Evangelicals Take Political Uneasiness Public

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A new crop of books features a small but vocal group of evangelicals with a warning for members of their faith: Unless they sever political alliances and forgo blind adherence on hot-button issues, they run the risk of displeasing God and undermining their Christian convictions. The authors, who range from pastors to professors, theologians to laymen, have two things in common _ all are evangelicals, and they all say close ties to any political party undermine their God-ordained mission to live out a gospel of brotherly love and compassion. The subtitle of one book, “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Minnesota megachurch pastor Gregory Boyd, sums up the general thesis of the others: “How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church.” While unease with Christianity’s coziness with politics is not new, what’s unusual is the public nature of the criticism. No longer are grievances aired privately between evangelical church and ministry leaders.

Different strokes for different folks

Quote of the Day: Willow Creek Community Church Pastor Bill Hybels “I’m not an arm waver and a clapper and a dancer. Music doesn’t do that to me, although it stirs me inside.” -The Rev. Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, a South Barrington, Ill.-based megachurch, speaking about how he chooses to stand, eyes closed in contemplation, while others in his sanctuary sway and wave their arms in praise. He was quoted by the Chicago Tribune.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Forum Concludes: Action on Hunger Issue Could Overcome Partisan Divisions WASHINGTON (RNS) A ranking official of the U.N. food program urged Americans on Tuesday (Sept. 19) to unite behind the transcendant issue of world hunger. “Why is it that when there is so much need, when we are called upon by our faith to be our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper, we are not stepping up to the plate?” said Sheila Sisulu, deputy executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. “I don’t have the answers to that question except to say we need to redouble our efforts.” Sisulu, along with former Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, addressed a small group at the Library of Congress as part of the 4th Annual Capps-Emerson Forum for Bipartisan Bridge Building.

GUEST COMMENTARY: God Cannot _ And Must Not _ Be Held Hostage By One Political Party

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) This weekend in Washington, partisan preachers are gathering with religious Republicans for what they call a “Values Voter Summit.” The elected officials speaking are all, without exception, Republican. Do these political preachers from across the country move in such small circles that their slate of speakers is devoid of Democrats? They probably would say that Democrats don’t hold their values. Their values seem to start with abortion and gay marriage and end with school prayer.

10 Minutes With … Sam Harris

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In a country where a recent study showed that nine out of 10 Americans are affiliated with some sort of religious group, a book that takes an uncompromising stance against religion _ all of them _ has a good chance of getting relegated to the remainder pile. Sam Harris’ first book, “The End of Faith,” was written in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when he concluded that religious moderates’ tolerance had allowed religious extremism to flourish. It became a best-seller.

Some Americans See an Unwavering Ally in God

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) One out of five Americans believe in a God who favors the United States in worldly affairs. Among those believers, Republicans are four times as numerous as Democrats. These findings in a sweeping new survey of American religious beliefs conducted for Baylor University underscore the relationship between religion and politics in 21st century America. Nineteen percent of the 1,721 people surveyed said they either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “God favors the United States in worldly affairs.” Paul Froese, an assistant professor who teaches the sociology of religion at Baylor _ a Baptist institution in Waco, Texas _ helped devise the survey questions.

`Jesus Camp’ is More Camp Than Jesus

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Parents want their children to think for themselves. Just not yet. Before their offspring come to that stage, most mothers and fathers lay down some no-nonsense, no-argument essentials. They raise their sons and daughters according to their own beliefs.

Pope Defends Use of Quote That Angered Muslims

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday (Sept. 20) defended his use of a 14th-century quote that described the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” rebuffing calls from Muslim leaders to issue a direct apology for using the quotation. In his first weekly audience since returning to the Vatican after his controversial speech in Germany, Benedict cast his use of the quotation by a Byzantine emperor as a rhetorical device meant to make his scholarly address on faith and reason more topical. Benedict said the offending quote was necessary “to introduce the audience to the drama and relevance” of his talk.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Christianity _ and Islam _ For the Rest of Us

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As if we could forget, Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about Islam have reminded us that religion enflames passion. His brief remarks quoting a 14th-century emperor who criticized Islam as fundamentally violent set off a series of protests in the Muslim world _ including church burnings and, perhaps, the murder of a Roman Catholic nun in Somalia. At first, the fury of the Islamic response angered me. After all, there’s nothing like trying to prove your faith is nonviolent by engaging in violence.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Chaplain Says Porn Forced Him Out of the British Navy LONDON (RNS) A trainee chaplain has told an employment tribunal that he was driven out of Britain’s Royal Navy by pornography being shown at all hours aboard warships on which he was serving. The Rev. Mark Sharpe said he quit his Navy job within weeks after being told to turn a blind eye to porn aboard the assault ship HMS Albion and later the destroyer HMS Manchester. He added that he was advised not to raise the issue if he valued his naval career. Sharpe, an Anglican priest married for 20 years and now based ashore in Worcestershire, England, said he was invited to join a sex club and smacked on his rear, and found sexually explicit photographs of women plastered on his bunk.

Kerry, No Longer Reticent, Offers a `Third Way’ on Faith and Politics

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) One of America’s best-known politicians captivated a crowd at an evangelical college this week with his intimate tale of being spiritually lost as a young adult _ and then having a dramatic awakening. “Suddenly and movingly, I had a revelation about the connection between the work I was doing as a public servant and my formative teachings” as a lifelong Roman Catholic, he said. “Indeed, the Scriptures provided a firmer guide about values applied to life _ many of the things you are wrestling with now today.” While that kind of speech may be routine _ even obligatory _ for many Republican politicians, the testimony at Pepperdine University Monday (Sept. 18) came from Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee whose hesitance to discuss his personal faith came to symbolize his party’s discomfort with faith-based politics.

Black Churches Slow to Warm to Faith-Based Initiative, Survey Finds

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Only a tiny fraction of black churches have received money to help the poor as a result of the Bush administration’s federal Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and most of those tend to be liberal in their theology and located in the Northeast. These are among the findings of a first-of-its-kind survey of black churches by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank, released Tuesday (Sept. 19). The survey _ conducted of 750 churches between November 2005 and January of this year _ was designed to explore how black congregations viewed the much-discussed effort to make it easier for religious organizations to receive public monies for providing social services, and how many, and what kind of churches, are participating.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Clerics Accuse Parsley of Twisting Religion CLEVELAND (RNS) An Ohio religious alliance opposed to mixing politics and faith has called on conservative evangelist Rod Parsley to stop “manipulating religion for political gain.” The Columbus, Ohio, pastor, an ally of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, has told other clergy that he wants to lend his megachurch’s resources to fellow pastors and “work together in unity to win this state for Jesus Christ!” “The message of Reformation Ohio remains the same as it did nearly a year ago when I took to the steps of the State Capitol _ to bring spiritual transformation to the Buckeye State,” Parsley said Monday (Sept. 18) in a written statement. Parsley is affiliated with the World Harvest Church, the Center for Moral Clarity, the World Harvest Church Ministerial Fellowship, and Reformation Ohio. The most political thing on the agenda, Parsley said, will be to hand out information packets encouraging pastors to perform nonpartisan voter registration efforts.

Pope’s Push for `Frank’ Dialogue With Muslims Meets Resistance

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope Benedict XVI’s push for “frank and sincere dialogue” in the wake of his remarks on Islam and his subsequent apology to Muslims ran aground Tuesday (Sept. 19) as a number of top Muslim clerics questioned the sincerity of the pontiff’s apology. As Vatican officials scrambled to rekindle talks across the Islamic world, Muslim leaders demanded that Benedict clarify whether he considered it a mistake to quote a medieval text that described the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman.” The Iraqi parliament rejected Pope Benedict’s statement that he was “deeply sorry” for the reaction his remarks provoked, saying the pontiff needed to make a more “clear-cut apology.” The grand sheik of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, one of the most influential institutions among Sunni Muslims, told a papal delegation that the pope’s apology had not gone far enough. “The pope has to apologize frankly and justify what he said,” Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi said in a statement following the meeting.

With Election Looming, `Values Voters’ Are Back in the Spotlight

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ With the primaries concluded and the general election looming, the question in Washington seems to be: Will the real values voter please stand up? As conservative Christian groups gear up for their “Values Voters Summit” in the nation’s capital this weekend (Sept. 22-24), critics on the liberal end of the spectrum are hosting events to say they have values too. “We love the same God, read the same Bible and all aspire to follow the same Christ,” said the Rev. Robert Franklin, an Emory University professor and member of the newly formed Red Letter Christians, which is named for the red-colored words of Jesus in many Bibles.