‘Tis this pope’s gift to be simple

The rise of Pope Francis has certainly raised new questions for Vatican watchers, such as: How significant is it that he has not been wearing cufflinks? In the past, this kind of detail "would be seen as frivolous," noted Rocco Palmo of Philadelphia, whose "Whispers In The Loggia" site is must reading for Catholic insiders. Now, this pope's commitment to beyond-symbolic simplicity is causing religious leaders, journalists, diplomats and Catholics at every level to wrestle with the importance … [Read more...]

Define ‘evangelical’ — 2013 edition

List America’s prominent evangelical Protestant voices and the Rev. Rick Warren remains near the top, up in the mix with the Rev. Brian McLaren, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Jim Wallis, the Rev. Tim Keller and others. Many evangelicals, of course, like to argue about who belongs on that list. In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that the experts are finding it harder to decide who is and who is not an “evangelical” in the first place. “I know what the word ‘evangelical’ … [Read more...]

Billy Graham & Co. push the values voters

The television talking heads all agreed that the election was over, which ignited celebrations among the staff and supporters of winner Richard Nixon -- including the world's most famous evangelist. "We did it," proclaimed the Rev. Billy Graham, according to iconoclastic journalist Joe McGinniss in "The Selling of the President 1968." Graham, he added, went "directly into Nixon's room, without explaining whether 'we' meant Billy Graham and Richard Nixon or Billy Graham and God or perhaps all … [Read more...]

Cardinal prays with Democrats, too

As the Republican show closed in Tampa, Cardinal Timothy Dolan faced a flock of Tea Party activists, religious conservatives and country-club loyalists and gently addressed the sanctity of life. "We ask your benediction upon those yet to be born, and on those who are about to see you at the end of this life," said the shepherd of New York, who also leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A week later, Dolan offered the final benediction for a Democratic National Convention in which 25 … [Read more...]

Cardinal praying in a GOP spotlight

Political conventions have always included prayers and, through the decades, legions of preachers, rabbis, bishops and others have stepped to the podium to deliver them -- whether the delegates were paying attention or not. Then Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles faced the Democratic National Convention in 2000. First, he reminded the delegates they were in the presence of God and that true prayers must focus on "moral values, not partisan politics." In his litany, Mahony said: "In You, O … [Read more...]

Faith in that Barack Obama brand

Here's good news for President Barack Obama: The slice of Americans who believe he is a Muslim is down to 11 percent, according to a new Gallup Poll. That number was up to 18 percent two years ago, in a Pew Research Center survey, after hitting 11 percent in 2009. This time around, 52 percent of Democrats knew the president is a Protestant Christian, as opposed to 24 percent of Republicans. Only 3 percent of Democrats said Obama is a Muslim, while 18 percent of Republicans thought so. The … [Read more...]

Mitt Romney faces the Moral Majority

When the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979, many fundamentalist pastors were appalled by his decision to wade into the muck of politics. Even more shocking, Falwell said this would be an interfaith project from the get-go, one open to conservatives in many flocks -- including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The goal was to focus on the moral convictions that united believers in different faiths, not the scriptures, creeds and theology that separated … [Read more...]

Why Chuck Colson spent Easter in prison

It wasn't the typical Bible text for an Easter sermon, but the preacher knew what this congregation needed to hear. Never forget, he said, what Jesus proclaimed in his first sermon: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed." This isn't the sermon that many believers hear on Easter, but it's the one that prisoners need to hear, … [Read more...]


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