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Italian Priest Kidnapped in Philippines

Plus: 'Virtual desecration' of a famous cathedral, an important IVF finding, another pastor mariticide, Paris Hilton (of course), and other stories from online sources around the world.

Today's Top Five

1. Anti-Christian terrorism strikes again in the Philippines
In Friday's Weblog, I wondered why the five-year anniversary of the botched rescue of American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham has elicited several major media pieces. After all, the Burnhams' story made national news only a few times while it was going on, and the main development in the Philippines is that several of their captors have been killed. (For Charles Colson fans: Monday's BreakPoint broadcast responded to the Burnham-focused New Republic article.)

Well, this weekend sadly brought a new news hook, as Muslim kidnappers abducted Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi Sunday as he was on his way to celebrate Mass. While police say that a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was behind the kidnapping, the MILF says it was Abu Sayyaf, the group that kidnapped the Burnhams.

2. Church of England says it may sue over video game's 'virtual desecration'
The Playstation 3 game Resistance: Fall of Man, which has been out in the U.S. since November but only since late March in the European Union, takes place in an alternate 1950s Britain. An alien race has conquered Europe and is laying siege. It has an elaborate alternate history — but uses several buildings recognizable in the real 1951 world. It's the game's use of one of these buildings, Manchester Cathedral, that has the Church of England furious. "The video footage of the Cathedral battle on 'YouTube' has shocked and dismayed us beyond words and can only be described as virtual desecration," Dean of Manchester Rogers Govender wrote to Sony officials. "We are shocked to see a place of worship, prayer, learning and heritage being presented to the youth of today as a location where guns can be fired."

Govender has asked that Sony immediately withdraw the game, apologize, and "make a substantial donation" to the church for its work "resisting the culture of gun crime and other forms of violence in our society."

A Sony spokesman told The Times, "It is entertainment, like Doctor Who or any other science fiction. It is not based on reality at all. Throughout the whole process we have sought permission where necessary." The Times and others wonder if the Church of England would really win in a lawsuit.

3. Study: IVF works best with one embryo at a time
There's not much grassroots evangelical opposition to in vitro fertilization, but where there is opposition, it's because IVF is usually done by implanting multiple embryos in the uterus. This can lead to multiple pregnancies and what is euphemistically called "selective reduction." We saw two good-news exceptions to selective reduction this week, as sextuplets were born in Arizona and Minnesota, but most such instances don't have endings that are quite so happy. "Fertility experts say [sextuplets] could become increasingly common as more couples seek artificial methods of conceiving babies," the Associated Press reports.

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. A new study out of the U.K. "discovered that transferring one embryo at a time to the womb can slightly increase success rates," The Times of London reports.

The author of the study, Yacoub Khalaf of Guy's Hospital in London, tells The Times, "It is a myth that single embryo transfer has to lower the success rate. If you select the right patients, and use blastocyst transfer, it can be just as good. We believe firmly that a twin pregnancy is not an ideal outcome. People think it is two for the price of one, but the risks are real and we see heartache time after time."

Proposed legislation in Britain would prohibit more than one embryo implantation at a time in women under 40.

4. Why the U.S. sanctions on Sudan for Darfur took so long and don't go so far
It probably won't surprise you that the answer has to do with the war on terror. "Sudan has become increasingly valuable to the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks because the Sunni Arab nation is a crossroads for Islamic militants making their way to Iraq and Pakistan," the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. "That steady flow of foreign fighters has provided cover for Sudan's Mukhabarat intelligence service to insert spies into Iraq, officials said."

5. Another clergy spouse murder?
On Friday, Mary Winkler was told she'd only have to spend seven days in prison for killing her husband, a Church of Christ pastor, in March 2006. The judge sentenced Winkler, who shot her husband in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun, to 210 days, but with time served and the time she'll spend in a mental health facility, it works out to just one more week in prison.

Two days later, the pastor of a Clinton African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Boston was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband.

In related news, recent studies suggest that capital punishment works as a deterrent to murder.

Quote of the day
"I have become much more spiritual. God has given me this new chance. … My spirit or soul did not like the way I was being seen and that is why I was sent to jail. … God has released me."

—Paris Hilton, who says she is reading the Bible, along with The Secret, The Power of Now, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. She was quoted by ABC's Barbara Walters, whom Hilton called from jail Sunday. (How could this not be the quote of the day?)

Aw, shucks
All the praise is nice, folks. (Really. Thanks.) But what I was really trying to get at is this: What would you change about the Christianity Today Weblog?

More articles

Priest abducted in Philippines | Islam | Middle East | Iraq | Bush and Pope meet | Zimbabwe | Mungiki | India | Church and state | Social justice | Bono's anti-poverty plan | 2008 campaign | Romney and Mormonism | More politics | Protests | Immigration | James Holsinger | Homosexuality | Marriage | Abortion | Life ethics | Australian Catholics | Education | Evolution | Atheism | Spirituality | Church life | Church's blackface skit | Southern Baptist Convention meeting | CRC synod | Anglicans and Episcopalians | Catholicism | Abuse | Mary Winkler | Crime | Missions and ministry | Franklin Graham | TV preachers | People | Places | History | Books | Media | Church of England vs. video game | Music | Money and business | Other stories of interest

Priest abducted in Philippines:

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Middle East:

  • Declining Christian population a fact of life in Arab societies | Shrinking numbers and influence problematic for entire region … and maybe also for the West (The Toronto Star)

  • The chief rabbinate is wrong about evangelicals | I was astonished to learn that by a majority vote, the Chief Rabbinate recently promulgated a ban against Jews participating in a Christian women's conference "to promote the status of women based on biblical values" under the auspices of the Knesset Christian Allies caucus in Jerusalem (Isi Leibler, The Jerusalem Post)

  • Mideast Christians worry Vatican | A senior Vatican official on Saturday lamented the plight of Christians in the Middle East who are suffering because of wars, other violence and uncertainty over the future (Associated Press)

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  • Iraqi Christian refugees in legal limbo | Forced from their Baghdad home by sectarian violence, an Iraqi Christian couple in their 70s have spent the past two years bounced between detention centers in Greece and Belgium, terrified of being forced back to Iraq (Associated Press)

  • Detroiters fear for Christian Iraqis | Alarmed by the increasing violence directed at Christians in Iraq, local Iraqi Americans are mobilizing to push for their protection (Detroit Free Press)

  • Insurgent group threatening Christians | A group affiliated with al Qaeda is giving Christians in Baghdad a stark set of four options: Convert to Islam, marry your daughters to our fighters, pay an Islamic tax or leave with only the clothes on your back (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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Bush and Pope meet:

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  • Faith against politics | He's been targeted by nasty rumors and threatened with death. But Archbishop Pius Ncube is still stepping up his efforts to speak out against Zimbabwe's autocratic government (Newsweek)

  • How tyranny came to Zimbabwe | Jimmy Carter still has a lot to answer for (James Kirchick, The Weekly Standard)

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  • Hindu sites 'only for Hinduism' | The government of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has banned the propagation of other religions in the holy places of Hindus across the state. It follows a row over alleged Christian missionary activity around a shrine in the town of Tirumala (BBC)

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Church and state:

  • Prisons ban books over fear of radicals | "The set of books that have been taken out have been ones that we used to minister to new converts when they come in here," inmate John Okon, speaking on behalf of the prison's Christian population, told a judge last week (Associated Press)

  • Also: Book ban | Federal directive to remove religious books from prison, libraries misdirected (Editorial, Lufkin Daily News, Tex.)

  • Faith group petitions the Supreme Court | Ministry asks high court to allow prayer in public meeting rooms in Antioch (Associated Press)

  • Opponents speak out on religious monument| Plans for a monument to display the Ten Commandments in front of Bloomfield's City Hall continue to move forward despite protests from nationwide organizations. (Daily Times, Farmington, NM)

  • Religious rights grow in Trenton | Assembly package affects patients and employees (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  • Brown to give up power to pick Church leaders | Gordon Brown is preparing to give up the prime minister's historic right to choose the Archbishop of Canterbury - and other Church of England bishops (The Telegraph, London)

  • Malaysia mired in a holy quandary | After a landmark Malaysian Superior Court decision downgraded secular law and constitutional guarantees against Islamic rules, a storm of protest has been building up as government and civil society rush to find a solution to the religious impasse (Asia Times)

  • Sharia trumps love | Consider the case of Lina Joy and be glad for church-state separation (Editorial, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

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Social justice:

  • Fighting hunger seen aiding U.S. image overseas | Politicians and religious leaders said yesterday during a forum on combating global hunger and poverty that the issues are intertwined with alleviating worldwide fear and disdain for the United States and its military forces (The Washington Times)

  • German church leaders call for dialogue with terrorists | The five-day German Protestant Church congress came to an end Sunday with a service in Cologne attended by over 100,000 people where political and church leaders alike focused on more worldly topics (Deutsche Welle, Germany)

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Bono's anti-poverty plan:

  • Bono's poverty-fighting plan promoted by two ex-senators | Two former Senate leaders who were once adversaries, Bill Frist and Tom Daschle, joined to promote an effort to make global poverty a central issue of the presidential race (The New York Times)

  • ONE Campaign jumps into 2008 politics | The anti-poverty campaign founded by U2 rocker Bono and others is investing $30 million to pressure the presidential candidates to focus on the oft-forgotten issue, with its leaders arguing on Monday that helping the poor is a national security issue (Associated Press)

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2008 campaign:

  • Converting the faith community | Political scientists, pollsters and religious leaders say religious voters could be in play this political season in broader and more unpredictable ways than ever before (CQPolitics.com)

  • McCain reaching out to Christian conservative base | In his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain is reaching out to conservative Christians, and many of them want to know how much McCain reaches out to God (McClatchy)

  • Faith moves Huckabee in ways different from other Christian conservatives | Mike Huckabee isn't what pundits would call a mainstream Christian conservative Republican (McClatchy Newspapers)

  • God and Mike Huckabee | The former Arkansas governor is an ordained Baptist minister who has eloquently handled questions about evolution in the GOP debates. But he's languishing in the polls. He thinks social conservatives could become irrelevant in the Republican Party. Is he right? (Eleanor Clift, Newsweek)

  • Huckabee stands by views — but says campaign is presidential, not theological | While media coverage is something that longshot candidates such as Huckabee generally desire, he clarified the very next day that he does not intend to be defined politically by his views on evolution (CQPolitics.com)

  • Brownback stands firm against abortion | Sen. Sam Brownback, campaigning for president Saturday before the National Catholic Men's Conference, questioned whether rape victims should get abortions (Associated Press)

  • All in the family | Two books attempt to get at the real Hillary Clinton, including her faith (The Washington Post)

  • Democrats get religion - just in time | The real problem with God in the public square is that our public theology is so juvenile. The candidate testimonies we heard on CNN may have been sincere, but they were excessively individualistic and sentimental. (Bruce Ledewitz, The Baltimore Sun)

  • Deeper issues in faith debate | We don't need to hear candidates debate bumper sticker slogans. Is this a Christian nation? Please don't start down that road. With a limited amount of time, candidates need to each discuss the bigger issues (Brian Lewis, Springfield News-Leader, Mo.)

  • How GOP presidential candidates apply their Christian moral ethics | In debates, topics like gays in the military or Libby's guilt revealed double standards (Dick Polman, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Romney and Mormonism:

  • Romney's run has Mormons wary of scrutiny | For many Mormons, Mitt Romney's bid for president is both a proud sign of progress and a cause of trepidation (The New York Times)

  • In U.S., Mormons are in the spotlight | After more than a century on the fringe of America's consciousness, Mormons are riding a wave of media attention and public scrutiny -- and say they welcome the chance to set a few things straight (Reuters)

  • Romney's religion | As Mitt Romney strives to become the leader of the pack of 10 Republican presidential candidates, his face and his faith seem to be everywhere (The Sun Chronicle, Attleboro, Mass.)

  • Romney's cross to bear | Questions about his religion could doom his campaign. He needs to face them head-on (Sally Denton, Los Angeles Times)

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More politics:

  • Dean urges Dems to court evangelical Christians | The national chairman of the Democratic Party urged his faithful in Nevada Monday night to reach out to a constituency more typically aligned with Republicans—evangelical Christians (Associated Press)

  • IRS draws lines for political advocacy | As campaign gears up, agency guides colleges and other nonprofits on avoiding inappropriate interaction with candidates and voters (Inside Higher Ed)

  • Christian Coalition broadens its focus | When the Christian Coalition of Alabama began anew in 2007, we pledged to work to promote Christian and moral values in the state of Alabama. This pledge means working with all members of the faith community, across political and party lines (Randy Brinson, The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • We must preserve God's vibrant tapestry in this state | To look around at the richness of Alabama's diversity of plants and animals is to be struck by the awesome responsibility of preserving God's vibrant tapestry in this state (Pat Byington, The Birmingham News, Ala.)

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  • Church's 'street ministry' questioned | The city of Jefferson's police chief wants a group of anti-abortion protesters to tone down their act and has asked the Jefferson City Council to adopt an ordinance to help him do that (Athens Banner-Herald, Ga.)

  • Trial ordered in 'street preachers' suit | Abortion protesters challenge police (Associated Press)

  • Protest march over 'conversions' | Police say they are listening to concerns from Birmingham Sikhs who are demanding action against alleged forced conversions to Islam (BBC)

  • Break-in was reasonable, Christian pacifist tells court | In the Supreme Court in Alice Springs, one of four Christian pacifists standing trial over their entry into the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility has told the jury the base's direct involvement in war is widely-known (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

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James Holsinger:

  • The real question | Would anti-gay church history shape job? (Editorial, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

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  • Disharmony, the new tolerance | It is ugly to watch how a group that has been asking straight Americans for tolerance and understanding can turn on a dime, as members seek to punish and shut down those with heterodox opinions (Debra J. Saunders, The Washington Times)

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  • Unmarried couples get equal rights on 'divorce' | Cohabiting partners who split up are to get similar rights to divorcing couples under plans to be outlined next month (The Times, London)

  • Catholic marriages declining rapidly | Catholic marriages in Boston plummeted 61 percent in the past 20 years, going from 12,314 in 1984 to 4,820 just two years ago, according to a church document circulated by a member of an important archdiocese planning group (Boston Herald)

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  • Amnesty International unveils policy on abortion | Human rights organization Amnesty International has adopted a broader sexual and reproductive health policy that calls on states to ensure that women have access to safe abortion care under certain circumstances (Vanguard, Nigeria)

  • Also: No amnesty for the unborn | Cardinal: Withdraw support for rights group (National Catholic Register)

  • Mexico clears Church of mixing politics | Mexico's Roman Catholic Church has been cleared of accusations that its opposition to abortion violated a law banning priests from mixing in politics, but the church said Monday it will mount a campaign to change the law it believes is too restrictive (Associated Press)

  • On abortion, Hollywood is no-choice | Many young women have abortions, just not in the movies (The New York Times)

  • Uruguayans start online drive to legalize abortion | Uruguayan writers, musicians and two female government ministers have joined an Internet campaign to legalize abortion after a 20-year-old woman was criminally charged for undergoing the procedure (Reuters)

  • Abortion figures threaten to intensify U.K. debate | An increasingly bitter debate as the Abortion Act marks its 40th year looks set to be reignited on Tuesday when the government publishes annual figures for the number of terminations (Reuters)

  • Dobson's bit-by-bit strategy has worked | Recent history vindicates Dobson's bit-by-bit approach to chipping away at abortion rights (Dan Gilgoff, The Denver Post)

  • Don't throw us into that briar patch | For the liberals to bring the issue of abortion into the arena of politics, in the legislatures, is to bring us into the briar patch, where they are likely to suffer some disagreeable surprises. (Hadley Arkes, First Things)

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Life ethics:

  • Ruling likely to spur convictions in capital cases | Experts said a Supreme Court decision will make juries in death penalty cases whiter and more conviction-prone (The New York Times)

  • Rwanda scraps the death penalty | The move will enable countries that are holding genocide suspects, but which object to capital punishment, to extradite them to Rwanda (BBC)

  • Studies say death penalty deters crime | A series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer (Associated Press)

  • The guidebook for taking a life | The set of rules — a kind of jihad etiquette — that seek to guide and justify the killing that militants do is growing more complex (The New York Times)

  • Single embryo IVF 'boosts chance of success while reducing the risk' | British doctors have discovered that transferring one embryo at a time to the womb can slightly increase success rates, provided that patients are chosen carefully and a new culture technique is used (The Times, London)

  • Also: Sextuplets in Arizona and Minnesota | Two sets of sextuplets were born in different states less than a day apart, a rare occurrence but one that fertility experts say could become increasingly common as more couples seek artificial methods of conceiving babies (Associated Press)

  • Top Texas court gets embryo custody case | Augusta Roman wants to keep the embryos and try to have a baby. Randy Roman wants them destroyed, or at least kept frozen (Associated Press)

  • Advancing science, sanctity of life | New scientific advances show yet again that we don't have to destroy life in order to save it (Editorial, The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • Darn cells. Dividing yet again! | "It is ironic that every time we vote on this legislation, all of a sudden there is a major scientific discovery that basically says, 'You don't have to do stem cell research,' " Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel sputtered on the House floor on Thursday (Rick Weiss, The Washington Post)

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Australian Catholics:

  • Faithful in lock step behind the cardinal | Many of the faithful, drawn from parishes all over the Sydney Archdiocese, voiced their support for Cardinal George Pell, whose pressure on Catholic MPs to vote down a bill legalising therapeutic cloning last week caused a political fury (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Pell ignored as MPs take Communion | Catholic MPs, including the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, and the Nationals' Adrian Piccoli, ignored warnings from the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, and received Communion at Mass Sunday (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Pell pilloried for cardinal sin of defending church teaching | In this brave new world of biotechnology, church leaders have a special obligation to unequivocally state church teachings on confusing moral issues. Pell is one of the admirable few who stand up for moral absolutes. (Miranda Devine, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • More asunder through such thunderous threats | What is clear is that Pell wants Catholic identity back on centre stage. But what does it mean to be Catholic? (Chris McGillion, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • A robust moral debate | Regardless of your personal view on the legislation, or the Catholic church, or even Dr Pell, it was the teaching of the church and he was just espousing it (Editorial, The Sunday Telegraph, NSW, Australia)

  • Science at odds with believers | In the philosophy of those who retain a moral objection to scientific research in the area of human cloning, the crux of the matter is simple; killing a human being cannot be sanctioned in any civilized society for any purpose whatsoever (Roger Coombs, The Daily Telegraph, NSW, Australia)

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  • Baptist seminaries court Hispanics | Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Baptist University of the Americas programs, though similar in some cases, in other ways are taking divergent paths (San Antonio Express-News)

  • Giving proper credit to home-schooled | With applications from nontraditional students rising, more universities are revamping evaluation methods (The Washington Post)

  • Nigeria: A really big man on campus | Two weeks after stepping down as president, Olusegun Obasanjo is resuming university studies. Mr. Obasanjo, a 70-year-old retired general, began coursework for a postgraduate diploma in Christian theology at the National Open University in Lagos on Thursday (The New York Times)

  • Classes will be held on Good Friday | Winchester School Committee move is not sitting well with some residents and area Catholics (The Boston Globe)

  • Church to renovate Midstate school | Congregation feels the need to help out at home (The Tennessean)

  • Federal judge rejects religious-school busing suit | Court sides with Hot Springs, S.D., district, which was sued by several Lutheran school students whose public bus service was suspended (First Amendment Center)

  • Future of Bible classes in Pender County uncertain | In May, the school board voted to review the status of the classes because instructors were not licensed to teach high school and were not paid by Pender County Schools (Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.)

  • Clarification | A May 26 editorial said that a Bible study course offered in Odessa, Tex., public schools referred to the Catholic belief of transubstantiation as a "warped" understanding. The course materials containing that reference were not prepared or specifically approved by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, on whose curriculum the Odessa course is based (The Washington Post)

  • Perry signs religious expression bill | Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill that's meant to provide greater freedom for students to express their religious views on school campuses (Associated Press)

  • Also: Gobs of gobbledygook | The Texas Legislature has devised a cover for people to force their religion down the throats of others (John Young, Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)

  • College's foot bath plans spark backlash | Project for Muslim students draws accusation U-M Dearborn is giving faith favored treatment (The Detroit News)

  • Also: Protests over footbaths at UMD show intolerance | As a recent graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and two-term president of the student body there, I am disappointed that some would attempt to twist a benign plan -- spending $25,000 to help accommodate Muslim students on campus -- into a wedge issue in the debate on secularism in America (Tarek Baydoun, Detroit Free Press)

  • Christian colleges: A richly diverse group | Neither reporters nor pundits knew quite what to make of Monica Goodling's background in Christian higher education. Their comments ranged from bewilderment to biting sarcasm. (Richard T. Hughes, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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  • Controversial Islamist author slams Darwin | The controversial author of books advocating an Islamic version of creationism claimed on Friday modern science had no monopoly on truth and insisted that his views were gaining ground (Reuters)

  • Turkish creationism takes root | An Islamic version of "scientific creationism" has found fertile soil in Turkey, where three in four residents reject Charles Darwin's theory of evolution (The Washington Times)

  • The evolution of daft ideas | Islamic creationism is growing and the movement is now repackaging ideas from reactionary American Christian groups (Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, London)

  • Evolution and dissent | Those with the courage to challenge reigning orthodoxies ought to be able to follow the scientific evidence where it leads (David K. DeWolf, The Boston Globe)

  • The trouble with Fred and Wilma | A Christian magazine editor critiques the Creation Museum—and The Times' coverage of it (Michael Patrick Leahy, Los Angeles Times)

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  • Smackdown: An atheist uproar | What's happening in the "atheist, humanist, freethinkers" community is more like what happens to any ideological or political group as it matures: the hard-liners knock heads with the folks who want to just get along, and the cracks are beginning to show (Newsweek)

  • God is not responsible for war and suffering | A recent spate of books and films from atheists have incorrectly blamed religion for humankind's misery, but the true culprit is much closer to home (John Hard, The Australian)

  • Tome truths | The publication of just six anti-religious books has managed to provoke outrage from the devout - this reveals a profound insecurity (AC Grayling, The Guardian, London)

  • God debate accomplishes little | I've never been quite sure what the purpose of the debate about God's existence is. No one's mind is ever changed. Non-believers don't become believers because of accumulated arguments. Believers don't lose their faith because someone talks them out of it (Bill Wineke, Wisconsin State Journal)

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  • Sunday drivers | We're a deeply patriotic and religious people. Just don't bother us with the details (Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times)

  • A pious nation? | Though the United States is considered a deeply religious country, a glance at America today reveals a society divided by wealth and poverty, tainted by violence and often oblivious to the common good. A country of believers? Perhaps. But saying is one thing, doing quite another (Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today)

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Church life:

  • Church rewrites its storm script | Archdiocese crafts disaster plan (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)

  • Church feud ends up in courts | Former trustee sues Warsaw pastor, alleges misuse of funds, home (The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

  • She studies what makes churches thrive | Diana Butler Bass knows all the gloomy statistics about declining mainline Protestant churches but believes in their future. She studies mainline churches that are thriving to see what sets them apart from those that are dying (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Methodist churches to split | Two United Methodist congregations that voted to merge less than two years ago decided Sunday to negate that decision and continue as two separate churches (Springfield News-Leader, Mo.)

  • Churches increasingly speak in native tongues | Native tongues, that is. Spanish-speaking churches are among the fastest-growing (Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)

  • Half pipe leads to a full chapel | A Methodist Chapel in Cornwall has come up with a novel way of broadening its appeal by building a skate ramp inside (BBC)

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Church's blackface skit:

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Southern Baptist Convention meeting:

  • Baptists warned about Islam, atheism | Watergate figure Chuck Colson warned a gathering of Southern Baptist pastors Sunday night against what he described as two dire threats: the deadly marriage of Islam and fascism and a new, militant atheism growing in popularity in the West (Associated Press)

  • Southern Baptists meeting shows tension | Southern Baptists head into their annual national meeting at odds over whether they've become too conservative and wed to partisan politics, or whether a harder line is necessary to give the denomination a clear identity (Associated Press)

  • Southern Baptists are convening; will any Christians be with them? | How to tell if someone is a Christian: Ask these three questions: 1. Have you sold all you have and given the proceeds to the poor? 2. What is the percentage of minorities (a) in your community and (b) in your church? 3. When was the last time you emptied a bedpan? (Roddy Stinson, San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Calvinist churches targeted by Florida Baptist Convention | Some Baptists in this state say the Florida Baptist Convention is intimidating and demonizing churches that believe in Calvinism -- and doing it with the churches' own money (Associated Baptist Press)

  • Division lurks at convention | Southern Baptists today say they're all conservative, thanks to the battle that culminated at the 1988 San Antonio convention. But that doesn't mean there won't be controversy (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Meeting may open Baptists' arms wider | The president of the Southern Baptist Convention hopes this year's annual gathering breaks course from the divisive and limited agendas of the past, focusing instead on a broader message of greater evangelistic partnering and compassion for the world's disadvantaged (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

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CRC synod:

  • Synod president favors full rights for women in CRC | In a signal they may be ready to approve historic changes for female ministers, Christian Reformed Church Synod delegates Saturday elected a president for its annual meeting who favors full clergy rights for women (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • CRC glue 'getting old' after 150 years | Begun by a gritty lot of Dutch immigrants who broke away from the Reformed Church in America in 1857, the Christian Reformed Church has evolved into an increasingly multicolored denomination. But today's CRC is a church in decline, losing more than 46,000 members since its high point in 1992 (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • Local groups hope Synod decides on women's role | After 37 years of painful debate about women in ministry -- and as the CRC celebrates its 150th anniversary Sunday -- some say it is time to settle the issue once and for all. (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

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Anglicans and Episcopalians:

  • Female Episcopal bishop a first for Cuba | New Episcopal Bishop Nerva Cot Aguilera, the church's first female bishop in Cuba and the developing world, said Monday she welcomed the opportunity to show what women can do if given the chance (Associated Press)

  • Also: Cuba ordains first woman bishop | The Episcopal Church in Cuba has consecrated a woman bishop - the first in the developing world (BBC)

  • Episcopalians proceed on new bishop | Though some church officials expressed concerns over the procedures adopted to reconvene as well as the perceptions of church officials outside the diocese, all but a few dissenters voted to proceed as planned in an effort to fast-track the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence into the bishop's office (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  • Carnley a believer in unity | As primate, Dr Carnley clashed publicly with the Sydney-based conservatives in the Anglican Church on big issues. Yet Dr Carnley, who retired from the head of the Anglican Church in Australia two years ago, is also a successful peacemaker (The Australian)

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  • A new keeper of the faith | At the diocese of Metuchen, an effort to bring more men to the priesthood begins within (The New York Times)

  • The search for homegrown priests | As seminary enrollment has sagged, Chicago's Catholic Church is trying to recruit priests who reflect a diverse flock (Time)

  • Vatican still rejects female clergy | Official Catholic and Anglican negotiators have spent four decades working toward shared Communion and full recognition of each other's clergy and doctrine. Mincing no words, Kasper said that goal of restoring full relations "would realistically no longer exist" if Anglicanism's mother church in England consecrates female bishops (Associated Press)

  • Awaiting closure | As 10 local parishes have been shut or combined, worshipers adapt to change (The Boston Globe)

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  • Also: Vatican clears former pastor of sex charges | The Rev. William J. Dowd, a popular Bergen County priest who was accused in 2002 of sexual misconduct with minors, has been cleared by church officials in Rome (The Record, N.J.)

  • Church evicts a group of clergy-abuse victims | Regular meetings had been held at the Catholic facility for 5 years (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  • Lawyer: Diocese hired priests suspected of molesting boys | The state's Roman Catholic diocese is facing new allegations that it hired two priests in the 1960s and 1970s suspected of molesting boys, then kept them employed after receiving reports of their sexual misconduct while working in Vermont (Burlington Free Press, Vt.)

  • Officer allegedly used religion to lure child | A federal corrections officer is being held in a special cell in the Maricopa County Jail on multiple charges of child molestation after allegedly luring his victim with his Wiccan religion (The Arizona Republic)

  • For the record | An article that appeared in some editions of Friday's California section about a church youth leader who was charged with four counts of unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl said the suspect worked at Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana. He worked at Calvary Church (Los Angeles Times)

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Mary Winkler:

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  • Pastor slain by husband, police say | The pastor of a historic church in Great Barrington was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband, a deacon at their church, authorities said yesterday (The Boston Globe)

  • Cross burning nets two-year sentence | A Lassen County man was sentenced Friday in Sacramento federal court to two years in prison for his part in burning a cross in front of the home of an African Catholic priest because he is black (The Sacramento Bee, Ca.)

  • Police dog collars alleged church burglar | An early Sunday morning visit to church ended badly for a suspected 20-year-old burglar hiding in the attic of the Mill Plain United Methodist Church (The Columbian, Wa.)

  • Online tool helps expose church-hopping scams | Churches that belong to BenevolenceNetwork.com can perform reference checks with congregations across the state by searching the last name or driver's license number of a person who has received aid (The Oakland Press, Mi.)

  • Pastor docked for defrauding church member | An Osogbo Magistrate's Court has ordered a 'pastor,' Olusegun Makinde, to be remanded in prison custody for allegedly duping a church member of N2 million (Nigerian Tribune)

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Missions and ministry:

  • Water for the world | A $3 gadget that promises to quench a user's thirst for a year without spare parts, electricity or maintenance (Newsweek)

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Franklin Graham:

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TV preachers:

  • Upbeat pastor draws throngs of fans | Followers flock to Joel Osteen's book-signing and hopeful message (Contra Costa News, Ca.)

  • Bishop T.D. Jakes 'repositions' himself for the mainstream | Reposition Yourself doesn't just offer the messages of confidence and healing Jakes has aimed at black women in books such as God's Leading Lady. The new book is a boost of caffeine for the Baby Boomer mid-life crisis, encouraging people to take stock, get unstuck and chase dreams (USA Today)

  • Creflo Dollar coming | Coming on the heels of Benny Hinn is another celebrity televangelist. Dr. Creflo A. Dollar will hold a crusade at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Namboole on Wednesday starting 7p.m. (The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Also: Meet Dollar, the prosperity pastor | Barely a month after the exciting Benny Hinn crusades, Ugandans are already warming up for another American preacher (New Vision, Uganda)

  • Pastor Hinn and Maria's pigs | A story of exorcism (Alan Tacca, The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Also: Benny Hinn and Tourette's | "Shut up. You cannot be speaking when I am preaching. Nobody can do that here. We cannot allow people to be speaking back to me when I am ministering the word," Hinn yelled (The New Zealand Herald)

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  • The Hallelujah people | Members of a Christian sect based in Corona believe that 61-year-old José Luis De Jesús Miranda is both Jesus Christ and the Antichrist (The New York Times)

  • Valley man lived what he preached | Hours before accident, he told congregation of Jesus' teaching about laying down one's life for a friend (The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.)

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  • Cool reception for Bible park in Bible Belt | A proposal for a religious theme park in a booming community in Tennessee has ignited fierce opposition (The New York Times)

  • Also: Bible Park far from a 'done deal' | Opponents of a Bible-theme park proposed in the Blackman community believe the project is a done deal. But Jim Baker, chairman of the Rutherford County Industrial Development Board, said "nothing could be further from the truth." (The Murfreesboro Post, Tenn.)

  • Scholars to talk religion | Detroit's diversity draws conferences (Detroit Free Press)

  • Nothing for it but to convert | They represent the work of some of the nation's finest craftsmen. Yet the church buildings of Scotland, which number roughly 3500 across the country, are under threat as never before (The Herald, Glasgow)

  • Also: Don't sell-out on the spiritual soul of our nation | Psst! Want an old church, anyone? How about one which stands on one of Scotland's most sacred early sites? (Ron Ferguson, The Herald, Glasgow)

  • Barcelona warning: Trains coming. Church at risk | Antonio Gaudí's unfinished masterwork, La Sagrada Familia, is threatened by a train tunnel that, if built as planned, would be dug within a few feet of its foundations (The New York Times)

  • Serbs to move church from Bosnian Muslim land | Bosnian Serb leaders have agreed to remove an Orthodox church built in a Bosnian Muslim woman's courtyard after she was driven out by Serb forces who killed 22 of her relatives in nearby Srebrenica (Reuters)

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  • Q&A : Museum shines light on refugee contribution to Reformation | Isabelle Graesslé is the director of Geneva's privately run International Museum of the Reformation, which recently was named the museum of the year by the Council of Europe (Reuters/UNCHR)

  • FDR's prayer for extraordinary times | Sixty-three years ago this week, as Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the nation in an extraordinary moment of mass prayer (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Knowing not | Most Americans are ignorant of the Bible and key concepts of religion. Mark Oppenheimer reviews Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy (The New York Times Book Review)

  • 'Be Near Me' by Andrew O'Hagan | In a hardscrabble Scottish town, an English priest is tried on a charge of sexual abuse. Review by Art Winslow (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Religion finds a home on TV, then adds on | A burgeoning religion-oriented cable and satellite television business has spread beyond its evangelical Christian roots into what the industry calls "faith and values programming" that includes other faiths and cultures (The Washington Post)

  • From the local news to a higher calling | David Brody is a Christian journalist with chutzpah (Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post)

  • Making it | An editor's faith triumphs over tragedy and inspires a profitable business (The Washington Post)

  • How Bush became the curser in chief | Thanks in part to the efforts of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, it is now safe for Nicole Richie to drop the F bomb on broadcast TV (Time)

  • Elite press Left Behind by religion | Media Matters found what it expected to find (Tom Blackburn, Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

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Church of England vs. video game:

  • Church threatens to sue Sony over 'sick' video game | An ultra-violent video game set in Manchester Cathedral has led Church leaders to threaten legal action against the makers of the "sick" game unless they remove it from sale immediately and donate to the diocese's work with young people (The Times, London)

  • Also: Church may sue over cathedral battle game | Sony is being threatened with legal action by senior Church of England clergy for its "highly irresponsible" action in depicting a gory gun battle in the nave of Manchester Cathedral in a computer game (The Times, London)

  • Gun battle in Manchester cathedral (The Times, London)

  • Church of England calls Sony game 'sick' | The Church of England accused Sony Corp on Saturday of using an Manchester cathedral as the backdrop to a violent computer game and said it should be withdrawn from shop shelves (Associated Press)

  • Cathedral to demand Sony apology | Church of England officials will send a letter to Sony demanding an apology over the use of Manchester Cathedral as a backdrop for a violent computer game (BBC)

  • Fantasy meets reality in Church row | The real-life battle between the Church of England and Sony over a violent computer game proves the theory that reality is often stranger than fantasy (BBC)

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  • Grammy salute underscores a gospel truth | The only differences between the 2007 Grammy Salute to Gospel Music and other events honoring musicians were a complete lack of exposed flesh and the fact that every single artist who performed could really and truly sing (The Washington Post)

  • One man's gospel 'Journey' | Richard Smallwood returns to Washington area to minister and promote new CD (The Washington Post)

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Money and business:

  • Bill orders pharmacists to fill all prescriptions | Pharmacists in New Jersey would be legally required to sell any medication or medical device, even if they object on religious or moral grounds, under a bill that won final legislative approval yesterday. (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  • In God's name | Kenyan evangelical Christians are donating huge sums of money to their churches. What is disconcerting to most people is that these huge donations hardly do anything to uplift their lives (The East African Standard, Kenya)

  • Jesus wants you to drive 4x4, says S.African church | Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is expanding fast in Africa and bills its gleaming new cathedral in Soweto -- which seats 8,000 and has room for hundreds of plush cars in its vast underground car park -- as the biggest church on the continent (Reuters)

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Other stories of interest:

  • 'Rabbi Jesus' paintings on display at church Sunday | The paintings attracted national and international media attention last fall when Gundersen Lutheran officials asked Goldstein to remove them from a hospital display because they could be controversial (La Crosse Tribune, Wis.)

  • Many times, church chat in S.A. involves the Spurs | The Spurs traditionally have been a unifying element for San Antonians at their places of worship (Tim Griffin, San Antonio Express-News)

  • True martyrs | Victims of radical Islam and political correctness (Chuck Colson, BreakPoint)

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Related Elsewhere:

Our most recent Weblogs include:

Stem Cell Bill's Bad (Or Providential?) Timing | Plus: Surgeon general nominee's Methodist work under fire, Time interviews Rowan Williams, church building conflicts, and more. (June 8)
The God Debates of '08 | Plus: More tragedy for Iraq Christians, another blow to Iowa's faith-based prison program, America's new pilgrimage points, and other stories. (June 7)

See also the Christianity Today Liveblog.

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