COMMENTARY: The Corruption of Power, Absolute and Otherwise

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Most people limit seduction’s meaning to sexual matters, but seduction takes many forms. The recent election was a corrective for conservative Christian leaders seduced by the aura of political power and easy access to Congress and the White House. For the past six years, such leaders abandoned spiritual integrity and independence for supposed influence on the ruling authorities in Washington. The Rev. Ted Haggard, the now-disgraced former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was a proud participant with other Christian conservative leaders in weekly Monday teleconferences with White House staff. When the president nominated White House lawyer Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court last year, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, boasted of a phone call from a White House official assuring him Miers was a genuine conservative.


(Editor’s note: This October list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of September. Copyright 2006 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. (Houghton Mifflin, $27) 2.

Abstinence and AIDS in Africa

Africans Chafe Under U.S. Abstinence Provisions RNS’s Jason Kane examines the impact of American abstinence restrictions on HIV/AIDS funding in Africa, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: A growing number of relief workers, activists and scholars agree, saying the abstinence approach that was pushed into law by U.S. religious conservatives has translated poorly to Africa. The Christian doctrine of abstinence, they say, is a concept that doesn’t always resonate in traditional African cultures and is therefore stalling efforts to save lives.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Charges Dismissed Against Presbyterian Minister in Gay Wedding Case (RNS) Charges were dismissed Wednesday (Nov. 15) against a Presbyterian pastor accused of officiating at a lesbian wedding after a church court found church prosecutors failed to file their paperwork on time. The Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh faced possible expulsion if convicted. Her legal team said they consider the case closed and do not anticipate an appeal within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Marines Reverse Course and Will Accept Talking Jesus Doll Donations

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A 12-inch talking Jesus doll may find its way to needy children this Christmas after the Marines’ Toys for Tots Christmas toy drive reversed course Wednesday (Nov. 15) and decided to accept the dolls. The Toys for Tots Foundation had initially declined a donation of 4,000 Jesus dolls from the Valencia, Calif.-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company, saying they could be inappropriate for non-Christian children. “We realized it’s lot less time-consuming to find homes for the dolls than it is to answer media and complaints,” said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va.

GUEST COMMENTARY: A Kinship That Transcends Party Lines

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A political earthquake struck America on Nov. 7, one felt across the country and even around the world. In a clean sweep, Democrats took control of both the House and Senate, regaining the majority after more than a decade of being in the minority. One of those new Democrats is Keith Ellison, elected to the House from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.

Fans Say Pressure Has Eased NBC Edits of `VeggieTales’

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Fans of VeggieTales, those lovable animated singing and talking vegetables, may notice a change in the episodes aired on NBC’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup: There’s less editing than originally feared. “The last batch of episodes are airing with very little editing,” VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer wrote in an e-mail to Religion News Service. “Not none whatsoever, but very nearly none whatsoever. Much less than earlier episodes.” Originally, NBC had asked for changes in four of 13 episodes _ mostly editing out references to God and the Bible.

Book Explores Why _ and How _ the World Prays

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Gandhi swore by it, saying he could do without food for days _ but not a single moment without prayer. Prayer can lead us to confuse God with Santa Claus, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote. Or it can make one feel foolish and artificial, 19th century philosopher William James once said. But prayer _ and the human need to pray _ essentially unites us all.

10 Minutes With … David Neff

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Christianity Today, the pre-eminent evangelical Christian magazine, marked its 50th anniversary with a special issue in October. Evangelist Billy Graham founded CT to be a rallying point for the nation’s evangelical Protestants, says David Neff, the magazine’s editor. Having worked for the magazine for 21 of its 50 years in various editorial roles, Neff, 59, talked about how the magazine and evangelicalism in general have changed over the last five decades. Q: Since you’ve worked at Christianity Today, what do you see as the most significant changes in the evangelical movement in the last couple of decades?

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Letters Rescued From Bay Now Saved From eBay NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) A fisherman who found a bag of 300 letters to God floating in the ocean off Atlantic City will give most of them to the daughter of the dead minister for whom they were intended. Bill Lacovara, an insurance adjuster, said he plans to give the letters to Vanessa Cooper, the daughter of Rev. Grady Cooper, a former associate pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Jersey City who died nearly two years ago. Lacovara found the letters in a shopping bag in the surf under a pier in October. About 150 of the letters were too damaged by the water to be legible.

Catholic Bishops Approve New Guidelines on Ministry to Gays

c. 2006 Religion News Service BALTIMORE _ The nation’s Catholic bishops approved new statements Tuesday (Nov. 14) on controversial sexual subjects amid a culture that several bishops noted was not always receptive to traditional church teachings. In taking up homosexuality, contraception and natural family planning at their national conference here this week, the 300 U.S. bishops want to “help people in the church respond to the call of holiness,” said Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J. “To be a Catholic is a challenge, and to be a Catholic requires a certain choice and these are choices consistent with the gospel of Jesus as handed down through the church,” Serratelli said. The newly approved documents include guidelines for ministry to gays and lesbians as well as a brochure aimed at young married couples that underscores the church’s stance against contraception.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Vietnam Dropped, Uzbekistan Added to Religious Freedom Watch List WASHINGTON (RNS) The State Department has sent Congress its list of countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom, adding Uzbekistan but dropping Vietnam. Seven countries “of particular concern” from last year’s list returned this year: Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. The eighth annual report on international religious freedom was released in September; its list of problem countries was issued Monday (Nov. 13).

Author Probes Thanksgiving’s `Deep Religious Impulses’

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) With its celebration of bounty and goodwill, not to mention its endearing lack of commercialization, Thanksgiving may be the most beloved of American holidays. But is the Thanksgiving Americans celebrate today mere myth-making, resting on ahistorical stereotypes? Take the fabled turkey, for example. Did it even inhabit eastern Massachusetts in 1621?

COMMENTARY: State Capitols Hold Visions of American Greatness

c. 2006 Religion News Service HELENA, Mont. _ On the Election Day that ended the smallest-minded campaign in recent memory, I took a self-guided tour of Montana’s handsome State Capitol, set on a slight rise in a valley surrounded by mountains. By no means the largest state capitol _ Texas claims that honor _ this Greek neoclassic building modeled on the U.S. Capitol does more than house legislature and governor. It incarnates a vision of what Montana means.

Philanthropy Expert Says Conservatives Are More Generous

c. 2006 Religion News Service SYRACUSE, N.Y. _ Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks is about to become the darling of the religious right in America _ and it’s making him nervous. The child of academics, raised in a liberal household and educated in the liberal arts, Brooks has written a book that concludes religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income. In the book, he cites extensive data analysis to demonstrate that values advocated by conservatives _ from church attendance and two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for government-funded social services _ make conservatives more generous than liberals. The book, titled “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism” (Basic Books, $26), is due for release Nov.