Moments after celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first Chinese bishops consecrated in Rome, John Paul II delivered an emotional message to his suffering flock in China.The underground church is a “precious pearl,” he said, in a Dec. 3 broadcast into China on Manila’s Radio Veritas. The pope praised the 6 million or more who refuse to surrender and join “a church that corresponds neither to the will of Christ, nor to the Catholic faith.”This was a clear reference to… Read more

Black churches were burning and many pundits, politicos and preachers agreed that Southern racists — perhaps even radical Christian conservatives — were waging a campaign of “domestic terrorism.””It an epidemic. It’s a pattern that’s very clear,” said JoAnn Watson of the Center for Democratic Renewal, in an Associated Press report. At the peak of the media storm, President Clinton joined the chorus, praising the National Council of Churches and like- minded groups that were gearing up to fight the armies… Read more

Ebenezer Scrooge repents, George Bailey is born again and Kevin McCallister says his prayers, pounds two burglars and helps heal a neighbor’s tortured soul.It’s Christmas at the movies.Elsewhere in the mall that is America, the Starship Enterprise saves humanity, again, Cruella De Vil chases the latest incarnation of 101 Dalmatians and this year’s workaholic Dad — Arnold Schwarzenegger as a muscular sequel to Tim Allen — searches for his inner child.This, too, is Christmas at the movies.It’s that magic season… Read more

No doubt about it, 25 minus 12 does equal 13.Christmas is Dec. 25th. Lovers of carols and party games also know this season has 12 days, packed with pears, gold rings, birds and various kinds of gentry, musicians and domestic workers.Do the math. It’s easy to see why many leaders of newspapers, television networks, shopping malls and other cultural fortresses annually deliver some kind of “Twelve Days Of Christmas” blitz beginning on Dec. 13.But there’s a problem. There really are… Read more

It’s impossible to tell Jim Bakker’s story without mentioning his conspiracy theories.The former PTL leader has always felt that people were conspiring against him — especially journalists, politicians and judges. After the 1987 collapse of his empire, he said he had been betrayed by other televangelists.Naturally, Bakker adds variations on these themes in his tell- all memoir, “I Was Wrong.” But one of its most intriguing details is evidence of yet another conspiracy that he doesn’t want to discuss. Note… Read more

It was a simple, if mischievous, way to open one of those holiday stories that religion reporters write year after year: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah.”The rest of my story focused on the history of Hanukkah and the modern trends that have turned this minor holiday into one of Judaism’s most important dates.The telephone began ringing with a vengeance. Some devout Jews never made it past the first sentence and thought I was siding with those who… Read more

Jim Pinto was hooked on drugs and shacked up with his girlfriend when his life was changed by a soul-shaking conversion experience.So he quit his job as a bartender, got married and went to tell his local bishop that God wanted him to become an Episcopal priest. This was 1977 and, since Pinto lived in New Jersey, that meant visiting the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong.”I told him all about the miracles that God had done in my life,” said… Read more

One of the first decisions David and Jean Leu Stanley faced when they got married 48 years ago was where to go to church.Their options were pretty clear. There was the Methodist church in which he grew up or, across the street, the Presbyterian church in which she grew up. His church got the nod and, today, they remain active in Wesley United Methodist in Muscatine, Iowa.But much has changed since 1948. That was before some bishops began protesting church… Read more

No one will ever accuse Pope John Paul II of being a master of the media-friendly “sound bite.”Thus, his highly nuanced theological pronouncements often produce two quite different, or even contradictory, waves of information. First come the headlines and video clips, as reporters crunch complex texts into clusters of words. Then, days later, the pope’s actual text circulates via fax machines and the Internet.A case in point: John Paul’s recent speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences inspired headlines such… Read more

Penthouse isn’t known for its religion coverage.Still, the Episcopal Church establishment went into damage- control mode this week as the soft-porn magazine’s latest issue hit news stands, featuring news of an alleged clergy sex ring in the Diocese of Long Island. It’s the latest twist in the convoluted story of the Episcopalians and their evolving teachings on sex.The expose centers on the testimony of Wasticlinio Barros and Jairo Pereira, two Brazilian males in their mid-20s. They say they were brought… Read more

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