RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Third Day to Perform at Republican National Convention (RNS) The Christian rock band Third Day will be among the performers at the Republican National Convention. Third Day, which has won Grammy and Dove Awards, will share a prime-time slot with Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 1 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The band, which previously partnered with the Republican National Committee on encouraging young people to vote, reiterated its support for President Bush in an announcement of its plans.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Third Day to Perform at Republican National Convention (RNS) The Christian rock band Third Day will be among the performers at the Republican National Convention. Third Day, which has won Grammy and Dove Awards, will share a prime-time slot with Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 1 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The band, which previously partnered with the Republican National Committee on encouraging young people to vote, reiterated its support for President Bush in an announcement of its plans.

NEWS STORY: Stem Cell Research Emerges as Key Issue in New Poll

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A majority of American voters now support embryonic stem cell research, according to a new poll released Tuesday (Aug. 24), including 56 percent of “swing voters” who could be wooed by John Kerry’s embrace of the research. Support for the research has inched up nine points in two years, to 52 percent of all Americans. Support has grown across the board, including among groups like evangelical Protestants and active churchgoers where majorities still oppose the research.

NEWS FEATURE: After Three Years Some Groups Still Aiding Sept. 11 Victims

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The United Services Group, a New York City humanitarian consortium that helped victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, closed up shop on July 31. But that doesn’t mean the long-term relief work is anywhere near over. Stephen Solender, who served as chief executive officer of the group coordinating a range of religious, secular and ethnic groups, estimates that the cases of thousands of people still in need have been referred to social service agencies in the New York region.

COMMENTARY: How Would Jesus Vote?

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant, managing large-scale database implementations. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham, N.C. Visit his Web site at http://www.onajourney.org.) (UNDATED) Campaign 2004 takes me back to college and another election year. We were smart, well-informed, not conspicuously wise, shallow in experience but enthusiastic about the future. At first, we joined national debates along the lines being presented.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Bishops Advise Catholic Voters on Political Choices WASHINGTON (RNS) The nation’s Catholic bishops have distributed 10 questions that voters should ask political candidates, but cautioned they “should not isolate a particular element of Catholic doctrine” and ignore other issues. On Friday (Aug. 20), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops distributed the two-page statement “The Challenge of Faithful Citizenship” as an optional insert for weekly bulletins distributed in America’s 19,000 Catholic parishes. “The question should not be, `Are you better off than you were four years ago?’

NEWS FEATURE: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust: Author Explores `Gospel According to Disney’

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In 1940, if you were a wood carver in a Disney animated film who needed to bring life to a puppet named Pinocchio, you would look to the heavens and wish upon a star _ where dreams, not prayers, come true. But, if it’s 2002 and you’re a little Hawaiian girl named Lilo who needs a friend, you might kneel by your bedside and actually pray for an angel _ “the nicest angel you have.” So goes “The Gospel According to Disney,” according to Mark Pinsky, the religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel who previously explored “The Gospel According to The Simpsons” in a 2001 runaway hit. His new book (Westminster John Knox Press, $14.95, 286 pages) chronicles two sides of the same story: an unchanging message of “faith, trust and pixie dust” at the heart of the Disney gospel, and an evolving treatment of overt religion that has matured over time. From the magic spells of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to the vaguely Hindu and Buddhist-inspired theology of “The Lion King” in 1994, it is almost as if Mickey Mouse has left Fantasyland for a meeting of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

NEWS STORY: Evangelist to Jews Drops Lawsuit Against University

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) An evangelist who was once asked to leave the University of New Orleans for distributing controversial religious material has dropped her lawsuit against the school after it adopted a policy that permits her to resume her work. Michelle Beadle, who describes herself as a Jew who believes in the divinity of Christ, sued the university in July 2003. Some months earlier, a staff member asked her to leave while she was passing out religious literature that said “Jews should believe in Jesus.” Beadle is a missionary for the Christian Jew Foundation Ministries, which has its national headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. The organization’s aim, according to its Web site, is to “reach Jewish people with the Gospel of Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus the Messiah.” The group and others like it across the country are composed in large part of people like Beadle _ Jews who have converted to Christianity, but who seek to maintain their Jewish ethnic and cultural identity.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Chinese Detain L.A.-Based Buddhist Leader, Catholic Priests (RNS) A Los Angeles-based Buddhist leader and eight underground Catholic priests have been detained by the Chinese government in what human rights groups call an apparent crackdown on religious freedom. Yu Tianjian, a “living Buddha” who has been the abbot of Dari Rulai Temple in Los Angeles for five years, was detained Aug. 11 before ceremonies to rededicate an 800-year-old temple in Inner Mongolia. Don Kendall, a Yu aide who traveled with him to China, told The Washington Post that Chinese officials charged Yu with “promoting superstition” and abruptly closed the temple, which Yu’s Buddhist Foundation of America had spent $3 million renovating.

NEWS FEATURE: Pastor Climbed Out of the Bottle, Into the Pulpit

c. 2004 Religion News Service FLINT, Mich. Thomas Tarpley was only 4 when he got drunk on homemade wine. By the time he was in his mid-20s, the high school dropout had tried just about every kind of booze and drugs as a full-blown alcoholic. Today, Tarpley, 62, is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Flint.

COMMENTARY: Sorrow’s Bystanders

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of “Cardinal Bernardin’s Stations of the Cross,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) On a recent Sunday, Fox Television aired a program on the possibility of the world’s running out of oil, repeating what we already know: We use too much, reserves are finite and cannot be replaced, there is more demand than supply, and in the long run, the problem is paid for by ordinary people trying to lead ordinary lives. And on a recent Friday, almost every television station aired a program on the impossibility of the world’s ever running out of sorrow, also repeating what we already know: We use too much, reserves are infinite and are never used up, and although there is an overwhelming supply and no demand, life is awash in it. And, in the long run, the problem is borne by ordinary people trying to lead ordinary lives.

COMMENTARY: Old and New Religious Crusades at a Theater Near You

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) Next year 20th Century Fox will release a $130 million epic film about Christians battling Muslims in the Middle East. Sound contemporary? Is the movie based on the current armed struggle in Iraq? Is it a documentary?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Sudan Crisis Is Worst Disaster on Planet, a Top Bishop Says (RNS) The refugee and military crisis in Sudan is without question the most dire humanitarian situation anywhere in the world, according to a top Catholic bishop who recently returned from a visit to the war-torn country. Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee, said the international community must not wait for formal declarations of ethnic cleansing or genocide before acting. “I don’t think it matters very much to the people who are affected what name we give this,” Ricard told reporters on a conference call. “What’s clear is this is a massive, very serious, very dangerous situation that needs the attention of the international community.” The United Nations estimates that almost 1.4 million Sudanese have been displaced _ including 180,000 who have fled to neighboring Chad _ in ongoing violence committed by government-backed Arab militias against black African tribes.

NEWS FEATURE: Former Football Saint Takes Hit, Bounces Back With Higher Power

c. 2004 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Danny Abramowicz never does things halfway. As an undersized but furiously competitive end on the football team at Xavier University in Ohio in the mid-1960s, he “worked out like a maniac.” Doing isometric exercises at his mother-in-law’s house one day, he accidentally ripped out several feet of molding. Against all odds, he caught on in professional football _ and became an All-Pro receiver famous for wringing every drop of advantage out of his gifts. After football, he started drinking _ and became an alcoholic.

NEWS FEATURE: Book Asks: What Kind of Civil Religion Will We Have?

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In her new book “Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith and Citizenship” (Jossey-Bass), Diana Butler Bass calls believers to examine U.S. actions and policies in light of Christian teaching and tradition. As the nation’s two major political parties try to link ideologies and presidential candidates to having the right kind of faith, the proper form of patriotism, Butler Bass recommends pausing amid the cacophony. The issue isn’t whether we will have civil religion, but what kind of civil religion we will have, she says. Going back to the days of Abraham Lincoln, Butler Bass notes that the famous Civil War-era president did not invoke faith for his cause, but reflected on the complexities of faith and nationhood for the Union and for the Confederacy.