Weblog is still officially on vacation, but we're still reading religion news online (albeit on a very slow dialup connection). Fortunately, it's a very slow religion news week. But there are a few stories worth noting:
Jews for Jesus sues Google over blog (Reuters)
jewsforjesus.blogspot.com has few posts since its launch in January 2005, but one imagines it's getting a lot of traffic this week. Jews for Jesus says the critical site is guilty of trademark infringement.
Texas church plans to give away a house (The Daily News, Galveston, Tex.)
In past years, Abundant Life Christian Center in La Marque, Texas, has given away a car, a motorcycle, and furniture. It draws about 2,000 each year to its New Year's Eve service. One wonders if the potential of leaving church with a $120,000 three-bedroom house might boost that attendance a bit this year. Any out-of-staters planning on making the trip?
KKLA-FM's evangelical voice has grown louder (Los Angeles Times)
This profile of the country's largest Christian talk radio station (with more than 250,000 listeners each week) isn't terribly exciting. The interesting factor is how poverty issues, which generally aren't considered a conservative Christian radio staple, keep coming up. KKLA general manager Terry Fahy tells the Times, "We believe [the station] inspires people to live better lives. We are constantly exhorting people to reach out more to their fellow men, be more giving to the poor."
Later, Clay Schmit, professor of preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary, says, "They're obviously targeting a particular kind of Christian audience. That audience may not include all Christians. But there is a spirit of care that you get in these programsto help children through World Vision, to help homeless people in Los Angeles, to meet various needs here and internationallyand that's the kind thing all of us as Christians can embrace."
New cultural approach for conservative Christians: Reviews, not protests (The New York Times)
The New York Times discovers Christian movie review web sites. "New," for the Times, means "we haven't heard of this before," even if it has been going on for years and years. (Christianity Today's Film Forum feature, now on Christianity Today Movies, has been rounding up the Christian film critics every week since 1999.)
Homecoming for a congregation in New Orleans (Associated Press)
A heartwarming Christmas story.
Easing the way when the spirit is willing (The New York Times)
Making churches accessible to those in wheelchairs, the elderly, and other disabled churchgoers, is a perennial issue that no church can avoid. Looks like it might be a particularly important issue in New England, where the churches tend to be older than elsewhere (and, though the article doesn't say it, so do the churchgoers).
Bearing the cross | (The Guardian, London)
Robert Tait considers the plight of Christians in Iran.
Survivor tells of girls' beheadings (The Australian)
The lone survivor of the Sulawesi attacks, in which three Christian girls were beheaded, speaks to the press for the first time.
Proselytizing creates friction in Indonesia (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)
In the wake of the beheadings, Muslims think that the real problem in Indonesia is those darn relief workers.
Hostage takers' silence likely a good sign for Canadians (National Post, Canada)
One month after the Christian Peacemaker Teams workers were taken hostage, there's still no word on what happened to them.
Off-kilter opinion pieces:
December 25 | (Editorial, The New York Times)
The New York Times greeted Christmas morning by assuring its readers, "Peace does not simply appear in the sky overhead or lie embodied one morning in a manger." The important thing about Christmas isn't the Christ child, but that "we are right to remember how we would like to feel. We are right to long for peace and good will." Keep hoping and feeling, the paper says, but don't you dare actually believe.
I saw Jackie Mason kissing Santa Claus | (Frank Rich, The New York Times)
Rich is paranoid of the theocrat takeover ("a fundamentalist theocracy seems as imminent in America as it does in the 'democracy' we've been building in Iraq") but can't seem to make up his mind on whether the "theocrats" really believe all this religious stuff, or whether it's just a cover for a power grab. Ironic how what starts as a warning against "rabble-rousing paranoia about a supposed assault" ends up becoming just that.
Chimps with everything: a ridiculous war | (Cristina Odone, The Times, London)
Odone worries over ignorance while claiming that Intelligent Design backers are seven-day creationists, and American nationalists. She also takes swipes at Richard Dawkins and other anti-religion Darwinists, but by then you'll probably have stopped reading, frustrated over ignorance yourself.
Church building disputes:
- Fairfax is focus of bias probe | City initially denied permit to church (The Washington Post)
- Church sues S.D. over building rental fees | Federal court complaint claims discrimination (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- 35 and pregnant? Assessing risk becomes easier | Noninvasive screening for Down syndrome is fast becoming standard care in gynecological practices. (The New York Times)
- Miss. abortion clinic awaits license okay | Mississippi's only remaining abortion clinic is waiting to hear if health officials will approve its license to meet ambulatory surgical standards (Associated Press)
- China law threatens jail for sex-selective abortions | The legal amendment would give new teeth to a government campaign to outlaw the selective abortion of female fetuses and correct an imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls that has grown since China's one-child policy was introduced more than 20 years ago (Reuters)
St. Stanislaus excommunication:
- Winding path to St. Stanislaus | On Christmas Eve the parish's focus was on Bozek, and Bozek's focus was on Christ (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- Defiant church celebrates Mass on Christmas Eve | At least 2,000 people packed into St. Stanislaus Kostka church and its Polish Heritage Center to be a part of the Rev. Marek Bozek's first celebration of Mass as pastor of the church (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- Taking sacraments sinful, not schismatic | Simply receiving the Eucharist from a schismatic priest does not put someone outside that communion. A person would have to take things further to become excommunicated (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- Excommunicate at Christmas? If archbishop had a wife | Wives are important because they don't keep their doubts to themselves (Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- In first Christmas homily, pope reflects on world conflicts | Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the poor and warned the more comfortable that they "risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements." (The New York Times)
- Limbo, an afterlife tradition, may be doomed by the Vatican | While belief in God may not change, the things people believe about him most certainly do (The New York Times)
- Vatican restricts gays in Catholic priesthood | In the first major ruling of Pope Benedict's reign, the Vatican on Tuesday imposed restrictions on homosexuals entering the Catholic priesthood, saying men must first overcome any "transitory" gay tendencies (Reuters)
- Russian Patriarchate suspends relations with Church of Sweden | "We have received with great disappointment and grief the news that not only does the Lutheran Church of Sweden not oppose so-called homosexual marriages, but has even ruled to establish an official blessing ceremony," Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement at a session in Moscow on Tuesday (Interfax, Russia)
- A spirited attempt to save churches | New uses keep buildings open in Britain (The Washington Post)
- Calif. gay marriage opponents shift focus | One of two groups competing to put a gay marriage ban before California voters in 2006 has bowed out of the fight for now, saying the timing and political climate are not right to get such a measure passed (Associated Press)
- Evangelicals direct clout at global warming | U.S. evangelicals are flexing political muscles strengthened in battles over domestic issues such as abortion, gay rights and school prayer on a broader array of topics, from human rights and religious freedom to global poverty and AIDS (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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