1. Fight over Warren's Obama invitation illustrates evangelical questions over separation
One of the better pieces is David Van Biema's Time column. He notes (quoting CT's Collin Hansen) that the battle between those who say, quite literally, "we will never work with those can support the murder of babies in the womb" and those who say "the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by evangelicals alone" has echoes of the 1940s and 1950s. Back then, the split was between Billy Graham's neo-evangelical camp and the more fundamentalists (in the historical, non-pejorative sense of the term) who advocated "second-degree separation."

2. Christian Coalition gets its name back in the papers
Really, the Christian Coalition isn't that big of a name any more. Neither is Joel Hunter, though his church is big enough to be particularly noteworthy in the Florida Christian world. But the split between the two—right before Hunter was to take over as the Coalition's president—illustrates the same narrative that the Warren/Obama controversy does. The Chicago Tribune, among others, notes the similarities.

3. Chicago stands alone in Christmas wars
You have to look hard—or abroad—for fights over Christmas this year. This year, it looks a lot like Christmas (not "the holidays") every where you go. Take a look at the Five-and-Ten.

4. Mt. Soledad Cross gets a win
But the battle isn't over, of course. Actually, it's hard to pick among the many church-and-state battles today. Read them all, and then head over to the indispensable Religion Clause blog, which tipped us off to several of these.

5. The Pope goes to Turkey
But you knew that, right?

Quote of the day
"This story incorrectly stated that James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, believes people who don't practice what they preach should undergo an exorcism. His quote, in a TV interview about reaction to the firing of evangelical leader Ted Haggard for 'sexual immorality,' was: 'Everybody gets exercised (worked up about it) when something like this happens, and for good reason.'"
—A correction to a November 23 Rocky Mountain News article on Dobson and Haggard, which had the subhead "Dobson: Haggard not a hypocrite, just in need of exorcism."

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Rick Warren and Barack Obama | AIDS | Joel Hunter and Christian Coalition | People | Politics (U.S.) | Politics (non-U.S.) | Church and state | Nativity at Chicago's Christkindlmarket | The Nativity Story | Nativity displays | Other holiday displays | Christmas in the marketplace | Christmas in the schools | More on "Christmas wars" | Government prayer | Blue laws | British Airways cross dispute | Religious liberty | Islam | Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey | More on Turkey | Lebanon | China | Social justice | Military | Abortion | Life ethics | Birth control | Sex and marriage | Homosexuality | Ted Haggard | Mitt Romney | Mormonism and Mitt Romney | Anglicanism | Pope and Anglicans | Church life | Church buildings | Church closings | Texas Baptist church plant scandal | Theft | Abuse | Religious hate crimes in Scotland | Crime | Money and business | Giving | Missions & ministry | Vouchers | Education | Education (U.K.) | Higher Education | Spirituality and theology | Exorcism | Atheism | Entertainment and media | Art | History | India | Other stories of interest
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Rick Warren and Barack Obama:

  • The real losers in the Obama-Warren controversy | Rick Warren's invitation to have Barack Obama speak at his mega-church's AIDS conference has sparked a furor in the evangelical community. But pro-life critics of Obama's inclusion may end up regretting their stance (David Van Biema, Time)

  • Pastor Rick Warren defends Obama invite | The senator, who supports abortion rights, will speak at a church AIDS seminar (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Branding a compassionate Christ a 'liberal' | Dissention among religious leaders sparks protests over AIDS summit (Nightline, ABC News)

  • Obama's mega-church visit spotlights waning 'God gap' | a number of prominent evangelical leaders recently have sought to broaden the movement's political agenda from traditional cultural issues of opposition to abortion and gay rights that favor Republicans to include concerns more associated with Democrats, such as the environment, the AIDS epidemic and poverty (Chicago Tribune)

  • Famed pastor defends invitation to Obama | Obama is one of nearly 60 speakers scheduled to address the second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church beginning Thursday at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. (Associated Press)

  • Church is urged to disinvite Obama | In a statement, 18 antiabortion leaders called on Warren to rescind the invitation because Obama supports keeping abortion legal (The Washington Post)

  • Evangelical pastor, Obama join forces to battle AIDS | The O.C. leader of Saddleback Church has taken heat from his peers over the invitation and conference (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Delivering aid—and values | New interest by faith-based groups in problems like AIDS bring church resources and hands to a cause. It also brings concerns (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

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  • Faith groups urge cuts to AIDS fund | Allege opposition to Christian efforts (The Boston Globe)

  • Christian conservatives vs. AIDS | Bush and the evangelical movement have done more than they get credit for in efforts to stem the disease (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • Stop giving free condoms, say clerics | The practice, they said, was encouraging promiscuity and fuelling the spread of HIV/Aids (The Nation, Kenya)

  • Programs help reduce HIV rates in parts of Africa, report says | Virus resurges in Uganda, Thailand (The Washington Post)

  • Warnings, worship mark World AIDS Day | World Aids Day was marked around the globe by somber religious services, boisterous demonstrations and warnings that far more needs to be done to treat and prevent the disease in order to avert millions of additional deaths (Reuters)

  • Abstinence and AIDS | There is a definite role for abstinence, especially among the young, where the training has been shown in some cases to delay the age of first sexual activity. Abstinence-only programs, however, are of little help to some of those most vulnerable to infection, including impoverished young women under pressure to have sex for economic or cultural reasons (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

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Joel Hunter won't be Christian Coalition prez after all:

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  • The gospel according to Jim Wallis | For Democrats to win back the White House, they may well have to rely on the power of the Almighty. And it's not Bill Clinton (The Washington Post Magazine)

  • Rivers to end day-to-day role at center | The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, under pressure in recent months over his administration of the Ella J. Baker House, said last night he will step aside from running the day-to-day affairs of the Dorchester community center (The Boston Globe)

  • Also: A promoter stands mute | If there is one word that would never be associated with the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, that word would be silent (Adrian Walker, The Boston Globe)

  • A King we hardly knew | It is not amazing that King wrote of concern for the poor yet criticized liberals who voiced only lip service. What is stunning is that he wrote the above in 1948, before age 20 (T Derrick Z. Jackson, The Boston Globe)

  • Also: The continuing 'danger' of King | Clayborne Carson speculates that if King were alive today, he might continue to be embarrassing to an America where many Christian groups scapegoat homosexuals, limit women's right to an abortion, or espouse general superiority over other religious groups (Derrick Z. Jackson, The Boston Globe)

  • Barton: new face of the religious right? | The next wave of the religious right is arriving (William McKenzie, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Weighing family's quality time against lure of elite programs | Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe, whose name seems to be on every coaching short list in college football, lives by three F's: Faith, family and football (The New York Times)

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Politics (U.S.):

  • The 'God Gap' lessened in last election | Issues such as the Iraq war lured the devout to Democrats (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Pastor finds Raleigh fortunes have fizzled | Jerry Falwell made his name in Lynchburg, Va., Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach, and Tom Vestal in Raleigh, Now he has been fired as pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Despite revived Left, religious magazines wither | It's never been easy to make ends meet while putting out a progressive Christian publication. But in an ironic twist, a re-energized religious left may be making a tough task even harder (Religion News Service)

  • Wooing the faithful in '08 | Can Democrats maintain the inroads they've made among the faithful, or will Republicans rewiden the God gap that fueled their post-1994 ascent? Both parties have a lot to worry about. (Dan Gilgoff, Chicago Tribune)

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  • Souls on ice | While the GOP was exploiting the bigotry of the black clergy in the midterms, black piety was melting before America's eyes (Debra J. Dickerson, Salon.com)

  • Changes in the culture war | The media's intense focus on the bitter conflicts swirling around embryonic stem-cell research and defining marriage issues masks subtle shifts in strategies and attitudes among some of the central combatants in this conflict: evangelical and other conservative Christians (Gary J. Andres, The Washington Times)

  • Offended by intolerance | Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are under siege in the worst possible way -- from the inside out, a cancer of wrong-headed political correctness that is rotting away America's strength (Deborah E. Gauthier, Daily News Tribune, Waltham, Mass.)

  • Lutherans and mighty fortresses | A church that tolerated the Berlin Wall now finds walls unsavory if they protect people (Mark Tooley, The American Spectator)

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Politics (non-U.S.):

  • Rift erupts over church report in Zim | Church leaders in Zimbabwe attempted on Monday to head off a rift over a church report on the nation's political and economic turmoil after priests of the Jesuit order alleged the report, issued last month, was censored by government agents (Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

  • Evangelicals new kids on the political block | As strange political alignments and re-alignments unfold ahead of next year's elections, a new blend of political activists is emerging. (Gathenya Njaramba, The East African Standard, Kenya)

  • EA U.K. Responds to Sunday Telegraph | The article in last week's Sunday Telegraph by Jonathan Wynne-Jones (Christians ask if force is needed to protect their religious values) is a case-study in bad journalism (EAUK)

  • Church 'livid' at Stone's return | The decision to return the Stone of Destiny to Scotland 10 years ago caused consternation among the Church of England authorities, it has emerged (BBC)

  • Religious lobby rallies faithful to Morton's camp | Church groups and religious conservatives are being called out to vote en masse for Ted Morton as the one Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful who can end their fears that, one day, evangelical pastors will be forced to bless gay marriages (Edmonton Journal)

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Church and state:

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  • Earlier: S.D. kept in cross lawsuit | Judge says ruling could affect city (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Faith-based charities to be reviewed | The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to step into a dispute over the Bush administration's promotion of federal financing for faith-based charities (Associated Press)

  • Dixie courthouse unveils the Ten Commandments | A six-ton block of granite bearing the Ten Commandments had been installed atop the Dixie County courthouse steps. Inscribed at the base was the admonition to "Love God and keep his commandments." (Gainesville Sun, Fla.)

  • Schools await ruling in logo lawsuit | U.S. District Judge Robert Brack heard a day full of testimony and closing arguments Monday in the 3-year-old suit before announcing shortly after 5 p.m. that he would render a decision "as soon as possible" (Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.)

  • Defiant Orange County sect leader says county is 'wrestling with God' | Marie Kolasinski, leader of the quilt-making Piecemakers, is among those facing charges connected with the operation of the group's store and tearoom (Los Angeles Times)

  • Also: Sect's tearoom fights health code | Three members of the small Piecemakers religious sect were convicted this week of multiple misdemeanor counts for refusing to let health inspectors into their kitchen (Associated Press)

  • Ark. begins faith-based inmate program | Arkansas correction officials are dedicating a Bible-based program for female prisoners, but a national group said it's a risky move while a similar system is being challenged in federal court (Associated Press)

  • Church and state | On the church-state line, federal managers who are driven by faith themselves have some leeway to talk about religion, but must in the balance let their good works speak for them (Brian Friel, GovExec.com)

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Nativity ad at Chicago's Christkindlmarket:

  • No room in the plaza for 'Nativity Story' | City advises against film ads at holiday fest (Chicago Tribune)

  • 'Nativity' booted from Ill. holiday fair | A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says. Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians (Associated Press)

  • It's beginning to look a lot like a Christmas misstep | How could anyone attending something called the Christkindlmarket -- Christ child market -- be offended by clips from a movie about the birth of Christ? There may be an argument for keeping business interests at bay. But that argument is weakened by the commercial presence at the market of such sponsors as Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa, however "muted" the city says their presence is (Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times)

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The Nativity Story:

  • Chosen for their courage | 'The Nativity Story' sets out to describe the perils faced by Jesus' parents. Its creation took faith. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Movie on Jesus' birth debuts at Vatican | Some 7,000 people showed up at the benefit screening of "The Nativity Story" in Paul VI Hall, the auditorium regularly used for audiences with pilgrims (Associated Press)

  • Hollywood and the Vatican see eye to eye for a night | The Vatican was the host of the world premiere of "The Nativity Story," giving an unprecedented stamp of approval to an American studio production (The New York Times)

  • Hollywood gets religion | The greatest story ever told is increasingly becoming the stuff of movie scripts. But are such movies, including recent release on the life of Queen Esther and a film on the Nativity opening Dec. 1, up to snuff? (The Washington Times)

  • Students to show 'Nativity' at school | A high school student club in Fairfax County plans to show on campus today the new movie "The Nativity Story," which tells the biblical story of Joseph, Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ (The Washington Times)

  • 'Nativity Story' actress should not be shunned, leaders say | Amid reports that the teenage actress who plays Mary in the new movie "The Nativity Story" is pregnant out of wedlock, some Christians are wondering how to respond to a lead character's personal life in a movie they have enthusiastically embraced (Baptist Press)

  • 'Nativity Story' retells first Christmas | The makers of "The Nativity Story" offer Christ's sweet, humble beginnings in a stable — which, remarkably, Hollywood has not focused on before (Associated Press)

  • 'Nativity': Old story gets youthful slant | Catherine Hardwicke's two previous films dealt with the brutality of youth, lives fraught with doubt, pressure, anger, sexuality, violence and confusion. She is not regarded as someone who makes soft-focus, feel-good movies (USA Today)

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  • 'Nativity' on film | Tenderly gritty new movie tells story of Jesus' birth (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times)

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Nativity displays:

  • PETA mistakenly targets Alaska church | The pastor at Anchorage First Free Methodist Church was mystified. Why was the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chastising him? No animals are harmed in the church's holiday nativity display. In fact, animals aren't used at all (Associated Press)

  • Supreme Court passes on NYC nativity case | School system displays of symbols of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, but not the Christian nativity scene (ScotusBlog)

  • Christmas spirit pleasing to pastor | Nativity scene float to appear 2nd time in downtown parade (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • National groups weighing in on Monument Square Nativity scene | The city granted a Wind Point man's wish to put a nativity scene on Monument Square. And a Madison-based group now calls that decision misguided and unconstitutional (Journal Times, Racine, Wis.)

  • Also: Outsiders to the, uh, rescue on nativity | Dear Madison, Thank you once again for taking time out of your busy schedule to set us straight. Here, we in Racine figured we could make the call on our own whether to allow a nativity scene on Monument Square for this Christmas season (Mike Moore, Journal Times, Racine, Wis.)

  • County again denies Nativity boosters | A Nativity scene will not stand on the lawn of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse this Christmas season (Journal & Courier, West Lafayette, Ind.)

  • Also: Political confrontation | It makes good sense to keep nativity scenes off the grounds of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse -- and any other county or city building (Editorial, Journal & Courier, West Lafayette, Ind.)

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Other holiday displays:

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  • Southfield to lose menorah | Holiday display raises a legal issue (Detroit Free Press)

  • Christmas tea axed over Bible story | Town panel moved event out of church (Concord Monitor, N.H.)

  • Nothing wrong with decorating Capitol in different ways | There's nothing more "Christmasy" than a State Capitol that leaves its doors open to all kinds of seasonal displays—from Menorahs to "Freedom from Religion" displays. The more, the merrier (Editorial, Oshkosh Northwestern, Wis.)

  • We should ban un-Christian festive decorations | When concerned individuals have to plead with the Scottish Parliament's petitions committee to try to ensure that making the sign of the cross in public does not result in criminal proceedings, as will happen this week, the first week of Advent, it appears that we are already in an unholy mess (Cate Levine, The Herald, Glasgow)

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Christmas in the marketplace:

  • Italy senators want IKEA boycott for Nativity snub | Two Italian politicians called on Thursday for a Christmas boycott of Swedish furniture giant IKEA for not selling Nativity scenes, which Catholics in Italy traditionally put up in their homes around Christmas (Reuters)

  • Stores revert to 'Merry Christmas' | Wal-Mart leads way, backing off from 'happy holidays' (The Baltimore Sun)

  • 'Merry Christmas' comes back | Some stores have used more traditional decorations this year (Kevin Leininger, The News-Sentinel, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

  • Welcome back, Christmas | Though cynics will say this movement is nothing more than a capitulation to the power of the almighty shopping dollar, it is still refreshing to hear a clerk wish "Merry Christmas" as he or she hands back our change (Editorial, Sheboygan Press, Wi.)

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Christmas in the schools:

  • Spanish school cancels Christmas | A school in traditionally Catholic Spain has cancelled Christmas celebrations so as not to offend children who are not Christians, ABC newspaper reported on Wednesday (Reuters)

  • St. Nick ban causes stir in Vienna | St. Nick, nein! A ban on St. Nicholas at Vienna's kindergartens is taking some of the ho-ho-ho out of the holidays for tens of thousands of tots this year. And it's creating a political ruckus, with opposition parties accusing City Hall of kowtowing to a growing Muslim population by showing Europe's Santa the kindergarten door (Associated Press)

  • Also: St Nick hasn't been nixed this Xmas, Vienna insists | Santa Claus can still come to town, Vienna officials said on Thursday to calm an outcry over mistaken reports the jolly mythical figure had been banned from traditional pre-Christmas visits to kindergartens (Reuters)

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More on "Christmas wars":

  • Americans favor 'Merry Christmas' | Go ahead, say "Merry Christmas." Americans want it that way, according to a new survey, which found that 69 percent of us prefer the traditional greeting over a generic "happy holidays," which garnered a mere 23 percent of the vote (The Washington Times)

  • Merry Christmas, Bill O'Reilly! | It's tough for the 96 percent of us who celebrate Christmas, but the conservatives have our back (Liza Featherstone, The Nation)

  • 'Culture war' in season of the Prince of Peace? | As we try to respect one another's beliefs, noisy people keep intruding. They proclaim a "war on Christmas," force retailers to put "Merry Christmas" in advertising and then proclaim that they've rescued the manger (Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Don't like Christmas? Get a life | You may feel excluded by Christian symbolism, but you're in America. Work with it (Garrison Keillor, Salon.com)

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Government prayer:

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Blue laws:

  • Retailers to defy blue laws | Firms' challenge may force changes to dated state rules (The Boston Globe)

  • A turkey of a blue law | Will somebody please change the state law so people can shop for groceries on Thanksgiving? (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

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British Airways cross dispute:

  • BA reviews policy after crucifix row | British Airways launched a review of its uniform policy on Friday after coming under heavy criticism for refusing to allow a staff member to wear a Christian cross over her uniform (Reuters)

  • Anglicans review ties to BA over cross | The Church of England is reviewing its "whole attitude" towards British Airways, in which it has investments, for refusing to let employees wear crosses over their uniforms, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Friday (Reuters)

  • Blair advises BA to end cross row | Tony Blair has advised British Airways "some battles are not worth fighting" when asked about its ban on cross necklaces being worn over uniforms (BBC)

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  • The Cross wins | British public opinion and strong lobbying by Christian groups have just forced bosses at British Airways -- the UK's largest airline -- into a high profile and embarrassing U-turn (Ronan Thomas, The Washington Times)

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Religious liberty:

  • Morocco jails German for trying to convert Muslims | The court in Agadir, Morocco's main tourist destination, found the 64-year-old man guilty of trying to "shake the faith of a Muslim" (Reuters)

  • Uzbekistan pardons prisoners after US criticism | Uzbekistan issued a decree on Friday pardoning a number of prisoners jailed for extremist activities, just weeks after the United States added the country to its list of nations that violate religious freedom (Reuters)

  • Survey finds support for veil ban | One in three people would support a ban on the Muslim face-covering veil in public places, a survey suggests (BBC)

  • Intolerance in Europe | Prostitutes and drug dealers are welcome in the Netherlands. Just don't wear a veil (Editorial, The Washington Post)

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Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey:

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  • Pope prays in visit to Turkish mosque | Move is seen as gesture of conciliation toward Muslims. He also tries to mend rifts with Orthodox Christians (Los Angeles Times)

  • Christian schism is focus of Pope's second day in Turkey | Pope Benedict XVI focused on healing the rift between the once-united Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches (The New York Times)

  • Pope prays in Turkey with Muslim and Orthodox leaders | Pope Benedict showed that many of his basic concerns about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, as well as between West and East, had not vanished.

  • In Turkey, Pope reaches out to Islam | After enraging some with earlier remarks, Benedict calls for 'authentic dialogue' (The Washington Post)

  • Al-Qaida denounces pope visit to Turkey | Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said "neither the pope nor his entourage are worried" by the statement (Associated Press)

  • Pope and Patriarch ponder an EU-member Turkey | Pope Benedict and the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians said on Thursday minority rights must be protected as the EU expands and appeared to jointly support Turkish membership if it protected religious liberties (Reuters)

  • Pope meets with Turkish Christians | The pontiff joins Orthodox leader in prayer and calls for more protections for religious minorities (Los Angeles Times)

  • Pope strikes conciliatory tone in Turkey | Stresses need for dialogue with Muslims (The Boston Globe)

  • The Pope tones down his act in Turkey | Long known for his rigid thinking, Benedict XVI shows new flexibility in trying to mend fences in the wake of his controversial speech about Islam (Time)

  • Benedict goes to Turkey | Pope Benedict XVI's role in furthering the debate over minority and religious rights and promoting better interfaith relations may prove to be helpful in both Turkey and the West (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • More Catholic than the … | During his visit to Turkey, the Pope will try to mend fences with Orthodox Christians as well as Muslims (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • The pope in Turkey | Genuine dialogue between civilizations is not made up of wane, inoffensive platitudes (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Papal trip sends dual message | The pontiff's visit is an acknowledgment that despite the repeated blows against it, the Phanar remains the center of Orthodox Christianity and that the patriarch is its representative and interlocutor (Editorial, Kathimerini, Athens)

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  • A question of freedom | When Benedict XVI goes to Turkey, the media talk will be of Islam, but the Pope's visit could advance religious liberty for Orthodox Christians (George Weigel, Newsweek)

  • Western Civ 101 | Pope Benedict's seminar on fundamentals (Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal)

  • The man in white's burden | Who else but the pope can speak for Christianity? (Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Review Online)

  • Pope Benedict in the lion's den | Lamentably, the time is past (if it ever existed) when mere benign expressions of convivial tolerance could have any lasting, positive effect on inter-religious and inter-cultural relation (Tony Blankley, The Washington Times)

  • Islam's unlikely soul mate -- the pope | Both bemoaning the West's secularism, Benedict XIV and Mideast Muslims have a shot at true dialogue (John L. Allen Jr., Los Angeles Times)

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More on Turkey:

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  • In Lebanon, a crisis for Christians | Pierre Gemayel's murder is yet another blow to the Christian bloc, sidelined by a Sunni-Shiite political divide (The Christian Science Monitor)

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  • Lebanon on the brink | A political murder could spark a disastrous chain of events. The U.S. must help protect its fragile regime (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

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Social justice:

  • Why only Darfur? | Darfur is not the only place in the world where there has been mass murder, even ethnic mass murder, on a large, historically familiar scale (Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post)

  • Amazing grace and other things | Those crazy Christians. What will they think of next? (Kathleen Parker, The Orlando Sentinel)

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  • In D.C. Circuit, Navy chaplain loses constructive discharge suit | Philip Veitch claimed that he was being required to endorse "pluralism" in his religious practices, and that this violated his religious beliefs (Religion Clause)

  • AFA religion suit dismissed | Graduates' allegations of bias, evangelizing vague, judge says (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)

  • Wiccans sue to change VA policy | Lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State ask the government to change its policies, arguing that Wiccans' constitutional right to religious freedom has been abridged (USA Today)

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  • Republicans want vote on abortion bill | While they still can, House Republicans are looking at scheduling a vote next week on a fetal pain abortion bill in a parting shot at incoming majority Democrats and a last bid for loyalty from the GOP's base of social conservatives (Associated Press)

  • Court stays out of abortion records case | The Kansas Supreme Court refused Thursday to intervene on behalf of two abortion clinics in a dispute with the state attorney general over patient records that were leaked to "The O'Reilly Factor" (Associated Press)

  • Abortion foes look to the big screen | An invited audience that included Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez gathered at National Geographic Society's auditorium Monday night for a screening of "Bella," an independently produced feature film. No mere movie, it offers hope for the beleaguered antiabortion movement to reverse the political tide running against it (The Washington Post)

  • Abortion pill thwarts breast cancer gene | Scientists used the abortion drug RU-486 to keep tumors at bay in mice bred with a gene destined to give them breast cancer (Associated Press)

  • Nicaragua's total ban on abortion spurs critics | The controversy is the latest twist in a debate over the proper limits on abortion that is raging not just in Nicaragua but across Latin America (The Washington Post)

  • Nicaragua abortion ban called a threat to lives | Doctors and women's groups are warning that Nicaragua's ban on all abortions -- even to save the mother -- will endanger the lives of thousands of women every year (The Boston Globe)

  • Abortions should be made easier on demand, says charity | Laws that require two doctors to approve an abortion should be dropped to allow women complete control over their family planning (The Times, London)

  • Portugal sets abortion vote date | Portugal's president has said the country's predominantly Roman Catholic population will vote on whether to legalize abortion on 11 February (BBC)

  • Most 'favor right to abortion' | Most people think women have a right to choose an abortion, but the number is falling, a survey has indicated (BBC)

  • Also: 'Still hard to discuss abortion' (BBC)

  • Life after Roe | Hysterical references to "back-alley abortions" are absurd (Curt Levey, National Review Online)

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  • An opening on abortion? | Supporters of abortion rights tend to favor programs that encourage effective contraception, which some in the right-to-life movement oppose. Opponents of abortion emphasize helping women who want to carry their children to term. The Ryan bill, one of several congressional initiatives to reduce the abortion rate, does both (E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post)

  • Ignorance and abortion | The core question: When do we become human beings? (Nat Hentoff, The Washington Times)

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Life ethics:

  • Spanish woman prompts euthanasia debate | Euthanasia is illegal in Spain and people who help someone else die can be punished with at least six months in prison. But Spain's Socialist government wants to legalize it as part of a wave of liberal reforms that have largely transformed this traditionally Roman Catholic country (Associated Press)

  • Democrats plan to revive stem cell bill | The same embryonic stem cell bill that prompted President Bush's only veto is headed to his desk again, this time from Democrats who have it atop their agenda when they take control of Congress in January (Associated Press)

  • Journal clarifies report on a stem cell finding | The scientific journal Nature has issued a clarification of a recent report that human embryonic stem cells can be derived without harm to the embryo, but has affirmed the report's validity (The New York Times)

  • No tax money for stem cells | Bungled bureaucracy and waste have turned promises of funding into obstacles. An unfettered private sector is better (Sigrid Fry-Revere, Los Angeles Times)

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Birth control:

  • Vatican concludes study on condoms | Long-awaited report on it is now being examined by the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, a senior cardinal said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • For Plan B, a broader reach | 'Morning after' pill goes on sale OTC (The Washington Post)

  • HHS nominee has prescribed birth control | Spokeswoman stresses Keroack's private practice over role in Christian group (The Washington Post)

  • Family planning farce | Americans who were expecting a more moderate administration in the wake of this month's elections will be shocked by the appointment of Eric Keroack to head family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (Editorial, The New York Times)

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Sex and marriage:

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  • Christian magistrate in legal battle | A Christian magistrate in Sheffield has launched a legal challenge against the Government after he was forced to resign from family court duties because the new rules on same-sex couples clashed with his religious and moral beliefs (The Star, Sheffield, England)

  • Panel faces tough debate on gay Jews | Rabbinical council will review bans on homosexual rabbis and same-sex rites (Los Angeles Times)

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Ted Haggard:

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Mitt Romney:

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Mormonism and Mitt Romney:

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Pope and Anglicans:

  • Catholic and Anglican leaders vow united effort | Pope Benedict XVI and the Most Rev. Rowan Williams pledged to work together on problems like poverty, the environment and finding peace in the Middle East (The New York Times)

  • Pope, Anglicans acknowledge differences | Pope Benedict XVI and Anglican leader Rowan Williams acknowledged there were "serious obstacles" to closer ties between their churches, a blunt reference to Vatican disapproval of gay bishops, women priests and blessings of same-sex unions in the Anglican church (Associated Press)

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Church life:

  • Can shared beliefs bring RCA and CRC together? | On the eve of the CRC's 150th anniversary next year, many in both Dutch Reformed denominations feel they could offer a stronger Christian witness as one reunified church. But in a newly released comparative study of the CRC and RCA, the authors caution that an organizational merger would come at considerable cost. (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • Hamilton parish votes to withdraw | Ties broken with Church of Christ (The Boston Globe)

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  • Supersized worship | Megachurches hit growth spurt and spin off campuses across the region (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • From the pulpit, conservative politics | The rise of the conservative Christian political movement in recent decades has come from many sources -- including publications, direct-mail appeals, Web sites, activist organizations such as the Christian Coalition and broadcasters such as Jerry Falwell. And megachurches have played a role, too (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Megachurch phenomenon largely associated with conservative evangelical movement | But several Roman Catholic Churches in the Archdiocese of Louisville also have congregations with more than 2,000 worshippers a week (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Cleric wants talks about married priests | "This is a groundswell movement — a church within a church — that is forming and the Vatican is in a state of denial," Emmanuel Milingo said Tuesday at a news conference (Associated Press)

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Church buildings:

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Church closings:

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  • Priest accused of relic ripoff | Even sold some of the pews, St. Demetrios parishioners say (The Jersey Journal, Jersey City, N.J.)

  • Also: All over the map | Before St. Demetrios, accused priest was a frequent mover (The Jersey Journal, Jersey City, N.J.)

  • Pa. mayor charged in theft from church | More than $9,000 taken. Tally sheets changed. She was caught stealing money on camera, official says. (The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.)

  • Woman's £13,000 church fund theft | A 55-year-old woman who admitted stealing £13,000 from the funds of a church has been warned by a judge she could face a jail sentence (BBC)

  • $25,000 reported missing from church in Jupiter | About $25,000 in offerings collected from four Thanksgiving services has been reported missing from the vault at St. Peter Catholic Church (The Jupiter Courier, Fla.)

  • Church embezzler gets three years' probation | An Iowa woman accused of stealing nearly $167,000 from a Nebraska church has been given three years' probation and told to continue making restitution (Associated Press)

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Religious hate crimes in Scotland:

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  • Prison figures show a link between sex crime and religion | Some use faith to justify wrongs (The Times, London)

  • Preacher arrested in alleged murder plot | Even in 2004, when the Rev. Howard Douglas Porter eulogized a friend killed in a car crash in which Porter was driving, the victim's friends and relatives were suspicious. They feared Porter deliberately planned the crash to get his hands on the multimillion-dollar trust fund of Frank Craig, an 85-year-old farmer (Associated Press)

  • Man pleads guilty in shrine desecration | A 21-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to desecrating one of Wisconsin's most popular religious shrines to commemorate "Satan's birthday." (Associated Press)

  • Vandalized church gives gifts to suspect | Congregants of a church that was badly vandalized have collected "love baskets" full of electronics for the three suspects (Associated Press)

  • Gun-waving sermon lands pastor in pokey | Jerry Wayne "Dusty" Whitaker said the gun was a toy prop (Associated Press)

  • Angry, 'troubled soul' | Priest admits to harassing mayor's accuser (Sun Journal, Lewiston, Me.)

  • Police keep eye on places of worship | Patrols increase after 9/11 attacks (The Boston Globe)

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Money and business:

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  • Charity's political divide | Republicans give a bigger share of their incomes to charity, says a prominent economist (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

  • 2 unrepentant about sale of Katrina home | A church that wanted to do something special for Hurricane Katrina victims gave a $75,000 house, free and clear, to a couple who said they were left homeless by the storm. But the couple turned around and sold the place without ever moving in, and went back to New Orleans (Associated Press)

  • Church gift to miss deadline | Denverite Stanley Anderson's finances came into question after he pledged $150 million to the Presbyterian Church (The Denver Post)

  • Bases refuse offering of nuns | Three nuns were thwarted yesterday in their effort to pay their debt to society with food instead of cash when officials at two Colorado Air Force bases refused to accept their donations (The Washington Times)

  • Exonerated man in giving mood | Flush with a settlement from the City of Chicago after being wrongly jailed for rape, Rollins stood nervously before an army of media cameras Thursday and handed over a $10,000 check to leaders of the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church, which was devastated by fire earlier this year (Chicago Tribune)

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Missions & ministry:

  • Religion rebounds at YMCA | More branches are showing a spiritual side, with ministry services and Christian rock. For some members, it's just not working out (Los Angeles Times)

  • Turning the page | As landmarks go, the Massachusetts Bible Society Bookstore is about as low-key as they come (The Boston Globe)

  • Sanctuary movement still has a heartbeat | Both sides watch the case of a woman sheltered in a Chicago church so she can stay with her U.S.-born son (Los Angeles Times)

  • Privacy claim against Jews for Jesus survives on appeal in Florida | In the case, plaintiff Edith Rapp, a traditional Jew, claimed that Jews for Jesus (JFJ) falsely portrayed her in an online newsletter as a convert to the group's beliefs (Religion Clause)

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  • No court review of Maine law on tuition | The Supreme Court refused Monday to take up the issue of school choice in Maine, where a state law bars the use of public funds to send students to private religious schools (Portland Press Herald, Me.)

  • Court declines school-choice appeal | The Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a school-choice case out of Maine, where a group of families says it's unfair that state law bars them from using funds provided by the state's existing school-choice program to send their children to religious schools (The Washington Times)

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  • Court won't take school vouchers case | The Supreme Court decided Monday not to plunge into the issue of school choice, passing up a dispute over a Maine law that bars the use of public funds to send students to private religious schools (Associated Press)

Voucher ruling good law supporting a flawed policy | States shouldn't be compelled to pay tuition to religious schools, but doing so can make sense (Editorial, Portland Press Herald, Me.)

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  • Classroom postings' removal defended | The principal of a Virginia public school had the discretion to remove Christian-themed postings from a classroom and didn't violate the teacher's First Amendment rights, a school district attorney told a federal appeals court Thursday (Associated Press)

  • Blending religion, taxes | Questions raised about school's funding, huge overhead, lax oversight (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Also: Shifting of money could be illegal | Lakewood Christian school using public funds to support religious program (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Home schoolers content to take children's lead | Some parents are opting to "unschool" their children, perhaps the most extreme application of home-schooling (The New York Times)

  • Religion classes leave school site | To settle a lawsuit, instruction is moved from trailer on school property to church (The Indianapolis Star)

  • Court takes 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case | The Supreme Court stepped into a dispute over free speech rights Friday involving a suspended high school student and his banner that proclaimed "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" (Associated Press)

  • Ex-principal accused of kissing feet | The principal told authorities that the kissing was pay-up for a bet over a student-teacher volleyball game. He paid each student $15 and kissed their feet 50 times in the school's library and gym (Associated Press)

  • Church preschool may reopen | Closing angered parents, but pastor says situation was handled well (Record Searchlight, Redding, Ca.)

  • Not the same story: Church kicking out day care | Parents scramble to find alternative (San Bernardino Sun, Ca.)

  • Christian school call for funds | Low-fee Christian schools are asking for the same level of Federal Government funding given to Catholic schools (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Education (U.K.):

  • Christian unions warned against legal action | Court battles would not resolve underlying issues of religious identity on university campuses and would only create division, a report from an independent thinktank has warned. (The Guardian, London)

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  • Also: Bishops blast 'anti-Christian' student groups | Christian students at many British universities, including Edinburgh, face "considerable opposition and discrimination," church leaders have claimed (The Evening News, Edinburgh)

  • Also: Unity in diversity | Since when did universities start banning things? (Richard Cunningham, The Guardian, London)

  • How Genesis crept back into the classroom | Hundreds of state schools may be teaching the Biblical story of creation in science lessons, a leading academic said last night (The Telegraph, London)

  • Let us test Darwin, teacher says | Science teaching materials deemed "not appropriate" by the government should be allowed in class, Education Secretary Alan Johnson has been urged (BBC)

  • Catholic veto 'is un-Christian' | The right of the Roman Catholic Church to veto the appointment of teachers in denominational schools in Scotland has been attacked as "un-Christian" (The Herald, Glasgow)

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Higher Education:

  • Brown offers reinstatement to religious group | The president of the Reformed University Fellowship says the university wasn't specific about why the group was suspended in the first place (The Providence Journal, R.I.)

  • Suspension of disbelief | Art student expelled—for atheism? (The Portland Mercury, Ore.)

  • Citing financial crisis, Salt Lake Theological Seminary restructures | The seminary, Utah's only graduate school for Protestant clergy, is no stranger to financial concerns (The Salt Lake Tribune, Ut.)

  • Evangelical students return atheists' volley at UTSA | Last year, the Atheist Agenda student group attracted MSNBC and other media for its first "smut for smut" campaign, where passers-by exchanged the Bible, Koran, and Torah for Playboy and Hustler magazines on the University of Texas at San Antonio campus. This year, as the group set up its table again Tuesday in a large campus plaza, a rival evangelical group countered (San Antonio Express-News)

  • Religion Today: The battle for Belmont | It's the new Baylor (Associated Press)

  • Conflict over book on Baylor U. | Baylor University has backed out of an agreement to publish a book about a tumultuous period in its recent history. The volume's editors have vowed to find another publisher, despite e-mail messages from a former Baylor president warning that the book could "plunge the university into a new era of conflict and renewed animosities." (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

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  • Also: Open minds suppress books at Baylor | Volume on the campus battle has been shelved (Hunter Baker, The American Spectator)

  • Religious schism | Nine Georgetown University students have declared themselves a religious organization in hopes that authorities will allow them to continue to live in a $2.4-million off-campus home (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • Also: 'Apostles' ordered to abide by zoning laws | Nine moved into the house in August, filing to incorporate as a nonprofit religious organization exempt from the six-person limit (The Washington Post)

  • A free-for-all on science and religion | Some scientists at a recent conference called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief (The New York Times)

  • Religion scholars break attendance record | Special report from the American Academy of Religion/ Society of Biblical Literature meeting (Religion Bookline)

  • God and man at Harvard | Should religion have a place in the new curriculum? Absolutely, writes Mark D.W. Edington, chaplain to Harvard College in the Memorial Church of Harvard University (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • Author Tyson wins religion award | The Grawemeyer Foundation cites 'Blood Done Sign My Name' as helping to heal racism (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Also: Scholar at Duke wins Grawemeyer Award for Religion | Timothy B. Tyson, a senior scholar of documentary studies at Duke University, will receive the 2007 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his 2004 memoir about a racially charged murder in his hometown, officials at the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will announce today (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • 'Civil religion' and beyond | As the influential sociologist Robert N. Bellah turns 80, three scholars consider his work (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

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Spirituality and theology:

  • A human imperative that crosses religious lines | Communication with God -- whether written, spoken, sung or silent -- is considered 'universal and natural for all,' regardless of religion (Los Angeles Times)

  • Church-goers are happiest | Childless couples and regular attenders at a place of worship are among the most contented people in the UK, claims a new study of what makes us happy (The Independent, London)

  • Speaking in tongues | Worshippers say the Holy Spirit moves them to use a language known only to God (Sacramento Bee, Ca.)

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  • Thankful for our sacred places | Mindless development often encroaches upon 'the map of the American soul.' Yet we still have our Walden Ponds and our Shaker Villages because our fellow citizens won't allow others to bulldoze our past — or our future (Alcestis "Cooky" Oberg, USA Today)

  • The limits of tolerance | Liberal theologians welcome Africans and South Americans--as long as they don't talk back (Naomi Schaefer Riley, The Wall Street Journal)

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  • Fundamentalism for adults only | The intricacies of religious fundamentalism reveal it to be just as complex and valid as science (Michael Bywater, Los Angeles Times)

  • Atheists agonistes | The current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that the story of the Enlightenment may be more illusory than real (Richard A. Shweder, The New York Times)

  • Doubters do it from the pulpit | 'I may be wrong' is not a phrase one ever associates with Richard Dawkins (Giles Fraser, The Independent, London)

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Entertainment and media:

  • Brian Murphy named U.S. religion writer | Brian Murphy, a veteran foreign correspondent who has covered religion internationally for The Associated Press since 2004, will now cover the beat in the United States (Associated Press)

  • Dover trial on silver screen? | A Pa. man was recently hired to write a screenplay about the landmark trial (York Daily Record, Pa.)

  • Cartoons (seriously) can teach us about faith | 'The Simpsons' and 'South Park' would seem to be the antithesis of religion, right? In reality, many such shows illuminate our own beliefs and cultivate dialogue in a serious way (Mark I. Pinsky, USA Today)

  • Christian groups cross with Left Behind | Religious organizations take exception to faith-based real-time strategy game, saying it promotes violence and intolerance. (GameSpot)

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  • Also: Christian groups assail video game | Left Behind distorts biblical prophecy, promotes religious intolerance, minister says (The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)

  • Also: The new God game | In the Christian video games developed by Left Behind Games, players aren't omnipotent—they're just one of the faithful (BusinessWeek/GameDaily)

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  • Sackler Gallery sets record as multitudes flock to Bible exhibit | Even prompts long lines with 40-minute waits last weekend (The Washington Post)

  • Teen angel | 15th-century girl makes good in 'Joan of Arc' at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (The Washington Post)

  • Powerful Christ images overwhelm in pairs | Diptychs by Albrecht Bouts and other 15th- and 16th-century Northern Renaissance masters, such as Jan van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes, Hans Memling and Rogier van der Weyden, show the inherently emotive tensions in this art form, on display at the National Gallery of Art's "Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlanderish Diptych" (The Washington Times)

  • Crucified pregnant teen statue shown | A provocative Danish artist raised a statue of a crucified pregnant teenager outside Copenhagen's Lutheran cathedral to mark World AIDS Day on Friday (Associated Press)

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  • India's Christians dig deep for graveyard plot | India's Christians are running out of space to bury their dead, leading some to pay small fortunes to book their final resting place in a relative's grave (Reuters)

  • India sees God as creator, not controller: report | Most Indians perceive God as a macro-manager responsible for controlling things like the earth's rotation, rather than being in charge of the actions of humans on a day-to-day basis, a survey said on Saturday (Reuters)

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Other stories of interest:

  • US temporarily suspends premium service for religious workers | The United States has announced a temporary suspension of the premium processing visa service for religious workers after detecting "potential vulnerabilities" in the process, a move that will affect applicants from several countries, including India (PTI, India)

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  • "In God We Trust" moved from face to edge of new $1 coins | Minting date and the motto "E Pluribus Unum" will be there too (Religion Clause)

  • Seeking counsel in the Bible | In thoroughly modern Boone County, a church rejects modern psychology (The Cincinnati Post)

  • Economics: The invisible hand of the market | Professor Duncan K. Foley's book Adam's Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology is simultaneously an introduction to economic theory and a critique of it (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)

  • Religion news in brief | Episcopal task force on property disputes looks at splits, ELCA multicultural ministry creates association for European-Americans, and Wilmington Catholic diocese releases list of accused priests (Associated Press)

  • Religion news in brief | Muslim clerics oppose Quran ringtones, federal judge to rule in logo lawsuit, and other stories (Associated Press)

  • All about girth control | If only we could manage food the way we've managed sex (William Saletan, The Washington Post)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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