Weblog will return after the New Year. Have a merry Christmas.

Christmas in Iraq | Christmas in Bethlehem | U.S. Christmas | Christmas in Britain | Christmas elsewhere | Christmas @ church | December dilemma | December dilemma, opinion | Saying 'merry Christmas' | Public displays of religious images | Religion & education | Church & state | Roy Moore | Religious freedom | Sikhs storm theater to prevent 'offensive play' | War & terrorism | Sudan | Religion & politics | Same-sex marriage | Canadian same-sex marriage | Catholicism | Church life | Missions & ministry | Spirituality | Health | Film | Music | History | More articles of interest

Christmas in Iraq:

  • Baghdad Christians celebrate birth of Christ in fear of attacks | This year, Baghdad's Christians are celebrating the season of peace and goodwill discreetly and in fear of further attacks on their churches, in a climate of rising violence in war-torn Iraq (Agence France-Presse)

  • A Christian exodus? | Bigotry and violent Muslim fanatics have forced many Christians to flee the region of Jesus' birth -- but the world has barely noticed, writes Salim Mansur (Salim Mansur, Toronto Sun)

  • Iraqi Christians pray for peace on sombre Christmas | Iraqi Christians won't be celebrating Christmas this year. Midnight mass, the centerpiece of Christmas festivities in Iraq, has been canceled because of night-time curfews. (Reuters)

  • Iraqi Christians | This Christmas season … at least for Christians in Iraq who celebrate the birth of Christ, it would appear the terrorists are winning. (WWTI, NY)

Christmas in Bethlehem:

  • A sad new carol: Go ye from Bethlehem | In the town where Christians believe Christ was born, the Christians are leaving. Four years of violence, an economic free fall and the Israeli separation barrier have all contributed to the hardships facing Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, one of the largest concentrations of Christians in the region. (New York Times)

  • Christian exodus from Holy Land | Bethlehem's fate highlights dwindling community's woes (MSNBC)

  • Searching for true peace in Bethlehem | This Christmas when the Christian world raises its voices in joyful choruses to the song, O, Little Town of Bethlehem, I will remain silent in protest over the Israeli army's siege of the Town of Bethlehem and its sad reflection upon the Christmas message, "Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men." (Doris Cadigan, MetroWest Daily News, Mass.)

  • Holiday in the Holy Land | In the Biblical town of Christ's birth, there seems a fragile peace these days. But it is an artificial one, some local travelers have discovered. (Eldrige North Scott Press, Iowa)

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U.S. Christmas:

  • The holiday of Christmas spans the world | Many Christmas celebrations and traditions observed today came from other countries but have continued here for so long that we tend to forget we have not originated them ourselves. Since this nation is a "melting-pot," we have contrived to blend various traditions and religious ceremonies into our national or regional observance. (Sierra Star, Calif.)

  • Stories, legends surround St. Nicholas | The Santa Claus whose rosy-cheeked face shines forth on Christmas cards, ornaments and advertisements is primarily an invention of Dutch Protestants but the true story of Santa Claus began with a fourth-century Greek bishop by the name of Nicholas who lived in what is now Turkey. (Elkhart Truth, Ind.)

  • An atheist's faith in Christmas | Writer Christina Adams shares her thoughts on how she and others who don't believe in God still find spiritual value in Christmas. (NPR)

  • Born for the part | If you yank on the beard of this portrayer of Santa Claus, you'll get a resounding yelp. But, the Rev. Richard Burgess, interim pastor of the Arnold United Methodist Church, said he really doesn't mind if children give the hair a tug because he loves playing Jolly Old St. Nick and seeing the joy on their faces. (North Platte Telegraph, Neb.)

  • Christmas past and presents | Finding the perfect gift has long been a national pastime. But the celebration of Christmas, and the culture of gift giving that accompanies the holiday, have changed significantly in America over the years. (William B. Waits, New York Times)

  • Recommit to Christmas' reversal of fortune | Reflective Christians come face to face with an unhappy choice each year come Christmastime. Will they line up on the side of the early Puritans, who railed against the excessive self-indulgence of the season? Or will they declare an uneasy truce with the festival of American consumerism? (John J. Thatamanil, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Pastors weigh in on the meaning of Christmas | On Friday night and Saturday, millions of Christians (and even some nonChristians) will observe the Christmas holiday. They'll honor loved ones with gifts, and fill cathedrals and churches to sing traditional carols commemorating the Nativity, the birth of Jesus. (North County Times, Calif.)

  • Christmas is supposed to be a birthday party | Our weeks of celebrating can add to the event if we keep in mind that Christ came to earth to offer mankind a new code by which to live. (Editorial, The Decatur Daily, Ala.)

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  • Teens give the gift of Christmas | The two teens recently spent 10 days in the poorest part of the Central American country, giving Christmas presents to children who wouldn't get one otherwise. (In-Forum, ND)

  • Find joy in Christmas tree, whatever its name | Truth is, the lighted evergreens in our homes, businesses, sanctuaries and at Winterfest are symbols wrapped in history, nostalgia, controversy and downright contempt. (Bob Hamrick, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

  • Let's at least take ONE Sunday off. Or Tuesday, if you prefer | I definitely won't be there or in any other store on Sunday morning, the day after Christmas. Why on Earth would I? Even if I had a burning desire to exchange a DVD for another one that I just had to have, why couldn't it at least wait until the afternoon? (Brad Warthen, The State, SC)

  • Christmas Tree: It's increasingly being labeled a religious symbol | Pity the humble Christmas tree - a lovable shrub with heathen roots that has been dragged into bitter church-state separation squabbles stretching from France to Florida. (Salt Lake Tribune, Utah)

  • Nativity scenes shaped by values of culture | Baby Jesus wears blue jeans and a Western shirt. The Wise Men are Indian chiefs, one in full headdress. Instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts include water, corn and a drum. (Ithaca Journal, NY)

  • Birth of dissension | Christians debate circumstances surrounding Mary and the Christ child (Union-Tribune, San Diego)

  • Bag yourself a merry little Christmas | What would we do without a friendly holiday column praising the crass commercialism of the Christmas season? (David Harsanyi, Denver Post)

  • Christmas nativity story fact, not fable | While writers and editors theorize that Christ's birth is rooted more in fable than in historical fact, they fail to mention that these doubt-inspiring disclaimers simply do not measure up to the scrutiny of historical investigation. (York Daily Record, Penn.)

  • Immigrants' first U.S. Christmas: The Montagnards | North Carolina is home to some 4,000 Vietnamese Montagnards, the hill people who fought with U.S. forces against North Vietnam. But many recent refugees say views of religion, not the war, have forced them to leave. Most of the newcomers are Christians, who in recent years have been persecuted by the Vietnamese government for their religious beliefs. For most refugees who've just arrived in the United States, this Christmas will be their first chance to celebrate openly. (Morning Edition, NPR)

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Christmas in Britain:

  • Christmas 2004: popular, secular and mainly idle | More than one in four people expect there to be some kind of argument in their home this weekend but most say they love Christmas, according to the results of this month's Guardian/ICM poll. (The Guardian, UK)

  • Christmas 2054: a slimline celebration | An austere mid-21st century Christmas with a slim, fit and probably female "Partner Santa" leaving nothing but good wishes under a genetically modified tree has been created for a new exhibition on the short-lived myths of Britain's great annual holiday. (The Guardian, UK)

  • The Santas who set up a union | One of the most unusual moments in trade union history has emerged from a battered file at the National Archives full of documents about the responsibilities of supermarket Santas and the rights of their elves. (The Guardian, UK)

  • This year's must-have present … a goat | One is small, shiny and plays thousands of your favourite songs when you carry it with you. The other is large, hairy, makes a bleating noise and would butt you if you tried to pick it up. But iPods and goats are the must-have Christmas gifts this year. And both, it seems, are in short supply. (The Guardian, UK)

  • Give me seasonal schmaltz | Christmas captures the defining characteristic of Americans - their lack of cynicism and skepticism (Gerard Baker, Times, London)

  • Christmas 'time of hope' for transplant family | A family whose four sons were diagnosed with the same potentially life-threatening disease are celebrating Christmas with a sense of hope that they never anticipated at the start of this year. (The Scotsman, UK)

  • UK 'not a multi-faith society' | A bishop has used his Christmas message to insist Britain is still a Christian country and not a multi-faith society. (BBC)

Christmas elsewhere:

  • A 'Christmas land' that was | I discerned no joy this time, no hope, just some dull pedestrian hedonism as tens of thousands surged through Leipzig's narrow streets, eating sausages, slurping hot wine, licking vanilla crème running from wafer sandwiches, a hedonism unconnected with the meaning of this season. (UPI)

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  • Religions united in festive season | Although celebrations are now subdued in Iraq, Christmas is traditionally enjoyed by a large percentage of the population in the war-torn country. (Shepparton News, Australia)

  • Naivety in play | While shops blare out Christmas songs in a last-ditch effort to woo customers, politicians and barmy bureaucrats seemed to be singing different tunes in the run-up to the celebrations. (The Malaysia Star, Malaysia)

  • Christmas mass | All Beijing churches will offer Christmas services for Christians in Beijing. (China Daily, China)

  • Lighten up, it's Christmas | If American Jews were more secure in their identity, they wouldn't have a 'December dilemma' (Jonathan S. Tobin, Jerusalem Post, Israel)

  • Historic chapel opens to tourists for Christmas | A Christian church at the Mount Lushan, a tourist destination known for its beautiful scenery and historical sites in east China's Jiangxi Province, will be open totourists for three days in the coming Christmas holidays. (Xinhuanet, China)

  • Wishing you a very liberal Christmas | Charles Dickens must have had American liberals in mind when he first thought of the character Ebenezer Scrooge for his book, "A Christmas Carol".  At the very least, I think that in some strange prophetic way, he foresaw the characteristics of 21st century Democrats and members of the American Civil Liberties Union while writing about Mr. Scrooge. (Steve Darnell, Pravda, Russia)

  • Leaders proclaim the true meaning | The message of Christmas, more than its symbols of decorations and carols, holds out hope of better times to come for broken families, lonely suburbanites and even religious cynics, says the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell. (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Seasonal celebrations reflect region's diversity | You spare a thought for your neighbours, the many thousands of York Region Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs who, like you, are about to endure the annual onslaught of holiday commercials, tinsel and Santa. If it grates on you before its over, what's it like for them? (York Region Era Banner, Canada)

  • Line up for the great Christmas tug of war | December 25, originally a pagan feast day, belongs to the non-believers (Christopher Henning, Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Where is Christmas in Saudi Arabia? | It's beginning to look a little bit like Christmas in Saudi Arabia, where Islam is the only accepted religion and non-Muslim religious activities are banned in public. There is nothing that explicitly says it is Christmas, but there is enough of a festive whiff in the air for expatriate shoppers determined to have something resembling a holiday at home. (Associated Press)

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Christmas @ church:

December dilemma:

  • Christmas traditions under fire | Religious symbol status questioned (Associated Press)

  • Schools try to balance holidays | Dealing with Christmas -- inescapable during December, yet a decidedly Christian holiday -- isn't always easy for school districts. (Greensboro News Record, NC)

  • Their holiday jeer: Bring back Christmas | Fed up with what he calls "political correctness run amok," Zamorano has organized a nationwide boycott of Macy's and all Federated Department Stores because corporate officials declined his request to use the word Christmas in advertising and store decorations. (Sacramento Bee, Calif.)

  • US retailers say Christmas not just for Christians | U.S. retailers are shrugging off critics who accuse them of snubbing the word Christmas for the sake of political correctness -- and sales. (Reuters)

  • Carolers protest religious-music ban | Susan Rosenbluth and fellow Orthodox Jews yesterday came to Maplewood, N.J., to join a crowd of more than 100 carolers in singing Christmas and Hanukkah songs in front of Columbia High School. (Washington Times)

  • 'Festivus' shares space with Fla. nativity | When a church group put a nativity scene on public property, officials warned it might open the door to other religious -- and not-so-religious -- displays. They were right. Since the nativity was erected in Polk County, displays have gone up honoring Zoroastrianism and the fake holiday Festivus, featured on the TV show "Seinfeld.''(Associated Press)

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December dilemma, opinion:

  • Neutering Santa | Without the tradition of Christmas, there would be no 'holidays' associated with late December. So why should public recognition of Jesus' birth be treated as toxic? (Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek)

  • The Macy's model for the December dilemma | How about this approach: religious people express themselves when the context is one of persuasion, not coercion? (Martin Marty, Beliefnet)

  • Both sides of the December dilemma | The author, who has celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, observes that the December Dilemma asks the wrong questions. (Lauren F. Winner, Beliefnet)

  • Restoring Christmas to Christ | This seems to me the perfect time of the year to write this column. It is about the move toward the secularization of Christmas and of Christianity, itself. (Princeton Daily Clarion, Ind.)

  • Suing for Jesus: Christians fight back to defend Christmas | It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas again, thanks to Christians who are fighting the secular left's efforts to remove any and all references to Christ from the public square. (Editorial, The Union Leader, NH)

  • 'Offended' secular fanatics continue to attack Christmas | To insist that the placing of a nativity scene in a government building at Christmastime represents an effort to establish a state faith is a laughable absurdity, and there's an appropriate way to describe those who carry on about it: secular fanatics. (Jay Ambrose, The Union Leader, NH)

  • Bush not Christian enough? Come on | You will never guess who is now being accused of taking Christ out of Christmas. President Bush. (Bill Wineke, Wisconsin State Journal)

  • Gee, you mean not everyone agrees with me? | Today readers share their views about whether there will be a Christmas in the year 3004 and whether I'm rude for taking the side of parents and children confronted at a YMCA on Sunday morning by revelers from an all-night transgender fashion show. (John Kass, Chicago Tribune)

  • 'Revolt' makes season a lot less merry | Jesus is not "the reason for the season," as so many from "the Christmas group" have smugly informed me in recent weeks. The return of the sun in this hemisphere is the reason for the season, and there are many ways to celebrate it. (Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune)

  • Heaven save me from Jerry Falwell | In the tradition of those guys with long beards who walk the streets with placards warning "The end is near," televangelist Jerry Falwell has written a two-part editorial for World Net Daily called "The impending death of Christmas?" (Tamara Dietrich, Hampton Roads Daily Press, Va.)

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Saying 'merry Christmas':

  • Put Christ back into Christian homes | The Christian insistence that "Merry Christmas" is the only acceptable holiday greeting is an example of the tyranny Voltaire crusaded against in the 18th century. (Gordon M. Weiner, Arizona Republic)

  • Something for everyone | President Bush opened and closed his press conference Monday by saluting reporters with ''Happy holidays'' — not ''Merry Christmas.'' (Marianne Means, Helena Independent Record, MT)

  • Forget PC, Merry Christmas to Christians everywhere | With all the talk about whether people should greet one another with either "Merry Christmas' or "Season's Greetings' or some other nonsectarian thought, please know that this American Jew is delighted to wish Christians everywhere a Merry Christmas! (Pasadena Star-News, Calif.)

  • Nothing wrong with 'Merry Christmas' | The pseudo-serious buzz we hear each year about recapturing the "true meaning of Christmas" originates among the same demographic category that helps block it from happening: Christians themselves. (Gary Lawrence, Nashua Telegraph, NH)

Public displays of religious images:

  • Nativity causes controversy in Polk County | Polk County commissioners made a decision Wednesday to allow a Nativity to remain on display on the lawn at the old Polk County Courthouse -- even though it's public property. (WESH, Fla.)

  • No to placing Nativity scene at Town Hall | For those who do celebrate Christmas as a sacred holiday, is there always a place to go? Of course there is. Church. Home. There is no limit on the number of places for pious Americans, save one: a government building. (Greg Dobbs, Nashua Telegraph, NH)

  • Nativity display can stay | The Polk County Commission created a small window for free speech on the lawn of its building Wednesday morning. But commissioners regulated displays in a way that will, essentially, reserve the grassy space for a Nativity scene erected Dec. 15 without commission permission. (The Ledger, Fla.)

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Religion & education:

Church & state:

  • Church and state debate threatens Calif. mission repair | Along the coast of California, 21 historic Spanish missions are in dire need of repair. The Bush administration has pledged $10 million in matching funds to help fix them, but a lawsuit charges that the federal grant violates the First Amendment. (Morning Edition, NPR)

  • It's about Christianity and America's institutions, stupid! | There on TV for almost the hundredth time this past year was the face of yet another big-city ACLU-nik gleefully boasting to the anchor how he brought to its knees a village he doesn't even live in and an institution in which he is not even a member. By mere threat alone, the local town agreed to remove its age-old Christmas tree; its courthouse Ten Commandments; and barred from school premises the local Boy Scout troop. Now his colleagues are suing the government so as to forbid individual soldiers from saying Grace in the mess hall at mealtime. (Rabbi Aryeh Spero, Human Events)

Roy Moore:

  • Roy Moore pays visit to Opp | Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore visited Covington County Tuesday afternoon in Opp at a Rotary Club meeting, to elaborate on his recent case and to discuss matters of Judge Ashley M. McKathan, which recently started wearing a robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on it. (Andalusia Star-News, Ala.)

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  • 'Acknowledge God' | Moore says those who opposed him on monument ignored the law (Mobile Register, Ala.)

Religious freedom:

  • Indonesia police launch Christmas security crackdown | Indonesian police are undertaking a massive security operation at churches, malls and hotels amid warnings that Islamic terrorists are planning Christmas attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation. (Associated Press)

  • Vatican leads attack on 'Christianophobia' | When the famed wax museum Madame Tussauds unveiled its new star-studded Nativity display this month — featuring soccer star David Beckham and his wife, Victoria, a.k.a. Posh Spice, as Joseph and Mary — the Vatican called the move "blasphemous." But it's just the latest in a series of sharp condemnations issued by Pope John Paul II against a Europe he claims has marginalized Christians by becoming too secular. (Cox News Service)

  • Egyptian Coptic protesters freed | Thirteen Egyptian Coptic Christians detained after clashes with police have been released on humanitarian grounds, the prosecutor-general said. (BBC)

Sikhs storm theater to prevent 'offensive play':

  • Sikh playwright goes into hiding | The British Asian playwright, whose work about a rape in a Sikh temple has been the subject of a raging controversy, has reportedly received threats of violence against her. (Indian Express, India)

  • Alternative plan to stage controversial drama | Simultaneous nationwide readings of Behzti are being organised as a demonstration of the importance of free speech. Neal Foster, company manager of the Birmingham Stage Company, said yesterday that he was asking venues around Britain to host readings of the play. (Times, London)

  • Extremists hijacked play protest | The violence that forced the cancellation of a controversial Sikh play was caused by militant extremists who aligned themselves to the protest, organisers claimed yesterday. (Times, London)

  • Minister defends rights of protesters as Sikh play closes | Fiona Mactaggart began yesterday morning mired in controversy for her reluctance to condemn the violence that led to the halting of the play Behzti's sell-out run at the Birmingham Rep. By the end of the day, which will not go down as her most successful, the Home Office minister had also taken a swipe at the theatre and been accused of "sweeping the problem under the carpet". (Daily Telegraph, UK)

  • Playwright goes into hiding and blocks plan to perform work that offended Sikh community | An offer to stage a play, which had been cancelled after violent protests by members of the Sikh community, was withdrawn last night following a request by the playwright who has gone into hiding after receiving death threats. (The Independent, UK)

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  • Protest play may move to London | London's Royal Court could stage the play which prompted violent protests among the Sikh community in Birmingham. (BBC)

  • Second theatre drops play plans | The boss of a Birmingham theatre company which was considering staging a play cancelled after violent demonstrations has dropped his plans. (BBC)

  • UK's Sikh community under fire | Britain's Sikh community is under fire from all sides for violently forcing the premature closure of a play they said mocked their religion, even as a wide swathe of British opinion condemned the threat to artistic freedoms by outraged minorities. (Times of India)

  • Violent protests will benefit axed Sikh play, says minister | A Home Office minister suggested yesterday that the violent protests that forced the cancellation of a play about Sikhs would ultimately benefit the author and the show. (Daily Telegraph, UK)

  • Evangelicals express alarm over violence leading to controversial play closure | Evangelicals have expressed 'alarm' that a play in Birmingham has closed due to the actions of a violent minority. (Ekklesia, UK)

  • Stars backing beleaguered writer | More than 400 figures from the arts world have signed a letter supporting the playwright who prompted violent outbursts from the Sikh community. (BBC)

  • Black day in UK's history of art? | In an unprecedented and unexpected showdown between Britain's powerful and networked artistic communty, a leading British theatre company has told  TOI  it blames sections of the country's unruly and violent Sikh community for "opening the door" to a disturbing censorship and unwarranted of theatre, books, novels and paintings. (Times of India)

  • Fears of self-censorship after Sikh play ditched | Playwrights may censor themselves more after violent protests forced a British theatre to cancel a Sikh play and drove its author into hiding, actors and directors believe. (Reuters)

  • Stars sign letter in support of playwright in hiding | Leading figures from the arts world are among more than 700 signatories of an open letter supporting the Sikh playwright who has been forced into hiding by death threats. (The Guardian, UK)

  • The limits of liberalism | We need to be honest with ourselves that principles of freedom of speech and respect for minorities can collide (Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, UK)

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War & terrorism:

  • Marchers urge end to war | Season of peace should bring peace to Iraq, they say (Chicago Tribune)

  • Voices from the front: Letters home from America's military family | Frank Schaeffer talks about his new book, "Voices from the Front," at the Waring School in Beverly, MA. The book is a collection of letters from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. The letters discuss boot camp, deployment, homecomings, and grief for the soldiers killed in combat. (BookTV, CSPAN)

  • Minister blames religion for war | The LRA war in northern Uganda is a result of the failure of religion, the local government minister has said. (New Vision, Kampala)


  • Aid worker shot dead in Darfur | The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has expressed shock at the killing of one of its local staff in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. (BBC)

  • Annan calls for Sudan reassessment | Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the U.N. Security Council Wednesday to urgently reassess its efforts to end nearly two-years of conflict and bloodshed in Sudan's western Darfur region, saying the current approach isn't working. (Associated Press)

  • Sudan troops reportedly kill aid worker | Sudanese government troops attacking a town in the country's volatile Darfur region shot dead an aid worker in front of a warehouse used by the international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, the organization charged Wednesday. (Associated Press)

  • UN plan for Darfur 'not working' | UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says current attempts to end the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region are not working. (BBC)

  • China invests heavily in Sudan's oil industry | Beijing supplies arms used on villagers (Washington Post)

Religion & politics:

  • Democratic leadership rethinking abortion | After long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters. (Los Angeles Times)

  • I want my faith back | Getting personal about the political hijacking of religion. (Jennifer Barnett Reed, Arkansas Times, Ark.)

  • N.J. high court won't bar religious jurors | The state's highest court ruled Wednesday that New Jersey prosecutors cannot bar overtly religious people from serving on juries. (Associated Press)

  • When faith and politics don't match | Ten years before state Representative Barbara L'Italien was asked to step down from her position as cantor of St. Augustine's Parish in Andover, Kathleen Caron experienced her own clash of church and politics. (The Boston Globe)

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  • Paisley warns against quick fixes | In his Christmas message, Mr Paisley said only the "triumph of fundamental values" would bring real peace. "It is never right to do wrong to do right," he said - and called for a return to Christianity "not to churchianty". (Belfast Telegraph, UK)

  • Kerala Christians demand concessions for Jerusalem trip | Kerala's Christian community are demanding special grants and travel concessions for undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. (Kerala Next, India)

  • N.M. religious group can have toxic tea | Recent inaction by U.S. Supreme Court means a Santa Fe, N.M., religious group can drink its psychedelic tea, the group's lawyer said. (UPI)

  • How would Jesus vote? | All year, questions of scriptural interpretation were inseparable from elections and public policy (Boston Phoenix, Mass.)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Court in California hears gay marriage arguments | Still reeling from the passage last month of constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in 11 states, gay rights advocates moved on Wednesday to undo California's prohibition, arguing in a court here that gays and lesbians have a "fundamental right" to marry. (New York Times)

  • Same-sex marriage debate returns to Calif. | Ten months after San Francisco's mayor defiantly granted marriage licenses to thousands of gay couples, a judge began hearing arguments Wednesday in a pair of lawsuits that seek to have California's one-man, one-woman matrimony law declared unconstitutional. (Associated Press)

  • Gay couples challenge Calif. marriage law | Rights issue is likely to be decided by state's supreme court, both sides agree (Washington Post)

  • Tradition vs. equality argued in S.F. court | Advocates, foes lay out their cases before judge (San Francisco Chronicle)

Canadian same-sex marriage:


  • Vatican taking small steps to East | The Vatican is hoping that a series of small steps can break down barriers with the Russian Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy elsewhere, bringing Pope John Paul II to Russia. (Associated Press)

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  • Audit pegs diocese's deficit at $20m | The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, reeling from the aftereffects of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, spent $20 million more than it took in during the last fiscal year, according to a new audit. (The Boston Globe)

  • Boston archdiocese faces $20 million deficit, audit finds | The Archdiocese of Boston spent $20.6 million more than it took in during the last fiscal year, according to a report by an auditor that examined church finances amid fallout from the clergy sexual abuse crisis. (Associated Press)

  • Outspoken priests attack Pell | Disillusioned with the course the Catholic Church has set itself, two priests lash out at its leaders. (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Struggling to keep the faith | Reverberations from a sex scandal still roil the Catholic Church (US News and World Report)

  • Pope John Paul II defrocks Md. priest | A priest scheduled to go on trial next month for allegedly molesting a former alter boy who later shot him has been defrocked by Pope John Paul II, The Associated Press has learned. (Associated Press)

  • Nuns view land as a sacred trust | They have owned remote convents, willow-shaded hospitals, and schools and orphanages on green campuses. For decades, nuns have been little-noticed stewards of the land. Now, a group of nuns at a Plainville nature center is pushing to preserve properties owned by nuns and other religious groups, arguing that protecting open space is a worthy pursuit, even for those focused on a higher plane. (The Boston Globe)

  • Joined parishes look for peace | Combining the parish of Assumption Church, which was closed as part of the reorganization plan for the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, with St. Blaise Parish has been easy on a physical level. (The Boston Globe)

Church life:

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  • Church has bigger location, bigger plans | Reid Temple is the latest example of a Prince George's congregation that outgrew its facilities (Washington Post)

  • Churches fill a social role | Each weekend, Pat and Ken Rishell of Concord head to Paddock Bowl on Pacheco Boulevard for an evening of rolling strikes and spares with 22 of their closest friends. This rowdy lot takes up half the bowling alley, but their whoops, hollers and high-fives blend in nicely with other league play. In fact, the guy across the way manning the snack bar might never guess they're part of the First Christian Church Bowling League. (Walnut Creek Journal, Calif.)

  • Faith's beacon leads all to a place of their own | Vern P. and Tammy Fleming always felt that little tug in their hearts, the one that urged them to find a church home. But it took a while to find a place of worship that felt right. (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, NY)

Missions & ministry:

  • Army assists seniors, youth | The Salvation Army's mission began as an evangelical mission in England in the year 1865 by William Booth, a minister dedicated to winning souls for Christ. Today, the organization has mission locations all over the world with local services to help all ages and walks of life. (Port Arthur News, Texas)

  • Community support helps Rescue Mission expand | For 40 years, the Rockford Rescue Mission has reached out to the homeless, alcohol and drug addicts and others in need. The Mission offers three free meals every day with holiday meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. This year's Christmas meal is at noon today. (Rockford Register Star, Ill.)

  • Outpouring helps Manna Ministry serve needy | Dick Hale of Manna Ministry Food Pantry is expecting to help out at least 35 families this holiday season. (Manteca Bulletin, Calif.)

  • A lesson about the gift of giving | Arlington students try to brighten the holidays for families in need (Washington Post)

  • Dream of home for holidays deferred | Habitat house for family of 11 damaged by fire (Washington Post)

  • Salvation Army doubles as Santa for many folks | The giveaway marked the end of a month-long drive to recruit donations for the Salvation Army's annual Angel Tree program. But fewer donations than expected put the charity in a pinch to fulfill toy requests, which increased 8 percent from last year, said Maj. Wesley Short of the Northwest Arkansas command of the Salvation Army. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Ark.)

  • Charity's plea: Brother,can you spare a deer? | One facet of Christ's teachings will be manifested on East Market Street on Saturday — as it is every day — when workers at Wayside Christian Mission dish up about 1,000 meals. Some may include a serving of venison. (Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kent.)

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  • Values without virtues leaves us hooked on gratification | The number of students admitting to cheating in exams jumped from 61 per cent in 1992 to 74 per cent in 2002; the number who had stolen something from a shop within the previous 12 months rose from 31 per cent to 38 per cent, and the number who admitted lying to their parents and teachers had climbed from 83 per cent to 93 per cent. (Chris McGillion, Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Americans and religion | Eighty-four percent of Americans identify with a Christian religion (Gallup News Service)

  • The faith debate in America | The debate about faith in America today represents a critical juncture in the nation's story. The outcome may determine whether America will go down the route of secular humanism that Europe has long since tread, or keep religion a vibrant element in the public square and in the life of citizens. (David Cowan, Washington Times)

  • Britain is not as secular as some hope | Christmas has become a season of anxiety. "Is Britain still a Christian country?" is the question on the lips of radio and television presenters. This year it was the Posh and Becks Nativity waxworks that prompted the question, coinciding as it did with Channel 4's distasteful pastiche of the Da Vinci Last Supper in the posters advertising its seasonal programmes. The growing secularisation of Britain, it seems, is the one forecast that can be relied on. (Daily Telegraph, UK)




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  • The Heavenly Angels fill the air with 'down home' gospel music | "We want to save souls" said Jessica Hampton, lead singer and originator/organizer of the gospel group, The Heavenly Angels, who will be performing their "down home" music at First Night Montclair. (Montclair Times, NJ)

  • Hoppers' gospel tour begins New Year's Eve | The Hoppers recently have announced the formation of what could be described as the most aggressive and innovative tour series of their 47-year career as "America's Favorite Family of Gospel Music." (Kinston Free Press, NC)

  • Passion for life | Christian music festival to draw thousands to GEC. Passion '05 — which is kind of like an indoor Bonnaroo for Christians — is set for Jan. 2-5, 2005, at Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center. (Daily News Journal, Tenn.)


  • New histories of the Crusades | Hear two authors of new books on the First and Fourth crusades discuss the historical significance of the Crusades and what they say about holy war today. (On Point Radio, Mass.)

  • Site of Jesus's first miracle said discovered in Galilee | 'Tis the season to be jolly, and Israeli archeologists are beaming about their finds at a site on the edge of Kafr Kanna. Two thousand years after Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine at a Jewish wedding in Kanna and four days before Christmas, the Israeli Antiquities Authority claimed to have uncovered the place where Jesus got his start. (Jerusalem Post, Israel)

More articles of interest:

  • Parents Television Council gets it wrong on alleged anti-religious slant | Brent Bozell's group, the Parents Television Council, is not just fired up, it's getting more press than it's due.( Joanne Ostrow, Sun-Sentinel, Fla.)

  • Increase in births and marriages | Scotland's birth rate has continued to rise, according to official figures. (BBC)

  • Contraceptive pill advert pulled | An advert for a contraceptive pill has been withdrawn after Catholics and other groups complained to the advertising watchdog. (BBC)

  • Textbook activist Mel Gabler, 89 | Mel Gabler, a small-town Texan who exerted an outsize influence on the textbooks that American elementary and secondary schools adopt, died Dec. 19 at a hospital in Tyler, Tex. He suffered a massive brain hemorrhage after a fall at his home in Longview, Tex., two days earlier. He was 89. (Washington Post)

  • New book's language updates Scripture | "There was no room for them in the inn," says the famous Christmas reading from Luke. Now, try this ersatz variation: "Crisis! 'No vacancy' signs in every B&B window." That's a sample from "The Word on the Street," a slang-ridden paraphrase of Old and New Testament passages by Britain's Rob Lacey, a performance artist whose stagings of Scripture include "The 2-Minute Bible." (Associated Press)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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