Hours before the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, an ABC News colleague brought Peter Jennings a copy of “The Jewish Mourners Book of Why.” “I found the explanation of Jewish burial so fascinating that I incorporated a good deal of it into my funeral commentary,” said the veteran anchorman, in a recent address at Harvard University’s Divinity School. “If my mail is a guide, the audience much appreciated it. Contrary to what many news executives have believed in… Read more

For the first half of the 1990s, Father Christopher Moore spent most of his Sunday mornings guest preaching in parishes across New Jersey. Each week, he stood in another pulpit, gazing at another set of Episcopalians in another set of pews. He quickly spotted trends. “I found an incredible similarity from church to church, even from service to service. It seemed like I kept seeing the same 20 people at 8 o’clock and the same 100 people at 10 o’clock,”… Read more

Each passing season brings dispatches from the church-state front lines in America’s public schools. In New Jersey, students asked to list “Christmas characters” didn’t receive credit if they named Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Out in Oregon, a public-school calendar for December listed Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice — but not Christmas. And so it goes. Some students have been ridiculed for whispering prayers at lunch, disciplined for discussing faith or sent home for wearing religious t-shirts. Others have had… Read more

Moments after he pulled the trigger, Yigal Amir announced that God told him to gun down Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The former seminarian later defended himself by quoting chapter and verse from ancient Jewish writers, while authorities investigated whether he had received guidance from rabbis on the right fringe of Israel’s powerful, and some say paranoid, Orthodox community. Now, Amir’s lawyers are suggesting that it all may have been a mistake. After shocks from Rabin’s death will rattle Israel, the… Read more

Since Santa Claus was on break, Cherie Shelor and her baby son had extra time to soak up the holiday atmosphere. It was one of the last shopping days before Christmas last year and Santa’s photo line snaked into the heart of the 200-plus stores of the Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, N.C. The longer Shelor waited, the more she tuned into the mixed signals around her. “This is THE mall — the biggest in this part of the country –… Read more

There was nothing unusual about the Rev. Herschel Hobbs rising to speak at a tense moment in the Southern Baptist Convention. After all, he held the president’s gavel in the early 1960s, when Southern Baptists flirted with schism. He guided the writing of “The Baptist Faith and Message,” a 1963 tract that came as close as anybody has ever come to creating a doctrinal statement for this fiercely anti-creedal flock. When he died on Nov. 28, the 88-year-old Hobbs remained… Read more

Every year, members of the Greek Orthodox parish in Flushing, N.Y., gather after sundown on Dec. 5 to honor their patron saint. A throng of nearly 1,000 fills the sanctuary for this vespers service, as the faithful remember a man known for his self-sacrificing love of children and the poor, as well as his determined defense of Christianity. After sunrise the rites begin again, because Dec. 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas. Millions of shoppers would know this… Read more

Shortly before his grandson’s health forced him out of school, the Rev. Jimmy Allen dropped by for lunch with Matthew and some classmates. The young boy talked openly about what it was like to grow up HIV positive, in a family decimated by AIDS and haunted by the fears of others. Referring to an event at church, he casually added, “That was before they kicked us out,” then continued. “I have never heard sadder words,” recalled Jimmy Allen. It could… Read more

Frank Peretti thinks it might be fun if his next novel is a real howler. No, this doesn’t mean that the fantasy superstar who many insist on calling the “Christian Stephen King,” wants to build his next bestseller around a holy war between saints and werewolves. No, Peretti is pondering a different plot twist. “I could go any which way,” he said. “I really don’t think that my next one will be a horror book, at all. Hey, I might… Read more

As printed, the program for the upcoming assembly of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations looks like business as usual. Delegates to the Atlanta assembly will attend workshops on everything from cyberspace to ancient laws, from finances to rituals, from conception to life after death. Activists will focus on hot social issues, such as supporting gay rights and opposing the Religious Right. Vice President Al Gore will drop by. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was scheduled to be the final… Read more

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