TOP STORY: THE MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian pacifists preach a message of harmony

c. 1996 Religion News Service AL KHADER, West Bank (RNS)-When Hussein Ibrahim Issa dreams, he sees a swimming pool between the olive terraces on the hillside below his elementary school. He imagines Muslim, Christian and Jewish children learning together in a harmony of Arabic and Hebrew. And folk dancing is a required subject. Dancing, says Issa, makes children peaceful and joyful.

COMMENTARY: A coming crisis in juvenile crime

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Charles W. Colson, former special counsel to Richard Nixon, served a prison term for his role in the Watergate scandal. He now heads Prison Fellowship International, an evangelical Christian ministry to the imprisoned and their families. Contact Colson via e-mail: 71421,1551 at compuserve.com.) (RNS)-Though we have been fixated on the budget process over the past month, our next president will confront a much more pressing issue: crime. Yes, I have heard the good news about the dip in overall crime rates and violent crime.

Where’s my miracle?

c. 1996 Religion News Service EDITORS: Robert Kirby is a Christian humorist. (RNS)-Forgive me if I ramble. I’m in a lot of pain right now, physically and spiritually. I had a hernia operation last week and it shook my faith.

Denominational Report

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Following is a collection of news stories compiled from RNS staff, wire and denominational reports). Evangelist: Church should provide certainties, not speculation (RNS)-Liberalism has failed to meet the needs of modern society and transform the secular culture, the Rev. Barbara Brokhoff told the United Methodist Church’s Congress on Evangelism recently.”The sad truth is that (liberalism) has raised a generation or two who believe everything is relative, anything can change, and there are no absolutes whatsoever,”said Brokhoff, a Methodist evangelist and pastor in Largo, Fla. Brokhoff made her remarks at the biennial Denman Lectures, a series of three lectures sponsored by the United Methodist Foundation for Evangelism. She was the first woman to give the lectures.”Modern and liberal theology is resulting in a dead church,”said Brokhoff.

School voucher fight in D.C. being watched carefully

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-On the west side of Syracuse, N.Y., a public school and parochial school competed for the area’s students, remembered one resident, Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y. Parents from Roberts Elementary and Most Holy Rosary knocked on their neighbors’ doors to sell the advantages of the competing schools. They worked to find ways to make the schools better. They raised money for improvements. The results?

Appeals court strikes down Mississippi prayer law

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-It’s not often that Jay Sekulow of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice and Elliot Mincberg of the liberal advocacy group People For the American Way agree on a school-prayer issue. But both men said Thursday they agreed with a federal appeals court decision this week that dealt another blow to a Mississippi law that required public schools to permit student-initiated prayers at all school events-voluntary and compulsory alike.”It’s a bad law”because it went too far, said Sekulow, chief counsel for the public-interest legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, who also established the Christian Coalition. While the Coalition’s agenda includes supporting prayer in public schools, Sekulow, who is based in Virginia Beach, Va., said the Mississippi law”does not have much meaning insofar as the overall school prayer issue is concerned because it was so poorly written.” Mincberg, legal director of People For the American Way, a staunch advocate of strict church-state separation, agreed.”The Mississippi statute was clearly unconstitutional because it forced students who did not want to participate to listen to prayers at school events simply because other students wanted the prayers recited,”he said from his office in Washington.

Global Religion Report

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Following is a collection of international religion stories compiled by RNS staff, wire and denominational reports.) Muslims prepare for Ramadan (RNS)-The more than 800 million Muslims around the world are preparing for the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which begins with the sighting of the next new moon, which should appear Jan. 21. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the time tradition says Allah (God) began to reveal the Koran-the Muslim scripture-to the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. Observant Muslims mark the month by fasting and abstaining from sex and other sensual pleasures-such as listening to music-during daylight hours.

TOP STORY: VATICAN DIPLOMACY: Flynn denies wrongdoing in face of possible reprimand

c. 1996 Religion News Service ROME (RNS)-Raymond Flynn, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said Thursday he was doing his job when he fired off a letter to business and religious leaders last spring that said congressional efforts to cut U.S. anti-poverty programs were”mean-spirited”and”immoral.” But a State Department official investigating the matter doesn’t see it that way. Inspector General Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers is recommending a formal reprimand against Flynn for writing a letter that created the”appearance of partisanship”and for failing to get it approved or”cleared”before mailing it. The recommendation, issued in a Dec.

COMMENTARY: Two religions, two geniuses, two accusations of heresy

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-It took 350 years, but Vatican authorities, with prodding from Pope John Paul II, have finally admitted the Inquisition “committed an objective error” in 1633 when it forced the astronomer Galileo Galilei to repudiate his “heretical” teachings, chief among them that the Earth revolves around the sun. Now is also the time for the Amsterdam Jewish community to revoke the ban of excommunication it lay upon the philosopher Baruch Spinoza in 1656 for his “evil opinions” and “abominable heresies,” including his assertions that supernatural events could not occur, the Bible must be viewed as a human document, and that there is no immortality of the soul. Both cases are painful reminders of how 17th-century religious communities, Christian and Jewish, punished some of their best and brightest members because they presented threatening critiques of the conventional beliefs of the time. The Italian Catholic, through his telescopes and studies of motion, force and dynamics, dramatically challenged certain biblical passages about the order of the universe.

National Religion Report

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Following is a collection of domestic religion stories compiled from RNS staff, wire and denominational reports). Damaged Oklahoma City church to be rebuilt (RNS)-First United Methodist Church of Oklahoma City, heavily damaged in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building across the street from the sanctuary, will mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attack by breaking ground for a new facility. The blast killed 168 people.”What we want to do as a church is to build a sanctuary … that is a tribute to goodness and life, and not to terror,”Senior Pastor Nick Harris told United Methodist News Service, the denomination’s official news agency.”We want our sanctuary to be a witness to the fact that good always triumphs over evil, that wherever human life and property raises its head, somebody is going to be there who is going to do something so spectacular that it overshadows the evil and shows love as the last word,”Harris said.

NEWS STORY: Four American Baptist churches expelled over gay outreach

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Four San Francisco Bay-area American Baptist churches have been expelled from their regional jurisdiction because of their outreach to homosexuals. Delegates at a special meeting of American Baptist Churches of the West, one of 34 regional jurisdictions of the 1.5 million-member mainline Protestant American Baptist Churches in the USA, voted overwhelmingly to sever their ties with the four congregations at a meeting in Sacramento last Saturday (Jan. 6). About 80 percent of the nearly 600 delegates representing the region’s 221 congregations in northern California and northern Nevada voted first to give themselves the authority to expel the four churches and then voted to do so.

A contrast in biblical texts

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-A comparison of some popular passages in the King James version and Schocken version of the Bible: Genesis 1:3-5 The King James Version: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

TOP STORY: A NEW BIBLE TRANSLATION: In the beginning, there were many different words

c. 1996 Religion News Service BOSTON (RNS)-Everett Fox was 21 when he decided to translate the first book of the Hebrew Bible into English, and he approached the project with the audacity of a graduate student undaunted by King James. The grandeur of the 17th-century King James Version-translated by a team of 47 scholars-had made it the definitive English Bible for generations. But Fox was drawn to a little-known German translation by 20th-century Jewish philosophers Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig that was as jarring as the King James was elegant. Buber and Rosenzweig had tried to preserve the rhythms and nuances of the Hebrew text through the use of repetition, allusion, alliteration and wordplay.

SIDEBAR: A theology of peace, in King’s own words

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Here are excerpts from the speeches and writing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., touching on his theological concept of the `beloved community’: “The ultimate aim of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is to foster and create the `beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality. … The SCLC works for integration. Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living-integration.” Newsletter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference “From the beginning a basic philosophy guided the movement.