong becomes America's first Catholic bishop born in Vietnam (Orange County Register)
Money and business:
- Painting: Let there be light | Thomas Kinkade is one of the most commercially successful artists in the world (Financial Times)
- Ghana Airways seeks divine intervention | The staff of Ghana Airways have now turned to God to keep the airline in the skies after trying every management trick in the MBA curriculum (BBC)
- Culture of consumption | Many experts believe Bush's call to spend might be sounding increasingly hollow. With the US boldly deciding the fate of nations overseas, and assuming record levels of debt at home, the temperament of the nation, say experts, seems more suited to a message of fiscal prudence (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Zion's Christian soldiers | For Christians who interpret the bible in a literal fashion, Israel has a crucial role to play in bringing on the Second Coming of Christ (60 Minutes)
- Apocalypse soon | Evangelicals in the US believe there is a biblical basis for opposing the Middle East road map (Giles Fraser, The Guardian, London)
- Evangelicals adopt settlers | A prominent evangelical Christian organization is urging its members to pour money into West Bank settlements in its newest fundraising drive, "Adopt-a-Settler" (Forward)
- Road map testing their faith | Religious leaders decry plan (Newsday, New York)
- Israeli poor to get Christian charity | International Fellowship of Christians and Jews will donate NIS 12,475,830 (about US$2,822,600) (The Jerusalem Post)
- Also: U.S. Christians donate NIS 12.5 million for Israel's social needs (Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv)
End Times Prophecy:
- Apocalypse now | Armageddon is hot in America (The Guardian, London)
- End Times | Some Christian Zionists believe the fulfillment of biblical prophecy is being threatened by the Bush administration's road map for peace in the Middle East (Morning Edition, NPR)
What Would Jesus Drive? campaign:
- 'WWJD' question links love of neighbor, fuel economy | Jim Ball takes the message on tour (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Also: Blessed are the fuel-efficient | What Would Jesus Drive campaigners hit the road (Detroit Free Press)
- Also: Evangelist is spreading word of fuel efficiency | Jim Ball, in Charlotte on long journey, sees car as moral choice (The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)
Other stories of interest:
- Messages from above | Area church billboards offer thoughtful humor, sobering counsel (The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)
- Why America outpaces Europe (Clue: the God factor) | The world is witnessing the stunning triumph of secularization in Western Europe—the simultaneous decline of both Protestantism and its work ethic (Niall Ferguson, The New York Times)
- Religion news in brief | Southern Baptist International Mission Board to cut 61 jobs, Hindus persecuting Christians and Muslims, Federal appeals court hears Nebraska school prayer case, and other stories (Associated Press)
- The end of the road for 'devil's highway' | Whatever the validity of the fears, Route 666 is no more (The New York Times)
- Religion in the News: Father Divine | Since his death, his widow and other believers have done their best to preserve Father Divine's presence and sustain the religious movement he founded in New York during the first half of the 20th century (Associated Press)
- What it's like to speak in tongues | As the strange sounds rolled off my tongue, they sounded like mindless babble. So why did I feel a sense of inexplicable peace? (J. Lee Grady, Beliefnet)
- New shock potential as sober Hirst turns to God | In a series of sculptures inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, which will be seen in London this autumn, Damien Hirst will depict Jesus and the apostles as 13 ping pong balls bobbing on spurting fountains of red wine. A washing bowl to bathe Christ's feet will sit beneath their Formica table (The Guardian, London)
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