Saturday, May 24, 2008

Noah: The Musical

Noah:The Musical opens tonight in the country’s largest Christian theater. The Millennium Theatre is tucked away in the Ozark mountains in Branson, Missouri. The stage production includes 150 animals in the cast – half them animatronic.

Cutting Funds for Planned Parenthood

Conservative plan to soon present the White House with a petition signed by tens of thousands of voters asking that funding be cut off for subsidizing the cost of reproductive care for low-income patients at clinics. A letter asking that Title X be scraped will accompany the petition. It carries the endorsement of at least 70 conservative organizations. Among them: the Family Research Council, the Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America. Some $280 million goes to the program each year. While the money can't legally be used for abortion procedures, nearly a third of it goes to Planned Parenthood - the nation's largest abortion provider. Critics believe the federal government is, in effect, underwriting the abortions taking place at Planned Parenthood offices. While Bush imposed restrictions on foreign family-planning aid years ago, he’s not put the same law into effect here in the US.

Obama Speech Cleared

An investigation into a speech by Barack Obama to the national convention of the United Church of Christ was not a violation of IRS rules for tax-exempt organizations. The Democratic presidential addressed the denomination’s convention in Hartford during June of last year. The agency says UCC had been careful to avoid the appearance that Obama was giving a political speech.

Faith-based Mutual Funds

We recently listed for you some of the Socially Responsible Mutual Funds that are available. Here are some other notes on such funds:

Morningstar says assets in faith-based funds grew to $17 billion in 2007. That’s up from less than $500 million just 10 years ago. Here’s a look at some of them:

The Timothy Plan stays away from companies involved in pornography, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, abortion services or antifamily entertainment. The Timothy Plan Large/Midcap Value earns Morningstar's top rating. It’s five-year return is more than 16%.

But there aren't just Christian oriented mutual funds out there. The Amana Funds invests according to Islamic principles. It boasts a five-year average annual return near 20%.

MW Smith for SC Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman has canceled his appearance at today’s Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival in Zellwood, Florida following the death of his daughter. Family friend Michael W. Smith will take his place.

Qurans Given Away

A Muslim organization is giving away free English translations of the Qurans to homes in the Chicago area. More than 70,000 have been given away during in the last year. More than 30,000 have been handed out in Houston. The Book of Signs Foundation, also is known as al-Furqaan Foundation, says it hopes the 378-page paperback edition of the holy book of Islam will help Americans better understand their religion.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hagee Responds

"I have dedicated my life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the state of Israel. Let me be clear. To assert that I, in any way, condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler, is the most vicious of lies.- Pastor John Hagee responding to charges of anti-semitism

Fired for Expressing Views on Gays

A University of Toledo official with strong religious beliefs says she was fired for expressing her opinion on homosexuality. Crystal Dixon is an African American who served as Associate Vice President for Human Resources for the Ohio school. She wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the Toledo Free Press last month. In a written statement, the University’s president says her opinion contradicts the University’s core values. And the University says Disxon was fired for other reasons besides the coincidental article. Dixon plans to file a discrimination suit. She serves as an elder at End Time Christian Fellowship Church.

Intelligent Design in the Classroom

A survey of US high school science teachers:

I believe human beings had been created by God within the last 10,000 years – 16%

I have:

  • spent some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design – 25%
  • taught creationism or intelligent design as a valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species – 12.5%
  • not covered evolution at all – 2%

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Parting of the Johns

John McCain and John Hagee have parted ways. McCain is rejecting the preacher’s support and Hagee is withdrawing his endorsement. After Hagee first endorsed McCain three months ago, sermons began to surface of Hagee offering what Democrats called anti-Catholic statements. Hagee, pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, recently met with Catholic leaders and apologized. But a new round of criticism started when comments he made a decade ago about the Nazis began to surface on the internet. Hagee said Adolph Hitler was sent to persecute the Jews on God’s behalf so that Israel would be established.

Pilots' Answer to Prayer

Two pilots in New Zealand pilots ran out of fuel in a small airplane. After saying a prayer, they came across an airfield they did not know about until they saw it. The home-assembled plane came to a rest next to a 20-foot-tall sign that read Jesus is Lord. They started laughing and Associated Press quotes one of the pilots as saying, "My friend and I are both Christians so our immediate reaction in a life-threatening situation was to ask for God's help."

New Car Tag Moves Forward

The South Carolina House voted 109-0 yesterday to approve a new specialty license plate that says I Believe and features a cross. The bill now goes back to the Senate for final approval before it goes to the governor for his signature. A tag that says In God We Trust is already an option, Choose Life SC will be available in the fall. Florida lawmakers are working on their own version of the I Believe plate.

Chapman's Daughter Killed

One of the the daughters of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman was killed yesterday near Nashville. Five-year-old Maria was run over by an SUV driven by her teenage brother in the family driveway. She had been adopted from China along with two other girls. The award-winning singer founded Shaohannah's Hope, a foundation that helps financially assist couples in the adoption process. The 45-year-old singer wrote a book about being a father called Cinderella: The Love of Daddy and his Princess.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An online survey of UK religious views

Do you believe God to be:
Male – 62%

Female – 1%

All religions fundamentally discriminate on grounds of gender - Yes 49%
All religions discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation – Yes 56%

Religion have "no place'' in modern life:
Agree - 29%
Disagree - 62%

Source: Movement for Reform Judaism in Britain

Deepak Chopra on the Manifesto

New Age guru Deepak Chopra says the controversial Evangelical Manifesto is “good news from a sector of the American public that made intolerance their marching banner”. Writing for the Washington Post, Chopra says “The strikingly new note in the Evangelical Manifesto is that it intends to be conciliatory. But the Indian doctor warns readers, “One still expects that fundamentalists will vote overwhelmingly on the right and that abortion, school prayer, homophobia, and the flag will irrationally dominate their agenda.” His latest book is called The Third Jesus in which he advocates Jesus as a spiritual guide - a "cosmic Christ" who's really a state of mind embracing all of humanity, not just the churches built in his name.

Gutenberg Bibles

New York’s Morgan Library is putting all three copies of the Gutenberg Bible in its possesses on display through September. This is the first time in more than a decade all three have been shown at the same time. Only 150 Gutenberg Bibles were printed in the 1400’s. Only about a third of them have survive today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Looking Back.. 2005

1. The death of Pope John Paul II
2. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is elected pope
3. Terri Schiavo dies in a Florida nursing home
4. Churches and faith-based agencies respond to Hurricane Katrina disaster
5. Debate over homosexuality in mainline denominations
6. Debate on evolution vs. intelligent design
7. Posting of Ten Commandments on government property
8. Faith-based groups speak out on Bush's 3 Supreme Court nominees
9. Vatican releases long-awaited statement on homosexuality
10. Billy Graham's farewell campaign in New York City
11. Withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza strip
12. Church leaders calling for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
13. Canada approves same-sex marriages
14. Rick Warren's efforts in Africa and Ashley Smith's use of his book (The Purpose Driven Life) to help her escape from an accused killer in Atlanta
15. Catholic dioceses continue to struggle with child-abuse payments
16. Debate on stem-cell research
17. The Air Force develops new guidelines on religious activity
18. Brother Roger founder of the Taize community in France, is knifed to death
19. Democrats hold conferences on rethinking how to reach out to people of faith
20. The Chronicles of Narnia and CS Lewis
Source: Religion Newswriters Association

Denominations v Congregations

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is getting support in its fight over state rules governing church splits from the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the Presbyterian Church, USA among others. More than a dozen Protestant denominations and regional districts have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese. Under state law passed after the Civil War, congregations get to keep their property whenever they break off from a denomination. The issue has come up because so many congregations are leaving mainline churches over issues such as gay clergy and same-sex unions. Eleven conservative congregations left Episcopal Church to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a group backed by the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria. The court battle is expected to last for years.

Google Searches

The states with the most Google searches (so far this year) including the word Evangelical:
  1. Iowa
  2. Minnesota
  3. Tennessee
  4. Illinois
  5. Pennsylvania

The states with the most Google searches (so far this year) including the word Christian:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Alabama
  3. Tennessee
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Indiana

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mother & Church Battle over Autistic Son

A Bertha, Minnesota mother wants to force St. Joseph’s Catholic Church to allow her autistic teenage son to attend services. The church took out a restraining order against Carol Race and her son after the priest said the 13-year-old had to be restrained and he allegedly spit and urinated during Mass. Race claims the church is exaggerating the problem. She was arrested after violating the order and has continued trying to attend the church but has been turned away by sheriff's deputies.

Judge Denies Roberts Request

An Oklahoma judge has refused to allow Richard Roberts’ wife to be removed from a wrongful termination lawsuit. Lindsay Roberts and her husband, who once served as president of Oral Roberts University, are accused of misspending school funds in a lawsuit. Former professors Tim and Paulita Brooker allege they were forced to leave ORU after detailing problems with the Roberts family in a report.

Church Gives Away Money

Christ the Rock Church in Memphis handed out hundreds of envelopes to parishioners yesterday containing various amounts of cash from $5 to $500. Pastor Chris Bennett gave them a total of $30,000, saying the money should go toward random acts of kindness.

Graham: No Olympic Evangelism

Franklin Graham says he’s against conducting evangelism during the Beijing Olympics this summer. Graham says because proselytizing is prohibited under Chinese law, he does not encourage anything illegal. The evangelist toured mainland China this past week and pet with government officials. He also spoke to nearly 12,000 people at a Chinese megachurch. Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association, says the comment is a “deep offense to the hundreds of house church prisoners and their family members.”

Creation Museum Drawing Crowds

The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is still drawing thousands of visitors and expanding since it opened on Memorial Day one year ago. The museum is approaching its 400,000th visitor. Answers in Genesis, the Christian organization that operates the museum is opening a permanent petting zoo on Friday and debuting a musical called Let the Rain Come. Another restaurant is in the works, along with more parking and a new entrance.

Dobson and McCain

Political columnist Robert Novak reports that James Dobson has invited Senator John McCain to visit with him at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs but so far the presidential hopeful has refused. Dobson is on record as saying he won’t support McCain’s bid for the White House because of his position on issues like stem cell research. Novak says it shows problems for the Republicans in gaining support from Christian conservatives who are already writing off this election and looking toward the next one.

Faith In "Second Life"

Religion is gaining a presence in the online virtual universe known as Second Life. Sort of a video-game costume party, the site also offers its 13 million users churches, mosques and synagogues. You can light virtual candles for Shabbat, teleport to a Buddhist temple or consult the oracle for some divine guidance. The online game has a Christian fellowship group meets weekly for Bible studies and prayer sessions. Oklahoma-based megachurch broadcasts its weekly sermon to satellite campuses across the country including its virtual church in Second Life.

IRS Clears Pastor

Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake says the IRS has cleared him of wrongdoing. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State complained to the IRS that Drake had announced his endorsement of Mike Huckabee on his internet radio show and in a press release. But the radio show operates independent of his congregation. And while the letterhead on the press release indicates that Drake is pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, California, it was not issued on the church's official stationary. The IRS does not comment on individual investigations.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Caspian is #1

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is the top movie at the box office this weekend. The film based on the books of CS Lewis took in about $56.6 million. But that’s not as strong as the first Chronicles of Narnia movie. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe earned $65.6 million during its first three days of availability. Movie analysts had forecast an opening within the $80 million range.

20 Years at The Cove

The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, celebrated its 20th anniversary with an open house yesterday. More than 25,000 tourists come by each year and another 20,000 visit for training and events. The 1500-acre tract is east of Asheville, not far from Billy Graham’s home in Montreat.

Clinton Gets Adultery Sermon

Things got a little awkward this morning at the State Street United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Senator Hillary Clinton attended Sunday services in which Pastor Paul Fryman gave a sermon on adultery. But Clinton showed no reaction to the topic. She sang and shook hands with parishioners afterward.