Marilynne Robinson on Theology and Fiction

c. 2005 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (UNDATED) Marilynne Robinson’s novel “Gilead” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23) is about the Rev. John Ames, a Congregational minister in Iowa who in 1956 begins writing a letter to his young son, an account of himself and forebears. It won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction. Religion & Ethics Newsweekly editor Missy Daniel talked to Robinson about the twin arts of fiction and theology: Q: There is such deep empathy in “Gilead” for the pastor and the preacher. What attracts you to pastors?

Marilynne Robinson’s `Gilead’ _ In Praise of Ordinary Time

c. 2005 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (UNDATED) “A good sermon,” Marilynne Robinson writes, “is one side of a passionate conversation.” It has to be heard in that way. So, too, a good novel. It is a conversation between the novelist, the reader and _ as in the case of a sermon, perhaps, for some _ God. That may be true of all first-rate fiction, whether acknowledged or not, because the best novels are always a dialogue _ sometimes an argument, perhaps a prayer _ with the world and its meaning.

Family of Accused Pastor Horrified by Rape Charges

c. 2005 Religion News Service HAMMOND, La. _ As a boy, family members recalled, Louis David Lamonica never cursed or smoked. He was called to serve the Lord, said his sister Liz Lamonica Roberts, and he wanted to be a preacher just like his daddy. So when news broke that Lamonica, 45, and seven other members of his church in Hammond were arrested for allegedly participating in, or failing to report, sex acts with children and animals, family members were horrified.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Former Church Official Says Vatican Owes Victims an Apology (RNS) The former director of the Catholic bishops’ sexual abuse prevention office said the Vatican owes victims a high-level apology, and urged the church to consider allowing priests to marry to meet a “deep, normal need” for intimacy. Kathleen McChesney, who left in February as director of the bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, said victims and their families need an “overdue” apology from the Vatican, including from Pope Benedict XVI. “The repeated, generic expressions of sorrow made by bishops have been well received, but acts and words of compassion and understanding from the Holy See itself are greatly needed,” McChesney wrote in the May 30 edition of America magazine, a Jesuit weekly. McChesney said the new pope should be well-acquainted with the abuse scandal since he was the prefect of the Vatican office with jurisdiction over all abuse cases prior to his election as pope.

New Play Humanizes Survivors of 1978 Mass Suicide in Jonestown

c. 2005 Religion News Service BERKELEY, Calif. _ Night after night, it is the moment when the 600-seat theater falls as still as a cemetery. “And I started walking up to the back of the pavilion and I got up to where the swings were and I saw bodies,” says James Carpenter, an actor portraying Tim Carter, a survivor of Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones were poisoned in 1978. “Children’s bodies …

New Play Humanizes Survivors of 1978 Mass Suicide in Jonestown

c. 2005 Religion News Service BERKELEY, Calif. _ Night after night, it is the moment when the 600-seat theater falls as still as a cemetery. “And I started walking up to the back of the pavilion and I got up to where the swings were and I saw bodies,” says James Carpenter, an actor portraying Tim Carter, a survivor of Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones were poisoned in 1978. “Children’s bodies …

COMMENTARY: Grand Vision for Ground Zero Grounded

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Within a few moments at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, everything changed for all of us. In the long years since, however, so little has changed there that the Wall Street Journal describes the site in lower Manhattan as “an empty canyon.” The vast space has become poet Matthew Arnold’s “darkling plain,” not “where ignorant armies clash by night” but where money-obsessed tycoons battle by day. We are singed by what another poet describes as “fires in the burden’d air,” ignited by the skirmishes between those who want to construct more retail stores and those who want offices instead.

COMMENTARY: Clergy Should Leave Politicking to Politicians

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Being a religious cheerleader for politicians and their policies does not appear in any clergy job description. One hopes that’s the lesson learned by the Rev. Chan Chandler, the 33-year-old minister who recently lost his job as pastor of the East Waynesville (N.C.) Baptist Church. Shortly before last year’s presidential election, Chandler admonished his congregation: “If you vote for John Kerry this year, you need to repent or resign. You have been holding back God’s church way too long.” Chandler, a strong supporter of President Bush, was upset with Kerry’s support of abortion rights.

Religious Investors Pressure Wal-Mart With Shareholder Resolution

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is already facing a massive class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit, an $11 million legal settlement of a federal investigation of labor practices, $3.1 million in fines for violations of the Clean Water Act and allegations of executive misuse of funds. Now the giant retailer must face religious investors who say the company is long overdue to reassess its business model in light of controversial labor practices and policies that impact communities and the environment. A June 3 shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., will include a vote on a resolution backed by members of the New York-based Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which wants the retailer to study itself regarding a variety of ethical issues. According to the Rev. David M. Schilling, director of global accountability for ICCR, the group was founded in 1971 to “bring the faith communities’ concerns related to human rights, environmental issues and economic development to the companies religious institutions invest in.” The coalition, made up of a wide range of religious institutions, has launched successful campaigns against overseas labor practices at Gap Inc. (owner of the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores) and Nike Inc. It has also campaigned on practices at General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Dell Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Southern Baptist Pastor Apologizes for Anti-Muslim Sign (RNS) A Southern Baptist pastor apologized for posting an anti-Muslim sign at his church in North Carolina, following criticism by leaders in the Muslim-American community. Creighton Lovelace said he regretted posting a message that read, “The Koran needs to be flushed,” according to a Wednesday (May 25) report by Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, which quoted a written statement made by Lovelace. Lovelace, pastor of Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City, N.C., said he was unaware that the Quran was so highly valued and “that devoted Muslims view it more highly than many in the U.S. view the Bible.” Lovelace said he now realized how “offensive” his actions were. He decided to remove the sign after praying about it.

Second-grader’s Family Sues Public School Over Denial of Christian Song

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The talent show went on without Olivia Turton’s rendition of “Awesome God.” The second-grader wasn’t allowed to sing the Christian pop tune, but her family isn’t giving up their legal fight for her right to sing a religious song in a public school. “It’s tough when you censor … 8-year-olds,” said Maryann Turton, Olivia’s mother, who challenged the Frenchtown, N.J., school district when it struck the song from a list of acts performed Friday (May 20). In court filings, Maryann and Robert Turton say their daughter was in tears when she learned on May 10 her song could not be in the show.

Christians Push Nonviolence in Holy Land, Critics Cry They’re Taking Sides

c. 2005 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Sally Hunsberger, a Washington-based statistician, doesn’t spend much of her precious vacation time with her husband and two children. That’s because Hunsberger, 41, has made a three-year commitment to be a “Christian Peacemaker,” a voluntary role that requires travel to the Middle East as often as possible to assist beleaguered Palestinians. Critics say Hunsberger’s religious organization, and others like it, have taken sides in the thorny Arab-Israeli conflict. But Hunsberger says she is merely living out biblical values.

Medical Student Starts New Religion Claiming No Absolute Truths _ Universism

c. 2005 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ Ford Vox started a religion in his spare time. He calls it Universism and is recruiting atheists, deists, freethinkers and others who can rally around the notion that no universal religious truth exists and that the meaning of existence must be determined by each individual. Vox, a University of Alabama at Birmingham medical student, says Christianity, Islam and to a lesser extent other world religions are harmful because they attempt to impose their own version of moral certainty on others.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service WCC Appeals to Libya to Spare Lives of Six Health Workers (RNS) The World Council of Churches has appealed to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to spare the lives of six medical workers after a court found them guilty of deliberately infecting some 400 children with HIV. Forty children died. The health workers _ a Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses _ have insisted on their innocence and said they were tortured by police. “We are deeply disturbed at the sentencing to death of six health workers …

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Best Buy to Curb Violent Video Games, to Applause of Catholic Investors (RNS) Christian Brothers Investment Services announced Thursday (May 19) that it has withdrawn a shareholder resolution on violent video games that it filed with Best Buy Co. Inc. because the retailer has established a policy to restrict the sales of such games to youths. The New York-based consulting company, which fosters responsible Catholic financial decisions, said it was encouraged by the developments by the Minneapolis-based company to address video sales. “We are pleased with the progress to date at the company and commend Best Buy for improving its business practices in this area,” said Julie Tanner, corporate advocacy director for Christian Brothers Investment Services, in a statement.