Theater chain changes mind on Passion ad
The AMC movie theater chain gained media attention this week for rejecting an ad from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which wanted to tie in a publicity campaign to the upcoming film The Passion of the Christ.

"You want to see the most scandalous story ever?" an actor says as the ad opens. That's followed by a series of words flashing on the screen: Betrayal. Sin. Adultery. Greed. Envy. Weakness. Poverty. Torture. Murder. Then the young actor again: "Redemption," he says, and the Baptist convention's logo appears, with the words, "Now playing at a Baptist church near you."

Too hot for the AMC, apparently. But when the BGCT offered to change the words murder, torture, and adultery to fear, anger, and deceit, the AMC said it would take the ad, which will now appear on about 150 screens in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

"I suppose AMC has the right to choose what they have on their screen, but this policy is hypocritical," Wesley Shotwell, vice moderator of the BGCT's executive board told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "There's been a lot of sex and violence on their screens during the movies."

Still, since the BGCT and the Southern Baptist Convention have been at each other's throats lately, Weblog is eager to see if any Southern Baptists will accuse the BGCT of "watering down the gospel" by changing the words. (Just kidding, folks.)

Second grader suspended for mentioning hell
After a classmate said, "I swear to God," 7-year-old Brandy McKenith warned that such language was troubling to the Almighty.

She could have said, "You know, Scripture warns against taking the Lord's name in vain, and furthermore, warns against taking oaths. These are affronts to God's sovereignty and holiness, since he is displeased by us misusing his holy name and by us breaking our word—especially when we hang our word on his name."

McKenith didn't say that, though. What she said was, "You're going to go to hell for swearing to God." Okay, she's 7 years old.

Anyway, a classmate overheard the conversation, and reported the second grader for using the word hell. The principal suspended her for a day, citing the district's Code of Student Conduct ban on profanity.

McKenith's dad is pretty upset. Some school board members are surprised and are reviewing the incident. Civil liberties attorneys are salivating. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, "McKenith returned to her second-grade class yesterday … where she had an uneventful day, talking about 'stuff' with her classmates. 'Not bad stuff,' she clarified."

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Missing Massachusetts?
Did you expect Weblog to focus on yesterday's Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that only gay marriage–not civil unions—is constitutional? Yeah, so did Weblog. Look for relevant links and analysis tomorrow. In the meantime, you know where to find all the usual suspects on this topic.

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More on The Passion of the Christ:

  • 'Passion' in check | How religious groups plan to deal with the uproar (New York Daily News)

  • Mel Gibson's Passion might be 'brilliant,' but not good | A number of readers had heated things to say about The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's imminent blockbuster that's said to pin the death of Jesus of Nazareth on the Jewish people (Howard Goodman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Actress: Gibson's movie not anti-Semitic | The woman who plays Mary in Mel Gibson's passion-stirring Biblical epic The Passion of the Christ, says her parents were Holocaust survivors but she does not consider the film anti-Semitic (Associated Press)

  • Gibson to preach to the choir | Leery of the press and stung by criticism that his film will kindle anti-Semitism, Mel Gibson is taking his controversial movie, The Passion of the Christ, directly to churchgoers (USA Today)

  • Area Christians, Jews await 'Passion' | Churches, synagogues try to rent theaters for private showings of Gibson's Crucifixion film (Akron Beacon Journal, Oh.)

  • Religion writers caught up in 'Passion' film controversy | Despite the fact that Gibson and the film's distributor have provided screenings to thousands of clergy and church-members, few reporters have been allowed to see it, sparking frustration from those on the religion beat and prompting the Religion Newswriters Association to call for the establishment of press previews (Editor & Publisher)

  • 'Passion' is in play for Christian jewelry maker | A Santa Ana company is putting its faith in Mel Gibson's new movie about Jesus (Orange County Register)

  • Mel Gibson mum on controversial 'Passion' scene | Actor-director Mel Gibson is keeping mum about whether he intends to cut or keep one of the most controversial scenes in his upcoming film about Christ's final hours -- that of a Jewish high priest declaring a blood curse on Jews for the death of Jesus (Reuters)

  • Some Christians see 'Passion' as evangelism tool | Christians nationwide are busy preparing to use Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," a graphic portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus, in an immense evangelistic campaign (The New York Times)

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  • Pastors prepare way for movie release | In an effort to address the issues that may be generated by the movie, "The Passion of the Christ," more than 50 area pastors and church members gathered at the Athens First Baptist Church Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to prepare for the film (Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tex.)

  • Churches flock to see controversial film on Jesus | Three weeks before it appears in theaters, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has won a host of disciples, who are busy moving heaven and earth to make sure the movie opens big (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Church to offer a preview of Gibson film to non-churchgoers | The Harvest Pointe Christian Church in Milford plans a private screening of the film on Feb. 23 at AMC Newport on the Levee, two days before it hits screens all over the country (The Cincinnati Post)


  • Film puts 'Faith' in Hartford | Writer, producer sees city as the Hollywood for Christian movies (The Hartford Courant, Conn.)

  • Controversial film must be a personal experience, too | Talk of controversy offers only self-fulfilling rhetoric that fails to attend to the decidedly more significant questions that this film raises for our personal reflection (The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.)

  • Your spiritual guide … Bill Murray? | Groundhog Day recently kicked off "The Hidden God: Film and Faith," the current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It turns out, curators say, that religious scholars from many different traditions have used the movie for years to teach fundamental spiritual themes. (The Oregonian)


Art and theater:

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Jews and Christians:

  • Evangelical leaders to discuss anti-Semitism | Fifty senior Evangelical Christian leaders from the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia will be in Jerusalem on Wednesday to take part in an "emergency meeting" of pro-Israel Christians to address increasing anti-Semitism around the world (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Evangelicals join the war against anti-Semitism | Over 60 Christian leaders from around the world met in Jerusalem Wednesday to discuss ways to fight anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment in their communities (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Christian-Jewish charity group burglarized | The thieves who broke into the offices of the Chicago-based 'International Fellowship of Christians and Jews', stole checks and a video-recorder, an organization spokeswoman said (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Gospel Judaism Messianic groups mix Jewish belief, Christianity | At a time when the state of Israel fights to maintain its existence in the Middle East, a messianic movement among evangelical Christians is looking for ways to support Jewish heritage and religious practices (The Kalamazoo Gazette, Mich.)


Catholic Archbishop blasts BBC:

  • Acting in bad faith | After a bad week for the BBC, some will greet accusations of "rudeness and prejudice" levelled against the corporation by the Most Rev Mario Conti, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, with weary resignation. But the charges he makes should not be too readily dismissed (Editorial, The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Catholic Church boycotts BBC's Newsnight over its 'prejudice' | The Catholic Church has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing its co-operation from one of the BBC's flagship news programmes, Newsnight Scotland (The Herald, Glasgow)

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  • In God's country | Thanks be to the American atheist: A review of Bryan F. Le Beau's The Atheist: Madalyn Murray O'Hair (Tim Cavanaugh, Reason)

  • 'The Da Vinci Code' unscrambled | The blockbuster thriller has millions taking theology, art and history. Yet many are unsure what's fact and what's fiction. We asked the experts for their reactions and their explanations (Chicago Tribune)

  • Cracking a bestseller's code | It is The Da Vinci Code's challenge to mainstream religious argument that has provoked some Christians to take up a crusade to refute the claims in Brown's novel (Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Purpose driven | Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Church is the best book on entrepreneurship, business and investment that I've read in some time (Rich Karlgaard,

  • Martin Marty on Martin Luther: a match made in heaven | Marty not only skillfully navigates the stormy life of this remarkable thinker, but also wins the reader's sympathy and admiration for a complex man (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times)


Missions & Ministry:

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Church life:

  • Rock Harbor church finds new home | Congregation will have new lease on life when it moves into a 35,000-square-foot site recently approved by Planning Commission (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Calif.)

  • From a church split, two families form | St. John's, St. Andrew's struggle with changes (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

  • Religion gets supersized at megachurches | Ask Americans what Sundays are for, and many are likely to give you one of two answers: watching sports or going to church. These days, a growing number of "megachurches" may satisfy both camps, providing entertainment and an uplifting message to crowds so big they rival the attendance at sporting events (Fox News)

  • Church starts online devotion | Hi-tech worshipping has been launched by the Diocese of Lichfield to allow its congregation to pray wherever they are in the world (BBC)

  • Vicar carpeted over revamp of historic church | An evangelical vicar is being summonsed before a rarely invoked church court for allegedly modernizing his historic church without permission, including moving the font and carpeting over the floor tiles (The Guardian, London)

  • Two Christian churches rising in Beijing | Two Christian churches are rising in the Chinese capital for the first time since the Communist Party took power, a striking development for a country whose government controls religious practices tightly and is often accused of persecuting underground worshippers (Associated Press)

  • Methodists to tackle budget, same-sex unions at meeting | Church prepares for Quadrennial event in Pittsburgh this spring (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • The Rev. Philip C. Brown 'takes five' | Executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Milwaukee is setting off on a journey of discovery (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

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  • Pastor: Impostor still lives in area | Man puzzled by motives of woman who passed as 13-year-old boy (The Joplin Globe, Mo.)

  • Preparing for the harvest | A new mood of aggressive evangelism has been emanating from America. Well-funded, superbly networked, backed by the highest of the land, seized of its moral supremacy, it has India as one of its key targets (Tehelka, India, subscription required)

  • Retired missionary recalls work in Iraq | Dick Cochran preached in Arabic, discussed religion in bazaars (Corvallis Gazette-Times, Ore.)

Church and city:

  • City tells Latino church to remove sign | DCRA reversal to cost congregation $30,000 (The Washington Post)

  • Church can expand; businesses denied | Two long-running land-use disputes -- one pitting residents against a church and the other involving neighbors against further commercial development -- were settled this week when the Howard County Council approved a significant part of its once-a-decade comprehensive rezoning plan (The Washington Post)

  • Naperville church allowed to expand | A Naperville parish that wants to grow received approval for an expansion from the city's plan commission Wednesday despite some objections from its neighbors (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Cross moved off land in park | Stanislaus County workers brought in the heavy equipment Wednesday to move the 8-foot cross from Frank Raines Regional Park to private property about 300 feet away (Modesto Bee, Calif.)

  • Religious issue sparks council challenges | If Jesus, Mary and Joseph had spent Christmas on Royal Poinciana Way, Tuesday wouldn't be election day (Palm Beach Post)

Crime and punishment:

  • Robbers make priest victim swear on Bible | Unsure if their weapons had caused enough fear, robbers who broke into a monastery made a priest swear on the Bible that he had handed over all the money, police said on Friday (Reuters)

  • Former priest sentenced for embezzlement | Patrick O'Shea, the former pastor of St. Cecilia's parish in San Francisco and an adviser to former Archbishop John Quinn, pleaded guilty Tuesday to grand theft and tax evasion charges (Associated Press)

  • Death verdict okayed despite Bible consultations | Two jurors were wrong in consulting the Bible and their pastors about the morality of the death penalty during a capital case, but their actions didn't taint the death verdict of an imprisoned serial killer who strangled a cellmate, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday (San Francisco Chronicle)

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African bishop corruption:

  • Embattled bishop misses city council meeting | Anglican bishop Peter Njoka yesterday failed to offer prayers during a full council meeting despite receiving a two-month advance pay as the mayor's chaplain (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Embattled bishop skips council prayers | Embattled Anglican Bishop Peter Njoka failed to turn up for prayers---for which he has already been paid----at a full Nairobi City Council meeting (The East African Standard, Nairobi)

  • Cash-for-prayer deals in schools exposed | Cash-for-prayer deals are rampant in Seventh Day Adventist-sponsored schools in Nyamira District, an education official has said (The East African Standard, Nairobi)

  • Worshippers want bishop dismissed | Supporters of prayer-for-cash bishop, Peter Njoka, got a rude shock on Sunday when they found their church locked (The East African Standard, Nairobi)

  • Church in a fix over corruption claims | An announcement on January 30 by Anglican Church of Kenya head, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, that the church would summon Bishop Peter Njoka to answer claims of receiving monthly allowances from the Nairobi City Council, is a move in the right direction (Francis Ayieko, The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)


  • Archbishop appeals for AIDS relief | South African cleric urges Episcopal Church to help (The Washington Post)

  • Abstinence message a tough sell in Haiti | The abstinence message, financed by the U.S. government, is getting mixed reviews in this impoverished nation, where earthly pleasures are scarce and HIV has infected 5 percent of the 8 million people (Associated Press)

  • Anti-Aids measures 'fail women' | Efforts to fight the HIV/Aids epidemic are failing because they are not reaching women and girls, who are most affected in the poorest countries, according to Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations Aids program (The Guardian, London)

  • Bush budget criticized for cutting AIDS funding | Shrunken AIDS funding in President Bush's 2005 budget proposal released Monday (Feb. 2) dampened the spirits of Christian groups and aid organizations, who said he is not following through on his promise to combat the disease globally (Religion News Service)

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  • S. Africa Catholic church to provide AIDS drugs | South Africa's Catholic bishops said on Wednesday the church would start providing anti-AIDS drugs next week and criticised the government for its slow response to the epidemic (Reuters)

Sexual ethics:

  • Kirk ministers to back prostitute zones plan | Church of Scotland ministers will be urged tonight to give their blessing to tolerance zones for prostitutes (The Herald, Glasgow)

  • Abstinence key to avoiding sex disease | The best ways to protect against a widespread sexual disease are to abstain from sexual relations or stay in a monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner, a federal health agency says in a report that downplays condom use (The Washington Times)

  • More money urged to foster abstinence | Bush proposes a boost in education for teens and an initiative to promote marriage (Los Angeles Times)

  • Sexual purity pushed for teens | Liberty Counsel, which has slated a "National Day of Purity" for Feb. 13, the day before Valentine's Day, hopes to raise attention to what they say is a culture hostile to traditional values and puts pressure on teens to have sex before they marry (The Washington Times)

  • Sexual abstinence project here soon | Silver Ring Thing , an American organisation advocating sexual abstinence may soon start operating in Uganda to persuade teenagers not to have sex before marriage (The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

Prayer in school boards:


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  • Brash says Girls' College dress code policy 'absurd' | National Party leader Don Brash has slammed the dress code policy of Marlborough Girls' College which allows the wearing of taonga under the Treaty of Waitangi but forbids Christians from openly wearing crosses, saying that the rule creates resentment amongst non Maori (The Marlborough Express, New Zealand)

  • Intelligent design bill in House | Two Northlanders co-sponsor legislation reminiscent of the Kansas creation science debate (Liberty Sun-News, Mo.)

  • School, religious group at odds over treatment | Fellowship of Christian Athletes' request for transportation denied; Marion school officials cite various legal issues for their decision (Chronicle-Tribune, Grant County, In.)

  • Events put God's role in schools in spotlight | Students can don a Jesus Christ T-shirt, pray before class and even moralize that following the Ten Commandments is the only way to live -- all within the confines of their neighborhood public school. The only taboo is that a teacher can't publicly endorse them (Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.)

School flier ban:

Religion and law:


  • Praise the Lord! (And Howard Dean, too) | As a believer whose beliefs don't always jibe, I know that where there's tolerance, there's brotherhood (Kathleen Fox, Newsweek)

  • Hopefuls put their faith in campaigns | In an attempt to compete with President Bush's unabashed discussion of religion while in office, Democratic presidential candidates are making similar stabs at God-talk (The Washington Times)

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French headscarf ban:

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Religious freedom and persecution:

  • U.S. panel encourages religious freedom worldwide | The commission monitors abuses abroad and advises Congress and the White House on using foreign policy to prevent such violations (Los Angeles Times)

  • Anti-Christian 'nationalism' creates debilitating fissures in Lankan society | A new threat seems to have arisen to disturb Sri Lankans at a time when they are just about getting used to a 'no-war' situation vis a vis the Tamil Tiger rebels and hoping to resume normal economic activities and get ahead in life (PK Balachanddran, Hindustan Times)

  • Anti-Christian feeling rises in Buddhist Sri Lanka | After 20 years of civil war, Sri Lankans are no strangers to fear and violence, but as the island stumbles toward peace with the Tamil Tiger rebels it is grappling with a new problem -- a rise in anti-Christian sentiment (Reuters)

  • Orissa to study forcible conversions | The Orissa government plans to conduct a study to determine cases of forcible religious conversion of tribals in the state, official said Tuesday (Indo-Asian News Service)

  • Teacher told to drop Star of David | A municipally employed teacher in Kristiansand has been prevented from wearing a Star of David around his neck. Kristiansand Adult Education Center, where the man works, ruled that the Jewish symbol could be deemed a provocation towards the many Muslim students at the school (Aftenposten, Norway)


  • An oft-debated decision | Many are celebrating this year's 30th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade court ruling. How do you view that ruling's effect on U.S. citizens from a religious perspective? (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Calif.)

  • Va. late-term abortion ban struck down | Federal judge calls law unconstitutional (The Washington Post)

  • Coffins and fetuses in stark protest | Anti-abortion activists wearing black and carrying baby-sized coffins have marched to parliament to mark the seventh year of legal abortions in South Africa (The Star, South Africa)

  • New tactic in abortion battle | Texas activists pressure subcontractors, slow construction at a Planned Parenthood clinic (Chicago Tribune)

  • An anti-democratic ruling | On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Williams struck down Virginia's ban on partial-birth abortion. Not content with merely overturning state law arbitrarily, he used his condescending ruling to denigrate prolifers (Editorial, The Washington Times)

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  • Montana dioceses' sex abuse settlements top $4.3 million | Montana's two Roman Catholic dioceses paid more than $4.3 million to settle claims of abuse against children by priests since 1950, figures provided by the dioceses show (Associated Press)

  • Ill. diocese settles sexual abuse suit | Springfield apologized to 28 people who say they were sexually abused during childhood by priests and will pay $3 million to settle their claims against the church (Associated Press)

  • Study reveals clergy abuse figures | 148 molest cases reported since 1950 in S.F. Archdiocese (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • 16 pastors in sex scam | The Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church has sacked 16 pastors involved in sex scandals (The Sunday Standard, Nairobi)

  • Firm Beliefs | Did Remnant Fellowship and its Firm Beliefs inadvertently inspire an Atlanta-area couple to beat their own son to death? (WTVF, Nashville)

  • Troubled priest lands in spotlight | Case illustrates church's challenges (Chicago Tribune)

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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.
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