Endorsement Watch: Huckabee Gains Falwell Jr. Endorsement

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has added a famous name among Christian conservatives to his list of endorsers: Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late Jerry Falwell and the president of Liberty University, which his father founded. “I knew Jerry’s dad for more than 30 years and have admired the long tradition of Liberty University and the legacy for creating ‘Champions for Christ,”’ the GOP presidential candidate said in a statement. “Dr. Falwell’s vision of helping students to start with nothing to believe they can change the world is exactly what our campaign is all about.” Here are some other recent decisions: For former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson – Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson For former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: -Conservative leader Paul Weyrich -Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University For Sen. John McCain: -Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas For former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: -American Family Association Founder Donald Wildmon -Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin -Former Southern Baptist Presidents Jimmy Draper, Jack Graham and Jerry Vines -Charisma magazine founder Stephen Strang -Vision America president Rick Scarborough -Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver -“Left Behind” series co-author Jerry Jenkins For former Sen. Fred Thompson -National Right to Life Committee

With a Middle Name Like Hussein …

The Washington Post story today about the rumors swirling around Barack Obama that he’s a closeted Muslim raise interesting questions about media responsibility-specifically, where is the line between trafficking in rumors and reporting the news? In a similar but unrelated vein, I’m often wondered where we draw the line in reporting on some of the more eccentric things that come out of Pat Robertson’s or (the late) Jerry Falwell’s mouths? Is every attack on Tinky Winky news? When James Dobson implies that SpongeBob SquarePants is gay, is it news, or does it only lend attention to something that’s so absurd it should be ignored? Back to Obama.

I like the Jesuits, and I love reading but …

…I think I’ll take a pass on this particular tome. If the title don’t put you off “A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings Against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and His Confederates” (subtitles anyone?) … …how about thisâÂ?¦ The book is believed to be bound with the skin of the later Father Henry Garnet. The priest, at the time the head of the Jesuits in England, was executed May 3, 1606, outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for his alleged role in a Catholic plot to detonate 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the British Parliament (aka the Gunpowder Plot), an act that would have killed the Protestant King James I and other government leaders.

A Less Annoying Sudan Story

The good folks at United Methodist News Service have word that a Church in Tipp City, Ohio (Good place to be a waitress?) is trying to raise $1.5 million for relief efforts in Darfur. Instead of buying boatloads of Christmas gifts, church leaders are asking for contributions for their “Christmas miracle offering.” Sounds kinda like a story we put out Tuesday on the “Advent Conspiracy” Now, ain’t that some Good News?

Father Andrew Greeley on Faithful Citizenship

Father Andrew Greeley’s got a cogent analysis of the recent statement by U.S. Catholic Bishops on Faithful Citizenship in the Chicago’s Sun-Times. First off, Greeley says the media got it wrong. The bishops didn’t say the eternal salvation of voters who vote for pro-abortion rights pols is in jeopardy. (The media don’t do nuance very well, says he.) I’ll try to follow up with the good father and see what we (I was in Baltimore and am implicated, I guess) got wrong. Cutting to the chase (nuance be damned) here’s Greeley’s nut graph: “I subscribe to the position that abortion, no matter how nearly universal in human history, is morally unacceptable (as is infanticide, which was far more frequent).

Islam and Aaargh

Two stories in this a.m. WasPost combine Islam with a signficant aargh-factor. Numero uno: Obama beating back from conservatives that he’s a Muslim in disguise. The senator, who spent part of his youth in Indonesia, says: “If I were a Muslim, I would let you know, ” he said in Dubuque, Iowa, recently, according to CNN.com. “But I’m a member of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. We’ve got the best choir in town, and if you want to come and worship with us, you are more than welcome.”

The Golden Compass as Christmas Movie?

Some worry ‘Compass’ points kids in the wrong direction RNS’ Heather Donckels examines the controversy over the upcoming holiday film The Golden Compass, which is based on books by an avowed atheist, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: Kiera McCaffery, a spokeswoman for the New York-based Catholic League, says the film is a hook to lure kids into a series of what she calls deeply anti-Catholic books. “Once parents know about the books … they’re going to want to keep their children away from reading the books,” said McCaffery, who has yet to see the film.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Slim plurality of Anglicans say Episcopalians met demands (RNS) A slim plurality of national churches in the Anglican Communion has given the Episcopal Church passing marks for pledging in September to stop ordaining gay bishops and authorizing rites for same-sex unions. Ten of the 38 Anglican provinces, however, say they are not assured that the American church has halted its support for homosexuality, which they condemn as unbiblical. The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion, has been under intense pressure from Anglican archbishops in the so-called Global South to roll back its pro-gay policies or face a reduced role in the communion. Episcopal bishops in September clarified an earlier pledge and stated explicitly that they will “exercise restraint” before consecrating another gay bishop; they also pledged not to authorize rites for same-sex blessings, though some acknowledged such blessings occur in their dioceses.

10 minutes with … Brad Warner

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) There aren’t many Zen priests like Brad Warner. Before turning to Buddhism 25 years ago, the 43-year-old Californian hit the hardcore punk scene in Ohio as bassist for the Akron-based band Zero Defects. Now a writer as well as a Buddhist priest, Warner, 43, combines his love of punk and Zen to produce straight-talking meditations on sex, death, God and the Buddha. His latest book, “Sit Down and Shut Up,” centers on “Shobogenzo,” a mysterious 13th century text.

COMMENTARY: Reasonable faith, unreasonable fear

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In Sean Penn’s recent movie “Into the Wild,” there is a touching scene between an elderly man, played by Hal Holbrook, and a young wanderer, portrayed by newcomer Emile Hirsch. The elderly man, who is depicted as a devout Catholic, teaches the young man, who is on a quest for self-discovery, a lesson about forgiveness. The scene is all the more surprising because Holbrook’s character is presented as a decent, thoughtful and intelligent man. Chances are, when someone described as “religious” appears on television or in the movies, the person is depicted as narrow-minded, addle-headed or just plain brain-dead.

2007 was a quiet harbinger of significant things to come

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) History books are full of dates that mark seminal events: 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door and launched the Protestant Reformation; or 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion. Those boldface dates are preceded by less prominent but nonetheless decisive times: 1516, when a Dominican named Johann Tetzel led the sale of indulgences that deeply angered Luther; and 1970, when a young Texas woman named Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) filed suit to obtain an abortion. 2007 may be recorded as such a pivotal year for religion and politics _ relatively quiet, unremarkable at first glance, but nonetheless significant as a harbinger of things to come. “There are a lot of discrete things, but if you put them all together, you get the sense that change is in the air,” said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

British Catholics to Blair: Don’t go changin’

According to a forthcoming cover story (not yet online) in The Spectator of London, not all British Catholics are happy about former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s expected conversion to the Church of Rome, given his record on such issues as abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and civil unions. “Having Blair as a Catholic is like having a vegetarian in a meat-eating club,” says one pro-life activist. “Converts cannot cherry-pick which parts of the faith they agree with,” observes an unnamed former underling of the prime minister. “It’s easier for cradle Catholics to dissent, but converts have to sign up to the whole agenda.” As to why Blair’s record has evidently not disqualified him from membership in the church, one London priest explains: “The Catholic Church in England has been working-class Irish for yonks and we’ve only become socially acceptable in the last 30 years.

“Golden Compass” Author Touted by Humanists

In the midst of the controversy about “The Golden Compass,” a new movie that’s been criticized for its adaptation from an atheist’s novel, the American Humanist Association has weighed in with its support for author Philip Pullman. The Washington-based group has announced it will honor Pullman with its International Humanist Award next June. “Philip Pullman has provided humanistic fantasy stories that cut across religious barriers and can be enjoyed by most everyone,” says Fred Edwords, director of communications for the association.

The Ayatollah and the Pope

Time’s Jeff Israely reports that the Vatican may soon act as a key mediator in negotiations between Tehran and Washington over Iran’s nuclear program. Consider the irony of Pope Benedict-supposedly notorious in the Islamic world since his September 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany-acting as peacemaker between a Muslim power and the West. While the Time piece focuses on the all-important geopolitical implications of such a relationship, Jeff incidentally raises a fascinating point about similarities between the faiths practiced in Vatican City and Iran: Religious experts say that Catholicism and Shi’a Islam have a surprisingly similar structure and approach to their different faiths. “What you have in Iran is a strong academic tradition, with both philosophical and mystical aspects – in many ways like Catholicism,” says Father Daniel Madigan, a Jesuit scholar of Islam, and a member of the Vatican’s commission for religious relations with Islam who helped arrange for Khatami’s visit. There is also a clerical hierarchy in Shi’ism that is absent in other forms of Islam.