RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Southern Baptist leader Charles Stanley’s wife drops divorce suit (RNS)-Television preacher and prominent Southern Baptist pastor Charles Stanley appears to no longer be in danger of losing his pulpit now that his wife has dropped a divorce suit against him. Anna Stanley filed for divorce nearly three years ago, but now says there is hope for their marriage after all. Charles Stanley gained national prominence in the mid-1980s as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His sermons at First Baptist Church of Atlanta are broadcast via his In Touch Ministries, a nationwide television outreach.

NEWS FEATURE: Modern-day meditators rediscover ancient technique

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS (RNS)-Aimee Dominique walked slowly over the footpath in the semi-darkness, eyes down, hand over her heart, lost in thought. Gregorian chant and candlelight filled the room. Sally Gale walked a similar path a few feet away, to her enormous surprise weeping quietly but not self-consciously. Sister Adele Lambert, a Catholic nun, walked dreamily, concentrating on the sensations of her fingertips.

NEWS STORY: Catholic Church vows fight against euthanasia

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-U.S. Roman Catholic bishops will mount a campaign against assisted suicide comparable in scope and intensity to their fight against abortion, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston said Wednesday (March 20). Law, chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, made his comments during a telephone news conference. He compared the new effort to the bishops’ 1975 Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, a wide-ranging strategy that put abortion at the top of the church’s social-action agenda in the wake of a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling making most abortions legal.”We (the bishops’ pro-life committee) are going to look at that previous plan and build on it,”Law said, adding that the anti-euthanasia effort will include grassroots involvement among the nation’s Catholics. The church has always opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide, but the decision to move the issue close to the top of the bishops’ public policy agenda was prompted by a March 6 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

COMMENTARY: Worshiping the American dream

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J.) (RNS)-Nearly 50 years ago, a book titled”The God That Failed”described how communism fell short of its egalitarian ideals. As seen through the eyes of six former communist intellectuals, communism represented”a vision of the Kingdom of God on earth,”a vision at odds with the sinfulness of those who controlled the Communist Party. What was true of communism can also be said of the American dream.

TOP STORY: TRENDS AND RESEARCH: Do pollster’s religious beliefs affect his research?

c. 1996 Religion News Service PRINCETON, N.J. (RNS)-The Gallup Poll, known worldwide as a barometer of public opinion, helps America pick its presidents and form its policies. Over the past four decades, however, the heir to the Gallup name has focused on a higher power as he has carved a niche for himself in the family business. In the downtown Princeton, N.J., offices of the polling company, George Gallup Jr. has focused on religion trends. The research relies on the poll his father made famous, but it has been shaped by Gallup’s own deeply held religious beliefs.

COMMENTARY: Memories of two Seders, bitter and sweet

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-I always look forward to the Passover Seder and to the stories, prayers, foods and songs of this festive family meal. But when Passover begins on Wednesday evening (April 3), I will be looking back. The year is 1943 and two very different Passover observances are taking place, one in Pennsylvania, the other in Poland. And my memories are saturated with sorrow and with joy.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND FOOD: A gourmet Seder reveals chef’s Jewish roots

c. 1996 Religion News Service VAIL, Colo. (RNS)-Why is this night different from all other nights? On this night we hold the Passover Seder at a posh ski resort in the Rockies. Like devoted Jewish cooks around the world, award-winning chef Jim Cohen will be in his kitchen Thursday, April 4, lovingly preparing a Seder, the Passover feast described in Chapter 12 of the biblical Book of Exodus and the most beloved of Jewish family rituals.

COMMENTARY: One man works, another man begs

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Frederica Mathewes-Green is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. She is the author of the recent book”Real Choices,”is active in the National Women’s Coalition for Life and is a frequent contributor to Christianity Today magazine.) (RNS)-Six lanes go east and six go west, and they go and go; cars pause briefly for the row of stoplights swinging overhead, then plunge forward in a wave. In the midst of the highway is a narrow, weedy strip of green. Standing on the strip are two men.

Watchdog group says Texas church got political

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-A church-state watchdog group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Houston’s Second Baptist Church-an influential, 22,000-member Southern Baptist congregation-for allegedly engaging in partisan political activities in violation of the federal tax code. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Tuesday (March 19) that Second Baptist sponsored a”political operation”designed to bolster the influence of conservative Christians over the Texas presidential convention delegate selection process. However, Judy Craig, who directed the project for Second Baptist, said Lynn had”mischaracterized”her church’s Nehemiah Project, named for the Old Testament figure who rebuilt Jerusalem in the 5th century B.C. The Nehemiah Project, Craig said, was nothing more than”an effective way to teach good citizenship”in connection with the March 12 Texas presidential primary and the precinct-level delegate selection conventions also held that day.”Its purpose was to encourage voting and to encourage participation in the party precinct conventions,”Craig said.”Nothing else.” At a Washington news conference, Lynn said Second Baptist distributed material that directed church members to vote at their Republican Party precinct conventions for specific slates of delegates identified as religious conservatives.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Mayors: Hate crimes not major part of urban crime woes (RNS)-The U.S. Conference of Mayors said Tuesday (March 19) a survey of 172 of its member-cities showed hate crimes are not considered a major part of most cities’ crime problem.”Nearly half of the cities surveyed view hate crimes as a minor part of their overall crime problem,”Mayor Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, Mo., told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”The other half is evenly divided between those who say it is average in terms of magnitude and those who say it is not a problem.””Some officials (in the survey) commented, however, that while numbers of hate crimes may not be large, the impact of these crimes on the community can be significant, especially where violence is involved,”Cleaver said. Cleaver said the survey also showed that 15 percent of the surveyed cities reported an increase in hate crimes in 1995 compared with 1992, when the conference first studied the issue. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said hate crimes were down in their jurisdictions from 1992, and the remaining 61 said the number of hate crimes is the same now as in 1992. The Judiciary Committee is considering legislation to permanently re-authorize the Hate Crime Statistics Act, enacted in 1992, under which the Justice Department collects information on hate crimes from local and state jurisdictions.

Publicity-shy priests guide two Catholic papers

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Two national Catholic newspapers sold last year to a group with ties to an obscure priestly order, the Legion of Christ, have moved from California to Connecticut. And the New Haven suburbs have become the U.S. base for the priests, familiarly known as the Legionaries, one of Catholicism’s rapidly growing orders. Though not directly owned by the Legionaries, an order known for developing lay ministries, the news-oriented National Catholic Register and features-heavy Twin Circle appear to be under their spiritual guidance. The two right-of-center weeklies, each with a circulation of 20,000, were purchased in mid-1995 from longtime owner Patrick Frawley of Los Angeles and moved to Connecticut in February.

COMMENTARY: Lights are dimming in the city on a hill

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 at 71421,1551(at sign)compuserve.com.) (RNS)-Some people may be unnerved by Pope John Paul II’s assertion that we are members of a”culture of death,”but to me it is disturbingly precise. Those who doubt the existence of this culture of death are able to drive unblinking past abortion clinics.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Supreme Court to hear abortion protest limits case (RNS)-The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday (March 18) to review a case challenging whether a judge may impose a 15-foot buffer zone to keep anti-abortion demonstrators away from health facilities where abortions are performed. The 15-foot buffer zone is being challenged as a violation of the demonstrators’ free speech rights. In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled judges can bar even peaceful demonstrators from getting too close to abortion clinics. In that case, the justices upheld a buffer zone keeping demonstrators 36 feet away from a Florida abortion clinic.

NEWS FEATURE: A controversial church and the poorest people on earth

c. 1996 Religion News Service MAPUTO, Mozambique (RNS)-A young preacher paces the stage of the dilapidated Xenon cinema in downtown Maputo as a stereo gently plays a version of”Onward Christian Soldiers.” Over the next hour the preacher urges the packed audience to give all to God.”Give your love to your enemies and give generously to the church,”he declares. A score of”pastors,”dressed in nearly identical dark slacks, crisp white shirts and ties, crisscross the audience, taking up tithes. Welcome to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND CULTURE: Is ET having a close encounter with the Holy Land?

c. 1996 The Jerusalem Report (RNS)-On Sunday, January 8, 1995, Herzl Ksantini was relaxing at home with a buddy in a small farming community in central Israel.”It was an ordinary evening on our moshav (village),”he says,”until suddenly, at 9 p.m., the house began to shake. It was like an earth tremor.” Ksantini opened the front door to investigate and came”face-to-face with a three-meter monster.”His friend tried to peek out through a window in the kids’ bedroom, but was thrown to the ground. Half a minute later, the”monster”was gone.