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Motive Still Unclear in Deadly Mo. Church Shooting

Plus: What's next after Taliban release of two Korean hostages, Catholic bishop suggests calling God Allah, and other stories from online sources around the world.
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Today's Top Five

1. Gunman kills three, wounds four in attack during church service
"Liars, liars, you're all liars," Eiken Elam Saimon said, according to police, as he shot the pastor of First Congregational Church's Micronesian congregation in Neosho, Missouri. By the time police entered the church and got Saimon to drop his weapons, two other church members were dead and four were wounded.

A few hours before the shooting during Sunday afternoon services, police say, a 14-year-old female relative of Saimon had reported that he had sexually assaulted her. But police are not saying whether the abuse and the shooting are related.

"The truth is, the motive is still being developed," Newton County Prosecutor Scott Watson told The Neosho Daily News. "We're finding a different motive in the case, but it's not something that we're able to talk about at this time. … We decided talking about it would jeopardize the case."

Rural Newton County is also in the middle of a church abuse scandal involving Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, less than ten miles away from First Congregational. The pastor of that church faces multiple charges of child molestation and statutory sodomy, and is accused of being part of a child abuse ring in another nearby church.

2. Taliban: We released two hostages (and killed two others), now release 19 prisoners
"We've already released two sick female hostages," Taliban commander Abdullah Jan, who is holding the remaining 19 Christian aid workers, told the Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. "Now the ball is in Korea's court. They have to exchange Taliban prisoners for Korean hostages." Korean officials and the Taliban continue to hold telephone talks but have no further plans to meet face-to-face.

Another kidnapper told The Korea Times that "one of the hostages they were going to set free due to her ill health opted to stay in captivity for the sake of another colleague whose condition was worse." The spokesman could not name the hostage, however. "Their names are very difficult to remember," he explained. "We can't even speak those difficult names."

I blogged yesterday about some other disturbing developments in the hostage story over on our Liveblog. (Please do make sure you're checking both the CT Liveblog and the CT Weblog. They're quite different.)

3. Catholic bishop in Netherlands: Call God Allah
In a televised interview, the Roman Catholic bishop of Breda, Netherlands, says his Dutch parishioners should start praying to Allah. Eventually, says Bishop Tiny Muskens, Dutch churches will use the Arabic word for God anyway, so why not start now? Muskens says the Dutch church should take a page from the church in Indonesia, where he earlier served as a priest. "Someone like me has prayed to Allah yang maha kuasa (Almighty God) for eight years in Indonesia and other priests for 20 or 30 years," he said. "In the heart of the Eucharist, God is called Allah over there, so why can't we start doing that together?"

Breda apparently argued that Christians using Allah as the name for God would help resolve growing tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Netherlands. Because, you know, Indonesia is a model for Christian-Muslim relations.

The diocesan website emphasizes that Muskens was speaking personally, that he's soon to retire, and that "the idea of calling God Allah within the Catholic liturgy in the Netherlands has not been discussed as a component of diocesan policy, or as policy of the Dutch church."

Radio Netherlands notes that Breda made the same suggestion several years ago. "He also suggested abolishing Whit Monday as a national holiday in favor of an Islamic religious day. In the past, Bishop Muskens has offended many Muslims. In 2005, he said Islam was a religion without a future because it had too many violent aspects."

4. ELCA: Please don't think we mean what we say
A day after voting to keep the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's official statement that "ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships," the churchwide assembly voted 538-431 to recommend that the policy not be enforced. The resolution "prays, urges, and encourages synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship." (It makes the same recommendation not to discipline those churches and leaders who place noncelibate homosexuals in leadership positions.)

Paull Spring, chairman of the ELCA renewal group Lutheran CORE, is still optimistic. "Persons who are practicing gays and lesbians still are precluded from ordination," he wrote. "Time will tell, but, bad as the resolution is, it does not open the gates to the ordinations of active gay and lesbian persons."

Jaynan Clark, president of the WordAlone renewal group, seems to disagree. "I don't know as a Christian, as a pastor, and as a parent what really would be worse — a church with no Biblical standards to govern our ministry or standards we don't intend to enforce. To refrain from discipline in the home is bad parenting, but we're about to do so in Christ's church."

5. Tax evasion indictment dismissed against Morris Cerullo
The prosperity gospel preacher has dodged another bullet. Back in 2001, a California appeals court threw out an employment termination case against him. This week, a federal judge tossed out a tax evasion case brought by the federal government, ruling that prosecutors and IRS agents had misled the grand jury that brought the indictment against Cerullo.

Judge Roger T. Benitez "ruled the case had to be dismissed because grand jury members were not told that the distinction between whether money given to religious ministers is earned income subject to tax or a gift depends on the intent of the person handing over the money," the San Diego Union-Tribune explained. "Grand jury members asked several times about how to make that distinction, but each time the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Hardy, did not tell them the most critical factor was determining the donor's intent, the judge wrote. … It was unclear if the government can or would seek another indictment against Cerullo."

Quote of the day
"I have a confession to make. I am an evangelical. In fact, not only am I an evangelical, I head an organisation called the Evangelical Alliance. I'm an evangelical with a capital E. I hesitate to make such a confession for I am painfully aware of the baggage the label carries. Without wanting to blame Americans for all the problems of the world, it is, well, largely their fault."

Joel Edwards, writing in The Times of London

More articles

Missouri church shooting | Korean hostages | Crime | Pastor accused of dragging girl behind van | Mary Winkler | Abuse | San Diego diocese bankruptcy | Church property | Church conflicts | Church life | Catholicism | Anglicanism | ELCA | Homosexuality | Sex and marriage | Civil unions at Ocean Grove | Education | Church and state | Sanctuary | 2008 election | Life ethics | Amnesty International and abortion | Politics | Mike Gerson | Art, entertainment, and media | Money and business | Music | Books | Film | Islam | Egypt | China | Other religions | Missions and ministry | Places | Other stories of interest

Missouri church shooting:

  • Saimon pleads not guilty | A Pohnpei native accused in Sunday's deadly church shooting has pleaded not guilty to three charges of first degree murder and other charges stemming from the rampage at First Congregational Church. (The Neosho Daily News, Mo.)

  • Bond denied for defendant in church shooting | The Newton County prosecutor on Tuesday filed a motion requesting denial of bond for Eiken Elam Saimon, the accused gunman in Sunday's church shooting in Neosho (Joplin Globe, Mo.)

  • Two immigrants, two very different paths | Kernal Rehobson and the man now accused of killing him were relatives who took different paths, family members and fellow Micronesian immigrants said: One gained respect in this rural town as a preacher and community leader, while the other lost it by drinking heavily (Associated Press)

  • Mo. church shooting stuns community | Members of the tightly knit Micronesian community struggled Monday to comprehend why a gunman stormed into their church service, killed three religious leaders, and wounded five others. All of those who died were Micronesian immigrants and pastors or associate pastors, family members said (Associated Press)

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Korean hostages:

  • Taliban release 2 hostages | Two women who were among 23 South Koreans kidnapped by the Taliban were freed today and turned over to South Korean officials, the Seoul government said (The New York Times)

  • 2 women released by Taliban to fly home | Two women freed by Taliban kidnappers left a U.S. base to await a flight home, while South Korean and militant officials negotiated by telephone Tuesday over the 19 remaining hostages (Associated Press)

  • Two freed Koreans to leave Afghanistan soon | Two South Korean women freed by Taliban kidnappers are in a good condition and undergoing medical checks in Afghanistan on Tuesday before flying home "very soon", a Korean embassy spokesman said (Reuters)

  • Relatives of freed South Korea hostages apologize | "We are so sorry to the government and to the (South Korean) people for causing so many worries," Kim Kyung-ja's brother, Kyung-shik, said (Reuters)

  • Taliban kidnappers release 2 South Korean hostages | The two women are said to be sick. The other 19 aid workers remain in captivity. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Flexible approach | Taliban must free remaining hostages unconditionally (Editorial, The Korea Times)

  • No new talks planned on Koreans | Taliban leaders and South Korean officials negotiated by phone over the fate of 19 remaining hostages, but no new face-to-face talks had been planned, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Fear of bloodbath thwarts efforts to rescue hostages | South Korean officials have twice blocked rescue missions to free 21 of their countrymen held by Taleban rebels amid concerns that Afghan military action could spark a bloodbath (The Times, London)

  • Signs of hope in release of hostages | The release of the two hostages is the first good news for the Korean people, who have been concerned for some time. It also raises hopes for further negotiations (Editorial, Chosun Ilbo)

  • To stand firm or … | Many governments, including the United States, say you can't compromise with terrorists. But is there a gray zone? (Newsweek)

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Crime:

  • Walking the line … | On a scale of right to wrong, most of us live somewhere in between (The Sacramento Bee)

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Pastor accused of dragging girl behind van:

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Mary Winkler:

  • Winkler free, dad speaks | Mary Winkler's father believes that the abuse she says she suffered in her marriage before she killed her husband won't end until she is reunited with her children (The Jackson Sun, Tenn.)

  • Also: Tenn. minister's wife freed in slaying (Associated Press)

  • Yesterday: Winkler to be freed | Mary Winkler is scheduled to complete her sentence today for voluntary manslaughter in the March 2006 slaying of her minister husband (The Jackson Sun, Tenn.)

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Abuse:

  • Pastor rejects another plea deal | For the second time this year, the pastor of a storefront church in Hartford has rejected a plea bargain offer on sexual assault charges - despite two separate DNA tests that show he is the likely father of a baby delivered by a 12-year-old girl in his congregation (The Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  • Pine Bluff preacher accused of abuse | Minister allegedly had inappropriate contact with elderly female relative (Texarkana Gazette)

  • Choir director charged with sexual assault | Police: Teen victim belonged to group (Chicago Tribune)

  • S.A. sex abuse victim says church has his missing medical records | Local victims of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal say their nightmare is far from over. After all the allegations came out into the open, the church agreed to pay for victims' therapy to help in the healing process. But now, they're medical records have disappeared (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Episcopal priest admits abuse in Skaneateles | A former Episcopal priest who ran for state Assembly last year has admitted sexually abusing four adolescent boys while serving as rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles from January 1986 to May 1993 (The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y.)

  • Priests' troubled pasts led here | A defrocked priest described in a Philadelphia grand-jury report as a man of "unrelenting depravity" for his sexual abuse of children lives in Central Florida (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • NZ church rejects priest transfer claims | The New Zealand Catholic church has dismissed claims that some priests who've sexually abused children are being shifted from Australia and New Zealand to the Pacific. (ABC Radio Australia)

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San Diego diocese bankruptcy:

  • Judge orders diocese to defend filing | In a rare and blistering decree, a federal judge yesterday ordered Bishop Robert Brom and his attorneys to show why she shouldn't dismiss the Diocese of San Diego's bankruptcy case for failing to exercise "the financial controls and transparency" required by law (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Diocese told to defend bankruptcy filing | Judge says the San Diego Diocese has failed to disclose all of its assets and has been indifferent in its oversight of parishes (Los Angeles Times)

  • San Diego diocese must defend bankruptcy | A federal judge found Friday that the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego misrepresented its finances and ordered it to explain why its bankruptcy case shouldn't be dismissed (Associated Press)

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Church property:

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Church conflicts:

  • Also: Baptist pastor under scrutiny | The Rev. Jerry Sutton, a prominent Southern Baptist pastor who lost a bid to become president of the denomination, is now facing an upheaval in the megachurch he leads, including complaints that he spent church money on his daughter's wedding. (Associated Press)

  • D.C. church dissenters attempt to oust pastor | But Saturday vote of 138 to 6, with one abstention, was renounced by the chairmen of the deacon and trustee boards (The Washington Post)

  • Sued pastor back at church | Court halts weekend services to avoid 'breach of peace' after earlier melee (The Tennessean, Nashville)

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Church life:

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Catholicism:

  • Birmingham diocese to get new bishop | Search for Catholic leader who fits with EWTN slowed pick, some say (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • Papal trees to be chopped down | Four stately lime trees ceremoniously planted near a popular Roman Catholic shrine in 1983 for a visit to Austria by the late Pope John Paul II are being uprooted to make way for a large grandstand for next month's pilgrimage by Pope Benedict XVI (Associated Press)

  • True church | The Roman Catholic Church recently restated its view that Protestant churches are not "churches in the proper sense." Some Protestants take offense. But we need not (Editorial, The Christian Century)

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Anglicanism:

  • Women priests to match males by 2025 | The report estimates that by 2016 one in every three priests will be a woman. This year, 47 per cent of new priests have been female (The Telegraph, London)

  • Archbishop faces conference snub | Only a couple of hundred of the 880 Anglican bishops invited to next year's Lambeth Conference, one of the most critical gatherings in the Church's history, have replied by the deadline set by the Archbishop of Canterbury (The Telegraph, London)

  • Cops investigate theft report | State's Episcopal Diocese filed a complaint in Colorado Springs (The Denver Post)

  • Church rift cuts deeper for brothers | Episcopal priests hold opposing views on gays (The Boston Globe)

  • Africans woo conservative U.S. Anglicans in gay row | Africans, who take a tough line on homosexuality, are keen to recruit the dissident priests as bishops under their own authority and to provide a new spiritual home for their clusters of wealthy U.S. congregations (Reuters)

  • Nzimbi to consecrate two American priests | Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi will consecrate two American priests fleeing the liberal US church over a gay clergy crisis. Nzimbi will consecrate Bill Atwood and Bill Murdoch on August 30, as assistant bishops in the province of Kenya (East African Standard, Kenya)

  • Anglicans reject western accusations of rebellion | The Anglican Church in Rwanda and Africa will not be bullied into keeping quiet about the non biblical behaviors of the American and European churches, a senior bishop has said (Rwanda News Agency)

  • Sydney Archbishop Jensen bans John Shelby Spong | By contrast, Anglican Primate Phillip Aspinall has invited Bishop Spong, a leader of the church's liberal wing, to deliver two sermons in Brisbane's St John's Cathedral (The Australian)

  • Also: An iconoclast gathers his heretical flock | John Shelby Spong hopes his book will engage people who have given up on God (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Tiny church perseveres | A breakaway Anglican group is conservative about everything but growth (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

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ELCA:

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Homosexuality:

  • School cannot sack head in 'gay marriage' | Lawyers have told the Roman Catholic Church that it cannot sack a Catholic headmaster who has entered a civil partnership with a male teacher (The Telegraph, London)

  • Church backs out of man's funeral | Blogs, e-mails, letters and water-cooler talk Monday centered on last week's decision by High Point Church in southeast Arlington to withdraw its invitation to host funeral services for Sinclair (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Also: Church cancels memorial for gay Navy vet | A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay (Associated Press)

  • Also: Eyes wide shut | Arlington church has a right to reject gay man; the armed services do not. (Editorial, Houston Chronicle)

  • Baptists reach out to gays, to make them 'ex-gays' | Lesbian tells how such a ministry affected her (The Tennessean)

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Sex and marriage:

  • Judging others on private lives | So Edward Nottingham, the chief federal district judge in Colorado, dropped $3,000 at a downtown strip club. So he paid $150 to an Internet "dating" site featuring some tawdry pictures of the opposite sex. Why would these revelations cause so much consternation? (David Harsanyi, The Denver Post)

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Civil unions at Ocean Grove:

  • NJ church sues over civil union ceremony | A church group sued New Jersey on Monday over the state's investigation of a complaint that the group refused to allow a lesbian couple to hold a civil union ceremony at a beachfront pavilion it owns (Associated Press)

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Education:

  • Oxford gives warning to theological college | University steps in to protect liberal values amid allegations of misogyny and homophobia (The Guardian, London)

  • Falwell insurance rids Liberty U. debt | The late Rev. Jerry Falwell left a $34 million life insurance policy to the college and church he founded, ridding the financially troubled Liberty University of its debt, his son said Friday (Associated Press)

  • Seminary teacher promotes Biblical research library | E. Earle Ellis is a phenomenon (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Firing of prof at Colorado Christian puts focus on Christ and capitalism | The dispute at the usually tranquil Lakewood campus pits Andrew Paquin, head of a religious charity that aids poor people in Africa, against former U.S. Sen. William Armstrong, R-Colo., president of Colorado Christian and a pillar of the religious right (Rocky Mountain News)

  • When 'Christmas concert' are fighting words | When most people complain about the Christmas season beginning earlier and earlier each year, they do not usually mean the kind of kick-start that took place in this Long Island town on Monday night when more than 250 people showed up to demand that the name of the annual Christmas Concert not be changed to Winter Concert (The New York Times)

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Church and state:

  • A royal anachronism | Either Peter Phillips must renounce his place in the line of succession or Kelly must renounce her religion. (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)

  • Pulling rank on religion | An evangelical group and top officers cross a line (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Cleansing the ACLU | Michigan and the case of Muslim footbaths (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Reports: Malaysia's leader urges patience to resolve religious spats | Malaysia's leader has urged religious minorities to remain patient and let the government determine how to resolve concerns over legal disputes involving freedom of worship, news reports said Sunday (Associated Press)

  • Candidate pledges to keep Turkey secular | A Turkish presidential hopeful whose candidacy raised fears about the possible blurring of the line between mosque and state said Tuesday his goals would be strengthening secularism and the country's bid for European Union membership (Associated Press)

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Sanctuary:

  • Immigration activist to leave sanctuary | A woman who has come to personify the struggles of illegal immigrant parents says that for the first time in a year she will venture beyond the walls of the church that has protected her from deportation (Associated Press)

  • Sanctuary lacks legal authority, activists say | A year ago, Elvira Arellano settled into her Chicago church in defiance of a federal deportation order. (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

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2008 election:

  • Biden: Democrats unfairly painted as "anti-God" | Sen. Joe Biden said Monday that Democrats lost the last two presidential elections in part because they let themselves be portrayed as anti-God (Associated Press)

  • Romney delineates his abortion stance | As his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination progresses, Romney is revealing more complex thoughts on the subject for which he has already been labeled a flip-flopper (Associated Press)

  • Romney portfolio has link to Sudan | The GOP candidate's trustee has recently sold other potentially controversial holdings (Los Angeles Times)

  • Update: Romney uses justification that he once criticized | Now that the assets of his blind trusts are public, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is facing lots of questions about where he made his recent millions -- on companies that perform stem cell research, run casinos and do business in Sudan, for instance (The Washington Post)

  • Impact of Romney bid on church assessed | Sunstone panelists offer wide-ranging viewpoints (Deseret Morning News, Ut.)

  • At straw poll, group attacks Romney on Mormonism | An Iowa Christian group circulated flyers at the state straw poll urging people not to vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon (The Boston Globe)

  • Giuliani's JFK moment | Giuliani's bold statement that religion is his own private affair as old as thought but as modern as today, was downright refreshing in its reverent plea for spiritual privacy (Richard Cohen, The Washington Post)

  • Quittin' time | Brownback 2008, essentially premised on pro-life purity, should end (Rich Lowry, National Review Online)

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Life ethics:

  • Religion, culture behind Texas execution tally | Texas will almost certainly hit the grim total of 400 executions this month, far ahead of any other state, testament to the influence of the state's conservative evangelical Christians and its cultural mix of Old South and Wild West (Reuters)

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Amnesty International and abortion:

  • Amnesty to defy Catholic church over rape victims' abortion rights | Leaders of the international human rights group meeting in Mexico are expected to reaffirm the policy adopted by its executive board in April after two years of soul-searching within the organization (The Independent, London)

  • Rape in Darfur persuaded charity to act | To allow the victims of mass rape to give birth is arguably tantamount to complicity in genocide (Anne Penketh, The Independent, London)

  • A pope who refuses to compromise | The row with Amnesty marks a hardening of the Catholic Church's resolve to take on liberal figures and organisations which have formerly been seen as the church's natural allies (Peter Popham, The Independent, London)

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Politics:

  • Christian right joins betting fight | The National Football League has enlisted the support of the Christian right to help drum up opposition to a proposal in Congress that would legalise sports betting and reverse sweeping prohibitions on online gambling that were passed last year (Financial Times)

  • Also: Church facing uphill fight on casino | Some say sense of inevitability curtailing effort (The Boston Globe)

  • Faith helps farm community push for change | While the House of Representatives hashed out their version of the 2007 Farm Bill two weeks ago, farmer Phil Flock prayed for rain (LaCrosse Tribune, Wis.)

  • Some evangelicals counter Hagee view | Not long after Christians United for Israel made a lobbying trip to Washington, other Christians were lining up to oppose CUFI's agenda and letting President Bush know it (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Should White House always welcome a bishop? | ELCA head Mark Hanson says he's been blackballed (Chicago Tribune)

  • The collapse of Karl Rove | The Pygmalion strategist from Texas built up the Republican Party by exploiting the religious right -- and now his handiwork is crumbling (Lou Dubose, Salon.com)

  • Bad judicial precedent | When a judge substitutes feelings for the law, his or her decision deserves no weight or authority and properly should be discarded. Precedents which are not based upon law are not precedents at all (Roy Moore, The Washington Times)

  • Christians versus Fairies | Ah, the sweet irony. Democrats leader, Lyn Allison says we have too many Christians in parliament (Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian)

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Mike Gerson:

  • Bush's muse stands accused | Speeches weren't Gerson's, colleague says (The Washington Post)

  • The Mike Gerson I know | I have known Mike Gerson for 20 years and have never seen him display symptoms of the twin viruses of arrogance and pride that often infect people who work in politics, government and the media in Washington (Cal Thomas)

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Art, entertainment, and media:

  • Old time religion, and hagiography | Tom Stolz's "Mahalia — A Gospel Musical" treats the woman generally acknowledged to have been the world's greatest gospel singer as if she were Saint Mahalia (The New York Times)

  • Baseball games get evangelical | In the United States, Christian groups are holding evangelical extravaganzas after sporting events, and they want to bring the practice to Australia (ABC, Australia)

  • Is the Christian right withering? | CNN documentary on fundamentalists suggests a sea change in American politics (The Star, Toronto)

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Money and business:

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Music:

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Books:

  • The pastor to the presidents | A new biography of Billy Graham explores his love for people and for power. Another Billy Graham bio? Yes, and a good one (Newsweek)

  • Sweet reason with spice | Tired of blustering atheists and triumphalist Christians? Here's an alternative. Benjamin B. DeVan reviews Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? (Books & Culture)

  • A limited look at religiosity and politics | Tim Rutten reviews The Politics of Heaven: America in Fearful Times by Earl Shorris (Los Angeles Times)

  • The science behind the Bible | University-trained archaeologists and historians are loath to take on the Bible, says Eric H. Cline, an associate professor of classics at George Washington University. He talks about his new book, From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible, in which he argues that Bible studies have become dominated by "junk science" (Noah's ark found in Turkey!) because academics have yielded the field (The Chronicle of Higher Education, audio)

  • Shop targets hunters with camo Bibles | An on-line outdoor retailer in the United States is selling camouflaged Bibles, a curious product which says a lot about American culture (Reuters)

  • Believe it or not: the sceptics beat God in bestseller battle | Struggling authors should keep the faith - literally. Sales of books that explore religion or spirituality have grown by more than 50 per cent in the past three years (The Observer, London)

  • Why atheism is selling . . . books | We're getting all this new atheism because religion looks so powerful—and we're also getting it because religion looks so weak (Joseph Bottum, First Things)

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Film:

  • Australian film industry looks for Christian stories | Since the controversial film The Passion of Christ made millions for Mel Gibson, the film industry has realised that regular Churchgoers were interested in going to the movies (Lateline, ABC, Australia)

  • Filming Jesus | Experienced crew creates high-def video for Southeast Christian's Easter pageant (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Hollywood's terrorists: Mormon, not Muslim | Despite ample material in today's world, the film 'September Dawn' chooses to travel back to the 1800s to disparage a safer target: the LDS Church (Michael Medved, USA Today)

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Islam:

  • Let's call God Allah | The Bishop of Breda, Tiny Muskens, wants people to start calling God Allah. He says the Netherlands should look to Indonesia, where the Christian churches already pray to Allah. It is also common in the Arab world: Christian and Muslim Arabs use the words God and Allah interchangeably (Radio Netherlands)

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Egypt:

  • Threats force Egyptian convert to hide | An Egyptian Muslim who converted to Christianity and then took the unprecedented step of seeking official recognition for the change said he has gone into hiding following death threats (Associated Press)

  • Also: A Muslim converts to Christianity foments sectarian antagonism | An Islamist cleric has vowed to seek Mohammed Hegazy's execution as an apostate, his family has shunned him, and Hegazy raised a storm of controversy when pictures of him posing for journalists with a poster of the Virgin Mary were published in the newspapers (Associated Press)

  • Egypt arrests Christian duo | Toronto-based religious rights organization says its members are being targeted by Cairo police (Toronto Star)

  • U.S. funnels aid to Coptic Christians, documents show | The United States has quietly funnelled millions of dollars of its annual aid to Egypt to groups among the country's increasingly restless Christian Coptic community and to areas with large Christian populations as part of an effort to "empower" the religious minority in a little-noticed multi-year aid programme, according to a review of several recent congressional documents (Inter Press Service)

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China:

  • Save the living Buddhas | The religious and cultural oppression that's behind the drive for a "harmonious society" is only escalating. So much for a rebirth of the Party's spirit (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Gold medal snatchers | The first Gold Medal of these games should be awarded to the Chinese Politburo for its Olympian achievements in religious persecution (Terence P. Jeffrey, The Washington Times)

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Other religions:

  • Tearing down barriers among faiths | Interfaith center preaches the importance of getting to know people from different backgrounds. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Mexico's Death Saint gets makeover | A small religious group that worships the grim reaper and is fighting for government recognition unveiled a softer image of their so-called Death Saint on Sunday: a woman with a porcelain face, brown, shoulder-length hair and long thin fingers (Associated Press)

  • Navajo Cub Scout: Religion emblem needed | When Kinlichiinii John set out to earn a religious emblem for his uniform like other Cub Scouts, he learned that none exists to acknowledge his Navajo beliefs (Associated Press)

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Missions and ministry:

  • Evangelicals back other Christians on conversion code of conduct | Thomas Schirrmacher, a German theologian who chairs the WEA's International Institute for Religious Freedom, says code should "establish the borderline between acceptable forms of mission protected by religious freedom, and undue forms of trying to convert people" (Ecumenical News International, WCC-backed news service)

  • Doctor marks a century of selflessness | After a lifetime in the medical trenches, Marshall Philip Welles now dispenses care and concern where needed (Los Angeles Times)

  • Room for improvement | The healing ritual of laying on of hands finds a place in Greater Boston (The Boston Globe)

  • 7 area churches come together in tent crusade | Weekend-long event draws from several denominations (Asbury Park Press, N.J.)

  • PADS getting nervous | More than two weeks after putting out a request for a church to become the next Thursday night homeless shelter site in McHenry County, no one has responded and the Public Action to Deliver Shelter staff is getting nervous (Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, Ill.)

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Places:

  • Boston takes on new religious profile | Boston's religious profile is no longer reflected solely in the words of the Bible, beloved by the city's Puritan founders, or The Last Hurrah, the novel inspired by its Catholic-tinted politics (The Boston Globe)

  • Dead Sea on life support | More than 90 percent of the 1.3 billion cubic meters of water that would have flowed into the Dead Sea annually has been diverted by Israel, Jordan, and Syria (The Washington Times)

  • Hebe will soon be unveiled | Nearly a century will have passed since the goddess of hospitality was first erected in downtown Roseburg and a controversial new statuette is raised in her place (News-Review, Roseburg, Ore.)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Evanston commune hits 50 | Despite turmoil, Reba Place Fellowship has maintained its mission of helping others (Chicago Tribune)

  • Weighty sermons | More pastors are preaching healthy lifestyles … and starting with themselves (The Sacramento Bee, Ca.)

  • Zimbabwe's horrors | No one is surprised when a Roman Catholic bishop condemns the violence of war. But when was the last time you heard of one pleading for a military invasion? (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)

  • Masterpiece in a country church | It is a great surprise to find in a little Suffolk church the most remarkable surviving English painting from the 14th century (Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, London)

  • Richard Dawkins, TV evangelist | Atheism has never held much interest for sociologists of religion - until now (Gordon Lynch, The Guardian, London)

  • Christians for extending the gulag | The international religious Left backs Korean "reunification." (Mark D. Tooley, FrontPageMagazine.com)

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Taliban, South Korea Start Direct Talks | Also: U.S. missionary killed in Honduras, WEA announces Iraq branch, a commercial cross fight, and links to many other articles (August 10)
South Korea Orders All Aid Groups Out of Afghanistan | Plus: Military ministry video faulted, all eyes on Christian voters (in Lebanon), and other stories (August 9)
Afghanistan Kidnappers Kill Hostage as South Korea Debates Mission Work | Plus: Malaysia changes course on Shari'ah courts, remembering Tammy Faye, a church is attacked by Christian terrorists, and other stories from online sources around the world (July 26)
Taliban Kidnaps South Korean Christians | Plus: Priest freed in Philippines, Israeli cable to drop Christian network Daystar, and more (July 20)
Zimbabwe's Mugabe Accuses Priest Critic of Adultery | Plus: Whether evangelicals can recover from a Catholic's fall, the escalating cost of abuse, and many other stories from online sources around the world (July 19)

See also the Christianity Today Liveblog.

January/February
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