Saturday, April 12, 2008

Politics in Pennsylvania

The next presidential primary will be held in Pennsylvania a week from Tuesday (April 22). Here's how the Christian vote stacks up:

Catholics make up 29% of the state's population
36% of Democrats in Pennsylvania

Evangelicals are 18% of the state's population
32% of Democrats in Pennsylvania

Source: a Pew and Franklin Marshall poll conducted last month

Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama will appear in Harrisburg at Messiah College tonight at The Compassion Forum.

Scientology Protest

Mostly faceless protesters gathered at the Church of Scientology located in Biloxi, Mississippi this weekend (it's actually called Mission of the Gulf Coast Church of Scientology). They wore a variety of masks to hide their identities out of fear of reprisals from the group. hey called it Operation Re-connect as opposed to a Scientology's own term disconnection - meaning breaking away from family members. Leaders say they plan to gather again next month. Here's what one of their earlier protests looked like:

Is it Episcopal or Episcopalian?

You may have heard reporters refer to Episcopalian bishops and the Episcopalian Church. But here's how it should work.

Episcopal is an adjective (She is an Episcopal priest). Episcopalian is a noun referring to a member of the Episcopal Church (She is an Episcopalian).

An Episcopalian can be a minister, in the sense of ministering to others, and this can be either a lay or an ordained ministry.

Priests are usually referred to as the Reverend So-and-So, not Reverend So-and-So. (And they're generally addressed as Father So-and-So, not Reverend that's like addressing a judge as Honorable.)

Bishops are usually the Right Reverend So-and-So, and addressed as Bishop So-and-So.

Bishops can be identified because they wear purple. Bishops are important in the Episcopal Church.

Catholic Schools Closing

There were more than 12,000 Catholic schools in the US during the 1960s, teaching about 5-and-a-quarter million students. The number of schools has dropped by nearly 5,000 since then - and there less than half as many students attending Catholic schools these days. Since 2000, enrollment is down about 14%. More than 12,000 have closed in the last 8 years. Source: National Catholic Education Association

"I Believe" License Plates

Drivers in Florida may soon have some new options for a personalized license plate: One that features the words I Believe set among a resplendent sunrise and the image of a cross in front of stained-glass window. Another would read In God We Trust. The bills are moving through the state House and Senate and would require organizers to submit a new petition for the plates before the state would start selling them. The tags would cost an extra $25. The extra money earned from the sale of the 'I Believe plate would go to an Orlando based nonprofit called Faith in Teaching.

Favorite Bible

More than two-thirds of Evangelical leaders in the US say the New International Version is the of favorite translation of the Bible. Nearly half had no other favorite choice in a survey conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals. Other translations that got mentions: The New Living Translation, The Message, the New English Bible, the New Testament in Modern English and the King James Version.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Criswell and Southwestern

Despite persistent rumors, Criswell College in Dallas will not become part of nearby Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The college's trustees voted yesterday that the college would not become part of the seminary in the future.

My Lame Sex Life

Banners outside the locations of the Daystar Fellowship Christian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina tell passersby to check out The church plans a four-part series starting April 20th on the subject. The presentation will includs a discussion with former porn star Harmony Dust and tips on having a good sex life.

McCain & the Faith Vote

"This is what is so fascinating about his no-show. (McCain) is the one apparently who is least comfortable talking about issues of faith and how his faith might intersect with his public vision and this would give him a chance to do so." - David Gushee, a theology professor at Atlanta's Mercer University commenting in a Reuter's interview about John McCain's decision to skip Sunday night's Faith Forum taking place at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have agreed to attend.

American Idol Edits "Jesus" Out of Song

In Wednesday's grand finale of American Idol Gives Back, the eight Idol finalists performed the worship song Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zschech of Australia's Hillsong Church. Except the words were changed to leave out the name of Jesus. My Jesus was changed to My Shepherd. Just a week earlier, several songs by Dolly Parton were performed that mentioned Jesus. Jesus was not edited out when the same song was used the following night. Here's the video where the song was edited:

The Lord's Boot Camp

CBS will air a one-hour special this weekend called Lord's Boot Camp. The documentary was made Loki Films, the same group that brought us the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp. The new film follows three about the 700 teenagers who train to become Christian missionaries at the Teen Missions International in Merritt Island, Florida. Critics complained that Jesus Camp left viewers with a negative portrayal of Christians. After the film was released in 2006, the charismatic summer camp in North Dakota was vandalized and eventually shut down. Lord's Boot Camp can be seen Saturday at 8 pm, Eastern.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Christian School Sues NCAA

Houston Baptist University is suing the NCAA for refusing to give it full membership for the past seven years. The school already filed a lawsuit in state court last month and yesterday filed a federal lawsuit. The NCAA says the antitrust claims by HBU have no merit.

Wright to Speak at Dinner

The Detroit branch of the NAACP has tapped Barak Obama's longtime pastor as keynote speaker for its 53rd Annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner. Jeremiah Wright will address the civil rights organization on April 27th. Past speakers have included Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. Wright has not spoken publicly about remarks he made from the pulpit including a claim that the government is purposely spreading AIDS in the black community, that the 9/11 attacks were payback for the past sins of the nation and that God should damn the United States for racism.

Defending Obama's Pastor

“Is it really fair to take a minister’s remarks, no matter how provocative or ill-advised, out of context and to broadcast them incessantly, as if they were the only thing that minister ever said or believed? What purposes are served by this sort of propaganda?” - Ordained Presbyterian minister and Princeton University professor George Hunsinger commenting on the controversy surrounding Jeremiah Wright who was Barack Obama's longtime pastor.

Copeland Appeals to IRS

Kenneth Copeland wants an IRS audit. The televangelist is asking for the examination because he claims an invetigation by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is improper. Grassley is looking into several Christian organizations for alleged lavish spending and Copeland has resisted provided information to Grassley's Senate committee. Copeland's attorneys say lawmakers can get their info from the IRS after the agency audits his ministry.

Unsealed Documents

An unsealed court document explaining why Texas rangers raided a polygamist compound says a 16-year-old accuses her husband of sexually assaulting and beating her after she was forced into marriage. Authorities believe she may be among the more than 400 children removed from the church grounds. She may be afraid to come forward and identify herself. A former member of the Yearning For Zion Ranch says gave Texas Rangers details of the sect's practice of marrying teen girls to older men, revealing the group kept a bed inside their temple used by adult men to have sex with underage girls after wedding ceremonies.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Numbers of Catholics vs Muslims

A researcher who tracks population by religion is questioning Vatican claims that the number of Muslims has just passed the number of Catholics in the world. Todd Johnson is director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He says the Muslims to outnumbered Catholics more than 20 years ago. Johnson says there were 962 million Muslims by 1990 and about 32 million fewer Roman Catholics. In fact, he claims that Sunni Muslims outnumbered Roman Catholics by 2007.

Catholic Population

US - 66.4 million or 22.8%

Most heavily Catholic states:
Rhode Island - 61%
Massachusetts - 48.5%
New Jersey - 43.7%
New York - 40.9%
Connecticut - 37%

Largest Catholic Population:
California - 32.7 million

Source: Catholic Almanac

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Grandmother Forgives at Funeral

An Atlanta-area grandmother who lost two grandchildren and a great-grandchild in a five-car wreck Tuesday says she forgives the man who allegedly caused the accident. Molly Dubach-Preston make the remark at the funeral of one of the children at Voices of Faith Baptist Church in Stone Mountain. She asked the congregation to pray for her husband who's still in the hospital. She said, "We need to live every single day like it's your last because you are not guaranteed tomorrow," she said. "If you do that you should have no regrets," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of the other drivers is in jail, facing four counts of vehicular homicide and other offenses.

Oral Sex in the Classroom

A Wisconsin school board must make a decision about oral sex. Milwaukee's Christian Civil Liberties Union is threatened protests if the Elmbrook School Board agrees to include oral sex in the sex education curriculum for 6th graders. After parents objected, the proposal was changed to teach 8th graders about its potential for spreading sexually transmitted infections. More meetings are scheduled before a final decision is made.

Google Abortion Suit

An antiabortion Christian group in the UK is suing Google. The Christian Institute wants to put up ads about abortion. But the search engine company says its policy doesn't allow the advertisement of websites about abortion or religion. The refused ad would have read,

"UK abortion law: news and views on abortion from the Christian Institute.".

The Christian Institute complains there are groups that advocate abortion rights groups who allowed to advertise - such as Marie Stopes International.

Our Favorite Books

What's your Favorite Book? The answer is clear for Americans. The Bible is the number one choice among all groups listed below. But the question of which book is number two gets a different answer depending on who you ask.

By Gender
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien (men)
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (women)

By Age
The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling (age 18-31)
The Stand - Stephen King, Angels and Demons - Dan Brown (age 32-43)

By Region
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Southern and Midwestern states)
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien (Eastern States)
The Stand - Stephen King (Western states)

By Race
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Whites, Hispanics)
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown (Blacks)

Other top favorites:
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

Source: Harris Poll

Benedict's US Visit

Pope Benedict XVI will visit New York City and Washington, DC from April 18-20 following his 81st birthday (April 16). He'll make 13 public appearances including stops at the United Nations, the White House and a Synagogue. It will be the first time a pope has visited a synagogue in the US and only the third such papal visit to any synagogue. He was invited by Holocaust survivor Rabbi Athur Schneier.

Counting Heads

If you want to keep up the numbers on various religions, check out a site maintained by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. It keeps up with statistics and other changing information on all the world's religions. The site is based on research from the World Christian Encyclopedia.

The Compassion Forum

The two Democratic presidential candidates have agreed to talk about faith and values at Messiah College this weekend at The Compassion Forum. While not a traditional debate, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will spend about 40 minutes answering questions including some from the audience made up of faith leaders from all over the country. The candidates will not appear be on stage at the same time. CNN anchor Campbell Brown and Newsweek editor Jon Meacham will serve as moderators at the Christian college located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Compassion Forum is sponsored by Faith in Public Life and airs live on CNN this Sunday.

Gutenberg Bible

The first major Western book printed from movable type.

Printed in Mainz, Germany in the 1450's.

The letters opening each book of each copy illuminated differently.

200 originally produced.

48 copies exist today.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Baptist Church Takes Polygamists

More than 80 women and children are being housed at the Eldorado First Baptist Church after a raid on a nearby polygamist compound. The church loaned state officials their buses and a grocery chain is providing food. Members are cooking and helping keep the group comfortable. First Baptist cancelled Sunday School classes. The man who sparked the raid because of a sexual abuse complaint actually lives in Arizona. In all, more than 400 people have been removed from the secretive Yearning for Zion Ranch.

Gideon Bible Gets Company

The five hotels in the Portland-based Provenance chain are offering more than Gideon Bibles to visitors. Guests can pick from a spiritual menu including the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and other versions of the Bible. The Provenance owns hotels in Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Nashville.

10 Years in the Making

It took 10 years but a federal court has finally dismissed a challenge to government funding of a Baptist social service agency. The judge ruled the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State failed to show they had a right to sue to government. The case involved the Sunrise Children’s Services, once known as the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children. An appeal is being considered.

Watch Your Mouth

A Kansas City preacher is handing out purple bracelets - like those in Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong campaign. Only these bits of jewelry are intended to keep people from complaining. Will Bowen pastors Christ Church Unity and challenges wearers to stop complaining for 21 days. Those who make it that long are eligible for a Certificate of Happiness. The campaign has reached schools. Some 500 have ordered packets that include Bowen’s book A Complaint Free World.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Barak Obama's Religion

A new polls shows how many voters mistakenly think Barak Obama is Muslim.

14% Republicans

10% Democrats

8% Independents

Source: Pew Research Center

The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points for all adults

Presbyterian Clergy Ruling

The highest court in the Presbyterian Church, USA has banned non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy. The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ruled that an interpretation of the denomination’s constitution passed two years ago did not loosen the rules and allow exceptions for gay and lesbian candidates to ordination standards that say a candidate must practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are single. The GAPJC says the only way to change it is by passing a constitutional amendment.

Hagee Giving $6 million

John Hagee announced at a rally for Israel in Jerusalem today that he is giving $6 million to 16 Israeli causes. The TV preachers has been in the political spotlight after John McCain distanced himself from Hagee's endorsement over his criticism of the the Roman Catholic Church. Hagee says he's not anti-Catholic. Hagee's group Christians United for Israel supports Israeli control of all of Jerusalem.

The Pussycat Preacher

A documentary called The Pussycat Preacher is stirring controversy. The 75 minute film tells the story of one-time stripper Heather Veitch who found Jesus and started a project with some housewives from Sandals Church in Riverside. California to reach out to other strippers - only to run into objections from some church members. The movie ends with Veitch and her husband moving to Las Vegas so Veitch can reach out to the strippers there. What the film doesn’t tell you is that several months afterward, Veitch and her husband separated. Sandals Church pastor Matt Brown says the film suggests a falling out between Sandals and the a megachurch just down the road called Harvest Christian Fellowship. Brown says it never happened.

Veitch's web site is called JC's Girls – JC stands for Jesus Christ. She’s now working with Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. The Pussycat Preacher will be shown April 20th and 21st at the Nashville Film Festival. It was put together by LA filmmaker Bill Day who also made a documentary called Missionary Positions. It was about an anti-pornography ministry called the XXX Church.

Church Message to Thieves

The Kinetic Church of Concord, North Carolina has put up billboards that say things like Stealing from God… Ballsy and Church trailer thief along with the church's web site. The congregation meets in a movie theater and stores it's equipment in a couple of trailers. They were both stolen a few weeks ago. Members hope the message will help locate the thieves. It was donated by someone upset about the burglary. The pastor has posted a video about it.

Texas Polygamist Compound

Texas Child Protective Services now says more than 180 women and children have been taken from The Yearn for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. Jailed polygamous religious leader Warren Jeffs leads the group breakaway Mormon sect. Reports from local media suggested the group had first refused to allow authorities on the compound. Police are maintaining a roadblock around the secluded retreat.

Commandments Display

More than 4,000 Ten Commandment monuments are displayed in cities around the US. Many of them were donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles to courthouses and schools nationwide in the 1950s as part of an evangelical campaign timed to coincide with the release of the Cecil B. DeMille movie The Ten Commandments.