Osteen’s `Become a Better You’ tops best-seller list: RNS Religion Best-Sellers List

c. 2007 Religion News Service RELIGION BEST-SELLERS (Editor’s note: This December list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of November. Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. “Become a Better You,” by Joel Osteen.

On-the-go Bibles hit the fast lane

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Often when Mike Sheppard listens to the stories of the Crucifixion or Mary’s discovery of the empty tomb, he gets so distracted that he almost forgets he’s behind the wheel. “There are points in the New Testament where you’ll be brought to tears while you’re driving down the road,” said Sheppard, 56, a computer software technician in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Southern Baptist said he’s read the sacred text many times, but listening to “The Word of Promise” audio Bible is what really transports him to the first century. Christian publishers are increasingly catching up with their multimedia-savvy consumers and offering Bibles beyond the traditional book format. Eager listeners like Sheppard can buy the story on tapes, CDs, MP3 downloads, iTunes,and in other formats.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Ministers lose job-tax exemption in Kentucky county (RNS) Ministers in a Kentucky county will no longer be granted an occupational tax exemption after a local atheist sued to challenge the practice. Edwin Kagin, national legal director of American Atheists Inc., filed his suit in 2005 to challenge Boone County’s exemption of ministers from the tax despite a state law prohibiting such exemptions. Boone, which lies on the northernmost tip of the state, stopped requiring an occupational tax from ministers and other clerics in 2000. “In my mind this could be viewed as a license fee for someone to preach the Gospel, and I disagree with that idea,” said Gary Moore, Boone’s judge executive.

Belly dancing as a vehicle for spiritual exploration

c. 2007 Religion News Service AKRON, Ohio _ Middle Eastern music plays softly as the dancers gracefully raise their hands from their sides and lift them high, ending with their palms together above their heads. The movements of the women, short and tall, young and old, thin and not-so-thin, have a meditative quality. Their expressions are peaceful, some are almost beatific. Now that’s belly dancing.

COMMENTARY: My top 10 religion stories of the year

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) My choices for the top 10 religion stories in 2007 are: 1. Even as Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, investigated possible wrongdoing within six prominent evangelical megachurches, the mixture of religion and politics in the United States intensified. Mike Huckabee’s surge in the polls, Mitt Romney’s need to speak about faith in America, and John McCain’s claim that the U.S. is a “Christian nation” underscored the evangelical community’s potency in the political arena. The year also saw a host of religious leaders who delighted in conducting spiritual litmus tests on political candidates.

Infamous Irish Priest Faces New Sex Charge

Oliver O’Grady, the Irish-born priests whose rape of children in California was documented in the Oscar-nominated film “Deliver Us From Evil,” now faces a new legal challenge, according to the Stockton Record. Says the Record: A new lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Stockton alleges that former priest sexually abused another child while serving in Lodi, Calif. in the 1970s. A 43-year-old female plaintiff filed the suit anonymously, claiming she was a student of O’Grady’s at St. Anne’s parish school in the early to mid-’70s when the abuse took place.

Muslim Car Talk

According to Catholic World News, an Iranian company is making a new vehicle specifically for Muslims. The car will be adorned with Islamic symbols and have a compass pointing toward the Muslim holy city of Mecca. There’s probably a good joke in there somewhere but I’ll let you make it. Read the brief here.

Till Proven

Huckabee pleads complete innocence on the Xmas Greeting ad. Someone ask the cameraman.

Hajj-Choo!

Muslim officials brace for Hajj health risks RNS’ Omar Sacirbey looks at the health issues that Saudi Arabia deals with during the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: The Hajj, which this year begins Dec. 18, is a health-care challenge by any stretch. Some 2 million global pilgrims descend on Mecca every year for five days, living in tight quarters where coughing and touching can easily spread germs.

Hillary or Barack?

Those with access to Lexis-Nexis should check out this good Religion News Service piece by Daniel Burke and Cecile Holmes on the struggle between Clinton and Obama for the votes of black folk in South Carolina. For black church women in particular the choice is hard, they report: Do I vote for the woman or the African American? I think, in the end, Barack will be harder to resist.

All Huck

For almost all Huck almost all the time, check out the Arkansas Times’ Arkansas Blog. Editor Max Brantley is no fan.

B v. M

Useful overview in Slate of the contest for converts between Baptists and Mormons.

The Shiv

Robert Novak sticks his shiv into Huckabee not for being too religious but for not being religious enough–or at least, for failures on the barricades of the Baptist Wars of yore. The reason the panjandrums of the SBC are not backing Huck, saith Bob, is that when the charge was on to drive the liberals from the Temple, Huckabee gave aid and comfort to the other side. He actually made himself sufficiently acceptable to the Southern Baptist left in Arkansas that he managed to get himself elected as head of the state association. How much of a black mark this will be with rank and file Southern Baptists around the country is not for me to predict, but given that the denominations current leaders seems to be trying to get away from the ideological combat of the past, my guess is, not too much.

10 Minutes with … Jody Myers

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The international Kabbalah Centre has drawn high-profile praise and ire. Pop stars like Madonna have darkened the center’s doors in Los Angeles, but some traditional Jews say the center peddles New Age snake oil. “Kabbalah and the Spiritual Quest,” by Jody Myers, a professor of religion at California State University, Northridge, contends that adherents’ practices closely mimic those of Orthodox Jews, and that the center’s teachings are generally in line with traditional kabbalistic tenets. Popularized during the late Middle Ages, Kabbalah is doctrine of Jewish mysticism that promises insights into God’s mind through contemplating the hidden meanings of the Hebrew words and letters of the Torah.