COMMENTARY: Beware the pride of demographic victimization

c. 1997 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and a sociologist at the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center. Check out his home page at http://www.agreeley.com or contact him via e-mail at agreel(at)aol.com.) UNDATED _ There is a new kind of pride. Sociologists might call it the pride of demographic victimization. You see it when a person argues from a demographic attribute such as race or ethnicity _ an attribute one person in the argument possess and the other does not.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1997 Religion News Service Rosalynn Carter urges greater attention to care of dying (RNS) Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has been named honorary chair of a new coalition aimed at improving the care of Americans who are dying. The coalition, called Last Acts, is made up of organizations representing religious groups, the medical community, consumer groups, hospice caretakers and volunteers. In announcing the formation of the new group, Carter said it would help insure that”fewer people die alone, in pain, and attached to machines, with the result that more people and their loved ones can experience dying for what it ought to be _ the last act in the journey of life.” The group was launched following the Supreme Court’s decision to rule on two cases involving doctor-assisted suicide and to address problems outlined in a recent medical journal article reporting that most Americans experience pain, breathlessness or confusion in their last days.

COMMENTARY: America needs a `theology of pluralism’

c. 1997 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee). UNDATED _ A recent conference at one of America’s largest divinity school, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., brought together leaders of two religious groups _ Jews and evangelical Christians _ that have often been strangers to one another in the United States. Over the past 200 years, evangelical Christians and Jews have moved past each other like proverbial”ships in the night,”never really encountering each other as vibrant faith communities and because of this limited contact, negative images and stereotypes have frequently characterized their relations. Can anyone honestly believe terms such as”redneck,””cracker,””Elmer Gantry,”or”bigot”fairly describe contemporary evangelical Christians?

NEWS FEATURE: Conservative Catholics say”Common Ground”may be trimmed

c. 1997 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ The Common Ground Project, an effort launched by the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago to promote dialogue and overcome divisions on sensitive pastoral and theological issues within the Roman Catholic Church, has been criticized by conservatives since its inception. Now, some of those critics are saying they have won concessions from Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala., the new leader of the project, to keep some of the most volatile issues _ women’s ordination and homosexuality, for example _ off the table. Lipscomb, however, says he hasn’t ruled anybody out of the discussions. Hudson Deal, editor of the independent, conservative magazine Crisis said that Lipscomb, in a forthcoming interview with the magazine, says issues such as women’s ordination, married priests, gays and abortion”will not be elements of the discussion …

NEWS STORY: Religious leaders press for campaign finance reform

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A broad coalition of religious leaders Thursday (Feb. 13), saying that reform of the system for financing elections is”a moral matter,”called on Congress to pass legislation to change the system.”The present system of financing elections has become a major scandal,”the religious leaders said in an open letter to Congress.”It gives at least the appearance that the president, senators and representatives are willing to sell their values and votes, as well as the integrity of their offices, for the sake of campaign contributions.”Campaign finance reform is not simply a political or public relations dilemma but a moral matter,”the religious leaders said, adding that the lawmakers had an”inescapable duty: to address the widescale cynicism that is undercutting our faith in government.” The religious leaders voiced their support for reform legislation that has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1997 Religion News Service Report: Teen pregnancies down around the world; U.S. still high (RNS) The rate of young women who become pregnant before the age of 20 is down in many parts of the world compared to 20 years ago, a new report said Wednesday (Feb. 12). But of all the industrialized nations, the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy.”We see encouraging signs that young women are more likely to delay childbearing,”said Jeannie Rosoff, president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit research group that released the report.”Although this progress is uneven, much change has taken place within a short time period, indicating enormous potential for swifter change if more is done to support adolescents and their life-altering decisions.” As examples of the decline, the report said that in the Dominican Republic, teen childbearing is down to 33 percent among women now in their 20s compared to 52 percent for women aged 40-44 who had given birth as adolescents.

NEWS STORY: Orthodox Jewish feminists redefining a male-dominated faith

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Orthodox Judaism is viewed by most as a male-dominated faith in which women are constrained by the dictates of traditional Jewish law. Given that, the term Orthodox feminist would seem to be an oxymoron. But not to Blu Greenberg. To her, Orthodox feminist is a term whose time has come.”An Orthodox feminist is someone faithful to tradition, who functions within the community, who lives within the parameters of halacha (traditional Jewish law), but who is also informed by such values as equal potential and equal access.”She’s about equality within distinctive roles for men and women,”said Greenberg, author of a groundbreaking book on Orthodox feminism,”On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition.”

COMMENTARY: The real mission of the church

c. 1997 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.) UNDATED _ A recent incident involving one of my inmate congregants sheds light on the need for the church to concentrate more on the spiritual than the political. A large, muscular black man with a history of hypertension, my friend was recently rushed to the hospital with stroke symptoms and an extremely high blood pressure level. While being treated in the emergency room, he was advised that, though his symptoms were minor and recovery was likely, full use of his limbs might not be restored for six months.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1997 Religion News Service Kuwaiti man reportedly renounces conversion to Christianity (RNS) A Kuwaiti man who became the focus of international Christian concern after a Muslim religious court declared him an apostate for converting to Christianity has reportedly reverted to being a Muslim. Al-Rai al-Aam, a newspaper in Kuwait, quoted Robert Hussein on Friday (Jan. 31) as telling a Muslim cleric that he had renounced his conversion to Christianity and was once again a practicing Muslim. Reuter news agency said the Kuwaiti newspaper quoted Hussein as saying:”I clear myself from any religion that contradicts with Islam.”

NEWS FEATURE: Religious rumors remarkably enduring

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Some religious rumors are fly-by-night. Chances are if you missed the bogus”Associated Press”wire story on the Internet about Microsoft acquiring the Roman Catholic Church, you won’t be hearing any more about on-line absolution. But many religious rumors, from reports of satanic corporate symbols to devil worshipers who sacrifice children, have remarkable staying power despite the evidence debunking them. During the past 15 years, for example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received hundreds of thousands of calls and letters about a fake petition allegedly circulated by atheist-activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair pressuring the FCC to ban religious programming.