Monday, August 30, 2004

Religious News Roundup for August 30

Briefly continuing some reflections from last week: despite any indications to the contrary, I am aware of the limits of these roundups. The problem is two-fold: first, the sheer volume of information I collect. It takes anywhere between two and four hours to put one of these things together, and I could easily do it fulltime without getting to each and every newsworthy story.

Second, there's only so much I feel qualified to comment on. I'd rather not do a piece comparing Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, simply because I don't know enough to add much to that conversation.

Fortunately for me, we live in an increasingly participatory world. If you think I've missed an important story, or if you'd like to add another angle, by all means, toss it in the comments. I'd be particularly interested in hearing from people who can track what's going on in Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Secular Humanism. All I ask is that you keep it constructive, and more-or-less newsworthy.

Onwards and upwards. Here's today's categories:

Religion & Politics
The 10 Commandments keep getting tangled up in public life. 21 of 48 (or so) members of the Alabama Delegation to the RNC focussed their campaigns on support for public display of the Commandments. Their proposed platform language is hair-raising. They wanted:

the GOP platform to officially endorse a bill that would outlaw court rulings abridging a public "acknowledgment of God." Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore helped write it after he was removed from office for denying a federal court order requiring him to take a Ten Commandments monument out of the state courthouse.


Meanwhile, a school superintendent in Missouri has lost his job after posting the Commandments on a school wall. Get this: the town's name? "Humansville."

Sen. Rick "Dick" Santorum seems to be trying to increase his power within the PA state Republican party, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News. The apparent reason for these moves?

Santorum has made it clear he thinks the issues western GOP campaigns emphasize -- opposition to tax hikes, gun control, abortion and gay rights -- will propel him to the presidency and will work for Republicans statewide.

And you thought Bush was the Anti-Christ.

Speaking of W., the Dallas Morning News has an article on his faith, written by one of the co-author's of Bush's Brain.

Sticking with Texas--Lufkin, to be exact--a local columnist dissects Jerry Falwell's political persona. And over in Oklahoma, the LAT has a discussion of how evangelicalism and the economy intertwine in that state's Republican heritage.

Last, let's not be too harsh on the Republicans' 2004 platform. If Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party condemns it for not being conservative enough, it must have something going for it, right?


Uh, never mind.

Catholic News
More on the abuse front: the Archdiocese of St. Louis will have to pay $2 million to settle 18 cases against it, and it still has 16 more to go. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, on the other hand, may have to pay north of $1.5 billion to settle 439 cases. What do you think Jesus would have had to say about the widow's mite going to pay for acts of gross negligence?

A judge in northern California has ruled that church employees have a duty to report any "unlawful sexual conduct with children" that they might witness or suspect. That's a small-yet-significant expansion of current law. In most states (including RNR's Pennsylvania), clergy are "mandatory reporters" of child abuse, sexual or not. That means we can be sued or charged with criminal neglect if we see but don't act.

In other Catholic news: controversy continues over the Vatican's order that Catholic theologians seek an episcopal "mandatum" to teach at Catholic colleges. A new "Catholic Voter's Guide" reiterates that "Catholics are forbidden to vote in favor of are abortion, homosexual marriage, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia." And last but not least, dcdemocrat passes on a link to "Catholics for Kerry."

This 'n' That
PBS' Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has an interview with William Sloane Coffin, the grand old man of radical preachers. RNR wishes it could have a tenth of Coffin's cool.

The Boston Globe reports on some of the less tangible aspects of recent fighting in Najaf's Shrine of Ali cemetary.

The Portland(?) Oregonian carries an op-ed from a retired Methodist minister on same-sex marriage, prioritizing "rights" over "rites." Interestingly enough, one of the slogans from the UCC's "God is still speaking" ad campaign is: "We care more about rights than rites." That, in turn, seems to be a take/rip-off of an atheist slogan: "we want rights, not rites; sex, not sects." Those wacky atheists...

And something you'll find in no paper: RNR was at a meeting this morning up at the local offices of this area's UCC judicatory in Harrisburg. While we were there, one of our fearless leaders had to go deal with a situation. It seems Verizon, in creating this year's local phone directory, had unilaterally decided to pull the United Church of Christ listings and lump them under the Church of Christ. For those readers not in the know, the UCC and the CoC are almost diametrically opposed denominations. This is almost like taking Sinead O'Connor's listing out of the directory and putting it in under the Pope's. Very bad. Once RNR gets over the shock of getting lumped in with the fundagelicals again, we'll keep you posted.

And now for the "Thought of the Day":

The son of Mary, Jesus, hurries up a slope
as though a wild animal were chasing him.
Someone following him asks, "Where are you going?
No one is after you." Jesus keeps on,
saying nothing, across two more fields. "Are you
the one who says words over a dead person,
so that he wakes up?" I am. "Did you not make
the clay birds fly?" Yes. "Who then
could possibly cause you to run like this?"
Jesus slows his pace.

I say the Great Name over the deaf and the blind,
they are healed. Over a stony mountainside,
and it tears its mantle down to the navel.
Over non-existence, it comes into existence.
But when I speak lovingly for hours, for days,
with those who take human warmth
and mock it, when I say the Name to them, nothing
happens. They remain rock, or turn to sand,
where no plants can grow. Other diseases are ways
for mercy to enter, but this non-responding
breeds violence and coldness toward God.
I am fleeing from that.

As little by little air steals water, so praise
dries up and evaporates with foolish people
who refuse to change. Like cold stone you sit on
a cynic steals body heat. He doesn't feel
the sun.
Jesus wasn't running from actual people.
He was teaching in a new way.


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