At Virginia Tech, Trying to Explain the Unexplainable

c. 2007 Religion News Service (This story was written by Kevin Eckstrom and reported by Amy Green, Marcia Z. Nelson, Rachel Pomerance and Andrea Useem.) (UNDATED) Sometimes, the Rev. William King says, the answers to the tough questions just don’t come. And when they do, they don’t come easily, or often they come up short. “There is an incredible temptation to explain, to domesticate, to tie up all the loose ends of something so horrible,” said King, the Lutheran campus minister at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., since 1984. “Sometimes, one just has to be quiet.” And so it goes across the Virginia Tech campus, where police say 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui fatally shot 32 people and wounded at least 15 others Monday (April 16) before turning the gun on himself.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Twin Cities Airport Boosts Fines for Muslim Taxi Drivers (RNS) Starting next month, taxi drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport who refuse to pick up passengers having alcohol will face stiffer penalties. The Metropolitan Airports Commission adopted the measure Monday (April 16) in large part because of Somali Muslim cab drivers who refused take passengers carrying alcohol. Since January 2002, there have been more than 4,800 cases in which taxi drivers have refused to transport customers who had or were suspected of having alcohol.

Groups Take Sides in Fight Over Hate Crimes

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Congress will soon consider legislation that extends hate crimes protections for homosexuals, bisexuals and those with gender identity issues in the same way that people are protected now because of race and creed. It’s setting up a bitter battle between traditional faith communities, which teach that homosexuality is sinful, and progressive religious groups that say too many people have been harmed because of their sexual orientation. The proposed hate crimes bill went before a House Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday (April 17). The bill would give the federal government jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violent crimes that are committed because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

NEWS FEATURE: At Virginia Tech, Trying to Explain the Unexplainable

c. 2007 Religion News Service (This story was written by Kevin Eckstrom and reported by Amy Green, Marcia Z. Nelson, Rachel Pomerance and Andrea Useem.) (UNDATED) Sometimes, the Rev. William King says, the answers to the tough questions just don’t come. And when they do, they don’t come easily, or often they come up short. “There is an incredible temptation to explain, to domesticate, to tie up all the loose ends of something so horrible,” said King, the Lutheran campus minister at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., since 1984. “Sometimes, one just has to be quiet.” And so it goes across the Virginia Tech campus, where police say 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui fatally shot 32 people and wounded at least 15 others Monday (April 16) before turning the gun on himself.

Got a Catholic Question? Boy, 7, Has the Answers

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Among the faithful gathered at the 7 a.m. Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, one face in the front pew always stands out. James Higgins, 7, has been attending daily Mass since he was 3 years old. His parents, Stephen and Lauren, never have to drag him out of bed or away from his Lucky Charms to get him there either.

COMMENTARY: And The Truth Shall Set You Free …

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Let’s call this new group “Deceivers Anonymous.” (The name “Cheaters Anonymous” is already taken, by a group focusing on adultery.) Impetus for another addiction-recovery group comes from a steady stream of hearings, memos, e-mails and news reports that reveal a systemic disease of deception. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, for example, piously lectured poor nations on corruption, while allegedly securing a high-paying job for his girlfriend and then hiding it. This pathetic display brought to mind his earlier role as manipulator of phony evidence for waging war in Iraq. Challenged to explain sudden firings of federal prosecutors for political gain, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez spun a web of deception to save his job, got caught, and rehearsed five hours a day for testimony before Congress.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Archbishop of Canterbury Says He Will Meet With U.S. Bishops TORONTO (RNS) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Monday (April 16) that he will visit the United States this September after U.S. Episcopal bishops declared an “urgent need” for a meeting with the spiritual leader of world Anglicanism. Speaking at a press conference here, Williams said there has “never been any suggestion” that he would decline an invitation to meet with disaffected American bishops, despite suggestions he was too busy. The U.S. Episcopal Church is at odds with more conservative sectors of the worldwide Anglican Communion over the issues of homosexuality and the authority of Scripture. Meeting in Tanzania in February, Anglican leaders demanded that the U.S. church pledge not to appoint any more openly gay bishops or offer church blessings for same-sex couples.

COMMENTARY: Working for Each Other, and Working for God

c. 2007 Religion News Service LUSAKA, Zambia _ To many Americans, foreign aid is primarily a handout they see in televised images of disaster response or food distribution to refugees. What they see is a benevolent _ but often one-dimensional _ view of how the U.S. responds to international needs. But in Zambia, one of the largest American investments in the fight against HIV/AIDS is carried out primarily by Zambian volunteers who are trained and equipped by money from USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development) and resources from groups like Africare, Catholic Relief Services, CARE, the Salvation Army and World Vision. So far, more than 12,000 Zambians have been trained to do home-based health care, a critical intervention in a country where the fragile health care system cannot begin to meet the needs of the million people infected with the disease.

Church May Finance Ministry By Selling Its Windows

c. 2007 Religion News Service ELIZABETH, N.J. _ At the turn of the last century, this city was a thriving industrial powerhouse and the congregation at St. John’s Episcopal Church reflected the city’s success. Wealthy professionals and industry captains filled its pews and their money filled its collection plates. A multimillion-dollar endowment was built and the church’s most prestigious families commissioned 10-foot-tall stained glass windows from Louis Comfort Tiffany to adorn its massive stone walls.

Scholar Finds Indian Roots to Gospel Music

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Jazz musician and Yale music scholar Willie Ruff, who uncovered the links between 18th century Scottish singing and black gospel music, has connected another group to the style: American Indians. A descendant of an Oklahoma tribe contacted him after learning about a 2005 Yale conference on line singing, an a cappella vocal form that originated in Scotland and is still sung in parts of the South. And on April 19-20, a second conference will feature Muskogee Creek members singing with Baptist groups from Alabama and Kentucky. Ruff said he was surprised to learn that all three groups know the same hymn: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” They will sing their versions at the conference.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Church Arsonists Given Additional 2-Year State Sentences CENTREVILLE, Ala. (RNS) Three confessed arsonists pleaded guilty Thursday (April 12) to burning five rural churches last year, and under their plea agreement will serve two years in state prison. The sentences are in addition to the federal sentences of eight to nine years that Russell DeBusk, Matthew Cloyd and Benjamin Moseley received in federal court on Monday (April 9). Under an agreement with prosecutors, the men will serve two years of their 15-year sentences on local charges in state prison after they finish serving their federal sentences.

Bush Finds a Friendly Audience at Catholic Prayer Breakfast

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ President Bush preached to the choir at the National Catholic Prayer breakfast Friday, promoting the “dignity of life,” parochial schools and immigration. “You know how to make a Methodist feel right at home,” Bush said, addressing the 1,700 Catholics in attendance, including several bishops and Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito. A number of other conservative powerbrokers were on hand, including several cabinet members and former Sen. Fred Thompson, a possible Republican presidential candidate. “There’s something powerful to be said when Catholics gather together in prayer and fellowship to express their gratitude for the faith and share the joy and love of the faith,” Joe Cella, the breakfast’s founder and president of its board, said afterwards.

In Iraq, Women’s Fashion Doesn’t Mix With Islamic Custom

c. 2007 Religion News Service BAGDHAD, Iraq _ For two years, Faiza Abdal-Majeed has carried a headscarf in her purse for emergencies. For a woman in the Iraqi capital four years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, these can include passing unlawful checkpoints manned by armed militiamen, impromptu forays through neighborhoods controlled by religious zealots, and taxi drivers who refuse her fare unless she sports a veil. In addition, her job with Iraq’s women’s affairs ministry frequently brings her into contact with government officials, police officers and Muslim clergymen who insist she cover her head before they speak with her. “Some clerics and politicians are forcing religion into our lives,” said Abdal-Majeed, 45.

A Brief History of Public Prayer

c. 2007 Religion News Service TRENTON, N.J. _ Legislative prayers and controversies about them go back to the founding of the republic. Here are some key developments: 1774: Over the objections of delegates John Jay and John Rutledge, the Continental Congress establishes a tradition of opening its sessions with a prayer by a paid chaplain. 1776: New Jersey’s first constitution provides that no person “shall be compelled to attend any place of worship” or pay tithes to any church, but limits eligibility for public office to Protestants. 1789: The first Congress authorizes payment of its chaplains.

Legislators’ Prayers Are Common but Controversial

c. 2007 Religion News Service TRENTON, N.J. _ “Let us pray. Mother and Father of us all, we give thanks for the women who have been part of our life’s journey …” Spoken aloud at a public high school graduation, these words probably would trigger a lawsuit. But in the New Jersey Legislature, where they were said recently, it’s just a matter of getting things started. The state’s tradition of inviting a member of the clergy to deliver an opening prayer dates to 1846.