Rioting destroys ancient Serbian churches
Last Friday, when Weblog noted a mob's destruction of four churches in Nigeria, one loyal reader asked why it got top billing over the destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches. The answer is simple: At the time, Weblog was simply unaware of the extent of the demolition there.

Apparently Weblog wasn't alone. In a meeting with Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu noted that the world community has largely ignored last week's violence, which left at least 31 dead and more than 500 wounded. Thirty churches, several dating back to the 14th century, were destroyed by ethnic Albanians. Another 11 were damaged.

"We remember well a wave of indignation over the destruction by Taliban troops in Afghanistan of the stone statue[s] of Buddha, because it was the destruction of cultural heritage," Shoigu said, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency. But there's no outcry over these attacks, though they're just as damaging from religious, cultural, and historical perspectives.

Serbs apparently retaliated by attacking mosques elsewhere, including one from the 17th century.

The BBC has several photos, along with a good backgrounder of the complicated triggers of the attack, and the even more complicated history of conflict between the Albanians and Serbs. There's much more than religion to this story, but it seems clear that churches were deliberately targeted and took the brunt of the attacks.

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Abortion:

More on life ethics:

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Supreme Court hears 'Under God' case today:

Politics and law:

  • Court case poses challenge to Scientology tax break | A trial is to begin in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning to determine whether a Jewish couple can deduct the cost of religious education for their five children, a tax benefit they say the federal government has granted to members of just one religion, the Church of Scientology (The New York Times)

  • With God on their aisle side | The reactionary assault on separation of powers and separation of church and state has consumed more congressional paper and microphone time in recent years than ever before in history (Dan Carpenter, The Indianapolis Star)

  • Faith-based initiative has friends | Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) and dozens of religious leaders rallied in Annapolis yesterday in support of the administration's proposal to give additional state grants and contracts to religious charities (The Washington Post)

China:

  • U.S. to criticize China's human rights | Reversing course from last year, the United States will introduce a resolution criticizing China's human rights record at a 53-nation U.N. conference under way in Geneva, the State Department said Monday (Associated Press)

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Wounded Baptist aid worker back from Iraq:

  • Wounded U.S. missionary returns home from Iraq | American missionary Carrie McDonnall was recovering Tuesday at a hospital in Dallas, Texas, from wounds suffered during an attack last week in northern Iraq that left her husband and three other colleagues dead (CNN)

  • Baptist missionary hurt in Iraq back in U.S. | The lone survivor of a March 15 attack on five Southern Baptist humanitarian aid workers in Iraq is back in the United States and being treated at a Dallas area hospital, the denomination's International Mission Board says (Associated Press)

  • Injured missionary returns from Iraq | Carrie McDonnall is now being treated at a Dallas-area hospital (KVII, Amarillo, Tex.)

Iraq missionaries:

Church life:

  • Church bid sets stage for debate | Restoration Church has offered to buy the Main Street Theater in downtown Visalia, potentially derailing the Enchanted Playhouse's effort to acquire the property. But the evangelical church would need a city permit, and the city seems cautious about granting one (Lewis Griswold, The Fresno Bee, Ca.)

  • West outsources Christian rituals to India | As US and European companies outsource hi-tech work to India to benefit from low-cost and abundant skilled labor, the clergy is doing likewise seeking to compensate for the acute shortage of priests in the West (AFP)

Education:

  • Commandments lawsuit is the talk of Humansville | Mother of high school student files federal lawsuit over school's plaque (The News-Leader, Springfield, Mo.)

  • Also: Woman files suit to remove Ten Commandments plaque | A woman has filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from a cafeteria in a southwest Missouri school district and to stop officials from leading students in prayer (Associated Press)

  • Homeschoolers keep the faith | For some homeschoolers, political causes shape daily lessons. Is this education - or indoctrination? (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • An issue of age and gender | Do you think a school board, or a like body, has more of a responsibility to see the financial side of things above its religious principles? Religious leaders respond (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Calif.)

  • An inspired strategy | Is religion a tonic for kids? You better believe it, say teens and scholars (The Washington Post)

Christian higher education and reported cult:

  • Students' tale of cult 'evil' | The fuming families of three Bay State students are considering legal action against Wheaton College, claiming the school failed to protect their children from an ``evil'' cult leader who they say lured them into an isolated vortex of ritualistic torture (Boston Herald)

  • Earlier: Bob Pardon to the rescue | Cults have dropped from the headlines, but they still destroy lives and psyches. In out-of-the-way Lakefield, one man fights against mind control (The Phoenix, Boston)

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Books:

  • 'Killing the Buddha': Promoting religious inquiry | In the ninth century, the Buddhist sage Lin Chi told a monk, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." He meant that those who think they've found all the answers in any religion need to start questioning. The new book Killing the Buddha takes this advice to heart, examining American roadside distractions on the path to enlightenment (Morning Edition, NPR)

  • From nun to prostitute | An Australian woman who became nun at the age of 18 but went on to spend 20 years working as prostitute has released a book on her life - under the provocative title God's Call Girl (BBC)

  • New quest under way for the American Jesus | Jesus is the agenda. Not only in art, music, film, politics and fiction but also, as it turns out, in cultural studies (Leo Sandon, Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)

Middle East:

  • Leaders meet to avoid violence | Muslims, Christians and Jews met to ensure violence in the Middle East does not spill on to Australian streets (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Holy Land beckons | Israeli officials hope that Christian travelers — their interest in the Holy Land perhaps piqued by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" — will help boost Israel's tourism industry (The Washington Times)

Film:

  • Monty Python's "Life of Brian" set for re-release | Inspired by the runaway success—and public furor—over Gibson's portrayal of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, the creators behind the 1979 biblical satire about an anti-Roman activist who spends his life being mistaken for a prophet are planning a 25th anniversary re-release next month (Reuters)

  • Python film to challenge Passion | Monty Python's film The Life of Brian is to return to US cinemas next month following the success of The Passion of the Christ (BBC)

  • Moviegoers show they're rah-rah for R's | Moviegoers sent Hollywood and Washington a message last weekend, embracing R-rated films across the board (Martin A. Grove, The Hollywood Reporter)

Passion:

  • Best Picture for Passion? | Come Oscar time, Hollywood won't ignore a history- making movie and the financial bottom line (Liz Smith, Newsday)

  • The man behind Gibson's Mass | "The film reminds you of the incarnation and the suffering of God," says Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux (International Herald-Tribune)

  • French theater chain labels Mel's film 'fascist' | One of France's leading independent cinema groups has refused to program Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which it has branded "fascist propaganda" (The Hollywood Reporter/Reuters)

  • Also: 'Passion' is fascist propaganda: French film boss | Marin Karmitz, president of the French federation of movie distributors, said that he would not show the movie in any of his 10 cinemas (The Independent, London)

  • Latin Americans' passion propels 'Christ' | "Passion" brought in a heavenly $10.1 million from its initial foray into south-of-the-border countries (The Hollywood Reporter/Reuters)

  • Will 'Passion' be used against U.S.? | "The Passion of the Christ" hasn't been shown to the public in Muslim nations, but in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, the film is already being blasted as an allegory of Western imperialism over Islamic countries. And one writer is drawing parallels between the Romans in the film and "Jewish leaders in Washington and their colonial connections to Israel." (Jeannette Walls, MSNBC)

Catholicism:

  • Vatican split on AIDS, condoms | Contrary to what some think, there is no official, authoritative Vatican policy on using condoms to protect against AIDS (Associated Press)

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People:

  • Aid worker dies in sea tragedy | A charity worker from Cornwall, working with Mission Challenge, a branch of the Mercy Ships UK, drowned off the coast of West Africa in a heroic attempt to save a friend (Western Morning News, Devon, England)

  • Tammy Faye Messner says she has cancer | Her lung cancer is inoperable, she said on Larry King Live (Associated Press)

  • Related: Interview with Tammy Faye Messner (Transcript, Larry King Live, CNN)

  • Lucado's teaching criticized | Some call Max Lucado a celebrity, the most well-known Church of Christ member in the world. His critics say that's the problem (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Also: Prolific San Antonio preacher takes church in controversial direction | To some critics within the Churches of Christ, Max Lucado is an errant theologian whose positions on baptism and instrumental music in worship have strayed too far from their literal following of New Testament teachings (Associated Press)

  • Ex-justice speaks message of faith | Hundreds of people showed up at Christian Liberty Academy to hear Roy Moore speak about his views on God and the law, his voice resembling that of a polished preacher more than a judge (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Sacred mysteries: When science met spirituality | George Ellis has just won a prize of £795,000—a big enough sum to make one sit up and take interest in what he has done to land it (The Daily Telegraph, London)

Bible:

  • New Testament translated to sign language | After 23 years of work by some 60 people, a ministry group for the deaf has finished translating the entire New Testament into American Sign Language (Associated Press)

  • Did Noah really build an ark? | It is possible to build a much more credible version of the story based on a different reading of the Bible, on ancient Babylonian sources that predate the Book of Genesis, and on archaeology and science (BBC)

  • Also: Another case of throwing Christians to the lions | Wasn't the Beeb's program, Noah's Ark, just another rancid example of how the station likes to trample roughshod over the Christian faith because they know they'll get away it? (Gail Walker, The Belfast Telegraph)

Gay marriage:

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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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