RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Holy Land church leaders appeal for Gaza JERUSALEM (RNS) Christian leaders from the Holy Land are demanding that Israel, President Bush and the world community “put an end to this suffering” of Gaza residents caught in the crossfire between Israel and the Hamas militants who rule the Gaza Strip. “There is no time to waste when Human life is endangered,” said the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The clerics, many of them Palestinians, called on Israel to put the control of Gaza’s borders under Palestinian responsibility to ensure that fuel, food and medicine reaches those who need it. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sealed Gaza’s borders in order to pressure Hamas to stop shelling the Israeli town of Sderot and nearby communities.

Mitt’s Last Chance

Hugh Hewitt, fighting for Romney till the last dog dies, puts the best face he can on the Florida results and argues that a stop McCain effort will require Huckabee’s people to look down the road and switch to the Mittster.The shadow of the ’96 Dole campaign will fall on McCain now, and the prospect of an Obama-McCain fall campaign will be the key consideration for Huckabee voters over the next seven days. Huck’s voters are conservative or very conservative, and if they stay with Huck because they like him better than Romney, they hand the nomination to McCain.Could happen, I guess, on a wing and a prayer.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Cincinnati archbishop bans trips to `Bodies’ exhibit (RNS) The Roman Catholic archbishop of Cincinnati has barred Catholic schools from visiting a controversial science exhibit on the human body, saying that it “fails to respect the persons involved.” “Bodies … The Exhibition,” which displays preserved human cadavers and organs posed to demonstrate how the body works, begins a seven-month run at Cincinnati’s Museum Center on Friday (Feb. 1). But Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said Catholic schoolchildren should not see it.

News of the Weird

I suppose a reputable news shop like ours should be concerned with winning Pulitzers and A1 real estate, but every once in a while, we find professional satisfaction in the little things-like making it into News of the Weird. Frank Rocca’s story about the hunt for Jesus’ lost foreskin was picked up by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in December, and then, by the weekly News of the Weird syndicated column: “Writer David Farley said he is investigating the 1983 disappearance of the ‘Holy Prepuce,’ which is a patch of the foreskin of Jesus and supposedly was the only body part he might have left on Earth. Until it went missing, it was the centerpiece of each January’s Feast of the Holy Circumcision at the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Calcata, Italy. Several theories persist about its disappearance, the most enduring of which is that it was swiped on orders from the Vatican, which was troubled by the attention it had historically received, according to a December Religion News Service dispatch. [Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 12-7-07]”

New `Manga’ Bible casts Jesus as ultimate superhero

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Superman may have been able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but for Christians, Jesus has always been the ultimate superhero. After all, they say, only Jesus was able to bring salvation to the world through, of all things, his demise. So maybe it’s no surprise that the comic book industry has decided to once again co-opt Jesus, this time “Manga” style in the tradition of Japanese comics that developed after World War II. The recently released “Manga Bible” claims to be the “first ever Manga adaptation of the world’s bestselling book.” Illustrated by British-born Nigerian illustrator Ajibayo Akinsiku (otherwise known as Siku) and written by Akin Akinsiku, the books aims to capitalize on the Manga mania that has infiltrated America.

Calling All Scientists

The United Church of Christ is launching a web-based ad campaign directed at scientists “with hopes of mending a millenniums-old feud between religion and science.” “Our hope is to begin to move the church to the place where its public image, public witness and public identity is one of a community of faith that is eager to engage science and to welcome and honor scientists,” said the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC’s general minister and president. The UCC has purchased ads on more than 30 popular science-oriented blogs during the month of February. The ads “seek to promote both a pro-science, pro-faith message,” says a UCC release that landed in my in-box. “Through our Stillspeaking Initiative, the United Church of Christ has been intentional about seeking out groups of people that have been marginalized by the church, either intentionally or unintentionally,” Thomas said.

COMMENTARY: A failure to plan is a plan for failure

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It might be that church is the last thing financially challenged Americans jettison as they grapple with $10-a-gallon gasoline. But church leaders would be unwise to count on it. Even among loyal churchgoers, the looming recession could test their willingness to support church as they know it. As times get tough, will Americans continue to contribute an average of $3,000 a year to their churches?

Monson poised _ and ready _ to lead Mormons

c. 2008 Salt Lake Tribune SALT LAKE CITY _ Long before he became a counselor to Gordon B. Hinckley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who died on Sunday (Jan. 27), Thomas S. Monson was well-schooled in the way of Mormon prophets and well-known to the Mormon faithful. Monson has spent his entire career in the service of the LDS Church, working alongside every Mormon president since 1963 when he was named one of the 12 apostles at the age of 36. By unfailing tradition, Monson, as the longest-serving apostle, will succeed Hinckley as the 16th Mormon president, but that election won’t take place until after Hinckley’s funeral on Saturday (Feb.

Feeling A Little Alone in Fresno

Sounds like a country song, don’t it? The Fresno Bee has a story about Episcopalians there who are re-organizing the diocese of San Joaquin after the bishop and standing committee voted to leave the Episcopal Church and hook up with the Argentina-based Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. About 250 attended the meeting this past weekend, according to the Bee. Of San Joaquin’s 48 congregations fewer than 10 remain Episcopal, the Bee says. “You are not alone,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the group in a videotaped message.

Bill and Melinda who?

Pope Benedict’s message for Lent this year stresses the spiritual benefits (to the donor) of charitable giving. Insisting that all good works “must be done for God’s glory and not our own,” Benedict reserves special praise for those who give “silently, far from the gaze of the media world.”

Huckabust

OK, according to the Florida exit poll, Huckabee got 32 percent of the white born-again/evangelical vote, Romney 31 percent, McCain 26 percent, and Giuliani 6 percent. In a word, Huck did worse among white evangelicals than he’s done in any state thus far; and white evangelicals showed that they are increasingly prepared to vote for Romney. Meanwhile, Huckabee got only 4 percent of the Catholic vote (McCain 38 percent, Romney 28 percent, Giuliani 24 percent), demonstrating even more powerfully than before his inability to break out of the evangelical box. All told, a good day for the Article 6 (no religious test for office) crowd, and a lousy day for Huck. The thin silver lining for him, I suppose, is that McCain continues to struggle with his folks, making the case for giving him the VP nod stronger.

Sunshine Christian Soldiers

Here’s a Florida pastor’s cri de coeur for Huckabee: Where have all the evangelicals gone? The polls show Huck struggling in fourth place. If there are as many evangelicals in Florida as John Green thinks there is, then a smaller proportion of them are voting for Huckabee than elsewhere. Of course, there are various possible explanations for the numbers. Maybe there was not enough time or money to get the word out in so big and complex a state.

Faith in our Union

David Kuo and John J. DiIulio Jr, former directors of the White House office of Faith Based Initiatives, criticized the Bush administration’s leadership of their department in today’s NYT. Kuo and Dilulio defended the positive effects of religious giving like providing social services to low income citizens, daycare, and assistance for the homeless. Yet, they also highlighted the President’s shortfalls in implementing such programs, i.e. the modest increase in government grants to faith based groups. The duo did not shy away from preaching the proper role of faith based initiatives with their closing paragraph: “On Jan. 19, 2005, Mrs. Clinton, speaking before clergy members in Boston, captured the spirit that is likely to prevail in the White House, no matter who is elected: ‘But I ask you, who is more likely to go out onto a street to save some poor, at-risk child than someone from the community, someone who believes in the divinity of every person, who sees God at work in the lives of even the most hopeless and left-behind of our children?