Take That, Da Vinci Code!

Anne Rice explores Jesus’ public ministry in new novel RNS’ Benedicta Cipolla interviews author Anne Rice, whose upcoming novel focuses on the beginning of Christ’s ministry from a scripturally correct point of view. Quote: Firing a direct salvo at “[The] Da Vinci [Code],” Rice states in her author’s note: “It is more than ever important to affirm our belief in Christ as sinless and unmarried because that is the way the gospels present Him.”

Parsley on the IRS

Mega-church leader and televangelist Rod Parsley recently gave his insight into the appropriate role churches should play in our political process. Like Obama’s congregation, Parsley has been accused of violating IRS guidelines (in 2006) about campaigning from the pulpit. Parsley was recently interviewed by PBS’s Religion and Ethics program about the situation. The pastor defended his actions saying that he always operated within the law, but also said that he had a “biblical mandate” to “engage in the battle of mindsets”. He continued to say that he is proud to be involved in extending evangelical’s platform to also include poverty, race, gender and “justice issues”.

If I can do it, Obama can too

Keith Ellison, the first and only Muslim member of Congress, weighed in on the recent attacks on Barack Obama’s name and faith. Ellison doubts that Americans wouldn’t elect a Muslim president based on his or her faith. In an interview with AP’s Frederic Frommer, the Congressman tried to portray America overall as having an unbigoted voting history. “Look, we elected a Catholic,” Ellison said. “Mitt Romney was a viable candidate in this race.

Top Ten List

The Interfaith Alliance has come up with a Top Ten List of religious blunders from this season’s campaign. President of the Alliance, Rev. Dr. C Welton Gaddy, said “I have witnessed more abuses of religion in this primary season than in any election in recent memory.” Check out the video, here. It is an enjoyable refresher of the season.

Stop the presses

Brody flags a document from the Obama campaign’s religious outreach team highlighting their candidate’s success with religious voters–an array of data drawn from the exit polls. He concludes that Obama’s not conceding the Church vote to McCain.

Obama, the UCC, and the IRS

Today the Hartford Courant has bannered across its front page Elizabeth Hamilton’s story on an IRS investigation of the United Church of State (er. make that Christ) resulting from Barack Obama’s address to the annual convention of that denomination (which is his own) last summer. (You can check out the IRS’ February 20 letter here and the speech here.) The UCC was sufficiently scrupulous about trying to separate politicking from non-politicking on this occasion to get a pass from Barry Lynn of Americans United–though, to be sure, Lynn is a UCC minister. Obama did let a remark or two drop that alluded to his campaign, and then there were those Obama staffers soliciting outside the convention hall, but should the UCC be held liable for those things? What seems to have stirred the IRS to action was a complaint by James Hutchins, who runs a conservative watchdog blog called UCCtruths, and who leaked the story to the Courant after, it seems, receiving an anonymous copy of the IRS letter.

Diplomat for Obama

Yesterday we had a visit at Trinity from Daniel Kurtzer, now of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, whose three-decade career in the State Department included three years as President Clinton’s ambassador to Egypt and four years as President Bush’s ambassador to Israel. (After leaving that job and the department in 2005, he spent a year as commissioner of the Israeli professional baseball league, but that’s another story.)
Kurtzer has been as scrupulously non-partisan a diplomat as you are likely to find. In his after-dinner talk, he made it clear that he had great appreciation for the efforts of the first Bush administration–Secretary of State James Baker in particular–in moving towards a peace settlement in the Middle East. He also made it clear that President Clinton’s peace efforts at the second Camp David summit had been sorely lacking in diplomatic preparation, and that he believes the foreign policy of the current Bush administration has been a disaster. At dinner Kurtzer disclosed that, just that morning, he had informed the Obama campaign that he would publicly endorse their candidate, a decision he had reached, he said, after much soul searching.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Study links subprime crisis to hunger WASHINGTON (RNS) The poorest counties in the U.S. are among the hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis, according to a study released Wednesday (Feb. 27) by the Christian anti-hunger advocacy group Bread for the World. The report, titled “Home Ownership, Subprime Loans and Poverty,” found a strong correlation between poverty rates and percentages of mortgages that are subprime. In eight of the country’s 15 poorest counties, which have poverty rates exceeding 40 percent, the percentage of homeowners holding subprime mortgages is even higher _ up to 60 percent, according to the study.

People of the Book

The Vatican has approved the selection four senior American Catholic prelates to the highly anticipated Synod on Scripture in October. The four prelates, who were elected by their peers last November in Baltimore and approved by the Vatican earlier this year, are: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the USCCB and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, vp of the USCCB, the newly incarnadined Daniel DiNardo of Houston and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington. The theme of the synod is: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.

The Washington Times Joins the 21st Century

My last real rant in this space was about the Washington Times policy to use “scare quotes” around terms like “gay marriage” or “homosexual”, as if putting them in quotes made them seem less real, more contrived. The Washington CityPaper (our local indy weekly) is reporting that new Washington Times editor John Solomon is putting the scare quotes exactly where they belong: in the trash. He’s also joining the rest of the media (not to mention the AP style book) is using the term “gay” instead of “homosexual.” From the memo obtained by the CityPaper: All: Here are some recent updates to TWT style. 1) Clinton will be the headline word for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

IRS launches probe into Obama speech at UCC convention

c. 2008 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The IRS is investigating the United Church of Christ over a 2007 speech on faith and politics by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, a longtime UCC member. The UCC announced late Tuesday (Feb. 26) that the IRS is looking into whether Obama’s speech to its General Synod in Hartford, Conn., may have been a political activity that could threaten the denomination’s tax-exempt status. Church officials said no laws were violated, and they criticized the “disturbing” implications of the inquiry.

Small Muslim sect preaches a unique message

c. 2008 Religion News Service SYRACUSE, N.Y. _ Jakada Makkah Bey begins Friday prayer services for this city’s Moorish Science Temple of America by raising all five fingers on his left hand and two on his right. “Seven is a perfect number,” he says. “Our goal is to perfect our ways. Our ultimate goal is to be at peace.” Bey is the spiritual leader _ referred to as governor or sheik _ of Moorish Science Temple No.

Small Muslim sect preaches a unique message

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Toby Jones is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a rock musician who plays guitar in bars at night and the author of the recently published “The Gospel According to Rock.” Jones, 46, is associate pastor of the 450-member First Presbyterian Church of Harbor Springs, Mich., where he lives with his wife, Molly, and three children. He talked about becoming a pastor, leaving to teach at a private boys school and then coming back, and the connection he sees between faith and rock. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.) Q: In your book you say that you went into the ministry “for all the wrong reasons.” A: For the first 30-some years of my life, I was caught up in what others expected of me. I had this sense that I was “supposed to” serve God and live a noble life.

COMMENTARY: The glass ceiling, political and otherwise

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In a way, you’d hope Hillary Clinton would win just so we could all just grow up about women in leadership. For all the words that are pushed around about the equality and dignity of women, we are still a long way from forgetting about gender when we look at qualifications. Religions are among the biggest offenders. So, when Pope Benedict XVI decried what he called “a macho mentality” at a mid-winter meeting of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, things seemed to be looking up.