The other newsworthy 60 Minutes story

The other newsworthy 60 Minutes story
Lt. Gen. William Boykin yesterday granted his first major interview about accusations that he's anti-Muslim. Specifically, he talked about his comment, "I knew that my God was bigger than [that of Somali warlord Osman Atto]. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

"Let's go back to the day that we captured Osman Atto," Boykin told 60 Minutes on last night's broadcast (CBS has a 4-minute video clip that hits the highlights, but not everything). "He was a corrupt, evil warlord who was stealing from and robbing his own people. He was a man who worshipped graft, corruption, power and money. My reference to his God being an idol was not to Allah. My reference was to his worship of corruption, of power, of money. He was a thug. He was not a good Muslim."

Does the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of Boykin's chief critics, want to dispute that? Weblog doesn't think so. So Boykin has put his detractors on the defensive: Either defend Atto as a true Muslim or lay off. There's a third option: Don't believe him. Say he's lying. Say he really meant to disparage Islam and promote Christianity.

Can't do it, says Boykin. "Look, I'm a Christian. I make no apologies for that," he said. "But I'm also not foolish enough to deliberately offend or in any way ostracize any religion. I'm not anti-Islam, I'm not anti-Allah."

Not mentioned in the CBS report—or any media report for an awfully long time—are Boykin's remarks to churches saying that terrorists aren't real Muslims.

The CBS report has some awfully annoying aspects. For example, it calls Boykin "a fundamentalist Christian" without any indication about what that might mean. Surely Boykin didn't use the term to describe himself (he explicitly rejected the term "fanatic"). And since he's a high-ranking military officer, he clearly doesn't believe in the historic Fundamentalist creed of separating from culture. The use of the f-word in this case, then, is purely pejorative; it has no descriptive value.

The program is also annoyingly consistent in talking about Boykin's belief that "God sustains Americans in battle" and "that prayer saves American lives." Both are phrases from CBS correspondent David Martin, not Boykin. The tone would have been quite different had CBS told its viewers that Boykin believes that "God answers prayer."

In the interview, Boykin comes off as a very likeable, sometimes emotional human being who has experienced a very personal relationship with God. He believes that Satan exists in a real sense (in one of his speeches, he showed a photo of what he says is a "demonic spirit over the city of Mogadishu"), but he seems to believe that his calling in life is to protect human life, not to lead a crusade. His belief in a real Satan, in fact, is counter-evidence to media claims that he "equated" Osama bin Laden or other American enemies to the devil.

Article continues below

It's worth noting that the two Boykin associates interviewed in the piece don't seem to share his religious convictions, but they're very supportive of the general. "He didn't go around proselytizing or preaching or anything like that," said Logan Fitch, who served under Boykin. "I simply knew that he was a devout person."

So unless we want to ban devout people from the military, let's please stop with all the calls for Boykin's dismissal. A few retractions from the newspapers that called him a "bigot" are in order as well.

Bush: Mere Christian?

Bush: Mere Christian?
Quick: Where does President Bush stand on the authority of Scripture? On whether non-Christians will go to heaven? On evolution? If you answered any of those questions with anything other than "I don't know," you're wrong, says The Washington Post. Alan Cooperman writes:

Despite the centrality of Bush's faith to his presidency, he has revealed only the barest outline of his beliefs, leaving others to sift through the clues and make assumptions about where he stands.
Bush has said many times that he is a Christian, believes in the power of prayer and considers himself a "lowly sinner." But White House aides said they do not know whether the president believes that: the Bible is without error; the theory of evolution is true; homosexuality is a sinful choice; only Christians will go to heaven; support for Israel is a biblical imperative; or the war in Iraq is part of God's plan.
Some political analysts think there is a shrewd calculation behind these ambiguities. By using such phrases as the "culture of life," Bush signals to evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics that he is with them, while he avoids taking explicit stands that might alienate other voters or alarm foreign leaders. Bush and his chief speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson, are "very gifted at crafting references that religious insiders will understand and outsiders may not," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, editor of the evangelical journal Sojourners.

Wallis earlier wrote, "Bush seems to make this mistake over and over again—confusing nation, church, and God. … Since Sept. 11, President Bush has turned the White House 'bully pulpit' into a pulpit indeed, replete with 'calls' and 'missions' and 'charges to keep' regarding America's role in the world." So it seems unlikely that he wants Bush to start proclaiming specific beliefs on soteriology and eschatology. Does anyone?

Article continues below

People might be surprised to hear that Bush neither calls himself "born again" nor an evangelical. But does it matter? Shaun Casey, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary, is no fan of Bush (here are his remarks over the weekend), but he makes a good point: "The real question is how he moves from this vague constellation of beliefs to specific policies." It may be that he simply doesn't talk about specific theologies. But if he doesn't have specific theologies — if, as C.S. Lewis warned against, he has remained in the hall of "Mere Christianity" without entering into one of the rooms of existing communions—then to what degree does his faith truly inform his positions?

One thing that Bush does call himself is a United Methodist. But a group of Methodists say they want nothing to do with him, and are pushing for his membership to be revoked from the denomination over "chargeable offenses of crime, immorality, disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church (UMC), and dissemination of doctrine contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The UMC." Sixty-five people, apparently all Methodists, have signed the letter of complaint.


  • Christian conservatives a key bloc for Bush | Christian conservatives, whose lack of enthusiasm for George W. Bush in 2000 worried Republicans, could be the president's ace in the hole in his race for re-election this time around (Reuters)
  • Kerry passes the faith test | Kerry is entering the final months of the election campaign with a higher level of credibility on matters of religion than many political friends and foes had expected (Luis Lugo, The Miami Herald)
  • Flynn's church-state balancing act | Raymond L. Flynn, the former Boston mayor and former ambassador to the Vatican, is walking a fine line between church and state and the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and George W. Bush (Joan Vennochi, The Boston Globe)

Australian politics:

  • Would Australians prefer a Christian PM? | The Liberal member for the Government's most marginal West Australian seat says most Australians would prefer a Christian as Prime Minister (PM, Radio Australia, audio)
Article continues below
  • PM's job one for the true believers | A Liberal backbencher has questioned whether Mark Latham should be allowed to become Australian Prime Minister because he is a non-believer (Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia)
  • Bible Belt wants to tighten a grip on power | Danny Nalliah, a Pastor of the Catch the Fire ministries, and Steve Fielding are both members of the Family First party in Dandenong (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Pope and New Zealand:

  • Pope: Too much fun and games in NZ | The Pope fears New Zealand has become too besotted with fun and games on Sundays, on a tide of "unrestrained secularism" (The New Zealand Herald)
  • Pope entitled to hold to his hard line | The Pope's view on Sunday sport, along with much unyielding Vatican sentiment, is being overwhelmed by the tide of modernity (Editorial, The New Zealand Herald)

Parish closings:

  • Judge denies bid to bar archdiocese from selling church | In refusing a preliminary injunction sought by parishioners, Judge Thomas E. Connolly rejected their argument that the church belongs to them, not the archdiocese (The Boston Globe)
  • Judge: Church can proceed with closing | A judge Wednesday refused to save a Roman Catholic church where parishioners have staged a sit-in for the past two weeks to protest its closing by the archdiocese (Associated Press)
  • Church sit-ins inspire third parish | Newton members plan to stage vigil (The Boston Globe)

Church life:

  • Time to break the 'stained glass' ceiling | Even in liberal denominations, female clergy face imposing obstacles (Gerald L. Zelizer, USA Today)
  • Online move to fill churches | The Right Rev Nigel McCulloch is asking people to take part in an online questionnaire telling him why they have stopped going to church and how they could be encouraged to return (The Guardian, London)
  • EU funds for the Church of St. Sophia | There is concern that the main dome of the church will collapse due to inadequate maintenance, while the mosaics and frescoes on the church walls are being destroyed because of the humidity (Macedonian Press Agency)
  • Orthodox church reaches final push in birth | The consecration of St. George symbolizes for its members continuing growth and change (The Oregonian)
  • Bartending and the priesthood | Why should it be so shocking that I, a bartender at a gay bar, leader of a gay-straight alliance, also consider a spiritual vocation, even one in the Catholic Church? (Christian Eichenlaub, The Advocate, gay magazine)
Article continues below

Former Anglican leader at orthodox U.S. meeting:

  • Va. Episcopalians enlist ex-archbishop's services | The former archbishop of Canterbury stepped in yesterday to preside over the confirmation of more than 300 Virginia Episcopalians whose parishes did not want them to be confirmed by their own bishop after his vote last year to appoint the denomination's first openly gay bishop (The Washington Post)
  • Virginia church hosts Carey | Retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey came to one of Virginia's oldest and largest Episcopal churches yesterday to confirm more than 300 people who are boycotting the ministry of their own bishop because of his stance on homosexuality (The Washington Times)
  • Lord Carey confirms US Anglicans | The former Archbishop of Canterbury has presided over a controversial service in the United States for members of churches who oppose gay clergy (BBC)
  • Ex-Anglican leader hopes visit helps church to heal | The former leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion is hopeful that his visit yesterday to a rebellious Episcopal congregation can promote unity in a deeply divided denomination (Associated Press)

More on Episcopal Church:

  • Rift in Episcopal Church leads to defections | Dissent has been mounting among conservative Episcopalians since U.S. church leaders confirmed an openly gay bishop last year. Some conservative congregations have disavowed their local bishops, aligning themselves with like-minded church leaders elsewhere (Morning Edition, NPR)
  • Gay clergy see revelations in Scripture | Gene Robinson says the Exodus is his story of coming out (Forward)

Sexual ethics:

  • Louisiana next up in gay marriage debate | State voters go to polls Saturday to consider constitutional ban (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Chiluba's opposition to the use of condoms | Former president Frederick Chiluba's opposition to use of condoms is difficult to justify, biblically or otherwise (Editorial, The Post, Zambia)
  • Gambia's condom campaign angers Catholic cleric | The church's reaction against condoms was triggered by an increasingly aggressive media campaign launched by the state-sponsored Gambia Social Marketing Management Programme (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)
  • Asexual underground | Gay Passé? Straight sedate? Get ready for the nerdy underbelly of no sex. (Salt Lake City Weekly)
  • The Christian cost of rooting out polygamy | Just as gays and lesbians have fallen prey to uncharitable language, many other people have been wounded rather than healed by the way the Good News has been presented to them (Evans K. Chama, National Catholic Reporter)
Article continues below


  • Irreconcilable differences | Bishops have a duty to show that abortion and Catholicism are incompatible (Matthew Mehan, National Review Online)
  • Anti-abortion activists broaden efforts | In Congress and states nationwide, anti-abortion activists are broadening efforts to support hospitals, doctors and pharmacists who — citing moral grounds — want to opt out of services linked to abortion and emergency contraception (Associated Press)
  • The matter of life and death | A very personal look at an issue that still divides us like no other (Virginia Ironside, The Independent, London)
  • A tough boat to Roe | A federal appeals-court judge on legal abortion's terminal obstacles (Shannen W. Coffin, National Review Online)
  • The judicial opinion denying a request by "Jane Roe" to reopen Roe v. Wade | A key opportunity to look back on abortion's legal history (Edward Lazarus,


  • Peace talks for Sudan's Darfur collapse | Both sides said the talks had collapsed, although they left open the possibility of trying again after a halt of at least three weeks (Associated Press)
  • The U.N. cavalry—not | The genocide in Sudan should bring shame to the United Nations (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Lead time | What the genocide in Sudan tells us about other African governments (Robert Lane Greene, The New Republic)


  • Chaplain's mission is to restore desecrated British cemetery in Iraq | Iraqis systematically desecrated the graves and defiled a nearby Anglican church (Stars and Stripes)
  • Iraq war illegal, says Annan | The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter (BBC, video)

State dept. religious freedom report:

  • U.S. says Saudis repress religion | 8 countries named in annual report (The Washington Post)
  • Also: U.S. cites Saudi Arabia for lack of religious freedom | Long sought by critics of Washington's reluctance to confront a key ally, the move means the kingdom faces the possibility of sanctions (Los Angeles Times)
  • Also: U.S. blacklists Saudi Arabia for violations of religious freedom | The State Department yesterday put Saudi Arabia on its blacklist of severe violators of religious freedom for the first time, opening the door to U.S. sanctions (The Washington Times)
  • Religious freedom in India has improved: U.S. report | The status of religious freedom in India improved in a number of ways; "yet problems remain in some areas," says the State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom (The Hindu, India)
Article continues below
  • Also: State Dept report slams NDA govt on religious freedom | Religious freedom in India has improved in a number of ways but the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government failed to counter attacks against religious minorities, says a US State Department report (Indo-Asian News Service, India)
  • 'N.K. Christians subject to biological tests' | Christians in North Korea have been subjected to biological warfare experiments and tortured, a U.S. government report says (The Korea Herald)
  • Eritrea government denies violating freedom of worship | "US lacks moral and legal high grounds on human rights and the respect for religions," Eritrean Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)


  • Lawsuit pits gay rights, free speech | A student whose high school forbade his wearing a T-shirt that said God condemns homosexuality takes district to court (Los Angeles Times)
  • Appeals court weighs Nebraska Ten Commandments case | A Ten Commandments monument in a small Nebraska town is simply a gift from a prominent civic group, not an endorsement of a religious way of life, an attorney representing the town told the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday (Associated Press)

See You at the Pole:

  • Students gather to pray at schools | Last year, more than 2 million students gathered to pray in all 50 states (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
  • 'See You at the Pole' | With prayers ranging from the safety of troops in Iraq, to the emotional well-being of students in the schools, mostly high-school and junior-high students converged for the annual early-morning prayer event (Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tex.)
  • Students gather at flagpoles in show of faith | Nearly 60 students gathered at Indian Creek High School on Wednesday morning for a purpose: to worship God and to pray for their fellow students, their school and their country (Daily Journal, Franklin, Ind.)
  • Area students gather for annual See You at the Pole prayer event | What started as about 40 students holding hands and thanking God in front of Riverside High School grew to about 75 before the school bell rang Wednesday (The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.)
  • Burleson kids still praying at the pole | They prayed for the nation and asked God to place the right presidential candidate in the oval office. They prayed for their community and asked for divine help in directing their friends toward the faith (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)
Article continues below


  • The God squad | With their own chaplain, the Houston Astros might be the most religious clubhouse in the majors (Houston Press)
  • Protester objects to 'Crusaders' | 1-person rally at McDevitt sports event targets team name (The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.)
  • NFL veteran Beebe pursues calling as coach | Don Beebe likes being known as an overachiever. He says it's how he reached the NFL and what he preaches as head coach to his players at Aurora (Ill.) Christian School (USA Today)


  • That prime time religion | Is 'South Park' the best religion show on TV? (Beliefnet)
  • Author says C.S. Lewis, Freud had similarities | A TV show examines how 1 man's atheism and the other's religious beliefs can educate in tandem (The Orlando Sentinel)
  • PBS: The Question of God | Director of the Human Genome Project, director of the Skeptics Society will discuss show online (The Washington Post)

Da Vinci Code:

  • Lebanese authorities ban 'The Da Vinci Code' | Dan Brown would have never predicted that his novel would be censored (The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Lebanon bans Da Vinci Code after Catholics object (Reuters)
  • The thriller from America that has the French in thrall | "The Da Vinci Code" has inspired tour operators to offer insider views of the Parisian sites and symbols featured in the book (The New York Times)
  • Jerry's vids | Our pal Pastor Johnston has a novel new obsession (The Pitch, Kansas City)


  • Switchfoot drummer finds labels restrictive | "I look at is as Christianity is a faith, not a genre," says Chad Butler (Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.)
  • Mase: The fine line between prayer and playa | Pastor Mason Betha's well-being has just been threatened and he's holding a heavy conversation with a higher power. (MTV)

Lots of cash at Cash auction:

  • Johnny Cash auction yields $1.2 million on first day | An auction of items from Johnny Cash's estate took in $1.24 million on its first day as collectors paid as much as 15 times the expected amount for the late country music star's belongings (Reuters)
  • Johnny Cash auction soars above expert estimates (AFP)
  • The Cash collection, up for bid at Sotheby's | Johnny Cash is gone, but you can still walk the line with him. That is, if you have the $1,000 or more it'll take to buy the man's black patent-leather ankle boots (USA Today)
  • Johnny and June Carter Cash estate auction | Everything from tea sets to musical instruments from the estate of country music stars Johnny and June Carter Cash go on sale Tuesday at Sotheby's auction house in New York City. Ben Walker reports on the details of the collection, and talks with John Carter Cash -- the son of the legendary musicians -- about selling items from his parents' past (Day to Day, NPR)
Article continues below

Other stories of interest:

  • Religious beliefs give illegals hope | For immigrants preparing to cross the desert into the United States, faith is often the most important thing they carry with them (Associated Press)
  • VHP to 'welcome' 150 Christians to Hinduism (Indo-Asian News Service, India)
  • Controversy-courting cleric | Archbishop Pius Ncube's determination to speak his mind has made him one of the most controversial figures in Zimbabwe today (Financial Gazette, Zimbabwe)
  • Art collection aims to buy ancient psalter | With its lush illustrations of the saintly and the secular — a dog dressed as a bishop, a man without trousers pulling a dragon's tongue — the 14th-century Macclesfield Psalter is considered one of the most important examples of English medieval art (Associated Press)
  • A free market in religion | If Christianity is not the one true religion, why be a Christian? Why not be a Buddhist? Mary Wakefield puts the question to Keith Ward, the liberal theologian (The Spectator, U.K.)
  • Teens charged in deacon's death | Youths claim gun fired accidentally when man grabbed it (The Detroit News)
  • At WFPD, men of the cloth minister to the men in blue | The Whitefish Police Department has an edge when it comes to the spiritual components of their duties to serve and protect (Whitefish Pilot, Mont.)
  • Church examining schools decision | The Catholic Church in Scotland is taking legal advice after ministers refused to block proposals for shared school campuses in North Lanarkshire (BBC)

Related Elsewhere:

Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to

What is Weblog?

Check out Books & Culture's weekly weblog, Content & Context.

See our past Weblog updates:

September 15 | 13
September 10 | 9 | 8 | 7
September 3 | 2 | 1 | August 31 | 30
August 27 | 26 | 24 | 23
August 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
August 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9
and more, back to November 1999

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.
Previous Weblog Columns: