COMMENTARY: Happy Birthday, Father Hesburgh

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At this time when many observers bewail the lack of great leaders, a truly great one, Father Theodore Hesburgh, is celebrating his 90th birthday (May 25). Now president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, which he led for 35 years, Hesburgh could still take on the papacy or the presidency and lead the Catholic Church or the United States with great distinction. Unlike many aspirants to high office, Hesburgh has never revised, qualified, or redefined his religious beliefs. Instead of explaining _ as Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani or even John F. Kennedy did _ that his religious convictions would never interfere with his implementation of public policy, Hesburgh has built his service on the foundation of his faith.

Poll Finds Muslims Satisfied, Opposed to Islamic Terrorism

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Most Muslim Americans are largely assimilated in the culture, happy with their lives and embracing the American dream, according to a comprehensive study released Tuesday (May 22) by the Pew Research Center. The Pew study, conducted between January and April, was based on interviews with 1,050 Muslim American adults. It revealed a Muslim American population that is religious, diverse, socially conservative and politically liberal. Nearly eight in ten U.S. Muslims say they are either “very happy” (24 percent) or “pretty happy” (54 percent) with their lives, according to the survey.

Graham’s Global Impact Felt at New N.C. Library

c. 2007 Religion News Service CHARLOTTE, N.C. _ Consider it Billy Graham’s last crusade, one that will draw the faithful long after America’s most famous religious figure is gone. On a wooded site in his hometown _ just off Billy Graham Parkway, no less _ the Billy Graham Library will be dedicated May 31 at a private ceremony expected to feature former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Former President Jimmy Carter also is likely to attend. The ex-presidents are likely to be upstaged, though, by the guest of honor.

COMMENTARY: Gentlemen (and Ladies), Start Your Engines

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When this year’s Day of Pentecost comes around on May 27, I will be seated in row 69 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, near the start-finish line, for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Around our family group will be some 400,000 race fans _ “all together in one place,” as St. Luke might say _ plus a global radio and television audience. On the track below us will sit 33 open-wheeled race cars, powered by 3.5-liter 8-cylinder engines producing 675 horsepower and capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 mph in less than three seconds and “running flat” around the 2.5-mile oval at 220 mph.

Woman Finds New Use for All Those Old Church Bulletins

c. 2007 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ Although quite by accident, Lanky Petras was ahead of her time. “Yeah, I guess you’re right about that,” she says as she dips another half-inch-long paper cylinder into a bottle of clear nail polish. ”This makes it all shiny.

How to Make Beads from Old Church Bulletins

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) 1. Collect a variety of church bulletins and inserts, particularly those with color and pattern. It usually takes three to five bulletins to make enough beads for a necklace. Cut at least 36 strips, about 5 inches long, tapered from one-half inch at one end to one-third inch at the other.

RNS Daily Digest: 1,100 words

c. 2007 Religion News Service Government Rescinds Fine Against Baptist Group WASHINGTON (RNS) A moderate Baptist group will not have to pay a fine related to alleged violations by members of affiliated churches who traveled to Cuba, the Treasury Department has decided. In 2006, the Washington-based Alliance of Baptists received a notice that it could be fined $34,000 because the itineraries of five churches that used its travel license “did not reflect a program of full-time religious activity.” In a May 17 “warning letter,” the Office of Foreign Assets Control informed the alliance that “after a careful review of the entire file, OFAC has decided to withdraw the notice.” But Elton A. Ellison, OFAC’s assistant director for civil penalties, noted that the alliance should be aware that any action by the alliance or its affiliates that violates the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba “may result in the imposition of criminal and/or civil penalties.” The Rev. Stan Hastey, executive director of the alliance, said he was “gratified and grateful” that the issue has been resolved. The alliance had appealed the fine notice. “According to our attorney …

Nazi Translator a Last Living Witness to History

c. 2007 Religion News Service TENAFLY, N.J. _ Most people know what they know about high-ranking Nazi leaders from books, articles and documentaries. Richard Sonnenfeldt, an American Jew who now lives on Long Island, learned about them face-to-face. As chief interpreter for prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials 61 years ago, he came to know the Nazi leaders personally, from hours of pretrial interrogations in German and English. Sonnenfeldt developed enough of a rapport with Hermann Goering, Hitler’s No.

Rome Has Seven Hills; This Church Has Seven Domes

c. 2007 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ People driving by Faith Chapel Christian Center might get the feeling they’re passing a futuristic alien colony now that the church has built its seventh dome, giving the 137-acre campus an otherworldly appearance. Faith Chapel started with a $15 million, 3,000-seat sanctuary under a dome in 2000. The 6,000-member church recently inflated the roof on the last of six smaller domes built during a $20 million second phase of construction.

GUEST COMMENTARY: The Church’s Feminine Mistake

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Last February, Pope Benedict XVI spoke feelingly about early Christian women leaders: “The history of Christianity would have developed quite differently without the generous contribution of many women,” he said. The pope even acknowledged that, unlike the apostles, women “did not abandon Jesus at the hour of his passion. … Outstanding among them was Mary Magdalene, who was the first witness of the Resurrection and announced it to the others.” Yet how many of us knew much about Mary Magdalene until “The Da Vinci Code?” Even then, Dan Brown got it only partly right, to the great consternation of church leaders who unfortunately have only themselves to blame.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Dobson: `I Cannot, and Will Not, Vote for Rudy Giuliani’ (RNS) Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, writing his personal views in an online commentary, has declared that he will not vote for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in a presidential election. “Speaking as a private citizen and not on behalf of any organization or party, I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008,” he declared in a column for WorldNetDaily. “It is an irrevocable decision.” Dobson cited numerous reasons why he had come to that conclusion, most notably Giuliani’s stance on abortion. “How could Giuliani say with a straight face that he `hates’ abortion,’ while also seeking public funding for it?” Dobson asked.

COMMENTARY: Jerry Falwell and the Crisis of Evangelicalism

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell is prompting evangelicals to re-evaluate his impact on their movement. As a result, some are concluding it is time to divorce themselves from the style and narrow political agenda of fundamentalists. To his credit, Falwell inspired million of evangelicals to take more seriously their rights and responsibilities as citizens in a democracy, but he also put a hostile face on a movement that had set out to engage, not enrage, culture. Falwell became a polarizing fixture as he routinely demonized his political opponents.

T.D. Jakes Preaches U-Turns on the Road to Success

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In his new book, TV evangelist, megachurch pastor and best-selling author Bishop T.D. Jakes advises his readers to transform themselves and move into a new stage of life. The book, “Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits,” also appears to be part of Jakes’ own strategy of remaking himself as a self-help guru to reach a broader audience. With a foreword by Dr. Phil, and more generic spiritual writing that takes the approach of a motivational life coach, Jakes follows in the mega-selling footsteps of fellow evangelist-motivator-pastor-authors Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. “Osteen has created this model for people coming out of charismatic backgrounds who are reaching out and finding accessible a more upscale evangelical audience,” said retired Auburn University history professor David Edwin Harrell, who has written numerous books about Pentecostalism.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Jerry Falwell and Me

c. 2007 Beliefnet (UNDATED) In the mid-1970s, as Jerry Falwell built his empire in Virginia, I was a child in rural Pennsylvania, a place often described as the northern Bible Belt. Many a night, my family drove along the back roads listening to AM radio as it picked up signals from all over. Sometimes we heard a New York talk show or a Boston baseball game _ but usually we’d listen to the “Old-Time Gospel Hour” and its preacher, Jerry Falwell. The sermons became a family fascination. We were amazed at the invective he’d throw at anyone he deemed liberal.