News flash: Resurrection story has staying power

Resurrection2Holy Week is so nice that we have it twice here at GetReligion. The Western Church, which includes Daniel and me, had Holy Week last week. The Eastern Church and Terry are in the midst of Holy Week now. Oh that wacky Julian Calendar! Because of our many services, I was a bit out of the loop on what religious stories ran over the weekend. But I couldn’t miss one story as I received almost a dozen emails about it. The headline sort of says it all:

Is Jesus Risen? Literal View Gains Ground

Yeah, the Washington Post‘s Michelle Boorstein penned a piece about how some (some?) Christians believe Jesus literally rose from the dead. They even have a whole day set aside to celebrate this bizarre belief in a literal, science-defying resurrection. Who knew? It’s a bizarre story and headline for Christians because the physical resurrection of Christ is a central tenet of the church, to understate wildly. Here are her nut graphs:

The Easter story is the centerpiece of Christians’ faith. For most, the miracle of Jesus overcoming death three days after the Crucifixion — whether in body or spirit — is not open to debate. Others do not view the Resurrection in a literal way but as a powerful, transformative metaphor about his message living on.

In the past two decades, there has been a heightened scrutiny of Scripture, with basic Christian tenets such as the Resurrection challenged by biblical scholars and others in their search for historical facts about Jesus. But in recent years, there has been a rise in the popularity and stature of books that embrace [the] traditional view of Easter, experts say.

We could talk about the problems with using descriptors like “most” and “others.” We could talk about the problem of not better describing the theology of people who renounce key Christian doctrines. We could discuss the odd use of the phrase “past two decades” to describe historical revisionism, which is a century old and has wreaked havoc on church bodies that used to be so important they were called mainline.

But I’m still stuck on the headline! To say that the key doctrine of Christianity is something on the rise within Christianity shows a lack of historical perspective and an odd starting point for a story. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass said it best:

Obviously, I work in the secular media, and we’re usually skittish about spiritual matters. But we’re quite dogmatic when it comes to some other things. For example, we’re almost severe in our collective belief in scientific progress, in the ability of government officials and technology and reason to solve the problems of the modern world. . . .

Just think about that. All across the world on Sunday, and again next Sunday, millions of folks will confirm their belief in something that can’t be proven by scientific means. That yearning is news, isn’t it? Even though it takes place year after year, it’s still news.

So we have the annual rite of questioning in the weeks heading up to Easter. This year we got the stories about how Jesus didn’t walk on water, but an ice floe; that he wasn’t crucified in the manner in which people think; and that his father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. And on Easter weekend we get stories that focus on controversies — that sell books — rather than the stories taking place in Christians’ lives throughout the week. It will happen against next year. On that note, one controversy story this Easter that was fairly informative was the Associated Press’ Richard Ostling piece on beliefs about whether Jesus rose from the dead. But for Christians, the Easter story is not about controversy! It’s about salvation, peace and forgiveness of sins. Stories can be interesting and focused on what Easter means for Christians as opposed to what Easter means for non-Christians who love to cast aspersions on believers. It is possible. Just look at how well controversy stories go over with readers, judging from today’s letters to the editor section at the Dallas Morning News:

Great article, guys. Can’t wait for your coverage of how the Quran isn’t the last word for Muslims. You can run that during Ramadan. Or how about a story on the plutocrats and dictators who have resulted from various Mexican revolutions? Page One for Cinco de Mayo? Millions dead because of the DDT fad? Run it on Earth Day.

resurrectionThe other letters weren’t much more kind.

Anyway, I think this is my favorite passage from Boorstein’s piece:

The Rev. Steve Huber of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in the District said he sees a “deep spiritual hunger afloat in our culture” but isn’t sure whether that translates into more people believing in the physical Resurrection — or whether it matters. . . .

“If Easter is about proving the veracity of some historical event that happened 2,000 years ago, that misses the point,” Huber said.

She doesn’t just leave the comment hanging, exactly, but a point-counterpoint approach to reporting on an issue like this just doesn’t suffice. She doesn’t reference it in any way, but the issue of whether Christ literally rose from the dead was addressed by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 15, he wrote:

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the apostle Paul says, then you are the most pitiful loser to have faith in him. And Steve Huber says you’re not. Pick your sides. But if you are a reporter covering this issue, you have to understand who has more sway in Christianity. And you have to mention how central to Christianity a belief in the physical resurrection is and how it is the basis for Christian beliefs about life, death and forgiveness of sins.

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Worshiping those Bible Belt Idols

magazine 4covers2You just know that there has to be a religion ghost in there somewhere if the oh-so-cynical folks at the Washington Post Style section are going to get all worked up about a story that pits those strange folks out there in red-zip-code Middle America against the befuddled elites in dark-blue zip codes.

Sure enough, God, church, family, Wal-Mart and who knows what all (where was Mama?) make special appearances in reporter Neely Tucker’s “Who Put The Y’all In ‘Idol’? The Competition Is National but Its Finalists’ Accent Is Unmistakable,” which ponders the mystery of why so many American Idol hotshots are from the Bible Belt, of all places. Let’s go ahead and, with a giant wink, get the opening of the story out of the way:

What is it with this Southern thing on “American Idol,” anyway? Here we go, a national singing competition. It’s lousy with Juilliard proteges, Hollywood High sensations, right? Top-notch overachievers, best-that-money-can-buy training? Um, no.

For five years, the most wildly popular talent contest on American television has been dominated — thoroughly, totally and completely — by kids from Southern Hicksville, USA. Seven of the eight top-two finishers in the first four years were from states that once formed the Confederacy, and five of the seven remaining finalists this season are, too.

Bubba!

And guess what? While the Bible Belt folks — for some strange reason — eat this stuff up like cornbread with milk and honey, the math shows that the mega-vote folks in the big-city rating zones (mostly blue) also appear to like those golden-throated warblers from, what was that phrase again, “Southern Hicksville.”

Now please understand, I say all of this as a person who has, of his own free will, never (it may be dangerous to say this, scientists may want samples of my brain tissue as a control device) seen an episode of American Idol. I mean, if I liked that kind of music I would attend a megachurch.

But what is going on out there in the heartland? Could it be that ordinary Americans like over-the-top emotions when they are woven into shows that do not go out of their way to offend people who think the Tony Awards have gotten a bit, well, strange? Does this have something to do with Baby Boomers liking songs with three chords and a hook? Or is there something deeper? Is America a land of simple people who yearn, bless their shallow little hearts, for simple things?

… (A) softer Southern accent persists, as does the cultural memory of things long gone. There is still an emphasis on church and family, both entities that, in the course of Southern life, heavily influence music, particularly among the working class.

“There’s still an awful lot of old-school singers who got their starts in church, and many mainstream country musicians still do a gospel album,” said John Reed Shelton, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina and one of the region’s most respected observers. “Everybody tends to go to church, and Southern evangelical Protestantism, both black and white, emphasizes and rewards musical performance.”

Ain’t that sweet?

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Can society be tolerant of the intolerant?

don't tolerate intoleranceAs a journalist, I make value judgments every day in my writing and reporting. For instance, “John Smith” is a good source, in my opinion, so I will cite him in my recent story on “bananas.” And that report from the XYZ agency’s inspector general is solid so it also deserves a reference. These are generally snap judgments made throughout any day and most of it is so instinctive, little thought goes into them.

Things get a bit tricky when it comes to moral judgments. At all costs I try to keep my own moral judgments out of my articles. This is easy for me because my subjects rarely relate to anything inherently moral.

But the subject is morality in this Los Angeles Times article by Stephanie Simon, who we’ve given much deserved praise in the past. The story is about a lawsuit for the “Right Not to Tolerate Policies.” Check out the lead:

ATLANTA — Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she’s a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she’s demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

So is Malhotra seeking the right to be intolerant, or the right to speak out against homosexuality? We’re talking about two separate moral philosophies and two separate value judgments. Can both exist at the same time? That depends on your point of view. I think we know what Simon thinks from the lead, and that’s too bad from a journalistic perspective.

Overall, it’s a well reported article, but Simon missed a subtle distinction that required a “for the record” update involving one of her sources that shows how complex this issue can be and how a journalist must leave all preconceptions behind.

The editorial page of the Times stepped in with an exceptional op/ed piece on the issue (lest any of you have concerns that the Times‘ editorial influenced Simon’s reporting, I can guarantee there is a giant wall between the editorial page and the newsroom):

It isn’t necessary — or even desirable — to protect gay students, Christian students or any other types of students from opinions they find hurtful. Indeed, the civil exchange of competing views is part of the purpose of higher education. Colleges have the right to protect students from harassment, but they must be careful not to trample on the 1st Amendment rights of other students.

How does that statement compare with the presumptions in Simon’s lead? Is it intolerant to oppose another person’s conduct, or is that just another way of expressing religious beliefs?

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Swimming in baptism news hooks

dunkthemMainstream editors always want at least one religion story in the newspaper during the days leading up to Easter. It’s a law. That’s one reason you see all of those strange faith-based cover stories on the magazine racks this time of year (and just before Christmas, too).

However, veteran Godbeat reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today — a friend of this blog, I should mention — didn’t settle for giving her editors one pre-Easter story this year. She turned in a story on baptism trends so packed with news hooks that they should have let her do a whole section on it. There are so many trends referenced in this story that my head was spinning trying to keep up.

Let’s start very broad, with the summary early in the story:

For believers, baptism is modeled on their savior, who the Bible says waded into the water to consecrate himself to God. They may be sprinkled, washed from a flowing pitcher or immersed, as faith rituals vary. But all forms point to beliefs: rebirth in faith, salvation from sin, acceptance of God’s promises and charges. For parents who bring a baby before their church, baptism is a pledge of their faith, a shield against evil, a wrapping of communal arms around a defenseless soul.

For Christians of all denominations, “even if they never darkened the door of a church any other time in their life … there’s a tendency to hold onto this life-cycle marker,” says the Rev. Paul Sullins, a sociologist at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

So far so good. Then comes the march of news hooks that raise question after question after question, all of them worthy of coverage in and of themselves.

Like what? Hang on.

The Catholic Church has more than doubled in size in the past half-century, but its rate of infant baptism steadily has fallen, Sullins says.

Methodists and Lutherans have seen both baptisms and their membership numbers slide for years. … (The) Assemblies of God, which has had a boom in membership since 1980, saw its annual baptism numbers peak in 1997, then inch downward.

The Southern Baptist Convention has seen a half-century decline in baptisms and stalled growth in membership.

Saint Jan 06 Baptism of JesusSo what’s up with the Catholics? The creeping impact of suburbanization? Birth control? Total assimilation into the mainstream? It is really interesting that the rate of Catholic baptisms has fallen even faster than the rate of decline in births. What’s up with that?

And the charismatics and the Southern Baptists, what’s going on there? Mass-media inspired Universalism? The drip, drip, drip of prosperity? Changing roles for women? The kind of functional Universalism that sets in when people are afraid to offend others by talking about faith issues? Is everybody home watching ESPN and Oprah? What does it mean that the membership of the Assemblies of God is growing, but the baptism numbers are down?

Looming over all of this is intermarriage, and not just between Catholics and Protestants. Also, scores of people are moving from denomination to denomination and the old ways often fade (or get stronger, with some liturgical converts).

And then there are the theological questions. As Grossman notes:

All the denominations that emphasize infant baptism, such as Catholics, Methodists and Lutherans, struggle with a contemporary culture that rejects the very idea that humanity is born into sin or that parents should steer children’s spiritual development, says the Rev. Gayle Carlton Felton, author of the United Methodist Church’s statement on baptism theology and practice, This Gift of Water. Methodists “no longer literally believe that baptism removes the burden of sin that would send a child to hell,” Felton says.

Well, is that United Methodists in the pews, pulpits or seminaries or all of the above?

OK, time for one more? How about “do it yourself” baptism?

There are now baptism-style ceremonies where God is never mentioned by parents seeking to initiate their children into a world of all faiths, says Ema Drouillard of San Francisco, who runs the website Ceremonyway.com.

She conducted such an event for Kirsten and Farnum Alston of Marin County, Calif., for their baby, Greer, in 1998. “We just wanted a larger spirit to guide our daughter, but we didn’t want to get specific. I wanted all her bases covered,” says Kirsten Alston. The couple grew up Presbyterian, but now “we just do Christianity L-I-T-E” for Greer, who “believes in angels and fairies, leprechauns and Santa Claus.”

That’s enough for now. Like I said, and this is a compliment, this story really should have been a series of stories. Would USA Today let a senior reporter do a series on an eternal-life-and-death topic like this? Why not?

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The prayer of the publican

denarius tiberias 1 01I turned over a new leaf last year: I filed my taxes a month before they were due. This year, unfortunately, I’m back to my old tricks. I’ll be with the throng of last-minute filers causing a pedestrian and auto traffic jam at the Capitol Hill post office late tonight.

Easter fell within a day of the tax deadline this year. Most religion reporters wouldn’t think twice about it. Peggy Fletcher Stack, the Salt Lake Tribune‘s longtime religion reporter, wrote a compelling story about it. She interviews local Latter-day Saints who say folks should pay their taxes, libertarians who oppose current tax policy and liberals who oppose tax breaks for those who earn profits. Many have heard Jesus’ saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” It’s a complex saying, one which has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Stack provides some context:

When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus whether it was lawful to pay Roman taxes, they were setting a kind of trap for him. If he said “yes,” he would be siding with the despised Jews who collaborated with Rome and if he said “no,” he would be arrested.

How to deal with these competing claims?

“In my view Jesus teaches that, for survival, one pays, but one does so knowing a greater loyalty and knowing that soon ‘the kingdom or empire of God’ will be established in full and it will be the end of Rome,” [Warren] Carter[, who teaches at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo.,] says. “Jesus’ answer resists Rome’s attempts to humiliate, it secures the dignity of those forced to pay, reminds them of their identity in God’s purposes, and points to the sure completion of those purposes.”

The article also looks at how Jesus treated tax collectors, and puts it in a modern context:

Today’s Internal Revenue Service is only slightly more popular than tax collectors were in Jesus’ time. Many Americans live in fear of being audited or having to deal with one of its agents, despite filing on-time, legitimate forms.

But they don’t have to worry about being cheated or extorted.

In ancient Jerusalem, tax collectors were often locals who contracted to gather a certain amount of wealth to hand on up the imperial system. After paying Rome, these locals — also called “publicans” — were free to collect from the people as they wished and free to make a profit for themselves. They were regarded as traitors, as complicit with the exploiting Romans, or as thieves who collected too much and kept the extra, Carter says.

Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with these tax collectors, choosing one (Matthew) as his apostle, eating at their houses and using them to make a point in one of his famous parables.

In that story, Jesus described two men going to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee (a temple official) and the other was a publican. The Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even the publican.

The publican, meanwhile, looks down and says, simply, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Jesus tells his listeners that of the two, the publican and anyone who is humble will be exalted in heaven.

“He never ever taught that there was anything inherently wrong with paying tribute to the Roman Government or collecting the tax,” [scholar Marcus] Borg writes. “He was opposed to extortioners, but would fling open the door of repentance and salvation to them. He rejected none, not even the worst.”

The prayer of the publican is not something you find in mainstream media very often. And yet it is a prayer that many millions of Christians offer throughout each day. Stack managed to write about both worlds that many of her readers live in — the world where laws are administered and enforced and the world where Jesus’ words reign supreme. It’s a delicate art, and she did a great job writing about both Easter and tax day.

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Emerging trends in emergent church?

04a prayer candlesWhat are we supposed to think when we read that pastor so-and-so is controversial because he is the leader of such-and-such a church (which may or may not call itself a church), which is part of the emergent stream of the emerging conversation inside the emerging or emergent church?

If you don’t “get it,” does that mean you are merely the kind of person who just doesn’t “get it,” which means you will not understand what the people on the inside who do “get it” are talking about when they talk about “it”?

Yes, on one level we are talking about postmodernism. At the same time we are talking about evangelical Protestants who love postmodernism, which may or may not mean that they are no longer evangelicals, but it surely means that they are free-church Protestants because they are all creating their own future churches out of the pieces of lots of other churches in the past (woven together with media and technology from the present), except for those who are so free church that they now insist that their congregations (because they say so) should no longer be considered old-fashioned churches at all. I think that’s what they are saying and I ought to know, since, for some reason, many emerging-church leaders read this blog. I think.

Clearly I am confused. But that’s OK. In fact, it’s kind of postmodern. Maybe I “get it” after all.

So, journalists, if you are as confused as I am, you need to scroll through the resources at the new covering-the-emerging-church resource page assembled by the religion-beat professionals at ReligionLink.org. They say that this emerging thing is just starting to warm up and get complex, because it’s not just for evangelicals anymore.

As the emerging church — also known as the postmodern church or “po mo” — evolves, it’s also diversifying. Some want to transcend boundaries between conservative evangelicals and liberal mainline churches. Others are seeking more leadership opportunities for women and non-Anglos. And many churches, though they’re not all about youth or culture, are borrowing ideas from the emerging church trend, available through the Internet, conferences, books and CDs. Jewish leaders hoping to engage more youth have even consulted with emerging church groups.

So are people messing with (1) the doctrine of the church, (2) traditional doctrines (plural) taught by the church or (3) the very idea that doctrines should exist at all?

ReligionLink says that:

The emerging church seems to be forking in three directions, says scholar Ed Stetzer in his forthcoming book, Breaking the Missional Code: When Churches Become Missionaries in Their Communities (co-author David Putman, Broadman & Holman Publishers, May 2006). The most conservative fork accepts the gospel and the church in their historic forms but seeks to make them more understandable in contemporary culture. A second fork accepts the gospel but questions and reconstructs much of the traditional church form. The third, the most radical, questions and re-envisions both the gospel and the church.

chartreslabyrinth3abSo what does all of this mean?

Early on in my work as a religion reporter — about 25 years ago — I started trying to find quick ways to find out who was who in the various Christian groups that I covered. This quest evolved into my fascination with the work of sociologist James Davison Hunter at the University of Virginia (click here for background).

Before long, I learned that you could learn a whole lot in this post-1960s world by asking mainline and Catholic leaders three blunt questions. Think of these as research questions that would work for any Godbeat reporter.

(1) Did the resurrection of Jesus really happen?

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus alone?

(3) Is sex outside of the sacrament of marriage a sin?

Now, it appears that it is time to start asking these old mainline questions among some of the “emerging” evangelical leaders, including the person who often is named as the leader of the progressive pack. As ReligionLink notes:

For a sense of the distance between conservative and liberal emerging evangelicals, read Mark Driscoll’s “rant” about Brian McLaren and homosexuality at the Christianity Today blog, Out of Ur. [Out of Ur is the blog of Christianity Today's sister publication, Leadership Journal. CT's blog is here.]

By all means, read it. The rise of a true evangelical left is an emerging story.

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Separation of mandala and state?

mandalaThe Buddhist monk who blessed Baltimore City Hall with a worship aide traveled to Detroit to do some outreach on a community college campus. Terry wrote earlier in the week about the interesting church-state issues raised by a Buddhist doing religious work on public property.

A college campus is a less controversial venue than city hall for a religious display such as this, but it’s still interesting to consider the angle reporters use when covering the Buddhist tour. David Crumm, the prolific religion reporter at the Detroit Free Press, began his column about the Detroit stop of the tour this way:

A monk in gold-and-crimson robes labored on his knees to bring to life an ancient symbol of wisdom in a Dearborn library on Wednesday, surrounded by an ever-changing crowd of students, some in Muslim scarves, others in Lions and Pistons sweatshirts and a couple in leather and chains.

The director of religious studies at the college tells Crumm that monk Tashi Thupten Tsondu‘s visit is part of an effort to expose students to diverse cultures, and the diversity angle is thread throughout the article. The story is great and reporters have to choose one angle out of many potential ones. But I hope that as the monk continues his tour throughout the country — and if he continues to do his religious work on taxpayer-funded property — that reporters would look at the issue of state-sanctioned religious activity.

I tend to be interested in raising questions about any state support of religious activity. Terry raised the issue of equal access when he wrote about the story of Tashi’s religious work in Baltimore. What other groups are taking part in the diversity campaign? And that raises the question of how these stories would be written if Campus Crusade for Christ were working on a project in the library.

The purpose of the monk’s visit is not to make pretty pictures and head back home. It’s to share Tibetan Buddhist philosophies. A report of the monk’s visit to Michigan State University a few years ago looks at how Buddhist tenets are shared during a question and answer period following the creation — and destruction — of the mandala. There’s even a personal testimony!

One of the things that distinguishes Crumm is how he lets his subjects talk about their own faith and philosophy. This article was no exception:

Tashi, 49, explained that a mandala is an ancient practice that combines meditation techniques and sacred symbols to create vibrant, circular works of art. The overall message is that life is precious as well as fleeting.

“I make the mandala, but then I dismantle it on the last day. I sweep it up with a brush,” Tashi said. “It reminds us that, one day, we all will die. It reminds us to think of other living beings compassionately in this impermanent life we have.”

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, in a ceremony open to the public, Tashi will complete the dismantling by placing the swept-up sand into a large bowl. Then, he will lead a procession from the library to the nearby Rouge River, where he will drizzle the sand into the water.

[William] Secrest [the college's director of religious studies] said, “The Buddhist message is that we cannot cling to this life. That’s a delusion. Life is constantly flowing away like the sand in this mandala will flow into the river.”

It’s such a simple thing, but one I wish more reporters would do. Rather than trying — and failing — to characterize complex religious issues, reporters can tell a much richer story by simply quoting religious adherents as they talk about their faith.

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Any Koranic verses in particular?

Koran Open2I am sorry to keep returning to this subject so often, but the reporting coming out of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial is so gripping, unnerving and frustrating that I can’t stop reading it.

Once again, we need to ask Richard A. Serrano of the Los Angeles Times for more information.

Why? Think of it this way. Let’s say that some traitor to the pro-life cause was part of a plot to massacre thousands of people that he or she believed were trying to destroy Christianity. Then let’s say that this terrorist pled guilty and, on the witness stand, sat holding a Bible lined with Post-it notes and, during questioning, read verse after verse from those Holy Scriptures while attempting to defend the righteousness of the massacre.

Here’s my question: Wouldn’t you want to know what some of those verses said? Wouldn’t you want to know what traditional believers thought those verses actually mean (as opposed to being justifications for mass murder)?

With that in mind, let’s turn to Serrano’s latest Moussaoui trial report.

Moussaoui … repeated his deep hatred for Americans and predicted another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil before the end of President Bush’s term. He said the strike would be so catastrophic that the government would be forced to release him from prison.

“I fight,” he said. “And God will help me and free me.”

The 37-year-old Al Qaeda terrorist occupied the witness stand for nearly three hours. In his lap he fingered his worn copy of the Koran, sometimes flipping the pages to read a verse to the jury that he had marked with Post-it notes.

How about it? Is anyone else curious about those passages?

I looked around online and could not find any references that actually quoted the Koranic verses that he used in his defense. Across the Atlantic, reporting by Tom Baldwin in The Times did offer this summary, and many more details about Moussaoui’s hatred of Israel and the Jews:

Moussaoui quoted from the Koran which he said called on Muslims to fight for supremacy for Allah. He said that Islam taught that “we have to be the superpower, we have to be above you.”

Gerald Zerkin, for the defence, asked him why he hated the US and Americans.

“For theological reasons and life experience reasons,” he replied. “You are on a crusade, like [President] George W. Bush says. In Europe, they call New York ‘little Israel’,” he replied, attacking the US for being the first, in 1948, to recognise Israel, which he called the “Jewish state of Palestine.”

“There is no difference between the Jewish state of Palestine and Hawaii,” he said.

Once again, we hear the impact of his views of the Koran. But we do not hear what the Koran actually says, nor do we hear how others would interpret these — for him — deadly verses.

I think that we need that information. I think that is part of the story.

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