Rising Star on the Religious Right

SAN DIEGO — As Star Parker faced the Republican National Convention, she struggled to stay calm and focus on the tightly scripted version of her life flowing across the teleprompters. “Thirteen years ago I was on welfare, an unwed mother doing drugs, going to the spa and collecting my welfare check,” she said. “As a teen-ager when I got into trouble with the law my white guidance counselor told me it wasn’t my fault. I was the victim of institutional... Read more

‘Broad Minded’ Church Growth?

Visit all of the churches in an American city on the same Sunday and the experience would feel something like channel surfing on cable television. Click. A lecture. Click. Stand-up comedy. Click. Self-esteem tips. Click. A stone vault with statues. Click. A high-tech arena. Click. Classical music. Click. Bouncy pop. Click. People in three- piece suits. Click. Folks who appear to be doing the wave. The ratings for some of these churches are way down and their age demographics are... Read more

Bathsheba at the Beach

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. — Every summer, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians and others flirt with making historic changes in their doctrines on sex. But the debates that matter the most aren’t held in convention halls and ecclesiastical offices. They take place when youth groups pack into church vans and travel to conferences and camps that function as unofficial sex education programs for thousands. Each summer, counselor Jeannie Gregory faces rooms full of young women here at the Fun In The Son conference,... Read more

Snakes, Miracles and Biblical Authority

Church historian Bill Leonard never expected to become friends with the late Brother Arnold Saylor, let alone grow to appreciate his theological insights. Leonard is a scholar. Saylor was an illiterate country preacher who — until he died of old age in 1991 — would take rattlesnakes with him into the pulpit. Both men were surprised to learn that they wrestled with similar mysteries. “Serpent handlers may be very, very weird, but they’re not crazy,” said Leonard, who was recently... Read more

The Human Face of Religious Persecution

So far, Robert Hussein has lost his wife, children and fortune and, right now, his only safe home is on the Internet. The trouble began when he lost his Muslim faith and announced his conversion to Christianity. The prominent businessman — he was worth $4 million before the controversy — has lived in hiding since a religious court’s May 29 ruling that he is an apostate. Kuwait allows churches for foreigners and Arab Christians. However, Hussein is the region’s first... Read more

Hello World, Welcome to the Bible Belt

Somewhere, there’s a big book that determines how networks televise the Olympics. In addition to the games, they are instructed to offer hours of pageantry, inspiring parables about athletes and sermons about what it all means. The final ingredient: Mini-documentaries that dissect whatever foreign, mysterious land is hosting the Olympics. So hello world, welcome to the Bible Belt. While some may question whether Atlanta remains in “the South,” there’s no doubt TV crews can find the real thing in Birmingham,... Read more

Southern Baptists, Disney and Media Reality

For the next 12 months, the Rev. Richard Land will try to convince Southern Baptists to reconsider the ties that bind their homes to the Walt Disney Co. Meanwhile, the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission also will watch for signs that Disney executives are willing to discuss the threat of a boycott by America’s largest non-Catholic flock. It’s hard to say which task will be more difficult. Most church leaders don’t take entertainment seriously and most... Read more

Online Religion II: Net Wits Set Free

All Quentin Schultze did was run the “Top 15 Biblical Ways to Acquire A Wife” in his online “Internet For Christians” newsletter. No. 1 was: “Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours (Deuteronomy 21: 11-13).” No. 2: “Find a prostitute and marry her (Hosea 1: 1-3).” And so forth. The problem was that the Calvin College professor’s decision to run the list in three... Read more

Cyberspace Religion: Part I

Quentin Schultze felt relieved and sad as he transmitted what he thought would be his last Internet For Christians newsletter. The communications guru at Calvin College unplugged his cyber- publication after only 18 biweekly issues. It was just too successful. Day after day, 250 or more messages invaded his computers in Grand Rapids, Mich. Night after night, he ate dinner with his family and then vanished to battle e-mail until the clock neared midnight. “With the click of a mouse,... Read more

Can Reform Jews Keep the Faith?

Time after time, Reform Judaism’s new leader made one point: It’s obvious that millions of modern Jews are hungry for faith. “They are tired of the cult of novelty and the caprices of modern fashion,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, during the June 8 rites in which he was installed as president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. “They are tired of a world in which the heroes for their children are Bart Simpson and Madonna. They are overwhelmed by... Read more
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