The shepherd and the sheepfold
1 day ago
Twelve village churches were burned and ransacked in eastern India over Christmas as Hindu extremists clashed with members of the Christian minority.
One person died and more than 25 were injured in the violence in Orissa state.
It was sparked after Hindu hard-liners objected to the scale of a Christmas Eve prayer vigil, according to the Catholic Bishops Conference in New Delhi....
The violence is part of periodic flare-ups between Christians and followers of India's dominant religion who accuse the missionaries of trying to convert low-caste Hindus.
Missionary activity is a source of serious tension in parts of India where hard-line Christian groups talk of "liberating" low-caste Hindus.
Rising anti-missionary sentiment has caused several Indian state governments to pass anti-conversion laws which India's Christians - who represent 2.5 per cent of the country's 1.1 billion population - are fighting in court.
During an interview on Radio Five, the Archbishop of Canterbury dismissed the well-known version of events as legend saying: "Matthew's Gospel doesn't tell us there were three of them, doesn't tell us they were kings, doesn't tell us where they came from.
"It says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that's all we're really told."
Turning to the topic of when Jesus was born, he said it was 'very unlikely'that there was snow.
He said there was no evidence of animals present - a popular theme of Christmas cards.
He dismissed the idea that the star of the North stood still in the night sky - because stars just don't behave like that.
For good measure, he added Jesus probably wasn't even born in December. He said: "Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival".
One presidential hopeful is a preacher, another proudly Mormon, and most openly tout their Christianity. In an arena where faith can make or break a politician, the one in 10 Americans who profess no religion feel left in the cold.
"They're very disconcerted," said Darren Sherkat, an atheist sociology professor specializing in religion at Southern Illinois University.
"They're horrified by both the Democratic and Republican rhetoric surrounding religion -- that people who are not religious ... are immoral, that they're not qualified to serve in public office," he said.
[Margaret Downey] claims atheists are "the fastest-growing minority in America."And I thought the article was trying to highlight some sort of problem.
The two “Hobbit” films – “The Hobbit” and its sequel – are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with pre-production beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with the intention of “The Hobbit” release slated for 2010 and its sequel the following year, in 2011.
Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims joined Britain's equality watchdog on Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.
"It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be star of the show," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
"Let's stop being silly about a Christian Christmas," he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.
The author's attack on organized religion has been toned down for the film, in a bid to attract as wide as audience as possible, something director Chris Weitz has acknowledged.
"In the books the Magisterium is a version of the Catholic Church gone wildly astray from its roots," Weitz wrote in the British Daily Telegraph.
But "if that's what you want in the film, you'll be disappointed," he warned.
However, the sanitized version of Pullman's book has failed to appease the Catholic League, which gathers some 350,000 members, and which has already been sending out leaflets denouncing the film.
"The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books," said president William Donohue.
"Unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books," he added.
The 80-year-old leader of a suburban Atlanta megachurch is at the center of a sex scandal of biblical dimensions: He slept with his brother's wife and fathered a child by her.
Members of Archbishop Earl Paulk's family stood at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church a few Sundays ago and revealed the secret exposed by a recent court-ordered paternity test.
In truth, this is not the first — or even the second — sex scandal to engulf Paulk and the independent, charismatic church. But this time, he could be in trouble with the law for lying under oath about the affair.
The living proof of that lie is 34-year-old D.E. Paulk, who for years was known publicly as Earl Paulk's nephew.
"I am so very sorry for the collateral damage it's caused our family and the families hurt by the removing of the veil that hid our humanity and our sinfulness," said D.E. Paulk, who received the mantle of head pastor a year and a half ago.
A judge ordered the test at the request of the Cobb County district attorney's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which are investigating Earl Paulk for possible perjury and false-swearing charges stemming from a lawsuit.
The archbishop, his brother and the church are being sued by former church employee Mona Brewer, who says Earl Paulk manipulated her into an affair from 1989 to 2003 by telling her it was her only path to salvation [emphasis added, NAC]. Earl Paulk admitted to the affair in front of the church last January.
In a 2006 deposition stemming from the lawsuit, the archbishop said under oath that the only woman he had ever had sex with outside of his marriage was Brewer. But the paternity test said otherwise.
Two leading religion journalists — one in Britain, one in the United States — have quit the beat in recent months, saying they had acquired such a close look at such scandalous behaviour by Christians that they lost their faith and had to leave.
Stephen Bates, who recently stepped down as religious affairs writer for the London Guardian, has just published an account of his seven years on the beat in an article entitled “Demob Happy” for the New Humanist magazine. Bates followed the crisis in the Anglican Communion for several years and even wrote a book on it, A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.
“Now I am moving on,” his article concludes. “It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.”
King Tut's buck-toothed face was unveiled Sunday for the first time in public - more than 3,000 years after the youngest and most famous pharaoh to rule ancient Egypt was shrouded in linen and buried in his golden underground tomb.
Archeologists carefully lifted thae fragile mummy out of a quartz sarcophagus decorated with stone-carved protective goddesses, momentarily pulling aside a beige covering to reveal a leathery black body.
The linen was then replaced over Tut's narrow body so only his face and tiny feet were exposed, and the 19-year-old king, whose life and death has captivated people for nearly a century, was moved to a simple glass climate-controlled case to keep it from turning to dust.
New studies of the child mummies show that the children chosen for a one-way trek to a summit shrine, some time between 1470 and 1520, were groomed for death over a period of about one year.
The team, led by Dr Andrew Wilson at Bradford University, analysed hair samples taken from the heads and from small accompanying bags of four mummies....
The team studied DNA and isotopes (chemical signatures) from the hair samples, which give a unique snapshot of diet at different intervals: more than a year before death, the children ate vegetables such as potatoes, suggesting a peasant background. Subsequently it was enriched with plants such as maize, considered an "elite" food, and protein, likely to be dried llama meat.
Gabby Cirenza wanted to be a referee for Halloween. The outfit she liked had a micro-mini black skirt and a form-fitting black and white-striped spandex top held together with black laces running up the flesh-exposing sides. She looked admiringly at the thigh-high black go-go boots that could be bought as an accessory. And she thought the little bunny on the chest was cute....Gabby is 11....
Gabby eyed the Sexy Super Girl but decided against it. A friend at her Catholic school had worn that costume for a Halloween parade and pulled the already short miniskirt way up to cover her tummy. "That didn't look very good." But Gabby did like the Aqua Fairy, a vampy get-up with a black ripped-up skirt, black fishnet tights and blue bustier that comes in medium, large and preteen. A medium fits a child of 8....
Gabby pointed to the Fairy-Licious Purrrfect Kitty Pre-Teen, which, according to the package, includes a "pink and black dress with lace front bodice and sassy jagged skirt with tail. . . . Wings require some assembly."
"Absolutely not," said her mother, Cheryl. "That is so not happening."...
Cheryl Cirenza shook her head in exasperated disbelief. "This is all so inappropriate. It's really disturbing," she said, eyeing a wall of such girl and preteen costumes as Major Flirt in army green, the bellybutton-baring Devilicious and a sassy, miniskirted French Maid, pink feather duster included. She'd just turned down her 13-year-old daughter's request for a Sexy Cop outfit. "When I was their age, I was a bunch of grapes."
Those things that go bump in the night? About one-third of people believe they could be ghosts.
And nearly one out of four, 23 percent, say they've actually seen a ghost or felt its presence, finds a pre-Halloween poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos....
About one out of five people, 19 percent, say they accept the existence of spells or witchcraft. Nearly half, 48 percent, believe in extrasensory perception, or ESP.
The most likely candidates for ghostly visits include single people, Catholics and those who never attend religious services. By 31 percent to 18 percent, more liberals than conservatives report seeing a specter.
Wild monkeys attacked a senior government official who then fell from a balcony at his home and died Sunday, media reported.So far I've actually seen more Hanuman statues than I've seen monkeys in India, but when I do see one I won't be feeding it.
New Delhi Deputy Mayor S.S. Bajwa was rushed to a hospital after the attack by a gang of Rhesus macaques, but succumbed to head injuries sustained in his fall, the Press Trust of India news agency and The Times of India reported.
Many government buildings, temples and residential neighborhoods in New Delhi are overrun by Rhesus macaques, which scare passers-by and occasionally bite or snatch food from unsuspecting visitors.
Last year, the Delhi High Court reprimanded city authorities for failing to stop the animals from terrifying residents and asked them to find a permanent solution to the monkey menace.
Part of the problem is that devout Hindus believe monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman and feed them bananas and peanuts — encouraging them to frequent public places.
Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.
She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."
Oral Roberts was blind-sided by allegations that the university he founded was being exploited by his son and daughter-in-law, the aging televangelist said Tuesday in his first public comments on the case.
Roberts phoned CNN's "Larry King Live" to weigh in on the accusations leveled in a lawsuit by three professors who claim they were fired from Oral Roberts University for questioning the school's spending and students' involvement in a political campaign.
"Like my son says, it was a surprise and sort of a shock, but we have been through some tough experiences in building Oral Roberts University in the 1960s, and we have surprised them all and have built a university that we believe is for the glory of God," Roberts said,
Roberts, 89, spoke from his home in California as his son, Richard, and daughter-in-law, Lindsay, sat on King's set in New York.
In accordance with my role as an evangelist, in keeping with the considered selection of this congregation consistent with the revealed qualifications of Scripture, I appoint and ordain you overseers of the Lord's church in Wilsonville, Alabama, and commend you to the Lord in whom we believe.I know there have been times when the installation of elders in some places has only gained a mention in the opening announcements of a church service. I believe it's a more significant event than that, and we would do well to mark the occasion of overseer appointment with some solemnity.
A mineral that acts like a sponge beneath Earth's surface stores more oxygen than expected, keeping our planet from becoming dry and inhospitable like Mars.
The key to the abundant oxygen storage is the mineral majorite, which exists deep below Earth's surface in the mantle. Without the oxygen stockpile, Earth would probably be a barren planet hostile to life, authors of a study suggest in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature.
The researchers examined majorite in the lab under conditions mimicking the Earth's deep interior and also near the planet's surface. The results showed that under deep-Earth conditions of high temperature and pressure, majorite stores large amounts of oxygen. When the temperature and pressure were decreased, as occurs near Earth's surface, the majorite decomposed and released the oxygen.
"The Earth's upper mantle can store, therefore, much more oxygen than previously expected," said lead author Arno Rohrbach, a doctoral student at the University of Bonn's Mineralogical Institute in Germany.
The group making the threat, which came together Saturday in Salt Lake City during a break-away gathering during a meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy, includes Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps the most influential of the group, as well as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and dozens of other politically-oriented conservative Christians, participants said. Almost everyone present expressed support for a written resolution that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third party candidate.”...
A revolt of Christian conservative leaders could be a significant setback to the Giuliani campaign because white evangelical Protestants make up a major portion of Republican primary voters. But the threat is risky for the credibility of the Christian conservative movement as well. Some of its usual grass-roots supporters could still choose to support even a pro-choice Republican like Mr. Giuliani, either because they dislike the Democratic nominee even more or because they are worried about war, terrorism and other issues.
Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani compared the scrutiny of his personal life marked by three marriages to the biblical story of how Jesus dealt with an adulterous woman.If you find any problems with his exegesis, perhaps you shouldn't be so judgmental. Surely a quick reading of the Bible will confirm that 'live and let live' is what it's all about.
In an interview posted online Friday, Giuliani was questioned about his family and told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "I think there are some people that are very judgmental."
Giuliani has a daughter who indicated support for Democrat Barack Obama and a son who said he didn't speak to his father for some time. Giuliani's messy divorce from their mother, Donna Hanover, was waged publicly while Giuliani was mayor of New York.
"I'm guided very, very often about, 'Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani told CBN interviewer David Brody. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.
"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."
Facing pressure from religious groups, civil libertarians and members of Congress, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to return religious materials that had been purged from prison chapel libraries because they were not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources.
The bureau had said it was prompted to remove the materials after a 2004 Department of Justice report mentioned that religious books that incite violence could infiltrate chapel libraries.
After the details of the removal became widely known this month, Republican lawmakers, liberal Christians and evangelical talk shows all criticized the government for creating a list of acceptable religious books.
The bureau has not abandoned the idea of creating such lists, Judi Simon Garrett, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. But rather than packing away everything while those lists were compiled, the religious materials will remain on the shelves, Ms. Garrett explained.
In an e-mail message Wednesday, the bureau said: “In response to concerns expressed by members of several religious communities, the Bureau of Prisons has decided to alter its planned course of action with respect to the Chapel Library Project.
Israeli rabbinic authorities have abruptly called on Jews to shun a major Christian tourism event, baffling and upsetting evangelical groups that traditionally have been big supporters of the Jewish state.
More than 6,000 Christians from more than 90 nations are expected to arrive in Jerusalem this week to take part in the 28th annual Christian celebration of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, according to the event's organizers, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Thousands of Christians take part in the celebration annually, as do Israeli lawmakers, government representatives and ordinary Israelis. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi, personally welcomed participants one year.
But this year the chief rabbinate urged Jews to stay away from the event, saying some of the groups want to convert them to Christianity. Proselytizing is illegal in Israel.
"According to information that has reached the chief rabbinate, there are participants in this conference who convert Jews to Christianity and perform missionary activity throughout the year," said Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, the chief rabbi of Rehovot, who took part in committee discussions of the matter. "This is against the law, so the chief rabbinate is calling upon Jews not to take part in the conference."
Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.
The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.
Some inmates are outraged. Two of them, a Christian and an Orthodox Jew, in a federal prison camp in upstate New York, filed a class-action lawsuit last month claiming the bureau’s actions violate their rights to the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”
Ms. Billingsley said, “We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”
A 30-mile chain of limestone shoals called Adam's Bridge connecting India with Sri Lanka has become the unlikely centerpiece of a political drama. Devout Hindus believe that the Ram Sethu, as they call it, was constructed by a monkey-army led by Lord Hanumana to enable Lord Rama to cross over to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, who had been kidnapped by the Lankan king, Ravana. Scientists, however, say it is a natural structure that joined Sri Lanka to the Asian continent during the last Ice Age.
When the government submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court last week saying "mythological texts" could not "incontrovertibly prove" the existence of Lord Rama or the simian construction of the Ram Sethu, all hell broke loose. Opposition Hindu hardliners held spirited demonstrations accusing the government of "hurting Hindu sentiments" by suggesting the gods were mythological figures. The government was forced into damage-control mode — two senior officials were immediately suspended, an inquiry was ordered, and the affidavit was withdrawn. The controversy reached such heights that NASA was obliged to declare it had nothing to do with the use of its photos by some Hindu groups to imply that Adam's Bridge was 1,750,000 years old and hence synchronous with "Ramrajya" — the golden period of Lord Rama's rule.
At first glance, natural selection and the survival of the fittest may seem to reward only the most selfish values. But for animals that live in groups, selfishness must be strictly curbed or there will be no advantage to social living. Could the behaviors evolved by social animals to make societies work be the foundation from which human morality evolved?Well, maybe it could. If God is excluded from consideration then evolution is the only possible explanation for our existence and everything related to it, of course. But as always, the answer is rigged before the question is asked.
In another University of Chicago survey, this one of married couples, 75 percent of the Americans who pray with their spouses reported that their marriages are "very happy" (compared to 57 percent of those who don't). Those who pray together are also more likely to say they respect each other, discuss their marriage together, and -- stop the presses -- rate their spouses as skilled lovers....
After two 1,000-mile moves, the birth of three children, and two job changes, all in the past four years, those difficult decisions had begun to take a toll. So when Beth asked Doug, a nonreligious and self-proclaimed man of science, to try praying with her, he figured they had nothing to lose.
"I soon found that praying together brings out a real sense of selflessness and humility," Doug says. "When you're praying for each other, not yourself, you're focused together and speaking from the heart on a whole different level. I would never have predicted this for us, but it really works."
Christians have been left outraged by the death of a young woman in Eritrea allegedly tortured to death in a military facility for refusing to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ, reported the persecution watchdog ministry Open Doors.
Migsti Haile, 33, died this past Wednesday at the Weaa Military Training Center and is the fourth Christian known to have been killed this way in the past year.
Open Doors said Haile was tortured specifically for refusing to “sign a letter recanting her faith”.
It is believed she spent 18 months in prison “under severe pressure” since she and nine other single Christian women were arrested at a church gathering in Keren.
The latest news of persecution will further increase international pressure on the Eritrean government to take action to guarantee religious freedom.
At least 2,000 mostly Christian evangelicals are detained in Eritrean prisons, police stations, military camps and other facilities, including even shipping containers, according to a number of human rights groups. The Eritrean government, however, has denied any such abuses.
The Government is proposing to introduce the laws to protect individuals from hostile or humiliating “environments” as part of an overhaul of discrimination legislation.
But Christian lawyers and the Church of England warned that Christians could face legal action if they offended gays by expressing the traditional teaching that homosexual sex was immoral.
The row follows the bitter battle last year over the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which many Christians fear will erode religious freedom and are part of a growing secularisation of society.
The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship said that the new proposals, which may be included in a Single Equality Bill, could allow gays to sue if they heard a sermon that condemned homosexuality.
It added that while a church could “gently refuse membership” to an unrepentant, practising homosexual, “that person, if they felt that they had been put in a 'humiliating position’, could sue the Church.”
Following technical problems with one of its aircraft, Nepal's state-run airline has sacrificed two goats in a bid to appease the sky god.
Nepal Airlines sacrificed two goats in front of the troublesome Boeing 757 in an offering to Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god.
The carrier, which has two Boeing aircraft, has had to suspend some services in recent weeks because of the problem.
The goats were slaughtered at Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu traditions, an official said.
"The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights," Raju K.C., a senior airline official, told Reuters.
Now the nation’s largest Jewish movement, Reform Judaism, is preparing to adopt a new prayer book that was intended to offer something for everyone — traditionalists, progressives and everyone else — even those who do not believe in God.It seems like Reform Judaism is in desperate need of serious reform.
The changes reveal a movement that is growing in different directions simultaneously, absorbing non-Jewish spouses and Jews with little formal religious education while also trying to appeal to Jews seeking a return to tradition.
Traditional touches coexist with a text that sometimes departs from tradition by omitting or modifying some prayers and by using language that is gender-neutral. References to God as “He” have been removed, and whenever Jewish patriarchs are named — like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so are the matriarchs — like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
"We all make mistakes," said Michael Vick. "Dogfighting is a terrible thing and I reject it ... I found Jesus and turned my life over to God. I think that's the right thing to do as of right now."
Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 and was beatified in record time only six years later, felt abandoned by God from the very start of the work that made her a global figure, in her sandals and blue and white sari. The doubts persisted until her death.
The nun’s crisis of faith was revealed four years ago by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postutalor or advocate of her cause for sainthood, at the time of her beatification in October 2003. Now he has compiled a new edition of her letters, entitled, "Mother Teresa: Come be My Light," which reveals the full extent of her long “dark night of the soul.”
“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,” she wrote at one point. “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.” On another occasion she wrote: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”
For years, disputes over homosexuality have convulsed predominantly white Protestant denominations -- Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian -- but they have only recently hit black churches.As long as churches choose to reflect the culture rather than seek to be salt and light within the culture the same thing will play out in generation after generation. Israel showed us repeatedly that seeking to be like the nations around them only leads to disaster.
"It's going to be a real challenge," said the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, minister at Fellowship Baptist Church in the District and founder of the annual National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality. "We're just beginning to really deal with it."
Most major historically black denominations have taken strong stances against homosexuality.
The National Baptist Convention USA Inc., the nation's largest predominantly black denomination, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church forbid clergy from officiating at ceremonies for same-sex couples, and Pentecostal denominations such as the Church of God in Christ consider homosexuality a sin. The Progressive National Baptist Convention, of which Covenant Baptist is a member, has not taken a stand on homosexuality or same-sex unions.
A proposal by a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands that people of all faiths refer to God as "Allah" is not sitting well with the Catholic community.
Tiny Muskens, an outgoing bishop who is retiring in a few weeks from the southern diocese of Breda, said God doesn't care what he is called.
"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem," Muskens told Dutch television.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, backs the idea as a way to help interfaith understanding.
"It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God," Hooper told FOXNews.com. "I don't think the name is as important as the belief in God and following God's moral principles. I think that's true for all faiths."
...The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago supports the idea.
“I think it will open up doors,” said Janaan Hashim, a spokeswoman for the group representing more than 400,000 Muslim Americans in the Chicago area. “Language is a man-made limitation. I think what God cares about is how we fulfill our purpose in life.”
"I'm sure his intentions are good but his theology needs a little fine-tuning," said Father Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest based in Rome. Morris, a news analyst for FOX News Channel, also called the idea impractical.
"Words and names mean things," Morris said. "Referring to God as Allah means something."
US soldier serving in iraq believes his Bible saved his life after it stopped a sniper's bullet.
22-year-old Army Private First Class Brendan Schweigart had his Bible tucked in a pocket beneath his bullet proof shield when he was shot with a high powered rifle while on a mission in Iraq.
The bullet missed his vital organs, came out his chest, and lodged in his Bible before it could do more damage.
At 8 on a Saturday morning, just as the heat was permeating this sprawling Orlando suburb, Denise Kirsop donned a white plastic moon suit and began sorting through the trash produced by Northland Church.
She and several fellow parishioners picked apart the garbage to analyze exactly how much and what kind of waste their megachurch produces, looking for ways to reduce the congregation's contribution to global warming.
"I prayed about it, and God really revealed to me that I had a passion about creation," said Kirsop, who has since traded in her family's sport-utility vehicle for a hybrid Toyota Prius to help cut her greenhouse gas emissions. "Anything that draws me closer to God -- and this does -- increases my faith and helps my work for God."
"I did sense this is one of these issues where the church could take leadership, like with civil rights," said Northland's senior pastor, Joel C. Hunter. "It's a matter of who speaks for evangelicals: Is it a broad range of voices on a broad range of issues, or a narrow range of voices?"
So. The Earth is massive enough to hold all of our cities and oceans and creatures in the sway of its gravity. And the sun is massive enough to hold the Earth in the sway of its gravity. But the sun itself is merely a mote in the sway of the gravity of the Milky Way, at the center of which is a vast, concentrated bar of stars, around which the sun swings (carrying along Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc.) every 230 million years or so. Our sun isn’t anywhere near the center; it’s way out on one of the galaxy’s minor arms. We live beyond the suburbs of the Milky Way. We live in Nowheresville.
[T]here are enough stars in the universe that if everybody on Earth were charged with naming his or her share, we’d each get to name a trillion and a half of them.
Even that number is still impossibly hard to comprehend—if you named a star every time your heart beat for your whole life, you’d have to live about 375 lifetimes to name your share.
The Christian embrace of hip youth scenes can be traced, like so much, to the cultural ferment of the 1960s. Given that we are all weathering a Summer of Love flashback, it might spice up the tired images of the Haight Ashbury rebels to realize that a few of them were Christians. These mystic hippies sparked the mass Jesus People movement, which injected a distinctly Christian feeling for love and apocalypse into a counterculture already up to its mala beads in love and apocalypse. By the early 1970s, a new Jesus had hit the American mind—communal, earthy, spontaneous, anti-establishment. And this Jesus continued to transform American worship long after the patchouli wore off, inspiring a more informal and contemporary style of communion and celebration that, while holding true to core principles, unbuckled the Bible Belt from American Christian life.There are some ways in which that influence can be good. I'm sure one could trace attitudes from that period that helped break down many of the old denominational allegiances and loyalties that had a negative affect on religious thinking. That itself is a two-edged sword, of course. It often leads to a sort of antinomianism that makes every man a law to himself. And this, regrettably, is where our religious culture has traveled to in many ways.
After long negotiations, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has agreed to hand over 40 objects from its antiquities collection that Italy contends were looted from its soil, the two sides said on Wednesday.
A fifth-century B.C. statue of a cult deity usually identified as Aphrodite, one of the Getty’s prized pieces, is among the works to be returned to Italy, the Italian Culture Ministry and the museum’s governing trust said in a joint statement. But discussions on the fate of another statue, a fourth-century-B.C. bronze of a young athlete that was pivotal to the breakdown of earlier negotiations, have been temporarily put aside so that an Italian court can conduct an inquiry on how the artifact was found and how it left Italy in the 1960s.
Instead of Spiderman or Bratz dolls, children in the US could soon be clutching a talking Jesus toy, a bearded Moses or a muscle-bound figure of Goliath.
From the middle of August, Wal-Mart, the biggest toy retailer in the US, will for the first time stock a full line of faith-based toys.
A longtime member of a Union County church has been charged with stealing about $28,000 from the Sunday collection plate over an 11-year period.
William J. Biunno, 71, a former trustee and member of the choir at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church allegedly took the money during Sunday mass after it had been collected from parishioners, police Sgt. Vincent Gagliardi told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday's newspapers.
The church caught on late last year after one official noticed something unusual on footage from a surveillance camera inside the house of worship, authorities said. Since the camera wasn't at a good angle to see all of Biunno's actions, church officials added other cameras that clearly showed Biunno pocketing the money.
Benedict made unity with Protestant and Orthodox churches a priority of his pontificate in his first message as pope in April 2005.
"However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants, but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith," the document said.
Central to that identity is the idea that eastern or Orthodox churches were suffering a "wound" because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope.
It said "the wound is still more profound" in "communities emerging from the Reformation" -- the Protestant and Anglican churches.
These were "not Churches in the proper sense of the word", but rather "ecclesial communities", it said.
The Vatican acknowledged that this teaching had "created no little distress in the communities concerned" and recognised the "many elements of sanctification and truth" in other Christian denominations.
But only Catholicism could be seen as the one "Church of Christ", it said, adding that it was "difficult to see how the title of Church could possibly be attributed" to them.
The Senate Health Committee will have to dig beneath the surface on Thursday to consider the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to be surgeon general. Dr. Holsinger has high-level experience as a health administrator, but there are disturbing indications that he is prejudiced against homosexuals....
What’s troubling is the view he once expressed — and may still hold — on homosexuality, through his activities as a lay leader in the United Methodist Church. On the church’s judicial council, he supported a minister who refused to allow a gay man to join his congregation and argued that a lesbian minister should be removed because church doctrine deems the practice of homosexuality to be “incompatible with Christian teaching.” His supporters say these rulings should not be read as his personal views because the council can’t change church doctrine. However, some council members opposed his views, and the bishops later rejected one decision.
Five subspecies of wildcat are distributed across the Old World. They are known as the European wildcat, the Near Eastern wildcat, the Southern African wildcat, the Central Asian wildcat and the Chinese desert cat. Their patterns of DNA fall into five clusters. The DNA of all house cats and fancy cats falls within the Near Eastern wildcat cluster, making clear that this subspecies is their ancestor, Dr. Driscoll and his colleagues said in a report published Thursday on the Web site of the journal Science.
The wildcat DNA closest to that of house cats came from 15 individuals collected in the deserts of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the researchers say. The house cats in the study fell into five lineages, based on analysis of their mitochondrial DNA, a type that is passed down through the female line. Since the oldest archaeological site with a cat burial is about 9,500 years old, the geneticists suggest that the founders of the five lineages lived around this time and were the first cats to be domesticated.
Governor Bob Riley is encouraging Alabamians to pray for rain.
The Governor has issued a proclamation declaring June 30 through July 7 as "Days of Prayer for Rain" in Alabama, and he is asking citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship for rain.
"Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady during times of difficulty. This drought is without question a time of great difficulty for our farmers and for communities across the state," Governor Riley said.
WHEREAS, throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady during times of difficulty:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Bob Riley, Governor of Alabama, do hereby encourage citizens of Alabama to pray daily for rain and proclaim June 30 - July 7, 2007 as Days of Prayer for Rain.
During this time, I encourage all Alabamians to pray individually and within their houses of worship for sufficient rain.
A single tooth and some DNA clues appear to have solved the mystery of the lost mummy of Hatshepsut, one of the great queens of ancient Egypt, who reigned in the 15th century B.C.
Archaeologists who conducted the research, to be announced formally today in Cairo, said this was the first mummy of an Egyptian ruler to be found and “positively identified” since King Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1922.
Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, said Monday in a telephone interview that the mummy was found in 1903 in an obscure, undecorated tomb in the Valley of the Kings, across the Nile from modern Luxor, and had been largely overlooked for more than a century.
Dr. Hawass said the identification of the well-preserved mummy as Hatshepsut (pronounced hat-SHEP-soot) was made a few weeks ago when a CT scan of a wooden box associated with the queen revealed a tooth. The tooth, he said, “fits exactly” into the jaw socket and broken root of the mummy of an obese woman originally found in Tomb 60 at the Valley of the Kings, the necropolis for royalty in the New Kingdom before and after Hatshepsut’s reign.
“We therefore have scientific proof that this is the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut,” Dr. Hawass concluded, citing primarily the tooth but also current DNA analysis suggesting a family relationship between the obese woman and Ahmose Nefertari, the matriarch of 18th dynasty royalty.
Other Egyptologists not involved in the project said that the finding was fascinating, but that they would reserve judgment until they had studied the results of the DNA analysis and had some of the evidence confirmed by other researchers.
“You have to be so careful in reaching conclusions from such data,” said Kathryn Bard, an Egyptologist at Boston University.
Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.
She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.
Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.
"There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different," said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. "The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?"
Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though they regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.
"It wasn't about intellect," she said.Just so!
The Vatican on Tuesday issued a set of ''Ten Commandments'' for drivers, telling motorists not to kill, not to drink and drive, and to help fellow travelers in case of accidents.
An unusual document from the Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people also warned that cars can be ''an occasion of sin'' -- particularly when they are used for dangerous passing or for prostitution.
It warned about the effects of road rage, saying driving can bring out ''primitive'' behavior in motorists, including ''impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code.''
It urged motorists to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense, and to pray when behind the wheel.
Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the office, told a news conference that the Vatican felt it necessary to address the pastoral needs of motorists because driving had become such a big part of contemporary life.
He noted that the Bible was full of people on the move, including Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus -- and that his office is tasked with dealing with all ''itinerant'' people -- including refugees, prostitutes, truck drivers and the homeless.
''We know that as a consequence of transgressions and negligence, 1.2 million people die each year on the roads,'' Martino said. ''That's a sad reality, and at the same time, a great challenge for society and the church.''
The document, ''Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road,'' extols the benefits of driving -- family outings, getting the sick to the hospital, allowing people to see other cultures.
But it laments a host of ills associated with automobiles: drivers use their cars to show off; driving ''provides an easy opportunity to dominate others'' by speeding; drivers can kill themselves and others if they don't get their cars regular tuneups, if they drink, use drugs or fall asleep at the wheel.
A mayor in the US state of Louisiana says he will sign into law a proposal to make wearing saggy trousers an act of indecent exposure.
Delcambre town council unanimously passed the ordinance earlier this week making it a crime to wear trousers that show underwear.
"If you expose your private parts, you'll get a fine" of US$500 (£254) Mayor Carol Broussard said.
Offenders will also risk up to six months in jail.
Speaking of people who wear saggy trousers, Mr Broussard told the Associated Press news agency: "They're better off taking the pants off and just wearing a dress."
An al-Qaida-affiliated insurgent group is giving Christians in Baghdad a stark set of options: Convert to Islam, marry your daughters to our fighters, pay an Islamic tax or leave with only the clothes on your back.
A U.S. military official said American forces became aware of the threats only last month and now have erected barriers around the largest Christian enclave in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood in an effort to protect its residents.
Christians in Baghdad refuse to discuss the threats for fear of retribution. But in Syria, where thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled, tales abound of families that were killed or driven from their homes because they either refused or couldn't afford to pay the jizya, a tax usually levied on non-Muslim men of military age that's been part of Islam for more than 1,000 years.
Iraq long had been home to thriving Christian communities, primarily Assyrians and Chaldean Catholics, who trace their roots to ancient Mesopotamia. Some of Saddam Hussein's closest confidants were Christian, including his foreign minister, Tarik Aziz. Christian communities were prominent in many major Iraqi cities, including Mosul in the north and Basra in the south.
Baghdad had major Christian enclaves in the central neighborhood of Karada, the eastern mostly Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad and nearby al-Ghadir and the notorious Sunni-dominated Doura in the capital's south.
As Iraq has descended into chaos, however, many Christians have fled, joining an estimated 2.2 million exiles, including 1.4 million Iraqis now estimated to be living in Syria. At least 19,000 Iraqi Christians have registered in Damascus with the United Nations refugee agency, and thousands more are thought to have sought shelter there, but have yet to register.
A Christian Iraqi legislator estimated Tuesday that a half-million Christians have fled Iraq since 2004.
"What is happening today in Iraq against Christians is shameful," Ablahad Afram Sawa said in an impassioned statement read to Iraq's parliament by its speaker. He said Christians hadn't faced such oppression in nearly 2,000 years. "Most of the churches in Baghdad have closed their doors," he added.