Preaching to the Anti-Persecution Choir

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Arlen Specter was preaching to the choir and he knew it.As the veteran Pennsylvania senator studied the crowd, he tried to spot the journalists sprinkled among the clergy, social activists and politicos jammed into the U.S. Senate’s Mansfield conference room.”I have been in this room many times,” he said, at this week’s press conference introducing the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act of 1997. “I have never seen such a disproportionate imbalance between the number of the… Read more

Breaking the Silence on Sudan

Every month or so, Bona Malwal slips over the border into his south Sudanese homeland.There are, in this age of satellite telephones, safer ways for an exiled journalist to contact his sources during one of the world’s longest-running civil wars. But Malwal keeps going home – to see the bulldozed churches, to interview grieving parents, to document the torture.The government declared him an enemy of the state in 1989. The Roman Catholic activist was writing stories that outsiders said were… Read more

A Musician Stuck in Orthodixie

NASHVILLE – G. Thomas Walker is a country singer who also happens to be a Christian.The good news is that he lives in the capital of country and Contemporary Christian Music. The bad news is that he’s the wrong brand of Christian. Executives in the Protestant-packed CCM market flinch when they learn Walker is a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. Secular professionals quickly note that he writes more than the country-music quota of songs about faith and family. Meanwhile, Orthodoxy has… Read more

The Southern Baptist Name Game

The more Baptist Standard editor Toby Druin thought about all the new titles he kept typing, the more ironic they became.In June, the Southern Baptist Convention officially begins operating under a “Covenant for a New Century,” a corporate reorganization plan that collapses its 19 agencies into 12. The name of almost every bureaucracy will be affected – except for the one at the top of the chart. This inspired a semi-serious Druin editorial in the weekly newspaper for Texas Baptists.”I… Read more

A Unitarian Generation Gap

No collection of religious humor would be complete without some Unitarian jokes featuring punch lines about this elite flock’s love of esoteric seminars, stodgy foreign sedans, left-wing causes and wine-and-cheese parties.Above all, Unitarians cherish their reputation as open-minded, tolerant souls. Still, the Rev. Forrest Church knows that sometimes even a Unitarian minister can go too far.The senior minister of New York City’s historic Church of All Souls ends his services with a benediction that begins with: “And now, in our… Read more

My e-mail: Silly, Sobering or Both

When I moved to the Appalachian Mountains, I briefly worried that it would be hard to write a national religion column based in this somewhat remote region.Well, the experts are right when they say it matters less and less where you locate your mailbox, telephone, fax machine and computer modem. Last year, I marked this column’s birthday by trying to dig out my desk. Now, I’ll start year 10 by trying to thin my digital files. Some of these e-mail… Read more

Is TV about to get Religion

Another Easter season has come and gone, with the usual flurry of religion stories on newsstands, religious images on TV screens and more research reports asking why elite media tend to ignore, botch or bash religion the rest of the year.”God on prime-time television is like God in American culture: submerged most of the time, emerging only as a guest star whose appearance is rarely announced,” stated Jack Miles, author of “God: A Biography,” in TV Guide’s “God and Television”… Read more

The Web, the Cults and the Church

Wherever he roams on the World Wide Web, Rick Bauer finds people obsessed with computers, science fiction, entertainment, the supernatural, conspiracies and UFOs — not necessarily in that order.Whenever the leader of Freedom House Ministries visits churches or their Web pages he finds that they have almost nothing to say about computers, science fiction, entertainment, the supernatural, conspiracies and UFOs. Meanwhile, the Web sites of less conventional spiritual entrepreneurs often include provocative stuff about — that’s right — computers, science… Read more

Death, Eternal Life and Easter

Johann Christoph Arnold doesn’t mince words when describing his mother’s death.The matriarch of the Bruderhof community learned she had cancer of the lymph nodes late in 1979 and her condition rapidly deteriorated, accompanied by tremendous pain. After decades of serving others, she also found it hard to be an invalid who needed constant care. Still, there were transcendent moments. Throughout her five-month ordeal, children gathered to sing hymns and pray at her bedroom window.”Just hearing their voices had an almost… Read more

The Torah, John Grisham and the Mall

At first glance, verse 22 in Genesis, chapter 18, doesn’t seem all that important.God has just told Abraham Sodom and Gomorrah are in big trouble. Then a strange clause in verse 22 notes that “Abraham remained standing before the Lord.” It appears, says a footnote in a major new commentary on Genesis, that the nomad who would become a patriarch briefly struggles with himself, debating whether it is possible to change God’s mind.”Abraham can’t decide whether to be silent or… Read more


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