Friday, February 6, 2009

The Creation Museum

AFP takes a look at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

College Upset with John Grisham

Duquesne University is not happy with John Grisham. His latest thriller uses the Pittsburgh Catholic school as the site of a fraternity house rape. his new novel.

The rape is based on a true story that took place at the University of Virginia, where a former student confessed to raping a classmate at a fraternity party 20 years earlier. Grisham has told interviewers the school was picked at random because he just happened to be in Pittsburgh for a sporting event.

The central character in Grisham’s novel, The Associate, attends Duquesne on a basketball scholarship. It was during the 80’s that four players on the school's team were charged with raping a student. And two years ago, someone shot five Duquesne basketball players at the student union.

I Believe Newspaper Boxes

A South Carolina newspaper is letting Christians advertise their faith on their newspaper boxes. The Aiken Standard is putting I Believe in place of the newspaper's name for $13. A judge recently ruled the state could not issue license plates with the same phrase.

No 90 Foot Crosses

The South Hills Church Community in Las Vegas will not be allowed to put up three 90 foot crosses. The Clark County commission voted against a request from the church’s pastor to allow the crosses to go up. Commissioners did agree to allow much shorter 50 foot crosses.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Custom Music Publisher

Churches wanting more control over how they use songs in worship services have a new tool at their disposal. SongMap is a new product from Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. The online digital music tool similar to Apple's iTunes. It lets users download Christian music like a custom music publisher. There are about 900 downloadable songs so far. Tunes can be custom arranged and users can transpose keys and download their own variations of the songs in sheet music for various instruments for $1.49 each. This will allow churches to custom build songs the way they want.

National Prayer Breakfast

Barack Obama at the The annual National Prayer Breakfast this morning in Washington:

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith. It requires us not
only to believe, but to do – to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world.

Attendance Falling at Churches of Christ

There are fewer folks in Churches of Christ pews than any time since 1980. A new church report (called the 21st Century Christian) shows 12,629 congregations (526 fewer than in 2003) and 1,578,281 "adherents” as the report calls them (78,436 fewer than in 2003). One reason for the decline: 21 churches with Sunday morning instrumental worship services are not included. That cuts out congregations like the Richland Hills Church near Ft. Worth, Texas with more than 5000 members. But if you adjust for the instrumental churches, there is still a significant decline. Of greatest concern to the denomination is the aging congregations. The number of children has dropped 7%. Note: There's a long dispute in COC circles over whether musical instruments should be used in church services.

Chinese Bibles

The Southern Baptist publishing arm LifeWay Christian Resources plans to sell Bibles in Chinese. Its Holman Bible Publishers group has already printed 20,000 copies of a modern translation of the New Testament. The Chinese Standard Bible is considered to be the first direct Chinese translation by scholars from the original Greek. The Bibles will be available in the US, Canada and Brazil. They may eventually become available in China. The company laid off 5% of its work force last year and LifeWay has refused to reveal how sales are going during the current economic downturn.

Obama's Faith Initiative

This morning at a prayer breakfast, President Obama is set to introduce a new 25-member President's Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The president will sign an executive order saying the new office must look for guidance from the Department of Justice on issues like “nondiscrimination laws”.

The program will be structured similar to the way the Bush program was structured and that may upset some on the left. The new 25-member advisory council to the office includes both religious and secular leaders.

Here are some of the people who will be named to it.
  • Diane Baillargeon, president and CEO of Seedco
  • Fred Davie, president of Public/Private Ventures
  • Pastor Joel Hunter, Northland Church
  • Vashti McKenzie, African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Eboo Patel, executive director, Interfaith Youth Core
  • Melissa Rogers, professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School.
  • David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Judith N. Vredenburgh, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bibles with the Newspaper

People living around Tampa got something special with their newspaper Saturday. The Tampa Tribune delivered copies of the New Testament to all of its subscribers. It was part of an ongoing effort by the International Bible Society around the country. Local churches and businesses came up with $127,000 to make it happen. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy was featured on the cover.

No Pants, No Job

Washington's Metro system will pay Gloria Jones $47,000 for religious discrimination. Jones says the transit authority refused to hire her as a bus driver because of her religious beliefs. She a member of the Apostolic Pentecostal faith and refuses to wear pants on the job.

Focus: More than Half Million for Prop 8

James Dobson's Focus on the Family donated $657,000 to help promote California’s Prop 8. The initiative bans gay marriage. That figure includes mailing costs and radio program time. The funds went to the group Protect Marriage. The Mormon church donated $189,000.

Vatican Orders Bishop to Recant

The Vatican is now ordering a Bishop who denies the Holocaust to publically renounce the idea. Richard Williamson sparked a strong reaction after it became apparent the pope had lifted the excommunication of a Holocaust denier. Williamson has apologized to Pope Benedict XVI for his "imprudent remarks" but that is not enough for the Vatican - even though the Pope's number two man said yesterday the case is considered "closed" yesterday. Williamson told a TV interviewer recently that the evidence "is hugely against six million Jews being (killed in the Holocaust) as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.” Israel's highest religious authority decided to cut ties with the Vatican over the issue.

Bible Study at School Under Fire

A judge wants an elementary school to stop letting a Bible study on school grounds. The By the Book program at Horace Mann Elementary in Huntington, near Fort Wayne, Indiana takes place weekly at a trailer in the school’s parking lot. A parent of a child in the school filed suit against it in November. The weekly meetings have been a part of the schools extra-curricular offerings for 50 years. Indiana state law allows students two hours of time for them to practice their religion.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Habitat Founder Dies

The man who started Habitat for Humanity has died. Co-founder Millard Fuller was 74. He died on the way to a south Georgia hospital after complaining of chest pains.

Fuller separated from Habitat after a conflict with the board of directors in 2005. He objected to how the organization was being run and started a new organization called the Fuller Center for Housing.

Churches Say it was a Scam

Two dozen Michigan churches say they were tricked into signing leasing contracts for video terminals for interactive educational systems. Seven of those churches have filed a lawsuit against United Leasing of Waukesha, Wisconsin for $700,000. Also named in the suit: Television Broadcasting Online and the Urban Interfaith Network.

The churches agreed to put the kiosks in their buildings so parishioners could get information from the Internet and the church’s website. Pastors of the churches claim they were told the terminals were free and promised monthly revenue from commercial sponsorships. But sponsors never materialized. And some of the churches say United Leasing took thousands of dollars out of their accounts without permission.

United Leasing itself has already filed a suit against 39 churches in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The company claims these predominantly urban congregations owe nearly one-and-a-half-million dollars.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Abuse Scandal Among Hasidic Jews

NPR reports on an abuse scandal among Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn.

Guns in Church

Arkansas may let licensed gunholders to carry a concealed handgun with them to church. A house committee will take up the measure tomorrow.

ORU Gets $10 Million

Oral Roberts University is getting a $10 million cash infusion for renovations. The money comes from the Green family let by Mart Green – who have already given a similar amount for the same thing last year.

Mart Green gots a spot on the ORU board for his past generosity with money made from craft supply giant Hobby Lobby and Christian bookstore and office supply chain Mardel. He’s a member of the Assemblies of God. Forbes says Green’s net worth is $1.8 billion.

The school has also added Charisma magazine founder Stephen Strang to the board of directors along with the World Compassion founder Terry Law.

New Russian Orthodox Leader

The Russian Orthodox Church has a new leader, the first to take the helm of the world's largest Orthodox church following fall of the Soviet Union. Patriarch Kirill has been supportive of reconcile with the Roman Catholic Church. He was deputy to his predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II who died in December after almost two decades as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Only about 1-in-20 Russians are serious about the faith.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baptists Seek to Shore up Membership

Here's a story about at membership problems among Southern Baptists from Gannett News Service.

The Board Game of Divine Domination

A new board game called Playing Gods is just what it sounds like. Promoted as the world’s first satirical board game of religious warfare, it makes its US debut at this month’s New York Toy Fair. The game is already on store shelves in Europe.

Two to five players act as “gods” and try to take over the world, making everyone worship him or her. Players can threaten plagues and locusts or promise followers miracles and prosperity. Players pick any god from "Jesus.. to Zeus" or even "Oprah".

The game runs about $40.

Bishop Apologizes

Bishop Richard Williamson is apologizing to Pope Benedict XVI for his "imprudent remarks." Williamson told a TV interviewer last week that the evidence "is hugely against six million Jews being (killed in the Holocaust) as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.” He had only recently been reinstated to his position after 20 years. Israel's highest religious authority decided to cut ties with the Vatican over the issue.