The pope and the Pentecostal smartphone

The image projected onto the giant screen above the recent Kenneth Copeland Ministries conference was not your typical clever smartphone video. Still, the crowd of Pentecostal Protestants was mesmerized because the shepherd vested in white who addressed them — in Italian, with subtitles — was one of the last men on earth they would have expected to warmly bestow his blessing on them. Pope Francis stressed that they “must encounter one another as brothers. We must cry together. … These… Read more

Faith and the Millennials — it’s complicated

LOS ANGELES — When pollster David Kinnaman went to college two decades ago, his Generation X life was surrounded by electronic screens and all the gadgets that connected to them. There were TV screens, movie screens and new computers, some of which even had speakers. There were VCRs, CD players, cassette recorders, video cameras and other cool devices. The hottest trend was “email” that allowed students to do something Baby Boomers could only dream about — send private, instant messages… Read more

President Obama defends religious freedom — overseas

From the moment he rose to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, it was clear President Barack Obama intended to respond to critics who accuse him of being weak in his defense of religious freedom. “As Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion,” noted Obama, early in the recent address. “Yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other… Read more

Dark (porn) secrets in modern sanctuaries

At some point before 35-year-old Jesse Ryan Loskarn hanged himself in his parents’ home outside Baltimore, he wrote a painful letter soaked in shame and self-loathing in which he attempted to explain the unexplainable. The former chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) had lived a secret life, hiding memories of child abuse and his addiction to child pornography. Even as U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents used a battering ram to enter his house, it appeared that he was… Read more

Culture wars in the App Store, part II

At first glance, the original rules written to govern the Apple App Store seem to be simple, logical and easy to enforce. After all, who wants one of the world’s most powerful corporations to circulate digital forms of hate? Consider, for example, the guidelines governing “personal attacks” and “objectionable content.” The former rejects, “Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way.” This does not apply to humorists and satirists,… Read more

Culture wars in the App Store (and what they mean)

In a career packed with sound bites, the late Steve Jobs offered one of his best when describing his vision for a family-friendly Apple App Store. “We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone,” he famously responded, in an email to a customer. “Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.” This stance was clear, but hard to apply in the flood of information and images on the World Wide Web. After… Read more

Baptists rethinking the use of catechisms (plural)?

This joke may be the most famous in all of Baptist humor. While crossing a high bridge, a traveler encounters a distressed man who is poised to jump. The first man asks the second if he is religious and a Christian. The suicidal man answers, “yes,” to both. Catholic or Protestant? The jumper says, “Protestant.” And, as it turns out, both men are Baptists. “Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” The second man, in… Read more

Duck! Elderly patriarchs discussing doctrine!

This elderly patriarch’s image is certainly striking, with his stern face and a gray beard that flows over his chest, contrasting with the colorful clothing typical of his flock and his unique line of work. Just before Christmas, he raised eyebrows with a blunt statement on one of today’s most controversial issues. No, this wasn’t the Duck Commander in Louisiana. This patriarch resides in the city his followers formally refer to as Constantinople-New Rome. “The Lord appointed the marriage of… Read more

What would Pope Francis pick as top 2013 news story?

Popes come and popes go, with a new pope elected every few years or decades. Thus, when viewed through the lens of history, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was a stunning event in the history of Roman Catholicism and, thus, all of Western Christianity. He was the first man to resign St. Peter’s throne in 600 years. Surely this was the most important religion-news story of 2013? But when seen through the lens of the mainstream press, the bookish… Read more

Telling the Nativity story, with help of two foster boys

Night after night, Jesse and Kelly Cone led their children through some of the most familiar verses in all of Christianity. The goal was to use the quiet pre-Christmas season of Advent — or Nativity Lent in their Eastern Orthodox parish in Santa Maria, Calif. — to help their young sons grasp the meaning of Feast of the Nativity, which begins Dec. 25th and continues for 12 days. This isn’t easy in a culture in which the powers that be… Read more


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