The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a bill aimed to increase pressure on North Korea to improve its human-rights practices. The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, as passed by the Senate, will provide for a human-rights envoy, writes UPI. According to the Korea Times, "It also allows Washington to supply up to $20 million per year to individuals and NGOs around the world who are helping North Korean refugees in third countries. In addition, it permits North Korean defectors to the South to apply to immigrate to the United States."

In July, the House of Representatives passed a more moderate version of the bill that "provides some humanitarian assistance for North Koreans, conditioned on improved transparency and monitoring." The bill will now go to back to the House for a final vote. According to The Washington Post, it's only a gesture, but one that's needed.

In South Korea, many are arguing that the bill will make it more difficult to work with the North Koreans. The Korea Times reports, "The ruling Uri Party, which had been silent on its official position on the issue until now, expressed their doubts Thursday on the passing of the North Korean human rights act, saying that it could aggravate inter-Korean relations and exert a negative influence on the Korean economy." The paper also warned that the nuclear standoff would be further complicated, and it would damage the six-way talks that have already been "derailed."

However, Korean Christians in the U.S. have recently been praying for the passage of the bill. At a meeting in Los Angeles of 2,000 Korean pastors in the U.S. and Canada, Koreans urged the ending of the regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

"We are your servants, Lord. Show us your miracle," said Peter Sohn, senior pastor of Bethel Korean Church in Irvine, praying for a united and democratic Korea. The L.A. Times reports, "Though many Korean churches and pastors have worked individually to improve conditions in North Korea by sending food, money, and medicine, this was the first widely coordinated effort on the part of Korean Christians in the United States and Canada to focus on the goal."

The National Association of Evangelicals also urged passage of the bill. Richard Cizik, chairman of the Committee of Concern for North Korea and vice president for governmental affairs, wrote that the bill is "a moderate and effective vehicle for the advancement of human rights and our national security interests."

So far, there has been little reaction in the U.S. press. Unrelated, 44 North Koreans escaped into the Canadian Embassy yesterday.

Expect reaction from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which lists North Korea as a country of particular concern.

Tomorrow, we'll roundup responses to today's House marriage amendment vote.

More Articles:

Sudan:

  • New Darfur atrocity revealed | The brutal conflict in Sudan's Darfur region between two rebel groups and pro-government Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, has seen many atrocities prompting more than a million people to flee their homes. Trauma nurse Roberta Gately, who works for the International Rescue Committee aid agency, tells BBC News Online about a horrific aspect of the conflict which has not been widely reported - children being burnt alive. (BBC)
  • Darfur chief 'innocent' | A top Sudanese official yesterday defended a man accused of leading attacks on villagers in Darfur as a legitimate tribal leader and gave warning that any attempt to apprehend him could ignite tribal warfare that would tear Sudan apart. (Times, London)
  • 'Divided' Darfur rebels blamed | Chad has blamed rebels groups in Sudan's Darfur region for the breakdown in talks with the Sudan government. (BBC)
  • Sudan says U.S. armed Darfur rebels - Egypt paper | The United States helped train and arm rebels from west Sudan who rose up against the Sudanese government last year, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said in remarks published on Thursday. (Reuters)
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  • Sudanese unrest grounds Minnesota charities' aid | A group of Minnesota charities postponed a mission to send 35 tons of food and relief supplies to Sudan because of political unrest in the African country. (Associated Press)

Christians in Pakistan:

  • Pope meets with Pakistani president | Pope John Paul II met Thursday with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, encouraging him to press ahead with a "spirit of dialogue and tolerance" in his turbulent region. (Associated Press)
  • Christian minorities in Pakistan: little freedom and rising Islamic pressure | The law on blasphemy, forced conversions to Islam, democratization and education: Pakistani Christians are looking to the government for reform and to President Musharraf for his commitment on these thorny issues. (AsiaNews, Italy)

Persecution in India:

  • Mother Teresa nuns attacked in Kerala | Attacks on priests and nuns from Mother Teresa's old order in the southern state of Kerala have spotlighted the controversy surrounding Christian missionary work in India. (The Independent, UK)
  • Communal thuggery in Kerala | Most of the earlier incidents of communal violence in Kerala had their roots in disputes over ownership of land or access to resources. In contrast, the violence in Pantherankkavu stands out as unadulterated hate politics, in motive as well as execution. (Editorial, The Hindu, India)

Religious freedom & persecution:

  • Nonprofit is sued by EEOC | A Queens woman who is an evangelical Christian has sued a West Harlem nonprofit agency, claiming the group denied her a job because of her religion. (Newsday, NY
  • Two U.S. Christians 'hit' by Jewish settlers | Two U.S. Christian pacifists said they were severely beaten yesterday by Jewish settlers in this southern West Bank town. (Agence France-Presse)
  • United Egyptian Copts appeal for end to persecution | Egyptian Coptic leaders from around the world have urged the government of President Hosni Mubarak to initiate 'Special Legislation' designed to end 'long and enduring persecution' of Christians in Egypt. (Press Release)
  • Church altar burned in southern India | Assailants broke into a church and torched the altar overnight in Kerala, days after an attack in the southern Indian state on nuns from Mother Teresa's order, police said. (Agence France-Presse)

War & terrorism:

  • Church plea over child soldiers | Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, last night called for international cooperation to end the use of child soldiers in war zones, claiming that their exploitation was the equivalent of repeated Beslan massacres. (The Guardian, UK)
  • Of God and war | Your version of Christianity supports and blesses preventive war. What relation is this to the Christianity preached by the pope and by mainstream Protestants who oppose preventive war? (Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., New York Times)
  • Christians must love even their battlefield enemies, says Yale scholar | Stephen L. Carter, an ever-interesting professor at the Yale University Law School, has emerged as a notable novelist and an author on morals and on religion in society Rarer yet, he's also a black Episcopalian and at the same time a columnist for America's leading evangelical magazine, Christianity Today. His latest column contemplates the ongoing combat in Iraq and these remarkable words from Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount (Associated Press)
  • A Christian's view on war - From a shepherd's heart | All the world seems to be caught up in the debate over the war in Iraq. (Manchester Times, Tenn.)

Christianity & Islam:

  • Christianity needs to reform to talk to Islam | The West does not have the intellectual resources to interact creatively with Islam, writes Rufus Black. (The Age, Australia)
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  • 'Co-operation between faiths vital to free hostage' | Flowers and cards were today brought to the family home of Ken Bigley, the British hostage in Iraq, as Muslim leaders urged faiths to work together to set him free. (The Scotsman, UK)

Presbyterian Israel divestment:

  • Israel divestiture spurs clash | Jewish leaders condemn move by Presbyterian Church (Washington Post)
  • Jews trying to avert Protestant divestment | Leaders of Jewish organizations said yesterday that they were reaching out to Protestant groups to pre-empt the spread of a recent initiative by the Presbyterian Church to divest selectively from companies doing business in Israel. (The New York Times)
  • Presbyterians, Jews try to heal rift | Calling their discussion difficult, American Jewish leaders and Presbyterian officials met privately for three hours Tuesday but failed to reach agreement about a vote by the Protestant denomination to pursue divesting from some companies working with Israel. (Associated Press)
  • Israel divestiture spurs clash | Jewish leaders condemn move by Presbyterian Church (Washington Post)
  • Presbyterians pledge even-handedness | Church leaders say they will look at Palestinian divestment, too; also promise 'soul-searching' on messianic activity. (New York Jewish Week)

Jews & Christians:

  • Christian Allies in Day of Prayer for Jerusalem | The Christian Allies Caucus of the Knesset has been working closely with Christian Zionist organizations on this Sunday's International Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. (Arutz Sheva, Israel)
  • Episcopalians Mull Sanctions | Divestment strategy against Israel could widen rift between Jews,mainline Protestant groups. (New York Jewish Week)

Church life:

  • Culture is kept thriving | Assyrians celebrate roots and traditions at a festival of food, music and dancing (Modesto Bee, CA)
  • L.A. winery survives by serving churches | The sole survivor of Los Angeles' once booming wine industry is located in a gritty area just north of downtown, surrounded by a cement plant, parcel shipping depot and commuter rail line. A family business since 1917, it survived hard times and changing tastes among consumers by selling altar wine to churches and delivering table wine to the homes of immigrants who settled in the city and went to work for Southern Pacific railroad. (Associated Press)
  • 400 called to blanket city with prayers | A number of local churches will send members to the streets to pray for God's blessings for the community (The Oregonian)
  • Archbishop to attend European Episcopal Conference | Archbishop Guzeppi Mercieca will attend the plenary assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), in Leeds. The assembly will take place from Thursday 30th September till Sunday 3rd October. On the first day the Presidents of the CCEE will discuss the role of Christianity and the Church in present-day Europe. This theme will include the health of Christianity and the relationship between Christian identity and the meeting between religions. (Maltamedia Daily News, Malta)
  • Believers too busy to go to church | Many Welsh people who believe in God say they are too busy to go to church or chapel, a survey has revealed. (The Western Mail, UK)
  • Church gives up on using home for offices | North Suburban Evangelical Free Church will drop its proposal to use a neighboring Ellendale Road home for church ministers' offices after the Deerfield Plan Commission voted unanimously last Thursday evening against recommending a special use permit. (Deerfield Review, Ill.)

Church & state:

  • Courthouse quote will be covered up | A Riverside County judge approves the action after a group registers a complaint. (Press-Enterprise, Calif.)
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  • LA county supervisors sued over vote to delete cross from county seal | A church and nine people sued three county supervisors Wednesday over their vote to remove a cross symbol from the county seal. (Associated Press)
  • Church's clout ascends in Russia | A political player again, and independent for the first time, the institution seeks its proper role. An art exhibit prosecution illustrates its muscle. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Are the Commandments in the Supreme Court? | It is assumed that it was the designer's intent to portray the Ten Commandments with the two tablets numbered I-X. Therefore, it is accurate to say that The Ten Commandments are represented in the Supreme Court Building. (Larry Fisher, Searcy Daily Citizen, AR)
  • U.S. health plans include one with Catholic tenets | The Bush administration has broken new ground in its "faith-based" initiative, this time by offering federal employees a Catholic health plan that specifically excludes payment for contraceptives, abortion, sterilization and artificial insemination. (The New York Times)

Marriage & family:

  • Religious groups nurturing marriage | Leaders of two dozen Loudoun County churches and religious organizations vowed over the weekend to support the institution of marriage, saying they hoped to prevent thousands of divorces in the county over the next decade. (Washington Post)
  • Bangladesh divorce reform planned | The government of Bangladesh says that it is planning to make changes in the country's marriage laws to give women the right to divorce. (BBC)
  • Ohio court asserts man's right to procreate | The Ohio Supreme Court asserted a man's "right to procreate" on Wednesday and ruled that a father of seven could not be threatened with jail for skipping child support if he fathered more children. (Reuters)
  • Unmarried fathers 'have no legal rights' | Unmarried fathers are warned today that they do not automatically have a legal right to make fundamental decisions about their children's future. (Telegraph, UK)

Same-sex marriage:

  • House to vote on marriage amendment | Just weeks before the general election, House members will vote today on a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage — a move critics say is purely political and supporters say is critically needed to defend marriage from court attack. (The Washington Times)
  • Sanctity, satire married in Voters' Pamphlet | "Agree with us or burn in hell." That's one argument in support of a measure to ban same-sex marriage that Oregonians will find in the state Voters' Pamphlet next week. Except it's a hoax. It is one of four bogus statements that have outraged supporters of Measure 36, which would amend the Oregon Constitution to recognize marriage between only a man and a woman. (The Oregonian)
  • Large crowd expected for "Take a Stand for Marriage" rally | Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on Family, a nonprofit organization that produces his radio show that is heard on nearly 4,000 radio stations in North America, will deliver the keynote speech on Sunday. (Sioux City Journal, Iowa)
  • Foes of gay-marriage ban outspend backers | Opponents have raised the most money, but supporters may have the upper hand in persuading Oregon voters that marriage should be limited to unions involving a man and a woman. (The Register-Guard, Ore.)

Jimmy Swaggart & homosexuals:

  • Groups rebuke Swaggart for remarks | Even though the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart apologized for saying he would kill a gay man who looked at him "like that," two religious groups released a resolution Friday denouncing the statement because it contradicts religious teachings. (The Advocate, LA)
  • Gay rights group: Probe Swaggart's taxes | A gay rights group is asking the Internal Revenue Service (news - web sites) to investigate the tax-exempt status of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries following the preacher's recent remark that he would "kill" any gay man who looked at him. (Associated Press)
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Religion & politics:

  • RNC creates web sites to criticize Kerry | Republicans have one message for followers of many faiths: Sen. John Kerry is wrong. Wrong for Catholics, Mormons and Evangelicals say a number of Web sites that the Republican National Committee has created. Each Web site compiles excerpts of Kerry's comments and Senate voting record on social issues such as abortion, civil unions for same sex couples and school choice. (Associated Press)
  • Right hook | In mid-September, a Gallup poll giving President Bush a 13-point lead over John Kerry left many election watchers scratching their heads; several other national surveys from the same period all showed the race deadlocked. Gallup's credibility has since come increasingly under fire. (Salon.com)
  • 'Jesus baiting' | I thought it might be good to come to Greenville, S.C. and talk to some Bob Jones people about where religion fits into politics and whether they feel like they have been tools and props in the political process. (Charlie Madigan, Chicago Tribune)
  • Also: Hooked on 'Jesus Baiting' | When you appear in the media, you tend to want the writer or reporter to present you the way you see yourself. (Jonathan Pait)
  • Fighting a culture war | For the first 350 years of our history, those we know as Americans were treated weekly to sermons about politics, effectiveness of government leaders, and whether or not war and other government decisions lined up with God's pleasure and blessing. But Jesus couldn't stand in our pulpits today and address the leaders as "whitewashed sepulchers" without losing his 501 (c)3 tax status. (Randy Kemp, Heber Springs Sun-Times, Ark.)
  • In God we do not put our votes | God doesnt figure much in the Australian election campaign, and certainly not like He does in the U.S. presidential campaign. (Wodonga Border Mail, Australia)
  • Religious groups compete to court voters | In voter registration drives, sermons and voter guides, religious groups from across the ideological spectrum have intensified the level of their political activity this year, prompted in part by right-left culture clashes and the legacy of the tight presidential race in 2000. (Associated Press)
  • Wedge issues play big part in U.S. campaign | With only a few weeks until it adjourns for the election campaign, the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress has agreed to take up the politically polarizing issues of same-sex marriage, ``God'' in the Pledge of Allegiance and flag burning. (Reuters)
  • Edwards says issues of faith should not divide voters | John Kerry was an altar boy-turned-soldier who wore a cross under his uniform every day in Vietnam and once contemplated the priesthood. Running mate John Edwards was baptized as a teen, spent a decade in Bible study groups and led the weekly prayer breakfast in the U.S. Senate. Though the Democratic presidential team invokes the name of God less frequently than President Bush on the campaign trail, Edwards said Wednesday no one should doubt where they stand. (Associated Press)
  • This country can't afford to go Dutch | Pew Research Center stated in 2000 almost half of America's 59 million evangelical Christians didn't even register to vote. Only 15 million of 35 million registered went to the polls. Therefore, only 25 percent of evangelical Christians voted in 2000 (an election decided by about 537 votes). (Larry Tomczak, Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  • Liffrig letter stirs some clergy concern | A letter sent out last month by Senate Republican candidate Mike Liffrig has raised alarms among some members of the clergy. The letter, mailed to North Dakota clergy in late August, asked pastors to gather "a handful of pro-life and pro-traditional marriage people who can serve as an informal Get Out the Vote Committee" for their congregations. (Bismarck Tribune, ND)
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  • Minister mobilizes Missouri Democrats to take back religious turf | For the Rev. David Keyes, it was a moment of grass-roots poetry. Keyes is the Kerry-Edwards election campaign's new (and first) religious outreach coordinator for Missouri, and on Monday afternoon he sat at a table at the campaign's St. Louis storefront headquarters in a Shrewsbury strip mall with six religious leaders, lay and ordained. (Associated Press)
  • Funny how survey ends up right on the money | Everybody knows that polls lie. Especially ones we don't like. Flip to page A5 of Tuesday's New York Times to see just how angry folks can get when polls turn against them. A full-page ad by MoveOn.org attacks the Gallup Organization for its recent surveys showing George Bush ahead of their guy, John Kerry. (Kerry Dougherty, The Virginian-Pilot)
  • Inside Politics | President Bush holds a commanding lead among Catholic voters, according to the latest survey of the California-based Barna Research Group. (Greg Pierce, Washington Times)
  • Falwell asks Christians to support president | The 4 million evangelical Christians who did not vote in 2000 will unite behind President Bush in November, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said yesterday. (Washington Times)

Life ethics:

  • Lawyer drops out of right - to - die case | The lead attorney for the parents of a woman at the center of a right-to-die dispute has withdrawn from the case, just days before the parents were expected to seek a new trial. (Associated Press)
  • Genetic engineering makes blemish-free etrog | An Israeli rabbi says genetic engineering has answered the prayers of observant Jews yearning for the perfect etrog, the lemon-like fruit used in the upcoming Succot holiday. Rabbi Menachem Borstein says his etrog is blemish-free, cheap and 100 percent kosher. (Associated Press)
  • At U.N., Vatican condemns human cloning | The Vatican, in its first speech ever to the U.N. General Assembly, called Wednesday for a total ban on human cloning and criticized the war in Iraq and unilateral responses to terrorism. (Associated Press)

Dolly cloner wants to clone humans:

  • Plea to clone human embryos | The scientist who created Dolly the sheep applied yesterday for a licence to clone human embryos to try to find a cure for motor neurone disease. (Times, London)
  • Cloning hope for neurone disease | The scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep has applied for a licence to clone human embryos in the hope of using stem cells extracted from them to unravel the mysteries of motor neurone disease. (The Guardian, UK)
  • Dolly man applies to use human embryos | The scientist who created Dolly the sheep yesterday applied to clone human embryos to aid the development of an effective treatment for motor neurone disease, the devastating degenerative disorder. (Telegraph, UK)

Contraception:

  • Encouraging contraceptive use will lower abortion rate | The tenor of the abortion-rights crusade seems passe, outdated, even crude. The activists spend so much time arguing for abortion that they seem to ignore its complexities and its pain. (Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Yahoo)
  • Emergency pill loses its allure for women | Over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill has coincided with a drop in its use, Government figures showed yesterday. (Telegraph, UK)

British couple fights doctors to keep baby alive:

  • As Charlotte clings to life, a judge must decide if she should be left to die | Parents prepare for court battle to save their daughter (Times, London)
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  • Ill baby 'faces lifetime of pain' | A seriously ill premature baby will have a terrible quality of life dominated by pain, if doctors continue to keep her alive, a court has heard. (BCC)
  • Court battle baby can only feel 'continuing pain' | Doctors caring for a desperately-ill premature baby believe that she has "no feelings other than continuing pain" and a quality of life which is "both terrible and permanent", a High Court judge heard today. (PA News, UK)
  • Don't let our baby die | A life and death struggle between the Birmingham parents of a desperately-ill baby girl and doctors who say she should be allowed to die was in the hands of a High Court judge today. The couple, both committed Christians, have visited Charlotte in hospital every day, sometimes with their 20-month-old son Daniel. (icBirmingham, UK)
  • A judgment beyond medicine and parenthood | The judge who will decide whether Charlotte should be kept alive against medical opinion has made tough decisions before. (Times, London)
  • Denying treatment - a medical dilemma | When parents and doctors cannot agree over the treatment children should receive, it is left to the courts to decide what route to take. (BBC)

Miracle babies:

  • Preacher forecasts 'miracle' birth | Self-styled archbishop Gilbert Deya yesterday claimed that a woman whose fallopian tubes had been removed was on the brink of giving birth to what he described as a "miracle baby" conceived through the power of prayer. (The Herald, UK)
  • Preacher denies child trafficking | An evangelical preacher who claims he has helped infertile women conceive "miracle babies" yesterday denied running an international child trafficking ring. (Telegraph, UK)
  • Preacher who produces 'miracle babies' wanted by Kenyan police | An evangelical preacher who claims to help infertile couples in his congregation have "miracle babies" but is alleged to be at the centre of a child-trafficking racket could try to claim political asylum in Britain. (The Guardian, UK)
  • Evangelist dismisses child-trafficking charges as a set-up | As a defence, the protestations yesterday of a Kenyan preacher accused of child trafficking were not as immaculate as the conceptions of the "miracle babies" he says he facilitated. Self-styled Archbishop Gilbert Deya, who says he was ordained by the United Evangelical Church of Kenya, is fighting possible extradition to Kenya, where police are investigating allegations that he has links to child-trafficking. (Independent, UK)

Bishop of Austrian school charged with child porn resigns:

  • Austrians relieved bishop resigned | An influential Roman Catholic lay organization expressed relief Thursday at the resignation of a bishop who oversaw a seminary where authorities found child pornography, calling it an ``important first step'' in rebuilding trust in Austria's scandalized church. (Associated Press)
  • Austrian bishop quits after sex scandal—Newspaper | Austrian bishop Kurt Krenn has resigned, apparently at the Pope's request, after a sex and child pornography scandal in his diocese rocked the Roman Catholic church in the Alpine nation. (Reuters)
  • Bishop blamed in sex scandal steps down | A Roman Catholic bishop blamed for a seminary pornography scandal in Austria has resigned. Bishop Kurt Krenn, who had overall responsibility for the seminary where authorities found up to 40,000 lurid images on computers — including child pornography — wrote to Pope John Paul II saying he was stepping down, state radio said. (Los Angeles Times)

Abuse:

  • Uniting Church says sorry for abuse | Uniting Church president Dean Drayton yesterday apologised to children who suffered neglect and abuse in its institutions over the past century. (The Age, Australia)
  • Ex-pastor convicted of rape in Arkansas | A former pastor was sentenced to 35 years in prison for raping a young girl who said the man had told her that God approved of their sexual relationship. (Associated Press)
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  • Priest is arrested in alleged molestations | Cleric of St. Thomas the Apostle in Koreatown is accused of abusing two boys and an older teen. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Time expires in bishop's sex abuse case | District attorney won't prosecute the ex-leader of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Mass. (Los Angeles Times)

Education:

  • Racine Christian celebrates 75 years | School society credited for success as weekend-long festivities end today (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Evolution defenders anticipate new fight | For supporters of teaching evolution in Kansas public schools, the best defense is a good offense. In January, the balance of power on the state Board of Education is expected to shift to social conservatives who want to include creation science and intelligent design among the theories taught in science classes, or remove evolution from the classroom. (Lawrence Journal World, Kansas)

Business:

  • Christian gamers get holy alternative | Nicholson Entertainment is one of a handful of video game publishers that turns out action-packed adventure games for a Christian audience. (Miami Herald)
  • Religion walks fine line at work | There's no question that religion is a factor in the workplace. People who try to live their faith can cause problems if they cross the line from trying to help a co-worker to condemning someone with differing beliefs. (Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.)

Money:

  • Can income gap become economic chasm in the U.S.? | In a complex modern society and economy, discharging your responsibility to your fellow man is not just a matter of personal charity, but of erecting just and reasonable social structures and arrangements, usually through the government. (Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune)
  • Religious ethics clash with loan practices | As easy money becomes the norm in the US, borrowing habits raise more ethical concerns. (Christian Science Monitor)

Books:

  • Excavating details of the life, times of John the Baptist | The first thing that should be said about "The Cave of John the Baptist" is that its subtitle, "The Stunning Archaeological Discovery That Has Redefined Christian History," is an extravagant overstatement. (Indianapolis Star)
  • Da Vinci Code author is accused of plagiarism | The author of a thriller that has sold more than 12 million copies is being accused of plagiarising two books published more than 20 years ago. (Times, London)

Television:

  • Slip-up on the road to Damascus | The two-part television documentary With God on Our Side - initially made for Britain's Channel 4 and shown here a couple of weeks back in the ABC's The Big Picture slot - transpired as a fascinating, possibly insightful portrait of the President of the US, George Bush. (The Australian, Australia)
  • New Pax show is religion, O'Reilly style | In a program that its creator describes as "O'Reilly meets religion," Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists and even animal rights activists verbally duke it out over who is right about God and God's intentions. The new Pax TV show is "Faith Under Fire," created by Lee Strobel. It debuts Saturday night. (The Hartford Courant, Conn.)
  • Ragsdale: TV, radio shows focus on religion | Quite a lot has been written about how inadequate religion coverage is in the secular media. And there are complaints that when broadcast TV and print media do address religion "they just don't get it right." That isn't the case with three programs now available to Iowa listeners and viewers. (Des Moines Register, Iowa)
  • The Cutting Edge: The Jesus Factor | A fascinating examination of the personal faith of US President George W. Bush, the "most openly religious president in generations", which plays as much more than a personal portrait of a man driven by his belief. It peels open the simmering issue of the role faith has to play in a secular state. (Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)
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  • The star man | 'Nova' host has always had his eyes on the skies. Though he works in an area of science that often comes into conflict with fundamentalist Christianity, at least those branches that insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible regarding Creation, he's found at the Hayden that "people who are religious look at [the stars] as the handiwork of God and come out more religious. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • The Earth: an introduction for aliens | As we watch, we hear recordings of people "speaking in tongues" or glossolalia. The phenomenon is primarily associated with evangelical Christians who babble incomprehensibly in the belief that God is speaking directly through them, though it is not exclusively religious and occurs all over the world. (Telegraph, UK)

Film & theater:

  • A graphic film of protest, and cries of blasphemy | Ms. Hirsi Ali, 34, who grew up as a Muslim but has abandoned her faith, said her purpose was not to give offense but to draw attention to what she contends is widespread but hidden violence against Muslim women, even those living in Europe. (The New York Times)
  • Review: 'Godspell' inspires theatergoers | Black Hills Community Theatre's "Godspell" is a revival tent meeting, a vaudeville show, a carnival, and a Saturday night party all rolled into one. (Rapid City Journal, SD)
  • Teens help create anti-bias drama | Play looks at hatred among Christians, Jews and Muslims (The Detroit News)

Woman, Thou Art Loosed:

  • Preacher Jakes' film tackles sex abuse | Bishop T.D. Jakes isn't easily intimidated. He is, after all, a best-selling author of 29 books, a Grammy-winning gospel singer, a nationally renowned preacher and the subject of a 2001 Time magazine cover story that asked: ``Is This Man The Next Billy Graham?''(Associated Press)
  • In 'Thou Art Loosed,' amen and a woman | It is, at first glance, one of the more unlikely of celluloid conjoinings: Millionaire televangelist with a self-help bestseller turned Passion play turned cinematic weepie meets up with a New York film company known for its edgy documentaries -- think al-Jazeera, the Ramones and Long Island pedophilia. (Washington Post)
  • With new film, Bishop Jakes' reach extends even further | Preacher has built evangelical empire, but some fault posh lifestyle (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Pop culture slowly moves into the pew | what struck me most about "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" -- which, in the tradition of a certain type of black theater, is broad, frank and accessible -- is its setting. It's an urban community in which the local Pentecostal church is a haven for a (mostly) committed flock that, as star Elise said, "like in real churches, shows true religious commitment and hypocrisy in the same congregation." (Donna Britt, Washington Post)

Music:

  • Christian music festival Saturday | They had to turn away professional gospel music groups for the second annual event. (Jefferson City News Tribune, MO)
  • Group brings Christian music to Cheyenne | A small group of evangelical Christians hopes to turn Cheyenne into a hub of Christian music. (Associated Press)
  • Ethereal Girl seeks cheap grace | As Madonna soared out of Israel on her private jet last week, she left behind her trademark trail of controversy and chaos. Secular Israelis were intoxicated by her five-day trip to the Holy Land; Orthodox Jews were repulsed. Palestinians protested. Israeli police arrested two of her bodyguards who had assaulted photographers outside her hotel. (Colleen Carrol Campbell, Toronto Star)
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  • Gay star's declaration fails to impress church | Gospel singer Lundi Tyamara's recent disclosure that he was "gay 'n proud" has angered the Durban Christian Church, which recently opened its doors to the down-and-out star, providing him with counselling to overcome his alcohol and drug addiction. (City Press, South Africa)
  • Resident puts God's word to rap beat | Jon Lewis raps for Jesus Christ. He's also from Greenwich, but he says those two things aren't a contradiction. Still, his lyrics sound more like the Bible Belt than religiously understated Fairfield County. (Greenwich Time, Conn.)
  • Academic claims musicals are the new religion | It's God who really has the best songs, according to a University of St Andrews theologian - at least, if you disregard The Sound of Music. (The Guardian, UK)

Youth:

  • The Word, told differently | Young adults drifting away from their churches. For Zondervan, they are a huge market -- 8 million strong by its research -- that could be led back to the flock with a fresh approach to Bible studies and other Christian products. (The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.)
  • Teenagers want confirmation at 16 | A majority of secondary school students want to wait until they are 16 before being confirmed, according to a new book about attracting young people to the church. (Sunday Times, London)

People:

  • Canon John Halliburton | Scholar and priest who fostered a better understanding between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism (Times, London)Pastor pens poems from the heart | Ivey never thought of himself as a writer and certainly not a poet. But, when he became serious about Christianity, he began to have thoughts that would lend themselves to poetic forms. (Troy Messenger, Ala.)
  • Ministery, Music: New member of First Baptist team follows footsteps of grandfather | Since August John Cruse - has been the assistant pastor in charge of worship and programs at First Baptist Church located at 413 W. Empire in Freeport. (Freeport Journal Standard, Ill.)
  • Lewes woman answers her calling | Emily Hughes has wanted to be a missionary since she was 13. The 22-year-old Lewes resident grew up reading about missionaries like Elizabeth Elliot, who worked in Ecuador. Elliot and her young daughter lived with and shared "Christ's love" with the Auca Indians even after the Indians killed Elliot's husband. For Hughes, Elliot's story has been an inspiration. (Delaware Coast Press, DE)

History:

  • Solving a riddle written in silver | In a scholarly report published this month, the research team concluded that the improved reading of the inscriptions confirmed their greater antiquity. The script, the team wrote, is indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile of Israelites in Babylonia. (The New York Times)
  • Auction house hosts Biblical epic | A rare New Testament which had a reserve of only £350 has sold at auction for more than £10,000 (BBC)
  • Dead Sea Scrolls coming to Houston | They have been called a window in time. Some of the earliest surviving Biblical texts will be on exhibit in Houston beginning Friday. (KHOU, Texas)
  • Bible texts on silver amulets dated to First Temple period | U.S. and Israeli researchers claim to have discovered proof that the Five Books of Moses were in existence during the First Temple period. (Ha'aretz, Israel)

Other religions:

  • Living goddess makes rare outing | A seven-year-old girl revered by Hindus and Buddhists as a living goddess has had a rare festive excursion from the house where she is usually confined in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. (BBC)
  • 'Hocus Pocus has never enjoyed such high status with the middle classes' | Among the bien pensants, spiritualism has elbowed out spirituality and having the telephone number of a medium on your personal organiser is as essential as having the number of a yoga instructor. The same people who sneer at belief in transubstantiation and the Virgin Birth have no difficulty believing that the table top has just bounced because uncle Stephen's spirit is annoyed with the way you spent his inheritance, or the year ahead will bring nothing but pain and tears because your lifeline has a ridge in it. (The Observer, UK)
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Crime:

  • Ex-pastor charged in theft from a church | For more than 30 years, the Rev. Charles E. Betts Sr. helped build the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica, Queens, into a formidable center of political, religious and community activity. But yesterday, the authorities announced that a warrant was being issued for Mr. Betts's arrest on charges that he embezzled about half a million dollars from the church, aided by a church administrative assistant and that assistant's husband. (The New York Times)
  • U.S. returns stolen Mexican altarpiece | The U.S. ambassador formally returned a 300-year-old wooden altarpiece to Mexico on Tuesday that thieves had tried to sell in the United States. Tony Garza returned the carved and gilded altarpiece three years after it was stolen from a Mexican convent. (Associated Press)
  • Crime alert in Fort Worth area: Bible blessing | Police are warning of a scam that targets Christians who believe they're helping a minister from a South African church. (CBS, TX)
  • Former church's parishioners sue new owner over windows | Larry Ambrose and his sister, Tracy Gerard, thought they were acquiring mementos to cherish when they purchased stained-glass windows from their church in Monessen, which was closing. Two years later, the stained glass remains in the building and Gerard and Ambrose are part of a lawsuit against the building's new owner, the Mon Valley Association of Retired Steelworkers, or MARS, seeking to pry the windows from its possession. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Penn.)
  • UN warns on South Asia child sex | The trade in women and children for sex is spiralling out of control in South Asia, the UN children's fund, Unicef, has warned. (BBC)

Other articles of interest:

  • Noah and the Law | Words stamped in red ink on a 2001 $1 bill that my husband and I received in change at a Huntsville restaurant made us stop and read: "Attention All Mankind Learn And Observe The Seven Noahide Commandments" (The Decatur Daily, Ala.)
  • Bethlehem residents gloomy about Israel's security wall | The security wall Israel is building aims to protect its citizens from Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists coming from the West Bank and Gaza. The wall soon will restrict access to the town of Bethlehem, a popular tourist destination traditionally considered the birthplace of Jesus Christ. (Voice of America)
  • Monastery home of St Bernards to close after 400 years | The Alpine monastery that bred the original St Bernard dogs more than 400 years ago is closing its kennels because it can no longer afford them. (Times, London)
  • Flaws of faith | As religion insinuates its way into public life, secularists must unite to fight hellfire with logic (David Aaronovitch, The Observer, UK)
  • We used to hate, but now we hate hating | This week Greater Manchester Police banned a concert by the Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton, on the ground that his homophobic lyrics were likely to provoke public disorder and hatred. The police might have changed their tune on gay rights. But it still sounds like censorship to me, and it is still reactionary, even if it is done in drag. (Mick Hume, Times, London)
  • Out of Africa | A small community in Uganda claiming to be Jewish fights for legitimacy (Jerusalem Post, Israel)
  • SE Asians urge respect for Islam at U.N. | The West must stop associating Islam with violence, poverty and indignity, top officials from three southeast Asian nations agreed. (China Post, Taiwan)
  • 'Miraculous' Christ washes up in Texas Rio Grande | A fiberglass statue of Christ that washed up on a sandbar in the Rio Grande three weeks ago is attracting scores of devout pilgrims to a police department lost-and-found and being hailed as a miracle. (Reuters)

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Weblog
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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