RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Catholic Bishops Condemn Maguire on Birth Control, Gay Marriage (RNS) The U.S. Catholic bishops have denounced as “irresponsible” and “false teaching” a longtime Catholic theologian’s insistence that Catholics are able to dissent from the hierarchy’s opposition to contraceptives, same-sex marriage and abortion. Daniel C. Maguire, a professor of moral theology at Marquette University, has written pamphlets that are “erroneous and incompatible with the Church’s teaching,” the bishops said in a statement released Thursday (March 22). “We deplore as irresponsible his public advocacy of his views as authentic Catholic teaching,” the bishops said. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, said the denunciation carries the full weight of the U.S. bishops.

Is Faith a Genetic Condition or a Natural Phenomenon?

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ The recent debate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was nominally called “The Future of Atheism.” But the heart of the dialogue explored a related question: Can mankind’s age-old belief in God be explained purely as a stubbornly recurring natural phenomenon, not much different than the common cold? There is provocative evidence that is so, argued Daniel Dennett, a Tufts University philosopher, atheist and author of “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.” But that “evidence” is suspect even in terms of good science, countered Alister McGrath, an Oxford University biophysicist-turned-Christian theologian. And even if it could be demonstrated that mankind is biologically predisposed to the idea of religion, he said, that still would not settle the ages-old “God question.” The two met for two days of conversation and debate for the seminary’s third Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture. The annual forum pits an evangelical scholar against a nonevangelical in an intellectual wrestling match on a major cultural or faith topic.

Please Don’t Touch Her, She Will Touch You

c. 2007 Religion News Service SWEET HOME, Ore. _ Lunchtime finds 66-year-old Carl Malburg, a former logger, sitting in a rented minivan in the parking lot outside St. Helen’s Catholic Church, talking on a cell phone to his wife back home in Michigan. As caretaker of the International Virgin Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, Malburg spends 20 to 24 days a month on the road as “a spokesman for the Virgin Mary.” His responsibilities can run into 12- and 14-hour days, seven days a week, with two stops a day at Catholic churches and schools and sometimes retirement homes and prisons.

GUEST COMMENTARY: For the Celebration of Freedom, These Jews Aren’t Free

c. 2007 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Very soon Jews from around the world will chant the familiar refrain for Passover _ “Ma Nishtana HaLayla Hazeh” _ “How is this night different from all other nights?” _ as we have done at the Passover seder throughout the ages. During Passover, we will solemnly recount the pain, humiliation and suffering endured by our people in Egypt, but we will also rejoice at the sudden salvation, redemption, and freedom. Symbolically, we eat bitter herbs, but quickly transition to the sweetness of the wine and then recline to show that we are as safe and secure as kings in a palace. There are some, however, who will not share our sense of security this year.

GUEST COMMENTARY: An Exercise in Christian Realism, Not Spineless Diplomacy

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The late William Sloane Coffin, standing squarely on the tradition of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and preaching from the pulpit of Riverside Church, said: “The axis of evil is not Iraq, North Korea and Iran. A much more formidable trio is environmental degradation, the pandemic of poverty and a world awash in weapons.” That is Niebuhr’s Christian realism at its best, the type of Christian realism that Rabbi James Rudin says he admires. Yet Rudin might say to Bill Coffin, “There you go again!” I’d like to respond to Rudin’s March 8 column for Religion News Service, “An Exercise in Spineless Christian Diplomacy.” Rudin wrote about the delegation of Christian leaders to Iran last month led by the Mennonite Central Committee and the American Friends Service Committee. I was a member of that delegation.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service German Judge Removed After Saying Abuse Allowed in Muslim Marriage BERLIN (RNS) A Frankfurt judge has been removed from a divorce case after arguing that physical abuse in a Muslim marriage is acceptable under the Quran. The divorce case was filed by an unnamed 26-year-old Moroccan woman last May after police forced her husband to move out of their apartment because of complaints of spousal abuse, according to the news magazine Spiegel. German law requires a one-year waiting period between filing a divorce and the dissolution of the marriage. Because of the history of abuse, the woman and her lawyer sought an expedited decision.

COMMENTARY: Passover 101

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even though America is saturated with religiosity, recent studies indicate many people lack accurate knowledge about the beliefs and rituals of world religions, including their own. Passover, Judaism’s eight-day festival of freedom, begins April 2. The following test will reveal how much you know about the holiday. If your correct score is less than eight, you need to immediately contact a synagogue near you to receive tutorial help.

Woman Drops `Booty Bounce’ for Christian Line Dancing

c. 2007 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ Belinda Haywood didn’t want to give up what she loved. She had made her name teaching line dances. Romantic ones like her “Enchanted Evening” routine. Urban young folks clamored for the “Booty Bounce” and the “Shake What Your Mama Gave You.” Her classes drew dozens of people to nightclubs.

Cubans Ask: Is It Wrong to Pray for Castro’s Death?

c. 2007 Religion News Service ORLANDO, Fla. _ Jose Fernandez’s family was one of the lucky ones. When Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959, his communist government took only the family’s home, dairy farm and food import business, among other things. Many Cubans, he knows, lost even more.

Move Over, Oprah

Muslim Magazines Discover an Untapped Market RNS’ Omar Sacirbey profiles the emerging market for Muslim-focused consumer magazines in the US, in this week’s full-text RNS article, linked above. Quote: Muslim Girl, with circulation approaching 50,000, is the latest of several new magazines catering to Muslim Americans. Although they reach for distinct demographics-teenagers, professionals, mothers and even secular Muslims-they share a common motivation: to define themselves at a time when many feel Muslims have surrendered that responsibility to a Western media that often gets them wrong.

Episcopal Bishops Reject Plan for Foreign Oversight

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Episcopal Bishops have brushed off an attempt to grant overseas Anglicans a role in governing the Episcopal Church, saying such a move would be “injurious” and could lead to a permanent division of the U.S. church. At their annual spring retreat in Navasota, Texas, the bishops late Tuesday (March 20) defended their turf and flexed their historical independence while acknowledging their liberal stance may alienate the U.S. church from the worldwide Anglican Communion. “We proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God’s truth,” the bishops said in a statement. “If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.” The bishops were responding to demands from Anglican leaders that they adopt new structures to oversee the small but vocal conservative minority in the 2.3-million member Episcopal Church.

Episcopalians reject foreign oversight; 10 minutes with Mustafa Ceric; Passover menu options; New ho

Wednesday’s RNS report includes a news story by Daniel Burke about Episcopal bishops rejecting a plan for foreign oversight: Episcopal Bishops late Tuesday (March 20) flatly rejected a plan to give foreign Anglicans a place in governing the Episcopal Church, saying it would be “injurious” to the church. Meeting at their annual spring retreat in Navasota, Texas, the Episcopal House of Bishops staunchly defended their turf, fending off overseas conservatives’ plan to gain a toehold in the U.S. Though each of the 38 regional churches in the Anglican Communion are autonomous, foreign primates have stepped into the Episcopal Church, the communion’s U.S. branch, to help fellow conservatives in recent years. The Episcopal bishops’ rejection may lead to greater fissures among the world’s 77 million Anglicans, who are fracturing over homosexuality and the Bible. Omar Sacirbey spent 10 Minutes With … Mustafa Ceric: Omar Sacirbey talks with Mustafa Ceric, the grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, about his struggle to promote moderate Islam and how he engineered reconciliation in his war-torn country.

COMMENTARY: Seeing God in Ourselves, and in Each Other

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The Templeton Foundation announced the winner of the $1.5 million Templeton Prize for spirituality the other day, the same award given to Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and the late Brother Roger of the Taize community. Lately, it’s gone to intellectuals who foster dialogue between the war zones of religion and science. The 2007 winner is a Catholic: Professor Charles Taylor of Northwestern University in Chicago, a philosopher of substantial academic standing. Taylor argues for the spiritual in every understanding of political and social life.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Presiding Bishop of Church of God in Christ Dead at 67 (RNS) Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson, the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, died Tuesday (March 20) of heart failure. He was 67. Patterson was in his second term as presiding bishop of the predominantly black Pentecostal denomination, after first being elected in 2000. Patterson, the pastor of Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tenn., was defeated by one vote in a close election in 1996.

Jews Revive the Sanhedrin With Plans for a Passover Sacrifice

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In a donated apartment concealed among the narrow streets of the Jerusalem suburb of Nahlaot, 13 Orthodox Jewish men meet every Tuesday to debate matters of Jewish law. They are the management team of a larger developing Sanhedrin, or religious court, in Israel. And they plan to sacrifice sheep on the Temple Mount on the day before or one month after Passover, which starts at sundown April 2. Either date is permissible under Jewish law.