National Geographic: Ark expedition was probably about publicity, not archaeology

National Geographic: Ark expedition was probably about publicity, not archaeology
Daniel McGivern's $900,000 effort to investigate a Mount Ararat structure he's "90 percent sure" is Noah's Ark never happened, National Geographic News reports. But the news service says McGivern may have known that the Turkish government wouldn't allow them to climb the mountain due to security restrictions. "McGivern may have been more interested in generating publicity than mounting a serious search, critics now suggest," writes Stefan Lovgren. "By making an early announcement, he may have tried to persuade the Turkish government into granting him a permit. Few expeditions have actually obtained clearance to climb Mount Ararat, which is located in a military zone. The choice of expedition leader—a Turkish academic named Ahmet Ali Arslan, who claims to have climbed Mount Ararat 50 times in 40 years—also raised a red flag with those familiar with previous expeditions."

Sources told Christianity Today earlier this year that Arslan would be a boon to the expedition and would help the team get the necessary permits.

"The government of Turkey did not issue a research visa, which is sad, but it's their country," McGivern told the conservative news site WorldNetDaily for an August article. "We haven't totally given up, but it's pretty obvious they're not going to give us one."

But earlier this month, McGivern told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that he has given up and won't try to put another expedition together. "This was the year," he said. "I don't have Ark fever like many who go year after year. … A good businessman calculates what amount of money and time he will invest and has to know when to walk away. Of course, Noah's Ark is totally different, way beyond business for me. Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in it. It will confirm the faith of millions … and many will be brought to faith. It will change how scientists look at the world."

McGivern told the Star-Bulletin that he has spent $160,000 on the project since 1997.

Crisis board pressures Deal Hudson to resign as publisher

Crisis board pressures Deal Hudson to resign as publisher
Deal Hudson again tried yesterday to beat the press to the punch. In August, he wrote a piece for National Review Online saying he was being politically targeted by the National Catholic Reporter, and was resigning as an adviser to the Bush campaign to save the President's re-election efforts from distraction. The Reporter article detailed Hudson's 1994 sexual misconduct with an 18-year-old student when he was a professor at Fordham University.

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Yesterday, Hudson sent a letter to supporters saying he was stepping down as publisher of the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis for much the same reasons he'd left the Bush campaign. "This is really more of a personal decision," he said. "It's the right thing for me to do. As you can imagine, the past month has been very difficult for both me and my family. There's no doubt that the recent adverse publicity about me, and the criticism that followed, influenced my decision. As long as I remain publisher of Crisis, I'll be a source of controversy."

But The Washington Times says Hudson didn't jump: He was pushed. Julia Duin reports that five of the magazine's "most influential columnists" — Michael Novak, Ralph McInerny, Michael Uhlmann, Robert Royal, and Russell Hittinger — told the board that they would resign unless Hudson was fired. (Novak and McInerny are founding editors of the publication.)

"Crisis board members were concerned enough about the fallout from the NCR article to ask three other top Catholic scholars — papal biographer George Weigel; the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things magazine; and Princeton University professor Robert George — whether the magazine could survive with Mr. Hudson at the helm," Duin reports. "The consensus, according to some of the columnists, was 'no.'"

Most damning and somewhat questionable, however, is the Times assertion that Hudson's 1994 actions were not an isolated incident. Duin writes:

Specific accusations of more recent sexual misconduct had come to the board's attention, one scholar said. "This was not about one incident 10 years ago," he said. "It's surprising it was held down as long as it was. I haven't gone out of my way to track Deal Hudson's improprieties — I could be doing nothing else. But you began to wonder after a while if they are true."

Since that's as much as the Times article says—vague accusations lobbed by an anonymous "scholar"—there's quite a bit of debate going on about whether this detail is news or gossip. But over at Amy Welborn's Open Book weblog, Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher defends the inclusion. "If anyone was aware prior to this that Deal Hudson had had, or may still be having, extramarital affairs, I don't know them," he wrote. "What I do know is that more than a few Catholic insiders had ample reason to suspect that Deal had trouble dealing with female employees. I saw that with my own eyes (it was nothing sexual), and heard it from others who work or who have worked for Crisis. There was reason for concern."

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Paul Crouch's accuser says job was at stake

Paul Crouch's accuser says job was at stake
Speaking of allegations of sexual misconduct with subordinates, Enoch Lonnie Ford's claims against Trinity Broadcasting Network president Paul Crouch have new energy with an interview he granted to the Los Angeles Times. The big detail: "He had felt forced to engage in the alleged sexual acts to keep his job."

That's an important part of the allegation story, but what gives the story legs is its re-entry into the court system. William Lobdell writes:

Ministry attorneys went to Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday in an unsuccessful attempt to stop publication of this story, claiming that a Times reporter "aided and abetted" Ford in violating an April 2003 court order that barred him from discussing his allegations. Judge John M. Watson declined to issue a restraining order against The Times but suggested Ford could later face a contempt-of-court hearing. … Ministry lawyer John Casoria said it could cause "irreparable harm." … Casoria said TBN may ask the judge to hold Ford in contempt of court for speaking publicly about the case.

Ford, however, says it's TBN that broke the 1998 confidentiality agreement: "Network officials broke the agreement, he contends, by issuing a statement last week responding to a news account of the ministry's legal effort to silence him. TBN's statement described the circumstances of the settlement and highlighted Ford's criminal background."

Lobdell's original article about the alleged tryst supports Ford's claim that he didn't leak the story:

This account of the controversy is drawn from interviews with friends of Ford's, unsealed court records, correspondence among TBN lawyers, and a copy of the arbitrator's confidential ruling. The arbitrator's decision contains details about the 1998 settlement and Ford's manuscript — both of which are under seal. … Ford, 41, said he could not discuss his manuscript or his allegations against Crouch but he did provide basic facts about his background and his time at TBN. … Despite TBN's efforts to keep Ford's charges secret, they surfaced in an unrelated 1998 lawsuit.

So it might be TBN, not Ford, at risk of being held in contempt of court.

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Swaggart "regrets" statement about killing potential suitors

Swaggart "regrets" statement about killing potential suitors
Jimmy Swaggart told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans that his statement about killing any man who looks at him romantically "was a tongue-in-cheek statement best left unsaid. I won't make it anymore."

As noted in yesterday's Weblog, Swaggart said on an international broadcast, "I'm trying to find the correct name for it … this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."

Yesterday, Swaggart told Times-Picayune reporter Bruce Nolan that he was just using killing as a figure of speech, and doesn't think the comment encourages violence against homosexuals. "Good gracious alive, it would be a long stretch of the imagination to come up with that," he said. Still, he said, "I was unwise in making the statement. All of us have made statements we wish we hadn't made. That was one for me."

Swaggart added that he's used the phrase before. "I've said it about other people, including other preachers." No word on whether he added, "Some of my best friends are other preachers … "

Good news that has nothing to do with sex

Good news that has nothing to do with sex
Enough sex-and-religious-leaders news today? Here's some "real" news: The Washington Post reports that Republicans in the House and Senate are working to put new life into a key legislative aspect of President Bush's faith-based initiative. But Senate Republican Conference chairman Rick Santorum says of chances of passing the measure, which allows taxpayers to deduct charitable contributions even if they don't itemize deductions, are "probably not very high." So never mind. Apparently it's not news after all. Here's more news about sex (and a few other subjects):


  • Idaho court has mixed decision on gay dad | The Idaho Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that sexual orientation should not be the basis for custody decisions, but still denied a gay father's bid for custody (Associated Press)
  • Gay service members ponder military policy | Thirty homosexual servicemen and servicewomen were profiled in an unscientific survey released earlier this month about the impact of "don't ask, don't tell" on gay soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (Associated Press)
  • Gays cautious about new partners law | Some opt out, fearing legal or financial troubles (San Francisco Chronicle)
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Same-sex marriage:

  • Minorities and same-sex marriage | A government that does not respect the right of gays and lesbians is the same government that does not respect the rights of racial minorities (Avvy Go, The Toronto Star)
  • Gay marriage foes will seek Washington state constitutional ban | The newly formed Allies for Marriage and Children, which includes social conservatives, community activists and some religious leaders, said it is responding to two recent court rulings that invalidated the state's Defense of Marriage Act (Associated Press)

Spanking in Britain:

  • Human rights committee condemns smacking | The government came under growing pressure yesterday to take away parents' legal authority to smack their children, after the parliamentary committee of human rights said the practice contravened UN conventions (The Guardian, London)
  • Ban on smacking 'inevitable' to protect children | A ban on the smacking of children is inevitable because of human rights legislation, an influential parliamentary committee said yesterday (The Telegraph, London)
  • Mayor may axe child spanking rite | A 350-year-old ritual in which a boy and girl get a mock beating from the mayor of their town could be scrapped because of fears over child abuse (BBC)


  • Church will pay to settle abuse claims | Payments settle 23 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of altar boys and others years ago (The Miami Herald)
  • Miami archdiocese to settle abuse lawsuits | The Archdiocese of Miami has agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle 23 lawsuits brought since 2002 by people who accused Catholic priests of sexually abusing them, the plaintiffs' lawyer said (Associated Press)
  • 10 sue man they say abused them as priest | The men's lawsuit targets Thomas B. Laughlin, 79, not the Portland Archdiocese (The Oregonian)

Church life:

  • Churches wage high-tech war on cell phones | Some Mexican churches are using state-of-the-art technology developed by Israeli electronic warfare experts to silence cell phones that ring during mass (Reuters)
  • Presbyterian preachiness | The Presbyterian Church betrays Christians (Eugene Kontorovich, National Review Online)
  • Orombi decries evil in church | The archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, has said the immorality that has been prevalent on the streets has entered the Church (New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)

Anglican Communion:

  • Williams has failed says bishop | Jack Spong has accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of fatal character flaws in his handling of the church's gay crisis (The Guardian, London)
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  • Women bishops plan expected to face opposition | Wollongong's Anglican bishop Reg Piper says the Sydney diocese is expected to oppose any move by the church's general synod next month to allow women to become bishops in Australia (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Church buildings:

  • Landmarks board is urged to save a church in Harlem | The Landmarks Preservation Commission heard pleas to save St. Thomas the Apostle church in Harlem from destruction (The New York Times)
  • Zoning change will allow church to stay | A zoning rule that threatened to force a local church to move was changed by the Lincoln City Council on Monday (Peoria Journal Star, Ill.)


  • Golf cart is papal fleet's latest addition | The Vatican released a video this week of Pope John Paul II being driven around the papal estate in Castel Gandolfo in the latest vehicle — a white electric car resembling a golf cart (Associated Press)
  • Catholics reminded 'All Are Welcome' | One of the largest parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg is launching an evangelization campaign it hopes will help bring lapsed Catholics back to the church. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
  • Study lists parishes that may be combined | A major consolidation of Catholic parishes and schools in north St. Louis County has been proposed in detail by an archdiocesan study that also is considering the future of parishes in south St. Louis (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Catholics & abortion:

  • Catholics, politics & abortion | My argument with Mario Cuomo (Kenneth L. Woodward, Commonweal, link via open book)
  • Persuade or Coerce? | A response to Kenneth Woodward (Mario M. Cuomo, Commonweal)
  • Confessions of a pro-choice, pro-life Catholic | Cuomo would have done better to ground his position on the difference between the ends we pursue and the means we use to pursue them (Paul J. Weber, The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)


  • Federal judge says he has received threats | Presiding U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf didn't specify the case that prompted the letters. But earlier this month, he declared a federal ban on what opponents call "partial-birth" abortions to be unconstitutional - sparking outrage from anti-abortion activists (Omaha World-Herald, Neb.)
  • Protesters' suit nears an end | The city is close to settling Halloween parade disputes with abortion protesters (York Daily Record, Pa.)


  • End the genocide now | Seldom has the gulf between diplomatic talk and effective action been as stark as it was this week at the United Nations (William Kristol and Vance Serchuk, The Washington Post)
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  • Hope in Darfur | The Bush administration and its European allies must insert themselves into this negotiation (Editorial, The Washington Post)
  • For U.N., mobilize a mission to Darfur | The United Nations' cautious broaching of sanctions if Sudan doesn't halt the genocide occurring in its Darfur region represents agonizingly slow progress by the international community to respond to this horrible crisis (Editorial, The Seattle Times)

War & terrorism:

  • Troops may be tried for using prostitutes | U.S. troops stationed overseas could face courts-martial for patronizing prostitutes under a new regulation drafted by the Pentagon (Associated Press)
  • Does Iraq war qualify as just? | While some Christians justify the war in terms of pre-emptive self-defense, other Christians observing 'just war' theory believe this war has damaged Christian witness, not advanced it, says Robert E. Johnson (Vern Barnet, The Kansas City Star)

Religious freedom:

  • Bush appoints Covenant alumnus to religious freedom commission | Charles J. Chaput reappointed, Michael Cromartie will succeed Richard Land (The Chattanoogan, Tenn.)
  • Montana Supreme Court rules prison did not violate inmate's religious freedom | The unanimous five-judge panel rejected Donald Cape's claims that the prison failed to provide him with "religious meals" during Lent and prevented him from engaging in certain religious activities (Associated Press)

Other religions:

  • Destiny's children | The banalities of astrology have replaced religion in giving young people a sense of purpose and belonging (Natasha Walter, The Guardian, London)
  • Napolitano's mission: Learn about Mormons | Gov. Janet Napolitano plans to visit Salt Lake City this week to meet with leaders of the Mormon Church to learn more about the faith shared by hundreds of thousands of Arizonans (Associated Press)
  • Also: Napolitano schedules visit to Utah to learn about Mormon religion (Arizona Daily Sun)

Church & state:

  • Hearing on Mount Soledad cross canceled by judge | No reason was given by Thompson's clerk, who said a new hearing date would be selected this week (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Earlier: Confusion on cross's fate | Mount Soledad monument could be kept, sold or moved (San Diego Union-Tribune, Monday)
  • ACLU fights to protect man's name in suit | A federal judge Tuesday declined a request from the ACLU to stop the Omaha World-Herald from naming an atheist who sued over a Ten Commandments monument displayed in a public park (Associated Press)
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Religion & politics:

  • Bush's wild card: The religious vote | The turnout among a core Republican constituency — conservative, white evangelical Protestants — was lower in 2000 than it was in 1996 (Mark J. Rozell, USA Today)
  • Born-again Bush, once-born Kerry? | Like all Catholics, Kerry was born anew in baptism. But his faith doesn't seem to influence his politics (Robert Royal, Beliefnet)
  • Monitors visiting activist churches | A few area churches are flirting with losing their tax-free status by dwelling on election-year issues, the group says (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)


  • Belmont, Baptists may shift alliance | Belmont University appears to be moving away from its traditional Baptist roots and into a more mainstream Christian university (The City Paper, Nashville)
  • When Christian schools bear false witness | Private schools founded on Christian values are forgetting their mission statement (Guy Rundle, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Business & ministry in Knoxville, Tenn.:

  • Partnerships, construction help church do Lord's work | God's Business Chilhowee Hills plays role in national ministry; elder-care home among local plans (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
  • A.M.E. Zion's good works include bookstore, offices, venture capital fund | The A.M.E. Zion Church Center on Magnolia Avenue, which opened last September, is the result of its denomination's vision for not only building spirits but empowering East Knoxville economically (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
  • Community Evangelistic Evangelical Presbyterian Church builds homes, finds partners to support vision (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
  • Church expansions pump dollars into area's economy | New jobs, surge in property values among benefits (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Missions & ministry:

  • The Church can play vital role in reconstruction | Jamaica has just experienced another traumatic disaster which has affected every Jamaican to a lesser or greater extent. Now is a time for national reconstruction and renewal and every individual, family, and community needs to be involved (E Anthony Allen, The Jamaica Observer)
  • A newfound friendship sparks kidney transplant | Today, Lorraine Lamb is expected to be released from Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital with one of Glenda McCloskey's kidneys, four months after the two met for the first time (The Detroit News)


  • The Rapture racket | What if the Book of Revelation doesn't mandate death, destruction and the annihilation of all but true believers? (Bill Berkowitz,
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  • More than a feeling | Believers are told their beliefs are 'true for you, but not for everybody.' But religious experiences aren't the same as emotion (Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet)

More articles of interest:

  • Survivor calls capital punishment 'madness' | He urges people to get involved in the movement to abolish it (The Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Mixed blessings | Are secular life ceremonies the wave of the future? (Michael Kress, Slate)
  • Trial of Rwandan priest suspended | The trial of a priest accused of involvement in the Rwandan genocide has been halted for a day, after protests at the UN war crimes court in Tanzania (BBC)
  • PBS: The Question of God | Armand M. Nicholi will host a chat (The Washington Post)

Related Elsewhere:

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What is Weblog?

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

See our past Weblog updates:

September 21 | 20
September 17 | 16 | 15 | 13
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September 3 | 2 | 1 | August 31 | 30
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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.
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