Presbyterian Church of America targets yuppies
Don't be misled by the Washington Times headline, "Church opens just for yuppies." Thirty percent of the congregation at Grace DC aren't urban professionals under the age of 30. But the church has been created to draw this demographic, the Times reports, as part of a Presbyterian Church of America campaign "to begin a network of hip, theologically conservative churches for young urban professionals in the hearts of America's cities."

"It's part of a movement to plant churches in cosmopolitan, world-class cities," Stephen Um, pastor of CityLife Church in Boston, told reporter Julia Duin. "We reach out primarily to post-everything professional urbanites and bohemians."

Such a trend is very encouraging. Most churches, after all, turn away rich young white folks at the door.

More on Dean and religion
Weblog is loath to regularly quote the latest religion comments from the presidential campaigns, but some of these comments are so remarkable that we can't just let them go by, buried in other news dispatches. And it's not like Weblog has some kind of obsession with Dean: it's just that it's his religious comments that are getting quoted; mainly because they're so remarkable.

Take, for instance, Dean's comments on Friday, criticizing President Bush for taking religious values into account in opposing embryonic stem-cell research.

"I think we ought to make scientific decisions, not theological and theoretical decisions," he told a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire. "I think that what the president did on stem-cell research was based on his religious beliefs, and I think that is wrong."

Several news outlets noted that Bush didn't make his decision to limit embryonic stem-cell research on religious values alone (and it should be noted that he hasn't limited research on stem cells from adults). In his August 2001 address outlining the limitations, Bush said he consulted "scientists, scholars, bioethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members of Congress, my Cabinet and my friends." He added, "I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your president I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world."

Is Dean saying that such belief is wrong? To act on such a belief is wrong?

Fortunately, there was a follow-up question to Dean's remark, as a reporter asked the candidate the difference between the Bush's stem-cell decision and Dean's decision to support same-sex civil unions in Vermont. (Just three days earlier, Dean had said that his Christian beliefs had influenced his decision.)

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"I would differentiate it from my support of civil unions because I didn't deprive anybody of anything by supporting civil unions," he said. "That was really a choice that had to do with, many people would say, morality or ethics. That's a different thing, I think, than applying your religious beliefs, with the result of depriving people really, literally, in some cases, a very long disease-free life as opposed to one that has significant complications."

Okay. So morality and ethics are okay, so long as they're divorced from religious belief? Eh? The difference between moral conviction and religious belief is that religious belief deprives people of something? Huh?

And does Dean really believe that embryonic stem-cell research is equivalent to "a very long disease-free life"? If so, he needs to read the newspapers more often.

Sunday, at another town hall forum, this one in Oelwein, Iowa, Dean declared, "George Bush is not my neighbor. … It is time not to put up any of this 'love thy neighbor.' I tell you, I love my neighbor, but I want that neighbor back in Crawford, Texas, where he belongs The president is always my president but the president is not my neighbor if he takes 500,000 kids off their health care benefits."

File that one away for the next time you're preaching on Luke 10:25-37.

Does Clark support infanticide?
Dean's comments are sad, unformed, and troubling. But again, we're not electing a theologian-in-chief, and we've had any number of presidents whose policies have been unaffected by their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and who don't demonstrate love for their neighbor. Voters must look carefully at policy, not platitudes.

So it may be that the most troubling comments on the campaign trail this week come not from Dean, but from Wesley Clark.

"Life begins with the mother's decision," he told the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader. "I don't think you should get the law involved in abortion. It's between a woman, her doctor, her faith and her family and her conscience. You don't put the law in there."

"I don't have litmus tests," Clark said, but later promised not to appoint prolife judges. That's not a contradiction, he said. "You just work through what the judge has done and if you find guys who follow judicial and established precedent, you're not going to find a judge who is prolife," he said.

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But wait a second. If life begins with the mother's decision, and the law should stay out of such decisions, then should a mother who abandons her child at birth be subject to criminal prosecution? Is a woman who kills her 8-year-old son a criminal?

That's a messy can of worms. Which is perhaps why, as the Union Leader interview continued, Clark backed off. "I'm not going to get into a discussion of when life begins. I'm in favor of choice, period. Pure and simple." Yeah, except that it's not so simple, Mr. Clark.

More articles

More on the 2004 presidential election:

  • When piety takes center stage | As journalists and commentators parse the candidates' religious statements, they're doing so in ways that can only remind those running why they used to keep quiet about such matters (Steven Waldman, The Washington Post)
  • The Democrats' mutual morality | The new "moral majority" being forged on the campaign trail is built on a yearning for community and a promise of social justice (E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post)
  • Dean's faith-based folly | Dean's problem is that he's not coming across as being genuine. (Colbert I. King, The Washington Post)
  • Bible Belt wary of Dean 'conversion' | Many South Carolina Democrats believe presidential hopeful Howard Dean's promise to talk about his relationship with Jesus is a calculated ploy to pander to Southerners — in particular blacks — participating in next month's South Carolina primary (The Washington Times)
  • Dean, Kucinich visit same church in Iowa | Democratic presidential candidates are covering so much ground in Iowa in the lead-up to the Jan. 19 caucuses that two of them ended up running into each other on Sunday (Associated Press)
  • Survey: U.S. Jews back Dem. candidates | U.S. Jews would overwhelmingly support any major Democratic candidate over President Bush if the election were held today, according to the 2004 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion (Associated Press)
  • The Church of the Holy Primary | Presidential candidates should stop the religion pandering (Doug Bandow, National Review Online)
  • All evangelicals don't think—or vote—the same way | True, many evangelicals vote conservatively on social and economic issues. But there also are moderate and liberal evangelicals, most of whom lean leftward on social issues like caring for the poor and rightward on issues like upholding the family (William McKenzie, The Dallas Morning News)

Jack Kelley:

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Kenyan Anglican bishop scandal:

Persecution and religious freedom:


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  • Organizations file flood of briefs on the last day | As the Supreme Judicial Court considers whether civil unions fulfill its ruling that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry, the justices were flooded yesterday with drastically different interpretations of the meaning of their historic November decision (The Boston Globe)
  • For many, chance to be heard | Even everyday folks filed (The Boston Globe)
  • Group seeks to clarify gay marriage ruling | The leader of the state Senate says he will postpone next month's vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages if the Supreme Judicial Court has not ruled by then on the constitutionality of civil unions (Associated Press)
  • Mass. groups seek delay on gay marriage | Conservative groups asked the state's high court Monday to delay the landmark ruling allowing gay marriage, saying residents and legislators should be able to vote on the issue (Associated Press)
  • Archbishop urges gay marriage opposition | The leader of Boston's Roman Catholic Archdiocese asked Catholic lawyers and judges to oppose gay marriage in order to help protect what he called the beleaguered institutions of marriage and family (Associated Press)
  • Marriages gay and throwaway | Britney's little leap is a reminder that a marriage doesn't have to be sacred to be legal (Ellen Goodman, The Washington Post)
  • Britney's wedding | If a customary social institution is trashed and trivialized by irresponsible buffoons, we ought to exert more control over it — to tighten access, not loosen it (John Derbyshire, National Review Online)
  • A mockery of marriage | Social conservatives who blow their stacks over homosexual matrimony's supposed threat to traditional marriage tomorrow should focus on the far greater damage that heterosexuals are wreaking on that venerable institution today (Deroy Murdock, National Review Online)

Sexual ethics:

  • Attorney challenges Utah's polygamy ban | Cites a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas sodomy law (Associated Press)
  • Seminary will test applicants for HIV | Montreal seminary will require HIV tests for aspiring priests starting this fall—a move that could contravene the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, says the head of an HIV support group in Montreal (CBC)
  • No sex please | Teenage pregnancy rates in the US are at a 10-year low. In stark contrast, the UK's record is the worst in Western Europe. Olga Craig investigates two very different ways of tackling adolescent sex (The Daily Telegraph, London)
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  • Lust declared virtue, not vice | Professor Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University is trying to "rescue" lust, arguing it has been wrongly condemned for centuries (BBC)

Sexual abuse:

  • 21 men and 5 of their wives sue Paterson diocese over sex abuse | The wives are claiming in the suit that the trauma of the childhood abuse had affected their marital relations. But lawyers said that they could not recall a court's allowing such a claim in a trial (The New York Times)
  • Audit raises worries on abusive priests | The church review of whether Roman Catholic bishops are doing enough to prevent sex abuse showed that at least 150 credibly accused priests had moved out of their dioceses, raising worries that offenders are living unsupervised in places where most people know nothing about them (Associated Press)
  • Church IDs 15 abusive priests | The O.C. diocese names the men as part of a nationwide tally. Eleven had been identified previously; four are named for the first time (Los Angeles Times)
  • Calif. diocese names 15 accused priests | A 16th priest, now deceased, was not identified, which the church said was at the victim's request (Associated Press)
  • Sex victims claim church ignored them | An independent inquiry into child sex abuse in the Anglican Church in Adelaide will hear from 70 victims who allege their complaints against pedophile churchmen were not acted on (The Advertiser, Adelaide, South Australia)
  • Judge strikes down Missouri Child Abuse Act | Heartland Christian Academy officials had been placed on a list of suspected child abusers (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • School's founder praises ruling on child abuse registry | The head of Heartland Christian Academy says he is "ecstatic and grateful" for a court ruling that cleared workers at his school of child abuse allegations (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Vatican defrocks priest, orders trial for another | The Vatican has issued two extraordinary decrees in Detroit-area priest abuse cases, ordering a rare church trial for an ousted priest from Marine City and defrocking another priest against his will (Detroit Free Press)
  • Also: Vatican okays Michigan priest's removal | Joseph Sito has been on leave since 1993 because of "substantive allegations," the Archdiocese of Detroit said Sunday (Associated Press)

Christian media:

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More articles:

  • A Christian's lament | Anyone deluded into thinking the Palestinian Authority would be a respectful and considerate custodian of areas sacred to Jewish people and Christians should think again (Elwood McQuaid, The Jerusalem Post)
  • Purists rise against girls cross diving among boys | Column on Orthodox dive for the cross sparked much comment (Mary Jo Melone, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)
  • Younger Americans prefer donating time | In the random telephone survey of 1,000 Americans, more than 50 percent identified volunteering as more important than giving money, while 22 percent chose money as more important (Associated Press)
  • When the roll is called down yonder | In Celebrities in Hell, Warren Allen Smith offers a handy and, well, irreverent compendium of famous freethinkers, which includes "agnostics, atheists, naturalists, pragmatists, secular humanists or nontheists of some stripe" (Los Angeles Times)

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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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