1. Most widely-read news of the day
Newspapers across the country are picking up on the AP's coverage of Barack Obama's comments at the Call to Renewal conference, which ends today. Obama said Democrats need to begin courting evangelicals. Some of his quotes include:
- "Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation."
- "It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase 'under God,'"
- "Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps off rhythm to the gospel choir."
- "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square."
- "I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy."
But the full address is worth reading. It shows that Obama's speech was not just nudging fellow Democrats to be more religion-friendly. Obama discusses his own struggle to integrate faith and politics. It started, he says, when Alan Keyes, his opponent in the 2004 Senate election, said, "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved." Obama says he couldn't dismiss Keyes's accusation because they share the same faith. Obama said Keyes opposed his support for gay and abortion rights. Yet he lacked an adequate response.
What would my supporters have me say? That a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? That Mr. Keyes, a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope? Mr. Keyes's implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer didn't adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and beliefs.
Obama recounts his own conversion from his upbringing as a skeptic to the day he affirmed his Christian faith at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. "I felt I heard God's Spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering his truth."
Obama chides liberals for trying to cleanse the public square of religious expression, and he tells conservatives that the separation of church and state benefits religion first and that in a democratic society Christians need to appeal to universal values when arguing moral positions.
Then he recounts a moving story from a pro-life, Christian doctor who voted for Obama in the 2004 primary. The doctor was disturbed that Obama's website said he would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose."
The doctor defended pro-life views and opposed Obama's characterization of pro-life proponents. That characterization, the doctor said, would prevent him from voting for Obama in the general election. "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words," he said.
Obama says, "I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in reasonable termsthose who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points."
It is better to argue how religious belief should manifest itself than whether or not it should be part of public life.
2. The next Anglican wrestling match
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, responded to the Episcopal Church's General Convention, which ended last week. Williams offered some criticism of the American church. "Whatever the presenting issue, no member church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship."
Divisions run between provinces and within provinces, he said. In order to solve the current dispute over the practice of homosexuality, the Anglican Communion should explore adopting a covenant, which provinces could sign on to. "Provinces that agree would retain full status as 'constituent churches,'" reports The New York Times, "and those that do not would become 'churches in association' without decision-making status in the Communion, the world's third-largest body of churches."
Conservatives are suggesting that they will be included as constituent churches, while the majority of the Episcopal Church will be in association. Such an outcome is not certain. Presumably, the communion's covenant would represent orthodoxy Christianity. But the writing of that document will be the next wresting match in the communion. "Church liberals said that any 'covenant' would be crafted with the participation of the American church and other provinces that favored full inclusion of gay people," The Times reports.
Williams also said that this proposal could take years to complete. It seems those Episcopalians hanging on to orthodoxy are in need of prayer for stamina.
3. You gotta fight for your right to raw milk
Milk that comes straight from the cow tastes a lot different than the kind you buy in the store. Partly, that's because pasteurization kills off the bacteria and destroys the milk's vitamins. In response a lot of farmers, including many Christians, drink their milk raw. Unfortunately for them, it's illegal to sell raw milk. But you can drink your milk from your own cow. Some farmers sell shares of their cows and give the "owners" their raw milk.
You can be sure that plenty of farmers are watching the case of Arlie Stutzman, who was busted for selling an undercover agent raw milk. "While I can and I have food, I'll share it," said Stutzman, who is Amish. "Do unto others what you would have others do unto you."
"We know people are deprived of this real food," he told The Washington Post.
There's some interesting discussion at the WorldMagBlog.
4. Billy Graham to preach next month
Though he retired from crusades, Billy Graham will be preaching the final sermon at Franklin Graham's Metro Maryland Festival. The Washington Post reports, "Franklin Graham said a group of ministers has been trying to get the crusade to Baltimore for four years."
5. Nigeria's Catholic explosion
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the growth of Catholicism in Nigeria. "Islam had been here for over 1,000 years," said Archbishop John Onaiyekan, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and head of the Archdiocese of Abuja, the capital. "Christianity came here in the last 100 years. Now Islam and Christians are about equal."
It's a fascinating look at the growth of the church and tension with Islam in one of the most influential African countries.
Politics | Religious freedom | Africa | Catholicism | Anglican Communion | Church life | Missions & ministry | Prisons | People | More articles of interest
- Obama: Democrats must court evangelicals | Sen. Barack Obama chastised fellow Democrats on Wednesday for failing to "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people," and said the party must compete for the support of evangelicals and other churchgoing Americans. (Associated Press)
- Obama: On faith and politics. And Alan Keyes. | Remarks of Senator Barack Obama (Chicago Sun-Times)
- House GOP to focus on abortion, guns | House Republicans intend to hold votes this summer and fall touching on abortion, guns, religion and other priority issues for social conservatives, part of an attempt to improve the party's prospects in the midterm elections. (Associated Press)
- Colo. clinics to give away contraceptives | Planned Parenthood said they it will distribute free "morning after" contraceptives at state clinics Friday to protest Gov. Bill Owens' veto of a bill that would have let pharmacists prescribe the pill. (Associated Press)
- His political strategy: the religious left | Rabbi Michael Lerner, founding editor-publisher of the liberal interfaith magazine Tikkun , is forming a national ``Network of Spiritual Progressives" in an effort ``to provide an alternate solution to both the intolerant and militarist politics of the Right and the current misguided, visionless, and often spiritually empty politics of the Left." (Boston Globe)
- Judge tentatively rules Christian students can sue UC system | A federal judge's tentative ruling would allow six students from a Christian school to sue the University of California over its refusal to recognize religious-based courses in the admission process. (Associated Press)
- Gay marriage amendment won't end woes | The political rhetoric surrounding the issue seems to suggest that the Federal Marriage Amendment is necessary in order to prevent activist judges from destroying the foundation of the American family and undermining the will of the American people. However, the American people are sharply divided on the issue. (John W. Whitehead)
- When speech becomes a crime | Outright censorship and draconian speech codes have long been a staple of Third World authoritarian regimes. But Western democracies have always prided themselves on protecting free speech. Yet because of the creeping reach of political correctness, one can now be put in prison, lose a job, be kicked out of school or be otherwise censored simply for uttering an unpopular opinion. (Cinnamon Stillwell, San Francisco Chronicle)
- Amish farmer says milk law opposes beliefs | Arlie Stutzman was busted in a rare sting when an undercover agent bought raw milk from the Amish dairy farmer in an unlabeled container. (Washington Post)
- Faith, hope kept dream alive | Bangladesh man living in Albany wins immigration ruling that keeps him from religious persecution in native land (Times Union, N.Y.)
- Counsel says NRD ruling shut doors on women convert | The National Registration Department by requiring a woman to produce a certificate from the Syariah Court declaring her an apostate had for practical purposes shut the door on her application to delete the word "Islam" from her identity card, the Federal Court heard Wednesday. (Bernama, Malaysia)
- South Sudan battles to create modern legal system | Emmanuel Batali was accused of conspiring with the devil to kill people. He has spent three months in a dilapidated prison in Yei, southern Sudan, and is still waiting for his day in court. After more than two decades of civil war, official structures such as courts have ceased to function in the south. (Reuters)
- Egypt's Mubarak inaugurates museum | President Hosini Mubarak of Egypt has inaugurated the only museum in the world dedicated to the art and antiquities of Christian Egypt after three years of restorations. (African News Dimension, South Africa)
- Mugabe leads split church to pray for nation | Zimbabwe held national prayers on Sunday, with President Robert Mugabe calling upon the church he has split to work with his government to solve the country's worsening crisis. (Catholic Information Service for Africa, Nairobi)
- Africa's star rising | Nigeria offers a portrait of steady Catholic growth on the continent even producing a surplus of priests, some of whom end up here. Conflicts with Islam are a worry. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Vatican wants African talks on arms, corruption | The Vatican wants Catholic bishops in Africa to help promote justice and peace and identify countries "getting profit from the blood of Africans," its most senior African cardinal said on Tuesday. (Reuters)
- Vatican seeks to renew China relations | Two senior Vatican officials have traveled to China to sound out possibilities of re-establishing diplomatic relations, seeking to overcome a major dispute over the Vatican's tradition that the pope names his bishops. (Associated Press)
- Pope wants guitars silenced during mass | Pope Benedict XVI is calling for an end to guitars and a return to traditional choirs in the Catholic Church. (UPI)
- Vatican delegation makes a rare visit to China | For the first time in more than five years, an official Vatican delegation is visiting China and meeting with government officials, experts here said. The visit is a sign that relations between the two are warming after being locked in conflict in recent months. (New York Times)
- In Europe, anger and disenchantment cause many Catholics to flee | In less than a decade, Catholicism had seemingly lost its grip on Ireland, as it had across Europe. One lurid revelation had bred another and another until hundreds of Irish priests stood accused of sexual abuse. (Philadelphia Inquirer via Myrtle Beach Sun News)
- Anglican leader sees split over gay bishops | The leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has said the worldwide church may have to break up amid a bitter row over the consecration of gay bishops. (Reuters)
- Anglican leader sees church split over gay bishops | The worldwide Anglican Communion looked set on Wednesday for a slow-burning schism after its leader proposed a two-tier membership that would exclude the United States church for consecrating a gay bishop. (Reuters)
- Leader of Anglicans urges coexistence | The leader of the world's feuding Anglicans urged them to work toward a structure for coexisting Tuesday despite differences on the roles of women and gays and the authority of the Bible. (Associated Press)
- Anglican plan threatens split on gay issues | In a defining moment in the Anglican Communion's civil war over homosexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed a plan yesterday that could force the Episcopal Church in the United States either to renounce gay bishops and same-sex unions or to give up full membership in the Communion. (The New York Times)
- Head of Anglicans seeks end to divisions on gay clergy | The archbishop of Canterbury called yesterday for Anglicans around the world to forge an agreement on issues that divide them, including the roles of gay clergy and women in the church, and suggested that the U.S. Episcopal Church could be relegated to second-tier status if it is unwilling to sign the proposed covenant. (Washington Post)
- Anglican plan could lead to 2-tier system | Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said Tuesday that "the best way forward" for the deeply divided Anglican churches is to adopt a communion-wide covenant and a two-track membership system. (Religion News Service)
- Church is split, declares Jensen | Australia's leading conservative Anglican has pronounced the global church officially "separated" after the Archbishop of Canterbury conceded it may have to break apart to survive the fractures over gay clergy. (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Venerable church burns in New Orleans | Newly burned-out lots pockmark the city, evidence of a fearsome new challenge as firefighters here say they are confronting a tough post-Hurricane Katrina landscape of abandoned buildings, water mains cracked by the storm and fire engines with smaller crews. (New York Times)
- Black leaders announce boycott of BP | A group of prominent black activists -- including the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton -- have announced a boycott of B-P. They say the British oil company gouges prices and racially discriminates in its business practices. (WTVM, Ga.)
- Parking bylaw puts church in a tight spot | Since 2001, when the predominantly black evangelical congregation purchased a crime-plagued former banquet hall on Weston Road, the church has run afoul of city zoning -- and parking -- rules. (Globe and Mail, Canada)
- More women finding paths into ministry | Although denominations report increase in female clergy members, not all open to much-debated idea (Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio)
- Billy Graham to preach at Baltimore event | The Rev. Billy Graham, the legendary preacher who retired from the pulpit last year, has found a second wind for the Gospel and is planning to preach during a three-day event early next month at Baltimore's Camden Yards. (Washington Post)
- Missionaries accosted in Meah She´arim | Jerusalem scuffle: Christian missionaries in a religious neighborhood were accosted by hareidi-religious youths. "Missionary activity here is like waving a red flag at a bull," one resident said. (Arutz Sheva, Israel)
- Exodus draws hundreds | Christian conference attendees discuss homosexuality issues (Marion Chronicle Tribune, Ind.)
- Chaplain calls for end to inmate strip searches | Brunswick Correctional Center officers have been strip searching inmates after some church services, and a religious leader for the prison system wants the practice stopped. (Associated Press)
- Proselytizing to be limited in state prisons | The state won't allow prayers, religious music and proselytizing at secular events inside prisons to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed the system's former director was promoting Christianity to inmates and prison employees. (Associated Press)
- The innovator | 15 People Who Make America GreatRick Warren (Newsweek)
- Boy killed in farm accident on 7th birthday | An 18-year-old driving an excavator accidentally ran over his younger brother on the Mennonite family's dairy farm, killing the boy on his seventh birthday, officials said. (Associated Press)
- Rick Warren to preach in communist North Korea | Evangelical pastor Rick Warren has been invited to preach this summer to some 15,000 Christians in North Korea, a communist country infamous not only for its nuclear threats but also for its religious persecution. (Religion News Service)
- Author looks at the reasons behind American Muslim women choosing to be veiled | They know that many Americans do not understand such veiling or consider it repressive - not an unexpected reaction in a society in which women spent the better part of a century casting off social restrictions, along with floor-length skirts and corsets. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- How we share our wealth says a lot about our religious views | Philanthropy sharing our "wealth" with those less fortunate than we has an honored place in our society. (Charles Hedrick, News-Leader, Mo.)
- 'Christian Birthright' seeks supporters | A group of 19 Christian students from universities in the United States and Germany completed on Tuesday a three-week tour of Israel meant to forge deeper bonds between them and the Jewish state, and to educate them about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Jerusalem Post, Israel)
- 'Candy and Dorothy' earns its wings | What if Catholic activist Dorothy Day met transgendered Warhol groupie Candy Darling in heaven? (Boston Globe)
- Baseball fans can show support in afterlife | Die-hard baseball fans will soon have a way to be close to their favorite teams in the afterlife. (Reuters)
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