RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Religious Leaders Defend Obama Against Madrassa Allegations WASHINGTON (RNS) A host of religious leaders have condemned “the bitter, destructive politics” that they say resulted in a political smear campaign against presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. Several Web sites and a Fox News program reported that Obama was hiding the fact that he was educated in a madrassa, or a fundamentalist Islamic school, during his childhood in Indonesia. Obama, who denied the allegations, has acknowledged attending a school that enrolled mostly Muslims for two years, as well as a Catholic school for another two while living in Indonesia. A number of clerics signed an open letter that sharply criticized the smear tactics.

Proposed Bush Library Divides U.S. Methodists

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When United Methodists weigh what’s at stake in a plan to put a George W. Bush presidential library and policy institute at Southern Methodist University, they see a lot more than politics. For the faithful on both sides of this hot-button issue, it’s about the integrity of the church. More specifically, it’s about what the church represents and what it rejects. Critics of the library and policy institute plan have collected more than 9,000 signatures on an online petition since Jan.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service U.S. `Satisfied’ With Religion’s Public Role, But More Want Less WASHINGTON (RNS) For the third consecutive year, the number of Americans calling for less religious influence in public life exceeded the number of Americans who want more, according to a new Gallup poll. Most Americans, however, remain “generally satisfied” with organized religion’s role in the U.S., the survey round. Nearly 40 percent of Americans say religion’s level of influence “in the nation” should not change, 32 percent would like it to have less influence and 27 percent would like it to have more, according to the survey. Weekly churchgoers are much more likely to agree that religion should have greater influence on government and politics than those who go to church less frequently, the survey found.

Christian Ecumenical Group Awaits First Official Meeting

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In an age of schisms and denominational division, members of five segments of Christianity are celebrating their ability to work together on issues like poverty and evangelism. Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT) will gather 36 leaders of denominations and faith groups Feb. 7 to celebrate their historic alliance.The worship service, which will feature a procession of clergy and a candlelight ceremony, will be a highlight of a Feb. 6-9 meeting in Pasadena, Calif.

COMMENTARY: The End of Modern Paradigms

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The end of a paradigm is a strange phenomenon to behold. First gradually, then suddenly, what had made sense no longer seems sensible. Structures and ideas that had made the world comprehensible no longer convey meaning. Consider the nuclear-family paradigm (mom, dad, two kids), which began to fade in the mid-1950s and, except in certain religious circles, has been accepted as one among many forms of family.

Bush Library; Christian Churches Together

In Tuesday’s RNS report G. Jeffrey MacDonald writes that the proposed Bush library is dividing U.S. Methodists: A controversial proposal to locate a George W. Bush presidential library, museum and policy institute at Southern Methodist University is becoming much more than a squabble within the university. For strong voices on both sides, it has touched off a fresh battle to define what lies at the heart of United Methodism-and perhaps the heart of Christianity. For supporters, the plan for SMU would bear witness to Methodism’s ability to tolerate a diverse range of political expressions. Critics, meanwhile, say a Bush Policy Institute would mark an unacceptable betrayal of what they regard as indispensable Methodist principles, such as non-aggression toward neighbors and disavowal of torture. Meanwhile, more than 9,000 Methodists, including bishops and members of Bush’s home church in Dallas, have signed a petition to keep the Bush facility off SMU’s campus.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service More than 90 Percent of Indians Believe in God, More Than Half Pray Daily CHENNAI, India (RNS) More than 90 percent of Indians believe in God and more than half pray every day, according to a nationwide survey published in a leading Indian newspaper Thursday (January 25). The study found that urban, educated Indians are just as religious _ if not more so _ than their rural, illiterate compatriots. Conducted in January for the Hindustan Times and the CNN-IBN television channel by the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) the study included 7,670 randomly selected respondents in 970 villages and urban locations across India. “The findings are bound to surprise you,” the Hindustan Times said.

Drinan, First Catholic Priest to Vote in Congress, Dies

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Rev. Robert F. Drinan, the first Roman Catholic priest to serve as a voting member of the U.S. Congress, died Sunday (Jan. 28) in a Washington hospital. He was 86. Drinan represented Massachusetts as a Democrat for a decade starting in 1971.

Catholic pilgrimage; Religion training for the gov’t; Obit of the Rev. Robert F. Drinan

Monday’s RNS report starts with a story by Katherine Boyle about a pilgrim on a trek to experience 365 Catholic churches in 365 days: David Heimann is not your ordinary pilgrim. Every day, the Illinois native walks into a different Roman Catholic church. Afterward, he turns to the Internet to blog about his experience, providing links to pictures of the churches through Google Earth. Heimann left his job at a Catholic church in Chicago to embark upon a yearlong, high-tech pilgrimage that will take him to 365 churches in 35 countries across five continents. “Sometimes …

COMMENTARY: Also transmitting in `k’ category

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When successful Republican presidential candidates talk about their base, they’re usually talking about the GOP’s social conservatives. When Arizona Sen. John McCain talks about his base, he’s referring to the mainstream media. Which helps explain two things. One, why McCain was not a successful Republican presidential candidate eight years ago.

Depts of Justice, Homeland Security Receive Religion Training

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The departments of Justice and Homeland Security have begun training employees to better understand and protect the civil liberties of American Muslims, Sikhs and other minority ethnic and religious groups in the wake of Sept. 11. They also are attempting to involve Muslims and Sikhs in the “homeland security effort in a positive way,” said Daniel Sutherland, who was appointed as the first officer for civil rights and civil liberties at the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Both Muslim and Sikh Americans have dealt with increased prejudice, according to studies and crime reports, though Sikhs adhere to a monotheistic religion founded in India that is not associated with Islam.

Pilgrim on Trek to 365 Churches in 365 Days

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) David Heimann is not your ordinary pilgrim. Every day, the Illinois native walks into a different Roman Catholic church. Afterward, he turns to the Internet to blog about his experience, linking to pictures of the churches through Google Earth, a program that provides satellite imagery of any location in the world. In January, Heimann left his job as a pastoral assistant for youth ministry at St.

Mainstreaming Spirituality

Quote of the Day: Buddhist Monk and Author Matthieu Ricard “The idea of meditation as developing some mental skills is now coming in to replace the old notion of someone blissing out under a bongo tree.” -Buddhist monk and author Matthieu Ricard, speaking about the use of meditation for cognitive development and stress relief. He was quoted by The Washington Post.

RNS Daily Digest: Also transmitting in `a’ category

c. 2007 Religion News Service Democrats Hire Catholic Outreach Director WASHINGTON (RNS) After a lengthy search, the Democratic National Committee has tapped a young Catholic who is active in social justice causes to lead its outreach to the Catholic community. John Kelly, 35, treasurer of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic peace organization, has worked for the Congressional Hunger Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, for more than five years. During the 2006 elections, Kelly worked with the consultanting firm Common Good Strategies, campaigning among Catholic voters for ultimately successful Senate candidates Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, as well as Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland. All three candidates gained a majority of the Catholic vote, swinging a wide swath of voters to the Democratic side.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Let’s Not Blame Religion for All the World’s Ills

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It’s easy to characterize religion as a bloodthirsty enterprise. History seems to be strewn with the wreckage of witch hunts, crusades and religious jihad. If God does exist, a caller to my Southern California radio show offered, he ought to be tried for crimes against humanity. “New atheists” such as “Letter to a Christian Nation” author Sam Harris and “The God Delusion” author Richard Dawkins seem to blame religion _ particularly Christianity _ for all the world’s ills.