There’s Something About Mary

Protestants Use Christmas Movie to Talk About Mary Is the Virgin Mary exclusively a Catholic figure? Not according to Sarah Price Brown’s full-text RNS article, linked above. Quote: The goal, as [Scot] McKnight sees it, amounts to nothing short of a coup by the Protestant church. “There are a few of us who are in a Trojan horse,” said McKnight, 53. “It’s as if we’ve been released in the Vatican, and we’re swiping Mary and taking her back to the Protestant world.”

Pope Meets With Orthodox Patriarch, Shifts Focus to Christian Rights

c. 2006 Religion News Service ISTANBUL, Turkey _ Pope Benedict XVI met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the embattled spiritual leader for Eastern Orthodox Christians, and celebrated Mass for his “tiny flock” of Turkish Roman Catholics on Wednesday (Nov. 29) in a show of solidarity with Turkey’s beleaguered Christian minorities. Departing from the conciliatory overtures that marked his arrival in Turkey on Tuesday, Benedict shifted gears on the second day of his closely watched visit, resuming his push for more religious freedom for Christian minorities living in predominantly Muslim countries. Arriving at a Christian pilgrimage site on the Aegean Sea, where tradition holds that the Virgin Mary passed her final years, Benedict celebrated a solemn outdoor Mass before 250 guests, expressing support for his “tiny flock” of Turkish Catholics.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Heads You Win, Tails You Lose

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ At the corner of East 56th Street and First Avenue, there’s an oversized phone booth that looks like a bus shelter with large advertisements on all three sides. The ad facing south, toward the headquarters for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, is for Casella Yellow Tail wine, featuring a seemingly naked Asian woman with a long yellow ponytail. The ad is subtle and in-your-face at the same time: “yellow” (Asian) “tail” (woman). Yellow Tail.

Despite Revived Left, Religious Magazines Wither

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It’s never been easy to make ends meet while putting out a progressive Christian publication. But in an ironic twist, a re-energized religious left may be making a tough task even harder. That’s one key observation from watchers of liberal Christianity who are trying to explain why progressive magazines and journals have been dying just as the broader movement seems to be gaining fresh traction. At least five progressive periodicals _ including four with a 30-plus-year publishing history _ have either disbanded or undergone a radical makeover in the past three years.

10 Minutes With … Jean-Claude LaMarre

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Jean-Claude LaMarre is the star/writer/director/producer of the new film “Color of the Cross,” a below-the-radar film in which he portrays Jesus Christ as a black Jew who was crucified because of his race. Not surprisingly, picturing Jesus as a black man is stirring some controversy. The Nu-Lite Entertainment production is currently in limited theatrical release in cities including Baltimore, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Dallas and Memphis, Tenn. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment plans to release the film’s DVD version in January.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Muslims to Pope: Do as We Say, Not as We Do

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope Benedict XVI is in the midst of a four-day trip to Turkey, and adherents to the religion of peace _ as Islam is sometimes called _ are being watched carefully. Carefully enough, most would hope, that the pope will survive all four of his days in a country often held up as an example of moderate Muslim rule. Some immoderate Muslims are still feeling just a wee bit homicidal over the pope’s reference a couple of months ago to a 14th-century Byzantine emperor’s description of Islam as “evil and inhuman.” The quotation he used took note of the Prophet Muhammad’s “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” So a 14th-century Byzantine emperor’s criticism of conversion by force is cause for death threats, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s unabashed quest for nuclear weapons to use on Israel is acceptable? The religion of peace is confusing.

Actor Comments on “Mary’s” Pregnancy

Quote of the Day: `The Nativity Story’ Actor Oscar Isaac “My sense so far speaking to people is that they are understanding. They’re taking the high road and being compassionate, not condemning her.” -Actor Oscar Isaac, who plays Joseph in “The Nativity Story,” which opens on Friday (Dec. 1), speaking about the recent revelation that actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Mary, is pregnant at age 16 and unwed. He was quoted by USA Today.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Israeli Supreme Court Approves Overseas Gay Marriages (RNS) An Israeli Supreme Court ruling requiring the government to recognize gay marriages performed abroad has many American Jews rejoicing. “It’s a great day for marriage. It’s a great day for Israel. And it’s a great day for Jews,” said Alan Dershowitz, the prominent civil rights expert and Harvard Law School professor, saying it reflects Israel’s “liberal and progressive approaches to social problems.” The 6-1 ruling on Tuesday (Nov.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Secular Songs Beat Out Christmas Carols on Most Popular Radio List (RNS) “The Christmas Song” _ with its “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” _ was the most performed holiday song on the radio in the last five years. Only one song in the top 25 was a religious Christmas carol. The list of “Top 25 most performed holiday songs” was released Monday (Nov. 27) by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which co-owns Mediaguide, a radio airplay monitoring service.

COMMENTARY: To Have and To Hold

c. 2006 Religion News Service CHAPEL HILL, N.C. _ Wedding homilies need to be upbeat and brief, and mine last Saturday toed that line. But there was more to be said. Later I will mail these words to Liz and Will, for consideration in the fullness of time: Like your grandparents, you launch your marriage in a difficult time. It is a time of war, an odd and tragic war that has isolated your nation and made the world more dangerous for you.

Church Says Presiding Bishop’s Comments Taken Out of Context

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is drawing fire for comments that some say demean other faiths, but a church official says the question-and-answer format didn’t capture the interview with “complete accuracy.” Jefferts Schori’s interview was published in the Nov. 19 edition of The New York Times Magazine just two weeks after she was installed as the Episcopal Church’s top leader. In response to a question about the membership of the Episcopal Church, Jefferts Schori said, “Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.” Interviewer Deborah Solomon then asked: “Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?” Jefferts Schori’s response: “No.

Pope Begins Visit to Turkey, Signals Openness to Bid to Join EU

c. 2006 Religion News Service ANKARA, Turkey _ Pope Benedict XVI began his four-day visit to Turkey on Tuesday (Nov. 28), calling for an end to religiously motivated violence as he tried to calm tensions between the Vatican and the predominantly Muslim country. Top religious authorities and political leaders who met with Benedict, however, wasted little time in confronting the pope on issues that have recently roiled relations between the two sides. In a joint appearance with Benedict, Turkey’s top Islamic cleric, Ali Bardakoglu, echoed passages from Benedict’s controversial address last September in which the pontiff quoted a medieval Christian ruler describing the teachings of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman” and “spread by the sword.” “The so-called conviction that the sword is used to expand Islam in the world, and growing Islamophobia, hurts all Muslims,” Bardakoglu said.

COMMENTARY: HIV/AIDS Is America’s Problem, too

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For the last several years, while Americans have blissfully believed it was someone else’s problem, HIV has been doing what it does best: hiding in plain sight. Taking advantage of shame, stigma and bigotry, the HIV virus has infected not only bodies but minds, luring many Americans into a state of denial. So as we approach World AIDS Day on Friday (Dec. 1), Americans are just beginning to hear the news: HIV/AIDS is back (actually it never left).

Double Whammy

Quote of the Day: Muslim American Society Executive Mahdi Bray “It’s a shame that as an African-American and a Muslim I have the double whammy of having to worry about driving while black and flying while Muslim.” -Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Washington-based Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, reacting to the removal of six imams from a US Airways flight Nov. 20.

New Christian Coalition Head Quits Before Starting Job

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The Rev. Joel Hunter, an Orlando, Fla., megachurch pastor, has resigned from his pending presidency of the Christian Coalition of America, citing differences in how to broaden the group’s agenda. The organization, which was a political force for conservative Christians across the country in the 1990s, has diminished in prominence in recent years. Hunter had hoped to expand its agenda beyond traditional stances against abortion and gay marriage. “When it came right down to it, when we were ready for the transition, we had a meeting to make sure we were on the same page and we weren’t,” Hunter, 58, said in an interview Monday (Nov.