God, Allah and Rick Warren

At the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, centuries of Islamic doctrine have literally been carved into the shrine's walls.Two quotations on the northwest wall will be of special interest to anyone interested in the latest whirlwind of controversy linked to evangelical superstar Rick Warren and his giant Saddleback Church.The outer face inscription states, in part: "Praise be to God who has not taken a son and who does not have any partner in dominion. ..." On the inside, after a … [Read more...]

‘Lost’ in the eternal lite

When describing the mysterious concept called purgatory, the Catechism of the Catholic Church starts with the basics."All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," the text states. "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification. ... The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts … [Read more...]

Sermons by Billy and Obama

Both men faced rows of loved ones still wrapped in grief after shocking tragedies.Both men quoted the Psalms. Both concluded with visions of eternal life and heavenly reunions. Both referred to familiar songs that offered comfort.Facing those gathered in Beckley, W.Va., to mourn the loss of 29 miners, President Barack Obama asked them to remember a rhythm and blues classic -- "Lean on Me" -- that had its roots in coal country life.Songwriter Bill Withers wrote: "Sometimes in our lives, we … [Read more...]

A rabbi, a preacher and a journalist

Mitch Albom has seen plenty of extremely large men, which isn't surprising after a quarter century as one of America's top sports writers.But he wasn't ready for the giant who met him outside the Pilgrim Church's dilapidated Gothic sanctuary near downtown Detroit. The Rev. Henry Covington was as tall as a basketball player, but weighed 400 pounds or more."His body seemed to unroll in layers, a broad slab of a chest cascading into a huge belly that hung like a pillow over the belt of his … [Read more...]

Painful options for postmodern nuns

It may take time, but it's hard for a Catholic educator to publicly praise the work of nuns who have bravely leapt "beyond Jesus" without drawing some flack -- especially in the Internet age.During this era of crisis and decline, some Catholic religious orders have chosen to enter a time of "sojourning" that involves "moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus," Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink told a 2007 national gathering of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious."Religious … [Read more...]

What, me worry? Whatever II

EDITOR'S NOTE: Second of two columns on teens and ethics.When pollsters ask Americans the Eternal Question they almost always say, "I believe in God."Ask young Americans about faith and the response is something like, "I believe in God and stuff." Finding the doctrinal meaning of "and stuff" is tricky."God made us and if you ask him for something I believe he gives it to you. Yeah, he hasn't let me down yet," said a 14-year-old Catholic from Pennsylvania, when researchers Christian Smith … [Read more...]

Heaven, hell and funerals

Anyone who has lived in a minister's house knows that middle-of-the-night telephone calls often bring bad news.But for many pastors there is one kind of call that is uniquely painful. There are times when the shock of death is easier to handle than questions about eternal life."It happens like this," noted the Rev. J. Gerald Harris, who became editor of the Southern Baptist newspaper of Georgia after 40 years in ministry. "A grieving widow would call and say with a broken heart and with tears … [Read more...]

Define ‘religion,’ please

Ask Southern Baptists to name their "religion" and most of them will simply say, "I'm a Baptist."Ask Roman Catholics the same question and most will say, "I'm Catholic." Odds are good that most Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and occupants of other name-brand pews will take the same approach.However, some of these believers may choose to define "religion" more broadly and say, "I'm a Christian." A researcher would certainly hear that response in scores of independent evangelical and … [Read more...]


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