TV’s New Religious Saga Doesn’t Go by the Book

c. 2005 Religion News Service LOS ANGELES _ Back when Jack Kenny was a good Catholic boy, he was taught to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So when he wrote a TV show about a troubled Episcopal priest, he made Jesus his main character’s best friend. In Kenny’s “The Book of Daniel,” which NBC just picked up for midseason, Aidan Quinn plays Connecticut-bred Daniel Webster. Daniel is a good minister and a good man, but that’s not always enough to deal with his life.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Religious Conservatives Disappointed in Frist’s New Stem-Cell View WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious conservatives are expressing disappointment over Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s announcement that he supports expansion of federally funded embryonic stem cell research. In a lengthy floor speech Friday (July 29), the Tennessee Republican declared his stance based on his knowledge as a medical doctor and his personal, “pro-life” beliefs. “I believe human life begins at conception,” he said, according to remarks prepared for delivery that were posted on his Web site. “This position is consistent with my faith.

COMMENTARY: Promise Keepers Have Much to Teach Us

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The first Promise Keeper I met was Carl Hutchins. In the summer of 1995, I drove from Atlanta down country roads, past open fields and barbecue shacks to meet him at Zion Hill Baptist Church, an old brick building between a cemetery and an overgrown baseball field in rural Buford, Ga. The old Carl Hutchins was a strict disciplinarian who spent little time with his children, he told me then. This new Christian men’s movement helped him reorder his priorities, he said, to become a better husband and father.

U.S. Muslim Groups Denounce Terrorism, but Is the Message Connecting?

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “Why haven’t Muslim leaders condemned terrorism?” This is the most common question that Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), gets daily basis from media and other inquirers. Nearly four years after September 11, 2001, Muslim organizations disagree on the best way to battle the perception that they are soft on terrorists who attack in their religion’s name. At issue is the public relations strategy of U.S. Muslim groups. At stake is the way Americans view the world’s second largest religion, with more than 1 billion adherents, as the U.S. wages a global war on terrorism.

NBC picks up religious series; update on Muslim reaction to terrorism

Friday RNS is featuring a review of “The Book of Daniel,” a religious saga picked up by NBC for mid-season. “In it, Aidan Quinn plays the Rev. Daniel Webster, a good minister but one who’s addicted to Vicodin, and whose wife has frozen inside since one of their sons died, and whose other son is gay, and whose daughter Grace is dealing marijuana. In moments of stress, Jesus turns up-in the passenger seat of Daniel’s station wagon, in the bedroom hallway, outside the church-to offer his counsel. So, yeah, ‘Book of Daniel’ is going to be controversial.” We’re also running an update of Tuesday’s story on how Muslim groups are repudiating terrorism, with recent denunciations and Thursday’s fatwa against terrorism.

NBC picks up religious series; update on Muslim reaction to terrorism

Friday RNS is featuring a review of “The Book of Daniel,” a religious saga picked up by NBC for mid-season. “In it, Aidan Quinn plays the Rev. Daniel Webster, a good minister but one who’s addicted to Vicodin, and whose wife has frozen inside since one of their sons died, and whose other son is gay, and whose daughter Grace is dealing marijuana. In moments of stress, Jesus turns up-in the passenger seat of Daniel’s station wagon, in the bedroom hallway, outside the church-to offer his counsel. So, yeah, ‘Book of Daniel’ is going to be controversial.” We’re also running an update of Tuesday’s story on how Muslim groups are repudiating terrorism, with recent denunciations and Thursday’s fatwa against terrorism.

Counting all victims of terrorism

An editorial from the Jerusalem Post “Even if near-daily shelling of civilians in southern Israel with rocket and mortar fire doesn’t count for him (Pope Benedict XVI), then surely the suicide bombing which took five lives in Netanya earlier this month was no less reprehensible than what happened in the countries the pope did see fit to mention.” -The Jerusalem Post, lambasting Pope Benedict XVI in an editorial for not mentioning Israel in a list of countries that had been victims of terrorism.

Counting all victims of terrorism

An editorial from the Jerusalem Post “Even if near-daily shelling of civilians in southern Israel with rocket and mortar fire doesn’t count for him (Pope Benedict XVI), then surely the suicide bombing which took five lives in Netanya earlier this month was no less reprehensible than what happened in the countries the pope did see fit to mention.” -The Jerusalem Post, lambasting Pope Benedict XVI in an editorial for not mentioning Israel in a list of countries that had been victims of terrorism.

Christian Rock ‘n’ Roll Soars to New Heights

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A rock ‘n’ roll revival? Better believe it. Soaring sales mean that Christian rock is elbowing its way onto the forefront of the Christian music industry. The rest of the music world is also paying attention, as big labels in New York and Los Angeles come calling on now-unheard-of acts they hope will become tomorrow’s P.O.D. or Switchfoot.

Changing Habits

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Popular art has often imitated religious life in the last 60 years, offering some glimpses into the changing habits of American nuns. In 1945, Ingrid Bergman portrayed a sympathetic but more authoritative religious superior going back and forth with Bing Crosby in “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” The joyous smile of Sally Field in the television show “The Flying Nun” captured the optimism and youthful vitality of religious life in the mid-’60s, when the number of nuns was at an all-time high. It was also a time when Julie Andrews’ musical portrayal of a caring novice in “The Sound of Music” helped that film surpass “Gone With the Wind” as the all-time box-office champ and had lots of young girls considering life in the convent.

COMMENTARY: Questions for a Judge Raise Questions for Catholics

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A year ago, in a summer set sizzling more than this one by presidential politics, America’s Catholic bishops were heavily criticized for questioning Catholic John Kerry about how he squared his profession of Catholic faith with his profession of support for “a woman’s right to choose,” aka abortion rights. The bishops, with their gift for finding specks in the eyes of others while missing the lumber in their own (think sex abuse crisis), quickly found their own credibility questioned. They didn’t help themselves by blurring their own question in a long debate over whether pro-choice Catholic officeholders should be denied the Eucharist. That made senators seem more sympathetic and the bishops more like harsh bankers foreclosing on the homestead of faith.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service British Hindus Say Language Requirement Is Limiting Number of Priests LONDON (RNS) Britain’s 140 Hindu temples say they are having trouble recruiting pujaris _ Indian priests trained in temple rituals _ because of a national law that mandates clergy be able to speak English. In Birmingham, the Shri Venkateswara Balaji temple, now nearing completion, says it needs eight pujaris but has only five. Since 2004, the British government has required foreign-born ministers of religion to have at least a basic grasp of English and, if they are to stay for more than two years, to be fluent in the language. That often creates problems for pujaris in obtaining visas, since many cannot speak English.

Young Nuns Look Beyond Sally Field and Maria Von Trapp

c. 2005 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ Think Debbie Reynolds riding a motor scooter and singing “Dominique” in “The Singing Nun.” Or Sally Field soaring in and out of trouble as “The Flying Nun.” Or Julie Andrews being late for prayer because the hills were alive with “The Sound of Music.” Religious life seemed a lot simpler in the mid-1960s. The popular cultural image of happy young nuns gently testing boundaries set by older sisters in bustling convents reflected a high point when the number of American sisters stretched toward 180,000. It is not so easy being young in religious life today. Over the past four decades, the numbers in religious orders have declined rapidly even as the median ages of their sisters jumped into the 70s.

COMMENTARY: It’s All About Abortion, All the Time

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It’s all about abortion, all day, all night, all week, all month, all year, all the time. Abortion is the most fevered issue in American life, even surpassing national defense, the fight against Islamic terrorism, and the financial status of Social Security, drug use, health care insurance and education. Want proof? Try these two names and you’ll see what I mean: Eric Rudolph, and John Roberts.

Christian rock & roll soars to new heights

Thursday’s top RNS story is about the revival of Christian rock. Not only is it surging ahead in the Christian music industry, but big mainstream labels are also catching on. Improved musical chops, impressive fan bases cultivated by constant touring, and artists who don’t trash hotel rooms are all part of the draw, according to label execs like Capitol Records’ Jaime Feldman.